WE FEATURED A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING DURING OUR FIRST YEAR, FROM DARK TO LIGHT, FROM FICTION TO NON-FICTION, FROM BOOKS FROM MAJOR PUBLISHERS TO INDIE SURPRISES, FROM INSPIRATIONAL TO QUIRKY. OUR AUTHORS CAME FROM ALL OVER THE U.S. AND ALL OVER THE WORLD, VETERANS AND NEWBIES ALIKE.
HERE’S A LIST OF OUR FIRST 144 BOOKS, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE, DOLED OUT IN THREE SEGMENTS. IF YOU WANT TO READ THE ENTIRE FEATURED POST, SIMPLY CLICK ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME ON THE AUTHOR PAGE.
WE’LL CONTINUE TO KEEP YOU GUESSING IN THE YEAR TO COME.
1. “Island Dogs,” by Brian Simpson. The starting point is a fantasy common to many of us — leave the unfulfilling job, the bills, the neighbors, the lawn that needs cutting and flee to the Caribbean, where life is supposedly like a year-around cruise. Of course, this quintet of likable ex-pats soon learn that hanging out in Da Limin Hut won’t solve their problems, just deaden them.
2. “Waiting for Westmoreland,” by John Maberry. Maberry’s book comes along at a time of close examination and myriad reflections on the Vietnam War — 50 years since the first insertion of U.S. combat troops into the conflict, 40 years since the American exit. At such benchmark anniversaries, long-buried memories tend to percolate back to the surface. As “Waiting for Westmoreland” reminds us, these memories are different for every participant.
3. “Death of a Cabman,” by Nina Boyd. Beginning this book is like slipping into a warm, comfortable bath. Then, after she spends some time familiarizing you with her main characters, Boyd turns the heat up a bit. The murder victim isn’t exactly mourned by the community,. and most of the suspects are anything but solid citizens. Yet unlike the edgy sleuths who stalk through mystery novels these days, Constable Fred Clough and amateur detectives Ethel and Amelia come across not only as human, but eminently likable. A murder gives the book its title, but Boyd also slips in a lot of period history so deftly that it’s painless. A wonderful book to curl up with on a rainy day.
4. “The River Caught Sunlight,” by Katie Andraski. If you like Barbara Brown Taylor’s lyrical prose, you might enjoy the descriptions in The River Caught Sunlight. If you are curious about Frank Schaeffer’s early years as a rabble rousing firebrand you might be interested in reading this novel. If you question Evangelicalism’s part in the culture wars, you might want find insights in this book.
5. “What To Do About Mama?” by Barbara Trainin Blank. Fifty-four million Americans already serve as unpaid caregivers to family members, and that number is likely to grow as the population continues to age. Two-thirds of these caregivers are women — many of them in the ‘sandwich generation,’ simultaneously caring for both children and older family members. This book is based on the real-life experiences of the authors and other caregivers who have openly and honestly shared their joys and heartaches. It isn’t a book by “experts,” but by people in the trenches.
6. “Turnstiles,”by Andrea Raine. Martin Sourdough is a homeless person who has chosen to turn his back on the corporate, material world; Willis Hancocks Jr. is a barrister, an alcoholic philanderer, and a misogynist; and Evelyn (aka Yvonne) is a prostitute. Turnstiles speaks to these social problems through the smaller scope of each character’s individual trials. There is a struggle that exists between the need to serve one’s own needs and the expectation to participate in the larger social scheme. Martin and Willis are both trying to fit into the world, but on their own terms. They are naïve, searching for an Eden-like state of being. Through a broader experience of personal fortune, misfortune, travel, and social interactions, they each learn to accept their path and take control of their own destinies.
7. “Betrayal,” by Sharon Brownlie. Betrayal is a dark, gritty, thought-provoking and hard-hitting novel. It addresses problems of how sexual abuse can be neglected or shelved away. The main character, Helen looks at herself as a survivor of abuse but a victim of others’ betrayal. Sexual abuse is always a difficult subject and rightly or wrongly, Helen addresses the issue.If you liked Stieg Larson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Betrayal might be a good choice.
8. “How Not to Avoid Jet Lag,” by Joshua Brown. There is a little of Hunter S. Thompson in Joshua Samuel Brown’s writing, a pinch of P.J. O’Rourke, maybe even a dash of “Gulliver’s Travels.” For unlike many travel writers who draw back and write about exotic places from a safe and contemplative distance, Brown plunges right in, experiencing the good, the bad and the inedible. Ever wonder how you can tell the difference between good and not-so-good dog meat soup in Korea? Did you know that Beijing has a ghetto inhabited primarily by Muslims? Brown is counterculture savvy, technologically wired and, to some degree, able to converse in Mandarin. Yet through all 19 of these traveler’s tales, he never forgets who he is — a bewildered outsider.
9. “CAUGHT,” by Deirdre Thurston. CAUGHT is a collection of stories that explore the deeper human themes: expectation, desire, loss, hope, fear, joy, redemption. While the collection as a whole is relentlessly empathic, each retelling is colourful and sharp; here acidic and humorous, there bittersweet with pathos. In this era of increasing social disconnection – in which technology is replacing intimacy and life occurs at a pace that challenges our ability to stop, observe and interpret our own existence and its relationship with those around us – CAUGHT’S celebration of the everyday experience offers nourishment for the harried soul.
10. “Thirty Perfect Days” by Claudia Taller. In 30 Perfect Days, Finding Abundance in Ordinary Life, a spiritual memoir, author Claudia Taller allows the reader to go into her personal world to find the perfect moments that ultimately define our lives. 30 Perfect Days, Finding Abundance in Ordinary Life is a quest to live in the moment, make connections, and pay attention to what life has to offer. Through daily reflection, Taller deals with life’s surface obstacles with honesty and authenticity to gain insight into the patterns behind the problems
11. “Downfall,” by Deborah Teller Scott. The fun here, besides Scott’s delightful cast of eccentric characters, is the mental exercise of sorting out the killer among them. In the process, she manages to make some subtle points about the undeniable intersection of crime, the media, and the popular culture of Great Britain.
12.Boiling Point,” by Karen Dionne. As Chaitén Volcano sleeps .. two microbiologists monitor the effects of global warming in the shadow of the long-dormant volcano. A celebrity scientist and his film crew arrive at the caldera to capture Chaitén’s spectacular scenery for a television audience. And a Nobel Prize-winning scientist sits in his apartment in Paris, monitoring data on fifty-six volcanoes around the world—waiting for the one sign that his diabolical plan is about to be put into motion. Soon, their destinies will converge. For the Earth has become a pawn in the biggest gamble ever played with humanity’s future. And Chatien is about to blow.
13. “The Secret Corps,” by Peter Telep. When a small town home invasion results in a tragic death, retired Marine Master Sergeant James “Johnny” Johansen agonizes over questions whose answers threaten his loved ones, his career, and his company. The most serious question of all—is Johnny’s family linked to Islamic extremists in the United States? Johnny turns to Willie, Corey, and Josh—his former brothers-in-arms. Relying on their skills as highly-trained Marines, the team uncovers a treacherous plot involving a renegade defense contractor and the highest levels of a U.S. intelligence network.
14. “When Clouds Gather,” by Ryan Jo Summers. Darby Adams has a full, happy life in Driftwood Shores with a successful Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Brass Lamplighter, and her teenage son, Matt. Until a guest is found dead in one of her rooms. Suddenly, she is the number one suspect. With her world rapidly spinning out of control, Darby desperately needs a friend. The surviving family wants answers—and prosecution—so they hire Private Investigator Sam Golden to unquestionably prove Darby’s guilt. Busy with his disobedient, willful teenage daughter, Sam still takes the case. He starts in the dual role as a sympathetic ally to Darby while searching for the evidence needed to send her to prison. It should be an easy case to close, until strange things begin happening at the B & B, Scary things.
15. “Did Ancient Chinese Explorer America?” by Charlotte Harris Rees. A Chinese classic, the Shan Hai Jing, reportedly from 2000 BC, claimed travels to the ends of the earth. However, today many, while accepting the antiquity of this account, believe it was just mythology. But was it?Testing the hypothesis that the Shan Hai Jing described actual surveys of North America, Charlotte Harris Rees, author of books about early Chinese exploration, followed an alleged 1100 miles Chinese trek along the eastern slope of the US Rocky Mountains. The possible early Chinese connection to this area should have been easy to disprove.In the travelogue Did Ancient Chinese Explore America? Rees candidly shares her doubts then her search and discoveries. She weaves together history, subtle humor, academic studies, and many photographs to tell a compelling story.
16. “Beneath the Stones,” by Susan Coryell. Ashby Overton has everything to look forward to, including a promising writing career and her wedding at summer’s end. But, Overhome, her beloved historic family estate in Southern Virginia, is in financial peril and it is up to Ashby to find a solution. Interfering with Ashby’s plans is a dark paranormal force that thwarts her every effort to save Overhome. Supernatural attacks emanate from an old stone cottage on the property rumored to be a slave overseer’s abode, prior to the Civil War. As the violence escalates, Ashby begins to fear for her life. Who is this angry spirit and why is his fury focused on her?
17.“Black Tide Rising,” by Kelvin Singleton. When Deputy Director of the Census Bureau Evan Parker discovers that the American Census is a lie and factions of the American Government, including two presidents, have killed to keep this terrible secret in the name of national security a nationwide manhunt ensues. If this information is not contained before it can be disseminated to the American public, the threat of total anarchy looms. deceit sequestering them from American citizens and the national media. Under the white-hot gaze of a mysterious high-priest, Kaleem Kinzana, the ominous rhythm of the voodoo drums thrum across the continental U.S.
18. “Collision Course,” by Joe Broadmeadow. Collision Course is a legal thriller incorporating elements of blind political ambition, the strained relationship between the Police and the minority community arising from racial prejudices embedded within police departments, a troubled war veteran, and the taking of a human life by a police officer in the line of duty.The novel explores the human aspect of those thrust into a nightmare beyond their control. An ambitious US Attorney turns the rage of racial inequality into a platform for a run for the US Senate, perverting the Justice system and trampling over anyone in his way to succeed.
19. “Consciously Connecting,” by Holland Haiis. Learn how to disconnect from poisonous people, actively engage in the present moment, enthusiastically make time for play, and move in the direction of your goals. Consciously Connecting will reward you with a huge shift in your thinking and the way you connect to everyone and everything.
20. “Things Unsaid,” by Diana V. Paul. A family saga of three generations fighting over money and familial obligation, Things Unsaid is a tale of survival, resilience, and recovery.Jules, her sister Joanne, and her brother Andrew all grew up in the same household—but their varying views of and reactions to their experiences growing up have made them all very different people. Now, as adults with children of their own, they are all faced with the question of what to do to help their parents, who insist on maintaining the upscale lifestyle they’re accustomed to despite their mounting debts. A deft exploration of the ever-shifting covenants between parents and children, Things Unsaid is a ferocious tale of family love, dysfunction, and sense of duty over forty years.
21. “Think Like a Writer,” by Tom Bentley. The book’s core is how to see the world as a writer. It supplies tools to find and cultivate your writer’s voice, that unique combination of attributes—sensitivity to language, storytelling and audience—by which writers see and define the world. It discusses writing at a structural level: how words work in sentences and how sentences work in stories, moving to how to use those elements and that writer’s stance to write across genres.
22. “The Skeleton Crew,” by Deborah Halber. The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes — wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains. In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths. It’s DYI/CSI.
23.“The Solarbus Legacy,’ by Nicki Brandon. Farms had become dry and barren outside the city without power that had been deserted after the economic and social collapse brought about by the depletion of the world’s oil reserves. In the wake of the catastrophe, just a relatively few fortunate survivors possessed a Solarbus. They lived in a Cluster on the outskirts of the city. A cruel futuristic society had formed, leaving the rest of the survivors wretched, scavenging wanderers, feared, but ignored by Solarbus Society citizens.
24. “Mercedes Wore Black,” by Andrea Brunais. After a news reporter falls victim to her daily’s downsizing, Janis Pearl Hawk becomes a “backpack journalist” supported by an environmentally oriented foundation. Her mandate is to cover the “green” candidate running for Florida governor, but her path takes a twist when the murder of a campaign worker stymies law enforcement. Investigating the murder prompts threats to her well-being and possibly her life – or has she angered other powerful people with her reporting on the gaming industry, Big Pharma and a ship-channel dredging project at Port Manatee?
25. “Homecoming,” by Kate Hasbrouck. Kerana is from a world without sin, and her people are a perfect people. Eli is a Fallen human who is trying to escape the darkness of his past. Her job is to protect the humans, and when he discovers her secret, nothing in Eden will ever be the same.
26. “Clog!” by Dan Smith. A coming of age story of a high school senior whose family has fractured and he finds himself at a new school in the isolated mountains of North Carolina. He is a good athlete, so fitting in is not a major problem. He is recruited for the nationally-prominent square dance team (winner of three national championships) because mononucleosis has decimated the squad and he adjusts well, loving the sport.
The book concentrates on Eb McCourry’s adjustment and growth in light of a number of challenges. He faces violence, pedophilia, uncertainty about his future, his first love, the poverty of his past and finds inspiration in a crusty old coach who takes him under his wing.
27. “Refuge,” by Melinda Inman. Refuge is the story of Cain, Abel, Lilith—the sister Cain desires to marry, and what happens next. It deals with sibling conflict, a relationship we would consider to be incest, fratricide, immorality, cutting, attempted suicide, revenge, and redemption.
28. “Hannah, Delivered,” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. Late one night in a busy St. Paul hospital, a nurse midwife drags Hannah Larson out from behind her reception desk to assist with a birth. When Hannah witnesses that baby tumble into the world, her secure, conventional life gets upended by a fierce desire to deliver babies. So begins Hannah’s journey away from her comfort zone. In a midwifery apprenticeship in New Mexico, she befriends a male midwife, defends a teenage mom, and learns to trust women’s bodies, then moves back to Minnesota to start her own illicit birth practice. Hannah, Delivered tells the story of how inexplicable passion, buried strength, and professional skill deliver one woman from fear into a rich and risk-filled life.
29.“The Last Best Thing,” by Kate Sebeny. Sam and Sarah are the elderly owners of a farm in central Iowa that turns into a private retirement community when it also becomes home to a disabled friend, a destitute neighbor and a recent retiree. Married nearly 50 years, Sam is a former lawyer suffering from congestive heart failure. But he knows there’s nothing wrong with his wife’s heart. Sarah is an ex-English teacher and a resourceful farm wife who flinches at nothing in the service of those she loves. She’s also a “murderer.” Sarah’s “victim” is a lifelong friend more full of mischief than life. He comes to spend his remaining days with Sam and Sarah when it’s clear those days are numbered by a painful degenerative bone disease. Determined to commit suicide while still physically capable of it, he bargains with Sarah to postpone his plan by extracting from her a promise to “help” him when the time comes.
30.“Showing Up,” by Eric West. Seeing Mt. Everest was Eric West’s dream. It wasn’t on his bucket list… it was his dream. In 2011, he arrived in Nepal armed with nothing more than a mindset he called Showing Up. Showing Up seemed to change his luck; the more he was present, the luckier he became. He would see Mt. Everest (and eventually go on to climb it), meet true love, and change his destiny forever, all within moments of each other. How could this possibly happen? Embedded in that question lies the simplicity and potency of Showing Up.
31.“Mad Max: Uncharted Territory,” by Betsy Ashton. After the death of her daughter in the first book of the series, Maxine “Mad Max” Davies’ new role in life, full-time grandparent raising two grandchildren, takes her into post-Katrina Mississippi, nature’s newest wasteland. While she gets used to raising children again, she also learns to live in a region where most of life’s conveniences vanished in the storm and tidal surge. She must protect her grandchildren as well as help others in this new environment. Along the way, she encounters racism, murder, modern-day slavery and child abuse.
32.”A Reaper Made,” by Liz Long. Grace is a Reaper whose life unexpectedly ended three years ago. Her mentor Tully discovers that Reaper are being kidnapped, threatening the Natural Order. When demons threaten her sister’s soul, she decides to risk everything by using magic to become temporarily human. However, it’s not just the demons and lies Grace has to unravel – it’s also the human boy who makes her laugh. Can Grace save her sister and the endangered souls? Or will Tully be forced to reap her soul when she’s desperate to reclaim the life she could’ve had?
33. “Gap Year Girl,” by Marianne Bohr. Baby Boomers married for more than 30 years dare more than the ordinary by walking away from their comfortable life to take a mid-life gap year abroad. Marianne and Joe Bohr jump off the proverbial cliff to follow a travel dream: they unload their house, sell the cars, quit their jobs and say goodbye to the US in search of adventure. They start and end their journey in France and travel through an additional 20 countries in-between.
34.“Road Gang,” by H.V. Traywick. There’s a little of Hawkeye Pierce in Bo Traywick, and hence some M*A*S*H in this memoir of an engineer crew building roads during the Vietnam War. The human face that Traywick puts on conflict is refreshing, and his mixed feelings about the conflict typical of American soldiers at the time.
35. “Sophia’s Web,” by Burl Hall. Sophia, the Spirit of Wisdom, has woven the multi-dimensional aspects of our lives—personal, relational, cultural, intellectual, scientific, philosophical, and spiritual—into a cosmic web. Burl Hall follows the thread within this web that connects his research in these fields to his personal mystical experience. In Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature, he takes the reader with him ever deeper into the heart of divine Wisdom. Sophia’s Web examines Burl’s individual dreams, visions, passions, and missions, in the light of Wisdom (Sophia) shared by great thinkers in all disciplines. It encourages readers to discover how they can co-create individual, planetary and universal health.
36.“Two Ways to Sunday,” by Tom Starita. Chris Marcum was a man who had everything. The perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect life. He was also sure his belief in God did not depend on those successes. So when an angel appeared to him on his deathbed with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith, Chris immediately accepted. Relive your life, with no recollection. This time however, without the breaks. What happens when instead of going right, you go left? What if there are no happy endings? How much can a man endure before he hits his breaking point? And what happens then?
37. “Murder Across the Border,” by Richard Steinitz. Yossi Abulafia, an Israeli policeman, is on reserve army duty, and is photographing antelopes instead of watching the border. His post collapses suddenly, injuring him seriously. After recovering, he discovers that during the collapse he has unwittingly taken a picture of what appears to be a murder – on the other side of the border. As part of his duties he meets with the Palestinian delegation and discovers a connection to the shooter in Amsterdam, and to the murder in Jordan. A series of incidents, shootings and diplomatic activity eventually lead to the unexpected solving of the crimes.
38.”Insights From Inside,” by Tom Gerdy. Insights From Inside is a collection of letters from inmates written to young people talking about the bad decisions they made that changed their lives. It is not along the lines of Scared Straight. The inmates are simply reaching out and having a conversation about their mistakes. Following each letter there are some questions to help spur discussion.
39. “Booked,” by Karen Swallow Prior. A life of books. A life of soul. Booked poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can’t tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story. This is a book about how books shaped one person’s heart, mind, and soul.
40.“Scandal in the Secret City,” by Diane Fanning.”Libby Clark, a gutsy Bryn Mawr graduate, is determined to find her place as a scientist in a world where women are thought better suited to housework and marriage. As the only female scientist in the top secret facility, Libby is excited to begin what she believes is important government research. She soon begins to suspect, however, that not all is as it seems. And to make matters worse, one frosty night she discovers the dead body of her roommate’s sister sprawled behind the bleachers. No one else seems to think finding the killer is important and it’s up to Libby to make sense of the situation. Aided by a band of like-minded scientists, Libby follows every possible lead until she comes to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.
41. “Looking for Lydia, Looking for God,” by Patricia Dean Robertson. Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is also a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended. It is a sometimes unconventional interpretation of some very familiar Bible stories. It is, throughout, the story of the transformation of a group of women in their eighties and nineties who have come to live in an assisted living facility. They have not come there for a new lease on life, but that is exactly what they get. As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves. This is their story.
42.“Tales From a Madman’s Wife,” by Marilyn Miller Skylar. This memoir is primarily about the advertising and publishing career of my husband David Skylar. It also depicts the exciting prosperous years of the 50’s and 60’s and later, when new ideas and projects were developed following World War 2.
43. “Oklahoma Ghost Dance,” by Jeff Wilson. Anthony Motavato’s life was shattered forever on the morning of April 19, 1995 when he lost his beautiful daughter. Unable to cope with his new reality, Anthony left town and has drifted on the lonely fringes of alcoholism in the years since the tragedy. Realizing his time is short, Anthony finally returns home to face the family he left behind. As he tries to regain his faith and make peace with the people that still love him, he is pulled into the tapestry of lies surrounding the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on United States soil. The only way he can find the forgiveness he seeks is by reliving it all over again. Oklahoma Ghost Dance takes you into the darkest places of imagination. From a plot born within the ashes of the Waco massacre, it slowly untangles historic events surrounding the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. Jeff Wilson, author of the highly acclaimed novel, Queen Anne’s Revenge, weaves a haunting story of love, heartbreak and redemption.
44.“Whispers in the Attic,” by Cheryl Alsippi. Life for Claire Swenson is good. She is a college girl with a wonderful boyfriend, a job, and a new roommate. It’s all a girl could want—until the moment she first sees the beautiful young woman with auburn hair and oddly out-of-date clothing standing outside of her apartment building. Whispers in the Attic unfolds with the delicacy of soft, dense fog creeping in from the sea. Claire, though perplexed by the sight of the young woman—whom no one else seems to notice—has never given serious thought to the supernatural. Even growing up near Salem, Massachusetts, with its witch trial legacy failed to interest her in the paranormal in any serious way. But something has been unleashed and now forces are coming to bear upon Claire that she will not be able to resist.
45.“The Burgundy Briefcase,” by Roberta Burton. After the death of her husband, Lee moves forward with her life—or, so she thinks. Instead, she finds herself repeating the same mistakes with Frank that she made in past relationships.While working on her doctorate, she learns about those old patterns and begins to understand her relationship is a sham. Her progression through the doctoral program is threatened by double messages and false promises. She must respond by confronting her professor and Frank’s bizarre behavior. Are they connected? What does it all mean? Will she get what she wants or what she needs?
47. “Banana Sandwich,” by Steve Bargdill. Christmas Carol Madison lives in a van and is bipolar schizophrenic. She’s in love with her coworker and decides maybe he’s worth getting her life together. She takes her medication. She visits regularly with her probation officer and therapist alike. Carol’s new path suggests normality and hope, a college degree, a career, a family. But when she decides to be better, it is the city that goes insane: her ex-boyfriend murders her roommate. To fight back, she must decide how she is to live her life.
48. “Echoes From the Other Land,” by Ava Homa. These haunting stories beautifully evoke the oppressive lives of modern women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Anis, a computer programmer, is at the end of her rope, putting up with the bullying criticism of a no-good, unemployed lout of a husband; Azar is a young divorcee, and the only person she can talk to is Reza; but she can see him only late at night when “they” are not around; Sharmin has Down’s syndrome and hopelessly loves Azad; he loves Kazhal, beautiful and blessed; but Kazhal is married off and is divorced at twenty and now awaits a hopeless future . . . For these and other characters the weight of traditional attitudes, the harassment of the religious establishment make for a frustrating, confining, and sometimes unlivable existence.