myths, all while creating a story powered by
pedal-to-the-metal pacing that makes the
book impossible to put down. Surprisingly,
the novel’s most compelling element isn’t
the action or supernatural monstrosities. It’s
the themes—transformation, redemption,
salvation—which are brilliantly symbolized
in the shape-shifting characters. This is ev-
erything a good supernatural thriller should
be: fast, fun, and with undeniable thematic
depth. Two (hairy and clawed) thumbs up.
Pastoral Prayers for the People of God.
Ed. by Paul Watermulder and Martha
2017. 246p. Xlibris, paper, $19.99 (9781524580049).
For almost 70 years, Reverend Dr. David
Watermulder served as a man of God in Presbyterian churches in the American Northeast
and Midwest, and he prayed fervently for his
congregations. Some men of the cloth are
good at this. Others are great. Watermulder
was excellent, as evidenced by this collection
of his prayers from the pulpit. Editors Paul
Watermulder and Martha Watermulder collect highlights from their father’s benedictions
and thanksgivings, organized by such topics as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter
and demonstrating a loving appreciation of
creation and a sincere desire to express gratitude to the divine. Reverend Watermulder
often references scripture, history, and world
events. For example, during the Vietnam era,
he writes: “We remember the sick and suffering, the lonely and the discouraged, and the
men who must do battle.” The entries might
have worked better if presented sequentially,
allowing readers to witness Watermulder’s
development as a pastor. That aside, this
is a beautiful book for believers looking for
a burst of inspiration or pastors looking for
ideas to invigorate their sermons.
By Stephanie Harris.
2017. 191p. AuthorHouse, paper, $13.99
In this imaginative, tightly penned psy-
chological thriller, Rebecca, who holds a
high-stress job as a hospital administrator,
visits a remote, rustic resort hours from her
suburban Chicago home for some relaxation.
There she meets Jack, the man in the next
cabin, who claims to work in risk manage-
ment. He is intriguing, and even though he
seems a bit dangerous, Rebecca is drawn in.
After Jack leaves for a work obligation, Re-
becca and the other guests are taken captive
by a group of armed men. What follows is
an intricately woven, absorbing plot tied to-
gether with Jack’s mysterious life, Rebecca’s
ability to draw on inner strength, and a feared
person called “the Poet”—a quiet, steely-
eyed man whose upbringing among priests
led to his stealthy work as an assassin. This
first title in a series featuring Rebecca and
the Poet delivers forcefully. Every sentence
style, and including numerous slick photos,
charts, and illustrations, this is a well-de-
signed, well-written book. Those who want
to lift the hood on the technology they use
daily will enjoy it, and its educational tone
makes it particularly suitable for classroom
and school library use.
The Hook: Surfing to Survive a
Shattered Family, Drugs, Gangs
and the FBI.
By Kathleen Doler.
2017. 366p. Booklocker, paper, $18.95
The author’s life as a journalist and surfer
parallels her novel’s protagonist Dana’s career as an L.A.-based business reporter with
a love of surfing. As the story opens, Dana
heads to Half Moon Bay, her Northern California hometown, because
her younger brother, Shane,
is in the hospital. She has
cared for Shane even before
her dysfunctional family was
shattered by her mother’s suicide. Everyone has dealt with
the pain differently: Dana
became a journalist. Shane,
once a competitive surfer, descended into
near homelessness. Their father barely communicates. Her other brother seems to be a
conventional family man but later reveals his
own post-traumatic reaction. As the story unfolds, we discover that Shane crossed a Thai
gang, led by drug-boss Ling. When Dana
learns the FBI is looking for Shane while investigating Ling, she protectively places him
in a rehab center, playing a risky game of hide
and seek. Meanwhile, a turf war between
gangs escalates. Throughout, Dana falls in
love, changes careers, and surfs to rejuvenate
her spirit. Doler is a fantastic writer whose
prose is crisp, vivid, and well paced, and her
exciting book is hard to put down.
The Hunter: Awakening.
By Nicholas Arriaza.
2017. 350p. Rio Dulce, paper, $15 (9780998793306).
A relentlessly paced, action-packed, and
downright fun supernatural thriller, the
first installment in Arriaza’s series chronicles
the lives of an affluent, young Los Angeles
couple preparing for the birth of their first
child. Complications arise
when the woman discov-
ers her fiancé is a werewolf
and her soon-to-be in-
laws are (literally) a pack
of psychos whose actions
have unleashed one of the
world’s “great terrors” onto
Southern California. Al-
though the base mythology regarding the
creation of the werewolves and vampires
seems contrived, the author excels at blend-
ing played-out lycanthropic and vampiric
clichés (such as the werewolf aversion to sil-
ver) with interesting twists on the respective
and detail advance the complex interplay
between characters and events as suspense
builds. The main characters are richly drawn
and layered, and their actions and dialogue
feel utterly authentic. This haunting, intense
novel is a sure winner.
The Recipe: Love Made Simple.
By Rick Blum.
2017. 312p. Arthur Kurzweil, paper, $24.95
Veteran psychologist and couple’s therapist
Blum has spent his life trying to figure out
what makes his clients happy. Here he whips
up easily digestible insights into this some-times-elusive state for those
who are single, wondering if
they should be, or are in a
committed relationship that
simply needs spicing up.
The Recipe isn’t a rehash of
generic relationship advice
but a fresh dish peppered
with to-the-point morsels:
how to help a distant lover engage again,
what to do before ending a relationship or
giving an ultimatum, ways to deepen connections with your mate, and more. For some,
the section on feeling whole and fulfilled
without a significant other may be eye-opening. “Work to become the member you
already know,” he writes, “of the couple you
want to be part of.” This is an excellent book,
well written and compelling from beginning
to end. The Recipe is the perfect blend of salty
and sweet, with a generous dollop of humor
and warmth—sure to satisfy readers looking
for relationship advice.
I Miss My Daddy.
By Jill Pike. Illus. by Cady Driver.
2016. 32p. Lulu, paper, $18.99 (9781483457574).
This beautifully illustrated picture book
reveals how feelings of loss can leak into a
grieving child’s day-to-day behavior, as a boy
copes with the loss of his father. (Although
it becomes clear that the father has died,
the reason for his absence is only referred to
obliquely.) The boy misses the things he did
with his father, like building sand castles or
“snuggling in my daddy’s lap while he sat in
his big chair watching TV.” He envies other
children who still have their fathers. A few
days after watching a new neighbor playing
catch with his father, for example, he knocks
him down after the boy steps on his foot, “even
though deep down I knew he didn’t mean to.”
Although his grief is ever present, the boy
learns ways to process his feelings and finally
seems to come to terms with his situation.
Written in simple language, this important
material is perfect for children unable to name
the waves of anger, resentment, and pain overwhelming them, and sure to offer solace and
support for children and parents alike.