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J. Knauss "Author" RSS Feed (Atlanta, GA)

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The Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior
The Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior
Price: $9.56

5.0 out of 5 stars This book has everything a writer needs!, April 22, 2014
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This book has everything I needed in order to write a therapy-intense story without making any embarrassing errors -- that I'm aware of! Great summary of all the important concepts and misconceptions.

Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs
Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $11.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book Everyone Will Enjoy, January 6, 2014
Although this book is written by an "insider" — Egyptologist Bob Brier has done all the requisite studying and publishing and even working with TV networks — Egyptomania is a read just about everyone will enjoy. It's strange, but nearly everyone on the planet seems to have at least a passing interest in some aspect of ancient Egypt.

Brier traces this preoccupation back to Roman times, when Cleopatra was a living, breathing, and breathtakingly intelligent representative of a culture that was already thousands of years old. I really enjoyed the detail with which he reported on the Renaissance transporting of the obelisk in Rome and Napoleon's savants. The excitement of the discoveries and the melding of scholarly work with popular souvenirs is palpable. There are plenty of illustrations of engravings and later paraphernalia, like cigarette cases in the shape of temples.

The author takes great care to describe the engineering marvels France, England, and New York undertook in order to obtain their obelisks, complete with severe weather and losses at sea. The exaggerated efforts required to move the obelisks in modern times only helps the reader appreciate the unknown genius of the Egyptians who constructed them in the first place.

There is sure to be something new here for even the most avid Egyptomaniac, as Brier goes into the cinematic history of mummies and Cleopatra and how they were portrayed differently according to what discoveries had been made.

Brier rounds up the book by gleefully reporting that he may have made the latest big discovery about the history of every's favorite boy king, Tutankamen. Egyptomania is a fast, enjoyable read that will fan the flames of any enthusiasm you already have (because you probably have some) for ancient Egypt.

The Color Master: Stories
The Color Master: Stories
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Story is a Gem, September 26, 2013
Full disclosure: I'm a diehard fan of Aimee Bender. I admire the way she defies categorization even while all of her fiction has a magical realism/fantasy element. Especially in a collection like this one, I admire the way she's able to assume a new, convincing authorial voice for each story. And I'm constantly amazed at the mysteries of her writing, which makes every story, no matter how long, seem too short.

I experienced The Color Master for the first time by reading each story aloud to my husband. He enjoyed the stories, but maintains that Ms. Bender doesn't know how to come to an end. Every time, he said some variation of, "That's it? That's where she chose to end it?" On a writerly level, I appreciate that she ends each story when she feels it's complete. These stories are evocative, meant to point to a bigger truth or to a whole world beyond what the reader's just read. Anyone who's expecting an entire world described and signed, sealed, delivered, should read a novel, and probably not a novel by Aimee Bender. It's just not what she's trying to do.

This is Bender's third collection of stories. In the first two collections, I thought there were some hits and misses (although even the misses were ecstatic and thrilling in their own way). Here, the quality is consistently high to the extent that going back through, I can't point out a weak one. Each one is memorable and impressive for any number of reasons, and together they make up a tour-de-force book even better than a die-hard fan like me could have hoped for.

The Longings of Wayward Girls: A Novel
The Longings of Wayward Girls: A Novel
by Karen Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.06
136 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and Familiar, August 19, 2013
This book made me uncomfortable for long stretches. The discomfort came from the terrible decisions of some of the characters. I could hardly bear to read about what they were doing, and at the same time, I couldn't bear to put the book down, in the hope that they would come to their senses soon. Whether or not you agree with some of the things Sadie, for example, gets herself into, the masterful writing will make you turn the pages again and again. The novel is crammed with characters, so their development is done with small details that only suggest their full stories. More or less what the author has done is build an entire world full of mystery, and I'm in awe.

The novel's complex layers reiterate the theme of loss or disappearance. People who vanish out of their loved ones' lives for no known reason, people who disappear because they're searching for something they already have, others who run away to escape secret horrors no one would guess at, most who lose something and then lose their way... Everyone in the book is just as haunted as the scary forest presentation, "Haunted Woods," the children put together every summer. Debating the reasons everyone acts they way they do could fill a lively book club session, and makes me think this book is a prime example of the way reading fiction can train readers in empathy.

Aside from all that heavy stuff, this book may help people who grew up in the '70's remember some details of daily life. I'm not the same age as the main character (close), but I was amazed at all the small things the author included to make the readers feel they've really gone back in time. A memorable book for so many reasons.

Past the Last Island
Past the Last Island
by Kathleen Flanagan Rollins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.20
25 used & new from $7.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Even Better Than the First, April 8, 2013
This review is from: Past the Last Island (Paperback)
Past the Last Island is the second book in the Misfits & Heroes series, but it has none of the pitfalls of a traditional sequel. From the subtle cover that hints at the adventure inside to the psychologically complex characters, this book gets everything even more right than the first.

I enjoyed Nulo's misfit story the most out of all the threads. He has none of the advantages of even the average people in this community where everything is changing. His transformation is gradual and accomplished realistically through showing craftsmen what a good worker he can be. He still doesn't gain real acceptance until he has to lead the willing people into the unknown, relying on his dream visions and compass rocks. In the end, he'll always feel removed from the others, so the whole trajectory is sympathetic and believable.

But the overall book is about bigger, outward changes that inspired me to go to the wide open sea even though I have no prospects for travel in the near future. The daring and the risks are so real.

The text seems effortless, so I can only stand in awe of the gargantuan effort it must have taken to make it that way. The research and dedication required for a historical novel to really put the reader in the characters' shoes is huge -- how much more dedication and imagination must it take to create such convincing landscapes, seascapes and headscapes for people who lived before history, whom we can know only by the non-verbal evidence they left behind? Kathleen Rollins does it well, and could consider her accomplishments complete, but something tells me she'll be gracing the world with another compelling story before long.

Without Sanctions
Without Sanctions
by Jan Holmes Frost
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.16
28 used & new from $13.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Likable, complex characters, March 21, 2013
This review is from: Without Sanctions (Paperback)
I'm not your typical thriller-reader. I usually think the plots are contrived and the characters weak, but a thriller in the hands of this author is a real treat. Not only is it fast-paced, with really high stakes, but the author has infused life into the characters so that the reader actually cares about what's going happen to them. Drexel has enough complications to be interesting and realistic at the same time that the reader is confident he could actually get the job done. He could easily carry several more adventures like this one.

It ranges all over geographically, but I was pleasantly surprised by the emphasis on Massachusetts. Well done.

The Imposter Bride: A Novel
The Imposter Bride: A Novel
by Nancy Richler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.48
151 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets revealed, January 30, 2013
Lily Azerov comes to Canada from Israel in 1946 to marry a man she's never met. Every decision she makes has long-lasting effects on everyone whose life she touches, most especially on her daughter, Ruth.

Lily abandons her new family when Ruth is a tiny baby, leaving tidbits of information about who she was and why she left that Ruth has to piece together over the course of her life. As Ruth grows and evolves, she learns that curiosity about her origins is the most human thing about herself. It only takes her as long as it does because so may people love Ruth and think they're protecting her by not revealing what they know. None of the decisions are judged in the book as good or bad. They just are.

As I grew to suspect as I read on, the entire book is revealed to have been written by Ruth after she's pieced together enough information. This explains why the sections told in the first person, from Ruth's point of view, are quite a bit more stable than the others. By stable, I mean that when we're in Ruth's point of view, we stay there. In the other sections, two or more characters can have a conversation and see into the thoughts of all of them. It's easy enough to follow, but I always think it's more realistic if we only have one point of view at a time. And think how much more mystery there could have been! In the end, it's appropriate that Ruth would try to empathize with each of the characters and parse their emotional responses as the story goes along. It lends an authority to the text that it could never really have if these were true events, but that just shows the way fiction is truer than fact.

The author has created an entire convincing world. She tells a story about survival and secrets that normally wouldn't be told, but it touches all human beings. The characters are fascinating and familiar at the same time, and the writing is frequently exquisite. I recommend this book for just about any reader.

The Winter Witch
The Winter Witch
by Paula Brackston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.84
106 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Convincing history, convincing fantasy, January 29, 2013
This review is from: The Winter Witch (Hardcover)
In this sensitively written novel, Morgana, a wild girl who went mute upon the disappearance of her gypsy father, must marry a man she hardly knows and learn to fit into the social fabric of his Welsh town. Cai, the man in question, must take a wife in order to become the porthmon, the leader of the yearly drove of cattle to London and the most powerful man in town. But we quickly find that, in spite of his continued love for his previous wife, who passed away in childbirth, Cai harbors a deep affection for Morgana that quickly turns to love.

The chapters alternate, beginning with Morgana's perspective in first person. This is a smart move on the author's part, because Morgana's silence makes observing her from the outside a little too enigmatic without these chapters of insight into why she does what she does. The other perspective is Cai's, in a limited omniscient third person. This way, the reader doesn't sympathize as closely with him as with Morgana, but still fully understands his thinking. I was skeptical about the approach, but Brackston pulls it off, and I now see that the romance would have been one-sided and disappointing without it. Because we now that their love is genuine, we can root for Cai and Morgana as the united front they present.

The story begins slowly, carefully inducting the reader into the unusual world of nineteenth-century Welsh cattle drovers (I know I'd never read about them before) and the beloved landscape the animals and people occupy together. It also plants the seeds that will grow into something of a mystery by the first quarter of the book, and by the middle, the reader knows that all is not what it seems in this town. Heart-wrenching tragedies begin to happen, and the pace picks up significantly during the cattle drove, in which Morgana is more helpful than any civilized wife would be, but also falls victim to witchcraft more powerful than her own and much more evil. The novel ends with a fast-paced epic battle between the two witches that hardly lets up until almost the last page. We can tell when Morgana is about to let her witchiness show because she isn't easily provoked. When she is, she prefaces her drastic actions with the delicious opinion of what her tormentors are doing to her: "It will not do. Really, it will not."

The Winter Witch is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic escapade. The historical context and characters are developed so well that when the fantasy elements appeared, I was convinced that that's the way it must really have happened. Highly recommended.

Just Toss the Ashes
Just Toss the Ashes
Price: $8.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Existential Loners and the People Who Love them, December 31, 2012
This author has a gift for storytelling that draws the reader in, despite the main character being dead on the first page. Sylvia is definitely the main character, and has a strong presence in her absence. It becomes clear that Sylvia felt alone in the world, unable to connect with anyone in a way that meaningful for her. The reader learns all about her through the people she left behind. She writes a suicide note and addresses it to her ex-husband and son, from who she also feels fundamentally distant. These two men have to piece together some meaning for their relationships with Sylvia, but as they go about the business of disposing of the body and having a funeral service despite her wishes (hence the title in English, Just Toss the Ashes), and finally moving on with their lives, they include more and more people who were touched by Sylvia's life in lasting ways. She was alone only in her mind.

With uncanny psychological realism, the author introduces one character after another, all well developed and with surprising new perspectives on Sylvia and life in general. Each point of view adds a piece to the fascinating puzzle that is this book and was Sylvia. It asks questions about the meaning of life and death and doesn't wrap everything up neatly. This is a book for readers who want to spend time with these questions and come up with their own responses.

The translation is a bit formal at times, but the psychological closeness to the characters makes this almost unnoticeable.

The Invisible Infanta (Trastamara Chronicles)
The Invisible Infanta (Trastamara Chronicles)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invisible But Not Forgotten, December 12, 2012
Her sisters and brother were an ill-fated Queen of Portugal, Henry VIII's first wife, the heir to the throne of Spain, and the notoriously loca Juana, who would become Queen of Spain when all her siblings met other fates. But Ferdinand and Isabella had another royal daughter, an infanta, about whom one hardly ever hears mention. Her name is María and this the story of her life before she left the Castilian court to be married.

It's not easy to write about such a complicated time period, with so much complexity at every level. Most books about this infanta's mother take on too much and become a soup of places and dates without a lot of narrative thrust, so I was pleased to see that this novel focuses its scope. There are still some moments of summary, but overall the spotlight on a single actor in the drama serves the plot well.

The story further focuses on the infanta's emotional involvement with a servant, the only one of the Taino people who survived for any length of time after Columbus brought them to Spain after his first voyage. He happens to be a boy about María's age, and has been assigned the name Juan de Castilla, strikingly similar to María's brother. The friendship and love that develops between these two outcasts is believable and made me think about how history would have been different if Spain had taken the diplomatic route to alliances in the New World, and, for example, married one of the infantas off to a Taino grandee.

There are a few historical detail errors here, but nothing that will stick out to the casual reader, and the many well-observed moments and politics more than make up for them. The evocative descriptions of the palaces in Sevilla and Granada made me feel I was right there with María. I also particularly enjoyed the musings about the meaning of freedom at the very end of the book. It is very short, but perhaps we'll see more of María and her marriage in the next books in the Trastamara Chronicles. Even without that possibility, The Invisible Infanta is easily digested because of its length and its comfortable style.

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