My Eight Favorite Books of 2016

By Leslie C. Halpern

In addition to reading books for pleasure, I’m a book reviewer for online publications, including BlueInk Review and IndieReader, among others. I typically read about two books a week, so that’s more than 100 books a  year. Even so, there’s still a tall stack of unread books always waiting for me on my nightstand.

Although I have a special fondness for mystery, romance, science fiction, thriller, autobiography, poetry, spirituality, and the entertainment industry, my editors (and sometimes publishers and authors) send me just about any kind of book to review from the current year or perhaps even published a couple of years earlier. I’m exposed to a variety of genres throughout the year, from traditionally published books to small presses to self-published platforms – including adult books, YA, and children’s publications.

200 Love Lessons from the Movies

200 Love Lessons from the Movies

I spent the first half of 2016 anticipating the release of my own new book, 200 Love Lessons from the Movies, which came out in August from Taylor Trade Publishing. As an author myself, I know how important it is to spread the word about interesting, well-written books that readers would enjoy – if only they knew about them. So in an act of public service, eight of my favorite books that I read this year appear below in no particular order.


Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Book

Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Book

Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Book by Mel Brooks. (Audiobook) Hachette Audio.1 CD. 978-1478942849. This brief audiobook takes a fond look back at the making of 1974’s Young Frankenstein, a black-and-white spoof of the old James Whale horror classics about Frankenstein’s monster. Read by Mel Brooks, Michael Gruskoff, Ellen Archer, and Robert Petkoff, and with a foreword written and read by Judd Apatow, the book provides little-known information about how the movie was developed, produced, directed, and marketed. The recent passing of Gene Wilder (the star and co-screenwriter) makes this memoir poignant at times. Brooks provides his own anecdotes, mixed with the memories of others involved in the movie’s production and previously published reviews and interviews. Like his films (and the director himself), this book is short, direct, and entertaining.

Networking Karma

Networking Karma

Networking Karma by Gail Tolstoi-Miller. (Paperback) Consultnetworx. 160 pages. 978-0988383401. This book shows how anyone – no matter how introverted – can learn to effectively practice speed networking to make personal and business connections. Aided by contributing experts, the author provides an insider’s guide to one of the newest networking trends, speed networking, which is similar in many ways to speed dating, although with an entirely different goal. Clearly expressed and easy to implement, these networking strategies are based on “karma” more than polished techniques. Tolstoi-Miller assures readers that sincerity produces far greater results than bragging and posturing. Fourteen chapters with bullets, photographs, and diagrams offer a crash course in speed networking that could change people’s lives.

How to Survive an Active Shooter

How to Survive an Active Shooter

How to Survive An Active Shooter by Jacquelyn Lynn. (Paperback) Tuscawilla Creative Services LLC. 132 pages. 978-1941826140. From Jacquelyn Lynn’s “Conversations” series with experts on important topics, comes this timely book on lifesaving tips about what to do before, during, and after an attack – terrorist or otherwise. Written shortly after the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, this book answers questions that we should never have to think about. What should you do when the shooting starts? When do you call 911? How do multiple shooters operate? Does the motive of the shooter matter? Can you teach children to survive an active shooter situation? Skillfully presented in an easy-to-understand style, these and other questions are addressed in their own chapters to help people prepare for what they hopefully will never need to know.

Wing Man

Wing Man

Wing Man by Rich Celenza. (E-book) Book Baby. 186 pages. ASIN: B015YFGBF8. Subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Woman of Your Dreams,” this book stands out for its honest insights about meeting, attracting, and dating women. Though the author acknowledges that six-pack abs and great hair get the girls, he goes much deeper than that. He talks about confidence, attitude, style, and authenticity that make you distinctly you. Rich Celenza, a filmmaker and designer who also authored The Model Bible: The Must-Have Guide for Anyone Interested in Becoming a Female Model, knows quite a bit about projecting the right image to get ahead in life. Wing Man tells it like it is for those who are tired of sitting home alone dreaming of being in a relationship.


A Place No One Should Go

A Place No One Should Go

A Place No One Should Go by D L Havlin. (Paperback) Double Edge Press, 168 pages. 978-1938002144. This creepy novella takes a man into his own heart of darkness as he and his family camp on prohibited Indian land in South Florida. Ben Callison thinks of himself as a regular guy who just wants to have fun, but may break a few rules sometimes in the process. When he ignores the warnings of a recently deceased friend and a mysterious Indian by camping in a forbidden area with his reluctant wife and two children, he may have gone too far this time. What’s real and what’s imagined are left for the reader to determine. Great pacing and vivid imagery make this book an exciting page-turner.



When the Music’s Over

When the Music’s Over: An Inspector Banks Novel by Peter Robinson. (Hardcover) William Morrow, 432 pages. 978-0062394781. British suspense novelist Peter Robinson does it again with an enthralling mystery about two similar, but unrelated, sex crimes. This twisted tale of perversion veers off in many directions, but keeps coming back to a famous singer and television series host, who’s now 85 years old. How much of his past is legend and how much is factual? It’s up to Inspector Alan Banks and his team of cold-case experts to find out. This best-selling author, known for his attention to detail and exceptional writing skills, has a popular series with his Inspector Banks novels and this latest one is a fine addition to the collection.

Personal Essays (Blend of Fiction and Nonfiction)

You'll Grow Out of It

You’ll Grow Out of It

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein. (Audiobook) Grand Central Publishing, 6.5 hours on 6 CDs. 978-1478936619. As soon as you see the cover with a grimacing little girl, you know this memoir is going to be funny. In this collection of humorous personal essays, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writer, Jessi Klein reveals her awkward moments growing up as an outsider. Suffering no real tragedies or setbacks, she lives a somewhat privileged life, but as a former tomboy she grows into a woman who can’t fit in with society’s idea of femininity. Like many others, she struggles with beauty rituals, women’s fashions, boyfriends, and commitment. Read by the author in a clear, cordial tone of voice, Klein’s clever observations are uniquely her own.

High School Dance

High School Dance

High School Dance by Starbuck O’Dwyer. (Paperback) Green Chair Publishing, 156 pages. 978-0972162470. This collection of humorous personal essays looks at the author’s adolescence and early childhood. General subjects, such as love and loss, make these essays relatable, plus specific subjects, including tennis and his first rock concert, mix with timely cultural references and a heaping dose of comedy. O’Dwyer shares many cringe-inducing moments from his youth through the intelligent eyes of an adult. Intended as lessons for his children, these are lessons for everyone.

Enjoy as many of these selections as you can. An entire new year of books awaits.



Guest Blogger: Jamie White

Seen It, Done It, Reviewed It: The Blog is participating in the Indie Lights Book Parade throughout the month of February. A parade of talented authors will share excerpts from their stories, provide writing and marketing tips, and answer questions about their work. Today’s guest blogger is Jamie White, author of the book, Stains on the Soul. Below is an excerpt from her book, written from Fiona’s point of view:

“The Dream” from Stains on the Soul

I feel like I’m losing it. Every time I go to sleep, it’s the same thing: I wake up in a cold sweat with all kinds of horrible images fresh in my mind. I’ve been walking around like a zombie and trying not to let anyone know just how exhausted I am, and all because of these dreams.

There’s a girl about to burn at the stake. She looks terrified and I know it’s not just the fact she’s about to die. She’s terrified of what she sees before the men come and light the kindling beneath her. No… actually, I think she looks more sad than anything.

Stains on the Soul

Stains on the Soul

It makes me think of him, and I don’t know why. He’s new is town and he’s been coming on to me. He’s cute, so I really shouldn’t mind but there’s something about him that makes me uncomfortable. I think part of it is the fact I like him too much and I shouldn’t. I’m technically seeing someone, and I’m about to go off to college soon. Why should I bother getting mixed up with someone else? Especially someone who makes my skin crawl.

Every time I see him, I can’t breathe and sometimes I think of that girl in my dreams. She looks so sad, like she wants to tell me something important.

I told you I was losing it.

About Jamie White

Jamie WhiteJamie White is a music addict, book lover, pet servant & NaNoWriMo survivor. When she’s not busy writing blog posts, she’s taking pictures and spending time with her husband and pets. She released Stains on the Soul and Clutter via Pagan Writers Press in 2013. Stains 2 is set to release February 2015.

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About Stains on the Soul

It’s her last summer before going away to college and Fiona finds herself facing more than she bargained for: A boyfriend she doesn’t want who has a strange hold over her, a friend pushing her to expand her boundaries, and a new guy named Ted whose presence is more than a distraction.

If that isn’t enough, Fiona is being haunted with horrifying nightmares of burning at the stake—nightmares so real, she feels as though she’s losing her mid.

Are they only dreams, or are they trying to warn her about this new guy she can’t help but want?

Learn more about Jamie White:

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