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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 8 August 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Micah's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Hamilton Affair
Elizabeth Cobbs
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628727203 $25.99 hc / $15.33 Kindle

Synopsis: Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution, and featuring a cast of legendary characters, The Hamilton Affair tells the sweeping, tumultuous, true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings to his fateful duel on the banks of the Hudson River.

Hamilton was a bastard and orphan, raised in the Caribbean and desperate for legitimacy, who became one of the American Revolution's most dashing - and improbable - heroes. Admired by George Washington, scorned by Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton was a lightning rod: the most controversial leader of the new nation. Elizabeth was the wealthy, beautiful, adventurous daughter of the respectable Schuyler clan - and a pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the perils of seduction, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself.

With brilliantly drawn characters and an epic scope, The Hamilton Affair tells a story of love forged in revolution and tested by the bitter strife of young America.

Critique: Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) was an orphan who grew up in poverty, yet pursued a college education, served in the Revolutionary War, and became one of America's Founding Fathers. The Hamilton Affair is a captivating historical novel from cover to cover, vividly recreating Hamilton's dramatic and inspirational life story. Highly recommended for both public library collections and personal or book club reading lists, The Hamilton Affair is all but impossible to put down. It should be noted that The Hamilton Affair is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.33).

Secret Coders: Paths & Portals
Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes
First Second
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781626720763 $10.99

Synopsis: There's something lurking beneath the surface of Stately Academy - literally. In a secret underground classroom Hopper, Eni, and Josh discover that the campus was once home to the Bee School, an institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper and her friends are eager to follow in this tradition and become top-rate coders. But why are Principal Dean and the rugby team suddenly so interested in their extracurricular activities?

From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes the second volume of Secret Coders, Paths & Portals, a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

Critique: Secret Coders: Paths & Portals is an educational graphic novel that incorporates basic programming and computer science concepts into a thrilling adventure. Upbeat, accessible, and just plain fun to browse, Secret Coders: Paths & Portals is a choice pick for public, junior high, and high school library collections! Also highly recommended is the first graphic novel in the series, "Secret Coders" (9781626720756, $10.99).

Love Letters from Mount Rushmore
Richard Cerasani
South Dakota State Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SC 57501-2217
9780986035579 $29.95

Synopsis: The discovery of an old trunk leads to a story of love, opportunity, and yearning set during the carving of Mount Rushmore. From March to September of 1940, Arthur Cerasani, a sculptor and artist from Rochester, New York, worked on Mount Rushmore, while his family remained over fifteen hundred miles away. Over this vast distance, he and his wife, Mary, stayed connected through letters. Their daily correspondence reveals the trials of carving sixty-foot heads on a mountain top and highlights the strength of the human spirit. Despite isolation, spring blizzards, summer heat, and the unpredictable moods and fortunes of master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, Arthur Cerasani manages to connect with the carvers of the great monument and grow as an artist. In telling his father's experience, Richard Cerasani gives readers the tale of many workers on the mountain, some separated from family, all hoping for a future. Using letters and photographs, he shows the human side of the monumental struggle to create Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Critique: Illustrated with vintage black-and-white as well as some color photography, Love Letters from Mount Rushmore is an extraordinary glimpse into the history behind America's famous national monument through the eyes Arthur Cerasani, an art teacher turned stone carver who labored 1,500 miles away from his family. Arthur Cerasani's son Richard Cerasani has assembled letters, diary entries, research, and more to create a unique dual narrative about both the creation of a natural treasure, and the preservation of family bonds across a vast distance. An index rounds out this absorbing page-turner, highly recommended.

Journey to a Straw Bale House
F. Harlan Flint
Sunstone Press
PO Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2321
9781632931207 $20.95

Synopsis: This tale is the author's life ramble that led to the adventure of building a cabin in the northern New Mexico wilderness. The place, called Santa Rita by its founders, was the site of a tiny settlement built by Hispano homesteaders a century earlier. One of Flint's new neighbors was Baudelio Garcia, a descendant of original pioneers. Garcia partnered with the author to take on the unfamiliar task of building a straw bale house, beginning when the winter snows were still on the surrounding mountains and having the house under roof when the fall snows arrived. Garcia helped navigate the largely Hispano neighborhood to make the project succeed. The collaboration revealed the strong attachment of the local people for their home place, their patria chica, and the persistence of their ancient language and culture.

Critique: What is it truly like to build a straw bale house with one's own hands? A handful of color photographs illustrate this atmospheric chronicle of not only constructing a simple home, but also befriending local inhabitants and appreciating cultural traditions handed down through the generations. Evocative and adventurous, Journey to a Straw Bale House is an armchair traveler's dream - the vivid, vicarious experience of painstaking constructing a dwelling just as past homesteaders once did (without personally engaging in months of physical labor)!

Riverbend Road
RaeAnne Thayne
HQN Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, M3B 3K9, Canada
9780373789832 $7.99 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Protecting the streets of Haven Point isn't just a job for police officer Wyn Bailey, it's a family tradition. But lately she's found herself wanting more, especially from her boss - and overprotective brother's best friend - sexy chief of police, Cade Emmett. The only problem is getting Cade to view her as more than just a little sister.

Cade's hands-off approach with Wyn isn't from lack of attraction. But his complicated past has forced him to conceal his desire. When Wyn is harmed in the line of duty, Cade realizes the depth of his feelings, but can he let his guard down long enough to embrace the love he secretly craves?

Critique: Part of bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne's "Haven Point" series, Riverbend Road is a delightful story of learning to find love and express one's feelings. But falling in love with (or as) a police officer has its own risks; police work can be dangerous even in a sleepy lakeside town! Sensual, passionate, and emotionally moving, Riverbend Road is a cozy romance to remember. Highly recommended!

All Summer Long: A San Francisco Romance
Melody Carlson
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800723583 $14.99 / $9.99

Synopsis: Tia D'Amico is thrilled to move to San Francisco to help her aunt transform an old luxury yacht into an upscale floating restaurant. What's not to love? Sunset dinner cruises, posh wedding receptions--the possibilities are endless and far more appetizing than staying in a monotonous job in her Podunk hometown. Besides, some of her best memories are tied to San Francisco--especially the memory of Leo Parker, her crush from a long-ago sailing camp.

When Leo Parker himself turns out to be the yacht's captain, Tia is floating on air. But will it all come crashing down around her when she discovers his heart belongs to someone else?

Get ready for a romantic summer in San Francisco, where the future glistens brighter than the Bay at sunset.

Critique: Prolific, award-winning romance author Melody Carlson presents All Summer Long: A San Francisco Romance, a story of hardworking independent businesswomen, sunny San Francisco, a full-service luxury yacht, and unexpected love. All Summer Long is perfect not only for sassy summer reading, but also for rereading to keep warm when the season turns to winter chill! Highly recommended for romance connoisseurs.

Eat Real Food or Else
Lien Nguyen, Mike Nichols, Charles Vollmar
Golden Lotus Publishing
9780986252013, $40.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Eat Real Food or Else: A Cookbook for the 21st Century" is the collaborative work of a physician (Mike Nichols), a professional chef (Charles Vollmar), and an award-winning cookbook writer (Lien Nguyen). This collaboration is in service to their commonly held conviction that food can be a pleasure and our ticket to lifelong health, is vitally necessary to our having a pleasant body image, and fundamental to our self-esteem and personal happiness. However, for that us to realize these benefits, we need to choose wisely; the temptation is great to pick elements from various popular diets, but intuition and common wisdom can be misleading. "Eat Real Food or Else" presents a way of eating that is both enjoyable and healthful, encouraging its readers to consume the widest possible variety of fresh ingredients, while avoiding those high in sugar and low in nutrients. Featured is: Nutritional advice based on the broad view of the entire body; Illustrated step-by-step recipes for all occasions. Detailed explanations about the effects of various foods on our bodies; Simple yet scientifically accurate justifications taking into account the latest findings of research; Tools to make informed food choices; Perspectives from which to examine the existing diets and the nutritional literature. Because of the huge complexity of the human body, nutrition cannot be reduced to simplistic rules. However, some principles do exist, and some myths must be debunked. "Eat Real Food or Else" does not offer a one-size-fits-all diet, but presents methods to listen to your body and adapt your diet accordingly.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, and with 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes deftly organized into Soups, Salads & Appetizers; Vegetables; Main Courses; Breakfast, Snacks & Condiments; and Desserts, "Eat Real Food or Else" is unreservedly recommended for personal, family, community, and academic library cookbook and healthy living collections. It should be noted that "Eat Real Food or Else" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99).

Realistic Pumpkin Carving
Lundy Cupp
Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N, East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781565238947, $12.99, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: With "Realistic Pumpkin Carving: 24 Spooky, Scary, and Spine-Chilling Designs" by award winning pumpkin carver Lundy Cupp, even the most novice of pumpkin carvers can make Halloween magic this year and carve the best pumpkin on their block! "Realistic Pumpkin Carving" provides step-by-stip illustrated instructions on how to employ easy-to-learn techniques to create awesome 3-D pumpkin personalities that will astonish neighbors, family, and friends. "Realistic Pumpkin Carving" deftly shows how to use simple household knives and inexpensive tools to carve memorable pumpkin faces, ranging from frightful and spooky to fanciful and goofy. "Realistic Pumpkin Carving" reveals the secrets of bringing expressive pumpkin characters to life by adding realistic details like teeth and eyes instead of just cutting out solid shapes. "Realistic Pumpkin Carving" takes the reader, step-by-step, through detailed projects for both beginning and advanced carvers. Twenty ready-to-use patterns are included for carving imaginative faces in pumpkins, gourds, squashes, and sweet potatoes.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone and commentary, "Realistic Pumpkin Carving" is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections. The vivid illustrations and sample patterns make it easy to create spook-tacular Halloween highlights!

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Once Upon a Time a Sparrow
Mary Kabrich
Prepublication Manuscript

The psychologist narrator's mother dies relatively young (in her seventies), leaving her forty-seven-year-old daughter to sort through her belongings and her life - and that's the opening to Once Upon a Time a Sparrow, a saga of square pegs, round holes, and a school psychologist's venture into worlds where fairies exist and people don't believe in either themselves or each other.

As she finds constant connections between her work and her past, she comes to realize the powers of perception, alienation, and connection, and recalls more and more how dreams and possibilities have dictated the stormy course of her life and her school and family relationships: "It's how Ethan began to believe he could do more. Yram made him a dream catcher."

Expect a satisfying juxtaposition between past and present, solidified by Mary Kabrich's attention to the little details of sights, smells, and sounds that permeate her world and are translated to readers with precision and a fine attention to detail: "The air has the thick anxious scent of a battle."

Student/teacher interactions tie in with her own experiences as she relives past events and connects them to her present-day world, and in the course of finally achieving new learning opportunities, she comes to learn what at first seems impossible - reading - and takes readers along for the experience of how teaching can transform through the right approach: "When a arrives on the scene, you need to pay attention to what letter it's sitting next to. That means - " she stops, I look up at her, and she smiles and points to her eyes, "careful looking. When a partners up with letter r or letter l, it'll be very friendly to these letters. So friendly, it lets them have the loudest voice." Letters have loud voices? This is different."

Prayers and promises, how words and lives change forms and thrive, and how reading and connections become supercharged with introductions to new worlds: all this contributes to Once Upon a Time a Sparrow's evolutionary process and ability to easily bring readers along for the ride into literacy, understanding, and hope.

It's all about keeping dreams alive, making them real, and paying it forward. The process of how this happens gives Once Upon a Time a Sparrow a life of its own and makes it a recommendation for a wide audience, from readers of autobiography and memoirs to those who have, themselves, struggled with literacy skills, unrealized dreams, and promising passions amid the backdrop of school and home life.

Lucy in Her Secret Wood
Christina M. Pages
Waldorf Publishing
9781943848096 $14.95

Book 1 of the 'Lucy' series is set in 1970s England and tells of eight-year-old Lucy, who has lived most of her life locked in a small closet until one day her angry stepfather takes her into the woods and abandons her.

One might think that, like Hansel and Gretel, disaster will come of this move; but in fact Lucy thrives in her new wilderness world outside of the closed-in room that has been her life. In the process of adapting to the outdoor wonders she has only read about in books, she comes to feel a new kind of freedom and appreciation for life.

Despite her friendship with a boy who helps her, and her ability to adapt, Lucy's not out of the woods yet: when authorities discover a child living alone in nature, they 'rescue' her and take her to an orphanage where, once again, she is bullied and abused.

One notable feature of Lucy in Her Secret Wood is its focus, not on the abusive situations, but on Lucy's sense of wonder as she discovers the good in her world: "This wasn't the dusty air of her room with dirty walls and ceiling, and a battered door locking her from the outdoors. She was finally in the world where other creatures lived. The tiny window of her room had opened up to this wide, wide window full of grass, flowers, and trees." Her closed-in life serves, in this case, as a backdrop for the sense of appreciation she evolves for nature (wild though it may be), and the focus is on this sense of growth and discovery and not just upon the abuse she endures.

Gorgeous color paintings enhance the feel of Lucy's woods experience and the comfort it involves, while dialogue throughout reflects Lucy's respect for the newfound world she moves through: "You're bluer than the sky, and you smell even better than leaves." The flowers didn't answer; they just bowed to her in the breeze. "I won't ever pick you," she told them. For in a book she had seen children carrying flowers into their house. "I would never take you inside, away from here."

Now, all is not sweetness and light in the woods: Lucy discovers she lacks and requires very basic survival skills despite the efforts of her new friend's help, and in the course of her explorations, she learns survival and problem-solving skills: "By now her stomach was hurting, and she could feel something else happening. She was fighting back tears and even worse than that, an awful feeling that the wood didn't care about her anymore. The trees, grass, flowers were telling her they couldn't feed her. If she wanted food, she would have to look somewhere else. But where?"

As advanced elementary to early middle school grades read about Lucy's evolution, it becomes evident that her story is about more than abuse, escape, and an appreciation of nature: it's about healing, recovery, and how to maintain a sense of wonder and appreciation of surrounding beauty.

In this respect, Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers an appealing window of opportunity for kids of all ages to reconnect with the world, use art to express these connections, and ultimately arrive at better places in life where hopes, dreams and promises do come true.

Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers a message, not just of survival, but how to choose positive paths that wind through the world's negative influences, making it a recommended children's novel for many reasons.

Skeletons in the Attic
Judy Penz Sheluk
Imajin Books
9781772232646 (Paperback) $15.99
9781772232639 (Kindle) $4.99

Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery opens with the protagonist waiting in a lawyer's office for the reading of her father's will, an event that has happened much earlier than anticipated due to her father's accidental death in a construction accident. As she muses over her father's demise and her relationship with him, the first skeleton in the attic rattles: her father's will demands that Callie move into the house in Marketville, a small commuter town north of Toronto, in order for her to claim her inheritance - a house she barely knew existed, which had been rented for years. She'll have to stay there a year before the terms of the will are fulfilled. But, why?

The logic behind her father's request slowly evolves in the course of a story that opens the attic door, shakes these family skeletons, and leads them out by the hand, one by one.

Logic is just one of the strengths of Judy Penz Sheluk's Skeletons in the Attic: everything holds a believable explanation, from how Callie can afford to take a year off from work or move, to what she does with the knowledge and events that evolve.

The 'why' is introduced from the beginning - ("Your father wants you to find out who murdered your mother. And he believes the clues may be hidden in the Marketville house."), but it's really the course of Callie's investigation that makes for such a riveting story line.

As Callie makes one shocking discovery after another (she had no idea her mother's death was a murder, for one), she learns more about her parents' lives than she ever suspected, and comes to feel that the real skeletons aren't just in the attic - they're out and about town, and have returned to life.

From information on her parents' wedding to her discoveries of surviving relatives who could fill in the blanks, Callie uncovers family secrets, fields central questions about her investigation's motives ("Why now? After all these years?" It seemed like an odd question, given that my grandparents were the ones who rejected my parents, and by extension me, but I opted for the truth."), and confronts an affair that held deadly consequences for all involved. Callie just keeps on pushing until she gets what her inheritance demanded: the truth. What she will do with that knowledge is another story.

Mystery readers will find Callie a compelling protagonist, the plot a fine, winding investigative piece that redefines the concept of "dirty laundry" and whether or not it should be aired in public or secreted forever, and the story of how family connections, wealth, and truth can take on lives of their own.

Skeletons in the Attic is a vivid production that translates to thoroughly engrossing reading right up to a completely unexpected, thought-provoking surprise conclusion.

Her Dangerous Visions
Brandon Barr
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
No ISBN/ASIN, $0.99,

This first book of the fantasy series "The Boy and the Beast" is set on the world of Hearth, where a daughter determined to rule in her dying father's place finds more than leadership a challenge; especially since her father has already chosen a military man who seems better qualified for the job than a girl.

But Meluscia is not the only powerful female protagonist facing challenges in Her Dangerous Visions. Also at odds with her destiny on the planet Loam is Winter, whose dangerous visions portend new challenges beyond the portal of her world: ones that threaten to either transform or destroy everything she knows.

Fantasy enthusiasts receive a powerful saga of girls in their teens and early twenties who each stand on the threshold of destiny, grasping enormous powers and potentials in their hands which bring bloodshed and disaster along for the ride.

Cruelty and visions of hope, secret longings and methods of changing enemies, and love and hardship entwine these two worlds and form connections between characters that take interpersonal associations and their impacts into the wider world: "Would you feel much if I died?" "I would." Soundlessly Savarah moved toward the tall staircase, but stopped before ascending and looked at her. "There wouldn't be tears. But I would feel it. I would kill more than I ever killed before."

Brandon Barr takes the time and attention to explore these powerful links between characters and their impact on their worlds, creating social and political scenarios that fuel a story line filled with unexpected revelations and satisfying twists and turns. It's a pleasure to see female characters interacting strongly with their environments and with one another, displaying deep-felt passions. Her Dangerous Visions more than delivers a solid, believable series of events that document the loosening of limitations initially placed upon each character and what these mean not only for their lives and pursuits; but for others: "Truly now, she was a women without constraints. What that would mean, her heart was just beginning to whisper to her."

With such a powerful set of hungers, growing powers and evolving realms presented in Her Dangerous Visions, fans of fantasy and powerful female role models will look forward to more adventures slated to follow this series opener.

The Curse of the Bridal Chamber
Hunter Murphy
Rolltop Publishing
Paperback: 9780990979296 $15.00
eBook: 9780990979272 $ 4.99

What do murder, mermaids, old folks, and a touch of fun have in common? Most books would create these as separate topics in a series; but combine them all under one cover and what results is an unconventional Florida-based mystery by any reckoning in a story that returns prior protagonist Imogene to life in a new mystery with a new setting.

In many ways The Curse of the Bridal Chamber is a throwback to the gumshoe dramas of old-style mystery writing. The sleuth, Imogene, isn't a young or middle-aged woman; but a senior citizen with the wisdom to recognize big trouble when she sees it coming. Her Alabama cohorts in crime (her family) are attending a mermaid convention in Florida when trouble rears its head, so she's not only out of her comfort zone, but away from familiar territory. The mystery she and her family become entwined in involves more than murder: it embraces an old curse seemingly come to life.

The whimsical specter of a mermaid convention helps set the tone for the sense of humor that runs between Imogene and her kin ("Imogene lumbered forward and stopped underneath the enormous sign at the park entrance that said WELCOME MERMAIDS. She mumbled the words, "2004 Convention: Celebrating sixty years of lovely tails." She shook her head, heaving in the Florida air. "Let me tell you about my lovely tail. My old lovely tail is sore from sittin' in that car so long."), while overtones of the Deep South permeate dialogue, perspective, and events. These swirl around jail time, bulldogs, odd behaviors, and a desperate search for information about the legend surrounding the Bridal Chamber.

As events immerse Jackson, his partner, Imogene and her kin, and a cast of supporting characters in a dangerous game, readers are led on a rollicking romp heavily laced with humor, intrigue, and Southern culture; all presented in a joyful staccato of images and encounters that makes the story hard to put down: "Imogene ducked low, using her sister as a shield, but her lips moved at a machine-gun pace. "If you think I'm leaving before we discover the murderer, you've not got the good sense God gave a duck."

Through it all is the sense of wonder and fun of a senior citizen who is plucky, engaged, and on a mission. Readers who love mysteries that move beyond genre problem-solving and into the realm of feisty, fun characters ala Charles Hiatt will relish the adventures and encounters of Imogene and her wacky band.

Sacred Legacy
Kat Flannery
ImaJinn Books
c/o BelleBooks
PO Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
9781772232585 $15.99 US Trade paperback / $4.99 US eBook

Book 3 in the "Branded Trilogy" opens with Nora recalling the loss of her father and her discovery of a diary in a dilapidated trunk, which leads her to undertake a far-reaching journey far from her 1890s Colorado home. While prior readers of Lakota Honor will easily recall Nora's difficult father and the evolution of her powerful healing abilities on the Western frontier, events take another satisfying turn in this continuation of her story.

Red Wolf (from Blood Curse, Book 2) also returns, so those already familiar with the first two books in the series will find a satisfying continuation of plot and characters in Sacred Legacy.

Gifts lost and found, love, revenge, and renewal: all these themes from the past books are explored anew in an engrossing blend of Western novel, fantasy (including healing powers, evil, and magic) and romance. The blend of historical background and emotional, paranormal-tinged romance is beautifully executed and delicately wrought throughout.

Because Sacred Legacy so neatly walks the line between genres, it's easy to become absorbed in the plot no matter what type of read one is expecting; whether it be Western, mystery, romance, or fantasy. The characters so carefully constructed in prior books retain their compelling, believable facets here; while dialogue and events keep interactions realistic and absorbing: "What had he done? Tsura had felt so right in his arms, and everything had made sense for a little while. In the short time they'd been together he couldn't even look at her without disgust tainting his tongue. Then there were the moments that crept upon him, when he could not drag his eyes from her beauty, and the memory of holding her in his arms."

Evil women, abilities that have been dormant for too long to respond adequately when crisis arises, murders of the past and pains of the present, and a winding road to accepting the dubious gifts of a legacy all join in a riveting story line fueled by the passions and angst between many characters and special interests, creating a smashingly powerful crescendo to an already-powerful series.

Drones in Education
Chris Carnahan, Laura Zieger, Kimberly Crowley
International Society for Technology in Education
9781564843838 $21.95

Drones in Education: Let Your Students' Imaginations Soar joins the specialties of an assistant professor whose research centers on innovative drones and virtual learning, another whose specialty embraces online parenting communities, and a mathematics supervisor for a large New Jersey urban school district; so it presents a better intersection between the latest educational opportunities, tested research, and real-world drone applications than most.

Their combined expertise is just one of the facets that make Drones in Education especially recommended as a powerful survey of the methods and logic of including drones in learning and education processes, providing teachers with supportive data and specific details on how to get a drone program into their schools.

Chapters go beyond exploring research and educational data to create a model for classroom implementation and curricular lesson plans that link drone-based projects to standards for teaching English, math, science, and more.

From the safety, legal, and ethical issues of drones to FAA regulations, indoor use, and privacy and liability concerns, Drones in Education leaves nothing to wonder; whether it be a step-by-step examination of how to select and operate a drone to funding options and models for classroom use.

Materials and procedures for each suggested lesson plan accompany keys to customizing drone activity, applying assessment standards and enriching after-lesson possibilities. Variables and special concerns about pricing and logical development are central to many of the discussions.

Any educator interested in including drone technology in educational pursuits will find Drones in Education the authoritative reference of choice on the subject.

Cooking for Ghosts
Patricia V. Davis
HD Media Press Inc.
9780989905640, $34.95 Hardcover, $15.95 Paper, $5.99 Kindle

With a tantalizing title involving spooks and cooking, one can't help but be intrigued by Book 1 of "The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy", Cooking for Ghosts. The story doesn't disappoint, either in its ghostly plot or in the presentation of four female friends who decide to open a restaurant together aboard the Queen Mary, only to find themselves involved in much more than kitchen wizardry.

The plot is realistic: four food fans meet on a food blogging site, share recipes, and find they have much in common; including an entrepreneurial vision to open a restaurant. What better place to do so than on a luxury ocean liner with its captive audience of high-end patrons?

What they didn't add into their ingredients list was a murder, a series of ghostly encounters, and a dark history that only the spirits can reveal. As they uncover clues about the ship's history and its captive audiences, the four find themselves probing personalities and pasts as much as testing their pots for seasoning and flavor.

As each woman confronts the ghosts of her own past and their implications for her future, the tale assumes a much more complex, rich approach than anticipated. This is no light supernatural whodunit; but a probe into the motivations, dreams, personalities and driving forces of women who face incredible danger from a seemingly-innocuous business idea.

Cooking for Ghosts also isn't your usual culinary-driven story in that it doesn't pepper recipes throughout its mystery. Instead, it injects relationships between men and women into an atmosphere of intrigue as it follows how each woman grows and confronts her own special ghosts. It also comes with a unique reading guide with live links, videos, historical tidbits and trivia about the RMS Queen Mary and other true events which are peppered throughout the story.

The result is far more complex and satisfying a mystery read than the usual genre production, especially recommended for mystery enthusiasts looking for something different in the way of setting, feisty and strong female characters who play off one another and their environments, and a story line brimming with revelations and intrigue that aren't easily predictable.

My Fair Uncle
Julie Osaretin Osayande
Amazon Digital Services

"Fair" is defined by skin color as well as how people are treated; but in the case of Sussan in My Fair Uncle, who is born to poor Nigerian parents and who struggles both with poverty and abuse; her uncle is anything but helpful.

As the only girl in her extended family, Sussan is treated like a princess - but royalty comes with its price even as it brings uncertain gifts from her family's males.

As with Osa's other books, better editing would have caught spelling errors and some minor grammatical and punctuation flaws (for example: "Uncle Tom called out with a pink Barby doll waving in the air..." - the popular doll "Barbie" has never been spelled with a 'y'...; and "...he married another woman and they recently heard that he has kids." - 'had kids' would be grammatically correct ); but (as with her other books) the point isn't about perfect grammar and spelling so much as about capturing the social atmospheres and issues of Nigeria's culture and families.

In this case, Sussan serves as an example of survival and the lasting ramifications of early childhood molestation as she flees her home at age 10 to a new life; only to find the past haunting her footsteps with too-familiar scenarios surrounding men and their perception of her.

Candid assessments of different characters that interact with Sussan provide pointed details about their choices and lives ("Perpetual isn't the down- to- earth type. She was a very sarcastic woman, with little or no respect for her husband. Samuel on the other hand was humble, God fearing and a truthful man. So it hurt him that he couldn't marry Meg, even though she was the love of his life. Perpy was his second best and because of timing, he settled for her.").

As Sussan tries to grasp a new life in a culture with little regard for her past ("The law and the society didn't care about the girl child or the abuse."), she confronts ideals of wealth, relationships, abuse, power, and the actions of men and ultimately discovers the real meaning of "fair" in her life.

Steeped in the culture and trials of a young Nigerian girl who finds herself repeatedly confronting the 'fair uncles' in her life, My Fair Uncle closely examines issues of respect, women's rights, and efforts to liberate Sussan from the bondage of her life.

Stone Her to Death
Julie Osaretin Osayande
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497542150 $10.99

While readers might expect Stone Her to Death to revolve around a female protagonist (especially given the female focuses of some of Julie Osaretin Osayande's previous Nigerian-based stories), this tale actually focuses on Christian-raised 'Happy-Days' and his infidelities and experiences with women, creating an unusual examination of his growth and changes.

By age twenty-one, Happy-Days has fathered several children, and his shameful behaviors have forced him out of town, leaving behind a girl forced to raise his child alone. She and her parents have cursed him to forever fail in love, marriage and life, unbeknownst to him; so it's only after a string of failures that he finds a match in an older woman who is attracted to him.

Women are inherently unfaithful, Happy-Days believes - and yet he keeps making the same mistakes over and over, confirming his beliefs and creating a predetermined life that seems doomed to never escape its repetitive failures.

Church, revelations about people doomed to cyclic failures, and the divinity of a man moved to escape his past and serve as an example to others comes into play as Stone Her to Death rapidly moves from a singular saga of failure to one of redemption and transformation.

Destiny, the intersection of seemingly-random events, man's choice in matters of heart and soul, and Happy-Days' struggle to reconcile his wayward ways with the possibilities of a truly loving relationship make for a thought-provoking read about single mothers, wayward fathers, and the processes that drive them apart and bring them together.

Readers who appreciate blends of social insights and religious revelations will find Stone Her to Death an intriguing mix of relationships, religion, and ethical and moral dilemmas.

Who Is My Neighbour?
Julie Osaretin Osayande
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499753967 $9.99

A neighbor can assume many faces, both good and evil: he can be a predator, a helper, a thief, or a threat. The short stories in Who Is My Neighbour? closely examines various facets that make up neighborly behaviors and influences and considers all manners of individuals and the destinies that bring them together.

There's the ex-convict who hones in on a neighboring family, intent on rape and the man who moves into the neighborhood and studies a family (whose mother once helped him decades earlier); intent on making them his own. A poor black woman's act of kindness returns to rescue her in an unexpected way in this gentle tale.

There are stories of the hard-working, busy woman and her mentally disturbed neighbor, who watches her from afar; the man who leaves his wife for a husband-snatcher; and the female who may be poisoning a woman's children against her.

Each story features high drama, confrontation, lessons and messages that evolve from close encounters, and neighbors who are anything but staid.

The collection's message (that everyone should be cognizant of who their neighbors are, for better or for worse) comes to life in a series of close encounters that are vivid inspections of connections, threats, and why and how neighbors wind up in each others' lives.

Once Gone
Blake Pierce
Blake Pierce, Publisher
9781632914699 $6.99

A serial killer's penchant for women and his puzzling identity draws FBI special agent Riley Paige into a mystery that challenges even her investigative brilliance, which was already compromised in her last challenging case. In this latest task, there's no rest for the weary and no room for recovery as Riley finds herself entangled in personal and professional pain so acute that it's sometimes hard for her to distinguish the borders between each.

One exceptional quality of Once Gone is its attention to psychological detail and depth. Not only are emotions presented; but their roots are explained and explored in passages that reveal choices, emotional developments, and their consequences: "What do I feel? Then she realized. It was rage. Not against her captor. She'd long since exhausted her rage toward him. It's me, she thought. I am doing what he wants. When I scream and cry and sob and plead, I'm doing what he wants."

Riley's ability to superimpose dazzling insights into her cases is part of what makes her such a talented investigator: "Old casual clothes. That would be natural to him, she thought. That was how he usually dressed. "What is his connection with these women?" she muttered. "Where does his fury come from?"

It is this ability that could either continue to serve her well or serve as her downfall as she faces a cat-and-mouse game with a clever killer at just the point in her life where she lacks the stamina and resources to perform at her best.

In addition to its deep psychological profiles, Once Gone also excels in a story line driven by passion, motivation, and discoveries both internal and external. Riley finds herself reaching into the depths of her soul for answers ("Her eyes still shut tight, Riley reached inside herself for a sense of the killer's mind."), bringing mystery readers along for a rollicking ride through pain, suffering, and resolution of not only the case, but of Riley's own role in solving killer situations.

Her newfound discoveries about self and the real bonds in her life create a dynamic story line that grips from the first chapter and doesn't let go.

Any Means Necessary
Jack Mars
Jack Mars, Publisher
9781632914644 $7.99

Any Means Necessary is thriller writing at its best, and opens with a potential bang as jihadists steal nuclear waste from a city hospital, leading FBI investigator Luke Stone on a desperate mission to stop a dirty bomb's construction.

The action begins in Fairfax, Virginia (the suburbs of Washington, D.C.) as Luke receives a middle-of-the-night call about the latest crisis: something he has desperately avoided, as his job is impacting his home life ("I don't know what you want me to say." "Why don't you say: I've decided not to go. I've decided that my wife and son are more important than a job. I want my son to have a father. I don't want my wife to sit up for nights on end anymore, wondering if I'm alive or dead, or if I'm ever coming back. Can you do that, please?" At times like these, he felt the growing distance between them. He could almost see it. Becca was a tiny figure in a vast desert, dwindling toward the horizon. He wanted to bring her back to him. He wanted it desperately, but he couldn't see how. The job was calling.")

A Level One threat can't be ignored, even for the sake of family and home; and so Luke enters a world in which his skills are a bit rusty, but his genius could be the only thing to prevent worldwide disaster.

Other thrillers may center on the same theme of dirty bombs and nuclear terrorism; but what differentiates Any Means Necessary from similar-sounding reads is its attention to building believable, strong protagonists whose personal concerns clash with their demanding jobs.

Luke is a family man whose latest mission draws him away from everything he loves for the sake of protecting that future; but his commitment to the task at hand is peppered with reflections on what he's temporarily left behind ("Gunner was an age now where Luke could teach him some things. Maybe Luke would get him out on water skis this year. Maybe he'd teach him how to drive the boat. Luke created an image in his mind. It was of the three of them, sitting at the table on the back patio at the summer house, as the sun set over the water toward the west.") and this creates a realistic quandary as Luke bears in mind the costs of his actions and the potential of failure.

When the truth comes out, Luke realizes that the tide of authority has turned from supporting his work to conviction that Luke and Ed have become killers in pursuit of their cause.

A myriad of close encounters and shocking discoveries keeps action tense and satisfyingly fast-paced; but Luke's humanity and concerns are never set aside in favor of the thriller's evolution - and that's another feature that makes Any Means Necessary so compelling a read.

Thriller enthusiasts who relish the precise execution of an international thriller but who seek the psychological depth and believability of a protagonist who simultaneously fields professional and personal life challenges will find Any Means Necessary a gripping story that's hard to put down, drawing in readers with not just action, but unexpected consequences that reach out to change Luke's priorities.

I Did It For Brian. Teens: Save Our Oceans, Save The World
Kathleen Boucher
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01F7SPFCW $2.99

I Did It For Brian. Teens: Save Our Oceans, Save The World tells of teen Annabelle, whose older brother died in an accident at sea three years earlier. Her science project about plastic in the ocean not only illuminates a dilemma; it surges with unresolved emotions about Brian's death and its lasting impact on her life. I Did It For Brian is thus about two kinds of healing: the outer environment and Annabelle's inner world.

On the face of it, the story line sounds predictable; but many facets interact in the course of a moving plot to reveal different perspectives about the recovery process.

There's the evolution of Annabelle, who moves from eleven years of being the middle child to suddenly becoming the oldest, changing relationships within her family. There's the passion that drives her to pinpoint just how bad the ocean problem is, and what can be done about it. And then there's the emotionally charged piece of what she's already done about her life: how healing has worked, and instances where it's failed.

All these are woven into an environmental examination that includes a blossoming romance, heightened awareness of personal responsibility and choices in environmental protection and management, and a school science project that creates newfound relationships, connections, and recovery.

From nightmares that ultimately reveal to Annabelle how Brian's circle of friends were also affected to the blossoming power of belief and empowerment in Annabelle's life, I Did It For Brian is a highly recommended pick for teens seeking more than a singular focus on grief and recovery, and does an excellent job of marrying two seemingly different pursuits in a powerfully revealing story.

Side Effects: What Candidates Don't Tell You
Tomas Payne
Finlee Augare Books
ISBN: 9781943080250 (print) $14.95
ISBN: 9781943080267 (e-book) $4.99

Side Effects: What Candidates Don't Tell You comes from an author who is a CPA and who has a MBA in finance and a BS in political science.

Under Tomas Payne's close scrutiny, it's revealed that campaign promises from both parties hold side effects and problems that make them unattainable. In effect, campaign promises are carefully tailored to reach particular audiences by pulling specific heartstrings and emotions - and this makes them dangerous.

From ideals of wealth distribution and taxation to broken social systems and ideas for reforms, Side Effects tackles a host of promises and fallacies across the board, adopting a bipartisan, critical eye to defusing myths, presumptions, and illusions.

No light read, Side Effects supports its contentions with data, including charts and close analysis of opposing views and how to balance them, requiring of its readers an attention to detail and debate that demands not just close inspection but, ideally, in-depth reflection.

These are the facts all voters should see before making decisions: while candidates each promise better times for America, what are the costs of their proposals? Side Effects not only probes the latest election: it provides the critical thinking tools voters will need for any future process, showing how to delve beneath rhetoric and emotional appeals to understand the true costs of proposals and their often-unstable foundations. An enlightened voter is empowered to a greater understanding and will find the decision-making process clearer, as a result.

Side Effects delivers this, and should be on the reading lists of all voters and young adults coming of age as democratic, voting citizens, as well.

One Night
Deanna Cabinian
Timpi Publishing
ISBN (print): 9780997591613 $12.99
ISBN (ebook): 9780997591620 $4.99

Honolulu's Tiki House is more than just a family restaurant: it's an event experience. Only Thompson isn't there for entertainment: he's hoping to run into his ex after a bad breakup; longing for a reunion or something that will break the monotony his of social life. Caroline isn't there, despite her love for Elvis and the possible lure of the Elvis impersonator who is slated to appear that night - and Thompson finds himself ensnared in something different, as a result.

On the face of it, One Night is about the aftermath of a teen's breakup; but it's actually much more, as it recounts an unexpected journey brought about by chance and heartbreak.

Deanna Cabinian's ability to bring to life the cultures and atmosphere of the places Thompson visits is one big plus to a mature young adult/new adult read that takes readers along for a ride through different worlds: "I had to drive through a small wet forest to access it, which was always a little precarious. There wasn't a paved road to the beach, just a dirt path etched with tire tracks that wound between the trees. I was sure my old Corolla was going to hit a tree or stall in the mud, but, like always, it managed to pull through. Ronnie and I liked Kolakoi because we didn't have to deal with tourists like we did on Waikiki, where there was barely ever any open sand because the beach was crammed with people."

Hawaii's atmosphere is exceptionally well done, but Thompson doesn't remain there, mired in his obsession with his ex. Instead, he pulls strings with his parents and others to go to Chicago (he's never been out of Hawaii); and what he finds there will change his life.

In addition to the gritty, determined, and restless protagonist of Thompson, there are a host of other characters like Thompson's coworker/potential love interest Greta, who lend insights into not only his personality, objectives and perceptions, but the wider world at large: "The grand gesture," she said, her brown eyes serious, "is what every woman dreams about. All of us fantasize about someone holding up a boom box outside our window and blasting a love song that reminds them of us." Her hands were in the air as she said this, holding a phantom boom box. "We love the idea of a guy stopping us from getting on an airplane because they can't bear to live without us, or chasing us across the street because they forgot to tell us they love us. Women find grand gestures irresistible."

As mature teens and new adults read about Thompson's adventures with Johnny, his struggles with romance and hope, and his longing for something different, they will find One Night neatly sums up the state of many a young adult struggling with relationships and the adult world.

Just out of his junior year and entering his final year of high school, Thompson more than succeeds at his efforts to break out from predetermined routines and ruts and encounter something new. Driven by realistic characters, compelling purposes, and changing environments, One Night also breaks away from the normal coming-of-age saga with an intense story of growth and self-discovery that's very highly recommended for mature teens and new adult readers alike.

Reward Learning With Badges: Spark Student Achievement
Brad Flickinger
International Society for Technology in Education
9781564843821 $19.95

Reward Learning With Badges: Spark Student Achievement outlines a system of learning created by a technology director and teacher interested in fostering student learning, and links game and play technology with academic skills and their roots in technology.

Students and teachers learn via the encouragement of a badge program that posit a Google Classroom arrangement where students are presented with a variety of badges they can earn for mastering different skill sets and learning objectives (much like the Scouting system, only backed with online learning).

Students pick the 'badge' they wish to strive for, receive a set of 'challenges' that must be mastered to get that badge, and use tutorials and content that is presented not at the classroom level, but individually; geared to each student's learning pace in a 'flipped classroom' where students independently access what the teacher has prepared.

Creativity and peer review are built into this system, which includes group sharing and interaction towards the end of the badge achievement process.

While there are obstacles to such a program, all are discussed here with solutions and case histories complimenting a program that only requires participation from teachers, staff, and administrators to prove accessible to any elementary-level school.

With its clear attention to individual learning and customization and, especially, its pairing of applied classroom strategies to advice on not just how but why the badge system works, teachers interested in integrating supportive technology into lesson plans through an overall structural framework will find Reward Learning With Badges a solid idea that can be applied to a range of learners at different ability levels under the classroom umbrella.

Tech Out Your Class: 6 Projects to Meet Common Core & ISTE Standards
Amy Prosser
International Society for Technology in Education
9781564843791 $21.95

Tech Out Your Class: 6 Projects to Meet Common Core & ISTE Standards comes from a technology writer and Google Certified instructor and provides educators with six customizable projects that incorporate and apply Common Core and ISTE Standards to the classroom.

These aren't generalized approaches, but are specific to English, math, science, foreign language, social studies and art objectives; taking each subject and matching it with projects backed by technology.

Take the third project, for example, "Powerful Digital Storytelling". Discussion of this topic opens with support of storytelling's benefits and the standards achieved through digital storytelling, outlining the Common Core goals for college and career readiness and adding ISTE's standards.

Sections then cover different subjects and fiction and nonfiction digital storytelling ideas, websites that support student creation and collaboration processes, how teachers can plan a storytelling project, and how they can grade and use the results.

Every step of the teaching process is reviewed, with tips and advice providing a clear overview of what's needed and what can be done with student results.

Teachers just beginning to integrate technology into classroom objectives will find these six projects a solid roadmap to success, making Tech Out Your Class a highly recommended approach for a wide range of learning situations.

Moriarty Meets His Match
Anna Castle
Anna Castle, Publisher
Print: 9781945382031 $14.99
eBook: 9781945382048 $4.99

Fans of Anna Castle's prior Murder by Misrule, as well as newcomers who relish Sherlock Holmes will both be delighted by Moriarty Meets His Match, a different take on the usual Sherlock or Holmes focus which centers upon Holmes adversary Moriarty's life and perspective.

Here Professor Moriarty's life has been challenged by Sherlock even as he faces a newfound romance that could be destroyed by his own obsessions and penchant for problem-solving.

It's intriguing to note that few other accounts have delved into the psyche and motivations of Moriarty from his perspective rather than that of Holmes and his troop. In adopting a focus that questions some well-established Holmes ideas and approaches, Castle has created a truly riveting and thought-provoking mystery that ultimately surveys the nature of good intentions and evil itself.

As Moriarty Meets His Match progresses in a cat-and-mouse series of escapades tempered by a romance with Angelina, readers receive a riveting sequence of events in which Angelina's own investigations and strengths provide a satisfying, powerful juxtaposition to the main protagonists.

From compelling motives for murder and the convoluted special interests uncovered by Moriarty to different scenarios promising alternative outcomes, Moriarty here assumes a Holmes-like precision in analyzing events to their logical progression: "Moriarty poured himself a cup of coffee, working by touch, and took a sip. The bitterness suited this new train of thought. In this scenario, his role was merely to sharpen the lady's skills and provide a little entertainment. He couldn't bring himself to explore the possibility that she and her paramour were deliberating trailing him before Holmes and the authorities as a suspect."

His efforts sometimes lead to obstacles ("He'd come full circle. The ability to generate alternative theories was as much a curse as a blessing. He ladled a heaping spoonful of sugar into his coffee. The bitterness wasn't helping."), but one of the big pleasures of Moriarty Meets His Match is that, here, Moriarty is as much of a hero - and as savvy - as his counterpart Holmes.

Having Moriarty be the central focus, without the constant interference of consulting detective Holmes and his sidekick, lends him a persona well suited to equal Holmes' observational style and analytical prowess. Holmes and Moriarty work together in harmony for a while as they investigate a case, Moriarty is determined to keep one step ahead of Holmes' processes and procedures ("...he had to see this through himself. He must remain abreast of Holmes's inquiry, and the best way to accomplish that was to be made an active participant."), and as he faces ongoing challenges from Holmes, he hones a direction which diverges from Holmes' detail-oriented approach.

From sabotage to possible motives, Holmes and Moriarty's increasingly complex, dangerous involvements in uncertain motives make for a riveting mystery that will involve and delight readers as they explore more facets of Moriarty's character than traditional Holmes accounts provide.

Sherlock Holmes fans will find Moriarty Meets His Match exquisitely well-done: true to the nature and characters of both men, but adding extra dimensions to Professor Moriarty's character that greatly enhance the entire Holmes scenario. Very highly recommended as a 'must' for Sherlock enthusiasts and anyone who relishes a good whodunit mystery.

Help Me! A Psychotherapist's Tried-and-True Techniques for a Happier Relationship with Yourself and the People You Love
Richard B. Joelson, DSW
Health Psychology Press
ISBN: 9780997229202 (PB) - $16.99
9780997229219 (HC) - $21.99
9780997229226 (eBook) - $9.99

Ordering: Amazon:

Help Me! comes from a practicing clinical social work psychotherapist who focuses not just on the usual pitfalls of all kinds of relationships, but how to successfully fix them through attitude adjustment and applied psychotherapy. It offers many solid discussions of resilience, adaptation, how individuals adjust to life's challenges, and the special challenges these transitions bring to partnerships.

Essays are designed to strengthen thinking and problem-solving processes, and discuss the social and psychological issues involved in situations which may afford many insights but few instructions on how to actually apply them to life, for meaningful, lasting change.

Lest these explorations become muddled or challenging (given that there are so many facets to consider), they are arranged in general categories (i.e. Being, Living, Loving and Thriving), with essays on individual concerns incorporating wider relationship implications and case history examples gleaned from the author's practice.

Plenty of psychology self-help guides provide analysis and case histories, but few offer the specific applications to life that result in clear advice on how to manage or change outcomes: "If, for any reason, you are someone who finds yourself struggling with receiving compliments like the people in the examples above, perhaps your own quiet reflection might help you understand why. Rather than expressing yourself in a way that challenges or repudiates a well-intentioned other who seems to have nice things to say about you, a simple "thank you" will always do very nicely while you privately attempt to figure out why a compliment or flattery stirred conflict within you in the first place."

This is just one of the facets that sets Help Me! apart from similar-sounding self-help psychology titles: an attention to taking the examples beyond analysis and into the choices involved in applying insights to different scenarios.

Also refreshingly different are the cases that caused Richard B. Joelson to consider changing his own approaches: "It led me to question whether or not I should revise my thinking to include the fact that sometimes and for some people, relief is change and not necessarily something less or less meaningful."

The result is highly recommended for any psychology or self-help reader who would better understand how meaningful change becomes a part of revised life goals and psyches.

Love, Life, and Logic
Uday Mukerji
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861264 $22.95

Rohan Fernandez didn't expect the relationships he stumbled into once he left Singapore; but, they happened. He didn't expect these wider-world experiences to lead to bigger questions about life's purpose - but that's part of his learning curve as he ventures beyond country borders into different cultures and liaisons with diverse people. Most of all, he didn't anticipate the questions about love's place in his life which would lead him on the journey portrayed in Love, Life and Logic, a road trip melding world experience with inner growth.

Readers might not expect this either; but one of the pleasures of Love, Life and Logic lies in a journey that doesn't just romp through life, but takes each piece of experience and holds it up to the window of the soul for further enlightenment.

Rohan is not an inexperienced youth when the story begins: he has a son and daughter and left a failed relationship with his Chinese Singaporean ex-wife. The ideals of his old world have not worked long-term. So what will replace them, and should he rebuild with new principles that even bear any semblance to the old?

In the past, Rohan has not let anybody fully into his thoughts - not even his family. But in light of his new encounters, he reflects and rethinks his part in what has transpired, and readers receive clear information about that involvement and how secrets lead to alienation: "Now that I had new perspectives, I was willing to take my share of the blame. The human mind often acts like a volcano. Sometimes it erupts and disintegrates everything that comes near it. But one particular thought can also stay latent for ages and become active all over again at a much later date. Something similar had happened to me; after about three years of marriage, my childhood thoughts had started haunting me again....I would immediately pull myself out of that darkness and say, "Of course; everything is fine," and I thought everything was under control. So instead of blowing up, those thoughts crawled back inside and started eating me alive. Slowly I lost myself, and I wasn't sure what I was doing - barely surviving on life support or racing ahead triumphantly like Steve Prefontaine?"

If life is about sojourning from Point A to Point B, what happens when these goals are reached? And when does that achievement crystallize and change?

In a fast-paced world filled with scars, broken vows, newfound commitments, and insecure relationships in the face of change, Rohan slowly uncovers new paths to understanding the greater universe at large. His journey neatly takes the reader's hand and mind and leads to an engrossing tale of love and redemption, highly recommended for those seeking more than a casual romance story. Love, Life and Logic comes packed with thought-provoking mental and spiritual changes, in which the ultimate goal fluidly changes with better understanding.

An Idea, and Bullets
William Haponski
Combatant Books, 2016
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499622232 $19.99

An Idea, and Bullets: A Rice Roots Exploration of Why No French, American, or South Vietnamese General Could Have Brought Victory in Vietnam blends a combat commander and educator's perspective with the background of military historian to consider the roots of events in Vietnam. At first glance, William Haponski's effort would seem to add to an already-huge collection of surveys analyzing nearly every possible aspect of Vietnam history and politics; but in reality An Idea, and Bullets holds several substantial differences that earn it high recommendation for any collection seeking definitive and unique angles on Vietnam's events and their lasting impact on the world.

Perhaps this is because Haponski is a West Point graduate well versed in military processes and logic. His book considers how the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong persevered and prevailed over the seemingly-mightier forces and resources of France and the USA, discussing many points about how ultimate goals and purposes fueled the NVA and Viet Cong in ways Westerners could not begin to either understand or fight.

It's rare to see an academic touch added into the mix of an Army officer's combat years; but this approach serves An Idea, and Bullets very well, juxtaposing the insights of war correspondents, issues of independence in North and South Vietnam, and how France attempted to establish and dominate the region after World War II, setting the scene for a quagmire of social and political emotions that would erupt to consume not only France's efforts, but those of Americans drawn into the fray.

In beginning its survey in 1945 and working to the more familiar scenarios of the 1970s, Haponski's blend of military and historical analysis get at the heart of not just what happened, but why and how it occurred.

For all these reasons, An Idea, and Bullets stands heads and shoulders above many Vietnam analyses, providing its depth and insights in over five hundred pages of well-researched points and discussions perfect for readers who have had a taste of shallower approaches and who seek the kind of depth that successfully answers the question 'why'.

Bitter is the Wind
Jim McDermott
Cune Press
PO Box 31024, Seattle, WA 98103
Hardback ISBN 9781614571391 $24.95
eBook ISBN 9781614571414 $ 9.99
Kindle ISBN 9781614571421 $ 9.99

More so than most coming of age reads, the chapter headings of Bitter is the Wind don't just pinpoint the journey's progression: they nail it. Trouble, Hope, Desire, Control - these are the voyages undertaken by father and son (George Jr. and George Sr.) as both struggle with the American dream and life during different eras of changing values.

All the trappings of a typical American world are here - baseball, family values, changing religious beliefs, mundane jobs and devastating losses - but also present are the atypical as two generations struggle with their choices.

It's hard to say that either George is entirely likeable. Conversely, it's hard to deny that the personality quirks of either are anything but human, representing individual responses to life that revolve around different choices which are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

Responsibility, life goals, confrontations between generations holding different ideals, and the influence of sports and money on family connections or disassociations: all these are wound into a coming of age novel that is grittier and more realistic than some, encapsulating the essence of the American dream and its accompanying nightmares as seen through the eyes of a father and son.

As the Johnsons move through their chapter heading themes, readers are treated to a story of working class experiences that especially excels in mentions of economic and social influence on character choices and evolution. And as graduation looms on the horizon, the two Georges' roads begin to fork. As divergences appear much like cracks in the family structure, readers find themselves full circle in a winding story that follows family ties and ties to America itself.

Coming-of-age new adult and adult readers will find much to like in Bitter is the Wind, a full-flavored read that provides more depth and social and economic background than most.

The Gallery of Missing Husbands
Lawrence J. Epstein

"The Gallery of Missing Husbands" is a weekly section of the Jewish Daily Forward, consisting of mug shots of men who have abandoned their families. The plot of this story of the same name opens with a bang ("The man next to me screamed and pointed, so I looked up and watched as Ezra Kaufman's body flew downward from the roof."), and as protagonist Daniel is called upon to investigate a psychic's death, he finds himself embroiled in a tense case that leads him on a chase through New York's Lower East Side.

The first thing to note about The Gallery of Missing Husbands is that it's thoroughly steeped in the atmosphere and setting of this New York City area. Lawrence J. Epstein's intention is to create an absorbing backdrop to his mystery fueled by a sense of place as much as a sense of personalities and purposes, and so he sets events just before World War I and includes much background on Daniel's culture and world.

This approach provides a powerful series of references and insights that most mysteries don't bother to include, creating a rich, vivid setting that is powerfully evocative and which supports the logic, perceptions, and motivations of a myriad of characters. The language used to describe all this is simply outstanding: "The street was overwhelmed by the usual odors of the ghetto, the sweet smell of the apples on a nearby pushcart and the rancid smell of garbage. I heard the screams of hungry babies, the cries of boys playing stickball, the endless murmurs of young lovers and chatting neighbors, and the hushed voices of the old comparing agonies." Brilliant sweep of impressions!

This is no single example, either: the delicious impressions continue throughout ("And don't forget the hot onion rolls and black bread." The restaurant gave a basket of them at every meal, but I wanted to annoy the guy. His face told me I was doing a good job. He stared and his eyes shot the flames of Hell at me.") to thoroughly support the feel of the saga; not just inviting readers to walk the Lower East Side, but taking them by the hand to lead them along.

The second thing to note is the mystery itself. Daniel's own personal struggle with an epic failure in his life segues neatly into his search for the truth, and as he walks through the lives of Jewish families and people involved with the psychic, he becomes increasingly convinced that something bigger has taken place than a cunning murder.

What does the reference to missing husbands and family impacts have to do with an anarchist, a mother's death, blackmail victims from the Gallery, and a scheme leading to murder?

As Daniel walks the streets of the Lower East Side to uncover many threads leading to powerful possibilities, so the ghosts of his past walk with him. Readers are brought along for a powerfully compelling novel that toes the line between thriller and mystery and creates a saga steeped in New York City's pre-World War I culture.

As a touch of love winds its way into The Gallery of Missing Husbands, Daniel finds himself pondering his deep connections to the neighborhood, his life, and the pain he's causing in his relentless search for answers and a story that's highly recommended as an evocative, compelling piece that is hard to put down, once begun!

Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries
C.S. Sahu
J. W. Sheahan & Company
9780997578508 $15.99 Paper, $9.99 ebook,

Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries is a short story collection perfect not just for Halloween reading, but for any fan of the supernatural, offering (appropriately) thirteen diverse tales of chilling encounters.

Subliminal fears realized, overtly spooky presences that wield control over their human entities, and a hypochondriac whose ex-wife has refused to enable his fears (only to discover they lead to a startlingly gruesome event when Larry is treated by a new doctor) are only a few examples of stories that blend elements of horror with mystery, contributing to satisfyingly diverse scenarios with endings designed to surprise.

It's important to emphasize that the strengths and crux of this collection lies in its attention to diversity. Not every story involves a ghost. Many are gruesome in other ways, but all are designed to keep readers thinking and on their toes. Think of the style of Alfred Hitchcock with the eerie overtones and ironies of Twilight Zone to get a feel for the flavor of these tales.

Take 'Free to a Good Home', for an example. What could be more innocent than a man from a home for troubled youth seeking pets for the kids, who responds to an ad for free cats? Only all is not as it seems: benevolent Johnny is actually terrified of cats. So what is he doing in a cat lover's home, soliciting a heap of them to take away? The story evolves with some unexpectedly eerie twists.

Or consider a caretaker's fear that the mean-spirited old man who is kin to her is dying, despite her dislike of his practical jokes and nasty ways. What will happen to an old man who wants to "die laughing" at the expense of others? And can a person literally be "scared to death"?

Revealing and diverse, Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries offers vignettes that are thoroughly engrossing and especially recommended for fans of the short story format and macabre, weird fiction.

In the Company of the Dead
Ciara Ballintyne
Evolved Publishing
ISBN-13 9781622530311 (paperback) $17.99
ISBN-13 9781622530304 (Kindle) $ 4.99
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In a literary world increasingly dominated by staccato-quick scenes that mimic the haste of films without taking time to build foundations of support, it's a pleasure to see something different within In the Company of the Dead. Some of the most notable fantasy authors create powerful reads with slower beginnings that lead up to a crescendo of gripping action - such as this story, which begins with orphan Ellaeva's desire to avenge her parents' death when she's chosen to be the Left Hand of Death.

In her world (and during the course of her quest) the fine lines between justice and revenge blur, tainting a journey powered by grief and anger. All this is about to take yet another turn when In the Company of the Dead opens mid-quest and introduces new facets to her life's purpose.

Much like the acclaimed fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss's productions, In the Company of the Dead evolves slowly for the first few chapters. There are maps, a good number of characters who interact with protagonist Ellaeva, a "David and Goliath" feel as forces clash and political and personal concerns become caught in the middle of wider-ranging issues, and several different heroes, including a wandering priestess and a military figurehead.

Fantasy readers who enjoy battle descriptions and conflict will be especially pleased with Ciara Ballintyne's attention to detail as she describes some epic conflicts that embrace romance, ideals, and life purposes after setting the stage for a compelling world packed with realistic medieval trappings and issues that demand its readers become emotionally involved in the characters' concerns.

While In the Company of the Dead is not recommended for leisure readers seeking a quick pursuit filled with more action than thought, it's perfect for the fantasy fan seeking depth, who appreciates a slow build-up before the fiery action begins. Such an audience will find this perfectly fits the definition of an epic saga: sweeping, complex, and ultimately engrossing.

Nine Ways to Empower Tweens with Emma and Elliot
Kathleen Boucher
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504357388 $11.99

Nine Ways to Empower Tweens with Emma and Elliot is directed to ages 10-12 and pairs good color drawings by Timothy Tsang with a focus on how tweens can develop life skills. These is portrayed through the eyes of fraternal twins Emma and Elliot who, having mastered these skills, are on a mission to teach these talents to kids their own age.

From anger management to better work ethic and a sense of gratitude in life, Nine Ways to Empower Tweens with Emma and Elliot tackles each issue in chatty chapter-by-chapter coverages with clear headings ("How to Speak Confidently", "The Importance of Work Ethic", "First Impressions and Interviews") that guide kids through the worlds of work and life.

Some might think that ages 10-12 are too young to absorb such discussions; but the overall theme of empowerment and understanding life cannot begin at too early an age, and the sometimes-adult-sounding insights presented through the eyes of Elliot and Emma ("Let's say that you are going for an interview for something you want, and there are five hundred applicants for the same spot. Before you get a chance to speak, the people interviewing you will form an opinion of you based on your appearance.") go a long way towards explaining the underlying influences on success and failure in life to an age group not normally considered for these topics.

Kids are invited to imagine successful outcomes to common challenges, are encouraged to experiment with new skills (such as speed reading or better time management), and are presented with examples and scenarios that support successful outcomes: "Try the following experiment. Let's say you dislike math homework. You have an assignment due tomorrow. You have one hour of homework to do, but you want to do it in thirty minutes. Put a clock at the end of the table you are working on, and set it for thirty minutes. Then, concentrate and focus on doing your math homework.

The idea is to get as much done in thirty minutes without distractions. Focus, and get it done!"

The result is a positive and chatty review of the nine basic attributes that can be cultivated in youth to pave the way for adult success. Nine Ways to Empower Tweens is highly recommended for 10-12 year olds and beyond as a basic primer offering a formula for success through developing powerful habits and perspectives on life.

How to Seduce a Queen
Stella Marie Alden
Soul Mate Publishing
ASIN: B01GQI3JDO $3.99

Given the fact that Stella Marie Alden's prior medieval romance books in the series are winners, it's a given that those who know her name will realize they're in for a treat with How to Seduce a Queen, a new addition to the series - but it should also be emphasized that newcomers will have no difficulty entering Alden's world if they start with this title, either.

Set in 1283, the prologue opens with a mad dash to his brother-in-law's castle by one Nicholas, who has been shot with an arrow by the Lady Fay. In the mad rush to save his life, a twin sister and a host of characters are introduced in a vivid opener that compels readers to learn why a romantic interest with a long history could possibly lead to murder.

After setting the scene with an intriguing question, the first chapter goes back in time three months' prior to introduce the politics and purposes of Nicholas, who is charged with the idea of kidnapping the royal Lady Fay.

There's more than the seduction of a queen going on, here: readers will quickly be seduced not just by political cross-purposes and evolving romance, but the stormy relationships between families, political intentions, and arrogant suitors and fathers alike.

Alden's gift for bringing to life the atmosphere and setting of medieval England's wild countryside and challenges are equaled only by her ability to draw a feisty, strong female protagonist into the picture, who is more likely to get her way via arrow than wooing.

It's refreshing to feel the tongue-in-cheek humor and delightful clashes and contrasts of personalities throughout a novel that takes as much time to create winning and different characters as it does to present a sense of the wildness and wilderness that was medieval England.

The fiery temperaments and encounters between the main characters, the blossoming and often-reluctant romance ("There would be no wedding banquet. Not while she lived and breathed."), and the determination of a woman who will not "marry a monster" and who would rather kill than cuddle all lend to a rollicking, fun, action-packed story.

Romance readers with an affinity for historical settings, feisty characters, and medieval times will find How to Seduce a Queen engrossing and refreshingly different from the usual romance read.

Uncovering Officer Smith
Sheena Hutchinson
Sheena Hutchinson LLC
ISBN (Paper): 1532791240 $14.99
ASIN (ebook): B01ED5A4WG $ 3.99

While Uncovering Officer Smith looks to be a detective story in the usual sense, it's gratifying to note that Sheena Hutchinson takes this second book in her trilogy in a different direction, creating, in effect, a psychological profile of not a perp, but an officer who is a deliberate womanizer, never letting himself get too close to love or emotional commitment.

One might expect that such an individual will ultimately encounter a feisty, attractive personality to thwart his careful routine of 'catch and release'; not a studious nerd who as determined to achieve her goals as she is sexy.

One might also anticipate that the process of throwing away rules that create barriers could make for predictable outcomes. Delightfully, this is not the case. As Officer John Smith faces challenges to his personal and professional lives, so he makes choices that aren't always staid or in his best interests.

As the stubbornness and determination of two very different individuals begins to seep into John's cases and his life goals, he slowly begins to do something he'd determined he'd never do again: lower his barriers. Ditto for Becca; especially when her plans for future success are thwarted by a night inadvertently spent with a stranger.

Sometimes romance is all about narrowed visions and special purposes coalescing in unusual ways. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's poignant, and in the best of circumstances, it's entertaining.

To call Uncovering Officer Smith the 'second book in a mystery trilogy' would apply too shallow a definition to this process. It's a love story, it's a tragedy, it's a puzzle, and it's a delightful read designed to keep readers not just guessing about the outcomes of events; but examining their own preset notions of how life should and could evolve.

Heartbreaks and blondes, two individuals who have cultivated the high art of hiding for different reasons and towards different purposes, and a series of events that takes two "lost causes" and joins them: these all make for a superior psychological approach that closely examines how relationships and new family circles are forged, against all odds.

Gripping, fun, and thought-provoking, Uncovering Officer Smith isn't so much for the typical "whodunit" mystery fan as for those who enjoy wider-ranging examinations of life, love, humor, and everything in between.

Our Daughter is Getting Married
Gail Heath
Condor Publishing, Inc.
9781931079150 Print: $9.95 Amazon Digital: $2.99

Marriage is seldom the subject of a children's picture book, so the first surprise to Our Daughter is Getting Married lies in its perspective as a mother picks up the phone to hear the news that her daughter has met somebody special and is planning her wedding day.

Lovely color illustrations follow wedding plans and a mother's enthusiasm as the couple plan their big day, from sparkling wedding rings and cake choices to the involvement of friends and family and possible dresses, flowers, and decorations.

Young picture book readers receive a rollicking rhyme reviewing these exciting developments as a mother celebrates the details of her daughter's wedding with approval and wonder.

But this is no ordinary marriage, and no ordinary celebration. What makes it different isn't only the participants: it's the level of acceptance of two supportive families and the excitement of commitment between two individuals in love, both females, who make a public statement about their intention to officially meld their lives and families in a different way.

Coming in the wake of new discussions about LBGT lives, rights, and Orlando's tragedy, Our Daughter is Getting Married makes a powerful, supportive statement about love and addresses its message not to adults well versed in social and political discussion; but to the hearts and minds of the young picture book reader - the next generation that desperately needs a message of supporting families and "people in love together" and the types of partnerships that sustain unity over separation.

Very, very highly recommended, Our Daughter is Getting Married offers a much-needed anecdote to a world too often immersed in divisiveness and pain.

State Change - A Chemical Fantasy
Joe Andrade
Andrade Self-Publishing
Price: $0.00 (Free) - only available online. Bound book copies available from author, for free, to qualified reviewers and libraries.

Novels typically do not contain manifestos - but State Change incorporates both. In a future world gone mad (a world akin to our own), the very boundaries of social and political process are tested as humanity's trials and errors demand that traditional leadership be rebuilt and replaced.

But how do rulers and leaders evolve beyond preset assumptions which are contributing to the fall of mankind? Replacements take time and are likely to arrive contaminated by the same perceptions as their predecessors. There's only one quick solution: change the mindsets of existing world leaders through chemistry. This approach is not only in the public interest. It's in the interest of humanity's survival.

This is the basic concept of this quasi-novel, in a nutshell. It's time to sit back and enjoy the ride through the process (and ultimately, the call to action) that blends the forms of a novel and a social statement in State Change.

In the opening act, the state of the nation is deteriorating, the planet is falling apart, and change must happen if humanity is to survive. "The Challenge" opens with the narrator's introduction to political interests and the basic foundations of the concept of "State Change", which are built and explored throughout the events that transpire.

How can revolutions be engineered? How do belief systems evolve, and how do social and political circles support them? What are the failings of education and awareness when faced with entrenched dogma and blind ideologies?

Even though the word 'fantasy' is in this book's subtitle, readers shouldn't expect work of traditional fantasy or entertainment here. State Change is about how real change occurs at its most fundamental levels, the barriers to realization and effective evolution, and the efforts of individuals to transcend the juggernaut of political ineffectiveness. As such, it's a serious work that blends ideology with a dose of fiction that revolves around Utah protagonists and their daring attempts to not just change, but transform the world into something better.

State Change is no light production. It demands a higher level of thought, political and social interest from its readers, and not a little acceptance of some radical ideas about chemistry's applications in the name of lasting solutions that belays the usual intention of a novel to entertain in some manner.

There's a solid coverage of history along the way, analysis of political process, and the growing conviction of a myriad of characters who envision a new world evolving from the virtual end of civilization as we know it. As chapters rush through a mix of familiar-sounding modern dilemmas and futuristic concerns, they come steeped in much research and explanation and thus require slow reading and time for contemplation as they present a satisfying blend of complex activist and scientific concerns with characters concerned about changing the world in the best possible way.

There is no competitor to State Change. It stands in a class by itself (one perhaps occupied by Huxley, Vonnegut, and other authors of classics on social change) in presenting a different kind of futuristic possibility that rises from the ashes of the Koch Brothers and other political special interests familiar in today's world.

Discriminating fiction readers with a penchant for more than entertainment will relish its approach, diversity, and complex observations on the processes and challenges of mental enhancement.

Nineteen: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Model
D.L. Janney
E F Lee Publishing
Paperback ISBN: 9780997467802 $18.95
eBook ISBN: 9780997467819 $ 4.95
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Nineteen: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Model presents Daryl, a determined young man whose appearance lends to modeling jobs that take him away from a brutal childhood in a small Midwestern town to the glamour of New York City.

Daryl's trials in life aren't over, even though he's successfully left his past behind: indeed, they're just beginning, since he has no support systems, money, or contacts which could make the difference between success or failure in both the modeling world and in life.

Sometimes a fierce determination to rise above it all isn't enough. Sometimes the elements that contribute to success in life remain ever-elusive. And often the savviest of young men remain frustrated as they reach for a carrot of success that never quite seems to land squarely in their hands.

Such is Daryl: and as readers follow his successes and failures, so they come to admire and understand the foundations of his beliefs as he begins to acknowledge that he is "...the one person who brings me all the pain: myself."

Revelations such as these charge an emotional story of determination even when odds are firmly stacked against the protagonist. It's the processes of Daryl's coming of age in the world which makes his story so involving a read ("Whatever I loved in my family would be taken away from me, teaching me that to love anything or anyone would result in loss. I changed myself from an overly emotional and caring child into a careful and distant adult."). And, ultimately, it's the nature and circumstances of Daryl's life and choices that keeps readers immersed to an end which offers no pat answers or simple solutions.

Nineteen: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Model is a coming-of-age story on the level of Catcher in the Rye and other classic writings, and is highly recommended for advanced and mature teens into new adult and adult audiences; especially those interested in pursuing novels about the nature of transformative processes.

The Moreva of Astoreth
Roxanne Bland
Blackrose Press
9780996731607 $2.99 Kindle
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Cover art usually isn't mentioned in the course of a book review because (let's face it) most are fairly unremarkable. But the blue-faced, red-clad, white-haired, face-tattooed alien figure on the cover of The Moreva of Astoreth provides an unusually compelling visual that invites potential readers to dive in just to find out more about her world.

Obviously, this is a fantasy piece. Just as obviously, it revolves around a powerful female protagonist. Readers enter a dark world where priestess/scientist Moreva, banished from her goddess grandmother's temple for a year for neglecting her sacred tasks, embarks on a path that does anything but support the demands of a priestess position.

The first thing to note about this particular journey is that it creates a full-faceted, complex world. No light hand on creating its setting means that no depth is sacrificed in the interests of presenting swift action (though a quick pace is also one of the strong points of The Moreva of Astoreth). Such depth necessarily requires length; so those seeking a quick leisure read will want to look elsewhere. Time is taken to build setting, culture, and characters; but the pay-off is a vivid saga powered by the character of Moreva and her struggles with social issues familiar to modern Earth, as the mixed-race heroine struggles to find a place in her world.

While those who eschew smaller details (such as a protagonist's daily routine) may wish for a faster pace, the joy and strength of The Moreva of Astoreth lies in its ability to take these carefully-laid foundations and build them into a sweeping saga that fantasy and sci-fi fans will find absorbing.

Think Andre Norton to gain a feel for how the setting of this alien world works to support the creation of a protagonist who vividly interacts with it, testing the limits of her personal, spiritual and scientific boundaries with encounters that include romance, political intrigue, and social issues. All these facets are wound into a scientific pursuit that could threaten everything.

The Moreva of Astoreth is especially recommended for genre readers who want their characters, settings, and plots carefully and firmly cemented with a sense of place to support the greater goal of a powerful story that becomes hard to put down.

Broken Eagle
James T. Crouse
Caromount Island Publishing
9780997471205 $17.99

"My husband died in a military aircraft crash, and I need to know why. There was no better pilot in the Marines."

Jake hears these words and knows he's hooked because not only is he an attorney with a investigate background, but he flew in a U.S. Army helicopter unit; so his combined expertise makes him uniquely qualified to investigate.

Unfortunately, this combination of talent doesn't necessarily translate to an easy success story as Jake discovers he's actually signed on to tackle the military industrial complex as much as an aviation personal injury case. And the military is keeping some deep, dark secrets that have little to do with either justice or national security.

As Jake delves deeper into a situation that involves classified documents and secret files worth murdering for, he finds himself at odds with the rogue elements within the military, facing a combination of threats to his own life and moral and ethical questions involved in covering up a murder.

Part of what sets Broken Eagle apart from genre thriller or investigative reads is its in-depth focus on military and aviation processes. Readers who are used to lawyer protagonists operating fairly narrowly in courtroom proceedings will be delighted to find that Jake's prowess and purposes embrace far more than courtroom environments and client encounters.

Another notable feature of Broken Eagle is its attention to developing subplots that detail a host of special interests and their sometimes-conflicting interactions: "Vertical Aerospace had primary responsibility for the XV-11's wings, rotors, and landing gear in this joint, two-company program. It would be a major revenue source for years to come - not to mention the civilian tilt-rotor spin-off projects that were already being planned."

While these tidbits of information tend to be mentioned in other works almost as asides to the central story, here they serve to build satisfyingly complex accounts of companies, military purposes, and personal special interests alike.

The result is far more than the usual kind of story 'legal thriller' genre readers will expect, and is highly and especially recommended for anyone who appreciates military intrigue and aviation legal matters wound into the bigger picture of those who have sacrificed for their nation in more ways than one.

Silent Source
James Marshall Smith
Stealth Books
9781939398703 $14.99

Silent Source contains a good dose of violence that matches supernatural overtones in a highly recommended thriller that explores a sleuth scientist's involvement in a case that may look otherworldly, but likely involves an ordinary (if depraved) human killer.

With two bodies and a priest dying in a hospital under mysterious circumstances, Silent Source's ominous atmosphere is steeped with blood and mystery from its opening act, and becomes more complex and winding as the plot moves overseas, only to return back home to Georgia again.

Dr. Damon Keane is used to being one step ahead of his perps in any given investigation; but this time he's perpetually behind in a struggle that could cost not just more individual lives, but an entire major city.

James Marshall Smith's ability to take the microcosm of one man's crime spree and turn it into a wider-ranging threat demonstrates the difference between an investigative murder story and a thriller whose events include world-changing ramifications.

As Dr. Keane finds all his skills tested in a clever series of cat-and-mouse maneuvers, he encounters a deadly scenario revolving around bigger, nuclear issues and threats that could ultimately come home to affect his family and everything he loves.

Can an outsider take the law into his own hands and win? And can the efforts of a man determined to save Atlanta from decay by bombarding it with danger thwart even the skills of one accustomed to being the winner in any confrontation?

Take a tale of intrigue, add a dash of romance and investigative mystery, and sandwich these with seat-of-your pants action switching between perp and doctor/investigator for a thriller that will thoroughly immerse any genre fan seeking hot action and heart-pounding adventure.

Mirror, Mirror at 1600 D.C.
Edward Galluzzi
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Paper: CCB Publishing
ASIN: B004GXAYTE $4.95
9780981024615 $15.95

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Amazon Paperback Link:

The President of the United States is female, successful, and beloved - and has been kidnapped. It stands to reason that the top, most trusted agents will spring into action to get her back at any cost, dead or alive.

And so it's logical that a reader coming into the story could believe this will be a political novel - but they'd be wrong. It would have been a logical choice; but all too easy to write - and that's what elevates Mirror, Mirror at 1600 D.C. beyond the usual genre read. Edward Galluzzi's attention to multi-faceted details and stories and relationships between Hannah, Harrison (her personal bodyguard, who shares center stage with her), and others makes for a resoundingly realistic and compelling storyline.

As romance and mystery moderate the political thriller aspect, readers are drawn into a kind of action based as much on interpersonal relationships as on subterfuge and special interests. From the Pope to the Mentor, characters added to the tale each impart their own influence on what ultimately comes to pass.

Moral and ethical issues arise and create compelling conundrums for different characters, suspense is tempered by an unexpected dash of humor to keep things fresh and unexpected, and issues of domestic terrorism and its impact will captivate contemporary readers who like their action and plots realistic and representative of some of the central social and political concerns of modern times.

As Harrison considers his options and re-assesses his friendships, hard decisions come to the forefront that provide no easy insights and no clear path of resolution, making Mirror, Mirror at 1600 D.C. a top thriller genre read precisely because it doesn't hold true to staid and predictable characters or outcomes, but builds many a satisfying surprise into events as they transpire and build to a exquisite, well-crafted and tense climax.

Bloodthorn Series, OBSIDIAN
Adam Collins
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01HIL97AW $2.99

If the title Bloodthorn Series, OBSIDIAN sounds surprising, that's because you're not looking at a single book or a series edition; but the first three books of the Bloodthorn series, re-edited and assembled under one cover. Having Books 1,2, and 3 together makes the saga much easier to absorb for newcomers (such as this reviewer), who will appreciate that the fantasy opens with a satisfying, scene-setting prologue centered around a heavily-pregnant horseback rider who seeks refuge at a convent when her contractions begin.

The baby, Brinn, who is born in the old secluded nunnery will grow up to change the world even as his brave mother makes the difficult decision to leave her newborn and lure away the creatures hot at her heels, who would place her son and the nuns in danger.

The striking prologue which ends in tragedy leads the way to a powerful, fast-paced saga in Book One, Stolen, which details struggle and strife, the kidnapping of princess Megan and best friend Anabel, and the evolution of Brinn's special abilities, which lead him to success, failure, and an impossible task that can redeem him despite his reputation as a murderer.

Be forewarned: there are many subplots and characters to Stolen, setting the stage for books to follow and events to come. Readers who want more of a quick action piece and a stand-alone volume may be frustrated by the care and time taken by Adam Collins to build this necessary foundation for the other books, which may feel plodding and confusing to some - but just wait. This attention to detail is required; for Book Two, Blood and Fire, brings war with it, and the need to understand its events through the careful stories crafted in Stolen quickly becomes apparent.

In Blood and Fire, Lady Anabel escapes and discovers a legend in a swamp, her friend Megan is transported to Arakur, and both are introduced to strange lands and peoples whose purposes and influences change their perceptions of the world. Anabel's exposure to slave pens, scruffy towns, poverty, and strife are in sharp contrast to her privileged life and make for some eye-opening experiences.

Gatekeeper, the third book, returns Brinn to the spotlight as he faces a dwarf civil war and Megan finds herself in danger from the moment she meets Silvene, the inhabitant of an isolated hovel in the forest who seems to treat her kindly, but has something more in mind than aiding a traveler and giving her refuge. In fact, "comfort food" comes more to mind - and Megan comes to realize this fairly quickly.

As the events in Bloodthorn Series, OBSIDIAN move along, it becomes apparent that the slow start and attention to foundation-building are paying off. This compilation isn't presented as three books with starting and stopping points, but as a smooth, epic saga that comes to life the further readers enter into the plot.

Seemingly disparate threads and characters interact and contribute to a greater strength, the story line becomes compelling and hard to put down, and all that early attention to detail pays off as events become a series of life-changing encounters for Megan, Brinn, and others who face an evolving and impossible-to-win war.

It should be mentioned that there's a fourth book, and that Bloodthorn Series, OBSIDIAN ends in a cliff-hanger; but by now fantasy readers will be thoroughly versed in its setting and characters and will look forward to finding out what happens to the captive princess and all whose lives circle her.

Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Endurance
Francis Mandewah
Telemachus Press LLC
9781942899884 $14.99

Few inspirational memoirs are as compelling as Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Endurance, which details the life of an impoverished African boy (author Francis Mandewah) whose life was transformed by a kind, generous, and altruistic American pilot from Minnesota who was employed to fly boxes of gems and alluvial diamonds in Sierra Leone two decades before the horrific rebel war and Hollywood movie Blood Diamond.

Mandewah was a poor child when he met his mentor: scenes of his village life and culture open the story and provide clear insights into the daily lives and hearts of the residents of his small West African village.

From the growing importance of diamonds to a village where they were so prevalent and visible that its residents viewed them initially as merely "stars falling down from the sky" to how his friendship evolved to change his life and carry him on a journey around the world, Friendship incorporates all kinds of topics, from passionate religious convictions, travel and adventure, to civil rights and racial justice, to the process of discovering value and growth in the wider world.

Mandewah is on an upward trajectory to a better life, and he carries his readers through this process and through the circumstances of chance, faith, and change that lead him into a better world; but not without a few trials, tribulations, and hair-raising stories along the way.

One of the strongest features of this particular memoir is its ability to weave a story that portrays encounters between different cultures and perceptions, and the roots of how friendship evolves despite obvious barriers to its development.

This focus on friendship and its life-changing impact makes for a story like few others: an autobiography with the ability to consider not just one boy's evolution, but the impact that faith and friendship have on changing his world.

Readers seeking a memoir filled with heart-stopping moments and heart-wrenching emotions will relish Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Endurance's ability to take its readers into the life of a small West African village boy and follow his remarkable journey around the world, straight to the American dream - and all because of the hand of friendship and support offered by a stranger and the author's willingness to remain flexible enough to change the direction of his life.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

Dunford's Bookshelf

Big Farms Make Big Flu
Rob Wallace
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583675892 $24.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Thanks to breakthroughs in production and food science, agribusiness has been able to devise new ways to grow more food and get it more places more quickly. There is no shortage of news items on hundreds of thousands of hybrid poultry - each animal genetically identical to the next - packed together in megabarns, grown out in a matter of months, then slaughtered, processed and shipped to the other side of the globe. Less well known are the deadly pathogens mutating in, and emerging out of, these specialized agro-environments. In fact, many of the most dangerous new diseases in humans can be traced back to such food systems, among them Campylobacter, Nipah virus, Q fever, hepatitis E, and a variety of novel influenza variants.

Agribusiness has known for decades that packing thousands of birds or livestock together results in a monoculture that selects for such disease. But market economics doesn't punish the companies for growing Big Flu - it punishes animals, the environment, consumers, and contract farmers. Alongside growing profits, diseases are permitted to emerge, evolve, and spread with little check. "That is," writes evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace, "it pays to produce a pathogen that could kill a billion people."

Critique: Eye-opening and disturbing, Big Farms Make Big Flu calls into question the status quo of livestock farms. Chapters directly address both potential hazards, and prospective solutions that could prove more humane for both the farm animals and humanity as a whole. Extensive notes and an index round out this alarmist yet highly recommended scrutiny.

Photographs of My Father
Paul Spike
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781941026236, $17.95, PB, 223pp,

Synopsis: At the National Council of Churches, Robert Spike had organized American churches to support the passage of both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, to march in Selma and to organize in Mississippi. An important white leader in the black civil rights struggle, he helped the LBJ White House pass legislation and write crucial civil rights speeches. In the midst of what he described as "the dirtiest fight of my life" struggling to save a federal Mississippi education program, he was viciously murdered in Columbus, Ohio. The murder was never solved. Very little effort went into finding the murderer. The Columbus police and the FBI hinted the unsolved murder was connected to Spike's undisclosed gay life.

During his father's rise in the civil rights movement, Paul Spike lived a life typical of a young man in the 1960s, finding his way through a labyrinth of booze, drugs, and girls. At Columbia University, he was active in the 1968 student rebellion and friends with many SDS radicals. That rootless life ended with his father's murder.

Critique: Intensely personal, informed and informative, "Photographs of My Father" by journalist, editor and author Paul Robert Spike is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end -- and one that will be of very special interest for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the Civil Rights movement. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Photographs of My Father" is unreserved recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library 20th Century American Biography and Civil Rights History collections.

Raphael Masson & Veronique Mattiussi
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9782080202390, $29.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Translated from French into English for the benefit of an American readership by Deke Dusinberre, "Rodin" by Raphael Masson (former curator at the Musee Rodin and head of archives and the library, is chief heritage curator at the Chateau de Versailles) and Veronique Mattiussi (director of the Musee Rodin and the author of numerous works on the museum's collections) is a definitive and profusely illustrated monograph from the Musee Rodin in Paris on the pioneering artist who paved the way for modern sculpture is now available in an affordable compact format.

Revered today is justifiably considered to be the greatest sculptor of all time, an artist whose expressive style prefigured that of the modernist movement and abstract sculpture, Auguste Rodin (1840 - 1917) stirred up much controversy during his lifetime, and his sculptures often met with hostility and incomprehension from his peers.

Masson and Mattiussi's "Rodin" is a monograph that deftly traces the life and work of the artist, from his youth and early poverty-stricken years of apprenticeship to his most celebrated works (The Kiss, The Thinker, The Gates of Hell) which have become veritable icons; and from his passionate and tumultuous relationship with Camille Claudel to his extraordinary studio, working methods, and sources of inspiration, and his final years marked by war and illness.

"Rodin" is enriched with the inclusion of drawings, watercolors, engravings, and archival documents, as well as specially commissioned photographs of Rodin's sculptures, and is completed by a chronology, bibliography, and history of the Musee Rodin which is housed in the artist's former studio in the Hôtel Biron. Providing insight into the many facets of his creative genius, this new compact edition of the Musee Rodin's definitive reference on the artist and his oeuvre originally coincided with museum's reopening in September 2015.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, exceptionally well organized and presented, inherently fascinating and consistently compelling from beginning to end, "Rodin" is a work of seminal and meticulous scholarship and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university Art History collections in general, and Auguste Rodin supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Immanuel Kant: The Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason
J. Colin McQuillan
Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL 60208
9780810132450, $99.95, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: "Immanuel Kant: The Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason" by J. Colin McQuillan (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas) is a study of the background, development, exposition, and justification of Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason". Instead of examining Kant's arguments for the transcendental ideality of space and time, his deduction of the pure concepts of the understanding, or his account of the dialectic of human reason, Professor McQuillan focuses on Kant's conception of critique. By surveying the different ways the concept of critique was used during the eighteenth century, the relationship between Kant's critique and his pre-critical experiments with different approaches to metaphysics, the varying definitions of a critique of pure reason Kant offers in the prefaces and introductions to the first Critique, and the way Kant responds to objections, Professor McQuillan is able to highlight an aspect of Kant's critical philosophy that is too often overlooked -- the reason that philosophy is critical.

Critique: Exceptionally well reasoned, written, organized and presented, "Immanuel Kant: The Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason" is an erudite and seminal work of meticulous scholarship. While unreservedly recommended for college and university Philosophy collections in general, and Immanuel Kant supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Immanuel Kant: The Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0810132481, $34.95) and in a Kindle format ($33.20).

The Text, the Play, and the Globe
Joseph Candido
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
The Gatehouse M010C
285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611478211, $95.00, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Joseph Candido (Professor of English at the University of Arkansas and an expert on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama) compiled and edited "The Text, the Play, and the Globe: Essays on Literary Influence in Shakespeare's World and His Work in Honor of Charles R. Forker) is to honor the scholarly legacy of the late Charles R. Forker with a series of essays that address the problem of literary influence in original ways and from a variety of perspectives. The emphasis throughout is on the sort of careful, exhaustive, evidence-based scholarship to which Professor Forker dedicated his nearly sixty years of academic life.

Although wide-ranging and various by design, the thirteen essays comprising "The Text, the Play, and the Globe" never lose sight of three discrete yet overlapping areas of literary inquiry that create a unity of perspective amid the diversity of approaches: 1) the formation of play texts, textual analysis, and editorial practice; 2) performance history and the material playing conditions from Shakespeare's time to the present, including film as well as stage representations; and 3) the world, both cultural and literary, in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked and to which they bequeathed an artistic legacy that continues to be re-interpreted and re-defined by a whole new set of cultural and literary pressures.

Eschewing any single, predetermined ideological perspective, the essays in "The Text, the Play, and the Globe" call our attention to how the simplest questions or observations can open up provocative and unexpected scholarly vistas. In so doing, they invite us into a subtly re-configured world of literary influence that draws us into new, often unexpected, ways of seeing and understanding the familiar.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction, an Appendix (Charles R. Forker: A Bibliography of Published Works 1958-2014); a listing of Contributors and their credentials; and a twelve page Index, "The Text, the Play, and the Globe: Essays on Literary Influence in Shakespeare's World and His Work in Honor of Charles R. Forker" is a model of erudite scholarship and is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. While unreservedly recommended for college and community library collections in general, and Shakespearian Studies supplemental reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Text, the Play, and the Globe" is also available in a Kindle edition ($90.25).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

15th Affair
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316407076, $28.00

Normally this series is fast paced and fun to read. "15th Affair" unfortunately, gets bogged down in Lindsay Boxer's personal life and never seems to pick itself up. The story begins with several murders in a hotel but something goes wrong shortly into the tale and the novel is slow moving until the end. "15th Affair" was a very big disappointment.

Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories
Edited by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
P.O. Box 1840 Monument CO 80132
9781523220342, $16.99,

For the first time this collection publishes many different genre short stories by the acclaimed author of the novel "Dune" It is a rarity that we get to see the many different types of tales the author wrote that until now were never published. Fans of Frank Herbert will love to discover these new found treasures and like this author even more than before.

The Courier
Gerald Brandt
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756411399, $23.95,

Kris Ballard a motorcycle courier does her job very well. Her boss tells her she is to deliver a late day delivery to an address. Like any good courier she never cares what she is to transport, just to get it there on time is her priority. But this one just could get her killed because she walks in on a murder. She also can't leave the contents because she realizes there are several people who are following her and want to get her package. Set in a near future world "The Courier" races along with suspenseful cat and mouse chases while Kris tries to protect the package. "The Courier" is filled with interesting characters non stop suspense and a great ending that make it a fun filled sf story.

Margaret Fortune
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756410827, $7.99,

Lia Johansen is a genetically engineered human being who has one function, to blow up the New Sol Space Station. The countdown is on as it is supposed to until the time clock to a certain number and stops. Her mission she concludes has been a failure. Through a set a set of conflicts "Nova" moves along at a break neck pace to its final conclusion. Readers of "Nova" will have mixed emotions on weather Lia is able to complete her mission. One thing is true. "Nova" is a first class novel of science fiction and I highly recommend it.

Weird Monsters
Scott C. Marlowe
Pangea Press
514 Winter Terrace, Winter Haven, FL 33881
9781530767670, $9.00,

Evil monsters lurk in the state of Florida in "Weird Monsters" a new collection of short stories by Scott Marlowe. Marlow who is know as a cryptozoologist uses his expertise in the field to tell chilling tales of creatures who encounter humans in many different places and ways. His writing is fast paced and the beings are believable. There are 5 stories in this fine collection of horror. "Weird Monsters" is a collection no fan of horror should miss.

An Astounding War Science Fiction and World War II
Edward M. Wysocki, Jr.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499647006, $24.95

For so long in science fiction there has been a connection of World War II and science fiction but no one has ever written about how the two are connected until now. Wysocki delves into the subject and shows how World War II influenced science fiction and the impact of science fiction on the war. The work is fascinating in how it shows the development of magazines of the genre and how stories came from the war or how they affected the war effort. Included are names of many established writers and others that are not as well known that readers should add to their list of authors. The writing is as if the author is directly talking to readers and has a very nice flow to the very end. "An Astounding War Science Fiction and World War II is a wonderful history of science fiction and World War II that no history buff or science fiction fan can afford to miss.

Portraits of Florida Wildlife
Thomas Zinneman
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952815, $39.95,

"Portraits of Florida Wildlife" thru the use of pictures takes readers to a very different side of the state of Florida. For many the first impression is of the theme parks but very little else. Now the author reveals there are many different types of birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles that live in the state as well. The images are all stunning in a brilliant collection that is a beautiful coffee table book. "Portraits of Florida Wildlife" reveals a diverse world of nature that few ever get to be so close to.

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, revised and updated edition
Vince Waldron with a forward by Dick Van Dyke
Chicago Review Press
814 N. Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60610
9781569768396, $18.95,

"The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book" was a great book about the series. Now this expanded edition tells all there is to know and more about one of the greatest hits of television that many can watch on Nick at Nite, TVLand, Me TV, or just about any station in the country. There are episode guides, stories about the show, bios on the stars and newly added features including what happened to the actors after the show left the air, and a detailed account of the reunion show "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited." This new version is better than ever and no fan of the series should miss "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book Revised and Updated Edition."

Manhattan Shop Window Mannequins Crossroads of the World
Roy K. Iwaki
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478753018, $19.95,

"Manhattan Shop Window Mannequins" is a very unique book of pictures of store mannequins in Manhattan. They are fascinating from all kinds of stores that convey so many moods. The only complaint I have is that the author does not let readers know which store window each is from.

Gramma Darling
Lisa Schroeder
Illustrated by Doron Ben-Ami
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478757900, $21.95,

For many kids a trip to a grand mother's house can be lots of fun. The author though the eyes of a child shows how and why hanging with a grand mother is so much fun. From baking in the kitchen to spending the night there are many aspects revealed that are touched upon fondly showing why a bond with a grand parent is special and a good thing for children to have. "Gramma Darling" is for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Day of the Donald
Andrew Shaffer
Crooked Lane Books
34 W. 27th St.., NY, NY 10001
9781683310457, $14.99, Paperback, 242 pp,

From the publisher: Summer 2018: Two years into President Donald J. Trump's first term in office, America has never been greater. The Even Greater Wall along the Mexican border is under construction, paid for by Mexico. Americans have more money in their pockets thanks to lower taxes and the president's creative money-raising strategies. (Who else would have thought to pay for FMA's budget to buying the Catholic Church over property damage caused by acts of God?) And while Trump's detractors may call him a tyrant, the American People love bullies when the victim is Congress: very time they impeach him, his approval rating skyrockets to an all new high.

Ever conscious of his hugely important historical legacy, The Donald plucks disgraced tabloid reporter Jimmie Bernwood - the man responsible for publishing the infamous Ted Cruz sex tape - - from the depths of anonymity to become his official biographer, giving him enviable access to the gold-plated White House and all of its secrets. When Trump's previous biographer turns up dead, Bernwood must do some real investigative reporting, get to the bottom of a long series of murders . . . and, if it's absolutely unavoidable, save the country. . . . A hilariously hair-raising look at the [possible] future of America.

First things first: The sub-title of this novel - and it is a novel, which the author describes on the cover is "A completely untrue, utterly unauthorized, but not thoroughly impossible thriller," is "Trump Trumps America!," exclamation mark the author's. Second thing I should state: It may not matter whether the reader is a supporter of Mr. Trump or not - - well, then again, it may. The third thing: By page two I was smiling, by page three I was laughing out loud. And that did not stop as I continued reading.

The very first page is headed Praise for Donald J. Trump, and the quotes that continue for a page and a half are all those of the aforesaid Mr. Trump. Then there is another quote, attributed to President-Elect Trump in his acceptance speech, November 8, 2016: "It's like Mahatma Gandhi said: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win . . . and then you make them all kiss your a**."

The memoir Jimmy is hired to write is to be titled "America's Greatest Decade." That is explained as follows: "He'll have to remove term limits, but he considers that a formality." The White house is now referred to as The Gold House, which Trump took "as a tremendous compliment," and the name "Trump" is emblazoned on the facade. Just a sampling of what follows: During Trump's administration, he had vetoed nearly ninety percent of the bills that that had crossed his desk; following the President's "overhauling" of the White House, there is now an 18-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus; the door to the Oval Office now has a brass"T" on it; the rooms within now have gold-trimmed ceilings; the elevators have gold-trimmed doors and contain bonsai trees on decorated pillars; and the position formerly known as that of Chief of Staff is now the White House apprentice. (None of those things could actually happen, could they??)

There are some familiar names here, e.g., Sarah Palin is Secretary of the Energies; Chris Christie is Chief Janitor. For fear of spoilers, I leave the rest of this wonderful book to your enjoyment, which I pretty much guarantee will be in store for you. (The aforementioned murders, btw, qualify the book as a mystery.) Highly recommended. (Regardless of your political leanings, or the outcome of the upcoming Convention and election.)

Val McDermid
Grove Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802123916, $26.00/23.50 CA$, Hardcover, 320 pp.
9780802125156, $16/23.50, Paperback, 320 pp. CA$, 11.07 BPS

From the publisher: The dead talk - - to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. "Forensics" goes behind the scenes with some of these top-level professionals and their groundbreaking research, drawing on Val McDermid's own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one's time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer, and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It's a journey from war zones to fire scenes and autopsy suits and brings McDermid into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earlier beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

Ms. McDermid starts the book with facts dating from eighteenth-century scientific discoveries, when the term "forensic, meaning a form of legal evidence - science, was born," to the present time. The first case, in the opening chapter, describes dates back to 2005, going on to the opening of the first crime investigation lab in 1910 in France, the founder of which wrote a landmark 7-volume textbook on which he called "criminalistics," and coined the phrase "every contact leaves a trace." The second chapter, "Fire Scene Investigation," goes back to September of 1666, then to a case in County Durham in 1844, one in Derbyshire in 1981, and on from there, covering each milestone reached. The ensuing chapters discuss at length other aspects of forensics, i.e., entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter and DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, forensic psychology, as well as the all-important courtrooms where all the evidence is presented, to the ends that justice is, irrevocably, done.

Not a dry recitation by any means, the author has made it very real and intense by recounting the names of victims and the circumstances of many of the cases cited. The book makes for fascinating reading, and it is recommended.

The Trees Beneath Us
Darren R. Leo
Introduction by Craig Childs
Stark House Press
1315 H St., Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586731, $15.95, Paperback, 171 pp.,

This is a most unusual book. It is as much memoir as it is fiction, for one thing.

The introduction includes this quote from Thoreau: "If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man: then you are ready for a walk." The author later says "Would Thoreau be admired if he never left Walden Pond?"

The protagonist, Finn, sees himself thusly: "Stubbornness had long been described as one of my greatest attributes or flaws." As did the author, Finn decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. Early in his trek, he says: "I was reacquainting with the wilderness like running into an old girlfriend I had not seen in years... Thousands of people hiked big chunks of the trail every year. A few hundred would walk its entirety. Some large number of people with packs crossed that highway and disappeared through the cut. Each had a purpose. Some had dreams. All had reasons." Finn's reason appears to be contemplation of his life till then, and the natural life around him brings him "occasional moments of clarity and insights." He is working through grief, love and loss, having lost his job, his health, and his son.

A lapsed Catholic, 44 years old, with very mixed feelings about the deity and life itself, Finn has been diagnosed as suffering from depression, bipolar, at times suicidal; he has an ex-wife, what he describes as three or four children, and is living with a woman who loves him and who he loves, Penelope, or Penny, who he refers to as his BSW (beautiful sunny woman). His descriptions of the natural world are gorgeous, e.g., he sees small yellow butterflies hovering "like lemon colored clouds" as well as an "achingly beautiful butterfly that started bright sky blue and faded to deep inky darkness . . . like twilight captured on a wing."

On his journey, which goes on for almost 1,500 miles, over a period of months, during most of which he does not contact any of his family members, he reflects on his past. A running motif seems to be "bad news doesn't travel through trees."

This is a book which will stay with the reader long after the last page has been read, and it is recommended.

Second Life
S.J. Watson
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062060587, $26.99, Hardcover, 416 pp.
9780062060594, $9.99, Paperback, 384 pp.

From the publisher: When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she wants to know why. But her quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of her own darkest sensual desires. As she becomes entangled with a dangerous stranger online, she's losing herself . . . losing control... perhaps losing everything. This search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family and her life.

In the process of trying to find the answers as to the identity of her beloved sister's murderer, Julia starts to inhabit the "second life" of the title, one conducted virtually, rather than the rather more mundane one most of us inhabit, when she reaches out through an online site that she discovers her sister had used. Initially it was only "an opportunity to find out what happened to my sister," but it becomes much more than that, something much more dangerous. At one point, she asks herself "Do secrets always come out in the end?" The secrets she herself has to keep come close to destroying everything she holds dear: Julia is married to a very successful surgeon, and has a now-almost-fourteen-year-old son [the child of her unmarried sister whom she had adopted when he was just a baby, her sister unable to deal with motherhood], both of whom she loves very much.

This novel was a departure for this reviewer, containing as it does a fairly large amount of sex and profanity, and some violence as well. Nonetheless, I found myself caught up in the tale, and the pages turned very quickly to the unexpected denouement. Proving once again that one can't judge a book by its cover, or its unexpected paths.

Third Strike
Zoe Sharp
Felony and Mayhem Press
174 W. 4th St., Ste. 261, NY, NY 10014
9781631908014, $14.95, Paperback, 366 pp,

Charlie Fox [nee Charlotte Foxcroft] is now living in New York City, away from the England of her birth, six months into her recovery from a near-fatal double gunshot injury. Both Charlie and her lover/colleague, Sean Meyer, are now working for Parker Armstrong's very exclusive close-protection agency in that city, alienating her even more from her parents. Charlie has an interesting background, as she describes it: "I had a fractured career dogged by scandal; an ability to kill without hesitation that even I shied away from exploring; no relationship with my parents to speak of; and a lover who'd been at least as damaged by this life as I had."

To her astonishment, one day Charlie sees her father, a highly respected and world-recognized UK surgeon, being interviewed by a local TV reporter who has elicited some stunning admissions certain to, at the very least, disgrace him and completely destroy his personal and professional reputation, including alcoholism and being complicit in the death of a man who was a patient and life-long friend. Disbelieving, and determined to get to the truth, Charlie and Sean take on the investigation when the resulting scandal directly affects not only her parents, but Charlie and Sean and the company they work for as well.

The title has a double meaning, as much for its use in the American criminal justice system as for the number of 'chances' her parents had given Charlie to, as they see it, find the error of her ways and come home, of course without Sean. She is still fighting to gain their trust and their respect, for him and for herself.

In an acerbic tone that seems to fit her perfectly, Charlie is a take-no-prisoners kinda gal [as is, one gets the impression, her creator]. The book is another fast-paced, well-plotted and winning entry in the series, which just keeps getting better.


Crazy Mountain Kiss
Keith McCafferty
875 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143109051, $15.00, Paperback, 352 pp
Viking Books
9780670014705, $26.95, Hardcover, 315 pp,

From the publisher: Spring snow still clings to the teeth of Montana's Crazy Mountains when an unsuspecting member of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club discovers a Santa hat in the fireplace ashes in his rented cabin. Climbing to the roof to see what's clogging the flue, he's shocked to find the body of a teenage girl wedged in the chimney. A rodeo belt buckle identifies the recently deceased victim as Cinderella "Cindy" Huntington, a rising rodeo star. Hyalite Country sheriff Martha Ettinger has been hunting for the girl since she went missing the previous November. Was Cindy murdered? Or was she running for her life - - and if so, from whom? Suspicion falls on a buckskin-clad mountain man who calls himself Bear Paw Bill. But Etta Huntington, Cindy's high-strung mother, herself a famous horsewoman, thinks the evil might lie closer to home. She hires flyfishing guide and private detective Sean Stranahan to find the answers. Setting aside their after-hours relationship, Sean and Martha find themselves deep in an investigation that grows to involve a high-altitude sex club, a lost diary, cave pictographs, and the legends of the Crazy Mountains.

(I would like to make it clear, if the foregoing does not, that it's not the eponymous kiss [the derivation of which is charming, and more than a little heart-tugging] that's crazy, that's just the name of the Montana mountain range.)

There are some charming touches, e.g., the Harbor Lights Restaurant in Key West whose sign reads "Entertainment, Romance and Live Bait." When Sean, 37 years old, has to climb down a rock face, "it really wasn't so bad, as long as you didn't place too high a value on your life."

Of fishing, our protagonist's favorite pastime: "Tarpon fishing had proved to be the most masochistic experience Sean had ever had holding a fly rod, not because tarpon were so difficult to catch, but because after the first few jumps it was just your muscles against theirs, and then after a half hour or so it was your heart against theirs and a sober question as to whose would give out first. Men paid $650 a day for the pleasure." Even those readers who, as this one, know little or nothing about the "sport," the writing is a pleasure.

As in all the prior entries in the series, of which this is the 4th (the 5th one, "Buffalo Jump Blues," was just released this week), Mr. McCafferty's novels are quite different from most out there set in the outdoors and the more remote parts of the US, and is full of the "action, intrigue and witty banter that have pleased readers and critics alike," and like the others, it is recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Love Bites
Adrienne Barbeau
B00BDXADE6, $2.99, 336 pages.

Love Bites is a fun vampire novel. It doesn't break new ground in the genre or has a profound storyline. It is just fun. Barbeau brings in Hollywood and actors into the vampire genre in a way that just brings a grin to your face. And yes, Adrienne Barbeau is the Hollywood actress so the inside Hollywood part of the story feels real.

Ovasona Moore is an actress, movie studio executive and the vampire queen of LA. Detective Peter King is a homicide detective and boyfriend to Moore. When supernatural and non-supernatural beings kill in Hollywood the pair have to stop them without either dying or letting the general public know.

Love Bites is a light fun adult vampire story. A prefect way to escape from life with a mix of laughs, horror and a bit of titillation. It is a guilty pleasure that is easy to hide on your electronic device but be prepared with a story if you friends start questioning you on why you are grinning and blushing.

Grumpy Old Wizards
John O'Riley
Amazon Digital Services
B00B84JEVS, $2.99, US copyright 2013, 250 pages

Grumpy Old Wizards is a bit of a misnomer. A better title would be Angry Wizards. Grumpy is a detective mystery with a retired wizard forced to work on cases that involve advanced magic. Unfortunately the detective mystery is weak and the storyline is average.

Fifty years before the story a wizard went mad and used a power vortex to release magic into the world in a lethal surge of energy. Josephine is a retired Category 6 wizard. She is called in to help investigate a serial murder. The killer has used magic to hide from the police. Josephine just wants to stay retired and enjoy life and hates that the police can still call on her services.

The killer soon finds out that she is helping the investigation. Josephine has to protect herself while keeping as far as she can from the authorities and the danger of having her growing magical power throttled by force by the government.

Grumpy Old Wizards is an average story with an average detective mystery. Its one strength is a fairly interesting cast of characters. It is recommended for those who enjoy the genre or when the book is on sale.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Plevna: A Biography in Verse
Geoff Page
UWA Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781742588209, $24.99, PB, 146pp,

Synopsis: Sir Charles 'Plevna' Ryan (1853-1926) was a Melbourne surgeon who worked for the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War. He was the oldest man at Gallipoli, and took illegal photographs during a nine-hour truce. He repaired Ned Kelly after the Siege of Glenrowan. He cut quite a figure in "Marvellous Melbourne" of the 1880s and 90s. He did remarkable things -- and he wrote it all down. "Plevna: A Biography in Verse" is a portrait in verse of Sir Charles Snodgrass by Geoff Page. In his biography Page weaves the writing of Ryan together with his own voice as biographer, setting down the life of a man forgotten by history at the same time as reflecting on his role as intermediary. Page's sensitive investigation into the lost life of Sir Charles Ryan probes broader topics of mortality, posterity and collective memory. Written in second person and in verse, Page reflects both on the power and the unreliability of storied lives.

Critique: Unique, compelling, informative, deftly organized and presented, "Plevna: A Biography in Verse" is an extraordinary read from beginning to end and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Biography/Memoir collections, as well as to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the Russo-Turkish War and the Battle of Gallipoli.

Vision for Life
Meir Schneider
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170080, $21.95, PB, 239pp,

Synopsis: All parts of the body need exercise for optimal health, and the eyes are no different. Now in a newly revised edition, "Vision for Life: Ten Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement" by Meir Schneider (founder and head teacher of the School for Self-Healing in San Francisco) presents an approach to eye health for people with 20/20 vision who wish to maintain their perfect vision as well as people who see poorly and would like to improve their eyesight.

Clients of the Meir Schneider Self-Healing Method experience their own capacity to bring about recovery, reversing the progress of a wide range of degenerative conditions including eye disease. Based in part on the established Bates Method of eyesight improvement and in part on his own professional and personal discoveries, Meir Schneider's pioneering approach has helped thousands of people successfully treat a host of eye problems, including near- and farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, double vision, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, and nystagmus. This revised edition of 'Vision for Life" includes a new chapter on children's eye health and new research and exercises for specific conditions, i.e., glaucoma and nystagmus, near- and farsightedness.

Born blind to deaf parents, Schneider underwent a series of painful operations as a young child and was left with 99 percent scar tissue on the lenses of his eyes, resulting in his being declared incurably blind. At the age of seventeen, he discovered how to improve his vision from less than 1 percent to 55 percent of normal vision with the eye exercises presented in this book. Today Schneider drives a car, reads, and enjoys the benefits of full natural vision. He and his clients prove time and time again how much vision can improve with exercise. His contributions to the field of self-healing are recognized by alternative health practitioners and medical doctors alike.

In "Vision for Life", Schneider shares forty years of discoveries made on his personal and professional journey. The book details simple but effective techniques to gain great vision such as sunning and palming. Such exercises are not only strengthening but also restorative and deeply relaxing. The reader learns how to reverse developing issues before they cause damage or to remedy existing problems, including pathologies such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and optic nerve neuropathy.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Vision for Life: Ten Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement" is as informed and informative as it is practical and ultimately inspiring. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary and general content, "Vision for Life" is especially appropriate for community library Health/Medicine collections. Non-specialist general readers with an interest in eye health, eye care, and vision retention should note that "Vision for Life" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Redemption: A Street Fighter's Path to Peace
Michael Clarke
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594393785, $15.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Michael Clarke was an angry, vicious kid, a street fighter. He grew up in the late sixties and early seventies in Manchester, England, in a tough neighborhood where, he writes, "Prostitutes worked the pavement opposite my home, illegal bookmakers took bets in back alley cellars, and street brawls were commonplace."

He left school at fifteen and began his education as a pugilist on the streets. He fought in bars and clubs, at football matches, in parks, and in bus stations - and he was good. He reveled in the victories and the admiration they brought.

It was a life of knuckles and teeth, of broken bones and torn flesh - and the arrests that followed. Clarke was seventeen when a judge sentenced him to two years in Strangeways Prison, an infamous place also known as "psychopath central."

In prison he resolved to change his life and stay out of trouble, but trouble was everywhere. He discovered a world of violent gangs, abusive guards, and inmates engaged in an endless struggle for dominance. Strange ways was a place where a person could get stabbed to death for taking the bigger piece of toast.

In time Clarke was released, but the transition was difficult and he almost fought his way back to prison. Thenone night he entered a karate dojo and his life changed forever. He began a lifetime pursuit of budo, the martial way. He sought knowledge, studied with masters, and traveled to Okinawa, the birthplace of karate.

"Redemption: A Street Fighter's Path to Peace" is a true account of youth wasted and life reclaimed. Michael Clarke reminds us that martial arts are not simply about punching and kicking. They forge the spirit, temper the will, and reveal our true nature.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "Redemption: A Street Fighter's Path to Peace" is a consistently compelling, intensely personal, and ultimately inspiring memoir. While unreservedly and emphatically recommended for community library Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Redemption: A Street Fighter's Path to Peace" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

The Final Service
Gary W. Moore
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611212945, $22.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Forty-year-old Sandy Richards is a successful music teacher, wife, and mother living a comfortable middle class life in a small Midwestern town. But behind her warm smile and easy laugh is a heavy burden she cannot release. During her childhood, Sandy (or "Shadow" as just about everyone knew her) was inseparable from her larger-than-life father, a World War II hero she adored. Sandy followed him everywhere, hung on his every word, and loved him with all her heart as only a young child can. Sometimes loving him was more difficult than others, especially when he was there and then he was gone - right in front of her eyes without ever leaving the house.

For reasons she would not fully understand until many years later, something went horribly wrong and their relationship fractured, seemingly forever, when her father died of lung cancer on one long hot summer evening. His passing left Shadow alone to "sort through his warehouse of junk," an old storage facility jammed with emotions so overwhelming they balanced her on the edge of suicide. Then, when and where she needed him most, a stranger entered her life. And everything changed once more.

In "The Final Service" author Gary W. Moore offers the reader a riveting story about human nature, emotional abandonment, and how unfulfilled dreams left a middle-aged woman on the brink of personal destruction until one event forever altered the core of her belief system and her life. It is a story of faith, family, and forgiveness, and the realization that forces larger and more powerful than ourselves are at work in our lives in ways we are unable to fully understand.

Critique: Profound and powerful, The Final Service is about the complexities of human relationships, and the psychological pressures placed on those who serve in the military and their family members. Original, deftly crafted, consistently compelling, "The Final Service" is one of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Final Service" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

1964 Year of Triumph and Tragedy
Thomas Brennan
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587903472, $19.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In the early 1960s America became involved in a brutal, devastating war in Southeast Asia. The war polarized much of the nation and threatened to destabilize America's influence throughout the globe. The world was introduced to an entirely new kind of sports icon. Mohammad Ali was an outspoken, confident young man who vigorously voiced his opinion about the Viet Nam War and racial inequality in America. In 1963 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was brutally gunned down in Dallas, Texas. Two days later his alleged assassin was murdered on live television in front of a shocked nation. Later that same year the Warren Commission Report would be released to the public. Critics blasted the report for its alleged inaccuracies and narrowness of scope. The civil rights movement grew increasingly more powerful in the 1960s. The movement was a key factor in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Horrific repercussions would shortly follow. Many young, innocent blacks were murdered and its charismatic leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. A British rock band with the peculiar name of The Beatles would captivate a generation and future generations of young and old alike with its electrifying and unique style of rock and roll music. 1964 was the year that all these elements began to crystallize and produce the cultural phenomenon that we now know as the 60s

Critique: Impressively and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "1964 Year of Triumph and Tragedy" is a consistently compelling and substantively informative read from beginning to end. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary, "1964 Year of Triumph and Tragedy" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library 20th Century American History collections.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Smart Mom, Rich Mom
Kimberly Palmer
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
Blackstone Audiobooks
31 Mistletoe Road, Ashland, OR 97520
9780814436806, $14.95, PB, 246pp,

Synopsis: Of all life's financial shocks, few compare to bringing home an infant. Just one tiny person costs $250,000 to raise -- not including college! How will you pay for it? That agonizing question fuels mothers' choices about their careers, budgets, and families. Some lean in, some scale back or seek new opportunities -- there are no easy answers, but there are a lot of rewarding possibilities. "Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family" by nationalist money columnist, financial expert, and mother Kimberly Palmer explores how women today are navigating the financially challenging career/parenting years. "Smart Mom, Rich Mom" chronicles people who have stayed in the game (full-time, freelance, self-employed, and more) and emerged more prosperous and empowered. "Smart Mom, Rich Mom" mines their experiences to uncover both career advice and spending and savings strategies that everyone can use. Stories, checklists, action steps, planning tools, and more explain how to: Prepare financially for parenthood (whether you're expecting your first child or your third); Balance thrift with generating income and investing wisely); Find flexibility at work while safeguarding your earning potential; Save for both college and retirement despite increased expenses; Plan for unexpected events, like a layoff or illness, and so much more. Kids change our lives, adding joy but draining bank accounts. "Smart Mom, Rich Mom" helps you adopt healthy financial habits, and make hard financial decisions, that will ultimately pay off in abundance.

Critique: As practical, insightful, thoughtful, and reality-based as it is thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, content, organization and presentation, "Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family" is unreservedly recommended reading for any mother (or father!) wanting to plan effectively for their family's financial future. While "Smart Mom, Rich Mom" should be a part of every community library Money/Finance instructional reference collection, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.59). Librarian's should also note that "Smart Mom, Rich Mom" is also available in a complete and unabridged audio book edition (Blackstone Audio, 9781504792301, $29.95).

Threading My Prayer Rug
Sabeeha Rehman
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628726633, $25.99, HC, 322pp,

Synopsis: "Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim" by Sabeeha Rehman is a richly textured reflection on what it is to be a Muslim in America today. It is also the luminous story of many journeys: from Pakistan to the United States in an arranged marriage that becomes a love match lasting forty years; from secular Muslim in an Islamic society to devout Muslim in a society ignorant of Islam, and from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; from student to bride and mother; and from an immigrant intending to stay two years to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.

Beginning with a sweetly funny, moving account of her arranged marriage, Sabeeha undercuts stereotypes and offers the refreshing view of an American life through Muslim eyes. In chapters leavened with humor, hope, and insight, she recounts an immigrant's daily struggles balancing assimilation with preserving heritage, overcoming religious barriers from within and distortions of Islam from without, and confronting issues of raising her children as Muslims, all while they lobby for a Christmas tree! Sabeeha was doing interfaith work for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center at Ground Zero, when the backlash began. She discusses what that experience revealed about American society.

Critique: Simply stated, with the inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric being spouted by political opportunists, the country needs this counterbalancing personal story to correct the pervasive misunderstanding of what Islam is truly about and the contributions to our American democracy that most American Muslims make every day of their lives. Exceptionally well written and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim" should be a part of every community library collection in the country. For the interested non-specialist general reader it should be noted that "Threading My Prayer Rug" is also available in an inexpensive Kindle edition ($1.99). Finally -- somebody donate a copy of "Threading My Prayer Rug" to every Republican member of Congress, every Republican member of a state legislature, and every Republican governor who advocates for preventing Muslims from settling in their state.

A Culture's Catalyst
Fannie Kahan, author
Erika Dyck, editor
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887558146, $27.95, PB, 130pp,

Synopsis: In 1956, pioneering psychedelic researchers Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond were invited to join members of the Red Pheasant First Nation near North Battleford, Saskatchewan, to participate in a peyote ceremony hosted by the Native American Church.

Inspired by their experience, they wrote a series of essays explaining and defending the consumption of peyote and the practice of peyotism. They enlisted the help of Hoffer's sister, journalist Fannie Kahan, and worked closely with her to document the religious ceremony and write a history of peyote, culminating in a defense of its use as a healing and spiritual agent.

Although the text shows its mid-century origins, with dated language and at times uncritical analysis, it advocates for indigenous legal, political and religious rights and offers important insights into how psychedelic researchers, who were themselves embattled in debates over the value of spirituality in medicine, interpreted the peyote ceremony. Ultimately, they championed peyotism as a spiritual practice that they believed held distinct cultural benefits.

"A Culture's Catalyst: Historical Encounters with Peyote and the Native American Church in Canada" revives an historical debate and encourages the reader to reconsider how peyote has been understood, and how its appearance in the 1950s tested Native-newcomer relations and the Canadian government's attitudes toward Indigenous religious and cultural practices.

Critique: An impressively well written, organized and presented contribution to community and academic library Canadian Medical History, Indigenous Studies, and Religion/Spirituality collections, "A Culture's Catalyst: Historical Encounters with Peyote and the Native American Church in Canada" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended study. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "A Culture's Catalyst" is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.00).

The Other One: Stories
Hasanthika Sirisena
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781625342188, $22.95, 160pp,

Synopsis: Hasanthika Sirisena is associate fiction editor for West Branch literary magazine and a visiting professor at Susquehanna University. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Narrative, and other magazines. Her work has been anthologized in The Best New American Voices and twice named a distinguished story by Best American Short Stories (2011, 2012). Sirisena has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and, in 2008, received a Rona Jaffe Writers Award. Set in Sri Lanka and America, the ten short stories comprising "The Other One: Stories" feature characters struggling to contend with the brutality of a decades-long civil war while also seeking security, love, and hope. The characters are students, accountants, soldiers, servants. They are immigrants and strivers. They are each forced to make sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, choices. What they share, despite what they've endured, is the sustaining power of human connection.

Critique: An inherently riveting and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "The Other One: Stories" will aptly serve to introduce American readers to the truly exceptional literary talents of Hasanthika Sirisena. "The Other One: Stories" is certain to be an enduringly popular and greatly appreciated addition to any personal, community or academic library Literary Fiction collection.

The Care Effect
David Crosby
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 830711, Birmingham, AL 35283-0711
9781596694712, $14.99, PB, 173pp,

Synopsis: Amazing things happen when individuals and a church, corporately, begin to minister to their neighbors with intentionality, consistency, and passion. "The Care Effect: Unleashing the Power of Compassion" by pastor, author, and former reporter David Crosby beautifully demonstrates how love of neighbor, what he terms the Great Commandment, is essential to gospel proclamation, not incidental to it. Readers will taken to the streets of New Orleans with a body of believers as they show love to neighbor. Readers will be inspired to find a way to let their deeds of love be united with words of truth so that they too will manifest the gospel to their neighbors.

Critique: Thoughtful, insightful, inspiring, and a potentially life changing, life enriching read, "The Care Effect: Unleashing the Power of Compassion" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted as an option for personal reading lists that "The Care Effect" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

Choices: The Ripple Effect
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000
Nashville, TN 37214
9781490892719, $30.95, HC, 181pp,

Synopsis: "Choices: The Ripple Effect" presents Fe's personal testimony of hope and forgiveness, recounting her life story with all of its ups and downs and considering both the good and bad choices she made over the years. In this intensely intimate memoir, Fe offers a firsthand look at her life, from her tragic beginnings to the Christian ministry that is now her life and everything in between. She recalls the gritty details of choices gone wrong, including her decision to remarry her first husband and the results of her other damaged relationships. She also shares that her belief in God has changed her life for the better - that no matter how the world views each of us, God can turn our life experiences into change for the better, if we believe in Him.

Fe's message is that we are the ones responsible for the choices we make in our lives, whether they are good or bad. Our choices affect not only our own lives, but also the lives of people close to us. The good news, however, is that God is there to help us find our way and to love us unconditionally. "Choices: The Ripple Effect" effectively demonstrates that regardless of a person's background or past mistakes, God loves each of us; there is a place for us in His Kingdom.

Critique: Deftly written and ultimately inspiring, "Choices: The Ripple Effect" is unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. "Choices: The Ripple Effect" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Choices: The Ripple Effect" is also available in a paperback edition (9781490892696, $13.95) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Publicly Engaged Scholars
Margaret A. Post, et al.
Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781620362631, $91.25, HC, 286pp,

Synopsis: The concern that the democratic purposes of higher education (and its conception as a public good) are being undermined and underfunded, with the growing realization that existing structures are unsuited to addressing today's complex societal problems, and that our educational institutions are failing an increasingly diverse population, all give rise to questioning the current model of the university.

"Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education" presents the voices of a new generation of scholars, educators, and practitioners who are committed to civic renewal and the public purposes of higher education. They question existing policies, structures, and practices, and put forward new forms of engagement that can help to shape and transform higher education to align it with societal needs.

The educators and educational researchers featured in "Publicly Engaged Scholars" make the case for public scholarship and argue that, in order to strengthen the democratic purposes of higher education for a viable future that is relevant to the needs of a changing society, we must recognize and support new models of teaching and research, and the need for fundamental changes in the core practices, policies, and cultures of the academy.

These scholars act on their values through collaboration, inclusiveness, participation, task sharing, and reciprocity in public problem solving. Central to their approach is an authentic respect for the expertise and experience that all stakeholders contribute to education, knowledge generation, and community building.

"Publicly Engaged Scholars" offers a compelling vision of the university as a part of an ecosystem of knowledge production, addressing public problems with the purpose of advancing a more inclusive, deliberative democracy; and explores the new paradigm for teaching, learning, and knowledge creation necessary to make it a reality.

Critique: Deftly organized into three major sections (The Collaborative Engagement Paradigm; New Public Scholars; The Future of Engagement), the fifteen erudite and insightful articles comprising "Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education" are enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword and Afterword; an eight page roster of the editors and contributors; and a nineteen page Index. An impressive compendium of impeccable scholarship, "Publicly Engaged Scholars" is a critically important, timely and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Educational Issues collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Publicly Engaged Scholars" is also available in a paperback edition (9781620362648, $35.00) and in a Kindle format ($18.59).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Piano for Kids: A Beginner's Guide with Step-by-Step Instruction for Piano
Jennifer Linn
Hal Leonard
7777 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 13519
9781495059421, $12.99,

"Piano for Kids" is a succinct, practical piano pedagogy manual for use with kids of all ages from 6-7 and up. Supplemented and accompanied by a downloadable audio track called PLAYBACK which allows one to slow down audio without changing pitch for learning purposes, "Piano for Kids" contains a multi faceted course that teaches kids piano/keyboard playing skills quickly. Each page contains simple black and white song layouts (off staff at first) that build gradually on musical concepts learned in earlier songs. "Piano for Kids" is adaptable for use with an instructor, or teacher, or parent. (A young adult could use it to self-teach.) Some of the concepts taught include posture, hand position, counting quarter, half, whole, eighth notes and rests, note reading with pre-staff notation and note reading on the grand staff, dynamics and expression marks, legato, staccato, and slur phrasing, and use of the damper pedal. Song choices are popular, classical, recognizable, and varied, including: "We Will Rock You," "Beethoven's Symphony # 6," "The Siamese Cat Song," "Au Clair de Lune," and more. Hand position and accidentals are additional concepts taught in this excellent, 47- page beginner's guide to playing keyboard. Success in learning piano skills depends on repeated practice and growing confidence, as always. A companion volume is also highly recommended: "Drums for Kids: A Beginner's Guide with Step-by-Step Instruction for Drumset (9781480302235, $12.99)" by Scott Schroedl.

Teacher Confessions: Winter In My "Hood"
Deanna Scelzo, author
Dan Smith, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
4062 Plains Ave S.W. Fort Payne, AL 35967
9781612253275, $10.99,

"Teacher Confessions: Winter In My 'Hood'" is the first installment in a teacher confessions series of stories shared by a talented 6th grade math teacher with her multi-cultural, diverse, inner city classroom of students in South Bend, Indiana. To gain trust and establish important connections, the author told her classroom this true story of her childhood experience growing up in a small Michigan farm town before cell phones, the internet, or social media. This factual but entertaining tale explains how Ms. Scelzo and her brother made up an experiment involving following a horse pulling a sled through the snow, with unforeseen adventures and risks of both fun and natural unpredictability. Making the story very funny indeed, the horse, named Jupiter, pulled the loaded sled as directed, but he also deposited a pile of horse manure in the process, making the sled rider experience dangerously dirty indeed! This turned out to be a serendipitous outcome for the author, who had wanted to be the first person to ride on the sled while her brother rode the horse. Naturally her brother insisted on the reverse of this plan, which kind of backfired! The upshot of the whole incident was a warning to beware unforeseen natural outcomes when planning experiments involving live variables! Another outcome was a deposit of a motherlode of humor in the author's life experiences, which she willingly used or mined to help teach her students how to think about mathematics. Charming colorful illustrations accentuate the humor of this fun winter sled ride from so long ago. "Teacher Confessions...." is promised to be a beginning title of a series by the author, which should be much enjoyed and anticipated by middle grade readers.

Hal and the New Kid
Elias Carr, author
Michael Garton, illustrator
Spark House Family
9789781506410500, $12.99,

"Hal and the New Kid" is a title in a Christian faith -based series for young children that introduces and explains basic faith concepts using friendly animal characters, such as Hal the hedgehog, or Ava the sheep.

One day Hal came to play with Ave and found she was playing with a new friend, Jo the goat. Ava invited Hal to join her and Jo in splashing in the stream, or playing in the grass by the path. But Hal didn't want to join Ava and her new friend. After a while, Hal began to feel like his friend Ava didn't like him any more, because she kept playing with Jo, still inviting Hal to join in, with no results. Hal began to feel sad and sorry for himself. But Ava found him crying and comforted him, telling him he was one of her best friends and she really liked him. Then she asked him too give Jo a chance to be a friend to him too.

Hal made a little prayer to God to help him learn to be a friend to the new goat: "Dear God, meeting someone new isn't easy. Please help me make new friends so we can all have fun and be happy together. Amen" Then Hal joined Ava and Jo and learned to play Hide and Seek and laughed and played for the rest of the day until the sun went down.

At the end of "Hal and the New Kid" is a page for parents, with suggestions for reading and sharing the story's message. A Faith Touch is the quotation from John 15:12: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Charming, whimsical illustrations and simple narrative style help make "Hal and the New Kid" accessible and appealing to young readers. This delightful faith-based series is solid reading for young children. Another title from Frolic that is also highly recommended is: "Jo and the Slow Soup (9781506410487, $12.99)," by Elias Carr, illustrated by Natasha Rimmington.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

COMSOL5 for Engineers
Mehrzad Tabatabaian
Mercury Learning
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781942270423, $77.54, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: COMSOL5 Multiphysics is one of the most valuable software modeling tools for engineers and scientists. Now in a newly updated and revised "COMSOL5 for Engineers" by Mehrzad Tabatabaian covers all aspects and applications of COMSOL5, including a revolutionary tool, the Application Builder. This component enables users to build apps based on COMSOL models that can be run on almost any operating system (Windows, MAC, mobile/iOS, etc.). Designed for engineers from various disciplines, the book introduces multiphysics modeling techniques and examples accompanied by practical applications using COMSOL5.x. The main objective is to introduce readers to use COMSOL as an engineering tool for modeling, by solving examples that could become a guide for modeling similar or more complicated problems. "COMSOL5 for Engineers" provides a collection of examples and modeling guidelines through which readers can build their own models. The mathematical fundamentals, engineering principles, and design criteria are presented as integral parts of the examples. At the end of individual chapters are references that contain more in-depth physics, technical information, and data; these are referred to throughout the book and used in the examples. Exercises are provided at the end of the text for use in adoption situations. Of special note is a companion disc with executable copies of each model and their related animations.

Critique: A complete course of instruction under one cover, "COMSOL5 for Engineers" is an ideal textbook for students and professionals seeking to master COMSOL 5. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in content, organization, and presentation, "COMSOL5 for Engineers" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, college, and university library Computer Science collections.

When Man Meets Dog
Chris Blazina
Hubble & Hattie
9781845848798, $13.99, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: In "When Man Meets Dog", psychologist, professor, and author Christopher Blazina explains the importance of the unique bond between men and dogs. There are widely-held beliefs that males naturally transition into a state of self-imposed seclusion and emotional detachment in adulthood. Even relying on another person violates the rules of being a man. "When Man Meets Dog" explores how the bond with animal companions bypasses many of these barriers, helping males develop into happier, healthier men.

It's also important to discuss the other side of the attachment between men and their canine companions -- loss. Again, the mixed messages men receive lead to difficulties with managing grief. "When Man Meets Dog" discusses men's 'continuing bonds' with a lost animal companion. A continuing bond is a new way of reconnecting and preserving the memory of this unique connection.

"When Man Meets Dog" is also a memoir with a purpose as Chris shares his very personal story of how two shelter dogs not only changed the direction of his life, but also how he came to define what it means to be a man.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, unique, informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "When Man Meets Dog" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections. For the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject (and anyone who has or ever has had a treasured personal relationship with a canine companion) it should be noted that "When Man Meets Dog" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.15).

James Jesse Strang
Don Faber
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472072897, $70.00, HC, 221pp,

Synopsis: In 1844, at age 31, James Jesse Strang converted to Mormonism. Less than a year later, he'd entered the inner circle of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the controversial new faith and appeared to be his possible successor when Smith was assassinated. Within six years, Strang had been ordained king and stood as one of the most controversial religious leaders in 19th Century America. His actions were closely monitored by President Millard Fillmore and within twelve years, Strang had been assassinated, seemingly with the assistance of federal authorities. In "James Jesse Strang: The Rise and Fall of Michigan's Mormon King", author Don Faber recounts the fascinating story of Strang's journey from impoverished New York farm boy to one of the most colorful and contentious figures in Michigan's history.

Critique: An exceptionally well researched and impressively written biographical study, "James Jesse Strang: The Rise and Fall of Michigan's Mormon King" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography collections. This outstanding biography will prove to be of immense interest to academicians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Mormon history and/or Michigan History supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that "James Jesse Strang: The Rise and Fall of Michigan's Mormon King" is also available in a paperback edition (9780472052899, $28.95) and in a Kindle format ($21.87).

With My Eyes Wide Open
Brian "Head" Welch
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780718030605, $24.99, HC, 213pp,

Synopsis: A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian "Head" Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian's radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene. Brian returned to his musical roots with a clear head and a devoted heart. Though his story is wild, hilarious, and deeply poignant, the message is simple: God will love you into the freedom of being yourself, as long as you keep the relationship going and never, ever quit.

Critique: An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life, "With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn" is unreservedly recommended and ultimately inspiring reading. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "With My Eyes Wide Open" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "With My Eyes Wide Open" is also available in a paperback edition (9780718091507, $16.99) and in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Danger Above
Robert Zausner
Camino Books, Inc.
PO Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781680980059, $32.00, HC, 316pp,

Synopsis: "Danger Above: A Tragic Death, An Epic Courtroom Battle" by author Robert Zausner tells the true story of a terrible event that occurred on a sunny June day in 2009 when a power line fell on Carrie Goretzka, a young mother, setting her on fire as her young children watched in horror from the front porch of their suburban Pittsburgh home.

What followed was an investigation and civil action against the Goretzkas utility, West Penn Power Company, which the family's lawyer, Shanin Specter, claimed had been not only negligent, but also reckless. The trial was a very difficult challenge for the attorneys representing the family and those defending the utility.

In their efforts to reduce the culpability of their clients, the defense at one point tried to claim that the victim was to blame for her own painful death by electrocution. Robert Zausner's chronicle of the case of Goretzka v. West Penn Power Company is an emotional one, begging the question: will justice be served against a dangerous, negligent corporation, or will the Goretzka family's story be ignored by the law?

Critique: An inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "Danger Above: A Tragic Death, An Epic Courtroom Battle" is an extraordinary account -- one that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Danger Above" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Danger Above" is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.99).

Smuggler's End
Del Hahn
Pelican Publishing Company
1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, LA 70053-2246
9781455621002, $26.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Notorious Louisiana drug smuggler Barry Seal made countless runs from Central America to the United States, flying thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the country and making millions of dollars. When faced with criminal prosecution, Seal turned informant for the DEA, but he continued to smuggle drugs into the US. In the 1980s, it was leaked under the Reagan administration that Seal was an undercover CIA operative working with the US government to aid Nicaragua in its fight against the Sandinistas. Seal's role in the conspiracy is large, and many FBI, CIA, DEA, and government officials are implicated in this expose as "Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal" by author Del Hahn reveals the true story of this infamous figure.

Critique: Impressively researched, written, organized and presented, "Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal" exposes one of the Regan administration's darkest and ultimately disastrous secrets -- the collaboration of elements of the United States government in the dissemination of drugs that would be responsible for the corruption of thousands of American municipal governments, the debilitation of tens of thousands of American neighborhoods, and the ruination of hundreds of thousands of American lives through addiction. Simply stated, "Smuggler's End" should be a part of every community library collection in the country so that such an infamous and caustic governmentally sponsored criminal activity could never be repeated.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Jerusalem Secret - Identity Theft Series - Book Two
Ron Cantor
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409260, $ 15.99, 2016, 304 Pages

God's Unfolding Plan - Revealing Jewish Roots in the New Covenant and the Message of Yeshua and Christian Messianic Judaism

"The Jerusalem Secret" opens where "Identity Theft" left off. David Lebowitz, a young and successful journalist has progressed from skeptic to seeker, becoming a believer that Yeshua is the promised Messiah. Just as the implications of what it means to be a follower of Yeshua are becoming clear, David gets the news that his father has been taken to the hospital and is in critical condition.

As David sits by his father's bedside, grasping his hand he begins a prayer "In the name of Yeshua" he suddenly finds he has being transported into the heavenly realm; standing in a large bright room in the presence of the angel Ariel, his angelic guide and companion, in earlier supernatural experiences.

Ariel informs David that he has been summoned for a purpose; he is to take the message of Yeshua to the current generation of Jews and non-Jews to awaken Israel to errors prevalent in religious teaching and practice today. Ariel immediately begins a training program that takes David back into history-shaping events and the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, and other Old Testament prophets.

David is than supernaturally taken back in time to Jerusalem and Rome to learn directly from the Apostles Paul, and James, and from other early disciples, of the culture, religious, and political environment of the day and the implications this had on the writing of the scriptures in the original Jewish context to better understand the questions raised and issues being addressed.

Although Cantor is using the medium of fiction as a platform, his research into the background sources are thorough and well documented in his chapter endnotes. I have been personal challenged recently to be more intentional about my verbal my sharing of the Gospel message. While reading the book I have had several open doors for dialog on the Jerusalem secret and message of Yeshua.

"The Jerusalem Secret" must reading for all those seeking clarification and a better understanding of the mission and message of Christian Messianic Judaism.

Drones Over Machu Picchu - An Inca Mystery
Edward Curry
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780692031940, $15.00, 2016, 252 pages

Ancient Inca History Discovered using the Latest in Modern Technology

Fans of Edward Curry's earlier adventure novels of the Maya and Inca peoples will be eager to "Drones Over Machu Picchu," number 5 in the Maya - Inca book series.

James Hamilton, president of Smithsonian, has commissioned Allie Lea Keshaw, executive vice president of Smithsonian's explorations, to lead an archaeological team to explore the ancient Inca artifacts at the Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum of Lima, Peru. Allie Lea's husband Ryan Keshaw, owner of RK Consulting, initiates a plan to extend the assignment to include the Smithsonian's ALSM drone specialists in a search for the burial chamber and final resting place of the great Saba Inca leader Pachacuti and for priceless Inca artifacts.

Detailed introductions of the characters and the role each of them will play are narrated by protagonist Ryan Keshaw. This is done through a series of fast-moving chatty dialog, family banter, and sometimes cryptic conversations. Throughout the character development Curry provides a hint of danger, suspense, and a mystical foreboding.

Once this foundation is in place, the pace picks up and develops into a page-turning plot, adding new insight and perspective into the ancient Inca and their society, including traits of brutality and the barbaric practice of pagan human sacrifice. In addition to strong plot and a cast of believable characters Curry brings ancient historical accuracy in a modern technical thriller that builds anticipation of danger, and a sense of mystery, intrigue and romance.

Curry has done extensive research into the arts, astrology, and ethos of the ancient Inca as well as their enlightened leadership, amazing construction skills, insight into astronomy and the agrarian process. This combination of extensive research, a creative imagination, and a thorough grasp of the elements of a well-crafted novel assures the reader of an enjoyable reading experience and genuine literary entertainment

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks
G. Patrick Vennebush
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759486, $11.95, 120 pages,

A Dose of Healthy Humor, Laugh Out Loud Jokes, Knee Slapping Fun

"Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks" is a collection of funny jokes. Some are written for kids under the age of 10, some for preteen, others for teens or young adults, and still others for an adult audience. For the greatest effectiveness the appropriateness of time, place, and audience of the joke must be kept in mind. G. Patrick Vennebush has arranged the jokes in "Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks" accordingly, by level of difficulty, from the youngest math student to an advanced math major, or the professional mathematician.

The selections range from daffy definitions and pertinent puns, to one liner, and graphic jokes. I especially enjoyed the sections titled "Same Question - Different Answers" and "Professions." The book is must read for math instructors, home school parents, math tutors, and other math fanatics.

G. Patrick Vennebush is recognized for his leadership in managing online projects for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. He promotes the idea that the use of humor can be a valuable resource for teachers to stimulate learning, elicit attention in the classroom, for breaking the ice in presentations, and a source of injecting humor into social conversations.

"Math Jokes4 Mathy Folks" is endorsed by university math professors, elementary, middle school, and high school math teachers, and award winning authors. Highly acclaimed fun entertainment for all ages.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

From the Heart - The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine
Alexandro Modena
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781944297022, $14.95, 120 pages,

Important Lessons Learned During the Hard Times

Alexandro Modena captures the essence of the adversities he and his family faced while existing in poverty at a time when Jews, Arabs, and Christians lived together in Palestine, when the cultures were changing and during a time the country was occupied by the British Army.

Modena's memoir "From the Heart - The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine" focuses on his values and perceptions he learned as a fourth grader under the tutelage of Mr. Cohen, the only male teacher in his elementary school.

These observations are narrated by Alex voice expressed form a 10 year old's perception level, but with amazing insight. Each chapter details an experience revealing his progress and development as seen through his: improved grades, confidence, self-esteem, and lessons learned about genuine friendship, envy, greed, forgiveness, and deception. Alex recorded these lessons in a special journal that ended with a short poignant summary statement.

Preteens, teens, and adults will benefit from reading "From the Heart" a heart touching real life story modeling good citizenship, establishing genuine friendships, and living as a community. A fast moving story told with pathos, including Alex's personal setbacks, and victories.

"From the Heart - The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine" is timely reading for today's challenges, ideal for opening family discussions with contemporary applications. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Christmas At Promise Lodge
Charlotte Hubbard
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420139433, $7.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 342pgs,

This is a really great read. I have found reading this type of book to be very soothing, interesting and fulfilling. I really like the Amish stories because they are well written and some how always touch the heart and life in general as this one did. We meet several young girls, one with the hope of marriage, but will it come to pass? Really well worth your time. Enjoy.

A Lover's Destruction
Brooklyn May
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478773023, $21.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 334pp,

Kali lost everything with no hope, but looking for help she contacts a strange lady with power she never knew before, was using magic and spells a bad thing? Will Kali have to pay or will she be saved?

This story is one that will capture you where you have to keep reading no matter how tired you may be. It's one of those, oh no why did she do that? books and it certainly is a page turner. I liked this a lot and I think you will as well.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

From Crisis to Calling
Sasha Chanoff & David Chanoff
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781626564497, $18.95, PB, 157pp,

Synopsis: As a young aid worker, Sasha Chanoff was sent to evacuate a group of refugees from the violence-torn Congo. But when he arrived he discovered a second group. Evacuating them too could endanger the entire mission. But leaving them behind would mean their certain death. All leaders face defining moments, when values are in conflict and decisions impact lives. Why is moral courage the essential factor at such times? How do we access our own rock-bottom values, and how can we take advantage of them to make the best decisions? Through Sasha's own extraordinary story and those of eight other brave leaders from business, government, non-government organizations, and the military, "From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions" reveals five principles for confronting crucial decisions and inspires all of us to use our moral core as a lodestar for leadership.

Critique: An extraordinary account with an extraordinary message, "From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Of special note is the introduction 'The Five-Step Pathway to Moral Decision Making'. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "From Crisis to Calling" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "From Crisis to Calling" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and in an Audio CD format ($19.99).

The Heroic Age of Diving
Jerry Kuntz
Excelsior Editions
c/o State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438459622, $19.95, PB, 196pp,

Synopsis: Beginning in 1837, some of the most brilliant engineers of America's Industrial Revolution turned their attention to undersea technology. Inventors developed practical hard-helmet diving suits, as well as new designs of submarines, diving bells, floating cranes, and undersea explosives. These innovations were used to clear shipping lanes, harvest pearls, mine gold, and wage war. All of these underwater technologies were brought together by entrepreneurs, treasure-hunters, and daring divers in the 1850s to salvage three infamous shipwrecks on Lake Erie, each of which had involved the loss of hundreds of lives, as well as the worldly goods of the passengers. The prospect of treasure, combined with the national notoriety of these disasters, soon attracted the attention of local adventurers and the country's leading divers and marine engineers. In :The Heroic Age of Diving: America's Underwater Pioneers and the Great Wrecks of Lake Erie", author Jerry Kuntz shares truly fascinating stories of the pioneers of underwater invention and the brave divers who employed the new technologies as they raced with (and against) marine engineers to salvage the tragic wrecks of Lake Erie.

Critique: A comprehensive, informative, impressively researched and exceptionally well written history of the first three decades of underwater exploration in antebellum America, "The Heroic Age of Diving: America's Underwater Pioneers and the Great Wrecks of Lake Erie" is a consistently compelling read. A unique historical study that is enhanced with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Notes, a four page Bibliography, and a five page Index, "The Heroic Age of Diving" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Heroic Age of Diving" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.49).

Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor
James D. McLaird
South Dakota State Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SC 57501-2217
9780985290535, $14.95, PB, 238pp,

Synopsis: The most famous grizzly-bear attack in the history of the American West took place in 1823 and left Hugh Glass struggling for his life. Setting out on a journey of revenge and forgiveness, he eventually crawled 200 miles across the plains back to civilization. The story of how Glass was able to survive has provided fertile ground for articles, books and film, but the real man remains much of a mystery. In "Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor", James D. McLaird (Professor Emeritus of History at Dakota Wesleyan University) traces the few existing threads of Glass' life and delves into the role of popular history in making a legend. Professor McLaird also looks at the grizzly bear itself, examining popular sentiments towards the creature that led to its near-extinction. Had it not been for a chance encounter with a grizzly bear along the Grand River in what is now northwestern South Dakota, says Professor McLaird, Hugh Glass would barely warrant a passing note in fur-trade history. That fact made researching him a challenge.

Critique: The latest addition to the outstanding South Dakota Biography Series published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press, "Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor" is a deftly crafted and compelling history that reads as smoothly as any novel. Informed and informative, "Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor" is a consistently compelling and inherently fascinating study that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Western History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World
Marc Raboy
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780199313587, $39.95, HC, 832pp,

Synopsis: A little over a century ago the world was wireless. Then cables and all their limiting inefficiencies gave way to a revolutionary means of transmitting news and information almost everywhere, instantaneously. By means of "Hertzian waves," as radio waves were initially known, ships could now make contact with other ships (saving lives, such as on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic); financial markets could coordinate with other financial markets, establishing the price of commodities and fixing exchange rates; military commanders could connect with the front lines, positioning artillery and directing troop movements. Suddenly and irrevocably, time and space telescoped beyond what had been thought imaginable. It was one man, Gugleilom Marconi who had not only imagined this networked world but was able to create it.

"Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" by Marc Raboy (Professor and Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media, and Communications, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada) is a comprehensive, definitive, and detailed biography based on original research and unpublished archival materials in four countries and several languages. The result of meticulous and exhaustive research, "Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" is the biography to connect significant parts of Marconi's story, from his early days in Italy, to his groundbreaking experiments, to his protean role in world affairs. "Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" also deftly explores Marconi's relationships with his wives, mistresses, and children, and examines in unsparing detail the last ten years of the inventor's life, when he returned to Italy and became a pillar of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Critique: A consistently compelling and revealing account of the life and accomplishments of one of the 20th Century's most influential inventors, "Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" is exceptionally well organized and presented in five major sections: The Prodigy; The Player; The Patriot; The Outsider; The Conformist. Enhanced with an informative Prologue and Postscript, as well as a four page listing of Sources and Abbreviation; 126 pages of Notes; a fourteen page Bibliography, and a thirty-four page Index, "Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century Biography collections. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($26.99).

German Census Records 1816-1916
Roger P. Minert
Family Roots Publishing Company
PO Box 1682, Orting, WA 98360-1682
9781628590777, $34.95, PB, 260pp,

After wondering for several years why American researchers know very little about German census records, Dr. Roger Minert, found an opportunity to live in Europe for six months to investigate them. He was sure that many existed, but he could find very little information about them. While in Europe, he learned that even German researchers know very little about their census records! How could such a potentially important resource be lost to obscurity? He sat down to write "German Census Records 1816-1916: The When, Where, and How of a Valuable Genealogical Resource" and provide a comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide and resource that would enable genealogical researchers to learn where and when German census records were compiled, as well as why and how. "German Census Records 1816-1916" describes the state by state content of census records and explains how surviving census documents can be located. "German Census Records 1816-1916" is groundbreaking information of enormous and enduring value to anyone researching their German roots. While the information found in the parish registers is key to Germany-based genealogical research, but there's often even more family information to find in the German census records. Unique and invaluable, "German Census Records 1816-1916" is an unreservedly recommended contribution to personal, professional, community, college, university, genealogical center library collections.

The Egret's Plumes
Archibald Rutledge, author
Stephen Chesley, illustrator
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611176728, $24.99, HC, 56pp,

Synopsis: Archibald Rutledge's suspenseful story "The Egret's Plumes" is a cautionary tale exalting the virtues of good sportsmanship, conservation of the natural world, and the universality of parental instincts. Fleeing the relentless plume hunters of their native Florida, a pair of exquisite snowy egrets make a new home, and then a new family, in the South Carolina low country swamps of Blake's Reserve. When the male egret is killed by a poacher, the female is left to defend her nest and raise their hatchlings. Will Ormond, a restless and reckless hunter and heir to the reserve's plantation, spots the surviving egrets after a day of disappointments with his original prey. As he wades into the swamp to gain a better position for his kill shot with his only remaining cartridge, Will comes to recognize elements of his relationship with his own mother in the selfless devotion of the female egret to her young. In this moment of uncharacteristic hesitation, he also realizes that he is no longer alone in the brackish waters of the reserve and that the hunter may have become the hunted.

"The Egret's Plumes" is an inspiring, allegorical narrative that illuminates the pitfalls awaiting immoral acts and the saving virtues of selflessness and compassion. This short story was written for publication in an early twentieth-century boy's magazine and was first collected in the privately printed Eddy Press edition of Old Plantation Days (c. 1913). A project of the Humanities Council SC benefiting South Carolina literary programs, this new edition of The Egret's Plumes is illustrated in handsome charcoal etchings by southern artist Stephen Chesley. Award-winning outdoors writer and noted Rutledge scholar Jim Casada provides the volume's introduction, and outdoors writer and author Jacob F. Rivers III offers an afterword.

Critique: Archibald Rutledge (1883 - 1973) was South Carolina's most prolific writer and the state's first poet laureate. His nature writings garnered him the prestigious John Burroughs Medal. A true 'time lost' classic, this new edition of his "The Egret's Plumes" with the addition of Stephen Chelsey's truly exceptional artwork, is one of those rare volumes that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Egret's Plumes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.74).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Crowned and Dangerous
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425283486, $26.00, Hardcover, 307 pp,

Lady Georgiana Bannoch's long-time beau, Darcy O'Mara, finally takes the bull by the horns and inveigles her to join him on a trip by car to Scotland, where he intends to finally marry her. But nothing has ever gone smoothly in their relationship, and this adventure proves to be no exception. A blizzard blocks their path and they're forced to find shelter for the night. And when they awaken, Darcy buys a newspaper and learns that his father has been arrested for the murder of the person who bought the family castle in Ireland. So, naturally, he hurries off to his father in an effort to prove him innocent, while Georgie returns the car to London, where she meets Princess Alexandra ("Zou Zou") Zamanska, a rich Polish emigree who fled her native country after having seen her husband hacked to death.

Darcy soon tells Georgie that their "engagement" is off because he won't expose her to the pain and humiliation he anticipates as a result of his father's situation. Obviously, he thinks him guilty. Instead, Georgie travels to Ireland to stand by Darcy and help prove the father's innocence. Soon Zou Zou flies in to assist. So they proceed to find out what really happened.

Now, among other questions to be solved: Can the two lovers eventually marry since Georgie is cousin to the king and 35th in the line of succession? Remember, this all takes place in the 1930s and she is forbidden as a result to marry a Catholic and the Prince of Wales had to abdicate to marry a twice-divorced American (the pair makes a cameo appearance in this novel). So, if all this is resolved, there's plenty left for a follow-up novel to which we can look forward and discover if there are any new complications to overcome.

It is a good romp and lots of fun, and is recommended.

Victor Gischler
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250041517, $24.99, Hardcover, 295 pp.,

David Sparrow is no ordinary stay-at-home dad. While his wife commutes to New York City to fulfill her role as deputy district attorney, he remains home to clean, cook and take care of the kids because the Army has placed him on indefinite leave, fearing he has burnt our after years of dangerous, life-threatening assignments. But he has to rise to the occasion in this cinematic novel when a notorious gangster whom his wife is attempting to send to jail threatens her and their family.

Needless to say, the author has written a thriller packed with shooting galore. This reader lost count of the bodies early in the story, and they kept on mounting until the end. To say David never misses a shot comes close, although he does shoot wildly a few times (and this is the unbelievable part; the rest is utterly beyond belief). The novel is entertainment at its best and to prove the point, the TV rights to which have apparently been sold to CBS.


Innocence; Or Murder on Steep Street
Heda Margolius Kovaly
Translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954963, $25.95, Hardcover, 241 pp
9781616956455, $14.95, Paperback, 256 pp.

This murder mystery was written to disguise a political tract describing the author's life in Communist Czechoslovakia during which her husband, an ardent party member and an assistant minister of trade, was falsely arrested, jailed and murdered. Both had survived Nazi concentration camps. The form the book takes was to somehow evade the censors and it surreptitiously tells his story as part of the plot, describing one of the characters.

Essentially, the plot revolves around the murder of a detective on a street on which a movie theater is located. There are seven women who serve as ushers, each with a secret life, complicating the investigation into the death. The stories of their lives unfold, together with the secrets they share with each other.

The promotional material recounts the author's fame as a translator, and especially her love of Raymond Chandler. It is doubtful that this work measures up to his standard of writing, and has to be judged on its own merits. On that level, the reader has to cope with various obfuscations and, of course, the obscure Czech names and places which divert attention. The conclusion is somewhat disappointing and really is somewhat ambiguous, whether by design or inadvertence.

The author really is known for her memoir, "Under A Cruel Star," in which she describes her time in Auschwitz and the early years of Communism in her native land. For its historical importance, the present novel deserves to be read.

Freedom's Child
Jax Miller
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780804186804, $25.00, Hardcover, 308 pp.,

Broadway Books
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY, 10036
9780553446876, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp,

Foul-mouthed Freedom Oliver is a bartender in Oregon, shielded by Witness Protection. The reason is that 20 years before she was arrested for murdering her husband and held for two years, before the evidence she planted resulted in the arrest and conviction of her brother-in-law. But upon her arrest she gave up her two children for adoption, fearing life imprisonment. Incidentally neither she nor he had actually fired the gun.

The children were placed in the home of a religious zealot in Kentucky, the head of a cult. Now, 20 years later, the brother-in-law is freed and is seeking revenge. Meanwhile, her daughter goes missing and Freedom leaves to find the child, who may have been kidnapped. Along the way she meets her son, now a successful attorney.

This is a debut novel, and for all its interesting plot, it also suffers from superfluous and foul language and other excessive attributes of an unpolished author, especially the novel's conclusion, which can only be described as a neophyte's bright idea. Nevertheless, despite all of that, the time it took to read the story was worthwhile because it is more than interesting.

A Song of Shadows
John Connolly
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 0020
9781501118302, $16.00/21.77 CA$, Paperback, 464 pp,

This latest Charlie Parker novel has a more intriguing plot while combining many of the elements of earlier books in the series. It begins with Charlie having survived a near fatal gunshot attack, leaving him extremely weak, renting a house on a small bay in Boreas, ME, in which to recuperate. There is only one other home on the bay, occupied by a woman, Ruth Winter, and her daughter, Amanda. In earlier decades, a large German population settled in the area, and after World War II an influx of supposed displaced persons arrived nearby.

When the body of a man washes ashore on the beach, questions are raised as to whether he is a suicide or the victim of foul play since he had traveled from Florida. Then another fact emerges: His friend and partner is found murdered in the Sunshine State, raising additional suspicion. When Ruth Winter is murdered, there can be no question there is evil in the air, and Charlie, despite his debilitation, begins to act like a detective.

So much for the background. The central theme is the post-war arrivals and their link to a Nazi concentration camp. The description of the government's investigations to identify and deport Nazi war criminals is affecting. And Charlie's efforts to unravel the mystery of the deaths, whether they are related, and if so to what, are, of course, aided by his usual cohorts, Louis and Angel and FBI agent Ross, along with Rabbi Epstein. Naturally a Charlie Parker novel without the presence of the Collector or introduction of the occult would not be in keeping with the series, so, naturally, both are present and play a major role in the unraveling of the plot, along with the presence of Charlie's daughters, the living Sam and the deceased Jennifer. All in all, this is John Connolly at his best, with a most serious story, and is highly recommended.

Murder on the Quai
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956240, $27.95, Hardcover, 336 pp,

After 15 Aimee Leduc mysteries, Cara Black turned her attention backward in time to the start of Aimee's career, providing a back story to her beginnings as a detective, and introducing some of the basics which inhabit subsequent novels, namely how she met Rene Friant, her partner in Leduc Detective, and acquired Miles Davis, her bichon frise. At the time, Aimee was a first-year medical student, hating every moment.

Then one day while Aimee was in her father's office, as he was about to leave for Berlin to obtain the Stasi file on his renegade wife, who had disappeared years before, a distant relation asks him to find a young woman who perhaps was the last person to see her father before he was murdered. Instead, Aimee takes the case on herself as her father had refused to do so before he left.

From that point on, all the attributes of an Aimee Leduc mystery flow: Aimee getting into all kinds of danger; all the flavor and smells of Paris streets and neighborhoods; the give-and-take between Aimee and her godfather and high police official Morbier; Aimee's passion for discounted fashion clothes; among other common features of the series. Since it was her first case, the progress is not as smooth as future investigations, as she stumbles and learns, but unquestionably the book is recommended as an introduction to her subsequent adventures.

R.J. Ellory
Overlook Press
141 Wooster St., NY, NY 10012
9781468311266, $26.95, Hardcover, 368 pp.
9781468313031, $16.95, Paperback, 400 pp.

This novel is unusual in the sense that it is two stories that unite into one. To begin with we have Annie O'Neill, a 30-year old reclusive bookstore owner who leads a rather dull life, lacking in human romantic attachment except for an older neighbor with a storied background, and haunted by her lack of knowledge of her father who is said to have died when she was a child. Until one day an elderly gentlemen walks into her store and tells her he knew her father, handing her an unmailed letter to her mother, indicating he has more, and asking her to read a chapter of a novel.

Thus begins the plot, the disparate lines of which only come together at the very end of the book. Meanwhile, as Annie becomes intrigued with each succeeding chapter of the unpublished novel, she meets a man and falls in love with him in a whirlwind two-week affair, until suddenly he walks away without explanation, catapulting her into exhibiting a totally different personality.

As mentioned, the plot is two-fold. With regard to Annie, it is a psychological study in development. Will she or won't she come to terms with life and grow up, meet its challenges and take advantage of opportunities? And then there is the novel within the novel, which shows things are not always what they seem. It is well done, and the book is recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Emergence of the Gulf States
J. E. Peterson, editor
Bloomsbury Academic
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781472587602, $206.00, HC, 388pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by J. E. Peterson, "The Emergence of the Gulf States: Studies in Modern History" is comprised of eleven erudite and scholarly articles by a diverse roster of experts that cover the history of the Gulf from the 18th century to the late 20th century. Employing a broad perspective, the seminal volume brings together experts in the field to consider the region's political, economic and social development. The contributions address key themes including the impact of early history, religious movements, social structures, identity and language, imperialism, 20th-century economic transformation and relations with the wider Indian Ocean and Arab world.

"The Emergence of the Gulf States" as a whole provides a new interpretive approach based on new research coupled with extensive reviews of the relevant literature. It offers a valuable contribution to the knowledge of the area and sets a new standard for the future scholarship and understanding of this vital region.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, notes on the contributors, an informative Foreword (His Excellency Mohammed Mahdi Altajir), and Introduction by the editor, a ten page Glossary, a ten page Chronology, and a fifteen page Index, "The Emergence of the Gulf States: Studies in Modern History" is an impressive compendium of seminal scholarship and unreservedly recommended as a core addition for community, college, and academic library Middle East History collections in general and Gulf State History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The Emergence of the Gulf States" is also available in a Kindle edition ($146.99).

The Letter and the Cosmos
Laurence De Looze
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9781442650602, $70.00, HC, 218pp,

Synopsis: From our first ABCs to the Book of Revelation's statement that Jesus is "the Alpha and Omega", we see the world through the twenty-six letters of our alphabet. More than just a way of writing, the alphabet is a powerful concept that has shaped Western civilization and our daily lives.

In "The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World", Laurence de Looze (a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Western Ontario, Canada), probes that influence, showing how the alphabet has served as a lens through which we conceptualize the world and how the world, and sometimes the whole cosmos, has been perceived as a kind of alphabet itself.

Beginning with the ancient Greeks, Professor De Looze traces the use of alphabetic letters and their significance from Plato to postmodernism, offering a fascinating tour through Western history.

A sharp and entertaining examination of how languages, letterforms, orthography, and writing tools have reflected our hidden obsession with the alphabet, "The Letter and the Cosmos" is illustrated with copious examples of the visual and linguistic phenomena which de Looze describes. Read it, and you'll never look at the alphabet the same way again.

Critique: An original and seminal work of meticulous research and articulate scholarship, "The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World" will prove to be of immense interest to academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, making this informed and informative study a very highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. For personal reading list it should be noted that "The Letter and the Cosmos" is also available in a paperback edition (9781442628533, $24.95).

Escape from Bataan
Ross E. Hofmann, author
David L. Snead, editor
Anne B. Craddock, editor
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476665689, $29.95, PB, 218pp,

Synopsis: U.S. Navy Supply Corps Ensign Ross Hofmann had no idea what was in store for him when he arrived at Cavite Naval Base in October 1941. Two months later, Japanese forces struck the Philippines, destroying the base and forcing U.S. personnel to retreat to Bataan. There, Hofmann joined a makeshift unit of Army Aircorps ground personnel, U.S. Marines, U.S. sailors, U.S. Naval ground battalions and Filipinos to fight a Japanese force that landed nearby.

In March 1942, with the fall of Bataan imminent, he traveled to Cebu to run supplies through the blockade of Bataan and Corregidor. Soon after his arrival, the Japanese landed on Cebu, forcing the Americans to retreat again. Hiking through jungles and crossing dangerous waters in barely seaworthy vessels, Hofmann avoided capture and reached an American base in Mindanao.

He received orders to establish a seaplane base on Lake Lanao. As Japanese troops landed nearby, two seaplanes returning from Corregidor stopped to refuel, one of them hitting a submerged rock on take-off. In a harrowing race against the enemy advance, Hofmann and others worked feverishly to fix the plane and escape before the Japanese converged on Lake Lanao. "Escape from Bataan: Memoir of a U.S. Navy Ensign in the Philippines, October 1941 to May 1942" is a personal memoir that recounts Hofmann's experiences in vivid detail.

Critique: Deftly edited for publication by the team of David L. Snead (Professor of History at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia) and Anne B. Craddock (a professional artist and International Montessori teacher, is the daughter of Ross Hofmann), "Escape from Bataan: Memoir of a U.S. Navy Ensign in the Philippines, October 1941 to May 1942" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. An invaluable and appreciated contribution to the growing library of World War II literature, "Escape from Bataan" is especially recommended for community, college, and university library American Military History collections in general, and World War II supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees
Robert Penn
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393253733, $26.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: "The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees" is the story of how one frigid winter morning, Robert Penn lovingly selected an ash tree and cut it down. He wanted to see how many beautiful, handmade objects could be made from it.

Thus began an adventure of craftsmanship and discovery. Penn visits the shops of modern-day woodworkers (whose expertise has been handed down through generations) and finds that ancient woodworking techniques are far from obsolete. He introduces artisans who create a flawless axe handle, a rugged and true wagon wheel, a deadly bow and arrow, an Olympic-grade toboggan, and many other handmade objects using their knowledge of ash's unique properties. Penn connects our daily lives back to the natural woodlands that once dominated our landscapes.

Throughout his travels ranging from his home in Wales, across Europe, and in America, Penn makes a case for the continued and better use of the ash tree as a sustainable resource and reveals some of the dire threats to our ash trees. The emerald ash borer, a voracious and destructive beetle, has killed tens of millions of ash trees across North America since 2002. Unless we are prepared to act now and better value our trees, Penn argues, the ash tree and its many magnificent contributions to mankind will become a thing of the past. This exuberant tale of nature, human ingenuity, and the pleasure of making things by hand chronicles how the urge to understand and appreciate trees still runs through us all like grain through wood.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of illustrations, "The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling red from beginning to end. as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. For the personal reading lists of woodworking students as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois
Robert E. Hartley
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809334742, $27.50, PB, 194pp,

Synopsis: Many people are unaware that from 1945 to 1975, downstate lawmakers dominated the Illinois political arena. In "The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois", journalist and author Robert E. Hartley details the lives and contributions of three influential southern Illinois politicians, Paul Powell, Clyde Choate, and John Stelle. Hartley describes how these "dealmakers" were able to work with Democrats and Republicans throughout the state to bring jobs and facilities to their region. Using a variety of coalitions, they maintained downstate political strength in the face of growing Chicago influence.

Hartley also traces the personal histories of Powell, Choate, and Stelle, showing how they teamed up to advance a downstate political agenda, and reviews their challenges and successes. Beginning with an account of early experiences, including the battlefield courage that earned Choate the Medal of Honor as well as Stelle's World War I experience and later entrepreneurship, "The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois" continues with an exploration of the groundwork for their collaborative legislative agenda and their roles in the growth of Southern Illinois University and the passage of income tax legislation. Hartley reviews the importance of Powell's relationship with Governor Stratton, Choate's leadership of the 1972 Democratic National Convention and his relationships with Governor Walker and with Chicago interests.

"The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois" is a vivid, straightforward tale of fighting in the legislative chambers, backstabbing behind the scenes, and trading special favors for votes in pursuit of not only personal gain but also the advancement of a regional agenda.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois: Paul Powell, Clyde L. Choate, John H. Stelle" is a stellar work of regional political history. Enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-four pages of Notes, a six page Bibliography, and a four page Index, "The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Political Science collections in general, and Illinois political history supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois" is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.49).

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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