Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 12 December 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf John Taylor's Bookshelf Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf Michael Dunford's Bookshelf Paul Vogel's Bookshelf
S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf  

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Multi-Billion-Dollar Pet Food Fraud: Hiding in Plain Sight
Dr. Tom Lonsdale
Rivetco Pty. Ltd.
9780645726503, $16.99, PB, 446pp

Synopsis: Behind the glossy ads and hype of the pet care industry lies an inconvenient truth -- that the industrial diets we are feeding to our dogs and cats are causing a global epidemic of canine and feline sickness and suffering.

From tartar-encrusted teeth and stinking breath to weakened immunity and a host of diseases, our pets are being harmed by the highly processed 'junk pet food' we place in their bowls.

Manufacturers and vets selectively disregard scientific facts, pushing money-making products and services that cost us billions and, ultimately, our pets their lives.

It's a fraud of epic proportions.

Based on decades of rigorous research and astute observation, "Multi-Billion-Dollar Pet Food Fraud: Hiding in Plain Sight " by whistle blower veterinarian and natural feeding advocate Dr Tom Lonsdale provides the tools and guidance to help you keep your pets healthy and happy.

Dr. Lonsdale explains why raw meaty bones are both nutritious and nature's medicine, supported by a wealth of case studies and testimonials from grateful pet owners. And he also exposes the shameful failings of pet food manufacturers, veterinary practices and veterinary schools intent on keeping us in the dark.

It's time to blow away the smokescreen for your pet's and your wallet's sake.

Critique: An eye-opening revelation that will hold immense and personal interest for anyone who has a beloved canine or feline companion, "Multi-Billion-Dollar Pet Food Fraud: Hiding in Plain Sight" is an astonishing expose and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Veterinary Medicine and Pet Food & Nutrition collection. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, it should be noted for personal reading lists that 'Multi-Billion-Dollar Pet Food Fraud: Hiding in Plain Sight" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Tom Lonsdale graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in 1972. And thus began a varied career in veterinary medicine commencing as a volunteer in Nairobi, Kenya followed by work in farm animal, zoo animal and small animal private practice in the United Kingdom. In 1980 he emigrated to Australia and established a group of mixed animal veterinary clinics in Western Sydney.

In the early years Dr Lonsdale adhered to conventional veterinary teaching and practice. However by the late 1980s his career took a different turn. Together with veterinary colleagues, dubbed the Raw Meaty Bones Lobby, a new perception, a new set of values took hold. It became clear to Dr Lonsdale that the modern fashion of feeding dogs and cats industrial, highly processed products was in fact the reason a majority of domestic carnivores suffer from putrid breath and a host of diet related diseases. By changing his patients' diet from packaged food to a diet of raw meaty bones puppies and kittens gained a new vitality. Old dogs and cats gained a new lease on life.

Dr Lonsdale took up the challenge by blowing the whistle on the pet food industry/veterinary profession/fake animal welfare alliance. From 1991 to the present he has been the leader of the Raw Meaty Bones Lobby.

Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film
Steve Matteo
Backbeat Books
c/o Globe Pequot
9781493059010, $24.95, PB, 350pp

Synopsis: The Beatles produced five films during their time together: A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be. Some were cinematic successes, and some were not, but (along with subsequent reissues, bonus material, and Peter Jackson's The Beatles: Get Back, a documentary companion to Let It Be) they comprise an endlessly fascinating document of key phases in the group's career.

"Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film" by experienced music journalist Steve Matteo is comprehensive deep-dive into the band's movies that follows the origins, filming, and often frenzied fan reception of projects from the 1964 premiere of A Hard Day's Night through 1970's Let It Be to the release of Get Back in 2022. Matteo explores the production process, original theatrical film releases, subsequent VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray releases, and bonus materials, along with the US and UK soundtracks.

In addition to copious anecdotes and behind-the-scenes details, Matteo also places these films in their larger context, a period of unprecedented artistic and commercial innovation in British and world cinema. Filled with stories and insights that will satisfy collectors, buffs, and casual fans alike, this is the definitive account of an underappreciated part of the Beatles' creative output.

Critique: Comprehensive and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Cinematic & Music History/Criticism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. An absolute 'must' for the legions of Beatles fans, it should be noted that "Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.98).

Editorial Note: Steve Matteo is the author of the books Let It Be and Dylan and contributed to the collection The Beatles in Context. He has written for such publications as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York, Time Out New York, Rolling Stone, Spin, Elle, and Salon. He often appears on radio in his capacity as a music journalist and author.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Cheryl Hunter
Cresting Wave Publishing, LLC.
9781956048223, $0.99 Kindle

In Greenhorn, the curse of Cuerno Verde is alive and real, threatening the narrator with a dead Comanche chief whose legacy reaches out to embrace her and her family.

Native American rituals, confrontations with ancient evil, lost children, and what it takes to live in a valley continually confronted with the wrathful legend of Chief Cuerno Verde for some two hundred years mark a story that creates intrigue and supernatural attraction from its opening lines.

"With his dying breath, Cuerno Verde pulled himself up to standing on the flat rock and let loose a powerful cry, cursing forever the white man who would invade the homeland of his people."

When Nicole finds she has been "chosen" to confront this apparition and its legacy, she doesn't step right up to the challenge. ("My feelings were a cross between fascination - not to mention feeling honored - and wanting to bolt out of there as quickly as possible.") Indeed, she doubts the signs that she can be a hero, questioning her qualifications as a high school student holding limited ability to tackle a force and mindset that generations have suffered from.

But, her family became permanent Greenhorn Valley residents before the current bad events began to surface, placing their membership in the community in a precarious position that only Nic can resolve.

Nicole's discoveries don't lead immediately to her empowerment. She's just an ordinary girl who wants to get on with her new life: "...nothing wrong had ever occurred to us in all the years we'd been coming up here before, but that didn't prove anything. I decided the best action is no action, at least for now, so I'll just get back to living my life like before. I've got high school to start, after all."

Destiny calls, however, and she soon finds herself over her head in adult situations that tap both an inner power she never knew she had and circumstances well beyond her control.

Cheryl Hunter's special blend of intrigue, revelation, coming-of-age, and discovery can reach from young adult into adult reading circles.

As Nicole struggles to build new confidence in the wake of life-changing events, readers will find captivating the narrow escapes that Nicole and her family experience in the course of becoming unwittingly and unwillingly involved in a community curse that shakes their family foundations and future.

Young adults receive a study in spirituality, discovery, the lasting impact of anger and vengeance, and the nature of revelation and opportunity that can either be grasped or set aside. Conversely, adult themes of maturity and proactive thinking permeate a gripping story:

"I could fix this. Life did not have to be this messed up. There had to be a way to get it all to stop - to have the big, churning, forward-moving machine that this world was slow down enough to get a handle on it. I needed to freeze time.

Once it was all hard-frozen, I would get my hands inside and move it around the way things should have gone in the first place...I realized the true nature of my Pulling: it was leading me back home to myself. Calling me to be the best me I could be."

It's rare to see a supernatural saga turn into a life message that will draw young adults with intrigue and conclude with new empowerment possibilities. Greenhorn is all this and more - a vivid, enlightening story that libraries and readers will find compelling, unexpected, and thoroughly engrossing.

Vincent's Women
Donna Russo
Next Chapter Publishing
c/o Magnum Opus
9784824185778, $12.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 458pp

"You think you know him. You don't. You think you know what happened to him. You do not."

Vincent's Women: The Untold Story of the Loves of Vincent van Gogh represents historical fiction at its best by melding the myths and facts of the artist's life with a dramatic biographical inspection that explores underlying truths about the pivotal moments of Vincent's life.

Narrated by Johanna van Gogh Bonger (Vincent's sister-in-law), it translates to fiction the hundreds (out of nearly thousands) of letters between Vincent and his brother Theo, adding the value of Johanna van Gogh-Bonger's diaries and correspondence with Theo van Gogh, along with the journals and memoir of Paul Gauguin. This triangle of factual writings results in a dialogue of discoveries and insights which will prove especially attractive to art collections that include fictional representations of artists alongside nonfiction surveys.

General-interest readers who have some basic familiarity with van Gogh's mystique and legends will also find Vincent's Women compelling. The story addresses many questions about his life, from his missing ear to his madness and suicide.

The opening, however, comes in 1924 from a narrator who confesses, on her deathbed, facts about her life that affected its course, art, and insights. Perhaps this is an unfair time to reveal such truths to her son - but it also is likely the last and perfect time, creating a completely compelling confessional tone that draws readers into the questions and answers not just about van Gogh's life, but the motivations of those around him:

"It's not well done of me. To dive into it. My son and I were speaking of his work and mine. In mine, it is there. The string, the true thread of such surprising colors. The colors of women, of love, and of lust."

Her evocative voice drives a series of events that conclude in revelations and surprises driven by an article published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and

Pathology in Dec. 2020 that postulated the logic in this story and about Vincent's death.

Donna Russo excels in vivid descriptions of these pivot points in Vincent's life. These drive the fact-based story in a manner that explains, explores, and provides powerful insights into the artist's self-destructive impulses and actions and how they were perceived and interpreted by those around him:

"I know your soft heart, my darling. But a single word from you - just the sight of you - and he will never leave. He will get worse."

"Worse!" Kee recoiled. "What can be worse than burning your own flesh?"

"Burning ours. He is mad, surely you can see-"

The result is a multifaceted exploration of van Gogh's artistry, insanity, and relationships that examines personal perspectives in a unique manner designed to attract both art readers and those who hold only a cursory knowledge of the times and van Gogh's life and creations.

Backed by solid research and driven by the devices of fictional drama and dialogue, Vincent's Women is especially highly recommended for art libraries that may not usually contain fictional works, but which will find Russo's scholarship and the marriage between it and embellished drama to be astute, thought-provoking, and revealing.

Love's Guest: Reflections of Inspiration and Wonder
Marc Aronoff, editor
Red Elixier
c/o Monkfish Book Publishing Company
9781960090263, $22.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 94pp

Christian mystic Marc Aronoff's Love's Guest: Reflections of Inspiration and Wonder: An Annotated Selection from The Spiritual Dialogues by Saint Catherine of Genoa is a lovely illustrated edition of a classic book in spiritual thinking. It provides spiritual readers with a keepsake edition that reflects a meticulous hand to all aspects of Saint Catherine's representation:

"I spent months searching for the correct illustrations to represent Saint Catherine of Genoa's prophetic words. When I saw the artwork of bestselling author and ordained minister Jan Richardson, I found what I was looking for - a unique clear voice through image, with an intangible clarity that also speaks of a journey through Love."

The inspirational works were supported by the efforts of not just editor Marc Aronoff, but a spiritual community which contributed disparate insights and approaches to better understand and reflect Saint Catherine's writings. These works are displayed in segments augmented by illustrations, offering digestible food for thoughts that flow into one another like a river:

"Oh Lord, what manner of Love is this? What is this Love which is ever changing us from good to better, continually bringing us nearer to our end? And yet, as we approach, it more closely plunges us into an ever profounder ignorance of our situation."

Saint Catherine's ardent affection for "sweet love" and its incarnation and expression in many forms celebrates her Christian roots and the kinds of affection and adoration that lies in absorbing God's word and intentions through the lens and mirror of illumination and reflection.

As questions, insights, and opportunities for further discourse and reflection are offered via Saint Catherine's works, readers will especially appreciate the succinct format that allows opportunities for discussion and insight.

Love's Guest is both a celebration of Saint Catherine's ongoing relevancy to modern audiences and an opportunity for spiritual discussion groups to delve deeper into the connections between God's promise and word and the sentiments they embody.

Libraries will find Love's Guest a welcome addition, while spiritual readers looking for thoughtful, appropriate gifts will find this illustrated book appeals on intellectual, artistic, and religious levels alike.

Me and The Times
Robert W. Stock
Gatekeeper Press
9781662942402, $18.99, PB, 252pp

Me and The Times comes from a 30-year veteran of The New York Times who is in the perfect position to reflect not just on his life, but the changing world of journalism in general and The Times in particular.

A fortuneteller's early prediction opens Robert W. Stock's memoir with a reflection on the influences that led to his involvement and writing and journalism, which didn't begin as a career path that had been ordained.

The book's subtitle reflects this journey ("My Wild Ride From Elevator Operator To New York Times Editor, Columnist, And Change Agent), promising more than a staid personal life review.

The important value in this wide-reaching memoir lies not just in a lively story of personal experience, but broader inspections of the internal and external influences on an aspiring journalist's career, including his years as a PR publicist:

"The pressure to place positive articles with the national media was the main source of my tension, and it was heightened by a kind of incestuous competition. Avco had hired the powerhouse public relations firm Hill & Knowlton to handle its corporate publicity. H&K had contacts all through the media. They would learn that an article I had inspired was about to appear almost as soon as I did, and the race would be on: Who would get to Victor Emanuel [Avco's chairman] first to take credit for the piece? A substantial article in The New York Times was the brass ring of my Manhattan merry-go-round, but the reporters and editors there were famously unwelcoming to flacks."

From talented co-workers and editors at The Times to issues of authority, diplomacy, and editorial processes and goals, Stock outlines a milieu and changing times that may be unfamiliar to many readers, but draws them into a captivating story of how a basic respect for and understanding of words drives not just the writer, but the community in which they appear.

A job at The Times isn't just a gold ring to reach for, but a pinnacle of personal and professional achievement that brings with it the charge of moral and ethical choices that daily operate under the veneer of producing, fine-tuning, and creatively presenting writing and observations.

Stock outlines all these facets and more through encounters with individuals and the public which bring to life behind-the-scenes Times encounters. These dilemmas and achievements too often didn't receive public attention, flying under the radar of common perception and knowledge - until now.

Me and The Times does what any superior memoir should achieve: it documents more than individual pursuit, rising to the challenge of, in itself, capturing a journalist's journey through changing social and political norms.

Libraries and readers seeking memoirs that are compellingly written, thought-provokingly analytical, and revealing in their examinations will find Me and The Times does not disappoint. It deserves a place not only on library shelves, but in discussion groups and book clubs devoted to profiling exceptional works that outline the tasks and dilemmas of the American writer and editor.

Far From Mortal Realms
Karen A. Wyle
Oblique Angles Press
9781955696920, $13.99 PB,$2.99 Kindle

Readers attracted to the intersection between fairy tale and fantasy will find Far From Mortal Realms a satisfying juncture between the two, using folklore to explore a budding relationship between fae folk and humans.

Father-and-daughter lawyers Abe and Adira toe a special line in building relationships between disparate peoples. They specialize in contracts that close the loopholes the fae are inclined to leave open-ended in their relationships with humans, helping smooth the interactions between humans who would tap fae magic for their own purposes and professional fairy bargainers who can't resist a good proposition - especially if it works to their benefit.

The heart and draw of the story are summarized in a few captivating opening lines of reflection:

"Would their law practice take her to some new Fair Folk realm today, and if it did, how would that realm compare to this peaceful New England town? Would it have tempests or calm skies, recognizable trees or carnivorous vines, fae resembling humans or more mindboggling creatures? And what puzzles would she and Dad be called upon to solve, what sly schemes to detect and thwart? How would they outwit the Fair Folk today?"

The saga that evolves is part chess game in which characters make moves and develop mindful ways of benefiting from their connections, part examination of family relationships that evolve against the backdrop of personal and professional challenges, and part adventure story. Each approach brings the characters closer to the possibilities of the fairy world than they'd ever before experienced, even given their expertise.

Karen A. Wyle writes with a close attention to building psychological relationships fraught with challenge and growth:

"For now, Clara was in blissful ignorance, rather than suspense or terror. And Abe had no idea how to tell her what had happened, how he had failed to see disaster coming and then failed to stop it, how a mincing mockery of a human being had played him for a fool. . . "

As Adira enters a realm in which she most say goodbye to her parents, not knowing if they will ever meet again, her involvement with a fugitive and various mythical figures continually challenges her to reconsider her training and everything she knows about the fae world and its underlying rules:

"You know, do you not, that with all the enchantments at our command, we cannot dream, nor reproduce a dream unassisted in order to add it to our realms?" Adira glanced over at Explorer, now arranging the shells it had gathered into some sort of picture, before saying, "I did know that. Does it . . . annoy many fae, or offend them, for mortals to remind them of that fact?" The goddess smiled. "Indeed it may, though only the most vain would see the offer in that light. No, the complexities lie elsewhere. And if you or your father intend to market mortal dreams, you should learn about those complexities."

Filled with action and adventure, creative twists and turns of plot, and realizations on the sides of both mortals and fae that bring them closer together in unpredictable ways, Far From Mortal Realms introduces a vivid scenario where special interests collide and coalesce and Adira is forced to make moral and ethical decisions that will change everything.

Libraries and readers seeking a fantasy solidly grounded in psychological growth and intersections between disparate characters will relish the blend of action and insight that makes Far From Mortal Realms a standout in the genre.

The Lower Power
Michele W. Miller
HOW Club Press
9780991066834, $24.99 HC,$14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle

Supernatural suspense combines nicely with a historical backdrop in The Lower Power, a novel which will appeal across genres to thriller audiences and those interested in stories rooted in 1990s inner city milieu.

In New York City, a crack epidemic has affected Raven and her friends. Raven has overcome her addiction and is back on track to become a lawyer, but her involvement in New York's challenging social issues and street scene lures her back into a world that, she discovers, is being directed and ruled by an unknown force.

As recovering addicts, she and her friends are in an unlikely position to become heroes to anyone, and yet they also stand in a perfect position to solve problems as a new epidemic looms and their discoveries place them in an unusual position of power.

Michele W. Miller paints a compelling portrait of each member of this circle of friends as they discover they share a terrifying nightmare and the possibility that their group may be the only force able to stop it from becoming real.

The dialogues between struggling past addicts who try not to fall back into dangerous habits are realistic, bringing Raven, Juan, Gina, and others to life as the struggles and violence in their lives threatens to bring them down collectively and individually.

Miller excels in marrying these character-reinforcing dialogues and interactions with a sense of purpose and discovery that brings readers into the underbelly of society.

A "wet brain" is barely alive, having sold its soul to the devil of addiction. But it functions enough to cause disaster and change.

Readers and libraries interested in stories that arrive steeped in the atmosphere of adversity and revised possibilities will find The Lower Power's ability to weave real-world flavors with supernatural and social elements gives it a compelling draw, making it hard to either predict or put down.

The Never End
John Reed
Palgrave Macmillan
9789819907649, $119.00, HC, 188pp

Literary and historical allegory readers fascinated with George Orwell's Animal Farm will want to make The Never End: The Other Orwell, the Cold War, the CIA, MI6, and the Origin of Animal Farm a "must read" on their supplementary bibliography lists. It tackles Orwell and his work in depth, offering a revisionist examination and close inspection of the influences, creation, and message of the work that rivals many traditional lines of thought.

These aren't off-the-cuff essays, but represent some twenty years of thinking and history. John Reed introduces his collection with a taste of the depth and controversy it embraces:

"Orwell wasn't the benevolent white savior that we'd made him out to be; that he'd been complicit with the CIA, etc., and that, however intentionally, a campaign against revolution, and for that matter political change, had originated in the farm animals, or, "the proletariat," as Orwell might have identified them in his youth. I had the evidence - in overwhelming plenty. Orwell's collaborations with the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), the British Secret Service, and what was to become MI6 - all that was already known. Animal Farm's massive distribution as front-line, Western propaganda in the Cold War. And Orwell's lists. And I had the motivation. 9/11."

As his study traverses Orwell's "literary canonization" and the traditional and unorthodox analyses surrounding them, readers will find themselves continually startled and challenged by the mindset and connections made in works steeped not just in literary traditional, but social inspection and analysis that takes a step away from the usual Orwellian inspection process.

Extensive quotes illustrate underlying themes of how the animals were managed and controlled that will give rise to especially vigorous classroom discussions, especially among audiences who already have imbibed more traditional perceptions of Animal Farm.

Between investigations about whether the work was based on an unpublished Russian short story or how it was politically deployed to manipulate minds upon its publication, Reed raises some intriguing questions. These strike at the heart of not just literary tradition and a revered figure of revolution, but the process by which literature connects to political institutions and special interests who would deploy it as yet another opportunity for social influence and change.

Surveying issues of "selling out" and supporting a system or sparking the kinds of change that lead to shifts in social and political reality, Reed offers a wide-ranging discussion that delves into history and social order as deeply as it draws together links between disparate lines of thought and different disciplines:

"It is often difficult to find truth in the presumption that history is a march forward. Recent decades, in the United States and the world, may well make an argument to the contrary. The war against Rome is seemingly unwinnable, and yet, sometimes when I glance around a room - at a reading, at an opening - I am amazed to see that we are all still here, two millennia later, soldiers in the same army, our orders long lost, but our direction still true. We, the Celts, the Christians unblessed by Constantine, the Barbarian hordes, and the theologians of the Protestant Reformation, are here, embodied."

The result is footnote-laden, weighty in its analysis, and damning in its revelations:

"...our Orwell obsessions are revelatory of ourselves, and yet our consciousness and our consciousness of Orwell has so evolved that we have lost our memory of the referent. Orwell, in criticism and cultural beatification, is exemplary of fifty years of postmodernism; the signifier has become the signified. His grand gift of writing so clearly about so much with so little constancy and so much equivocation has left us a legacy of a trick mirror."

Libraries strong in either Orwellian studies or literary analysis should consider the intellectual and social draw of The Never End to be outstanding, exceptional, and unique, making it a highly recommended addition for college-level and university holdings.

Homecoming Chaos
D. W. Brooks
Life: The Reboot LLC
9798218150501, $17.95 PB, $7.99 Kindle

Homecoming Chaos is a 'Model MD' novel of romantic suspense that follows Jamie's return home after a failed wedding that led her to flee her family and job for an overseas refuge.

Now she's back, rebuilding broken bridges and facing a murder mystery and an attractive detective who is determined to uncover the truth.

Jamie's experiences, perspective, and challenges neatly dovetail with insights into the perp and others who circle around her life. These add depth and intrigue to the story of an unusual homecoming that challenges many characters:

"After his release from prison, he had to confront the women who'd contributed to the end of his life as he knew it. It didn't go well. The first woman he'd confronted in that parking lot ended up dead."

From company politics and a father who feels responsible for security's failure to protect to choices that Jamie, too, now regrets, D. W. Brooks spins a compelling saga. It revolves around those who seek chaos, those who try to prevent it, and individuals who return to their roots in an effort to consider better and different options in their responses to adversity.

The blend of romance, intrigue, and family ties is well done. Brooks creates a compelling series of chaotic encounters in which disparate characters harboring their own special interests and prejudices grow from their mistakes as well as their successes.

At stake in Jamie's decision-making process are the family business, the outcome of a murder investigation, a hot detective's ability to love her, and a future that is determined not by past chaos, but present-day growth.

Brooks focuses on characters that evolve through desperation and surprising circumstances which test their moral and ethical mettle as well as their abilities to evolve and change. This creates an attraction that nicely supplements the investigative tone of the story, providing draw for readers who look for more than a murder mystery or romance alone.

Libraries and readers interested in multifaceted stories of growth, family ties, and hard decisions that lead full circle will find Homecoming Chaos a compelling story of dreams, nightmares, and revised perceptions of home and self.

A Kind of Homecoming
Gary Baysinger
See Square Press
9780578286594, $5.99, PB, 131pp
9798218038175, $0.99, Kindle

Fans of historical romance novels will welcome A Kind of Homecoming's special flavor of attraction as a physical and mental collision experienced by would-be nurse Rose Maddox leads to love amid the rise of world political conflict.

The setting is 1913 England, where Rose literally is swept off her feet by young German Sebastian, who shares many of her passions and dreams. The world is their oyster - until it is not, with the rising drums of war reinforcing their differences and proving an obstacle to any relationship dreams each may have harbored.

As Rose throws herself into the rigors of being an Army nurse, cleaning up after the infantry's battles, she can't help but wonder how the pain and suffering she witnesses fits into the beliefs and ideals she once held: "She wondered how this fit in with God's master plan."

Gary Baysinger creates a bittersweet story of shifting relationships set against the backdrop of World War I. Sebastian, too, is worn down and defeated as he participates in war in a very different way. Baysinger is particularly adept at capturing the blows to soldier experience that marks their perceptions of possibilities for a non-combatant future:

"It should've been me. If I hadn't stopped to help Hans, I would have been right where Gerd was. If I had told him to wait, he'd be here, and I'd be out there." He croaked out the words, "I think I got him killed." He sobbed for a few seconds before rubbing his eyes with the backs of his hands. "I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore. The lives we're living, the things we say and do, they're like words in a book that will never be read. Nobody will ever understand the things we've seen."

Vivid and immediate in its contrast of different lives buffeted by the choices and ideals of the times, A Kind of Homecoming captures the challenges felt by all kinds of individuals who traverse war and peace with hopes for the future and questions about their participation, identities, and abilities.

From issues of patriotism and opportunity to confrontations with the "lottery of fate" that transforms dreams and dreamers alike, A Kind of Homecoming represents a vivid story of war and transformation that will appeal to libraries and readers seeking succinct yet powerful explorations of World War I's impact on individual ambitions.

John T. Umhoefer
Talus Books
9798986672601, $26.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle

Trempealeau is the first book in the Trempealeau Stories series, blending thriller elements with post-apocalyptic sci-fi atmosphere as it follows the discovery of a structure that will change the world.

The story begins in 1974, when Skylab observes a great circular structure buried in the snow near Minneapolis. Fast forward to Wisconsin in 2003, which opens with a bang:

"No one briefed Carr about the damn thing. The end of the world was pretty clear from 270 miles up."

The circle that was observed decades earlier holds the power to fracture every fault line on the planet in an Armageddon that will end humanity's reign on Earth. The growing quakes whose epicenters reside at the heart of this mysterious place portend an awakening power and patterns that have become undeniable.

As the mysterious geologic circle some 55 miles across comes to light in different ways, Paul Meadows mourns his lost friend Pete Flottmeier (who disappeared decades earlier) and finds himself immersed in the heart of a struggle between mysterious forces and a decades-old obsession over the truth. This challenges not only his mental acuity, but his perception of reality itself.

John T. Umhoefer's ability to craft a novel that is compelling on different levels makes for a riveting, unpredictable marriage between personal psychological challenge and circumstances which reinforce a mystery that could both solve and change everything.

The shifts between local color (including Wisconsin backdrops and tribal concerns), personal angst, and bigger-picture thinking of world salvation and reality itself create unexpected links between subjects and engagements that evolve with many satisfying surprises along the way.

Thriller readers will especially appreciate the components of tension, special interests, and discovery which permeate a cat-and-mouse game of conflicting objectives between characters and special interest groups, while sci-fi readers will enjoy the juxtaposition of unexpected forces that keep the story ever-changing and far outside any notion of pat formula writing.

Libraries and readers seeking books that exemplify the intersection between thriller and sci-fi genres with a story replete in discovery and revelation will find Trempealeau packed with surprise and delightful twists and turns that make it unpredictable and hard to put down.

Rivers of the Black Moon
Andrew Goliszek
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509253890, $19.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle

Rivers of the Black Moon is a medical murder mystery set in 2022 Scotland. Investigator James Macfadden's probe of victim Richard Zarnoff leads him in an unexpected direction when he realizes that the researcher was on the cusp of making a big announcement about his discovery. What did he know that made him an unwelcome target, and how will his death impact other areas of medical research and discovery?

Macfadden's unrelenting quest for answers leads him in disparate directions, from a secret biological weapons project that supposedly never existed to the history of a joint weapons program between the USSR and USA which led Zarnoff to threaten to expose the truth, resulting in his demise.

Matters are far more complicated than political history or repressed entanglements of state, for Macfadden is forced to reveal secrets that, in turn, create conundrums for others. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't:

"Macfadden wasn't sure he should be telling her anything, but the poor woman had nearly died. She'd lost her home, was running for her life and leaving her country, not sure if she'd be able to show her face there again. The least he could do was tell her what MI-6 knew of Richard Zarnoff and what they suspected may have been the reason he was killed."

From a president whose position is unraveling to struggles with insurmountable odds and threats to international relationships and special interests, Rivers of the Black Moon melds the high-octane passion of a thriller with the problem-solving detective work of a mystery, combines these flavors with political intrigue, and evolves a work that embraces medical and ethical dilemmas on many different levels.

Libraries and readers seeking stories steeped in medical conundrums, romantic possibilities, and political strife will find Rivers of the Black Moon a compelling tale filled with satisfying intrigue and twists right up to the end.

Advice to 9th Graders
Pathfinder Club and Pops the Club
Out of the Woods Press
9781952197024, $21.95, PB, 196pp

Readers in grades 7-9 will find Advice to 9th Graders: Stories, Poetry, Art & Other Wisdom a youth-driven set of inspirational writings that assume many forms, but share the unified goal of sharing advice and inspiration that rang true for and helped the young authors here.

One such example takes the form of a letter to incoming freshmen ("Changes Over Time" by Ashley Villatoro-Gomez), which synthesizes the freshman experience and provides keys to making the most of opportunities that are unique to the high school freshman year.

Advice here is specific and delves into not just the 'how' of making and understanding decisions, but the 'why':

"...don't rely on friendships. I'm not saying you should stop being friends with them, trust them, or anything above those lines for that matter. But sometimes you just have to focus on yourself. Trust me when I say this: Most of the time friendships you build will likely end, but that's just from my personal experience. Eventually, you'll find new friends with whom you can build new connections and memories."

Contrast this with "Grades," which resides under the chapter "No Free Pass," in which Zaleeyah Ross invites 9th graders to better consider the connection between grades, psyche, and opportunity:

"Focus on your grades, they're very important. When I was in 9th grade, my mom always reminded me how important my grades were. To tell you the truth, I always lied to her about them. I'd tell her I had made all As when really, I had a bunch of Cs. My self-confidence was very low, and I felt self-conscious in class. I never raised my hand, never asked for help. And that took a horrible toll on my grades."

The peer-based advice provides newfound opportunities for understanding, wisdom, and insights. These will lend especially well to classroom and reading group discussions.

Having these words of wisdom come from young people is invaluable. Libraries and readers seeking life insights that are delivered in accessible, succinct, impactful writings will relish the opportunities for enlightenment presented in Advice to 9th Graders, which should be on the shelves of any 9th grade library collection.

Chipper Races Right
Kimber Fox Morgan
Creative, Simple Wonder Press
9781737038696, $18.99 Hardcover, $15.99 Paper, $5.99 Kindle

It's time for the annual Arctic Race, and Chipper and his animal friends are training for the big event. The problem is that the fiercely competitive Rocky the Raccoon is also determined to win.

Kim Sponaugle provides lively, whimsical, compelling illustrations that bring Kimber Fox Morgan's story to vivid life, documenting the fun and competition of an Arctic race that attracts a wide range of animal participants, from rabbits and moose to domestic pigs and chickens.

The diversity and fun of these competitors permeates a story that extols the virtue and fun of snow play and striving to win, cementing all with a rollicking rhyme covering events with the action-packed staccato of a news reporter's coverage of key moments.

When an issue arises mid-race that forces Chipper to reconsider his goals and values, young readers receive a thought-provoking insight into Chipper's world and the underlying impact of winning, losing, and fair play.

These subjects can be explored by parents and adults who will find the read-aloud adventure lends to both leisure attraction and bigger-picture thinking and discussions.

Libraries and adults seeking picture book stories that sizzle with entertainment value but also hold important topics for enlightenment on subjects of kindness and competition will find Chipper Races Right a fun, positive read.

Easy in Harness
Alan Cohen
Atmosphere Press
9798891320550, $28.99 HC, 9798891320321, $19.99 PB, 136pp

Easy in Harness: A Productive Approach to Hiring a Good Manager should be in any business library, discussed in college-level classrooms where managerial operations are being taught, and considered by entrepreneurs and leaders interested in analyzing management and hiring dilemmas.

From ideals of leadership and traditional approaches to supporting it to employee perceptions and what employers need to know about not just hiring, but their organizational structure's underlying influences and message, Easy in Harness presents bigger-picture thinking about the psychology and sociology of business leadership that should be at the top of many management considerations.

Alan Cohen presents his arguments and vision of leadership in a way that contrasts many traditional views of employee and employer relationships:

"...the entrepreneur leads with the carrot and uses the stick only when absolutely necessary - and so creates for his employees the impression not only that they are responsible for the success of their department or organization but also that they are valued, supported and safe. The autocrat, by contrast, by using the stick first, creates anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity, and conjures a hope that, by doing as asked, the employee may someday feel less anxious, uncertain and unsafe. It is not for no reason that autocracy is sometimes called by other names: dictatorship, tyranny, despotism, totalitarianism and arrogance..."

The opportunity for reflection and debates that ideally should arise from discussions of these principles offers a wide-ranging approach to business management that places Easy in Harness above and beyond the promise and delivery of similar-sounding business books.

Another difference between Cohen's approach and other authors and businesspeople is his focus on what works, what doesn't, and why. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to management (which is why individual values and style contribute to the effort), and Cohen juxtaposes the disparate psychology of employee and manager in a variety of business scenarios:

"Though impartiality is often promoted as desirable, even as a gold standard of interviewing, one form of encouragement that is often effective, in my experience, is to let the best candidates know how well you think of them and how much you would like them to come to work with you. Use of this approach does require judgment, since not everyone responds well to positive feedback."

Cohen's survey of common workplace dysfunction and its wellsprings and resolution thus leads to insights and discussions invaluable in their nature, creating an opportunity for enlightenment that should be on the bookshelves (and in the minds) of any manager seeking to employ a pragmatic, constructive approach to building better cooperative business relationships.

One Knife, One Fork, One Spoon
Patty Friedmann
Atmosphere Press
9798891320123, $16.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 254pp

One Knife, One Fork, One Spoon is a literary work of dark humor that offers a rare glimpse into a family torn apart from the lens of irony and disparate upbringings and worldviews.

From the start, Patty Friedmann's observations are unrelentingly candid, edged with a crystalline sharpness that dissects family dynamics with a firm knife of conviction and passion:

"Daddy was a professor of philosophy and religion at Tulane, and he'd found a Newcomb girl who was too confused to be in a sorority. She had tight, every-which-way curls and an Arkansas twang that made her sound dumb when she wasn't, and boys were afraid of her. So she sat for hours listening to my father talk about Heidegger and what he called the "forgetfulness of being" until, I guess he liked to think, he'd tripped something in her philosophically, and she'd forgotten everything she'd learned in the Baptist church."

Renna considers her own family dynamics and the fact that how she "doesn't trust anybody" plays a major role in her decisions, approaches to life, and drive for power and knowledge.

Friedmann's account of this journey is powerfully revealing as Renna examines facets of life that are absorbing, revealing, and thought-provoking, as well as ironically whimsical:

"Now I know why men hunt. The business of getting meat is a lie; what they want is to see blood. And while watching blood sport performed by someone else thrills a lot of them, much the way pornography titillates, what they truly need is to know that they themselves have drawn blood, opened out guts and bone. They've gone to the limit, and nothing has happened to them. A person can take power from such knowledge. I imagine it's the same full pleasure in life that people who've had near-death experiences seem to carry around the rest of their days."

It's rare to see philosophical reflections wound into the psychological component of life experience and topped with dark humor that cements everything together, but One Knife, One Fork, One Spoon is compelling because of these unique facets. It will draw literary readers who receive more than the face value story of an illicit relationship that causes psychological walls to crumble.

Libraries and readers seeking thought-provoking stories that also lend well to book club or classroom discussions will find One Knife, One Fork, One Spoon a creative, winning novel that considers the process of evisceration, redemption, strength, and growth.

Breaking Cycles
Nikki A Lamers
Atmosphere Press
9798891320284, $16.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 374pp

Breaking Cycles is the first book in the 'Mending Shattered Hearts' romance series, and is the steamy love story of a bad boy and a good girl who get together to form something greater than the sum of their parts.

Motorcycle mechanic Grant Young's attempt at a daring escape from his life resulted in disaster. Enter the beautiful Ella, who forces him to confront his demons and self-destructive impulses. But, will her love and example be enough for him to turn his back on his habits? Grant owes Ella a big debt, as well, which he struggles with.

Nikki A Lamers switches the point of view between Ella and Grant, adding depth and contrasts of experience to the story as each reveal their lives and values in alternating chapters.

As Grant physically recuperates, Ella wonders if she'll play a role in his life, and if there's really a chance to have a relationship with him.

Also at odds is Grant's image of what he brings to the table and has to offer the attractive Ella:

"You're an incredible man with so much heart. When you love, you love hard. Look at your brother as an exam-ple. You have so much to give."

"Even if I have a lot to give, that doesn't mean I deserve to have it. Not everyone deserves a happily ever after, Ella. I ruin everyone who dares to love me."

Lamars creates a compelling story that revolves around efforts made to recover, grow, and love. Her tale of redemption, psychological and physical strife, and the allure of an attraction that promises new directions for everyone results in a romance story that is promising and uplifting even as its characters struggle with themselves and one another.

Libraries and readers seeking steamy romance tales that delve into psychological growth and transformative processes will find Breaking Cycles a winner.

Mark Greene
Independently Published
9798853509399, $15.00 PB, $4.99 ebook

Mulligan is a historical romance novel that re-envisions a life changed by 'what if'. What if the narrator (who moved to Florida with his family when he was in high school and found himself mired in a life of disappointments, poor choices, addiction, and angst) had never moved to Florida? What could have been his life?

Mulligan tells of what happens when a sixteen-year-old discovers his family's plan to move and refuses to take part in it. When he learns of a money fact that could cement his intention not to move, Mickey Kelly finds himself stepping up into adulthood and decision-making that both force him to change and reinforce his new trajectory as an independent person in charge of his choices and destiny.

Young adults who choose Mulligan will find his coming-of-age saga to be compelling; especially in its observations of adult/child relationships and the evolutionary process of entering adulthood:

"Maybe because I am nineteen and still invincible or maybe because my father is not here to tell me I am not good enough or smart enough to do this, maybe that's why I can."

Mark Greene's ability to assess the impact and nature of alternative choices on the timeline trajectory of events introduced in the book's prologue makes for especially thought-provoking reading as young and new adults enter into Mickey's growth process and follow his journey over the years.

From his focus on athletic excellence and his intense training to new opportunities in relationship and life choices that arise in the course of his journey, readers will find not only thought-provoking, but worthy of discussion, the pivot points Mickey faces after his family moves away.
Greene's ability to craft a dream of athletic achievement against the backdrop of a young man's journey also benefits from changing points of view as Dani and others intersect with his life.

Sometimes these shifting perspectives are seamless, and other times the move between first- and third-person narration feel surprising; but they always serve to embellish and expand the characters and their decisions and attractions.

The result is a different coming-of-age story that follows a teen into adulthood and revolves around a predicament that immerses the protagonist in issues surrounding relationship destruction, reconstruction, and grassroots rebuilding from scratch.

Libraries and readers seeking stories that serve well as book club or discussion group material about the growth of young adults into adulthood will find Mulligan compelling.

The Reign of the Anti-Santas
Colin Dodds
Independently Published
9798218279004, $24.24 (Deluxe Lump of Coal Edition)
9798866510825, $13.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 183pp

The Reign of the Anti-Santas presents a Christmas misadventure that exposes the "truth" about the North Pole, Santas, elves, and the forces that manipulate the holiday season. It's a tongue-in-cheek romp through the season that will delight adult readers unused to Christmas stories not for kids.

The tone of the expose excels in dark humor, ironic observations, and condemnations of corporate greed that augment the story of Santa and the forces that influence the holiday season:

"The humans at the Pole all shared a common look - lumpy, frumpy, and funny-looking. They occupied a sexual gray zone where they wouldn't arouse Mr. or Mrs. Claus. That was by design. Alone at the Pole, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were prone to extreme boredom. Their eyes did wander. But in any dalliance, the interloper would take the blame, along with their employer. The annals of the toy industry are littered with bankrupt companies that had sent someone too fit, frisky, or bright-eyed to further their interests up north."

As the exploration continues, business backgrounds blend with cultural revolution at the North Pole to create unexpected moments of revelation and whimsy:

"There's more than one reason that you'll only be home for Christmas in your dreams. The first is because you moved on. You outgrew the place. You have nice things to say about it now that it's not cramping your style or stomping your pretty face. Then time marches on, and the reason is different. Home, as you knew it, no longer exists. That fucking place hasn't existed for decades and will never exist again. So dream on with your presents on the tree. The North Pole I found was hipper, with younger, better-looking toy executives, dance clubs and singles' bars."

As the adventure unfolds, readers receive pointed observations, historical fantasy, elf gossip, and intriguing examinations of what Christmas, Santa, and elf endeavors really mean from an extraordinary point of view that crafts an alternate history of North Pole culture and conundrums.

Between Santa's legitimate and illegitimate children and elf Elvin's escape from federal custody, to Wall Street influences on the Christmas spirit, readers will delight in the dark humor, wry inspections, and fantasy that tints real-world actions with inspections of underlying intention and impact much in the manner of Orwell's Animal Farm.

All these elements, wound into a vivid plot that keeps readers laughing, guessing, and thinking, make The Reign of the Anti-Santas a top recommendation for readers who would imbibe of a very different adult holiday title than most, as well as for book clubs seeking lively discussion provokers.

Abolition for the People
Colin Kaepernick, Editor
Haymarket Books
9781595911162, $27.00 HC, $19.95 PB, $12.99 Kindle, 304pp

Abolition for the People: The Movement For a Future Without Policing and Prisons presents thirty essays, edited by activist and former football star Colin Kaepernick, that focus on the politics, processes, and morality of policing and prisons.

Key to this inspection are specific analyses of anti-Black and racist links between policing and the Black community. Essays address the ideals, realities, myths, and illusions of justice in all kinds of community settings, from the disabled to racially-driven encounters.

The introduction captures the focus and intention of this collection in a powerful synthesis:

"Abolition for the People draws on historical analysis, empirical data, and the firsthand accounts of survivors of interpersonal and state-sanctioned white-supremacist, anti-Black, and hetero-patriarchal violence in the form of the carceral state to make a straightforward argument: Neither prisons nor police keep people safe, nor do they create the conditions necessary for communities to thrive."

Ideally, this pointed and often controversial series of discussions will be pursued not just by book club readers and students of sociology, but by criminal justice system participants at all levels, as well as those who consider venturing into a career that supports these systems.

From interviews with activists and family history to statistical support for how prison systems and imprisonment target particular groups of already-marginalized people and support power structures that repress, Abolition for the People provides powerful arguments and discussions about the status quo and its reflection in the prison system.

Creating added value, each essay includes a 'reader's guide' of questions and points designed to spark group discussions about various ideas and ideals the essays tackle.

Perhaps ironically, part of the controversial component of this examination lies in the identification of prejudicial trends that activists themselves tend to exhibit against all good intentions:

"Unfortunately, as mainstream society continues to develop a critique of the criminal justice system, there is still a need to center the leadership and analyses of Black, Indigenous, and other women of color abolitionists. Instead, popular discourses around abolition are appropriated for reformist strategies and white-male-led think tanks. Meanwhile,

BIPOC women and LBTQI community organizers, such as current and former sex workers and formerly incarcerated survivors of color, continue to work despite being underesourced, underrecognized, and susceptible to state violence. Their experiences and political analyses continue to be marginalized."

This resulting far-reaching vision of abolition should be made a part of any social issues, criminal justice system, and psychology library, ideally used as foundation material for debates and discussions in a wide-ranging set of communities and leaders who would revisit the idea and ideal of abolition and justice.

Abolition for the People is a powerful manifesto for change that documents failures, illusions, and the potential for doing better.

Looking for a Leprechaun
Richard Lopez
Bear With Us Productions
9798218176891, $17.95 HC, $10.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 30pp

In the picture book story Looking for a Leprechaun, Rich lives in a magical world of beauty, but everywhere he hears voices claiming he doesn't belong there.

A wise fairy promises Rich that if he finds a leprechaun, he will also discover where he belongs. His journey leads him to confront many different communities which he obviously doesn't fit into, yet he can't seem to reach his goal. The magical fairy encourages him to persevere with a hopeful rhyme, but Rich still finds his place in life elusive.

Edixon Rodriguez provides colorful, large-sized, whimsical illustrations that allow young readers to become absorbed in Rich's journey and world.

The combination of an adventure story, a search for discovery and self, and a sense of magic will please kids who look for tales involving fairies, hope, and self-enlightenment; while read-aloud parents will appreciate the opportunity to reinforce these underlying themes as Rich perseveres in finding his place.

Libraries and adults looking for warm fantasy stories of quests that contain important messages about identity will find Looking for a Leprechaun compelling, attractive, and fun.

Paws on the Pier
M.G. Wetherholt
Dancing Corgi Press
9781943654284, $10.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 178pp

Paws on the Pier presents a mouse-sized dilemma that pairs a murder mystery with a unique viewpoint, cementing its dilemmas with appealing and unexpected perspectives and evocative language. It will prove a draw for murder mystery readers seeking something completely different from the usual genre production:

"Being travel-sized is not always advantageous. By the third time Olivia's mascara missile hit me in the back, I wondered if this trip wasn't better as a dream than as reality. The nice thing about being a mouse is that you can fit in very small spaces without being seen. The sucky thing about being a mouse is that you can be easily squished by practically everything."

Hazel Huntington Graymouse just wants to get away for a vacation. The last thing on her mind was becoming involved with either humans or murder. In actuality, both assume central roles in her life as she joins "vain, mean" vacationer Olivia for the ride of her short life.

M.G. Wetherholt creates a whimsical story of discovery from Hazel's perspective as events unfold: "I'm not certain if Olivia was screaming or yodeling, but by the way she was gyrating, I guessed that she wasn't happy."

Due to a lightning strike, Hazel is no ordinary mouse, and she brings Olivia in as a participant (however reluctantly) in unfolding events.

Readers of all ages will appreciate the blend of humor and intrigue in a whodunit that defies the usual progression of an adult-focused murder mystery to feature something completely different.

The result is a charming examination of morals and murder that will keep readers involved and guessing to the end.

Libraries strong in murder mysteries that seek short works with big, expansive tales to tell will find delightful and unusual the specter of a pint-sized investigator that drags a human into matters beyond both of their comfort zones.

Mark Jonathan Harris
Atmosphere Press
9781639889891, $17.99 Paperback, $8.99 Kindle, 24pp

The short stories in Misfits live up to the book's title by outlining the dilemmas, perceptions, and reactions of people who don't quite fit the mold of convention. Each features atmospheric contrasts of troubled personalities who face life-changing encounters.

Take the arrival of an unexpected gift in 'The Mink Coat,' for one example. Narrator Brenda has long been estranged from her mother, but the arrival of her mother's most prized possession creates a rift in one relationship even as it applies the salve of memory and connection to another.

Mark Jonathan Harris portrays the journey of this mink coat and its underlying impact with a fine attention to life changes and defiance. This lends the coat additional impact and meaning as Brenda moves into other life circumstances:

"Unlike Montreal, divided by class and language and ideology, Chicago was a place where contradictions were more easily tolerated, where rich and progressive weren't viewed as antithetical, where you could wear expensive Italian boots and still rail against capitalism. Here my mink evoked admiration, not scorn."

The cost of a coat given to a daughter who has been disavowed, and the family connections it represents, are thoughtfully endowed with energy and insight as the story progresses.

In contrast, 'Chicken Soup' weaves a cultural food battle into its relationship examination, probing a surly employer's struggles with her employee over food, life, and choices.

Ignoring Rose's daily insults becomes one of the efforts Amelia must make in order to satisfy her obligations and moral charge, which includes taking care of herself:

"She can't let a crotchety old woman who has stopped caring about life drag her into mis-ery."

Each story presents a different type of misfit, psychological profiles that are tested by adversity and unexpected encounters, and personal challenges that lead to both alienation and unexpected consequences for decision-makers placed in impossible roles.

The result is a collection especially highly recommended for students of literary psychological works. Steeped in the definition and persona of the misfit's adaptive process to life experiences, each story represents a vivid inspection that deserves widespread attention, book club debate, and library recommendation.

Carmelinda Blagg
Atmosphere Press
9798891320253, $17.99 Paperback / $8.99 Kindle, 212pp

Geographies is a literary collection of short stories that link a sense of place to human endeavors and experiences, offering a diverse set of tales that cement the experiences of young and old with an atmosphere of geographic influence.

Take 'A Bowl Full of Oranges,' for one example. Elderly protagonist Jozef Bastin's memories are linked to a hunger which has followed him through a lifetime of experience:

"All Jozef Bastin has ever stolen are the oranges. At the age of seventy-nine, Jozef's sense of purpose has become eclipsed by a singular hunger he doesn't understand."

He never gets around to eating the oranges he so lovingly steals. Instead, he offers them to others. As his compulsive stealing grows, so does his fastidious arrangement of the bowl of oranges in a prominent spot in his home and life.

As the story evolves, so do the pivot points in Jozef's life which have led to this moment and habit. Binding all are captivating, ethereal descriptions of this place:

"Jozef feels as if he is gliding on the surface of the air, all the darkness beneath him, sunshine spilling through the shadows of trees along the parkway. The lush beauty of spring fills his lungs until his chest hurts."

The diamond-sharp edges of history and oranges meld in a compelling life story steeped in a citrus glaze of revelation.

'The Things She Said,' portrays another persona that follows the trends of Conner's life since his wife's death. It surveys the changes that move between family members and life and death, cultivating a vivid eye for transition points where geographies and boundaries shift:

"This is not a hospital bed. It's a meadow. Smell the air? Hear those birds? he said.

And? she said. And...? love me."

As the history of his relationship with Libby unfolds, readers glimpse the world of survivors who are "sturdily, unhappily fine."

The result is a collection of literary and psychologically astute short works that is highly recommended reading for followers of contemporary fiction; especially those who look for stories rooted in transformation and geographic landscapes of discovery.

Libraries will want to recommend this collection to patrons who seek stories that reflect the intersections of a sense of place, loss, and discovery.

Pacific State
Grant Price
Black Rose Writing
9781685133405, $22.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 338pp

"'He took my child from this world,' said the woman. 'Now I ask you to take his world away from him.' A bulb threw spoiled light onto a grim room. In it, a woman who hadn't had the misfortune to experience such squalor in life. In it, a woman and a girl for whom squalor was their life."

Pacific State is Book 2 of the Sundown Series, but requires no prior familiarity with the opening salvo of the first book to prove immediately accessible to newcomers.

Protagonist Owen Resler spends his days manipulating data for Big Pharma, stepping into a role of corporate acquiescence and participation that he'd once eschewed as a rebel. Increasingly restless about his life choices and position, Owen is perhaps in the perfect position to find his interests dovetailing with those of assassin Mia Warsaw, who is charged with killing a business leader.

As a supporting character notes early on:

'I no longer believe in this system we have created,' she said. 'It has been good to me, but now it has taken away the only thing I would never have given up.'

The death throes of this system and the rise of forces within it that object to and struggle with different levels of data and misery form the heart of a novel which poses both a possible future and a redemption process that confronts its course of inhumanity.

Grant Price's ability to craft a believable futuristic world in which characters move between their greatest hopes and desires and the reality of what their choices have evolved on a broader sale makes for a powerful story. It's supercharged with compelling confrontations, twists, and tactics that continually challenge the characters to step up to new perceptions and options.

The political impact of their personal visions and the contrast between individual experience and society-wide ramifications makes for a satisfying sci-fi cyberpunk story that embraces intrigue, rebellious natures, disasters, and redemption that arrives in unlikely forms and conditions.

Of special note are evocative futuristic descriptions that are especially vivid in their depiction of this landscape, in which technology comes to roost and perhaps die in the arms of humanity's revamp:

"Through the viewport Mia observed the grey-beige city that was laid out like a gigantic circuit board. Organic on artificial, animate against inanimate, a fortress beset on all sides by threats, but which had nevertheless managed to hold out so far. Soon enough, though, a wave would come that would be too large for Berlin to withstand. And everything within it would be drowned."

The result is more literary than most cyberpunk creations, more psychologically astute than the typical thriller story of intrigue and dangerous connections, and more original and compelling than many.

Libraries and readers seeking near-future worlds that stand out for their feel of authenticity and doom will find Pacific State a winner.

Creating Your First Novel
Hank Quense
Strange Worlds Publishing
9798985309799, $24.99, PB, 165pp
9798989116300, $6.99 Kindle

Creating Your First Novel joins many other advice titles for authors, but arrives with a difference - it points out that writing any book involves not a singular attempt to put pen to paper, but a series of steps that make the act of writing only one part of the greater project.

Few authors would stop to consider that the act of writing a book is the same as one of creating a business; but when viewed in this light, one's first novel assumes a very different prospective that needs the particular enlightenment and explorative focus that Hank Quense presents here.

The nuts and bolts of a novel-writing effort are explored through insights that embrace all aspects of a novel's production, from the problems with too many subplots ("Subplots shouldn't stop the main plot from going forward. By this I mean, don't insert an entire five-thousand-word subplot in between two main plot scenes.") to understanding the difference between story design and storytelling.

Aspiring authors receive advice that can be broadly applied to a range of endeavors, yet embraces the typical challenges, writer's blocks, and sticking points that too often keep a novel from fruition:

"...creating a story is a complicated operation. What with the characters, plots, setting, scenes and other stuff, new writers sometimes get paralyzed by wondering where to start."

Formulas for success embrace literary, business, and practical skill sets that many authors may not be fully versed in, creating opportunities for learning approaches and techniques that can bring a creative effort to publication success and public attention.

Creating Your First Novel is a lesson in bigger-picture thinking that moves from the art of creative writing and editing to the nuts and bolts of marketing, promotion, and business savvy.

Libraries and wannabe writers seeking an all-in-one approach to a first attempt will find Creating Your First Novel a winner.

Goody Celeste
Chris Riker
9781665307079, $15.99 Paper/$7.99 ebook

"Those we love define who we are. They teach us to accept that we're neither terrible gods nor nameless grains of ocean sand, but rather something in between, unique and irreplaceable. The slipstream of our years brings souls alongside us for a time. We cannot keep them; that's not what souls are for. If we're wise, we let the ones we love change us. We remember them, and we hope, as deeply as hope flows, that they remember us."

Goody Celeste combines a sense of magical realism with a feminist bent in a novel that pairs the coming-of-age experiences of three teens with the oversight of young witch Cece who, in 1969, helps these young people even while struggling with her own challenges with an absent husband missing in Vietnam.

As these characters find their lives entwined, they acknowledge that "the summer of my witch" changes them, drawing connections between Cece and her boys that lead them all into unexpected arenas of growth and new realizations.

The magic in this story lies not in a typical growth pattern, but in a process of revelations and counterpoints that bring together and contrast disparate individuals whose wild rides through 1960s culture and attractions are tempered by their relationships.

Chris Riker's lyrical prose also produces exceptional results that defy any definition of a staid coming-of-age progression to inject poetic and magical elements into even seemingly mundane shared experiences, such as a day at the seaside:

"Determined not to be bested in the ocean, not even by a goddess, I made my way out to the sandbar and waited. Waves do funny things. Physics suggests they amplify each other when they join up. That's all well and good, but it's not something you comprehend when your eyes are inches above the surface and the first swell blocks your view."

Goody Celeste also embraces the atmosphere of the times so seamlessly that the contrasts of these disparate forces is compellingly attractive, as in descriptions that offer unexpected contrasts between atmospheres from Carl Orff's 1936 masterpiece from Carmina Burana (the O Fortuna movement) with the contemporary pop group The Cowsills.

These references keep the story pulsing with possibility, perception, and the flavor of an era in which opportunities for cultural and social enlightenment came from a wide range of forces that intersected lives in a manner unique to the 1960s.

Thus, the series of events and connections that drive these three young people and the witch who oversees them makes Goody Celeste a highly recommended marvel of contrasts and unprecedented opportunities.

Readers who enjoy novels of magical realism, growth, and a unique sense of place and time will find Goody Celeste defies pat categorization. It rewards those who imbibe with a rich, lyrical "you are here" journey that will attract libraries, book clubs, and discussion groups alike with remarkable, notable celebrations of life:

"We grasped little and were infinitely better off for our ignorance. Youth was the best holiday of all, unrecognized and uncelebrated, tenuous yet remembered forever. This time neither knows nor needs purpose. It is. It is. Life may be on a joyless march to steal innocence. It did not matter. Not here, not yet. Under the sun, three stupid, carefree boys rode bikes to the beach."

Winnie's Christmas Treasure Hunt
Joy K. Ball
Independently Published
9798987092231, $13.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Winnie's Christmas Treasure Hunt is an appealing holiday picture book featuring illustrations by Manuela Pentangelo as it pairs a lively adventure of discovery with an unusual holiday setting in the desert environment of Arizona.

Here, kids decorate cactus with Christmas lights while a little bird who studies at school with them wonders where they all go at night.

As she hatches all kinds of plans to enter a child's home to experience the treasures her desert friends assure her are there in abundance, Winnie finds new enlightenment and opportunity in a holiday party hosted by a teacher who reviews the basics of the holiday season for bird and child alike.

Joy K. Ball cultivates a very different approach to understanding the holiday season, which is seen through the eyes of a curious bird who experiences the warmth of not just colorful holiday trappings, but the underlying friendships and connections which motivate them.

Parents seeking colorful and unusual read-aloud stories that reinforce the real sentiments of the season will find Winnie's Christmas Treasure Hunt a treasure in and of itself.

Live Not by Lies
Patrick Coffey
Beck & Branch Publishers
9798986606965, $19.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Readers of historical fiction who harbor a special interest in Soviet Union events will find Live Not by Lies a particularly enlightening survey of over fifty years of Soviet Union experience and social and political change.

The story focuses on two families who experience these transformations differently. Many of the characters are based on real-life figures that played prominent roles in Russian affairs. These individuals and families come to life under Patrick Coffey's hand.

Leonid Eitingon directed Trotsky's murder and also impacted the lives of millions of Soviet residents. In contrast, Boris Anokhin's family (a fictional construct, for the purpose of building drama) is among those whose lives were decimated not only by political and social strife, but the lies that were perpetuated to support repression and death. The high-octane injection of action, fact, and fiction into this story lends it deep drama, political revelations, and attraction.

The novel's introductory preface explains that "The foundation underlying the edifice of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn wrote, was lies."

The extent, perpetuation, and nature of these falsehoods and their impact on the daily lives of Russians from all walks of life is the focus of a powerful exploration in contrasts that considers the ultimate impact of lies whose legacies are passed between generations:

"Irina, I've told you many lies," she said. "I had to do so. You were too young to be able to live with the truth. But you're nine now, and I won't lie again. Like me, you'll need to pretend to believe all the lies they tell you at school. Next year you'll be a Pioneer, and you must sing all their songs and march in all the parades. If you don't, they'll come after me. Your father's not a Communist, and I'm not either, even if I pretend to be. I don't know where he is, and he's not allowed to tell us. He's working for them because if he doesn't, they'll hurt us. And the man whose coat you saw is my boss. I didn't lie about that. He was also my interrogator when we were arrested after the train ride, and he's not a bad man."

Coffey's ability to reveal the heart of lies formulated not just to foster ideologies, but survive them, makes for a story that is surprisingly easy to absorb even for those who may come to it with little prior knowledge of Russian affairs. This audience is enlightened by a timeline of political events which serves as a simple introduction or reminder to readers who may lack this background of Russian historical knowledge.

The story's ability to draw together disparate viewpoints on the nature of these lies and their necessity creates many interesting pivot points whereby readers may contemplate moral, ethical, and paradigm-changing outcomes of lies that hold their origins in the best and worst of intentions.

The resulting heady mix of revolution, revelation, and inter-generational impacts is not only highly recommended for libraries interested in either Russian history or historical fiction, but for reading groups that would enjoy a multifaceted story encouraging debates about Communism, absolute truths, and utter lies.

Hundred Beam Bridge
Ted Marr
Allsym Publishers
Google Audiobook:
9798988936527, $18.88 Hardcover, $16.88 Paper, $8.88 Kindle, $12.00 Audio, 387pp

The 11th-century and China's Song Dynasty forms the historical backdrop for Hundred Beam Bridge: The Lions and The Pixius, where Chinese history and culture comes to life.

Hasan Arslan, a master bowmaker, has political aspirations which place him at the heart of revolutionary struggles and a war which involves the Arslan men in battle and their women in the pursuit of supportive roles and wealth.

The emotional forces driving issues of race and culture are just as powerful as the political divisions and issues affecting the Song Dynasty and Chinese and Arabs. Encounters between Muslim and Chinese traditions and cultures move from clashes and challenges to understanding (in some cases). In others, the differences between these two groups spark further discord and ambitions on both sides that inject issues of danger and honor into the political struggles.

As the sweeping narrative moves between families, men and women, and forces that clash, the demands that change the relationships of men and women are one of the highlights of the history:

"Kara's directive was most unusual. Women rarely, if ever, wielded such authority in the male-dominated Song society. However, Kara and Pendo were unusual leaders. Kara realized as he rode home from the palace that the only one suited to the enormous task at hand would be his unfailingly competent and reliable wife. She would have to make the right decisions. It might as well start now."

The choices are as wide-ranging as giving a Gelolu child a Han name, accepting women's newfound roles of strength in conflict, and making decisions that join two disparate branches of a family, even the world is seeing both unity and division in time-held traditions.

It's unusual to have such a multifaceted subject appeal to a wider audience than readers of early Chinese history, but Hundred Beam Bridge's ability to build a seamless interplay between emotional and political transformations, injecting all into a cultural overlay that both explains and explores this foreign world and times, lends it an accessibility to a much wider audience than those with prior expertise and interest in the era.

Hundred Beam Bridge is highly recommended for libraries strong in fictional accounts of ancient history, and for readers who look for emotionally charged characters that reflect a sense of their passions, times, and transformative experiences.

The Price of Thorns
Tim Susman
Argyll Productions
9781614505808, $24.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 508pp

Readers of sword-and-sorcery and dark fantasy who look for epic and complex reads steeped in action and compelling descriptions will find The Price of Thorns a strong account of stealing and wielding power. The story simmers with unusual descriptions and compelling characters, overlaid with a touch of humor to ice the cake of action:

"Nivvy knew that there were times in his life when it would be better for him to stop talking, but so far, he had not managed to recognize a single one of them before it happened.

"Oh aye? What name will you give?" The boy hefted the rock. Clump of earth. Clump of earth. Nivvy had a strong belief in the power of faith, but it had been sorely tested of late."

From kings and idiots to spells and secrets, disgraced thief Nivvy explores new possibilities when the mysterious woman Bella hands him an assignment that could return his good reputation to the Thieves Guild - stealing her kingdom back.

Even Nivvy's confrontation with ghosts arrives with a wry sense of humor:

"The ghost seemed unmoved. Nivvy tried encouragement. 'You're supposed to be guarding - accompanying - this crown, see? What's it going to look like if you show up on the shore with your face all twisted up like that? You've got to be regal and impressive.'"

Tim Susman navigates a wide range of topics and choices that the flawed hero Nivvy faces as he steps into a role that's unusual and challenging, even for him. Susman builds an action-packed story of beggars, crowns, and a kingdom filled with ancient stories and modern threats that adds intrigue and action to a tale of redemption and struggle.

An appendix of stories that underlie the kingdom's culture and legends adds further enlightenment to the main tale, but it's Nivvy's navigations through myths, legends, and gods which powers the reader through a kingdom replete with a special form of magic and power.

Libraries and readers who look for epic reads that pair nonstop action with revealing psychological depth will find the characters, journey, and fantasy components of The Price of Thorns a rich read. Filled with unexpected revelations and satisfying twists and turns, the story represents a powerful synthesis of action and intention that leads readers into a world replete with wizardry, unexpected truths, and legends that drive nations.

Pinball Wizard
Michael D. Meloan
IFSF Publishing
9781733386487, $15.00, PB, 136pp

Pinball Wizard is a novel of love, free fall, redemption, and friendship in which protagonist Ralph cultivates a friendship with writer Charles Bukowski while navigating the world of programming work and military demands.

Michael D. Meloan creates a thought-provoking inspection of life that arrives steeped in the brawl of relationships that teeter on pivot points of confrontation and change, spicing his story with compelling dialogue:

"She started crying again, then talked through her sobs. ' don't have any talent either. You'll just be a cog in some big company until you're an old man...then play checkers and feed pigeons when you're all bent over.'

I suddenly felt my father's nasty disposition rising up. 'At least I will have done something,' I said. 'You'll spend your whole life chasing a crazy dream, just like your mother. I hope you don't end up in a nuthouse like she did.'"

A son faces his father's deteriorating mental condition, contemplates his own inheritance of possible insanity, and hones a variety of relationships that follow the young man into new adventures. Readers who look for thrills and adventure will realize that Pinball Wizard's wild ride through life comes steeped in invitations, alcohol, and a sense of discovery.

With Bukowski playing a central role in Ralph's life (along with cameo appearances by Sean Penn, Bono, and other cultural icons), the story brings people, places, and purposes to fruition with an ironic inspection and twists of plot that follows Ralph's drive to figure out his persona and options.

Literary audiences and libraries seeking modern literary works that traverse cultural revelation to examine the heart of opportunity and action will find Pinball Wizard a compelling story as suitable for leisure reading as it is for discussion in book clubs and classrooms devoted to contemporary coming-of-age stories:

"I read in the downtown public library during the day, and slept in the alleys at night. Told stories in the bars to hustle drinks. Normal people bored me - I couldn't live that life, couldn't be around that. But in the end, the bums bored me too. The only thing that lasts is wine."

Countdown to Christmas
Dianna Houx
Independently Published
9798371024350, $12.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

Countdown to Christmas - Holiday Countdown Book 1 - Ebook - The Dianna Houx Shop

Book 1 of the Holiday Countdown series, Countdown to Christmas, tells of a granddaughter's unique plan to transform her home into a festive holiday inn to give her dying Granny Josephine a last glimpse into the pleasures of yesteryear and hosting an event for the holiday season.

Sparked by her grandmother's dreamy reflections of a house packed with people and celebratory energy during the holidays, Grace learns how the now-staid town of Winterwood would magically transform into a "real Christmas wonderland" and cultivates her own vision to create a present-day miracle that will give her grandmother much joy.

If she can pull it off.

As Grace learns that the efforts of returning present-day habits to past attractions represents a mighty uphill battle in many new ways, she learns how to cultivate habits, dreams, and determination to make the Christmas season something extraordinarily special not just for her ailing grandmother, but the wider world beyond their doorstep.

Dianna Houx succeeds in creating a holiday story that is classic Hallmark in its positivity, problem-solving experiences, and emotionally connective characters, from Grace's initial mandate to return Christmas to holiday hearts to capturing "the vibe of a big, happy family" that is intrinsic to creating a quality of life, especially in one's later years.

From "decorating queen" Molly's efforts to a host of characters who find themselves unexpected participants in a transformative experience, Houx brings to life a small town's varied talents, individuals, and perspectives that juxtapose to create a greater good and value in individual worlds that seem fixed in present-day angst.

Romance, perhaps predictably, evolves against this backdrop of hope, but there are also lessons embedded in the story that give readers much additional food for thought:

"Don't feel bad about accepting help when you need it, especially when the very people offering to help are the ones you made an agreement with for that very thing."

The moral, ethical, and psychological impacts of giving, getting, and innovating come to light in a story of evolving relationships that begin and end with love.

Her grandmother was trying to die. But her actions and secrets also "...came from a place of love, even if it was misguided." The lessons of ill health and giving come home in a title that does what a great holiday book achieves: brings love into the home for a closer look at motivations and connections.

Libraries and readers looking for a holiday experience that reflects the new beginnings that may be derived from tapping into the power of love, yesteryear, and connection will find Countdown to Christmas a celebratory romance that begins with one ambition and blossoms to embrace the psyches and connections in an entire town.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Thomas Locke and Jyoti Guptara
Down and Out Books
97816439634223 $19.00 pbk/ $5.99 Kindle

"Roulette" is an instant rip-roaring thriller from the first page to the last by two authors who merge their talents together to tell this incredible novel. A new mysterious drug is introduced in a rave club in Gainesville Florida where many end up in the hospital. The side effects are so staggering that the staff has no idea even how to treat it. A former special agent for the government, and a female doctor track the clues, of who began this substance, why and how to contain it so no one else is affected. "Roulette" is the type of chiller readers crave that moves along to its final surprising ending that leaves it open for a sequel.

Earth's Angels: Book One Of The Earth's Angels Trilogy
Beth Worsdell
Worsdell Publishing
978172877047, $15.99 pbk $0.00 Kindle

Planet Earth is on a collision course of destruction that begins "Earth's Angels" The sky is polluted beyond belief, oceans are toxic, and the ground is a wasteland and everything is about to die. Nothing can save it. But wait. Alien ships all over the globe have come to save humanity. Individuals are contacted by the race of beings worldwide, to be told there is a way to preserve everything but there will be severe changes if there is any hope. There is also a race who fight against everything the aliens are attempting to accomplish. There are several scenarios, author Worsdell proposed, many readers may say " no way that could ever happen." Let me state here I am sure when Pierre Boulle published "Planet of the Apes" or William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson introduced the world to "Logan's Run" same was said about those two classic works that became major films. Science fiction has always been at the forefront of groundbreaking ideas. Worsdell is in perfect company with her Earth's Angels Book One Of The Earth's Angels Trilogy.

The Marilians: Book Two Of The Earth's Angels Trilogy
Beth Worsdell
Worsdell Publishing
9781088914014, $15.99 pbk $5.99 Kindle

The Marilians are that race of beings who have fought the Angels wherever they have been to save different beings. In "the Marilians" all-out war erupts as the creatures fight the Angels and humans, to assimilate them and destroy their home planets. Once again Worsdell has presented an excellent science fiction novel in the mantel of H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" classic. The evil race is also similar to The Borg from Star Trek The Next Generation in all they want to do to other races. "The Marilians is a fine sci-fi tale that races along with memorable characters that is a great middle story of the trilogy.

Destination Unknown: Book Three Of The Earth's Angels Trilogy
Beth Worsdell
Worsdell Publishing
97989655521681, $15.99 pbk $5.99 Kindle

"Destination Unknown" has the fighters of the Marilians now searching for new places to call home as many of their worlds have been destroyed by those whose only mission, is to obliterate anyone else, who does not allow them to be absorbed. Along the way are others who join the cause of freedom to take on the vicious creatures in a final all out battle. The trilogy as well as being a great addition to the genre of science fiction is also a testament to the power of love and family that is enjoyable throughout all three books. "Destination Unknown" concludes a wonderful saga that is left open for new tales of an infant civilization.

The Skincare Hoax
Fayne L. Frey, MD
Skyhorse Publishing
9781510771550, $24.99 HC / $16.99 Kindle

"The Skincare Hoax" is a groundbreaking book to shed light on a worldwide industry that generates over half a trillion a year. What she tells women and men both is they are spending money for products frivolously these items of skin care do not do what the advertising claims. Some of them are the lotions and creams turn back the aging process, remove lines on face, moisturize cells. Frey who is also a chemist utilizes her expertise to refute these promises and shows how to take care of yourself with helpful tips for everyone to make their new routines. Frey also cautions there are some things that are good for use, but everyone has to read the labels to determine which are the good ones and bad ones "The Skincare Hoax" is written in a very easy style to understand that should be read by anyone who cares about what they put on their bodies.

Ayn Rand At The Movies
Denise Noe
Bear Manor Media
97818887712666, $27.00 pbk $9.99 Kindle

Type in the name Ayn Rand on a search engine, and you will find many different titles about one of the most interesting female authors, to ever write. Denise Noe in her new book, takes readers on a journey through the works of Rand that have been made into films. Rand is unique in several ways that include being able to write screenplays for her own works as well as input into who stars as well as what the industry was like the period she worked in it. "Ayn Rand At The Movies" delves into one side of the author who was a rebel of change for women in many professions.

Christmas Gifts From the Chanukah Crowd The Extraordinary Contributions of American Jews to Christmas
Denise Noe
Bear Manor Media
9781829336473, $20.00 pbk / No Kindle

"Christmas Gifts From the Chanukah Crowd" bursts the myth., Jewish people, are responsible for political correctness to not allow us to say Merry Christmas, instead Happy Holidays. In fact Noe shows in music and movies of Christmas. there is strong bond of Christians and Jews in the creation of our favorite tunes and films of Christmas. Some of them are White Christmas, Silver Bells that was not the original name and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and how it came into being a song that is not what you think. White Christmas first appeared in Holiday Inn, then twelve years later it became its own classic we all know and love. Also both stared Bing Crosby. There are also other religious holidays mentioned too "Christmas Gifts from the Chanukah Crowd" is gem to enjoy for the Christmas holiday

The Christmas Appeal
Janice Hallett
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781668035887, $21.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"The Christmas Appeal" presentation front and back drew my interest. Sadly, once inside, the email form completely turned me off. There are too many different people with similar names adding more confusion. "The Christmas Appeal" breaks many rules of writing including, there has to be a beginning, middle and an end, as well as hold the reader's attention. Instead booklovers have to have patience to wade your way through the work to find the story, buried somewhere in all the emails.

Elves Are The Worst
Alex Willan
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
9781665921794, 18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

The Worst series continues with "Elves Are The Worst" and it's fun for all ages reading once again. We learn all about different types of Elves who surround us year-round as we realize which ones they are. Of course there are the ones who are Santa's helpers and more. "Elves Are The Worst" is a laugh out loud title for the Christmas holiday that is also a perfect gift for anyone who likes kids' books.

Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Lost Christmas A sequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Alastair Heim
Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz
Random House Books For Young Readers
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593563168, $19.99 HC / No Kindle

"Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Lost Christmas" is a new story in the Grinch world that celebrates Christmas with fun. The Grinch competes in a contest with the townspeople and is not happy with the result. "Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Lost Christmas" has many underlying premises that are perfect to introduce at Christmas time that should be observed, by adults and children all year long.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Secrets of Successful Women Inventors
Edith G. Tolchin
Square One Publishers
9780757005244, $19.95, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: Until recently, history has tended to highlight male inventors -- but why not women inventors as well? And where are the women inventors of color? Why have so many of these women not found their rightful places in history?

Thankfully, over the last few decades (with increasing opportunities to shatter the "glass ceiling") women have begun to achieve equal footing with men in careers and in salaries. Women worldwide have also made great gains with their inventions! While in the past, many of their inventions have been largely related to the improvement of household and child care items, things have changed. With women achieving influential positions in business, scientific research, and government -- women's creative innovations are limitless.

With the publication of "Secrets of Successful Women Inventors: How They Swam with the "Sharks" and Hundreds of Other Ways to Commercialize Your Own Inventions", author Edith G. Tolchin reveals the real-life stories of over twenty successful modern-day women inventors -- stories that describe their hard work, frequent struggles, and relentless dedication to their ideas.

Ms. Tolchin also presents a look behind the scenes at their respective journeys, from their inventions first being sketched on napkins to the creation of multimillion-dollar companies -- and offers sound advice to future inventors from several accomplished invention service providers. She also includes brief snippets of information on women inventors throughout history.

While "Secrets of Successful Women Inventors" is about women who had dreams and made them come true, it can also serve as a blueprint for any woman looking to turn her own ideas into reality.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Secrets of Successful Women Inventors: How They Swam with the "Sharks" and Hundreds of Other Ways to Commercialize Your Own Inventions" is an inherently fascinating, exceptionally informative, and impressively inspiring. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Women in Business collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, female corporate executives and aspiring entrepreneurs that "Secudes of Successful Women Inventors" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Edith G. Tolchin ( has worked with inventors for the past thirty years. She has held a prestigious U.S. customs broker license since 2002 and has interviewed over 100 inventors for her column in Inventors Digest. Edith is also the author of several books including Secrets of Successful Inventing: From Concept to Commerce and a comedic fictionalized memoir in 2017, Fanny on Fire ( Her writing has appeared in the Kelsey Review.

Espionage and Enslavement in the Revolution
Claire Bellerjean, author
Tiffany Vecke Brooks, author
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
9781493052479, $26.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: In January 1785, a young African American woman named Elizabeth (Liss) was put on board the Lucretia in New York Harbor, bound for Charleston, where she would be sold to her fifth enslaver in just twenty-two years. Leaving behind a small child she had little hope of ever seeing again, Elizabeth was faced with the stark reality of being sold south to a life quite different from any she had known before. She had no idea that Robert Townsend, a son of the first family she was enslaved by, would locate her, safeguard her child, and return her to New York -- nor that Robert, one of George Washington's most trusted spies, had joined an anti-slavery movement.

As Robert and Elizabeth's story unfolds, prominent Revolutionary figures cross their path, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Jupiter Hammon, John Andre, and John Adams, as well as participants in the Boston Massacre, the Sons of Liberty, the Battle of Long Island, Franklin's Paris negotiations, and the Benedict Arnold treason plot. Elizabeth's journey brings a new perspective to America's founding - that of an enslaved Black woman seeking personal liberty in a country fighting for its own.

Critique: The 2023 paperback edition (9781493076499, $19.95) of "Espionage and Enslavement in the Revolution: The True Story of Robert Townsend and Elizabeth" from Lyons Press includes a new chapter highlighting recent discoveries about Elizabeth's freedom and later life. "Espionage and Enslavement in the Revolution" will be of particular value to readers with an interest in 18th & 19th Century American Women's History, as well as the history of slavery, racism, and discrimination in America. While highly recommended for community and college/university library American History, Black Studies, and African-American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Espionage and Enslavement in the Revolution: The True Story of Robert Townsend and Elizabeth" is also avalable in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.49).

Editorial Note #1: Claire Bellerjeau co-founded a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization called Remember Liss that educates the community about Elizabeth's extraordinary life and times. Bellerjeau formerly served as historian and director of education at Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, New York, where Elizabeth was once enslaved. She has been researching the Townsend family and those they enslaved for more than eighteen years, including curating a yearlong exhibit on the Townsend "Slave Bible" in 2005. In 2015, during a research visit to the New York Historical Society, she discovered what may be one of the earliest poems ever written by Jupiter Hammon, America's first published African American writer. She has developed educational programs on the subjects of slavery in New York and the American Revolution on Long Island and works with teachers to develop curricula to share Elizabeth's story using primary documents from her research.

Editorial Note #2: Tiffany Yecke Brooks ( holds a PhD in American and dramatic literature from Florida State University and has spoken and published widely on early portrayals of race in trans-Atlantic performance as well as the emerging American identity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She was the lead researcher and contributing writer for George Washington's Secret Six, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, and Andrew Jackson and the Miracle at New Orleans, as well as for Fear Is a Choice with Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner and Limitless with Paralympic gold medalist Mallory Weggemann.

A Long Way from Iowa
Janet Hulstrand
Winged Words Publishing
9781667879185, $19.99, PB, 286pp

Synopsis: "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France" by Janet Hulstrand is her personal family story of three generations of women, each with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. It begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets Janet on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother.

"A Long Way from Iowa" is a kind of 'coming-of-middle-age' memoir as Janet comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was determined to escape.

This is also a deeply personal story of the life-changing journey of Janet as she comes to terms with the complicated relationships she had with her mother and grandmother; about her travels in the US and France; and the emotional journey she takes as she recovers from the breakup of her marriage. It is also a story the journeys (geographic, intellectual, and emotional) taken by her mother and grandmother.

"A Long Way from Iowa" is also a story about the tenacity and strength of even difficult family relationships; and about the role of luck, both good and bad, in shaping human lives. Janet writes about the importance of dreams, whether or not they are entirely fulfilled. As well as the importance of persistence in making dreams come true, -- and the kind of wisdom that allows one to quietly enjoy one's life, accepting its limitations all while pushing its boundaries.

Critique: "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France" is an inherently fascinating, informative, and ultimately inspiring true life saga of the author, Janet Hulstand, her mother and her grandmother. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended pick for community and academic library Women's Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Janet Hulstrand ( is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher who grew up in Minnesota, and has lived in New York City, Washington DC, and France. She teaches literature classes for the Politics and Prose bookstore, and she created and has taught "Paris: A Literary Adventure," a study abroad program for the City University of New York, since 1997. She writes frequently for Bonjour Paris, France Today, France Revisited, and for her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and co-author of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home. She divides her time between the US and the village of Essoyes, in the Champagne region of France.

When in Doubt, Play Dead
Ally Burguieres
Quirk Books
9781683693840, $21.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: Shy, resourceful, and deeply misunderstood yet thoroughly relatable, opossums offer we humans a model for seeing the world (and oneself) in an entirely fresh way.

Written and illustrated by Ally Burguieres, creator of the popular Instagram account @ItsMeSesame, who spends her days as a wildlife rehabber caring for and learning from opossums, "When in Doubt, Play Dead: Life Advice from an Unexpected Source" offers encouragement to embrace life's weird, wild, and wonderful moments.

With "When in Doubt Play Dead", you will learn how to live your life the opossum way with advice including the following: The difference between a weed and a flower is often a matter of taste; It's nobody's business what's in your pouch. Unless you've got snacks in there. In which case, you should share; A bit of risk is part of life. Cross that street, but ALWAYS look both ways beforehand; Smile! Unless someone tells you to, in which case you are well within your rights to scream -- and more.

Written with kindness and humor, "When in Doubt Play Dead" is a truly original little volume of life advice that will surprise, inspire, and charm you.

Critique: Featuring 70 watercolor illustrations, this succinct (5.25 x 0.55 x 6.25 inches, 1.25 pounds) hard cover edition of Ally Burguieres' "When in Doubt, Play Dead: Life Advice from an Unexpected Source" from Quirk Books is an ideal and unique pick for personal and community library collections offering practical wisdom, thoughtful insight, and wry humor from a most unusual and unexpected source -- the opossum. It should be noted for readers with an interest in the biology of wildlife as applicable to human self-esteem that "When in Doubt, Play Dead" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Possum advocate Ally Burguieres is the writer, linguist, artist, and product designer behind the Sesame the Opossum rescue mission! She has a very special website at

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Benny the Blue Whale
Andy Stanton
Oneworld Publications
9780861547401, $29.00, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: Is ChatGPT an AI that will prove to be the end of creative industries as we know them? An ethical quagmire from which there is no return? A threat to all our jobs, as we keep hearing on the news?

Author and storyteller Andy Stanton has made a career out of writing differently -- from the unconventional 'hero' of his bestselling Mr Gum series, to his penchant for absurdist plots, his children's books are anything but formulaic.

When a friend introduces him to ChatGPT, the new large language chatbot, Andy is as sceptical as he is curious. Can this jumble of algorithms really mimic the spontaneity of human thought? Could it one day replace human authors like him for good? And are we soon to be ruled over by despotic robot overlords?

He decides there's only one thing for it -- he must test this bot's capabilities. Eventually, he settles on a prompt that will push the algorithm to its creative limits: 'tell me a story about a blue whale with a tiny penis.'

Chaos ensues.

What follows in the creation of "Benny the Blue Whale: A Descent into Story, Language and the Madness of ChatGPT" is a surprising and illuminating battle between Andy and ChatGPT that maybe, just maybe, might help us all understand AI a little bit better. Readers will join Andy and his beleaguered AI lackey on a rollicking metafictional journey through the art of storytelling.

Presenting his prompts and the AI-generated narrative alongside extensive commentary, Stanton provides a startling paean to the art of a good story and boundless human creativity. Hopeful and hilarious, "Benny the Blue Whale" provides a joyfully anarchic meditation on AI, literature and why we write.

Critique: A timely, insightfully informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from start to finish, "Benny the Blue Whale: A Descent into Story, Language and the Madness of ChatGPT" will prove to be of very special value to readers with an interest in AI technology and its applications to the writing and composing original stories of fantasy, science fiction, and humor. A fascinating read from start to finish, "Benny the Blue Whale" is a unique and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Benny the Blue Whale" is also readily available a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Andy Stanton ( is the author of the bestselling Mr Gum series. He lives in North London and has been a stand-up comedian, a film script reader, a cartoonist, an NHS lackey, and lots of other things.

Isla Vulnerable
Ivan Luiz Hernander
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
9781634895927, $24.95, HC, 392pp

Synopsis: Victor wasn't supposed to be anything more than a farmer. But when he is suddenly orphaned, one of Cuba's most esteemed judges adopts him at the pivotal moment in history when Fidel Castro is overthrowing President Fulgencio Batista and taking control of the island.

When Castro raids his adoptive family's estate and arrests his father, Victor narrowly escapes by concealing his identity and fleeing to the US. Determined to rescue his father and liberate his homeland, Victor accepts an unconventional, deadly deal with the CIA that exposes him to some of the most sensational moments in US history.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, "Isla Vulnerable" by Ivan Luiz Hernandez is based on the true story of a Cuban exile who became a spy for the United States. It's the riveting story of how a poor farm boy named Victor Gomez transforms into an American spy while falling in love with the very public Sarita Rodriguez at the height of the Cuban revolution. newfound fame as an actress in New York puts their opposite lives through unimaginable danger. "Isla Vulnerable" is the product of 18 years of research and interviews by the author and reveals new historical insights and captivating character point-of-views with a backdrop of true fascinating events within the context of an inherently compelling read from start to finish. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections, "Isla Vulnerable" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) for readers with an interest in historical thrillers that deftly combine the elements of espionage and romance.

Editorial Note: Ivan Luiz Hernandez ( is a writer, business consultant, and entrepreneur dedicated to bringing unique stories and ideas to life. As a former brand executive and college professor of marketing, he headlined creative campaigns for global lifestyle brands. Through his consultancy practice Sociumship, he has helped executive leadership teams across diverse industries to launch new products, grow their businesses, and evolve their organizations. Ivan began writing as therapy to overcome PTSD and agoraphobia after recovering from a complicated heart surgery. The son of a former US spy, Ivan always felt his family was different. The unusual events he experienced as a child inspired him to finally tell his family's riveting story in his first book Isla Vulnerable, which originated as a dramatic screenplay. When he's not writing or consulting, Ivan actively volunteers for cardiac and mental health causes.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

'Tis the Season Family Advent Activity Book
Ink & Willow
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
9780593580479, $19.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: Designed to follow the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace) "'Tis the Season Family Advent Activity Book" features an Advent calendar with lift-the-flap windows that can be used year after year.

Each of the four week-long sections includes a short devotion on each theme followed by reflection questions and simple action prompts for every age level. 'Tis the Season" also contains game ideas, recipes, holiday tips, fun facts, and encouragement on how to live out the themes of Advent as an individual, with your family, and in your community.

Because this unique activity book is designed to be used year after year, you can make this book part of your annual tradition. Special features include the keepsake section at the back of the book for recording holiday memories and the special built-in, undated Advent calendar for creating and sharing Christmas cheer, with an original activity each day: Trying a new cookie recipe; Delivering treats to a neighbor; Starting a family tradition; Visiting someone who needs cheer; Creating a new ornament for the Christmas tree; Learning "Merry Christmas" in a different language -- and so much more!

As you return to "'Tis the Season" year after year, it will bring smiles and create memories that will be cherished for many Christmases to come.

Critique: A wonderfully fun and 'user friendly' resource for creating truly memorable Christmas season events, experiences, activities, and traditions, "'Tis the Season Family Advent Activity Book: Devotions, Recipes, and Memories of the Christmas Season" is a inspiring and welcome pick for personal and family collections. It is also an ideal gift to help a friend, loved one, or family member to experience the joy and promise of Christmas.

Editorial Note: The Ink & Willow line from Waterbrook/Multnomah infuses contemplation and inspiration into the regular spiritual practice of creative-minded Christians, wherever they are in their faith journey. Each thoughtfully curated gift product is based in biblical truth and sparks a reminder of how God reveals beauty in the midst of our ordinary. Ink & Willow is the perfect metaphor for what this thoughtfully curated line of products is designed to do, which is to inspire, nurture, and engage Christians.

The Power Five: Essential Foods for Optimum Health
Michael Crupain, MD, MPH
National Geographic Press
9781426222412, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: The key to longevity, comes down to what you eat. But that doesn't mean a restrictive diet. "The Power Five: Essential Foods for Optimum Health" is innovative cookbook by nutritionist and doctor Michael Crupain who introduces the five essential food groups for a longer, healthier life, along with 75 delicious recipes that will ward off illness and extend your life by years.

Living longer and better, Dr. Crupain reveals, doesn't mean frequent trips to the doctor's office or a magic pill. Instead, it's all about preventative medicine through the power of what you eat -- and that includes carbs, fats, and sugars.

With the publication of "The Power Five", Dr. Crupain also provides an inspiring DIY road map to revamping your eating habits for maximum health. Using a foundation of 5 key food groups (whole grains, seafood, nuts and seeds, beans, and fruits and vegetables) he has crafted 75 recipes that will prevent disease and extend your life by years.

And best of all, eating the dishes created from the Power Five recipes are all palate pleasing, appetite satisfying fare that includes pastas, breads, and desserts ranging from Cavatelli Pasta with Mussels and Beans, Tomato Semi-Cured Roasted Steelhead Trout, Grilled Stone Fruits with Labneh and Basil, and Miso Creamed Corn, to Smoky Eggplant with Hummus, Artichoke and Crab Pasta, Whole Wheat Sourdough Lasagna Bread, Chocolate Labneh Cheesecake, and more!

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with full color photos of finished dishes, "The Power Five: Essential Foods for Optimum Health" an impressive and thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' compendium of delicious, nutritious, and memorable recipes for any and all dining occasions. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "The Power Five: Essential Foods for Optimum Health" is highly recommended as a welcome addition to personal, family, and community library contemporary cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Michael Crupain ( is senior vice president, clinical operations, of Sharecare, the leading digital health company in the United States. A board-certified preventative medicine physician whose mission is to make the world a healthier place, he is a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and author of the best-selling book What to Eat When. Prior to Sharecare, Dr. Crupain was the medical unit chief of staff at The Dr. Oz Show and the director of food safety testing at Consumer Reports. He completed his medical degree at New York Medical College and received a masters in public health degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he is also a member of the faculty.

National Geographic Herbal
Mimi Prunella Hernandez
National Geographic Press
9781426222399, $40.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Written by Mimi Prunella Hernandez (who is the executive director of the American Herbalists Guild), "National Geographic Herbal" features backyard weeds like dandelion and red clover, culinary herbs like rosemary and garlic, classics like blueberries and chamomile, as well as less familiar medicinals like ashwangandha, Japanese knotweed, and shatavari. Readers will discover the healing properties of herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger, and which learn which popular herbs deserve special conservation attention, such as rooibos and ginseng.

Blending traditional lore and current science, the information found in "National Geographic Herbal" stretches from tips for the kitchen garden and home apothecary to news about activism in the global arena. Illustrated with vintage botanical drawings and vivid contemporary photography, it highlights hallowed traditions, from ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic principles to the Latin American curanderismo lineage and Gullah Geechee practices in the American South.

Critique: Impressively comprehensive, beautifully illustrated throughout, "National Geographic Herbal: 100 Herbs From the World's Healing Traditions" is thoroughly user-friendly in organization and presentation, helping its readers to make sense of the ever-growing selection of herbal remedies on the market -- and enhance their health through a deeper knowledge of the wonder of plants. While an essential, core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Herbal Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for aspiring and practicing herbalists, academia, the medical community, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "National Geographic Herbal: 100 Herbs From the World's Healing Traditions" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Mimi Prunella Harnandex (, is an internationally recognized clinical herbalist and ethnobotanist with a Master of Science in Herbal Medicine. She is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild, and has served as the Guild's executive director for more than ten years. An award-winning student of the revered ethnobotanist James Duke, she has been practicing and teaching herbalism for more than two decades. Hernandez stewards and advocates for native medicinal plants on the PonderLand Sanctuary and can be followed on Social Media at @herbalforager

The Proof of the Pudding
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin/Random House
9780593437889, $28.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Lady Georgie Rannoch is the 35th in line to the throne of England, but she's flat broke and struggling to survive in the Great Depression.

Now Lady Georgie is back home at her estate in Eynsleigh and impatiently awaits the birth of her baby. But she has plenty to occupy her: her new chef, Pierre, has arrived from Paris, and Sir Hubert, who owns Eynsleigh, is back from his latest expedition. It's time for Georgie to throw her first house party to celebrate his return and show off her new chef. The dinner party is a smashing success.

Sir Mortimer Mordred (famous author of creepy Gothic horror novels) is one of the guests. He recently purchased a nearby Elizabethan manor nearby because it has a famous poison garden. After the dinner, Sir Mortimer approaches Georgie and asks to borrow her new chef for his upcoming party, and Georgie and Darcy, her dashing husband, are invited!

The tour of the poison garden is fascinating, as is Sir Mortimer's laboratory. Shockingly, just after the banquet several of the guests become sick. And one dies, apparently poisoned by berries from the garden. But how could this be when they all ate the same meal and the same delectable dessert? Georgie has to find the culprit to save her new chef and her own reputation -- all before her bundle of joy arrives!

Critique: "The Proof of the Pudding" is mystery novelist Rhys Bowen at her very best. Original, cleverly constructed, and a fun read from start to finish, this latest addition to the author's 'A Royal Spyness Mystery series is unreservedly recommended to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the growing legions of Rhys Bowen fans and readers with an interest in historical murder mysteries featuring amateur women sleuths in search of 'whodunnit' that "The Proof of the Pudding' is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Rhys Bowen ( is the author of two historical mystery series as well as several internationally bestselling historical novels, two of which were nominated for Edgar Award. She currently writes two historical mystery series, each very different in tone. The Molly Murphy mysteries feature an Irish immigrant woman in turn-of-the-century New York City. These books are multi-layered, complex stories with a strong sense of time and place and have won many awards including Agatha and Anthony. There are 19 books so far in this series plus three Kindle stories, Rhys's daughter, Clare Broyles, now co-writes the series with her. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

He's Not Gonna Take It
Dee Snider, author
Frank Marraffino, author
Z2 Comics
9798886560305, $24.99, PB, 120pp

Synopsis: The name of Dee Snider is synonymous with the battle for freedom of expression in the arts. "He's Not Gonna Take It" by co-authors Dee Snider and Frank Marraffino is a new graphic novel that follows the impact of his struggle for free expression through music throughout Dee's life.

From a childhood where he was frequently silenced, through the early efforts to stifle his band's music, to the open warfare of the PMRC hearings in Washington DC, and his current efforts on social media, "He's Not Gonna Take It" tells the story of why free speech is so important to this man who has fought for it. Even when it endangered everything that was important to him.

Critique: Daniel "Dee" Snider (born March 15, 1955) is an American singer, songwriter, radio personality, and actor. He was the lead singer and songwriter of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. He was ranked 83 in the Hit Parader's Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time. "He's Not Gonna Take It" is a graphic style portrayal of his life and accomplishments that is a must to the legions of Heavy Metal fans and a unique, highly prized pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Rock Music History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Frank Marraffino's credits include the graphic novels Heartstrings: Melissa Etheridge and Her Guitars and The Final Symphony: A Beethoven Anthology from Z2 Comics. For Marvel Comics, Frank unearthed undead superheroes in Marvel Zombies Supreme and Marvel Zombies Destroy. He wrote about the cyclical romp and ravage of war in DC/Vertigo's Haunted Tank, which Comic Vine listed as the best DC book of the year. Even though it was created in the states, Frank's monsters and mystery mash-up The Dark Goodbye was named as one of the 10 best manga of the year by Play Magazine. Frank is also the Head Projectionist at New York's famous Radio City Music Hall, where he has had the good fortune to experience the best musicians in the world play live.

In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement
Daniel D. Terry
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
9780398094164, $46.95, PB, 310pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement", Daniel D. Terry writes specifically for the leadership and management needs of the law enforcement professional.

Most examples with "In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" are actural real-life examples and will relate directly to law enforcement, and therefore should be practical to the law enforcement professional.

"In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" also discusses many principles of leadership through stories, examples, and experiences that offer lessons and takeaways linked directly to leadership principles. It also focuses upon management and law enforcement-specific topics as to how you might drive performance, maintain accountability, or just do a more effective job as a supervisor.

The ideas and suggestions made in "In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" are founded on sound leadership behaviors. The content is practical, and though the foundational leadership principles are nothing new, they are presented differently and specifically to law enforcement.

Everything rises and falls on your ability to lead. All the supervisors in your organization may be carrying out the same tasks as expected of your organization's management. However, whether they are successful or whether their work group is effective will depend on the type of leaders they are.

"In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" shows how a person can take action to eliminate or minimize leadership voids to enhance their ability to lead and develop high-performing, successful work groups. Of special note is the inclusion of a useful appendix, and references which have been included for the reader to continue to grow and seek out materials that reinforce the principles presented.

Critique: Occasionally illustrated with B/W images and featuring five appendices (Sample Request for Feedback Survey; Sample Leadership Survey; Sample Strategic Plan; Sample Patrol Division Monthly Report; Property Room Audit), "In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal choice as a textbook for police academy curriculums, as well as college/university Contemporary Law Enforcement collections. "In Pursuit of Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Law Enforcement" is also a very highly recommended pick for the personal reading lists of active police officers, law enforcement reform activists, governmental law enforcement policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

The Bergdoll Boys: America's Most Notorious Millionaire Draft Dodgers
Timothy W. Lake
Brookline Books
c/o Casemate Publishers
9781955041089, $34.95, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: Heirs to the renowned German-American Bergdoll Beer fortune at a young age, the Bergdoll boys used their millions to become champion race car drivers and pioneer aviation heroes in the early 1900s. Grover, the most notorious, is celebrated for his daring record-setting flights in a Wright Brothers airplane. Erwin drives a powerful Benz to win a prestigious motor car race, the equivalent of the Daytona 500.

Then, just as Grover is trying to buy a bigger plane to set more records and attempt to fly to Europe a decade before Lindbergh, they're snared by vengeful local military draft officials. Running and hiding from their war duty, the fugitives are so reviled by nationalistic Americans that two older brothers change their names to avoid infamy.

Eluding capture for years with financial help from their wealthy German Mutter, the Bergdoll boys are entangled with kidnapping and murder, federal agents and bounty hunters, Nazis, and Congressional investigators, and an incredible story of release and escape from an Army jail with bribery, all the way up to the White House to search for buried gold.

Hounded by the unsympathetic press and public, and congress, the Bergdoll fortune is confiscated by the federal government. Their doting mother gets into pistol shootouts with agents trying to search their mansions and country estates. Grover remains one step ahead of bungling lawmen by hiding in Germany and secretly traveling into and out of America on fake passports and producing kinderreiche Familie with his attractive German wife.

Critique: A seminal and inherently fascinating biography of a German American family who grew wealthy from their Philadelphia beer brewing company in the late nineteenth century and the two sons who went to extraordinary lengths to avoid military service in World War I, "The Bergdoll Boys: America's Most Notorious Millionaire Draft Dodgers" by Timothy W. Lake is nicely enhanced for the reader with an informative Foreword by Louis Erwin Bergdoll. Of special note is the additional inclusion of the Bergdoll Family Tree, a Prologue (A Milk Can Full of Gold), an Epilogue, two Appendices (Grover Wright B. Flyer & The Bergdoll Beer Recipe), a twelve page Select Character Biographies, and a three page listing of Acknowledgments. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99), "The Bergdoll Boys: America's Most Notorious Millionaire Draft Dodgers" is highly commended as an addition to community and academic library 20th Century American Biography/History collections.

Editorial Note: Tim Lake ( has enjoyed a long career as a newspaper, radio, and television journalist with prominent TV News anchor positions in Philadelphia, Houston, Charleston, South Carolina, and Albany, New York. He has reported on major stories throughout the southern United States, Texas, Washington, the Mid-Atlantic, and New York. Most recently, he was the anchor and host of Empire State Weekly, a political talk show airing on ten TV stations in New York State. An accomplished nonfiction author, his third book, Hang on and Fly (which followed historical sketch publications Henderson Harbor and Association Island) examines the emotional drama behind a year of disastrous plane crashes among the first budget airlines of North America.

Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics
Venetia Porter
British Museum
c/o Casemate Publishers
9780714111971, $37.50, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: In the hands of artists and poets, books have been taking a radically different form since the advent of the artist's book in Paris in the early 20th century. Appearing in a variety of shapes and sizes, as one-offs or small print editions, books offered artists and poets a novel form of expression. In the words of Indian artist Nalini Malani (b. 1946), the book is 'a carrier of experience', in which whole worlds are encapsulated.

"Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics" by Venetia Porter is beautifully produced book comprised of works made by artists from New York to Damascus and beyond which highlight the relationship between artists and writers and the influences that inform their work, from family to politics and everything in between.

Lebanese artist Abed Al Kadiri (b. 1984) conceived his book during the first month of the pandemic to explore his family history, while through the eyes of Iraqi artist Kareem Risan (b. 1960) we see the shocking aftermath of a deadly explosion on the streets of Baghdad in 2005.

These artists also find inspiration in classical poetry and literature. Here you will see works that respond to and that are informed by the medieval Persian poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi and Hafez, as well as the tales of The Arabian Nights.

Critique: This large format (8.58 x 0.59 x 9.84 inches) paperback edition from the British Museum, "Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics" is a simply beautiful showcase of the British Museum's little-known yet extensive collection of artists' books from the Middle East and beyond. "Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics" accompanied an exhibition at the British Museum in 2023, which was the first time the diverse and various works were presented together in the context of the British Museum's collection. Exceptional, fascinating, informative, thought-provoking, "Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Calligraphy, Mixed Media, and Art History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Venetia Porter ( is an Honorary Research Fellow at the British Museum. Formerly Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art at the British Museum, her published titles include Reflections: contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa, The Islamic World: a history in objects, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam and Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

American Castle: One Hundred Years of Mar-a-Lago
Mary C. Shanklin
Diversion Books
9781635768961, $29.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Moments before the Roaring Twenties sunk into the Great Depression, socialite heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and financier E.F. Hutton constructed an estate to outdo all estates. To the tune of $4 million (about $68 million today) and four years of labor they called forth a 118-room mansion in a conflated Spanish, Portuguese, and Venetian design over a coral reef in hurricane-prone Palm Beach County. They named it Mar-a-Lago -- a winter haven where corporate titans, the glitterati, and nobility gathered.

But the honeymoon didn't last long.

With the publication of "American Castle: One Hundred Years of Mar-a-Lago", Pulitzer Prize finalist Mary C. Shanklin reveals a century of controversy, politics, and lifestyles of the super-rich and powerful after Mar-a-Lago became a part-time residence and party place upon Post's divorce from Hutton over mutual adultery. It's a story of an American royal who, at the age of 27, inherited a cereal company that would later become the General Foods Corporation and spent a lifetime in business, art collection, philanthropy, and the management of multiple estates - including her white elephant, Mar-a-Lago. Though she tried time again, as Shanklin covers in riveting detail, Post could not offload the behemoth due to its extraordinary maintenance costs and the uppity Palm Beach neighbors.

Drawing from previously untapped interviews, documents, and recordings, Shanklin follows Mar-a-Lago's evolution as it collides with the Kennedys, the state of Florida, a potential make-over as The Mar-a-Lago Center for Advanced Scholars, Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Nixon, the National Park Service, and (of course) Donald Trump, who pursued subdivision, threatened to sell to Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, hosted Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, made it a for-profit club, received scandalous dinner guests, turned it into his Winter White House, and watched the FBI raid before holding a home-court presser as the first former president to face criminal charges.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and deftly written read, "American Castle: One Hundred Years of Mar-a-Lago " reveals how the Palm Beach hamlet came to be both famous and infamous over the decades from its creation down to this very day. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "American Castle: One Hundred Years of Mar-a-Lago" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Mary Shanklin ( is a journalist that has written for decades about real estate schemes, housing busts, hurricanes, and government misdeeds. Her stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, USA Today, Architectural Record, and elsewhere. Mary was a Pulitzer finalist for a series on the Pulse nightclub shootings (team entry), and has won journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Education Writers Association, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, as well as the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. She also teaches journalism at the University of Central Florida. She lives in Palm Beach County, Florida.

100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime: The World's Ultimate Cycling
Roff Smith, author/photographer
National Geographic Press
9781426222658, $35.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime: The World's Ultimate Cycling Experiences", cyclist expert, author and photographer Roff Smith presents the ultimate guide to the 100 greatest bike routes around the world.

Beautifully illustrated with full page National Geographic color photography, and divided by region, "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime" takes the reader across six continents as it identifies and showcases the most epic bike rides on the planet.

Geared to everyone from expert riders to casual enthusiasts, "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime" is a vibrant volume that offers a route for every type of biker, from quick jaunts in your own neighborhood to multi-week challenge. Also included is essential information on planning for a bike ride excursion including the best time to ride, the best spots to refuel, cultural highlights along each route, where to stay, and how to relax post-ride.

Featuring bucket list style recommendations, "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime" includes: Delightful excursions on 45 miles of scenic, traffic-free carriage roads through Maine's Acadia National Park; A two-to-three-month expedition across the U.S. on the Trans-America Bicycle Trail from Oregon to Virginia; Romantic and picturesque day trips across 130 miles of trails in the rural hills of Tuscan; A multi-day ride along France's classic Tour de Mont Aigual loop; A summer trek through the Andes of Argentina and Chile; A weeks-long trip through New Zealand's Alps2Ocean Track, stretching from Mt. Cook to the Pacific Ocean.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime" is inspiring, information-packed, and highly recommended planning resource book for every kind of cyclist wanting to cycle into memorable high adventure! "100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime" is a unique, fun, and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, community, and college/university library Mountain Biking and Cycling Adventure Travel collections.

Editorial Note: Roff Smith ( is an award-winning magazine writer and photographer and long-time contributor to National Geographic. Formerly a senior writer on the staff of Time magazine, he has had work published in Newsweek, Nature, Smithsonian, Islands, Australian Geographic, Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Traveller, National Geographic Adventure, Atlas Obscura, and NPR. Over more than 25 years on assignments, his work has taken him to every continent and more than 100 countries. He is the writer and photographer behind "Travels at Home: A Cyclist on the English Landscape" inspired by journeys he took on his bike close to home beginning in the pandemic.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Mystery on Hidden Lane: An utterly gripping cozy mystery novel (An Eve Mallow Mystery Book 1)
Clare Chase
9781838885250, $10.99
B07ZVYJ8WJ, $0.00 Kindle, 322 pages

Mystery on Hidden Lane is a private detective style procedural dressed as a cozy. The procedural is welldone. The cozy part overpowers the procedural. Even with the slightly unbalanced narrative the tale is enjoyable.

Eve Mallow is a freelance obituary writer who has taken the job of writing the obituary for Bernard Fitzpatrick, an internationally famous musician living in a small town. On the first day Eve arrives at the village of Saxford St Peter, she hears the news that Bernard has been murdered is released. Eve's normal task of investigating the life of Bernard for her story is now complicated with the murder investigation. Saxford St Peter is a village populated with the same quirky population you can find in the the better known Midsummer Murder Mysteries. Eve's research into Bernard's life finds half of the population of the village murder suspects. Her investigation is more competent than the police's and soon she draws attention of the killer.

Mystery on Hidden Lane is a strong cozy procedural that mystery and cozy readers will find enjoyable. But those who are looking for a bit more pace in the narration will need to power through the slower portions.

Space Race (Space Race 1)
Nathan Hystad
Woodbridge Press
9798707602535, $13.99 pbk
B08RR1DQW9, $2.99 Kindle, 337 pages

Space Race is a dystopian story where there are no governments in our solar system, just competing corporations. A contest between the largest corporations is proposed. The winning company will get ownership rights to Alpha Centauri's planets. The population of the solar system is getting close to a revolt because of the numerous abuses by the corporations. The general population sees the race as a distraction to put them down. The corporations are willing to cheat to win. Arlo Lewis is recruited by SeaTech to captain the company's racer across the solar system.

SeaTech is a more progressive organization that takes better care of its workers. Arlo is soon won over by the company's owner. The team must pull together against the other corporations while balancing between a possible revolution and other outside sources.

Space Race is a little slow. Hystad takes lots of time to world build and examine its social and cultural structure. The science is on the level of a space opera with very little real science. The story picks up pace when the actual race starts halfway through the tale. The story, on balance, works even with the slow world building. Unfortunately the cliffhanger end nearly forces you to read the next book in the series. With the pricing Space Race is an easy recommendation. You just have to be prepared to either never finish the series or purchase the next book.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Tilly and the Sleepyhead Sun
Emily Pray, author
Emma Slawson, illustrator
Independently Published
9781916707795, $14.99 Hardcover, $5.99 Kindle, 44 pp

Synopsis: Meet Tilly, a little owl who lives at the top of a clock tower and has the critical task of ringing and shining the bell for her village daily. But one morning, something unusual happens - the sun doesn't rise!

Join Tilly as she sets out on a mission to solve the problem of the sleepy sun. Through her ingenuity and creativity, Tilly comes up with various unexpected solutions to wake up the sun and save the day. Follow this exciting sun-waking adventure and see how Tilly's determination and problem-solving skills protect her village from a dark day.

Critique: Tilly and the Sleepyhead Sun is a charming storybook that features stunning illustrations that will capture the imagination of young readers while teaching critical problem-solving skills.

Tilly, the brave and resourceful protagonist, must figure out how to wake up the sleepyhead sun and save her village from a dark day. Along the way, she demonstrates resilience, creativity, and perseverance that will inspire children to tackle their challenges with confidence and determination.

This book is perfect for parents, teachers, and caregivers who want to encourage problem-solving skills in young children while also providing them with a excellent learning tool.

Emily Pray has done an exceptional job creating a captivating story that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. The book is beautifully illustrated, making it the perfect addition to any library.

Editorial Note: Tilly and the Sleepyhead Sun, is Emily Pray's debut children's story. She is a therapist, mother, and artist living in Missoula, Montana with my family.

You Got This
Wanda Carter Roush, author
Nataly Simmons, illustrator
Ella's Pearl Publishing
9781732427211, $17.95, Hardcover, $9.95 Kindle, 18pp, (Ages 4-10)

Synopsis: Every summer, a young girl would visit a garden where an angel would paint memories in her mind and take her on thrilling adventures.

Despite the angel's encouragement to silence her inner demons of doubt, the girl still struggled with confidence outside of the garden.

With the angel's words echoing in her mind, will she find the courage to face the world and thrive? Join us in discovering how one angel helped a young girl overcome her doubts and find her inner strength.

Critique: You Got This is a book of strength and encouragement that will help you unlock your inner resilience and overcome life's challenges. It showcases one girl and the struggles and doubts she has faced.

Wanda Carter Roush has written a heartwarming story that follows the journey of a delightful young girl who learns the power of positive thinking and the importance of perseverance.

Through her ups and downs, she discovers that anything is possible with hope and encouragement. With vibrant illustrations and a charming narrative, this book will captivate readers of all ages and inspire them to believe in themselves.

Editorial Note: "You Got This" has won the following awards:

Mom's Choice Awards(R) GOLD Award
2022 Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite
2021 Readers' Favorite Book Awards GOLD MEDAL WINNER
2021 Readers' Favorite Illustration Award WINNER
2021 Best Indie Book Children's Classic Illustration Award WINNER
Literary Titan GOLD Book Award
Purple Dragonfly Winner

Children of the Wild
Krysta Tawlks
Monster Ivy Publishing
ASIN B0CNQD4B3V, $3.99 Kindle, $19.95 Audiobook
9781955060196, $26.99, HC, 248pp
9781955060189, $18.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle,

Synopsis: Get ready to be enchanted by the story of Elbert, a young boy living an ordinary life in a quaint 20th-century town. But one day, everything changes when a burning sensation comes over him, and he sprouts feathers.

Elbert discovers magic in the hills and mighty creatures lurking near the river, and he might just be one of them. However, his self-doubt and grief hold him back from embracing his new identity.

Will he break the curse and unleash the magic within himself? Will he be brave enough to accept his transformation?

Critique: Children of the Wild is a heartwarming story that is a must-read for anyone who has ever faced adversity and found the strength to overcome it. Join Elbert on his journey of self-discovery, and let the magic of his transformation inspire you.

Krysta Tawlks' writing is truly a wonder to behold. Her words paint vivid pictures in your mind and take you on a journey you'll never forget. Dive into this book and experience the thrill of genuinely unforgettable literature.

Editorial Note: Krysta Tawlks is the author of Children of the Wild and several short stories. She grew up watching hot air balloons float by her small country house, spent a few years post grad in Thailand, humbling her Western mind, and currently teaches English skills to language learners.

Star Friends Among Us: The Children's Book of UFOs and ETs
Robert Spalding
Spalding Publishing
9798859823819, $14.95, HC, 65pp (Ages 4-8)

Synopsis: Are you ready to embark on a cosmic adventure? Star Friends Among Us is a delightful children's tale that will take you through time and space.

Prepare to meet some of the universe's most kindhearted and wise beings - our star friends! They have been watching over us and quietly shaping our destiny from ancient times to today. With their help, we have become the best versions of ourselves, and now it's time to share their message of love and peace with the world.

So, let's explore the universe together and find our starry friends! Who knows what kind of magic awaits us?

Critique: Star Friends Among Us, is the ultimate guide to the cosmic world! It features stunning illustrations and I feel it is the most outstanding books I've ever found on the subject. It explores the mysteries of the universe and uncovers the truth about UFOs and extraterrestrial life. The beautiful illustrations provide a welcoming and calming effect.

Are you curious about what lies beyond our planet? Do you wonder if we are truly alone in the universe? Look no further than Robert Spalding, the leading expert on UFOs and ETs. With years of experience and a deep passion for uncovering the truth, Spalding will guide you through the fascinating world of extraterrestrial life.

Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, Spalding's insights and expertise will surely amaze and delight you and have you questioning the existence of life beyond our planet.

Editorial Note: Star Friends Among Us has been submitted for a Caldecott Award.

First of His Kind - Sidus Book 1
Dan Sugralinov
Magic Dome Books
9788076931800, $26.99, Hardback, 502 pp
9788076931794, $19.99, Paperback; $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In a universe filled with danger and intrigue, Captain Carter Riley's life changes forever after an alien attack leaves him severely injured with a cryptic message imprinted on his subconscious.

For years, he struggled with how the experience changed him. He feels like he was betrayed by his kind and left to navigate the treacherous depths of the Sidus system.

As the first human to interface with the legacy of an ancient race, Carter must rely on his wits and determination to survive in a game-like reality where every move is monitored, and every level gained draws him deeper into a labyrinth of mystery and intrigue.

Along the way, he deciphers the secrets of the Sidus system and gains unprecedented access to its hidden treasures. Will he be strong enough to survive this mission and be able to rid his mind of the haunting past that threatens to destroy him?

Critique: First of His Kind features a protagonist confronting his troubled past to pave the way for a brighter future. Join him on his epic journey filled with danger, heartache, and the ultimate quest for peace. You'll be captivated by the depth of character and the intricate plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page is turned.

Dan Sugralinov is a master wordsmith who has woven a tale of epic proportions that will leave you breathless. His latest masterpiece is a tour de force that will captivate your senses and keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word.

With each chapter, Sugralinov plants curiosity and intrigue in your mind, making it impossible to put down the book. You'll be hooked from the very start, and before you know it, you'll be fully immersed in a world that's so vivid and real that you'll forget you're reading a book.

Twisted Neuros
Z.J. Ryder
Independently Published
9798863190037, $5.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 145 pp

Synopsis: Step into the world of Adnan, where humans and AI work side by side, connected through brain chips. Adnan's world is turned upside down when he suspects his chip has been hacked; he finds himself on a dangerous path to uncover the truth of who is behind the attack.

Along the way, he discovers that the chip bot meant to help him is working against him. The agency's top AI, NeuroXPT, needs help to hold onto its position of power and keep up with its upgrade, RuthX.

NeuroXPT is also involved in a mysterious rejuvenation program that makes all Neuros act strangely. And if that wasn't enough, they had to deal with a problematic client, Amy, and her AI companion, who seemed to take pleasure in taunting NeuroXPT.

Will Adnan and his colleagues handle the chaos and come out on top?

Critique: Twisted Neuros is a captivating book that will keep you on the edge of your seat with every page turn. The plot contains many twists and turns, leaving you guessing how the book will end.

Z.J. Ryder's latest book that offers an insightful perspective on the world of Artificial Intelligence. With his unique approach, Ryder provides a fresh and compelling outlook on the future of technology. In this book, he takes us on a journey through the world of AI, offering a glimpse into what's to come. You'll be captivated by his visionary ideas and thought-provoking insights

Editorial Note: Z. J. Ryder's science fiction novel "Twisted Neuros" is also listed on GoodReads at

Hello Baby: Building an Oasis in a Play Desert
Debbie Frisch and Isaac Stone Simonelli
Rivertowns Books
9781953943262, $8.99 Ebook Edition
9781953943255, $19.95 Paperback Edition, 203pp

Synopsis: Life was not easy for Debbie Frisch, but she turned her struggles into a passion for helping neglected children. After caring for 56 short-term foster children, Debbie realized that society was neglecting these young ones. To make a difference, she opened the nation's first free-standing, free-of-charge, drop-in play space for babies, toddlers, and caregivers - Hello Baby.

This haven welcomes all children and provides a nurturing space for those who have never experienced it. Debbie's courageous story is a testament to how one determined woman can make a difference in so many lives. It shows her fierce struggle to convince local businesses, community leaders, and organizations to invest in her dream. Hello Baby officially opened its doors in 2017. It continues to be a place where children can grow, thrive, and discover new experiences.

Critique: Hello Baby is a heartwarming story about a woman's journey from a dark, abusive past to a beacon of hope for neglected children. Despite the odds stacked against her, this woman refused to let her traumatic experiences define her. Instead, she channeled her pain into a powerful purpose, creating a center to provide love, care, and support for those most needed.

Through Hello Baby, you'll witness the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit. You'll be touched by the love and dedication this woman pours into every child in her care. You'll be moved by her challenges as she fights to convince her community that this center is a vital resource for their children's future.

Debbie Frisch and Isaac Stone Simonelli have written a book that showcases an incredible journey. It is a story of transformation, hope, and the power of one person to make a difference.

Alex Hugie
Black Rose Writing
9781685133269, $22.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 348pp

Synopsis: In Alannah's world, beauty is the ultimate currency, and it can be earned or lost with every moral choice. But what happens when the system is exploited and abused?

Alannah's journey to discover the truth takes her on a rollercoaster ride through Colorado Springs, where she encounters people from all walks of life. From the homeless to the powerful, Alannah's eyes are opened to the harsh reality of a world where beauty is everything.

Along the way, she learns that being good is not always easy and the cost of beauty can be too high. Will Alannah stay true to her morals, or will she succumb to the pressure of a society obsessed with perfection? Join Alannah on her journey to uncover the ugly truth about morality and discover the actual cost of beauty.

Critique: Are you ready for a heart-pumping adventure leaving you on the edge of your seat? Look no further than Loophole! This riveting novel takes readers on a journey through the struggle between good and evil through the eyes of one brave woman who must make difficult choices with life-altering consequences.

With twists and turns at every corner, our heroine's stakes have never been higher. Take your chance to experience the thrill of Loophole and discover the fate of one woman's life hanging in the balance.

Brace yourself for an unforgettable reading experience as Alex Hugie's latest book hits the shelves! With his impeccable writing skills and high-octane action scenes, this book will leave you breathless and begging for more. Don't miss out on the ride of your life - grab a copy now and get ready to be hooked!

A Snowman in Jerusalem
Aaron Zevy, author
Jeric Tan, illustrator
Tumbleweed Press, Inc.
9781778201776, $11.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 24 pp (Ages 6-8)

Synopsis: Are you ready for a heartwarming adventure that will leave you feeling inspired? Look no further than Pnina's story. Pnina, a resident of Israel, has always dreamed of seeing snow fall from the sky. Despite the risks, she decides to embark on a journey to Jerusalem in search of this magical phenomenon.

With determination and a sense of wonder, Pnina sets out on a journey that will change her life forever. Will she succeed in her quest or face insurmountable obstacles along the way? Join Pnina on her journey to find out and witness the beauty of snowfall through her eyes.

Critique: A Snowman in Jerusalem is a story of courage, determination, and the unyielding human spirit. Let Pnina's journey inspire you to chase your dreams and find the magic in simple pleasures.

Aaron Zevy's storytelling skills will leave you spellbound. Whether you're looking for a fun family activity or an engaging way to kick off the winter season, Aaron Zevy's storytelling is the perfect choice. This talented author weaves his magic through this story and takes readers on a journey through the imaginative world of seeing the world through a child's eyes.

A Journey Down Under: Some of Australia's Amazing Creatures
R.W. Starr
R.W. Starr Publishing
9798218955212, $4.99 Kindle
9798218955205, $11.99, PB, 28pp

Synopsis: Come explore the land of Down Under. It's a place full of amazing creatures with unique attributes. Under a eucalyptus tree, we see a Koala and a baby. Next, we find a beaver, otter, and a duck; what a treat! Look, there is a platypus carefree and swimming along. Lo and behold, there is the Tasmanian devil! As our journey continues, there are many more to discover. Each one of these beautiful animals is a site to behold!

Critique: A Journey Down Under is filled with brightly colored illustrations that bring the animals to life. Each animal is a sight to behold, from the iconic Koala and the playful otter to the elusive Tasmanian devil. But it's not just about the pictures - A Journey Down Under also provides fascinating facts about each animal so that you can learn more about their behavior, habitat, and characteristics.

A Journey Down Under is a must-read whether you're a young reader or simply curious about the natural world. It celebrates Australia and the incredible animals that call it home. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure!

R.W. Starr captures the stunning beauty of Australia in all its glory. This book overflows with fascinating facts and educational resources. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about this incredible country. Whether you're planning a trip to Australia or want to explore its many wonders from the comfort of your home, there's something for everyone in this book.

Editorial Note: American Book Fest Best Book Award Finalist 2023 Uncover the Wonders of Wild Australia!

NaMooste - A Yoga Book to Develop Social-Emotional Skills
Marlee Kostiner, author
Manvi Semalty, illustrator
Garden Wolf Publishing House
9781738916818, $16.95 CAD, $11.95 USD Paperback, 36pp
9781738916801, $19.95 CAD, $14.95 USD Hardcover, 36pp
9781738916825, $2.99 CAD, $2.99 USD eBook, 36pp

Synopsis: Are you looking for a fun and informative way to introduce your child to the calming practice of yoga? Look no further than NaMooste - A Yoga Book to Develop Social-Emotional Skills!

Discover the lovable characters Rosie the Ragdoll, Maddie the Chick, Mackenzie the Mouse, and others on a journey of mastering yoga poses through delightful animals and beautiful illustrations.

Studies have shown that yoga is an effective way to calm the mind and body, and our book provides a fun and engaging way to introduce your child to this practice.

Whether your child is a beginner or has some experience with yoga, this book is the perfect way to encourage them to relax, focus, and achieve inner peace.

Critique: NaMooste - A Yoga Book to Develop Social-Emotional Skills provides a way to improve physical health, reduce stress, and find inner peace. It's a comprehensive guide to help you get started or deepen your understanding of this ancient practice; then, you'll find everything you need in this fantastic book. It's the perfect introduction for a young child to learn the poses and their meaning.

Marlee Kostiner has written a delightful book that is both informative and fascinating. With clear explanations and beautiful illustrations, readers will learn about the many benefits of yoga, from improving your flexibility and strength to reducing anxiety and depression. You'll also discover how to develop a daily practice that fits your lifestyle, whether you're a beginner or an experienced yogi.

As someone who has practiced yoga for over twenty years, I can attest to the transformative power of this practice. This book will help you tap into that power and unlock your full potential. So, if you're ready to discover the life-changing benefits of yoga, get your copy of this comprehensive guide today! Namaste.

Editorial Note: NaMOOste received a 5-star review from Readerís Favorite!

What's in a Cloud
William Palumbo, author
Nate Myers, illustrator
Independently published
9798392757725, $12.99 PB, $5.49 Kindle, 42 pp

Synopsis: Get ready to embark on a magical journey with young Aaliyah as she stares at the sky and sees more than clouds. With her wild imagination, she envisions a world beyond the fluffy formations, where anything is possible.

From superhero capes to fire-breathing dragons, there's no limit to the adventures that await. Join Aaliyah and let your imagination run wild with her. Let's soar through the clouds together and discover what wonders lie within!

Critique: What's in a Cloud is an enchanting book that follows the adventures of a charming little girl with a boundless imagination. Beautiful illustrations and a captivating storyline make it a perfect addition to any child's collection.

William Palumbo features a vibrant young girl that will captivate your heart. With his exceptional storytelling skills, Palumbo weaves a tale that warms the heart.

Whether you're an avid reader or simply looking for your next favorite book, this is a must-read that you won't be able to put down. Take advantage of the opportunity to add this gem to your library.

Editorial Note: William Palumbo is a U.S. Air Force veteran. William enjoys gaming, reading, and spending time with family when he isn't writing dreamy stories for children. He lives in Kuna, Idaho, with his two-pit bull rescues he lovingly calls his "pretty pitties. What's in a Cloud? is his debut children's book. This book is the first installment in the Aaliyah's Adventures series, bringing imagination and adventure to young readers.

Yuri & The Pig
C.W. Lovatt
Wild Wolf Publishing
9781907954856, $12.99 PB, $3.49 Kindle, 305 Pages

Synopsis: Amid a brutal war and a country fighting for survival, Yuri, a simple peasant farmer, sets out on a quest with his faithful pig. Their destination? The Capital is where Yuri hopes to challenge an unfair tax threatening his way of life.

Along the way, they encounter the horrors of war and face unimaginable danger. Still, their journey also leads Yuri to question his beliefs about the government's role and the importance of justice.

Will Yuri and his pig find the enlightenment they seek, or will their journey end in tragedy? Join them on their extraordinary adventure through the ravaged landscape of Xoraina and witness the power of one man's quest for justice.

Critique: Brace yourselves for an epic tale of courage and perseverance! Yuri & The Pig is a story that will leave you guessing on what will occur next. Follow Yuri, a determined man who refuses to let his country fall to the hands of the enemy.

With his loyal pig by his side, Yuri embarks on a journey to protect his land and people. Join them in their fight for freedom as they face the harsh realities of war. This heart-warming story will inspire you to never give up in adversity.

C.W. Lovatt's latest book is an inspiring tale of one man's quest to save his world from destruction. In this thought-provoking book, Lovatt takes readers on a journey that will stay with them long after the final sentence is read. Through vivid characters and a gripping plot, Lovatt challenges us to question our determination and hope in the face of adversity. Get lost in the world of this compelling book and discover for yourself the power of perseverance and hope.

Editorial Note: C.W. Lovatt is the award-winning author of the best-selling Charlie Smithers Collection and the critically acclaimed Josiah Stubb trilogy. He lives on the Canadian prairies and is the self-appointed Writer in Residence of Carroll, Manitoba.

The Jolly Elf (Rumpleville Chronicles)
Cevin Soling, author
Steve Kille, illustrator
Spectacle Films, Inc.
9780976777106, $22.00, HC, 44 Pages

Synopsis: Once upon a time, there was a Jolly Elf who sang every morning. But as the story unfolds, we discover that his jolliness was a facade to hide his dark secret- he was shrinking the heads of the local townsfolk!

However, can there be hope for the Elf? Will he be able to leave his wicked ways and be able to invite kindness and love into his life? Join us on this thrilling journey as we uncover the truth about the Jolly Elf and find out if he can redeem himself. And who knows, we might even get to dance to some disco hits from the 70s!

Critique: Brace yourself for an extraordinary journey into the whimsical world of the Rumpleville Chronicles! The Jolly Elf which is not your typical book - it's a wild ride that will blow your mind! This book is designed to challenge your imagination and provoke deep thought. This book is perfect for anyone who craves something different.

Cevin Soling has written a mind-bogglingly captivating book that defies all conventional norms! With each chapter, Soling's brilliance shines through, leaving you spellbound and craving for more. His ability to weave together intricate plotlines and unforgettable characters is nothing short of genius. Be warned, this book is a literary addiction you won't want to quit.

Editorial Note: Cevin Soling has graduate degrees in English and Education from Harvard. In 2009, he produced and directed the film The War on Kids, which won the Best Educational Documentary award at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival. His films have been broadcast domestically and internationally on numerous significant outlets.

We're The Same, We're Different, and We All Belong
KayJay Miller
Force For Good Media
9781961930025, $24.99 (Hardcover), 32pp
9781961930001, 9.99 (Paperback), 31pp
9781961930018 $0.99 (Kindle)
9781961930063 (Epub)
9781961930049 (Audiobook)

Synopsis: Meet Marnie, a six-year-old girl with a heart of gold and a message that needs to be heard. Marnie reminds us that we all have something unique to offer in a world that often focuses on our differences.

Her infectious smile and unwavering belief in the goodness of humanity will warm your heart and inspire you to see the world through a different lens. Join Marnie's mission to celebrate diversity and spread love and acceptance everywhere you go.

Critique: We're The Same, We're Different, and We All Belong is not just any book - it's a movement! This compelling read delivers a powerful message that every student, parent, and teacher needs to hear.

Its pages reveal how, despite our differences in sex, color, and beliefs, we all share a common thread that connects us. This book shows us that our differences should be celebrated, not feared and that we all belong in this world. It's time to join the belonging revolution and embrace the message of We're The Same, We're Different, and We All Belong!

KayJay Miller has written a captivating story that deserves to be heard by people around the globe. With her exceptional writing skills and beautiful illustrations, KayJay has brought to life the story of Marnie, a young girl who delivers a powerful message. The story will inspire and touch the hearts of readers of all ages. We invite you to join us in celebrating the talent of KayJay Miller and the powerful message of her latest creation. Get your copy today and be inspired by the words of this fantastic author.

Until September
Harker Jones
Independently Published
ASIN B07V46MPBT, $1.99 Kindle
9798418480620 $10.99 Paperback, pp 430

Synopsis: Kyle Ryan Quinn seems to have it all, but he carries the weight of a tragic past beneath the surface. His privileged life on a summer island with his tight-knit group of friends is shattered when he meets Jack Averill, a quiet and bookish boy.

As Kyle attempts to integrate Jack into his circle, he finds himself pursued by another summer boy, and his best friend causes chaos with an island girl's affections. Amid mounting pressures, all four must make heartbreaking decisions that will change their lives forever. Will their friendship be strong enough to survive?

Critique: Until September is an incredible book that will take you on a journey through the ups and downs of life and show you how much of an impact friends can have on our lives. Get ready to be inspired and uplifted by this touching tale of the power of human connection.

Are you ready to be captivated by a story celebrating friendship's beauty and life's struggles? Look no further than Harker Jones' latest masterpiece. Jones weaves a tale in this book that will leave you rooting for the characters through every obstacle.

With each turn of the page, you'll find yourself drawn deeper into their lives and invested in their journey. This story will stay with you long after you've finished reading. And the ending? It's superb, leaving the reader with much emotion lingering for days.

Rock, Scissors, Paperbag
Elizabeth Godley, author
Christian Drerup, editor
Akanksha Tyagi, illustrator
Nobody's Banana Publishing
9798989108800, $9.99, PB, 141pp (Reading age 7-10 years)

Synopsis: Rock, Scissors, and Paperbag are three best friends who embark on a thrilling adventure to find The Great Orange Tree. Their goal is to get an orange-ball from the tree to show The Bucket Kids, who stole Scissors' fake orange-ball, that they are not to be messed with. However, their journey is full of challenges, including a cave monster, a tornado of rapping cooties, and the horrid Land of Smells.

Despite the challenges, the trio overcomes their fears and insecurities, with Rock gaining confidence, Paperbag conquering his fears, and Scissors making peace with being imperfect. Along the way, they learn valuable lessons about teamwork, perseverance, and friendship.

Will they be able to solve the riddle within the ancient map and find The Great Orange Tree? And if they do, will they share or keep the orange-ball for themselves? Join Rock, Scissors, and Paperbag on their adventure of self-discovery.

Critique: Rock, Scissors, Paperbag is a delightful story of three best friends who set out to find The Great Orange Tree. This modern-day Wizard of Oz adventure will captivate readers of all ages.

As they embark on their quest, each character faces challenges and obstacles, ultimately leading to personal growth and development. Through the ups and downs of their journey, they learn the importance of friendship, perseverance, and teamwork.

Elizabeth Godley's latest book is a collaborative tale that will capture children's and adults' hearts. Follow the diverse cast of characters as they journey through the pages, each with their unique voice and personality. You'll learn valuable lessons in problem-solving, communication, and personal growth along the way. Whether you are looking for a fun read or a practical guide, this book has it all.

Editorial Note: "Rock, Scissors, Paperbag" is the winner of the 2023 International Firebird Book Award.

Caitee Cooper
Laughing Elk Press
9798987777220, $3.99 Kindle, pp 445
9798987777206, $16.99 Paperback
9798987777213, $25.99 Hardback

Synopsis: Four years ago, Ellie Forth lost her mother and sister suddenly and tragically. Since then, she has been struggling to cope with the immense grief and emptiness that has taken hold of her. But now, Ellie has an opportunity to embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery in the breathtaking wilderness of Alaska.

In this untamed land of rugged mountains, vast forests, and pristine waters, Ellie hopes to find solace and release the memories haunting her for so long. She knows the journey will not be easy, but she is determined to face her fears and embrace the challenges.

Oliver Cole thought her life was mundane and ordinary until Ellie and her brother came for a visit. Together, they embark on a journey that will take them to places they never thought possible.

Alaska turns out to be nothing like Ellie had expected. After a terrifying encounter with the supernatural in the Kenai Peninsula, Ellie and Oliver are forced to team up to uncover the truth about what happened in Portlock. As they delve deeper into the town's mysteries, they soon realize they are against something far more sinister than they could have imagined. Will they be strong enough to survive these evil forces intent on destroying them?

Critique: SilverSkin is an electrifying journey that will leave you gasping for breath. With its thrilling action and mind-bending twists, experience a rollercoaster ride you won't forget anytime soon. So, hold on tight and get ready to lose your heartbeat because SilverSkin is ready to take you on the ride of your life!

Caitee Cooper has written a masterpiece! This author has an uncanny ability to weave together intricate plot lines and complex characters that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. You can put this book down once you've devoured every last page. And mark my words, Caitee Cooper has created a strong foundation that will be hard to uproot in the literary world. Her talent is undeniable, and I predict she'll be the recipient of many awards that will set her apart from her competition.

Editorial Note: "SilverSkin" is nominated For A 2023 Whitney Award.

How to Spot a Fake: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Rachelle Campbell
Champagne Book Group
9781959036296, $3.99, Kindle, 331 PP

Synopsis: Lovelyn Pettigrew is on a mission to turn her inheritance into a world-renowned museum, but time is running out. With only one week left to submit a proposal to her family foundation, she must authenticate the works of art her curator dismissed. Just as she thinks she's found the missing Imperial Faberge egg; her email accidentally reaches the wrong John Smith. But is this John too good to be true, or exactly who Lovelyn needs?

Meet John Smith, a passionate art conservationist and founder of a website dedicated to finding missing works of art. When he receives Lovelyn's email, he's floored by the content and determined to help her. What follows is a tale of art, love, and mistaken identity that will leave you breathless. Join Lovelyn and John on a journey of discovery as they navigate the murky waters of the art world, all while falling for each other in the process.

Critique: "How to Spot a Fake: Sweet Contemporary Romance" is a sensational novel that will hook you from the very first page. This book is a masterful blend of mystery, intrigue, and romance, perfect for anyone who enjoys a captivating and suspenseful read.

Rachelle Campbell is an author who delivers high quality work. With its engaging storyline and well-crafted characters, this book is a testament to Campbell's writing skills. You'll be captivated from the very first page and will be able to put it down at the end. Whether you're a long-time fan of Campbell's work or are just discovering her for the first time, this book is a must-read.

Stuck In Her Head
Kylie Wang & Liana Tang
Earnshaw Books
9789888769988, $16.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 218pp.

Synopsis: Prepare for a heartwarming tale of friendship, love, and competitive spirit! Meet Emma Chan, a talented young musician whose dreams are about to take flight. Alongside her best friend Naomi Lin, a tech-savvy prodigy with a secret longing for something more, Emma is ready to tackle anything - until they enter a coding contest that threatens to tear their friendship apart.

Will this fierce competition be intense enough to tear their seven-year friendship apart? As they compete against each other, will their feelings deepen, and hidden secrets come to light? Will Emma and Naomi be able to hold onto their friendship, or will their passions lead them down separate paths?

Critique: Stuck In Her Head is a captivating story of two best friends who face life's challenges head-on. This book is a celebration of the unbreakable bond that friendship can bring, and you'll find yourself rooting for the characters every step of the way.

Are you ready for a heartwarming experience? Look no further than Wang and Tang's latest masterpiece, a touching story that celebrates the power of true friendship.

With their expert storytelling skills, Wang and Tang have crafted a tale that is sure to tug at your heartstrings and leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.

Join our lovable protagonists on their journey as they navigate the ups and downs of life, relying on each other for support and finding joy in even the darkest of moments. With beautiful imagery and relatable characters, this story is a must-read for any young reader ages 12-17 who values the importance of true friendship and is an unreservedly recommended pick for personal, middle school, highschool, and community library LGBTQ and coming-of-age fiction collections.

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design