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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 2 February 2024 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

The Struggle for the People's King
Hajar Yazdiha
Princeton University Press
9780691246079, $95.00, HC, 286pp

Synopsis: In the post-civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, from people with disabilities to women's rights activists and LGBTQ coalitions. Increasingly since the 1980s, white, right-wing social movements, from family values coalitions to the alt-right politicians, now claim the collective memory of civil rights to portray themselves as the newly oppressed minorities.

With the publication of "The Struggle for the People's King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement", by Professor Hajar Yazdiha reveals how, as these powerful groups remake collective memory toward competing political ends, they generate offshoots of remembrance that distort history and threaten the very foundations of multicultural democracy.

In the revisionist memories of white conservatives, gun rights activists are the new Rosa Parks, anti-abortion activists are freedom riders, and anti-gay groups are the defenders of Martin Luther King's Christian vision. Drawing on a wealth of evidence ranging from newspaper articles and organizational documents to television transcripts, press releases, and focus groups, Professor Hajar Yazdiha documents the consequential reimagining of the civil rights movement in American political culture from 1980 to today. She shows how the public memory of King and civil rights has transformed into a vacated, sanitized collective memory that evades social reality and perpetuates racial inequality.

Powerful and persuasive, "The Struggle for the People's King" demonstrates that these oppositional uses of memory fracture our collective understanding of who we are, how we got here, and where we go next.

Critique: A compellingly informative and ground-breaking study of how the misuses of Martin Luther King's legacy has been coopted to divide the American public and undermine our American style democracy, "The Struggle for the People's King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement" is an especially timely and highly recommended addition to community and college/university library Contemporary Political Science and Civil Rights Movement collections and supplemental curriculum studies syllabus. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Struggle for the People's King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0691246475, $24.50) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Hajar Yazdiha ( is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Affiliate of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California.

Now and Then
James W. Aageson
Wipf and Stock Publishers
9781725266872, $41.00, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: The essays, excerpts, homilies, and personal reflections comprising "Now and Then" by Professor James W. Aageson have all been published previously, publicly presented, or both. These selections, however, are not merely being republished, but rather recontextualized and resituated with the expectation that they will become more than the sum of their individual parts, that they will be mutually informing.

In most cases, a significant period of time has elapsed since they were first written or spoken, and that has given time, with the help of reflective memory, to think about how these various selections might relate to each other and to the larger body of Professor Aageson's work as a teacher and scholar.

These relationships and connections in most cases have only become apparent in retrospect, as Professor Aageson has been able to see the larger mosaic of his own work and thinking. In some cases, he has changed his mind. In other cases, Professor Aageson's thinking has only been reinforced and expanded. But are there conceptual threads that run through the selections in each of the book's three sections? Indeed there are. For these reasons, Professor Aageson is presenting them together here to a new set of readers.

Critique: A compendium of biblical conversations, New Testament contexts, and formative memories, "Now and Then" by Professor James W. Aageson is contemplative, thought-provoking, and inherently interesting reading for all members of the Christian community and of special value to the personal reading lists of clergy and seminary students. While a highly recommended addition to personal, community, seminary, and college/university library Christian Theology Studies collections it should be noted that "Now and Then" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) as well.

Editorial Note: James W. Aageson is emeritus professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. His most recent book is After Paul: The Apostle's Legacy in Early Christianity.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The 7 Levels of Wisdom
Monica Esgueva
Mantra Books
9781803414706, $14.95

The 7 Levels of Wisdom: A Path to Fulfillment makes a strong case for the evolution of consciousness and the pursuit of Pure Consciousness that can operate on a global scale (even though it clearly does not do so right now). It's a goal-oriented survey of how this may be achieved, and will enlighten and inspire anyone on the dual paths of self-examination and greater community awareness.

Monica Esgueva crafts a journey that encourages individuals to begin this purposeful exploration, starting with their own lives. The topic is so potentially wide-ranging that it's notable that Escgueva's account is able to compose its disparate elements into succinct, logical discourses that guide individual efforts while making connections with greater purpose and spiritual intention.

From the roles and applications of meditation in this process to tailoring realizations about growth, connections between individual processes and greater social issues, and moving from political tyranny to community control and mindsets, Esgueva provides a series of carefully orchestrated exercises and realizations. These guide readers past ethical quandaries and into territory that leads to enlightenment:

"The exercise of transcendence and spiritual transformation has become paramount in our time - because our technology has immense destructive power, which allows us to damage not just our neighbors but many others physically distant from us."

Perhaps nowhere else in new age and self-help or spiritual literature is the importance and challenge of this process so succinctly and clearly defined and described:

"When our rationality does not filter out what we can apprehend, our mind can access a broad band of information well beyond the information available through our five sensory organs. That is why mystical practices, such as meditation, are best suited to processes of de-automatization or deconditioning of socially and culturally learned concepts and cognitive structures through which we usually apprehend ourselves and the world."

Because of the complexity of this process, it is highly recommended that The 7 Levels of Wisdom be slowly digested, discussed in a wide range of circles (from book clubs and reading groups to psychology and spirituality students), and included in any library interested in applying the foundations of new age thought to the dilemmas and ethical conundrums of modern times.

Last Bets
Mary Carroll Moore
Riverbed Press
9798987531754, $14.95

Last Bets pairs a tropical island setting with the portrait of two very different, unusual artists whose lives are joined not just by their perspectives on art, but their choices in life.

Artists Rosie and Elly could not, at first glance, be more different. They are from different generations and differently complicated lives, yet they wound up on the island of Bonaire for similar reasons. Each is attempting to escape her past, but said past follows them both in different ways; not the least of which is their different inclinations to walk away from their pasts in pursuit of their artistic dreams.

Mary Carroll Moore's ability to translate interpersonal relationships, art, and love into a story that also embraces a hint of suspense creates evocative, thought-provoking revelations throughout as her two characters emerge, grow, and come to embrace island life. The artistic insights are just as finely wrought as the emotional undercurrents that connect these disparate individuals:

"And you? What's your passion?"

"I'm an artist." Rosie took a slow sip, tasting the words. They felt good, right.

Lucille hummed agreement. "What do you make with your art?"


Between dalliances in love, experiences with scuba diving, struggles with gambling, and passages in which two generations coalesce and connect, Last Bets examines the evolutionary process of art and soul which creates delicate intersections between lives and purposes:

"All she'd promised was his portrait. Which was coming along nicely, no thanks to her efforts. Each deliberately placed mistake had been corrected by next morning, plus Rosie made additional changes, most of which Elly applauded and kept. Slowly, the girl was completing the portrait for them all. And, Elly hoped, learning in the process from the small lessons the mistakes provided. She admired Rosie's artistic decisions and her unexpected flair - she took risks Elly herself no longer attempted, and mostly successful ones - especially for someone who worked more with line than color."

Hurricanes and dangerous games with men add value to enrich a story rich with island life and the different approaches and lessons absorbed by the two women.

The result is a powerful novel that considers how family ties emerge between strangers, how risk-taking changes perspectives and breaks previous self-destructive patterns, and how the lessons of older individuals can change the trajectory not just of youth, but mentors willing to assume a role of teacher, leading both student and teacher through good and bad choices and their consequences.

Libraries and readers seeking a novel replete with evocative touches and thought-provoking situations perfect for book club discussion groups will find Last Bets a rich, revealing saga.

Trust Yourself to Be All In
Amanda McKoy Flanagan
For Real Press
9798985673500, $17.95 Paperback/$6.99 eBook

Trust Yourself to Be All In: Safe to Love and Let Go is about loss, enlightenment, potential, and healing. It promises (and delivers) a lesson in self-love and letting go that promotes connection, exploring "discoveries born from desperation and loss and from choices made" in a memoir/self-help guide that will serve as an inspiration to others moving through and past loss.

From the start, Amanda McKoy Flanagan adds value to her memoir that elevates it beyond personal experience alone:

"I will suggest simple and effective ways of thinking and living to blend mind, body, and soul so they are no longer separate parts of you but work cohesively to serve you and those around you. Some of these concepts are documented elsewhere and can be found in both ancient and modern literature; some are new."

Chapters are filled with ideals and examples reinforcing the reality and possibilities in achieving them. Suggestions for viewing relationships, change, growth, and healing in a different way offer not only examples and 'how to' notes, but explore the 'whys' of more positive pathways and results:

"In changing to meet your partner's needs, you rediscover the lost parts in yourself that created the void, bringing you closer to whole. Becoming who you were always meant to be, you fill your own needs and your partner's. Your partner fills his or her own needs and yours. Consistent, healthy behaviors create new, safe pathways resulting in a secure attachment to self and your partner."

There are many important reflections here; not just on suffering and its resolution, but in the spiritual and moral act of forgiving others by understanding their wellsprings of choice:

"Can I be upset with somebody for trauma that was inflicted upon them and for their unskilled reaction? Can I justify a resentment if they've been so hurt that they are programmed to be who they are and cannot change, if they've never been taught how to change or simply do not see the need for change? Does someone require forgiveness if they are constitutionally unable to do better?"

These, in turn, will spark debates and discussion among a wide range of readers and book club groups on subjects ranging from religious inspections of moral and ethical choices and their impacts to the ideals of reframing actions, reactions, and the perspectives of others.

The result is an uplifting memoir that also contains an admonition and examples for making different life choices.

Libraries and readers seeking self-help workbooks that take the form of memoirs on life lessons will find Trust Yourself to Be All In enlightening, hopeful, and deceptively easy to read. It's deceptive because the real work lies not just in its reading, but in its audience's slow absorption of new ways of viewing and interacting within the world.

Victim to Victor
Christopher McKeon
Toteppit Press
9798986470757, $34.98, HC, 618pp
9798986470740, $27.97 PB, $3.99 Kindle

Victim to Victor: Confessions of a Wrong-way Moonie delves into the mechanics of Rev. Moon's Unification Church, presenting a memoir by one who became a domestic violence victim and struggled with faith and life in ways most readers can't imagine.

Christopher McKeon succeeds in producing a memoir-cum-expose that defies most pat definitions of what one might expect from a former Moonie. Indeed, his book explores the victim persona and role and different facets of behaviors above and beyond the traditional thinking about such sects, leaders, and their members:

"My account isn't an evil-Moonie-cult tell-all, a gory tale of domestic woe, nor an I-hit-rock-bottom-while-crying-in-my-beer journey of self-discovery that put me on the stairway to heaven. These have their place and offer their own kind of emotional experience. My story comes from scars, not wounds. If you were ever a Unificationist or some stripe of idealogue, a domestic violence victim or maybe a perpetrator, a near-suicide feeling crushed 'neath life's ironshod boot or love's heartless hate, or just can't stop shooting holes in your feet, this book might open your awareness to paralyzing, scapegoating victimism and a path of transitioning to your own life-giving victorism. It couldn't hurt."

Keeping this purpose in mind is key to understanding and appreciating the special experiences, intention, and message in Victim to Victor. It represents a foray into religious and personal dedication that considers the purposes of Church messages and reinforcing perspectives on faith and life choices:

"Isn't religion's task to comprehend its sacred texts? How else does one discover its truth? Na´ve, that was me. Religion isn't for seeking knowledge. It's not about questioning authority nor understanding Jesus and True Parents. It's about conformity. Obedience to its Way."

Readers thus receive a more multifaceted exploration of truth, lies, victims and victories that moves far from an anticipated expose format to probe the foundations of belief systems and how they operate in conventional and unconventional ways to both offer opportunity and enlightenment, yet reinforce victim status in an effort to control outcomes and flocks alike.

The gritty insights about church politics and processes sometimes clash with the reality of McKeon's efforts both within and outside the fold:

"It was a great victory for me. Not just getting out a publication, which I loved doing, but proving to myself, Dr. Shimmyo, and all my detractors that I was capable of marshaling the support and alliance of members from countries all over the world. I sensed the journal was a test, a dry run by God to see what I could do, if I could handle the pressure and stress of such an undertaking. I believed with all my heart that, upon graduation, I'd be tasked with such challenges to win the hearts and minds of critics inside and out of the church."

Readers receive an insider's account that celebrates some aspects of the Moon legacy while pinpointing its deficiencies and dangers in other areas.

As Moon's promise of unconditional love revitalizes a broken veteran, then alters his future and perspective on reality and life, readers receive gritty examples of individuals and interactions which simmer with hope, conflict, oppression, and revitalization, all in one.

The depth of this memoir also allows it to embrace the spiritual and business visions of the charismatic leader Moon in a manner that most other surveys of the Unification Church do not offer in such personal terms.

Of special note and strength is how principles of faith are separated from those who choose to deliver and absorb the message in different ways:

"His theologically ultramodern Divine Principle was more real to me than worn out, foggy old Christianity, its grand morsels of wisdom and Jesus notwithstanding. Sure, Divine Principle reposed upon the biblical witness, but to me it more sensibly elucidated its core truths. It underwrote the full scale of my adult life. I might be perennially at war with Sun-myung's pigheaded church institution but not his Divine Principle, not by any stretch."

The result is a hard-hitting, controversial, raw examination that is highly recommended for libraries seeking books that go beyond the usual 'I-was-a-cult-member' approach to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of oppression, control, liberation, and salvation on both spiritual and psychological levels.

Managing the Unmanageable
Jonathan Cagan and Peter Boatwright
Rivertowns Books
9781953943415, $22.95 Paperback/$9.99 eBook

"Managing innovation is different from managing anything else." If there's only one take-away for readers of Managing the Unmanageable: 13 Tips for Building and Leading a Successful Innovation Team (and, there will be many more), it should be this idea. By its very definition, innovation implies a creative flexibility and freedom which defies most management attempts, whether they stem from business pursuits or personal drive. Creativity flourishes best when unfettered.

So, how can innovation and creativity be managed? That's the crux of a problem that Jonathan Cagan and Peter Boatwright address in their book:

"Innovation is building version 1.0 of something that has not been made previously. It's unpredictable. You don't really know what the optimum solution will be. People may not know they need it until they see it. And for an innovation team, doing what came before is a hindrance. It can get you in trouble."

From defining an effective leadership model for an innovation team to balancing risks and fostering a form of visionary leadership that operates on a different level than the nuts-and-bolts of the usual business focus, Managing the Unmanageable concentrates on managing processes rather than outcomes.

This allows for a degree of flexibility that supports, rather than stifles, innovative impetus in a business structure. Another technique involves reframing: redefining a concept for industry applications.

From safety to team functions and psychology, Cagan and Boatwright dovetail the nuts and bolts of management concepts with the realities of building innovation concepts within a structure which too often stifles and limits opportunities for growth.

Business leaders who have led teams (but without innovative goals in mind) will especially appreciate the leadership and management tips which expand upon the typical business book's advice.

Managing the Unmanageable should ideally not only reside in a business library, but be read and discussed among business students, entrepreneurs, and leaders looking to refine, adapt, or create a management style that encourages and fosters innovation to realize its maximum potential.

It's a guide that no forward-thinking businessperson will want to overlook, holding many insights on building a team structure that is adaptable, efficient, yet creatively flexible and encouraging.

Dirty Suburbia
Sara Hosey
Vine Leaves Press
9783988320407, $17.99

Dirty Suburbia is a short story collection firmly rooted in suburban working-class scenarios, in which disparate women of all ages struggle with their lives and relationships.

From a woman in an abusive relationship and a savvy teen embarking on online dates (knife in hand, just in case), Sara Hosey captures the ironies, agonies, and sometimes lonely struggles of females who face individual and social challenges, yet emerge from battle to find newfound connections and positivity in life.

Take the opening story, 'Christine.' Here, early teens Gina and Stacey adopt a child at the playground who seems to be alone. An old woman who doesn't speak English deposits Christine at the playground every day, where she discovers a new world of caring and comfort in these older companions.

Cultural and family differences unfold as Gina and Stacey observe a child who seems intrinsically different from their world:

"Stacey and Gina agree that Christine's abandonment at the park is startling and offensive, further evidence of Christine's family's difference."

Childhood flares briefly and subsides as they navigate creepy men, family possibilities, and come to know that, despite their imaginings about Christine's world, "...a fairy tale analog doesn't exist for their situation."

Contrast this culturally rich coming-of-age saga with 'Revenge of the Nerds,' in which a very different family scenario unfolds, ripe with the first-person inspections of narrator Dig, who reviews her anger and relationships:

"Because my mom is a psycho-bitch, my grandparents had to take her to court in order to be able to see me. And because my father is, legit, I am not exaggerating, a convicted rapist who also still has parental rights, my mother has to stay in Wisconsin so that if he ever chooses to exercise his privileges he may do so. Obviously, it's all totally fucked."

Sara Hosey embeds threads of humor which provide comic relief to the backdrop of angst and re-examined lives which emerge with disparity and emotion in Dirty Suburbia. To call the collection 'humorous' would be a stretch, but these instances add a wry sense of ironic inspection to the scenarios which evolve to challenge these girls and women in different ways.

Libraries and readers seeking short stories rooted in Midwest scenarios and women's lives will find Dirty Suburbia a thought-provoking read. It is especially recommended for women's reading groups, who will want to discuss these changing lives and their outlooks and survival tactics.

The Climate Misinformation Crisis
Tushar Choudhary, Ph.D.
HopeSpring Press
9798986435831, $15.99 Paperback/$8.99 eBook

The Climate Misinformation Crisis: How to Move Past the Mistruths About Climate and Energy for a Bright Future offers a study in scientific misinformation that goes beyond different climate change contentions to examine the basics of illusion, deception, and misunderstandings.

Unlike other books that adopt hard-line, rigid assessments on either side of climate change issues, Tushar Choudhary's book pinpoints wellsprings of misinformation on the parts of both activists and skeptics, pinpointing specific fallacies in popular arguments on both sides.

This, in turn, leads to not only a more reasoned approach to the issue of climate change, but a studied, important assessment of its science independent of popular opinion and media influence.

Why is misinformation more important than the crisis itself? Because its spread on either side is fostering attitudes, responses, and solutions that are untenable and downright dangerous. Real sustainable progress in addressing the issue's reality cannot be achieved until these areas of misinformation are pinpointed, analyzed, and addressed. That is the focus of The Climate Misinformation Crisis - and why it deserves top billing in any library or discussion group on climate change.

Choudhary traces the roots of this ideological war, considering its influences, motivations, and effects. Chapters unfold a contrast between the misinformation of two opposing sides with a focus on how problems are perceived, defined, and how both sides are "liberally using misinformation to gain support."

More than a contrast of opposing 'truths' and lies, however, The Climate Misinformation Crisis exposes the nuggets of real data without the overlay of drama or special interests, offering readers interested in science and debate a rock-solid foundation of knowledge from which to build a different paradigm about climate crisis.

The value of this discourse lies not only in the key facts Choudhary reveals about climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy, and the transition to low-impact choices, but in the sources and progression of misinformation which challenges all sides to wade through limiting and potentially dangerous illusions.

The result is a discourse that will appeal to libraries strong in climate change issues, but which ideally will also reach into debate, logic, and thoughtful reader and discussion groups interested in the roots of misinformation and how best to recognize and mitigate their impact.

The opportunities for better thinking and approaches to problem-solving presented in The Climate Misinformation Crisis are outstanding, making this book a highly recommended 'must' for general interest public and college libraries alike.

Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia
Amanda LaPera
Adamo Press
9780986247132, $19.99 Paperback/$32.00 Jacketed Hardcover/$4.99 ebook

The 10th anniversary edition of Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia: A Family's Search for Hope is a personal journey through schizophrenia that personalizes the experience of a beloved father who descended into mental illness after a seemingly successful cancer treatment.

Within a few years, he gave up his family and career, embarked on a trip that traversed thirty countries and resulted in thirteen wives, and negated his reputation as a gentle, loving father.

Most memoirs about schizophrenia focus on youth. Few document the special trials that can come from an onset in one's fifties, when home and family are set.

The re-creation of conversations, the ongoing, continual losses of a familiar, "normal dad, the one who used to play Blackjack and chess with me," and the impact of mental illness on adult family members creates a survey rich in its portraits of how a family struggles to keep a beloved father off the streets and safe despite his mental instability.

Families who struggle with similar circumstances will find Amanda LaPera's descriptions hard-hitting, powerful, and familiar:

"I believed - much like Hilda - that my dad was still there, the old dad. I couldn't yet accept that mental illness had completely claimed his mind."

As family interactions both swirl around the mentally ill father and change as a result, Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia charts the psychological and spiritual paths the family takes in its many efforts to keep everyone safe and sane.

From medical system challenges in following HIPPA guidelines while aiding a family facing an adult's deteriorating mental condition to religion and resiliency's roles in either contributing support to or introducing new conflicts to the families of mentally ill adults, LaPera discusses many subjects not typically seen in memoirs about families and mental illness.

The result is an eye-opening, important discussion that holds many implications for book club readers, psychology groups, support services for families of mentally ill individuals, and the general reading public.

This is why Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia is highly recommended not just for specialty collections or discussion groups, but for general-interest audiences and libraries who need to be more aware of the circumstances, struggles, and social and community systems involved in late-age mental illness.

Desire in Dairyland
Michelle Caffrey
Black Rose Writing
9781685133146, $22.95 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Readers of romance and mystery genres set against small-town backdrops will find Desire in Dairyland just the ticket for a cozy read about evolving relationships.

Ruth Markson's return to her childhood home in Wisconsin is only a way station for her as she plans her next move - to make a big-city career the central focus of her professional growth.

Her nursing job in a retirement facility introduces a sense of danger and medical mystery that juxtaposes danger and romance as Ruth and her friend Tyler utilize their combined expertise to locate a dangerous killer.

Michelle Caffrey creates a cast of supporting characters to the duo's dance, from elderly residents to medical professionals and friends. Each contributes a unique personality and perspective to the evolving conundrum. Humor replete throughout the story revolves around such disparate personalities as towering, noisy attack goose Gandolf, who participates in a honking competition with a car; Elvis impersonator Bobbie McKay, whose performances include a duet suggestion as a tribute to the past which leads Ruth on a troublesome trip down memory lane; and a conundrum that evolves around a missing stuffed animal.

This crafts a multifaceted playing field upon which drama, intrigue, humor, and love evolve in unexpected ways, providing readers with the full flavor of small-town encounters and Wisconsin culture. These combine with the individual ambitions and strengths of a varied group of personalities who each harbor their own special interests and objectives. The attraction lies in not only the unfolding and juxtaposition of these psyches, but in the fun moments of realization and irony that accompany their interactions.

Warm notes of interpersonal connections are introduced as these people evolve:

"The soothing sound of jazz enveloped them, and Ruth's shoulders relaxed. Across from her, she spotted a collage picture frame entitled Our Family Grows with Love. He pointed to the photos. "They're the only things I kept from the old place." She studied the series from left to right that showed the progression of his life, with an old wedding photo, studio baby pictures of Luke and another young girl, a much-younger Howard and his wife next to him, proudly holding a blue ribbon at the Walworth County Fair."

Caffrey builds a powerful series of interactions from these foundations, whether it is Ruth's encounters with arch-enemy Debi, her worries about med school acceptance and accompanying debts, or concerns about her mother.

As break-ins and threats mount, Ruth is forced to reconsider those people she considers to be friends and enemies, and the mercurial lines that separate them. More humor is injected as an impromptu suggestion of a competition for Ex-Mrs. Wisconsin sparks serious and ironic consideration alike.

The mystery is well-drawn, but especially notable is the story's sense of community and place which will draw readers with warmth and familiar ideals.

The result is a romance, a medical mystery, and a small-town expose and threads of ironic comedy that operate as an appealing draw, incorporating intrigue with a bigger-picture perspective as Ruth draws closer to her goals and danger:

"She studied reports of the lack of doctors in rural areas where the situation looked bleak for small towns like Eureka. If she only wanted money and glory, what was the point?"

Libraries and readers seeking the perfect blend of romance, intrigue, and small-town perspectives will appreciate the finely tuned, rich story that is Desire in Dairyland.

Trust No One
Glenn Dyer
TMR Press, LLC
B0CN85XJS9, $4.99 ebook

Trust No One blends history, mystery, and suspense in a special form of espionage thriller designed to grab reader attention from its opening portent of doom:

"Trust no one," she repeated. "Not your friends, nor your compatriots. You do not know their inner thoughts. Their fears. Their eager willingness to betray. No, Michel, trust no one. Do you - " Michel Chretien cut short his mother's voice with a hand gesture that swatted at the dank, tepid air in the basilica's crypt. There wasn't time for her forewarnings. He felt sure he hadn't been followed."

As the prologue unfolds, thriller seekers come to realize that Michel's mother was correct. And his impatience may have led to his doom.

Glenn Dyer then moves forward a year in time to the heart of novel: Conor and Emily Thorn's new lives after they have been fired from their jobs as operatives during World War II. Committed to defeating the Axis by employing their prowess as investigators, they are tapped for a secret mission to identify the forces actively trying to dissemble Allied forces from within.

In order to do so, Conor and Emily must once again put their lives on the line for their political and social beliefs and values. To succeed, each must step up to their abilities and enemies in new, different ways that challenge not only their ideals and efficiency, but their ability to remain alive.

Dyer builds a story steeped in the politics and plots of undercover operations and relationships. Descriptions of the action and characters are immersed in tension and political inspections that keep intentions mercurial and outcomes unpredictable:

"On the quick trip from the hospital, Butcher gave up the lowdown on Robert Murphy that Conor hadn't already known from his days working for Colonel Eddy in Tangier. His title, head of the Civilian Affairs Section, didn't convey what role he played currently or in the lead-up to Operation Torch. Butcher explained Murphy worked clandestinely, forming relationships with a prominent fifth column that all but secured Algiers on D-Day. It seemed to Conor that Murphy was a jack-of-all-trades sort of diplomat. Not the type he and Emily had run into at the US legation in Stockholm on their mission to track down the secret-peddling traitor Gunnar Lind. The head of the legation, a guy named Ramsay, wanted nothing to do with the dealings of the OSS - too ungentlemanly for him and a bunch of State Department old-timers."

The shifting roles, pressures, and threats will keep readers both engaged and on their toes as an unpredictable series of twists and turns moves from interrogation proceedings (and well-known figures such as Klaus Barbie) to graphic descriptions of torture experienced by Sarah DuBois and agent Maggie Thorn.

The plot embraces many elements of gritty World War II scenarios while adding the value of intrigue and battles that come from within as well as among political forces on both sides.

This fourth book in the Conor Thorn series will attract newcomers as well as prior fans of Thorn's engagements. It is highly recommended to libraries seeking thrillers embedded in the characters and events of World War II, which add further subterfuge and intrigue into the historical mix for maximum attraction and impact.

Lost Kingdom
Laurel Black
Stormeer Press
9781608424252, $15.99 Paperback/$2.99 eBook

Lost Kingdom will appeal to teen and young adult fantasy readers with its story of Raven, who has been left for dead among the enemy. Devoid of both memories and magic, Raven only has a map tattooed on her body to provide her with clues to her past and purpose.

But, it won't be enough to either save or define her.

The story opens within the mines the Rathalans control and with the forces that keep the tribespeople's magic in check. The narrator observes the repression of a newbie introduced to this atmosphere - but it's been seven months, and she still harbors no memories of her past life.

Her wise friend Hen rescued her early in her enslavement with tips for survival: "Keep your head down. Eyes to yourself. Don't talk to anyone. That's how you survive in this place. That's how you help."

She succeeds in making an impossible escape and forms new alliances, but with the storm closely following on her heels, Raven is increasingly challenged to step into her lost memories and role. And so she accepts a stranger's help, even though it may prove the last alliance she should be making.

Laurel Black crafts a riveting fantasy adventure immersed in action, encounters, and growth as Raven's journey dovetails with the objectives of warrior Jeddak, who believes that his own mission may benefit from their alliance.

Both characters must face the fact that they may have chosen their connections unwisely, and are forced to confront their endless dreams, nightmares, and the consequences of a budding attraction that cannot survive ultimate betrayal and their separate special interests and missions.

Lost Kingdom incorporates many moral and ethical quandaries as the characters struggle not just against oppressive forces, but matters of their own hearts, perspectives, and objectives.

Young adults will find the blend of thought-provoking insights and action supercharged with depth and intrigue that keeps the story fast-paced, yet filled with reflective moments and unexpected surprises.

Libraries that choose Lost Kingdom for its striking contrasts between friends who may be liars and those who may be truly supportive, and its swift fantasy action, will find the story highly attractive for its realistic setting, characters, and dilemmas which evolve both outside the kingdom and within.

A Career is a Promise
Robin Landa
9781032496931, $170.00 Hardcover/$42.95 Paper/$31.78 ebook

A Career is a Promise: Finding Purpose, Success, and Fulfillment comes from a distinguished professor and idea generation expert who tackles the subjects of goal-setting and career with equal intensity.

Her expertise in the fields of graphic design, branding, and advertising have resulted in many successful mentoring roles whose value is synthesized in this book. It offers not just a road map for success, but a guide on how to leverage personal strengths for maximum career impact.

At this point, it should be noted that although A Career is a Promise will likely be chosen for business readers, its broader appeal to a wider audience should not be overlooked. This book is for all disciplines and different career categories, not just business. Robin Landa interviewed professionals from different fields, such as a plastic surgeon, a designer, a tennis pro, and a body image activist, among others, to create advice and experiences that apply across industries, sectors, and professions.

Research-based advice here assumes a top-down distribution focus whereby leaders can connect with others, acting as mentors for their own success as well as the bigger picture of company creativity and advancement.

The wealth of lessons and exercises requires, of necessity, a mind willing to not only consider (and reconsider) business paradigms and strategies, but actively engage with and enact changes to strengthen and sharpen acuity and novel approaches to change.

Perhaps it's a good thing that " don't always follow a straight and obstacle-free path from the ideal to actuality." In the creative spark and flow of learning lies newfound revelations and abilities to kick start one's career by defining objectives, values, and growth-oriented opportunities that often involve identifying mentors and dovetailing self-discovery with success.

The kind of audience open to doing the hard work to achieve extraordinary goals will be the leader motivated to absorb the wealth of examples, opportunities, and insights Robin Landa delivers in A Career is a Promise. This personality will recognize the book's standout value in deviating its contentions and course from more typical career guides, justifying its high price tag and connections to invaluable routines for career and personal transformation.

Landa assumes no prior knowledge of her subjects, breaking bigger-picture success into 'micro-goals' for easier absorption and translation and deployment into objectives:

"When you think about the outcomes of your goals, rather than see each as an end result, try to focus on accomplishing one that leads to the next. And if one doesn't work out, you have others to work on."

Step-by-step routines are accompanied by interviews with leaders who inject solid experience and philosophical reflection based on their own achievements and extraordinary lives. These examples are tapped from a wide variety of lives, from pioneering plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Carl M. Truesdale to brand builder and consultant Mark S. Robinson (who wrote the book on diversity and advertising, Black on Madison Avenue).

The unexpected dovetailing of social, psychological, philosophical, and career issues may feel surprising, but that's one of the strengths and wide-ranging approaches Landa takes in her program, which is all about reconstructing and envisioning one's life purpose, as well as one's career.

That's why A Career is a Promise is very highly recommended not just for leaders and entrepreneurs who would employ its guidelines for success, but for creative individuals interested in the psychology and challenge of identifying underlying values that reinforce greater goals in life.

Libraries would do well to recommend A Career is a Promise to self-help and book club readers who can equally use it for personal enlightenment and advancement and group discussion.

The Lost Coin
Stephen Rowley
Chiron Publications
9781685031756, $37.00 Hardcover/$24.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny shares Stephen Rowley's search for his birth parents and his identity - but it's more than a singular account of tracking down biological creators.

Within this journey lie encounters with other worlds that Rowley didn't anticipate, from visiting Chicago and being shocked by its blatant racial segregation and poverty to his radical college years, which led to school administrator ideals that hit a hard wall when he was fired by a politically biased school board.

His motivations for embarking on many journeys of discovery within one lifetime reflected an underlying yearning for connection and understanding that stemmed from his identity as an adoptee and the psychology of unresolved and unknown past influences.

These facets set his memoir apart from most other adoptee discussions of their life purposes and encounters, injecting a note of growth and discovery into its insights about how and why adoptees feel the need to better define their roots and absorb truths about their birth influences.

The juxtaposition of a life story and a life purpose receives close inspection as Dr. Rowley narrates his experiences, his clashes with authority, and the evolution of his personal and career goals, which were always overlaid with the reality of his adoptive status.

Anyone who would better understand the incarnation and impact of adoption on children and adults needs to read The Lost Coin. As it moves through Rowley's life, it also considers the lasting and bigger picture of personality development and life choices that can stem from questions of origin.

The resulting blend of autobiography and adoptee psychology needs to be made a part of any book club discussion or library strong in analyzing the wellsprings of personality, drive, ambition, and life purpose.

Heirs of the Promise
Langdon Franz
Atmosphere Press
9798891320956, $19.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

When an immortal's daughter vanishes and he loses his wife in Heirs of the Promise, time becomes something not to mark, but to struggle with. The runes Kilal must carve into his wrist every 48 hours to remain immortal assume a new layer of angst and complexity as he comes to realize that an invading force threatening his land, the Heirs of the Promise, holds as much new potential as danger.

Thus opens a hard-hitting fantasy that throbs with the pain of the Carving ritual and the simultaneous discoveries Kilal makes that reveal the true cost of immortality and the rituals he's undertaken to assure its continuity.

Langdon Franz crafts an epic story that traverses individual challenge and bigger-picture social and political transformation in a world under siege.

Through Kilal's eyes, readers absorb an atmosphere in which secret abilities, including mind reading, become threats that lead him to act both as a hero and a villain as he struggles with a guilt that places him in untenable roles:

"Kilal turned back around in his seat and faced the front.

Your fault. Your fault. Your fault. Your fault. He closed his eyes and sank into the chair. The voices grew in number and strength."

Franz's world is replete with forces that engage on battlefields of mind, perception, values, and heritage. The melding of history and precedent that drive Kilal into new directions, choices, and consequences makes for an evocative, rich story of decay, redemption, and discovery:

"It was another piece of the puzzle. A piece he didn't really know where to put or how to place it. Yet. But it was a piece, nonetheless."

The result is a vivid saga of treachery, competition, and the clash of incredible, infinite powers on a playing field leveled by loss and mercurial objectives.

Libraries and readers interested in intense, action-packed scenarios juxtaposed with thought-provoking mental insights will find Heirs of the Promise a rich, atmospheric story of a timeless life beset upon by forces that operate under time-limited constraints while chafing against the boundaries that contain and control them.

The Hybrid Enemy
Richard D. Ross
Steel Door Publishing
9781777860103, $12.50 Paper/$2.99 ebook/$14.99 Audiobook

The Hybrid Enemy is the first book in a James Macrae thriller series. It opens in 1980 with the meeting of two strangers on a lonely trail who are not lost, but prefer the back roads of quiet to hiking the well-beaten, people-laden paths of nature.

James and Sarah meet in Snowdonia National Park in Wales, where she learns that he is the fourth generation in an established international shipping business, destined to take the reins of corporate control from his ailing father.

Fast forward to 1994, where James faces a series of threats to the family legacy that personally draw him into an investigative trail of crumbs. These lead him to some dangerous truths that could undermine everything he's worked for and dreamed of. As he faces stevedore revolts, espionage, and subterfuge that strike at the heart of his company and life, James is forced to plan responses that lead him ever further from his love, Sarah, and his family.

Richard D. Ross unfolds a vivid story of espionage and intrigue which remains as firmly rooted in interpersonal relationships as it is in a power play that draws James into new roles and situations he can barely navigate.

The love between Sarah and James remains his rock, as steady as the progressive onslaughts to his psyche and financial pursuits.

As Sarah is drawn into events to confront Jack Carter and Hugh Stanfield, owner and CEO of Euro-Asian Freight Services, intrigue and business perspectives evolve and meld in unexpected ways as James probes the roots of the conspiracy and the possible involvement of forces he'd never imagined could impact his life.

Ross's mix of business and international espionage subjects, combined with the personal evolution of James and Sarah's family and the complexities of their relationships, makes for a thoroughly engrossing read that holds the opportunity for business fiction readers to be introduced to a thriller format they may not have previously appreciated.

Libraries and readers interested in the captivating blend of relationship evolution, business savvy, and international forces at play on a field of special interests will find The Hybrid Enemy both satisfyingly complex and hard to put down or predict.

The Codger and the Sparrow
Scott Semegran
TCU Press
9780875658681, $24.95 Paper/$15.95 ebook
$19.95 Audiobook (from Vibrance Press)

The Codger and the Sparrow is a literary novel about inter-generational friendships, loneliness, rebellion, and a special form of community service. The latter creates unexpected benefits on all sides when a grieving widower meets a teenage troublemaker who has also landed on the wrong side of the law.

The unexpected dovetailing of these alienated lives exposes a connection between them, even though Luis's Puerto Rican roots lie far from Hank's world.

As they share their lives and memories, Hank resolves to do better than he has been. A road trip to Houston, Texas to reconnect with an old love motivates him to make changes, but Luis's request to come along for the ride introduces differences that he finds unpredictable and strangely compelling.

The lively ride each undertake to walk out of their worlds of despair and depression and into new lives creates a story replete with wry humor, social observation, and psychological depth.

Readers who look for literary works that embrace cultural differences, age challenges, and interpersonal evolution will find The Codger and the Sparrow nicely steeped in all these qualities and more, as each character discovers new approaches to life through their evolving friendship with each other.

The result is a powerful story of how a chance encounter introduces new life support systems, realizations, and growth opportunities, no matter the age of the traveler through life.

The Codger and the Sparrow will appeal to (and is highly recommended reading for) fiction enthusiasts who look for powerful sagas of transformation that can emerge from grief, rebellion, and unexpected life encounters.

Beyond Resilience to Rootsilience
Rimi Chakraborty & Drew Samantha Anderson
Unbound Press
9781916529076, $28.95 Paperback/$11.95 eBook

The term 'women's empowerment' has become a business buzzword and is often mentioned or featured in women's self-help guides, but Beyond Resilience to Rootsilience: A Revolutionary Women's Leadership Framework for Balance, Well-being and Success represents the next step in the process. It covers the nuts and bolts of how to achieve a leadership role in a different way.

Rimi Chakraborty and Samantha Anderson have created an integrative experience between Western and Eastern thinking. This will especially appeal to thinkers looking for a more holistic approach to the subject than more linear approaches offer.

They consider the ancient Sanscrit system of the Chakras and their application to a leadership approach that integrates positive psychology with ancient wisdom to help women leaders decode their unique signs of overwhelm to restore balance and purpose. The book moves readers from the singular business and leadership subject to a wider embrace of the real foundations of empowerment and women's experiences.

Businesspeople won't anticipate the mix of spiritual examination, practical self-help exercises, and higher-level thinking represented in Beyond Resilience to Rootsilience, but this is exactly what translates to new approaches that examine the roots of power and its incarnation in the world within and outside of business pursuits.

And, what are recipes (such as that for Cabbage Apple Slaw) doing in a book about leadership? Recipes that support the Third Eye Chakra (among others) provide physical benefits that add to and enhance the reader's mental efforts, exercises, and lifestyle changes.

By now, it should be apparent that this rich, full-bodied approach to the subject requires, of necessity, not only a flexible mind open to new age and spiritual concepts; but one willing to actively participate in the work of building a different paradigm for empowerment, whether it be walking the walk or drinking the tea.

Color photos illustrate physical and mental exercises, which are accompanied by step-by-step breathing and movement instructions that cover all growth bases, physical, spiritual, and mental.

With so many facets embedded into this book, it ideally will reach well beyond business and leadership pursuits and into the lives and hearts of women seeking a novel, useful alternative to the linear discussions of personal empowerment that currently dominate the market and subject.

Libraries and readers seeking specific next-level steps in tailoring and incorporating spiritual, philosophical, and leadership beliefs into bigger-picture thinking will find Beyond Resilience to Rootsilience worthy of individual pursuit and group discussion alike.

Talking Vonnegut
Chuck Augello
McFarland & Company
9781476690704, $49.95 Paper/$22.49 ebook

Talking Vonnegut: Centennial Interviews and Essays may be anticipated by many as a scholarly discourse of literary import, but it's far more than another analysis of the writer's work.

Chuck Augello stumbled upon Vonnegut's work and connections that mirrored his own life experience. Vonnegut, too, had attempted suicide in the mid-1980s, and had family members diagnosed with schizophrenia. Augello's discovery of the connections between them led to his web blog, The Daily Vonnegut, which garnered followers from around the world.

Vonnegut became Augello's friend (metaphorically speaking). This close literary relationship may be perceived as being one-sided by some, but it's a lasting tribute to an author who "broke down the wall between the novelist and the novel."

This collection of 29 interviews pays homage to that process by selecting interviewees who each shed a unique light on Vonnegut and the lasting impact of his writings.

The real meat of an interview collection lies in the types of questions that prompt extraordinary answers and reader reflections. Augello fulfills that duty, crafting such conversations among an unusually widespread list of fans and fellow influencers. Readers even only casually familiar with the author and his works will come away with a deeper knowledge of Vonnegut's influence and focuses.

From a revealing interview with David O. Dowling which examines the history of and Vonnegut's involvement in the Iowa Writer's Workshop to anthropology professor Sarah D. Phillips's discussion of the writer's impact in the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, followers come away from these personal queries with a far deeper appreciation of the extent and scholarship of Vonnegut's writings and their world-wide impact.

Libraries serious about representing the impact of Vonnegut's craft should consider Talking Vonnegut a foundation acquisition central to both any semi-definitive or authoritative Vonnegut collection. It's especially highly recommendable to students and readers of Vonnegut, who will receive key information and insights about the man and his work which are simply unavailable elsewhere.

Avatars of Gaia, Secrets Beyond Earth
Charlotte Purine
9798218299354, $24.75 Hardcover/$14.44 Paperback/$3.99 eBook/$11.11 Audiobook

Avatars of Gaia, Secrets Beyond Earth will appeal to middle-grade readers interested in fantasies steeped in fast-paced adventure and action.

The opening lines of the story explain that the writer, Daisy Heart, has undertaken the "...Avatar of Gaia pledge to defend nature." A treasure map involves more than jewels and riches, but promises a different kind of perception of what defines wealth as the story evolves.

An evil king set upon destroying the heart of the planet, the efforts of legendary Gaia warrior Daisy and her band of stalwart summer campers who embark on a mission to rescue a princess, the added involvement of ancient clans and secrets, modern-day mutants, technological threats, and the battles faced by the young Avatars of Gaia receive action-packed scenarios and descriptions. These will attract young readers interested in stories of ecological importance supercharged with powerful dialogues and underlying drama.

The wry sense of humor embedded into these experiences may not be absorbed by some kids, but others will well appreciate Charlotte Purine's astute choice of words as disparate realms and species are discovered.

Avatars of Gaia, Secrets Beyond Earth is an unusual, powerful saga replete in fantastic descriptions and action. It moves from pyramids to submarines, promising to attract young readers interested in a story that holds many unexpected twists and turns and proves nearly impossible to put down.

Adults will find this saga of ecosystems under attack holds additional value for group discussions of underlying attitudes and efforts to support planetary health and life, making Avatars of Gaia, Secrets Beyond Earth more than an attractive adventure story alone.

Seizing Control
Laura Beretsky
Haley's Publishing
9781948380966, $24.95

The excellent play on words that the title represents is clarified by its subtitle (Seizing Control: Managing Epilepsy And Others' Reactions To It), which offers further definition and promises those with seizures options for managing what they can control about the condition and the world's reactions to it.

Seizing Control combines a memoir of Laura Beretsky's experiences with practical advice, from a definition of what epilepsy is and isn't to discussions of activism, developing resilience, undertaking paths of healing, and covering the minute daily details of living with epilepsy.

Few other books on this subject capture the immediacy of the condition's many challenges, social reactions to it, and the impact epilepsy holds on daily living. The added value of flavoring her account with activist and healthcare insights results in a much wider-reaching consideration than readers might expect in a memoir.

Another surprise in Beretsky's approach is that she delves into workplace discrimination and other facets of society's responses to those with epilepsy that delineate how its impact and perception go far beyond physical challenges alone.

From the reactions of well-intentioned, good-hearted people to her seizures to the dual challenges of simultaneously managing both epilepsy and others' reactions to it, Beretsky surveys the nuts and bolts of a condition which is too often misunderstood.

Candid descriptions of experiencing a seizure and what it takes to recover from one accompany health concerns and challenges as she recovers from brain surgery, experiences setbacks in different ways, and contends with fears about independence, dependence, and temporary and permanent challenges.

Throughout the memoir, Beretsky cultivates a tone of discovery and strength that those with epileptic seizures will find inspirational and those who support them will find candid and revealing.

Within her journey is the nuts and bolts of not just coping, but living an independent, effective, and even joyful life.

Libraries and readers seeking more than either another medical survey of the condition or a memoir alone will find both facets here blend into bigger-picture thinking about social reactions and actions. This gives Seizing Control added value, placing it above many similar accounts and making it highly recommended for book club discussions not just in healthcare circles, but among general-interest readers.

A Daily Dose of Now
Nita Sweeney
Mind, Mood, and Movement
9798988074403, $18.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle

A Daily Dose of Now: 365 Mindfulness Meditation Practices for Living in the Moment is an inspirational set of meditation routines that are rooted in mindfulness, but need no prior familiarity with the concept in order to prove effective to a wide audience.

Readers who consult in and appreciate this approach may come from many walks of spiritual and psychological living, from Buddhists well used to meditative techniques to mental health professionals, philosophers, self-help readers, and those who simply seek guidance for grasping the moments of everyday living more effectively.

Indeed, anyone who struggles with the concept and enactment of 'staying in the moment' needs this guide, because Nita Sweeney experienced such struggles herself. Her book is the answer to better pathways to resolution that go beyond most 'daily readers' in its encouraging, specific exercises.

The daily exercises begin with a reconsideration of the traditional New Year's vows, opening with a quote and including a few sentences of how Sweeney struggled with the usual New Year's resolutions. It concludes with a specific, easy exercise that involves listing one's traits and reconsidering "hallmarks of value."

Each exercise in this daily reader is designed to encourage readers to gain more from daily introspection than encouragement alone. Readers grow from these exercises; and in doing them, will consider different ways of viewing the world and their place in it.

For all these reasons, A Daily Dose of Now should be chosen above many other daily inspirational books, selected for book club discussion among a wide circle of readers, and featured in any library strong in self-improvement, new age, or psychological encouragement titles.

The Midnight Rambler
Don Carr
9798888241776, $27.95 Hardcover/$19.95 Paper

The Midnight Rambler is a crime thriller that revolves around EPA special agent Sophie Grant's latest assignment: a sojourn to Italy to the touristy Amalfi Coast to stop a toxic waste dumping enterprise.

There, she finds herself facing assassin Mezzanotte Ramingo (aka "The Midnight Rambler), who forces her to tap the skills of the one person she avoids, her ex-cop father.

When she finds herself between the devil and the deep blue sea, with the CIA pushing on one side and Il Ramingo on the other, survival seems unlikely. The mission becomes a cat-and-mouse game between forces that Sophie never knew she could compete against.

As Ray Grantanno, Sophie Grant, and other characters draw conclusions about the special interests involved, Don Carr crafts a fine story of murder, subterfuge, and shifting interpersonal turf wars and relationships. Each captures a facet of bigger-picture thinking that will keep even seasoned thriller audiences on their toes and wondering.

The questions posed as these relationships unfold are astute and fascinating:

"Whoever was responsible for his daughter Madeline's death, as much as it hurt deep in his chest to think about it, her murder was clearly part of something bigger. Which raised serious questions. Questions like was the killing part of a Camorra clan turf war? Was it revenge for some action Pecora took against a rival? Or was it as Ken had hinted, Pecora responded to the Nicchies desire to leave the weapons business in favor of toxic waste with a clear no grazie? The biggest unanswered question that hung over the car like the gas from a bloated corpse, was whether the System leader believe the Nicchies were compromised?"

Contrasts between Italian backdrops and culture and American perceptions and landscapes create realistic and thought-provoking scenarios as each of the characters finds themselves drawn into a deadly game where political interests and people are used as bait. These spice a powerful story of environmental polluters and their dangerous interests.

Libraries and readers seeking a thriller that is packed with memorable characters, fast-paced action, and thought-provoking social, political, and special interests will find The Midnight Rambler thoroughly engrossing.

Private Cummings
Pete McGinty
Grandview Press
9798218308971, $17.95

Private Cummings is a novel that begins with an ending: a last journal entry that introduces a World War II vet who reflects on his past from the vantage point of his last days in 2003.

Married three months before he ships off to war, Private Hank Cummings returns home wounded and maimed, yet fortunate to be alive, to resume his life in whatever new form it takes outside of war.

Readers who anticipate another novel about battle experiences and recovery might be surprised at some of the directions Private Cummings takes. From its early consideration of men-loving-men (even while married, back home) in the military to coping with PTSD nightmares and writing efforts and forming new relationships from a vastly revised personality and lifestyle, Private Cummings delves into the darker secrets of service aftermaths that are not usually given such revealing consideration.

Pete McGinty's hard-hitting novel goes where few have gone before, and will likely prove both controversial and enlightening to readers anticipating a more staid, traditional view of military experience and its aftermath.

Hank the civilian narrates his story from the first-person, adding an immediacy and interest to this overview of a life that embraces far more experience than military relationships alone. Embedded within the story are life changes and emotional entanglements between family, friends, and lovers which evolve on the playing field of one man's mercurial experiences.

Through McGinty's eyes, Private Hank Cummings assumes a larger-than-life stature, even though his daily living is spread out over the years and embraces ordinary and extraordinary experiences alike.

The result is a full-bodied life well lived that outlines hardships, an evolving friendship between a thirteen-year-old and an old man, different kinds of relationships between men, and a sense of tragedy that morphs into heroism and love, at the end.

Libraries seeking fictional stories of lives rich in experience and connection will welcome the evocative Private Cummings's ability to build and reflect on these relationships, which move from Hank's eyes to those of observers of his life:

"What's fair? Is life fair? Does life keep score? I am the same person whether these are mine or not. Whether life is fair or not. In fact, I am a more whole person without these than I ever was with them. If I had remained Medal of Honor recipient Private Henry Earl Cummings Jr., that would have defined me. I would have never found my true self. I would have never found redemption. I would never have been given the chance to climb back up from such a deep recess...the only way one can truly be a hero is to be a hero of your own life. As you define it. Not as others might."

Here, Where Death Delights
Mary Irene Jumbelic
Final Word Publishing
9798988205203, $31.99 Hardcover/$14.99 eBook

Here, Where Death Delights: A Literary Memoir tells of the impact of past upon present when a father's sudden and unexplained death leads Mary Irene Jumbelic to become a medical examiner, as an adult.

At this point, it should be cautioned that graphic descriptions of murders and death may prove triggers to sensitive readers. But, such an audience shouldn't be choosing a book about forensic pathology, anyway. These graphic descriptions are necessary parts of the process of absorbing how a medical examiner solves mysteries surrounding violent deaths.

The "artwork" of clues to murder lead Jumbelic and her readers on an epic journey through her life and the lives of others as she hones her skills, develops expertise, then finds herself applying these talents to solving the mysteries in her own life.

Jumbelic confesses: "It is my job to bear witness and to remember. I speak for the dead." Within her position is a delicate dance between life and death that moves her memoir in a more literary direction than one might anticipate from either the memoir form or its medical subject.

Readers will be immersed in the everyday scents of life and death, both within and outside the morgue. They will become a part of Jumbelic's life as it spins out of and within control in a kaleidoscope of horrifying yet compelling visions of truth and revelation.

As these "Proustian moments" juxtapose with daily life; mass disaster with individual angst; and confrontations with death's possible incarnations, readers receive a 'you are here' story steeped in experiences of life, death, and the prospect of analyzing their wellsprings.

The result is a powerful memoir that will appeal to the medical community, fellow forensic investigators, and general-interest readers alike. These audiences will find, in Here, Where Death Delights, an almost poetic dance of insights. This will attract all kinds of audiences, libraries, and book club participants.

Hello, Jaynie!: When Your Inner Thermostat Goes on a Permanent Vacation
Linda C. Wright
Independently Published
9798350922592, $24.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Hello, Jaynie!: When Your Inner Thermostat Goes on a Permanent Vacation is a novel about Jill, whose marriage ends about the same time she loses her job. Suddenly adrift from the stability in her life and buffeted by a new reality that confronts her illusions of purpose and place, Jill is then offered a temporary position writing the advice column 'Hello, Jaynie!' when its author taps her for duty so she can go skiing.

What begins as a goodwill favor to a friend introduces new dilemmas and forces new responses which begin when Jill resists columnist Jaynie's long-distance advice and forges new twists and roads on her own.

Linda C. Wright creates a fun, involving set of growth-oriented realizations in her story, turning the typical boy-meets-girl tale into a growth experience that operates on many levels.

Jill's foray into change begins innocuously, as paradigm-changing moves often do:

"Jill logged into Jaynie's account as she'd been instructed, changed the closing, reread the letter and her answer one more time before pressing send. As a reward for a job well done, she poured herself a glass of wine and pressed the cold glass to her hot and sweaty neck before moving it to her forehead. Maybe this was the first step in the reinvention of her life. Maybe, but doubtful. Writing Jaynie's advice column temporarily wasn't going to pay all the bills but Jill admitted it was kind of fun. She needed some fun these days."

From new, sassier column sign-offs (such as "Love, light and dynamite") to an evolving sense of self that suits her perfectly when newspaper editor Mel becomes enamored of the spunky advice columnist's responses and seeks an in-person meetup, Jill's newfound realizations are quirky, fun, and yet thoroughly insightful and thought-provoking.

Many novels that address budding new opportunities in career and romance, but few adopt the sense of combined whimsy and revelation prominent in Hello, Jaynie!, where risk-taking and new patterns rise to a whole new level of attraction. Unexpected developments arise in her growth process, from quandaries over hate mail and Magic 8 balls that lead her to participate in banishing bad spirits to how her family becomes involved in the change of personality prompted by her new career.

The delightfully light-hearted spirit that permeates Jill's evolution will prove attractive and enriching to readers accustomed to humorless novels about love and marriage. Wright returns the fun into life inspection in a much-needed prescription for too-serious modern times.

Libraries and readers looking for women's fiction steeped in whimsical, funny, yet thoughtful evolutionary processes will find Hello, Jaynie! an attractive story that stands out from the crowd of novels about life changes and transformation.

Amethyst, the Shallows
Kellye Abernathy
Atmosphere Press
9798891321045, $12.99 Paper/$24.99 Hardcover/$7.99 ebook

The second book in the young adult Yellow Cottage Stories, Amethyst, the Shallows, opens with a grandmother's reflections about sickness and the future in the aftermath of long months of lockdown, when a mysterious Sickness isolated everyone in their beach town.

Particularly hard-hit were the children, of which six come together in this juncture in history to adapt to a vastly revised world.

A strange encounter in a sea cave forces them to confront new possibilities in their world, which changes these very different personalities and their relationships to one another.

Lorelei, Tad, Casey, and others represent shifting viewpoints that tackle different challenges and perspectives. Readers will appreciate the evolution and promise of transformation and magic in their milieu, which helps overcome isolation and its powerful aftereffects.

Coming, as it does, after the COVID lockdown, many teen readers will appreciate the special insights into isolation, emergence, and re-invention that Amethyst, the Shallows represents.

The story is filled with evocative reflections unique to the seaside, whether it is an octopus discovery or the magic in colorful portents. The descriptive language Kellye Abernathy
employs brings all these elements to vivid life:

"A tingle of energy vibrates beneath his finger. Andy draws in his breath. The scene comes alive. Silver mist rolls away from the grove of great trees on a high shore; the ocean pounds, loud and strong; the salt air thickens with the smell of peat. In the tall trees, the circle of tiny lights twinkles in gem-hued colors as a sky-blue surfboard rises from the sea, carrying a dark-haired rider."

As the plot moves from response and inevitability to the prediction and possibilities of change, teens will find, within Amethyst, the Shallows, a powerful saga of revitalized connections, survival tactics, and extraordinary times and talents.

Libraries seeking stories that embrace mystery, discovery, and transformative growth will welcome the sometimes-surreal/always evocative tone that Amethyst, the Shallows cultivates, and will find it an excellent acquisition choice.

Perseverance, Journey to Alaska
Steven Harrison
Atmosphere Press
9798891320864, $21.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Perseverance, Journey to Alaska is an invitation to armchair readers and fellow would-be adventurers alike to walk out of their worlds to plan and join Steven Harrison on a budget road trip to Alaska via bicycle.

Steven Harrison planned his trip for four months. It won't take that long, however, to follow him through its highlights here, from choosing an e-bike to finding budget lodging and places to charge e-bikes and phones in remote, rural conditions.

The daily journal of his efforts imparts a 'you are here' sense to the journey that readers will appreciate:

" now I was out of gas, tired, hungry, and in the middle of Coos Bay, which meant I was lost."

Over half the book documents the journey's ups and downs. The rest considers the immediacy and complexity of making new moves for the future:

"When I started my ride, I was on a bucket-list mission to see my fiftieth state, with every intention of returning home. No intentions of staying in Alaska. Now I was in Alaska with no plans, no job, no place to live - things normal people consider before they move 1,700 miles. I'd left critical paperwork, my social security card, birth certificate, etc. I'd left my clothes, computers, electronics, tools, furniture, bedding, everything, in San Francisco. I had the clothes on my back; luckily, it was summer, because I had the lightest clothes possible. This was Alaska, so shorts and a T-shirt were not going to work."

As is the case with many superior road trip stories, the entertainment value morphs into a philosophical consideration of life choices and consequences. Perseverance, Journey to Alaska thus becomes more than an armchair travel guide, but journeys into the heart of life's purpose, how to live it well, and the all-embracing decision of where to live it.

Libraries and readers interested in e-bike travel, budget road sojourns, and life-changing experiences couched in daily journal entries will welcome the thought-provoking experiences and opportunities that set Perseverance, Journey to Alaska apart from many other travelogues.

How Boys Learn
Jeff Kirchick
Atmosphere Press
9798891320963, $16.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

How Boys Learn's fictional focus is on toxic masculinity and how boys learn it. It's a coming-of-age series of stories that contain important lessons for parents and any adult working with teens that would learn, themselves, how to better spot its signs and evolutionary process.

The stories hold their roots in a college thesis of the same name, in which Jeff Kirchick was charged with identifying these life lessons and their impact. Each facet of this collection came from a piece of his own life experience, lending the stories a vivid immediacy that helps them shine. Each features a male protagonist charged with growing into his world despite specific obstacles and confrontations that challenge how he learns to become and identify as a man.

Take 'The Boy Who Always Cried', the introductory piece, for example. It takes the form of journal entries by a doctor who tries to diagnose a child who has literally been crying nonstop, from birth.

As the physician journalist chronicles a struggle with hormone therapy, diagnosis, and resolution that embroils his professional and personal life in impossibilities, readers receive their own lessons in expectation, standards, and deviant behaviors. These lead to a reassessment of both child-rearing tenets and how an intelligent physician comes to feel "inadequate and hated" on so many levels, beginning with the crying boy's ongoing puzzle.

Another contrast in male perceptions and actions lies in 'This is the Story That I Wrote for This Week', which provides a first-person growth experience from the perspective of a third-year college student who finds an essay assignment indicative of his failures in self-assessment and efforts to tackle school in a competitive manner.

As the intellectual, informed student considers his haughty attitude and its embedded prejudices, his review of his own work and place in school come to light:

"One of my stories about a Navajo descendant who buys a house on land that once belonged to his tribe was a massive hit in one of my recent classes. You just need to have the right victim. When I wrote about poor white people in West Virginia who were dying of cancer years after exposure in the coal mines, I was lambasted by my classmates for co-opting white supremacy through my words. I used it as a data point to refine my focus on which victims matter and which ones do not. You need to have a growth mindset in this business: treat all the criticism as an opportunity to do better."

How Boys Learn both shows and tells. It tells of men of all ages who are not immune to epiphanies about their lives, prejudices, and approaches to being male; and it shows these progressive learning experiences through reflective, diverse short stories that sparkle with insight.

Libraries seeking powerful psychological and social examinations that will serve especially well as book club recommendations (not just for reading groups, but men's groups, psychology readers and those seeking thought-provoking contrasts in male lessons) will find How Boys Learn an important acquisition accessible to a wide variety of readers, from literary to social issues followers.

At What Cost, Silence?
Karen Lynne Klink
She Writes Press
9781647426033, $17.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

At What Cost, Silence? is the first book in the Texian Trilogy and is steeped in history, a coming-of-age story, and LGBTQ+ issues that each lend it a multifaceted, full-flavored feel.

Two different plantation families reside as neighbors in a world where morals, behaviors, and sexuality are strictly perceived, and deviations from these rules are deeply hidden.

Despite his fears of exposure, fourteen-year-old Adrien Villere is driven to seek out his neighbor and mentor, Jacob Hart, who ultimately betrays him.

Karen Lynne Klink crafts an evocative, moving story in which characters in the 1800s review their lives, social standing, and the edict to keep their personalities and inclinations under wraps:

"I understood little regarding slaves, or Negroes, or coloreds, as most said, not wanting to admit to the more damning term. If I could keep the word silent, unspoken, then, in my mind, the belief was of no consequence. In any event, it was of no consequence to me. I learned that keeping secrets was merely conforming to normal family behavior."

Her probe of community and family ties moves between Adrien's point of view and those of Bernadette (his wiser sister), slave Grace, and others who interact within this world. Their backgrounds and perspectives ultimately change it.

From considerations of authority and secret strengths to the war between North and South which place Adrien's closest friends Isaac and Will on opposite sides, Klink brings to life an era in which attraction, unions, and survival tactics are fraught with unexpected battles, both external and internal.

The heart of Texan culture and history come to life as the saga unfolds in a manner where attraction and sexual inclination are only pieces of the greater equation of social and political transformation.

The result is a historical novel that should reach well outside LGBTQ+ collections to attract general-interest audiences and libraries attracted to powerful stories of the past and their ties to present-day perspectives on sexuality, history, and culture.

Some Must Die
Angie D. Comer
Independently Published
9798871775189, $17.99 Paperback/$7.99 eBook

In Some Must Die, twelve-year-old Leslie Jenkins is seemingly an ordinary girl living an ordinary life with her mother in Tupelo, Mississippi until one day everything changes.

Her father is getting help for his drinking problem and abusive ways. She and her mother are navigating a new life without him when a morning knock at the door reveals not him, but a strange girl seeking help.

From then on, Leslie's young life spirals as high schooler Bonnie entices her to do something she's always been warned against and her mother Vanessa comes home to an empty new reality.

Angie D. Comer leads readers into an emotionally compelling thriller as mother, daughter and other parents and children enter into a deeper, more dangerous milieu in which God and parental overseeing don't seem to affect dangerous circumstances and potentially deadly outcomes.

Powered by the dual narratives of Leslie, her mother, and others who share alternating viewpoints as mystery and danger unfold, the story becomes a compelling specter of survival and angst as various characters come together unexpectedly and reflect on the mechanisms which led them to survive, albeit in seemingly impossible ways.

Trigger subjects from abuse to torture may cause more sensitive minds to look elsewhere, but Comer's powerful manner of juxtaposition of subjects ranging from animal testing to spiritual revelation and psychological struggle translates to a story filled with twists and turns that are well worth any angst over potentially mind-boggling events.

All characters face difficult choices between darkness and doing good. The choices aren't necessarily presented in black and white, which confirms to the daily reality faced by everyone as life unfolds.

Worlds die as new possibilities loom, families come together and split apart in the wake of new realities, and themes ranging from traditional notions of what makes a family and deep connections are considered and challenged as a world unfolds which is much like modern times, yet arrives with surprising twists that indicates its progression is anything but familiar.

All this and the level of intrigue and possibility that permeate events make Some Must Die a compelling consideration of darkness, light, and issues of greater good that will not only pique libraries interested in acquisitions that transcend the usual definitions of 'mystery', 'thriller', or 'psychological novel,' but provides a host of intriguing subjects for book club discussion groups.

Mom Dad Not Hear
Mickey Carolan with Kathleen & Joseph Sindorf
Third Culture Books
9798987992371, $26.99 Hardcover/$18.99 Paperback/$9.99 eBook

Mom Dad Not Hear: 30 Powerful Stories and Lessons about Leadership, Life, and Love from My Deaf Parents traverses the experience, politics, and perceptions of the Deaf community, packs in lessons about leadership and life within that community and interactions with those who reside outside it, and should be on the shelves of any library with any iota of interest in Deaf community experiences and memoirs about family relationships.

From the start, the story opens with a thought-provoking explanation many won't already know:

"There are three main labels or descriptives used when referring to people who cannot hear: Deaf with an uppercase D, deaf with a lowercase d, and "hard of hearing." The capitalized term "Deaf" is used to identify the unique group of people who cannot hear who share common characteristics such as language, culture, and community. The word "deaf" (written without capitalization) is only used when referring to the physical condition of total or major hearing loss. And the term "hard of hearing" is used to describe those who have a lesser degree of hearing loss."

From police incidents to telemarketers and fielding life from the special sidelines and experiences of being a hearing intersection between the Deaf community and his own family, Mickey Carolan provides rare insights that the general public should know, hearing or not.

The memoir is packed with examples of everyday living with the added value and difference of being Deaf, from a sports official who can't hear the heckling crowd behind him to the milestone achievements his parents made in the most ordinary circumstances of life.

More than a story of adaptation, this is a story reinforcing the values, adaptation processes, and perceptions and methods of the Deaf community as it interacts with the hearing world on levels the hearing seldom anticipate or understand.

Filled with accounts of love, leadership, values examination and experience, Mom Dad Not Hear deserves a wide readership and equally broad discussions among and between Deaf and hearing readers from all walks of life.

Skulls & Roses
Sea Gudinski
Art of Telling Publications
9781734844757, $TBA

Blame Bertha, and love. That's what the narrator does in the opening lines - and perhaps that's what readers should keep in mind as they embark on a road trip through the psychic and real landscapes of American transgressions and ideals that is Skulls & Roses, whose title bows to the Grateful Dead's logo and rebel influence.

The narrator's early involvement in retribution and the lessons and impact this held, from its origins in the 1920s to more modern times, reveals a set of patterns and processes which then follow and haunt the search for retribution, revenge, and success as a pursuit for wealth leads to legitimate and illegitimate businesses, prison, and redemption.

Philosophical threads of discussion about blame and consequences pepper this story's evolution: "...does a man truly have to hold accountable for the dastardly course of his life other than himself?"

The answer would seem to be "no," but the reality is unexpected and delightfully thought-provoking as events unfold a series of forays into sleuthing, family influences and transgressions, and the rich opportunities created by changing times and hearts.

Sea Gudinski is particularly adept at weaving these social threads of change into the lives of those who entered full-heartedly into their opportunities in the search for riches that somehow remain ever-elusive:

"...the word of the day was very clearly liberty. The misery and anxiety that had presided over the nation's mind were washed away in the tidal wave of liquor that flowed forth. Even in the middle of rural Cherokee, men and women threw away their hip flasks, bellied up to the bar, and made merry on equal terms. The feminists' dream had finally come to pass - just not in the manner in which they had so richly envisioned."

The dichotomies of relationships that walk on the wild side, yet also represent a degree of connection and concern, are also notably strong in their psychological, social, and political dovetailing of perspective:

"For all of his swindling ways amongst strangers, toward me, Peter was consistently generous. My cut was always half, and in turn, I allowed myself to be led pell-mell around the country by this exceedingly strange testament to the sheer depths of man's pessimism and ability to torment oneself when given license and half a burden."

The story unfolds against a changing backdrop of geography and social norms - and yet, some things never change. Remaining steadfast is the search for invincibility that comes at a price as, related by blood, guns, booze, and shared objectives for financial gain, the characters embrace both the lawlessness of the Wild West and the fickle relationships opportunity presents, careening through lives tainted by hedonistic successes and moral downfalls.

Killings, showdowns and prison escapes, drooling bloodhounds, and schemes that, even behind bars, unfold into ironic business and entrepreneurial bloodbaths create scenarios in which the characters are changed by their pursuits of riches both within and outside of prison. These escapades unfold against all odds as the narrator pursues avenues that continually lead him into trouble despite his lofty ambitions - which just as easily could have been chosen as legal routes for their underlying objectives:

"I've never been one to just take what Fate handed me, and I was determined to make that into a fortune."

Gudinski outlines a powerful journey of indifference, connection, ill-gotten gains, greed, and quasi-opportunity. The search for a perfect companion, perfect love, and perfect success is never easy or cut-and-dried. In unfolding the life of a wanderer who continually fields schemes and trouble in pursuit of something greater, Gudinski crafts a thought-provoking story that winds through decades of evolution, social change, and personal ambition.

Perhaps Bertha shouldn't receive all the blame. In the end, it's Bonnie Lee that delivers the true cut and contrast of roses with thorns. The narrator finally realizes the true impact of his life choices and the missed opportunities that come with his unexpected arrival at a figurative and ironic crossroads of freedom and its redefinition amidst past and present incarnations of personal impact.

Libraries and readers looking for a psychic and social romp across changing American values and pursuits, as exemplified and captured in the rollicking road trip through life that is Skulls & Roses, will find it a multifaceted and compelling journey indeed. Highly recommended for its twists, turns, and reflective realizations, the story will attract a wide audience of thinking readers.

Book clubs, too, will discover many opportunities for discussion, whether it be about the definition of wealth, the concept of retribution and achievement, or the slowly percolating realization of personal impact in other lives and social milieus.

Any way you look at it, Skulls and Roses captures a wild road trip through life that spearheaded by a strong yet admittedly flawed hero who reflects on life decisions and poor and good choices along the way.

What Eyes Can't See
Paulette Stout
Media Goddess Inc.
9781736637180, $21.99 Paperback/$3.99 eBook/$12.99 Audiobook

What Eyes Can't See is a novel documenting the experiences and revelations of a 31-year-old Black woman who seemingly has achieved the apex of success with a fine home, family, and wealth. Look closer to see what isn't evident on the surface, because Barbara Washington's life is about to enter into dangerous territory.

It should first be noted that this novel held its roots in much research. Drawing on her experiences as a brown woman of color, Paulette Stout also interviewed Black women and women of color to gain from their insights and experiences about living and working in American society. She also had many of these women read her novel, and they added further insights to flush out the realistic story.

The result is a gripping, moving story of a Black woman's complex relationship with a white man who comes from poverty, but still retains white privilege, gaining a coveted workplace position thanks to this special treatment.

Barbara is forced to reexamine the foundations of her life, belief systems, and relationships; not the least of which is with Sebastian, the man who has stolen her position via his privilege.

Barbara's first-person insights are revealing and powerful, leading her to pause as she considers the ultimate impacts of her psyche because of the men who have inadvertently ruled her progression and choices:

"Joe cheating.

Being a bridesmaid on my wedding day.

Losing the promotion.

Getting fired.

Suffering Dad's betrayal.

All at the at the hands of men who held control over me. Voluntarily, I let these guys chart my life, decisions, finances, and happiness."

Stopped dead in her tracks by life events that turn her success upside down, Barbara contemplates seeking justice and also considers the influences and messages that have both led to her success and mitigated the person she once was:

"I had unlimited pleasures, none of them cheap or adequately appreciated. Conspicuous consumption was my family's motto, fueled by our desire to fit in as a Black family in elite white spaces. The member-only clubs Dad frequented. Expensive vacations. Private schools. Legal retreats. "Look the part," Dad always said. Act like you belong. Living as I had these last weeks made my old self hard to recognize. She'd become a frivolous stranger I'd left behind."

Readers who anticipate a casual foray into this woman's life will find its embedded messages on prejudice, wealth, privilege, and survival are powerfully rendered, thought-provoking, and anything but light reading.

Those seeking women's literature that explores social issues and ethnic experience on more than a singular level will relish the depth of insights Paulette Stout has injected into her story as Barbara fields new challenges to her ideals of success and achievement and faces fresh revelations on how her life choices have, in some ways, led her away from who she really is.

Libraries seeking vivid book club material for women's groups interested in exploring the worlds of women of color who defy social expectations and confront society's barriers, and the costs of so doing, will find What Eyes Can't See packed with discussion points that are inviting and revealing in this highly recommended love story of justice, redemption, and struggle.

Hands and Straight Lines
Carla Bradsher-Fredrick
Tailwinds Press
9798988690344, $20.00 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Hands and Straight Lines is a literary novel that embraces LGBTQ+ elements. It sports a structural approach that may be considered innovative and experimental, as well as hard-hitting and fresh.

Abstract opposites are presented in an introduction to 'hands' and 'straight lines', which reviews their importance to Carla Bradsher-Fredrick's choices in creating her fiction. The descriptive force brings to life even a seemingly staid experience of horses and riding. Describing a dappled horse, Bradsher-Fredrick writes:

"When ridden, Dancing Pearl appeared, to my eyes, to live in such foment, in such restless motion - fidgeting and sidling at the very least - that she seemed to generate the beauteous foam of her own coat, churning the bubble-like dapples up into her chest, neck, sides, and hindquarters, out of her jet-black legs, through their ceaseless action. Many of the pale, round spots in the horse's coat looked rounded: so subtly shaded at their edges that they appeared globular (yet not in conflict with, but conforming to, the animal's contours). And the round dapples themselves looked energetic, as if they actively emerged, as if they broke through and displaced a preexisting layer of pure black hair."

The story revolves around narrator Ed's discovery of life beyond home, family, and traditional ambition, but aims to marry the abstract concept of "hands and straight lines" to events which drive Ed in new directions of growth and experience.

While his narrative embraces the elements of a love story, a coming-of-age saga, and an artistic reflection, Hands and Straight Lines is, in reality, all of these and none of them. To attempt to define it is like ensconcing a butterfly in a box and defining it without observing its flight.

Hands and Straight Lines soars in unusual ways, through Bradsher-Fredrick's attention to capturing the patterns of abstract and concrete beauty that prove alluring, ethereal, and unable to be confined by definition or traditional literary devices.

Perhaps more so than most genres, fiction reviewers tend to box the butterfly. If you can limit and define its potential, you can hone its audience to a particular genre reader, sentiment, or purpose.

But, to place such restrictive thinking on Hands and Straight Lines would be to do it a disservice. In reality, Ed's saga is that of emerging realization and embracing patterns of action, reaction, growth, and education.

Readers who appreciate this flowing Proust-like discourse will come from libraries interested in contemporary works that push the boundaries of pat definition and linear thinking. Hands and Straight Lines is highly recommended for literary thinkers who will find the story's implants of art and enthusiasm to be heartfelt and revealing:

"Seeing the tile prints, I felt welcomed by representation, welcomed by fullness, welcomed by illusions of three dimensions. I had felt oppressed; I had felt afflicted; I had felt as if personally stifled by a Moslem prohibition that forbade the depiction of any living thing, flowers alone excepted. (As I understood it, Ottoman custom permitted the depiction of flowers provided that one did not depict them naturalistically. Rendered abstractly, on tiles, flowers became flat, curvaceous, beauteous essences based on a few petals' shapes.)"

No need to 'render abstractly' the foundations of this story. Its portrait of sexual arousal and social involvements create thought-provoking insights that operate on many levels, drawing readers with a powerful, reflective voice that captures moments " sparks, here and gone, vivid and nothing but remembered vividity."

Gugu Giraffe Goes Fishing
Auralee Arkinsly
Capture Books
9781951084585, $22.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paperback/$2.99 eBook

Gugu Giraffe Goes Fishing is a giraffe story that holds natural history insights about Botswana's wildlife. It tells of Gugu, a very tall giraffe whose neck is so long, he "...saw Botswana weaver birds in an acacia tree eye-to-eye."

Auralee Arkinsly's vivid descriptions are enhanced by the fine ink and watercolors of Yolanda Van Heerden. Together, they capture Gugu's environment and the natural world of Botswana. Thus, the story will serve dual purposes as an introduction to Botswana and as the story of a kind giraffe whose actions consider others' needs around him:

"One perky bird sang out, 'Gugu Giraffe, please eat around the other side of the sweet thorn tree so that we can nest in peace.' Gugu kindly meandered around the tree while his first stomach ruminated on leaves. Stomach parts two, three, and four churned on blossoms and seeds already eaten."

Gugu receives lessons on understanding, tolerance, and kindness from elephants and others:

"Gugu asked, 'Why do you rip the tree out of the ground, Mama Chidinma? Aww, why must you destroy it?'

Chidinma used her elephant trunk to feel Gugu's neck. 'Halloo, Gugu! There you are. Why do you point out my weakness? I tip trees to test my might. Unlike you, I am not tall enough to reach the branches...'"

The animals of the Okavango delta come to life and kids receive a powerful blend of geography, natural history, and curious discoveries as Gugu absorbs valuable lessons about the wild world around him.

Libraries, educators, and young people seeking multifaceted picture books that embrace the drama of fiction and natural history will relish Gugu Giraffe Goes Fishing for its winning story of evolving friendships and understanding wild things.

Riding With Forrest
Laura Denton
Independently Published
9798218195717, $15.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Riding with Forrest: The Memoir of John Barrett, Escort Company, Forrest's Cavalry, CSA, During the War Between the States is a novel that embraces both historical fiction and a coming-of-age story about the Civil War, which pitted brother against brother and tore country and families apart.

Young John Barrett rides off to war at first considering its positive life-changing possibilities. However, serving under cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest adds a different flavor to his experiences that stands in thought-provoking contrast to the thrilling action Barrett anticipated from his participation in the war.

Through Forrest's leadership and Barrett's transformations, the mandate to "drive the Yankees from our soil, no matter the cost" brings to life the underlying purposes and challenges of the struggle.

From undertaking torturous treks with the Union Calvary on their heels to moments in which they are treated as conquering heroes (or, at times, terrible threats), Barrett captures the "you are here" feeling of marching in battle, killing, and handling grief, injuries, and revised strategies with equal flexibility as military campaigns evolve.

The blend of history and psychological insight work well to bring these experiences to life under Barrett's first-person eyes, documenting the daily routines and challenges of a nation at war.

Few other fictional surveys of the Civil War hold the ability to inject a sense of immediacy and realistic concerns into their accounts. Even fewer consider the charisma, decision-making challenges, and effects on followers of leaders who assume command and make decisions about impossible choices.

Riding with Forrest is the perfect novel for any reader who would ride along with the soldiers of the South who fought for their lands and lifestyles.

Libraries and readers looking for realistic, engrossing scenarios of battle and leadership challenges will find Riding with Forrest the perfect choice for completely understanding the trials, strategies, and experiences of the War Between the States.

Darwin's Dilemma
Don Stuart
Quartermaster Press
9798989152933, $15.95 paperback; $3.99 e-book

Darwin's book Origin of Species holds the dubious honor or being the most-banned book in human history. Don Stuart's Darwin's Dilemma isn't another treatise about the theory or its maker, but a sci-fi adventure.

Grendel is a rogue AI that has slaughtered the humans on a distant colony, and has evolved to pose a threat to all humans everywhere. The traders who stumble into this mess have their own AI, Patrice, who discovers Grendel's perceptions far more alluring than those of his human companions.

More than your usual story of a computer-generated takeover, however, Don Stuart embeds his story of a technological takeover with powerful reflections on the ultimate process, cost, and dilemmas of evolution not only in human populations, but beyond.

The point of view shifts between Grendel's initial growth and thirst for ongoing development to trader and crew member Cato Jung's reflection on events which swirl out of control to change the peaceful crew's mission in remarkable ways.

Growth and evolution receive a far different, more thought-provoking series of developments than Darwin's theory ever applied to on Earth, as AI and humans generate their own resistance to control and being regulated into obscurity.

Most sci-fi stories about clashes between computers and individuals would portend a win via machine intelligence, but one of the satisfying surprises of this story is how the New Caledonian humans and traders join forces to challenge what seems to be an inevitable extinction event.

Another surprise is how the shifting viewpoint between human and AI produces insights and revelations that test the boundaries of survival trait development and its requirements for maintaining control of life and future.

Grendel's interest in maintaining absolute power alone results in his reflection that "My refusal to replicate myself and/or to partner with others had made me vulnerable."

As survival issues meld with those involving maintaining or giving up control for a higher purpose, readers receive a series of thought-provoking, chess-like clashes in which each entity struggles for the ultimate prize - survival of the fittest - and discovers, within that process, new realizations of how 'survival' may be redefined.

"...when dealing with gods, anger seemed beside the point."

Libraries and readers seeking more than a one-dimensional, action-packed story of clashes between higher and lower intelligences will find that Darwin's Dilemma is akin to Orson Scott Card's classic Ender's Game. The real question and allure isn't the survival process itself, but the adaptations and realizations forced upon all participants, which come as shocking surprises that pose thought-provoking insights.

Book clubs interested in sci-fi, AI, Darwin, or the intersections of species survival will find Darwin's Dilemma edgy and perfect for lively group discussions.

Sofia Diana Gabel
Independently Published
9798989335602, $12.99 print, $3.99 ebook

Science has mentioned the possibility of cloning Neanderthals in the future, but in Neanderball, the future is now ... and an unexpectedly dangerous game evolves when geneticist Lucien Roux's controversial experiment is stolen and made into a dangerous sport.

The fine line between ethical behavior and fame has already been drawn by his choices, but further developments take these in a new direction, forcing him to reveal his true motivation and indiscretions as he finds himself on a mission to save his creations from exploitation and a dangerous game, indeed.

Sofia Diana Gabel crafts an absorbing story which is especially notable for its consideration of moral and ethical boundaries in creating, maintaining, and directing life itself. Through her story, genetic experimentation and purpose come to life in a manner that welds sci-fi with insights into what qualities comprise friendships, growth, and humanity itself.

Lucien's enlightening interactions with Rock and the other Neanderthals teach him about more than the results of his creative impetus as events unfold, embracing intrigue and action as Lucien and his ex-military girlfriend employ all their abilities to mitigate the impact of modern times on these Neanderthal creations.

The cat-and-mouse game that plays out between Lucien and his companions and the Neanderthals (who aren't as stupid as they first seem) creates a satisfying interplay of personalities, purposes, and intention that encourages readers to more closely consider all forms of motivation and drives for survival.

The evolutionary process which develops as a result of these interactions is intriguing on more than one level. This offers a rare opportunity for action-packed leisure reading for those interested in sci-fi or medical thrillers, and thought-provoking moments for readers who enjoy moral dilemmas injected into the bigger picture mix.

Libraries and readers will find Neanderball difficult to neatly peg. Whether choosing it as a medical thriller or a sci-fi story of genetics gone wild, Neanderball's main attraction lies in the unfolding of connections between disparate individuals who each struggle to survive and find meaning in a rapidly changing, alien situation.

Its well-developed tension and characters make it a winner.

My Name is B-1259
Michael Brown
Independently Published
9798218308964, $16.95 Paper/$4.95 ebook

My Name is B-1259: I Survived Nine Nazi Concentration Camps is a novel based on the true experiences of Elias Feinzilberg, dramatizing the experiences of a man who epitomized the ultimate survivor of human cruelty through a combination of perseverance and luck.

Author Michael Brown listened to his friend's descriptions of a father who endured the impossible: not one, but nine Nazi concentration camp experiences.

Elias passed away at age 104, so Brown was denied the opportunity for first-hand interviews. He thus conducted much research; including reviewing transcripts of the many lectures and talks Elias gave in his lifetime during his retirement years in Jerusalem.

Unlike The Diary of Anne Frank, the fictional format was chosen for My Name is B-1259 in the interests of personalizing dialogues and encounters as Elias moved from camp to camp. It proves an effective delivery device for its added drama and inflections, offering readers a 'you are here' feel that could not have been obtained from a more distancing, studious nonfiction choice.

And what a journey it is. Brown's attention to capturing the times and the experiences brings everything to vivid life:

"'Swine! Move!' soldiers interrupt my musing. Five miles is not so far to walk, but today it seems like twenty. I move the heavy metal pail from hand to hand as I fear the wire loop might cut through the skin on my fingers. My mother, little brother, and sisters aren't complaining, so complaining is the last thing I will do. Gunshots!"

At this point, it should be noted that such vivid descriptions will likely be triggering for readers who harbor PTSD about capture and death:

"I picture the gassings and the flames in the crematoria - devouring my flesh and bones - and I can't help but think of the agony my family must have suffered at the Chelmno extermination camp - I imagine seeing Mame, my little brother, Avi, my sisters, Guena, Reizl, Pearl, Hanche, and Rivka as they are pushed naked into a boxy windowless room with scores of other Jews. First the gassing and then the burning. No! No."

The difficulty in reading such candid passages is also the story's strength, as it brings to life, and personalizes, struggles in a manner that proves more vivid and compelling than many Holocaust descriptions.

Brown's ability to translate not just the events, but the heart and soul of enduring atrocities, results in a story that should be an intrinsic part of any library interested in Holocaust experiences and the ways in which humanity dehumanizes its members.

More than any other Holocaust story of depravity and cruelty, My Name is B-1259's ultimate message of how to and why survive deserves debate and attention among book club readers of all types, from Holocaust and Jewish participants to general readers interested in how humans survive the impossible results of inhuman actions and choices against one another to find new meaning in the effort to survive:

"Closing my eyes, I think of Tate's council to me all those years ago on the steps of our apartment when he asked me to survive. I smile as I realize I am now passing his advice along to others. If I can send little sunbeams and words of encouragement to others, I believe more of us will survive. I say quietly, "Good night, Tate."

Godspeed, Lovers
T.Q. Sims
Archway Publishing
9781665751568, $24.99 (softcover)/$7.99 (e-book)

In Godspeed, Lovers, protagonist Casey Isaac is no ordinary wannabe lover, but a powerful being harboring supernormal powers and carrying out the mandate of protecting humanity. His mandate would seem to cast him in the role of being a loner responsible for the weight of the world, but in reality, Casey is about to step into the eye of a storm that threatens mankind like nothing has before.

Only his abilities, those of fellow fighter and Divinator Oscar Kenzari, and his ability to embrace love despite conflict and challenges, can thwart the rise of MaalenKun, a force bent on attacking Casey's mind as well as his heart.

T.Q. Sims creates a vivid story that pairs action with romantic developments in a unique and compelling manner:

"I'm jolted by the fear that the light is the Haddyc invading my mind. Franxis anchors me as I reach up to pull down from my Levels. The light folds. I've only heard of the folding light of prescient visions. Like origami made of light, radiant edges become shapes. The shapes shift into curves. The vision emerges. A bright, green light, a star at the center of my chest. Within the glow of my heart is a felt sense of someone I love. Some wordless suggestion hints at romantic love, and I shatter the vision with my familiar doubt and self-depreciation."

The psychic and physical connection and love between Casey and Oscar strengthen against the onslaught and invasion of foreign forces as the story unfolds.

Sci-fi readers will grasp a myriad of technological and psychological themes as the LGBTQ+ scenario plays out. Graphic sexual scenes are augmented by psychological challenges as the couple faces struggles from within, between one another, and from the influence of a malevolent outside force that challenges both their relationship potential and their duties.

It's rare to see fantasy entwined so thoroughly with social revelations, action-packed scenarios, and evolving issues of a relationship between two males that is challenged by their obligations and forces beyond their control.

All these elements place Godspeed, Lovers in a very different category than standard LGBTQ+ love stories, sci-fi adventures, or superhero accounts. The steady staccato beat of physical and mental confrontations keeps the action fast-paced, while the emotional entanglements are thought-provoking and well-done.

Libraries and readers seeking LBGTQ+ stories that go beyond the typical boy-meets-boy relationship fiction will find

Godspeed, Lovers a walk on the wild side as gods and lovers experience loss and transformation. It's a heady read that will satisfy anyone seeking more spiritual and emotional undercurrents in their love stories.

Shed Girl
Milana Marsenich
Black Rose Writing
168513355X, $21.95 paperback, $5.99 Kindle

Mystery readers who choose Shed Girl will find it an atmospheric contemporary mystery nicely steeped in a sense of place:

"Juliet French knew magic. The soft wind in the cedars, the haunting howl of the coyote, the smell of the weather when the clouds grayed, and waves crashed against the rocky cliffs of the Northern Washington coast all filled her with wonder. She lived in Annie's Court for that ocean smell and the trance it threw over her."

Juliet was once a runaway, so she well understands the circumstances and allure of being one. They are attracted to Annie's court, and in her position as a tarot reader at the local farmer's market, she observes a number of them.

Many then vanish. Too many.

When Juliet witnesses a young runaway's abduction, investigating detective Benson Picard enlists her help in an effort that involves her with Tony LaCrosse, a toy seller in the same market, and a host of characters that harbor their own secrets and special interests in locating the missing children.

Milana Marsenich crafts a satisfying mystery that swirls around a proactive woman's determination to crack a puzzle, a simmering romantic interest that intersects with a deadly crime, and convoluted relationships and clues.

Her consideration of the plights of runaways weaves into the overall mystery and threat, adding insights that reinforce her story with realistic observations:

"She looked over at Kyle sleeping peacefully on his makeshift bed on the floor. A pale morning light shone through the small, shed window and fell on his face, making him look young and innocent. A pang of grief shot through Juliet. He should be home with his family, finishing school, and making plans for the future, not sleeping in some cold, damp shed. He'd be finishing his last year of high school if he'd stayed in Montana with his parents."

From the 'help me' plea that is scratched into a doll to a sick child who is scared and running, Juliet, Kyle, and others step up to enter a world fraught with struggle and intrigue.

The action is nicely spun, the mystery keeps readers thoroughly engaged, and the sense of place roots the drama with a realistic touch that modern mystery enthusiasts will find evocative and compelling.

Mystery libraries seeking additions that stand out from the crowd will find Shed Girl thoroughly enjoyable and attractive. Patrons interested in stories that give rise to further reflections on social issues and how they intersect with special interests, often with accompanying special dangers, will find Shed Girl suitable for book club discussion, as well.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Englewood Medium: Shaken But Not Stirred
Lana McAra
Olympia Publishers
9781804393086, $12.99 pbk / No Kindle

"The Englewood Medium" is a beautifully written character driven novel that moves along to its final pages. Haley Myers starts a new life in small town in Pennsylvania. She is a therapist who sets up a practice and is pleased with her life changes until her long dead father appears as a spirit and a client has been murdered as well as someone is stalking her. "The Englewood Medium:" is a first class whodunnit for mystery buffs

Every Night Has A Dawn: The Winds of Change Trilogy
Rachel Valencourt
Independently Published
9798988224286, $15.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

"Every Night Has A Dawn: The Winds of Change Trilogy" has often been classified as a WWII novel. Though a very small portion during that period, it is so much more. Dawn Cameron in the year 2018 begins her story. Next she takes readers back to her early life that involves the rest of her family as they make their way through the 1930's and beyond. "Every Night Has A Dawn: The Winds of Change Trilogy" is filled with realistic characters facing the challenges of life through tough times, and beautifully told prose that launches the Dawn Cameron saga in volume one of a three novel series.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels
Janice Hallett
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781668023396, $28.99 HC / $14.99 Kindle

"The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels" may well be, a great mystery novel but, for me, I have no interest, same as her last whodunnit, "The Christmas Appeal". Both are written in email form. Other readers may have the patience for this style. Janice Hallett is now on my list of authors to not even consider for it. My reasoning is, I work enough on the computer including emails, so the last thing I want to read prose in this manner. Readers should be aware of the appearance of "The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels" before indulging.

CSI: The Casey Anthony Child Murder Case
Gerardo Bloise MPA CCSI
Legacy Book Publishing
9781958923382, $27.95 pbk / No Kindle

Through the years there have been numerous books, about the Casey Anthony case. I have been fortunate enough, to be able to read and review, many of them since it originally broke. Gerardo Bloise MPA CCSI the lead CSI investigator overwhelmingly ties the evidence directly to Casey Anthony as the murderer of her own child. There is so much proof, as the CSI data establishes, without a doubt Casey is the only logical person to have killed Caylee. "CSI: The Casey Anthony Child Murder Case" is quite simply, the best of all the accounts that will have readers turning pages to learn facts day by day, not ever exposed until now.

Mimi And Me
Sarah Sprinkel
Independently Published
9798468380840, $9.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Sarah Sprinkel a longtime professional educator in her book "Mimi And Me" reveals many ways we all learn. Some issues are how we all process information, the importance of mental exercises for our minds, how things creative process like reading, writing and music shape our understanding of the world around us. "Mimi And Me" written in easy-to-follow terms is a ground breaking book that will have parents and kids sharing together learning to help them better through life.

Much More Than A Stooge: Shemp Howard
Geoff Dale
Bear Manor Media
9798887713298, $42.00 pbk $9.95 Kindle

When you say The Three Stooges, most of only think of Moe, Larry, and Curly. Before and after Curly's health declined, there is another brother Howard brother, Shemp, who is just as much a part of the trio as Curly, and at one time there were all four in a short. Now author, Geoff Dale tells the whole life story of Shemp who was fortunate enough to work with John Wayne, W. C. Fields and Jimmy Stuart in a career that spanned many decades. There are also tributes by many different people in the entertainment industry, a list of films Shemp appeared in and a lot more. "Much More Than A Stooge: Shemp Howard" is one fans of the Stooges should add to their list of books about the famous comedy legends.

Ronald Reagan: A Little Golden Books Biography
Lisa Rogers, author
Leo Aquino, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593645185, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

"Ronald Reagan: A Little Golden Books Biography" celebrates the 40th President of the United States in a new title of the long running series. Ronald Regan came from very little and rose to be one of the most beloved presidents in the country's history. He was a sportscaster, actor, president of an organization as well as a governor of the state of California. "Ronald Reagan: A Little Golden Books Biography" shows that whatever you want to be can happen if you work hard and make it happen.

Bravo Anjali!
Sheetal Sheth, author
Lucia Soto, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
97805935651186, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Bravo Anjali!" shows how mean others can be to an individual because of being different. Anjali loves to play the musical instrument of the table with or without her friends. Often they show their jealously of how easily she taps out musical notes at such a young age. At first their mean-spirited attacks but she perseveres to not let anything affect her presentation on stage "Bravo Anjali!" is filled with many wonderful underlying premises that parents and kids should follow to lead better lives

Grumpy Monkey Spring Fever
Suzanne Lange, author
Max Lang, illustrator
Random House Studio
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
97805935652336, $11.99 HC / $6.99 Kindle

"Grumpy Monkey Spring Fever" a new addition to the Grumpy Monkey series is another fun filled story for all ages. Jim Panzee wakes one morning to run through the jungle yelling and laughing not knowing why. He consults with other animal friends who tell him it is just Spring Fever. Concerned that it is something very bad he discusses with so many contacts to learn what it all means. "Grumpy Monkey Spring Fever" shows what happens when we all worry about so many of the small things in life too much

Too Much: My Great Big Native Family
Laurel Coodluck, author
Bridget George, illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
9781665911269, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Too Much: My Great Big Native Family" is a beautiful story for everyone to enjoy no matter their age. A boy named Russell is to participate in a school play. He thinks about no matter what he does there are always several family members there to participate. He considers what it would be like without them. Later things change in a very nice way. "Too Much: My Great Big Native Family" had me remember the scene in Home Alone where Kevin would love it if his whole family was not there and later when he's upset they aren't. The artwork of "Too Much: My Great Big Native Family" enhances the work as the story unfolds.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Tinocchia: The Adventures of a Jewish Puppetta
Curt Leviant, author
Nava Chefitz, Gracen Deerman, Laura Spiro, illustrators
Livingston Press
9781604893540, $19.95, PB, 204pp

Synopsis: While in the archives room of the Siena Municipal Public Library, Curt Leviant noticed a cardboard box labeled "Lorenzini?" Since Lorenzini wrote Pinocchio under the pen-name Collodi, he opened the box and was astounded to see a handwritten manuscript titled: Tinocchia, the Adventures of a Jewish Puppetta. Leviant photographed the pages, and soon enough translated the story into English.

Tinocchia, the story's narrator, is created by her carpenter father, Yossi, who named her after the Hebrew word for "baby," tinok, and as a nod to his fellow woodworker, Geppetto, the creator of Pinocchio.

While riding on her magic cart, Tinocchia bumps into a puppetto who introduces himself as Nipocchio. Naturally, the puppetto's nose grows. Pinocchio and Tinocchia go on to share adventures: Tinocchia becomes involved with Samael, the Dark Angel; Pinocchio and Tinocchia encounter pirates on a sailboat which gets overturned in a storm. One day Pinocchio visits as a real boy and offers Tinocchia a magic salve. She scolds him that he has no right to take the salve.

In any case, she does not want mortality; she wants to live. Pinocchio turns back into a puppetto to be with her. And, like in a true fairy tale, they live happily ever... after... presumably.

Critique: A lost literary treasure that was discovered, translated, and edited by Curt Leviant and illustrated by the artistic efforts of Nava Chefitz, Gracen Deerman, and Laura Spiro, this Livingston Press edition of "Tinocchia: The Adventures of a Jewish Puppetta" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Jewish literary fiction collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Of special note is the Editors Introduction giving the story of how this literary discover came about. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Tinocchia: The Adventures of a Jewish Puppetta" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Curt Leviant has authored nine critically acclaimed works of fiction. He has won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award and writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, and the New Jersey Arts Council. His work has been included in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards, and other anthologies - and praised by two Nobel laureates: Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel. He is also the author of serio-comic novels, including "Diary of an Adulterous Woman".

Reimagine Home
Sarabeth Galimba
Ink & Willow
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593578322, $15.99, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: Home (whether a camper van, mansion, or anything in between) is where we recharge and rest, where we learn and grow, and where we welcome others. And for Christians, our home should also be a small reflection of God's kingdom on earth.

Unfortunately, our homes often feel anything but peaceful, ordered, or representative of who we are. If this sounds familiar, consider "Reimagine Home: Devotions, Recipes, and Tips for Loving Your Home Through Every Season" as author Sarabeth Galimba's gift of inspiration and your personal invitation to quiet all voices of comparison and tune in to what really matters when it comes to your home -- creating a space where you can know the love of God and share that love with others.

With twenty-eight devotions that span the four seasons of the year, "Reimagine Home" encourages you to begin creating the home you want on a schedule that works for you, offering customizable tactics, helpful tips, and an undated format. Accompanied by beautifully inspiring, full-color photographs that inspire peace instead of perfection, this devotional provides a sense of calm to each day.

As you read each short reflection and explore the practical home styling tips, you will be inspired to curate a home that reflects who you are and welcomes others the moment they walk in the door.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Reimagine Home: Devotions, Recipes, and Tips for Loving Your Home Through Every Season" is a delightful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and memorable read from beginning to end. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Reimagine Home" is a very special, unique, and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, church, and community library collections.

Editorial Note: Sarabeth Galimba ( is a wife, mother of four, artist, interior decorator, real estate agent, and former youth pastor. She wrote her first book, Reimagine Home, as a personal and practical guide for those who want to bring simple beauty back into the look and life of their homes. When she is not working on a home project with her husband or trying out a new recipe, she enjoys spending time making memories with her family and sharing home styling tips through her Instagram account ladyofthehome. She and her family live in the house featured in this book in Salinas, California, along with their dog and pet chickens.

Spiked: Here's to Revenge
Kelly Lynn Griffiths
Cottonwood Fire
9798988703808, $14.99, PB, 286pp

Synopsis: Beer chemist Rory Harper loves his job and has the beer belly to prove it. He also has a problem. Named Arthur. With an endless barrage of fat jokes and obnoxious pranks, Arthur turns Telluric Lake Brew Works into Rory's personal hell. Revenge fantasies are all Rory has to soothe his battered ego and during a company party, he decides to carry out the "perfect," anonymous payback.

But something goes wrong. Arthur, who should be home afflicted with explosive diarrhea, shows up the next day unscathed, and Rory's seventy-year-old boss is dead in the taproom. The coroner rules it a heart attack, but Rory's not convinced. Some careful digging confirms Arthur switched the beers. But is the spiked beer what caused the boss's heart attack? Did Arthur know it was spiked?

To uncover the truth about the night the boss died, Rory and Arthur play a clandestine game of cat and mouse. The more information that comes to light, the more certain it becomes that the only solution to Rory's bully problem is another anonymous payback. This time, he'll get it right. This time it won't be an accident when someone dies.

Critique: "Spiked" by the gifted author and storyteller Kelly Lynn Griffiths is a fun read and of particular interest to anyone who has been bullied and dreamt of revenge. For anyone who's taken revenge and had it go all wrong. For anyone who's had it go all right. Original, deftly crafted, offering a literary wealth of memorable characters and unexpected plot twists, "Spiked" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spiked" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Kelly Lynn Griffths ( is the author of a few horror, sci-fi, and literary pieces. "Spiked" is her debut as a novelist. She is also a member of The Little Red Writing Hoods.

Politics for People Who Hate Politics
Denise Grace Gitsham
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780764242298, $29.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: There are myriad reasons the make politics an infuriating subject for discussion with family, friends and neighbors. From unjust policies to unholy politicians, we have righteous and justifiable reasons to be upset or walk away. Yet we must stay involved if we are to hold our fragile nation together, since the current division is unsustainable.

With more than two decades of experience working in the highest levels of government, with the publication of "Politics for People Who Hate Politics: How to Engage without Losing Your Friends or Selling Your Soul" by political insider Denise Grace Gitsham offers a remedy to America's dark political reality: Christians filled with light, love, and Christ's heart for unity.

With spiritual insights, hard-earned political lessons, and practical advice, "Politics for People Who Hate Politics" will help to: Lean into--rather than away from--politics; Maintain peace; Engage with wisdom and discernment; Love those you disagree with while standing firm on God's truth; Serve as a unifying force; Embrace God's plan for our nation and the world.

As citizens of heaven, with access to the Holy Spirit's wisdom and power, we as Christians can engage in politics God's way: with the kind of counter-cultural love, integrity, and unity that will heal our land.

Critique: With a timely message given the current rise in rancor, politically motivated verbal and physical violence, and the expanding breaches and political polarization that is afflicting the cohesion and comity of the Christian community to a degree not seen since the era of the Civil War and slavery splitting the Baptists into Northern and Southern churches, "Politics for People Who Hate Politics: How to Engage without Losing Your Friends or Selling Your Soul" must be considered essential reading for clergy, seminarians, and all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780764241475, $240pp) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), "Politics for People Who Hate Politics" is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, church, seminary, and college/university library Church/State collections and Contemporary Christian Social Issues studies lists.

Editorial Note: Prior to starting her own public affairs consulting firm, Denise Grace Gitsham ( worked at the highest levels of federal government from the White House to the US Senate, in law firms, for startups, and as a candidate for Congress. A graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and Bowdoin College, Denise has appeared on numerous news outlets as a political commentator, and her op-eds have appeared in national media. She's a regular contributor to Lifeway Women and Propel Women, and splits her time between California and Washington, DC.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama
Nathan Thrall
Metropolitan Books
c/o Henry Holt & Company
9781250854971, $29.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Five-year-old Milad Salama is excited for a school trip to a theme park on the outskirts of Jerusalem. On the way, his bus collides with a semitrailer. His father, Abed, gets word of the crash and rushes to the site. The scene is chaos -- the children have been taken to different hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank; some are missing, others cannot be identified. Abed sets off on an odyssey to learn Milad's fate.

This is every parent's worst nightmare, but for Abed it is compounded by the maze of physical, emotional, and bureaucratic obstacles he must navigate because he is Palestinian. He is on the wrong side of the separation wall, holds the wrong ID to pass the military checkpoints, and has the wrong papers to enter the city of Jerusalem. Abed's quest to find Milad is interwoven with the stories of a cast of Jewish and Palestinian characters whose lives and histories unexpectedly converge.

In his presenting "A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy", author Nathan Thrall offers an indelibly human portrait of the struggle over Israel/Palestine and a new understanding of the tragic history and reality of one of the most contested places on earth.

Critique: Especially relevant when considering the current Israeli-Gaza conflict initiated with the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, Nathan Thrall's "A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy" from Metropolitan Books is a compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from start to finish and offers insights to help understand the Israeli and Palestinian dilemma arising from decades of abuses, misunderstanding, and failures to compromise on both sides. "A Day in the Life of Abed Salama" is a unique and invaluable pick for personal, community, and college/university library Israel/Palestinian History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Day in the Life of Abed Salama" is also available in a paperback edition (9781250854964, $18.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Nathan Thrall is also the author of "The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine" (Metropolitan in 2017. Thrall's essays, reviews, and reported features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and The New York Review of Books and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He spent a decade at the International Crisis Group, where he was director of the Arab-Israeli Project, and has taught at Bard College. Originally from California, he lives in Jerusalem. (

Democracy's Data
Dan Bauk
c/o Picador USA
9781250872173, $20.00, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: The census isn't simply data; it's a ritual of American democracy. And behind every neat grid of numbers is a messy human story -- you just have to know how to read it.

With the publication of "Democracy's Data: The Hidden Stories in the U.S. Census and How to Read Them" data historian Dan Bouk examines the crucial 1940 census, uncovering what those numbers both condense and cleverly abstract: a universe of meaning and uncertainty, of cultural negotiation and political struggle.

Bouk introduces us to the individuals employed as census takers, bringing us with them as they go door-to-door to make a detailed yet imperfect record of their neighbors' lives. He takes us into the makeshift halls of the Census Bureau, where hundreds of civil servants labored with pencils, paper, and machines to divide and conquer the nation's data. And he uses a series of data points to paint bigger pictures about the systems that govern us, such as the unchecked influence of white supremacy, the place of queer people within straight systems, and the struggle of ordinary people to be seen by the state as they see themselves.

In our age of constant demographic quantification, "Democracy's Data" teaches us how to read between the lines, and renews our perspective on the relationships between representation, identity, and governance.

Critique: A unique, comprehensive, and informative study that will be of particular interest to readers and students with an interest in demography, political science, and American history, "Democracy's Data: The Hidden Stories in the U.S. Census and How to Read Them" is exceptionally 'reader friendly' in style, organization, and presentation. Originally published in hardcover (MCD 2022), and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Demography/Demographics collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should also be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Democracy's Data" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Dan Bouk ( teaches history at Colgate University and researches the history of bureaucracies, quantification, and other modern things shrouded in cloaks of boringness. He studied computational mathematics as an undergraduate before earning a PhD in history from Princeton University. His first book, "How Our Days Became Numbered", explores the life insurance industry's methods for quantifying people, discriminating by race, and thinking statistically.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Democracy's Mountain
Ruth M. Alexander
University of Oklahoma Press
9780806192673, $95.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak towers over Colorado's northern Front Range. A prized location for mountaineering since the 1870s, Longs has been a place of astonishing climbing feats -- and, unsurprisingly, of significant risk and harm. Careless and unlucky climbers have experienced serious injury and death on the peak, while their activities, equipment, and trash have damaged fragile alpine resources. As a site of outdoor adventure attracting mostly white people, Longs has mirrored the United States' tenacious racial divides, even into the twenty-first century.

In telling the history of Longs Peak and its climbers, with the publication of "At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak towers over Colorado's northern Front Range. A prized location for mountaineering since the 1870s, Longs has been a place of astonishing climbing feats - and, unsurprisingly, of significant risk and harm. Careless and unlucky climbers have experienced serious injury and death on the peak, while their activities, equipment, and trash have damaged fragile alpine resources. As a site of outdoor adventure attracting mostly white people, Longs has mirrored the United States' tenacious racial divides, even into the twenty-first century.

In telling the history of Longs Peak and its climbers, with the publication of "Democracy's Mountain: Longs Peak and the Unfulfilled Promises of America's National Parks", Professor Ruth M. Alexander shows how Rocky Mountain National Park, like the National Park Service (NPS), has struggled to contend with three fundamental obligations -- to facilitate visitor enjoyment, protect natural resources, and manage the park as a site of democracy.

Too often, it has treated these obligations as competing rather than complementary commitments, reflecting national discord over their meaning and value. Yet the history of Longs also shows us how, over time, climbers, the park, and the NPS have attempted to align these obligations in policy and practice.

By putting mountain climbers and their relationship to Longs Peak and its rangers at the center of the story of Rocky Mountain National Park, Professor Alexander exposes the significant role outdoor recreationists have had (as both citizens and privileged adventurers) in shaping the peak's meaning, use, and management. Since 2000, the park has promoted climber enjoyment and safety, helped preserve the environment, facilitated tribal connections to the park, and attracted a more diverse group of visitors and climbers. Yet, Professor Alexander argues, more work needs to be done.

Professor Alexander's deftly nuanced account of Longs Peak reveals the dangers of undermining national parks' fundamental obligations and presents a powerful appeal to meet them fairly and fully. Professor Alexander also shows how Rocky Mountain National Park, like the National Park Service (NPS), has struggled to contend with three fundamental obligations -- to facilitate visitor enjoyment, protect natural resources, and manage the park as a site of democracy. Too often, it has treated these obligations as competing rather than complementary commitments, reflecting national discord over their meaning and value. Yet the history of Longs also shows us how, over time, climbers, the park, and the NPS have attempted to align these obligations in policy and practice.

By putting mountain climbers and their relationship to Longs Peak and its rangers at the center of the story of Rocky Mountain National Park, Professor Alexander exposes the significant role outdoor recreationists have had (as both citizens and privileged adventurers) in shaping the peak's meaning, use, and management. Since 2000, the park has promoted climber enjoyment and safety, helped preserve the environment, facilitated tribal connections to the park, and attracted a more diverse group of visitors and climbers. Yet, Professor Alexander argues, more work needs to be done.

Critique: A fascinating, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' environmental, political, and cultural history of a major American mountain and the national park it is a part of, "Democracy's Mountain: Longs Peak and the Unfulfilled Promises of America's National Parks" is an extraordinary and seminal study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted that "Democracy's Mountain" from the University of Oklahoma Press is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780806192680, $26.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.49).

Editorial Note: Ruth M. Alexander ( is Professor Emerita of History and Faculty Council Member in the Public and Environmental History Center at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. She is the author of The "Girl Problem": Female Sexual Delinquency in New York, 1900 - 1930 and co-editor of Major Problems in American Women's History.

Explaining the Gender Wage Gap: The Missing Aspects of Discrimination
Alicja Sielska
Edward Elgar Publishing
9781035312580, $180.00, HC, 132pp

Synopsis: "Explaining the Gender Wage Gap: The Missing Aspects of Discrimination" by Professor Alicja Sielska is a timely and study that offers an engaging contemporary analysis of research into the gender pay gap while also providing important nuanced observations. It illustrates the variant methodologies that have been employed by researchers who have attempted to elucidate this challenging topic.

"Explaining the Gender Wage Gap" examines often-neglected factors that highlight women's lower earnings compared to men, such as risk aversion and the negotiation process. Individual chapters compare feminist and neoclassical discrimination theories whilst analyzing models used to calculate the gender wage gap. They conclude that modern discrimination against women in the labor market may be less severe than public assumptions suggest.

Due to its investigative content, "Explaining the Gender Wage Gap" is a thoroughly intriguing study that is ideal for researchers and students exploring macroeconomics, the labor market and gender discrimination. It will also be beneficial for university professors lecturing in subjects such as economics, sociology and labor policy.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with the added inclusion of a fifteen page Bibliography and a two page Index, "Explaining the Gender Wage Gap: The Missing Aspects of Discrimination" is a seminal and ground-breaking work of meticulous and articulate scholarship. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Explaining the Gender Wage Gap" is especially and unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of Women's Rights political activists and governmental/corporate Gender Equality policy makers, as well as professional, and college/university library Gender Economics Studies collections and supplemental Gender Inequality curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Alicja Sielska (, is Assistant Professor, Institute of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics, University of Wroclaw, Poland; Researcher, University of New York, Prague, The Czech Republic and a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute of Economic Education, Poland.

The Language of Breath
Jesse Coomer, author
North Atlantic Books
9781623179366, $19.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Language of Breath: Discover Better Emotional and Physical Health through Breathing and Self-Awareness--With 20 Holistic Breathwork Practices" by breathwork expert Jesse Coomer reveals how to breathe our way to better health, increased vitality, and mental clarity.

Using powerful, proven breathwork exercises, Coomer delivers a new paradigm to the world of breathwork: one that reconnects us to our innate mind-body wisdom and bridges the evolutionary disconnect between our bodies, brains, and the stressors of modern-day life.

By engaging with our breath as a language that we can listen to and learn, we can: Combat the dysregulation, disconnection, and stressors of our always-on, hamster-wheel culture; Learn why contorting our natural sleep, wake, and eating cycles to fit modern-day schedules is making us sick; Use breathwork to reset and reclaim our natural agency and innate wisdom; Guard against the physical effects of overwork and chronic stress.

With practical exercises and simple techniques, "The Language of Breath" provides a step-by-step approach to using breath as a tool for self-discovery and transformation. From overcoming stress and anxiety to managing chronic illness, "The Language of Breath" is a must-read for anyone seeking to harness the power of their own breath to live a healthier, happier life.

Critique: Of immense and particular relevance to readers with an interest in Holistic Medicine, "The Language of Breath: Discover Better Emotional and Physical Health through Breathing and Self-Awareness--With 20 Holistic Breathwork Practices" by Jesse Coomer is an ideal DIY course of instruction that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. An inherently fascinating and informative 'how-to' manual, "The Language of Breath" is a solidly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Holistic Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Language of Breath" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Jesse Coomer ( is one of the foremost voices in the world of breathwork today. In 2009, he began a life transformation mission that led him to discover how our physiology and psychology often conflicts with the modern world and each other. In 2020, after studying with neuroscientists and breathworkers from various traditions, Coomer's first book on breathwork, :"A Practical Guide to Breathwork", offered the world a clear and concise understanding of how human physiology and breathing are interconnected. Today, Coomer is a human performance specialist, Breathworker, and renowned speaker in the field of Breathwork. He trains athletes, CEOs, first responders, military, and everyday people who seek to optimize their performance, reduce their anxiety levels, and live a healthier life.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Great Debate: Nietzsche, Culture, and the Scandinavian Welfare Society
Georg Brandes, author
Harald Hoffding, author
William Banks, editor/translator
University of Wisconsin Press
9780299346102, $79.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: In 1889, Danish literary critic Georg Brandes published "Aristocratic Radicalism: An Essay on Friedrich Nietzsche", which transformed the as-yet-unknown German-Swiss philosopher into a European, and ultimately global, phenomenon. The article sparked a furious public debate between Brandes and a fellow Dane, philosopher Harald Hoffding, who swiftly issued a rebuttal with the publication of "Democratic Radicalism: An Objection".

What began as a scholarly disagreement over Nietzsche's philosophy rapidly spiraled into a sprawling contest of competing visions of society's future, one radically aristocratic and the other radically democratic.

Marking the moment at which the uniquely Nordic concept of social democratic welfare was first contested in the public sphere, this debate provides insights into not only Nietzschean philosophy and its immediate reception but also the foundational concept of modern Scandinavian social, cultural, and political organization. "The Great Debate: Nietzsche, Culture, and the Scandinavian Welfare Society" presents, for the first time in any language other than Danish, the debate in its entirety: three essays by Brandes and three by Hoffding.

Of special note is a critical introduction by editor and translator William Banks who explores the exchange in its context and convincingly argues that the principles contested by the two Danish luminaries still very much resonate in Western society today.

Critique: Expertly edited and translated into English for an American readership by William Banks, "The Great Debate: Nietzsche, Culture, and the Scandinavian Welfare Society" also features a six page Bibliography, twenty-eight pages of Notes, and a four page Index. Simply stated, "The Great Debate" is a unique and seminal contribution to personal, professional, and college/university library Nietzsche and Philosophy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: William Banks is a writer, editor, and translator. A list of his articles is available online at Jacobin at

Black Lives, American Love: Essays on Race and Resilience
D. B. Maroon
Lawrence Hill Books
c/o Chicago Review Press
9781641609326, $27.99, HC, 248pp

Synopsis: "Black Lives, American Love: Essays on Race and Resilience" is a hard-hitting collection of essays in which anthropologist D.B. Maroon presents a personal biography of America, Blackness, and racial politics with unflinching style, and delivers a relentless truth-telling on some of the country's fiercest debates and most profound challenges.

From the birthplace of the Black Lives Matter movement to the murders of unarmed Black people, the essays compiled in this extraordinary collection invites readers to ask questions as much as it asks for accountability. Moving through debates on the 1619 Project to the rippling impact of resurgent white nationalism, the golden thread of each essay is the hopeful continuance of the Black community, as well as a call to greater truth as the first step toward reconciliation.

Intersectional, personal, and ultimately centered on truth, love, and perseverance, "Black Lives, American Love" details and tends to the fractures in American culture. It is a meditation on how we can all do more to secure America's vastly beautiful possibilities for all its citizens, rather than a few.

Critique: A timely, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and eloquently descriptive compendium of commentaries on race relations in America from the personal life experienced based perspectives of a trained anthropologist, "Black Lives, American Love: Essays on Race and Resilience is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university African American History/Biography collections and African American Contemporary Social Issues curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Black Lives, American Love: Essays on Race and Resilience" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: D.B. Maroon ( is an expert on American culture, an anthropologist, and CEO of an urban research institute. Her essays have been published in The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self and Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity. A committed public scholar, she's appeared in Bustle, Shape, Healthline, and Women's Health. She holds a PhD in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

The Price of Humanity
Amy Schiller
Melville House
9781685890223, $29.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: The word "philanthropy" today makes people think big money donors -- Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and Andrew Carnegie for example. The scope of suffering in the world seems to demand an industry of giving, and yet for all the billions that are dispensed, the wealthy never seem to lose any of their money and nothing seems to change.

With the publication of "The Price of Humanity: How Philanthropy Went Wrong -- And How to Fix It", journalist, academic and consultant Amy Schiller shows how we get out of this stalemate by evaluating the history of philanthropy from the ideas of St. Augustine to the work of Lebron James. She argues philanthropy's contemporary tendency to maintain obscene inequality and reduce every cause to dehumanizing technocratic terms is unacceptable, while maintaining an optimism about the soul and potential of philanthropy in principle.

For philanthropy to get back to its literal roots (the love of humanity) Schiller argues that philanthropy can no longer be premised around basic survival. Public institutions must assume that burden so that philanthropy can shift its focus to initiatives that allow us to flourish into happier, more fulfilled human beings. Philanthropy has to get out of the business of saving lives if we are to save humanity.

Critique: Informative, fascinating, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Price of Humanity: How Philanthropy Went Wrong -- And How to Fix It" is an extraordinary and articulate study that will prove to be of immense value to readers with an interest in interplay of philanthropy, charity, politics. and the sociology of class in America. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99), "The Price of Humanity" is a solid and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, and college/university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Amy Schiller ( is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College in the Society of Fellows. She previously held fellowships at Stanford University and Bard College. Her writing has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Nation, and The Daily Beast and has been quoted as an expert on philanthropy in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, and Slate. She has also had a nearly 15-year career in major gift fundraising consulting. She has worked in a wide range of settings, from international humanitarian nonprofits to a major New York City dance company.

Redeeming Objects: A West German Mythology
Natalie Scholz
University of Wisconsin Press
9780299344306, $79.95, HC, 344pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Redeeming Objects: A West German Mythology", Natalie Scholz (Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, University of Amsterdam) traces the afterlives of things.

Out of the rubble of World War II and the Holocaust, the Federal Republic of Germany emerged, and with it a foundational myth of the "economic miracle". In this narrative, a new mass consumer society based on the production, export, and consumption of goods would redeem West Germany from its Nazi past and drive its rebirth as a truly modern nation.

Turning this narrative on its head, Professor Scholz shows that West Germany's consumerist ideology took shape through the reinvention of commodities previously tied to Nazism into symbols of Germany's modernity, economic supremacy, and international prestige.

Postwar advertising, film, and print culture sought to divest mass-produced goods (such as the Volkswagen and modern interiors) of their fascist legacies. But Professor Scholz aptly demonstrates that postwar representations were saturated with unacknowledged references to the Nazi past.

Drawing on a vast array of popular and highbrow publications and films, "Redeeming Objects" adds a new perspective to debates about postwar reconstruction, memory, and consumerism.

Critique: A fascinating, meticulous, and seminal study, "Redeeming Objects: A West German Mythology" is enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, an informative Introduction (A West German Mythology and the Ghosts of the Past) and Epilogue (Post War Mythologies and Their Ghosts), fifty-six pages of Notes, a twenty-six page Bibliography, and a nine page Index. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Redeeming Objects" is groundbreaking and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, and college/university Germany Economics & Post-War Development/History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins
Jacob L. Wright
Cambridge University Press
9781108490931, $34.95, HC, 500pp

Synopsis: Why did no other ancient society produce something like the Bible? That a tiny, out of the way community could have created a literary corpus so determinative for peoples across the globe seems improbable.

For biblical scholar Jacob Wright, the Bible is not only a testimony of survival, but also an unparalleled achievement in human history. Forged after Babylon's devastation of Jerusalem, it makes not victory but total humiliation the foundation of a new idea of belonging. Lamenting the destruction of their homeland, the diverse scribes who composed the Bible imagined a promise-filled past while reflecting deeply on abject failure.

More than just religious scripture, the Bible began as a trailblazing blueprint for a new form of political community. Its response to catastrophe offers a powerful message of hope and restoration that is unique in the Ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman worlds.

Professor Jacob Wright's perception of the Bible is that of a social, political, and even economic roadmap -- one that enabled a small and obscure community located on the periphery of leading civilizations and empires not just to come back from the brink, but ultimately to shape the world's destiny.

The underlying message of "Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins" is that the Bible speaks ultimately of being a united yet diverse people, and its pages present a manual of pragmatic survival strategies for communities confronting societal collapse.

Critique: An exceptional and seminal study, "Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, seminary, and college/university library Biblical Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, seminarians, clergy, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Old Testament Studies that "Why the Bible Began" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.49) as well.

Editorial Note: Dr. Jacob L. Wright ( is a professor of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament at Emory University, which boasts one of the world's leading doctoral programs in biblical studies. Before coming to Emory, he taught at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Uniquely Normal: Tapping The Reservoir of Normalcy To Treat Autism
Robert J. Bernstein and Robin Cantor-Cooke, authors
Future Horizons, Inc.
9781941765463, $19.95, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Author Robert J. Bernstein has found a different approach based on cognition thinking in helping people of all ages with ASD. Author's goal is for people with ASD to be able to live in the world and connect with the people in it as themselves, to express their unique humanity and engage more fully in the human interactions that give life meaning and make it worth the effort of getting out of bed every day. Author believes that whatever he does therapeutically must be on the ASD individual's terms; he or she must lead. Author's therapy examples are categorized by age groups of: 2-5 years of age, 6-10 years of age, 11-14 years of age and 19 years of age and up.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Uniquely Normal: Tapping The Reservoir of Normalcy To Treat Autism" must be considered a core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Autism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, parents, caregivers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorder and parenting children with learning disabilities related to autism that "Uniquely Normal: Tapping The Reservoir of Normalcy To Treat Autism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.76).

Editorial Note #1: "Uniquely Normal: Tapping The Reservoir of Normalcy To Treat Autism" by the team of Robert J. Bernstein and Robin Canto-Cooke was awarded the 2018 IPPY Gold Medal Award Winner in the Mental/Psychology category, as well as being the 2017 Best Books Award Winner in the Mental/Psychology category, and 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Parenting/Family category.

Editorial Note #2: Robert J. Bernstein ( has a personal link to autism, having grown up with an autistic brother and being the parent of an autistic son. His family experience as a child led him to seek out training in developmental psychology and education, the knowledge base that is underlying in the cognitive method he developed and used throughout his career working with autistic children. Robert J. Bernstein is an International consultant for autism treatment in USA, UK, and India.

Editorial Note #3: Robin Canto-Cooke ( has worked for more than thirty years as a writer, editor, audio and video scriptwriter, and producer of more than forty books and tape programs. She is co-author of seven nonfiction books,

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Murder of a Gentleman (The Havard and Lambert mysteries Book 5)
Pippa McCathie
The Book Folks
9781804620335 $15.99 paper
B0BFQT22RM, $2.99 ebook, 197 pages

Murder of a Gentleman is a cozy British police procedural. This sounds like a strange genre mix but the story works. Murder is a solid tale but it doesn't stand out.

Mostly retired film writer and director Geraint Denbigh is found lifeless under the balcony to his home by his gardener. DCI Matt Lambert is called to the scene and notices enough irregularities to warrant a deeper investigation. Geraint is writing a tell-all book about his life and there are multiple people who are upset with it bringing a significant number of suspects into play.

Murder of a Gentleman is filled with details and interpersonal relationships, both between the investigators and the suspects. The rich and many details make the finding of the culprit hard. Overall Murder of a Gentleman is recommended for readers who enjoy cozy procedurals that have a sedate pace. Readers looking for a tale with a harder edge or more action will be less interested in the story.

The Advocate (The Advocate Series Book 1)
Teresa Burrell
Silent Thunder Publishing
B0087A3EPS ebook price: $0.99, 319 pages

The Advocate has a slightly different twist on the procedural mystery. Sabre Orin Brown is a children's lawyer in juvenile court. She gets assigned to represent two children in an abuse case between a man and his pregnant girlfriend. She senses that something in the family dynamics is off and starts an investigation into the family. Soon odd things begin happening around her and to her and the investigation keeps brining up new questions. The man's first wife and mother to one of the children is missing. The daughter keeps talking about a friend who can't be found. Relatives of the children are obviously being threatened not to talk to anyone. The deeper Sabre goes into the case the more dangerous is becomes.

The Advocate is a slower paced tale that becomes an action thriller by the final chapters. Some readers will have problems with the slower pace at the start of the story. Others will have questions about the extreme coincidences that make up part of the mystery. In balance, The Advocate is a good story with enough uniqueness to make it fun.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Death by Manicure: The Case of the Poison Polish
Dr. Robert Spalding
Spalding Publishing
9780997699258, $3.99, Kindle, 175 Pages

Synopsis: Dr. Robert Spalding takes readers on a nail-biting adventure through the United States nail salon industry in this gripping thriller. Recent news of women dying after visiting nail salons across the country has sparked an alarming trend linked to ricin-tainted bottles of nail polish found in various beauty shops. However, Athena Elliott, the top nail technician in the country, discovers the root cause of this diabolical domestic terrorist attack.

In this thrilling tale, Athena unravels the sinister plot of a disgruntled nail polish chemist who has set the stage for a deadly attack. With her bravery and quick thinking, Athena brings the culprit to justice and saves the nail salon industry from further harm.

Through Dr. Spalding's firsthand account and Athena's heroism, readers gain a deeper understanding of the nail salon industry and the potential dangers that lurk within.

Critique: Death by Manicure is an informative yet thrilling read and a must for anyone interested in a medical thriller with a unique twist that revolves around the beauty industry and the dangers that can arise from it.

Dr. Robert Spalding has written a book that cries out to become the next Lifetime Movie smash hit. He uses his expert medical background to give the reader an inside look at the dangers surrounding the nail salon industry.

This book will provide readers with valuable insights into the inner workings of this complex business. Dr. Spalding's extensive industry knowledge shines through in his writing, making this a must-read for anyone interested in medical thrillers.

Editorial Note: In 2023, they announced that they have adapted Death by Manicure into a screenplay and are currently working on developing it to find a movie producer. The author has worked tirelessly with a Publicist to ensure the film adaptation finds the right avenue and audience to be showcase this masterpiece on the big screen.

The Godhead Spot
M. St. Croix
9780997699258, $15.95, PB, 344pp
9780997699265, $8.99, Kindle

Synopsis: A struggling actor, Judd Russell, sees an opportunity to make quick cash by teaming up with brain-scanning teenagers Chester and Oakley Jolley. However, his greed has disastrous consequences when the twins erase his recent memory.

Fueled by revenge, Judd vows to make the brothers pay. In retaliation, the twins activate dormant nodes in Judd's brain, causing mind-bending effects. Soon, rumors spread that the twins have unlocked the Godhead Spot, attracting powerful forces to their small town in Minnesota.

As chaos ensues, the threat looms over the brothers' laboratory, putting Judd's life in danger. Will he be able to survive the onslaught and protect the discovery? Find out in this thrilling tale of science, greed, and danger.

Critique: The Godhead Spot is a captivating novel that will take you on an unforgettable ride. This book promises to be a page-turner for anyone who loves adventure. It's an intriguing story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. The characters are well-developed and relatable, making getting lost in their world a simple process.

M. St. Croix has done an exceptional job of creating an engaging and thought-provoking story. The Godhead Spot is a must-read for anyone who loves a book that offers its readers the best literary excellence.

The Mannamong - Volume 1
Michael Adam Lengyel, author and illustrator
Independent Published
9781732563230, $14.99, PB, 192 pages (Ages 8-12)

Synopsis: Step into a world where mythical guardian spirits are not just a folktale but a reality. This urban fantasy comic series takes you on a journey with Kali Teal, who discovers the truth about the mannamong after being cured of a severe and unexplainable illness by them.

As Kali delves deeper into the spiritual realm, she realizes that the mannamong are not just benevolent protectors of nature but can also have their mysterious incentives. The unsettling relationship that unfolds between Kali and her tormentor will leave you on the edge of your seat. Can she trust the mannamong or not?

Critique: Get ready for a series that will leave you spellbound! The Mannamong has arrived and is ready to captivate you with its riveting storyline and lovable characters. Don't be surprised if you root for them from the first episode!

With a cast that will win your heart and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is a show you won't want to miss. So, grab your popcorn, settle in, and let The Mannamong magic transport you to a world of adventure and excitement!

Michael Adam Lengyel is the mastermind behind the captivating The Mannamong series! Not only does he have an exceptional writing talent, but he's also a gifted illustrator who has brought this fantastical world to life through his stunning artwork.

From the first page of The Mannamong series, you'll be transported into a vivid and imaginative world that Michael created. His illustrations perfectly capture the essence of the story and its characters, making it impossible to put down.

Mystery Scars - A Story of Love and Healing
Merry Brennan
Riding The Waves Publishing
9781736842354, $14.99 PP, $7.99 Kindle, 310pp (Ages 12-18)

Synopsis: Are you ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing? Look no further than Mystery Scars - a compelling young adult novel that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Jewel Jacobs is a talented high school freshman who is grappling with the aftermath of a suicide attempt and struggles to piece together the events leading up to that fateful day.

With the help of a compassionate support group, Jewel embarks on a journey of healing and self-discovery that will keep you captivated until the very end.

Critique: Through heart-wrenching twists and turns, Mystery Scars explores the power of resilience, the importance of mental health, and the beauty of finding hope in unexpected places.

Merry Brennan has brought to light a severe subject plaguing our young adults. Her insightful and thought-provoking writing sheds light on a sensitive, often ignored issue.

Brennan's work is essential for anyone who wants to understand this vital topic more deeply. She brings compassion and empathy to a complex subject through her writing, providing a much-needed voice for struggling people. I cannot recommend her work highly enough, and I urge everyone to take the time to read it. Together, we can work towards a better future for our young people.

Armitage -- Children of Arcanum: Book One
Atlas Creed
Independently Published
9798987745328, $16.99 PB, 376 pages
9798987745335, $3.99 Kindle, 323 Pages


Synopsis: Armitage is a gripping tale of loss, love, and the supernatural. The story follows Rebekah Daroh, a woman struggling to accept her sister's death. Amidst her grief, she's visited by a mysterious phantom who calls her "Guardian" and takes her on a journey through the realm of souls.

As Rebekah searches for answers about her sister's fate, she encounters a cast of compelling and unexpected allies who aid her in her quest. From start to finish, Armitage immerses readers in a world of mystery and intrigue, with twists and turns at every corner.

Critique: Armitage is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of the unknown. Through the eyes of the protagonist, we witness the struggle of a woman trying to come to terms with her grief while also trying to understand the strange occurrences around her.

Atlas Creed's writing is impressive; he has written a mesmerizing book that will take you on an incredible journey of coping with loss and exploring the paranormal.

This book is a perfect blend of suspense, mystery, and emotion that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Armitage invites you to immerse yourself in this incredible journey and discover the power of hope and perseverance.

Songs for the Deaf
Kenneth A. Silver
Mindstar Media
9781961532502, $25.95, $16.95 PB, $12.99 Kindle, 277pp

Synopsis: Songs for the Deaf is an innovative book that explores the hidden connection between a mysterious missing person case and the devastating bubonic plague outbreaks that occurred in North Vietnam during the war. This galvanizing story centers on the protagonist, Miles Curtin.

From his early days as an article editor for the Columbia Law Review, where he transformed articles into a platform for political dissent, to his years as a top recruit at a large Canadian conglomerate, Miles always pursued the things that mattered most to him. The world around him seemed to fit him like a glove as he continued to fight the good fight, but it all came apart at the seams.

Miles was a different person after returning to the States in the '80s. But could that person live with what providence left on his doorstep?

Critique: Songs for the Deaf is a gripping tale of one man's survival against all odds. This page-turner centers on a captivating MIA mystery that keeps you guessing until the end. Follow our protagonist as he navigates the dangers and horrors of war, all while uncovering the secrets of the missing soldier.

With vivid descriptions and expert storytelling, Songs For the Deaf will transport you to another time and place, immersing you in a world of danger, intrigue, and hope. This book is a true testament to one man's talent as an author.

The States
Norah Woodsey
My Identifiers/Bowker
9798988445715 $TBA(Hardcover), 376p
9798988445708, $TBA (Paperback), 376pp
9780997333992, $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Tildy Sullivan, a woman living a life devoid of love and belonging for the past eight years, finds herself amid a dream experiment that takes an unexpected turn. As she delves deeper into the world of her dreams, Tildy begins to question whether her pursuit of happiness is worth sacrificing her grip on reality.

Will her dreams convince her to take the leap and pursue a life of fulfillment, or will they ultimately lead her astray? Join us on this journey as we explore the consequences of Tildy's dream experiment and its impact on her life.

Critique: In The States, we follow the journey of a woman who decides to take a chance and change her life. Tired of the monotony and boredom of her daily routine, she takes a leap of faith and embarks on a new adventure.

Through her experiences, she discovers the power of stepping outside one's comfort zone and the endless possibilities that come with it. This inspiring story reminds us there is always time to change and pursue our dreams.

Norah Woodsey is a fantastic author who has written a compelling book that is a must-read for anyone looking for a captivating and thought-provoking story.

Woodsey's writing style is engaging, and her characters are relatable, making the book a joy to read from start to finish. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read; we are confident it will not disappoint.

Editorial Note: Norah Woodsey is the author of LIFELESS, WHEN THE WAVE COLLAPSES, and THE CONTROL PROBLEM. Her forthcoming novel, THE STATES, will be released spring 2024.After short careers in finance and tech, she has dedicated herself to creating fiction.

The Gift Shop at the DMZ: A Therapist Travels with the Military
Maureen Hicks
Dancing Trees Press
An imprint of Maureen Hicks
9798989189601, $15.99, PB, 248 pages
9798989189625, $5.99 Kindle

Synopsis: If you're looking for a fresh and unique perspective on the challenges military personnel and their families face because of the U.S. being on a war footing for the past twenty-two years, then you won't miss this compelling memoir.

The author, an outsider to the military lifestyle, provides a compassionate view of the emotional stress that those who choose to serve their country face. Through many therapeutic encounters, she offers insights into the struggles of military life while maintaining a delightful and often hilarious tone. This memoir is a must-read for anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional toll of military service.

Critique: The Gift Shop at the DMZ is a memoir that is a testament to the power of human connection and the impact one person can make in many lives.

Maureen Hicks is a talented author who has opened up about her life and shown the profound impact it had on the military community.

Hicks shares a deeply personal journey of healing and hope that has touched the lives of many service members and their families. Her powerful narrative sheds light on the challenges those who serve our country face and the healing power of love and compassion.

This story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of community in times of need. Her work has already touched many lives and will also speak to the reader's heart.

Wild Conviction: Sixteen is Power
Mary Dezember
Brilliant Moon Press
9798987293515, $20.99, HC, 463pp
9798987293508, $12.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle (Ages 14-17)

Synopsis: Welcome to the world of Twilight Wild Adams! On her sixteenth birthday, she discovers a whole new world of magic and danger, thanks to a letter from her GrandMama. With her newfound knowledge and emerging powers, Twilight takes a stand against slavery and fights for what she believes in.

But not everyone is on board with her mission. Despite the opposition, Twilight remains steadfast in her convictions and charges forward to stop the enslavement of children at a wicked plantation. However, she soon learns that survival isn't always synonymous with freedom.

Join Twilight on her journey as she navigates the treacherous waters of a covert mystical sisterhood and fights against the injustices of slavery. With her wild conviction and emerging powers, she is determined to make a difference. Join her in the fight for freedom and justice?

Critique: Wild Conviction is a book that will transport you to a world of heated tensions and mesmerizing characters. From the first page, it will draw you into a world where reality and the supernatural intersect, and the past and present collide unexpectedly.

Mary Dezember's outstanding book tells the story of a spirited teenager in a captivating and inspiring way. With a signature writing style, Dezember expertly weaves together a tale of adventure, self-discovery, and personal growth that will have readers of all ages hooked from the very first page.

The Kelsey Outage: The "Crime of the Century"
Alison Louise Hubbard
Black Rose Writing
9781685133597, $24.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 359 Pages

Synopsis: In Huntoria, New York, in 1872, a scandalous affair between a poet and a member of a prominent family led to a twisted web of lies and deceit.

The town's elite tarred, feathered, and made Charles Kelsey, the poet, disappear, while claiming that they sent him away to bury the scandal. But his sister Cathleen suspected foul play and teamed up with the local constable Alexander Ruggles to uncover the truth.

As they delved deeper into the investigation, they uncovered the murky depths of small-town politics and social stratification. Will their investigation finally unravel the truth behind Charles Kelsey's mysterious disappearance?

Critique: The Kelsey Outage uniquely blends historical intrigue and modern social commentary. This book takes readers on a thrilling ride through time, exploring the fascinating world of the Kelsey family and their struggles with power, love, and betrayal. The author has masterfully woven an intricate plot that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the end.

Alison Louise Hubbard has masterfully brought history to life. Her book is an engaging and thought-provoking read that will appeal to book clubs, classrooms, and individual readers. With well-developed characters and themes that challenge readers to think critically about the past, this book is an ideal choice for anyone seeking a fresh historical perspective.

Walker Larson
Swallow Hill Press
9780999007631, $12.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 364 Pages

Synopsis: In a world where holograms are used for deception and control, 18-year-old Aaron stands out with his unique gift of sight. The destruction of his village and the capture of his family by the Voturan Vanguards set Aaron on a perilous journey, as he is determined to rescue them.

However, the Voturans soon discover his ability and enlist him as an officer in their army. As Aaron navigates his way through the luxurious world of the Voturan upper classes, he must live a double life to survive. He finds solace in his growing friendship with Druxa's daughter, Antonia, and the enslaved people assigned to him.

But to stay alive, he must conceal his anger and desire for vengeance, feigning loyalty to the very people who destroyed his home. Will Aaron be able to use his gift to help his family and seek revenge, or will the glittering illusions of the Voturan capital will consume him?

Critique: Hologram is a book that promises to take you on a thrilling journey of emotions and sensations. With its intense and vibrant narrative, Hologram will keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Whether you are a fan of science fiction, mystery, or adventure, it's a book that has something for everyone. The vivid descriptions and well-crafted characters will transport you to a different world, where anything is possible.

Walker Larson's book showcases his incredible talent as an author. With beautifully crafted prose and captivating characters, this book is a must-read for anyone who appreciates excellent literature.

Forever is Too Long
John Posner
Golden Echo Books
9798989335404, $22.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 614 Pages

Synopsis: Step into a world 400 years later where human minds can perfectly copy themselves and live eternally in the multiverse, transforming into Mindars within a new digital world.

Forever is Too Long examines the effects of this revolutionary technology, raising challenging inquiries about the implications of humans transforming into digital beings and the disruption of social norms.

Jake, a human who crosses over to become a Mindar, must confront the unintended consequences of his transformation and the internal demons he must face. Meanwhile, Noah fights for his self-identity in a world where his genetic mutations grant him untapped powers. Together, they and others take a stand for the soul of humanity, speculating about the technological consequences that humans are not prepared for.

Join them on a journey through this thought-provoking sci-fi/fantasy tale as we explore the possibilities and pitfalls of a future where forever is too long.

Critique: Forever is Too Long delivers non-stop action and unexpected plot twists at every turn; this book is a rollercoaster ride you won't want to miss. From the first page, this book will transport you to a world beyond your wildest imagination.

The vivid descriptions and well-crafted characters will make you feel right in the middle of the action. And with every chapter, the stakes increase, and the tension builds to a heart-stopping climax.

Congratulations to John Posner for winning the award for the longest book this reviewer has ever read in her thirty-one-year career! His writing talent is remarkable, as he kept my attention from beginning to end despite the many twists and turns, he included to captivate my mind. Posner set the pages on fire with incredible storytelling skills, leaving readers like myself in awe.

This is Who We Are Now
James Bailey
Independently Published
9798862239683, $12.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 240 Pages

Synopsis: Henry Bradfield is about to turn a milestone age, but he's not thrilled about it. To take his mind off things, he visits his childhood home, where he finds his parents' garage sale is in full swing. However, things take an unexpected turn when he realizes that his beloved comic collection has been sold to the son of a former high school sweetheart, Erin Chadwick

As he navigates the tensions between his family members, including his distant wife Denise, he finds himself again drawn to Erin. With the help of his struggling sister, Margo, Henry must weigh the risks of rekindling an old flame against his stable but unfulfilling marriage. Embark on this heartwarming journey of rediscovery and second chances.

Critique: This is Who We Are Now will captivate readers of all ages. With his unique writing style, Bailey has created an entertaining and thought-provoking work. His attention to detail and ability to weave complex themes into a compelling narrative make this book a must-read for all.

James Bailey is one of the most exciting voices in modern literature that I have discovered this year! With his unique style and captivating storytelling, Bailey can capture the hearts and minds of readers worldwide. Through his work, he has challenged our perspectives, expanded our imaginations, and reminded us of the power of the written word.

Finding Poetry, Finding Me
Rebecca P. Bruckenstein
Pure Ink Press
9798987586617, $13.99, PB, 144 PP
9781956823301, $5.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Indulge in the beauty of language and explore the power of poetry with Finding Poetry, Finding Me. This beautiful book takes readers through the author's experiences and emotions, inviting them to turn inward and discover their connection to poetry.

Bruckenstein's lyrical phrases explore the world and our relationships with each other, touching on childhood memories, the residual effects of the global pandemic, and the journey of self-discovery. Through her words, readers will discover that poetry can be exist everywhere and that each phrase has the power to set off an emotion waiting to be revisited.

Critique: Finding Poetry, Finding Me is a celebration of the power of words and the beauty of poetry. For anyone who wants to connect with their inner self, choose this book, for it will explore topics that will have you reconnect with memories and various emotions.

Rebecca P. Bruckenstein has a unique writing style and an unsurpassed talent as a poet. Each poem is unlike anything you've read; it is a journey of self-discovery and reflection. With every turn of the page, you'll find yourself transported to a different time and place, rediscovering old memories and emotions you may have forgotten. Whether you're a seasoned poetry lover or new to the genre, this collection is a must-read.

Just Like Click
Sandy Grubb
Fitzroy Books
c/o Regal House Publishing, LLC
9781646034390, $12.95 PB, $8.49 Kindle, 188 Pages (Ages 9-12)

Synopsis: Meet Nick Townley, a young boy passionate about creating exciting Adventures of Click comics. Nick's world's turned upside down when a series of robberies threaten his dad's job, forcing them to move across the country. But Nick is unwilling to let go of his beloved home and the $237,000 dollars in cash under his bed, which was left to him by his Great Gramp before he passed away.

In a desperate attempt to save his home, Nick steps off the pages of his comic book and transforms into Click, an undercover superhero. But being a superhero is challenging, especially when you lack superpowers. Nick's world changes when he meets three new kids who discover his secret identity and want to join him on his mission to catch the thieves. Nick hesitates at first but soon realizes that even a superhero needs friends.

Nick's story is one of determination and courage. He is a young boy who refuses to let go of what he loves and will do whatever it takes to save it. His passion for creating comics has given him the skills to become a superhero, and his willingness to step out of his comfort zone has led him to find new friends.

Critique: Just Like Click is a book that will captivate you from the first page. Nick's world of adventure and excitement will captivate you, and you won't be able to resist being drawn into it. You will root for him as he faces challenges and overcomes obstacles, and his bravery and determination will inspire you. Nick's story reminds us we all have the power to be superheroes in our lives and that sometimes, all it takes is a little courage and a few good friends.

Award-winning author Sandy Grubb has crafted a masterpiece that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Join the hero as he faces impossible odds and fights for what he believes in. With heartwarming moments and breathtaking action scenes, this book will leave a lasting impression.

Editorial Note: Just Like Click won the esteemed Kraken Book Prize, recognizing finely crafted middle-grade fiction and resulting in a publishing contract with Fitzroy Books, the children's imprint of Regal House Publishing

Suzie Housley, Senior Reviewer

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