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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 1 January 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

Critiques of Theology
Yotam Hotam
State University of New York Press
9781438494364, $99.00, HC, 255pp

Synopsis: A critique is an article or essay criticizing a literary or other work, a detailed evaluation, a review, a criticism or critical comment on some problem, subject, etc. It seems hard to imagine a concept more significant to modern thought than a critique.

With respect to theology and its relationship to secular thought, a critique involves distancing oneself from religious explanations and theological argumentation and came to represent the essence of secular consciousness's potential to deliver modernity's promise of human progress through rational inquiry and scientific development.

With the publication of "Critiques of Theology: German-Jewish Intellectuals and the Religious Sources of Secular Thought", Professor Yotam Hotam debunks this common understanding.

Based on a novel reading of previously less-discussed writings by Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Hannah Arendt, "Critiques of Theology" shows how the practice of critique emerged out of religious traditions and can, in many ways, be traced back to them. This study points to a persistent misreading of critique and demonstrates that it does not come from outside of religion to build a new world of ideas; on the contrary, it redeploys those already present within its theological constellations.

Critique: An impressive and seminal work of informed and informative scholarship, "Critiques of Theology: German-Jewish Intellectuals and the Religious Sources of Secular Thought" will prove to be of immense value to readers with an interest in Philosophy and Religion. While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, seminary, and college/university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, seminarians, academia, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Critiques of Theology" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781438494388, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.20).

Editorial Note: Yotam Hotam ( is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Haifa. He is the author of Modern Gnosis and Zionism: The Crisis of Culture, Life Philosophy and Jewish National Thought and the editor (with Philip Wexler) of New Social Foundations for Education: Education in 'Post Secular' Society.

A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism
Peter Lehr
Edward Elgar Publishing
9781839109775, $125.00, HC, 220pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism: From the Fenian Ram to Explosive-Laden Drone Boats" from Edward Elgar Publishing, Peter Lehr presents a comprehensive and insightful examination of the evolution of maritime terrorism in the modern era. Navigating the past, present and future of maritime terrorism, Lehr outlines its history and definitions, its current manifestations, locations and actors, and its possible future trajectories.

Structured in three key parts, ""A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism" takes a critical and historical approach to the study of maritime terrorism. Focusing on the terrorist actors' perspectives, chapters investigate existing academic literature, official reports, newspaper articles and the actors' own descriptions of their acts of terrorism. Lehr considers the motivations and expectations behind why terrorists take terrorism to the sea; the weapons and tactics used to do so; where they struck, and against what; and ultimately what they achieved. Considering the lessons learned from the history of maritime terrorism, ""A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism" concludes with an examination of the near-future trajectories it could take.

A vivid and detailed account of the various forms of maritime terrorism that have emerged in the last century, "A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism" is a topical history that will prove invaluable to students and scholars of international relations, terrorism and security studies, and maritime politics and policy. Its comparative analysis of the patterns in the actors, locations and tactics in maritime terrorism will prove useful to practitioners seeking to plan and execute counter-terrorism operations.

Critique: Timely, impressively informative and exceptionally well written, as well as thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "A Modern History of Maritime Terrorism: From the Fenian Ram to Explosive-Laden Drone Boats" will prove of immense value to readers with an interest in contemporary terrorism in general, and modern maritime piracy in particular. While unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as professional, community, and college/university library collections and Maritime History curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Peter Lehr ( is the Senior Lecturer in Terrorism Studies, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews,UK

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Arms Wide Asunder
S. Jay Bose
CoeurDeLion Books
9798988055211, $6.02 ebook/$19.95 Paperback/$29.95 Hardcover

Arms Wide Asunder: An Epic Story of Treachery, Lust, Plunder and Redemption at the Birth of the British Empire in India is a novel based on real events that took place in India during the mid to late 18th century. It focuses on the Battle of Plassey, fought in 1757.

From this introductory note, readers might expect this historical novel requires a prior familiarity with India's history - but, it does not. One of the pleasures of the story lies in its ability to posit different outcomes from small changes in choice, action, and loyalty, and in the author's ability to bring the sights, sounds, and experiences of these times to life for readers who may have little to no prior familiarity with the events, people, and era under consideration.

A somewhat formidable-appearing cast of characters and a family tree sets the stage with facts that will pleasantly surprise readers with a concurrent series of descriptions that bring the story to life from the start:

"A songbird glides into the room through the open French window and chirps softly, as if calling to its mate. The man sleeping inside stirs, sensing a presence, and stretches a sinewy, bronzed arm for the loaded revolver concealed beneath an old English edition of Marcel Pagnol's Chateau de Ma Mere, lying on the nightstand. Gripping the firearm, the man scans the darkness, probing for danger. Satisfied, he lays his head back on the pillow and stares at the extravagant mural of the Three Fates hovering high above him on the cathedral-like ceiling."

The story unfolds with a special attention to character relationships, political and military impacts on all levels of society, reviewing the conflicts that are identified, transmitted, and perceived between generations:

"My dear Anjolie, you have grown into a strong and confident young woman, and I'm pleased to see that. But listen to an old man, for life's lessons are often learnt the hard way, and I would not want you to make the mistakes I have made in my own life, particularly in this country which is still alien to you."

S. Jay Bose is particularly skilled at translating perceptions of belief, battles, and fights that revolve around faith and social encounters into the changing lives and motivations of a wide cast of characters who struggle with the impact of Plassey on their lives.

The contrast between different cultures, approaches to problems such as the food shortages in Bengal and British involvement in Indian affairs, and the intersections of economic and social forces at work in the country make for thought-provoking and enlightening examinations. These will lead even non-historical-novel readers to appreciate the underlying currents that affect peoples' lives and values:

"Does not the East India Company collect all the revenues of Bengal and set the policy of what can be grown and where, with all the powers of a sovereign? Do we not then - as direc-tors of the Company - have a responsibility to do what is right by the people, as is the duty of the sovereign?"

The result is exactly what a superior historical novel should achieve: a glimpse of life and the priorities and perceptions of people of bygone times who find their worlds upended and in conflict.

Libraries and readers seeking solid historical fiction writing that seamlessly incorporates the precedents and events of history with the lives of all involved will find Arms Wide Asunder truly epic in its approach to surviving the political and social waves of change that buffeted India and the British Empire alike.

Northwest Poems
CE Rivers
Privately Published
9781962874540, $22.99 Hardcover/$14.95 Paperback/$7.99 eBook

Northwest Poems is a Northwest-centric collection of imagery and reflections that offers free verse embedded with nature and a sense of place.

Whether CE Rivers is reviewing a sunrise in Seattle or wading in the wild waters of the Northwest, the poems embrace a hearty sense of Northwest possibilities and impossibilities that capture philosophical and natural history observations for a satisfying mix of topics.

Take a trout's soliloquy to a fisherman in 'The Fish That Talked'. Here, nature doesn't bite back physically so much as in reflections about the fine art of fly fishing and its ultimate impact on the ecosystem.

The fisherman narrator receives a lecture that gives him pause in his pursuits:

"Do you think fish don't feel pain?
We do!
Let me put a hook attached to a line
Into your mouth or throat
And pull you in against a current.
Your mouth or throat will be torn and bleed.
You won't be able to eat for days or
At all, if you survive the fight!"

The expansive big bang moves from individual impact to social considerations in sections which evolve the narrator's perspective on environment, life, and bigger-picture thinking. One example lies in 'The World That Happens Every Day' in which the narrator moves from his life encounters and challenges he can "afford" to urban living that becomes an accepted part of that world:

"Brutality, murder, and benevolence
Walk side by side
On any city sidewalk
Waiting for the opportunity to emerge."

Readers move through the nomadic scenarios that play out in Northwest Poems breathing air both pure and tainted by the purposes and perceptions of mankind, feeling impacts on person and environment with new reflections, and sharing equal attention to the details of life whether they be ice-fishing with an axe or reflecting on the agonies of a key photo from the Vietnam era.

The interplay of man and nature is especially evocative in this collection, outlining a concurrent pursuit of self and life meaning which comes alive under the narrator's pen.

Libraries and readers looking for a collection steeped in a sense of place and replete with a powerful juxtaposition of individuals, nations, and nature will find Northwest Poems a compelling gathering that will do double duty as classroom assignment for teachers seeking materials firmly grounded in a sense of geographic and social connection.

Beach of the Dead
Cynthia J. Bogard
Atmosphere Press
9781639889808, $18.99 paperback; $9.99 Kindle

Book 2 of the Heartland Trilogy, Beach of the Dead, examines a murder in paradise but opens in 1986 Texas, where a fugitive narrates the vivid events that almost led her to suicide.

Choosing her great-grandmother's name as a cover, 'Ana' (nee: Jane Meyer) journeys south of the Mexican border to escape and build a new life, only to run head-long into more trouble, murder, and the challenge to not only run for her life, but dash into a different identity with new possibilities for her future.

The added value of Cynthia J. Bogard's story lies in Jane/Ana's quest for a new life (however much it rests upon building believable lies about her past) far from the violent influences which began in childhood and led her to murder her lover and mentor.

Bogard doesn't reveal everything at once, but builds satisfying tension through stories of discovery and revelation. These follow the protagonist's quest for not just redemption, but a peaceful life - something that has proved elusive to her for a very long time.

This focus on strong character development and psychological insights adds attraction and depth to the story, elevating it beyond the typical murder tale. Readers become immersed in the murderer's life and choices, covering her reinvention as the Catholic bride Ana in a very different milieu.

Bogard creates memorable interactions between characters as Ana grows into this new world and attempts to both set aside her past and make her new identity a lasting one. The focus on how individuals flee conflict, reinvent their lives, and face their pasts and future gives Beach of the Dead a profound sense of discovery and recovery that will satisfy readers looking for more than a murder scenario alone.

Of special note is the cost of trying to maintain relationships built on such a facade:

"I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep my facade intact. That was part of it. The closer we'd become, the more it had started to slip. It was as if I was on stage, play-acting someone else's life twenty-four hours a day. It was tiring, daunting, especially when the other party was trying to get to know me, trying to get closer. Rather than simply experiencing love and longing, my feelings were all mixed up with guilt for deceiving her and fear that she'd find me out and reject me, as would be her right. There was a deeper level to the fear. It wasn't all about being found out. I knew I also feared that, eventually, whether it was Ana or Jane, I would be revealed as unworthy of Thorpe's, of anyone's, love. Not knowing if that was definitively true was why I could go on, damaged as I was. If I got too close to someone, if they knew the real me, it would kill that little glimmer of hope that lived inside me. The one that promised that, despite everything, I was capable of being loved, when every fiber of my being said otherwise. Lying Ana or truthful Jane, either way I was despicable, damaged beyond repair."

The result is powerfully intriguing, delving into how new personas are envisioned, built, and maintained under challenging conditions.

Libraries, readers, and book clubs interested in multifaceted stories that offer much food for thought and debate about truth and lies, identity, and growth will find real pleasure in Beach of the Dead, which operates as both a pivot point in a trilogy and a stand-alone story that newcomers, too, will relish.

From Trophy Wife to Cosmetic Surgeon
Victoria Johnson, MD
Yorkshire Publishing
9781957262802, $19.99

From Trophy Wife to Cosmetic Surgeon explores the transformation of a Mississippi housewife who has an eight-year-old daughter and an abusive husband. Its eye-opening story of this process serve as testimony to other women in similar positions.

"Once the pain becomes intolerable, you break and change it." Victoria Johnson had heard this note of caution, but found herself living it in unexpected ways. At age twenty-eight, a visit to a cosmetic surgeon created an attraction to the work that translated to new opportunities and a revised vision for her future.

Desperate for guidance on how to find a way out of her abusive situation, Johnson prayed and pursued self-help books, guidance counselors, and outside help. Her faith drove her to consult her sister, who helped her tackle numerous (impossible-sounding) obstacles towards new goals, from earning money and raising her daughter to attending school.

Her wise sister counseled:

"'How do you eat an elephant?' I shook my head, at a loss. 'One bite at a time,' she said."

The steps Johnson took to become educated in medicine so she could take up the reins of a new career and life are documented in a faith-driven story that will inspire women who reside under similar positions and who feel that the obstacles to resolution are insurmountable.

From changes in her medical career's direction and the issues that arose in medical education to her pursuit of opportunity, freedom, and healing, Johnson provides a vivid account that demonstrates how any woman can follow in her footsteps.

Johnson tells of approaching bankers with logical business plans and spearheading an inclusive clinic environment, to pursuing answers to life conundrums, employing an unexpectedly raw, candid confessional tone. This permeates a story that is as open about personal and professional failings and questions as it is about pursuing solutions: "I was so scared for my patient and appalled at my ignorance. I felt blindsided. I needed help and information."

The result is a memoir that comes from real world experiences. Johnson laces her account with reflections on encounters with different cultures and people from other walks of life, cultivating a warm, encouraging, honest tone as she re-envisions life on many different levels.

Libraries seeking stories of personal empowerment and transformational drive will find From Trophy Wife to Cosmetic Surgeon an honest survey that reveals many practical life lessons and approaches that other women can benefit from.

William Shakespeare's Hamlet
Gideon Rappaport
One Mind Good Press
9798218112592, $48.00

The first question that comes to mind when considering Gideon Rappaport's William Shakespeare's Hamlet is: why should an edited, annotated work of this classic be chosen for classroom study and student edification over the Bard's original piece just because it's accompanied by teacher enlightenment?

Quite simply, Gideon Rappaport's survey streamlines the original work, allowing teachers the opportunity to highlight Shakespeare's classic in a more efficient, different manner designed to augment (not replace) both the original masterpiece and the teacher's efforts.

Perhaps more so than most of Shakespeare's literary works, Hamlet is widely misunderstood and misinterpreted. With Rappaport's analysis in mind and hand, the focus is on the underlying assumptions about human nature which have long permeated traditional analytical approaches to the play.

Where other discussions might bring to light obscure possibilities in Shakespeare's approach and plot, Rappaport points out that any such interpretations are likely critic-imposed, and not an intentional device the Bard employed in creating his characters and their very clear dilemmas. After all, his audience was not one of intellectuals alone, but the common man. Deliberate obscurity on the author's part would have muddied the waters too much for the play to assume the status and appeal it held, both in its times and to future generations.

Rappaport's close attention to outlining what the play meant and its impact during Shakespeare's times holds not only alternative, necessary enlightenment for modern readers, but provides insights into the critical processes which have done injustice to Shakespeare's classic over the centuries, introducing themes and ideas which actually were not part of the Bard's original intention or work.

Rappaport maintains and points out that "...too many interpreters in modern times have missed the mark by substituting their own ideas for the meanings that Shakespeare has actually given us." He then creates five set principles to guide a re-interpretation of Hamlet which sets the story in a better historical and cultural light.

It should be noted, at this point, that this is no light endeavor, but a line-by-line interpretation which juxtaposes each piece of the play with a facing interpretation on the same page. This allows for deep and close inspection appropriate for students of Hamlet and scholars, who will find that many of these comments provide fuel for further discussion and debate.

One example is Rappaport's interpretation of a dialogue between Hamlet and Polonious ("Polonius: Upon my honor -

Hamlet: Then came each actor on his ass - "): "Upon my honor: an oath confirming the truth of the news. Then came... his ass: Perhaps a quotation from an older ballad, as at lines 407 - 408, 416, and 418. on his ass: on his donkey. Hamlet pretends that Polonius means the actors have literally ridden in upon him ("upon my honor" = on me, cf., "your honor" or "your majesty") and implies thereby that they have ridden each on an ass (= fool), thus calling Polonius an ass. Polonius misses or ignores the point, perhaps taking it, as Hamlet intends, to be more evidence of nonsensical madness."

The result is an in-depth, powerful analysis of Hamlet that not only focuses on and returns the Bard's original intentions to modern audiences, but explains why they were misinterpreted in the first place.

Libraries, students, and scholars who would go beyond another Hamlet analytical study to consider the successes and failures of literary interpretation itself will find Rappaport's study William Shakespeare's Hamlet an invaluable work of analytical art. It should serve as a creative foundation for any teacher or student of historic literary works in general and Hamlet in particular.

Patrick O'Connor
Blackbeard Independent Press
9781739113612, $29.99 Hardcover/$13.42 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Bisentient combines alien invasion sci-fi with mystery and thriller elements. These enhance a riveting story which starts out as a medical thriller and then moves into unexpected territory most readers won't see coming.

The last thing cameraman reporter Mason Plater anticipated from his job was becoming involved in a cult's attempt to build a dangerous secret weapon which will change the world.

He's worked on many documentaries and revealed numerous puzzles, but his latest encounter on a coma ward with a patient who mysteriously awakens momentarily leads to questions that seemingly have no answers. This portends further forays into dangerous territory as Mason delves into a dangerous experimental device.

Patrick O'Connor builds tension slowly and steadily as Mason moves from a light mystery to becoming mired in a political struggle that teeters on the edge of occult influences and bizarre motives.

Risks are taken to implant humans with untested chip technology, an entity's growing strength demands haste and sacrifices unprecedented in human history, and the changing roles and mandates of not just Mason but supporting characters like British Home Secretary James Carver add a heart-stopping tension to a delightfully multifaceted story that introduces moral and ethical quandaries and bigger-picture thinking:

"He thought he knew what was at stake. Then at other times he felt as if in a dream or a form of madness. No-one should have to live such a double life. The pressures of perhaps the most difficult and thankless role in British politics and this. The unfathomable weight of responsibility for the fate of...what? The country? The West? Civilisation? Humanity?"

From cross-country rallies to revelations that rock the worlds of right-wing and left-wing conspiracy theorists alike, O'Connor is particularly adept at juxtaposing the irony of likenesses between opposing forces where only chance proves a dividing line between their values.

As the conflict escalates between "agents of the devil" and those who believe themselves to be on the side of good, readers will find Bisentient as compelling for its many characters and opposing sides as for its underlying blend of intrigue and alien encounters.

Libraries and readers seeking vivid, action-packed stories that excel in contrasts between ideals and forces will find Bisentient a major attraction.

The Street Between the Pines
J.J. Alo
Independently Published
9798218165369, $27.99 Hardcover/$15.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Horror novel readers are in for a treat with The Street Between the Pines, which takes a walk on the wild side with veteran Curtis Reynolds, who struggles with daily life and a failing marriage until the murder of an elderly neighbor involves him in bigger-picture thinking.

As the story unfolds in this first book in a projected Southern New England Horror series, readers are introduced to this world via a prologue that profiles not Curtis, but Frank Cavanaugh. He has the misfortune of investigating an unexpected power outage in the basement, only to find something more has erupted into the darkness.

Curtis comes to light in the first chapter as a sardonic worker separated from his wife and going through the motions of living.

His lifelong motto has served him well until now:

"Be prepared, son... be prepared."

There's no preparing for impossible forces, however; and as Curtis enters a different world of monsters and new possibilities, the estrangement between himself and his wife Amy enter unexpected territory, as well. The cats which wind through his life and help him find new revelations will delight readers who like feline-aided discoveries in their fiction.

J.J. Alo tempers the horror component of The Street Between the Pines with a social inspection. This approach injects thought-provoking scenes of choice and consequence into the experiences of a veteran suffering from PTSD, alienation, and life disassociation. The ideas evolve as revelations that test Curtis on levels he'd never anticipated when issues of life expectancy, pollution, corporate greed, and disease emerge in the presence of an unprecedented threat.

Alo's ability to powerfully capture this veteran's slow rise into a personal power that can be traced back to the teachings of a good man translates to an effective, involving story. The horror comes not just from a creature's manifestation, but from a waking nightmare Curtis can't seem to shake. And, there are cats. Lots of them wind into the story to add feline value to the yarn.

Libraries and readers seeking horror stories whose impact stems as much from personal horror, redemption, and transformation as outside forces will find the blend of psychological and social insights to be thought-provoking, compelling, and often entirely, delightfully unexpected.

The Crafter: A Kid's LitRPG/Gamelit Adventure: Book 1: The Mysterious Game
Dan Sugralinov, author
Kenes 'Kenny' Sugralinov, translator
Independently Published
9798862684476, $18.99 Hardcover, $3.99 Kindle, $15.99 Paperback

The Crafter: A Kid's LitRPG/Gamelit Adventure: Book 1: The Mysterious Game isn't just an adventure story. It juxtaposes worlds of reality and fantasy, inviting kids to absorb a format which embraces different worlds in a creatively unique manner.

Kenny is a young optimist challenged by changes in his life; not the least of which is a move to Kansas:

"Kenny strongly believed that everything would eventually be okay. This belief remained with him, even when his dad stopped living with them at the apartment in New York City, and he and his mom had to leave."

Here, the world of Minecraft computer gaming and everyday experience intersect in unusual, challenging ways as Kenny applies life lessons to navigate fantasy worlds, real-world bullies, and obstacles that can equally lead to either prizes or disasters. His employment of schooling and knowledge to navigate this unfamiliar territory adds another, unexpected dimension to The Crafter. This expands its themes, interests, and power as Kenny learns how mushrooms may hold a particular form of magic that offers solutions beyond their botanical science.

Even for optimists like Kenny, there are days when nothing goes right. But he can't hide from bullies forever - even in the gaming world.

As Kenny grows his abilities and tries to counter his reputation as an outsider, he grapples with the challenges of making friends based on events that place him in the eye of a storm over conformity, demonstrating his knowledge and abilities:

"He could almost feel his reputation with the bullies improving. He wasn't their favorite, but he was making progress."

Realistic assessments of relationships between kids and adults inject notes of real problem-solving and quandaries into a tale which is just as centered on emotional growth as it is on puzzle-solving and games. Opportunities for enlightenment appear in many different forms and on many levels as the story unfolds.

Kenes 'Kenny' Sugralinov translates this story from the Russian, giving young Western readers a vivid introduction to the new Fantasy Metauniverses series which fulfills its promise of tackling subjects alluring to readers of fantasy and real-world dilemmas alike.

There are dragons, curses, the momentum of entering different gaming levels, and encounters which change Kenny and his real-world relationships in genuine ways.

Libraries and adults seeking compelling fantasy for middle grades and older which rests on game concepts and experiences, yet elevates the action to new levels that dovetail with real-world issues, will find The Crafter action-packed, thought-provoking, and attractive. It appeal into gamer circles that usually eschew reading books, cultivating themes that invite classroom and group discussion.

Believe Unshattered Love
L C Renie
Independently Published
9781736498170, $18.12

Book 2 of the Unshattered Love series, Believe, continues Dr. Alexandria Belmont's story (presented in the first book, Alexandria) about her encounter with love and the promises and pain it portends.

Romance readers who also appreciate elements of suspense and discovery in their stories (especially those already introduced to Alexandria in the prior book) will find this continuation of her story to be compelling and enlightening.

L C Renie fills in the blanks of Alexandria's journey as her relationship with Alessio continues to be challenged by family complexities and the pain of the past.

Newcomers will find the introductory "A Look Back" (in the form of a diary entry by Alexandria's mother) sets the stage for the events which unfold in Believe, exploring the family dynamics and decisions which influenced Alexandria's life.

The volatile attraction and partnership between Alexandria and Alessio that results in surprising revelations about commitment and emotional depth creates attractive surprises throughout the story:

"He gives a soft smile and leans over to connect a kiss to my lips. He whispers against them, "I love you, Dria, unconditionally." Alessio kneels beside the bed to face me. "I'm a businessman, not a killer nor a criminal. But understand, I'll kill for your happiness."

Lost for words, I pray quietly to God that it will never get to that point. I caress Alessio's face and reach for his hand to kiss. Silly me, having the audacity to think this man won't kill for me."

As a complicated scenario evolves which involves a new husband in Sicily, ex in-laws on Martha's Vineyard, and an ex-husband's accident which draws broken families together to confront moral and ethical issues surrounding survival, readers receive an engrossing blend of intrigue and emotional revelation that raises new wrath, enemies, and confrontations from broken roots.

Suddenly, Alexandria isn't sure about anything in her world anymore - including her vastly revised life or her family connections.

Readers who absorb the romantic portion of Believe will find, in this struggle, a compelling saga of a woman's growing realizations about what is acceptable and unacceptable in her old and new relationships.

Aside from the steamy romantic content, this added value comes from layers of psychic and emotional turmoil that create deeply reflective insights on the subjects of loss, ownership, revenge, and belief systems.

Libraries and readers seeking romance-rooted stories that hold additional elements of psychological drive and wonder will find Believe just as compelling as its predecessor Alexandria, furthering a journey of love that is forced to embrace past and present growth and tribulations in order to fully blossom from the rich soil of adversity and expectation.

The Actor's Book of Quotes
Mike Kimmel
Ben Rose Creative Arts
9781953057136, $24.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Actor's Book of Quotes: Words of Wisdom for Performing Artists adds to the Professional Actor Series with guidelines that are not general, but created and directed specifically to actors already practicing their art.

The quotes from actors and non-actors come from all professions and disciplines, thus providing a fuller-bodied, multifaceted collection of reflections that expand the actor's repertoire of inspiration and knowledge.

Reflections may come in deceptively succinct packages, such as Henry Fonda's admonition that "the best actors do not let the wheels show," but contain the punch of thought-provoking insights that motivate actors to dig deeper into their profession and approaches to it.

As businessmen such as F W Woolworth and philosophers such as Homer add their reflections to words by Harriet Tubman, Hilary Swank, and Elvis Presley, actors seeking wisdom in the form of, perhaps, morning admonitions to begin their day will find this book easy to consult and absorb.

Its diverse collection, created specifically for the actor's heart and mind, offers quotes that can come to mind throughout an acting endeavor or day.

The result is a perfect choice for gift-giving year-round for that singular, hard-to-please actor of any age who will benefit greatly from these reflections. The Actor's Book of Quotes also will prove an attraction to library collections looking for something different to add to their drama sections.

Twin Power
Benjamin Young, M.D. & Kiyanda Young, M.D.
Twizzler Bees Entertainment
9781736015100, $10.95 Paper/$7.95 ebook

Twin Power: Our Bond is Our Greatest Strength contributes to a picture book series about twins that celebrates the unique relationship twins share. It comes from the parents of fraternal twins who seek to transmit a message of positivity into the world.

Imre Papp brings their vision to fruition with large-sized, appealing color images of the twins, complimenting the story of twins Simone and Sebastian, who were born together but look different.

Looks aside, the Youngs delve into the reality of what it means to be a twin, from the inherent partnership it promises to the attraction of holding equal energy levels, double the effectiveness in sharing jobs and play, and twice the mental ability as they work and think together to solve problems and confront the world around them.

Many are the lessons and illustrations in Twin Power, which may cause non-twins to wish their siblings were the same. But, the purpose of this book is to promote understanding, not jealousy; and in this, Twin Power more than succeeds with its positive, enlightening inspections of the special connections between twins.

Libraries seeking lively stories about helping, sharing, and confronting life together will find Twin Power a winning lesson in positivity and sibling connection, as well as an enlightening book about the ways in which twin relationships differ from other siblings.

Twin Power: The Best Snow Day Ever
Benjamin Young, M.D. & Kiyanda Young, M.D.
Twizzler Bees Entertainment
9781736015124, $10.95 Paper/$7.95 ebook

Readers of the introductory picture book Twin Power will find this second adventure, Twin Power: The Best Snow Day Ever, equally compelling. It moves away from the initial book's introductory definition of twin relationships into an adventure that immerses twins Simone and Sebastian in an outdoors encounter with winter and snow.

But, first, they need to tidy up inside.

The action revolves around the cooperative sharing the twins employ to achieve their goal of play faster, emphasizing how "twin power" can speed the chores ("...they must clean up their room - an easy job when the twins work together.").

It isn't all fun and games, here. A learning opportunity arises from defeat when a wise father reminds his complaining twins that "...they can do anything if they work together."

Emphasizing the message of love, friendship, and cooperative efforts, Twin Power: The Best Snow Day provides lessons in sibling relationships for twins and non-twins alike.

Parents who choose Twin Power: The Best Snow Day as a read-aloud book have the opportunity to reinforce these perceptions as the story unfolds to reveal the real underlying power of being a twin - and a loving sibling.

Libraries seeking stories that teach the very young about the value of cooperative efforts and thinking will find Twin Power: The Best Snow Day and its predecessor hold value and lessons that rise far beyond edification on being a twin.

Santa's Magical Reindeer: Becoming Pen Pals
Michele Monaco
Mascot Kids!
c/o Mascot Books
9781645439707, $19.95

Santa's Magical Reindeer: Becoming Pen Pals deserves year-around acclaim for its compelling story of the Famous Eight reindeer's search for kids who believe in Christmas magic. This year, three reindeer decide to add a quest for pen pals into their search parameters, and embark on a journey to locate some very special young writers.

Prabir Sarkar adds compelling illustrations that bring this picture book story to life, enhancing the personas and quest of Prancer, Vixen, and Dasher's quest for young literary friends.

Three sisters are the first participants chosen for the special pen pal program - but they aren't the list.

As the three reindeer expand their magical reach into other kids around the world, connections are made and joy is spread via the written word.

Michele Monaco's survey of how magic happens year-round can be used as an example of the power of the pen to form connections and attraction among all ages.

The Famous Eight who participate in this effort share pen pal stories around the fire and find their coming holiday plans enhanced by these efforts.

Parents who choose this story as a read-aloud will find kids ages 4-8 will welcome the bend of Christmas fantasy and insights on the elements and foundations of friendships.

Libraries interested in picture books that promote both seasonal warmth and year-long attraction to forming new friendships will find Santa's Magical Reindeer: Becoming Pen Pals an inviting, attractive recommendation.

Jane Brunette
Flamingseed Press
9780989260589, $18.00

Riddle: Koans, Poems & Question Marks was written during the pandemic, when Jane Brunette found herself alone in a wild part of the world, reflecting on the connections between nature, humans, and bigger-picture thinking.

Her writings reflect these questions about openness, what makes for being human, and the types of inquiries and riddles which permeate existence from start to finish. The poems reflect a philosophical, social, and psychological set of insights that are accessible, enlightening, and always reflective, as in 'The Nature of Your Exile':

"loss of what you thought was home
a place a people an innocence
even the center of what you thought was yourself
disorientation to find it gone
perhaps you are larger now
what served yesterday as center
became the suburbs
and you
a dot of light in the womb of the universe"

An additional, enlightening facet of the collection is black and white images which hold their own one-line definitions to augment and expand these poetic and philosophical reflections. The poem 'In It Together' holds the image:

"just us humans here
no saviors or saints
just us kaleidoscopes
each one a village
a town without a mayor
unable to stop putin's army
flood waters and wild fires
unable to cuddle every street kid
old man huddling in the train station
annoying not to be god"

A facing mercurial black and white image of diverse people (identified on one side with the note "we are made of our limits" and on the other with "sturdy walls for the vessel") adds further food for thought, binding all together.

Each section in this collection proposes a riddle, with the poems providing supportive and diverse enlightenment which reflect their position as both riddles and puzzle parts indicating possible solutions and resolutions.

As in any good riddle collection, clues to understanding are given. These reside at the book's end, offering literary reflections and connections that lead to further realizations about the universality and applicability of each carefully-worded poem/riddle/koan.

It is highly recommended that readers imbibe of these queries and poems, then consult the clues that will lead them full circle to pursue each poem in a new and different light.

Filled with spiritual associations and enlightenment, philosophical reflections on the state of humanity and its connections and disassociation with nature, and the allure of souls in progress where anger and resurrection reside side-by-side, Riddle: Koans, Poems & Question Marks is highly recommended for not just literary, but spiritual audiences pursuing the intersection between humans, nature, and ethereal states of being.

Libraries and readers looking for lively interactive opportunities for discussion groups on contemporary literature will find Riddle: Koans, Poems & Question Marks an exceptional and compelling attraction, both visually and for its unique forms and inviting questions.

Enfant Terrible: Opening Acts
Gwydhar Gebien
Amanda Gebien, Publisher
9780578889818, $9.99 (paperback) $0.99 (ebook)

Enfant Terrible: Opening Acts opens with a stern warning that invites those faint of heart and mind to look elsewhere for their literary pursuits:

"Consider yourself warned: this book is a work of catastrophically bad taste. It contains explicit content, colorful language, strong sexual situations, nudity, drug use, depression, racial and sexual epithets, misgendering, emotional abuse, violence, subversion of Christian iconography, an unfortunate incident involving a nun, and the unironic use of puns. BRACE YOURSELVES."

Readers seeking a rollicking ride, who remain unshaken by the author's candid, wry assessment of the power and presentation of their pen, will find a story that surveys mid-life crisis, the tattered remains of family relationships, life's purpose, and love. Enfant Terrible provides a solid, compelling foundation of attraction made all the more forceful for its catastrophic romp through life's mishaps.

Narrator Damen Warner, the front man for a metalcore band which is fading into obscurity before his eyes (and under his watch), opens the saga with an airport confrontation with TSA:

"I was, after all, standing in the security line at the Denver airport wearing nothing but a pair of sunglasses. Anybody who wasn't busy covering their kids' eyes was taking a picture on their ubiquitous camera phones. No way it wasn't ending up on Facebook."

Perhaps ironically, this isn't the pinnacle of Damen's failures, but just one example of life gone seriously awry for this "feral," tattoo-covered, blue-haired, middle-aged man who feels he is "three years past his expiration date."

His experiences with women and the failed dreams he harbors around career and love hold similar patterns of effort married to alluring disappointment: "The more she pushed me away the more I wanted her."

As doubts about his efforts to participate in Lollapalooza (a coveted music festival for those bands and individuals popular and successful enough to win a coveted place on its stage) permeate his world, Damen seems to excel in forming complicated relationships ... even with the two underage daughters of a bandmate whose dream of seeing their father on stage is peppered by the anguish of a broken family.

Gwydhar Gebien follows the opening act of Damen's sordid and complex life with a close inspection of the foundations of his character's estrangement from his own family and roots, embarking on an ever-downward spiral of sex, drugs, and inappropriate choices that seem to thwart any hope of reconciliation or realizing his dreams.

Gebien's attention to following the logic, as well as the influences of experiences, of Damen's life and its downfall creates a vivid story in which the protagonist's search for meaning and achievement stands at the precipice of self-discovery and a reconciliation that he both covets and eschews.

As he comes full circle to encounter the wisdom of his Grandma Dearie and the impact of his choices, Damen realizes new truths about life connections and the alienating wild ride that he has perceived as giving him life when, in reality, it is driving him towards something much darker.

"All these bruises. All these burns. I feel them like they're my own, you know. All this time believing that you don't belong anywhere, but it isn't true: you always have a place here. You don't have to be an apostate forever."

The gritty countenance of flawed but likeable counter-culture characters that come together in search of purpose and connection holds a special contemporary appeal for readers who enjoyed Kerouac's now-dated On the Road, and who seek a contemporary rendition of cultural revelation and self-discovery. The powerfully diverse cast of characters who join Damen on his journey further cements the sense of modern angst and possibility to set this story's moving foundations firmly into the quandaries of modern times.

Libraries and readers seeking a lively (perhaps even radically charged) literary examination of a ribald life careening towards both personal disaster and redemption will find Enfant Terrible: Opening Acts a compelling saga of pop culture and reinvention which poses dangerous choices and daring efforts up to its unexpected promise of redemption. Perfect for book clubs and reading group discussions.

Enfant Terrible: Headliner
Gwydhar Gebien
Amanda Gebien, Publisher
9780578385891, $13.99 paperback, $0.99 ebook

Having set the stage with the mortifying misadventures of middle-aged character Damen Warner in Opening Acts, Book 2 of the Enfant Terrible series, Headliner, follows with the one-two punch of depravity and bad decisions that continue to both plague Damen and elevate his efforts and status to new heights.

Driven by the desire to make his mark on the musical world, Damen here finds himself in a relationship with a mother with a five-year-old daughter which holds the promise of real change while resting on the laurels of past experiences and attitudes that portend yet another downward spiral. Only, this time, he is taking vulnerable loved ones with him.

In 2012, Damen does not stand out in the music world with his blue hair, tattoos, and facial piercings. Indeed, it's the 'new normal' in a milieu fraught with others who defy standards and norms, only to find themselves blending with others who look, act, and sound they way they do. So much for being different.

Having spent (or wasted, depending on perspective) the last thirty years of his life attempting to "punk my way out of the norm," Damen is ready for something more. He gets that in the form of a promising relationship that then takes a perhaps-predictable nosedive into jealousy and the self-destructive behaviors Damen seems to instinctively cultivate in reaction to any form of adversity or promise.

His life has long been one of running:

"I'd dropped out of high school, formed a metal band, run away to Los Angeles, and I'd run so hard and for so long that I'd circled the bases only to find myself back at home, face down in the dirt, while life's umpire waved his hands over my back and declared me OUT. Now, here I was at the hipster crossroads of Chicago trying to get my feet back under me."

As much as it seems to be heading towards a real change in Headliner, Damen's saga of middle-age coming-of-age takes another downward plunge before friends and family lift him up into new possibilities.

From the unexpected internet notoriety Damen experiences as a "deranged basket case" that introduces new challenges to his mindset and choices to a crazy Halloween confrontation with Girl Child and other new people in his life, Gwydhar Gebien's story rocks and rolls through conventional and counter culture experiences, carrying readers into a progressively degenerative, simultaneously hopeful world.

More so than Opening Acts, Damen presents a countenance that moves into concepts of family and connection even as it remains immersed in dysfunction, poor choices, and attractions to self-destructive ways.

Gebien's ability to lead readers into a world marked by social, financial, and family challenge moves full-circle into one in which Grandma Dearie and other family members contribute new opportunities for connection and possible redemption in Damen's life.

These contrasts in psyche, place, culture, and connection, in turn, create riveting scenes of dysfunction and love which prove accessible and compelling to readers who have ridden Damen's roller coaster of a life in Opening Acts.

The movement is inextricably involving between the two books, creating yet another eye-opening ride into new possibilities and old bad habits which details the narrator's ebb and flow of growth.

Libraries and readers who enjoyed Opening Acts will find equally powerful and growth-oriented the character's movements in Headliner, which mirror artistic and psychological growth alike to create involving, alluring action that is unpredictably thought-provoking and wonderfully astute.

Enfant Terrible: Showstopper
Gwydhar Gebien
Amanda Gebien, Publisher
9798988160502, $16.99

The third book of the Enfant Terrible trilogy, Showstopper, continues the evolution and expansion of protagonist and narrator Damen, who backslides into depression and drugs after his loved one dies.

2013 has arrived, but Damen doesn't believe the year will introduce any improvement over the trials and losses of 2012.

As pandemonium and events play out on Damen's stage of life, readers who enjoyed the ribald, rocking action in the previous books will find the ongoing struggles affected by a legacy in this book to be equally involving.

While Showstopper could be picked as a stand-alone novel, ideally it will be read in conjunction with its predecessors; as such an approach provides a unified and seamless story line that follows Damen's evolution in many ways.

Once a blue-haired rebel, the blue has faded to natural straw as Damen discovers that what was an appealing look for his musical world pursuits presents poorly in a law office setting.

His spiral into alcoholic bliss here is broken by his ongoing relationship with Melody and her daughter and his efforts to keep his sanity, re-engage with his world, and meld the objectives of a rock 'n roll band life with those of family connections and new possibilities in the promise in love.

Hate crimes, attacks, decaying lives, and promises of redemption create a vivid story in which Damen is buffeted by different forces while maintaining an equilibrium that drives him away from alcoholic stupors and blackouts into unexpected vulnerability.

As Damen deals with Dearie's legacy, he begins to understand the connections within his family and find steady opportunities that hold the power to introduce new music into the chaos of his life.

Gwydhar Gebien again creates a powerful story of depravity, downfalls, redemption, and new possibilities that rests as firmly on the counterculture world of punk, alcohol, and possibilities as it does in the lure of family and a love which comes not just from the past, but the promise of future relationships.

Damen is a flawed but loveable middle-aged character who finds life's changes pulling and pushing him in disparate directions. His choices are realistic, his life compelling, and the injection of social issues, from Internet influences to hate crimes, creates a story that is realistic, multifaceted, and engaging, all in one.

Prior fans of Damen's world will find Showstopper as involving and wryly humorous as the previous Enfant Terrible stories, while libraries will find the series as a whole not only a fine acquisition, but well deserving of high praise and recommendation for its astute contrast between counterculture and conventional lifestyles, perceptions, and opportunities.

Lacey's Star
Kay DiBianca
9781735788876, $4.99 ebook; $9.99 paperback

Readers seeking Christian mystery, romance, and suspense stories will find that Lacey's Star fits the bill for all three genres, exploring the adventures of a female pilot who confronts thieves that have attacked her beloved uncle.

Determined to help him, yet facing issues of who she can trust with this sensitive and dangerous pursuit of justice, Cassie Deakin reluctantly joins Deputy Frank White (whom she also doesn't quite trust) in the quest for answers, inadvertently revealing a child's murder that's been covered up for decades. Why? And, what does her uncle's situation have to do with this event?

As Cassie probes dangerous connections and territory, she finds herself ever more immersed in the unexpected, whether it is relationships that invite or those that threaten.

Kay DiBianca adds a dash of humor to her story to enliven characters, plot, and perspectives:

"What do you make of her?"

"She looks like the kind of person who'd wear a frilly pink nightgown," I said and tossed my head. "You probably know the type. A tart."

Frank stopped by the gate. "A tart. Now there's a word you don't hear every day."

"If the nightgown fits..."

Cassie finds that deputy Frank seems to bring out an underlying layer of anger in her as she resists his advances of friendship and possibly something more. Her reaction to his standing her up is fiery, reinforcing her mistrust of him and the opportunity he represents.

As she and Frank uncover more facts about young Lacey Alderson's death, the beacon of promise offered by resolution, insight, and growth shines ever greater as the saga unfolds.

DiBianca is adept at pairing mystery with personal insights that both motivate the characters and move them forward in their individual journeys of growth and resolution.

As the deaths, depression, and realizations mount, she weaves an intersection of discovery and growth into her story to craft three-dimensional characters whose problem-solving abilities are challenged by the very connections they cultivate and contemplate in their own lives.

Their search for peace and justice brings with it something unexpected - redemption and romance.

Libraries and readers looking for clean, uplifting reading and psychological growth in their mysteries, as well as a feisty, proactive female character willing to embrace the unexpected and rise into her abilities and new possibilities of romance, will find Lacey's Star a winning acquisition.

Eyes On Our Future Together
Julianna Pinkhasova
Atmosphere Press
9781639889372, $26.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Rosie is in her senior year of high school and is on track to attend her dream college, but has been forced to transfer to Spiritville High after her private school burned down. This event returns her to a bad situation where she attends school with previous stalker and classmate Jason, who can't stay away from her.

Rosie has developed mantras to help her move forward since the events of eighth grade - among them the idea of "Mindset: A person's way of thinking and their opinions.

Including how that person sees themself and how they see their outer reality. In simpler terms, the way I see myself and think of myself will reflect how others see me. So, if I feel sure of myself, others will feel sure of me too." As she discovers in Eyes On Our Future Together, however, it will take more than mindset and determination to evade Jason's ongoing presence in her life.

Julianna Pinkhasova crafts a powerful story that will reach mature teen into new adult audiences, following the saga of a proactive character determined to overcome adversity and threats to create a positive future. As Jason steps up his threats and presence in her life, so Rosie remains determined to elude and thwart him by any means necessary.

It's a deadly game she plays, because Jason holds his own increasingly angry fantasies about different possibilities with her, which is stymied by her resistance:

"Rosie is messing with the wrong guy. If she would've been more compliant, it wouldn't have come to this, but now she will pay the price."

Part of what makes this story so vivid is the contrast between Rosie's ideas of how to survive and Jason's fantasies that justify his attitude and actions. Chapter headings clearly mark these internal dialogues within characters, creating revealing inspections and insights which probe the methods of survival and validation on both sides.

To add to the emotional rollercoaster, Rosie finds herself lured into Jason's dangerous game, overcoming her own resistance to his allure to enter into a fantasy which holds dangerous consequences for her future.

Can she love him against her will and her ability to place her survival first?

Pinkhasova's ability to capture the nuances of predator, victim, and the tangled relationship which emerges between them provides important cautionary notes to teens who are formulating their own relationships and dealing with various forms of insecure or predatory behavior patterns from their peers.

That's why Eyes On Our Future Together needs to not only be on the shelves of any high school library, but chosen for group discussion in a variety of settings; from book clubs to young adults cultivating relationship questions and survival skills as they enter into adulthood.

Libraries and readers will find Rosie's character realistic, her predicament believable, and the outcome of her choices with Jason eye-opening and worthy of discussion and debate. This vivid story will appeal both as a leisure read and as a bigger-picture key to understanding life relationships, attitudes, and the danger signs of destructive relationships and attitudes.

Reclaiming Our Democracy, 2024 Edition
Sam Daley-Harris
Rivertowns Books
9781953943347, $32.95 Hardcover/$9.99 ebook

Reclaiming Our Democracy: Every Citizen's Guide to Transformational Advocacy revises a 2013 call to action, revamping not just its message, but its advocacy insights for a new era and generation.

Sam Daley-Harris reinforces the point that it's not enough to make donations and consider them replacements for active advocacy. In modern times, especially, political action needs to be personal and engaged; not just in the form of a check contributed to a particular group.
The prior rendition of this treatise was titled Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break Between People and Government; but in creating a new call for action for 2024, this book cultivates a more assertive tone that offers concrete stories of how advocacy and proactive groups are making a difference in tackling such big issues as poverty, racism, and climate change.

The tone here is one of defining the concept of 'transformational advocacy' in action:

"What is common to these stories - the 40 years of RESULTS' advocacy contributing powerfully to a nearly 66 percent reduction in global child deaths, Mike Robinson's first-ever meetings with elected officials leading to a briefing of a committee chair and his staff, and CCL's yearly tally of 1,350 meetings with Congressional offices and 4,100 media hits - is that they all reflect the work of organizations that are committed to transformational advocacy. They came from organizations that are willing to make big asks of their volunteers and deliver something powerful in return."

By documenting not just the promise of action, but its results, Daley-Harris cultivates a "can do" attitude that peppers the ideals with real-world examples of advocacy in action.

These success stories come from a wide variety of efforts. His participation in the process of bringing issues to national attention, fostering the kinds of influencers that resulted in concrete changes, offers invaluable case history keys to success that will pave the way for others following the democratic footpath to social and political improvements.

From the cultivation of active citizen lobbyists who prove influential and transformative to concrete tips on how to employ their proven methods of influence, from LASER talks and engagement methods fostered by RESULTS volunteers, Daley-Harris produces just the kind of book that is essential for supporting calls to action. The book is highly recommended for any reader interested in advocacy specifics and democracy in action.

Libraries strong in political and social advocacy titles will find

Reclaiming Our Democracy: Every Citizen's Guide to Transformational Advocacy an essential collection addition, but it will prove especially effective as assigned reading in all kinds of discussion groups and situations, from political action seminars and book clubs to groups interested in how grassroots democracy can grow and become transformational in its approaches.

The Book of Reading
Eric Larsen
Atmosphere Press
9798891320338, $18.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Book of Reading examines paradox, interconnected lives, and new possibilities through the lens of a relationship between an older man and a young woman. It introduces the setting and influences of past and present through an intriguing introduction that challenges readers to consider the boundaries between fact, fiction, "what if," and possibilities that depend on a blend of circumstance, conjecture, and intersecting influences.

The preface sets the story in 2028. The narrator is now over eighty years old, and reflects on events that exemplify six ongoing themes in his life: love, time, memory, meaning, destruction, and evil. Keep these themes in mind, because they recur and emerge in unexpected ways as the story unfolds. They are also important to note because "...from the moment human beings stop being able to perceive or understand meaning in themselves or in the things and elements around them; from that moment they become incapable of producing anything other than destruction and evil."

With this in mind, readers enter a milieu in which time travel becomes relative as journeys of heart and soul emerge from encounters with love and experiences of the contrast and clash between past and present.

During these transformative moments, "what if" and "what is" are suspended animations in which everything is possible:

"The translocation returned, suddenly, unexpectedly, brutally - and finally. I was wrenched away, absolutely. I never saw, knew, felt, or sensed the existence of Eveline near me again. And there was something else, something almost as bad, empty, lifeless, and hollow as being torn from her. This was the fact that at the same time I was hurled forward to where I'd begun, into the murderous, bloody, doomed emptiness of 1964. At that time, Eveline and I were in West Tree, in September, in 1947. So suddenly did the disaster take place that I was allowed not so much as a final lungful of the air from that time, air that still had the scent of promise in it, the scent of past and future joined together.

The air in 1964 was hollow, empty, without aroma - ex-cept for a thin scent of blood."

As aged, lonely, and defeated narrator Malcolm Reiner reviews the circumstances which led to his involvement with Eveline at a point in time that proved impossible to change, the heartbeat of a nation heading towards a tyrannical future emerges with the concurrent pulse of a personal transformation that always holds promise, but seldom the riches of achievement.

As the narrator considers the ultimate harm he may have to do to get the nation back on track, the moral and ethical quandaries of his decisions come to light in a narrative that is eye-opening, engrossing, and replete with choices at every turn, from a father's influence and relationship to a fellow traveler's experience of and control over the ultimate death of a nation.

Eric Larsen's time-hopping moves between the personal and the political, possibilities and realities, and between redemption and resolution make for a thoroughly engrossing story that will not only captivate readers, but creates many discussion points for book club involvement.

Libraries and readers interested in a story that juxtaposes individual lives with bigger-picture thinking and possibilities in a way that reflects the current careering course of American democratic interests will find The Book of Reading compelling, thought-provoking, and hard to put down.

Divinely Dramatic
Sandra L. Young
The Wild Rose Press
9781509251872, $5.99 Digital/$18.99 paperback

What do vintage fashion, mystery, and ghosts have to do with romance? Plenty, if it's a production created by Sandra L. Young, who follows her first title in the series (Divine Vintage) with a story that reflects a "surreal mashup" of circumstances and characters. Vintage fashion expert Marcy Alexander's involvement in costumes for a community play uncovers a deeper dilemma involving romance and a querulous ghost.

Marcy is used to seeing and categorizing auras, as well as navigating the uncertain waters of costuming history and matters of the heart. However, as events careen into circumstances beyond her control, Marcy comes to feel that her expertise and special sensitivity may not be strong enough to cope with events which mark her "virgin initiation into the theater" with challenges that are unpredictable and demanding.

Marcy is also a culinary artist. As she hones her skills in different ways and focuses on addressing onstage baggage and blowups, she finds herself on treacherous ground as she patches up performances and solves problems that evolve beyond her levels of expertise.

Sandra L. Young does a fine job of capturing the aura of ghostly encounters, pairing them with romantic interludes and challenges. She follows Marcy's strengths and forays into new arenas of volatile relationships not only of her own making, but between her parents.

Drama on- and off-stage permeate Marcy's life, leading readers into decisions and consequences which provide a satisfying juxtaposition of ghostly mystery, vintage fashion, and emotional undercurrents. These affect present and past characters in memorable ways.

Young's ability to create connections between disparate figures that are caught off guard by events beyond their control makes for a solid read that will satisfy mystery, romance, and historical fiction readers alike.

The flavors of theatrical drama and interpersonal relationship challenges that come together as the story unfolds reveals a satisfying progression of events that swirl around spirits left in limbo and the impact of unsolved mysteries.

Libraries looking for multifaceted blends of paranormal, romance, and historical fiction will find all these qualities come to life in Divinely Dramatic. It's a vivid, highly recommended read which can be chosen either as a stand-alone for newcomers or as another segment of intrigue and revelation for prior followers of Marcy's many abilities.

Ambient Light
Kate Stout
Saltcoats Press
9798988741107, $24.95 Hardcover/$16.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Ambient Light is a novel about seven friends who have stuck together during their teen years, but now find new challenges in their adult choices.

Chapters take the form of six voices that move from present-day circumstances to various pivot points of the past as the friendships evolve and change, creating a flow between time and personalities which moves fluidly between events and influences to bring the nature of each character's personality and relationship to life.

Begin with Adie, who reflects: "In the end, I was the first to leave and the last to know." Her insights about her possible stance as the "last member of the pack" leads to an assessment of youth relationships and adult decisions that neatly outline the adversities and growth opportunities involved in the evolution of kindred spirits.

The adult Adie has her own family. She also has found her world shaken as COVID takes hold of her life and community, but her role as one piece of the seven-part group receives center display in an introduction that moves to progressively consider the impact of Sebastian, the 'glue' of their group who broke off connections to move to San Francisco to lead an openly gay life.

Adie, Breck, Mary Clay, Tony, Jude, and Grady all find their lives transformed not just by their early friendship and the attraction and abandonment Sebastian represents to them, but the whirlwind of changing events that indicate his influence on them has waned, but not vanished.

Surreal imagery often accompanies these reflections as each character experiences transformative processes and challenges in their lives that stem from these connections and influences.
At times, the ethereal language reads like poetry. One example lies in one of Mary Clay's descriptive experiences:

"Oh, the relentless, torturing sun! Burning burning down. This sun I have always revered as the engine of life in my garden and all the gardens I have tended since college. How I love to turn my face to it like a giant sunflower, feasting on its rays, lusting for it when stormy or dark skies rob me of my psychic fuel. Or did But not now Not today when I roast upon its spit."

The reflections each character makes on their interconnected pasts are also astutely described, often bordering on the philosophical:

"We reel in our raucousness like caught delinquents and all of us take sudden measure of our youthful transgressions, those now fabled times made legendary in the lexicon of our teenaged pack."

Kate Stout's approach to exploring these personalities and their lives makes for an engrossing story filled with memorable moments of revelation and interconnection.

Especially pleasing are the hopes that emerge from the combined strengths of these relationships:

"I want to be able to scoop up as much life as I can. And drink it down."

The LGBTQ+ considerations embedded in the bigger picture of life changes and choices also offer much food for thought as the characters grow and evolve, yet retain their original influences and impact on one another even as they leave childhood to enter into adulthood.

Libraries strong in literary fiction that explores evolving long-term friendships, life influences and events, and the kinds of evolutionary processes that add meaning and ambitions to dreams and realities will find Ambient Light a compelling read that can be easily recommended to book clubs interested in stories about coming of age, long-term relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues.

The proof of the powerful draw of literary and psychological revelations lies in Ambient Light's masterful insights:

"We can be our dreams. Why not? We may be loners but that doesn't mean we won't take the world by storm."

First Sons and Last Daughters
Samar Reine
Carmel-by-the-Sea Publishers
9798988411062, $16.99 Paperback / $4.99 Kindle

First Sons and Last Daughters is the second book in the Pioneer Ranch saga. The story of Peyton Chase's motherhood and artistic achievement is laced with a vivid, thought-provoking consideration of a threat from within: her cruel son.

From the novel's opening lines, with their burst of reflective exuberance, Samar Reine's poetic, descriptive touch is evident:

"Peyton gazed at the raw beauty of Abiquiu through the wide windows of her studio. The early hour of crushed peaches and raspberries had passed, leaving behind an aqua desert sky. Eagles swooping over herds of oryx and ibex mirrored her life, and she considered what hunted her and what she chased. The people of Pioneer Ranch - those who had consecrated its grounds, and those who had sprung from it - were her solace. Her father's words resonated, reminding her that life tried her, and she wondered why she still deserved to be tested. He'd say, "Hardship foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on." Her memory banks flooded with the booms and busts of her life until an incoming video call whirled her from her trance."

Reine's ability to capture the flavors, sights, and psychology of her characters lends a compelling feel to this story of dangerous attractions, relationships, and family dynamics that wind from past to present, leading Peyton into new and dangerous territory in romance and family ties.

The jealousies, ambitions, and special interests of each individual come to life in a story that winds through friendships, attractions, and adversity. A husband and wife's relationship is more than tested by a contentious offspring and each's own life changes, which are probed with a powerful pen that unfolds compelling descriptions:

"In death, we're free of anguish, free of everything but the love we leave behind." Peyton bowed her head, her nose burning. "All that sweat, insightful advice, and his assurance that we can overcome wasn't wasted. It lives in us and in our children."

The legacies love and loss create also contribute to the evolution of places and the ripple effect of lives transformed by experience as First Sons and Last Daughters traverses family battles and realizations gleaned from the clash of disparate natures:

"Do you think you need to forgive yourself for what you believe contributed to his behavior, and forgive me too? We might not have handled every situation perfectly, but we did our best. Can you accept that only he has the power to improve himself?"

The ideal of achieving a big, happy family is continually attacked; yet underlying this goal is a sense of reality and correlations that are fostered by adaptation and healing.

As an addition to the series, First Sons and Last Daughters expands upon personalities and family connections; but as a stand-alone read, newcomers will find its messages astute and worthy of discussion among book club readers interested in evolving family dynamics and issues surrounding adaptation.

First Sons and Last Daughters is well versed in history, a sense of place (California and New Mexico), and the undercurrents of change that lead a family to important pivot points and readers to consider the lasting impact of disparate relationships on life meaning and choices.

Libraries seeking a novel that exemplifies family dynamics at their best and worst will find First Sons and Last Daughters a powerful addition to their collections. It's highly recommended for its astute, poetic descriptions of personal demons that can even arrive in the guise and promise of family connections.

The Long Man's Pillow
Julie Castillo
Regal House Publishing
9781646034512, $18.95 Paper/$9.49 ebook

The Long Man's Pillow comes from a Cherokee concept that is brought to life in a story not about Native American legends and interests, but modern-day global crises.

A terrible nation-wide drought is not the ideal time to inherit rural land, but Vicki's inheritance not only arrives at an inopportune moment, but serves to isolate her in a strange community at a time of a national crisis that reverberates onto her personal land ownership challenges.

As Vicki grapples with adversity from disparate arenas, from another's attempt to grab her land to emerging water rights issues that place her in the center of a storm of special interests and ecological issues, readers receive a realistic story of global climate change issues that come home to roost in individual choices and struggles.

Julie Castillo creates a compelling tale as Vicki is forced to confront the underlying impact of her land and its attraction to others. The decisions she is forced to make move her well outside her comfort zone of action and reaction, changing her personality as well as her values and perceptions:

"I'm not myself. The Vicki Truax I know is far too much of a coward to do what I'm doing. The sensible Vicki thinks things through. Whoever I am now isn't even sure of what she's going to do next."

As explosions both emotional and physical play out, Vicki finds not only her courage, but new convictions about the role her land and choices will play, not only in her own future, but in the community around her.

Castillo spices Vicki's encounters with a wry mix of humor and enlightenment that enhances events with Vicki's first-person revelations:

"Irony of ironies, when I lived in Baltimore, I could be anonymous whenever I wanted, and when I slid the bolt to my apartment door, I could count on being left alone. Now here, on the side of a West Virginia mountain, where you'd think there'd be hardly anyone around, I can't get a moment's peace."

The resulting saga is gripping and thought-provoking. It elevates the genre and perception of 'cli-fi' as being more immediate and real than the usual focus on impossibilities.

Vicki's experiences with a changing world are all too possible. This makes The Long Man's Pillow an engaging attraction for readers who see the lasting effects of environmental change evolving in all kinds of community scenarios and individual experiences.

Libraries and readers seeking compelling stories that juxtapose high-octane action with thought-provoking intrigue and character revelations will find The Long Man's Pillow excels in a sense of realistic drama and life changes. This makes it perfect for book club and group discussion, as well as individual reader pursuit.

The Other Murder
Kevin G. Chapman
First Legacy Publishing, LLC
9781958339183, $26.99

The Other Murder follows disgraced cable news reporter Hannah's foray into last chances and dangerous waters as her efforts to cover a college student's shooting reveals underlying influences and concerns. These threaten both Hannah and fellow reporter Paulo, whose work for a different publication investigating a second murder reveals equally dangerous connections.

The tale opens with gunshots that most New York citizens would ignore. But NYU security man Joe Malone is a cop at heart, and so he can't ignore cries of pain, gunshots, or portents of crime, even if he has retired from the NYPD force.

Hannah is introduced not in the thick of this event, but as she is on the cusp of going on a date when her managing editor calls with a juicy assignment. It's an important second chance for her after the career-busting debacle of her last effort, so Hannah is more than motivated to follow through.

Unfortunately, in this case, following through leads her more personally into trouble and involvements that she is ill equipped to handle with her skills as a reporter. (Or, is it the perfect skill set to succeed where more professional investigators fail?)

Kevin G. Chapman's contrast of two murders, two reporters, and vastly different approaches to problem-solving creates a realistic and involving mystery. It surveys political and social struggle in Latino and New York Communities as these disparate reporters join forces and differing perspectives to follow the clues into danger.

The characters represent a satisfying contrast in purposes and perspectives, the social and political issues intersect well with the story's thriller component (which pairs high-octane action with intrigue and psychological revelations), and Chapman's attention to building a fast-paced story filled with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns creates a memorable, compelling saga.

The characters come to life and are likeable in different ways, while their career challenges and unique approaches to problem-solving create a forceful interplay of personalities which is delightful to observe. The atmosphere of the Latino community is also surprisingly realistic and compellingly captured as events unfold:

"He set his bag down on the fountain edge to his left and scanned the area, looking for his new contact, but also taking note of the vendor carts. Food carts represented safety, because the vendors were always there and often had defensive weapons. Plus, there were usually patrons buying food. Safety in numbers. There were plenty of vendors. He saw no cops."

Libraries and readers seeking murder mysteries that are filled with surprises and an unexpected, thought-provoking conclusion will not only find The Other Murder an excellent choice, but worthy of top recommendation to mystery book club audiences seeking stories embedded with thought-provoking events suitable for discussion and debate.

Brooklyn '76
Anthony Ausiello
South Allen Street Press
9798988581000, $17.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Brooklyn '76 is a novel that revolves around Italian ethnicity, family ties, and America's Bicentennial, which arrives with many types of explosions as the family experiences turning points in their relationships with one another and their community.

Anthony Ausiello unfolds the family's drama against the equally turbulent influences of the times which proves a pivot point in different ways. Individuals, community, and family are all tested against the events which move from a national block party to violence in which individuals find themselves pitted against not only each other, but their ideals, past history, and present-day conundrums.

Ausiello's ability to bring these series of explosions to life in the context of characters that discover their relationships, obsessions, and defiances play out in unexpected ways makes for a story as strong in its portraits of siblings and families on the cusp of change as it is in capturing a national milieu that comes home to roost in the community and culture of Brooklyn, New York.

As the events of July 4, 1976 come full circle, from the rockets' red glare to the physical and mental turbulence that rocks the family, readers will find themselves immersed in each character's moments of revelation and realization: "...the weight of his reality hung over him, threatened to crush him at any moment."

From gambling and money challenges to poor bets, bad tips, and the intersection of luck and fate, Ausiello captures the trials, tribulations, and a single day's events that test family dynamics and community ties in new ways.

In Brooklyn '76, firecrackers and explosions both dominate the story and serve as a backdrop of metaphors for the equally powerful surges in relationships that are tested by legal and illegal choices.

Playing with fire has its costs, whether in big explosions or a ripple of challenge that disperses a close-knit family and community: "Everyone in the neighborhood knew Big

Dom. Giving Big Dom bad information - or worse, losing Big Dom money - was detrimental to one's health."

Libraries and readers seeking books steeped in the atmospheres of Brooklyn in the late 1970s and an Italian-American family whose history faces new modern challenges will find Brooklyn '76 an evocative story that brings these times and characters to vivid life.

Infectious Injustice
Justin Cook
Fulton Books
9798887319728, $53.95 Hardcover/$41.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Blistering attacks on the American incarceration system are not unusual, but what sets Justin Cook's passionate discourse Infectious Injustice: The True Story of Survival and Loss against Corruption, the COVID-19 Disaster inside of San Quentin, and the Dumpster Fire that is Known as Mass Incarceration apart from most others is his attention to eye-opening details about prison management. This not only identifies injustices, but results in concrete advice on how inmates can survive them.

This one-two whammy of information delivers on two fronts: it serves as a social wake-up call to identify and condemn the actions, choices, and consequences of the American prison system, and it informs readers about various survival options that both address these issues and reveals how to not just change, but survive their impact.

Another stark difference between this and more distancing analyses of justice systems is that Cook pours his heart, soul, and prison experiences into the story to meld memoir with nonfiction analysis. The result is far more personal and compelling than either approach could have achieved on its own, in contrast to other books that walk a thin line between political correctness and real, gritty experience.

In this, Cook has succeeded in achieving what Papa Hemingway advised fellow writers: to "...write hard and clearly about what hurts." And, it should be cautioned, it is never easy for readers to absorb such a candid discourse of pain. Nobody said prison justice issues were easy, and no book outlines the concept and process as strongly as Cook's.

Even though Cook's personal mandate is to "...strip out the subjectiveness, suck it out like poison out of a snakebite, guaranteeing the truth survives, even if it kills me in the process," his story of what transpired in prison as COVID came crashing in to change everything is not only personal, but political. It comes with an added, unexpected attraction: wry and probing humor.

With that, readers enter into a world where subjects are fluid, moving back and forth with life experiences rather than logical progression. This mimics both the attraction of the internet and the ability of the mind to jump from place to place as if time traveling, creating an intriguing series of insights, confrontations, and revelations that prove more accessible and appealing for their defiance of logical time progression.

As Cook penetrates the inner sanctum of the "cesspool" that is San Quentin State Prison, he cultivates a gritty, glaring tone as he captures a culture that most people outside of the justice system do not fully understand:

"The prisoners were trading drugs for Reese's cupcakes, a hybrid between the cupcakes and Reese's cups. The COs were watching and laughing, like we were all stupid monkeys throwing shit at one another. This place was staffed by miserable people with miserable lives."

From a daily diary of increasing misery to later observations of prison's impact on inmates, Cook's chronicle is both hard to read and impossible to put down:

"My brain was having a heart attack. After being here awhile, you could tell who were the ones that would make it, who had to break in order to survive, and who would try to kill themselves."

Justice is not torture. Its ideals also do not overtly embrace such realities as political influence and manipulation - at least, to outside eyes. But, Cook points out many disparities between ideals of prisons and justice and the realities of political and monetary influences on their processes, such as that of condoning an in-prison drug program that insists inmates take drugs encouraged by greedy profiteers outside the prison.

Cook's dialogues capture the nuts and bolts of these political influences, connections, and resistance attempts:

"I don't need Suboxone. You are just trying to get credit for getting people on this federal funding program, but it's addictive, so I will just get it and not take it," I said.

"No, if you are prescribed it, you must take it."

"Okay, so I could get it and not swallow it, then sell it, just in order to get into the class. Is that your objective?" I said.

How many other people is she doing this to?

"No, you can't. You will get written up," she told me.

Her behavior seemed to violate the underpinnings of democracy itself, but anger wouldn't fix anything.

"I don't need chemical treatment at this point. I'm not taking naltrexone or disulfiram. I need community support with cognitive behavior therapy and daily goals. I did this before coming here. It works," I said.

She seemed begrudged, offended, and shocked that an intelligent thought came out of an inmate's mouth and perturbed that I questioned the authority of a doctor.

"Do you want it, yes or no, sir!" she said, yelling now."

Ideally, Infectious Injustice should be required, assigned reading for inmates and those who have any interest or involvement in a prison system. Candid and glaringly controversial, its experiences, contentions, and damning tone combine with passionate arguments and examples to create a set of moral, ethical, and psychological insights. These will prove critical for discussion and debate among a wide circle of readers, from book clubs interested in memoirs of prison experience to social justice and injustice classes, political science students, and anyone with a concern about fighting fear, repression, and incarceration disasters that operate undercover, in open defiance of democratic and humanitarian principles today.

Shield of the King
MB Mooney
Yorkshire Publishing
9781957262741, $22.99

Book 1 of the fantasy Elowen series, Shield of the King, introduces a kingdom where a girl is trained to be a warrior by her father, who is a general. This is extraordinary because, in this world, women are not trained for positions of power; much less daughters who have been expelled from school for the temerity of correcting an instructor during a lesson.

Elowen's elf father has both bowed to the extreme repression of females and defied it, in his own way, by seeing that his daughter received unprecedented opportunities to learn and grow. His teachings come home to roost in an extraordinary opportunity when a plot to assassinate the king brings the retired general back into action, his daughter at his side.

Nobody wants a hero who is considered a rebellious loser. And yet, Elowen doesn't think of herself as such. Thankfully. She joins her father in the quest to thwart the enemy, in the process also deftly defying the status quo that has kept women repressed and preserved the secrets and corruption that are infecting and destroying the kingdom.

MB Mooney crafts a heartfelt story of a young girl seeking to learn more about her mother, striving to overcome the limitations set by her society and kingdom and joining at her father's side in a role women typically don't experience.

From a Tournament which changes her abilities and challenges her role even further to facing down the Ruchali, along with the training she's received about who they are, Mooney creates a satisfying dichotomy between personalities, groups, and events. This continually tests perceptions of good and evil in the kingdom Elowen navigates both with and without her father, driven by further lessons on how these elements intersect with her life and future:

"We are stupid. Less than elven, right? Savages. Animals. When we fight for our own rights, for our own survival, we are monsters, evil."

"You kill innocents," I said. "You want chaos and death."

"That's what your father told you," Bhelen said.


On the face of it, Shield of the King is about rebellion and struggle. Look deeper to see that it also is about a young woman who tackles not only her own abilities and place in the world, but the ideals and prejudices which lay in her own heart.

Young adult and adult readers will find it much more multifaceted than the usual fantasy, filled with political, social, and psychological revelations that temper action with thought-provoking moments of introspection and growth.

The character of Elowen is likeable and involving, but equally compelling are the enemies and friends around her who each lend their own visions and perceptions to her growing world.

Libraries interested in fantasy stories that embrace such disparate themes as the growing powers of young women, their ability to navigate repression and opportunity, and the corruption in and possibilities of a kingdom's redemption will find much to like and highly recommend in the vivid Shield of the King.

The Promise of Unbroken Straw
Ken Steele
Yorkshire Publishing
9781960810137, $TBA

The Promise of Unbroken Straw is a coming-of-age story that opens in Boston in 1986. The narrator re-enters MIT, where he studied engineering far from his Oklahoma roots.

Charged with rigorous studies and the edict to find a job to help pay his college tuition, the proactive and clever Paul found ways to survive and even graduate. Now, an unexpected event challenges him to also find new ways to live - with wealth.

The present-day dilemma winds into a flashback of the past that opens in 1944, where a younger Paul "grew from the dirt of an Oklahoma farm, rooted in hope, nourished by promises." He learns early on that "My life has been shaped by the things that have vanished."

These include not only places and people, but the structure and definition of success and failure themselves as Paul achieves the impossible and moves into an adult world with important lessons, a strong background, and perseverance as his tools for surviving life.

As the decades pass, Paul presents family relationships and experiences changed by life events and, ultimately, death. Circles of connection, grow, blossom, change, and bring with them new opportunities as Paul comes to realize how the walls others erected around him were mirrored in his own relationships and actions.

As he searches for answers and resolution, readers accompany his journey through time, place, and relationships and come out the other side with a better understanding of not just Paul, but the advice he follows, to not worry about what can't be controlled.

It's a hard lesson, and one which comes along with others cemented in a powerful coming-of-age novel steeped in revelation, discovery, and new opportunities for transformation.

Ken Steele captures Paul's adult and childhood milieus with a fine sense of contrast between circumstances, objectives, and ultimate outcomes. His ability to bring Paul's changing personality and circumstances to life makes for a compelling story that proves realistic and inviting.

Libraries and readers seeking stories of transformation, shifting family relationships, and the influence of wealth on life connections will find The Promise of Unbroken Straw not only thought-provoking, but especially suitable for book club discussion about the impact of poverty and riches on psyches and life trajectories.

Behind Her Smile
Beverly Golden Cuevas
URLink Publishing
9781684864836, $21.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Behind Her Smile: The Adventures of a Tall Girl from WVA and Her Life as a Stewardess is a memoir about becoming an airline stewardess and being very, very tall. It's a story that will resonate with other women who have faced challenges in career and perspective because of their height, but also lends insights into a bygone heyday of flight attendants, when airplane travel was a very different prospect.

As Beverly Golden Cuevas is exposed to the wider world outside of Columbus, Ohio, she expands her knowledge of life, people, and places. From the start, as she enters this strange new world, Cuevas cultivates a wry sense of self-humor that appears in the course of exploration and discovery:

"The instructors told us we had to fly out of three different airports, JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. In order to get to some of these, you had to use the subway, which was a truly scary experience in itself until you get used to it, which I never did. I had a terrible case of claustrophobia. Yeah, I know, why was I not afraid of airplanes? I guess because they weren't underground and between two walls."

From her professional edict to maintain moral and ethical values when providing flight services, to her perspective that all her passengers are her guests, to be treated with equal respect (whether they be money-inducing travel agents or that family that had saved for a special airplane trip), Cuevas cultivates a sense of value and perspective that seems missing in today's work world in so many ways.

Readers interested in not only the experience of flight attendants in earlier years but in the efforts of one tall, determined woman to realize her ambitions without compromising her life values will find Behind Her Smile replete with not only personal experience, but professional and life assessments that give much food for thought.

There is a world of difference between past and present attitudes - everything from work value to flying the friendly (and, too often today, unfriendly) skies. Cuevas delineates these differences by capturing her life and its flight experiences with a vivid "you are here" feel that likely comes from the fact that Behind Her Smile's stories come directly from diary entries documenting events at the time.

The result is a memoir that appeals on several levels: as a personal history; a professional assessment of bygone years; and as a testimony to the power of perseverance and growth. Its saga of opening up to the world and maturing into love and experience is revealing and interesting.

Libraries and readers seeking memoirs that hold added value for their blend of personal life events and international flight experience will find Behind Her Smile a fine choice.

That Summer She Found Her Voice: A Retro Novel
Jean Burgess
Apprentice House Press
9781627204859, $31.99 Hardcover/$19.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

That Summer She Found Her Voice is a "retro novel" of music and self-discovery set in 1970s Baltimore, where a college graduate who has achieved education goals most of her small town peers can only dream of finds herself on a downward spiral, thanks to derailed love.

All it takes is an ad for King Vido's Swing Band to send Margie in a new, unexpected direction. She tours the country as their singer, only to find that the accompanying benefits include re-envisioning her moral, ethical, and personal life ambitions.

Jean Burgess creates a memorable saga of self-discovery, social transformation, and career-changing paradigms in That Summer She Found Her Voice. These explore more than one girl's evolutionary process, but the changes buffeting America.

Of particular note is how past and present memories and experiences evolve over social issues that have shaped Margie's life:

"I remember the local news reporting about parents ranting and raving against desegregation when I was in middle school. Our high school principal did his best to encourage the students to embrace it, but it didn't seem that hard to me. All the students, White and Black, were finding our way through our mutual interests, whether it was sports, chorus, or the school newspaper. Although thinking back, the "embracing" did seem focused on a panicked message of "Let's all just get along, people!" coming from teachers, who were all White with few exceptions, and the PTA. As long as the Black students quietly participated in the sports and student activities already established, and didn't cause a fuss, the administrators were happy. I don't remember receiving much encouragement for the White students to mingle socially with the Black kids. No one ever suggested we learn about their lives beyond school, what their neighborhoods were like, or where they went to church."

In bringing alive the issues of Margie's life and times for current generations, Burgess successfully documents changes and influences that lead to new perspectives and values in and about self and community.

Also of strong interest are the newfound perspectives Margie harbors about love's place in her life as the intersection of past and present become personal and potentially confusing:

"A part of my soul sang with excitement: David wanted me again! The sensible part of my brain chastised: He only wants the most available female he can find! Another part of my head reminded: You've just started an important personal journey of your own. The deeply scarred part of my heart warned: Remember the pain this man has caused you, you idiot."

The resulting story of growth embraces both running away and coming full circle, confronting the ability to not only speak one's mind, but identify goals and a personal courage that can only come from independence. Maggie's newfound growth as a singer and writer gives her the courage to tackle the emotional conflicts and connections that would diminish her efforts to move forward and past adversity and old habits.

Libraries will find That Summer She Found Her Voice: A Retro Novel an especially important recommendation for book clubs considering women's growth processes and the kinds of relationships which either support or quash this effort.

The Safety Book: Strangers and Dangers
Yael Feder
Schocken Children's Books
9789651911415, $10.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

The Safety Book: Strangers and Dangers is a picture book that documents safety lessons not from a child's perspective, as one might anticipate, but from the viewpoint of a watchful Mommy who oversees how her children interact with the world upon picking them up from school.

From how to interact with service people and strangers to accepting or rejecting the physical overtures of acquaintances, this book is filled with wise ways of approaching the world, keeping in mind personal boundaries and acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.

As the wise mother narrator observes the daily challenges her kids face from the actions of their peers, she imparts words of wisdom that read-aloud parents and picture book audiences will find important discussion points:

"If you don't like being hugged, you can just say: 'I don't like that,'" I said."

From the dangers of opening a door to a stranger without asking his identity to understanding what makes good and bad people in the world and how to deal with them, the combined efforts of a loving mother and father move from the outside world into the home.

Asya Aizenstein's engaging illustrations add to the educational experiences Yael Feder cultivates as everyday experiences during a family walk turn into important reflections and lessons about safety and personal feelings.

The result is a much more multifaceted, useful discourse than most children's books about 'stranger danger', and is very highly recommended above others on the subject as an interactive resource to begin discussions about all kinds of safety concerns for kids ages 4-8.

Water Music: A Cape Cod Story
Marcia Peck
Sea Crow Press
9798986567686, $19.95

Water Music is a Cape Cod story that opens in the summer of 1956, when twelve-year-old Lily Grainger "discovered the small ways in which people try to rescue each other."

Perhaps the most powerful attribute of this novel is apparent from the start of Lily's story - which is Marcia Peck's ability to inject compelling poetic descriptions with the supercharged duality of observation and metaphor:

"Tides filled and emptied our small world and I tried to figure out who belonged to whom. I longed to belong to my mother. But I learned that summer that she was like a teacup, spilled out and upside down on the saucer, and she couldn't right herself. She thought she was mad at my father; she didn't recognize that fiercer winds than his tore at her. All summer the storm gathered and gathered, took its breath from every direction we thought we knew, and lashed us into spindrift. And all the while, surrounding us, holding us up like the sea we floated on, was the music."

The cadence of these times, the tempo of these heartbeats, and the passions of those who swirl around Lily with their dramas and concerns come to life in a story that captures family life from the viewpoint of a child desperate to rescue her parents as her father struggles to finish his dissertation and cope with her mother's anger.

Of equal power and passion is the attention Peck gives to exploring family relationships both overt and covert, and the simmering undercurrents of love and anger that buffet Lily's life:

"Uncle George signaled me to head for the beach and gave my mother a grateful look, which she returned with an accusing one. For making her turn on Gloria, whom she liked. For making her use Gloria as a test of my father's loyalty. And here was Gloria, direct evidence that my father had not yet told Uncle George it was wrong to bring her here. But all this was lost on Uncle George."

Against the backdrop of Cape Cod's beaches, cottages, and natural world, these relationships simmer and blossom into new experiences and maturity that Lily grapples with as much as she explores her new world's nuances.

Water Music is a fine example of how a family's life and trials can be elevated to philosophical and psychological levels beyond the mere telling of a story or any semblance of a coming-of-age realization from a young person's viewpoint.

Peck's ability to capture and craft the nuances of these lives makes for a particularly evocative, engrossing story that ebbs and flows with the tides of Cape Cod and those who live with change.

These moments of power are prevalent not as rare gifts, but throughout Lily's story, creating a memorable read that is impossible to put down:

"Tonight her job had nothing to do with me. All this she could save for another time, when we weren't at Uncle George's cooking supper, washing dishes, making our best effort to disprove that when the two shells of an oyster are split apart, the oyster dies."

Libraries and readers of contemporary family life fiction who look for stories steeped in a sense of time, place, personality, and family dynamics will find Water Music an extraordinary standout. It also deserves strong recommendation to all manner of book club reading groups, from those interested in modern women's fiction to others considering the descriptive elements which elevate a story from mundane to exceptional.

Henry's Chapel
Graham Guest
Sagging Meniscus Press
9781952386220, $20.00 Paperback/$9.99 ebook

Imagine a play in which the narrator and audience are all participants. As it unfolds with the dramatic style of a stage production, Henry's Chapel represents a novel wrapped in the dual storytelling methods of a play and a work of fiction.

One feature of the story is its expansive sentence structure, which could be deemed 'run-on' by some; but mirror the approaches and length of a play:

"...all that evaporates, and in its place materializes a big bright blue clouded sky, a big blue-backed field of hundreds, thousands of frozen white bulbous tumors, perfectly evenly-spaced across an imperceptible matrix, stretching as far as the eye can see. We must be on the ground, on our backs. We roll over, and before us, we see a mother and her two kids, standing in the sun in front of a small, one-story, yellowish brick ranchhouse; the little girl is holding her mother's right hand; the little boy, her left..."

As the narrative about an isolated family in rural East Texas unfolds, readers receive a powerful story of warped relationships, incest, specters, and obsessions which play out on the stage of mental illness with powerful psychological undercurrents.

These are reinforced by Graham Guest's dual attention to narrative and narrator, which talks about scenes, structural decisions in film production, and analysis in a manner that places readers in the dual roles of participant and observer:

"That Henry is conveyed into the depths by a mining car is a ham-fisted but nevertheless effective (and sort of fun) metaphor, trope, figure, sign, whatever, that Henry is mining for something of value. Of course, he doesn't know what that something-of-value is..."

Unexpected humor accompanies footnoted references and scenes to offer delightful surprises in their depth of movie-style description:

"We track Luke as he bolts over to Henry, then we zoom in as Luke punches his snout into Henry's crotch, roots around in it a bit, then starts licking the front of Henry's pants.

"Goddammit!" we hear Uncle Avery say, then we hear the sound of Uncle Avery's boot striking Luke's chest-cavity, and

Luke flies out of the frame with a whimper, leaving us looking at the crotch of Henry's pants, inside which there appears to be some movement . . . then we zoom back out to our position between Henry and the mower and a shot of Uncle Avery in his blue gas station suit, standing to Henry's left."

From scenarios of childhood and Henry's evolving independence to footnoted scene references that add connections to other movies and literary and artistic efforts,

Henry's Chapel becomes more than a novel, but toes the intersection between dramatic form and delivery and fiction's narrative style.

Libraries and readers seeking literary works that assume the guise of a film while adhering to fictional devices of character-building and family evolution will find Henry's Chapel an excellent choice. Classrooms illustrating the possibilities of literary devices and dramatic entanglements will find the novel worthy of debate and discussion not just for its subject, but its creative presentation and form.

Suck a Little Happy Juice
J. Scott Coatsworth
Mongoose on the Loose
c/o Other Worlds Ink
9781955778596, $16.99

Suck a Little Happy Juice: An Irreverent, By-the-Skin-of-Your-Teeth Guide to Being an Indie Author offers a treasure trove of humor and writer's advice that reviews details J. Scott Coatsworth wished he'd known about being an indie author before he entered into the fray of publication.

From "holy shit moments" to tricks and tips for keeping creative juices flowing, Coatsworth opens each chapter with a philosophical observation before moving to the nuts and bolts of not just writing, but creating a 'brand' and staying true to its intention.

Aspiring fellow authors might think that, with all the literature on the market about the process, there wouldn't be room for yet another. But, there clearly is, if it blends a wry sense of humor with candid assessments of processes, promotion values, and positive and negative paths to success that authors often experience.

Suck a Little Happy Juice is the kind of advice title one wishes every aspiring writer had in hand. Whether it's addressing getting ready to write or giving concrete examples contrasting tepid writing with captivating alternative approaches and revisions, Coatsworth sets aside ethereal advice in favor of the concrete examples writers need in order to prove more effective and hone their skills.

One example is a passage about an aspiring starship captain. Coatsworth advises that "In fictional characters, a little damage can make things far more interesting." He then provides a powerful contrast example of how the concept can be developed more fully, moving from a "warm, fuzzy, heartwarming" creation to a better-developed plot in which "This Riane is much more interesting, with fault lines to explore (and exploit). These can become both motivations and self-imposed blockades that your characters must find a way to overcome."

His ability to delve deeper into the process than most writer's guides to delineate the approaches that support superior writing and publishing efforts sets Suck a Little Happy Juice apart from most others on the subject, offering solid examples on everything from how to choose a superior title to becoming involved in community events and mentoring fellow authors.

Each tip reviews the specifics of success and failure. Each section blends a wry sense of humor with a solid examination that fosters understanding and growth. Its unconventional approach comes from its foundation in blog writings and Coatsworth's acknowledgement of the bigger picture in publishing:

"What we do as writers matters, and it can change the world in ways small and large."

If libraries and readers were to select just a few titles on the subject of becoming an author, Suck a Little Happy Juice should be at the top of the list. Its irreverent joie de vivre and thought-provoking examples will save authors a lot of time and wasted effort, pointing out the milestones of various kinds of success that come not just from putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboards, but setting the mind in motion to adopt better writing habits, approaches, and results.

A Bittersweet Goodnight
Linda C. Wright
Independently Published
9781543989007, $17.99 Paper/5.99 Audio/$1.99 ebook

A Bittersweet Goodnight: A Memoir of Life, Love and Family documents Linda C. Wright's struggle to care for her stepmother, who was diagnosed with dementia. With little help from other family members, Wright was forced to not only provide care, but reassess her ideals of right and wrong as she embarks on an unexpected journey that ultimately leads to a newfound love.

There are many memoirs about dementia and caregiving on the market, but few capture the challenge of caring for a family member who is not quite embraced as fully as blood relatives. Wright does an exceptional job of exploring and exposing this difference:

"June always knew she was right and no one was going to tell her differently. She would never ask Richard or me for help of any kind, not with her finances, home repairs or ride to a good friend's funeral. She made her own arrangements. We gladly offered our assistance no matter what the problem because to us, June was family. To her we were something different. I'm not sure what separated us but I found through the many years I knew her that our relationship was like the brass ring on the carousel, coming closer, and floating farther away and always just slightly out of reach."

Wright considers the glue that traditionally held them together, the new mandates dementia brought to their lives and relationship, and her efforts to participate in family events that brought June into the fold in a different way. Readers receive many insights about dealing with dementia and how it proves more complex when considering family relationships that also reflect years of internal struggle.

Also of special note are Wright's attempts to understand June's condition and state of mind:

"June frequently spoke of confusion but I'm not sure what she meant by that. I suspected people suffering from dementia, have a spot way down deep inside their brain, that clearly knows the mail is delivered every day at noon, the bills are paid by the act of writing a check, along with the names in order by age of all the children and grandchildren. The rest of their brain however, will not allow the person to verbalize those specific facts, creating a sense of confusion. That is how my non-scientific self explains how to decipher June's comments in a way that makes perfect sense to me, right or wrong."

The result is a powerful memoir of dementia, shifting family relationships, and doing the right and wrong things under pressure and impossible circumstances.

Libraries and readers seeking accounts of dementia that also acknowledge and explore the facets of addressing broken family ties or challenging relationships against the backdrop of such an illness will find plenty of discussion material and food for thought in Wright's survey of what makes for family connection and love:

"June wasn't my mother, but yes, she played an integral part in shaping me from a young age. I had a very different relationship with my own mother who also played a large part in turning me into who I am. Both taught me things about life I loved and embraced. Both exposed me to a dark side of themselves I wanted to turn my back on. I came out the other end a better person for all they gave me."

The Redemption of Jarek
Dylan Madeley
Independently Published
9798369751800, $17.00 paperback/$2.99 Kindle

The Redemption of Jarek reviews the life of a once and would-be ruler who finds himself disgraced and banished from his own kingdom. Jarek's story traverses the end of old ways, the downfall of Duke Jarek, and the power struggles between commanders that leads to banishment and a form of justice that is actually unfair in many ways.

As Jarek and his soldiers are forced to agree to curb their attacks and accept blame for their actions and choices, readers follow the verdict and terrain of leaders who swagger, fall, and climb back into a different form of leadership role.

Of particular strength and note is how others see Jarek's behavior, which in turn often affects his view of himself:

"You will have to explain if you wish to convince me. From my vantage, I saw you venture far outside of our reach and into theirs. Then you seemed to get their spokesman terribly upset before brazenly turning your back on him and casually riding away. I'm sure many thought it was courageous, but after our talk in your office, you must understand my concern."

Tyrants rely on employing fear effectively, but the counterbalance to this approach is a form of psychological battle that takes place on very different levels as Jarek evolves, learns how to better lead and defend his role, and embarks on a journey that brings him to redemption.

Dylan Madeley crafts a medieval fantasy that excels in probing the psychology of conflict and transformation. As Jarek and those around him evolve new purposes and definitions of leadership and compassion, readers follow his journey with many opportunities for enlightenment, thought-provoking reading, and action-packed clashes and scenarios.

Libraries seeking stories that hold the overlay of fantasy and the literary strength of a psychological probe of leadership, downfalls, redemption, and transformation on a personal and community-wide level will find The Redemption of Jarek a powerful interplay of forces that also deserves book club recommendation and debate.

The Vixen Amber Halloway
Carol LaHines
Regal House Publishing, LLC
9781646034666, $18.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook

In The Vixen Amber Halloway, a woman whose husband cheats on her becomes obsessed with the other woman, Amber Halloway. The story of stalking and revenge comes from a wife who teeters on the edge of insanity as she charts the progression of her own demise.

From its opening paragraphs, the story socks a one-two knockout punch of realization that gives evidence of its hard-hitting strength:

"Some have questioned my sanity. Only a mentally imbalanced woman, they say, would spy on her estranged husband and his lover from a tree. Only a delusional woman would believe that the husband would one day return, when the evidence - viz., engagement to his lover, before the ink on the divorce papers was even dry - was demonstrably to the contrary. Only a woman unconcerned with how she is perceived by the outside world, by former spouses and law enforcement circles alike, would commit her observations of the husband and his lover to eight consecutively numbered spiral-bound notebooks, producing, in three months' time, a comprehensive, incriminating document that would serve to confirm the prosecution's theory that she was a spurned wife with rancor in her heart."

As the fragile line between revenge and insanity is crossed again and again, murder and abandonment evolve into a dark comedy in which spurned ex-wife Ophelia concocts a panacea for her anguish and finds it bitterly too effective.

Driven by a family penchant for behaviors that are less than appropriate reactions to life adversity, Ophelia (aptly named) navigates the dissolution of one relationship and its replacement with controversy and confrontation.

Carol LaHines excels in a wry blend of humor and darkness which bleeds from her words in a flow of ongoing power and shifting perceptions as Ophelia and Andy spar:

"None of your business," you had the audacity to assert.

None of my business. You could obtain a restraining order upon one-sided averments that I had stalked and harassed you, invaded your privacy, and caused a scene at the Minnie Ha-Ha (omitting any mention whatsoever of your purpose in being at said motel, in my happening upon you in flagrante delicto, wrapped in nothing more than musty bed sheets); you could demand marital support, maintaining that as a salesman your income was sporadic and subject to fluctuating demand in the fickle market for medical supplies; you could try to force a sale of the house and to make off with half the proceeds - my mother's legacy, the only thing of value she ever left me. Yet I could not question your bona fides in demanding the entire set of anodized cookware. I was not entitled to know where you were currently living, or with whom."

The rage, betrayal, and efforts towards a macabre form of redemption that play out on these pages is breathtaking in its descriptive psychological draw and surprising in some of its twists and turns of plot.

LaHines creates a vivid story of a woman who embarks on a campaign that leads her further into darkness, taking readers by the hand in a dangerous invitation to join in the journey.

While libraries will find it easy to recommend The Vixen Amber Halloway to readers of contemporary fiction who look for a blend of vivid description and powerful insights, it's women's literature and psychology groups who will find The Vixen Amber Halloway highly worthy of assignment, debate, and discussion.

Lawrence Kelter
Black Rose Writing
9781685133528, $21.95 Paper/$15.99 ebook

Man-Killer is the first book in the Gina Cototi Cases series. It provides crime and mystery readers with a vivid character in PI investigator Gina Cototi, a Sicilian sleuth as committed to family and love as she is dogged about pursuing cases and truths.

In this instance, Gina struggles with her attraction to bad boy Rocco Benelli, an unemployed parole officer who is as dangerous as he is charming. His allure is nearly irresistible - but it doesn't change her need for a partner that is effective and savvy as her expanding caseload demands she pair up with one who is equal to her investigative abilities.

As she faces assassins, love, and family connections with equal determination and courage, Gina discovers that she stands between an evil mobster and an invitation she can barely resist.

Lawrence Kelter creates a memorable and powerful character and plot that moves readers into the charged atmosphere of Brooklyn's underworld and those who navigate its murky waters of corruption and justice.

Fast-paced action pairs with family interactions and romantic interludes in a satisfying manner as the story evolves - sometimes in directions even seasoned mystery readers won't see coming.

Man-Killer is flavored by feisty Gina's determination and her eye for trouble, but also by a thread of ironic humor that introduces realistic conundrums to the protagonist's efforts:

"The mission couldn't have gone better, and yet something inside me begged for more excitement. All eyes were on the front of the building as we waited for Mura to emerge. That fated moment arrived when a woman knows she can't hold her water a second longer. "Be right back," I blurted."

Libraries and readers seeking compelling first-person crime sagas that are vividly rendered will find Man-Killer exceptional for its fast action and candid character discoveries about crime and attraction:

"I was the moth to his flame and in my heart I knew the day would come when I got burned. But for the time being, I needed to have fun and oh my God, that man was fun."

MONARCH: Stories
Emily Jon Tobias
Black Lawrence Press
9781625570857, $22.95

MONARCH: Stories is a collection of literary cultural experiences powered by an author who was raised " a Midwesterner in an ordinary middle class American suburb where as a kid, along with being a poet, the only other dream I had was being on the road. I left home young, yearning for a sense of belonging. Live music became my roadmap through America, and I exchanged my family for friends on its streets. I became intoxicated by all our states, carved into the concrete of this country by how hard I danced here."

The stories were written as tributes to change, giving voice and testimony to the social, interpersonal, and psychological traumas life brings to individuals who stand on the cusp of new realizations and the distresses inflected by and in America's streets.

Choosing the book's title, MONARCH, was not an effort. Indeed, the transformation each of these pieces reflect can only be captured by total body and soul immersion of change.

Take the opening story, 'Red Cardboard Hearts Hanging From Strings.' In it, a marriage to an abuser unfolds from the wedding day onward, the roots of this relationship embedded in pregnancy and drugs and a sense of streetwise savvy that nonetheless neglects to identify the dangers residing under one's own roof.

The rigid boundaries of the evolving relationship receive inspections that are raw and vivid:
"It had been decided: yes, he'd stay with you forever; yes, he'd prove it; yes, he better; yes, you would. Then you went back inside, to his bed, more rigid than before. When a bright sun broke like a yolk behind Pier 66, you two were still wide awake, then hiding your eyes from one another. Somehow you knew there was a little girl in you."

At this point, it should be noted that some of these candid revelations will trigger readers who have struggled under similar circumstances:

"(Bruises in fingerprints on your upper arms that time you were in his seat when the game started... that welt from a playful snap to the bra when you took his fat joke too seriously... shocked by the first slap to your face in his car when you were too drunk at daytime... at a stop light, in broad daylight, on the edge of Occidental Park where a homeless lady selling roses out of a bucket watched. You remember how sad the lady seemed.)"

Emily Jon Tobias pulls no punches with her gritty stories. One example is 'Fish and Flowers', where character Joan hates waiting and standing still, but finds that her native Seattle hometown has culturally moved on without her even as she also reconsiders her relationship with her family:

"Joan hates her sister more than she hates the waiting. Hates her. In the same unreasoning way she imagines other people hating Mexicans or Indians, with real gusto and tenacity. She imagines her baby sister like one of those Barbie dolls that smile relentlessly but can only move their limbs at the joints. Flawless waistline but with absolutely no distinguishing marks of character. She's always wanted to pop the head right off that doll."

Another example lies in the gem that is 'Nova,' in which a torturous and wonderful relationship with the woman Jones evolves:

"I opened my eyes. Venice. Craned my neck reaching for air. Gut rot from booze on an empty stomach. Looked down across my grass-stained front, wondering where the fuck I had fallen, sick, I swayed, and there he was again, front and center, like it was seventh grade all over again. The teacher who thought I was special. He said he wanted me. Young. My head all spun with clouds like blooms of chalk dust in the late autumn light of that classroom. I clamped my lids down and gouged at the hangnail on my right thumb, let ocean salt sting the raw flesh. A rock kicked off the skateboard of some little, local shit made me flinch. So close, the ground rattled beneath my beat-up Converse as he flew by. Looked up, and there she was - big and noble - out of nowhere, like my mama's old ceramic Madonna. Jones."

These are not easy reads, but their literary, social, and psychological prowess is compellingly rendered and darkly poignant.

Libraries and readers seeking stories about addiction, transformation, success, and failure will find MONARCH captures a series of alterations and relationships that reflect love, loss, and the outer limits of the underbelly of American culture and influence.

Highly recommended, this literary work will especially spark book club discussions of contemporary women's writings that are firmly rooted in emotional and social change.

Inspiring Work Anniversaries
Rick Joi
9798988345442, $39.95 Hardcover/$29.95 Paperback/$19.95 Audiobook/$9.95 eBook

Inspiring Work Anniversaries: How To Improve Employee Experience And Strengthen Workplace Culture Through The Untapped Power Of Work Anniversaries creates, promotes, and discusses the idea of 'work anniversaries' designed to "celebrate the work each of us does." Why is this so important? Rick Joi explains everything in a book designed to inject gratitude into a society too often mired in expectation and entitlement.

The ideal centers on how we contribute to others' lives. Recognizing these contributions, however they purport to be compensated for monetarily, is an important part of re-affirming the interconnectedness of human beings and their ability to contribute to the greater good above and beyond the drive for financial gain.

This is an important difference to celebrate because, as Joi teaches, the finer art of connection and gratitude too often has been eroded by the presence and effect of money on the life transactions through which one human being contributes, in whatever way, to another's health, safety, or sense of comfort.

The concept of work anniversaries isn't new; but traditionally, they have been under-celebrated - perhaps because they are largely under-reported and misunderstood. This is where Joi's title assumes its greatest impact, promoting organizational and individual pursuits which empower employees through meaningful appreciative gestures and recognition that goes beyond a bonus or raise.

Joi casts a critical eye on many large company approaches to such celebrations:

"Among larger organizations with big budgets, it's popular to hire a vendor that automatically sends employees a link to a catalog of generic items they can choose from for their work anniversary. They just click on something, enter their address, and a week or two later their "gift" arrives. This is appealing to many organizations because they can check off celebrating work anniversaries without putting in any effort themselves. The vendor handles everything. No one at the organization had to get involved at all! Remember from Chapter 2 that reducing effort is one of the forces of mediocrity? This is an example of that force in action. But while this solution is great at reducing effort, it's simultaneously expensive and bad for workplace culture."

Business managers here receive the nuts and bolts of how better to express employee appreciation. While Inspiring Work Anniversaries's intended audience is the business leader, individuals interested in honing, participating in, or expanding the concept of a work anniversary also receive important keys to understanding relevance, meaning, and impact in making appreciative gestures.

This is why Inspiring Work Anniversaries should ideally be made an intrinsic part of not just a business library or reader's list, but for any individual who would better understand the mechanics of transmitting real, meaningful gratitude to the efforts of those around them to make life easier, more positive, and more significant.

David Grosz
Black Rose Writing
9781685133368, $21.95 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Many younger siblings spend much of their lives in the shadow of their older siblings, but in Providence, brother and sister Becca and Gabriel Staub are in their thirties and still struggling with family dynamics. Even though she's a renowned artist, privy to the glamour and attractions of a world-wide art community, Gabriel knows some of the wellsprings of her craft lie in a childhood trauma he could not prevent.

And so Providence unfolds a warm story of adult realizations, redemption, and blossoming new opportunities for recovery and revitalization as Becca and Gabriel confront their pasts and reinvent their futures in different ways.

David Grosz's ability to posit a powerful, all-embracing event is evident from the introduction to the story, in which the first-person Gabriel confesses to readers about "A story obsessed me from my late childhood into early adulthood...I must have run through it thousands of times, at first in my head; later out loud, to others. I saved it only for intimates - close friends, girlfriends, and more than one shrink. It was the bridge to my inner chamber, I implied between whispers, the only way to know the real me. Over time, I recognized a second motivation for these retellings. Although I had recounted the story again and again, something at its core mystified me. Each telling was a confession, but also a plea."

The plea reaches out to readers in an unusual way, here; the retelling breaking a long-held pattern to address the past, finally, in a reflective but conclusive manner that is finally able to break away from set reenactments of events to introduce new elements of resolution to the story.

The contrasts between Gabriel and his sister are stark and appear in the first lines of the story. Becca is a nomad; Gabriel lives in the apartment where he was born and raised.

As Gabriel faces uncomfortable truths about his past and present perceptions of and efforts towards Becca, readers are drawn into a story that is filled with juxtapositions of past memory and present-day sibling patterns:

"As I recalled each moment of that night and day after, I would ask myself: Did you think of Becca here or only of yourself? My answers were usually inconclusive or, worse, disappointing. I concocted various excuses for my oversight - Becca had left me, not the other way around; it was so easy to find my way out, I figured she could too, I figured she already had; with Becca you never knew, you never knew anything; I was so scared I wasn't thinking at all, not of her, not of myself - but I knew they were all rationalizations. The truth is I didn't think much about her, if at all."

As a blossoming re-acquaintance with Catherine Morrow (an estranged, former best friend of Gabriel and Becca's mother) introduces new realizations about what happened with Becca decades ago, Gabriel finds himself caught in a time loop of past and present circumstances and confessions that introduce new feelings of abandonment and rage into the mix.

Promise, hope, and anguish entwine as Catherine and Gabriel dance around issues of past and present relationships, with all the sorrow and ideals the dance holds:

"Who would have thought, Gabriel? Who would have thought that you and I, such an improbable pair, would be the ones to bring everyone back together again?"

Providence is a warm story that combines artistic creations and movements with a middle-age man's efforts to recreate connections and truths long regulated to the past. Libraries interested in acquiring literary novels about growth and new realizations will find it a powerful addition to the literature about love, sibling relationships, and past resolutions.

Its thought-provoking journey will entice and thoroughly absorb readers and will spark many a book club discussion about how "...the cycle of fortune and misfortune, of comfort and anxiety, of companionship and solitude, turns for us all."

White Storks of Mercy: Reunion
Joni Anderson van Berkel
9798218197858, $19.95

The second book of the White Storks of Mercy trilogy, Reunion, is recommended for readers who appreciated the evolution of Book one, Formation, set in a world where fantasy and reality entwine. The foundation of that introductory story revolved around the myth of the legendary White Storks of Mercy, a coterie of time-traveling peacemakers who assume the forms of both birds and women.

Reunion continues the transformative experiences of the White Storks of Mercy. Their leader, Great and Honorable Zendala, takes them on new missions of mercy replete with numerous challenges as the storks continue their quest to inspire loving kindness and acceptance of diversity in humanity.

Joni Anderson van Berkel crafts a superb blend of mythology, mystery, history, and fantasy that works well in this second book, which will receive applause and attention from fans of the prior story as well as new readers.

The author engages her audience with action-packed scenes that include insights on how past choices and their consequences continue to resonate in the future, affecting the Merciful Ones and everything they encounter.

Excellent perspectives on good, evil, and redemption follow Reunion just as strongly as they did in Formation, as Zendala confronts the reality of a loving reunion with her sister, Reba, the ancient Egyptian Siamese cat, that goes awry.

Concluding on a further note of possibility and transformation, White Storks of Mercy: Reunion is a 'must' for libraries strong in mixes of mythology, fantasy, history and mystery, and will delight both newcomers and prior fans with its rich adventures and intersections between acts of mercy and survival.

America vs. Americans
Eric Wade with Phil Herel
Forefront Books
9781637632369, $26.00 Hardcover/$13.99 ebook

America vs. Americans: How Capitalism Has Failed a Capitalist Nation and What We Can Do About It promises and delivers a hard-hitting assessment of modern America in all its failings and success. But wait: there's more.

Eric Wade doesn't just point out the obvious: he delivers the unexpected with an in-depth solution he calls American Laborism: a proposed new economic system that addresses many of the failures capitalism has created throughout American society.

It's no light proposal to replace a seemingly tried-and-tested (even if it does hold epic failures) system like capitalism with something new. It's even a greater challenge to adequately describe its basic tenets and how it will work.

But this is a job Eric Wade and Phil Herel confront head-on in a hard-hitting book that is especially widely recommended for college-level students of economics and political systems.

Is this the end of America, one of their chapters asks? The answer here is: it is the beginning of something new. And birth always hurts.

Especially thought-provoking are the titles of chapters that contrast and maintain why capitalism AND Marxism have both ultimately proved failures; albeit in eerily opposite ways. Capitalism "failed because not everyone has capital" while Marxism "failed because some people do have capital."

After analyzing these failures of competing systems, Wade and Herel provide the nuts and bolts of a new proposal that promotes labor over capital, making the case for an interactive system of services based not on money exchanges, but system integration.

Wade is honest about the fact that not all will buy into this ideal just as, now, capitalism is not everyone's cup of tea:

"...we can't just stop trying to help. Many of us believe we have a moral obligation to try to bring the poorest of our fellow citizens up to a better life. And yes, we're well aware that certain poor or homeless people may simply refuse to participate in American Laborism's safety net."

From promoting a newfound honesty in military spending to reign in abuses to disincentivizing people and companies who cheat on their taxes, this proposal of a new American Laborism approach promises much and is worthy of consideration by anyone who would analyze renewal-focused ideas.

It's unusual to see a raw, candid honesty about the pros and cons of this new system rather than a "rah-rah" feel of self-congratulation that too many economic and political proposal titles assume.

And yet, this is one of the standouts of America vs. Americans: its ability to not just propose alternatives, but to admit where such applications might fail to reach their own visions of perfection.

Libraries and schools will ideally choose this book as a key container of debate material that will prove essential to fostering students as interested in solutions as in identifying problems in American economics and politics.

Book clubs, as well, will find its contentions, vision, and analysis worthy of debate as policies, systems, and traditional thinking alike are confronted and assessed for new possibilities.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Danger Among Us
Chris Coad Taylor
JoHazel Publishing
9780997564587, $13.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

There are some authors you read who take a long time to reveal where the book goes, until way into it or not at all. Chris Coad Taylor is an author you never have to worry about, because her works are always are character driven. "Danger Among Us," the second in the Amber series, is a personality driven fast passed mystery, set once again in the Tampa Florida area. As the novel opens there is a shoot out of cops and the bad guys, where one officer down later dies from the confrontation, while a woman named Amber goes to the hospital. While there she makes a call to her boss that is mysterious about why and where she is. From then on the novel is filled with dark people who frequent the streets of Ybor and Tampa to its final pages that resolve some issues, then introduces new ones that that clearly is a setup for another tale in this wonderful darker side of Tampa. "Danger Among Us" is so good that readers who have not read the first one, need not worry because it is also a stand-alone title but it's always nice to be able to read all the books in the chain of stories.

Calling Clarissa
Beth Worsdell
Worsdell Publishing
9781959775041, $16.99 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

"Calling Clarissa" is a present-day work, a total departure from the excellent science fiction trilogy by Beth Worsdell that were rollicking good fun. Clarissa Darcy has a low paying job with a perverted boss, an ex who contributes nothing to the welfare of two sons they had together as well as no concern for them. She does have though several female friends who are her support network, an important comfort zone. In fact one suggests Clarissa check into work that possibly will solve all her problems. It has so many good things, she can pick her hours, stay at home, take care of her boys, and still maintain her friendships. If there are any negatives its the things she does on the phone whenever she is works. Many readers will not like what she has chosen because of the graphic nature of the business. "Calling Clarissa" is a wonderful novel, how a woman faces new challenges while learning how strong a person she is.

Robert B. Parker's Broken Trust: A Spenser Novel
Mike Lupica
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593540244, $29.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

Spenser is back in anther great mystery with a new author at the helm. "Broken Trust" opens with Spenser hired by the wife of one of the richest men in the world to find out why he is acting so strange. As he delves into the new case the wife is murdered while the husband removes Spenser from the case. Spenser refuses to leave before he gets some answers so he stays on to learn what is really gong on. Lupica is no stranger to the world of Robert B. Parker as he has written Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall mysteries and was a perfect choice to take on Spenser. "Broken Trust" is a tale that adds to the legacy of Spenser no fan of the series should miss.

Go With Angels
Mary Brotherton
bUneke Publishing
9798986914602, $15.00 pbk No Kindle

In many books and movies there have been protectors to individuals during negative situations. "Go With Angels" reveals many different conditions where someone was looking out for a person under difficult circumstances that many would say are miracles because they are just so incredible how people were protected. In many cases the person met someone who appeared then completely disappeared apparently their mission completed. Some will not consider, any of this, because they have a closed mind, while others have no problem believing these fascinating encounters with what can only be classified angels. "Go With Angels" is easy enjoyable reading that exposes a little know world many would not admit they have ever dealt with.

BeeBop the Honeybee Wannabee Hero
James D. Bell
Independently Published
97988468795088, $15.00 pbk / $7.50 Kindle

A beehive is under attack while one of the members of the colony is bullied repeatedly in the beautifully told kids book "BeeBop the Honeybee Wannabee Hero" BeeBop tries to help protect the hive when he lets everyone know where they can replace the lost food supply because of an animal's assault of their sustenance supply. As everything settles other bees do not believe BeeBop to the degree he is placed in solitary confinement. But the circumstances dictate he escape, to help others protect themselves from another aggressive being. "BeeBop The Honeybee Wannabee Hero" smoothly unfolds with so many underlying positive premises for many of us to consider incorporating into our lives.

The Beatles A Little Golden Books Biography
Judy Katschke, author
Maike Plenzke, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
9780593645123, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

The four lads from Liverpool England, known as the Beatles are the subject of a new Little Golden Book that celebrates the rock 'n' roll band that changed the way music was recorded as well as other aspects songs that continues today with the song Now and Then. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Star revolutionized the world for so may years and "The Beatles" brings to many new readers some of the ways it began. So many today have no idea who The Beatles were and now they can learn and enjoy the music that lives on. "The Little Golden collection is a wide range of titles on many different things and "The Beatles" is a nice addition to the series.

The Bee Gees: A Little Golden Books Biography
Kari Allen, author
Leo Aquino, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
9780593645161, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

Like the Beatles its nice the Bee Gees have their own title in the Little Golden Books series. The Bee Gees are three brothers who also changed the world of music in many ways and were on top record charts for over twenty-five years or more as they were always changing their style. "The Bee Gees" tells lots of things about the brothers Gib who formed the Bee Gees. No matter what age readers can learn many interesting things about the three brothers who had such great hits as "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Jive Talking, Saturday Night Fever and many others we hear all the time now. "The Bee Gees" is another great biography for all of us to enjoy from the ongoing series of titles.

Fun With Mathematics
Sumita Bose
Manda Publishers
9789395174114, $10.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

The focus of "Fun With Mathematics" is to make it easier for kids to learn math, which is a great idea. Unfortunately the author has lost sight of her purpose. Reading through "Fun With Mathematics" is so confusing of what she is trying to get children to understand with her math games. An example is she points out counting by threes in a square of numbers counting from three to nine in the first left to right columns twelve to eighteen and twenty-one to twenty-seven. Next she points out three times ten is thirty. There seems to be no connection of both aspects using the number three. Other readers may have no problem figuring out what she is attempting to accomplish with "Fun With Mathematics"

My Little Sweet Boy
Hilary Duff, author
Kelsey Garrity-Riley, illustrator
Random House Childrens Books
9780593300756, $19.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

So many people feel that when you leave the doors of school or college your are done learning and have to do your function of work or take care of your family. Hilary Duff know for her work in movies and television dispels those ideas with the beautiful book "My Little Sweet Boy" teaching us all to look all around you and also the way you treat others as well keep your mind always open to learn whatever comes along. "My Little Sweet Boy" is a wonderful work filled with additional artwork that adds to a person's enjoyment

Squeekie, The Feasting Mouse
Pamela Dowdy, author
Mary Brotherton, illustrator
bUneke Publishing
9798986914633, $7.95 pbk No Kindle

"Squeekie the Feasting Mouse" is a fun story of one mouse in a house who each night finds his way into the kitchen of a home to dine on many different things. Most of the time they are things like portions of pie, pieces of cake, cookies, and other goodies. Later he returns to his cubby hole to sleep. The food is wonderful for him but there are side effects for him also. "Squeekie The Feasting Mouse" is a wonderful children's tale that shows the effects of eating too many of the wrong things and has other meaningful lessons for all of us to learn and follow for all ages to also enjoy both the artwork and story

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook
Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
Health Communications, Inc.
9780757324826, $18.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Diabetes is on an epidemic level in the United States today. More than 11 percent of the population is living with diabetes, and 38 percent of U.S. adults have prediabetes. Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputation.

Recent research has also shown a connection between diabetes and dementia, hearing loss, and some forms of cancer. Experts point to diet as a key component in preventing and treating diabetes and prediabetes -- particularly one featuring fruits and vegetables. That's where "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook" by nutrition expert Jackie Newgent comes in, helping people with diabetes (or at risk for developing it) enjoy more plants. -- The key word is "enjoy."

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN is an award-winning cookbook author and classically-trained chef who offers a compendium of 100 percent plant-based recipes that are full of flavor with fresh, modern appeal. At the same time, the dishes appeal to all eaters, not just vegetarians. packed from cover to cover with more than 125 recipes, plenty of hearty main dishes, tasty menus, and hundreds of helpful tips, "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook" follows today's current nutrition therapy guidelines.

Non-specialist general readers can easily follow a flexible plan without being overly focused on calories, carb-counting, or other strict macronutrient or micronutrient parameters. People with diabetes and prediabetes (and their families and friends!) will benefit from the deliciousness that menus planned with a resource like "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook" brings to the table, and the good health it brings to their lives!

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a section of full color photos of finished dishes, "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook: 125+ Nourishing Recipes to Satisfy Every Taste Bud" is of very special interest for family cooks having to provide meals that are appropriate for anyone having to deal with diabetes or a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. Packed with palate-pleasing, appetite satisfying, kitchen cook friendly recipes for all memorable dining occasions both formal and informal, "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook" is an important and recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a plant-forward registered dietitian nutritionist, classically-trained chef, award-winning cookbook author, professional recipe developer, media personality, spokesperson, and food writer. She is also the author of five cookbooks, including The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook and 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes. Jackie is a Forbes Health Advisory Board Member and a private plant-based cooking coach. Her mantra is: Go for great taste; aim for plant-based; try not to waste. She is based in Brooklyn, New York, where she is also co-founder of Peterra Kitchen, a plant-forward pet food company. Jackie is active on social media @jackienewgent and shares plant-based recipes on her blog:

Women in Science Now: Stories and Strategies for Achieving Equity
Lisa M. P. Munoz
Columbia University Press
9780231206143, $24.95, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Women working in the sciences face obstacles at virtually every step along their career paths. From subtle slights to blatant biases, deep systemic problems block women from advancing or push them out of science and technology entirely.

With the publication of "Women in Science Now: Stories and Strategies for Achieving Equity", Lisa Munoz deftly examines solutions to this persistent gender gap, offering new perspectives on how to make science more equitable and inclusive for all.

"Women in Science Now" shares stories and insights of women from a range of backgrounds working in various disciplines, illustrating the journeys that brought them to the sciences, the challenges they faced along the way, and the important contributions they have made to their fields.

As an author, Lisa Munoz combines these narratives with a wealth of data to illuminate the size and scope of the challenges women scientists face, while highlighting research-based solutions to help overcome these obstacles. She also presents groundbreaking studies in social psychology and organizational behavior that are informing novel approaches for combating historic and ongoing inequities.

Through a combined focus on personal experiences and social-science research, "Women in Science Now" is a timely study that provides both a path toward greater gender equity and an inspiring vision of science and scientists.

Critique: Of immense value to readers with an interest in workplace equality, discrimination, racism, the history/philosophy of science, and the education/professional certification and development of women in the sciences, "Women in Science Now: Stories and Strategies for Achieving Equity" is an outstanding and strongly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary Social Issues and Science History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Women in Science Now: Stories and Strategies for Achieving Equity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Lisa M. P. Munoz ( is a science writer and the founder and president of SciComm Services, a science communications consulting firm. A former journalist and press officer, she has more than twenty years of experience crafting science content for scientists and the public alike. Munoz holds an engineering degree from Cornell University.

Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!
Bobbito Garcia, author
Estefania Rivera Cortes, illustrator
Haymarket Books
9798888901533, $19.99, HC, 548pp

Synopsis: "Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!" is a story about Taina, a nine-year-old Afro Boricua basketball player growing up in Brooklyn during a pandemic who learns valuable life lessons from family, friends, and the community, both on and off the court.

"Peeeace!" That's how Taina opens this book, and that's how we get a tour of Brooklyn: through Taina's eyes! There's the biddy court where Papa is doing a b-ball clinic, and where Taina is joined by friends Theophilus, Ireyna, Mamushi and Ibrahim. Then there are the legendary parks of Brooklyn (from Bed Stuy to Brownsville to Tillary Park) and all the legendary players, the folklore of NYC playground basketball culture. At home and on the court, Taina learns math and stories through the city and basketball.

"Pa'lante, siempre pa'lante!" Mama says this is what the Young Lords Party used to shout for social justice. Taina's mother says it means "forward, always forward!" and that's where Taina is going, forward in life!

Critique: Original, exceptional, and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-10 who have an interest in basketball and Hispanic/Latino stories. Enhanced for young readers with the inclusion of a full page glossary of basketball terms and definitions,(such as Biddy Rims, "No Look Alley For Two," 21 Utah) and an explanation of Kwanzaa, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!" by the team of author/storyteller Bobbito Garcia and artist/illustrator Estefania Rivera Cortes is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note #1: Bobbito Garcia is an NYC native who has put an indelible footprint on multiple urban movements. The critically acclaimed author of Where'd You Get Those? NYC's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 (Testify Books) is also a world-renowned DJ who co-hosts "Stretch and Bobbito Radio" on Apple Music Hits. As an award-winning filmmaker, Garcia has directed Doin' It In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC (PBS), Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives (SHOWTIME), and NY Times "Critics' Pick" Rock Rubber 45s.

Editorial Note #2: Estefania Rivera Cortes is an artist based in San Juan, Puerto Rico who self-expresses through performance art, visual narration, painting, and printmaking, with a compassion for social causes. Cortes' empathetic illustrative works have been featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, and the Puerto Rico Review magazine.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold
Avalyn Hunter
The University Press of Kentucky
9780813198040, $60.00, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: On the morning of May 18, 1924, households across America opened their newspapers to the headline: "Derby Winner Property of Indian Woman." The woman in question was Rosa Magnet Hoots, a member of the Oklahoma Osage Nation. The horse, draped in the iconic red roses signifying his victory in the fiftieth running of the Kentucky Derby, was Black Gold. In a sport defined by its exclusivity, the pair's unlikely appearance in the winner's circle set off a firestorm of speculation that would uncover an origin story stranger than fiction.

Named for the oil that had been discovered in large quantities in Oklahoma at the time of his birth, Black Gold was born in 1921 to a mare named Useeit. At the start of her hard-knocking racing career, Useeit had been purchased by Al Hoots, for whom she won thirty-two of a staggering 122 races. What the mare lacked in regality, she made up for in gumption, a trait Hoots believed could propel her progeny to the hallowed ground of Churchill Downs.

Hoots himself would never see Black Gold, dying unexpectedly in 1917. But the legend that came to define the horse would begin with him. Languishing in his deathbed, Hoots claimed to have a prophetic dream that a colt born to Useeit would win the Kentucky Derby. He extracted a promise from his wife, Rosa, to breed the mare to the stallion Black Toney. The decision, which came to fruition three years after Hoots's death, would set in motion a story that would forever change Thoroughbred racing.

With the publication of "Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold" by the University of Kentucky Press, author and horse racing/breeding expert Avalyn Hunter explores the personalities and histories that surrounded Black Gold. Told against the backdrop of a make-or-break moment for American horse racing and politics at large and framed by the racial violence that rocked Tulsa in the 1920s, Black Gold's victory at the Golden Jubilee stands at the intersection of sport and history. Hunter's work looks behind every stall and tack room door and celebrates the hard work that goes into a great horse and its rivals.

Critique: A masterpiece of meticulous research and seminal scholarship, "Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold" will be of immense interest to fans of American horse racing & equestrian sports. Informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of twenty-two pages of Notes and a ten page Glossary, "Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library 19th Century American Equestrian Sports History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780813199191, $30.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.99).

Editorial Note: Avalyn Hunter ( is a nationally recognized authority on Thoroughbred pedigrees and racing history whose work has appeared in The Blood-Horse, Dream Derby, Owner-Breeder International, Market Watch, New York Breeder, and Louisiana Horse. She is the author of American Classic Pedigrees 1914-2002, The Kingmaker: How Northern Dancer Founded a Racing Dynasty, and Gold Rush: How Mr. Prospector Became Racing's Billion-Dollar Sire.

The Edge
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538719916, $30.00, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: When CIA operative Jenny Silkwell is murdered in rural Maine, government officials have immediate concerns over national security. Her laptop and phone were full of state secrets that, in the wrong hands, endanger the lives of countless operatives. In need of someone who can solve the murder quickly and retrieve the missing information, the U.S. government knows just the chameleon they can call on.

Ex-Army Ranger Travis Devine spent his time in the military preparing to take on any scenario, followed by his short-lived business career chasing shadows in the deepest halls of power, so his analytical mind makes him particularly well-suited for complex, high-stakes tasks. Taking down the world's largest financial conspiracy proved his value, and in comparison, this case looks straightforward. Except small towns hold secrets and Devine finds himself an outsider again.

Devine must ingratiate himself with locals who have trusted each other their whole lives, and who distrust outsiders just as much. Dak, Jenny's brother, who's working to revitalize the town. Earl, the retired lobsterman who found Jenny's body. And Alex, Jenny's sister with a dark past of her own. As Devine gets to know the residents of Putnam, Maine, answers seem to appear and then transform into more questions. There's a long history of secrets and those who will stop at nothing to keep them from being exposed. Leaving Devine with no idea who he can trust... and who wants him dead.

Critique: A master storyteller, David Balducci's newest novel, "The Edge" is a 'must read' pick for his legions of fans. Of particular interest to fans of action/adventure suspense thrillers, "The Edge" is the stuff from which block-buster movies are made and unreservedly recommended for community library International Espionage/Mystery Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Edge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781549160677, $50.00, CD).

Editorial Note: David Baldacci ( has had his books published in over forty-five languages and in more than eighty countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America (

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Art of Extract Making
Paul & Jill Fulton
Agate Publishing
9781572843301, $30.00, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: From VanillaPura founders Paul and Jill Fulton comes "The Art of Extract Making: A Kitchen Guide to Making Vanilla and Other Extracts at Home" -- a delightful collection of scrupulously tested extract recipes designed to pack maximum flavor and sweetness into a variety of baking and cooking applications.

Creating high-quality, high-impact extract is so much more than simply putting beans into booze and waiting. In "The Art of Extract Making", the Fultons offer a brief overview of the history of vanilla cultivation, the science of extraction, and the intricacies of different vanilla species and spirit varieties so that at-home extract makers can make the best choices about which ingredients will yield the best results for their desired applications.

From an introductory-level "first vanilla extract" recipe, to more complex blends of cocoa, caramel, and coffee, "The Art of Extract Making" covers a vast range of flavors, even delving into surprising combinations like ginger and peach. With simple recipe steps, detailed taste-testing instructions, and clear guidance on vanilla bean origins and alcohol types to use for each recipe, the hardest part will be waiting for the extract to be ready!

With the publication of "The Art of Extract Making", Paul and Jill Fulton invites their readers to make each recipe their own with the extract-making journal pages included at the end of the book so that personalized, perfect sweetness can be recreated time and time again.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library DIY culinary baking collections, this large format (8.25 x 0.75 x 10 inches, 1.9 pounds) beautifully and profusely illustrated hardcover edition from Agate Surrey of Paul and Jill Fulton's "The Art of Extract Making: A Kitchen Guide to Making Vanilla and Other Extracts at Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Paul and Jill Fulton started VanillaPura in 2016. Their passion for extract making helped them develop a business, a large online community (which grew by more than 100,000 in one year), and a center for helpful extract-making content. Their community is built on the requirement that everyone should be "as sweet as a vanilla bean" to everyone, always.

Uncommonly Told Children's Bible Stories
G. B. Glory, author
Sandy Nessiem & Bisho Samuel, illustrators
Dorrance Publishing Company
9798888129739, $37.00, HC, 60pp

Synopsis: "Uncommonly Told Children's Bible Stories" is a compilation of those stories from the Bible that are often overlooked or forgotten. There are stories of friendship, God's big displays of power, and his small, personal acts of love.

These stories also include lessons of God's power and friendship with many examples and life applications straight from the Bible that are always relevant for people with Christian values.

"Uncommonly Told Children's Bible Stories" will enable families to read and enjoy these Bible stories with young children, and remember the importance of following Christ, loving others, and loving yourself.

Critique: The impressive collaboration of author/storyteller G. B. Glory and artist/illustrators Sandy Nessiem and Bisho Samuel, "Uncommonly Told Children's Bible Stories" is a fun introduction to often obscured but spiritually edifying bible based stories using a rhyming text and cheerful 'kid friendly' images. While a unique and highly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, and community library Biblical Studies collections for ages 4-6, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uncommonly Told Children's Bible Stories" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.63).

Editorial Note #1: G. B. Glory has volunteered as a Sunday Bible school teacher and coached a Christian basketball league for children. She has served with the church food ministry and Celebrate Recovery, and she also volunteered in a homeless shelter serving and cooking food. G. B. enjoys fellowship with women and teaching children God's word, and she has a heart for children in the foster care system. She attended Biola University, where she studied Bible classes and is a children's leader at her local Bible Study Fellowship. She is happily married with two small sons, who inspired her to write this book.

Editorial Note #2: Sandy Nessiem is a student at faculty of fine arts specifically animation department and in her last year of study crating amazing cartoon characters and whatever is wanted in general.

Editorial Note #3: Bisho Samule has a degree in animation and has worked with many very known companies including Top Golf, HBO, Trademark Factory and the Red Cross. With more than 7 years of experience, he makes full animation starting with original characters and backgrounds designs till the final video.

Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry
Majorie Ransom
American University in Cairo Press
9781649033338, $44.95 pbk / $42.70 Kindle, 264pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry", author Majorie Ransom documents a disappearing artistic and cultural tradition with over three hundred photographs showing individual pieces, rare images of women wearing their jewelry with traditional dress, and the various regions in Yemen where the author did her field research.

Ransom's descriptions of the people she met and befriended, and her exploration of the significance of a woman's handmade jewelry with its attributes of power, protection, beauty, and personal identity, will appeal to ethnic jewelry fans, ethnographers, jewelry designers, and art historians.

Amulet cases, hair ornaments, bridal headdresses, earrings, necklaces, ankle and wrist bracelets are all beautifully photographed in intricate detail, interspersed with the author's own photographs of the women who shared their stories and their hospitality with her.

Of special note is a chapter on the history of silver smithing in Yemen that tells the surprising story of the famed Jewish Yemeni silversmiths, many of whom left Yemen in the late 1940s.

"Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry" is the first in-depth study of Yemeni silver, uniquely illustrated with photographs of a world that is transforming before our eyes, and animated with the portraits of a precious legacy.

Critique: This large format (8.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches, 2.9 pounds) hardcover edition of Marjorie Ransom's "Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry" from the American University of Cairo will prove to be of particular appeal to readers with an interest in antique and collectible jewelry and the art of silver smithing. Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry" will prove an elegant, informative, and exceptional addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted that "Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.70).

Editorial Note: Marjorie Ransom is a Middle East specialist who has lived and worked throughout the Arab world, where she began researching and collecting traditional silver jewelry, particularly from Yemen. Her renowned collection of Middle Eastern jewelry has been exhibited at American museums. (

Soap Making for Beginners: 100% Pure Soaps to Make at Home
Ayako Umehara
Tuttle Publishing
9780804856911, $19.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Soap Making for Beginners: 100% Pure Soaps to Make at Home", Ayako Umehara makes provides step-by-step DIY instructions that will make it easy to create your own soaps using ingredients that you know and trust.

Umehara is a certified herbal therapist, aromatherapy and Ayurveda instructor, and she shows you how to make your own soaps using pure and simple natural ingredients like olive oil, shea butter, rose hips, avocado, manuka honey and almonds as well as many and novel aromatic ingredients like Yuzu Matcha Mint, Lemon Eucalyptus and Salt, Seaweed and Clay.

The chapters in the book present 45 all-natural recipes using 100% pure essential oils and botanicals in the following categories:

Soaps That Are Gentle on the Skin including Manuka Honey Soap, Plain Olive Oil Soap and Skim Milk Soap for Kids

Soaps That Nourish the Skin and Body such as Avocado and Sweet Almond Soap, Grape Seed Soap and Sesame Spice Scrub Soap

Soaps that Soothe for example Lavender Marble Soap, Rosemary Soap and Linden Flower and Honey Soap

Natural Soaps for Everyday Use like Tea Tree Hand Soap and Baking Soda Paste for Cleaning

Special Occasion and Seasonal Soaps such as Valentine's Sweet Soap and Christmas Ornament Soap

Of special note is a section that introduces basic techniques for bar soaps using the Cold Process and Melt-and-Pour Process as well as liquid soaps and how to vary the type and quantity of plant oils used. An extensive reference section covers everything you need to know about natural and botanical additives: plant and essential oils, herbs, dried flowers and other natural ingredients.

Critique: This large format (7.75 x 0.53 x 10.25 inches, 1.38 pounds) hardcover edition from Tuttle Publishing is profusely illustrated throughout and is an ideal 'how-to' introduction to the art and science of soap making. While highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Soap Making and Ayurveda Medicine collections, it should be noted that "Soap Making for Beginners: 100% Pure Soaps to Make at Home" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Ayako Umehara is a certified senior herbal therapist, aromatherapy instructor and Ayurveda instructor and the director of the Tree of Life Handmade Guild. A member of the Aroma Environment Association of Japan (AEAJ), the Japan Medical Herb Association (JAMHA), the Sri Lanka Ayurveda Medical Association (SLAMA) and the Japan Ayurveda Promotion Association (JAPA), she is the author of How to Make Natural Soap and other books. She lectures and teaches at Tree of Life and other venues throughout Japan.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets
Arturo Cifuentes, author
Ventura Charlin, author
Columbia Business School Publishing
c/o Columbia University Press
9780231201780, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: The market for art can be as interesting as the artworks themselves. Works by artists from da Vinci and Rembrandt to Picasso and Modigliani have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. The world's ultra-wealthy increasingly treat art as part of their investment portfolios. Since artworks are often valuable assets, how should financial professionals analyze them?

With the publication of "The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets" co-authors and art marketing experts Arturo Cifuentes and Ventura Charlin provide an expert guide to the methods, risks, and rewards of investing in art. They detail how to apply the financial and statistical tools and techniques used to evaluate more traditional investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate to art markets.

"The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets" also shows readers how to use empirical evidence to answer questions such as: How do the returns on Basquiat compare to the S&P 500? Are Monet's portraits as valuable as his landscapes? Do red paintings fetch higher prices than blue ones, and does the color palette matter equally to the sales of abstract Rothkos and figurative Hockneys? How much should be loaned to a borrower who is pledging one of Joan Mitchell's late abstract paintings as collateral? Would the risk-return profile of a conventional portfolio benefit from exposure to Warhol?

Rigorous and readable, it should be noted that "The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets" also demonstrates how quantitative analysis can deepen aesthetic appreciation of art.

Critique: Of special interest to readers concerned with the monetary value and evaluation of works of art with respect to the business and commerce of selling and buying them, and of financial management/risks of art as a commodity to be bought and sold, "The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets" must be considered essential reading for collectors, investors, and dealers -- as well as members of the art community. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "The Worth of Art: Financial Tools for the Art Markets" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Art Evaluation collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Arturo Cifuentes ( is a finance professional; senior research associate at Clapes UC, a public policy center affiliated with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; and former president of the Chilean sovereign fund investment committee. He holds a PhD in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology and has taught at several academic institutions including Columbia Business School.

Editorial Note: Ventura Charlin ( is the sole owner and principal of V.C. Consultants. She previously held senior positions at Experian, American Express, Reader's Digest, and Columbia House. Charlin is an applied statistician who holds a PhD in quantitative methods in psychology from the University of Southern California and an MS in finance from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks
G. Patrick Vennebush
Robert D. Reed Publishers
9781934759486, $11.95, PB, 112pp

Synopsis: Who says math can't be funny? With the publication of "Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks", Patrick Vennebush dispels the myth of the humorless mathematician. His quick wit comes through in this incredible compilation of jokes and stories.

A compendium of more than 400 jokes that are intended for all math types, "Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks" provides a comprehensive collection of math humor. It's a collection that all teachers from elementary school through college should have in their library.

But the humor isn't just for the classroom. Not when it will also appeal to engineers, statisticians, and other math professionals searching for some good, clean, numerical fun.

From basic facts (Why is 6 afraid of 7?) to trigonometry (Mathematical puns are the first sine of dementia) and algebra (Graphing rational functions is a pain in the asymptote), no mathematical topic is safe.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for K-12 school, community, and college/university library Humor & Mathematics collections, "Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks' is ideal for anyone who is dedicated to presenting mathematical concepts through puns, double meanings, and blatantly bad jokes. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Math Joes 4 Mathy Folks" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: When not solving problems, telling jokes, or playing ultimage, G. Patrick Vennebush manages online projects for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. His master's degree from the University of Maryland is in curriculum and instruction.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

My Life: as a Boy, Priest, Gay Man, and Artist
Jan Haen
Apocryphile Press
9781958061541, $22.99, PB, 91pp

Synopsis: "Being a Roman Catholic priest was my vocation in life. But it was impossible for me to ignore that I was a gay sexual being." -- Jan Haen

With the publication of "My Life: as a Boy, Priest, Gay Man, and Artist", Jan Haen presents himself as a gay Roman Catholic priest and reveals his adventurous life and ministry in a cartoon-style memoir.

During a half-century of priesthood, Jan Haen found surprising ways to unite his inclusive spirituality, queer sexuality, and monumental artistry across the globe in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. He sparked both admiration and controversy by showing same-sex couples in his religious art.

After ordination in 1969, Haen discovered his gay identity against the backdrop of a tradition-bound church. His struggles led him through a transformative personal odyssey, including a period of vulnerability when he became a mental-health patient at the same hospital where he once served as chaplain. Guided by faith and bolstered by support from the Redemptorist order in the Netherlands, Haen found courageous, creative ways to live authentically. At the heart of his narrative is his enduring partnership with a man named Ton, his beloved companion of nearly four decades.

Haen worked with local people to paint murals in churches, schools, and public spaces, often amplifying untold stories. Beyond his artistic endeavors, Haen's legacy is advocacy and action. He fought for racial justice in South Africa, sailed the Caribbean as a Dutch naval chaplain, illustrated LGBTQ Christian literature, and much more. Short, accessible prose lets the pictures tell his inspiring journey of gay faith.

Critique: Eloquently presente, impressively thought-provoking, and inherently fascinating, "My Life: as a Boy, Priest, Gay Man, and Artist" will be of particular value to readers with an interest in LGBTQ biographies and memoirs, as well as the gradually evolving relationship of the Catholic Church to the Gay Community, as well as gay men serving in the Catholic ministry. Highly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Life: as a Boy, Priest, Gay Man, and Artist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Seed on the Wind
Rex Stout
Hard Case Crime
9781803364841, $15.95, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: The lawyer, the jeweler, the art critic, and the oil-company man... self-possessed, independent Lora Winter has had a child with each of them. But when one of these men drives up to her house with a fifth man in the car, Lora runs to hide.

That's how this extraordinary crime novel by the now legendary author Rex Stout opens -- and by the time it ends, the perceptive reader will have pieced together a masterful psychological jigsaw puzzle that is miles from a traditional crime novel, but whose desperate characters nevertheless resort to kidnapping, blackmail and possibly even murder.

Critique: Long before he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, before he created the immortal Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout wrote this gripping novel, published in 1930 and then it was lost for more than 90 years. "Hard Case Crime" is thrilled to bring this 'time lost treasure" back into publication in nearly a century and to give today's readers the chance to discover one of Stout's richest and most unforgettable stories. This edition of "Seed on the Wind" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Crime Fiction/Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Seed on the Wind" is also now available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99) as well.

Editorial Note: Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 - October 27, 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe and assistant Archie Goodwin. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Art Nouveau: The World's Most Beautiful Buildings from Guimard to Gaudi
Arnold Schwartzman
Palazzo Editions
9781786750631, $39.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: "Art Nouveau: The World's Most Beautiful Buildings from Guimard to Gaudi" by Arnold Schwartzman is richly illustrated coffee-table style volume of over 200 photographs and offers a fascinating guide to the Art Nouveau movement. The style known as Art Nouveau emerged at the close of the 19th century, a period known as the fin de siècle. It was a time of new ideas and inventions, such as the flying machine, automobile, Cinematographe, telephone, and the talking machine.

The term Art Nouveau is derived from La Maison de l'Art Nouveau, a shop opened by dealer Siegfried Bing in Paris in 1896. Its aesthetic was established by the British Arts and Crafts movement founded by William Morris in 1861 as a handcraft reaction to the mass-production ethos of the Industrial Revolution. Art Nouveau is based on plant forms and fantasy shapes, and embraces all forms of art and design including architecture, metal work, tiles, furniture, graphics, textiles and jewellery. The style soon became popular throughout Europe as well as the United States.

Critique: Of immense interest to fans of the Art Nouveau movement in art and architecture, this large format (9.25 x 0.9 x 11.5 inches, 3.2 pounds) hardcover edition of Arnold Schwartzman's "Art Nouveau: The World's Most Beautiful Buildings from Guimard to Gaudi" from Palazzo Editions is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Art Nouveau collections and supplemental Art & Architecture curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Arnold Schwartzman ( is an Oscar-winning film-maker, a noted graphic designer, and the author of many books including London Art Deco, Art Deco City and Arts & Crafts. He began his design career in British television before moving to Hollywood in 1978. He was the Director of Design for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and for a number of years has designed many of the key graphic elements for the annual Academy Awards. In 2001 he was awarded an OBE and in 2006 he was appointed a Royal Designer by the RSA.

King Me
J. A. Crawford
CamCat Books
9780744305760, $27.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: The hit TV show, The Lands Beyond, has become a cultural phenomenon, influencing fashion and baby name trends. Its creator, R. R. Reynard, masterminds the story each season, pitting the cast against each other in a toxic, kill or be killed, environment. But Reynard has even greater ambitions.

He has formed a feudalistic society of superfans who are willing to do anything to rise in the ranks and be officially canonized as a character on The Lands Beyond. With the show set to enter its final season, the cast, crew, and superfans attend a convention at the historic Chateau D'Loire. While holding court, Reynard is murdered, and the notebook holding all the secrets, twists, and endings disappears.

Enter Ken Allen, former D-list actor turned private eye.

As the body count rises, Ken discovers the stakes are far greater than just a television show. And the fantasy neophyte is about to learn that all is fair in love and war in The Lands Beyond.

Critique: An original and fun read from start to finish, "King Me" showcases author J. A. Crawford's impressive flair for humor and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that makes for a compelling 'whodunnit' mystery populated by memorable characters and a profusion of plot twists and turns that keeps the reader's complete and rapt and compulsive page turning attention from beginning to end. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), as well as a large print paperback edition (9780744306354, $28.99), "King Me" is an extraordinary and fully recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: J. A. Crawford ( has taught Criminal Justice, Montessori Kindergarten, and several martial arts.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Eat, Drink, and Be Scary (A Ravenmist Whodunit Paranormal Cozy Mystery)
Olivia Jaymes
Blonde Ambition Press
9781944490508 $12.99 pbk
B07MTCZHDQ, $0.00 ebook, 226 pages

Eat, Drink, and Be Scary is a light but well written paranormal cozy mystery. The story doesn't push new ground in the genre but the smooth narration stands out.

Theodosia "Tedi" Hamilton is divorced and comes back to her hometown, Ravenmist, to run the family inn. Paranormal activity is common in Ravenmist so the Halloween celebrations are well attended by both the locals and people from across the region. Usually, the town is very safe but this year one of Tedi's guests is murdered. The new sheriff doesn't understand the town and one of the first people he suspects is Tedi's best friend so she decides to help the investigation to protect her friend.

Eat, Drink, and Be Scary is an easy recommendation to read over the weekend with a cup of hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick. It is a fun tale that is easy reading.

Operation: Snare Drum: A WWII Submarine Adventure Novel (USS Bull Shark Naval Thriller series Book 1)
Scott Cook
Independently Published
9798509629273, $15.99 pbk
B095N6CJPL, $4.99 ebook, 360 pages

Operation: Snare Drum is a nice throwback to the WWII novels of the 1950s and 60s. The details are solid and the mythical first mission of a new US submarine is about a part of the war that is little known today.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lt. Commander Arthur Turner is given command of a newly built submarine, USS Bull Shark. On his first shakedown voyage he runs into a sinking of a ship by a German U-boat. Turner's first mission with the Bull Shark is to find the German command ship organizing and supporting the German submarines attacking the US shipping along the East Coast of the US. The mission turns into a dangerous hide and seek task between Turner and a well-organized but small collection of armed German ships.

Operation: Snare Drum is a well written and researched WWII novel that reads closer to an old style screenplay than a book. Even with the odd choice of writing style the novel is worth reading. It is a solid tale about a lesser known portion of WWII and has solid details on being and working on submarines during the period. The tale's biggest weaknesses are the interpersonal interactions between the various characters in the story.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Renegale Tales
Laurel Colless
Peter Blue Press
9789526524412 (PDF)
9789526524429, $10.34, Kindle
9789526524405, $53.60, PB, 460 Pages

Synopsis: Renegale Tales is an exciting new adventure that will take you through mystery, danger, and unexpected twists. Join Peter and his team as they embark on a mission to catch the Renegale imps and uncover the truth behind the yellow fog that has engulfed their town.

To make matters more complex, a newcomer named Wanda Shore comes up with a plan to fix the fog despite her lack of qualifications. However, her idea causes chaos with her followers and takes them to an active volcano, where they discover that the yellow fog and the Renegales are connected.

The deeper they dig, the more dangerous it becomes, and they soon realize that they may unearth a dark and unwelcome secret from Peter's past that he won't like. Will they catch the Renegale imps and uncover the truth before it's too late?

Critique: Renegale Tales is a fast-paced science fantasy thriller that will take you on an unforgettable adventure. Set in a world of magic and technology, Renegale Tales follows the journey of a group of renegade heroes as they fight to save their world from destruction.

With its gripping storyline, complex characters, and stunning visuals, Renegale Tales is a must-read for science fiction and fantasy fans. Whether you're a seasoned reader or new to the genre, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Laurel Colless's work is an unforgettable masterpiece filled with high-action drama that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. The cast of characters is expertly crafted, and each complements the other, adding depth and intrigue to the story. Colless' writing style is engaging and keeps readers hooked until the end.

Editorial Note: Renegale Tales is a part of the Peter Blue series.

Gene and Toots: A Story of Love... and Recovery
Marilea C. Rabasa and Gene Dunne
Sidekick Press
9781958808139, $18.95, PB, 272 Pages

Synopsis: Gene and Toots: A Story of Love and Recovery is a beautifully narrated memoir of the journey of Marilea and Gene, two divorced adults who discovered love in mid-life.

In this book, Marilea shares her journey of recovery from substance use disorder and how her love for Gene transformed her life. Despite having five teenagers between them and plenty of emotional baggage, they took a chance on each other and discovered the transformative power of love.

Critique: Gene and Toots is a heartwarming tale and highlights the importance of hope, desire, and second chances. It is a must-read for anyone who believes in the power of love to heal and transform lives.

Marilea C. Rabasa and Gene Dunne's writing is informative, professional, and practical, and their story will resonate with anyone who has experienced the difficulties of life. Gene and Toots is a touching memoir that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.

Editorial Notes: Gene and Toots is the last of a three-part series of memoirs. Each book is centered on recovery and substance use disorder.

Innocent Lives: Guardians of Grace, Book 1
Julie Bonn Blank
My Identifiers/Bowker
9798985454833, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 314 Pages

Synopsis: Join Jasmine and Cienna in their harrowing journeys of survival as they navigate their worst nightmares. From a family camping trip gone wrong to being locked up in a brothel, Jasmine's story will keep you on the edge of your seat. As she struggles to piece together her past and present, her only solace is the drugs provided by her captors and the emergence of her second personality, "Bay". Will she ever break free from the clutches of her captors and reclaim her identity?

Cienna's story takes a dark turn when she's sold to a man named Mike, who promises to return her but ties her up in his barn. Despite her fear and desperation, she finds herself drawn to her captor and admiring him for keeping her safe. But as she uncovers the secrets hidden in Mike's house, she realizes Mikes's inner demons are about to be revealed.

With danger lurking at every turn, Jasmine and Cienna must fight for their lives and escape their captors before it's too late. Will they be strong enough to escape and survive?

Critique: Innocent Lives deals with the sensitive subject of human trafficking - a heinous crime that is plaguing our world. This heart-wrenching novel sheds light on the unimaginable horrors that victims of trafficking endure.

Cienna and Jasmine are two young women whose lives it forever changed when they fall prey to the ruthless world of human trafficking. But their story is not just a work of fiction - it is a reality for millions of innocent lives worldwide.

Julie Bonn Blank's latest book sheds light on the urgent issue of human trafficking. In her unique writing style, Julie uses vivid descriptions and powerful storytelling to educate readers about this issue's devastating impact on individuals and communities.

Her book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the issue and what we can do to combat it. Julie's words can open your eyes, touch your heart, and inspire you to take action.

Editorial Note: Innocent Lives has received the following awards: Bookfest Award Winner; Hope PYZ International Award Winner; American Bookfest Finalist.

Family Ties Family Lies
Jacqueline Boulden
Pine Tree Press
9798986038438, $16.99 PB, 322 Pages

Synopsis: Rose Webster is an accomplished photojournalist who returns to her hometown in upstate New York after experiencing a devastating injury. To complicate matters, she learns her mother is dealing with a severe health issue.

As Rose grapples with her mother's health condition and her own stalled career, she uncovers long-buried family secrets that threaten to unravel her sense of self and belonging. Will she be strong enough to survive what the past has brought to the present?

Critique: Family Ties Family Lies delves deep into the complexities of familial relationships, exposing the unspoken inheritances and hidden selves that often remain unknown to our loved ones.

Jacqueline Boulden's vivid descriptions transport readers to a world of Lake Amelia that radiates natural beauty and small-town charm. At the same time, her deft handling of complex family dynamics and emotional trauma will keep you on the edge of your seat. This heartwarming tale of homecoming and healing is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled to find their place in the world and make peace with their past.

Grammie and Pupa's House
Daisy Butterfield, author
Justin P. Wayoro, illustrator
Daisy Butterfield Press
9798988678601, $17.99, HC, 64 Pages

Synopsis: Saturday was a special day to remember for Daisy, as she spent the entire day with her beloved grandparents. She had the opportunity to assist Pupa in hoisting a flag on his flagpole, which made her proud. Daisy then joined Grammie in the kitchen, where she learned how to make the perfect cup of tea and why removing the paper from the tea bags is essential. Grammie also taught her how to bake fresh biscuits, and they enjoyed a delicious tea time together. Daisy's day became even more special when Grammie asked her to help pick raspberries for the jam.

Throughout the day, Daisy felt their love and knowledge pouring from their hearts and cherished every moment spent with them. This experience was a valuable life lesson for Daisy, and she will forever treasure the memories of this special day with her grandparents.

Critique: Grammie and Pupa's House is a heartwarming book. At Grammie and Pupa's House, you will be greeted with open arms and hearts full of love. This special place is where family comes together to celebrate, and memories are made that will last a lifetime. Daisy is incredibly excited to share her magical day with her grandparents. Readers will undoubtedly be swept away by the love and joy that radiates from her visit.

Daisy Butterfield has written a heartwarming tale that celebrates the unique and unbreakable bond of family. With her enchanting writing style, Butterfield has crafted a story that will capture your heart and take you on a journey of love, life, and the power of family. Readers will be swept away by the vivid characters and the beautifully woven plot that showcases the importance of family.

Scar's Thanksgiving: The Second Book in the Misadventures of Scar Fernandez
Vida Fernandez
Palmetto Publishing
9798822932647, $22.99, HC, 18pp
9798822927025, $14.99, PB, 18pp

Synopsis: Scar, the talking Rottweiler, is back for another adventure - and this time, he's learning about Thanksgiving! In this heartwarming tale, Scar wakes up to the delicious smell of Thanksgiving treats and discovers that Big Gladys is in the kitchen preparing a feast.

As he navigates the excitement and confusion of the holiday season, Scar learns important lessons about gratitude and the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Join Scar on his latest adventure and experience the joy of the holiday season through his eyes. This charming story is perfect for readers of all ages and is sure to become a family favorite.

Critique: Scar's Thanksgiving is a delightful book that will warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Written by a talented author, this book tells the heartwarming story of Scar, a lovable rottweiler who experiences the joy of Thanksgiving with his family.

Vida Fernandez has written a heartwarming masterpiece that will captivate readers across all age groups. With her unique writing style and ability to easily convey complex emotions, Vida Fernandez has established herself as one of the most gifted writers of our time. This book is a testament to her talent and dedication to storytelling.

The Ice Palace: A Candy Friends Adventure
Sybil Goodman, author
Giorgos at GetYourBookIllustrations, illustrator
Crystal Palace Press
9798985107340, $13.99, HC, 47pp
9798985107333, $8.99, PB, 47 Pages
9798985107357, $4.99, Kindle

Synopsis: Prepare for an enchanting winter journey with the Candy Friends as they embark on a thrilling adventure to Sprinkle Mountain. In their pursuit of fun and games, they stumble upon a hidden cave that leads them to a breathtaking ice palace adorned with stunning icicles of all shapes and sizes. However, things turn unexpectedly when they become trapped on the Mountain by a giant snowball!

But fear not, dear friends! With a special birthday wish, some self-confidence, and a flying chocolate surprise, will the Candy Friends be able to conquer any obstacle that comes their way? Join us on this exciting journey as we discover the magic of the ice palace and witness the bravery and determination of our beloved Candy Friends.

Critique: If you're looking for a book that will transport children ages 2-6 into a world of delightful characters, look no further than The Ice Palace. This heartwarming story contains characters that will capture your heart and imagination. From the shy and introverted protagonist to the bubbly and outgoing supporting cast, each character uniquely appeals to this extraordinary tale. With every flip of the page, there is magic to be discovered!

Sybil Goodman is an author with a gift for crafting endearing characters that will touch your heart and stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her writing style is unparalleled, and I am confident that this delightful story will captivate you.

Hello, You!
Michelle Angalet, author
Bree Stallings, illustrator
AK Classics Publishing
9781737864899, $19.99, HC, 24pp
9780692922231, $14.99, PB, 24pp

Synopsis: You are one of a kind, and that's what makes you unique. People love and cherish you, regardless of your social status or the number of people in your life. We share a connection, and your happiness brings me joy while your pain weighs heavily on my heart.

Remember, your voice matters, and it deserves to be heard. You are a wondrous creation, an essential part of existence, and you have the power to affect the world significantly.

Never doubt your potential or let anyone else define your worth. Embrace your uniqueness, and let it guide you to discover your true purpose and passion. Believe in yourself, and the rest of the world will follow suit. Let's make a difference together!

Critique: Hello, You! Is a book that celebrates diversity and recognizes that everyone has something unique to offer. Whether it's a different perspective, a fantastic skill set, or a personal story, we embrace the individuality of every person. This book fosters an environment of inclusivity and acceptance, where everyone feels valued and appreciated for who they are. Let's celebrate diversity together and make a difference in the world.

Michelle Angalet's incredible book overflows with essential life lessons that will inspire and motivate readers. In this book, Michelle emphasizes the importance of embracing individuality and recognizing that every person has something unique to offer the world. Michelle shares valuable insights into living a fulfilling and purposeful life through her personal experiences and insightful reflections. We invite you to discover the wisdom and inspiration within the pages of this remarkable book.

Just Like Click
Sandy Grubb
Fitzroy Books
c/o Regal House Publishing, LLC
9781646034390, $12.95 PB, $8.49 Kindle, 188 Pages

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.

Saving Raine
Marian L. Thomas
L.B. Publishing
9798989397914, $24.99, HC, 294pp
9781732488083, $15.99, PB, 294pp, $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Embark on a captivating journey with Raine Reynolds as she navigates the tumultuous crossroads of life. Raine, a once celebrated author, sought refuge in Paris after her world was turned upside down.

But fate had other plans, and she returned to Atlanta, a city with painful memories. As she struggles to accept her past, an unexpected encounter with an old friend offers a glimmer of hope and the possibility of love.

Raine's story is a powerful reminder that even in the darkest moments, the human spirit can endure, and love can triumph. Join us on this inspiring journey of healing and hope, and discover the beauty of second chances.

Critique: Saving Raine is a powerful tale that follows one woman's journey as she faces a difficult crossroads, unsure of which path to take. Through determination, perseverance, and a little luck, she discovers her true purpose and the strength to overcome any obstacle.

Marian L. Thomas is a fantastic author who has created a story that shows one woman's hardships. This book is a testament to her talent as a writer. From the first page, this book will captivate you and take you on a ride full of intense emotions that will leave you breathless. Thomas' potent voice and unique perspective have solidified her place in the literary world.

Gilm! Everybody's Saying It
Brian Corley
Electric Fern
9798989270811, $10.99, PB, 172 Pages
9798989270804, $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Welcome to Alder High, where the magic of music is about to take over! Meet Geoff Smith, the new kid in town struggling to fit in with his peers and impress his crush, Corinne. Everything changes when his father discovers a mysterious book of spells that could help Geoff win Corinne's heart and a seemingly impossible bet.

Unknowingly strumming a cursed tune, Geoff's life takes a magical turn as the spell weaves throughout the school. Suddenly, the world becomes a stage, and the students become its unknowing actors, with Geoff as the star. But as the stakes escalate, he must navigate his feelings for Corinne and face the music.

Join us on this delightful and charismatic journey as we follow Geoff's passion for music and adventures at Alder High. This is a story of magic, love, and the power of music that you wouldn't want to miss!

Critique: Gilm! Everybody's Saying It is an outstanding book about a new kid in town who faces many obstacles and struggles to fit in. He learns valuable lessons about friendship, courage, and perseverance through his journey.

Get ready to experience a literary explosion with Brian Corley's latest masterpiece! This exceptional author has taken the academic world by storm with his latest book, igniting your imagination and leaving you wanting more. From start to finish, Corley's unparalleled storytelling abilities and able to transport you to another.

So, get ready to lose yourself in the pages of this incredible book, and let Brian Corley take you on a journey you'll never forget! With its relatable characters, engaging plot, and touching themes, Gilm! Everybody's Saying It is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

The Cozy Cozy Cardigan: Threads of Love, Distance, and Goodbyes
S.P. Lowe
Independently Published
9798218308612, $22.73, HC, 38 Pages

Synopsis: Get ready to be swept away on a heartwarming journey with The Cozy Cozy Cardigan. This beautifully written and illustrated children's book tells the story of a young boy and his mother who are separated because of her demanding job.

To ease her son's loneliness, she weaves him a cardigan imbued with her love and warmth. As the boy grows up and starts his own family, the cardigan continues to symbolize enduring love and comfort, bridging distances and keeping loved ones connected. Through its endearing narrative and captivating illustrations, this book teaches children about the power of love and the importance of staying connected, making it a must-read for parents looking to help their children navigate the complex emotions of separation anxiety. Don't miss out on this touching tale that reminds us of the magic love can bring.

Critique: The Cozy Cozy Cardigan is a touching story of a mother's love for her child. This book is a must-read for anyone who has experienced the pain of being separated from their loved ones. It is a heartwarming reminder of the power of love and how it can keep us connected, even when we are apart.

S.P. Lowe's new book is a touching tribute to the love that a mother has for her children. With exquisite attention to detail and a beautiful writing style, Lowe has crafted a book that is both heartwarming and inspiring. The Cozy Cozy Cardigan is a beautifully written and illustrated book that will make an excellent addition to any family's library.

The Old West & Times Gone By: A Collection of Narrative Poems about the American West
Marshal T. Justice, author
Jon H. Gutmacher, P.A., editor
9780998401539, $14.95 PB, $5.92 Kindle, 80 Pages

Synopsis: Saddle up and prepare for a journey back in time with Marshal T. Justice's latest book, The Old West Times Gone By. In this captivating collection of poetry, Justice masterfully captures the essence of the Wild West and brings it to life with his poetic words.

From the dusty plains to the saloons and shootouts, each poem paints a vivid picture of a bygone era. Whether you're a history buff or a fan of classic Westerns, this book is a must-read. Grab your hat and boots and get ready to be transported to a time when the West was still wild and free. Don't miss out on this thrilling literary adventure!

Critique: The Old West & Times Gone By: A Collection of Narrative Poems about the American West This charming collection of poems celebrates the legends that made the West what it is today. From cowboys to outlaws, each poem offers a unique glimpse into the wild and rugged landscape that has captivated imaginations for centuries.

Marshal T. Justice is an exceptional poet who has captured the true essence of the Old West. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to him for sharing his stunning poems that beautifully capture the rich history and nature of the Old West. Your poetic words have taken me on a journey through time, allowing me to experience the raw beauty of the land and the people who inhabited it. Your talent for weaving history and poetry together has left me in awe and appreciation for your shared stories.

Thanks to your masterful artistry, I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to have been transported to a rough and tumble-land that existed long ago. Again, Marshal T. Justice, thank you for your beautiful contribution to the literary world. I feel your talented poems will go down in history!

The Legacy
James Gilbert
Joshua Tree Publishing
9781956823219, $15.95 PB, 148 Pages
9781956823301, $9.49 Kindle

Synopsis: The Legacy is a captivating novel that blends elements of mystery, romance, and legal drama into a thrilling page-turner. Written by an accomplished author, it offers a vivid and insightful portrayal of Chicago, a city divided between the wealthy elite and the striving immigrants.

The novel follows the story of Adam Chauncey and Sally Warren, two lawyers tasked with unraveling the peculiar wording of a Last Will. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover a family plagued by secrets and a strange adoption, and they soon realize the involvement of their own law firm's senior partners in a cynical cover-up.

Their investigation takes them from the opulent mansions of the North Side to the vibrant Latino neighborhoods of the South Side as they follow one lead after another in search of the truth. Along the way, they also explore their complex relationship, adding a touch of romance to the story.

Critique: The Legacy is an entertaining read and a commentary on the legal profession and the power dynamics that shape the city's social fabric. It raises important questions about justice, integrity, and loyalty and challenges readers to reflect on their values. Whether you are a fan of legal thrillers or enjoy a good mystery, The Legacy is a must-read that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end.

James Gilbert's exceptional writing skills and in-depth knowledge of the legal system have crafted a gripping tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. Gilbert shows his ability to weave complex legal issues into a thrilling narrative in this book.

With his trademark attention to detail and expert knowledge of the legal system, Gilbert has created a compelling and thought-provoking story. This is a must-read for fans of the legal thriller genre.

Editorial Review: James Gilbert has twice won awards from the annual F. Scott Fitzgerald short story contest.

You're Truly One of a Kind
Sonali Patodia, author
Vanessa Alexandre, illustrator
Mascot Kids!
c/o Mascot Books
9781637555446, $19.16 HC, $5.49 Kindle, 38 Pages, (Ages 4-8)

Synopsis: Krishna is a young boy who struggles with self-doubt and self-consciousness about his appearance. As he walks with his best friend, Radha, they discover the diverse beauty surrounding them, and Krishna begins to find the rainbow of confidence.

This book instills the essence of Indian culture and celebrates each person's individuality. It encourages young minds to embrace and celebrate their uniqueness rather than comparing themselves to those around them. The book's stunning visual energy captures the story's essence and will captivate young readers.

Critique: You're Truly One of a Kind will empower children to be confident in themselves and accept others for who they are. It is a practical and trustworthy resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers who want to instill positive values in young minds. This book will offer hope, as it will positively affect the lives of children everywhere.

Sonali Patodia beautifully combines the themes of culture and diversity. With a unique perspective, Patodia's book showcases the beauty of embracing our differences and celebrating our identities. Throughout the pages, an inspiring story that highlights the importance of inclusivity and collaboration will captivate readers.

This book is a must-read for anyone looking to broaden their understanding of different cultures and appreciate the richness diversity brings to our lives. Celebrating the launch of this remarkable work and explore the many valuable lessons it offers.

The Greatest Thing: The Last Favorite's Page: Book 1
Patti Flinn
Gilded Orange Books
9798986060057, $24.99, PB, 454 Pages
9798986060040, $6.49, Kindle

Synopsis: Louis-Benoit Zamor's life started with a promise from his mother that he was God's most incredible creation. However, fate had other plans for him, and he was taken away, sold, and shipped to France, where he was renamed Louis-Benoit Zamor. Stripped of his identity and left with a false sense of love from his caretakers, Zamor soon realized that King Louis XV was the greatest thing in this new world, second only to God. Despite this, Zamor held onto his mother's promise and refused to accept a life of small nothingness.

Zamor faced numerous challenges growing up, but his resilience and determination helped him survive. He knew that if the world believed the king to be the most significant thing, he would have to change the world. Zamor's journey toward self-discovery was not easy, but he held onto the belief that his mother's words were not just empty promises.

Critique: The Greatest Thing - The Last Favorite's Page Book 1 takes the reader on a journey through Zamor's life, one filled with hardships, heartbreak, and the unwavering spirit of a young boy who refused to give up on his dreams. This story is a testament to the human spirit and the power of self-belief.

Patti Flinn's latest book is a masterpiece! It is a true testament to her exceptional talent as an author, taking readers on a captivating journey through history. With her unique writing style, she has proven her ability to transport readers back in time, allowing them to experience the magic of the past in a way only she can deliver. Her words will keep you spellbound from the first page to the last.

Next Stop, Boston
Iris Dorbian
Black Pawn Press
9781949802351, $17.99 PB, $7.49 Kindle, 206 Pages

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Geri Randall's life dramatically changed when her late sister's fiance, Dez Deacon, a former rock star, was appointed her guardian. Despite her eagerness to impress Dez, Geri soon realizes his erratic behavior is unbearable.

As they embark on a rock and roll tour, Geri's rebellious nature clashes with Dez's temperamental personality, leading to a battle of wills between the two. Geri is determined to get what she wants, even to extreme lengths.

Will their relationship reach a breaking point, or will they find redemption through their shared love of music?

Critique: Next Stop, Boston is a captivating novel that will take you through the fast-paced world of a touring musical act. But this book is more than just a backstage pass; it delves deep into the lives of flawed and damaged characters searching for a way out of the darkness they've created for themselves. Each character brings a unique blend of personalities, creating an entertaining and fresh read that keeps you hooked from start to finish.

Beyond the entertainment value, Next Stop, Boston also explores a wide range of emotions, from love and hope to despair and regret. This emotionally charged novel is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a well-crafted story that is engaging and thought-provoking.

Iris Dorbian has written a captivating work showcasing her immense writing talent. From start to finish, this book delivers a compelling narrative that will stay with readers long after they've turned the final page. With a keen eye for detail and a gift for storytelling, Dorbian has crafted a masterpiece that will resonate with anyone who appreciates excellent literature.

Sara Claus and the Flying Christmas Pigs
Dr. Robert Spalding
Independently Published
9798867812386, $14.99, PB, 92 Pages

Synopsis: Christmas day is fast approaching, and children worldwide are highly expecting receiving Christmas presents from Santa. But Christmas day could be a disaster when Santa comes down with the flu, and his trusted reindeer are all covered in fleas!

Out of nowhere, Sara Claus takes control of the situation. With strong will and determination, she works hard to ensure the children will not suffer because Santa is not feeling up to the task. Since Sara cannot use the reindeer, she enlists the help of a group of trusty pigs. Will she succeed in her plan to help save Christmas?

Critique: Get ready for a Christmas story like no other! In Sara Claus and the Flying Christmas Pigs, you'll join Sara Claus on an adventure with you, laughing out loud and cheering her on every step. With humor, wit, and heartfelt characters, this delightful tale will have you hog wild for the holiday season.

'Tis the season to be jolly", and what better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a twisted Christmas tale? Look no further than Robert Spalding's latest book, hailed as a stroke of a genius! With his unparalleled wit and imagination, Spalding has crafted a holiday story like no other.

Why settle for a boring, run-of-the-mill Christmas book when you can indulge in this literary masterpiece? Robert Spalding's ingenious storytelling will make you laugh, gasp, and thoroughly entertain you.

Making Nice with Naughty
Thomas L. Murray, Jr., Ph.D
Clinical Training & Consultation, PLLC
9781685133269, $16.99, PB, 243pp, $9.99 Kindle; $19.95 Audiobook

Synopsis: Society has instilled in us the belief that self-control is a desirable trait. But what if we told you that being too self-controlled could hinder your love life? It's time to break free from the chains of self-control and embrace vulnerability in your intimate relationships. Don't let your need for control ruin your chances at love any longer.

As an overcontrolled person, you may be struggling with a range of sexual problems that are negatively impacting your sex life. From low sexual desire to sexual pain disorders, these issues can cause emotional distance from your partner and sexual performance anxiety. It's time to let go and let love in! So, shed your self-control and spice up your love life today. Take a leap of faith and dive into "Making Nice with Naughty: An Intimacy Guide for the Rule-Following, Organized, Perfectionist, Practical, and Color-Within-the-Line Types!

Critique: Making Nice with Naughty is an eye-opening book that will transform how you approach your intimate connections. With practical tips and relatable anecdotes, this book shows you how to embrace your imperfections and connect with others on a deeper level. Say goodbye to the frustration of feeling like your need for order and control is getting in the way, and hello to a new world of fulfilling relationships.

Thomas L. Murray, Jr., Ph.D., is a leading sexologist with expertise in several innovative psychotherapies, including radically open dialectical behavior therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. He helps you navigate the complexities of sexuality and relationships, providing expert advice to help you achieve a more fulfilling sex life.

Whether you're looking to spice up your current relationship or explore new avenues of pleasure, Dr. Murray's insights and techniques will guide you on an eye-opening journey toward sexual empowerment. As someone who lives with checklists and organization, this book allowed me to stop and reflect on how these traits kept me from finding a happy and healthy relationship.

Little Moe Can't Fly
Pria Dee, author
Emily Hercock, illustrator
Independently Published
9798989250707, $24.99, HC, 54pp
9798985583496, $14.99 PB

Synopsis: Little Moe, a young goose, faced a challenge regarding flying. Despite his best efforts, he struggled to take off and felt left behind as his family and friends migrated south for the winter.

With the winter season fast approaching, Little Moe's fear of flying intensified. However, his mother remained supportive, promising not to leave him behind. As the leaves began to change, Little Moe realized he needed to overcome his fear and learn to fly.

Will Little Moe's determination overcome his trouble in learning to fly? Or will he be left behind to have to defend for himself in the harsh winter?

Critique: Little Moe Can't Fly is a beautifully illustrated book that's a heartwarming tale of a young Canadian Goose who refuses to give up on his dream of learning to fly. Through his determination and unwavering courage, Little Moe inspires readers of all ages to pursue their dreams, no matter how big or small.

Pria Dee has a unique writing style; her book has captivating characters and gripping storylines. She has established herself as a rising star in the literary world. Her latest work is a must-read for anyone who loves a good story.

With vivid imagery and engaging storytelling, Little Moe is a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration and motivation. Whether you're a child just learning to read or an adult looking for a heartwarming story, this book will surely delight and captivate the reader and teach the valuable life lesson that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it and never doubt yourself.

Suzie Housley, Senior Reviewer

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

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