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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 7 July 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Performing Set
Andrew B. Harris
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574412123, HC, $79.91, 256pp,

Synopsis: The large-scale Broadway musical is one of America's great contributions to world theatre. Bill and Jean Eckart were stage designers and producers at the peak of the musical, and their designs revolutionized Broadway productions. At a time when sets were meant to remain simply backdrops that established time and place but not much else, an Eckart set became part of the performance on stage, equal at times to an actor. Anyone who has seen Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables has seen the innovations that the Eckarts brought to the large Broadway-style musical production. They were best known for their designs for "Damn Yankees" (1955); "Once Upon a Mattress" (1959), in which Carol Burnett made her Broadway debut; and "Mame" (1966) with Angela Lansbury. Andrew B. Harris uses production stills and the Eckarts' sketches from every show they worked on to illustrate the magic behind an Eckart design. "The Performing Set: The Broadway Designs of William and Jean Eckart" is a lavishly illustrated book, featuring more than 500 full-color illustrations.

Critique: A superb tribute to both American theatre as a whole and the exceptional work of a trailblazing couple, "The Performing Set" is an especially recommended addition to professional and academic theatrical department collections. For the personal reading lists of aspiring set design students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and career of two of Broadway's most iconic set designers, it should be noted that "The Performing Set" is also available in a paperback edition (9781574416381, $29.95).

Relational Children's Ministry
Dan Lovaglia
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310522676, $16.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Dan Lovaglia is Director of Leadership Development at Awana. With 15 years pastoral ministry experience, he is committed to intentionally equipping kids, families and ministry leaders to know, love and serve Christ.

Children's ministry has the power to change the lives of kids and families. Unfortunately, it's not always clear that the work a person does with kids is really making a lasting difference. Ask children's ministry leaders and kid-influencers if they are making the impact on children's lives as they had hoped and most likely the responses will be mixed. And for good reason. Research over the past decade has revealed an alarming lack of long-term growth in the faith community as children progress through student ministries into adulthood. Clearly, something needs to change.

In "Relational Children's Ministry", Dan Lovaglia seeks to reverse this trend by equipping children's ministry leaders with practical tools to disrupt the status quo approach to discipleship with children and realign their ministries for greater long-term impact. Ministry leaders will: Learn how to relate intentionally to kids and families by putting five discipleship invitations modeled by Jesus into practice; Explore practical approaches to realign their children's ministry for a new trajectory by hitting three "reset buttons" to ensure long-term discipleship is embedded; Encounter examples of disruptive disciple-makers in action and learn key principles that can be translated into their own ministry context

Children's ministry leaders will receive practical training to refocus their children's ministry along with time-tested tools to personally recommit to lifelong discipleship. Kid-influencers can become a disciple-making community that redirects the current trajectory for this and future generations.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Relational Children's Ministry" is informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring. While very highly recommended for church and seminary Christian Leadership Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Relational Children's Ministry" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Frederic Anton and Christelle Brua with Chihiro Masui, authors
Richard Haughton, photographer
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780789331236, $35.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: A tart is a baked dish consisting of a filling over a pastry base with an open top not covered with pastry. The pastry is usually short-crust pastry; the filling may be sweet or savory, though modern tarts are usually fruit-based, sometimes with custard. Tartlet refers to a miniature tart; an example would be egg tarts. Examples of tarts include jam tarts, which may be different colors depending on the flavor of the jam used to fill them, and the Bakewell tart. "Tarts" is comprised of more than a hundred recipes for sweet and savory tarts from Frederic Anton and Christelle Brua, two of France's most critically acclaimed chefs. With easy-to-follow instructions and stunning full color photography by Richard Haughton, "Tart" is simply a "must-have" culinary compendium that showcases beloved classics along with some modern twists. Tarts are a classic French comfort food that is simple to make, elegant to serve, and glorious to eat.

Bringing together the very best recipes from all over France, these delicious, easy recipes are wonderful for intimate dinners but also a joy for entertaining a crowd. "Tarts" is deftly divided into three sections: savory, sweet, and making dough. Most recipes occupy a single page with simple, clear instructions illustrated with one full-page photograph that displays the result like an objet d'art. Included are instructions for several types of dough, advice on ingredients and equipment, and tips for rolling, stretching, and baking a perfect crust. Recipes include such classics as tarte Tatin, tarte a la rhubarbe, and clafouti as well as innovative new takes on stalwarts like rice pudding tart or a cheesecake tart. The savory section mirrors this approach with classics like quiche Lorraine and then includes some intriguing innovations as well as other tartlike dishes such a pizzas, pissaladiere, and Alsatian flammekueche.

Critique: Beautifully composed for browsing, thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' in presentation, and a superbly presented resource for menu planning, "Tarts" is enthusiastically recommended to the attention of novice chefs and experienced cooks alike. Indeed, "Tarts" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to any personal, family, professional, and community library cookbook collections.

The Lively Place
Stephen Kendrick
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807066294, $16.00, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: When Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831, it revolutionized the way Americans mourned the dead by offering a peaceful space for contemplation. This cemetery, located not far from Harvard University, was also a place that reflected and instilled an imperative to preserve and protect nature in a rapidly industrializing culture. These are lessons that would influence the creation of Central Park, the cemetery at Gettysburg, and the National Parks system. Even today this urban wildlife habitat and nationally recognized hotspot for migratory songbirds continues to connect visitors with nature and serves as a model for sustainable landscape practices.

Beyond Mount Auburn's prescient focus on conservation, it also reflects the impact of Transcendentalism and the progressive spirit in American life seen in advances in science, art, and religion and in social reform movements. In "The Lively Place: Mount Auburn, America's First Garden Cemetery, and Its Revolutionary and Literary Residents", Stephen Kendrick (Senior Minister at the First Church in Boston, Unitarian Universalist) celebrates this vital piece of our nation's history, as he tells the story of Mount Auburn's founding, its legacy, and the many influential Americans interred there, from religious leaders to abolitionists, poets, and reformers.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, deftly written, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "The Lively Place" is strongly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lively Place" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).

The Girl From The Savoy
Hazel Gaynor
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062403476, $15.99, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life. When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London's grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamour -- she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter's advertisement for a 'muse' and finds herself thrust into London's exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something. Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close -- but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Critique: Clearly documenting author Hazel Gaynor as an impressively gifted storyteller, "The Girl From The Savoy is a deftly crafted and compelling read from first page to last. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Girl From The Savoy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99) and in an MP3 CD format ($39.99).

Failure: The Federal Miseducation of America's Children
Vicki E. Alger
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428
9781598132137 $24.95 pbk / $20.70 Kindle

Synopsis: For nearly 100 years the federal government left education almost entirely in the hands of the citizenry and state and local governments. But in 1979, with the creation of the US Department of Education, a sprawling bureaucracy with 153 programs, 5,000 employees, and an annual budget of approximately $70 billion, the federal government intruded itself into almost every area of K-12 and higher education. What caused this dramatic transformation? Has it improved student performance? And how can we best ensure that America's students will get the education they need for thriving in an increasingly competitive, global economy?

Education policy expert Vicki E. Alger shows that federal involvement in education has been an epic failure - a failure of programs, a fiscal failure, and a failure with educators, parents, and students. Alger assesses, identifies, and articulates the best strategy for success - namely, decentralizing education policy by ending federal involvement, returning power to state and local governments, and implementing parental choice for the citizenry. No matter where you stand on issues such as Common Core, school vouchers, federal mandates, or state sovereignty, Failure will provide insight and inspiration needed for bold solutions to our educational challenges. Alger takes up all of these issues and questions in Failure: The Federal Miseducation of America's Children, an in-depth look at federal education policy that will enlighten and inspire reform to truly meet student needs.

Critique: The systemic problems in America's educational system are undeniable. One may or may not agree with the solutions proposed in Failure, which focus upon ending or limiting the role of the federal government as much as possible in education, and returning power to state and local governments. Yet author Vicki Alger makes a persuasive, impassioned case for drastic change, supported by meticulous data and evidence. Failure is a "must-read" for anyone concerned about the inadequate state of the American educational system today; even those who reject the recommendations in Failure would be well-served to better understand the very arguments they oppose.

A Meditation Journey for Beginners
Cheryl Forrest
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504343213 $11.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Meditation is a technique and a journey. This is a step-by-step, seven-week program and workbook. You are about to begin a journey you are destined to succeed at. It is your true adventure-the adventure of you! Throughout this adventure, you will discover and rediscover what you have always known: your own truth. It starts with your very own meditation journey. Enjoy it.

Critique: A Meditation Journey for Beginners lives up to its title as a user-friendly, step-by-step guide to discovering the benefits of meditation. Readers will learn about and personally practice breathing meditations, meditation for relaxation, mantra meditations, simple visualization techniques, self-hypnosis, and affirmations. A consumable workbook offering pages for the user to jot down notes and inspirations, A Meditation Journey for Beginners is an excellent, thoroughly accessible guide.

Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders
Sidney J. Kurn, M.D. & Sheryl Shook, Ph.D.
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555538, $29.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: As the American population ages, incidences of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Migraine, Seizures, and other neurological disorders are increasing. Sidney J. Kurn, M.D., has been a practicing neurologist since 1979, adding acupuncture to his practice in 1994 and herbal medicine in 1996. Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in neuroscience from University of California, Davis, and having completed her studies in herbal medicine, is currently a sleep science and anatomy and physiology professor. Kurn and Shook effectively collaborate in "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" to provide the non-specialist general reader with a comprehensive and accessible guide to herbal and holistic medicine for brain health and neurologic disorders. "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" provides detailed herbal, antioxidant, and nutritional strategies for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, stroke, migraine, and seizures; is supported by scientific studies and years of successful clinical practice; and discusses potential side effects, counter-indications, and the proper dosages to reduce symptoms, slow disease progression, and lessen the chances of recurrence.

"Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" explains how to safely and easily incorporate herbs, antioxidants, and nutritional supplements into the standard conventional treatments for 6 common neurologic disorders: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, stroke, migraine, and seizures. Each condition is provided with detailed strategies supported by scientific evidence and years of successful clinical practice. "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" deftly examines the biochemical role of each recommended herb, nutrient, or antioxidant and discuss potential side effects, counter-indications, and proper dosages to reduce symptoms, slow disease progression, and in the case of stroke, migraine, and seizures--lessen the chances of recurrence. "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" also explores the nutrient deficiencies and physiological mechanisms, including inflammation, heavy metal toxicity, and mitochondrial dysfunction, that can cause oxidative injuries and initiate neurologic disorders.

Of special note is the revelation as to which common substances, such as aspartame and glutamate, can trigger these mechanisms at the cellular level, and recommended specific herbs and antioxidants, such as turmeric, cannabinoids, resveratrol, and N-acetyl cysteine, to counteract their effects. "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" also discusses the importance of sleep to overall well-being, especially for those suffering from neurologic disorders, and offer tips to help ensure a good night's sleep.

Critique: An absolute "must read" for anyone suffering from any form of neurologic disorder, and while "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" should be considered an essential, core addition to community, college, and university Health/Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.93).

Like Never Before
Melissa Tagg
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764213083, $13.99, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was. After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics. But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

Critique: "Like Never Before" is another riveting read from Melissa Tagg and once again documents her complete mastery of the Romance Fiction genre. A treasure for connoisseurs of the genre! While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Like Never Before" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee
Agnes Martin-Lugand
Weinstein Books
345 Hudson Street, 13th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781602862845, $22.99, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, a mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary cafe in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her beloved husband and daughter in a tragic car accident, the world as she knows it instantly vanishes. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane retreats from friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward.

But one year later, Diane shocks her loved ones and makes the surprising decision to move to a small town on the Irish coast, finally determined to heal and rebuild her life alone -- until she meets Edward, the attractive yet taciturn Irish photographer who lives next door. At first abrasive and unwelcoming, Edward initially resents Diane's intrusion into his life of solitude, that is, until he can no longer keep her at arm's length, and they fall into a surprising and tumultuous romance. But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland, and Edward, for the home she once ran away from in Paris? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane's story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

Critique: Deftly crafted and unfailingly compelling from beginning to end, "Happy People Read and Drink Coffee" clearly demonstrates author Agnes Martin-Lugand's truly impressive storytelling skills and consummate mastery as a novelist. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Happy People Read and Drink Coffee" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Stumbling on a Tale
Suzanne Roche
Oak Lei Press
9780996148481, $11.99,

Books for middle school readers about the middle ages are too often dry affairs that favor historical fact over captivating magical scenes. This is far from the case in Stumbling on a Tale, the latest addition to the 'Time to Time Kids' series, which decorates its facts with the compellingly colorful embellishment of fiction.

A lively introduction firmly cements the adventure with a dose of historical explanation that creates a solid backdrop of world history, setting the stage for the story to follow.

Enter twelve-year-old Henry Hawkins and his older stepsister Peri, who are still developing their newfound relationship as siblings. Henry's stepsister isn't the shy, antisocial girl he'd envisioned a fifteen-year-old to be: she's precocious, curious, and always ready to step into trouble - and thus, she's at the top of his list of things to worry about.

They're again playing with a curious book that holds strange powers; this time trying to find out more about its author and publisher. When Max repeats the sequence of events that led to their last time-traveling history adventure, disaster once again strikes. This time they're not in 1900s New York City, but are in a forest in an era that feels much older.

The key to returning home lies in finding an antique. The only problem is that Max, who has brought them all here, has no idea what the antique is - and so they are looking for a needle in a haystack.

Knights, dragons, and lost siblings - oh my! Winding through the historical encounters are the real, contemporary concerns of kids who have had to make big adjustments to modern times: "He got used to visiting his dad every other weekend and alternating holidays. He got used to Ethan's big old house that had radiators that hissed at you. And he got used to a bedroom with windows that stuck and let all the cold air in. He even got used to the new emergency plan he designed for Ethan's house, to use in case of a fire or power outage. At least he could count on things like his Fire Safety Scout badge to help him. Sometimes it felt like his badges were the only things he could count on to help him out. He suddenly wished desperately for his life to go back to normal."

It may take a return home to make these Middle Ages events make sense - and even then, life becomes more complicated when time travel adventures are added to the mix.

Quizzes, puzzles, riddles and games, activities, and even recipes at the conclusion of the story add value to this tale, which ends in a manner that paves the way for more time-traveling history explorations; but its real meat and protein lie in chapters packed with a vivid blend of adventure quest and historical insights.

As the siblings come to realize some of the meanings of the antiques, the book, and their encounters, they also come to absorb wisdom and more mature approaches to problem-solving ("He'd been getting ready to test for his next Scout badge though, and if there was one thing all the chess playing lately had taught Henry, it was not to assume his first idea was the best idea (or the right one). After all, some of his best chess moves came after he paused and studied the situation and went over the options in his head.") and begin to understand how myths, quests, and history intersect.

A rollicking good adventure story spiced with real insights on past and present make Stumbling on a Tale a lively read highly recommended for any middle-grade fan of time travel action stories.

The King In The Stone
Carmen Ferreiro Esteban
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530530151, $TBA,

Young (and not so young) adults are in for a treat if they enjoy blends of mystery and fantasy enhanced by a dose of romance between star-crossed lovers; for The King In The Stone holds all this and more.

Andrea and Julian, two estranged lovers from a parallel universe, reunite when they fall through time into medieval Spain in the middle of a war between Spaniards and invading Arabs for control of a kingdom.

From the start, Andrea's knowledge of her surroundings is well detailed. This setting and her feelings blend to involve readers in the mystery: "The Celtic village is over there." I signaled to the spot beyond a grove of trees where I could almost make out the silver reflection of a stream. Then I turned and pointed behind us to an outcrop of rock further up on the slope of the mountain where we were now. "And that's where the cave is. The cave where the first Spanish king took his last stand and defeated the Arabs sent to kill his people over a thousand years ago." John shook his head. "No. The cave where King Pelayo defeated the Arabs is on the next range of mountains. They built a monastery there. Covadonga it's called." He was wrong. I knew the cave was here in this range. I knew it as I had known the name of the valley, like I knew the way the stream wrapped itself around the village, and how strong the smell of animal fat and smoke was inside the chieftain's hut. I knew it even though I had no reason to know it at all. These memories that were not mine unsettled me."

Andrea's initial visions and her dreams of a mysterious king, added to her inexplicable familiarity with a place she's never actually been to before prepare readers for what happens when a landslide buries her and forces her into this other world and life.

There are actually two streams of events, here: an evolving romance between very different individuals, and the overlay of a historical conflict that pressures them into decisions that may be good for the wider world, but not always in their best interests.

With such a dilemma at hand and so many facets entwining (history, romance, parallel universes), it would have been all too easy for The King In The Stone to become bogged down in details; but one of the pleasures of Carmen Ferreiro Esteban's story lies in its compelling yet linear approach, which means that readers avidly follow the emotion-backed action without getting lost either in time or place.

As Andrea and Julian's perceptions and relationship evolves, so the political conflicts of this era come to life around them and create situations where their decisions will impact themselves, each other, and, ultimately, change the world.

Many timeslip stories for teens are fairly singular and center upon a struggle to return home. The King In The Stone's focus on how the two star-crossed lovers find their connections altered by the wider world around them makes for a more satisfyingly complex story than most, especially recommended for high school readers to adult audiences. This age group will appreciate Carmen Ferreiro Esteban's attention to creating not just a time-travel romance or a dilemma between two disparate individuals, but a wider world's social and political influences and the ultimate choices both protagonists face in their quest for survival, connections, truths, and the pursuit of love over hate.

The Cave of Healing
William Haponski, author
Mary Barrows, illustrator
Caves and Kids Books
c/o CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523471850, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle,

Henry is a grandfather who has long suffered from hallucinations and post-traumatic stress disorder from his military years; so when he sees a strange boy the woods behind his home and is told the boy came from a small hole leading to another world, he's sure he must be experiencing delusions again.

When the image doesn't fade, Henry begins to question his world and that of boy Squiggly Squires, and events that evolve from those explorations make The Cave of Healing an unusual saga that centers upon magic, a cave, and an elderly man and his granddaughter.

Preteens and teens may find the grandfather protagonist an unusual approach (most such novels focus exclusively on young central protagonists), but kids become central figures throughout the story as they experience caving adventures and journey to another world in quest of a special Gift.

Caves and caving are a powerful subplot in The Cave of Healing, which imparts much real-world caving information in the course of its story. Some young readers will pick up any book that includes a cave, and these audiences will not be disappointed: The Cave of Healing creates a vivid fantasy about not just another world, but caving experiences and the heartbreak of discovering that magic isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

The result will appeal to a wide audience of preteen and teen readers as it presents grandparents and kids, a magical world and a quest, and a reward that may not completely fulfill a heart's desire.

A Hollow Cup
Alan Thompson
W & B Publishers
9781942981732, $17.99,

A trial in New Hope in 1991 sets the stage for a compelling novel of racism and social struggle centered around attorney Pete Johnson, who has just successfully defended a murder case; but in reality events begin some thirty years earlier, when a small Southern town's turmoil and decisions impact lives decades later.

Pete's at the center of this social maelstrom largely due to his own choices, which haven't always been socially correct. Because his present-day decisions rest squarely on the past, Pete reviews them; and readers follow him through their lasting impact on social and legal systems alike: "He may or may not have broken the rule for which he was about to be slaughtered, but it was my failure to grasp the bigotry of the law that had brought him to this place. I had accepted the myths I should have known were lies. By the time I discovered the rules weren't written for him, his life was forfeit. I was sickened by the guilt."

One of the outcomes of this guilt and sorrow is that Pete has long chosen cases that don't involve the death penalty (and thus have fewer irreversible outcomes): "...instead of changing professions, I changed clients. Rather than representing those against whom the cards were stacked, my clients were now those the rules had been written to protect. I accepted what the law gave me, and them, and no longer took cases where death was an option."

Black separatist movements, the politics and educational impact of various social and racial programs, opportunities to divide or unite, and threats to the status quo all collide in Luke and Pete's lives as old "race murders" from the 60s are re-opened and long-dormant hornets' nests are poked.

From the ashes of racism rises the phoenix of oppression, a specter that haunts both men and pulls them from their carefully ordered modern worlds into a maelstrom of contention. Same script, similar players, different outcomes? Events that evolve in A Hollow Cup only go to show that old, familiar patterns are entrenched even in modern times, and past and present worlds originally viewed as being so far apart actually can touch in more ways than one.

All it takes is a resurrected case, an altered perspective, the possibility of legal choices repeating past errors or forging new paths, and the dissolution of barriers that have built the community ("The racial discord that had divided the community for years had reached the boiling point.") to enact changes that will transform lives. As Pete probes a case that involves purposeful suppression of legal documents and facts, what he unearths could push that community past its breaking point.

Readers who appreciate blends of legal process and social issues, especially novels about racism's lasting impact on individuals and communities, will relish The Hollow Cup's hard-hitting attention to two lives changed by an investigation into past events.

The Honorable Thing
Karl Jacobs
Lien Press
9780692593899, $7.99,

Betty and Jack are probably like most other happily married couples in their thirties. They're opposites in every way and live in totally different worlds.

That's how Jack wryly describes their married life in the early 1970s, just before the earthquake strikes in the corporate world and management ranks are suddenly opened to women. When Jack, an advertising manager, finds himself looking after Katie, a lovely new management trainee in the huge St. Louis-area conglomerate that employs them, his world is turned upside down. So is hers.

She's married to a stuffy elementary school principal. Until now, her life has centered on her two young sons. Jack is married to a workaholic, would-be writer. They have a son and daughter in grade school. On the job together, Jack and Katie quickly discover they are high-spirited, kindred souls. He's a baseball nut, she's a horoscope nut.

When one of his jokes turns into something serious, they begin to fall for each other. Hard. It turns out, however, that a brusque, impersonal corporation is not the greatest place to conduct a secret, taboo romance. There are stringent rules, harsh punishments, people looking over your shoulder, and sudden personnel changes. Some of it is chilling. Some of it will have you on the edge of your chair. Some of it will leave you laughing.

The two lovers, convinced they are meant for each other, decide to seek divorces and marry one another. But there are endless setbacks at home as well as in the office. The school principal breaks his leg, Betty is pregnant, Katie's husband discovers a love note in a box of Kleenex. And so on.

Where another author might have skimmed a superficial surface of the relationship to have Katie a shameless hussy and Jack a wandering womanizer, the beauty here is that both are equally committed to what they have built and loved (and still love) - and so what transpires between them is unexpected and especially challenging.

The crux of The Honorable Thing is the heart-breaking choices the couple must make: choices that almost everyone contemplating a divorce faces. They love their kids, they know how much their spouses have sacrificed for them, and they do not want to hurt any of them. This is a love story about two tender-hearted characters that will make you laugh and bring tears to your eyes. It's about the consequences of these decisions, woven into a story that focuses on what is the real honorable thing to do in the face of an escalating, unexpected attraction.

Novel and romance readers seeking something that re-examines the entire notion of an affair and its moral and ethical challenges will find just the right blend of thought-provoking insights, strong characters, and a dash of unexpected humor that makes The Honorable Thing an outstanding read.

Pigeon Blood Red
Ed Duncan
The Zharmae Publishing Press, LLC
9781943549504, $14.95,

Pigeon Blood Red is recommended as a fine gangster-oriented mystery for anyone who likes sweeping geographic settings (Chicago to Honolulu) and stories of hit men such as Rico, who finds himself tailing a fellow gangster when a delivery job for a stolen necklace goes awry.

Now, Rico isn't the kind of gangster many could love. He wouldn't trust his own mother; much less a girlfriend who may have been part of the setup. He'll terrorize her to find out the truth, and like a bulldog, he'll go after this truth and won't let go. No friend or lover could be confident that Rico wouldn't turn on them if he suspected their involvement in a double-cross. However, in this case, the truth doesn't reside in his girlfriend's actions, but in a series of deeper subterfuges that mire him in danger like quicksand, taking readers into a downward spiral into complexities that revolve around pigeon-blood red rubies.

Readers expecting a casual production will find many characters, subplots, and motivations injected into the story line, each creating their own multifaceted lines of intrigue. Much dialogue ties characters and stories; so readers who don't appreciate a chatty approach might chafe - but these devices only serve to make the story line more involving, and even though sometimes the direction is discernable, it's the follow-through which crafts such a compelling read, here.

Henchmen in pursuit, a trail of blood connecting them, flights, heists, and counter-moves, and a main protagonist whose efforts are often overshadowed by those of others around him ... all these interact to create a story that blossoms with murders and intricately interlaced subterfuges revolving around Rico and his deals.

Rico's defiance and efforts will especially involve mystery readers who like their characters less cut-and-dried and more affected by their surroundings, events, and encounters with others in their "profession", and who like their story lines somewhat predictable in general but with an added dash of diversion along the way.

Selene Castrovilla
Last Syllable Books
9780991626113, $19.95 HC, $11.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle,

Young adult romance stories can be involving and gripping, but think 'dark' and 'haunted' when considering Selene Castrovilla's Melt - and also think 'compelling', 'rich' and 'hard-hitting', at the same time. Melt is no casual romance and no surface exploration of connections; but a deeply revealing, sometimes-disturbing saga of a damaged boy and a loving girl who come together.

Mature teen to adult readers receive an opening salvo of angst in a description of how an abusive father terrorizes his family, told from Joey's viewpoint. Staccato sentences capture these terrible details:

"He holds her against him blue sleeve on white apron squeezing squeezing squeezing into her ribs like he's doing the Heimlich
his tie clip presses in her back he sticks his semi-automatic piece of crap weapon in her mouth clanks it against her teeth..."

This concludes with hard-hitting observations ("There wasn't nothing in those vows 'bout guns or fists neither for that matter.") to capture the essence of Joey's world.

Now contrast this with Dorothy's "Munchkinland" world where, as a part of a teen social group, she walks into a donut shop (the heart of this social gathering) and is instantly drawn when Joey walks in ("When I saw his muscles - even half covered by his Metallica T-shirt they couldn't be denied - when I saw his arms, I knew they could keep me safe. Funny, I never thought I needed protection, but there it was, that thought, and just like that everything changed.") and you have the essence of a fiery encounter that blows up with the passion of positive and negative forces attracting.

Is there such a thing as instant attraction? Dorothy only has to look at him to feel that "He had the look of an animal caught in a trap. It was like he was caged inside that beautiful body, like he was asking me to carve deeper and set his soul free." While there are disturbing moments within the story line - such as descriptions of her instant desires for Joey, his quick willingness to move beyond his bad boy reputation and her desire for strong, protective manly arms to feel safe - these elements are not untrue to life's circumstances. Who hasn't felt inexplicably drawn to a stranger; who hasn't wanted to feel a sense of protection stemming from someone else's perceived strengths? And so the story begins: a winding tale of impossible love and pain.

In many ways, Melt lives up to its title, melting away the illusions of love, exposing much rawness during the process. Joey's life has involved struggling with his father's alcoholism, and it's created in him a person who longs for something different, but who is, himself, damaged and can't quite get there.

Dorothy is the quintessential loving girl who sees much potential in Joey - potential that she thinks she can nurture. What she doesn't know is that Joey is harboring a deadly family secret, is struggling with abuse along with his reputation for being a 'bad boy', and that maybe he simply can't handle good alternatives for something better in his life, even if Dorothy takes him by the hand and leads him onto this path.

Can good intentions and good people counteract what is bad in the world? Can a soul deeply damaged by abuse recover to be capable of love, and can Dorothy sustain the power to help Joey heal even when her own life begins unraveling?

Melt is a captivating story of a moth drawn to a flame. It's recommended reading for mature teens able to handle the violence and angst permeating much of the story line and contrasting with their romance and young adults into their twenties, who will find its gritty, hard-hitting approach unusually realistic and compelling.

This group will be able to easily handle the potentially emotionally-draining saga of a boy used to mirroring what he's learned from a lifetime of abuse and the girl who (maybe) can save him - or not.

Signs of Life
Selene Castrovilla
Last Syllable Books
9780991626144, $7.08 PB, $2.99 Kindle,

Fans of Selene Castrovilla's Melt already know that this predecessor was Book One in the "Rough Romance" trilogy: prior familiarity with this introduction is recommended to enjoy a smooth transition of an awakening process begun there and continued in Signs of Life.

In Melt, Joey was the damaged one needing a strong dose of recovery via romance, but here the focus is on Dorothy's trials and tribulations. Signs of Life continues the discussion of Dorothy's pain while Joey moves ahead in his growth process.

The contrast is striking: whereas Melt produced several unexpected endings and new possibilities for growth; here it is Dorothy who remains trapped and stuck while Joey forges ahead without her.

The stark contrast between the two scenarios is powerfully revealing as Dorothy faces the consequences of her actions and an impossible decision that she may not be able to make without help.

This time it's Dorothy who is describing, in staccato observations in the beginning. As much as she's rooted and mired in past tragedy, he's truly moving on - and away. Does his growth necessitate leaving Dorothy behind when she most needs him?

Time is fluid in this love story, which moves back and forth between Joey and Dorothy's perceptions. Nothing is easy as Dorothy questions her feelings about life, love, brutality, and even God:

"Who needed God anyway? Joey had been right about him. Maybe I was my own God, maybe we were each our own gods..."

Once again, this is a read recommended for mature teens into adult audiences. It's just as gritty, compelling, and varied as Melt was and it continues to offer many surprises; so readers expecting a smooth romance with superficial elements may find its story line disturbing, thought-provoking, and even cage-rattling, at points.

But, romance is like that. Sometimes the cage needs to be rattled in order for real change to evolve. And as points of view shift between best friend Amy, suffering Dorothy, and Joey's worlds, so readers receive an outstanding story not filled with comforting feel-good illusions, but with the process of stripping away these fantasies to arrive at the nugget of truth. Signs of Life toes the line between a romance, a medical thriller, and more in its multifaceted approach.

Melt and Signs of Life are intrinsically connected on so many levels that they should be considered literary Siamese twins. What stems from loss makes for a series of surprises and what eventually evolves will set the stage for Book Three; so be advised: enthusiasts of Melt are in for a real treat here, in a gritty, eye-opening story line that does equal justice to the different, changing perspectives of both protagonists.

Martian Darkness
William Graham
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530608508, $14.99,

Martian Darkness combines science fiction with a detective story's investigative format and is set in the 22nd century, where Ace Sloan probes four cases with dexterity and ingenuity. Having four Ace stories under one cover is a fine benefit, allowing readers to fully absorb the methods, psyche, and different cases challenging Ace's skills; and having these set in a futuristic Martian backdrop provides an exquisite format highly recommended for genre readers of detective and sci-fi alike.

Ace works as head of security at The Red Planet Casino and is in his mid-forties and divorced, so he's free to focus on and pursue any perps. Charged with preventing mishaps at the casino, he's removed from planetary politics, love, or the violence he experienced on his Earth job in Phoenix - until a body turns up.

Relatively peaceful paradise turns deadly as Ace discovers the woman was beaten to death, and that he's charged with keeping it under wraps as much as finding out what happened. How does a quiet teacher wind up as a murder victim? The more Ace probes her case, the bigger he realizes it is, as clues lead him far from the Casino and straight into a maze of deadly danger.

As Ace develops just the kinds of connections he doesn't want and had left behind in Phoenix (murder, complexity, and even a dash of romance), he finds himself on a fast track to something bigger than his desire to placidly follow legal precedent and handle small cases - something involving martyrs, politics, and murderers. At the end, Ace may realize something new about where his alliances lay.

'The Red Planet President' is another example of how Ace's life takes unexpected turns. This time, Ace takes a back seat to President Jane Starling's election and the events that swirl around her administration. The years pass and Martian politics evolves as Presidential associate Ann Bozak conducts an investigation that leads her into Ace's offices and the two them into a fold of social and political subterfuge that could bring down many carefully-constructed Martian policies and people.

Add the kidnapping of a high-profile figure and the efforts of an illegal insurrection and you have a gripping blend of political intrigue (Martian-style) and an investigative piece that is hard to put down.

Each of the stories comes from a different angle and provides diverse insights into Ace's persona and world. It would have been all too easy to have each story come from Ace's eyes and experiences; but by offering each tale as a jigsaw puzzle piece using different perspectives that contributes to a bigger picture, William Graham has done an outstanding job.

Detective and sci-fi readers who enjoy intrigue, juxtapositions of political and personal purpose, and twists and turns of plot will appreciate the focus, presentation, and evolution of Achilles' world as he changes from a man with a quietly singular purpose in his new home to one fully engaged with his world on many different levels. Highly recommended!

Love is Come (Power of the Matchmaker)
Heather B. Moore
Mirror Press
9781941145678, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle,

Love is Come, part of the "Power of the Matchmaker" series in which the matchmaker Miss Pearl transcends time to match couples, is set in the 1900s and is a romance bereft of the usual steamy encounters that too many romances become, instead choosing a satisfying story line that focuses on emotion and setting for its strengths.

Nelle is twenty-one and still unmarried in this scenario, living a comfortable life of privilege in New York City. Heather B. Moore takes her time to build up to the next life-changing event, creating a solid foundation in describing Nelle's life, why she's unmarried, and the choices she makes in romance and life. When her parents are killed, she's forced to move to a small town to live, broke, with relatives, five chapters into the story line.

From then on it's a whirlwind of change as Nelle grieves, faces vastly changed circumstances and strange surroundings, and comes to feel that her life is over in more ways than one.

A miserly aunt records every bite that Nelle takes with an eye to tapping Nelle's trust fund, but an unexpected encounter with Mathew, a man from her past, helps reduce Nelle's feeling of being hopelessly lost, a feeling that's replaced by something different than she's ever known in her life.

From Mathew's perspective, Nelle is a complication, indeed; because he's long been slated to marry another (neighbor girl Alice), who is more of a friend than anyone he's truly passionate about.

It'll take a series of challenges for both of them to arrive at a place where they can love each other, and the history and romance that entwine in Love is Come builds a satisfying, gripping saga that presents the slow-moving (yet logical) evolution of two very different individuals who come together in love, and the matchmaker (Pearl) who helps all this to happen against all odds.

Audiences who like romances that take their time to develop characters and logical progressions of events will relish Love is Come, and will find it a satisfying beach read or leisure choice perfect for these lazy summer months.

Decree of Finality
Kenneth Eade
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781533122681, $10.75,

Lawyer Brent Marks hates taking on divorce cases - but they pay the bills and come along much more frequently than other types of cases. But his latest is about to get more interesting than the usual ugly separation process, as his client's wife is found murdered and his client is the prime suspect.

So far, the story lines appear cut and dried - but add a few twists to the plot ala typical Kenneth Eade style and you have a lawyer narrative that's quite different from the predictable approach it seems to begin with.

Of course, Brent must prove his client innocent - but he harbors his own suspicions of what really happened; and as he becomes further mired in the killer's approach, events grow to embrace prisoners, hit jobs, other killings, and many dubious associations.

Through it all, Brent remains focused on integrity, ethics, and the best possible choices; and as he moves closer to the truth, readers follow with bated breath.

Fans of legal thrillers, especially (even newcomers to Brent's world) will delight in the realistic story line and satisfying twists and turns of plot that mark another exceptional read which will easily attract even the most seasoned followers of legal detective investigations.

The Middle Class Comeback: Women, Millennials and Technology Leading the Way
Munir Moon
MGN Books
9780991372171 (e-book), $4.99
9780991372164 (Hardcover), $8.99

The Middle Class Comeback asks a basic question (is the American dream of entering the middle class truly achievable?) and gathers evidence that entering the middle class is no longer an attainable goal - but the crux of the matter doesn't stop here.

Munir Moon then focuses on government and the dysfunctional political processes that have lead to this decline and how these may be fixed, reviewing many solid strategies and approaches that create the optimistic hope that the middle class can come back strong. Several factors play into this idea that while the middle class may be under siege, it is not dead, yet.

One is the rising power of women in all segments of society, from business to politics. The second is the rise of technological innovations that demand better efficiency and different approaches to the digital world.

Having laid the framework for possible salvation, The Middle Class Comeback proceeds to define "middle class", considers new models for reform (from the decentralization of educational process to the rise of political entrepreneurs and the interests of millennials in redefining values systems), and shows how the nation is ripe for sweeping changes that could even reach into political processes and the possibility of an active, viable third party in the election process.

This book argues that not only has the income for the middle-class fallen, but that the cost of education, healthcare, housing, and taxes have increased at a much higher rate, which makes it impossible for an average American family to attain a middle-class lifestyle. For middle class Americans (nearly half of the population) and politically independent citizens (more than 40 percent of Americans), The Middle Class Comeback gives concrete reason for hope and a path forward through continued innovation and political engagement.

As he provides a sweeping history of how social and political processes have traditionally been addressed across the board, Moon notes: "The nation needs a new definition of engagement." Although in this reference he's speaking of the military establishment, his entire book reflects that new definition and will prove a refreshing breath of hope to any who question whether the American middle class is truly viable now, or will have a presence in and influence on the future.

The Second Path
Virginia King
Celestial Hedgehog
9780992487058, $0.99,

In The First Lie, Selkie Moon fled to Hawaii in search of a new life, only to find the old one following too closely behind. Someone (or something) has stalked her all the away to the promised land, her visions or abilities haven't faded, and Selkie stands on the edge of disaster. The cliffhanging end of that story had Selkie set to face her biggest fear.

The Second Path continues this journey and picks up almost where The First Lie's Hawaiian-steeped mystery left off. Selkie awakens on the beach with no memory of confronting her biggest fear - or even what transpired over the last two weeks. She's naked and alone. Only snatches of memory remain, like jagged shards of glass.

As she recovers, Selkie finds that her journey has not only just begun, but that it will carry her away from Hawaii on a whirlwind search for self and life's meaning.

As Seklie travels the world in search of a missing puzzle piece ("It's time to leave Paris - a place where I've grieved for my missing memory, a place that's highlighted my sense of belonging somewhere else. Wherever I'm going, this isn't it."), she finds herself not just in the City of Light, but in the deepest of caves (literally and figuratively).

Cruelty and compassion, alienation and connection, friends lost and found, and new dangers confronted: all these experiences lead Selkie on a spiraling journey that ascends, descends, and imposes vast changes with new connections and explosive internal and external confrontations. Where does the path to wisdom lie, and can Selkie uncover the deeper meaning to her life's purpose and mystery?

Prior fans will find Selkie's visions and unshakable determination just as prevalent and powerful here as in The First Lie, while newcomers will be delighted to find that no prior familiarity is required to take the leap into this second book chronicling her ongoing search.

From paranormal encounters to personal revelation, the driving forces of Selkie's experiences are captivating strengths in a novel that grabs ahold of its readers and doesn't let go. Imagine an Indiana Jones adventure; only on a more personal, psychic level - with mystery and suspense embedded into the bigger picture of self-discovery - to grasp the essence of what makes both books in this series such powerful reads.

The Extraordinary Temptation
Patrick McCusker
Amazon Digital Services
9781783017676, $4.99,

The Extraordinary Temptation is simply a must-read thriller that would make a first-rate film.

But the description "religious thriller", when applied to this book, doesn't begin to capture the undercurrent of mystery, eerie developments, and powerful challenge to religious beliefs. The discovery of a piece of mummified skin of Christ makes the story remarkably absorbing.

The work opens with a young professional archaeologist discovering the find of a lifetime, only to face the consequences that follow from that discovery.

A wealthy American's decision to attempt to clone Jesus from that piece of skin leads to a series of deadly events; and as murders, special interests, and religious and secular forces coalesce, the story line becomes a staccato blitz of action and confrontation - and impossible to put down.

This book is not a simple quick surface read. Many thought-provoking questions are thrust forward that challenge traditional thinking, morality, ethics, and more: and devout Christians may find that some of the contentions will challenge their beliefs in unexpected ways. So those who anticipate a "religious story", in the usual sense, will find something extraordinary different in this action-packed saga.

Readers who want not just a thriller but a mystery that includes love and romance will find The Extraordinary Temptation for them. It offers a compelling journey that leads all the way to Rome. A thought-provoking thriller indeed.

D. R. Bell
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406

Neighbor and friend Evan has killed himself and his wife Rosie, and only a few doors away, Ben and his father receive the shocking news. At one time Alex, Deion, Evan and Ben were a "pack": they partied, dated, and played games together... but grew apart as life took its toll.

That's only the backdrop for a series of events that reveal why Evan did what he did, and why Ben feels so trapped in his life, strapped financially and underemployed in a dead-end job with debts and responsibilities he can never seem to conquer.

There's no fight left in Ben - only defeat - at the point when Evan dies; but somehow this event sparks a bit of life in Ben and as he begins to uncover what really happened to Evan and Rosie, so he begins to piece together the broken parts of his own life.

From augmented reality, Deep Web programs and intrigue to hidden links between data, relationships, and those who manipulate both, Ben finds himself in a strange new world of suspicious activity and dangerous implications.

Good motivations gone wrong: these place both Ben and his father directly in the line of fire, with social networking experiments gone awry leading directly to life-altering circumstances and nightmares that bring with them the possibility of closure and the discovery of a special brand of motive and revenge.

In many ways, Marshland is a quintessential story of marriage, friendships, survival, and choices good and bad. But as members of the old gang drift back together and learn new things, each is not just affected by but is ultimately transformed through events that follow. As the nightmare evolves and immerses Ben, his father, and other characters, the story becomes a gripping saga of greed and vengeance, political processes, and the intrusion of computer and social systems on individual lives.

Readers who enjoy stories of data manipulation, social and political confrontation, intrigue, and friendship challenges will relish a scenario where all these elements and more build to an unpredictable crescendo, keeping them thoroughly immersed until the truth is finally revealed.

Leaders Lab: 66 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skill, Strategy, and Style
Jane Moyer
New Century Leadership LLC
ISBN (paperback): 9781940975047, $19.95
ISBN (ebook): 9781940975054, $9.95

There are plenty of books on the market about leadership. Most outline the qualities of a leader or assess how to assume the role; but few offer a strategic set of insights on the development process itself, presenting a step-by-step instructional on how to craft an individual leadership style.

That's one of the reasons why Leaders Lab: 66 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skill, Strategy, and Style stands out from the crowd in offering a survey that is fluid and flexible within the boundaries of its specific, easily-accessible advice.

It breaks this process into digestible, easily-understand pieces that can begin anywhere and which encourage users to research and develop the type of leadership role that suits their personality and objectives, and it encourages innovation and collaboration; not a set of rules the aspiring leader needs to follow in order to prove effective.

This emphasis on customization, adaptation, and creativity within an overall framework will especially appeal to professionals and managers who already hold positions of importance and elements of leadership potential that they wish to hone and grow.

Chapters are clearly labeled with leadership objectives ("Do It Once", "What About Weaknesses?") which present the main focus in headers ("The Challenge:", "The Question:", "Consider This" and "Try This"), offering solutions to common leadership challenges or snafus.

It should also be noted that there's a free companion Facilitator's Guide for leadership development groups, business book clubs, working teams, etc. available for download on the book website,

A chattier tone than most, evident in appealing these subject headings, is adopted for easy understanding ("Sez Who?") while the format lends to browsing and quick reference.

The entire production offers concrete food for thought without the rigidity of competing books that insist on a 'one size fits all' program structure. All these facets make Leaders Lab a top recommendation above other books on leadership and management approaches: one no business professional should be without.

Charles LaFave
Privately Published
9780996982801, $18.99 HC, $9.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle,

What if you were a wizard condemned for your choices and sentenced to never cast another spell because your crimes were so terrible? What if you led years of your life with no magic, scrambling for work and living with humans? And what if a wealthy benefactor appeared and offered you the possibility of redemption and a decent life, including the return of your magic abilities: wouldn't you jump at the chance, no matter what the cost?

Peter, in just such circumstances, can't believe his luck - but the adage that if something looks too good to be true, it likely is, comes into play as he discovers the true meaning of his newfound largess and its deadly impact on the world.

In such a scenario Peter makes the wrong choice, opening the door to another world that threatens his own. Once more, Peter is facing the loss of everything he loves (only on a grander scale); and once again Peter finds himself on the cusp of choices that will change the world.

Don't consider Greeth a one-dimensional fantasy or horror saga, however: its fast pace speaks of "thriller" while its nonstop action is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones classic. Elements of mystery permeate a struggle for the truth and, once found, ethical and moral decisions revolve around Peter's choices. There are even zombies roaming the halls in this sword-and-sorcery fantasy's backdrop.

Readers seeking a singular fantasy read might at first feel stymied by all these elements appearing to contribute to the overall story line. Under a different hand, they might have proved confusing and challenging to read; but even though Greeth is Charles LaFave's first venture into the genre, it speaks with the well-honed voice of a veteran writer: polished, logical, compelling, and imaginative.

Descriptions are powerful: "Great swarms of insects covered the trees around Nakijin Gusuku. Clouds made of beetles and wasps and flies blocked the moon. Rivers of cockroaches flowed across the forest floor and moths fluttered on the breeze as if they were leaves on the trees. All of it made a chittering, chewing, grinding sound that blended together into something like waves from a gruesome ocean."

Yes, Greeth demands much of its readers: primarily, a fluidity in perceiving the rituals and approaches of a fantasy that crosses into other genres. Those who insist that the definition of a fantasy read should conform to certain boundaries may be surprised at some of these digressions; but the overall impact of Greeth moves neatly beyond genre definitions to provide a power blend of intrigue, fantasy, horror, and thriller in an effort that will delight anyone who seeks original, powerful writing.

BetterNot! And the Tale of Brat Sports - Teaching Morals and Manners in Sports
Gene Del Vecchio
BetterNot! Enterprises, LLC
9780692690796, $15.99,

BetterNot! And the Tale of Brat Sports - Teaching Morals and Manners in Sports adds a second title to the picture book series focusing on issues of fairness, good manners and ethical behavior in sports.

This attention to sportsmanship ideals for ages 3-8 years uses colorful, fun drawings by Roderick Fong and the specter of a dark purple fog coach (BetterNot) to demonstrate what happens when an unruly team determined not to play fair encounters a being who identifies each player's poor behavior pattern and explains why it should be changed.

A fun rhyme accents cartoon-style full-color drawings that clearly draw connections between poor sportsmanship and poor playing experiences.

The result is a powerful survey that gently teaches not only the rudiments of proper sports behavior, but the consequences of not playing fairly: highly recommended for any youngster just entering the world of sports.

It's the perfect complement to Book 1 in the series, BetterNot! And the Tale of Bratsville - Teaching Morals and Manners.

Hugo DuChamp Investigates: Les Fantomes du Chateau
G.N. Hetherington
GNH Publishing
9781530222223, $14.99 (Paperback), $7.99 (Kindle)

Hugo DuChamp Investigates: Les Fantomes du Chateau provides another satisfying investigative piece centered around the colorful and sometimes outrageous personality of Hugo DuChamp, a French policeman who has been working cases in London for years, and who faces a ghostly new case on his own turf.

The first satisfying note here is that readers need not hold prior familiarity with Hugo DuChamp in order to appreciate this second book. Hugo's events and background are summed up in Chapter Two, which paves the way for newcomers and previous fans to enjoy another detective puzzler (the first chapter presents the murder, while the second backtracks a week into London).

The second pleasurable feature of this sequel is that Hugo's character is thoroughly explored in a manner that invites not just reader interest in what happens to him, but creates an emotional attachment that adds a vested interest in Hugo's approaches to life: "This year, 2015, had taught him something that he could not quite put his finger on yet, a sense of freedom, a belief in life that had so far escaped him in his thirty-four years of being alive. He had witnessed all that life had to throw at a person, death, horror, tragedy, love and upheaval. If he had known beforehand what the year's events were going to throw at him he was not at all sure he would not have refused to pack his Louis Vuitton suitcase and instead would have jumped on a plane for destinations unknown and quite far away."

It's Hugo's humanity and psychological profile that imbibe his investigations with a personal touch that draw in readers by revealing not just events, but his deepest thoughts surrounding his choices in life: "He believed now that he had done his best in a situation where the die had been cast much before his involvement. Did he have regrets? He did, and he knew that he would probably wrestle with his conscience for a long time to come, but with the detachment of time, he had come to understand that what had happened was not his fault."

Hugo faces a cast of characters in the course of Les Fantomes du Chateau; many of whom have special, secret interests in the murder case ("He did not agree necessarily, but could see why there may be concern, but it did not sit comfortably with him. Something was being covered up, he could smell it.").

Family money and spending choices, two murders, the hidden truths behind the deaths and how they are handled - all these facets immerse Hugo in one of the most puzzling cases of his life, just a few months after he's still in shock from his last case's unexpected twists. Hugo might ultimately be forced to decide who to save and who to sacrifice in a rolling saga that embroils readers in a powerful tale that concludes (it should be warned) in a cliffhanger.

Readers interested in more than a one-dimensional detective story who look for characters who are flawed, human, and different will relish both Hugo and his circumstances, and will find Hugo DuChamp Investigates: Les Fantomes du Chateau to be a powerful, highly recommended and compelling story that is as much about the man and his psyche as it is about an unusual crime scene and many elusive motivations.

Two Natures
Jendi Reiter
Saddle Road Press
9780996907422, $22.00,

Julian is a Southern boy and transplanted aspiring fashion photographer in New York City in the 1990s; a gay man facing the height of the AIDS epidemic and professional, social, and spiritual struggles alike as he questions himself, God's will, and Christian values in the advent of a specific kind of apocalypse.

It's rare to discover within a gay love story an equally-powerful undercurrent of political and spiritual examination. Too many gay novels focus on evolving sexuality or love and skim over underlying religious values systems; but one of the special attributes of Two Natures isn't just its focus on duality, but its intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay.

In many ways, Julian is the epitome of a powerful, conflicting blend of emotions. Take the story's opening line, for one example. Readers might not anticipate a photographer's nightmare which bleeds heavily into evolving social realization and philosophy: "I woke from another nightmare about photographing a wedding. The bride was very loud and everyone's red lipstick was smeared across their teeth like vampires, except vampires would never wear lavender taffeta prom dresses. It's always the wrong people who can't see themselves in mirrors."

Even the language exquisitely portrays this dichotomy: Julian's parents are still "Mama" and "Daddy", his language and many of his attitudes remain delightfully Southern ("You know, back where I come from, that was the first thing you asked a new fellow: what does your Daddy do, and where do you go to church?"), and his experiences with men, female friends, his evolving photography career, and life in general are wonderfully depicted, drawing readers into not just the trappings and essence of his life, but the course of his psychological, philosophical and spiritual examinations.

As Julian explores this world, readers should expect sexually graphic (but well-done) scenes designed to enhance the storyline (not shock it with departures or dominant heaviness), an attention to the social and political environment of the 90s that swirls around Julian and changes his perspectives and decisions, and a gritty set of candid descriptions that probe real-world experience.

Readers of gay fiction seeking more than a casual series of insights into the world of New York City's culture, enhanced by the deeper perspectives of a young man who spiritually struggles to find his place even as he fine-tunes his career and life, will welcome the close inspection of truth, love, and life provided in Jendi Reiter's Two Natures, powerful saga of Southern etiquette and perspectives turned upside down and the risks involved in moving beyond one's safe zone.

Mary T. Kincaid
Redhawk Press
9780997148817, $5.25

Mortimer the mole is born in the dark, and grows up listening to odd music from the world above. Tasked with moving dirt, he questions this mission in life, much to the chagrin of his parents, who assume he'll be a willing participant in digging projects without questioning life's larger meaning.

But Mortimer is a curious soul and, fueled by hearing snippets of the National Anthem and other songs from above, is motivated to find out more about the world and its mysteries. And so he embarks on a mission of discovery against the wishes and focus of his parents and all other moles around him.

What will he find when he surfaces?

Mortimer is a chapter book that holds very simple, child-friendly black and white drawings throughout. Kids just moving into chapter books will find it holds an inspirational focus that is light and yet thought-provoking, involving them in not just the story of a mole's emergence into a wider world, but why curiosity and exploration are desirable features for leading a more flexible life that doesn't confirm to expectations.

Wild Violets
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
9781484023662, $14.95,

Two sisters, two new marriages, and a 1920s San Francisco setting provide the background and high drama for Wild Violets, the story of a girl bent on success in professional women's basketball - and if not in sports, than with the bar and grill she's purchased. How did she come to lead such an adventure-filled life?

Wild Violets traces the evolution of the Guyer sisters from their homespun roots (with eleven siblings) to Violet's big breaks in basketball and then in business at a time when women are evolving into their abilities and the right to use them.

How a down-home gal becomes the centerpiece of San Francisco society, leading the carefree (and sometimes selfish) life of a flapper girl, makes for an intriguing story of romance, good and bad decisions, and the blossoming of an attitude that considers the world her oyster and men the deliverers of wealth and support: "... that was Phil all over. When he had it, he spent it. Mostly on me, she laughed."

Readers can expect to both love and hate as they follow Violet's paths and choices. Violet is determined and gritty, often selfish, and is focused on appearances and achieving success even if it comes at the cost of family and friends. She purposely uses her beauty to manipulate those around her ("I didn't know. Thank you so much. I'll take care of it right away. I so appreciate your help in understanding all the city's regulations." Vi oozed helpless femininity all over the cop.") and her passions too often overrun the interests of others, be they beaus, authority figures, or her own children.

Despite this, reader can't help but be intrigued as Violet charges through her 1920s San Francisco world with the ambitions and determination of an unstoppable Amazon. Perhaps part of the story line's realistic feel is because it stems from the author's own family stories. Or maybe it's because Violet's world evolves beyond her self-centered pursuits to embrace family and support systems that succeed alongside Violet's efforts to realize her own dreams.

As the story evolves and Vi's life moves full circle, readers interested in a blend of romance and historical backgrounds will appreciate her evolutionary process, and will find that the circumstances and determination of her world lend well to an absorbing read suitable for beach reading or a leisure choice.

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Pumpjack Press
9780997411300, $14.95,

Book Four of the "Cowboy and the Vampire" series, The Last Sunset, ends the unusual love story between a vampire and a cowboy and elevates the concept of urban vampire fiction to new levels by taking the bloodsucker out of the city and introducing a complex, world-spanning tale to conclude a powerfully different series.

The opening setting appears ordinary - a drunk nightclub hopper in San Francisco is stalked by a vampire who thinks she'll be easy prey - but when the hunter becomes the hunted and stumbles into a coven of something different, his life and world end.

Change scenes to a cowboy town still recovering from a vampire attack, a plate of chocolate chip pancakes, and the incongruity of a Wyoming vegan restaurant neatly set in cattle country for a complete change of tone and scene. Proprietor Rose has an unusual reason for eschewing meat (Rose felt pretty strongly about not eating flesh after buckaroo vampires tried to drain her blood and turn her into human hamburger in a hellish meat-packing plant in Plush, Oregon.) - but this introduction is just one example of the many surprises The Last Sunset offers its readers through its rollicking blend of vampire concerns, romance, Western, and international intrigue.

As blood flows and bullets fly, immortality and love are put to the test and a loved woman in exile in Russia, a mad religious cult, and a vampire all clash, form alliances, and slap the saddles as they ride into a sunset mixed with confrontation and passion.

There's nothing staid or predictable about these events. Readers who delight in complicated, involving stories that seamlessly weave together different facets of genre reads will love the clash of worlds and forces that permeate The Last Sunset.

And while this concluding volume ends the series and draws together some of the loose ends of its predecessors, it should be noted that newcomers aren't allowed to hopelessly wander the wilderness of gothic forces paired with Western flavors. Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall do such a fine job of integrating setting, characters, and past events into the bigger finale's picture that even those with no prior familiarity with the series will find it easy to become thoroughly engrossed in this last episode.

From the lengths the characters will go to in the pursuit of individual as well as group goals ("Having sex with a mental cripple to please a vampire cult leader. Could my life spiral any farther out of control?") to good and bad choices made in the pursuit of something greater than individual goals, readers finally get to learn what will happen between a cowboy and a beautiful vampire whose love has been derailed by special interests outside of their control.

The Last Sunset's rollicking ride is passionate, bloody, and purposeful and is a powerfully compelling saga of protagonists faced with changing the nature of vampires and humans alike in order to realize their drive for normalcy in a world gone wild. Fans of Westerns, Gothics, romance and thrillers alike will find its powerful characters and changing confrontations contribute to a gripping story line that's unpredictable and hard to put down.

How Fast Can You Run, a novel based on the life of Michael Majok Kuch
Harriet Levin Millan
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861202, $22.95,
Release Date: October 28, 2016

The events surrounding the second Sudanese Civil War, seen through the eyes of one who was there, may not seem like an extraordinary account until readers realize that the eyewitness is a child and the war disrupted his life, his family, and sent him on a worldwide journey that ultimately resulted in healing and this book.

Few accounts can adequately capture such experiences, but where nonfiction may falter, How Fast Can You Run proves that an adept writer can step in and use the fiction format to capture the drama, psychology, and tension of civil war from a child's eye (in this case, Michael Majok Kuch).

A fiction writer can alter time and tweak events to heighten drama and create a more compelling narrative. A good fiction writer can inject observations from different character perspectives and can hone the entire production so that events and approaches to life make sense and stay true to character development. And an excellent wordsmith can bring everything together in a story line that's completely accessible to newcomers to this history.

How Fast Can You Run's story of Kuch, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, requires no prior familiarity with Sudanese history or culture and provides all this as a backdrop to its story of how Kuch survived against impossible odds, emigrated to America, and came to meet the author and see his story in book form.

Michael Majok Kuch was groomed to grow into a successful herder for his tribe when war changed his life. Not yet of age to assume these important responsibilities, he instead faced a civil war that would send him out into East Africa as a refugee, living for ten years in the camps, and eventually to America.

The novel starts with a bang (or, should it be said, a boom), and keeps on driving home its revelations about conflict, change, and a nearly impossible struggle for survival for a young boy dependent on adults around him for direction and safety: "LOUD BOOMING woke him. He thought it was elephants and opened his eyes. The hut was pitch-black. He needed to pee but was too afraid to step down on his wounded heel or crawl on his knees to the door. He was just a tiny boy, about five years old, afraid of scorpions nesting in the roof grass, snakes slithering through cracks and crocodiles scurrying up shallows. Another loud boom. Bursting light. Flames shot up. The thatched roof was on fire. His mother rushed toward him, holding his baby brother in her arms, shouting, "Kare! Run!"

As strife turn into years of struggle, Kuch faces adversity, owes many his life, stands among thousands of refugees hoping to emigrate to America, and confronts what's left of his own family as he directs them to a new country and assumes the role of leader under impossible circumstances at an impossibly young age. Adversity doesn't stop when they reach the promised land, either, as racial divide and new challenges await him and test every ideal he's survived for and built.

Because How Fast Can You Run is based on a true saga, the viewpoints and experiences of Kuch come to vivid life and weave a powerful saga of politics, struggle, and survival that's hard to put down. Any reader interested in accounts of the Sudanese war will find this a compelling method of absorbing history at its most meaningful: through the eyes of a young eyewitness who didn't just observe events, but lived through and survived them.

Conjuring Casanova
Melissa Rea
She Writes Press
9781631520563, $16.95,

Conjuring Casanova is a novel replete with elements of romance, but much like the classics Time and Again and Portrait of Jeannie, these facts are embedded in a time-traveling tale that sends a contemporary ER physician into the past to encounter Casanova himself.

Expect no light attention to detail, here: author Melissa Rea is a student of French literature who researched Casanova's life and his memoirs (which came to light in the 1960s), and thus her novel is filled with realistic background information on Casanova himself which nicely compliments the story of protagonist Lizzy's immersion in Casanova's memoirs, when she finds herself attracted to a man long dead.

As Lizzy becomes enchanted by a legend and changed by the up-close-and-personal reality of his life and persona, she and her friends face challenging new perspectives about love and legends that lead her to Paris and a volatile affair that threatens the careful barriers Lizzy has erected against inappropriate love.

Readers shouldn't expect a conventional steamy romance, here. There's humor, powerful dialogue, historical and cultural insights, and a solid dose of high drama to Lizzy's encounters that keep the plot fast-paced and absorbing even for those who may have little prior knowledge about Casanova's place in history.

The delightfully warm exploration of Casanova's methods and perspectives explores how jaded and guarded lives emerge to blossom into the give-and-take of love and sharing and how Casanova's charming ways and language ("...I am always doomed to be seduced by intelligence and beauty. I never seduce, but only submit.") break her barriers, creating a story line that traverses centuries and very different worlds and brings both to realistic life.

Especially recommended as a beach read with something more going for it than the usual romance can offer, Conjuring Casanova offers just the right touch of love, lust, and psychological and historical inspection.

Shelter of Leaves
Lenore H. Gay
She Writes Press
97816315210101, $16.95
9781631521027, $ 9.95

Shelter of Leaves is set in a possible future in which a series of bombs shut down major U.S. cities on Memorial Day, sending Sabine on a flight from the ruins of Washington, D.C. onto a journey through America as a refugee who barely recalls her family and identity.

Perhaps because the author is a licensed counselor, her portrayal of Sabine's PTSD and the damage done by psychological trauma is just as haunting as the images of an American society devastated by collapse and the threat of terrorism.

As Sabine struggles to survive her much-changed world, readers follow her flight to shelter. She finds refugees who band together to survive, All have been traumatized in some manner and display different evidences of their bitter trials.

Despite the fact that everything has changed and evolved, Sabine takes readers through her life with a deft blend of observation and interaction.

As Sabine's family comes together and her life moves full circle back to her roots, her evolving strengths and desire to be part of something more than a survivor lend to the themes of reconstruction, recovery, and rebuilding that make Shelter of Leaves compelling.

Readers of psychological drama, survival, and recovery who appreciate an undercurrent of romance and discussions of connections will find in Shelter of Leaves a powerful story of recovery on many levels.

Devil in Texas
Adrienne deWolfe
ePublishing Works!
9781614178408, $4.99,

Book 1 of the "Lady Law & The Gunslinger" series represents Western romance at its best and is especially recommended for readers seeking genre productions profiling a feisty, take-charge heroine. Such a woman is Pinkerton Agent Sadie Michelson, working undercover as a casino singer in order to investigate a political figure that just happens to be protected by Sadie's ex-lover.

Conundrum number one lies in getting past this ex-beau bodyguard to the purpose of her mission. Problem number two lies in the ashes of the still-smoldering relationship between them, which have never entirely burnt out, and in the special interests that will join them together now, first in a pursuit of the truth surrounding a conspiracy, and then in re-igniting of trust and ultimately love.

That the progress of these events are anything but predictable serves to make Devil in Texas a spicy, revealing read that ups the ante in the Western romance genre and immerses readers in a special blend of political intrigue and mystery and personal revelation.

The Wild West can't get any wilder with the passions and pursuits of Cass and Sadie in Devil in Texas. Even as life is about to get good for both protagonists, it's also about to get bad before it winds into its positive results.

Readers should be forewarned that this is no 'light, fluffy' read. Plenty of Western history builds background and injects realistic, compelling facts into the events: "Despite this new opportunity to crack her case, Sadie had mixed feelings about the Farmers Alliance meeting at the Grand Park Hotel next week. Fence-cutting cattlemen were only half of the range-war story. Vigilante rangers were on the rise in Texas, and certain whispers in certain saloons placed the vengeance-minded ring-leaders in Lampasas."

Gangs and gunfights, futile efforts to keep Sadie out of the crossfire of Cass's life and choices, and gritty determination for each character's objectives in life ("In the final analysis, Cass didn't give a rat's ass about Pinkerton or his secret army of nameless, faceless minions. If Cass had to use his Ranger badge to keep Baron alive and Sadie safe, then by God, he would.") create a drama filled with plenty of satisfying twists and turns of plot.

The processes of Pinkerton's services and the devices they employ, from new bulletproof vests to investigations, permeate a story line of evolving passion - and yet it's also satisfying to note that Sadie doesn't become a helpless female in the face of love, but preserves her feisty, determined independence.

The result is a well detailed, carefully honed Western romance mystery that will thrill, titillate and delight readers of these genres with its winding story of love and life's evolution.

Crucibles of Passion
Ronald Jones
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B002Q0XYUK, $5.95,

The narrator has finally achieved one of his dreams: he's an aspiring writer in Paris and the world lies before him, success pending his next move. But his next move doesn't involve embracing this dream. Instead, he flees from the reality of impending poverty and possible failure, sailing for home after two months in Paris. He's on his way home to America via slow freighter when he falls into the company of two "railbirds" on a sex junket and becomes captivated by the notion of some last flings in Italy.

Crucibles of Passion tells what happens when he accepts an unusual invitation to walk out of his world, expectations and life. It's what should have happened (in a different way) in Paris, and what becomes a less well-planned series of events along the journey back home.

A series of ribald sexual encounters, beginning with an unsuspecting blind woman, result in scenes that are graphic in detail, sordid in appearance, and stark in their descriptions; be it a cigarette-puffing lynx in a silken blue robe or the sights, sounds, peoples and underworld of Naples and beyond.

Readers won't expect a concurrent theme of spirituality to run through what at first appears to be the saga of one man's descent into a world of sex as he romps through Italy; but as Crucibles of Passion evolves, the erotic novella assumes wider proportions of self-discovery and exploration.

Be forewarned: there are numerous graphic sexual scenes and encounters of various types. That's one of the foundations of this American's journey; so if such descriptions offend, look elsewhere. No punches are pulled, no experiences are left untouched, and readers ready for such a physical and spiritual journey will follow this American through quite a different kind of European experience than he'd originally envisioned: one which will ultimately transform him.

Will his various exploits lead to love and success on different levels? Novel readers can expect a delicious romp through soiled virtue and fate as Sid's life moves in directions he could never have predicted, taking readers along for quite a wild ride that ultimately leads to Japan, family ties, and unexpected blessings laced with new challenges.

Put Away Your Phone!
Tracy Bryan and David Barrow
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
Ebook: ASIN: B01F6DR1SO, $5.99
Paper: 9780692700884, $9.99

Emma is an unusual child: she doesn't like smart phones very much, can't understand why adults are always playing with them, and often wants to admonish those around her to "Put away your phone!" and enjoy the world.

When a visit to the zoo shows people on their phones everywhere, Emma decides to count the offenders - and during her passion to observe and confront others' inattention, she finds herself separated from her parents. What to do?

Put Away Your Phone! lends to parental read-aloud and will appeal to picture book readers with good reading skills as it follows Emma's realistic world and how she comes to view it differently.

It's a fine example of coming to terms with one's environment and it provides engaging color drawings by David Barrow as it moves beyond the challenge of a phone-dominated world and into how a child's viewpoint and righteous indignation can be funneled into more positive methods of handling life.

Kids and adults will find it a delightful read that takes a modern dilemma and views it from a new perspective, offering lessons for cell phone users and nonusers alike that teaches new emotional management skills for tackling life's annoyances and challenges.

A Fairy-tale Ending: Book One of the Charming Tales
Jack Heckel
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062420695, $6.99,

A Fairy-tale Ending: Book One of the Charming Tales opens with a handy line map, provides a prologue about a frustrated, hungry dragon, and moves quickly to the story of a beautiful kingdom, a curse, and a prophecy which gives hope to the realm.

When a disaster leaves Liz with nothing, Will proposes they go on a quest to rescue a princess from fairy tales of yore - and so begins a search for truth and the reality of long-held stories.

One of the immense pleasures of A Fairy-tale Ending lies in its humorous re-interpretation of a classic story. While other fairy tale revisions are numerous, few hold the sense of fun and tongue-in-cheek references of this production, which weaves a delightfully different perspective into all aspects of the story, from its main protagonists' personalities and quirks to the illusions behind good and evil.

From Will's desire for adventure and his sister's conviction that he is a fool for pursing legends and dreams to the challenges of actually pulling of a rescue, the story's whimsical side is not only an undercurrent to the plot but enhances every choice and movement of its protagonists.

Even readers familiar with prior retelling approaches will find these perspectives freshly wrought and satisfyingly unusual in A Fairy-tale Ending. That's the real strength of the story: its ability to take a well-worn, timeless classic and imbibe it with new life and unpredictability while staying true to the surface events that inspired the original story line.

While middle school readers and up will certainly enjoy the tale; it's especially recommended for any age reader who has prior familiarity with the classic fairy tale approaches and some of their revisionists' works. This audience will fully appreciate what Jack Heckel has done to assure that his story is a unique standout from any other approach.

The Pitchfork of Destiny: Book Two of the Charming Tales
Jack Heckel
Harper Voyager Impulse
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062359322, $6.99,

The Pitchfork of Destiny: Book Two of the Charming Tales picks up where the classic Rapunzel fairy tale leaves off, exploring the aftermath of what happens when an isolated woman lets down her hair and lets in life and the man of her dreams.

Lady Rapunzel leads a happy life until a new dragon enters her world and threatens her kingdom. Rapunzel again finds herself kidnapped - this time by an angry dragon seeking revenge - and Will also finds life repeating itself as he's forced to team up with the egotistical and dashing Edward Charming to get her back.

It's intriguing to note that nobody in The Pitchfork of Destiny is the classic 'bad guy'. The dragon happens to be lovestruck and is thwarted by a curse that never ends, and has spent eons fighting off pesky dwarfs, annoying knights, and a nut called Jason who searched for "golden fleas" (or some such thing). Since so much time's gone by, the love of his life might be either angry at his excuses for not seeing her, or possibly too involved in her own pursuit of building her reputation as a fierce dragon of another realm.

Besides, they may be incompatible: while his distant love wrecks havoc, his own reputation as a "Killing Wind" has come more from an ill-timed belch than a true desire to wreck havoc.

Rapunzel struggles with the idea that "you are not your hair", Prince Charming is hiding from fame in an isolated cottage with his wife, and Will can't be trusted not to get himself killed, forcing Charming to embark on a mission he never desired. What else can go wrong in this crazy kingdom?

There are many fairy tale retellings on the market. Most offer a twist on theme and satisfying new perspectives on traditional outcomes. But few, if any, embed the humor and fun of The Pitchfork of Destiny, which takes all its protagonists and places them in delightful new perspectives perspective that keeps readers on their toes.

From a troll who has found a good bridge but hesitates to attack travelers in the traditional manner because he's lost his courage and has resorted to being a fish eater to women who face uncertain friendships, there's a cast of familiar, yet vastly different, characters that each take their turn in the limelight.

Any who have more than absorbed traditional fairytale stories will find The Pitchfork of Destiny a delightfully fun, different adventure that takes the well-known characters of fairytale land and turns them into the unexpected. Fantasy readers to ex-fairy tale enthusiasts will all want to note this very highly recommended, rollicking romp through a kingdom both familiar and tantalizingly alien!

Witness to Greatness: The Consequential Presidency of Barack Obama in Perspective
Obi Nwasokwa
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781514452714, Hardcover:, $26.99; Paperback:, $18.99; e-book:, $5.99

From its title alone, it may be expected that Obi Nwasokwa will provide a decidedly pro-Obama perspective; but Witness to Greatness explains exactly why Obama's presidency stands out from the norm and is a recommended pick for any political science reader interested in presidential achievements and history.

Chapters trace Obama's rise to power but open with a discussion of Abe Lincoln and the factors that made him an extraordinary political figure. The opener leads into why the author believes Obama to be a similarly remarkable standout in the arena of American presidential greats, then blends neatly into exactly how Obama came to be where he is today.

Even accounting for the unabashed admiration that fuels these discussions (" my mind, measured against his fellow American presidents, Obama's achievement is rivaled in its historic majesty and social and political impact and importance only by the achievements of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln."), this account breaks new ground by creating a framework with a set of plausible benchmarks by which standout greatness can be measured and differentiated from run of the mill presidential performance; and this foundation for assessment grows from the introduction onward.

Readers follow the progress of Obama's life and career despite an early caution that "There have been few truly monumental and symbolic events in American history." This places his actions in proper perspective, considering how symbols of achievement arise over time and come to be viewed as truths as the years pass.

Comparisons to other Presidential greats and events which surrounded them move beyond Obama's notable choices and delves into the arena of steady, logical and balanced assessments of Obama's performance that supersede both the rabid condemnation and critical perspectives of most other Obama discussions. Despite these contrasting viewpoints, few books have been authored by "an unabashed admirer", and Witness to Greatness clearly remedies this situation.

Witness to Greatness is particularly recommended to Obama's biggest critics who could learn much from this reasoned account of not just Obama's life and achievements, but why they stand out from those of his Presidential predecessors.

It's also important to note that Obi Nwasokwa realizes he is not a 'writer' per se. He's never felt inspired to write a book before, and his motivation here comes from his passion for his subject and the fact that Obama's presidency has heavily influenced his life and perspective as an African American citizen.

Additionally, he's written this book not just for Americans on either side of the Obama equation, but for residents of sub-Saharan Africa and other nations who may not realize that "...for many black people, the United States is hell on earth. As a group, blacks inhabit the bottom of the American caste and do not get a fair shake in America, the laws notwithstanding."

Those who want to understand greater truths not only about Obama but, ultimately, about African-American experience and perception in this country must read Witness to Greatness: it's a multi-faceted exposition that few other books and perspectives attempt, and makes for an engrossing and thought-provoking social and political discussion all Americans should embrace.

Secret Places Revealed
Paulette Harper
Thy Word Publishing
9780989969154, $12.00,

Secret Places Revealed opens with Aaron's single-minded determination to not become involved in anything more than his blossoming, potentially successful business pursuits - but life has a way of changing even the most carefully determined plan, and so it is that Simone enters Aaron's life with her own preset obstacles to romance.

It should be mentioned that this is billed as an inspirational romance. This label means that God's hand is ever-present throughout the story line, and that spiritual references are part of the events. Even when His will is being questioned, forces are being set into place that will lead both characters in new directions: "People told her never to question God. But those who knew Simone knew her to be inquisitive. She couldn't understand why God had taken away the only man she ever truly loved. Joshua was her soul mate, her friend, the love of her life, her future children's father."

Manhattan is the backdrop for the romantic action; but both characters are experiencing lives interrupted by challenging changes when they meet, and sparks don't fly automatically when so many jigsaw pieces of their broken lives remain scattered. It will take a miracle (or divine intervention) for these wounded individuals to overcome their pain and see love and broken dreams alike forging new directions for their lives.

On the face of it, Secret Places Revealed is a romance, to be sure. But there's something deeper happening than an attraction between two powerful, professional individuals, and this is where the spiritual side of the story comes into play.

Many satisfying devices are used: street talk and slang are realistic and well done, the characters of Aaron and Simone are both visions of beauty both internally and externally, and there are many light moments sprinkled throughout, as when a young man with saggy pants tries to flirt with Simone right in front of Aaron, using a poor pick-up line that cause both to laugh.

How does healing begin and where does love enter the picture - and how does divine intervention enter into the scene? What flaws are deal-killers and what knowledge serves to solidify the passions and purposes of a deeper love?

Secret Places Revealed covers all these topics and more and is especially recommended for religious romance readers who like their protagonists powerful, sassy, human, and God-driven.

Leave Her Alone Please
Ms. Julie Osaretin Osayande
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497583498, $9.99,

Leave Her Alone Please opens with a diary-like reminiscence covering William's royal roots (which have forced his marriage to a woman he doesn't love and a lifestyle he doesn't necessarily want) and the occasion of his birthday, upon which he rejects material offerings and requests the rarer gift of privacy, asking to be left alone for a day, without the usual supervision.

His wish granted, he trades his royal clothes for those of the common man, picks up some packaged goods from the royal kitchen, and journeys to the local outdoors market to sell them, where he bumps into visiting vacationer Bambi and is enchanted by her beauty.

Can true love arise in the space of a breath between a royal-born man and a commoner? Love arises instantaneously in William's hear. Perhaps this is because it's the first time he's been allowed out on his own ("I had finally found her, in whose arms I could rest my feeble life. But did she feel the same?"), and when faced with a smorgasbord of people, he's attracted to the first item on the plate.

The attraction appears mutual, but William is a gentlemen and (unbeknownst to his newfound love) of royal blood - and married. His moment of passion holds the potential of changing his life ("I went back to the palace and didn't say or mention a word to anyone. It didn't even feel like I committed a sin, rather, it felt like I had just started living my life."), fleeting though it may be.

Leave Her Alone Please is a "short-short" story, told in some 24 pages. Any dramatic embellishment on character or theme is thus condensed into a series of quickly-evolving, fast-paced scenes that leave little space for the usual devices of character development and tension present in longer productions.

This means that barely ten pages into the story, William has thrown off the shackles of his royalty, fallen in love, attracted a commoner, slept with her, and feels the brunt of her rage when she discovers his royal roots and the fact that he's married (even though in a loveless arrangement).

How can a young woman, herself the love child of a broken home, and a royal man trapped in a web of preset institutional demands become a couple and realize their dreams? What can evolve from the tragedy and freedom promised by true love, and how will it impact future generations?

The short-short story begins and ends by questioning convention, routine, and the process by which lives are lived and loves are realized.

But wait - there's more. A second story begins midway into reading which contrasts its predecessor's experience with the lives of Karen and Joseph, whose five-year marriage has turned sour. Predictably, Joseph seeks consolation in the lap of a dedicated secretary who is devoted to this hard-working yet isolated man; and when the inevitable happens, there are hard decisions to be made.

Better editing might have resulted in smoother reading for Leave Her Alone Please, but both stories ask pertinent questions and answer them in quick order: what can or should be sacrificed in the name of love, and how does love change and, in turn, transform lives?

An Epilogue sums up the nature and point of both stories and questions whether love should override all consequences and if one of love's kindnesses would involve nurturing love but letting it go for the sake of a greater good.

Readers looking for quick reads without the complexity, depth, and challenges of fully developed people and plots will find these stories thought-provoking.

A Woman of Many Husbands: Goldie
Ms. Julie Osaretin Osayande
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530063284, $16.48,

To Goldie, 'success' doesn't mean having money or a good career (although she has both): it means being married - and so, over the years, she's had many men to whom she's attached that title without its wider implications. Now she wants something different, and she invites readers to help her along in the process as she tells her story of her relationships with many men and why things fell apart with each of them.

Readers follow Goldie from childhood games and realizations of early crushes to the evolution of her "love world" where the special boys and men in her life receive nicknames, and tentative yet frustratingly temporary relationships follow.

Twenty years later, nothing much has changed for Goldie in this arena. As she searches through relationship after relationship, guided by ideals and even Biblical passages ("For me, this verse meant that each of these men were born in me" and at a particular time in my life, they played the role of my husband."), she attends college, graduates, serves in her Nigerian nation's Youth Service Corps, and finds herself with child again and again - still without the everlasting love she craves.

Nigerian culture and customs permeate Goldie's story and introduce readers to different cultural expectations about marriage and romance as Goldie learns some hard lessons about men, commitment, and love.

Goldie's journey is the one many women take, but her Nigerian background adds a different flavor to these experiences and insights into not just Goldie's perspective and choices, but those of many women.

Better editing would have made for a smoother-flowing text (" pained him that my daughter couldn't bear his last name so that inquisitive people do not ask further questions.) but the strength of A Woman of Many Husbands: Goldie lies not in perfect English, but in its exploration of the mind of a woman from another culture who is driven to find a man she can truly call her life partner.

Life ultimately presents Goldie with several choices; each of which hold positive possibilities and lasting implications for the rest of her life. Readers are asked to help Goldie make the right choice; in the process considering the ideas, practicalities, and sacrifices involved in relationships.

Feminists may chafe heavily at many of Goldie's perceptions and her focus on gaining love to complete her already-successful (on many levels) life; but readers interested in Nigerian and African cultures and women's perspectives will recognize that A Woman of Many Husbands: Goldie is as much a lesson in understanding these passions and purposes as it is the story of a wandering woman seeking to fulfill her ideals in order to complete her definition of well-rounded success.

Carlota's Jungle Friends
Donald A. Yates
Condor Publishing
9781931079174, $11.95,

The saga of Carlota and her jungle friends opens with a map surrounded by colorful jungle-leafed edging, and begins the tale with a little jungle house somewhere in Argentina where a kind, strong hunter lives with his eleven-year-old daughter Carlota.

They choose to live in the jungle because it's too expensive to live in the city, and so Carlota's lived there since she was five, and has adapted to the quiet yet interesting environment that is her home. She's come to consider her jungle home a "park and a playground and a zoo, all rolled into one." and she has many animal friends - except for the dreaded jungle tiger (more like a jaguar). She's unafraid of this beast because between her brave hunter father and her animal friends, she feels safe and protected - but when her birthday arrives and her father leaves to get her a special gift and doesn't return, Carlota must call on all her resources and her friendships in an act of bravery that could redefine her happy jungle life.

Carlota's Jungle Friends is a portrait of friendship and offers advanced elementary-level picture book readers a fine story of not just courage, but the possibilities of friendship even with animals deemed 'useless' or comical.

A posse of seemingly-ineffectual Patagonian hares, a deadly trap, and a problem that leaves Carlota in charge of her father's fate makes for a moving story that takes some unexpected turns as it heads to its satisfying conclusion.

In the end the lesson revolves not just around courage, but upon the nature of friendships, support systems, and a brand of unexpected cleverness that turns impossible situations into creative solutions.

Kids will need good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance but both will appreciate a winning story of a birthday like no other. Highly recommended; especially for its bright and fun drawings which are colorful accompaniments to a different kind of friendship story.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Verdict in the Desert
Patricia Santos Marcantonio
Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558858237, $17.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In the summer of 1959, everyone knows his place in Arizona. Michael Shaw is an alcoholic lawyer struggling with his reputation as the son of one of Mitchell County's wealthiest, most successful attorneys. Toni Garcia, the first in her family to obtain a college degree, has returned to Borden, Arizona, because she's worried about her father's health. But as a Mexican American, she can't get a teaching job in spite of her education and intellect. Their worlds collide when Michael is assigned to represent Maria Sanchez Curry in the bloody murder of her husband and Toni, desperate for work, accepts a job as the defendant s interpreter. Maria and Ben Curry's tumultuous marriage was well documented by Maria's many visits to the ER. The couple was also well-known at local bars, where they often drank to excess. But the killing of a white man by a Mexican woman even in self-defense is not permissible in a time when justice is determined by the good-old-boys' club. Also unacceptable is the growing relationship between Michael and Toni, who fight to save Maria against all odds.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, complex and riveting novel from beginning to end, "Verdict in the Desert" reveals author Patricia Santos Marcantonio as an impressively gifted writer able to engage and consistently compel her reader's attention from beginning to end. Simply stated, "Verdict in the Desert" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and university library Literary Fiction collections.

The Washington Hypothesis
Timothy Ballard
Deseret Books
57 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
9781629721781, $22.99, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: In "The Washington Hypothesis: A Modern-day Investigator Explores the Possible Connection Between the American Covenant, Latter-day Temples, and George Washington", author Timothy Ballard explores the intriguing evidence that Washington and the other Founding Fathers knew the Lord had a greater purpose for America. Ballard takes us on a fascinating historical journey through the miracles of the Revolutionary War to the foundational documents of this great nation to the symbolism evident in every corner of the nation's capital. Exploring how Washington's beliefs framed his every action, Ballard draws compelling conclusions about the divinity of that great leader's calling. As we see the evidence of the Lord's hand in Washington's life, we may discover a much grander design at work in the founding of our nation.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, informative, deftly written, impressively researched, and extraordinary read from beginning to end, "The Washington Hypothesis" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject the "The Washington Hypothesis" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99) and an Audio CD format ($31.99).

Successful Synagogue Fundraising Today
Rabbi David A. Mersky and Abigail Harmon
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238564 $19.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Successful Synagogue Fundraising Today is a practical, step-by-step approach to fundraising programs and systems that can help your synagogue achieve growth and sustainability. Chapters Outline ways to create excitement about new models of fundraising, set up a comprehensive development program, train volunteers and staff, and find and engage current and prospective donors.

Critique: Successful Synagogue Fundraising Today: Overcoming the Fear of Asking for Money lives up to its title as a practical-minded, in-depth guide to fundraising in the twenty-first century. Chapters promote using the tools of the modern Information Age to connect with donors and excite them about participating in the synagogue's vision for the future. From the roles of clergy, staff, volunteer leadership, and (sometimes) consultants, to basic fundraising skills, to retaining donors through quality stewardship and more, Successful Synagogue Fundraising Today is an absolute "must-read" for anyone who shares in the responsibility of maintaining a synagogue.

A Way to God
Matthew Fox
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608684205 $18.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This powerful book was prompted by an invitation Matthew Fox received to speak on the centennial of Thomas Merton's birth. Fox says that much of the trouble he's gotten into - such as being expelled from the Dominican Order in 1993, after thirty-four years, by Cardinal Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict) - was because of Merton, who prompted Fox to attend the Institut Catholique in Paris to undertake a doctoral program in spirituality.

Fox reimmersed himself in Merton's journals, poetry, and religious writings, finding that Merton's marriage of mysticism and prophecy, contemplation and action closely paralleled that of Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth-century mystic who inspired Fox's own Creation Spirituality. In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton's pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.

Critique: Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was an American Catholic Trappist monk, whose passion for social justice and talent for writing generated a robust and inspirational legacy for generations to come. In A Way to God, author Matthew Fox reflects and expounds upon Merton's work, especially Merton's thoughts about comparative religion and interfaith understanding. Merton's words directly influenced the course of Fox's life and faith; now, Fox candidly shares that experience, in terms accessible to readers of all backgrounds. A Way to God is highly recommended for Christian Studies shelves, as well as collections devoted to Thomas Merton's writings or interfaith principles.

The Time Train
Eric M. Bosarge
Medallion Press, Inc.
c/o Medallion Media Group
4222 Meridian Parkway Suite 110, Aurora, IL 60504
9781942546115 $14.99

Synopsis: When Amos, a rebellious young man in the 1930s, attempts to stop time travelers from kidnapping a girl, he learns the future is overrun by aliens - and his future grandson will cause the invasion by contacting them. When the time travelers realize who Amos is, they hunt him down with murderous intent in order to save the future.

But when their plan fails, the time travelers must offer Amos an uneasy exchange - knowledge and wealth for his help in creating a secret refuge outside of time for the survivors of the alien attack. Their goal: to change the future before it happens.

Critique: The Time Train is an exciting sci-fi adventure, rife with action, tension, and suspenseful twists. Amid desperate resistance to an alien invasion lies the last hope to save the Earth - the will to do the impossible! Engrossing to the very end, The Time Train is especially recommended to science fiction enthusiasts. It should be noted that The Time Train is also available in an ebook edition.

Fall from Grace
Tim Weaver
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399562570, $26.00, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: After decades of service, Leonard Franks has stepped down from the Metropolitan Police as a high-ranking detective in the Homicide and Serious Crime Command. He and his wife, Ellie, have retired to a farmhouse in the seclusion of the English countryside, far from the clamor of London. Everything goes just as they've imagined, until the night Leonard leaves the house to fetch firewood -- and never returns. With the police investigation at a dead end nine months later, Leonard's daughter, a detective herself, turns in desperation to David Raker, a missing persons investigator with a gift for finding the lost. But nothing can prepare Raker for what he's about to find, or for the devastating secret behind this disappearance. And by the time he realizes what it is, and how deep the lies go, he finds himself in serious danger -- along with everyone he cares about.

Critique: "Fall From Grace" is another riveting novel from the pen of Tim Weaver and continues to establish him as a master of the mystery/suspense genre with this latest addition to his outstanding David Raker Mystery series. A "must" for the legions of Tim Weaver fans, and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fall From Grace" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Target Grant, 1862
Charles L. Fontenay
Silklabel Books
c/o Royal Fireworks Press
P O Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9781928767015, $9.99,

Harry Vick a present day southerner believes the South should have won the Civil War. He assumes that had General Grant of the North been killed the course of the country's history would have been changed so that the South had won. Vick finds a way to go back in time with an M1 rifle to assassinate Grant. "Target Grant, 1862" is the novel form of a short story Fontenay wrote that ran in Analog a number of years ago. Fontenay has expanded the novel and given the ending a twist that adds to the work. "Target Grant, 1862 is a great "what if" novel.

Donna Ball
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451187338, $5.99,

Jessamine Cray a TV talk show host tells the police she someone is stalking her. They believe she is the one writing the threatening notes and that she is doing it to boost her ratings. Jessamine sets out to prove that there is indeed someone terrifying her. Ball has created characters and a situation that are very believable. "Exposure" flows along with great twists and turns that any suspense fan will love.

Hollywood Ghosts
Edited by Frank D. McSherry Jr, Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg
Rutledge Hill Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214
978155831031, $9.95,

For a long time there has been a fascination with ghost stories and Hollywood. Now the editors have chosen some of the best horror writers to weave chilling tales that bring together both elements very well. Some of the authors are Robert Mccammon, Robert Bloch, Ron Goulart, Karl E Wagner, Harlan Elison, and David Morrell. "Hollywood Ghosts" is a spine tingling collections of short fiction.

The Salzdorf Wellspring
Wade Stevenson
Loveland Press LLC
P.O Box 7001 Loveland Colorado 80537
9780966269635, $12.95,

Though fiction "The Salzdorf Wellspring" uses factual material to show what happened to the art and jewels the Nazis plundered during W.W. II. Also there is one of the most memorable bad guys ever written in fiction in the character Karl Miller. He is a despicable person that has no redeeming qualities. He has no compunctions of who he kills, whether they are human or animal makes no difference he just love to kill. "The Salzdorf Wellspring is a chilling character driven thriller that moves at a breakneck pace that is timely because there are still many art treasures that have never been returned to the families that originally owned them.

White House Horrors
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978088677659, $5.99,

Greenberg, the God of the short story collection, shows impeccable taste with this terror filled gathering by some of the finest mystery, science fiction, horror writers in the field today. Some of the authors are Brian Hodge, Richard T. Chizmar, Edward Lee, Robert J Randisi to name a few. In all there are sixteen tales that show different slants of the White House. Though "Homesick" is one of the shortest, it is one of the most thought provoking chillers of a teenage boy's desire to have things the way he is most comfortable. "White House Horrors" is perfect reading for this most bizarre presidential campaign season.

Teach Your Dog To Behave
Bashkim Dibra with Elizabeth Randolph
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451179265, $6.99,

"Teach Your Dog to Behave" is the dictionary on conduct of man's best friend.
Dibra, who has trained dogs for celebrities and worked on numerous canine films, tells simple solutions to all kinds of hound behavior. Some of the things he deals with are feeding problems, sexual behavior, body language, exercises, aggression, and all kinds of bits of info from a to . Any owner of a dog should pick up a copy of "Teach Your Dog to Behave" to learn why their pet is doing certain behaviors.

Positively Young
Julia Busch
Anti Aging Press
9780963290724, $8.95,

"Positively Young" is a fun title that deals with a person's mental attitude towards the stresses of life and how to handle them. "Your focus is health, happiness and youth." Written as a game book manual Busch has a lot to say and makes it easy to learn. "Positively Young" is surefire reading to keep yourself fit in a complicated world

Face Lift Naturally
Julia Busch
Anti Aging Press
9780963290793, $14.95,

"Face Lift Naturally" deals with ancient Chinese healing arts to eliminate wrinkles that is very easy to follow. She shows that the results are so dramatic that she cautions that you might be accused of having had plastic surgery. "If you are beginning to see fine lines they can be eliminated. If your face is beginning to sag, the skin and muscles can be tightened. If your wrinkles are deep it will take a little longer, but you will definitely see results. And if your skin is still youthful you can keep it that way." "Face Lift Naturally" is an easy to follow process to looking younger that anyone can learn.

Beauty is an Inside Job
Papa Jacques Lawlor
Blue Note Press
c/o Blue Note Publications
9781878398024, $8.95,

"Beauty is an Inside Job" is a handbook by a master hair cutter who shows the right way to treat the top of the head. Lawlor, who owns beauty salons across the country, gives tips and hints on how to deal with chemical damage, curly or fizzy hair, dandruff, shampoos and a lot of other related topics. "Beauty is an Inside Job" is a valuable resource who wants to save time and money on hair care.

The Vampire Joke Book
Count Trans L. Vania
c/o Zebra Books
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786001910, $4.99,

"The Vampire Joke Book" proves you can't please everyone all of the time because some of the jokes are so bad that they are not even funny for anyone. Still others are witty and will have trembling in delight and in stitches of laughter. The Count has great taste for biting humor that makes "The Vampire Joke Book" a pleasure to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Buffalo Jump Blues
Keith McCafferty
87t Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525429593, $26.99/35.00 CA$, Hardcover, 304 pp.,

From the publisher: In the wake of Fourth of July fireworks in Montana's Madison Valley, Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather and Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger investigate a horrific scene at the Palisades cliffs, where a herd of bison [a/k/a buffalo] have fallen to their deaths. Are they victims of blind panic caused by the pyrotechnics, or a ritualistic hunting practice dating back thousands of years? The person who would know is beyond asking, an Indian man found dead among the bison, his leg pierced by an arrow. Farther up the valley, fly fisherman, painter and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan has been hired by the beautiful Ida Evening Star - - a Chippewa Cree woman who moonlights as a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill - to find her old flame, John Running Boy. The cases seem unrelated, until Sean's search leads him right to the brink of the buffalo jump.

This is the fifth entry in the series, and to call it eclectic would be an understatement. Both the fishing and wildlife aspects of it, which predominate in the early sections, are entirely foreign to this reader, whose usual preference is for character-driven novels. But the header for Chapter 8, "A Mermaid, an Arrowhead, and True Love," captures the elements of most of the rest of the book. The aforementioned Ida is the first of these, the arrowhead a piece of evidence in the search for the murderer of the Indian Man, and true love is - well, as Sean says: "True love knows not logic nor lust, but the synchronized bearing of hearts."

The bison was the "icon of the West that only a century ago had stood at the brink of extinction. When Harold comes upon the first body, he puts the dying animal out of its misery. He muses, "The irony of what he had done, killing the first bison to have returned to these ancient hunting grounds in one hundred and fifty years, was not lost on him." But he done what he had to do, and cannot second-guess himself. Shanahan is a terrific protagonist, of whom Martha says "You're what I call a Montana Renaissance man. You have about five different jobs and still you have to stick a hose down a gas tank to siphon up enough fuel to get to the store." (He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines and paint in the winter (or when he gets a commission). He says of himself "I'm a better artist than I am a detective. Or fishing guide." But he is selling himself short, as he demonstrates during the ensuing investigation, assisting Martha in the search for the man or men behind the events. The geography of Montana is vividly presented. The writing is terrific and filled with humor, e.g., "Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it." The beauty of Montana is vivid, and that and the wonderful writing have pointed me to the fourth novel in the series which I had somehow missed, "Crazy Mountain Kiss," next up for this reader.


Dead Loudmouth
Victoria Houston
Tyrus Books
c/o F&W Media
10151 Carver Rd., Ste. 200. Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
9781440568459, 206 pp., $24.99/26.99 CA$, Hardcover
9781440568442, 206 pp., $16.99/18.00 CA$, Paperback

From the publisher: It's a bright summer morning in Loon Lake when Police Chief Lewellyn ("Lew") Ferris is called to the scene of a horrific accident that occurred in the dead of night at a local "gentlemen's club." The club is owned by one of the victims, a member of the private Deer Creek Fishing and Hunting Club and the scion of a wealthy Wisconsin family. When the country coroner is unavailable due to a car accident, Chief Ferris deputizes her close friend and fellow fly-fisherman, retired dentist "Doc" Osborne, to step in. Osborne's discovery of mysterious footprints confirms Chief Ferris' suspicions. This is no accident; it's murder. Leaning on Doc Osborne for his forensic and interrogation skills, Lew also hopes to enlist the help of Ray Pradt, fishing guide and expert tracker. But Ray's time is limited as he is coaching Wisconsin State College's fishing team in a muskie fishing tournament. Things get complicated when Doc Osborne's granddaughter disappears on the first day of the tournament. Sunny June days turn dark as a desperate search ensues.

Lew's ability to investigate the murders is hampered by the fact that she has only two full-time officers on her staff; and the assistance of Doc, Lew's deputy coroner, is enabled primarily because he was the mayor's brother-in-law. She finds no shortage of suspects, at least with regard to the dead woman; the second victim not so much. The Deer Creek Club is a fascinating entity: A private preserve, with three private lakes stocked with some of the Northwoods' largest walleye and bass, it is off-limits to locals, including employees, it is comprised of over a thousand aces where never a living tree has been cut down."

The setting is lovingly made palpable. Fishing is the background music running through the tale, as a preoccupation of the characters and most of the local residents. The characters are wonderfully vivid as well, especially Doc's 11-year-old granddaughter, Mason. The plot is well-developed, and the novel as a whole is a perfect beach read; for those whose summer days include fishing, even more so.


Never Kill a Friend
Martin Hill
Ransom Note Press
9780977378708, $24.95, Hardcover, 284 pp,

From the publisher: Detective Shelley Krieg has lived her entire life in Washington, D.C. At six'4", she the giantess of DC Metro - - a tough cop who's played by the rules on her long path to becoming a detective in the city she loves. But when Rafael Hooks is arrested for killing his brother, all the rules change. Shelley fids herself not only fighting the system, but also questioning her relationships with her co-workers, her closest friends, and even her partner. It seems like an open-and-shut case: Raffi confesses to murdering his drug-dealing brother. But nothing is as it seems. Each time Shelley finds evidence to exonerate Raffi, new evidence arises to confirm his guilt. Fingerprints tying Raffi to multiple murders in both DC and neighboring Maryland suddenly appear out of thin air. And on his first night in lock-up, Raffi is nearly killed. With no allies left at DC Metro, Shelley turns to her estranged friend, Yasmira Tamer. Together Shelley and Mira uncover a web of deceit and corruption that links a Russian assassin, a high-paid DC call girl, and an urban Robin Hood who renovates his crack houses before donating them to the poor.

Shelley, a 31-year-old African-American, works out of the Third Police District of Washington Metro, which extends "from embassies and gentrified townhouses to stretches of urban decay." The book opens with Shelley being called to the scene of a gruesome murder, the details of which I will kindly omit. The young man who called 911 is 19-year-old Rafael Hooks, the aforementioned brother of the dead man, and Shelley is convinced of his innocence, his confession notwithstanding. Her investigation leads her along unexpected paths, at times putting her in the cross-hairs of the assassin, being drugged in her own home, and not knowing who to trust, including her fellow police officers. But she has to follow her conscience, and won't stop till she gets to the truth. The various plot lines did have this reader a bit confused at times (although not for too long). The writing, although I did not feel it was particularly elegant, nevertheless pulled me along to the point that, surprisingly to me, I found myself at the end within forty-eight hours of opening it up to the first page.

This is the first in a new police procedural mystery series featuring Shelley Krieg, who is both a fascinating protagonist, and one tough gal. I for one can't wait for the next one!


Written Off
E.J. Copperman
Crooked Lane Books
34 W. 27th St., 10th fl., NY, NY 10001
9781629535999, $24.99, Hardcover, 336 pp.,

This first in a new series by E.J. Copperman opens with the last two pages in the newest book by author Rachel Goldman, which is to be the fifth in her Duffy Madison series. Duffy is the consultant to the county prosecutor's office, whose forte is finding missing persons. Thinking back on the origin of her fictional character, she ruminates that she "flashed on the idea of a consultant to the police, a very specific kind of genius who would be able to find lost things and, more important, lost people when the authorities could not."

Just as she is finishing the first draft of her crime novel, the fifth entry in the series, she gets a phone call from a stranger asking for help in a missing person case. The odd thing about it? Her protagonist suddenly appears to have come to life when her caller identifies himself as Duffy Madison. Convinced, as wouldn't we all be, that the man had serious mental problems, she hangs up on him. Only to have him approach her soon afterwards at a booksigning, insisting that he is indeed her protagonist, her creation, having come to life before her very eyes, and that he is indeed Duffy Madison. He tells her that he is "not someone with the same name and profession as your fictional character . . . it's' not a pretense. I really am Duffy Madison, and after gathering all the facts about your work that I could find, I believe that, somehow, you created me." He appears to have come to life four years ago, when she started writing him, with no sign that he existed prior to that.

As odd, one might even say weird, as that may seem (and Rachel is convinced that the man is mad - - and who could blame her?), Duffy [he insists that that's his name] explains that he is looking into the recent disappearance of a woman who happens to also be a mystery writer, the fourth female mystery author to have been kidnapped in the recent past, all in different states, this one being the first in New Jersey, all three later found murdered. For some reason Rachel has acceded to accompany him in his investigation, despite being quite certain that he was only an "odd manifestation of a fictional character." And things take an ever stranger turn when Rachel gets threatening e-mails indicating that she is next on the killer's list.

This could only be an E.J. Copperman creation, as any reader of the author's Asperger's and Haunted Ghosthouse series can attest. There is a mystery here, and quite creative and suspenseful it is, but the overriding aspect of this book is the author's singular and trademark humor. I can attest to the fact that every page, and nearly every sentence, of this delightful book is laugh-out-loud funny, and the smile almost never left my face for the two days it took me to read it. It is simply terrific, and is highly recommended.

The Melody Lingers On
Mary Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave. NY, NY 10020
9781476749112, $26.99/34.99 CA$/20.00 BPS, 262 pp., Hardcover
9781476049129, $7.99/10.99 CA$/7.99 BPS, 384 pp, Paperback

From the publisher: As the sole assistant to a famous upscale interior designer, Lane Harmon is accustomed to visiting opulent homes. A born optimist, Lane finds the glimpse into these gilded worlds fascinating. When she is called to a modest townhouse outside NYC, Lane knows the job is unusual. Then she learned the home belongs to the wife of notorious and disgraced financier Parker Bennett. Bennett was last seen two years ago on his sailboat in the Caribbean. After he went missing, the world discovered the five-billion-dollar investment fund he managed had also vanished. The scandal over whether Bennett was suicidal or staged his disappearance still continues. His clients and the federal government want to trace the money and bring Bennett to justice, if he's still living. Lane is surprised to find herself moved by Mrs. Bennett's calm dignity and faith in her husband's innocence. Gradually, Lane is also drawn to Eric, the Bennetts' son, who is similarly determined to prove his father is not guilty. But Lane doesn't realize the closer she gets to the Bennetts, the more she puts her life, and her four-year-old daughter's life, in jeopardy.

The significance of the title is not known till very near to the final pages of this suspenseful book. In her trademark fashion, the author has provided several interesting characters, from Lane, who had "lost her father in a plane crash when she was seven and her husband in a car crash when she was twenty-five and pregnant;" her boss, the tyrannical Glady (no, that's not a typo) Harper; as well as the FBI and assorted other investigators and medical professionals.

It is no spoiler to state that the Madoff-like Bennett, now 72 years old, is alive and living well in the Virgin Islands. Lane, the daughter of a congressman and stepdaughter of a very powerful columnist and perhaps the most sympathetic in the novel, is convinced that Eric had nothing to do with his father's fraud, but the authorities are not quite so sure, and they are determined to find proof, one way or the other, of his innocence (or lack thereof), as well as that of his mother. Lane is attracted to Eric, who seems quite smitten with her, as indeed her daughter is with Eric. The reader already knows that Bennett's lover, Sylvie de la Marco, is not only fully aware of the man's present whereabouts, but has kept herself well-cared for by his continuing 'generosity.'

The final several chapters are very brief, leading up to a scintillating denouement. The novel is yet another very well-written entry in this author's oeuvre, and is recommended.

The Governor's Wife
Michael Harvey
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
9780307958648, $24.95, Hardcover, 256 pp.
9780307948847, $16.00/22 CA$, Paperback, 238 pp.

From the publisher: Chicago's favorite Ovid-reading, gun-toting private investigator takes on Illinois' first family in a blistering thriller that charts the border where ambition ends and evil begins. It's been two years since disgraced Illinois governor Ray Perry disappeared moments after being sentenced to thirty-seven years in prison on corruption charges. P.I. Michael Kelly is sitting in his office when he gets an anonymous e-mail offering him nearly a quarter of a million dollars if he will find Perry, no questions asked. Kelly's investigation begins with the woman Perry left behind - - his wife, Marie. Ostracized by her former friends and hounded by the feds, Marie tells Kelly has no idea where her husband is. Like everyone else, Kelly doesn't believe her. As he unwinds Marie Perry's past, Kelly finds a woman who is even more intriguing than her husband, with her own deeply complicated reasons for standing by him. Everyone in Chicago, including the governor's wife, has secrets, some of which could get Michael Kelly killed.

The mysteries, and the secrets, abound, and the author does a superlative job of laying it all out for the reader, ever more complicated as the tale evolves. And it appears that Kelly isn't the only man who's been hired, for good money, by an anonymous "client" to do investigative work with regard to the Perry case. Kelly, an ex-cop, has few if any leads, and he mines his friendship with another cop to try to develop any as he plugs away at the investigation. A particularly fascinating creation is Billy "Bones" McIntyre, the father of the eponymous woman, described by the author as a man whose "hands were thick and strong . . . they reminded me of my father, who beat his children sometimes because he liked the sound."

The identity of the client remains hidden until near the conclusion of the book. No clues will be given here, but it is a stunner. As the author tells us, "at the end of the day, it was all about the money." As always, the author paints a very evocative portrait of Chicago, a city he knows very well and allows the reader to gain quite a bit of knowledge as to its physical geography as well as the essence of things not always evident to the casual observer. A very enjoyable read, and one which is recommended. I look forward to reading Mr. Harvey's newest, "Brighton."

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
Michael McClung
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503390652, $14.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 217pp,

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids is a very good sword and sorcerer action adventure. It is the first book in the series so be prepared to buy the next installment.

Amra Thetys is a thief -- a very good thief. When one of her few friends, also a thief, is butchered, she decides she has to take revenge. This vow for vengeance puts her between the aristocracy ruling the city and an immortal magical being and his minions. She suddenly finds most of the city either wants her dead or is willing to watch her die. Amra finds herself as a pawn between forces that run her world with her only true supporter an old magician with problems of his own.

McClung has written a great sword and sorcerer fantasy. The world and characters he has created come to life for the reader. Amra is a heroine you will root for. Although the story is complete, it is an obvious introduction to a much larger series. The book is a steal at its 99 cent e-price and is an easy recommendation to any fantasy reader. If you prefer paper to e-print, the $9.99 paperback price is well worth the money.

Blood Land
R. S. Guthrie
Wind River Press
9780983511267, $9.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 231pp,

There are many ways to classify an author. One of the better is to find out if they are a wordsmith or a storyteller. Guthrie is a wordsmith. The first third of the book is filled with elegant words but the storyline is muddy. The middle of the novel is when Guthrie finally starts to tell an interesting story. Unfortunately the ending is contrived with little setup.

Sheriff James Pruett's wife is murdered by his in-laws. Pruett is an aging damaged man who has to pull himself together to find out what has happened and how millions of dollars in gas leases became part of the murder. He struggles his way through the investigation and find corruption and murder behind every lead.

Guthrie writes beautifully but the storyline and much of the tale is weak. For readers who love the pictures words can make this is an ideal book. For those who prefer a logical mystery, you will have to work very hard to find it in this novel. It is an easy recommendation for anyone familiar with Wyoming but for most mystery readers there are better books at lower prices.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Should Have Played Poker
Debra H. Goldstein
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432831592, $25.95, HC, 244pp,

Synopsis: Carrie Martin's precarious balancing of her corporate law job and visiting her father at the Sunshine Village retirement home is upset when her mother appears, out of the blue, in Carrie's office twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession she once considered killing Carrie's father. Carrie seeks answers about her past from her father prior to facing what is in the envelope. Before she can reach his room, she finds her mother murdered and the woman who helped raise her seriously injured. Instructed to leave the sleuthing to the police, Carrie's continued efforts to discover why someone would target the two most important women in her life quickly put her at odds with her former lover--the detective assigned to her mother's case. As Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village Mah jongg players, attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama's past secrets in this fast paced cozy mystery, their efforts put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren't always what she was taught to believe.

Critique: "Should Have Played Poker" is another terrific mystery from the pen of Debra Goldstein and the latest installment in her outstanding 'Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery' series. While unreservedly recommended for all community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Should Have Played Poker" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Homicide in the House
Colleen J. Shogan
Camel Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603813334, $14.95, PB, 258pp,

Synopsis: Kit Marshall has bounced back from her first brush with the law, when she was suspected of murdering her senator boss. Now she is working for a freshman congresswoman, Maeve Dixon, a young Gulf War veteran representing North Carolina. It's February, and Kit is feeling out of sorts. A government shutdown has just been announced, wreaking havoc on the Hill, and Dan, Dixon's chief of staff and Kit's supervisor, is an inexperienced lightweight flying blind. Then there's Kit's distracted live-in boyfriend, Doug, who doesn't seem any closer to popping the question. Kit's best friend Meg is up to her eyeballs with her new beau and oversight committee job, and Clarence the beagle mix will certainly not win Capitol Canine if Meg has to campaign for him all by herself. Bad as things are now, they are about to get much worse.

Early one morning Representative Dixon is caught standing over the corpse of Jack Drysdale, the Speaker of the House's top staffer, a man she argued with in front of the press the day before. The murder weapon was the Speaker's gavel. This item was entrusted to Dixon at the time, leading the police to believe they've found their killer. To save her job, Kit must clear her boss's name, and quickly. Dixon's career may be over if the police declare her a suspect or an anonymous blogger known as Hill Rat breaks the story. Solving this murder will test Kit's courage and all her fledgling powers of deduction as she roams a spooky, sparsely populated Capitol Hill looking for clues and sounding out suspects.

Critique: Author Colleen J. Shogan has penned yet another riveting mystery set into a national political framework and continues to prove herself to be a master of the genre. A deftly crafted read from first page to last, and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Homicide in the House" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.95).

In the Shadow of the Gods
Rachel Dunne
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062428134, $15.99, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: The debut introducing Rachel Dunne's outstanding heroic fantasy "Bound Gods" series, "In the Shadow of the Gods" is a dark epic novel in which a mismatched band of mortals led by a violent, secretive man must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world. Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the Twins grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny - to set off a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it. When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters - Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law. These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun and plunging their world into darkness.

Critique: A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "In the Shadow of the Gods" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. For the personal reading lists of action/adventure heroic fantasy fans it should be noted that "In the Shadow of the Gods " is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing
Brendan Clark
Graphic Arts Books
PO Box 56118, Portland, OR 97238-6118
9781943328482, $17.99, HC, 104pp,

Synopsis: Brendan Clark is a graduate of Western Washington University's English Department, where he studied creative writing, technical writing, and world religions. As the Publishing Director at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, he designs books for independent local authors and consults with them on using IngramSpark to print and distribute their titles.

In "The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing" Brenday draws upon his years of experience and expertise to create an instruction guide for novice authors who, having written a manuscript, are unsure how to get that manuscript transformed into a published book and subsequently into the hands of readers. Crafting raw text into a physical or digital book that can be sold and read is a time-consuming, multifaceted process. Independent authors need not face this challenge alone but can equip themselves for success with skilled professional collaborators and a tool that combines multiple essential functions under one virtual roof with IngramSpark. In today's diverse, competitive book market, authors have access to an array of online publishing and print-on-demand services. IngramSpark combines affordable, high-quality book production with the distribution channels of the largest book distributor in the world, making titles available to thousands of book retailers worldwide.

This guidebook walks the aspiring author through the process of editing, designing, printing, and marketing their manuscript, and provides a thorough overview of the many versatile services IngramSpark offers to indie publishers of all stripes ranging from humble scribblers, to ambitious superstar authors, to established small presses. You'll learn how to enhance the readability of your book, get the most out of your publishing budget, convert your physical book into digital e-book form, efficiently fulfill orders for your book, and generate buzz beyond your local community of acquaintances. "The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing" isn't just a manual for utilizing IngramSpark, but also a crash course in the intricacies of becoming a successful independently published author.

Critique: The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing is a practical-minded, user-friendly resource, and a "must-read" for aspiring authors. While highly recommended for community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing" is also available in a paperback edition (9781943328352, $7.99) and in a Kindle format ($5.99).

One Man's War
P. M. Kippert
Academy Chicago
c/o Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613733561, $14.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: "One Man's War" by P. M. Kippert follows the journey of one man, Bob Kafak, through his experiences as a rifleman in a frontline company during World War II. It makes visceral the fear, the filth, and the cold that were his constant companions. Kafak is a reluctant hero who intentionally pisses off the brass to avoid promotion because he has seen too many of his commanding officers get blown to pieces and he doesn't want to be next. He fights from the beaches of Anzio in Italy and battles up through the South of France toward Germany, facing one terrible heart-pounding encounter after another. Seen through Kafak's thick-lensed army-issued glasses, the wider implications of the war remain blurry while he focuses on the simple, urgent needs of survival: keep your head down, keep your feet dry, gain the next six feet of ground, and concentrate on what tomorrow will bring.

Critique: With an impressive attention to detail and with a consummate skill as a storyteller, "One Man's War" clearly documents author P. M. Kippert's exceptional ability to consistently engage his reader from first page to last. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "One Man's War" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.59).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Vita Brevis
Ruth Downie
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
Tantor Media, Inc.
6 Business Park Road, Old Saybrook, CT 06475
9781620409589, $26.00, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Ruso and Tilla's excitement at arriving in Rome with their new baby daughter is soon dulled by their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt landlords and vermin-infested tenements. There are also far too many doctors, some of whom are skilled, but others who are positively dangerous. Ruso thinks he has been offered a reputable medical practice only to find that his predecessor Doctor Kleitos has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on the doorstep and the warning, "Be careful who you trust." Distracted by the body and his efforts to help a friend win the hand of a rich young heiress, Ruso makes a grave mistake, causing him to question both his competence and his integrity. With Ruso's reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family from Doctor Kleitos's debt collectors and find allies in their new home while they track down the vanished doctor and find out the truth about the heiress's dead father, Ruso's patient, and the unfortunate man in the barrel.

Critique: A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "Vita Brevis" clearly establishes author Ruth Downie as a consummate and accomplished master of historical crime fiction. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Vita Brevis" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Librarians please note the "Vita Brevis" is also an ideal addition to the audio book shelf in its complete and unabridged Audio CD format from Tantor Audio (9781494552794, $29.99, MP3).

Drawn Together
Sybilla Avery Cook
Concordia University Publishing
2811 NE Holman Street, Portland, OR 97211
9781934961056, $29.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: For nearly a century, children have been enchanted by the picture books of Berta and Elmer Hader without knowing anything about the fascinating lives of this Coldecott Award-winning author-illustrator couple for "The Big Snow" (1949). Elmer fought the fires that erupted in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and earned enough money as a vaudeville actor to study impressionist art in France. Berta was a Mexico-born fashion illustrator who met Elmer in San Francisco while living on Telegraph Hill. After marrying and moving to Nyack, new York, they hosted parties with journalists, artists, and Broadway's elite, every weekend was spent in the home they designed and built with their own hands (and the hands of their many friends). Years later they rallied their neighbors and forces a change to the construction path of the Tappan Zee Bridge that saved their little community. A unique and interesting story unfolds as author Sybilla Cook takes you on a journey with the Haders - through two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and vast changes which occurred in the first half of the twentieth century to the education system and the children's book publishing industry. The Haders' lives and their work are quintessential and timeless examples of how the power of children's art and literature affects the world for good.

Critique: Impressively well researched, written, organized and presented, "Drawn Together: The Biography of Caldecott Award-winning Authors Berta and Elmer Hader" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Drawn Together" is also available in a paperback edition 9781934961063, $19.95).

Living Right
Laila Ibrahim
Flaming Chalice Press
9780692555095, $10.95, PB, 292pp,

Synopsis: Jenn Henderson is proud of the church-centered life she's created for her family. She prays each morning, attends worship every Sunday, and confidently takes up the struggle to defend traditional marriage when she learns marriage licenses are being issued to gays and lesbians in nearby San Francisco. But the certainty that she is living right falters after her teenage son, Josh, swallows a bottle of sleeping pills. Her fear deepens when she discovers that Josh struggles with same-sex attraction. If she's living right, how can Josh be gay?

Desperate for a cure, Jenn and her husband send Josh to a Christian conversion therapy camp recommended by their trusted pastor. Jenn is unwavering in her faith that Josh can be transformed by the grace of God. But as the story unfolds, her husband, son, and daughters seem to be questioning her deepest values, threatening irreparable damage to the tight-knit Henderson family.

In "Living Right", author Laila Ibrahim deftly writes an intimate story about a mother's struggle to reconcile her religious beliefs with her son's sexual orientation. "Living Right" strips away the politics of gay rights to reveal what's really at stake in this ongoing conflict: family.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, author Laila Ibrahim writes with insight and compassion about a very 'real world' issue -- gay children born of straight parents with strong religious convictions hostile to homosexuality. A consistently compelling read from first page to last, "Living Right" is unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Living Right" is also currently available for free in a Kindle edition for Amazon subscribers.

Interviewing Children
Debra Ann Poole
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433822155, $69.95, HC, 233pp,

Synopsis: Because of children's incomplete language development, their greater risk of retrieving inaccurate information in response to memory cues, and their desire to say what they think the interviewer wants to hear (whether truthful or not), child eyewitness testimony can be unreliable. In "Interviewing Children: The Science of Conversation in Forensic Contexts", Debra Ann Poole (Professor of Psychology at Central Michigan University) presents a flexible, evidence-based approach to interviewing children that reduces the ambiguities and errors in children's responses. Through Professor Poole's descriptions of best practices, brief summaries of supporting research, and example interview dialogs, readers are provides a roadmap for anyone working in a forensic context.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Interviewing Children: The Science of Conversation in Forensic Contexts" is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-eight pages of References and a fourteen page Index. Of special note is the chapter devoted to 'Protocols and Interviewer Training'. A critically important and essential addition to professional, college, and university library Psychology & Counseling instructional reference collections, "Interviewing Children' must be considered as essential reading for those who interview children, supervise interviewers, review interview findings, or craft local policies about interviewing children.

Feed Your Fertility
Emily Bartlett & Laura Erlich
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781592336623, $21.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Emily Bartlett (who runs a busy Chinese medicine practice in Los Angeles, California, and authors a blog at about fertility, natural health, and nutrition) and Laura Erlich (who is the clinical director of Mother Nurture Wellness based in West Los Angeles and Silverlake, California; teaches continuing education classes to other acupuncturists and attends births as a doula; and blogs on women's health issues at, "Feed Your Fertility: Your Guide to Cultivating a Healthy Pregnancy with Chinese Medicine, Real Food, and Holistic Living" is specifically written for women who want to make a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy; are interested in a holistic approach to fertility; who need to optimize their fertility due to age or health conditions; and are you trying to conceive and experiencing challenges.

"Feed Your Fertility" deftly addresses such issues as: How your lifestyle may be inhibiting your ability to conceive - and what to do about it; Why popular fertility diets may be leading you down the wrong road; What foods to eat to optimize and nourish your fertility, and how to adopt a real foods diet; How to determine your personal health imbalances that may be interfering with your fertility; How to use Chinese medicine to bring your body into balance and improve your odds of conception; How to streamline your supplements and take only what you really need; Your natural and medical treatment options for common fertility issues; How to navigate the medical fertility world and when to seek help; Get your pregnancy on track the natural, time-tested way and enjoy your journey to motherhood with Feed Your Fertility.

Critique: What you eat and drink has a vital and biological impact on the human body, including a woman's fertility. Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary, "Feed Your Fertility: Your Guide to Cultivating a Healthy Pregnancy with Chinese Medicine, Real Food, and Holistic Living" is especially recommended as practical and invaluable reading for any woman considering pregnancy, has become pregnant, is experiencing difficulties with their pregnancy, or is having trouble becoming pregnant. Simply stated, no community library's Health & Medicine collection should be considered comprehensive or adequate without the inclusion of a copy of "Feed Your Fertility". It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Feed Your Fertility" is also readily available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine
Agnes Oblas
New Paths to Healthcare, LLC
Ray Road Medical Center
13838 S. 46th Place, Suite #340, Phoenix, Arizona, 85044
978069230908, $19.99, PB, 174pp,

Synopsis: "The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine" by certified adult nurse practitioner Agnes Oblas is a compilation of essays on medical topics of interest to the lay reader. Common diseases or conditions are presented with illustrations and easy to understand graphs or charts. Resources are also identified for more in depth information. "The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine" is specifically designed to serve the reader as a basic reference and guide to 30 common medical and health related topics. Readers will find these topics to be pertinent, helpful, and reader-friendly. The essays are presented with resources, fun facts, and time lines to make the reading even more enjoyable. Some of the essays also include a section called "The Savvy Healthcare Consumer", which highlights points about that essay's topic which the reader should be aware of as it relates to a visit to a healthcare provider. Readers will find these essays free of medical jargon (or with medical terminology definitions included) yet scientifically and medically sound. The purpose of "The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine" is to educate and clarify some complex medical issues while at the same time allowing the reader to enjoy the experience!

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine" is alphabetically formatted from Antioxidants to Tuberculosis. Of particular interest is the entry on 'Making the Most of Your Visit with Your Primary Care Provider' and the concluding chapter on 'The Savvy Healthcare Consumer'. While unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for community library Health/Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.45).

Managing Costume Collections: A Primer
Louise Coffey-Webb
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729568, $40.58, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" by Louise Coffey-Webb offers systematic approaches to organization, accessibility, record keeping, safety, and a host of other stewardship concerns related to managing costume collections of every type. Conceived to address needs long identified by the Costume Society of America, "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" is a detailed guide that is written for a broad spectrum of collection managers at museums, historical societies and houses, university theaters and study collections, and company archives, as well as for vintage dealers, private collectors, and living history performers.

Drawing on the wisdom of many disciplines, "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" takes a holistic approach to problem-solving, explaining appropriate procedures and the reasons behind them, to arm collection managers, specialists and nonspecialists alike, with sufficient tools to make informed decisions on their own. This comprehensive manual also offers alternative solutions to the recommended guidelines.

Although there are books on costume conservation, there is a paucity of available material on costume-collection management. "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" is the first work in collection management to address a wide audience, from general to academic and hobbyist to professional, interested specifically in costume.

Critique: Louise Coffey-Webb has worked as curator, collection manager, adjudicator, professor, conservation assistant, and independent consultant with costume collections both large and small. Her knowledge of managing costume collections comes from moving collections into new storage, traveling and lecturing internationally, and helping save collections from imminent destruction. In writing "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" she draws upon her many years of experience and expertise to produce a comprehensive, yet thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual that is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations; two appendices ('Useful Resources Suppliers, Conservation, and General Information and Databases' and 'Forms You Can Use'); a four page Select Bibliography; and a twenty-one page Index. While very highly recommended as a critically essential addition to community, theatrical, professional, museum, and academic library costuming instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Managing Costume Collections: A Primer" is also available in a paperback edition (9780896729575, $24.95).

How Can I Keep from Singing
Loretta Cobb
Livingston Press
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470

9781604891652, $30.00, HC, 262pp,

Synopsis: Bonita Byrnes comes of age during the civil rights movement in Birmingham's working class neighborhoods. Pearl, her mother, runs a boarding house. Ida, her black cook with enormous faith, becomes her confidante as Pearl goes from one bad relationship to another, leaving Bonita's father for a young Marine, just home from Korea. Their lives are complicated by what we now would call his PTSD from World War II. He drinks to excess, becomes violent at times, and moves from job to job. Lucinda, her older sister, does not like the stepfather. Bonita's father Phil marries a new wife and does very little to help with the girls though he is quick to criticize Pearl's efforts. His first wife, Priscilla, is more than willing to help Pearl and her girls. The two women bond as they care for their children together when Pearl is on hard times.

Critique: A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "How Can I Keep from Singing" is all the more impressive considering that it is Loretta Cobb's debut as a novelist -- although not so unexpected considering that she is the Director Emerita of the Harbert Writing Center at the University of Montevallo (Alabama's only public liberal arts college). While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How Can I Keep from Singing" is also available in a paperback edition ($9781604891669, $17.95).

Why Am I Here?
Joyce Keller
ARE Press
215 - 67th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-2061
9780876048580, $12.95 PB, $12.30 Kindle, 128pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Why Am I Here?: A Concise Guide to Your Purpose and Potential", author and psychic Joyce Keller points out that everyone of us were born for a reason. Understanding our purpose can bring a joy and fulfillment to life that cannot be surpassed by anything material. There s no special trick to finding what life is all about but it does take a bit of work and a little self-study. "Why Am I Here?" can help us recognize important aspects of ourselves that will give us signs to our true purpose. Using everything from angel guides and astrology to karmic patterns and the Akashic records, readers will learn how to embrace the life that was meant to be as they move through this simple yet powerful guidebook to their individual purpose and potential.

Critique: Joyce Keller is an American television and radio host, author, and psychic medium. She has hosted a live radio show since 1989 on New York's WGBB, and is featured in the Simon & Schuster edition of "100 Top Psychics in America". In "Why Am I Here?: A Concise Guide to Your Purpose and Potential" she draws upon her many years of experience and expertise to write a deftly crafted and thoroughly 'reader friendly' instructional self-help guide that is as unique as it is insightfully practical. Of special note is the section on 'The Karmic Keys'. Enhanced with the inclusion of five appendices and a bibliography, "Why Am I Here?" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers. "Why Am I Here" is especially endorsed for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, and academic library Metaphysical Sciences supplemental studies reading lists.

The Inequality Equalizer
Jena Abernathy
c/o American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781634253741, $27.95, HC, 310pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Inequality Equalizer", career coach and executive search consultant Jena Abernathy shares real-world success strategies for young professionals in a no-nonsense guide that will help them balance their "junkyard dogs" and "pedigrees," strategize their careers, and gain the confidence, skills, and know-how they need to get results, make winning impressions, and build long-lasting success on their way to the C-suite. Packed from cover to cover with real-world anecdotes and case studies, "The Inequality Equalizer" insightfully illustrates how everyday experiences can propel or thwart the career objectives of young women entering the cutthroat world of business. "The Inequality Equalizer" discusses: treating a strong brand for yourself that defines who you are, what you want, and what you want to be known for; asking the most of the opportunities and risks that come to anyone climbing the corporate ladder; strategizing your career - want it, claim it, own it; and understanding corporate culture and business etiquette.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Inequality Equalizer" will prove to be of enduring value for anyone (but especially women) seeking to establish and advance themselves in a corporate environment. Practical, insightful, as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Inequality Equalizer" is unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university collections. For the personal reading lists of business students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The Inequality Equalizer" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.68).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women
Editors Charles Ades Fishman & Smita Sahay
Kasva Press LLC
9780991058457, $24.95, PB, 585pp,

I'll start by saying that this anthology needs to be in the curriculum of colleges and universities, law enforcement academies, and women's shelters around the world. Wherever injustice, crimes of barbaric violence, or bestial cruelty occur, this anthology should be mandatory reading. I couldn't simply read it for review. The memories and experiences inside were shared so beautifully, ferociously, intensely that I had to savor every word.

More than 250 poets and writers, men and women from every continent on Earth, contributed to this anthology. Individual voices shine light onto secret horrors and hidden atrocities perpetrated by male violence, privilege and power in modern and ancient times. Common threads of rape, child abuse, genital mutilation, spousal abuse and every kind of cruelty imaginable are shared with incredible compassion, white hot rage, heartbreaking resilience or icy acceptance.

This anthology is not for the faint of heart. And yet, it is a book of hope and courage that has the power to bring out the best in all of us. These are powerful words by some of the best living writers and poets today. Veils, Halos and Shackles is a significant book of literary, cultural, and social excellence and highly recommended to mature readers everywhere.

F.E. Mazur
Royalty Ridge Books
9780692615287, $15.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 300pp,

Mazur has taken a topic well-known to modern day writers and transformed it into a fictionalized version of reality. He weaves the story with honesty and humor, plus an undercurrent of danger and suspense.

Writers everywhere share the dream of seeing their work published and holding a book in their hands. They imagine great success, book signings across the country, being on the New York Times best seller list. Unfortunately, traditional publishing houses and literary agents favor celebrities or established names and rarely take a chance on unknown writers. No response, slow response, or copies of faded copies of rejection letters is their pointed reply to submissions. After such rejections, writers often turn to POD publishers - print on demand. Many POD publishers are reputable but some are not. When Wyatt Falkner submits his first novel to Quotidian Release, he soon discovers this POD publisher is not one of the good guys. Tor Schacter owns Quotidian. When his most outspoken critics end up dead, Wyatt wonders if Schacter is involved.

Wyatt's girlfriend, Patsy Lukeheart, is an investigative reporter. Together, they surf writer message boards for information about Schacter and the murdered critics, hoping to find answers. What Wyatt finds is troubling: Schacter is unscrupulous and Quotidian is not a good choice for any serious writer. Every message board has bitter complaints about the man and his company: no promotion, no marketing, no editing, no book store placement. Schacter himself responds to author complaints, anger, and threats of legal action with derision and ruthless calm. He deliberately adds fuel to every author's rage and watches them squirm from a distance. As Wyatt and Patsy uncover layers of hidden information about Schacter and Quotidian, their own lives are at risk. Who is murdering writers and critics? Will they survive to solve the mystery?

Any writer out there will find helpful information about the publishing game in Mazur's book and be entertained by it too. Readers who enjoy mystery and suspense will find a different twist here.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

A New Leash On Life
Kara Hamilton, author
Alexandria Gold, illustrator
Nothing But the Truth LLC
9780996899918, $24.50 HC, $11.99 PB,

"A New Leash On Life" tells a story of adjustment when the parents of Smoky, a miniature apricot poodle, welcome a new family member, a baby. "A New Leash On Life" uses appealing narrative verse and charming, fuzzy soft-colored illustrations to speak directly to an audience of young children. The point of the story is to encourage families and parents to be patient with an adjustment process when they bring home a new baby to a household that already has a treasured pet. While the human baby is helpless and demanding at first, the pet also needs to adjust to a different amount of human attention from adults, also sharing space with a new family member. Tips and techniques for training young children in appropriate ways of interacting with dogs are specified. Included in "A New Leash On Life" is a Q & A section with the Moms of the Humane Society of the United States. There is also a helpful Baby Training Manual addressed towards a small child, to give advice about positive ways to interact with a dog. "A New Leash On Life" offers young families a valuable resource to encourage the retaining of a beloved pet after the birth of a new family member. The author chooses to support the work of the Humane Society of the United States by donating 10% of the profits from "A New Leash On Life" to it's cause.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Krav Maga Professional Tactics
David Kahn
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594393556, $24.95, PB, 352pp,

Israeli krav maga is the official self-defense system of the Israel Defense Forces. Krav maga training shares the same principles for civilians, law enforcement, and military personnel alike to deliver them from harm's way. Goals however, are different for law enforcement and military personnel.

A step-by-step, illustrated instruction manual, "Krav Maga Professional Tactics: The Contact Combat System of the Israeli Martial Arts " by David Kahnis (the United States chief instructor for the Israeli Krav Maga Association) is specifically designed for security-conscious civilians, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and security professionals alike who want to improve their chances of not just surviving an armed attack, but increase the odds of prevailing without serious injury.

Krav maga's popularity in professional law enforcement, military, and security circles is attributable to its practicality, simplicity, quick retention, easy learning curve, and brutal effectiveness. This effectiveness is built on a few core tenets and simple building blocks. General principles are applied and customized to suit the needs of a dynamic violent situation.

"Krav Maga Professional Tactics" covers: Mind-sets, reactions, and tactics in response to violence; The highest-level counters against multiple armed attacks and threats; Core kick, clinch, and tackle defenses; Core ground survival tactics; Multiple-opponent strategies and tactics; Impact weapon defenses; Edged weapon defenses; Firearm disarms and retention. "Krav Maga Professional Tactics" includes 954 detailed photographs and is the most up-to-date presentation tactics relevant to the most common violent scenarios.

Critique: Absolutely and impressively 'user friendly' in content, organization and presentation, "Krav Maga Professional Tactics" is the perfect 'to it yourself' training manual available for an American readership on Krav Maga martial arts. While unreservedly recommended for dojo, community, college, and university library Martial Arts instructional reference collections, it should be noted for martial arts students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Israeli martial arts that "Krav Maga Professional Tactics" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Touch of the Sacred
F. Gerrit Immink
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
2140 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802869159, $30.00, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: In "The Touch of the Sacred: The Practice, Theology, and Tradition of Christian Worship", Gerrit Immink (Rector and Professor of Homiletics at Protestant Theological University, Groningen, the Netherlands) offers thoughtful theological reflection on the religious practice of worship services in the Protestant tradition. Addressing such questions as: What really happens during a worship service? How do worshipers participate in the service? What does it mean to sing, pray, and celebrate the Lord's Supper together? What do worshipers do when they listen to a sermon?, Professor Immink develops a theology of worship with a clear focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as he explores the meaning of worship, the mystery of Christ, the sacraments, prayer, and preaching. Ultimately, he says, something dynamic happens when a church congregation speaks and acts: it is touched by the sacred, by a very encounter with the living God.

Critique: Informative, thoughtful, exceptionally well reasoned and an impressively organized and presented work of theological scholarship, "The Touch of the Sacred: The Practice, Theology, and Tradition of Christian Worship" is especially commended to the attention of the clergy, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. Indeed, "The Touch of the Sacred" would prove to be an enduringly valued and appreciated addition to personal, church, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies & Theology reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

Mark Twain, American Humorist
Tracy Wuster
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826220561, $60.00, HC, 483pp,

Synopsis: Tracy Wuster is the president of the American Humor Studies Association and the book review editor of the 'Studies in American Humor' journal. He is also the co-director of the Humor in America Project at the University of Texas. In "Mark Twain: American Humorist" Wuster draws upon his own impressive writing skills and personal research to deftly examine the ways that Mark Twain's reputation developed at home and abroad in the period between 1865 and 1882. These were the years in which Twain went from a regional humorist to national and international fame. In the late 1860s, Mark Twain became the exemplar of a school of humor that was thought to be uniquely American. As he moved into more respectable venues in the 1870s, especially through the promotion of William Dean Howells in the Atlantic Monthly, Mark Twain muddied the hierarchical distinctions between class-appropriate leisure and burgeoning forms of mass entertainment, between uplifting humor and debased laughter, and between the literature of high culture and the passing whim of the merely popular.

Critique: An exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented study that is as informed and informative as it is insightful and comprehensive, "Mark Twain: American Humorist" is enhanced still further wit the inclusion of illustrations, seventy-eight pages of Notes; an eighteen page Bibliography; a four page Index of Works; and a ten page Index of Subjects. An extraordinary study that will of an enduring value for scholarship and one which will prove to have an enduring interest for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and accomplishments of Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a unique author who rose to international fame and whose novels are considered American literary classics and whose humor helped to shape the American popular culture of his day), "Mark Twain: American Humorist" is unreservedly recommended as an essential addition to community, college, and university 20th Century American Literature collections in general, and Mark Twain supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Arsalan Iftikhar
Hot Books
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510705753, $21.99, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: When a murderous psychopath goes on a killing spree, law enforcement officials and the media never make his religion the central issue -- unless he happens to be a Muslim. Then it sets off another frenzied wave of commentary about the inherent evils that lurk within the Muslim faith. From Fox News talking heads, who regularly smear Muslim leaders as secret terrorists, to Bill Maher, who has made Islam a routine target, it has become widely acceptable to libel a religion with a following of over 1.5 billion people -- which amounts to nearly one-quarter of the world's population. "Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms" by Arsalan Iftikhar offers a spirited defense of his faith that is especially relevant given the political rhetoric of the currant presidential campaign. With a witty and levelheaded demeanor, Arsalan Iftikhar cuts through all the sound and fury as a voice of sanity and reason.

Critique: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of, and senior editor of 'The Islamic Monthly' magazine. In "Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms" he has written the perfect anodyne to today's poisonous clamor delivered daily by the uninformed, the prejudiced, the rabble rouser, basically the Donald Trumps of our time. It is no understatement to announce that as a major contribution to our national and on-going dialogue, "Scapegoats" should be a part of every community, college, and university library Islamic Studies and Contemporary Political Science collection in the country today. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Scapegoats" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.49).

The Dry Eye Remedy
Robert Latkany, M.D.
Hatherleigh Press
c/o The Hatherleigh Foundation
62545 State Highway 10, Hobart, NY 13788
9781578266258, $15.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Robert Latkany, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist, is the founder and director of the Dry Eye Clinic at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as well as the Dry Eye Center of New York, the first center in the area devoted to dry eye disorders. This new 2016 edition of Dr. Latkany's best-selling and practical guide to help dry eye sufferers improve their vision, reduce wrinkles and redness, and restore overall eye health, includes up-to-date information on medications, procedures, testing, after-care, and more. Approximately 100 million people worldwide suffer from dry eye (also known as dysfunctional tear syndrome). Traditional solutions, such as eye drops and eyelid surgery, may actually make the problem worse.

Dry eye affects not only your eye's appearance and your vision; it is often linked to skin conditions and other eye diseases such as glaucoma. "The Dry Eye Remedy" provides a wealth of knowledge on practical ways to restore eye health, including new updates from the field put together expertly by Dr. Latkany new tests for dry eyes, after-care procedures, and major changes to future therapy; the latest in cutting-edge research, including which medications and procedures may help and which to avoid; easy environmental and lifestyle changes to help you look and feel better.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this fully updated and expanded edition of "The Dry Eye Remedy: The Complete Guide to Restoring the Health and Beauty of Your Eyes" is impressively 'reader friendly' in content and commentary from beginning to end. Ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the health of their eyes, "The Dry Eye Remedy" will prove to an enduringly appreciated addition to community library Health/Medicine collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Dry Eye Remedy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Planet Heal Thyself: The Revolution in Body, Mind, and Planet
Jordan Rubin
Destiny Image Publishers
PO. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408591, $16.99, 254 pages

A Clarion Call to Join the Revolution of Regeneration to Heal Our Planet and Restore Your Health

New York Times bestselling author and Biblical Health Coach Jordan Rubin's new book "Planet Heal Thyself - The Revolution in Body, Mind, and Planet" is destined to become another bestseller. The book is a serious wake-up call to the extent of degeneration of the earth's natural resources and the future of our ecosystem. It is made up of page after page of stimulating new ideas for recycling, composting, and reversing the rate of degeneration of our topsoil.

Diagnosed with Crone's disease at the age of 19, Jordin became devastated. In a desperate attempt to avoid a radical experimental surgery, Rubin's father contacted nutritionist Bud Keith and wan was introduced to a proven plan of Neuropathic healing, using Biblical principles. After following the program for six weeks Jordin's body was totally regenerated. This began a life change for Jordin that led to a 20 year study in the areas of alternative health therapies, sustainable agriculture, food production, economic prosperity, and abundance. His recovery set in motion a passion to transform the health of our nation, "one life at a time."

Jordin warns of the crisis created by our country's loss of top soil, how nutrients create health, and an effective plan for growing your own food. He talks about regenerative farming, steps to creating real health, and benefits of eating organic, going gluten free, and saying no to GMO. He warns of eight common allergens to avoid, and introduces the artisanal eater.

"Planet Heal Thyself - The Revolution in Body, Mind, and Planet" will be fascinating reading to everyone who recognizes the key to health depends on decisions we make in health and nutrition for ourselves, our families, and our nation.

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

Unstuck: Escaping the Rut of a Lifeless Marriage
Barry D. Ham, P.H.D
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408539, $15.99, 234 pages

Steps to Restoring Vibrancy, Energy, and Intimacy to a Troubled Marriage Relationship

"Unstuck - Escaping the Rut of a Lifeless Marriage" offers hope and happiness to couples seeking to reconnect in an intimate and vital marriage relationship. Dr. Ham is a highly skilled communicator with a unique gift of storytelling. True stories, examples, and case studies come alive and identify real issues readily identifiable offering practical resolutions leading to a new commitment to reengaging, and infusing new life into the marriage relationship.

Dr. Ham draws from his ministry and therapeutic experience as a marriage and family therapist to provide biblical insight, helpful guidelines, and workable strategies for couples seeking counsel. He writes with clarity and is forthright in his observations. His illustrations are matchless and will challenge the reader's thinking and allow them to explore causes for disillusionment and to determine steps to pursue in their search for reawakening romance and a successful marriage.

The book is extensively researched, well documented, and highly endorsed by recognized Christian leaders, professional therapists, and pastors.

"Unstuck - Escaping the Rut of a Lifeless Marriage" is important reading for pastors, lay counselors, and for couples seeking recommitment, healing, and restoration in their marriage.

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

Nine Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues
Steve Bremner
Destiny Image Books, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408515, $15.99

Most Frequent Misconception Regarding Walking in the Spirit and Speaking in Tongues

Steve Bremner tells the story of his spiritual journey in his book "Nine Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues." Steve writes with passion, using an easy going, conversational style, interspersed with humor, open candor, and simplicity. He relates his story of conversion as a teenager and the ultimate impact on his life by the sometime s overzealous Charismatics and Pentecostals. His story is an exciting and unique faith adventure.

The book is divided into three sections:

Steve's Personal Story
The Misconceptions
Speaking in Tongues and Intimacy with God

This is a book you will want to read, reread, and study, pen and highlighter poised for note making, underlining, and marking highlights, for further study. Be ready to integrate new insights into your spiritual journey, as Steve clarifies the nine most common and misunderstood interpretations of Biblical teaching on the controversial gift of speaking in tongues.

"Nine Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues" is written for people who are looking for answers to their questions about glossolalia and charismata, and for anyone seeking a new level of intimacy with God through a personal union with the Holy Spirit, in what the Apostle Paul presented to the Corinthian church as "a more excellent way,"

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

Woman thou art Healed & Whole - A 90 Day Devotional Journey
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409796, $ 14.99, 270 pages

A 90 Day Journey into Holistic Healing, a Restoration of Body, Soul, and Spirit - Leading to Wholeness and a Lasting Freedom from Bondage

Gifted communicator and New York Times bestselling author T. D. Jakes adds a new important resource to those already available for readers of his earlier books. "Woman thou art Healed & Whole - A 90 Day Devotional Journey" combines a collection of 90 profound devotional thoughts from the Scriptures that offer practical insight and your personal healing journey.

Bishop Jakes makes available to the reader a roadmap and directions for a journey into spiritual healing, freedom from, and a living out of your divine destiny. He delivers instructions and foundational principles for becoming rooted and grounded in your identity as a person of value, and for establishing healthy relationships. His words of encouragement, model prayers, and affirmations will establish patterns that can be adapted to personal needs, circumstances, and goals.

Bishop T. D. Jakes is the founder and pastor of Potter's House, where he ministers to a multicultural congregation of more than 30,000. "Woman thou art Healed & Whole - A 90 Day Devotional Journey" offers healing for the past and promise of abundant living for today...and all your tomorrows.

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

The Forgotten Mountain - The Place of Peace in a Time of Confusion
Don Nori Sr., and AMB. Clyde Rivers
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409222, $ 15.99, 188 Pages

In the 1960's Christians across America were singing the song "In Times like These You Need the Savior" written by Ruth Caye Jones. Now, sixty years later in their book "The Forgotten Mountain - The Place of Peace in a Time of Confusion" Don Nori Sr. and Ambassador Clyde Rivers are offering hope to another generation on a quest for peace in a time of confusion.

By the end of chapter one I knew I was on the edge of a threshold, transcending man's earthly contemporized perception, moving into the pronunciation of the wisdom of the ancients, those Old Testament prophets, who received their "wisdom from above," who spoke of current events as far back as ancient Egypt, and of things to come in the last times. I knew I was moving into the realm of new vistas of prophetic insight and understanding into the truth of Scriptures often overlooked, that change the heart.

Much of the inspiration for the material, within the chapters, of this book come from the writings in the "Classic Wisdom on the Kingdom" by Dr. Myles Monroe," included in the closing pages of this book. Another important feature is the "Glossary of Terms That Change the Conversation."

Dr. Nori and Ambassador Rivers write of the role of ambassadors. kings, and priests, and of inner and outer governance, of changing conversation. They bring a message of hope, divine love, inner fulfillment, personal destiny, and a yielded heart.

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

Jumpstart your Motivation - 10 Jolts to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated
Shawn Doyle
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807684130144, $ 14.99, 176 pages,

Self-Motivational Principles and Strategies that Produce Leadership Characteristics and Qualities

"Jumpstart your Motivation - 10 Jolts to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated" is a incredible combination of personal success stories, examples, practical advice and proven techniques. Interactive Workit exercises are designed to help you, the reader, apply to your life the principles just discussed.

Each chapter is chock-full of insights, practical useful tools, and specific skills to help you achieve and maximize your life goals, personally and professionally, and to help you focus on your true purpose.

The book is made up of eleven foundational principles, which, when put into practice are life-changing, including: such things as finding your unique purpose, identifying your passion, becoming a lifetime learner, the art of achievement, and the importance of evaluation.

Doyle's light hearted wit and subtle humor are understated reminders that sometimes we take our detours to our success too seriously to learn from them.

As I read the enthusiastic endorsements of Shawn's writing, I was impressed with the superlative words and descriptive phrases that describe his passion for leadership development and human potential, for example; high caliber content, stimulating greater levels of performance, and masterfully written.

"Jumpstart your Motivation" will resonate with training managers, life coaches, and business leaders, and is must reading for anyone ready to realize their dreams, set goals, and move to the next level of success.

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

Praying for your Children
Elmer Towns and Dave Earley
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768431650, $16.95, 202 pages

Parenting, Perilous Times, and the Importance, Responsibility, and Results of Intercessory Prayer for Our Children

Award winning author, Dr. Elmer Towns, Vice President and Dean of the School of Religion of Liberty University and Dr. Dave Earley prolific author, and chairman of the Department of Pastoral Leadership at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Liberty University collaborate in the writing of the book "Praying for your Children," an important addition to the "How to Pray Series."

The book is made up of eleven chapters packed with Biblical principles, promises, and examples, providing important suggestions, advice, and practical tools to help us as parents to understand, implement, and demonstrate love for our children through interceding prayer in these perilous times. Important guidelines offer help in praying for prodigals, praying with children, and teaching them to pray.

Chapter end notes provide a wealth of suggestion for additional reading. Helpful suggestions using "Ten Top Prayers" are provided in the appendix.

To get the most out of this book, it is important that you read with an open heart; apply what you are learning, and determine to pray for your children, more consistently, more passionately, and more often.

"Praying for your Children" is an important book for every parent, church prayer group, and individual intercessor. Begin today to leave a legacy of prayer for the next generation, and those to follow.

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

The Rich Life - Ten Investments for True Wealth
Beau Henderson
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076840859, $15.95, 272 Pages

Guidelines to Attaining the Priceless Asset of Personal Accomplishment and Peace of Mind

In his book "The Rich Life - Ten Investments for True Wealth" Financial Advisor and Certified Success Coach, Beau Henderson introduces the reader to a unique approach to fiscal stewardship through a principled approach to creating wealth while experiencing inner peace.

The book is made up of 10 investment steps and one master principle with guidelines and a blue print for building true wealth. These investment steps include money, life purpose, relationships, health, and managing your assets. Henderson presents a new definition of the word rich: a totally new way to approach investing by putting the focus on, you, the investor.

Each chapter includes a portfolio builder exercise with suggestions for beginning the process of putting your "Richlife" in motion, for identifying and living out your own definition of what brings you the most satisfaction and happiness; yourself, those you love and your world.

Henderson includes well-crafted illustrative stories and narrative to stimulate application with keen insight into the difference between money, wealth, the mindset of intention, and healthy investments in creating favorable conditions for success.

I found the chapter on dealing with the importance of building a Richlife professional team made up of a trusted financial manager, an accountant, and an attorney that are highly respected in their field and understand your investment philosophy and goals.

"The Rich Life - Ten Investments for True Wealth" will resonate with those individuals seeking true fulfillment in all aspects of life.

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

Jump Start Your Creativity: 10 Jolts to Get Creative and Stay Creative
Shawn Doyle and Steven Rowell
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879280, $ 14.99, 170 pages,

Steps to Generate Better Ideas that Get Better Results

"Jump Start Your Creativity - 10 Jolts to Get Creative" is filled with tools, tips, and techniques to inspire, motivate, and assist the reader in generating new and unique ideas.

Shawn Doyle CPS And Steven Rowell combine their passion for developing and implementing programs with their expertise as professional trainers, motivational speakers, and business consultants, to inspire and train people in professional leadership skills, and business growth strategies to become more effective in generating creativity in the workplace.

The authors collaborate in this effort to encourage and enable the reader to pursue, enhance and attain their creative potential. Chapter one is filled with "ideation" tips, techniques, and instructions.

Chapters two through four deals with the challenges we face as a nation, challenges in the field of education, and as individuals. In remaining chapters they discuss key leadership principles and practices for harnessing the creative process, models for creative thinking, and tools for processing and evaluating creativity. At the end of each chapter is a "Work It" section for making notes and recording actionable strategies, plans, and goals.

Shawn Doyle and Steven Rowell challenge, entertain, and provide easy to understand proposals to "Jump Start Your Creativity - 10 Jolts to Get Creative and Stay Created."

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

Angel Armies: Releasing the Warriors of Heaven
Tim Sheets
Destiny Image Press
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408744, $15.99, 220 pages

A Prophetic Message an Unprecedented Great Awakening in the Church

In his book "Angel Armies - Releasing the Warriors of Heaven" Dr. Tim Sheets delivers a powerful apostolic message at a time when many theologians are prone to "explain away the supernatural realm." Dr. Sheets tells of a recurring prophetic vision, a revelation of a Holy Spirit movement of supernatural power coming like a vortex of revival fire. He describes a Third Great Awakening, unprecedented, ablaze with the burning power of Christ's presence in the greatest revival the world has ever seen.

Dr. Sheets writes from a biblical viewpoint, revealing amazing insight and understanding into the nature and ministries of angelic forces. Dr. Sheet's has been diligent in prayer and study in preparation of this powerful in depth, life altering revelation.

Step by step Dr. Sheets explains from the scriptures how angels minister to us as heirs of salvation, how they assist us in fulfilling our destiny, and as ministering spirits in natural and spiritual realms. He includes instruction on King David's understanding of angels, and on the intrinsic nature of angels. I received a new understanding into the role of angels and their ministry in the lives of the apostles Peter and Paul, in the life of Jesus, and from Old Testament examples of Gideon, Joshua, and Daniel.

Highly respected National and International Charismatic and Evangelical leaders enthusiastically endorse the prophetic message of Dr. Tim Sheets and are partnering with him in bringing transformation and deliverance to regions throughout the world. "Angel Armies - Releasing the Warriors of Heaven" is must readers for Christians today and for the next generation.

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

Double Trouble in the Everglades
Mary Morgan
Buttonwood Press, LLC
P. O. Box 716, Haslett, MI 44840
9780996556200, $7.95, 144 pages,

The Cooper Twins Uncover Trouble in the Everglades - Secrets of the Slough

Fast moving dialog adds to intrigue and mystery of the suspense filled plot in "Double Trouble in the Everglades," the fifth in the "National Park Mystery Series." Mary Morgan blends her gift of storytelling with an incredible understanding of a young reader's spirit of adventure.

The Cooper twins were selected by Twins for Life Magazine to participate with twenty-five sets of twins in the, spring break, Everglades National Park Triathlon.
Ben and Bekka's curiosity, instinct for mystery, and tenacity for following up on clues, enable them to uncover vital information in solving an ingenious conspiracy of robbery and deception during the Twins Magazine Everglades Triathlon.

Clever extras in the book include Bekka's F.Y.I. (For Your Information) Florida Facts, with trivia questions, facts about the Everglades' National Park, photos of wildlife in the Everglades, and illustrations by Dawn McVay Baumer add to the enjoyment of the story.

Morgan's wonderful alliteration, sense of humor, fascinating trivia and detailed data capture the young reader's imagination with a balance of fiction and fact, entertainment and information.

"Double Trouble in the Everglades" is designed for readers, ages seven through eleven, and is ideal for home school assignments, public school libraries, and for fun filled family reading of all ages. Highly recommended.

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

Spiritual Slavery to Sonship: Your Destiny Awaits You, Expanded Editi
Jack and Trisha Frost
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409055, $15.99, 218 Pages

A Family Journey from Woundedness to Wholeness through Understanding Sonship

In this expanded edition of "Spiritual Slavery to Sonship - Your Destiny Awaits You" Jack and Trisha Frost share their story of transformation when they relinquished their orphan hood mindset to embrace the truth of Sonship. Jack went from being an agitated Dad to a compassionate Father. Trisha tells of her personal search for unconditional love and the healing she received as she surrendered the stronghold of inner fear in exchange for feelings of security, love, affirmation, and praise and the freedom to live out her destiny.

Jack is an anointed communicator and gifted writer. His use of metaphor, simile, and idiom bring to life and the stories of individuals touched through his message of sonship. Lessons from his years as Captain Jack, leader of the crew on commercial fishing boats, include suspense, humor, and are rich in spiritual insight and application.

In addition to the stories of healing and restoration, the book includes a chart comparing the "Orphan Heart" with the "Heart of Sonship" and an appendix equipping leaders for the ministry of restitution.

Readers of Jack's earlier books will want to read this expanded edition and the book will have an impact on new readers today and for generations to come.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Ian M. Lange
Farcountry Press
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781591521686, $39.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Unmatched in their power and violence, volcanoes are also beautiful and surprisingly beneficial. As revealed in "Volcanoes: What's Hot and What's Not on Earth and in Our Solar System", the molten rock beneath our feet continues to shape our world and contributes to the chemistry of life itself. Geologist and educator Ian Lange presents an illustrated and in-depth survey of volcanism ranging from magma generation, plate tectonics, caldera formation, hot spots, and basalt floods, to pyroclastic flows, lahars, super volcanoes, and more. Lange also explains topics seldom covered in volcano books, such as magma chemistry, volcanic production of metals and minerals, life on hydrothermal vents, and ash effects on aviation. Readers will discover the fascinating answers to some of science's greatest scientific puzzles: Why do some volcanoes explode violently while others slowly ooze lava? How does water make eruptions more explosive? Which of Earth's volcanoes are the most dangerous? Can volcanic eruptions be predicted? How do eruptions effect the Earth's climate? Where is the largest volcano in our solar system?

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, content, organization and presentation, "Volcanoes: What's Hot and What's Not on Earth and in Our Solar System" is superbly enhanced with the inclusion of: 91 photos; 47 maps; 60 charts, tables, & diagrams; references; and an index. Simply stated, Ian Lange's "Volcanoes" will prove to be a valued addition to community and academic library Geology & Science collections, as well as the personal lists of nons-specialist general readers with an interest in vulcanism.

Tommy Red
Charlie Stella
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586960, $15.95, PB, 164pp,

Synopsis: Tommy Dalton s ex-wife is on an honesty kick with their daughter, Alysha. She tells her that her dad kills people. Which, of course, he does. But that s not the kind of information he wants shared with his kids. Particularly now that he s working on a new job. Dominick Farase, ready to testify against the Cirelli family, needs silencing. An ex-cop spots him and lets Gasper Cirelli know where to find him. Not a difficult job for Tommy Red. But the Cirellis get nervous about this one, and decide to remove all evidence of the hit including Tommy. More hits are called, and some of them get sloppy. A couple of FBI agents get involved. Frank Cirelli, Gasper s son and acting head of the family, has to make some tough decisions. Sacrifices must be made. But as far as Tommy is concerned, the Cirellis make their biggest mistake when they fail in their efforts to take him out. A fatal mistake. Now he s after the family -- still trying to keep his daughter out of it, too, of course because when you threaten Tommy or his family, the only response is lethal retribution.

Critique: A gritty, no-holds-barred hit-man novel by an author who has total mastery of the genre, "Tommy Red" by Charlie Stella is another deftly compelling read from beginning to end. The stuff from which block-buster movies are made, "Tommy Red" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections and the personal reading lists of dedicated hard-boiled crime novel enthusiasts.

Hidden Agendas
Steve Brown
New Growth Press
9781942572657, $17.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: We like to pretend that hidden agendas are just for self-important bosses or egotistical politicians, but we all have them. Deep down, we all have a secret plan for getting from where we are to where we want to be, even if we refuse to admit it to ourselves.

And if our hidden agendas aren't enough, we wear masks to obscure the truth even more. We put on these masks-like religion, appearance, power, politics, or protection-to drive our agendas. But all of this leaves us feeling phony, ashamed, guilty, and afraid. It's killing us and hurting those we love. But for most of us, it will be a cold day in a hot place before we will be fully honest with anyone else.

There is so much more to life than hiding, pretending, and never being loved. In fact, there is already one person who sees behind the masks we wear and the hidden agendas that drive us. It does no good to tell God that you're sick when you're drunk, that you love him when you don't, or that you didn't steal and eat an apple (with apple juice dripping down your chin). God always recognizes and loves the "you" behind the mask.

So what can we do about the hidden agendas we have and the masks we wear? How can we gather the courage to be real? "Being real" has to start with your relationship with your heavenly Father. God already knows you inside and out. But God doesn't know you in order to "out" you to your friends. His unconditional love for his own is reason we can pray to our Father without fear of rejection or judgment. Knowing God's love, knowing that your heavenly Father is for you not against you is the only reason to give up your masks and develop the type of authentic relationships you never thought you could have.

Critique: Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, author, and the founder of Key Life Network. A former pastor, he also sits on the board of Harvest USA and devotes much of his time to the radio broadcasts Key Life and Steve Brown, Etc. In the pages of "Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart", he draws upon his years of experience, observation, study, and expertise to deftly craft a thoughtful and thought-provoking presentation that offers insight, an understanding thoughtfulness, and life-changing inspiration. While highly recommended for personal reading lists, it should be noted that "Hidden Agendas" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99).

Modern Poisons
Alan S. Kolok
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610913812, $40.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry, and pharmacology concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. Toxicology also studies the harmful effects of chemical, biological and physical agents in biological systems that establishes the extent of damage in living organisms. The relationship between dose and its effects on the exposed organism is of high significance in toxicology. Factors that influence chemical toxicity include the dosage (and whether it is acute or chronic); the route of exposure, the species, age, sex and environment.

Traditional toxicology textbooks are tomes filled with important but seemingly abstract chemistry and biology. Meanwhile, magazine and journal articles introduce students to timely topics such as BPA and endocrine disruption or the carcinogenic effects of pesticides, but don't provide the fundamentals needed to understand the science of toxicity.

"Modern Poisons: A Brief Introduction to Contemporary Toxicology" was written by academician Alan S. Kolok (Director of the Center for Environmental health and Toxicology, College of public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center) to be an easily accessible introduction focused on explaining basic principles in plain language while illuminating the most important issues in contemporary toxicology.

Kolok begins by exploring age-old precepts of the field such as the dose-response relationship and the concept, first introduced by Ambroise Pare in the sixteenth century, that a chemical's particular action depends on its inherent chemical nature. The author goes on to show exactly how chemicals enter the body and elicit their toxic effect, as well as the body's methods of defense.

With the fundamentals established, Kolok presents advances in toxicology, tracing the field's development from World War II to the present day. "Modern Poisons" also examines both technical discoveries and their impacts on public policy. Highlights include studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in toiletries and prescriptions, the emerging science on prions, and our growing understanding of epigenetics.

"Modern Poisons" not only covers how toxic exposure affects people and wildlife, but considers the long-term social and environmental consequences of our chemicals as well. Whether studying toxicology itself, public health, or environmental science, readers will develop a core understanding of this fast-changing field.

Critique: Exceptionally and impressively well written, organized and presented, "Modern Poisons: A Brief Introduction to Contemporary Toxicology" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Toxicology reference collections in general, and supplemental studies reading lists in particular. Informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content and commentary, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Modern Poisons" is also available in a paperback edition ( 9781610913829, $22.00) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Ultimatum
Dick Wolf
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062286833, $27.99, Hardcover, 341 pp.
9780062286864, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp.

Merritt Verlyn, loosely patterned on WikiLeak personage Julian Assange, is arrested and held in jail pending trial. Then a series of sniper attacks begins, with the continued threat of one person being killed each day until Verlyn is released from prison. Detective Jeremy Fisk takes the lead in an effort to stop the killer who has brought the City of New York to a standstill. Meanwhile a Mexican cartel has placed a contract on the NYPD intelligence detective, adding to his woes.

Thus begins an exciting chase with plenty of action. Originally, Verlyn, who possessed thousands of classified and sensitive documents, released a few to Chay Maryland, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, including Fisk's unlisted home address, exposing him and others to vast dangers, setting up a conflict for the need of secrecy vs. Second Amendment rights. The question of how this will be resolved is another interesting development.

The conclusion is far-out, more suited to a technocratic motion picture, perhaps, but makes for more and more thrilling descriptions, a specialty of the author, the writer, producer and creator of the TV series Law & Order. Part of a series, the novel is a page-turning stunner, and is recommended.

High Country Nocturne
A David Mapstone Mystery
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press
6963 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203985, $24.95, Hardcover, 330 pp,

David Mapstone is immediately confronted with a perplexing dilemma in this mystery, part of a series, when his partner, the former sheriff, Mike Peralta, under whom he served as a deputy and is now his partner in a PI agency, shoots a fellow guard and absconds with a rolling bag of diamonds which they were guarding for delivery. Mapstone can't believe Peralta has turned thief, but is confronted with the evidence. What to do?

Acting independently of the FBI and local law enforcement, Mapstone follows his nose, antagonizing them in the process, in an effort to discover the truth: Is Peralta really a thief or part of an undercover operation? Meanwhile the new sheriff, who replaced Peralta, uses subterfuge to entice Mapstone to serve as a deputy in an unsolved murder of which he was the discoverer as a uniformed cop many years before. This subplot has no bearing on the main mystery and really is superfluous to the main thrust of the novel.

The author, a long-time resident and native of Phoenix, uses every opportunity to draw attention to the deterioration of the environment, as well as note various buildings, roads, mountains and the deserts of the area. This is a well-presented mystery/crime novel, and an intriguing read, and it is recommended.

For the Love of Mike
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250091802, $15.99, Paperback, 336 pp.,

Molly Murphy fled Ireland a year before the action begins in this entry in the series (the 3rd of 17), fearful of arrest for the murder of her employer's son. She came to New York City in 1909, made friends, met Captain Dan Sullivan of the Police Department in a somewhat romantic way and opened a detective agency. So much for the beginnings of this delightful series. In this novel, now published in trade paperback, Molly begins to develop her chosen activity as an investigator, undertaking two assignments in her attempt to keep the detective agency alive after her mentor's death.

Each of the investigations fortunately necessitates the presence of a female. First, in effect, is a sort of undercover operation, in which Molly becomes a garment worker in a sweat shop attempting to discover how proprietary designs are being pilfered so they can be copied by a competitor. The other, more to her liking, is finding a retired English major's daughter who has left her home in Ireland to run away and marry an undesirable employee. Of course, each of the jobs presents Molly with sufficient danger and circumstances to demonstrate her fortitude and leadership abilities, such as convincing her co-workers to go on strike for better wages and working conditions.

And, of course, her "romance" with Capt. Dan Sullivan occupies a prominent role in her life, as he continues to dilly dally with his engagement to another. The novel heightens the development of Molly's personality, and lays the foundation for the future entries to follow. There is no hint of what is yet to come, although we now know the future of this Irish immigrant in little old New York at the turn of the 20th century, including her future marriage and motherhood. Also a pleasure to read a Molly Murphy Mystery, much less to recommend it.

The Missing and the Dead
Stuart MacBride
HarperCollins 360
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780007494606, $25.99, Hardcover, 581 pp.
9780008144906, $15.99, Paperback, 592 pp.

All the minutiae of policing on a local level permeate the almost 600 pages of this Logan McRae crime novel. Bumped down to duty sergeant from acting DI, he now supervises the operations of B Division from Banff in northeastern Scotland, not only chasing drug dealers, shoplifters, vandals and disqualified drivers, but facing the infighting of the politics of doing the job while absorbing the pressures from higher-ups.

When Logan discovers a six-year-old girl's body washed ashore, a major investigation team arrives from Aberdeen to take the case away from him. But that doesn't stop McRae from continuing to snoop, and with DI Steel, his former and sometime superior, uncover a bunch of pedophiles who may be involved in her murder. Nor can he keep away from a suspected drug dealer about whom he is warned off by the powers that be.

Written to demonstrate the rather humdrum duties of local policemen, occasionally peppered with exciting and meaty cases, the author takes advantage of the many examples of events and people facing a cop. And the decisions that have to be made on the spot. The length of the novel merely emphasizes the often boring hours spent policing the streets. Written simply but firmly with occasional flurries of excitement, the book, the 9th in the series, is recommended.

The Fixer
Joseph Finder
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780525954613, $28.00, Hardcover, 416 pp.
9780451472573, $9.99, Paperback, 480 pp.

What would you do if by some off-chance you broke into a wall in your home and discovered $3.7 million in cash? That is the good luck that befalls Rick Hoffman, erstwhile unemployed journalist. And then the bad luck follows. Rick begins to wonder where the money cane from. He can't ask his father, whose house it was, because the latter was left speechless and partially paralyzed by a stroke about two decades before. Rick was once an investigative journalist, and uses these talents to find answers.

He soon discovers that his attorney father was a fixer, paying off various persons to ward off claims against powerful Boston figures. And for his efforts he is beaten severely, almost killing him, as was his father before him, to stop Rick from pursuing his investigation. But he perseveres.

The story moves ahead in a straightforward manner, with each step along the way uncovering additional information, until Rick can prove where the money came from and why. But more importantly, as Rick explains, he continues because he wants to know how the story ends. And so will you.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Nazi Titanic
Robert P. Watson
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
Tantor Media, Inc.
6 Business Park Road, Old Saybrook, CT 06475
9780306824890, $25.99, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: Built in 1927, the German ocean liner SS Cap Arcona was the greatest ship since the RMS Titanic and one of the most celebrated luxury liners in the world. When the Nazis seized control in Germany, she was stripped down for use as a floating barracks and troop transport. Later, during the war, Hitler's minister, Joseph Goebbels, cast her as the "star" in his epic propaganda film about the sinking of the legendary Titanic.

Following Goebbels film's enormous failure, the German navy used the Cap Arcona to transport German soldiers and civilians across the Baltic, away from the Red Army's advance. In the Third Reich's final days, the ill-fated ship was packed with thousands of concentration camp prisoners. Without adequate water, food, or sanitary facilities, the prisoners suffered as they waited for the end of the war. Just days before Germany surrendered, the Cap Arcona was mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force, and nearly all of the prisoners were killed in the last major tragedy of the Holocaust and one of history's worst maritime disasters.

Critique: Although the British government sealed many documents pertaining to the ship's sinking, author and historian Robert P. Watson was able to unearthed forgotten records, conducted many interviews, and use over 100 sources that included diaries and oral histories, to expose this relatively unknown story. As a result, "The Nazi Titanic: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II" is a riveting and astonishing account of an enigmatic ship that played a devastating role in World War II and the Holocaust. An impressive, comprehensively detailed, and truly exceptional history of a hitherto suppressed tragedy, "The Nazi Titanic" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library World War II history collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "The Nazi Titanic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99). Librarians should also note for their audio book collections that "The Nazi Titanic" has an Audio CD edition (Tantor Media, 9781515952213, $24.99) as well.

Keywords for Radicals
Kelly Fritsch, Clare O'Connor, AK Thompson, editors
AK Press
370 Ryan Ave. #100, Chico, CA 95973
9781849352420, $22.95, PB, 350pp,

Synopsis: The key questions addressed by the contributors to "Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle" is: What vocabulary might illuminate the social transformations marking our own contested present? How do these words define the imaginary of today's radical left? Comprised of insights from dozens of scholars and troublemakers, "Keywords for Radicals explores the words that shape our political landscape. Each individual entry highlights a term's contested variations, traces its evolving usage, and speculates about what its historical mutations can tell us. More than a mere glossary, "Keywords for Radicals" is a crucial and scholarly study of the power of language and the social contradictions hidden within it.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Kelly Fritsch (Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in Women and Gender Studies and the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto), Clare O'Connor (a doctoral student in Communication at the University of Southern California, and is former Coordinator of the Public Interest Research Group at the University of Toronto and co-founder of Toronto-based activist training program Tools for Change), and AK Thompson (got kicked out of high school in 1992 for publishing an underground newspaper called The Agitator, and has been an activist, writer, and social theorist ever since, and is currently teaching social theory at Fordham University), "Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle" is informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, iconoclastic, and consistently compelling from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university Political Science reading lists in general, and sociolinguistics supplemental studies reading lists it particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Keywords for Radicals" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Great Chinese Art Transfer
Michael St. Clair
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
The Gatehouse M010C
285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611479102, $75.00, HC, 244pp,

Synopsis: In "The Great Chinese Art Transfer: How So Much of China's Art Came to America", Michael St. Clair (Professor Emeritus at Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts) tells the story of how and why millions of Chinese works of art got exported to collectors and institutions in the West, in particular to the United States. As China's last dynasty was weakening and collapsing from 1860 into the early years of the twentieth century, China's internal chaos allowed imperial and private Chinese collections to be scattered, looted and sold. A remarkable and varied group of Westerners entered the country, had their eyes opened to centuries of Chinese creativity and gathered up paintings, bronzes and ceramics, as well as sculptures, jades and bronzes. The migration to America and Europe of China's art is one of the greatest outflows of a culture's artistic heritage in human history. A good deal of the art procured by collectors and dealers, some famous and others little known but all remarkable in individual ways, eventually wound up in American and European museums. Today some of the art still in private hands is returning to China via international auctions and aggressive purchases by Chinese millionaires.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, and informative Foreword (Art Gives Pleasure), a four page Select Bibliography, and a twenty-nine page Index, "The Great Chinese Art Transfer: How So Much of China's Art Came to America" is extraordinarily and exceptionally well written, organized and presented from beginning to end. Of special note are the chapters on 'China's Tradition of Collecting' and 'Forgeries, Fakes, and the Repatriation of Art'. While very highly recommended as a core addition to community, college, and university library Art History collections, it should be noted that "The Great Chinese Art Transfer" is also available for the personal reading lists in a Kindle edition ($71.25) for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Two Renaissance Friends
Rodney Lokaj
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985192, $70.00, HC, 372pp,

Synopsis: Famous for his "Book of the Courtier", Baldassarre Castiglione also composed works in neo-Latin that have never been the subject of systematic, critical scrutiny within the broader context of early Cinquecento court culture. Nor have these works been cast against those of his long-forgotten counterpart, the very person behind Alcon (his own masterpiece in neo-Latin poetry), Domizio Falcone. This princeps edition of "Two Renaissance Friends: Baldassarre Castiglione, Domizio Falcone, and their Neo-Latin Poetry" by Rodney Lokaj (an Australian Medievalist and Renaissance scholar specializing in Franciscan Studies, Dante, and Petrarch) does this while introducing Falcone to scholars and students not only of Italian Renaissance literature, but also of the history of ideas, the classical tradition, the history of human sexuality, and the history of language.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an Introduction that includes 'Manuscripts and editions of Castiglione's Works' and 'Manuscripts and Editions of Falcone's Works'; a fourteen page Bibliography; and a seventeen page Index, "Two Renaissance Friends: Baldassarre Castiglione, Domizio Falcone, and their Neo-Latin Poetry" is an impressively informed and informative work of meticulous scholarship and unreservedly recommended for college and university library Renaissance Studies collections in general, and Neo-Latin Poetry supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Tech Contracts Handbook
David W. Tollen
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781634251785, $39.95, PB, 275pp,

Synopsis: Now in an fully updated and significantly expanded second edition, "The Tech Contracts Handbook: Cloud Computing Agreements, Software Licenses, and Other IT Contracts for Lawyers and Businesspeople" is a practical, user-friendly reference manual and training guide on cloud computing agreements, software licenses, and other IT contracts. It's a clause-by-clause "how to" resource, covering the issues at stake and offering negotiation tips and sample contract language. Written for both lawyers and businesspeople "The Tech Contracts Handbook" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive reference for contract managers, procurement officers, in-house and outside counsel, salespeople, and anyone else responsible for getting IT deals done. In clear, simple English, "The Tech Contracts Handbook" covers such issues as: Software-as-a-service subscriptions; Warranties and service level agreements ; Data security and privacy; Indemnities; Disaster recovery; Non-Competes; Limitations of liability; Clickwraps; Open source software; Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality; Technology escrow; Copyright and other intellectual property licensing; Internet and e-commerce contracts; and a great deal more!

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction, four appendices, a Mini-Glossary, and a two-page Index, "The Tech Contracts Handbook: Cloud Computing Agreements, Software Licenses, and Other IT Contracts for Lawyers and Businesspeople" will prove to be an indispensable professional reference. While unreservedly recommended for professional, corporate, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Tech Contracts Handbook" is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.49).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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