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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 7 July 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Future of Electric Power in the United States
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309684446, $80.00, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: Electric power is essential for the lives and livelihoods of all Americans, and the need for electricity that is safe, clean, affordable, and reliable will only grow in the decades to come. At the request of Congress and the Department of Energy, the National Academies convened a committee of experts to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the U.S. grid and how it might evolve in response to advances in new energy technologies, changes in demand, and future innovation.

"The Future of Electric Power in the United States" is their report and presents an extensive set of policy and funding recommendations aimed at modernizing the U.S. electric system. This report also addresses technology development, operations, grid architectures, and business practices, as well as ways to make the electricity system safe, secure, sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Future of Electric Power in the United States" is an extraordinarily informative and seminal study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for corporate, governmental, college, and university library Energy Production & Extraction reference collections and supplemental studies curriculum reading lists.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Memory Bell
Kat Flannery
Black Rose Writing
9781684337088, $19.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

The Memory Bell opens with Detective Bennet James standing over a grave in a small town, considering the mystery of human remains uncovered in an old mill. This investigation isn't his. Nonetheless, Ben feels oddly compelled to ask questions...and the answers don't give him confidence that this case will receive the justice it deserves: "These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death."

Grace has inherited a family heirloom, the memory bell, from her grandfather. Ben's probe has led directly to her and the broken pieces of a bell she is committed to putting back together. It was the source of family controversy. Now, is it the reason behind a suspicious death? Grace is the one person Ben can trust, as a series of puzzles build more questions than answers in his case. But, are her secrets intrinsic to understanding what really happened behind the scenes with the Penners?

The strange messages Grace receives with each missing piece of the bell offer clues in the case and reveals that more is going on than Ben ever suspected...something worth killing for.

As events swirl around Grace and Ben, their different experiences and perspectives come to life. Family betrayal, pain, and close relationships that quickly turn friends into strangers evolve in a fast-paced plot that will keep mystery readers engaged and interested.

Kat Flannery does a fine job of outlining twists and turns that keep readers, as well as characters, guessing about the outcome and the connections between the broken family heirloom and present-day threats. The bell has long been regarded by Grace as a magical symbol of family connections. It's about to transform into one of a family ripped apart, unless Ben can find some answers.

Fast-paced, driven by mystery and character growth and interactions, fueled by a family secret and changing relationships, and set in a small town replete with special interests, The Memory Bell will keep mystery readers enthralled. The story moves beyond a whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.

The best intentions can turn into tribulations. The Memory Bell explores how one family becomes entangled in a dangerous pursuit of the truth, is hard to put down, and is a highly recommended read with the power to reach beyond mystery audiences to appeal to readers of family stories and intergenerational growth.

Boy, Falling
Jenny Jaeckel
Black Rose Writing
9781684337194, $19.95

Boy, Falling is a stand-alone companion novel to Jenny Jaeckel's House of Rougeaux, and will reach prior fans and newcomers with a historical fiction piece about three Rougeaux family members who are connected by blood ties, ambition, and strange dreams of a boy who has been 'falling for a long time'.

In 1895 Montreal, young Gerard becomes privy to a secret that will drive much of his future. As he struggles to realize his ambition to become an artist in Paris years later, he also comes to embrace his differences as strengths.

Jaeckel's story covers race relations and color issues both within the family and in the community at large. She is exceptionally adept at capturing moments in which a boy discovers these adult perceptions as they relate to his identity in his family: "Whole lot of milk in that tea." That's what folks said of colored people whose complexions were light. Could be "a drop" of milk in the tea, as was maybe said of Gerard, or a whole lot, which could constitute a threat of the vilest kind, especially when that person was lighter than his parents. The chill now penetrated the back of his skull along with a brand-new thought--what if the White Lady was his mother? Was he as light as all that? In truth, no. His difference to that of his family was not greatly marked. But what Gerard wouldn't have given to look more as they did. If only, by some magic, one could take a straw and suck out the single, cold, unwanted drop of milk that had spoilt him before he was even born. Even if the matter of his color, he knew, was hardly the only error contained within his skin."

His trajectory in life is marked by family experience, expectations, and secrets. This is captured in fine prose and images that successfully portray influences on choices and their consequences for adulthood: "If Gerard felt troubled at times with such questions, or Claude's intention to go away to Berlin and make a life there, passion stretched his heart open with hope. Who knew what was possible, after all? Hadn't life surprised him a thousand times? At other moments, doubt made its unwelcome appearance, causing him to worry about risks recklessly taken, cautioning him to pull back and slow down."

The story includes the struggles of his half-sister Jeannette and her two children, as well as the politics and economics of Europe and America in the 1920s. This gives the family history a full-flavored feel that will delight readers who look for more than singular experiences.

As art and ambition change the lives of Gerard, Maudie, and others, the tale adds a touch of magic and discovery that encourages each character to rise above their upbringing and social expectations to realize their talents and life ambitions: "Just look at all of this," she said, spreading her arms and pointing out with the paintbrush. "Just feel it. An artist must paint her feelings. She feels the world, do you see? And then she paints it." Maudie had never thought of it like that. In fact, she hadn't thought about drawing or painting much at all, it was just what she did. The paper, the colors, were like magnets that drew her to them, her hands longed for them and her pictures grew from there like long, lovely exhales. But now that Miz Paraibel said this, about feeling the world, perhaps it was so."

The result is a an outstanding blend of historical novel, family history, social inspection, and mystery that both continues the story begun in House of Rougeaux and stands nicely on its own. It's an evocative, compelling story of personal and social change.

Readers who enjoy family epics will relish the connections and intrigue that make Boy, Falling a fine story of ambition, accidents, recovery, and revised courses in life.

Rolling the Dice with Nuclear Weapons
John Ward
Our Planet Project Foundation Press
9780578539362, $TBA

Rolling the Dice with Nuclear Weapons: The Illusion of Control and the Path Forward refutes many popular notions of nuclear weapons deterrence and usage, providing a chilling survey that blends the past history of humanity on the edge of nuclear war with a projection of what could happen in the near future, if changes aren't made to nuclear programs and perceptions.

Perhaps the latter goal is the most important, because many other titles have already documented the precipices encountered between nations over the decades of the Atomic Age. Few, however, add the specter of disaster posed by hackers, common misconceptions about the science of nuclear weapons and nuclear exchanges, and the dangers of nuclear mishap on domestic soil.

More than just another survey of international relationships on the brink, John Ward takes the time to integrate the science of nuclear devices with the sociological, technological, and political changes that affect their regulation, use, and military strategies. Over the decades since Hiroshima, the threat has magnified exponentially. It's now much greater. The insights posed by threats that go beyond national borders and info the actions of terrorists and people who could tap into the frightening arsenal built on the auspices of deterrence and safety are specific and backed by both historical and present-day facts.

Because Rolling the Dice with Nuclear Weapons provides a deeper inspection of various domestic issues than competing books offer, it presents a call to action based on possibilities ordinary people can employ to affect their use.

One of the readers of John Ward's book felt she was "too busy" to consider matters she felt were too distant from her daily life. What could be more immediate than the future and safety of one's family?

Perhaps this book's subtitle sums it up best: The Illusion of Control and the Path Forward. Control is an important reason why humanity stands at this point, and the proposed path forward presented here offers a solution - if humanity is not "too busy" to listen (and read this book).

The Silent Cardinal
J. Lee
Moonshine Cove Publishing
9781952439063, $17.00

The Silent Cardinal opens with a prologue in which kidnapped nine-year-old twins Lydia and Jessica are being held for ransom. The price of their release? A death.

The first chapter introduces the character of Robert Stevens, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office, who is accosted via phone on his way to work after his daughter's phone call sets the stage for a communique with disaster.

Charged with defusing a bomb in a very busy public place, Stevens finds that it is a warning of things to come.

The pivotal person connecting these disparate threats of threat is Benjamin Nicholas Siebert.

The effort to tap him for information tests FBI GS-7 junior agent Roy Dietrich in many ways. He's not used to making citizen pickups; he's not used to asking for assistance from mercurial men involved in homeless services; and he feels a special uneasiness about this particular assignment: "It should have been comforting that Siebert was familiar with the protocol, that he seemed compliant enough, and that the assignment to bring him in was going to be successful. Overall it was a win. And yet the whole thing felt terribly unnerving."

Former Marine Siebert becomes personally entrapped between a dangerous situation involving his son, a public threat, and FBI operations. He well knows how real and dangerous the stakes in this game are. But, does the FBI?

As intrigue turns from public threat to threaten the office of the President of the United States, the story draws ever closer to a dangerous truth beyond terrorism or personal threats, involving readers in a tense blend of thriller and investigative processes that keeps good and bad guys both fluid and at odds with one another.

The definitions of traitors, private citizens caught up in a plot beyond their ability to understand, and a mission that involves a military man in a dangerous maneuver with deadly personal consequences keep changing. Ben might be the only person with not just answers, but solutions to the quandaries that evolve.

J. Lee excels in creating a gripping interplay between characters and special interests. It should be advised that torture as is much a part of this process as confrontation. Those who avid graphic violent descriptions may wish to look elsewhere, but this action is wound into an overall cat-and-mouse saga in a convincing manner that supports the action, and is by no means over the top in relation to the evolving story line.

The powerful interplay of influential people crafts a thriller that is captivating, examining the symbolism of a silent cardinal, Ben's assumption of that position and how it tests his loyalty, and an assassination assignment gone awry.

Eve's Ducklings
Maria Monte & Emelie Wiklund
Bonny Books
9780987513045, $25.99 Hardcover/$13.99 Paper

Eve's Ducklings is an excellent read-aloud choice for parents looking for a warm story of grandparents and grandchildren and the story of a shared effort to be kind to animals.

Eve and Grandpa's first walk to the lake together reveals ducklings in the water. Eve wants to touch and hold the youngsters; but Grandpa points out that they should not be assailed.

Eve learns to stay away from them even when they are playing and being cute. But, what can she do to support their lives?

The solution to her desire to interact with them in a better way teaches kids about problem-solving, sensitivity to animal needs, and how to make friends with creatures based on not just a child's impulses, but a wild animal's nature.

Parents looking to teach the very young about how to interact with nature will find Eve's Ducklings the perfect beginner's guide to successfully enjoying the wild animals of the outdoors.

A.K. Smith
BookswithSoul Press
9781949325737, $13.99 Paper/$29.99 Hardcover/$2.99 ebook

Mature teen to adults will find Pseudocide - Sometimes You Have to Die to Survive's story of a walk out of life to be intriguing. The premise (and the definition of the term 'pseudocide') lies in faking one's death to embark on a new life. In this case, sixteen-year-old Sunday Foster plans her own demise to escape her life.

Sunday won't even call her parents Mom and Dad, or by their names. They are HE and SHE, having raised her via "the internet, silence, and anger." Her only companion is a beloved leather journal she bought herself that's privy to all her deepest secrets, including her intention to create a new persona.

The trouble with running away is that trouble often runs alongside, rather than being left behind. And so Sunday brings with her issues that are inescapable even as she longs to keep pressing the restart button to begin anew: "What did I ever do to deserve this? My fingers are digging in the dirt of my special place, I'm transfixed watching the tiny little waterfall trickle, the water running away over the smooth round pebbles, to a new destination. Running water never stays in one place. I want to run somewhere new. My fingernails are full of brown dirt. I don't care."

Tied to the internet and life in some of the same ways she was in the past, Sunday finds herself working dead-end jobs in cheerless places, still looking for answers while attempting to capture and create a very different persona: "My new life consists of long hours of waitressing in the meat locker, sleeping during the day, and creating digital dirt on my social media."

Shootings, unwanted children, charades that bounce off and use social media to fabricate new realities, and being a friend to others as well as herself contribute to a story replete with mature themes. It successfully brings home the coming of age of a girl who has been abused in too many ways, who struggles not to repeat or carry these patterns into a new life.

As she faces challenges she could never have predicted or controlled, Sunday finds within herself new healing and the courage to make some truly lasting changes.

A.K. Smith does more than create a believable character in Sunday. She crafts a premise that is both complex and attractive, especially to teen audiences who chafe at their own boundaries, restrictions, and pain. She also brings to life the force of Sunday's personality, which reacts to and eventually begins to intersect with and control her world in better, more positive ways.

Smith's ability to delve deep into the psychological profile of a runaway who reinvents her life is realistic, powered by a first-person approach that successfully reveals Sunday's motivations and influences. Smith also is adept at providing a cast of supporting characters, each of which offer something to Sunday that involves reaching for the maturity to escape their own painful pasts. Even the parents have a role to play, beyond references to the results of their choices, in this moving story.

From school shootings to terrorists and abuse, Pseudocide goes far beyond one girl's individual angst to probe a host of social issues that challenge young people every day.

"Maybe that's what tragedy does to you: it wakes you up and gives you a second chance at life." Pseudocide's exploration of this process and how Sunday discovers her own strengths and abilities makes for a thoroughly engrossing story that's hard to put down.

Guns & Smoke
Lauren Sevier & A. Smith
Independently Published
9781734402346, $6.99 E-Book, Paperback: $19.99

Volume 1 of the Fools Adventure Series, Guns & Smoke, provides Western readers with a dystopian romance. Beautiful outlaw Bonnie is running from a cruel fellow outlaw just as Jesse finds himself leaving the family farm in a way he hadn't anticipated - in the aftermath of a murderer's rampage, which has destroyed his family and left him in charge of his younger brother.

When the two meet, Bonnie finds herself helping Jesse against her better instincts and her own best interests. The two become a force to reckon with as they confront adversaries, each other, and their own ambitions and efforts to survive.

Readers anticipating an old-time Western set in the past will find Guns & Smoke occurs within a modern backdrop. Bonnie is not above swearing, the M9 gun is a device from the 1980s, and the busy Vegas strip reflects modern times.

Having a Western-tinged story set in the present may seem an unusual device, but it more than works well here, as the characters interact with their world and each other, often commenting on or reflecting its ironies, as in this fine Vegas scene: "Step right up! Only two brass bits and you can own a piece of the Salt Lake bombs! Rare and radioactive - " " - all the way from the Borderlands. You've never tasted anything like this!" "And the Lord sent fire raining down from the sky, in the Culling, punishing us for our sins." The cacophonous din of the market overwhelmed my senses as I searched for my mark in the crowd. I snorted derisively at the hysterical man preaching on the corner. The Culling wasn't any God-like retribution. It was what happened when greedy, entitled men had access to nuclear bombs."

The shifting perspectives between Bonnie and Jessie are clearly outlined in chapter headings, making it easy to absorb the different perceptions they bring to their lives and each other.

That the guns, outlaws, and conflicts can occur as easily in modern society as it once did in the past is a tribute to Lauren Sevier & A. Smith's storytelling prowess, which translates many of the trappings and feel of the Old West into the New West of modern times.

It's a world in which there are still gunfights, outlaws, rebel women, and love. It's a world that will especially engage readers of Western novels more than used to traditional stories. This audience will delight in seeing their reincarnation here, in a modern society that embraces these devices just as easily as it once did in the early days of America.

Western fiction readers tired of the usual approaches will find a revised interest and excitement to this story, which neatly translates these appealingly familiar scenarios for a different kind of tale just as adept at tension, romance, and adventure as the traditional genre read.

Deliberate Justice: The American Way
Thomas Holladay
Cinema Enterprises
9781736914014, $17.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Deliberate Justice: The American Way opens with an injury. Count Mikhail Diebitsch Zabalkansky has been wounded in a fight with the grand duke and is saved by his uncle, who advises him to leave Russia to escape retribution. He boards a Yankee clipper ship filled with Chinese immigrants, both slave and free, bound for America, where he's nursed back to health and looks forward to the promise of a new life in a young new land.

There, he faces continued threats in San Francisco for very different reasons, and escapes death several times, only to find that this new land is replete with danger.

Mikhail's recovery from new attacks involves more than physical healing. He is charged with changing his attitude and approach to life in America. He is no longer a Count, and must stifle his pompous attitude and views of his place in the world if he is ever to have a life not filled with angst and conflict.

Deliberate Justice holds many twists and turns, marrying social inspection with political and historical facts, adding intrigue and romance into the process, and creating a broad cast of characters that, under another author's hand, might have proved confusingly diverse.

Thomas Holladay brings his characters to life and embraces the social and political motivations for their actions in a manner that requires no prior knowledge of the times in order to prove readily understandable: "Her father had been a very fine pharmacist, down Canton way. Many British officers had preferred him over their own military doctors. Had the Boxers not forced them to flee north, she and her father would still be living in comfort near the headquarters of the British colonials."

Mikhail is not always a likeable character, and he changes slowly. Even as others try to help him, his attitudes and prejudices often push away the kinds of people who are best suited to help him survive: "How long have I been here?" These filthy Chinese peasants did not understand Russian and Mikhail did not speak Chinese. Why should he bother to learn Chinese? These backward people without hope spoke only gibberish. "Stinking peasants."

These contrasts between different cultures, social and political perspectives, and the adventures that take place during Mikhail's transformative process bring the story to life, giving it an edge and advantage over many historical novels. Mikhail must change immensely to make a new life for himself that embraces others not of his social class.

The fact that he continually finds and sometimes even courts and defies danger during his journey creates a riveting story with many twists and turns.

Deliberate Justice is highly recommended reading for anyone who would absorb social justice issues and history at a higher level, as Molly and Count Mikhail Diebitsch-Zabalkansky bring their world to life.

Truth Is In the House
Michael J. Coffino
Koehler Books
9781646633487, $29.95 Hardcover; $19.95 Paper; $7.99 Kindle

Truth Is In the House is a novel inspired by true events, and follows the lives of two very different boys who come of age in 1950s America.

Jimmy O'Farrell is an Irish immigrant whose family ends up in Manhattan, ready for a new life. Jaylen Jackson comes of age in Jim Crow Mississippi, fighting prejudice over the color of his skin as he seeks a different, better future for himself.

Jimmy learns what it means to stand up for himself and others, while Jaylen learns how to survive racial strife and prejudice. The lives of both intersect in a novel that goes beyond closely examining the racial stereotypes and boundaries of the past. It shatters them.

As the story opens, father Matthew O'Farrell and his wife are confronting the terrible realization that their new life in the land of opportunity holds a brutal undercurrent as the news reveals the brutal rape and murder of an Irish ten-year-old girl only two blocks from their home. This introduces newfound fear into mother Bettina's world, leading them to question their revised lives and the place they've chosen to call home and raise their children.

Jimmy and Jaylen's families both decide to flee their oppressive circumstances in the 1960s and wind up in the Bronx as neighbors, where the two young men of different races form a friendship over basketball and again in Vietnam, during the war.

Jaylen has come to feel alienated from his family as he leaves home for college and embraces new ideas and a new world: "He never felt disconnected from his family before, but that is precisely how he feels. The thought of family brings him down."

But the forces of Jim Crow are at work in a wide net of threat that exists, as Jaylen discovers, even in this new environment: "Their next off-campus excursion is an evening meal in town. Jaylen pushes for a local diner called Mama Tucker's, known for its local-style food. Tyrell pushes back. He hears that Mama Tucker's may have great food but caters to Jim Crow. As someone who grew up in Georgia, the close runner-up to Mississippi as the lynching capital of America, Tyrell's social antennae tell him that venturing into a diner clinging to a debased part of Southern history is at the top of the leader board of where young Blacks ought not to go."

Michael J. Coffino is skilled at presenting a contrast in different forms of prejudice (the Irish immigrant and the American black son) in a tale that brings it all home. He is skilled at positioning his characters to make the most of this disparity, creating a story that is winning in its contrasts and encounters.

As the plot unfolds, fear, shame, and the impact of new decisions and challenging opportunities invite both characters to find alternate paths to redemption and peace.

Coffino's ability to bring to life and contrast these incongruent yet connected lives creates a vivid read that is hard to put down. Its central theme, rooted in real-world events, gives Truth Is In the House an edge over most fictional stories of prejudice, struggle, and missed opportunities. This personalizes historical events and social environments, lending depth to a book that should be on the reading lists of any interested in the history and evolution of Jim Crow era thinking as it leads into modern times and events.

Liberating Jesus
Leonard Jacobson
Conscious Living Publications
9781890580124, $14.95

Liberating Jesus offers a key to unlocking the true words, intentions, and the message Jesus offers the world. It is based on Leonard Jacobson's self-awakening epiphany, in which he realized the connections between Jesus's teachings and the newly enlightened modern world.

His book focuses on this process, defining it, considering its parameters, contrasting it with pre-awakening environments, covering his increasing self-awareness which forged a new relationship with Jesus and his words.

The first chapter, 'Awakenings', offers a memoir of Jacobson's own path to enlightenment as he experiences these revelations and learns how to translate their impact to the world around him.

His first awakening occurred during a spiritual retreat, exposing long-repressed wounds and forcing him to examine his own process of self-judgment, his attitudes about the world, and his changing relationship with God.

Christian readers who anticipate a Bible-based reading and understanding stemming from it may chafe at the descriptions of a powerful experience that borders on the supernatural as Jacobson literally surrendered himself to the forces of nature, testing death to find his way back into life: "As I made my way to the riverbank, I could tell that I was in a completely different dimension. I was in an altered state of consciousness. It was my first experience of the awakened state, although I had no idea at that time what was happening to me. The sum total of my past experiences could not provide any kind of explanation for what I was experiencing as I emerged from the river."

From this description and others that follow, it should be evident that Christian readers will be required to set aside dogma and tradition to embrace a different way of thinking about Jesus and the process of enlightenment and revelation.

Those able to do so are in for a treat, because Liberating Jesus is as much about liberating self and one's ability to embrace a broader spiritual message as it is about reading the Bible for words of wisdom.

Surprisingly, this isn't just a non-fiction memoir or spiritual reflection piece. It's also a scripted play, which lends to its accessibility not just by individuals, but by Christian groups who would act upon the play's format to foster broader community understanding.

Leonard Jacobson is a mystic, spiritual teacher, and leader. His story departs from the norm to reflect the course of this departure to other Christians interested in fostering a deeper understanding of Jesus.

Those who are also able to embrace spiritual flexibility, new age concepts revolving around awakening, and a different approach to understanding Jesus will welcome the blueprint for walking the same path, provided in this book.

A Kind of Hush
JoDee Neathery
Imagery Lit
9781737392002, $17.95

A Kind of Hush is about a moment in time that changes a family forever, surrounding it in tragedy, mystery, and unspoken challenges. Its special brand of intrigue and soul-searching engages readers from the beginning, which opens with four-year-old Gabriel Mackie's discovery of a mysterious 'whisper room' which is "brimming with daydreams, obscured from reality."

His brother is gone, leaving heartbreak, division, and silence in a family that once reverberated with laughter and closeness.

The blame game is being played between all as a daughter accused of inadvertently killing her brother is held responsible by a mother who, in turn, is resented by a grieving father.

As for Gabe, normalcy has changed forever as his mother enters counseling and distances from her family, leaving her husband to set aside his business and try to parent the surviving siblings alone.

Time passes, and Gabe finds himself the focal point of another tragedy and the mystery that surrounds it. Only, this time, an encounter at the Gorge brings a threat from a stranger that changes everything. Once again, husband Matt's world is changed forever.

What does Gabe's whisper room have to do with these two deaths? It has become a place for him to reach out to a spiritual world in which his mother and brother are still with him. This involves his father and others in a magic and mystery that heals, transforms, and brings new hope into their lives.

JoDee Neathery's literary novel embraces psychological and spiritual elements, injecting mystery into the mix to add a compelling note of intrigue that laces together the growth and recovery process experienced by Gabe and those around him.

She also adds moral and ethical dilemmas into her tale, exploring the "kind of hush" that represents the gray area between right and wrong decisions and actions. This approach leads readers to consider the foundations of what it takes to forgive and move on from tragedy.

With its compelling notes of crisis, hidden pain, and discovery, A Kind of Hush winds through a circle of lives connected by perceptions, decisions, and change, bringing with it a breath of fresh air as it follows each character's journey towards a different life even as they long to return to the life they once had.

Readers of stories of growth and recovery will find A Kind of Hush inviting, intriguing, and enlightening.

Outbreaks, Epidemics and Pandemics
Carole Marsh
Gallopade Books
9780635135681, $15.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Outbreaks, Epidemics, & Pandemics: Including the Worldwide COVID- 19 Pandemic will reach ages 9 and older with a survey of germs and diseases that have changed the world. It is particularly recommended reading for its wide-ranging, inclusive approach that middle-schoolers will find absorbing and informational.

Carole Marsh blends science and history in a survey that reviews pandemics of the past, contrasting their environments, progression, and social and medical approaches to tackling their spread.

Kids receive definitions of diseases, information about germs and their transmission, and chapters that contrast plagues of the past with Covid-19's recent challenges.

In contrast with other approaches for this age group, Carole Marsh adds observations and notes designed to personalize and bring to life the social issues underlying pandemics and epidemics: "Long ago, people spent a lot of time arguing about what, or who, caused a disease. Blaming others did not help anything. Leaders have been weak and ineffective in past plagues, and today we see politics often seeming to be more important that scientific facts. That does not help either. As I did my research, I was very dismayed to see that some people in the past (even in America during the Spanish Flu epidemic) actually lied about the disease, the facts, the numbers of infected and dead. So, it is sad for me to have to say that adults do not always act very responsibly during a time when speed, smarts, wisdom, good decisions and more are VERY IMPORTANT in any disease outbreak. It is life or death, after all."

From therapies and medical approaches to notes about pets, infected people, transmission, and safety, Outbreaks, Epidemics, & Pandemics embraces a range of issues and concerns, from social environments to heroes, helpers, and career opportunities for jobs that battle disease.

Its broader scope than most, chatty tone, and fact-filled pages make Outbreaks, Epidemics, & Pandemics a multifaceted read that goes above and beyond more singular productions for this age group, making for a top recommendation for elementary and middle school collections alike.

Hilda & Richie
Max West
Different Mousetrap Press
9780989069632, $1.99 Kindle

Hilda & Richie is a fun picture book story about Hilda's discovery of bubble gum. It's a primer about chewing gum and blowing bubbles that captures both the sweetness of the gum and a child's first experiences with using it.

Richie is a newcomer to both bubble-blowing and gum.

As the fox pup and older woman explore the zany effort and challenge of blowing the biggest bubble, kids receive a whimsical tale that contrasts the wisdom and elegance of an older mentor with an impulsive child's determination to not just learn a new skill, but improve upon it.

Hilda & Richie presents the specter of an elegant-looking aged female who teaches her young charge an unexpected skill. It's especially unexpected because this pearl-wearing, fan-carrying fox elder seems an unlikely fan of bubble gum messes.

Kids ages 4-8 will relish not just the bubble-blowing lesson, but the contrast between two different age groups who enjoy the same pursuit - even if the pastime does bring with it somewhat of a mess!

Someone Like Me
Marian L. Thomas
DartFrog Books
9781953910332, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Someone Like Me belongs in any collection strong in African American contemporary literature and fiction, and chronicles narrator Mya Day's encounters with love and loss. It details the connections between both, the obstacles that often emerge in a romance that clashes with past pain and experience, and the eventual realizations that lead to growth, change, and true love.

Mya's opening lines reflect on her forthcoming marriage and the road that led to somebody admiring "someone like me." When her mother died, she turned to living on the streets of Georgia at barely eighteen, with nowhere to go. Rescued by a much older man, she confuses love with need and dependency, but somehow knows in her heart that what she feels for him is not true romance.

She gets help from a generous couple who step up to offer her something different from life. A taste of what love can be comes through a fiery romance with successful real estate agent Michael Davis. However, where some novels would conclude with this happy ending, Mya only discovers that her past keeps interfering with her present trajectory towards success when Michael finds out the role she played in a loved one's untimely death.

Only when she puts in the time to probe her lingering grief and pain does she overcome enough within herself to prove a suitable love partner on equal terms with another. But this means giving Michael time to change, too: "Don't tell me that I have to keep going. Don't tell me that I can't let this stop me or get me down. Right now, that's all I want. I want to be down. I want to be a mess, and I don't want to pretend like I can get through this without him."

Michael may hate his new situation, but Mya has suddenly become one of the things he seems to reject. Loss can lead to forgiveness over time, but she's not sure that this can happen, this time. And she relies on his encouragement for her self-esteem and singing aspirations.

And then everything changes once again.

As she writes in her journal the things she cannot communicate to those closest to her in life, Mya examines her sense of loyalty not just to others, but to herself.

Marian L. Thomas does a fine job of exploring broken lives, recovering characters, and patterns of the past that inject themselves into hopeful relationships in unexpected ways. She depicts changing situations that influence the development of close connections that break apart under stress and adversity.

Under her hand, Mya's complex hopes, aspirations, uncertain recoveries from loss, as well as her evolving vision of love and wholeness, come to life.

The psychological depth is nicely done and belays any overlay of casual romance or quick solutions to life-changing problems. This lends a depth and complexity to the story line that feels realistic and involving; especially with journal insights emphasizing these connections.

Readers of African American contemporary fiction will find that Mya breaks through racial barriers, as well. The story offers the unusual perspective of a woman who finds true love in an unexpected place, help in the hands of those who give freely, and who experiences the conundrum of what happens when one transitions from one relationship to another.

A Whisper Came
Keith Yocum
Independently Published
9780997870886, $4.99 Kindle

A Whisper Came centers upon a lighthouse in Cape Cod, where young reporter Stacie Davis has been sent to write about the lighthouse's history and mysteries after the body of an unidentified woman found floating near the town of Chatham.

Searching for local color and interest to round out this discovery, Stacie uncovers a deeper mystery that carries her on a journey into uncertain and dangerous waters.

As facts begin to emerge about the body, more puzzles come to light. Could the dead woman have entered the water seven or eight miles from where she was found? Some think it was a suicide. Others think it was a body from the past, where a fishing village was abandoned a hundred years ago, as the body is clearly not from modern times. And what do the quirky residents of Chatham have to do with these events?

As the case remains open and rests on the unreliable memories of charter boat owner Carl Lane, Stacie feels lost: "She had held out hope that Carl could help her, but he was a blank. And she was alone again, drifting in a vast, turbulent sea."

What does the body have to do with Whitewash Village and Stacie's own challenges in her life?

Keith Yocum creates an engaging story based on a murder mystery and a young reporter's life, intersecting the two themes in a satisfying, realistic drama that proves hard to put down.

The romance, adventure, discovery, and intrigue power a hard-hitting story of a young woman who dares to push ahead where others draw back, changing her life and challenging those around her in the process.

Murder mystery enthusiasts will find this story excels in creating a sense of place, purpose, and intrigue that keeps them involved and guessing to the end.

Fed Up!
Colin Lancaster
Harriman House Ltd.
9780857198921, $29.00 Hardcover/$21.75 ebook

Fed Up!: Success, Excess and Crisis Through the Eyes of a Hedge Fund Macro Trader should be in any business and investment book collection as an insider's guide to trading processes and pitfalls. It provides a powerful, personal account of working as a trader during the pandemic, market crash, and the market's astonishing recovery using a fictional format that makes for easy reading and a better understanding of business concepts.

These are economic times unprecedented in history. Most books from stock market traders reveal personal perspectives on the process, but Colin Lancaster's is a much broader consideration of not just his world as a trader, but the economic, moral, and ethical pressures replete in its activities.

As the circumstances of the 2020 market crash and recovery unfold, readers are given a ringside seat to global macro trading activities, perceptions, and challenges.

The novel opens in October of 2019, a milieu of the late stages of an economic bubble of opportunity before the Covid crisis really hit the markets. A handy timeline of events affecting the markets for that month introduces the chapter and places Lancaster's words in perspective - a welcome approach, in contrast to too many other market coverages which assume a degree of familiarity that many readers don't have.

As events unfold, Lancaster spices his story with emotion and passion also usually lacking in economic books. This creates a blend of factual examination laced into the subject that will allow even those with minimal stock market interest or knowledge to become absorbed and immersed in the history: "It wasn't about the politics, or the fact that we had taken a long position in the Turkish lira, which was about to get jammed down our throats. The Big D, the leader of the free world, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," had openly threatened another world power in a mere 140 characters. How could the US president post this to social media? Was this all a dream, some sort of parallel universe? A big mistake? But fuck it. We're in a ten-year bull market and are starting to make money again. A lot of money. It's been a while since we had a month like this. It's time to celebrate."

This paragraph is just one example of the blend of facts, history, and economic and emotional response to them that powers a novel's a solid account of the times.

As Lancaster moves through the remainder of 2019 and the events that unfold in 2020, readers will find his evolving dilemmas fascinating (a word that isn't usually used to describe a stock market book).

His experiences, observations, and ability to capture not just his individual perceptions, but the economic and political atmosphere around him, lends to a recap that is vivid, successfully capturing the underlying influences and feel of choices made during these times.

His ability to present such descriptions for those who either didn't live in this milieu or don't quite remember the specifics of 2020 makes the story accessible to a much wider range of readers than those with current economic interests alone: "A new year calls for new ideas. Wipe the slate clean and start fresh. The best place for us to begin is with our structural views. We need to be pragmatic. It's important to start the year off positive. There's nothing worse than trying to dig yourself out of an early hole while it's cold and dark sixteen hours a day. The year 2019 was an amazing one for the stock market. Stocks and bonds staged a huge run. They had their biggest gains in more than two decades. The S&P 500 soared 30%. Tech stocks were up 40%. The bond rally pushed the yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury note down by three-quarters of a percentage point. Everything went up in price. Stocks are at all-time highs. Housing is at all-time highs. Unemployment is at a fifty-year low."

The result is a vivid insider's guide that does more than trace a wildly fluctuating market environment. Fed Up! captures yet another nuance of Covid's impact on the world, and should be considered a basic acquisition not just for business, fiction, and economic collections, but history and social issues holdings alike. It details a heady, accessible, thought-provoking romp through a crisis that affected and continues to change the markets and the world.

End of the Race
Judith Kirscht
9781098352158, $16.59 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Contemporary fiction readers who look for stories of strong women who face romantic and personal hurdles in life will find End of the Race the compelling story of an Olympic hopeful's derailment when her husband vanishes.

Annika Wolfson is in training to be on an Olympic team when her coach and husband Brian disappears on a sailing trip. Left to fend for their six-year-old daughter and her waning interest in going for gold in the face of personal tragedy, Annika must muster her courage and determination to fight for what she wants on two different levels simultaneously.

Either of these endeavors could occupy her full-time, much less being a dual parent to her child, but she's also recovering from the miscarriage of their second child. It's almost too much to bear - but persevere she must. The only question becomes one of priorities.

As she embarks on a search for her missing husband, more questions arise of who else is involved and what really has happened.

As she probes not just her husband's life but those around them, Annika begins to realize he's not the only one who vanished from his life and its connections: "Annika put the last page down and leaned back. My God, Steph. Her mind searched for words to give the shock shape. She didn't know her. Had never known her. Her protector. But not this person who released such passion onto the page. Where in her super-responsible, straight-backed sister had the writer hidden all these years? But maybe she hadn't hidden. It was Annika who'd disappeared."

As the truth of family relationships and her husband's state of mind emerge, a final shock changes Annika's trajectory and begins to change her approach to life itself on a fundamental level.

Readers of women's fiction who enjoy stories of challenge, transformation, and already-strong women forced to examine the foundations of their beliefs and lives will find End of the Race weaves mystery, intrigue, and self-inspection in a vivid, realistic manner.

The story grabs reader attention from the start and maintains its hard-hitting twists and turns to the end. This contemporary novel is thoroughly engrossing and highly recommended for women's fiction readers who seek tales firmly rooted in relationship changes and new beginnings.

Hello, Rest Of My Life
Rick Lenz
Chromodroid Press
9780984844265, $16.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Imagine you're in your 70s, married for nearly 40 years, and one day find yourself in the past - young again, and struggling with the acting and writing ambitions that once fueled your imagination before everything changed.

Hello, Rest Of My Life is both a time travel journey and a self-inspection that centers around Danny Maytree's extraordinary experiences as he re-lives his past before he met his wife Samantha.

The proof of superior writing lies in the little details as much as a story's overall premise. Rick Lenz incorporates astute contrasts between past experience and modern knowledge to give the account a fine atmosphere of discovery: "I go upstairs to my office to do some writing. I'm not sure what, but I've got to do something. I sit down at my old ... Look at that. I didn't think about it before: a Smith Corona typewriter. I don't know if that company has gone out of business in the time I come from or not, but wouldn't working for them be a little like having a job with the Bubonic typewriter company? I think of the millions of people who will be affected by COVID-19. I consider saying something about the future pandemic, but I can't imagine what exactly I'd say."

Lenz himself has a background in many of the show biz areas he depicts that surround Danny with difficult political and social challenges. He is thus in the perfect position to explore these industry nuances through the course of a story that re-examines all kinds of relationships and expectations, past and present.

To whom does Danny owe loyalty: his future self and his wife, or his now-present-day youthful time-traveling incarnation? This and other conundrums lend this story a moral and ethical edge not usually present in time-travel tales: "Did you come from another time too?" I laugh, as if I've ttempted a bad joke. The joke didn't work, but that doesn't stop me. "Do you know how much life is not what most of us are used to thinking it is?" She smiles, studies me for a long moment, then says in low velvety tones: "So do we get to have fun with these bodies in the meantime?" I'm married. Hasn't she been listening? And why hasn't she reacted with more surprise to my story? I don't see how there's any chance Valory Valentine is a coincidence. She looked me up in the Thomas Guide. She shouldn't be having this strange effect on me. I'm in a restaurant in 1974 with this enigmatical woman, who looks like she stepped out of a Pedro Almodovar movie, even though Senor Almodovar is still a young man. I've been married to the love of my life for nearly forty years, and this strange woman is giving me an erection."

As Valory weaves into his new life, Danny questions his love, the meaning of his time-travel experiences, and its lasting impact on a woman not necessarily of his choosing: "We don't know why we do most of what we do. I don't know why you chose to set off on this journey you think you're on. I'm pretty sure you did it by choice, unconsciously maybe, but by choice. As to how you did it - if you actually did it - I have no more of a clue than you do."

Readers of time travel stories are in for a special treat, because Hello, Rest Of My Life isn't your usual saga of becoming stuck in the past and searching for the way home. Its special blend of philosophical and moral dilemmas, flavored with humor and a heavy dash of romance, sets it apart from other, more singular accounts. The events give readers plenty of thought-provoking moments as Danny reaches for truths in the past, that he'd never allowed himself to consider in his former life with Sam.

Median Gray
Bill Mesce, Jr.
Between the Lines Publishing
9781950502271, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

"Meara has a foot post, three blocks along 11th Avenue in the 40s. The old hair-bags tell him, You walk your beat, you keep your eyes open, you listen, you own your three blocks, the people who live and work there are yours. His uniform bought new for his first beat, still stiff and uncomfortable after two months, sticks to him in the already hammering morning heat, chafes at his neck. His scalp bakes under the peaked cap, his feet are dying in the heavy, rubber-soled shoes."

Median Gray captures the milieu of the 1980s in the New York City police department in a police procedural like few others. It's a contrast in times and characters, juxtaposing the special and disparate interests of a NYPD detective at the end of his career (who is determined to conclude his tenure by solving a 20-year-old cold case) and a rookie newcomer certain that this effort will further tarnish the reputation of an already-beleaguered police force.

Where other police stories focus on crime and problem-solving, Mesce's story is as much about the simmering clashes within the force as those which attack it from outside, both on the streets and within social and political circles.

More than just the police department comes to life, here. As bar bouncer Kookie, police commissioner Ronnie, and forces that control the streets (and often the outcomes of confrontations) coalesce, Mescue employs the same stark, gritty language, description, and dialogue to bring these personalities and situations to life: "We're just trying to keep a good cop from jamming himself up. And we're asking another cop to help us." At which Matos flamed, again, shooting to his feet. "You're gonna throw that Brotherhood of the Badge bullshit up at me? Screw that! You're not talking about fixing a coupla traffic tickets, ya know!" "Actually," Sid said, very calmly, "I don't think the kid's asking you to do anything. He's asking is you to not do anything." "We want the chance to take him," Ronnie said, "bring him back to our side of the river, let our department deal with him."

Readers will enjoy the "you are there" feel of the story. This allows them to not just walk the beat with the cops, but experience their dilemmas and moral and ethical conundrums as they conduct investigations, make deals within and outside the force, and enter into dangerous territories that are both mentally and physically challenging.

More so than the majority of police procedurals, Mesce's uncanny ability to bring alive all the special interests at work as undercurrents of influence on final outcomes and career choices alike makes Median Gray a powerful tale of contrasts and influences.

The cops are not all good, the bad guys aren't all bad, and the blurry gray lines between them receive intense and involving inspections. These devices keep readers thoroughly engaged and involved in a diverse set of characters' different dilemmas.

Median Gray is very, very highly recommended as a standout in crime fiction.

Nancy Allen
Atmosphere Press
9781637529270, $18.99

Catherine Finley leaves her dream job behind when she is called upon to help her ailing father, taking a different position as dean in a college. There, she falls prey to her boss's sexual advances and learns of his history of abuse...a history the college president is trying to cover up to protect the school's reputation.

As visits to her father and her increasing angst at her new job collide, Catherine uncovers a network of secrets and actions that not only threaten her personal well-being and her job, but her family relationships, as well.

The story opens with Catherine's reflection on how (and if) she should tell her tale. Should it be a fictionalized account, or a factual memoir? And if these stories are revealed, how will they affect the students and others who became embroiled in the controversy at the college in the previous year?

"Why do some writers feel comfortable - or is it compelled - to tell their stories as memoirs, anxious to get them down on paper before forgetfulness obscures the details? Others need the veil of fiction, constructing their reality so readers can see the character as a whole, not as a fragmented life in progress."

Catherine's choices in reflecting on her experiences, the nightmares she still struggles with in present-day 2005, and their lasting impact on all involved direct the course of her life as she reflects on the past and makes decisions about her future in Grace.

Flashbacks of memory permeate the story and create time shifts of information that provide background to Catherine's present-day world and dilemma. These are presented in italics and serve to embrace and round out the characters and their experiences, adding extra dimensions of inspection to create depth and background for the events that unfold.

Nancy Allen's ability to probe the foundations of relationships, secrets, past influences, and the legacy of abuse lends a realistic tone and perspective to a story that many women will readily relate to.

As scandal embraces her not once, but numerous times, Catherine wonders if she will ever have the courage to confront her darkest moments. Her choices affect not only her psyche and life, but the entire college.

Any woman who has faced family and career conundrums will find Grace a compelling saga. It winds through and forms connections between abuse, past and present circumstances, and a career woman who must confront close-held secrets on several levels.

This moving saga is powered both by a father's revelations and a daughter's determination to escape sexual harassment in the workplace, and will be welcomed by women who may see in Catherine some of their own struggles and conflicts.

Just Be Honest
Cindy Yates
Atmosphere Press
9781637529218, $16.99

Just Be Honest cultivates a self-help approach that connects honesty with happiness, promoting behavior that should be on everyone's radar. One would think the subject of cultivating personal, professional, and social honesty would be a no-brainer, from lessons learned early in life. Unfortunately, the lack of honesty embraces the concurrent subjects of a lack of self-awareness and knowledge of what constitutes honesty, lies, and gray areas called white lies.

Cindy Yates uses her own life circumstances to chart instances in which being less than honest came with a heavy price tag. In the name of transparency, she suggested that her children write the forewords introducing her book. And they did, creating a candid assessment of her special brand of honesty and its impact on their approaches to life: "These are simple stories, but they describe perfectly how important honesty is to my mom. She has told me countless times in my life that when there is a problem you must shine a bright light on it and expose everything. That is the only way to find a solution."

Chapters open with a simple admonition: getting to know and trust oneself are the fundamental roots of cultivating honesty. From this foundation, one can lead, set goals, and invite honesty and transparency into relationships.

Spiritual readers will be especially pleased by the references to divine purpose in achieving honesty and goals: "Honesty in your work ethic is the difference between small successes and big ones. The results of your work will equate to the quality of your effort and your attitude. This is when being honest with yourself is crucial. But beware. Make sure the work you are doing is directly related to your purpose in life. Remember the last chapter. Have you taken the time to find your divinely-directed goals? Be careful to not just work to work. There has to be a plan."

As descriptions move beyond singular definitions of how to identify and be authentic, readers receive vignettes about life encounters that challenged and changed the author's prejudices and perceptions: "Billy had seen something I had not. He saw this man's heart. He saw his need. He saw past the lie of his scary demeanor and his anti-social guard to protect his insecurity. Billy saw his sadness and his loneliness. He saw his beauty. I once again was humbled by this angel boy. I had made a choice to judge this young man. He had made a choice to lie about his need and hide behind his self-imposed scary image and I had believed him."

What at first seems a narrowed focus on how to be honest develops into a broader examination of how to live a better life by identifying the prejudices and assumptions that lead to creating lies about self-image and others.

Spiritual readers with an interest in self examination and understanding the impact of deceit on different levels will find Just Be Honest a key to revised, better approaches to parenting, happiness, business, and social relationships.

It is especially recommended for spiritual self-improvement readers and collections catering to them.

Cora: Rise of the Fallen Goddess
A.L. Hawke
Independently Published
9781953919045, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Cora: Rise of the Fallen Goddess will appeal to fantasy readers interested in Greek legends, and is set in Greece in the fourteenth century B.C. It tells of Cora (also known as the goddess Persephone), who is sent away by her protective mother to Azure Blue, there to be raised by the nymph Nephrea, safe from any dark prophecy about her future.

Azure Blue is a beautiful place of unicorns and crystal palaces; the perfect place for a young vulnerable goddess to come of age.

This is where Cora learns the Amazon credo of being strong and righteous, and where she interacts with Azure girls and develops a hatred for her imprisonment in a beautiful world. When she is drawn beyond its boundaries and is ravished by an unknown force, Cora keeps her first major secret from queen Nephrea, who has changed after a fateful sword competition.

Her journey into adulthood leads Cora to become the wife of Hades, Lord of the Underworld, despite her rebellious nature. Nephrea (Queen Nephratee of Napea) is captured by him, with Cora an accomplice in her fate.

Cora's mother, the witch Demeter, wants her daughter back.

But Cora has strayed far from Nephrea's teachings and her mother's protections, so Demeter threatens to destroy the world. Nephrea dreams of Amazons ruling the world with their moral code. She never thought that the youngster she's come to love could threaten that goal.

A.L. Hawke creates a memorable character in the feisty and challenged Cora. At once a favored goddess and a fallen character who both defies and bows to her oppressor, Cora faces moral and ethical conundrums as she questions her loyalty and allegiance to light and dark forces alike.

One satisfying feature of this story lies in a protagonist who is both powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well in her tangled relationship with Hades, and her loves and resentments are often twisted in confusion as she is pulled in very different directions by forces beyond her ability to detect or defy. Graphic, sexual scenes are part of this evolving tale.

Readers who enjoy coming of age stories, fantasy rooted in Greek mythology and history, and the well-rounded development of a flawed but spirited character who struggles between controlling forces for control of her own destiny will find Cora: Rise of the Fallen Goddess a compelling saga that presumes no prior knowledge of Greek myth or setting. It creates a vivid, memorable story about destiny, parenting, and love.

The Sun at Twilight
N.L. Holmes
WayBack Press
9781735291642, $5.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback

The Sun at Twilight is Book 4 of 'The Empire at Twilight' series and is recommended for readers of historical fiction, who will appreciate a story set in the Hittite Empire of the 1230s BC.

Tudhaliya IV comes to the throne determined to lead in the name of justice despite the nefarious approaches and interests of his family. When his beloved cousin Kurunta, who is like a brother to him, decides that he is more worthy to rule than Tudhaliya, challenge and war ensue.

N.L. Holmes introduces the story with a note that all the characters were real, and as much of the murky history of this era as possible was included as a foundation for her fictional presentation of events. This note is followed by a cast of characters which will prove essential (because there are so many forces at work in this story) and a glossary of terms and gods (also solid references that are important guideposts because so many influences and forces permeate the story).

The tale itself is replete with intersecting forces, civil war, and a troubled leader who must decide if he should resort to employing some of the repressive devices of his family and predecessors to unite the country.

The Sun at Twilight is no light read. It will best be enjoyed by those who have absorbed the prior books in the series, beginning with The Lightening Horse, which introduced a young Hittite charioteer determined to find a killer and change his world.

Holmes focuses on social, political, and familial relationships and the personalities, motivations, and choices of all involved: "The queen laced her fingers in the king's hair as if to ensnare him, but he drew away. Her tone grew petulant. "Your mother wants him in the royal nursery so she can win his heart. She wants to make him her creature, My Sun, like all the other princes of your house. She'll try to turn him against me, his own mother." "I said keep him." Her whining irritated him. He felt helpless against his mother. He was far too honest - what did Puduhepa call him, obstinately innocent? - to be a worthy opponent of that master of guile.

"Did she admit she's trying to poison the alliance with my brother?" "No. But I think she's guilty of it nonetheless." The king let out a sigh as inconspicuously as he could."

Her attention to psychological probes and details adds depth and understanding to the conundrums and challenges the characters each face in leading and surviving this conflicted world. It also makes each individual come to life as they confront not just one another, but their upbringings and ideals.

The special interests that clash and the approaches that reflect both brilliance and insanity make for engrossing reading as confrontations emerge: "Kurunta stared at him, his thoughts teetering. The viceroy had a certain reputation for daring, but this was lunacy.This was the kind of lunacy that afflicted truly great generals. A glow of admiration flushed his face."

The Sun at Twilight is a complex read that journeys through disparate forces and the challenges leaders face in confronting not just each other, but their own followers: "There was a rumble of anger from Tudhaliya's officers behind him. An uneasy flutter in his stomach, the king realized he had no idea how this would be received by his infantry - many of whom were in fact from the West, quite apart from the loyal sons of Sheha

River Land. Fractious Luwians had been transplanted all over the country for generations and now served in the levies of many provinces."

Its ultimate focus on justice's challenges and representation and its deep probe of all forces and their motivations will delight historical fiction readers with its astute blend of history-backed events and psychological inspection.

Tamera Lawrence
Wild Rose Press
9781509235223, $17.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Asylum is a story of creeping horror that opens in Pennsylvania in 1984, where nine-year-old Kyle Hampton fields abusive staff and violent co-inmates at Rose Hill Asylum before he is finally adopted, leaving behind a younger brother.

Fast forward twenty-eight years to a scenario in which Kyle finds his revisit to the now-abandoned asylum awakens a vengeful figure from the past.

A stolen pair of odd boots, threats to himself and his friend Randy, and a growing certainty that whatever was left behind at the asylum is now on a deadly mission would seem to indicate the police should be involved; but Kyle has been breaking into the building, himself. His own crimes preclude him asking for help from the one place that might be equipped to handle this threat.

Kyle and Randy tries to find answers, involving Beth, Kat, and other innocents in an increasingly dangerous game with a series of confrontations and mysteries.

Tamera Lawrence is adept at crafting a chilling atmosphere that slowly builds from childhood to adulthood, rests on past mistakes and choices, and reaches out to touch everyone in Kyle's new life.

The characters are three-dimensional, the tension exquisite, and the story evolves towards seemingly-predictable scenarios that then take satisfying twists and turns.

Asylum holds important messages about managed ways of addressing mental illness that not only fail to do the job, but add to its impact and progression. Its coverage of the lingering impact of mental illness, abuse, and institutions that not only fail but create monsters offers a degree of social inspection that add nicely to the horror aspect to keep readers not just entertained, but thinking.

Inside the Grey
Bobbi Groover
Satin Romance
9781680469578, $4.99 Kindle, $13.99 Paperback

Historical romance readers will find Inside the Grey a moving story of the Civil War and its effects that touch the lives of wealthy landowner friends and neighbors Brayden and Fletcher: "Brayden needed no crystal ball to see conflagration and bloodshed - nations, states, counties, and families torn asunder, hemorrhaging with wounds that might never heal. Neither he nor the others was ready to be drawn into the world outside of their properties. They didn't hate the Yankees; they just wanted peace."

When Union leaders kidnap attorney and friend Caleb Jenkins, accusing him of hiding a rebel convict, conflict draws Brayden into the war with a personal attack that imparts the message that nobody can remain neutral - or safe.

From Brayden's confrontation with the world outside his familiar and privileged life to Kawley Chatterton's urgent mission and struggles with trauma (which leads her to draw a pistol on stranger Brayden as she searches for a brother who has also been kidnapped), the story takes a series of twists and turns. Characters ride into traps, take on confrontations and struggles outside their familiar world, and find that strangers can quickly become enemies or lovers as the blanket of war covers them all.

Bobbi Groover injects clues to these characters' changes and perceptions to add an extra dimension of understanding and insight into their encounters with one another: "She knew the 'miss' would disappear as soon as they reached the others, but it surely felt nice to hear. The small kindness reminded her of another time long ago when life had made sense. For the moment, why shouldn't she allow the dashing, elegant gentleman to bear the brunt of the hunt for a day or two?"

Brayden keeps a 'grey book' journal that traces his journey, leading Fletcher to question secrets that never seem to go beyond the written word: "...perhaps if you say it out loud instead of to a written page, you can scatter it to the wind. It will be gone, and your mind won't be shackled inside the grey journal." He rose and retrieved a bandage from the saddlebag. Brayden watched his friend's hand rest momentarily on the corner of the grey book."

From Brayden's struggle with loss to Kawley's courage in confronting war and romance, Groover brings her characters to life. She adds nuances set against the backdrop of war that reach out to embrace individual struggle as yet another thread of interpersonal connections that reside beneath the political and military face of world-changing events.

Inside the Grey is not your typical Civil War account. It moves from the wartime milieu into the lives, challenges, and struggles of disparate individuals who each grasp pain and solace too tightly. Brayden's grey journal is both his confessional and solace. It may also be the key to his heart that ultimately frees him from the past.

This love story's unexpected progression against the Civil War's evolution and, particularly, its feisty and flawed characters in Brayden and Kawley makes for a read that romance readers will find afire with purpose, passion, and perceptions that go beyond the usual Civil War saga.

Inside the Grey is highly recommended for romance readers who like their history strong, personal, and supercharged with survivors' recoveries and love.

Pepper the Salt Potato
Lenora Riegel
Siphre Books
9780996649872, $16.95

A salt potato is a New York specialty. Young picture book readers in all states receive an engaging tale about it in Pepper the Salt Potato.

Pepper is planning a visit to the New York State Fair with his friends Jam the Jelly Jar, Snap the Pickle, and Phil the Paper Bag.

He thinks he's ready to compete in the Fair's Best Potato Contest, but he's dug himself into the dirt and resists taking the bath that will assure he's a winner.

As his friends try to answer his questions about bathing and face much resistance, Pepper throws up all kinds of obstacles and keeps maintaining that "baths are for pickles."

There are so many things he'd rather be doing...and his "true self" is dirty. What will get him to change his mind, as all his friends' efforts come to naught?

A fun story evolves that kids who resist bath time will certainly relate to, while read-aloud parents will find the whimsical story and its characters and drawings engaging.

Exertions of Better Men
Ashley B. Venenga
Amber Dragonfly LLC
9798713976613, $6.14 ebook, $12.99 Paperback

Time travel and dystopian sci-fi readers will find Exertions of Better Men combines both in a vivid thriller-style adventure revolving around Nicholas Smith, whose suicide attempt in 2009 leads to a new life in the war-torn 31st century.

Nicholas is tired of life and missing Amy when the story opens with his jump from a Colorado waterfall. Fast forward to where he unexpectedly awakens in a cell, under arrest for witchcraft.

Isn't he supposed to be dead? Or, is this an illusion?

As his nightmares reignite the circumstances and horror of Amy's loss but bring him continually back to imprisonment, Nicholas finds that he has been observed ascending from the Holy Falls, and is accused of being in league with the Evil One.

His observations of and connections to this new time come alive as he interacts with its culture and peoples, and is advised to join the Righteous Army and become one of its noble warriors.

Nicholas's experiences cause him to wonder about not just his current situation, but events of the past: "If there were any word he could think of that described the people whom he had just encountered the least, it would be righteous. Nicholas had never believed that such evil existed in the hearts of men, not even when Amy had died. He had always held that her death was an accident, or the result of fear in her enemy."

Can his former job as a teacher help him lead these people away from the sword and battle and into different ways of handling their lives?

As he becomes involved with Alessia and comes to know her people, Nicholas begins to evolve a new life and objectives, recovering from his loss to realize that little in his past world had kept him grounded: "There had been times in the past few months when he'd wondered what was wrong with him, that the loss of Amy had sapped his will to live. Here in this time, loved ones were lost daily and people moved on. If everyone gave up when they lost someone, there would be no one left."

What is his true destiny, and what is his revised role in life?

Ashley B. Venenga brings to the protagonist a special sense of critical self-inspection as he moves from heartache and the end of life to new beginnings in which his knowledge and approach support a more purposeful, humane society.

As the romance evolves, so does his leadership, friendships, and connections that defy the kind of world domination the Righteous have cultivated: "This is what they want. The Righteous can taste our fear and they feed on it. They want us afraid of ourselves. When you are afraid, you are easy to control. Because in a moment of terror you will barter your freedom without a second thought. "We are not here today to defeat the Righteous. Or to buy a few months before the next slaughter. We are here to annihilate them."

Issues of fighting for freedom, handling repression, starting over in love, and facing grief are embedded into a story that juxtaposes personal ambition and struggle with political and social inspection. Exertions of Better Men is replete with action, social, and psychological examination that lead to an evolving sense of purpose and connections.

Readers seeking a different kind of time travel/dystopian fiction story will find Exertions of Better Men thoroughly engrossing as Nicholas faces conundrums past and present and grows into a very different kind of life from the brink of death.

Beowulf: A Verse Translation from the Anglo-Saxon
Andrew B. F. Carnabuci
Independently Published
9781077197497, $17.00 Hardcover, $12.00 paper

Most high school students have received lessons on the classic, but Beowulf: A Verse Translation from the Anglo-Saxon represents a very different scholarly approach. It not only incorporates a format lending to cross-comparison, using a side-by-side bilingual layout, but includes the translator's preface and notes. These lend to an analytical inspection of the process itself and the reasons (sometimes misguided) why Beowulf came to be interpreted as something it actually was not.

The introduction explains that even though Beowulf has been a bastion of literature studies courses, it in fact did not originate as a piece of literature, but had its origins in 1563. Nowell, an antiquarian and collector of ancient manuscripts, came upon the only copy in existence and pursued it for its philological, anthropological, and sociological value, reconstructing early Anglo-Saxon language from its fragments.

When 19th century literary academics become involved in this effort, they embedded within their interpretations the sense that it was a literary epic quest poem, endowing it with properties based on their interpretation of its value.

After charting the origins of these misrepresentations, Andrew B. F. Carnabuci maintains that: "Beowulf is not merely sociological data, nor is it a Classical epic poem, nor is it the handseynie of the White Man's Burden.12 So what is it?"

Not only does his preface explore the history of the piece and the cultural flavours that Anglo-Saxon heritage imparted, but it explores the roots of Anglo-Saxon literary representations, studies, and the fallacies and inherent prejudices in scholarly approaches to the piece.

By explaining the translator's challenges and approach to the artificiality of the language, Carnabuci provides invaluable insights into a translator's tasks and options. These explanations and this document should be part of any reasoned consideration of Beowulf studies.

Appendixes include supporting data on the pedigrees of Danes, Swedes, and Weder-Geats (including bibliography), and provides much in-depth scholarly material for supporting reference and study.

By exploring the process and necessity of re-translating Anglo-Saxon poetry and providing a set of principles to guide this effort (" keeps the idiom Northern and Germanic, which more accurately reflects the diction of the original Anglo-Saxon. If this point seems confusing or peculiar to you, I encourage you to read a few hundred lines of the poem. It is my hope, if I have done my job right, that you will acquire a feel for what I have described as the direct, earthy, robust, and masculine feel of English in its pre-Romance period."), students and scholars receive far more value than a retranslation alone.

Beowulf: A Verse Translation from the Anglo-Saxon should be a foundation piece in any collection strong in early Anglo-Saxon history, culture, and language, with its powerful new series of observations and insights backed by extensive footnote references.

Andrew BF Carnabuci earned his degrees from the Middlebury College and Quinnipiac University School of Law. This undertaking represents a solid verse translation that is surprisingly accessible not just to the usual audience of high school students, but anyone interested in epic writings and poems.

Michael Angelis adds black and white illustrative embellishments that capture the flavor of the story for a surprisingly wide audience.

Making Peas
S.M.R. Saia
Shelf Space Books
9781945713200, $6.99

Gertie has a problem, in Making Peas - first grader Clark Whittle, who refuses to follow rules and who gets Gertrude in trouble with his teasing and antics.

Readers ages 6-9 will find this a believable story of a new boy in school who gets on Gertie's bad side right away, even though he's her neighbor. For one thing, he refuses to use her favored nickname. When she responds rudely, she is the one who gets in trouble with the teacher. And Clark has determined that she's someone he can provoke in many different ways.

How can Gertie cope with a bully?

However, this is more than a story about bullies. It sets the foundation of a relationship conflict, then moves to its focus on a wise, gardener grandmother who provides Gertie with some coping mechanisms. These go beyond Gertie's initial efforts to either change her name to avoid teasing or challenge her new perceived enemy to a duel to resolve the issues.

Against the backdrop of planting and caring for a garden's peas, Gertie learns new lessons that translate to thought-provoking life inspections for kids: "Peace is what I want to have with Clark, even if having a duel is how I have to get there."

Black and white pictures by Tina Perko support the story and add visual embellishments to Gertie's world as she learns how to plant peas, peace, and a better way of resolving her issues.

Kids receive a fun exploration that holds important messages for creative and positive problem-solving, and will find Gertie's gardening experiences and family relationships weave nicely into the story of her school conundrums.

Making Peas is first in a planned series of garden-themed chapter books. It does an excellent job of juxtaposing growing peas with fostering better approaches to life.

It's especially recommended for collections looking to instill lessons about the value of growing food and handling challenging peer relationships by making better choices.

Beyond Karen
Karen Willard Ribeiro
Independently Published
9781736977408, $20.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Women seeking to self-examine, confront inner and social prejudices, and change the world one step at a time, beginning with their unconscious biases, will find no better guiding light than Beyond Karen: Emerging From The Depths Of An Epic Epithet.

It's a self-help and social change adviser in the guise of a memoir, and thus is much more readable and relatable than most social and political calls to action, using the 'Karen' phenomenon as a starting point for understanding language, assumptions, and change.

This is the personal memoir of a woman whose name has come to portray privilege, elitist attitude, and entitlement on a level that defies social inspection. Karen Willard Ribeiro wrote this book to heal social and interpersonal relationships, both personally and societally, and to reach others struggling with Covid and social unrest: "In the grand scheme of the 2020-21 "moment," with COVID-19 and illness and job losses and natural disasters and political fears to contend with, taking a deep dive into the dark "well" of Karen name-calling to write at least my own way out of it has been a way to take action and not succumb to the overwhelm." Willard Ribeiro offers "a wide-angle lens on the ongoing tragedy of the commons, to Karens, to the curse of and on white middle-aged women."

Her discourse charts her own "Pivot Moments of Choice" to move from the position of white privilege to a more embodied response to life, providing a road map for other women seeking to do the same. It takes the 'Karen' meme to new levels of inspection as Ribeiro examines, with passion and pathos, the impact of her name, her choices, her role in life, and the changing social environment around her: "I hear the Kansas song, "all we are is Dust in the Wind" in my head knowing that ultimately, as with all things, this [Karen trope] too will blow over. But I am done waiting for nature to take her course when she is being manipulated by countless emotionally dysregulated people in every facet of society. It is not just the greedy elite who believe they are entitled to more and more and more and more of everything. It is all of us who can no longer bear the trauma of a life full of so many "things that make you go hmmmm," so many experiences of cognitive dissonance, that our brains are simply no longer able to contain the compacted rubble of emotions we have suppressed for so long."

During this process, Ribeiro speaks of gratitude, transformation, collective memories, mother/daughter relationships and their impact, and much more.

In addition to analyzing what is, she considers the positive potential of "what if": "What if we all could focus on our breath at all the most important moments? The process of transformation, creating sufficient time and space for processing emotion, ideally with someone who cares, is everything."

If you are a white woman confronting prejudice and racism in the world today, Beyond Karen: Emerging From The Depths Of An Epic Epithet will resonate on a deep level...especially if your name is Karen.

Human Verses
Katya Zinn
Finishing Line Press
9781646624461, $14.99

Poetry enthusiasts who enjoy evocative writings will find Human Verses a study in contrasts that hold their roots in their creator's struggle with mental illness and healing.

Though autobiographical in approach, these poems provide a powerful inspection of life perceptions that wed metaphor and emotion for a firm marriage of evocative imagery and feeling: "If you've ever seen a Denny's ad/you probably saw bubbling dish-soap/spooned over cold soy sauce;/mistook it for freshly-poured coffee/which implies the existence/of an alternate universe/where matter dwells/in speculative perfection/untouched by time..."

Katya Zinn's poems reflect her experiences with alternate ways of perceiving life and handling therapists and group therapies, presenting her different takes on these encounters. One example is 'Anniversary Syndrome', about teaching, remembering, and being haunted by choices past and present: "Anniversary syndrome is a lot like being stuck in quicksand / the outside world takes the shape of swallowing you whole / loving someone you shouldn't is a lot like living next to the leader of a death cult / theoretically dangerous but you always walk away with a story..."

As readers move through expressions of the stability and instability of the universe and self, the poems exert their own pull towards event horizons that cross boundaries and shatter expectations. One example of this approach is 'Theories Of The Humanverse': "let's talk about quantum physics. let's talk about/things that only matter when they're measured/like particles & waves/& abandonment. let's talk/about gravity./let's talk about this/inexplicable attraction, this/magnetic madness, this need/to bury every piece of myself inside/you, stich you up & then/sew shut the fabric/of a universe/you can never leave./let's call that gravity./not love;/call it the intergalactic forces/of shared possibility..."

Zinn's style is experimental and mercurial, adopting a satisfying mode that both challenges poetry readers and delights the reader's mind and heart with fresh, original verse and emotional connections.

Human Verses is a chapbook not for the faint of heart, but for the questioning and examining mind that will find delight in these expressions of transformation. Between here and eternity, there are gems like Human Verses to light the path forward and the pitfalls inherent in the journey that is life.

Poetry readers who enjoy blends of personal expression and universal hope are in for a treat.

My World, and Welcome to It
Michael Guillebeau
Madison Press
9781735402215, $12.99 paperback, $3.99 e-book

My World, and Welcome to It gathers Michael Guillebeau's published stories and poems under one cover. It opens with the story 'The Man in the Moon', after an especially winning preface delights the mind with what is to come and how to approach his writings: "Since this book is both unreal and, to me, more real than earth and sky, feel free to not play fair with the book. Skip around. Read a detective story now, a comedy next. Maybe something autobiographical after that. Put it down for a month. Now that it is in your hands, this book is yours, and not mine."

The promise of variety and pieces that range from contemplative reflections to humor and mystery is fulfilled in a diverse selection of works that vacillate between stories of success and pointed observations of the writer's world and life in general: "Writers, like other people, tend to say the same things over and over. This story was written as an exercise in a flash fiction class. But yet again, here we have a little guy furiously rattling his cage, in really inappropriate ways. If you put your butt in the chair, and do the work, your heart will find a way to shout what it needs to."

These stories are varied, unexpected, and impossible to predict. Take, for example, 'Saint Monster's', in which Darla, a spunky girl living in Saint Monica's orphanage, confronts teachers and new nuns with equal sass: "Told ya, name's Darla, not Missy. I got work to do at school, you know, like I was a normal girl. Maybe you could get, you know, the full-time nun that's supposed to be taking care of things here to make the beds. Or get the God who cares about us all so much to send you some help so that you could get the work done and keep focusing on your full-time spiritual presence." The look I got from the nun, then, matched the look I got from my teacher, later, when I walked into her class at nine o'clock. "You're late," she said. "Here now."

More so than most literary collections, the diversity of technique, subject, and approaches to life is satisfyingly unexpected. Each poem and story is presented in a chronological structure that follows Michael Guillebeau's literary evolution.

The blends of autobiography, personal scrutiny, and life moments create inspections that are vivid, as in '2009: The Three-D Characters Drop Keys to Free the Two-D Characters': "I grew up believing the most important thing about me was that I was a writer. I spent most of my spare time through my twenties writing. I won a couple of awards, and got some decent recognition. And earned a total of $125. $125. So I let the world make me give it up...Like the Velveteen Rabbit, we all want to be real and loved. Particularly writers, the most insecure creatures on the planet. When you first think that maybe, possibly, you want to be a writer, you cower in a corner. Someone catches you typing. "Are you a writer?" Oh, no, you say. Not a real writer. Just kind of a...wannabe. Maybe a someday-be. One day you sell a story, and you feel more real. Until the next day, when somebody asks you again. Now you answer: Oh no. Well, I sold one story, but it was to a crappy little zine. And on and on. If you're not careful, you find yourself like Hemingway in a cabin in Idaho with a shotgun in your mouth and a Nobel Prize on the mantel in the next room, and your finger on the trigger because you think you can't do or write anything good."

Each work is a draw; but presented together, the collection shines. Literary readers who look for fresh, gritty, original works and a diversity that doesn't adhere to a singular style or genre are in for a treat with My World, and Welcome to It.

The Frontline: The Complete First Season
Michael Santino
Independently Published
9781737063605, $19.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

The Frontline: The Complete First Season gathers episodes 1-7 of the serial novel under one cover in the unusual form of a serial series of episodes designed to be read in a few hours. The book form embraces seven stand-alone (yet complimentary) episodes.

'Episode 1: The Pilot' sets the stage for events that unfold in the next six episodes, reviewing the structure, members, and intentions of the domestic group American Dawn, which has evolved from patriotic roots to become a terrorist collection of disparate forces that's being investigated by the FBI.

Readers then move to a series of centralized adventure episodes that flush out the characters and events affecting Kole County.

Each episode adds further insights and probes of the group's members and encounters, building a series of mysteries that use social and political clashes and individual lives to expand the boundaries of Kole County's circles.

Each story takes the form of a short work whose peoples and encounters dovetail with the overall scenario and plot of its predecessor.

Episode 2, 'The Four Charlies', for examples, contains vignettes that swirl around prior characters. Odacio is involved in a plot to cover up a murder, while Kirsten is filling in as Chapter Leader for her worksite.

A swirl of intrigue swells to embraces characters in this and other events, building upon prior plots to contribute to a read that is engrossingly filled with satisfying twists and turns as the story evolves.

Each episode is complete unto itself; but together, the action contributes to a broader picture. As lawyers, growing group management issues, state police investigators, and murder emerge, readers will be satisfied by the intrigue and discussions of impacts on individual and community lives alike.

From lives turned upside down to fights and struggles, these stories form a unified and strong front in which American Dawn's participants and those outside the group interact in different ways.

The result is a powerful series that excels in serial presentation, highly recommended for readers of mystery, social inspection, and political intrigue.

Some of the most famous books started out as serial novels. Examples include works by Truman Capote, Dickens, Eliot, and many more. The revitalization of this format for a thriller series could not come at a better time in history as readers look for edgy, succinct works replete with fast-paced action and astute social inspection.

Runaway at Sea
Margreit Maitland
Red Penguin Books
9781949864847, $12.95

Runaway at Sea is a historical adventure for ages 10 and older based on the true story of the author's ancestor, Robert. In the introduction, Robert's daughter Anna (and her siblings) remember him as a kindly, patient man with a passion for hard work and his adopted country of America. His talent for telling vivid stories of his youth that are "filled with the adventure of sailing ships of Her Majesty Victoria's navy, life in a jungle and in American pioneering" makes for a lively narrative for his grandchildren and future generations, in this story.

The teenage Robert's nautical adventure includes being trapped aboard a British Naval vessel with his best friend Michael and facing storms and a dangerous bully before they finally escape, only to discover they have moved from the frying pan into the fire by running into a jungle, where they must survive sickness, insects, and threats.

Maitland cultivates a fast-paced story and expressive flavor in her writing that keeps the action nonstop and centered on the boys' experiences and observations: "They were desperately hungry, soggy and hot. Over and over their names were called; the voices getting closer. But they both knew there would be no relief if they were found. There was no reasonable explanation for their presence in the forest. They'd be lucky if they weren't shot and would at the very least be made an example of; put in irons in the brig, tied to the ratlines and whipped. Mr. Smith's trust in them would be shattered. They couldn't show themselves, it was too late for that."

About half of the story takes place on board the ship, taking the time to explore the trials the boys face in their new environment before they escape into a worse situation in the jungle outside the village.

The dream of America, where gold offers promises and new lives, keeps them moving forward towards a place they finally can call home...if they survive.

As the story unfolds, middle grade readers receive important lessons about early immigrant experiences and motivations through the eyes of two young people who move into adulthood through a difficult coming of age adventure among adults.

Runaway at Sea is not only a story of survival or maturity, but a close inspection of early immigrant lives and adventure that personalizes the trials and confrontations of two teens who stowaway on a ship, bound for new lives.

Young fans of adventure stories will find the history easy to absorb against the backdrop of many different discoveries. The tale is highly recommended for middle grade collections seeking high adventure, historical detail, and nicely developed, believable characters throughout.

Jonathan Prince of Dreams
A. Corrin
Independently Published
9781736560983, $9.99

Jonathan Prince of Dreams tells of a typical teenage boy who enjoys sports and struggles with other concerns, from keeping his girlfriend to grieving the loss of his mother and his father's alcoholism and abuse. He's typical, that is, until he is knocked into a coma and enters the Land of Dreams, where he confronts monsters and his destiny - to lead this world out of darkness as the future Griffin King and find the path to peace in both this world and his own.

A. Corrin narrates this quest story using unusually vivid language and descriptions that are strengthened by Jonathan's first-person experiences and revelations about his world.

From Jonathan's fury at "bad boy" and bully Garrett, who unexpectedly shows up as an adversary in this new universe, to his best friend Tyson's ability to also enter that world and see his friend again, the story juxtaposes reality and fantasy in a delightful manner that keeps readers engaged in both worlds.

The adventures, Jonathan's transformations and his ability to take flight in many different ways, and his adventures as he discovers who he really is in both worlds make for compelling reading that teens will find satisfying on two different levels: as an epic fantasy, and as the story of a teen finding his place and way in the world.

In a genre where too many fantasies become rooted in an alternate universe and stay there, it's satisfying to see the edges blur in a realistic, involving manner which is both easy to understand and action-packed throughout.

Jonathan Prince of Dreams is highly recommended reading for middle to high school grades. This audience will appreciate the actions of a flawed hero who struggles to find value in his role in both worlds, facing an enemy equally determined to make a name for himself.

Courting the Dragon
Sara Cleveland
Independently Published
9798700375689, $10.50 Paperback; $4.99 ebook

Princess Penelope's father confronts her with an ultimatum when she returns home for the summer from the Academy of Mages in Courting the Dragon - choose a suitor, or quit school and stay home.

The problem isn't that Penelope doesn't want to find love. It's that she already has the form of the Dragon-Wizard Salarath, who is not considered an appropriate match for a princess of her standing. And Salarath is not as firmly committed to her as she would like, least, not enough to defy convention.

Penelope thus has her hands full between her father's odd ultimatum and her chosen one's reticence, trying to evade her father's suggestions, and trying to convince her suitor that he should make a stand for her hand.

The last thing she needed was more secrets challenging her choices and course in life. But as she falls into a series of revelations, Penelope faces magical mishaps and a threat to her brother Michael's life.

As Penelope and Salarath come to realize they are in the center of a maelstrom of legal and political strife, Penelope finds herself the focal point in a struggle for the throne.

What at first appears to be a romance story delves into mystery and political process alike, building a tale based as much upon intrigue as a young woman's struggle for independence and choice.

The changing perspectives between Penelope, Eric, and others keep this story moving through different angles and in compelling ways as some friendships turn into something more while others fall by the wayside.

Sara Cleveland weaves sword and sorcery fantasy into the romance mystery in a way that brings Penelope's character, her kingdom's people, and a host of special interests to life.

Fast-paced action swirls around Penelope and Salarath, handmaiden Tiffany, friend Eric, and others who become caught in the web of intrigue, kidnapping, and threats that surround Penelope.

Fantasy readers who enjoy strong interpersonal inspections will find Courting the Dragon a story especially strong in its exploration of romance and enchantment.

The Big Gift
Derek Fisher
Securely Built
9780578685588, $5.49 Paper/$1.49 ebook

In The Big Gift, Alicia's parents have finally given her a tablet; something her friends have enjoyed using for quite a while. Clearly, she's been behind the times - but the gift comes with big challenges on how to handle it carefully.

Advanced elementary to early middle school grades will appreciate this story of a girl's first introduction to new technology and its different responsibilities.

As Alicia tackles creating new accounts and passwords, learning new apps, and integrating the tablet into her already-busy life, she is guided by savvy parents who understand that the gift of the tablet brings with it a requirement for thoughtful usage: "Remember, like with TullyTown, if you don't feel comfortable about something just ask your dad or me." Both Alicia and her mom looked over at her dad who was off the couch and yelling something at the television. "Well, you can at least ask me," her mom said with a wink."

TullyTown is a fun app, but her mother points out that it's up to Alicia to cultivate good decisions about how to connect with people online.

As kids follow Alicia's evolving knowledge of the online environment, they receive messages from the dialogues between Alicia and her parents on how best to handle online conundrums and choices.

When classmate and friend Megan gets into trouble over her own use of her tablet, Alicia receives invaluable insights into the choices involved in adding an online environment to real-world endeavors.

Parents looking to teach kids about these choices and their consequences will find The Big Gift the perfect place to make their point. The story embraces the perspectives of adults and preteens alike, providing a realistic growth experience that clearly explains the promises and pitfalls of online interactions.

This warm, realistic story deserves a place on the reading lists of any child enthusiastic about embracing online interactions and environments, and parents who want to impart basic safe computing habits to a young explorer.

aah...The Pleasure Book
Jia Gottlieb, MD
Sanitas Press
9781734376906, $19.95 Paper/$8.45 ebook

aah...The Pleasure Book comes from a doctor who reviews the virtue of pleasure as the ultimate key to leading a fulfilling life. It discusses pleasure and pain's effects on love, compassion, and the ability to appreciate one's world. In the age of Covid, this message is especially significant because it supports the notion that finding, better understanding, and sharing pleasure goes far in creating a more positive future for everyone.

Some readers might approach this book's title with the criticism that it embraces self-interest and hedonistic approaches to life, but aah...The Pleasure Book is more than a new age self-help examination. It's a book of enlightenment that includes anatomical discussions of the brain and body's reactions to pleasure, surveys of sensual and emotional pleasure, discussions of erotica and relationship-building, and differentiations between pleasure pursuits and happiness, among other topics.

The broader scope of this book points out that there are many misconceptions about what constitutes pleasure, what constitutes a pleasurable experience, and how it is achieved: "...the distinction between pleasure and happiness turns out to be a false dichotomy that only adds to our confusion."

Dr. Gottlieb's introduction points out why this definition of pleasure is essential to well-being: "It is important to understand that our desire for pleasure is not a choice we make, moral or otherwise. It is woven into the very fiber of our being and is fundamental to our human existence. We are biologically hardwired to seek pleasure..."

Why should readers be invested in this process of analyzing pleasure? Because, "What pleases you turns out to be an extremely important question. As I noted at the outset, your answer will likely determine the kinds of people you meet, the quality of your life, your health, and how long you live. This is because the pleasures you seek become habits, habits become a lifestyle, and in medicine, lifestyle is destiny."

The blend of medical facts and analytical approaches to pleasure, psychological and spiritual inspection, and focus on building a scientific foundation of examination that considers the subjective reality of pleasure makes for a powerful examination. This will especially please readers who like their books well steeped in and supported by scientific data and analysis.

aah...The Pleasure Book's embrace of philosophy, science, psychology, and spiritual inspection will attract a broad audience of thinkers who will find its connections essential to understanding life choices, genetic inclination, and the various realms of pleasure's widespread effects on individuals and societies alike.

Black Jack Burden?
James A. Perkins with Patrick C. McCarthy and Frank D. Allen, Jr.
Dawn Valley Press
9780936014289, $TBA

Black Jack Burden? Night Thoughts on the Genetics of Race in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men requires two things of its readers: a closer familiarity with and interest in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men than a casual interest, and an awareness of the kind of analytical process that delve beyond literary inspection to consider racism's heritage in North and South alike.

Warren's classic won the last Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1947, has never been out of print, and has already received more than its fair share of critical inspection. So, why the need for yet another discourse on the novel?

Black Jack Burden? offers a very different approach to the existing literature surrounding the book, pointing out that fellow analysts have largely missed the boat in their close inspections because they accept and follow the lead of Jack Burden, who believes his mother's contention about his paternity. James A. Perkins works with with Patrick C. McCarthy and Frank D. Allen, Jr. to remedy this and other analytical issues.

In fact, closer inspection of All the King's Men illustrates an underlying theme that entirely changes the critical approach to reading this literary work, incorporating genetic, legal, and social challenges that underlay many of the events and surround and support a different inspection of attitudes towards racism and paternity in the South.

This book has been eighteen years in the making, and analyzes many more subtle nuances of the novel. While footnoted references abound to support this different critical approach, James A. Perkins acknowledges that some of these interpretations and supporting notes may be considered sketchier than others. This said, the attention to detail and the scholarship is impeccable.

Perkins calls his achievement a "work in textual criticism." As it points out inconsistencies, possibilities, and contexts which totally change Warren's approach and meaning, readers receive not just a critical analysis, but guideposts to an entirely different way of reading All the King's Men: "If you assume that the Judge believes Jack is black and totally unaware of it, you can see that, from the Judge's point of view, Jack's position in the novel would change considerably, and the level of irony would increase throughout the novel."

The extent of these assumptions on the reader's part and how they affect reading and interpretation of the story delves into the language, history, and setting of the plot: "Jack no doubt assumes that the tag "Boy" on Sugar's name would be heard as an extension of the common use of "Boy" to refer to any black male. His assumption suggests that he probably uses the term and further suggests that he does not suspect that it could be applied to him."

Readers already more than familiar with the novel (and, ideally, who will have reviewed it once again prior to picking up this analysis) will find the inspection rich in possibilities and different critical examinations: "The odds are that Ellis Burden is Jack's father, as shown in chapter one. Certainly the law would presume that a child born in a marriage is the issue of that marriage, barring strong evidence to the contrary. And in this case we have no evidence; we have only Mrs. Burden's unsupported assertion. Paternity is important legally because it controls the distribution of property, money, and power. There would be no reason for Jack to investigate his Mother's claim and to try to establish the Judge as his parent under the law..."

Frank Allen doesn't limit himself to close analysis of the story alone, however. His research into the setting and times of the plot lend many insights into its milieu: "Through experience and a limited amount of research, I found that Louisiana is somewhat unique among the states with respect to official records. Like most states, Louisiana launched an effort in the middle of the nineteenth century to establish complete official records of all births, deaths, and marriages that occurred within the state. By the time of the setting of All the King's Men, the goal was still not complete throughout the state."

Allen emphasizes that Burden's choices, conflicts, and the moral, ethical, social and legal challenges of his times, which come to light in an outstanding blend of text analysis and historical references: "Jack Burden's discovery of documentary evidence of Judge Irwin's sole act of corruption demonstrates what can be accomplished by searches of records. Once such evidence was uncovered, the legal and social consequences would unfold inexorably."

This critical survey should not only be in any collection holding a copy of Warren's All the King's Men; but on the reading lists of students who are assigned the book. Ideally, it will become part of a larger classroom discussion and debate of the book's literary and social prowess, offering the kind of close consideration that is essential to understanding all the subtler nuances of the classic, which too many other critical volumes have missed.

Perishable World
Alicia Hokanson
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Nonprofit Literary Press
9781736479919, $20.00

Perishable World comes from a prize-winning poet who considers loss, life, and love through poetry that is filled with a sense of place: "This morning the light moves into day/the way a new-built fire/burns along kindling's edges, burnishing:/the green room of the clearing still and seeping/gold from every opening of branch/or elderberry arch, the alders gilded in round eastern light."

While these pieces are about love and loss, they are firmly rooted in the nature and world of the Pacific Northwest, incorporating connections to land and heart alike.

Take "Mind Over Matter" as one example of the intersection of human emotions and the natural world that exists outside of them: " - Say grief and the shoulders hunch/say it for a long time and your cells may speak it/sprout a dark node near your heart/ - Poplars at sunset waving and fluttering:/the ballast of matter shifting/against the thin hull of the sky".

"Letter from the Island" is even more evocative as it captures these connections been emotions and environment: "Finally, a real summer day after weeks of rain./I still don't know how to feel about my luck being here/ - sea, sky, beach and woods, fresh raspberries at the farm stand,/blueberries at the U-pick, the bounty of the island/and its seeming safety. How do I hold this gratitude next to/the sorrow and rage? The virus surges; the arctic is burning."

"Is everything going away now?" Alicia Hokanson asks in her lament "Vanish." Almost everything.

What isn't vanishing is the poet's astute observations and powerful voice, which captures the nuances of grief, life, loss and survival, as reflected in the poem "Sunday": "cleaned the kitchen, brushed/the crumbs off the floor, emptied/dried flowers from the blue vase./Once or twice a wave of grief/swept over me, burning the corners of my eyes,/as I walked by the pictures on the shelf./I lived next to your absence all afternoon:/this hard apprenticeship at love's last lesson."

Perishable World picks up the pieces of a broken heart and celebrates what was and what remains. This evocative collection will appeal to readers who enjoy literary introspection and transformative descriptions. "Through the trees, night tide's deep throb./Starlight pours into a dark bowl. Fiery/islands shine behind the palisade of night./Lie down now in the clearing./In the womb of darkness./Love built this house."

Emily & Virginia
Robert McDowell
Homestead Lighthouse Press
9781950475018, $26.95 Hardcover/$16.95 paper

Emily & Virginia is a novel about the intersecting lives of Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf that will delight literary fantasy readers. Its intriguing story follows the structure of Woolf's To the Lighthouse, but in a refreshingly different manner that injects magical realism into the plot, which is set in modern-day 2021.

Dickinson and Woolf are on their way to Oregon from the Afterlife. Their mission is to contact and guide Manga artist Lily Ramsay, helping her through a growth crisis and keeping her safe from the dark Otherworld forces of De la Nuit. In this world, they pose as her aunts. They also confront and support each other as well as Lily's evolving romance and their fellow writers, who join forces with them.

The literary allusions that run through this novel are delightful and will please those well familiar with Dickinson and Woolf, offering a contemporary inspection that reflects the ongoing meaning of these writings in the lives of modern-day young people like Lily: "Propped up in bed, feeling fragile in the small light of a reading lamp, Lily put aside her ramble through dating and no sex and brought herself back to Emily, to Virginia. She read aloud Emily Dickinson's poem that begins, After great pain, a formal feeling comes. She read it aloud, her voice sounding otherworldly to her - and as always happened when she read the poem silently or aloud, she wept. She remembered sitting on her mother's lap listening to this poem and looking up, she saw her father leaning in a doorway, also listening, with tears in his eyes."

The interactions between these two literary figures is also especially inviting, injecting snippets from their real-world lives as the story progresses and they interact with both Lily and her friends and each other: "Turning suddenly to Emily on the bus Virginia said, "Did you overhear what Lily's young man just realized? He surpasses my expectations! Perhaps he will work out after all. I wish I could have written about an experience like that, but of course I didn't. I knew passionate, physical love, but with man or woman, it was always challenging. And you, dear L-Bug?"

Robert McDowell has studied their lives and works well. This is evident in the fact that the realism portion of the story is just as compelling and lively as the magical elements which give Emily & Virginia an unexpected air of fantasy and possibility.

Also nicely done and thought-provoking are the independent observations Emily and Virginia make about this strange new future as they chart Lily's course and contrast it with their own experiences from the past: "Virginia walked through town, moved by her contemplation of the yearning for closure. Really, closure is a made up thing, she thought, a malignant, ugly thing of the fainting heart. Yet she noted that the practice of closure had gained clarity in this 21st earth century. It made her sad."

The result is a blend of literary novel, magical realism, biographical inspection, and social and psychological examination that, in itself, makes readers want to return to Emily and Virginia's writings with a fresh eye to their ongoing relevance.

McDowell's evocative words and attention to creating a story in keeping with these writers' finest moments is delightfully compelling, making for a very highly recommended piece indeed - one which should stand alongside any definitive collection of Dickinson and Woolf's works: "There is another life under the leaves, Virginia thought. It's in a fold of wind, in the surge and swirl of the waves, in that infinitesimal second each day or night when the moon and sun run off together, leaving the sky vacant for the romping, rioting stars and souls, who are also stars. Time passes. In The Waves I created Elvedon where gardeners sweep the lawns with giant brooms and a woman sits at the window writing."

Sweet Wolf: Selected & New Poems
With Introduction by Award-winning Poet & Critic Chad Abushanab
Robert McDowell
Homestead Lighthouse Press
9781950475131, $24.95 Hardcover/$16.95 paper/$5.99 ebook

Sweet Wolf: Selected & New Poems explores the narrative/lyric poem structure. Contemporary readers will find the collection a refreshing blend of traditional form and modern subjects, cemented by a timeline of spiritual transformation, current events, and death.

Inspired by Emily Dickson's admonition for poets to find "Where the Meanings, are," McDowell crafts verses and works that chart these trajectories and pivot points in daily living: "The 605 is clogged, as are the roads/In Al's uncertain head. He gazes south/And sees the cemetery sign uphill,/Its letters white, gigantic through the smog./"My Eleanor is dead," he mutters. His hands/Make nursing movements on the steering wheel."

These precise, moment-by-moment air strikes of experience and meaning are imparted in narratives that link past teachings and approaches with present-day effects, as in the moments captured in 'The Nineties' both in the passage above and in Al's ongoing journey, where "Al wants the scene to shift, the plot to improve,/But he is in a still-life on this drive."

As various characters shift their realities and experiences, move through nature and life lessons, and hold tight to meanings and abilities from the past, these poems capture a sense of place and purpose that will prove thought-provoking to poetry readers looking for considerations of life's key moments and movements. One example of this feeling lies in insomniac Nessa's reflections in 'Red Foxes', in which she comes to understand her role in death, early in life: "Nessa, unbelieving, held the bird,/Refusing to accept the death she'd made./So that was how easy making death could be."

The nature-cemented transformation that follows in her review of a particular encounter with foxes is tantalizing and evocative: "I'm breathing too much of this barn's old fevered air,"/She said, but there the fox stood at the door./Then girl and animal traveled into each other/As far as they could, into the spirit's house/Where the red fox said,/"Into the world we're born,/Then out we're called again. Go back to your people./They need you, Nessa, like foxes need the night."

With its haunting, prayerful descriptions of moving between darkness, light, and different magical worlds, Sweet Wolf: Selected & New Poems is a creation that poetry and literature lovers need...much like foxes need the night.

Peter Lazare and Sarah Lazare
Strong Arm Press
9781947492547, $19.99

Testimony is a political thriller that adds a touch of ironic inspection to its story line as Sam Golden, who became disillusioned with and walked away from the global justice movement he was part of after 9/11, finds himself leading a less politically involved life when everything changes once more.

Now a gas utility regulator working for a mid-sized city in Springfield, Illinois, Sam once again becomes politically involved when a gas pipeline explodes and dark forces begin invading his world in the name of Homeland Security actions, charged with locating supposed terrorists.

As he joins forces with an unlikely cast of characters, from a critical journalist with an eye for exploring trouble to corporate outcasts who hold a jaded view of the system he works for (and politics in general), Sam finds himself returning to the activism he'd once embraced - but from a different perspective.

His discovery of corroding pipelines and special interests, his evolving connections with Wendy, and the evolution of a plot which seems to cost him too much in friendships and support systems makes for a winding investigative piece. The story goes beyond the usual whodunit thriller exploration to probe the impact of public social and political processes on individual lives: "Whatever spark Sam had seen in her before was gone - she was stone-cold, all business. Sam watched her in stupefied wonder. Moments ago he had sucked in deep breaths of relief to discover it hadn't been her employee ID, that she wasn't the one who burned Isaac and stonewalled Allison. But instead of getting Wendy back, it turns out he had lost two friends - pathetically, he thought, his only two friends. Nowhere in this plot he had been building in his head had it occurred to him both Wendy and Greg may not be on his side."

Who can he trust and rely on? As murky connections and special interests that hide under the cloak of terrorist threats emerge, Sam must learn anew whom to trust, who he can call his friends, and how to live his life under the shadow of a new threat from within.

Peter Lazare worked as a utilities regulator in Illinois for 20 years, and crafted the first draft of this story before his death. Daughter Sarah Lazare added her investigative journalism expertise into the mix as she edited his final work and added to it, based on documents her father had left behind.

This combination results in a collaborative gem that does an outstanding job of creating memorable, realistic characters, exploring the political and interpersonal motivations of corporations and individuals, and adding elements of social inspection to keep the story fast-paced and involving.

Testimony's ability to explore all these elements in the context of a gripping thriller lends it an authority and authenticity that keeps readers engaged and wondering about the outcome to the end. It's highly recommended reading as a very different inspection of how the ultimate impact of 9/11 and the War on Terrorism gives way to special interests and unexpected cat-and-mouse games between them.

Bentley and the Magic Sticks
Claire Eckard
Mill City Press
9781662810381, $20.99 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Picture book readers interested in dogs in general and the problem of a too-big dog who scares away potential canine friends in particular will relish the story of Bentley and the Magic Sticks, which receives engaging, colorful illustrations by Anne York that brings Bentley's story to life.

How can a too-big dog make his good nature and intentions apparent to other creatures frightened by his enormous appearance? It may take a dose of magic and a collector's passion to achieve, but Bentley is on a mission.

Picture book readers who have progressed beyond very simple stories will be motivated to read about Bentley's problem and his approach to life.

Its underlying messages about gratitude, positivity, and developing hobbies combines with the entertainment value of magical intervention to create a winning story that is unpredictable in its outcome.

Read-aloud parents and youngsters motivated to read a paragraph of detail at a time will find Bentley an engaging character with a realistic attitude towards his self-image and life, and will relish the series of unexpected adventures that brings Bentley closer to his ultimate goal in a surprising manner.

The Train Rolls On
Jodi Adams
Young At Heart Publishing
9781734836615, $11.99

The Train Rolls On uses a rollicking rhyme and an anthropomorphic smiling train to present a fun, simple story about a train's work ("Here comes the next train!/It's got work to do - passengers await/a ride to the zoo.").

The passengers here are animals who need to get to the zoo by riding the Animal Express.

As the little train chugs through hills and steep downhill slopes, traversing rivers and ridges, young readers will appreciate the winning illustrations of Christina Wald, who captures the various animals and the train that carries them to their destination.

Young train buffs also receive a subliminal message about goals, overcoming adversity, and cooperative problem-solving along the way. These elements create a series of uplifting messages that parents will find perfect for teaching the very young about maintaining a positive attitude.

The result is an inviting story that is creative, compelling, and fun. It lends perfectly to picture book read-aloud via sound effects and descriptions that invite youngsters to take a ride into a fun train and animal world, and is recommended for read-aloud parents and early readers alike.

Out of Place, Out of Time
Amy Willer & Anton Galang
A+ Media, Inc.
9781736565216, $15.99 Hardcover/$6.99 Paper; $6.49 ebook

Out of Place, Out of Time brings history to life in a young adult novel that tells of two teens who live in a Chicago that is literally worlds apart (126 years, to be exact).

In this timeslip tale, modern teen Alex finds herself navigating 1893 Chicago just as the World's Columbian Exposition comes to town. There, she meets Patrick, a hardworking teen who supports his poor family by working at the fairgrounds.

Both have dreams that seem impossible to fill, but together, they discover new possibilities and many surprises as the World's Expo unfolds around them.

Amy Willer & Anton Galang excel at bringing the times and history to life through the different perspectives of Alex and Patrick. These experiences are cemented by notes about an event that celebrates the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering America, but which embraces future possibilities in its exhibits and portrait of America.

More than just a history of the Expo alone, the authors pay close attention to the conditions and social challenges of Patrick's times: "Patrick's father worked at a steel mill. His hours were usually inconsistent, which made it even more difficult for them to know when they would have money to spare. Sometimes he could work for twelve hours a day for two weeks straight, and then he could go days without work after that. Patrick didn't understand how this could be. People were always building new things, especially in Chicago - and especially now."

This both sets the stage for Alex's arrival and educates readers about the conditions and atmosphere of the times.

Another satisfying note is that Alex is realistic both about her experience, her motivation for repeating it, and the dangers involved. She's no novice to the idea of timeslip adventures and is entirely cognizant of possible snafus: "Going more than 100 years back in time. That would definitely be one way to avoid Jorge. Alex found herself starting to entertain the idea, then mentally slapped some sense into herself. It would be crazy. She wasn't even really certain how the coin purse worked. Sure, it had taken her to 1893 once, to Jackson Park, where she had seen men building the Chicago World's Fair. And yes, opening the purse later had taken her back to the present. But that didn't mean it was going to work the same way again. For all Alex knew, she really had been hit by a cyclist or something, and had been hallucinating or knocked out or dreaming. Maybe the coin purse didn't do anything at all."

Young readers of timeslip fiction well know that characters usually are much less savvy than Alex, and will appreciate the fact that she's educated enough to not only comprehend what is happening, but the possibilities that these events may not even be occurring at all.

As the story unfolds, a peppering of black and white images of the times bring early Chicago and the Expo exhibits to life with original photographs from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

As Patrick works towards his dream and Alex struggles to keep her secret and work towards her own goal, deciphering the mysterious message the time-transport coin purse holds (Live in the past. This is your future.), the story comes to life and presents an unexpected twist that even the most avid timeslip novel reader won't see coming.

Alex may be in control of her choices, but can she actually reshape her future in this past world?

The blend of social inspection, historical accuracy, timeslip adventure, and the figure of a feisty, savvy young female who assesses her options, choices, and their consequences makes for a story that's grounded in real history and hard to put down. The thought-provoking conclusion will both resonate with young readers and keep them engaged and reflective about their own choices in life.

Hart Street and Main
Tabitha Sprunger
Atmosphere Press
9781637529119, $18.99

Hart Street and Main reaches young adult fantasy readers with the vivid story of Skye Hope, who meets handsome exchange student Olli in her senior year of high school in her small town, only to discover he is from further away than he seems.

A head injury brings her to the magical Second World, where she discovers the true nature of her heritage and abilities and begins to question not only what is real, but what her purpose in life, within these two realms, really means.

Tabitha Sprunger creates a story that is filled with thought-provoking moments, from Skye's inability to confide in her busy father to a new school year which at first doesn't bring with it much hope for different outcomes or new friends. Nothing during her senior year feels any different from the three years before - until everything changes.

From Olli's realization that he's found the young woman of legend to his dilemma, the story offers a fast-paced blend of moral and ethical challenges and interpersonal relationships that develop in unexpected ways: "The mission was complete, yet somehow Olli couldn't find himself to move forward. They weren't really expecting to find her. The true heir to the sorcerers and wood fairies, possibly even future ruler of even more regions. All along he was preparing to kill the person they were looking for to ensure the peace. If nothing less, to destroy the entrance from the First World's side for good... but never this. There was no concrete plan of what to do next. The effort of searching took so much of their energy there was no direct step to follow if they found the true heir."

Sprunger's portrait of action, tempered by psychological inspection and interpersonal developments, will especially attract readers who like more than an adventure fantasy alone.

Parents Diane and Vince Hope are also prominently featured in the story as Skye struggles to understand her real legacy. Indeed, the story is replete with a range of characters who interact with Skye in the course of her struggle to understand what is real and where her place really lies.

Peppered with black and white illustrations by Joe Traster, which accent the chapter headings, this tale of different destinies and realities will delight fantasy readers with its consideration of friendships, alternate reality, and a seemingly impossible new world.

The Three Veils Of Ibn Oraybi
Vincent Czyz
Papillon du Pere Publishing
9798727542262, $2.99 ebook

The culture and history of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century come to life in The Three Veils Of Ibn Oraybi, painting a vivid story of an aging Turkish Muslim alchemist forced to flee Constantinople for a new life in a small town to the East after he's accused of heresy. There, he feels very much the alien, with his ethnicity and religion outside the norm.

Ibn Oraybi finds his new life among these pagans challenging; but when the vengeful pasha tracks him to his new home, he begins to feel a loyalty and determination for the peoples he's inadvertently bonded with on some levels.

Familiarity with the history or culture of the times is not required of the reader, who will find this story opens with an immediate draw: "There was an assassin in his home. Ibn Oraybi knew it without getting out of bed, without lighting a lamp, without hearing a sound. The awareness was nothing mystical; it was simply a matter of being familiar with the sensations that trembled along his nerves, as though he were a musician identifying a note after a string had been plucked."

Vincent Czyz employs a lyrical attention to compelling description and a literary approach to surveying Oraybi's challenge to Muslim convention. As the story progresses, both Oraybi's perspective and that of the pasha horrified by the depths of his heresy are brought to life: "I told you that Ibn Oraybi and I were once great friends. Now that you've studied the Qur'an, I can relate to you the true depth of his depravity: He insisted, one night, that the Qur'an was not the word of Allah as transmitted through Jebrail and thence to Muhammad, that it is not a history of events, he said, but a collection of symbols! Mere poetic truths!"

Having suffered this horrible affront to the religion that is his lifeblood, how can Fehim Pasha let the man live? And how does the pasha's recurring dream of the lure "of a woman veiled from head to foot in lavender silk" affect his future?

Czyz weaves mystery, history, religious fervor, and social inspection into this story of struggle, which ends with a surprising twist that exposes the real meaning of the woman of his dreams.

This literary novella is short but powerful, successfully highlighting and contrasting different perspectives, perceptions, and purposes in the lives that clash throughout: "I wonder if truth isn't simply a matter of the way we view things. Perhaps the world can be read in different ways. There is, of course, the truth of the senses - what we believe because of what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, touch with our hands. There's the truth of the intellect, which puts things in terms of causes and effects, patterns, and laws. And then there's the truth of the soul, which is poetic and measures according to its own harmony or discord, according to the melancholia or expansiveness it experiences."

Its lovely, lyrical language and thought-provoking encounters not only bring the times to life, but explore the politics and psychological profiles of cultures that lived side by side, but in very different worlds.

The Three Veils Of Ibn Oraybi invites history and literature readers to imbibe of this world and is a delightful, refreshing work that leaves readers thinking, immersed in an atmosphere that lingers in the mind like a warm cup of Turkish brew.

Patrick D. Pidgeon
Greenleaf Book Group
9781626347755, $16.95 Hardcover/$7.95 ebook

Creeples! is recommended for advanced elementary to middle school readers of sword and sorcery fantasy, and follows a trio of kids determined to save their teacher's job.

Johnny "Spigs" Spignola, Theresa Ray "T-Ray" Rogers, and Pablo "Peabo" Torres create a crowdfunding event designed to show off the school lab's importance, but inadvertently create little magical monsters when they grab the wrong vial in the course of an eye-catching experiment.

This creates and looses magical 'Creeples' upon the campus - but that's not the only threat they face.

Also released is an attack on a hidden adversary's plans to use the academy's ancient sorcery to take over the attack which transforms the Creeples from being a danger to assuming the role of being the heroes of the story.

Comedy is injected into the plot to add unexpected humor to the dilemma: "Suit up, chuckleheads, and grab your chem-tanks. Got a temp job to exterminate six mangy varmints. The ten-twenty is Aberdasher Academy," Flitch barked. His two cronies ignored him, bent over their cards and locked in a staring contest, completely engrossed in the children's game. "I got a pair of lumberjacks," the chubby one announced as he laid down the cards. His belly was so vast it shaded his toes. "Beat that, Lil' Lyle." "Back at ya, Big Lyle! A pair of magicians." "Pair of ballerinas." "Pair of roosters." Big Lyle licked his lips. "That reminds me; I sure could go for a bucket of fried chicken." "A pair of Angus cows!" Lil' Lyle cried out with confidence. "Mmm, spareribs sound mighty tasty," Big Lyle grumbled."

As the teens face a destroyed campus, kidnapped friends, bad boys and goonies, and an enemy who taps the power of the Golden Dawn to change everything, Creeples! becomes a cat-and-mouse game of very different powers vying for control. When the real threat emerges, the teens and Creeples may be the only things standing in the way of magical disaster.

Patrick D. Pidgeon does an excellent job of juxtaposing comedy, confrontation, high adventure, and ironic developments throughout the story. A wealth of unexpected twists and turns keep young readers guessing about good, evil, and the gray area that lies between them as the quest evolves.

Kids looking for a fun, strong fantasy story in which children take charge, see their experiment go awry, and come full circle in an unexpected way will find Creeples! a delightful read.

Dice on a Deadly Sea
Jane Elzey
Scorpius Carta Press
9781734642841, $26.99 Hardcover/$13.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Cozy mystery readers will find Dice on a Deadly Sea an intriguing story about a birthday cruise gone awry. Zelda Carlisle's celebration with her three best friends embraces a bucket list trip to the Galapagos. What they didn't invite along was murder.

Their desire to keep this voyage memorable results in a hasty, bad decision in which they hide the body they've stumbled upon, thus becoming unwitting accomplices to the crime that rules out their reporting it: "They knew Simon was dead when they loaded him into the towel bin. That at least made them suspects if not guilty. They had no proof otherwise. If she told the captain that Simon was now anchored to a rock at Sombrero Chino, how would she prove she didn't put him there? She didn't have a swimmer buddy to confirm her story. She didn't have anything but a whopper of a tale."

As Amy Sparks decides to pursue a murderer aboard the ship, the close quarters impact both her sleuthing and her friends as Rudy, an appealing but dangerous-looking single man with a patch over one eye, becomes involved in their escapades. Meanwhile, Amy's special abilities evolve beyond that of game prediction. She and her friends find not just their reputations, but their own lives on the line.

Jane Elzey provides a fine mystery that swirls around not just a whodunnt, but how amateur sleuths with different abilities assume the position of players in a dangerous game. both between each other and with an unknown perp: "Genna teased her about forecasting domino plays as if that's why Amy won often. She won because she played skillfully, but Genna didn't want to admit that. She suspected Genna thought of visions, or dreams, or whatever she called them, as a threat. Not a dangerous threat, but something Amy could do that Genna couldn't."

Elzey's focus on these evolving relationships as well as the mystery and the dilemma of covering up a crime creates an unexpected blend of humor and ironic inspections.

Elzey takes time to build the story's backdrop. This may dissuade readers who are used to a quicker action-oriented pace, but in the long run it results in a superior story, crafting a more complex background to these ladies' relationships and different approaches to life which supports the mystery and their attempts to solve it.

Readers who like cozy mysteries that are firmly rooted in changing friendships will find Dice on a Deadly Sea replete with satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns. It's an excellent choice for either a stormy night by the warm fire or a beach read.

Dead Letters
Sheila Lowe
Write Choice Ink
9781970191159, $15.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Dead Letters is the eighth book in the Forensic Handwriting series featuring expert Claudia Rose, but it should be noted that no prior familiarity with her other investigations is needed in order for newcomers to jump right in and enjoy Claudia's latest case.

Claudia's brother Pete is arrested as a murder suspect even as his teenage daughter Monica goes missing on an archaeological dig in Egypt. As Claudia brings her expertise in handwriting analysis to bear on a personal case fraught with surprising twists and turns, readers receive a multifaceted story that moves from a family dilemma to a kidnapping and murder case that tests even Claudia's prowess as a sleuth.

Historical facts about ancient Egypt and its artifacts are wound into a fast-paced plot that keeps readers moving through different countries and issues. Claudia faces the possibility that the murder and kidnapping may be related to terrorist activities threatening not just her immediate family, but the world.

Sheila Lowe builds atmosphere and a sense of place into her story as Claudia explores an unfamiliar country: "She had to chuckle at the scenery. "These flat roofs and desert remind me of Tucson, where I visited recently. The palm trees are the same as where I live in Southern California. Ancient, though - that's something we have none of." "There's plenty of ancient here," said McKenna with a grin."

Another excellent note to this story is the ongoing focus on the process of handwriting analysis and how these observations contribute to Claudia's investigation: "Colin, like Monica, kept a journal in his nightstand. His was Moleskine, his name embossed on the black leather cover. For Claudia, the opportunity to examine his handwriting was akin to finding gold. She stood there for a long moment, arguing with herself. Did she really want to open it and see the truth about him? If his handwriting pointed to Colin having the potential for homicidal mania - an improbable scenario but you never knew - what could she do about it? If he posed a danger to her niece, it was too late to do anything about it.

He could be an angel, one side of her contended. Either way, you need to know, the other side countered. He had signed his name on the inside cover in thick black ink and encircled it with a protective lasso-like stroke. No one could decipher the illegible scrawl as saying 'Colin Vine.' He had used the final stroke on the 'e' to slash through his name in a self-destructive right-to-left movement, not a good sign for his self-image. The chicken scratch dotting many of the pages was a form of cursive writing that was dissimilar from Monica's orderly script in every way. It reminded Claudia of her English grandmother's saying: "They're as different as chalk from cheese."

Points of view move between Claudia and Monica, contributing a full-bodied feeling to the story's events. Readers gain both a sense of place and purpose as Monica considers her own actions and beliefs, and their impact: "With startling clarity, Monica saw how the ever-present threat against him had crippled her thinking. She sighed. Her loyalty to him was a danger to her life."

Events circle around Monica, Colin, and Claudia in an involving mystery keeps readers thoroughly absorbed and guessing about the outcomes of not just the murder mystery, but the changing relationships throughout the story.

Dead Letters is an outstanding story of a forensic investigation conducted on a different level. It will delight a wide audience of mystery fans with its action-packed intrigue.

Sundown Dude
Bernard F. Conners
British American Publishing
9780945167648, $14.95

Sundown Dude opens (of course) at sundown, which is closing time for the Lexington Avenue branch of the Manhattan Savings Bank. It's also the perfect time for Harley-riding Charlotte to rob a bank.

What she didn't expect was to encounter a teller who points out a literacy problem and questions her language in an exchange that adds a dose of humor to events and portends a read that won't be predictable: "After a brief glance at the note, she pointed to the paper: "Look, you misspelled robbery. There's two b's in robbery." Mostly to herself, she murmured, "No wonder he's robbing banks. He can't even spell!" "What?" exclaimed the robber. "Listen, sister, I didn't come in here for a spelling lesson. I spelled it phonetically so a dummy like you would understand. Now, I want fifty Benjies in a hurry, understand? Put 'em in this bag!"

The teller jumped back as the deposit bag was shoved at her. Concealed by the bag but protruding from one end was the dark muzzle of a small Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol. "You got thirty seconds!" The sight of the muzzle pointed at her chest brought a sobering compliant expression to the face of the teller. "Okay, okay. But what's a freakin' Benjy?" "Jesus Christ, lady. How the hell did you ever get this job? It's a hundred-dollar bill! Benjamin Franklin's picture's on the bill, dummy!"

Charlotte's success at her initial stickup brings a rush of satisfaction and security into her life as an otherwise-staid single mother and part-time librarian. Charlotte has discovered a new career. But her alter ego runs head-on into her relationships and former life as she runs in a motorcycle crowd that gains her sometimes-unwelcome attention and juggles her boyfriend John Rodgers, who is unsettled by her desire to learn how to shoot a pistol because guns make him nervous.

As John becomes involved in her schemes, humor keeps popping up to offer comic relief at unexpected moments: "C'mon, let's go," she repeated. "I've got a load of writing to do." She added with a droll smile, "How do you spell 'groping'?"

Sundown Dude takes the topics of manipulation, money-making schemes, and one woman's determination to rise above her station in life to new levels of intrigue, romance, fun, and life inspection.

As Charlotte crafts a novel that too closely mirrors her dangerous games, readers will find her exploits and juggling of two lives makes for compelling reading.

Readers of crime thrillers who look for irony, a dash of humor, and a complex character who hones her motivations from money-making to courting danger will find Sundown Dude an involving read that's unique, hard to predict, and surprising in its definitive conclusion.

The House on Hatemonger Hill
Eileen Haavik McIntire
Amanita Books (Imprint of Summit Crossroads Press)
9781736821404, $16.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook


Who would dare rob the head of the American Nazi Party in the 1960s? Certainly not the timid Sue Millard. But Sue stumbles into a plot that tests her morals and determination in The House on Hatemonger Hill, a story which will delight mystery and history readers alike.

How do good people fall into dangerous situations? Sue is a junior at the University of Maryland, so she's a new adult just starting to explore the undercurrents of people and politics in the 1960s.

As she becomes a dangerous form of femme fatale, delivering pizzas and drugs under the guise of attracting male interest, Sue and the thieves she's fallen in with plot a Robin Hood-style heist whereby they steal from the rich and donate the cash to civil rights organizations to make a difference.

In reality, Sue stirs up a hornet's nest which holds threats to her family, as well: "If Rockwell's men couldn't get at me, would they attack my parents? They were des-perate and angry and attached a religious fervor to their mission. We thought we were justified in robbing them. The way they were threatening me made me think hijacking, kidnapping, and proba-bly torture were all on their agenda. Rockwell wanted his money back. I'd been lucky to escape his men so far, but I was angry and scared."

When kidnappings ensue, Sue finds herself not only in a dangerous situation, but questioning who her friends really are.

The House on Hatemonger Hill offers an engrossing tale of suspense, treachery, and bad choices made for good reasons. This tale of ordinary girl's involvement in a heist embraces activism, the American public's ideals and evolving confrontations with conspiracies and justice, and civil rights issues that spark unethical behaviors on all sides. The adaptation of the civil rights bill in 1964 is the focal point of a social and political confrontation that enhances the suspense and real-world dilemmas presented throughout the story.

As much as it's a story of good intentions gone awry, The House on Hatemonger Hill is also a gripping saga of one ordinary girl's questionable alliances and the impact of events on Hatemonger Hill on both sides of the civil rights issues of the times. McIntire's focus on real-world figure and head of the US Nazi party, George Lincoln Rockwell, enhances the impact and feel of events.

Historical novel readers with special interest in a suspense story that embraces civil rights activism and gang activity will find The House on Hatemonger Hill hard to point down - especially because of its strong characterization and the dilemma of Sue's complex involvement with all kinds of people operating on both sides of the law.

Abbot Pond
Steve Hobbs
Hatchet Mountain Press
9780999317730, $14.99

Abbot Pond takes place around a large, cold pond in Maine and tells of unhappy teenager Danny Cole, who is coming to stay with Freddie and his father Jack Morgan after a drug overdose and depression.

When Danny and Jack stumble on a body in the basement of one of Camden properties, it's a shock because murders simply don't happen in Abbot Pond. Something has changed, bringing Jack, Freddie, and Danny into an investigation of not only a murder, but the family's ongoing inability to cope with the tragedy of son Ryan's loss.

Danny's memory has been affected - but not his ability to point out the obvious. As Danny recovers from his trauma and becomes an effective problem-solving force with a strange knack for trouble and seeing what others around him miss, he becomes the focal point for many changes that cross the line from dream adventures into reality.

Steve Hobbs is adept at presenting the undercurrents of threat, repressed emotions, and discovery that lie just under the surface of Abbot Pond and its residents. His story is brought to life by the interactions of strong characters who each hold special abilities and attitudes towards their lives, from a broken family still struggling with grief and each other to a handicapped young man who holds the answers to more than recovering from his own challenges.

As events come full circle to the pond that claimed so many and changed so many lives years ago, readers receive a fine blend of mystery, suspense, and intrigue that involves youths and adults in a dangerous situation and adds a dose of supernatural influence into the evolving tale.

Readers who look for strong tales of discovery and recovery will find Abbot Pond replete with satisfying twists and turns that are delightfully unexpected, flushing out a mystery that holds a conclusion that readers won't see coming.

Guns & God: Lines in the Sand
Rain Story
Light Switch Press
9781949563436, $24.99

Political struggle combines with a murder mystery in Guns & God: Lines in the Sand, which focuses on gun law debate and use in Arkansas. Author Rain Story is an Arkansas native. She is thus perhaps in the perfect position to bring to life the Southern gun culture of the region and its underlying sentiments and influences, both political and social.

Two neighboring families find that their very different approaches to gun regulations and blossoming laws pit them against one another. As the story unfolds, a simmering new Civil War erupts over these proposals and laws as arguments and perspectives evolve on both sides of the issues.

Middle-aged Jim and Laura Barton struggle to make their marriage work when infidelity threatens everything they've built. The Rose family next door has made its money on gun culture: "You can thank Fuzzy Rose & Sons Gun Shows and the gun shop for that there fancy swimmin' pool. I ain't never been much into fancy things, but it does feel nice to sit in that water sometimes."

As Jim's struggle to keep his family together comes into direct conflict with the Rose family's own family conflicts, tension erupts between them and spills into the community as plots, special interests, and gun lobbying make their marks on individual lives.

Rain Story's focus on bringing this rural Southern community to life with its entwined gun culture, religious beliefs, and social milieu, creates a realistic and compelling backdrop for one of the biggest political hot potatoes in American culture today.

Under her hand, the characters, their lives and family influences, and underlying influences of greed and fear come to life. Realistic people come to terms with their beliefs and traditions as changing American society introduces new pressures and concerns into their lives.

Her attention to giving equal value to both sides in the Second Amendment argument, spicing the story with plots and struggle between and outside of family circles, brings all the perspectives to life in a satisfying, balanced manner.

Readers of political thrillers who like their social inspections well grounded in the daily lives and belief systems of family and tradition will find Guns & God: Lines in the Sand not only compelling, but thought-provoking on more than one level.

Cool Hush: Memoirs
Rain Story
StoryScriptWorks, LLC
9798717058711, $18.99

Anyone seeking to understand Southern culture and the lasting impact of childhood experience should consider Cool Hush: Memoirs more than just one woman's story, but a snapshot of a patriarchal family's repressive attitudes and how the author survived them to create a place and name for herself in adulthood.

The first note to this collection regards its voice. Rain Story reaches for the reader's emotions and touches them with hard-hitting experiences that reflect early attempts to direct her life: "He mocked me and laughed at me. "Stop with the dreamin'. You'll never make a livin' doin' this when you grow up. You're gonna get married and work in the factory. That's how it is. Get used to it." In all of about two minutes, my father trampled my notepad, tromped on my words, and snuffed out my voice. And I have never forgotten."

She writes with an evocative voice that moves both within and beyond family experience to embrace the Arkansas atmosphere: "Fort Smith, Arkansas. 1964. On the early spring day that I was born, it snowed, it rained, there were severe thunderstorms, it hailed, and then the sun came out. My mother told me this tale my whole life. She said she had hoped it was not an omen of things to come. Whether unfortunately or fortunately, it was."

As she grows up to face her own conflicts (that include losing parental rights to see her children and facing judges, exes, and even church figures who are cruel and enforce obedience and subjugation over kindness and tolerance), Rain Story begins to let go of the people and institutions that repress her spirit. This process is vividly portrayed, as when she makes a powerful decision to leave the church that should ideally have been the cornerstone of her strength: "The years to come would not improve my perception of organized religion or Christianity. The poisonous patriarchal abuses, misogyny, hypocrisy, racism, manipulation, hate, negativity, and underhandedness made me cringe. It made my soul quake."

As her story unfolds, it becomes evident that the author had to let go of far more than childhood influences alone; but a pervasive culture that embraced misogyny and repressed women through many different institutional and social settings.

How does a woman with such a background of abuse and repression become empowered?

Rain's memoir traces the junctions of her growth and evolutionary process with an attention to how she continually walked away from the 'cool hush' that kept trying to keep her down in many different ways.

Attachments and recovery processes are reviewed in a series of inspections that lead to growth, encouraging readers with a can-do attitude that evolves from surviving soul-crushing, seemingly insurmountable attacks and obstacles: "Sometimes, we have to part ways with people in our lives. I think it's okay as long as they are a negative force that doesn't encourage or support you to be better, more confident, and live a life fulfilled in a positive light. For me, healing began when I decided to make my past stay in the past."

Books that discuss the specifics of this survival and growth process are relatively rare. Rain Story's memories create a positive blueprint that surveys better choices and roads towards healing, providing example for others who would survive toxic patriarchal abuses, whether at home or in society.

Cool Hush should be in any collection strong in women's psychological self-inspection and survival tactics.

By the Light of the Fireflies
Jenni L. Walsh
9781954332133, $22.00 library hardcover/$11.99 paper

Middle grade fiction readers will find By the Light of the Fireflies a fine historical novel based on the life of Colonial girl Sybil Ludington, following Sybil and her family's struggle during the Revolutionary War.

The story opens with the Loyalists to the British Crown coming for her father. They are accusing him of being a traitor to England.

Sybil believes in her father, and in the magic light of fireflies which (legend has it) appear when you need them most. But can they help her family when war swirls around them and they all are endangered?

As Sybil steps into a role she'd never envisioned, young readers receive an action-packed story that captures the environment and atmosphere of the times: "I used my musket to point into the dark forest, my own gaze following the long barrel. I heard Rebecca's gasp. My gun felt heavy in my hands. I should fire it. It was what Papa told us to do. Fire it and he'd come running. He'd handle the situation, in this case: his capturers. Or worse: his assassins. I quivered. I wouldn't fire my gun. That felt like hand-delivering a worm to a bird's nest to be gobbled."

Forced to be assertive and proactive beyond her years and experience, Sybil becomes an inadvertent heroine as she struggles to protect everything she loves from the Loyalists and the evolving battle that engulfs her home.

Revolutionary War history and motivations on all sides come to life in the course of a survey that does an outstanding job of capturing the political and social sentiments of the times.

Jenni L. Walsh is especially adept at capturing the Sybil's first-person observations and emotions: "I pushed us north, toward the hamlet of Stormville. That'd be the point where I turned us south again. I yearned for Stormville. I wanted nothing more than to see that strip of homes. My hands were red. They burned from the cold, from where I gripped the reins and my stick. My jawline hurt, where my teeth had clenched for so long. My legs and back and torso ached from keeping beat with Star. My stomach felt hollow and grumbled for food. My eyeballs even felt as if they'd been rattled to the point of pain."

These drive a story line that personalizes the history in a manner that makes it understandable, realistic, and quite accessible.

Middle grade readers who normally eschew fact-laden historical fiction will find the emotional driving force particularly strong in By the Light of the Fireflies. This approach strengthens the compelling story of a young girl's trials, which forces her into the unexpected role of becoming a female war hero in times where girls and women normally are staid.

A concluding note from the author reinforces the real historical events that receive such evocative, personalized attention in the plot.

Monster in the Water
Dylan D'Agate
Get Creative 5/Mixed Media Resources
9781684620371, $14.95

Monster in the Water: Fighting Back Against Harmful Algal Blooms is recommended for young readers ages 6-10 and tells of the children of Seaville, who discover their beloved beach has been closed.

What kind of monster lurks in the water that would prompt such a closure? The kids ask environmental scientist Professor Bloomington for help, and receive a lesson about harmful algal blooms and their threat to sea life and other creatures.

As the professor discusses the science involved, kids receive a lesson in which new words are highlighted and defined. The ensuing discussion of water pollution leads them to ask how they can help fight against it. As the kids receive further guidance on how to be proactive, they employ the community in taking steps to reduce the bloom.

Maria DeCerce's colorful, engaging, large-sized drawings attract reader interest, as does the specter of a monster; but the science that follows is real and offers an easy way for kids to understand not only environmental issues, but what they can do to participate in their resolution.

The combination of mystery, colorful drawings, and an attention to scientific detail creates a picture book story that is lively, engaging, and educational - just the ticket for usually-reluctant readers who need more than an outline of facts to become involved in environmental issues!

Hemingway's Daughter
Christine M. Whitehead
Hadley Press
B094G5ZV8F, $10.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Hemingway's Daughter crafts the story of Finn Hemingway, the fictional daughter of writer Ernest Hemingway, in a fine father/daughter tale that will especially intrigue Hemingway's fans.

Finn's famous father, though ill, has finished his book and dedicated it to Finley, the wellspring of much of his literary inspiration. He's also written her a final letter that requests her pride in his achievements and her heritage.

As Finn remarks in the onset of her first-person story: "The highs and lows of living with him were over and the loss of both was as excruciating as a finger bent to the breaking point, then twisted off to be sure you appreciated the pain the first time around."

As she proceeds to review the driving force, personality, and influence of a literary figurehead in her life, her Papa, Finn reveals her pain and pleasure in the confused family interactions which intersect with her own world, both in childhood and as an adult: "I was also stewing about my father. He wasn't attending this shindig. Jack was the first of us kids to get hitched, and it seemed to me Papa owed him an appearance."

Finn's life revolves around finding her place in society in an era where women are not afforded the same considerations as men, as well as in a family where love connections always seem to end badly.

As she pursues her dreams, struggles with angst over her father, and tackles her fears, readers receive a fine 'what if' story that revolves around family, inherited patterns of adaptation, and forces of change: "I do love him, but I just know I'll ruin it. I'd rather remember it this way as long as possible rather than risk a bad end."

Christine Whitehead does an excellent job of winding the realities of writer Hemingway's fiery personality with the fictional presence of a daughter who must make her own way in life under the umbrella of her father's fame.

Thought-provoking and steeped in Hemingway's personality and a fictional daughter's challenges, Hemingway's Daughter is especially recommended for fans of the literary figure who are interested in exploring the glue of what held Hemingway's family together, and the possibilities of a different approach had a daughter been involved.

Piki Goes to College
Joan M. Hellquist
Independently Published
9780578854328, $12.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook/$19.95 Hardcover

Picture book readers who choose Piki Goes to College are in for a treat, because Hellquist goes beyond the usual story of a shelter dog who finds a new home. Piki actually finds a new purpose in life when she is adopted to become a service dog.

Joan M. Hellquist is author and illustrator of a book which explains her dog Piki's life. She creates lovely, realistic color drawings and adds the flare of Piki's personality to her first-person narrative ("Hi there! My name is Piki. Piki rhymes with sneaky, which yes, I can be sneaky at times. But my forever friend and person, Joan, chose that name for me because of the color of my coat. It's sort of blue. Piki is the name of the bread that Hopi women make from ground blue corn. So I guess you could say that I have a Native American name.").

Kids learn about Piki's life both in the animal shelter and on the rural property where she now lives with two 'sibling' dogs, and also receive insights into basic dog training and the special duties of service dogs.

How she earns her service vest, and what it means, are two evocative threads explored in the story of how Piki earns her position as service dog, and how dogs are trained and act in this role.

From listing how service dogs help in various ways to discussions of how an outsider should interact (and things not to do) with a working dog, Piki Goes to College provides a host of insights, concrete details on the process, and fine discussions of a service dog's new life.

Many an adult who chooses Piki Goes to College for read-aloud to the young will learn much about the process of training and using a service animal through Piki's eyes.

So You Think You're a Match
Michelle Hazen
Independently Published
B094LF7Z3C, $3.99 ebook

Readers of modern romance who like more than a dash of humor added to the mix will find So You Think You're a Match a fun story of how a staid city planner develops a romance with a determined but happy-go-lucky standup comedian who will do anything to pay for his little sister's cancer treatments.

On the very first date, both admit that they are an unlikely match for romance. They couldn't be more different; not just in personalities and approaches to life, but in ethical and moral boundaries which Bishop Riley will cross in a heartbeat to help his sister Daisy, and which career woman Harlow holds to be sacred.

Harlow never thought she'd become involved with a man who thinks committing fraud in the name of doing good is perfectly okay. She's spent her adult life recovering from her parents' impact on it: "Normally, she loved strolling these halls, with their big framed prints of sunny neighborhoods and playgrounds and forest walking trails. It was the world she helped build, and the three-dimensional embodiment of the childhood she had always wanted to have. The hallways of her office were like a bridge between her fantasy world and her reality. But this was the Friday of the month when the unframe-worthy parts of her reality intruded the most undeniably into the better life she'd tried to build for herself after it all came apart senior year of high school."

Visiting two parents in prison as an adult keeps her grounded in the certainty that she has cultivated a life that won't follow in their illegal footsteps...until Bishop enters the picture to change everything with the biggest secret of all.

Michelle Hazen paints an engaging portrait of a woman who has a vested interest in controlling everything in her life to assure its stability and that she stays on the right side of the law.

The realistic encounters, humor, and the irony of a career woman who is pulled into a situation she thought would never happen due to her cautious approach to life and those who get close to her makes for a compelling saga indeed.

Romance readers used to the typical one-dimensional fling will find far more simmering beneath the surface of So You Think You're a Match. Underneath its romp through romance lies a thought-provoking consideration of what makes opposites attract, how beliefs and values are changed by circumstance and romance, and wherein lies the boundaries in a love connection.

As Bishop starts to see how his actions have affected his beloved sister, and as family members interact and change, readers receive a fine, multifaceted story that goes beyond the usual romance focus to embrace the extent of different families and people and how they deal with and recover from adversity and challenges.

So You Think You're a Match is an inviting story on many levels. It will engage not just romance audiences, but women who want a plain good read about relationship-building and good (and bad) choices.

Bouncing Back From Difficult Times
Mary Ann V. Mercer, Psy.D.
Independently Published
9780983273981, $12.95 Paper, $9.99 Ebook

When psychologist and self-improvement workshop organizer Dr. Mary Ann V. Mercer began working with a wide range people, she discovered common threads in their recovery processes and the patterns linked to how they handled adversity in life.

This led to the strategies presented in Bouncing Back From Difficult Times, a survey of the habits and shared traits which led resilience to some while keeping others from blossoming and growing.

The process involves identifying and changing the habits and patterns which reduce resiliency and lead to self-defeating coping attempts. Readers can employ a variety of perceptions, positive mind reconditioning techniques, and better choices to change their responses and approaches to life's slings and arrows.

More importantly, a wider-ranging life vision for cultivating more positive, achievable goals is promoted that gives readers a set of step-by-step, specific guidelines for better living: "For example, turn your Victim Story, "Why does this always happen to me?" into a Victor Story. A Victor Story says, "This may be a difficult situation, however it is a chance for me to do things in a new and different way." After you identify your story - create a new story about your situation and life."

Self-help readers in the process of revising and rebuilding life after any type of crisis will find the specific tools offered in Bouncing Back From Difficult Times a key to lifelong success.

Whether it's grief, abandonment, other forms of loss, or struggles with social adjustments or Covid, these tools can help and are presented with case history examples that leave nothing to wonder about.

Dr. Mercer's focus on the elements of success will encourage and inspire those who felt such objectives were too often lacking or elusive in their lives: "The finest way to develop strong ambition is for you to think about your goals, ambitions and things you want many times each day. Again, think about what you want and specifically what you need to do to get it. This is like adding logs to a burning fire. Your intense dwelling on what you want builds incredibly strong ambition in you."

Self-help, psychology, and inspirational thinking readers will find Bouncing Back From Difficult Times just the ticket for a better life based on adjusting one's reactions to all kinds of challenging situations.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Search For Her
Rick Mofina
9780778331605, $9.99 pkb, $7.99 Kindle

Search For Her" is a page turner just in time for the beach reading public. Mofina keeps getting better with each book and "Search For Her" is a shining example. Once again taking a simple premise of a family traveling across the country Mofina tells a complexly layered story with of many characters deeply laid secrets that are later revealed. "The genre of suspense has a master craftsman whose name is Mofina, Rick Mofina.

Amy Rivers
Compathy Press LLC
9781734516043, $13.99 pkb, $3.99 Kindle

"Does the author have a responsibility to the reader, is always a topic of discussion at conventions and other events. The answer, as far as I am concerned, is multi-layered. Tell a good story with a beginning, middle and end, pull the reader into the work from the first lines, create engaging characters, and write as clear and concise as can be. "Complicit" does none of those. Like the literary smash hit "Satanic Verses" I found the jacket of the book revealed more than Rivers' prose. "Complicit" is a hodgepodge of tasty words prompting rereading several times to learn what is going on "Complicit" is a yawner of ho hum entertainment.

Demon's Lair
David Brookover
Outskirts Press
9781977241443, $21.95 pkb, $2.99 Kindle

Florida known for its beaches, attractions and bizarre court cases is also famous for being a place for strange beings in places like the Everglades. Brookover's Demon's Lair" is another chilling tale of horror that introduces all kinds of creatures living in the state of Florida thirsting for humans. In the way of the monsters again, is the team of Teddy McCoy, Jackson LaFerve and Dex Lowe to take on these menacing beings. For added complication they have to find the President of the United States who has disappeared. With little to go on, they race against time and the odds in their most challenging case "Demons's Lair" is spine tingling page turning fun by a master of dark wicked creatures

Life And Other Shortcomings
Corie Adjmi
She Writes Press
9781631527135, $16.95 pkb, $9.49 Kindle

"Life And Other Shortcomings" presents 12 short stories of regular people dealing with many complex issues in their lives. The fast-paced writing and well fleshed out characters draw the reader into the realm of each piece to the very end. "Life and Other Shortcomings" is a masterfully told collection of entertaining stories

Weird World War III Haunted Cold War Visions
Edited by Sean Patrick Mazlett
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982124915, $16.00 pkb, $8.99 Kindle

War is always a popular subject to write about and the 19 stories in "Weird World War III Haunted Cold War Visions" highlight different aspects of future conflicts by some of the best military science fiction writers in the genre today. With perceptive eyes they present scenarios of future worlds forced to once again fight that involve a whole world. Sean Patrick Mazlett has shown impeccable taste for choosing the stories in this great collection.

Straight Outta Dodge City The Weird Wild West Stampedes Into Dodge
Edited by David Boop
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982125219, $8.99 pkb, $6.99 Kindle

Dodge City has always had a place in the western genre as presented in shows like "Gunsmoke" or other shows and movies. Added to that are 14 new writings by some of the finest writers of science fiction who take us back to those free spirit days with a twist of science fiction and horror thrown in in generous doses. "Straight Outta Dodge City The Weird Wild West Stampedes Into Dodge" is good clean fun to enjoy.

Man From Atlantis
Patrick Duffy
Permuted Press
9781618686381, $16.00 pkb, $7.99 Kindle

Like many TV shows "Man From Atlantis" never got to excel because it only lasted a season. There were few details revealed of the main character of where he is from or how he came to earth. Now Duffy the star of the series details many interesting clues as well as tells a wonderful new tale of this surprising hit science fiction epic. Fans will enjoy this addition to the mysterious world of this amazing character.

Wiggles Stomps and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down
Lindsey Rowe Parker
Illustrated by Rebecca Burgess
Published by Bqb Publishing
c/o Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Inc
www.bqbpublishing .com
978017945448928, $19.95 pkb, $7.99 Kindle

"Wiggles, Stomps and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down" is a groundbreaking kids title that delves into the world of a person with ADHD through the eyes of a child. So often when a diagnosis is given, we always think first of all the negatives. The author and illustrator combine their multiple talents to shed a more positive light on ADHD that spills over to any other negative situation we live with. "Wiggles Stomps and Squeezes" is an upbeat example of changing your thinking to accommodate to whatever situation you are in that is encouraging reading for all ages to learn from the lessons presented

There is GOOD in my HOOD: A story about a Day in the life of a New Image Youth Center Student
Dr. Shanta Barton-Stubbs & The New Image Youth Center Family
Illustrations by Cristina Movileanu
Under Construction Empowerment Services, LLC
9780997329711, $13.00 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

"There is GOOD in my HOOD," shows children there is another avenue to pursue in life from the one they possibly face that will only lead to trouble. A teenage male walks the streets not far from the amusement attractions in Orlando on a possible course of destructive behavior, until he locates the New Image Youth Center While there he is among new acquaintances on a similar course. The Center presents many different aspects to help kids turn their lives around to be productive citizens in the future. "There is GOOD in my HOOD" is a unique presentation that can help many kids work their way out of the inner city to a brighter future.

Dr. Fauci How A Boy From Brooklyn Became America's Doctor
Kate Messner
Illustrated by Alexandra Bye
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
9781665902434, $17.99 HC, $10.99 Kindle

Because of the Corona Virus, we have come to know as a familiar face Dr. Anthony Fauci, but what if anything do, we really know about him? Dr. Fauci How A Boy From Brooklyn Became America's Doctor" presents a man who has always turned negatives into positives. He learned while playing basketball for school teams to face a challenge head on and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. He worked in construction when he got to desire to excel in the medical field by working his way up through college and in the field. "Dr Fauci How A Boy From Brooklyn Became America's Doctor" is a beacon hope for all of us to believe in ourselves to achieve what we want in life

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Making Room
Kyle Kramer
Franciscan Media
9781632533081 $16.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Most of us fall short of fully living out our values, especially if they are countercultural ones like simplicity and soulfulness. As both a family man and the Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Kentucky, Kyle Kramer knows that struggle. In Making Room he writes not only as an eco-spiritual expert but also as a fellow pilgrim on the journey toward simplicity, which he defines as the choices that create the freedom to honor our own deepest needs, the concentric circles of human relationships, and God's gifts of the natural world.

Critique: Written especially for Christians striving to balance spiritual needs with the demands of everyday life, Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living is a guide to tapping into the power of simplicity. Taming desires for unnecessary things and living more simply can bring greater physical, emotional, and spiritual satisfaction to one's life in virtually all areas - work, finances, relationships, food, and more. A thoughtful, reader-friendly guide that promotes a way of life that is more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling, Making Room is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Making Room is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Trouble Girls
Julia Lynn Rubin
Wednesday Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
9781250757241 $18.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A queer YA reimagining of Thelma & Louise with the aesthetic of Riverdale, for fans of Mindy McGinnis, Courtney Summers, and Rory Power.

When Trixie picks up her best friend Lux for their weekend getaway, they're looking to forget the despair of being trapped in their dead-end rustbelt town. The girls are packing light: a supply of Diet Coke and an '89 Canon to help Lux frame the world in a sunnier light; half a pack of cigarettes that Trixie doesn't really smoke, and a knife she's hanging on to for a friend that she's never used before.

But a single night of violence derails their trip, and the girls go from ordinary high schoolers to wanted fugitives. Trying to stay ahead of the cops and a hellscape of media attention, Trixie and Lux grapple with an unforgiving landscape, rapidly diminishing supplies, and disastrous decisions at every turn. As they are transformed by the media into the face of a #MeToo movement they didn't ask to lead, Trixie and Lux realize that they can only rely on each other, and that the love they find together is the one thing that truly makes them free.

Critique: Written for both adults and young adults in grade 9 and up, Trouble Girls follows two teenaged best friends on the run from the police. Neither of them trusts self-defense laws intended to defend barroom brawlers rather than a woman with a knife, and neither of them expected the #MeToo movement to make their fugitive trek into a media centerpiece. Love blooms between the two girls amid their flight; is their devotion to one another the only freedom they can share? A compelling read from cover to cover, Trouble Girls is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Trouble Girls is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

The Seven Day Switch
Kelly Harms
Lake Union Publishing
9781542028899 $24.95 hc / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Two moms as opposite as a Happy Meal and a quinoa bowl. What a difference a week makes in a heartfelt, laugh-out-loud novel by the Washington Post bestselling author of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.

Celeste Mason is the Pinterest stay-at-home supermom of other mothers' nightmares. Despite her all-organic, SunButter-loving, free-range kids, her immaculate home, and her volunteering awards, she still has time to relax with a nice glass of pinot at the end of the day. The only thing that ruins it all is her workaholic, career-obsessed neighbor, who makes no secret of what she thinks of Celeste's life choices every chance she gets.

Wendy Charles is a celebrated productivity consultant, columnist, and speaker. On a minute-by-minute schedule, she makes the working-mom hustle look easy. She even spends at least one waking hour a day with her kids. She's not apologizing for a thing. Especially to Celeste, who plays her superior parenting against Wendy whenever she can.

Who do Celeste and Wendy think they are? They're about to find out thanks to one freaky week. After a neighborhood potluck and too much sangria, they wake up - um, what? - in each other's bodies. Everything Celeste and Wendy thought they knew about the "other kind of mom" is flipped upside down - along with their messy, complicated, maybe not so different lives.

Critique: The Seven Day Switch is a novel of two mothers with opposing parenting styles - one is a doting stay-at-home mom while the other is a career professional - who suddenly find themselves switched for a week! Each woman in the other's shoes experiences a challenges she'd never imagined - yet perhaps, their respective lives aren't quite as drastically divergent as they thought? Ranging in tone from wistful to laugh-out-loud funny, The Seven Day Switch is a memorable experience, thoroughly enjoyable from cover to cover. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Seven Day Switch is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Atlantis: The Find of a Lifetime
Christos A. Djonis
Page Publishing Inc.
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781662441271, $36.95, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: Never before has there been a real discovery where all the physical characteristics of a proposed location matched Plato's description of Atlantis. Not even the original Santorini hypothesis could sufficiently meet the given criteria.

After years of extensive research, in conjunction with new archeological evidence, and with the aid of satellite technology, in the pages of "Atlantis: The Find of a Lifetime", Christos A. Djonis credibly reveals that Plato based his story of Atlantis on a real prehistoric setting, now beneath 400 feet of water.

We now have a real discovery where all the physical characteristics, along with Plato's given chronology, flawlessly match, and they are precisely in the exact order as Plato depicted. Moreover, DNA and archaeological evidence of an advanced Neolithic civilization occupying the prehistoric submerged island, at around 9600 BC, further confirm a perfect case scenario.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read throughout, "Atlantis: The Find of a Lifetime" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and academic library Archaeology collections in general, and Atlantis supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Atlantis: The Find of a Lifetime" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781662442599, $22.95).

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Finding Sanctuary
Jennifer Hubbard
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781646800612, $15.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Where is God when the innocent suffer? Jennifer Hubbard began to grapple with this question in 2012 when her six-year-old daughter Catherine was killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the depths of her grief, Hubbard founded an animal sanctuary in Catherine's memory, creating a place of healing for her family and their community and fulfilling her daughter's dream.

In "Finding Sanctuary: How the Wild Work of Peace Restored the Heart of a Sandy Hook Mother", Hubbard shares her journey of healing and transformation in order to help those who may be grappling with an inability to trust in the goodness of God.

Her readers will learn: To recognize the diamonds of divine insight and encouragement when you are deep in the mine of pain and despair; To be patient with yourself as you take the time you need to process what is happening; To look both to the past and the present for signs of God's presence, preparing you to move toward acceptance, forgiveness, and peace.

Each chapter in "Finding Sanctuary" is dedicated to one step in Hubbard's journey toward wholeness and includes reflection questions to guide you to consider what God is teaching you as you make your own way toward God's kingdom of peace.

Critique: Whether it was King Herrod's massacre of the children of Bethlem as recorded in the New Testament, or a young man's walking into a school and killing innocent children with a modern weapon as so commonly announced in today's media, such acts leave whole communities, even whole countries, shaken to their depths. But even the most vile of atrocities can be overcome with the help of God, the actions of good people, and the renewed dedication of a grieving community to remember and appreciate what has been lost -- and dedicate themselves to a better, safer, and kinder future.

Simply stated, "Finding Sanctuary: How the Wild Work of Peace Restored the Heart of a Sandy Hook Mother" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for anyone who has suffered the loss of a child whether by natural or unnatural causes. It should be a part of every community library collections for the sake of the communities they serve.

Editorial Note: Jennifer Hubbard is the president and executive director of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, which she founded in memory of her daughter who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Hubbard is a national Catholic speaker and retreat leader and is frequently featured at Legatus gatherings. She also is an award-winning writer with Magnificat. She has been a guest on a variety of national television shows, including Today, CBS News, and ABC News. She also has been featured on Catholic News Agency and is a monthly guest on Spirit Morning Radio in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a member of the board of trustees at Fraser Woods Montessori School and lives with her son in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Daisy Dowling
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633698390, $25.00, PB, 576pp

Synopsis: Whether planning a family, pushing for promotion during your kids' teenage years, or at any phase in between, "Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself, and Raising Happy Kids" by Daisy Dowling provides all the advice and assurance you'll need to combine children and career in your own, authentic way.

"Workparent" covers: Finding a childcare arrangement you fully trust; Building a strong support team, at home and on the job; Advocating for advancement and flexibility; Stepping up at work while keeping your family healthy and whole; Taming guilt, self-doubt, worry, and other difficult emotions; Navigating big transitions: the return from leave, a promotion or job change, or the arrival of a second child; Managing day-to-day pressures, like scheduling, mealtimes, homework, and more; Finding and really using time off; Feeling more capable, calm, and in control.

Critique: Daisy Dowling is a top executive coach, talent expert, and working mom. She draws upon her years of experience and expertise in "Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself, and Raising Happy Kids" fully lives up to its title and provides practical answers all parental questions in a thoroughly 'reader friendly' commentary style. The result is a DIY instructional handbook and manual offering everything needed to thrive as a working parent.

Editorial Note: Herself a full-time working parent to two young children, Daisy Dowling is the founder and CEO of Workparent, an executive coaching, and training firm dedicated to helping working parents lead more successful and satisfying lives. Dowling also maintains an informative website at

Michelle Obama: In Her Own Words
Marta Evans, editor
Hannah Masters, editor
Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572842953, $15.95, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: Deftly compiled and edited by the team of Marta Evans and Hannah Masters, "Michelle Obama: In Her Own Words" is collection of quotes has been carefully curated from Michelle Obama's numerous public statements drawn from interviews, books, social media posts, television appearances, and more. "Michelle Obama: In Her Own Words" provides a comprehensive picture of her legacy as one of America's most recognizable and influential women today. Now, for the first time in the pages of "Michelle Obama: In Her Own Words", you can find the former First Lady's most inspirational, thought-provoking quotes in one place, providing an intimate and direct look into the mind of this beloved, accomplished, and remarkable woman.

Critique: Enhanced with a concise list of milestones in Michelle Obama's life, Michelle Obama In Her Own Words is a compilation of memorable and meaningful quotes from author, lawyer, humanitarian, and former First Lady of the United States. Drawn from her speeches, writings, interviews, television appearances and more, Michelle Obama In Her Own Words is inspirational, insightful, and highly recommended. "From the times our kids are still in diapers, we as parents are already fighting an uphill battle to get them interested in the foods that will actually nourish them and help them grow." It should be noted for personal reading lists that Michelle Obama In Her Own Words is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

All about Flowers: James Vick's Nineteenth-Century Seed Company
Thomas J. Mickey
Swallow Press
c/o Ohio University Press
215 Columbus Road, Suite 101, Athens, OH 45701
9780804012294, $26.95, PB, 204pp

Synopsis: "There is much that is hard and productive of sorrow in this sin-plagued world of ours; and, had we no flowers, I believe existence would be hard to be borne." So states a customer's 1881 letter -- one of thousands James Vick regularly received. Vick's business, selling flower seeds through the mail, wasn't unique, but it was wildly successful because he understood better than his rivals how to engage customers' emotions. He sold the love of flowers along with the flower seeds.

While genuinely passionate about floriculture, Vick also pioneered what we now describe as integrated marketing. He spent a mind-boggling $100,000 per year on advertising (mostly to women, his target demographic); he courted newspaper editors for free publicity; his educational guides presaged today's content marketing; he recruited social influencers to popularize neighborhood gardening clubs; and he developed a visually rich communication and branding strategy to build customer loyalty and inflect their purchasing needs with purchasing desire.

Critique: Showcasing a nineteenth-century entrepreneur's bold, innovative marketing that helped transform flower gardens into one of America's favorite hobbies, "All about Flowers: James Vick's Nineteenth-Century Seed Company" by Professor Thomas J. Mickey is a beautifully illustrated and impressively informative history that will have special appeal to the legions of dedicated flower gardeners and students of 19th Century American capitalism. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "All about Flowers: James Vick's Nineteenth-Century Seed Company" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Thomas J. Mickey is Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the Boston Architectural College's Landscape Institute, a Master Gardener, and a garden columnist. His other books include America's Romance with the English Garden, from Ohio University Press, and Best Garden Plants for New England.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Next Generation Tourism
John Spence, et al.
Yale School of Architecture
c/o Actar Publishers
440 Park Avenue S, 17th FL, New York, NY 10016
9781948765930, $35.00, PB, 136pp

Synopsis: It is said that our actions impact the environment seven generations into the future. In fact the growing concern about the global impact of tourism and the associated waste produced by leisure industries is outdated as evidenced by "Next Generation Tourism: Touching the Ground Lightly". This study by the Yale graduate advanced architecture studio analyzed the current ecological conditions, indigenous architecture styles, and resort culture of Gili Meno, a tiny remote island off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia, to generate next-generation models of tourism.

Critique: Expertly written by John Spence, Henry Squire and Patrick Bellew, then collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Nina Rappaport and Rukshan Vathupola, "Next Generation Tourism: Touching the Ground Lightly" is highly recommended for governmental, corporate, college and university library collections with its focus on the sustainability of materials, diverse climate issues, and development in fragile island areas where exploitation of resources are being monitored for future development. A seminal study of immense value for innovative strategies centered around ecology, sustainability, and the rise of future tourism models on the resort island of Gili Meno, Indonesia and would be applicable to similar island and coastal cultures.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Everything Is Your Fault
Rajan Shankara
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
c/o National Book Network (dist.)
9781789043594 $16.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In his first published work for the public, former monk, Rajan Shankara, offers the reader a dynamic how-to for becoming a powerful adult. Everything Is Your Fault combines Rajan's personal journey from drug-selling thug to Hindu Yogi with thought-provoking aphorisms and teachings that show the reader their own opportunity for spiritual growth.

Having lived as a monk for 12 years, Rajan is now back in society as a world-yogi, teaching others how to control their mind, body, and emotions. Rajan is currently a meditation guide, award-winning writer, author of four books, self-development mentor, online coach, fitness and health expert, and business owner. Everything Is Your Fault is a powerful story of transformation and hope. When one of us transforms, we all do in our own way. Allow yourself to be transformed by Rajan Shankara.

Critique: Everything Is Your Fault is an inspirational memoir from award-winning writer Rajan Shankara, tracing his complex life journey from drug-selling criminal to Hindu Yogi. Rajan lived as a monk for twelve years, yet parted ways with the monastery after a dispute Everything Is Your Fault describes at length, and today provides both fitness and self-development services. Everything Is Your Fault draws upon both Rajan's life experiences and hard-learned lessons to offer a powerful and edifying saga of personal transformation. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Everything Is Your Fault is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Death Deserved (Alexander Blix Book 1)
Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst
Orenda Books; Reprint edition
9781913193003, $15.53 pbk / $6.15 Kindle 377 pages

Death Deserved is a good addition in the Nordic noir genre. Nordic noir is an interesting mix when compared with your typical American mysteries. Nordic noir is usually a grim graphic mystery but with details and character development that is usually found in much lighter cozy mysteries. Death Deserved serves as a solid example of the genre.

A twisted serial killer is haunting Norway and Officer Alexander Blix is assigned the case and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm stumbles on the story. Both Blix and Ramm have to overcome traumas in their past to solve the case. Unfortunately for them, the serial killer sees them as a way to get the notoriety he is seeking.

Death Deserved is an easy recommendation for any mystery reader. It is also an easy recommendation for adult (graphic murder scenes) readers in any genre. Stories of this quality should inspire US writers to try exploring this genre in their own books.

Scraps of Paper (Spookie Town Murder Mysteries Book 1)
Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Privately Published
9780803496194, $19.99 paper, 2013, 304 pages
B00B1W4A2K, $4.99, ebook

Scraps of Paper is a light cozy mystery with a touch of paranormal. Griffith is a solid mystery writer with no real weaknesses. I found Scraps an enjoyable read but lacking the extra spark some writers display in their writing.

Abigail Sutton's husband goes for a drive and doesn't return. Years later his car is found with him dead in it. Abigail needs a new start and finds a house to renovate in the rural town of Spooky. The previous owner died with no heirs. As Abigail renovates her new home she finds scraps of paper -- notes left by two children who disappeared from the house years ago. Curious, she investigates the disappearance and threats and strange occurrences follow.

Scraps of Paper is an easy to recommend cozy mystery. You will enjoy the cozy read and well-developed characters. Many readers will look for the next title in the series immediately after reading this one.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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