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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 3 March 2015 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Kaveny's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

How to Win Your Tax Audit
Daniel J. Pilla
Winning Publications, Inc.
215 W. Myrtle Street, Stillwater, MN 55082
9781884367090 $29.95

A disclaimer at the beginning of How to Win Your Tax Audit: An Insider's Guide to Successfully Negotiating with the IRS warns that its information absolutely cannot substitute for the aid of an accredited legal professional, when one is facing a tax audit or similar problems. That being said, How to Win Your Tax Audit is an excellent resource to read cover to cover to prepare oneself in case the worst happens - or prior to consulting a trained legal professional in an expensive bill-by-the-hour setting! Chapters describe how the IRS often attacks a tax return, one's essential tax audit rights, the dangers of an economic reality audit, how to appeal tax audit decisions, and much more. Accessible and user-friendly, How to Win You Tax Audit is an excellent way to overcome one's fear of the IRS and fortify oneself against potential disaster.

That Boy From Nazareth
Joel Gordonson
Rudi Publishing
9780945213505 $15.99

That Boy From Nazareth is an original novel set in ancient Palestine during the Roman occupation and Jewish rebellion, about the coming-of-age of humble twelve-year-old boy named Jesus, who learns that he is the Son of God. The characters who would come to definite Jesus' life in the Gospels form the cast of this intriguing speculation of what Jesus' formative years could have been like - and the heavy burden of his destiny to change the world. That Boy From Nazareth is profound, vivid, and highly recommended as reflective reading as one contemplates the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

A Study in Detail
Michael Guillebeau
Gale/Cengage Learning
9781432829858, $23.95

A Study in Detail represents an unusual genre blend of romance, murder mystery and comedy - and it's the latter piece that sets this apart from most other genre crossover titles and lends it a special atmosphere, recommended for romance and mystery readers seeking something different.

Quiet outdoorsman Paul is fielding his troublesome wife quite well, until Marta goes missing and circumstantial evidence points to him as the murderer. Now, Paul is anything but an investigator - and this is anything but an ordinary case; especially since a hidden message in his artistic wife's last painting indicates that she faked her death so that her works will become famous.

And so the drama and comedy begin as Paul finds himself on the lecture circuit discussing his not-dead-wife's life and facing down a series of increasingly-impossible events, from a $5M life insurance policy she took out before her 'death' to a casino that claims she owes them big time.

Now you have three investigators dancing around trouble and stepping on one another's toes: poor Paul, the casino enforcer, and a suspicious insurance investigator; all of whom have their own reasons for questioning Marta's demise. Add in a new age woman who believes she has been sent on a mission to help Paul and you have a truly unlikely cast of characters cast together in a charade of events: a game that has all contestants circling their chairs while music plays in the background, and wondering who will be sitting when it stops.

On the face of it, A Study in Detail is a mystery, but the tongue-in-cheek humor creeps into even the most staid of encounters: "It's good coffee," I said. "Really, excellent coffee." "Not for someone from Portland that knows their coffee...Right now I'll bring you a nice up of herbal tea like your girlfriend is having." I started to ask for warm dishwater instead."

And Paul's form of 'moving on' is anything but simple as he uncovers puzzle after puzzle and comes to realize he never really knew his wife at all.

The dialogue throughout is fresh, original, and witty: "Everything comes so easy for you, doesn't it, with that James Bond confidence and the Robert Redford environmentalist thing and that little boy smile that can charm the pants of a-off a some body with pants that need to stay on." and the twists of plot will keep even the most seasoned mystery reader thinking. Protagonist interactions take the form of a series of stumbles, falls, and encounters that just keep on getting crazier.

The result is especially recommended for enthusiasts of the romance and mystery genres who seek stories that are a cut above your average whodunit approach: something with meat to it, and a game that only end with the last left standing.

The Time Stealer
Ann I. Goldfarb
Two Cats Press
9781937083397, $12.95,

Fans of time travel stories and mysteries are in for a treat; but it's not a new treat for seasoned author Ann I. Goldfarb: The Time Stealer is actually the fifth book in her blossoming series.

That said, no prior familiarity with the others is required to enjoy this fine stand-alone story, which revolves around a college senior called upon to direct a children's play as her final project before graduation. Even the addition of the department head's troublesome teen cousin, Wendell, to the cast isn't necessarily a barrier to her success; but Aeden didn't count on his hacking abilities and his penchant for ferreting out deep, dark secrets. And the formula for her time travel abilities is about as deep and dark as it gets.

In the wrong hands, such a formula could spell disaster - and Wendell's hands are surely among the worst that could touch it, because he's a young man with a mission: finding the lost city of Atlantis.

It's unusual to find science fiction, young adult protagonists, and history blending together so seamlessly; but the atmosphere, politics, culture, and concerns of ancient Greece come to life under Goldfarb's practiced hand and not only link into the other series titles, but create a fine mystery driven by two memorable, well-developed teen characters.

The Time Stealer's ability to juxtapose multiple worlds (the 21st-century world of present-day Boston and a college student with an unusual background and a unique purpose, and one of Minoan civilization renowned for its brutality) is one hallmark of excellence that succeeds in immersing readers of all ages in its vivid story line.

Now, relatively little is known of Minoan culture and so what is historical fact today comes largely from artifacts. Goldfarb's representation of the times does a fine job of blending these facts with fiction to create a well-rounded, believable atmosphere.

Don't expect a light, linear read, here: one of the devices Goldfarb employs is to shift perspectives between the two protagonists. This, and the choice of the first person as a narrative tool, succeeds in capturing the motivations, impulses and emotions of both protagonists as spoiled teen Wendell finds himself trapped in a past world he didn't anticipate and blames everything on Aeden: "What a stupid mess-up. I should be in Atlantis by now, watching the orbs of light in the circular canals, or maybe even finding the gold horsemen in the Temple of Poseidon. And the ships . . . they'd be full of technology that we'd never heard of. Not

crescent shaped fishing trawlers. I blame this all on Aeden. She couldn't even get a math formula right. Because of her, I'm stuck in this room waiting for someone to unbolt the door."

Under a lesser hand the alternating first-person viewpoints might be confusing; but chapter headings clearly point out who is 'speaking', while the tone of voice and perspectives are changed enough to also clarify their authors.

Now, Wendell has taught himself Ancient Greek, which indicates both the level of his commitment to his adventure and his intellectual prowess. And Aeden finds herself stuck in the role of a slave, thanks to her costume error ... and she doesn't know Greek, so she's operating at a distinct disadvantage in her search for Wendell.

Hints of action to come conclude each chapter and neatly set the tone of mystery and the task for the chapters ahead: "Sleep came fast. The sound of someone screaming woke me for a second but I wasn't sure if I actually heard anything or if I had just dreamt it. By the time I learned the truth, it was too late."

Time and again (so to speak) this setup neatly moves readers from chapter to chapter, linking events and providing an ongoing impetus for delving further into the mystery and the convoluted conflicts that evolve between Ancient Greeks and modern protagonists.

Ultimately the two will have to learn to get along both to solve a mystery and return home - and that final link is the crux of the story, cementing a solid historical piece replete with time-travel experience with a series of encounters that represent powerful psychological devices and draws.

Called upon (and challenged) to become resourceful beyond their years, and then to work with one another for successful resolution, The Time Stealer 's protagonists are vivid and compelling characters that succeed in not only their immediate goals, but who ultimately affect the course of history and one ancient girl's life.

Will Wendell achieve his dream of seeing Atlantis, or will his life be forever changed? For further details, read the story: it won't disappoint!

The Education of a Traitor: A Memoir of Growing Up in Cold War Russia
Svetlana Grobman
Musings Publishing
9780692312285, $13.99 PB, Kindle: $4.99,

The Education of a Traitor: A Memoir of Growing Up in Cold War Russia comes from a Russian Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who was born in Russia in 1951 and moved to America in 1990. It covers the period between these years, when she was an engineer and editor for the Soviet Encyclopedia, and intersperses the life lessons she gained from her family and culture with insights into cold war Russian society and sentiments.

Svetlana Grobman grew up with nightmares dominating her life: not unexpected, since her childhood was fraught with political fears and strife as she grew up in the shadow of WW II where stories of Russian suffering and war dominated her life.

These accounts offered little hope and much to fear: in the movies, for example, main characters always died; and in the stories, sacrifice and death, betrayal and torture, were common outcomes. The Soviet perspective was brutal and is crystal-clear under Grobman's observations: "Heroes died because that was what made them heroes, and traitors died because that was what our justice demanded."

Raised in a culture with such definitive perceptions and little margin for flexibility or positive thinking, Grobman finds any possibility of survival and redemption questionable: "As for the millions of people displaced by chance and misfortune - POWs or civilians - they remained under a cloud of suspicion. How could they surrender alive? Why didn't they die the way heroes did? If they came back, they were sent to Siberian gulags. If they disappeared in the maze of the world, they were quickly forgotten, as if they had never been born. Everything was black and white, with no nuances and no half tones. History - in our judgment - had mercy for no one, since, clearly, there was no higher honor or a better destiny than to die for our country."

The ideal was to be a patriot for her beloved country. The reality was that patriots wound up dead (survivors weren't considered true patriots at all.) Under a cloud of suspicion circumventing any possibility of survival and redemption, Grobman begins to form her own perspective - and how she does this in a cultural milieu filled with angst and negativity is almost as powerful as the fact that she ultimately achieves freedom from the repressive forces that dominate her culture and life.

Too many memoirs focus on the physical realities of escaping from one's world. Under such an approach it would have been all too easy for The Education of a Traitor to, itself, have become a linear memoir of a flight to a new life. But true freedom involves more than physical distance or escape: it's a vast adjustment that involves confronting and changing one's framework for perceiving reality itself; and it's here that this autobiography shines.

Chapter after chapter traces her growth process, admitting that the author's background has not instilled in her all the tools necessary for such changes: "I do not know much about growing corn. In truth, I do not know much about growing anything..."

From witnessing 'miracles' as simple as a camping trip's amazing sunrise, which adults try to link to political influence ("Remember, children," Evgenia Vladimirovna's voice breaks the spell. "This is what your country and the Communist Party do for you! You must appreciate that!" Confused, we look at her and then at each other. Is she talking about the sun or the camp?"), to how reading about other places offers one method of absorbing alternative thinking patterns ("The world that stretches outside our window is as white as the one I have just left. But unlike the imaginary world, the real one offers nothing worth exploring, nothing that can match the drama unraveling on the pages of my book, and therefore, nothing worth interrupting my reading for."), this approach succeeds in melding the author's personal influences with wider political and personal growth.

Even more hard-hitting is how her parents must struggle with every facet of her life and her interactions outside the home - even with something seemingly as simple as an art museum catalog: "They are unintelligent retrogrades! If they had had their way, all paintings would've been painted over and statues draped in blankets! It's bad enough that every word in this damn country is censored. Now I have to worry about museum catalogs, too?!" "All I'm saying is that we have to be careful. If she doesn't understand what can or can't be taken out of the house, then we shouldn't have anything around here that can get her in trouble."

True, the USSR the author describes no longer exists. But that doesn't mean that the influence and specter of its operations don't remain active in the world, both in Grobman's life and in the wider arena of understanding social and political systems and their impact on ordinary lives. And as much as the author's memories are now frozen in the past, they also continue to hold perspective, insight, and influence on the future of both the reader (whether in the motherland or abroad) and the author.

After all - isn't that why autobiography remains an effective genre for describing not just individual lives and experiences, but wider questions of social and political evolution and even survival and freedom itself? Without truly understanding influence, motivation, perspective, and the effects of political systems on young hearts and minds, it's not possible to perceive the real threats to freedom in the world.

And thus The Education of a Traitor may be read on several different levels: either as a coming-of-age autobiography, or as a wider-ranging portrait of personal survival and growth. Either way, it's not about becoming a patriot and dying. It's about becoming free to live a full life. Exactly how this is achieved is the meat of a hard-hitting and involving story that delivers vignettes of change and survival using a powerful voice and a personal perspective that's hard to put down.

The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security
Joe S. Davis
Creative Publishing Partners, LLC
No ISBN, $3.95,

The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security is novel about terrorism at work on foreign soil, presents the perspectives of terrorists at work, and at first glance seems to tie into the blossoming genre of work surrounding terrorism which this reviewer is going to deem 'terrorist fiction' - most of which focus on the efforts of agencies and individuals to thwart a growing plague of terror.

But wait, there's something different going on here: this isn't an outsider's perspective and story so much as an insider's series of revelations, it's set on foreign soil, and it poses the specter of international business involvements in the terrorist process as a way of examining not just personal motivation, but financing and economic connections.

In fact, the more one reads through The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security, the more one realizes there's something different going on here; particularly in contrast with other terrorist fiction approaches that take place from the perspectives of outsiders combating terrorist activities.

The scene opens with a kidnapping and in the process of describing such, probing the atmosphere of Jamaica (both uptown and down home) and setting the scene of kidnappers assigned to a particular task; but soon the perspective of small-time kidnappers assigned to a particular task changes as further chapters introduce investigators who range from novice to seasoned; each with their own ideas of how to proceed: "If you're trying to rescue someone and their captors are trying to kill one or both of you, you can't take that split second to theorize his motive. It's hard for a professional to be analytical about how his actions will be judged by a group of evaluators later who most times have never really been in the path of a bullet or machete. You have to make judgments based on experience and be prepared to correct even your own judgment to keep yourself alive and complete the mission the best way possible. But most importantly, stay alive!"

It's especially notable to find cultural observations tucked within the pages of action, because these economic and social facets are what ultimately contribute to the blossoming of terrorist activities in the world: "What was apparent in Montego Bay was that a middle class subdivision could be located next to a slum which might have a five star hotel as its neighbor also. Developments and condos were built as land allowed, not with ideas of urban planning. The dollar was king in Montego Bay and if a corporation could house tourists adjacent to a slum and make money by enclosing all the tourist features just for their quests, that's the way it is done."

Relationships between victim and kidnapper, male and female, investigator and perp, racial issues and opportunity - all are well-drown against the backdrop of Jamaican society, almost as if the focus were upon a bigger picture than a singular plot and its outcome.

And this focus is what sets The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security apart from many other terrorist fiction approaches. It won't delight those looking for simple action, singular events, and linear thinking about terrorism's roots. It will prove a superior, action-packed adventure for readers interested in absorbing this bigger picture of not only events, but the social, cultural, political and economic forces behind them.

Complex? You bet: the twists and turns are relentless and energetic, and they don't stop with political observation but weave in the hearts, minds, and motivations of individuals with these larger concerns.

It's no easy task simultaneously presenting the criminal's perspective and the investigator's side of matters: it's two opposite sides of the same coin that must always be balanced for equal perspective.

That Joe S. Davis achieves this dance - and does it well - is evidence that The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security will appeal not just to the casual reader of terrorist action thrillers, but especially to those looking for more complex insights into the entire structure of terrorist activity. Thus what opens as a simple kidnapping evolves into something much more and, like a butterfly emerging, takes wing into the complex realm of bigger social and political issues and, ultimately, the values that drive them.

Wind Catcher
Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef
ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622533135
ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 9781622533138
$14.95 Paperback, $3.99 ebook,

The theme sounds simple: sixteen-year-old half-Indian Juliet just wants to be a normal teenage - but she can't, because she is the Chosen, with all the powers and responsibilities that come with the position. Her abilities to hear voices and see visions have always troubled her and her grandfather Sicheii's words have been puzzling and unhelpful.

All this is about to change in Wind Catcher, the first book of the 'Chosen' series that takes Juliet's troubled world and ramps it up to a whole new level when she discovers a series of lies has shrouded her true purpose in the world.

On the face of it, the plot sounds familiar: teen angst, epic quest, self-discovery, supernatural forces, even Native American influences. But as with any story, it's all about how it's handled and, especially in the case of teen stories, it's all about building characterization and creating a compelling adventure: both keys to attracting and retaining young adult readers.

And Juliet's dilemma holds these facets in droves.

First of all, her family is loving yet not united in its perception of the non-Indian world and its powers: "Your mom is headstrong. She puts too much faith in white medicine. It's better to look deeper into the state of someone's spirit than treat symptoms, but that's not the intent of this story."

Neither is it united in its interactions: her mother and grandfather have a prickly relationship and Juliet is often caught in the middle, captivated by his stories and reality which are often negated by her mother's responses: "I raced to the kitchen and asked Mom about his story. She bristled. Their relationship was best described as a seesaw, one end frosty and bitter, the other warm and loving. They argued often then, the seesaw tilting firmly in the frosty direction. She told me he had made up the story and for me not to worry about it. I wasn't sure what to believe."

This latest instance, however, holds far more implications for her life than any conflict between parental units, because it pivots on whether her life has been a series of lies - and Juliet suspects the truth is something far more than has been presented to her.

As she becomes involved in her school's story of her kidnapping, designed to alter unusual facts about her experience, and comes to believe Sicheii has involved her in something dangerous and deadly, she's ever on a quest to find the truth at the heart of these deceptions and half-stories - and that's the pulse of Wind Catcher, which revolves around this journey and its constantly-changing paths.

As with any epic, the protagonist faces some difficult decisions: in this case, decisions that have immediate consequences: "You have a decision to make, a side to take. If you choose poorly, they will all die a horrible death...Trust me; everyone you care about will meet a grisly end. Choose wisely and a world of riches will be yours, and they all will live."

As she confronts the mysterious Seeker and at last faces what seems to be the truth, Juliet comes to know the motivations and concerns of everyone involved in her process: "Truth is a tricky thing. Some people think there are absolute truths that are always correct. That's foolish. Truth depends upon your perspective. My truth might be different from Troy's, which may be very different from Katie's. Who knows what the Seeker's truth is? I'm not sure I want to know, but finding out his truth is the only way I will survive this."

But this story is not only about Juliet finding the truth at last (though much of its plot revolves around that): it's about what she'll choose to do with that truth once she uncovers it.

Many young adult books revolve around young adult decision-making processes, but the joy and excitement fueling Wind Catcher is that Juliet's search for truth doesn't end with its emergence, but with the bigger picture of what she'll choose to do with it. That's the heartbeat of a powerful saga that fully immerses readers in all the possible scenarios that can stem from one's choices in life - and the reason why Wind Catcher stands out from the crowd. (It's obvious others are coming to believe this, also: Wind Catcher has won the Awesome Indies Seal of Approval and a Mom's Choice Award.)

It's the heartbeat of a powerful young adult adventure steeped in Native American legend and tradition, fueled by a feisty female protagonist who refuses to take the easy way out whether it comes to belief, truth, or love, and who faces down kidnapping, betrayal, and an ultimate choice. Add in a growing circle of supportive friendships and you have a story that is vivid, engrossing - and (so you'll be forewarned) ends in a cliffhanger, ready for Book Two.

Welcome to Deep Cove
Grant T. Reed
Amazon Digital Services Inc.
Asin: B00J1KUXH0, $2.99

Welcome to Deep Cove is billed as a mystery, it centers on a new P.I. who has just earned his credentials and is eager to delve into life's mysteries, and it promises action and intrigue, opening with two full-color, good-sized maps placing events in geographical perspective.

What isn't evident in either the title or subtitle ('Vellian Mysteries, Book 1') comes forth rather quickly as a surprise which mystery genre readers don't often get: a dragon sidekick. Moreover, this isn't your usual dragon figure, either: a humorous tone is adopted as soon as P.I. Garrett is introduced (which isn't in the very different atmosphere of the first chapter, either - so be forewarned), and this humor is yet another pleasing surprise promising that Welcome to Deep Cove will be anything but a standard genre read: Inside the main room a small green and orange dragon - no more than half Garrett's size - reclined in his leather chair, his feet planted on a desk, an open newspaper occupying his attention. "Disgusting, Merle. I told you not to sit like that. I can see your baubles," chastised Garrett.

So, to bill it a 'mystery' is simply too pat and easy: any attempt to fit Welcome to Deep Cove into the standard 'mystery' genre would be as incongruous as saying Tanya Huff's vampire-tinged investigative sagas were 'detective stories' in the traditional sense. And thus genre mystery readers should be either flexible enough to absorb something that's truly a crossover, or should look elsewhere for their standard formula whodunits, because Welcome to Deep Cove is in a class of its own, which makes it deliciously, virtually indefinable.

Fantasy fans will want to pick up the story for its inclusion of not just dragons, but ogres and all manner of creatures that commonly appear in fantasy writings - but this group will come to expect and appreciate this story's intrigue and approach of a good mystery.

Mystery readers (as already mentioned) should be prepared for many fantasy elements interspersed with humor: Grant T. Reed easily represents all these facets in his story and they work together well to create a powerful plot greater than the sum of its devices.

And most of all, readers who actively seek humor in mystery and fantasy works (which is all too rare these days) will find it in droves in Welcome to Deep Cove ... but once more this story thwarts tradition, because humor-seekers shouldn't expect a nonstop series of side-splitting comedy, either: there's plenty of dark, vivid action happening that neatly juxtaposes any comic interludes with an intense story line and character concerns: I was trained by my masters to be a warrior and to kill when necessary. I was more than adequate at it." His voice shuddered and he went to the door. "Every time I cut a man down or slipped a knife between an opponent's ribs, it felt like a small part of me was dying with them. I pray to God every day that I never have to kill again, but if you ask me if I would kill to protect Merle or someone else close to me, then the answer is a resounding yes.

Illegal trade commodities, a prison escape, Garrett's struggles to get his new, non-lethal business up and running - all these subplots add to and enhance the overall feel of Welcome to Deep Cove, which is fast-paced but not neglectful of character development, steeped in mystery but not so serious as to leave out the dragon, and filled with unpredictability.

So take a dose of Christopher Moore, mix in a P.I.'s personality and struggles with a dash of fantasy ala Tanya Huff, and flavor the pot with a talking dragon (shades of Anne McCaffrey! Perhaps the strongest part of the story lies in Garrett's interactions with Merle), and there you have it: a quasi-mystery and fantasy blend that is ripe with intrigue, investigations, and action.

One of Three
Mary Tumbusch
9781495973901, $10.99

This first book in a trilogy presents the work and character of Claire, a hydrologist whose latest project is analyzing water samples to assess the environmental impact of a mine. Not in her job description is discovery, when she stumbles upon the journals of an Irish immigrant who details his struggles for survival in the harsh new land that is the American dream.

But the saga doesn't open with Claire's world; it starts with a forward from the 1846 Cork Reporter documenting the suffering of masses in Ireland due to the potato famine and considering the politics, schemes, and dilemmas that arise from it ("We repeat our question: what is the number of dead we must first count over before food will begin to be distributed?") before fast forwarding to the future of Claire Longley's experiences.

This neatly sets the stage for what is to come: a thought-provoking intersection of worlds when Claire's present-day concerns unexpectedly and directly collide with the past.

The journal format opens with a presentation in italics: a fine method for clearly differentiating between one Daniel Conner's 1847 life and times as narrated in his journal and Claire's present-day era. So many novels that juxtapose past and present do so without clear delineation between the two, leaving their readers helplessly stuck in a time vortex: not so One of Three, which is satisfyingly clear throughout.

As Claire absorbs stories of struggle that begin in the Old Country and continue in the new, she imagines herself in the miserable world that is 1800s Ireland, muses upon "...what a world this has become and what a world it must have been.", and finds in Daniel's life a cathartic drive to uncover some connections between her involvement in the mine project, her life, and the past.

She feels compelled to keep reading Daniel's journal, discovering within it more nuggets of sadness and strife, and finds her process of attempting to understand the ground-water flow system and the mine's future impacts upon it actually has a direct relationship to her attempts to understand Daniel's life and times.

As each chapter heading clearly states its setting, whether past or present, readers are able to effortlessly follow along, whether it be from Claire's perspective or that of Daniel. Both walk similar paths, albeit in very different times. Both hold confrontations, questions, and challenges that, if properly addressed, will change their lives and choices. And both find themselves confronting missing loved ones, political machines, and strange journeys to foreign places they cannot control.

If this story were narrated simply from Claire's adventures, without regard to Daniel's journals and experiences, it would hold nowhere near the depth and associations that lend it the complexity to surprise and delight novel readers seeking something less linear. The fact that a stranger's journals can prove so cathartic and link so easily to events over a century later, makes for an intriguing element. Chapters neatly explore missing persons, political outcomes, and interrupted flow systems, and in the process Claire comes to realize she has more in common with Daniel's approaches to life and adversity than she'd realized.

Two different worlds collide; two different perspectives coalesce, and the resulting exploration makes One of Three a vibrant story of what has and has not changed in 160 years, steeping readers in two seemingly-different worlds and brewing up a tea complex associations that, in the end, point out (among other things) the need for an understanding of history and patterns of repetition in order to truly move forward.

This saga of family, loss, and reconciliation will thus delight fiction readers who seek a complex blend of historical, social, political and personal insights: not recommended for light leisure readers, but for those who enjoy a story replete with food for thought.

In the Hands of the Immortal Weaver
L.M. Browning
Homebound Publications
9781938846342, $10.00,

One might anticipate a science fiction or fantasy saga from the evocative title In the Hands of the Immortal Weaver; but in fact its subtitle ('Poems of Sacredness and Belonging') clearly defines its genre and its approach before one even cracks the pages, providing a hint of the powerful forces the reader is about to unleash.

The story begins with 'Where the Story Leaves Off': at night, when " the soul peeks out/from under the hood of this body" and after singing through a realm of darkness, segues neatly into the next poem that opens with a new approach in which "We honor the day by being conscience/of the moments it gives us./Grace is found floating/in the wake of appreciation."

Browning's free verse is a progression that documents just how that honor and consciousness is discovered and felt, carrying readers along on a tide of evocative observational pieces and admonitions: "Be one who gets down/on their hands and knees/ - pushing against the walls - /never assuming that things are as they appear."

Now, it should be advised that the enchantment of these pieces lies not in their ability to dictate, command, or compel; but in their slow evolution of process. Under Browning's hand the methods, feel, and purposes of her two themes (sacredness and belonging) unfold like a butterfly - they aren't beaten into readers with overkill methods so many poetry collections adopt, and they focus on a quiet sense of rebirth that doesn't involve catastrophic approaches: "You need not remake the old/in order to gather what/is precious and begin anew."

So many poetry collections centered around rebirth and, yes, even spiritually, approach their subjects with a mallet of force, enveloping readers in a Mach-10 storm of angst. While In the Hands of the Immortal Weaver offers up the power and force, it does so with a delicate observational hand; not with a hammer.

And that's the beauty of this particular collection: its approach to probing how the body serves as a vehicle for educating and changing the soul, and its delicate weave of emotion into the mix of spiritual revelation and change:

"The soul is the power source/that fuels the organic machine
through which we can/experience the ineffable truth."

This approach invites inspection, the slow and careful drinking in of questions that make the night restless and "the days frustrating", and ultimately, a better understanding of the processes called spiritual transformation, change, and revelation.

It takes a real weaver of words to accomplish all this through trails of concurrent pain and joy that lead to a definite destination, lending meaning to suffering and offering keys to the nature of happiness. L.M. Browning's collection is especially recommended for free verse readers who would learn about the evolutionary process of change without the forceful approach of so many a work on the market.

Cracks in Reality
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00RGZG4SE, $0.99

Readers might recognize Alex Siegel's name: he's the prolific author of some fourteen books in the supernatural thriller Gray Spear series (all of whom this reviewer has read), and his new series is second in the Seams in Reality series (a prequel was presented earlier, with the above title's series opener).

Cracks in Reality continues the saga, presenting the confrontations of a sorcerer and thief who has one ultimate goal: to become the greatest sorcerer on Earth, no matter what the cost. How to achieve that goal? By breaking into the Vault, a U.S. Army desert fortress that's one of the most protected places on the planet and which contains the most dangerous secrets of sorcery.

Imagine a dream that's forged in the fires of potential disaster: a venture so dangerous and impossible that Blake's plan for robbery takes on new levels of creativity. Imagine that the forces working against him (and those would be two teenage genius apprentice mages and their instructor), who stumble on his intentions, have very little time to prepare - and seemingly fewer abilities to confront him.

Then imagine that a renovated missile silo equipped to survive the end of the world, a memory-wiping spell, and a trickster who has more than a bag of smoke and mirrors up his sleeve will be part of the obstacles confronting these inexperienced but multitalented teens.

Siegel's talent lies in several areas; not the least of which is his ability to depict smoky, dark, foreboding atmospheres that draw in reader and protagonist alike.

It's unusual to find an apprenticeship interrupted to pursue a course of murder - but then, a world-changing master sorcerer must be stopped at all odds. It's unusual to find a new young sorcerer's skills tested through the brutality of a trial that involves truth sorcery and mental manipulation.

And it's unexpected to find that the approach taken by the apprentices and their instructor will prove to have a world-changing impact. Andrew and Charley's first major mission would be the pinnacle for many a more experienced sorcerer: for an apprentice, a major assignment seems an impossible challenge.

How they meet that challenge, turn things around, face moral and ethical tests along the way, and continue to fine-tune and hone their abilities makes Cracks in Reality an even more absorbing read than its predecessor - and a very highly recommended new series either for prior Gray Spear fans or for complete newcomers to Siegel's fast-paced, magic-tinged worlds.

Amy Nawrocki
Homebound Publications
9781938846694, $14.95

Poems inspired by other poems aren't a rarity: indeed, they are a typical pleasure of poets; because to read others' works is to become inspired to create your own. It's been said that the majority of poetry readers are themselves poets. But Amy Nawrocki carries this thought to a higher level in giving voice to Reconnaissance: a mission to probe the influence and presence of other works and to drink deeply of their approaches with the idea of filling one's writing soul with the inspirations of others.

But, how to translate this tall drink of water into one's own works? Ah, that's where the beauty of Reconnaissance comes in; because like a good investigative mission, it's all about discovery, translation, and (ultimately) crafting something new and different from the pursuit of this style of happiness.

Many a good book opens with a map to its contents, pointing out its likely direction, and Reconnaissance's map is 'Guided Tour', which tells of a circular journey through the cobwebs of life and back again: "Memorize a few loose-leaf pages,/note important dates with precision. Mention/the children by name and explain the heritage..."

One strength of the poetic structure Nawrocki chooses lies in its capture of these dates, times, moments, and most of all, these atmospheres. In such a world the poet becomes a chronicler of life as well as the poems of others: a process captured here and there by observational pieces about readers, subjects, and writers alike whose lives are more than a folio of interconnected words, however famous they might become: "On the reverse, the message that would escort/Shelley's poems to an upstairs room where/a man had decided he no longer craved her smile:/lots and lots of love, she wrote in haste, crossing/t's so that the ink missed their intersection, and/congratulations. His wife would have the child."

It's not just about looking at poetry in book form, either: Reconnaissance investigates all kinds of poetic structure, all methods of delivery, all wellsprings of influence, and all facets of life's intersections and investigations. Take, for example, a honeymooner's opening of Paris like a flower: "The collection captures us:/pucker and blow of dizzying lips to trumpet/after trumpet, wet saxophone reeds; a slow trombone slithers and hands skim the wood torso/of an upright bass, leaving the bow behind/for the kinesthetics of the body."

Bryon. Shelley. Paris. Nawrocki. Evocative image-trackers, succinct capturers of atmosphere, and now, in Reconnaissance, poets enjoying a series of interconnected lives and purposes. Drink deeply: this free verse wellspring is vivid and thought-provoking - and quenches the thirst for inspiration.

The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley
Jeffrey D. Lavoie
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786498390, $29.95,

For those not in the know (and in order to read this biography, one had better get up to speed on at least the basics of World War II military history), Omar Nelson Bradley was an American general who rose to the top of his profession on the battlefields of Europe, representing a quintessential American no-nonsense image, whose actions earned him the trust of the top military leaders of the world.

Despite these accolades and achievements, the general-interest reader with only a casual knowledge of events is more likely to know about other names than Bradley's, who deserves far more acclaim than he's received in the past; while the military enthusiast, in contrast, is likely to know much about Bradley's approaches and little about the life of the man who earned his medals.

The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley researches not just his military achievements, but his personal influences and world, and excels at creating a well-rounded portrait of the personal life of a famous military figure whose background has largely been an enigma. And for purposes of this study, that life doesn't just evolve on the battlefield, but includes major scenes that happen before and after the war as the general moves from civilian to military circles and back again.

Perhaps it's this attention to such movement that makes The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley a particularly well-done piece: it goes where few accounts would, explaining and exploring the general's off-field decisions and how he lives his life, for better or for worse.

Take Marlene Dietrich, for example. Questions have circled around whether Bradley had an affair with her: questions Lavoie researches and confronts head-on with satisfying candor and authority: "Omar danced every dance, each with a different lady - as was customary - yet still the question remains: Were they just friends or something more? One of Omar's more recent biographers, Jim DeFelice, asks the question bluntly: ?Did the general and actress have an affair? He answers emphatically ?almost certainly not, justifying this by pointing out that Omar had missed his wife and daughter ?terribly."

But Lavoie doesn't just take DeFelice's statement for granted (which would have caused most biographers to close a chapter without further ado or investigation), but adds more recent evidence as food for thought, in the form of a recently-discovered document written by Omar's second wife, who expounds on the presence of Dietrich in his life: "Kitty indirectly implied that Omar engaged more than one mistress throughout his lifetime, seemingly including Dietrich. Kitty would certainly know . . . she was one of them!"

Now, readers who pick The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley expecting the usual rehash of his military life could be disappointed; but after all (as its title warns), this is a focus on his private life, and is not your typical survey of a general's military experiences. As such, it fills in many existing gaps in knowledge about his psyche and personality, making for a satisfying account that will neatly dovetail with any more military-oriented historical approach.

Neither is The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley a collection of well-known facts: by going the extra mile and probing the truth and accuracy of common perceptions about the general's life, Lavoie assumes the role not just of biographer, but of a biographical investigator: confirming rumors, verifying facts, and linking reports to supporting evidence.

It's this attention to detail and verification that sets his book above others, making it a recommendation not for light followers of casual rehash histories, but for dedicated enthusiasts of historical accuracy with a special interest in Omar N. Bradley and his less-publicized, lesser-known personal circles.

Beware the Sheep
M. Lewis-Lerman
Opta Ardua
ISBN for Hardcover: 9780986342332 -- priced at $24.99
ISBN for Softcover: 9780986342363 -- priced at $15.99
ISBN for .mobi (Kinde): 9780986342370 -- $5.99
ISBN for .epub (all other ereaders): 9780986342301 -- $5.99

What a curious title! What could this book be about? The opening lines seem to have little to do with rural living or a murder mystery perhaps involving wool: "Mr. McCloud's Pings and Things was one of many clever little shops along the old main street. Its door was large and red, its ceiling was arched and high, and its perfume was a neat combination of mothballs and overripe bananas. It was a narrow, dust-filled shop, crowded with the largest wheels and the smallest cranks, extravagant masks and strange, warping mirrors..."

But, that's the beauty of Beware the Sheep: straight away, you've uncovered the magic in a book that sounds like one or two possibilities but turns out to be something different - and in a world where everything is boxed, labeled, and fairly evident, this is a winning feature indeed. For there's magic involved here, from a teen protagonist, Livi, who (predictably) enters a magical world that tests her abilities and which (unpredictably) values individuality over conformity to an epic adventure (predictably) that turns into an unusual call to lead a world (unpredictably).

The twists and turns of Beware the Sheep are simply delightful: you may not always know where you're going, but the adventure lies as much in the journey as in the action - a fact many authors forget, but which M. Lewis-Lerman keeps firmly in mind as a character and setting evolve that will reach beyond teen readers well into adult fantasy enthusiasts.

It takes a 'valiant heart' to trudge a dusty road with an unlikely trio of young adventurers who find themselves on the cusp of change. It takes a vivid imagination to create 'downward growling trees', and a lively pen to create a heroine out of a girl who is loyal to her friends, but who can 'barely shoot an arrow'.

And it won't take an exceptional reader to immediately become absorbed in this story: through clever characterization, descriptions that draw the reader into other worlds, and an attention to detail which is more compelling than complex, all ages from middle school into adults will find Beware the Sheep satisfyingly original, powered by its delightfully-vivid scenes that come to life: "Livi followed the mooncalf with her eyes as he moved easily through the fiery wood. With every step the creature took, he left behind a cool, iridescent hoof-print where there once was fire. Around them, the pulsating had become weaker, as the forcefield was compromised by the mooncalf's game."

Compelling characters, well-done atmosphere, unpredictable plot - what more could one ask for, from a fantasy?

The Author ~or~ The Characters' Short Living Story
Facundo Raganato
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
Kindle, $9.99,

It's rare to find a book with a cast of characters (six) who embark on a spiritual journey together; and rare to find these protagonists so diverse in their perspectives and needs - but The Author ~or~ The Characters' Short Living Story is such a story, and is a recommended pick for readers who want to follow along in a search for truth and wisdom.

Much like Carlos Castaneda, Joseph Campbell, or other mystical travelers, The Author provides the questions (in the form of its characters and their struggles) and documents the process of questioning, observation, analysis, and spiritual awakening.

Each chapter is a part of this process, with the Author's own brand of observational style translating ideas into events: "A big bang of millions of questions pondered and twirled in their minds as each of them thought independently, separately, uniquely; . . . creating. . . And this is it; this is the moment. My dear Reader, This is the red color of the unbitten apple. This is precisely where we will come back later on together and ask ourselves . . . is ignorance bliss? . . . This, my dear Reader, is where I wish to be . . ."

This quote is just one example of this process: if it's not an embracing feel that is desired from a fictional narrative, then move on. The tone and chatty portents continue deepening as the band of six make their uncertain journey and uncover truths about their own life or death status, the presence of fear and the promise of transformation, and, most of all, the influence of choice in such an environment: "It's the way you see it." Kimberly said, turning to the graves, "We can make snowmen or throw snowballs with this amount of snow . . ." She smiled into the frowns of the characters, "He wants us to be weak and afraid . . ." Kimberly whispered, staring at the path with her soggy eyes."

Keep in mind, these are characters exploring not just a strange new world that has tossed them all together, but how they are made and unmade, with an omnipresent Author adding elucidation upon all: " all make up my face in this story, like brushed colors reflecting through your eyes, as if the sound of a melody harmonized each other in every moment that has passed, as if the sculpt of a body moves gracefully in dance, as if life's purpose were just to live and relive so one would feel alive . . ."

This ethereal, observational tone is not for everyone. If a quasi-spiritual set of insights wrapped in an experiential voice and fueled by a journey aren't desired, it's time to move on. Ultimately, The Author is about knowing oneself and developing fully into one's being.

And there's much, much more: couched in the guise of fiction, The Author ~or~ The Characters' Short Living Story may prove difficult to easily categorize, but one thing is certain: those on a similar life journey will find it compelling, reaching out from darkness with inspirational light. Will the characters meet the Reader? That remains to be seen...

Of Giants and Other Men
Caspar Peek
Tumbleweed Books
9781942591009, $TBA,

Of Giants and Other Men is a novel that operates on two levels, and will thus appeal to two different audiences.

On the one hand, it's a sweeping epic covering some 50 years of modern Nicaraguan history as seen through the eyes and experiences of ordinary people experiencing war, death, conflict, and social change. Peek's focus on the nucleus of a family and how it's affected by these events creates the perfect macrocosm of experience that narrows the lens even to a father/son relationship and the divided interests of a father who promises his child that he'll have a future role in war while a mother shuns the violence creeping into her very house.

That politics and conflict could so easily become part of family life is deftly captured from the start: "Don't go," she said. "If you go now you will lose your son. And you will lose me." "I don't want to lose you. Or my son." "Then don't go. It's simple, and it's in your hands." "Why do you ask me to choose?" he said. "Why can't you accept that I need to do this? That I cannot stand by idly while our country and people are being plundered?"

On the other hand, it's the story of a father's expectations for his young son, his murder, and his son's struggle to grow up to be all that his father wished him to be - but without the man's guidance in his life.

Did his father wish him to seek revenge, to become immersed in violence himself, and to participate in a country's gut-wrenching struggles even at the expense of family; or did he wish for something more?

This question lies at the heart of Of Giants and Other Men, which is no casual read and is portrayed vividly, with all its complexity.

Even when he becomes an adult and faces love and conflict, Tomas finds his world transitional and uncertain, laced with ties of the past and challenges embedded from not just present-day events, but future goals: "Do you remember this, Tomas?" she said. He took the buckled print from her, held it at arm's length. A small boy was sitting on a chair, dressed in a sailor's outfit. His eyes did not look at the camera. Instead, he looked up at the woman standing next to him. She was tall, wearing a chiffon stole that had been draped across her shoulders. Her gaze lost itself beyond the camera's eye. In love with the camera, he thought, always in love with whomever was not in the picture."

Tomas is living life as a spectator, straddling the line between hard decisions and being a witness. All this is about to change, and the choices he makes - which stem from childhood experience and perception - hold the possibility of changing the world.

Of Giants and Other Men is actually a sleeping giant, in and of itself. It promises much, evolves its plot slowly and carefully, and is steeped both in Nicaraguan culture and setting and in the psyche of a young boy who grows up in an uncertain world of doubt, consequences, and danger.

Tomas's journey illuminates these struggles and choices using the evolution of a protagonist as its focal point, solidly immersing readers in the politics, psyche and heritage of a nation under fire from within and mirroring Tomas's process as well.

The result is satisfyingly complex, recommended both for readers already familiar with Nicaragua's culture and politics and for absolute newcomers who will find these facets easy to absorb in the process of understanding one boy's growth and journey toward and within manhood in a country where 'right' and 'wrong' translate to Sandinistas and Contras.

Kevine Walcott
9781503029392 Kindle $7.99 / Paperback $9.99

Author Kevine Walcott was a successful businesswoman living a peaceful life in the U.K. when she decided to connect through social media through YouTube and presented her views of Christianity and ancient Egyptian religions. It all seemed so innocent - until her actions attracted a group of stalkers and bullies intent on bringing her down.

Not only were they unresponsive to her requests to cease their harassment, but they gained access to and posted her private information and life. At this point you'd think the authorities could help, as Kevine Walcott did when she turned to them; but her discoveries of links between her government, the National Health Service and the cyberattacks eventually led to her institutionalization in a mental health hospital - and if you don't think this could happen to a savvy business woman, Institutionalised demonstrates otherwise.

It identifies antiquated mental health laws and corruptive collusion between government entities, it documents how freedom of religion and thought comes to be linked to mental illness - and is dealt with appropriately - and most of all, it is a specific blend of autobiography and reflection on the interactions between government and health agencies which should be in the hands of any reader concerned about civil liberties.

What sets Institutionalised apart from other accounts of commitment is its attention to exploring these connections. All are presented in the context of the author's personal experience, and there's much greater impact achieved by blending it with an autobiography rather than making it an investigative report, as so many stories choose: "I asked myself How could this be in line with the right to freedom of conscience and thought? I felt violated, abused, and both physically and emotionally sick. I could not understand why YouTube would not close the accounts of these users, especially when they asked to do so."

The wide-ranging focus of this book, with its concentration on investigations, social issues, government/health connections, and the social and political influences on mental health processes sets it apart from autobiographies that primarily are self-centered, and makes it a compelling pick fueled by the author's determination to be a survivor: "I was achieving what many in the Black community never achieved by beating the mental health system, where many of us were victims of discrimination and racist sectioning by the police and those within the NHS. Many of our community leaders believed that many of us in the system were well and being medicated without release, but they were unable to get them released. Unlike others, I had investigated my case and found what I felt the truth was. As a result, I was able to manipulate the situation and stay a step ahead of those I had studied and analysed. Something in me made me determined to survive. As I became more incensed at the injustice and the reasons and circumstances involved in it. I knew I had to live. I had to survive, so I cooperated."

Gripping, revealing, and eye-opening: be prepared for a mental health and social issues survey that offers a hard-hitting analysis of the UK's systems of individual control and manipulation.

Up in the Treehouse
Joseph Hirsch
Damnation Books
ISBN TBA, $TBA, Prepublication Review

Charlie Milner and Johnny Cotter are longtime friends, meeting in kindergarten and growing up together: Up in the Treehouse begins with this early friendship - but if the reader believes this story will revolve around childhood buddies, they'll be in for a shock, for it starts off warmly and innocently and then moves into darker realms of adult concerns.

Joseph Hirsch takes time to portray this evolving childhood friendship, and that's a big plus when noting that while the tale moves well into adulthood, it's based on many of the experiences and encounters of these childhood friends. Without this well-spent time, the saga could have become lost and dry: with it, Up in the Treehouse depicts a logical sequence of events and emotions as protagonists interact with each other and their world, face down bullies, and find their problems in childhood to be similar - but bigger - as adults.

Building forts, experiencing 'battles', confronting other kids, and discussing everything from horror movies to sex: it's all part of growing up - and part of evolving patterns that will translate into adult experiences later on: "The feelings, the joy that sprang from his breast as a little kid when he thought of Halloween or Christmas had to be muted, not by time, but by what time had done to the people around him, the boys he shared this high school with, who might sense his private happiness, ferret it out, and call it weakness, call it gay."

As adult concerns slowly come to light (love, possibilities of marriage, and the feeling of being invincible in one's abilities and perspective, a carry-over from childhood fascination with power), they then coalesce in a changed story line and before the reader knows it, horror and violence has entered this bigger picture.

It felt safer and more comfortable learning about the boys' evolving connections. It felt logical and progressive to follow their moves from childhood to adulthood. It's about to get more uncomfortable and, sadly, more realistic as violence and revenge become a driving force that changes their lives.

Bullying. Violence. The uncomfortable move from the innocence of childhood to the realities of the wider world. These are what Up in the Treehouse is all about. If you want a read that considers the origins and motivators of inhumanity, there's no better place to begin than with childhood experience - and no better novel to follow this progression than Up in the Treehouse.

Learn How To Cope with Death, Loss, Grief, and Bereavement: Helpful Tips from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Veronica Semenova, Ph.D.
Amazon Digital Services

Learn How To Cope with Death, Loss, Grief, and Bereavement: Helpful Tips from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is intended to supplement - not replace - therapy; but in its capacity as a co-counselor it offers a powerful adjunct to the process of recovery, and is recommended for any going through the process who choose behavioral change as their method of choice.

Chapters take five common parts of this process and expand upon them, applying CBT concepts to the routes of grief and bereavement (two different things, as this book explains) and considering what happens when the progress of either fails.

One satisfying aspect of this handbook is that it explains that there is no singular path to resolution, but many choices in grieving and bereavement. Grief varies between young and old, in different cultures and religions, and between individuals. It can depend on levels of existing dysfunction, interpersonal relationships, and more - and part of the role of the CBT therapist is an educational one as well as that of guidance.

With its roots in CBT concepts, this book is solidly grounded in applied psychological theory, so readers should best have some entry-level understanding of the discipline, because passages get technical and specific in their discussions of the grief process and the therapist's role to handling them: "The most common CBT interventions used in the treatment of complicated and problematic grief responses include flooding, imaginal exposure to grief causing stimuli, cognitive restructuring, behavioral activation, learning of health-protective behaviors (getting enough rest, nutrition, exercise), the attribution of personal meaning to the loss, distinguishing "letting go" from forgetting the deceased. In patients, who are chronically grieving or somehow "stuck" in the grief process, CBT is helpful in identifying the underlying distortion."

Despite its occasional descent into psychological jargon, Learn How To Cope with Death, Loss, Grief, and Bereavement offers an overall clarification of CBT's approaches to grief, outlines a combination of theory and practice, and serves as an excellent home reference and supplement to an overall CBT therapy approach, providing an overview of the subject and insights on the kinds of positive results therapists seek in the course of their work with the grieving.

Why choose this book over others on the subject, and why read it if therapy has begun? Quite simply because having a 'road map' to the objectives and basic theory will serve as a invaluable guide to the overall course of action - and because Learn How To Cope with Death, Loss, Grief, and Bereavement's specific focus on CBT methods allows the reader to understand its specific approaches and their underlying beliefs.

And in the world of psychology, 'redundancy' is not a bad word, but one key to creating new, healthier patterns of recovery and interaction.

Dead Wrong
Betta Ferrendelli
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00RZU6VNS, $2.99

In Betta Ferrendelli's third book documentation of the sleuthing prowess of one Samantha Church, there's a surprise: the local mortuary may be involved in the sinister crime of harvesting dead body parts, dismembering corpses to sell body parts on the black market - in itself a seeming incongruity, because most who know about organ harvesting know that time is of the essence; and by the time a body arrives at a mortuary, it may be too late for profits. Or, is it?

As Sam and her young mortuary worker friend Abby begin their investigation, they discover plenty of opportunities for illegal activities, plenty of motivation, and a deadly method that involves not only the dead, but the living.

And that's just the beginning of the story, because the real mystery lies not in the presence of the operation, but in revealing who is behind it - and this shrouded perp is a deep, deadly secret.

As with other Samantha Church mysteries, Dead Wrong is driven by passion and strong characters as well as its murder premise. Moreover, it excels in the unpredictable; and in a genre replete with formula writing where twists and turns are a matter of course, this is really saying something.

Readers follow Samantha down a winding road of deception and intrigue as it's discovered that the bodies haven't always departed willingly, and as a Care Center's actions defy its name.

At some point it's not going to be enough for the perps to scare Abby off the trail. They're going to have to make her disappear. And to do that, they'll employ methods that have been working exceptionally well - until Samantha came along.

It's hard to skirt the edges of Dead Wrong without giving away its many surprising turns. One such dose is its probe into not just Samantha's persona or Abby's motivation, but the thoughts and concerns of a host of characters who dance around them, with death and its meaning always omnipresent: "It pained Helen to think about what would happen when it was her time to die. Often after talking to Mary-Louise, she would lie in bed at night, thinking what death would be like for her. It would come for her certainly, snarling through gritted, pointy teeth, reaching for her with its long, slanted shadow and its long, bony fingers. It would grab her and quickly yank her from this world, dragging her down into darkness, so cold that ice would form immediately on her hands and feet. No, Helen never believed hell was the inferno everyone else talked about. Not at all. She believed it was a cold and desolate place, where the only thing to eat was ice cream served from one of those ice cream trucks that drove around the same block playing the same tinny music over and over and over."

It's passages like these that keep Dead Wrong an impressive mystery, with its focus on the funeral industry and its attention to emotional depth and detail that keep even the bad guys human and believable. After all, in an exceptional mystery, it's the living and breathing who are left holding the bag and moving on with their lives - and so Dead Wrong offers satisfying turns where, even in death, there is life and new promises, setting it apart from your usual 'whodunnit' read.

The Annoyed Voter's Guide to 2014 & 2015
Anthony Wilcox
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing/CreateSpace
9781502761552 $9.99 ($4.99 Kindle)

How do we make the political process better, in America? By probing the current quicksand that is the American way; and by using the 2014 midterms as a starting point for considering what will happen in 2015, and how to change it.

So be advised: the prerequisite to not only appreciating but successfully using this book is a prior interest in (and basic familiarity with) the American political process and a willingness to see that process analyzed and turned upside down for the purposes of a very candid coverage in The Annoyed Voter's Guide to 2014 & 2015.

Anthony Wilcox is no outsider to this process. He's been an active Democrat involved in state and federal politics and is a political blogger, and so he can offer an insider's perspective on what is wrong with the system and, more importantly, how to make it right. But he speaks here as much as a fellow voter as an insider, so don't expect the usual hype or analytical approach so many seem to adopt when speaking of these processes.

Indeed, Wilcox's contentions are in-your-face honest, pulling no punches and providing a refreshing assessment with a new voice that calls a spade a spade: "I think it's the truth when people claim that everyone involved in politics, practiced in its many ways, has that one moment that they can look back to, which served as their motivation for getting involved in what basically amounts to a big, egotistical, and yes, even important, fight over who gets what."

This is not to imply that The Annoyed Voter's Guide to 2014 & 2015 is a series of personal rants: far from it. Chapters adopt a chronological and methodical approach as they analyze elections of the past and processes that need to be not just outlined but critiqued and provide a state-by-state 2014 election analysis before moving on to the possibilities and pitfalls of the 2015 season.

Using potential primary candidates and how they promise to face the latest issues to calls for action, Wilcox's voice is always strong and effective in its analysis of individuals and political choices alike: "Mike Huckabee - Huck went from being a feel-good candidate in 2008, to just another run-of-the-mill hack with a Fox News show afterward. Not sure if he's serious about 2016, but he does fill a constituency voice for the Party's Southern Christians."

Ultimately, this is a book for the annoyed voter who hasn't given up yet - and it makes its case for continuing to work for change: "Once we as citizens give up on politics, a system designed to serve our interests, there aren't a whole lot of other levers we can pull. It isn't hard to become cynical with how today's system works, or how it fails to. But ultimately, we are the only people with the power to make things better."

It's the perfect book to give that questioning individual who is leaning towards giving up on the system, offering not just analysis but keys to working on real change, which always comes from within.

Annoyed with the system? Don't give up, get clever. The Annoyed Voter's Guide to 2014 & 2015 is the perfect starting point.

Arena One: Slaverunners
Morgan Rice
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B0074PTDWK, $12.99 print/$0.00 ebook

Book One of a dystopian young adult fantasy, Arena One: Slaverunners, is set in New York in 2120, when a second civil war has all but wiped out the city and left its few remaining survivors living in gangs with a favorite pastime: the death sport at Arena One. Their challenge lies in finding new victims outside the city for their spectator sport of bloodshed.

Speaking of 'outside the City', that's where teen Brooke and her younger sister survive: up in the Catskills, alone, and keeping a sharp watch out for the marauding gangs of kidnappers working for Arena One. It only takes an instant for disaster to strike when Brooke relaxes her guard and her younger sister is kidnapped.

Her (predictable) efforts to journey to the city and rescue her sister is practically a suicide attempt, given her violent world and all its challenges, but along the way she runs into Ben, another survivor whose brother was also kidnapped for the Arena, and together they join forces in an impossible rescue mission.

So far, so predictable: shades of The Hunger Games permeate a story centered around two courageous teens determined to buck all odds in an effort to regain their loved ones.

But the true strength in any story lies not so much in its setting and events as in how the characters come across, come alive, and handle their lives - and it's here that Arena One begins to diverge from the predictable and enters the more compelling realms of believability and strength.

Now, be advised: there is a LOT of attention given to explaining methods of viewing this world and handling it; to the point that some readers expecting staccato action and high-powered transition points closely woven together might find the plot plodding or too well-detailed. But in many a story this attention to detail serves the greater good later on, leaving little to wonder and few glaring gaps to fall into.

Take this (long) passage for example - and keep in mind that three years have passed since society fell apart: "If there's one thing I regret, it's leaving so hastily. I guess I'd assumed I'd find some clothes up here, that maybe a clothing store would still be open somewhere, or even a Salvation Army. That was stupid of me: of course, all the clothing stores had long ago been looted. It was as if, overnight, the world went from a place of plenty to a place of scarcity."

In dystopian novels of woods survival with settings that take place over decades and have nary a mention of how clothing is obtained, it's refreshing to have this small piece of the world explained here and in subsequent paragraphs outlining what Brooke has done to keep her world together.

There are other similar small bits of explanation throughout that tie the whole thing together but keep the action moving along well enough to satisfy all but the thriller genre reader (and those won't last long enough to appreciate the fact that attention to detail in the beginning picks up a few chapters later as the action really gets going).

It's lucky that Brooke is a Marine's daughter, taught to be resourceful and strong. It's lucky that she encounters strangers willing to join in on her cause, even if for their own personal motivations. And if it comes across as somewhat unbelievable at times, given her extraordinary resilience and strength in the face of impossible odds, chalk it up to the kind of feisty female protagonist that is proving a popular draw for young adult female readers, these days.

There's nothing wrong with going a bit overboard when it comes to empowering females with a little too much resiliency and resourcefulness; especially in a dystopian fantasy setting where the impossible (the end of civilization and the quick reconstruction of something less civilized in its place) has already happened.

There's nothing wrong with offering a twist on The Hunger Games that assumes its own original form after lurking about like a transformed werewolf.

And there's nothing dull and plodding about Arena One, either: despite its attention to detail, it builds a believable, involving world and is a recommendation not so much for general fantasy readers, but for those who enjoy dystopian novels, powerful female characters, and stories of uncommon courage.

Upper West Side Story
Susan Pashman
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861035, $22.95,

Upper West Side Story began over Thanksgiving dinner when a relative expressed glee over the prospect of some black 'disadvantaged' children being admitted to his children's school, providing them with an opportunity to better know 'the other side of the tracks'. The author wondered what would happen if the roles were reversed - if his white kids were to enter an all-black school - and thus the nucleus of Upper West Side Story was born.

The title is simply brilliant: it sets the stage through precedent, referring to and building upon a classic story but providing a different twist. The author wondered if society could truly adopt a colorblind vision; and thus was born the novel she presents here, grown solidly on the roots of American social and racial reality.

The premise is simple: a liberal, Upper West Side white family is changed when their son Max's black best friend Cyrus dies in a school field trip accident, affecting not only two families and their close relationship, but sparking a fire in two very different communities.

In one terrible October moment when everything changes, two mothers find their friendship, their grief, and their families assume political overtones as events spiral out of control and evolve quickly from individual processes to community interactions.

The first thing to note about this process is Pashman's attention to dialogue and racial observation; both of which are cutting edge and pull no punches in their first-person revelations: "Then Louis said, "Cyrus not gonna let no snowflake beat him, no way. He not no friend with no wimpy-ass neither. No way!" Louis and those other guys speak perfectly good English but when they hang out in the schoolyard, they start talking black. Black kids in the Special Enrichment Program are always checking themselves out to make sure other black kids don't think they're turning white just from being in our class. And that's pretty bizarro because only four kids in our class actually are white."

In part due to her protagonist's chatty first-person observational tone, readers are readily drawn into events and the emotion driving them - and, it's this attention to emotion that fuels the fire of prejudice, grief, reconciliation, and ultimately redemption.

It's hard to find a novel so candid in its portrayals; so hard-hitting in its examples, and so realistic. The dialogues parents and children share over poverty, loss, racial prejudice and observation, are shining examples of what transpires in many an American home to explain the incongruities of not only racial interactions, but the effects of poverty: "When his father left the table, his mother drew a chair up beside him. In a weary voice she said, "They're poor people, Stevie. That makes them very angry. They're so angry they do silly things like wreck a perfectly nice bike that they could enjoy. The older boy didn't get much money either. It's a child's bike; what could he get? They do these things because they're angry."

Crime and punishment, truth and lies, divided communities and divided lives: it's all here, bound together by friendship, loss, and a boy's experiences which lead him to form a bigger goal in life. Upper West Side Story is the kind of novel that reaches out and grabs you with familiarity - and once you begin its journey, you can't quit. It's that compelling.

Patricia Hopper
Bygone Era Books
9781941072172, $21.95 paperback/$4.99 ebook

Release date: May 4, 2015

Ellis O'Donovan has bad feelings about his ancestral home, Ireland, because his parents were forced to flee the English to their new home in America. Aside from his name, he has no intention of returning to the "old country" - but when his mother insists on returning to Kilpara, her old estate home in Ireland, to die, Ellis has no choice but to help her achieve her last wish.

That doesn't mean he has to sojourn to Ireland and enjoy it, or even stay: far from it. Ellis intends to stay only as long as his mother's needs require it. At this point readers can only suspect romance will enter the picture and cause a delay; but there's actually much more in the form of unexpectedly strong family ties and a willful daughter of the enemy.

Narrated in the first person, Kilpara assumes an immediacy that incorporates the sights, smells, and feel of the mid-1800s both in America and in Ireland; and this is one of its many notable attributes: "The horses galloped harder, necks straining, nostrils steaming, and hooves grinding against rain-soaked surfaces. I leaned away from the window to avoid loose muck hurled against the carriage sides. We entered the long avenue, careening around the final bend that brought us face-to-face with Stonebridge House, its stone turrets rising up to rival springtime mountains in the background."

Nothing says "you are there" more than using the first personal to capture experience, and seeing countryside and events through the eyes of a passionate protagonist who has spent too much of his life rejecting his family, and who now find himself in the thick of it.

Nothing says "unexpected" more than a reluctant journey that winds up reinforcing not just a sense of heritage, but family ties that have long been avoided.

Nothing says "intimacy" more than shared family experiences that expose long-held secrets and inject much-needed understanding into the mix of angst and pain that permeate one family's world: "Aunt Sadie muffled her hands inside the wide berth of her habit-sleeves and looked at me for a long moment. "I don't know how much you know, Ellis. I will share with you that Ann has hidden her childhood fears deep inside her where they can't hurt. Some memories were just too painful to bear."

And nothing says "captivating" more than taking all these disparate ends and weaving them gently into the protagonist's own psyche and concerns so that Kilpara's draw becomes a pull not just on the narrator, but the reader as well.

Kilpara is a 'historical novel' only in the sense of its setting and times: the rest is a personal journey. Yes, it holds romance (no spoilers here; the suspicion was aroused early on before the steps of Kilpara were even reached). Yes, it holds unexpected changes, new relationships, beginnings and endings.

But it also holds the promise of atmosphere (something many modern novels seem to omit in the haste for action) and within this atmosphere, readers will discover the real strength of Kilpara: its ability to delight the reader with the tastes and texture of another time: "All I could think about were those many years at Stonebridge when Thanksgiving meals were filled with laughter and by stories told around the table and music played long into the night. Mother and Father would share a nostalgic gaze for their disavowed homeland, mixed with contentment and gratitude for their other blessings in life. Murmurings of holly, plum pudding, and cooked goose stirred thoughts of Christmas throughout Kilpara cutting through the barrier that kept us numb."

Herein lies its real strength, making it a recommended pick not for 'romance readers' or 'historical novel' enthusiasts, but for those who usually eschew either genre for its lack of "you are there" intimacy, presented in abundance in Kilpara.

Alma Mater V. 1: The Midwest
Original Clyde Aidoo
Real Print for Real People
ASIN: B00IR6EYG0, $0.99

One might anticipate a novel from the title Alma Mater V. 1: The Midwest, and such an expectation would be far from reality. One might believe the writing would revolve around a school setting: this anticipation might come a little closer to the truth.

What is unexpected is to find that Alma Mater is actually a poetry collection ... not just any collection, but one centered around the university experience, both social and political. It's here that Alma Mater stands on its own, apart from any poetry gathering that comes to mind; for author Aidoo has taken each major university of the Midwest and sought to capture its experience in poetic form, and this makes it an intriguing approach for any with affection for higher education and free verse poetry observations.

Poems are divided by state, then college, and represent a wide diversity of cultures and perceptions within the college presence. Take 'Michigan State', for example, with its admonition to 'go forth' and its focus on Spartan beliefs and approaches: "There is magic in this storied center. With a rich basketball tradition, we have hoisted 13 Big Ten/ championships and two national championships./We tried to send out a raven to tell the world of our conquers,/but/Our Magic killed The Bird./Fear the Spartans./Take heed of the army going down the downtown strip."

Then compare this description with that of Nebraska U: "There are visions of greatness in the Cornhusker chambers,/Bolted in the annuls of the Nebraska Coliseum,/Forever the Mecca of the Volleyball Mausoleum,/In our sold-out crowds we were a family of strangers."

From the flavors of games and college pride to how students assembled from across the country grow within the university structure to absorb new values, live new lives, and reflect each institution's pomp and circumstance, Aidoo doesn't just capture each college's unique psyche: he provides a structure and means through which outsiders can understand how a college's psyche 'gets in the blood'.

It was hard for the author to 'put those times away'. Here, in these writings, he has pulled them out and captured them. As collegiate jewels, frozen in time, they await the attention of free verse poetry readers with an appreciation for the college environment and an interest in immersing themselves in each exciting atmosphere that is the university experience among different Midwestern institutions.

The Stupidhead's Relationship Guide: A Novel
Susan Paulson Clark
Stairstepz Media
ASIN: B00SG0LIXO, $2.99

It's romance at its best, it involves two very different people who harbor differing reasons for avoiding love, and it centers around two very different individuals: one recovering from divorce, and the other unused to romance.

Belle is a business owner. Vince is a football coach. Both are gun shy, both are independent and strong, and both are survivors.

Sometimes survivors have more to overcome than personal adversity. Sometimes the inclination to be unyielding, and unwilling to take new risks after romance has proved so devastating in the past, is even more challenging than the original relationship's lasting impact. Or perhaps it's because the fine art of re-creating a new life and facing down past demons results in something so loved, so good, that there's a basic unwillingness to rock the boat of recovery by taking new risks.

One of the delights of Stupidheads is that it's not without its underlying angst. The course of the past moves relentlessly through the present and a realistic atmosphere, which keeps the protagonists from appearing too good, too complete, and too perfect: "It was important, though. The confrontational girl, Belle, had nailed it. It felt so good when girls called him, complimented him, wrote him notes, asked him out. He never did anything technically wrong, but then again he didn't give any thought to how he might hurt someone else. All his work at the orphanage had been fine and good, but it didn't make him a perfect person.

Where other books take time to point out ways in which characters are fragile and needy before they even enter a relationship, the two protagonists here have their strengths in place. All that's needed is a reason for them to let down their carefully-construed guards - and that's one focus in Stupidheads.

The fact that Vince has assumed full-time parenting adds a interesting twist to his story, as do his interactions with the social worker: "He hadn't seen her since the night she brought Tye over, and now he began to imagine he'd been on probation and she'd take the child back. He smiled in spite of his nervousness and acted as fatherly as possible, making sure Tye had a napkin and drank his milk."

Because of this attention to realistic description and life events, Stupidheads (more so than most romances) seems like something likely to happen to anyone. From the daily encounters and separate events that absorb each protagonist's life to how they blend their worlds, the setting and story line reflect probable circumstances and reactions - and thus, there are no jarring flights of impossible fantasy, and no limits to the careful, logical progression of Vince and Belle's relationship. Both of them worry that it might not work out: for instance, Vince has the following thoughts: "But each subsequent kiss after the first one would never be quite as exciting. You'd have a fight, all couples do. Things wouldn't always be exciting or easy. If you stayed together, sometimes you'd take each other for granted. If this were true, inevitably, Vince would come down with a thud, and when Belle saw the real him, she'd crash, too."

But just when you thought it was a predictable path, Stupidheads takes a turn in a different direction. It's no mean feat to pull off a careful buildup of story line, then give it a wrench. But that's life - and that's Stupidheads, the perfect example of a novel reflective of life's ups, downs, slings and arrows; an examination of how people survive - or not - and how they move on from stupid mistakes that can change everything in one moment of impulse.

So to bill Stupidheads a 'romance' in the traditional sense, even though romance is a big part of the story line, would be to do it an injustice. It's really about life's unpredictability and its choices. The rest is up to the protagonists - and up to the reader - to follow with bated breath.

Sail Upon the Land
Josa Young
Keyes Ink
ISBN: 9780993124808 (Print) $12.00
ISBN: 9780993124815 (Kindle) $3.99
ISBN: 9780993124822 (ePub)

Sail Upon the Land tells of four generations of driven women who each face a life-changing decision over the course of an eighty-year time frame, and its lively story of different disasters and accompanying choices succeeds in drawing readers into a sweeping saga replete with struggles for survival.

This is evident in the first few pages, where Damson faces a rapist who turns from innocent love to a dangerous adversary in a heartbeat: "The jovial man who'd wooed her so passionately every evening for the last three days was now a heaving rapist in the shit-scented dark. They were miles from anywhere. She was alone. If she sank beneath the water hyacinth bound with the straps of her sodden rucksack stuffed with stones, who would ever know?"

There's a fine line between charming masculinity and bullying; a dangerous point between dream and reality where possibilities are blown apart in the aftermath of truth: "Ronny had constructed what she now realised were idiotic air castles so subtly in the drought-stricken garden of her mind: of dropping out, moving in and running the Vhilaki Guest House with him, making it a big success. Maybe even turning the Hunting Lodge into a smart hotel. He had such plans, seemed so civilised, so educated, so familiar. He'd hinted at her continuing her medical studies in India, maybe opening a charitable clinic. She'd lapped it up."

So despite being warned by others who perceive Ronny for his true shallowness and danger, Damson falls into his arms - and into a mess... because it's India, where women have no ability to call rape and prosecute... because she was flirting with Ronny and is in an isolated area with few support systems. And because she escapes, new possibilities are born for new generations.

It's this flow between generations which is the powerful draw of Sail Upon the Land, which deftly captures and weaves together the results of actions, choices, and positive and negative life experience. It follows Damson's 1980s disastrous romance and moves neatly between generations and experiences, from her grandmother's 1930s world to her mother's 1960s world, World War II, and modern times.

Under a different approach this multi-generational exploration could have become confusing; but the fact that chapter headings include not only protagonist names but eras means that there is no hesitation; no cause for mixing up the different times and women. And in a saga that flows between such eras, that's important.

Motherhood, action and reaction, and evolving relationships connected by family and past patterns: it's all here in Sail Upon the Land, especially recommended for readers seeking strong female protagonists and linked family connections.

Taming the Diabetes Wave: The Fast and Easy Way to Control Diabetes
Ilse O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE
Ilse O'Brien, Publisher
485 Harbor Side St. #810, Woodbridge, VA 22191
9780985128920, $14.99

There are so many books on the market about diabetes, one might wonder at the need for yet another. Hasn't everything - including the latest research and options - already been covered elsewhere?

The answer is 'yes' - and it's also couched in caution, because most competing diabetes self-help books are not only far weightier, but far more daunting to the non-medically-trained diabetic who may be overwhelmed with so many new facts (and so much of it sounding conflicting) that it's hard to tell how to actually apply the information to daily routines.

That's where Taming the Diabetes Wave kicks in. Don't let its pamphlet-like appearance (a little over fifty pages, 8.5 x 11 format, no spine lettering) dissuade you: this competes with the best of them and even better, it presents its information using larger print than most, which is easy on an older Type 2's eyes, and more inviting.

The details are presented using large, full-page color diagrams and easy charts complimented by bulleted text and headliners which address the daily concerns of diabetics, from 'What's On Your Plate?' to 'What is Good Control' and 'Medications'. Knowing how food reacts in the body, how medications affect sugar levels, and the pros and cons of various choices is key to taming what O'Brien describes as a 'wave' of up and down sugar levels - and this metaphor is both accessible and an appropriate description of what the diabetic struggles with daily.

There are many facts here which simply vanish in weightier presentations, from the fact that vigorous exercise can actually increase sugar levels temporarily, making it necessary to test an hour or more after such an effort, to how (and more importantly, when) to introduce appropriate snacks in the diabetic diet.

My husband has been a diet-and-medication-controlled diabetic for 20 years and you can bet he's read just about all the books on the market. Most of them are loaded with facts that simply don't make sense when applied to one's daily life.

That's the beauty of Taming the Diabetes Wave: it holds unparalleled accessibility - and that means a diabetic can actually read, comprehend, and more importantly, apply its tips to daily life.

Librarians looking to acquire this for collections may find its lack of spine (and thus, spine lettering) and slim appearance relegates it to the pamphlet file - but it would be a shame to bury it there. Taming the Diabetes Wave deserves to be on display, where it will attract an audience of diabetics who tire of weighty, confusing approaches to the subject and who just want clear, simple, easy access to information that requires no special educational background to immediately apply to daily routines.

Very highly recommended!

Andy Lightfoot and the Time Warp
Dr. S. Henshon
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00R58NOEE, $0.99

Andy Lightfoot is a novice when it comes to time travel, and he lives with grandparents who are experienced time travelers and who believe that the dangers of such travel are minimal - even though his own parents were lost, and even though "only one in a million people get lost during a time trip."

Despite the family heritage, he's never gone shopping in the Paris of yesteryear; never confronted a dinosaur or gone adventuring. But like others in his family, he's slated for greater things, and when he receives an acceptance letter from the Jules Verne Time Travel Summer School - let the adventures begin!

As Andy enters the school and pursues the mechanics of learning about fashions in past world, how to convert currency across time, and more; he discovers new worlds and opportunities. But his education is about to take a darker turn when he also confronts an unexpected evil force and comes to realize that the everyday dangers of time travel are far more than even his experienced, accepting family believed possible.

Andy Lightfoot and the Time Warp is time travel adventure at its best. One would think that with so many time travel stories on the market, this one would hold little new - but add the experience of a summer camp, a group of feisty kids who (much like Harry Potter) are just coming into their own skills and abilities, and a series of surprises and you have a journey even the most experienced timeslip reader will find engrossing.

Part of the reason why this is especially true in Andy Lightfoot is the protagonist himself. His character is well drawn, and the background leading to his parents' disappearance is provided well before Andy appears on the scene, which makes his life and times more compelling in light of a stolen time machine, a timeline out of sequence, and a boy who misses his parents.

From attention to detail about the makeup and challenges of the time travel camp to questions about the consequences of changing the course of events, there's a healthy dose of philosophical and ethical inquiry woven into the overall story of Andy's journey that makes for a more complex, believable story than competitors tend to offer.

Add in a competition, dangerous time rides, and some intriguing new concepts (such as that of floating cemeteries, to name only one) and you have not the usual timeslip saga, but a thoroughly engrossing (and, yes, unpredictable) story powered not just by scientific possibility, but by one boy's loss and passion for discovery.

Middle school to adult readers will find Andy Lightfoot and the Time Warp a gripping, involving tale; much like the old Danny Dunn adventures, but on steroids.

Unsung Heroes: The Story of the Secret Service
Jack L. Roberts
Curious Kids Press
ASIN: B00OXAOP72, $4.95

This history of the Secret Service and its members comes with an important difference that schools will find intriguing: it's published with Common Core English/language arts objectives for reading informational text (grades 3-8) in mind, which means it's perfect for classroom assignment and use. Not too many books on such a subject can claim this added value.

And in the course of creating classroom discussion questions at each chapter's conclusion which encourage critical thinking and analysis, many an adult will find Unsung Heroes: The Story of the Secret Service an intriguing discussion of a branch of service that too rarely receives its own recognition, providing an approach that non-government employees and non-political readers can easily absorb.

The history opens with pre-Civil War events, then is arranged by assassinations of Presidents, from Lincoln and Garfield to Kennedy and the Secret Service agent who took a bullet for the president, Agent Tim McCarthy, who believed he was "just doing his job" by standing in the line of fire for his executive officer.

In the course of painting a history of the concept, enactment, and evolution of the Service, Roberts pays close attention to the individuals who built the agency, their interactions with various Presidents, and changing Service policies. It's these added attractions of personal insight that keep the text lively and intriguing throughout: "But Lincoln never liked the idea of having guards around him all the time. During his presidency, he often refused to accept protection. Even when there were men guarding him, he would try to slip away from them. "If somebody wants to take my life," he would say, "there is nothing I can do to prevent it." (Today, a law says that the president cannot refuse Secret Service protection.)"

A timeline, source notes, vintage photos throughout, and glossary of terms also adds to the value of Unsung Heroes, which stands out as a U.S. history that many an adult reader will find clear, intriguing, and worthy of attention, even though the text and its accompanying chapter exercises are clearly written with classroom assignments in mind.

The Goddess Denied
Deborah L. Davitt
Privately Published
9780986091605, $5.99,

Book Two of 'The Saga of Edda-Earth' is just as multifaceted as its introductory predecessor The Valkyrie; so if it's casual fantasy and quickly-drawn worlds that are sought, move on. Unlike many a fantasy world, the story's time line is long and drawn out - but, in a good way. The action is based upon solid characterization and the focus on various gods at war with one another is injected with living, breathing fire that draws readers in and heats up the action.

Familiarity with the prior The Valkyrie is highly recommended; not for the usual reason (that a reader walking into the world of The Goddess Denied might be lost) but because characterization is so well drawn in its opening act that it would be a shame to walk into the show mid-performance and miss the highlights of its beginning.

Readers with this familiarity will find here all the elements of the prior book are expanded outward, like a big bang. That said, be forewarned that there's quite a wide cast of characters in this play; and so Davitt's opening synopsis of prior action includes bolded names (well-done!) and overviews of each character's importance in the plot. Would that all authors creating such intricate worlds provide such a quick reader's key reminding them of protagonists and their interactions!

This opener alone is quite extensively described, and forewarns of the depth and breadth of activity that follows; so once again: fantasy readers seeking light, fluffy reads should look elsewhere, while those who just can't seem to find enough of the "good stuff" (which translates to well-detailed plots, many characters, and layer upon layer of interaction and action) will find The Goddess Denied just perfect for a rainy day (or a series of them...).

The most powerful aspect of The Goddess Denied lies just in such depth, which is the driving force of a story replete with twists and turns. Prophecy, allies, enemies, and monsters juxtapose with the missing and the injured. Exotic spells (involving boiling the blood in a person's veins), sorcerers and sisters, stolen lives and fragile forms; all are interwoven into a world that is as well-detailed and absorbing as any Tolkien could have developed.

Even more notable are the human touches throughout which keep the characters grounded in reality and the action surrounding them a personal whirlwind of observation and emotion: "She put the pictures on the table, and put a little incense burner between them. Lit the sweet substance, and let herself focus on the twirling, swirling veils of smoke. I believe in you, Kanmi, she said, silently. I believe in you. You'll come home to me, someday. But know, that for the moment, I'm . . . all right. I'm not alone. It might have been her imagination, but she thought a breath of wind caressed her face."

Goddesses shorn of their wings. Mad gods and mankind. Curses, and legacies denied. All these elements are wound up in a story that is compelling, involved, and well-done: perfect for the fantasy reader who wants more of a literary work than the typical quick read affords.

The Deliverance
Paul A. Zecos
Altrutech LLC
ASIN: B00S8SPLTQ, $1.00

Spirituality is replete with metaphors, innuendo, and quite frankly, puzzles. In its search for the 'ultimate Truth', it often defies the boundaries of science, skirts the edges of faith and believability, and often refutes common sense; but its greatest limitation is a scatter-gun approach that often focuses excessively on scientific, Biblical or experiential evidence without considering their interactions.

Consider The Deliverance as a Unified Theory of Life containing new evidence proving the prophecies of the Prophets and Jesus Christ. Consider it a Christian approach to life, illuminating the grand scheme of things; then apply its concepts to today's major world issues, from terrorism and women's issues to seeing the value and importance in opposition.

It will quickly become evident that The Deliverance advocates more than spiritual understanding and cohesiveness: it forms the vision of a 'New Independent State' (which also can be perceived as a state of mind as well as of societies) that eschews violence, the presence of a military government (or citizens), and actions that support structures of angst.

There's a lot to like about The Deliverance. Among its strengths are an attention to social order and political as well as personal change, a series of links between spiritual and scientific worlds, and a call to not arms, but unity and uniqueness through righteous action - the driving force of not only Biblical stories, but the author's purpose in creating The Deliverance.

Add an impressive, select bibliography of '100 Recommended Books' ranging from archaeology and physics to world religions, biology, philosophy and even fiction and an examination that rests solidly on the concept that "...only the Christ Jesus is Absolutely Right" and you have a thought-provoking survey believers in God will find challenging and satisfyingly wide-ranging, all in one.

Jeffrey Lockwood
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861028, $22.95

How does a teacher come to find himself teaching English in China? It begins with a childhood bedtime story about one Gookoosh, who "...left his place of birth, and journeyed far to find naboob. Soon, he came to a place, a very strange place, with a strange language and strange customs, and everything was crowded together and built upon itself." - or so narrates Frenchie, who believes he'll have plenty of time to pass on his oral traditions and tales to his young charge.

Fast forward to a train journey to Beijing, where it's evident that a now-adult Michael is living out the very story of Gookosh. He's journeying via train into the foreign land of China and observing the cultural interactions between fellow travelers who are as strange to him as the circumstances of his travels.

He's no stranger to trains - but the purposes of this journey are explicitly different than his sojourns of the past, and expressed early on in the course of his directions: "Though he'd ridden trains one summer in America, a few years back, the purpose of those travels was to express his feelings to loss, and to develop self-identity as a way to cope with loss.

It was pragmatic, something necessary. However train travel in China was different. It provided ample material for his stories. He had only to use his creative instincts and, since he had no idea of his fellow passengers' lives or their relationships to each other, his imagination could and would run free. And, the changing landscape could always be used as a backdrop. Train travel in China was a creative endeavor for Michael."

And it's here, at a glance, that the nugget and foundation of Anomie are apparent; because through Michael's eyes and perspectives comes the impetus for understanding loss, recovery, and other worlds.

Detached, alone, and far from support systems, Michael is becoming a living ghost in his own world and an observational presence in another: all the result of a terrible accident that leads him to detach from his university job and life in general.

With great loss comes the opportunity for transformation. It's the process of getting there which is the crux of real change - and it's this process which is explored in Anomie, though Michael's encounters. From expats and Chinese citizens to new semesters, new beginnings, and new relationships that begin and end with eye-opening cultural awareness, Michael is a leaf in the wind of chance and change, bound by his roots and blown hither and yon by his decisions on how he'll live his life.

In the end Anomie is a microcosm of how a close inspection of an alien world can serve as a cathartic impetus towards recovery. More than a story of a university professor's Chinese encounters, it's the personal saga of a man on a mission to find his legacy, recreate his story, and come full circle to a place he truly can call 'home', with all of its connections.

Readers who want a philosophical, accessible, and involving read that uses the character of a displaced American professor in China to explore these transition points will find in Anomie an exploration of the connections between individual and society, all wound up in the microcosm of one man's life and bundled into a story that seems light, but quickly moves into the depths of darkness and out again.

The Mystic Of Karl Mind: The Shadow of The Vytos
Jurgen A.D. Graanoogst
ISBN: 9781496998170 (sc) $24.34
ISBN: 9781496998101 (hc) $41.19
ISBN: 9781496998187 (e) $6.99

Take an ordinary man with no extraordinary talents, transport him into another dimension, challenge his long-held concepts of life and its meaning, and send him on a quest, and you have the facade that is The Mystic Of Karl Mind: The Shadow of The Vytos: a read that can best be described as 'spiritual fantasy'.

In such a world, merchant Karl is called upon to be both witness and hero. In such a world, his wife becomes a pawn in a larger game. And in such a world, his attempts to understand are closely linked with a struggle for survival.

The prerequisites for reader enjoyment of The Mystic Of Karl Mind are few, but specific: fantasy readers should be interested in a healthy blend of philosophical and spiritual reflection, and should choose this book for more than its fantasy adventure. Those in it for the deeper meaning will be the most satisfied with a sweeping setting that begins in a small village in Victorian times and moves swiftly between worlds, carrying readers along in an eddy of relentless force.

This is the world of Karl, who lives a life 'without sorrow' but also without challenge; without love but also seemingly without angst - except for some unexpected lapses: "Time is kind but tricky to his mind. Young Karl has many blackout moments - the thoughts of the unanswered questions of his existence. The quest to reflection and awareness shall always have an unexpected turn of events that makes his thoughts spin in surprising directions. Will turning back be an option?"

A poem follows; then another life and another world: the world of Karl as a child. While this is actually the starting point of the story, Graanoogst's choice of opening with Karl's present-day world at the beginning is a clever device that creates a satisfying juxtaposition and contrast of times and invites reader curiosity about what has happened in between.

It's what lies between that is the meat of The Mystic Of Karl Mind: The Shadow of The Vytos: and this seems the appropriate point to mention that readers who eschew an exploration of the mystical in their swords-and-sorcery fantasies; who resist the impulse to become involved in intrigue as well as elements of fantasy adventure; and who seek a singular path to a journey will find the level of complexity here to be a challenge. In other words: if it's pure, entertaining adventure that is desired without the inclusion of deeper perspective, move along.

For the strength of The Mystic Of Karl Mind: The Shadow of The Vytos lies not just in an epic journey (that is part and parcel of the fantasy genre itself) but in the protagonists' underlying motivation, self-discoveries, and spiritual and moral insights; and it's here that the story shines.

So, go ahead. Set foot on the road that explores inner and outer worlds. And take your time: after all, in a superior story, the journey should ideally be as important as the destination - and in The Mystic of Karl Mind, it is: "You think fear is up the mountains?" Ulnir said, gazing at a glowing piece of wood in the fire. "What you'll find is no fear. Fear will come when you see no outcome, when you feel the darkness clearing your ending. But you will find no fear. The dragon of forge and fire is also of cold and ice. He is the one who forges the Vytos to the Plecten, empowered by the mighty red."

Out of Silence: Repair Across Generations
Martin Beck Matutik
New Critical Theory
ISBN-13: 9780988373211 (pbk), $24.99
ISBN: 9780988373266 (electronic), $9.99

Out of Silence: Repair Across Generations exposes two closely-held family secrets to the public eye: secrets that affected the author's identity and perception of himself and which ultimately led to revelations that would re-unite pathways destroyed by regimes and decisions.

It took a shoebox full of diaries and writings to bring this truth to light. This discovery shook the author's long-held beliefs about who he was, his family's past, and its place in the present. And his decision to write Out of Silence serves as testimony not just to his family's struggles and survival mechanisms, but to the process by which secrets revealed come to repair long-broken lives.

The course of charting this process could have been so much different, under a different pen. Here it assumes an immediacy that is rare even in a memoir, with Matutik focused on capturing the sights, smells, ethical questions, and complicated facets of Jewish relationships to the world.

In the course of the author's journey, underlying prejudices, perceptions, and broader concerns of the modern world are revealed as Jew and non-Jew alike consider the lasting impact of history's influence: "But it would be nice," I suggest, "if the city placed a memorial plaque here for the Beck family. They were the only surviving Jewish household from Myjava that was repatriated there after the war." Apparently Mr. Valaek didn't know this. "Many different people lived in this house," he retorts, obviously not sure that he would like to have a memorial plaque to Jews on his building."

Soon the bigger picture comes to light: the stories not just of his own family's survival, but of those who interacted with the Jews in a time of darkness: "The following day, Patricia and I meet with Borsuk and Vrana, sons of the two Myjava partisan families who helped hide the Becks. They confirm the Beck story from their youthful memories. Beckov tells a much bigger story of survival. In 1941 Nathan already knew his family would have to struggle for their existence."

So many accounts have been written about Holocaust survival that one might wonder at the need for yet another, and at its approach. In truth, Out of Silence explores more than one man's family, one family's secrets, and the journey it provokes. It provides a gripping account of the process of discovery and reconciliation not just between generations, but between peoples; and it succeeds in documenting the lasting effects of decisions, choices, and survival mechanisms from past to present worlds.

It's a journey that embraces three generations, five continents, and a cast of supporting characters over the decades. The time span is winding and embraces the period from before the Holocaust to WW 2, the author's birth in the Communist era, and his journey from Czechoslovakia to the US and back, after the fall of the Iron Curtain; and it even includes the author's discovery of lost family connections in Australia.

His is a narrative that brings the personal and the political in line with history and experience, and it's an approach that holds vivid immediacy and meaning for any student of the Holocaust and its presence in today's world. To aid in this study, it should be noted that photography and online resources for teaching are offered at The book is well illustrated and at 348 pages, it's a solid read.

It stands at the crossroads of theology, social and political analysis, and literature, and handily complements existing works, adding more research than most to elevate it well beyond the 'simple memoir' genre; making it a top pick for any collection strong in history and the psychology of family relationships as a whole: "From all the things you have done in your life, which do you consider to be the most important?" I turned our conversation sharply away from myself. My father thought long and hard. Looking with glazed eyes far into distance, he said something Sisyphean yet at odds with any real effort at speaking. "I do not know; if I knew, then I would not have made such a mess out of my life." I was astonished by the naked poverty of his truth. What would make him happy? Was there anything he loved with all his heart?"

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Marvel New Avengers Breakout
Brian Michael Bendis & David Finch, authors
Alisa Kwitney, et al.
Graphic Audio
4940 Hampden Lane, Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20814
9781628510942, $19.99,

Synopsis: Finally revealing the untold back story of the Avengers' favorite couple Hawkeye and the Black Widow, "Breakout" is a dramatically different take on Brian Michael Bendis' blockbuster Avengers comics debut. Under secret orders to assassinate the Widow, the rough edged marksman, Clint Barton, finds himself caught up in a violent prison break that releases some of the world's most vicious and powerful criminals. Defying his superiors, Hawkeye joins forces with the sultry Russian spy - and with a mismatched group of personalities that include Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Captain America and Iron Man. Unexpected betrayals and shocking revelations will lead the team from Manhattan's top security Raft prison to the untamed jungle of the Savage Land. Listeners will learn the sizzling back story of their favorite big-screen heroes in this adaptation, inspired by the best of page and screen!

Critique: Graphic Audio is a premier producer of multicast audio book productions that truly do provide the listener with a 'theatre of the mind' experience. With its flawless production values, digital sound effects and music enhancements, this multicast theatrical creation is especially recommended for the legions of Marvel Universe enthusiasts in general, and New Avenger fans in particular. Based on the Marvel graphic novel that provided readers with visual images, this Graphic Audio format provide listeners with auditory images of a story that will linger in the mind long after this 5 hour, 5CD audio book is completed and set back upon the shelf. Simply stated, "Marvel New Avengers Breakout" would make an enduringly popular addition to community library audio book collections.

The Music of the Netherlands Antilles
Jan Brokken
University Press of Mississippi
3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211
9781628461855, $60.00, 210pp,

Synopsis: In October 1999, eleven Antilleans attended the service held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Frederic Chopin's death. This service, held in the Warsaw church where the composer's heart is kept in an urn, was an opportunity for these Antilleans to express their debt of gratitude to Chopin, whose influence is central to Antillean music history. Press coverage of this event caused Dutch novelist and author Jan Brokken (b. 1949) to start writing this book, based on notes he took while living on Curacao from 1993 to 2002. Anyone hoping to discover an overlooked chapter of Caribbean music and music history will be amply rewarded with this Dutch-Caribbean perspective on the pan-Caribbean process of creolization. On Curacao, the history and legacy of slavery shaped culture and music, affecting all the New World. Brokken's portraits of prominent Dutch Antillean composers are interspersed with cultural and music history. He puts the Dutch Caribbean's contributions into a broader context by also examining the nineteenth-century works by pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk from New Orleans and Manuel Saumell from Cuba. Brokken explores the African component of Dutch Antillean music -- examining the history of the rhythm and music known as tambu as well as American jazz pianist Chick Corea's fascination with the tumba rhythm from Curacao. The book ends with a discussion of how recent Dutch Caribbean adaptations of European dance forms have shifted from a classical approach to contemporary forms of Latin jazz.

Critique: A truly exceptional work of seminal scholarship, "The Music of the Netherlands Antilles: Why Eleven Antilleans Knelt before Chopin's Heart" is impressively well written, organized and presented. Ably translated into English for an American readership by Scott Rollins, "The Music of the Netherlands Antilles: Why Eleven Antilleans Knelt before Chopin's Heart" is enhanced with the inclusion of a two-page Glossary; a two-page list of Sources and Bibliography; a two-page Discography; and a fifteen page Index, making it very strongly commended for academic library Music History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Marion Experiment
Stephen C. Richards, editor
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809333769, $39.50, 336pp,

Synopsis: Taking readers into the darkness of solitary confinement, "The Marion Experiment: Long-Term Solitary Confinement and the Supermax Movement" is a searing collection of convict experiences, academic research, and policy recommendations shines a light on the proliferation of supermax (super-maximum-security) prisons and the detrimental effects of long-term high-security confinement on prisoners and their families. Stephen C. Richards, an ex-convict who served time in nine federal prisons before earning his PhD in criminology, argues the supermax prison era began in 1983 at USP Marion in southern Illinois, where the first "control units" were built by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. "The Marion Experiment", written from a convict criminology perspective, offers an introduction to long-term solitary confinement and supermax prisons, followed by a series of first-person accounts by prisoners (some of whom are scholars) previously or currently incarcerated in high-security facilities, including some of the roughest prisons in the western world. Contributing scholars also address the widespread "Marionization" of solitary confinement; its impact on female, adolescent, and mentally ill prisoners and families; and international perspectives on imprisonment.

Critique: A truly seminal work of impressive scholarship throughout, ""The Marion Experiment: Long-Term Solitary Confinement and the Supermax Movement" is an academic compendium comprised of thirteen informed and informative articles that are deftly organized into three major sections: Convict Experiences with Solitary Confinement; The Effects of Solitary Confinement; International Perspectives on Solitary Confinement. In addition to an Introduction and a Conclusion; "The Marion Experiment" is enhanced with the inclusion of a thirty page list of References; an eight page roster of Contributors; and a twenty-seven page Index. Offering the most comprehensive view of the use of penal solitary confinement, including the negative aspects of long-term solitary confinement and the need to reevaluate how prisoners are housed and treated, "The Marion Experiment" is an essential and core addition to academic library Judicial and Penology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

More Than Just Peloteros
Jorge Iber
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729087, $30.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: Although the Latino/a population of the United States has exploded since the 1960s, an analysis of its place in the history of American sport has, until recently, been sorely under represented. The thoughtful and coherent essays comprising "More Than Just Peloteros: Sport and U.S. Latino Communities" demonstrate that participation in sport and recreation develops identity and involvement in the lives of Spanish-speaking people throughout what is now the United States. The articles feature accounts of eras and events as varied as the Latino experience itself, including horse racing in colonial San Antonio, boxing in New York City, baseball in the barrios of 1930s Chicago, basketball in a 1950s Arizona mining town, and, of course, high school football in South Texas. As the nation's demographics continue to change, more and more Latinos/as will, undoubtedly, leave their marks on the fields of athletic competition at levels ranging from the local to the professional, the business offices of franchises and colleges, and as general consumers of American sporting events and goods.

Critique: A seminal and groundbreaking work of truly impressive scholarship, "More Than Just Peloteros: Sport and U.S. Latino Communities" by Jorge Iber (Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Tech University) features ten informed and informative original articles, and is enhanced by the inclusion of an Introduction and an Epilogue, twenty pages of References, a four page roster of contributors, and a five page Index. "More Than Just Peloteros: Sport and U.S. Latino Communities" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to academic library Hispanic/Latino Studies and Contemporary American Sports reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "More Than Just Peloteros: Sport and U.S. Latino Communities" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780896729070, $65.00) and a Kindle edition ($29.51).

Internet And European Integration
Asimina Michailidou, Hans-Jorg Trenz, Pieter de Wilde
Barbara Budrich Publishers
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9783847401537, $75.95, 252pp,

Synopsis: "The Internet And European Integration: Pro- and Anti- EU Debates in Online News Media" offers a wealth of original empirical data on the link between rising Euroscepticism and online news and social media. Based on an innovative research design, "The Internet And European Integration" shows how online EU reporting and debates tend to be more emotional and less based on facts, while at the same time bringing the EU closer to the public. It is argued that what is missing from the Eurosceptic arguments found in online media is a clear vision of what Europe ought to look like after the current crisis.

Critique: The collaborative work of academicians Asimina Michailidou (Senior Researcher, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, Norway), Hans-Jorg Trenz (Vice Chair, Center for Modern European Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and Pieter de Wilde (Senior Resarcher, Social Science Research Center Berlin, Germany), "Internet And European Integration" is a work of exceptional scholarship enhanced with the inclusion of four Annexes (Sampling of articles for quantitative and qualitative coding; Codebook Eurocrisis in online news media 2012-2012; Graphs and figures; Media ownership in the EU online space); ten pages of Notes; a twenty-eight page Bibliography, and an eleven page Index. "Internet And European Integration" is very highly recommended for academic library International Studies, Globalized Media Studies, and Trans-National Political Science studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

France After 2012
Gabriel Goodliffe & Riccardo Brizzi, editors
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781782385486, $90.00, 216pp,

Synopsis: In May 2012, French voters rejected the liberalizing policies of Nicholas Sarkozy and elected his opponent, the Socialist Francois Hollande, president. In June 2012, the incumbent president's center-right UMP party was swept out of government in the ensuing parliamentary elections, giving way to a new center-left majority in the National Assembly. "France after 2012" analyzes the contexts and results of the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections in France. It assesses the legacies of the Sarkozy presidency that informed the 2012 electoral campaigns, scrutinizing his domestic social and economic policies on the one hand and European and foreign policies on the other. In turn, the elections' outcomes are also analyzed from the standpoint of various political parties and other institutional interests in France, and the results are situated within the broader run of French political history. Finally, "France after 2012" examines the principal challenges facing the Hollande administration and new government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, and assesses how effectively these have been met during their first year in office.

Critique: The collaborative editorial work of Gabriel Goodliffe (International Relations and Political Economy, Institute Technologico Autonomo de Mexico) and Riccardo Brizzi (Contemporary History, Department of Political and Social Science, University of Bologna), "France After 2012" is a compilation of twelve seminal articles deftly organized into three major sections: The Presidency; The Political Parties; The Electorial Campaign and Hollande's Challenges. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informed and informative Introduction and Conclusion; figures and tables, a five page Bibliography; two page roster of article contributors, and a six page Index, "France After 2012" is a work of seminal scholarship and very highly recommended for academic library International Studies collections in general, and 21st Century French Political History supplemental reading lists in particular.

Requiem For The Living
Jeff Metcalf
The University of Utah Press
295 South 1500 East, Suite 5400, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0860
9781607813866, $21.95, 248pp,

Synopsis: After nine years of keeping his prostate cancer at bay, the drugs were no longer working. The doctors told him his time was nearly up. Jeff Metcalf used this diagnosis as motivation to dive deeper into writing, tasking himself to write one essay each week for a year. His collection of fifty-two essays was chosen by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums as the winner of their 2012 Original Writing Competition. "Requiem for the Living" contains the best of these essays, selected and reworked by the author, who continues to defy his medical prognosis. The essays form a memoir of sorts, recounting good times and critical moments from Metcalf's life. Often funny, sometimes moving, profoundly personal, they draw from Metcalf's rich experience. He does not describe a life defined by cancer but writes to discover what his life has been, who he has become, and what he has learned along the way.

Critique: Compellingly candid, fully engaging from beginning to end, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Requiem For The Living" is an outstanding memoir and very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Biography/Autobiography collections. Of particular and special interest for anyone having to deal with a terminal disease, it should be noted that "Requiem For The Living" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Sacred Scripture / White Horse
Emanuel Swedenborg
Swedenborg Publishers
320 North Church Street, West Chester, PA 19380
9780877854142, $6.99, 128pp,

Synopsis: Throughout his theological writings, Emanuel Swedenborg devotes more pages to discussing the inner, spiritual meaning of the Bible than to any other topic. In the two short works Sacred Scripture and White Horse, he provides the spiritual theory behind the verse-by-verse analysis found in his multivolume works Secrets of Heaven and Revelation Unveiled. In Sacred Scripture, Swedenborg explains how the inner meaning of the Bible relates to its outer (literal) meaning, and he cites numerous biblical passages to show how similar themes emerge again and again. He describes two distinct layers of inner meaning (the heavenly and the spiritual) and shows how an understanding of that inner meaning strengthens a person's connection with Deity and with heaven. White Horse begins with a short summary of the spiritual meaning of the white horse described in Revelation 19:11. In form, what then follows is a series of statements about the inner meaning of the Bible with references to explanatory passages in Secrets of Heaven. However, when read in sequence, those statements are also a concise summary of Swedenborg's theology of biblical interpretation. The perspective provided by these two short works allows the reader to see through the Bible's clouds of baffling, obscure, and seemingly inconsistent details to the power and unity of divine love and wisdom within the text. Students or seekers interested in Swedenborg's teachings about the interrelationship between the spiritual world and the physical one will find this volume a helpful guide.

Critique: Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist, nobleman, and theologian who spent his life investigating the mysteries of the soul. "Sacred Scripture / White Horse" is part of the New Century Edition of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg (NCE), an ongoing translation series. The NCE series incorporates the latest scholarship and translation standards for a more accurate and accessible rendering of Swedenborg's works. Ably translated into English for an American readership, "Sacred Scripture / White Horse" is critically important reading for student of Swedenborg's work.

The Grace of Yes
Lisa M. Hendey
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781594714726, $15.95, 160pp,

Synopsis: In "The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living", beloved Catholic blogger Lisa Hendey explores eight spiritual virtues that she believes are foundational to the Christian life. In opening windows to pivotal moments of her own spiritual journey, she helps readers learn about belief, generativity, creativity, integrity, humility, vulnerability, saying no, and starting over, and shows how these virtues lead to generous living and the ability to joyously say yes to God. Hendey reflects candidly on real-life struggles: the identity adjustment of leaving a blossoming career to become a stay-at-home mom; the temptation of Divahood as her online celebrity grew; the freedom and opportunities of empty-nest status versus the middle-aged body's pull to slow down; her encounters with spiritual community during treatment for cancer; and the contrast between the profound lingering grief she confronted at a Rwandan genocide memorial and the astounding willingness of survivors there to forgive. Readers encounter Hendey's own struggles and successes while soaking up her characteristic warmth and good advice. Additionally, Hendey provides questions for personal reflection and a prayer to close the exploration of each virtue.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' from beginning to end, "The Grace of Yes" is very highly recommended for all members of the Christian community seeking to live virtuous lives in an un-virtuous world. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49), as well as an audio book CD edition ($20.48) and an audible download edition ($18.37).

Moon Magic
Rachel Patterson
Moon Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782792819, $9.95, 112pp,

Synopsis: "Moon Magic" is an introduction to working with the phases of the Moon, what they are and how to live in harmony with the lunar year and to utilize all the magical powers it provides. "Moon Magic" is filled with the basics of the lunar cycle, the representations and correspondences of each phase, what magic to work and when and also includes a look at the lunar year, moon deities, moon spells, meditations, specific moon rituals, moon names, tree moons and moon recipes.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Moon Magic" is an extraordinary and essential addition to personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies and Wiccan Studies instructional reference collections. Informed and informative, it should be noted that "Moon Magic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.03).

Adrienne Quintana
Sweetwater Books
c/o Cedar Fort, Inc.
2373 West 700 South, Springville, Utah 84663
9781462115365, $16.99, 288pp,

Synopsis: Jace Vega has finally landed her dream job working for Omnibus, an up-and-coming tech firm. But a mysterious message from her future self sets Jace and her old friend Corey racing to piece together clues before Omnibus destroys their future and their past. "Eruption" is a fast-paced thriller will keep you guessing till the very last page.

Critique: An impressive debut novel, "Eruption" clearly documents author Adrienne Quintana as an especially gifted writer with an enviable knack for deftly crafting surprise twists and unexpected turns in a compelling suspense thriller that never lets up from first page to last. A very highly recommended entertainment for personal reading lists and an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted that "Eruption" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

Ruth: From Alienation To Monarchy
Yael Ziegler
Koren Publishers Jerusalem
c/o The Toby Press LLC
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592643776, $29.95, 506pp,

Synopsis: The Book of Ruth, with its focus on the exemplary behavior of Ruth and Boaz, stands at the crossroads between society's downward trajectory during the era of the Judges and its ascent during the era of the monarchy. It teaches the timeless lesson of how two individuals can act in accordance with their own conscience and, through small acts of kindness and humanity. In this fluent and penetrating study of the Book of Ruth, Yael Ziegler (Lecturer in Bible at Herzog Acadmic College and Matan Jerusalem) provides a masterful primer on how to read biblical narratives with sensitivity and depth, using recent methodological breakthroughs in the study of Tanakh. Beyond providing an eye-opening reading of a familiar biblical book, Dr. Ziegler creatively demonstrates that midrashic readings can reveal deep strata of textual meaning, and combines these insights with classical and contemporary scholarship to uncover the religious messages of this beautifully crafted story. In "Ruth: From Alienation and Monarchy", modern techniques of literary analysis and rabbinic homilies merge to yield common insights into themes such as leadership, redemption, identity, and social morality.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Ruth: From Alienation To Monarchy" is deftly organized into five major sections: The Study of Ruth: Methodology and Context; Tragedy: Ruth Chapter One; Sustenance: A Short-Term Solution: Ruth Chapter Two; Progeny: A Long-Term Solution: Ruth Chapter Three; Resolution: Ruth Chapter Four. Enhanced with an informative Afterword (Linguistic Mirroring: A Harmonious Story); The Book of Ruth: A Brief Summation; and an Appendix; "Ruth: From Alienation To Monarchy" should be considered a core addition to academic library Judaic Studies and Biblical Studies reference collections in general, and Book of Ruth supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

One On One
Stephen Fife, editor
Applause Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
9781480360198, $19.99, 224pp,

Synopsis: While contemporary American culture as reflected in theatrical entertainments such as movies, plays, and television productions may be fixated on youthful sex appeal, the truth is that the most complex and interesting characters in dramatic literature have been (and still are) those over 40 years old. Whether it's Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Halie in Buried Child or Eve in The Good Body, the richest characters are those over 40, whose wealth of experience often helps little when it comes to making the difficult decisions. "One on One: The Best Monologues for Mature Actors" will mine the deep and fertile vein of world drama (with an emphasis on lesser-known contemporary work) as it relates to monologues for mature actors. The result is certain to be a surprising and enriching one for both the dedicated professional and the inquisitive amateur.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Stephen Fife, "One on One: The Best Monologues for Mature Actors" is an impressive compilation of speeches drawn from a wide diversity of theatrical sources and deftly organized into two major sections: Monologues for Women; Monologues for Men. The pieces are drawn from plays and scripts that range from William Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream", to John Guare's 'Six Degrees of Separation'; to Eugene O'Neil's 'Long Day's Journey into Night'; to Arthur Miller's 'The Prince'. An enduringly valuable and valued addition to any and all personal, professional, community theater, community library, college theatre department, and academic library Acting/Audition collections.

Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney, editors
The Feminist Press
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781558618701, $18.95, 248pp,

Synopsis: Remember the slut at your school? Whether used as a slur or reclaimed as an expression of sexy confidence, the word 'slut' has been used as an acceptable excuse for rape, bullying, and the sexual double standard. The editorial collaboration of Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney "SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence" combines a riveting and critically acclaimed play (written in collaboration with New York City high school students and shedding light on enduring feminist issues with production notes, a guide for talk-backs, and provocative essays by Carol Gilligan, Jennifer Baumgardner, and Jarrod Chin of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), among others, providing the resources to inspire change within our communities and ourselves.

Critique: Riveting, compelling, candid, exceptionally well presented, "SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence" is as informative and thought-provoking as it is realistic and entertaining, making it very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Feminist Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

True You
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun & Tracey D. Bianchi
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 605151426
9780830843152, $16.00, 191pp,

Synopsis: Act like a lady. Land a career. Find a man. Learn how to cook. Rear amazing kids. Oh! And be sure you stay thin. Pressure to perform and conform starts early in a woman's life and never stops. In attempts to compensate and keep up appearances, we lose our ability to keep in touch with the truest parts of ourselves. We put on masks and hide the painful parts of our stories. If we get a quiet moment, we are ambushed with doubts: Who am I? The collaborative work of Adele Calhoun and Tracy Bianchi, "True You: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice" serves as a companion as we find ourselves, our sense of community and our identity in God. Designed to take you deeper with God on your own or with a group of sisters, journey alongside experienced ministers Adele Ahlberg Calhoun and Tracey Bianchi into some of the places where women struggle -- no matter what their age or life-stage. Personal resources like Journaling questions and a small group guide help women support each other on the way. "True You: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice" offers a reminder that there is a beloved, "true you" waiting to be known in each of us and that a world in need awaits the unique stories that each of us were made to tell.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "True You: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice" should be considered a critically important and enduringly valuable read for young women ages 16 to 26 -- and has a great deal of useful information for women of all ages -- especially as mothers raising girls of their own. As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, it should be noted that "True You: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.84).

Infinite Fictions
David Winters
Zero Books
c/o National Book Network
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781782798033, $22.95, 222pp,

Synopsis: David Winters (a literary critic living in Cambridge, UK and co-editor in chief of "3:AM Magazine) has quickly become a leading voice in the new landscape of online literary criticism. His widely-published work maps the furthest frontiers of contemporary fiction and theory. The essays in this anthology range from the American satirist Sam Lipsyte, to the reclusive Australian genius Gerald Murnane, and from the "distant reading" of Franco Moretti, to the legacy of Gordon Lish. Meditations on style, form and fictional worlds sit side-by-side with overviews of the cult status of Oulipo, the aftermath of modernism, and the history of continental philosophy. "Infinite Fictions" is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the forefront of literary thought.

Critique: Deftly organized into two major sections (On Literature; On Theory), the thirty-seven essays that this impressive compendium contain are as uniformly erudite in their presentation as they are diverse in subject matter. Informed, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "Infinite Fictions: Essays on Literature and Theory" is a valued and highly recommended addition to academic library Literary Studies collections. For personal reading lists, it should be noted that "Infinite Fictions: Essays on Literature and Theory" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Darker Edge Of Desire
Mitzi Szereto, editor
Tempted Romance
c/o Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781940550008, $14.95, 235pp,

Synopsis: Love, passion and sex it's all to be found in the fourteen short stories that comprise "Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance". Gothic literature has always possessed a dark attraction ripe with the promise of the forbidden and the sensual. In "Darker Edge of Desire", these stories take the sexualized Gothic theme and ratchets it up a few notches into the danger zone, opening a door into the darker side of lust and love that only the courageous dare to venture through. Venturing even farther into the world of mystery and romance than she did in the critically acclaimed Red Velvet and Absinthe, "Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance" creates an atmosphere with a distinct Gothic flavor where we explore our more forbidden desires. In these tales, love and lust (and kink!) know no boundaries, and all nature of strange beings ranging form vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, to ghosts, and succubae.

Critique: Gothic fiction, which is largely dominated by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines fiction, horror and Romanticism. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story." The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th, as witnessed by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker's Dracula. The name Gothic refers to the (pseudo)-medieval buildings in which many of these stories take place. Recommended for mature readers, "Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance" is an impressive anthology of gifted writers who have mastered the dark gothic romance fantasy genre. It should be noted that ""Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and as an Audio Book Download ($12.22).

Helen Dumont

Kaveny's Bookshelf

This month I went in depth on the two following items both in electronic format.

First I was quite taken by the first novel of a very promising young author.

Thuringer: The Officer
Brandon Hovey
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
$9.95 Kindle, 240 pages

The second Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature Written by: The Great Courses Narrated by: Professor Thomas A. Shippey Length is something I think nearly all of us could draw inspiration in these from the times of troubles.

I have an agenda in this review, the same agenda I have always had for the last forty years, as an editor, critic, small publisher, and even teacher, and that is to draw attention, share, discuss, and exchange ideas about that which I find interesting. This is a bit now harder than when I started forty years ago doing book reviews on community radio WORT in Madison Wisconsin. It is strange because the Internet has made everything so much easier, but it also makes things harder, because there is so much information out there, and one person's information is another's noise. Yet the most significant aspect of "Thuringer: The Officer" by Brandon Hovey is that it breaks the noise barrier, and reaches out to a broad audience.

In this case I want to draw reader's, editor's, agent's, and larger publisher's attention to Brandon Hovey's work because it has something for everybody, from the young adult reader, to the space opera fanatic, and even the gun nut, as we liberals like to call you, because Brandon really knows his history and his hardware. You get to see lots of both in action in "Thuringer: The Officer", along with lots of other fascinating stuff, even for the likes of me, who has one foot in the academic world, one foot in the world of the public intellectual, and one foot on a slippery banana peel; one hand on his razor and the other on his gun, but of course in a very nurturing way.

I am going to heist a term from the academic junk yard of literary terminology apply it in a useful manner. In honor of the great linguistic Ludwig Wittgenstein, as he used words as tools, and with an homage to Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces". Brandon has created an archetypal character in his "Thuringer: The Officer" which is set in the year 2446 just as Martin Thuringer has graduate from the United Planets Naval Academy in Portsmouth England. Brandon's senses of place and detail right away hooks me since my wife and I have been to England sixteen times and visited the Royal Naval base at Portsmouth least four times. I have been below deck on Lord Nelson's Flagship The Victory (launched in 1763) where Nelson died after the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), which was the naval engagement fought by the Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition (August - December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815). As matter fact Herman Melville mentions Nelson's memorial in his monumental Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851) "like that silver plate now inserted into the Victory's plank where Nelson fell," the same plank I saw nearly a hundred and sixty years later. The strong sense of place gives me what I need to recover memories I have thought of for years.

Now I am remembering that on one of our tours below deck of Nelson's Victory when I strayed a little off course and was verbally chastised by a Royal Marine armed with a M-16, 5.5 mm rounds and banana clip and a really nasty little bayonet. He warned me with a hand gesture and a snarl that I better watch where I was going, I really took the little limey jarhead seriously. I guess not everybody loves the Irish, and the idea of being his bayonet practice dummy did not appeal to me.

Brandon Hovey is only 25 and has two books to his credit "Thuringer: the Officer" and "Burgers Blogs and Cops", has the look of a very promising young author and has the potential of being the best thing that has come out of Peoria Illinois since Hugo Award winner and grandmaster of Science Fiction Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009). I asked Brandon if he had ever heard of Farmer; he admitted that sadly he had not. It's funny because in a small town like Peoria, Brandon may have been stood next to him in the Wal-Mart check out and not known. Thirty two years ago in 1983 a fanzine I wrote for extensively called "Janus," edited by my wife Dr. Janice Bogstad was nominated for the Hugo Award, and I sat about two chairs away from Isaac Asimov, who was also nominated. I said nothing to him; sometimes it is best when mortals like myself do not speak. Yet ironically Brandon Hovey is part of that same noble tradition: Fred Pohl, Ted Sturgeon and even Robert Heinlein, in that "Thuringer: The Officer", at least in some way reads like a Heinlein juvenile.

It has always been my axiom in my forty years, as a reviewer and critic, that nobody has ever accused me of giving an author a good review because I know or like them. I have gotten to know Brandon over the last three months and among other things he is a recent Eureka, Illinois college graduate, Ronald Reagan's alma mater. Right of the bat he gave me something to like about Ronald Reagan, which is a pretty hard sell for an old lefty like myself. As President of the Eureka College student body Reagan led a student protest against the administration. I just fact checked this item and Brandon Hovey is in fact correct.

Now that I have this information about Reagan, I may not like him any better, I can say that I and the late president have at least one thing in common. Though I was not a student leader at UW Madison in the late 1960's I was a foot soldier in anti-Vietnam war activities, and we did occupy the office of the UW Vice President for several hours, and we did not let him leave until he answered some questions.

I am going a lot more into Brandon's back ground than I usually do with an author but that is because his back as a working journalist, corporate communications specialist, and his versatility as a blog master shows up in his literary work. I invite you all to check out his blogs:

And for that matter the Blog he maintains for me as a writer, critic, and public intellectual:

I am not going to spoil the plot of "Thuringer: The Officer" with a bunch of zingers, rather I am going to note a particular point early in the story that says something both about Brandon Hovey and the character Thuringer. Thuringer has been though United Planets Naval Academy specializing In the Dar-Shawn language, but he had also studied engineering, with appropriate training in deep space warfare, but instead he was to be a reactor officer on Neuvis Planetary Dry Dock, though he wanted more than anything to get off Earth.

This was not what he signed up for, but never the less duty called and the story would unfold as would his career even if it meant waiting for promotion by filling dead men's shoes in 2446, as it was in 1946. There is much irony in military posting, as when a good friend of mine enlisted in the Army in 1968, was found to have brilliant language aptitudes so sent to the Army Monterey language school for an eighteen month immersion course in Arabic, and then spent the remaining two years of his tour on guard duty on the Korean DMZ along the 38th Parallel. So you might say art and life intersect.

However I have not read a scene like this outside of Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game". After a skirmish the Dar-Swan with Thuringer finally in space, he is asked by his Captain about his mental state.

"I was a little upset by the screaming. Keep in mind I know their language, sir. Hearing them cry for their mother's haunting. Especially when you are the only one who understands them "

What Brandon is doing is has been noted by cultural critics like Dr. Bruce Franklin in popular writers like Vietnam combat veteran M.I.T. Professor Joe Haldeman in "Forever War" (1974). He addresses the cost of a seemly interminable war on his protagonist, like the twenty-five year war against terrorism in the Middle East and Afghanistan, which upon reflection actually started with the demolition of the American Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1982 by a suicide bomber driving an explosive laden two and a half ton truck.

In the end "Thuringer: The Officer" rapidly cascade through all two hundred and forty electronic pages leaving us hanging with a 'to be continued.' Yes the narrative will be continued just as the tradition of some of the great writers I have mentioned in this article. Brandon Hovey with "Thuringer: The Officer" is really breaking down the noise barrier and reaching out to a larger audience to imagine and work for a world different and better that our own.

Since "Thuringer: The Officer" is first in a series so this review article will also be continued in my next Midwest Book Review feature. However not without me mentioning one of the best parts of Brandon's work, the character of the reprogrammed android assassin Jasey who was originally employed to kill him but since has become sort his side kick. He describes it this way:

"As he approached the back of the ship Thuringer noticed Jasey's synthetic form. Black sports bra, bare backside and tight leather pants. He was actually finding the android who tried to kill him a year ago attractive. "Eh Hum." Thuringer uttered.

Philip Jose Farmer, the other Peoria science fiction writer, is probably smiling down from science fiction writer's heaven at that line. You can find more about Farmer, as I am including the link to the 2015 Philip Jose Farmer's International Bibliography website:

Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature
Narrated by Professor Thomas A. Shippey
The Great Courses
4840 Westfields Blvd, Suite 500
Chantilly, VA 20151
12 hrs and 15 mins Price $24.95Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]

"Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature" published by The Great Courses and narrated by Professor Thomas A. Shippey will appeal to a very broad spectrum of audiences because of its high production quality, and the broadness of its scope covering the last three thousand years. Even more significant is the inclusive nature of Dr Shippey's approach for these twenty four lectures, including "Frodo Baggins - A Reluctant Hero," "Odysseus - The Trickster Hero," "Aeneas - The Straight Arrow," "Guinevere - A Heroine with Many Faces," "The Wife of Bath - An Independent Woman," and "Cressida - A Love Betrayed." Price $24.95Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]

In the first group of six lectures, we have one Hobbit, two human men, and three women as protagonists. I was only familiar in any significant way with Frodo Baggins and Odysseus, but having completed the course, listening to all twenty four lectures I feel as if I have acquired a new sort of cultural literacy, which I think is critical as an alternative to the narrow casted silos of like minded marketing that so much of modern media has adopted. I am not going to directly repeat any the material from the lectures, or list all the remaining lectures since that's easy enough to see by going to the Great Courses website:

The summaries of the content are useful but no substitute for the experience of the lectures themselves. Tom Shippey's approach to his subject is drawn from his experience as a world class teacher at Leeds and Oxford Universities in the United Kingdom, and not so long ago retired from St. Louis University in the United States. Some might go so far as to call him J. R. R. Tolkien's successor, since he did succeed J. R. R Tolkien at both Leeds and Oxford Universities. It is fair to say somewhat understatedly that Tom Shippey is a medieval literary scholar, who at the same time has done significant work in increasing our depth of understanding of popular literature science fiction and fantasy, including J. R. R. Tolkien. The books on Tolkien include "The Road to Middle-earth" (first edition, 1982), "The Road to Middle-earth" (second edition, 1993), "J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century" (2001), "The Road to Middle-earth" (third edition, 2003), "Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien" (2007).

I have attended lectures at a number of Tom Shippey's conference appearances, and he has the evocative powers of a great story teller, giving us the scaffolding we need for the topic to make sense but at the same time, moving in both a rapid and informative way so he covers material in thirty minutes which others might stumble through in three fifty minute periods. When Dr. Shippey narrates nobody is looking at cats doing tricks on Facebook, and if tablets are being used it is for note taking purposes.

Some year ago I remember attending one of Dr. Shippey's lectures at Leeds University and he almost visually evoked of a Pre-Reformation, unified European Latin literate culture where all literate people spoke the same language from the North Sea to The Pyrenees mountains to Constantinople. Even twenty years later this is still thought provoking, of something lost and sorely missed, in our contemporary world which seems hell bent on repeating the folly of 1914's Guns of August. These are the qualities he brings to this course.

He gives the listener or the viewer, if one chooses the video version of his course, what they need for the lecture to make sense out of different times and different values. Yet times are not entirely different, which we find out in a very human and universal way in Tom Shippey's lecture on the slayer of monsters, Beowulf, who is made real not for the three monsters he slays but because he worries and makes provision for the replacement of his borrowed sword as he marches into the mouth of death, uncertain he will return. I can see the scene in my mind's eye as I write this. For lack of a better phrase I will refer to this as a text and context approach.

In about thirty minutes we get to the historical context that generated the text. That is what its primary writer, or authors, or first readers, or in the case of some of the texts, transcribers centuries later, simply knew on a cultural level, because that's what everybody knew then. For example, why was Frodo Baggins the hero for the greatest generation? Further, why was he the hero who violated all the rules of superheroes, since he was less than four feet tall, and would have trouble jumping a fence, let alone a tall building in a single bound like Superman? Tom Shippey asks, why was Frodo Baggins the hero everybody was waiting for, but did not know it?

Again drawing from Shippey, the 20th Century started with the Guns of August, 1914, the outbreak of World War I, after the Satanic Mills of technological innovation turned 20th Century warfare into a kind of horrific sausage machine, as it was referred to by British World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon, making death seek out more death, a trend which has only accelerated in the last century. From my own research I can tell you that before Nikita Khrushchev realized that that he and J.F.K. were literally about to turn the world into a firestorm during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, he claimed to the world press that Soviets could make hydrogen bomb warheads as easily as sausages.

Of the next group of six lectures I will only comment on the lecture that focuses on Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride & Prejudice" because it meshes so well with a recent BBC program on American Public Television on the historical reconstruction of the great ball scenes from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". This was a physical reconstruction of all the symbolic representation of cultural, economic, social, and class structure, through patterns of dress, consumption, and living off one's capital. This does not mean that the novel "Pride and Prejudice" is any less of a literary work, but gives early 21st Century readers context which every early 19th Century reader would have just known. That's the sort of thing that Tom Shippey does in a thirty minute lecture. It is fair to say Tom really is a kind of master of multimedia presentations. I feel qualified to say this since I have spoken to him, sold him books, listened to him lecture, and of course seen him on Video. I must add of course at least while one is driving audio does have certain advantages

Though Tom is not officially credited with having written the course his presence is everywhere in its 24 half hour lectures. He is much more than simply the narrator and his masterful touch is everywhere in this exemplary production. I give it my highest recommendation and I feel it is a must for inclusion in the collections of all worldwide academic and public libraries, and because of its multiple forms of access, Amazon Kindle, Barnes Noble Nook, direct online, and also CD and DVD video format, it is both entertaining and educational in the broadest sense, and I am certain that completing the course would be very useful to a broad base as prep for taking advance placement exams, ACT or SAT tests.

Phil Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Running With Wild Blood
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432829667, $25.95,

Three years ago someone murdered affluent teenager Juliet Trapp, but Atlanta Police failed to solve the case. When Geoff Howard regains some of his alcohol-lost memories of that fatal night, APD Major Crimes Homicide Unit Detective Lieutenant Richard Lake asks his girlfriend, Child Trace CEO Moriah Dru, to investigate the cold case. Richard explains the victim was a party girl who hung out with the Wild Blood Motorcycle Club bikers and her raped corpse was found near their club; additionally her wealthy father Sherman vanished after the IRS began sniffing into his lack of returns.

Dru interviews Howard who revised his statement re Juliet. She also learns that Sherman probably were ashes stolen from a Chattanooga crematorium. At the Winters Farm Academy Juliet attended, Dru realizes how much trouble the late spoiled brat caused yet the faculty adored her in spite of a close friend becoming paraplegic and her BFF Bunny is nowhere in sight. With the Wild Blood approval, Lake and Dru ride with the bikers to Florida for Bike Week. There she kills a sniper and struggles with an FBI agent who plans to use the gang to further his career. Hit men target Dru who believes the key to solving the mystery resides with locating Bunny.

In her latest Dru-Lake Mystery (see Murmurs of Insanity and The Devil Laughed) Gerrie Ferris Finger provides a twisting tale filled with red herrings, a tremendous final spin and an enthralling support cast; held together by the leads especially Dru. Armchair readers will enjoy visiting the Big A and riding from The Big Peach (or The Big Chicken) to Florida alongside the wild bunch bikers and the protagonists.

The Evil Deeds We Do
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432829674, $25.95,

Two and half years ago in Los Angeles, a Grand Jury indicted Blue Pacific Records producers Roy and Lainie Davis Gardner for unlawful business practices due to his ties to organized crime. Not long after that, someone kills Roy in front of their teenage daughter Sara. With his death the charges against his wife were dropped, but her music career died too along with their house in Encino.

The cop on that case ruthless Harry Roman has become an Assistant District Attorney obsessed with putting Lainie behind bars for her hiring a hit on her spouse; though as she points out to him when he accosts her in a theater's parking lot that if he had proof she'd be arrested not lectured. Meanwhile ambitious political powerbroker Thom Newberry informs her that the ADA has a sworn statement that she contracted the hit on her spouse. He offers Lainie an opportunity back into the music world and removal of the stalking ADA from her life. In return, he demands Lainie obtain a file from influential Leonard Volkman.

This is an exhilarating action-packed suspense that grips the reader from the moment Roman waylays Gardner in the parking lot and throughout the taut storyline. Though overly complicated with plenty of twists including a great climatic spin and rotating between the past and present, readers will wonder who will be left standing at the end.

A Stitch In Crime
Cathy Marie Elliott
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426773655, $13.99,

In Larkindale, antiques store owner and Quilt-Without-Guilt member Thea James agrees to co-chair the town's first "Legacy of Quilts" show. At a soiree at the Wentworth mansion, textile expert Dr. Cottle fails to arrive as expected; and someone assaults Thea's affluent elderly friend Mary-Alice Wentworth and apparently steals a diamond brooch from her. As Dr. Wellman examines Mary-Alice, Thea interrogates newcomer Odette Milsap in an upstairs area she should not have been. Soon after she finished her questioning, Detective Brewster arrives.

Meanwhile Mary-Alice's family heirloom quilt Larkin's Treasure quilt, rumored to be a treasure map, is on display at the Hastings McLeod Museum. Thea plans to visits her injured friend, see the quilt, and run her shop; but when the other chair is never available to work on the event, she is stuck with everything. Making matters worse, Thea's BFF Renee, just back from Europe, acts mean-spirited towards her. Finally Thea also gets embroiled in the investigation when the Larkin's Treasure vanishes.

This is an enjoyable Quilts of Love (see Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn and Quilted By Christmas by Jodie Bailey) cozy. The heroine initially acts like a patsy, but with faith and her Uncle Nick's support proves otherwise; slightly modifying I Am Woman by Helen Reddy: if she has to, she can do anything since she is strong and invincible. Although the romance and the mystery are very light, A Stitch In Crime is an engaging life in a small-town novel.

Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad
George R.R. Martin
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765335586, $15.99,

This mostly reprint contains two new tales (in Peru for "Warts and All" by Kevin Andrew Murphy and Carrie Vaughn's "Always Spring in Prague") that blend in nicely with the original 1988 publication. The premise focuses on the Wild Cards' escapades during a UN and WHO sponsored world tour. The key connectors are "The Tint of Hatred" by Stephen Leigh with the return of the Puppetman and "From The Journal Of Xavier Desmond" by Mr. Martin that include stopovers in places like Afghanistan. The first official stop of the "Stacked Deck" jet is Haiti where Ti Malice works his "Beasts Of Burden" (by John J. Miller). In "Blood Rites" by Leanne C. Harper, Mayan psychic twins lead a revolt in Guatemala. Other stops include meeting Nur-Al-Allah and the Gods in "Down By The Nile" by Gail Gerstner-Miller; Dr. Tachyon practicing medicine in Walton Simons' "The Teardrop Of India"; an encounter in Australia with Wyungare who lives "Down In The Dreamtime" by Edward Bryant; and Lewis Shiner's "Zero Hour" in which Fortunato saves a life in Japan. There are also stops in Europe (see "Puppets" by Victor W. Milan where we encounter Mackie "Mack the Knife" Messer in Germany, and Melinda M. Snodgrass escorting fans to Versailles' "Mirrors of the Soul").

This is an entertaining entry as fans meet influential (in future sagas) new Aces, Jokers and some entities difficult to classify in places around the world while holding up to the test of time even in Soviet Moscow (Michael Cassutt "Legends"). While the superb contributions highlight the Wild Cards world and introduce two major villains, this anthology would have been incredible with more focus on the newbies rather than those we know.

A Murder of Clones: The Anniversary Day Saga
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
1845 SW Highway 101, Suite 2
PO Box 269, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9781561466085, $18.99,

Fifteen years ago on Epriccom, the Eufasse Emir contacted the Earth Alliance with news that an enclave of humans resided near their territory. The Earth Alliance's Marshal Judita Gomez and her most experienced Security Squad deputies Kyle Washington and Shakir Rainger head to this Frontier habitable moon to investigate. They send for recovery when they find corpses and with Eufasse permission continue the search for humans who, with the exception of three, choose death. The evidence pointed to an internal human clone civil war.

In the present, terrorists attack the Moon in what the future will call the horrific Anniversary Day bombings. Although not authorized to make inquiries, Marshal Gomez probes the lethal assaults and soon connects the amoral killers to her mission fifteen years ago on Epriccom.

Filled with plenty of action, a deep cast and an intense philosophical ethical debate re what a human is; the third Retrieval Artist Universe: The Anniversary Day saga is a fantastic thriller as the audience obtains new perspectives re the pivotal tragedy. Readers do not have to wait eight years for all the books to be released. Instead of an annual publication, this excellent science fiction series is on a monthly schedule; having started last November and December with Anniversary Day and Blowback respectively, and Search and Recovery to follow in February.

Eric Faye, author
Emily Boyce, translator
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781908313652, $12.95,

In a Nagasaki suburb, fifty-six years old meteorologist Shimura Kobo enjoys being a solitary man. For instance, instead of occasionally joining his colleagues for drinks after work, the bachelor prefers no deviation from his daily routine, which means go home.

However, Shimura notices minute deviations to his orderly life, but assumes it is his imagination running wild. One day he feels ill so he comes home early only to find proof that his paranoia is based on reality; someone drank half of his juice while he was at work. Though he loathes to do so, Shimura changes his daily routine; instead of going home he take the tram to Hamanomachi to buy monitoring equipment so he can observe his kitchen from his office computer. After setting up the camera in his kitchen, Shimura struggles to do anything at work but watch the monitor. Seeing tiny differences in what he perceives he left in his kitchen to what he observes on his screen, the meteorologist rationalizes these are in his head until he witnesses the fruit juice thief.

Based on a 2008 event in Japan, this profound psychological novella with no action takes an insightful look at how two middle age people react to living alone. Whereas Shimura thrives on a solo act; the house invader desperately seeks belonging (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs third level). Selecting this house eventually makes sense to the audience.

Joel Shepherd
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616149925, $18.00,

The human civil war between the Federation and League has left many casualties with the trend heading towards extinction. Fearing for the species in spite of being a synthetic human loathed by purebreds, Federation Specials Ops GI Cassandra "Sandy" Kresnov and her comrades in arms try to avert another war, However, the mass extermination of Cesta innocents by lunatics with Talee-implanted technology inside them leave hundreds of thousands dead and hostilities between the two major human groups heated.

In Tanusa, Cai the synthetic Talee investigates human use of his race's ancient technology. Cai cautions Sandy that his people nearly went extinct when they went down the same technological path the humans are following, and his people will exterminate anyone who they think might go that way to insure a lethal repeat does not happen. Eluding the League and the Talee, the father of human synthetics, Renaldo Takewashi arrives in Federation space claiming that the implant in Sandy's youngest adopted child Kiril will prevent the psychosis from happening. Only his insistence is a major portion of what Cai warned Sandy has terrorized the Talee into taking action.

The sixth tremendous Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see Operation Shield and 23 Years on Fire) once again is a complex timely outer space thriller anchored by plenty of action and a strong cast, but also interweaves a deep look at real issues (like expanding rights to others). Sandy makes the fresh storyline thrilling; as she faces conflicting dilemmas between being a grizzly momma protecting her cubs and as a GI defending a species that refuses to grant her or her peers the inalienable human rights they should have had regardless of origin but clearly earned in combat.

Behind God's Back
Harri Nykanen, author
Kristian London, translator
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781908524423, $14.95,

In Helsinki, someone murders Jewish office supplies stores owner Samuel Jacobson in front of his home in Tammisalo. Helsinki Violent Crimes Unit Chief Detective Huovinen assigns Detective Ariel Kafka to investigate the homicide because his subordinate and the victim are Jewish. Ariel knew Samuel as the cop dated the victim's daughter Lea when they were eighteen, but conceals that from his superior officer.

As he and Detective Simolin go to the crime scene, Ariel knows Lea lives in Israel. Neighbors inform the culprit was a cop. They next question the widow Ethel who mentions her son Roni is in Lapland. The cops also learn from her that her workaholic husband stayed home for three days in spite of not being ill; and that he obtained a loan from Baltic Invest Estonian bank through the law firm of Kafka & Oxbaum; owned by Ariel's brother Eli and their second cousin Max. As the inquiry internationally widens to include Israel's Mossad and the Russian Mafia, a second similar murder occurs; thus the Finnish Security Police become involved.

The second Case for Ariel Kafka of Helsinki's Violent Crimes Unit (see Nights of Awe) is a fabulous Finnish police procedural. The lead protagonist may not be a practicing Jew, but feels strongly about keeping his race and Israel safe. The multifaceted investigation follows subgenre standard operating procedures but also contains red herrings and twists. However, it is the close look into Finland's small Jewish community, still distrustful of authorities even by those generations born decades after the Holocaust, that make for a complex terrific whodunit.

Sarah Pinborough
Jo Fletcher Books
55 Baker Street, 7th Floor, South Block, London, England, W1U 8EW
9781623658663, $26.99,

Several years have passed since police surgeon Thomas Bond turned to opium to dull the images of the Ripper and Torso victims (see Mayhem) although he still sees his once serene London as a nightmare. His fears delayed Thomas telling the Torso killer's Widow Juliana Harrington that he loves her; but feels the time is right to present his heart to her. However, his paranoia that more vicious lunatics stalk the streets especially since he knows dormant Jack remains out there intensifies when visiting American Edward Kane shows him letters that the deceased Thames Torso Killer James Harrington sent him in the late 1880s. Adding to Bond's discomfit is the foreigner courts his beloved.

When several murders of children left floating in the Thames occur, the police believe Ripper is back though these are not the same demographics of his previous victims. While the cops hope this time to catch the elusive slasher, Bond looks back at the evidence from the Thames Torso and the previous Ripper cases. This leads him to what his rational mind rejected back in '87 as unreal.

Once again using a genuine historical person to tell the dark sequel, Sarah Pinborough provides a taut late Victorian crime thriller with the same stunning Eastern European spin. There is less focus on the victims than in the predecessor, as the early focus is more on the romantic triangle. Like a magician Ms. Pinborough pulls away the comfortable cozy rug and replaces it with a very grim and gory Murder drama only to pull that rug away too leaving a stunned audience with an incredible unexpected climatic twist.

The Empty Throne
Bernard Cornwell
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062250711, $27.99,

Although a dozen years have passed since his father King Alfred the Great died, in 911 King Edward the Elder still hopes to achieve his dad's dream of uniting all the Saxons under his rule. However, achieving his aspirations seems impossible as Danish invaders and Viking raiders plague the land. Adding to his fears of failure is learning that his staunchest supporter, his brother-in-law Mercia ruler Lord AEthelred, died in combat.

AEthelred left no heir so several individuals claim his throne. However, AEthelred's widow Lady AEthelflaed has the most support to include that of her brother and many Mercians though whether the warriors will follow a female into war remains questionable. She persuades the ealdormen lords to back her assertion though they fail to crown her. Still with her greatest ally, her lover Uhtred the Pagan having her back, AEthelflaed leads the Mercian forces in combat against several adversaries. However, the biggest threat to the Lady of Mercia's rule comes from a betrayal from within. At the same time wounded Uhtred falls in love with his healer Eadith.

The eighth Saxon Tale (see The Pagan Lord and Death of Kings) is a great entry as Bernard Cornwell transports his audience to early tenth century England. The storyline is filled with action yet also brings to life the tumultuous times (is there any era not tumultuous?) through a fully developed deep cast; as once again Mr. Cornwell makes a strong case that the island could easily have become Scandinavian instead of Saxon.

Alex Gordon
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061687372, $14.99,

In rainy Seattle, Lauren Reardon grieves the death of her fiftyish father John less than a year after her mom Angela passed away. Cremating him like they did her mom, Lauren goes to the family house to collect receipts that John's financial advisor Frank Welles requested. There she finds The Book Of Endor, written in Gideon, Illinois during the year of the Great Fire of 1871. Inside is a photo of her dad as point guard for the Gideon team but his name is listed as Matthew Mullins and apparently he was a witch descending from generations of witches.

Confused she turns to her BFF Katie who in turn introduces her to Dilys the spiritual expert. However soon after their meeting, Dilys dies in a car accident. Needing the truth Lauren heads to Gideon where most people make it clear they want her to leave immediately. The one exception to her unwelcome arrival is a malevolent spirit that has haunted the town with a thirst to rejoin the living since innocent Nicholas Blaine was burned at the stake in 1836.

Gideon is a taut horror tale, in which the supernatural seems natural due to the way the witches' deploy their paranormal power, the vigilant deer in the headlights visitor, and especially Blaine's obsessed spirit. Filled with suspense and a critical historical anchor, subgenre fans will relish visiting this haunted town.

Dying For The Past
TJ O'Connor
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738742069, $14.99,

In Frederick County, Virginia police detective Oliver Tucker was killed in his home by an intruder. However, instead of moving on, he investigated his murder (see Dying to Know). His university archeology professor wife Angela and their dog Hercule know he remains with them, but his former partner Bear Braddock refuses to accept the evidence that Oliver still wants to work with him.

Angela hosts a fundraiser to help the archeology department. To his consternation, Tuck becomes jealous when affluent guest Mr. Carnation dances with his Angel until someone shoots and kills his spouse's partner. None of the guests, the cops including Bear or Tuck saw who pulled the trigger. Also the donations vanished. Tuck seeks a man in Al Capone style of dress who he observed earlier but apparently disappeared. He soon meets gangster Vincent Calaprese who was killed in 1939 in the same house where Angela's soiree was held. Vincent orders Tuck to return to him his journal that the Feds and the Russian mob want too.

The second Gumshoe Ghost Mystery is a twisting paranormal whodunit with some jocularity from Tuck's interplay with the living deniers especially Bear. The fabulous investigation is anchored by human, ghost and canine characters; past and present.

Strands of Sorrow
John Ringo
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736952, $25.00,

Having developed a vaccine, begun mass production, and inoculated the fleet; US Wolf Squadron chief Steven John Smith changes the mission emphasis from island hopping to a North American land invasion to take control of the continent from the insane diseased. The deployment initially focuses on finding survivors on military bases in order to increase the trained warfighting force. As such Chief of the Pacific Fleet Commodore Montana leads his ships in the San Diego area where he encounters unexpected obstacles like an active unmanned reactor.

However, as military personnel are liberated, the transition of bringing them into the zombie-fighting force leads to conflict between the pre-apocalypse and the new order. Few if any career soldier or sailor accepts orders from teenage girls even if they are Commander Smith's commissioned officer daughters and elite experienced anti-zombie warriors. This political in-fighting slows down the efforts to take back America and if not resolved may end the world's last hope.

The fourth Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller (see Islands of Rage and Hope, To Sail a Darkling Sea and Under a Graveyard Sky) is an engaging military tale especially made fresh by John Ringo satirizing the internal war between old and new Navy. Although over the top as the first daughters have become the equivalent of DC comics Wonder Girl, series fans will appreciate the Smith family and associates efforts to take back the United States.

Spell Blind
David B. Coe
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780245, $25.00

Weremyste, Justis Fearsson struggles with aptly named lunacy just before, during and after a full moon arises. The Phoenix Police Department fired him after six plus years on the force mostly as a Homicide Detective due to his full moon 72 hours or so of temporary insanity. To make a living, Justis became a private investigator.

Affluent North Scottsdale residents Michael and Sissy Tyler hire Justis to find their runaway teenage daughter Jessie, who two weeks ago emptied her checking account of several thousand dollars. Justis learns from Sissy's friends and sister that she behaved oddly self-destructive prior to her vanishing and along with other evidence, the sleuth believes she hooked up with a myste. He rescues Sissy and other children from a drug-dealing myste, but the unscrupulous culprit escapes by using the kids as deadly targets. Not long after this, Justis becomes involved in the Blind Angel serial killer case; an unfinished failure that still disturbs him from his cop days. With help from his former PPD partner Kona, reporter Billie Castle and a ghost, Justis diligently follows clues to end this psychopath's reign of terror.

Mindful of Jim Butcher's early Dresden like Full Moon starting with if you look in the Phoenix phone book under private investigators, you'll find an ad with a picture of Justis, Spell Bind is a terrific opening act due to an intriguing lead. The storyline starts leisurely-paced even with the hero saving the children as the audience learns the rules of David B. Coe's Arizona. Once we understand the rudiments of Coe world, this private investigator urban fantasy accelerates into a magical cat and mouse war between a 24/7 lunatic and a full moon lunatic.

Slavers of the Savage Catacombs
Jon P. Merz
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736976, $15.00

Barely surviving his initial post-graduation shugyo travels across the Dark Sea (see The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul), Ran the Shinobujin of the Gakur Mountains' Nine Daggers Clan prays for a serene trek on the rest of his journey to Valrus where his beloved Cassandra resides. He reaches Chulal and seeks a guard position on a caravan heading west.

However, his hopes for a quiet passage end in Chulal when Ran encounters Tanka the intelligence gathering Shinobujin stationed there for the last decade. A camaraderie forms between the pair of Shinobujin. However, Tanka's pigeons return with a message from the Nine Daggers that detours Ran to the north to investigate claims of a growing lethal invading force. Dutifully Ran joins a caravan heading in that direction, but they are overwhelmed with Ran and other survivors turned into expendable slave labor by an exiled tyrant preparing to invade his former kingdom. Ran realizes he must escape in order to prevent further destruction of the innocent.

The entertaining second Shadow Warrior sword and sorcery fantasy is a constant adventure-filled (with no respites) blood and gore ninja vs. zombie thriller; as even Ran's flashbacks are loaded with non-stop action. Subgenre fans will appreciate Ran's killing the dead escapades.

The Carousel Seas
Sharon Lee
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736969, $15.00

In sort of Maine but more accurately the Six Worlds' Changing Land, Kate Archer the Guardian of the Land of Archers Beach, risks everything to free those otherworld badass felons incarcerated in the animals of the Fantasy Menagerie Carousel that she is the keeper. Though she knows the Wise will be irate with her liberation, Kate assumes all those locked away have left earth. Thus she believes she has time for her personal life starting with seeing the Guardian of the Gulf of Maine, Borgan.

However, her assumption proves false as one of those she free stayed behind in the sea where she recalls that at one time she reigned there as a Goddess. She has two goals: to regain her former regal status and to make Borgan hers. When she kills goblins, the sea turns hostile to everyone living nearby starting with a massive jellyfish invasion and a sudden ceasing of waves. She next attacks those her beloved cherishes like Kate, and challenges Borgan for control of Gulf of Maine. The two guardians and other allies need to find a way to end her tyranny before this evil takes full control.

The third Archers Beach urban fantasy (see Carousel Sun and Carousel Tides) is a spellbinding contemporary filled with action and a caring heroine who learns that good intentions do not always lead to good outcomes. This magical Maine thriller hooks the audience due to the fabulous lead triangle.

Death In Nostalgia City
Mark S. Bacon
Black Opal Books
9781626941748, $12.99,

In Arizona, retired Phoenix cop Lyle Deming drives a 1973 Dodge taxi in Nostalgia City; a town that targets baby boomer tourists with its authentic 1970s replication. With two passengers, Lyle brakes at a stop sign when he notices a driverless vehicle picking up speed while heading towards him and his fare. He accelerates though the runaway scrapes the back of his car. Chief of Security Clyde Bates arrives to investigate what turns out to be murder when a firefighter finds a corpse.

Nostalgia City President septuagenarian Archibald "Max: Maxwell hires Lyle to investigate surreptitiously. Max also persuades his former employee, well over six foot relations guru Kate Sorenson to leave Vegas for Flagstaff at a time when the press is all bad. Although both have major personal issues, Kate and Lyle form a cohesive unit looking into the lethal occurrences. When more deadly incidents happen, Lyle and Kate begin to believe investors with an insider quisling or two are sabotaging Max's efforts; which leads them diagonally across the country to Massachusetts where they deploy methods a cop could never use.

The investigation engages the audience especially with a six foot plus female trying to be inconspicuous. However, the exhilarating storyline belongs to Nostalgia City's early 1970s theme that captures much of the era's pop culture; especially for baby boomers who heard "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan on AM and watched the first showing of the soaps and All in the Family.

River Of No Return
David Riley Bertsch
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451698039, $26.99,

If Jackson Hole, Wyoming fishing guide and B&B owner Jake Trent knows that any thoughts of returning to his previous prosecutor life ended with his recent adventures (see Death Canyon) reminding him how much he needs to stay away. However, he reconsiders his reconsideration when former lover Divya Navaysam pleads with Jake to come to D.C. to defeat Idaho U.S. Senator Rick Canart's push to deploy Chinese developed technology SafeTrak to locate illegal immigrants.

When his friend J.P. begs him to find his missing girlfriend Esma who failed to come home from Mexico, Jake immediately agrees. As they search for her, Jackson Police Chief Roger Terrell and his wife Charlotte visit a theme park replication of Jackson Hole in China as invited guests of the owner Xiao. However, Xiao takes the couple prisoners to force the return of his daughter Meirong; who recently vanished in the Jackson area. Meanwhile Divya allies with Xiao to pressure Jake to search for Meirong; while the Feds and the Chinese government want her too.

The second Trent thriller (see Death Canyon) is an exhilarating search and rescue with an international influence that looks deeply at illegal immigration, corrupt politicians and effective lobbyists. The excitingly yet seemingly divergent subplots seamlessly merge into a stupendous storyline that has readers rooting for Trent to save several women in distress.

After the Fall
Patricia Gussin
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091270, $26.95,

In 1992 in Florida, billionaire philanthropist Paul Parnell, due to Tampa City Hospital chief of surgery Dr. Laura Nelson diligent work on the clinical trials of Immunone offers a job to her to replace retiring Dr. Fred Minn as Vice President of Research. At the same time Food and Drug Administration worker Jake Harter has personal needs for the drug tests to fail. If Immunone passes, brilliant Iraqi scientist Adawia Abdul, who discovered it, must return home to create bioweapons of mass destruction instead of becoming Jake's wife. Thus Jake must rid himself of two women (his spouse and Laura) and one man (Minn).

On that same night that Keystone Pharma made their offer, Laura slips on the ice; suffering a concussion and a severe hand injury; the latter ends her career in surgery. As Jake becomes desperate to delay approval, he rigs data and eliminates one of his two female barriers to achieving his obsession. Meanwhile, Fred dies in a hit and run just outside the Four Seasons while Laura begins to analyze what is going on which she ties to Immunone and Jake to killing his only remaining obstacle.

The fourth Dr. Laura Nelson medical thriller (see Weapons of Choice, Shadow of Death and Twisted Justice) is an exciting cat and mouse tale due to a powerful cast especially the vigilant doctor; but particularly brilliant is the lunatic FDA employee's descent into deadly obsession. Anticipating the showdown, readers will relish this winning drama.

Where the Bones Are Buried: A Dinah Pelerin Mystery
Jeanne Matthews
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
MM Book Publicity
9781464203480, $24.95,

Globetrotting American anthropologist Dinah Pelerin accepts a sedentary professorial position at Berlin's Humboldt University where she teaches Native American cultures. Her lover Norwegian counterintelligence agent Thor Ramberg lives with her in the German capital; which makes this the happiest she can remember being.

Eden ends when her mom Swan Calms of the Seminole tribe and Margaret Dobbs arrive together. The two former wives of the late drug dealer Cleon Dobbs plan to blackmail their late mate's criminal partner Reiner Hess if they can locate him. The pair ignores attempts to kill them; instead Swan and Margaret continue their hunt for Hess. At a Der Indianer Club ceremony attended by Swan, a murder occurs with the victim scalped. BPD suspects Swan; so a reluctant Dinah investigates fearing what she will learn and worse what Thor will learn about her.

The fifth Dinah Pelerin mystery (see Bones of Contention and Her Boyfriend's Bones) is a great whodunit anchored by a fascinating look at the city's tempestuous past and the country's enthrallment with Native American historical and present culture. The superb investigation teaches the heroine first-hand how right Sir Walter Scott was in Marmion when he said "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"

Nantucket Five-Spot: A Henry Kennis Mystery
Stephen Axelrod
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203442, $24.95

On Nantucket Island, Preston Lomax is the pretentious prototype of grandiose excessiveness as even the gaudiest of McMansion owners feel his is by far the most affected. Additionally, seemingly everyone who knows him, including his wife and three children, loathes this pretentious fool.

At the same time that Preston flaunts his wealth while failing to pay his drug and whore bills, Homeland Security agents Jack Tornovitch and Frances Tate arrive to look into the viability of an alleged terrorist threat to the Boston Pops. Having worked with these Feds before, Nantucket PD Chief Henry Kennis feels displeasure with Jack coming to town and immense enjoyment with Frances' arrival. When Preston's daughter Kathleen finds her father dead with "Nantucket Sawbucks" jammed inside his mouth, Nantucket PD Chief Henry Kennis leads the homicide investigation. He knows firsthand Lomax's surviving kin as he arrested the two sons (Eric and Danny) in a bar brawl and ticketed Diana, accompanied by married Mike Henderson, for speeding. However the case proves difficult as someone cleverly frames the first two suspects to distract the police from learning the true objective.

Although the second Henry Kennis Mystery (see Nantucket Sawbuck) contains too many sidebar felonies; the prime investigation is a fabulous whodunit; as a shrewd killer plays a virtual performance against the cops. Action-packed, but with an improbable finish; this enjoyable twisting tale brings to life the island in a vivid though more often than not uncomplimentary way.

The Sirena Quest
Michael A. Kahn
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203527, $24.95

In 1994 Silicon Valley billionaire and Barrett College class of '59 graduate Robert Godwin notices the alignment of three seemingly unrelated events except for the day June 17 and the school. The oldest occurrence is the college's sesquicentennial anniversary; the middle happening is the 1959 theft of the still missing Greco-Roman sculpture Sirena from it place at the prestigious Massachusetts school; finally the youngest gala is the class of '74 celebrating its twentieth reunion. Godwin offers a $23 million endowment to his alma mater if Sirena is back in its college locale on June 17, 1994; and $2 million to those who accomplish the feat.

Class of '74 Ray Gorman contacts his James Gang college roommates Lou Solomon, Gordie Cohen and "Bronco" Billy McCormack to discuss finding fame, fortune and the missing statue. Ray begins the quest by meeting with Lou in the latter's hometown St. Louis to start the quest by visiting the late "Mr. Barrett College" Ray Washburn's sister. While rivals including unscrupulous dangerous competitors hunt for Sirena, the middle age fearsome foursome also follow clues that send them hopping all over the country.

As St. Louis attorney Rachel Gold (see Face Value and Trophy Widow) takes somewhat of a respite (she makes a cameo appearance in this tale), Michael A. Kahn provides an exciting treasure hunt thriller enhanced by deep metaphysical middle age identity crises. The entertaining storyline grips the audience once Ray and Lou meet in over the top of the Arch and never slows down as the protagonists and their challengers break the law and take several major missteps. Fans will root for the James Gang as they face several perilous scenarios while realizing finding who they are supersedes finding Sirena.

Jack Staples and the City of Shadows
Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781411080, $9.99,

Only recently have the scales fell from their eyes; Awakened Jack Staples, Alexia Dreager and Arthur Greaves to truly see. Their elderly teacher Mrs. Dumphry informed Jack and Alexia that each is The Child of Prophecy who will lead the Awakened against the Assassin and his horde; and that Arthur is a pivotal Lightning Dancer (see Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time).
In London, the dark servants pursue the trio. After barely surviving the Myzerhal, Mrs. Dumphry leads her students into the royal palace where they will enter a World Portal to escape. However, before they take the few steps to go elsewhere in the world, a betrayal separates the foursome. King Edward escorts Jack to the portal where Elsion takes him to the Forbidden Garden. Alexia meets the Assassin's number one Lord Korah who to her astonishment is her dead father; they bring her as their "guest" to the City of Shadows. Captured by their enemy and paralyzed by fear, doubting Arthur learns why he is important.

Because of the three fully-developed subplots having complex challenges leading to complete climatic confrontations this is much more than just a middle book transitioning from the introductory opener to the anticipated "Last Battle". Besides rotating leads between the "Child of Prophecy" segues and Arthur's dilemma, the Christian good and evil fantasy also deftly uses back stories from a few years ago to add depth to how Jack and Alexia got to this point. Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark "Author" a terrific entry as they write their exhilarating storyline based on "braining up" the middle school audience.

Jim C. Hines
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409685, $24.95,

Five centuries ago, Gutenberg learned to master the magic of Libriomancy. To keep the world safe, he formed the elite Die Zwelf Portenaere Doorkeeper Porters to prevent the spread of magic. Recently in Copper Lake, Michigan teenager Jeneta Aboderin introduced a new spin when she released a snake from her Smartphone. Gutenberg assigned Porter Isaac Vainio to mentor the fourteen year old girl with unique e-book Libriomancy talent (see Codex Born).

Exiled for a millennium, Meridiana returns and possesses Jeneta's body with a short-term goal of obtaining Pope Sylvester II's artifact that would enable her to lead her dead minions in her quest to achieve her long-term objective of ruling the world and beyond. Though Gutenberg took away his Porters' power, and deeply depressed for failing his ward and his assigned mission, Vainio vows to rescue his former apprentice. He knows this means his Porter peers will join their adversaries to hunt him down, and that he and his loyal allies (Smudge the fire-spider, Lena Greenwood the dryad warrior and Dr. Nidhi Shah the psychiatrist) must enter the darkest black market to find the means to rescue the adolescent.

The third Magic Ex Libris urban fantasy is a terrific thriller due to the deeply developed cast; especially the troubled hero who comes across very realistic as he struggles to overcome his sense of loss and his paralyzing guilt. Filled with action, pathos and humor, this is an enchanting entry; but newbies first should read the opening act Libriomancer to understand Hines quantum physics and Codex Born to know how far Vainio fell from grace from being the envy of the other Porters to their scorned foe.

The Stargods Trilogy
Irene Radford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756410421, $18.00

"The Hidden Dragon." The O'Hara clan resists the Galactic Terran Empire takeover. The governor declares them outlaws; taking their business, their home and their citizenship; while their sister Katie vanishes. Kim, Konner and Loki become smugglers, but are forced to make a jump into unknown space. They land their damaged ship on a planet inhabited by colonists who over the centuries turned into a Bronze Age hunting and gathering society. The brothers build a nation in which the inhabitants regard them as the Stargods due to their advanced off-world technology.

"The Dragon Circle." They remain stranded due to a damaged crystal power source. While on board growing new crystals, Konnor notices a beacon that will lead the imperial military police to this world. He believes his ex-wife Melinda is behind this because she wants to prevent him from gaining custody of their son Martin.

"The Dragon's Revenge." Kim and Konner marry local women but the IMPs including Katie invade their new home. The brothers disable their enemy's ship, forcing them to work alongside the natives if they want to survive. Like her siblings, Katie adapts to this strange world. Meanwhile Martin flees from his amoral mother seeking his father. Threatening the planet, Hanassa the dragon takes control of the body and mind of the IMP leader.

This omnibus reprint of the decade plus old thrilling Stargods trilogy affirms that Irene Radford's wonderful science fiction-fantasy amalgam remains fresh. The key premise is the Bronze Age natives' reactions to the technology of space traveling people; the O'Hara siblings become elevated to Stargod status, while the IMP is considered Star-demons; and everyone on both sides of the dispute accepts dragons are deadly adversaries to all humans.

Foxglove Summer
Ben Aaronovitch
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409661, $7.99

In the rural village of Rushpool, North Hertfordshire, two BFF eleven years old girls (Nicole Lacey and Hannah Marstowe) from different families vanish. As the national media picks up the news about the missing tweeners, the local police conduct a search that leads to finding the children's phones in a local war memorial.

London constable Peter Grant becomes involved when his wizard mentor Nightingale sends him to check on whether retired Hugh Oswald is involved with the snatch. After reporting to Nightingale that apparently no "Falcon" wizardry is involved; Peter offers to help DCI David Windrow on the Operation Manticore missing girls' investigation. David assigns him as the second Family Liaison Officer to Hannah's kin. However, as he wishes he was back in his big city environs Peter soon believes something very dark engulfs the area.

The fifth Rivers of London police procedural fantasy (see Broken Homes, Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground) is a thrilling entry as the hero feels out of place rusticating in a small village surrounded by menacing woods. The intelligent investigation anchors the exhilarating storyline (especially the interwoven fantasy elements), but fails to move the overarching Faceless Man theme. Still this is an electrifying Peter Grant wizardry mystery.

Bad Blood
E.E. Smith
Phoenix International
17762 Summer Rain Road Fayetteville AR 72701
9780989935616, $3.99 (E-book),

In 1947 following her misadventures in London where her high school crush and her client died (see Death By Misadventure), Discreet Inquiries private investigator Alexis Smith returns to Sacramento. Her welcome home is her secretary Sandy on her desk while office boy Roger pursues a mouse, and an eviction notice. Once the rodent is herded elsewhere, deceased Frank Faraday's sister Monica Beck arrives. She has three issues that make her confront Lexie over being the one her brother wanted to marry instead of his ex-wife Kate; seeing the couple die in England; and shipping back their ashes and his paintings to his family. Monica's father hires Lexie to trail his second wife to ascertain why she is behaving oddly.

As she resolves the Faraday affair, M15 orders Scotland Yard to investigate whether visiting St. Edmunds College Professor Dr. Gore is a Communist. DCI Martin informs DI Harry Hawkins to get Alexis in for questioning as she knows the teacher. Because she had gotten her boyfriend Harry in trouble with Martin, reluctantly Lexie crosses the pond. Masquerading as a student taking Gore's class, a stunned Lexie knows the teacher is not the man who taught her Forensics Science at Sacramento J.C.

The second Alexis Smith Discreet Inquiries contains two excellent extremely diverse historical mysteries. The Faraday caper is a Sacramento cozy that showcases Lexie's ability to uncover the truth and resolve the dilemma without destroying a family grieving the death of their favorite member. The second case involves a kidnapping with potential global effect; but what makes it a tremendous stand alone is the profound look at people's "better dead than red" reaction to Communism one year after Churchill's Iron Curtain speech declared the Cold War.

Angel in Armani
Melanie Scott
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250040404, $7.99,

Though he has a phobic fear of flying since a college incident, New York Saints baseball team co-owner Dr. Lucas Angelo hires Sara Charles as his helicopter pilot to take him back and forth between the Big Apple and the Florida Spring training camp. Lucas quickly realizes he wants Sara in his personal life too by his reaction to flying with her; since instead of abject terror and out of control panic, he feels relaxed and attracted.

Sara is elated to have a new client as she hopes to save her family business, but detests her reaction to the hunk; as he is Manhattan old money and she is Staten Island working class. As Lucas tries to persuade Sara that their different oils blend perfectly due to love, she has doubts that what they feel can last.

The second Saints baseball romance (see The Devil in Denim) is a nice sports tale highlighted by an All-Star couple. Although the climatic resolutions of their problems feel abrupt like how a visiting team reacts to a walk off homerun, this is a pleasant class warfare contemporary.

You're So Fine
Kieran Kramer
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250009920, $7.99

Lacey Clark's Hollywood resume was a string of bad movies and two former boyfriends. A loner since her mom and stepfather never had time for her, Lacey surprisingly adopts Henry. Knowing her failed time in Southern California is over, Lacey, accompanied by five years old Henry, moves into the lighthouse in Indigo Beach, South Carolina that her recent ex Callum leased for six weeks while he and her former boss are filming on location.

Superstar actor Beau Wilder has performed in several successful romantic comedies. However, when his contract requires him to act in an indie, Beau expects several weeks of artsy torture. Thus he temporarily leaves Los Angeles to reside in a lighthouse in Indigo Beach, South Carolina that he traded Laker tickets for with Callum. Beau and Lacey are attracted to each other and he likes the child, but knows they deserve much more than he can offer them. As he falls in love with mother and son, Beau gives them as much as he can. However, morally his equal, Lacey accepts since she is a purebred GRITS while her beloved may be a product of the south but belongs in SOCAL; she must send him back to the other coast.

This pleasant romantic screwball comedy contains a serious element involving relationship phobia as the two adult leads have bad histories. Like those madcap 1930s films, You're So Fine is over the top (of the lighthouse), but also flows with zany southern charm starring a Hollywood super-heavyweight and a single mom whose most memorable film role was in Biker Aliens.

The Duke in My Bed
Amelia Grey
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250042200, $7.99

In 1815 Hyde Park, intoxicated Heir Club members Marquis Drakestone and Viscount Wayebury race their curricles, when an accident leaves the latter dying. Wayebury tells Drakestone he fears for his sisters as his uncle will inherit the title and ignore his nieces. In front of several lords, the dying man gets the Marquis to make a death bed pledge of marrying his sibling Louisa and to take care of his dog Saint.

Two years later, Bray still has not wed Louisa nor plans to do so. However, she has made his life hellish by refusing any other suitor. At the same time the Ton keeps asking him when he will wed her. Her uncle forces the issue so Bray finally goes to meet his "fiancee" and her spoiled sisters. Bray and Louisa are attracted to each other from the onset but he struggles with her pain in the butt siblings and she has nor forgiven him for failing to keep his vow. Wages including one between them occur over the couple's relationship and pressure mounts until they agree to a marriage of convenience that fails to consider love.

The first Heirs' Club Regency is an amusing historical starring two amiable leads battling whether to marry or not to marry and who proposes. Although the sisters come across as nudniks, subgenre fans will agree this is a sure bet romance.

Hot Blooded
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250060723, $7.99

After two decades of estrangement, photojournalist Iona Campbell decides enough is enough. She plans to come to Scotland to see her father. Instead Iona arrives in time to bury her dad.

Filled with guilt, realizing her perceptions totally wrong and obsessing over knowing who her late father was; Iona researches his life starting with his position as the Dreagan Industries estate caretaker. Her quest leads to her to Dragon King Laith, who had given up on ever meeting a beloved mate until now. As they fall in love, Laith must decide whether he can trust the outsider with secrets her father took to the grave. Additionally Iona's presence has an unknown adversary stalking her with her beloved Dragon King risking his life to protect her.

The latest Dark Kings Scottish romantic fantasy (see Darkest Flame, Burning Desire and Fire Rising) is an excellent entry as fans learn more about the centuries-long war while wondering if a rogue Dreagan or a Dark Fae targets the shocked heroine. Laith is a magnificent male lead as he mentally debates the question whether to reveal or not to reveal while accepting that trust is the key foundation to building a permanent relationship. Iona starts off as the stunned deer in the headlights, but adapts to what she learns about her late father and his friends while falling in love and at the same time not so simply trying to stay alive.

Return to Exile
Lynne Gentry
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476746364, $14.99,

In present day Dallas, Dr. Lisbeth Hasting struggles to prevent a possible measles epidemic that already cost the life of a young mother. As she waits for the arrival of CDC, Lisbeth sees a note with three stick figures written and drawn by her five years old daughter Maggie to Santa asking him to help her meet her daddy. Lisbeth knows her child will never see her daddy becasue barrister Cyprianus Thracius resides in third century Roman controlled Carthage.

Since the love of his life returned to her time, Cyprian has lost everything that matters including his belief in Christ; he wants to die. Instead family friend Ruth persuades him to marry her. With pregnant Ruth at his side, Cyprian finds a purpose to live. However, learning of her mate's deadly fate, Lisbeth, accompanied by Maggie, returns to ancient Carthage only to find she left an apparent twenty-first century epidemic to enter the middle of a third century epidemic.

The second Chronicles of Carthage saga (see Healer of Carthage) is a thrilling time travel medical romance. The storyline starts slow when the lead couple remains eighteen hundred years apart, but accelerates into hyperspeed once they reunite as they deal with a personal crisis and a terrible disease. Although Maggie gets away with causing too many endangerment incidents (parental discipline is lacking), Return to Exile is a winner with a surprise late twist that sets up the next chronicle.

Happy Are The Happy
Yasmina Reza
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9781590516928, $20.00,

In Paris "Robert Toscano" and his wife Odile argue at the supermarket over the tons of sugar products she placed in the cart for the children and the wrong cheese he purchased. Odile's tante Lycee Spanish Professor "Marguerite Blot" looks back over the years to when her now adult children were young and her fear of becoming lonely Madame Compain before the tall female companion and the dog joined the lonely woman. Odile's septuagenarian father "Ernest Blot" knows love or even companionship is not why his wife "Jeannette Blot" wants them buried together as even after death his spouse needs the gossips to believe the image of a happy couple. Meanwhile "Odile Toscano" wonders when her husband became an anxious opinionated pest instead of the the delightful relationship that Lionel and "Pascaline Hunter" share (or not with their son Jacob institutionalized because he claims to be Celine Dion.

The 21 extremely short cleverly interrelated yet brilliantly independent vignettes provide the audience with a contemplative look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the various relationships the eighteen characters have forged. Using everyday life in Paris as a backdrop, the cast desperately seeks affection in diverse ways; deals with loneliness even when residing with a spouse or other family members; and above all else insures the proper public image. Amusing yet melancholy Yasmina Reza asks the Peggy Lee question:" Is That All There Is?" while spinning Jorge Luis Borges: "... Happy are the happy" except frequently the happy wear a clown's smiling face to conceal the unhappy.

The Reluctant Groom
Debbie Macomber
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317418, $7.99,

"All Things Considered." Judd Matthiessen found Seattle stifling so he abandoned his wife Lanni and their now four-year old daughter Jenny to run off to Alaska and overseas. However, the wanderer returned to the Forty-eight when his dying father asked Judd to bring his granddaughter to see him in Montana. However, Lanni has no time for her runaway husband or his father with her realtor business booming and as a single mom (with a caring helpful sister) raising a child. Realizing he made the error of his life when he chose to live up to his dad's mantra that he was no good; Judd prays for a second chance with his wife and offspring.

"Almost Paradise." Twenty-one years old Sherry White desperately needs breathing room from her smothering stepmom Phyllis. Without informing her dad or her stepmom where she plans to spend her summer, Sherry accepts a counselor position at a camp for intellectually gifted children expected to behave like adults. Camp Gitchee Gumee director Jeff Roarke runs a tight ship with no staff hanky-panky and keeping the campers busy with learning activity. Whereas Jeff named the camp after the Hawthorne poem, Sherry thought it was cute to use a children's song. Sherry just wants her seven wizards to have fun and her boss to break his no fraternization rule with her.

These are reprints of two late 1980s romances though their themes are radically different. All Things Considered is a typical second chance at love; while Almost Paradise provides the audience with how adults probably treated the brains of Scorpion when they were kids until Sherry proved "learning can be fun."

The Morning After The Night Before
Nikki Logan
Harlequin KISS
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373179138, $5.99,

At Broadmore Natale in London, Harry Mitchell lectures Izzy Dean on the quality of her latest report; claiming it is flat and dull unlike her earlier work. She sulks out of his office, but calms down until his note re the Ice Age triggers her rage again. Izzy quits.

With plenty of vino Izzy celebrates her freedom from obnoxious Prince Harry. However, the next morning she wakes up stunned to find she shares the bed with the Australian hunk. As amazed and mortified as Izzy is; Harry is equally astonished but secretly pleased though also flustered with the turn of the screw (apology to Henry James) their dysfunctional employer-employee (albeit former) relationship took.

This Flat in Notting Hill contemporary (see Sleeping With The Soldier by Charlotte Phillips) is a lighthearted romance in which the two bickering stars take their battle from the boardroom to the bedroom. Although neither protagonist is likable as he is too formal and she is too easy to enflame, this is a pleasant "love and lust in the city that never sleeps" gender war.

Blood Wolf Dawning
Rhyannon Byrd
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373009367, $5.75

Sayre Murphy and Cian Hennessey knew they were mates, but he ignored her until five years ago when he abruptly left her and their Bloodrunners Pack without an explanation. Heartbroken and confused, Sayre became a hermit while Cian a wanderer without a home.

Though he sacrificed all he desired to keep his mate and his friends safe, depressed Cian concludes that his noble deed failed as his blood enemy threatens his beloved Sayre and the pack. Thus he comes home to confront the nightmare that sent him packing and if he somehow survives the altercation, Cian doubts he will find confession good for his soul when he tells the truth to Sayre and the Bloodrunners.

The seventh Bloodrunners werewolf romantic suspense (see the "Last Wolf" trilogy, and the "Dark Wolf" quartet) is an action-packed second chance (if he survives his personal war and persuades his Sayre) at love paranormal. A stunning key twist re why the lead male left the pack makes this High Noon tale entertainingly electrifying, but also feels out of place in terms of the overarching saga's theme.

Janie Crouch
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373698172, $5.50

Scientist Megan Fuller felt good creating the Ghost Shell technology until she realized the fatal flaw in her logic. She stopped her work and turned to the FBI, but the agent she contacted, Fred McNeil, betrayed her and their country. Now the head of the DS-13 syndicate, Fred arranges to auction off Ghost Shell to the highest bidding terrorist. Desperate the Feds plead with Megan to build a new gizmo that can destroy Ghost Shell.

Following a two week suspension for an altercation with his Omega Sector boss Dennis Burgamy (see Infiltration), Agent Sawyer Branson feels he remains under punishment when his superior assigns him to protect Megan while she works on a nullifier. To prevent Megan achieving the neutralizer, Fred sends lethal operatives to kill the scientist.

The second Omega Sector romantic suspense focuses on the intrigue for much of the thrilling storyline. The attraction between the leads is there from the onset as each shakes the other's world but kept in check by both for personal and professional reasons. Though the climax seems abrupt and it behooves the audience to read Infiltration first as Countermeasures is a direct sequel, Janie Crouch authors a tense thriller.

Heart Of A Hero
Debra Webb and Regan Black
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373698134, $5.50

Though they argue over his wearing shorts, CIA Specialists Director Thomas Casey (see Colby Agency: The Specialists - Bridal Armor by Debra Webb) hires Will Chase to work undercover as a letter carrier in Colorado due to a recent operation he did as a SEAL in Afghanistan. Working in the Durango area of the Rockies, Will and sixth generation trail guide Charly Binali begin dating. Though he hates lying to her re his identity, Will knows national security supersedes his desires.

Casey alerts his undercover agents that a Blackout Key cyber weapon that can breach any software program even ultra-top secret nuclear launch codes was stolen. Meanwhile Reed Lancaster employs Binali Backcountry to lead him and his team into the mountains. Clint Roberts and Charly escort the Lancaster contingent on the hike while Will aware of whom her customer is from Thomas' alert follows with the added incentive besides insuring the safety of his country of keeping his beloved safe.

The second Specialists: Heroes Next Door (see The Hunk Next Door) romantic suspense is a taut drama that starts leisurely but shifts into hyperspeed once the backcountry trek begins and never decelerates until the anticipated Rocky Mountains' final confrontation. Ironically, the initial slow pacing enables the audience to believe in the realistic relationship between the protagonists. Debra Webb and Regan Black provide an entertaining intrigue in which fans will feel we hike the trail with the guides and the lethal clients.

Bayou Hero
Marilyn Pappano
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373279029, $5.50

In his New Orleans mansion, someone violently stabs U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jeremiah Jackson, Junior twenty-seven times and counting in his bed; also murdered by one stab wound to their chests are his live-in housekeeper, her daughter and the gardener. NCIS Agent Alia Kingsley and her former husband NOPD Detective Jimmy DiBiase lead the investigation into the mass murders. Both agree the intended target was the naval official in a crime of out of control rage; while the three other victims were collateral damage caused by them being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jimmy makes it clear to his ex-wife, he wants a second chance, but Alia distrusts him to remain steadfast faithful; as he mass cheated on her when they were married. Meanwhile Alia and a person of interest, the prime victim's estrange son bartender Landry Jackson, are attracted to each other. As three more killings occur, most law enforcement working the case believes Landry killed his father in a crime of passion and the others in a crime of cold-blooded cover-up. The lone holdout Alia believes otherwise, but also fears her falling in love may have rose colored her instincts.

Allowing the citizens of Copper Lake, Georgia a respite, Marilyn Pappano takes her readers to the Big Easy in a terse romantic police procedural. Filled with twists, red herrings and a wonderful but expected romantic triangle, the fast-paced storyline hooks the audience from the moment the divorcees meet at the death house and never slows down until the climatic confrontation with an angry predator.

Undercover Hunter
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373279012, $5.50

After five years away wandering big cities to stay ahead of law enforcement and rejoice in his collection, Calvin Sweet comes back to his hometown of Conard City, Wyoming. Filled with rage for the cops taking away his triumphs, his boys, his corpses that he left there; Calvin plans to start over but change the locale of his spiderweb from the woods to somewhere else. Still he feels good that his job at the crisis hotline should enable him to find troubled boys.

Not long after Calvin's triumphant return, several boys go missing. Wyoming Special Agents Cade Bankston and DeeJay Dawkins arrive in Conard City to assist the locals in catching the kidnaper who they assume is most likely a serial killer. Their attitudes re the opposite sex leads each to detest their partnering; as Cade thinks a woman cannot have his back and DeeJay loathes men as Neanderthals only good for an occasional fling. They seem to agree on nothing except to disagree on everything starting with the car radio. Still making matters even more strained between them is their attraction to each other while understanding stopping a psychopath remains the top tasks.

The twelfth Conard County: The Next Generation romantic suspense (see Snowstorm Confessions, Defending the Eyewitness and Deadly Hunter) is an exciting serial killer novel. Although the taut storyline goes as expected except for the deranged murderer going out of character by targeting one of the leads, the two state cops and the lunatic make for an absorbing cat and mouse tale as each brings diverse baggage to the plot.

The New Cowboy
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American Romance
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373755516, $5.50

A year ago in Montana, anthropologist Avery Bannock and former SEAL turned Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement and Security undercover agent Zane Lawson met at a family gathering. They rarely see each other except on Skype when he chats with his sister Sadie (see In A Cowboy's Arms) as he works in another part of the state, but remain attracted to one another.

After successfully working a drug bust near Glasgow, Zane is reassigned to work in the Pryor Mountain region from out of his ranch, which is next to her grandfather's spread where his beloved lives. Suffering from a relatively mild form of PTSD, Zane recognizes that Avery faces similar mental traumas, which prevent her from forging a relationship with him. Being patient with her, Zane learns whatever impacted Avery occurred when she attended Montana State eight years ago. He persuades her to help him on an investigation into who stole Crow artifacts while also damaging the site of an excavation near Absarokee that Avery works.

The third Hitting Rocks Cowboy family affair (see A Cowboy's Heart) is an absorbing police procedural romance. The protagonists are a captivating couple as each suffers from PTSD but extremely differing degrees and coping measures as she is much more crippled than he is. Although the lead felon is obvious early on and the leads' respective families are too upbeat, readers (and the Bannock and Lawson kin) will welcome The New Cowboy and his beloved anthologist to Hitting Rocks.

Taming the French Tycoon
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Romance
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373743209, $5.99

Two months ago after finishing his banking business in Cypress, Lucien Charriere visited the ancient ruins on the nearby island Yeronisos. The serenity was ruined when rowdy teens arrived to jump off the cliffs into the Mediterranean. He tried to persuade the last female not to jump as she reminded him of his beloved Sabine; who died in a plane crash twenty years ago that turned Luc into a non-risk taking person. She blows him away, but unbeknownst to him instead of diving Jasmine Martin visits antiquity.

In Grasse, France the iconic House of Ferrier perfume company announces twenty-six years old unknown Jasmine Martin is their new CEO. Her late papa Maxim Ferrier selected her to replace him because of all his children and twenty-one grandchildren; she was the only one with the nose. Only two years ago Ferrer was a great client of Luc's bank. Since the death of the perfume sorcerer Maxim, revenue has dropped considerably and if the spiral continues will bankrupt the firm and harm Luc's bank. Thus he fears the worst believing a tyro as its leader is a loser, especially when he recognizes the charming daredevil on the news. However Jasmine clandestinely created a new perfume to save the family company, but needs Luc's financial support. Their attraction remains strong, but both believe personal distance is critical for the business deal to flourish.

This is a charming contemporary starring two fascinating eccentrics. Her nose agrees with her heart that Luc is the scent of her man; while he struggles with ignoring that Jasmine has become his only flower. Although the ending is over the top of Mont Blanc, Taming the French Tycoon is magnifique.

Shades of the Wolf
Karen Whiddon
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373009374, $5.75

Since her husband David died eighteen months ago in Afghanistan, grieving shapeshifter Anabel Lee receives visits from numerous ghosts except her beloved whom she desperately needs to see. Already a pariah in Leaning Tree due to a dumb thing she did and her seemingly talking to herself, Anabel ignores the haunted spirits pleading with her to help them.

However, when ghost Tyler Rogers arrives, he seems different than all the myriad of previous spirits who have stalked her as he seems almost alive. Additionally Tyler astonishes her by his actions; especially instead of the usual begging her to contact a loved one, he needs her to save his sister Dena held he claims by a serial killing warlock shifting Drakkor. Tyler believes that Anabel possesses incredible paranormal power, but she denies it. Still she agrees to help him starting with a visit to the police. As they work together to save his sibling, they fall in star-crossed love because he is a ghost and she remains haunted by guilt re her late spouse.

With a nod to a paranormal romantic movie (nameless to not give away a critical late twist) from about a decade ago, Shades of the Wolf is a fantastic urban fantasy romance. The ghost and the denier make a wonderful couple as they search for his sister while anticipating a butt stomping from their powerful evil adversary and wonder if their love is a heaven-sent Job like test or a cosmic joke from hell.

Shark Skin Suite
Tim Dorsey
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062240019, $26.99,

In Florida, Serge A. Storms kidnaps foreclosure paralegal Brook Campanella although she is unaware of being abducted as they share plenty of sex heading towards Key West, Meanwhile the police hunt the pair in connection to a pair of recent murders. Though Serge feels somewhat insulted as the TV news anchor barely mentions his twenty other kills, Brook faints. The couple goes separate ways as each diligently but differently studies to become a lawyer. Brook attends law school; on the other hand Serge assiduously watches legal thriller movies like Absence of Malice.

Shapiro, Heathcote-Mendacious and Blatt hires Brook after she saves the home of Hilda and Vernon Rockford from the First American Bank foreclosure. She sits as her second chair to equally inexperienced Shelby Lang on the Sheffield et al v. Consolidated Financial class action suit. The institution robo-signed mortgages ignoring whether the person could meet payments, and when they failed to remit repossessed the home to resell it. Judge Kennesaw Montgomery Boone makes it clear from the onset he believes corporations do no wrong; people do wrong. However, neither the defendants nor the Judge factored in Brook's secret weapon Serge. With his sidekick Coleman, Serge interprets the law applying his unique methodology to insure justice is served except when Molly, in her distinctive appealing way, serves as judge and executioner.

The eighteenth Serge A. Storms thriller is a cutting satirical look at American corporatocracy economic system in which big government (in this case the courts) enables big business; which in turn enables Big Government, etc. in an exclusive symbiotic mutualistic system. Fast-paced with the usual jocular irreverence (see Tiger Shrimp Tango), Serge and his teammates are at their American exceptionalism best.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Sadie's Big Steal
Marla McKenna, author
Alvin Jude Behik, illustrator
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
SoCal Public Relations
9781632687449, $10.99,

The second title by author Marla McKenna, "Sadie's Big Steal" was also written to help support the favored causes of finding Forever homes for animals in need and promoting literacy in children via the game of baseball. The story is told from the viewpoint of Sadie, the family's white dog. Sadie loves to play baseball with the children, and she longs to steal the special stadium baseball displayed on the mantel, that was caught by her mistress in a big stadium baseball game. Sadie hatches a plan with her canine friends Gomer and Gus to steal the special stadium ball. Sadly, the plan involves putting blame for the big steal on a neighborhood stray dog named Rosie. One thing leads to another, and empathy intervenes. Sadie helps her mistress approach Rosie and take her first to the Animal Shelter and ultimately into share her own home and yard forever. Sadie learns that stealing the wonderful stadium ball is a goal that must be replaced with the goal of stealing the heart of true friendship. "Sadie's Big Steal" ends with a fun and fabulous canine celebration and a request for donations to the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation to ensure the animals they rescue can be given to a loving and forever home. "Sadie's Big Steal" is enhanced by charming, colored papercut illustrations of Sadie and her friends, Gomer, Gus and Rosie. A digital entertainment package of "Sadie's Big Steal" is also available as an audio book download with each volume. "Sadie's Big Steal" is a fun experience for children that teaches compassion for homeless animals and joy in the great sport of baseball. Also highly recommended is the following title by the same author and illustrator: "Mom's Big Catch" (9781617777615, $9.99).

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Machines as the Measure of Men
Michael Adas
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9780801479809, $26.95, 452pp,

Synopsis: Over the past five centuries, advances in Western understanding of and control over the material world have strongly influenced European responses to non-Western peoples and cultures. In "Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance", Michael Adas (Abraham E. Voorhees Professor of History and Board of governors' Chair at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey) explores the ways in which European perceptions of their scientific and technological superiority shaped their interactions with people overseas. Adopting a broad, comparative perspective, he analyzes European responses to the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China, cultures that they judged to represent lower levels of material mastery and social organization.

Critique: Originally published in 1989, this new edition of "Machines as the Measure of Men" features a an informative preface by the author that discusses how subsequent developments in gender and race studies, as well as global technology and politics, enter into conversation with his original arguments. Enhanced with the inclusion of maps and illustrations, "Machines as the Measure of Men" continues to be a work of seminal scholarship and a core addition for academic library World History and History of Technology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Machiens as the Measure of Men" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.76).

Tidal Grace
Eric J. Chambers
Frank Amato Publications
PO Box 82112, Portland, OR 97282
9781571885234, $19.95, 139pp,

Synopsis: "Tidal Grace: Family, Fishing and Faith on Yaquina Bay" by Eric J. Chambers is the coming-of-age story of a young man whose colorful Father and Grandpa taught him about the simple arts of salmon fishing and life, while trolling beneath canyon walls on a narrow coastal river. Set in a small Oregon logging town in the 1980's, "Tidal Grace" speaks of life unfiltered loggers and tall timber, the natural world, frozen hands and shaking salmon rods, God, love, redemption, and forgiveness. One is left wondering if just maybe God might be a fun guy, who can find us in both sanctuaries and salmon skiffs. "Tidal Grace" is an authentic story about triumph and pain, growing up, and carving out a unique world view. It is a narrative about life lived devoid of shallow breaths, in nature, doing real things like laughing, loving, hurting, and being together. "Tidal Grace" is iconic Oregon, it's real-life, questioning, and uplifting.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Tidal Grace: Family, Fishing and Faith on Yaquina Bay" is a compelling and memorable read from beginning to end, making it unique, extraordinary, and highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. Simply stated, "Tidal Grace" will linger in the mind long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf.

Philip Donlay
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091393, $26.95, 365pp,

Synopsis: The flames of Donovan Nash's worst nightmare are fanned to life when Stephanie VanGelder, one of those closest to him, is kidnapped in the volcanic powder keg of a lawless Guatemala. With help from his inner circle that includes his estranged wife, Dr. Lauren McKenna, Donovan races headlong into the world of corruption and deception. Battling the kidnappers, as well as the deadly gas and lava from the impending eruption of a volcano, Donovan only has one chance to save Stephanie. Amid earthquakes, volcanic ash, and lava from the eruption, the rescue goes horribly wrong, and Donovan is forced to find a way for everyone, including a mysterious woman who holds the secrets to his past, to escape one of the most powerful forces on earth. "Aftershock" is the story of Donovan Nash, a man battling his torturous past, while struggling to survive the volcano along with those who matter most to him. In the face of impending death, Donovan must garner the courage to endure a shocking revelation he's sought for decades -- a truth that will change him forever.

Critique: A compelling read that is impressively crafted by author Philip Donlay, "Aftershock" is a very highly recommended read and continues the exploits and adventures of Donovan Nash. Solid entertainment, it should be noted that "Aftershock" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Also very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections are Philip Donlay's previous Donovan Nash novels: Deadly Echoes (9781608091096, $26.95 HC, $6.99 Kindle); Zero Separation (9781608090686, $25.95 HC, $15.00 PB, $6.99 Kindle); Code Black (Kindle, $8.49); Category Five (Kindle, $4.99).

The Up-Down
Barry Gifford
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781609805777, $23.95, 208pp,

Synopsis: A novel of violence, of love, and introspection, "The Up-Down" by Barry Gifford follows a man who leaves home and all that's familiar, finds true love, loses it, and finds it again. Pace Roscoe Ripley's voyage is outward, among strangers, and inward into the fifth direction that is the up-down, in a sweeping, voracious human tale that takes no prisoners, witnesses extreme brutalities and expresses a childlike amazement. Here the route goes from New Orleans, to Chicago to Wyoming to Bay St. Clement, North Carolina, on a voyage of discoveries, both anticipated and unexpected.

Critique: With an impressive gift for deftly crafting a complex and interwoven but always entertaining novel, Barry Gifford's unique style of writing is as impressive as it is compelling. "The Up-Down" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Up-Down" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99) and as an unabridged audio book ($13.08).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Get Your Joy Back
Laurie Wallin
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825443398, $13.99, 175 pages,

Help for Parents of Special Needs Children

Laurie Wallin knows from personal experience the challenges faced by families with special need kids. "Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family" is her story. Wallin is candid and transparent; willing to be honest and expose her own vulnerabilities when she talks of the reality of parenting special needs children. She discusses the issues of resentment, the intensity of multi-tasking and the impact of this on siblings and other family members.

The subtitle " - Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family" is a commitment to the reader to offer helpful guidelines and encouragement. Wallin delivers on this promise through the use of:

Probing Introspective Suggestions for self-examination with guidelines and exercises for taking steps to optimize your strengths

A concept for allowing yourself to make room for God sized dreams

A reader friendly format with helpful subtitles for quick review, and assimilation

Chapter Notes and Resource Lists
Next Step Ideas for Application

Practical themes covered in the fifteen chapters of the book include: Forgiveness of yourself, your child, your spouse, your extended family, the professionals, the church and community, and forgiving God.

Wallin is a gifted communicator, a professional life coach with a passionate heart, is empathetic with her readership and knowledgeable in the area of special needs parenting.

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

Jan's Story
Barry Peterson
Behler Publications, LLC
104 Clay Street, Burlington, Iowa 52601
9781933016443, $15.95, 206 pages,

The Devastating Effect of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease

Award winning news correspondent Barry Petersen tells "Jan's Story" and of their journey together in a story of excitement, passion, and of love lost to the long goodbye of Alzheimer's. Step by step and chapter by chapter he takes the reader through Jan's journey into each of the "Seven Stages of Alzheimer's Disease."

Petersen is open and candid in talking about his feelings of devastation, anger and grief as the brain altering disease Early Onset Alzheimer's takes control and dominates every area of life in a downward spiral unpredictable and all consuming. He tells of the private agony of loneliness, overwhelming feelings of depression, and the ongoing battle with exhaustion.

The pages are filled with personal experiences, correspondence with family and friends, advice from medical professionals, fellow travelers, and well-meaning acquaintances. In this dramatic story Peterson provides the reader valuable information and helpful hints for fellow travelers on their journey with Alzheimer's.

I personally gained:

New perspectives on the reality of day to day life and the growing sense of loss, a sense of discovery into the little windows of the Disease and the realization of being increasingly alone.

Help to cope with the sense of isolation, loneliness, denial and the delusion of normalcy or improvement.

The dangers of ignoring a growing awareness of the results of Caregiver stress.

How to deal with times when it seems that all dreams are ending.

The relief of distraction.

And the realization that I am not alone in this journey.

There were times in my reading when my tears blurred the print or when I just stopped reading to reflect on our own journey with Alzheimer's. Reflective moments recalling cherished memories of those days that pre-date the realization that building memories for "us" was in reality building memories for me.

Resource suggestions and discussion questions are provided for further reading, personal contemplation or for group discussion, ideal for use in a reader's or support group.

A beautiful story, of love, trauma, renewal, and hope.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Edinburgh Cuckoos
Wentworth M. Johnson
I & W Johnson Books
383 Jackson St. West, Hamilton, Ontario Canada L8P 1N2
9781493680320 $17.10 (Can), $14.99 U.S.,

Wentworth M. Johnson hails from Canada, and is a prolific writer of mystery and science fiction novels. Born in England, Johnson is the great grandson of William Edward Bourne, playwright, dramatist, and producer. Johnson spent time in the Royal Air Force in Borneo, the South China Sea, and Nairobi. He moved to Canada in 1967 and worked first in munitions and lumber, then at a television station. After retirement he embarked on writing, flying scale model aircraft, collecting British stamps, and playing woodwind instruments, including the bagpipe.

"Edinburgh Cuckoos" is Johnson's third novel in the Bill Reyner mystery series. Bill Reyner is a rich, dashing, and scatterbrained private eye with a talent for getting himself in and out of scrapes, but with good results. He is a doting grandson to his extremely sharp grandmother, who cajoles and manages his adventures. Gran dispatches Bill and his English language slaughtering friend, Newf, to the Scottish Highlands to investigate a possible kidnaping/murder/identity swapping. Gran and her partner, ex-Detective Inspector Spadafora, operate a plush tearoom in England and must stay to tend their business. Dagwood Beamish, the missing woman's fiance, fills them in:

"His expression changed; you could see the distance in his eyes. 'One day, she read this advertisement in a magazine or something. She told me the idea had come to her to take a vacation. I wasn't invited.' A tear trickled down his face as he recalled the incident. 'I was against it right from the start but, well, what could I do. My post was to care for the house, while Miss cloe visited the old country. I rue the day. I knew something was terribly wrong when I met her on the homecoming. Faithfully, I awaited Cloe in the airport. She wore black.'"

Johnson's mysteries are full of wonderful backdrops, characters, and quirky situations. Bill Reyner is an original PI, and his friend Newf, never fails to entertain.

Earth on the Edge
P. Jo Richmond
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587902932 $15.95, e-book $5.95,

P. Jo Richmond is a retired State employee who furthered her education by earning a masters in Creation Spirituality from Naropa University, and then later became ordained by the Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley as an interfaith chaplain. Her main focus is hospice.

Callie Simms and her sister Meg form the nucleus of a group that is contacted via dreams by a group of advanced, disembodied members of the lost civilization of Atlantis. This inter-dimensional group is alarmed at the multiple problems facing earth: overpopulation; school and societal violence; corruption; loss of faith; superbugs; and climate change. With the elder's help, various groups are formed on earth to teach the concept of "preventing preventable suffering:"

"'I'm going to give you an oversimplification, and still it will seem like a lot to take in. In order for humans on earth to align with the cosmic forces that are shifting into new alignments, they must come to understand that preventing preventable suffering is as important as anything else they can do.' He paused."

P. Jo Richmond advances and evolutionary idea in this fascinating book about interactions between humans who are doing higher work on earth and their counterparts who have advanced to a higher dimension. It is a movement, and one that is badly needed in our present world situation, where too many people have "gone off the rails." Richmond's carefully constructed book gives us hope that there is still some sanity in the universe, and that as individuals we can do our part to create positive energies. A wonderful read!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Veterinarian
Wigu Publishing
P.O. Box 1800, Sun Valley, ID 83353-1800
9781939973146, $12.95, 60pp,

In this delightful learning story we meet, Sofia. Sofia longs to have a pet of her own, but Mom knowing how much responsibility they are, is reluctant to allow her to. However things are about to change when they are visited by a homeless hungry cat, who is carrying more than they expected.

First off, this book brings front and center the reluctance that parents have to allow a pet in their home, and it deals with this issue very well. Moving along in the read, the story shows how the family worked together for the happiness of a stray animal and the family in general. I was very impressed with this part of the story where the cat is taken to the Vet. Not only did this show compassion for a stray animal, but you will be surprised at the knowledge you will learn about Veterinarians. I was amazed at the different callings Vets can walk in. I found this information excellent.

So, this book does several things: One, it is a great family story, showing how they can work together to bring happiness to each other, and how important being responsible is. Two, it is also a story that shows kindness to lost animals, and I liked it. On top of all that it gives you knowledge about Vets that I'm sure most of us never realized. I loved this section of the read. You are also going to be impressed with the illustrations and pictures that help to bring to life the words you are reading. This is one whooper of a learning book, that is so enjoyable in the story line, perhaps at first, you will not realize how much you learned until you are finished. Very highly recommended, excellent read.. Well worth your consideration.

Bonners' Fairy
Elizabeth Patterson
Vigilante Publishing Group
9780692344095, $12.00, 314 pages,

Right off I am going to say that this book is an excellent read that will grab you and not let go. It is a story about fantasies, those things that we have all read, dreamed and thought about in our lives, from young to old. It is a story of adventure, hidden mysteries in this world and beyond, awakening to beings that you have often thought of, could that be true? but never dared to say yes. If you love mystery and adventure you will love this read, it will pull you in and have you still thinking of this story well after you have finished the read. Great job.

The Legend of Waterhole Branch
Lucas R. Wright
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781496942999, $31.99, 392 pgs,

At first, I wasn't quite sure I could really get into this read, but I was wrong. I was surprised at how quickly it did pull me in and keep me reading. This is a story about greed, about a Legend that at first you may wonder if it is true or not. It is a story about lost and found love, about trust, and years gone by, and it is a tale whose ending will leave you smiling. The characters were well developed from the bad and ugly to those you will be cheering along. It's important in a read that if you can emerge yourself in the characters and with this read you can. They are truly brought to life. The story is an adventure, yet draws you into a love affair of a life time. I really got into this story and found myself picking it up to read every chance I had. I think it is well worth your consideration. Recommended.

Paul Janson
JM Publishing
9780578142494, $14.95, 200pp,

In this read we are taken in the lives of a special family. Mom, Dad, two daughters and two cats. However, it is the cat, Oxyn, who takes front and center in this tale. Onyx is like no cat that you have ever know. He is mystical, mysterious, cunning and adorable all in one. However, what he does in the lives of those in this book is above amazing. I found myself totally drawn into this story and finished it in two nights. What takes place is both unbelievable for the natural mind, but quite believable for those who are not afraid to stretch their imagination and understand more goes on in our world than we could ever imagine. I am one of those. This is a very good book that I am proud to recommend. If you believe that things happen that we have no answers of why, you will love this one. Truth or fiction, it doesn't matter, you will close the book smiling.

Honey the Dixie Dingo Dog
Allen Paul
Telemachus Press, LLC
7652 Sawmill Road, Suite 304, Dublin, OH 43016
9781941536711, 138pgs,

There are some stories that you read that will change your life in one way or another, and this book certainly did that to me.

I am a animal lover and protector, but I knew very little abut Dingo's, this book was quite an eye opener. Written in a wonderful story way you will travel along with the life of one amazing Dingo who would achieve the name, Honey. You will learn where the Dingo's live, how important they were to the American Indians, and how important they are to us today. It is a tender story that calls to us all to wake up and appreciate this beautiful creature. I hope everyone in America reads this book. I hope you will stop now and order your copy and once you read it you will share thAt first, I wasn't quite sure I could really get into this read, but I was wrong. I was surprised at how quickly it did pull me in and keep me reading. This is a story about greed, about a Legend that at first you may wonder if it is true or not. It is a story about lost and found love about trust, and years gone by, and it is a tale whose ending will leave you smiling.

The characters were well developed from the bad and ugly to those you will be cheering along. It's important in a read that if you can emerge yourself in the characters and with this read you can. They are truly brought to life. The story is an adventure, yet draws you into a love affair of a life time. I really got into this story and found myself picking it up to read every chance I had. I think it is well worth your consideration. Recommended.

The Scallway Solution
Trevor Newland
Mosaic Press
9780889629905, $14.00, 64pgs,

This is a adventure story about Pirates, I'm sure just about everyone remembers Black Beard, the mean Pirate that he is, but what do you think happens when he and his men attacks another group of Pirates, will they survive? Or does Black Beard do them in? This is a short action packed read, the kind of good guys (are their good Pirates), against bad guys. Who will win, and how will they do it? This is a cute story with a good story line and a very good ending. Illustrations are very colorful, big and bright. I loved the look on the faces as the story moved along. Good job. Fun read.

The Scallywag Solution
Trevor Newland
Mosaic Press Publishing
9780889629905, 64pgs,

This is a adventure story about Pirates, I'm sure just about everyone remembers Black Beard, the mean Pirate that he is, but what do you think happens when he and his men attacks another group of Pirates, will they survive? Or does Black Beard do them in? This is a short action packed read, the kind of good guys (are their good Pirates), against bad guys. Who will win, and how will they do it? This is a cute story with a good story line and a very good ending. Illustrations are very colorful, big and bright. I loved the look on the faces as the story moved along. Good job. Fun read.

The Child In Our Hearts
Paul Janson
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781105264443, $14,00, 28pgs,

This is a very interesting book. The topic, having a child in your heart. I know you are asking, what does that mean? So was I until I read this book. Our author, Paul Janson, takes us into the lives of a man and wife who both feel the stirring of a child in their heart. However, this child was one that was not conceived by the couple, but that is the whole idea behind this read. It is to show that the longing inside for a child to complete a couples lives does not have to be just one that is created among themselves. No, their child in the heart was found another way, and when they saw this child, they knew he was the child of their heart.

This is a wonderful book with great illustrations. The book truly shows that there isn't just one way to have a child to love and be part of your lives. It is a very tender read, with a great message. Recommended

Christmas 'Lilly': Starlette Universe, Volume 2
Kathy Johnson
Starlett Universe Publishing
9780692351932, $9.99, 32pp,

From the front cover right to the end of this wonderful book we are taken into the world of Christmas. As always you are drawn to the cover of this delightful book. Lilly welcomes you to her Christmas story, surrounded with Christmas decorations and joy the cover brought a smile even before I opened the book to read.. I liked that. You will be taken into a Christmas Wonderland, surrounded with adorable, loveable animals, dressed in Christmas array, yummy goodies and of course Santa Clause Himself, and perhaps the best, presents. Who doesn't like presents?

However, don't think Evil Eva isn't going to show up wanting to ruin the fun for everyone, to the point of destroying Christmas. Oh no! What do you think will happen? As always this is another great book that I'm sure will become a family tradition to read together every Christmas. It's bright and colorful, fun, and adventurous, but most important it honors the true meaning of Christmas. I can see this book being a family favorite for years to come. Well done.

T-Bones Traveling Circus
Janice Viraht
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478729105, $11.95, 25pgs,

I found this to be such a delightful book. First of all I loved how colorful it is. The cover has a drawing effect to it that makes you want to sit down and see what is inside, and you will not be disappointed. We meet Rita Bonita a poor little horse who is the victim of bullying. One sad baby, but her world is about to be turned around when she meets up with several young, misfit friends and a circus. With them she is accepted and loved, and her world is turned around.

in this read you and your child will be reminded of the cruelty of bullying. It is a sad fact that this type of behavior goes on day by day. In this read children will see how sad and rejected it can make another, even if it is a animal, and how kindness and acceptance can charge the world around for the bullied person. The illustrations are top-notch and the story is simple, yet has deep meaning that is brought front and center. This book addresses a serious problem by showing those under attack they are not alone, are not below others and can find friendship and love. Well done, great read.

If You Were Me and Lived in Greece
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497526181, $21.00, 22pp,

I am always thrilled to receive a book from this wonderful series written by, Carole Roman. In each book that she pens she shares with the reader the lifestyle and important facts of the current country, fun facts, and just enjoyable information.

In this read we learn about the Country of, Greece. We are shown what the children's names may be when they are born, what type of food they eat, some of the Country's main attractions. We are also given some very eye opening illustrations that definitely bring the story to life. This entire series of books are all pretty much filled with the same information, but different for each Country, yet they fill your mind with knowledge in a fun and enjoyable way.

Reading about Greece made me want to know more, and if I get a chance to visit this Country. That shows some great writing. Illustrations are colorful, inviting and eye opening. This definitely is a series of books that any parent would be wise to have on hand for their children. They are full of important information, written in a captivating way that will hold the attention of young and old. As always, very well done and I am happy to highly recommend this book and all the others in this outstanding collection.

If You Were Me and Lived in Peru
Carole P Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
978149964069, $21,95, 29pp,

As I opened this book in this delightful series by author, Carole Roman I knew I was in for adventure and a great learning experience. Inside was full of interesting facts about Peru, told in a way that is captivating, and brought to the mind's eye with brilliant and real to life illustrations. As in the other books of this outstanding series you will learn many facts abut Peru, famous places, foods, activities and so much more. It is a definite learning experience, without even realizing you are learning. Your children will love this books, and this entire series. Every book is unique to the Country you are learning about, and every book is a adventure all of its own. Very well done, highly recommended.

Fibbet The Frog And The Tadpoles
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499145977, $9.99, 32pp,

Adventure, adventure, adventure, is always the case as we start another adventure with Captain No Beard. However, this time we are looking for Fribbet the frog. Where could he be? Finally he is found and he has a big problem. In this adventure his friends all join together and help him solve it. As always this tale will help to teach your child how to address situations in the world we live in, in a caring and productive way, as the group of friends help Fribbet to overcome his fears. This is a great learning read for young and old. The illustrations are as usual very good, helping to bring the story to life. Learning lesson in this read that all friends would benefit from. Well done as always, recommended

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Tote Hughes
Miami University Press
356 Bachelor Hall, Oxford, OH 45056
9781881163558, $15.00, 224pp,

Synopsis: When Pinson Charfo wakes one morning to find a strange note at his bedside from a Mr. Ralfo to a Mr. Cormill, neither of whom he knows, it proves to be the first in a series of odd clues designed specifically for him to follow, embroiling him in a complex mystery featuring plagiarized manifestos, narcotized cultists, the search for pornographic prints, and a busted fountain whose runoff forms an underground lake beneath the never-named city's unsuspecting feet. Tote Hughes's "Fountain" is a metaphysical detective story unlike any other, a comic tour de force set in a labyrinthine world of shifting signs and dreamlike insolubility.

Critique: Erudite, complex, deftly constructed, and a fully engaged and engaging read from beginning to end, "Fountain" is a compelling and highly entertaining read -- a seminal work of original literature that will linger in the mind long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for community and academic library literary fiction collections, it is interesting to note that the author, Tote Hughes, is currently working at the CERN facility in pursuit of a doctorate in high energy physics.

Sympathy For The Devil
Michael Mewshaw
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374280482, $24.00, 224pp,

Synopsis: Detached and ironic; a master of the pointed put-down, of the cutting quip; enigmatic, impossible to truly know: This is the calcified, public image of Gore Vidal -- one the man himself was fond of reinforcing. "I'm exactly as I appear ", he once said of himself. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water ". Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, a memoir of his friendship with the stubbornly iconoclastic public intellectual, is a welcome corrective to this tired received wisdom. A complex, nuanced portrait emerges in these pages - and while "Gore" can indeed be brusque, standoffish, even cruel, Mewshaw also catches him in more vulnerable moments. The Gore Vidal the reader comes to know here is generous and supportive to younger, less successful writers; he is also, especially toward the end of his life, disappointed, even lonely. Sparkling, often hilarious, and filled with spicy anecdotes about expat life in Italy, Sympathy for the Devil is an irresistible inside account of a man who was himself (faults and all) impossible to resist. As enlightening as it is entertaining, it offers a unique look at a figure many only think they know.

Critique: Gore Vidal (b. Eugene Louis Vidal, 3 October 1925 - 31 July 2012) was an American writer (novels, essays, screenplays, stage plays) and a public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and a polished style of writing. Vidal was a Democratic Party politician who twice sought elected office; first to the House of Representatives (New York State, 1960), then to the Senate (California, 1982), but is best know to the general public for his erudite and acerbic wit. "Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal" is the kind of intimate story that could only be told by someone who was a close personal friend and had an impressive writer's skill themselves. Very highly recommended reading for all Gore Vidal admirers, it should be noted that "Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Mimetic Politics
Roberto Farneti
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611861488, $19.95, 194pp,

Synopsis: War, violence, and the disruption of social orders are critical areas of focus in mimetic theory, and a mimetic perspective applied to the study of politics illuminates social processes and phenomena over and beyond typical explanations offered by mainstream political science. Unlike traditional political science ontology, the mimetic perspective highlights neither individuals nor groups, but "doubles," or "mimetic twins." According to this perspective, in order to grasp the fundamental rationales of political processes, we need to concentrate on the distinctive propensity of either individuals or groups to engage in mimetic contests resulting from their unreflective disposition to imitate each other's desire. This disposition has been strikingly described by the French-American anthropologist Rene Girard: "Once his basic needs are satisfied (indeed sometimes even before), man is subject to intense desires, though he may not know precisely for what." Via mimetic theory, Roberto Farneti (Assistant Professor of Politics, School of Economics and Management, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy) highlights phenomena that political scientists have consistently failed to notice, such as reciprocal imitation as the fundamental cause of human discord, the mechanisms of spontaneous polarization in human conflicts (i.e., the emergence of dyads or "doubles"), and the strange and ever-growing resemblance of the mimetic rivals, which is precisely what pushes them to annihilate each other.

Critique: A critically important work of seminal scholarship, "Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics" is enhanced with twenty-four pages of Notes, a ten page list of References, and a twenty-one page Index. Extraordinarily erudite and deftly presented, "Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics" is strongly recommended for academic library Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that "Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Communities of Death
Adam C. Bradford
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826220196, $60.00, 264pp,

Synopsis: To modern readers, the 19th century literary depictions of death look macabre if not maudlin. Yet this sentimental culture of mourning and memorializing provided opportunities to the bereaved to assert deeply held beliefs, forge social connections, and advocate for social and political change. This is especially germane to the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. In "Communities of Death: Whitman, Poe, and the American Culture of Mourning", Adam C. Bradford (Assistant Professor of English, Florida Atlantic University) explores the ways in which the ideas, rituals, and practices of mourning were central to the work of both authors. While both Poe and Whitman were heavily influenced by the mourning culture of their time, their use of it differed. Poe focused on the tendency of mourners to cling to anything that could remind them of their lost loved ones; Whitman focused not on the mourner but on the soul's immortality, positing an inevitable reunion. Yet Whitman repeatedly testified that Poe's Gothic and macabre literature played a central role in spurring him to produce the transcendent Leaves of Grass. By unveiling a heretofore marginalized literary relationship between Poe and Whitman, Professor Bradford rewrites our understanding of these authors and suggests a more intimate relationship among sentimentalism, romanticism, and transcendentalism than has previously been recognized. Professor Bradford's insights into the culture and lives of Poe and Whitman will change readers' understanding of both literary icons.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized and presented work of seminal literary scholarship, "Communities of Death: Whitman, Poe, and the American Culture of Mourning" is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-eight pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and a twenty-one page Index. Informed and informative, "Communities of Death: Whitman, Poe, and the American Culture of Mourning" is very highly recommended for academic library 19th Century Literary Studies collections, as well as Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe supplemental studies reading lists. For non-specialist general readers with an interest in Whitman and Poe, it should be noted that "Communities of Death: Whitman, Poe, and the American Culture of Mourning" is also available in a Kindle edition ($47.99).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Stakeholders in Action
Rita Cancino & Lise-Lotte Holmgreen, editors
Aalborg University Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9788771121841, $45.00, 238pp,

Synopsis: The relationship between organizations and the communities in which they operate has been the focus of much attention over the past decades, both in real-life organizational contexts and in research. From an organizational point of view, a central concern in this development is the identification of stakeholders and stakeholder roles, which may pave the way for dedicated management and communication strategies to enhance and bolster relationships. "Stakeholders in Action" by Rita Cancino follows in the footsteps of the many researchers who have studied and explored the field. However, as opposed to much of the current literature, which often takes a primarily theoretical approach to the study of stakeholders and stakeholder management, the chapters in this volume are first and foremost focused on the practical aspects of the field. Thus, through seven separate case studies, "Stakeholders in Action" discusses how stakeholders are constructed implicitly and explicitly in corporate and institutional contexts, investigating the possible consequences of these constructions for the communication and engagement between stakeholders and organizations.

Critique: A corporate stakeholder can affect by the actions of a business as a whole. The stakeholder concept was first used in a 1963 internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute. It defined stakeholders as "those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist ". The theory was later developed and championed by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide acceptance in business practice and in theorizing relating to strategic management, corporate governance, business purpose and corporate social responsibility. "Stakeholders in Action" is a compilation of major articles based upon solid research findings and covers private, public, and NGO corporate and institutional forums. An impressive and seminal body of scholarship, "Stakeholders in Action" is recommended as a core addition to corporate and academic library Business Management Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Making Waves
Scott M. Peters
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472072576, $65.00, 328pp,

Synopsis: Michigan will always be known as the automobile capital of the world, but the Great Lakes State boasts a similarly rich heritage in the development of boat building in America. By the late nineteenth century, Michigan had emerged as the industry's hub, drawing together the most talented designers, builders, and engine makers to produce some of the fastest and most innovative boats ever created. Within decades, gifted Michigan entrepreneurs like Christopher Columbus Smith, John L. Hacker, and Gar Wood had established some of the nation's top boat brands and brought the prospect of boat ownership within reach for American consumers from all ranges of income. More than just revolutionizing recreational boating, Michigan boat builders also left their mark on history -- from developing the speedy runabouts favored by illicit rum-runners during the Prohibition era, to creating the landing craft that carried Allied forces to shores in Europe and the Pacific in WWII. In "Making Waves: Michigan's Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000", Scott M. Peters explores this intriguing story of people, processes, and products of an industry that evolved in Michigan but would change boating across the world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and chronologically organized and presented by Great lakes boating enthusiast Scott M. Peters (who is also the Curator of Collections, Michigan Historical Museum, Lansing, Michigan), "Making Waves: Michigan's Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000" is enhanced with the inclusion of two appendices, twenty-eight pages of notes, a twenty page selected bibliography, and a thirty-five page index. Informed and informative, "Making Waves: Michigan's Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Nautical History and Michigan History collections. An ideal study for non-specialist general readers with an interest in Michigan's boat building industry, it should be noted that 'Making Waves: Michigan's Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000" is also available in a paperback edition (9780472052578, $28.95), and in an ebook edition (9780472120987, $28.95).

Down On Cyprus Avenue
Paul Charles
Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9780802313584, $29.00, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Down On Cyprus Avenue" debuts a new mystery series by Paul Charles. Formerly retired policeman Brendy McCusker is forced to return to work following his wife's flight to America with their nest-egg. On his first major case in Belfast he partners with DI Lily O'Carroll to locate the two missing sons of a wealthy businessman. But before that case is resolved, an American banker working in Belfast is brutally murdered down on leafy Cyprus Avenue and McCusker and O'Carroll are put on the case. While the list of suspects grows ever longer, McCusker find himself juggling his move to Belfast, O'Carroll's frequent blind dates, his status as a hired-back rent-a-cop, and being a single man while trying hard not to have his head turned by Belfast's beautiful women - one mysterious one in particular. There is no relief when McCusker and O'Carroll eventually find a suspect with an air-tight alibi, which only one of the detectives believes is genuine.

Critique: A compelling read, "Down On Cyprus Avenue" clearly documents author Paul Charles as a master of the mystery/suspense genre. Deftly crafted plotting replete with surprise twists and unexpected turns which are populated with memorable characters, "Down On Cyprus Avenue" is a genuine page-turner of an entertainment that will leave the reader looking eagerly toward the next Brendy McCuster novel! Simply stated, "Down On Cyprus Avenue" is very highly recommended for mystery genre fans and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "Down On Cyprus Avenue" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Conscious Evolution
Barbara Marx Hubbard
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608681174, $15.95, 296pp,

Synopsis: In this era of government gridlock, economic and ecological devastation, and seemingly intractable global violence, our future is ever more ripe for (and in need of) fresh, creative reimagining. With her clear-eyed, inspiring, and sweeping vision of a possible global renaissance in the new millennium, "Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential" by Barbara Marx Hubbard shows us that our current crises are not the precursors of an apocalypse but the natural birth pains of an awakened, universal humanity. This is our finest hour. "Conscious Evolution" highlights the tremendous potential of newfound scientific knowledge, technological advances, and compassionate spirituality and illustrates the opportunities that each of us has to fully participate in this exciting stage of human history. As we do, we will bring forth all that is within us and not only save ourselves, but evolve our world.

Critique: Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. Social behaviors can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient: Mutually beneficial - a behavior that increases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient: Selfish - a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the actor, but the recipient suffers a loss; Altruistic - a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the recipient, but the actor suffers a loss; Spiteful - a behavior that decreases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient. Deftly written and impressively presented "Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential" is enhanced with the inclusion of an appendix (The Evolutionary Communion and Evolutionary Chakra Meditations; eight pages of Endnotes; and a two page 'About the Foundation for Conscious Evolution'. "Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Social Evolution reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Lanterns of the King of Galilee
Ibrahim Nasralla, author
Nancy Roberts, translator
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774166662, $22.95, 608pp,

Synopsis: In eighteenth-century Palestine, on the shores of Galilee's Lake Tiberias, visionary political and military leader Daher al-Umar al-Zaydani undertakes a journey toward the greatest aim anyone could hope to achieve in his day: the establishment of an autonomous Arab state. To do so he must challenge the rule of the greatest power in the world at the time-the Ottoman Empire-while translating the ideals of human dignity, justice, and religious tolerance into concrete daily realities.

"The Lanterns of the King of Galilee" is a compelling story of love and loss, victory and defeat, loyalty and betrayal by award-winning poet and novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah, who brings Palestinian history alive with a set of characters and events both real and imagined to capture the essence of a rich and dramatic epoch in the turbulent annals of a land that has been fought over for millennia.

Critique: An impressive and deftly crafted and complex novel by an extraordinarily gifted author, "The Lanterns of the King of Galilee" is now available in an expertly presented translation and is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Jesus of Nazareth
Jens Schroter, author
Wayne Coppins & S. Brian Pounds, translators
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781481301992, $49.95, 325pp,

Synopsis: In "Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World", noted German New Testament scholar Jens Schroter directly addresses the connection between Jesus' humanity and divinity -- how the historical Jesus can also be the Christ of confession. Schroter begins by looking at the modern quest for the "historical Jesus" from its beginnings down to the present. In the process Schroter isolates key questions of historical method -- how can we reconstruct the past? What is the relationship between these reconstructions and past reality itself? Schroter then examines the words and deeds of Jesus, including his death and resurrection, in their Galilean and Greco-Roman contexts. Schroter finally measures the impact that Jesus has had in literature, film, music, and the fine arts. Jesus of Nazareth thus narrates the remarkable story of how a Jew from Galilee became the savior of the world, how Jesus can be said to be both God and human, and how this Jesus continues to exert influence.

Critique: A work of truly impressive and original scholarship, "Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World" is enhanced with the inclusion of maps and figures, as well as twenty pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, a twelve page Index of Scripture and Ancient Sources, and a twenty one page Index of Modern Authors. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World" is highly recommended for community and academic library collections, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in a scholarly approach to the life and legacy of Jesus regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should also be noted that "Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World" is available in a Kindle edition ($39.96) as well.

Reforming Democracies
Douglas A. Chalmers
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231162951, $23.00, 192pp,

Synopsis: Even well-established democracies need reform, and any successful effort to reform democracies must look beyond conventional institutions--elections, political parties, special interests, legislatures and their relations with chief executives--to do so. Expanding a traditional vision of the institutions of representative democracy, "Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda" examines six aspects of political practice relating to the people being represented, the structure of those who make law and policy, and the links between those structures and the people. Author and academician Douglas Chalmers concludes with a discussion of where successful reform needs to take place: we must pay attention to a democratic ordering of the constant reconfiguration of decision making patterns; we must recognize the crucial role of information in deliberation; and we must incorporate non-citizens and foreigners into the political system, even when they are not the principal beneficiaries.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda" enhanced with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Notes; six pages of Works Cited; six pages of Suggested Readings; and a twenty-one page Index. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, "Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda" is especially commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in political science and democratic processes. It should be noted that "Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780231162944, $29.50) and a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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phone: 1-608-835-7937

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