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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 3 March 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

How to Publish Your Children's Book
Liza N. Burby
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004094, $19.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Children's books are the place where wizards live, forests are enchanted, and things are often not what they seem.

Children's book publishing is also the home of editors, agents, marketers, and art directors.

Until the first edition of Liza N. Burby's "How to Publish Your Children's Book: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes" was released, this part of the publishing industry was one of the most confusing places for aspiring writers to navigate as well.

Now, in response to a rapidly changing industry, award-winning writer Liza Burby's has revised and updated this complete guide to making the right children's book publisher say yes to your book for children or young adults.

This newly updated and expanded second edition of "How to Publish Your Children's Book: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes" begins by helping the authors of children's books to define their book's specific category, audience, and marketplace so that they can know exactly where their book "fits in".

"How to Publish Your Children's Book" then shows how to choose the best publishing companies for a children's book proposal, as well as how to write a winning submission package.

Then using the Square One System, "How to Publish Your Children's Book" explains how exactly how to submit a package so that chances for success are optimized while minimizing the author's time, cost, and effort.

Also included is a special section on contracts that will turn legalese into plain English, allowing writers to be a savvy player in the publishing game. Most important, "How to Publish Your Children's Book" will help to avoid the most common errors that so often prevent writers from reaching their goal.

Throughout each individual chapter, children's book writers will gain valuable insight into the typical thought processes of children's book editors, agents, and publishers, as well as practical advice from popular children's authors such as Jane Yolen and Johanna Hurwitz.

Critique: Whether aspiring to write a YA or children's book, or are already a published children's book author, the novice and the seasoned professional will find "How to Publish Your Children's Book" a solid reference guide that will prove to be an invaluable, practical, and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional reference, making it especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference and resource collections.

Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year
Maria Lianos-Carbone
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781945547706, $16.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Maria Lianos-Carbone is a freelance writer, a mom of two, a social media strategist, and a publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women, as well as which is a travel blog.

She has written "Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year" specifically for all the mothers who read all the birthing books, took the Lamaze classes, and made it through labor (mostly) unscathed, but now the baby is home and find out that it's a whole new ballgame!

There are plenty of books and resources about how to properly care for your new baby, but what about caring for yourself? "Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year" outlines the proper care and feeding of mothers during their baby's first year.

From the physical and emotional changes a new mom will undergo to rekindling intimacy with her partner, "Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year" keeps the focus on moms because they (or their baby) can't draw water (or breastmilk, for that matter) from an empty well.

Critique: Sound, sensible, 'real world practical', effective, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year" should be considered an essential and mental health saving read by every new mother -- and even mom's working on the first year of their second, third and even fourth child. While very highly recommended for community library Parenting instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide For The First Year" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Translation as Transhumance
Mireille Gansel, author
Ros Schwartz, translator
The Feminist Press
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781558614444, $14.95, PB, 150pp,

Synopsis: Mireille Gansel grew up in the traumatic aftermath of her family losing everything (including their native languages) to the depredations of Nazi Germany.

In the 1960s and 70s, Mireille translated poets from East Berlin and Vietnam to help broadcast their defiance to the rest of the world.

Winner of a French Voices Award, Gansel's "Translation as Transhumance" is her debut as a published author and illustrates the estrangement every translator experiences for the privilege of moving between tongues and muses on how translation becomes an exercise of empathy between those in exile.

Critique: Providing a wealth of unique and informative insights (ably translated into English for an American readership by Ros Schwartz), Mireille Gansel's "Translation as Transhumance" is an extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking from beginning to end. Part personal memoir and part philosophical treatise, "Translation as Transhumance" is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Translation as Transhumance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.95).

Behind the Moon
Madison Smartt Bell
City Lights Publishers
261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
9780872867444, $21.95, HC, 280pp,

When Julie skips school and sets off with her best friend and some local boys for a camping trip in the desert, she finds herself the target of unwanted, drug-fueled sexual attention. Running away in fear, she takes a dangerous fall down the shaft of a vast underground cave, and it takes two days for her to be rescued. Lying unconscious in her hospital bed, Julie hovers between life and death as she travels in a seductive parallel universe inspired by remarkable cave paintings left behind by prehistoric humans.

Marko, her attacker, tries to cover his tracks, menacing those who know what happened in the desert that night. Jamal, the youngest son in a family of Iraqi refugees living in Julie's small town, is one of his prime targets. He defies Marko, keeping him away from Julie's bedside and refusing to fall prey to his threats of violence.

Meanwhile, Marissa, who gave Julie up for adoption fifteen years earlier when she became pregnant as an adolescent, is following an instinct that leads her back to the daughter she once abandoned. With the aid of Jamal and a local Native American hitman/shaman, she attempts to draw Julie back to consciousness.

Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently gripping novel from beginning to end, "Behind the Moon" by Madison Smartt Bell is a truly extraordinary read and one that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. While highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Behind the Moon" is also available in a paperback edition (9780872867369, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Feed the Baby Hummus
Lisa Lewis, MD
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781945547799, $16.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Parenting practices vary widely between countries and cultures. For example, in countries such as the Philippines, breastfeeding after age one year is common, and parents can make their own decision about what is right for their family. In Korea, babies eat a variety of spices and flavors, helping them develop a diverse palate and healthy eating habits. And in Italy, parents prevent separation anxiety by taking their babies to markets, restaurants, and churches and passing them around from person to person.

"Feed the Baby Hummus: Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World" by Lisa Lewis (who is a practicing pediatrician for twenty years and who currently serves the Fort Worth community at Kid Care Pediatrics) teaches parents to confidently incorporate various multicultural practices into their own caretaking plan.

Pediatrician Lisa Lewis offers the wisdom and proven caretaking practices of the cultures of the world, drawn from her own training, research, travel, and clinical experience. Although certain standards of care must exist for babies to thrive and be happy, "Feed the Baby Hummus" offers a variety of cross-cultural parenting information and baby care guidance from a trusted source.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Feed the Baby Hummus: Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World" is an impressively informative, practical, and thoroughly 'parent friendly' instructional guide that will be especially appreciated by new parents and offers specific feeding tips from more than forty countries from around the world.

Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation
Jane Barnette
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336272, $40.00, PB, 268pp,

Synopsis: A dramaturge or dramaturg is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company that researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programs (or helps others with these tasks), consults with authors, and does public relations work. (Wikipedia)

Dramaturg Jane Barnette (who is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Theatre Department of the university of Kansas) has put together an essential guide for theatre scholars and practitioners seeking to understand and participate in the process of adaptation for the stage. Employing the term "adapturgy" (her personal neologism for the art of adaptation dramaturgy) Barnette redefines the dramaturg's role and thoroughly refutes the commonplace point of view that adapted works are somehow less creative than "original" plays.

The dual nature of dramaturgy and adaptation as both process and product is reflected in the structure and organization of "Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation" .

Part 1 explores the ways that linking adaptation to dramaturgy advances our understanding of both practices. Part 2 demonstrates three different methods (each grounded in a detailed case study) for analyzing theatrical adaptations. Part 3 offers concrete strategies for the dramaturg: dramaturgy for the adapted script; the production dramaturgy of stage adaptations; and the role of the dramaturg in the postmortem for a production. Rounding out "Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation" are two appendixes containing interviews with adapters and theatre-makers and representative program notes from different play adaptations.

Plays adapted from literature and other media represent a rapidly growing part of the theatre. "Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation" offers both practical and theoretical tools for understanding and creating these new works.

Critique: Unique, informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation" is an especially recommended and extraordinary addition to professional, community and academic library Theatre/Cinema/TV reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Adapturgy: The Dramaturg's Art and Theatrical Adaptation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $38.00).

Remember Who You Are
Paula Brown Stafford & Leslie Grimes
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781683506478, $16.95, PB, 162pp,

Synopsis: Paula Brown Stafford is a clinical researcher, business leader, and lecturer. She is a distinguished alumna at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is also an Adjunct Professor. Previously she was president of clinical development at QuintilesIMS, a Fortune 500 company.

Lisa T. Grimes is a business leader, coach and speaker. She has spent most of the last 30 years in healthcare and lifestyle start-ups where she has served as CEO of PurThread Technologies, InSite Clinical Trials and AcSentient.

Together, Paula and Lisa founded Habergeon to help women achieve success, create balance, and experience fulfillment.

Both women draw upon their experience and expertise to write "Remember Who You Are: Achieve Success. Create Balance. Experience Fulfillment" specifically for women who feel they must try to be everything to everyone; who run themselves ragged but still feel something is missing.

In a transparent and relatable way, Paula and Lisa share personal experiences, insights and encouragement (what they themselves wish they would have known starting out some 30 years ago) to women looking for career advancement and quality of life and men who want to improve their working relationships with women.

Each chapter includes a personal letter from a successful female executive to her younger self that offers wise counsel for aspiring professional women. For working women who are still trying to 'have it all' but are left feeling not 'good enough,' Paula and Lisa explain how achieving success, creating balance and experiencing fulfillment begins and ends with Remember(ing) Who You Are.

Critique: Informative, insightful, inspiring, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Remember Who You Are: Achieve Success. Create Balance. Experience Fulfillment" is an extraordinary, effective, and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Remember Who You Are: Achieve Success. Create Balance. Experience Fulfillment" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99). Incidentally, a portion of all proceeds from book sales will be donating to some of the authors favorite charities.

Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide
Amy Duernberger
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611178005, $22.99, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: The "treeless wonders" of the Southern Appalachians are grassy balds that have long baffled scientists and enchanted outdoor enthusiasts. They exist as open spaces, often grassy meadows, found on or near the summits of mountains that are technically below the tree line. Are they artificial, the result of climate change, or something else entirely? While no one knows for sure, their natural beauty is undeniable. "Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide tells the story of these unique ecosystems and offers enthusiasts a guide to nineteen representative hiking trails across three states: Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Each season on the balds ushers in something special: 360-degree views on clear, crisp days in winter, a blanket of wildflowers across the mountaintops in spring, Catawba rhododendron and flame azaleas in early summer, and blueberries galore in the fall. But these unusual places are also under threat. The balds with their adjacent habitats host more than thirty plant and animal species that are endangered or threatened with many rapidly succumbing to new tree growth.

Unique among hiking guides, "Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds" is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on the balds collectively, with chapters on Native American legends and origin theories, European settlement and the effects of grazing, and efforts to preserve and maintain the balds in the face of environmental disruption. One chapter highlights the flora and fauna of the balds. Part 2 describes the hikes, each offering a unique experience, from the majestic wild ponies of Mount Rogers to the amazing pioneer history of Hooper Bald.

"Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds" is the first guidebook to focus exclusively on the southern Appalachian grassy balds. The trails are organized into five geographic areas, with complete descriptions, maps, photos, and historical tidbits. At once a reference work and field guide, "Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds" will encourage outdoor enthusiasts not only to experience the balds but to gain new appreciation for efforts to preserve and maintain these natural wonders.

Critique: Featuring a section of beautiful color photographs, "Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide" is an ideal and instructive reference for planning on-site excursions. Impressively informative and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation "Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide" is a recommended addition to community and academic library Travel Guide collections, and is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

You Only Live Once
Haris Orkin
Imajin Books
Kindle eBook: 9781772233599 $4.99 USD
Trade paperback: 9781772233605 $15.99 USD

You Only Live Once's opening scene presents what looks like a burglar scenario as Flynn breaks into a facility and crawls through ductwork to reach his objective: a room where a sleeping young woman awakens to greet him not with terror, but delight. They are then discovered - but the hulking nurse on duty isn't a threat, either.

In the next instant, readers realize that the seemingly straightforward opening scene isn't really what's actually happening; but by then, they are hooked. You Only Live Once is a thriller set in Los Angeles; but to call it a 'thriller' alone would be a misnomer, because a healthy dose of humor and irony is added to the action to create a story about a misfit in search of a mission.

Much like Don Quixote, Flynn finds himself flailing about rather than being effective, and the story romps through his womanizing, his proclivity for getting into trouble (whether it be bars, beds, or social circumstances), and his sad and painful efforts to rescue women, among other things.

Elements of James Bond - only with an added dose of incompetence and irony - permeate a story line where James Flynn cultivates a kind of fear that makes him "sharp and dangerous" as events carry him far from Los Angeles to a Moorish castle, whose atmosphere he remarks on with a wry sense of humor: "The lair of our nemesis I imagine," said Flynn. "Now we're finally getting somewhere."

From a secret technology and threats of torture to Flynn's unwilling sidekick Dulcie, who finds herself in way over her head, You Only Live Once's unique brand of a bumbling but determined Bond-like figure who has his own way of living makes for an engrossing read offering many satisfying twists and turns.

Fans of thrillers who expect a staid, formula production will be delighted by the various nuances Haris Orkin brings to the table as he introduces a quasi-hero who ultimately faces success despite himself.

Plea for Justice
Liz Lazarus
Mitchell Cove Publishing
9780990937432 $12.95

Amazon Paperback:

Amazon Kindle:

B&N Nook:

Plea for Justice presents two viewpoints that narrate story of paralegal Jackie Siegel and convicted felon Aaron Slater, who have evolved from childhood friendship to find themselves on opposite sides of the legal system, as adults. In high school, it was Aaron who abandoned their relationship, discarding Jackie without any explanation after graduation.

When Jackie sees Aaron (who wouldn't hurt a fly) on television accepting a plea bargain in a murder case, she feels compelled to help; even if Aaron may be relying on their personal history and her professional status. Jackie finds herself confronting not only what was, but what is. Is Aaron just toying with her emotions in his time of need to use her skills to gain freedom; or is something more going on that requires all her professional capability to solve?

Although she's drawn to help Aaron on many levels, Jackie uncovers a series of bizarre circumstances that seem to refute not only what he says, but everything she believes about justice and the legal system's effectiveness as she embarks on the oddest personal and professional journey of her life and career.

Plea for Justice features several unusual approaches that elevate its action and premises beyond the usual courtroom drama. One is the point of view, which alternates from Jackie's observations and experiences to the first-person experiences of "Me," the killer. These two viewpoints, clearly delineated by chapter headings, deftly probe into the emotions of each character and neatly juxtapose the perceptions of each.

Jackie feels her way through an emotional jungle ("A surge of conflicting emotions swelled up in me - overwhelming pity at his physical diminishment collided with buried anger from his decade-long betrayal. But the flash of resentment quickly dissipated and I felt myself back in high school, reunited with my long-lost friend...This was no joking matter and I'm sure reminiscing about high school brought him no joy. I imagine it was crushing to think about the life he had before and the future life that would never be."), while "Me" plays a dangerous game that revolves around IT savvy and disdain of women.

Has Aaron been set up? Or is he a secret psychopath determined to bring down Jackie's best efforts? As Jackie's probe reveals strange truths and a dangerous possibility, both find that their lives and perceptions of justice and the law creates a cat-and-mouse game that focuses on their relationship, throwing out new challenges and deadly ramifications. Is taking a life just a game?

Readers may expect more courtroom drama from this approach, yet Plea for Justice is more about a paralegal's private investigation of a case that seems cut-and-dry to the courts, but holds many unexplored avenues than it is about courtroom proceedings.

Readers who like stories of investigations that hold many unexpected twists and turns will relish Plea for Justice, which tackles entangled emotions past and present, long-hidden secrets, and the specter of a perp who has the perfect alibi to excuse his actions.

The blend of psychological inspection, legal process, and complex, revolving relationships is just right in a mystery that percolates with a satisfying blend of investigative action and thought-provoking revelations from start to finish.

The Wingman
David Pepper
St. Helena Press
9781619848719 $15.99/$8.99 Kindle

The Wingman presents a Jack Sharpe political thriller as vibrant and gripping as Sharpe's prior appearance in The People's House, and opens with a debate in New Hampshire, where Jack is moderating a heated discussion between four candidates for President.

In a game-changing moment during the debate, Jack creates the kinds of questions and conditions which save the day; but his ability to gain an emotional reaction from his audience and a clear viewpoint beyond political posturing from his candidates also introduces a conundrum. As skilled at reading body language as he is at being a political reporter, he finds that the eyes of a ex-military hero who reluctantly tells his war story indicates that something is wrong.

Jack never expected this subliminal hint of discomfort to lead to a powerful political investigation into not just one candidate's war experience; but a series of encounters. They stem from a civil war within the pentagon and politicians who are kidnapped, coerced, threatened, and manipulated in a scenario where the forces lean towards resolving conflict through drones and robots.

The changing nature of how war is conducted portends a slippery slope to a state of permanent, covert warfare; and as Jack Sharpe and fellow reporter Alex Fischer dig into the secrets closely held by DroneTech and their brutal scheme, time is running out for everyone.

When due diligence combines with a nose for troubling truths and a determination to expose deeply-held corruption, anything can happen - and, it does.

One of the powerful facets of The Wingman is that nothing is cut-and-dried. Jack believes his investigative skills and his near-genius Pentagon insider expert Alex create an outstanding investigative approach - but is Jack actually being manipulated and carefully led in predetermined routes that veer from the actual truth?

As the story unfolds, it becomes less obvious and more uncertain as to what Jack's real discoveries are, and how they influence the election process. Mirroring today's political puzzle, readers receive clues that keep digressing and moving deeper and deeper into a closely-held Pentagon secret.

Adding just the right dose of personal perspective, political savvy, tension, and intrigue, The Wingman provides another powerful Jack Sharpe thriller that stands nicely on its own and supplements and supports Pepper's prior Sharpe book. It will engage and absorb readers who look for political scenarios that are frighteningly realistic and compellingly nonstop in their relentless drive to reveal truths and consequences.

The Greatest Good
Craig N. Hooper
Endeavour Press
ASIN: B078WYDBV1 $3.99

The Greatest Good is a powerful suspense thriller that opens with Agent Garrison Chase's lie and the reasons behind his questionable actions, quickly revealing that he's on suspension from his job. His specialty was cybercrimes, but what happens when he lies about an intruder's break-in involves far more personal than professional challenges when he faces the possibility of losing a new job he is slated to begin that day, and thus losing custody of his son.

One first-rate feature of The Greatest Good lies how it builds its story while leaving readers guessing at various points. This approach begins as early as the end of the first chapter, when a police station interrogation session leads Chase to see something in his own house that he hadn't expected.

As cliffhangers are explained in evolving scenes, they succeed in creating a jigsaw puzzle effect in which a myriad of seemingly disparate pieces are created and then begin to fall into place.

Chase's puzzles become the reader's scenarios of intrigue and keep interest levels high and attention riveted to details as the story unfolds, revealing that Chase has a lot to lose no matter what his investigations uncover or how good (or bad) his choices become.

As The Greatest Good develops, a perp with a penchant for explosives and a kid Agent Chase is charged with protecting, who is scheduled to die, become the centerpieces in a powerful cat-and-mouse game in which Agent Chase struggles to keep everyone safe around him, against all odds.

Can a man who made his former living as a spy adequately pinpoint the motivations and purposes of the governor's son, Stanley Tuchek? Can one liar see through the lies of another? And how can he make the best choices for himself, his son Stanley, and national security interests alike?

Something has to be sacrificed for the greater good, and as readers are treated to a breathtaking hop through close encounters with death and special interest forces, Agent Chase lives up to his name and the rigors of his duty in a vivid thriller that will keep readers guessing right up to a conclusion, which embraces an ethical conundrum.

The Greatest Good represents everything a suspense reader could desire from the thriller format: strong characterization, swift action, and an approach that takes time to build its setting, motive, and personalities as it tiptoes through murders, terrorist interests, corruption, and a good agent's desperate attempts to do the right thing. Genre readers will find The Greatest Good a powerful read that stands out from the crowd.

August Murder
T. Miranda
T. Miranda, Publisher
9781973414384 $11.47

August Murder creates a fast-paced thriller about terrorism, murder, politics, and one man who doesn't believe the report of events surrounding his son's death in Puerto Rico, and who assembles a posse of lawyers and investigators to uncover the truth.

The story is actually based on real life - there was such an event in Puerto Rico. Two young men were murdered by police agents on one of the country's mountains, and said agents were later detained at the insistence of the Puerto Rico Legislature, investigated, tried, and found guilty of police wrongdoing (despite other probes that exonerated them, conducted by the FBI and police agencies).

Although August Murder is loosely based on these events, it adds drama, thriller elements, and suspense to wind Puerto Rico's real-world culture and history into the true story.

The underlying focus on political investigations and a web of intrigue and conspiracy, combined with a heavy dose of Puerto Rican politics and cultural insights, lends to a creation which serves to both entertain and enlighten.

It takes a talented hand to wind nonfiction facts into a fictional mystery, grapple with a myriad of characters which prove compelling and recognizable in their own rights through the story line, and maintain a flow of action and drama that easily holds reader attention.

August Murder succeeds in all these aspects, and is a compelling saga of conflicting evidence and motivations for murder, crafting an especially astute eye to capturing Puerto Rican daily lives and experiences: "Mr. Miller, policemen in Puerto Rico don't make a lot of money. The average salary for a police officer is around $30,000, about the same as the average salary for a teacher. For that kind of money, they risk their lives in dangerous places. They have to deal with young delinquents in the projects who may make $30,000 in one week, and who are much better armed than any policeman. It's amazing that more of them are not taking money to look the other way or do worse."

T. Miranda's ability to take a real-world scandal and use its details to enlighten readers about the underlying culture, social issues, and political pressures in Puerto Rico contributes to an outstanding thriller especially recommended for modern readers who would gain a sense of the island's processes and peoples.

The Stronghold
Sebastian Bendix
Fire and Ice Young Adult Books
c/o Melange Books, LLC
9781680465907 $4.99 eBook / $15.95 print








18-year-old Bowie is on the cusp of being an adult at the height of his abilities. Trained in deadly combat, this head of his militia unit is slated to marry a pretty girl and is well on track to inherent the leadership of the Pacific North stronghold when a plane crashes into their island sanctuary, bringing with it a stranger who turns his world upside down.

Now Bowie is fighting for everything he once took for granted, faces an uncertain future, and finds himself entering a world he never trained for in this dystopian survival story.

Bowie is used to testing his abilities - but under controlled conditions. As everything in his life spirals out of control, he discovers that the home he would fight and die for is rejecting him despite his history as a good soldier and his potential to be a potential stronghold leader. Conditions are no longer in his control - and with this revelation, his life's set course changes drastically.

Many young adult dystopian stories center upon individual and group survival, but The Stronghold differs in posing questions about underlying freedom, choice, and what's worth living and dying for: "...I want you to fight for whatever it is that you believe. But don't die for Fort Thunder, Bowie. That was never what I wanted for you." I can't believe he is saying this. Of course I would die for our home! "What better thing is there to die for?" I ask. "A family of your own," he answers. "A life you make for yourself when you truly know what your options are. Not just the options we give you." "I'm fine with those options," I say. But for the first time ever, I'm not quite sure I believe it."

Pandemics and martial law forced the stronghold's existence. Now it's time for Bowie to consider whether that structure continues to be viable for him and everyone else. And once he leaves everything he's loved and called home, can he ever return?

The best dystopian fiction doesn't just focus on a protagonist's challenges and changes; it creates a believable society and world, places its foundations at risk, and follows characters as they face paradigm-changing events and continue to not just survive, but thrive and change.

The Stronghold creates such scenarios for its mature teen to new adult audience, crafts an action-packed series of challenges that include confrontation, downfall, escape, survival and even a touch of romance, and comes full circle to provide a satisfying, unexpected conclusion.

Young adult and adult fans of dystopian stories will find Bowie's military background, convictions, and special determination powers a volatile and compelling series of encounters that will keep readers immersed and involved as an underlying story of special purposes and hidden intentions emerges.

Billy McCoy
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B079KV9HX9 $7.99

Many wish to believe they can change the world. Few can actually achieve this goal. But much of the applause lies in the effort as much as the results; and in this, the protagonist in Awakening excels. But is the act of attempting such change in itself an indicator of some underlying idea that human nature is inherently asleep or tainted; and that those who awaken and strive should be considered rarities or reflections of a disturbance in the force?

Awakening might thwart readers who anticipate and seek a linear progression from their novels. There is no real 'heroine', no true salvation, and no easy summation or an ending where everything wrong is made right and what is obscure becomes clear. Like the most intriguing of philosophical reflections, it's mercurial in its approach to the traditional trappings of fiction - and that is one of its delights.

Readers enter a world where Holly's altruistic determination to save others is not always a good thing. But, how could that be? Does not one of the higher-level pursuits of man involve an effort to better not only one's own life; but those of others? And what happens when an individual who is persuaded that she can make a big difference falls short of her goals?

The story opens with Holly's early years in a tumultuous family with a warring mother and father who are consumed by possessions. Holly hasn't yet had the years or experience to absorb just one of the lessons she'll gain from life: "I hadn't the slightest idea that those much-vaulted possessions were not worth a passing thought, it was all a stinking lie; it was all an illusion of happiness and peace. I hadn't the eyes to see that they were doomed to decay. Moreover, my long arduous path to enlightenment would require me to learn from others and from the natural world, with a dose of stubborn disobedience and experiencing the world for myself."

From the start, Holly has many astute observations of her world's parameters: "Dad, the realist saw the world primarily in patterns while Mom, the dreamer saw the world in terms of immediate appearances." But as time inexorably moves forward to bring with it many new ideas not originally part of Holly's thought processes, she is persuaded to consider a bigger purpose for her life, and pursues this with the same determination she once tapped to survive her childhood angst.

As the microcosm of Holly's life evolves to address and influence the macrocosm of social injustice and the "all lives matter" movement, readers are swept into a journey that holds no boundaries, limitations, or even a logical progression of right and wrong or a promise of personal redemption.

Holly's choices move from awakening and loftier visions to a disturbing series of choices that seem to subconsciously mirror her parents' choices and experiences, and readers begin to realize that nothing about Awakening is cut and dried, or easy. Holly's world is satisfyingly complex, ever-changing, and not always upward-bound; and this mirror of life's actual routes and conundrums is one of the strengths that gives Awakening an edge that shallower reads can't match.

Awakening was viewed as a work-in-progress: better editing will undoubtedly smooth grammatical errors and create a clearer read, correcting the flaws that pepper an otherwise-engrossing novel of philosophical and psychological evolution and social inspection.

Readers who are interested in characters who search for the fundamentals of serenity and peace in their lives will find Awakening is a circumspect and intriguing read that challenges perceptions and set paths of conflict resolution, holds no clear bottom line or easy result, and provides a blend of philosophical read and social justice inspection that lingers in the mind long after its conclusion.

Playing the Pauses
Michelle Hazen
Michelle Hazen, Publisher
9781386099758 $2.99


Barnes and Noble:



Playing the Pauses is Book 2 of the 'Sex, Love, and Rock & Roll' series, and will reach female readers of romance whether or not they have read the prior book, A Cruel Kind of Beautiful.

Romance would seem inevitable when two powerful personalities collide during a rock music tour. New manager Kate is jazzed about her first big international band tour assignment, while 'bad boy' musician and tattoo artist Danny seems to be her opposite.

Kate, having been many things and played many parts in her life, is now operating far outside of her usual comfort zone and is exploring "what kind of person I'm about to become." Part of her process involves a deliberate intention to seek change; but part of it, she acknowledges, comes from chance encounters with life where different roles are assumed: "Tours started out as my consolation prize when I turned out to suck as a musician. Because sometimes the most beautiful things happen by accident."

Sleeping with one's employer is a challenge, particularly when you're business and travel colleagues; but exploring new sexual avenues with S&M adds an extra dimension to the journey.

By now it should be evident that sex is a big part of Kate and Danny's discoveries about each other and the possibilities of their expanding worlds. Readers who are circumspect about the nature and frequency of a romance story's sexual component should look elsewhere; because this erotic story is firmly based in sexual discovery as it presents a woman's growth both as a professional and in her sexual identity.

There are two major loves that Kate and Danny share: a love for music and the road, and a growing love for each other. This creates a collision course even as it opens up new opportunities for play and self-awareness.

Readers receive graphic sexual descriptions, strong language, and an approach that nicely mixes sex scenes with an overall attention to a solid story development.

While their sexual encounter is a central theme of the story, to call Playing the Pauses an erotic novel alone would be to belie its equally strong explorations of the boundaries between personal, career, and sexual growth.

Readers who are not adverse to alternative sleeping arrangements and sexual encounters will find this saga of lives and careers on the road which are challenged by a developing relationship that careens into forbidden territory to be an engrossing, revealing tale of sex, drugs, rock music, and evolutionary processes that reveal many surprises along the way.

Feasible Planet
Ken Kroes
1779671 Alberta Inc.
ISBN (electronic): 9780995847057 $7.99
ISBN (paperback): 9780995847040 $15.99

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Feasible Planet: A Guide to More Sustainable Living joins a host of other books on the topic, but several features and approaches set this discussion apart from similar-sounding books on the market.

Where similar books propose individual actions that involve lifestyle changes based on ideological principles, Feasible Planet considers feasibility's monetary benefits and incorporates a rational approach that ties many different kinds of beneficial economic results to more sustainable choices.

Thus, chapters clearly explain the impact of less environmentally conscious choices, which can be as simple as choosing one type of fabric over another. For example: "A single wash of a fleece (polyester) jacket can release as much as 1 1/2 grams of micro fiber plastic. Half of this will probably not be picked up by water treatment and will end up in rivers." A chart contrasts the impact of different fabrics, with hemp, linen and cotton winning heavily over nylon, acrylics, and polyester. (Many influences are profiled in this chart; from chemical usage to the ancillary effects of cashmere, produced from goats "that can cause significant land damage," or silk, which requires a fair bit of land to produce.)

The notion of 'environmental compromises' enters the picture in a discussion of the issue of hard water, which increases one's environmental footprint, costs money, yet can only be resolved by method which hold their own environmental impact. Knowing exactly what these consequences are or mean can translate neatly to undertaking the balancing act that results in the least damaging and most financially appropriate decisions, which Feasible Planet excels in profiling.

One wouldn't expect discussions of random acts of kindness, humility, and child-rearing to enter this bigger picture, but Feasible Planet promotes a holistic approach that moves from individual choice to family cooperation and community impact, and no real discussion would be complete without such a focus - again, something too often missed in similar-sounding books.

Feasible Planet is in many ways a wake-up call: but it doesn't bat its readers over the head: it gently taps them on the shoulder with facts that directly relate to personal choices.

Real facts, motivations, and consequences for actions all form a solid foundation from which Feasible Planet advocates changes that support economic growth, lifestyle improvement, and both social and environmental consciousness. It's difficult to impart all this without sounding 'preachy' or dogmatic, but another big difference between Ken Kroes and his contemporaries is that his book is invitational and contemplative; not a lecture that makes harsh judgment calls or promotes hard-line approaches.

Sustainability is a big subject that's often overwhelming in scope. Readers newly embarking on the journey towards better choices that begin with the microcosm of daily living and move into broader social, political and economic realms would do well to begin here. Feasible Planet not only provides a road map, but embraces those new to these ideas and processes by providing an easy discussion clearly applied to daily life.

Murder at Venegoni's
Chris M. Rutledge
9781537377957 $13.99 Paper; $9.99 Kindle

Available: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble

Giuseppe Joseph Venegoni never wanted to be Don of his family dynasty. He's perfectly happy living a plush lifestyle, and doesn't really harbor a desire for revenge when tragedy seems to require such an impulse.

Unfortunately, his family loyalties and ties seem to demand it, and exact a price from him that may be at odds with what he truly values in the lifestyle he's both inherited and built.

While murder lies at the heart of matters, Murder at Venegoni's is also about the price to be paid for loyalty when a seemingly simple matter of armed robbery at the Venegoni Wine & Spirits liquor store results in a convoluted and changed set of relationships in the Venegoni family.

Also central to unfolding events is a probe of differing purposes, motivations, and the yin/yang of family operations and connections that subtly embrace even the lowest of workers in the complex structures fostered by the Venegonis: "Although they are highly trained culinary experts, they are also highly trained killers and criminals."

Small references to changed lives and multiple skill sets create a story where nothing is a simple matter, whether it be exacting vengeance for murder, taking one's place as head of a powerful Italian family, dealing with loyal assassins and the process of severing connections and stopping ongoing wars, and encounters that involve even the Pope.

There is nothing circumspect or small about this murder: its impact just keeps expanding, embracing conflict and confrontation at the highest levels of Italian society. Overseeing matters is an uncertain warrior and reluctant hero who directs the Graziano War and struggles to keep personal secrets separate from the evolving conflict.

Readers should anticipate graphic descriptions of murders, foul language realistically sprinkled throughout the encounters (not overdone; but present), and an attention to political and psychological detail that makes for a satisfyingly complex and realistic story line.

The story line takes a Godfather theme and elevates it a step further, carefully inspecting underlying motives, family relationships that entwine with political factors, and issues of succession and personal conflict. These psychological nuances are deeply explored, probing the boundaries between personal and political associations - and this is just one strength of Murder at Venegoni's: its ability to move beyond events surrounding conspiracy and murder to link deeply held beliefs with family ties and the clash of motivations. While this may surprise those who thought they were entering a murder mystery alone (or a mafia story of action-packed conflict), the psychological depth is an added and unexpected bonus.

Fans of The Godfather and similar titles who enjoy stories of high-level, powerful Italian families and personalities will relish this fast-paced, involving thriller that ultimately centers as much upon one powerful man's choices as a murder that involves everyone in an endless war that may prove unstoppable.

The Story of Evil - Volume I: Heroes of the Siege
Tony Johnson
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00BAUTQW2 $0.99 Kindle; $6.42 Paper

Three teens, Stephen, Tyrus and Kari, are participating in a joust meet when the event is overrun by monsters during an attack on their city, changing everything they've taken for granted in their lives.

Facing the demise of their family and friends and the ruin of their city, they make choices to battle the evil that has invaded; and this move involves the evolution of heroism in different forms, for each of them.

Stephen was already a hero in competition and a hero in the eyes of his faithful squires; but now he's engaged in the bigger, more dangerous game of life or death, and the grueling matches he's won only prove tests for the real struggle ahead. Steve and his friend Ty are orphans who grew up together as foster brothers, so they are more than comrades in arms. And Kari is a simple half-human, half-elf hunter who's grown up in a shadow of mystery surrounding her father's murder and her heartbroken mother's subsequent death, who is drawn into a world she never asked to be part of and a battle she's reluctant to participate in. Her observations stand in stark contrast to those of the warrior brothers whose perspectives on survival and fighting are quite different.

When the battles begin, there's an odd element of discussion between the brothers that seems to mock the seriousness of the situation. As monsters fall under their skilled hands, Steve and Ty banter about earning points and winning the 'game'; but it's explained that Ty jokes when he's nervous or challenged, and Steve clearly is used to this and interacts in Ty's way of handling stress. This joking banter between the boys continues as events unfold, providing both comic relief and a sometimes jarring sense of odd reactions to life-challenging confrontations ("Cutting it close that time, huh?" Steve yelled over the sounds of destruction.").

But this isn't another jousting match: it's a life or death situation that extends far beyond the realms of championship jousters and comebacks, and involves a struggle for the control and existence of Celestial City itself.

Pre-teens and teens around the ages of 12 and a few years older will especially appreciate a fantasy that is steeped in adventure, castles, the evolution of young warriors, the struggles of humans, semi-humans and monsters such as dragons, minotaurs, and more.

From Stephen's perseverance, which earns him the title of Brightflame early in his life and is sorely tested during this struggle, to the ruthless Hooded Phantom and his skilled and deadly army, Heroes of the Siege makes some pointed observations about heroism's realities and costs.

In some ways, this is quite a complex read for pre-teen and early teen audiences. While the battle between good and evil is fairly cut and dried, the trappings of what constitutes each is mercurial and provides much food for thought as the story line evolves. As time shifts between past and present occur seemingly randomly (and sometimes without easy staging), younger readers can become confused at some points, which are designed to inject history into the progress of events.

Each hero is tested, the villains are clever enemies who employ all manner of skills in the pursuit of their goals, and readers are swept into a world that holds many similarities to medieval Earth, but with twists and differences to support the fantasy theme and keep readers guessing.

This singular focus on one invasion and the struggles surrounding it is an appropriate and lively read especially recommended for younger teens who enjoy tales of courage, swordplay, confrontation, and dungeons and dragons.

Science and Lust
Rebecca Coffey
Beck and Branch
Paperback: 9780997264432 $6.95
Kindle and ePub: ISBN: 9780997264449 $2.99

Science and Lust gathers essays for Volume 1 in a series; but lest readers anticipate a racy fictional exploration of sex; be advised that this is nonfiction, and falls in the area of biological fact rather than lusty fiction. The title, however, evokes an intriguing prospect of sexual exploration that many a fiction reader won't be able to put down despite its obvious lack of plot and story line.

The reason why this read is so compelling to general-interest audiences (and even those who may have little prior interest in science, in general) is because the essay form, combined with Rebecca Coffey's background in journalism and general-interest science writing, makes for a winning combination when it comes to crafting a nonfiction thriller.

What constitutes nonfiction thriller short works? Consider 'Some Like it Too Hot'. The opening gambit to this piece makes it intriguing, absorbing, and hard to quit reading - all the elements of a fictional thriller approach nicely applied to science fact: "Imagine a medical advisory discreetly mailed to unfaithful men everywhere. "Warning," it says. "Extramarital sex can kill." The medical staff of the Andrology Clinic at the University of Florence has never distributed any such advisory. But maybe someone should."

Readers who pursue this piece beyond its compelling opener will discover "...intriguing evidence that sudden coital death in men is largely the problem of adulterers." The cold analytical realm of science just got a lot more upfront and personal - and this is just one example of an article that reflects the latest research, yet adds a profoundly revealing twist to science, linking it to modern human habits and conundrums.

Or, take 'Was It Good for You, Too?' Apparently males are the primary askers of this question. And the answer too often can't be trusted. But why would women understate or misjudge the extent of their own arousal? Despite extensive research and testing, perhaps science itself is not yet in a place where women's sexuality can be accurately measured.

These and other essays push the boundaries of sexual understanding and perceptions of differences and desires between men and women, analyzing the sources of much confusion between the sexes.

Any reader interested in human sexuality who eschews the normally dry scientific study on the matter will relish this absorbing read which puts the 'lively' back into matters and draws direct connections between modern sexual activities, dilemmas and questions, and the latest scientific findings.

Gypsy Blood
Jeff Gunhus
Seven Guns Press
9780998217772 $12.95

Gypsy Blood represents horror writing at its most chilling and begins when Corbin, a struggling writer living in Paris, witnesses a brutal attack on an old gypsy man by three knife-wielding thugs. The old man dies in his arms, but his legacy lives on when Corbin discovers that the gypsy's soul has entered his body and is intent in punishing his killers, using Corbin's body as its vehicle.

Before this encounter, Corbin was in limbo, producing a notebook filled with anything but the writing his publisher has been pressuring him to produce for his next novel. He never thought he'd become mired in the French justice system's pursuit of a lunatic killer, and never imagined he would be challenged with newfound self-awareness, self loathing, and possible death influenced by Margot, the mysterious woman who somehow is involved in everything that swirls around him.

As he becomes immersed in ancient rituals and a tortured dead man who has become a living entity, the mysterious Tacho R'asa and their capacity for bringing back the dead, and a relentless new voice in his head that drives him to kill, Corbin finds that everything he's taken for granted in the world, including its reality, is changing.

Readers are swept into the rising horror of a writer who finds that Paris harbors some deadly secrets, and who inadvertently finds himself swept into the heart of these affairs through chance encounters with a woman, assassins, and an old gypsy's powers.

Those seeking a gripping thriller/horror blend which excels in scenes of terror and transformation, and who like their horror stories steeped in blood and long-buried physical and psychological skeletons, will relish the fast-paced progression and twists of Gypsy Blood and a character whose innocuous life becomes an exercise in surviving supernatural forces well outside his experience and comfort zone.

Blind Eye
Meg Lelvis
Black Rose Writing
9781684330096 $18.95

Blind Eye opens with a beloved nun's murder, but when another body turns up holding a similar Bible verse, Jack Bailey realizes he has a serial killer on his hands - and the timing couldn't be worse for investigating the case. Jack's abrasive female sergeant poses an unrelenting challenge to his expertise and authority, and his work life is complicated by family matters.

Jack's track record with women is 'dismal' and he's not looking for a relationship; but somehow one enters the picture. Will he ever find a woman after the love of his life was lost twelve years ago? After three murders, the killer's motive assumes a personal form, and with this knowledge comes the certainty that he's missing something big.

Meg Lelvis's ability to weave recovery attempts into a bigger picture - embracing a detective's job and his perceptions of the greater world and his place in it - makes for a compelling investigative piece that pulls no punches.

Besides Jack, other quirky characters round out the story: his partner, Sherk, quotes Shakespeare; his mother, Maureen, fancies herself as Maureen O'Hara; the office computer geek; and many more relatable folks who appear as the story progresses. Readers familiar with Chicago will appreciate the references to both Mayor Daleys and the city's iconic scenes.

Mystery readers who look for more depth and personal involvement from their detective protagonists will find Jack's ongoing relationship issues with his mother and family, his PTSD, his dreams and nightmares, and his professional challenges to be equally compelling. At first these threads assume the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; but as seemingly disparate elements draw together, readers receive a powerful and magnetic result that proves hard to put down, replete in themes of betrayal and, ultimately, redemption on many unexpected levels.

Blind Eye is highly recommended for mystery enthusiasts who also like their stories well grounded in a sense of place and personal struggle as characters confront their blind eyes and uncover new ways of seeing.

The Blasphemy Law
Salman Shami
Shami Books
Paperback: $24.33 (discounted to 16.73 on Amazon)
ebook: $5.99 (discounted to $4.07)

Ordering link:

The Blasphemy Law is set in Pakistan, a country posed on the brink of political and social transformation (or danger, depending on perspective), and tells of an Australian solar engineer who runs into trouble when a ruthless landowner involves a terrorist group in framing her for blasphemy. But it's not enough for Jane to face imprisonment and death: her family, too, is targeted; and this embroils them in a life and death struggle between good and evil.

One of the special features of the story lies in Salman Shami's ability to bring Pakistan's environment and culture to life. From daily village activities ("Jane breathed in the earthy smells of freshly tilled fields, cow dung fires and boiling chai. The chirping of birds mixed with the gentle hubbub of early risers, people conversing in quiet, polite tones. Women were making flatbread and churning lassi for workers heading out into the fields. The village was gently waking from its peaceful slumber.") to terrorist movements and actions, those who would help Jane are pitted against professionals who would exact revenge.

Whether it's obsessive assassins, ambushes and confrontations, or a series of close encounters with tenacious military intelligence agents, The Blasphemy Law is replete with political and social strife and terrorist cat-and-mouse games that keep thriller readers involved and immersed in the conundrums of all involved. The well-written plot, strong characterization, and logical progression of events keeps action fast-paced and readers on the edges of their seats.

Shami's ability to get inside the hearts and minds of all his characters keeps the story fast-paced and filled with insights that lend authenticity to motivations and special interests: "Fazal yawned. What did the major think he was going to learn by letting these foreigners run free. It was obvious they were going to Karachi. He could think of only one reason why that was the case. Karachi was the favourite route for people-smugglers. If he wanted a publicly known figure to leave the country that is the way he would have chosen as well. He was no longer following the spy movie on TV. It had become needlessly complicated. Life was rarely ever like that."

The result is a thriller that brings its readers right onto the soil and perceptions of the Pakistani people of all walks. It pairs high-octane action with gripping suspense to keep readers on edge until the final, unpredictable conclusion, which cunningly leaves the door open for more while deftly finishing the adventure at hand.

Ninety Million and Change
Stan Freeman
Hampshire House Publishing Co.
9780989333375 $15.95 paperback, $3.99 ebook

Many may imagine themselves the winner of a lotto jackpot; but when one struggling young couple finds they hold the winning ticket to a fortune, their lives change - and not necessarily for the better, because money doesn't always solve everything.

Readers may anticipate the unfolding of this life-changing game, but what they won't anticipate is a powerful story of mystery, love, and a process that takes Karen and Ron LaFrancis far from their difficult yet familiar blue-collar financial struggles and into a world of the affluent that they are ill prepared to handle.

From questions of who are friends and who are enemies in the face of newly acquired wealth beyond imagination to underlying disdain for the privileged class, reflected in messages as subtle as clothing choice, and a newfound realization that they are wealthy, readers grow along with the couple and come to understand other players in the social game they've entered.

In some ways, Ninety Million and Change is fairly straightforward and unsurprising; but one doesn't anticipate the underlying mystery that takes center stage, and events that transpire certainly don't offer a degree of predictability that would lead a reader to ennui. From the underlying messages involved in how the couple chooses to handle such a fortune and the changed relationships that stem from it to bigger pictures about the impact of these choices ("America, it's... Look, when people have big houses, it gives everyone else something to shoot for. Everyone tries to find a way to make money to live in places like this, to take vacations in Europe, to own a big car, so they work hard. Wealth is what makes America run."), readers are given plenty to think about as they follow Ron and Karen's growth.

Even more importantly, Ninety Million and Change is about a future with and without things as basic as children, and it's these underlying social messages that place the story on a much deeper level than a get-rich-quick saga: "You've been a one percenter since the day you were born," Shelley said. "And how's that? We were poor teachers," Karen said. "One percenters in the world. Just about everyone in America with a job is." "That can't be true," said Ron. Challenged, Shelley whipped out her iPhone. A few taps on Google and the answer was on her screen. She held up the proof for everyone to see. "There. Thirty-four thousand a year and you're a global one percenter," Shelley said. "So whatever terrible shame you feel now, you should have been feeling it back when you were a teacher - but you weren't, were you? You shouldn't be feeling it now either. It's how life is. Rich people, poor people. It's the reality. It always has been."

Sometimes it's hard to see how educated teachers Ron and Karen could have been oblivious to some of the economic and social realities of the world which are revealed to them only after wealth changes their lives. As Carl and Shelley point out what should be somewhat obvious and attempt to negate Karen's guilt trips and tendency to be self-righteous about her charity work, the story takes a darker turn, leading readers down a dangerous road that holds no pat or easy solutions.

Thought-provoking, intriguing, and revealing, Ninety Million and Change isn't just a story of newly acquired fortune: it's a probe into how one struggling couple reassesses their values and purpose in life after it arrives; and what happens when everything goes horribly wrong during that process.

Mystery and general novel readers alike will find the story compelling.

Love's Hidden Promise
M. Jean Pike
L. Cooper Press
ASIN: B078XMC3GQ $4.27

Love's Hidden Promise: An Enchanting Tale of Love, Loss, and the Magic of Believing takes fantasy and paranormal elements and winds them into an overall romance that revolves around Willow, whose life is turned upside down when she receives a medical diagnosis just as her support partner, Tom, leaves her for someone else.

She's out of her comfort zone in more ways than one when she jettisons her familiar big city for the wilderness, longing to photograph an eagle, and instead finds love in the most improbable of places under the most improbable of circumstances.

Reclusive hermit Darby is also an unlikely candidate for love. He harbors his own secrets and reason for eschewing civilization; but somehow, when they meet, Willow knows she is meant to spend her final days in his presence.

Love's Hidden Promise is about endings and beginnings. Even more importantly, it's about life's challenges and who stays and who leaves. Themes of abandonment, pain, and friendship lead to greater stories of survival, commitment, and love; each holding key lessons that challenge Willy's psyche: "She had tried to love spontaneously, to loosen the chains she kept carefully locked around her heart. But fear was a way of life for girls like Willy and Sid. They'd grown up knowing the sting of rejection, of never being quite good enough. As a result, Willy had never taken a chance on anything that mattered, never known how to really love.
And now it was too late to learn."

Retreat in the face of impossible odds is the best thing - but both characters instead defy what seems to be a logical course of action. Fantasy elements and a subliminal Christian tone wind into the tale while the paranormal elements contain somewhat of a surprise as they enhance the underlying theme of the story.

As clues are presented and acts of heroism emerge, readers enjoy a delightful story that keeps its powerful moments in tune with emotional and psychic revelations.

The result is as much a story of evolution as it is a romance, offering a few surprises and much food for thought to delight readers who like their drama psychological and their insights connected to affairs of the heart and deeper concerns about adversity, choice, and life's deeper meaning even in an isolated Garden of Eden carefully crafted by two hurting individuals. Genre readers who appreciate passion entwined with these wider-ranging philosophical and spiritual elements will love the winding story of Willow, Darby, Patrick, and life's surprising opportunities for transformation.

Happiness is Chosen Wisely: 3300 Axioms of Self-Evident Truths
Byer Publishing
9780692051146 $14.99

Happiness is Chosen Wisely began as a cathartic search for truth and happiness and evolved into what it is today: a consideration of how happiness and pleasure are really two different states of mind, and how they dovetail: "The cause of happiness is peace, calm, tranquility, bliss and harmony, but the effects are the same as the cause. This is our absence of desire from our higher thinking, wisdom, and enlightenment without any stress, anxiety or despair at all."

While the book contains over 3,000 axioms, it actually represents an abridged version of the original. If this still sounds like too much reading, be advised that Happiness is Chosen Wisely also chooses its words wisely, making the most of each axiom by numbering them so they clearly stand out, creating simple one-liners with a punch, and organizing the results to lend to smooth reading even for busy readers on the go.

As far as content, sample a few: "It is more pleasurable to have fun with others than to be peaceful and calm," or "Our life becomes a love or hate relationship without thinking about it," and "When one realizes that all we may have sought was meaningless, we are reborn free."

Life isn't a race, and neither is reading this book. Readers who choose just a few axioms a day and take the time to reflect on them will find the many words of wisdom not only resonate but offer direction that embraces spirituality, psychology, and social considerations.

It's taken Byer half a life to identify and rid that life of what is meaningless. Readers on the road to true happiness now have a map offering clues of what those distractions may be and how to stay true to a journey that might take a few less years, thanks to this collection.

New age and inspirational readers will be the best audiences for Byer's works; particularly those who decide to take the time to absorb so much wisdom - the work of a lifetime - without haste, cognizant of the idea that a new way of thinking, viewing, and living life could be the reward for a careful pursuit of Happiness is Chosen Wisely.

Defiant Souls
Kathleen Chadwick
Black Rose Writing
9781612969411 $18.95 Paper, $4.99 Kindle; $23.95 Hardcover

Defiant Souls tells of young aspiring archaeologist Kyle, who eagerly accepts his aunt's invitation to spend the summer with her with its opportunity to go caving and search for relics.

He didn't expect to face a madman, evil, and a cache of imprisoned people struggling for their lives; but Kyle finds he's walked into another world far beyond that of tracking down relics - one which portends a deadly future if he can't stop an evil force's rise.

It's difficult to easily identify the audience for Defiant Souls. While the protagonist is a young adult, those around him are adults who are caught up in a web of horror. His Aunt Cindy treats him as an equal early on, inviting him to drop the 'Aunt' and just call her by her first name, and as soon as they hit the desert they encounter evil men who imprison them. All this places Defiant Souls in the arena of mature teen to adult audiences who will appreciate the creeping terror and tone of a supernatural horror thriller that jumps right into the occult after sketching a setting that explains Kyle's purpose and life up to that point.

Graphic (yet appropriate) descriptions of this evil force and those who are killed under its influence also place the audience of this occult read well beyond the young adult and into the circles of adults who enjoyed Indiana Jones-style intrigue paired with fast-paced action. These readers will find Kyle's youth does not indicate a teen read.

Can one inexperienced young man stand between Satan and the rise of a powerful force in the world? As Kyle unearths more clues, from a diary to relics that indicate evil's long history, he finds he must prevent a transformation that joins two disparate entities into one powerful force. His youth is on his side: he's treated like a kid, when in actuality he's growing into being a formidable opposition, himself.

With its fast-paced action, cast of characters ranging from the youthful, impulsive Kyle to his aunt, Jack, Damon, and others caught in the growing web of evil and its explosive confrontations, Defiant Souls will be thoroughly enjoyed by horror fans who will appreciate its progressive evolution, twists of plot, and the journey of a young adult to manhood against impossible odds.

Stone Circle
Kate Murdoch
Fireship Press, LLC
9781611793871 $17.95 paperback, $5.95 e-Book

When Antonius' father dies, he has no economic option but to go to work as a servant in a rich man's home. In 16th century Italy, there are not a lot of choices: the population is either rich or poor, with few in between. His only escape route from a life of servitude lies in a competition to become a seer's apprentice; but his adversary is not only his current employer's son, but is bent on gaining both the apprenticeship and the beautiful daughter it involves.

Antonius has already walked away from everything he's known to build a new life, facing his father's death and separating from his family at the age of seventeen. His mentor's daughter has her eye on a more interesting life, even though her father has provided nicely for her and even though a more exciting suitor might not hold her father's financial savvy.

The blend of Renaissance history and romance would, in and of themselves, be an attraction to many; but add a fantasy element to the story and it successfully moves in unexpected directions that sweep Antonius, Giulia, Nichola, and everyone around them into a vivid world of spirits, initiations, unusual dreams, and struggles with social status and special talents.

While a simmering rivalry fuels both boys to become men and recognize their own inherent abilities, it also drives a story line that revolves around a seer's vision, a church's growing concern over magic realism and threats to its visions and control, and young boy's coming of age in a rapidly changing society.

The delicate balance of history, magic, romance and growth is nicely done and moves deftly through the streets and culture of Italy. Readers seeking a historical fantasy romance story will find Stone Circle a powerful exploration of sad endings, new beginnings, and change as its characters search for new homes and a sense of place in a world that's shifting under their feet.

Helene: True Story of a German Girl's Resilience Growing Up During World War II
Helga Long and Helene Witzmann
Warren Publishing
9781943258567 $14.95

Helene presents the powerful true story of a girl who grew up in Europe during World War II, and follows her growth and observations during a changing social and political landscape that eventually dominates her young life.

Helga Long grew up hearing her mother's stories about the old country and life during the war, and in the 1990s she got together with her mother and made some twenty tapes of her tales, then set them aside as life coaxed her in other directions. When she finally sat down to transcribe them, the journal format she'd envisioned for them turned into a biographical story filled with family and historical references that promises attraction to a wider audience than her own family's circle.

Helene was "...a typical German girl who felt the effects of the war and the Nazi regime; who grew into womanhood with the dangers of a war surrounding her; and who, through her positive nature, continued to live a challenging, yet happy life."

All events in this book stem from Helga's mother's memories; the facts checked against history to provide a supportive foundation, but not inflated by details her mother didn't share in the course of her narration. This lends a realistic tone to the entire account that eschews fictional drama and embellishment to probe a real life's experiences.

What sets Helene apart from many World War II accounts is this realistic and candid collection of encounters from an everyday young German girl's perspective. From the fun of parades and competitions, local celebrations and events, and the lure of the Hitler Youth groups to how ordinary Germans became embroiled in conflict, Helene provides a clear explanation of how life slowly changes and how the organizations and rituals of childhood take ominous turns that feel innocent at the time: "When I was ten, I was able to join the Hitler Youth. You had to be ten years old to join, and I was excited because it was a fairly new organization in our town. At this time, it was not mandatory to be in the Hitler Youth, but I couldn't wait to join....I enjoyed the companionship of my friends and thought the meetings were a lot of fun."

Also notable are the daily lives of a wide range of average Germans, described against an atmosphere of political and social change. Descriptions of everyday people's changing daily lives are far more detailed than the usual World War II Germany story that focuses on broader political forces and their social impact, and offers a satisfyingly well-detailed flavor of German culture and affairs.

The result is a remarkably involved survey that is vivid, memorable, and hard to put down: a revealing documentary of ordinary German lives and perspectives changed by Hitler's rise.

Foreign Threat
Mitch Goldstein
Elevation Book Publishing
9781943904136 (hc) $TBA
9781943904150 (pb) $TBA

Foreign Threat is a medical espionage thriller with a touch of something different, winding a romance into the bigger picture of a young medical intern caught up in circumstances far greater than the professional circles he's training for. It's a winning pick for thriller readers looking for more personal touches than the typical Robin Cook-style read.

Steve always knew he'd be a doctor, just like his father. His experience as an intern leads him in the direction of becoming a surgeon, but a blossoming romance in his personal life may become his greatest accomplishment yet.

However, a clever foreign operative is at work behind the scenes, locating interns who badly need money and are less likely to ask questions about dubious ethics. Combine the egotistical residents Jake and Sally with the aspiring Steve and there are more than enough reasons why a would-be physician finds his career and morals going astray.

Unlike Cook's thrillers, Mitch Goldstein's Foreign Threat centers as much upon rookie interns and their learning processes and relationships to one another as the evolving plot that targets them as possible partners in a wide-ranging collusion scheme.

As Steve's relationship with Erica evolves, so do his talents in the medical field and a conundrum that involves Middle Eastern operatives on a deadly mission in the U.S.

Readers might not anticipate the broader implication of Steve's growth process, but within the guise of an international spy story and a situation that immerses the medical community is the vivid tale of a young man's interactions with the CIA and a chance encounter with a foreigner that changes everything. The ordeal he faces involves payoffs, promises of a life in paradise, and ill-construed decisions that hold dark consequences for all.

Replete with romance, individual and professional choices, and dark intrigue, Foreign Threat's deeper attention to evolving personal and professional relationships and moral and ethical challenges will delight readers who enjoy medical thrillers and international intrigue with more of focus on interpersonal relationships and romance than most; all centered around Steve Carmichael's challenging internship and a blossoming career that leads him on an unexpected journey alien to everything he's aspired to in his life.

Leaves of the Linden Tree
Marydale Stewart
Black Rose Writing

Leaves of the Linden Tree provides a sequel to The Wanderers as it follows Corrie Holden, who embarks on a new life when she opens her bookstore in the small town of Linden Grove and embraces a budding romance with Jimmy, who is also starting over in many ways.

An Illinois small town seems the perfect place to build a fresh life based on old dreams and new relationships; but when emerging racism results in a hate crime from a completely unexpected direction, Corrie and Jimmy must reconsider many things; including their definitions of social justice and small-town attractions.

Clues are provided early on, from the lack of diversity in the town to how it is divided by income status rather than nationality, that all may not be as idyllic as they wish; but as the story progresses, readers will be surprised by some unexpected revelations.

One might expect that familiarity with The Wanderers would be a prerequisite for enjoying its sequel, but the main characters in the prior book, Kurt and Sarah, take second place to the evolving structure and purpose of Corrie and Jimmy's lives. This means that newcomers will equally appreciate the story line's progression and will gain insights from a tale that neatly winds through affairs as diverse as Muslim perceptions, gun rights, the motives for an ordinary woman's involvement in arson, and what happens when a fire is lit under the town's hidden prejudices.

Natural disasters bring everyone together and supplant the human disaster in the making in Leaves of the Linden Tree, which places Corrie and Jimmy's evolving relationship in the context of bigger social issues and questions.

Readers looking for a revealing, involving chronicle will find Leaves of the Linden Tree moves through ordinary lives and bigger concerns like a train: sometimes smooth and modern and at other times noisy and replete with thundering wheels of change, nicely revealing of the mechanisms surrounding restorative justice and the roots of resistance.

The Pas de Deux: A Classical Ballet Romance
Erin Bomboy
Curtain Call Press
Print ISBN: 9780998483023 $14.95
Ebook ISBN: 9780998483054 $3.99

Can an aging ballerina and dying ballet company enjoy new energy from young blood and romance? Sure they can, as The Pas de Deux: A Classical Ballet Romance demonstrates with a compelling ballet saga that blends the romance of a couple with eleven years' difference between them with a revitalization process that affects everyone around them.

Chapter headings infused with ballet terminology set the stage for each event that unfolds, imbibing the story with ballet culture as it uses the structure of a classical ballet grand pas de deux to trace the evolution of a fiery onstage love affair which leads the ballet director, Mr. D., to separate his head ballerina from her romantic partner.

Separation not only makes their hearts and determination grow stronger; but is woven into the overlay of change as Peri faces the slow death of her own dancing skills as she ages ("Peri herself was dying, but it was a different death - the death of a dancer. What once was easy was now hard, and what once was hard was now impossible. Maintaining the illusion of brilliance was chewing at her.").

Themes of intolerance, acceptance, and professional and personal challenge permeate the demands of dance, which requires supreme sacrifice from all involved, creating an engrossing story that will prove particularly compelling to anyone who has a background in or affinity for the dance world.

Invigorated by her newfound passion, Peri dances like never before. But how long can she maintain her new ability before everything comes crashing down around her? As young Mark faces his own demons, from a drunken father who thinks his ballet dancing equates to him being a homosexual to a possessive ballet company director, he faces the ultimate heartbreak from the very one he trusts, who has an ulterior motive for letting him go: "I broke your heart, so I wouldn't break your spirit, she telegraphed to Mark, wherever he was now. I said I didn't love you because I did love you, and loving you meant letting you go."

As dancing challenges, raw emotions, separations and reunifications, and transformations ensue, everything changes. Erin Bomboy's uncanny ability to capture all the subtle nuances of everyone involved in a ballet company production creates a powerful story that captures not only love's trials and errors, but a fading ballet company's road to a comeback.

Romance readers with a special affinity for the world of dance will relish this powerful saga that blends insights on history, love, choreography, and the climatic buildup of the grand pas de deux as it plays out on stage and in hearts against a wider backdrop of social and political change.

Touch of Rain
Teyla Rachel Branton
White Star Press
9781939203892 $17.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

A young woman is gone, and there are no clues as to her disappearance. Only one avenue holds any hope at all: consulting psychic Autumn Rain, who can read the imprints of emotions from objects, and whose skills aid police investigators and conclude impossible cases.

Autumn's special skill has always been a challenge to her because it's not always under her control. She can read imprints and events from the most ordinary of circumstances and objects, so her psyche is always being flooded with impressions, emotions, and usually unwanted insights from the world around her.

Wounded by fears and intense discoveries, Autumn has "...learned the hard way that some emotions left imprinted on random objects were better off undiscovered." But in the case of grieving parents and a P.I. investigator who harbors her own mourning for the missing, Autumn is drawn into a probe that reveals something much greater than personal loss or her own challenging ability, and finds her past and present worlds coalescing as she draws closer to a dangerous truth.

Part of what makes this paranormal investigation account so invigorating is Teyla Branton's attention to strong characterization throughout. Not only Autumn but those around her are given three-dimensional quality and depth, and this attention to detail and emotion builds sympathetic characters readers will empathize with and, in some case, even fall in love with.

More than just suspense drives the story line: there are flavors of intrigue designed to keep readers guessing up to the end; but there are also many personal revelations, struggles, changing perceptions, and twists around Autumn's life that introduces a plethora of individuals and their own special interests.

Cruelty and domestic violence, an evolving romance where Autumn moves beyond her original premises to truly understand another's perceptions, a refuge that might be a prison for some, and a home people can't leave entwine in an unexpected story that certainly doesn't move in predictable directions.

Fueled by characters who are realistic and a story that is compellingly different, Touch of Rain's debut of a paranormal suspense series is not to be missed by any reader who looks for a vivid, solid opening act.

Take Me Home
Teyla Rachel Branton
White Star Press
9781939203830 $15.95 paper/$4.99 Kindle

Take Me Home is the first book in the Finding Home series and tells of an adult who faces being an adopted child plagued by vague, haunting memories of her birth parents and early life.

Liana has always felt conflicted about her uncertain past and being adopted after her parents' plane accident in India left her an orphan; but the questions have only increased as she enters into adulthood with baggage that interferes with her ability to form meaningful relationships.

Successful businessman Austin Walker has faced his own demons of the past and seemingly overcome them; but he's still similarly affected by unresolved issues and emotional conundrums.

Clarissa willingly adopted her sister's child after the accident, but feels her own conflicts over her forever-unresolved estrangement with her sibling. Someday she will have to tell Liana the truth - and that day comes all too soon, despite the passage of time.

From early on in the story, Rachel Branton presents a candid view of adoptee Liana's conflicted feelings about her family: "As the meal progressed, Liana watched them interact, almost a stranger amidst her own family, her feelings confused and varied. She loved Christian, she trusted Bret, and she was grateful to her aunt and uncle, the couple who had adopted her and raised her as their own. Gratitude was something she could freely give them - much better than love, she'd told herself throughout the years. She still believed that. Gratitude didn't make you shrivel up inside when someone died. Only love did that."

When Liana begins to dig deeper into her past, what she finds sends her on an unexpected journey for the real truth about her heritage and her parents' deaths - a journey that involves her adoptive and birth mothers alike and brings them full circle, while calling into question everything they've known about her past.

Take Me Home is about healing, redemption, and self-discovery. This powerful women's fiction piece will resonate strongly with any reader interested in stories of personal heritage and Ukrainian orphanages, adoption, and connections with those who would be accepted as family.

House Without Lies
Teyla Rachel Branton
White Star Press
9781939203694 $14.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

House Without Lies is Book 1 introducing the Lily's House series about a girl who has grown up unloved, and who opens her home and apartment to runaway girls in trouble, as an adult. Her life is full, between providing them with a safe haven and struggling to have everyone live well in a small space.

Jameson works as a teen counselor and wants Lily to become certified and legal as a foster parent so she can be more effective by working through the system; but Lily is worried that committing to that system's regulations will result in her inability to help those runaways who most need her.

As a romance blossoms between them, the consequences of Lily's refusal to work within the system become apparent when several of her teens are endangered by vengeful fathers and unprotective mothers. Lily is an instinctive nurturer whose roots lie in privileges: can she make the kinds of choices on how to help that result in real change?

To call House Without Lies a romance will lead to disappointment in readers looking for heavy passion and an overriding focus on budding relationships. There's a lot going on here, between Lily's passion to help others and her struggles with a system that could both help and harm her special cause. The issues of abuse, on many levels, are stronger than the evolving relationship conundrums Lily faces.

Readers seeking inspirational women's stories with a broader focus than relationship-building moments will find House Without Lies just the ticket. It's filled with many different characters and diverse circumstances, but the overall plot holds true to its intentions and presents a vivid story made all the more immediate by Rachel Branton's choice of using the first person to capture Lily's daily life and feelings.

Lily's accustomed to fighting for others: can she fight for herself, as well? An engrossing read, it's also a pleasure to add a note that while House Without Lies is part of a series, it's actually a fine stand-alone story that neatly concludes its plot. Readers will want more, but won't be required to hang off a cliff waiting for resolution - and that's a huge bonus to the first book in this series.

The Rabbit Skinners
John Eidswick
Independently Published
9781976755149 $12.99 Print/$4.99 Kindle

FBI agent James Strait was once deemed a hero for uncovering and stopping a terrorist attack. Sidelined by a rare disease and facing a life of disability, the heyday of his accomplishments seems to be over - or, is it?

When a nine-year-old vanishes on a lonely country road and her best friend entreats him to find her, James can't turn his back on her pleading, even if his spirit and body are broken. And so he undertakes a task that initially seems far less demanding than his higher-profile terrorist encounters of the past; but which soon proves that he's neither lost his skills nor faces a dilemma with any easy resolution.

His investigation places him at odds with racists in his own hometown. It tears apart everything he knows and values in his life, and it ultimately involves a battle with his past, authorities in charge, and his own disability.

Having a mystery powered by a former career investigator sidelined by his physical demise adds an extra dimension to proceedings which gives the story line an added dose of personality and compelling attraction. James isn't just fighting a criminal element; he's battling his own restrictions and past - and these facets meld with an overall compelling saga filled with satisfying twists and turns of plot throughout.

James thought that having this diversion would be therapeutic for him, after so many medical challenges. He's being forced out of the FBI, so his efforts in this arena could bring him renewed self-worth and confirm that his ability hasn't paled. But as events unfold and he begins to believe the wrong man has been fingered for kidnapping the girl, he finds himself on a deadly road to face a bigger perp than he'd initially envisioned.

Part of what makes The Rabbit Skinners more than a one-dimensional mystery surrounding a kidnapped child is that John Eidswick takes the time to explore small town relationships, from infidelity and dubious friendships to the social and political connections that make or break a small town's people.

James doesn't operate in a vacuum, and the atmosphere and special interests of a wide range of characters contribute to a compelling and intriguing story of why several children become mired in adult affairs. Even more compelling is the story of how he deals with his disability and changed status with the FBI and how life events dovetail neatly with his ability or inability to recognize the clues that could solve both the mystery and his own dilemmas.

Tense, revealing, and replete with different characters' special interests and evolution, The Rabbit Skinners embraces themes of good and evil, courage and fear, prejudice and love, and an unexpected touch of romance. Mystery readers will find it a compelling read from beginning to end.

The Writer's Crucible: Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity
Philip Kenney
Inkwater Press
9781629015248 $15.95

The Writer's Crucible: Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity offers a psychological examination of typical obstacles that thwart the creative processes, and is directed to writers who struggle with the process of tapping their wellsprings while facing such barriers.

Other creative writing books have addressed these issues; but The Writer's Crucible's approach is different. It tackles self-reproach and the emotional challenges of putting pen to paper by discussing vulnerabilities from a psychotherapist's clinical viewpoint, providing assessments and insights that crack perfectionist tendencies and creativity-thwarting negativity.

It's unusual to find a trained psychotherapist who believes in the practice and approaches of meditation and spirituality. Writers looking for inspiration will find all three facets influence an approach that considers the motivations of human behavior and writers' efforts, considering the process of being psychologically and spiritually lost and the impulses that stem from both that and the attempt to find one's path in life.

Creation and destruction are close companions: this, too, is discussed on a psychological, social, and spiritual level, giving writers further insights on the 'rhythms of creation' and how they operate on different levels.

Most writers will anticipate some sort of how-to title: perhaps a series of guided meditations, or an analysis that takes the process of producing a written gem and links it to psychological understanding or exercises designed to stimulate that process. The Writer's Crucible digs deeper and promises no quick insights or exercise-based guarantees of success.

Its insights stem from self-awareness and healing processes and add a personal tone to make it more of a personal reflection than a dispassionate professional assessment: "Maybe you are one of these talented people who can't get going. Maybe you get going but can't follow through and finish, or you have a dozen projects going and never move deeply into any of them. Maybe you discredit the work so completely that it ends up on the shelf. It's okay. You aren't alone, and you aren't hopeless. You are constricted and might possibly be shackled by the trauma response. Find someone to help you undo the knots, and I think you'll find the work will flow."

Of course, this means that there are no easy answers or solutions. Writers anticipating a course of miraculous exercises that can magically unlock creative impulses will discover instead that The Writer's Crucible is actually a call to action on many levels, advocating taking charge of one's spiritual, psychological and social self-discovery process.

Within the paradoxes of psychotherapy lie routines and ideas that can stimulate and broaden the writer's efforts. Those who are willing to do the work to get to this place will find that Philip Kenney advocates making a greater effort for better writing results: "A life of writing is like that river finding its way to the ocean. It moves from its source, bending with the layout of the land, changing directions again and again, searching for the low ground in a relentless journey to the sea. The adventure of exploration and discovery is one of the great thrills of a creative life and a great liberator of the inner world. Developing a relationship of curiosity with yourself is one way to disempower the menacing negating voices within."

The fact that The Writer's Crucible holds much more than exercises or mediations and addresses the heart of what keeps a writer from being effective and meaningful makes it a top recommendation for writers who struggle to achieve their best against the barriers of anxiety, self-deprecation, and fear.

Deep Blue
Kristy McCaffrey
K. McCaffrey LLC
E-book ISBN-13: 9780998090740 $4.99
Print ISBN-13: 9780998090757 $11.99
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Book 1 in the Pathway series, Deep Blue, introduces a scenario in which Dr. Grace Mann's long-time close relationships with great white sharks attracts the interest of documentary filmmaker Alec, who finds himself at first a fan of her beauty and expertise; then a potential suitor.

Grace isn't so certain he belongs on her scientific expedition; nor does she necessarily think his documentary is a great idea. Her focus is on the great whites which are her life's work; not on relationships, publicity, or romance.

On Alec's part, his attraction is a blend of fascination for her endeavors, respect, and the sense that, unlike his former lovers, Grace is something different ("The picture of her with a great white shark may have flooded him with bone deep terror, but it also had intrigued the hell out of him."). If he can capture her work, it will be a professional coup. If he can capture her heart, his life will change.

And so the two begin their dance ... but actually, it's a triad, with the great white shark forming the complicated third player in their encounters.

One thing to note is that Deep Blue is not a 'G' rated read: strong language and sexual descriptions are part of the story; so circumspect romance readers seeking emotional ties alone should look elsewhere.

This is not to say that the novel is overly racy. It's just realistic in its portrayal of two disparate individuals who reach beyond their professions to find connections and different lifestyle and purpose in each other's work. The very environment they operate in is nicely described ("The briny smell of saltwater greeted her, triggering all the happy places in her head and heart. It was such a relief to be out of the office and in the bosom of Mother Nature once again."), as are insights about why the ocean's ancient inhabitants feel so compelling to Grace: "Truly, they had entered another time and place, a Jurassic Park filled with ancient great white dinosaurs swimming around them."

In addition to these vivid sensory experiences of land and sea, Kristy McCaffrey creates a compelling dance between two very likeable characters who face trouble when a tourist boat ride goes awry and Grace's deep kinship with the shark, including her extraordinary dream encounters with them, is revealed to Alec: one of the few times in her life that she's confided her deepest secret to another. Dr. Gracie Mann has a reputation for being all business. That reputation changes when she faces new challenges both in romance and in her professional career.

Swept along for a challenging adventure, readers of Deep Blue who like romances that are three-dimensional in shape and form, holding characters who care about more than just each other, will find this a powerful story filled with compelling examinations of more than one kind of bond and more than one problem.

His True and "Unveiled" Face! A Personal Search and Perspective
Charles Anemelu (Rev. Fr.)
Lumen Educational Publications
9781941065433( Paperback) $27.73
9781941065440 (ebook) $9.99

His True and "Unveiled" Face! A Personal Search and Perspective represents a spiritual and personal search for the literal and religious 'face' of Christ and its meaning in human lives, and is a strong recommendation for Christian thinkers who would more closely examine the ideals and images of Christ in their lives.

Social media is only the latest way images of Christ are depicted and translated into everyday lives. Such media expanded traditional portraits into artistic realms, resulting in revitalized and different renditions; many of which posed much food for thought.

Given the extent of artistic license, beauty and especially accuracy are not necessarily the end goals of such imagery. Neither are they necessarily measurably accurate. When Father Charles Anemelu closely examined even the most disturbing alternative depictions of Christ, considering how these images influenced and affected his faith and his personal vision of Christ both as an image and spiritually, he evolved a response to such reflections: that the "...conviction that a diligent, systematic, transparent, and analytical scan of relevant pages of the Holy Scripture, as well as the use of available information on related subjects, might provide a deep insight into what, perhaps, was previously "unknown" as much as bring up what deserves further attention and comprehension."

His True and "Unveiled" Face! A Personal Search and Perspective represents that reflective journey and takes religious readers under its wing for a studied, Scripture-based examination of the fundamentals of the human nature of Christ and his portrayal on different levels, providing in-depth research on what the living Word of God actually looked like.

Chapters closely examine assumptions about Christ's identity, from genealogical influences on personal appearance to pre- and post-Baptismal clues from the Bible, images of Christ as both ever-suffering and content (even cheerful), and the results of forensic anthropology as the extent of Christ's different portraits are considered.

In the process of examining physical possibilities, artistic license, spiritual perceptions, Biblical and scientific depictions, and a history of the changing depictions of Jesus through the ages, Anemelu provides a studied, scholarly, yet accessible discourse that invites reflection on far more than Christ's physical incarnation.

A key thread to understanding this analytical process is actually presented not in the conclusion, but as a guideline right from the start: "All that we have in images, pictures, icons, portraits, and sculptures are only imperfect representations of Christ. The Lord, probably - and this speculation is my own - hid what he truly looked like in the flesh from this generation and earlier generations, at least from the time of his glorious ascension till this day, so that we all could continue searching for his "true face" as a personal, theological, and, above all, spiritual experience."

Ultimately, the real search for what Jesus might have looked like should not be limited to historical, genealogical, or scientific approaches; but should embrace the wider content of spiritual influence, uniquely personal appearances (and, thus, their widely differing artistic perceptions); and the quest for Christ's authentic, unique face as it relates to deeper religious understanding.

Too few religious inspections that begin with a personal quest ever succeed in branching out into well-studied, research-supported arenas; but Father Charles Anemelu's treatise achieves just that, and is especially recommended for Bible students who would ponder just one of the ironies and inconsistencies involved in a deeper search for God and Christ in everyday human affairs.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Caesar's Footprints
Bijan Omrani
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781681775661 $28.95 hc / $19.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Julius Caesar's conquests in Gaul in the 50s BC were bloody, but the cultural revolution they brought in their wake forever transformed the ancient Celtic culture of that country. After Caesar, the Gauls exchanged their tribal quarrels for Roman values and acquired the paraphernalia of civilized urban life. The Romans also left behind a legacy of language, literature, law, government, religion, architecture, and industry.

Each chapter of Caesar's Footprints is dedicated to a specific journey of exploration through Roman Gaul. From the amphitheaters of Arles and Nimes to the battlefield of Chalons (where Flavius Aetius defeated Attila the Hun) Bijan Omrani?an exciting and authoritative new voice in Roman history?explores archaeological sites, artifacts, and landscapes to reveal how the imprint of Roman culture shaped Celtic France?and thereby helped to create modern Europe. 16 pages of color illustrations.

Critique: Caesar's Footprints: A Cultural Excursion to Ancient France - Journeys Through Roman Gaul is an extraordinary tour of the legacy of Roman culture in Gaul (a region of Northern Europe populated by Celtic tribes, encompassing what is now France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, northern Italy, and parts of the Netherlands and Germany). Expertly researched, vividly descriptive, and enhanced with a bibliography and an index, Caesar's Footprints brings history and Roman legacy to life. Highly recommended, especially for public library World History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Caesar's Footprints is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.95).

The Gambler
William C. Rempel
Dey St.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062456779 $28.99 hc / $14.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The rags-to-riches story of one of America's wealthiest and least-known financial giants, self-made billionaire Kirk Kerkorian - the daring aviator, movie mogul, risk-taker, and business tycoon who transformed Las Vegas and Hollywood to become one of the leading financiers in American business.

Kerkorian combined the courage of a World War II pilot, the fortitude of a scrappy boxer, the cunning of an inscrutable poker player and an unmatched genius for making deals. He never put his name on a building, but when he died he owned almost every major hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He envisioned and fostered a new industry - the leisure business. Three times he built the biggest resort hotel in the world. Three times he bought and sold the fabled MGM Studios, forever changing the way Hollywood does business.

In this engrossing biography, investigative reporter William C. Rempel digs deep into Kerkorian's long-guarded history to introduce a man of contradictions - a poorly educated genius for deal-making, an extraordinarily shy man who made the boldest of business ventures, a careful and calculating investor who was willing to bet everything on a single roll of the dice.

When he died in 2015 two years shy of the century mark, Kerkorian had outlived many of his closest friends and associates. Now, Rempel meticulously pieces together revealing fragments of Kerkorian's life, collected from diverse sources - war records, business archives, court documents, news clippings and the recollections and recorded memories of longtime pals and relatives. In The Gambler, Rempel illuminates this unknown, self-made man and his inspiring legacy as never before.

Critique: The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History is the fascinating and revealing true-life biography of a self-made billionaire, the son of Armenian immigrant parents, who possessed visionary acumen, solid work ethic and exceptional deal-making capability. He also gave away more than a billion dollars to charities, and avoided public scrutiny at all costs, never allowing his name to be put on a building. When a deadly earthquake devastated the Soviet Republic of Armenia in 1988, Kerkorian funded the biggest airlift of emergency supplies since the Berlin Airlift of 1948; yet at his insistence, no buildings, schools, streets, or other public works bear his name. Captivating from cover to cover, The Gambler is highly recommended for both personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Gambler is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Rebel Bulldog
Jason Lantzer
Indiana Historical Society Press
450 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46202
9780871954206 $24.95 hc / $19.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Rebel Bulldog tells the story of Preston Davidson, a Northerner who fought for the Confederacy, and his family who lived in Indiana and Virginia. It is a story that examines antebellum religion, education, reform, and politics, and how they affected the identity of not just one young man, but of a nation caught up in a civil war. Furthermore, it discusses how a native-born Hoosier reached the decision to fight for the South, while detailing a unique war experience and the postwar life of a proud Rebel who returned to the North after the guns fell silent and tried to remake his life in a very different state and nation than the ones he had left in 1860.

Using the lives of Preston and his family as a lens to help us glimpse the past, Rebel Bulldog delves into the human experience on multiple levels, asks us to reconsider what we think we know of the Civil War, and complicates, while it complements the existing literature. It is a story that perhaps could only have happened in Indiana.

Critique: Rebel Bulldog is the true-life, Civil War era story of an Indiana man who swore allegiance to the confederacy, battled as a Rebel, and returned to the North after the close of the Civil War. Expertly researched and engagingly presented, Rebel Bulldog is a fascinating glimpse into a chaotic era of American history, and a choice pick for public library Civil War collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Rebel Bulldog is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.95).

General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky
Dieter C. Ullrich and Berry Craig
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476671437 $39.95

Synopsis: When General E. A. Paine assumed command of the U.S. Army's District of Western Kentucky at Paducah in the summer of 1864, he faced a defiant populace, a thriving black market and undisciplined troops plagued by low morale. Guerrillas pillaged towns and murdered the vocal few that supported the Union. Paine's task was to enforce discipline and mollify the secessionist majority in a 2,300-square-mile district.

In less than two months, he succeeded where others had failed. For secessionists, his tenure was a "reign of terror"--for the Unionist minority, a "happy and jubilant" time.

An abolitionist, Paine encouraged the enlistment of black troops and fair wages for former slaves. Yet his principled views led to his downfall. Critics and enemies falsified reports, leading to his removal from command and a court-martial. He was exonerated on all but one minor charge yet historians have perpetuated the Paine-the-monster myth. This book tells the complete story.

Critique: Tasked with protecting Union railroads and curbing the robbery and murders perpetuated secessionist guerillas in a heavily pro-Confederate area of Kentucky in 1864, General Paine succeeded where those before him had failed - by employing merciless methods. He ordered all guerilla fighters caught in his territory to be executed; suspected spies were publicly executed in the town square of Gallatin, Tennessee; and executions were typically carried out without the benefit of a trial or legal counsel. A staunch abolitionist, Paine also encouraged the enlistment of black troops and fair wages for former slaves; at the time, these were radical, unpopular principles that may have contributed to his downfall. General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky: Assessing the "Reign of Terror" of the Summer of 1864 examines Paine's tenure, including his removal from command and the court-martial that preceded his resignation from the Army in April 1865. (Paine was exonerated on all but one minor charge, that of cursing a superior officer). A fascinating, expertly researched account, General E.A. Paine in Western Kentucky is highly recommended for public and college library Civil War collections.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

The People VS Alex Cross
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316273909, $29.00

Alex Cross is on trial for murder in "The People VS Alex Cross the newest installment of the series. The story ties into a past case where in self defense Cross had to kill the perpetrator of the crime. Now the state brings forth a case against him. There is also another murder investigation the begins the novel. The tale races along with complicated twists and turns until its final pages. "The People VS Alex Cross is another winding jaunt page turner that is a welcome addition to the series.

Nam World
Jeff Boyle
Taylor and Seale Publishers
9781943789047, $15.95

"Nam World" is a theme park in Daytona Beach Florida that tries to pay tribute to the Viet Nam War. The theme park encounters a lot of flack from protesters but the amusement center is only a portion of the story. It is also a veteran of that war and his daily struggles to deal with the realities of the war he fought. His struggle is further complicated with the events of Sept 11 2001. To him it brings back memories he had buried deep in his conscious. Another aspect is his relationship with a woman who briefly enters his life but disappears a few days later. He also works for the theme park until he can no longer justify his employment there. Now unemployed he decides to go on a grand quest around the country. "Nam World" is a multi layered story that is filled with wonderful characters, very tight writing and a pace that is guaranteed to please any reader in search of a new author to experience. As an added bonus Boyle shows in "Nam World" a very different side of Daytona that is just as appealing as the NASCAR races and the pristine beaches. I look forward to other novels by Jeff Boyle in the future.

The East Side of Town
Bob Williams
Xlibris LLC
1663 Liberty Suite 200 Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781499033304, $15.99,

Tommy Smith is contacted by a friend to contact her in Orlando, Florida. He does and is told a life long friend is dead. He is asked if he can attend the funeral that is to be held in a few days. He makes plans to be there and comes home. That situation begins opens the novel but "The "East Side of Town" is much more than a novel of a friend returning to his home town. It depicts a city before Disney that still has a little of the character that was a long time ago so charming to people from other parts of the country. "East Side of Town is also a turbulent time in the nations history of the nineteen sixties. It is the age of President Kennedy, his assignation, the murder of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King in the span of five years. "East Side of Town" is also a murder mystery story. Williams has masterfully mixed the situations of high school, lasting friendships, with the backdrop of history and a mystery in generous doses that move this well written novel to its final conclusion. Along the way readers are also treated to a long-gone era of Orlando that many are very sad to see gone. "The East Side of Town" is a very pleasing multi-faceted novel for any reader to enjoy.

Miranda's Extraordinary Life
Amanda Byrd
Amanda Byrd Publisher
9780998539850, $9.99

Miranda travels into many different types of worlds in a fascinating story in "Miranda' Extraordinary Life." Along the way of Miranda's journey are some interesting characters who fill the pages while the writing is simple with a very complex conflict that is revealed at the end. "Miranda's Extraordinary Life" is for anyone who wants a different kind of science fiction fantasy novel to enjoy.

German Military Travel Papers of The Second World War
Matt DiPalma
Schiffer Publishing LTD
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA19310
9780764350863, $69.99,

For so long we've heard about the brilliant conquest of Europe that was the Nazi war machine. Now Matt DiPalma reveals many aspects of writings that contributed to the overwhelming force that started the Second World War. DiPalma shows even something as simple as a leave pass for a soldier, travel papers, orders for troops. He even talks the size of the documents, paper, ink and a lot more. What emerges is how efficient it all was making it very hard for the Allies to fake. "German Military Travel Papers Of the Second World War" is a very well documented piece of history that is available for the first time to anyone who wants to read about it. DiPalma has done an incredible job of tracing these documents of this dark historical period of the worlds history.

Bianfu the Bumblebee Bat
Keith and Nikki Helton, author
Krystal Chambers, illustrator
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
97815174577506, $9.99

Bianfu is a bumblebee bat who lives in a cave but realizes he needs to eat because he is famished. To quench his hunger, he flies out of his home in search of some kind of food that will fill the need. The authors have written a charming story of a bumble bee bat that is an interesting story. They also provide non-fiction prose that reveal this kind of bat is real and where in the world it can usually be found and a website for readers to learn more about this particular mammal. "Bianfu the Bumblebee Bat is fascinating for all ages to enjoy and learn something new about one of the smallest animals on the planet.

Scuba Zak Searches for Thaddeus
Alice Cypress, author
Illustrations by Blueberry Illustrations
Protective Hands Communications
9781614934578, $14.95

Scuba Zak is back in the newest adventure "Scuba Zak Searches for Thaddeus." This time he is diving into the ocean again taking pictures of many of the fish and creatures that live there. He is also on a mission to see if he can once again encounter the barracuda he encountered last time in "Scuba Zak Meets Thaddeus the Barracuda." The writing is fast paced and educational to teach all of us what lies beneath the water in the oceans of the world. "Scuba Zak Searches for Thaddeus "s a captivating story that is a great resource to educate people about another world few ever encounter.

Franky The Finicky Flamingo
Wanda Luthaman, author
Mara Reltsma, illustrator
Lilacs in Literature
9780998195827, $6.99,

Pink Flamingos are very well known in Florida and Franky is a very special one in "Franky the Finicky Flamingo." He is very particular about the food he eats even though he often tries other things other birds regularly gobble up. Franky finds though that he is also not as healthy as he should be because he is so particular in what he consumes. "Franky The Finicky Flamingo" has several underlying messages to kids and their parents and conveys them in a very interesting way. Children's books have always been enjoyable but they for a long time have had deeper meanings for everyone to follow. "Franky The Finicky Flamingo" is a welcome addition to that long line of kid's titles.

Gabby and Maddow Adventures in Italy!
Steve Altier
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781499601183, $5.99

Gabby and Maddox are back in another tale where they travel with their parents to the country of Italy. The two kids have a series of adventures sight seeing many of the landmarks of the different cities. Author Steve Altier presents many different things for the children to learn as they tour the cities of Italy that is educational reading for all of us to enjoy. "Gabby and Maddox Adventures in Italy!" is the first of a series of novels that are adventures of them and their parents that are fast paced reading for everyone to enjoy while at the same time learn something new.

Eramore Forget the Trails Volume 1
Art & Story By Jake Deibler
Rent-a-Hero Studios LLC
9780996534031, $12.99,

A knight named Sir Walter and his squire are on a mission to save the kingdom of Eramore. Along the way the two have a series of adventures that will have readers laughing out loud at their hilarious predicaments they encounter. Written in comic book form the artwork and writing take readers on a grand journey that makes fun of so many established tales many have loved through the ages. Readers will quickly be able to identify many of them and love the satiric take Jake Deibler takes in this wonderful first gathering of his wonderful odd ball characters. "Eranmore Forget the Trails Volume I" is sure to build a following for many more adventures of the strange knight and his assistant.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Laura Lippman
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062389923, $26.99/33.50 CA$, Hardcover, 304 pp.
9780062390127 $39.99 (audiobook)

From the publisher: Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals - - and cold-blooded murder. One is playing a long game. But which one? They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he's also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays - - drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other - - dangerous, even lethal secrets. Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other's lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away - - or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them? Something - - or someone - - has to give. Which one will it be?

Part One of this book, headed "Smoke" [Part Two is headed "Fire"] finds Mark, 38 years old, who spots Polly, "a [sunburned] redhead well into her thirties . . . sitting on a barstool, forty-five miles inland, in a town where strangers seldom stop on a Sunday evening." They are both in a bar-slash-restaurant, the High-Ho. He is a handsome private detective, guy who, in his downtime, likes to hunt deer ["Bow and arrow] who takes a job as a short order cook at the High-Ho. The redhead who has grabbed his attention takes a job there as a barmaid. When he asks for her name, the response she gives him is Polly Costello. The reader soon discovers that she is also Pauline, who has left her husband and three-year-old daughter. She and Gregg had met when she was 31, married quickly when she discovered she was pregnant, but the marriage went bad just as quickly when his abusive nature became very apparent. Her name had been Pauline Ditmars, then Pauline Hansen when she married Gregg, then Pauline Smith when she left him and their daughter. Now living as Polly Costello. One night soon after "a short, squat woman with a butch haircut" comes into the High-Ho and Mark knows instantly that "she's a private investigator and that she's looking for the woman who's calling herself Polly Costello." Since that's what he himself is doing there. Both the woman, Sue, and Mark have each been hired to track her down. Although a risky plan, Mark and Polly very shortly become intimately involved. Mark has been hired to find the woman who left her husband [a dirty cop, btw] and her child "in the lurch" then stole money from the kid when the guy died, and disappeared with the life insurance. So no one here has a clear conscience. But when Polly's friend, Cath, goes to Polly's apartment looking for her, and dies when the apartment blows up, there is a lot for the ensuing investigation to find. No one here looks very innocent.

The novel is but the latest where the reader gets to know the characters, to the point where one would like to meet her/him off the page, in real life as it were, and get to know them better, such a wonderful job having been done by this author in their creation. The same could be said about this book as a whole, keeping the reader turning pages more and more quickly. Highly recommended.

Death of an Honest Man
M. C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455559315, $25.00/32 CA$, Hardcover, 244 pp.

From the publisher: In the latest mystery featuring Scotland's most quick-witted but unambitious police sergeant, Hamish Macbeth, when newcomer Paul English moves to a house in Cnothan, a sour village on Hamish's beat, Hamish tries to tell him that nobody loves an honest man, but he wouldn't listen. He attended church in Lochdubh and told the minister that she was too fat and in thee days of increasing obesity it was her duty to how a good example. Angela Brody was told her detective stories were pap for the masses and it was time she wrote literature instead. He accused Hamish of having dyed his fiery red hair. He told Jessie Currie - - who repeated all the last words of her twin sister - - that she needed psychiatric help. "I speak as I find," he bragged, while voices saying, "I could kill that man," could be hard from Luchdubh to Cnothan. And then someone did. With Hamish's clumsy policeman Charlie resigned from the force after throwing Chief Inspector Blair into the loch, Hamish is left to solve the mystery on his own.

This charming novel brings back Inspector Macbeth in an entry every bit as delightful as the earlier entries, beginning with the quotes that precede each chapter, beginning, of course, with Chapter One and this from Oscar Wilde: "A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal." Others include offerings from Groucho Marx: "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made;" Jane Austen; Mark Twain: "There's one way to find out if a man is honest: ask him. If he says yes, you know he's crooked," and Robert Burns, among several others, even including one from Jules Verne. A perfect introduction to this book and its many clever lines.

Hamish's beat was the entire county/village of Luchdubh, helped by his "amiable although clumsy" sidekick, P.C. Charlie Carter, who shortly after the book opens decides to resign from the police, putting Hamish in the difficult position of finding a suitable replacement.

What Mr. English actually said to Hamish was "You gay men are always dying your hair." Not a way to endear yourself to the local cop. Two days later, when the no-longer-young housekeeper is fired by English and cannot be found, Hamish reports her as missing, it appears that she may have committed suicide.

When Hamish comes upon Paul in a bar, obviously drunk and planning to drive home, Hamish arrests and handcuffs him, although before Hamish can take him to the police station he apparently decided to go off by himself, still handcuffed, although no one can find him when a search is conducted. Charlie tells Hamish that the man's mistress is none other than the minister, and they quickly go to her home, where she tells them that she and English are engaged to be married. When the search finally finds English, it is his body that is found, partly buried in the peat bog. The search for the killer, with so many people on the list of possible suspects, is the bulk of the remainder of the book, but side plots, such as the gorgeous, sexy blonde to whom Hamish had been engaged, and Hamish's pets, his dog, Lugs, and his missing cat, Sonsie, are as engaging as the mystery. And how can anyone not love a tale that includes a few lines about "the magic of chocolate . . . Better than a tranquilliser any day."

The novel is, of course, highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Officially Unofficial File of Gordon B. Gray
Darcy Fray
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00I8P26EC, $3.99, ebook, 279 pages
9780991253210 $13.99 pbk

The best humor in The Officially Unofficial File of Gordon B. Gray is in the title. The book is actually a more serious action suspense spy tale. All the pieces are there to make a 007 style story with a key player being a young scientist but the integration of the parts is weak. As with nearly all stories in this genre, a super villainous organization is trying to take over the world with some bit of exotic scientific achievement. Unfortunately for the story the science part just doesn't hold up in the narrative. For some reason the villainous group is never identified or even given a name leaving big questions with the ending of the story.

In Dust, West Virginia, population 23, every person, except for one blind child, disappears in a flash of blue light. The government and the military are sent to investigate. The general in charge of the investigation enlists Dr. Gordon Gray, twenty-three year old Nobel Prize winning physics professor at Caltech to find out what has happened. Dr. Gray soon is in a life and death race from the US to Siberia trying to stop the deaths of thousands.

The Officially Unofficial File of Gordon B. Gray has great potential as an adult spy action adventure story. Its weaknesses only make it a recommendation if it is found on sale. It doesn't have the tongue-in-cheek humor implied in the title or the hard science hinted at by using a Nobel Laureate as a lead character. These shortfalls highlight the narration problems in an otherwise solid story.

Moon Dance
J. R. Rain
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B002Q0Y27Y, $0.99, ebook, 282 pages
9781544133140 $12.00 pbk

Moon Dance is a very well written vampire in the contemporary world novel. The story has unique characters that are flawed in ways easily understandable. The story also doesn't stray too far outside of the real world so the supernatural action becomes more acceptable for the reader.

Samantha Moon is your typical suburban housewife with children driving a minivan to her night job as a private investigator. It just happens that a few years back she had been attacked by a vampire and is now one herself. She has all the problems of any mom with the added problems of sleeping during most of the daytime hours and having to layer thick coats of sunscreen just to get from her front door to her minivan to pick up her children when school lets out.

Samantha is hired by a lawyer who survived a public assassination attempt. As she starts her investigation, she discovers the lawyer is probably a werewolf, her husband is cheating on her, a vampire hunter is trying to kill her and the assassin she is looking for is trying to take her out before she can discover the assassin's identity.

Moon Dance is a fun story filled with the nitty gritty of what the daily life of a vampire would be like while trying to exist in the mainstream world. It is highly recommended. The biggest drawback is its low price. The price makes it an easy book to pick up on a whim but the many standard priced sequels will immediately tempt your pocketbook.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Gary Rogowski
Linden Publishing
2006 S. Mary St., Fresno, CA 93721
9781610353144 $18.95 pbk / $8.69 Kindle

Synopsis: In an era when there are countless competing claims on one's attention, how does one find the internal focus to be creative? For master furniture craftsman Gary Rogowski, the answer is in the act of creative work itself. The discipline of working with one's hands to create unnecessarily beautiful things shapes the builder into a more complete human being.

In the tradition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Shop Class as Soulcraft, Rogowski's Handmade is a profound meditation on the eternal value of manual work, creativity, human fallibility, and the stubborn pursuit of quality work. Rogowski tells his life story of how he became a craftsman and how years of persistent work have taught him patience, resilience, tolerance for failure, and a love of pursuing beauty and mastery for its own sake.

Part autobiography, part guide to creativity, and part guide to living, Handmade is a book for craftspeople, artists, and anyone who seeks clarity, purpose, and creativity in their work -- and it's the perfect antidote to a modern world that thinks human labor is obsolete.

Critique: Handmade: Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction is a fine blend of memoir and appreciation for the value of hand-creating beautiful, quality woodwork crafts. The drive to improve, the creativity and artistry of bringing concepts to life, and the satisfaction of labor with one's own hands are core themes in this heartfelt testimony. Handmade is thoughtful, candid, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Handmade is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.69).

Against Anti-Semitism
Adam Michnik & Agnieszka Marczyk, editors
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190624514, $34.95, HC, 424pp,

Synopsis: Poland's relationship with its Jewish population has long been a subject of often agonizing debate. In September 1939, there were approximately 3.3 million Jews living in Poland, the largest population in Europe. In May 1945, between 40,000 and 60,000 remained.

Most of the Nazi death camps had been located on Polish soil. The intertwined issues of wartime complicity and victimhood haunt Poland to this day, complicated by the unavoidable fact that anti-Semitism in Poland existed well before the outbreak of the Second World War, and has existed long after it. The deadly Kielce Pogrom in July 1946 appalled the world, since its victims were precisely those Jews who had miraculously survived annihilation. And while with the years physical violence against Jews diminished-if only because there were not many at whom to direct it-anti-Semitism has remained no less virulent, emerging as a force in Polish politics, religious life, and in society at large.

A study undertaken in 2002 determined that one in nine Poles believed the Jews collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. One in four claimed that Jews were secretly plotting to rule the world.

Is anti-Semitism integral to Polish identity? Nowhere has this question been more the cause of soul-searching than in Poland itself.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Adam Michnik (one of Poland's foremost writers and intellectuals) and Agnieszka Marczyk (a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, where her work focuses on democratic citizenship and historical thinking skills) have brought together the most significant essays of the twentieth century written by prominent Poles on Polish anti-Semitism, including by such writers and intellectuals as Czeslaw Milosz, Leszek Kolakowski, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki.

Taken from a three-volume original Polish edition, 3,000 pages in length and containing 320 entries, the essays, most of which have been translated into English here for the first time by Marczyk, resonate with Michnik's central argument-that anti-Semitism is not a given of Polish culture. It has been consistently challenged and rejected.

Taken together, through their collective courage and wisdom, expressed even in moments when reason seemed lost, these essays and their authors remind readers not only of the destructive and self-destructive elements of anti-Semitism, but of the necessity of combating it in all of its forms. Even some of the darkest parts of Polish history have produced moments of illumination.

Critique; A collectively significant and seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Against Anti-Semitism: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialists general readers with an interest in the subject that "Against Anti-Semitism: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.39).

In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel
Avraham Burg
Nation Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9781568589787, $28.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Avraham Burg was born in Jerusalem in 1955 to one of the most prominent families in Israel. His father, Dr. Josef Burg, was a Holocaust survivor who escaped from Germany to Palestine in September 1939 and went on to lead the National Religious Party and serve as a minister in the Israeli government from 1948 to 1988. His mother Rivka was a seventh-generation resident of Hebron and the daughter of the local community rabbi. Avraham Burg first took on a public role during the first Lebanon war in 1982, when he was a leader of the antiwar protests. He went on to serve as adviser to Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a member of the Israeli Knesset, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization, and the speaker of the Knesset, among other public positions. Since his voluntary retirement from public life in 2004, Burg has become an outspoken leader of the Israeli left wing.

"In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel" is Avraham Burg's authoritative and deeply personal inquiry into the ambitions and failures of Israel and Judaism worldwide.

Burg witnessed firsthand many of the most dramatic and critical moments in Israeli history and he chronicles the highs and lows of his country over the last five decades, threading his own journey into the story of his people. He explores the misplaced hopes of religious Zionism through the lens of his conservative upbringing, explains Israel's obsession with military might while relating his own experiences as a paratrooper officer, and probes the country's democratic aspirations, informed by his tenure in the Knesset.

With bravery and candor, Burg lays bare the seismic intellectual shifts that drove the country's political and religious journeys, offering a prophecy of fury and consolation and a vision for a new comprehensive paradigm for Judaism, Israel, and the Middle East.

Critique: Impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this combination of memoir and political/cultural analysis is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Hap and Hazard and the End of the World
Diane DeSanders
Bellevue Literary Press
c/o NYU School of Medicine
550 First Ave., OBV A612, New York, NY 10016
9781942658368, $16.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: For Dick and Jane, Dallas after World War II is a place of promise and prosperity: the first home air conditioners are making summertime bearable and Dick's position at his father's business, the Cadillac dealership, is assured. Jane has help with the house and the children, and garden parties and holiday celebrations are spirited social affairs.

For the oldest of their three daughters, however, life is full of frustrating mysteries. The stories the adults tell her don't make sense. Too curious for comfort, she finds her questions only seem to annoy them. Why won't they tell the truth about Santa? What is that Holy Spirit business, and what is the difference between an angel and a ghost? Why is her mother often so tense and sad? And why does her father keep flying into violent rages?

Critique: An intimate, finely crafted novel about the innocence and vulnerability of childhood and the dangers posed by adults who cannot cope with life's complexities, "Hap and Hazard and the End of the World" is also about the ingenuity born of loneliness and neglect, and the surprising, strange beauty of the world. All the more impressive when considering that "Hap and Hazard and the End of the World" is author Diane DeSanders debut as a novelist, this deftly crafted and inherently fascinating book is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of appreciative readers that "Hap and Hazard and the End of the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.14).

Mapping My Way Home
Stephanie J. Urdang
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583676677, $16.85 PB / $13.80 Kindle, 304pp,

Synopsis: The author of "And Still They Dance: Women, War and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique", Stephanie Urdang (an anti-apartheid activist, journalist, academic writer, university lecturer, and freelance consultant, as well as gender specialist and senior advisor on HIV/AIDS for the United Nations) was born in Cape Town, South Africa, into a white, Jewish family staunchly opposed to the apartheid regime.

In 1967, at the age of twenty-three, no longer able to tolerate the grotesque iniquities and oppression of apartheid, she chose exile and emigrated to the United States. There she embraced feminism, met anti-apartheid and solidarity movement activists, and encountered a particularly American brand of racial injustice.

Stephanie Urdang also met African revolutionaries such as Amilcar Cabral, who would influence her return to Africa and her subsequent journalism. In 1974, she trekked through the liberation zones of Guinea-Bissau during its war of independence; in the 1980's, she returned repeatedly to Mozambique and saw how South Africa was fomenting a civil war aimed to destroy the newly independent country.

From the vantage point of her activism in the United States, and from her travels in Africa, Stephanie Urdang tracked and wrote about the slow, inexorable demise of apartheid that led to South Africa's first democratic elections, when she could finally return home.

"Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa" is Stephanie Urdang's personal memoir that maps out her quest for the meaning of home and for the lived reality of revolution with empathy, courage, and a keen eye for historical and geographic detail.

This is a personal narrative, beautifully told, of a journey traveled by an indefatigable exile who, while yearning for home, continued to question where, as a citizen of both South Africa and the United States, she belongs. "My South Africa!" she writes, on her return in 1991, after the release of Nelson Mandela, "How could I have imagined for one instant that I could return to its beauty, and not its pain?"

Critique: Candidly informative, descriptive, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa" is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman who lived in extraordinary times. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Biography collections in general, and South African History supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Mapping My Way Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.80).

Sculpture in Canada: A History
Maria Tippett
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781771620932, $39.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Found in public spaces and parks, art galleries and university buildings, along riverbanks as well as in city squares, private gardens and even underwater, Canadian sculpture encompasses a wide range of materials and diverse styles ranging from traditional bone and bronze to postmodern multimedia installations. As "Sculpture in Canada: A History" by Dr. Maria Tippett (who is the author of more than a dozen books on art and cultural history) demonstrates, artistic intentions among the nation's sculptors, whether political, social, theoretical or aesthetic, are as diverse as Canada itself.

A distinguished cultural historian Maria Tippett begins her richly illustrated study of Canadian sculpture in 13,000 BCE by examining a handcrafted shard found in the Bluefish Caves of the Yukon and proceeds to consider Inuit and First Nations sculptural practices alongside those of Euro-Canadians. Dr. Tippett begins with traditional forms such as totem poles and liturgical carvings before moving along to the landmark EXPO 67 exhibition and other significant events, concluding with the postmodern artists who, with "a relentless striving for the new" work within new technological realms such as 3D modelling and virtual reality spaces.

Dr. Tippett's survey evinces an avid interest in the logistics of sculpture, exploring the ways in which the medium demands more space, time, money and material to produce and exhibit than disciplines like drawing and painting. The result is that in Canadian sculpture, more than in other artistic practices, complex social, economic and cultural forces have interacted with the pure inspiration of artists in their studios.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Sculpture in Canada: A History" is a beautifully and profusely illustrated study that is exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, extraordinarily informative, and inherently fascinating read fro cover to cover. Showcasing the often underappreciated work of Canadian artists who have so fundamentally contributed the appreciation of the general public to memorable works of publicly presented sculpture, "Sculpture in Canada: A History" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Canadian Art History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Song of Praise for a Flower
Fengxian Chu with Charlene Chu
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781976424540, $19.99, PB, 486pp,

Synopsis: For nearly two decades, the manuscript for "Song of Praise for a Flower: One Woman's Journey through China's Tumultuous 20th Century" lay hidden in a Chinese bank vault until Charlene Chu, a long-lost cousin from America, inspired 92-year-old author Fengxian Chu to unearth it.

"Song of Praise for a Flower" traces a century of Chinese history through the experiences of one woman and her family, from the dark years of World War II and China's civil war to the tragic Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, and beyond. It is a window into a faraway world, a sweeping epic about China's tumultuous transformation and a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting story of a remarkable woman who survives it all and finally finds peace and tranquility.

Chu's story begins in the 1920s in an idyllic home in the heart of China's rice country. Her life is a struggle from the start. At a young age, she defies foot-binding and an arranged marriage and sneaks away from home to attend school. Her young adulthood is thrown into turmoil when the Japanese invade and ransack her village. Later her family is driven to starvation when Mao Zedong's Communist Party seizes power and her husband is branded a 'bad element.'

After Mao's death in the 1970s, as China picks up the pieces and moves in a new direction, Chu eventually finds herself in a glittering city on the sea adjacent to Hong Kong, worlds away in both culture and time from the place she came from.

Critique: Impressively informative, inherently fascinating, exceptionally well written and presented, "Song of Praise for a Flower: One Woman's Journey through China's Tumultuous 20th Century" is an extraordinary and unique memoir that should be a part of every community and academic library biography collection. Of special interest for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Song of Praise for a Flower" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Five Roles of a Master Herder
Linda Kohanov
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685462, $18.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: Through her Eponaquest Worldwide, established to explore the healing potential of working with horses, Linda Kohanov teaches internationally on subjects including leadership, social intelligence, and stress reduction.

In "The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to deftly adapt horse-inspired insights into powerful tools for developing collaborative leadership and managing change.

Over thousands of years, Kohanov writes, "master herders" of nomadic herding cultures developed a multi-faceted, socially intelligent form of leadership combining the five roles of Dominant, Leader, Sentinel, Nurturer / Companion, and Predator. The fluid interplay of these roles allowed interspecies communities to move across vast landscapes, dealing with predators and changing climates, protecting and nurturing the herd while keeping massive, gregarious, often aggressive animals together - without the benefit of fences and with very little reliance on restraints.

"The Five Roles of a Master Herder" also includes an innovative assessment tool to help the readers to determine which roles they currently overemphasize and which roles they may be ignoring -- or even actively avoiding. Through this powerful and surprising volume, Kohanov explains just how to recognize, cultivate, and utilize all five roles in the modern tribes of a workplace, family, and other social organizations.

Critique: Impressively informative, inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Business Management and Leadership Studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Five Roles of a Master Herder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound
Debbie S. Miller, author
Hugh Rose, photographer
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680511062, $29.95, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: The 2.1 million acres (equivalent to Yellowstone National Park) of the wilderness study area are coming under increasing threat by resource development. "A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound" is comprised of informative, eloquent essays covering the natural and cultural history people, and fragility of the region as personal explored and experienced by Debbie S. Miller that are impressively augmented by dramatic full color images from nature photographer Hugh Rose.

The wilderness study area is home to the largest concentration of tidewater glaciers in America and hosts a vast diversity of terrestrial and aquatic mammals, birds, and fish. Alaska's famed Prince William Sound includes more than 3,000 shore land miles of bays, coves, and deep fjords topped by the ice-capped peaks of the Chugach Mountains.

More than 1 million tourists visit the region annually, and small family-owned fishing boats, ecotourism, oyster farms, and guide services provide sustainable livelihoods for year-round Alaskan residents. Many Americans first came to know of Prince William Sound through the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 a catastrophe with lingering long-term effects, such the collapse of the once abundant herring population, a critical fish in the marine food chain.

In "A Wild Promise", readers travel alongside Hugh and Debbie as they hike and kayak from Columbia Glacier to College Fiord, exploring the Nellie Juan College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, a region set aside for study in 1980, to be followed it was hoped by permanent protection from Congress. After almost four decades of being in limbo as a designated wilderness study area, the fate of this spectacular, wild place is now in our hands. Its protection is a gift we can offer generations to come - a promise of wilderness, beauty, and natural diversity that we can, indeed, keep.

Critique: An informative, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking read for the armchair traveler, "A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound" is more than just a pretty picture book, it is a clarion call to arms for conservationists, especially in view of the policies and practices present federal administration. Beautifully composed both in terms of commentary and illustration, "A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound" is unreservedly and urgently recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections and contemporary environmental studies reading lists.

The Witch of Delray
Karen Dybis
The History Press
420 Wando Park Boulevard, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
9781467137546, $21.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Detroit was full of stark contrasts in 1931. Political scandals, rumrunners and mobs lurked in the shadows of the city's soaring architecture and industrious population. As the Great Depression began to take hold, tensions grew, spilling over into the investigation of a mysterious murder at the boardinghouse of Hungarian immigrant Rose Veres. Amid accusations of witchcraft, Rose and her son Bill were convicted of the brutal killing and suspected in a dozen more. Their cries of innocence went unheeded -- until one lawyer, determined to seek justice, took on the case. In the pages of "The Witch of Delray: Rose Veres & Detroit's Infamous 1930s Murder Mystery" author Karen Dybis (a former Detroit News reporter and longtime Metro Detroit freelance writer) follows the twists and turns of this shocking story, revealing the truth of Detroit's own Hex Woman.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Witch of Delray: Rose Veres & Detroit's Infamous 1930s Murder Mystery" is a deftly written and impressively informative historical study of an tragic incident that will have special appeal for true crime buff and is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caroline Fraser, author
Metropolitan Books
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781627792769 $35.00

"Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls" chronicles the complete sequence of events of the life of America's most popular children's author in three stages. Spanning a tumultuous 90 years of American history from 1867 to 1957, Laura Ingalls Wilder saw the unfolding of the Indian-haunted prairies and midwest woodlands before and after takeover/settlement by white invading farmers, the aftermath of the Civil War and the Minnesota Dakota massacre, as well as the Great Depression, WWI and II, and the early postwar prosperity of the 1950's.

Her personal history was also an amazing rags to riches story, enriched with both hardship and glory. Her books, inspired by her pioneer life as a girl growing up in prairie claim shanties, were a legacy to Americans of all ages, but her real life experiences are described by author Caroline Fraser as "both stranger and darker" than her beloved books. "Prairie Fires" represents a comprehensive rethreading of the life experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder, adding detail to her complex relationship with her brilliant but tormented author/editor daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. "Prairie Fires" is relentless and thorough in its sifting of the data available on its subject, achieving a new complex scrutiny of the profile of Laura, as well as a resounding rejection of the once held theory that Rose Wilder Lane, a close collaborator with her mother's writer, was actually a "ghost writer" of the Little House books. "Prairie Fires" deals with complicated realities that were painful when lived, and may be painful reading for readers of the beloved books, but will add to the richness and heroic depth of the real life experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The three stages of Laura's real life are characterized as The Pioneer, The Exile, and The Dream. Part I deals with Laura's life from birth and childhood through the first years of her marriage to Almanzo Wilder and the birth of their daughter, Rose. Part II, The Exile, deals with the journeys made by the Wilder family and Laura to Florida, back to De Smet, and then to Missouri, where Laura began to write her column As a Farm Woman Thinks in Mansfield, for "The Missouri Ruralist." Laura's author daughter, Rose, repeatedly encouraged her to write for newspapers to gain income. In this era, Laura also began to write about her life in "Pioneer Girl," a less successful early writing about her experiences growing up as a prairie settler's daughter. Part III, the Dream, covers Laura's later life and emerging success as a children's author, from her 70's to the age of 90.

All this occurred as a response to an unending battle for financial stability, an issue only to be resolved towards the end of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Many fascinating details emerge about the real life issues of the celebrated author, a strong, passionate, determined woman who faced her life's challenges with unflinching courage.

In the Epilogue, Fraser writes: "What were Wilder's dreams? ...She wanted to save her father's stories from being lost. She wanted to promote her parents; values, which were her own: 'courage, self reliance, independence, integrity and helpfulness.' They ran through all her stories, she said, 'like a golden thread (p. 509).'"

A final comment by the author is crucial to the portrait of the real Laura Ingalls Wilder: "....the Little House books are not history. They are not, as Wilder and her daughter claimed, true in every particular. Yet the truth about our history is in them. The truth about settlement, about homesteading, about farming is there, if we look for it - embedded in the novels; conflicted, nostalgic portrayal of transient joys and satisfactions, their astonishing feats of survival and jarring acts of dispossession, their deep yearning for security. Anyone who would ask where we came from, and why, must reckon with them (p. 508)."

"Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" is a 'must read' for the legions of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

The Runaway Chicken
Kiki Thorpe, author
Maine Diaz, illustrator
Kane Press
225 East 46th St., #4D, New York, NY 10017-2924
9781575659916, $5.99, PB, 32 pages,

"The Runaway Chicken" is a peppy new title from the Makers Make It Work series, which feature easy-to-read stories with plenty of opportunity for problem solving and hands on action. Each book includes a craft or other activity for readers to try their hand at. The project suggested in "The Runaway Chicken" involves building a birdhouse out of a milk carton using a milk carton, glue, scissors, paints, a popsicle stick, a hole punch, and ribbon or string. Exciting, action illustrations full of bright colors grip the imaginations of young readers.

"The Runaway Chicken" tells an exciting story of a girl named Maddy who catches and rescues an urban runaway chicken whom she names Henrietta. With her parents' permission and help, Maddy works to find Henrietta's owner while taking care of her, first in the house. This does not work so well, as Henrietta is not exactly an indoor pet. Then Maddy discovers a discarded doghouse that she envisions as a new home for Henrietta. Her father and mother help her to make some wooden and chicken wire revisions and a door plus a nest box, finishing up with a lovely new home chicken coop for Henrietta. However, Henrietta flew the coop again at this point. In chasing her, the family encounter Henrietta's original owner, who is an urban farmer named Joe. Joe decides that Maddy can keep Henrietta, since she is a young urban farmer too.

"The Runaway Chicken" ends with a page titled Learn Like a Maker, Look Back, and Try This! This page includes suggestions about new ways to approach problems, or unusual solutions to old problems. The project suggested is a simple birdhouse building activity that can be accomplished by most kids ages 5-8 with a little adult supervision. All titles from the Makers Make It Work series encourage creativity and also supports STEAM initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Its inspiring slogan is "Anyone can be a Maker..... and anyone can be a Reader!"

Additional titles from this series that are also highly recommended include: "Double or Nothing (9781575659893, $5.99)," by Catherine Daly, illustrated by Tammie Lyon, "Robot to the Rescue (9781575659879, $5.99)," by Kay Lawrence and illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi, and "The Color Day Coach (9781575659930, $4.99)," by Gail Herman, illustrated by Anthony Lewis.

Mazey Pines: The Amazing Adventures of Abby McQuade
Evan Jacobs, author
Saddleback Educational Publishers
9781680214697 $TBA pbk / $8.95 Kindle

"Mazey Pines" is an exciting junior mystery with a female teenage sleuth and pal for protagonists and lots of dramatic appeal and excitement for readers age 11 and up. The pace of action is fast and details are familiar yet intriguing, while the narrative style is fresh, invigorating, and the vocabulary is not too challenging for reluctant readers.

Abby is allowed to attend a party in Mazey Pines with her best friend, Clara. When they decide to leave early because the party is a bust, they encounter a mystical maze of pine trees that cause them to get lost in the dark. A confounding mist arises. The girls walk and walk, but keep returning to Allen's house, where the party was, like a bad dream or Groundhog Day rewrite. their cell phones and GPS also don't work in the fog. Desperate, the girls return to the lame party of weird people stuck on EVP (electronic voice phenomena, which lets you talk to dead people through TV/media static). They eventually theorize that the party people have evoked the long gone pine trees of the neighborhood through use of EVP. They encounter the party house as it must have been many years earlier when the pine trees were still all around the houses of the neighborhood.

An old legend about the pine trees thirst for vengeance and rebirth haunts the girls in their desperate attempts to walk back home. They become weary and frightened in their attempts to find their way through the fog and the maze of pine trees. Most frightening of all, they began to hear the distorted sound of someone calling their names, "Abby, Clara.....!" Were the trees trying to catch them or capture them? The girls run desperately down one path after another, coming to repeated dead ends. The wit and spunk of Abby and Clara combine to help them puzzle through this amazing maze mystery, and a happy ending and reconciliation with Abby's parents and the normal home they know near Mazey Pines delight the reader's sense of intrigue and excitement mixed with familiarity and security. "Mazey Pines" ends on a positive note after a thrilling experience with the paranormal in nature.

Also highly recommended are the following titles by the same author from the juvenile mystery series, "The Amazing Adventures of Abby McQuade:" "Back To the Past (9781680214703)," "Scream Night (9781680214680)," "Virus (9781680214673)," and "The Ghosts of Largo Bay (9781680214666)," all by Evan Jacobs.

River and Coast Geo Facts
Izzi Howell, author
Crabtree Publishing Company
9780778743934 $27.60 32 pages

"River and Coast Geo Facts" is an elementary level (ages 7-12) title from the Geo Facts series, with multiple color photographs of examples of rivers and coastlines studied plus many helpful illustrations, maps, and diagrams. Topics covered include rivers and coasts, river structure, river erosion, river formations, focus on the Ganges River, the Colorado River, the UK Coast, the Twelve Apostles, the Three Gorges Dam, and Venice, plus chapters on types of coasts, changing coasts, arches and stacks, people and water, and flooding. The dynamic process of coastal erosion is excellently portrayed and explained in the chapter on Changing Coasts, as an example of Geo Facts clarification. Additional resources include a glossary, a list of books for further reading and related websites, and a quiz titled Test Yourself!, with quiz key on page 32. "River and Coast Geo Facts" is an informative thumbnail sketch of major known examples of graphic changes in rivers and coastlines of Earth.

Additional titles from the GeoFacts series that are also very highly recommended include: "Biome Geo Facts (9780778743811)," by Izzi Howell, "Earthquake Geo Facts (9780778743828)," by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, "Volcano Geo Facts (9780778743958)," by Izzi Howell, "Population and Settlement Geo Facts (9780778743859)," by Izzi Howell, "Water Cycle Geo Facts (9780778743941)," by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, "Mountain Geo Facts (9780778743842)," by Izzi Howell, and "Earth's Resources Geo Facts (9780778743835)," by Izzi Howell.

Dingle Dinners
Trevis Gleason, editor
Joanne Murphy, food photographer
Elaine Kennedy, profile photographer
Collins Press
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, Pa 19425
9781848893283 $45.00 290 pages

"Dingle Dinners" offers sophisticated, delicious menus from the most famous Foodie area in Ireland. Accompanied by dazzling food and location photocompositions, no fewer than 26 supper menus of three or more courses are offered, with full recipes written with both metric and standard measurements. Truly inspired Irish chefs offer such courses as Seared Scallops with Chilli Jam, Roast Pork Fillet with Apricot and Raisin Stuffing and Balsamic Cream, served with Garlic Crushed Potatoes, Pickled Red Cabbage, and Tempura Fried Strawberries with Chilli Ice Ceam for dessert. Every menus is appealing, and there are many dishes redolent of the sea. The cover photo is of Glenbeigh oysters with marsh samphire, from Oysters Casino.

The chefs and their award winning establishments are listed at the beginning of each chapter menu, including, John Ryan of the Dingle Skellig Hotel, Stella Doule of Doyle's (founder), Denis O'Connor, of the Half Door, Martin Bealin, of the Global Village, Anne Long of the Dingle Bay Hotel, Brian Heaton of Castlewood House, and Lee Sim of the Dingle Whiskey Distillery, plus many more. There are representative dishes from the cuisine of Italy, West Kerry, Czechoslovakia, France, plus multiple variants of Irish home comfort food. In addition to all the creative food recipes, there are multiple cocktail recipes from the Dingle Distillery, plus specific wine suggestions for each special menu.

"Dingle Dinners" is a wonderful travelogue cookbook that should inspire both travelers abroad and home cooking interpretations of these wonderful offerings to the experienced palate. Even if you can't travel to dingle town and Ireland, you can experience some of the delight of partaking of both the beautiful scenery and the incredibly fresh culinary interpretations of classic multi-ethnic Irish cuisine. The food and scenic photography is truly inspiring, as well as the informed connoisseur's view of tasting the menus.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Broken Angel / Backfire and Other Stories
Floyd Mahannah
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520410, $19.95, PB, 282pp,

Synopsis: THE BROKEN ANGEL: Sara is a great secretary to Nevada newspaper editor Roy Holgren, and easy to fall for. But it's not until she disappears that Holgren realizes how little he knows about her. She leaves town abruptly with a note that and signs off, Now forget me quickly. A short-haired blond man had come around asking for her, and Holgren just knows she's in trouble. After a little investigating, he finds her in Lodi at a hospital, covered in bruises. Rescuing her, Holgren finds them a vacation cabin along the Sacramento Delta, and starts asking the questions he should have asked before. Sara had worked for a plastic surgeon, and was involved in the murder of the doctor's wife. Holgren knows he has to clear her before they can have a life together, but a murder charge is only the beginning to save Sara, Holgren is in for the ride of his life.

BACKFIRE & OTHER STORIES: The killer had dropped a match in the library as he ran through the house to jump into the Cadillac and follow me, but the fire was spotted in a matter of minutes by a passing motorist, and the fire department got there before the body was badly charred. An alert police officer who reŽmembered my trial and threat two years ago was what had gotten the roadblocks up so fast. The cab driver's identification, and my fingerprints all around sewed the case up tight. I was guilty...

"The Broken Angel / Backfire and Other Stories" is comprised of six hardboiled stories of revenge, robbery, murder and mayhem from the pages of Manhunt magazine!

Critique: Brought back into print by Stark House press for the edification and enjoyment of a new generation of appreciative readers, "The Broken Angel / Backfire and Other Stories" showcases author Floyd Mahannah (12-30-1911 to 10-1-1976) and his unique mastery of the mystery/suspense genre. Especially and unreservedly entertaining from cover to cover, "The Broken Angel / Backfire and Other Stories" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs, as well as community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Struggle, and Violence Along the US/Mexico Border: An Oral History
John Thomas
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
9781527503014, $99.95, HC, 306pp,

Synopsis: "One Hundred Years of Solitude, Struggle, and Violence Along the US/Mexico Border: An Oral History" features oral histories, mainly of members of the ranching families who have lived in the Mexican State of Sonora and the corresponding territory in the US that stretches from Tijuana on the California border to Agua Prieta on the Arizona border.

The elders in those families recall the tales that their grandparents told, providing a century of perspectives on the revolution in economics, culture, and drug trade that the area has witnessed.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude, Struggle, and Violence Along the US/Mexico Border: An Oral History" uses the voices of those who have lived through the vicissitudes of border life to paint this cultural upheaval in gripping, personal terms.

Critique: Collectively offering a unique and impressively informative eye-witness history of an American subculture that underscores the current national immigration dialogue, "One Hundred Years of Solitude, Struggle, and Violence Along the US/Mexico Border: An Oral History" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American History, Hispanic History, and Contemporary Social Issues collections, as well as the personal reading lists of immigration and DEA policy makers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump
Jonathan Engel
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299314101, $34.95, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: "Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump" by Jonathan Engel (who is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College and an adjunct professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University) was specifically written for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the history of American healthcare from the advent of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s to the impact of the Affordable Care Act in the 2010s.

Step by step, Professor Engel shows how we arrived at our present convoluted situation, where generic drugs prices can jump 1,000 percent in a day and primary care physicians can lose 20 percent of their income at the stroke of a Congressional pen.

"Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump" covers, in a conversational style punctuated by apt examples, topics ranging from health insurance, pharmaceutical pricing, and physician training to health maintenance organizations and hospital networks.

Professor Engel also introduces approaches that other nations have taken in organizing and paying for healthcare and offers insights on ethical quandaries around end-of-life decisions, neonatal care, life-sustaining treatments, and the limits of our ability to define death.

While describing the political origins of many of the federal and state laws that govern our healthcare system today, Professor Engel never loses sight of the impact that healthcare delivery has on our wallets and on the balance sheets of hospitals, doctors' offices, government agencies, and private companies.

Critique: Simply stated, "Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump" should be a part of every community, college, and university library Contemporary Health & Medicine collection. It should be on the supplemental studies list of every student of Political Science and Healthcare in America. Every politician, every social activist, every ordinary citizen concerned with fixing America's broken and malfunctioning health care system should give a careful reading of "Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump". Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in composition, organization, and presentation, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unaffordable: American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Mobilizing without the Masses
Diana Fu
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108420549, $89.99, HC, 193pp,

Synopsis: When advocacy organizations are forbidden from rallying people to take to the streets, what do they do? When activists are detained for coordinating protests, are their hands ultimately tied?

Based on political ethnography inside both legal and blacklisted labor organizations in China, "Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China" by Diane Fu (Assistant Professor of Asian Politics at the University of Toronto) reveals how state repression is deployed on the ground and to what effect on mobilization.

"Mobilizing without the Masses" presents a novel dynamic of civil society contention called 'mobilizing without the masses' that lowers the risk of activism under duress. Instead of facilitating collective action, activists coach the aggrieved to challenge authorities one by one. In doing so, they lower the risks of organizing while empowering the weak.

This dynamic represents a third pathway of contention that challenges conventional understandings of mobilization in an illiberal state. "Mobilizing without the Masses" takes readers inside the world of underground labor organizing and opens the black box of repression inside contemporary China -- arguably the world's most powerful authoritarian state.

Critique: An extraordinary and seminal work of impeccable scholarship, "Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China" is informationally enhanced further with the inclusion of figures and tables, a nine page appendix (Political Ethnography), a sixteen page bibliography, and a seven page index. Exhaustively researched, impressively informative, particularly well written, organized and presented, ""Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China" should be considered as an essential and core addition to college and university library contemporary Chinese political, economics, and labor relations collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that ""Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China" is also available in a paperback edition (9781108430418, $27.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.30).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Blood Letters - The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr in Mao' China
Lian Xi
Basic Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9781541644236, $ 30.00

Freedom Writings against Tyranny and Slavery - Lin Zhao's Crusade for Human Rights

Blood Letters is a tribute to the life and testimony of Lin Zhao, poet, journalist; political prisoner of the Communists under the Mao regime in China during the 1960s.

Lian XI traces the life of Lin Zhao beginning with her childhood and lessons learned from her mother's example. He goes on to introduce the impact of the prestigious Laura Haygood Memorial School; a Methodist/Episcopalian school for girls which offered exceptional literary advantages, and of the life lessons learned while at the South Jiangsu Journalism Vocational School that prepared journalists and propagandists for the revolution.

It was from these influences that Lin Zhao developed a fighting spirit for human dignity and will, of courage and sacrifice, and the beginning of a religious faith. At the Jiangsu School for journalists that Lin Zhao learned that literature must be popularized to change the spirit of the masses. He goes on to detail the account of her repudiation of earlier writings while being influenced by the dreams and promises of the Communist propaganda.

In 1965 Lin Zhao was arrested and charged with being a member and leader of the publication "A Spark of Fire," an underground journal that denounced the Communist rule of Mao. Her poem "A Day in Prometheus's Passion" mocked Mao and was taken as a malicious attack on the Chinese Communist Party. As a result of the trial she was given a sentence of 20 years in prison, later changed to a death sentence.

An extensive Bibliography and detailed endnotes meticulously confirm the passion and research that Lian XI invested in this his careful presentation of the Lin Zhao's letters prior to and while imprisoned; written in ink or in her own blood.

A challenging story inspiring courage and sacrifice while being true to self.

Family Changes - Explaining Divorce to Children
Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D.
Illustrated by Polona Lovsin
Aspiring Families Press
9780996194105, $14.95

Story Telling Technique for Helping Children through the Trauma of Divorce

In Family Changes - Explaining Divorce to Children Azmaira H. Maker uses a story telling therapy technique as a tool to help parents and professionals to be responsive to a child's feelings about family changes during the transition period of separation and divorce process.

Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in family relationships, working with children, parents and families.

In a heartwarming story for children Mama Bunny helps Zoey Bunny deal with questions regarding Daddy Bunny's recent absence from their home and what it means to be separated. Lovsin's colorful artwork reinforces the emotions and feeling of the dialog and story line.

Two additional features enhance "Family Changes - Explaining Divorce to Children" as a resource. A note for Adults introduces ways to use the book effectively. "Process Questions for Adults to use with Children" provides 20 examples of unresolved questions the child may be experiencing.

Highly recommended.

Where Did My Friend Go? Helping Children Cope with A Traumatic Death
Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D.
Aspiring Families Press
9780996194112, $9.99,

Where Did My Friend Go? Helping Children Cope with A Traumatic Death is an exceptional tool or resource to help children understand and deal with loss and bereavement due to the death of a loved one.

We live in a culture where young children are frequently exposed to traumatic events, personally and through the media, Grief brought on by the loss of a loved one, family or friend, is never easy. Traumatic deaths, accident or violent, will create a new level of anxiety, fright, confusion, anger, and sadness.

The book's tender, age-appropriate narrative and the suggested discussion questions will help children ages 3 - 8 open up and share their emotions, unresolved issues and questions about death and dying.

Suggestions for "interventions" offer parents, educational counselors, and other adult caregiver's assistance for helping children draw out the child's perspective on the sudden trauma of loss, or are aware of or have witnessed an accidental or violent death.

Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma, loss, and child development.

The dramatic colored pictures reinforce the text and will leave the reader with a lingering sense of the emotionally charged sensitivity of Dr. Maker's compelling message.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Business of Personal Training
Mark A. Nutting
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
9781492517221, $69.00, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: Running a personal training business is never easy. From marketing and sales to budgets, staffing, and clientele issues there is much to consider. "The Business of Personal Training" walks the reader through the business-based side of personal training while teaching the valuable skills necessary to start, build, and grow a professional personal training business.

Divided into two main parts, "The Business of Personal Training" provides a complete understanding of the various roles that are part of a personal training business, along with the expectations in each of them. The second part covers key business concepts designed to grow a personal training business. "The Business of Personal Training" shows how to structure the business, plan for startup expenses and financing, and get the right staff in place. Of special note is the critical information on marketing and promoting the services offered, effectively selling and generating revenue, driving referral business and customer loyalty, and expanding and diversifying your business.

Two appendixes offer: Nine business plan templates: cover letter, executive summary, business or company description, market analysis and demographics, competitive analysis, management plan, financial plan, capital required, and marketing plan. Seven personal trainer - client forms: PAR-Q+, personal wellness profile, physician's clearance, informed consent and release, assessment recording form, cleaning checklist, and facility and equipment maintenance log.

As an added bonus, a companion web resource provides the templates and forms in an electronic format so the reader can customize them as needed. A third appendix provides a list of business resources.

Critique: Comprehensive, 'real world practical', thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Business of Personal Training" by Mark A. Nutting (who has more than 37 years of experience in personal training and health club management and over 10 years of intensive study about business practices and how to apply them to the fitness industry) is an ideal instruction manual and guide for operating a successful and profitable personal training business. While highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Business of Personal Training" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $52.00).

Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Julian C. Chambliss, William L. Svitavsky, Daniel Fandina, editors
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476664187, $39.95, PB, 262pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Julian C. Chambliss (Professor of United States history at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida); William L. Svitavsky (Associate Professor and Emerging Services Librarian at the Olin Library of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida); and Daniel Fandino (who is a history graduate student at Michigan State University), "Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains" is comprised of fifteen essays on the Marvel comic book based films, broadcast television and streaming series and digital shorts, which have generated considerable fan engagement with its emphasis on socially relevant characters and plots.

Beyond considerable box office achievements, the success of Marvel's movie studios has opened up dialogue on social, economic and political concerns that challenge established values and beliefs. This collection of new essays deftly examines those controversial themes and the ways they represent, construct and distort American culture.

Critique: With the continuing block-busting box office success of the Marvel franchise based movies and television shows, and their continuing popular culture impact here and abroad, "Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe" is a particularly timely series of erudite and informative essays that embody impressive standards of seminal scholarship. Enhanced with the inclusion of a eight page Bibliography, a two page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a seven page Index, "Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe" will prove to be an invaluable and core addition to college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species
J. E. McPherson, editor
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781498715089, $149.95, HC, 820pp,

Synopsis: The Superfamily Pentatomoidea (stink bugs and their relatives) is comprised of 18 families with over 8,000 species, the largest of which is the family Pentatomidae (about 5,000 species). These species primarily are phytophagous, and many cause tremendous economic damage to crops worldwide.

Within this superfamily are six invasive species, two that occur worldwide and four that are recent invaders in North America. Once established in new geographic regions, these species have increased their numbers and geographic distributions dramatically, causing economic damage totaling billions of dollars. "Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species (Pentatomoidea): Biology, Higher Systematics, Semiochemistry, and Management" is the first book that presents comprehensive coverage of the biology of invasive pentatomoids and related true bug species and addresses issues of rapidly growing economic and environmental concerns.

Containing the contributions of more than 60 stink bug specialists from 15 countries, "Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species" provides a better understanding of the biology and economic importance of these invasive species, why they became invasive, and how their continued geographical expansion is likely to affect numerous agricultural systems and natural environments. Including over 3,500 references, this authoritative work serves as an access point to the primary literature on their life histories, higher systematics, diapause and seasonal cycles, pathogens, symbionts, semiochemistry, and pest management control strategies for pentatomoid bugs.

"Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species" presents a brief history of past classifications, a summary of present classification, and speculation on how the classification may evolve in the future; includes keys for the identification of families and subfamilies of the Pentatomoidea and for the tribes in the Pentatomidae; explains transmission of plant pathogens and concepts of pathology and heteropteran feeding for the non-specialist; provides an extensive literature review of transmission by stink bugs of viral, bacterial, fungal, and protozoan organisms that cause diseases of plants; discusses the diversity of microbial symbionts in the Pentatomidae and related species, showing how microorganisms underpin the evolution of this insect group; reviews semiochemicals (pheromones, kairomones, allomones) of the Pentatomoidea and their vital role in the life histories of pest and beneficial species and their exploitation by natural enemies of true bugs; and overs past, current, and future control options for insects, with a focus on stink bugs and related heteropterans.

Critique: Comprehensive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species" is enhanced with the inclusion of 27 color and 136 b/w illustrations, a twenty-one page Insects and Spiders Index, a sixteen page Plants index, and a three page Microoranisms and Plant Diseases Index, making it an ideal curriculum textbook and an unreservedly recommended addition to professional, college, and university library collections.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781501176845, $27.99, Hardcover, 445 pp.

Detective Dave Robicheaux returns from his last adventure in Montana to the sheriff's department in Iberia, Louisiana, an area about which James Lee Burke writes poetically in the long tradition of southern writers like Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. Robicheaux is a haunted person, suffering from the loss of his wife, Molly, who was killed in an auto accident, nightmares from his time in Vietnam, and alcoholism. In fact, he goes off the wagon (a devotee of Alcoholics Anonymous) and wonders if he could have murdered the victim, the person who caused his beloved wife's death, while drunk, even as he conducted the investigation into the incident.

The novel is filled with all sorts of nefarious characters, ranging from outright gangsters to a Huey Long type who glibly mesmerizes the populace and plays a prominent role in events by representing how wealth and imagery can lead to undermining American traditions. And, of course, Clete Purcel, Dave's closest friend, is front and center in the story, as is his daughter, Alafair, who writes a screenplay for a movie based on a Civil War event.

The piercing prose and the sweep of the tale, combined with the extraordinary characters, are incomparable.

It is interesting to note that while Mr. Burke writes about the South with such feeling, he lives in Montana. I guess distance makes for perspective.

Highly recommended.

A Casualty of War
Charles Todd
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062678782, $26.99, Hardcover, 377 pp.

In the waning days of WWI, Bess Crawford was stationed at a forward medical base close to the fighting when a Captain was brought in with a head wound. It turned out that the bullet merely scraped his scalp and he returned to his men the next day, but he claimed he was shot by a British lieutenant resembling his great grandfather, perhaps his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis. A few days later, he was returned to the facility, shot in the back. Again he told Bess the same man shot him. Bess got to know the Captain and believed his story.

The Armistice soon took place, and Bess was asked to accompany a convoy of wounded back to England and was granted a week's leave. Instead of visiting home in Somerset, accompanied by Sgt. Major Brandon, she traveled to a hospital in Wiltshire where the Captain was being treated. She was appalled to find him strapped to his bed under horrible conditions (the medical staff thought him mad because of his outbursts regarding his claim to have been shot by a relative, attributing his condition to his head wound). Strengthening the diagnosis was the fact that James was killed a year before. Bess insisted he be unshackled and permitted to enjoy fresh air.

She then traveled to Sussex, James' home, to determine the accuracy of James' death, discovering even more complications, including the fact that after a brief meeting in Paris earlier in the war, James named the Captain his heir. Meanwhile, the Captain escapes from the Wiltshire hospital when taken for a walk. And the story goes on as the complications of the plot unfolds. The Bess Crawford mysteries, of which this is the ninth, artfully weave the agonies of war with the crimes Bess attempts to solve. With the end of the war on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, where will the series now go? It deserves to continue in peace, as well!


The Gate Keeper
Charles Todd
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062678713, $26.99, Hardcover, 306 pp.

Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, offers two different series: The Gate Keeper is from the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series (the other is the Bess Crawford novels). Both series take place in a similar time frame, during or after World War I, and are based in England (or France, of course, in the trenches). Rutledge served as a Captain and saw bloody action and was responsible for the execution of his Corporal, Hamish McCleod, who refused orders to lead his men into another futile charge over the top. Hamish still haunts Rutledge, and his memory serves as sort of assistant to the Inspector by offering observations and warnings when warranted.

As a result of shell shock, Rutledge was, for a time, treated for his mental condition, but now serves as a Scotland Yard detective. Since his release from the hospital, he has been living in the family home with his sister, who is married at the start of this novel. Returning from the wedding, he is unable to sleep and decides to go for a drive, ending up far away from his London apartment, where he finds himself witness to a murder. He insists on taking over the investigation and when another murder occurs, it becomes more important to uncover the reason for each. Rutledge learns of a third murder far away that might be related to the two he is working on, but it is assigned to another Scotland Yard detective.

The plot is fairly simple, but the solution is a lot more complicated and unexpected. Rutledge plods on until he finds a common thread to all three murders, then has to turn his attention to the question of who has actually performed the murders. And this he does with smoothness in this, the 20th novel in the series. On to the 21st.


Robert B. Parker's Blackjack
Robert Knott
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781101982532, $27.00, Hardcover, 322 pp.
9781101982525, $9.99, Paperback, 384 pp.

The late Robert B. Parker created several memorable characters, notably Spenser. But there was also Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall to round out the mystery/crime series. Parker also wrote standalones and a western series with the popular marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch as protagonists. Robert Knott has continued to employ Virgil and Everett in his efforts to continue the westerns conceived by Parker.

"Blackjack" is pretty much of a straightforward story in which a new casino is being built in their hometown of Appaloosa. An important employee, Boston Bill Black, a notorious gambler and womanizer, has hired two gunmen as bodyguards. One day, he is confronted in the street by a lawman from Denver seeking to serve him with an arrest warrant. One of the gunmen shoots the Denver representative, who eventually dies. It turns out that the warrant accuses Black of murdering the lawman's wife, with whom he had had relations, in Denver. Virgil and Everett now turn their attention to capturing the gunman and bringing him to justice.

Eventually Black also is captured, charged with murder and tried. He maintained his innocence, but was found guilty instead, sentenced to be hanged. The tale continues from that point, but to reveal any further plot would constitute a spoiler. There is little action but a lot of talk, as the novel wends its way to the conclusion which contains quite a twist. However, the story is hardly a western in the true sense except for the setting and some of the dialog. It could have taken place anywhere and at anytime. Still a good read, and it is recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

What Editors Do
Peter Ginna, editor
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226299976, $25.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Editing is an invisible literary art where the very best work goes undetected. Editors strive to create books that are enlightening, seamless, and pleasurable to read, all while giving credit to the author. This makes it all the more difficult to truly understand the range of roles editors inhabit while shepherding a project from concept to publication.

Peter Ginna was most recently publisher and editorial director at Bloomsbury Press; before that he held editorial positions at Oxford University Press, Crown Publishers, St. Martin's Press, and Persea Books. He has taught editing in New York University's publishing program, and comments on editing, books, and publishing at the blog Doctor Syntax and on Twitter at @DoctorSyntax.

In "What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing", Ginna expertly compiles essays from twenty-seven leading figures in book publishing about their work. Representing both large houses and small, and encompassing trade, textbook, academic, and children's publishing, the contributors make the case for why editing remains a vital function to writers (and readers) everywhere.

Ironically for an industry built on words, there has been a scarcity of written guidance on how to actually approach the work of editing. "What Editors Do" will serve as a compendium of professional advice and will be a resource both for those entering the profession (or already in it) and for those outside publishing who seek an understanding of it. It sheds light on how editors acquire books, what constitutes a strong author-editor relationship, and the editor's vital role at each stage of the publishing process -- a role that extends far beyond marking up the author's text.

Taken collectively, "What Editors Do" treats editing as both art and craft, and also as a career. It explores how editors balance passion against the economic realities of publishing. "What Editors Do" shows why, in the face of a rapidly changing publishing landscape, editors are more important than ever.

Critique: Absolutely essential reading for anyone who aspires to be an editor, as well as critically important reading for authors and publishers with respect to the critically important role that editors play in the publishing process, "What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $9.00). Librarians should be aware for their collections that there is a hardcover edition of "What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing" (9780226299839, $74.00).

The Celebrated Marquis
John D. Bessler
Carolina Academic Press
700 Kent Street, Durham, NC 27701
9781611637861, $63.00, PB, 554pp,

Synopsis: During the Enlightenment, a now little-known Italian marquis, while in his mid-twenties as a member of a small Milanese salon, the Academy of Fists, wrote a book that was destined to change the world. Published anonymously in 1764 as Dei delitti e delle pene, and quickly translated into French and then into English as On Crimes and Punishments, the runaway bestseller argued against torture, capital punishment, and religious intolerance. Written by Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), an economist and recent law graduate of the University of Pavia, On Crimes and Punishments sought clear and egalitarian laws, better public education, and milder punishments. Translated into all of the major European languages, Beccaria's book led to the end of the Ancien Regime.

Praised by Voltaire and the French philosophers, Beccaria was toasted in Paris in 1766 for his literary achievement, and his book (though banned by the Inquisition and placed on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books) was lauded by monarchs and revolutionaries alike. Among its admirers were the French Encyclopedistes; Prussia's Frederick the Great; Russia's enlightened czarina, Catherine II; members of the Habsburg dynasty; the English jurist Sir William Blackstone; the utilitarian penal reformer Jeremy Bentham; and American revolutionaries John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. On Crimes and Punishments, decrying tyranny and arbitrariness and advocating for equality of treatment under the law, helped to catalyze the American and French Revolutions. In 1774, on the cusp of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress explicitly hailed Beccaria as "the celebrated marquis."

Called the "Italian Adam Smith" for his pioneering work as an economist in Milan, Cesare Beccaria - like his Italian mentor, Pietro Verri - wrote about pleasure and pain, economic theory, and maximizing people's happiness. Once a household name throughout Europe and the Americas, Beccaria taught economics before the appearance of Smith's The Wealth of Nations but died in obscurity after working for decades as a civil servant in Austria's Habsburg Empire. As a public councilor, Beccaria pushed for social and economic justice, monetary and legal reform, conservation of natural resources, and even inspired France's adoption of the metric system. In "The Celebrated Marquis", award-winning author John Bessler tells the story of the history of economics and of how Beccaria's ideas shaped the American Declaration of Independence, constitutions and laws around the globe, and the modern world in which we live.

Critique: John D. Bessler teaches at the University of Baltimore School of Law and the Georgetown University Law Center, and in 2018 will be a visiting scholar at the University of Minnesota Law School. With "The Celebrated Marquis: An Italian Noble and the Making of the Modern World" is a superbly presented work of extraordinary scholarship and an essential, unreservedly recommended addition for community, college, and university library collections.

Doing Research in the Real World
David E. Gray
Sage Publications
2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320-2218
9781526418524, $50.00, PB, 824pp,

Synopsis: Pragmatic and inspiring, this newly updated and expanded fourth edition of "Doing Research in the Real World" by David E. Gray (Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, University of Greenwich) will enable anyone engaged in research to complete their research quickly and well.

Professor Gray's practical and experience based-advice is both positive and sensible as he walks the reader through each step of the research process from start to finish. Weaving quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods together, he encourages the reader to consider flexible options and to choose the most appropriate methods for your projects.

Setting out the realities of conducting research in real-world settings, "Doing Research in the Real World" will help the reader to find the practical tools and the confidence needed to make good research choices as well as providing coverage of a wide range of assessment techniques and employability skills.

"Doing Research in the Real World" also introduces an incredible range of digital resources including: An award-winning video to bring concepts to life; Video top tips from Professor Gray; Case studies from experts; Journal articles to showcase real research; Interactive glossary flashcards; Multiple choice questions to test the reader with; Multidisciplinary data sets; Downloadable checklists.

Brimming with energy and grounded in reality, "Doing Research in the Real World" is the definitive instructional guide and manual to research, ranging from theory to design, data collection to data analysis, and writing up to dissemination.

Critique: An ideal curriculum textbook, "Doing Research in the Real World" is comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students, researchers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Doing Research in the Real World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $36.96). Community and academic librarians should be aware that there is a hardcover edition of "Doing Research in the Real World" (9781473947269, $172.98,

Paul T. Vogel

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

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