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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 3 March 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

From Preaching to Meddling: A White Minister in the Civil Rights Movement
Francis X. Walter
NewSouth Books
105 South Court Street, Montgomery, AL 36104
9781588383907, $28.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: "From Preaching to Meddling: A White Minister in the Civil Rights Movement" is Francis X. Walter's fascinating, funny, sometimes searing memoir in which he as a retired Episcopal priest shares his journey from the days of the Great Depression in Mobile, Alabama, across decades of Deep South segregation, and into the interracial struggles for racial justice and freedom in Alabama.

The founder of the Selma Inter-religious Project, Walter's story includes growing up in multi-ethnic, segregated Mobile and learning life lessons at theology schools in Sewanee and New York. Returning to Alabama, Walter spent years as an Episcopal priest navigating how to serve white parishes in Alabama while challenging the racism that most congregants believed was a God-given right.

After the tragic murder of seminarian Jonathan Daniels shortly after the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, Walter moved from pastoring segregationists to agitating against them as he became a committed supporter of the struggles for civil rights and racial justice in George Wallace's Alabama.

"From Preaching to Meddling" is a personal chronicle of some of the nation's civil rights struggles in Alabama and of the memoirist's own struggles with faith and fault. While recounting the people and communities he joined in fighting against the white South's racial order in rural Alabama, Walter candidly shares questions, dilemmas, and perceptions of his own shortcomings. His is an engaging portrait of momentous times and of himself as both conflicted priest and crusading white Southerner.

Critique: A uniquely informative, exceptionally well written, and welcome contribution to our understanding of the effort to overcome the 'Jim Crow' culture of racial discrimination and violence in the state of Alabama, "From Preaching to Meddling: A White Minister in the Civil Rights Movement " is the extraordinary account of an extraordinary man in an extraordinary time. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "From Preaching to Meddling" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Take Me Home Huey: Honoring American Heroes Through Art
Steve Maloney, author
Clare Nolan, author
Daniell Cornell, author
Take Me Home Huey Publishing
978069211780, $45.00, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: "Take Me Home Huey: Honoring American Heroes Through Art" is the moving story of visionary artist Steve Maloney's mission to honor Vietnam veterans by resurrecting a shattered medevac helicopter that was shot down on Valentine's Day in 1969 and dramatically transforming the Huey into a traveling memorial to those who served.

"Take Me Home Huey" documents, through stunning full-color photographs and Maloney's informative narrative, how the sculpture evolved -- from a wish to honor Vietnam veterans 50 years after the war's end into a touchstone for solace and connection among veterans, including some with PTSD. Drawing on in-depth conversations with survivors of the doomed Huey, others who served in the helicopter war, therapists, and historians, Maloney's work is a stirring tribute to the heroes of the war in Southeast Asia.

"Take Me Home Huey" showcases a groundbreaking multimedia project that also includes an Emmy award-winning film and an original song. The unique narrative provides vital context for the entire project through interviews with the surviving medevac crewmen, other veterans, PTSD survivors, doctors, art therapists, and historians, including Joe Galloway, the official spokesperson of the national Vietnam War Commemoration.

With the addition of personal stories from those touched by the artwork, this project adds a new dimension to the art of the war memorial and is a perfect capstone to the 'Take Me Home Huey' project.

Critique: Especially recommended to the attention of Viet Nam vets and their families, "Take Me Home Huey: Honoring American Heroes Through Art " is an extraordinary and memorable volume that is an essential addition to personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Steve Maloney's art reflects his fascination with velocity, American icons, machine forms, the humor of life itself, and, most significantly, pop culture. He works in a variety of disciplines including painting, sculpture, collage, film, music, performance, and digital media.

Editorial Note #2: Clare Nolan is an award-winning documentary and multimedia writer and producer whose work has been featured globally on the National Geographic and Discovery channels.

Editorial Note #3: Daniel Cornell is an independent arts professional, cultural historian, and curator. He has held positions at the New Museum, the Morgan Library, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Most recently he was director of art at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Sky Worshipers
F.M. Deemyad
History Through Fiction, LLC
9781732950863, $29.95 Hardcover; $17.95 Paper; $6.99 Kindle

Historical novel readers looking for a story steeped in the politics, culture, and epoch of Genghis Khan will find The Sky Worshipers a powerful, sweeping saga that focuses on the role and influence of women who change the trajectory and strength of Khan and his Mongol warriors.

This unique focus will especially appeal to women who want their histories to include not just the mention of women as auxiliary characters, but that place women's lives, perspectives, and influences at the forefront of the story rather than in the background.

Fantasy and speculations blend with known facts about the Mongol invasions of Asia, Middle East, and Eastern Europe during the thirteenth century and beyond. F.M. Deemyad reconstructs these events, bringing readers a taste of the power and approach of sky-worshiping conquerors who demanded of their new people that they change their lives and perspectives to be more in sync with Mongol culture.

A nonfiction introduction sets the stage for this story and segues nicely into the tale, presenting not only a historical foundation for the events, but the rationale behind why Deemyad's studies revealed the likelihood of a "secret history": "...the children of Genghis and his sons were probably reared or were influenced by the well-educated women from other civilizations who were kidnapped or taken as prisoners of war and brought to the Mongol court."

With these studies and this premise in mind, readers are treated to a passionate story of women not just kidnapped and imprisoned, but who are determined to change the structure and psyches of their captors through their relationships with them.

To depict the entire sweeping era of Mongol invasions under one cover is, in and of itself, no light achievement. Deemyad's attention to the fictional drama, tension, character interactions over the efforts of a princess who both comes of age and is captured contributes to a powerful series of dramatic confrontations.

Deemyad captures the sights, smells, and sounds of the times to bring them, as well as her characters, to full life: "Petals of rose, a flower grown and revered for centuries in Persia, filled the surface of the pool, and the scent of rose oil added to the water, infused the bathhouse with an intoxicating aroma. After all, few were the times when the old royal family visited the place. Princess Reyhan's chambermaids washed her hair with an aromatic potion of green lotus powder called sedr, which made it the color of ripe dates. Thus, she got prepared for the next day's ceremony of applying henna paste to her hands and feet in elaborate designs as required by tradition."

The focus on three princesses who marry three generations of invaders contributes nicely to the timeline. It follows not only the progress and interactions of the Mongols over decades, but presents the changing perspectives of those they conquered as each woman faces different ways of changing her peoples' lives and conquest.

The effects of history and consequences of choices that affect generations is outlined in passages that reflect on the ongoing impact of not just conquerors, but those who acquiesced to them: "The manuscript has triggered something within her. It is that she feels guilty for all that was done; not only of the massacre of so many people by the Mongols but what her own father-in-law, Tamerlane, as the last Mongol conqueror committed, cutting down large populations in order to expand his territories." "Well, Tamerlane took pride in the fact that he was a Mongol ruler although many dispute that claim." The Hakeem said, and added as if thinking out loud, "He was one of the most brutal conquerors ever to rule this land."

Any reader with an interest in Mongol history in general and the changing roles and perspectives of women caught up in their conquests will find the complexity and attention to detail in The Sky Worshipers makes for engaging reading.

It's not a light coverage (those who want shallow drama need look elsewhere), but a powerful, fact-based novel that highlights undercurrents of the lasting legacy of Genghis Khan and his people on an entire region.

Cruising from Boston to Montreal
Sunny & Al Lockwood
Front Porch Publishing
9781942016571, $14.95, Paperback
9781942016601, $3.99, Ebook

Cruisers seeking guide books that address the practicalities of cruising through different locales around the world may already be well aware of Sunny & Al Lockwood's books on the Mediterranean and other areas. This audience will well know their style of combining the chatty feel of a travelogue with the practical destination-oriented advice essential to anyone who would duplicate their efforts.

Cruising from Boston to Montreal: Discovering Coastal and Riverside Wonders in Maine, the Canadian Maritimes and Along the St. Lawrence River ventures through the region from Bar Harbor, Maine to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and beyond. It explores the coastal areas of the U.S. and Canada with an eye to helping fellow would-be visitors learn about their attractions and the process of navigating the region.

The first thing to note about this guide is its focus on low-cost cruising opportunities. This makes it the perfect book of choice for seniors seeking trips that don't break the budget.

The Lockwoods undertook the cruise to expand their knowledge of our neighbors to the north, absorbing not just scenic attractions, but the culture and nature of Canadians as a whole. Their book invites armchair readers to experience the cruise through their eyes while providing would-be visitors the nuts and bolts of how it felt to visit the areas and interact with the locals.

From detailed descriptions of meals and financial planning to assessing energy levels and budgeting for ability as much as income, readers receive in-depth reviews that enables them to understand the pros, cons, and attractions of cruising in general and through this region, in particular.

The first-person descriptions read with the drama of fiction and the excitement of journal writing as everything from food flavors to discussions of cruising's attractions is provided: "If this sounds like a feast, believe me it is. The food keeps coming and coming. The flavors are amazing, things I've never tasted before, but which I will definitely want to enjoy again. Wine is provided for those who want it. Al has a coke. I have water, one of my favorite beverages. The couple sharing our table say they travel all the time. They've been to Israel, South Africa, throughout Europe and the west coast of the U.S. I ask what their motivation is and the wife says, "We just want to see new places." Al mentions that we have taken a couple of cruises across the Atlantic and the husband sticks his finger in his mouth as if he's going to throw up. I say, "I take it you don't like sea days?" "Can't stand them. I've got to be on the go," he says. "In fact, I got up this morning and got in six miles."

This approach serves to impart not just the authors' perceptions and experiences, but those of those they encounter on board and on land.

This travelogue is highly recommended reading for two audiences: those who would undertake a cruise to Canada's eastern seaboard themselves, and others who look for lively moment-by-moment "you are there" descriptions of the adventure.

Concluding with a note about COVID-19's effects on travel in general and the cruising industry as a whole, perhaps there's no better time to enjoy Cruising from Boston to Montreal than now. It may well be the only cruise experience to be had, for a while.

The Golden Ratio Within the Human Face and Breast
Andrew J. Hayduke, M.D.
Ivory Crown Press
9781735918006, $18.95 Paper/$26.95 Hardcover

The Golden Ratio Within the Human Face and Breast: A Plastic Surgeon's Method of Analyzing Beauty analyzes connections between human physical beauty and objective measurements, and comes from the eye of a plastic surgeon who has dealt with not only altering bodies to fit ideals of beauty, but who has created innovative facial and breast grids to identify, test, and solidify these ideals in a quantitative way.

While most might consi der the concept of beauty to lie in the beholder, Dr. Hayduke shows that it actually resides in objective measurable standards of symmetry and body arrangements as guided by the golden ratio, the subject of his discussion.

His many facial and breast anatomic test grids support this concept, using his patented beauty analysis methodologies as both clear definitions of these points and road maps for achieving visually pleasing plastic surgery results.

The Golden Ratio Within the Human Face and Breast is not a casual probe of beauty ideals, but a technical medical focus that blends science, anatomy, art and ideology. This study goes beyond merely defining human physical beauty, considering the golden ratio's presence and effectiveness in other disciplines and systems, from art, architecture, graphic arts and even nature.

From what facial and breast features translate to a beautiful youthful appearance to labeling images with markers as a guide for subsequent surgical transformation, The Golden Ratio Within the Human Face and Breast will prove weighty reading for those who anticipated a lighter review of plastic surgery processes or just a brief overview of facial and breast beauty testing. It's especially highly recommended for medical students, plastic surgeons and medical professionals interested in state-of-the-art, objective, in-depth analyses that apply the golden ratio to human anatomical beauty assessment.

Roller Rink Starlight: A Memoir
William Hart
Epigraph Books
9781951937782, $16.95, Paperback
9781951937799, $7.99, Ebook

Roller Rink Starlight: A Memoir is reconstructed from William Hart's memories of events that took place between ages fourteen and eighteen. It blends the lives of those around him with the story of a speed skater's birth and evolution on and off the rink.

From what skating taught Hart about life in general to the evolution of his prowess as part of a very successful coed racing team representing his local rink, Roller Rink Starlight captures not just skating events, but the process of coming of age and involvement in a sport that incorporates and imparts life lessons.

Hart writes with a sense of humor, providing insights into the maturity process: "A young ape's progress toward manhood is sometimes interrupted by dismaying regressions." From high school studies and peer relationships to skating's special challenges, Hart uses roller rink scenarios to trace one young man's coming of age.

The writing and adventures that form these lessons and growth are vividly recollected and presented using a "you are there" first-person style. This invites readers into Hart's special world, reflecting the thoughts and reactions of young men who are finding their places in the world on many different levels.

His observations of the history and evolution of these new relationships are particularly revealing: "Today I think Lauren and her mom were using the same technique to snare a husband that Mrs. McCabe had deployed a generation earlier to inveigle one of the most eligible young bachelors in Clayton, Nebraska into an unhappy union. Her strategy may have been handed down by her mother, who may have received it from her mother. For the scheme to produce, one or more guys had to compete with the target for the same girl, triggering basic male instincts. Lauren's equal opportunity dating behavior seen in this light looks less like promiscuity than a way to keep me chasing her with blinders on. She and her mom were playing the game by the rules of the day, and skillfully. I was the inept one, several moves behind and oblivious."

Readers with an affinity for skating or coming of age memoirs will find Roller Rink Starlight an involving, fun, thought-provoking read that delves deep into this young man's head.

The Treason of Robyn Hood
D. Lieber
Ink & Magick
9781951239121, $4.99 ebook; $14.95 paperback; $24.95 hardcover

Cover art usually isn't mentioned in a review, but The Treason of Robyn Hood holds a particularly notable cover that attracts attention and interest - a young hooded woman holding a bow, with the walls of a city and a motorcycle behind her.

Robyn Loxley finally has a meeting with Warden James Weldon of the Midshire War Relocation Center, after months of writing to him. It's a meeting that goes awry as Robyn is turned down with no explanation.

This story isn't set in England's distant past, but in the quasi sci-fi modern times of 1942, where Robyn is a ward of a family that lives a comfortable life. Her greatest challenge lies in not being able to see her best friend, who is in a Japanese-American concentration camp, and her frustration dovetails with her discovery of Jon Little and a band of Sherwood residents who live in one of the few untouched shanty towns left. They reveal to her the truth about her foster family and her privileged life.

Her decision to err on the side of justice sends her on an unexpected journey that moves from a singular obsession with Will's fate to broader social and political concerns in a sharply divided society.

Urban fantasy readers usually don't receive stories that include the trappings of an alternate history and updated steampunk themes, but The Treason of Robyn Hood's ability to incorporate both into its story of social justice and confrontation creates an atmosphere both familiar and alien at the same time. Thus, the original Robin Hood becomes an exploration of a feisty female's determination and abilities, whether it is in battle or political cat-and-mouse games.

Robyn may be charged with being impulsive and not always thinking things through, but these qualities serve her well as she foregoes her large, comfortable room in the Lacklands' mansion for more modest accommodations accompanied by the serious addition of a newfound purpose to life.

With her new friends Tuck and Jon at her side, Robyn undertakes the impossible, carrying readers into a story replete with social inspection, battles, the possibility of a romance with Guy Gisbourne (despite their different alliances), and a more deadly relationship with the Lacklands.

After a satisfying romp through this world, The Treason of Robyn Hood leaves the door open for more adventures. Unlike other sci-fi books, it doesn't portend to be 'Book 1 of a series', and this adds to its delight as a story complete unto itself without the artificial-feeling anticipation that more books are coming without the first having proved itself viable.

The Treason of Robyn Hood follows a determined young woman's probe of the world underlying the privilege she'd once taken for granted, and makes for a compelling urban fantasy adventure that readers will find thoroughly engrossing.

The Delicious Shadow
Srividhya Lakshmanan
Independently Published
9798576272815, Ebook $2.99; Paperback $9.99

Stickle the squirrel lives in a mango tree with her family. She has a good, simple life playing, collecting berries, and sleeping - but she longs to be famous, even though she's inherently lazy.

Her mother is a doctor, her father a singer, and her uncle a mechanic. The family list of talents goes on and on, but Stickle doesn't want to explore any of them.

What is a lazy, fame-seeking squirrel to do? She needs to discover something magical. And easy.

Akansha Krishnan provides warm, whimsical, colorful illustrations to profile Stickle's dreams and dilemma.

Parents with kids who dream too big while wishing for those dreams to come to them easily will find many lessons provided in The Delicious Shadow as it explores new ways of gaining achievement and self-recognition.

Adults looking for a fanciful journey that overlays a life lesson with an adventure will find The Delicious Shadow a fine choice for either read-aloud or young reader pursuit.

Ed. Weinberger
South Street Books
9781647042332, $17.99 Paper/$32.45 Hardcover/$9.99 Kindle

Readers of satirical fiction will find that the political, social, and literary commentary of GOTCHA!: Inside Trump's 2020 Campaign - A Novel crafts a compelling and fun read that is politically and socially astute. Even those who have tired of absorbing Trump discussions will find this novel's format and employment of parodies, exaggeration, and ironic observation to be fresh and intriguing.

Unlike some satires, this work is intended for amusement value; not for the loftier goal of ethical commentary alone. Given how many Trump-themed writings do focus on moral reflection, it's evident that GOTCHA! is a horse of another color, providing the comedic angle missing from most other examinations of the man and his era.

Not only Trump but Barr and all his associates are included in the countdown of events that took place during his term in office. Tongue-in-cheek dialogue captures the ironic twists in which more sensible and reasoned men assess their connections to Trump: "Such language. For a President." "He's upset because Bolton wrote that Trump said Finland was part of Russia." "What a nitwit." "I know. But he's our nitwit," said Barr in that understated way of his."

As events from his administration, including a firebombing at Trump Towers, are reviewed and recapped, the humor continues to play out: "Lobby's scorched black. But the elevators still work. Nobody's allowed in since it's been designated a crime scene." "Don't let anyone clean it up. I want it left just the way it is." "Sure, Pop, but why?" "I'm thinking it'd be good to show up with the White House Press Corps and address the violence in our cities." "Great idea, Pop. It'd be like Churchill visiting bomb sites in World War II." "The only difference is Churchill never made a really great speech." "And you know what else would be neat?" said Don Jr. "If you carried that gun the NRA gave you. You could talk about how you can carry it legally in Florida but not in New York. The guys at the NRA would love you for it. And I think we could get another couple million out of them."

These moments, captured in a macabre review of how facts are manipulated to present different public images, are both thought-provoking and satirically compelling as the reality of Trump's four years in office is captured for future posterity.

Even future audiences in this distant era who have no personal familiarity with these Trump years will find GOTCHA! a hallmark production. It explores political manipulation and chaos, capturing an atmosphere that feels impossible, but is lifted from daily news and events.

Perhaps future generations will discover more value in this fictionalization than those close to these experiences today, who may be too familiar with the processes and parodies of the Trump administration to find it entertaining even when recapped with a satirical overlay. After all, these last four years have been presented with this same sense of outrageous irony.

And, of course, it should be noted that any true believer in the Trump administration will likely find GOTCHA! intrinsically offensive, as it attacks an icon revered in such circles.

Yes, it's those who want a recap of present experience (and, more likely, future generations who wonder how some of this could have come to pass) who will best appreciate the lasting value of Ed. Weinberger's solid satirical examination of how power is manipulated, tailored, and presented to the public on a gold plate bordered with a pig's lipstick.

These audiences will find refreshing and delightful the subtle and not-so-subtle jabs and follies of the last four extraordinary years of American history that are deftly captured in GOTCHA!

Scorched Earth
Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays
Pumpjack Press
9781734519723, $15.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Book 2 in the space mystery Halo trilogy, Scorched Earth, is set in 2188. It presents an Earth abandoned by the wealthy Five Families, who are building a very different world on Mars thanks to the advanced AI Halo.

It only takes one man to change this status quo, and that man is labor cop Crucial Larsen, whose discovery on the red planet empowers him in a way he rejects - until ex-lover Melinda draws him back to the planet with a plea to clear her fiancee of a murder charge.

The dual lures of a career choice and the possibility of patching up a relationship gone awry lead him to confront this closely-held secret's possibilities for changing scenarios both on Mars and Earth. In the process, Crucial's journey leads him to impossible decisions and dangerous new worlds.

Other sci-fi books have attempted to blend the genres of an investigative detective piece with sci-fi, but few achieve such a seamless integration as do Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays. Sci-fi readers will appreciate the attention to hard science and futuristic backgrounds, while those who enjoy detective stories will find the back-and-forth political and investigative games to be engaging and absorbing.

These different aspects of the story receive solid inspection and presentation: "Coverly is the crazy genius coder who developed the nanites. He's dead. That seems to happen to a lot of people I meet. The difference with him is that he took his own life so Halo wouldn't get suspicious that he forced the nanites into me."

Between Crucial's observation of the negatives in the systems he operates in to his worry that nanites are 'messing with his brain' and causing his emotions to go awry, the personal, political, and social issues create a Mars story that is thoroughly absorbing.

The philosophical and emotional components presented as Crucial struggles with romance and bigger-picture thinking are very nicely explored: "Crucial, life is short, mostly painful and often ends in disaster. The most anyone can hope for is to be loved, here and now, in the present moment, before something else goes wrong." She touches my cheek and I feel like I'm the one in the crib and she's looking down at me. "It's okay to live again, even if that means abandoning the best part of the past."

Crucial's struggle to not only stay alive and solve a mystery but come to grips with his own decisions and their consequences blend nicely with this AI sci-fi story of the future: "Turns out doing good feels a lot like winning." These newfound realizations create a compelling saga recommended not just for the sci-fi audience it will likely attract, but detective readers looking for something edgy and different.

Natural Healing for Animals Energy Medicine Workbook
Anna Abraham
Regenerate Inc.
9781735504308, $19.99

Natural Healing for Animals Energy Medicine Workbook: The TAOSHEBA Technique comes from an energy healer who embraces the idea that animals can receive healing through natural energy just as humans do. Here, she presents her personal encounters with a variety of animals that validate her perception of their powers.

Over thirty years of spiritual and natural healing contribute to a workbook of information about animals that's supported by a wealth of new age thinking and energetic applications, but Anna Abraham is not a medical provider per se. Her personal experiences and opinions drive these stories about animals - that, and a fondness for all creatures and their wellbeing. She maintains: "Energy Medicine has it own unique healing powers and compliments traditional care, as well as, other natural healing modalities but it does not replace veterinary medicine for serious medical issues."

As chapters unfold the foundations of her animal connections and their growing importance in her life, readers receive an uplifting assessment: "Tao came by magic and brought the magic with him. He taught me more about Energy Medicine than any other source. Tao was in command of his intelligence, his energy and way of being in the world with the exception of fireworks."

Each animal that enters her life touches and changes her, and each story builds stepping stones into understanding how concepts of Energy Medicine apply in the animal world: "When we share Energy Medicine with our animal friends, they intuitively know when they have received enough energy. You don't have to be concerned about too much or too little. They will move or walk away when they have as much as they need. Respect their intelligence. Energy Medicine continues to work even after you finish. The body uses the energy to continue the healing process. The innate intelligence of all life-forms and the power of Energy Medicine are truly amazing."

Stories by others who have experienced amazing changes in animals through Energy Medicine applications are incorporated into discussions of some of the basics of Energy Medicine and how it can lend to assuring the daily health of animals.

Black and white photos throughout accompany clear directions on how to tap into and transmit this special form of energy healing to various creatures, from large and small dogs to horses.

Readers already versed in the concept of energetic healing who want an animal-based workbook filled with case history examples of applications and success will find Natural Healing for Animals Energy Medicine Workbook appealing and specific.

It takes natural healing concepts to a new level by applying them to not just to the generalities of daily living, but the specifics of maintaining good health in one's animal companions.

Natural Healing for Animals Energy Medicine Workbook should be on any new age (and many a general-interest) library reference shelf as an invitation to absorbing alternative medicine possibilities in general and Energy Medicine in particular.

Guardian of the Groceries
Michael Albanese
The Weight of Ink
9781732898714, $10.99 Paper/$17.99 Hardcover

Guardian of the Groceries, a picture book written by Michael Albanese and illustrated by Laura Kirkland, follows young Henry to the grocery store. He's bored and wants an adventure which seems to preclude his more mundane itinerary, until his clever mother informs him that "Anything can be an adventure if you just use your imagination."

After that, Henry discovers a world of possibilities in this simple chore, attaching his dreams to reality when he's charged with 'guarding the groceries' as his mother shops another aisle. This duty produces marvels when a colander helmet sends him into the world of the Marketsphere, where he faces the dreaded Cereal Monster.

Whimsy is unbridled during the course of the adventure in which Henry battles a "grainy giant" capable of hurling boxes of cereal "like cardboard rockets."

Parents who choose Guardian of the Groceries for its read-aloud action value will find events compelling and fun as Henry faces not just one but a series of intruding grocery monsters and challenging missions, such as confrontation with the dreaded Broccolisaurus.

Food and nutrition insights are carefully woven into this story in a manner designed to both entertain and educate. Laura Kirkland's very simple drawings could have been produced by a young person, and will appeal to youngsters who love drawing and who dream of becoming an illustrator.

This action-packed, imaginative food exploration holds appeal on many different levels.

How to Cure a Whiny Werewolf
Brittany Plumeri
Once Upon A Page Press
9781734657364, $12.95 Paper/$17.95 Hardcover/$3.99 Kindle

How to Cure a Whiny Werewolf gives young picture book readers an age-appropriate version of Miss Manners advice as it covers behavior norms for the very young, from babies to six years of age.

Geneviève Viel-Taschereau provides large-size, fun drawings to accompany the story of scientist Evie, who is tasked with finding out why kids are turning into whiny werewolves. She needs the reader's help to solve the problem and affect a cure.

Parents who choose How to Cure a Whiny Werewolf for read-aloud will find its approach engaging and inclusive. Kids are invited to help troubleshoot the problem by first identifying what constitutes whining, then identifying how to stop the habit.

The difference between requesting and whining, and understanding how whining "ruins a day", are important keys to teaching the very young about responses and the impact of these choices on others.

Parents who look for an early, easy way to make these connections will find How to Cure a Whiny Werewolf the perfect starting point for understanding how word choices hold different effects on the recipient, leading to either desirable or less desirable responses.

The engaging drawings and approach lends to better understanding and attitude adjustment potentials for a wide age range, making this story more than just entertaining.

Rogue River Heaven
Roger E. Carrier
9781664145863, $27.99 hc / $13.99 sc / $0.99 ebook

Rogue River Heaven cultivates a wry sense of humor and impropriety as it opens with a confession that sets the tone for the story to follow: "I fell in love with a woman whose hair was as scarlet as her profession. So if you are a line-drawer, or a person who needs to have everything in neat little boxes, or if you are sanctimonious, don't read another word. Close my book and find one more respectable."

Beginning with a compelling prologue, the reader is drawn into a love story and coming-of-age mystery on the banks of Oregon's Rogue River. Seventeen-year-olds on a wilderness picnic, Troy and Monica, who have loved each other from age twelve, consummate their love, only to have it vanish when Monica disappears. Despondent, Troy meets Maggie, the prostitute he has been spying on for years. Between the two, they seek revenge after slowly unraveling the mystery.

For one thing, Troy is seeking to understand how he moved from an all-American boyhood to an adult life fraught with the unexpected, beyond the social norms one might expect of a college professor.

His path to this point is well detailed, including rural encounters with cows, close friends, and adventures in the outdoors and growing up. Eventually, Troy becomes a voyeur. As he spies on Maggie and learns about life, he absorbs new ideas and obsessions that begin to deviate from the norm as he observes Maggie's s&m world of sex and cultivates the life and fantasies of a peeping tom.

As a teenager, Troy is devastated by the disappearance of his girlfriend, Monica, which is linked to the disappearances of other young women in Washington and northern California. Little does he realize how close he is to solving these tragic events.

As they defy the law and the impact of abuse and he becomes entwined in her nightmare world, readers receive a series of shocking developments as Troy's habit ventures into the murky realm of death and revenge.

Roger E. Carrier moves from a picture book childhood in many ways to a young man's coming of age and adulthood, which becomes burdened by an unexpected foray into depravity and the mind of a killer. Many twists and turns carry him into a life-changing experience with two different women before the story takes a final, satisfyingly unpredictable twist to a firm resolution.

In many ways, Rogue River Heaven mirrors the evolution of an American society that grew from simpler times to absorb numerous threats from the minds of ordinary men, provoking caution and constant perceptions of danger in Americans throughout the nation.

Readers seeking a riveting blend of suspense, social inspection, and murder and romance will find Rogue River Heaven just the ticket for an absorbing, revealing probe into the mind and experiences of a man who chooses many unexpected paths during his life.

The Accidental Suffragist
Galia Gichon
9781948018968 $15.94 softcover/$4.99 ebook

The Accidental Suffragist is set in 1911 and follows New York factory worker Helen Fox, whose life trajectory is consumed by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This event brings with it a newfound political awareness and participation in the blossoming Suffragist movement. This, in turn, results in estrangement from her husband, prejudice from former friends and existing neighbors, and tough decisions surrounding putting politics ahead of family.

Throughout World War One, as the story progresses, Helen finds her activism and revised purpose in life receives steady opposition, bringing with it many dangers beyond that of confronting the authorities and status quo.

Galia Gichon does more than recap well-known historical events. Her novel delves into Helen's quandaries and mind as she steadily moves into the Suffragist world that brings with it an acknowledgment of her role in past suffering and events to come: "Did we let her go to work too easily? Remember when she came to us and told us about the job?" Helen asked. "Helen, we barely had enough for food," Albert reminded her. "Besides, other girls in the building were going to the factories, too." "We didn't even put up a fight. Not every family sent their twelve-year-old daughter to the factories."

Helen's personal calling is to gain women the freedom to vote, for reasons of her own. When she faces a pregnancy in the midst of her efforts, life threatens to change and come crashing down around her once again.

For many, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire opened the door to not just new ideas about labor and women's rights, but personal conundrums over how their roles and lives were changing not just for themselves, but for their daughters and generations to follow.

As her activism moves from personal environment to trips to Washington and associations with high-level Suffragists, Helen discovers new ways of decision-making and thinking that hold opportunities for revised freedoms not only for her and fellow women, but for the men around them.

Readers interested in a story that does more than recap the sad events surrounding this era's labor and women's movement relationships will find The Accidental Suffragist brings to life the impact and changes on families and marriages that were sparked by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

More so than most fictionalized accounts, The Accidental Suffragist holds a compelling and intriguing approach that readers will find enlightening and involving. It's highly recommended even for those well aware of the changing politics of the times, early women's rights movements, and the factory fire's lasting impact.

Marvellous Macey: The Delightful Days
Caitlin Bangsund
Independently Published
9781775160908, $11.99

What makes life fun in Marvellous Macey: The Delightful Days? It's singing, dancing, and a rollicking rhyme that follows an active child through the delights of daily living, presenting a clear message about how Macey is personally committed to making sure every day is the best day ever.

From exploring textures, colors, and fun animal companions to a zesty attitude about new experiences that makes every day special, Macey runs through her life with an enthusiasm that is appealing.

Parents who choose this lively story for its example of how individual attitudes can affect life perceptions and experiences will find that Macey offers the perfect example of empowerment and positive choices.

Csongor Veres provides large-size, lively drawings of young Macey's hop, skip, and jump through life in pages which reveal her action-packed days. They support the point of the story: that all ages can emulate behavior that not only cultivates a personal celebration of life, but then expands that positive attitude to reach out to others in various ways.

This early lesson in positivity cultivates a good approach to life at an early age, and is especially recommended for parents who want to transmit the message that living a fulfilled life goes beyond self and into the community at large.

Marvellous Macey is very highly recommended for its compelling, uplifting message of how personal approaches lead to a better world.

The Places Left Unfilled
M.C. Cauley
Independently Published
9798679312494, Paperback: $12.99/Kindle: $3.99

The Places Left Unfilled: A Memoir presents child Morgan's struggles to come to terms with her family situation, and her search for her birth father. More so than most such stories, The Places Left Unfilled documents the impact of a struggle to find a place to call home and a kind of love Morgan never fully received in her childhood, and reaches out to readers interested in the foundations of child abuse and healing.

As Morgan's search for an older father figure in her childhood leads to failures, including her birth father's lack of involvement when she does locate him, she begins to seek her ideals and goals in other places - eventually, in the form of relationships with much older men.

Kidnapped not once but twice by her mother's fiancee Greg, who offers her a temporary refuge from her mother's erratic behaviors, Morgan falls into in a life-changing situation at age fourteen. Thus, she finds even her seemingly positive life influences and choices fraught with repeated challenge and predictable patterns of response to it.

"How are my feelings nothing?" Constantly finding herself in situations where she is forced to mirror unhealthy influences in her life by engaging in sexually abusive relationships with older men, Morgan leads a secret life hidden from her peers, always afraid and craving the kind of affection she doesn't know how to find.

Few books capture the domestic and child abuse cycle and patterns as The Places Left Unfilled, a powerful documentary of what happens when a child struggles to fill emotional gaps she barely understands.

The onus of any relationship with a child lies on the adult participant. More than most books, Cauley's experiences illustrate the dangers of what can happen when adults with their own agenda and emotionally broken systems become inappropriately involved with the young.

Throughout the story, Morgan is tasked with either finding a way out, or mirroring her mother's footsteps and passing the legacy of abuse to another generation.

Gripping, sad, edgy, and raw, The Places Left Unfilled is a memoir that will leave its readers with newfound recognition of the effects parental choices and psyches have on a child's life. It is recommended reading for health, psychology, and general-interest collections alike.

Transcending Depression
Larry Godwin, PhD
Independently Published
9780578694917, $12.95

Transcending Depression: Quest Without a Compass chronicles almost fifty years of the author's mental illness, using journal entries to trace its progression and evolution through the years.

This approach differs from others by its longer viewpoint of the experience of struggling with mental illness long-term. It moves beyond the usual clinical or self-help approach to document what helped alleviate pain, what didn't work, and how Larry Godwin lived through it all.

Another difference between his story and books that might sound similar is that Godwin presents his experiences as not one long chronicle, but a series of succinct vignettes that will prove more accessible to those with short attention spans who may be challenged by the large tracts of information provided in the usual book about depression.

Strong personal insights evolve over a period of years, as in this 1994 entry: "Jenny's just a normal baby but I can't abide her interruptions, crying fits, and independent contrariness. I hate myself when I yell at her. I'd wager Mother couldn't put up with my disruptions, either. I must have learned my reactions from her."

In addition to observing issues of inherited reactions and perspectives on life, Godwin includes the daily challenges of staying alive: "Tonight my life has little meaning. I feel suicidal like in Durango in 1979 before we met and in May 1980 before Cathy came to live with me. Actually, I don't want to live and I don't want to die. If only there were a way to suspend life awhile."

Anyone who has struggled with depression will recognize these feelings, and will appreciate Godwin's focus not on miracle cures and pat answers, but documenting the flow of life into, within, and through depressive cycles. This charts the path within and through depression to not only provide thought-provoking reading to those on a similar journey, but much understanding for loved ones accompanying them and trying to offer support.

And yet, Godwin also points out the power of working through depression: "I believe I have transcended my illness in the sense of coming to terms with it and rising above it. Although coming upon a cure seems unlikely, I have reached a comfort level that allows me to tolerate depression, live with it, and function acceptably much of the time, interspersed with periods of contentment, happiness, and even joy." Readers who seek concrete tools for achieving this will find them in Appendix II, 'Depression Survival Guide', which provides a collection of insights that can readily be applied to daily life.

Readers who want to get a sense of how life is lived long-term with depression that ebbs and flows will find Transcending Depression powerful, highly recommended reading for health, self-help and psychology readers seeking enlightenment.

Mom, Dad... Can We Talk?, revised edition
Dick Edwards
With Mike Ransom, Ruth Weispfenning, Mia Corrigan and Jane Danner
Cresting Wave Publications, LLC
9781735413501, $19.95

Mom, Dad... Can We Talk?: Helping our Aging Parents with the Insight and Wisdom of Others is recommended for any adult facing the prospect of difficult talks with parents about their aging, independence, abilities, and daily living requirements. It should be part of any general-interest, health, or psychology collection covering elder care issues.

This revised edition of an earlier book makes for an important addition or replacement of the first book because it considerably expands the topics of its predecessor. This edition includes topics of grandchildren involvement, pandemic complications in elder care choices, families simultaneously coping with special needs kids and aging parents, and more.

Perhaps the central cornerstone of this discussion verses other books about elder care and aging parents lies in its inclusion of numerous case examples that illustrate exactly how conversations between family members should take place, for maximum benefit to all.

Numerous books tell readers to have such discussions without exploring exactly how this can happen. By addressing this step, Mom, Dad... Can We Talk? fills a gap in the literature with many real-life examples that illustrate such discussions and their possible potholes.

From how to make sure a conversation is caring to how adults and older children can share proximity and benefit from each other, how to properly assess a situation before leaping into something that holds different problems, and cultivating a "benevolent conspiracy" of observers that offer and support input on a parent's needs, Mom, Dad... Can We Talk? is packed with much-needed specifics that most eldercare books lack.

A discussion guide at book's end recaps this book's core concerns and contentions and helps reinforce all of its case history examples and focuses.

Anyone facing changes in an elderly family member's needs who wants clear advice on how to approach and best tailor resources to suit these fluid changes will find Mom, Dad... Can We Talk? an essential manual for communication and positive change. It assesses the pros, cons, and possibilities for all ages, from grandkids to grandparents and everyone in between.

Calm Brain Powerful Mind
Aziz Velji
Paper Lantern Publishing House Inc.
9781999014407, $17.99

Calm Brain Powerful Mind: Abolish Stress to Unleash Your True Potential is a self-help program for abolishing stress using brain power. It is recommended for readers who would adopt strategies presented as a series of 'journeys' that range from sitting in silence and conscious breathing exercises to understanding the science and art of applied meditation techniques.

Aziz Velji focuses on the nuts and bolts of both creative survival processes and applied brain science research, pairing everyday examples with bigger-picture thinking about life: "We want life to fit into our framework of beliefs, our parameters. We want it to flow according to our plan, based on our experience. We try to use logic and rational thinking to understand life, but we don't succeed, because life is not logical; it is not rational. It does not flow in a sequence of events. Life is uncertain, unpredictable, multidimensional, and chaotic - everything is happening at the same time, so logic and rational thought can never understand the complexities of life."

Many books about stress reduction or meditation border on being idealistic and impossible. Velji presents proven, tested techniques, moderating these presentations with an acknowledgement of their difficulties: "We have worked out flight paths, gravitational pulls, trajectories for space crafts and landed man on the moon with precision, but we haven't been able to solve the problem of stress - our mental suffering. Yes, our materialistic thinking can come up with all sorts of phenomenal drugs to counter the effects of stress, but this way of thinking cannot help us eliminate it. Stress is a problem that the thinking, rational mind will never be able to solve because the intellect on its own cannot help us calm our fears and anxieties which create stress - we can medicate ourselves, but we can't think our way through fears and anxieties."

This practical approach will appeal to those who find the usual meditation advice too simplistic or idealistic. It not only acknowledges the difficulties posed by the brain's interactions with daily life, but the challenges involved in applying mitigating techniques that work.

Its explanations of why these approaches succeed where others fail are clear and informative: "Conscious breathing stops the mind - one cannot simultaneously breathe consciously and think. When your mind calms down, the right course of action is revealed. Otherwise, you are just reacting to the crisis, that will continue to smolder and occupy your mind."

Pragmatists not usually drawn to self-help books about empowerment will find much supporting evidence and a concrete focus on not advice, but why the techniques work to mitigate life stress. The only prerequisite for successfully using this guide is an openness to considering its exercises and their effectiveness.

Readers will find Calm Brain Powerful Mind offers a solid bridge between pragmatic and holistic approaches. Its observations and tips will appeal to disparate audiences with useful approaches that blend scientific understanding with applied techniques.

And the Wars Went on Without Him
Jeffrey Pacitto
Outer Edge
9781777532703, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

And the Wars Went on Without Him features historical fiction vignettes that open in 1918 and are based on family stories about World War I through World War II and beyond. It provides stories of Angelo's journey from childhood to his marriage to Carmella and the backdrop of a world he never takes the time to appreciate for its beauty.

The collection may begin and evolve through his years, but it continues past his experience into 1944, when another war looms and another life is changed.

Against the backdrops of a shifting Italy, two major conflicts, and the interactions between invaders, prisoners of war, ordinary citizens, and lasting nightmares about war even in its aftermath, readers slowly absorb the forces that batter and change relationships, lives, and the psyche of a nation.

Couples find their relationship challenged to the point that they feel like strangers while battlefield experiences and war encounters follow combatants home to change their lives and everything around them. And the Wars Went on Without Him presents a variety of characters who are all affected by conflict and nation-changing in different ways.

As Angelo moves from Italy to Toronto, the ghosts of the past are never far behind. Those who do leave Italy and Europe discover that not only does conflict go on without them, but it also lies within them and their families.

As readers move between countries, individuals, and the wars, they receive a powerful commentary that blends individual life experiences with the overlay of social and political change. Freedom, appreciations of life, and basic beliefs about how that life is valued and lived change under wartime conditions. Few other books present these dilemmas as powerfully as in this juxtaposition of individual life forces and events that challenge them.

And the Wars Went on Without Him is about Italian culture and heritage, but it's also about survival, individual empowerment, the consequences of war and peace decisions, and the lasting impact of those who live through and under the shadow of war and transformation.

Readers interested in historical fiction that comes to life in the personal experiences of various characters will find And the Wars Went on Without Him a compelling read.

Third Earth
Cami Murdock Jensen
Value Publishing LLC
B08R334R97, $3.99 Kindle

Third Earth is the third book in the Arch Mage series for young adults and continues the story of Agnes, whose magic has been twisted by a curse, and whose new role as Arch Mage portends either salvation or disaster for her planet.

Agnes appeared to have saved the world in the prior book, but here it turns out that the threats are ongoing. Secret radicals have emerged to cause strife, unless her unreliable magic can expose their plot and quash it.

Dragon Menneth has gained her support, but neither expect the depth of the evil forces they face. These pick away her allies one by one, leaving Agnes in the scary position of facing threats alone instead of with the confidence of friends and magical abilities, as she had in the past.

The heart of this story lies in how she moves from working within a support system to finding her powers independent of outside forces or even an ability which has always been unreliable.

Cami Murdock Jensen excels in crafting the kinds of first-person observations that cement her protagonist's evolving sense of her place in the world: "I'd better tell Odric. He'd want to know about all of this. I shook off my internal panic attack to go speak to him, but for some reason, everything around me was dark. I glanced upward and saw the golden circle of the Jent Path close above me. When did I fall into the Jent Path? Dang it! I was so busy freaking out reality moved on without me."

Agnes Ann Cavanaugh may be the Wielder of Truth, but she's also a heroine facing a greater wickedness that holds immense powers that seem far above her own.

As she faces personal conundrums, from a dead father to her role as a world-saving wizard rather than an ordinary girl, Agnes confronts "a different kind of hard" in worlds that change and challenge her perspectives. Ultimately, these give her ammunition from powerful new wellsprings of strength.

Agnes learns much new information about her abilities, her heritage, and the lives of those around her: "Mom lived in grief and regret? I never knew. She always seemed happy and in control." These lessons eventually give her the power to form her place in the world and consider what constitutes a greater accomplishment than heroism: "Your greatest accomplishment happens every day. When you wake up in the morning and keep trying. It's not about winning or perfection. It's about trying, every day, to be better."

The underlying psychological and philosophical revelations Agnes experiences in the course of this fantastic journey sets Third Earth apart from other magical adventures for teens. Its compelling story is driven as much by the young character's personal discoveries and evolution as her ability to confront the evil forces in her world.

While Third Earth can be read as a stand-alone, its real value lies in its addition to the series. Here, a progressive approach follows Agnes as she not only grows into her abilities, but into adult perceptions of the world and her place in it.

Third Earth is very highly recommended for teens looking for magical adventure paired with personal revelations.

Kate Reynolds
Independently Published
9798657426823, $16.99 paperback; $2.99 Kindle

Ernestine's historical backdrop lies in 16th century Spain, where Ernestine finds herself in a dangerous political position after having become a nun, following her life as an artist.

What does an olive orchard, a king who needs money to fund his wars, and an abbey's involvement over a document that could change the power structure in Europe have to do with Sister Ernestine's new calling?

Plenty, because her story revolves around prayers, struggling nations and religious orders, and the inadvertent involvement in a single woman who finds herself at a pivot point in time, holding the ability to affect not just her life but those around her.

Kate Reynolds does an outstanding job of capturing not just social and political dilemmas, but the sights, sounds, and environment Ernestine moves within. Her descriptions embrace and entwine these elements for maximum impact: "Ernestine rolled up her sleeves, eager to clean and stock the cellary. Mother had been right. Fruit had spoiled, cheeses turned moldy, barrels needed a good scrubbing. Ernestine would use her time alone wisely. Down in the cool cellary, she didn't need to think about Montague or Edicts of Grace, or the parchment secreted in her room, or the mad woman Fe, or children burning in fires. Or about any of the other matters that preyed on her mind. There, alone, Ernestine could avoid thinking."

One of the most powerful moments in the story is Ernestine's first-person narration of her past and the influences that brought her to this period in her life. It's particularly strong because of its added reflections on the values and morals fostered by family circumstance and life experiences: "I was born in Great Snoring, a town in Norfolk. Papa was unfortunate in business, so he, Mama, and I had barely enough money to live on. And some of his businesses were less than principled. I don't mean Papa was dishonest; he intended to be a good man. Mama always said he leaned strongly toward integrity and compromised his convictions only when more seemly alternatives miscarried. With a bit of luck, Papa could have been a man of great character, and if he'd been born wealthy, he would have had scruples to spare."

As Ernestine also comes to question and adjust her perceptions of ethical behavior and personal ambitions, readers become part of a colorful world where her actions translate to either preservation of the abbey refuge or its destruction (depending on her decisions about honor and ethical choices). Facing fears takes courage - courage Ernestine doesn't think she has.

From powerful priests and Mothers who confront them to the little Abbey of Saint Francis's role in political power plays and the value of strategy that compromises much for the sake of survival, Ernestine is a compelling story. It will attract historical fiction readers with its powerful blend of purpose and politics, cemented by a young woman's changing intentions and approaches to life both within and outside the abbey refuge.

Ernestine is highly recommended reading; especially for those with a particular interest in 16th century European backdrops, which come alive here in all their social and political complexity.

Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale
Bill Zarchy
Roving Camera Press
9780984919123, $14.38 pbk / $4.95 Kindle

Readers of time travel, alternate history, and military sci-fi stories alike will find Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale a vigorous investigation of the past. Here, George Washington vanishes from his era in 1778 and journeys forward in time to the summer of 2014, where he encounters a puzzling future.

When the General wakens from having been literally swept off his feet during a moonlight walk, he discovers a world of "very fast riding machines" and incomprehensible wonders. It's also a world in which he doesn't belong.

Unlike many time travel stories, time continues to pass in his era, and his absence causes ripples of change that threaten to destabilize time itself unless George Washington can be returned to his own era.

Two young men from Berkeley become involved in this dilemma and the impossible challenges of manipulating time as they face a baseball season in San Francisco like no other. Their encounters with him, narrated in the first person, provide a satisfying alternative perspective on time travel and history.

It should be noted that there is a great deal of baseball lore wound into the story as it unfolds. This will especially delight fans of the sport, who will find the game history and experiences make for involving reading.

The adventure is fast-paced, with action predictable at times and surprising at others, and the characters all come alive as Washington faces perhaps the biggest challenge of his life...returning to it.

Dialogue and reflections are quite realistic, as one of George's new friends who doesn't believe in time travel is forced to accept Washington's appearance as genuine and recalls American history - which means that if Washington isn't around to help win the War of Independence, his life will become very different.

As the story evolves against the backdrop of the Giants playoff games and San Francisco fog, readers receive a fine blend of thriller intrigue and California atmosphere in a time travel tale that creates many gripping moments.

Readers of alternate history or time travel stories, especially those who hold a prior affection for either Washington or baseball, will find the story delightful as Washington explores the wonders of a very different world and contemplates what he will bring home with him - if ever he can return.

Action and adventure readers, too, are in for a treat!

Forgive Us
E.T. Gunnarsson
Bragi Press
9781736377338, $9.99 Paper, $2.99 ebook

Forgive Us covers three distinct time frames: 2099, when a loner is determined to rebuild civilization (perhaps single-handedly); 2154, when emerging nations face dangerous feuds that could destroy them; and 2185, when a space station survivor faces a revolution. Each scenario presents struggles for the survival of humanity and selects a few lone individuals who follow their own courses of assuring that mankind and its society lives on, however altered by past events.

Each protagonist is a refugee in his own world. E.T. Gunnarsson crafts each story as a separate yet connected scenario in which their complex dystopian environments are threatened by forces that are linked to past events.

Under another hand, having such free-flowing time streams and four major characters who move through each world might prove confusing. However, Gunnarsson includes time frames on each chapter heading and solidifies events by linking these disparate times at pivot points where the characters have successfully changed both their personal and their world's self-destructive trajectory.

Oliver, for example, is focused not just on rebuilding, but making sense of relics from the past; while next-generation London strives to make the world better place for his adopted daughter Rose, against seeming insurmountable obstacles.

Between Peacekeepers to prisoners and struggles for freedom which keep changing both its nature and the characters' efforts, Forgive Us excels in crafting complex futures that rest firmly on solid characterization and scenarios that test the mettle of individuals and societies alike.

The progressive buildup of tension and history is excellent, leading to an unpredictable conclusion that comes full circle in a surprising way.

Readers seeking a solid work of social evolution, technological advancement, and dystopian power struggles will find Forgive Us a compelling piece that draws the reader with realistic characters and a satisfyingly complex series of subplots.

The Cougar Candidate
Will Worsley
Hedgeland Press
9781735665207, $16.95 paperback, $3.99 Ebook

The Cougar Candidate may sound like a nature exploration, but this is a work of political satire and tells of ex-governor Patty Pitypander, who is still sulking about her defeat five years later, when she is tapped to run for President.

Her bid isn't the usual approach to politics. It embraces a wry sense of humor and observation that leads to some unusual arguments: "It's not 1776 anymore. Most of us live in cities, not on farms. To serve our needs today, government's role must be expanded, not rolled back. We must ensure not only that our citizens can pursue happiness, but that they actually catch it. To that end, the Pitypander administration will propose the creation of a special department - a Department of Happiness. Its mission will be to bring happiness to everyone, not just the super-rich. It will be empowered to intervene in any situation causing you unhappiness you might call or email about."

How Patty moves from licking her wounds to assuming a newly powerful role in a floundering country by promoting a fresh new vision that holds both irony and impossibility is one of the themes Will Worsley excels in crafting in The Cougar Candidate.

Between Patty's navigation of a dangerous political world, her attraction to men younger than her husband, and a young reporter's inadvertent press on the button of romance when he pursues the truth about a sordid secret in her past, The Cougar Candidate takes many unexpected turns as it juxtaposes Patty's conflicting drive for both love and political power.

The satirical commentary on American politicians and political relationships is wonderfully written, as is a woman's reach for a better position of power both in different facets of her life and American society.

Readers who look for novels replete with political commentary and satirical observation will find The Cougar Candidate achieves its goals, from its title to its romp through political process and a savvy woman's spunky encounters with the highest echelons of power: "I'll be damned. It's the Diva of the Downtrodden," said the president. "You're the last person on earth I expected to hear from. What do you think you're doing, Governor? First your ads turn me into a pervert, then you slime me with that tired old crap about Newton and Copeland. Next I guess you'll be painting me as a pervert in a raincoat. You think I'm gonna just sit back and let you smear me, lady?" "Those aren't smears, Mr. President. The videos speak for themselves. They're perfectly fair."

Funny and thought-provoking, powered by a woman who skirts the edge of legal relationships in a widening playing field, The Cougar Candidate is a top recommendation for those who enjoy stories about power plays, romance, and forbidden fruit. Readers will find Patty's social and political interplays and introspections delightful, whimsical, and revealing.

Memories Live Here
Marc Sheinbaum
Independently Published
9798552235629, $10.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Josh Brodsky's work in AI is cutting-edge and on the verge of making it possible to bring back the dead in an unusual way in Memories Live Here...that is, until hackers get into the system and thwart the greatest AI science to date.

Now Josh must deal not only with the dead and the promise of high technology, but his troubled brother Donny and a mystery that surrounds their relationship: his father's mysterious death decades ago.

When their mother's friend Maggie reveals to Donny the presence of diaries that hold a key to both this mystery and the future of AI, mystery blends with sci-fi elements to attract both audiences to a different kind of adventure.

Maggie knows more than she's revealing, but the diaries hold all the clues...if they can uncover them and use them well. In the course of their investigation, both brothers discover newfound connections and answers to mysteries which have long plagued both their lives and shadowed their achievements.

Memories Live Here is much more than an AI story, and more than a thriller. Its ability to navigate the fine line between psychological and social inspection offers insights and tension that will appeal to both audiences as it stands out from the usual storyline.

Maggie's own memory challenges result in changing connections between them all that come with a special brand of wisdom: "Just leave the past alone," she said. "You won't find what you're looking for. Those are not memories you want to dig up."

Donny's search for diaries that hold answers involves solutions he may ultimately not wish to confront, couched in different realities about the living and the dead: "Josh and Louie wanted him to believe in whatever this was, and that it, or someone, was watching them. Someone who had obviously not only read their mother's diaries, but who had also memorized them, internalized them. Become one with them. This could not be his mother, he kept reminding himself. He had seen her body at the funeral home, watched as her casket was lowered into the ground....What had Josh done? She was different in one stark way. His real mother had been a keeper of secrets, the biggest being the truth behind his father's death. But now the depth, and brutal honesty, that this version was willing to share was jarring..."

The most likely audience for this story will be sci-fi readers with a special interest in AI or supernatural themes. However, to describe Memories Live Here as appealing to these genre categories alone would be to do it an injustice.

Embracing thriller and investigative realms as well as being a psychological inspection of family secrets and relationships, Memories Live Here is a savant of several different genres. It will appeal to a wider audience interested in fresh, original writing, strong characterization, and an overriding mystery that delves into the heart of AI, addiction and the memories that cement family relationships and interactions.

Fast and Low
Nasir Khan
FourFold, LLC
B08SBTL4T1, $3.99 Kindle

Fast and Low: An Engineer's Approach to Health by Systematic Adoption of Low Carb Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Exercise, Meditation and more with Metrics and Self-Experimentation is recommended for dieters who have tried diet after diet, only to continually fail to achieve or maintain their weight loss goals.

Its approach differs from competitors in that it blends scientifically proven strategies with metrics that offer a focus on not just weight loss alone, but overall healthier living.

This blend into a strategy recommended not for weight loss seekers who would choose a formula for what to eat and when, but for those serious about making lasting lifestyle changes and priorities that support overall better health - which includes weight management.

A step-by-step, scientific perspective is adopted in Fast and Low which builds a foundation of action and insight. The study first skims these building blocks, making them easy to absorb and follow. It's neither a dauntingly in-depth survey of each, nor a routine that selects one step and makes the emphasis all about it.

Because Nasir Khan is an engineer, he defines his goals in numbers. This translates to a treatise that emphasizes not ethereal ideals, but measurable goals, and will be pleasing to those who look to supportive numbers to indicate progress and success.

Tools of measurement and monitoring are key to this operation, this book, and the process of adopting a 'fast and low' strategy that affords regular opportunity to analyze and understand weight loss and better health achievements.

Every person is different. That's why there is no singular path that guarantees success, and why there are so many diet and lifestyle books on the market that some swear by, that others say didn't work for them. Khan acknowledges this disparity as he provides his insights: "All through this book I've mentioned how each person is unique and that what works for me may or may not work for you. While we will rely on some scientifically established starting points for lifestyle changes, I will not prescribe rigid rules. I'll instead lay out a framework for incorporating the lifestyle changes that work for you based on a very scientific and experiment-driven approach. Next, we dive into another key aspect of a healthy lifestyle: intermittent fasting, with an emphasis on what works for you personally and how you can approach it."

Something is better than nothing in making an effort, whether it is a focus on healthful diet habits, inertia-busting exercise, or understanding how overall health is influenced by improving bodily functions.

Fast and Low is packed with achievable goals, lifestyle insights, and discussions of various types of choices readers can consider in the pursuit of overall better health and supportive lifestyles to achieve this goal.

Its focus on measurable results and how to understand them will especially appeal to those looking for more than a simple routine or diet regimen.

Fast and Low is highly recommended as a better-considered alternative for health success based on finding, measuring, and monitoring goal and action metrics and then conducting scientific self-experimentation.

Susi Wright
Independently Published
9798581999240, $4.99

Book 4 of the Fire Chronicles fantasy series, Guardian, continues the epic prophecy that unfolded in prior books and is especially recommended for readers who found these stories compelling. It documents the ongoing struggles faced by Lady Elite Espira, whose personal mission is to eradicate the forces of evil in her kingdom.

Given her soul mate at her side and her powerful position, one would think this would be a relatively easy goal to meet, but in a war-torn land filled with threats and the dangerous Fire she and her dragon Ra must wield, nothing is set in stone.

Readers who anticipate a neat or pat ending to her adventures will find Guardian vividly portrayed and filled with satisfying twists.

As the dragonrider leads her army against forces of darkness and considers her own darkness within her, readers will enjoy an epic chronicle of confrontation and struggle that excels in compelling examinations of dubious allies and magical clashes. As noted by an ancient mage, "...nothing comes free in war, not even death."

This and other truths shake Espira's own courage and determination as she finds her decisions clouded by pain and bitterness and pays the price for channeling extreme magic even with good intentions.

Susi Wright unfolds another compelling story about choices, consequences, and the heavy price to be paid for being a powerful leader.

The moral, ethical, and psychological trials and challenges which haunt Espira's decisions make for thought-provoking reading that nicely enhance the story's action-packed magical clashes and the sometimes-mercurial sides of good and evil.

Guardian is about more than physical and mental battle. Ultimately, it's about the healing process and how much Espira is willing to sacrifice for her people.

Suitable for ages 14 years and up, many an adult fantasy reader will find this story compelling and hard to put down.

No Birds Sing Here
Daniel V. Meier, Jr.
BQB Publishing
9781945448959, $16.95 Paper/$8.49 Kindle

No Birds Sing Here gives literary readers of satirical fiction the story of Beckman and Malany, who embark on a quest for finding new meaning in life, art, and the trappings of daily living.

Not only satire but irony permeates the story, creating many moments of raw insight and reflection about the rituals of work and leisure alike: "At moments, when feelings of revulsion swept over him, he deliberately, with eyes open, reached into the nearest full garbage can and squeezed between his fingers the raw materials of his livelihood."

The novel journeys through disparate experiences, from Beckman's dishwasher job to his reflections about possible other incarnations, which are evocatively portrayed: "Beckman believed that, if it had not been for the paved highway, strictly divided and regulated by white and yellow lines, and for the trash deposited along the grassy shoulders, he could have been in some medieval forest, populated with knights, magicians and beautiful ladies in long gowns and veils suffering some quiet distress of the heart."

These reflections inject his vision with something more than mundane observations, adding a level of possibility and fantasy that juxtaposes nicely with real-world events.

The dialogue between Beckman and Malany is intriguing, documenting how changing circumstances constantly challenge their choices and provide new consequences for their actions: "You see how quickly things can change, how ironic life really is. A few minutes ago, we were running for our lives. Now we've saved the very person who was pursuing us."

From changing prejudices and responsibilities to life encounters that add satirical overlays of inspection into what evolves to be a loveless life, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. uses these two characters to play off the inherent ironies of appearances and life circumstances.

The observations of others and their situations are also nicely presented: "The struggling poetess trying to make it on her own, rejecting the good and warm things of life so that she could write. Beckman had respected her for that above all else. The sincerity, the self-denial, the radicalism and the determination had all been an illusion that she had called, with conviction, "reality."

No Birds Sing Here's special blend of literary observation, satirical commentary, and philosophical examination flows through the lives of a group of disparate characters. This makes for thought-provoking reading which is especially recommended as a powerful example of the power of satire and irony in literary fictional approaches.

College-level students, especially those who enjoy representations of these devices paired with a flavor of discovery reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, will find No Birds Sing Here a commendable creation, indeed.

Darling, All My Love
Lori Oestreich
Cattail Marsh Publishing
9781736140017, $12.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Historical romance readers are in for a treat with Darling, All My Love, a 1930s romance that takes place in the Midwest.

Lily Vanderhoof is part of a struggling Catholic family. Her destiny in Hub City seemed to be set as she was betrothed to farmer Ira, a staid man she knew for years, before she found out about his cohort Bessie, a woman he 'knew' before they were engaged just two months prior. It's a situation that never seemed ideal even before her newfound knowledge and its impact on their future. So when she unexpectedly falls for the affluent and handsome Benjamin Claussen at her best friend's wedding, dangerous new possibilities emerge.

Benjamin's life also has been decided by his parents - he's on a trajectory to inherit the family business and follow in successful footsteps. The last thing he expected was to fall for a strange girl well below his class. The last thing he needed was to incur his parents' wrath.

Between Lily's situation with Ira and the lack of work in their small town as her family struggles with poverty, Lily needs something different and positive to change her life. Benjamin might be just the ticket, if their choices don't upend their families and everything around them.

Lori Oestreich crafts this first book in a series with a strong description of the Depression years, different economic forces and strata, and the evolution of romance between a Catholic girl and a Presbyterian boy.

Benjamin's mother has always "been one to look out after my son's best interests." Will she challenge a bright, albeit different, possibility for them both?

From evolving and changing relationships to the issues that arise between them due to socioeconomic differences, Darling, All My Love thoroughly embraces not just the couple's dilemmas and interactions, but the milieu of their Midwestern roots and the times.

Oestreich creates an absorbing read that moves between family perceptions and duties to community interactions, cementing romance with a historical backdrop that is realistic and nicely described.

Darling, All My Love will attract both romance readers and those who like closer inspections of both historical influences and social change. Will Benjamin's support of Lily result in marriage? The story is compelling on different levels, and especially recommended for those who like their romances firmly rooted in a bygone era of Midwestern atmosphere.

American Stonehenge
Mike Goldstein
J&A Ventures, LLC
9781734110609, $24.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

American Stonehenge is the first book in 'The Adventures of Jimmy & Andrew' series for young readers. It pairs full-page, engaging color drawings by Anil Baydir with an intriguing story that begins from a newborn puppy's perspective. But, is this sentient animal really a puppy?

The second chapter offers the normal specter of a boy excitedly leaping from bed, anticipating his ninth birthday and the pleasures it will bring to the day...including a new pet, which his parents have finally agreed to. The last thing he expected to find at the humane society is an immortal telepathic companion and a newfound mission.

Jimmy's rescue of Andrew is only the opening in an adventure that embraces his archaeologist parents' discoveries, travels, a strange site in Washington which is a fully intact duplicate of Stonehenge in England, and a history that draws Jimmy and Andrew into strange mysteries.

As the two have adventures and experience exciting, tense moments, advanced elementary to middle grade readers receive a gripping story in which the two new friends encounter a woods filled with non-human entities and other forest people.

Baydir's black and white line drawings and gorgeous color illustrations compliment the story line and bring it to life.

Filled with historical facts, mystery, and sci-fi elements, this story of a boy and his extraordinary animal companion is refreshingly original, vivid, and hard to predict. There is love, there are life-and-death moments, and there are puzzles to solve that introduce Jimmy and Andrew to worlds far beyond what either of them believed possible.

American Stonehenge's ability to wave mystery with strong characterization and sci-fi elements lends it a genre-busting strength that sets it apart from most adventure stories for this age group. It's a compelling weave of circumstances and characters that will prove hard to put down.

Pop Smoke
Bill Lindsay
Palmetto Publishing
9781641119733, $24.99 Hardcover; $19.00 Paper; $4.99 Kindle

Collections strong in memoirs by Vietnam vets will find Pop Smoke: The Story of One Marine Rifle Platoon in Vietnam; Who They Were, What They Did, What They Learned follows the experiences of a Marine rifle platoon commander during the Vietnam War, providing an emphasis on Marine operations and platoon commander tasks that bring readers into Vietnam with a 'you are there' feel.

This is not the typical presentation about war and combat. The focus here is on the men, who they were and what they experienced each day. These insights are important to understand as one considers all the components of the Vietnam war. As the author points out "The combat Marine did not serve in Vietnam, he became Vietnam". And, "for all of us in the infantry our packs were our homes."

Descriptions of the terrain and accompanying vegetation, parts of actual radio transmissions, and a wealth of specific detail about operations and daily challenges are presented in a manner that not only describes encounters, but the nuts and bolts of Marine activities: "When I told the fireteam to dig a second hole, it was not met with expressions of joy and excitement. To make the point that I was not crazy and a slave driver seeking vengeance on them for something, I had them leave their flak jackets in the first hole, sticking out of the top of the hole, with their helmets on top. Our flak jackets were made of a series of fiberglass plates that were great for stopping incoming rounds or shrapnel. It also meant that they would literally sit up tall, without support, when positioned as such. Sure enough, as darkness approached two hand grenades were thrown from the closest bamboo grove and landed in the first hole. The flack jackets and one helmet were ruined."

Technical details such as this give non-military, non-Marine readers enough background to absorb the logic behind maneuvers and strategies, and enough insight into the equipment, routines, and decisions of platoon leaders to understand the logic behind their actions. This is not the side of Vietnam often depicted in movie or other books.

This, in turn, provides a foundation of knowledge that supports reactions, perceptions, and the Vietnam experience as a whole. More so than most Vietnam memoirs, even those coming from Marine participants, this story reviews both the process of Marine troop organization and deployment and the challenges leaders face, from new equipment to how men react under fire.

The insights about the men, the conditions they faced and their strategies and battle tactics fill in many blanks that other memoirs often pass over, presenting them in vivid recollections that bring the Vietnam experience to life: "None of the men sat while we waited (for the helicopters). Their gear made it too hard to get back up if they reclined. So there we stood, hunched over from the weight of our equipment, waiting. Although it was night, it was already 85 degrees and humid."

From squad leader interactions to battles and bouts with malaria, Vietnam comes to life. Readers who choose this memoir will find it filled with accounts of what it was like for an eighteen year old to fight in impossible terrain under challenging conditions.

Pop Smoke is especially recommended for future generations seeking to understand the Vietnam War from a military leader's perspective.

Saygar the Superhero
Elizabeth Jurado
Wind Rock Press, LLC
9781735634807, $8.99 Paper/$18.99 Hardcover/$2.99 ebook

Saygar the Superhero presents the story of Joseph Mateo, an ordinary El Paso boy who never expected to befriend an ant, much less acknowledge that the ant is Saygar the Superhero, who moves from tiny to human sized.

As if his show-and-tell project isn't under enough fire, Joseph faces more trouble, which causes him to break a sacred promise from four-year-old cousin Julia, who enters his life with a whirlwind of trouble.

The day after Joseph leaves his friend at his anthill, the irrepressibly cute Julia moves into his neighborhood and changes everything, thwarting both his promise and his plan to save Saygar.

As the story evolves, humor ramps up as Julia keeps interfering with Joseph's plans to save Saygar, his relationships, and his carefully structured, amazing life.

The more Joseph tries to do what is right, the more trouble he gets into. The story is told from Joseph's first-person perspective, giving it a warm feel of desperation as good intentions go awry.

Another satisfying aspect to this story is that there is no 'good guy/bad guy', here. Julia is trouble, but she doesn't mean to be so. Her age precludes the wisdom that nine-year-old Joseph cultivates and the concern he has over broken promises and challenging situations.

Kids who choose Saygar the Superhero for its action will find the added bonuses of humor and unexpected personality clashes makes for a superhero story like few others. It's engaging, original, and embraces sub-themes of self-acceptance, courage, loyalty, and friendship which elevate it beyond an adventure tale alone.

The Story of Ervin James
Bernette Sherman
Mount Hope Media
9781954636002, $18.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Story of Ervin James tells of Bernette Sherman's great-great-great grandfather, whose extraordinary resilience created a legacy that not only was passed down through his family, but is revitalized here, in Sherman's account of her family history, inspired by her research.

Born a slave, James left a legacy of freedom and determination for generations that followed him. His story embraces the lingo, customs, and voices of the times, changing timber and tense to capture these special moments of the past.

Those who strictly adhere to the English language's usage rules may chafe at such poetic license, but it serves to capture the times and people much more than a contemporary correctness would have allowed for, bringing the story to life in a special way: "I wished there was more men who thinked like that but in South Carolina there wasn't. Even though it was the twenties nothing changed. Things seemed to be getting worse in fact. They wasn't bringing in slaves from across the ocean but it was busy at the ports. I seed more at church and not just babies and the ones born here. They was coming in from other places like I'd been."

As he and Lilly face being parents after losing one baby, only to have tragedy strike again, the challenges of their times come to life as James embarks on further journeys with questions about freedom, love, and what is worth fighting for: "He was my friend but even he ain't knowed my heart. He ain't never been nothing but free. He ain't never had somebody he love taken away by man and by God. He had faith in a God that done let everything be taken from me, one after the other."

As the story evolves, Ervin James builds family and connections in many different ways and places. Slavery looms over these decisions and objectives, but despite it all, the times are a-changing.

Sherman is especially skilled at building bigger-picture thinking between characters that come to life in their conversations as they age and adapt to new times: "Nora wrap her fingers round mine after dinner and look me straight in the eye. She told me, We deserve this and we done worked hard for it all our lives. Well we ain't getting no younger. Our time done passed, I sighed heavy like cuz seem like wasn't nobody thinking bout letting no negro buy land in them parts. No, Ervin. Our sons and daughters deserve it and they sons and daughters. It ain't about us no more Ervin. You right. We getting old. We gotta do this for them. If we don't do it who else gonna do it? Who else can do it?"

The result is a vivid story of slavery's impact, social changes, and one family's legacy that succeeds in changing the hearts, minds, and experiences of those who follow generations later.

Sherman has created a vivid story of her ancestor's growth and world. It's a story that needs to be shared in Black communities and families around the country, teaching not just about the past, but approaches to adversity, survival, and growth that offer their own legacy to future generations.

Very highly recommended, it's the lingo and sentiments of the times that make The Story of Ervin James remarkable, and a standout.

The Lifer and the Lawyer
George Critchlow with Michael Anderson
Cascade Books
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781725278370, $46.00 Hardcover; $26.00 Paper; $9.99 Kindle

The Lifer and the Lawyer: A Story of Punishment, Penitence, and Privilege is a true crime biography that probes the criminal justice system and the impact of justice and injustice on all sides. It provides a close inspection of Chicago African American Michael Anderson, whose life of neglect and abuse led to his becoming a violent criminal.

Incarcerated for his crimes for over forty years in the aftermath of a violent crime rampage in the 1970s, Anderson has aged in the system, but develops a friendship in the most unlikely of places - with the affluent white young lawyer assigned to defend him from over twenty felony charges connected to his violence.

George Critchlow was focused on legal issues when he accepted a complex case that delved into matters of race, culture, and inequities within the justice system itself. He never expected to evolve a relationship with a convicted felon that would last for decades, much less come to question how the justice system worked.

Their shared story comes to life in a survey that also adds Christian elements of reflection. The collaborative nature of this survey, which includes inspections of moral, ethical, philosophical, and psychological attitudes, makes for an intriguing read recommended not just for those already well aware of cultural influence and social inequities, but readers who may choose this book with a preconceived mindset about guilt, innocence, punishment, and redemption.

Critchlow brings with him a decidedly educated inspection that raises many thought-provoking points from the start: "We imagine our paths are freely chosen. But there is a need to account for biology and history, the random intercession of other people, culture, race, and the mystery of the transcendent. The variables make it difficult to predict the course of any individual life even though there are those who claim expertise in such matters."

The feel of the story assumes the guise of fiction, with its dramatic overlays and narrative style, but is grounded in fact. This makes the tale lively, readable, and engrossing as readers move through the crime spree that led to Michael's downfall and the system that deemed him too dangerous ever to go free for the rest of his life.

The addition of other cases which graphically pointed to discriminatory practices within the judicial process, presented in the first person, round out Michael's experiences and make an even greater case about judicial inequities. One such case dealt with racial discrimination in real estate sales. Following an unfavorable verdict for his African American clients, Critchlow tells us: "Two jurors shared with me how their deliberations led to a verdict of discrimination, but no damage. The explanation went something like this: "Well, yes, the developer did discriminate, you proved that. But you should remember, this is Pasco, and we just felt that your clients were better off and happier living with their own kind rather than forcing themselves into a community that did not want them. So, since your clients were better off, not worse off, we just didn't see any damage." ...This statement of the jurors' sense of justice may be the most succinct and forthright declaration of white privilege and racial paternalism I have ever heard...My dad instructed me to send the legal fees to our clients. The incongruity of the outcome was just too much for him."

All these elements create a hard-hitting, thought-provoking examination which uses personal experience to reinforce details about legal process and true justice.

It's a powerful read that will leave law students, African American civil rights followers, and general interest readers scratching their heads. Michael Anderson's story concludes with a bow to the power of God and the challenges that will face him whether he dies in prison or is released to begin a new life.

The Lifer and the Lawyer is very highly recommended reading and should be in the libraries of any collection strong in racial or criminal justice issues.

Surviving Carmelita
Susan Miura
CrossRiver Media
9781936501571, $TBA

Surviving Carmelita will attract women who enjoy Christian fiction. It provides the compelling story of mother Josie, who finds many ways to appreciate the daily joys of life: "As for me, no swing is necessary. The autumn sun warms my face, Carmie's laughter fills the air, and my kids are excited about the fun night ahead. Challenging days will ebb and flow, so I am savoring this little slice of paradise."

Josie soon faces a life-changing situation which holds no precedent for comprehension: a killer of little girls, a grief which strikes her heart, and a world that moves beyond life's pleasures to probe challenges and paradigm-changing belief systems.

If only she can undo the past and the grief her own actions have caused others! If only Josie can reconcile herself over a past that keeps haunting her present! There are many choices to mull over as events unfold; not the least of which has been her distant relationship with God and the new possibility of forging a different spiritual connection: "The pastor's name eludes me. Not sure I'd even recognize him if we bumped carts at Target. Twice a year I hear him talk about a God who wants to have a "personal relationship" with the people He created. He talks of salvation and unconditional love, but none of that resonates with me. Not that I'm anti-God, I just didn't grow up with Him in the mix."

Josie's changing relationship with and perception of God's influences and actions drive a story in which she reconsiders many of the interactions she'd had with Him in the past: "I was praying for her - a sweet, loving, pregnant Christian girl. This time would be different. I would be seeking healing from the same God who let it happen, who could have pushed her out of the way with a blink."

As she becomes more involved with Preacher, who is helping her heal at last, she slowly comes into a different series of realizations about her life, choices, and God...until her discovery about Preacher's secret changes everything yet again.

Susan Miura crafts a compelling story of a loving mother who has many skeletons in her closet and many spiritual hurdles to overcome in the course of coming to grips with past and present realities. Her journey vibrantly demonstrates how the presence of God and the devil and lies and secrets intersect to provoke transformation and change.

Surviving Carmelita is a compelling story not just about survival, but about coming to terms with life and death. Its quietly convincing protagonist involves readers in her life, choices, and awareness right up to a revelation that brings with it a new nightmare, new truths, and possible redemption.

Vegetable Chatter
Mommy Moo Moo
Damara Publishing
9780983158431, $9.99 print / $3.99 Kindle

Vegetable Chatter creates whimsical vegetable drawings by Tom Edwards that pair perfectly with a rollicking series of encounters between them by Mommy Moo Moo. It's a board book perfect for read-aloud and early discussions about vegetables.

Parents will find the contrasts in language and description ("Tomato/Tomahto"; "Lettuce pray for onions and for leeks") to be fun ways of describing vegetables and involving the very young in the attractions and attributes of different vegetables.

As the vegetables growing in the garden are contrasted and their lives explored, board book readers will appreciate the humor in these bright, personable vegetable interactions.

Parents looking for a vegetable introduction that is whimsical and attractive will find few better than Vegetable Chatter, which holds added value for linguistic wordplays that parents can use to explore humor and language with the very young.

Continuum: A Short Story Collection
Chad Lester
Independently Published
9798695009163, $4.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Readers who enjoy tension-building excellence in their short stories, especially those who appreciated the special brand of edge-of-your-seat reading that comprised the early Alfred Hitchcock short story collections, will find Continuum: A Short Story Collection of similar ilk, but with more expansive settings and literary allusions.

Take the opening short story, 'End of the Earth'. It's a survival piece set in the time of mammoths that will appeal to readers of Clan of the Cave Bear with its story of Leda, who finds herself the sole survivor of her clan's massacre, alone in the wilderness with her infant.

She finds herself questioning the "small head" peoples who killed them, and their needs, which are vastly different from her tribe's simplicity: "As she walked along the desolate steppe, she wondered why such a big place didn't have enough land for everyone. Why did the small-faces need so much?"

Her journey in a wilderness just as unforgiving as this tribe changes her life as she discovers that being the last of her tribe, rooted in and carrying their stories, may be the one thing that ultimately gives her a different kind of life.

In contrast, the tale 'All Aboard' is set in a future where a pregnant journalist on Mars stumbles into a story that she cannot ignore - one which threatens to both illuminate and change everything in that world.

"Data is everything in our modern techno-state. People base their diets and careers, even choose their spouses and embryos, on what algorithms tell them." But, has data replaced humanity? The future seems bright until the narrator's firm worldview is changed by new discoveries that hold dangerous implications and consequences due to choices made both in the present and long ago.

Each story provides a succinct vignette of life-changing experiences. Like Hitchcock's works, they excel in slow buildups of tension and revelations that lead into unexpected conclusions. Unlike Hitchcock's writings, though, the settings and characters often reflect interests and social inspections beyond the world of individual experience alone as societies evolve and introduce questions of maintaining moral and ethical values.

Often ethereal and otherworldly, Continuum is a short story collection designed to challenge perceptions of life and its trajectory. Its literary collection of suspense pieces probe the dark psyche of the soul and the evolutionary process that brings humanity and individuals to their knees, only to arise with new possibilities. It's highly recommended reading for literature readers who enjoy diverse settings and characters facing a wide range of challenging circumstances.

Black Girl Magic
Zahra Bryan
Arhaz Nyleak Books
9781736144510, $17.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Black Girl Magic: A Book About Loving Yourself Just the Way You Are will appeal to picture book readers ages 5 and up. This audience receives a lesson on self-acceptance and empowerment through the experiences of young Kaelyn, a little black girl who faces second grade, with its promises of opportunity.

Kaelyn is excited about entering elementary school!

Big, bright, colorful drawings of a diverse environment created by illustrator Jose Nieto accent this story of a challenge to Kaelyn's vision of new possibilities. Paulo is a boy who teases her before class even gets going, and involves the other boys in mocking her looks.

Suddenly, Kaelyn's first day of school is a nightmare as the boy leads her to question her worthiness.

Her mother thinks she is 'divine and magical', but her mother's reassurance does nothing to change Kaelyn's view. After this experience, her self-confidence is shaken. How can she regain her positive vision of the world in the face of such an unprovoked attack?

Zahra Bryan provides a realistic story of positivity, developing grit and resilience, facing cruelty, and overcoming feelings of being inadequate as Kaelyn questions the good things people have said about her in the past. When a key question comes up during her journal-writing, Kaelyn finds the courage to devise an answer that moves beyond pat parental reassurance and comes from her own heart.

The message of self-discovery and self-awareness in this uplifting story of courage couldn't be clearer, and is one that all young people need to absorb at an early age.

Black Girl Magic should be an early read-aloud choice reinforced by regular consultation throughout childhood, and is highly recommended for parents who would instill independent thinking and self-confidence in their child.

Five Times Lucky
P. David Temple
Chelsea Press
9781735981604, $15.95 Paper/$6.95 Kindle

When ex-Hollywood actress BunnyLee Welles returns to town for her friend's wedding in Five Times Lucky, it is to a notoriety she'd never expected. Fame is no longer at the top of her list of desires now that she is older and away from Hollywood's influence. But fame is what she faces, albeit in an unexpected way.

As the psychology of transference takes place and BunnyLee, Buck, Jade, and others find their lives and fortunes unexpectedly entwined, P. David Temple adds a wry brand of humorous inspection that injects irony and satire into the tale. It's a combination of modern American road trip ala Kerouac (albeit with a Miniature Labradoodle puppy in tow) and romance that revolve around Buck LeGrande, whose exploits lead to puppy mills and attention-getting stunts.

When opposites attract, they can do so in an explosive manner. Such is the case with BunnyLee and Buck as they (and Puddles) navigate a strange new world and face adventures and ironies they never wanted to confront, both independently and with one another.

From Hollywood to a 4H exhibition with a gun-totin' Puddles, both BunnyLee and Buck meet their match and come out on top in this rollicking romp through Hollywood, disparate supporting characters, and America. Ironically, each finds their roles challenged by Puddles, who also did not have acting fame in mind, but who is cast into that role in an unexpected (some might say bizarre) manner.

P. David Temple's story provides numerous laugh-out-loud moments. Its special blend of humor, philosophy, romance and adventure will keep readers involved and guessing about the outcome to the end, which concludes in both an anticipated and yet also an unexpected manner. The story ultimately questions the price and goal of fame and fortune, using a tongue-in-cheek observational style that is simply unforgettable.

Marla L. Anderson
Wolfheart Press
9780996324977, $12.89 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Thriller readers who choose Unethical for their daily dose of tension will find a fine blend of personal and professional conundrums in this story. Here, a San Diego lawyer struggles to care for an ailing father with Alzheimers while simultaneously fielding her work.

Enrolling him in a clinical study at an institute at first appears just the solution for simultaneously caring for him while she does her job, but when questionable medical processes arise during his treatment, Josephine finds herself embroiled in a case that strikes too close to home.

Medical ethics demand that Dr. Adrian Kessler sacrifice the most important part of his examination to let nature take its course with sufferers at the end of their lives. Experimental protocol demands that this process be artificially manipulated for the sake of the greater good in developing an effective treatment. And so he errs on the side of science, entering into a gray area that places his career and Josephine's life on the line.

Think the style of a Robin Cook medical investigation, but with more of a focus on ethical conundrums faced by science and the law as the story evolves. Add suspense and intrigue as Josephine draws too close to a truth that ultimately challenges her own ethical foundations. Add a dash of hope as she faces her father's miraculous recovery and suspects that much more is involved than a successful research project.

Unethical excels in its ability to introduce ethical challenges throughout the course of the story as different discoveries affect and reinforce the positions of all involved. This focus lends a psychological and philosophical depth to the inspection that questions the ultimate motivations of researchers who operate both for the greater good and their own scientific acclaim.

What is worth the price of seeing a loved one return from the living dead? Jo is about to find out as she questions whether justice applies to seeming miracles that come at a high price. In a world where investigations assume the guise of subterfuge and the fine line between good and bad guys is mercurial, what side should Jo choose?

As her own father becomes entangled in the web of truths and lies, he, Jo, and others struggle to do the right thing as the situation spirals out of control.

A wonderfully tense thriller evolves, offering legal and ethical twists and turns that should appeal to fans of Robin Cook's medical investigative pieces and John Grisham's lawyer dramas alike.

We Are Akan
Dorothy Brown Soper
Luminare Press
9781643880686, $19.99 Paper/$8.50 Kindle

We Are Akan: Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807 will appeal from middle grades to high school with a special brand of historical fiction centered in Africa, in the Asante Kingdom.

Three special boys, Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako, face the challenge of becoming leaders in their kingdom, learning the physical rites of passage of coming of age and the political workings of the broader kingdom beyond their home, which includes selling prisoners as slaves.

When this practice hits them personally, change is in the air as the Akan people and this younger generation struggle with kidnapping, rebellion, and a long established slave trade.

Black and white maps and illustrations by James Cloutier enhance an appealing saga about new ideas, new changes, and three boys challenged by a kingdom on the edge of a new era of social and political strife.

The African world of early Ghana and the people who reside in its rainforest come to life as the story unfolds; bringing with it many inspections into customs, cultural processes, sophisticated interactions, and a frightening confrontation that emerges when a chief is arrested.

The juxtaposition of boyhood concerns and play with the very adult world of events that threaten them and change everything is very nicely done, with many passages illustrating the daily trappings of Akan culture, perceptions, and life.

As the children grow and change, so do readers who may have held preconceived notions about Africa's early kingdoms.

We Are Akan is at once a coming-of-age story, a cultural exploration, and a survey of not just changing individual lives and perceptions, but the transformation of a nation.

Young readers interested in absorbing the milieu of early 1800s Africa through the eyes of children who will grow up to inherit a kingdom will find We Are Akan nicely detailed, replete with historical and cultural inspections that provide a full-faceted flavor of Ghana at a pivot point in its history.

The Fragrance of a Girl's World
Donna Kristine Manley
Christiana Press, LLC
9780977783588, $19.99

The Fragrance of a Girl's World is filled with inspirational admonitions for girls, and promotes concepts and approaches to life that is geared to young female readers on the cusp of coming of age.

Chapters organize these inspirational observations by subject (modesty, integrity, family, natural beauty, and downtime, to name just a few), making it easy for girls to easily browse the book for enlightening insights.

Parents expecting a conservative viewpoint will be delighted by the contemporary observations that many of these seemingly traditional chapters embrace, such as the section about natural beauty, which offers pointed discussions on makeup: "Makeup can assist a girl by helping her bring out her natural beauty. Emerging makeup is natural makeup with fewer or no chemicals that help to nourish the skin and help to enhance rather than hide, cover up, or transform. If makeup transforms the way you look naturally, then that makeup helps to deceive and does not show the real you."

Likewise, the section on 'If You Leave Life, Life Will Leave You' provides wisdom on how to deal with overall life challenges: "Everything you do and say should have a purpose. Pick flowers and not fights./Do not ignore kindness.

If you do not run from trouble, trouble will run after you./Look for goodness in everything and you will find it. Handle your Scandal."

Punctuated by colorful flower drawings throughout and promoting good physical and mental health and a greater understanding of what it is to be uniquely female, The Fragrance of a Girl's World offers insights on values, life goals and focus, and choices that emphasize kindness, graciousness, and a deeper understanding of how one's perspective changes outcomes for self and others.

The Fragrance of a Girl's World is the perfect item of choice to gift a young woman coming of age, but its inspirational message will reach for all ages as it surveys the foundations of building a positive life and maintaining a purposeful focus on different choices and their consequences for building that world.

Girls can grow up to be 'flowers' in a world filled with 'weeds'. This book shows them how.

A House Full of Windsor
Kristin Contino
9781948018999, $15.95 Softcover/$4.99 ebook

A House Full of Windsor has its roots in a modern TV reality show (unseen by this reviewer) and revolves around the family life and scandals of the Windsor family, who relocated to America from England in search of new opportunities.

Daughter Sarah Percy has seen much success in television, but her show is losing popularity. Her mother Debbie is fixated on royalty and is a hoarder...a family secret Sarah has taken great pains to hide from the public eye she's so much a part of. Dirty secrets are swept under the family rug, and it's her role to do this, and keep them there.

But it's not her brother's job to carry on this family tradition, so when he fosters a TV series about hoarding, there would seem to be no better subject than what is happening right at home, even though exposing their secrets will change the public's perceptions about their lives.

As family living becomes more and more complicated, romances and family connections become entangled and challenging.

Readers receive a delightful exploration of an unconventional family's secrets and 1980s drama in a story filled with passionate explorations of both sides of the pond. The first-person narration brings readers into the dilemmas faced on all sides, and the mistakes in communication that lead to them: "A fun, girly afternoon just wasn't in the cards, exactly like my day of relaxation wasn't, either. And now I had a flight to pack for, too. Who thought I'd be making two trips across the pond in the matter of a few weeks, let alone with my family? It didn't even occur to me to ask Will if he was okay with the trip."

Readers who like family dramas in general and the media focus swirling around royal events and preoccupations with the British monarchy in particular will find A House Full of Windsor an outstanding romp through both different social strata and cultures and romance.

As family secrets come to light, the story becomes fully absorbing; its dilemmas nicely woven into the backdrop of evolving love.

Women, in particular, will find this story replete with humor and ironic inspections of life in the UK and US. The family is torn asunder by its adult children's decisions, exposes, and avid desire for new beginnings not just for the prodigies, but the parents who find their world changing anew.

Women who like family dramas, soap operas, and intercultural mixes will especially appreciate A House Full of Windsor's attention to changing family relationships and influences.

My Dog Can Preach
Roxanne Worsham
Roxanne Worsham LLC, Publisher
9781736437001, $21.04 Hardcover/$8.99 Kindle

My Dog Can Preach: 40 Lessons of God's Love Unleashed maintains that God's voice can be found not only through church interpretations, but in events and circumstances in the wider world. A case in point is offered in this book, in the messages Roxanne Worsham received from actions of her dogs, Scout and Arrow.

These teachings assume the form of some 40 vignettes that use these dogs as examples of the presence of God in daily life.

Take, for example, the chapter 'Give Us This Day'.

Worsham's treat to her dog evokes a thoughtful consideration of the power of daily communion and her ability to link her pet's enthusiasm with her own passion to more regularly receive God's blessings: "What if I was as eager to receive the Lord's cup as my pup is to receive from me? What if I was as excited about that special treat from the Lord as Arrow was about his special treat? The act of communion is a great gift that we get to participate in as we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Bible says that we are to do it often, and as we do, we are to remember Him."

Another example of these strong connections between pets, people, and spirituality lies in 'Dance in His Presence', about spontaneity and celebration: "What if we could dance like David, or turn in circles of joy like my dog? Dancing in the Bible was often used as a way to worship and express praise to God. Inside, I want to worship like that. My heart is so full of gratitude and thanksgiving that I want to express it somehow, but how could I let my guard down and act as happy as I feel? "I am a grown woman," or so I tell myself and make an excuse to act dignified. One morning, I let my guard down and danced with my dog. He began to dance even more! The jubilation was overwhelming, and I began to feel so alive and so free. Sometimes we need to just let loose and release the inner child in us. We just need to dance like no one is watching!"

This collection of Christian reflections and celebrations uses animal relationships as a starting point for absorbing lessons about listening to and celebrating God's presence in daily life.

Dog lovers who enjoy devotionals and spiritual reflections will find My Dog Can Preach a treasure trove of inspiration on how better to connect with not just one's dog, but God.

Above Sea Level
Douglas E. Congdon
Independently Published
9781672354028, $6.99 Paper/$1.99 Kindle

Above Sea Level weaves a post-apocalyptic story and an investigative piece. Set in a future in which an environmentally wrecked America consists of small communities linked by the internet, the mayor of a small Midwestern town, Plato McFaul, is murdered by a robot.

When an investigation fails to turn up a concrete lead, his son, Daniel McFaul, is tasked with probing his father's death, setting a trap to catch the killer that relies on a beautiful, dangerous woman's participation in a plan that could backfire.

Daniel has inherited his father's talents, in many ways. He's also inherited trouble, which deepens as his journey leads him into unpredictable, questionable territory: "How much of it was even real? Difficult to tell these days, but Daniel always assumed the worst, at first. Sally called it paranoia, but he liked to think he was just being careful. He learned that from his father, who would sometimes say "evil often smiles" when lecturing Daniel on how much he could trust others."

Is there a better way of catching a killer than making himself the bait in a trap? If so, Daniel can't think of one.

As his murder probe winds through a world where truth is measured by internet protection devices and yet still remains elusive, Daniel discovers many truths about his father, a man "ahead of his time and out of place in Dodge City." As he pieces together perceptions and information from disparate sources, Daniel edges ever closer to a realization not just about his father's position and demise, but secrets that will shake society's foundations.

Above Sea Level isn't just about survival in a much-changed America. It's about romance and ethics (as Samantha seems steeped in a conspiracy that surrounds her); it's about choices and consequences (as Daniel goes beyond the process of law enforcement to dig out the truth about his father's life as well as his death); and it's about friendship, justice, and political and social transformations alike.

Readers who like their post-apocalyptic worlds to contain more than just survival goals will find the mystery and intrigue components in Above Sea Level to be top-notch and thoroughly engrossing.

Skills for Big Feelings
Casey O'Brien Martin, LMHC, REAT, RN
Whole Child Counseling
9781735517728, $24.99

Finally: a workbook specifically directed to kids that teaches mindful techniques and relaxation skills at an earlier age than most receive! Skills for Big Feelings: A Guide for Teaching Kids Relaxation, Regulation, and Coping Techniques offers a wide range of strategies for identifying emotions, introducing concepts and routines of mindfulness to the young and showing them how to cultivate a positive mindset.

This workbook is for adults working with children who want to teach coping and relaxation skills to kids in an engaging manner. Its routines cover both individual instruction and group participation, addressing the root causes of anxiety and providing exercises that have been proven to mitigate stress.

The routines are intended to address both mental and physical requirements of the "whole" child, providing a cognitive theoretical framework supporting 'Feeling-Breath-Thought-Skill' (F-B-T-S).

From initial treatment plan objectives and clear passages that help adults formulate both goals and guidelines for measuring their achievement to activities such as Mindful Moments, Casey O'Brien Martin provides not just outlines of exercises, but discussions of the kind of language adults may employ to reach out to kids: "Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, to what is happening in the present moment - right here, right now - without judging it as being good or bad. It means just observing or noticing, and paying attention to what is happening, both inside and outside of you. That's why, when we do a Feelings Check, I ask you to think about how you are doing right now in this very moment. When we check-in on how we are right now, that is being mindful."

The step-by-step communiques and processes of imparting this information and evaluating the results of various exercises lends to a practical workbook that all adults can use successfully - even those with little training in psychology or mindfulness. The black and white illustrations throughout can be used to reinforce lessons.

From how to identify and turn unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones to connecting mindful reflection with gratitude, this workbook is a 'must' for any adult who wants to transform a child's anxiety impulses by redirecting that energy into forward-thinking paths of renewal and rejuvenation.

There's no other workbook quite like it on the market, making Skills for Big Feelings a winning holistic approach backed by solid pediatric references and studies that prove these strategies actually work.

Dream Catchers
POPS the Club
Out of the Woods Press
9781952197062, $17.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle

Dream Catchers represents the seventh volume created by the high school members of POPS the Club, and is an anthology of poems, prose, and art that captures the milieu and experience of the prison system - an environment that readers might not expect teens to be intimately familiar with.

The collection opens, surprisingly, with a letter reflecting the perspective of not a teen writer, but a POPS Club advisor, who provides a passionate pro/con perspective of the members of this group and why their writings are important: "We absolutely hate that you are here. We loathe it, actually. We detest that anyone as awesome as you ever has to walk through our doors carrying the burden of "tough stuff." It's not fair. You know it and we know it. We both wish things could be different. We want to come into your lives armed with a magic eraser and get rid of all the mess you have to deal with. We don't want to have to run a club for students affected by incarceration. We like art and flower arranging clubs - heck, even clubs about motorcycles and sports are better than clubs about prison, right? But in the same breath, we love that you are here. Your smiles, your participation, and your resilience astound us."

With this introduction, plus a poem and a piece of art, readers may sense they are in for a treat, because the blend of poems, reflections, and painted images cementing them offer raw, emotionally candid portraits of incarceration and life challenges.

Take 'Mind, Body and Paint' by John Rodriguez, for example, which appears early in the collection. In this nonfiction treatise, Rodriguez reflects on a walk through Inglewood, California with spray cans in his backpack, intent on reaching a wall he can use as a billboard for his message.

The exact steps of his efforts are detailed in explicit moment-by-moment descriptions that lend a 'you are here' feel to his story: "I'm spraying away, letting my hand guide itself, letting it go free. The paint comes out, getting a right grip on the wall, leaving a trace of fine lines. I'm rotating the can as I write, getting the perfect flare and thickness of the line. While I'm writing, my body purifies itself - relieving itself of my stress and helping me forget my worries. No more getting screamed at by my mother. No one is telling me what to do. There is no better feeling than this. I'm in another world. Nothing bothers me. It's just me, the wall, and the can, doing what I do best."

As the poems and writings evolve, readers will find their anticipation about what incarcerated teens think about the world and their place in it may be quite different than they anticipate.

The literary strength of these reflections, their intimate glimpses into not just experiences beyond the law but the rationale behind how these young people choose to interact with the world, and the diverse artistic formats translate into evocative works urban teens will find unusually compelling.

Another example of such unique writing is Maricela Romero's rap/poem piece 'Living in Los Angeles'. One almost walks the gritty streets with her: "Living in LA wasn't always the best. You see, life through/my eyes would scare a square to death./Poverty, violence, murder, never a moment to rest./Fun and games are few but treasured like gold."

What does it mean to be a teen grappling with adult concerns in a milieu of challenge and inconsistency?

Dream Catchers here provides a powerful survey of life inspections, questions, and answers. It is particularly strongly recommended as a teaching tool for reaching young adults who don't normally relish anthologies of literary writings. This audience, especially, will find much to like and wonder over in this powerful gathering of works by peers who found themselves on the opposite side of the law.

Deadly Little Angel
Dana Kilpatrick
DK Success Publishing
9780988839267, $2.99 ebook, $7.99 paperback

Kris is thrilled with her new job as a journalist...until her efforts cause a murder. And it's one thing to write about it, but quite another to actually touch a dead body.

Deadly Little Angel opens with an intriguing draw: "I didn't have much experience dealing with bodies, but I thought I should empty his pockets. Isn't that what they do when dumping a victim?" After this, the story becomes an intense series of confrontations and challenges that proves difficult to put down. Kris emerges as a determined investigator who connects a modern-day killer to a decades-old secret that unleashes a killer into the community of Silver City.

The provocative prologue introduces Kris's life and connections in a cozy mystery that admits that Kris is not often one to be part of a community: "My aunt is a wise person. Whenever something ends in trouble or disappointment, my usual plan is to pack up and move to a new town. With Milly, of course. My life sometimes seems to be one disaster after another, though I prefer to reframe them as adventures. This time, the move brought me to Silver City, and I was excited to spend a season here."

Her job and choices and their consequences lead her into this newfound role at a pivotal point in her life. Kris discovers not only clues about a small wooden angel and its role in a killer's modus operandi, but insights about her own changing nature.

Cozy mystery settings are meant to be comforting, not frightening. Deadly Little Angel's title and prologue may sound as though the mystery portion will feel threatening, but it is not. Kris is a savvy young woman just beginning to settle into her skills and abilities without running away from them. Her latest job feeds this desire, evolving a sense of community, family ties, and camaraderie that support the murder mystery with a firm sense of place and new possibilities for living a different life.

When she faces the dichotomy of a lovely man who might also be a murderous fiend, Kris discovers that perceptions and preconceptions are part of the problem in not just identifying this killer, but dealing with her own approach to life.

Dana Kilpatrick's cozy mystery is thoroughly engrossing. It provides insights that are delightful and intriguing as Kris wonders if she's living in a terrible dream, an alternate universe, or a mixed-up series of events that portend more difficulties in her own life.

Kris can't predict the outcome of her actions...and neither will her readers, who will enjoy delightful twists and many compelling moments in this highly recommended cozy tale.

A New Now
Michael Goddart
Clear Path Press
c/o Epigraph Books
9781951937737, $18.95 Paper/$26.95 Hardcover

A New Now: Your Guide to Mastering Wisdom Daily, Achieving Equilibrium, and Empowering Your Nobler Self gives self-help spirituality readers an empowering approach to awakening their higher consciousness, and is recommended reading for those who look for applied strategies rather than ethereal promises for reaching this goal.

Many a new age book admonishes readers to tap their inner awareness and develop a better spiritual connection, but fewer provide the nuts and bolts of exactly how to do so. Here, nuggets of insights along with clear, practical, and inspiring guidance direct readers on how to achieve both wisdom and equilibrium.

The first section focuses on the idea of equilibrium and its importance, with subsequent chapters providing the meat of the 'how to' of 'The Ten Keys to Achieving Equilibrium.' Three chapters cover the 'Treasure of 33 Wisdoms' - including the 11 Loving Wisdoms, the 11 Guiding Wisdoms, and the 11 Evolutionary Wisdoms, and these are revealed in digestible sections ('The Wisdom of Thanking', 'The Wisdom of Attention', 'The Wisdom of Discipline', among others).

From achieving clearheadedness and considering how belief systems play into expectations and patterns of behavior and anticipation, to understanding the role and influence of karmic debts that move from life to life as communication with God enters into play, these sections pair admonitions and insights with strategies for reaching specific wisdom levels and goals.

Even more important is the overall application of how to live life as an awakened, aware individual. The benefits of wisdom, awareness, and a renewed sense of purpose are discussed in the course of weaving these strategies into new approaches to daily living.

A New Now is not a treatise for those who would remain unenlightened. It is a blueprint for readers already on the path to self-improvement, better spiritual connections, and further enlightenment. It provides this audience the tools necessary to achieve all these states of mind, linking them to familiar and ordinary life events everyone can readily understand.

Anyone seeking to take better control of their life and destiny, who wants to integrate a renewed spiritual focus with enlightenment steps, will find A New Now the perfect item of choice for taking that first step into a new life.

Curve of the Dragon
Matt Stokes
Time Egg Studios
9781735950907, $2.99 Kindle

Curve of the Dragon: Episode 1 - Chasing Shadows is an espionage adventure that will appeal to thriller readers interested in complex cat-and-mouse scenarios. While the cover art's comic book-style drawing might initially lead some to think that this book is intended for young adults, its audience is decidedly adult in nature.

Randall awakens in a strange room with no memory of how he got there or who the strange voice is, who informs him she is his doctor...a physician he doesn't remember. Directed to a meeting that includes a gun and threat, Randall finds he is only one pawn in a larger spy game that quickly assumes the feel of a James Bond adventure. Events move to a missing sister who turns out to be a spy, a brother determined to locate her against all odds, and operatives Jackal, Scorpion, and Mastiff, who are involved in violent confrontations and nefarious deeds.

As determined brother Will follows his missing sister's trail and uncovers the truth about the underground criminal group Fractal and its deployment of brainwashed foot soldiers (like Randall) who attack targets around the world, readers become deeply immersed in a world of international intrigue, dubious political alliances, terrorism, and danger.

Matt Stokes excels in crafting a deliciously tense thriller packed with nonstop action and satisfying twists and turns that even seasoned genre readers won't see coming.

Embassy attacks, explosions, and multiple encounters keep readers on the edge of their seats with back-to-back action and danger: "Looking at the case, Will weighed his options. He could go in and try to sneak the case out, but Carter or the Fractal agent would probably hear him. He could also try to wait until they left, but every second he was out here increased his chances of getting caught and locked back in his chair."

As the characters take uncertain steps to uncovering a strange truth, readers enter a world of intrigue that holds all the appeal and draw of a good James Bond-style spy episode.

If Curve of the Dragon: Episode 1 - Chasing Shadows is any indicator, the other books in this series will be just as vivid. Certainly, this first book is cause for applause with its powerful characterization and mercurial, satisfyingly complex plot.

War at the Ice Cream Store
Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson
Waterhole Productions LLC
9781736395110, $11.99 Paper/$17.99 Hardcover/$3.99 Kindle

Written by Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson, War at the Ice Cream Store: Mustachio Pistachio vs Bully Vanilli provides picture book leisure readers ages 4 and up with a Frank TL Frog and Friends adventure whimsically and colorfully illustrated by Sarah Krogman, Dave Gibson, and Jay Petsko.

Ice cream character Vanilli is a bully, even though his vanilla countenance might seem to indicate blandness. Mustachio Pistachio and his friends are intent on teaching Vanilli a lick or two about kindness, but it's ice cream scooper and taste tester Frank TL Frog who bears the brunt of King Bully Vanilli's rule over the frozen flavors he offers.

Mustachio Pistachio is the least liked by the children who enjoy the ice cream shop. How can he have any influence over the much more popular Vanilli's perspectives on life and treatment of other ice creams...especially since he bears the brunt of Vanilli's bullying?

He might win the day with a little help from his fellow flavors, but everyone feels bullied by Vanilli. Will Mustachio be left to melt in his own bucket?

It takes a savvy milkshake to see the light and change everything.

Adults who read this story aloud will find plenty of value within the tale, from its puns and wordplays to its insights on how to handle bullying.

Mixed into the delicious ice cream story is a psychological inspection that will appeal to the very young on many levels, providing read-aloud adults with tools for imparting some basic lessons about kindness, group support, and methods for thwarting abuse and bullying.

War at the Ice Cream Store is highly recommended reading for a wide audience of picture book leisure readers.

John Casey
PHiR Publishing
9781736908129 $19.99

Evolution is the second book in The Devolution Trilogy and will especially be appreciated by prior fans who will find that this sequel (which takes place two years after original events) offers a satisfying continuation of Michael Dolan's exploits.

A prologue, 'What Came Before', recaps the characters, premise, and past experiences to bring newcomers up to date. Dolan has been recovering from his trials during Operation EXCISE. It's time for him to return to the job of thwarting terrorists.

They've already launched a deadly bioweapon in the Middle East with a virus attack that is running rampant, but Dolan is determined that his sacrifices in Berlin won't have been in vain. In that mission, the CIA's plan required him to exploit past associations that were rooted in personal tragedy - resulting in a mind-bending tangle of treacherous but ultimately successful efforts to take out a terrorist cell bent on murdering thousands of Americans with a horrifying weapon of mass destruction.

This time, he's ready for action in a different way. As thriller readers enjoy his exploits in the international arena, Dolan and the SCALPEL team return to take on a significantly more lethal and complex threat. Same players, different game.

The first thing to note about Evolution is that it lives up to its title. Not only has Dolan healed and evolved, but so has his team...and his enemies.

As he and his black ops unit are briefed about the Marburg virus (which is 90 percent lethal), Dolan finds out that one of the terrorists may be targeting him specifically. In this, John Casey creates a dilemma which is absorbingly immediate even as it links past trauma to the latest unfolding threat: "Dolan felt a chill as well, and not from the breeze off the water. Just as he'd found balance in life and some semblance of peace, disquieting vestiges of his past he thought he'd reconciled long ago came roaring back."

The terrorist peril juxtaposes nicely with Dolan's efforts to carve a different kind of life for himself, avoiding past mistakes even as his skill set leads him deeper into ongoing danger.

The blend of psychological insights combines with a spy story that keeps readers tense and wondering, delighting thriller fans who want more than nonstop action or political drama in their reads.

Dolan's growth processes, his determination to craft a different outcome that doesn't come with such a heavy price, and the requirement that he set aside his blossoming academic career for something for more challenging (and dangerous) creates a compelling story.

Newcomers receive easy access to the tale via a recap prologue that won't spoil Devolution for those who read Evolution first, while those who have finished Devolution will find Evolution just as, or even more gripping than its prequel.

Evolution is a riveting story that pits a powerful and ruthless international enemy against a small team of CIA field operatives, and in the end it is Dolan's talents and determination that prove to be the difference between success and failure. Evolution deserves top billing in any thriller or espionage fiction collection.

Clouds Above
Michael Hicks Thompson
Shepherd King Publishing LLC
9780997655605, $30.00

As the world faces a water shortage like no other in history, will Dr. Grayson Fields' science skills and determination make it possible for her to bring rain to a parched world?

Readers quickly become involved in a realistic scenario that traverses the planet from D.C. to India and the Himalayas with hidden experiments, security secrets, and dangers that affect the world's water supply.

Thompson brings to life this plausible world in such a way that readers will not only be engrossed in the outcome of an elaborate situation but will find the science of climate manipulation thoroughly intriguing - even vital to our survival.

Rites & Wrongs
Holly Harrison
Golden Word Books
9781948749732, $14.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

What is a top-notch investigator to do with his career when he's already solved a high-profile mystery? In Rites & Wrongs, Santa Fe police detective Pascal Ruiz is tired of his return to routine investigations. When his captain asks him to undertake a private investigation involving the disappearance of his niece's boyfriend, this feels far more exciting than the daily rituals of police work. Complicating matters, he's not only tired of his job, but his New Mexico home.

Holly Harrison's ability to capture a sense of place and atmosphere during the story brings many subtle nuances to life, making Pascal's investigation as much one of personal direction as a story of intrigue: "Pascal hated the winds. He had suffered them most of his life, but each spring, he swore it would be his last. The winds clogged his head and dried his nose until it bled. His lips cracked painfully no matter how much balm he used. His eyes stung as if packed with tiny particles of glass."

Employing his astute abilities, Pascal quickly finds the missing young man...alone and unconscious in a pueblo, dressed like Jesus and tied to a cross. As Bobby's girlfriend was attempting to write an expose on the religious cult, the Penitentes, before his abduction, the cult is a prime suspect. But, as the crime has taken place on Indian reservation land, tribal police take over the case.

As Harrison's investigation evolves into a political cat-and-mouse game between vying jurisdictions, he arrives closer to a strange truth. This pits him against San Felipe tribal investigator Ortiz, who is just beginning to prefer the challenges of a job that takes him away from his usual desk work and into the field of new possibilities and problem-solving techniques...that is, before he runs afoul of the perps and is shot and left for dead.

As his friend Gillian becomes involved in an increasingly explosive situation, events heat up in a series of encounters not only between law enforcement agencies, but a group that has nefarious intentions beyond a simple kidnapping.

Holly Harrison's ability to bring New Mexico's culture and landscapes to life lends the added value of a realistic background to her story.

Fans of mysteries that look beyond swift action for three-dimensional characters with lives and concerns beyond police routines alone will find Rites & Wrongs a compelling story of jurisdictions that clash in the name of justice and criminal investigations.

The Man Who Beat Death Valley
Deborah A. Fox
Independently Published
9780578720227, $19.99

The Man Who Beat Death Valley's full-color graphic novel format will appeal to teen and adult audiences interested in historical fiction. The tale is based on the true story of William Lewis Manly, who helped rescue two families from the Death Valley desert, journeying through the treacherous valley three times on his missions of mercy.

In 1849-50, it took Manly and his friend over a month to lead four adults and four children out of the notorious desert.

Deborah A. Fox's colorful illustrations bring this story to life in a way printed words alone could not have achieved.

The combination of astute history, drama, and vivid images highlights the real strength of the graphic novel in this genre, especially, bringing history to life in a dramatic, compelling manner.

The dialogue is replete with action-packed words ("Roarrr! "Look OUT! Get to shore QUICKLY!"), assuring that action isn't just visual alone, but is reinforced by language that captures the adventure and drama of constant challenges to surviving the Death Valley desert.

Recommended for young adult to adult history readers, especially those who like true adventure and California settings, The Man Who Beat Death Valley is a top recommendation not just for graphic novel collections, but libraries and educators interested in visually enhanced historical fiction for all ages.

The Tree of Knowledge
Daniel G. Miller
Houndstooth Books
9780578753201, $3.99 Kindle

Albert Puddles isn't a criminal investigator. He's a mathematics professor - and the last person who would likely be involved in solving a murder mystery. The Tree of Knowledge places not only this tenured Princeton University professor but his colleagues in the hot seat of problem-solving beyond the classroom when his knowledge of order and method becomes key to solving a campus murder.

Readers who like their investigators to come from other than law enforcement circles will appreciate the links between the math professor's psyche, methodology, and knowledge. The involvement of colleagues and campus personalities who also lie far outside the usual detective's milieu add an extra dimension of intrigue to the plot.

The Tree of Knowledge relies on all kinds of knowledge bases coming together in a conflict of ideas and discoveries. These include the Book Club, which has worked with esteemed cryptologist Professor Turner, a Princeton savant, to develop the Tree of Knowledge that is key to solving this impossible situation in a premise that has turned deadly: " is nothing but a series of goals and actions, and so if you can understand those goals and anticipate the actions of individuals, then you can manipulate them."

As math and ulterior motives combine and bona-fide detectives find their best efforts thwarted, Daniel G. Miller builds a riveting story. Professor Puddles moves out of the classroom and world of theories and into bars and the consequences of applying these theories to real-world scenarios involving women, booze, and murder.

As it becomes apparent that anyone who has even glimpsed the Tree is in danger from Turner and his disciples, Christina, Eva, and a wide circle of characters find themselves not in supportive roles, but in deadly danger.

The Tree of Knowledge is a thoroughly engrossing story of power gone awry. It is compelling and unpredictable right up to the end. This special brand of suspense lends to its recommendation for men who look for clean action, suspense, and thought-provoking Christian themes surrounding knowledge, politics, and evolving new causes.

The Place Beyond Her Dreams
Oby Aligwekwe
Eclat Books Ca.
9781775106449, $14.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

When Ona's grandfather suddenly dies, Ona finds herself journeying to the land of Luenah; there to discover her powers as an Eri, tasked with a mission beyond personal desire in The Place Beyond Her Dreams.

Young adults who choose Ona's adventure for its foray into magical realms will find its theme of personal empowerment an added bonus to an adventure story that follows Ona's exploration of her abilities and place in the world.

Ona finds herself in the middle of a war, where palaces and kings enter into her worldview of her place in a greater scheme of things. As The Place Beyond Her Dreams evolves, young readers will find that Ona's true destiny lies beyond political conflict and blossoming abilities, affecting her perceptions of her future course.

Set to marry Albert, Ona finds that her real task lies elsewhere. Even though her safety and that of her family lies in making these ties, there is a greater purpose at large which changes her destiny. Ona's actions may have created a mess, but she's determined not to involve her family more than they already are, and thinks she can fix things herself. But, can she?

The Place Beyond Her Dreams blends magic with real-world issues of cultural interactions, abuse, and tragedy. It will attract both fantasy and contemporary readers by blending these two scenarios, adding Ona's first-person perceptions about her changed circumstances and her role in transforming them: "I now considered my life as being separated into two sections; life before Okem and life after Okem. Before Okem, was carefree, fun, and glorious. After Okem, was constrained, dreary, and violent."

The story's unique combination of forays into self and the wider world create compelling scenarios in which the determined young woman must achieve the impossible to set things right and regain her life.

Young adults ages 13 and up will find The Place Beyond Her Dreams an inviting, thought-provoking adventure that surveys family, communities, and the power and consequences of personal decisions.

The Dead Daughter
Thomas Fincham
Independently Published
9798588071208, $12.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

The Dead Daughter is the first volume in the Lee Callaway series, which revolves around a character first introduced casually in The Rose Water. No prior familiarity with this book is needed because, here, Lee receives his own top billing in an adventure set to propel future books into the limelight of a P.I. mystery reader's world.

The story opens not with Lee but with Sharon Gardener's discovery of the bloody body of her daughter. The next chapter introduces Detective Gregory Holt, who is tasked with investigating the death, and who loves his job. When a husband falls under his inspecting eye, the case seems fairly straightforward, in some ways.

Lee Callaway doesn't appear until the fourth chapter, but he's not the savvy, successful P.I. one might expect. He's an investigator who is down on his luck until he lands a case that may be his ticket to better fortune.

It turns out that Lee was at the residence the night of the murder, tailing Sharon, who was having an affair. His inadvertent involvement in this murder case brings him into conflict with evidence that seems cut and dried as he probes the case despite its apparently clear conclusions.

As Lee becomes involved in a puzzle with many pieces, some of them begin to come together. Others remain elusive, even though they are right under his nose. His probe of Kayla's life and secrets become a matter of life and death as he fights to reveal the truth despite the fact that he is not a cop, and his connection to the case keeps changing.

Lee's long had a reputation for being unlucky, in many ways. His luck is about to change - but only if his persistence can remain unshaken by perps and fellow investigators alike.

The Dead Daughter provides an excellent story that draws its strength from both an unusual case and an unusual hero determined to prove the innocence of a father who seems irrefutably guilty. As his investigations lead into political circles, readers receive many surprises about the characters, their motivations, and the ultimate outcome of Lee's efforts.

Mystery readers who enjoy good P.I. procedurals with satisfying twists and turns will find Lee Callaway a likeable character, the case intriguing, and the results unexpected in a story that stands out from the P.I. novel crowd.

Black & White: Healing Racial Divide
C. L. Holley
Independently Published
9798677373954, $8.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Black & White: Healing Racial Divide delivers an assessment of racial strife in America which moves from a history of changing racial issues (from Jim Crow experiences to modern times) to a survey of insights and solutions focused on reuniting a deeply divided country. In the process, it explores facets of the divide that rarely receive attention in similar-sounding approaches, such as Biblical references, discussions of assimilation approaches and underlying attitudes, bias, and more.

The story opens with a family picture of the author with his two high school teachers and leads to what looks to be a memoir reflecting on the birth of his daughter. This becomes a reflection on George Floyd's murder and why African Americans remain disenfranchised and at high risk in American society: "Truthfully, the breathlessness of African Americans is not a new phenomenon. Their four-hundred-year struggle to breathe began during the middle passage, increased during slavery, extended beyond post-civil war reconstruction, and remains even until the writing of this book in 2020. Obstructions to African American airways now take the form of white supremacy, systemic racism, bias, injustice, unequal treatment, and lack of access to products, services, and resources."

While he admits that every problem in the community isn't due to racism, C. L. Holley's discussion traces many facets of seemingly diverse issues to not just racist attitudes, but issues of guilt and lasting resentments, which stymie any possibility of a healing conversation.

As chapters consider the inherent racism and repression in everything from housing and communities to economic opportunities, they draw together statistics, studies, and researched information to support observations about the many faces of repression in American society: "Where a person lives and the condition in which he or she lives can determine the health and wellbeing of not only that individual but other members of the family. And those effects can linger from generation to generation."

Unlike other discussions, both black and white barriers to change receive the laser beam of Holley's attention and contentions. The new foundations of racial healing opportunities receive close inspection as he draws together possibilities for both sides to meet - but only after considering their own inherited attitudes towards race, communication, and attitudes, which erect walls on both sides.

Anyone interested in how all races can participate in the broader win-win effort of defeating racism will find Black & White: Healing Racial Divide an excellent starting point for discussion and change. It's highly recommended reading not just for collections already profiling racial issues, but high school to adult classrooms who might consider debating and absorbing its lessons, which offer opportunities for re-envisioning America and the values about equality which this nation purports to hold.

Caroline & Mordecai the Gand
Jeff Gunhus
Seven Guns Press
B08GKYJ426, $3.99, Ebook
9798593036094, $9.95, Paperback

Caroline & Mordecai the Gand provides ages 8 and older with a fantasy novella about grief, recovery, and amazing journeys as it focuses on young Caroline, who has recently lost her father in a car accident.

A year after her father's death, she's still struggling, until she discovers a mysterious window in a lake, which leads her into another world inhabited by Mordecai the Gand, a traveler who promises to help her get home.

Caroline has never been good about decisions. They always seem to lead her into trouble. This time, however, she embarks on a journey that adds new possibilities to her life as she considers her impact on those around her and how this different focus can pull her out of the despair and trouble she's fallen into.

Does she really want to return home to a life of sadness, or should she stay in a world where she now has a purpose in life? Caroline has never been good about making the right decision - and this one will change everything.

In the guise of a light fantasy for young readers, Jeff Gunhus crafts a lovely story of moving forward and discovering one's purpose in life.

Caroline has many adventures that involve dragons, new threats, and evolving the courage to make better decisions. These experiences change her perspective and broaden her realizations about the world and her place in it: "For the first time in her life, she considered, truly considered, that she might not live. That all the tomorrow's she'd imagined for herself would be gone. That places she wanted to go would go unseen. The things she wanted to do would go undone. The people she wanted to see again would be out of reach. Forever."

Readers of all ages who look for ethereal, haunting stories of recovery and courage will find Caroline & Mordecai the Gand may hold the trappings of a fantasy adventure; but inside there is so much more. Make the right decision, to read this!

Does Grandma Remember Me?
Evita Sherman
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435297, $15.95

Does Grandma Remember Me? comes from the observations and perspective of a little girl who reviews her grandmother's many skills (such as cooking a dish from memory, without a recipe). Perhaps the greatest of all is her devotion to her granddaughter and her ability to make the young narrator feel special: "When she smiles back at me, Grandma makes me feel like I'm the only little girl on Earth. Grandma is proud of me for everything, even when I do something small."

But, something has changed. Her grandmother is confused, sad, and sometimes angry and desperate. Worst of all...the narrator suspects that sometimes her grandmother doesn't even remember who she is.

Grandma has dementia. Even though she was informed about this medical condition, the young narrator can't quite comprehend why her beloved grandmother has changed so much, and why their connection now seems so tenuous.

What can a granddaughter do? Evita Sherman shows kids how to step out of their own disappointments and fears to craft a giving response even while facing adversity.

Where other picture books might focus on defining dementia, Does Grandma Remember Me? provides an emphasis on the opportunity to be strong, giving, and redefine the grandmother/granddaughter relationship.

With so many families and children facing similar diagnosis and dilemmas, Does Grandma Remember Me? assumes an even greater importance in showing youngsters not just how to accept or understand, but how to change their responses to regain connections and love that appear to be lost. This teaches kids about empowerment, choice, and opportunities to be found even under adversarial circumstances.

The approach not only sets Does Grandma Remember Me? apart from the usual children's book on the subject, but makes it a positive, unique, highly recommended choice over others.

Amy Q. Barker
Independently Published
9781735358116, $11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Punk blends women's literature with a coming-of-age story about Delia Elliott, a junior in high school who explains how she came to travel back in time to 1932 with the aid of a family member's diary. These circumstances connect her fumbling, short life with her great-grandmother Didi's failed romance and her own mother's struggle with being a single mother in a relationship.

Barred from all connections with friends, Delia's discovery of the diary unlocks not only the past, but keys to making better decisions in the present as she absorbs her family's hidden heritage and comes to understand its impact on her own choices.

Narrated in the first person for young adult readers, Punk assumes an air of rebellion and confession as it adopts a tone that will prove immediately accessible to young readers. It blends a sarcastic, witty view of Delia's mother's approaches to life and child-rearing with insights on her life and its trajectory.

"I'm thinking how great you've been lately - sort of on a roll. I mean, you've managed to finish your junior year with halfway decent grades, you're finally done with that boy, not to mention the fallout from the incident with that boy. You haven't snuck out of the house in at least, let's see, three weeks. You haven't stolen cash out of my wallet (as far as I know). You haven't been wearing my clothes - although that is my T-shirt if I'm not mistaken - please put that back! And you haven't broken curfew. I was beginning to think things were looking up." She paused for effect and concluded with, "But I should have known better, shouldn't I have?"

As she was getting more animated, I noticed the most fascinating thing - this vein in her neck grew large and throbbed, almost as if some type of alien lived there. I began to imagine it would pop its head out and start talking to me. "Hello, Delia. I'm the alien living in your mom's jugular. I come in peace. Please feed me."

It's this spunky, sassy tone which offers both a unique voice and a major draw into the events that unfold as Delia puts together the pieces of three generation of women who face similar dilemmas in very different eras.

Young adults may read other books that attempt to appeal to their age group, but few stories pull off the spunky tone and feel of Delia, whose frustrations over her life will mirror many a teen's relationship with their family.

Under Amy Q. Barker's hand, both parents and kids hold their own very different perspectives, which appear in diary form and in the way Delia begins to understand her own situation (and her mother's) in a different way. The diary entries that hold a different tone are just as compelling as Delia's own first-person insights: "He was trying to be kind (and firm) with me and said, "Didi, I want you to make your own life, and if it can't happen with this boy, we'd rather you be on your own, living with us, until the right boy comes along." I cried a little and told him I didn't want another boy. Sometimes life is so hard. I tried to explain Paul's circumstances - not having a father and relying on his mother's initiative to keep the family afloat. He said, "Yes, this is noble and worthy of praise. She must be a strong woman to manage that counter and raise those two boys on her own, but acknowledging that, we must also look at the big picture."

The changing perspectives and narrators could prove a bit confusing, at first, even though Barker does clarify these changes in the first paragraphs of each chapter. Chapter headings defining these might have clarified the mercurial narrators.

Another strength to the story is that the different insights of each generation are covered in detail, cemented by life experience and descriptions that don't 'talk down' to young adults: "Sometimes I wondered if many of Delia's troubles stemmed from the di-vorce. It had been seven years since Johnston and I had split up, but I still had a lot of guilt, and I also realized that no matter how good or bad any divorce is, these type of childhood traumas tend to linger. She was seventeen now, and I foolishly thought with maturity would come a sort of grace and understanding, but that was naive of me. I think those feelings of confusion, abandonment, and displacement never truly go away. I should know."

Though Punk will gain its major audience from teens, it will also reach adult readers interested in an absorbing contrast between three generations of women, and shouldn't be limited to young adults alone.

Its insights on divorce, the impact of decisions, and the long-term ramifications of family patterns is absorbing and involving, and will please women's fiction readers and young adults alike.

Amy Q. Barker
Independently Published
9781735358109, $11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Readers of contemporary women's fiction will find Rue a compelling piece, indeed. It features an unusual protagonist in Rue Cavendish, a lounge singer who has been blind since birth, and who is singing in a San Francisco bar when she meets Josh.

Rue has always cultivated her independence against all odds. And she holds some decided feelings about the idea of romance and relationships: "She wondered absently what that must feel like - to be on the verge of something new, the precipice before you fall, the edge of a cliff - trying with all your might to put your best foot forward. And then she thought of the duplicity of people. Was it natural, an innate instinct, to put on that mask when you meet someone new? The facade: say the right things, listen politely, be interesting and interested. Then what happens later when you reveal your true self - the one with all its selfishness, inner demons, foibles, flaws?"

Rue has long prided herself on successfully navigating the sighted world, but in the process of cultivating her own life, she's fallen behind in exploring matters of the heart.

This changes as she not only becomes involved with Josh, but experiences further insights about couples and love through Kevin Warren and his wife Alyssa, who are experiencing many challenges in their marriage and perceptions of what they want both in life and from each other.

As Rue experiences passion, explores her sexuality and a new relationship, and lets down some of her barriers, she expresses many emotions women will readily relate to, as in this aftermath of intimacy: "She should have savored that moment. She should have sat there letting it sink in. She should have basked in the glory of what had just happened. But instead, the moment he stepped out of the bathroom, the full force of reality hit her like a ton of bricks. She began to cry uncontrollably. What had she done? What had they done? It was a marvel! But was it wrong? She hardly knew him! What must he think of her? What did she think of herself? Was she just like all of the other girls who came to him? How many others were there? Were they easy, vapid, unscrupulous? Was she? She felt cracked open like an egg, with no power to stop her insides from pouring out."

She wonders if Josh is nervous about including her in his world, and if he's really ready to date someone like Rue. She also wonders if she is ready for more than she's already carved out from life.

From taking risks to understanding differences between love and friendship and surviving emotional devastation when life goes awry, Rue grows emotionally throughout this story, carrying readers into both her life and the possibilities of women in and out of love.

Rue is a compelling novel of a blind woman who begins to see her life in a different way. Its tour of accountability, relationship-building, and changing perceptions not only invites readers into Rue's life, but adds the perspectives and objectives of others on their own paths to better seeing the opportunities and desires in their lives.

Women who like contemporary novels about already-strong women taking the next step in their evolution will find Rue realistic, absorbing, and packed with relationship insights.

Confessions of a CIA Spy - The Art of Human Hacking
Peter Warmka
Independently Published
9798554614545, $9.99 ebook; $14.99 Paper

Confessions of a CIA Spy - The Art of Human Hacking comes from a CIA career spy whose lifetime of experiences led him to form the Counterintelligence Institute, which addresses security and intelligence issues in individual and company lives.

As such, readers might expect a series of spy stories from this book, but it offers so much more. Herein lies the opportunity to understand the presence, effects, and processes of disinformation, hacking, and other intelligence hacks in daily citizens' lives. Confessions of a CIA Spy excels in identifying these problems and how to overcome them.

Information is a powerful tool. It can be successfully managed or artfully mismanaged, and the latter can be compromised more easily in this era than at any other point in human history.

Confessions of a CIA Spy reviews this process, and is especially powerful in its assessments of organizational security and implementing protections to address situations which at first might not seem to pose opportunities for disaster: "While an entity may aggressively use social media to help promote their products and services, an unintended consequence can be the leakage of information, which can be invaluable to social engineers. This exposure results in the creation of vulnerabilities for the organization. Company employees will often upload photos or videos of themselves in the workplace to social media sites, providing social engineers with insight into their physical workspaces."

The insights on how social engineers and information gatherers often don't even have to produce a bona fide hack to gain access to company data and details is positively frightening - as well as enlightening.

By understanding the extent and processes of hackers and how 'social engineers' manipulate both loopholes and emotions, companies and individuals who look to improve their security measures will find the many layers of hacking approaches intriguing. This will allow them to uncover gaps in company safety processes which they may not have considered previously, going beyond the usual emphasis on cybersecurity firewalls: "The social engineer may place pressure upon the target by implying that refusing to assist will be seen by others as socially unacceptable...These influence techniques can be used in a variety of situations, including brief one-time interactions with a target."

The wide-ranging, authority-backed discussions of various forms of hacking make Confessions of a CIA Spy - The Art of Human Hacking a key acquisition. While those who wanted true-life spy stories may be disappointed, ultimately, the focus on the extent of human hacking operations is both invaluable and intriguing, exposing scenarios of vulnerability that many will not have thought of before.

No cybersecurity or social issues collection should be without Confessions of a CIA Spy.

Daisy Moves to America
Elyssa Nicole Trust
Independently Published
9781736354513, $12.99 Paper; $17.99 Hardcover; $6.99 ebook

Daisy Mae was born in the UK, and loves her life there with her family. But when her mom gets a good job in the US, the family moves. Daisy faces not just a new home, but a new culture in Daisy Moves to America.

Part of what makes this move seem both easier and more challenging, in comparison with other immigrant experiences, is that the UK and America share the same language (mostly), and many things...but, often with a difference.

Daisy's new class in Buffalo finds much to tease her about, from her British accent to how she pronounces words and how some of her words differ from American meanings (such as 'TV' versus 'telly').

As the land of opportunity becomes one of cruelty and teasing, Daisy is advised by her wise parents on how to adjust her approach and attitude to not blend in, but encourage others to help celebrate her differences.

Daisy Moves to America offers fine lessons on family support, assimilation, and confronting bullying. By making Daisy a character from a very similar yet singular country, Elyssa Nicole Trust explores a different facet of the immigrant experience than most picture books.
From mustering courage to cultivating a revised approach to life, Daisy Moves to America provides picture book readers with a different perspective on adaptation and meeting adversity and cruelty with a specific strategy for change.

Large, size, colorful drawings by Alvin Adhi complete the appeal of the story of how a little girl gains a spunky attitude about her differences. The story is highly recommended for any picture book collection about immigrant experience, assimilation, or better approaches to adversity.

C. V. Hamilton
Swift House Press
9780990966418, $17.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Magicide enters the world of magic tricks and entertainment with a bang when famous magician Maxwell Beacham-Jones is killed in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt. At first this seems a predicable outcome for a new and dangerous trick, but Las Vegas Metro Police detective and single mom Cheri Raymer and her quirky vegetarian partner, Tony Pizzarelli, happen to realize that many a fellow magician has had it out for Maxwell.

Suspecting that the death was a murder, the two embark on an investigation that leads them into the underworld of the Vegas entertainment industry in a riveting thriller that takes magic to a new level.

From a DVD of Maxwell performing a magic ritual on Sunrise Mountain which may hold a clue the perp doesn't wish revealed to white magic, black magic, and hidden motivations, the investigation is intriguing and savvy. So are the forays into the world of magical performance: "Maxwell was a very knowledgeable magician. He studied the history of the magic arts in depth - white magic, black magic, but magic is a theatrical profession. We don't turn stones into gold."

C.V. Hamilton appears to well know the milieu of the Vegas entertainment industry, magic shows, and how to craft the special overlay of a murder mystery set in this environment. Her attention to weaving humor into the story of two savvy investigators who interact with a host of other characters with their own special interests creates a vivid murder mystery with many satisfying twists and turns.

The secrets revealed aren't always apparent, to even the seasoned mystery reader, which makes Magicide stand out from more predictable stories. Tight writing keeps readers both thoroughly engaged and happily off-balance about evolving relationships, motivations, and underlying angst.

Anyone who has been to Vegas or seen a magic show will be especially captivated by the realistic backdrops of both environments, and will find Magicide an engrossing mystery of discovery and deadly truths.

A Matter of Course
Jody Wenner
Independently Published
9798701211535, $4.99 ebook; $11.99 Print

Marigold Winter is headed to a destination that she prefers not to think about. She's moved back home with her mother after her breakup with Pete because her once-strong mother Zi needs her. This destination may be their final journey together, but Mari soon discovers that when one door closes, another opens, as she encounters new possibilities for her life in the unlikeliest of places.

Mari's encounters on the train with Lark and old woman Norma leads her into Lark's artistic world, which in turn leads him to rethink the course of his own life.

There, she discovers new talents that her mother had tried to teach her, taking up the camera she'd once eschewed and literally walking in her mother's shoes into unexpected new adventures and perspectives. Her efforts involve not only a crash course in photography, but encounters with very different people as Mari's trajectory introduces Jeannie and husband Dean (who, like Mari, also likes to focus on the little details of life around him), who are both struggling with despised jobs and a rocky marriage.

Jody Wenner creates a gentle journey through disparate lives connected by chance and circumstance in A Matter of Course.

As the novel evolves, so do characters who refuse to give up. They confront the changes sparked by one man's discovery, which connects their disparate lives on the Orange Line they all rode at the same pivotal moment in their lives.

As the story moves between characters and from personal opportunities and transformations to slides and setbacks, Wenner creates a fascinating interplay between chance meetings and life-changing events for all the characters involved.

A number of characters' lives are explored and juxtaposed, as well, which could feel confusing to some were it not for the clear chapter titles which make it easy to move between the lives and perspectives of Mari, Lark, Jason, Ed Fleek, Robert Andrew Davis, and a host of others involved in making new discoveries about themselves and the world they want to live in.

Contemporary fiction readers looking for an intriguing story of disparate individuals will find A Matter of Course an excellent study in differences. It also blends a touch of romance and mystery into its strong story of life's ironic intersections.

As a piece especially suitable and recommended for fiction book club reader debate and discussion, A Matter of Course provides much food for thought.

E is for Elephant: An Animal Alphabet from A to Z
Kjersten Faseler
Little Beaver Publishing
9781734825626, $14.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paper

Young picture book readers who love animals are in for an early learning treat with E is for Elephant: An Animal Alphabet from A to Z, by Kjersten Faseler. The primer uses a child's inherent love of colorful drawings and animals to reinforce alphabet basics.

Nifty Illustration provides a whimsical animal line-up to accompany each letter. 'A' features a smiling alligator, 'Q' shows Quincy the quail, and 'U' is for Uri the urchin, who lives in the sea.

Each one-line description describes a very basic setting or ability for each animal, while the range of birds, beasts, and sea life is satisfyingly diverse.

Read-aloud parents looking for large-size, bright drawings and a fun animal theme for basic alphabet learning will find E is for Elephant an inviting, easy approach.

Chokecherry Girl
Barbara Meyer Link
Acorn Publishing
9781952112195, $12.99 Paper; $17.99 Hardcover; $7.99 Kindle

Life in a late 1950s small Montana community is anything but staid, as three females find through very different relationships with males and each other.

Bobbi is a teen who has a crush on an Indian basketball player. Patsy is attracted to Bobbi's father, even though he's married. And Mary Agnes is an alcoholic Indian woman who cleans houses and is estranged from her son.

These three disparate individuals find their lives joined not only by fate and their gender, but by the community's own growing pains in Chokecherry Girl. The story centers on Bobbi, but includes the lives of these two other adult women as influencers on her perceptions and choices.

Barbara Meyer Link's injection of local 1950s Indian women's lives and issues into the overall story of a white Montana community's evolution is nicely done. It's surprising because few novels about this era include Native American issues and community references in small-town explorations.

In a world where hidden desires become too possible, the events that transpire around a stolen car and illicit love juxtapose these very different women in unusual ways, making for a story that is satisfyingly involving and unexpected in its growth.

This is an environment where growing young women face challenges from adults, as in this scene, where young Patsy is accosted by a man she thinks could be the family's 'pretend dad': "Come on, young lady; no more bar for you." Audrey pushed Patsy out the door. "You're going home. And you're staying home." Patsy comes of age in a milieu where beer is "That great stuff that kept her parents away from home every night."

Patsy turns fourteen in the spring of 1944, a time when everything is changing, both personally and politically. Patsy feels stuck, with limited choices she doesn't want to consider. Mary Agnes, in contrast, is far more repressed.

Her situation evolves in quite a different (almost alien, in feel) milieu, reinforcing the idea that she is also stuck (but in a very different way) between the white man's world and her Indian ways.

Bobbi, the next generation, turns to Patsy. Her world, too, feels limiting and puzzling: "Her mom hadn't asked all the annoying questions. Where are you going? What time will you be home? And who is going with you? It was as if she was someone else's child. Everything felt weird today. Her stomach felt heavy, about to fall between her knees. She wanted so much to go to Williston and drive that bitchin' car, except she'd just die if she got found out."

From Mary Agnes's struggle to reclaim a lost son who considers another woman his mother to Patsy's reunion with Ord, who promises her something different than they'd struggled with in their past relationship, Link provides an evolving story of three very different lives that become caught up in a scandal that changes each.

Bobbi is challenged with revealing a difficult truth, and so readers of women's fiction will find this multi-leveled tale filled with insights about big dreams, coming of age, and evolving new realizations about tribal relationships and interactions with the white man.

Readers looking for an intriguing story of growth and self-realization will find in these three different lives much food for thought, focussing on growth in an era of both new possibilities and closing doors of familiar opportunity.

The Day I Lost My Wings
Litzi Y. Umana
9781736225608, $28.00 Hardcover/$9.99 Kindle

Picture book readers ages 2-10, as well as read-aloud parents seeking a gentle story about perseverance, will find The Day I Lost My Wings an enchanting read that tells of Mochi, who comes from the stars to observe Earth; there to fall in love with its environment and people.

When Mochi lived in the stars, she was naughty and playful, even though she is a little angel. The more she learns about humans, the more she longs to be among them.

The Day I Lost My Wings holds appealing drawings and a perspective that is invitingly different, and is recommended for young picture book readers and read-aloud parents interested in stories of spunky, determined personalities.

Kelisha Lopez-Shealey
Independently Published
9780578590516, $5.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

SIS is a poetry collection directed to women connected by female perspectives on survival and life's meaning. It provides free verse inspections designed to appeal to those seeking inspirational admonitions.

SIS promotes self-love, the love of God, and provides a positive, achievement-oriented approach to life that acknowledges challenges and successes alike: "As soon as she was ready/to embrace change,/the fireworks of her soul/blazed throughout her/life and her dreams exploded/into her reality."

Readers who anticipate the usual poetic structure and flow will find that these pieces fall more into the inspirational side of the literary world than poetic forms per se.

Each provide succinct reflections designed to be both informational and uplifting, and each offers reflections on hope, courage, resilience, and some of the other cornerstones of not just survival, but building and reinforcing a positive mindset and approach to life.

At times, the works are not just prophetic or inspirational, but analytical and thought-provoking as they reveal why women, in particular, tend to become stuck: "You're suffering where you are sis/because you think making/a change will be painful./Taking a leap of faith won't hurt as/much as wallowing in that pit."

Women interested in fighting for themselves and their dreams will find these poetic admonitions to be inspiring, especially suitable for daily inspirational reading and reflection.

COVID 19...How to Overcome the Anxiety and Stress
Bruce Sherman
Independently Published
9781935821564 $9.99

Ever since Covid arrived to change the world, writers have been commenting on various aspects of these changes. The emotional/psychological impact from Covid is fast becoming more widespread than the pandemic itself. Even more importantly, the duration of the mental issues is predicted to survive even after the virus is brought under control. Although we are deluged day after day with statistics on deaths, new cases, hospital resources, vaccine progress...on and on...there has been little advice and counsel on how to cope with the fear, stress, anxiety and depression we’re experiencing.

Articles and reports offering ways to combat the negative emotions that are starting to appear. The problem is that one would need a long reading list to find them. To solve that concern, Bruce Sherman has done an exhaustive search to find material relevant to mental issues. From that list, he has selected over 70 pieces he considers the most valuable for inclusion as foundation references. In order to avoid violating the copyright law, the articles are listed using their titles...which aren’t covered by copyright law.

Bruce Sherman's booklet offers resource listings that range from CNN reports such as a lead, key article about kids in the pandemic world, 'Helping Your Child Manage The Emotional Impact Of Corona Virus' to the Stanford Center for Aging's article 'Taking Care of Your Emotional Wellbeing during a Pandemic.'

No website links are given, but this list of the article or report title and its originating source will allow readers to easily locate and absorb each piece. Some might think that it might have been easier to locate these pieces with one click had Sherman included website links, but too often, web links charge. By providing just the title and source, it's just as easy to cut-and-paste the reference into a browser to access the articles, videos, and presentations.

This is a diverse list of resources, from how humor can help alleviate pandemic fear to the different experiences and concerns of youth and the aged, and how to volunteer to help. Each resource offers a unique opportunity to grapple with larger issues in a personal manner that helps not only individual life, but holds potential to impact people outside one's bubble group or home.

A concluding collection of articles about 'Understanding the Dying' offers especially important, relevant tools for coping, understanding, and mental health during a period of time when there is so much loss taking place.

It's not impossible to locate articles about Covid—anyone with a computer can do so. What is special about this booklet is that Sherman has already done the legwork in selecting the most relevant, action-oriented, revealing works surrounding Covid, placing his bibliography in one document for easy access.

All the reader need do is select the title of interest and download it into tablet or computer to have access to the complete piece. This book belongs in everyone’s library...and in public libraries. The price is a lot more manageable than sessions with a psychiatrist!

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Best of Jerry Pournelle
Edited by John F. Carr
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982125004, $8.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

"The Best of Jerry Pournelle" is a celebration of a major voice of science fiction, who was a key player for so long. Editor John F. Carr worked with Pournelle for many years now adds his perceptions as well as picks some of the defining pieces of fiction and nonfiction to feature. Other authors including Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and David Gerrold highlight Jerry from a friend and collaborator view. Fans should snarf up "The Best of Jerry Pournelle" that is only a fraction tribute to a diverse, profoundly missed individual who helped shape the genre.

Raptor Bloom
Thomas Belisle
Luminare Press
9781643883236, $11.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

"Raptor Bloom" opens with a combat mission to end the rein of terror by a terrorist in the middle east. The sortie successful, prompts a series of events after a fighter pilot dies, as well as the target. Years later the sons of both men will confront each other first as acquaintances and later enemies. One has bitter held feelings for the United States and the other follows in his father's footsteps becoming a tactical aviator. "Raptor Bloom" though filled with techno jargon is a tense nail biting confrontation between nations as well as a character study of two men that is sure to please any fans of Tom Clancy.

The Detective Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Foreword by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Word Fire Press
9781680571004, $19.99 print / $4.99 Kindle

When people think of horror fiction today, several names come to mind including Stephen King and Dean Koontz but there is another author who often has been called the "father of mystery and horror." His name is Edgar Allan Poe, and the collection "The Detective Stories of Edgar Allan Poe" solidifies his place in modern literature. The three tales possibly, his best known are as readable as ever. They are "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget" Rusch's foreword adds a new perception of the writer that enhances the enjoyment of these chilling tales. For so long Poe's works have been a part of school and college literature programs whereby students were graded down if they did not agree with the instructor or they had to read them to receive a grade. "The Detective Stories of Edgar Allan Poe" is to be savored and appreciated for their genius with no other curriculum than relish their brilliance.

Amid The Crowd of Stars
Stephen Leigh
9780756415693, $26.00 hc / $13.99 Kindle

Alien contact novels usually depict the beings as hostile. "Amid The Crowd of Stars" examines the possibility that humanity in is quest to the stars actually is the threat to itself and other races. Are we invaders like viruses reeking all kinds of havoc on others, is one of the scenarios laid out by author Stephen Leigh. Many readers will think the work has something to do with Covid19 but, as Leigh comments that he began this novel in 2028 and that it really has nothing to do with the present menace to humanity "Amid The Crowd of Stars" is a very different tale of science fiction by a great voice in the genre.

Stephen King
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
9781789096491, $14.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"Later" The newest Stephen King thriller is a page turner that shows why King is one of the masters of the genre. From an early age Jamie Conklin has a rare talent that he can see and talk to the dead. There are several positive benefits for Jamie, his mother and some friends. But there is are numerous negatives including one dead man who continually follows Jamie around. Some of the fun of this novel is to see the world of publishing through Jamie's mom who is a part of it as well as King referencing one of his own works. "Later" is a beautifully written chilling tale that slowly unfolds to its gripping ending.

Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips For Writers
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Modern History Press
9781615995240, $9.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

"Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips For Writers" packs so much priceless information in a petite container that any writer should seriously consider using for everything they devise. She reveals the structure of certain words, differences in ones that look and sound the same, and when to use them. Told in easy-to-follow terms "Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips For Writers" is a great guide to follow to create the best work you can.

The Great First Impression Book Proposal, second edition
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Modern History Press
9781615994816, $8.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

"The Great First Impression Book Proposal" tells you everything you need to know in a short to the point approach to not make mistakes when attempting to get published. Carolyn Howard- Johnson gives useful tips like how to write a proposal, words to use that grab, others to not consider and ways to make the piece entice as well as other useful information for wordsmiths to use to achieve their goals. "The Great First Impression Book Proposal" is a valuable tool for anyone to use to get published.

God Sent Me A textbook case on evolution vs. creation
Jeffrey Selman
Blossom Press
9780578152554, $17.76 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

My initial reaction to "God Sent Me" spawned me to think it was related to the recent TV series "God Friended Me," Upon closer inspection I was delighted to see that it is so much more than I ever thought. "God Sent Me" details one man's fight to protect us all from zealot nuts who want to control things we see, read, think and do. Selman leaped into action after a local schoolboard in Georgia was considering tagging text books of a certain subject. What ensued has been challenged in county systems, courts throughout the land and exposed for what it is of one group trying to control everyone. Selman has endured death threats, hate mail and other vicious activity to fight for all of us to be free. "God Sent Me" shows how one person can make a difference no matter the issue.

Giving Grief Meaning
Lilly Dulan
Mango Publishing
9781642503135, $18.95 pbk / $11.49 Kindle

"Giving Grief Meaning" details one woman's journey through one of the darkest times of her life. Lilly Dulan and her husband were the proud parents of a little girl who died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death) Still today there is no explanation for why a perfectly healthy baby, in fact often stated super baby, dies. Dulan writes on the many ways she has coped with the progression of grief. Like many other people she has written "Giving Grief Meaning" to help others in similar situations. One missing element though is she barely touches on her husband and the way he has coped with the demise of their two-month daughter. "Giving Grief Meaning" fault does not change that it is a comforting book for others in comparable circumstances.

The Lion Queens of India
Jan Reynolds
Lee & Low Books Inc
9781643790510, $18.95

Until reading "The Lion Queens of India" I was not aware there are many diverse types of lions in different regions of the world. Jan Reynolds concentrates on a particular feline in the area of India. Rashila a forest guard functions as a protector of numerous lions. She reveals all kinds of interesting facts about the animals she safeguards. Filled with photographs, art and prose "The Lion Queens of India" is an educational work that all ages can experience.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons
Shanthini Naidoo
Just World Books
9781682570975, $22.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterized by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap (white supremacy), which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation's minority white population. According to this system of social stratification, white citizens had the highest status, followed by Asians and Coloureds, then black Africans. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day. (Wikipedia)

In 1969, South Africa's apartheid government arrested anti-apartheid leaders and activists nationwide for a key planned show trial. Among them were seven women, three of whom (including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) have since died. "Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons" by South African journalist Shanthini Naidoo uses rich interview material to share the previously unknown stories of the four imprisoned women who are still living: Joyce Sikhakhane-Rankin, Rita Ndzanga, Shanthie Naidoo, and Nondwe Mankahla.

These four freedom fighters were held in solitary confinement for more than a year and subjected to brutal torture in a bid to force them to testify against their comrades. But they refused to do so, which forced the whole trial effort to collapse. "Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons" explores how women from different oppressed communities in South Africa defied traditional gender expectations and played a key role in the overthrow of Apartheid.

Critique: An impressive, unique, and exceptional informative contribution to South African History and Women's Studies, "Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: Shanthini Naidoo is a former journalist on South Africa's Sunday Times. She has also worked for The TimesO magazine. Naidoo lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two daughters.

Victim 2 Victor
Anu Verma
Absolute Author Publishing House
9781649530950, $13.62, PB, 231pp

Synopsis: When childhood memories and events continue to haunt you, you may feel the best thing to do is to forget about it and move on -- but is there a better way? Facing the pain hurts, but hiding from it throughout adulthood is worse. Being a victim, it takes a great amount of strength and healing to break the pattern.

"Victim 2 Victor" by Anu Verma is inspiring and brutally honest memoir that details the struggle for survival, and the search for healing and happiness. Raised in abuse and navigating through consequences, this is the personal story of a young, broken soul who finds the strength to embark on a journey to reclaim her self-worth.

What kind of childhood is possible with sexual assault? Is there a way to escape from hurt? How do you shed the victim identity? "Victim 2 Victor" is gripping book that details the life of a first-generation girl who went through hell. Born in England in 1980 with mixed Asian Indian ancestry, she narrates her story of hardship and resistance. Dealing with deep traumas from sexual assault endured since the age of three, and the challenges of being a woman, this girl managed not to break. Her inspiring journey is a life-long struggle to find self-worth on the ruins of self-esteem.

Not only written as a dedicated memoir, "Victim 2 Victor" is also a valuable DIY guide and a toolkit with many self-help techniques for sufferers of abuse and trauma.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Victim 2 Victor: An inspirational true story about a woman's struggle with sexual abuse and overcoming trauma" by Anu Verma is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Abuse Recovery collections in general, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder supplemental curriculum studies reading lists in particular. Invaluable reading for any woman having to deal with the stress of childhood (or adult) abuse, it should be noted that "Victim 2 Victor" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.11).

The Soul's Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes
Jean Benedict Raffa
Red Feather Mind
c/o Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764360602, $19.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Humanity in this modern ages is plagued by a loss of meaning and alienation from self and others. The result is unprecedented levels of divorce, depression, anxiety, addictions, suicide, and crime. Because societal institutions have failed to resolve these and other everyday problems, it is now the task of each individual to heal and unite their divided self: body and spirit, conscious and unconscious, feminine and masculine.

Drawing on Jungian psychology and wisdom traditions from world religions, Dr. Raffa offers a self-guided journey to heightened self-awareness and compassion for oneself and others in the pages of "The Soul's Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes". A self-assessment tool called the Partnership Profile gives readers a personalized status report on their inner forces, including the maturity of four feminine archetypes, four masculine archetypes, and a newly emerging archetype of egalitarian partnership. This awareness, combined with suggested practices, empowers readers to address their imbalances and create the lives for which they yearn.

Critique: A unique and seminal approach to dealing with the stresses of modern life and offering invaluable insights into the human condition in general, and the reader in particular, "The Soul's Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, community, college, and university library Personal Transformation Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections in general, and the personal reading lists of the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Editorial Note: Jean Benedict Raffa is also the author of Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World (2012), Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work (1994), and The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth (1992).

Healing with Plants: The Chelsea Physic Garden Herbal
Chelsea Physic Garden
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781783253043, $19.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Gardeners and practitioners of alternative medicine will enjoy discovering the healing powers of plants in "Healing with Plants: The Chelsea Physic Garden Herbal" a truly impressive, and definitive herbal guide from one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world -- the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, England.

From the common stinging nettle, which is more nutritious than all the vegetables in your local supermarket to incredible adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha, the plant world is the most incredible medicine cabinet we have and herbal healing has a rich and fascinating history.

Non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as medical students and health workers will be inspired by this beautiful guide that is intended to bring more plants into their lives for health, wellbeing and happiness. "Healing with Plants: The Chelsea Physic Garden Herbal" includes a fascinating and broad introduction to herbal traditions, how to make plant-based preparations, tells the stories of more than 140 herbs and plants, offers practical tips on growing these plants -- including recipes that anyone can try at home.

Critique; Eloquently illustrated throughout, "Healing with Plants: The Chelsea Physic Garden Herbal" is an extraordinary volume that will grace personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections in general, and Herb Gardening, Naturopathy Medicine, and Herb, Spice & Condiment Cooking studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Healing with Plants: The Chelsea Physic Garden Herbal" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Tucked away beside the River Thames, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a kind of living library that houses around 5,000 different medicinal, herbal, edible and useful plants. Medicinal plants have been grown at the Garden since the 17th century, a tradition continued in the present day with displays of medicinal and herbal species used globally in the past, present and potentially in the future. The Chelsea Physic Garden is also part of the long tradition of published herbals -- for example A Curious Herbal was written and illustrated by Elizabeth Blackwell using plant specimens from the Garden and was published in weekly parts between 1737-39. The Chelsea Physic Garden website is at

Phenomenal Vision Eyesight to Life Sight
Leonidas A. Johnson, Optometrist
Christian Faith Publishing
832 Park Avenue, Meadville, PA 16335
9781098054465, $19.95, PB, 118pp

Synopsis: Vision is a physical, mental, and spiritual phenomena of enlightenment. "Phenomenal Vision: Eyesight to Life Sight" is an inherently intriguing and informative exploration based on the Rev. Dr. Leonidas A. Johnson's pioneering insight into the relationship between eyesight and the various ways we view and process information in life.

The aim of "Phenomenal Vision Eyesight to Life Sight" is not only to help teach how to process information about our world that encompasses a biblical world view but also to help develop a biblically sound decision-making strategy. According to Johnson, a licensed optometrist, "next to life itself, God's most precious gift is sight-the window to this thing called life."

Poor life sight is a preventable tragedy. Why view life through a dirty or fogged-up window? Poor life sight is correctable. Dr. Leonidas has spent a lifetime helping people to see. In these last days, the Rev. Dr. Johnson has written a kind of DIY instruction guide and manual to help you to see because: To live a phenomenal life, you must have phenomenal vision. To have phenomenal vision you must have phenomenal life sight.

How is your eyesight and more importantly how is your life sight? For an answer give a careful reading to "Phenomenal Vision Eyesight to Life Sight"!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation, "Phenomenal Vision Eyesight to Life Sight" is unreservedly recommended for personal and professional reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Club 42: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy
Joanna Angel
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627783064, $18.95, PB, 347pp

Synopsis: Naomi, a proud Brooklyn hipster, finds her life is forever changed when she gets fired from her barista job and wanders into a strip club called Club 42. On a whim, Naomi auditions to become a dancer and what happens next is entirely up to you, the reader, as the story proceeds in a kind of 'choose your own adventure format'!

Readers will enjoy joining Naomi as she works the day shift at a Manhattan club where patrons sip on carrot juice instead of beer. From learning the art of the lap dance to giving her ex the "extras" in the VIP room, there's more to learn here than she ever learned in college. Should she tell her partner (the dreamy, broke musician who is unofficially squatting in her apartment) about her job, or should she learn to lead a double life between two boroughs? Should she experiment with moonlighting as a Dominatrix, or stay in the strip club and submit to her newest crush, exploring her sexuality and her newfound love for exhibitionism as she twerks her way into a new tax bracket?

It's all up to you as the reader, so grab your stilettos, turn up the early-2000s dance hits, and guide Naomi through this nonstop naked adventure in the city that never sleeps!

Critique: A truly original and (more than once!) fun read, "Club 42: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy" by Joanna Angel is especially and unreservedly recommended for mature readers who would enjoy a finely crafted DIY choose your own erotic adventure! It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Club 42: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Will I Always Be A __ In America?: A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America
John A. Reaves
Canoe Tree Press
c/o DartFrog Books
9781735703008, $9.99, PB, 72pp

Synopsis: Since its inception, America has struggled to find a solution as to how Black, Brown, and White people can peacefully coexist, leading one to ask: Does America truly wish to solve its racial inequality problem?

"Will I always be a __ in America?" is a question that most people of color (especially Black men) ask themselves as they attempt to navigate through daily life in America. "Will I Always Be A __ In America?: A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America" is a compilation of ten essays by John A. Reaves that provide reflections on issues regularly faced by people of color living in the United States, and includes the titles, "We Want to Live," "My First Confrontation with a Police Officer: Three Decades Later, I Cannot Forget It," and "The Neighborhoods I Live and Run Through: Are They a Symbol of Optimism or a Death Trap?" Each individual essay ends with a question that the reader is invited to answer.

Reaves' goal in "Will I Always Be A __ In America?: A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America" is to share his thoughts on and experiences with these issues and how they impact Black men, as well, in some instances, to provide recommendations on a path forward. The essays are designed to be a quick read with questions

Reaves hopes this elemental question can be answered and resolved before another century passes. Nonetheless, no person of color in 2020 should be asking themselves, "Will I always be a -- in America?"

Critique: Exceptional, powerful, eloquent, thoughtful and thought provoking, "Will I Always Be A __ In America?: A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America" is an extraordinary little volume and one that is both timely (in terms of today's mass movement for racial justice and equality) and timeless given the generations of black suppression that stretch back to the very founding of our country. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Black Studies supplemental curriculum reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Will I Always Be A __ In America?: A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: John A. Reaves is a Washington, DC native has lived and has worked in 8 states, and has been employed with several Fortune 100 Multinational companies. Reaves seeks to elevate the voices of people of color, Black men specifically, in sharing their stories and thoughts on racism in America. Reaves selects his essays in part due to their relevance, as every one of them discusses issues currently experienced by people of color on a daily basis.

Letters from Planet Corona
Chaya Passow
City of Gold Press
9789655994056, $14.99, PB, 239pp

Synopsis: The Covid-19 epidemic exploded in Israel on the heels of the joyous Purim festival in mid-March 2020. Trying to make sense of the ensuing insanity, Chaya Passow, a resident of Jerusalem, soon began to share her thoughts and reflections with friends and family in the form of a letter from the new Planet Corona, formerly Planet Earth. What began as an attempt at personal catharsis grew to a collection of 70 letters describing seven tumultuous months in 2020 culminating in the Jewish High Holidays.

"Letters from Planet Corona" is unique, the result of an intelligent, strong feminine voice which combines witty, satirical, and humorous narratives with thought-provoking, uplifting, and inspirational insights. The author has an engaging style which makes her often penetrating and incisive observations accessible to all as she describes her personal journey from initial bewilderment and occasional despair to a deeper understanding of what it means to truly put your faith in God in the midst of a pandemic that tested human endurance. Reading "Letters from Planet Corona" will open your mind and touch your heart.

Critique: Timely in the context of the current pandemic, timeless in terms of the human condition when confronted by a global catastrophe previously represented by the Medieval Black Plague and two 20th Century World Wars, "Letters from Planet Corona" is an inherently absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Letters from Planet Corona" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

Alex 'n Bender: Return to the Forest (The Adventures of Alex 'n Bender, Book 2 of 2)
C.H. Foertmeyer
Independently published
9798592710513, $8.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 205 pp

At last, Foertmeyer is back with a new adventure with friends Alex Carey and Bender Baxter. Once again, their half Native American friend Jubel joins their quest as guide and mentor. This story is written for youth or young adults, but adults will enjoy it too. Foertmeyer wrote it for his grandson, who gave it a big thumbs up.

In the first book, teenagers Alex and Bender discovered a family of Sasquatch living in the primeval forest around Latoon, Oregon. The boys became friends with the rare human-like creatures - Bersh, Brish and Besh. This time around the boys are concerned about their forest-dwelling friends. Large groups of Bigfoot hunters are infiltrating the woods in hopes of filming, trapping or killing the Sasquatch family. The boys and Jubel set out to warn their friends but the mission is neither safe nor easy. As they trek deeper into the wilderness, what they find is mysterious, dangerous and even deadly. Bender falls over a cliff and disappears before he can be rescued. The boys and Jubel must out think and outsmart vicious humans and a new breed of aliens.

It's fun and exciting to follow these friends as they brave danger and unexpected mysteries, but I don't want to reveal too much of the plot. As always, Foertmeyer has woven an intriguing adventure that reveals human nature at its best and worst and includes life lessons for every reader. There are moments some readers may find frightening, but in the end good always overcomes evil in any Foertmeyer story. Highly recommended for youths or adults.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Girl Explorers
Jayne Zanglein
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781728215242, $25.99, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: In 1932, Roy Chapman Andrews, president of the men-only Explorers Club, boldly stated to hundreds of female students at Barnard College that "women are not adapted to exploration", and that women and exploration do not mix. He obviously didn't know a thing about either subject!

"The Girl Explorers: The Untold Story of the Globetrotting Women Who Trekked, Flew, and Fought Their Way Around the World " by Jayne Zanglein is the inspirational and untold story of the founding of the Society of Women Geographers (an organization of adventurous female world explorers) and how key members served as early advocates for human rights and paved the way for today's women scientists by scaling mountains, exploring the high seas, flying across the Atlantic, and recording the world through film, sculpture, and literature.

Today's readers will enjoy following in the footsteps of these rebellious women as they travel the globe in search of new species, widen the understanding of hidden cultures, and break records in spades. For these women dared to go where no woman (or man!) had gone before, achieving the unthinkable and breaking through barriers to allow future generations to carry on their important and inspiring work.

Critique: A truly inspiring and impressively informative examination of forgotten women from history, "The Girl Explorers: The Untold Story of the Globetrotting Women Who Trekked, Flew, and Fought Their Way Around the World" will prove to be a unique, welcome, timely, and greatly appreciated addition to community, college, and university library Women's History collections. A deftly written and detailed history, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Girl Explorers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight
Amy Shira Teitel
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781538716045, $30.00, HC, 448pp

Synopsis: When the space age dawned in the late 1950s, Jackie Cochran held more propeller and jet flying records than any pilot of the twentieth century -- man or woman. She had led the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots during the Second World War, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company, and counted multiple presidents among her personal friends. She was more qualified than any woman in the world to make the leap from atmosphere to orbit. Yet it was Jerrie Cobb, twenty-five years Jackie's junior and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who finagled her way into taking the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts. The prospect of flying in space quickly became her obsession.

While the American and international media spun the shocking story of a "woman astronaut" program, Jackie and Jerrie struggled to gain control of the narrative, each hoping to turn the rumored program into their own ideal reality -- an issue that ultimately went all the way to Congress.

Critique: "Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight" by spaceflight historian, author, and public speaker Amy Shira Teitel is a deftly crafted and dual biography of two audacious aeronautical women trailblazers -- Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb. "Fighting for Space" ably and informatively showcases this pair of inherently fascinating and absolutely fearless women using their life stories as guides through the every shifting social, political, and technical landscapes of their time. While absolutely and unreservedly recommended additions to community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography and Women's Aviation History collections, it should be noted for the personal lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781538716052, $17.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781549121005, $35.00, CD).

Hope When It's Hard: A 30-Day Devotional for Adoptive Parents
Jennifer Phillips
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 830711, Birmingham, AL 35283-0711
9781563094200, $12.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: You finally surrendered. You opened your heart when you said, "Yes, God, I'll adopt." But now you've discovered that opening your heart to the idea of adoption is the easiest part of the journey. Now comes the emotional ups and downs that only another adoptive parent can understand.

"Hope When It's Hard: A 30-Day Devotional for Adoptive Parents" by Jennifer Phillips offers words of encouragement to help adoptive parents navigate the emotional ups and downs of adoption. Regardless of where you are in the process, whether just beginning or now living with the teenagers you adopted as infants, there are struggles unique to adoptive parenting. Weaving elements of her own journey through adoption, Jennifer helps you find hope as you begin to see God's adoptive heart toward you.

Critique: Expertly written and offering a wealth of practical insight, moral support, and life experience as an adoptive parent, "Hope When It's Hard: A 30-Day Devotional for Adoptive Parents" is an especially recommended addition to all community library Contemporary Parenting collections in general, and Adoptive Parenting supplemental reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Hope When It's Hard: A 30-Day Devotional for Adoptive Parents" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Phillips, author of "Bringing Lucy Home", is an adoptive parent to a loving little girl she and her husband affectionately named Lucy. Actively involved in mentoring women, she is also a volunteer at her children's school. A psychology graduate of Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama), she served as executive director for the local Sav-A-Life, a national network of crisis pregnancy centers. She and her family moved back to Birmingham, Alabama, from Brisbane, Australia, where she now works with adoptive families. She maintains an informative blog at

Before and After
Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593156704, $16.99, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: From the 1920s to 1950, a woman by the name of Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents -- all while hiding the fact that many weren't orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate's revelatory novel "Before We Were Yours" (Ballantine Books, 9780425284704, $17.00 PB, $12.99 Kindle) brought new awareness of Tann's lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and professional journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in a new study "Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society", many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

"Before and After" includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children's Home Society reunion -- with extraordinary results.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and detailed history of adoption corruption and its consequences, "Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society" is an absorbing read from first page to last. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Before and After" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library True Crime collections.

Editorial Note #1: Judy Christie is an award-winning journalist and the author of eighteen books of both fiction and nonfiction. A former editor at daily newspapers in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, and Indiana, she holds a master's degree in literature from Louisiana State University in Shreveport.

Editorial Note #2: Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of numerous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Before We Were Yours, which has sold more than 2.2 million copies. The co-author, with Judy Christie, of the nonfiction book, Before and After, Wingate is a two-time ACFW Carol Award winner, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, and a Southern Book Prize winner.

Secret Sky
J. P. McLean
WindStorm Press
9781988125275, $15.99, PB, 322pp

Synopsis: Emelynn Taylor's gift didn't come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow, nor can it ever be returned. Now, it's taken over her life. It strikes without warning, strips her of gravity and sends her airborne, unchecked. Haunted by terrifying flights she can't control, Emelynn vows to take command of her dangerous gift. She returns to the seaside cottage where it all began. Here, she discovers an underground society whose members share her hidden ability, and a man who sends her heart soaring. But the deeper Emelynn gets pulled into this secret society, the more she questions their motives. Are they using the gift for good or for evil? Unraveling the truth will plunge Emelynn into a fight for her freedom -- and her life.

Critique: A deftly crafted, impressively original and inherently compelling read from first page to last, "Secret Sky" launches a new The Gift Legacy series by J. P. McLean. A fully entertaining, plot twisting novel that will leave its readers looking eagerly toward the next thrilling installment, "Secret Sky" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library action/adventure, romance, and metaphysical fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Secret Sky" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Monocle Book of Gentle Living
Tyler Brule
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500971109, $50.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: The publication, Monocle, has always been a champion of taking it slow. Past issues have encouraged readers to dive into a lake and go for a run. To sleep well. To eat food made with love. Even today, in a tense moment in history, the magazine has done its bit to argue for a new modern etiquette where communities are generous with their time, hospitality, and forgiveness. Now its editors and correspondents have brought all of this together into a single volume with the publication of "The Monocle Manifesto for a Gentler Life", a book that urges us all to slow down, reconnect, make good things, and think about the spaces we call home.

Some of the highlights of this profusely illustrated volume include: An illustrated guide to being nice, respecting your neighbors, and controlling your social media rants; practical tips on how to design a house that's good for you and your family; Q&As with the people who have decided to take a gentler approach to work and living; and a celebration of locally made food (with featured recipes) as well as the chefs that bring people together.

The helpful tips and insights in this guide make it the perfect handbook for anyone looking to slow down and enjoy life.

Critique: Timely and timeless, unique and universal, informed and informative, inspired and inspiring, "The Monocle Book of Gentle Living: A guide to slowing down, enjoying more and being happy" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists, as well as professional, community, college, and university library Lifestyle Photography and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Poo, Pee and Paper: Humanity's Relationship With Bodily Waste
Geoffrey Kirby
Independently Published
9798640896343, $10.00, PB, 211pp

Synopsis: Defecating and urinating (known in polite company as pooing and peeing) is now something that we prefer to do in private and not give much thought to unless we are constipated or restricted to close proximity to a toilet due to over enthusiasm in the Indian restaurant the previous evening when drunkenly ordering "The hottest dish on the menu!".

"Poo, Pee and Paper: Humanity's Relationship With Bodily Waste" by Geoffrey Kirby is a fully illustrated study takes the reader on a fascinating five-thousand-year exploration of toilet history. This starts with the Neolithic flushed toilets in the Orkney Isles, to the sophisticated Minoan and Roman latrines, the inventions of Thomas Crapper and the widespread use of maize corn cobs before the invention of toilet paper which was comfortingly advertised as "guaranteed splinter free".

"Poo, Pee and Paper: Humanity's Relationship With Bodily Waste" finally takes us into space with the zero gravity contraptions used in the International Space Station. This story is a must to have on the toilet bookshelf to pass the time whilst waiting for nature to take its course!

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative history of how humans have handled (socially, culturally and physically) the elimination of their bodily wastes, "Poo, Pee and Paper: Humanity's Relationship With Bodily Waste" is an original, deftly written, inherently engaging, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Teacher Unions and Social Justice
Michael Charney, et al.
Rethinking Schools
9780942961096, $29.95, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: "Teacher Unions and Social Justice: Organizing for the Schools and Communities Our Students Deserve" is an anthology of more than 60 articles documenting the history and the how-tos of social justice unionism. Together, they describe the growing movement to forge multiracial alliances with communities to defend and transform public education.

Critique: Collectively compiled and expertly co-edited by the team of Michael Charney, Jesse Hagopian, and Bob Peterson, "Teacher Unions and Social Justice: Organizing for the Schools and Communities Our Students Deserve" is an impressive compendium of erudite and thought-provoking articles by experts in their fields of study -- making "Teacher Unions and Social Justice" an especially timely and unreservedly recommended addition to community, school district, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Teacher Union Labor Relations supplemental curriculum studies reading lists in particular.

A Life of Extremes: The Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker
Max Quinn
EK Books
c/o Exisle Publishing
9781775594321, $35.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Since 1991 when he spent 11 months filming the wildlife of Antarctica, Max Quinn has been the go-to film maker for documentaries such as Expedition Antarctica (2010), Hunting the Ice Whale (2013) and South America's Weirdest (2019).

"A Life of Extremes: The Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker" tells the stories and shares the stunning images from Quinn's 20 years of adventures in polar climates. Be it traveling 80 kilometers over crevassed ice to a lonely colony of Emperor penguins, or figuring out how to keep cameras warm in the coldest places on earth, Quinn has a story to tell about it. Natural history fans will be enthralled by the rich and layered stories, while film buffs will marvel at techniques required to keep the camera rolling when pushed to the absolute limit of endurance.

"A Life of Extremes: The Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker" is unique and colorfully illustrated book about what life is like behind the camera, beyond public transport and even human habitation. Readers will learn about dog sled racing, the last great ice age, penguin colonies, and everything else that happens in the immensely beautiful landscapes where the temperature is permanently below freezing.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read about an unusual life lived out under unusual circumstances, "A Life of Extremes: The Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography and American Cinematography collections. It should be noted for armchair travelers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Life of Extremes: The Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That'll Knock Your Socks Off
Shirley Kobliner and Harold Kobliner, authors
Tiller Press
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781982163761, $16.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: We use expressions all the time. When you feel sick, you're "under the weather." When you feel great, you're "on top of the world." You may be fine with "half a loaf," or you may insist on "the whole enchilada." But whether you're a "smart cookie" or a tough one, you (and almost everyone you know) have a veritable smorgasbord of expressions stored deep in your brain.

"So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That'll Knock Your Socks Off" by the team of Shirley and Harold Kobliner is the largest collection of its kind. Thoughtfully divided into sixty-seven categories ranging from Animals to Food & Cooking, from Love to Politics, this is not your run-of-the-mill reference guide. Don't look for definitions and etymologies, because the book is just the beginning.

"So to Speak" is the launchpad for your lifelong journey to explore the universe of expressions. In fact, it's designed to get readers off the page -- and verbally engaging with each other. "So to Speak" spurs discussion, debate, and gameplay, while encouraging the art of listening and celebrating the joy of words.

Authors Shirley and Harold Kobliner spent more than half a century nurturing and teaching children. "So to Speak" is a reflection of their deeply held belief that regardless of a person's age, the most impactful learning happens when you're having fun. Whether it's grandparents teaching their favorite expressions to their grandkids, teens helping adults with the latest lingo, or millennials indulging in their love of wordplay and games, "So to Speak" is the ideal book for any lover of language.

Critique: Of immense and lasting interest to dedicated language enthusiasts, "So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That'll Knock Your Socks Off " also serves as an excellent English language expression resource for writers, authors, and novelists. Unique, informative, and an inherently fascinating volume to simply browse through, "So to Speak" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Slang, Idiom and Semantics Reference Book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of dedicated word smiths that "So to Speak" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

God has Infinite Frequency: Aphorisms for Our Fractured Age
Jonathan Masters
Foundation for Inner Peace
9781735803708, $34.50, HC, 84pp

Synopsis: Blending art and insight, "God has Infinite Frequency: Aphorisms for Our Fractured Age" by Jonathan Masters is penetrating, amusing, iconoclastic, provocative, thoughtful and thought-provoking as it takes the reader on a tour of many dearly and commonly held beliefs -- challenging them, and giving us the precious opportunity to reconsider, feel, and to see things anew. As our worlds break apart, and a new consciousness emerges, here is an invitation to explore, be inspired and reformulate.

Critique: Life embracing, visually reflective, thought provoking, spiritually inspiring, "God has Infinite Frequency: Aphorisms for Our Fractured Age" is especially recommended for personal, community, church, college, and university library Religion & Spirituality collections and reading lists.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Ghost Legion (Legionnaire Series Book 1)
Andreas Christensen Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781974569809, $12.99 pbk
B072M7PQJQ, $0.00 Kindle ($0.99 digital list price) 138 pages

Ghost Legion is at its heart a contemporary remake of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The book is a little too short and should have a bit more fleshing out but it has the all of the military action anyone could want. Heinlein's Troopers was written in the post WWII society. Legion is balance closer to today's society.

Ethan Wang was born on the day the earth was invaded by aliens. His parents were killed during the invasion. He is eighteen years old and graduating from high school with few options. Jobs are hard to find in post invasion earth and higher education is limited to only the best students. The war with the aliens is still going on in the solar system so the military is sometimes the only real option for students. Ethan decides to enlist in the military and finds himself in the ghost legion, the shock troops, for earth.

Ghost Legion is a solid military SF tale. It is idealized in a similar manner as Starship Troopers. The story is complete but it is obviously just an intro to a larger series of stories. Most readers will want to read more books in the series to fill in the glossed over details and world building left out of this introduction. It is too harsh and short to be recommended to a reader not into military tales as a standalone story. It is highly recommended for those who have read Starship Troopers and who want to see how the story can be updated for today's readers.

Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781505795073 $6.99 pbk
B00LULTSF6, $0.00 Kindle ($2.99 digital list price) 153 pages

Free-Wrench is a solid steampunk novel. It clicks all of the right boxes as a good steampunk novel. Many writers delve too far to the extreme with fantasy stories or get lost in world building but Lallo doesn't fall into any of these traps.

Amanita Graus, Nita to her friends, is known as a free-wrench at the local steam plant. A free-wrench is skilled at every job in the plant and fills in wherever there is a need. Nita's planet is similar to earth but has, in the past, experienced a toxic fog, or 'fug,' that has killed much of the world's population and changed the survivors. Nita lives on a chain of islands that have been bypassed by the world encompassing fug. They have blockaded their islands from the rest of the world to protect themselves from the depredations of the fug and the chaos caused by it. In isolation, they have developed a near idyllic society. The rest of the world survives by using lighter than air ships for travel above the fug and living on high plateaus and mountains.

A lighter than air smuggler's ship regularly moors on some off-shore rocks and exchanges smuggled goods between Rita's islands and the rest of the world. Rita, on a whim, decides to go to the trading site with a work friend. During the trading, she discovers that there might be a treatment to the degenerative disease that is slowly killing her mother. She decides to leave with the smugglers to try to find the cure. She has no idea how dangerous her decision is or how disruptive her presence on smuggler ship will be to the balance of power across her world.

Free-Wrench is an easy recommendation for first time readers in the steampunk genre or those who are aficionados of this type of storytelling. The book will hold less interest for those who, in the past, have just dabbled in the genre. It is the first book in a series and the story is well enough written that most will be tempted to read more in the series.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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