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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 4 April 2020 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf
Anthony Avina's Bookshelf Anthony DiMatteo's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf Carole Mertz's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Catherine Lee's Bookshelf CJ's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Danijel Štriga's Bookshelf Don MacGregor's Bookshelf Drena Irish's Bookshelf
Erica Watkins' Bookshelf Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kimberley Spinney's Bookshelf
Kirkus Reviews Loryn Ross' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mark Walker's Bookshelf
Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf Michael Nirenberg's Bookshelf
Molly Martin's Bookshelf Paul Lappen's Bookshelf Rabia Tanveer's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Rosemary's Bookshelf Rosi Hollenbeck's Bookshelf
Simon Warwick-Smith's Bookshelf Smeetha Bhoumik's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Sublime Book Review Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf
Tracy Riva's Bookshelf Uri Singer's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

Left Neglected
Lisa Genova
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
9781439164631, $16.00, Hardcover, 327 pages, 2011

Don't Neglect Left Neglected

Lisa Genova is much more than a holder of a Ph.D. She has the miraculous ability to take complex neurological diseases, like Alzheimer's disease, and give those illnesses to fictional characters while making them relatable to contemporary readers. It is no wonder that Still Alice went on to receive a film adaptation, and allowed Julianne Moore to finally win an Academy Award. This review is not about Still Alice, though, because it is an assertion that readers should not neglect Lisa Genova's fiction. Left Neglected is a very powerful novel about a condition that not a lot of people know about called Left Neglect, and Genova created another remarkable literary protagonist named Sarah Nickerson.

Lisa Genova's novel is brilliant because of her ability to make complex illnesses very accessible to readers who might be unfamiliar with such ailments. The main character is relatable to readers because of Genova's realistic depiction of her characteristics. She does ordinary activities, like visiting restaurants and watching television, which gives Genova's novels a realistic quality without the depressing aspects of realist literature. Genova also offers social commentary without the harshness of other writers from the Realist era of literary history, like Charles Dickens. Genova's novels are enjoyable because the characters are very ordinary people with really unusual ailments that might be unfamiliar to modern readers.

Lisa Genova also explores fundamental themes about being human. She also critiques modern-day society through the interactions of her characters. It is interesting to note the verb tense of the title Left Neglected. The title implies that the protagonist suffering from Left Neglect would suffer from other kinds of misery and woe. However, Genova treats the main character in a way that is actually the exact opposite because she does receive love and comfort.

Sarah Nickerson is a unique character because of her own personal strength in spite of her recently acquired disability. She worked very hard before the accident, and she suffered a tremendous blow to her personal life after she began suffering from Left Neglect. She found it hard to enjoy simple pleasures, such as watching Ellen. Even with a disability, she still expressed optimism for the rest of the novel instead of wallowing in regret. Therefore, this novel has a life-affirming quality to it that reminds readers to express thankfulness for their own personal abilities.

Even though this novel exhibits the pain associated with having a disorder, there are still a lot of warm and comedic elements in the novel. For example, there is a humorous moment that takes place in a restaurant bathroom. Such humor reveals that there is a common sense of humanity when it comes to making mistakes. The incident reveals the fundamental fact that all people are just inhabitants of the planet Earth, and that everyone is unique in his or her own way. Life might be difficult for some, but anyone who is still alive must express gratitude for just existing in the real world.

When it comes to the next leisure book that a bookworm should read, do not neglect Left Neglected. The novel is much more than just the story of a woman with an unusual disorder. It reveals the basic humanity that unites people together in spite of their differences. There have been many creative works that deal with racial issues, identity crises, and the overall notion of being outside of the social norm. Even with such dissimilarities, this novel serves as a reminder that all people are fundamentally the same even though differences might try to separate them.

Love Anthony
Lisa Genova
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
9781439164686, $26.00, Hardcover & Paperback, 320 pages, September 25, 2012

Love under Dire Circumstances

Lisa Genova has achieved great success as a contemporary novelist. Her work explores difficult issues while making her characters human and relatable to readers. She has received acclaim for novels like Still Alice, and uses her knowledge of neuroscience to create compelling works of fiction. Once again, Lisa Genova has crafted a sophisticated novel that explores autism with Love Anthony. The title character might refer to Anthony, a child with autism, but the phrase reveals how Anthony's mother, Olivia, loves her son unconditionally. Therefore, Love Anthony reveals the enduring power of a mother's love even under dire circumstances.

Olivia is a powerful character because of her independent nature. She has to put up with her unfaithful husband, Jimmy, and she also struggles to write beautifully while having a child with autism. The ending is absolutely brilliant, but it will not be spoiled here. If someone were to wish to read the ending of this fantastic novel, they would first have to immerse themselves in Genova's brilliantly realized version of Nantucket in this universal tale of love and acceptance. Love Anthony represents love not just to an autistic child, but the love that autistic people hope to express even with their personal limitations.

Second Hand
Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton
Dreamspinner Press
9781640809017, $6.99 eBook, $6.99 Kindle, $7.99 Paperback, 194 pages

Contemporary Bromance for the Modern Age

Heidi Cullinan has established herself as a contemporary novelist. Her work explores love in profound ways. She has produced a series that will definitely satisfy readers yearning for newly original romantic stories. Second Hand reveals the issues revolving around LGBT romances while subtly commenting on the nature of such love affairs.

Paul Hannon has hit a low point in his life after damaging his own career and losing the love of his life. Nevertheless, Paul continues on his journey by meeting El Rozal, a very bitter person. El has his own struggles because of his attraction to Paul. The lives of these two men intertwine into a love story for the modern age given the fundamental fact that love is hard to find in an ever-changing world. Because of the partnership that Heidi Cullinan has established with Marie Sexton, Second Hand is a highly original "bromance" between two men learning to redefine themselves even though not that many people in real life would reach out their own hands in order to help the people around them.

Alex Andy Phuong

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Show & Tell: Memoirs of an Older Parent
M. E. Nordstrom
Koehler Books
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9781633939561, $14.95, PB, 118pp,

As parents we all make mistakes. Raising little ones is never easy. Especially when entering parenthood at fifty-something. "Show & Tell: Memoirs of an Older Parent" explores the daily life of being an "old dad" and answers questions that many new fathers are afraid to ask, such as "What's left?" and "What's my role here again?" And most importantly, "WHAT is that SMELL " Whether you're an old parent, young parent, or just someone looking to validate their decision to never have children, "Show & Tell: Memoirs of an Older Parent" is for you! While certain to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library Parenting collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Show & Tell: Memoirs of an Older Parent" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

The Paper Kingdom
Helena Ku Rhee, author
Pascal Campion, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780525644613, $17.99, HC, 40pp,

When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel is woken out of bed and joins his parents as they head downtown for their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. But the story is about more than brooms, mops, and vacuums. Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into a magnificent kingdom filled with paper. Then they weave a fantasy of dragons and kings to further engage their reluctant companion -- and even encourage him to one day be the king of a paper kingdom. "The Paper Kingdom" is a picture book for children ages 3-7 that expresses the joy and spirit of a loving family who turn a routine and ordinary experience into something much grander. The magical art by Pascal Campion and the charming storytelling style of author Helena Ku Rhee shows both the real world and the fantasy through the eyes of the young narrator. While "The Paper Kingdom" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Andrea Kay

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Romesh Gunesekera
9781526610379, A$29.99, paperback, 312 pages

Kairo is looking back at his younger self: at a summer in his Sri Lankan home in Colombo in 1964, when school was closed and he was aimlessly riding his bike around a church car park 'midway as the crow flies between the mosque and the temple.' He remembers the casual meeting with Jay, who was taller, and a couple of years older than him, and how they were both still young enough enjoy the challenge of racing their bikes down a steep road. He sees 'two boys on the brink of a bond which would alter the course of our lives' and he tells their story as if it were just happening.

Young Kairo's imaginative view of the world is fuelled by the comic books he reads. He sees rustlers and outlaws in the bushes of local gardens, and he and Jay play at cowboy shootouts. But, unlike Jay, he is still young enough to be disturbed and confused by his feelings when the local girl, Niromi, joins them and gets close to him. Naively, he puts these feelings down to fear that Jay will prefer her company to his own and he will lose his friend.

Jay, he discovers as they meet more often, lives in a large mansion called Casa Lihiniya, and belongs to what Kairo's socialist-leaning, working-class father calls the 'haute bourgeois'. Unlike Kairo's parents, the adults in Jay's family leave him to do whatever he likes. Mostly, he spends time collecting animals - exotic fish and birds - and looking after them, and Kairo learns much about these animals from Jay as he helps him to build a large aviary in the gardens of Lihiniya. He observes a great deal, too, in a casual way, about Jay's world, which is so much more privileged than his own. A journey with Jay to an estate bungalow on a coconut plantation owned by Jay's uncle seems to him as fantastic as a trip to Mars or Moscow. It hardly took a blink now to relocate myself to a mythical ranch of rawhide and tumbleweed and turn geckos into iguanas.

And Jay's uncle, being what Kairo's father disparagingly calls 'an absentee landlord', employs a number of people on his estate.

To Jay the arrangement was perfectly natural. I could see how easily he could slip into his uncle's place one day: inherit this estate and loom over the shorter lives of less favoured people. The word 'plight' that my father had used wriggled uneasily in my mouth.

Kairo sees, too, Jay's casual discrimination against Gerry, the son of the Muslim superintendent employed on the estate, who accompanies them on their adventures there and joins in their games. He is disturbed by the way Jay treats Gerry and by the ease with which he dismisses their joint involvement in a nasty injury which Gerry sustains.

Partly, Kairo's new awareness is aroused by reading 'the thinnest book he could find' to pack for the journey: Problems of Life, had 'a blazing red title', which he thought 'promised answers he could test out in the field' but it turned out to be a socialist tract about life in the Soviet Union.

Frequently, when he is with Jay at Lihiniya, Kairo observes the way Jay's father abruptly dismisses Jay's interests; and he half falls in love with Jay's glamorous mother, Sonia, seeing, but not understanding, her empty, alcohol-fuelled, lifestyle.

Kairo's own mother works at the local radio station and is concerned enough about threatened school closures due to political unrest to hire a tutor, whose attempt to educate him Kairo cleverly undermines. His view of his own father is that he lived in the hope that good things would happen naturally and was dumbfounded when they didn't. Dialectic materialism, in his opinion, governed everything - even luck. A win at the bookies, he believed, was inevitable - much to my mother's dismay.

But seeing the way the fights between Jay's parents are serious and damaging, Kairo comes to appreciate that, although they are constantly 'bickering', his parents rub along together in spite of their differences, and that the bond between them is strong.

Romesh Gunesekera beautifully captures Kairo's imaginative responses to life, his fascination with books of every kind, his adolescent confusions, his teenage insecurities and his desire for Jay's friendship. And although Kairo is still politically unaware, he sees and hears and reports things which suggest some of the underlying tensions which inevitably exist in a society where Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim people live together. There is humour, too, in some of the things Kairo reports. Listening to his father discussing the unsettled political situation with his friend, Shaku, he remembers Shaku sarcastically describing a politician's plans to increase hospitality and tourism as 'hotels and sin-bins'. Asked if he thinks anyone from other countries would bother to come, Shaku's response is that

From England, Holland, Portugal, all those old imperialist countries, they'll come rushing - in their bathing costumes instead of their gunboats. This time we will be the ones to plunder them. Stolen enough, no? Now let them come and pay through the nose for sun-stroke and malaria.

This is a delightful book, beautifully written, and with the nostalgic feel of a remembered childhood spent in a city which was still largely undeveloped, at a time when different ethnic groups lived together in a fragile harmony, and before political unrest resulted in the devastating Sri-Lankan civil war. But it is also the compelling story of two very different boys whose friendship comes to an abrupt end and leaves Kairo searching for 'that lost time'. As his story-telling ends, it is the 'bluish-green flicker of a firefly above the lantana bushes' which offers the adult Kairo hope - 'illuminating a path from one point of darkness to another beckoning'.

Elephants with Headlights
Bem Le Hunte
Transit Lounge Publishing
9781925760484, A$29.95, paperback, 293 pages

Siddharth is a successful Delhi businessman. The sort of person who, as Guruji sees, is keen to make it clear that he didn't lead a life of the idle rich: that some people were obliged to put food on the table, a Mercedes on the front lawn and an empire in the hands of their son.

Guruji is a two-hundred-year-old guru who looks to be in his fifties yet 'was born in the time of kingdoms, maharajas and stolen treasure chests'. Savitri, Siddharth's daughter, and her beloved grandmother, Dadi, have become Guruji's dedicated followers and now practice daily meditation, and Savitri has decided that everyone needed to have their lives changes - nobody more so than her father, who she felt should meditate for health reasons if nothing else. What better way to reduce his blood pressure and manage his heart condition, after all?

She makes a bargain with her father: 'If you go and see Guruji and learn to meditate, then I'll go on a date with Mohan'. Savitri, so far, has absolutely refused to get married and has rejected every suitable young man Siddharth and her mother Tota have arranged for her to meet. It certainly doesn't help that she was born under 'a tainted star' and is a Manglik - which predicts that she will kill her spouse. So, Savitri's bargain is, as Siddharth sees, 'the uber alles bid to end all bids in the history of marriage negotiations'.

Siddharth's sceptical meeting with Guruji leads him claim that meditation can bring him nothing he does not already have. Guruji concludes that he must, then, already be enlightened and have fully developed awareness, therefore the most powerful gift he can be given is 'all the worries of the world'. Guruji, knows about the potency of words, and that 'from a single word a holus-bolus new story can emerge', so he does wonder if this 'blessing' is a little extreme. And much to Siddharth's surprise, he suddenly can hear everything others are thinking. Not only does it change the way he treats everyone around him, making him suddenly aware of the poverty and worries of others, it also gives him invaluable access to the thoughts of his wife, his son, Neel, and Savitri, during critical situations, and, so, helps to resolve them.

And the most immediate critical situation results from the behavior of the blonde, Australian girl Mae, whose imminent marriage to Neel has suddenly had to be cancelled.

Neel had met Mae on a Goan beach where, probably under the influence of smoking bhang, she had seemed to come into his life 'like the miracle of fire on water'. Neel was smitten, and Mae, who 'had a passion for all things Indian', wanted an Indian wedding. Neel had given Siddharth and Tota no choice but to agree.

Now, after 900 invitations have been sent out, and everyone including Siddharth (under compulsion) has been rehearsing the celebratory, wedding-dance performance, Mae has quarreled with Tota and demanded than Neel immediately change her ticket, because she is going back to Australia. Tota is not dismayed. She has already been horribly socially embarrassed by some of Mae's inadvertent cultural transgressions (including swimming at Ladies' Hour at Tota's swimming club wearing a G-string bikini which prominently displayed 'a blue wing painted on her white buttock'). So, finally, it seems that Tota's undermining of the relationship between Mae and Neel has succeeded: 'Now she would have her son back again'.

Neel is devastated and suicidal; Savitri decides to accompany Mae to Australia; and the predictions of the family astrologer, Arunji, all seem to have come true.

The Australian part of this story could not be more different. Mae and Savitri live in a semi-tropical Hippy-ish paradise - a 'Garden of Eden' where bare-breasted mothers with small children are part of the sun, the sea and freedom to live as one chooses. Savitri experiences a wonderfully romantic form of marriage to a laid-back Aussie man, Nitin, and a spiritual, natural-birth, but there is also a near death. Her eventual return, with Mae, to India finally resolves the family problems in an unexpected way.

There are strong elements of magical realism in Bem Le Hunte's story-telling. Guruji's powers are supernatural, as is Siddharth's clairaudience; Arunji, the valued family astrologer, knows the future from the horoscopes he calculates with great mathematical skill, but he doesn't always speak the truth about what his numbers reveal and often fails to impart bad news. Savitri's Manglik state is, it seems, magically avoidable; and Dadi and Mae's mother have some psychic abilities.

The book is steeped in Indian life and culture and readers who know something of India and its people will happily recognize many of the ways the Indian characters think and behave. Those who know Australia and Australians, too, will recongnise the behaviour and beliefs exemplified by Mae, although the Australian scenes do represent only one kind of Australian easy-going life. There is a good deal of humour in the way people in this book see their own world and that of others. And, the conflict between the two very different cultures precipitated by the meeting of Neel and Mae, underlies the story. So, too, do the difficulties of adapting old traditional ways of life and social expectations to the new, fast-changing modern world.

In the end, Bem Le Hunte suggests it is trust which is needed to negotiate these difficulties and differences. It is like learning to trust a driverless car in spite of the problems you think you may encounter - such as 'elephants returning home down the side streets after attending one of those grand Delhi weddings'. Siddharth is reminded of his persistent cosmic dream about taking his hands off the wheel of that driverless car. He thought about all the convincing numbers that would have to cohere to create such an unimaginable feat: a car that actually drove itself, with all the sensors and data and satellites at work. And yet the real mystery remained in that moment of lifting one's hands from the wheel - lifting them off and observing the survival of self.

Truly, 'Many things that we believe impossible are about to come about'.

The Lost Jewels
Kirsty Manning
Allen & Unwin
978 76052 810 2, A$32.99, paperback, 324 pages

The Lost Jewels was inspired by a true story.

FACT: On June 18th, 1912, a workman clearing rubble from a cellar in London's Cheapside, close to St Paul's Cathedral, stuck his pick-axe into a lump of earth and was astonished to find it studded with jewels. The wooden box in which the jewels had been buried had disintegrated and as he and others dug further jewels mixed with earth spilled over the floor. Quite a few ended up secreted in the workmen's pockets. In all, over 500 pieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery and precious stones, were recovered, all preserved by the soil in near perfect condition. This became known as 'The Cheapside Hoard'.

No-one knows why these jewels were buried, but the style of the pieces suggests it was in the late 1600s and early 1700s - a time of civil unrest; the Great Plague of London (1665-6); and of the Great Fire of London (1666), in which the house was destroyed.

And no-one knows who buried them. Perhaps it was an immigrant goldsmith working in the house, which was then owned by the Goldsmiths' Company. Or maybe it was a wealthy collector. It may even have been a fence hiding stolen goods.

An antique-collector known as 'Stony Jack' (George Fabian Lawrence) was known to buy pottery, jewels and anything old and interesting dug up in the City, and to pay in beer or small sums of money. Many jewels which had probably come from the hoard turned up at his establishment and were subsequently sold to London museums and other museums around the world.

The Museum of London now owns the Cheapside Hoard. There are photographs of it on their website, and more photographs and details of its story can be seen at the GIA gemology institute website:

FICTION: Who owned the jewels? Where did they come from? Who buried them and why? In The Lost Jewels, Kirsty Manning has taken these questions and woven her own stories around them.

Kate Kirby is a successful writer and researcher with specialized knowledge of jewels. Jewels fascinate her, so when the editor of a 'luxury' American magazine asks her to write an article about the Cheapside Hoard, which has just been catalogued at the Museum of London, she is interested. The editor wants a unique angle to the story and makes it clear that the commission will be well-funded. Kate would be accompanied by a photographer, and would be able to travel to various countries to trace the origin of the jewels.

Kate, who is trying to finish a synopsis for her post-doctoral fellowship application to Harvard, and who has other unfinished work, is not sure she wants to take on the job, but she has a personal reason for wanting to see these jewels, so she accepts. Amongst the papers she inherited from her Great-grandmother, Essie, are several sketches which intrigue her. One is of two unidentified pigtailed little girls in Edwardian dress. The other is of a jewel-studded brooch or button, which resembles some she has seen in photographs of Elizabethan buttons held in the Museum of London.

Kate's first glimpse of the jewels in the Museum of London's secure basement takes her breath away. There is a watch encased in an emerald the size of a baby's fist, rubies set into gold, long gold chains with delicate enamel decoration, a Byzantine pendant cameo carved in a sapphire, and a salamander brooch:

The creature had been picked out in circles of emeralds soldered together with gold links. Kate wanted to poke her fingers into the tiny mouth dotted with black enamel because she was certain she would feel teeth.

'The mystical creature who rose from the fire, the salamander', Saanvi, the Museum's conservator tells her, linking ancient Alchemical lore with historical fact.

There are also buttons which are identical to the one in the sketch she found in her great-grandmother's papers.

For her magazine article, Kate sets out to trace the history of some of these jewels. This takes her and the photographer, Marcus, around the world to the source of some of the stones, the mines where such stones were unearthed, the bazaars where they would have been sold, and places where they might have been cut and set. Some chapters imagine the lives of the people who found and handled the stones, and some follow Kate and Marcus as they experience the countries and places from which the stones are likely to have come.

Kate's great-grandmother, Essie, also has a fascinating story which is woven into the book between chapters which describe Kate's life and her travels. Kirsty Manning's imagines a past in which Essie and her family are closely linked with the finding of the Cheapside jewels, and she tells of the subsequent history of some of those jewels as they pass from hand to hand.

The Lost Jewels is a richly imagines family saga. It has history, love, adventure, priceless jewels, colourful and unusual locations and a smattering of social comment. It is Kate's story of adventure, loss and love. It is Essie's story of hardship, deaths, emigration and the founding of a shipping line. And it is the story of Essie's beloved sister, Gertrude, who gains an education and 'dedicates her legal career to the support of women and children'. It is the story of Sachin finding a diamond 'like purest water' in the Golconda mines, and of Ekmel selling it in an Indian bazaar. And it is the story, too, of a tiny diamond ring:

the diamond flickered like a flame and Kate wondered why this simple ring had been buried in a damp cellar ...What promises were made with this ring?

Later, under high magnification Kate finds an inscription which has never been noticed before: 'I give you this in love, Aurelia'. So, the story comes full circle to the moment when the jewels were buried.

There are almost too many stories in this book and there is much that is pure fantasy mixed with fact, but it is light reading, enjoyable and well-written.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Anthony Avina's Bookshelf

The Disharmony of Silence
Linda Rosen
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540 Castroville, TX 78009
9781684334308, $19.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 295pp,

A must-read book, author Linda Rosen's "The Disharmony of Silence" is a wonderful read filled with heart, the challenge of friendship and the emotion of true family. A one of a kind story of how easily the bonds between one another come together and can just as easily fall apart, the story of connection plays prominently in this tale and will keep readers invested throughout. Be sure to grab your copy of this wonderful novel today!

Anthony Avina

Anthony DiMatteo's Bookshelf

Flashlight: New and Selected Poems
Gayl Teller
WordTech Communications LLC
c/o Cherry Grove Collections
P.O. Box 541106, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1106
9781625493316, $24.00, PB, 236pp,

Anew from Sheet after Sheet of Self: Teller's Dark and Light Lens

Take a walk with empathy down our block and through our lives-- that's what these poems invite us to do. The poet here strolls through the past and present, hers and ours in contemporary America, in what one poem terms "naked security," an oxymoron summing up Ms. Teller's poetic art. "Walking is remodeling," another poem tells us, demanding a re-seeing of thee familiar, new ways of looking at personal and public histories, "poised on alertness's edge."

The book's first poem invites the reader to look through the poet's "lens on humanity" where one can see the "strangely familiar, as looking out/ is looking in." That's the rhythm of this whole collection of poems registering Teller's lifetime's dedication to poetry and to observing big and small, whether it be "the organic ooze of this vast forest" or the different ways people put dishes in a dishwasher.

"The braided currents" of subject and object, regret and wonder, and life and death, flow through these adroit poems drawn from the previous books with eighteen new poems included. The "throbbing crossbreed/ of the generations' melodies" plays throughout. "Surrender and hope" can be found in every poem as in the poem where this phrasing is found regarding "the small kindness" of a neighbor who carries his arthritic dog to the park, or in the poem that begins in both affirmation and denial: "I forgive you, God for not existing."

Above all, Teller's writings are alive -- "a nasal wildness/ through the soft fleshy home/ where my words live." "Like a call from someone in the past," the poems ask us to look closely, taking nothing for granted, trying to fathom, "all those shifting shadows/ shimmying out from our bodies."

A wonderful book to read and re-read!

Anthony DiMatteo, Reviewer
Author of Fishing for Family, Kelsay Books, 2019

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Fading London: The City's Vanishing Ghost Signs
Helen Cox
The History Press
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780750992596, $34.95, HC, 128pp,

Synopsis: At its core, London is a city in constant structural flux; an ever-evolving mass of glass and steel that shifts with the demands of contemporary design. Beyond the blaze of neon lights and the banshee shrieks of braking red double-deckers, however, an older city still survives.

Here, in the margins, London's ghost signs for long lost shops and products haunt the old alley ways and side streets. "Fading London: The City's Vanishing Ghost Signs" by Helen Cox (who is a writer and freelance journalist who is passionate about architecture, travel, history, branding, film, and feminism) uncovers intricate fading landmarks of consumerism in London's more rugged back streets.

The various signs across the city that are discolored and worn unlock a forgotten social and commercial history whilst simultaneously offering insight into what life was like in the early-1900s, when our now concrete capital was still blossoming.

Critique: A blending of contemporary photography and urban history,"Fading London: The City's Vanishing Ghost Signs" is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, this is a unique volume that could well serve as a template for similar project in other major cities. Simply stated, "Fading London: The City's Vanishing Ghost Signs" is very ighly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Advertising/Photography/British History collections, "

The Robbery of Nature
John Bellamy Foster & Brett Clark
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583678404, $89.00, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism's relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism's degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism.

Working within this historical tradition, in "The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift", authors and sociologists John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark deftly examine capitalism's plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System.

Departing from much previous scholarship, Foster and Clark adopt a materialist and dialectical approach, bridging the gap between social and environmental critiques of capitalism. The ecological crisis, they explain, extends beyond questions of traditional class struggle to a corporeal rift in the physical organization of living beings themselves, raising critical issues of social reproduction, racial capitalism, alienated speciesism, and ecological imperialism. No one, they conclude, following Marx, owns the earth. Instead we must maintain it for future generations and the innumerable, diverse inhabitants of the planet as part of a process of sustainable human development.

Critique: An erudite and meticulous work of detailed scholarship, "The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Political & Environmental studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, environmentalists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781583678398,$28.00).

Editorial Note: John Bellamy Foster is an editor of Monthly Review and a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. His previous books on ecology include: The Vulnerable Planet, Marx's Ecology, Hungry for Profit (edited with Fred Magdoff and Frederick Buttel), Ecology Against Capitalism, The Ecological Revolution, The Ecological Rift (with Brett Clark and Richard York), What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (with Fred Magdoff), Marx and the Earth (with Paul Burkett), and The Robbery of Nature (with Brett Clark).

Brett Clark is a associate editor of Monthly Review and a professor of sociology at the University of Utah. He is co-author (with John Bellamy Foster and Richard York) of Critique of Intelligent Design.

Carl Logan

Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf

Interview of Roland Barksdale-Hall

Roland Barksdale-Hall is an award winning essayist; community activist; co-founder, past president of Jah Kente International Inc., Washington, DC which includes African artifacts, youth exchange, roots program, youth theater program for DC high risk youth; founder, first president of the Pittsburgh Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS); Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) former executive board member; former managing editor of QBR the Black Book Review, AAHGS Journal, BCALA News; author of leadership, children's character development, history books; member of Pennsylvania's Mercer County Mentoring Board. He launched street storytelling theater, book festivals and life empowerment workshop for at-risk communities.

Smallwood: What is your educational background and work experience?

Barksdale-Hall: I am a working scholar historian and librarian. I acquired academic degrees, Bachelor of Science in biology and master of library science, both from the University of Pittsburgh, to advance my interest in research. I would describe myself as a lifelong learner, who benefitted from a mix of both traditional and non-traditional educational treks, graduated Army Basic Training, Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Signal Training School, Telecommunications Teletype Operator, Fort Gordon, Georgia. There I met people from diverse backgrounds, gained organizational along with time management skills and most importantly recognized persistence pays off.

Most recently, I have served as a resident coordinator and library director at a public housing site. I gained valuable perspective on social networks when I graduated Leadership Shenango, a local program of the chamber of commerce. Other rich experiences include African American Special Collections Librarian at the Homewood Librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, administration in academic libraries, Peabody Special Collection Librarian, Hampton University, professor at various colleges and Clarion University Library School.

Smallwood: What were some of your experiences in the nation's capital?

Barksdale-Hall: Upon college graduation my wife Drusilla and I moved to Washington, DC, where I worked at research institutions, NASA Headquarters Scientific Technical and Information Facility, Johns Hopkins University and Howard University. I brought to DC a solid academic background, Bachelor of Science in biology and master of library science, both from the University of Pittsburgh, to advance my interest in research.
During my time in the Metropolitan DC area I worked as a research librarian, studied publishing at George Washington University, Washington, DC, participated in discussions leading to formation of JAH Kente International and became the youngest board member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. I found the Washington Metropolitan Area alive with stimulating cultural environs, where I flourished. I attended Federal Poets meetings at the library and performed poetry at various venues.

Smallwood: When did you become interested in researching and publishing local African American history? Please share some of your own important family history:
Barksdale-Hall: We later returned to Pennsylvania, raised a family. I picked up two additional graduate degrees: one in history and another in leadership - at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, organized the Pittsburgh Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.
As head librarian at Penn State Shenango, I launched a local community based African-American history project, advocated for the library as a cultural center, presented at the National Conference of African American librarians in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I published People in Search of Opportunity the African American Experience. I received the 2018 American Society of Freedmen Descendants gold medal for his research on Wilson Steverson, Confederate body servant Pennsylvania resident and oldest surviving ex-slave. My great-grandfather Wilson, who I inherited the gift of storytelling, lived an amazing life. He was an entrepreneur, still working in his 80s and lived to be 109 years old. I have essay, "The Black Family," "Entrepreneurs," and "Slave Status and Inheritance" in The Encyclopedia of African American History 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass, edited by Paul Finkelman (Oxford University Press: 2006). The "Black Family" essay provides a case study based upon my extensive genealogical research on my Steverson ancestry from slavery to freedom. I have an award-winning genealogical guide, The African-American Family's Guide to Tracing Our Roots: Healing, Understanding and Restoring Our Families (Amber Books, 2005), which incorporates some of my research methodology.

Smallwood: What did you write that received the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Black History Essay Award?
What are some others?

Barksdale-Hall: My research, "The Twin City Elks Lodge: An African American Community Agent," written during graduate studies in history at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, challenged an erroneous position. Some scholars argued that unlike the Polish and Italian immigrant communities the African Americans had no unifying organizations in their community. My award-winning essay received the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Black History Essay Award was published in Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine. I credit a combination of the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences for strong research skills and Duquense University History Department for academic grounding in history.
I have received the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society History Award, James Dent Walker Award, Black Caucus of the American Library Association Leadership Award. I recently received the Caught in the Act Award for community Thanksgiving event.

Smallwood: What are some of your most favorite research projects that you have worked on?

Barksdale-Hall: Storytelling reaches across intergenerational, ethnic and international borders. My research and writing the children character development book, Lion Pride, which weaves together two African folktales, provides a delightful romp. I appeared on WKBNTV-27 Youngstown, Ohio, First News Interview along with illustrator Bill Murray about children's picture book. Secondly, my research on African American inventors combined my passion for history and interest in science and technology. Research on African American inventors needs to be placed in a historical context. In my essay, "Inventions and patents," published in African American Leadership: A Reference Guide (Mission Belo Media: 2015) I discuss African American inventors, the significance of research on African American inventors in light of prevailing racist views. In particular, slaveholders erroneously attempted to use African Americans' intelligence as a justification for slavery. I visited libraries and archives, scoured census records, newspapers and patent records.

Smallwood: What discoveries have you made?

Barksdale-Hall: I received the University of Pittsburgh Blue and Gold Award from the African American Alumni for my research on William Hunter Dammond, who was inventor of a signaling system for trains and the first African American graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, corrected the official University record. The process took almost fifteen years of painstaking research. I researched and wrote an entry on Dammond as well as Andrew Jackson Beard, African American inventor of a railroad coupler, for the National African American Biography, a joint project of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press. My essay on esteemed Birmingham inventor and former slave, "Andrew Jackson Beard" is in The African American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008). A signed entry on "William Hunter Dammond" appears in African American National Biography, edited by Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr., edited by and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. Oxford African American Studies Center, (2014);

Smallwood: What are some of magazines and the encyclopedias your work appears?

Barksdale-Hall: Magazines include QBR: The Black Book Review, Sisters Magazine, Crisis Magazine, BCALA News, the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Journal of Pan African Studies, Information Equality Africa, Information, Society and Justice, Urban Librarian Journal, Pennsylvania Folklife, Against the Grain, Federal Poet, Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, and Amistad.

I wrote about Chicago poet "Sterling Plumpp" for The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson (Greenwood Press, 2005). My essay, "Juneteenth" appears in Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (ABC-CLIO, 2008). Scholarly essays "Black Cartoonists" and "Daisy Lampkin" are in The Encyclopedia of African-American History Reference 1896 to the Present, edited by Paul Finkelman (Oxford University Press, 2009). Daisy Lampkin was a national civil rights leader in Pittsburgh.

includes some of your early life and your books. Which book took the most work to complete?

Barksdale-Hall: My book Farrell surpassed my wildest imaginations and received praise. The story struck a chord with readers though it was a lot of work. These days I am blessed to have a following of readers. I am contacted by publishers about writing a book. That was the case with my book, Farrell. Arcadian Publishing was seeking an author to write a book about the diverse populations in western Pennsylvania. Miss Margaret, the local public librarian, recommended me to research and write the book, based upon the success of my earlier work, African Americans in Mercer County. I had to research and write a book about the diverse peopling of Farrell. I had not only to find images of people in traditional ethnic costumes before coming to the community but tell an inclusive story. I am grateful to God, Arcadia Publishing and scores of readers.

Smallwood: What anthologies have you also contributed to?

Barksdale-Hall: Wow! There has been one every year or at least it seems. Recent anthologies include Where Are All the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia (Library Juice Press, 2015); Genealogy and the Librarian: Perspectives on Research, Instruction, Outreach and Management (McFarland, 2018); Library Partnerships with Writers and Poets: Case Studies (McFarland, 2017); The Library's Role in Promoting Financial Literacy (Rowman Littlefield, 2016); Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems and Affirmations for People Living with HIV/AIDS (AuthorHouse, 2013).

Smallwood: What are you engaged now in research and writing?

Barksdale-Hall: My parents met in Harlem, lived there and I spent many a summer there. I found inspiration in the life of Langston Hughes and always had a burning desire to be a Harlem Renaissance man. In this pursuit I participated in booklovers event at the Schomburg Library as part of the Harlem Book Fair and am engaged in researching and writing for the Harlem Renaissance: An Encyclopedia of Arts, Culture and History. My research topics for the Harlem Renaissance include Karamu House and its interracial theater in Cleveland, Pittsburgh Courier, a historic national African American newspaper with one of the largest circulations at one time and the magazine The Messenger. The projects are endless. There is a chapter about collaboration for an anthology, Libraries and Nonprofits: Collaboration for the Public Good (Library Juice Press). I have a chapter "Creating Outside Learning for the Underserved: Outreach to Middle Schoolers, High Schoolers and Public Housing Residents," in an rather important anthology about the future of librarianship. I share empowering stories of my work with high risk groups in Hope and a Future: Perspectives on the Impact that Librarians Have on Our World. I have a request letter from a publisher about a forthcoming book, Mercer County Journeys. I am working on concept idea for a young adult book. My joy abounds.

Smallwood: Please share some links readers may learn more about you:


Carol Smallwood, MLS, MA, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, interviewer; her latest collection is Chronicles in Passing

Carol Smallwood

Carole Mertz's Bookshelf

The End of Aphrodite
Laurette Folk
Bordighera Press
9781599541501, $18.00, Paperback, 2020

Laurette Folk's fiction, essays, and poems have been published in Waxwing, Gravel, Brilliant Flash Fiction, pacificREVIEW, Boston Globe Magazine, and Best Small Fictions 2019. Her novel, A Portal to Vibrancy won the Independent Press Award for New Adult Fiction. Totem Beasts, her collection of poetry and flash fiction, was published by Big Table in May 2017. Laurette is a Pushcart Prize nominee and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing program. Her website is

Themes of family, marriage, motherhood, forgiveness, and the recklessness of adolescence shape The End of Aphrodite, Folk's second novel. It maintains its focus on four females: Etta, Samantha, Mira, and Joan. Men, in this novel, mainly hold secondary positions. The title refers to Etta, a modern Aphrodite, obviously capable of attracting many men. But will she, like the mythical Aphrodite, be denied her truest love?

In Folk's presentation of the lives and loves of these four females, echoes of Anne Tyler novels appear, along with Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. However, the idiosyncratic structure of this book did not provide this reader with as many pf the unifying threads those other novelists employ. Folk chose to present Samantha first, in a 1986 setting. To present Etta, she jumps back to 1968 along with representations of activities and philosophies of the Beat generation. The leap to this earlier timeframe is somewhat unsettling, as so early in the novel, we don't yet have a clear enough impression of the main characters.

When we meet Etta at the opening, she is pregnant and currently living with Patrick, her marriage with Daniel having broken. A somewhat puzzling and surreal de-flowering of teenage Samantha occurs, which also gives the clear impression that her Aunt Etta's relationship with Patrick, in whose house she is living, is less than secure. The 1968 chapter, however, portrays Etta in Vermont, drawn toward a free-loving beatnik. At p. 35 we read:

At twilight they sat around nude on bamboo mats, smoking and drinking cheap bottles of wine. Lauren was the first to remove her goddess garb and dance in a circle with her arms out wide and her face up to the twilight sky. The crowd giggled and yahooed until moments later, they were all stripping themselves, dancing.

In subsequent chapters we learn more about Samantha. She visits her next-door neighbor, Joan, who without Samantha's full comprehension, is longing for her daughter Elise. I found Folk's description of Elise's treacherous wanderings some of the finest writing in the novel. We are carried completely inside the character of this lonely, yearning adolescent.

It's through Mira, Etta's sister and Samantha's mother, that the Catholic influences on the family are most strongly dealt. These are also revealed in Samantha's anxieties. When visiting her neighbor, Samantha describes her aunt as "living in sin." She holds herself to a high standard and feels a hopelessness about herself. "I don't think I have a future. I'm heading headlong into the dark night of the soul." (p. 139) She also says about herself in her relationship with Edward (p. 136):

There was no bridge from my heart to Edward's heart. In Edward's burgeoning man-mind, I had a body, a girl-body he liked because it aroused him, but this is all he knew. I was a girl and he knew nothing about the inchoate mind of a woman. I knew nothing about the inchoate mind of a woman.

Folk delivers an additional sub-plot element, beautifully told in Part III. I leave this for the reader to experience in firsthand reading. Another commendable element running strongly throughout The End of Aphrodite is Folk's enchantment with the creation of art, through words and through the visual arts. I hope she'll channel this into future novels.

The Folk review first appeared in Mom Egg Review

Josephine Wilson
Tin House Books
9781947793088, $15.95, 356 Pgs, 2018

With Extinctions, Tin House Books has published an exceptional novel, smart in so many ways. Josephine Wilson's writing is superb, the plot refreshingly original, characters finely developed, and its themes likely to be of high interest to members of today's aging populations. The author holds a Master's degree in Philosophy, currently lectures in creative writing, and has won several prestigious awards for this work, first published in Western Australia.

The setting of the novel is 2006. Fred, a retired engineer and professor of structural engineering, has worked in reinforced concrete, columns, and such, and is now living in a "retirement village," a term he abhors. He has a love for Marcel Breuer's 1926 Wassily Chair, a tubular steel structure, a copy of which he has brought with him to his new residence.

Jan, who lives next door, keeps budgerigars that are sometimes too noisy for Fred. He might ask her to remedy that, but dreads meeting her, dreads the obligations it might incur. Fred looks out the window or sits reading obituaries while looking back on his life; whereas Jan, when we meet her, is readily occupied with her present circumstances. A strange turn of events in her life brings sudden new and serious responsibilities to her doorstep.

Fred's cynicism and the tints of humor that colored the opening pages are what drew me into the book, along with its themes of adapting to change in one's life and making restoration for negligent past behaviors. Jan's character contrasts pointedly with Fred's. Her extroversion and generous nature may be the catalysts that move Fred into new perceptions about himself.

Wilson's ability to slip seamlessly between the past and present in the lives of her two main characters, deftly delivers her authorial skill. She knows her characters thoroughly and avoids a simpler linear ordering, moving back and forth in time, until the content is thick with interesting backstory.

It's a complex story told, at times, with terribly wry images. At one point, Fred is taken up with the concept of the ellipsis, as he reads the obits. The ellipsis and the long dash, known as an em dash, "which was known as aposiopesis..." Known by whom, he wants to know. He'd never heard of aposiopesis, and he was certain no one he knew had either. He's sure no one used these words anymore. "The people who designed and built the world had to have a terminology to deal collectively with challenging structural problems. Without specialized languages, buildings and bridges would simply topple over in a breeze. Aircraft would drop out of the sky. The hulls of ships would split open and sink into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. People would die." Thus he muses. (Pg. 8)

Fred's life before widowhood has been filled with many family and professional relationships. But deceptions have occurred. When a serious tragedy in his past comes to light, the reader advances abruptly in understanding Fred's personality.

A particularly memorable description is recorded on page 215. Fred and Jan have been at the beach. They've shared so much about each other. They go on to a most complicated dinner at a lavish restaurant. As their exchange proceeds:

Frederick did not answer. Jan had tipped her face away from him so he could see only the outline of her jaw and the crown of curls. It was like confession, but there was no one left to absolve him of his sins.

During the dinner, at once painful, reminiscent, comic, and pathetic, the author brings matters to a head. Fred will take some actions, Fred will change. But before this can happen, he has an accident that lands him in the hospital.

Photos interspersed throughout the book bring added pleasure to the reader. In no way distracting, they complement elements in the text, sometimes add humor, and seem to deliver an additional dimension to the book. Novels may sometimes be enhanced by illustrations, but here we have photos of real-life subjects and/or events. The inclusion of these images is innovative.

Fred has not behaved well toward his son, Callum, with whom he is estranged. Admittedly, the particulars are challenging to the breaking point. But Fred takes decisive action to make reparation. Though the author leads us steadily toward the denouement, I was nevertheless shocked by the dramatic, drastic, foolhardy, and cathartic action Fred takes in order to bring his son back into his life.

Even in her descriptions of ordinary events, Josephine Wilson retains consistent ability to deliver surprise. This element adds to the freshness of her writing and speaks to the depth of her reach. Extinctions is a book well worth reading for its entertainment, its rich character portrayals, its drama, and its ability to lead you into reflections about your own life circumstances and obligations. It's easy to assume Wilson's studies in philosophy contributed to the richness of this contemporary novel.

The Wilson review first appeared in Page & Spine

Dancing in Santa Fe and Other Poems
Beate Sigriddaughter
Cervena Barva Press
9781950063239, $8.00, Paperback, 2019, 24 pg.

In Dancing in Santa Fe, Beate Sigriddaughter delivers a fine collection of fourteen poems, all written in free verse. An American poet of German heritage, she has won multiple poetry prizes, including the Cultural Weekly - Jack Grapes Prize in 2014, and multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Her gracious promotion of women's poetry (at her blog Writing in a Woman's Voice) is also commendable.

Richness of character and content run throughout the collection. These represents the author's wealth of resources and display her thoughtfulness resulting from inner reflection, along with her ability to define external scenes surrounding her.

In "Lines for a Princess" (p. 21), the persona is at once a sheltered flower, a mountain juniper, a "seed that never quite took," and a poet who "wants sequins and justice both." I like the depth of this persona's character and appreciate the clarity with which the narration is rendered. In it Sigriddaughter writes, "Days whisper by. You have to / listen carefully to hear them." The poem is one among others in the collection that draws on fairytale themes

A longer poem, "Dancing in Santa Fe" (pgs. 4-7), renders alternating verse backdrops of such weighted matters as concentration camps and the horrors of war, contrasted with New Mexico's beautiful mountain scenes. " feel for sins I haven't committed?" she writes, as autobiography. " an unspeakable filter / on this gorgeous world."

The poems, "Samsara" and "Nirvana" draw on Buddhist religious terms to deliver their messages. As wanderer, in "Samsara" (pgs. 8-9), the poet writes:

Even on the mountain, surrounded

by excellence, the trouble

of the city clamors in my heart...

In "Nirvana' (p. 10), Sigriddaughter issues a plea:

I love you world. Send more angels.

Help me fight the dull and dangerous


Here she admits her distrust of "nirvana," a striving after bliss and the absence of suffering or desire. (Isn't self-effacing consent like suicide? she asks.)

"The River" (p.11) brings to the reader another level of reflection; the river acknowledges being bound to desires. Accepting this, it wants to carve passageways through mountains of unnecessary evil. I enjoy the beauty of this metaphor and how it allows the river to speak Sigriddaughter's own spiritual desires.

In addition to her narrative skills, the poet's mature voice also lends beauty to her verses. We trust her voice all the more, because it doesn't conceal the imperfections of the world. "I have heard," she says in Scheherazade (p.16), "how not forgiving is like drinking poison." And with further insight, "You cannot be my hero any more...I cannot imagine the cost / of making nice with the entitled predator / like that." A subsequent line strikes an even stronger point.

Though several poems lead us to reflect on beauty and dark matters, such as war and unforgiveness, the Sigriddaughter chooses to close the chapbook with a humorous poem. In "The Dragon's Tale" (p.23), the princess is hidden away from "benevolent contempt." We content ourselves with this comedy when the dragon asks, "You thought I was going to eat her?"

I delight in Dancing in Santa Fe. Its content seems to "fill the narrow margins of reality with beauty." (15) Beate Sigriddaughter's poems balance darkness with a joyful light.

The Sigriddaughter review first appeared in the Compulsive Reader

Carole Mertz

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South (movie edition)
Osha Gray Davidson
The University of North Carolina Press
Chapel Hill, 116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808
9781469646602, $12.55, paperback, February 2019, 338 pages
9781469646619, November 2018, eBook
B07JCKBC3B, $9.99 Kindle

Postbellum realities of life in Dixie through the lens of Durham, North Carolina, are shared in this narrative nonfiction book. Although slavery was abolished, Jim Crow racism survived. The Ku Klux Klan was born in the summer of 1866.

The opening pages have primary source photographs and archival information and set the scene for both the good and the bad about the economic lives of both blacks and whites in Durham. Durham was considered progressive as some African Americans there did very well in business. However, under the surface, life in that city was very difficult for any economically disadvantaged person, black or white.

The introduction tells of Ann Atwater, a local civil rights leader, crying and mourning at the funeral of C.P. Ellis, a Klan leader. He was raised by a Klansman to be prejudiced against African Americans, blaming them for every disappointment in life. How does he eventually become friends with Ann Atwater, after hating her for years? The question kept me interested throughout the book.

The history of the civil rights movement is chronicled throughout the book, with a focus on the lives of C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater. Leaders on both sides of the issues are included: Jesse Helms, George Wallace, W. E. B. Du Bois, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Marshall Thurgood, Malcolm X, and dozens of others. Desegregation events such as sit-ins, marches, and working within the system are reviewed.

This text would be good for student research papers as sources are cited, and there is an index.

Rodeo Finn
Clare O'Beara
Privately Published
9781910544068, $6.50 paperback, 156 pages
B00OU100W8, $0.99 Kindle

Clare O'Beara, a former national standard showjumping champion for Ireland, wrote this equine fiction about Finn, age 15. It rings true due to the experiences of the author, both in Ireland and the USA. The protagonists are cousins, avoiding the topic of romance in this book for teens and young adults, making it appropriate for class study. Social studies information is embedded in the storyline as Finn, who is an English rider, and Sean, a western rider, contrast and compare how horses and cattle care is different in their respective countries.

O'Beara includes many nonfiction facts as she weaves the story and educates the readers about how horse shows differ from rodeos. She describes the differences in teen and family life, such as the drinking age in Ireland is 18 while it is 21 in Arizona. Finn's family can care for their farm, while Uncle Jack's ranch requires many workers. Finn's house was handed down through generations, and Sean lives in a wooden home.

This book provides an opportunity for productive discussion in a classroom setting. The different characters' points of view and compare/contrast would be areas for student application of reading strategy skills.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Catherine Lee's Bookshelf

Bear, Coyote, Raven
Jason Grundstrum-Whitney
Resolute Bear Press
9780998819556, $12.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 122pp,

Resolute Bear Press made a name for itself with its 3 Nations Anthology: Native, Canadian and New England Writers. Now the press has published one of that anthology's writers, Jason Grundstrom-Whitney, with a poetry collection called Bear, Coyote, Raven, with an eye-catching cover designed by Valerie Lawson featuring the three animals anthropomorphized in Native American ribbon shirts.

Grundstrom-Whitney, a Bear Clan member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and a licensed social worker and substance abuse counselor, has a long history of working on issues including Native American rights, domestic violence, end-of-life care, homelessness, the environment and alternative medicine. All of these experiences inform his poetry.

The poems themselves dive deep into Native American mythology and create dialogues among the totemic animals named in the book's title. Through their eyes, ears and hearts, Grundstrom-Whitney takes the reader back to a world where all things are connected and nature and hu-man nature have not diverged. His concern for the environment shines through in every poem, with large ideas blooming from the smallest encounters.

"Dragonfly" describes one such encounter. While Bear ponders his kayak disturbing "lilies and turtles from temporary perches," the dragonfly landing lightly on his paddle leads him to realize that he's missing the larger picture, the myriad interconnected things that surround him and are within him. At the end of the poem, "Dragonfly regards the world /with her compound eyes, / sees more of me than I know myself, / takes flight from the slipper of day / in late afternoon light." Grundstrom-Whitney is also a musician and songwriter, and a band called Osha Root has recorded a CD featuring his poetry and music. He adeptly uses Native American instruments and music as metaphors. In "Pebbles," Bear, Coyote, and Raven meet in an arroyo where they "took experience / like tiny pebbles in a rattle. //One pebble, / not very musical. // Put many in a gourd / and you have a conversation / through the night." "Edge of a Note," a poem suffused with pearly moon-light and silver water, reminds us of things we are less aware of in the bright light of day: "Wolf song reaches that part / I forget in the daylight / when the frenetic world /steals the edges of notes / and the howl fuels my heart / with an inaudible hum."

Some poems revel in sensory descriptions of the American landscape. "Horse Nation" provides the experience of being "restless in the wind and feeling every grass blade / on the great plains," with "wild nostrils intoxicated by mesquite, sage, / and pinion pine", eventually arriving at the Pacific Ocean to feel "sweet salinity filling blood and giving strength." On this cross-country journey, the speaker and horse are collecting prayers, until at the end, "Heavily laden with prayers, /we run faster than light / to prance among the stars."

"Eagle Woman" is a four-part poem about an elder whose granddaughter sees her as "the original Wonder Woman / when she saw her come out of the forest / early one morning with a big doe / on her shoulders, tears / streaming down her face." At this point, the reader has already experienced Eagle Woman becoming one with the wind and sun, and in this final movement the poem turns to more grounded imagery, in which her tears are under-stood: "She wouldn't eat store meat. /There was no sense of the life taken. /There was no sense of the reciprocity of beings." It is not just Eagle Woman who needs this knowledge. The poem is a re-minder of how divorced much of the mod-ern world is from the most basic realities of life.

"Thin Bears" has the title bears sent to warn the tribes that they are dying. After meeting them "Bear felt death reaching in his new language / drought, hurricanes, fire, auto-immune illness. / It seemed he added a new word daily." He angrily re-members the death of his sister at the edge of a blueberry barren, and "the whales he had seen washed onshore / this past summer, their stomachs filled / with plastic." There is no redemption in this poem, just the realization that "Each time was get-ting harder / than the time before."

Grundstrom-Whitney's musical back-ground informs another sequence, "Rattles and Drums," as he describes the process of "Each pebble for the rattles / collected in reverence from an ant hill. / The hide stretched and / the wood seasoned to make a drum." Bear makes a tobacco offering, tests the drum, and holds it "next to his heart." He has visions described in stark imagery of betrayal and destruction, but also of the peacemakers, his people. "He saw dust from far galaxies collect and / formulate stars and planets and / the many lives he had known / across the trail of the ancestors." Whether humankind can change course is questionable, as "humans gather more" and Bear feels "the medicine flow wide / then collapse / in taut circles around his heart."

"When Bear Tells a Story" ends the collection. "I still hear him / across the cold blue / as I snowshoe, / each step on the unblemished foolscap / a remembrance for what was / and what will be." Steps in the physical world and steps in the construction of a poem meld into one and resonate with the opening words of the collection, the dedication to Grundstrom-Whitney's clan mother, Joan M. Dana, "Who taught me how to live in the world / and that our dreams and visions create our lives."

Grundstrum-Whitney has indeed created a world in this collection. Its great themes of care and reverence for nature, ancient wisdom and spirituality call us, as good poetry does, to look at our own lives and the consequences of our own dreams and visions.

Catherine J.S. Lee, Reviewer
The Quoddy Tides

CJ's Bookshelf

Crystal Mesh: How Addiction to Money Turned Medical Device Makers, the FDA, and Doctors Into Street Dealers
Alicia Mudny & Jennifer Banmiller
Periscope Group Publishing
9781733431507, $19.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 359pp,

This is a must buy - Outstanding resource but not a dry medical type book at all. In fact it reads like a chapter right out of Stephen King's horror novels. The nightmare of collusion from industry to hospitals and doctors. With lawyers who prey upon the victims as vultures ready to make a quick buck in denying one's constitutional rights to be represented. The denial of harm from polypropylene, a cheap plastic that is not compatible with humans.

Amazon Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks
Ben Cohen
Custom House
c/o William Morrow & Company
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062820723, $32.50, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: For decades, statisticians, social scientists, psychologists, and economists (among them Nobel Prize winners) have spent massive amounts of precious time thinking about whether streaks actually exist. After all, a substantial number of decisions that we make in our everyday lives are quietly rooted in this one question: If something happened before, will it happen again? Is there such a thing as being in the zone? Can someone have a "hot hand"? Or is it simply a case of seeing patterns in randomness? Or, if streaks are possible, where can they be found?

In "The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks", Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Cohen offers an unfailingly entertaining and provocative investigation into these questions. He begins with how a $35,000 fine and a wild night in New York revived a debate about the existence of streaks that was several generations in the making.

We learn how the ability to recognize and then bet against streaks turned a business school dropout named David Booth into a billionaire, and how the subconscious nature of streak-related bias can make the difference between life and death for asylum seekers. We also see how previously unrecognized streaks hidden amidst archival data helped solve one of the most haunting mysteries of the twentieth century, the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg.

Cohen also exposes how streak-related incentives can be manipulated, from the five-syllable word that helped break arcade profit records to an arc of black paint that allowed Stephen Curry to transform from future junior high coach into the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history.

Crucially, Cohen deftly explores why false recognition of nonexistent streaks can have cataclysmic results, particularly if you are a sugar beet farmer or the sort of gambler who likes to switch to black on the ninth spin of the roulette wheel.

Critique: An absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, "The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Probability & Statistics, Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and Sports Psychology collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, entrepreneurs, gamblers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Hot Hand" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781094116211, $39.99, CD).

Witches of Ash and Ruin
E. Latimer
Freeform Books
c/o Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
9781368052252, $18.99, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer's motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don't stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

Critique: An original and spellbinding novel of dark magic and savage mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland, "Witches of Ash & Ruin" by E. Latimer is an inherently compelling read from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for school and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Witches of Ash & Ruin" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Clint Travis

Danijel Štriga's Bookshelf

Fine Thanks, Stories from the Cancerland Jungle
Mary Dunnewold
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684333783, $18.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 207pp,

"Fine Thanks, Stories from the Cancerland Jungle" by Mary Dunnewold is a memoir chronicling one woman's battle with cancer as well as her eventual victory.

People don't like reflecting on their mortality, nor do they enjoy thinking about just how little control they have over their lives. These are topics Mary Dunnewold - lawyer, teacher, mother, and wife - confronts head-on in her memoir FINE, THANKS: Stories from the Cancerland Jungle. In January 2010, her mammogram was clear. Several months later, doctors found six tumors hidden in her breasts. So began Dunnewold's two-year trek through what she dubs "cancerland jungle" - a peculiar reality that's just one diagnosis away from our own.

Her initial experience is almost surreal: not only does the deadly disease strike seemingly out of nowhere, but there are also no outward symptoms. As treatments begin and her health deteriorates, Dunnewold experiences all stages of grief, from denial to acceptance and back again. Her memoir doesn't shy away from dark details: there are humiliating medical exams and grisly aftereffects of surgeries. But Dunnewold's most devastating observation is that, even as she confronted possible death, ordinary life around her continued as if nothing happened.

And yet, while this book isn't a light read, it's not a downer either. Dunnewold approaches the difficult subject with warmth, eloquence, and wit. She humorously debates the pros and cons of using wigs, shawls, and hats to bide baldness during chemotherapy. She stresses the importance of finding a competent and compassionate nurse. She warns against eating your favorite food on the day of your first chemo treatment. Throughout her prolonged ordeal, Dunnewold bravely soldiers on, supported by her family, friends, neighbors, and medical staff.

By far the most encouraging message of this book is its very existence. Dunnewold takes all the fear, pain, and humiliation that cancerland throws at her and transforms them into a life-affirming message.

Due to its theme, many readers will shy away from this book. This is understandable. It takes courage to write about cancer. It takes almost as much courage to read about it. But there are valuable lessons here. As someone who saw a loved one suffer the indignities of cancer, I can confirm the truth of this book's observations. While reading it, I frequently nodded in agreement.

"Fine Thanks, Stories from the Cancerland Jungle" is a humorous memoir about a subject many people scarcely dare to think about. Funny and sad, this book reminds us to treasure the everyday things we take for granted.

Despite its dark subject matter, Mary Dunnewold's FINE, THANKS: Stories from the Cancerland Jungle is an eloquent, poignant, life-affirming and surprisingly witty memoir well worth reader's time.

Danijel Štriga, Reviewer

Don MacGregor's Bookshelf

The Seaborne
A.G. Rivett
9781789421781, $11.99, PB, 353pp
9781789422467, $4.91, Kindle,

Synopsis: John Finlay, engineer, is running away from his failed business, failed relationship and his debts. He runs away to sea. Dermot, pulling a body, barely alive, from the water, has never seen anyone so strangely dressed. His Celtic island knows nothing of debt or engineering. And John, waking among a people who cannot understand his language, struggles to accept that he has been carried across time and into another world.

From this starting point, tensions build between cultures and outlooks, and focus on Shinane, the blacksmith's daughter, who is looking for something beyond the limitations of her everyday life. John and Dermot find themselves stretched to their limits. It is a matter of survival, or transformation. And beyond John, Dermot and Shinane, the whole community finds itself caught up in struggle over The Seaborne.

Critique: Andrew Rivett draws fruitfully on his years spent living in a remote croft in the West of Scotland to weave a beautiful story, imbued with Celtic themes and a deep spirituality. His time on the western seaboard pours out into the story through the realistic descriptions of what life must have been like a few hundred years ago in the Celtic lands. The Seaborne is the fascinating tale of a shipwrecked 21st century man who has time-slipped into the past (or is it another reality?) It is both intriguing and enthralling with hints of mystery and romance. The Seaborne man gradually discovers a way of life and a moral code that he realises is missing from the time and place he left behind. He comes to respect and engage with this simpler life as he learns the language and gets to know the people. Will he stay or will he try to get back to his own world? Themes of forgiveness, simplicity and living close to the earth are covered as the story unfurls like a flower coming into bloom. Many different aspects are explored through his carefully drawn characters, such as how we cope with change, fear of the unknown and the differences between those who welcome change and those who react adversely. Tragedy happens, tensions are faced and a slowly flowering romance is included. It is all set in the context of a deeply religious society that is entrenched in its traditions and customs. Without giving any spoilers, it finally reaches a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. An enchanting read!

Editorial note: The author is a retired priest and public health doctor, who lived in a rural community in northern Nigeria in the 1970s and there experienced what it is like to live among people with much less access to technology than the present western norm, and a radically different culture. His years in Scotland not only included time on an off-grid peninsula, but also brought him into contact with the ancient Celtic tradition of the Ceile De or Culdee, as well as the spiritual community of Findhorn. All these experiences inform his novel, an early draft of which was constructively critiqued by a Scotland-based archeologist.

Don MacGregor

Drena Irish's Bookshelf

La Finca
Bea Green
Conrad Press
9781911546719, $7.77 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 336pp,

'La Finca' by Bea Green is a feel-good tale set in the idyllic countryside, the perfect antidote to the trials and tribulations of the real world as it is at the moment. It affords the reader wonderfully evocative glimpses of Andalusian life, making it a perfectly heart-warming chance to escape.

The story chronicles four years in the life of Sebastian Ortez, a businessman from Madrid, who buys a derelict olive farm, Las Nevadas, near Ronda in Southern Spain and quickly discovers he's taken on more than he could ever have imagined, in both his work and private life. His passion for the restoration of the farmhouse and it's grounds to their former glory earns him the respect and friendship of all who come into contact with him and, in the end, also earns him the hand of the woman he loves.

The book's fairly straightforward plot is engaging and well-written. The characters are relatable, each with their own foibles, flaws and strengths and, for the most part, are genuinely likeable, they really feel like people you might know. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was sorry to finish the last page, which is always the sign of a good read.

Drena Irish, Reviewer

Erica Watkins' Bookshelf

Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams
Mark Divine
St. Martin's Press
9781250231581, $28.99

Well-written leadership development book, where the core message - looking fear in the face - empowered me to not be afraid of the events that frighten me. As Mark articulates, "to stare down your own fear wolf to overcome lingering negative conditioning so you can evolve to your fullest capacity. It's the only way to unlock your truly massive potential."

This retired Navy Seal Commander definitely over-delivered on his promise. While this book is primarily for leaders, I found this book essential to my current and future goals. The aspects of leadership that Mark weaved into his narrative were sound and exceedingly actionable.

This book is relevant and complete with advice and strategies that call for self-reflection. There is no fluff, only insight and concepts guiding you to discern what is holding you back emotionally. The writing style was like a no-nonsense conversation with a respected mentor.

Highly recommended for readers who books about the application of military strategies in business and life.

The Pinebox Vendetta
Jeff Bond
Privately Published
9781732255258, $14.99

Rife with political antagonism, The Pinebox Vendetta is a domestic political mystery set against the backdrop of an undying family feud. Humming with political tension, the descendants of the Pruitts and Gallaghers leverage deception, murder, and evidence tampering to meet their own needs.

Slow burn mysteries are the most analytical of the mystery genre. The Pinebox Vendetta is just that - a cerebral mystery designed to delve into the human psyche as it comprehends what was once hoped to be an urban legend. Yet, as it turns out, the rivalry was "a pulsing, contemporary force, devouring its combatants."
Complete with several parallel narratives and a hearty dose of family drama, Jeff's new book was impossible to put down.

He employs an extraordinary approach when writing his stories - cleverly woven plots and subplots, where the narrative commences with a single piece of a complex puzzle. The remaining pieces are methodically placed together, based on the thoughts or actions of the character in question, creating a literary masterpiece.

Honestly, I was quite spellbound as I read. The story flowed effortlessly, which made it difficult to pause my reading.

Though fictional, The Pinebox Vendetta provided an entertaining glimpse into a world where one's family history can really determine if one can get away with almost anything, including murder.

Highly recommended for fans of political mysteries where decade-old family feuds are at the center of plot.

Lynda La Plante
9781499862461, $27.99

I read The Widows and when I saw Ms. La Plante was coming out with a new book, I knew I wanted to read it.

This story pulls characters and peripheral storylines from The Widows. While it is a different story, readers (like myself) will appreciate the linkages made between The Widows series and this new one - The Jack Warr Series.

While I was not on the edge of my seat, I was completely engrossed in the story. The mere mention of Dolly and Harry Rawlins piqued my interest and continuously tugged at the corner of my mind.

The dialogues was crisp and supported effortless reading.

In typical La Plante fashion, this series debut has an ample splattering of vicious criminals, devious women, strung together with brilliant detective work.

"Plot twist" does not give this story justice. At every page turn, a new element was added to storyline, only to be cleverly resolved in the end.

The ending, like a door left ajar, left me yearning to know more about Jack Warr and he would do with the information he found.

Highly recommended to fans of crime mysteries.

Dr. Erica Davis Watkins, PharmD, RPh, PMP, Reviewer

Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf

Songs from the Back Row
Doug May
UnCollected Press
9780359973279, $15.00, paperback, 97 pages, 20 February 2020

In this whirling world, amid the incessant flux and buzz of events, so many lives go unremarked, unremembered, so many words go unheard, unread. In these poems Doug May gives asylum to what is so often overlooked or excluded in our world. He ponders the potato, the washing machine, the bathroom cockroach, a leaf, a dust bunny, a vacant lot, discovering in them unsuspected resonances. He gives voice to the field hand, the janitor, the thief, the convicted felon on probation, the homeless, the awkward child, the old, all those deemed deficient or insufficient, all those ill-at-ease and out-of-place, all those haunted by a sense of their otherness.

May writes intense, acute poems both in regular metre and end-rhyme and in free verse. His language is by turns casual and conversational and richly imagistic. Many of these poems surprise with the sudden dexterous swerve of a simile. Realistic surfaces suddenly fracture, opening into something else.

Songs from the Back Row is an impressive debut collection by a mature poet, one who considers the world aslant and anew, one who shapes in verse an individual vision of the world with vigor and color, with verve and wit, with care and craft.

Gregory Stephenson

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization
Ivonne del Valle, et al.
Vanderbilt University Press
VU Station B 351813, Nashville, TN 37235-1813
9780826522528, $69.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: The Iberian Peninsula is located in the southwest corner of the European continent. The peninsula is principally divided between Spain and Portugal, comprising most of their territory, as well as a small area of France (the French Cerdagne), Andorra and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Iberia is an area of approximately 596,740 square kilometres (230,400 sq mi) and has a population of approximately 53 million.

Through interdisciplinary essays covering the wide geography of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, "Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" investigates the diverse networks and multiple centers of early modern globalization that emerged in conjunction with Iberian imperialism.

"Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" argues that Iberian empires cannot be viewed apart from early modern globalization. From research sites throughout the early modern Spanish and Portuguese territories and from distinct disciplinary approaches, the essays collected in this volume investigate the economic mechanisms, administrative hierarchies, and art forms that linked the early modern Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

"Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" also demonstrates that early globalization was structured through diverse networks and their mutual and conflictive interactions within overarching imperial projects. To this end, the essays explore how specific products, texts, and people bridged ideas and institutions to produce multiple centers within Iberian imperial geographies. Taken as a whole, the authors also argue that despite attempts to reproduce European models, early Iberian globalization depended on indigenous agency and the agency of people of African descent, which often undermined or changed these models.

"Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" thus relays a nuanced theory of early modern globalization: the essays outline the Iberian imperial models that provided templates for future global designs and simultaneously detail the negotiated and conflictive forms of local interactions that characterized that early globalization. The essays here offer essential insights into historical continuities in regions colonized by Spanish and Portuguese monarchies.

Critique: An impressive volume of collective scholarship, "Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library European Political History and Caribbean/Latin American Political History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Iberian Empires and the Roots of Globalization" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780826522535, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: Anna More, a professor of Hispanic literatures at the Universidade de Brasília, is the author of Baroque Sovereignty: Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico and the editor of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz: Selected Works.

Ivonne del Valle, an associate professor at UC Berkeley, is the author of Escribiendo desde los margenes: Colonialismo y jesuitas en el siglo XVIII, and several articles on Loyola and Jose de Acosta. She co-edited the special journal issue Carl Schmitt and the Early Modern World.

Rachel Sarah O'Toole, an associate professor at UC Irvine, is the author of Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru, and the co-editor of Africans to Spanish America: Expanding the Diaspora.

The Mound Builder Myth
Jason Colavito
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806164618, $24.95, PB, 398pp,

Synopsis: It was Thomas Jefferson's pioneering archaeology that concluded that the earthen mounds discovered by European Americans as they made their way West were the work of Native Americans. In the 1894 report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Cyrus Thomas concurred, drawing on two decades of research.

But in the century in between, a lie took hold. With Presidents Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and Abraham Lincoln adding their approval and the Mormon Church (whose leader, Joseph Smith, claimed that a white race called the Nephites populated the Americas in ancient times) among those benefitting.

In "The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the Hunt for a "Lost White Race", Jason Colavito traces this monumental deception from the farthest reaches of the frontier to the halls of Congress, mapping a century-long conspiracy to fabricate and promote a false ancient history -- and enumerating its devastating consequences for contemporary Native people.

Built upon primary sources and first-person accounts, the story that "The Mound Builder Myth" tells is a forgotten chapter of American history that reads like a 19th Century Da Vinci Code as it plays out at the upper reaches of government, religion, and science. And as far-fetched as it now might seem that a lost white race once ruled prehistoric America, the damage done by this "ancient" myth has clear echoes in today's arguments over white nationalism, multiculturalism, "alternative facts," and the role of science and the control of knowledge in public life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the Hunt for a "Lost White Race" is a unique and seminal work of meticulous scholarship that is further enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography, six pages of Notes, and an eleven page Index. While especially and wholeheartedly recommended for community and academic library American History and Native American History collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the Hunt for a "Lost White Race" is also readily available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $22.51).

Editorial Note: Jason Colavito researches and writes on the connections between science, pseudoscience, religion, and speculative fiction. He is the author of Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages and The Cult of Alien Gods: H. P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture. In his blog at, he continues his exploration of the way human beings create and employ the supernatural to alter and understand our reality and our world.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Frontiers of Boyhood
Martin Woodside
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806164762, $34.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: When Horace Greeley published his famous imperative, "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country," the frontier was already synonymous with a distinctive type of idealized American masculinity. But Greeley's exhortation also captured popular sentiment surrounding changing ideas of American boyhood; for many educators, politicians, and parents, raising boys right seemed a pivotal step in securing the growing nation's future.

"Frontiers of Boyhood: Imagining America, Past and Future" by Martin Woodside revisits these narratives of American boyhood and frontier mythology to show how they worked against and through one another -- and how this interaction shaped ideas about national character, identity, and progress.

The intersection of ideas about boyhood and the frontier, while complex and multifaceted, was dominated by one arresting notion: in the space of the West, boys would grow into men and the fledgling nation would expand to fulfill its promise. "Frontiers of Boyhood" explores this myth and its implications and ramifications through western history, childhood studies, and a rich cultural archive.

Detailing surprising intersections between American frontier mythology and historical notions of child development, the book offers a new perspective on William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's influence on children and childhood; on the phenomenon of "American Boy Books"; the agency of child performers, differentiated by race and gender, in Wild West exhibitions; and the cultural work of boys' play, as witnessed in scouting organizations and the deployment of mass-produced toys.

These mutually reinforcing and complicating strands, traced through a wide range of cultural modes, from social and scientific theorizing to mass entertainment, lead to a new understanding of how changing American ideas about boyhood and the western frontier have worked together to produce compelling stories about the nation's past and its imagined future.

Critique: A seminal work of original and meticulous scholarship, "Frontiers of Boyhood: Imagining America, Past and Future" is an extraordinary study and one that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography, twenty pages of Notes, and a nine page Index. An inherently interesting read throughout, "Frontiers of Boyhood" is an especially recommended addition to community, college, and university library American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Frontiers of Boyhood" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.95).

Editorial Note: Martin Woodside is a Philadelphia-based writer, poet, and scholar and a founding member of the book publisher Calypso Editions. He has written five children's books, a collection of poetry, and numerous scholarly articles. Woodside holds a doctorate in childhood studies from Rutgers University - Camden.

All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose
Porter Moser
Loyola Press
3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
9780829450019, $18.95, HC, 250pp,

Synopsis: Porter Moser knows what it's like to live and work with determination, passion, and grit. He also knows what it's like to keep front-and-center the core values of faith, family, honesty, and integrity. Whether it's recruiting, hiring, running drills, or just living day-to-day Moser walks the walk and talks the talk. Not that it's always easy, but in hist new sports oriented memoir, "All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose" he shows us that with enough practice it sure can look that way.

Drawn from Moser's life as a son, husband, father, and winning coach, this collection of inspiring, poignant and rousing lessons drives home the importance of being "all in" - meaning, fully dedicated to a task at hand. Revealing his ups and downs as both a college player and later as a coach, All In shows how Moser built his all-positive, no-negativity work ethic; how a second chance from legendary coach Rick Majerus helped Moser achieve new levels of success; and how, in 2018, he guided the No. 11 seed Ramblers through one of the most inspiring Cinderella stories in college sports history.

With a rousing foreword from Sr. Jean, the lively and wise 100-year old chaplain of the Loyola Ramblers, "All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose" offers sage advice for athletes, coaches, recruiters, sports fans, and anyone looking to develop the skills to lead on the court or in life.

Critique: A 'must read' for the legion of Porter Moser fans and basketball enthusiasts, "All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose" is an extraordinary and ultimately inspiring read that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Porter Moser is the head coach of the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. One of only four coaches in school history to win over 140 games on the Loyola bench and saw Loyola University Chicago earn its first Associated Press Top 25 votes since the historic run to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1985.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Female
Kate Hodges, author
Harriet Lee-Merrion
White Lion Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781781319260, $24.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: From feminist fairies to bloodsucking temptresses, half-human harpies and protective Vodou goddesses, "Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Female showcases women who go beyond long-haired, smiling stereotypes. Their stories are so powerful, so entrancing, that they have survived for millennia. Lovingly retold and updated, author Kate Hodges places each heroine, rebel and provocateur firmly at the centre of their own narrative.

The players featured include: Bewitching, banished Circe, an introvert famed and feared for her transfigurative powers; The righteous Furies, defiantly unrepentant about their dedication to justice; Fun-loving Ame-no-Uzume who makes quarrelling friends laugh and terrifies monsters by flashing at them; The fateful Morai sisters who spin a complex web of birth, life and death.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative compendium, "Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Female" is superbly illustrated, organized and presented -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Folklore & Mythology collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Female" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Kate Hodges has over 20 years writing experience on magazines, having been a staffer on publications including The Face, Bizarre, Just Seventeen, Smash Hits and Sky, and written for many more, including The Guardian, Kerrang! and NME. She has also worked for Rapido TV and P For Production films. She is the author of three books on London.

Harriet Lee-Merrion is an award-winning illustrator based in Bristol, in the South West of England. Her work has been published worldwide and exhibited internationally in New York, London and Berlin. She has illustrated for numerous clients including The British Library, Conde Nast, the Guardian, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Confessions of a Sheba Queen
Autumn Bardot
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627782999, $18.95, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: During a raging sandstorm along a riverbed in the ancient lands of Saba, a powerful jinni born of smokeless fire gives birth to a half-human daughter. Bilqis does not inherit her mother's magical abilities, but the fire of her jinni blood does imbue her with other powerful gifts. As she undergoes her rites of womanhood and her insatiable sexual hunger is awakened, it becomes clear -- this is the key to her "great destiny" prophesied at her birth. But it could also lead to her total undoing.

Bilqis comes to understand that her supernatural talents have the power to make men, and women, and nations prostrate themselves in utter devotion to her. When tragedy strikes, she leaves her home to seek revenge against the tyrannical god-king whose reign is a plague upon his land and people. Armed with only her body, courage, and wits, she quickly masters the art of seduction, all the while resisting the mind-consuming call to stay locked in an endless cycle of carnal passion.

Destiny soon intervenes, and what began as a quest for vengeance becomes a mission to heal the land of Saba from a twisted, corrupt regime and to see it become the wealthiest kingdom in all the land. Yet, it is only after meeting the already legendary and wildly attractive King Solomon that Bilqis discovers her greatest battle is not with others, but with herself.

Critique: An exquisitely crafted novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and an impressively effective, reader engaging narrative storytelling style, "Confessions of a Sheba Queen" by Autumn Bardot is an inherently fascinating and memorable read from cover to cover. While recommended for community and academic library Adult Erotica & Mythology collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Confessions of a Sheba Queen" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.19).

Editorial Note: Autumn Bardot writes erotica, historical fiction, paranormal romance, and even academic literary essays. She has a bachelor of arts in English literature.

Julie Summers

Kimberley Spinney's Bookshelf

Raising A Doodle
Theresa Piasta & Audrey Courchesne
9781684630202, $34.95 PB, $10.99 Kindle, 280pp,

From Puppy Mama to the new book, "Raising a Doodle: Heartwarming Stories from Dog Parents Around the World", Theresa Piasta is connecting dog owners around the country and the world. And we had the chance to talk to her about her dog loving endeavors.

When it comes to having a dog in our life, we know how important they can be to us. Not only are dogs known to improve one's health, but they also offer support and guidance in many ways. And for Theresa Piasta, a former Army Captain, who was diagnosed with PTSD after her service to our country, owning a dog was a truly transformative experience.

With the help of her Cavapoo puppy, Waffles, Piasta has found a new calling in life, and it is one that she is hoping to share with the world. In fact, thanks to her Puppy Mama platform, which has helped to bring women (and men) from around the world together over their shared love of pups, Theresa Piasta has ventured into the world of publishing.

Kimberley Spinney, Reviewer
Dog O Day

Kirkus Reviews

Malibu Burning: The Real Story Behind LA's Most Devastating Wildfire
Robert Kerbeck
MWC Press
9781733470506, $26.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle
9781733470537, $26.99, HC, 262pp,

A writer offers stories of California residents caught in the flames of a deadly wildfire.

On Nov. 9, 2018, the Woolsey Fire spread from Simi Valley to Malibu, destroying 100,000 acres of land and forcing 250,000 people to evacuate. What debut author, actor, and longtime resident Kerbeck remembers of that day is "the terror of thinking you're about to be burned alive in front of your kid."

His book, a collection of tales blending memoir, investigative journalism, and narrative, begins with his own harrowing account of the fire's rapid descent toward his home. The author then goes on to reconstruct the stories of his neighbors. There are plenty of shocking close calls with "flaming embers" - one standout is the experience of Tanesha Lockhart, who had to "shelter in place" with the youths of a detention center. But Kerbeck also uses the residents' recollections as a springboard to reach deep into the history of Malibu and the questions of liability surrounding California wildfires.

Stars like Bob Dylan and Sean Penn make cameos, but what is more important to the author is the community of Malibu that exists at the edges of its multimillion-dollar homes: the Morra family, which struggled, ultimately in vain, to buy a fire engine dedicated to locals; Valerie Sklarevsky, a hippie activist who lived in a covered wagon; and the Gonzalezes, who built their own doomed, wooden home themselves.

Throughout these and the other tales, the author deftly digs into the terror of that day, the deep connections these people felt to the land, and the varying factors that played a role in the Woolsey fire's rapid development. His ample research allows him to makes surprising connections, linking the fire to the electric provider's mismanagement and even possibly to nuclear testing in the 1950s while providing a thorough examination of the volunteer and Los Angeles County fire departments.

Kerbeck writes about policy and history with the same urgency that he brings to cars engulfed in flames. And he focuses on just the right details -- such as a high school production of Spring Awakening and a lost collection of airplane models -- to give a robust and very human face to Malibu and the increasingly frequent dangers it faces.

An engrossing, thorough, and revealing portrait of a beloved beachside community confronting disaster.

A Life, Redefined
Tracy Hewitt Meyer
BHC Press
9781643970127, Hardcover, $21.95, 200 pages
9781643970134, Softcover, $12.95, 200 pages
9781643970141, Ebook $7.99
LCCN: 2017941236

Rowan Slone's future looks promising, offering a much-needed escape from her small town in Appalachia. But with new secrets revealed about her family and past, she must move forward or risk being pulled back into the very darkness she is trying to escape.

A junior in high school, Rowan is on track to graduate and go to college, and she dreams of eventually becoming a veterinarian. The death of her baby brother 7 years ago sent her into a spiral of self-harm, but she managed to stop cutting herself a few years ago. Things start to look up when she is paired with her longtime crush, Mike Anderson, for their biology project.

There are hints of a budding romance between the two, and Mike even asks her to prom. However, life at home takes a turn for the worse, and Rowan finds herself reaching for a razor.

With everything she has suffered, readers will find themselves cheering for Rowan, hoping she makes it through. Meyer (The Reformation of Marli Meade, 2018, etc.) astutely captures the horrors of self-harm and domestic violence. However, the story would have benefitted from more character development of the protagonist's family and other secondary characters. All main characters are assumed to be white; Rowan's father's racism is explored to some degree.

A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful. Meyer astutely captures the horrors of self-harm and domestic violence.

Kirkus Reviews

Loryn Ross' Bookshelf

Easter at the Mission: A Cat's Observation of the Paschal Mystery
Sula, Parish Cat at Old Mission
17670-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 95023
9781933455747, $19.95, PB, 90pp,

Sula, the now-famous church cat, tackles a mysterious topic for her fifth book: What is Easter, what is its meaning, what are the beliefs behind Catholic behaviors associated with the Lenten season and Easter, why is it called the Paschal mystery?

Sula answers these questions with history, dogma, and humor. And, of course, with pictures, lots and lots of people-cat pictures.

The sections of the book -- Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and East Morning -- are beautifully illustrated with drawngs by Uliana Yanovich

Loryn Ross

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Journeys to the Underworld and Heavenly Realm in Ancient and Medieval Literature
John C. Stephens
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476674513, $49.95, PB, 183pp,

Synopsis: Concepts of heaven and hell are among the oldest, most widespread religious beliefs in history. In Western literature, they are frequently embedded in stories of underworld explorations and celestial journeys -- stories examining the nature of the universe, life on earth and the existence of the gods.

In "Journeys to the Underworld and Heavenly Realm in Ancient and Medieval Literature" John C. "Stephens (Adjunct Professor of Religion, San Joaquin Delta Community College, Stockton, California) analyzes tales of wonder in both ancient and medieval European literature. As well as other-worldly narratives that appeared in literary contexts in the ancient world, including mythology, poetry and philosophical writings. In medieval times, they remained a popular form of literary expression. These stories are primarily religious in nature, describing fantastic worlds filled with miracles and supernatural beings.

Critique: A unique, seminal, and impressively informative study, "Journeys to the Underworld and Heavenly Realm in Ancient and Medieval Literature" is an inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative read from beginning to end. While especially recommended for community, college, and university library Ancient/Classic/Medieval literature collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Journeys to the Underworld and Heavenly Realm in Ancient and Medieval Literature" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.57).

Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?
Jude Morrow
Beyond Words Publishing
9781582707570, $14.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Growing up autistic, Jude Morrow faced immense challenges and marginalization, but he was able to successfully (though not without difficulty) finish university and transition into the working world and eventually parenthood. "Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?" is a view of life and love through the eyes of an autistic adult, who went from being a nonverbal and aggressive child to a hardworking and responsible father to a non-autistic son.

"Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?" is a poignant and honest memoir in which Jude Morrow defiantly uses his voice to break down the misconceptions and societal beliefs surrounding autism, bringing hope to all who live with autism as well as those who care for someone on the spectrum. Jude views his autism as a gift to be shared, not a burden to be pitied, and as he demonstrates through his candid recollections and observations, autistic people's lives can be every bit as happy and fulfilling as those who don't have autism.

Critique: "Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?" is the inherently fascinating, expertly presented, and ultimately inspiring story of one man's journey to parenthood, and how his autism profoundly affected that journey, for both better and worse. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Parenting & Autism collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Jude Morrow displayed communication and social difficulties early in life, which led to a diagnosis of Asperger Type Autism at the age of 11. Despite having educational challenges, Jude progressed through secondary school and graduated from the University of Ulster with an honors degree in social work in 2012. Jude now works as a social worker and is a motivational speaker and advocate for all things autism.

Fashion Journalism
Julie Bradford
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8m New York, NY 10017-9209
9780815386834, $155.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: This comprehensively revised and updated second edition of "Fashion Journalism" by Julie Bradford (who is the program leader for BA Fashion Communication at Northumbria University and a former journalist) examines the vast changes within the industry and asks what they mean for the status, practices, and values of journalism worldwide.

Providing first-hand guidance on how to report on fashion effectively and responsibly, "Fashion Journalism" covers everything from ideas generation to writing news and features, video production, podcasting, and styling, including advice on how to stay legally and ethically safe while doing so. "Fashion Journalism" takes in all types of fashion content, from journalism to branded content, and from individual content creation, to editorial for fashion brands. "Fashion Journalism" explores their common practices and priorities, while examining journalists' claim to special status compared to other content producers.

In conjunction with expanded theory and research, "Fashion Journalism" includes interviews with journalists, editors, bloggers, filmmakers, PRs, and brand content producers from the UK, the US, China, and the Middle East to offer all a student or trainee needs to know to excel in fashion journalism.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a seventeen page Glossary and a four page Index, this new second edition of Julie Bradford's "Fashion Journalism" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended as a curriculum textbook and must be considered a core and essential addition to personal, professional, college and university library Fashion History and Journalism collections and supplemental studies lists.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Lake of Urine
Guillermo Stitch
Sagging Meniscus Press
978944697945, $21.00

An assemblage of odd activities such as milkings, witchcraft (aka Branding), and burger-flipping, are par for the course in Guillermo Stitch's second novel, Lake of Urine.

Meet the Wakelings, stars of this rollicking show. Near Tiny Village, Pastor Charles Wakeling, hellbent on saving lascivious women, and his demur (hidden) wife, Rose, raise their game-loving daughter, Emma, under the fastidious care of housekeeper Phinoola Quigg. Emma's eight marriages produce two daughters, Urine and Norabole. When they come of age, Emma hires William Seiler, a scientist of a sort, to keep an eye on them. But he has other plans on his mind, as do the girls.

Plans going awry is a dominant theme. In response to husband #5, a writer, Emma confesses, "I've never really understood the need for fictional stories" (101). Her declaration is the least of the ironic twists this novel serves. Emma, narrator for much of the story, is unaware that the crazy yarn of which she's a part is an absurd satire of the sacrosanct institutions of marriage, religion, politics and corporate business, among other things. Turning the status quo, including chronology, on its head and sideways is this book's success. The tale toggles between Emma's, Norabole's and Urine's adventures. Part of the pleasure is finding out how - and if - they all fit together.

True love is celebrated, on the other hand. Norabole and her beloved, epicurean husband stand by each other despite language barriers, unpredictable market forces, unruly garbage heaps and a mysterious lake stinking up the whole town. Beautiful literary prose, depicting even the most grotesque details, conveys this book's commitment to what it holds dear.

Reminiscent of Confederacy of Dunces' bawdy humor and Wes Anderson's colorful, yet darkly whimsical cinematic compositions, Lake of Urine is a bizarre, raucous love story with ornate surprises at every turn.

Breasts and Eggs
Mieko Kawakami, author
Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd
Europa Editions
978160455873, $27.00

"The best way I can put it is that I want to know them, this child, whoever they are" (299). Get to know this narrator, Natsuko, and her family inside and out in Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami's first novel to be published in English.

Natsuko's sister, Makiko, and daughter Midoriko, visit Natsu in Tokyo summer 2007. Makiko is looking for a cheap and reputable place for breast enhancement surgery and Midoriko, 13, is so mad, she refuses to speak. Ten years later, Natsu contemplates having a child herself. She weighs opinions and advice, then makes her own decision.

A simple plot, the drama is in Natsuko's development as a whole, round person. Although sharply focused on her writing career, and leggy, her edges are soft. She listens acutely to her sister's and friends' tales of woe and is easily affected by physical sensations. Drinking, amusement park rides, and sex make her dizzy and troubled. Tokyo's heat gets to her. At times, she loses touch with reality. Dreams about grapes exploding, balloons popping and events from the past mingle with her waking experience. Despite her airy-ness, Natsuko remains grounded in her desire to know. She is impossible to pigeonhole. The end of the book comes full circle, returning to the warm affection between a family of women.

An mostly inward-oriented story is punctuated by moments of outward-directed anger. Midoriko breaks cartons of eggs in a fight with her mother. Natsuko finds herself yelling at a symposium on artificial insemination, mad at fellow attendees and her own situation. Natsu's author-colleagues lash out at each other. Midoriko's raw, pubescent journal entries best capture the novel's idiosyncratic delivery.

The story is candid about the pain of being a woman. Marriage, balancing work and parenting, and relationships are constant sources of tension the women characters discuss. Their language is punchy - less lyrical and more percussive. Bars, restaurants, and homes mimic the tension in their cramped, cluttered interiors, surrounded by a bustling urban center.

Natsuko's only published novel features characters who all die yet somehow keep living. Timeless and thoroughly contemporary, intimate and expansive, Natsuko and her companions encompass extremes in a singular and unforgettable fashion.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

Dear Edward
Ann Napolitano
Random House
c/o Penguin/RandomHouse
9781984854780, $27.00, Hardcover, 336 pages, 2020, $13.99, Kindle

Dear Edward is a novel inspired by a true event: an airplane disaster with a lone survivor - a young boy who lost the rest of his immediate family in the crash. The real story involved a flight from South Africa to London that crashed in Libya in 2010. In that crash, a nine-year-old named Reuben was the sole survivor, and he was adopted and raised by an aunt and uncle who were faced with the challenge of protecting the boy's privacy.

Napolitano's novel starts with those parameters, but sets this fiction in the U.S., calls the youngster Edward (Eddie before the crash, only Edward after) and updates it for today's social media realities. While a family's struggle to protect young Reuben from intrusions in his life, just imagine how much more difficult that would be in the age of Instagram and Facebook. It is that updated circumstance that create the tension and the forward movement in Dear Edward.

Aunt Lacey and Uncle John make some difficult decisions about what Edward should see and not of the world's response to his miracle of survival. The most consequential for the book's plot is their choice to keep the written correspondence from the public, including the relatives of the doomed fellow passengers, hidden from the boy. It's hard to argue with their moves to keep him off Facebook and other social media, and it's reasonable to believe that the task puts pressure on Lacey and John's marraige.

Despite their efforts, taking a youngster out of his time and away from social media, proves to be impossible, and Edward eventually discovers what an internet sensation he has become. He also finds John's stash of the physical letters that strangers had sent to him. How the youngster works through all he discovers, proves to be precociously judicious, and chooses to respond is the gratifying center of the novel and none of it is in the least bit hard to believe. Also heartwarming is his attachment to his young friend, Shay; their friendship is adorable and life-affirming, but - cynic that I usually am - I don't mean that as a criticism.

Edward's story makes up half of the chapters of this novel. The other half imagines what happened to and between the other passengers on the plane - the things that never would be known, of course, in real life. Napolitano uses those stories to give context to Edward's decisions about how to respond to their surviving relatives and loved ones. A novel is made up of an author's imagination, of course, but it's an additional leap for the author to create stories and interactions of people who never could have been able to tell them. As I read these chapters, particularly the more prurient of them (sex in an airplane lavatory? Really?), I wondered if the novel wouldn't have been tighter and more focused with less.

Nevertheless, I recommend this engrossing and moving novel.

The Testaments
Margaret Atwood
Nan Talese/Doubleday
c/o Penguin RandomHouse
9780385543781, $29.95, Hardcover, 415 pages, 2019, $14.99, Kindle

Is there room for one more review of Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale? As one of the last reviewers in the world to read and pontificate about this book, I have stayed away from other reviews religiously, although I believe I read the NYT Book Review treatment way back in September 2019. I've forgotten it, thankfully, so I can riff on my own thoughts, as if they add to the volume of reviews already written.

The Republic of Gilead continues its oppressive ways, but there are cracks in its façade. We already knew (if we read The Handmaid's Tale) that the regime was corrupt and rotten to the core, as one would expect of any unchecked, theocratic, misogynistic patriarchy. But things have progressed over the past quarter century so that not only are there spies and traitors within but also a well-established network of revolutionaries in place to pull the republic apart or implode it from within.

The journals and testimony of the three protagonists of The Testaments - Aunt Lydia, the leader of the Aunts and the antagonist in Handmaid's; and Agnes and Nicole, both daughters of Ofkyle, the protagonist of the first book - combine to tell the story of the scheme concocted by Aunt Lydia and her underground and Canadian forces to bring down the regime. Nicole, who had been spirited to Canada by Ofkyle in the first book, and Agnes are reunited in Gilead and act as the reluctant and tentative co-conspirators in Lydia's plot.

I think there is nothing fancy about Atwood's writing, and I mean that in a good way. She gets on with the story, gives you necessary setting and characterizations, but isn't tempted to call attention to herself in the way many "literary" writers do. Her books about story, not about playing with the language, and yet there is rarely a misstep, a sentence that confuses or seems out of place. I've read nearly every novel she's written since Handmaid's (and there have been 10 - 11 counting Testaments) and I believe she's a master. I'm never flummoxed by her prose.

Still: the publishers and publicists behind the release of The Testaments assured us that this sequel stands alone and doesn't require intimate knowledge of the first book. I didn't find this plot hard or convoluted, but a member of my book club who didn't read Handmaid's said she found the book impossible to follow. I guess if you aren't familiar with the first book, there is simply too much to catch up on to make sense of the various characters and factions.

I highly recommend this as a great read - one of those bucket-list reads you might catch up on while forced to hibernate and self-isolate. But as long as you have time, perhaps you should read The Handmaid's Tale first.

This Is Not How It Ends
Rochelle B. Weinstein
Lake Union Publishing
978152007672, $14.95, Paperback, 329 pages, 2019, $4.99, Kindle

I seldom buy books without noting the publisher first with the - probably foolhardy - idea that it will keep me from wasting my money on books that haven't been sufficiently vetted by a publisher of some repute. So I don't know how I ended up buying This Is Not How It Ends. I have known Lake Union Publishing - a publishing arm of Amazon - as a romance publisher since its inception not too many years ago. I don't read romance. So, oddly, here I was with a new book in the mail, trying to decide whether to take up precious reading time (you should see my stack!) with it.

I did read it, and I enjoyed it as the pleasant, easy read it is, and as the pleasant easy, read every romance novel should be if it's going to satisfy and not disappoint its readers. And I say that despite the fact that two - yes two! - people die in the course of the novel. I also say that even though, following the romance mode, the plot is as predictable as sunrise.

Charlotte (Charley through most of the novel) meets Ben when his son collapses from an allergic reaction. She saves the youngster with her ever-present epi-pen and recommends the very attractive Ben and young Jimmy come to the homeopathic clinic where she works to cure his allergies. Meanwhile, since she moved to the Florida Keys with her fiance, Phillip, all her betrothed can talk about is the imminent return of his great friend, a famous chef who has been in New York helping open a new restaurant. Charley and Phillip wait at their usual table at the chef's restaurant for his arrival, and, lo and behold, ... well, if you're a romance reader, I don't need to tell you who that famous chef turns out to be.

The story follows the usual love triangle plot - will she choose Ben or Phillip? Why is Phillip choosing to spend all of his time flying around the country for work instead of spending time with her? Does Ben love her or is he just taking advantage of the fact that she's around to babysit for Jimmy? Promised by the book's marketers that this is another of the author's "emotionally driven" works of fiction, we also have the subplot: will she ever get over the death of her mother?

Perhaps I'm a bit cynical when it comes to this kind of fiction; I don't think I'll pick up another Weinstein book. But if you are a regular romance reader and this sounds like your cup of tea (or in this case, glass of wine), I think you will not be disappointed with This Is Not How It Ends.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age
David Callahan
Random House LLC
B01ILZT6V4, $8.99, April 11, 2017

This book provides an inside look at the secret world of elite philanthropists whose wealth has increased over the years and how they're wielding increased power to influence American life in ways both positive and negative. My friend, Peter Nagle, the President of Carlton & Company where I've been a V.P. and Senior Counsel for many years, sent me the book because it "has a lot to tell us about major gifts, what is going on in the present day and where the big-time philanthropy might be headed in the years to come. This is one of the two best books on the subject I have come across in many years."

Ten years ago, I met the co-author of a book, which had a similar focus, "Philanthro-capitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World," by Matthew Bishop, the New York bureau chief of the "Economist." He interviewed such philanthropic powerhouses as Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, George Soros, Angelina Jolie and Bono to learn why they gave and were bent on saving the world. A similar tone was set by the most recent issue of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy," titled, "Billion-Dollar Boom: The top 5 donors of 2019 gave over $1 billion each, and many wealthy Americans gave to urgent problems like climate change and inequality." Michael Bloomberg headed the class at $3.3 billion.

Although media attention continues to focus on the best known philanthropists, especially those coming out of the Silicon Valley, like Bill and Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, David Callahan analyses the rise of new power players who have created a second "Gilded Age" to influence behind the scenes on education, the environment, science, and LGBT rights, among other issues, and by so doing, impact government policy. After extensive research and interviews with donors and policy experts, the author investigates the impact of a power shift in American Society and how it enhances the growing inequality in the country and decreases the impact the majority of Americans have in defining the direction society is taking.
Grants made through the Silicon Valley Community nearly doubled in just one year alone, between 2014 and 2015 - "soaring to $816 million" according to the author. Wealth accumulation would reach all time highs before the 2008 financial crisis, with the net worth of Forbes 400 hitting $1.57 trillion.

Warren Buffet has been most outspoken on the corrosive nature of inherited wealth, and when he pledged most of his wealth to the Gates Foundation, said, "I'm not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when 6 billion others have much poorer hands than we do in life." Michael Bloomberg would say, "Inheriting too much money at one time destroys initiative, distorts reality, and breeds arrogance."

And yet, the author explains, Bloomberg worked through the Carnegie Foundation to give away $200 million to become the largest private funder of nonprofits in New York City. And in 2009 he'd spend $103 million on his final race for office, or about $183 per vote. But after winning the election, he'd pull the plug on the Carnegie grants program completely.

The author organizes these mega-givers into such groups as "Grandmasters, Super-Citizens, Disrupters, Leverage Points, Advocates, Heirs to Influence and the New Medicis." One of his most poignant observations about modern philanthropy is that it, "... is not an organized system governed by any single set of ideas or group of leaders who are all on the same page. That said, one thing is clear about this rising power center in American life: Ordinary people have little influence over what it does."

Although for the most part, Americans are unaware of the huge power that heirs are coming to wield through philanthropy. Some pushback against elites can be seen in social movement like the Tea Party and the presidential campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Many Americans resent being ruled by rich people, as there is a sense that such elites are out of touch with their own life experiences.

Some of the more nefarious acts of "giving" include efforts to gut the "Voting Rights Act of 1965," which qualified as a "charitable" act. Philanthropists giving money to sway electoral outcomes are able to hide their tracks due to the lax reporting rules for nonprofits.

The author makes a plea to reform philanthropy so that it's more aligned with American values, as an ever larger and richer upper class is amplifying its influence through large-scale giving in an era when it already has too much clout. And ends with, "We're fast moving toward a future where private funders, not elected officials and the citizens they answer to, choreograph more of public life."

The author is the founder and editor of "Inside Philanthropy," a digital media site that covers the world of giving by wealthy donors and foundations. He's the author of seven nonfiction books including, "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead." He holds a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University.

This book provides both a damning and persuasive critique of American philanthropy and the shift towards a more unequal balance of wealth and power. He also provides a clear warning on some of the directions society must take to change these powerful trends.

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

A Warning
Twelve Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538718469, $30.00, Hardcover, 262 pages

The current state of the political conversation in the United States is in dire need of an infusion of common sense and of thinking points that Americans need to come to terms with. The book, A Warning, (New York: Twelve Publishing, 262 pages, $30 US, $38 CAN), by Anonymous, A Senior Trump Administration Official, is just that infusion. This official, who, prior to publishing this book, had written an editorial that was very critical of the President, has shed a great amount of light on the inner workings of the White House since January of 2017. It is critical of the Trump administration, and chronicles many of the "almost's" or "what-ifs" that have made it into mainstream media and seem to influence the current administration's decision making process. It is written in plain language and should be recommended reading as we move closer to the 2020 election.

A Warning is an honest portrayal of the chaos in the highest realms of government. The swiftness with which the President changes officials and turns on those he doesn't like is truly eye-opening. Having grown up in a very conservative part of America, in the truest sense of the word, this book is truly needed. I do believe that this official should and hopefully will reveal their identity, but I do applaud them at this point for bringing this behavior to light.

A Warning is a true description of what most Americans only see on cable news. Everyone interested in the workings of the current executive branch leadership at the Federal level should read this book. It is available on Amazon for $17.68. I hope that everyone who is preparing to vote this November will take a week or two and read A Warning. It will help you make that informed choice and will give you another avenue for achieving that all important knowledge of government that many folks do not have.

Matthew W. McCarty, EdD

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Skates Made of Bone: A History
B. A. Thurber
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476673905, $45.00, PB, 194pp,

Synopsis: Ice skates made from animal bones were used in Europe for millennia before metal-bladed skates were invented. Archaeological sites have yielded thousands of examples, some of them dating to the Bronze Age. They are often mentioned in popular books on the Vikings and sometimes appear in children's literature.

Even after metal skates became the norm, people in rural areas continued to use bone skates into the early 1970s. Today, bone skates help scientists and re-enactors understand migrations and interactions among ancient peoples.

In the pages of "Skates Made of Bone: A History" independent scholar B. A. Thurber expertly explains how to make and use bone skates and chronicles their history beginning with their likely invention in the Eurasian steppes up to their effective disappearance in the modern era.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, expertly organized and presented historical study, "Skates Made of Bone: A History" is a unique and especially recommended addition to both community and academic library Archaeology collections, and the personal reading lists of all dedicated skaters.

From Sudden Death to Paradise
T. S. Dismas
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973672562, $32.40, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: It's easy to take it all for granted and go through life feeling invincible-especially if you've spent your life successfully facing challenges, overcoming obstacles in the way, and working hard to improve yourself both mentally and physically. Yet for all of us, this feeling of invincibility is an illusion.

"From Sudden Death to Paradise: The Story of a Near-death Experience" shares author T.S. Dismas personal story of suddenly facing his mortality and coming to terms with what he experienced. After being exposed to toxic chemicals while in the military, and unknown to him, Dismas developed an autoimmune disease that could kill him-one night. Then Dismas suffered sudden heart failure and died for ten minutes. Yet in that moment, he had a near-death experience and visited heaven, where he would learn a valuable lesson about himself, his life, his faith, and God.

No amount of suffering could take away his joy and peace, and after his experience, life was now sweet and truly a gift. With a new heart-both literally and spiritually-he was able to realize his previous life was not part of God's plan, and that embracing God's love is the only way to sustain happiness and find meaning in this life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring read, "From Sudden Death to Paradise: The Story of a Near-death Experience" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Spiritual Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "From Sudden Death to Paradise" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781973672555, $13.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: T. S. Dismas joined the US Army Military Police Corps straight out of high school. He served in the military all over the world and was disabled due to toxic chemical exposure sustained during his service. He then went on to obtain a master's degree in counseling psychology and started working as a psychotherapist with other combat veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has also worked as a program director and clinical supervisor with criminal offenders, and after joining a private company is now working with recently released offenders,

Minghui Report: The 20-Year Persecution of Falun Gong in China
The Minghui Group
9781733481908, $125.00, HC, 450pp,

Synopsis: The "Minghui Report: The 20-Year Persecution of Falun Gong in China" is based entirely on firsthand information collected by The Minghui Group ( from China and around the world. This milestone report gives readers a comprehensive, genuine experience of the past twenty years of persecution faced by Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) extension of the persecution overseas through its intimidation of leaders and businesses in other countries.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Minghui Report: The 20-Year Persecution of Falun Gong in China" is a unique, extraordinary, and comprehensive study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Falun Gong collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Michael J. Carson

Michael Nirenberg's Bookshelf

The Black Album: Writings on Art and Culture (Expanded Second Ed.)
Bradley Rubenstein
Meridian Art Press
9781732221932, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 223pp,

"Art criticism was essentially boring ad copy designed to serve the art market's corporate overlords until Bradley Rubenstein came along to make it relevant for the rest of us. Grand visions, standup comedy, punk, death metal, art history, celebrity decadence, and cocaine. Rubenstein has invented a form of participatory art criticism whose observations actually make the art world of the twenty-first century sound like a fun place to be."

Editorial Note: Michael Lee Nirenberg is a filmmaker and the author of "Earth A.D.: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities that Fought Back" (Feral House/Process Media)

Michael Lee Nirenberg

Molly Martin's Bookshelf

The Best Cat in the World
Leslea Newman
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
9780802852526, $16.00, Hardcover, 32 pages, January 27, 2004

The Best Cat in the World, penned by author Leslea Newman and illustrated by Ronald Himler is a well thought out work prepared for use by parents, teachers, and care givers as they endeavor to prepare children for the unavoidability of imminent death of a much-loved pet.

This story commences with a boy named Victor and a cat named Charlie.

When he was a kitten Charlie loved to jump and run and have fun. He and Victor played together a lot. But today Charlie is no longer a kitten, Charlie is old and because he is Charlie sleeps much of the time.

Charlie's family realized that he was not feeling good as he used to and they took him to his vet, the pet doctor, who had taken care of Charlie from the time he was just a kitten. Nevertheless, this time his vet could not help Charlie because he was not sick; Charlie was just old.

And, as happens in life, Charlie returned home and died with his family close by shortly after his visit to the doctor. Victor was upset, he missed Charlie and could not feel happy for two days. Mama fixed Victor's favorite food for supper and Victor could not even eat it.

Victor and his mother planted a rosebush in the yard near Charlie's grave. A woeful Victor often went to sit by Charlie's grave and thought about Charlie and all the enjoyable times they had had.

One day Victor's mother thought perhaps they might try to find a cat who needed a home. But Victor was too sad and did not want to even think about it. Not too much time went by and Victor received a telephone call from Charlie's vet. The vet told Victor he had a problem.

He asked Victor if he might be able to help. The vet said he had a miserable, homeless, little cat who needs a home. Would it be possible, the vet asked, for Victor to come and take the cat home.

At first Victor was not positive that bringing a new cat home was a good idea. However Victor agreed to bring the small bundle of fur home. She is a girl kitten, her name is Shelley.

Shelley is a tortie and does not look at all as did Charlie. Torties are black with orange and white, Charlie was orange. Charlie liked to sleep on a pillow on Victor's bed, Shelly likes to sleep on the windowsill. She does not like to be scratched between her ears while she is eating. Charlie did. Shelley is not at all like Charlie.

Shelley doesn't care to do any of the entertaining things that Charlie did; over time Victor begins to realize Shelley is not Charlie. While Shelley is a different cat altogether; she does her own fun things. Her accomplishments and actions are not like Charlie's because she is not Charlie. And that is okay. Once again Victor happily understands that he again has the best cat in the world.

As much as we may love our cats and take care of them; cats will not live as long as we will live. Our much-loved pet will not be with us forever. And, I, a parent, think that is an important lesson best learned early. I was raised as a farm kid; farm kids tend to grow up understanding that life is a progression, birth, aging and death are all a part. Somehow that, that knowledge, helps to lessen the pain of losing an unforgettable pet, friend or parent, or even a child.

Even the best cat in the world will not live forever, and Victor is understandably woeful when his much-loved Charlie cat, dies. Osage County First Grade experience the pleasure of new, little siblings or cousins, and, they sob when they relate that their dog or cat just died last night under the wheels of a car, or that grandpa died.

Reading The Best Cat in the World offers an excellent occasion to talk about our feelings, and to commence to put into perspective our own lives as we too face loss and sorrow and understanding.

Illustrator Ron Himler's watercolor and soft pencil images pair perfectly with Writer Newman's touching narrative.

My students know that I like critters, a lot, we talk about Toes my dear Siamese who died just weeks short of her 20th birthday. And we talk as well about the homeless little Siamese lady cat who came timidly out from under our school building and the 6 kittens she gave birth to in my garage during the weeks following her rescue.

I find The Best Cat in the World to be a well written and much needed book addressing the issue of death; in this case the loss of a much loved pet with understanding and empathy. The book is offered in a child friendly narrative. Vocabulary is simple enough for young kids to understand, but, it does not talk down to or use - baby- language to get the message across.

My class of First Graders cut right to the chase, 'I bet you are glad that you have the kittens now that Toes is dead, Mrs. M.' The kids don't express the sentiment in graceful terms, but yes, I am indeed pleased that we have the kittens since our Toes is dead.

I am pleased to recommend The Best Cat in the World for classroom bookshelf, public and school library collections, gifting a child who may be facing or have need for dealing with their anguish following their losing a pet, and for parents, teachers and counselors who will use the book to help children commence to realize and deal with the certainty of life and death.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul Lappen's Bookshelf

The Parable of the Spirit That Whispers
Melvin Douglas Wilson
Yorkshire Publishing
9781950034666, $16.99, 32 pages, 2019

This is a young adult fable about a far land run by a king called Americus. He built great worship centers so that the people could praise the Good Spirit. Americus also learned about the Spirit That Whispers, by reading the Books of Old, and trained his people to resist the bad spirit. Life was good.

On the death of Americus, Europa, his son, became king. He kept the worship centers open, and embraced the Good Spirit. But, he stayed away from the Books of Old, and told the people that the Spirit That Whispers was just a myth; don't worry about it. The young people of the kingdom started to turn away from the Good Spirit.

When Europa died, Asiaia, his son, assumed the throne. He kept open the worship centers, but he didn't believe in the Good Spirit. Bad people started spreading discontent and turmoil throughout the kingdom. No one could explain the cause. Things got so bad that the king barricaded himself in his castle. To pass the time, he started reading the Books of Old, and he learned the truth about the Spirit That Whispers. As he is pulled from the castle by the bad people of the kingdom (all of the good people are gone), he tries to warn them about the Spirit That Whispers. Does it have any effect? Is he too late?

This is a very interesting story for middle grade students. It will give them (and their parents) something to think about. Yes, it's very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Rabia Tanveer's Bookshelf

VanOps: The Lost Power
Avanti Centrae
Black Opal Books
PO Box 504, Parkdale, OR 97041
9781644371596, $16.49 PB, $4.99 Kindle
9781644371961, $27.99 HC, 308pp,

VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae is an action-packed thriller that tells the story of a young woman who was just simply living her life when a big responsibility was placed her young shoulders. Maddy Marshall is an Aikido black belt, a talented young woman who excels at her craft. She had a different future planned for herself, one that did not include chasing halfway across the world and searching for a weapon that may or may not exist, but it happened. She, her brother, and a boy from her Dojo are joined by a VanOps covert agent in a race against time to find Alexander the Great's mysterious Egyptian weapon before the enemy does. But with people far more powerful than them hot on their tail, how can Maddy and her team find the weapon in time and discover a way to wield it before the enemy can?

What I loved the most about this novel were the fast-paced plot and the endless action. There was never a dull moment, never a point where the story lagged and not once did my attention shift. I was hungry to know more, to read more and become fully invested in Maddy and the gang. The four of them made a great team and Maddy made a great protagonist. The mystery of finding the weapon, the responsibility on the young woman's shoulders, and the constant threat of being chased was a perfect combination that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and holding my breath. This is one of the best action/thrillers I have ever read and I can't wait for the next novel in the series.

Rabia Tanveer, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher
Neil Gross
University of Chicago Press
9780226676487, $25.00

The Making Of Richard Rorty

The American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931 -- 2007) became famous for his 1979 book "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" which critiqued the analytical philosophy practiced in the United States and which sought to re-frame the nature of philosophical practice. The book was and remains widely read. For the most part it was received critically by Rorty's fellow analytic philosophers.

Rorty was a tenured professor of philosophy at Princeton when he wrote the book who had gained a reputation within analytic philosophy. He subsequently left Princeton and, in a sense, academic philosophy, and served as Professor of Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia and at Stanford University for the rest of his life.

Neil Gross' book "Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher" (2008) is a biography of Rorty that essentially cuts-off in 1982 but with some references to Rorty's late writings and preoccupations. From his youth, Rorty meticulously kept his letters and other writings and generously made his files available to Gross to use without restriction. Thus, Gross had an excellent opportunity to get inside the mind of his subject over time.

Gross' book, however, is something different from a biography. It is part of a style of sociological writing that Gross calls the sociology of ideas. The aim of the sociology of ideas is to show how social conditions help to formulate the goals and ideals of a group, particularly intellectuals. The concept might be applied to an academic department, for example, but in the case of this book it is applied particularly to Rorty. An early forerunner of the sociology of ideas is a field known as the sociology of knowledge. Many years ago as an undergraduate I read Karl Mannheim's book "Ideology and Utopia", an important book still and a classic in what was known as the sociology of knowledge.

Gross' book thus straddles two genres: it is a biography of Rorty and a study in the field of the sociology of ideas. The book is organized in a way which keeps this double focus. It begins with a section titled "Preface for my Fellow Sociologists" in which Gross explains his projects and advises sociologically-oriented readers to focus on the Preface and on the final two chapters of the book, which develop what Gross calls a "theory of intellectual self-concept" and applies it to Rorty's life and work. The remainder of the book makes reference to the sociological theory but also works as a more traditional biography by developing the story of Rorty's life. The book is philosophically well-informed with Gross showing a good knowledge of Rorty's work and of the philosophical questions with which Rorty dealt.

The book reminded me of why I was interested in Karl Mannheim many years ago and why I have continued my interest in philosophy and in Rorty. Still, the mixture of sociology and biography make this book dense and difficult to read. To benefit from this book, readers will need a strong prior interest in and familiarity with the philosophy of Rorty. The book aims to show the trajectory of Rorty's career and to show that Rorty did not make an abrupt break with analytic philosophy when he wrote his famous book "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature". The thoughts that Rorty developed in that book were of long-standing in his intellectual development.

The book begins with two long chapters on Rorty's parents, James Rorty and Winifred Raushenbush. who were both left-wing activists, writers and intellectuals in their own right. They also were both patriotic and anti-communist. The influence of Rorty's parents, particularly, their American patriotism, becomes a theme throughout this study.

At the age of 15, Rorty's parents sent him to the University of Chicago where he remained ultimately to earn his Masters Degree. During this time, the precocious, shy young man studied the history of philosophy and literature. He became entranced with metaphysics and wrote a thesis on the work of Whitehead under Whitehead's student Hartshorne. This fascination with pluralistic philosophy continued as Rorty earned his PhD at Yale under the speculative metaphysical philosopher Paul Weiss.

Gross' book follows Rorty's career through his years at Wellesley College and then through becoming a tenured full professor at Princeton. During these years, Rorty became a respected scholar of analytic philosophy through articles and a book titled "The Linguistic Turn". It is treacherous to be overly confident of motivations. Rorty's studies had presaged a turn to analytic philosophy of language for the insights it could be offered. Gross also suggests that personal ambition to do the best he could do and to win the respect of his philosophical peers and secure tenure also were considerations in Rorty's focus on analytical philosophy. With tenure secured, and with a changing academic climate on the 1970s away from the scientism of early years. Rorty was ready to take what he had learned from analytic philosophy and use it to change his understanding of the discipline.

Importantly, Gross argues that Rorty was not simply responding to pressure from others in developing the path of his thinking. The "theory of intellectual self-concept" finds that Rorty was responding as well to what he found most worthwhile and valuable in his own philosophical search. In his case, Gross suggests, what was valuable to Rorty's self-concept was the political liberalism he learned from his parents, their patriotism, and the love of literature and art.

The sociological discussion in the book tends to be turgid. However the book offers great insight into Rorty and into academic life in the United States. I learned a great deal from the book, and from its discussions of Rorty's parents and of universities such as Chicago, Princeton, and Yale. This book is worthwhile for readers with a serious interest in Richard Rorty.

For My People (Yale Series of Younger Poets)
Margaret Walker, author
Steven Vincent Benet, forward
Yale University Press
9780300246407, $20.00

Margaret Walker's For My People

The Yale Series of Younger Poets celebrated its centenary in 2019 and is the longest-running annual literary award in the United States. The prize is open to Americans who have not previously published a book of poetry. The Series publishes a book-length manuscript for the recipient of the prize.

In 1941, Margaret Walker became the first African American to receive the award for her collection of poems titled "For My People". Walker (1915 -- 1998) was born in Montgomery, Alabama and later became part of a circle of writers in Chicago. She was a graduate student in Iowa at the time she wrote the poems and received the award. The competition judge for the year was the American poet Stephen Vincent Benet who wrote an eloquent Introduction to Walker's poems. Benet wrote that "straightforwardness, directness, reality are good things to find in a young poet. It is rarer to find them combined with a controlled intensity of emotion and a language that, at times, even when it is most modern, has something of the image of biblical poetry. And it is obvious that Miss Walker uses that language because it comes naturally to her and is part of her inheritance."

Benet wrote that "I do not know what work Miss Walker will do in the future, though I should be very much surprised if this book were all she had to give." Walker did not disappoint. During the course of a long career, she wrote the novel "Jubilee", essays, and several additional volumes of poetry.

"For my People" is a book of 54 pages in three distinct parts. The first part includes the title poem which is broadly to "my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly; their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power." The poems in this part of the book are broad-themed and directed to the conditions of African American people, particularly in the South. Benet wonderfully described these poems as "full of the rain and the sun that fall upon the shoulders of her people, full of the bitter questioning and the answers not yet found, the pride and the disillusion and the reality."

Part Two of the book consists of ten short poems written in dialect. Walker writes of legendary figures including John Henry and "Bad Man Stagolee". She writes of criminals,laborers, lovers who fall out, and characters such as Mollie Means: "Old Molly Means was a hag and a witch." There is a strong sense of particularity to these poems. As Benet wrote, Walker showed she was "interested in people wherever they are." He described these poems as "set for voice and the blues, they could be sung as easily as spoken. And, first and last, they are part of our earth,"

Part Three of the book consists of six sonnets written in formal English. Here is an example, a sonnet titled "Whores".

"When I grew up I went away to work
where painted whores were fascinating sights.
They came on like whole armies through the nights --
their sullen eyes on mine, their mouths a smirk,
And from their hands keys hung suggestively.
Old women working by an age-old plan
to make their bread in ways as best they can
would hobble past and beckon tirelessly.

Perhaps one day they'll all die in the streets
or be surprised by bombs in each wide bed;
learning too late in unaccustomed dread
that easy ways, like whores on special beats,
no longer have the gift to harbor pride
or bring men peace, or leave them satisfied."

Benet found a "deep sincerity in all these poems -- a sincerity at times disquieting", He concluded: "You cannot deny its honesty, you cannot deny its candor. And this is not far away or long ago -- this is part of our nation, speaking."

The original 1942 edition of "For my People" is a rarity. In 2019, Yale University Press brought out this facsimile paperback edition of the original work. It is in the same format as the 1942 book and includes Benet's Introduction together will Walker's poems.

In 1989, Walker published the poems in "For my People" as well as her uncollected poems and poems in subsequent books in a collection titled "This is my Century; New and Collected Poems". Thus, although the original edition of "For my People" is difficult to find, the poems and more are available in a collected works.

With that said, I found this book precious and a joy. There is a special experience in getting to know a poet through a little volume that was destined to be remembered and to begin a career, Margaret Walker still does not have the readership her work deserves. I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know her and to read the praise from Stephen Vincent Benet and to hold this little reminder of 1942 in my hands.

Robin Friedman

Rosemary's Bookshelf

Escape Galapagos
Ellen Prager
Tumblehome Inc.
9781943431557, $13.95, PB, 180pp, Ages 9-12,

I am so excited! I loved Ellen Prager's Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians series (2015), so when she emailed me and told me she had a new book coming out, and wanted to send me a copy, I fangirled (just) a lot. I loved her combination of action/adventure and conservation in the Tristan Hunt books, so I dove into Escape Galapagos with glee; Dr. Prager is a scientist and an author, so she creates exciting stories and backs everything up with science and an understanding of nature and marine life, plus a genuine love and concern for our world that becomes contagious.

Escape Galapagos introduces readers to tween Ezzy Skylar, her younger brother, Luke, and their father, Dr. Skylar. Ezzy and her family are still reeling from their mother's recent death, but their dad is determined to keep his promise: to take his children to all the places on his wife's "wonder list". First up: the Galapagos Islands. The problem? Ezzy is not a fan of animals out in nature. They're too... wild. So a vacation roaming around in the Galapagos, with all its wild beauty and animals who just wander along freely, makes her very nervous. She won't have long to worry about that, though; she's got bigger problems when their cruise ship is hijacked by animal poachers. Ezzy, Luke, and Aiden, another boy on the cruise with his family, have to use their wits work together to save themselves, their families, and the animals on the Isabela Island.

Escape Galapagos is an exciting story with a conscience. As with the Tristan Hunt books, Dr. Prager shines a light on the villains we don't always get to read about: those people whose main purpose is to get rich at the expense of the planet and its resources: in this case, the animals of the Galapagos. It's a brilliant way of bringing conservation issues to light and making readers aware and engaged. Ezzy is a likable character who has to dig deep and overcome her fears and discomforts (which include tortoise poop. A lot of tortoise poop) to help save her father. Luke, her younger brother, is an interesting character to watch; he reminds me of Tristan Hunt, and I wonder (okay, I hope) if he has a similar "gift" to Tristan and his fellow Sea Guardians. How fantastic would it be if this were to take place in the Tristan Hunt universe?

In short, Escape Galapagos is a great new adventure for your realistic fiction readers and your fantasy readers that like reality-based fantasy.

Rosemary's Reviews

Rosi Hollenbeck's Bookshelf

Eddie's Choice
Marilyn Reynolds
New Wind Publishing
9781929777112, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 268pp,

Eddie Barajas is going into his senior year at Hamilton High School. He and his two best friends, Cameron and Brent, spend a lot of time together and have been friends for years. Eddie's family is a solid home base for him. His older brother, Mario, has already moved out but their mother, Max, is very present in Eddie's life. Her significant other, William, an African-American man, and his daughter, Imani, moved in when Eddie was in ninth grade. William is a really good guy, although Imani is a bit of a pest. Eddie works for William's house painting business and plans to do that full time after high school. He likes the work and feels like it will be a good career for him. Even though he's had a deformed right hand since birth, it doesn't get in his way. His teachers and friends tell him he has too much potential to make house painting his life's work, but Eddie is unshakable in his belief that satisfying, physical work is what he wants for himself. Even college-bound Rosie, a girl he's getting to know and falling in love with, cannot deter him in his decision.

When Eddie arrives one morning, some terrible racist graffiti is on a wall. Eddie grabs black spray paint from his car and obliterates it before the custodian arrives. Eddie's action has enraged the people who defaced the wall, a group called the P8riots, and Eddie has a target on his back. The bullying begins online with awful messages about his heritage and his deformed hand, but it doesn't take long to escalate. One night, Eddie is badly beaten and, when William comes looking for him and finds him shortly before police arrive, William is nearly beaten and arrested until Eddie can speak enough to explain he is his father. Eddie doesn't see who beat him, but he recognizes one voice. Will he rat the person out? It's a big choice for him to make.

This is a complex novel with a good deal going on. The characters are largely believable in their actions and ways of speaking. The issues they face are realistic and very contemporary. Today's high school readers will understand and engage with these characters and their problems. The writing, for the most part, is strong and will pull the readers in and keep them turning pages. That said, there is some serious overwriting that slooooows the story down and could be excised making this a stronger book. For instance, it's enough to know the family is having salad without needing a list of ingredients. It's fine to know that the principal drove away without knowing the four or five steps he took to get going or that the three boys had lunch together without a list of every item in their lunch bags. There are many instances of this kind of overwriting that should be cut. Fortunately, the story is truly compelling and will keep most readers engaged enough to complete this good story.

Rosi Hollenbeck

Simon Warwick-Smith's Bookshelf

The Crystal Skull of Compassion
Klaire D. Roy
Paume de Saint-Germaine Publishing
9781896523941, $16.95, PB, 104pp

The Crystal Skull of Compassion begins with an introduction to the origins, descriptions, and uses of the legendary thirteen crystal skulls, which have long been analyzed and presented in many books and other forms of media. Beyond this overview, Roy's new book becomes a thrilling illumination of the transformational influence of the Daikomyo-zo Chenrezi skull, for individuals and for the evolution of humankind.

"These skulls are receptacles that contain and retain information and embody the atomic Light that has been transmitted by those peoples who lived (in an illusorily sense, since time-space is essentially an illusion utilized in certain planetary systems) during the millennia preceding our present era." -DK

Roy describes the crystal skulls as guides to profound, ageless wisdom, as she teaches how readers might receive the Divine energy that can, when accepted, transform the world. To that end, the book contains nine full-color photos of the Daikomyo-zo Chenrezi skull, showing extraordinary evidence of chakras and other channels of communication between open-hearted individuals and the spiritual potential of the skull. Finally, the book provides two guided meditations with which readers may connect deeply and naturally with the wisdom of the skull, thereby becoming allies of Divine evolution.

Editorial Note: Klaire D. Roy said, "We are not alone in the universe. Invaluable tools have been gifted to us by evolved beings who desire to see us progress... as much on the spiritual, physical and technological planes as on the scientific."

Simon Warwick-Smith, Reviewer

Smeetha Bhoumik's Bookshelf

At The Kinnedgad Home for the Bewildered
Jeffrey Levine
Salmon Poetry
9781912561384, $14.95, PB, 84pp,

'At the Kinnegad Home for the Bewildered' is a collection of poetry by Jeffrey Levine that dots the passage between heaven & earth, cosmic and human, romance and loss with a deeply felt bond transcending boundaries. The throb of appreciation and understanding reverberates in the reader in jolts of quiet recognition. It is a cerebral-sensual immersion into the poet's elevated thought process, a mutual exploration of oneness. The imagery and expression are exquisite.

A Journey into Light & Transcendence
In the Heart of Romance

In the mysterious labyrinths of a poet's luminous lines, the present, the past and the future surface together in slow motion, as if in a dream. Tender wisps of their motion erupt in colour and set out in different directions; you are in the centre, sprouting wings, all set to sail.

Visions accompany the reading in a rapt and gradual appearance of imagery, quite involuntary, with nothing in common except light and the dance of shadows in it.

For example the first few poems brought forth a lighted cathedral, some pastel roses on a sun-lit table, an undulating imagined landscape in green, a beggar, or was it a blue God holding a flute and thoughts of transcendence? These are the ones i remember, some are conjured up and there was more. It was as if the feelings and emotions evoked by words strung together in fairy lights got translated into imagery!

The book as a lantern
.....all through the night, the light glowed !

This book arrived at a moment when a tumultuous phase was just beginning for me, with a change of residence along with pets who are greatly discomfited by such shifts. Its been a roller-coaster ride so far for us, my husband and I, and the terrified little ones.

I read the first part of Kinnegad before the process began, then tried to read it through those harrowing days, and then again in measured tread after the dust settled a bit. The first part in the first phase filled me with wonder, conjuring up vivid imaginary scenes, an eager anticipation for what the book offered. As a poet reading a poet, as a human reading a spiritual soul, as a seeker reader a seeker, this book offers up the best elements of poetry and poetics - a slow soft convergence into oneness, an amalgamation of varying forms of existence and ideas. The cosmic and the individual moult and melt into each other, there's a vast assimilation beyond notional boundaries. The space between languages is where the poet scoops up inspiration, inspired by Sherwin Bitsui.

Levine starts the book with a quote from Sherwin Bitsui:

"The place between languages is something else."

The place between languages is where tumult travels, where ideas germinate, where fixed forms dissolve, where emotion and desire run free, untethered & unbounded. It's where space yields its elastic magic to accommodate transcendental leaps.

The space between languages, one could say, is where the creative emotions thrive. At The Kinnegad Home for the Bewildered there are elements of the deeply personal or strange new voyages, bonds across space and time that descend the skies into home and hearth and into the heart, as centuries old hues of wonder sparkle in new stories revealing the dots. Lovers in search of lost terrain, adored forms on new ground, in new light, amplified hope & tattered souls, the slow morphing of a river/a sea/a sky into something quite unimagined....

The mystery adheres, endows and amplifies understanding - that beyond words, beyond languages, is a realm where experience nestles wordlessly; waiting to be felt.

In the poet's words :

You beg for a signal - god loves me, she loves me not - a whisper, a
crumb of holy presence, and gods, in their infinite wisdom, and perhaps
overwhelmed by the avalanche of requests from so many tormented souls,
omit to answer.

He never, you notice, any more, answers.

Ilya Kaminsky puts it beautifully while introducing the book, as she says :

This opens up another interesting aspect of Jeffrey Levine's poetics: in this
book the secret, the visionary language, is far more likely to be found not in
the poet's address towards his innerscape, not in the obsession with personal
pronoun, but in his address towards other humans. This is a unique thing, this
spiritual drive that is always at its most apparent when it comes in relation to
others, in tenderness towards others. As in these beautiful lines that
announce both cosmic, yes, but also a very human connection:

A thousand and one sea gulls poised
on a shoal of white sand between the earth
and the watery parts of the world, which is why
Rabbi Joshua ben Karha says, "You know
that your son is mortal?"

Reading Levine has offered me vast open poetic spaces where even turbulence quietens to a throbbing hum

As we moved in batches and in circles around our new home, this thought crossed our minds too, both human and feline -

I believe there is no place in this world that is not
an unreal dwelling.

Yes, we felt, we only ever live in love.

A Midsummer Night's Basho

I had made up my mind
I blew out the candle.
My head whirled in the dark with my future.
It was almost absurdly easy.
A midsummer's night.
The dark trees lashing one another,
humming the words of Basho into the wind:
I believe there is no place in this world that is not
an unreal dwelling.

Many times I had to stop, hold my breath, ponder over the lines while they opened unforeseen worlds in altogether new and unexpected terrain. A cornucopia of voyages across time, space and knowing. Consider this :

Figure 1 Loperello Considers the Heavens

What I meant to say, my master bequeathed to me an old book on the
poisons of madness, a map of forest monasteries, a chronicle brought across
the sea in Sanskrit slokas. I hold all these within his arias, he tells the poet's
wife with the large red mouth and the long fine nose, his hand sketching
notes in her Andalusian hair.

I hold his voice the way astronomers in the markets of wisdom draw
constellations for each other calculating the movement of the great stars
saying these, as he shows his latest where, precisely, heaven and where,
exactly, hell.

I remember putting down the book once and returning to it much later...perhaps after waking up from a deep sleep. I had begun to read with a smile of pure happiness at the way a poem unfolded. Went back to read it again and found that it was the index of part 2 of the book!
At the Kinnegad Home for the Bewildered, Low-Hanging Orb, Smudged Green, A Midsummer Night's Basho, Blue, and Calling 50 Frogs, [Figure 3, Imagine the body as hand], At supper the child, Riverbeds in which The garden began with a large black crow turned like the world, upside-down Xanthippe, Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde, or religious as if I were French? The Art of Aqueducts, Notes from the Book of Frailty, Task Me, Trapeze Me, The Inch-Wide Heart 63 And What of the Redhead in the Supermarket? Squander boxes heaped into other boxes 66 Whiplash Beauty, an Offering, Stealing the Fundamental Tongs, Getting It Right
The index appeared to read like a perfectly formed poem in my bemused state of happy waking !

Or was it the poet's craft?

Stopped. Started reading all over again, right from the beginning.

An entirely new voyage this time, with the same poems.

Like an old melody had just played and vanished, its whisper lingering in the mind, a soft smile on the lips. The gaze is rapt but far away....looking up into a molten blue-white sky flowing soundlessly, the way skies do.

A Spell

I'm wearing the Arctic sky for you, and here's a garden where Judas trees
blossom in the lanterned light. You may enter. I'm a soft-hearted man.
Bring your basket woven of panga panga wood filled with herbs and spices.
Bring your fires, amaze the toucans, charm the cockatiels. Ring.

You may well know what happens as thoughts from turning leaves of the book enter the mind, the consciousness, the impressionable cells of the body that respond to nuances ?

The reader as a fountain of emotion, a splash of feelings, tastes the lightening & thunder of words in sacred hues....the skies seem to open up baring all history, the majesty of existence, the dull despair of drops of water falling into a tin can, moss growing on walls.... mould....or even unexpected glistening futures made of old ! The sound of oneness builds a gradual recognition as it unfolds...

'We were wrapped in each other's thoughts, collecting and inhaling, immobile like the lions. We found ourselves at the center of a passionate chastity. The garden began. Ibises, windfall tulips, twothousand-year-old storks. A large black crow, which time and weather had painted completely black, passing by to the west of its own immobility noticed that we were unsurprised to find it upside down, knowing from our intimacies that we were all of the same garden, obeying the same laws....'

In each, the egg of the universe....

Egg of the Universe

I am not so remote as you suppose, having burned a hole in the heavens,
having charged your foil dishes, your mercury-slick saucers with runic warp
and crackle. I'd recovered from that first thump of creation, that instant the
egg of the universe sizzled into being on His upturned palm, and here, look,
I offer to resume my life among the mortals, sponging halva and phulka
from the shopkeepers, squeezing through the bazaar in my ragged tunic.
Look how far I've come, and pity me my journey. But who would erase the
folly of my flight?

Once, an image of a dark ominous sky loomed up with faint traces of light edging it, stray lines of silver streaking through the darkness piercing the heart.... was it centuries ago...or just yesterday? Rembrandt or any of his worthy successors at work in an atelier soaking in unconscious surges this play of light and shadow, this doom and glow, every nerve and sinew of a sensitive being alive to the intense play of cosmic energy conveyed on canvas....light and shadow....the essence of life....the fabric of morality....the basis of poetics...

The Sorrows of Our Gods

If our gods could be seen we would squander our lives with staring, while
here, in front of me among the trees, even the rising mist makes a clarifying
light, lifting the curtain bottom to top, turning tree to tree, bird to bird,
bark to bark.

To an Indian the 'Conversation with Rembrandt' is exceptional because of the 'tongues'

Lucretia Just After

In Conversation with Rembrandt
I take flight, I land in the middle of a tongue,
inside a tongue we cannot die, here
the wind always blows, no work is motionless,
the limit is not a limit, what I cannot have in one tongue
I have in another, from one tongue to the other, I leap,
and on a river bank or a slow barge our trumpets bloom.

We here, live in several tongues, and find in one what is not afforded in another...indeed, what maybe denied in another !

We here, live in words, in languages, they are really home; as sweet as the sound of belonging.

If I must accuse myself, it's only of committing
to dreams, as tonight I reenter the land of lost lands
in the body of lost bodies .The storm grows bold,
reaches every floor, spreads its rough hands over
the Sky's Asia, piles victory upon victory, in fever....

A few years ago I had said that 'The Universe is a huge, roaring, tumbling, gigantic, expanding installation of poetry, whichever way you look at it. There is poetry in its light, and in its unearthly shadows too, all of creation can be seen as poetic expression...'.

Kinnegad brings this observation to life in a thousand different ways, unravelling the miracles of poetry in almost every facet of life - material, spiritual, philosophical, romantic, melancholic and of course euphoric.

Faith, just so, a fractious thing, and if so then, Freud is even harder, who
supposes that we're all made of disobedient little lover material enshrined
in our heavenly bodies. If you had to choose one or the other, the flow of
blood to the brain or to the loins, we'd be better off growing fat like anactuary in an office, plunging soft sponge cakes into our coffee.

So why shouldn't you ask? Will there be another kiss, is this or that volcano at
the point of eruption, with a libido of igneous magma yet the heart of an angel?

Light the candle, conjure up that halo
of amber light, reveal the dancing shapes
upon walls that weep with tears of dampness,
the fallen ceilings, the unhinged doors,

Levine brings to life the gifts of great artists in poetic discourse, his tribute to art, artists & poetry, and the indelible bond between the two. It is one of the most marvellous moments in his poetics.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. NicolaesTulp

In conversation with Rembrandt
in a breathless hand-to-hand battle -
legs shackled, gripping himself with each brushstroke,
wrenching his arm from his arm, his chest crushed
by his chest, himself turned against himself,
painting beyond painting, bloody, skinned, his teeth
clenched upon the cry, painting his prey, painting astride
a foaming horse, pursuing an army in retreat,
and in the end racing over the body of Aris Kindt fast
becoming a famous canvas beneath his feet.

He burst out laughing, drunk with his own genius.
"I conquered Rembrandt," he told his wife,
"and I led him to victory."

"One day," he murmured at dinner, "I'll end up
painting astride my own corpse."

The studio behind the door seemed inaccessible
even to Rembrandt.A dream. No one would see
what he had painted. Not even himself.

As for Levine's philosophy, it can be seen as an all-encompassing embrace of loss, a potent spell for the right kind of living :

With each passing hour I lose the memory of the house.
Here's how to think of this loss as something noble.
Just as we lose one day the taste of the bread of joy
and the memory of joy, so also will we one day lose
that tenacious taste of sorrow.
Even the earth forgets.
This is its strange privilege.
It's only hell that falls prey to memory.

And in the right kind of living, you step everywhere, meet everyone, see in each other the sparkling amazement of the divine

How our small planet spins inside this larger earth, our faith in the rope-
makers. Leaping and taut, how the night stretches like the bow.
At the shepherd's shoulder a waterman shouts, and along the streets, still
roughly laid out, doorways open or half-open where a carpenter works his
plane. Or, in another variation, a smith strikes his anvil in a festival of
sparks, and farther on someone takes pies from an oven that glows like a
cat's mouth

For example, when I imagine what it would be like
to be Jackson Pollock in the act of doing what he did
it feels natural to vocalize and at times to dance.Yet.
If you played a jig, reel or hornpipe in a church
when I was young you'd have been excommunicated
on the spot, or sent here, to the Kinnegad Home for the Bewildered,

You may do as you please, At The Kinnegad Home for the Bewildered, sit and contemplate, or dance in joy, perhaps weep copious tears to your heart's content ( I have ) and come out feeling yourself a part of the rose, the thorn, the leper and the king !

Working with the Lepers
Pluck this world from our vision of love. Bless the wounds.

Smeetha Bhoumik

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944
Anne de Courcy
St. Martin's Press
9781250177070, $28.99

Per the author, Anne de Courcy, this book isn't intended to be a definitive biography of Coco Chanel. It is more of a biography of a place - the French Riviera before and during the Second World War. Because the Riviera was such a hot spot, it attracted the rich and famous and infamous, including Chanel and her many lovers. De Courcy covers a broad range of characters such as Winston Churchill, Aldous Huxley, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and a number of Americans, such as the Singer Sewing Machine family - and all their hedonistic lifestyles. The writing on much of this was so superficial as to be skimmable and the number of names dropped so copious that I found it difficult to keep track of them - they seemed like lists of the well-do-do.

The second half of the book saves the first half as De Courcy gave me some insights into pre-WWII France and the "impregnable" Maginot line as she details the treatment of Jewish immigrants as they fled from Nazi Germany. Not until World War Two actually begins, does the writing settle into a more cohesive story. De Courcy describes the devastating effects of German occupation on the lives of refugees, Jews, expatriates and other foreigners along with French citizens on either side of the conflict.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

City of Lies
Sam Hawke
Tor Books
9781250306685, $28.99

City of Lies is Sam Hawke's debut novel, and it's a strong one with hefty doses of battle and intrigue blended with murder mystery. Told in the dual points of view of brother and sister, Jovan and Kalina, both of whom are very intelligent, strong personalities, flawed yet sympathetic. Jovan, who battles obsessive-compulsive disorder, is trained to detect poisons so he can protect his best friend, the future leader of Silasta. Kalina has a weak constitution, probably from birth, but worsened by the ordeals of being poisoned to increase her immunity.

I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on poisons and the creatively made-up plants, symptoms, and ways to diagnose and detect them. Equally impressive was Hawke's use of class distinctions and the manipulation of most of the population by the upper classes to maintain their upper hand and to grow progressively more wealthy - a literary example of what is happening around the world today.

Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus
Gayle Brandeis
Black Lawrence Press
9781625570123, $17.95

Many Restless Concerns is a dark yet beautiful, lyrical, and enchanting read. I read this prose/poetry novel in one sitting, then immediately flipped to the beginning. Though the horror was difficult to endure even the first time, Brandeis's haunting words pulled me back into the story. I found it very compelling that the book addressed me, the reader, directly involving me in the plight of these young females.

Between 1585 and 1609, a Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed, allegedly killed 650 girls aged ten to fourteen to become the world's most prolific female murderer. Not satisfied with simple killing, she used masochistic methods which Brandeis staggers across the page - stab, strangle, pummel, hack, burn, drown, freeze, scald - ensuring that each stands alone, yet joined to the others, so the reader sees and feels the pain these girls endured. They cry out: "Your body remembers even when you no longer have a body, some tender part of you still flinches; some immaterial nerves still flare." I found it very compelling that the book addressed me, the reader, directly involving me in the plight of these young females.

Because Brandeis tells her story from the points of view of the victims, she avoids the fetishization of Bathory's killings. She begs the reader to not look away, but to remember her nameless victims, not the perpetrator. Not only should we not look away from Bathory's victims, we should stand witness to the countless women who are harmed around the world on a daily basis.

Remaining Aileen
Autumn Lindsey
Magnolia Press
9780578475165, $15.99

Remaining Aileen is author Autumn Lindsey's debut novel. Lindsey provides new nuances to vampire lore as she twists women's fiction and vampire paranormal to produce a unique blend that is at times light-hearted and at others vampire-dark.

Aileen is a mom's mom, facing mountains of laundry, two girls, and a body that at thirty is beginning its downhill descent. But things go to hell in a hand basket when she decides to take a weekend away from her family. The plane she's on crashes. Everyone dies but her. When she comes out of her coma, she is not only uninjured, but has survived because she's been turned into a vampire. Once she's out of the hospital, Aileen finds new challenges, including wanting to suck her husband's blood and having to run out of the house to avoid eating her children.

Remaining Aileen provides a terrific sense of place from forests laden with deer and their beating hearts to the cozy home Aileen shares with husband and children. The characters are well-developed, especially the children. A fun read, despite the darkness of its life-after-death themes.

Salt the Snow
Carrie Callaghan
Amberjack Publishing
9781948705646, $24.99

Salt the Snow is Carrie Callaghan's sophomore novel. She moves from the Netherlands in the 1630s to Moscow in the 1930s, from an artist (Judith Leyster) to a tough American journalist (Milly Bennett), bringing life to real women lost in historical obscurity.

Bennett will not be a likable protagonist for many readers. She's an idealist (though a diehard socialist), brash, irreverent, sexually active, and a bit of a lush. But she is real, a complex human being on many levels: self-sufficient, tough, but also lonely and unworthy of love. She's strong enough to have covered news stories in San Francisco, Hawaii, China, Bolshevik Russia, and later Spain.

Milly works for an English-language Russian newspaper in Moscow, where the new communist government is bent on eradicating the bourgeousie and upper classes. The basic necessities of life are missing: food, heat, clothing. Housing is in such short supply that communal living is mandatory as are forced labor camps and gulags. Milly must tread carefully to avoid getting herself, and later her Russian husband, in trouble.

I found the third section of the novel most compelling. When Milly leaves Moscow to cover the Spanish Civil War, she's finally able to write freely. I would have liked more insight into the causes of that war and why Americans and other nationalities joined the fight.

Writers & Lovers
Lily King
Grove Press
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802148537, $27.00

Lily King's Writers & Lovers is an extraordinary novel. As a writer I appreciate King's efforts at capturing the life of a writer. This is King's fifth novel and good enough that I'll backtrack and read her prior works.

Her protagonist, Casey Peabody, is fascinating. She's processing the sudden death of her mother with whom she's relatively recently reconciled as well as living with the knowledge that her father was a complete ass. She's been in a series of disastrous failed relationships and has fears of never being loved. To support herself, however poorly, while working on her novel (going on six years now) she works as a waitress in an upscale restaurant. She's overwhelmed by student loan debt, medical problems, and relationship problems. She endures sexism both in the restaurant and in the writing world. Her hopes, fears, missteps, and triumphs are emotionally compelling.

King's beautifully documents every aspect of Casey's character. Casey's insights into the world of writing are fascinating and often humorous - and I feel at least somewhat autobiographical. I enjoyed reading her thoughts about books, literary criticism, and teaching high school literature. The prose linguistically sophisticated, but clean and uncluttered.

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an impartial review.

Walking after Midnight
C.S. Fuqua
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781539499572, $18.95

Walking after Midnight is a sixty-one story collection of C.S. Fuqua's short stories, a mix of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and southern gothic miniature masterpieces. I am not much of a horror fan, but these stories weren't "gory" horror, but more of unexpected happenings that send a piquant shiver down your spine. Fuqua's writing is splendid. He captures the nuances of American language and the American soul with these gems, some of which are heartbreaking. Each story is packed with details that make images spring to life within the reader's mind. I particularly enjoyed the brief forward to each story in which Fuqua describes its origins - and they are many: Native American tales, stories from his family, from Vietnam veterans, music, all beautifully captured.

The Invisibles
Rachel Dacus
Time Fold Books
9780578587585, $10.99

In her second novel, Rachel Dacus continues her love affair with Italy and uses it as the setting of The Invisibles. Two sisters torn apart by their personalities - Saffron is creative and carefree while her older sister, Elinor, has buried her romantic self in spreadsheets and dollar signs - are brought together by the death of their father and their inheritance from him - a house on the Italian coast. Two ghosts, two boyfriends, and one kidney assist in their reunion. Author Dacus does a superb job bringing the village of Lerici to life, from the smells of the sea to the pungency of the local olive oil, and showing how the Italian way of life changes both women. An enjoyable, romantic read.

Taming the Shopping Bug: My Year of Minimalist Shopping
Marti McGinnis
DogTrot Press
9781713335610, $14.95

Taming the Shopping Bug is a graphic book that chronicles Ms. McGinnis's year of mindful shopping. It is illustrated with cute graphics that carry a serious message. She also brings in some of the psychology of why we shop and feel compelled to over-consume products. She also talks about her "Need-O-Meter" with which she filters potential purchases. This is a great guide for those not quite ready to Marie-Kondo their lives but wanting to cut down some.

Neon Empire
Drew Minh
Rare Bird Books
9781947856769, $16.00

Neon Empire is a dystopian novel in keeping with works by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. The author vividly describes a plausible near-future world in which social media is even more overt than it is now. The city, Eutopia, has been built on a Native American Reservation and thus can avoid various legalities in other parts of America. Eutopia is like Las Vegas on steroids, with various sections of the city duplicating the Old World (Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc) as Europe is now under travel advisories. The buildings, like the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, are shells with the insides being stores for high-end consumer goods (Apple, trendy Italian designers, etc), spas, and casinos. Tourists can monetize their stays in the city. Life there is frenzied and glittering while f filled with drugs, sex, and murder and other violent crimes (some of which are staged and other real).

The world-building and story were enough to keep me turning pages. Jaded, manipulative, self-centered, and self-promoting, the characters were appropriate, in keeping with life in Eutopia, though not necessarily agreeable to read. There is a big plot point left hanging in the air, so perhaps a sequel is in order?

Not an enjoyable read, but a necessary one, as our culture is becoming more and more dominated by social media. Neon Empire shows us where we are heading - and it's scarier than 1984.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Sublime Book Review

Fallible: a memoir of a young physician's struggle with mental illness
Kyle Bradford Jones
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540 Castroville, TX 78009
9781684334551, $20.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 348pp,

This is an eye-opening memoir about mental illness and the medical profession delivered in a well-written, interesting, and engaging style.

Sublime Book Review

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Half on Tuesdays
Amy E. Whitman
Brandylane Publishers
5 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781947860711, $16.95, PB, 274pp,

Synopsis: At first, Summer doesn't want to use the journal her mother gave her for her birthday. But soon she realizes that boyfriend issues, girl drama, and school worries can be worked through by writing them down. When Summer's mom is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, the journal becomes Summer's loyal confidant and trusted advisor. Pouring her heart into her cherished gift as her world falls apart around her, perhaps Summer will find a new way to connect with the mother she loves so much.

Critique: Written in the literary form of diary journaling, "Half on Tuesdays" impressively showcases author Amy Whitman's genuine flair for originality and a the kind of narrative storytelling that will fully engage the reader from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for highschool and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Half on Tuesdays" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Salty, Bitter, Sweet
Mayra Cuevas
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780310769774, $18.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Aspiring chef Isa's family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father's new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, "why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom" conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa's world being turned upside-down?

Her father's house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard's renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order -- and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa's stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

How can Isa expect to hold it together when she's at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?

Critique: An impressively and deftly crafted novel by an author with a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling, "Salty, Bitter, Sweet" by Mayra Cuevas will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both school and community library YA fiction collections for teen readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Salty, Bitter, Sweet" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780310769767, $10.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781690588894, $22.99, CD).

World's Wackiest Animals
Anna Poon, author
Lonely Planet Publications
150 Linden Street, Oakland CA 94607
9781788687577, $9.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: By browsing through the pages of "World's Wackiest Animals", children ages 6-8 will enjoy taking a walk on the wacky side as author Anna Poon reveals 100 of the world's strangest looking animals. From glass frogs and mole lizards to umbrella birds and fishing spiders, get ready to discover crazy creatures and rare species from every continent!

On land, kids will encounter the egg-eating snake and satanic leaf-tailed gecko from Africa; the chinstrap penguin and narwhal from the Arctic Circle; the Bornean bearded pig and snub-nosed monkey from Asia; the frilled dragon and superb bird-of-paradise from Australia; the hoopoe and Etruscan shrew from Europe; the ghost-faced bat and magnificent frigatebird from North America; the Brazilian horned frog and red-lipped batfish from South America; and lots more!

Then they will plunge into the dark depths of the oceans to meet the hairy frogfish, immortal jellyfish, crown-of-thorns starfish, and the mimic octopus.

Who will be crowned the world's wackiest?

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with full color photography, "World's Wackiest Animals" is as fun as it is informative to simply page through -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for young readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "World's Wackiest Animals" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Son of Happy
Cary Fagan, author
Milan Pavlovic, illustrator
Groundwood Books
c/o House of Anansi Press
110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5V 2K4
9781773061788, $18.95, HC, 44pp,

Synopsis: "Son of Happy" is the story of a little boy who never wants to go to his friends' birthday parties, because Happy the Clown is always there. And Happy is his dad! He wishes his dad had a regular job, like all the other kids' parents. He didn't mind his dad being a clown when he was a little kid, but now it's just embarrassing. And even worse, since business is slow, his dad is putting a sign on the front lawn advertising his clown services!

But one night at dinner Dad announces that he's going back to his old job of being a lawyer. "You were a lawyer?" the boy asks, incredulous. Now his dad wears a suit and tie to work, the family can buy a new car, his mom can take piano lessons, and he can have a skateboard and cellphone. But something feels different. The boy wonders if his dad misses being a clown. Or is he the one who misses Happy?

With bittersweet humor, "Son of Happy" is a impressively entertaining story for young readers ages 6-9 about a boy's growing consciousness and a father's realization that he can be himself.

Critique: Son of Happy is a profound children's picturebook about the bond between father and son, and about deciding upon one's place in the world. While unreservedly recommended for elementary school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Son of Happy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.95).

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Z-isms: Insights to Live By
Matt Zinman
ZU Publishing, Inc.
9781734678109, $16.95, 238 Pages

So, you like I wonder, what is a Z-isms? Well Z-ism is "A personal insight, wit or experience one shares to positively impact the lives of as many people as possible to leap beyond limits." This is what the author Matt Zinman defines it as, and this is what he has achieved in this inspirational book. He has called upon his various life experiences, and those of others, given guidelines, and inspired his readers to begin a new chapter of life, armed with the tools needed to achieve success.

In order to write this motivational piece he asked himself what he wished his younger self would have known, what life lessons he had learnt which others would benefit from knowing, and lastly what lessons could he take forwards and use as a guide to living his best life?

Upon reflection on these things this book was born, and throughout writing it the author has not only examined his life experiences but also candidly laid before his readers the impact they have had on him. In becoming the man he is today he realised that he had a burning need and passion for these experiences to be shared, and that the lessons learnt could help others to achieve their full potential.

By identifying people either as Spiders or those who get caught in their webs, he encourages us to examine the type of person we, and those we surround ourselves are. Then he offers advice on how to improve ourselves, fulfil our dreams, be aware of our shortcomings, and yet be sensitive to others. He provides all the inspiration and motivation which is needed to become who we really want to be, teaching us how to build and reinforce confidence, and instilling in us the importance of a healthy lifestyle, exercising, sleeping, and eating well.

In doing these things, Matt Zinman encourages his readers to improve themselves, and their world, go forward positively and make the changes. He also encourages us to call upon our own experiences to strengthen our resolve and listen to our gut instincts.

To facilitate this, in the final chapter he sets down a formula for success which he suggests is instigated in bite sized chunks, and worked upon to make our dreams and aspirations come to fruition.

In writing this book Matt Zinman has provided each and every one of his readers with a blue print for success, both in business, and in life, it is now up to us to embrace it. Highly recommended!

Available from Amazon:

Health, Happiness & Destiny Come from Wise Choices: Why You Shouldn't Ask Your Doctor (White Horse Series)
Richard Ruhling
Total Health
9781087811949, $7.82, 200 Pages

Everyone, young, old, fit or unfit, will benefit greatly from reading this eye-opening book by Richard Ruhling, MD. Now retired, he graduated from Loma Linda University in California, and has a Master's Degree in Public Health, is board-certified in Internal Health, and also was trained in cardiology before teaching Health Science at Loma Linda.

However, it was life experiences, and reading studies by the longevity and nutritionist Nathan Pritikin, who extolled the virtues of eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet, and other then revolutionary health professionals, which inspired him to change his lifestyle. It wasn't long before the virtues these changes bought about were evident to him, and he was compelled to share these findings with others.

The emphasis is on you taking control of what you eat. It is your choice to make sure that you eat good quality, whole grain food, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to keep you in the best health possible. Then on the flip side, he explains the dangers of consuming meat and fish. The sources of their hidden toxins are exposed, and these findings enable the reader to study the evidence for themselves, and realize how detrimental to health they are. These toxins will silently ravage the body, and eventually destroy us physically, in the manifestation of the terrible diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer, which are now common in our society.

He also looks as smoking, and alcohol, examines their impact on our bodies and mental wellbeing, then offers helpful advice on how it is possible to overcome them.

As I read through the book I quickly realized how important the teachings of the scriptures are to the author. His faith and knowledge of the teachings, along with scientific findings, videos and article links, are used to provide powerful pointers, accentuating for the reader the important part they play in achieving total mind and body health.

In the latter part of the book, he examines in more depth the importance of a strong foundation of loving Christian family for children's life is important, and that on these foundations a caring and humanitarian life can be sought.

In conclusion, in writing this book the author has quintessentially given his readers the tools they require, through examples and links, to take their destiny in their own hands and live a better and healthier life, however only they can do it.

Available from Amazon:

Memoirs of a Former Fatty: How one girl went from fat to fit
Gemma Dale
CreateSpace Independently Publishing Platform
9781543184549, $6.57, 104 Pages

First off I have to say that I loved this book!

Having already lost some weight, but desperately needing to lose more, I was immediately drawn to this book's title, and once I started reading it, I was hooked!

Gemma Dale writes her frank book from personal experience, or should I say experiences which she (sometimes bravely) shares no-holds-barred with her readers. She connects with them on every level, and it is refreshing, or perhaps worrying to discover that my thoughts and cunning sabotages aren't unique to me, she has experienced them too!

From the very beginning, when she explains where she came from four years previous, weight wise, and emotionally, warts and all, her readers are made to feel quite at home. Her experiences as a 'fatty' whether in photos, comments, or occasions, are such that most of us who have been there can relate to.

From there she goes on to dispel some of the weight loss and diet plan myths, and explain that the simple fact is it is calories in v exercise which is the real 'secret' to losing weight.

She honestly admits that sometimes she doesn't feel like exercise, and that there really is 'no excuse' for not being able to fit it in, "If you want something you will find a way, if not you will find an excuse." This comment is so true that I have in fact put it as my screensaver, just in case I find it convenient to forget.

I so loved reading the content of this book, it is inspiring and so refreshing to read, especially since at the end she admits to not being perfect. I've even straight away downloaded her book 'Be Your Own Wellbeing Coach,' so motivated I feel from her words.

If you want motivation for your own weight loss journey, want to read a very human story, and have a laugh whilst learning some solid home truths about how we sabotage ourselves, or you just want a good read, then this is the book for you.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Tracy Riva's Bookshelf

The Secret Brokers
Alexandrea Weis
Vesuvian Books
9781944109202, $17.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 380pp,

Ms. Weis comes up with an intriguing storyline for this novel. It pounds with excitement and in some ways puts me in mind of Ian Fleming and his 007 character. Weis' Dallas August character definitely puts me in mind of Bond, with the exception being that Dallas doesn't work for the government anymore or have tricked out cars.

Weis does a great job of writing in a manner that makes suspension of beliefs easy and you are able to fall into the novel with no trouble. Her characters are interesting if just a tad cliche here and there.

I found the novel to be exceedingly interesting and it had me holding my breath frequently as I read it. It's also full of twists and turns I hadn't seen coming, though in some cases I should have. Definitely a spellbinding read I highly recommend.

Tracy Riva

Uri Singer's Bookshelf

Gods of Our Time: A Paris Love Story
Michael Bowker
Sixty Degrees Publishing
9781733432191, $14.95, PB, 257pp,

TaleFlic: BRIEF Paris, 1925. An American journalist, tasked by an upscale magazine with interviewing some of the greatest writers and artists of his time, ponders if he has what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder with names like Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. Meanwhile, a French nurse tries to cope with memories from World War I, when she lost it all. Life will bring them together in an unlikely love story. WHAT WE LIKED A charming recreation - both dramatic and visual - of a pivotal point in the last century in which artists were truly "Gods Of Our Time", the story combines the awe of romantic, 1920s Paris with drama and the heavy traumas caused by war. The mixture creates interesting characters and life journeys, bringing the audience along for the ride, as a love story blossoms from a series of unlikely, yet fascinating coincidences.

TV: The episodic nature of lead man Jake's interviews with numerous artists would make for an interesting narrative device, basing each episode on each one of these encounters and how they inform his actions - and, consequently, how he interacts with all others. The themes of each interview are also susceptible to a parallel with nurse Sophie's life, even if she doesn't actually takes part in them. Film: A film, apart from being a glaring period piece, would convey great performances with complete and satisfying narrative arcs; and a truly touching love story, worth of a large following. The audience would also be enticed by the relationship between an innocent, relatable, well-mannered "farm boy", and the ones supposed to be the greatest artistic minds of the twentieth century.

SHORT SUMMARY Paris, 1925. Kansas City-based journalist Jake accompanies his girlfriend Margaret, the daughter of a famous publisher from New York, in order to interview great artists from that era for her father's magazine. Fascinated by the city, he struggles to find the words to actually connect with such legendary names - all the while pressured by Margaret and her group of friends to excel beyond his own expectations. Meanwhile, in a Parisian hospital, a nurse named Sophie does her best to ensure the well being of all patients, while she deals with losing her entire family in World War I.

After two extremely confrontational interviews with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, in which the artists belittle the interviewer as much as they can, Jake's confidence fully crumbles when the magazine repels his articles, claiming them to be below their standards. He wanders through the streets and bumps into Sophie. Although they don't see each other again right away, they both make an impression on one another.

Sophie can't stop thinking about her family and how several bombs completely destroyed her village during the first battles of the war, ten years prior. She ignores being courted by two different doctors from her hospital and rushes to the countryside, in order to help a childhood friend with depression - one of the few survivors from the village. Once there, she saves her just as the girl tries to hang herself. Back in Paris, drama is just as heightened; Jake and Margaret remain in the city, but he starts to feel her drifting away - going out on her own, disappearing for days and nights. Everything turns to worse when, during a dazzling party, he finds his girlfriend making love to a legendary painter - one he failed to properly interview. Furious, Jake goes running into the Parisian night just to be mugged and beaten, being left for dead.

As he is brought into the hospital, Jake and Sophie reunite under terrible circumstances - he's now blind, after the thief's attack left his eyes clogged with blood. Even without seeing, he and Sophie strongly bond over their love of art and poetry and the memory of their long departed parents. He tries to conjure up how she looks like by sensibly touching her face, to which she confesses to be the woman he bumped into a number of days earlier. When he leaves the hospital, they travel together to the remains of Sophie's village, where he helps her cope with her loss - and where they finally make love for the first time. As Jake starts to see flashes of light, indicating his sight is coming back, they vow to stay together forever.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Bowker is a bestselling author and investigative journalist specializing in telling the human stories behind today's health, science, and environmental issues. His books and articles have been published by over 200 publications, including Simon & Schuster, The Los Angeles Times, and Reader's Digest.

Uri Singer, Reviewer
CEO of Passage Pictures

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

In Search of the Good Life
Corey Miller
Pickwick Publications
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781532653216, $26.00, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: "In Search of the Good Life: Through the Eyes of Aristotle, Maimonides, and Aquinas" by Corey Miller directly address the question of 'What is the Good Life?' The reader will learn from some of the greatest minds in Greek, Jewish, and Christian thought and comparing those thoughts to reveal a new apex reached in the age-old question concerning the relationship of Jerusalem and Athens, faith and reason.

Few have been more influential in Judaism and Christianity than Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas, yet Aristotle influenced them both in significant ways. By adopting and adapting some of Aristotle's best thinking, the reader can appreciate Maimonides' and Aquinas' search for the Good Life from their respective views, ranging from the fall to human perfectibility.

"In Search of the Good Life" also examines human nature, the human telos, and how each would prescribe the route to the Good Life. For all three, it is ultimately about the knowledge of God.

But what does that mean? The comparative approach is more illuminating than if considered in isolation. Comparatively, Aristotle's approach may be characterized as informational, Maimonides' as instructional, and Aquinas' as pneumatic-relational. The role of faith as a virtue in both Maimonides and Aquinas makes a substantive difference over Aristotle's in philosophical and practical ways. It is used to exploit their accounts of the human fall, moral perfection, and ultimate human perfection -- the knowledge of God.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "In Search of the Good Life: Through the Eyes of Aristotle, Maimonides, and Aquinas" is an extraordinary study and one that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented that it will appeal to both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. Also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "In Search of the Good Life" is an especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Philosophy collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: Corey Miller is President/CEO of Ratio Christi: Campus Apologetics Alliance. He has taught nearly one hundred courses in the fields of philosophy, comparative religions, theology, and rhetorical communication. He is coauthor of Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds (2017) and coeditor of Is Faith in God Reasonable? Debates in Philosophy, Science, and Rhetoric (2014).

The Book of Kells
Bernard Meehan
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500480243, $19.95, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book, created by Celtic monks c. 800 AD. A compendium showcasing 98 full color illustrations from this historic volume, "The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating introduction to The Book of Kells.

Critique: Supported with impressively well presented and descriptive commentaries by Bernard Meehan, (who was head of research collections and keeper of manuscripts at Trinity College, Dublin, where the Book of Kells is on permanent exhibition), "The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Celtic Art History collections and supplemental studies lists.

And Then They Were Gone
Judy Bebelaar & Ron Cabral
Sugartown Publishing
9780998709680, $26.95, PB, 299pp,

Synopsis: Wikipedia sums it up best. -- The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better known by its informal name "Jonestown", was a remote settlement established by the Peoples Temple, a cult under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally known when, on November 18, 1978, a total of 918 people died in the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and at a Temple-run building in Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.

In total, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some Peoples Temple members on an audio tape of the event, and in prior recorded discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan, an act that Jones ordered. Four other Temple members committed murder-suicide in Georgetown at Jones' command.

Terms used to describe the deaths in Jonestown and Georgetown evolved over time. Many contemporary media accounts after the events called the deaths a mass suicide. In contrast, most sources today refer to the deaths with terms such as mass murder-suicide, a massacre, or simply mass murder. Seventy or more individuals at Jonestown were injected with poison, and a third of the victims (304) were minors. Guards armed with guns and crossbows had been ordered to shoot those who fled the Jonestown pavilion as Jones lobbied for suicide.

Jonestown resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.

Critique: With respect to events leading up to the Jonestown massacre that was ordered by the cult's leader Jim Jones, there was considerable history and manipulation behind the scenes and when the cult was still in California, the teenagers went to a high school in the nearby town. "And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown" by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral is a somber memorial of the children who were lost. The Jonestown massacre underscores a hard earned lesson of history -- the cult of personality, whether in politics (Adolph Hitler, Mao Zedong) or in religion (Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, David Koresh) inevitably leads to tragedy and the massive loss of life. Impressively informative, expertly written, organized and presented, "And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

A History of Humanitarian Intervention
Mark Swatek-Evenstein
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107061927, $110.00, HC, 286pp,

Synopsis: The question of 'humanitarian intervention' has been a staple of international law for around 200 years, with a renewed interest in the history of the subject emerging in the last twenty years. "A History of Humanitarian Intervention" by Professor Mark Swatek-Evenstein (University of Bonn) provides a chronological account of the evolution of the discussion and uncovers the fictional narrative provided by international lawyers to support their conclusions on the subject, from justifications and arguments for 'humanitarian intervention', the misrepresentation of great power involvement in the Greek War of Independence in 1827, to the 'humanitarian intervention that never was', India's war with Pakistan in 1971. Relying on a variety of sources, some of them made available in English for the first time, "A History of Humanitarian Intervention" provides an undogmatic, alternative history of the fight for the protection of human rights in international law.

Critique: A work of detailed and meticulous scholarship, "A History of Humanitarian Intervention" is an extraordinary study that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twenty-eight page Bibliography and a nine page Index. While unreservedly recommended as a core addition to college and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, faculty members, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A History of Humanitarian Intervention" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $88.00).

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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