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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 2 February 2022 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Carl Logan's Bookshelf Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kirkus Reviews Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mark Walker's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf Mayra Calvani's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

The Science and Spirit of Seaweed
Amanda Swinimer
Harbour Publishing
9781550179613, $24.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Related to the most ancient living organisms on earth, seaweeds are incredible and unique life forms, sharing qualities with both plants and animals, as well as fungi. They have been prized as a nutrient-dense food source for millennia and contain essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, protein and fibre as well as biologically active compounds not found anywhere else in nature. Seaweeds are also a source for innovations combating climate change due in part to their ability to absorb massive quantities of carbon dioxide.

Based in the Pacific Northwest, home to the greatest cold-water seaweed diversity in the world, Amanda Swinimer has made her living from the sustainable harvest of seaweeds for over two decades. With the publication of "The Science and Spirit of Seaweed: Discovering Food, Medicine and Purpose in the Kelp Forests of the Pacific Northwest", Swinimer reflects on the journey that led to her successful seaweed harvesting business and provides identification information, ecologically sound harvesting techniques, traditional medicinal application and evidence-based health information for more than twenty varieties of seaweeds commonly found from California to Alaska. Swinimer also includes notes on culinary and skin-care uses for several types of seaweeds.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of vibrant underwater color photography, beautiful illustrations, as well as palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, wholesomely nutritious recipes, "The Science and Spirit of Seaweed: Discovering Food, Medicine and Purpose in the Kelp Forests of the Pacific Northwest" informatively conveys the benefits and wonder of living in harmony with the ocean.

Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Science and Spirit of Seaweed: Discovering Food, Medicine and Purpose in the Kelp Forests of the Pacific Northwest is a very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Marine Plant Biology and Seafood Cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Amanda Swinimer lives on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC, and holds a bachelor of science degree from Dalhousie University with an advanced major in Marine Biology. She has her own business, Dakini Tidal Wilds, hand-harvesting wild seaweed from the beaches and kelp forests surrounding her home, and she presents on seaweeds to diverse audiences.

Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games
Jorg Bewersdorff
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300., Boca Raton, FL 33487
9780367552961, $140.00, HC, 548pp

Synopsis: This newly updated and expanded second edition of "Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games" by Jorg Bewersdorff features new and much refreshed chapters, including an all-new Part IV on the problem of how to measure skill in games. Readers are also introduced to new references and techniques developed since the previous edition.

The new edition of "Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games" provides a uniquely historical perspective on the mathematical underpinnings of a comprehensive list of games. It is eminently suitable for a broad audience of differing mathematical levels. Covers a wide selection of topics at a level that can be appreciated on a historical, recreational, and mathematical level, anyone with a passion for games, game theory, and mathematics will enjoy "Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games", whether they be students, academics, or game enthusiasts

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, community, college, and university library Game Theory & Mathematics collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, dedicated gamers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Luck, Logic, and White Lies: The Mathematics of Games" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780367548414, $54.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $41.49).

Editorial Note: Jorg Bewersdorff (1958) studied mathematics from 1975 to 1982 at the University of Bonn and earned his PhD in 1985. In the same year, he started his career as game developer and mathematician. He served as the general manager of the subsidiaries of Gauselmann AG for more than two decades where he developed electronic gaming machines, automatic payment machines, and coin-operated Internet terminals.

Our National Monuments: America's Hidden Gems
QT Long, author
Terra Galleria Press
9781733576079, $55.00, HC, 308pp

Synopsis: With the stroke of a pen, the president of the United States can proclaim a national monument. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was enacted to provide an expedited means to protect areas of natural or cultural significance. Since then, 16 presidents have used the Act to preserve some of America' most treasured public lands and waters. In 2017, an unprecedented executive order by the Trump administration was issued questioning these designations by calling for the review of 27 national monuments across 11 states and two oceans, opening the threat of development to vulnerable and irreplaceable natural resources.

"Our National Monuments: America's Hidden Gems" is the first book of its kind to introduce these spectacular and unique landscapes. Ranging from the north woods of Maine to the cactus-filled deserts of Arizona, America's national monuments include vast lands rivaling the national parks in beauty, diversity, and historical heritage. These critically important landscapes are often under the radar, with limited visitor information available, yet offer considerable opportunities for solitude and adventure compared to bustling national parks.

Experienced national park photographer QT Luong has hiked and camped in the 22 land-based national monuments under review, aiming his lens at the grand vistas, archaeological wonders, and hidden delights along the way.

Accompanying this collection of 300 scenic photographs is an invaluable guide that includes maps, descriptions of the author's wide-ranging explorations and highlights for each of the monuments. Enhanced with introductory essays from leaders and activists of 27 conservation associations, "Our National Monuments: America's Hidden Gems" provides the perspective of citizens caring for each of these national treasures. Of Special note is the inclusion of an informative foreword by former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, as well as photographs of marine national monuments from Ansel Adams award-winning photographer Ian Shive to round out this comprehensive portrayal of America's hidden gems.

Critique: "Our National Monuments: America's Hidden Gems" invites armchair travelers and on-site vacationers to experience for themselves these lands and learn about the people and cultures who came before (and for whom these sites remain sacred places) with a renewed understanding and appreciation for how these essential landscapes are preserving America's past and shaping its future. Inherently fascinating, profusely and beautifully illustrated, informed and informative, "Our National Monuments: America's Hidden Gems" is fully and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library American National Park & Monument collections.

Also very highly recommended for library collections and personal reading lists is QT Luong's "Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks" (9781733576017, $65.00, HC, 492pp).

Editorial Note: QT Luong is a photographer and author known for being the first to photograph all 63 US National Parks - in large format. He is featured in the film The National Parks: America s Best Idea, and has been profiled in National Geographic Explorer, Outdoor Photographer, and Parks magazines. His photographs, which are the subject of four pictorial books, have appeared in Time, Life, Outside, Scientific American, GEO, numerous National Geographic publications, and hundreds of others worldwide. Luong's limited-edition prints are widely collected, and his ongoing traveling exhibition of large prints from all the national parks has shown in museums and galleries nationwide and abroad.

Carl Logan

Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf

Operation Pedestal: The Fleet That Battled to Malta, 1942
Max Hastings
HarperCollins Publishers
9780062980151, $35.00, HC, 428 pages

Historians of World War II don't usually focus upon the Mediterranean theatre of battle: The Allied invasion of Europe, the savage Armageddon of the Russian Front, and the vast canvas of the Pacific War all appear more momentous to them. Sir Max Hastings, however, in his dramatic and highly informative "Operation Pedestal: The Fleet That Battled to Malta, 1942" not only shows us exactly how important the Mediterranean theatre was, but also how large a part the tiny, British-controlled island of Malta played in the larger, global conflict.

Hastings, former editor of the British Telegraph and the Evening Standard, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and author of over 20 works of history and biography, informs us that since late 1940 Malta, less than 60 miles south of Sicily, had been subjected to naval blockade and aerial bombing, first by Italian Mussolini's air corps and later by Hitler's Luftwaffe. Through most of 1941 British ships brought food to the beleaguered inhabitants, fending off their imminent starvation. But with increased bombing - more bombing than London experienced during the 4-year Blitz - by 1942 the island was in perilous want of sustenance.

The author tells us that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill considered Malta of utmost importance to defend not only because it's geographical position strategically hindered German General Irwin Rommel's attack upon Egypt, but because it's loss "would be a crushing blow to national spirit... and self respect of the British Empire."

So with Churchill's and President Franklin Roosevelt's urging (America was technically not yet in the war), the greatest British naval flotilla, comprising battleships, destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers and minesweepers, and several American warships and cargo-liners, sailed past Gibraltar into the Mediterranean on August 10, 1942 to bring supplies to besieged Malta. In the next 4 days (August 11-15, 1942) the Royal Navy wound up fighting the most vicious, epic sea battle of modern history.

The highly respected Vice Admiral Neville Syfret, writes Hastings, was in command of the flotilla as it encountered unimaginable resistance from German and Italian naval and air forces. Relentlessly, battles dragged on and on in vivid, bloody scenes. The British aircraft carriers HMS Eagle is hit by enemy torpedos, quickly lists, and turns "turtle" (upside down). Sailor Mike Crossly, Hastings quotes, remembers "the screams and pitiful shouts of men's voices echoing up the engine room ventillators as they lay trapped below in darkness."

Crossly also recalls the "hundreds of heads bobbing around him in the water" and "was astonished to find some sailors singing" in all this watery madness.

Midshipman Mike McGuire reports that the noise of his ship's pom-pom guns blasting away at Luftwaffe fighters "was positively exhilarating... got in one's blood", as German submarines stalked British warships, sank them, moved onto other targets.

Under repeated bombing attacks and in flames, the British carrier H M S Indomitable, along with the "torn, battered, blackened, half-drowned" USS merchant ship Ohio, managed to sail back to the safety of Gibraltar. These 2 ships, and many others, were considered the "walking wounded" of the battle.

In this brutal, unprecedented conflict supply ships did manage to break through. Malta was saved. But casualties were appallingly high. And so was the number of ships sunk - - British, German, Italian.

With his "Operation Pedestal", filled with exciting battle scenes and tales of courage, Sir Max Hastings has given us a detailed, vivid rendering of the desperate 1942 Battle of Malta.

Chris Patsilelis

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Paraclete
Bernard Leo Remakus
Independently Published
9798723117464, $24.99, HC, 477pp

Synopsis: Several days after a world-renowned Catholic theologian meets a parish priest and 13-year-old altar boy at a church in San Diego, the young boy dresses in the vestments he wears while serving Mass and jumps to his death from the top of the Coronado Bridge.

When the theologian learns about the suicide and discovers the boy killed himself to avoid any further sexual abuse by his parish priest, the theologian blames himself for not having recognized their pedophilic relationship. Distraught, the theologian seeks the advice of an expert on pedophilia, an elderly priest who has spent his entire life working as a paraclete, or advocate of impaired priests.

Aided by a better of understanding of sexual predators in the priesthood and the accidental discovery of a naturally-occurring seed that contains a poison more lethal than ricin, the theologian returns to San Diego and visits the parish priest. His visit sets off a veritable epidemic of unexplained deaths among pedophilic priests in America.

Discovering a pattern to the unexpected deaths and suspecting the theologian is a serial killer, a veteran FBI special agent, whose husband was sexually abused by a priest as a child, finds herself in the middle of a moral dilemma. Watching from the sideline is a beautiful nun who is having a love affair with the theologian.

Critique: A deftly crafted suspense thriller of a novel whose subject of pedophile priests targeted by a serial killer, "The Paraclete" by Bernard Leo Remakus is a simply riveting read from cover to cover by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that will keep and hold the reader's rapt attention throughout the many unexpected plot twists and turns. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Paraclete" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798704755456, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

DMT Entity Encounters
David Luke, editor
Rory Spowers, editor
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644112335, $18.99, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: Found throughout the plant and animal kingdom, DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is also naturally occurring in humans, and may be released during near-death and actual death experiences, earning it the title "the spirit molecule". When taken as a psychedelic, either via ayahuasca or in pure form, DMT is experientially considered to be one of the strongest and strangest of all entheogens. The majority of high-dose users report visions of unknown yet curiously familiar alien worlds and encounters with sentient nonhuman presences.

At a four-day symposium at Tyringham Hall in England in 2017, twenty of the world's psychedelic luminaries gathered to discuss entheogenic entity encounters, consciousness expansion, visionary experiences, and the future of research in this field. Contributors to the talks and discussions include many leading thinkers, including the late Ralph Metzner, Chris Bache, Whitley Strieber, Je rey Kripal, Angela Voss, Bill Richards, Chris Timmermann, Michael Winkelman, Luis Eduardo Luna, Anton Bilton, Bernard Carr, Daniel Pinchbeck, Dennis McKenna, Ede Frecska, and David Luke.

Compiled and edited by the team of David Luke and Rory Spowers, "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule with Ralph Metzner, Chris Bache, Jeffrey Kripal, Whitley Strieber, Angela Voss, and Others" distills the potent exchange of ideas that occurred at Tyringham Hall, including discussions about DMT beings, encounter experiences, alien abduction, plant sentience, the shamanic use of ayahuasca, neuroscientifi c DMT research, the connections between LSD and DMT entities, and the nature of mind and reality.

Critique: An invaluable contribution to the growing library of information concerning Medical Psychopharmacology; Popular Psychology Psychopharmacology; and ESP, "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule with Ralph Metzner, Chris Bache, Jeffrey Kripal, Whitley Strieber, Angela Voss, and Others" is an important and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections. For the personal reading lists of students, academia, DMT researchers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule with Ralph Metzner, Chris Bache, Jeffrey Kripal, Whitley Strieber, Angela Voss, and Others" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in Ibiza, Spain, David Luke, Ph.D., is an associate lecturer of psychology at the University of Greenwich and honorary senior lecturer at the Centre for Psychedelic Research, Imperial College. He has published more than 100 academic papers on transpersonal experiences and altered states of consciousness and regularly gives public lectures and conference presentations. A cofounder and director of Breaking Convention, a biennial international conference on psychedelic research, he lives in East Sussex, England.

Editorial Note #2: Rory Spowers is an ecological writer, film maker, and author. He is the founder of the Web of Hope, a UK charity and ecological education resource, and the creative director for the Tyringham Initiative.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

God's Problem
Bard D. Ehrman
Harper One
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780061456428 $55.21 CD, HarperAudio
0061173975 $20.00 HC, $12.99 PB, $10.99 Kindle, 304 pp

Why is there suffering in the world?

Bart Denton Ehrman, born on 10/5/55, a PhD American New Testament scholar and author or editor of several dozen very popular, fascinating, and informative books, began life as a fundamentalist Christian, became a minister, and preached in churches. But he gave up Christianity and became an agnostic because of his disgust over the inexplicable evil that exists in this world that kills millions, including innocent babes.

In "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our most Important Question - Why We Suffer," he describes the many widely different biblical proposed solutions. He includes quotes from the sources, analyses of them, and shows how each fails logically, and is unsatisfactory. It is an excellent book, easy to read and understand.

He tells us that the study of the problem of suffering in the world began before history started and was called theodicy by the great intellectual Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in the seventeenth century, a word used today. The problem is that we believe God is all powerful and all loving. Yet he is allowing suffering, which we are unable to understand. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus put the problem this way.

Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent.

Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Whence then evil?

Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov has one brother say to the other that the suffering in the world is so bad that if in the end God showed that it all served some greater, nobler purpose, it still would not be enough for him to justify and forgive it.

Ehrman tells us some of the views why suffering exists:

The ancient biblical prophets explained that society is plagued with suffering as punishment because of their bad behavior. The prophets seemed to ignore the suffering of very young children that did no wrong, the holocaust, the famines, tzunames, and more.

Another explanation is that all will be made right in the afterlife, a view not given by the prophets.

Suffering prompts people to atone for their sins.

Pain can lead to the building of character.

God is not responsible for suffering. He did not want to create robots so he gave people free will and they are misusing it and are the creators of pain for themselves and others.

Lots of suffering is the result of the laws of nature which we can and should learn to control.

Evil people cause harm to others. We need to learn to love our neighbors as ourselves.

According to Daniel 7, suffering comes to God's people because of evil forces in the world that are opposed to God. They bring the suffering. But, according to this apocalyptic view, the end will come very soon when God intervenes in history to overthrow the forces of evil.

Suffering can sometimes bring redemption. God plagued the ancient Egyptians in the days of Moses leading to the exodus from slavery.

Since the time of Augustine who invented the notion of original sin, many Christians are convinced they suffer today because Adam and Eve ate an apple which they were told not to do.

Good can come out of pain; Jesus, according to Christian theology, suffered on the cross to absolve people of guilt.

The book of Job, probably composed by two authors gives two possibilities. One is that suffering is a test to see if the inflicted person will deny God because of his pain. Job whose ten sons were killed and he himself inflicted with pain and Abraham who was told to sacrifice his son are examples.

The other idea, the one that takes up most of the book of Job and the book of Ecclesiastes and the book Candide by Voltaire, and other books, is that there may be a good reason for suffering but the frailties of the human mind cannot grasp it. We should simply do our very best to enjoy what we can while we can.

This final idea is the view of Bart D. Ehrman.

In summary, we should realize that the Bible has a wide range of answers to the problem of suffering. There is no single obvious answer. Ehrman concludes his book with this advice:

In the end, we may not have ultimate solutions to life's problems. We may not know the why's and wherefore's. But just because we don't have an answer to suffering does not mean that we cannot have a response to it. Our response should be to work to alleviate suffering wherever possible and to live life as well as we can.

This is good advice.

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
Bart D. Ehrman
Harper One
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audio, 9781482992632, $44.99, CD
9780061778186, $59.50 HC, $18.99 PB, $13.49 Kindle, 416pp

How Jesus became God by Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is an excellent, comprehensive, easy to read history about the begining of Christianity by a man who was once a very conservative Christian, who is now an agnostic, but who offers readers a non-dogmatic, respectful, historical examination of early Christianity. His ultimate goal in this book is to explain how and why early Christians began to believe that Jesus was God.

He, like US President Thomas Jefferson and the famed Russian author Leo Tolstoy accepted the idea that Jesus existed, but denied that he ever produced any miracles. Jefferson and Tolstoy produced books of the New Testament where all miracles are eliminated. Ehrman writes that all we know about Jesus is what men who never met Jesus said about him long after his death based on imaginative legends and exaggerations that grew up after his death by generally uneducated people, many of whom lived in a different country than Jesus, knew little or nothing about the practices of Judaism during Jesus' lifetime, did not speak his language, and did not understand his beliefs.

Among much else, Ehrman explains how historian verify whether ancient claims are true, and he applies the rules in his examination. He writes that his "overreaching contention is that belief in the resurrection [of Jesus] - based on visionary experiences - is what led the followers of Jesus (all of them? some of them?) to believe that Jesus had been exalted to heaven and made to sit at the right hand of God as his unique Son." Ehrman, who inserted the parenthetical questions in this quote, explains how visions can be a natural but untrue phenomenon and gives many examples, some outlined below. So the claims of seeing Jesus after his death never happened.

The following are some more of the many ideas that Dr. Ehrman tells us in his excellent very informative book:

Jesus taught who ever listened to him that the age he and they lived in was controlled by evil forces, but God would soon intervene and destroy everything and everyone who were evil, he would create a good utopian kingdom on earth, and rid the world of pain and suffering. He, Jesus, would rule this kingdom. His twelve disciples would serve as officials in this kingdom under him. And this will happen soon. People living today will see it. In essence, he gave his listeners what is called an apocalyptic message, one that never occurred. He never claimed or even hinted that he was God or even the messiah, just the future king.

Jesus, according to Ehrman, "was a lower-class Jewish preacher from the backwaters of rural Galilee who was condemned [by the Roman governor of Judea Pontius Pilate] for illegal activities and crucified for crimes against the state [i.e. Rome].

After Jesus death, some of Jesus' disciples believed that he was resurrected because some people claimed to have seen him.

There are many reasons why historians like Ehrman dismiss the idea that people saw Jesus after he died on a cross, For example, Jesus does not appear to anyone in the first Gospel written about 25 years after his death, the Gospel of Mark. If people claimed they saw Jesus, Mark would have said so. In Matthew 28:17, the next Gospel written, we read that Jesus appeared to eleven disciples but "some doubted." Ehrman comments, "Why would they doubt if Jesus was right there, in front of them?" In Luke 24, women report that Jesus has been raised, but the disciples consider it an "idle tale" and do not believe it. In Acts 1:3, Jesus is said to spend forty days showing his disciples "many proofs" that he was alive. Ehrman writes, "Many proofs? How many proofs were needed exactly? And it took forty days to convince them?"

How did the acceptance of the idea that Jesus was resurrected from death lead to the idea that he was a God in some way? It proceeded by steps in thinking. If Jesus was resurrected and then disappeared and only seen on some occasions for a while, and then not at all, where was he? Answer: The same God who resurrected him must have taken him to heaven. If he is taken to heaven, what is he doing there? He must be helping God. If he is helping God, God must have given him some divine powers. Thus he must be a God in some ways. Perhaps he was turned into an angel or something like an angel.

Ehrman says that this kind of thinking led to disputes. One of the primary ones was the question: Did Jesus have this power only after he was resurrected and adopted by God or did he have it before he was born as a human? Another: If Jesus had the power before he was born, when before he was born was he created and when before he was born did he get the divine power? Still another was: If he had the power before he was born as a human, how could he be both human and divine? These and other questions bothered the early Christians.

Ehrman writes: "It took a long time indeed for Jesus to be God in the complete, full, and perfect sense, the second member of the Trinity, equal with God from eternity and 'of the sane essence' as the Father."

It was not until the Roman emperor Constantine wanted to cut the strife that existed in Christianity that one of the main contentions was resolved, At the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, an assembly of bishops decided that not only was Jesus God, but he was the son of the Father and equal to him since the beginning of time. There was no time when Jesus was not God the son.

While the question of how and when Jesus became God was decided by a plurality vote, Ehrman notes that some difficulties still remain today. This why he became an agnostic.

Whether you agree with Dr. Ehrman's reasoning and the proofs he offers or not, and whether or not you are bothered by the application of the methodologies of history he applied to religion, you will find this book to be thought provoking.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Challenging China
Sam Kaplan
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9780804854320, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Author Sam Kaplan has worked on China policy and trade for over thirty years. With the publication of "Challenging China: Smart Strategies for Dealing with China in the Xi Jinping Era", he draws upon his extensive experience, contacts, research, and expertise to propose new ways of dealing with China in a smarter, more realistic way. There is reason to be optimistic that China can and will change if we apply the right strategies and have the will to implement them.

"Challenging China" provides a fascinating insider's look at how China is changing rapidly today, how these changes pose grave risks to the rest of the world, and how the U.S. and its allies can best address these challenges. Trade wars and U.S. presidents may come and go, but the fundamental dynamics of the U.S.-China relationship will remain in place for years to come.

"Challenging China" is a popular current events explanation of how China has become more authoritarian and expansionist and what strategies the U.S. and its allies need to adopt to address this new China. Although delving into serious issues, "Challenging China" is written in an engaging way and probably the only book on China that references Dolly Parton, LeBron James and Bruce Springsteen.

The story of China's rise is a remarkable tale of economic success, but that alone has not and will not lead to political liberalization. "Challenging China" shows how actively engaging China, while protecting our own interests, can in fact work to promote its liberalization. This includes a wide array of strategies including trade alliances with other countries, cooperating with China on climate change, protecting Taiwan and using human rights as a foreign policy tool.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Challenging China: Smart Strategies for Dealing with China in the Xi Jinping Era" is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, making it an ideal and essential addition to community, corporate, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary International Chinese/American studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, corporate executives doing business in China, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Challenging China: Smart Strategies for Dealing with China in the Xi Jinping Era" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.13).

Editorial Note: Author Sam Kaplan has worked on China policy and trade for over thirty years. Drawing upon his extensive experience, contacts and research, he proposes new ways of dealing with China in a smarter, more realistic way. There is reason to be optimistic that China can and will change if we apply the right strategies and have the will to implement them.

The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession
Bruce Chilton
Fortress Press
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781506474281, $27.00, HC, 365pp

Synopsis: Until his death in 4 BCE, Herod the Great's monarchy included territories that once made up the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Although he ruled over a rich, strategically crucial land, his royal title did not derive from heredity. His family came from the people of Idumea, ancient antagonists of the Israelites.

Yet Herod did not rule as an outsider, but from a family committed to Judaism going back to his grandfather and father. They had served the priestly dynasty of the Maccabees that had subjected Idumea to their rule, including the Maccabean version of what loyalty to the Torah required.

Herod's father, Antipater, rose not only to manage affairs on behalf of his priestly masters, but to become a pivotal military leader. He inaugurated a new alignment of power: an alliance with Rome negotiated with Pompey and Julius Caesar. In the crucible of civil war among the Romans as the Triumvirate broke up, and of war between Rome and Parthia, Antipater managed to leave his sons with the prospect of a dynasty.

Herod inherited the twin pillars of loyalty to Judaism and loyalty to Rome that became the basis of Herodian rule. He elevated Antipater's opportunism to a political art. During Herod's time, Roman power took its imperial form, and Octavian was responsible for making Herod king of Judea. As Octavian ruled, he took the title Augustus, in keeping with his devotion to his adoptive father's cult of "the divine Julius." Imperial power was a theocratic assertion as well as a dominant military, economic, and political force.

Herod framed a version of theocratic ambition all his own, deliberately crafting a dynastic claim grounded in Roman might and Israelite theocracy. That unlikely hybrid was the key to the Herodians' surprising longevity in power during the most chaotic century in the political history of Judaism.

Critique: The impressively informative biographical history of one of the New Testament's most infamous characters, "The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession" reads with all the drama of a Shakespearean play. An exceptionally fine work of scholarship based upon detailed research, "The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, seminary, college, and university library New Testament Biographies and Judaic History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.29).

Editorial Note: Bruce D. Chilton is the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College. In addition to his many celebrated publications on the texts, practices, and beliefs of ancient Judaism and Christianity, he is also the author of popular historical biographies of Jesus, Paul, Mary, and James.

Broken Alliances
Carlos Ghosn, author
Philippe Ries, author
Peter Starr, translator
Tanooki Press
9781954306004, $19.95, PB, 291pp

Synopsis: Ably translated into English for an American readership, "Broken Alliances: Inside the Rise and Fall of a Global Automotive Empire" by Carolos Ghosn with the assistance of Philippe Ries is a political and judicial true life thriller that describes in detail for the first time how Ghosn was arrested on arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo a year earlier and incarcerated for 130 days.

Long revered in Japan for saving Nissan from bankruptcy in 1999 and helping Renault achieve the best results in its history, Ghosn explains being transformed overnight into a pariah, torn from the world and his family as the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the Nissan Old Guard and the Tokyo Public Prosecutors' Office.

Ghosn also recounts how he built the Franco-Japanese Alliance into a global motor giant, expanding operations in markets from the United States, China and Russia to Brazil, Morocco and Thailand, becoming the world's top automaker by volume in 2017. But his arrest on November 9, 2018 plunges the alliance into crisis as company share prices collapse at the same time as the global auto industry faces an unprecedented technological revolution.

"Broken Alliances" also involves and reveals the highest levels of political power in Japan and France and describes a Japanese judicial system closer to that of the Soviet Union under Stalin than an advanced democracy. It also addresses the reasons behind Nissan's internal coup and questions about the chairman's remuneration, his management methods and his vision for the future of the auto industry -- to understand what has happened and what could still happen tomorrow.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read of corporate power struggles, corrupt public officials, and providing informed and informative insights into the world of automotive executives and their companies, "Broken Alliances: Inside the Rise and Fall of a Global Automotive Empire" is an extraordinary expose and highly recommended for community, college, and university library Automotive Industries and contemporary business oriented biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Broken Alliances" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note #1: Carlos Ghosn is the former chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. He also served as chairman and chief executive at Renault (2005-19) and chairman at Nissan and Mitsubishi (until 2018). Known for orchestrating the remarkable turnaround of Nissan from near bankruptcy in 1999, Ghosn later became the auto industry's longest-serving chief executive and the first to run two Fortune Global 500 companies simultaneously.

Editorial Note #2: Philippe RiŠs is a journalist who spent almost three decades at Agence France-Presse (AFP), the world's oldest news agency. He served as AFP's chief economics editor in Paris for six years before leaving in 2008 to become a founding member of Mediapart, the world's first online journal available exclusively by subscription. Ries has authored four books including Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival with Carlos Ghosn.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Real Meaning of Doctor Who
Courtland Lewis
Open Universe
c/o Carus Books
9781637700006, $19.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: As his TARDIS travels through space and time through the last 26 years, Doctor Who has had to solve numerous complex problems -- problems that often have applications to everyday life. "The Real Meaning of Doctor Who" written by Courtland Lewis (one of the Doctor's biggest fans), this inherently fascinating study explores, discusss and demonstrates the Doctor's distinctive view of life, ethics, spiritualism, and science.

Critique; An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Doctor Who fans, "The Real Meaning of Doctor Who" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Real Meaning of Doctor Who" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Popular Culture and Science Fiction History & Criticism collections.

Editorial Note: On the evening of September 17th 1983, six-year-old Courtland Lewis sat down on his grandparents' linoleum floor to watch something he later learned was called Doctor Who. It changed his life. Thirty-eight years later, Courtland Lewis is a philosophy professor and the author or editor of fifteen books -- six of them about Doctor Who. Most recently, Dr. Lewis has edited "Kiss and Philosophy: Wiser than Hell" (2020).

Relapse into Bondage
Alexandru Cretzianu, author
Sherman David Spector, editor
Center for Romanian Studies
c/o Histria Books
9789739809184, $49.99, HC, 354pp

Synopsis: Deftly edited by Sherman David Spector of an American readership, "Relapse into Bondage" is the political memoir of Alexandru Cretzianu, a key Romanian diplomat during the interwar period and World War II. The reader will discern that Cretzianu faithfully presents himself as pro-Western, pro-French, pro-British, pro-League of Nations. He demonstrates that Romania did not freely join the Axis, but had no alternative but to do so after Britain and France abandoned the Little Entente in 1938. Cretzianu's memoirs are a gold mine of information for those interested in all aspects of Romanian foreign policy during this critical period in twentieth century history, as well as in European diplomatic history generally.

Born in 1895 in Bucharest, Alexandru Cretzianu joined Romania's diplomatic service in 1918. He was assigned to Romanian legations in London, Rome, and Berne before being summoned home to head the League of Nations section of the Romanian Foreign Ministry (1929-1932). In that capacity, he served and admired Foreign Minister Nicolae Titulescu (1883-1941), a champion of collective security.

In 1933, Cretzianu became chief of the Political Division of the Foreign Ministry until 1938, and then its secretary-general until 1941. On 15 September 1943, the Antonescu regime appointed him envoy to Turkey. In Ankara, Cretzianu strove to represent the antiwar attitudes of young King Mihai and opposition politicians.

Cretzianu never again set foot in his native land after the armistice was signed in September 1944 because of the Communist takeover of Romania. He ultimately settled in the United States, where he died in 1979.

Critique: "Relapse into Bondage: Political Memoirs of a Romanian Diplomat, 1918-1947" is an impressively informative contribution to 20th Century Romanian history from an eyewitness to Romanian politics leading up to the country's eventual Community subjugation. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century European Political Memoirs and 20th Century Romanian Political 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 "Relapse into Bondage: Political Memoirs of a Romanian Diplomat, 1918-1947" is also available in a paperback edition (9781592110957, $29.99).

Editorial Note: Sherman David Spector was a professor of history at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. A noted specialist in Romanian history, he was also the author of 'Romania at the Paris Peace Conference: A Study in the Diplomacy of Ioan I.C. Br tianu'.

The American Guerillas
Rod MacDonald
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781665703734, $15.99, PB, 210

Synopsis: From its pastoral opening to its concluding serenade, "The American Guerillas" by novelist Rod MacDonald treats his reader to exciting episodes of romance, police chases, individual confrontations, and military camaraderie. Yet, above all, it's a story of lovers who must risk everything to solve a mystery if they are to have a chance at staying together.

"The American Guerillas" vividly entertains with a story line that includes time travel, the tarot, and Native American spirituality, and mixing a love story with a crime narrative. Originally begun nearly four decades ago,

Critique: A deftly crafted novel throughout, "The American Guerillas" deftly weaves together elements of magical realism, romance, and action/adventure in an original and entertainingly compelling read from cover to cover. While it is an especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, "The American Guerillas" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Exodus: An Egyptian Story
Peter Feinman
Oxbow Books
c/o Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781789254747, $39.00, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Did the Exodus as recorded in the Old Testament really occur as described? This question has been asked in biblical scholarship since its origin as a modern science. The desire to resolve the question scientifically was a key component in the funding of archaeological excavations in the nineteenth century. Egyptian archaeologists routinely equated sites with their presumed biblical counterpart. Initially, it was taken for granted that the Exodus had occurred. It was simply a matter of finding the archaeological data to prove it. So far, those results have been for naught.

"The Exodus: An Egyptian Story" by Peter Feinman takes a very real-world approach to understanding the Exodus. It is not a story of cosmic spectaculars that miraculously or coincidentally occurred when a people prepared to leave Egypt. There are no special effects in the telling of this story. Instead, the story is told with real people in the real world doing what real people do.

Feinman does not rely on the biblical text and is not trying to prove that the Bible is true. He places the Exodus within Egyptian history based on the Egyptian archaeological record. It is a story of the rejection of the Egyptian cultural construct and defiance of Ramses II. Egyptologists, not biblical scholars, are the guides to telling the Exodus story. What would you expect Ramses II to say after he had been humiliated? If there is an Egyptian smoking gun for the Exodus, how would you recognize it? To answer these questions requires us to take the Exodus seriously as a major event at the royal level in Egyptian history.

Critique: An inherently fascinating historical and archaeological approach to a fundamental story upon which all three of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are based, "The Exodus: An Egyptian Story" is as well written, organized and presented, as it is informed, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. A truly exceptional and unique study, "The Exodus: An Egyptian Story" is a very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, seminary, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, clergy, seminarians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Exodus: An Egyptian Story" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Peter Feinman is the founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a nonprofit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, and public programs. His research interests cross disciplinary boundaries including American history, ancient civilizations, biblical history, and New York history.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Preview to Destiny
Lauren Kirby
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781664230729, $28.95, HC, 124pp

Synopsis: Asked to help a profoundly handicapped neighbor, a little girl sets her dolls aside and reluctantly performs caregiving tasks way beyond her years. After a variety of caregiving experiences and becoming a Christian many years later, she prays for guidance, for her gifts to be revealed, and where she's meant to serve.

Mystified by a series of disturbing dreams and the events that follow, she sets out on a journey to put the puzzle pieces together. She finds herself in a surprising role that requires more sensitivity, empathy, strength, grit, and love than she could ever imagine. In the process, she learns about life and death and that she's fulfilling a mission with impacts much wider than just her Mother and Father.

Be forewarned and prepared to laugh, cry, and scratch your head as "Preview to Destiny: A Young Girl Eases Suffering Twenty-five Years Before God Places Her in a Role Where Most People Prefer Not to Be" by author Lauren Kirby balances the facts of her discoveries with her unique sense of humor that reminds us we're all flawed, human, and loved anyway.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Preview to Destiny: A Young Girl Eases Suffering Twenty-five Years Before God Places Her in a Role Where Most People Prefer Not to Be" is one of those unique and deftly crafted Christian parenting books that will linger in the mind and memory long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf.

Editorial Note: Lauren Kirby is a member of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance ( and provides end-of-life advocacy, education, and patient care as an end-of-life doula. She is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by Women in Technology, Nice Guys Award by Acacia Mutual Insurance, and multiple business, fire department, and philanthropic leadership awards. She maintains an informative website at and the Preview to Destiny group on FaceBook.

B. K. Fischer
BOA Editions, Ltd.
250 N. Goodman St., Suite 306, Rochester, NY 14607
9781950774647, $35.00, HC, 122pp

Synopsis: A poetic retelling of Noah's Ark set in the near future, "Ceive" is a novella in verse by B. K. Fischer that recounts a post-apocalyptic journey aboard a container ship.

This contemporary flood narrative unfolds through poems following the perspective of a woman named Val, who is found in the wreckage of her flooding home by a former UPS delivery man. As environmental and political catastrophes force them to flee the Eastern Seaboard, Val and her rescuer take refuge alongside a group of pilgrims seeking refuge from the catastrophic collapse of a civilization destroyed by gun violence, climate crisis, and social unrest.

The ship of cargo and refugees is run by the captain Nolan and his wife Nadia, who set sail for Greenland, now warmed to a temperate climate. The couple place Val in charge of caring for a neurodivergent young boy who holds knowledge of analog navigation. Mourning her missing daughter, Val experiences both isolation and a wellspring of compassion in survival, an indefatigable need to connect. She and the other pilgrims weather illness and peril, boredom and conflict, deprivation and despair as they set sail across stormy, unfamiliar waters.

Drawing from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Seafarer, the Bible, and the Latin root word in receive, Ceive is a vision of eco-cataclysm and survival-inviting meditations on biodiversity, illness, social law, sustenance, scripture, menopause, sensory perception, human bonds, caregiving, and loss, all the while extending a call for renewal and hope.

Critique: An extraordinary, unique, and inherently fascinating read that will have a very special appeal to readers who enjoy a saga style novel in poetry verse, "Ceive" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction & Poetry collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ceive" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781950774432, $17.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: B.K. Fischer is the author of four previous books of poetry: Radioapocrypha (Mad Creek Books, 2018), which won the 2018 The Journal/Wheeler Prize; My Lover's Discourse (Tinderbox, 2018); St. Rage's Vault (The Word Works, 2013), which won the Washington Prize; and Mutiny Gallery (Truman State University Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize. She is also the author of the critical study Museum Mediations: Reframing Ekphrasis in Contemporary American Poetry (Routledge, 2006). Her poems and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, Jacket2, FIELD, WSQ, Ninth Letter, Blackbird, Los Angeles Review of Books, Modern Language Studies, and elsewhere. Fischer holds a BA from the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University, an MFA in poetry from Columbia University, and a PhD in English and American Literature from New York University. A former poetry editor of Boston Review, she teaches The Comma Sutra, a course on grammar and syntax for creative practice, in the School of the Arts at Columbia University.

Vacation Rentals
Christina VanDergrift
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982262129, $30.95, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: Christina VanDergrift understands the challenges of nurturing big dreams. After starting with little other than grit, determination, and a willingness to learn and put in the work, she built a rewarding career as a real estate expert and entrepreneur, ultimately creating a path to success and wealth, one step at a time.

"Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide: My Wealth-Creating Secrets With Little to No Money Down!" is an easy-to-read and instructive guide in which VanDergrift relies on her professional experiences, trials, and errors to share a comprehensive roadmap that will help anyone decide whether owning and operating a vacation rental is the right choice, where to start, and the exact steps to begin the process.

While walking others through her experiences in the industry, she provides valuable information on how to write a business plan, price and furnish a property, choose amenities, face unexpected challenges, and decide whether to self-manage or hire a property manager.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide" must be considered an essential DIY reference manual that provides everything that aspiring entrepreneurs need to know about how to purchase and successfully operate a vacation rental. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Real Estate collections in general, and Bed & Breakfast Business Management studies lists in particular, it should be noted that "Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide: My Wealth-Creating Secrets With Little to No Money Down!" is also available in a paperback edition (9781982262105, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.49).

Editorial Note: Christina VanDergrift is a real estate broker / entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses. Today, she uses her lessons learned to educate, inspire, and empower others interested in the vacation rental or real estate industries.

Green Chili and Other Impostors
Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609387983, $17.00, PB, 284pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Green Chili and Other Impostors", culinary author and expert Nina Mukerjee Furstenau picks through lost tastes with recipes as codes to everything from political resistance to comfort food and much more. "Green Chili and Other Impostors" pinpoints the entry of the Portuguese in India by following green chili trails; finds the origins of limes; traces tomatoes and potatoes in India to the Malabar Coast; considers what makes a food, or even a person, foreign and marvel how and when they cease to be.

"Green Chili and Other Impostors" is a world heritage story that has all the drama of an historical mystery. Whose food is it? Who gets to tell its tale? Respect for food history might tame the accusations of appropriation, but the underlying message throughout "Green Chili and Other Impostors" is to consider just what is at stake for us all as food traditions and biodiversity ebb away and disappear into obscurity.

Critique: The chili pepper is the berry-fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum which are members of the nightshade family, Capsaicin and related compounds known as capsaicinoids are the substances giving chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically. Chili peppers originated in Mexico. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread around the world, used for both food and traditional medicine. In 2019, the world's production of raw green chili peppers amounted to 38 million tons, with China producing half.

"Green Chili and Other Impostors" is an inherently fascinating read and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Culinary History & Gastronomy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Green Chili and Other Impostors" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Nina Mukerjee Furstenau is also the author of "Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland" (Iowa, 2013), winner of the 2014 M. F. K. Fisher Grand Prize for Excellence in Culinary Writing.

Julie Summers

Kirkus Reviews

This Is Me, Not Robert Creeley, Speaking
Paul Bussan
PSB Publishing
9780972688437, $16.00 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 60pp

Bussan (This Is Me, Not Robert Creeley, Speaking, 2017, etc.) stakes out his vision of religiosity in a collection of short poems.

Faith presses up against its limitations in Bussan's poems, whose abbreviated lines and sudden line breaks seem to struggle against their own boundaries, as in the opening "Towards a New Piety, X,": "The challen- / -ge of that t- /-wo-fisted pr- / -ayer, and b- / -arrel-chest- / -ed faith, th- / -e times are / calling for, I / am answe- / -ring."

These strained, stuttered lines illustrate the deliberation that's required to speak even short statements simply. In other poems, in which words aren't split, the syntax is still fractured and reordered, creating a puzzle to be reassembled: "As, / on water, / Jesus did, / one step / at a time, / desire paths, / on dry land / I'm making as / I go along."

The poet also develops a self-centered theology in which he reworks prayers and Scripture to place the speaker in the role of God or other religious figures: "The godman in me, / 3 times before the sun sets, / I will not deny," reads the haiku "Daily Affirmation."

The speaker wryly sets terms for a deity in which he can believe in "Deal Breaker, IV": "Any god who's never / experienced betrayal, / is no friend of mine." The overall result is an empowered, individual theology - one that's often found in the modern world.

Bussan's poems are short - frequently fewer than 30 words in length and sometimes in the neighborhood of 10. Even in these Spartan spaces, he finds humor, as in "Alpha and Omega," in which the speaker sees a bit of himself in Christ: "An ageless hipster, / Christ, the first, and last, hipster, / liberates in me." The poet grapples with his influences as well as with deities; references to Robert Creeley, Charles Baudelaire, S ren Kierkegaard, Stephen Crane, and others dot the pages' cemeterylike terrain.

The vision that emerges is not a groping or questioning one, as one often finds in poetry that touches on God and religion, but rather confident and firm. Despite his rejection of so much orthodoxy, Bussan ends up positioning his speaker as a sort of holy man. Poems such as "Structural," which is shaved into slender columns, offer the speaker as a stylite, rejecting the world from atop his pillar: "When I, / from my / faith, / the orna- / -ments, re- / -move, / I see how / it st- / -ands."

It's a book that reads very quickly and yet invites rereading; one wishes to return to dismembered words, which take on greater importance the more that they appear. It can be difficult to come up with new poetic approaches, particularly when tackling religion, but Bussan's fragmentary efforts - which feel simultaneously of the current moment, of 70 years ago, and of 2,000 years ago - stand out in a landscape of undercooked verse.

A stark, striking collection of inward-looking theological poems.

Towards a New Piety
Paul Bussan
PSB Publishing
9780972688437 $16.00 paperback, $5.99 e-book, 60 pp.

Bussan (This Is Me, Not Robert Creeley, Speaking, 2017, etc.) stakes out his vision of religiosity in a collection of short poems.

Faith presses up against its limitations in Bussan's poems, whose abbreviated lines and sudden line breaks seem to struggle against their own boundaries, as in the opening "Towards a New Piety, X,": "The challen- / -ge of that t- / -wo-fisted pr- / -ayer, and b- / -arrel-chest- / -ed faith, th- / -e times are / calling for, I / am answe- / -ring." These strained, stuttered lines illustrate the deliberation that's required to speak even short statements simply. In other poems, in which words aren't split, the syntax is still fractured and reordered, creating a puzzle to be reassembled: "As, / on water, / Jesus did, / one step / at a time, / desire paths, / on dry land / I'm making as / I go along." The poet also develops a self-centered theology in which he reworks prayers and Scripture to place the speaker in the role of God or other religious figures: "The godman in me, / 3 times before the sun sets, / I will not deny," reads the haiku "Daily Affirmation." The speaker wryly sets terms for a deity in which he can believe in "Deal Breaker, IV": "Any god who's never / experienced betrayal, / is no friend of mine." The overall result is an empowered, individual theology - one that's often found in the modern world. Bussan's poems are short - frequently fewer than 30 words in length and sometimes in the neighborhood of 10. Even in these Spartan spaces, he finds humor, as in "Alpha and Omega," in which the speaker sees a bit of himself in Christ: "An ageless hipster, / Christ, the first, and last, hipster, / liberates in me." The poet grapples with his influences as well as with deities; references to Robert Creeley, Charles Baudelaire, S ren Kierkegaard, Stephen Crane, and others dot the pages' cemeterylike terrain. The vision that emerges is not a groping or questioning one, as one often finds in poetry that touches on God and religion, but rather confident and firm. Despite his rejection of so much orthodoxy, Bussan ends up positioning his speaker as a sort of holy man. Poems such as "Structural," which is shaved into slender columns, offer the speaker as a stylite, rejecting the world from atop his pillar: "When I, / from my / faith, / the orna- / -ments, re- / -move, / I see how / it st- / -ands." It's a book that reads very quickly and yet invites rereading; one wishes to return to dismembered words, which take on greater importance the more that they appear. It can be difficult to come up with new poetic approaches, particularly when tackling religion, but Bussan's fragmentary efforts - which feel simultaneously of the current moment, of 70 years ago, and of 2,000 years ago - stand out in a landscape of undercooked verse.

A stark, striking collection of inward-looking theological poems.

Kirkus Reviews

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

The Teenage Liberation Handbook
Grace Llewellyn
Lowry House Publishers
9780962959196, $21.00, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: With its iconoclastic message, "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education" by Grace Llewellyn (a former middle school teacher, the founder and director of Not Back to School Camp, and a global thought leader in the field of Self-Directed Education) offers cogent and realistic explanations as to: why a teenager (and a teenager's parents) should give serious thought to a self-directed education as an alternative to adhering to a public school curriculum.

Llewellyun aptly covers such critically important issues as: communicating with reluctant parents; "getting a social life without proms"; designing a "tailor-made intellectual extravaganza" and getting into college; finding great mentors, apprenticeships, and volunteer positions

Now revised and updated in a 30th Anniversary edition, "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education" is enhanced with the inclusion of updated resource sections, a thoughtful new introduction, and a impressively informative text throughout.

Critique: Of special and particular interest to parents and teens considering home schooling, an apprenticeship based approach to adolescent education, and school district education policy makers, "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Education Issues collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of parents, teens, school counselors, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Unraveling Bias
Christia Spears Brown
BenBella Books
9781953295552, $17.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: We need only scan the latest news headlines to see how bias and prejudice harm adults and children alike in America -- every single day.

Police shootings that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter revolution; rampant sexual harassment of women and the subsequent #MeToo movement; extreme violence toward trans men and women; school shootings becoming commonplace. It would be easy to fix these problems if the examples stopped with a few racist or sexist or homicidal individuals, but there are also biases embedded in our government policies, media, and institutions.

As a developmental psychologist and international expert on stereotypes and discrimination in children, Dr. Christia Spears Brown knows that biases and prejudice don't just develop as people become adults (or CEOs or politicians). They begin when children are young, slowly growing and exposed to prejudice in their classrooms, after-school activities, and, yes, even in their homes, no matter how enlightened their parents may consider themselves to be. The only way to have a more just and equitable world (not to mention more broad-minded, empathetic children) is for parents to closely examine biases beginning in childhood and how they infiltrate our kids' lives.

With the publication of "Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle", Dr. Brown shares what scientists have learned about how children are impacted by biases, and how we adults can help protect them from those biases. Part science, part history, part current events, and part call to arms, "Unraveling Bias" provides readers with the answers to such vital questions as: How do biased policies, schools, and media harm our children?; Where does childhood prejudice come from, and how do these prejudices shape children's behavior, goals, relationships, and beliefs about themselves?; What can we learn from modern-day science to help us protect our children from these biases?

Critique: Timely, informative, thought-provoking, inspirationally motivating, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of parents, students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Christia Spears Brown, PhD, is a Professor of Developmental Psychology, and the Director of the Center for Equality and Social Justice, at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on children's experiences with ethic, racial, and gender discrimination and stereotypes and how racism and sexism impacts the academic, social, and psychological lives of children and teens. In addition to award-winning scientific research articles, chapters, and academic books, and numerous teaching awards, she is also the author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Children Free of Gender Stereotypes.

My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It's My Turn Now!
Susan D. Johnson Cook
Judson Press
PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851
9780817018283, $14.99, PB, 112pp

Synopsis: "My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It's My Turn Now!" by author, pastor, and former United States Ambassador Susan D. Johnson Cook focuses on the changes within a woman's life as they mature into their fifties and beyond, allowing the courage to say yes to a new self, financial planning, maintaining healthy relationships, mental and physical health concerns, faith in God, and words of inspiration.

"My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It's My Turn Now!" encourages women to ask, "Am I stuck?" As they read thru this book, they will enjoy reflecting on their lives and how they will shape and live in their fabulous present and with their future possibilities.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It's My Turn Now!" is an extraordinary and life-changing, life-enhancing read. A welcome addition to community library Self-Help/Self- Improvement collections, "My Fabulous Fifth Chapter: It's My Turn Now!" is written from a Christian perspective and available for personal reading lists in digital book format as well (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: The Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook is the former United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Previously, she was the first female chaplain for the New York City Police Department. She was also a founding member of A Partnership of Faith, served as a senior parish pastor for three New York City congregations, and was the first female president of the historic Hampton University Ministers' Conference, the largest conference of African-American clergy in the world.

Immunity Strong
Robert G. Lahita, M.D., Ph.D.
Humanix Books
9781630061951, $24.99, HC, 250pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Immunity Strong: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100", Dr. Robert Lahita walks the non-specialist general reader through how the immune system works, what makes it implode or keeps it safe and what modern science reveals about how it connects to every part of the body to keep it alive -- as the seat of what Dr. Bob calls our "Biological Soul."

Written in Dr. Bob's trade-mark down-to earth style, "Immunity Strong" explains that the normal immune system functions like a police department protecting the body from harm. While as a nation we have recently been focused on the effects of infections, "Immunity Strong" reveals that it is important to note that disorders of immunity are at the root of most diseases that shorten or impact our lives. From chronic pain and fatigue syndromes, heart disease and clogged arteries and even the ability to recognize and destroy cancer, to multiple sclerosis, lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders are all linked to one or another glitch in the immune system.

The purpose of "Immunity Strong" is to provide significant information on the incredible complexity of the immune system and how the integration of spiritual, scientific, and emotional values can enhance health. It is Dr. Bob's hope that readers will find a new appreciation of the miracle that is the physical body and to understand the potential within our Biological Soul to promote longevity and overall happiness to life.

Critique: An ideal and comprehensive introduction to the subject of the body's natural immunity response, "Immunity Strong: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100" will be of special interest and invaluable service to readers having to deal with chronic pain, chronic fatique, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, vaccines, gender and hormones, autism, and other pervasive health issues. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Immunity Strong: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100" should be a part of every community, college, and university library Contemporary Health/Medicine collection and immune disorders supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of medical students, academia, physicians, health workers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Immunity Strong: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Doctor Robert G. Lahita (Newark, NJ) is Clinical Professor of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a Professor at New York Medical College and the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare System. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a Master of the American College of Rheumatology, and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. His research interests are the molecular aspects of antigen expression in response to sex hormones in the autoimmune diseases and the etiopathogenesis of the phospholipid syndrome. Dr. Lahita is the author of more than 16 books and 150 scientific publications in the field of autoimmunity

Margaret Lane

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
James W. Loewen
Atria Books
9780743296281, $34.00

With the controversy around critical race theory, which is a cross-disciplinary intellectual and social movement of civil rights scholars and activities who seek to examine the intersection of race and law in the U.S., not to mention the recent assaults on boards of education across the nation by "concerned parents" to assure that their children weren't confronted by a history which might make them feel "uncomfortable," this seemed to be an ideal time to pick up this book.
Since its first publication in 1995, Lies My Teacher Told Me has become one of the most important history books of our time. Having sold nearly two million copies, the book also won an American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship and was heralded on the front page of the New York Times.

For this new edition, Loewen has added a new preface that shows how inadequate history courses in high school help produce adult Americans who think Donald Trump can solve their problems and calls out academic historians for abandoning the concept of truth in a misguided effort to be "objective." Cynicism has replaced skepticism. Instead of truth and falsehood, there are facts and "alternative facts" to quote Conway. Fortunately, some investigative journalism is still happening.

What started out as a survey of the twelve leading American history textbooks has ended up being what the San Francisco Chronicle calls "an extremely convincing plea for truth in education." In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen brings history alive in all its complexity and ambiguity and has been properly referred to as a "counter-textbook that retells the story of the American past."

Thomas Baile's comment in "The Journal of American History," 'Old myths never die - they just become embedded in the textbooks,' certainly applies to the American Indians, which, according to Loewen "have been the most lied-about subset of our population. Their history has been told through white eyes." I didn't realize this until I'd graduated from high school and came across Dee Brown's classic, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which only touched the surface of the slanted narrative we'd been presented as students.

By downplaying Indian wars, textbooks help us forget that we wrested the continent from Native Americans. Not surprisingly, the author found that when asked to compile a list of U.S. wars, college students rarely think to include Indian wars, individually or as a whole. And yet, Indian wars dominated our history from 1622 to 1815 and were of considerable importance until 1890, when they mostly disappeared from our national memory.

Personal visits, as opposed to textbooks, brought these realities closer to home for me. Visits to the Zuni Indian reservation in western New Mexico and a tour through the Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona opened this little-known culture and history of Native Americans to me and my family.

Another chapter often missing in our textbooks is due to what the author refers to as, "The invisibility of Racism." According to iconic documentarian, Ken Burns:
The black-white rift stands at the very center of American history. It is the great challenge to which all our deepest aspirations to freedom must rise. If we forget that - if we forget the great stain of slavery that stands at the heart of our country, our history, our experiment - we forget who we are, and we make the great rift deeper and wider.

Until the civil rights movement, American history textbooks agreed with Margaret Mitchell's narrative in Gone with the Wind, which depicts slavery as not such a bad thing; that slavery was a social structure of harmony and grace that did no real harm and in which slaves were reasonably happy and well fed.

The author identifies yet another missing chapter in textbooks - influences of multinationals on U.S. foreign policy. Instead, they present our governmental policies as rational humanitarian responses to trying situations and do not seek to penetrate the surface of our government's own explanations of its actions.

Among the least savory examples are various attempts by U.S officials and agencies to assassinate leaders or bring down governments of other countries. The author surveyed all eighteen textbooks to see how they treated six recent U.S. attempts to subvert foreign governments, which included our involvement in bringing down the elected government of Guatemala in 1954.

The author goes on to describe how in 1944, college students, urban workers and members of the middle class overthrew a dictatorship to form a democratic government. Over the next ten years, they extended the vote to the Indigenous populations and ended forced labor on coffee plantations, but all this came to an end in 1954 when the CIA threatened the government of Jacobo rbenz with an armed invasion. The President had antagonized the United Fruit Company by proposing much-needed land reform and planning a highway and railroad, which would break their monopoly. The United States chose an obscure army colonel as the new President and the result was a repressive junta that treated its Indigenous majority brutally for another forty years.

The author chose an example from "The American Journey" as representative of the four of six textbooks which mention the event:

The Eisenhower administration also faced Communist challenges in Latin America. In 1954 the Central Intelligence Agency helped overthrow the govern of Jacobo rbenz in Guatemala, which some American leaders feared was leaning toward communism.

The author reminds us that this fear of communism took place at the height of McCarthyism when the United States saw communism everywhere. As commentator Lewis Lapham pointed out, "When the duly elected Guatemalan president, Jacobo rbenz, began to talk too much like a democrat, the United States accused him of communism." And fifty years later, "The American Journey" still maintains the U.S. government's McCathyist rhetoric. So do other textbooks if they mention Guatemala at all.

As you'd expect of any self-respecting Boomer, I turned to the chapter, "See No Evil: Choosing Not To Look At The War In Vietnam," with great anticipation. The author quotes Martin Luther King Jr. to remind us of the impact of the war on the Vietnamese, "We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops... We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men."

He also explains his amazement when lecturing on the Vietnam War in the 1980s but got blank looks. In 1989 he gave his students a quiz with the open-ended question, "Who was found in the war in Vietnam?" Almost a fourth of his students said the combatants were North and South Korea. To his chagrin, many recent high school graduates knew more about the War of 1812 than about the Vietnam War.

The author anticipates an explanation of this myopic view of history in his preface by revealing the masterminds of the Vietnam war: Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, who tried to manipulate the media. Most notoriously, about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, when they got newspapers to report an enemy ship movement that didn't exist. Their manipulation undermined the public's confidence in the media after the truth came out. They both tried to suppress the media, which again undermined the media after the truth came out. And "When that did not work, both, along with Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, attacked the media as biased, wrong, and anti-American."

I agree with reviewer Howard Zinn when he says, "Every teacher, every student of history, every citizen should read this book. It is both a refreshing antidote to what has passed for history in our educational system and a one-volume education in itself." And "As a history teacher, this book really made me critically examine what I teach and how I teach it. There are lots of good and thought-provoking ideas in here, as well as suggestions and recommendations for those who teach history. This text is a must-read for anyone teaching history to our teens today."
These are just some of the reasons why this book ranks #2 for Historic Study & Teaching", #3 for "Historiography & #3 for "History of Education."

About the Author: (1942 - 2021) The author was the bestselling and award-winning author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies Across America, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus, Sundown Towns, and Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers' Edition (all from The New Press). He also wrote Teaching What Really Happened and The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White and edited The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader. He won the American Book Award, the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, the Spirit of America Award from the National Council for the Social Studies, and the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award.

Mark Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

The Berlin Exchange
Joseph Kanon
c/o Simon and Schuster
9781982158651, $28.00 HB

The twists and turns through the eyes of a spy of sorts.

The protagonist in The Berlin Exchange, Martin Keller, an American imprisoned in England for providing atomic secrets to the Russians, is exchanged in 1963 Berlin for prisoners held in East Germany. In true Joseph Kanon form, the fireworks start early with gunfire and a hijacked ambulance when "wall jumpers" attempt to speed across to the West at the Invalidenstrasse checkpoint. By then the small backstories have also begun. As the novel progresses they become the building blocks for Keller's character, the secrets he'd provided to the Russians, why his wife was not arrested and then moved to East Germany, remarrying, and taking with her his son Peter, a precocious boy, the star of an East German propaganda television story. These vignettes are common elements in all of Kanon's novels, adding one rich layer after another to the story to build suspense. Technically, Keller is a spy, but the reader doesn't know for much of the novel whether he is a current spy or just a former spy, and an amateurish one at that, or just a physicist who believed that atomic secrets were best shared so that no one country had the monopoly, mutually assured destruction a good deterrence. The events that occur in the novel are secondary to the characters, another Kanon technique. The characters are the plot, and a good part of the action is depicted through dialogue.

Joseph Kanon's novels all take place after the fall of Nazi Germany, although each contains backstories from the war years. The earlier books, such as Los Alamos and Alibi, deal with the immediate aftermath of the war. The novels then move into what one could say was the pre-Cold War era, like The Prodigal Spy and Stardust, in which the communist menace is front and center. Next come the Berlin novels, The Good German and Leaving Berlin, which moves ahead in time to 1948. Defectors takes place in 1961, well into the Cold War, and includes the intrigues of operations involving the CIA and the KGB. Next is Kanon's penultimate book, The Accomplice, which takes place a couple of years later in Buenos Aires, but deals with the medical atrocities carried out by the Nazi's. Now comes The Berlin Exchange, which takes place in 1963 East Berlin, almost fifteen years after the events in Leaving Berlin. Much has changed. Some of the bomb damage from the war has been repaired and new construction is evident, "a shapeless open plaza surrounded by Glass high-rises, a cheap version of West Berlin." The Hotel Adlon and the Alexanderplatz, with a new radio tower, have been restored. Even the Stasi has been upgraded, it seems. A new Communist world.

The Berlin Exchange is the most literary of Kanon's spy novels, so much so that one hesitates to even use the "spy" moniker for fear that it will be mistaken for a modern day commercial spy entertainment, one with full throttle plot and shallow characters. Kanon in an interview with Paul Vidich (also a literary spy novelist) in 2019 said that for him spies make ideal protagonists because "They lie for a living." That is, of course, true for many people. And Martin is in so many respects just like many of us: idealistic, tormented by his past, and capable of betrayal and deception. The reader learns about him as the layers of his psyche are pealed away, his memories of his ex-wife, Sabine, are made known, her deceptions are revealed, and his feelings for his son, Peter, grow. Kanon's prose is direct, the descriptions sparse and limited to times of action, like the scuffle with Herr Spitzer at the restaurant dumpster, the car chase between Berlin and Potsdam, or the final confrontation at a border crossing. The characters and the plot are rendered in magnificent dialogue, giving the reader the opportunity to make his or her own impression of Martin, through his interactions with Andrei, Martin's old handler, with Kurt, Sabine's second husband, Stefan Schell, a scientist with whom Martin sympathizes, and Klaus Fuchs, an old partner in atomic espionage. There are few adverbs that paint pictures of the characters. Personalities and appearances are revealed by the words they speak.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the novel's protagonist, Martin, shares a name with the protagonist of Graham Greene's novel, The Third Man. But the similarities between the two novels and the two writers are hard to ignore, both featuring deception and betrayal set in the post-World War II world. With each of Kanon's books, his writing has evolved toward the simplicity for which Greene is known, as well as the use of character development to create plot. In Greene's The Quiet American, Fowler, while hiding from the Vietminh observes, "I thought of nothing, not even of the trap-door above me. I ceased, for those seconds, to exist: I was fear taken neat." The action here is secondary to the character. And Martin in The Berlin Exchange, next to Sabine on the ground at Invalidenstrasse, "felt her slip away again . . a film loop running backward, so that he was watching her lying here in the road, then in the hospital the night Peter was born, smiling, then on the bed in the prefab house in Los Alamos . . . then on the couch at Georg's party, feet curled up beneath her, smoking and looking at him. And then the loop ran out and she was gone." The guns firing just moments before were but a tangent to Martin's character. Who he is, and what has happened to him, are brilliantly encapsulated in this brief moment with unadorned prose, much the same as that used by Greene for Fowler.

Kanon's prose is clean, uncluttered by adverbs, and his dialogue is razor sharp. He is one of only a few authors of literary spy novels to have accomplished this. His novels are a long way from commercial espionage thrillers like those of Clancy, which are choked by diatribe and political rhetoric. Kanon doesn't preach. The reader is offered a view of the political state of East Berlin only through the crisp exchanges between Martin and Kurt or Martin and Andrei. At one point Kurt explains how things work in his world: "Sometimes it's better to make a friend. You need a favor one day, it's there for you. Do a good job, they don't forget." And still these dialogues are secondary to Kanon's real focus on the dynamic between Martin and Kurt concerning their relationships with Sabine, which in turn illustrates the complexity of a spy's life. Kurt says, "Maybe she misses the old excitement, with the Service. I was worried when you were coming, that you'd remind her. Of happier times." As the novel moves forward, characters are added to the mix: Klaus Fuchs, Stefan Schell, Ruth Jacobs, Hans Reiger, Ed Nugent and the other Americans at the US Military Liaison Mission in Potsdam. And along with them come the scenes that move the plot forward: Sabine's illness, Andrei's recruitment of Martin to inform on Schell, Kurt's lucrative exchange business that moves people to the West, and finally, of course, Martin's exchange plan, which is probably the one referenced in the books title. It is "the last exchange . . . over the invisible border."

With The Berlin Exchange Joseph Kanon travels a long way from Leaving Berlin. During the journey he streamlines his prose, sharpens his dialogue, and creates a simple elegance for his story. The action in the novel is paced well. It rockets to its conclusion, but it does so smoothly. The finale is not as convoluted as that in Leaving Berlin, and much more credible. Martin stays true to his character of the amateur spy. He doesn't anticipate Andrei's arrival, and is genuinely taken unaware by Sabine's conduct. The ending is simple, yet powerful, particularly with the image of the small head of Martin's son sitting in the car, waiting. A reader of a literary spy novel should never expect a happy ending, a triumph of good over evil. The lies are only exchanged for different lies, deceit being passed back and forth from West to East. Kurt asks Martin if he got what he came for. And the answer, unsurprisingly, is "not everything."

River Sing Out
James Wade
Blackstone Publishing
9781982601089, $16.99 PB

A modern tragedy in a world that never changes.

A tragedy often involves a journey during which the tragic protagonists are confronted with emotional upheaval, suffering, misfortune, death and other manner of human suffering. Along the road situations change, moral and ethical forks are followed, and an emotional crisis presents itself. In Waiting For The Barbarians, by J. M. Coetzee, the journey occurs well into the story when the Magistrate takes a girl, a Barbarian prisoner, out into the territory of the Barbarians in order to find her family. The travails during the journey have all the elements of a Greek tragedy, but the modern tragedy occurs during the chapters after the Magistrate's return from his visit to the Barbarians, when he becomes the prisoner. In Devil's Peak, by Deon Meyer, the journey's are metaphorical. There is not a crossing of a dessert as there is in Waiting For The Barbarians, and there are several protagonists, an honorable man seeking revenge for a murdered son, an alcoholic detective trying to put his life back together after his wife leaves him, and a young prostitute whose daughter is threatened by a drug lord. Their paths cross during violent events, each struggling for meaning in the actions being taken, and each crossing moral borders in desperation, as the monstrous culmination of their acts approaches. In River, Sings Out, James Wade brilliantly takes these structural elements of a tragedy to a higher level.

In River, Sing Out, the tragic protagonists are all poor, living close to the banks of the Neches River in a rural part of East Texas. Unlike Waiting For The Barbarians, these characters have proper names - Carson, Jonah, and River - but they are more often than not referred to simply as the old man, the boy, and the girl (who in fact has a real name that the reader doesn't learn until near the end). Two villains are always addressed by their names - Curtis and Wade. And then there is the "thin man," who is harder to characterize, except perhaps symbolically as "death." These characters cross paths frequently during the story, although their journeys are metaphorical in large part, similar to Devil's Peak. And the events pile up during the story into a looming apprehension, much the same as in the tragedies of Shakespeare. Although the reader desperately wants Jonah and River to reach the ocean in the end, hope is dashed when a reckoning born of the confluence of the hopeless everyday lives of the characters mixes with the evil acts of the villains.

Foreboding is always present during the novel. Wade brilliantly accomplishes this with imagery. The reader is introduced to Jonah at dusk, when "The sun set and the world died another small death, and those upon it the same, and all growing closer to what ends may be met." The thin man is introduced at a sunrise, where he views life as through a prism showing "the existence of those around him . . . as a great plague upon the earth." On the journey to Redtown late in the story, Jonah and River come upon a family of wild boars, and Jonah shoots a charging father to save River from harm. But he feels only injustice over his action, noting that the hog was only trying to protect his child. He observes, "The hog lay lifeless, tongue lolling, soaking in the mud and the blood and the coming dawn. Buzzards begin to circle." It is an event and an image befitting the society in which Jonah and River live.

River, Sing Out is a story full of futility. It is the background on the story's canvas. The reader learns through backstories about the death of Carson's family, and in a similar way Jonah is told by his abusive father how his mother left because she didn't like her son. Similar backstories paint the earlier lives of Curtis, Wade, and River. It is a hole from which none of the them can climb out, as evidenced by their observations. For Carson, "The world is not what we make it, as told to the children, some unmolested canvas upon which to create a future worth living. No." At one point in the novel, Jonah and River exchange stories about their earlier lives, and there is a glimmer of hope in their thinking that they might overcome what life has saddled them with. But after Jonah tells River the story of Jonah and the whale, River's reaction brings the reader back to the inevitable futility of their circumstances. "That's how people are, kid, they're . . . . liars. They're all out for themselves. They get caught doing something and . . . . they're so sorry about it but turn your head for two seconds, and they'll be at it again." A short time later they dream of escape from their world by going to the ocean together. The reader desperately wants them to make it at that point. But the proffered escape plan is but a building block to the looming tragedy. The die is cast by their life circumstances and their escape from it is not to be.

At the end of the tragic journey a reader comes upon despair, or in Aristotle's words, pity and fear, after which there is catharsis. But River, Sing Out is not an Aristotelian tragedy for it's tragic heroes are not ones of elevated social standing, such that the catastrophe's that befall them are made worse by who they are, as was the case with Randall Dawson in Wade's first novel, All Things Left Wild. The tragic protagonists in River, Sing Out are nobodies, and what happens to them is of little consequence generally to society. The story is a modern domestic tragedy that involves poverty, addiction, alcoholism, abuse, violence, and social stigmatism. Perhaps there is a catharsis in what happens to Curtis, that he gets what is due him. But that's a stretch. As he himself remarks early in the story, "the world is full up with bad men. . . . And how do you conquer bad men? You become one." If there is a catharsis of any kind in River, Sing Out it is not from a pain that awakens something pleasurable in the reader, such as a hope that a person may overcome social adversity or that god punishes evil doers. A reader finds such a catharsis in Christine's character in Devil's Peak. Not so for River in Wade's story. The novel is full of references that there is no god. It is the very lack of a positive catharsis that makes River, Sing Out such a powerful and well written modern tragedy. A river does sing out during the story, both from a character by that name and from the ever constant flow of the Neches River. But despite the singing, the world doesn't change; it only ends and begins again.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Mayra Calvani's Bookshelf

ABC's with the Vejigantes
Liz DeJesus
Amber Davis, Illustrator
Tivshe Publishing
9781954175266, $11.99 Paperback
9781954175273, $20.99, Hardback
9781954175280, $3.99 e-book

Picture Book, ages 4-7

Teach children the alphabet and introduce them to Spanish words and Puerto Rican folklore with Liz DeJesus' debut children's picture book, ABC's with the Vejigantes.

Using the traditional Vejigantes Parade as an anchor, which takes place in Ponce, Puerto Rico every year, this talented Boricua author takes children on an exciting journey from A to Z. While the book is written in English, each new letter of the alphabet is represented by a word in Spanish, with the corresponding word in English written in bold.

Here are examples for A and G:

The first vejigante to walk down the street has a costume that is blue like the Puerto Rican sky.


Some of the vejigantes' costumes have rooster feathers sewn into them!


What is the meaning behind the tradition of the vejigantes? How is it connected to the church? How did it originate? What are the main characters of the parade? These and other questions are answered, and more. The style of illustrations and the vivid colors are very fitting for this Puerto Rican tradition and evoke the excitement of the parade.

ABC's with the Vejigantes is an educational picture book that not only teaches the alphabet and words in Spanish, but also stimulates children's imaginations and sparks their creativity, inviting them to become artisans and create their own masks and costumes using coconuts, papier-mache, newspapers, and other materials. Accompanied by activities, the book would be excellent for an art or social studies class, or simply for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon of crafting and learning. What a fun way to discover another culture. ABC's with the Vejigantes gets 5 stars from this reviewer!

Mayra Calvani

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Living on the Edge
Celine-Marie Pascale
c/o John Wiley and Sons
9781509548231, $69.95, HC, 280pp

Synopsis: For the majority of Americans over the past couple of decades, hard times have long been a way of life. Some work multiple low-wage jobs, others face the squeeze of stagnant wages and rising costs of living. Academician Celine-Marie Pascale ( Professor of Sociology at American University, Washington, DC.), talked with people across Appalachia, at the Standing Rock and Wind River reservations, and in the bustling city of Oakland, California. Their voices are drawn upon with the publication of "Living on the Edge: When Hard Times Become a Way of Life" to offer a wide range of experiences that complicate dominant national narratives about economic struggles.

Yet "Living on the Edge" is about more than individual experiences. It is also about a nation in a deep economic and moral crisis. It's about the long-standing collusion between government and corporations that prioritizes profits over people, over the environment, and over the nation's well-being. It's about how racism, sexism, violence, and the pandemic shape daily experience in struggling communities. And, ultimately, "Living on the Edge" is about hope that lays out a vision for the future as honest as it is ambitious.

Most people represented in the pages of "Living on the Edge" are not political progressives; none of them are radicals. They are hard-working people who know from experience that the current system is unsustainable. Across the country people described their need for a living wage, accessible health care, immigration reform, and free education. Their voices are worth listening to.

Critique: A clarion call for much needed reform if our democracy is to survive the growing disenchantment of a large and growing proportion of the American citizenry, "Living on the Edge: When Hard Times Become a Way of Life" should be required reading by all governmental policy makers and is especially commended to the attention of political activists, economists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of income inequality. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781509548248, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.00).

Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age
Colin Barker, Gareth Dale, & Neil Davidson, editors
Haymarket Books
9781642594683, $24.00 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This ambitious volume examines revolutionary situations during a non-revolutionary historical conjuncture--the neoliberal era. The last three decades have seen an increase in the number of political upheavals that challenge existing power structures, many of them taking the form of urban revolts. This book compellingly explores a series of such upheavals--in Eastern Europe, South Africa, Indonesia, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, sub-Saharan Africa (including Congo, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso) and Egypt. Each chapter studies the ways in which protest movements developed into insurgent challenges to state power, and the strategies that regimes have deployed to contain and repress revolt.

In addition to empirical chapters, the book engages in theorization of revolution, dealing with questions such as the patterning of revolution in contemporary history, the relationship between class struggle and social movements, and the prospects of socialist revolution in the twenty-first century.

Critique: Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age is an anthology of political science essays by a variety of authors discussing modern-day revolutions against established power, and exploring the interconnection between class struggle, social movements, and the possibility of socialist revolution. Individual writings include "The End of Apartheid in South Africa", "'Reformasi': Indonesians Bring Down Suharto", "Argentina 2001: Our Year of Rebellion", "The Tragedy of the Egyptian Revolution", and much more. Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age is a thought-provoking examination of how modern efforts to achieve social justice have succeeded, faltered, or failed, and is highly recommended especially for public and college library Political Science collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

Editorial Note: Colin Barker (1939-2019) taught sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University. He authored or edited several books, including Revolutionary Rehearsals.

Gareth Dale teaches politics at Brunel University. He has published books on Karl Polanyi, East Germany, and green growth.

Neil Davidson (1957-2020) taught sociology at Glasgow University. He authored many books on Scottish history and Marxist theory.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America
Louis Menand
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
c/o Macmillan
9780374528492, $18.00 paperback

How Ideas Matter In America

Louis Menand's "The Metaphysical Club" is a rare book which manages to be both scholarly and popular. As a popular work, it offers an accessible exposition of complex ideas and thinkers. On a more scholarly level, the book succeeds because it awakens in the reader an appreciation of the scope of intellectual life in the United States and a desire to understand and to perpetuate it.

The key figures in "The Metaphysical Club" include the great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes and the philosophers William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey. They were the basic American practitioners of a philosophy called pragmatism, which teaches that ideas are tools to be used to accomplish a purpose rather than abstractions which mirror to greater or lesser accuracy some independent reality.

Menand examines each figure in light of his family life (Holmes, James, and Peirce all were products, in their different ways, of homes were ideas mattered; Dewey less so), temperament, reading, and educational and cultural background. He places a great deal of emphasis on the American Civil War as a basis, with his protagonists, for rejecting absolutistic views of principle and reality. An uncompromising commitment to absolutes led, for post Civil War thinkers, to the War and its carnage. This is an important historical claim and it works very well in the case of Oliver Wendell Holmes. I am not sure how convincing it is as an explanation of the thought of the other three figures. William James wrote an important essay "The Moral Equivalent of War" unmentioned in Menand's book, which concerns the apparent inability of modern life to find values to move the heart and spirit as the heart and spirit were moved in the passion of war. In other words, James, at least, was searching for values, and perhaps even for absolutes, rather than expressing a skepticism towards them.

In addition to placing pragmatism in the context of the post Civil War era, Menand places great emphasis on the development of modern science, particularly Darwin's theory of evolution and statistical theory. These developments, for Menand, tended to discourage a view of the universe as fixed, rational, and purposeful. Knowledge became tied closely to theories of statistical generalization and theory of error, with an emphasis on what worked. Scientific theory in fact gets a larger place in the book than does the Civil War as a basis for the development of pragmatism and I think deservedly so.

Menand stresses how intellectual development in the United States was tied to racial theories and to other theories such as spiritualism that we find markedly out of place today. This is not a new story, but it is well told and does show something important about how ideas we value can emanate from teachings we would reject or find strange.

In addition to the four primary figures, Menand discusses many other philosophers and thinkers, predecessors, successors, and colleagues to Holmes, James, Peirce, and Dewey. The title of the book is based on an almost legendary "Metaphysical Club" that met all-too briefly in the 1870's under the auspices of Chauncey Wright, the "Cambridge Socrates". Ideas and intellectual life flourish briefly and quietly, but they may illuminate people's lives for times to come.

The book is chatty in tone with many digressions on matters such as the Dartmouth College Supreme Court case, the Pullman Strike, Jane Addams and Hull House, and Louis Agassiz's expedition to Brazil. The digressions make it hard at times to keep to the thread of the narrative, but they do cast light on the era and on the development of thought in the United States.

The book does not expound in detail the thought of its principal characters. For that the reader will need to turn to texts, and the book encourages him or her to do just that. Menand is not overly critical or analytical about the success of pragmatism. He points out that the later Civil Rights Movement in America could not have succeeded with pragmatism as a base but rather required a commitment to principle and absolutes found more in other writers.

Pragmatism is a distinctive achievement of thinkers in the United States. This book teaches about it well and, perhaps not entirely consistently with the theory of pragmatism itself, promotes respect for the role of ideas in our country and for the value of the life of the mind.

Brahms: Complete Songs Vol. 1
Johannes Brahms, composer
Angelika Kirchslager, performer
Graham Johnson, performer
B003IEAMJ4, $16.48

A New Series Of The Brahms Lieder

The scholar-pianist Graham Johnson devised and accompanied a remarkable series of the complete Schubert lieder (37 CDs) and of the complete Schumann lieder on the Hyperion label with performances by renowned singers of art song. Johnson and Hyperion have undertaken a similar project with the songs of Johannes Brahms. It promises to be a grand achievement. This first volume in the series features mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager accompanied by Johnson in a recording dating from 2008. The CD consists of 25 Brahms lieder together with four folksong arrangements from Brahms's 1894 collection "Deutsche Volkslieder", WoO33. Kirschlanger is best-known for her roles in the operas of Mozart and Richard Strauss. I think she is in beautiful voice on this CD and offers lovely readings of Brahms for listeners that know his songs and for those unfamiliar with them. But I want to focus this review on the upcoming series and on the music itself.

Brahms is less well-known as a song composer than either Schubert or Schumann. His songs, however, are well-represented on CD, with a six CD box by Fischer-Dieskau, a complete set of songs on individual CDs on the CFO label, and a new, large-scale budget box set of 13 CDs on the budget-priced Brilliant label. Johnson's new project remains highly welcome and important and should help make Brahms' song output more familiar and loved by many listeners.

Besides the performances and the comprehensive character of the project, this set is unusual because of the depth and scholarship of Johnson's accompanying notes. They are almost book-length in detail. When the series is completed, the notes themselves will constitute an invaluable guide to the Brahms songs. Johnson provides text and translation for each song, together with date of composition, time signature, and key, but this is only the beginning. Detailed musical, literary and historical analysis is included. This information allows the listener to focus on and enjoy each song and to approach each work as an individual creation rather than to rush through them.

For example, this CD includes one of Brahms's greatest and best-known (after the "Lullabye") songs, "Von ewiger Liebe", or "Eternal Love", opus 43, no. 1, set to a text, which Brahms misattributed, by Hoffmann Von Fallersleben (1798-1874). This song tells of a lonely conversation between two lovers, of highly different social backgrounds. The young man proclaims his unworthiness while the woman pledges the endurance of love, regardless of the opinion of other people and of the young man's poverty and lack of education. Graham's notes describe the content of the poem and show how Brahms's music captures its movement. (Brahms is too often viewed as paying insufficient attention to his texts.) Graham describes how Brahms' understanding of the poem and of the plight of the lovers may differ from that of the woman who sings the song. It is an altogether insightful and helpful guide to approaching this wonderful lied.

Johnson's notes are similarly useful for the remaining songs and folksong arrangements on the CD, especially for his comments on works such as "Trost in Tranen" or "Consolation in tears", a rare setting, for Brahms, of Goethe, "Meine Liebe is grun", a passionate poem by Felix Schumann, the son of Robert and Clara, "Therese" a song of adolescent male -- older woman love setting a poem by Gottfried Keller, the famous meditative song "Feldinsamkeit" (Alone in the Fields) to a text by hermann Allmers and "Nactwandler" (Sleepwalker) by Max Kalbeck, which Johnson interprets to refer to Brahms's walks through Vienna late in the evenings in search of women of the streets. The notes to these and many other songs helped me to understand and appreciate them more.

While useful, it is important to avoid becoming distracted by the detail of the notes. I think the best way of approaching this music is to listen to the songs while focusing, at most, on the recording and on the printed text and translation. The songs and the music speak for themselves. After doing this, and trying to avoid the temptation to read ahead, I returned to the booklet to read Johnson's notes. I then went back to the songs and texts to hear them again with the musical and literary insights I had gleaned from Johnson. For songs that the listener wants to approach more closely, a more individualized and detailed reading and hearing will be possible.

The series as a whole will be arranged with in modified chronological order. Each CD presents works from different periods of Brahms's life, but the songs are chronological within the periods. Most of the time, the songs cannot be presented whole by their sets in opus numbers because Brahms chronologically interpolated works from different times in his published sets. This CD, however does include a full set of the seven songs of opus 48, presented in the order in which Brahms offered them in the published volume. Each volume will include a selection of lieder together with a selection from the folskong arrangements. The four folksongs included on this CD feature Brahms's lovely and, for many listeners, familiar setting of a sad love song, "Da unten im Tale", "Down there in the Valley" together with two lighter, even slightly naughty songs.

This CD, and Johnson's notes stress Brahms's interest in folk song throughout his lieder, the melancholy, introspective, and highly personal character of some of the songs, and Brahms indebtedness to his predecessors, especially Schubert, in the realm of art song.

I have heard and come to love several recordings of Brahms's songs in recent years and was excited to learn of Johnson's new series. CD's on Hyperion are, alas, fully-priced. Budgetary considerations aside, I look forward to further releases in this new series of the Brahms songs.

Brahms: Complete Songs Vol 2
Johannes Brahms, composer
Christine Schafer, performer
Graham Johnson, performer
B004OZRPJG, $16.99

Christine Schafer Sings Brahms Lieder

The pianist and scholar of lieder Graham Johnson is following-up his recordings of the complete songs of Schubert. Schumann, Faure, and Strauss with another ambitious project: recording the complete lieder of Johannes Brahms. The recordings are on the Hyperion label. The first volume of the series featured mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirschlager, In this new CD the renowned German soprano Christine Schafer sings 33 Brahms songs accompanied by Johnson at the piano. Schafer has recorded a broad range of music, from opera to lieder. Among other things, she has recorded Bach cantatas, Schoenberg, and Schubert's Winterreise. She sings the Brahms songs on this CD with intimacy and passion and beautifully piercing tone in her upper register. The recording dates from 2010.

Brahms' lieder are less well-known than those of Schubert and Schumann and may not be as familiar to music lovers as his orchestral and chamber music. The songs are the most intimate part of Brahms' output. They are often sad and intense and make great use of folk material. This new series is valuable not only for the quality of the performances but also for the opportunity it offers to explore Brahms' songs in depth. Each volume of the series is accompanied by an invaluable discussion by Johnson giving text and translation of each song together with a detailed musical and textual analysis. The liner notes allow the listener to explore the songs in depth. They do not, of course, substitute for direct involvement with the music, but they add a great deal. Listeners with a passion for song or for learning about Brahms's songs will love this CD.

The songs are arranged in roughly chronological order but Johnson's aim is to emphasize close listening to each small work rather than thinking in terms of cycles. With that said, there is a great deal of thematic grouping on this CD. The recording features a complete set of the six Brahms songs known as the "Madchenlieder". After Brahms' death, his publisher took these songs from collections and opus numbers that Brahms had published at varying times and compiled them into a set. The songs are all narrated by a young girl and each speaks of the vicissitudes of love. The cycle is a mix of art songs and settings of Paul Heyse together with a collection of folk material. The best-known song is "Madchenlied", set to a poem by Heyse in which a girl spins at her spinning wheel while lamenting her loneliness and lack of love. This song owes much to Schubert's "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" and features a similar form of piano accompaniment. Schafer and Johnson's performance of these six "maiden songs" is a rare treasure.

Another related group of songs on this CD consists of five settings of the poet George Frederich Daumer (1800 -- 1875), who is remembered today largely because Brahms liked his verses. The five Daumer poems in Brahms opus 57, all are written for a man and have as a theme love and rejection. The love expressed by the singer and by the music tends to be hopeless. I have heard Fischer-Dieskau's recording of this group of songs. The lieder have a unique intensity when sung by Schafer in a high soprano voice.

Besides these groups of songs, Schafer sings one of Brahms' longest and best-known lieder, "Regenlied", (Rain song) op. 59 no.3, together with its related sequel "Nachklang" (distant echo) both of which set poems by Brahms' Klaus Groth (1819 -- 1899). Regenlied is comparatively well-known because Brahms used the theme of the song in the finale of his G major violin sonata, opus 78. The song has a deeply nostalgic, sad theme, as the aging poet looks back to the sound of the falling rain to remember the innocence and hope of his childhood of long ago. Johnson's notes offer a particularly detailed account of this song which will reward reading. Other art songs on the CD include Brahms' setting of Goethe's Die Liebende screibt" (the beloved writes) op. 47, no. 5, a poem that Schubert also set. Brahms' song owes a great deal to Schubert. Brahms early song "As the cloud strays after the sun" op. 6 no. 5. which sings of absence from the beloved, is highly intense with a closely-wrought piano accompaniment.

This CD also includes six songs drawn from Brahms' late collection "Deutsche Volkslieder" (1894) which Brahms believed, largely mistakenly, was based on traditional folk material.This collection is frequently recorded as a unit. But Johnson has judiciously decided to divide its contents among the different CDs in the Hyperion series. The songs "Abschied" op 69 no. 3 and "Des Liebsten Schwur" (the lover's vow) op 69 no. 4 also show Brahms' deep interest in folk song.

This CD will probably have greatest appeal to listeners who already love lieder and have some familiarity with Brahms' songs. It offers a unique way of exploring these small intimate works with care and detail. I am looking forward to hearing the further volumes in this series.

Total Time: 75:37

Schubert Lieder on Record: 1898 -- 1912
Franz Schubert (composer), various performers
Warner Classics
B00803EXHK, $40.17

Songs For Many Days

With friends on media, I have of late been exploring the varied treasures of American popular song in a feature called "Song of the Day". Thinking about American song brought me back to the matchless composer of song in all its variety: Franz Schubert (1797- 1828). In his short life, Schubert virtually invented song as it is known today, both in the classical or "art" song and in popular song. Song provides a link between these two seemingly disparate (classical and popular) worlds of music. It is thus fitting that the American baritone, Thomas Hampson, figures prominently in the set I am reviewing here. Hampson is both a noted singer of lieder and an advocate of American song who has received recognition from the Library of Congress for his pioneering work in this medium.

I have listened to and loved Schubert songs for all my adult life and before. Thus, I was enthusiastic when I learned of this massive documentary collection: "Schubert: Lieder on Record 1898 -- 2012". The set consists of 16 generously-filled CDs of Schubert songs, presented largely chronologically. There is approximately 20 hours of music. The 17th CD is an illustrated discussion of Schubert songs by Thomas Hampson which begins with the early song "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" and concludes with a discussion of "Winterreise" and its final song, "The Organ Grinder". The discussion offers an informed, valuable overview of the world of Schubert's lieder.

Chronologically, the set begins with an 1898 recording of "Ave Maria" by contralto Edith Clegg (pianist unidentified) and concludes with three songs released in 2011 and performed by soprano Kate Royal and pianist Malcolm Martineau. Of the 16 CDs, the first thirteen include recitals of individual lieder. The final three CDs are devoted to performances of the cycles. Peter Schrier, tenor, and Steven Zehr perform "Die Schone Mullerin" with Zehr on the fortepiano. (The distinction between his instrument and the modern piano allows this cycle to be heard afresh.) Baritone Olaf Bar and pianist Geoffrey Parsons perform the final loose collection of songs titled "Schwanengesang". And Thomas Hampson, baritone, and Wolfgang Swallisch offer a passionate performance of "Winterreise" to conclude the set.

The set can be divided into two parts. The first six CDs include historical recordings from 1898 through the early 1950s, concluding with a short set by soprano Kirsten Flagstad with Gerald Moore, who figures everywhere in this set, at the piano. These first CDs had been released in 1982 on 8 LPs as a historical overview of Schubert songs on record. In these CDs, there are 93 separate songs, 128 tracks, and 64 different singers. There are some orchestral versions of the songs, in lieu of the piano. Earlier recordings tended to focus on a relatively small group of familiar songs. Hence these 6 CDs offer the opportunity to hear multiple versions of famous songs such as "Erlkonig". But many less familiar works also are included. I loved hearing these older recordings and comparing them with the versions of more recent singers. In general, earlier recordings tended to be much freer, and influenced more by both operatic and popular styles of singing, than their more recent successors.

The next ten CDs include recordings of Schubert in roughly the years following WW II. There are 30 singers performing more than 200 songs, with much less internal repetition than in the first part of the set. The set thus is not a "complete" recording of the Schubert lieder but instead includes somewhat more than one-third of his output.

Besides the three song cycles, the only CD devoted to the work of a single performer features the late Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau performing a collection of ballads together with songs with texts by Schubert's friend, Johann Mayrhofer. (There is a short collection of songs by young Fischer-Dieskau in the first part of the set as well.) A great virtue of this set is that it allows the listener to explore Schubert songs in their variety performed beautifully by singers in addition to Fischer-Dieskau. Wonderful as his singing is, he can be too easily overemphasized to the exclusion of other singers. The performers here are largely famous and include Elly Ameling, Elizabeth Schwartzkopf, Janet Baker, Hermann Prey, Ian Partridge, Leontyne Price, Ian Bostridge, and many more. The list of pianists is equally distinguished and includes Edwin Fischer, Geoffrey Parsons, James Lockart, Irwin Gage, Dalton Baldwin, among others, in addition to Moore. A little collection that I particularly noted was by soprano Arleen Auger and fortepianist Lambert Orkis performing 7 songs recorded in a local church in Washington, D.C. where I have attended many concerts.

I listened to the set in its entirety over a period of several days beginning with the first CD and proceeding with each CD in numerical order through CD 17 with its overview of Schubert lieder. One reason I did so was to hear the entire set from beginning to end for purposes of reviewing it. I thought I was being too fast with the set for reviewing purposes as most of these songs should be heard individually many times. However, as I listened to the many recordings in this manner, I was carried away. With their endless lyricism, drama and variety, these songs took me to a different world of imagination. Hearing the series as a set (with appropriate breaks between each CD) was deeply moving, almost intoxicating. I felt a strong continuity between Schubert composing the songs during his short life, the performances of his songs over time, the recordings which began in 1898 and which continue to the present and will continue into the future, and my own love for Schubert, which began in adolescence and which continues, all rolled up into one. This is endlessly enduring music. In a musical tour which he undertook with the singer Vogl late in his life, Schubert summarized much of the nature of his song in a letter to his brother. He wrote: "The way in which Vogl sings and I accompany, and how we seem in such a moment to be one, is for these people, something quite new, quite unheard-of."

The recording quality of the 17 CDs is high, even for the early tracks. There are a few inevitable scratches and hissings. On my set, there was only one track, which was unusably defective (the final cut on volume 15). The set includes a good booklet with information about all the tracks and a good essay "Schubert and his poets" by Richard Stokes. The texts and translations of the songs are included in PDF format as part of CD 16.

This collection overwhelmed me in its variety and scope and reminded me of love, passion, beauty, drama and Schubert's unique genius. I suspect the set may be too extensive for those listeners with no prior familiarity with Schubert songs, but perhaps not. In any event, those listeners who love Schubert and art song will want to have this collection of beautiful enduring musical treasures.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

The Maid
Nita Prose
Ballantine Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593356159, $27.00

The Maid is a murder mystery set in the Regency Grand, a luxury hotel, and is narrated by the protagonist, Molly Gray, AKA Molly the Maid. Molly is a twenty-five year old woman on the autism spectrum with the additional trait of being obsessive-compulsive. Her grandmother died nine months earlier, and Molly is now living without the woman who helped Molly interpret the other peoples' social cues. Prose does an admirable job showing how differently Molly's mind works, yet those differences are smoothed over as Molly mentally hears her grandmother's words: We're all the same in the different ways. Molly at first that everyone is open and honest. Her lack of understanding of the human behavior leads to her being easily manipulated. Molly enjoys bringing order to the hotel - and to her own home - by cleaning up, another eccentricity which adds to the distance between her and others. Her oddness leads to her own behavior being misinterpreted by fellow employees, and they often are not kind in expressing their feelings, churning out insults such as: Roomba, Neat Freak, and Weirdo."

One day when Molly goes to clean a suite, she discovers the body of a wealthy hotel guest, a businessman named Mr. Black. Her odd personality contribute to her becoming the lead suspect in the murder. As she relates her story, she gives the reader privileged information, allowing them to see things Molly either doesn't understand or misinterprets.

The Maid is a who-dunnit with an unusual protagonist. I enjoyed Molly's voice, her optimism, and her peculiarities.

Athena's Child
Hannah M. Lynn
Independently published
9798703200018, $10.99

In Athena's Child, Hannah Lynn depicts a beautiful young Medusa serving in Athena's temple. Poseidon forces himself upon her. Athena, rather than blame Poseidon for raping her acolyte, blames Medusa and curses her, making her into the monster of mythology. Lynn's Medusa, feeling forsaken by her goddess, tries to live in peace on her island, but her seclusion is interrupted time and again by wannabe heroes, hoping to kill her. This depiction of Medusa shows the persistence of the male hierarchy and how women, even other women, blame the victim for her own rape rather than blaming the perpetrator.

Lynn also writes from Perseus's point of view and shows his desire to decapitate Medusa. He wants to save his mother from marrying King Polydectes. Perseus plans to weaponize Medusa's head and use it to kill the king.

The prose in Athena's Child is a bit simplistic and far less poetic that that in Madeline Miller's Circe or Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls. Lynn does ask us to listen to the stories of women that the patriarchy sees as villains and to reevaluate their lives in view of the #MeToo movement. However, so much of the book is in Perseus's point of view that the momentum for feminism is diluted. This is a short, easy read that might be a good middle grade reader for a child who won't be triggered by the rape and killing. Because it is so short, though, the characterization suffers a bit.

Olga Dies Dreaming
Xochitl Gonzalez
Flatiron Books
9781250786173, $27.99

I loved this debut novel. The first chapter drew me in to this wildly dysfunctional family. The main characters are Olga Acevedo (named after a radical female) and her brother Prieto. Their father dies of AIDS picked up through intravenous drug use. Their mother deserts them when Olga is thirteen and her brother seventeen. Prieto changes his plans for college to stay home and help their grandmother take care of Olga. Through the years, the two receive letters from their mother. Due to her clandestine existence in the radical underground, her children never have any real idea of where she is or what she's doing. Though she is seen only in the epistolary segments of the book, her character comes through loud and clear: she is a radicalized Puertorique¤a fighting against "the man." In each letter, she urges her children to become what she perceives as their true selves, trying to get them to join her in her fight for Puerto Rican independence. Her disappointment in the lives they establish for themselves is incandescent.

This book deals with many issues facing people of color and nonbinary people, ranging from blatant racism to the more subtle, deeply engendered white privilege.

I enjoyed watching Olga and Prieto come to terms with being abandoned by a mother who never should have been a mother, their development of their own lives, and how they eventually must abandon their hopes for reconciliation with their mother.

Isabel Allende
Ballantine Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593496206, $28.00

Violeta is a coming of age story written in an epistolary style in a very long manuscript she sends to her grandson, Camilo. Violeta Del Valle came into the world with the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1920, and, now 100, faces the Coronavirus pandemic. There is a lot of "telling" here as Violeta packs a century's worth of her incredible life as well as the salient world and Chilean events into 336 pages. After the world economy crashes with the Great Depression, her family is "exiled" to a farm in Nahuel in southern Chile. She finds herself there while living a very modest life. As time passes, she also writes of her loves including her torrid affair with an abusive man (and Camilo's grandfather). Allende firmly places Violeta's life within changes in women's rights, religion, and politics as Chile moves from a fascist to a democratic government. The cover is lovely as well, matching the contents of the book.

The Collector's Apprentice
B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books
9781616203580, $27.95

In The Collector's Apprentice, the author B. A. Shapiro disguises the life of Dr. Albert Coombs Barnes, the chemist and physician, as Edwin Bradley, a man with a similar history, and turns it into a thriller. Both men develop a medication, Argyrol, to prevent ophthalmic gonorrhoeae in newborns, With they wealth they garner from this medication, they begin an extensive art collection which they plan to house in a large museum/home on Latch's Lane in Merion Station, Pennsylvania.

The book is filled with lovely art details and an imaginary affair between Paulien Mertens, a young woman whom the fictional Bradley, hires as a translator in Paris. Later, she becomes his apprentice and helps him develop his collection and the building to house it.

I lived in Merion Station, only a few doors from the Barnes Foundation, and know its environs and art collection quite well. Indeed, the controversy over whether the collection should continue to be housed in the Foundation's building or in a new museum in downtown Philadelphia continued until 2004 when a judge ordered that the museum's artworks could be moved out of lower Merion. Shapiro does a great job in presenting the political conniving that goes on between the myriad characters in this book. I enjoyed reading it and revisiting the Barnes Foundation.

Salvation: A novel based on a true story
Avery Caswell
TouchPoint Press
9781952816550, $16.99

Salvation is the tory of two girls "kidnapped" by a female evangelist in 1971. It is based on events told to Avery Caswell by one of the children involved. Her testimony is coupled with Ms. Caswell's research. In 1971, the United States was involved in the Viet Nam war and the Civil Rights movement including such civil rights groups such as the Crusade for Voters and the NAACP. These events are woven into the fabric of Salvation as are the marginalization, the economic deprivation, and the disenfranchisement of blacks and visions of a dual America, one for whites and another subculture for blacks.

Del Munro, the single mother of four children, is chronically short of funds. Even with two jobs, she is frequently unable to feed her family. She and her older children often wish for a "vacation" at the beach. When neighbors take off for two weeks, that dream becomes more intense. Thus, when Mother Franklin, a morbidly obese evangelist, offers to take the two girls (Willie June, age nine, and Glory, age seven) on such a vacation, Del agrees. She assumes the girls will return in two weeks. Money changes hands which Del hides in her closet. It's never clear whether Del sells her children or if the money exchanged was a thank you for Del housing and feeding Mother Franklin during a stop on her evangelical tour. When the girls don't return, Del begins to regret her decision. She calls all the appropriate governmental agencies but is brushed off. The police and FBI aren't interested in the fate of two black children. Eventually her boss hires a private investigator, Charlie Banks to track down the girls. As Mother Franklin's entourage tours the South, moving from downtrodden church to downtrodden church, fleecing the congregations with false prophesies. Glory's and Willie June essentially become child slaves, caring for Mother Franklin.

It took me a while to get into the dialect presented in the book without having to stop and translate every line into standard English. Though written in a rather distant third person point of view, Caswell brings Willie June's and the PI's point of view into play using an imaginary diary and his investigative reports respectively. The reports often reiterate what the reader has already learned, so in places Salvation was somewhat repetitive.

The Beautiful Ones
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Thomas Dunne Books
9781250099068, $17.99

The Beautiful Ones is very unlike Ms. Moreno-Garcia's noir-ish Velvet Was the Night. The Beautiful Ones is a comedy of manners set in an imaginary world in which the characters maintain the tightly-drawn rolls of the late 19th century British gentry with the addition of some characters having the ability to teleport objects. Members of high society are "the beautiful ones." Antonina (Nina) Beaulieu is an amateur lepidopterist in the fashion of the 19th century people who enjoyed collecting and categorizing the natural world. She has the gift of telekinesis, a trait she's unable to control and which manifests itself most strongly when she is overly emotionally. Hector Auvray, a telekinetic performer, returns home after a decade away, hoping to settle his feelings about Valerie Beaulieu, a woman he'd loved who broke off their engagement to marry the wealthy Gaetan Beaulieu. Hector, still reeling from that blow, is taken with the young, naive Nina but fears losing his heart again. Valerie, a villain you will love to hate is a scheming, bitter, manipulative virago who tries to break Nina's independent will.

The Beautiful Ones turns a scathing gaze on male privilege, the stifling roles allowed women, and materialism. The language is poetic and languid in keeping with the world view.

Blue-Skinned Gods
SJ Sindu
Soho Press
9781641292429, $26.00

I read Blue-Skinned Gods in one sitting, broken only by a telephone call from a friend. The characterization was compelling populated by everything from a child-god to rock-and-roll stars. S.J. Sindu intertwines these characters' lives in such a compelling manner that I had difficulty putting the book down. The reader meets the above-mentioned child-god, Kalthi Sami, his manipulative father, his depressed mother, his boyhood best friend, and his first love. Kalthi lives with the constant pressure of having to live up to his future as the tenth human reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu while really wanting to run and play like a normal ten-year-old boy. It is only when Kalthi realizes he has lost everyone and begins to realize how unscrupulous his father is, that Kalthi breaks free. A totally unexpected twist occurs when Kalthi learns of the circumstances of his birth.

Sindu's prose is lush and poetic and carries us from the deceptively idyllic ashram in India where Kalki is raised to the drug/alcohol soaked post-punk music scene in New York. The book tackles tough topics: spirituality, faith and doubt, family, trauma, gender issues, sexuality, and finding one's true self. An absolutely gorgeous book.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse
Karen DeArmond Gardner
Kregel Publications
9780825446948, $17.99 pbk / $15.57 Kindle

Synopsis: When someone leaves an abusive marriage, life isn't instantly fixed. Women who have experienced domestic violence feel shattered. Because of the trauma they've been through, a bond with their abuser has formed that keeps them tied together long after they've physically left.

Karen DeArmond Gardner understands these difficulties all too well. She tackled all the same struggles when she left her own abusive marriage. And she intimately knows what women in this situation need in order to gain freedom from the lies of abuse-to be reborn as the people God longs for them to be.

Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse isn't a how-to book with a few easy steps. Instead, it's a biblically based map for a long journey to healing. By recounting her own history--as well as the faithfulness of God when she was willing to follow His direction--Karen helps readers:

discover there is life beyond abuse

recognize God's relentless pursuit of their heart

gain courage to release the trauma of their past

regain life, hope, and wholeness in Jesus's healing love

Gardner's inside perspective, strong voice, and incredible, vulnerable story of deliverance from the bonds of abuse allow readers to find themselves in her words and feel heard at last. She puts hope back in their hands, with the assurance that God loves them deeply and wants them to know they aren't defined by their trauma, their past, or their brokenness.

Critique: Written by the survivor of an abusive marriage, Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse: Reaching for God's Promise of Real Freedom is a biblically themed book about surviving and healing from domestic abuse. Domestic violence does not have to be a life sentence, and leaving a harmful relationship is only the first step of a journey toward hope, and the warmth of God's love. Testimonies from survivors and suggested activities to aid in one's transition round out this uplifting guide. (It should be noted that Hope and Healing from Domestic Abuse focuses primarily upon emotional and spiritual healing, and not on legal, economic, or physical security matters related to leaving an abusive partner.) Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse is highly recommended especially for domestic abuse survivors and Christian spirituality collections.

Editorial Note: Thirty years, four months, and two days after she said, "I do," Karen DeArmond Gardner left an abusive marriage. Today, she's a trauma advocate for women who have experienced abuse. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads survivors through their trauma. She is the founder of, and owns a private security company in Hurst, Texas, with Tom Gardner, her second husband of ten years.

The Healing Power of the Sun, updated edition
Richard Hobday
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644114025, $17.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: For thousands of years, the human race lived in harmony with the sun and used its heat and light as medicine. In recent history, however, with skin cancer on the rise, we have become too focused on the negative effects of the sun. Fortunately, science has made new discoveries showing just how beneficial the sun truly is to our lives.

In this new edition and updated edition of "The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine", Richard Hobday draws on historical and scientific evidence to explore the many ways that sunlight affects our health and well-being. He shows how the sun acts as a natural disinfectant, killing viruses and bacteria outdoors as well as inside buildings. The author highlights how sunlight therapy has been used to prevent and treat serious health problems like tuberculosis and other infections in the years before antibiotics were developed. Explaining how doctors of the past realized that sunlight and fresh air helped patients recover, he shows how this wisdom was put into use by doctors such as Niels Finsen, Oskar Bernhard, and Auguste Rollier, who each contributed substantially to the development of heliotherapy.

"The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine" also examines the role of sunlight in regard to conditions like osteoporosis, rickets, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tooth decay, psoriasis, heart disease, and several forms of cancer. Exploring the sun's effects on body and mind, "The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine" also reveals how our modern artificially lit lifestyles can throw off our biological rhythms, create stress within the body, and lead to poor sleep as well as worsening eyesight, cataracts, obesity, depression, and weakened immune systems from lack of vitamin D.

Showing why and how we should welcome the healing sun back into our lives, "The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine" is seminal book that reveals how humanity needs sunlight for health and well-being and for vitality and happiness.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine" is an extraordinary and unique contribution to the growing library of Holistic Medicine, and an especially recommended addition to personal and professional Alternative Health & Medicine collections.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Scotland, Richard Hobday, MSc, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized researcher and author with many years of experience in solar building design, as well as a leading authority on the history of sunlight therapy.

The Healing of Natalie Curtis
Jane Kirkpatrick
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780800736132, $16.99 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Classically trained pianist and singer Natalie Curtis isolated herself for five years after a breakdown just before she was to debut with the New York Philharmonic. Guilt-ridden and songless, Natalie can't seem to recapture the joy music once brought her. In 1902, her brother invites her to join him in the West to search for healing. What she finds are songs she'd never before encountered--the haunting melodies, rhythms, and stories of Native Americans.

But their music is under attack. The US government's Code of Offenses prohibits American's indigenous people from singing, dancing, or speaking their own languages as the powers that be insist on assimilation. Natalie makes it her mission not only to document these songs before they disappear but to appeal to President Teddy Roosevelt himself, who is the only man with the power to repeal the unjust law. Will she succeed and step into a new song... and a new future?

Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick weaves yet another lyrical tale based on a true story that will keep readers captivated to the very end.

Critique: Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick presents The Healing of Natalie Curtis, a historical fiction novel about a woman who discovers the beauty and healing of Native American music and stories. But the year is 1902, and the US Government's Code of Offenses outlaws indigenous people from traditional singing and dancing, or speaking their own languages, all in the name of assimilation. Natalie resolves to challenge unjust these American laws, and make her appeal to President Teddy Roosevelt himself. A fascinating, expertly researched and vividly presented period piece, The Healing of Natalie Curtis is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Healing of Natalie Curtis is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Editorial Note: Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author or contributor to thirty-nine books, including Something Worth Doing, One More River to Cross, A Name of Her Own, All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award and 2021 Silver award. They have been short-listed for the Christy, Oregon Book Awards, and the Spur Awards. Jane is a clinical social worker and former consultant to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Early Childhood programs. Learn more at

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Surviving the Second Tier
M. K. Lever
Hugo House Publishers
B09MDR6FYH, $2.99, 429 Pages

A behind the scenes insight into the college sports industry

As a former college athlete, Katie Lever who is currently a doctoral candidate studying college sports, has written this insightful book as a behind the scenes expose into the struggles which affect college athletes.

The protagonist, Sis Jones, is a highly motivated and talented athlete, who, with her team mates continually juggle a college education with rigorous athletic training. Dedicated, and surrounded by equally motivated fighters, in the same position, they all are very much aware that they must do their best and push themselves to the very limits to achieve the goals set by Coach. These second-tier fighters don't have the first-tier fighters' luxury of wealthy parents, they rely on scholarships, a failure in the ring can result in being cut from the team, and that means the ruination of not only their athletic, but also academic career.

Sis has a good network of friends surrounding her, each battling to survive in their cutthroat world. They study together, train together and compete in the same tier, yet each has their own secret. As this fascinating story unfolds the author takes us into the hearts and souls of these young athletes, who after all are normal young people battling the day-to-day struggles all of us have, both physically and emotionally.

Yet, as the story progresses the reader discovers that the team are not the only ambitious people, Coach has his own agenda and knows each team members Achilles heel, and just how to use it to his advantage.

However, when James Merritt, the AFA (American Fighting Association) Director takes the rule book into his own hands he makes a grave mistake. Too long the underdogs, when Sis and her second-tier team members are pushed too far at Nationals, everyone discovers that united the second tier are a force to be reckoned with. Despite the potential repercussions, they decide there has finally become a time when they must bite the bullet. Truth will out! And then, readers, the repercussions begin...

This book will I am sure make fascinating reading for those considering a career in amateur fighting, and college sports. However, within its pages readers will also discover the individual characters' stories, their secrets, dreams, ambitions and fears, and through their fortitude discover that nothing is impossible if the will is strong enough. Highly recommended.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

You Sexy Thing
Cat Rambo
Tor Books
Tor/Forge Books
9781250269300, $25.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that's just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance.

But, some wars can't ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren't content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.

Critique: A rollicking great read from first page to last, "You Sexy Thing" is a thoroughly fun science fiction novel by Cat Rambo, an author with a great sense of humor, impressive originality, and a total master of that genre of that classic action/adventure science fiction called 'Space Opera'. While "You Sexy Thing" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated science fiction fans that "You Sexy Thing" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781250269294, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Cat Rambo (they/them) is an American fantasy and science fiction writer whose work has appeared in, among others, Asimov's, Weird Tales, Chiaroscuro, Talebones, and Strange Horizons. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, where they studied with John Barth and Steve Dixon, they also attended the Clarion West Writers' Workshop. They are currently the managing editor of Fantasy Magazine. They published a collection of stories, Eyes Like Sky And Coal And Moonlight, and their collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories, appeared in 2007. They live and write in Washington State, and "Cat Rambo" is their real name.

The Time of Pedro
Joe Cohen
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587905841, $20.00, PB, 232pp

Synopsis: Set in the fifteenth century, "The Time of Pedro" by novelist Joe Cohen is the story of a band of Jewish and Romany travelers from Poland who seek to wend their way through the Holy Roman Empire to Spain without getting beaten, robbed, raped, forced into servitude, or killed.

Critique: It is interesting to note that the manuscript of "The Time of Pedro" sat on author Joe Cohen's desk for 34 years before this final revision was published by Regent Press. An inherently interesting, deftly crafted, and memorable novel, "The Time of Pedro" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Historical Fiction collections.

Willis M. Buhle

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

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