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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 5 May 2016 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Chutsky's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Kevin's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Moore's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Rod's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

All The Rage
Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250021915, $18.99, HC,

Adrianna Davies

Courtney Summers was a high school dropout, but that didn't stop her from pursuing her dreams of exploring the different types of writing styles to share her stories. She finally, at the age of 18, wrote her first book and everything in her life felt right. Summers shares stories about girls who are completely alone in this big world. She believes that the scariest thing is the realization of being alone as a teenager. Summers writes stories that make you think about how the world views things. All of her stories end so badly that you wish they had ended up totally differently, but after you finish reading, you come to understand that there was no other way for the story to conclude. For the release of All The Rage, Summers began a campaign called #ToTheGirls, that was used to send a message of support and happiness to girls worldwide who are feeling and facing the loneliness of life. But when your voice is taken from you by your peers and you're left alone, how would you act in a situation that could determine someone's life? Would you defend them or let the situation play out?

In this particular book, Romy, a senior in high school, is stuck inside of a body she does not want to claim as her own. A few months earlier, the not-so-perfect boy Kellan Turner, son to the Sheriff of Romy's hometown, gave Romy a reason to label him as an enemy. After Romy tried to come clean about the situation, she was branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by people she used to consider her friends. Her friends, her teachers, her community, and even her family turned their backs on the situation at hand. Romy seeks refuge at a diner just outside of town where no one knows her past or who she is and she can be a totally different girl than the girl she is at school. Until one day, an ex-friend stops by the diner to share with her some news of a return of a person that would send Romy running out of town, literally.

While all of this is happening, Romy and the entire senior class are preparing for their weekend getaway at Wake Lake, the annual, senior-only night away from their parents with no rules and a bunch of teenagers. When Romy shows up, the whole night goes black and in the morning, a girl Romy used to be close to turns up missing. Could she have fallen victim to Kellan Turner? Or is it someone no one would have ever expected? All Romy knows is she has to speak up, but doesn't know if she can bring herself to do so because of the way she was treated the first time she tried. The ending of this book will definitely leave your jaw open and channel anger you thought you never had.

This book was unlike any I have ever read before. With the recent sexual assault scandals that have surfaced in the media, this fictional book provided evidence against the small town secrets that are kept. Survivors are finally speaking out and this book is powerful enough to give anyone who thinks they're alone, a voice. This follows the rest of the topics of Summers' books, with the ending leaving you wishing it didn't finish the way it did, but deep down you knew there was no other way. Each page left you craving more and more. I often found myself saying one last page, then 20 pages later, saying the same thing. Even though this story was fiction, I felt as if I could relate to Romy on a personal level. Whatever situation she was going through, Summers describes in enough detail that I felt as if I was almost there in Romy's position. This book appealed to so many different emotions I thought I never had and it was an eye opener to the world around me. It reminded me of the sexual assault victims that are slut-shamed each day for something they did not ever want to happen to them. I think this book would give the people in need of a voice to speak out about their assault or the push to do so.

How Music Got Free
Stephen Witt
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780525426615, $27.95, HC,

Alayna Hanson

A Piracy Nation

Piracy of music is a crime so often committed that most people forget that the music they're downloading for free is illegal. Almost everyone I know has done this, but most people have no idea how that music they are downloading became free. Stephen Witt searched for the answer to how this happened. Witt was born in New Hampshire in 1979. He was raised in the Midwest. Witt graduated from The University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics, and a graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism. Witt currently resides in New York and is a fairly new published author. How Music Got Free happens to be his first novel. Witt shows his wittiness throughout his creatively written novel about the development of pirated music. He relates his own personal experiences of pirated music to the novel to further explain how extensive the piracy of music became.

In How Music Got Free, Witt focuses on the lives of three people that were important to the growing of music piracy. One of these important people is Karlheinz Brandenburg. He was a German engineer who helped with the creation of the MP3. In order to create a digital file that was small, but good quality, decades of research were required. Brandenburg and other engineers studied how the human ear works in order to be able to remove recordings of unnecessary sounds that were not picked up by the ear. By removing the unnecessary noise, the engineers were able to reduce the size of a digital file of music small enough to be able to quickly download it. It took years after all the research to perfect this reduction of music. These engineers successfully created the MP3, but unfortunately did not have luck with spreading the MP3 because more people chose to support MP2 files before MP3 files. These types of files were made at the same time, but they used different formulas to create them, resulting in different digital recordings. It wasn't until Piracy became popular that MP3 files became popular.

Witt introduces a man named Dell Glover who helped make piracy as popular as it is today by contributing a great deal. Glover worked at PolyGram, which was a factory that made CDs and packaged them long before they were ever released to the public. He was able to sneak out CDs which he began to do frequently. Over the course of eight years, Glover released approximately 2,000 albums before they were even sold in stores to the piracy nation. He did this to become a part of a group that traded rarities including the albums that Glover illegally added. Glover eventually had to stop this because he was caught. He then cooperated with the F.B.I. and served time in jail. Doug Morris was the third important person followed in this book. Morris ran the Universal Music Group from 1995 until 2011. Witt praises his ability to find the next big artists and popular genres that arose throughout the years. Morris' biggest role in this book was to show his reaction to the inventors of the MP3 and Glover's piracy of all the music that Morris and the artists were trying to make money off of.

Witt effectively weaves the stories of these three people together to fully explain the development and growth of music piracy. This book is written exceptionally well, although it may be hard to get into if music, piracy, or history is not something the reader enjoys. Also, the three stories can become confusing if not read closely enough. I thought this book overall was unique and interesting, and I have not heard of any others like it. I found that I learn a lot of information on the history of the MP3 and piracy of music from this book, but it didn't feel like an informational book while reading it. It was enjoyable and not too difficult of a read, but some words were a bit technical. How Music Got Free is easy to relate to with the well told stories of the three main characters and the big name artists that are brought up throughout due to their important role in the music industry and how the piracy affected them.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos
Dominic Smith
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780374106683, $26.00 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 304pp,

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

What would you do if your Ph.D dissertation in Art History was stalled, your skills and expertise in art restoration and conservation were being overlooked, and the art-dealer from whom you often gained lucrative restoration commissions asked you to copy a valuable old painting with which you immediately fell in love?

And what would you do if years later, when you are a respected figure in the art world, your copy - your fake, to be precise - and the original painting were both due to arrive at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia for an important exhibition of which you are curator?

These are the dilemmas faced by Ellie Shipley, an Australian woman who we meet, first, boiling up smelly rabbit pelts for glue and grinding pigments in a mildewed, cramped Brooklyn apartment.

The painting which is the cause of the problem is the only known surviving work of a 17th century Dutch woman, Sara de Vos. Sara is Dominic Smith's creation, as is the life he invents for her, but she is based on a real woman artist of the Dutch Golden Age, Sarah von Baalbergen, who in 1631 was the first woman artist ever to be admitted to the Harlem Guild of St Luke which controlled all aspects of an artist's professional life.

Sara's husband, Barent, is a professional painter and was a member of the Guild until he fell foul of their strict regulations about signing and dating his work and was fined and suspended. He hopes to get them out of debt by tapping into the current tulipomania and selling tulip paintings done by Sara, who has some artistic skill but has always been just his wife and assistant. Whenever Barent leaves the house, however, Sara abandons the tulip painting and climbs to the attic where she is secretly working on a landscape in which she hopes to capture her memories of their dead daughter, Kathrijn.

Sara's painting, 'At the Edge of the Wood' is the strange, evocative landscape with which, centuries later, Ellie falls in love. It has been passed down in the family of American lawyer, Marty de Groot, for more than three centuries, and was hung above his marital bed in the richly furnished three-storey Manhattan penthouse. When we first meet Marty he is close to becoming a partner in a prestigious American law firm and he is preparing an Aid Society dinner for colleagues and friends (at $200 a plate) to raise money for orphans. Some time during the party his painting is, as he later puts it, "plucked from the wall" and replaced with a "meticulous fake". He revels in the suggestion of a masterminded plot but neglects to say that he didn't notice the substitution for months.

Marty hires a private detective to trace his painting and, eventually, he takes a devious and nasty form of revenge on Ellie. This, however, is not the end of the story.

In alternating chapters set in America, Holland and Australia, Dominic Smith leads us into the very different lives of Marty, Sara and Ellie. He is clearly very familiar with the places in which they live and he is good at capturing the flavour of life and the character of the people in those countries. As we follow the story of the painting, we also get to know a lot about the art world, artists, and the skills needed to create, and to successfully restore a painting. Smith wears the knowledge he has gained about the art world lightly and he has acknowledged the significant help he received from experts, including professional art forger, Ken Perenyi (author of Caveat Emptor), who clearly afforded him fascinating insight into this secretive work.

"Like forgers", Smith has said, "novelists trade in figments, illusions and the limits of veracity. We both specialise in deceiving the senses". Judging by The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Smith is a skillful forger of stories. The result, however, is genuinely original. He has the knack of bringing his characters to life. And he paints a fascinating, absorbing and surprisingly suspenseful picture of the ways their lives become interwoven. If at times the fine details of canvas preparation, pigment grinding, filling and restoration get a little complicated, this is more than balanced by the lively action in an Auction house; Sara's involvement with an old Dutch woman whose family and city have been lost to plague; Ellie's life in a small Sydney community on an island close to the city; and the many other events which lead up to Marty's final appearance at the NSW Art Gallery on the night of the opening of Sara's exhibition.

Until Friday Night
Abbi Glines
Simon Pulse
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
9781481438858, $17.99 HC, $10.99 PB, $10.99 Kindle, 336pp,

Brandon Rhodes

The author of Until Friday Night, Abbi Glines, is known for being a #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her notable book series she has written include the following: Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, and Existence Series. Abbi Glines is known for writing her romantic fiction novels. She is starting a new series called The Field Party.

The different types of Field Party novels take you back into the days pertaining to high school including tailgating, Friday night football, parties, and relationships. When Until Friday Night ends, Abbi describes how she grew up in a football town and experienced all of the Friday night football weekend excitements. The book Until Friday Night is the first book to adapt into The Field Party series. The next book in The Field Party series comes out in August 2016. Under the Lights will be the spin off novel.

The audience that's reading this novel will be taken back into what some say are the best years of your life. You're in high school, you do stuff with your best friends, and you're going through critical experiences of your young life with them. The novel revolves around two main characters, West and Maggie. West is described as the star football player in the school as well as a lady's man. Maggie on the other hand, is described as a shy girl that barely talks at all. In fact, it is ordinary for her not to talk to anyone.

Throughout the novel, you will see the two speakers talking in first person. Each chapter, they switch off talking about the different thoughts they have and are viewing. Even though this is happening, they are still explaining the plot and the story in general. This is a great concept due to the fact that you get to know the characters better and can see the characters develop and grow as the story goes on. At some points, you feel as if you know them personally! This is an element that helps set the book as fiction.

West plays football and has a number of things going for him at the time. Maggie unexpectedly comes into West's life at a Friday field party and you would never think the two could know each other due to their different personalities. West is the outgoing jock that everyone knows. He is type of person that gets with different girls. He's likable throughout the town and has numerous of friends. Maggie on the other hand, doesn't talk to anyone. She's a mute. She writes her thoughts on pieces of paper.

Early on in the book, West and Maggie go through a number of similar difficulties that makes them become closer. Throughout the course of the novel, the two comfort each other to help them get through the difficulties they've experienced. You see right away the struggles West has with his dad obtaining cancer, and how he is going to lose him soon. Maggie will evolve throughout the book and you will see why she has a quiet nature all the time.

Both Maggie and West go through all of the things typical high school kids go through. Family struggles, sports, and fights. By having the same family struggles, you get to see both characters change throughout the book. The thing that keeps the audience engaged is how suspenseful their thoughts continue to be. You want to continue to read on and on to see what is going to happen.

I would recommend this book to young adult readers. It is a deep book and it is easy to get in depth with. There is a lot more to it than fun high school parties, Friday night football, and school. You will see characters change significantly throughout the course of the story and will want to root for them. You will learn how people cope with things even when they feel that their world is completely over, especially at such a young age. You will learn a number of things as a reader, and will be eager to pick up the next book.

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
Sunil Yapa
Lee Boudreaux Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316386531, $15.99 HC, $15.99 PB, $13.99 Kindle, 320pp,

Casey Stump

Sunil Yapa's debut novel, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, retells the events of the massive and controversial 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. In 1999, the World Trade Organization a series of landmark meetings on the eve of the new millennium to discuss international trade. The meetings were disrupted by one of the largest organized protests in American history. At least 40,000 people, according to the lowest estimates, flooded the streets in Seattle to protest the WTO and globalization. The protests began peacefully, but police quickly lost control of their own forces as well as the massive crowds. The event is largely remembered for its images by severe police brutality against the peaceful protestors. Yapa's novel follows a diverse cast of characters throughout a single day of the protests, from its peaceful beginnings to its violent and horrific conclusions. Yapa's ambitious storytelling captures the perspectives of several different characters throughout the protests. However, at times the tension of the story collapses under the weight of Yapa's desire to leave no psychological stone unturned.

The novel begins with an air of optimism on all sides of the protest. Tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Seattle to protest the WTO meetings. And into this mass of opportunity and humanity goes Victor, first character Yapa introduces us to, an African American teenager hoping to score big money selling weed to the protesters. Victor is confident the protests are the place he can finally make some cash and change his circumstances. Similarly, the WTO delegate from Sri Lanka is sure that he can gain his country membership into the WTO during the event. The protestors are confident in the efficacy of their convictions to protest peacefully and hold up the meetings, while the police chief is cautiously optimistic that the situation will not escalate out of control. However, the day steadily devolves into chaos, and the optimism of the morning is increasingly replaced by cynicism and even a sense of nihilism as the characters come face to face with reality.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is an incredibly ambitious and brave debut novel by Yapa. The scope of characters and themes he explores are so vast that it is remarkable how well he compacts them all into a story that spans the course of just a single day. While Yapa occasionally uses flashbacks, the novel is driven by the experiences of each character on the first day of the protests. Each chapter of the novel jumps back and forth between the perspectives of several different characters. This is both the novel's strength and its weakness. It is a strength because it allows the novel to become an exercise in perspective. The conflicts are complex and no party is solely innocent or guilty. The well-defined, clean, individual ideologies of each character quickly becomes a tangled mess as the world reveals itself as much more complicated than they first assume. The structure of the novel and the style of narration strengthen this theme, forcing the reader to be sympathetic towards characters on all sides of the conflict.

This multiplicity of perspectives also presents some challenges for the novel. There are so many different characters and storylines happening all at once that it often has a destabilizing effect on the reader. The structure of the novel does not present one main storyline, with several other subplots occurring around the primary action. Instead there are a number of storylines in the novel, all presented disjointedly, and it becomes difficult for the reader to keep track of and stay emotionally invested in all of them. There are at least four separate "main" characters in the story, each with their own fleshed-out storylines. But some chapters are told from the perspectives of other minor characters as well. I applaud Yapa for his ambition and creativity in weaving these storylines together but at points it becomes a bit too much. Yapa jumps back and forth between perspectives so often that it is difficult to stay invested in the plot. Readers may often feel that they are watching the action unfold in slow motion due to how many times the perspective shifts, and the same events are retold from a different point of view. The climax of the novel suffers from this problem. It is a scene which probably occurs in less than a minute. However, Yapa uses up several short chapters to recount the action as he gives space to explore each individual character's psyche and motivations for their specific actions. Because of this, the single event gets drawn out longer than it needs to be, and as a reader, I found myself caring more about finally getting to the next plot point than reading through several different characters' perspectives on the same event. Yapa sacrifices the drama of the events for psychological investigation. This is by no means universally negative, and Yapa's style certainly has its successful moments where I the psychological depth of Yapa's storytelling is captivating. However, more often than not, I found it difficult to remain engaged as the pace of the narrative was outstripped by the fast paced, chaotic nature of the events of the plot.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is highly ambitious in its attempts to explore the psychology of several different characters while addressing a plethora of themes from the efficacy of peaceful protest, to police brutality, racism, as well as structural and societal injustice. Yapa succeeds in this novel to the largest degree I think is possible, given the style with which he has decided to write it. However, at times the narrative begins to collapse under its own weight. Nevertheless, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is a worthwhile read which addresses many issues that we are still struggling with in society, now more than 15 years removed from the WTO protests in 1999.

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9781627792417, $30.00 HC, $14.99 Kindle, 320pp,

Cole Fonte

I chose to read "Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency" because I have an interest history and politics. This is the story of how Ronald Reagan came to be the president we all know and the man we do not know. Do not worry, this book does not require any previous knowledge of Ronald Regan to enjoy it. This well-written book takes us on Mr. Reagan's journey through Hollywood to being the most powerful man in the world. While giving us an inside look at his personal life involving his divorce and affairs, this book also covers John Hinckley Jr.'s personal life and the issues that led him to shooting President Reagan and several others.

This book provides readers with accounts from President Regan himself along with other influential people who were involved in his life. Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Dugard take the reader into deep conversations had between President Reagan and President Nixon during their battle for presidency and President Nixon's "Watergate" scandal. The reader is let in on what Mrs. Regan thought of President Regan, not to mention their affairs when the two met. The authors provide the reader with insights on how Mr. Regan's kids handled their chaotic lives, both the kids from his marriage with Nancy Regan and Jane Wyman. The authors do such a brilliant job covering every aspect of John Hinckley Jr.'s life and what led him to shoot President Reagan, and take you inside his head during the shooting. The author gives perspectives from everyone involved in the shooting, including the thoughts of Nancy Regan herself. This book gives readers a perspective of President Regan's extraordinary life that cannot be found elsewhere. What I found to be a key piece of this book was how the authors gave us extraordinary background information into John Hinckley Jr.'s life. They gave us accounts from his Christian parents and the signs they failed to noticed about of their troubled son.

The book was written by Bill O'Reilly, famous for his show "The O'Reilly Factor" and his other books like "Killing Jesus", "Killing Lincoln", and "Killing Kennedy." This book, like the previous ones listed, follows a similar pattern. He takes the reader through key events in the subject's life, giving interesting insights along the way. The other author, Martin Dugard, has co-written all of the books in Mr. O'Reilly's Killing series. He is a New York Times best-selling coauthor because of this. Together these two have put together another phenomenal book.

This book was written to give the reader an understanding on the history of Ronald Regan. It accomplishes this very well. There are many things people may not know about Ronald Regan, including his last words and a final letter he wrote defending his wife, who was criticized throughout most of his presidency. I was not able to put this book down once I started reading it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about Ronald Regan and the several years of John Hinckley Jr.'s life before he shot the president.

Big Weed
Christian Hageseth
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781137280008, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 256pp,

Dakota Mays

The Marijuana Industry

I wanted to read Christian Hageseth's book, Big Weed: An Entrepreneur's High-Stakes Adventures in the Budding Legal Marijuana Business, to better understand this phase in history. I've grown up in a town where marijuana is used frequently by many, and this enculturation has inevitably resulted in me wanting to know more. With this curiosity over the subject, I couldn't help wanting to read an autobiography pertaining to the societal changes that the new trillion dollar industry has in store for us.

Christian talks in a casual manner as he explains his journey with this new industry. With clear detail, he tells his audience how he has grown into such a businessman, and also tells small stories dealing with personal struggles. Being a successful real-estate company owner, the market crash went horrific. After filing bankruptcy, he was in search for a new career path. Christian knew a friend who knew a friend that was involved in the marijuana industry, and this was enough to open his eyes on a new business opportunity. Christian went on to pursue this new dream, and in this book, he explains all the ups and downs that came along with it.

As an Entrepreneur, he looks at the business from many different perspective to find success. He even stated "If you wanted people to feel comfortable giving you their business, was the tie-dyed aesthetic of the 1960's still the way to go? Or did we need a new aesthetic?" (138) Christian exhibits clarity in the book, and always relates his business lessons with an example. Being the marijuana enthusiast that he is, he's able to be reasonable about the future's stigma of this strange plant. He discusses many different perspectives, which is great when trying to reach the attention of his audience.

This book was intended to be informative for an audience that is curious about the marijuana industry. The world is a place where change occurs rapidly, therefore, so do rules. With this said, this new industry causes massive confusion with conflicting laws. Today, thousands of dispensaries commit two federal crimes- selling and growing marijuana. Marijuana is still classified by the federal government as a schedule one drug, but is still recommended by physicians and doctors. For example, building codes for marijuana grow facilities have not yet been made. When Christian presented his plan to an architect, there wasn't any set of rules to rely on. This is only one of the hundreds of problem Christian faced. With every new rule, there are always sub rules that lie within them. Christian's message for his readers is clear as you finish reading it. He explains that with daily changes, discoveries and breakthroughs, this drug will speak for itself. It's hard to deny a great thing.

The author was exceptional when it came to entertaining, instructing, persuading, and getting his message across to his audience. He was able to relate to many people with the way he wrote this autobiography. For people who are interested in the changes of society, this book will help tremendously with the understanding of the political/society changes that are occurring. Christian's journey to success have not only benefited him financially, but spiritually. He's living the dream and literally writing history in the marijuana industry.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Jon Krakauer
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385538732, $24.25 HC, $16.95 PB, $11.99 Kindle, 416pp

Danielle Williamson

Jon Krakauer is an American author mostly known for his books about the outdoors and mountain-climbing. He is known for Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Where Men Win Glory. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, although it is nonfiction, does not fall under that sub-genre because it focuses more on the lives of several college students who were raped and later had to deal with the justice system and judgement of others. He explains the system the victims had to go through and explains how the police were not much help, especially since most rapes were committed by football players. The University of Montana is a highly regarded team so the town would do anything to protect the players from being expelled or arrested.

In all of these horrific stories, the women went to the university to press charges as well only to be blamed for the rapes, being told "they were too drunk" or "they agreed to kiss which means they agreed to sex." These women were traumatized by the justice system within their school along with in the town. Many of them ended up failing classes, dropping out, or in a mental health facility. The women were often told they would ruin the football player's career if they spoke up about the rape. The author is able to paint a picture in the reader's mind of these women and show that the assault they went through was enough to cause them unease and suffering for a long time after it happened. He followed the women through their endeavors with law enforcement and school officials as well as coming face-to-face with their attackers.

The audience for this book is anyone who wants to learn more about what happens when a rape occurs, especially in a college town where the football team is committing most of the rapes. I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers, as I found myself genuinely disgusted and upset while reading the book. There were many times I had to put the book down because I was crying from how unfair the system in Missoula was to these girls. I found myself intrigued by these women's lives and how they were forever changed because of the assaults that happened to them.

I chose this book to review because I am passionate about women's rights and justice that all people deserve when something as serious as rape happens to them. I could also relate to this book because I am a female freshman in college and have always had the fear of being assaulted and not receiving proper justice from law enforcement. I have realized that many women in college have this fear and by writing a book exposing so much wrong doing is good for the public to see that something needs to be changed.

Although this book is eye opening and sometimes hard to read, I would highly recommend it to other people who are interested in learning more about rape and the never ending effects it has on a victim, the attacker, and a college town. This book was intriguing and heartbreaking and showed that colleges will do anything to cover up an assault to protect their reputation. I hope this book is making colleges rethink their policies and law enforcement to think about the victim and finding suitable punishment for the attackers.

Quality Investing: Owning The Best Companies for The Long Term
Lawrence A. Cunningham, Torkell T. Eide, and Patrick Hargreaves
Harriman House LTD
18 College Street Petersfield, Hampshire, United Kingdom
9780857195128, $54.99 HC
9780857195012, $36.68 / $21.99 Kindle

Drew Dixon

If you are looking to improve your portfolio, then this book is a must read. In Quality Investing, written by Lawrence Cunningham, Torkell Eide, and Patrick Hargreaves, they help explain to the reader how to use this information available to them to invest wisely. There is plenty of experience on the subject between these three authors. Torkell Eide and Patrick Hargreaves are portfolio managers at AKO Capital, an investment management firm based in London. The third author, Lawrence Cunningham, is a professor of business law at George Washington University and has written dozens of other investment books. Cunningham's most notable book, The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America, is an international best seller and it is translated into several different languages. There is a consistent theme to most of Cunningham's books, and that is finding value in companies that many investors can't see, because they are caught up in the now and not looking towards the future.

The focus of this book is in the title; owning the best companies for the long term. The authors go into great detail on how to find quality companies. However, they don't focus on the analytical approach that so many people are talking about nowadays. They give the reader tactics similar to those of Warren Buffet. The reason people invest is because they want a company to grow, thus raising the stock price. They say that, "Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort." This book gives you all of the tools you need to be able to put an intelligent effort towards finding a quality stock.

In order to find quality companies, you need to know what to look for. The authors explain the building blocks of a quality company. For example, they talk about the need for a competitive advantage. A competitive advantage is explained as having a leg above the company. They explain how to find a competitive advantage in this way, "Gross profit margin demonstrates competitive advantage: it is the purest expression of customer valuation of a product, clearly implying the premium buyers assign to a seller for having fashioned raw materials into a finished item and branding it." Looking at gross profit margin may seem like an obvious thing to look at when looking at companies, but I never really gave it much thought before I read this books.

I chose to review Quality Investing, because I enjoy learning more about investing so that I can invest smarter in the future. However, this book is not like most investment books that I have read. Many other books approach investing from an analytical approach, usually they focus on fundamental analysis or technical analysis. This book, however, simplifies the investing process to the readers by looking at what makes a good company, instead of a good stock. This is a similar approach that Warren Buffet takes towards the stock market and he started with 200 dollars and is now worth over 60 billion. This book is great for anyone who invests in the stock market and wants to grow their portfolio. It was easy to understand and it provided information that the average investor should know when then they are looking for qualities companies. Throughout this book, the authors supply several case studies that show real examples of how the principles they are talking about correlate to real companies. This helped put everything they were talking about into perspective and made it easier for me to understand. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I would suggest this book to anyone who has any interest in investing in the stock market.

The Five Times I Met Myself
James Rubart
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401686116, $15.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 400pp,

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

James L. Rubart, bestselling Seattle based author, asks "what would you say if you could talk to your 23 year-old self?" in his newest book, "The Five Times I Met Myself." Set in Seattle, Rubart's faith-based narrative uses lucid dreaming and time travel to explore compelling and thought-provoking themes of redemption, reconciliation and restoration in the life of Brock Matthews, a multi-million dollar, middle-aged business owner.

A man obsessed with a vivid reoccurring dream whose lingering effects "dominate a significant portion of his waking hours as the dream becomes more real than real life" affecting his relationships, his marriage and his business. The dream causes him to doubt his sanity and he wants to talk to someone he can trust, someone who will understand. That would be his long-time confidant and best friend Morgan from college days.

Even as he told Morgan about the dream where his deceased father said Brock had to "get ready and face the truth" or the truth would bury him and he must make peace with his younger brother Ron, he knew it sounded crazy. When he added he woke up feeling like he "had touched the past the present and the future all at the same time..." he expected Morgan to laugh. Instead Morgan asked if Brock thought the dream was a warning from God.

Before Brock could answer he turned and pulled a book from the bookshelf behind him and handed it to him, Lucid Dreaming: Turning Dreams into Reality. He urged Brock to read it and said the book "might help you deal with the dream and if I'm right, you're in for a ride..." Then added, it's "just a feeling [I have]. Read the book and see where God leads you."

Thus begins a promising, imaginative and intriguing story of consequences and second chances fueled by themes of love and forgiveness worked out through time travel and lucid dreaming. However, I believe the narrative turned cumbersome and complex as Brock moved from the present into the past to meet his younger self five separate times with five equally separate time lines and consequences.

I didn't care for some of the spiritual riddles and references his mentor in the book, Dr. Shagull made. For example, Shagull's comparison of the way past, present and future timelines intersect as a way to view the Trinity, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Then again, by the end, I did like Brock's spiritual analogy that surrendering to God must be like "dying to self."

Overall, Rubart delivers an intriguing story of redemption when viewed through the lens of a change agent, such as lurid dreaming and time travel that offers multiple, sometimes tragic endings. However, the plot was cumbersome, overly complex and ambitious which resulted in too convenient plot devices and too little character development. Still Rubart is an excellent writer who perhaps might need to leave a bit more time between books. I've liked and reviewed many of his other books and look forward to his next release.

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594633669, $26.95 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 336pp,

Jacob Bresler

Every day, Rachel has the same routine; she takes the same train to the same place of work and sees the same people. Two people that she always sees in an apartment building at a train stop are intriguing to her, but she does not actually know their names so she gives them the names Jessica and Jason. After passing them every day, she invented a backstory for them, creating a whole situation of how they were the happiest couple in the world, contrary to her own life. Rachel has recently gone through a divorce and is almost always drunk. However, one day, she is on the same train except this time, when she looks into their apartment to see the latest of them, she notices something terrible has happened. Then, she goes to the police and when they do not believe her, she tries to take matters into her own hands. In a story of mystery, suspense, and unreliable narrators, Rachel finds herself in a situation bigger than herself.

I chose to review this book because it was absolutely impossible to put down once started. As someone who has never really been in to thriller books, such as novels by Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock, this novel was different to me. I have never come across a book which was so eerie and addictive at the same time. Before this novel, I had never experienced that stereotypical "cannot put it down" kind of book. The Girl on the Train was the first book to fully have this effect on me.

The author uses a vast array of suspensory words and effectively employs a large amount of vivid detail creating an environment unlike any other, which really allows the reader to become immersed in the book. The storyline of this novel is innovative, to say the least. It takes a multiple-perspective approach to the narration of the book with each perspective taking its own twists and turns and dishing out their own sets of betrayal.

The book is most likely for anyone who wants to enjoy an exceptional psychological thriller that may remind them of "Gone Girl" and some King novels. Any devotee of the psychological thriller genre would enjoy this book to the fullest. The age range for this book could span anywhere from 16-80+ but it is my belief that anyone who can appreciate what they are reading should read this novel.

The author is trying to accomplish an entertainment value with this novel and Hawkins is able to accomplish this goal with ease and professionalism. The only suggestion I have in the next time around for Mrs. Hawkins is that she keeps up her amazing work and try to maybe create a sequel to this story. If not a sequel, then I suggest that she does not leave this genre because she is truly brilliant at it. Someone without an idea of her background may believe that she is a veteran thriller writer, due to how well written this novel is.

In terms of critique for the work, sometimes during the story I found myself lost with the alternating narrators, but that is to be expected with any book set up like this. Additionally, the ending leaves a hole in the story that may be dissatisfying to some readers. Also, the lack of a reliable author may push some people away from reading. She is unreliable because she is drunk throughout the entirety of the book. Other than that, this book is a work of art.

Paula Hawkins has previously been a journalist for fifteen years. Before that, she had never delved into the world of fictional writing. With this book, she takes her first step into the fictional world, and it is not so much of a step, as a leap. Because of her background in journalism and not novels, it would be difficult to compare her work to any other that she has done. Other titles that are similar to this novel are: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn, "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, and "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee. All of these novels employ a similar genre as "The Girl on the Train," so enjoyers of Hawkins's work are encouraged to check out these other titles as well.

Found: The Lives of Interesting Cars & How They Were Discovered
Gregory Long
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781505388824, $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 238pp,

Jake Angelo

Gregory Long is a relatively unknown author due to the fact of his lone book release. However, this does not take away from the fact that he is a great one. Long is a normal guy plagued by the time consuming and expensive hobby of cars. In his novel, he shares fantastic short stories of unique and rare automobiles that he or others have stumbled upon, that initially have no connection to each other. However, they all come together in the end to create a nice, overall ending to the collection of short stories.

The car community is an amazing society that you have to be in to understand. For a car person, there is nothing weird about casually walking up to a stranger's door and asking about the 71 Cuda' parked out back. Actually, you'll end up there for a few hours and leave with more knowledge about the 1971 Plymouth Barracuda than you thought was possible. That's okay though, because you just made a lifelong friend without even knowing. That is what cars do to people, and Gregory Long does a fantastic job of showing this in his novel, Found: The Lives of Interesting Cars & How They Were Discovered.

The novel is a collection of many short stories involving the special bond that people share through cars. One in particular involves a young man named Tanner who had a friend tell him about a certain 1970 BMW 2800CS, and the old man who owned it. After not seeing it, he finally found it sitting outside a cafe in which he proceeded to find the owner on the inside. Upon talking to the owner, the small talk eventually escalated into an all-day conversation, in which cars were not always the topic. The bond had already been formed and the friendship sealed. Two complete strangers made instant friends by one thing; a car.

Though this book is heavily influenced by cars, it's really a story of how just something as small as a car, can create lasting friendships. That is the message I think Long is trying to convey in this novel, if you have a passion for anything, do not be afraid to come out of your shell and share your passion with others that feel the same. I would recommend this book to any car guy, the amount of detail that Long goes into about each and every car is incredible. Right down to a certain model of BMW having a unique badge, and body cladding due to its engine. However, I would also recommend this novel to anyone that likes a story of friendship, and how it can easily develop over a shared passion.

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594633669, $26.95 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 336pp,

Jessica Koynock

Soon to be made a movie, the new novel and USA Today Book of the Year, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, now grabs the attention of not only avid mystery followers but moviegoers alike. The Girl on the Train, often compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flyn, captivates readers in a similar manner, pulling them in not only with many twists and turns but also cultivating characters and an action-packed plot. This international novel by new and evolving author, Paula Hawkins will have you questioning each character's true intentions and hidden motives.

Throughout the story, the Author tells the story between the three lives of Anna, Megan and Rachel, three women from London with buried pasts and intertwined futures. Rachel struggles with an alcohol addiction and denial of her lost job, failed marriage with Tom, and inability to have children. Her undying love for Tom leads her to run into the life of Anna, the woman Tom left her for. Anna fulfills what Tom needs, leaving Rachel jealous and confused because her loss of connection with her lost love.

Riding the train back and forth, pretending to attend work, Rachel sees into the homes of not only Anna and Tom, but also Jason and Jess, Rachel's idea of a perfect couple and marriage, who she later learns are named Megan and Scott. The town fills with gossip as one of the characters goes missing, unknown if he or she is still alive. The incident gives Rachel new hope, energy, and drive; something that has been missing ever since Tom left her for Anna. Throughout the story, Rachel forms and holds untrusting relationships with people she thinks she knows, and learns that people are not always what they appear to be from the outside looking in. The mystery now becomes occupied with dishonesties, blackouts, and untrustworthy allies between all the characters involved.

Some characters in the book are well developed, while others are lacking. Megan's viewpoint was not shown enough throughout the novel while Rachel's was shown far too much. Rachel's character was luckless and worn-down. Because the other characters loathed Rachel often, that viewpoint rubbed off on me, leaving me with a negative vibe throughout the novel. The author kept me engaged using the exciting, intriguing male characters, which were more skillfully described and developed. Although the time given between characters was inconsistent, the plot was often changing and unexpected which is common in the genre. This novel agreeably fit the mystery-thriller genre perfectly. Similar to others, this mystery was filled with plot twists and unexpected turns.

Being a lover of mystery novels and the novel this was compared to, Gone Girl, I felt this book was satisfactory coming from a new writer, but not up-to-par with other novels in the genre. For new mystery readers and those that love intense drama and crazy affairs, I would recommend this book. Stray from this novel if you enjoy mystery from the point-of-view of police or detectives. It was an easy read with an original plot, strong female characters, and was clever with the use of multiple viewpoints.

Everyday Life in Early America
David Freeman Hawke
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060912512, $14.99, PB, 195pp,

Joshua Chanin

Every historical event in the United States has been presented with the highlights of many books written about that event. Some books go into great detail about certain topics and figures, while others skim the surface in a more "survey" approach. Everyday Life in Early America does the latter; this book by the famous historian, David Freeman Hawke tells the story of early life in the North American colonies during the seventeenth century in a basic, but detailed way. The book is basic, with little topics to cover, but is packed to the brim with details about the old American lifestyles. Hawke explains about the early challenges the settlers had while growing accustomed to the new foreign lands of the New World; these included difficulties in obtaining food, surviving the harsh winters without time to build adequate shelters, forming relationships with the local Native tribes, and addressing illnesses and other diseases without proper healthcare. Who knew that the southern British colonies had a higher death rate in women who gave birth? And who knew that the Northern civilians built their houses around the fireplace due to the harsh winters, while their Southern counter partners made sure that their fireplace was nowhere near the main living area? Everyday Life in Early America also addresses the growing divide between the North American colonists and their British masters, predicting the impending revolution set some one hundred years later. In addition, the book also briefly mentions about the growth of the slave trade, and the gradually increasing divide of Northern and Southern cultures due to this sin, eventually causing the bloodies war fought in American history.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the early part of this great nation would enjoy Everyday Life in Early America. It is a fantastic down-to-Earth, simple book which audiences will find very easy to read. Anyone who would like to touch up their knowledge about colonial America would definitely enjoy this book. As a history major, whom focuses on the early colonial and revolutionary eras, I found that this book was a breezy book, finishing the 160 or so pages in a couple of hours, but learning so much more, adding to my already vast amount of knowledge. The point of view is in the third person, and there does not seem to be any evidence of bias or slant in the piece. I would have liked it if Hawke had mentioned more about the African population in the colonies, most notably the slave trade, as most of the book is devoted to the problems that the White Europeans faced when coming to the New World. However, this opinion does not defer away to the greatness that this book holds; alas there are many other detailed books about the slave trade.

Hawke used many scholarly articles from historical journals to supplement this detailed book. All the sources blend into each other, engaging the audience in the deep rich history that this nation had to offer before the revolution. Everyday Life in Early America is a wonderful book; not only is it concise and simple for the average day reader or a history student whom wants to touch up their knowledge, Hawke's masterpiece seems to draw the audience in with enriching details, delivering a piece which envelopes both the hardships and beauties of the discovery of the United States of America.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson
Crown Publishing Group
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307408860, $28.00 HC, 430pp,
Broadway Books: 9780307408877, $17.00 PB
Amazon Digital: $11.99 Kindle,

Jude Holston

Erik Larson is a critically acclaimed non fiction author. He is most known for his research heavy books based during the world war era. He has multiple Times best sellers including In the Garden of Beasts, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. His books are known for being extremely life like; his stories are worded so perfectly that it feels like one is truly in the story. His latest publication, Dead Wake, goes much deeper into the story of how the Untied States got pulled into the first World War. If you enjoy life like historical non fiction, Dead Wake will fill your void and more.

The audience of this novel is taken back to the year 1915, when the passenger ship, the Lusitania, was leaving port for a voyage to Liverpool, England. During this time, the war in Europe has been going on full swing for about ten months. Before the Lusitania left port, Germany declared the waters surrounding Great Britain a war zone and any ships flying the British flag would be sunk to the ocean floor. With this in mind, Capitan William Thomas Turner was put in place to take the loaded to capacity Lusitania to its destination accordingly, no matter the circumstances. The majority of the first section of the book is an in depth look into the ship itself, explaining the actual ins and outs of this ocean liner. This ship was known as one of the fastest ways to cross the Atlantic Ocean. As the story progresses, we learn about the struggles Capitan Turner endured while entering the war zone.

Through a great use of dual plots, the reader follows the events of the days leading up to the sinking of the Lusitania through the eyes of both the Capitan and its passengers of the ship, and aboard the German Submarine that actually sunk the ship. The reader learns an in depth explanation of the events on May 1, 1915. This is a story that many believe that they know, but they truly do not. There was much more to it than your basic history lesson taught you.

Larson approaches this topic because he is known for his excellence in non-fiction books; specifically, in the World Wars era. Because of this, he is able to attract readers because some believe that they know the ins and outs of the events during the World Wars. But, the way he portrays the plot line and that it is so descriptive makes the reader want to never put it down. Throughout his work, he builds anticipation towards the climax, the sinking of the ship. Because this is one of the most well known stories from the World War One era, most know the outcome; but its how he reaches it that draws the readers in.

Dead Wake is very similarly written compared to his other books in the aspect that they are very research heavy. With this being done, the stories are extremely real and it feels just like you are one of the characters in the book. All of his books are written similarly and follow the same path towards the climax. Dead Wake has received many honors from across the country including being a New York Times Bestseller.

I would definitely recommend this book to any reader who is interested not only in history, but who also loves a great story. Even though many believe they know the entire story behind the sinking of the Lusitania, there is no other book out there that goes this in depth to the story. Built on anticipation, this book will drive the readers crazy as you learn about the events leading up to the actual time of the boat sinking. If you are a history junkie and enjoy books that take you back in time and puts you in the shoes of the captain, the German sub and the passengers on board, this book is for you.

The High Mountains of Portugal
Yann Martel
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 USA
9780812997170, $27.00, HC, 352pp, $13.99 Kindle,

Katie Corby

Yann Martel is the author of the international sensation Life of Pi, where a tiger and a teenager awash together on the deep blue sea for 227 days. In his new novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, the Spanish-born Canadian author works in a different setting, or rather three settings. He offers a series of three interlocking tales. Each new setting relates to the previous character and their journey. In the turn of the 20th century Lisbon, we meet the protagonist, a young man named Tomas. Tomas' life is in ruins after the death of his beloved wife and young son. Tomas has discovered an ancient diary that sends him on a quest for a lost treasure in the mountains of the Portugal. Strangely this geographically obscure realm contains no mountains, but instead low, nondescript hills and bluffs. On his search, Tomas looks an artifact he believes will shock the world: a carved wooden crucifix displaying a chimpanzee as the Christ figure. In the book he states, "With this object I'll give God his comeuppance for what he did to the ones I love."

Martel takes us to a new setting, 35 years in the future, as a Portuguese pathologist and Agatha Christie devotee unlocks a mystery of his own. Similar to Tomas, this doctor mourns the loss of his wife who drowned and now appears to him as a ghost. During an autopsy on an elderly man's corpse, the doctor unearths a series of peculiar, fascinating objects. One of these objects include a figure of a chimp embracing a bear cub.

In the third and most affecting part of the book, Martel again jumps decades forward, to a Canadian politician named Peter Tovy. Like the two previous characters, Tovy has suffered the loss of his spouse. Tovy adopts an ape from a rundown animal preserve. Tovy begins to change his life by leaving his friends, his job and his home to spirit the chimp to Tuizelo. The significance of Tuizelo is, it is his family's ancestral home and also the same high mountains of Portugal in which the books journey first begins. The mountains of Portugal has become an important central place of meaning for the different characters and their stories in this strange and wonderful book. The three different stories Martel uses, come together in a marvelous, well thought ending.

I chose to read The High Mountains of Portugal, because I enjoy fictional books and I'm a fan of Martel's work. I have read Life of Pi and Self, and now with the release of his new book I was able to get the satisfaction of The High Mountains of Portugal. Much like Martel's other work, The High Mountains of Portugal is full of vivid imagery, religion and shows human suffering as this beautiful, extraordinary experience.

Martel's unique writing characteristics are seen in The Life of Pi, and now his new novel The High Mountains of Portugal. Martel's vivacious wordplay enhances the equally vivid storytelling and imagery. Reading this book, I took away unforgettable images from The High Mountains which are both fascinating and unforgettable at the same time. The genre of The High Mountains of Portugal, can be categorized as fiction and visionary and metaphysical. I believe Martel's audience is for anyone who loves fictional books as well as vivid storytelling. In The High Mountains of Portugal, all three journeys are interlocked with the knowledge of grief with losing a beloved person. In the course of the novel we come to an understanding into the heart of an ape, pure and threatening at once, our predecessor, and ourselves.

The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, 21st floor, New York, NY 10010
9780312577223, $27.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle,

Maleyah McNeil

Kirstin Hannah is not new to the reading community. She has written many books in her career and her genre is mainly fiction. She has also won numerous awards and written many novels since she became a full time writer in 1991. One book that I am particularly familiar with is her book Home Front, which is a romance, but is also centered around a war. Her recent book The Nightingale is her 21st novel. While her book Home Front was focused on a romance torn having to stand the test of war, The Nightingale is a historical fiction, this is not Hannah's first historical fiction novel. Hannah is great at creating relationships that readers can get invested in, but The Nightingale offers so much more than romance.

The story starts off with an elderly woman packing up her belongings, her son is making her move to a nursing home because she is dying of cancer. The woman goes through some her old belongings and comes across a picture of a woman named Juliette. Her son asks about the woman in the picture and this causes the elderly woman to have a flashback, and thus the main story begins. It begins in France just as World War II has started to take over. Vienna lives with her husband Antoine, and her daughter Sophie. Vienna lives a quiet life with her husband and daughter, but things take a turn when Antoine is deployed for war. With her sister, Isabelle and friend Rachel, Vienna must make sacrifices and stay strong to keep herself and her daughter safe from war.

This book is brilliantly written. Historical fictions are not an easy genre to write. Hannah tried extremely hard to get historical events right. From the raids, to the German soldiers coming to take over France are all historically accurate. The parts of the books where the Jewish citizens are taken away is well portrayed and were some of the most heartbreaking to me. Hannah captured the devastation of the war from a perspective that most people didn't consider. When I read books about World War II it is about the soldiers, but this novel shows the battle of the people who were left behind and what they had to do to survive. All of this is written in beautiful descriptions that tell the events of what happened, but not in gruesome detail. While this novel can be called a romance, it is so much more. The story does not just focus on Vienna and her husband or Isabelle and her lover, it focuses on the event around them and how it changed their character. Over the course of the story Vienna goes from a dependent woman to an independent woman. Isabelle also learns to fight for herself. Strong female leads are something I admire in a book.

I researched this book before I read it so I could see what other people thought. I can say I was not disappointed by this book. The characters are some of the strongest that I have ever read. One of the things I loved most in this novel was how strong the women are. Vienna is such a strong willed character even though I questioned some of her decisions when the book ended I understood why she made them. I actually thought that was the minor flaw of this book. I did not like her in every moment of the book, but I believe that is what Hannah wanted. She wanted to show that not all sacrifices may seem valid, but people will do anything to survive. I thought the beginning was confusing. I did not understand the point of the elderly woman and I thought it was a slow beginning for such an epic story. However this book is a tale of love, sacrifice, and courage and I strongly recommend it for people who love epic historical fictions.

Seven Dead Pirates: A Ghost Story
Linda Bailey
Tundra Books
75 Sherbourne Street, 5th floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5A 2P9
9781770498150, $16.99 HC, $10.99 Kindle, 304pp,

Mary Kincaid

This is a ghost story for the eight to twelve year olds. I love a good ghost story so I enjoyed this story right from the start.

In my opinion it has one of the best openings I have read in a long time.

"It was the worst birthday party Lewis had ever been to. But then, what could you expect when the guest of honor was a corpse?

Okay, so Great Granddad wasn't exactly a corpse. But he sure looked like one. The old man lay stiff on his back on the narrow bed. His eyes stared sightlessly, and his mouth was fixed open in a round toothless O. If it weren't for the pink party had, you'd never guess he was alive."

With that opening I was set up for an adventure, and that is what this story delivered. Lewis moves into his Great Granddad's home, has to start a new school, and discovers his room is inhabited by pirate ghosts with a mission. Pirate ghosts with a mission are different from any type of regular haunting you can imagine.

Lewis tackles his problems and wins my affection as a true hero moving on his journey. I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I want to share the delight as Lewis struggles with the pirates in his room.

I give this story a five out of possible five.

Ninth-Month Midnight
Marie Bacigalupo
Privately Published
2940158265648, $2.99, NOOK, Kindle, 260 KB

Mayra Calvani

Genre: Romantic suspense/Women's fiction

Nine Month Midnight by Marie Bacigalupo was a deeply compelling, at times heart-wrenching story, about grief and the desperate need of a mother to reunite with her dead child. Since losing her four-year old precious daughter to cancer a year ago, Dolores Walsh has been living in limbo, like a zombie.

After a suicide attempt, she's prompted by her husband Joe to seek the help of a psychiatrist to treat her depression. Then at a bereavement group she meets Sal Esperanza, a charismatic psychic who claims he has the power to channel the dead. Though Dolores is sceptical at first, she soon becomes intensely fixated with the idea of speaking with her daughter's spirit.

Although Joe is against the idea and warns her that Sal is a con man after money, nothing derails Dolores from attending his seances. Is Sal, indeed, a fraud...or is he the real thing and the only person who can make her only desire in life possible?

A novella, I read Ninth-Month Midnight in one sitting and couldn't put it down. The story moves at a fast pace, with Dolores' desperation being transmitted to the reader so that we feel all her grief and obsession. What could be worse for a mother than losing her child?

Most women will relate to Dolores' predicament and sympathize with her actions, even though they might not approve of all of them. Bacigalupo writes with an economy of words that is sometimes gritty, letting the action speak for the characters. Ultimately, this is a story of hope and one I was very glad to have read. Highly recommended!

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062409850, $27.99 HC, $15.99 PB, $12.99 Kindle,

Mike Ambrose

Finding a Watchman

Harper Lee may be a known name to many students and readers around the world for her first novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but she has recently returned with a sequel to her previous book and it is titled Go Set a Watchman. In this second novel our main character who was previously Scout is a grown woman named Jean Louise. Jean Louise is now a twenty six year old who lives inside of New York City. The story begins when Jean Louise begins her journey back home to Alabama, but only to find a troubling sight.

Atticus, Jean Louise's father was previously known for his acceptance of the African American culture through his efforts as a lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird, but now Jean Louise sees that her father is an bigot and shows racist tendencies. This is seen through one of the first meetings between the two when Atticus said, "Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?" (Lee 102). This shows the racism that Atticus and much of Jean Louise's members of her home town in Alabama have now adopted during the 1950's civil rights movement.

This presents the problem that this novel is addressing, and there is a mess of underlying themes that can be pulled from this problem inside of her home. When Jean Louise was a young girl her father pushed for acceptance of others and was an honest man, but now once she has returned home as an adult Jean Louise sees what has truly been happening in this town. One theme that I found to hit home for me was the loss of innocence that Jean Louise represents, this means that she represents everyone's loss of a naive attitude to what is around them when they are children.

As a young girl, Scout, or now Jean Louise looked to her father for advice on the world around them as a generally accepting man which he passed these views down onto her, and she lived her life spreading and making an effort to keep these views apart of her everyday life. But now that she sees what her father truly is she feels lied too and discouraged, creating a sense of alienation for herself from her father and family that many can relate too. As Atticus has been seen at local Klan rallies, Jean Louise continues to push further and further away from her father, and severing much of the bond that they shared in the previous novel.

This separation between Jean Louise and her father represents the loss of innocence because it is a story of someone growing up and realizing what they have been ignorant too for much of their life. Seeing someone so pivotal in her life such as her father change from the man he was to another Klan member that she fears and hates, demonstrates the losses and changes that many people face when growing into adulthood. As she faces the struggles between her and her father inside of Maycomb Alabama she learns that not everyone is what they originally intended to be, no matter how impactful their role is on her life.

The third person point of view that this novel expresses adds insight for the readers because the narrator often times supplies useful information to us, and this helps push the novel forward, but lacked much of the day to day intimacy shown in To Kill a Mockingbird that was shown through Scout and Gem's childhood adventures. This lack of intimacy left me wanting more compassion between the characters that once held such close bonds. While the genre of the book being classic fiction allows for Harper Lee to add elements to the story without making them seem unrealistic or odd by telling a fictional story that is realistic in its events. This genre allows for the author to touch a broad audience, ranging from students, to adults who previously enjoyed her books.

In conclusion much of Go Set a Watchman can be seen as an alienated daughter who has been shocked to see the bigotry and hypocrisy occurring inside of her own home town. These feelings of alienation then create the theme of the novel as dealing with the loss of ones innocence, referring to both childhood fun, and the knowledge of the tragedies happening in the world around us. As a student this was a very interesting theme to me because it is something that I often find myself faced with when returning home, a clash of views between your own and those who raised you. This powerful clash that we all experience while growing older can be seen along with other themes and points for readers to pull from while diving into Go Set a Watchman.

How About Never - Does Never Work for You?: My Life in Cartoons
Robert Mankoff
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
9780805095913, $22.00,

Nick Rickard

How About Never - Does Never Work for You?: My life in Cartoons is a memoir written by Robert or Bob Mankoff. This book takes you on an adventure through Mankoff life. From his upbringing to where he is now as the cartoon editor for The New Yorker magazine. This is Mankoff's second book. The first book he wrote was The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way to Enhance Your Creativity, was about the the creative process that he found success using. Mankoff starts his memoir with some background information on how he was raised and how being Jewish, and from the Bronx, he adopted a sense of humor which eventually lead to his career in cartooning. Mankoff dedicated his sense of humor and ability to come up with funny cartoons from his days with his childhood friends. He says that this is where his comedic journey all started. Instead of fist fighting him and his friends would throw insults instead of punches, and he was the best of the group.

Mankoff also takes you through the process that he went through when becoming a cartoonist. From when he first started drawing cartoons as a child to that becoming his career even though it was against his parent's better judgment. From there he shows the reader the hardships and struggles he had getting in the door as a cartoonist, and also the struggles that the cartoon industry has gone through in the recent decade.

This book will give you a full history lesson on cartooning without you even knowing it. Informing the reader of how cartooning has changed over the years and how it's evolved into what it is today. Mostly focusing on The New Yorker, which as he says is the New York Yankees of cartoons speaking on the prestige both have in their respected fields. He also includes cartoonist's past and present that he looks up to, and gives the ways they have changed the cartoon world. He also gives a quick summary of their certain styles of cartooning accompanied with some examples of their work. To most learning about the history of cartoons and cartoonists would be boring, but Mankoff combats both his small audience and dryness of the topic with his easygoing approach and conversation like writing style which makes you want to learn more.

Other than his writing style Mankoff also incorporates cartoons from the past and present. These cartoons aren't just randomly placed in the book they all have a reason behind them. For example, when he talks about the first cartoons ever made, he puts them on the page accompanied by a small excerpt about the importance and the meaning behind the cartoon. Another example is when he gives the reader a short lesson on how to make a good cartoon. He then gives examples for both a good and a not so good version of the same cartoon. He also puts in some by cartoonist he is talking about to give the reader an idea of the different styles each cartoonist has.

This book is more than a history lesson and a compilation of cartoons. Further in the book Manoff speaks about the problems facing the cartoon industry today. Being the editor for the most famous cartoon magazine he sees the problems that he and cartoonist's alike see. The problems that face the cartoon industry are like many other industries. Cartoons are now in short demand. Since many newspapers and magazines that use to have a thriving market for cartoons are now steering away from cartoons. This causing the few cartoonists left to struggle to find work. Now with less people reading newspapers and magazines, the demand for cartoons has decreased drastically. This further hurts the number of cartoonist's from joining the market because there's no place other than a select few magazines and newspapers that still run cartoons. Mankoff shows how the most prestigious cartoon magazine has had trouble finding new cartoonist to fill the spots of the veterans that have been doing it since the 80's.

This book is for a fairly small market, from people that love The New Yorker's cartoons, to the people that liked Bob Mankoff from his 60 Minutes special and wanted to know more about him. If you are looking for an easy read that packs both comedy and interesting topics about not only the cartoon industry, but also a book sprinkled with life lessons along the way, this is the perfect choice.

Written in the Stars
Aisha Saeed
Nancy Paulsen Books
Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780399171703, $16.99,

Patrizia Labate

Aisha Saeed is an author who likes to focus her writings on growing up as a teenager in a Pakistani family. Her writing career started off as a blogger, and she contributed to the anthology, Love Inshallah. In her debut novel, Written in the Stars, Aisha Saeed is able to illustrate the bitter truths of a young woman who is trapped between her Americanized lifestyle and the old-fashioned views on love and marriage her parents believe in.

The story of Naila goes like this: her parents had always told her she would be able to choose what she wanted to study, how to do her hair, and what she wants to be when she grows up. However, the man she would marry would always be her parents' choice. Living in America with two strict, Pakinstani, immigrant parents becomes a struggle for Naila when she can no longer conform to the Pakistani traditions and rules her parents had always instilled in her. Naila only wants one thing for herself: to live her life how she chooses. She begins to fall in love with a Pakistani boy, Saif, whose family was banished from their village in Pakistan. When Naila attends her high school prom with Saif in secrecy, her parents finally find out about this forbidden relationship with Saif that Naila has hidden from them. She is sent to Pakistan on "vacation" to rediscover her roots, and be reminded of who she is as a young Pakistani woman. Unfortunately, "vacation" turned out to be her parents' way of forcing Naila into an arranged marriage. As a Pakistani teenager, caught between two cultures, this novel captivates the hardships and pressure real-life Pakistani women are faced with who have gone through similar situations as Naila. This novel is filled with heartbreak, suspense and the real truth of what it is like to be forced into an unwanted marriage.

For someone's first novel, Aisha Saeed did an excellent job of getting her message across to the audience. She doesn't speak to one specific audience, but rather to many audiences, especially those who have been in similar positions as Naila, or people who have no idea about the traditional Pakistani culture of marriage. This is definitely not the typical love story one would expect. The story is infused with real-life issues faced in today's world, regarding the dirty truths of arranged marriages and dating in the Muslim community, and the challenges of one finding their own identity when there are barriers in the way. Written in the Stars will take you on an emotional roller coaster filled with moments of hope, sadness, and tears.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about the traditions and beliefs of the Pakistani culture - in fact, I had many stereotypes about this culture. Aisha Saeed is successful in encouraging diversity in literature through the construction of this novel. She incorporates cultural aspects that are important for people to understand. This novel opened my eyes to the harsh realities that many women in other cultures are faced with. The author is able to entertain the readers by making the novel very suspenseful and making the ending very unexpected. She teaches the audience to learn about other cultures that are different from your own. Aisha alarms the audience about problems that were expressed in the book, proving that these issues do exist in places around the world today.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I fell in love with the character of Naila. She is a brave and hopeful young adult who only wants to be happy. I admire her strength as she is a great role model to female readers who might be experiencing something similar to her. The author's intentions for the novel were portrayed really well and her writing was smooth, understandable and clear throughout every chapter.

The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780743247542, $14.00,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

"We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car."

Jeannette Walls' father, a charismatic character named Rex, was in his proper mode, what he called "doing the skedaddle." Growing up with Rex and her mother, Rose Mary, was one skedaddle after another, usually in the middle of the night, when Rex had finally come to the end of the rope in whatever little town on the back roads they happened to be in. This was the life of Jeannette, her older sister Lori, younger brother Brian, and a dog named Juju. Later, there was another daughter, Maureen.

Rex and Rose Mary were somehow suited for each other. Rose Mary, though a teetotaler, managed to tolerate Rex's near constant drinking binges and get into the swing of the constant shuffling around, calling it an adventure. She liked to find the good in everyone, remarking when Jeannette asked "How about Hitler?", that "Hitler liked dogs." She was also an enthusiastic artist. Wherever they went, Rose Mary managed to have an easel, paints and brushes, and the time to paint.

Jeannette had a great sense of adventure as well. She loved the desert, where they usually ended up in a shack, a trailer, sleeping in the car or a cardboard box. There was seldom enough money, but Jeannette and Brian made do with their imaginations for entertainment. They searched the dump nearby Battle Mountain, Nevada and found jars of toxic chemicals. They took a couple of boxes of the stuff to an abandoned shack, which they called their "laboratory," where they did experiments. Upon mixing various chemicals and lighting a match to them, they managed to cause an explosion which burned down the shack. Rex looked at the flames, pointed out the top of the fire, where the flames dissolved into a mirage-like shimmer. He told his son and daughter that that was the "zone known in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. 'It's a place where no rules apply, or at least they haven't figured it out yet." That describes how Rex lived his life and raised his family, in the boundary between turbulence and order.

Trouble always seemed to find the Walls family. When Jeannette, whom her father nicknamed "Mountain Goat", was eight, a boy named Billy took a liking to her. When she refused his advances, he shot at her with a BB gun. She had already learned to shoot, thanks to practice sessions with Rex, and she took out the family pistol and fired several shots at Billy. The shots reverberated around the neighborhood and soon the sheriff arrived. It was arranged that both Billy and his father would meet with Rex and Jeannette the next morning at the courthouse to arrange for some sort of consequences. That night they did the skedaddle.

This time, as had happened a few times previously when all else seemed lost, they went to Phoenix, where Rose Mary's mother lived. Granny Smith, as she was called by the Walls children, had recently died of leukemia and the house where she'd lived was vacant. This was one of the defining characteristics of the parents. Even when they had the resources to live somewhat of a normal life, they rejected that option and continued their life of poverty and the "skedaddle." Jeannette claimed to like the mobile life her parents offered her, but she was always happy when they found a place to settle down in for a while. That was Phoenix, until, inevitably, their opportunities dried up and they once more did the skedaddle, this time to Welch, Rex's hometown in West Virginia.

The title of the book comes from Rex's big dream. When they were tired, in a hopeless situation, flat broke and on the road, Rex would say that their running around was only temporary. One day, he promised, he would build "a great big mansion out in the desert, and he called it the 'Glass Castle." Jeanette believed him, and she saw that all of his skills as a physicist, an engineer, a mathematician, all those wondrous qualities that he showed off in his moments of lucid intelligence, would come into play when he built the Glass Castle.

One of the promotional quotes in the front of the book is from the Chicago Tribune. It gives a hint that the Walls family had anything but an easy life; the quote is apropos to their plight. It reads: "On the eighth day, when God was handing out whining privileges, He came upon Jeannette Walls and said, 'For you, an unlimited lifetime supply.' Apparently, Walls declined His kind offer."

From Welch, the family moved to New York City and with the exception of Maureen, the youngest daughter, the children had successful lives, although the parents ended up homeless. Jeannette worked as a journalist and wrote a social column for an independent newspaper. This might have been the first step towards her employment at MSNBC as the author of "The Scoop," a gossip column she wrote from 1998 until 2007. She won the 2005 Elle Readers prize for "The Glass Castle", along with the 2006 American Library Association Alex Award. She also wrote the memoir/novels "Half Broke Horses" and "The Silver Star."

All in all, I would classify "The Glass Castle" as one hell of a ride, and I would highly recommend it to readers who appreciate a rousing family saga, an on-the-road adventure, and in the final analysis it's a story of courage, persistence against the odds, and a chronicle of bare bones survival in the modern age.

The Country of Ice Cream Star
Sandra Newman
Ecco Press
10 E. 53rd Street New York, NY 10022
9780062227096, $16.99, HC, 592pp,

Rachel Kapusta

The Country of Ice Cream Star is a fictional story written by Sandra Newman. The story takes place in future America, but nothing is futuristic about this world. There are no cell phones, TVs, or even cars. The most modern technology is a radio that won't work and a few guns. This novel follows a girl named Ice Cream. In the world that she lives in, a disease called Posies takes the life of everyone before they turn 20. This disease has been around for many years. Tragically Ice Cream's 18-year-old brother Driver gets posies. Driver is mature, loyal and the leader of their tribe, the Sengle's. Even though things seem hopeless for him, Ice Cream is determined to find a cure. Ice Cream thinks that she might have found her answer when her tribe captures a prisoner. This prisoner has winkles that makes Ice Cream think he is over 20 and has fought off Posies. Ice Cream is a very likable, independent and brave girl. Through out the book she shows a lot of strength and determination. This novel will keep readers at the edge of their seat with an amazing journey of Ice Cream and the prisoner as they set off on in search of the cure.

I selected to review this book because of a project for my college level English class. I enjoyed reading this book a lot. The world created by Newman can be easily pictured by her vivid descriptions. This book is also full of twists and adventure. It looks of a post-apocalyptic America that is almost nomadic. People live in tents and hunt in order to stay alive. Newman writes in the form of broken English, which makes the book more difficult to read. It would probably suite someone who is above 18 and enjoys to fully invest themselves in a book. It's not good for a quick and easy read. This language can be seen in the first paragraph of the story when Ice Cream talks about her and Drivers older brothers death, "Still my heart is rain for him, my brother dead of posies little" (Newman 3). This makes the read harder, but a few pages in the reader will find that it starts to flow. However, the book might be more enjoyable if it was written in regular English. The different towns presented in the book come with different appearances and have a specific kind of person living in them in them. This makes everything feel more personal and helps to differentiate between friendly and aggressive towns.

The Author, Sandra Newman, is from Manhattan, New York. Previously she has published two Fiction and four Non-Fiction books. Her first novel The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. The Country of Ice Cream Star was also on the table to win the Folio Prize and the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.

Overall, this book does a great job of entertaining the reader from beginning to end. This book is different from most books that are out right now. Although it follows the very popular post-apocalyptic trend, it brings in a new look. The character and relationship are very personal which adds a depth to the plot. The Country of Ice Cream Star is an interesting read that I would recommend to anyone who's looking for a fresh book.

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594633669, $26.95 HC, $12.99 Kindle,

Sam Robison

This thriller from Paula Hawkins garnered a great deal of attention as soon as it hit the shelves. Quickly becoming a bestseller shortly after it's release in January of 2015. The dark tale has been compared to the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and the film Rear Window directed by Alfred Hitchcock. One might find it unfair to draw parallels between this book to such famous and acclaimed pieces of fiction, but The Girl on the Train is worthy of such comparisons. This book is Hawkins breakthrough piece. Hawkins previously worked as a journalist, as well as wrote some minor works of fiction before The Girl on the Train debuted.

The book tells of the tale of a woman named Rachel who rides a train from her suburban home to and from the city of London almost everyday, under the guise of working a steady job. In reality, Rachel's life has fallen apart. Her husband divorced her because she was unable to get pregnant. Rachel turns to drinking, which results in her losing her job. To cope with all of this, Rachel takes up people watching on her daily commute to "work". Clearly at a rock bottom, Rachel makes up stories about a couple which she sees often on her journey while the train is halted, and daydreams about their supposed perfect life. This attractive couple she fantasizes about, live a few houses down from where Rachel used to live, and where her ex-husband and his current wife and child now live. It later turns out, this couple that Rachel daydreams about which she nicknames Jason and Jessie (whose real names are Scott and Megan) do not live so glamorously. While spying on Megan one day, she sees her kissing a man who is not her husband. Not long after this, Megan goes missing, and Rachel was in the neighborhood the night of the disappearance, completely black out drunk. Rachel gets involved in figuring out who was responsible for Megan's disappearance, whether it be the man Megan was previously seen kissing, or Rachel herself. The remainder of the novel details Rachel's attempt to solve the mystery. Now having found purpose for her life.

The book is primarily told from Rachel's perspective. Hearing the story from Rachel's point of view is interesting. Her vivid description of her daydreams paint a clear picture in the reader's head. The book is written in a simple way. It is as if Rachel is drunkenly telling you the story. Because the narrator is always drunk, the reader cannot be entirely sure what the narrator could be potentially misremembering. This adds to the intrigue and mystery of the novel. However, this could become confusing or distracting for some readers. One of the specific themes that the book explored, resonated with me. I have a tendency to daydream about the perfect life. In reality, the grass is almost never greener on the other side, which this book makes sure Rachel finds out. This book would probably target a demographic of teenagers or adults, given the dark nature of its subject matter.

Stuck-Up Suit
Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
EverAfter Romance
9781682304129, $14.99, PB, $3.99 Kindle, 334pp,

Yewande Oyesola

Vi Keeland is an attorney for her day job and is an amazing New York Times & USA Today Best Selling adult romance book author. Penelope Ward is a mother of a 10-year-old Autisic girl who she is very proud of. She even which named some of her books characters after. They both have amazing works on their own. Penelope Ward has other New York Times bestsellers that includes "Stepbrother Dearest" and "Cocky Bastard" which is also co-written with Vi Keeland.

"Stuck-Up Suit" is about two people, Graham and Soraya who come from two different worlds in the state of New York. Despite their differences and obstacles in their past relationships, they still manage to fall in love and prosper. Soraya Venedetta is an assistant to an advice columnist called "Ask Ida" and every morning she takes the train to get to work. One morning impractically, she notices "Mr. Stuck-Up Suit" (which she finds out his name is Graham Morgan) on the train. She ends up with his phone after he drops it getting off the train. Soraya is engrossed in the way Graham acts and she is awfully outraged by his egotism and over the top confidence. In her determination to get his phone back to him, she ends up going through his pictures and leaving some of her own on it also.

"Stuck-Up Suit" is the flawless mixture of humor, steam, and heart, with just a little bit of angst and drama. The banter among them was entertaining and the sexual innuendos and also the sexting between them was absolutely spicy. Everything between Graham and Soraya progressed in a very natural way, everything was realistic and nothing was rushed. It is told in first person from double perspectives giving us both sides of the story from Soraya and Graham's side. It's a stand alone romance so you get the complete story in one read. No cheating scandals, no love triangles, and a great epilogue. There were many great scenes in this story. I especially enjoyed the "Ask Ida" moments and the references to other characters in their other books they have written. Graham and Soraya are completely wonderful and amazing together. The part from where they were observing each other and being on the phone and then to them finally meeting, it was perfect, romantic, and sweet. The thing about romantic stories like "Stuck-Up Suit" is that it is cliche. Most adult books are one in the same just the characters have different names. Other than that this book was comical and romantic to read.

The preferred audience for this book would ideally be adults, but the book is not that graphic enough where young adults wouldn't enjoy reading. Both authors' tone of writing is easy to understand and read. They even use some words of today's generation in their work. This book is purely for enjoyment and it accomplishes what it aims for. I would definitely recommend this book for a friend.

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship
Charles E. Moore and Timothy Keiderling, editors
Plough Publishing House
151 Bowne Drive, Walden NY 12586
9780874867046, $14.00, 240 pages,

Rev. Dr. Julius McCarter, OSL

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a collection of brief biographies drawn together by the Bearing Witness Stories Project. This collaborative effort continues the tradition of telling the stories of costly discipleship that began with Thieleman van Braght's 1685 collection of martyr stories, Martyrs Mirror.

While Martyrs Mirror remains inspiring and relevant, it doesn't include the testimonies of the Anabaptists who have suffered for their faith in the years since 1685. That's what makes Bearing Witness such a vital collection.

When I first read this book, my immediate response was one of being driven to prayer in thanksgiving. These are stories of faithful discipleship from the Church's earliest days (Stephen, Polycarp, etc.) to those of the Radical Reformation (John Hus, William Tyndale, etc.). But there are more modern stories here, and stories of lives lived throughout the world, from the Virgin Islands to the Congo to Romania. What you'll find here is a testimony of lives that point to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Lives that live and die in testimony to the Prince of Peace.

Bearing Witness is an important spiritual discipline for the contemporary church, because it's here that we learn to tell the story of Jesus in real, everyday lives. That makes Bearing Witness a book not to be missed.

Accidental Dad
Joshua McDowell
First Edition Design Publishing
9781506901268, $12.95PB, $5.99 Kindle, 170pp,

Kirkus Review
April 15, 2016

A memoir offers a case for altering how U.S. courts view single fathers.

The latest book from McDowell (The Tools You Need to Be Successful, 2010), a mixture of personal anecdotes and social study, examines the world of single fathers in American society and in the U.S. legal system. Both are heavily freighted in favor of mothers in any kind of custody disagreement. The author takes up the cause of the "accidental dad," single fathers caught up in a legal bureaucracy that seldom looks on them with sympathy and, in an overwhelming number of cases, ignores their claims for caregiving or even simple access to their own children.

McDowell, himself the child of a fatherless home after the death of his dad, spent seven years battling in court to gain custody of his son, and his book recounts his turmoil and triumphs with a great deal of pathos. He buttresses his account with some statistics about the legal system's bias against fathers, but he's also willing to indulge in melodrama to heighten his point, portraying Missy, the mother of his son, as the manipulative and vengeful villain of the story.

The purpose of his book, he writes, is to help fathers who are seeking to "gain or improve" their custody arrangements. He admits that many aspects of his tale aren't encouraging; his own situation, filled equally with good intentions and a criminal record, often functions as a worst-case scenario. The powerful book is unsentimentally straightforward ("When my son was younger, I refused to marry his mom, so she automatically got custody," he writes at one point. "What's wrong with this picture?"). But it's simultaneously very successful in engaging the reader's emotions as the narrative follows McDowell through the dramatic twists and turns in his quest to gain full custody of his son.

This heartfelt emotional content is supplemented by hard-won practical advice on navigating the U.S. court system. A sobering and ultimately effective personal manifesto for changing American child custody procedures.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Serve the People
Karen L. Ishizuka
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781781688625 $29.95

Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties is a cultural history of how the concept of "Asian-American" came to be. Prior to the progressive activism of the 1960's, American communities of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino people tended to remain isolated. Serve the People explores how these communities worked together to form an Asian-American identity and movement. Drawing on more than 120 interviews, Serve the People explores the insights and labors of key players in the social struggle, as well as a broad overview of the dynamics of radical change. Notes and index round out this fascinating resource, highly recommended especially for public and college library Asian-American Studies shelves.

Ann McMan
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612940632, $14.95, PB, 384pp,

When sculptor and author Barb Davis is given an NEA grant to pair original feminist sculptures with searing first-person essays on transitions in women's lives, she organizes a two week writing retreat with twelve of the best, brightest, and most notorious lesbian authors in the business. But in between regularly scheduled happy hours and writing sessions, the women enter a tournament bass fishing competition, receive life coaching from a wise-cracking fish named Phoebe, and uncover a subterranean world of secrets and desires that is as varied and elusive as the fish that swim in the waters of Lake Champlain. Set on the beautiful shores of Vermont's Lake Champlain, "Backcast" by Ann McMan is richly populated with an expansive cast of endearing and outrageous characters who battle writer's block, quirky locals, personal demons, unexpected attractions, and even each other during their two-week residency. For Barb and each of her twelve writers, the stakes in this fast-moving story are high, but its emotional and romantic payoffs are slow and sweet. Exceptional, entertaining, deftly crafted, inherently absorbing from beginning to end, "Backcast" is highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Backcast" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Andrea Kay

Bethany's Bookshelf

My Heart Can't Even Believe It
Amy Silverman
Woodbine House
6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
9781606132746 $21.95

Synopsis: All parent stories about raising a child with Down syndrome are special and unique, but in the hands of a good writer, they can have the power to reach, change, and resonate far beyond family and friends. And that is the case with My Heart Can't Even Believe It, by journalist, blogger, and NPR contributor Amy Silverman.

Amy bravely looks at her life, before and after her daughter Sophie was born, and reflects on her transformation from "a spoiled, self-centered brat", who used words like retard and switched lines at the Safeway to avoid a bagger with special needs, into the mother of a kid with Down syndrome and all that her new identity entails. She describes her evolution as gradual, one built by processing her fears and facing questions both big and small about Sophie, Down syndrome, and her place in the world.

Funny, touching, and honest, this wonderful book looks at a daughter and her power to change minds and fill hearts with love so deep that, as Sophie once remarked to her mom, "I love you so much my heart can't even believe it!" Theirs is a story worth reading.

Critique: A candid testimony of love, parenting, and spiritual growth, My Heart Can't Even Believe It is thought-provoking and profoundly inspirational. Highly recommended! Of particular fascination is Silverman's difficulty in finding the right middle school for Sophie. Sophie's sister (who had no disabilities) attended a charter school, but Silverman's attempts to enroll Sophie in a charter school resulted in stonewalling and an unpleasant wake-up call about a glaring weakness in the charter school system. " with disabilities aren't attending [charter] schools in numbers proportional to district schools. Not even close. After a year of reporting, I came up with three reasons: money, red tape, and because so few parents are willing to force the issue."

Stingray City
Ellen Prager
Mighty Media Junior
c/o Mighty Media Press
1201 Currie Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403
9781938063701, $9.95, PB, 292pp,

Synopsis: Being a teenager is never easy. Especially when you can talk to sharks! Tristan Hunt has enough to worry about with girl troubles, his parents, and trying to keep his extraordinary abilities a secret. But when Tristan and his friends are called upon to investigate the disappearance of stingrays and other ocean life in the waters off Grand Cayman, the stakes are higher than they've ever been before. Can Tristan solve the mystery of the missing stingrays and save them from a horrible fate? Or will he and his friends become the stingray-napper's next victims?

Critique: The third title in Ellen Prager's outstanding 'Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardian' series for young readers ages 8 to 12, "Stingray City" is another original, compelling, and impressively entertaining action/adventure fantasy that is very highly recommended personal reading lists, as well as both school and community library Fantasy Fiction collections.

Wendy Spinale
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545836944, $17.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders -- the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer. Unsure if the virus has spread past England's borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

Critique: A deftly written page-turner of a story for young readers ages 12 and up, "Everland" by Wendy Spinale is a kind of 'alternate universe' retelling of the classic Peter Pan story and very highly recommended for school and community library fiction collections. For the personal reading lists of students in grades 7 and up it should be noted that "Everland" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.71).

Eric Laster
Automatic Publishing
9780991272938, $17.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: When Curtis Brooks starts receiving phone calls from his older brother Wilt, who's been dead a week, he's sure it's to help him find evidence that will lead to a murderer's arrest. But Wilt claims he wasn't murdered; his calling, meant to help him adjust, is standard protocol for newly deceased at the Aftermart -- a kind of inescapable, ever-expanding Walmart filled with discontinued products. Wilt's death ruled a homicide, Curtis embarks on a dangerous plan to find the killer, which soon has him scheming against a billionaire and floundering toward love with his brother's ex-girlfriend Suzy, all while struggling through high school and his single mom's poor choices. Why does Wilt help Curtis win over Suzy, even as he organizes a rebellion at the Aftermart? Who'd wanted him dead? Curtis risks his life to answer these questions, in the process forging a bond with his brother unlike any they've ever had.

Critique: Original and unfailingly entertaining from first page to last, "Static" by Eric Laster is deftly crafted and very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as school and community library YA Fiction collections. Indeed, "Static" will leave his young readers looking with eager anticipation toward author Eric Laster's next novel.

Dear Miss Karana
Eric Elliott
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597143233, $9.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Written for young readers ages 9 to 12, and elementary school students in grades 3 to 7, "Dear Miss Karana" by Eric Elliot is the story of ten year old Tishmal, who, while reading "Island of the Blue Dolphins" at school learns about the real woman who was stranded on San Nicolas Island. Tishmal begins writing emails to ''Miss Karana'' in hopes of talking to her spirit. When she arrived on the mainland of Southern California, Miss Karana spoke a language that no one could understand even back then, and all that remains is a recording of the song she sang when she was found on the island. Tishmal realizes that some of the words sound very similar to Chamteela (Luiseno), the language spoken on her reservation. As she writes to Miss Karana, Tishmal becomes more and more resolved to understand the lone woman's song. The only person able to help her is a grouchy great uncle, Weh Poweeya (''two tongues''), the last living person fluent in the language of their ancestors from the belly button of the ocean: the islands including San Nicolas. Together, Tishmal and Weh Poweeya must discover what the lone woman said long ago in order to help her spirit finish the journey West.

Critique: Developed in accordance with fourth grade Common Core State Standards, "Dear Miss Karana" is an original, deftly crafted, and compelling story of family, determination, and cultural perseverance that is very highly recommended for both school and community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Dear Miss Karana" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

The Chew
Ashley Archer, editor
c/o The Disney Book Group
125 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023
9781484753552, $19.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Chew: An Essential Guide to Cooking and Entertaining: Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom from The Chew Hosts" Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz, and Michael Symon collaborate to even the most novice of kitchen cooks with mouthwatering recipes and useful entertaining tips to make cooking for family and friends unforgettable and manageable. In "The Chew", these world class chefs bring the wit, wisdom, and practicality that they shared on their hit tv show. The themes that permeate the show, such as time-savers and comfort classics, can be found here along with guilty pleasures and recipes handed down from the hosts' families to yours.

Critique: From exquisite dishes that range from Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes; Croissant Bread Pudding; Rhubarb Berry Slab Pie; and Daphne's Turkey Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Dressing; to Blackberry-Brown Sugar Swirl Pancakes with Bacon-Bourbon Maple Syrup; Chicken Thigh Osso Buco with Creamy Polenta; Mac and Cheese Florentine; and Toasted Pepperoni Bread with Burrata; "The Chew: An Essential Guide to Cooking and Entertaining" will guide you through the planning, cooking and enjoyment of everyday meals with a twist. Beautifully illustrated throughout, "The Chew" will prove to be an enduringly popular and thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

The Most Perfect Thing
Tim Birkhead
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632863690, $27.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Author Tim Birkhead is an ornithologist who teaches animal behavior and the history of science at the University of Sheffield. Birkhead is also a fellow of the Royal Society of London, as well as the author of several books, including "Bird Sense"; "The Wisdom of Birds"; and "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology".

In "The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg", Birkhead opens with the hatching of a female guillemot chick, who is already carrying her full quota of tiny eggs within her undeveloped ovary. As she grows into adulthood, only a few of her eggs mature, are released into the oviduct, and are fertilized by sperm stored from copulation that took place days or weeks earlier. Within a matter of hours, the fragile yolk is surrounded by albumen and the whole is gradually encased within a turquoise jewel of a shell. Soon afterward the fully formed egg is expelled onto a bare rocky ledge, where it will be incubated for four weeks before another chick emerges and the life cycle begins again.

"The Most Perfect Thing" is about how eggs in general are made, fertilized, developed, and hatched. The eggs of most birds spend just 24 hours in the oviduct; however, that journey takes 48 hours in cuckoos, which surreptitiously lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. From the earliest times, the study of birds' ovaries and ova (eggs) played a vital role in the quest to unravel the mysteries of fertilization and embryo development in humans. Birkhead uses birds' eggs as wondrous portals into natural history, enlivened by the stories of naturalists and scientists, including Birkhead and his students, whose discoveries have advanced current scientific knowledge of reproduction.

Critique: Who could imagine that tiny bird eggs were such mind-blowing scientific marvels? As compelling and inherently fascinating as it is informative and 'reader friendly' in composition and presentation, "The Most Perfect Thing" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Pets/Wildlife collections in general, and Aviary Biology supplemental studies in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Most Perfect Thing" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.65).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Science and the Internet
Alan G. Gross & Jonathan Buehl, editors
Baywood Publishing
26 Austin Avenue, Box 337, Amityville, NY 11701
9780895038975, $78.95, 328pp,

Synopsis: The twelve essays and an afterword (Social Changes in Science Communication: Rattling the Information Chain' by Charles Bazerman) comprising "Science and the Internet: Communicating Knowledge in a Digital Age" consider the effects of digital technologies on scientific argumentation and the circulation of scientific knowledge. In Communicating Science, Gross, Harmon, and Reidy argued that the fundamental interaction between verbal and visual elements that defines scientific argumentation will not change significantly as technology changes: While the computer revolution will undoubtedly continue to facilitate this interaction, we do not think this heart will look, or beat, very differently at the end of the twenty-first century. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet has transformed how science is practiced, and it is accelerating the pace of scientific communication both among peers and to the public. Among peers, the Internet promotes wider and more fruitful collaborative networks. Fully evolved, the scientific article is becoming a portal through which knowledge flows. The scope of peer review is being expanded by the full documentation and immediate scrutiny that the Internet permits. But the Internet's influence extends beyond peer-to-peer communication to the communication of science to wider publics. Institutions must adapt to the just-in-time behaviors of information seekers, and the participatory features of Web 2.0 allow non-experts to comment on scientific research in unprecedented ways. The contributors to "Science and the Internet" analyze digital developments in science communication from open notebooks and live-blogged experiments to podcasts and citizen-science projects to assess their rhetorical implications.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful and astute, "Science and the Internet: Communicating Knowledge in a Digital Age" is especially commended to the attention of teachers of technical and scientific communication, professors of science studies, and academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the Internet. An ideal choice as a central or supplementary text for courses in technical and scientific communication or in digital media studies, "Science and the Internet" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Information Science reference collections and supplemental studies curriculums. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Science and the Internet" is also available in a paperback edition (9780895038982, $63.95), and in a Kindle format (9780895038999, $51.16).

Night Flowers
Damien Frost
Merrell Publishers
8755 Lookout Mountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
9781858946481, $29.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: In the centers of major cities like London there are always a select few who only come out after midnight. They are the 'Night Flowers', an affectionate term that encompasses the loose-knit society of drag kings and queens, club kids, alternative-queer, transgender, goths, fetishists, cabaret and burlesque performers who bloom at night and burn brightly under the neon lights of central London. "Night Flowers: from avant-drag to extreme haute-couture" is a compilation of full color photographs that are the result of a project begun by Damien Frost in early 2014 where he went out every night to wander the streets of London in search of its most colourful inhabitants. In so doing, Damien first stumbled across the world of the 'Night Flowers' and he began documenting the people and their wild array of looks and creative expression. For the most part, the photographs are incidental portraits taken after chance encounters on the streets, down dark alleys or backstage in a club and often in cramped and crowded circumstances - the poise and grace of the subjects belying the quizzical looks or comments or event taunts thrown at them by passers-by. Damien's photographs reveal a massive array of artists, dancers, designers, performers and others who were turning themselves into an ephemeral artwork that would last for a few hours at most.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating compendium of images that would do credit to Federico Fellini, "Night Flowers" by Damien Frost is a compelling and memorable collection, making it very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Photography collections in general, and the supplemental studies lists for students of urban subcultures in particular.

Stem Cell Battles
Don C. Reed
World Scientific Publishing Company
27 Warren Street, Suite 401-402, Hackensack, NJ 07601
9789814644013, $49.00, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: "Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond" by Don C. Reed (who has been called the "Grandfather of Stem Cell Research Advocacy" for his decades of commitment, beginning with his citizen sponsorship of California's Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999, named after his paralyzed son) combines easy-to-understand science, in-the-trenches political warfare, and inspirational stories. "Stem Cell Battles" aims to give hope to individuals and families who suffer from chronic disease or disability; to point out how ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the battle to ease suffering and save lives through supporting medical research; to share in "people talk" some of the amazing progress already achieved in the new field of stem cell research; to show how even such a magnificent success as the California stem cell program is under constant attack from ideological groups; to offer medical research as a force for international cooperation; to suggest how cure research lessens the need for the mountainous costs of endless care.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject of stem cell research, "Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond" is especially commended to the attention of caregivers of someone with chronic disease, patient advocates, students in biomedical science, policy makers in government, and stem cell researchers. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stem Cell Battles" is also available in a paperback edition (9789814618274, $24.99) and in a Kindle format ($12.49).

Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country
Chuck Pfarrer
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781591145646, $29.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country" is author Chuck Pfarrer's adaptation of Edward Everett Hale's American classic "The Man Without a Country," first published in The Atlantic Monthly more than a century ago. Masterfully blending history and fiction, Pfarrer tells the story of a young artillery officer, Philip Nolan, who becomes embroiled in Aaron Burr's 1807 conspiracy to invade the territories of the Louisiana Purchase. Insinuating his scheme has official approval, Burr convinces Nolan to carry a coded message into the Orleans Territory. Nolan has no knowledge of the former vice president's intended treason?and Burr has no idea that Thomas Jefferson has discovered his scheme. Soon Philip Nolan is in military custody with Burr, charged an accessory to the plot.

The nation holds its breath as Burr is tried for attempting to tear apart the Union. The charges against Burr seem ironclad, but his lawyers are clever, and Burr walks free. An embarrassed prosecution looks for a scapegoat, and expands the charges against Nolan to include desertion and sedition. Learning that his own court martial will proceed, despite Burr's acquittal, Nolan denounces his accusers, damns his country, and tells the court he wishes never again to hear the words "United States" as long as he lives. The judges return with an ominous verdict: the prisoner's wish will be granted. Nolan is sentenced to permanent exile aboard a series of U.S. warships, never again to hear news from or speak of his country.

Decades pass. Shuttled from ocean to ocean, Nolan realizes he is a stateless person, estranged from his keepers and forgotten by his country. Eventually passed aboard an American frigate in the Mediterranean, Nolan comes into the custody of a newly commissioned lieutenant, Frank Curran. When Barbary pirates capture an American whaleship, the pair is drawn into a web of international deceit and mortal danger. As a rescue mission is launched, Nolan teaches the young officer a lesson about duty, loyalty, and the meaning of patriotism.

Equal parts adventure, naval history, and morality tale, "Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country" is more than frigate duels and small boat actions. Intricately plotted and beautifully crafted, the novel is a poignant and closely observed examination of the human condition.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, "Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country" is highly recommended will prove to an enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.49).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Racial Realities and Post-Racial Dreams
Julius Bailey
Broadview Press
c/o FedEx Trade Networks
555 Riverwalk Parkway, Tonawanda, NY 14150
9781554813162, $22.95, PB, 190pp,

Synopsis: "Racial Realities and Post-Racial Dreams: The Age of Obama and Beyond" is a moral call, a harkening and quickening of the spirit, a demand for recognition for those whose voices are whispered. Author Julius Bailey straddles the fence of social-science research and philosophy, using empirical data and current affairs to direct his empathy-laced discourse. He turns his eye to President Obama and his critics, racism, income inequality, poverty, and xenophobia, guided by a prophetic thread that calls like-minded visionaries and progressives to action.

Critique: Providing a keenly honest look at the current state of our professed city on a hill and the destruction left on the darker sides of town, "Racial Realities and Post-Racial Dreams" is a compelling read and underscores the devastation that the U.S. Supreme Courts gutting of the anti-voter rights legislation has created with the almost immediate appearance and re-emergence of the old Jim Crow laws and voter suppression legislation enacted by Republican controlled states. A compelling and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Racial Realities and Post-Racial Dreams" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Social Issues and Contemporary African-American Studies collections.

Open up the Iron Door
Avi Weiss
The Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592643851, $24.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: Inspired by the cautionary lesson of the silence of many leaders during the Holocaust and the fearlessness of the Civil Rights movement, from 1964 to 1991 grassroots activists spearheaded a worldwide liberation effort demanding that Jews be allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Unlike other accounts of this history, "Open up the Iron Door: Memoirs of a Soviet Jewry Activist" by Avi Weiss (himself a long time Jewish activist and currently the Senior Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale the Bayit, Bronx, New York) chronicles the activities of those working outside of, and often in opposition to, the Jewish establishment. This exceptionally informative memoir interweaves one man's personal struggles, doubts, and triumphs with the ups and downs of the activist movement itself its challenges and personalities, its passionate protests and dreams, its dizzying successes and failures spanning three decades of strategizing and meetings, sit-ins and hunger strikes, civil disobedience and arrests, and fervent pleas written, spoken, and sung.

Critique: An informative, compelling, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented personal story intertwined with the history of a global social movement, "Open up the Iron Door" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Jewish History and International Social Issues collections. For the personal reading lists of academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Open up the Iron Door" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

A Search in Secret Egypt
Paul Brunton
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583949818, $19.95, PB, 380pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "A Search in Secret Egypt", by the late Paul Brunton the reader will learn of the mysteries and magic of Egypt in the 1930s, including an eerie yet illuminating night that Brunton spent alone inside the Great Pyramid. Alongside his explorations of ancient Egypt's monuments and gods, Brunton encounters a variety of occultists, fakirs, and dervishes, and even manages to become initiated into the deadly art of snake charming. His frank interviews with Muslim leaders remain relevant today, and his description of the Hajj reflects the beauty and inspiring faith of Mohammad's true followers. Brunton's journey to discover the furthest reaches of what the mind and body are capable of -- and to distinguish various forms of yoga and magic from true spirituality -- lead him to the myth of Osiris and to the mystery that is the Sphinx itself. In the end, Brunton turns his attention to his own spiritual path, connecting all of his experiences into a single discovery: that we are more than the body and that the freedom of our spirit can be experienced here and now.

Critique: Paul Brunton is the pen name of Raphael Hurst (21 October 1898 - 27 July 1981), a British theosophist and spiritualist. He is best known as one of the early popularizers of Neo-Hindu spiritualism in western esotericism, notably via his bestselling "A Search in Secret India" originally published in 1934. This new edition of "A Search in Secret Egypt" has been updated to incorporate Brunton's final revisions and includes an introduction by the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation, making it very highly recommended, especially for personal and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections. For the personal reading lists of academia and the non-specialist general reader, it should be noted that "A Search in Secret Egypt" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT
Graham St. John
Evolver Editions
c/o North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583947326, $19.95, PB, 520pp,

Synopsis: Since the mid-1950s, the psychoactive compound DMT has attracted the attention of experimentalists and prohibitionists, scientists and artists, alchemists and hyperspace emissaries. While most known as a crucial component of the "jungle alchemy" that is ayahuasca, DMT is a unique story unto itself. Until now, this story has remained untold. Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT" by Graham St. John is the study to delve into the history of this substance, the discovery of its properties, and the impact it has had on poets, artists, and musicians. Exposing a great many myths, this cultural history reveals how DMT has had a beneficial influence on the lives of those belonging to a vast underground network whose reports and initiatives expose drug war propaganda and shine a light in the shadows. This conversation is highly relevant at a time when significant advances are being made to lift the moratorium on human research with psychedelics.

Critique: Enhanced with an informative foreword by Dennis McKenna, cover art by Beau Deeley, and thirty color illustrations by various artists, "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT" by Graham St John (an Australian cultural anthropologist and scholar of electronic dance music movements, event-cultures and entheogens) is exceptionally well written, organized and presented work of impressive scholarship, making it very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Mystery School in Hyperspace" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

The Wrong Road Home
Ian A. O'Connor
Pegasus Publishing & Entertainment Group
9780692569658, $14.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: "The Wrong Road Home" by Ian A. O'Connor is a story of treachery and deceit inspired by true events. It's the larger-than-life story of a surgeon who successfully practiced for 20 years (first in Ireland and then the United States) girded with nothing more than a Chicago School System GED and several counterfeit medical diplomas! "The Wrong Road Home" is based on a Miami Herald Sunday Edition front page expose that was the talk of South Florida two decades ago. Oprah's producer pursued the imposter for weeks, as did Bill O'Reilly, then the host of Inside Edition. "The Wrong Road Home" combines two cautionary tales. The first warns how a Faustian bargain once struck, allows for no turning back. Desmond Donahue's impossible dream of becoming a "doctor" was indeed realized over time, and a "doctor" he remained despite several close calls in the ensuing years. The second cautionary message details the terrible cost in human terms of a life lived alone; of having to forgo marriage and children; of never having a close friend; of having to keep everyone ever met at arm's length so the day would never arrive where he would inadvertently expose the awful truth about himself.

Critique: An impressively well written and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "The Wrong Road Home" showcases Ian A. O'Connor as a compelling, talented and exceptionally skillful author. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Wrong Road Home" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition
Yates McKee
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781784781880, $26.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: The collision of activism and contemporary art, from the Seattle protests to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and beyond, there is a relationship of art to the practice of radical politics today. In "Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition", social activist and art history expert Yates McKee explores this issue of art and politics through the historical lens of the Occupy Wall Street effort -- an event that had artists at its core. Precarious, indebted, and radicalized, artists redirected their creativity from servicing the art world into an expanded field of organizing in order to construct of a new (if internally fraught) political imaginary set off against the common enemy of the 1%. In the process, they called the bluff of a contemporary art system torn between ideals of radical critique, on the one hand, and an increasing proximity to Wall Street on the other -- oftentimes directly targeting major art institutions themselves as sites of action. Tracking the work of groups including MTL, Not an Alternative, the Illuminator, the Rolling Jubilee, and G.U.L.F, "Strike Art" shows how the Occupy Wall Street movement ushered in a new era of artistically-oriented direct action that continues to ramify far beyond the initial act of occupation itself into ongoing struggles surrounding labor, debt, and climate justice, concluding with a consideration of the overlaps between such work and the aesthetic practices of the current Black Lives Matter movement. "Strike Art" reveals that art after the Occupy Wall Street movement contains great potentials of imagination and action for a renewed left project that are still only beginning to ripen, at once shaking up and taking flight from the art system as we know it.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, consistently insightful and occasionally iconoclastic, "Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition" is a compelling and memorable read. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Art History, Political Science, and Social Issues collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Strike Art" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Boston Trustee
Thomas E. Bator & Heidi A. Seely
David R. Godine, Publisher
Fifteen Court Square, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02108-2536
9781567925470, $29.95, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: "The Boston Trustee: The Lives, Laws, and Legacy of a Vital Institution" by Thomas E. Bator (a managing partner of Nichols & Pratt, LLP, who is a Boston Trustee, as well as a trusts and estates lawyer) and Heidi A. Seely (a trusts and estates lawyer and an associate in the Boston law firm of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster), provides both the background and the history of a unique Boston institution: the men and women who serve as individual professional trustees, who control billions of dollars of assets, who have provided advice and counsel for generations of families, and who are universally known as 'Boston Trustees.' This quiet and discrete legal service had its roots in the early nineteenth century, when Boston's closely interconnected social and cultural elite faced the problem of how to pass on massive new wealth in a predictable, safe, and prudent way. Today, the practice remains alive and well, a major, and very profitable, component of almost every Boston law firm, bank and trust office.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "The Boston Trustee: The Lives, Laws, and Legacy of a Vital Institution" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Financial Studies reference collections in general, and 'Trusts & Trustee' supplemental studies reading lists in particular, "The Boston Trustee" is commended to the attention of academia and fully accessible for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject.

Green Construction
Alison Dykstra
Kirshner Publishing Company
405 Davis Court, Suite 1202, San Francisco, CA 94111
9780982703427, $42.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: "Green Construction: An Introduction to a Changing Industry" addresses what green, sustainable, and high-performance means for the construction industry and its workers. "Green Construction" provides an overview of a quickly changing construction industry and clarification of what green means and how it is impacting jobs, workers, and the built environment. In-depth coverage of topics include: What is meant by terms like green, sustainable, and high performance?; What makes constructing a green building different from constructing conventional buildings?; How is green construction changing workers jobs?; What are the benefits, to jobs and the economy, as well as to the environment, of green construction?; What are the challenges and opportunities for general contractors and specialty trades?. "Green Construction" also includes extensive coverage of: Green standards, codes, and rating systems; Building certification programs such as LEED, Green Globes, and others; Green products and materials; Professional credentials and continuing education. Extensive appendices include a history of the green movement; How we get and use our power; How to get a building LEED-certified; and an extensive list of helpful organizations and resources. A comprehensive glossary and detailed index complete the book.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Green Construction: An Introduction to a Changing Industry" is especially commended to the attention of architectural students, general contractors, tradespeople, designer, engineers, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. "Green Construction" will prove to be an invaluable, core addition to professional, corporate, and academic library Construction & Design reference collections.

Defining Moments: The Stonewall Riots
Laurie Collier Hillstrom
Omnigraphics, Inc.
155 W. Congress, Suite 200, Detroit, MI 48226
9780780814424, $60.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Defining Moments: The Stonewall Riots" by Luarie Collier Hillstrom provides a detailed account of the New York City police raid of June 28, 1969 on a popular gay bar that launched a six-day series of violent protests and inspired the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) civil rights movement in the United States. "Defining Moments: The Stonewall Riots" begins by exploring the atmosphere of homophobia and legalized discrimination against LGBT people that existed prior to the riots, including the American Psychiatric Association's classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, state sodomy laws that criminalized private sexual acts, and the federal government's ban on homosexual employees. It then offers a detailed account of the raid on the Stonewall Inn, the protests that rocked New York City, and their role in spurring public debate about LGBT rights. It then presents the milestones in the organized effort to secure equal rights and promote full acceptance of LGBT individuals in American society, from the AIDS crisis of the 1980s to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling on gay marriage, as well as the perspectives of those who have opposed this movement on religious or moral grounds. The volume concludes by examining the legacy of the Stonewall Riots in American history and the challenges that continue to face LGBT people today.

Deftly organized into three distinct sections (Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources) "Defining Moments: The Stonewall Riots" offers a one-stop resource for student research. Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Critique: A masterpiece of seminally informed and informative scholarship that is highly recommended for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "Defining Moments: The Stonewall Riots" should be considered an indispensable and core addition to community and academic library LGBT History collections.

Michael J. Carson

Chutsky's Bookshelf

The Big Short
Michael Lewis
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393072235, $27.95, HC, 288pp, $8.61 Kindle
9780393338829, 15.99 PB, 291pp,

Wow! - Who knew what was really going on on Wall Street during the Mortgage Crisis almost a decade ago that is still stinging us all today. Now you can take a witty humorous romp through the mess that brought the world's Financial system to it's knees in 2009.

The NY Times best-selling book "The Big Short" portrays the Wall Street denizens who seemed stupid at the time, but in actuality were just antisocial neurotic dysfunctional misfits bordering on geniuses in the financial numbers game: one haunted by growing up with a glass eye that awkwardly fell out on wrong occasions, (is there ever a right one?) which certainly can mess up your development of self-esteem, an ex-big-money banker who thought the apocalypse was coming at any moment so he'd better start growing vegetables in some remote part of California in order that he and his family can survive it, two very frazzled 20 something guys who had no one but themselves investing in their Corndog fund vying for a place at the big boys table -while living in their mother's basement on the verge of a nervous breakdown and contemplating going on lithium at her request, and another hotwired tortured soul who thought the worst of everyone and everything and never shut up about it.

In their wacked out world of growing money, where the line between finance and gambling was razor thin or nonexistent, they decided to bet big on credit default swaps to take on the big banks since their own crystal ball was forecasting the looming financial disaster of the late 2000's precipitated by a humongous default rate in sub-prime mortgages. Even they couldn't believe they were the only ones who could see it coming. But they were. They were running around yelling "fire" while no one wanted to acknowledge the smoke. Wall Street was burning while the subprime mortgage lenders responsible for igniting the fires were partying at conferences in Vegas.

Apparently many financial people swimming around in the murky waters of bundled sub-prime mortgage bonds and CDO's, didn't even understand what they were trading: actually it was the risky debt of ordinary Americans that was sliced and diced and bundled and re-bundled and nibbled over and rewrapped and re-bundled like a Christmas fruitcake everyone knows is bad but they take a nibble and graciously passed it around as a gift decorated with a new bow until the relatives start getting botulism and then someone dies. Indeed Our financial system became so sick it teetered on the brink of Armageddon in 2008.

Let's just say the book portrays the heightened irrationality and illusion of control that takes place when Wall Street wallows in believing its own lies-making a negligible industry into an engine of profits that made no sense.

But then who would have thought the Gold of Naples, Americas Real Estate assets, would ever go down like they did. Sure there could be a few bad apples that didn't pay their mortgages, but not close to 50%. And who could blame them when an army of even badder apples, rotten to the core salesmen, were pushing adjustable ballooning interest rates on unsuspecting people, like a Mexican strawberry picker who was given a variable rate mortgage on a $750,000 house when he couldn't afford an ice tea at McDonalds or hoards of strippers who were holding mortgages on up to five houses because they were told they could refinance to pay for them as their value increased. Those mortgage pushers were really to blame, but they were more morons than crooks. The crooks aplenty were much higher up at AIG, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs etc. Even the sheriff in town, Moody's rating Agency, was in cahoots with the outlaws. Their rubber stamped triple AAA credit rating farce was perpetrated by the lowly Bond raters with a Post Office employee mentality. These were the spark plugs that kept the lie going for as long as it did.

The biggest rub was many of the fraudulent big money players walked away with millions, while the American people were given a bill for the mess thanks to the Government bailout and "too big to fail" legislation. And what's even scarier is the monster is being mutated, at this very moment in some dark pools of the financial markets....somewhere.

"The Big Short" is worth a read, maybe just to remind oneself not to go near the Bond Market. Better to stick to the perpetual horse race of the Stock Market where you'll be ahead at SOME point, as long as you don't pick a horse that drops dead.

Michael Lewis penned a powerful book that serves up a strong warning against getting too creative with financial instruments...though I fear as the crisis of 2009 gets farther back in our rear view mirror the Financial Wizards will be in their laboratories mixing up another toxic brew! INVESTOR BEWARE!

In the Heart of the Sea
Nathaniel Philbrick
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York New York 10014
9780141001821, $17.00, PB, 300pp, $13.99 Kindle,

If you've found Moby Dick too daunting a task to read but are fascinated by the history of New England, the Quakers, and the Whaling Industry of the early 1800's in Nantucket, you'll thoroughly enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea." He spins the yarn with the greatest of reverence only an Englishmen can portray towards the mighty ships of the time and the steadfast sailors who made them creak and fly with the wind.

Man has taken to the water since the days of Homo-erectus, whether for food or adventure or just curiosity we'll never know. The first seaworthy boats are thought to be invented around 800,000 years ago while other human records show twenty-man reed boats depicted in rock carvings as far back as 10,000 B.C.

Now fast forward to 1829, when stalwart sailors along with those who once felled forests, or sowed fields, or those who were running from the law, felt compelled to snatch up a lance and go hunting for the leviathan of all fish, Spermaceti Whales, aboard the grand wooden sailing ships of the day.

As well as fueling the booming Industrial age of the time, the world was lit and warmed by the rich oils boiled down from the sperm whales blubber, not to mention the prized pearly white wax like material found in the head cavity, a great chemical used for making candles, cosmetics, ointments, and textiles.

Chasing and killing a sixty ton creature that could destroy a small whaleboat with the flick of its tail, in forbidden seas known to swallow up ships in its churning waves, took the most adventurous and arduous of crews, a high count of which were left to the tomb of the oceans.

And the famous island that was at the center of it all was little old Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts, where the first dead American whale was stranded. "And where but from Nantucket, too did that first adventurous sloop put forth, partly laden with imported cobble-stones-so the story goes-to throw at the whales, in order to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit," wrote Herman Melville in the famed novel Moby Dick.

"In the Heart of the Sea" gives a good overview of the whaling industry at it's heyday while Nathaniel Philbrook eloquently tells the tale of the ill-fated Essex whaleboat, one of the first to be attacked with a vigilante vengeance by a mammoth lance scarred blockheaded sperm whale, as if wrought for the pain inflicted on the whole of his species.

"....The whale who spewed Nantucket bones on the thrashed swell....and stirred the troubled waters send the Essex packing off to hell."

The Essex was chasing schools of whales near the equator west of South America, in the vastness of the belly of the Pacific ocean before being churned up into a mere pile of splintered parts and splintered men stranded over a thousand miles from any spec of land.

Twenty men escaped the incident with their lives, meager rations and the barest of navigational equipment. Clinging to life, they handily turned three small whaling boats into rudimentary schooners with makeshift rigging they had scavenged from the Essex before all manner of her disappeared beneath the waves. They were tumbled about hopelessly for months at the mercy of the winds and currents and hot sun plagued by the eerie spotted appearances of the sinister white whale tracking them until they were whittled down to 8 barely breathing skeletons adrift in two boats.

"....And thunder shakes the white surf ...sailors who pitch at the sea....when you are powerless to pluck life back....Whatever it was these Quaker sailor's the mad scramble of their lives...only bones abide...(but)for centuries a (wretched) memory..."

Those memories are recounted mainly through the eyes of Thomas Nickerson, a lad of fourteen when he set sail aboard the Essex - on the verge of manhood, though the transformation quickly occurred by the time the ship sailed a mere 7 miles round the bend of Cape Cod.

It is believed Melville fashioned the prose of Moby Dick around the dramatic events that befell the Essex's 1821 whaling voyage. Though the book was highly acclaimed in the twentieth century, purported to be one of America's greatest pieces of literature, it received no fan fair at the time of its publishing in 1851. And truth be told, Melville's real inspiration was the first mate Owen Chase's account of the events, ghost written by a Harvard educated chap, that was published a few years after the sinking and thirty years before Melville wrote Moby Dick.

Nickerson was the classic native Nantucketer, those young lads who used the harbor packed with labyrinths of wharf houses, windmills, ropewalks and all manner of ships, as their playground as children. They could climb ratlines like monkeys and lay out yardarms with nonchalance, having mimicked the actions of the whalers in their play in preparation for their predestined life as mariners.

The second class breed of whaler, embodied in the First Mate- Owen Chase, is a "goof" or mainlander. Chase was a descendant of a farmer which made him from the wrong side of the tracks as we say today, not a native born islander, though in this case his seafaring instincts were "fishier" than many of the whaling ship's Captains born of wealthy islander seafaring lineage. He embodied the seamanship and audacious daring character, globular brain and ponderous heart that made the rest of the crew want to follow him.

The last sharp point in the triangle of main characters of the book is Captain Pollard who was a first time Captain-though he had spent many years working up the pecking as second and firstmate. He would grapple a bit with the dynamic Owen Chase, who felt he was a superior force to Captain Pollard's style of command, wrought by many years in savage waters having spilled tons upon tons of whaling gore. Great men are made through a certain morbidness that had touched both men by the time of the voyage.

The meat of the triangle usually nearly half of the crew was filled in by seaworthy Negroes, once the native Indians of Nantucket had died away.

Here's a bit of the history you will get in the book: In 1821, for over a hundred years, the little island of Nantucket, 24 miles off the coast of mainland Massachusetts, was the headquarters of the global whale oil industry.

And for over a hundred years the Quakers dominated the island and the seas around it. They were a religious sect dedicated to worshipping what they called "the inner light of God" in a more individualistic manner than most structured churches. Their rigid sense of industrial purpose was focused squarely on the whaling industry. Though the profits were enormous, and a majority of Quakers became wealthy, their rules of behavior spurned fancy clothes and ostentatious houses, which meant profits were almost always invested back into the lucrative whaling business, though they were quite stingy with supplies and pay for the crew. In fact many sailors owed money to the whaling ship companies once arriving back to port, mainly for clothes and other necessities they ended up having to buy on board.

The Quakers social order was also a bit topsy-turvy. In fact, it was the woman who made up the powerful hierarchy that ran the island since the men were at sea most often for multiple years at a time. And the women liked it that way.

"In the Heart of the Sea" takes us a wild whale hunting voyage, then mainly focuses on the wretched experience of survival at the hands of mother nature, where the questions of the small things become a peculiar diversion in the slow agonizing moments of hopelessness, like doling out small pieces of food, guarding the pitifully minute fresh water supply or weaving a thin piece of twine to mark the days. One grows pale at the thought that their ultimate survival lends a man to do some unspeakable acts.

It was those acts, cannibalism, that churned like chum on a swell in the guts of the survivors for the term of their lives while author Philbrick brooches the subject delicately. But make no mistake, it is the only reason the eight did survive to tell their story. Even amongst the Quakers it was a hushed acceptance that "drawing the straws" when all hope was lost was a seaman's right.

The great irony of that unspeakable matter for the Essex, is that immediately after the shipwreck the crew knew the Societal islands were within a reasonable sail, while having ample supplies of rations to reach there. It was Captain Pollard who made the fateful ironic decision not to sail in that direction, because it had been rumored the islands were swarming with cannibalistic tribes of wild men. Instead he chose a route heading east towards South America pitting them against bad currents and unfavorable winds. After a month's time, drifting about, they were a thousand miles farther away from land than when they started. In the end they had managed over 4500 miles in their battered whale boats before only eight of them were finally rescued.

"In The Heart of the Sea" is a fascinating historical entertaining read, packed with vivid seamen's dramas, while ultimately a diary of those sailors facing a horrid barebones battle against the brutal seas that ultimately exposes the sinew of a man's will to survive.

Personal note: As a child of eight I looked 'into the heart of the sea' on a small ship sailing out to Nantucket from the mainland. It was in the midst of a raging storm I remember watching the deck chairs fly off the battered rails of the boat as it dipped down near sideways into the massive waves, while my family and I clung to the walls of the small cabin trying to make our way inside or perish in the churning frigid water. It's a stark memory that left me respecting the veracity with which a body of water can consume a man or a vessel in an instant. Thus I found it befitting the tale of the Whaleship Essex is told through the pungent and powerful memories etched into the mind of a fourteen year old boy, much as they remain in mine.

Karen Chutsky

Clint's Bookshelf

Thorgal 17: The Blue Plague
Rosinski & Van Hamme
Cinebook Ltd.
56 Beech Ave., Canterbury, Kent, CT4 7TA, UK
c/o National Book Network (dist.)
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781849182904 $11.95

Synopsis: Thorgal and his family have left Arachnea's island to continue seeking a place to live in peace. As they sail along unknown shores, they're attacked by pirates, then rescued by Prince Zarkaj, who takes them to his palace and pampers them - especially Aaricia. But when Jolan and his mother turn out to have caught the terrible Blue Plague, the prince has them thrown into a guarded pit to die - and it's up to Thorgal to escape in search of a cure.

He's a child of the stars, beloved of the gods and touched by destiny, but also a reluctant hero, a simple man with simple dreams. Thorgal: an extraordinary Viking saga with strong elements of science fiction, by one of the master scriptwriters of Franco-Belgian comics.

Critique: A full-color graphic novel adventure intended for both teen and adult readers, The Blue Plague is brilliantly brought to life, and evocative of the classic sword-and-sorcery genre. The saga of Thorgal's efforts to contain a deadly disease is complete within this one volume, making The Blue Plague an excellent introduction to the Thorgal series. Highly recommended.

The Adventures of Blake & Mortimer 22: Professor Sato's Three Formulae Part 1
Edgar P. Jacobs
Cinebook Ltd.
56 Beech Ave., Canterbury, Kent, CT4 7TA, UK
c/o National Book Network (dist.)
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781849182928 $13.95

Synopsis: One evening in Tokyo, air traffic controllers detect an unknown flying object and send two aircraft to intercept and identify it. However, the fighters' last message before they crash into each other is 'ryu' - dragon! The whole business has deeply upset Professor Sato Akira, and he calls upon his friend Mortimer, who can always be counted upon for good advice. But before he's even received the invitation, Mortimer is already targeted by men hell bent on getting rid of him...

Captain Francis Blake, dashing head of England's MI5. Professor Philip Mortimer, world-renowned nuclear physicist. The most distinguished duo of gentleman-adventurers, battling the forces of evil and their arch nemesis Olrik around the globe, below the earth, even across time itself... The 22nd adventure of Her Majesty's finest protectors!

Critique: Packed with action and intrigue reminiscent of classic spy thrillers, Professor Sato's Three Formulae Part 1 brings our dapper heroes to Japan, in pursuit of an alleged "dragon" that killed the aircraft pilots unfortunate enough to witness it. Even if dragons are a myth, ruthless criminal masterminds and their powerful weapons are all too real! "Professor Sato's Three Formulae: Part 1" doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but the reader will be left eager to continue the adventure in the forthcoming Part 2. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the genre.

Toilets: A Spotter's Guide
Lonely Planet Publications
150 Linden Street, Oakland CA 94607
9781760340667, $11.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: "Toilets: A Spotter's Guide" features a roster of more than one hundred impressive and beautifully photographed outhouses with incredible views, lavish lavatories, free standing toilets that are functional and functioning works of art. Whether they're high-tech or arty, amusing or amazing, each toilet has a photo and a description of its location. As any experienced traveler knows, you can tell a whole lot about a place by its bathrooms. Whatever you prefer to call them - lavatory, loo, bog, khasi, thunderbox, dunny, bathroom, restroom, washroom or water closet - toilets are a (sometimes opaque, often wide-open) window into the secret soul of a destination.

It's not just how well they're looked after that's revealing, but where they are positioned and the way they've been conceptualized, designed and decorated. Toilets so often transcend their primary function of being a convenience to become a work of art in their own right, or to make a cultural statement about the priorities, traditions and values of the venues, locations and communities they serve.

Critique: Striking, full-color photography ensures that readers will never see the humble lavatory in quite the same way again! It is interesting to note that "Toilets: A Spotter's Guide" reveals that around the planet toilets have followed various evolutionary pathways to best suit their environment. Inherently fascinating an informative from beginning to end, "Toilets: A Spotter's Guide" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane
Paul Thomas Murphy
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605989822, $28.95, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: On April 26th, 1871, a police constable walking one of London's remotest beats stumbled upon a brutalized young woman kneeling in the muddy road, her face smashed and battered. The policeman gaped in horror as the woman stretched out her hand to him, collapsed in the mud, muttered "let me die", and slipped into a coma. Five days later, she died, her identity still unknown. Within hours of her discovery, scores of Metropolitan Police officers were involved in the investigation, while Scotland Yard sent one of its top detectives to lead it. On the day of her death, the police discovered the girl's identity: Jane Maria Clouson, a sixteen-year-old servant to the Pooks, a respectable Greenwich family. Hours later, they arrested her master's son, twenty-year-old Edmund, for her murder.

Critique: An impressive, exceptional, original, and deftly crafted read from beginning to end, "Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane" clearly demonstrates author Paul Thomas Murphy as painstaking researcher who can draw from a diversity of primary sources to produce a gripping and compelling narrative. While "Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Victorian England's darker history that this outstanding work is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.16), as well as in a complete and unabridged Audio Book CD format (Blackstone Audio, 9781504692434, $29.95).

Three Daggers Dripping: A Donald Youngblood Mystery
Keith Donnelly
Hummingbird Books
c/o John F. Blair, Publisher
1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
9780895876645, $26.95, HC, 301pp,

Synopsis: Eight years ago Sheila Buckworth's son, Michael, disappeared with another young boy. Now, Sheila thinks she knows what happened to Michael and wants Donald Youngblood to confirm it.

Critique: "Three Daggers Dripping" is the sixth Youngblood mystery from the pen of Keith Donnelly and continues to demonstrate his distinctive flair for writing a compelling mystery that will grip and hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for all mystery novel enthusiasts that "Three Daggers Dripping" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Also very highly recommended are the other Youngblood mysteries in this outstanding series: "Three Deuces Down," (NewSouth Books, 9781588383105, $24.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle); "Three Dragons Doomed" (John F. Blair Publisher, 9780895876270, $26.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle); "Three Deadly Drops" (John F. Blair Publisher, 9780895875877, $26.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle); "Three Devils Dancing" (John F. Blair Publisher, 9780895873989, $24.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle); and "Three Days Dead" (John F. Blair Publisher, 9780895873729, $24.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle).

Clint Travis

Julie's Bookshelf

Dickinson in Her Own Time
Edited by Jane Donahue Eberwein, Stephanie Farrar, and Cristanne Miller
University of Iowa Press
100 Kuhl House, 119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609383916 $55.00 pbk / $44.00 Kindle

Synopsis: Even before the first books of her poems were published in the 1890s, friends, neighbors, and even apparently strangers knew Emily Dickinson was a writer of remarkable verses. Featuring both well-known documents and material printed or collected here for the first time, this book offers a broad range of writings that convey impressions of Dickinson in her own time and for the first decades following the publication of her poems. It all begins with her school days and continues to the centennial of her birth in 1930.

In addition, promotional items, reviews, and correspondence relating to early publications are included, as well as some later documents that reveal the changing assessments of Dickinson's poetry in response to evolving critical standards. These documents provide evidence that counters many popular conceptions of her life and reception, such as the belief that the writer best known for poems focused on loss, death, and immortality was herself a morose soul. In fact, those who knew her found her humorous, playful, and interested in other people.

Dickinson maintained literary and personal correspondence with major representatives of the national literary scene, developing a reputation as a remarkable writer even as she maintained extreme levels of privacy. Evidence compiled here also demonstrates that she herself made considerable provision for the survival of her poems and laid the groundwork for their eventual publication. Dickinson in Her Own Time reveals the poet as her contemporaries knew her, before her legend took hold.

Critique: Painting a complex portrait of gifted poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), this anthology of testimonies from Dickinson's peers and compatriots offers an eye-opening glimpse into her world. A regular index as well as an easy-to-use index to citations of Dickinson's poems rounds out this excellent contribution to college library literary biography and literary studies shelves. Highly recommended.

The Highly Effective Teacher
Jeff C. Marshall
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416621683, $27.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: "The Highly Effective Teacher: 7 Classroom-Tested Practices That Foster Student Success" by academician Jeff Marshall (a professor in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education at Clemson University and is the director of the Inquiry in Motion Institute with the mission of facilitating teacher transformation in K 12 mathematics and science classrooms through rigorous and authentic inquiry-based learning experiences" provides seven distinct, research-based, classroom-tested, guides to help teachers: create coherent, connected lessons; use strategies and resources, including technology, that truly enhance learning; organize a safe, respectful learning environment; develop challenging and rigorous learning experiences; promote interactive, thoughtful learning; nurture a creative, problem-solving classroom culture; and deliver feedback and formative assessment that inform teaching and learning. The needs-assessment instruments comprising "The Highly Effective Teacher" can help classroom teachers, working independently or in a cohort, to determine the best starting point for improving their practice. Practical, straightforward rubrics for each individual tip describe the various levels of teacher proficiency. Also offered are action tips for each framework component and a list of resources for further study. Written for teachers and leaders at all levels and in all content areas, "The Highly Effective Teacher" is a practical guidebook for thoughtful, intentional teaching with one goal: success for all students, in every classroom.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Highly Effective Teacher: 7 Classroom-Tested Practices That Foster Student Success" is especially recommended to the attention of student teachers, novice classroom instructors, and has a great deal of value for even experienced teachers in either public or private school settings. Very highly recommended for academic library Teacher Education reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Doors of Mercy
Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STL & Brian Kennelly
Saint Benedict Press
PO Box 410487, Charlotte, NC 28241
9781618907639, $27.95, HC, 220pp,

Synopsis: Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STL (a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Charleston, SC, who also holds a Licentiate in Moral Theology from Holy Cross University in Rome), Christians today are living in an extraordinary time he calls 'A Time of Mercy'. But what is mercy? What does it mean to be living in a Time of Mercy? How can we receive God's Mercy? And how should we respond?

In "Doors of Mercy: A Journey Through Salvation History", Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, with the assistance of author and novelist Brian Kennelly answer these important questions. They act as your tour guides on a whirlwind tour of salvation history, from Adam and Eve to the coming of the Savior, and into the present day with the beautiful story of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy message and devotion.

In the pages of "Doors of Mercy" Christian readers will discover the intricate stitching of a divine rescue plan that would not be stopped by anything. Across countless generations the Lord's mercy acted as the lifeblood of this rescue plan, so that neither our own weakness, nor the devil himself, could thwart it. He would deliver us a Savior and a King of Mercy no matter what it took, one who would bring His Kingdom to the ends of the earth, and who would smash the very gates of hell.

"Doors of Mercy" features: How the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden affects our relationships with each other, with God, and with the world around us; Why God chose a rainbow as the sign of the covenant with Noah; The purpose behind Abram's name being changed to Abraham; How the plagues in the time of Moses were not random but had symbolic meaning; How David's Kingdom serves as a template, or blueprint, for the Church; The hidden meaning behind some of Jesus' well known parables and why the Eucharist is the sign of the new and eternal covenant; How the Church and her saints have spread mercy throughout the centuries, with short biographies of Sts. Vincent, Camillus, Margaret Mary, Maria Goretti and more; The history behind St. Faustina's visions of Jesus and the spreading of the Divine Mercy message and devotion; How you can continue Christ's mission of mercy in your own life.

Critique: A profoundly moving reflection upon the quality of mercy, as well as humankind's connection to God, "Doors of Mercy" is inspired and inspiring, and very highly recommended for seminary and academic library Christian Studies collections. For the personal reading lists of members of the Roman Catholic community it should be noted that "Doors of Mercy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.98).

Cure Back Pain
Jean-Francois Harvey
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778805311, $14.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Using the latest advances in the science of movement, "Cure Back Pain: 80 Personalized Easy Exercises for Spinal Training to Improve Posture, Eliminate Tension and Reduce Stress" by Jean-Francois Harvey (a professor of osteopathy and a kinesiologist with 25 years of experience in the field) offers the unique and innovative Spinal Training method to help prevent and alleviate back pain. And in addition to strengthening your back, Spinal Training will also improve your posture, eliminate tension, reduce your stress response and diminish pain.

Drawing from Pilates, yoga, physical therapy and others and based on the principles of osteopathy, biomechanics and kinesiology, this holistic approach makes it possible for effective and gentle work to be done on the areas that are the most important for reducing back pain and enhancing good posture for a healthy back.

Full-color throughout with lavish and clear illustrations of the back's anatomy, "Cure Back Pain" features step-by-step photos with 80 exercise routines that meet the requirements for a healthy back. These routines can be customized with the self-assessment exercise provided. Thus the exercises can focus precisely on each person's specific needs and desired outcome.

The Spinal Training method can be used by anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Each training plan can be individually adapted to the nature of the specific pain, for any type of posture, degree of flexibility, muscle strength, or the time available to regain normal back strength.

Critique: Whether one's goal is to simply maintain a healthy and happy back or to reduce and eliminate pain, "Cure Back Pain: 80 Personalized Easy Exercises for Spinal Training to Improve Posture, Eliminate Tension and Reduce Stress" is an "must-have". Profusely illustrated with clear step-by-step instructions to help the back feel better, no matter what the condition may be, "Cure Back Pain" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation. Although "Cure Back Pain" cannot replace the care of a professional physician, it's an excellent lifestyle-improvement resource, and very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Health/Medicine instructional reference collections.

A Sweet Misfortune
Maggie Brendan
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800722654, $14.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: Rachel Matthews isn't one to rely on others to take care of her. Destitute and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money -- even if she's forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel's brother sends a friend (the widely admired cattle baron John McIntyre) to rescue her, then sets off to earn enough money to buy back the family ranch. But when months pass without her brother's return, Rachel isn't sure she can take one more day in John McIntyre's home -- especially once she discovers that he's the one who holds the deed to her family's ranch. Sparks fly between this spunky, independent heroine and the ruggedly handsome hero as they navigate the snarled terrain of pride, greed, faith, and love.

Critique: "A Sweet Misfortune is another terrific read in Maggie Brendan's delightful 'Virtues and Vices of the Old West' series. A true master of the Romance Fiction genre, "A Sweet Misfortune" is very highly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Sweet Misfortune" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.12). Librarians should also note that "A Sweet Misfortune" is available in a large print edition as well (Thorndike Press, 9781410488930, $29.99).

Wait Time: A Memoir of Cancer
Kenneth Sherman
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771121880, $22.99, PB,

Synopsis: When poet and essayist Kenneth Sherman was diagnosed with cancer, he began keeping a notebook of observations that blossomed into this powerful memoir. With incisive and evocative language, Sherman presents a clear-eyed view of what the cancer patient feels and thinks. His narrative voice is personal but not confessional, practical but not cold, thoughtful and searching but not self-pitying or self-absorbed.

Sherman's wait time for surgery on a malignant tumor was exceptionally long and riddled with bureaucratic bumbling; thus he asks our health-care providers and administrators if our system cannot be made efficient and more humane. While he is honest about what is good and bad in our system, he is not stridently political or given to directing blame. His narrative is interwoven with engaging ruminations on the meaning of illness in society, and is peppered with references to other writers' thoughts on the subject. A widely published poet, Sherman helps the reader understand the deep connection between disease and creativity, as well as the ways in which we write out of our suffering. "Wait Time: A Memoir of Cancer" will be of special interest to anyone facing a serious illness as well as to health-care providers, social workers, and psychologists working in the field. Its thoughtful observations on health, life priorities, time, and mortality will make it of interest to all readers.

Critique: "Wait Time" is a critically valuable and important addition to community, medical center, and academic library collections. Unflinchingly honest author Kenneth Sherman is neither morose nor senselessly optimistic. Readers of all backgrounds will learn about the health care system, the challenges of major illness, and what it means to face each day anew in spite of one's deepest fears, doubts, frustrations, and worse. Highly recommended.

Julie Summers

Kevin's Bookshelf

Sufi Prayer And Love
Dr. Ahmad Javid
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530801480, $15.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 294pp,

"What has he found who has lost God? And what has he lost who has found God?" - Ibn Atta Allah Al-Iskandari

Author Ahmad Javid's book 'Sufi Prayer and Love' is a deeply personal and enriching discourse on prayer and love for the almighty. It explains in great detail the intimate talk you should have in your life with God, this is also known as Salat (prayer). This prayer is a separate divine language on its own and will bring you closer to the Almighty.

This is the kind of book that should appeal to a lot of people because at its heart lies an intelligent discussion on prayer - the right kind of prayers and the power it gives you in life. And Muslims especially should find this book as a great guide that extols the virtue of prayer and love for Allah. Most of us do pray but when our prayers remain unanswered we often wonder where we went wrong. It doesn't exactly teach you how to pray but it explains in great detail what a prayer should be. Through simple stories and descriptions you will understand how to communicate with God better. The book doesn't limit itself to mere explanations of the various rituals we follow as part of our prayers, but it explains the meaning and purpose behind every word and action.

It is said that you cannot teach Salat or prayer to someone as it is a personal and internal process. But the author here has managed to do just that through careful selection of texts showcased through the three parts in the book. And the Arabic recitations included in the book give off positive spiritual vibes. It makes the process of prayer an enriching experience than an event that you are simply going through the motions of.

The language used is wonderful and I had no trouble in following the book. The English and the Arabic words, mostly used in brackets combine together to make this a great read. As a non Muslim myself, I appreciate the fact that I got immediate translations of words and phrases that I have often heard in relation to the Islamic faith.

I don't have any major grouses with the book, but at certain places I did wish the book had footnotes to give a more detailed history about certain items mentioned in the passages. Though the language used and the sentence structuring is contemporary, it has its own poetic feel. But if you are looking for a genuine Arabic poetic rendering, that you won't find it here.

The introduction given by the author was an honest piece of writing and my heart went out to him that he was able to make such a divine connection with the almighty. I would highly recommend this book to my Muslim brothers and sisters who think that they already know enough about their religion and faith. Reading this book should give you a different perspective and bring you in harmony with God.

Target Earth: You Only See What You Want To
Mary Louise Davie
Brighton Publishing.LLC
B01CPTAISC, $5.99 Kindle,

"Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze." - Carl Sagan

Author Mary Louise Davie's novel 'Target Earth: You only see what you want to' is set in the foreseeable future in classic science fiction style. Mankind has achieved much technological progress and has learned to harness the prowess of computers and artificial intelligence for its own benefit. When a couple of aliens make contact with such an automated world. Scientist couple Dr. Danielle and Dr. Christian are chosen to meet these aliens and understand the purpose behind their visit.

The book says that while humans of the future have made much progress with technology, their humanity has taken a backseat. Some may very well argue that such a reality is already a part of the present world we live in, and those people wouldn't be wrong either. The book doesn't despise or present all technology as evil, in fact it has clearly extolled the virtues and incredible developments that has been possible because of new technologies. The book actually looks at the person behind the machine and the inherent drawback in this animal that makes putting advanced technology in its hands dangerous. Greed, maniacal ego, and distrust of each other manifests itself in such a manner that human beings have put its future in grave danger. Clearly inspired by other science fiction narrative, here too a powerful and innately advanced civilization comes to the conclusion that the ongoing progress of humans could be detrimental to the lives of other beings in the universe and decides it's time to destroy planet earth. Although one could argue that by following such an arbitrary action this supposedly superior power is destroying all plant and animal lives for no fault of their own. The parallel drawn to Noah's ark fits well here, for all it moral plusses and minuses.

The aliens in the book should win over your heart. They are not some freakishly tall beings with bloated heads. Ishmael and Rudy give the appearance of humanoids and walk & talk like them, but it's mostly to placate the fears of the natives and make them feel comfortable. Their interactions with the humans, especially Danny and Chris have many heartwarming moments. Christian and Rudy have a more masculine character to their interactions, bordering on comical awkwardness. Danielle and Ishmael on the other hand have a more easy going relationship and their interactions and the trust they share right from the start feels like they have been best friends for a long time. The professional and personal partnership between Danny and Chris too has been well etched out.

The author should be commended for the design of the various future technologies and the architecture of the setting this story plays out in. The description of the homes, offices, cars, weapons, and spacecrafts are amazing. Although it is science fiction and fantasy, a lot of grounded thinking and real science seems to have gone behind its creation. Ideas like these present exciting possibilities of what our future may look like.

Target Earth isn't a typical sci-fi/apocalypse novel and that is because of the subtle but important political message found in the book. The threat to humanity is not from outsiders but from within - is a thread that needs to be explored in detail by everyone. Sometimes witty, mysterious and thought provoking at other times, this novel is a good science fiction fable.

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film
Peter Aperlo
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781783297498, $39.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Fearing the actions of a god-like Superhero left unchecked, Gotham City's own formidable vigilante takes on Metropolis's most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. Zack Snyder's blockbuster Hollywood film, 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' sees Batman and Superman come together for the first time on screen. With these two icons at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it has ever known before.

PeterAperlo's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film", takes superhero fans deep into this world, accompanied by insight and interviews with cast and crew, including an afterword by director Zack Snyder.

This official companion takes an in-depth look at the artwork and design of the film, including the earliest concept sketches of the Batcave, all the way through the set-building process, to the final version seen on screen. It explores Metropolis and Gotham City from the streets to the skies and showcases the costumes, weaponry, vehicles, allies and enemies of our two heroes. Packed with stunning concept art, Zack Snyder's storyboards, blueprints, costume detail and behind-the-scenes shots from the set, this book is an invaluable insight into the world of 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'.

Critique: Informed and informative commentary enhanced throughout with stunning images, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film" is the ideal companion to the film itself and will prove to be of immense and enduring interest to the legions of Batman and Superman fans. While a "must" for dedicated superhero movie fans, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film" would prove to be a valued addition to academic library Cinematic Studies reference collections as well.

Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker
Fred Setterberg
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597143332, $20.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Sam Maloof (January 24, 1916 - May 21, 2009) was a furniture designer and woodworker, and the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur fellowship. Maloof's work is in the collections of several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker" is engaging book in which Fred Setterberg skillfully weaves together the words of Maloof's family, friends, and associates to present thirty-six perspectives on a great artist. Far from the solitary genius we often imagine a creative person to be, the person who emerges from these stories is both the proud product of the community from which he originated and an anchor of the Pomona Valley arts scene he helped create. Surprising and illuminative, Sam Maloof places not only art, but also the role of the artist, at the heart of our culture.

Critique: Superbly enhanced with the inclusion of more than one hundred color and black-and-white photographs and published in collaboration with The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts & Crafts, "Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker" is the perfect introduction to the life and work of an authentic American artist who continues to inspire and influence new generations of artists, woodworkers, and furniture makers. "Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary American Art History reference collections in general, and Woodworking/Furniture Making Artistry supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

True Bud: Understanding Toxic Marijuana Syndrome
Scott Gillet
c/o Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578173764, $15.95, PB, 164pp,

Synopsis: Marijuana is steadily going the way of alcohol after the disastrous Prohibition laws in the United States. Marijuana will soon be completely legal. As of mid-2015, nearly half of the United States and Washington, DC, had legalized marijuana use in some form. Most of these allow only medical, though four of those twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana as well. Experts anticipate that in 2016 at least four more states, and possible up to nine, will legalize the substance more completely than they currently allow. Though powerful advocates for legalization in other states are in the minority, those states will at some point in the not too distant future pass legalization laws. "True Bud: Toxic Marijuana Syndrome" is a resource for everyone who uses weed, parents of young people who smoke weed and eat eatables, and health professionals. It covers medical weed, gang weed, and the new forms of weed known as Dabs and wax. It also deals with the dangers of K2 and synthetic weed, helping to paint a complete picture (social, legal, and medical) of the interesting and ever-changing world of pot. The Briarcliff Institute for Recovery and Development has found that many kids tested for toxicity have Toxic Marijuana Syndrome.

Critique: "True Bud: Understanding Toxic Marijuana Syndrome" is impressively informative, organized and presented. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine and Contemporary Social Issues collections, it should be noted for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "True Bud" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.95).

Prioritizing Security Sector Reform
Querine Hanlon & Richard H. Shultz Jr.
United States Institute of Peace Press
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172
9781601273130, $24.95, PB, 350pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Prioritizing Security Sector Reform", Querine Hanlon (the founding president and executive director of Strategic Capacity Group) and Richard H. Shultz, Jr. (a Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School, Tufts University and Director of Fletcher's International Security Studies Program, as well as a consultant to the U.S. Special Operations Command and a senior fellow with the command's Joint Special Operations University) collaboratively argue that security sector reform should be at the core of a new U.S. policy to strengthen the security sector capacity of countries where U.S. interests are at stake. Today's fragile environments feature a host of post-conflict and post-authoritarian states and transitioning and new democracies that have at least one critical thing in common: Their security sectors are dysfunctional. Why these states cannot fulfill their most basic function the protection of the population and their government varies widely, but the underlying reason is the same. The security sector does not function because security sector institutions and forces are absent, ineffective, predatory, or illegitimate. In place of large, boots-on-the-ground interventions relying on expensive train and equip programs with only fleeting impact, Washington needs a new approach for engaging in fragile environments and a policy for prioritizing where it engages and for what purpose. "Prioritizing Security Sector Reform" offers case studies to exemplify the context in which a new U.S. approach might be warranted, discusses other countries experiences with security sector reform policies, and examines how the United States should design and implement a security sector reform policy.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Prioritizing Security Sector Reform" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, and academic library Political Science and International Studies reference collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Prioritizing Security Sector Reform" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.95).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel Coloring Book
Lonely Planet Publications
150 Linden Street, Oakland CA 94607
9781760344214, $14.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Coloring has been proven to improve mindfulness and promote relaxation so color the world's 100 greatest places, as voted by travel experts at Lonely Planet, the world's leading travel publisher. There are 100 line drawings to color in, and at the back of the book, there are descriptions of each place providing a little more information about the most astounding places on earth. "Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel Coloring Book" is guaranteed to be an exercise creativity, mental focus, inspiring to our inner traveler.

Critique: An impressively unique coloring book for adults of all ages, the "Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel Coloring Book" provides hours and hours of peaceful entertainment and is especially ideal and highly recommended for armchair travelers.

Saving Dakota
L. A. Justice
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523473892, $9.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Dakota Smith, is a powerful executive in a high-profile Madison Avenue advertising agency. When she is sent to India on assignment she finds herself completely out of her element and impatient to return home. She offends a group of religious zealots and soon finds herself at their mercy in a remote region. Once the agency learns of her disappearance, they send her nemesis, Ned Turner, to her rescue. But who will rescue who in this wild and exhilarating magic carpet ride that takes the reader from the canyons of Manhattan to the wilds of Asia.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that showcases author L. A. Justice as an impressively gifted and compelling storyteller, "Saving Dakota" is a riveting read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for personal and community library General Fiction collections.

Biblical Tranquility: An Adult Coloring Book
Marguerite Masing & Judy Ostarch
Judy O Productions, Inc.
9780975452127, $8.99, PB, 64pp,

Synopsis: God created man; then God inspired man to create. The collaborative work of Marguerite Masing and Judy Ostarch, "Bible Tranquility" is a beautiful adult coloring book that offers the faithful a dynamic way to express creativity through intricate images bursting with spirit and allegory. This devotional book for coloring enthusiasts features thirty-one detailed scenes from the Old and New Testaments, including Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Moses Parting the Red Sea, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection, and more. Enjoy hours of quiet contemplation and meditation on Holy Scripture while adding color to scenes from the Bible's most iconic passages. Each 8 1/2" x 11" page is one-sided and perforated, so completed drawings can be removed for framing, given as a gifts, or treasured at home for posterity. Removable pages also make it easy to hand out the images to friends and family so everyone can gather together to share in this divinely-inspired activity. What a wonderful way to foster Christian fellowship and spark conversation about God's word! Finally, a book that combines the ultra-popular activity of adult coloring with devotional practice. Open the pages of Bible Tranquility and allow God to guide your hand as He soothes your soul and leads you on a path to serenity.

Critique: Providing hours of peaceful contemplation, mediation, spiritual inspiration, and simple fun, "Biblical Tranquility: An Adult Coloring Book" is very highly recommended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.

Know the Mother
Desiree Cooper
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814341490, $15.99, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: While a mother can be defined as a creator, a nurturer, a protector -- at the center of each mother is an individual who is attempting to manage her own fears, desires, and responsibilities in different and sometimes unexpected ways. In the pages of "Know the Mother", author Desiree Cooper deftly explores the complex archetype of the mother in all of her incarnations. In a collage of meditative stories, women (both black and white) find themselves wedged between their own yearnings and their roles as daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and wives. "Know the Mother" reveals that gender and race are often unanticipated interlopers in family life. In one story, an anxious mother reflects on her prenatal fantasies of suicide while waiting for her daughter to come home late one night. In other stories, a lawyer miscarries during a conference call and must proceed as though nothing has happened. While on a rare night out with her husband, a new mother tries convincing herself that everything is still the same. A politician's wife's thoughts turn to slavery and Harriet Tubman as she contemplates her own escape. "Know the Mother" explores the intersection of race and gender in vignettes that pull you in and then are gone in an instant. Readers of short fiction will appreciate this deeply felt collection.

Critique: A compelling and exceptionally well crafted anthology comprised of impressively written, reader compelling, insightfully thoughtful and thought-provoking short stories, "Know the Mother" showcases author Desiree Cooper as a master of this literary form. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Know the Mother" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story
Lisa Michelle Lambert & David Brown
Camino Books, Inc.
PO Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781933822884, $17.95, PB, 416pp,

Synopsis: The police and prosecutorial misconduct was not only outrageous, but also led directly to the conviction of a woman we have found by clear and convincing evidence to have been actually innocent of first-degree murder. So said Philadelphia federal court judge Stewart Dalzell in 1997 as he overturned Lisa Lambert's 1992 conviction for the murder of her supposed romantic rival, Laurie Show. Sixteen months later, Lambert's conviction and life sentence were reinstated through further corruption in Lancaster County. Since then, she has fought doggedly to regain her freedom. From her prison cell, Lambert vividly recounts the details of her turbulent childhood; her relationship with her violent boyfriend, Lawrence Yunkin, along with the couple's friend Tabitha Buck; her long, circuitous odyssey through the judicial system; and her attempts to survive in some of the country's toughest women's prisons. In the pages of "Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story" David Brown, a lawyer in Philadelphia who conducted extensive research on the case, analyzes the complex legal issues at hand and reveals the sleazy, politically motivated misconduct engaged in by judges and prosecutors hell-bent on keeping Lisa incarcerated. Together, Lisa Michelle and David Brown tell a gripping story about a travesty of justice and a woman's boundless determination to vindicate herself. In the end, it is you, the reader, who must decide: Did Lisa do it? Was she a killer or the victim of severe prosecutorial misconduct?

Critique: Exceptionally well written and impressively well organized and presented, "Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story" is an absolutely compelling read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Criminology and Judicial Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Prince Not So Charming
Kathleen Grace
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Ste 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781630476342, $18.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: In "Prince Not So Charming", author Kathleen Grace takes the reader on a riveting journey with Cinderella as she navigates romance, emotional upheaval, and near-financial-death experiences -- all of which lead her to find inner strength despite seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Nine out of ten women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. "Prince Not So Charming," is a call to action that will inspire and empower a woman to take control of her finances regardless of the obstacles she faces. "Prince Not So Charming" features: Strategies for women to regain power and avoid financial ruin; The importance of and how to maintain financial independence -- whether married, single, or contemplating divorce; Financial strategies to help safeguard oneself and love ones; Ideas to reduce the financial and emotional burdens of divorce. Whether you're a high-powered executive or a single mom struggling to make ends meet, "Prince Not So Charming" will encourage you to claim your power to create and protect your financial future.

Critique: Practical, sensible, pragmatic, informed and informative, "Prince Not So Charming: Cinderella's Guide to Financial Independence" by Kathleen Grace, CFP, CIMA (Co-Founder of Excelsior Capital Advisors, and a Managing Director of United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC. ) is very highly recommended for women of all ages, but especially those who find themselves financially vulnerable for any of a dozen different reasons. Indeed, "Prince Not So Charming" is a critically important addition to community library Money/Finance collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Prince Not So Charming" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

I Am N
The Voice of the Martyrs
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434709875, $16.99, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: Yousef, whose mother threatened to kill him for having a Bible, now smuggles Bibles the way his family once smuggled drugs. After Parveen's employer beats her for attending church, Parveen begins to help other young Christian women who work in Muslim houses. Abdulmasi kills hundreds of Christians in northern Nigeria with no remorse -- until the day he chooses a new life of faith and sacrifices everything for a God of love. What can we learn from these faith-filled brothers and sisters around the world? How can we pray for them? And what do their remarkable stories teach us about a God whose light shines in a dark world? These three stories and forty-seven others comprising "I Am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists" demonstrates we are each member of the Christian community no matter where we live is an "N" which is how radical Muslims in Iraq identify followers of Jesus the Nazarene. Wherever we live, we have camaraderie with those who are persecuted. So come meet their families. Read their stories. Deepen your faith in a God who gives us the courage to shine in a dark and hurting world.

Critique: There is no question that radical Islam persecutes Christians whenever and however it can. But what those that persecute Christians have never been able to realize, from the ancient Romans down to the ISIS terrorists of today, the persecution of Christians and the creation of Christian martyrs only strengthens the Christian community. The true life stories comprising "I Am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists" are both alarming and inspiring. Indeed, "I Am N" should have as wide a readership as possible and is commended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation. Highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Am N' is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.49) and in an Audio CD format ($18.98).

The Vow-Powered Life
Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611801002, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: A vow is a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment. Making a vow is a powerful mindfulness practice -- and all you have to do to tap into that power is set your intention consciously. A vow can be as "small" as the aspiration to smile at someone at least once every day, or as "big" as marriage; as personal as deciding to be mindful when picking up the phone or as universal as vowing to save all sentient beings. It can be deeply spiritual, utterly ordinary, or both. In "The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose", Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays looks to traditional Buddhist teachings to show the power of vows -- and then applies that teaching broadly to the many vows we make. "The Vow-Powered Life" shows that if we work with vows consciously, they set us in the direction of achieving our goals, both temporal and spiritual. "The Vow-Powered Life" presents secular and spiritual wisdom from both East and West, highlighting figures such as Martha Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Buckminster Fuller. "The Vow-Powered Life" will help us to examine the vows we have already made for ourselves and the vows we've unconsciously inherited. "The Vow-Powered Life" will also supports us in repairing broken vows, crafting new intentions, and exploring what's truly on our bucket lists.

Critique: Impressive, exceptional, as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, it is no understatement to say that ""The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose" by Jan Chozen Bays is a life-changing book and very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Breach
August Island Pictures
Kino Lorber Inc., New York
B00YQTCW6G, $17.89, DVD -- 82 minutes

My husband and I watched this DVD documentary recently, and I felt compelled to tell others about it. The film chronicles the disappearance of salmon from the Atlantic, and now whole populations are disappearing from the Pacific Ocean. Commercial over-fishing, extractive industries like oil, copper, and coal, and farm fisheries threaten Pacific salmon. Indigenous people, as always, stand to suffer the most, as salmon is an important food source for them. Compelling in the story was how the life cycle of salmon benefits everyone, even the trees in the watersheds where the salmon spawn and die. Farm fisheries threaten Pacific salmon in Alaska where farm Atlantic salmon are raised in the same watersheds where wild salmon swim. The farms pollute the waterways and produce lice that attack and kill young wild, salmon. Boycott farm-raised salmon! The focus in the last part of the film was Briscoe Bay, Alaska, an important sock-eye salmon habitat and the impact that the proposed, humongous Pebble Copper Mine will have on the salmon, the environment, and the people. Block development of Pebble Mine in Alaska! Overall, the film is beautifully done. A captivating woman's voice over with an Irish accent speaks as a salmon, sometimes lecturing the viewer. The script delivers the message well. Artistic animation helps move the story. You really must see this documentary if you care at all about our environment and our food sources.

This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs. the Climate
Naomi Klein
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451697391, $10.99 PB, $12.99 Kindle,

If you think you are not responsible for combatting global warming, think again. You better read this book. It has "radicalized" me into becoming an environmental activist.

With notes and acknowledgements this book is 532 pages (paperback) and jammed packed with information, facts, and opinion. Naomi Klein makes the compelling case that unfettered capitalism as a way of life is destroying the environment and is a big contributor to global warming. The faster we-the-people regulate large corporations, particularly the extractive industries like oil and mining, the better chance we have of reversing climate change. She outlines case after case after case of the harm the oil industry has done to the environment. Extreme extraction like fracking is especially harmful to land, water, and people. If you haven't heard of the earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by fracking, you are living in a vacuum.

Our church book study group read the book, it is on the recommended reading list for the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and it has top reviews from a number of organizations and individuals. I had to make a tremendous effort to read the book, because in the first two sections, Klein paints a pretty dismal picture. Her writing is dense with fact and opinion. She is often repetitive but she gets her points across with facts. In part one she outlines how free market fundamentalism helped overheat the planet in a chapter by that name. She gives extensive coverage to the climate deniers, to scientists who think creating clouds will cool the planet, to the environmental groups she calls Big Green, some of whom, as it turns out, are in bed with Big Oil. In chapter seven she tells us that there are no messiahs, that the green billionaires won't save us. She beats up on Richard Branson, the airline magnate, at length and points out that even though he talks a good green game, he and other green billionaires don't follow through on their promises.

Klein gets more hopeful in part three with the chapter on the new climate warriors, who are ordinary citizens blockading the advance of the extractive industries. She sees hope in the Blockadia movement and gives examples of the development of the movement, like the protest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. She says that extraction and refining has always required sacrifice zones and usually it is the underrepresented and poor who pay the price. "Through various feats of denialism and racism, it was possible for privileged people in North America and Europe to mentally cordon off these unlucky places as hinterlands, wastelands, nowheres . . . . the people reaping the bulk of the benefits of extractivism pretend not to see the costs of that comfort so long as the sacrifice zones are kept safely out of view." (p. 311) Throughout the book she does not mince words.

She applauds the effort of Indigenous peoples to prevent tar sand development, open pit mines, fracking, and pipelines from destroying their lands and livelihoods. White people are glad to see this push back from the Indigenous people, but they can't think that Indigenous people can carry on the fight by themselves. Everyone has to join in. Ironically, we now need the Indigenous on "our" side, whereas their concerns and battles were invisible to us before.

Klein advocates much more regulation of the extractive industries, read here Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Copper, think the development of the Pebble Mine in Briscoe Bay in Alaska. I don't see that in today's political climate more government regulation is in the cards, but I'd be happy if someone proves me wrong.

And when we keep oil in the ground we affect the love affair that American have with their trucks and SUVs. When are we going to stop buying them and go to more fuel-efficient vehicles? It would also affect plastics and related industries. When will the American consumer stop buying products that are not environmentally friendly? The consumer price index is a huge indicator of the health of our economy and what happens if and when Americans stop consuming so much? There are far reaching implications of what Klein proposes in combatting global warming, and time is of the essence.

The divestment movement is another way to combat contributors to climate change. Institutions, colleges, organizations can divest in the stock of these companies that they hold. This is making headlines now. International laws and moratoriums can prevent and rollback expansion of carbon polluters. (p. 353). Some of the groups involved in the new wave of anti-fossil fuel activism are Food & Water Watch,, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth. "It is this corroded state of our political systems that is fast turning Blockadia into a grassroots pro-democracy movement." (p. 361) Needless to say, Klein is not kind to political systems controlled by big industry.

Klein says that filling out surveys, signing petitions, and giving money isn't enough. We have to get out on the front lines and demonstrate, let our voices be heard. She says if you think that someone else is going to fight to combat climate change and things will turn out fine, you are wrong. (I was in this group.) We-the-people are responsible and have to make our voices heard. In our book study group, we asked ourselves what can we do, a small group in a small, rural town. We decided to start by showing the DVD documentary of This Changes Everything to raise awareness. I have ordered the DVD, and we will have a showing and discussion of it at our Senior Center and invite the public. Many people are simply not aware of the direness of the global warming situation. Through education we might create more activists.

"The task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis -- embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid." (p. 462)

If you are concerned about the future for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and planet Earth, you must read this book and take up the cause of combatting climate change.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

The Impact Of Discovering Life Beyond Earth
Steven J. Dick
Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473
9781107109988, $29.99, HC, 366pp,

Synopsis: The search for life in the Universe, once the domain of science fiction, is now a robust research program with a well-defined roadmap, from studying the extremes of life on Earth to exploring the possible niches for life in the Solar System and discovering thousands of planets far beyond it. In addition to constituting a major scientific endeavor, astrobiology is one of the most popular topics in astronomy, and is of growing interest to a broad community of thinkers from across the academic spectrum. In "The Impact Of Discovering Life Beyond Earth" distinguished philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, historians and scientists discuss the big questions about how the discovery of extraterrestrial life, whether intelligent or microbial, would impact society. Their remarkable and often surprising findings challenge our foundational concepts of what the discovery of alien life may hold for humankind. Written in easily accessible language, this thought-provoking collection engages a wide audience of readers from all backgrounds.

Critique: Compiled by astrobiologist and former NASA chief historian Steven J. Dick "The Impact Of Discovering Life Beyond Earth" is comprised of twenty-one erudite articles deftly organized into four major sections: Motivations and Approaches; Transcending Anthropocentrism; Philosophical, Theological, and Moral Impact; Practical considerations: How Should Society Prepare for Discovery - and Non-Discovery? Featuring an eleven page list of Contributor Biographies and a seventeen page Index, "The Impact of Discovering Life beyond Earth" is a compendium of outstanding collective scholarship and very highly recommended for community and academic library Exobiology collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Impact Of Discovering Life Beyond Earth" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.00).

Over the Edge
Kathleen L. Howard & Diana F. pardue
Rio Nuevo Publishers
PO Box 5250, Tucson, AZ 85703
9781940322117, $22.00, PB, 152pp,

Synopsis: As we know them today, the American Southwest, and the Grand Canyon that lies at its heart, are the product of vast natural forces over millions of years. But they were also created by one man's vision and a railroad. The entrepreneurial genius was Fred Harvey. In the late nineteenth century, the Santa Fe opened up a strange, spectacular new territory to travelers. And Harvey followed, establishing restaurants, hotels, and shops. In "Over the Edge: Fred Harvey at the Grand Canyon and in the Great Southwest ", Kathleen L. Howard (a Research Associate at the Heard Museum) and Diana F. Pardue Diana F. Pardue (Curator of Collections at the Heard Museum) deftly collaborate to reveal in vivid detail how Harvey and the Santa Fe together created a vision of the Southwest that still works its magic today. Here presented are the Kolb Brothers, Mary Colter, Joe Secakuku, William Haskell Simpson, Elle of Ganado, the famous Harvey Girls, and the iconic railway that brought visitors in droves. "Over the Edge" is enhanced with the inclusion of period photographs, postcards, pamphlets, menus, calendars, advertisements, and even matchbook covers that evoke the adventure and joy of that special time and place.

Critique: Informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, ""Over the Edge: Fred Harvey at the Grand Canyon and in the Great Southwest" is an extraordinary and absorbing read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American History reference collections in general and the supplemental studies reading lists of American Southwest history in particular.

It's Never Too Late
Scott Page
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Ste 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781630476236, $14.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: Growing old is inevitable. The outlook for many of us is unfortunately and unnecessarily one of overwhelming fear and horror about the reality of growing old in America. What's worse, far too many of us are well aware of the dire forecast for our future but feel utterly powerless in its wake. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Towards getting ourselves back on track or helping elder parents and loved ones do the same, in the pages of "It's Never Too Late: Getting Older, Wiser, and Worry Free in Our Golden Years", Scott Page (who built a pioneering insurance industry business from the ground up and helped thousands of Americans improve their financial lives) gives us easy and fun ways to develop a workable plan for living out our lives with greater peace of mind and security regardless of our current age and station in life --- leaving us wondering why we didn't do something about it sooner. With easy, fast-acting steps to restore hope and faith for our future, Scott offers a holistic methodology anyone is fully capable of following if they're willing to get into motion.

Critique: These simple exercises and lifestyle suggestions have the potential to positively transform one's life. Exceptionally well written and impressively well presented, "It's Never Too Late" it highly recommended for community library and senior center instructional self-help reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "It's Never Too Late" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

Touring the West with Leaping Lena, 1923
W.C. Clark, author
Edited by David Dary
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806152288 $19.95 pbk / $18.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Driving across the country in the early twentieth century was high adventure. In 1925 Willie Chester Clark and his family piled into a modified Chevrolet touring car, affectionately named Leaping Lena, and took off for the West. Clark's account of the journey will acquaint readers with cross-country travel at a time when Americans were just inventing the road trip.

Editor David Dary discovered a copy of Clark's account among his grandfather's personal papers. Dary introduces the tale of how Leaping Lena clocked some 12,000 miles in five months, starting from West Virginia and traveling to the Northwest, down the Pacific Coast to Southern California, through the Desert Southwest, and back home via the Southern Plains. Among the highlights of the trip were visits to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake.

Framed by an introduction and annotations that set the story in context, and illustrated with photographs of gas stations, roadside attractions, and roadsters typical of the day, Touring the West with Leaping Lena gives a firsthand glimpse into the early days of cross-country automobile trips. Readers will enjoy its historical detail even as they realize that when it comes to family road trips, some things haven't changed.

Critique: Touring the West with Leaping Lena, 1923 is an armchair traveler's delight. Written with the eye for detail and the smooth panache of a natural journalist (author W.C. Clark would eventually become a professional in the field), this vivid account of the quintessential road trip will edify and amaze. It's the next best thing to traveling a century back in time! Highly recommended.

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless
Ahmet Zappa
Listening Library
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780739338803, $0.69 (used),

Genre: Middle Grades Fiction

I first read Ahmet Zappa's The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless while teaching 4th grade back in the mid 2000s. It had great popularity among both girl and boy readers. That is a good thing; the middle grades are a time when many kids do not want to read much of anything. And, boys especially seem to lose much interest in reading. Not so with books featuring action, gross and fun available. Ahmet Zappa's The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless never lay on the classroom library for more than a day before being checked out again. The class rule was everyone had to have a turn to read it once.... And that soon became twice, or .... Before anyone could check it out again.

When I moved to First Grade the book continued to be popular among those who were no longer in my classroom.

I recently came upon a copy of The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless while strolling through the aisles of the local jumble shop; I picked it up immediately. And find reading it again today; the book holds as much allure as ever it did. Hence, I'll review it now, despite it being published over a decade ago, in hopes that more middle grade readers will have the fun, quirky tale brought to their attention by another middle grade teacher who may not as yet have noticed it.

Zappa's The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless narrative launches with eleven year old Minerva McFearless, her younger brother Max, and their battered and bleeding father locked in bird cages, dangling over a never-ending pit of molten lava. Close by, a plump, dozing, Snargleflougasaurus polluted the air with his gaping, reeking, feted, razor-toothed mouth. The trio are held deep within the demonic depths of Castle Doominstinkinfart where The Zarmaglorg - sovereign of evil, has been busy tormenting Mr. McFearless in a fruitless, to date, effort to wrest control of the wicked magic held within the Enotslived Diamond.

From that initial circumstance the reader is hurried along on an exhilarating trip jam-packed with a clarification of just how not normal the McFearless family actually is, as well as, arriving at the recognition that eight is the number of forever, as they are made aware that Minerva and Max can, will and do seem to locate misfortune whenever they are left alone, and will move into a mysterious chamber where the fireplace used to be with the kids.

Wandering along a clandestine passageway Minerva and Max arrive to a door leading into a museum like room. It was a chamber precisely intended for and devoted to the systematic training of malicious monsters. As soon as Minerva sees a cryptic tome, the Monstranomicon, she is in for a revelation.

And the anecdote continues; The Legend of Maximillius McFearless clarifying a bit of the family history, Father McFearless' staggering admission, the kids sneaking into their father's private den as often as they can where they study to be monsterminators, a Bewilder Box appearing on the doorstep without warning and a recipe for Lizard Lozenge Ten are included in the chronicle to keep the reader turning the page.

Before the conclusion of the tale is reached the reader will read a narrative regarding The Grumplemiser, will see a formula for preparing Fool's golend Friend Chicken Surprise Attack as well as one for The Cat Hand of Doom, which guards the user from Krunkadillions for 300 days. Exhilaration, more escapades, more recipes and imageries fill the pages of The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless.

On the pages of his introductory book; Ahmet Zappa has created a refreshingly child friendly tome certain to tempt the middle grade target audience. Characters and situations including Guide Mr. Devilstone, the egomaniac one-eyed coyote who wears a monster alarm, the Enotslived Diamond, around his neck, Ms. Monstranomicon a live monster manual who is more kindhearted than horrific, and the McFearless clan itself are appealing, engaging and likeable.

I especially appreciated viewing the numerous graphics, photo works, monster images and the monster deterring instructions formulas and recipes. Writer Zappa has fashioned a book for kids who may not much enjoy reading, dyslectic Zappa; knows well the struggle many kids face trying to make sense of letters and words. As the parent of a dyslectic child; I appreciate that writers are today presenting works with dyslectic, and others having reading problems, in mind.

Minerva and her love hate relationship with her sibling is something young readers will identify, appreciate and giggle over. Zappa's command of language is a pleasure, he presents terminology to tickle the tongue, lend joy to the eye and pull children into the reading. Humor abounds, as it smooths out the monsterish bits of the work in a sui generis and delightful manner.

Mighty McFearless is a quirky book holding much appeal for the middle grade reading audience. I expected much from the son of Frank Zappa, who is my generation while Ahmet is my children's. I was not at all dissatisfied during my reading for review of this carefree, keep 'em turning the page work. I tend to enjoy quirky too. While Mighty McFearless is a book I read without hesitation to my 4th grade classes, it was a little beyond the scope for my First Grade students.

The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless works well as a read-to for parents to use for reading to their 8 - 10s, remember, even 'older' kids enjoy sitting and having parents read to them, it is as well, as a read for enjoyment for the grades 4, 5 and 6 and perhaps even older.

Some parental guidance will be necessary for younger listeners, parents will do well to read first to make themselves aware of the places in the narrative where younger, or especially sensitive kids may express actual concern as opposed to the anticipated shrieks of delight kids in the target audience can be expected to express at the unrefined, or sensational or unusual.

Text used may be challenging for the youngest readers, not a bad thing, but be ready to explain a word here and there as your 8 year old attempts to read Mighty McFearless alone.

Child Pleasing Read Well Recommended especially for target audience ... 5 stars

Chaos Worlds Beyond
C W Holcomb
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508426202, $27.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 808 pages,

Series: Reflections of Infinity

In the interior of the obsidian throne room of the imperial palace anticipation is tangible. Primus Croatius, his Premerian obsidian armor clanked at the hinges, his body was a tad softened subsequent to palace living during the past few weeks; Crotias is being summoned. The Emperor is dead; the men chant Croatius' name.

Within the core of the vast blue massive star awakenings have commenced; a diminutive girl attired in opaque layers of blue light sat up gradually coming awake. A luminous white locket shone around her neck as she sat up before setting off across space in search of someplace to play.

On planet Kalemia, Northern Continent, a slave lad, Pillus, frantic to evade a thrashing stumbles under the heavy water buckets his master sent him to fetch. Weeping, Pillus was abruptly startled by a small trail of blue fire as a fireball thumped into the ground. Tripping over a rock Pillus, his parents in the Realm of the Dead, caught sight of an orb of animated white light, before crashing onto the ground with a screech. Overlooking his hurts; Pillus' deep purple eyes fixated on a white locket lying on the ground.

From that establishment the reader is carried along on a whirl, Tikus, yellow eyes shaded from the sun, began pulling his bow as his green eyed son Piccus observed an orb of blue fire blasting past, a clearing filled with damage produced by the detonations as the ball of blue fire hit the ground. A little girl, Taisa, with eyes filled with an eddying blue light contemplates the loss of her locket; all form a foundation for the narrative filling the pages of the book.

Ice Marauders, Harogar who is able to glean thoughts of others, death of the slave master, freedom for Pillus and the slave masters family. And the saga continues; Tikus befriends Taisa, a pint-size girl who seems to be alone, and not from the world as Tikus knows it; and learns something of her powers.

The entwined story centering on Pillus then Tika then Croatius, and back and forward is a little difficult to follow at times. The text is broken into long and short chapters; a table of contents might be helpful. Chapter titles Awakenings, Conquest and Glory, Into the Void, The Affairs of Mortals, Companions of the Gods and more. Huge insects, a little girl with awe-inspiring powers, a stopover to the Realm of the Dead. The tale is a bit Sci Fi and a bit fantasy; it is a good mix under the clever writing skill of author C. W. Holcomb.

Life and death, Monsters and Miracles, encounters, carnage and ooze; there is a little something for all readers of the genre in this churning tale.

If I were to make a suggestion, I would personally like to have a less unwieldy volume available; perhaps offering the account in 3 parts of 300 or pages each would make the reading less physically challenging for someone of this reviewers age and arthritic hand.... I found it to be somewhat difficult to hold a book having 808 pages. Were I shopping the shelves of the bookstore; this is not a volume I would choose, simply due to its heft.

I did enjoy the read, the chronicle is jam-packed with riveting scenes, developments, characters and happenings. The interchange of one set of characters and their doings with another always creates a good read. Characters are convincing, fully fleshed, given their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, style and manners, that takes a fertile mind and real writing skill to accomplish.

Writer Holcomb has done a dandy job realizing the synthesis of the world(s) he has generated, developing realistic situations, developments, and moments while setting down a storyline sure to gratify those who like a little fantasy with their Sci Fi, or a bit of Sci Fi with their fantasy.

Vocabulary is gritty at times, grisly at times, all are a part of the genre and are presented well. Not for everyone, but for the target audience of readers who do relish a good fantasy with a tad of Sci Fi thrown in; Chaos Worlds Beyond is certain to please.

A fine book for a long summer afternoon reading on the porch, Chaos Worlds Beyond is a good fit for the mid high and high school library, home library and public lending library. My Chaos Worlds Beyond ARC will be given to my son who not only enjoys the genre but is an supporter of these multi page works. After my describing the volume to him, Son is looking forward to reading the book soon.

Advent of juvenile divinities from the worlds where they are born, as was Taisa in this storyline, seem to appear as if they may be comets rushing across the sky. Perceived numinous relics or behaviors inspire humans as the ones they consider having mystic powers invoke images and promises of supremacy from worlds beyond. Taisa while presented as a very young little girl seems to be much more than that alone as the tale continues.

Chaos: Worlds Beyond seems to be a very apropos title for this work; the narrative interweaves personages, behaviors, activities and worlds and may or may not be set in this world at all. The narrative is sure to charm epic fantasy as well as sci-fi readers alike.

The reader is drawn into the narrative skillfully from opening lines as we meet first one then another of the characters and begin to realize his or her place in the world that is theirs, and, perhaps in the world where the action is taking place. The plot is persuasive, writing is adroit, struggles are resolved, characters seem genuine and keep the reader turning the page.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend particularly for the target audience of well versed, strong middle grade readers who have well developed vocabulary and burgeoning understanding, as well as high schoolers and adults of any age.

I was sent a paper ARC for review via AuthorsDen. For more information regarding this writer you are encouraged to check out this and his work listed on AuthorsDen.

Amazon: About the Author

C.W. Holcomb's works are based on Ancient Myths and folklore. His first series is heavily based on Scottish Folklore of werebeasts that prowl the primordial forests in the distant past! The first novel of his newest series, Chaos: Worlds Beyond is inspired heavily by Greek Mythology; as well as works by well known authors such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and Raymond E. Feist. The works are filled with passion and adventure on an epic scale where the lure of magical treasures incites the characters into traveling to strange and dangerous magical Worlds filled with Nightmarish monsters and sentient arcane artifacts!


C.W. Holcomb's writing style and major influences include a wide variety of well known novelists that came before him including, J.R.R Tokien, Mary Stewart, Raymond E. Feist, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Elizabeth Hayden and Frank Herbert. The biggest influences on his style were Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind. He has drawn inspiration for his novels from other areas as well including, animated shows and video games.

His debut novel, Dark Moon Book one of the Brotherhood of the Moon, is inspired by ancient Celtic legends about Werebeasts that stalked the forests of the Scottish Highlands on the full moon. His newly released novel, Chaos:Worlds Beyond Book one of the Reflections of Infinity Saga is deeply inspired by Ancient Greek Mythology and Lore. His works contain endearing characters that always have something special and unique that helps them survive in the brutal and unrelenting Worlds that he creates.

For more information regarding this writer you are encouraged to check out his work listed on AuthorsDen.

Quick & Easy Dump Cakes and More
Cathy Mitchell
Publications International
7373 North Cicero Avenue, Lincolnwood, IL 60712
9780989586535, List Price $9.99, Discount Price $2.99, 287 pages

Language: English / Genre: Cook Book

Cathy Mitchell's Quick & Easy Dump Cakes features 250 tasty recipes for creating cakes, cobblers, coffecakes, one bowl bars and more.

The Table of Contents features 13 chapters or sections and an index. Some of the recipes are pictured in a center section beginning at page 145 and ending at page 160.

Section 1: The Classic Dump Cakes include Apple Peach Cake, Banana Split Cake, Blueberry Cinnamon Cake; I prefer allspice and substitute it for cinnamon in every recipe calling for cinnamon, several Cherry varieties and a Classic Apple Dump Cake which does not require mixing a batter, but is a true dump it in the pan in layers and bake.

Section 2: Family Favorites begins with Cherry Cheesecake Dump Cake; a true dump cake made in layers including dry cake mix dotted with butter and baked in the oven. Just below the title of the cake the reader is directed to check page 147 for a picture of the finished cake. This section includes directions for a variety of fruit filled desserts, Pink Lemonade Cake, Peachy Keen Cake, Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Cake and Rainbow Cake are a few of the recipes included.

Section 3: Very Berry is a selection of cakes featuring a variety of berries from Blue to Raspberry to Cran to Blackberry and more. I am particularly happy to find the Cranberry Lemon Cake recipe; cranberries have long been a standby addition in our family to salads, cakes and more particularly at holiday time.

Section 4: Chocolate Heaven is the section to catch my interest first as I thumbed through the book Dark Chocolate Raspberry Dump Cake is an wicked treat made with raspberry fruit spread or jam, chocolate chips, and chocolate cake mix was the first I tried, Strawberry Devil's Food incorporates cake mix and pie filling as does Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake, while Decadent Chocolate Delight combines chocolate cake mix, instant pudding, sour cream and chocolate chips and Chocolate Mystery Cake combines cake mix and root beer and Aztec Chocolate Cake adds bittersweet chocolate ganache and ground red pepper. I have not yet made each of the chocolate recipes, and I may never get to them, the Apricot Double Chip Dump Cake created with apricot preserves, both semisweet and white chocolate chips, yellow cake mix and butter has a powerful hold on my will power at the moment; yummy.

Section 5: Fall Flavors includes a Cranberry Apple Dump Cake recipe calls for walnuts; due to walnut allergy, I substituted pecans, Carrot Spice Cake is a tasty mix of shredded carrots, raisins, crush pineapple and spice cake mix. I never find spice cake mix on the shelves of our local market; however, depending on how spicey you like, the addition of a scant teaspoon or so of allspice added to the mix works just fine.

Section 6: Tropical Treats begins with Island Delight combining mangoes, pineapple cake mix, lemon lime or orange soda and macadamia nuts, Pineapple, Orange, Coconut, are all chief ingredients for several of the offerings.

Section 7: Cathy's Cakes and More is a section I have yet to try, however S'more Magic Bars is a longtime family favorite made often when kids were at home, Cookies and Cream Bars, variously flavored cakes, Mug Cake... those made in a microwaveable mug for individual serving made easy, and Coffee Cup Coffeecake for a quick breakfast treat are all on my agenda.

Section 8: Quick to Fix Cakes include snack cake bars, several recipes using flour or biscuit baking mix and a few made with packaged cake mixes and various add ins.

Section 9: No Fuss Bundt Cakes features recipes for making a little fancier cake than those baked and served from the same baking pan. Quick Triple Chocolate Cake created using cake mix was an instant hit for family get together as was Orange Rum Cake made with flour orange juice chopped pecans and 1/2 cup rum, the secret ingredient used in Light Chocolate Bundt Cake is pureed baby food prunes in addition to instant coffee granules, the puree helps keep the cake moist. Zucchini Spice Bundt Cake can be served as is or with a powdered sugar glaze.

Section 10: Easy as Pie, begins with a simple Pecan Pie, always a staple for holiday in my extended family, although not a pie I personally like, maybe I will make and take one of these next Thanksgiving. If you like pumpkin pie, not my personal favorite, despite the fact that my family all adore it; Sour Cream Squash Pie made from winter squash with appearance and taste of pumpkin may be for you. Included in this section are several old time favorites, Buttermilk Pie, Lemon Chess, several pumpkin or sweet potato, and a Southern Oatmeal Pie.

Section 11: Breads & Coffeecakes begins with Cranberry Pumpkin Nut Bread... dandy for holiday get togethers, Spicy Gingerbread, Lemon Raisin Quick Bread and Irish Soda Bread are all nice for brunch or later in the day snacking. Zucchini Orange Bread has long been a family favorite.... I did not tell sons and their friends that the secret ingredient was zuke, it was just secret ingredient. I particularly like quick, breakfast type breads, and will eventually give a try to each of the recipes in this section.

Section 12: Brownies & Blondies is a section filled with 30 recipes for brownies, I could have used this when sons were teens. Included in this section are raspberry, chocolate chip and pumpkin treats as well as some with nuts, some with peanut butter or mint or other types of chips, secret ingredient brownies made with applesauce has been a standby for years. The applesauce helps keep the brownies moist.

Section 13: One Bowl Bars finishes off the book beginning with Banana Oatmeal Snack Bars, and continuing with Espresso Walnut Bars, I substituted pecans, Hawaiian Bars incorporated coconut and macadamia nuts, longtime favorite Chocolate Cookie Magic Bars, Layered Bars, Lemonade Bars and Applesauce Fudge Bars all are easy to prepare and are quickly devoured.

Cathy Mitchell's Quick & Easy Dump Cakes is a handy sized worked, well made, sturdy book with heavy duty, wipe clean covers, I do like wire bound cook books so the book lays flat, this one is not, however standing the book in a book holder keeps the page open during preparation. Paper used for pages is not as heavy duty or wipe off as I like.

The pictured bars, cakes and breads are full page, full color, glossy paper, can be gently wiped clean. Banana Split Cake is the first depicted, Mixed Berry is shown served in a stemmed dessert goblet, while Double Pineapple Berry Cake is shown with a dollop of cream.

The title of the book is perhaps a little misleading for some in that many of the recipes do require creating a batter which is poured over layers in the pan, or is the foundation batter for adding in the other ingredients prior to pouring into the pan. I have no problem with the title, by and large the term dump cake is often used to indicate a cake, bread, or dessert made in a single layer in a baking pan, requires no icing and is served warm or cooled.

While I have made a number of dump cakes beginning back when my children were little Cub Scouts and their Pack, and later Troops held once a month pot luck suppers, as well as our attending frequent pot lucks at church; the cakes we made then were simply ones we devised on our own, with no cook book handy.

I like Cathy Mitchell's Quick & Easy Dump Cakes it has a handy variety of desserts, breads and the like all in one place, many of the recipes can be fairly interchangeable with white cake substituted for yellow or chocolate depending upon what you want the dessert to be. Almost any berry can be substituted for others called for in the recipe, I use allspice rather than cinnamon, and pecans rather than walnuts, the end product is always tasty, family pleasing and eaten quickly.

Recipes are laid out in good order with ingredient list at the top in a single column, preparation steps, size of pan and preheat oven directions, I personally like to see the oven temp and size of pan as the very first item at the top of the recipe so that I can get out the needed pan and get the oven preheating immediately. Last item in the recipe is the serving indication. Often a recipe baked in a 9" pan is cut into 9 servings, and a 13"x9" is cut into 12 to 16 servings.

Available from Amazon and other online sites as well as in book stores; the book will cost $10 to $12 and, I believe, is well worth the price. I bought mine in a book store.

Tasty Recipes, Happy to Recommended

Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers
Mathias B. Freese
1760 East River Road, Suite 145, Tucson, Arizona 85718
9781627873536, $12.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 236 pages,

Language: English / Genre: memoir, self help

Mathias B. Freese'sTesserae a memoir of two summers is a work of 218 pages including a foreward, Introduction, and Afterword all encapsulated in 36 chapters.

By definition a tesserae is a small block or piece of glass, pebbles, tile, bone, or other materials employed in the creation of a mosaic. Using this definition; the title of this book, Tesserae, indicates to the reader that a mosaic of vibrant narrative pieces will be conveyed to generate an interesting, perhaps uplifting, array.

As I read the text offered in fresh, frank prose; I found the reader is provided a miscellany of mental representations forming a whole consummated in an interesting, readable manner by a writer who has been disposed to be direct while to baring himself completely.

In reading the Foreword I found English instructor, Steven Berndt, who specializes in proletarian literature of the Thirties feels that unlike many memoirs available today this particular work 'is no mere pastiche of other works.'

Moving on to the Introduction I found myself becoming drawn into the work for much the writer's stated 'I miss the sixties. I miss them because they are still within me; missing them is akin to loss.' I understand his feeling completely, I too miss times long past in my own life, and for much the same reason.

From that opening, writer Freese carries the reader along from summers spent in Woodstock, and on into his life during the sixties, until the current time.

Chapter titles indicate a beginning August 1, 1868 with client and therapist during a session. From there the reader is moved along via the therapist's thoughts regarding his client and vice versa. The 1963 political scene, black and white TV, skinny dipping, high school friends, an affair and the ending of that affair, the sixties and an awareness of the self, Woodstock summers, sharing difficult memories, musing over daily happenings, and at last musing from the period well beyond the sixties and coming to grips with everything in between leave the reader with an understanding of the 'unconscious forces which human beings generally dismiss as so much climate change chatter and we really can't get our minds around evolutionary psychology which, with monumental and ever growing scientific evidence, states that our genes rule us, that we are simply host bodies, that our genes mutate and struggle for what is best for their survival. '

Capable author Freese, his book cover indicates his use of no capitals, at least for this work; is an essayist, educator, and psychotherapist. Freese, winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction, presented a well received, compelling collection of essays, "This Mobius Strip of Ifs." I like that.

Freese's writing embodies a charming, reader pleasing eminence of human frailty and humanity in his work. Our life histories; how they develop, support and encourage us is something that moves many writers to set down an accounting of their lives.

Centering on choices that have to be made author Freese, who frequently was obliged to reconsider his own problems before deciding on a plan of action; helps the reader understand each person does experience successes as well as disappointments and traumatized moments.

As each chapter focuses on a phase of Freese's life be it his memories and the feelings engendered concerning marriage, youth, the moment now, or at age 75 about aging and the bits of his past that he does not appear able to leave in the past and to move on.

Freese, fondly weaves a narrative seeming having origins in Woodstock, and moving on to other venues including North Carolina. He remembers family, friends, acquaintances, and relationships long since disappeared, passion that at times was satisfying and then sated and done, and some that were one-sided.

He faces head on the tormenting misery that comes from the disheartening sense of regret. The reader should remember Tesserae really is not an effort of melancholy and anguish. Relatively, this book is a work presented by a qualified psychotherapist who is proficient at realizing the emotional state inherent to us all.

Freese's reflections regarding life, affection and the inherent implications leading us all toward change, as we develop, and become who we are now and why as opposed to who we were then, be it a day, week, decade or lifetime ago; Terrerae may serve to motivate the reader toward exploring and perhaps setting down for themselves; what purpose memories serve.

I found Tesserae to be well written, Freese's writing is distinctive, his writing voice propels the reader through the narrative with a pause now and then to do some reflective thinking about the life and perhaps shared moments we all have shared and how we have been compelled forward or perhaps have been held back on our own journey.

Writer Freese seems to be leaning toward helping himself, his patients, and readers of this book understand that the road we each travel toward realizing who we really are and why; frequently takes most of our lifetime no matter who we are or whatever our upbringing. Along with that realization Freese helps himself, his patients, and the readers of this book begin to also realize we also need to accept that we are who we are just because that is who we are is something most of us finally begin to realize as well.

The latter understanding of ourselves may be a long and hard struggle as we each come to that realization following much angst filled, and perhaps finger pointing and blame placing, trial and error to come to understand that who we are with or without the understanding of why we attach to it during the process helps us each live more satisfying lives.

Tesserae is a work to be read while highlighting with a marker and making notes in the margins; then considered and perhaps re read again. This work can offer the reader perception re the reader's thinking of times long past and ways and the mechanisms of being and motivated developing relationships, good times and those not so good. Reading the book in its entirety leads the reader to under that when art, painted, sketched or written, is completed with thoughtful creativity, does provide the observer/reader perceptions into the self.

Interesting, uplifting read; Happy to recommended

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Moore's Bookshelf

Street Whys
E. M. Ford
Ford Printing
P.O. Box 448, Round Top, NY 12473
9780615369150, $47.99, PB, 341 pp,

Street Whys was given to me by a friend who knew I had grown up in a Hudson Valley community. Kingston, where all the streets identified in the book are located, is located along the Hudson River and is one of the oldest cities in New York State. This book represents a lifetime of research by E. M. Ford, a local historian. The breadth of Mr. Ford's knowledge is impressive. While the intended audience may seem to be limited to those who live in or near Kingston, this is by no means the case. The book is a study in the development of an American city. By tracing the history of every highway and byway, Mr. Ford delves into the lives and biographies of people responsible for Kingston's growth from its earliest days.

One of the more delightful aspects of the book is its attention to detail. Mr. Ford is not careless. He displays a historian's temperament as he fastidiously acknowledges uncertainty about the provenance of certain street names. Of course, many streets are named after significant townspeople. I did amuse myself by looking for the names of my ancestors and found among the many who were listed some who were distant, long-deceased relatives. These family names were common in the Northeast and throughout the United States during the Colonial era.

E.M. Ford deserves great credit for creating such a responsible book of local history. Though it is not likely to attract a wide audience, the book nonetheless is a valuable contribution to the historiography of the early settlement of the U.S. This is not the kind of book that a reader ever "finishes". Rather, it will become an accustomed presence on the shelf, one that brings pleasure each time it is perused and the wealth information contained within is rediscovered.

If you like history and are curious about the foundation of the U.S., read this very interesting book.

Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
Mo Yan
Arcade Publishing, Inc.
307 W 36th St #11, New York, NY 10018
9781559708531, $16.95, PB, 552 pp,

On the first page of Mo Yan's Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, we find that the main character, Ximen Nao, is in hell. As he endures the torment imposed by Lord Yama, master of the underworld, Ximen Nao insists that a mistake has been made. He doesn't belong in hell and should be returned immediately to life and to family. Lord Yama realizes that torture will not induce a confession from his charge, so he does as he has been asked. Ximen Nao is returned to life and family. Unfortunately, he goes back as a donkey.

The scene in hell is characteristic of the way Mo Yan handles very serious issues--with humor and skill. Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out charms, entertains and provokes. As the central character is reincarnated into various forms, he goes on a journey through his former life . He watches his children, concubines, wives and acquaintances in their daily lives. He is forced to stand by as they deal with convulsive Chinese politics and the consequences of his actions when he was in human form.

In Ximen Nao's various debased states he recognizes people but they do not recognize him. He has thoughts and ideas, but he cannot express them. Ximen Nao is the ultimate outsider--a perfect vantage for him, and for us, to discover whether or not his protest to Lord Yama has merit. Is Ximen Nao innocent, or did he lead a life of indifference and self-interest?

There is irony and humor in the book, and there is insight. Mo Yan has a whimsical touch as he covers some very serious material. Whimsy is evident, for example, when he places himself inside the book he is writing. The reader is startled to find a character named Mo Yan, a man who is a writer. Mo Yan, the character, failed at everything he tried and eventually became a writer--a bad writer--by default.

Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out is skillfully crafted. There is no pretense, or evidence of ego in the book, and yet the author's voice shines through. This is a gentle, compassionate voice, the kind of presence that it is a pleasure to spend time with. I learned a lot from this book and was amused by it, but most of all I enjoyed myself.

I highly recommend Mo Yan's Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

A. G. Moore

Peggy's Bookshelf

This is Not a Book
Jean Jullien
Phaidon Press
65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012
9780714871127, $9.95, 32 pages,

"This is Not a Book" is a unique conceptual board book that encourages toddlers to think outside the book. Each 2-page spread is an invitation to use our imaginations as we gaze into a monster's mouth, type a message on a laptop, choose a snack from the frig, play a song on the piano, and prop up the book to make a tent. There's even a bare butt to make us giggle. In an enticing 4-page gatefold spread we find the same boy who's peeking through the mail slot from the back cover to the front cover is inside the house reading an actual book titled "This is a Book." In the end we slap the sturdy pages together and make two hands clap in appreciation. Jullien's bold lines and bright colors set a playful tone for this fun book. Each time a young child picks up "This is Not a Book" it will become whatever he wants it to be.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog
Tricia Brown
Illustrated by Cary Porter
WestWinds Press
9781943328369, $16.99, 32 pages,

Young or old, everyone loves a good dog story. And it's even better when the story is true. In "Bobbie the Wonder Dog," Tricia Brown tells the true story of a Collie mix that became famous in the 1920s. He was born with a bobbed tail and raised on a farm with the Brazier family. When they moved to town to open a restaurant, they sold Bobbie with the farm. But he refused to stay there and eventually convinced his family that he belonged in town with them. "There was no stopped Bobbie."

During the summer of 1923, when Frank and Elizabeth Brazier drove 2,800 miles from Oregon to Indiana to visit relatives, their adventurous Bobbie rode along on the back of their touring car. But in Indiana he tangled with a pack of dogs and disappeared. Bobbie was nowhere to be found and the Braziers returned to Oregon without their beloved dog. Little did they know, Bobbie was already on his way back home. "There was no stopping Bobbie." Six months to the day after his disappearance, Bobbie limped home exhausted and starving. As word spread across the country with a photograph of Bobbie the wonder dog, many people wrote to the Braziers to tell them how they had met and helped Bobbie along on his journey.

Brown takes a sensational news story and focuses on the devotion of one remarkable dog to bring this amazing story to young readers for the first time. Porter's illustrations combine rich colors and vintage details to bring Bobbie to life on the pages through all of his adventures and hardships. A dog story as incredible now as it was nearly a century ago, gives "Bobbie the Wonder Dog" all the makings of a timeless classic.

Free Days with George: Learning Life's Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog
Colin Campbell
Anchor Canada
320 Front Street West, Suite 1400, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 3B6
9780385682893, $16.95, 224 pages,

In what has become a common thread in most man-meets-dog memoirs, Campbell's wife walked out on him and George the dog saves his life. What distinguishes this dogoir from the others is well - the dog. When the two first met George was a clumsy, fearful, year-old Landseer Newfoundland who had been mistreated and had never known a real home. Luckily Campbell had done his homework about these exceptional black & white beauties and never doubted that underneath George's 140-lb protective shell lay true canine greatness. But it was up to him to him to free George from the demons in his past. In doing so Campbell worked through his own demons. But the real story here is George's magical transformation from panicky pup to star of the dog surfing contest. Through Campbell's vivid and heartfelt descriptions of life with this gentle giant, readers witness the emergence of George's incredible intelligence, sense of humor, and heart of gold. One of the more significant life lessons to be learned here is the amazing, untapped potential that lies within the heart of any shelter dog. Wherever George makes an appearance, people and dogs find him irresistible. Likewise, "Free Days with George" is an irresistible story about an extraordinary dog.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Rod's Bookshelf

The Ancient Minstrel
Jim Harrison
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802124562, $25.00 HC, $13.99 Kindle,

Dead Man's Float
Jim Harrison
Copper Canyon Press
PO Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368
9781556594458, $23.00, HC, 156pp,

This past March America lost a prolific novelist and accomplished poet, whose literary fame was greater abroad than here at home. A representative sample of Jim Harrison's work is found in the AUTHORS NOTES section of his most recent (final) book, THE ANCIENT MINSTREL. Published earlier this year, the book contains three separate novellas, the first one bearing the book's title. ANCIENT MINSTREL is Harrison's swan song to his fans and to himself; a deeply reflective analysis of the poetry, prose, people, and other life forces relentlessly carrying him towards his final curtain. An interview of Harrison from a few years back is available on YOUTUBE. A disheveled, overweight, chain-smoking old man, an open bottle of French wine within easy reach, gasps and grunts his comments into the camera, alternating sips of wine with long drags on an ever-present cigarette dangling from a mouth buried deep within tangled facial hair. Late in life Harrison's worsening health issues provided the author a wealth of writing material.

Jim Harrison's obituary in the NY TIMES on March 27, 2016 neatly described the man and his art this way: "the undertow that pulls at Harrison's characters are food, alcohol, sex, and outdoorsmanship." In his books where excesses and compulsions and dysfunctional human relations are foundational themes, Harrison comes across as a lustful old man struggling with non-functioning body parts, alternating his binge-drinking whiskey with sipping multiple bottles of expensive French Merlot with friends. He relishes wolfing down gargantuan banquets of rich food in a ravenous frenzy pointedly ignoring his chronic problems with gout whenever the subject is eating. But the man and his writing is much more than the well-polished musings of a self-confessed glutton.

Harrison developed his love of fishing as child in northern Michigan farm country. Throughout his life he kept company with packs of loyal hunting dogs, unashamedly crying bitter tears when it came time to bid a favorite a last goodbye. Not long before Harrison's death he realized another dream by purchasing a pregnant sow from a local farmer. From the ensuing litter of baby pigs Harrison adopted a piglet he named Marjorie. He enjoyed hitching his new pet to a dog leash to take leisurely walks in the countryside where he watched Marjorie terrorize his neighbors' dogs with squeals of outrage and stamping of feet. Episodes like these, simply described, epitomize Harrison's celebration of ordinary life he saw infused with humor, irony, and, ultimately, sadness. His genius was developing complex themes and presenting them in seemingly an off-handed manner, but in truth is the finished product of really good writing. Book critics of Harrison often use the term "honest" when referencing his work. It is hard to disagree.

In ANCIENT MINSTREL Harrison's main character (himself) is presented in the third person, sardonically offering clever excuses for one of several character flaws: "His hard work came during a period when he was utterly indulgent at the table. How could he write well if he was thinking about food all the time? It didn't work to write about sex, doom, death, time, and the cosmos when you were thinking about a massive bowl of spaghetti and meatballs."

Harrison was also a celebrated poet, a labor of love begun at age 14. He won poetry awards he said he never knew existed until the prizes were announced. Harrison's most recent book of poetry also released in 2016, DEAD MAN'S FLOAT, is a collection of old Harrison favorites. He writes: "I am the old man alone in a hotel / waiting for a ride north to Mayo Pain Clinic / Loneliness is only a theory when we have / the past, which is a vast tumble of events. / Sort and resort and never win. / We live with our memories, a backpack / of mostly trash we can barely carry."

Before Harrison became successful, Hollywood actor and longtime friend Jack Nicholson lent him money to see him through a rough patch, a gesture Harrison never forgot. LEGENDS OF THE FALL, a Harrison book turned movie starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, brought Harrison much needed fortune, accompanied by fame he never embraced. He promptly loaned a portion of this windfall to old friends who forgot to pay him back, excepting two Native American associates who repaid their debt in full, Harrison reported. The author acknowledged his poor grasp of financial matters, relying on expensive lawyers to extricate him from IRS troubles, after failing to regularly file his federal taxes.

A searing childhood incident referenced more than a few times in Harrison's writings involved a little girl impulsively thrusting a broken bottle into his face, permanently blinding him in his left eye. Another Harrison fixation is women's "undies," "thighs," "crotches," and other parts of the (preferably younger aged) female anatomy. He shamelessly shares his infidelities and erotic fantasies (including recalling students he met as a college instructor many years earlier) with his audience. These fleeting descriptions of sexual escapades and lustful passes at women gone wrong regularly appear in Harrison's storylines. While we cannot help but feel empathy for Harrison's wife and family, these passages somehow do not offend our sensibilities, instead peaking our interest in what happens next. This reflects the talents of an extremely effective writer.

Harrison found inspiration from ordinary people and the dive bars he and his friends liked to frequent. He contrasted those settings with his gorging on large lumps of French foie gras pate' and slurping down dozens of glistening oysters in expensive restaurants in Paris and in other high-end eateries around the world. Attaining celebrity status in the middle of life, Jim Harrison did not turn his back on the people and places he came from. He and his wife did, however, relocate to Montana from Michigan when they could finally afford it.

Intolerant of adulation from people he did not know and increasingly frustrated with aspiring writers asking how to achieve literary greatness, Harrison's offers these parting words in THE ANCIENT MINSTREL: "Feeling bright-eyed, confident, and arrogant doesn't do the job unless you're writing the memoir of a narcissist. You are far better off being lost in your work and writing over your head . . . It has been said that there is an intense similarity in people's biographies. It's our dreams and visions that separate us. You don't know where you are as a point of view unless you go beyond yourself."

Unconfirmed details of Jim Harrison's death this past March have him dying of a heart attack, pen in hand. He envisioned this dramatic departure long before fame struck. Fact or fiction, it would have been a classically appropriate ending for a man who over-indulged in life, in the processing achieving fame writing about how and why he did what he did.

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for New Orleans
Gary Krist
Crown Publishers
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780770437060, $26.00, HC, 432pp
9780770437084, $16.00, PB, 448pp
B00K4C4HMQ, $11.99, Kindle,

Author Gary Krist describes the post-American Civil War city of New Orleans this way: "New Orleans scarcely seemed American at all. Founded as a French outpost in the early 1700's, the city had come of age under Spanish rule in the latter half of the eighteenth century, giving the city a distinctive Franco-Latin character that still manifested itself in everything from its architecture to municipal administration . . . 'What a co-mingling of peoples,' another visitor marveled in 1880, 'Americans and Brazilians, West Indians, Spanish, and French; Germans, Creoles, quadroons, mulattoes, Chinese, and Negroes.'" At the end of the nineteenth century, New Orleans offered a rich mix of culture, music, food, and eccentric lifestyles. New York City teemed with immigrants arriving from all corners of Europe. Chicago had seen tremendous expansion as a cattle drive destination, in the process becoming the major railroad hub of the Midwest. But New Orleans stood out then as a unique urban experience, unlike any other American city. It remains that way today, one reason among others why this book resonates with its readers.

The book's title, EMPIRE OF SIN: A STORY OF SEX, JAZZ, MURDER, AND THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS accurately reflects its contents. Author Krist's style and literary voice is reminiscent of celebrated American historian David McCullough, only this time readers are not riding alongside Founding Father John Adams entering Philadelphia in 1776. Instead, author Krist helps us experience New Orleans' brothels and dance halls, become participants in riots, witness assassinations, and watch crooked politicians brazenly betray their oaths of office while promising reform to their electorate. EMPIRE OF SIN is a carefully planned, overlapping montage of prostitutes, pioneer jazz musicians, racial hatred and vigilante lynch mob justice, and alcohol-drenched partying. In 1903 there were 230 brothels employing 1500 prostitutes in New Orleans. Krist writes, "the situation had become dire indeed. The lawlessness, municipal dysfunction, flagrant sexuality, and increasing visibility of vice posed a threat not just to individual reputations but also to the reputation of the city as a whole." In time, Anti-Saloon League operatives and other forces dedicated to cleaning up New Orleans made their presence felt among political leaders. But, predictably, positive change came to New Orleans only very slowly.

As the twentieth century loomed, a new form of music incorporating Latin, Caribbean, and early blues rhythms from the Delta region of the American South was heard in many of the seedy bars and rowdy dance halls of Storyville, New Orleans' downtown den of inequity. Storyville was a place where anything could be had at the right price. As jazz musicians played their rudimentary instruments of old tin horns, cigar box banjoes, soap box bases, and pianos, mainstream [white] culture increasingly resisted this strange new sound. But nothing could thwart its momentum. Author Krist has a thorough understanding of the complex evolution of jazz, introducing a number of the early musicians whose work led to it becoming ingrained in New Orleans culture, people like Jelly Roll Morton, a talented Creole jazz genius. Surprisingly, local Italian immigrants also helped shape the new sound. A very young Louis Armstrong appears in the book, with the author sharing sad details about Armstrong's early life few readers would otherwise know about. Perhaps that is the author's point. EMPIRE OF SIN reminds us minorities and their contributions to our history today remain little more than footnotes in dominant culture American storytelling.

Jazz was one major reason that New Orleans' Jim Crow laws were passed decades after they appeared in the rest of the post-Reconstruction South. The co-mingling of races in New Orleans not found anywhere else in the South changed dramatically under Jim Crow. Race riots and lynchings targeting blacks and Italians and other immigrants are an ugly blot upon New Orleans in the early twentieth century. Honest lawmen were murdered by criminals hired by business owners seeking revenge, or by gang members fighting turf wars, or by the Mafia. Like all urban centers, murderers occasionally terrorized New Orleans. Political leaders elected to cleanse the city of rampant vice owned whore houses and bars, and routinely frequented them. The police force was paid to divulge vice raid information so establishments were ready when the raids started. New Orleans' empire of sin proved extremely difficult to eradicate, although progress was made thanks to the persistent efforts of social reformers and political advocates.

Gary Krist's book is an extremely readable, thoroughly researched, deeply compelling portrait of the people and culture of New Orleans during a tumultuous period in this country's history. EMPIRE OF SIN is not great literature, but that is not its intent. The age-old struggle between good and evil successfully binds the diverse chapters of this book together. As noted earlier, many elements covered by Krist's EMPIRE OF SIN are an integral part of New Orleans' culture today. I highly recommend this book. It's good.

Rod Haynes, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

From a Broken Land (The Broken Throne)
William R. Herr
Mechanicsburg Press
9781495186912, $13.39, 408 pages,

Language: English / Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

In his epic debut science fiction/fantasy novel, the first book in the 'Broken Throne' series, William R. Herr has created an imaginary Kingdom, where battles are fought against a terrible, evil, enemy, one which can be seen only as shadows, and mist.

The story opens as a horrific blight sweeps through the lands, killing everyone and thing. In desperation, Cardinal Richmond sends, Gidon, a soldier and church emissary on a quest, one he is not expected to return from... he must travel to the land of Hammat, find a seer, and beg for aid against the blight.

Then there is Kiranae, a princess, fleeing from an evil prince with the help of her aunt the Countess Elna Damarc. To escape capture she finds herself freely entering the mist, not knowing what her fate will be.

The future however sees her stumbling from the forest in front of Gidon, Tenant, Seer Renault, and Guard Rinkins, on their quest, travelling through a land facing disaster and fighting the creatures in the shadows.

Fate it seems has thrown them together, and as this epic adventure unfolds there are fierce battles, terrible creatures, and untold dangers ahead for the group.

However, fate dictates that Kira and her aunt are to be reunited. When this happens, secrets are revealed which could change everything.

The author has created an amazing kingdom, with well-defined characters and a fantastic plot with danger, excitement, twists, and a hint of romance. Reading it, one very quickly becomes absorbed into the story, so much so that it is very difficult to put down. I highly recommend it for lovers of science fiction, fantasy and of course adventure.

Please Hold
Tricia Stewart Shiu
Human Being Publishing
9780996881609, $12.95, 148 pages,

Language: English / Genre: Fiction

This book is just such compelling reading, I just could not put it down.

We all have been victims of haughty secretaries, the ones who guard their boss better than the most highly trained Rottweiler. Treat him like he is God, and they are the handmaiden honoured to be in his presence - when he needs something.

Perhaps you have been there, got the tee-shirt as they say. Or, have you ever considered what it was like to be that person, the executive assistant, at his beck and call? What are the women in these positions REALLY like? What did they have to sacrifice to get there?

Well, this book gives us a fly on the wall peak inside. The main character in this extremely entertaining story is Sarah Marks. At the beginning of the story she is assistant to Lance Cheroux, one of the Executive Vice Presidents of worldwide Feature Productions.

The saying that those who listen at doors only hear ill, is certainly true for Sarah when she overhears two 'friends' discussing her imminent transfer to the dreaded Building 99. Apparently, however, the rumours are true, Mr Cheroux's career is about to take a tumble, and she is there, right alongside him. So they are caste out to the farthest reaches of the lot, somewhere only talked about in whispers.

Sarah is a complex young woman, hardworking and dedicated to her career, how can this be happening to her, she asks, her mentor Mary Tyler Moore. Someone she talks to all the time.

Why Mary Tyler Moore? Well Sarah has a troubled childhood, drunken father, eternally young mother... but the Mary Tyler Moore show was always there, offering advice, with Mary being a role model. So, who can blame a girl if she idolises her, literally...

However, the trials and tribulations of executive office life offer a bundle of laughs as we learn more and more about Sarah, her hopes, her dreams, and what makes her tick. We follow her as she rises from the ashes and is resurrected into the higher echelons once again.

That her life is difficult is an understatement. As we walk in her shoes, we finally understand what it is like to be an executive assistant in this high flying world, dealing with rivalry and back stabbing from all directions, oh, and of course those dreaded blisters from wearing high heels every day.

This is the first book by award winning author Tricia Stewart Shiu I have read, but it certainly won't be the last, I just loved every page!

The Paladins of Naretia
T. P. Keane
Trudy Keane, Publisher
9780997179309, $14.99, 348 pages,

Language: English / Genre: Fantasy

Fantasy at its best!

Set to be the fantasy book of the year, this first novel by author TP Keane is an extraordinary story, full of dark forces, unimaginable dangers, and it is set in the fantasy kingdom of Naretia.

The story is told by Olorin, a three hundred year old wizard, and a young queen called Aria. An unusual combination you may think, perhaps... but this is no ordinary story...

Aramus is the adopted son of Olorin, a very old wizard. Aramus is like no other, he is a strange creature, with darkness inside, feared by all in the kingdom, since it is foretold that by his 18th birthday, Aramus will have ended all life.

Olorin knows that he must use all his powers to save Aramus. He must find the otherworldly ingredients necessary to make a potion to save him, before his 18th birthday, or his real father, the dark God Dantet, will send his army to seize Aramus's powers.

These powers will set Dantet free to walk on mortal soil again, and no one, and nothing, will be safe.

With traitorous wizards trying to thwart him, facing real danger from Dantet's dark army, and threats from other places, will Olorin succeed?

Who can he trust?

Will Olorin's faith in their bond be enough to steer Aramus from the darkness?

This is an amazing story which I am sure all fantasy lovers will adore. I look forward to book 2.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

The Girl from Home
Adam Mitzner
Gallery Books
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476764283, $26.00, 336 pages,

"...I loved my penthouse and the East Hampton oceanfront house I was going to buy. But it was all in the same kind of way, I loved what I thought they said about me. That I was successful, I guess. That I mattered."

Jonathan Caine is living the life he dreamed of living. He is a well-respected and successful currency trader earning huge bonuses annually and in command of a team of advisors and underlings. Outside of work he has the beautiful trophy wife, wears designer suits, drives a Bentley and can't imagine a life that he is not currently experiencing.

That is until his success begins to implode. What happens when everything you believed in is stripped away? What then really matters in your life?

As his world begins to shatter, Jonathan's father is dying. Because he needs a distraction and to temporarily escape from reality, he returns home. Surprisingly even to him, he decides to attend his twenty-fifth high school reunion. He is proud of his accomplishments, especially compared to his classmates. No one appears as successful as him. Unfortunately he is aware that soon his slowly descending world could come crashing down.

He is delighted to finally have the attention of the former prom queen, Jacqueline Williams. During high school, she had not been aware of his existence. Life for Jacqueline is not as she dreamed. Yes, she married the football star but this dream man from her teen-aged years has turned into a drunken, abusive husband.

As Jonathan's father is dying, he gives his son some advice. These few words change his life forever.

The Girl from Home is an addictive novel that is difficult to put down. The story progression is realistic, problematic for the main characters, and unpredictable. The characterization excels with the reader having a strong visual image of every person with difficult choices in their lives. With a tightly written and well-organized plot progressing logically but with what feels authentic, as if the story was based from reality.

Adam Mitzner resides as a lawyer in New York City. His previous novels are Losing Faith, A Case of Redemption, and A Conflict of Interest.

The Girl from Home is a true psychological thriller keeping every adult reader racing to the conclusion on the last page.

The British Lion
Tony Schumacher
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062394590, $25.99, 450 pages,

"Chess wouldn't work without pawns."

Are we just pawns in the game of life? Like the game of chess are we just moved about or sacrificed in a scheme where we do not completely understand the rules or even the purpose?

In a world where Germany won the war during WWII and is currently occupying England, The British Lion offers readers the rare opportunity to judge the characters not by their national allegiances but by their actions.

Ernst Koehler is a German SS officer working in Great Britain. Recently he lost his index finger and thumb. Over the years he has spent much of his time away from his wife and daughter who reside in Germany. He is thrilled that both of them are now visiting him.

John Henry Rossett is in a hospital recovering from being shot while attempting to save a Jewish boy and getting him to safety in America. Rossetti is known as the British Lion, the Fuhrer's favorite Brit. However, Rossett does not enjoy this honor. Germany is thrilled with the positive collaborative publicity of their former enemy. Koehler chooses to not disclose how Rossett was really hurt so that he will be allowed to return to his life as a police officer.

These two form a team when Koehler's wife and daughter are kidnapped. Their unusual partnership hinges on a level of respect but not friendship. Koehler values Rossett's expertise while John is sympathetic to Koehler's situation..

Koehler's family is being held by the Americans. He is now being blackmailed. The ransom for his family is a female Jewish scientist. Sounds simple but this one scientist holds the key to the atomic bomb. Whoever has the bomb, rules the world.

As with most plans, things don't work as smoothly as planned. These complications greatly affect every aspect of this trade.

What is amazing is this novel was my prejudice towards nationalities as to who were the protagonists/antagonists. The role was constantly changing in my mind and fortunately each character had to be judged by their actions.

The alternative view of a Europe possibly unified by the Nazis was fascinating to see a perspective which possibly was a dream and goal of many Germans at the time.

The British Lion is the sequel to Schumacher's previous novel, The Darkest Hour. Reading this previous novel is not a requirement to understand this plot. The story was almost hypnotic even though a little difficult at first due to the alternative history aspect.

The author, Tony Schumacher has written for both the Huffington Post, The Guardian and both the Liverpool and Manchester Confidential magazines. He has also spent time as a performer and stand-up comedian.

This book is for adults with violence, strong language, and requiring a sense of the history of World War II being essential to truly appreciating what a unique and phenomenal novel has been created by the artistry of author, Tony Schumacher.

Mail-Order Kid
Marilyn June Coffey
"out West" Press
9780962631726, $15.95, 264 pages,

From the years of 1854 to 1929 many children left their homes in New York City to become a son or a daughter to a new family somewhere in our country. Naturally the hope was to be adopted by a loving family. The name for this movement was usually through by train. This became known as the orphan train.

Like all children, some were fortunate and loved by their new families. However some of these children had horrific experiences, being beaten and even slaves to their adopted family. Probably most of these orphaned and unwanted children lived with families that were somewhere between these two extremes.

Teresa Martin was three-years-old when she became a passenger of the Orphan Train. Having lived in the orphanage for awhile, she never really knew the identity of her parents but relied on the nurturing nuns who had so far mothered her. They sent her away with the hopes of a better life. Although very young, she remembered many impressionable events from her life in the convent. These were her earliest memories, never knowing her parents but fond thoughts of loving nuns who favored, mothered and truly loved her.

Unfortunately for Teresa, she was assigned to a German family in Kansas. This petite, dark-haired, olive-skinned beauty did not easily fit into the life of two older adults who had grown children. She did not speak German and they did not speak English. Living with a different language and customs was difficult for Teresa who truly felt that she did not belong. Fortunately she befriended a German priest who nurtured her while also teaching her the language of her new life. Even though she lived in the U.S.A., English was not the preferred language of this town.

Teresa lived with this family who fed, sheltered and clothed her. However her new parents were not affectionate or loving. Their relationship was always strained which resulted in her being sexually abused and even whipped.

Later as an adult, Teresa frequently still felt isolated and unconnected resulting in her search for who were her parents. Who was she? What happened to her parents? Why?

Author Marilyn Coffey was relocating to Nebraska after spending thirty years in New York, She decided to become a speaker for the state humanities council but she needed a specialty, a unique topic. Someone mentioned the orphan trains and she immediately discounted the thought. Who would put orphans on trains and send them to unknown destinations?

Surprisingly as she began to research this topic, she was surprised to discover that more than half of these children actually were not orphans but had at least one parent with one quarter of them having both parents. So why?

Marilyn Coffey was hooked. The topic was fascinating. She searched for an actual orphan train survivor but most were elderly or deceased. While lecturing about the orphan train, she received a letter from an actual orphan train rider who asked about why she had no first hand experiences.

This led to an unusual friendship that became this biography.

Mail-Order Kid is the product of this phenomenal friendship allowing the readers to become a part of this historical and memorable experience combining Teresa's life story with Marilyn's writing gifts.

This collaboration is an enthralling biography capturing the past into a loving and reflective novel between Marilyn Coffey and Teresa Martin.

This book is for everyone to read, reflect, learn, and enjoy.

Teri Davis

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

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