Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 4 April 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Small Data
Martin Lindstrom
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250080684 $25.99 hc / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Hired by the world's leading brands to find out what makes their customers tick, Martin Lindstrom spends 300 nights a year in strangers' homes, carefully observing every detail in order to uncover their hidden desires, and, ultimately, the clues to a multi-million dollar product. Lindstrom connects the dots in this globetrotting narrative that will enthrall enterprising marketers, as well as anyone with a curiosity about the endless variations of human behavior.

Critique: Peppered with true-life anecdotes of how seemingly trivial things led to great creations or discoveries, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends is an extraordinarily fascinating read from cover to cover. A recurring theme is that, beyond the seemingly omnipresent reach of "big data", "small data" offers insights into unmet human desires - which savvy business people can capitalize upon when they create brands. Small Data is a "must-read" for business professionals especially!

Being Selfish: My Journey from Escort to Monk to Grandmother
Sarah Marshank
9781682228142, $19.99, PB, 364pp,

Synopsis: In "Being Selfish: My Journey from Escort to Monk to Grandmother" is the personal story of Sarah Marshank who faced a second unplanned pregnancy at the age of twenty-two. Her conservative Jewish, politically liberal, middle-class American upbringing fails to provide her with meaningful comfort or guidance. Depressed and disillusioned, she sets out on a twenty-year pilgrimage to explore sex, God, and herself. Her forays into orthodox Judaism, the sex trade, and new age spirituality don't satisfy the depth of her longing for authenticity. Then she meets Sam, a New York baby boomer turned monk. living a life unplugged from society in remote rural Oregon. When Sarah realizes what Sam is up to, she abandons her career, friends, and family to dive into a disciplined life of meditation, yoga, fasting, and silence. It wasn't her original intention to spend a decade in isolation, but that's what it took for Sarah to discover who she really is, though not without paying a price.

Critique: Exceptional well written, intensely candid, and an amazing memoir, "Being Selfish: My Journey from Escort to Monk to Grandmother" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Being Selfish: My Journey from Escort to Monk to Grandmother" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Allure of Goodness and Love
Pope Frances
The Liturgical Press
2950 Saint John's Road, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
9780814646670, $14.95, PB, 122pp,

Synopsis: During his historic visit to the United States in October 2015, Pope Francis encouraged the nation's bishops to avoid harsh and divisive language, reminding instead that "only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing". These words provide as fine a summary of the Holy Father's visit (and of Jorge Bergoglio's papal ministry) as will be found anywhere. In Washington, New York, and Philadelphia, Pope Francis touched the hearts and consciences of Catholics, as well as people of all faiths or no faith, by the power of his gentle witness.

The many addresses and homilies offered by the Pope were more than anyone could digest in a few short days. "The Allure of Goodness and Love: Pope Francis in the United States Complete Texts" is a handy volume that gathers all of these texts into a single, inexpensive resource, thereby making them accessible for reflection, study, or prayer by individuals or groups.

Included here are his homily for canonization of St. Junipero Serra; his address to the Joint Session of Congress; his greeting to a group of homeless people in New York City; his address to the United Nations General Assembly; his prayer at Ground Zero; his extemporaneous address at the Festival of Families; his words to victims of sexual abuse; his address to inmates at a Philadelphia prison; and so much more.

Critique: Very highly recommended reading for all members of the Roman Catholic community, "The Allure of Goodness and Love: Pope Francis in the United States Complete Texts" will serve as a powerful reminder to any reader of "the allure of goodness and love" that America experienced through the presence of Pope Francis.

The Good Death
Ann Neumann
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807080627, $26.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: When Ann Neumann's father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she left her job and moved back to her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She became his full-time caregiver includingal all the cooking, cleaning, and administering his medications. When her father died, she was undone by the experience, by grief and the visceral quality of dying. Neumann struggled to put her life back in order and found herself haunted by a question: Was her father's death a good death? To gain a better understanding, Neumann became a hospice volunteer and set out to discover what a good death is today. She attended conferences, academic lectures, and grief sessions in church basements. She went to Montana to talk with the attorney who successfully argued for the legalization of aid in dying, and to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to listen to "pro-life" groups who believe the removal of feeding tubes from some patients is tantamount to murder. Above all, she listened to the stories of those who were close to death. What Neumann found is that death in contemporary America is much more complicated than we think. Medical technologies and increased life expectancies have changed the very definition of medical death. And although death is our common fate, it is also a divisive issue that we all experience differently. What constitutes a good death is unique to each of us, depending on our age, race, economic status, culture, and beliefs. What's more, differing concepts of choice, autonomy, and consent make death a contested landscape, governed by social, medical, legal, and religious systems.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented throughout, "The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America" is a seminal work in the tradition of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and very strongly recommended to the attention of clergy, bioethicists, governmental policy makers, the medical community, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject for themselves or a loved one. While "The Good Death" is very strongly recommended for both community and library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.99).

Help Me!
Donna M. Zadunajsky
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781522742456, $6.99, PB, 126pp,

Synopsis: "Help Me!" by Donna M. Zadunajsky is a novella about a boy named Mick and his struggles with life. His parent's divorce and a friend's suicide make his world unbearable. Each "cut" he inflicts upon himself has a deeper meaning. A cry for help. "I spin my dad's Ruger SP101 revolver on the wood floor of my bedroom. Sometimes, just to see what it feels like, I place the tip of the gun against my temple, but I never once pull the trigger. NO!" "I'm more into the slice of the blade against my skin and the blood running down my arm." "It relieves so much pressure." "And I can breathe again...".

Critique; Teen suicide is a serious problem in this country. "Help Me!" is an impressive presented fictional attempt to deal with an all too often socially unpopular issue that has real life consequences for all too many families. Exceptionally well written and presented, "Help Me!" is very highly recommended for highschool and community library YA fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Help Me!" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Lizzy Ford
Captured Press
9781623782078, $18.99, PB, 464pp,

Synopsis: In a modern world ruled by territorial Greek gods, the human race has been oppressed, exploited and now, nearly destroyed by the constant infighting of gods. However, a human girl with the power of a goddess is coming of age. Alessandra is the Oracle of Delphi (the last prophesized) and bears the mark of the double omega. Soon after she turns eighteen, Alessandra is told her destiny: to step between the warring gods and the human race and save her world from certain ruin. For the gods, her appearance marks the beginning of their end. They and the Triumvirate (leaders of the human elite) who serve them will stop at nothing to preserve their power. Alessandra emerges from the forest where she spent her life hidden from gods and men and immediately plummets into a race against time, gods, and herself to discover who and what she is in a world where everyone she meets has a hidden agenda, and those pulling the strings remain in the shadows. Before she can determine exactly what kind of savior her world needs, she must first master her power by completing three trials devised by the Triumvirate to enslave her. One lone girl stands between warring gods and the people she's destined to protect, but it's the battle to understand who she is that she must win first.

Critique: An extraordinary and mythic-level novel, "Omega" by Lizzy Ford" is an impressively compelling and well written story of remarkable originality. Very highly recommended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Omega" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Craniosacral Chi Kung
Mantak Chia & Joyce Thom
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620554234, $19.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a form of bodywork or alternative therapy that uses therapeutic touch to manipulate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. A practitioner of cranial-sacral therapy may also apply light touches to a patient's spine and pelvis. Practitioners believe that this manipulation regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and aids in "primary respiration". Craniosacral therapy was developed by John Upledger, D.O. in the 1970s, as an offshoot osteopathy in the cranial field (OCF), or cranial osteopathy, which was developed in the 1930s by William Garner Sutherland. "Craniosacral Chi Kung: Integrating Body and Emotion in the Cosmic Flow" Provides illustrated instructions for movement exercises, breathwork, self-massage, and emotional intelligence meditations to free the flow of energy in the body; Reveals clear parallels between the craniosacral rhythm and the flow of chi; Explains how to release energetic blockages and emotional and physiological knots, activate the energetic pumps of the 3 tan tiens, and tap in to the Cosmic Flow. Exploring the connections between Western craniosacral therapy and Chi Kung, Taoist master Mantak Chia and craniosacral instructor Joyce Thom detail movement exercises, breathwork practices, self-massage techniques, and focused meditations from Taoist and other wisdom traditions to release and harmonize the flow of energy in the body and optimize our potential for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Providing step-by-step illustrated exercise instructions, "Craniosacral Chi Kung" explains how to identify and unwind energetic blockages and emotional and physiological knots. "Craniosacral Chi Kung" explores emotional intelligence exercises for tuning in to our hearts so we can listen to our bodies' messages and learn to relieve related emotional burdens. "Craniosacral Chi Kung" also reveals how to activate the cranial, respiratory/cardiac, and sacral pumps of the three tan tiens to optimize the body's energetic flow and explains how, when our energy is flowing freely, we can enter the Cosmic Flow -- a state of calm well-being and extraordinary creativity where we find ourselves truly at one with the universe.

Critique: Profusely enhanced with illustrations, "Craniosacral Chi Kung: Integrating Body and Emotion in the Cosmic Flow" is an extraordinarily informed and informative study that is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Alternative Medicine instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Craniosacral Chi Kung" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera
Norma Elia Cantu
University of New Mexico Press
MSC05 3185
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826318282, $19.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Canicula (the dog days) a particularly intense part of the summer when most cotton is harvested in South Texas. In "Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera" by Norma Cantú (Professor of Latina/Latino Studies and English, University of Missouri, Kansas City) is a fictionalized memoir of Laredo in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, it also represents a time between childhood and an as yet unknown adulthood. Actual snapshots and the author's re-created memories are integrated into this inherently fascinating novel, thus allowing readers to experience the pivotal events of this world--births, deaths, injuries, fiestas, rites of passage.

Critique: An original, authentic, engaging, exceptionally well written and thoroughly entertaining novel, Norma Elia Cantu's "Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Like I Used To Dance
Barbara Frances
Positive Imaging
9781944071011, $14.95, PB, 396pp,

Synopsis: Set in Texas, 1951, "Like I Used To Dance" by Barbara Feances is the story of the Wolanskys (Grace, Bud and their three grown children) who are a close-knit clan, deeply rooted in their rural community and traditional faith. On their orderly farm, life seems good and tomorrow always holds promise. But under the surface, it's a different story. Grace is beset by dark memories and nameless fears that she keeps secret even from Bud. Their son Andy has said no to becoming a farmer like his dad and, worse, fallen in love with a big-city Jewish girl. Youngest child Regina is trapped in a loveless marriage to an abusive, alcoholic husband. Even "perfect" daughter Angela's decision to become a nun takes an unforeseen turn. And then Ceil Dollard breezes into town. Ceil (wealthy, sophisticated, irrepressible) is like a visitor from Mars. She's a modern woman. She drives a car and wears pants. She blows away tradition and certainty, forcing Grace to face her fears and brave a changing world. Through Ceil, Grace learns about courage and freedom, but at the risk of losing Bud.

Critique: "Like I Used To Dance" is an impressively well written novel and an exceptionally memorable read from beginning to end. Indeed, "Like I Used To Dance" is one of those all to rare works of literary fiction that lingers in the mind and memory long after the novel itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Clearly, author Barbara Frances is a talented and original storyteller and "Like I Used To Dance" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Like I Used To Dance" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Hive-Mind: A Memoir
Gabrielle Myers
Lisa Hagen Books
9780976498698, $14.00, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: With the lyrical precision in the pages of "Hive-Mind: A Memoir" by Gabrielle Myers (Associate Professor of English at San Joaquin Delta College, Stockton, California) takes us on a Northern California idyll - an internship at the Tip Top Farm and Produce in Vacaville. Here, the beauty of the land with light streaming through fig branches, and carnelian tomatoes exploding in front of rows of sweet peas, is tended by the mysterious frenetic Farmer and her companion, Baker. Together with their intern Gabrielle, the trio tends a landscape full with sustenance and life. Their days are filled with back-breaking farm labor and their nights are alive with the freshest, most creative meals imaginable. At night, Gabi lays in her yurt pondering her mother's suicide attempt, working on stories to tell herself to make it alright, while just up the hill another mind, busy as a hive, fights a storm of loss and sorrow that threatens to shatter Eden. And what of these stories we tell ourselves? Myers asks. Sometimes, they can't be rewritten.

Critique: Impressively written from beginning to end, Gabrielle Myers' "Hive-Mind: A Memoir" is a compelling and inherently fascinating read that is very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Hive-Mind: A Memoir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Cyber Horror: The Beginning of The End
Publisher: C.H.A
ASIN: B01BO9THAE, $0.99,

Cyber Horror opens not in a laboratory but with a hospital fountain, where a boiling water eruption targets people in a purposeful way and defies control. Days later, playground children confront mysterious bubbles from the sky that change upon contact, and a few days after that, a baseball game is challenged by mysterious circumstances. Readers will know these events are connected by their back-to-back presentation, but the story that evolves in Cyber Horror is more satisfyingly complex than readers might initially imagine, and involves computer viruses with human victims, hackers who craft specialty malware, organic viruses that self-replicate, and a brilliant researcher's discovery run amok.

All these elements contribute to a tale filled with suspense, laced with computer science, and linked to motivations and purposes of evil creators and those forced to deal with a nightmare unleashed.

The strength of Cyber Horror lies in a story line that rests upon scientific discoveries and their ultimate impact on an unsuspecting public. As containment and control break down, madness and mayhem spread in an unusual, unpredictable manner. Characterization is well done and the blend of powerful, believable protagonists, special interests, and the unpredictable outcomes of experiments gone awry create an involving read that's hard to put down.

Fans of apocalyptic sci-fi, medical thrillers, horror, and hard science fiction will find plenty to like in Cyber Horror, which features a fine premise and the interactions of many protagonists who hold special interests and abilities affecting the progression and ultimate outcome of events.

Though the novel's outcome is definitive, the door is left open for more, and horror readers will easily find themselves looking forward to this possibility.

Welcome to the Show
Frank Nappi
Sky Pony Press
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781634508922, $9.99,

It's unusual to say that a third book of a series stands well on its own and doesn't really require the support or a prior knowledge of the others, but Welcome to the Show is such as production, adding to the Mickey Tussler series about an autistic baseball prodigy.

Set in the 1950s, this baseball saga continues the story of Mickey's rise to fame and connects major league playing with life's challenges in such a way that even non-baseball fans will find Mickey's progress absorbing (although baseball enthusiasts will be the most likely followers of Mickey's on- and off-field exploits.).

Frank Nappi's attention to detail and his honest appraisal of the times pulls no punches, so readers anticipating a light or breezy coverage of autism and social issues of the 1950s will find plenty of passages more detailed than might be anticipated from a casual baseball saga.

The protagonists in Welcome to the Show clearly reveal their thoughts, hopes, and worries ("Molly worried what people were saying, what they were thinking, and how they would treat her special boy. She also worried each time either Mickey or Arthur shared with her another incident that, in her opinion, placed her boy in peril."). Some are specific to Mickey's condition and others are more general expressions, but all psychological revelations hold food for thought and a depth unexpected for a 'baseball story': another reason why Welcome to the Show is notable when compared to other books about either autism or sports.

From encounters with prejudice about special needs in society ("Regular folks and other kinds should not mix. It ain't natural.") to games that teach Mickey about life ("Baseball, Murphy, like life, my friend, can only be understood backward...It can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward."), Welcome to the Show is about achievement against all odds and the ripple effect of a game that spills into life experience, ethics, and psychological growth.

So many factors entwine here that it's difficult to say Welcome to the Show is about any singular person or event. It is ultimately about the game of life itself, and continues a powerful series (prior books not seen by this reviewer) by exploring the evolution of this process, using a focus that any reader - baseball fan or not - can easily understand.

M.L. Spencer
Stoneguard Publications
9780997177909, $5.99,

Darkstorm presents Book One in the Rhenwars Saga: several more in this series are to be expected. Two nations teeter on the brink of war, each backed by powerful forces, and it may take an unholy alliance with black magic to achieve the positive goal of thwarting an apocalyptic event.

Being the prequel to the series, Darkstorm is a perfect introduction for newcomers and, for prior fans, fills in much information about the setting and people of this dark fantasy world; but readers anticipating a light, entertaining leisure read should be cautioned. As events play out, social and moral issues revolving around magic's use and its ultimate effects are highlighted, offering much depth, detail, and much food for thought.

Spencer's descriptions are sharp and pointed, drawing connections between characters, their physical attributes, and their moral and psychic abilities: "Arden Hannah was just as alluring as she was vile. It was a powerful and frightening dichotomy."

There are few clear-cut delineations of good and evil offered in the story and, as a result, choice is depicted as a changing (and sometimes questionable) set of options in a series of scenarios in which good intentions lead to bad results.

There is much temptation to become a 'darkmage', and even when a goal seems to lie in the realm of what is noble, the end results are often anything but good. As Braden and Quin struggle with magic, their choices, and their roles in their world, so readers are drawn into a story line that delivers powerful action but offers unexpected side dishes with introspective examinations of motivation, circumstances, and consequences.

As the plot evolves, readers come to see that the real struggle is not just between competing magical forces and methods of wielding them, but between different moral concepts and values systems.

The female characters of Sephana and Merris are as well-drawn and mercurial as their male counterparts, moving neatly from vixen and seductress to authoritative women both in charge of their destinies and, alternately, helpless against events that cascade over them all.

Intrigue, political alliances, and differing methods of displaying power and authority often come together through passages that expose the inner thought processes and relationships of protagonists as they interact with each other and with their world's social and political constraints: "Gazing at her former mentor, Merris was reminded of exactly why she had never liked the woman. Sephana had a way of positively exuding competence; it was a trait that made others trust her and turn to her for guidance. It lent credence to her gentle arguments and weight to her quiet authority."

Readers who enjoy political intrigue, psychological suspense, and military action will appreciate the attention to detail in Darkstorm that brings a magic-infused world and its peoples' struggles to life.

Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions
Jennifer Morse
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B019QW65Z6, $0.99

One might anticipate from its title that Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions will be a fantasy or the fable retold; but Jennifer Morse's background is in psychology, so here she uses the parable of the fairy godmother to examine choices and attitudes. Yes, this is couched in a fairy tale format; but it's anything but fantasy leisure reading, as readers will quickly discover.

Picture Cinderella's stark world after her parents died, for example. Unloved and grieving, Cinderella throws herself into work in an effort to cope with her loss and the cruelty that newly dominates much of her world. This process paves the way for a fairytale rescue - but not before she moves past her grief to arrive at the heart of what she truly desires and wishes to be. (In this case, in keeping with the original story, everything revolves around the Prince.)

The Cinderella character and fairytale is neatly juxtaposed with psychological insights in passages that pair a young girl's changing priorities and perspectives with the arrival of a miracle in her life. Under Morse's hand, these hurdles, barriers, and transformations are exposed as what must take place in order for Cinderella to be able to receive her gifts and perceive the truths of her world, and the idea of the singular rescuer becomes much more complex in Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions.

As the story's retelling embraces psychological concepts, scientific insights and science-based research evolves, and readers will be pleasantly surprised by a tale that succeeds in the difficult effort of taking a well-worn fantasy and injecting into it a completely different avenue of understanding: "Your mirror neutrons live next door to motor neutrons. Mirror neutrons are activated by your imagination, dreaming, even intuition. When the mirror neutrons ignite they cause a ripple out effect to the motor neutrons. In this way you are, literally and physically, preparing to live your goals by first dreaming them."

What a fine way of absorbing psychological insights! It could be said that Cinderella doesn't dream high enough: that her goals of achieving love and centering her psyche on a man are, in fact, self-limiting, and that the power of the fairy godmother is reduced by Cinderella's objectives. Feminist readers will undoubtedly take issue with this focus; but Cinderella undertakes these journeys alone, builds independence, and discovers newfound strengths, and so her goals evolve beyond the singular purpose of finding a man and basking in love.

The wider-ranging strength of Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions lies in its ability to serve as a guideline to translating ambition, opportunity, and life goals from fantasy into reality. Cinderella's growth process embraces mystical as well as psychological and scientific concepts and sweeps readers along for a walk into (and out of) her world. The result is a powerful examination of vulnerability and change that takes the trappings of a well-worn fairytale and injects it with new life.

Readers of psychology, fantasy retellings, and self-help books will find Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions a satisfyingly different approach that succeeds in packing much food for thought into what initially appears to be a simple retelling.

Patch of Dirt
Richard Lutman
Hawkins Publishing Group
P.O. Box 447, Bellflower, CA 90707
9780996214520, $13.95,

Joe Oliver is a weather-beaten, thirty-something cowboy in Montana, out looking for work, when he stumbles on a strange deal involving a sixty-something ex-Vietnam vet and his much younger wife.

It turns out that the task at hand is more than the usual ranching job. Rita and Frank are looking for someone to be the biological father for their child and Joe seems the perfect candidate for the job - until Rita falls in love with him.

A nasty triangle of complexity evolves, placing Joe in the much more dangerous position of having to solidify his feelings and make some difficult choices. What began as another ranch job has just turned into something far more complicated than anyone could have predicted.

Patch of Dirt is about ordinary people facing bad weather, bad ideas, and poor outcomes. It adds many elements to the Western theme that are satisfyingly unexpected as it probes the emotions and motivations of three very different characters, and it tells of a loner who has eschewed close connections until Rita enters his life. And even then, for him, circumstances are not cut and dried nor filled with sudden love, but foster a slow simmering of ambivalence.

As Rita snoops through Joe's soul and confronts her own mixed emotions, the characters uncover consequences from their actions and choices ("She knew Joe was breaking into pieces she couldn't mend. She hadn't meant for that to happen."). Joe and Rita find themselves in discussions and situations that lead each to question their lives and decisions.

That's one of the many strengths of Patch of Dirt, which takes many matters of the heart (from spirituality to sex and interpersonal connections) and closely examines them all.

Richard Lutman's attention to probing the separate psyches of Frank, Rita and Joe ("Even after marrying Rita he still felt a growing loneliness and fear. At sixty-five his life was nearly over. The last of his line, he wanted to finally be called Dad and maybe even Grandfather.") creates a powerful result when these individual examinations come together in an explosive reaction. As each protagonist probes their past and their interrelationships, the central theme of the story blossoms until each separate figure's struggles and regrets becomes driving forces in their choices for their future.

Readers anticipating a one-dimensional or shallow Western adventure will find Patch of Dirt something far more complex, showing how three very different people share their lives, come together, and depart. It's a powerful story that transcends the usual limits and perceptions of the Western romance, and will delight and surprise readers who seek something more than light action or casual romantic interplays.

Juvenal's Lament: A Political Fable
Alan Thompson
W & B Publishers
9781942981541, $17.99,

Juvenal's Lament: A Political Fable anticipates a prior affection for political settings and processes from its readers; but those holding such an affinity will find it replete with a fine blend of intrigue and insights. While its setting is in the (realistic) near future of America, the story line is close enough to modern times that it should be viewed as a fable or a novel, and not as political sci-fi in the traditional sense.

Tommy Sawyer is chosen to serve out a dead congressman's remaining term, but he doesn't expect to become involved in an impeachment trial of a Chief Justice. Events that follow create a tangled web of political confrontations and questions ranging from murder to corruption at the highest levels of political office.

What's a lone man to do - particularly one who has been chosen to be just an office placeholder before the next election? There are plenty of options, as Tommy discovers when a task urged upon him by officials and his wife becomes something much more complicated: "I had experience in Washington. Would I agree to run in the special election to fill out the remaining nine months of the term, while they settled on the district's next real Congressman? I thought not, but my wife - herself a native of Washington, D.C., and still owner of an historic Georgetown mansion - sought to convince me otherwise. "You're always complaining about the government," she said. "Now you can do something about it." "One man? In nine months?" "Maybe not. Maybe you'll run again. They all do." She paused. "And who knows? Given your history, nine months might be enough."

As the fable unfolds, Tommy's strength as a political outsider with insider status sets the stage for a series of events that are politically confrontational even as they are personally life-changing.

Readers can never accuse the protagonist of sitting quietly or taking events lightly. Tommy and his opinions are one of the driving forces of Juvenal's Lament and ultimately serve to depict the psyches, motivations, forces of corruption, and dangerous influences in mainstream governmental processes and procedures.

As terrorism, political manipulation, and disconnects between public interests and political processes comes to a boil, Juvenal's Lament becomes a heady rush into disaster tempered only by Tommy's ability to resist established procedures while lending his different voice to this world.

It's difficult to neatly peg this story. At times it's a murder mystery, at times an investigation into political process, and at other moments, a probe of life-changing events: "Had I learned anything that mattered? Perhaps Lucinda's mother was involved in the Radcliffe suicides. If so, was that just history, or did it have anything to do with the plot against the Chief Justice? Or the deaths in Greenwich Village?"

Can one man truly make a difference? That's one of the central questions driving Juvenal's Lament, a political fable that combines the fervor of a coming-of-age saga with a blossoming of personal and political processes in an era where America stands on the cusp of freedom and fascism, not entirely unlike where the world stands today.

Readers of detective and mystery stories, political process, and intrigue and investigation who enjoy a complex, ever-changing roll call of characters and special interests will find Juvenal's Lament a satisfying and unique story. It neatly juxtaposes the personal ambitions and life of one Tommy Sawyer with a crescendo of legal and political events that could lead to either all-out disaster or new beginnings; all resting firmly on the pros and cons of democratic political processes and how power is ultimately acquired and wielded.

Juncture at the Still Point
Sandra Jung Hall
Patchwork Publishing
9780972311212 $14.95

Stories about infant fatalities are challenging to write and often heart-wrenching reads, and Juncture at the Still Point is no exception as it follows a three-month-old infant with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, a progressive disease expected to kill infant Heidi Hall within a year of her diagnosis.

Juncture at the Still Point is written by Heidi's mother and follows the family's grief and chaos as they face a terminal diagnosis, an infant's disability and short life span, and the ups and downs of questions, confusing answers, hope constantly revived and then crushed, and the relentless progress of a debilitating condition.

Amid disaster and angst are insights on survival, growth, friendships, and more, though, and it's these nuggets of wisdom, insight, and life-affirming revelations that make Juncture at the Still Point more than a story of a child's terrible health issues.

Growth is life-affirming and even happens through the loss of all hope and in the face of death: "Through we wouldn't have predicted it at the time, our life with Heidi would become fuller, more beautiful, more purposeful, and even more fun than the life we had imagined with her before the diagnosis. Later, moments would come to be shot through with the sweet sharpness that comes with a heightened appreciation of the instant and consciousness of presence. Later, the world would be new to us again. I don't regret my inability to relate to some people in the same way that I did before Heidi's diagnosis. One finds there are relationships worth preserving, worthy the effort to breech that divide between the person she was prior to catastrophe and the person she is now. Other relationships are revealed as not as valuable as once believed."

As much as Juncture at the Still Point is about Hall's process of grief and struggle, so it truly shines with these nuggets of wisdom about life's slings and arrows and how to fjord the larger river of pain: "Events, circumstances, and our reactions to them are the components of life. Maybe when one embraces what life brings, including the bad "luck," there is a chance he or she can find good sort of ferocity within, like that of a "dragon mom" as defined by Rapp. Or perhaps of a disabled child who's been dealt a crappy genetic hand, but learns to navigate the world on her own terms."

The process may seem inevitable from the first chapter, but surprisingly, it's not set in stone. Sandra Jung Hall's journey and experiences pair grief and struggle with life-affirming insights, and it's this juxtaposition that makes Juncture at the Still Point a powerful, highly recommended read not just for parents struggling with child illness, disability and mortality; but for any who would think about the deeper meaning of life, death, and the richness that lies between these juncture points.

Sister Jaguar's Journey
Sister Judy Bisignano and Sandra C. Morse
Maketai, Inc.
9780990968818, $19.95,

Sister Jaguar's Journey is written by a Dominican nun who spent nearly seventy years in a lifelong quest for God, only to find everything she was seeking in the most unlikely of places: the Amazon rain forest. How a nun invited to speak to a community in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest becomes the student herself, re-discovering God while learning plant medicine and native ways, makes for a gripping and unique account.

It's not every day that a staunch believer in traditional Western Christianity not only comes into contact with a 'primitive' culture, but becomes personally immersed in and spiritually challenged by it.

But most of all, it's a special treat to follow the path of a woman who comes to embrace very foreign ideas, from the wisdom of Pachamama (Mother Earth) to rituals and beliefs that allow her to not just fully embrace other spiritual ways, but to let go of a faith with too many roots in self-depreciation and fear.

From Bisignano's forced exit from the convent as she stood up for justice and defied the spoken and unspoken rules of the Dominican circle to Sister Judy's fierce determination to follow her beliefs through the most turbulent of circumstances, one of the most striking facets of her journey is her flexibility in the face of rigid both internal and external systems.

Accounts of personal and spiritual transformative journeys typically hold one thing in common: their participants waver in their beliefs and paths. Sister Judy didn't waver; she jumped ship. She directly confronted her internal messages and deliberately placed herself in situations that led her to constantly question and search for new clues to different perspectives on life.

Her life-affirming journey is a testimony to flexibility and change, both spiritual and social, as she becomes involved in issues of justice and absorbs and imparts wisdom, finding a place for herself as a plant teacher in her new Amazon community. Her path celebrates and reveals this community: another fine point setting Sister Jaguar's Journey apart from other life-change autobiographical chronicles.

The result is a fine spiritual saga which holds several facets that set it apart from any other. This Dominican nun's transformation is told using lively, compelling language reflecting a zest for life and adventure, and charts an engrossing odyssey.

A video version of Sister Judy's story (9780990968823, $9.95) offers added value in visually bringing the rainforest peoples and environment to life.

Island of the Dolls
Jeremy Bates
Ghillinnein Books
9781988091082, $24.50 hardcover, $2.99 Kindle

Island of the Dolls adds to the 'World's Scariest Places' series with Book Four. Each book's setting is actually a real-world place, and so Isla de las Mune-cas (the Island of the Dolls) is actually a floating garden in Mexico. A legend about a drowned girl and dolls that haunt the premises forms the foundation for a gripping story that is a fine addition to the series, but also stands well on its own, making it an attraction for newcomers.

The tale opens with a little girl's near-drowning and the threat from gruesome dolls that leads her to flee. The compelling opener immediately shifts to the first person as the protagonist awakens from a nightmare and an alcoholic binge from the night before. He's part of an ad hoc TV documentary group that has come to investigate the legend of an area haunted by dolls, but the truth is even more bizarre when they find themselves immersed in murder, mayhem, and a legend that may prove all too real for comfort.

Island of the Dolls excels in creating gripping scenarios and building believable protagonists who move from disbelief and personal angst to terror. It employs many of the devices professional thriller authors use, creating solid characters and making them walk out of their familiar worlds into scenarios that challenge their beliefs and connections to each other, the world, and reality itself, and it provides a satisfying dose of horror wrapped in the compelling events of an investigation that takes many unexpected twists and turns.

This means that the action is vivid, the protagonists convincing, and the winding plot leaves nobody behind as it weaves through a virtual maze of creepy possibilities.

Readers might feel that some of the tension and scenes are a bit drawn out (such as when the protagonists face a dark crawlspace or hole and argue about who should face its dark possibilities), but this serves to neatly heighten tension and just when the build-up seems too much - snap - an unexpected discovery is made which could be either benign or explosively shocking.

Inject more than a small degree of social reflection into events ("Elizaveta recalled life in Saint Petersburg in the early- to mid-nineties. The brutal winters, the jostling for food and other basic supplies, the overcrowded buses, the cynicism and aggression, the robberies and racketeering, the misfortune and disdain etched on everyone's faces. Despite all this, her compatriots certainly had more than Solano - yet were their lives any better than his? Were they more fulfilled?") for a powerful saga that reaches out, grips strongly, and proves hard to put down.

Thriller fans and readers of Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, and other masters of the art will find much to love in this highly recommended, action-packed read.

Pilgrim Wheels
Neil Hanson
High Prairie Press
9780982639122, $14.95,

Pilgrim Wheels: Reflections Of A Cyclist Crossing America tells the story of Neil Hanson's cross-country bicycle ride, and the many revelations he discovers in his encounters with people along America's roads and byways. It's a story of life changing experiences focused not on the destination, but on the journey itself. Pilgrim Wheels is a superior production, and does a terrific job of capturing the experience of a cross country bicycle ride using crystal clear descriptions.

Hanson himself provides an introduction that deftly defines his process: "A pilgrimage isn't necessarily to anything, and not necessarily from anything. In fact, I suspect the greatest pilgrimages don't start off as pilgrimages at all, but rather as something else. Possibly an adventure. Maybe a journey at just the right time in a person's life. That's what this story is about. The idea of an adventure, that evolved into a journey, and from which a pilgrimage blossomed."

An idea that became an adventure evolved into a journey into something greater than originally conceived, and Hanson's ability to carry both bikers and non-bikers along for the ride is part of what makes Pilgrim Wheels such an engrossing read.

Descriptions capture the philosophies and nuances of Hanson's experiences: "I think those of us on two wheels feel a bit disconnected from the enclosed vehicles that represent the safe, status quo in the world. I like the image of a frontiersman riding out in the open on two wheels, akin to the horseman who's part of the world he rides through, rather than a spectator who experiences the world filtered through steel and glass. On two wheels, we feel the heat of the sun on our backs, we breathe in the nuance of the scent around us. We're experiencing the world of the road, not watching it from a climate controlled rolling theatre. We feel the wind buffeting our face or pushing us gently from behind."

The ideal reader of Pilgrim Wheels should not expect a travelogue full of routes or places, or even an account of touring basics; but a journey story spiced with the appeal of personal observation blended with philosophical reflection: "Dave sometimes wonders if I find more joy in life than he does. He's not saying that my life has more joy in it, but just that I seem more able to notice and savor the joy that's there. I don't really know if he's right or not, but if he is, then it's also true that Dave notices adversity less than I do. He just takes the wind shift in stride. He gears down and just keeps pedaling."

Descriptions are powerfully written and offer readers a compelling 'you are there' feel that captivates the reader regardless of his or her level of knowledge about bicycling or bicycle touring: "The tailwind was a bonus that turned this day of adventure into what might be the nicest day on a bicycle I've ever experienced in my life."

Pilgrim Wheels is a fine recommendation for anyone who would enjoy an armchair journey across America on a bicycle with Hanson, or who wants to prepare for the kinds of challenges a cross-country venture could bring.

The Black Panthers at War
Gina M. Dinicolo
St. John's Press
9780966298673, $12.99 paperback, $7.99 Kindle,

Readers of The Black Panthers at War: The 761st Tank Battalion and General Patton's Drive on Germany might at first anticipate a review of the notorious California Black Panthers group during the 1960s civil rights era, but this is a serious history about one of the most significant fighting forces in American history and should be in the collection of any serious military reader.

The 761st unit not only fought the Germans during World War II, but made a name for itself as the first African American tank unit to see combat. It served under General George Patton to fight on Europe's front lines. The unit experienced some of the most intense fighting of the war as it worked alongside Patton's Third Army to forge inroads that would lead to military success.

It should be noted that military readers of World War II history should also expect a healthy dose of biographical details about the tankers, descriptions of the social and political forces of the times, and a lively survey that embraces the personal lives and perspectives of many of the men, as well as their military struggles.

This well-rounded approach adds depth and an animated and compelling personal tone to the account, bringing the unit's entire experiences to life ("They moved through the frigid morning air. The roar of tank engines and the crunching of Sherman tracks broke the silence. The sound of German guns added to the cacophony.").

Military accounts often fail to add "you are there" details, or they focus excessively upon battle events overshadowing the lives of the men fighting. The Black Panthers at War uses these men and their leaders, including those in Washington, to recount this slice of history. These features make for a recommendation beyond its primary audience of military history followers and will attract anyone who would understand the special significance of the Black Panther force's achievements and the changing lives of its members.

Fraternity of Fractures
Mark Pannebecker
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781504957557 (sc) $16.95
9781504957540 (e) $3.99

Fraternity of Fractures opens with a girl called Phoenix, the white heat of a perfect crime in the making, and the smoky evening world of a St. Louis neighborhood about to serve as the backdrop for a clever event.

The first thing to note about Mark Pannebecker's writing is that it's as precisely attuned to creating atmosphere as the methodical crimes it describes: "In the distance a police siren sang, but Phoenix wasn't concerned - as Justin was prone to say, "It's the ones you don't hear that get you."

The second thing to note is that events often build to a seemingly-predictable conclusion, only to change mid-step, keeping readers on their toes. The cleverest of crimes may thus only result is a single coveted item being stolen, or the murky possibilities of attraction may occur between women as easily as between men. The sultry sounds of rock music from the 1980s are used to cement an atmosphere and sense of the times that revolves around places, personalities, and lifestyles teetering on the edge of disaster.

Don't expect a singular approach in Fraternity of Fractures. The story's not about a perfect crime, relationship, era, or location, but about the interrelationships of protagonists who are each searching for their place in the world. Such an atmosphere tends to be dark and brooding, pairing objectives and desires with observations which lead readers in unusual directions as past and present become interwoven with both social reflection and personal experience: "While waiting for Phoenix and Dylan, Justin looked at a newer, utilitarian building down the street and thought again about how it didn't fit in. No connection to the past, he thought again. The newer building reminded him of his father and when he turned away to look at the aesthetically more pleasing architecture of an older building his thoughts turned to his mother. No respect for the past."

Because of these sifting, shifting scenes, Fraternity of Fractures is likely to stymie readers anticipating a one-dimensional crime saga or a story of changing relationships on the edge of society, so one of the novel's special strengths may also be a reason (for some) for setting it aside. Brooding atmospheres and twists of fate, changing concepts of love, loyalty, the appropriateness of stealing from the rich, and a sense of dancing passions, purposes, and changes that keep protagonists and readers on their toes will not produce a read attractive for many a general-interest follower of mystery and suspense genre formula writings.

Such complexity is better reserved for those who appreciate literary devices that move beyond formula productions to probe the alleyways and atmospheres of characters who examine their motivations for stealing, the influences on decisions which lead to higher levels of crime, and the relationships that evolve and dissolve as part of this evolutionary process.

To call Fraternity of Fractures a 'crime novel' or a 'novel of suspense' would be to do it an injustice. Embracing elements of different genres (mystery, suspense, crime) and yet rising above them all with a sense of purpose and atmosphere that satisfyingly wings its way above and beyond most genre reads, it's an involving and evolved piece that ultimately connects the changing courses of very different lives.

Not for the mild-mannered reader in search of light entertainment, Fraternity of Fractures not only invites its readers to think - it demands it. The smoky backdrop of 1980s St. Louis in the midst of a crime wave is only one facet of a story about of fractures, healing, and change: an exquisite standout in a world of fast and dirty crime scene whodunits that sketch their worlds without truly capturing their complexity.

The Bricklayer
Rene Natan
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B007PKCHBI, $2.99

A construction company would seem an unlikely setting for murder, but the success of The Werkstein doesn't make it immune to fraud and its deadly consequences, as readers quickly realize as dangerous events unfold in The Bricklayer.

It all begins when a female engineer is hired to join the company's all-male crew, and though owner Fred expects problems, murder is not on the list of his worries.

As deaths begin to accumulate, identifying Fred as a likely suspect, a suspicious police detective views Fred's friendships, his behaviors, and his attempts to woo an officer in his own unit as mounting proofs of Fred's deadly intentions, and sets his radar on stopping the next murder.

The Bricklayer builds a story line that is anything but predictable. A construction worker's attention to precision bricklaying and working with stone would not seem to indicate a dual talent for successful murders, much less his choices in making decisions that barely hide his intentions. A police investigator's ability to connect the dots leads him in unexpected directions, and a series of murders might ultimately have their roots in something entirely different than logic would dictate.

It's not just up to the police to solve the crimes: readers are drawn in by Fred's actions and the motivations of those around him, and murder is only one of the many issues that permeate a story about a woman working in a man's world, company liabilities and assets, collateral damage, and murky inquiries.

The Bricklayer swings between Fred's world, the police department, those who work in the construction company, and evolving relationships with a deft attention to building drama and connections. It should be mentioned that there are numerous subplots and characters throughout, so this is no quick and easy read.

Readers receive a slow build-up that takes its time in forging these connections, and will appreciate the attention The Bricklayer brings to moving its protagonists into position for some fine revelations. It is a fine pick for readers seeking a story that pairs intrigue and romance with an engrossing series of escalating events that lead to a satisfyingly unexpected conclusion.

The Flower Fairy Superhero
Noam Atinsky, author
Bryan Atinsky, transcriber
The Flower Fairy Superhero Publishing, LLC
Hardcover: 9780988822603 $24.95
IBooks: 9780988822610 $5.99
Kindle: 9780988822634 $5.99

There was once a little girl named the Flower Fairy: a super heroine of a different nature, who loves to help people. Her bright red shoes enable her to fly, she holds an enchanted basket, and her mission is to help anyone in need.

When she comes upon a queen whose castle has been stolen from her by an ogre, she confronts an evil monster who is big, scary, and hungry. He's sure she will fight him - but her weapons are magical flowers and a big heart.

The real value of a superpower lies not in confrontation and battle, but in viewing 'evil' in a new, positive light: one that can change even the monster inside.

What happens next offers young picture book readers of all ages (and their read-aloud parents) a joyful story with an underlying, positive message.

The bright, simple drawings by Francisco X. Mora are presented in a format enhanced by a read-along audio that highlights words as they are spoken. The pages can be set to turn automatically, and professional voice-over actors enhance the compelling story line. The result is a delightful multi-media package that winds a powerful message within a light, fun story of a magical girl who wants to spread goodness through the world through her actions: a message parents will relish in a voice-saving format they will appreciate. The book in this format is available on IBooks. There is a Kindle version with audio, but not highlighted. There is also a hard cover print version on Amazon with a special price if you buy both the print and Kindle version.

The original 'flower fairy' was an American child, Noam, who loved stories involving superheroes who helped others. She was only five when she was killed, along with other family members, in a car accident in Israel - but months before her death she wrote a puppet play, dictated the story to her father and mother, and it was performed before her death at her 5th birthday party. It lives on in this book.

It should also be noted that part of the proceeds of all versions of the book go to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Judy Iverson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523815401, $13.75,

To call Pearlie a ghost story would be to oversimplify its intentions, because even though a ghost is involved, the real story is about the circumstances that created her - and here's where Pearlie really shines. How does a relationship spanning generations result in tragedy and a haunting? And what will keep the deadly scenarios from happening again?

Pearlie takes the ghost story format and elevates it into a saga of intergenerational relationships, examining how patterns are formed, repeat, and sometimes proceed towards inevitable conclusions unless something alters them.

Chapters take their time to build suspense and craft the set of circumstances surrounding Pearl's creation and ultimate demise, documenting family sufferings, blessings, and why one spirit is compelled to hang around after death.

Struggles to keep families together against all odds, fundamental belief systems and messy complications, and issues of accountability and angst drive a story that is as much about family interactions and patterns as it is about a wandering old soul's effects on these patterns.

All this is why readers looking for the typical ghost/haunting saga from Pearlie could be disappointed: there's far more depth here than in a singular ghost story, and a satisfying complexity revolves around family history which focuses on the bigger picture, where Pearl's presence is just one facet of what is passed between generations.

Readers who consider a ghost the icing on a cake of intergenerational angst and skeletons in the closet will find Pearlie a wonderfully evocative read, especially recommended for audiences who delight in stories of family history, mystery, and ultimately, forgiveness.

Ghosts of Mateguas
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815011 eBook, $2.99
9781944815004 Print, $16.95




Ghosts of Mateguas joins others in the Mateguas Island saga in providing the third novel in a series that excels in blending supernatural forces with a family's relationships and the lure of an island which has changed all their lives.

Here the story continues (prior familiarity with the preceding books is recommended) with the "Puffin Man" (who is dating Susan), Karen Andersen (who wonders about the true origins of her infant son and his connection to Mateguas Island), and a family that returns to the island which served as a scene of terror in the past.

The changes aren't over, yet: as each family member uncovers new challenges and horrors and a new body emerges to add to the previous roll call of carnage, it seems the lure of Mateguas Island is not only alive and well, but irresistible, once again holding the power to attract and change the lives of all who encounter it.

Bill, Karen, Terri, and Dex's fates seem predetermined and unshakable - or are they? Amidst a series of events that winds around a terrible truth and requires its protagonists to make difficult choices, Ghosts of Mateguas offers a compelling saga of grief, guilt, and perseverance that deftly combines suspense with supernatural intrigue.

Prior fans of the series, especially, will find the further interactions between the characters to be engrossing and satisfying, staying true to prior events while adding deeper insights and tension and intrigue to the mix and adding a dose of revelations and truths that draw together prior events in a satisfying new story just as well-crafted as its predecessors.

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield
Lawrence Hoffman
Page Publishing
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781682891049, $24.95,

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield provides the autobiography of an author who longed to wear a uniform and be part of an organization: a desire that would lead him from ball games and Scouts to joining the NYPD force in 1984, there to become a veteran police detective.

In contrast to many police stories which recount crime encounters and department politics, Turning Blue offers a satisfyingly different approach in documenting not only street encounters and detective work, but how this work is absorbed into an officer's psyche, belief system, and everyday life outside of the force. Turning Blue is at its strongest when depicting this process, which takes stories of detective work and juxtaposes them with personal insights on how challenges to psychological and physical survival are reconciled with life-altering events and tragedies.

There are stories of struggle and strife; but these are contrasted with touching moments of kindness which serve to emphasize that an officer's work is not all about conflict and confrontation.

From Columbian drug dealers to team operations, descriptions are precise and sometimes include a surprising touch of humor: "Generally, these things never go as scheduled. Most criminals have no concept of time, and it annoys the shit out of me. Is it too much to ask that you sell me my illegal guns and controlled substances at the agreed upon time? As narcotics cops, we are completely regulated by time."

These insights blend with Hoffman's family life and personal perspectives to provide a well-rounded coverage highly recommended for anyone who enjoys police protocol and true-crime accounts, adding a healthy dose of psychological depth that many police stories lack, making for a highly recommended, engrossing read.

Rita Stradling
Rita Stradling, Publisher
9780991082247, $14.99


Barnes and Noble:



Henchgirl, Book One of the Dakota Kekoa series, opens with an intriguing 'excerpt' from a book about dragons which has been banned from the public school system, and tells of how two species who were never supposed to meet became entwined through actions of humans, whose manipulation of chemistry dissolved the natural barriers designed to keep the two species apart. While this introduction sets the stage, Chapter One moves to the first person (and quite a different scenario) as a savvy protagonist faces a vampire who is just one of the dangerous forces lined up outside a club.

Dakota isn't really human: she's acting undercover in the human world as the spawn of dragon and human (a 'dracon'), and she's on a secret mission as rising tensions between dragon and human worlds portend war. As such, she not only walks the line between the two worlds which have made her, but she faces adversity and strife that are social and political in nature, grasping the basics of power, control, prejudice and politics with equally compelling attention to detail.

Take her family ties, for one example. She lives in a monstrously large ocean-view mansion, her power dampener allows her to read emotions and sift through souls, and she works for her grandfather, using her abilities to support her alcoholic mother and her siblings.

Just as the worlds of human and dragon mingle throughout the story, so the strengths and weaknesses of each come to life in the psyche and efforts of Dakota, who represents the pivot point where dragon and human concerns intersect.

A myriad of subplots revolving around different protagonists rounds out the atmosphere of Henchgirl and continually adds new insights into Dakota's world, but the swirl of action always centers on her challenges, decisions, and interactions within both worlds.

Perhaps the strongest facet of Henchgirl lies in Stradling's ability to craft powerful scenarios, compelling characters, and motivations that lead to higher purposes and concerns than the typical fantasy fueled by either dragons or teenage protagonists.

Dakota's ability to be an assertive 'bad girl' as well as a teen on the cusp of greater powers, and the dilemmas that come with each problem she must confront, makes for an engrossing leisure read that will reach beyond fans of teen magic stories or dragons and well into adult audiences seeking feisty protagonists and gripping story lines.

Insatiable Hate
Dennis A. Nehamen
Golden Poppy Publications
9780989057257 $15.99 Paperback, $2.99 ebook

Because Insatiable Hate picks up where Dennis A. Nehamen's Mistaken Enemy ends, it's recommended that readers have a priority familiarity with and affinity for Enemy to appreciate the smooth segue into events in Zach's life that is represented in this latest thriller.

Here Zach faces the aftermath of events that took place in Mistaken Enemy which makes him seem guilty of crimes he never committed, with the real perpetrator all too visible and all too intent on destroying his life.

Many of the themes that permeated the prior book continue here: revenge, conspiracy, murder, criminal activities, and a whirlwind of deadly circumstances that keeps Zach and those he loves in the center of danger. Readers who appreciated Zach's struggles in the first book will find added interest here as Zach continues to handle hate crimes and obstacles that seem insurmountable.

Serial killers and international intrigue, moments of relief nearly comic in their logic ("What was I complaining about? I didn't have any of those pressures. For me, it was just one lousy guy trying to kill me."), and the interplay between family and deadly forces is well done. These all expand Zach's personality and purposes and provide prior fans and newcomers with another wild adventure where everything is threatened and nothing is safe.

Insatiable Hate isn't just about hate and revenge: it's ultimately about tenacity and its ability to alter the course of events. Zach's efforts will continue to involve hearts and minds accustomed to thriller formats and will delight audiences with the notion that even when the inevitable seems inescapable, there's always hope.

Prior fans of Zach's adventures will find this latest story packed with nonstop action, while newcomers will want to turn to Mistaken Enemy for more.

Grammy's Glen
Toni Atkinson

Grammy's Glen consists of a poem and illustrations (the latter not seen by this reviewer) and tells of a wise woman who lives alone in a glen, surrounded by animals and natural beauty. She tends her animals and enjoys the lovely scenery alone, until a girl and her brother stumble upon her world and partake of its magic.

Children will find this gentle poem a fine introduction to a world of natural wonder, while parents will appreciate the fact that there are no threats of looming darkness or danger to spoil the feel of a fine day outdoors.

From observing colorful fish and ducks to watching vivid green turtles, it's enough for Grammy and the children to sit and enjoy their world. The poem imparts the sense that drama and adventure can be present even in the most gentle of observations.

The theme may promote seeing "through the eyes of a child," but Grammy's ability to enter this world and absorb and reflect the peacefulness of nature is what makes this piece special.

When paired with colorful illustrations, Grammy's Glen will be an excellent picture book recommendation for readers of all ages who would find adventure in the peace of nature and lives lead by animals.

Re-Enchanting Nature
David Vigoda
Collioure Books
9780972825009, $15.95

Frank is a photographer who has spent his life documenting disasters, but now he's on a different kind of mission: one that seeks to capture not despair and terror, but what is good and hopeful in the world.

His journey to the mountains of France only serves to emphasize his isolation, for there is nobody to greet him upon arrival and no connections to touch base with. He is alone, and his seclusion will be one of the facets that makes his re-connections with the world so vivid.

David Vigoda's special strength lies in his ability to take ordinary settings and circumstances and elevate them into accounts packed with extra-sensory life and perceptions: "Stepping onto the stairway beneath a brilliant mid-day spring Mediterranean sun, nodding goodbye to the co-pilot, he reminded himself that the only way to enter a new world was through the center of the old and that there could be no decisive move forward without the seductions of hesitation. At the bottom was a piece of old carpeting drenched in cleanser, an improvised response to a recent explosion of hoof and mouth disease among British herds, and as the liquid squished around his shoes he smiled at the attendants and gazed at the palm trees thinking that he had died and been reborn. 'That's why the attendant in Heathrow was so cheerful, she was my guide to the afterlife. I died there and the plane was my coffin. But that long claustrophobic corridor was also a birth canal, and the plane a bird carrying me to my new life. Emerging from it was rebirth, the disinfecting mat a purification."

Under his hand, the process of rebirth and protagonists whose very different lives and forms of chaos intersect make for gripping descriptions of vulnerabilities and revelations without neglecting intricate descriptions of the most subtle of details, such as a dinner between a physicist and a philosopher and how their discussion evolves into touch and something more.

Of necessity, these descriptions are sometimes lengthy and adopt a step-by-step examination of the process of connection. There's nothing quick about Vigoda's representation of these experiences, and readers searching for stories that skim over these smaller details in favor of nonstop action and drama might find themselves stymied by the slow, inevitable documentation of relationships and close encounters.

But that's one of the delights afforded to those who would take the time to absorb a fine meal rather than inhaling aromas on the run: they settle, they grasp, and they become an irresistibly compelling piece of a story line that moves deftly beyond two isolated and lonely individuals and into the trajectory of their lives and decisions and the intersection of choices both good and bad.

Using this slower approach, truths sparkle like gems from casual and serious encounters: "She stared at him, eyes still pleading for forgiveness, for him not to be too hurt. "To know how to free oneself is nothing," she said. "The hard part is knowing how to be free." She knew she was quoting from a novel again but at that moment, wanting so much to change the look in his eyes, she couldn't think of a better way to speak the truth." Arrogance, survival, science and nature, and the worlds of art and science ultimately lead to new definitions of love, new confrontations of myths, and original insights into reality, choice, and consequence.

Readers who look for a novel well steeped in philosophy which takes the classic love scenario and turns it upside down will find much to relish in this evocative story of loners who seek to reinvent not just themselves and each other, but their worlds.

Being Selfish: My Journey from Escort to Monk to Grandmother
Sarah Marshank
Sarah Marshank/Selfistry
9781682228142 $18.95
Through $29.00 for personalized signed copy
e-book 9781682228159, $9.99,

Sarah is twenty-two, facing a second unplanned pregnancy, and faces a difficult decision: whether or not to have her baby. Although raised in a traditional Jewish household, she searches for her own definitions of right and wrong, and this is just one of the many choices she confronts in Being Selfish, a memoir that documents a life journey as she moves from naive choices to a better, life-affirming path.

The first thing to note about Being Selfish is that it's all about the journey to finding one's path and purpose in life: an endeavor that is inherently selfish and which involves (for Sarah) a search of over twenty years of discovery: "If I don't have this baby, then I can just get on with my life, continue along the path I've been on. And what path is that? You know! The path I'm on. MY path. The path that doesn't have me birthing the child of some Rastafarian man I hardly know and certainly don't love. The path that doesn't have me living through another abortion. The path that leads me to fulfillment of my dreams, to a meaningful career, to my perfect mate, to happily-ever-after. THAT path."

Before her journey, the author was on such a conventional path, but was slowly suffocating from her decisions. Moral and ethical challenges to her behaviors lead her into a quagmire of inner struggles that cause her to take the first steps in developing a relationship with herself.

How does one move from being a paid escort to becoming a monk and then re-emerging into life with newfound family connections? It's a process that involves being selfish and self-centered for a time, while remaining committed to finding the heart of truth.

As she moves through relationships, psychic trials and physical disasters, and rich encounters with all kinds of people, Sarah slowly comes to embrace the finer art of 'selfistry' as part of the wider journey to self-realization, and moves to a place where she can regain a real sense of purpose and peace.

Readers who are on their own journeys will find fascinating Marshank's memoir of discovery, and will relish the process of her 'full immersion into life' which brings with it newfound joys and freedoms.

Being Selfish is a roadmap and a guide to the process which begins with a selfish kernel of self interest but expands to embrace the world - and with it, the pilgrim reader who would follow in similar footsteps, but to the beat of their own drum.

Nurse Commitment
Dr. April Jones
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508655671, $25.99

Dr. April L. Jones has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Organizational Psychology which lends her the expertise and ability to analyze business structures and their internal organizations and structures, and her Nurse Commitment addresses a key issue in health management: attracting and retaining nurses.

It applies basic business concepts of team building to the nursing profession with a special eye to managing multi-generational teams, addressing staffing problems not unique to nursing, but to a wider range of business environments.

Six years of research went into the method described here, so this is not just an opinion piece, but a data-supported method that delves into the makeup of multi-generational workplaces and their special challenges.

Chapters consider how employees become committed to their workplaces (or not), how this commitment differs between generations and workplaces, and how employers can foster the kinds of employee dedication that build stronger organizations.

From the emotional challenges of affective commitment to the obligatory responsibility patterns of normative commitment, readers receive an analysis of different degrees of commitment and their patterns of behavior, connections between age and nursing credentials, how managers can use employee development plans with a different eye to implementing better work team models, and how employees can better assess their own progress through worksheets and employer assistance programs.

The result provides a strategic model for a voluntary development program that takes the special strengths and focuses of each different generation into account to build a better overall team.

While nurses and healthcare institutions will be the logical readers of this eye-opening, revealing approach, many a business will want to pursue its infallible logic and attention to building not just explanations and ideals, but an implementable program based on solid research which is heavily footnoted with references and bibliographic materials throughout.

Forever Gentleman
Roland Colton
Anaphora Literary Press
2419 Southdale Drive, Hepzibah, GA 30815
9781681142296 $40.00,

Forever Gentleman is a historical novel set in Victorian London and blends the author's love for architecture, music and history as it steeps its story in the sights, sounds, and flavors of the era and follows Renaissance man Nathan, whose struggles as an architect and a musician bring him in contact with the ladies and lords of high society.

Nathan's gifts bring him love in unexpected places; but they also are challenged by his economic misfortunes and by threats that give him clear choices between romance or seeking safety in another country.

From the squalor of Debtor's Prison to judges, courtroom dramas, and the beckoning possibilities of a new life that takes his beloved piano concertos to new heights, Forever Gentleman is about a young man finding his place in society and the social trials and snafus (and romance) that confront him along the way.

Readers who like atmospheric, sweeping historical sagas cemented by the personal goals, observations, and challenges of protagonists who interact on many levels will relish Forever Gentleman's special ability to turn out a rollicking good read while remaining true to the history and influences of its times.

It's a romance, it's a mystery, and it's a history all wrapped into one satisfyingly beautiful production, and is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates a depth and attention to detail that results in a powerful story line.

The Living Miracle: A Love Story
Donna D. Vaal
Rose Dog Books
c/o Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Dr. Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
ISBN: 9781480966772, $TBA
e-ISBN: 9781480967007, $16.00

The protagonist in The Living Miracle: A Love Story was born in 3044 at The Center of Life in an age that has outgrown the need for a god and which births synthetically created babies. All babies are now born at a creation complex overseen by Master Izanagi, who has further plans for using the non-human humanoids which are often created along with their DNA counterparts as twins.

This is where the story begins - but it doesn't progress in a linear fashion and it doesn't go where readers may anticipate. There's nothing predictable about this world, where life and love are uncertain and strangely defined and where a loving boy gives new life to his numbered humanoid twin, acknowledging her as a piece of humanity rather than a toy or a casual creation.

Herein lies the problem, for an artificial being rescues her twin and thus is truly born into something completely different: an individual with a soul from God, charged with hiding her reborn consciousness until the time is right. The 'doll', 'computer', and 'thing' has come truly alive as a reward for her selfless act. What's next? Plenty, as The Living Miracle shows.

The two remarkable children must remain unremarkable in the eyes of their elders if they are to survive: "The Mosouka was programed from birth to understand things far above age, or human experience. Hiroto was an exceptional child. Like his great grandfather Master Izanagi Okamura, he was a genius with an IQ yet to be recognized on the charts. Had the Principled Noyen not been so busy with his own insane need to replace God, he would have recognized the genius in Hiroto." And so begins a game that weaves recovery, love, transformation, and belief into a compelling story that's hard to put down.

Is this a possible future? In a world bereft of God, focused on DNA structures and genetic manipulation, what place or purpose does a living miracle have? While twins and their connections are the central theme of this story, moral and ethical issues abound in a tale saturated with thought-provoking moments analyzing family connections, plots for control and dominance of life, death, and spirituality itself.

In a world where God is questioned and man has taken it upon himself to dictate reproduction and define humanity itself, is there a place for any reminders of miracles and a higher truth?

The Living Miracle is like no other. Compelling, filled with rich insights, and hard to put down, it creates a long and winding road documenting humanity's purposes, illusions, and its journey back to the certainty of a higher power in an age overtaken by godlessness. Both religious readers and secular followers will find The Living Miracle an intriguing and gripping story of an all-too-possible future altered by one miracle that stands alone as the flame to a bigger fire of hope.

Alone (#1 Flamestone Trilogy)
Holly Hook
Holly Hook, Publisher
ISBN: 1523368934, $8.99, Paperback
ASIN: B019TOP8HM, $0.99, Kindle

Alone is Volume 1 of the Flamestone Trilogy and opens with a bang: a smartphone tags the protagonist's best friend as 'MISSING', sparking the angst and attention of Elaine, who is on a journey to both save her friend and deny the possible connections between herself and her murderous father.

There's only one way of proving her different psyche, and that's to embark on a journey to find her friend. Best friends tell each other everything - but Talia never mentioned possible abuse from her foster family. Best friends keep no secrets - but Elaine has harbored one which she cannot seem to share with anyone. And best friends don't give up on one another - even when the situation seems hopeless, and even if the journey involves walking out of everything Elaine finds familiar.

Alone begins this quest and brings Elaine to a world with no smartphones, no technology support, and too many monsters. It's a world in which her rejection of her family background might have been the wrong move: a world in which these murderous impulses may be the only things standing between life and death.

Elaine's going to have to traverse strange lands and develop a skill set she never knew before - and readers are going to ride along for her heart-wrenching journey. It's just that simple, because once Alone is begun, it's hard to put down.

Feisty protagonists, excellent twists and turns of plot, and gripping moments of pursuit and life-or-death confrontations keep readers on the edges of their seats. Young adult to adult readers of fantasy, horror, and intrigue will find Alone is solidly cemented by protagonists who are not just believable, but absorbing. Their purposes, failings, and adventures become an intrinsic part of a saga that paints a stunning portrait of survival against all odds.

And yes, it's Book One. Be forewarned: more adventures will continue the journey introduced here!

Khahari Discovers The Joy of Family
Evan J. Roberts
Empowered People Press
9780996646314, $9.95,

From the beginning, baby Khahari is passionately loved, and there's much to be done to prepare for the new arrival. The routines and expectations of new parents are captured in a light rhyming verse and a picture book presentation that celebrates family from the initial discovery of a new baby's imminent arrival to bringing the child home and raising it.

Illustrations by Janine Carrington offer large-size, fun, and very colorful drawings of family scenes, while the gentle text will lend visual support to a vivid family story that steps a child through the process of anticipating the joy of a newborn's arrival. In almost every image the parents and child are smiling, laughing, and enjoying life: a bright and positive message that captures the joys of discovering the world.

As Khahari grows up, he experiences the world for himself and discovers his own joys, from a family zoo visit at the age of two to the interjections of Mister Fearful, who would question even the easiest of outings.

How the family keeps Mister Fearful at bay and enjoys the world together makes for a warm, cozy rhyme that captures a family well versed in hugging, kissing, and displays of affection.

Part of successfully interacting with the world is having faith and a positive perspective: these are taught here as the family picture unfolds and grows. Kids and parents using Khahari Discovers The Joy of Family as a read-aloud will find it a delightful supporter of a family's drive to experience the best life has to offer, creating a positive message that makes for a standout read highly recommended for parents looking for supportive and fun texts.

Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Voyage of Discovery
Susan Joyce
Peel Productions, Inc.
ISBN 9781943158904 (trade paper) $15.99
ISBN 9781943158911 (Amazon Kindle) $5.99

It's a long journey from Ojai California to a pleasure yacht on the Indian Ocean, and one normally undertaken with a certain degree of expertise under one's belt, using a roadmap for success.

Susan Joyce had neither. What she did have was a shaky marriage, a comfortable (if not naive) life in Southern California, and the lure of a different world which was accompanied (she discovered later) by a set of falsehoods and dangers that nearly cost her life.

Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Voyage of Discovery documents the process whereby she grasps for something greater than stability and comfort, only to find herself nearly losing everything - a second time.

Not everyone would opt to embark on a sailing trip only to find out too late that it's taking place during monsoon season. Not everyone would jump at the offer to help crew a new boat with a set of strangers when one's own experience as a sailor is limited. And few would survive the storms that batter ship and psyche alike as Joyce comes to discover that the illusions in her world are all too stark and real, and hold the possibility of ending everything she knows.

To call Good Morning Diego Garcia a memoir or a travelogue - or even a sailing yarn - would be to do it a grave disservice. Joyce's ability to take the higher road of adventure and insight and elevate them to new heights in a format that transcends all of the usual approaches to either memoir or travel story makes it a standout in both genres.

One the reasons why this is so is the author's attention to plenty of dialogue between everyone involved, and to presenting different perspectives on hopes, dreams, and events: "I prepared pork chops and coleslaw for dinner, and pondered the life jacket answer for a few moments, imagining what strange creatures might live in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean eagerly waiting to nibble on toes and fingers of a human floating in a life jacket. "An opportunity like this can't be missed," Charles said, pouring us wine."

Another reason why Good Morning Diego Garcia shines so strongly is that it's, quite simply, the kind of adventure of a lifetime that so many dreams of and so few achieve (not the marital challenges; but the ideal of sailing exotic seas on a luxury yacht.) It all sounds so alluring, so romantic, and so wonderful.

Hold that thought. Good Morning Diego Garcia explores the other side of it. And it'll bring along a wealth of readers - memoir fans, armchair travelers, sailors of large and small ships, and would-be-adventurers - for a rollicking good ride filled with rolling waters and cultural encounters, history, politics, and people living in limbo in more ways than one.

The edge of adventure has never felt so compelling.

On Stand-By South of Heaven
Steven Koss
Amazon Digital Publishing
ASIN: B01BPPQG6U, $2.99

Many readers will realize that at some time in their lives, they may need to care for parents, even if they don't have a good relationship with them and even if they have lives elsewhere. Steven Koss was such a son, who dropped his life upon learning of his father's diagnosis of cancer and moved from Florida to Ohio, confident that he could help make a difference in his father's last months of life.

In truth, what is revealed in Koss's account in On Stand-By South of Heaven: Coping with Cancer - My Struggle, My Journey, My Growth is far more than a story of altruistic or loving care: it's a saga of nitty gritty struggle on many levels, all spiced with the specter of death, and it comes from a son who entered his father's world only to find it packed with fights with physicians, lawyers, social workers, and financial institutions.

The fact that Koss did not have a close relationship with his father when he learned of the brain cancer diagnosis only serves to reinforce that his choices are indicative of a powerful personality whose determination to make a positive difference belayed the fact that end of life scenarios often become quagmires of struggle on many levels. Fulfilling a care promise made to his grandfather, Koss takes the leap.

In truth, he was facing his own dilemma with unemployment, looming bankruptcy, and financial, so his father's growing needs neatly juxtaposed with his personal need to choose a different direction in life.

One notable feature of this story is his candid assessments of family relationships and the difficult choice of caring for a distant father: "I was caught in a tough spot. I told Jack years earlier I would come when needed, but not before. I felt it was my duty to take charge as the only person able to. On the other hand why should I sacrifice for someone who was not there for me as a child?"

Duty, sacrifice, and ethics and morality come into play as Koss considers the pros and cons of his choices and makes a difficult decision to help: "There were so many variables, and the effects on the people in my life would be severe. A part of me wanted to get out of Florida because that road was stagnant. I thought it might be time to reengage in college. This is the selfish side talking. Another part of myself didn't want the responsibility of care giver. There were too many unknowns in this equation up north. My life in Florida was very predictable and comfortable. I took in the fact that nobody could handle my father. Jack needed me, but did I owe this to him or my father? I'm sure most people like me, ask themselves, "Would they do it for me?" I already knew the answer to that, "No", but I had given my word to Jack."

Few stories of choices at the crossroads of life are as clearly analyzed and portrayed (usually it takes an outsider's dispassionate involvement to clearly make such observations), and few results of these choices are so enticingly analyzed throughout as in this compelling memoir.

The author's ability to candidly self-assess as well as to present all sides of stormy situations are one of this story's great strengths: "Staring off into the gulf, it came to me that going home was the right thing to do. Not because I gave my word, although this is important, but because in giving a part of myself up for someone else was the greatest gift I could give in life. I thought of people serving others and I wanted to do my part, I wanted to be like them. Now that I think back on it maybe it was a selfish decision. My life in Florida was not excellent by any means. I wasn't feeling particular good about myself."

Family connections and dysfunction, loneliness and fear, and struggle don't end upon death: Koss finds himself cast adrift even while freed of some end of life challenges, and still must find his way in the world - this time without parents: "There was still a ton of work to do as my father had no will. I was still meeting with lawyers and brokers regularly. I was dealing with the courts and the DMV. I was a full time student and worked at least 30 hours a week. I was visiting my grandfather twice a week and my mom once a week. I might have looked fine on the outside to most but I too was dying slowly. I had no passion for the days and I kept getting through with drugs and alcohol. When there is a hole in your soul you'll try and fill it with anything."

In the end, the life lessons he learns will provide a new foundation where one didn't exist before - and leaves readers of On Stand-By South of Heaven with and skills to apply to other life challenges.

Why take the higher road? Because its riches promise far more than any comparative safety or smoothness of the road more traveled. Steven Koss's journey towards these riches in On Stand-By South of Heaven is a powerful indicator of how to live a life well examined and ultimately secured by positive, growth-inducing choices.

The Gilded Cage
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing
9780996013123, $14.99 paperback, $4.99 digital

One doesn't expect a fictional story of two privileged people to reflect the historical transformation of one of America's largest cities; but any with an interest in Chicago history will quickly discover The Gilded Cage is just such a gem - a history embellished with all the drama of fiction, bringing events and protagonists to life.

Any good novel captures the sights, smells, and scenes of its setting, and The Gilded Cage opens right away with these feelings: "He would never forget the smell. It crept into the railroad car and clung to his clothes and the prickly plush seats on which he'd sat and slept for two days. It was almost strong enough that he thought he could reach out and touch it. A whiff of animal odors, a hint of sewage, but mostly a swamplike mustiness, oppressively heavy."

As the murky muddiness of early Chicago comes to life, along with the uncertainty of a traveler who could have lived anywhere else and perhaps enjoyed a better environment ("He hesitated, peering uncertainly out the window to see only an empty, muddy field with small buildings in the distance. In his mind, he saw Lockport, New York, with its neat frame homes with white picket fences, carefully tended shops, lovely old trees. Or New York City - he could take the train back to the city and carve a sophisticated life for himself there."), the story of how a Quaker child evolves into a man who reaches for more than a tranquil country community life creates a vivid introduction to Chicago's world.

Readers journey with Potter into this world, experiencing his marriage, his interactions with high society's functions, and the social and political forces working to transform the rugged city into something more modern.

Few novels can capture all the forces affecting an urban struggle for modernity. That The Gilded Cage does so through the perceptions and efforts of protagonists who hold various disparate special interests, from women's suffrage to architectural and building challenges, is testimony to a well-rounded survey of how early Chicago evolved and the forces at work to transform it.

From fires and riots to amazing triumphs, Potter and Cissy are part of how and why their world changes. The Gilded Cage provides readers with a vivid re-enactment of Chicago's most amazing period of history through their eyes. Culminating in the fairytale World's Columbian Exposition, The Gilded Cage shows why sometimes you can't go home again - or how a world can change to the point where it can no longer be called home.

Readers of historical fiction (especially those with an affinity for Chicago) will relish every page of this inviting, atmospheric story.

By Your Deeds
Boston Teran
High Top Publishing
9781567030686, $9.95

By Your Deeds tells the vivid story of one Violette Sier, a female attorney of the 1920s New York who finds herself traversing the globe in defense of her latest client, an American war hero who is being detained and imprisoned overseas; but to call this a story revolving around detective work or courtroom battles would be to do it a grave disservice.

By Your Deeds is also the story of a young career woman who follows her impossible dreams, of a nation coming of age against the backdrop of war, of survival against all odds, and of a decorated soldier's last dream of traveling to Mongolia retracing the journeys of Genghis Khan: a pursuit that places him in more danger than his what he faced during wartime years.

There's more than one way of obliterating purpose in life, and though Harlan has learned this during war, it's a lesson that is destined to return to him time and again in the course of this story ("Sweeping it away is meant to symbolize the impermanence of life and the world. It is part of the lesson to be experienced and learned.").

At a pivot point in history where war gives way to powerful and significant events and when men and women stand on the cusp of empowerment, Violette and Harlan are oddities in a world still churning with political and social violence.

Patriotism and passion, endearment and idealism, and forms of tyranny and oppression all come together and haunt Violette and Harlan's movements as they dance around the social structure and culture that is Europe and beyond - and around one another: "She was a moment of wordless beauty. If he could have dreamed her up, he would have. He felt like a lonely soul on a rooftop who had just been found. She'd entered his existence and consumed it like a fever, but in the back of his mind was a stealthing fear this could all only promise sorrow."

Envision a ballet. Every movement is precise. Every description is crafted for maximum effect and social, legal, and political processes are honed to sharpened edges as Violette faces circumstances she never dreamed of, in which "A thousand dreams went off inside her head like tiny sparklers."

The best novels come with quests, romance, good and bad deeds, retribution and redemption. By Your Deeds follows these processes, using two vivid protagonists to explore life and love in a long journey that examines deeds done and undone, using sterling language that is precise and bright: "They lay together in silence in the dark of a warm night in the sanctuary. They had spent it all. One's leg hung over the other's like a draped hour hand. The air was heavy as a long summer from their breathing. You look to find important words but to what end? No matter how armed you are with words or passion, with caring or love, in the end you are left clinging to one truth - time is mortal."

With its wider-ranging examinations crafted within a story of redemption, forgiveness, and discovery, all wrapped with crystalline words and compelling descriptions, what's not to like, here? The package simply shines and will attract fiction readers seeking vivid writing and a compelling novel of transformation and adventure.

Snapshots: An Extraordinary Glimpse at Ordinary Lives
Alasdair Gardner
Amazon Digital Publishing

With so much talk about seeing bigger pictures, finding hidden meanings in life and words, and creating works that embed these bigger-than-life concepts into ordinary experiences, it's refreshing to find a book that focuses on the smaller segments of what makes life extraordinary; and that smaller piece is Snapshots.

The five short stories in this collection capture one small piece of a life. Each piece is stand-alone, but each segment holds within it a kernel of observation that both connects it to the other stories and provides a self-contained revelation all by itself.

Take "Timmy's Truck", for example, in which a Yankee businessman trying to assimilate into his new Virginia environment looks to buy a pickup truck, only to find it's actually a vehicle for something much more than integration.

Or think about the camaraderie, companionship, and underlying competition in "The Poker Game", a regular series of interactions whose rules and psyches are shaken by a newcomer to the group who introduces a different kind of game.

Test drives through culture and social mores, games turned all too serious by one change in makeup and strategy, and issues of love, loyalty, health and disease, and slightly altered consciousness make for joyrides through space, time, morality, and individual lives.

Passion and poetry, office politics and angst, new beginnings and odd conclusions - all these are deftly captured in snapshots of the moment that capture pivot points where change can either stall or progress.

Like exquisite gems, they shine alone. Presented as they are in a collection holding a light entwining of themes and approaches, they are even stronger, and will delight readers of literary short stories who enjoy short vignettes that glimpse and reveal individual lives.

Awakening Kali
T. S. Ghosh
Zharmae Publishing Press, LLC
Paperback: 9781943549436 $14.95
Ebook: ASIN: B01806MTKY $4.99

Awakening Kali is set in the 1900s in Bengal and opens with the myth of the Indian goddess Kali, who savors the taste of the demon blood she has consumed and dances a primal victory dance of destruction until she realizes that she may have destroyed something she loves.

Fast forward to quite a different world in 1937: one in which Kali slumbers and her wrath has left the world. In this world, Chhaya is the youngest daughter in a family that doesn't want her, and she finds a new beginning in life when she is married off to a man who really loves her.

But Chhaya's world trembles under the weight of love, newly awakening the destructive fires of Kali. Is Chhaya cursed or blessed, and will the slumbering powers of her own passion destroy everything she loves?

Awakening Kali is a unique read about another culture, another time, and cross purposes. It's infused with pending disaster, it creates a captivating story of wrath and various forms of mental illness, and it places characters at odds with their world.

The rich culture and traditions of India are an integral part of a story infused with mythology and social tradition, while Chhaya's choices and challenges and India's perspective on mental illness is exquisitely portrayed, woven into a tale of love, madness, and change.

Dialogues between protagonists create powerful scenes in which insanity is displayed and probed: "Forget the cleaning today. The cleaning doesn't matter. Don't you know what today is?" He gave her a forced smile. "It's Independence Day! India is finally free of the British! It's monumental! It's what our parents and grandparents dreamed of! The entire city is celebrating. We need to take the children and be a part of this historic moment!" He watched the change in her face as she absorbed his words. He saw the glimmer of rational thought battling with the madness in her brain. For a moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of the old Chhaya, his Chhaya, peering up at him. And then, in a flash, she was gone. And the madwoman returned in her place. "I don't care what day it is! I have to get the house cleaned! I have to! Don't you understand?" She gave him a frantic look."

Self-knowledge is often a part of mental illness, and as Chhaya descends into a dark place, she admits what is going on even as she's helpless to change it: "Of course, it wasn't the gods that she was angry at - at least, not right now. No, it was Arun she was angry with. It was his fault that she had lost count. After all, it was his stupid, idiotic story that had distracted her. She paused. Was it really just a story, though? Or was leaving them something he was truly considering? Was he really that unhappy? Part of her brain laughed at its own query. Of course he was that unhappy - he was living with a wraith, a phantom of a wife who haunted him with her lunacy and her rage. Because that's what she truly was - a dark, angry, cavernous shadow that shrouded everything and everyone she touched. No wonder he wanted to leave her."

Many stories about mental illness are set in Western cultures. To find one that reflects the cultural norms and social perspectives of another world is exceptional, and to wind a plot from the different perspectives of protagonists caught up in this world and its limited choices - well, that is extraordinary.

Awakening Kali is more than a novel about obsessive-compulsive mental disorder. It's a story of how that condition becomes a part of Indian society and how it transforms the lives of all it touches, offering a riveting, compelling read that is hard to put down and especially recommended for any with an interest in mental health stories in general and Indian culture in particular.

What the Clocks Know
Rumer Haven
Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd.
ISBN: 9781910510896, $TBA
ASIN: B01C8PQHAQ, $2.99

Margot is changing her life: she's dumped her boyfriend, quit her job, and has moved to London in search of herself, unsure of what her next move should be.

This question is answered for her as the old house settles in around her (or, does she settle into it?) and brings with it strange dreams, other lives, and a ghostly possibility.

It's not unusual to find a ghost story couched in the broader tale of a lifestyle change; but what brings What the Clocks Know to real spooky life is its ability to timeslip the protagonist between Victorian and modern London to enter different worlds that each serve as a microcosm of love, hate, and everything in between.

The scene opens with a poignant depiction of this state of mind. The protagonist is in mourning for a lover; a solitary affair in which she wishes herself dead, as well. There is a price to be paid for having been 'born old', and that price is death. How Margot comes to be in this state and where she stands in the worlds she traverses is the subject of a haunting saga that immediately opens with the timeslip potentials in life provided in the enchanting young adult novel Charlotte Sometimes.

From these clues one quickly determines that Margot is not uninformed on these matters, and that her life is actually a set up for the final act in which a journey out of her world will become longer and go farther than she could have imagined.

Diary entries and death sentences, crazy dreams and unreal entities, wicked arguments, parallel lives, and friendships holding promises of renewal, and spirited women tamed and lost ... all these elements combine in a powerful novel packed with eye-opening imagery and tales of spirits dead, alive, and evolving.

What does it take to find a soul mate in another world, or to live a full life in two dimensions? What happens when two bodies sharing one soul unite? Margot may be running away from something, but she finds she's actually running into another conundrum as well: one from which she may never escape.

The entire production is a gripping read, highly recommended for ghost story enthusiasts, timeslip novel readers, and anyone who likes romance and powerful protagonists facing unexpected circumstances.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph
Dominique Baque
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500093993, $70.00, HC, 300pp,

Synopsis: Anselm Kiefer (born 8 March 1945) is a German painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys and Peter Dreher during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac. The poems of Paul Celan have played a role in developing Kiefer's themes of German history and the horror of the Holocaust, as have the spiritual concepts of Kabbalah.

The work of Anselm Kiefer begins with a crucial question: how, after the Holocaust, can one be an artist within the German tradition? Born at the end of the Second World War, Kiefer's career represents a quasi-existential quest to redefine Germanness.

"Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph" by art historian Dominique Baque examines the foundation of Kiefer's work in terms of memory and our response to it. Kiefer's artistic perspective is informed in turn by great literary works, myths, tales, legends, and particularly the world of Kabbalistic mysticism. This unprecedented monograph explores Kiefer's passion for alchemy, his admiration for great female figures obscured by history, and his relationship with the landscape and nature, a notable topic of his most recent works.

"Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph" also highlights an aspect of Kiefer's work that has received little critical attention: his conceptual understanding of the book and photography. In fact, Kiefer mixes many forms and media, and Baque expands this study with a discussion of the often-overlooked performance element of his work, starting with his first actions from the end of the 1960s.

Critique: Enriched with some 250 beautifully reproduced illustrations, "Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful, insightful, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented. "Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph" should be considered a significant and core addition to personal, community, and academic library Art History reference collections in general, and Anselm Kiefer supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Out of the Rough
Steve Williams
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735232778, $26.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: With 150 wins to his name, Steve Williams is one of the most successful caddies of the modern era. From his modest start in freelancing his way around the world's golf courses, he became a man in demand, working with some of the golfing world's best. Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Terry Gale, Ian Baker-Finch, and Adam Scott all benefited from the knowledge, experience, and honesty for which Williams is known. Williams is perhaps best known, however, for his triumphant thirteen years on the bag of Tiger Woods. Together, Woods and Williams won more than 80 tournaments including 13 major championships among them. But it wasn't all celebrations. Despite his best efforts, Williams could only watch as Woods fell from the podium, his game in decline, ignorant of the scandal about to make headlines around the world that would nearly ruin Tiger's pro career. In this memoir, Williams tells the stories of golf's elites that you won't hear anywhere else including the highs and lows of their careers, and the critical role of a caddie in both spots.

Critique: Extraordinary, impressively well written, inherently fascinating, highly entertaining,"Out of the Rough" offers a rare insider's view of the professional golfing world and should be considered a "must read" for all golfing enthusiasts and sports fans. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Out of the Rough" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).

The Whittling Handbook
Peter Benson
Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd.
c/o GMC Distribution
9781784940751, $12.95, PB, 120pp,

Synopsis: Whittling is an art form that can be as simple or as complex as you like. "The Whittling Handbook" is a delightful and profusely illustrated instruction book that will deftly guide the reader through the basics starting with straightforward projects such as a garden hand tool and paper knife, then progresses to more complex and intricate items such as a linked chain and whistle. The tools needed, plus the basic techniques of whittling and how to perform them safely are all covered in a clear and straight forward way.

Critique: "The Whittling Handbook" is the perfect introduction to the simple, yet immensely pleasurable, craft of creating attractive objects with nothing more than a knife and a piece of timber. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, composition and presentation, "The Whittling Handbook" is very highly recommended for anyone aspiring to whittle as a pastime or hobby, and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

Silver Buck
Lynn Luick
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781503525443, $22.99, HC, 234pp,

Synopsis: The man that broke the door down was Dancing Bear, a friend of Foster. After finding out that Foster was all right, Dancing Bear and his braves left for their village. In a few days, Buck and Foster left to follow the map to the mine. On the way, they stopped at Dancing Bear's village. For the first time, Buck met the beautiful daughter of Chief Dancing Bear. They fell in love with each other in the two days that they spent together. But Buck and Foster had to leave.

They got trapped on top of a mountain in a fierce snowstorm, but they found a cave and held up there for a month. They finally escaped down the mountain to the town of Telluride, where they spent the winter. In the spring, they set out again and found what they were looking for - a silver mine. They mined some ore and headed back to Durango. On the way back, they were stopped by the man that had killed Jeb, Buck's great-grandfather. They had a gunfight, and Buck came out on top.

They got back to Durango and hired men to work in the silver mine. Everyone decided to call Buck Silver "Buck." They reached the mine, but Walters was there trying to find the mine. Their men had a gun battle, and Buck and his men took over their mine. They mined all summer and winter, and the next spring, Silver Buck sent for his mother and father to come to Colorado with some men and five thousand heads of cattle to start a cattle ranch. While waiting for the cattle, Silver Buck and Red Bird, Dancing Bear's daughter, got married. Silver Buck bought all the land south of Durango to the border of New Mexico. Silver Buck and Red Bird went to meet his mother and father near Santa Fe. Red Bird was worried that his parents wouldn't like her. She had worried for nothing for his parents loved her and how honest she was.

When they got back to Durango with all the cattle, after nearly losing them all to the heat of the desert, they had a big shindig with all the townspeople and the Indians. Silver Buck then showed his parents their new home, as well as his and Red Bird's new home. They were as large as the homes back east. They even had indoor plumbing, to everyone's surprise.

Red Bird announced that she was with a child. About eight months later, she has Little Silver, which was what everyone called him but Buck. The boy spent time with both grandfathers. He learned both worlds, the one of the Indians and that of the white man's. Buck thought that his son would turn out to be a very good man because he knew and understood both worlds.

Buck let Foster run the mine, and he and his father operated the ranch. Life was good for the Taylor family and the town of Durango. This was when Red Bird said she was going to have another child. They had a little daughter this time.

During the four years that have passed, Buck had had a dream three times. In this dream, he is riding up to a ranch house, and he sees a woman with long black hair with a four-year-old boy on her right and a two-year-old girl on her left. One day, Buck was riding up to the house at sundown, and there on the front porch was Red Bird, and to her right was Little Silver and to her left is their two-year-old daughter. He thought to himself that, yes, dreams can come true.

Critique: "Silver Buck" is one of those deftly crafted western novels that will linger in the mind long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for community library Western Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Silver Buck" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1503525450, $15.99) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

The Gospel of the Twin
Ron Cooper
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610881593, $25.00, HC, 331pp,

Synopsis: An ancient legend claimed that Jesus had a twin brother Thomas. An extra-Biblical text that dates from perhaps as early as the late first century CE (which would make it the same age as the Biblical Gospels) claimed to be the secret teachings of Jesus as recorded by Judas Didymos Thomas. The Greek word Didymos and the Aramaic word Thomas both mean "twin". While only several Greek fragments of this manuscript, dating to the early second century CE, actually exist, a manuscript written in Coptic from the fourth century was discovered in 1945. This Gospel of Thomas contains 114 purported sayings of Jesus, many of which resemble passages in the New Testament.

Drawing upon years of extensive research in early Jewish and Christian history and recent work on the historical Jesus, acclaimed novelist Ron Cooper focuses on Thomas of Nazareth, old and bitter after years of self-imposed exile from his homeland, who returns to Jerusalem to write a book about his identical twin brother Jesus. Disgusted by how others have perverted his brother's message, Thomas wants to set the record straight. But in doing so, he must try to unravel the enigma that was Jesus.

Provocative, inventive, and sure to be controversial, The Gospel of the Twin draws upon scriptural and ancient, non-Biblical sources to present an imaginative version of the founding of Christianity through scenes of violence, tenderness, and mistaken identity that will change the way the world thinks about Jesus. For fans of such books as Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly, and even such Dan Brown novels as The Da Vinci Code, Cooper's The Gospel of the Twin may also appeal to readers of sophisticated Bible scholars such as Bart Erhman, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Elaine Pagels, all of whom have written academic works as well as books more accessible to the general reader.

Critique: Impressively well written, thoroughly absorbing, informative and intensely fascinating from beginning to end, "The Gospel of the Twin" will prove to be of immense interest for academics, clergy, and non-specialist general readers alike. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library New Testament Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Gospel of the Twin" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor
Ward Farnsworth
David R. Godine, Publisher
Fifteen Court Square, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02108-2536
9781567925487, $27.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric" was the definitive guide to the use of rhetorical devices in English. Here now is the natural sequel, "Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor", arguably the most entertaining and instructive book ever written about the art of comparison. A metaphor compares two things that seem unalike. Lincoln was a master of the art (A house divided against itself cannot stand). So were Jefferson (The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants) and Shakespeare (All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players). "Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor" is the finest collection of such figurative comparisons ever assembled. It offers an original analysis of patterns in the sources and uses of metaphor. It also explains the different stylistic ways that comparisons can be written, and with what effects. "Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor" starts by dividing the sources of metaphor into families, including nature, architecture, animals, and myth. It then shows how the best writers have put each of those traditions to distinctive use for the sake of caricature, to make an abstract idea visible, to make a complicated idea simple. "Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor" provides, along the way, an extraordinarily wide-ranging tour of examples from novelists, playwrights, philosophers, and orators. There is interest, instruction, and amusement to be found on every page.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating, informative, unique, and absorbing read from first page to last, "Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor" is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of metaphors, and as a critically essential addition to community and academic library collections.

The Pursuit of Wisdom
Dean Chavooshian
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478743729, $29.95, HC, 446pp,

Synopsis: After earning a degree in Theology and Philosophy, Dean Chavooshian has given the origin and meaning of life a great deal of thought in an effort to live it fully-with grace and intelligence. In the process, he discovered that discussions on reality are empty without the consideration of scientific inquiry as they inform each other on the nature of human existence. "The Pursuit of Wisdom: A Chronological Inquiry of the World's Most Influential Seekers of Wisdom In the Fields of Theology, Philosophy and Science" draws from the great minds that have dramatically changed the world and helped man imagine himself in it. "The Pursuit of Wisdom" is an informative read for clergy, academics, and non-specialist general readers interested in such diverse questions and historical incidents as: Is the soul immortal? Is reincarnation possible? Islam's holiest shrine in Mecca was built by the founding father of the Jewish nation. How one man uprooted 1500 years of Roman Catholic domination with a simple document. Is the world pre-determined with orderly harmony or governed by man's free will? Is knowledge gained solely from experience and reasoning-or is it innate? How the self-awareness of existentialism allows one to live an authentic life. How 9th century Muslim scholars contributed to the foundation of modern civilization. What makes all physical matter stable? How does matter reproduce itself? Isaac Newton described gravity's effect, but it was Einstein who showed how it originated. Did man evolve or was he created? The search for a unifying theoretical basis of all the sciences.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, challenging and insightful, inherently absorbing and impressively well organized and presented, "The Pursuit of Wisdom" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Pursuit of Wisdom" is also available in a paperback edition (9781478743255, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($4.99).

Louis Carmain, author
Rhonda Mullins, translator
Coach House Books
9781552453155, $17.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: It's 1862, and Spain is a little rueful about letting Peru have their independence. Or, more importantly, letting Peru have the guano (commonly called "white gold") on the Chincha Islands. Simon is the ship's recorder on a scientific and military expedition when he meets, in Callao, the mysterious Montse. She asks of him only that he write her letters. Which he utterly fails to do. As military tensions escalate, so does Simon's unabated lust for Montse -- even if he can't bring himself to do anything about it.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Guano" is Quebec author Louis Carmain's debut as a novelist, this exceptionally well crafted and original story is an outstanding and thoroughly engaging entertainment from beginning to end. Ably translated into English by Rhonda Mullins, "Guano" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Guano" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

Death on Earth
Jules Howard
Bloomsbury Sigma
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781472915078, $27.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis" Planet Earth teems with trillions of life-forms, each going about their own business: eating, reproducing, thriving . . . Yet, the life of almost every single organism draws nearer to certain death. On the other hand, "suicide" inside the mitochondria that live within us results in the death of millions of cells each second for our own good! Why is death such a universal companion to life on Earth? Why haven't animals evolved to break free of its shackles? "Death on Earth: Adventures in Evolution and Mortality" is a wide-ranging exploration of death in which zoologist, writer, blogger, and broadcaster Jules Howard attempts to shed evolutionary light on one of our biggest and most unshakable taboos. He visits a salon that's trying to abolish our queasiness over talking about death. He also looks to the nematode, one of the most basic of life-forms, for clues about why near-starvation actually can prolong life. Encountering some of the world's oldest animals, and meeting the scientists attempting to unravel their mysteries, Howard also comes face-to-face with evolution's outliers--the animals that may one day avoid death altogether. "Death on Earth" concludes with the inevitable question: Can we ever become immortal? And if we could, would we really want to?

Critique: Informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "Death on Earth: Adventures in Evolution and Mortality" is an extraordinary read from beginning to end. Deftly crafted and impressively organized and presented so as to be equally of interest to academia and non-specialist general readers, "Death on Earth" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Death on Earth" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.00) and in an audio book format (Brilliance Audio, 9781522642220, $9.99, MP3 Una Edition).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Cometh The Hour the Clifton Chronicles
Jeffery Archer
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250061621, $27.99,

"Cometh The Hour" is the latest installment in the wonderful saga of the Clifton and Barrington families. Set against the backdrop of the 1970's Archer incorporates real people and events into his fictional story the same way John Jakes did with his "Kent Family Chronicles." The writing is fast paced with brilliant characters that keep the pages turning. What Julian Fellows does on TV with Downton Abbey, Archer does in print with the Clifton Chronicles. Both have likable characters set against the backdrop of historical events and people Readers will not have to wait as long for "This Was A Man," the next chapter that is to be the last of the series targeted for November of this year. "Cometh The Hour" is sure to please the many fans of Jeffery Archer and "Downton Abbey."

Scandalous Behavior
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399174681, $28.00,

After the events in "Foreign Affairs" Stone Barrington heads to England for some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately for Stone, that is the last thing he is allowed to have. He is asked to purchase a piece of property that turns his whole world upside down because there is a menacing person who will stop at nothing to harm Stone and any one related to him. "Scandalous Behavior" is once again a delightful fast paced Stone Barrington tale that is sure to please the many readers of Stuart Woods.

Top Secret Twenty One A Stephanie Plum Novel
Janet Evanovich
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780345542939, $8.99

Stephanie Plum is on the trail of a shifty used car salesman out on bail who did not show up for his court appearance. Once again there are lots of goofy characters Evanovich throws into the work, including Stephanie's gun toting grandmother who is better than ever in the twenty first laugh out loud mystery adventure. Fans of the series are sure to love "Top Secret Twenty One for its page turning funny situations.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future volume 31
David Farland, editor
Galaxy Press Inc
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781619863224, $15.95,

Volume 31 is the newest edition of the long running series. There are non fiction pieces by Kevin J Anderson, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, and a whole slew of other established science fiction writers, while there are 13 new authors of short stories that are fantastic excursions into the world of science fiction. This copy of "Writers of the Future" continues to show why it is the best place for new writers and artists to break into the field of science fiction.

Cross Justice
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316407045, $28.00

Patterson is one of the best mystery writers and "Cross Justice" shows why his books are so popular. As Alex Cross helps a cousin accused of murder in his childhood home of Starksville South Carolina, he begins to piece together events of the past to a present day case in the sugar cane fields of Florida that reveals information on his father. Patterson tells a gripping tale of mystery suspense in "Cross Justice" that exposes more about the character Alex Cross and his family than ever before.

Old Neb and the Lighthouse Treasure
Lois Swoboda, author
Leslie Wallace-Coon, illustrator
Pineapple Press Inc.
P.O. Box 3889, Sarasota, Florida, 34230
9781561647873, $10.95,

Elizabeth Ann Register nicknamed Betty and her family spend the summer on St. George Island in Florida. She finds a gold coin and a silver chain that she wants to know more about. With the aid of her horse Old Neb she has a wonderful summer adventure, also learning the history of the things she found. "Old Neb and the Lighthouse Treasure" sounds like a perfect first of a series novel but something goes wrong from the very beginning when the writing is very choppy. Telling the novel in the first person should have moved the story along but it is the constant informing who says something every time a character speaks that gets to be so tedious that it has the effect of screeching chalk on a board that detracts from the enjoyment of "Old Neb and the Lighthouse Treasure." Hopefully in other books of the series the author will do a much tighter edit of the work.

Destiny and Power The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush
Jon Meacham
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400067657, $35.00,

On paper George Herbert Walker Bush was the most qualified person to run for president of the United States. Now Jon Meacham in "Destiny and Power" shows why many people through the years have thought so. The jobs of ambassador to the U.N., ambassador to China, head of the CIA, and vice president all trained him to be president. Some of the things he learned are tolerance of others, compromise to get the job done, and respect for the office of president during and after his term. Meacham takes readers through Bush's entire life as from child to his retirement with Bush's own diary writings and other sources to reconstruct the different aspects of George Herbert Walker's career in public service and his life. What emerges is a man of character who rose to the occasion when he had to. There have been many books written in the past few years about George Herbert Walker Bush but "Destiny and Power" is the most detailed about a man who has always honorably served his country never, losing sight of who he is. The values he learned are lacking in this election season.

Prisoners of Geography
Tim Marshall
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501121463, $26.00,

How many of us hated geography class so many years ago because it was so boring? Tim Marshall in "Prisoners of Geography" makes the subject interesting by showing how events of today are directly linked to the geography, a country. He makes a convincing argument that the reason Vladimir Putin has been taking over countries that once were under Soviet domination is because Russia has no seaport of its own. There are other regions of the world he makes similar arguments that include China, Korea, Japan, United States, Africa, and many others 'Prisoners of Geography" should change a lot of people's minds on the importance of geography and how it relates to our lives.

True Bud Understanding Toxic Marijuana Syndrome
Scott Gillet, LCSW; CRNC
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578173764, $15.95,

An author's foremost responsibility to readers and critics alike is to capture them to want to read further from the first page of the work. Unfortunately the author uses terms and does not explain them from the first sentence in "True Bud". An example is BIRD clients. He assumes readers know what he is talking about. From there he makes arguments abut marijuana use that may be very interesting but are lost because his first few pages are not enticing enough to continue to pursue.

Alfred Preston O'Meara
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432737955, $30.95,

From the cover of an image of a woman in a cocktail glass I wondered "what is this book about?" After reading a few pages I concluded. "I haven't the faintest idea." I wish when new authors present themselves through their work they would do a better job of presentation to entice me and others to read their book. "Lola" I am sure has an audience but I, for one, have no time to follow something I can't understand.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Good Liar
Nicholas Searle
c/o HarperCollikns
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062407498, $27.99/34.99 CA$, Hardcover, 332 pp.,

In the early pages of this debut novel by Nicholas Searle, we met Roy, who, we are told, could "pass for seventy, sixty at a pinch," but he is a decade older than that. He is meeting a woman on a blind date, each initially giving the other a "nom de guerre," but they quickly admit the truth and re-introduce themselves to the other. He tells her "I can promise you that was the last time I will lie to you, Betty, everything I say to you from now on will be the truth. Total honesty. I can promise you, Betty. Total honesty." As the title suggests, however, this in itself is as far from honesty as one can get. Instead, he sees in her little more than a mark, a very vulnerable woman. But once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, she still things it can work, "for the sake of the satisfaction and security she craves."

The book is replete with flashbacks, each one rather lengthy, harking back decades earlier, first to mid-1998, then early 1963, mid-1946, and finally back to December of 1938 and a time of war.

The writing is beautiful. One early scene in particular I would like to cite as an example:

"Boys of secondary school age are mere blustering rhinos, carried on a wave of hormonal surges of which they are the helpless victims and to which they are utterly oblivious. Their female peers have gained an awareness. And with awareness comes uncertainty, expressed in various ways. The plain and studious invest in their faith that diligence and intelligence may help them navigate the horrors, away from loneliness and failure. The fresh-faced, pretty girls of the class - - pretty vacuous too, most of them - - sense inchoately that their attractiveness may be ephemeral and dependent on the vagaries of their coming physical development."

Roy turns out to be surprisingly likeable, this reader found, to her surprise. But be assured, please, that this novel is nothing at all what one expects, whatever that may be.

From the publisher: "Roy's entire life is a masterfully woven web of lies, secrets, and betrayals that will blindside you." If anything, that understates the case. This is a book that stayed with me long after the cover had been closed and the last page read. And it is highly recommended.

Jump Cut
Libby Fischer Hellman
Poisoned Pen Press
69621 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464205194, $15.95, Paperback, 386 pp,

Ellie Foreman is a Chicago video producer, having been a filmmaker for over 25 years. Not a profession which would seem to be dangerous, except that it becomes very much so in this instance.

From the publisher: Hired to produce a candy-floss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant Delcroft, Ellie is dismayed when company VIP Charlotte Hollander trashes the production and cancels the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in the video footage. . . [Ellie] is soon to find herself entangled in a web of espionage, murder, and suspicion that threatens to destroy what she holds most dear.

In depicting the life of a young Jewish woman professional in Chicago, the author knows whereof she speaks. And she so clearly evokes that life and, for instance, the feel of a Chicago winter and a Friday night Shabbos dinner with the family that one can practically feel the cold and taste the brisket (for which a wonderful recipe is provided). Her characters are very well-drawn, especially her ex-husband, Barry; their recently-graduated-from-college daughter, Rachel; her nonagenarian father; and her boyfriend, Luke. (I have to interject that I loved the dedication to the author's 95-years-young mother.) The suspense mounts, there are unexpected plot twists, and the pages turn swiftly; I devoured the book in less than 24 hours.

This is the fifth Ellie Foreman Mystery. The author has also written the hard-boiled Georgia Davis PI series (and I loved that Ms. Davis has a small but important role in this book!) and three standalone historical thrillers. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of those that I have read, including this one, which is recommended.

Dust Up
Jon McGoran
Forge Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765380302, $27.99/32.50 CA$, Hardcover, 368 pp,

This new novel from Jon McGoran opens with a bang - - literally. Actually, several of them. The first few are from the pounding on the front door of a house, the next few are from gunshots, which quickly put an end to the door-pounding.

The door is that of Detective Doyle Carrick and Nola, his girlfriend. And the man shot to death is, when Doyle Carrick opens the door and sees the body lying there, that of a complete stranger. As Doyle sees the dead man, he also sees a car speeding away from the scene, and the horrified, terrified face of a woman behind the wheel.

The case is assigned to Mike Warren, a detective with Doyle's unit in the Philadelphia P.D., whose [probably sole] insight in the case is to identify the dead man from ID in his wallet: Ronald Hartwell. It ultimately appears that the man's wife, Miriam Hartwell, worked with him at a huge biotech company. Warren is certain that the wife is the chief suspect, while Doyle tries to figure out why it was his house to which they had come, suspicious that something else was going on, that perhaps they were acting as whistleblowers, Doyle having earned a reputation in taking down large biotech companies in the past.

When Doyle finally gets to meet with Miriam, the story she tells him is a complex one which, to quote the publisher, "uncovers a web of deceit, intrigue and mass murder, with giant biotech corporations [are] working to topple the Haitian government." Doyle feels compelled to follow up Miriam's story, with "the stubbornness that I usually allowed to ruin my life and my career." And he comes close to doing exactly that again. What ensues is a tale of environmental activism, GMOs and hybrid crops, genetically modified seeds and biotech products, with Ebola-like diseases at the heart of the conspiracy.

My husband, Ted, and I loved the author's first two books in the series, "Drift" and "Deadout," and this one doesn't disappoint. In the early pages, there are vivid descriptions of Philadelphia and its environs. The writing is compelling, and the book a page-turner (although I would have been the last person to expect that from a novel filled with material so foreign to me). Mr. McGoran gives the reader is very satisfying ending. And things come full circle as the final page of this outstanding novel describes a pounding on Carrick's front door, this time not from a man about to be shot to death.

Remember Me This Way
Sabine Durant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476716329, $26.00, Hardcover, 352 pp.,

From the publisher: One year after he husband Zach's death, Lizzie Carter, 41 years old, goes to lay flowers on the site of his fatal accident. Since the tragedy, she just hasn't been the same, racked with grief and guilt and regret and . . . relief. Even though her friends tell her she's grieved enough for her 'prince charming,' her memories of a darker side of Zach that no one else knew are burned into her brain and won't let her forget him. But as she puts her flowers down at the roadside, she sees a bouquet of lilies at the foot of the tree. Addressed to her husband. She isn't the first to pay her respects . . . but who is Xenia? As Lizzie learns more about her husband's past, she begins to realize that maybe she didn't know Zach at all. But she's still tormented by her guilt and the memories that just won't fade . . . because Zach doesn't seem to be as gone as everyone thinks. And she just can't shake the feeling that he's still out there, watching her, waiting to claim her as his own once again. After all, just because we love someone doesn't mean we can trust them . . . .

Lizzie does psychometric testing for a living; Zach is an artist, although a not-yet-successful one. The p.o.v. alternates between that of Zach (the first page is his, and though only one page long [before the narration switches to Lizzie's], it is quite startling, letting the reader know at once what he/she is in for. Lizzie's p.o.v. sections take place initially in February 14, 2013, a year to the day of Zach's car crash, on a Cornish roadside in the middle of Cornwall and 200 miles from her home in London. She thinks to herself "His death feels real for the first time. I must let him go, hard as it is, because, despite everything, he was the love of my life." The next section, Zach's, takes place in July, 2009. As opposed to Lizzie's thoughts as described above, he is thinking "She doesn't appreciate me, that's the problem."

All the following alternating p.o.v. sections follow those same timelines [Zach's last ending on the day of his car crash], wherein initially Zack has a significant other named Charlotte, overlapping with his meeting and becoming involved with Lizzie. All who meet Zack, who is pretty much addicted to Xanax and tramadol, see him as a very handsome and charming man, although he is self-described as being "not very nice" [with which the reader wholeheartedly agrees], and ". . . People like me can't relax. We may roam outside the boundaries that restrict the behavior of other people, but we're never free."

The characters all come alive in these pages, but Zack is one of a kind, displaying love, jealousy, and vengeance, among other traits. The ending is shocking, but thoroughly believable. This is a book, and characters, who will stay with the reader after the last page is read, and it is highly recommended.

Make Me
Lee Child
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780804178792, 7.99 BPS, Paperback, 576 pp,

This is no spoiler: As this newest book from Lee Child opens, it is made clear from the first paragraph that someone has been killed, and his body is about to be buried. He is even identified: His name is Keever. And the mise en scene is apparently in the middle of nowhere - a wheat field "in the middle of ten thousand acres of nothingness," a month before harvest time. Jack Reacher makes his appearance on the very next page, as he finds himself on a train slowing down and coming down to a stop in a town apparently called Mother's Rest, "which he had seen on a map and which he thought was a great name for a railroad stop . . . He had no place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, so detours cost him nothing." So on a whim more than anything else, intrigued by the name of the town, he decides to check it out.

Reacher is an imposing figure. He is a retired military cop, with rare attributes: He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6' 5" and 250 pounds. As he exits the train, he is approached by an Asian woman, about 5'9" and 40 years old, and very attractive. The woman, Michelle Chang, has apparently been waiting for a man who fit Reacher's general description, and is disappointed that it is Reacher, and not her colleague, the man called Keever. She is a private detective, ex-FBI, ex-cop from Connecticut. Keever was trying to make contact with a client whose identity is a mystery, but now it is her mystery as there has been no word from Keever since he told Chang he had arrived in Mother's Rest. Not improbably, Reacher joins her in her quest.

The mystery of the origin of the name Mother's Rest is not resolved until the final pages of the book; the mystery of Keever's whereabouts is resolved a bit more quickly, although it is a long and tortuous road discovering the answer. And it soon appears that the tiny village of Mother's Rest is not as peaceful as it might seem, and the small number of inhabitants are watching every step Reacher and Chang take, and reporting those movements to something of a master criminal.

The book is meticulously plotted, and wonderfully well written - no surprise there! There are some constants in a Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel (and thank goodness for that!) He still abides by his golden rules, the first of which is "eat when you can," followed closely by "hope for the best, plan for the worst," and travels with "everything he needed [usually only a toothbrush], and nothing he didn't." The book is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, very high praise indeed, and the novel is highly recommended.

(As to that title, that is explained in the last words on the flyleaf: "As always, Reacher's rule is: If you want me to stop, you're going to have to make me.")

Hard Latitudes
Baron R. Birtcher
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623906, $29.95, Hardcover, 336 pp,

The fourth entry on the Mike Travis series is just as good as the earlier books, and that is high praise indeed. The novel begins with the protagonist looking back at incidents that began eleven years prior, and an intricate and fascinating tale it is. It starts in Macau in 1994, with an act of violence whose repercussions are felt in different far-flung parts of the world and do not, initially, involve Mike in any way.

Mike, 6'2" and a retired LAPD homicide detective, since leaving LA has been living in Hawaii, where he runs a chartering service for private scuba and luxury cruises out of Kona, on his 72' sailing yacht, the Kehau, after running a similar operation off the Southern California coast. Mike is the son of a very wealthy man, which he tries to forget, mostly with success, nor make others aware of it. When his brother, heavily involved in the family business, calls from LA and tells Mike that his "indiscretions" have come back to haunt him in a big - and very public - - way, Mike makes immediate arrangements to return to LA to help him out (making his relationship with his significant other, Lani, even more problematical).

Along the way the author reflects on the history of both South Central LA in late April 1992, during the time of the riots, when he was still on the police force, as well as descriptions of the natural beauty of Hawaii, about which he says, e.g., "Twilight is my favorite time of day to walk the Kona waterfront. The flickering lights of the village begin to cycle on, piercing the encroaching darkness, the heat of the day leeching from the concrete and up through the soles of your sandals while cool wind drifts in off the water." He pays tribute to LA as well, describing the sunrise as presenting a sky that is "a purple so deep that it appeared to bruise the sky." At the same time, he also says "Every time I come back to this town, it slithers back inside me. I had never intended to be a cynic, never imagined I would feel such contempt, and especially had never wanted to lose hope. I wanted to believe in greater things, like grace, like justice, like integrity; I wanted to believe in heroes or a higher purpose."

The narrative is interspersed from time to time with the events set into motion in Macau over a decade ago.

Mike's efforts on behalf of his brother as a "reluctant pi" have repercussions that place both him and his brother in jeopardy, as well as Mike's former partner on the LAPD, Hans Yamaguchi, who assists him in his efforts, which have unexpected and serious consequences. In addition to this story line, this is a tale of sexual slavery and human trafficking, not for the faint of heart I might add, with fairly frequent violence (happily, for the most part not graphic.) It is a gripping story, beautifully written, and highly recommended.

A Brilliant Death
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781633881280, $15.95/17.00 CA$, Paperback, 255 pp,

From the publisher: Amanda Baron died in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1953. Or, did she? While it was generally accepted that she had died when a coal barge rammed the pleasure boat she was sharing with her lover, her body was never found. Travis Baron was an infant when his mother disappeared. After the accident and the subsequent publicity, Travis' father scoured the house of all evidence that Amanda Baron had ever lived, and her name was never to be uttered around him. Now in high school, Travis yearns to know more about his mother. With the help of his best friend, Mitch Malone, Travis begins a search for the truth about the mother he never knew. The two boys find an unlikely ally: an alcoholic former detective who served time for falsifying evidence. Although his reputation is in tatters, the information the detective provides about the death of Amanda Baron is indisputable - - and dangerous. Nearly two decades after her death, Travis and Mitch piece together a puzzle lost to the dark waters of the Ohio River. They know how Amanda Baron died, and why. Now what do they do with the information?

The writing is terrific. Mitch Malone, the protagonist, in the book's Prologue talks about his maternal grandfather, who died at 42. The local doctor said it was from a massive heart attack, but "my father said that anyone who knew my grandfather realized he died of acute estrogen exposure." The family had settled in the coal mining community west of the Ohio River Valley. He had a wife and nine daughters, including a set of triplets. Mitch relates the story, which begins in the summer of 1953 in the town of Brilliant, Ohio (from whence comes the title) and continues, for the most part, through June of 1971. His best friend, Travis, was the only child of Francis "Big Frank" Baron, a violent man, abusive, physically and emotionally, to his son, and his wife, Amanda, whose death starts the tale.

Big Frank was "an old man whose best days had been lost to time and alcohol . . . big, mean, paranoid, hateful . . . who sleeps with a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol on his nightstand." But beyond this singular character, the novel is peopled with a wide variety of colorful folks with colorful names, e.g., "Turkeyman" Melman, "a muttering, squatty little man in constant need of a shave and a bath." Then there is the sheriff, Beaumont T. Bonecutter.

The only problem I had with the book was the author's predilection for describing the topography and geography in minute detail, to the extent that I found myself skimming through several paragraphs at a time when this became a bit much. Other than that, the fascinating plot is one whose outcome the reader, or this one at least, could never have guessed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I had the author's debut novel, "Favorite Sons," and this one as well is recommended.

And Sometimes I Wonder About You
Walter Mosley
Black Lizard / Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804172097, $15.00, Paperback, 304 pp,

Leonid Trotter McGill's New York City office now officially answers its phone "McGill and Son detective agency," a recent development. One of his sons, Twilliam (usually just "Twill"), is a new addition. His relationships with just about all his nearest and dearest being fraught with complexities: He hasn't seen his father, Clarence, the charismatic revolutionary who calls himself "Tolstoy" McGill, in years; his wife has recently attempted suicide. His "blood son" and daughter are Dmitri and Tatyana; Twill and Shelly are the two sired by other men but who Leonid raised exactly the same as his own offspring. And then there is Gordo, his mentor, boxing trainer, and the man who he considers "his true father."

Those relationships, and the assorted women who cross his path, either professionally or otherwise, (with several of whom he falls in love or lust, or both) are a major part of this novel, the balance of which are the several cases that come to him. These multiple plot lines arise in different parts of the book, which is as complex as these may make it sound. But with this master storyteller, that is not a deficit. The first of these is introduced in the first pages of the book, and she is a gorgeous woman named Marella Herzog, who fits both definitions: Client and lover. Their first meeting, when he is aware of a scent she is wearing, causes "a strong reaction in a section of my heart that had almost been forgotten." He describes his secretary as having "gray-blue eyes [which] carried all the sadness of the last days of autumn and her voice was so soft that it could have been a memory." Another sometime lover is the "color of pure gold that hadn't been polished for some years," with hair that was "naturally wavy and darkly blond."

He thinks "sadness had as many striations as a rainbow - - only in grays." The writing is replete with lines like these: When McGill visits his wife in the hospital, he thinks "I wanted to say something kind, to slap her and tell her to snap out of it. I would have torn out my hair if I wasn't already bald." McGill, 55, is self-described as an "old, off-the-rack straphanger;" and "it has always amazed me how a woman's eyes and her words can find a direct line to my animal heart;" when he speaks to a waitress, she smiles at him, and he muses "as had been its purpose since humans became a species, the smile socialized me." I briefly had a difficult time recognizing the quote that provides the title of the book, but the author kindly reminded me: "Sometimes I think that everybody in the world in crazy, except for me and you - - and sometimes I wonder about you." The writing throughout is wonderful, but then we expect nothing less from this author, who carries the reader along swiftly on the ride through his newest, 49th novel, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Monster Hunter International Book 1
Larry Correia
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781439132852, $7.99 PB, 736pp,

Monster Hunter International is an action fantasy where monsters are real and a mix of bounty hunters and government men-in-black fight them. Everything in the story is over the top action and danger. The hero keeps dying and keeps coming back to life. But it is a well written fantasy where the reader is willing to forgive the impossible to discover more about the characters and the world they inhabit.

Owen Zastava Pitt is recruited after he throws his obnoxious boss out a fourteen story building's window. His boss happened to be a werewolf at the time. In the hospital the government men-in-black wait for a blood test to determine if Owen will turn into a werewolf. Owen wakes up from a vision and the government men are there waiting to see if they need to kill him. Earl Harbinger from MHI (Monster Hunter International) walks into the room and offers Owen a job if the government men don't dispatch him. Owen accepts the job with MHI and walks into a world he never knew existed and into a magical conflict that has existed before time began.

Monster Hunter International is a must read for any fantasy reader. It is pure action and fun. Even if you don't like fantasies and your paranormal creature stories, the story is well written and the price is right for any reader to try the genre.

Harry Plotter and the Chamber of Serpents
MJ Ware
CG Press LID
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B00X96VQW8 ebook price: $9.99, 152 pages,

All of the character names have been changed to bypass copyright questions but this fan fiction is a matching story to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Thirteen year old Austin arrives in England with his father who has a job at the American Embassy. The same day he is invited to school in Hogwarts. He doesn't know he is a wizard and he is an American in an English culture. He is sorted into Slipperon house. Since he is a year behind, he has to work double to catch up with the other students.

This story is a good enough children's book on its own but it becomes very good when you read it side by side with the original Harry Potter story. In the Harry Potter stories, most of Slytherin students are the bullies of Hogwarts. Here Austin, a student new to England and magic, is in a new school with all of the new student problems and placed into Slipperon (Slytherin) and has to negotiate its reputation to his own. The view of a relatively normal student seeing the conflict from the opposing side to the original stories makes a unique balance and actually adds depth to both tales.

Harry Plotter and the Chamber of Serpents is an easy recommendation for anyone who has read the Harry Potter stories. You really need to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before this story to appreciate it. If you read the Harry Potter books with your children, this would be a great addition that your children will enjoy. If you take some time, you could even match the two stories chapter by chapter and have even more fun.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
Ward Farnsworth
David R. Godine, Publisher
Fifteen Court Square, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02108-2536
9781567925524 $18.95 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Masters of language can turn unassuming words into phrases that are convincing, effective, and memorably beautiful. Lincoln and Churchill had this power: having heard their words once, the reader or listener can scarcely imagine the world without them. What are the secrets of this alchemy? The answer lies in rhetoric in the honorable sense of the word - not the dronings of bad politicians, but the art of using language to persuade, influence, or otherwise affect an audience. Rhetoric in this sense is among the most ancient academic disciplines, and we all use it every day whether expertly or not.

This book is a lively set of lessons on the subject. It is about rhetorical figures: practical ways of applying old and powerful principles - repetition and variety, suspense and relief, concealment and surprise, the creation of expectations and then the satisfaction or frustration of them - to the composition of a simple sentence or a complete paragraph. Though first examined in classical Greece and Rome, these techniques also were studied closely by earlier generations of the best English writers and orators and were often employed by them to exquisite effect. Classical English Rhetoric recovers this knowledge for our times. It organizes, illustrates, and analyzes the most valuable rhetorical devices with impeccable clarity and in unprecedented detail.

The book amounts to a tutorial on eloquence conducted by virtuoso faculty: not just Lincoln and Churchill, but Dickens and Melville, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and more than a hundred others. The result is a new addition to the list of indispensable books for the writer or speaker - a highly useful reference tool, and a rewarding source of instruction and pleasure for all lovers of the English language.

Critique: Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric is a scholarly cross-examination of an intangible power of capable of reshaping history - the ability to win human hearts and minds through persuasive speech. Modern-day policymakers, politicians, business managers, and anyone in a leadership can learn valuable lessons from history's most successful practitioners of rhetoric. Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric is meticulous, studious, insightful, and a welcome addition to college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99), and as an MP3 CD ($29.95).

Deception in the Pews
Erik Campano, et al.
One Pen, Inc.
9780970290984, $14.99, HC, 189pp,

Synopsis: Spanning denominations, "Deception in the Pews: Exposing The Hidden Dangers That Lurk Within Religions" documents the anguish, despair and damage suffered by believers who have endured deceit and abuse at the hands of the very faith leaders sworn to teach, mentor and nurture them spiritually. This long overdue study examines what too often transpires when faith leaders fail to lead, opting instead to deceive and abuse while hiding behind scripture, pulpits, confessionals and closed doors. The co-authors of "Deception in the Pews" thoughtfully examine herein the devastating impact on the wounded when believers abandon logic and ignore the sins of authority figures who lead them astray. "Deception in the Pews" features captivating stories, many untold until now, which expose the world of danger, confusion and pain that many worshipers unwittingly navigate in search of spiritual fulfillment. Religious deception is global, non-denominational and multicultural. From awareness to prevention, "Deception in the Pews" examines how spiritual leaders prey upon the unsuspecting. Highlighted are 10 warning signs that point to potential abusive leaders which everyone should be aware of, including: Displays a superiority complex; Instills fear; Is a one-man or one-woman show; Assumes no accountability for their actions; Uses isolation as a tactic to deceive. "Deception in the Pews" also features a diverse collection of cautionary stories depicting abuse across religions ranging from: a rabbi arrested for voyeurism after secretly recording female congregants while they were naked in the Mikvah; a pastor was caught breaking into a parishioner's home on Christmas Eve; a former Hindu Temple priest sentenced to over 20 years in prison on felony counts including bank fraud, tax fraud and obstruction. "Deception in the Pews" promises to captivate, to confront, to empower and to touch a nerve among both believers and non-believers alike.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, documented, organized and presented, "Deception in the Pews: Exposing The Hidden Dangers That Lurk Within Religions" is very highly recommended reading for all members of a faith community regardless of their denominational, ecclesiastical, or religious affiliation. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Deception in the Pews" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Exotic Gems
Renee Newman GG
International Jewelry Publications
560 West Main Street, Suite C-200, Alhambra, CA 91801
9780929975504, $19.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: "Exotic Gems: How to Identify, Evaluate & Select Jade & Abalone Pearls" is the fourth in a series of books that explores the history, lore, properties, qualities and geographic sources of unusual gems. This particular volume shows you with full color photos how to make visual judgments about the quality of jade and abalone pearls, and it explains how treatments affect the value of jade. It also includes chapters on jade from China, Burma, Guatemala, Canada, the US and Russia. The guide also provides information on caring for the gems, distinguishing between jadeite and nephrite, cutting jade, culturing abalone made pearls and detecting imitations and gem treatments. Both basic and advanced identification techniques and instrumentation are explained and illustrated. The gems are shown not only loose but also in jewelry and under magnification.

Critique: Informed and informative, "Exotic Gems: How to Identify, Evaluate & Select Jade & Abalone Pearls" is the perfect introduction for anyone interested in buying, selling, or working with jade or abalone pearls. This instructive guide provides jewelry design ideas and in-depth information, and is exceptionally well written in a succinct and thoroughly user-friendly style. Very highly recommended for personal, professions, community, and academic library collections, "Exotic Gems: How to Identify, Evaluate & Select Jade & Abalone Pearls" is an ideal reference for jewelers, sales associates, appraisers, gem collectors, gemology students, designers, gem dealers and consumers.

Nuclear Energy and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman
J. Samuel Walker, editor
Truman State University Press
100 East Normal Street, Kirksville, MO 63501-4221
9781612481593, $34.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: The nuclear policies and programs of President Harry S. Truman and his administration are probably the most significant and controversial aspects of his presidency. The essays comprising "Nuclear Energy and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" examine Truman s decision to use atomic weapons against Japan in 1945, one of the most contentious issues in all of American history, and the use of atomic energy after the war, both as an important weapon in the arms race of the cold war era, and as a subject for research into its applications to medicine, industry, agriculture, and power production. In the pages of "Nuclear Energy and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman", seven prominent historians offer valuable perspective on these issues, using new information from Japanese sources and a wealth of primary source material to examine the decision to use the atomic bomb, as well as important questions relating to the nuclear arms race, the benefits and hazards of radioactive isotopes, and the development of nuclear power. Many of these issues that had their origins in the Truman era are still of great importance to the world today as well as to future generations.

Critique: Enhanced with illustrations, an informative introduction, a list of contributors and their credentials, as well as a 25 page Index, "Nuclear Energy and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" is a model of erudite and seminal scholarship with the contributor's articles being presented in a roughly chronological order of events from 1945 to 1950. An essential and core addition to academic library collections, it should be noted for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Nuclear Energy and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" is also available in a Kindle edition ($27.99).

The Brilliance Trilogy
Marcus Sakey
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
Volume 1: Brilliance, 9781611099690, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 439pp
Volume 2: A Better World, 9781477823941, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 390pp
Volume 3: Written in Fire, 9781477827642 $15.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 345pp

Synopsis: "Brilliance": In Wyoming, a little girl reads people's darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They're called "brilliants," and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in - and betray his own kind.

"A Better World": The brilliants changed everything. Since 1980, one percent of the world has been born with gifts we'd only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person's most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us. Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive. Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he's against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose - because his opponents have their own vision of a better world. And to reach it, they're willing to burn this one down.

"Written in Fire": For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the one percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed. The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle. Nick Cooper has spent his life fighting for his children and his country. Now, as the world staggers on the edge of ruin, he must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy - a brilliant terrorist so driven by his ideals that he will sacrifice humanity's future to achieve them.

Critique: With the three volumes comprising his outstanding series 'The Brilliance Trilogy', author Marcus Sakey has established himself as a gifted and original storyteller, and a truly exceptionally action/adventure novelist. While all three of the titles comprising 'The Brilliance Trilogy" ("Brilliance"; "A Better World"; "Written in Fire") can be read as 'stand alone' novels, the entire trilogy is what is recommended for both personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that all three of these volumes are also available in an MP3 CD format ($9.99 each).

The Big Bang Book
Charles Sven
Center of the Universe Publishing Company
9780967035314, $9.95, PB, 226pp,

Synopsis: In order to completely understand the event that created the universe as we know it, four things are required. A list of components involved, their source, how constructed or consumed, and all facets of the outcome. In a user friendly, logically sequenced language with diagrams where called for, "The Big Bang Book: How, Where, & When Demonstrated by Charles Sven, is soundly based on 18 years of unrestricted research, allowing access to all new findings, especially those of the last decade. "The Big Bang Book" is fully documented and referenced with quotes for an effortless review by the reader. The physics in this book is easy to follow, but has many new high tech parts that will require a great change in thinking. Incorporating all these modern findings readers will be able to understand just what was needed to convert that old flat earth concept into today's understanding of how our spherical Earth fits into a Solar System imbedded in the Milky Way Galaxy making up just one more of the 100 billion or so galaxies that fill our Universe.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, impressively well written, organized and presented, Charles Seven's "The Big Bang Book: How, Where, & When Demonstrated" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Astrophysics reference collections and supplemental studies lists, as well as to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in how the universe came to be as currently understood in the scientific community.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Hannah's Choice
Jan Drexler
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800726560, $14.99, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of the Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful--yet problems lurk beneath the placid facade. Hannah's father worries about the spread of liberal ideas from their Mennonite and Brethren neighbors. And Hannah blames herself for a tragedy that struck their home nine years ago. She strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her mother's ongoing depression and her sister's rejection of their family. But her world is threatening to unravel.

When two young men seek her hand in marriage--one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God's call west -- Hannah must make a choice. Faithfully perform her duties to her family? Or defy her father and abandon her community?

Critique: Once again author Jan Drexler has written a heartfelt romance that will leave her avid readers looking forward to the next titles in her new 'Journey to Pleasant Prarie' Amish historical series. "Hannah's Choice" is very highly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Hannah's Choice" is also available in a Kindle addition ($9.11). Librarians should also note that Jan Drexler's "Hannah's Choice" is also available in a large print edition (Thorndyke Press, 9781410487742, $29.99, HC, 498pp).

Saying Yes
Albert Haase, OFM
Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
978 1612617619, $13.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: The process of discerning God's will is one of the most important Christian practices for any contemporary disciple, and it is ongoing and ever-changing. In "Saying Yes", author Albert Haase, OFM, (who, ordained a Franciscan priest in 1983, was formerly a missionary to mainland China for over eleven years) emphasizes the importance of listening to your life in discerning God's will, that your ordinary life is a kind of megaphone through which God talks to you and the world. "Saying Yes" offers: ten attitudes for discernment; techniques for living a discerning and reflective lifestyle; ways you might be sabotaging the grace of God in your life; the designs of the devil, something no other book on discernment addresses; and how to know if a person is wrestling with God. "Saying Yes" is a timeless, practical handbook for knowing God's will. It's filled with real life examples, reflection questions, and prayers for discernment from historic spiritual figures.

Critique: "Saying Yes" is concise and written without jargon or technical language. Replete with real life examples and reflection questions, making the process of discernment accessible, "Saying Yes" is very highly recommended to all members of the Christian community. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99), it should be noted that "Saying Yes" has an accompany DVD with six 30-minute presentations (sold separately) that completes the package for an excellent 6-week adult faith formation study group.

An Artist's Journey through Wonderland
Katie Fowler
CreateCurious Books
9780996289306, $14.95, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: Wander through the pages of Katie Folwer's "An Artist's Journey through Wonderland" and discover how to overcome creativity crushers like procrastination, perfectionism and resistance. Learn about acceptance from the Caterpillar, creative chaos from the Mad Hatter and courage from Alice. In Wonderland, always finding useful quotes to inspire and motivate you to be your own most creative self. Grow and bloom with lighthearted lessons from Alice's adventures.

Critique: Unique, inherently fascinating, beautifully composed, and showcasing a new and novel approach to a self-help book, "An Artist's Journey through Wonderland" by the award-winning artist Katie Fowler is a very highly recommended read and one that will linger in the mind and memory long after this little book has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

The World's Your Stage
William F. Baker, Warren C. Gibson, Evan Leatherwood
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814436158, $19.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: If you're like most performing artists, you're not in it for the money. Whether you're a musician, a dancer, or an actor, you've spent years mastering your craft. But to make it your professional career you need to figure out how to get paid. Jobs are scarce and talent alone never did assure success. Today's performers need to hone their entrepreneurial skills and create their own careers. "The World's Your Stage: How Performing Artists Can Make a Living While Still Doing What They Love" explains the business side of the performing arts. Filled with insights from leading figures in the arts as well as lessons from thriving artist-entrepreneurs, "The World's Your Stage" will helps aspiring performance artists: Understand the numbers; Find their niche and fill it; Market and promote themselves and their venture; Network productively; Fundraise both online and off; Balance artistic and financial growth with the Opportunity Framework; and a great deal more.

Critique: The collaborative work of William F. Baker (President Emeritus of WNET, New York's PBS station, and a professor at Fordham University where he teaches Understanding the Profession: The Performing Arts in the 21st Century to students from Juilliard and Fordham); Warren C. Gibson (an Engineer, an Economics Professor at San Jose University, and a classical music buff); and Evan Leatherwood (a Slifka Fellow at the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy, and Education at Fordham University), "The World's Your Stage: How Performing Artists Can Make a Living While Still Doing What They Love" is practical, comprehensive, impressively well written, organized and presented, but above all, thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone and content. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Performing Arts Career reference collections it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The World's Your Stage" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.78). Incidentally, more can read more about this exceptionally instructive book at

Awaken Your Divine Intuition
Susan Shumsky
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
12 Parish Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470
9781632650283, $15.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Deep within the heart of every soul is the desire to experience and communicate directly with Spirit. The divine presence is not the exclusive property of great saints, sages, or holy men. Everyone is worthy to receive the blessings of Spirit. "Awaken Your Divine Intuition: Receive Wisdom, Blessings, and Love by Connecting with Spirit" by Susan Shumsky is a profound, practical, transformational guide with which readers will learn proven techniques to open their heart, mind, and spirit to the riches of inner divine contact. Readers will become able to open a pipeline to the divine and begin the flow of inner guidance, love, healing, wisdom, and inspiration from their center of being. Readers will awaken the still, small voice within, go directly to Spirit without a middleman, and experience higher consciousness. "Awaken Your Divine Intuition", along with the included link to an online meditation, will help to: tap into an inner guidance and inner genius; receive unique signals that identify specific aspects of inner divinity; get divine messages and inner guidance and test whether they are real; awaken clairvoyant, clairaudient, and clairsentient gifts; experience radiant light, supernal love, and spiritual grace; heal ego blockages that have inhibited intuition; experience the divine presence anytime wanted; as well as never being alone again.

Critique: Dr. Susan Shumsky is a highly respected spiritual teacher, award-winning author, and founder of Divine Revelation with her unique, field-proven technology for contacting the divine presence, for hearing and testing the inner voice, and for receiving clear divine guidance. A pioneer in the human potential field, she has taught meditation, prayer, affirmation, and intuition for nearly 50 years to thousands worldwide. Her books include Divine Revelation, Exploring Meditation, Miracle Prayer, Ascension, Instant Healing, The Power of Auras, The Power of Chakras, and Awaken Your Third Eye. For 22 years, her mentor was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She served on Maharishi's personal staff for seven years. Her Website is "Awaken Your Divine Intuition" is another one of Dr. Schumsky's spirituality masterpieces and very highly recommended to the attention of anyone seeking to establish effective communication with the Spirit. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Awaken Your Divine Intuition" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

30 Days of Hope for Strength in Chronic Illness
Elizabeth Evans
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 830711, Birmingham, AL 35283-0711
9781596694651, $9.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: In "30 Days of Hope for Strength in Chronic Illness", Elizabeth Evans offers encouragement to anyone feeling betrayed by their body. Diagnosed at an early age with Cystic Fibrosis, Elizabeth knows what it is like to live a lifelong struggle with a disease and the fallout it creates. Knowing that she was not expected to live past age three though, she also knows that God is in control and gives strength to get through the difficult days. Today Elizabeth is married, a mother of five, and grandmother of six. Sharing personal reflections of God's faithfulness, she candidly offers words of encouragement as you battle through: depression, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of betrayal, guilt of leaving everyone behind, guilt of being a burden, and the desperate desire to be normal. She will help you see the blessings in struggles as you are reminded that God is in control.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "30 Days of Hope for Strength in Chronic Illness" is especially commended to the attention of all members of the Christian community, regardless of their denominational affiliation, who are struggling with a dire illness. Very highly recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "30 Days of Hope for Strength in Chronic Illness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Hell Is A Very Small Place
Jean Casella, James Ridgeway, Sarah Shourd, editors
The New Press
126 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005-4007
9781620971376, $25.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has denounced the use of solitary confinement beyond fifteen days as a form of cruel and degrading treatment that often rises to the level of torture. Yet the United States holds more than eighty thousand people in isolation on any given day. Now sixteen authors vividly describe the miserable realities of life in solitary. "Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement" will add a startling new dimension to the debates around human rights and prison reform, former and current prisoners describe the devastating effects of solitary confinement on their minds and bodies, the solidarity expressed between individuals who live side by side for years without ever meeting one another face to face, the ever-present specters of madness and suicide, and the struggle to maintain hope and humanity. These firsthand accounts are supplemented by the writing of noted experts, exploring the psychological, legal, ethical, and political dimensions of solitary confinement, and a comprehensive introduction by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella. and Sarah Shourd. It should be noted that Sarah is herself is a survivor of more than a year of solitary confinement and writes eloquently in a preface about an experience that changed her life.

Critique: Comprised of article contributions by twenty-one informed and informative men and women, "Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement" is an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. Enhanced with an exceptional Afterword by Juan e. Mendez (Exposing Torture), "Hell Is A Very Small Place" is a singular and unique contribution to the growing library of Prison Reform literature and highly recommended for community and academic library American Penology reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hell Is A Very Small Place" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.72).

Seed Sovereignty, Food Security
Vandana Shiva
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170288, $21.95, PB, 424pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Vandana Shiva (a physicist, world-renowned environmental thinker and activist, and a tireless crusader for economic, food, and gender justice.), "Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard of the Fight against GMOs and Corporate Agriculture" is a unique anthology comprised of contributions by women from around the world writing about the movement to change the current, and the industrial paradigm of how we grow our food. As seed keepers and food producers, as scientists, activists, and scholars, they are dedicated to renewing a food system that is better aligned with ecological processes as well as human health and global social justice. "Seed Sovereignty, Food Security" is an argument for just that -- a reclaiming of traditional methods of agricultural practice in order to secure a healthy, nourishing future for all of us. Whether tackling the thorny question of GMO safety or criticizing the impact of big agribusiness on traditional communities, these women are in the vanguard of defending the right of people everywhere to practice local, biodiverse, and organic farming as an alternative to industrial agriculture.

Critique: Deftly organized and presented in three major sections (Reflections on the Broken Paradigm; Global North; Global South), the twenty six articles comprising "Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard of the Fight against GMOs and Corporate Agriculture" are, each and every one, models of agricultural scholarship. The result is a unique and critically important addition to professional, agribusiness, community, governmental, NGO, and academic library collections. For personal reading lists of academics and interested non-specialist general readers, it should be noted that "Seed Sovereignty, Food Security" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Investigating Lois Lane
Tim Hanley
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613733325, $18.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: In a universe full of superheroes, Lois Lane has fought for truth and justice for over 75 years on page and screen without a cape or tights. From her creation by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938 to her forthcoming appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016, from helming her own comic book for twenty-six years to appearing in animated serials, live-action TV shows, and full-length movies, Lois Lane has been a paragon of journalistic integrity and the paramour of the world's strongest superhero. But her history is one of constant tension. From her earliest days, Lois yearned to make the front page of the Daily Planet, but was held back by her damsel-in-distress role. When she finally became an ace reporter, asinine lessons and her tumultuous romance with Superman dominated her storylines for decades and relegated her journalism to the background. Through it all, Lois remained a fearless and ambitious character, and today she is a beloved icon and an inspiration to many. Though her history is often troubling, Lois's journey, as revealed in Investigating Lois Lane, showcases her ability to always escape the gendered limitations of each era and of the superhero genre as a whole.

Critique: Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of "Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine" (Chicago Review Press: 9781613749098, $18.95PB, $10.99 Kindle, 320pp). His blog, "Straitened Circumstances" (, discusses women in comics, and his column "Gendercrunching" runs monthly on "Bleeding Cool" ( He has also contributed to several comic book sites, including DC Women Kicking Ass ( and "Women Write About Comics" ( In "Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter" Hanley draws upon his many years of experience, research, and expertise to draft a comprehensive, informed and informative biography of one of the most recognizable female creations of American popular culture. An absolute 'must read" for the legions of Lois Lane and Superman fans, "Investigating Lois Lane" is certain to be an enduringly popular acquisition for community and academic library American Popular Culture reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Investigating Lois Lane" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Lucy Gent Foma
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781630477080, $17.95, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: You don't have to be an extraordinary student to get fellowships and pursue your passions. All it takes is strategic planning and a fellowship-writing skillset. "Funded!: How I Leveraged My Passion to Live A Fulfilling Life and How You Can Too" by Lucy Gent Foma tells the story of how an average student went on to win a Fulbright among other scholarships, fellowships, and grants to travel the world and pay for her Ivy League education. "Funded!" includes breakout boxes with anecdotes from past fellows' experiences, stories from the field, and advice from mentors. Exercise sheets are sprinkled throughout the text for you to practice and note ideas as you go along. As a step-by-step guide taking you from the phase of dreaming about your project all the way to finding the right fellowship and preparing your application, "Funded!" makes the process manageable by breaking it into steps that anyone can follow. If you are looking for an inspiring career or want to activate a dormant passion in your work, "Funded!" will teach you the foundational skills to become the change agent you want to be. It is geared toward individuals who are starting their careers, as well as those who have a vision of setting out to do their own thing. Do you want to take time off from your regular job or even switch your career? Adding a grant, scholarship, or fellowship to your resume can only help your future. "Funded!" tells you how to become the competitive applicant that these scholarship committees look for, including tips from actual Fulbright reviewers.

Critique: Unique, informed and informative, exceptionally well written, deftly organized, accessibly presented, and ultimately inspiring "Funded!: How I Leveraged My Passion to Live A Fulfilling Life and How You Can Too" is an extraordinary and thoroughly 'reader friendly' instructional reference guide that is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Funded!" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

Shades of Blue
Joyce Scarbrough
Blue Attitude Books
9781517546748, $11.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 187pp,

I rarely review young adult fiction but made an exception here because I like Ms. Scarbrough's writing style in previous books. It's been decades since my teenage years, but Shades of Blue brought back those memories as if they were yesterday. The characters are engaging and realistic, the storyline riveting, with humor, compassion, danger, and pathos woven skillfully through the plot.

JoJo and Sam grew up next door to each other and have been friends since age five. By age fourteen, JoJo is feisty, funny and self-confident. She knows who she is and what she wants and faces life with humor and optimism. The teenage Sam is quiet, thoughtful, ethical and kind. His family life is dysfunctional and often frightening, but his sweet nature remains intact. JoJo's parents and older sister form a stable family unit so she's grown up loved and nurtured. Sam's mother misuses alcohol and prescription drugs to cope with an abusive marriage. His step-father is a cruel, vengeful man prone to drunken rages. His older half-sister Britney's bitter sarcasm hides a wounded spirit in need of kindness and friendship.

As childhood friendship blossoms into teenage love, life as Sam and JoJo knew it begins to fall apart. Puberty is no picnic. Hormones make their feelings for each other hard to understand or manage. Boys less kind than Sam begin to take notice of JoJo and their behaviors threaten her self-confidence. Sam is maturing into a tall, muscular boy who looks like his real father. The changes enrage an already abusive step-father to the point that he becomes dangerous to everyone in the family. He's hiding an awful truth from the past and will go to any length to protect himself. No one is safe, not his family or JoJo.

I'll not reveal any more of the plot here. Shades of Blue is an exciting read that adults as well as teenagers will enjoy. It's a story of everyday people who refuse to allow violence and cruelty to prevail. Sam, JoJo, and Britney show by example that courage, friendship, humor and compassion can overcome life's hardships. It's a coming of age story well-told by a gifted wordsmith. Highly recommended for positive messages and realistic characters.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Anatomy of Voice
Blandine Calais-Germain and Francois Germain, authors
Blandine Calais-Germain, illustrator
Marline Curtis-Oakes, translator
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620554197 $35.00

"Anatomy of Voice: How To Enhance and Project Your Best Voice" is a beautifully illustrated, detailed anatomical guide to vocal projection, describing and imaging in detail the bones and muscles that directly impact on vocal performance. It is a complex, complete anatomy guide with specific suggestions for helpful vocal support exercises. Written by the author of "Anatomy of Movement," "Anatomy of Voice" follows a similar structure, presenting an introduction covering rules describing movement, the vocal apparatus, and the moving body, breathing body, and vocal body, all clearly illustrated in finely detailed, lightly color-coded drawings.

Following the introductions are four chapters covering the Skeleton of the voice, the Generator, the Larynx, and the Vocal Tract. Each chapter presents detailed anatomical drawings of the major sub categories of vocal anatomical support, involving both skeletal support and muscular and organic support involving respiration and posture. Chapters four and five on the larynx and the vocal tract give increasingly specific information about the smallest muscular movements to help support vocal performance. The final chapter 6 further defines terms used in vocal professions, such as pitch, intensity, duration of sound, and timbre.

The explanatory terms used come from the world of physics as it applies to the anatomical structures and their function. Thus follows illustrated discussion of matter, states of matter such as solid, liquid, or gaseous, interaction chains between gas and pressure, and pressure and sound. A brief discussion of consonance, dissonance and harmony finishes the section on timbre.

It should be clarified that "Anatomy of Voice" is a manual to instruct all sorts of vocal production, not simply, for example, vocal music. It should be helpful to actors, readers, lawyers, and all sorts of performers who rely on sustained vocal production skills to deliver their message. "Anatomy of Voice" lays an excellent baseline for the serious vocal performer who wishes to refine their vocal production and use their best voice with the least damage.

The Artistry of Teaching and Making Music
Richard Floyd, author
GIA Publications, Inc.
7404 South Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638
9781622771714 $22.95, 179pp

"The Artistry of Teaching and Making Music" is an eye-opening, inspirational yet practical application, or rather an adventure in making the most of music education, in particular band instrumental study and performance. It is perhaps most valuable to music educators and band directors at a variety of levels, but many of the artistic insights seem to be of universal value. To quote the author, a bit out of context, "There is wisdom here for all of us." Clearly, the author is an accomplished band director and music clinician, "a recognized authority on conducting, the art of wind band rehearsing, concert band repertoire, and music advocacy (p. 178, About the Author)." What is also plain is the author simply exudes musical wisdom, uncovering undeniable core values of music education, practice and performance. As one would expect, "The Artistry of Teaching" is peppered with relevant or important examples of music passages and references, to enlarge further upon music pedagogy goals. But equally common and perhaps more striking are the embedded philosophical quotations, or even mantras, and three page poems that reverberate so convincingly to the author's theme. An examples of this is on page 161: (regarding the concept of "GO FOR IT") "The "Go For It" factor began to have a deep and powerful impact on me, and I found the mindset it fostered to be liberating. More and more, I began to simply go for it in the moment, while accepting the reality that those "magic moments" would take care of themselves at the right time and in the right way as long as I created a fertile, positive environment for them to occur.

The conviction became so all encompassing to me that I felt compelled to create a tangible reminder of the influence these three simple words were having on nearly every aspect of my life. I began to write "GO FOR IT" on a sheet of paper in multiple fonts and in various shapes and guises. Over time, a logo began to emerge that encapsulated the seven letters of the mantra in a veiled but identifiable image."

This highlighted aside in the text is emblematic of the impact of the subject work of "The Artistry of Teaching and Making Music." There is a great deal of nuts and bolts content in the chapters covering creating a happy workshop, failsafe fixes for tone and intonation, time, balance and blend, articulation, dynamics, musical line, and putting it all together. Certainly Chapter 10, Getting to the Art of the Matter is perhaps the most exciting and inspirational to read, filled with insightful quotes and inspired thoughts of mentors and students, all sorts of music collaborators, creators and appreciators. But "The Artistry of Teaching and Making Music" goes beyond a film such as "Mr. Holland's Opus" in its scope and impact on the individual. It delineates the irresistible key to human aesthetics, touching even our very souls, which music does. The author talks of concepts such as perception and vision, passion and reason, anticipation and validation. All of these are parts of steps along the journey which unfolds in musical enlightenment. It is supremely refreshing to be bidden to follow our muse or follow our bliss in the pursuit of music. I will close this with the author's final instructions to the reader: "ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE LION IN THE ROCK. KEEP A FIRM HAND ON THE TILLER AND YOUR SAILS FULL OF AIR. AND .... ALWAYS ...GO FOR IT! (p.176)."

Heart-Based Singing: Vocal Technique
Agatha Carubia, author
StellaRose Publishing
PO Box 639, Summerland, CA 93067
9780991009619 $22.95

"Heart-Based Singing: Vocal Technique" is a stimulating self help vocal technique manual that is full of skilled advice about good vocal practices. Written by an experienced Julliard graduate with both vocal teaching and yoga background, "Heart-Based Singing" incorporates chakra theory and yoga posture practices into vocal exercise and training techniques. Simply but clearly written, with color coded chakra sigils, "Heart-Based Singing" at Chapter I begins with a seven point list of the principles of heart-based singing, according to the chakras. The author states, "Your guide for this journey into singing is your heart." Further elaboration follows with the coordination of heart-based singing, the focal points of heart-based singing, and the vocal registers of heart-based singing. Chakra theory provides an intriguing avenue to improved vocal technique and awareness because "examining the chakra system illuminates the fact that we are physical beings with universal energy moving through us (p. 12)." Different posture techniques and exercises are suggested in chapter II, Establishing a Routine. Chapter III addresses Breath Support: the Physical Focal Point: The Core of the Pelvis. Color coded chakra symbols are listed at the chapter's beginning to heighten chakra awareness. Chapter IV deals with the Resonator, Physical Focal Point: Hard Palate/Third Eye (employs chakras 4, 5, 6, 7). Many helpful physical, meditational, and vocal exercise approaches are employed in this chapter. Chapter V deals with singers' gold, Vowels and Resonance, Physical Focal Point: the Heart (employs Chakras 4, 5, 6, 7). Further vocal exercises and teachings of the Italian vowels are included. Favorite quote: "Your air and your voice are one, at your heart (p. 49)." Chapter VI reviews Application of Your Technique, Repertoire Preparation, and Chapter VII lists beautiful categories with a flavor of Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" of Vocal Maxims For the Heart-Based Singer. These include such important vocal subjects as On Posture, On Singing, On Technique, On Warming Up, On Support and Breathing, and many more. All the author's advice is priceless, and beautifully written. "Heart-Based Singing" is a vocal performer's guide to enlightened self improvement, incorporating chakra -based energy infusions into classic vocal technique and training in an unforgettable ways.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace
Frank R. Spellman
Bernan Press
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781598888096, $79.00, PB, 480pp,

Synopsis: "Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace" serves industrial businesses, workplaces, and managers who want quick answers to complicated questions. It is an essential reference for everyone involved with the safety and health of workers in the industrial workplace. It makes the difficult task of complying with the 29 CFR 1910 regulations easier to manage. From general safety provisions to violence in the workplace to hazardous wastes, it examine the standards of 29 CFR 1910 one-by-one with non-technical, implementation-friendly explanations of the requirements and how to implement and fulfill them. "Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace" provides a breakdown of the training standards for industrial applications. In addition, it shows how to prevent the leading causes of fatal accidents, which OSHA industrial standards are violated most often, and how non-Spanish - speaking managers can effectively communicate safety requirements with Spanish-speaking employees. Most importantly, "Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace" provides answers to a broad range of compliance questions, including who is obligated to observe the law, what OSHA compliance obligations are, and how state OSHA compares to federal OSHA standards.

Critique: In a political reality where one major party constantly decries regulation as burdensome and unnecessary, counterproductive and prohibitively expensive, it should be noted that most governmental regulations, especially federal ones, came about because of some calamity that cost American lives and public health that could have been otherwise spared had these regulations been in existence and enforced. That said, "Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace" is a necessary, useful, comprehensive, informative, and exceptionally well organized and presented body of information that all industrial operations, be they private or governmental, should be aware of and implementing in their workplace. Simply stated, "Occupational Safety and Health Simplified for the Industrial Workplace" is a core and essential addition to professional, corporate, community, governmental, and academic library Industrial Health & Safety reference collections.

Catalyst: Lineages and Trajectories
Ghazal Abbasy-Asbagh, editor
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781940291710, $29.95, PB, 496pp,

Synopsis: At a time when fundamentals of design education are being questioned and studios are being used as laboratories for everything ranging from design-build and fabrication practices to community service, material research, and multi-disciplinary incubators, this two volume set of "Catalyst: Lineages and Trajectories" positions the current pedagogy at the University of Virginia School of Architecture within an extended history of the school through an archival project that traces the lineages of its faculty. It considers design pedagogy through the lens of the formative experiences and agendas of the faculties of the Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, examining their role in shaping the school's direction, independent of top-down mandates and institutional agendas.

Critique: Nicely illustrated and comprised of erudite, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions by Ghazal Abbasy-Asbagh, Marcela Gracia Acosta, Karilyn Johanesen, Margaret Rew, Sam Eldredge, Del Hepler, Bess Lovern, Kaitlynn Long, Seth Salcedo, and others, "Catalyst: Lineages and Trajectories" deftly examines a single year of research and teaching at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, and will prove to be an invaluable and enduringly popular addition to professional and academic library Architectural Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

A William V. Spanos Reader
Daniel T. O'Hara, Donald E. Pease, Michelle Martin, editors
Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60208
9780810130845, $120.00, HC, 728pp,

Synopsis: The American literary critic William V. Spanos was a pioneer of postmodern theory and co-founder of one of its principal organs, the journal "Boundary 2". Informed by his experience as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Spanos saw dire consequences for life in modernist aesthetic experiments, and he thereafter imbued his work with a constructive aspect ever in the name of more life. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Daniel T. O'Hara (Professor of English and Inaugural Mellon Term Professor of Humanities at Temple University); Donald E. Pease (the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor of the Humanities at Dartmouth College); and Michelle Martin (whose work has appeared in the Journal of Modern Literature), "A William V. Spanos Reader: Humanist Criticism and the Secular Imperative" collects together in a single volume Spanos's most important critical essays, providing both an introduction to his prophetic, visionary work and a provocation to the practice of humanistic criticism.

Critique: Deftly organized and presented in three major sections (Existentialism and the Postmodern Turn; Humanism and the Poststructuralist Turn; American Exceptionalism and the Secular Turn), of special note is the introduction by Daniel T. O'Hara, "Prophet without a God?: Secular Humanist, Par Excellence". An impressive work of exceptional scholarship from beginning to end, "A William V. Spanos Reader: Humanist Criticism and the Secular Imperative" is a very highly recommended and core addition to academic library Literary Criticism/Literary Theory reference collections in general, and William V. Spanos supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett
Ian C. Hartman
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621901693, $49.95, HC, 266pp,

Synopsis: Extending from the southern Appalachians through the rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee to the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri, the upland South emerged in American lore as the setting where Daniel Boone, David Crockett, and other rugged frontiersmen forged a modern nation and headed west to become the progenitors of what some viewed as a new and superior "American race". Others, however, saw this region as the breeding ground of poor, debased whites -- the "hillbillies" and "white trash" of popular stereotypes. These conflicting identities have long dominated public discourse about the region, as well as fostered a deep fascination with it.

"In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett" by Ian C. Hartman (Kentucky State Historian and Professor History, Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky) is a compelling study that is part political and part cultural history as it probes the late-nineteenth-century context from which this paradox arose and the array of personalities, expressions, and policies that sought to resolve it (or at least make sense of it) in the decades that followed. "In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett" begins by investigating the writings of "race theorists" including future president Theodore Roosevelt, whose multi-volume The Winning of the West (1889 - 96) furthered the tale of a heroic and distinctly American stock who, "with axe and rifle", conquered a continent. Professor Hartman relates these myths to the rise of the early-twentieth-century eugenics movement, which sought to regenerate and purify a once proud but now impoverished and degraded people through policies that included forced sterilization to weed out "imbeciles." Hartman goes on to showcase the surprising ways in which the contradictory identity of the upland South affected broader national debates about imperialism, crime and punishment, poverty and inequality, and the growth and decline of the postwar welfare state.

Whether considering the racial implications of a 1930s Appalachian folk festival, the stereotypical but often sympathetic portrayals of rural southerners in sitcoms like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show, or the shifting perceptions of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, "In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett" is a consistently provocative study that invites readers to ponder a fresh a set of ideas about America's "race history" that have shown remarkable traction for more than a century.

Critique: A masterpiece of deftly presented scholarship, "In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett: Race, Culture, and the Politics of Representation in the Upland South" is enhanced with the inclusion of fifty-eight pages of Notes; a twenty-eight page Bibliography; and a thirteen page Index. Of special note are the Introduction (In the shadow of Daniel Boone and David Crockette: The Troubled Legacy of Race Histories) and the Conclusion (The Persistence of a Region, the Power of Mythology). "In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett" is very strongly recommended for community and academic library American History, collections in general, and Appalachian Race Relations supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham
Jess Archer
WestBow Press
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781512721614, $11.95, 2015, 124 pages

Struggles with Insecurity - On a Path Leading to Finding Home

In her book "Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham" Jess Archer describes a transitory life style with inescapable adjustments; of creating new family routines in another rented house or apartment in a new neighborhood, with new schools, stores, and doctors, over a period of 15 years.

Jess opens her heart to the reader with candor and frankness in a way that help them identify with her anxiety struggles, fears and doubts as well as discovering new insights into finding answers to their own questions of faith, purpose, and spiritual meaning.

Archer's sensitive poetic nature, beautiful descriptive phrases, and her gift of communication enhance her writing skills. Add her sense of humor and light hearted wit, and you know you are in for an exceptional read.

"Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham" will resonate with three audiences: those touched by the Billy Graham Crusades going back to the well-publicized crusade in Los Angeles that launched the Crusades in the early fifties, the fans of the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan who were searching for purpose and meaning to life, and the generation who responded the Youth Crusades of the Nineties.

Brilliant writing. Highly recommended.

A Treasure of Success Unlimited
Edited by OG Mandino
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408348, $15.99, 2016, 236 pages

Important Proven Success Principles to Help You Become the Person You Want Be

OG Mandino has compiled the best of the articles published in the Success Unlimited magazine published and edited by W. Clement Stone whose own success stories attest to the credibility of the principles set forth in is writing. "A Treasure of Success Unlimited" captures the essence of this highly significant collection of articles designed to motivate and inspire, to instruct and teach, and to help the reader discover and achieve the fulfillment of the principles most applicable to the reader's personal success goals.

Articles written by these highly successful men often present a variation of similar themes. These include:

1. Learning to use an analysis of your mistakes and the mistakes of others to determine the course of action for moving forward

2. Acknowledge the power of faith

3. Find ways to love people and render them a service

4. Recognize, develop, and use your giftedness and talents

5. Discover the benefits of finding peace of mind, inner security, and the calm of contentment

I found their true stories, enriching, stirring, and highly motivating.

The Napoleon Hill Foundation continues to encourage and inspire readers to pursue the philosophy, ethics, and success secrets of leaders of the past. Dream Big! Work Hard! Find Contentment! - all while serving others.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Napoleon Hill's Keys to Personal Achievement
Napoleon Hill with Commentary by Judith Williamson
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410136, $ 15.99, 2016, 192 pages

A Combination of a Applied Faith, a Purpose and a Plan to Determine Achievement

"Napoleon Hill's Keys to Personal Achievement" is made up of 52 essays taken from the archives of Dr. Hill's writings. Judith Williamson, director the Napoleon Hill World learning center, provides insight into the timeless writings, wisdom, and ideologies of Dr. Napoleon Hill to a whole new generation of readers.

Each chapter includes a motivational quote from highly respected authors, world leaders, including W. Clement Stone, Jim Stovall, J. B. Hill, and others. This is followed with a contemporary commentary by Williamson highlighting the content of the selected them of Hill's essay.

The themes selected for this collection encourage the reader to recognize the value and opportunity of time, the benefits of self-discipline, personal initiative, and the principle and power of imagination. Readers will gain a higher vision of success, a positive mental attitude, and an enthusiasm for life.

Napoleon Hill's writing will stir your imagination, inspire action, provide a strong ethical foundation, and increase your capacity to dream. Readers of Dr. Hill's earlier books will "rekindle the fires that got them going in the first place."

This is a book worthy of reading for content, assimilating specific details, testing new ideas, and re-reading for ongoing inspiration.

"Napoleon Hill's Keys to Personal Achievement" includes Hill's trademark principles, applied faith, and a well-defined purpose with a plan in place to determine achievement. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Turn Your Setbacks into Greenbacks
Dr. Willie Jolley
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780786408881, $ 15.99, 2016, 224 pages

Highly Motivational Principles, Insights, and Strategies for Turning Your Personal Setbacks into Comebacks

Award winning speaker and bestselling author, Dr. Willie Jolley's book "Turn Your Setbacks into Greenbacks" provides the reader with "seven steps to transform financial disaster to financial freedom." Each of the seven chapters of the book is packed with life changing and life transforming principles for establishing a focused mindset and persisting and persevering in times of decline, financial setbacks, downturns, and challenges.

Jolley includes real life success stories for "insight on how to create a positive outlook, become adaptable to every circumstance, and seize the opportunities that will lead you to greater success." As you read you will be directed step by step in learning: to identify and expand your vision, how to empower change, to be proactive and creative, and how to discover your purpose, and establish your goals.

Jolley communicates in a way that draws in the reader in an engaging narrative style. The book is filled with informational content principles and strategies that assure timeliness and relevance in the midst of economic uncertainties.

"Turn Your Setbacks into Greenbacks" is innovative, motivating, and energizing, challenging the reader to: "Turn your worries to profitable opportunities. Keep your faith! And remember your best is yet to come."

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Sun Still Rises - Surviving and Thriving After Grief and Loss
Shawn Doyle, CSP
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768405279, $ 14.99, 2014, 188 Pages

One Man's Story of Dealing with Grief and Loss - Steps to Healing, Recovery, and Hope

Professional speaker, author, and advocate for life-long learning Shawn Doyle describes the emotions of his "soul crunching feelings" and the "painful agonizing soul searching" grief at the loss of his wife of 32 years in "The Sun Still Rises - Surviving and Thriving after Grief and Loss."

Doyle helps the reader recognize and accept the fact that grieving is a personal process; there are no set formulas that work for everyone. He demystifies misinformation and the dangers of trying to fit into society's rules. He shares his own experiences to help readers know what to expect and some pointers on evaluating their status and formulating plans while designing a new life.

Shawn writes with passion. Every page is infused with hope, empathy, and motivation. Chapters may begin and end with a motivating concept dealing with the specific theme of the material. I found these to be especially uplifting and reassuring. Doyle's wring style is well organized and formatted filled with thoughtful descriptive phrases and a comfortable and a communication style that draws in the reader. I am looking forward to reading more of Shawn's books.

Shawn's goal in writing this book is to help others who are suffering through their loss. "The Sun Still Rises - Surviving and Thriving After Grief and Loss" is a personal story of love and hope including practical guidelines for coping with the process of grief and moving on to find a new life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Release Your Unstoppable Power the Journey Continues
Kieran Revell
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408836, 2015, $15.99, 254 pages

A Step by Step Guide to Abundant Living - A Journey into Discovery

"Release Your Unstoppable Power the Journey Continues" systematically outlines tools, resources, strategies, and action plans to unleash the power within you necessary to transform your dreams to realities, to unlock unique opportunities about you, and to unleash the spiritual leader within you.

Kieran's writing is abundant with the use of superlatives, always upbeat, optimistic, and positive. He encourages the reader to "divest yourself of all doubts, recriminations, and fears holding you back." He reminds the reader of elements important in personal and professional development insuring tangible results including: acting with respect, trust, gratitude, pride, passion, drive, and commitment.

Chapter by chapter Kieran leads the reader step by sept in a blueprint for a better life through foundational principles of success. These include:

1. Discover the power of a dream
2. The importance of goal setting
3. The necessity of a plan of action
4. A concept of creative visualization
5. The significance of a healthy self-esteem
6. Knowing where you are going
7. Remain focused and determined
8. Recognize your capacity
9. Adopt and attitude of gratitude

I especially like the "Lessons Learned" feature which is included at the end of each chapter which highlights key thoughts emphasized within the chapter. These enhance the assimilation process, and provide an excellent source for review and for implementing. These practices will change your life.

"Release Your Unstoppable Power the Journey Continues" is an important resource and should be read and reread and be readily available throughout your journey to personal self-fulfillment and professional development.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Success with People - Your Action Plan for Prosperity and Success
Cavett Robert
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408409, $15.99, 2015, 214 Pgs

An Action Plan for Successful Group Dynamics through Human Engineering

Cavett Robert's book "Success with People - Your Action Plan for Prosperity and Success" is based on his six principles on the science of knowing how to deal with people. The application of these principles will not only help you discover a new way of influencing others, but will also lead to a better understanding of self.

A unique writing style, eye catching topical headings, a reader friendly format and stimulating content all reinforce and enrich Robert's practical and common sense approach to the dynamics of learning. His writing is engaging and will provide the reader with an understanding of what causes people to act, the anatomy of persuasion, and the credentials of leadership. His proposals are often simple yet always profound, challenging individuals: to know what you are doing, enjoy what you are doing, and to believe in what you are doing.

"Success with People - Your Action Plan for Prosperity and Success" is for anyone on the journey to experience a more constructive life; those concerned about their future earning power, measuring their service to others, and learning more about the importance of a positive ethics while growing in professionalism.
Transformational reading.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Physically Fit Messiah - Wellness Wisdom Past and Present
Cal Samra
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759998, $14.95, 2015, 216 Pages

A Fresh Look at Jesus' Exhortation to His Disciples to "Be of Good Cheer," With Sage Wisdom from Wellness Advocates Past and Present

Award winning humorist, editor and publisher, Cal Samra's "The Physically Fit Messiah - Wellness Wisdom Past and Present" is a refreshing approach to the relationship of faith, humor, and health. Pastors and church editors subscribed to Samra's "Noiseletter" for over 30 years. The newsletters provided reproducible cartoons and humorous illustrations for church publications and for introducing humor into sermon applications.

"The Physically Fit Messiah" is packed with fast moving facts, wellness principles to live by, real life stories that illustrate and confirm the healing power of exercise, the healing power of prayer, and the healing power of pets. He reinforces the healing power of humor with tongue in cheek cartoons, jokes, and stories that help the reader experience personally the benefits of laughter. He highlights the work of Patch Adams, and the impact Chloe the clown on the healing process.

Readers from all faiths will find encouragement from the history of the early Greek Christian physicians, the Franciscans, John Wesley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ellen White, Mary Baker Eddy, the Quakers, and modern health reformers.

Samra is highly recognized for his reputation as a health and humor historian, for his strong Christian faith, and as an advocate for physical fitness and nutrition, and health care reform. He demonstrates his keen sense of wit and subtle humor in his writing as well as his passion for historical research and for his skill as a newspaper writer and editor.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Coyote Speaks - Cross Country Run
Peter Likins
Darby Books
9780997042344, $18.00, 264 pages,

Childhood Abuse, Retribution, Recovery, and Ultimate Redemption

Peter Likins "Coyote Speaks - Cross Country Run" captures the plight of Kit Coyote traumatized by the beating, verbal abuse, and hatred of Jake Durkins his foster father. Durkins operated a chicken ranch and foster home in the semi-arid desert of Ajo, Arizona, located about 100 miles from Tucson.

Coach K. from nearby Tucson discovered Kit's natural gift for running and took an interest in training him in the finer points of running competitively. When life at the chicken ranch became unbearable Kit escaped the horror of hatred and abuse and ran from Ajo to Tucson to the home of Coach K. and his wife Teresa. The Karangetti's became his new foster parents. Opportunities opened up for Kit during high school in Tucson. He excelled in running and in the sport of wrestling and received a college scholarship at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. A series of bad choices, led to the need to establish a new identity for Coyote: he became a fugitive of the law and fled to California.

Likins writes with a rare sensitivity and gentle spirit that reveal a keen observation of the best in mankind even in light of exposure to the most deplorable and evil of others. This understanding allows him to use the elements of story and a fictional approach to become platform for issues of socio and culture inequity. The realism and striking imagery found in "Coyote Speaks" add a dimension to the elements of conflict and resolution used throughout the story to develop a suspenseful plot and to build character identity.

"Coyote Speaks - Cross Country Run" is timely, especially relevant in light of recent acts of random shooting, acts of terrorism, and international racial and religious tension. This is a poignant story of the impact of childhood trauma on life choices in times of personal crisis.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

All Jokes Aside
Raymond Lambert & Chris Bournea
Agate Bolden
c/o Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781932841954, $16.00, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Steve Harvey, and Dave Chappelle, are some of the biggest names in American entertainment today and all of them have appeared at Raymond Lambert's club All Jokes Aside, the legendary Chicago showcase for African-American comedy, early in their respective careers. "All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is an insightful memoir that follows up on Lambert's critically acclaimed 2012 Showtime documentary, Phunny Business, and tells the story of his life as seen through the lens of All Jokes Aside, including its successes, failures, and lessons learned.

By the late 1980s, Lambert was earning a six-figure salary as an investment banker on Wall Street, but dreamed of starting his own company. With zero experience, an equally committed partner, and a little borrowed money, he opened All Jokes Aside, and before long was helping to launch some of the biggest names in comedy.

"All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is personal story of Lambert's journey, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the world of show business, and an inspiring tale for any would-be entertainment entrepreneur. Chock-full of cautionary tales both humorous and dramatic, revealing details on the early careers of top performers, and tangible guidance on how to build a business from the ground up, "All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is a much-needed recent history of black entertainment and a powerful memoir of entrepreneurial ups and downs.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is as informed and informative as it is candid and insightful. "All Jokes Aside" is a consistently impressive and very highly recommended addition to community library shelves, as well as college and university Contemporary Black Studies reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "All Jokes Aside" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

God Almighty Hisself
Mitchell Nathanson
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812248012, $34.95, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Dick Allen in 1960, fans of the franchise envisioned bearing witness to feats never before accomplished by a Phillies player. A half-century later, they're still trying to make sense of what they saw.

Carrying to the plate baseball's heaviest and loudest bat as well as the burden of being the club's first African American superstar, Allen found both hits and controversy with ease and regularity as he established himself as the premier individualist in a game that prided itself on conformity. As one of his managers observed, "I believe God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen." A brutal pregame fight with teammate Frank Thomas, a dogged determination to be compensated on par with the game's elite, an insistence on living life on his own terms and not management's: what did it all mean? Journalists and fans alike took sides with ferocity, and they take sides still.

Despite talent that earned him Rookie of the Year and MVP honors as well as a reputation as one of his era's most feared power hitters, many remember Allen as one of the game's most destructive and divisive forces, while supporters insist that he is the best player not in the Hall of Fame. "God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen" explains why.

Biographer Mitchell Nathanson presents Allen's life against the backdrop of organized baseball's continuing desegregation process. Drawing out the larger generational and business shifts in the game, he shows how Allen's career exposed not only the racial double standard that had become entrenched in the wake of the game's integration a generation earlier but also the forces that were bent on preserving the status quo. In the process, "God Almighty Hisself" unveils the strange and maddening career of a man who somehow managed to fulfill and frustrate expectations all at once.

Critique: Impressively detailed, exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, "God Almighty Hisself" is a "must read" for all dedicated baseball fans, as well as a critically important addition to community and academic library American Baseball History, American Black Studies, and 20th Century American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "God Almighty Hisself" is also available in a Kindle edition ($22.66).

Abstract 2015
Amale Andraos & Jesse Seegers, Editors
Columbia University Graduate School of Archiecture
c/o Actar D / Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781941332177, $35.00, O-Wire Bound PB, 450pp,

Synopsis: "Abstract 2015" is the newest yearly publication of work and research from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Produced through the Office of the Dean Amale Andraos, the archive of student work contains documentation of exceptional projects, selected by faculty at the conclusion of each semester. This 2015 edition includes the applied research of the school's laboratories and projects from design studios taught by Benjamin Aranda, Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang, Juan Herreros, Steven Holl, Jeffrey Inaba, Andres Jaque, Laura Kurgan, Jing Liu, LOT-EK, Reinhold Martin, Kate Orff, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Hilary Sample, Bernard Tschumi, Nanako Umemoto and many others. This encyclopedic volume is conceived as both an organizational model for the school and a testament to the global distribution of the work included within.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Amale Andraos (Dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation) and Jesse Seegers (Associate Editor, Digital Projects at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation), "Abstract 2015" is a critically important and strongly recommended addition to professional and academic library Contemporary Architecture reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Getting to Green
Frederic C. Rich
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393292473, $26.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Simply stated, the Green movement in America has lost its way. Pew polling reveals that the environment is one of the two things about which Republicans and Democrats disagree most. Congress has not passed a landmark piece of environmental legislation for a quarter-century. As atmospheric CO2 continues its relentless climb, even environmental insiders have pronounced "the death of environmentalism". In "Getting to Green: Saving Nature - A Bipartisan Solution", international corporate lawyer and environmental leader Frederic C. Rich argues that meaningful progress on urgent environmental issues can be made only on a bipartisan basis. Rich reminds us of American conservation's conservative roots and of the bipartisan political consensus that had Republican congressmen voting for, and Richard Nixon signing, the most important environmental legislation of the 1970s. He argues that faithfulness to conservative principles requires the GOP to support environmental protection, while at the same time he criticizes the Green movement for having drifted too far to the left and too often appearing hostile to business and economic growth. The key to success is encouraging Greens and conservatives to work together in the space where their values overlap, what Rich calls "Center Green". Center Green takes as its model the hugely successful national land trust movement, which has retained vigorous bipartisan support. Rich's program is pragmatic and non-ideological. It is rooted in the way America is, not in a utopian vision of what it could become. It measures policy not by whether it is the optimum solution but by the two-part test of whether it would make a meaningful contribution to an environmental problem and whether it is achievable politically. Application of the Center Green approach moves us away from some of the harmful orthodoxies of mainstream environmentalism and results in practical and actionable positions on climate change, energy policy, and other crucial issues. This is how we get to Green.

Critique: Impressively well written, persuasive argued, exceptionally detailed, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation, "Getting to Green: Saving Nature - A Bipartisan Solution" by Frederick G. Rich is an absolutely essential read for environmental activists and governmental environmental policy makers. A critically important and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library Environmental Studies and Political Science collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Getting to Green" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.81).

America's Addiction to Terrorism
Henry A. Giroux
Monthly Review Press
146 West 29th Street, Suite 6W, New York, NY 10001
9781583675717, $89.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: In the United States today, the term "terrorism" conjures up images of dangerous, outside threats: religious extremists and suicide bombers in particular. Harder to see but all the more pervasive is the terrorism perpetuated by the United States itself, whether through military force overseas or woven into the very fabric of society at home. Henry Giroux (a social critic and educator. He currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in Communication Studies at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada) in the pages of "America's Addiction to Terrorism", turns the conventional wisdom on terrorism upside down, demonstrating how fear and lawlessness have become organizing principles of life in the United States, and violence an acceptable form of social mediation. "America's Addiction to Terrorism" addresses the most pressing issues of the moment, ranging from officially sanctioned torture, to militarized police forces, to austerity politics. "America's Addiction to Terrorism" also examines the ongoing degradation of the education system and how young people in particular suffer its more nefarious outcomes. Against this grim picture, "America's Addiction to Terrorism" ultimately posits a politics of hope and a commitment to accurate (and radical) historical memory. "America's Addiction to Terrorism" is presented as a redress to the American addiction to terrorism in the form of a kind of "public pedagogy" that challenges the poisoned narratives of "America's dis-imagination machine".

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, challenging and iconoclastic, "America's Addiction to Terrorism" is a compelling read from beginning to end and very strongly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues and Political Science reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "America's Addiction to Terrorism" is also available in a paperback edition (9781583675700, $20.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Lady from Zagreb
Philip Kerr
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781101982518, $16.00, Paperback, 480 pp.,

After nine novels, Bernie Gunther turns up again in war-time Nazi Germany solving mysteries, murders and other assorted questions, falling in love with a beautiful actress (the eponymous Lady) and moving in exalted circles, ranging from those of Goebbels to various generals. Bernie, who originally started out as a Berlin homicide detective, now is little more than an errand boy for the propaganda minister who covets the affections of the actress while designing to star her in a film.

The actress refuses to accept the role unless Goebbels finds her estranged father, supposedly somewhere in Croatia or Yugoslavia. So enter Bernie Gunther, who is sent to find her dad in an effort to sway her to Goebbels' desires. But first he falls in love with her, spending a blissful night in her arms. The trip gives Bernie, an irreverent anti-Nazi, ample time to observes the cruelties and murderous results of the powers-that-be and their allies. And along the way, the role of "neutral" Switzerland and its setting for English, Russian and American spies, including Allen Dulles, who arranges o have Bernie kidnapped while delivering a Mercedes for a German general to a Swiss associate.

While there are mysteries and murders to solve, the detective seems to approach them almost off-handedly, like an afterthought. A saving grace in the novel is Bernie's sense of humor and the sly comments he makes of the Nazis and their regime. It is worth reading the novel for these alone. In an afterward, the author promises Bernie will return next year in the 11th book in the series. It should be a pleasant addition and waited for patiently. ("The Other Side of Silence" is due out in late March, 2016.) Meanwhile, if one hasn't read any of the previous novels, including this recommend tome, it would more than pleasantly fill the intervening time.

Murder on the Champ de Mars
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956240 $15.95, Paperback, 320 pp.,

Returning to work after a maternity leave, Amy LeDuc becomes too busy to really care for her six-month-old daughter. To begin with, she undertakes a surveillance job, occupying her evenings. Then she becomes involved in a personal investigation involving gypsies in the belief she can discover the identity of the murderer of her father 10 years before. And to top it off, she has to fend off her former lover who, with his new wife, is attempting to wrest possession of her baby from her.

As in all the novels in the series, this one takes place in one area of Paris, the seventh arrondissnent, home to the Parisian elite, the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. Such a setting gives the author an opportunity to give the reader a glimpse into the seats of power in the ministries and embassies, the homes and gardens of the upper crust as she pursues her quest to uncover the facts surrounding her father's death.

One criticism: The reader is swamped with too much in the way of couture, lipstick applications and other frilly descriptions which slow down the progress in what is a first-rate mystery. Also, the surveillance seems to be an afterthought, just to prove that the LeDuc Detective Agency actually exists, and is never really developed. That notwithstanding, the novel is recommended.

Falling in Love
Donna Leon
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802124876, $16.00/22.95 CA$, Paperback, 256 pp.,

Flavia Petrelli, a renowned opera singer, appeared in the very first Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, in which he saved her life. Now, 27 novels later, she reappears singing Tosca at the Venice opera house, La Fenice. In the first book, she was a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. Now, she is the victim of an unidentified admirer who inundates her with yellow roses, not only in Venice, but in London and St. Petersburg, where she had sung earlier.

The plot unfolds as the soprano becomes more and more concerned about the flowers, especially when she arrives at the apartment she is temporarily occupying and finds more roses. How was the person who delivered them able to enter the building? The Commissario and his wife, Paola, attend an early performance and meet with the singer following the opera and invite her to dinner at his titled in-laws. During dinner, Brunetti learns of her fears and begins to connect her apprehensions with another case he is investigating, that of an assault on a young woman who was pushed down the steps of a bridge resulting in a broken arm and stitches on her head.

The story gives the author the means to not only highlight Venice and its attributes, as is usual in the series, but also the world of opera and the mind of a stalker, as he narrows his efforts to nab the culprit before any further harm occurs. Somehow, some of the endearing aspects of prior novels are downplayed in this latest effort. Brunetti's prodigious appetite is muted, relegated too often to the equivalent of fast food restaurants; the more-than-adequately described succulent meals (and recipes) Paola prepares are seemingly offered as an afterthought; the tender relationship between husband and wife is almost ignored as well as the precociousness of the son and daughter, much less the conversations over the dinner (or luncheon) table we have come to love. While these are charming, their lack hardly takes away from the Commissario's skills as a detective as he pursues the case.

The novel is well worth reading, and recommended.

The Discreet Hero
Mario Vargas Llosa
Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
c/o Macmillan
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 1010
9781250081629, $17.00, Paperback, 336 pp,

How likely is it that two men living hundreds of miles apart in Peru will interact at some point? Usually such an unlikely event will not take place, but that chance in a million occurs to Felicito Yanaque and Don Roberto. Each: the former, owner of a transport company, the latter a retired general manager of an insurance company, faces different problems.

It all begins when Don Roberto's former boss and friend Ismael Carrera asks him to be one of two witnesses to his marriage to his maid. The event is part of a plan to thwart the efforts of his twin sons to gain a hold on his fortune, and it sets off a maelstrom with repercussions on Don Roberto. Meanwhile, Yanaque is facing pressure from extortionists seeking protection money. Each, in his own way, has to step up to the plate and exhibit the strength and fortitude to live up to his own high standards and not yield to an easy way out.

The novelist, a Nobel Prize Winner, tells a simple tale in plain language. It is an excellent translation. Pulling the threads together in an interesting conclusion, the writing ties together two disparate themes to a unified ending.

Highly recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Kickback
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399170843, $26.95/32.00 CA$, Hardcover, 304 pages,

"Kickback" does not live up to the promise of Ace Atkins' previous efforts which demonstrably showed all the characteristics of a Spenser novel by the master. This time it reads less like a Parker book than Mr. Atkins' previous efforts, lacking the subtlety, wit, dialogue and banter one associates with the original series.

So, to judge it on its own: The plot is fine and the story moves forward, although awkwardly. Spenser becomes involved when a mother begs him to look into the incarceration of her son for what appears to be nothing more than a schoolboy prank. He discovers something deeper, including crooked judges, bribery and gangland connections. Not a pretty picture. In typical Spenser form, he goes after "them." But in a somewhat disjointed manner and in solving the case he really fails to demonstrate his detective skills. But rather the reader is sort of presented with the conclusion without any basis.

The novel reads OK and the author certainly can write. Let's hope the next in the series resumes the level previously achieved. "Kickback" is a readable book on its own, but not what we have come to expect with the name Parker on it.

Night Life
David Taylor
Forge Books
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765374844, $15.99, Paperback, 352 pp,

Michael Cassidy is a detective in New York City's midtown precinct during the 1950's in the era of McCarthyism. He is a dramatic character drawn in the classic mold of a tough hombre. His godfather is the mafia stalwart Frank Costello, his father an immigrant who started with less than nothing and rose to become a well-known Broadway producer. Cassidy picks up a murder case, the victim actually a dancer in the show his father is producing and now in rehearsal.

One murder leads to three others, and Michael becomes involved in a web of conspiracies involving the FBI and the CIA, and with Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover, no less. Cassidy is taken off the murder case by higher-ups, but true to fashion, he persists. Faced with complications of monumental proportions his doggedness continues.

This novel, a debut, is excellent. The background of New York City just after World War II is superb, and the atmosphere of the Red Scare years and McCarthyism is very real, especially for those who lived through the period. The book has much to recommend it, and indeed it is highly recommended.

The Fall
John Lescroart
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476709215, $26.99, Hardcover, 308 pp,

John Lescroart has written 25 previous novels, many of them with superb courtroom drama featuring Dismas Hardy. This novel, however, highlights the introduction of his daughter, Becky, just two years out of law school, as the lead attorney in an unusual murder trial which ordinarily would test the talents of the equivalent of an F. Lee Bailey.

The atmosphere in San Francisco where the novel takes place is charged with public and political outcry after the trials of a series perpetrators of criminal acts against black victims do not result in convictions or, even worse, not even an arrest, much less even finding a suspect. So, when a 17-year-old black female is murdered, the police and DA rush to find a viable suspect and bring him to trial. A chance meeting between Becky and Greg Treadway, later charged with the murder, leads to her representing him as his attorney.

Give "the Beck" (her nickname) credit for showing a great deal of legal expertise and just plain acumen far beyond what one would expect from a neophyte attorney in a maiden trial, one for murder no less. But then, she's the offspring of Dismas Hardy. Needless to say, the trial takes on a life of its own, giving the author the opportunity to exhibit some arcane legal principles. More important, Mr. Lescroart once again demonstrates his ability to twist and turn the tables on the reader in a most unexpected way. Although the book is interesting as a whole, it is especially recommended just for the unusual ending.

The Alphabet House
Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translated by Steve Schein
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781101983973, $16.00/21.00 CA$, Paperback, 592 pp.,

Before we begin, I should state that this novel would have rated 5 stars, except for the fact that the first half was slow, although probably necessary to establish the foundation for the rest of the book. Written by the Danish author of the delightful and amusing Department Q series, it is a standalone psychological study of two men who grew up boyhood friends and served in the RAF during World War II. The book takes place toward the end of the conflict and the years following that end.

In a bombing mission over Nazi Germany, the two were forced to parachute when their plane was hit, and they evaded capture by jumping on a hospital train filled with patients from the eastern front. They tossed two victims off the train and assumed their identities, ending up as mental patients at a facility giving the book its title and undergoing treatment for their supposed maladies, including electric shock. Eventually one escapes, the other remaining there for 30 years until his friend attempts to find him and bring him back to England.

It is this latter section which is absorbing, although the details of the treatments in the Alphabet House are equally fascinating. The author finally arrives at a point where his purpose surfaces: the question of whether friendship can survive despite the hardships and experiences suffered. It is this part of the novel which would have earned it a higher rating, except for the slogging necessary to get from there to here. Still, the book is highly recommended.

Ken Bruen and Jason Starr
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OUP, 020-762-0200
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
9781783295692, $9.95 12.95 CA$, 7.99 BPS, Paperback, 238 pp,

After a long lull, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr turned their attention to another Max Fisher novel, and it was well worth the wait. "Pimp" is not only a fantastic noir creation, but a funny, satirical put-on, filled with some of the most creative writing this reader has seen in a long time. Before we go any further, the title refers not to a person running prostitutes, but a designer drug, that Max has labeled with the tag line, "it takes care of you."

The plot is simple: Max, in hiding in the Pacific Northwest since his escape from Attica, finds the drug and uses it for a comeback, first in New York City until he learns that a TV program is being made of his exploits based on his life story in "Bust" (the last of three previous novels by these award-winning authors). So he takes off for Los Angeles, where he finds his former secretary ensconced as a co-producer of the program (along with an assortment of other characters). This, of course, makes for a new set of funny and improbable complications, not to mention more bodies to add to Max's collection.

To add to the already outlandish black comedy, the authors make liberal use of a wide variety of celebrity's names to further illustrate the absurd situations portrayed, as well as double- (and) triple-crosses, blunders, miscalculations, violence, sex and blackmail. All in good fun.

Highly recommended.

Gathering Prey
John Sandford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425278857, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp.,

For those readers who enjoy non-stop violence, this novel more than most will fulfill this interest. Otherwise the book, which is predictable in almost every way, will probably wear out one's interest fairly early on. That is not to say that it is not well-written and - plotted, but it is not constructed at the same level as previous Davenport stories in the series.

The plot is largely written around a group loosely based on the Manson family of great notoriety. It is filled with situations in which victims fall by the wayside, beginning in California and spreading to Minnesota, and then on to Wisconsin and Michigan. Davenport, who is based in Minnesota, expands his effort to the adjoining States in an effort to apprehend the group, whose leader assaulted his daughter while she was attending an event in Wisconsin.

In the past this reader has enjoyed this series, and I felt, unfortunately, that this one was sort of off the beaten track. There are readers who will enjoy the book. And I believe that there is another book in the series, Extreme Prey, due out in late April, and let's hope it will resume a more conventional approach in keeping with the character, who is usually more analytical as an investigator, rather than a hyper-active cowboy.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The General's Son
Miko Peled
Just World Books
PO Box 5484, Charlottesville, VA 22905
9781682570012, $29.99, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Miko Peled is an Israeli peace activist who spends his time between Jerusalem and San Diego. Born into a strongly Zionist family in Jerusalem, as a young man Peled witnessed the transformation of his father, Gen. Matti Peled, from a well-known leader in Israel's military to a strong peace activist. "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine" is a powerful account of the transformation of a young man who'd grown up in the heart of Israel's elite and served proudly in its military, into a fearless advocate of nonviolent struggle and equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis. Miko's journey is mirrored in many ways the transformation his father, a much-decorated Israeli general, had undergone three decades earlier.

Critique: Originally published in 2012, this new edition of "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine" features an updated Epilogue Miko takes readers to South Africa, East Asia, several European countries, and the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel itself. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The General's Son" is an extraordinary read from beginning to end and especially recommended for inclusion into community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The General's Son" is also available in a paperback edition (9781682570029, $19.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Plotinus Ennead V.1
Eric D. Perl
Parmenides Publishing
3753 Howard Hughes Parkway, #200, Las Vegas, NV 89169
9781930972919, $42.00, PB, 234pp,

Synopsis: Ably translated into English and provided with an informative introduction and commentary by Eric De. Perl (Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University - Los Angeles) "Plotinus Ennead V.1: On the Three Primary Levels of Reality: Translation, with an Introduction and Commentary" comes closer than any other to providing an outline of the entire spiritual and metaphysical system put forward by Plotinus (c. 204/5 - 270), and as such it may serve to some degree as an introduction to his philosophy. "Plotinus Ennead V. 1" addresses in condensed form a great many topics to which Plotinus elsewhere devotes extended discussion, including the problem of the multiple self; eternity and time; the unity-in-duality of intellect and the intelligible; and the derivation of intelligible being from the One. Above all, it shows that the so-called "three hypostases" (soul, intellect, and the One) are best understood not as a sequence of three things additional to one another, but as three levels of possession of the same content, so that each lower level (soul in relation to intellect and intellect in relation to the One) is an "image" and "expression" of its superior. Plotinus exhorts the human soul to overcome its alienation from its own true nature and its divine origin by first recognizing itself as superior to the body and the same in kind as the animating principle of the entire cosmos, and then discovering within itself the still higher levels of reality from which it derives: intellect and, ultimately, the One or Good, the supreme first principle of all things. To do so the soul must redirect its attention inward and upward to become aware of the divinity which is always within it but from which it is distracted by the clamor of the senses.

Critique: An impressive work of erudite scholarship, "Plotinus Ennead V.1: On the Three Primary Levels of Reality: Translation, with an Introduction and Commentary" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to college and university Greek Philosophy in general, and Plotinus supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Geographies of Trash
Rania Ghosn & El Hadi Jazairy
Brian Brash
National Sales Manager
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers, 355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10017
9781940291642, $25.00, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: In our current age of environmental awareness the scale of waste management is geographic, all while often relegating such undesired matter to invisibility as "matter out of place". Co-authored by Rania Ghosn (an architect, geographer and partner of Design Earth who is also an Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture + Planning) and El Hadi Jazairy (an architect and partner of Design Earth who is also an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, where he teaches courses in the architecture and urban design programs), "Geographies of Trash" reclaims the role of forms, technologies, economies and logistics of the waste system in the production of new aesthetics and politics of urbanism. Honored with a 2014 ACSA Faculty Design Award, "Geographies of Trash" charts the geographies of trash in Michigan across scales to propose five speculative projects that bring to visibility disciplinary controversies on the relations of technology, space and politics.

Critique: A unique and informative study, "Geographies of Trash" is exceptionally well organized and presented making it an invaluable and highly recommended addition to professional, corporate, governmental, college and university Environmental Studies reference collections in general, and Waste Management supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies
Sunggyu Lee, James G. Speight, Sudarshan K. Loyalka, eds.
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781466594562, $179.95, HC, 712pp,

Synopsis: While strides are being made in the research and development of environmentally acceptable and more sustainable alternative fuels, including efforts to reduce emissions of air pollutants associated with combustion processes from electric power generation and vehicular transportation, fossil fuel resources are limited and may soon be on the verge of depletion in the near future. Measuring the correlation between quality of life, energy consumption, and the efficient utilization of energy, this newly updated and expanded second edition of the "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" thoroughly examines the science and technology of alternative fuels and their processing technologies. It focuses specifically on environmental, techno-economic, and socioeconomic issues associated with the use of alternative energy sources, such as sustainability, applicable technologies, modes of utilization, and impacts on society. Written with research and development scientists and engineers in mind, the material comprising the "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" provides a detailed description and an assessment of available and feasible technologies, environmental health and safety issues, governmental regulations, and issues and agendas for R&D. It also includes alternative energy networks for production, distribution, and consumption. New to this second edition are several new chapters of emerging interest; updates of various chapters throughout including coverage of coal gasification and liquefaction, hydrogen technology and safety, shale fuel by hydraulic fracturing, ethanol from lignocellulosics, biodiesel, algae fuels, and energy from waste products. The "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" covers statistics, current concerns, and future trends.

Critique: A critically important, single-volume, complete reference, this edition of the "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" is an ideal and comprehensive instructional reference and resource for students of alternative fuel technologies, practicing scientists and engineers in the field of alternative fuel technologies, it can also be used as either a textbook or as a reference book on fuel science and engineering, energy and environment, chemical process design, and energy and environmental policy. The "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" is very highly recommended for corporate, governmental, and academic library Alternative Fuel Technologies reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that the "Handbook of Alternative Fuel Technologies" is also available in a Kindle edition ($95.79 Rent; $179.95 Purchase).

Agile Talent
Jon Younger & Norm Smallwood
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781625277633, $32.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Campbell Soup Company and PepsiCo seek advice from anthropologists to understand customer tastes and preferences. Google and Intel engage experts in social science and biomechanics to assess how people think about and use technology. Companies are gaining advantage through a new capability (the strategic use of external experts) made possible by technology and the globalization of talent. Leaders everywhere recognize that "lean", "agile", and "fast" strategies require new ways to access and leverage (without owning) key talent to fill critical gaps. As managers seek nontraditional sources of strategic talent and experiment with fast, flexible ways of engaging these experts, they need a new roadmap. "Agile Talent: How to Source and Manage Outside Experts" delivers that roadmap. It tells you how to assess, choose, attract, develop, support, and retain your external talent. Co-authored by Jon Younger (a partner emeritus of the RBL Group, where he led the firm's Strategic HR practice) and Norm Smallwood (President and cofounder of RBL Group, and leads the firm's Leadership practice), "Agile Talent" reveals how companies such as Apple, Uber, Airbnb, Google, IBM, and Bain Capital organize and manage new forms of talent in innovative ways. Supported by survey data and packed with tools and templates for applying these ideas, "Agile Talent" is the ultimate guide for winning the next war for talent.

Critique: Packed from cover to cover with practical insights and real-world examples, "Agile Talent: How to Source and Manage Outside Experts" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive reference for anyone charged with the responsibility of acquiring expertise from outside their interior corporate human resources. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Agile Talent" is very highly recommended for corporate, governmental, community, and academic library Business Management instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Agile Talent" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.60).

Paul T. Vogel

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design