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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 4 April 2018 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

Clutter Intervention
Tisha Morris
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738753263 $17.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: What's your clutter actually covering up? Once you're aware of the real issue, letting go is simple and decluttering can happen immediately. Using step-by-step instructions and easy-to-understand explanations, Tisha Morris shows you how to move into a new phase of life by ridding yourself of all that's holding you back. Everything in your home is an extension of your identity, and when you keep old stuff for too long, you get stuck in the past.

Clutter Intervention teaches you about the psychological, emotional, and energetic components underlying your possessions, making it easier for you to let go and live authentically. Discover ways to clear out items associated with your past relationships, jobs, and unhealed grief. Learn how to handle blind spots, common excuses, and overcompensation. This book isn't about living with less. It's about living in alignment with the life you want.

Critique: Clutter Intervention: How Your Stuff is Keeping You Stuck is a unique self-help guide to freeing oneself from both physical and emotional clutter. Being able to process and let go of pain or difficult memories is an invaluable ability. Chapters outline a declutter program for moving on past mementos from past relationships, previous careers, the glory days of youth, and even helpful tips for clearing out digital clutter. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Clutter Intervention is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Breathing Love: Meditation in Action
Jennie Lee
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738752099, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Offering hope to a world in turmoil, "Breathing Love: Meditation in Action" by certified yoga therapist Jennie Lee is a spiritual guide to living love as an embodied meditation practice. Uniting us in a universally understandable goal, Jennie Lee builds immediate bridges of peace by changing how we look at love; from something to be acquired and preserved, to something to be realized and breathed.

Part One offers compassionate wisdom for expanding the experience of love within yourself and asks you to contemplate what might be keeping you from full capacity loving. It also explores the difference between your usual yet limited sense of self, and your unified greater Self, experienced through compassionate action and divine kindness.

Part Two asks you to consider that your truest life purpose lies in offering a more expansive, less personal love into every relationship and circumstance of daily life. It also addresses periods of self-evaluation, such as during major life transitions and near the end of life, and how you can embrace these with peaceful resolve, and leave a legacy of pure love behind.

The key themes comprising "Breathing Love" include: How to live fearlessly in the consciousness of love; How to develop receptivity to divine love through meditation; How to know and live from one's most loving self; How to practice love in daily life; How to integrate spirituality and physical life through conscious loving; How to overcome the ego and access the soul for greater peace; How to love beyond one's current limitations; How to have a deeper relationship with the Source of all love; How to spiritualize relationships through more unconditioned love; How to experience non-personal love for all beings; How to find ultimate purpose in living a love directed life.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Breathing Love: Meditation in Action" is a life enhancing read that is especially recommended for students of Body/Mind/Spirit development in general, and Personal Growth supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Breathing Love: Meditation in Action" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Heart of the Matter
Joffre McClung
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504375115, $39.82, HC, 338pp,

Synopsis: You can do all the programming and techniques you want to get a better life, but if you don't love yourself, it will not change a damn thing. You will still feel the same way about yourself tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.
The bottom line is the most important relationship you will ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. This relationship can be a rewarding one when rooted in self-love, or it can be toxic when not. So, what is self-love? Why is it so important? And most importantly, how do you find it?

"The Heart of the Matter: A Workbook and Guide to Finding Your Way Back to Self-Love" by spiritual/personal growth author and teacher, inspirational blogger, self-love advocate, and independent filmmaker, Joffre McClung answers these questions and more.

"The Heart of the Matter" takes the esoteric concept of self-love and makes it accessible by clearly defining the three necessary components of self-love. Readers will learn how to reconnect to these components by: Discovering the transformational tools that are available within; Learning how to use these tools to uncover what you really think and feel about yourself and the world around you, and more importantly why; Transforming the wounded parts of self that have been separated from this love through practical steps and exercises for healing and forgiving the past; Empowering yourself to make more loving and conscious choices about what you believe and therefore what you will feel and experience;

We all are searching for more love in our lives. "The Heart of the Matter" not only shows where to look but also provides a roadmap on how to get there.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, potentially life changing, and extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "The Heart of the Matter: A Workbook and Guide to Finding Your Way Back to Self-Love" is an especially recommended addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "The Heart of the Matter" is also available in a paperback edition (9781504375092, $20.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Tales of an Ecotourist
Mike Gunter Jr.
Excelsior Editions
c/o State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438466798, $95.00, HC, 460pp,

Synopsis: Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism.

Crossing the far corners of the globe, "Tales of an Ecotourist: What Travel to Wild Places Can Teach Us About Climate Change" by Mike Gunter Jr. (who is a Cornell Distinguished Faculty member and Arthur Vining Davis Fellow at Rollins College where he serves as Professor and Chair of the Political Science department and Director of International Affairs in the Holt School) showcases travel, from the hot and humid Amazon jungle to the frozen but dry Antarctic, as a simple yet spellbinding lens to better understand the complex issue of climate change.

At its core, climate change is an issue few truly understand, in large part due to its dizzying array of scientific, economic, cultural, social, and political variables.

Using both keen humor and memorable anecdotes, while weaving respected scientific studies along the way, Professor Gunter transports the reader to five famous eco-destinations, from the Galapagos Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, revealing firsthand the increasing threats of climate change. Part travelogue, part current events expose, with a healthy dose of history, ecology, and politics, these tales of eco-adventure tackle such obstacles head on while fleshing out much-needed personal context to perhaps society's greatest threat of all.

Critique: An inherently interesting and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Tales of an Ecotourist: What Travel to Wild Places Can Teach Us About Climate Change" is an extraordinary and entertaining volume that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library contemporary travelogue collections in general, and contemporary environmental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Tales of an Ecotourist" is also available in a paperback edition (9781438466781, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life
Jack Deere
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310538141, $29.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: "Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life" by Jack Deere, (who was formerly an Associate Professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary) is an unvarnished look at the Christian life in the form of a powerful memoir of finding beauty and friendship through the pain of loss, tragedy, and brokenness.

Professor Deere tells the true story of his life growing up near Fort Worth, Texas in the 1950's and the disintegration of his family following his father's suicide. In his mid-twenties, Jack would rise to fame and success as a leading scholar, popular speaker, and bestselling author.

But despite being rescued and exalted, Jack would ultimately be crushed in the years that followed. He would lose his son to suicide and his wife to alcoholism. Only then would Jack wrestle with his own addictions, surrender control, and experience true healing.

An authentic story of the Christian life, "Even in Our Darkness" could well serve as a guide for the reader in overcoming life's disappointments and learning to hear God speak in unbelievable ways.

Critique: Candid, thoughtful, replete with hard won insights, and ultimately inspiring, "Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Even in Our Darkness" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0310538172, $10.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide, second edition
Jane Mersky Leder
Bublish, Incorporated
9781946229533, $17.99, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: Jane Mersky Leder's brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday. Her life has never been the same. Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of "Dead Serious", this second and completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more.

In these pages scores of teens share their personal stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame -- yet often hope.

Written for teens, adults and educators, "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" deftly explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression -- and suicide.

Leder's own journey of discovery after her brother's suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults.

The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" more relevant and important than ever. As the author states so eloquently -- "Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking."

Critique: The kind of chronic depression in adolescence that results in suicide is also an underlying cause of the individual shootings and mass killings that have become so visible an issue in our schools today. Basically a variation of 'suicide by cop'. All this makes "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" an unreservedly recommended read for young readers ages 12 to 18 -- as well as any parent, teacher, or counselor working with teenage depression. While emphatically and urgently recommended for school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Women at War
Vera Hildebrand
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781682473153, $29.95, HC, 344pp,

Synopsis: Among the more improbable events of the Asia-Pacific Theater in World War II was the creation in Singapore of a corps of female Indian combat soldiers, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment (RJR). They served under Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army.

Because the creation of an Indian all-female regiment of combat soldiers was a radical military innovation in 1943, and because the role of women in today's broader context of Indian culture has become a prevalent and pressing issue, the extensive testimony of the surviving veterans of this unit is timely and urgent. The history of these brave women soldiers is little known, their extraordinary service and the role played by Bose remains largely unexplored.

In the years since the RJR surrender in 1945, the story of Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani Regiment of female combatants as signature symbols of both the national fight for independence and of Indian women's struggle for gender equality has taken on aspects of myth. Lengthy interviews with the veteran Ranis together with archival research comprise the evidence that separates the myth of the Bengali hero and his jungle warrior maidens from historical fact, and this resulting book presents an accurate narrative of the Ranis. The facts are nearly as impressive as the legend.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, inherently fascinating, and a unique contribution to the growing library of World War literature, "Women at War: Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library World War II History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and military history buffs, that "Women at War" is available in a hardback edition (Naval Institute Press, 9781682473153, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Taking Flight
Michael Edmonds
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State Street, Madison, WI 53575
9780870208362, $28.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Today, more than fifty million birdwatching Americans traipse through wetlands at dawn, endure clouds of mosquitoes, and brave freezing autumn winds just to catch a glimpse of a bird.

The human desire to connect with winged creatures defies age and generation. In the Midwest, humans and birds have lived together for more than twelve thousand years. "Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America" by Michael Edmonds (a recreational birder for three decades) explores how and why people have worshiped, feared, studied, hunted, eaten, and protected the birds that surrounded them.

In the pages "Taking Flight" Edmonds has combed archaeological reports, missionaries' journals, travelers' letters, early scientific treatises, occasional illustrations, the memoirs of American Indian elders, and the folklore of hunters, farmers, and formerly enslaved people throughout the Midwest to reveal how our ancestors thought about the very same birds we see today.

Critique: Whether a casual bird-watcher or simply an outdoor enthusiast, the reader will look at birds differently after reading "Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America". An impressively informative, exceptionally well written, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Taking Flight" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library wildlife collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Taking Flight is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Who She Is
Diane Byington
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781948051071, $2.99 Kindle

Faye Smith's family works the Florida orange groves, the migrants are back in town for work, and Faye once again must face a new school. The opening paragraph deftly captures Faye's ongoing and latest dilemma ("October 4, 1967. My first day at Valencia High started with a bloody nose. I had physical education class right after homeroom, and I wandered around the sprawling school, looking for the gym, for ten minutes."), setting the stage for a predictable 'new girl in town' or migrant family story.

However, readers will discover something different in Who She Is, because Faye defies the limitations of her epilepsy to try a new sport, which she loves, and even crafts a plan to escape her family's poverty until life shifts again, bringing into question her newfound identity and purpose in life.

That's one pleasing aspect of Who She Is, which sets the stage for a semi-predictable course; then makes a complete about-face with digressions that are completely unexpected and satisfyingly different.

Within the backdrop of newfound dreams and hopes for her future lies a family secret and a hidden heritage. Faye's brand new goals are challenged almost as soon as they are conceived. Realistic details depict a young girl's life, from smoking a joint and a first kiss that progresses too quickly into something else to a landmark birthday when Faye drinks her first coffee and contemplates the freedoms a driver's license will bring.

Other than the spells which overtake her, Faye seems to be a normal teen ... or, is she? And if she is lying about some of her experiences, isn't her mother doing the same? From her participation in a marathon to her goal of obtaining a college scholarship, Faye has her hands full; and readers are treated to a fast-paced, first-person narration of events.

Faye's character and her concerns are nicely drawn, the twists of plot are unpredictable and different, and the story line is thoroughly engrossing. Teens and adults who choose this leisure read expecting another story of a migrant lifestyle or a new girl's struggle with school will find much, much more taking place. Readers will appreciate Who She Is for its multifaceted approach to life and one girl's discovery of who she really is (and can be) in the face of bullying, betrayal, and abandonment.

Planet on Purpose
Brandon Peele
Hay House/Balboa Press
9781504392471 $21.99

Planet on Purpose: Your Guide to Genuine Prosperity, Authentic Leadership and a Better World explores the concept of life, how it works, and the science, psychology, and spiritual aspects of the idea of being purposeful. Although it advocates leading a more purposeful life, Planet on Purpose avoids any singular focus in favor of a wider-ranging examination of not just individual purpose, but its incarnation in society as a whole.

Chapters begin with a basic definition, quickly moving into considerations of global applications, the human race's overall evolutionary process, the notion of collective purpose, and the influence of political, cultural, and social forces on life purposes.

These are all facets that similar-sounding titles typically don't examine, making Planet on Purpose a bigger-picture piece that builds upon smaller-scale thinking.

From awaking one's compassionate impulses and opening one's mind to the idea of planetary identity and purpose, Planet on Purpose cultivates the kind of language and thinking that makes it particularly accessible to modern leaders, presenting purpose as a scientifically-validated best practice that moves us into an integral worldview. These readers will find many new ideas here, such as becoming a 'Shambhala Leader' who is amenable to committing to ongoing, transformative change beyond the level of individual pursuits.

In order to successfully put the ideas in this book to use, a concern for global impact, inner transformation and human flourishing will be helpful.

Modern professionals and social issues readers ready to move from individual to global thinking who harbor a special interest in leadership and systemic change will find Planet on Purpose is right there with them, ready for the transition and the journey.

French Quarter Artists
Vivian Marie Westerman
9781977779533 $7.99 Kindle; $35.73 Paper

French Quarter Artists follows the daily living, inspirations, and culture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, tracing these experiences through the eyes of Vivian Marie Westerman's alter ego, protagonist Ivy, a French Quarter artist who returns to New Orleans for the fourth time to live in the city and find her muse.

As she captures the sentiments, sense, and sights and smells of the art colony and its relationship to the city, readers are brought on a tour of the French Quarter with her; to places such as Jackson Square, "...the only place in America where you can see the work being done. Everything else is done in China." The result of such observations and travels is a more intricate sense of art, artists, and art communities than the usual New Orleans observational piece imparts. Perhaps that's because the insights come from a fellow artist in a work that's more an insider's documentary of the art world than an outside critic's dispassionate analysis.

Ivy's education lies not only in New Orleans culture and art, but in the business of marketing street art to buyers who each have their own personalities. Eventually she becomes involved in street artistry and in New Orleans political affairs.

Part of what makes Ivy's story so compelling is Westerman's ability to bring the French Quarter to life, from the Mississippi River that is one of the city's life forces to its iconic hurricane drinks, bar culture, Mardi Gras embellishments, and the economic fragility of freelance street artists.

As Ivy's portraits capture her customers' quirks and lives, so her observations deftly paint a picture of all manner of French Quarter affairs. Readers aren't limited to written description, either: color photos throughout capture the street artists and their productions, enhancing the story line with a visual touch that accents the historical facts sprinkled into Ivy's story.

In focusing on Jackson Square in particular, the microcosm of New Orleans artistry becomes a focal point for a broader examination of street artist lifestyles and concerns as French Quarter Artists follows a portrait artist's deeper involvement in the culture and personalities that make the French Quarter a unique world.

Plenty of nonfiction books attempt to provide tourists with a survey of the French Quarter; but few make it come to life like French Quarter Artists. This blend of biography and fiction excels in capturing the visual, historic, and physical and psychological world of the Quarter's inhabitants.

Anyone with an interest in New Orleans history and culture or street artists will find the story a compelling highlight of personalities, politics, history, and economics that grabs reader attention while capturing the visual artwork of Larisa Ivakina Clevenger and others whose works create friendships and connections within artistic and social circles alike.

Honor Kills
Nanci Rathbun
Dark Chocolate Press LLC
9780998755748 (Print) $13.99
9780998755755 (Digital E-book) $ 3.99

Honor Kills is Book 3 of an Angelina Bonaparte mystery series, and takes place six years after Marcy hired PI Angelina Bonaparte to find her missing husband Hank, who fled with all the money in their joint accounts. The fact that Hank is dead doesn't change their interest in uncovering the truth about his actions, but Angie doesn't expect that her pursuit will lead her full circle to confront a threat to her own family.

Hank was apparently well-liked by his colleagues and friends. Angie considers him a weasel. Which is the truth?

Under other circumstances, Angie's report of the demise of her suspect would conclude the case; but here it only broadens the questions and casts the net of intrigue further. Hank apparently has a number of hidden identities; and each comes with additional complexity and questions.

One notable feature of Honor Kills is that Angie is not a superhuman genius; but a human being prone to discouragement and mistakes. Not everything she does is smart or even well-reasoned ("Feeling cornered, I admitted that I'd sent a new message to Hank via S-Mail, one that connected Hank and Beltran. Spider's eyes rose to the ceiling as he thought about my dumb move."), but these descriptions are exactly what makes Angie likeable and human.

Angie is as prone to screwing up delicate situations as she is adept at problem-solving, and this lends a realistic and engrossing touch to her conundrums as she gets closer and closer to a surprising truth.

Nanci Rathbun also takes the time to explore why her characters doggedly pursue their objectives; and this too makes Honor Kills a superior read in a genre that too often focuses on the 'whodunnit' over the 'why pursue this inquiry' question.

The result is another spirited Angelina Bonaparte mystery that requires no special familiarity with predecessors in the series in order to prove satisfying to newcomers and prior fans alike.

Death Votes Last
Marc Rainer
Gatekeeper Press
ISBN: 9781619848498 $13.49 Paper
eISBN: 9781619848504 $ 3.99

One doesn't expect a crime drama in a series to also hold many political comments from modern dilemmas; but author Marc Rainer, in his prologue, makes no apology for the fact that his story line takes a political stand in its exploration of a senator's death and how federal prosecutor Jeff Trask and a team of FBI agents and police officers face big challenges in not only solving one murder, but prosecuting others. Can a killer receive a fair trial in Washington, D.C. when the capital is riddled with special interests and influences on the outcome?

These and other questions are brought to the forefront in a crime drama well immersed in political process and questions of justice. Jeff Trask finds that his job is complicated by Washington's political polarization, and also faces prejudice, a deeply divided U.S. Senate, the specter of a Democrat responsible for a Republication's demise, and killers at high levels of office affected by Presidential politics and grand jury processes.

All this might lead newcomers to believe that Death Votes Last's story line requires prior familiarity with the Jeff Trask series, politics, or legal matters; but readers need have absolutely no political or legal background in order to appreciate the events that unfold in this vivid drama.

Nothing is cut-and-dried as Jeff Trask faces many conundrums, and this is another satisfying piece to a story line that will prove as riveting for non-lawyers as it will to members of the legal profession or those already familiar with Washington politics.

The result is a gripping, intriguing, complex crime drama especially recommended for readers interested not just in being entertained, but in learning more about courtroom proceedings and the logic behind investigative routines.

The Borrowed Princess
Steve Underwood
Warren Publishing
9781943258550 $14.95

Book 1 of the 'Daughters of the Lost King' series for middle grades 4-6 tells of Princess Campanulis (nicknamed "Tic"), the seventh and last daughter of Azarule, who is last of her lineage and more of a tomboy than a proper princess.

The last thing Tic wants is to serve as a diplomat to a neighboring country who can benefit from her country's experience; but she's been tapped for the job of teaching a new monarchy how to survive. Many think that Tic will be perfect for the job; but few know the ulterior motive in sending her: the hopes that she will agree to wed the heir of the Polarian throne and thus forge an alliance between their countries against would-be aggressors.

Despite this hidden agenda, Tic is supported by friends and allies her own age, and her journey brings with it a series of encounters and changes that challenge her heart and mind with new perspectives and choices.

The Borrowed Princess excels in presenting a feisty, headstrong, yet generous girl who is brave, determined, and well-equipped to undertake what proves to be a perilous journey indeed.

Young readers receive a fine introduction to Tic's personality and viewpoints which drive the story line as a host of issues arise to test her abilities and determination. They also receive an unexpected dose of insight into the wiles and methods of those who would manipulate others: "The count was in a good mood. He joked with Sir Norman and Sir Winston. In his diplomatic missions, he had learned that if something didn't go his way, he simply made the best of it.

Though he knew Winston and Norman had once been great soldiers and defenders of the king, he worried about their age and their dedication to the mission. He decided he would befriend them by bragging about their past heroism and ply them with promises of greater glory if they succeeded. Plumdom believed the men would respond and prove boon companions. But first he had to establish a working relationship with them..."

Such adult approaches are too often omitted from children's reads because they may be deemed overly complex for young minds, but their presence here imparts no great challenge and helps educate kids about the methods and systems of major forces affecting Tic's choices, kingdom, and the political interactions around her.

From choices in language and communications ("Sweet?" he snorted, barely moving his head. He hated being called 'sweet.' It seemed like a variation on the way the Queen called him a 'cook.' Tic crossed her arms and drew back. "Yes, sweet. What's wrong with that? What would you call it?") to Tic's friendships with playmates who are called upon to support her in new ways, The Borrowed Princess offers surprising depth and insights unexpected in a leisure fantasy read for middle graders.

The result is an invigorating, complex story that pairs action with insights that middle graders will find both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Rickey Gard Diamond
She Writes Press
Print ISBN: 9781631523182 $19.95
E-ISBN: 9781631523199 $ 9.95

One might expect a serious political discussion packed with dense figures and demanding perspectives from Screwnomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change; but while this work is filled with information, it's by no means inaccessible to the average woman without a degree in economics. It pairs personal stories with graphic illustrations and easily-understood economic definitions to create a survey that assumes no prior knowledge of either economics or women's history.

The first strength to note is that Screwnomics doesn't alienate male readers who may be curious to learn how economic forces are stacked against women. Introductory chapters outline these forces in a way either male and female readers can readily understand, examining how masculine forces have measured and defined money and success in such a way as to stack the deck against female participants in economic and business prosperity.

The coverage is specifically tailored to prove accessible to economically disadvantaged women, but it doesn't 'dumb down' its technical considerations and it maintains a clear perspective on what it will and won't do: "Screwnomics isn't intended to help you manage your personal finances, but it will explain the larger assumptions of a system that makes managing impossible for so many. Screwnomics is my word for the unspoken but widely applied economic theory that women should always work for less, or better, for free...I translate economic history, terms, and definitions that especially disadvantage women, here and around the world. I introduce you to new, countering ideas and solutions that don't require a PhD, and may even inspire you to broach an economic subject with your friends. As designed now, economic theory devalues family, love, young children, music and art, nature's splendiferous beauty, and the faithful devotions, the loyal commitments, that make any life worthwhile. A glut of fiscal verbiage can put you to sleep, or convince you it's too hard to comprehend or too boring. Yet its rules have made money the central story of our time."

By blending judgments, values, and personal insights into this story of economic processes, Rickey Gard Diamond succeeds in turning a potentially dull subject into an invigorating - even empowering - read, connecting the subject of money to the playing field of personal goals, human values, and aspirations that go beyond fair wages and amassing wealth at all costs.

Another satisfying surprise is the discussion of moral and ethical hazards involved in making money. Most economics primers omit these important guideposts to personal achievement or any mention of toxic people and their threat to economic pursuits and personal satisfaction.

The specifics of money management, federal and business control processes, and why women are inherently at a consistent disadvantage are clearly explained and paired with facts that are clearly explained: "Everything about the dollar trumpets the United States, proclaiming our nation's money. It is, but the devil is in the details. Our national eagle and the Great Seal, that giant eyeball atop a pyramid, have both been on the dollar since Benjamin Franklin helped design the original bills. Only when you look at the very top in the border do you see what's really going on in small type, the words Federal Reserve Note."

The result is a powerfully accessible women's economics primer that covers not just economics, but the reasons why women consistently struggle to get ahead in a male-dominated world of money, why they are often stymied in their attempts to educate themselves about the subject, and how to overcome many of these barriers to understanding to not just gain a semblance of equality, but an understanding of the force and role of money in their lives.

Very, very highly recommended for the average woman who seeks a better understanding of how the American financial system works, why it's so often stacked against females, and what to do about it.

Being Spiritual: What This Means, and Does Religion Matter?
Clive Johnson
Labyrinthe Press
9781999788520 $7.95 Print/$3.99 Kindle

Being Spiritual: What This Means, and Does Religion Matter? closely inspects the nature of spirituality, its meaning and impact in human lives, and how different aspects of spiritual beliefs are reflected in diverse religions, and is a top recommendation for those who are not only spiritual, but who enjoy religious and philosophical reflection.

Chapters delve into what 'being spiritual' means to different people, examining shared themes of belief, its connections to and reflections in behaviors and approaches to living life, and social, psychological, historical, and theological influences on both traditional and alternative religious thinking processes.

Adding a multidisciplinary approach to the subject lends Being Spiritual a scholarly yet accessible flavor that translates to a thought-provoking, lively piece that invites debate and discussion as well as self-analysis and reflection.

There are many aspects to the notion of being spiritual that translate not only into actions, but into society-wide choices and perspectives that support civilized behavior: "Being spiritual necessitates us to have an interest in our fellow humans, to be political and motivated to want to change what's wrong in the world that we experience. It should encourage less aggression, fewer wars, calmer people, reduced brokenness among families and communities.
Indeed, the healing that occurs inside of a spiritual person can directly impact on healing the world - what is inside every person affects the vibration and equilibrium of everything around."

Discussion follow religious groups that embrace the 'spiritual but not religious' concept and people who hold these beliefs, examining how they can offer support for not only reflection and discussion but "...promote happy, co-operative and self-respecting communities" in the process of promoting inclusiveness. The book adds very accessible insights on special challenges to the public face of religion in modern culture. Being Spiritual uses all these approaches to support an inquiry and debate into the nature of not only spirituality, but the religious groups that support various notions of beliefs and actions.

The result is a thought-provoking and key guide for modern times; especially for religious thinkers interested in promoting a form of spiritual thinking and acceptance that is wider-ranging than many groups would embrace. No religious philosopher should be without this consideration of the nature of spirituality and its reflection in social and religious circles.

Paris Ever After
K. S. R. Burns
Velvet Morning Press
9780997767650 $4.99


Paris Ever After is a love story that follows the results of Amy's impulsive flight to a city far from home, and continues the adventure she experiences upon moving to Paris, far from her former life.

Amy told nobody of her goals and departure when she fled, and now she's building a new life in the city of dreams, and is pregnant at the age of thirty. She's enjoying every moment of new friendships, French culture, and a life that feels far more immediate than her old world.

Unfortunately the past has a way of swinging full circle into present-day affairs, and Amy finds her new life shaken when two visitors (one from her past; the other an unexpected arrival bringing conflict into her world) show up. Is Amy firmly enough rooted and committed to her new Parisian persona to deflect forces that could tear apart what she's built? Would it be safer to leave Paris, or smarter to stay?

Readers with a special affinity for Parisian culture will relish a novel that is well steeped in French affairs, serving as an enthralling backdrop to Amy's ongoing transformative process.

Paris Ever After excels in building the kind of story that is immediately absorbing and even, surprisingly, educational ("Yes, in France the cheese course comes with rules. It's hilarious. Women are served first. Older people are served before younger people. If a cheese is round you carve out a wedge. If a cheese is rectangular you cut an even slice across the short side. Your pieces should be no bigger than the size of your pinkie finger. Do not take more than three varieties of cheese, and, whatever you do, serve yourself only once. I love stuff like this.").

Equally powerful is the human psychology that permeates Amy's changing relationships and revelations: "In our few years as a couple I've done the weeping for both of us. Even when I had the miscarriage, soon after our hasty wedding, all he did was look grave, and then, days later, inform me in a neutral tone that "one third of first pregnancies end in miscarriage." Facts and data. They can serve you, and you can love them, but they'll offer little love or solace in return. Anyway, information isn't the same thing as knowledge. I said this to William once, not long after we started dating. He just looked at me."

It should be mentioned that Paris Ever After is also a touching and engaging read fueled by the compassion of its characters and by their realistic cross-cultural encounters and connections to past and present: "Here I am in a foreign country, far from my humble upbringing in inner city Phoenix, but suddenly, I feel totally comfortable, totally at home."

Whether it's passion, compassion, romance, or confronting emotional ties, Paris Ever After is the kind of captivating read that can fling even armchair travelers into another country into hearts and minds that are filled with interpersonal connections and beauty.

The result is a story that is emotionally heartwarming; filled with warm tea, giving, and inter-relationships that feel compellingly familiar. As Amy makes some tough decisions and continues to cement her love for Paris, readers will find themselves thoroughly immersed in the atmosphere and attractions of French culture in a highly recommended leisure story for a stormy night, a stormy heart, or an attempt to reconnect with the intrinsic goodness in people.

Pride's Children: PURGATORY
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt
Trilka Press
Print: 9780692589809 $21.99
Ebook: ASIN: 0692589805 $ 8.99

Ex-physician Kary Ashe is a reclusive writer being dragged into the limelight; Andrew O'Connor is a dashing heartbreaker; and schemer and aspiring Hollywood star Bianca is ripe for her next conquest. When these three disparate personalities come together to clash values and cross the country in an unlikely state of affairs, all hell breaks loose.

On one level, Pride's Children: PURGATORY, the first in a trilogy, is about movie stars, love, and thwarted passions and purposes; but look deeper and you'll find much more is going on here. A thread of death, resurrection, and revitalization affects each of the characters, along with a focus on abandonment, broken promises, challenging decisions, and the lasting consequences of bad choices.

While all this might sound like a romance conundrum, Pride's Children: PURGATORY is much more literary in its approach than one might expect from this description of its many themes.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt takes time to build her characters, winds a number of different challenges into their lives, and keeps tension high as her storyline slowly evolves. While this contrasts with and may prove challenging for readers used to plots with nonstop action, Pride's Children: PURGATORY is not based on thriller elements; but upon the slowly evolving relationships, personalities, and behaviors of a dissimilar group of individuals who come together during a project to find their lives unexpectedly entwined.

From descriptions of filming and the underlying relationships and social encounters of everyone involved ("He'd gotten used to the sense of royal progression whenever he crossed the set. Everyone had a job to do. Equals - but not.") to expressed values in life ("Children are the most important thing in the world." Kary's tone conveyed deep conviction. "Choices have consequences. Nothing else is as crucial as protecting the children."), Pride's Children: PURGATORY's real strength lies in Ehrhardt's ability to take the strings of emotion governing each character's choices and give them tugs that, in turn, tug at the heartstrings of her readers.

Twists of plot keep readers guessing about some closely-held secrets that dictate how the characters relate to one another, while fine observations of different perceptions of integrity and its impact on life choices contribute additional facets in a story that is hard to put down.

Readers of women's fiction and literature will relish the slow, methodical, involving progression towards change that each of the characters experiences along their paths to being true to themselves and those around them.

John Hazen
Black Rose Writing

Zyklon provides a fine sequel to the previous story Fava, and will be especially appreciated by prior fans, who will find it a logical and absorbing continuation of the story of TV news reporter Francine Vega, who has been promoted to co-anchor of a morning news show, but misses her more active role as an investigative reporter. The background provided from Fava will make Zyklon quite accessible to newcomers, however, who will find this story compelling enough that a later pursuit of Fava will be a desire more than a requirement.

Though Francine found her personal and professional life changed by her experiences in Fava ("In addition, I, working side-by-side with FBI Special Agent Will Allen (who would subsequently become my husband and the father of our daughter, Rosa) and Alan Westbrook, a brilliant but quite unstable genius/computer nerd, saved the city of Mecca from being destroyed and kept the world from plunging into world war. In the process, I was nearly killed a half dozen times. If that isn't "earning my stripes" I don't know what is."), she's about to find everything changing yet again in Zyklon.

She must learn to adapt, behave differently, and go back to a world where she not only reports live news, but is immersed in it, receiving the kind of challenge she thought she was forsaking with a big promotion and a quieter back seat to the main action.

Francine does more than report on the news. She thinks about the conflicts she's documenting and the personalities who cross her desk: "I thought it strange not only how easily they caught Aaron Kaplow, but the reports I read indicated he had been extremely sloppy, leaving copious amounts of evidence seemingly out in the open. In New York and the other cities where he committed his crimes, on the other hand, he scrupulously covered his tracks. I passed it off as his getting cocky or perhaps his mental condition had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer adequately cover his tracks. Or maybe he was just tired of it all and wanted to get caught." Her ability to move beyond reading reports to analyzing their inconsistencies takes her on a journey which brings with it misgivings about the case she's focused on, the appropriateness of execution, and threats to her ability to move freely through society based on her newfound minor fame.

As John Hazen adds depth and detail to Francine's character, thinking processes, ambitions, and decisions; readers become immersed in her life and the consequences of her reporting. Francine evolves from being a reporter to becoming involved in code-cracking, the deadly Zyklon Killer's puzzles, and a possible case of mistaken identity and injustice.

All these elements introduce far more speculative intrigue and insights into the tale than expected. As Francine reconsiders what she's long known to be truth and reaches a frightening conclusion about what's really happening, the tension is exquisite; both in the investigative mission and in the challenges to Francine's approaches to and belief system about life in general and her work in particular. It's this added element of moral, ethical, and psychological reflection which adds depth to a tense story and elevates it to a level many intriguing tales can't reach.

The result is a tense thriller that builds upon its predecessor, but demands no prior introduction to prove thoroughly engrossing to newcomers to Francine's life and skills.

A Hole in One
Judy Penz Sheluk
Barking Rain Press
9781941295731 $13.99

A Hole in One will attract readers with a special interest in the kinds of female amateur sleuths who find themselves in over their heads, creating a mystery that opens with a golfing promotion for Arabella and Emily's antiques shop and turns deadly when an errant ball lands next to a corpse.

The next thing you know, both women are immersed in more than antiquities as they discover the victim is connected to Arabella's ex-husband, who now is a prime suspect in the eyes of the police.

A variety of strange leads brings them to an unexpected conclusion - one that they will find a threat to their own lives if they can't resolve the mystery in time.

One unusual aspect of A Hole in One is its ability to depict the golfing world alongside a dogged mystery filled with special motives, reputations at stake, a news media flurry about the murder and its ramifications, and, at the heart of matters, Arabella and Emily's increasingly complicated lives beyond the rigors of small business ownership.

Social media and computer world involvements from bloggers to Craigslist add modern trappings and complexity to a story line that even mixes in a perplexing situation revolving around an antique gun. What really happened at the third hole, and how can the special knowledge of an antiques picker affect a murder investigation?

The tension is wonderfully drawn, Judy Penz Sheluk takes time to develop settings, business worlds, and characters, and the story includes enough twists and turns that even savvy mystery fans won't always be able to predict its outcome.

Murder mystery fans interested in a satisfyingly complex investigation that embraces antiques and golfing worlds alike will relish the story of two women who find themselves in over their heads, with no other choice but to move forward into dangerous territory.

Goodbye Butterflies: The 5-Day Stage Fright Solution
Dr. David Lee Fish
9781981587841 $14.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Goodbye Butterflies: The 5-Day Stage Fright Solution is for anyone who has ever been required to appear before an audience yet suffers from stage fright, but it doesn't just come from a doctor who hands out advice. It's written by a fellow sufferer who well knows the mechanisms and challenges of stage fright, and who uses his personal experience and professional knowledge to provide tested solutions that work on many levels.

Dr. David Lee Fish readily admits that his suffering has not ended, and that his book promises no miracle cures. Instead, it's a well-reasoned approach to performance anxiety that points out that everyone experiences stage fright at different degrees, and his Zen approach to mindfulness and a detachment from over thinking is one of the keys to resolving many of the symptoms of stage fright.

Readers should therefore be open to the ideas and approaches of Zen and mindfulness (although no prior experience with either is required in order to use this book). Zen concepts aren't simple, but Dr. Fish adapted them not just for a specific approach to stage fright; but for newcomers to Zen's concepts.

It should be mentioned that Goodbye, Butterflies supports an online course Dr. Fish developed, of the same name. As such, it's both a stand-alone book and one that can be applied as a textbook, with further exercises on his website.

However, the book does stand well on its own pages without any online support or references as it makes the contention that stage fright is a natural, manageable fear that can be controlled and alleviated through mindfulness.

Chapters are filled with self-help exercises readers can use to identify their core values in performing, ideas for practicing mindful routines before a major appearance, and tricks in thinking that acknowledge nervousness but belay the special impact of stage fright. They include a healthy dose of psychological insights on shame, anxiety, perfectionism, and the limitations of other approaches, such as hypnotherapies.

Statistics, case studies, and real-world examples permeate a discussion that is filled with information on how the mind works both for and against its user.

The result isn't an idealistic coverage, but a practical assessment of the mechanisms of stage fright and how mindfulness can be applied to overcome the worst of these effects. It's not a miracle cure, but it nonetheless promises an abatement of fear to a manageable level and will prove a powerful tool for anyone who finds themselves required to confront their biggest fear in a public arena.

All About Steve Wozniak
Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine
Blue River Press
9781681570976 $5.99

All About Steve Wozniak is a short, 100-plus page biographical sketch directed to young readers in 5th-8th grades, and reads like a chapter book with excellent-quality black and white line drawings that spice a survey of 'Woz' and his achievements.

All the elements that make this book recommendable for report assignments are here: an index, glossary, timeline, bibliography, and an approach that offers insights about Steve Wozniak's entire life and times.

Perhaps the most memorable mention is the fact that Steve had computers figured out as a fourth-grader; but though he was a 'tech nerd' in many ways, he was also an extrovert and an outgoing personality, participating in events and life in a way that belays the usual portrait of nerdy creators as isolated introverts.

From friends who encouraged him in the engineering hobby he worked on in his spare time to his development of the Basic computer language and its display at his Homebrew Club meetings, a well-rounded portrait of Wozniak is provided that covers not just his achievements, but his philosophy and personal relationships and the influencers that changed his life.

The result is one of the few biographical approaches that lends equally well to leisure reading and school reports, peppered with excellent-quality black and white illustrations by Amber Calderon and enhanced by a dramatic flair designed to keep kids reading and thinking about not just Wozniak's life and the birth of the computer, but their own approaches to creativity.

Ace Your First Year Teaching
Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D
Blue River Press
9781681570457 $14.99

Ace Your First Year Teaching: How to be an Effective and Successful Teacher should be in the welcome packets of every new teacher who has school training but is set to embark upon a real-world experience. Its messages come not just from fellow teachers or advisors; but from school principals, superintendents, and administrators, and it offers a range of strategies designed to get new teachers through their first learning experiences in and outside of the classroom.

Most new teachers learn many of their lessons the hard way, from first year snafus. Ace Your First Year Teaching seeks to reduce or eliminate these surprises by covering them in advance; from words of advice for the first day and first week of class ("The first days of school should be about routines. Teach explicit behaviors/routines rather than content; this will save you in the long run. --Amy Glusco, former elementary teacher") to the basic dos and don't of classroom management, anticipating and preventing classroom problems, meeting all needs in an inclusive classroom setting, and more.

While many of these topics are covered in other educator guides, having them all under one cover with a narrowed focus on a teacher's first year encounters offers a more explicit discussion of special challenges and solutions during this period of time, reviewing everything from a teacher's subtle messages to students to incentives and strategies supported by research studies.

Sidebars of ideas and tips compliment case studies, analytics, and the specific guidelines to tailoring classroom success that new teachers need in order to assure success. That's why Ace Your First Year Teaching should be required reading for anyone new to real-world classroom management.

First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God: An American Feminist in the Arab World
Chivvis Moore
North Loop Books
9781634139533 $17.99

In 1978, California carpenter Chivvis Moore decided to write to Egyptian author Hassan Fathy, whose book Architecture for the Poor had made a deep impression on her. Little did she know that this decision would lead her on a journey to Egypt, an introduction to Muslim culture, and a 16-year involvement in Arab lives and history which comes full circle back to American readers with the publication of First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God.

The first (and, perhaps, the most important) thing to note about this story is that it comes steeped in the long-time experiences of a woman who lived in the region for many years; not a visitor on a limited holiday. This allows for the kind of depth and insight that comes from a special brand of familiarity with a culture that moves from a foreigner's perspective to that of a resident.

Moore's observations, reactions to the people and culture around her, and the decisions she makes about woodworking and life in the process of adaptation and acceptance hold powerful personal messages and experiences that more casual surveys would not capture. Even more important, they capture the underlying nuance and flavor of the Egyptian and Palestinian culture; from Arabic words, which are rendered in English as closely as possible to the way they sound in Arabic to feminists who are striking contrasts to popular Western images of helpless and down-trodden Arab women.

A healthy dose of political insight compliments the cultural and social observations ("The US and USSR, it seemed, were using Third World countries like pawns on a chessboard.") as Moore carries readers through her encounters with many people, and journeys through 1970s Egypt and Occupied Palestine.

Discussion topics range from prejudice to education as Moore is welcomed into a master woodworker's shop to receive lessons on architecture, craft, and life.

It's important to note that First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God is anything but a singular production. It will reach a wide audience with diverse topics that are unexpected for the genres it touches upon. For instance, travel readers will gain an important sense of place and culture, but might not anticipate the book's many social and woodworking insights; while those anticipating a read about Middle Eastern issues will find that Moore carries readers down the dusty streets and back roads of Cairo and other places with a sense of immediacy peculiar to a travelogue's approach.

What is it like to live in the Middle East as an independent American woman? What are some of the differences between Egyptian and Palestinian perspectives?

Moore confronts and dispels many myths about the experience during the course of her story and education process. Readers who want a wide-ranging discussion of this region backed by long-time personal experience will find First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God offers a powerful testimony to the daily lives of Muslims in two very different journeys -- through Egypt in the 1970s and Palestine in the 1990s-2008.

The "you are there" feel, cemented by dialogue and examples of experiences with a host of Arab peoples, makes for a highly accessible, much recommended journey.

A Boy like You and Me
Eva Maria Schwarz-Pretner
9781978477063 $8.90 (Paperback)/$3.68 (Kindle)

Fatima Aldarmaki's colorful drawings enhance this picture book story of a boy whose only claim to being special is that he lives in a far-away country. He's as ordinary as any other boy - until a movie snafu results in a wish that, when granted, causes trouble.

But trouble doesn't stop there; because the boy hasn't learned his lesson. A second wish results in further transformation and yet another problem ... and so the story goes, as the wishful child is carried further and further away from who he is by a series of wishes that keep changing him.

It should be noted the Kindle version of this book includes a simple quiz which takes advantage of the Kindle's text pop-up function.

Good reading skills (or, even better, adult read-aloud assistance) will enhance this gentle story of a boy who learns a hard lesson about wishes and being himself. While some of these themes have appeared elsewhere, the compelling fantasy woven into the tale makes A Boy like You and Me especially inviting and thought-provoking, and a highly recommended read for picture book readers and their adult read-along helpers.

The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb
Ricardo Alexanders
ISBN: 1979564957 (paperback, $19.99)
ASIN: B0778ZN5DM (for Kindle,$ 2.99)

What would World War II have looked like if an alien invasion had brought the Axis and Allies together? The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb reviews just such a world in a fantasy that opens the first book in a projected series.

Lest readers expect a staid alternate history piece, it should be mentioned that The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb is more like an Indiana Jones action piece on steroids. Picture military encounters with a World War II backdrop, but with plasma-breathing fire dragons on the battlefield. Add a dash of difference with Chinese infantrymen joining forces and fighting alongside Japanese and American forces. Now temper this mix with extraordinary adventures: captured archaeologist Chuan-Jay (CJ) Hoo's task of excavating the tomb of the First King of China for a mythical device, the Ninth Cauldron, that can manipulate the time of the universe when the Dragon Stone is inserted; and a new mission that takes place a year later.

In this effort, CJ teams up with American adventurer Dr. Harry Jones to convince the alien guardians to fight with first China, then the Allies in a winding story line that pairs familiar history with unfamiliar fantasy touches revolving around hidden forces, buried history, and dark changes.

It takes a deft hand to present World War II history in a logical manner while adding all kinds of alternative history elements, fantasy influences, and military confrontations between individuals who find themselves caught between too many opposing forces and special missions. Ricardo Alexanders succeeds in portraying a satisfyingly complex dance between a diverse range of influences. What new force released on Earth could prove so deadly that the efforts of all human fighters are thwarted? Will CJ prove mankind's last hope, or humanity's greatest enemy?

From the riveting, last desperate attempt of the Enola Gay to change history in a different manner to descriptions of the plasma blades of the Psyccagon, the action is relentless, the story line complex but logical, and the nonstop events make The Last Resistance hard to put down.

It's unusual to recommend a military-style fantasy for readers of alternative history and even non-fantasy action thrillers; but The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb promises many unpredictable twists and turns, creates strong characters, adds cultural encounters, and flavors all with high tension that makes for a top recommendation holding the ability to cross genres from fantasy to thriller audiences. Anyone who relishes the staccato action of an Indiana Jones piece will find its equal in The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb.

Bloodline Secrets
Barbara Taylor Sanders
Ambassador International Publications
Print: 9781620206003 $15.99
ebook: 9781620206706 $TBA

Laci Ann is used to keeping her royal roots secret with a long-used tactic she's used while living abroad and even during her two brief marriages. She's also more than familiar with the strategy of toying with the men in her life, playing various roles involving taking risks as she plays the part of a commoner courting a man. So why would she find attractive a hard-to-get and often rude bachelor who works in her father's company; and why would she marry him?

As the story progresses, readers come to realize that Laci is well into repeating the mistakes of her past, marrying loser after loser. Her younger sister Justine can't understand the purpose of her game, while oldest sister Claudette deliberately avoids her two siblings and fails to bond with their very different personalities.

These disparate themes come together in Bloodline Secrets, a powerful expose of family ties, wealth, long-kept secrets, and the struggles of the privileged to live consequential lives with meaningful connections.

In the first few chapters, readers might believe they are involved in an edgy romance; but as events unfold and the very different personalities of the three sisters emerges, mystery, intrigue, and danger take over. A boating accident, a groom who may have an identical twin or his own secret life, Laci Ann's confrontation with a terrible responsibility for her actions, and the truth about Claudette's heritage (which changes everything) are just a few of the subplots governing a swift and engrossing story. Events lead readers in a seemingly predictable direction; then abruptly and satisfyingly introduce new elements of drama.

Bloodline Secrets is about far more than heritage, inheritance, or anguished hearts over either family or marriage relationships. Its readers are in for a treat as they follow a progressively building saga that takes a family mystery and introduces themes of changing values, stormy encounters, and the kinds of psychological changes that lead to a real homecoming in more ways than one.

Stealthily gripping, mercurial in its approach to unexpected relationship changes and challenges, and satisfyingly specific in its considerations of how disparate personalities undertake different journeys to recognize, acknowledge, and reach their real selves, Bloodline Secrets is a highly recommended read for anyone who likes their stories replete with psychological depth and the process of self-discovery.

Cassie's Marvelous Music Lessons
Sheri Poe-Pape
Mayhaven Publishing, Inc.
9781932278361 $14.95 Hardcover/$8.99 Kindle

Young newcomers to the picture book pup Cassie will find her latest adventure needs no prior introduction to be immediately accessible and entertaining, while prior fans will delight in yet another Cassie story; this one revolving around the pup's introduction to music.

Cassie's new owner, Mrs. Applebaum, teaches music. Cassie feels she's in an exceptional home because, after all, she learned music as a puppy, running across the piano keys, and believes she's a musical prodigy herself. Obviously, she's in the perfect place to appreciate her talents!

The trouble is, she speaks a language humans don't understand. The young students she admonishes to play such classics as Bow Wow Black Dog and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bone don't seem to know the tune or understand her instructions on how to play piano. How can Cassie assist the venerable music teacher's job when all the humans hear is incessant barking?

This picture book tale will require good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance, but offers an unusual dog's viewpoint of matters and outlines events in an engaging, thought-provoking manner.

Pet/human communications, a small dog's burning desire to be helpful, and music lessons gone awry intersect in a story that is delightfully fun, nicely capturing a spirited little dog's efforts to be an asset.

Kids and parents will relish Cassie's upbeat and enthusiastic personality, creative ideas, and a savvy and kind teacher's solution to what could have been a major issue.

Any child who loves dogs will find Cassie's Marvelous Music Lessons a lively, entertaining read that holds a message about creative, positive problem-solving and communication.

Tenth Grade Angst
Bruce Ingram
Secant Publishing
9781944962463 $12.95

Tenth Grade Angst follows Bruce Ingram's 2017 debut story Ninth Grade Blues and features the same four teens as they enter the second year of high school and confront many changes.

Shy Luke is growing braver with the encouragement of Mia, finding his muse and comfort in nature and outdoors activities even as his relationship with his father worsens and demands a kind of courage he never imagined he had.

Meanwhile, Mia, a straight-A student on track with her dream of becoming a pediatrician, faces the conundrum that her goals and future move are interfering with her present-day high school connections. The idea that she, a Mexican-American girl, would date white boy Luke introduces further controversy into a family already rattled by her choice of career over marriage.

Marcus is a sports star experiencing doubts about his projected athletic future even as he also faces challenges to the ways he's been forming relationships with girls; while overweight and insecure Elly loses some weight but discovers that dating challenges are even more complicated for attractive girls.

All of them face new challenges, from a parent's increasing alcoholism and terminal illness to Luke's realization that he's not like his father, and can make something of himself in life.

As the disparate group grows into their mental and physical abilities, they discover new connections and meaning in their lives and from their encounters with each other.

Plenty of teen novels hold some of these same themes; but what sets Tenth Grade Angst apart from many is its focus on closely examining the different perspectives of four selected teens who find their lives intersecting and changing. Alternating chapter perspectives are clearly identified, the individual characters are nicely detailed both before they meet and as they begin to interact with the world and each other, and readers receive a satisfying study in adaptation and change both with individual characters and the group as a whole.

The result is an involving perspective that keeps young adults avidly involved in the different perspectives and experiences of all the characters. Tenth Grade Angst is highly recommended as a revealing leisure read that high schoolers will relate to and learn from.

Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise
Paul Briggs
Secant Publishing
9781944962487 $15.95

Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise takes place in the near future and follows events that become a climate crisis when a few weeks with no sea ice in the Arctic Ocean sparks a chain relation that changes the entire northern hemisphere, bringing droughts and floods like never before.

An engineer, a governor, an inventor, and a talk show host are just a few of the people trying to adapt to this ongoing disaster, and their very different perspectives highlight events from competing vantage points.

The story opens in 'Year Zero', when the icecap finally dies, following events from the start of the disaster to its full-fledged incarnation. The even bigger picture reveals that, to some degree, at least, humanity has contributed to this situation. The question is: how will they survive in their changed world?

One doesn't expect pithy dialogues between characters, reflections on political and social choices, daily routines (such as job interviews) even as the waters rise, and the juxtaposition of disaster and daily concerns which adds a frighteningly realistic tone to the story line. The characters aren't running around screaming - they're living their lives as best they can, accepting changes and making plans for a dubious future, and act much as humanity probably would act in the face of sudden climate events.

This lends Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise a much more realistic feel than competing climate disaster stories, creating a series of subplots based on interactions that are as mercurial as the waters that lap at high-rises. The idea that things are changing and may or may not go back to familiar routines and choices adds a powerfully realistic tone to a disaster scenario that feels refreshingly different.

Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise is a top recommendation for cli-fi (climate change fiction) readers seeking more depth than the usual approach to life-threatening environmental changes.

Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars
David Gittlin
Entelligent Entertainment
ebook ISBN: 9780988263536 $2.99
Print ISBN: 9780988263543 $12.99



Unlimited, clean energy is an elusive goal even in the future, where a company on Mars charged with mining the Mother Lode of minerals finds itself under investigation by an audit team which runs into more than mining operation discrepancies.

Micromium promises to be a solution to the world's clean energy dilemma and an ever-deepening environmental crisis. One kilo of refined Micromium can power a major metropolitan city for an entire year without any environmentally harmful side effects. There's much promise - but the team's latest probe may turn out to be their last as truths emerge that threaten not just projects and ideals, but lives.

Micromium may sound like classic sci-fi, but its roots lie just as heavily in a mystery as in its backdrop of Mars. Readers who turn to it expecting the mundane trappings of science fiction will uncover much more as they become involved in a blend of murder mystery, ethical conundrums, and corporate corruption and revelations that heavily impact mining operations and lives. The story is thoroughly engrossing.

The Seasons of Doubt
Jeannie Burt
Muskrat Press
9780989544658 $17.99

Mary Harrington lives in Nebraska during the late 1800s, on a homestead she and her husband got for free after the railroad was completed. Many were lured to this harsh environment where dreams and land ownership beckoned, but many also abandoned their dreams in the face of Nebraska's harsh environment.

Mary's husband is one of them: when winter wipes out his crops, he leaves his wife and child - and this is where Mary's story begins.

The Seasons of Doubt is about abandonment, survival, and a young mother's determination to work on her land until her husband returns, hopefully to support them again. Her profound strength and courage in the face of rain, heat, devastation, and isolation in a world even the neighbors have fled contributes to a survival story firmly rooted in history, yet filled with one woman's obstinate determination to make a go of things against all odds.

Hungry, broke, and isolated, Mary must find a way to survive - and she must do so sans the husband who would lend her authority in the eyes of those who would judge her efforts and acknowledge that her land claim is valid and the property viable in the face of other interests who seek to come in and take her last remaining possession.

The history and events in The Seasons of Doubt are real. The story is fictional; but is a vivid reminder not just of the hardships of homesteading, but the special challenges of being a hard-working, determined female always operating in the shadow of a male figure, even if that figure vanishes. On the face of it, Mary is a hard-working survivor; but the undercurrent of a lie cuts through her world and complicates her efforts.

As Mary's world expands from working land to dressmaking and business, she finds the courage to accept what she cannot change and the determination to reinvent her life in this powerful, women-centric pioneer story that will resonate with any readers interested in Western history, women's experiences, and a fictional journey made by one special, feisty survivor who spends her life circling the truth and doing penance for the untruths she propagates.

Manic Kingdom
Dr. Erin Stair
Gray Productions
9781984032959 $9.75 Paper; $3.99 Kindle

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough is based on a real-life story and tells of Becka, who is about to become a doctor, treating illness even as her own mental health falters. Though med school takes its toll on all its students, Becka finds that the rigors of medical
training cruelly expose some rocky parts of her own life, in which she feels like an outsider and an intruder.

It's a long way down from a near-perfect life to one which results in living on the street. How does an aspiring young doctor get from the highs of Point A to the lows of Point B?

As Becka explores her medical school experiences and influences, her boredom, exhaustion, and daily life in 'Zombie Land', and her road to homeless and helplessness, readers are carried along for a ride into mental degeneration that is both a page-turning saga and a sobering glimpse into the fine line between sanity and insanity.

Dr. Erin Stair has changed all the names and many facts to craft a blend of fiction and nonfiction in Manic Kingdom; so portions of the story won't feel like one or the other. Some contentions (such as the power to self-recover from mental illness) seem unlikely; but the actual feelings of how a mental illness is experienced are raw, real, and immediate.

Readers seeking an account of such an experience that sets aside the heaviness of supporting nonfiction references and statistics will find Manic Kingdom a powerful read that blends fiction and nonfiction trappings into a journey that's hard to put down. It's especially recommended for psych students and those who would better understand mental illness from the inside out rather than from the usual outside observer's perspective.

While Psychiatry Slept
Dr. George Mecouch, D.O.
Belly Song Press
Paperback: 9780996660365 $18.95
PDF: 9780996660372 $14.99
Kindle/Mobipocket: 9780996660389 $14.99
EPUB: 9780996660396 $14.99

While Psychiatry Slept: Reawakening the Imagination in Therapy collects stories based on real-world cases seen by Dr. Mecouch. He's an osteopath and a board-certified psychiatrist who considers the state of imagination in modern psychiatric practice, analyzing the effects of imagination gone awry in the advent of brain science and new discoveries about mental health, illness, and biochemistry.

Too many new doctors emerge from medical training with a focus on causality and not on alternative paths and approaches that adopt a more holistic view of psychiatric treatments and patient symptoms. Moreover, concepts of the soul's influence are typically set aside in favor of a focus on brain development and the role of the brain as an integral part of the psyche. In a nutshell: psychiatry has forgotten the importance of dreams. And in doing so, it's missing a golden therapeutic opportunity and approach.

While Psychiatry Slept employs a fictional structure to return the profession to the ideas of soul, imagination, and a consideration of "...a middle way that mediates between the mind and body by its language of simile and metaphor, dreams and fantasies, imagination and the as-if. It is from here that all creativity begins."

Its purpose is clearly stated: "Its title, While Psychiatry Slept, is meant to draw attention to the fact that while psychiatry attempts to make its science about body, reality, and facts, it has fallen asleep to the realm of soul. Psychiatric and psychological training has turned against fantasy and dreams, and except for occasional writings of analysts, dreams are rarely included in psychiatric case reports."

As readers peruse case histories that illustrate psychiatry's focus on treating symptoms only with drugs and the idea that shamans, spirit helpers, and ideals of healing patients in all states of consciousness can be better served with a broader view of psychiatric approaches and applications, they gain insight into professional approaches that digress from the traditional medical school program.

Various characters in the story lend introspective and studied views of their training and its applications in discussions which take the tenants of modern psychiatry and lends a critical eye to their actual enactment: "Could this lecturer really represent the current ego ideal in analytic circles? he wondered. Were his reductive and confining interpretations truly what freed patients from their soul's wounding? Was the love that I had for Jung, which had drawn me to apply for analytic training, now being swallowed down the same theoretical black hole?"

From recurrent dreams and their analysis to dream cases and their reflections of connections between body, mind and spirit, this collection holds much food for thought; particularly for those whose work embraces psychiatric processes in clinical settings.

Though these pieces will be enjoyed by lay readers with any degree of prior interest in psychotherapy and psychiatry, they will prove especially accessible and thought-provoking works for those training or working in the field, offering a perspective and focus that challenges conventional psychiatric thinking even as they illustrate dilemmas in the dreams and daily lives of ordinary individuals.

The Archetype of the Number and its Reflections in Contemporary Cosmology
Alain Negre
Chiron Publications
9781630514389 paperback $23.00
9781630514396 hardcover $47.00
9781630514402 ebook $ 9.99

A prior interest in philosophy, mathematics, and theoretical physics will lend to an enjoyment and appreciation of Alain Negre's The Archetype of the Number and its Reflections in Contemporary Cosmology, a discussion of mathematics, physics, and psychology through a transdisciplinary approach that does not confuse the different levels of reality.

In a discourse which surveys the extent of cosmology's evolutionary process, its foundations in mathematics, and the evolution of research trends, a historical piece is introduced that embraces Jungian archetypes, scientific rationalism, philosophical discussions of reality, and fundamental objectives of the scientific process.

With so many complex, multidisciplinary viewpoints coalescing in this book, it would have been too easy, under another hand, to have the discussion wind through avenues that eschew logic and progressive foundations of the building blocks of knowledge in favor of focusing on each approach. Under Alain Negre's hand, these facets are tempered by a smooth, linear discussion that successfully blends history, philosophy, psychology and science. The result is a purposeful and steady read that deftly moves from ancient to modern times as it provides close inspection of the meaning, rationale, and evolution of the archetypal number and its underlying theory.

Different models of the universe are contrasted in discussions that embrace the many routes and methods of exploring how the mind formulates truth. Chapters examine consciousness, perceived time, ecological and cyclic processes, and how theories of consciousness and these cycles directly link to brain biology and cosmological perceptions and interpretations alike.

The result is a scholarly discussion of cosmological cycles and their direct relationships to human perception, psychology, biology and math, presenting much supportive history, research, and a close inspection of evolutionary processes that dovetail nicely with the subject at hand.

College-level physics, astronomy and mathematical readers will be the obvious benefactors of The Archetype of the Number and its Reflections in Contemporary Cosmology, but this book is also recommended for libraries strong in psychology, philosophy, biology, and evolutionary theory.

Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Pumpjack Press
9780997411362 $15.95 Print/$4.99 ebook

Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation provides the second book in the speculative fiction series; but newcomers need no prior familiarity with Resurrection Road, the first book, in order to find it accessible.

It's 1935, and America is deep in the Depression; but hope is blossoming over the New Deal's focus on rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. Who would want to literally blow up this process?

Bonnie and Clyde, saved from death and put to work as secret agents of the government, are called into action when a construction site informant who reveals a plot involving treason and the sabotage of the Boulder Dam is found murdered.

Only two powerful people can pick up the pieces of this discovery and move forward to prevent disaster. Bonnie and Clyde's combined special skills can change the future, and Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall capture not only a sense of action and adventure, but the atmosphere surrounding American feelings of despair, hope, and strength in the 1930s: "How did you feel seeing Boulder Dam, now called Hoover Dam, for the first time?" "Small," she said, eyes clouding over with memories. "Small? How so?" "Part of it was just the sheer size of it all, like it literally made me feel small. But then there was another part, how each of us - me, Clyde, Jimmy, Claudette, the workers - each one of us had this tiny part to play in this big, important thing. We were all tiny cogs in a giant machine, and each one on their own, none of us mattered a whit, but working together made us all part of something grand and exciting and useful."

The sense that Bonnie and Clyde are cogs in the relentless wheel of history, affecting a series of events that push ever closer to disaster, lends an engrossing ambiance to a story that includes social struggles and worker rights issues as well as efforts to rise above devastation and fear.

Many of the elements and scenes in Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation will resonate with modern-day readers: "President Roosevelt is giving us a chance to have a voice, and we have got to take it," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and we can't mess it up. When we organize, we can ask for whatever we want. Is it right that all the profits go to fat cats in their big fancy houses up on the bluff looking down at our sweat and suffering?" "No," shouted the room. "Tell me why not!" "Because we built that dam," the group yelled."

From the deep, ongoing affection between Bonnie and Clyde to their greatest challenges both together and apart, the plot reveals characters who teeter on the edge of being working citizens and criminals and who don't always take their skills and heists in logical directions, even to each other: "We ought to give that money back," she said. "Now that we accomplished what we set out to accomplish, doesn't seem right to keep it to ourselves." He raised his head to look at her incredulously. "Bonnie Parker, have you lost your ever-loving mind? We don't ever give money back to the people we steal it from. That's like the first rule of bank robbing."

The result is a rollicking good read that adds additional flavors to the Bonnie and Clyde legend with action, humor, social issues, and a hearty dose of adventure, for good measure. The real history of the rise of unions and worker rights against the backdrop of a nation recovering from the Great Depression provides a realistic backdrop to a vivid read that blends fiction with nonfiction elements in such a way that makes it logically engrossing and hard to put down.

Empty Promises
James M. Jackson
Wolf's Echo Press
ISBN-13 (Print): 9781943166121, $14.95
ISBN-13 (Kindle): 9781943166138, $3.99

Empty Promises is Book 5 in the Seamus McCree series and continues to follow his evolution as he embarks on new roles in both his professional and personal lives.

Professionally, he's become a bodyguard...and a poor one, it seems, as his client vanishes and dire consequences follow. His job is also tied up in his home life; for his business partner is also his lover, and she's furious with him for his incompetence and choices that place them both at risk when he fails to protect a witness who has been moved to McCree's own family compound for maximum safety.

One decision has cost another man his life. What other snafus will Seamus create before the story is through; and can his choices and actions save not only others, but his own love life?

Having failed as a protector, Seamus decides to clear his name by turning detective to uncover what went wrong and who is behind it. However, this decision leads to further consequences as his own family is threatened and he discovers he is alone in repairing what he's started. While prior familiarity with some of the past McCree episodes will lend a better understanding of the characters in this story, this is not a requirement in order for newcomers to appreciate the dilemma of a capable man facing his own failures in life.

As the point of view shifts between the first-person experiences of Seamus and the observations of Jason Graham, tension builds with an exquisite attention to detail, creating an involving atmosphere to support the events that present Seamus with his greatest challenges yet.

Surprisingly, it's Jason Graham who faces losing everything. And it's Seamus who must confront the consequences of lies, confessions, and truths surrounding a storm of unfinished jobs by The Happy Reaper and their unexpected aftermaths.

Gripping action nicely juxtaposes personal scenes, courtroom appearances, legal confrontations, and investigative conundrums in a fast-paced plot that is absorbingly unpredictable, filled with twists, and nicely cemented by personal challenges on many sides, making for a detective thriller that genre readers will appreciate.

The Reading Parrot Named Darwin
Mary Sage Nguyen
Mary Sage Nguyen, Publisher
9780996256179 $9.99

The Reading Parrot Named Darwin reaches kids ages 2-12 with a story that enjoys lovely colorful drawings by Marvin Alonso as it tells of would-be writer Lana, who suffers from writer's block and waits for words that will not spill onto paper.

Interrupted in her frustrating endeavor by the delivery man, Lana receives a mysterious box that contains an African gray parrot, an odd gift from her aunt.

What transpires when Darwin wears his special glasses makes for an engaging tale as Darwin proves his prowess in more than just flying and Lana discovers her writer's block has been cured by inspiration from an unexpected source.

Girls and women who aspire to literary success will find much to like about Lana's efforts and the surprising interruption that turns her life around, providing new changes that spark her creative impulse.

The story moves in an unforeseen direction in a stimulating tale that is both fun for leisure readers and inspirational for would-be writers searching for their muses.

Black Child to Black Woman
Cheryl Denise Bannerman
ISBN: 9781452035802 (e) $5.49
ISBN: 9781452035789 (sc) $16.99
ISBN: 9781452035796 (hc) $24.99

Tara Walker is nine years old when she begins a diary in Black Child to Black Woman: an effort that follows her emergence into adulthood, sweeping readers into her perceptions and interpretations of life from first a child's eye, then from an adult perspective.

Tara's voice notably changes as she matures, and this is just one strength to a powerful presentation which succeeds in imparting a realistic sense of progressive growth as it follows the fictional evolution of a girl to womanhood.

Another plus is that the story doesn't stereotype black experiences. Tara comes from a loving, supportive home environment that faces challenges ranging from addiction to molestation despite the efforts of her parents to build a sheltered, supportive environment for their kids. This experience rings true as life serves up a mixed bag of tests and Tara considers choices on how to respond to them.

Tara observes things differently as she ages. This, too, is nicely captured and linked to references about her age, allowing readers to easily follow the progression of her insights. For one example, her twelve-year-old journal entry reflects thoughts as she realizes new truths about her family ("I'm learning a lot about my brothers now. Things I didn't understand when I was younger. Darrell is on drugs. That's what makes him act weird.") as well as her hopes for changes, upon graduation ("It's over. My family brings me roses and takes a million pictures. I just want to go back home and out of this town for now. Maybe I'll come back to visit my friends in the nearby towns one day or maybe I will never see them again. Who knows?").

Plenty of stories center upon coming of age experiences from a black child's perspective; but by employing a chronological journal of changing insights and events and taking care not to stereotype her characters, Cheryl Denise Bannerman succeeds in creating a compelling story of life transitions, changing attitudes, and a sense of choice that runs through the story line, lending it a depth that competing stories can't touch.

Readers of contemporary romances and coming of age fiction will find Tara's story of her evolution and life experiences are astute, compelling, and hard to put down.

Words Never Spoken
Cheryl Denise Bannerman
ISBN: 9781524622664 (sc) $13.99
ISBN: 9781524622640 (hc) $23.99
ISBN: 9781524622657 (e) $3.99

Words Never Spoken is a powerful account of ambition and hope, despair, and rejuvenation and introduces its subject with a succinct observation of the process that receives deeper inspection in chapters to follow: "I wanted what every girl wants: to fall in love and live happily ever after. But after one failed marriage and with forty quickly approaching, I had given up."

While many stories chronicle this same process, what sets Words Never Spoken apart from most others is its attention to rendering these experiences in verse, accompanied by black and white line drawings that, together, capture the process of wading through the lies and obstacles to togetherness and a happy life.

Readers should anticipate a gritty, determined, street-wise voice to these poems which reflect candid observation and move from inner soul-searching to outward life depictions with a deft hand that pulls no punches in the process: "Why can't you be who you say you are?/Live close to me and not so far./Not have 10 kids and baby drama./Have a job and not live wit yo mama."

Sometimes the most powerful experiences come not just from the heart, but from the power of the pen and a writer's ability to capture the moments that hold life-changing impact. As readers wind through the verses in Words Never Spoken, they receive emotional tugs that come from soul-searching moments as potent as a brush with suicide and the one thing that prevents final disaster from taking shape.

It should be cautioned, if it isn't already apparent by now, that this is no light read; no cursory brush with a life in flux; but an often-troubling, wrenching discourse into the depths of despair and how the character rebuilds her life from that depth, including her relationship with her child and God.

Exactly how one moves from a failed marriage, a miscarriage, and crushing depression to overcoming all with a little help from God makes for an engrossing, vivid shout from the pages of Words Never Spoken, highly recommended for readers who want psychological, spiritual, and social reflections wound into the struggle of a life not only saved, but reborn.

God's Gift Within: The Story of the Joshua Quilt
Gail Howard Gibson
Marylee MacDonald, Publisher
ISBN 9780996250368 (trade paper) $14.99
ISBN 9780996250375 (hardcover) $21.99
ISBN 9780996250399 (Kindle) $10.99

God's Gift Within: The Story of the Joshua Quilt pairs a Christian inspirational piece with quilting insights as it explores the connections between quilting efforts and Bible study, and how each can reinforces the other.

From designs inspired by scripture to quilting tools and techniques that Gail Howard Gibson employed while constructing a quilt inspired by the Book of Joshua, God's Gift Within creates a satisfying balance between needlework guide and spiritual reflection piece, and will especially satisfy Christian Bible readers who want a quilter's visual rendition of sacred matters.

Readers expecting the usual 'how-to' approach should note that God's Gift Within reads more like an interview conversation than a project guide. The reason for this unusual approach is explained from the start: "This book was originally created as a live interview with my friend and fellow author Marylee MacDonald. That's why it reads as a conversation rather than a traditional "book" that talks "at" you. I wanted you to feel as though I am talking "with" you, much like a close friend or relative."

This choice allows for more of a feeling of dialogue and engagement with the reader, providing personal and spiritual reflections through a Q&A format that nicely complements the author's personal and spiritual growth. Chapters move from when she first learned to sew in junior high school to scintillating and thought-provoking descriptions of how her spiritual quilts were created, both physically and idealistically: "Gail: Originally, I just thought I'm not going to spend a lot of money. I'm going to use remnants that I have, pieces of fabric leftover from previous sewing projects, and to make it representative of the Israelites. They were a remnant people, so I thought the remnants would be a good representation. I was planning to make 12 squares, or 12 representations to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Originally, each of those would be represented by a single color."

As her projects evolve, so do color swatches throughout that display her projects and quilting techniques, adding a solid foundation to her descriptions of choices in color, style, patterns, and religious representations.

The result is a striking production that should be in the collections of quilters and spiritual readers, who will appreciate God's Gift Within's solid and outstanding connections between quilt creation and religious studies.

The Staircase of Fire
Ben Woodard
Miller-Martin Press
HC: 9780997344899 $21.99
PB: 9780997344882 $13.99
Ebook: 9700997344851 $6.99

The Staircase of Fire opens with Rose Lincoln on a mission to exercise her newfound right to vote and Tom Wallace's worry that she'll be injured in the process of making her demand at city hall. Two features of the story immediately become apparent: this is a teen read, and it's set in the early 1900s. Rose is not just a woman, but a Negro in Mercer County, Kentucky, where being a black woman already poses two strikes against her.

James and Rose's white friend Tom is too afraid to support them. It's not just the riled and prejudiced townspeople who have him quavering in fear; but an innocuous-looking staircase that brings back dreadful memories from four years earlier. And Rose's effort opens the door for far more than bad memories, changing Tom's life and his ability to remain in Shakerville.

As fourteen-year-old Tom and his cousin Will undertake a search that could save not only Tom but the town itself, events from past and present drive him ever further into conundrums that challenge the course of his future.

The Staircase of Fire is about teens who seek more from their lives than their heritage has handed them. It's about fear and excitement in the course of facing seemingly-impossible circumstances and it's about embracing courage and flexibility as everything changes.

Although set in the past, the dialogue at times feels contemporary in nature: "Will set down his iced tea and stood up. "Yeah, because you are one stupid shit." While the social setting neatly incorporates the events and sentiments of the 1900s ("Tom found Will lazing on the side porch drinking sweet iced tea. Two skinned rabbits soaked in a tub. The sun lowered itself into the West pasture."), Tom and Will's adventurous spirits seem almost modern in their approach to daily life, whether it be farm work, solving mysteries, or seeking exciting activities to spice up their lives.

That noted, The Staircase of Fire succeeds in offering dramatic action, mystery, social insights, and a story line that evolves from pure adventure to something deeper as Tom confronts his past and the world-changing nature of his choices. This vivid immediacy combined with the story's ability to change from a mystery/adventure to a social inspection piece makes it a highly recommended pick for teens looking for something different which stands on the cusp between a historical novel and an adventure story.

Loser's Road
Kalan Chapman Lloyd
Rebelle Press
9781543033618 $7.99

Loser's Road tells of Oklahoma cowboy Cash Stetson, an obvious loser (he's lost his position as a doctor, his medical license, and his goals in life) who nonetheless aspires to get the girl of his dreams. In this case, the girl is ER physician Maggie, who is savvy enough to recognize Cash for what he is; and to know that she's not in a position to rescue him or anyone else.

Cash faces some choices about his future when he goes 'as far South as he could go' and finds himself on a beach, reflecting on his next steps ("Or he could go home, sort out his shit, and try to find a life again. That wasn't an option he really wanted to consider, given that it would mean facing his bad decisions and all the people who'd been privy to the crap choices. It would be best to keep going, he knew. Best to pretend he hadn't brought it all upon himself. Best to remain untethered for the rest of his life and just keep going where the wind blew him. There was a charmingly deceptive freedom in that option. Loser that he was, God wouldn't turn his ass loose."). Maggie, who is in Mexico at this moment, is also at a very different crossroads in her life.

Common threads brought each to this point: emptiness in their lives, a lack of connections, and a medical mission in Mexico that is supposed to be punishment and a learning experience for Cash even as it's a lifetime achievement for Maggie.

While Loser's Road includes romance between unlikely candidates, to brand it a romance alone is to belay its importance as a psychological novel about building new connections in life and overcoming adversity to move into new growth areas.

Kalan Chapman Lloyd takes no easy routes in her delineation of the strengths and weaknesses of her characters, and this lends Loser's Road both a realistic tone (as each assesses their lives) and a practical focus (as neither follows set, logical courses either before or after they encounter one another).

Where other authors might choose routes that are entirely predictable, characters Maggie and Cash harbor a solid individuality and unique perspectives on and approaches to their lives that clearly follows friendship into other realms ("She liked him. It was a weird feeling, liking a member of the opposite sex. For so long, Maggie had viewed them as someone to use, or fear. Or usually, both. But Cash Stetson, in all his down and out glory, was likable. Maggie hadn't had a male friend, maybe ever, save for her brother, so the feeling was new, but good."), explaining motivations, background history, and psychological influences on the evolving feelings between them.

Cash's process of figuring out what he wants from his life apart from his goal of impressing Maggie is very nicely portrayed. The story line does a great job of emphasizing the evolving individuality of the two characters; not just how they grow together.

It should also be mentioned that a spiritual overlay is present, but does not translate to a drama for religious eyes only. All readers will find thoroughly engrossing the story of how a down-and-out loser finds that only when he loses everything does he really win, with both God and love on his side.

Something About Ann: Stories of Love and Brotherhood
J. Everett Prewitt
Northland Publishing Company
ASIN: B076YHN84C $6.95 Kindle/$16.95 Paper

Something About Ann's prologue opens in June of 1969, with a setting somewhere near the Cambodian border, making it evident this story will be about Vietnam. What isn't immediately evident is that its two introductory characters, Clarence and Ann, will keep readers riveted to the story in this novella through a series of encounters against the backdrop of a conflict which places this production a cut above the usual singular Vietnam War scenario.

Six months after Vietnam, Clarence meets Ann at a party, and her obvious Asian heritage brings buried memories of the past to the forefront. After an encounter at a party where Clarence confesses his discomfort at how she reminds him of war, they part ways. Several letters pass between them; but they keep bumping into one another; and like a picked scab, Clarence finds his raw emotions tweaked each time. Soon the chance encounters become occasional planned meetings between the married woman and the Vietnam veteran, and things change between them.

More so than most stories of Vietnam vets or postwar America, Something About Ann offers powerful messages about recovery processes, relationships, healing, and a search for peace after life-threatening challenges to survival and psyche.

As they move in and out of each others' lives, Clarence encounters other Vietnamese refugees, and his choices, from marriage to Army training and its civilian applications, change as well.

But this collection isn't just about Ann and Clarence's choices and confrontations. A host of other characters contribute to a bigger picture; each holding their own perspectives about Vietnam's lasting effects on their lives. These stories offer differing viewpoints, yet nicely support one another with messages that neatly dovetail to follow the evolution of friendships, family, and a changing world that moves past the war's politics and into personal arenas.

Those anticipating a military saga might be surprised at Something About Ann's different focus on domestic affairs postwar, but will find this novella succinctly captures changed individuals and lives, revealing their motivations and impulses: "Even after Vietnam, it was not like he was ever comfortable or confident in his ability to discern what happened in peoples' lives, but when Myron was in the vicinity of the other peppermint candy people long enough, he began to connect, to feel-an unwanted, but familiar feeling."

Readers seeking a different kind of Vietnam piece will relish the messages and approach of Something About Ann, which digs deeper into the finer psychology of social change and individual choice than most, making it a special recommendation for those who like their psychological insights at the forefront of popular modern historical writings.

Learn to Play Guitar
Gareth Evans
Intuition Publications
9780956954749 eBook: $2.29/Paperback $13.99

Learn to Play Guitar pairs free downloadable web audio tracks (for both demo and backing purposes) with exercises geared towards beginning to intermediate students, explaining the basics of technique, theory, and fret board layout using simple language to lay a basic foundation of knowledge.

This focus on elementary-level basics creates a building block approach to guitar-playing techniques and knowledge which will serve as a solid refresher course for those with some prior background. The intention is to get all guitar players on the same page, assuming no prior understanding of any part of the process. This theory is accompanied by musical examples in various styles geared to beginning pickers, and is meant to be used in conjunction with the audio tracks which offer two versions of each song: a demo of how the guitar should sound, and a track with the guitar demo removed, which allows novices to play along.

Instructions on tuning and tablature move to sections of basic details about scales, picking and strumming choices, chords, exercises for playing by shapes, beginning sight reading directions, and more advanced techniques.

All this lends to better self-instruction. This is common to many other guitar books; but the reinforcement of the audio tracks combined with adaptation opportunities, from blank tabs to pencil in one's own version of the lesson to discussions of hand anatomy and how stretching exercises need to be part of the instruction process, creates a different approach than most. Perhaps this is because Learn to Play Guitar is wider-reaching in its playing opportunities, from beginning sight reading to tendon-stretching exercises, examples that can be played forwards or backwards, and explanations that explore not only 'how', but 'why': "Ties can be useful for when a note lasts longer than the bar that it is in."

Too many beginning guitar player guides sacrifice the basics in favor of quick gratification without creating a foundation of knowledge, omit concerns or explanations about proper hand exercises to adopt when playing, or provide the 'how' without the 'why'.

Learn to Play Guitar's attention to all these details, combined with black and white illustrations at every step and backed by audio reinforcement, makes this book recommendable above most other beginning guitar instructionals on the market, presenting a clarity and logical arrangement that addresses multiple issues, concerns, and exercises that beginners need to master.

Battle Over Obamacare: 2009-17
Brendan W. Williams
9781983684715 Price: $TBA

Brendan W. Williams provided a succinct coverage of Obamacare's struggle to gain Republication support in his prior 2015 publication Compromised: The Affordable Care Act and the Politics of Defeat. His Battle Over Obamacare: 2009-17 continues the charge with an even wider-reaching discussion that examines Senate sellouts, state regulation processes and conflicts, the battle against state exchanges, and more.

While Battle Over Obamacare provides documentation specific to the evolving history of the ACA, on a deeper level, it's about the struggles between special, political, personal and medical interests and the industries that control and regulate the processes that contribute to unaffordable medical care.

In a land of plenty, renowned around the world for its richness and high-tech opportunities, healthcare remains a glaring contrast in ideals and enactment. It often proves the focal point in ongoing battles that disrupt effective healthcare and limit its abilities and promise to the upper echelons of society.

Battle Over Obamacare documents these processes, closely examining the especially bitter fights surrounding the ACA and how regulatory efforts to sabotage the process have led to long-standing court battles at all levels of the political and legal processes.

Anyone who would understand these various layers of contention must closely inspect the history and critical examination in Battle Over Obamacare. It dispels many popular myths about the effectiveness of the American healthcare system, documents political action, inaction, and efforts to set and dictate ground rules that stifle a broader acceptance of alternatives, and shows how legislative efforts are killed and how messengers with those perspectives are systematically thwarted on many levels.

The especially astringent fights surrounding the ACA may seem to be well known; but it's these underlying forces, often buried in newspaper headlines or which take place under the radar, which are brought to the forefront here to provide a better understanding of the basic principles of the ACA and why it's been so powerfully resisted by so many forces.

Readers of Battle Over Obamacare will receive a specific examination of battle techniques, special interests, covert and overt forces operating on all sides, and the type of in-depth analysis needed to understand the specific structures and approaches of the healthcare industry in general.

No social and political reader of healthcare issues should be without this important in-depth review.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Renewing Democracy in Young America
Daniel Hart & James Youniss
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190641481, $65.00, HC, 182pp,

Synopsis: With a government plagued by systemic ills and deep ideological divides, democracy, as we know it, is in jeopardy. Yet, ironically, voter apathy remains prevalent and evidence suggests standard civic education has done little to instill a sense of civic duty in the American public. While some are waiting for change to come from within, trying to influence already polarized voters, or counting down the days until the "next election", leading child and adolescent development experts Daniel Hart (Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Faculty Director of the Institute for Effective Education at Rutgers University) and James Youniss (Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC) are looking to another solution: America's youth.

In "Renewing Democracy in Young America", Professor Hart and Professor Youniss examine the widening generation gap, the concentration of wealth in pockets of the US, and the polarized political climate, and they arrive at a compelling solution to some of the most hotly contested issues of our time.

The future of democracy depends on the American people seeing citizenship as a long-term psychological identity, and thus it is critical that youth have the opportunity to act as citizens during the time of their identity formation. Proposing that 16- and 17-year-olds be able to vote in municipal elections and suggesting that schools create science-based, community-oriented environmental engagement programs, "Renewing Democracy in Young America" advocates that by engaging youth through direct citizen-participatory experiences, we can successfully create active and committed citizens.

Political scientists, media commentators, and citizens alike agree that democratic processes are broken across the nation, but we cannot stop at simply showing that our political system is dysfunctional. Refreshingly lucid and unabashedly hopeful, "Renewing Democracy in Young America" is an impeccably timed call to action.

Critique: A remarkable study, the release of "Renewing Democracy in Young America" is underscored by the present young people's movement for gun safety and control legislation in the face of the NRA's seemingly unassailable domination of state legislatures, the federal congress, and even the current presidency of Donald J. Trump. A compelling thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Renewing Democracy in Young America" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Renewing Democracy in Young America" is also available in a paperback edition (9780190641511, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70).

Rethinking Democracy: Socialist Register 2018
Leo Panitch and Greg Albo, editors
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583676714, $29.00, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: For years, intellectuals have argued that, with the triumph of capitalist, liberal democracy, the Western World has reached "the end of history". Recently, however, there has been a rise of authoritarian politics in many countries.

Concepts of post-democracy, anti-politics, and the like are gaining currency in theoretical and political debate. Now that capitalist democracies are facing seismic and systemic challenges, it becomes increasingly important to investigate not only the inherent antagonism between liberalism and the democratic process, but also socialism.

Is socialism an enemy of democracy? Could socialism develop, expand, even enhance democracy?

While "Rethinking Democracy: Socialist Register 2018" seeks a reappraisal of existing liberal democracy today, its main goal is to help lay the foundation for new visions and practices in developing a real socialist democracy. Amid the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism today, the responsibility to sort out the relationship between socialism and democracy has never been greater.

No revival of socialist politics in the twenty-first century can occur without founding new democratic institutions and practices.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Leo Panitch (Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto) with the assistance of Greg Albo, "Rethinking Democracy: Socialist Register 2018" is comprised of fifteen erudite, informative, and thought-provoking articles by experts. The result is an unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rethinking Democracy: Socialist Register 2018" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.66).

Microbiomes of the Built Environment
Engineering, and Medicine National Academies of Sciences
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309449809, $69.95, PB, 317pp,

Synopsis: People's desire to understand the environments in which they live is a natural one. People spend most of their time in spaces and structures designed, built, and managed by humans, and it is estimated that people in developed countries now spend 90 percent of their lives indoors. As people move from homes to workplaces, traveling in cars and on transit systems, microorganisms are continually with and around them. The human-associated microbes that are shed, along with the human behaviors that affect their transport and removal, make significant contributions to the diversity of the indoor microbiome.

The characteristics of a healthy indoor environments cannot yet be defined, nor do microbial, clinical, and building researchers yet understand how to modify features of indoor environments such as building ventilation systems and the chemistry of building materials in ways that would have predictable impacts on microbial communities to promote health and prevent disease. The factors that affect the environments within buildings, the ways in which building characteristics influence the composition and function of indoor microbial communities, and the ways in which these microbial communities relate to human health and well-being are extraordinarily complex and can be explored only as a dynamic, interconnected ecosystem by engaging the fields of microbial biology and ecology, chemistry, building science, and human physiology.

"Microbiomes of the Built Environment" is a report that reviews what is known about the intersection of these disciplines, and how new tools may facilitate advances in understanding the ecosystem of built environments, indoor microbiomes, and effects on human health and well-being. It offers a research agenda to generate the information needed so that stakeholders with an interest in understanding the impacts of built environments will be able to make more informed decisions.

Critique: A critically important consensus study report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, "Microbiomes of the Built Environment: A Research Agenda for Indoor Microbiology, Human Health, and Buildings" is a core and unreservedly recommended addition to health industry corporate, college and university library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Microbiomes of the Built Environment" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $54.99).

Always at War
Melvin G. Deaile
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781682472484, $34.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: "Always at War: Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command, 1946-62" by Melvin G. Deaile (who is an Associate Professor at the Air Command and Staff College) is the story of Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the early decades of the Cold War. More than a simple history, it describes how an organization dominated by experienced World War II airmen developed a unique culture that thrives to this day.

Strategic Air Command was created because of the Air Force's internal beliefs, but the organization evolved as it responded to the external environment created by the Cold War. In the aftermath of World War II and the creation of an independent air service, the Air Force formed SAC because of a belief in the military potential of strategic bombing centralized under one commander. As the Cold War intensified, so did SAC's mission.

In order to prepare SAC's "warriors" to daily fight an enemy they did not see, as well as to handle the world's most dangerous arsenal, the command, led by General Curtis LeMay, emphasized security, personal responsibility, and competition among the command. Its resources, political influence, and manning grew as did its "culture" until reaching its peak during the Cuban Missile Crisis. SAC became synonymous with the Cold War and its culture forever changed the Air Force as well as those who served.

Critique: It is particularly interesting to note that Professor Deaile flew the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit; that he has flown combat operations as part of Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, including a record setting 44.3-hour combat mission; that he is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross; that he is a distinguished graduate of the USAF Weapon School. A uniquely informative and exceptionally well written history that offers a wealth of impressive details, "Always at War: Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command, 1946-62" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library 20th Century Military Aviation History collections in general, and SAC history supplemental studies reading lists.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Dream With Little Angels
Michael Hiebert
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786039401, $9.99,

So many years ago lots of us read Harper Lee's masterpiece, "To Kill A Mockingbird." "Dream With Little Angels" is similar only because it has a child as a main character and takes place in Alabama. Michael Hiebert introduces the characters in this fine southern novel that is the first of a series. Young Abe Teal lives with a mom who is the only detective in the town, a sister who is a bit older and an uncle who is a male guiding force in young Abe's life. There are a series of murders that Abe's mom begins to delve into that are finally revealed by the end of the book but that is only a portion of the page turning well written first novel. "Dream With Little Angels" is a character driven tale that keeps the readers interest all the way to the end.

Such A Pretty Girl
Tess Diamond
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780786039401, $9.99,

Grace Sinclair is a bestselling crime novelist as well as a top FBI profiler. She is brought into a case that somehow relates to her. It seems all the victims look like her. She is partnered with special agent Gavin Walker who it turns out had a relationship with her a number of years ago that didn't work out. Now the two are forced to work together to find the killer who has made it personal to Grace. The novel races along with interesting characters while there are enough twists and turns that lead to a very satisfying conclusion. "Such A Pretty Girl" takes readers on a roller coaster ride of suspense to the very end. Tess Diamond is a writer to watch out for in the future.

Dangerous Games
Danielle Steel
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9781101883907, $8.99

Every so often I will attempt to read one of Danielle Steel's novels. "Dangerous Games" has a very intriguing premise with a risk-taking TV journalist on the trail of a story that includes the Vice President of the country. Sounds like a great novel is in store for readers but something goes wrong on the first page. Usually I can tolerate a chapter or two before getting turned off. "Dangerous Games" is unique. I could only allow myself to pursue three pages before closing "Dangerous Games" for good. The problem is the same one I've commented on before with this writer. The overuse of certain words. This time there are two. Usually three, so she has cut it down sort of. They are but, and, and. I counted by crossing out the unneeded ones eighteen times on three pages. That is just too much that detracts from the enjoyment of a novel that should entertain. With "Dangerous Games," Danielle Steel still holds the distinction as the queen of sloppy, lazy, writing.

Phantom Flyer
Screenplay by Scott C. Marlowe and Ranelle Golden
Pangea Press
9781977634603, $6,00

Through the many years I've been involved in the publishing world, it has always amazed me how many people think, you just sit down and write a screenplay. Scott Marlowe and Ranelle Golden show with "Phantom Flyer" it' s not so easy. "Flyer" comes from Marlowe's own work of a short story he included in his collection "Weird Monsters." In fact, the whole progression of short fiction to screenplay to film has been inspired by real events. "Phantom Flyer" is an easy to read work that should help generate interested for the movie that is not far behind. The story is there's something that is quietly running around an area of Florida that soon reveals itself in monstrous proportions to the humans it confronts. "Phantom Flyer" is an example of great script writing and should be included reading for courses taught on the art of writing for film.

Snafu Fubar Nothing Heroic
Bob Dixon
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781539002246, $12.99

Snafu Fubar and General Nuisance, two champions of justice in "Snafu Fubar Nothing Heroic" are nothing like any ever before in the world of crime fighter characters. Their biggest objective is how much beer they can chug down in a single sitting on the porch of their Florida home in the town of Last Hope. Author Dixon usually known for his comic book creations has written a wonderful satire of civilians who take on crime in a very different way from what readers are used to. Some of his targets are the state of Florida, mini marts and the people who shop there and the criminals who rob them. He sets sights on a lot of other targets as well with biting humor. He also forewarns readers to be aware there are things that might be offensive to them and they can read at their own risk. "Snafu Fubar Nothing Heroic" is a warped look at a lot of things that is a laugh out loud excursion of hilarious proportions.

Kate McGinn
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
978154127108, $8.99

"Exodus" begins with Claire Thibodeaux a nurse in a hospital in Panama City Florida realizing she has to leave everything behind because a man brought in to the ER has something to do with her past that she thought she had buried. Here she had begun a new life but with this victim who was a family friend and the death of coworker it sinks in that she is the real target. She once again runs away to a place where she thinks again she is safe. Great plot but I had a little bit of a problem accepting that once she hooks up with friends in another state that she is in such fear because she seems to not be so cautious in her new environment. She is supposed to be in hiding but is out and about as if she has a regular life. Otherwise "Exodus" is a pretty fast paced story that ends on a high note.

Marital Advice to my Grandson Joel
Peter Davidson
Sweet Memories Publishing
9780692998151, $10.95

To my knowledge this is the first of its kind of marital advice. Most others I've ever read are a father to his son on what to expect as a newlywed. Davidson often compares the reasons why each of the partners get married. What is revealed is each has very different reasons. The principles here are sound logical simple things people often forget that will keep the harmony in any marriage. There are many different facets covered that make "Marital Advice to my Grandson Joel" a very enjoyable guide for all marriages to follow to eternal bliss.

Sensuous Love Quotes
Melissa S. Williams
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781533575937, $15.00

"Sensuous Love Quotes" is filled with lots of wonderful sayings collected for the first time in one volume. For each portion there are places for readers to make notes on their feelings on what they are reading. Many of the statements are from biblical teachings from both Old and New Testaments while others are every day thoughts. Each of the pages are enlightening and thought provoking. "Sensuous Love Quotes" is for any time of year to celebrate love.

Harriet Gets Carried Away
Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481469111 $17.99,

Harriet loves costumes for all occasions. Most recently she plans to be dressed as a penguin for her own birthday. Somehow, she goes on a journey with real ones and has lots of new adventures that she will be able to tell her friends and parents. The story is interesting as she learns about the animals that like they are always dressed in tuxedos. There are a lot of subtle messages that are revealed as the story unfolds. Any age can enjoy "Harriet Gets Carried Away."

Rot The Cutest in the World
Ben Clanton
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481467629 $17.99,

Rot is a mutant potato trying to find what he does best. So, one day he sees a sign that is a contest to be the cutest in the world. He competes against a lot of different types of beings in the wonderful kid's book "Rot The Cutest in the World" The fun of the story is finding out if he wins or not and who he is up against. The Rot story has lots of underlying messages that are for everyone to take heart while enjoying the tale of the mutant potato. "Rot The Cutest in the World" is fun reading for all ages.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Saving Grace
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
9781542046442, $15.95, Paperback, 336 pp.

From the publisher: Former reporter Scott Fleetwood and his family are still recovering after tangling with a notorious kidnapper, the Piper, when another kidnapper grips the city. The Shepherd has snatched a young girl from a vacationing family. Other than money, he has one demand: he'll talk only to Scott. Special Agent Tom Sheils is on the case and will watch over Scott every step of the way. The Shepherd promises the girl's safety as long as Scott follows the rules of his game. Forced to trail the kidnapper's twisting lead - - and haunted by the last victim he failed to save - - Scott is desperate to keep the past from making a brutal comeback. But just when Scott and Sheils think they're winning and that it will all be over soon, the Shepherd ups the stakes. Scott begins to realize he's a pawn in a scheme that runs deeper than greed . . . and colder than death.

The victim, Grace Pagett, is a six-year-old girl on vacation from the UK with her family. Scot and his family seek out the Pagett family in a somewhat "unconventional get-together. The family of a kidnapped child was at the home of a family who'd had their children kidnapped. The unusual demographics were topped off by the presence of the FBI." But Scott fears what will happen if the Shepherd becomes aware of the FBI tail.

A side effect of this is the effect it has on The Independent, the newspaper that Scott works for. "Newspaper sales spiked, website traffic had quadrupled, advertisers were clamoring to be part of the action at premium rates. All this because a man had kidnapped a child and the Independent had a ringside seat to it all. It was disheartening that events like these drove the news business and kept The Independent solvent." One of the characters, who works at the Independent, thinks to himself "If this was what passed for journalism, then it might be time for him to go." The suspense is palpable as the kidnapper has not released Grace, although a ransom has been paid.

Simon Wood has once again given his readers a gripping novel, one in which the characters are very real and the inherent danger very real. The pages can't turn quickly enough, and the book is highly recommended.

Growth and Change are Highly Overrated
Tom Starita
Privately Published
9781520705811, $9.95, Paperback, 279 pp.

From the publisher: Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated is a classic coming-of-age story that takes a unique and comic look at what we all fear - - having to grow up and abandon our dreams. For a charismatic man like Lucas James, life is a breeze because everyone else provides the wind. This man-child front man for a mediocre cover band has been mooching off of his fiancee Jackie for years until she finally decides she's had enough. Faced with the reality of having no income to support his carefree lifestyle, Lucas James abandons his principles and gets a job working in the stockroom at "That Store." How does he cope with this newfound sense of responsibility? He casually steals. In a life spent bucking authority how will Lucas James deal with his manager, 'Victor the Dictator?' How long can he survive Ralph, a starry-eyes coworker who desires nothing more than to be best friends? Will Lori, a twenty-something cashier, be like everyone else and fall for his charm? Will he ever find a place to live? And is "growing up" just another way of saying "Selling out ?"

We are told, frequently, beginning on the first page, that the focus of the book is on Lucas James, and the book is told in his first person p.o.v. (We are told on the second page that "it's all a circle.") He thinks of himself as a "healer of the stick, savior of the masses. That's what I do, that's who I am." He also thinks of himself as a "genial, get-along-with-everyone, life-of-the-party, hero-to-the-masses, humble kind of guy." When Jackie, the woman he's been involved with for six years and who has been wearing his engagement ring, returns it and tells him that it was time to start a new life, without him, it knocks him for a loop. He is now alone in the apartment they have been sharing for four and a half years [on the top floor of a three-story walk-up [34 steps,we are told]. When he goes out to get a 9 to 5 job after Jackie, who had until now been paying the monthly rent, when the three men who had previously employed him, and who he had known for years, willingly agreed to go along with whatever ham-hocked reality he had conjured up - "after all, these men were my best friends, and if you can't rely on your best friends to enter into a fantasy world with you, then you truly live a sad and sorry life." He also lives by the philosophy that something is "not a lie if you believe it."

The novel, seen from inside the mind of Lucas James, is by turns fascinating, disconcerting, and immensely enjoyable. I must admit I loved it when, in his Acknowledgements, the author states "Thanks to the New York Mets. You're going to kill me one day and I'm cool with it," a mind frame with which I'm embarrassed to admit I totally concur.

Highly recommended.

Christine Mangan
c/o William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062686664, $26.99/33.50 CA$, Hardcover, 388 pp.

From the publisher: It's about Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason, at one time the closest of friends, now wedged apart by a chilling secret. They find themselves reunited in Morocco in 1956, where revolution is imminent, though it seems like the real warfare is between the two of them. The dusty alleyways of Tangier have never felt so ominous."

First things first: "Tangerine" is what you are called if you are of, or from, Tangiers. The chapters' p.o.v. alternates between Lucy and Alice, fittingly enough. The first belongs to Alice, musing as she looks out the window at the streets of Morocco, thinking back to her days at Bennington College, in Vermont, where she and Lucy, both 17, were best friends and roommates [having met on their very first day at college.]" And where she met John McAllister, to whom she is now married, although having decided not to change her name: "It felt important, somehow, to retain some part of myself, my family, after everything that had happened." Trying "to not think each and every second of the day about what had happened in the cold, wintry Green Mountains of Vermont." It is now just over a year since that time. (There are several references to "what had happened," although the reader is not told what that "everything" was for quite a while, e.g., "It was perhaps too much to hope for, I knew, that things would simply revert back to how they had once been, before that terrible night.")

Lucy, who is a writer of obituaries for a local newspaper, first appears in Chapter Two, as she describes the intense heat of the city, where she finds "the promise of the unknown, of something infinitely deeper, richer, than anything I had ever experienced in the cold streets of New York." She has come to Tangiers for the express purpose of finding and joining Alice. Born in a small town in Vermont, Tangiers is literally another world for her. When she makes her way to Alice's apartment, she finds it cluttered with books, by Dickens and others of that ilk, which is surprising to Lucy, as the Alice she had known was "not a big reader. I had tried to encourage her during our four years as roommates, but try as I might to interest her, she had only stuck up her nose. They're all just so serious, she had complained . . . she was made, it seemed, for living, rather than reading about the experiences of other lives." When Lucy re-enters her life, Alice is delighted to see her "once friend, the closest friend that I had even known before it had all gone wrong." The tale goes along this way, with fascinating insights into the two women, and into this stifling city, and its people and places, so completely foreign to everything they have known till then. The writing is fascinating, and the mystery, when it is finally made clear to the reader, well worth the time it took to get us there.


Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Dark Horse
J. R. Rain
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00408B12Y, $0.99, ebook
9781505878110, $9.99, paper, 238 pages

Dark Horse is a contemporary noir style detective story set in Huntington Beach, California. It has a smooth style with believably flawed and unique characters. It also has a touch of the supernatural that hangs on the edge of the story and doesn't intrude in the detective work.

Jim Knighthorse is an ex-football player turned detective. He is hired by a defense attorney to investigate the murder of the girlfriend of Orange County high school football star Derrick Booker. Derrick is one of the handful of black students at Huntington high school and his girlfriend was white. The police and community are more than willing to accept Derrick as the murderer and are unwilling to investigate, or even consider, the possibility someone else murdered his girlfriend. Even if Orange County is one of the wealthier communities in California, the residents have just as many dark and dangerous secrets as the poorest communities.

Dark Horse is a top notch detective novel. It is an easy recommendation for a first time reader in the genre to a long term fan. Dark Horse is just the first of a series of novels with this detective so you can look forward to more stories in the future.

Here Be Monsters
Jamie Sheffield
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00AVECXBY, $2.99, ebook
9781481113571, $12.99, paper, 296 pages

Here Be Monsters is an unusual detective action/adventure. The main character, Tyler Cunningham, is a high IQ individual with a lack of empathy. He doesn't understand the emotional part of people and even himself. He places himself, the physical world around him and the people he knows in an internal map. Every time he strays off his internal map he has to add new information to it. This is stressful so he tries to just add small bits at a time to his map. When he was a child he was fascinated in old maps where the map maker would label the unknown as 'here be monsters.' This story is about a time when Tyler had to go outside of his internal map and confronted real monsters.

Tyler Cunningham has enough money to live independently. But he doesn't just live off his inherited income. He works on things he loves to do. He has an office where he tinkers with everything from making camping equipment to academic research and from walking dogs to working as a detective. He doesn't live in his office. He camps every day in one location or another in the Adirondacks.

Tyler comes back from a job where he found and returned to her family a missing girl. He discovers that his best friend is missing. She has disappeared from his map. When he looks beyond his map to find her, he discovers that there are real monsters.

Here Be Monsters is an easy recommendation. Even if the characters are not factual they have a recognizable quirkiness that brings you into the story. The detective part of the story takes second place to how Tyler solves his problems and rebuilds the map that he lives in. This is just the first book in the Tyler Cunningham series so you can spend much more time exploring Tyler's maps.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs. Five
Richard Wormser
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520427, $19.95, PB, 226pp,

Synopsis: Richard Edward Wormser (1908 - 1977) was an American writer of pulp fiction, detective fiction, screenplays, and westerns -- some of it written using the pseudonym of Ed Friend. He is estimated to have written 300 short stories, 200 novelettes, 12 books, had many of screenplays and stories turned into screenplays and even wrote a cookbook -- "Southwest Cookery or At Home on the Range".

Now the Stark House Press brings two of his short story mysteries back into print for the appreciation of a new generation of mystery buffs.

The Body Looks Familiar: This was no crime of passion. The killer sat patiently on the girl's satin-covered bed, drinking Scotch and soda, awaiting her return. He didn't smoke - some Sherlock might trace his brand. He had already taken care to plant the leads, to weave together the web of evidence that would direct the police unerringly to the wrong man. He didn't know the girl. When she entered, he thought it a pity to kill such a good-looker; then he held the cushion over the gun, and fired. The silk and feathers made an excellent muffler. It was too bad about the girl, but she was just a means to an end - and the end was to send another man to the chair...

The Late Mrs. Five: When factory representative Paul Porter arrived at the small rural town of Lowndesburg, he little suspected that he would soon be under arrest for murder. Soon after his arrival he had been shocked to see his beautiful ex-wife Edith, getting into an expensive limousine. He had never seen her for years. Nor had he any idea that she was now married to the rich landowner John Hilliard the Fifth, to whose mansion he had later made a visit hoping to sell agricultural machinery - only to find nobody was at home. But the local police knew of his visit, and when they discovered Edith's dead body there, he became the prime suspect as the slayer of the late Mrs. Five!

Critique: An inherently riveting read, this paperback edition of these two 'time lost' stories now reprinted under one cover, "The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs. Five" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery fans, as well as unreservedly appropriate for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858
Joe Knetsch, John Missall, Mary Lou Missali
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781612005768, $32.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Spanning a period of over forty years (1817-1858), the three Seminole Wars were America's longest, costliest, and deadliest Indian wars, surpassing the more famous ones fought in the West. After an uneasy peace following the conclusion of the second Seminole War in 1842, a series of hostile events followed by a string of murders in 1849 and 1850 made confrontation inevitable.

The war was also known as Billy Bowlegs' War because Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco) was the main Seminole leader in this the last Indian war to be fought east of the Mississippi River. Pushed by increasing encroachment into their territory he led a raid near Fort Myers. A series of violent skirmishes ensued. The vastness of the Floridian wilderness and the difficulties of the terrain and climate caused problems for the army, but they had learnt lessons from the second war and amongst other new tactics employed greater use of boats, eventually securing victory through cutting off food supplies.

Although there are several books covering the entire Seminole Wars period and excellent works on the First and Second Seminole Wars, the Third Seminole War has long been neglected. Written by the team of historians Joe Knetsch, John Missall, and Mary Lou Missali, "History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858" seeks to fill that void at a time when interest in the Seminole Wars is growing.

"History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858" is a detailed narrative of the war and its causes, containing numerous firsthand accounts from participants in the war, derived from virtually all the available primary sources, collected over many years. Written in a clear, easy-to-follow style, the work is intended for both a general and scholarly audience and will be of value to those interested in Florida history, American history in general, military history, Native American studies, and nineteenth century subjects. The book will also appeal to Civil War enthusiasts, as many of the officers who served in Florida became leaders in that later conflict.

Critique: Informationally enhanced with the inclusion of an appendix (U.S. Military Killed in Action - Regulars and Volunteers); a one page list of abbreviations; a seven page bibliography; twenty-four pages of notes; and an eight page index, "History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library 19th Century American History collections in general, and Native American History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.77).

Daniel Pena
Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558858565, $17.95, PB, 200pp,

Uli's first flight, a late-night joy ride with his brother, changes their lives forever when the engine stops and the boys crash land, with "Texas to the right and Mexico to the left". Before the accident, Uli juggled his status as both an undocumented immigrant and a high school track star in Harlingen, Texas, desperately hoping to avoid being deported like his father. His mother Araceli spent her time waiting for her husband. His older brother Cuauhtemoc, a former high-school track star turned drop-out, learned to fly a crop duster, spraying pesticide over their home in the citrus grove.

After the crash, Cuauhtemoc wakes up bound and gagged, wondering where he is. Uli comes to in a hospital, praying that it's on the American side of the border. And their mother finds herself waiting for her sons as well as her missing husband. Araceli knows that she has to go back to the country she left behind in order to find her family.

In Mexico, each is forced to navigate the complexities of their past and an unknown world of deprivation and violence. Ruthless drug cartels force Cuauhtemoc to fly drugs. "If a brick goes missing, Cuauhtemoc dies. If a plane goes missing, Cuauhtemoc dies. If Cuauhtemoc goes missing, they find Cuauhtemoc (wherever he's at) and Cuauhtemoc dies." If they can't find him, they will kill his mother. They have photos of her in Matamoros to prove they can enforce the threat. Meanwhile, Uli returns to his family's home in San Miguel and finds a city virtually abandoned, devastated by battles between soldiers, cartels and militias that vie for control.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Bang" is author Daniel Pena's debut novel, what the reader is given is an inherently fascinating and vividly portrayed story revealing the impact of international drug smuggling on the innocent, the loss of talented individuals to the drug trade, and the black market machines fed with the people removed and shut out of America. Exceptionally well written from first page to last, "Bang" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bang" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery
Kenneth Chelst
Urim Publications
c/o KATV Publishing House
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11225
9789655240207, $34.95, HC, 446pp,

Synopsis: Presenting a new perspective on the saga of the enslavement of the Jewish people and their departure from Egypt, "Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery" by Kenneth Chelst (who received his rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University) is study that compares the Jewish experience with that of African-American slaves in the United States, as well as the latter group's subsequent fight for dignity and equality.

This detailed study dives deeply into the biblical narrative, using classical and modern commentaries to explore the social, psychological, religious, and philosophical dimensions of the slave experience and mentality. It draws on slave narratives, published letters, eyewitness accounts, and recorded interviews with former slaves, together with historical, sociological, economic, and political analyses of this era.

"Exodus and Emancipation" explores and examines with insightful detail the five major needs of every long-term victim and journeys through these five stages with the Israelite and the African-American slaves on their historical path toward physical and psychological freedom. This rich, multi-dimensional collage of parallel and contrasting experiences is specifically designed to enrich readers' understanding of the plight of these two groups.

Critique: An impressively informed and informative work of seminal scholarship, "Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Exodus and Emancipation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity
George Melnyk & Donna Coates
University of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
9781552388907, $34.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Alberta writing has a long tradition. Beginning with the pictographs of Writing-on-Stone, followed by Euro-Canadian exploration texts, the post-treaty writing of the agrarian colonization period, and into the present era, Alberta writing has come to be seen as a distinct literature.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by George Melnyk (Professor Emeritus of Communication, Media, and Film at the University of Calgary) and Donna Coates (who teaches in the English Department of the university of Calgary), "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" is based upon the scholarly analysis of Alberta literature that they began with "Wild Words: Essays on Alberta Literature" (2009).

They argue that the essays in their new book, "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" confirm that Alberta's literary identity is historically contingent with a diverse, changing content, that makes its definition a work-in-progress. The essays in this volume provide contemporary perspectives on major figures in poetry and fiction, such as Robert Kroetsch, Sheila Watson, Alice Major, and Fred Stenson. Other essays bring to light relatively unknown figures such as the Serbian Canadian writer David Albahari and the pioneer clergyman Nestor Dmytrow.

"Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" also offers a detailed discussion of contemporary Indigenous writers, an overview of Alberta historiography of the past century, and the fascinating autobiographical reflections of the novelist Katherine Govier on her literary career and its Alberta influences. "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" demonstrates that Alberta writers, especially in the contemporary period, are not afraid to uncover, re-think, and re-imagine parts of Alberta history, thereby exposing what had been lain to rest as an unfinished business needing serious re-consideration.

Critique: An impressively erudite and informative work of simply outstanding work of seminal scholarship, "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" is an extraordinary collection of thirteen deftly crafted and presented essays. Enhanced with the inclusion of an useful introduction (Writing Alberta: Continuities, Interventions, and Lacunae), as a five page listing of the contributors and their credentials, "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Canadian Literary Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $34.95).

Spanish American Music in New Mexico, The WPA Era
Jack Loeffler, author
James Clois Smith Jr., editor
Sunstone Press
PO Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2321
9781632931801, $24.95, PB, 222pp,

Synopsis: In 1933, newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt summoned ideas that might allay the financial calamity that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s. Among the myriad programs Roosevelt initiated was the WPA, the Works Progress Administration (later re-named the Work Projects Administration) that was created to provide meaningful work to the unemployed millions throughout America.

Thanks to New Mexico Governor Clyde Tingley, a masterful politician who wended his way into Roosevelt's good graces, New Mexico became the recipient of a significant proportion of federal WPA funding that supported thousands of otherwise unemployed men and women. One of the great programs to emerge was in support of the arts, and many painters, writers and musicians were employed to pursue their respective art forms.

Helen Chandler Ryan was appointed director of the Federal Music Project (FMP) in New Mexico that lasted from 1936 to 1943. In 1939, it was re-named the New Mexico Music Project, and by 1942, the name was changed yet again to War Services Program-Music Phase. The focus of this project was ''music education, performance, and preserving of local musical heritage, especially Hispanic [Hispano] folk music.''

Under Ryan's direction and that of her co-administrators, musicians and folklorists collected songs and other material that otherwise might have been lost. The transcribed folk songs were mimeographed and distributed to teachers who taught both singers and instrumentalists who then presented the music in public performances. This music project not only funded fieldworkers, it also brought music to the people of the villages of New Mexico in a time when little else was available to lift the hearts of la gente.

In "Spanish American Music in New Mexico, The WPA Era: Folk Songs, Dance Tunes, Singing Games, and Guitar Arrangements", materials collected between 1936 and 1941 are assembled in five separate units. Units 1, 2, and 3 are comprised of a series of Hispano folk songs with transcribed melodies and English translations of lyrics. Unit 4 is a collection of thirty Hispano dance songs, some of which remain popular even now. Unit 5 is entitled ''Guitar Arrangements of Spanish American Folk Songs.'' We are fortunate to have this taste of Hispano music of New Mexico from the early twentieth century now available to all. It is integral and vital to the repertoire of musical lore that greatly enhances New Mexico's heritage as well as that of the American Southwest.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating and very special 'time-lost' treasure, "Spanish American Music in New Mexico, The WPA Era: Folk Songs, Dance Tunes, Singing Games, and Guitar Arrangements" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Music History collections in general, and Hispanic/American music supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

GURL Please
Katie Hulbert
Privately Published
9780692997123, $9.99, PB, 58pp,

Synopsis: In the words of Katie Hulbert -- People-pleasing is a lifestyle. It's a lifestyle many of us live, but did not deliberately choose. You see, we people pleasers try to make everyone happy. We do and say what we think others want to hear; we meet everyone elses needs before our own, and we definitely don't make waves! I for one, am tired of that lifestyle; it's exhausting, frustrating and unsatisfying in every way. In "GURL Please: A Reformed People Pleasers Guide To Finding Your Voice", I explore all the pieces that make up the PP lifestyle, and the ways you can peel back the layers of the person you are trying to be and learn to live as the person you were meant to be. It's time to let your true self shine, it's time for you to give yourself a voice. Its time for you to live the life that you've imagined.

Critique: It is interesting as a biographical note to learn that as a cult and abuse survivor, Katie Hulbert is quickly becoming a powerful voice within the self-help community. Having been raised in the shepherding movement within a family deeply entrenched in church (cult) leadership, she was subjected to years of spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse. At the age of 25, after an intense battle with suicide and a power encounter with the divine, she started on her healing journey. As a result, She has led a very colorful life.

It is clear she draws from her years of personal experience and hard-won expertise in "GURL Please: A Reformed People Pleasers Guide To Finding Your Voice" to provide a thoroughly 'reader friendly' instructional guide that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is ultimately inspiring and effective in organization and presentation. A quick, easy, and inherently fascinating, potentially life-changing read from beginning to end, "GURL Please" is unreservedly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "GURL Please" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

The Simple Little Rule
Mike Ellerkamp
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504381512, $25.95, HC, 180pp,

Synopsis: All over the world and within all cultures and religions, a profound tenet exists that supports a common connection among all peoples. In one phrasing or another, the spiritual principle known as the Golden Rule has been taught for centuries: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you."

In "The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered", writer and author Mike Ellerkamp shares his spiritual, philosophical, and historical journey as he brings to life once again this simple yet profound rule. Not only showing how the Golden rule became the centerpiece of philosophical teaching throughout the world in a specific historical moment in time, Ellerkamp expands on the Golden Rule with five supporting principles that enhance and enrich our lives as professed through the ages -- principles of Wisdom, Justice, Moderation, Courage, and Discipline.

In today's world climate, it is more important now than ever for us to rediscover this simple little rule. And because embracing the Golden Rule can change our present perceptions and motivate us to work to change our own futures, it makes the Golden Rule a simple little rule so powerful it could even change the world.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered" is an extraordinary and potentially life changing, quality-of-life enhancing read. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Simple Little Rule" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1504381499, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages
Michelle Karnes
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226425313, $58.00, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: In "Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages", Michelle Karnes (Associate Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame) revises the history of medieval imagination with a detailed analysis of its role in the period's meditations and theories of cognition.

Professor Karnes here understands imagination in its technical, philosophical sense, taking her cue from Bonaventure, the thirteenth-century scholastic theologian and philosopher who provided the first sustained account of how the philosophical imagination could be transformed into a devotional one. Karnes examines Bonaventure's meditational works, the Meditationes vitae Christi, the Stimulis amoris, Piers Plowman, and Nicholas Love's Myrrour, among others, and argues that the cognitive importance that imagination enjoyed in scholastic philosophy informed its importance in medieval meditations on the life of Christ.

Emphasizing the cognitive significance of both imagination and the meditations that relied on it, Professor Karnes revises a long-standing association of imagination with the Middle Ages. In her account, imagination was not simply an object of suspicion but also a crucial intellectual, spiritual, and literary resource that exercised considerable authority.

Critique: An impressive work of original scholarship, "Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twenty-two page Bibliography and a five page Index. A particularly thoughtful and thought-provoking study, "Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages" is very highly recommended for college and university library Literary Criticism, Philosophy, and Medieval Studies collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages" is also available in a paperback edition (9780226527598, $45.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $45.00).

Grace for the Unexpected Journey
Deborah Barr
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802416780, $14.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Debbie Barr is a speaker, health educator, and the author of multiple books, including Keeping Love Alive As Memory Fades (which she coauthored with Gary Chapman). As a health educator with a deep concern and compassion for dementia caregivers, she saw their need for faith-based encouragement. With compassion and understanding she uses Scriptures to address their practical hardships and spiritual concerns.

With "Grace for the Unexpected Journey: A 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer's and Other Dementia Caregivers" she provides a series of sixty daily devotions, each of which is : Short and ideally formatted for demanding schedules; Reflects on a relevant Scripture passage; Features a relatable caregiving story; Offers a key Scripture for meditation.

When the struggles seem insurmountable, this devotional offers strength. When stress floods in, it points to peace. And when darkness falls, it illuminates hope. Caregivers walk a long, difficult road. This devotional gives grace for their journey.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Grace for the Unexpected Journey: A 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer's and Other Dementia Caregivers" is an ideal gift to provide anyone charged with caretaker responsibilities for a loved one suffering from any form of dementia. While very highly recommended for community and senior citizen library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grace for the Unexpected Journey: A 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer's and Other Dementia Caregivers" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.59).

Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity
Wendy Graham
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231180207, $60.00, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: Founded by a band of young iconoclasts, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood stunned Victorian England with its revaluation of culture and lifestyle. With Pre-Raphaelitism ascendant in the 1850s and canonical by the 1880s, the movement's refractory reception history is an object lesson in how avant-gardes burst upon the scene, dispense with their antagonistic posture, and become a mainstay of tradition.

In the pages of "Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity", author Wendy Graham (Professor of English at Vassar College. Poughkeepsie, New York) traces the critical discourses that greeted the Pre-Raphaelites' debut, shaped their contemporary reception, and continued to inform responses to them well after their heyday. She explains the mechanics of fame and the politics of scandal contributing to the rise of aestheticism, providing a new interpretation of the place of aesthetic counterculture in Victorian England.

"Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity" sheds new light on Victorian discourses on sexuality and masculinity through a thick description of literary bravado, the emotions of male bonding within cliques, and homoerotic frissons among the creators and reviewers of Pre-Raphaelitism.

Professor Graham deftly threads together the qualities that made William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Gabriel Rossetti exemplary figures of aesthetic celebrity in the 1850s; Algernon Swinburne and Simeon Solomon in the 1860s; and Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Pater in the 1870s.

This detailed study substantially documents the symbiotic relationship between periodical writers and the artists and poets they helped make famous, demonstrating that the origin myth of Bohemian artistic transcendence was connected with the rise of a professional class of journalists.

Professor Graham shows that the Pre-Raphaelites innovated many of the phenomena now associated with Oscar Wilde, arguing that they were foundational for him in forging an artistic and personal identity with a full-blown publicity apparatus. Wilde had models.

Critique: A work of simply sterling and impressively original scholarship, "Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity" is an exceptionally informative, well written, and inherently fascinating history that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $59.99).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

Sins of the Father: A Countess of Prague Mystery, Book Two
Stephen Weeks
Poisoned Pen Press
4014 N. Goldwater Blvd. #201, Scottsdale AZ 85251
9781464209963, 15.95, 262 pages, Paperback

Book Two of this historical mystery series is as intriguing and exciting as the first. Our intrepid heroine, Countess Beatrix "Trixie" von Falkenburg, continues to build on her abilities as an exceptional investigator. Nothing much has changed for Trixie since Book One. An absent and neglectful husband leaves her with too many empty hours to fill. She still relies on her butler, Muller, and maid, Sabine for daily human interaction, but her growing reputation as an investigator adds thrills and danger to her privileged life.

First, her old friend Inspector Schneider contacts Trixie when he finds her phone number in the pocket of a beheaded body. Who is that body and why was he killed? That investigation is barely underway when Emperor Franz Josef I summons her to his palace in Vienna. He asks if Trixie can discreetly check for the truth about the supposed murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf and his lover, Marie Vetsera, in 1889. As she pursues clues throughout Europe, will she uncover a secret that might topple the Hapsburg empire?

In her typical fearless fashion, Trixie hunts for the truth of both mysteries from one European city to another. Along the way she encounters magicians, a wicked hypnotist, Catholic priests, royalty and a child savant who all provide clues to solving both cases. As always, the author shows readers a fascinating picture of early 20th Century life in Europe and exciting action through memorable characters and skillful prose. Highly recommended to readers of historical fiction or mysteries.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Dragons Do Not Share!
D. J. Panec, author
Andy Elkerton, illustrator
Treasure Bay
P.O. Box 119, Novato, CA 94948
97816011153067 $4.99 pb

"Dragons Do Not Share!" is a We Both Read book about a read dragon named Sam who did not want to share anything that was his. Like other titles in this series created to encourage early reading skills, the story evolves with pairs of pages to be read by parent/adult and child. Parents can read these books with their children, encouraging the child to pick up clues about the words by looking at the pictures, the story, other words in the sentence, even sounding out the word, or other contextual clues. Shared reading time and lots of parental praise for a child's reading efforts spurs reading skills. Bright colored pictures with active story movement tweaks tickle young readers' attention. The use of "talking parent' icons and "talking child" icons give clear indications which part the child reads and which part the parent reads.

In "Dragons Do Not Share!", Sam is encouraged to share a bag of cookies with his cousin Tess. he did not offer her a cookie, which made her sad. Then Sam showed Tess his new red scooter, which she asked if she could ride. Sam said "No." He didn't want to share. he tried to explain that he just did not like to share. Tess responded by stating that she would rather read her book. Sam tried to go on playing without Tess, but it was not as much fun. So he decided to go back to Tess and offer her a cookie, the last one. Tess accepted with pleasure and then she offered half of the cookie to Sam. He refused, since he had already had two cookies.

Then the two dragons noticed a lot of holes dug in the lawn. Sam had half of a treasure map and had dug the holes seeking the treasure. He could not find it because he only had part of the map. Oddly, enough, Tess had the other half of the map. The two dragons put their maps together and learned where was the X marked spot to dig! When they found the wonderful chest of treasure, both Sam and Tess were very happy to share. "Dragons Do Not Share!" is a level PK-K We Both Read story that children and parents will enjoy exploring together while early reading skills are encouraged to flourish.

Fred the Beavercorn
Gene Kirschbaum, author
Karyssa Dittmann, illustrator
LocaLeben LLC
9780998762203 $15.00

"Fred the Beavercorn" is the mythical tale of Fred, the son of a union between a loving beaver mom and a free spirit unicorn father. Fred inherited traits from both parents, tending to be very busy and also being a free spirit. Young Fred frequently got into mischief, such as tailboarding and holding on his Papa's tail while running to explore the world. Fred grew up near Beaver Dam, WI, sometimes wondering why his two very different parents got together. Although his mother was always hardworking, building dams and providing for her family, while his father was running and following his dreams, the two always shared the sunset, which they called "God's Canvas."

Fred asked his mother why she worked so hard, and she told him it was important to work hard and do her duty to provide for her family. He asked his father why he was such a free spirit and he answered it was important to follow your dreams and let his passions tell him what to do. when Fred asked his mother why she was attracted to his father, she answered, "Because of his integrity." When he asked his father why he was attracted to his mother, he answered the same thing, because of her integrity. Fred considered both answers and decided he needed to prepare himself for a life of caring for his family while following his dreams, doing what he loved. He decided to study hard in school to prepare himself for a wonderful job which would provide for his family and which he loved.

Amusing, specific colored illustrations suggest that Fred had bridge building architectural talents and leanings that he would polish. Beavers are mortal, having a 30 year lifespan, but unicorns are immortal mostly, so Papa Unicorn outlived Mama Beaver. The story finishes with Papa Unicorn swimming off with a mermaid and beginning a new life up North, where he helped raise a family of narwhals. "Fred the Beavercorn" is a delightful fantasy with a few groundings in reality which helps young children age 2-3 and up to understand concepts of duty and responsibility, compatible differences and being true to your dreams.

Ralphie, Always Loved
Andrea Yerramilli, author
Samantha Van Riet, illustrator
About Something Good LLC
9780998760155, $7.99 pb
9780998760155 $14.99 hardcover / $5.99 Kindle

"Ralphie, Always Loved" is the endearing story of Ralphie, of a beloved little black shelter dog with a white tail, paws, and nose, and a beautiful white heart on his belly. Ralphie's forever family found him and adopted him and loved him from the first moment they saw him as a puppy. Ralphie joined a loving family with an older female dog named Skipper. The family grew with two babies who became playful children, for Ralphie to love and protect and care for.

One day it was time for Skipper to go back to God, and the family and Ralphie surrounded her with love. Ralphie slept in her bed so he could still feel close to her. Ralphie was an only dog until he was 16 years old. His family gave a wonderful puppy birthday party for him. Though Ralphie was tired and gray in the muzzle, he was still happy and knew he would always be loved, and that he would always be love, as God made him that way.

Warm, sensitive colored illustrations show Ralphie frolicking with his loving family, of East Indian origin, and enjoying his doggy life to the fullest. "Ralphie, Always Loved" is a true story about a real dog, which will bring so much love and light to the hearts of all its readers. "Ralphie, Always Loved" is intended for an audience of children ages 4 to 7 years.

Cay and Adlee Find Their Voice
Cali and Russ Quaglia, authors
Daniel Minter, illustrator, with Donald Ely
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 2231
9781416625056 $15.95

"Cay and Adlee Find Their Voice" is an example of ASCD's Whole Child approach to education, with the following Whole Child Tenets: Young readers are supported by being healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged in their learning environments. Cay and Adlee are two young recently hatched birds who are encouraged by their mother bird to explore the world, make friends, and find their individual, unique voices. Voices, she explains to them, are how we share our thoughts and ideas, to communicate with others, and to explain our likes and dislikes. Cay and Adlee are excited to explore finding their voices and to meet new friends.

Flying down, they meet Zaza the camel, who has a curious voice, Chelsea the kangaroo, who has a patient voice, Krissy the lion, who has a confident voice, Pat the walrus, who has a responsible voice, Lobo the lobster, who has a thoughtful voice, Arik the panda, who has an optimistic voice, Poppie the rhino, who has a respectful voice, and Cassy the skunk, who has a friendly voice. Cay and Adlee are excited and inspired to uncover their special voices, and to use them in helpful, hopeful ways. Adlee decides her voice is powerful, and Cay decides his voice is original.

The story line of "Cay and Adlee Find Their Voice" is strongly driven by vibrant narrative verse and bright, action- infused illustrations. Special activity/study pages at the end offer intriguing questions to explore, a word search puzzle, an invitation to draw yourself, or make puppets, a popular classroom challenge to try using different characters' voices and guessing who they are, and an invitation to extend the story with a comic strip of how Cay and Adlee continue their journey. "Your voice is your choice. It is special, you'll see. Your voice is unique. I hope you agree." "Cay and Adlee Find Their Voice" is an excellent asset to teachers of young students ages 4-7 and up, promoting self discovery and harmony.

Make It Happen! We McDonald, Singer
Ryan Hume, author
Lightswitch Learning
9781682655740 $8.95 32 pages

The Make It Happen! series presents unique people of diverse ages who overcome large challenges to succeed in life and work. This helps students understand they need to learn and build life skills needed to help them achieve their goals. "We McDonald, Singer" is about the famous, innovative teenage jazz/pop vocal artist who received the Harlem Stage 2017 Emerging Artist award for her vocal performances. Born in New York City in Harlem, We grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. She began performing as a vocalist/actress at age 4 and continued to build her own defined vocal career despite bullying in school, fear of crowds, and other significant obstacles. We always loved music and the arts. She began playing piano at age 6, dancing at age 11, and sang successfully at age 12, forming a goal of making a unique vocal performance career at that age.

With support of her extended family, We worked hard to develop all her vocal performance related skills. Despite moving schools several times and experiencing bullying during 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, We kept on working hard at accomplishing her many goals and stayed in school, joining sports teams and making friends and developing resilience. We used teamwork, special teacher mentoring, and determination to pursue auditions for arts performances such as the Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in 2015. She won an important music scholarship and learned about how the music industry works. in 2016, We joined The Voice, a competitive performance show in which she placed third by singing her own song, "Wishes." We continued to develop her talents and vocal performance career while attending college and a degree in jazz singing. We currently leads a busy, hectic life with school, vocal practice and performance, maintaining a goal of leaving both an impact and a legacy through her vocal music and creativity.

"Make It Happen! We McDonald. Singer" concludes with a page of Depth of Knowledge study questions, a suggested activity of organizing a talent show, a glossary, related reading suggestions, and relevant internet links. Over 20 colored photographs enrich the pages of We's inspiring career biography, appealing to a wide range of student interests. Other titles in the Make It Happen! series that are also highly recommended include "Ashima Shiraishi, Rock Climber (97841682655788, $8.95)," by Dan Gunderman, "Solomon Dubner, Podcaster (9781682655757, $8.95), by Ryan Hume, "Dr. Alfredo Quinones, Surgeon (9781682655764, $8.95)," by Dan Gunderman, and "'Big Boy' Wills, Cartoonist (9781682655771, $8.95)," by Ryan Hume.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers Of The Future: Volume 34
David Farland, editor
Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781619865754, $15.95, 468pp,

Synopsis: L. Ron Hubbard was a successful science fiction writer whose commitment to helping new writers and artists gave rise to the annual Writers of the Future anthologies as a kind of launching pad for the science fiction writers and artists of today -- and tomorrow!

Compiled and edited by David Farland, this 34th and newest volume of "L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers Of The Future" series presents this year's collection of 'fresh voices, fabulous worlds, and fantastic new characters'.

The stories comprising this 34th annual Science Fiction & Fantasy anthology includes:

Turnabout by Eric Chernik -- Djinn are famous for twisting your words so they don't really grant your wish, but two can play that game.

A Smokeless and Scorching Fire by Erin Cairns -- Deacon is a government official, and he's afraid he'll stay that way if he can't break his conditioning.

The Howler on the Sales Floor by Jonathan Ficke -- It's easy making sales when you can send images of despair into the hearts of your clients.

The Minarets of An-Zabat by Jeremy TeGratenhuis -- Alder seeks the secrets of the Windcallers' magic, but his curiosity may destroy the people he loves.

Odd and Ugly by Vida Cruz -- A tree giant takes in a housekeeper, but she has more secrets than either of them can handle.

Mara's Shadow by Darci Stone -- An ancient myth might provide the key to curing a disease that threatens all of humanity.

The Lesson by OrsonScott Card -- A lesson on philosophy in action turns into a deadly encounter.

What Lies Beneath by Brandon Sanderson -- A powerful sorcerer has so disgraced himself, he is afraid of what his family will think should he ever die and meet them on the other side.

The Face in the Box by Jerry Pournelle -- Cara discovers a floating farm parked over her land, blocking the sunlight, and must confront the driver.

Flee, My Pretty One by Eneasz Brodski -- In a world controlled by dragons and their henchmen, rock singer Josephine really only wants "death to all collaborators."

Illusion by Jody Lynn Ney -- Even a court wizard will struggle to fight off armies if his weapons pack no actual punch.

A Bitter Thing by N. R. M. Roshak -- You can put an end to something wondrous, but only at a cost.

Miss Smokey by Diana Hart -- Lily's ability to shift shapes into a bear offers some strange challenges.

All Light and Darkness by Amy Henrie Gillen -- On a far world, a nameless man meets a woman of ancient genetic stock, and when trouble follows in his wake, he must choose: her life or his humanity?

Of special note is the inclusion of Passion and Profession an informative and thoughtful essay on art by Ciruelo.

And two classic entries by L. Ron Hubbard: The Death Flyer, a short story in which Jim Bellamy tries to save the life of a girl who died in the wreckage of a train ten years ago. "Suspense" an inherently fascinating literary essay.

With original works of science fiction and fantasy art throughout, "L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers Of The Future: Volume 34" is a 'must read' for all dedicated science fiction and fantasy fans -- and is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Gettysburg Replies
Carla Knorowski, editor
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
9781493024407, $19.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Almost five months after the Civil War's deadliest clash, President Abraham Lincoln and other Union leaders gathered to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The program for the occasion featured music, prayer, orations, and benedictions. In the middle of it all, the president gave a few commemorative remarks, speaking for just two minutes, delivering what we now know as the Gettysburg Address.

Challenged to mark the enormity of a battle which had turned the tide of the war (though neither side realized it yet) Lincoln used 272 words in ten sentences to rededicate the Union to the preservation of freedom. It remains the most important statement of our nation's commitment to personal liberty since the Revolutionary War and has become one of the most important speeches in American history, a cornerstone of who we are as a country. A century and a half later, we still hold Lincoln's message in our hearts.

For "Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address", the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum challenged presidents, judges, historians, filmmakers, poets, actors, and others to craft 272 words of their own to celebrate Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, or a related topic that stirs their passions.

President Jimmy Carter reveals how the Gettysburg Address helped bring Egypt and Israel closer at the Camp David Peace Accords. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor reflects on Lincoln's dedication to the importance of civic education. General Colin Powell explains how Martin Luther King Jr. took up Lincoln's mantle and carried it forward. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg touches on the benefits and perils of hero worship. Poet Laureate Billy Collins explores the dichotomy between the private man who wrote poetry ("My Childhood Home I See Again") and the president who stood before all. Attorney Alan Dershowitz echoes Lincoln's words to rally us to the freedom from weapons of mass destruction.

Compiled and edited by Carla Knorowski (CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation), "Gettysburg Replies" features images of important Lincoln documents and artifacts, including the first copy of the address that Lincoln wrote out after delivering it, the program from the cemetery dedication, Lincoln's presidential seal, and more. Together, these words and images create a lasting tribute not only to Lincoln himself but also the power of his devotion to freedom.

Critique: A unique, inherently fascinating, inspiring, and memorable read from cover to cover, "Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address" is one of those rare publications that registers as a "must have" addition to both community and academic library American History/Civile collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Gettysburg Replies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism
Mikael Colville-Andersen
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610919388, $27.00, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: The bicycle enjoyed a starring role in urban history over a century ago, then fell out of favor in the automotive age, but now it is back, stronger than ever. It is the single most important tool for improving our cities. Designing around it is the most efficient way to make our cities life-sized -- to scale cities for humans. It is time to cement the bicycle firmly in the urban narrative in US and global cities.

Urban designer Mikael Colville-Andersen has worked for dozens of global cities on bicycle planning, strategy, infrastructure design, and communication. He is known around the world for his colorful personality and enthusiasm for the role of bike in urban design. In the pages of "Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism", he shows cities how to effectively and profitably re-establish the bicycle as a respected, accepted, and feasible form of transportation.

Building on his popular blog of the same name, "Copenhagenize" is a compilation of vivid project descriptions, engaging stories, and best practices, alongside beautiful and informative visuals to show how to make the bicycle an easy, preferred part of everyday urban life.

"Copenhagenize" will serve as inspiration for everyone working to get the bicycle back into our cities. It will give planners and designers the ammunition to push back against the Automobile Age and convince the skeptics of the value of the life-sized city. This is not a guide on how to become Copenhagen, but rather on how to learn from the successes and failures (yes, failures) of Copenhagen and other cities around the world that are striving to become more livable.

Critique: Extraordinarily informed and informative, "Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism" is a deftly crafted study that is as 'real world practical' as it is inspiring in its vision of a more eco-friendly urban environment based upon the use of a bicycle as a mode of human transport. Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "Copenhagenize" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Urban Development collections in general, and Transportation & Bicycling supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success - It's All About You
David E. Nielson
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781970950030, $17.99, 224 pages

A Framework for Increasing Your Self Awareness and Building Your Personal Purpose Statement

Ken's Blanchard's Foreword in David E. Nielson's book "The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success - It's All About You" convinced me that I was in for a life molding read. Recent personal circumstances indicate that I am moving into a new season of life, a reason to re-examine my life purpose. The use of bright colors highlighting features, charts, and illustrations sets this book apart from and establishes a new standard for motivational books of the future.

Nielson begins by asking the reader to consider two elements: knowing your life purpose and self-awareness. He then adds a third; social awareness Nielson then transitions to introduce six more elements; these with an external focus.

I enjoyed Nielson's common sense approach, his use of humor, his skill in using the elements of a good story, and his keen sense of relating to the reader's life journey, self-discovery and purpose. The exercises included in five appendices are essential to getting the most out of your reading. Chapter endnotes include excellent suggestions for future reading and indicate the broad base of sources from the well-known leader's in areas of personal success and personal growth.

David Nielson is a management consultant specializing in a change in business strategy and management through leadership development and training. His work his highly endorsed by leaders in finance, education, and industry.

"The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success - It's All About You" is for anyone wanting to operate on a higher level, to find purpose and a better self-awareness.

Making Accountable Decisions - A Journey to an Accountable Life
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950146, $15.99, 176 pages

Starting the Process - A Journey into Discover, Desire, and Decision

"Making Accountable Decisions - A Journey to an Accountable Life" focuses on the most important decisions we make in life, their impact and how they add value and significant meaning to who we become. Balance, Virtue, Respect for Self and Others, Perspective, Courage, Generosity, Gratefulness, and Excellence are only a few of the topics Sam Silverstein addresses in the book.

Expect a life transformation when you pursue Silverstein's suggestion to read the text, become familiar with the keys to master your decisions and by focusing on the suggested questions and exercises by spending five minutes a day considering your answers and let them build on each other as you begin to make "accountable" decisions.

I have already started this process and am confident that continuing will play a major part in fulfilling my future goals and their achievements. Due to recent events in my life, I am in a period of transition. Continuing the principles and practices will have a significant impact on my making "accountable" decisions in the months ahead.

Sam Silverstein is known internationally for his emphasis on building an organizational culture dedicated to accountability among leadership. Silverstein has written numerous books, including the book titled "No Matter What." Material excerpted from the book is included as "bonus material" featuring the importance of commitment.

I can highly recommend "Making Accountable Decisions" to anyone serious about beginning " A Journey to an Accountable Life."

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Plot to Kill King
William F. Pepper
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510702172, $27.99, HC, 768pp,

Synopsis: William Pepper was James Earl Ray's lawyer in the trial for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and even after Ray's conviction and death, Pepper continues to adamantly argue Ray's innocence.

"The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr" is myth-shattering expose is a revised, updated, and heavily expanded volume of Pepper's original bestselling and critically acclaimed book "Orders to Kill", with twenty-six years of additional research included. The result reveals dramatic new details of the night of the murder, the trial, and why Ray was chosen to take the fall for an evil conspiracy -- a government-sanctioned assassination of our nation's greatest leader. The plan, according to Pepper, was for a team of United States Army Special Forces snipers to kill King, but just as they were taking aim, a backup civilian assassin pulled the trigger.

In "The Plot to Kill King", Pepper shares the evidence and testimonies that prove that Ray was a fall guy chosen by those who viewed King as a dangerous revolutionary. His findings make the book one of the most important of our time -- the uncensored story of the murder of an American hero that contains disturbing revelations about the obscure inner-workings of our government and how it continues, even today, to obscure the truth.

Critique: Impressively informative, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Plot to Kill King" is also available in a paperback edition (9781510729629, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Before the Dawn: An Autobiography
Gerry Adams
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268103774, $75.00, HC, 366pp,

Synopsis: Gerard Adams is an Irish republican politician who was the Leader of the Sinn Fein political party between 1983 and 2018 and has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for Louth since the 2011 general election.

"Before the Dawn: An Autobiography" is fascinating memoir of his early life, in which Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, describes the development of the modern "Troubles'' in the North of Ireland, featuring his personal experiences during that period, including secret talks with the British government and imprisonment, his leadership role in Sinn Fein, and the tragic hunger strike by imprisoned IRA prisoners in 1981.

Born in 1948, Adams vividly recalls growing up in the working-class Ballymurphy district of West Belfast, where he became involved in the civil rights campaign in the late 1960s and was active in campaigns around issues of housing, unemployment, and civil rights. The unionist regime, which had been in interrupted power for 50 years, reacted violently to the protests, and the situation exploded into conflict.

Adams recounts his growing radicalization, his work as a Sinn Fein activist and leader, his relationship with the IRA, and the British use of secret courts to condemn republicans. Adams was also a political prisoner. He was arrested many times and recounts his torture. He spent a total of five years in the notorious Long Kesh prison camp. First as an internee, held without charge, and then as a sentenced prisoner after he made two failed attempts to escape.

Adams chronicles the dramatic hunger strikes of Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, and others in 1980-81 which saw ten men die. Though he opposed the hunger strike Adams was instrumental in organizing the mass campaign in support of the hunger strikers which saw Bobby Sands elected as a member of the British Parliament and Ciaran Doherty and Kevin Agnew elected to the Irish Parliament.

"Before the Dawn" is an engaging and revealing self-portrait that is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand modern Ireland. First published in 1996-at a time when politics in the North of Ireland was in crisis and the Good Friday Agreement was still two years away, this new edition contains a brand new introduction and epilogue written by the author, covering Adams's family, Brexit, and the peace process.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally candid, extraordinarily detailed, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Before the Dawn: An Autobiography" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections in general, and Irish Political History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Before the Dawn: An Autobiography" is also available in a paperback edition (9781847179166, $21.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.74).

Jerry Labriola
Strong Books
9781928782988, $35.95, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Two primary factors emerge in "Discovery" by Jerry Labriola -- One is that Paul questions the repetition he experiences, labeling it boring travelogue. And two, a mysterious individuals constantly follow him -- an eye-patched Mr. Nemesis.

And even the years-old Titanic dry dock in Belfast looms large during the breathtaking closing chapters.

Replete with authentic information about religion, crime, and Napoleonic Bonaparte deftly woven into an inherently fascinating read, of special note are the details about current scientific findings.

Critique: Showcasing an author with a genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling, "Discovery" by Jerry Labriola will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era
Sam Rosenfeld
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226407258, $30.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Even in this most partisan and dysfunctional of eras, we can all agree on one thing: Washington is broken. Politicians take increasingly inflexible and extreme positions, leading to gridlock, partisan warfare, and the sense that our seats of government are nothing but cesspools of hypocrisy, childishness, and waste. The shocking reality, though, is that modern polarization was a deliberate project carried out by Democratic and Republican activists.

In "The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era", Sam Rosenfeld (Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colgate University) details why bipartisanship was seen as a problem in the postwar period and how polarization was then cast as the solution. Republicans and Democrats feared that they were becoming too similar, and that a mushy consensus imperiled their agendas and even American democracy itself.

Thus began a deliberate move to match ideology with party label -- with the toxic results we now endure. Rosenfeld reveals the specific politicians, intellectuals, and operatives who worked together to heighten partisan discord, showing that our system today is not (solely) a product of gradual structural shifts but of deliberate actions motivated by specific agendas. Rosenfeld reveals that the story of Washington's transformation is both significantly institutional and driven by grassroots influences on both the left and the right.

"The Polarizers" brilliantly challenges and overturns our conventional narrative about partisanship, but perhaps most importantly, it points us toward a new consensus: if we deliberately created today's dysfunctional environment, we can deliberately change it.

Critique: A work of simply outstanding scholarship, "The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era" is enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page Bibliographic Essay; a four page bibliographic listing of Archival Sources; eighty pages of Notes; and a fourteen page Index. Collectively, the individual chapters form an evolutionary chronology from 1945 to 2000. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $9.99).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Temptation of Forgiveness
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802127754, $26.00, Hardcover, 300 pp.

Where there are government programs, there is always room for fraud. And Italy is no exception. Commissario Guido Brunetti discovers a clever scheme while investigating an apparent assault case involving the husband of a colleague of his wife, who had previously visited him because she suspected drugs were being sold in her son's school.

One thing led to another. Brunetti found the drug dealer, who also was operating a clever scheme to distribute drugs to the kids. And when the aforementioned husband was found comatose at the foot of a bridge and taken to the hospital, Brunetti at first suspected the assault was the result of a confrontation with the drug dealer.

Donna Leon has written almost three dozen novels in this series, combining vivid descriptions of Venice, Brunetti's appetite, and a wide variety of social ills. In this installment, she combines the taking advantage of elderly people and of government programs such as medicine and drug insurance, exposing both while Brunetti goes about in his calm manner conducting his investigation.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape
Francis Pryor
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781681776408, $26.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Perched on the chalk uplands of Salisbury Plain, the megaliths of Stonehenge offer one of the most recognizable outlines of any ancient structure. Its purpose as a place of worship, and/or sacrificial arena, and/or giant calendar is unknown, but its story is one of the most extraordinary of any of the world's prehistoric monuments.

Constructed in several phases over a period of some 1500 years, beginning in 3000 BC, Stonehenge's key elements are its "bluestones," transported from West Wales by unexplained means, and its sarsen stones quarried from the nearby Marlborough Downs.

In "Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape", Francis Pryor (who is one of Britain's most distinguished archaeologists and the excavator of Flag Fen) delivers a rigorous account of the nature and history of Stonehenge, but also places the enigmatic monument in a wider cultural context, bringing acute insight into how antiquarians, scholars, writers, artists (and even neopagans) have interpreted the mystery over the centuries.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape" is an extraordinarily informative and engaging read that will prove of immense and particular interest to both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Match In The Root Cellar
Chris McGoff
9781946633125, $19.99, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: After successfully leading her company through a transition as interim CEO, Carolyn earns her appointment as permanent CEO of Phossium. Although she is excited, Carolyn quickly realizes something's wrong.

Early on, Carolyn recognizes a problem at the company -- a very serious problem that threatens its growth and profitability. Carolyn identifies the problem as default culture -- the complacency and discontent you're left with when you stop intentionally generating a positive culture.

But changing the company culture isn't easy, especially when employees, senior leaders, and even a board member push back. Taking it upon herself to spark change, Carolyn looks to enlist the help of anyone willing to help build a peak performance culture.

Together with other dissidents of the status quo, Carolyn has to find a way to change the company culture from "default" to "peak performance" -- no small feat.

In "Match In The Root Cellar: How You Can Spark A Peak Performance Culture", Chris McGoff allows you to journey along with Carolyn, a composite character based on real-life people, to learn and see how it's up to everyone to work through the struggles and find a way to redefine company culture and achieve peak performance.

By the end of Carolyn's story, you will be equipped to break down that default culture and build a culture of peak performance!

Critique: One of the most effective ways to teach ideas, principles, concepts, insights, and information is through storytelling. "Match In The Root Cellar: How You Can Spark A Peak Performance Culture" is just such a story that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide
Alexander Bennett
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9784805313756, $16.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Alexander Bennett is the ultimate insider, holding multiple black belts in Kendo and Naginata as well as a Ph.D. in Japanese literature and history. In "Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide", he shares his vast personal experience and knowledge with readers seeking to undertake their own personal quest in the Japanese martial arts.

Bennett outlines the history of Bushido and the Japanese Samurai from early times up until the present. Then, as only someone steeped in this world can, he surveys the contemporary martial arts scene and provides the essential knowledge young foreigners need to find a teacher and learn a martial art successfully in Japan.

Unlike any other book on this subject, "Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide" is written by a Japanese speaker who has studied and taught martial arts in Japan for many decades. Individual chapters include: The Real Samurai; The Concept of Bushido; Development of the Japanese Martial Arts; Martial Arts Masters You Should Know About; Budo in Japan Today; Key Martial Arts Concepts; Life in a Japanese Dojo; A Japan Survival Guide.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide" will be of special and particular interest to anyone intrigued by Japanese martial arts in general, and samurai traditions and legacies in particular. While especially and unreservedly recommended for dojo, community and academic library Martial Arts collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for martial arts students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.17).

Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours
Joseph Rosenbloom
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807083383, $24.95, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: At 10:33 a.m. on April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., landed in Memphis on a flight from Atlanta. A march that he had led in Memphis six days earlier to support striking garbage workers had turned into a riot, and King was returning to prove that he could lead a violent-free protest.

King's reputation as a credible, non-violent leader of the civil rights movement was in jeopardy just as he was launching the Poor People's Campaign. He was calling for massive civil disobedience in the nation's capital to pressure lawmakers to enact sweeping anti-poverty legislation. But King didn't live long enough to lead the protest. He was fatally shot at 6:01 p.m. on April 4th in Memphis.

"Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours" by Joseph Rosenbloom (an award-winning journalist who has been a staff reporter for the Boston Globe, an investigative reporter for Frontline, and a senior editor for Inc. magazine) is an intimate look at the last thirty-one hours and twenty-eight minutes of King's life.

King was exhausted from a brutal speaking schedule. He was being denounced in the press and by political leaders as an agent of violence. He was facing dissent even within the civil rights movement and among his own staff at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In Memphis, a federal court injunction was barring him from marching. As threats against King mounted, he feared an imminent, violent death. The risks were enormous, the pressure intense.

On the stormy night of April 3rd, King gathered the strength to speak at a rally on behalf of sanitation workers. The "Mountaintop Speech", an eloquent and passionate appeal for workers' rights and economic justice, exhibited his oratorical mastery at its finest.

"Redemption" draws on dozens of interviews by Rosenbloom with people who were immersed in the Memphis events; features recently released documents from Atlanta archives; and includes compelling photos. The fresh material reveals untold facets of the story including a never-before-reported lapse by the Memphis Police Department to provide security for King.

"Redemption" also unveils financial and logistical dilemmas and recounts the emotional and marital pressures that were bedeviling King. Also revealed is what his assassin, James Earl Ray, was doing in Memphis during the same time and how a series of extraordinary breaks enabled Ray to construct a sniper's nest and shoot King.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours" is an extraordinary and exceptionally well researched, written, organized, presented and detailed account of King's final hours. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Redemption" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781520097398, $24.99, CD).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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