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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 4 April 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Gary'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
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide
Molly Hashimoto
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680511505, $22.95, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: Birds accompany us in our daily lives with their songs, flashes of bright color, and energetic activity. Even people who don't consider themselves birders notice them; from urban wetlands to wilderness trails, we follow the sound of a distant twitter or song.

In "Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide", award-winning nature artist and art teacher Molly Hashimoto deftly captures images of birds through different media, ranging from quick sketches with pen and wash to more carefully planned block prints. Each medium has a unique way of revealing different avian qualities -- elegant lines or imposing silhouettes, a delicate bill or brilliant plumage.

In "Birds of the West", Molly shares this range of artwork as a way to encourage readers, whether artists or not, to observe more closely the feathered friends around us. Through her art and words, she explores specific Western habitats providing the natural histories of birds typically found in each, as well as intimate personal encounters and inspiring passages from others.

Of special note are Molly's painting, drawing, and printmaking methods found throughout the book in the form of technique sidebars deftly designed for all levels of experience.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and offering a complete course of art instruction on the subject of birds, "Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide" is beautifully illustrated throughout. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Birds of the West" is an especially welcome and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Art Instruction & Reference collections.

The Cowkeeper's Wish
Tracy Kasaboski and Kristen den Hartog
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781771622028 $32.95

Synopsis: In the 1840s, a young cowkeeper and his wife arrive in London, England, having walked from coastal Wales with their cattle. They hope to escape poverty, but instead they plunge deeper into it, and the family, ensconced in one of London's "black holes," remains mired there for generations. The Cowkeeper's Wish follows the couple's descendants in and out of slum housing, bleak workhouses and insane asylums, through tragic deaths, marital strife and war. Nearly a hundred years later, their great-granddaughter finds herself in an altogether different London, in southern Ontario.

In The Cowkeeper's Wish, Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski trace their ancestors' path to Canada, using a single family's saga to give meaningful context to a fascinating period in history - Victorian and then Edwardian England, the First World War and the Depression. Beginning with little more than enthusiasm, a collection of yellowed photographs and a family tree, the sisters scoured archives and old newspapers, tracked down streets, pubs and factories that no longer exist, and searched out secrets buried in crumbling ledgers, building on the fragments that remained of family tales.

While this family story is distinct, it is also typical, and so all the more worth telling. As a working-class chronicle stitched into history, The Cowkeeper's Wish offers a vibrant, absorbing look at the past that will captivate genealogy enthusiasts and readers of history alike.

Critique: A true-life family biography that grips the reader with the passion of an engrossing novel, The Cowkeeper's Wish: A Genealogical Journey is the harrowing and hardship-ridden saga of the authors' ancestors. Beginning in the 1840s when a Welsh cowkeeper and his wife migrated to London, only to find a seemingly endless abyss of crushing poverty, The Cowkeeper's Wish is a saga of tragedy, perseverance, war, insane asylums, and emigration to Canada. Pieced together from ancient photographs, old newspapers, a family tree, and extensive research, The Cowkeeper's Wish is riveting from cover to cover and highly recommended.

A Murderous Marriage
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781496717399, $26.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Since the Great War, some family fortunes have suffered, including those of the Renshaws. Despite being the granddaughter of an earl, Julia Renshaw is under pressure to marry for money - and has settled for Gilbert Townsend, a viscount and a wealthy industrialist. He is decades older than Julia, and it's clear to her sister Phoebe - and to Eva, who has been like a surrogate mother to the girls - that this is not a love match. Nevertheless, the wedding takes place - and in a hurry.

At the reception aboard the groom's yacht, there appears to be tension between Gil and several guests: his best man, a fellow veteran of the Boer War; his grouchy spinster sister; and his current heir, a nervous young cousin named Ernest. The bride is also less than pleased when she discovers that her honeymoon will be more crowded than expected - with Gil's pretty secretary, among others, coming along.

That very night, Julia pounds on her sister's door, brandishing a bandaged hand and reporting a hot-tempered outburst on her new husband's part. Julia is feeling doubt and regret about her hasty decision, but returns to the boat. Then the next morning, before the yacht can depart the harbor, Gil's body is found in the water below -- and both Phoebe and Eva must discover who pushed him over before the Renshaws' social standing is irreparably stained by Julia's arrest for his murder!

Critique: Deftly scripted with a wealth of twists, turns and surprises, "A Murderous Marriage" by Alyssa Maxwell showcases a flair for originality and a master of the genre. A page turning pleasure of a read from first page to last, "A Murderous Marriage" is an especially recommended addition to all community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "A Murderous Marriage" is also available in a paperback edition (9781496717405, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Winter Sister
Megan Collins
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781982100148, $26.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Sixteen years ago, Sylvie's sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found - and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained "Dark Days" even before Persephone's death, Annie's once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone's former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie's always believed Ben was responsible for the murder - but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house - and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that will hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end, "The Winter Sister" showcases author Megan Collins' genuine flair for an entertaining, thoughtful, and thought-provoking narrative storytelling style. While unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Winter Sister" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781508277569, $39.99, CD).

Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries
Jason Mankey
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738757971, $19.99, PB, 408pp,

Synopsis: The rites and rituals of Witchcraft are life-changing experiences, but they are also steeped in mystery. "Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries" by Jason Mankey delves into some of the most persistent mysteries of the Craft and provides insightful guidance for raising and directing magickal energy in accordance with your desires.

Mankey distills his decades of experience as he shares practical wisdom for raising a cone of power and detailed insights into creating powerful rituals for dedications, initiations, and elevations. In his chapter on drawing down the moon, he provides a vivid exploration of invocation and the subtle nuances in preparation and execution that can take the ritual to its most magisterial heights.

"Transformative Witchcraft" also discusses one of the most mysterious of all the magickal rituals known as the Great Rite. Whether the reader is interested in the Great Rite in token or in truth, there is much to be gleaned from the experiences related here on a topic that is frequently treated as taboo in much of the magickal literature.

Direct experience with the divine and the potent energies of magick are defining experiences in a life of Witchcraft. Filled with compelling personal stories, a fascinating brief history of modern Wicca and Witchcraft, striking original rituals, and a wealth of tips and techniques, "Transformative Witchcraft" provides the beginning or intermediate Witch with the practical and theoretical keys they need to unlock the mysteries of the Craft.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative study that is accessibly organized and presented, "Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries" is an extraordinary volume and especially recommended for dedicated students of the Metaphysical Arts. A welcome addition to community and academic library Contemporary Witchcraft collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of metaphysical students, novice Wiccans, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Divergent Paths to College
Megan M. Holland
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813590264, $99.95, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: In "Divergent Paths to College: Race, Class, and Inequality in High Schools", Megan M. Holland (an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York) instructively examines how high schools structure different pathways that lead students to very different college destinations based on race and class.

Professor Holland finds that racial and class inequalities are reproduced through unequal access to key sources of information, even among students in the same school and even in schools with well-established college-going cultures.

As the college application process becomes increasingly complex and high-stakes, social capital, or relationships with people who can provide information as well as support and guidance, becomes much more critical.

Although much has been written about the college-bound experience, we know less about the role that social capital plays, and specifically how high schools can serve as organizational brokers of social ties. The relationships that high schools cultivate between students and higher education institutions by inviting college admissions officers into their schools to market to students, is a particularly critical, yet unexplored source of college information.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Divergent Paths to College: Race, Class, and Inequality in High Schools" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an eight page Methodological Appendix, fourteen pages of Notes, a fourteen pages listing of References, and a seven page Index. An impressively erudite and ground-breaking study, "Divergent Paths to College" is a critically important addition to college and university library Contemporary Education & Sociology collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Divergent Paths to College" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813590257, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

The Happiness Bible
Cheryl Rickman
Firefly Books Ltd.
9780228101208, $19.95, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: The latest addition to Firefly Books' simply outstanding "Subject Bible" series "The Happiness Bible" by Cheryl Rickman is particularly timely given our troubled times.

Humans devote their entire lives to striving for happiness by one means or another. And yet, happiness does not just happen. Pleasure might, fortune can, but long-lasting happiness and sustainable well-being (what Cheryl Rickman calls "flourishing") is an altogether more elusive condition, but not unreachable. It is a skill as much as a state. It takes effort, practice even.

"The Happiness Bible" deftly works with the reader to explain how happiness works and evolves, where it comes from, and how it can be nurtured and maintained.

"The Happiness Bible" accessibly introduces the principles of positive psychology and how it works to achieve happiness or, it should be said, how to be less discontented. It examines what happiness studies have revealed and how positive psychology exercises help to banish the "thieves of happiness".

Throughout "The Happiness Bible" are insightfully and encouragingly useful quotations that do more than inspire but also share wisdom worthy of reflection.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, this compact little volume is an ideal inspirational resource and addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections with chapters ranging from A History of Happiness -- Why It Matters; to Positive Psychology -- The Science of Flourishing; to Meaning and Purpose -- What Matters Most and Why; to A Happy Life is a Compassionate, Curious and Considered Life. If you only have time to read one book on the subject of having a sustainable and contented life, making it "The Happiness Bible".

A Song for the Stars
Ilima Todd
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629725284, $15.99, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiance is the best navigator in Hawaii, and he taught her everything he knows how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.

But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.

Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiance, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.

John has been Captain James Cook's translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with her homeland and her people and Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John's guilt over the death he caused, and Maile's guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle a secret she's kept hidden from everyone on the island.

When Maile is tasked with teaching John how to navigate using the stars so he can sail back to England, they must also navigate the challenges of being from very different cultures. In doing so, they might also find the peace that comes when two hearts become one.

Critique: An impressively crafted and compelling read from beginning to end, "A Song for the Stars" clearly showcases author Ilima Todd's engagingly entertaining narrative storytelling skills as a novelist. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Song for the Stars" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.15) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982652043, $29.95, MP3 CD).

David Zahl
Fortress Press
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781506449432, $26.99, HC, 211pp,

Synopsis: At the heart of our current moment lies a universal yearning, writes David Zahl in "Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It", not to be happy or respected so much as enough -- what religions call "righteous".

To fill the void left by religion, we look to all sorts of everyday activities (ranging from eating and parenting to dating and voting) for the identity, purpose, and meaning once provided on Sunday morning in church services.

In our striving, we are chasing a sense of enoughness. But it remains ever out of reach, and the effort and anxiety are burning us out.

"Seculosity" takes a thoughtful yet entertaining tour of American "performancism" and its cousins, highlighting both their ingenuity and mercilessness, all while challenging the conventional narrative of religious decline.

"Seculosity" unmasks the competing pieties around which so much of our lives revolve, and he does so in a way that's at points playful, personal, and incisive. Ultimately bringing the reader to a fresh appreciation for the grace of God in all its countercultural wonder.

Editorial Note: David Zahl is the founder and director of Mockingbird Ministries, editor-in-chief of the popular Mockingbird website, and co-host of The Mockingcast. He and his family live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church. Zahl is the author of "A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N' Roll" and coauthor of "Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)".

Critique: Deftly organized into chapters with the individual themes of Busyness, Romance, Parenting, Technology, Work, Leisure, Food, Politics, 'Jesusland', and concluding with 'What to "Do" about It, "Seculosity" is a thoughtful, thought-provoking, astute, insightful, and ultimately inspiring read that is especially recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. While highly recommended for church, seminary, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Seculosity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.74).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Poker with Friends' Minds: Perspectives on Tournament Hold'em
Mike Corbett
Centrifugal Publishing
Paperback: 9780983067948, $7.95
eBook: 9780983067955, $4.95

Poker with Friends' Minds: Perspectives on Tournament Hold'em is as much about how people think, calculate, and make moves as it is about the game of Texas Hold'em and its different styles and trends. It focuses on tournaments with small entry fees and discusses issues surrounding predictable behaviors and approaches to the game.

This is no dry survey of strategy alone, however. Mike Corbett employs a chatty tone to review tournament encounters between players ("I recently observed a phenomenon that I assumed had become obsolete. It involved one unhappy person, one defensive person and two indignant people. Ok, and one person with a big mouth who should have stayed out of it."), lending an excitement and authenticity to reporting and observations that aren't typically seen in the usual poker book.

From demanding elements of poker and descriptions of Texas Hold'em tournament processes to the challenges of creating a methodological analysis for a game that holds so many different fundamentals, this discussion of intuition, decision-making processes, and popular underestimations focuses on accomplishments and relationships between structure and opportunity.

Poker players who want more of a psychological examination of the game's opportunities, challenges, and interactions will relish the juxtaposition of analysis and strategy that makes Poker with Friends' Minds: Perspectives on Tournament Hold'em unexpectedly lively and personal and a highly inviting, educational read for poker players at all levels.

Mutilating Women
Anoop Chandola
Black Opal Books
9781644370698, $15.49 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Mutilating Women is the story of an 'honor crime'; and if you don't know what that means, then it's a story that is especially important to understand. Set in 1947 India after the country's independence, it's a cultural and social examination that uses fictional interviews to bring to light the real world trials and sweeping cultural changes that affected Indian women's lives.

The story focuses on the experiences of a new member of the Kotwal Clan, describing her revenge crime against her abusive husband.

At first, newcomers to Indian culture might feel overwhelmed by its many traditions, religious sects, family relationships, and differing perceptions of men and women. The concerns and perspectives of males and females feel quite dissimilar, and are part of the dichotomies affecting changing Indian social norms.

Any confusion initially felt by the wealth of historical and social details presented in Mutilating Women's opening chapters resolves itself shortly. Readers become immersed in the lives and connections between newlywed Saina, semi-Swami Sakar's views on India's changing politics, the revolutionary meaning and impact of Ghandi's message on everyday people traditionally shunned by society ("...revolution meant making it possible for an untouchable and a woman to head the government of free India."), and the kinds of changes that are transforming social and political traditions in the country.

Readers receive a fictional view of the changing nature of not just politics and society, but the relationships between men and women as Mussi and other characters see their traditions undergoing vast changes and challenges.

Those with a special interest in Indian history and social change will find Mutilating Women is much more than a story about one woman's 'honor crime'. It's a sweeping consideration of the sights, smells, and sounds of a nation in flux, offers much food for thought, and is especially recommended for anyone interested in absorbing India's revolution via a multifaceted story presented from different perspectives.

The Making, Breaking, and Renewal of a Surgeon-Scientist
Steven E. Wilson, MD
H-G Books
Kindle ISBN: 9781732915138, $8.99
Paperback ISBN: 9781732915145, $12.99
Audiobook ISBN: 9781732915152 $TBA

The Making, Breaking, and Renewal of a Surgeon-Scientist: A Personal Perspective of the Physician Crisis in America is more than just Dr. Steven E. Wilson's memoir. It documents a health community in crisis which is under siege by everything from government regulations to insurance industry costs and protocols and decreased funding for medical research. Wilson notes that: "Many illustrious careers that took decades to build have disintegrated under the weight of a legal and governmental onslaught."

A different author might have attended to documenting these attacks alone, but this has been done before. Dr. Wilson's intention is to offer a focus not just on the problems, but their solutions; and this is where The Making, Breaking, and Renewal of a Surgeon-Scientist departs from other books about doctors and their professional challenges.

By entwining his remedies with personal experience, Dr. Wilson produces a memoir that works on many levels, revealing the challenges and processes of a surgeon-scientist's work as he assesses common obstacles to success and ways of overcoming them.

From institutional disputes and resolutions during residency to Dr. Wilson's work planning a new eye institute building at the Cleveland Clinic, The Making, Breaking, and Renewal of a Surgeon-Scientist juxtaposes personal life changes with professional evolution. It deftly charts the author's various challenges at different points of his career, marriage, and transition points in academic ophthalmology.

Readers learn much about this profession and its processes, but also gain a broader perspective about the medical community's interactions on many levels: "The operations of a clinical department with major efforts in medical care, teaching, and research are exceedingly complex, especially in a system that had grown in piecemeal fashion with revenues and expenses coming from so many different sources - faculty practice plan, dean's office, hospitals, grant funding, endowments, etc. Even for the experienced administrator, it was like stepping into a minefield."

Dr. Wilson also forges different ground in addressing the problems of medical administrators, and these will enlighten and educate readers interested in behind-the-scenes functions of the medical community.

Leadership conundrums, inadequate governance systems, and bewildering Medicare/Medicaid systems and billing scandals are all covered in detail. Dr. Wilson eventually moved full-circle, from being a physician to being an administrative chairman before he went back to treatment, research, and teaching. His lessons and observations makes for an engrossing account contrasting different medical system approaches: a highly recommended and eye-opening work accessible to medical professionals and lay readers alike.

The Making, Breaking, and Renewal of a Surgeon-Scientist should be required reading for any med school student and many a lay reader concerned about the breakdown of America's medical system.

The Destiny Relic
Ed Mitchell
California Coast Publishing
9780966844788, $12.99 Kindle

Imagine a war on terror that forces ordinary citizens to choose sides in a struggle fueled by religious zealots. Consider the impact of a single individual hated by all sides of the equation, from the Vatican to Muslim extremists and the Israelis. Then add an Indiana Jones-style tension over the discovery of a religious relic that could change the world, and which succeeds in angering everyone. Pair these elements with the dilemma of discoverer Hank Cameron, who finds himself immersed in conflicts that hold no easy resolution, for a thriller that comes out firing from the first chapter and excels in staccato, nonstop action throughout.

The Destiny Relic is a story of passions ignited by an impossible find, but it's also the saga of a grad student in archaeology whose findings could either change the world or destroy it.

The last thing on Hank Cameron's mind was becoming embroiled in a Middle Eastern conflict. As military, political, and social issues coalesce on his turf, he discovers far more than an archaeological revelation in a series of truths that places his life and the world in jeopardy.

The Destiny Relic is the fourth book in the Gold Lust series, but it stands well alone as a riveting, tension-filled story that keeps readers wondering whether any of the main characters will survive the conflagration of conflicts that blossom around them. Many are dragged into a conflict they never could have imagined; but few are able to escape.

Tension is exquisitely wrought as Mitchell brings Hank and his associates and relatives to the brink of extinction again and again. The relics are key to disparate forces' strengths and bargaining positions. But Hank has a bargaining chip unique to his abilities and powerful role: one which even the most avid thriller fan will find compellingly realistic and frighteningly familiar.

Imagine a war on terror that forces decisions about the most basic of beliefs, choices, and survival tactics. Then consider the impact of The Destiny Relic, which holds the power to take an action-packed story, lace it with political and social observation, add a dash of humor for good measure, and involve all levels of thriller readers in a vivid saga that just won't quit.

Alma Mutters
Julio Varela
Darkwater Syndicate
9781946378194, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Alma Mutters is a satirical examination of high school culture, but anyone anticipating a coming-of-age story like Catcher in the Rye or others will be surprised (likely pleasantly) to discover that the tone and wry observations of Alma Mutters cultivates a unique voice that is both observational and ironic: "Textbooks would be relegated to toilet paper duty in the outhouse of history, usurped by a techno-centric network of learning devices and pixie dust. Smiley-face emojis for everyone!"

To say that Alma Mutters is an easy read would be to belay the novel's underlying depth and passion. Alma Mutters is well steeped in modern culture, and peppers contemporary references throughout, from emojis to glow sticks: "A fourfold increase in student animosity came with each passing reference to epistemology and ontology. If your summum bonum involved popping ecstasy like chiclets until you looked like Bernini's Theresa, nothing could darken your glow stick faster than a Heidegger lecture on Dasein."

A second facet also illustrated by this passage is author Julio Varela's penchant for big words. Readers less versed in the English language may want to keep a dictionary close at hand, but the extra effort is worth it because the atmosphere, language, and culture of Alma Mutters holds the power to immerse its audience as a reward for what might initially seem an undue complexity of language.

This is no narrow spotlight on student activities and perceptions. The entire cultural milieu of high school is placed under Varela's microscope, including teachers and administrators: "Calculus made her glow like enriched plutonium. If she loved Mr. Sedaka like she loved differential equations, that gentleman was one happy camper.

Bellarmine's nerve center had more tentacles than the Kraken. Managing all that data required someone extremely bright, bright enough to anticipate most of the monkey wrenches faculty and students could throw, accidentally (faculty) or by design (students)."

Astute observations on the objectives, learning process, and realizations of students and faculty capture pointed moments of triumph, adversity, and challenge ("When the teacher and the student fall away, learning remains... Gedankenstein was right on. This was the Moment, the time to leave, to walk away, and never look back.") in a manner that will prove especially entrancing and intriguing to students and teachers alike.

Readers anticipating just another high school growth novel will be pleasantly surprised, on many levels, by the story's complexity and the contemporary, unique voice of an author who successfully captures both the irony and poignancy of high school culture.

While general-interest readers will find Alma Mutters an astute, literary example of satirical writing at its best, it's the teacher or high school student who will find Varela's study both entertaining and educational. It's quite simply a captivating read, provided at a level of complexity that is delightfully, satisfyingly unexpected.

What it demands of its reader in terms of language is rewarded in droves by its atmospheric riches.

D.W. Maroney
State of Mind Publishing
9781732783928, $11.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Status: MISSING is thriller reading at its best, especially since it's rooted in the reality of a missing Malaysian airliner, its ultimate fate, and the reason for its demise.

In this story, U.S. intelligence agencies have created The Drone Theory to explain the mysterious circumstances surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. They've empowered The Drone Theory Taskforce to investigate matters and determine whether a missing CIA drone over Iran gave America's enemies the technology to bring down airliners in a different kind of terrorist attack.

Major Megan Sloan is determined to get at the truth, especially when a U.S. government jet is rerouted via this high technology; its top officials kidnapped. North Korean Supreme Leader Choi Min-ho is equally determined to prove who really has the upper hand in nuclear weapons negotiations.

As agents and officials search for explanations for the inexplicable, aviation technology, intrigue, and secret missions and purposes coalesce in this powerful story. Who is responsible? And is President Shane Gilchrist facing the end of his career over a confrontation with the North Koreans?

Political intrigue, high tech battles and developments, and military confrontation and an investigation lead to a potentially world-changing battle as a missing plane becomes a catalyst for greater disaster.

Status: MISSING excels in nonstop action and the kinds of political, military, and psychological acts of terror that lead even professionals to the edge of breakdown. It probes individual and social units alike and reveals their powers and failings as it outlines a new kind of technological threat; and it centers its action and intrigue on a determined woman who is tasked with an impossible mission.

The realistic characters, progression of events, and high-octane tension make Status: MISSING a gripping story that will appeal to any thriller reader looking for action that's grounded in the real world, believable, and a cut above the ordinary.

Journey & Discovery: A Kammbia Omnibus Edition
Marion Hill
Red Mango Publishing
9780998761251, $16.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Journey & Discovery provides an omnibus edition of Marion Hill's fantasy United Kammbia universe, presenting the first two books, Diondray's Discovery and Diondray's Journey, under one cover. This will especially appeal to readers who want easy access to the introductory stories in a blossoming series. Their unified presentation allows newcomers to absorb the first adventures of truthseeker Diondray Azur, who turns his back on his prominent family's position to search for answers to the questions posed in an ancient book.

Diondray may be the leader prophesized to unite this long-divided land; but in order to do so, he must embark on a dangerous quest with no guarantee of success.

As he pursues the promises in the Book of Kammbi and leaves his familiar family and connections in Charlesville, he encounters peoples and communities who hold very different ideas about the Book's meaning and lessons: "Maybe fairness works in Charlesville. But not here in Santa Teresa. And this custom has created families in our city. I know the Eternal Comforter, and Kammbi honors that. Anyway, what do you know about our Book of Kammbi?"

These experiences with different peoples, perspectives, and interpretations of the Book of Kammbi lead to Diondray's spiritual and personal growth, helping him hone the rudiments of a leader and hero: attributes he lacked at the beginning of his odyssey.

Hill's depiction of Diondray's process of evolution, enlightenment, and growth is just one central theme in a story that follows his pursuit of the path directed by the Eternal Comforter and his own destiny. From the lure of love which tempts him away from this course to his attempts to promote unification among different peoples, Diondray's mission will intrigue and attract a range of readers, from those who enjoy fantasy worlds and quest stories to philosophical and spiritual thinkers who seek these elements of greater purpose wrapped in the guise of a leisure read.
Journey & Discovery is an excellent introduction to the series and achieves the goal its protagonist desires: unification of purpose and events. It's a top recommendation for fantasy readers who like their stories infused with a sense of discovery and revelation, action, and self-inspection.

Jagdlied: a Chamber Novel for Narrator, Musicians, Pantomimists, Dancers & Culinary Artists
Text by Dolly Gray Landon
Music by Gary Lloyd Noland
Graphix by Lon Gaylord Dylan
Seventh Species Publications
9781732302341, $39.99

Many elements make Jagdlied a unique title that defies easy categorization as a novel, thriller, or other singular genre accomplishment. While it's all of the above, it's also a performance piece, a literary roller-coaster, a "musically and graphically enriched chamber novel", a satire, a work of art, and a psychological striptease. One might not expect the seriously dirty, cruel element of the story line; but this too is one of the many pieces that make Jagdlied fairly indefinable.

First of all, readers should keep a dictionary close at hand. This is no whimsical romp, but holds language that is dense, paradoxical, and satisfyingly educational for readers who fancy themselves wordsmiths: "Appreciating these "fun facts" about our beauteous young demigoddess, our besotted young aristo - the disconsolate, lachrymose, and wretchedly heartsick young wooer publicly known by the sobriquet "Threwer in the Sewer" (whose solo Dutch act, on Melody's behalf, had inspired a wave of solitaires all across the country and abroad) - had written her the following ditty, as a kind of sympathetic ode, if thou wilt, to the aforesaid barb in her side..."

As poetry, black and white and color illustrations, and scathing satirical observation permeate the story of a coddled rich girl's questionable ethical and moral standards, readers will find the complex descriptions, wordplays, and scenarios to be both demanding and entertaining, all in one: "Suffice it to observe here that, seeing as our castigated cokitten found herself arched over in such an impertinently conciliatory posture, this publicly transgressive perscrutation of her backslice didn't unfail to forgo the kankerdort of consternating her profusely." (Note: this book is offered in both color and black and white versions - the black and white one is considerably less expensive.)

By now it should be obvious that this tour de force is a thriller of linguistic acuity designed to delight a genuine aficionado of the English language. From the neo-heroine heiress Melody's position of power and layers of exploitative behaviors to her come-uppance, fostered by those who have suffered her slings and arrows, Jagdlied is at once indefinable because of its mercurial approach and satisfyingly whimsical and unique in its scathing presentations.

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, and a diamond-studded thriller atmosphere that demands much from its readers while rewarding its audiences with a compelling, sassy set of characters and conundrums make for a read that is hard to put down.

Whether it's passive-aggressive behavior in front of a judge or a "commiserable coquette" who falls from grace and finds herself immersed in situations beyond her control, Jagdlied offers a lovely synthesis of graphic illustration, music, and a powerful, satirical hand heavy on the written word that creates a lively romp. Because the author has embedded over a hundred YouTube videos into the text, readers will ideally have their headphones powered up to absorb the musical interludes and references.

Readers will want to allow plenty of time to absorb both its captivating descriptions and the underlying nuances of Melody's encounters in a story that is especially recommended for literary readers of experimental writings and thrillers which are quite a notch above the standard formula fare.

Seeking Grace in Beulah Land
Lu Clifton
Two Shadows
9780998528441 (pbk) $15.99
9780998528458 (e-book) $7.99

Seeking Grace in Beulah Land charts the progress of the cold case of a missing wife and mother, Grace Barlow, whose husband quietly accepted her disappearance and continued on with his life as a sharecropper in a rural Oklahoma community. Sixty years later, it falls upon grandson Mack Barlow to uncover the truth when he returns home to investigate his 87-year-old grandfather's increasingly bizarre behavior, only to discover a family secret that will change not only his life, but a small community.

Lu Clifton's story excels in fine descriptions of this rural Oklahoma environment, from family relationships, Mack's investigations, and community culture: "He figured the burr-headed realtor to be a steamroller when it came to persuading someone to her point of view. People with Cadillac appetites were turned that way. She had probably pitched his idea to the builder at the gated community that very day, which meant he needed to look at that agreement fast. But time was on his side as Mama and Sister planned to visit Pa after they left the Hometown Buffet, then stop at the filling station to gas up."

As the characters begin keeping secrets from and vying with each other, from siblings Sister and Ruby's growing distance to an evolving feud instigated by Mack with the Turners, their land-hungry neighbors, it becomes apparent the secret is tearing apart friends, family, and neighbors alike. From mysterious watchers to missing mules and accidents waiting to happen, tension slowly ratchets up as Mack untangles a web of complexity in a relentless attempt to reveal a long-dead truth.

Mack believes he's doing the right thing - but, is he? From peace of mind to legal proceedings that seem to involve the Turners, events move from slow to fast-paced, successfully immersing readers in the psyche and simmering secrets of a small town on the brink of discovery.

Seeking Grace in Beulah Land isn't a mystery per se; leaning toward the literary, the storyline reaches for broader emotional and social depth. It's a satisfyingly engrossing, close examination of a family married to the land, and what happens when war and nightmares change everything. The truth about Beulah Land's real legacy complicates the lives of the people, politics, and personalities of Oklahoma in a manner that powerfully examines rural life, concerns, relationships, and the consequences of choices past and present.

Readers seeking an engrossing blend of rural history and family and community intrigue will relish this saga, which centers around land ownership, management, and the life-altering results of land lost and found: "A man might lay claim to a piece of land, he thought, but in the end, it was the land that claimed the man."

The Claws of Perdition
Alaric Cabiling
Independently released through Alaric Cabiling Ltd.
9781645163947, $6.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Official Website (For Links to stores):

If psychological suspense fiction ala Alfred Hitchcock is what a reader seeks, then the short stories of Alaric Cabiling (particularly his latest, The Claws of Perdition) should be high on the "must read" list. Unlike Hitchcock suspense collections with their largely contemporary settings, Cabiling's tales run the gamut from pre-Civil War America to modern times and thus offer a broader range of settings, eras, and perspectives to flavor their darkness.

As for the stories themselves, think the depths of violence, angst, depravity and darkness, laced with storyline twists that provide satisfyingly unexpected moments to keep readers guessing to the end.

Take 'The Apex Predator', for one example. It's a first date for Veronica and Phillip, but when Veronica learns something shocking about Phillip Mobatu, she runs away. He's a hired killer with a special talent for "charming his targets into unsuspected deaths", an ability which has earned him the nickname 'The Velvet Touch.' His position as a rogue agent becomes more complicated when he targets not strangers, but people he knows and even loves.

This story provides a chilling look at a professional hit man facing old age and retirement in a most unusual way, creating a powerful series of insights into professional predators, victims, and the business of killing.

'The Howling of the Void' is another chiller about a workaholic who no longer loves his life (if he ever did...). He encounters a beautiful young woman and is possessed of the notion that he must approach her with the intent of kidnapping her.

Set against the backdrop of beautiful Venice and alternative, winding views of marriage and danger, this short story excels in slowly revealing Gaston's subterfuge and the methods and madness of how he views and takes the girls in his "other life."

Cabiling's ability to take the most innocuous and ordinary of scenes and characters and turn them into circumstances of horror succeeds in drawing readers into the types of darkness that evolve from ordinary lives and minds.

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock's brand of suspenseful short stories, in particular, will relish Cabiling's exploration of what happens when personal darknesses within ordinary lives take over and reign supreme. His gift for slowly crafting tension, psychological suspense, and surprise conclusions is exquisite and delicate, making for multifaceted, engrossing tales that linger in the mind longer after each story's conclusion.

Sam and James: The Missing Teen
AA Freda
9781532060274 (sc), $13.99
9781532060298 (hc), $23.99
9781532060281 (e), $ 3.99

Sam and James: The Missing Teen introduces two disparate elements: Penelope, the kidnapped granddaughter of the most influential man in New Mexico; and ex-Vietnam vet James and his fiancee Sam, who are traveling to Colorado to build a new life together. When they meet, fireworks ensure and everything changes, for all involved.

The story opens with the abduction and the abductor's perception, moves to a road trip filled with new frontiers for Sam and James, and then joins these very different lives by providing a series of interlocking jigsaw puzzle pieces that at first feel confusing, but quickly come to make sense.

Sam and James confront each other over various circumstances as their relationship evolves; and this includes some vivid sexual scenes as their sexuality, too, breaks new ground. But nothing becomes more important than the young girl's kidnapping as they become increasingly entangled in the mystery, possible suspect, and growing secrets between them.

It should be noted that Sam and James: The Missing Teen is as much about a blossoming relationship as it is about a missing teen. From other women in their lives (and in James' past) to the Penelope Campos case, Sam and James face a variety of obstacles in their lives. From the dilemma of a female friend who has fallen in love with James despite his commitment to Sam to different choices involved in going home, Sam and James: The Missing Teen is ultimately about the trials, tribulations, and blossoming of family ties and connections. It does a fine job of setting these emphases amid a broader story of a kidnapping's ramifications.

The result will more than satisfy mystery fans who look for more emotional connections than the traditional 'whodunnit' offers. Sam and James: The Missing Teen is a gripping sojourn with emotional twists and turns that will keep readers involved and interested to the end.

The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election
Michael French
Moot Point Productions
9781732511705 (paperback), $14.95
9781732511712 (eBook), $2.99

While its title might lure an unsuspecting reader into believing that Michael French's book is a political primer, it should be advised that this is actually a work of fiction: a young adult political education piece.

The premise is simple: a youthful tide of enthusiasm for replacing elderly politicians is changing the face of American democracy, reaching even into high school levels. Political novice Brit Kitridge is up against incumbent Matthew Boltanski, who views his role as student body president as a stepping stone to enter Washington politics.

Brit must not only learn how to win, but how to deal with the corruption and ethical confrontations she faces during a process that seems to be weighted towards special interests and powerful backers.

Brit must come up to political speed quickly as she faces bullying, manipulation, and physical threats. With the help of a savvy history teacher and friends, she does so; only to confront the process of exposing a scandal that holds consequences not just for her bid for election, but the democratic nature of American politics as a whole.

From bank hacking to collecting evidence of a dastardly deed, Brit pursues her goal with revised ideas about its importance: "The matter, she thought, was less about winning an election than doing the right thing."

Young adults receive an inspirational story of a young woman's determination to not just to run for office, but to do the right thing as she faces many obstacles to success.

Powered by Brit's determination, revelations, and challenges to her objectives and ethics, The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election creates a powerful story of a novice's journey through American politics which will appeal to all kinds of readers, from idealistic, aspiring young women to those who want a realistic tale of a high school girl's coming of age.

Brown Sugar and Spice
Mathis Bailey
9780995919327, $19.99

Brown Sugar and Spice follows a would-be chef's demise and many life changes when his career ambitions and luxurious lifestyle grind to a halt, leaving him in a foreign land, struggling to survive on many levels.

The saga begun in Confused Spice (not read by this reviewer), which revolved around Pierre Jackson's ambitions and successes, continues in a story which charts both a downward spiral in life and a chef's revitalized purpose brought about by new beginnings, new relationships, and revised goals.

Pierre uncovers a renewed purpose through the most surprising of circumstances: new roommate Zola, who is also trying to escape the downward spiral of her past, and who similarly harbors dreams in the culinary world. These are goals that Pierre finds similar to his own confused connections between good food and spiritual growth.

It should be noted that no prior familiarity with the events that led Pierre to this point is required in order to appreciate his ongoing conundrums and conflicts in Brown Sugar and Spice. These are satisfyingly stand-alone stories that begin and continue a journey. While these characters and books support one another, they are quite accessible to newcomers.

Portraying the protagonist as a capable, ambitious gay African American male who has experienced both success and failure and placing him on a concurrent spiritual and business journey creates an absorbing plot. This offers readers something more than the usual urban scenarios that surround so many African American protagonists in contemporary stories.

Pierre is as adept at moving in circles of achievement and luxury as he is at surviving at a lower level of living. These skills contribute much to a realistic and strong presentation that includes graphic sexual scenes, emotionally-charged moments of self-realization and growth, and encounters with cultural and racial profiling: "I was trying to avoid that stereotype that all back people came from Africa or the Caribbean. When I first moved to Toronto, I got asked Where are you from? so many times. That question isn't commonly asked in the States. So whenever I said Detroit, it didn't seem like it was enough for Torontonians. I would always get No, no, no, my friend, where are you really from?"

With its wide-ranging exploration of family ties and exotic locales, Brown Sugar and Spice crafts a series of colorful backdrops to Pierre's story that add a sense of place, community, and purpose to his evolutionary process.

Will he and Zola come full circle to reconcile their pasts with their futures? This captivating, involving story will especially delight readers who look for powerful gay or African American male protagonists who navigate their ambitions, life purposes, and love and family connections with purposeful skill and ability.

Dog Training Diaries: Proven Expert Tips & Tricks to Live in Harmony with Your Dog
Tom Shelby
Skyhorse Publishing
9781510737310, $12.99

Dog Training Diaries: Proven Expert Tips & Tricks to Live in Harmony with Your Dog covers everything from housebreaking a puppy and retraining an older dog to not poop and pee in the house to handling pet aggression towards people and objects. It should be given to any pet owner as a basic instruction manual for successful dog behavior modification.

There are so many dog training books on the market today that one might wonder about the need for yet another; but a glance at the subjects under consideration here makes it evident that Dog Training Diaries addresses common issues that more general training guides don't approach and organizes them in a different manner. Chapter headings emphasize this difference: "How Do I Prevent My Dog from Menacing My Guests When They Try to Leave?, "Is There a Good Way to Bring My Dog to Visit Family that Also Has a Dog?", and "Why Is My Dog Running Around the House Like a Lunatic?"

As far as its coverage and advice, this is imparted with plenty of case history examples that lend to easy reading about specific techniques that are simple to absorb and apply to various situations. Tom Shelby defines each problem, outlines common situations, and offers tested alternative techniques for resolution, as in his section on separation anxiety: "The dog with a severe separation problem that lives with a traveling salesman starts to get nervous when the suitcase is pulled out and is a basket case by the time it's packed. Your dog is totally aware of all the things you regularly do before you leave. From putting on shoes or jewelry and brushing your hair, to grabbing your cell phone or house keys, your dog knows all the things you do before you leave the house better than you do and gets more and more nervous as you get closer to walking out the door. The very first thing I recommend is that you de-emotionalize leaving and coming. No dropping to your knees with hugs and kisses, bemoaning the time apart. Just give a pat on the head, say "See ya later, Bella," and book out. Same when you return. Pat on the head, "How ya doin, Bella," and go about your day."

Add lovely color photos of Shelby's dog, his personal experiences with dog training, and an exuberant celebration recounting training successes which led to increased pleasure for the pet and owner for a dog training book that is personable, enthusiastic, and satisfyingly specific.

If only one dog training guide were to be purchased to cover a range of situations throughout a dog's life with his humans, Dog Training Diaries should be the item of choice.

The Story of Keilah
Joann Keder
KDP, Publisher
Paperback: 9781733663908, $9.99
Ebook: 9781733663915, $4.99

Barnes and Noble:


Google Play:


The Story of Keilah is about buried secrets and the legacy of a man who makes a promise to his mother that he will live the rest of his life "making things better for other folks" after his leopard, a former circus animal, causes her death. His mother was a mean woman who never understood her son. He's sold his farm for only a hundred dollars. And now the truth may be told to future generations about the true legacy of an unassuming man who came to own a fine farm and a woman with amnesia who returns to childhood scenarios in search of answers.

Keilah Brownwell's father's funeral and his will changes everything in her life. Her inheritance is in question: she's a family outcast with missing pieces of memory, and long ago her life was changed by nine-year-old Rosabel McCallister, a neighbor and playmate who makes her feel normal for the first time in grade school.

Years later, having come to a strange place through new and old losses in her life, Keilah finds herself again on the outside looking in, this time with adult eyes tempered by the memories of childhood: "The piano twangs like it is in pain. Just like Rosabel's. Suddenly I have a surge of homesickness. There is no familiar rhythm to this place. The funny smell, the strange people; it doesn't quite feel like someone died in this building, but they sure wanted to."

From her choice of a life in the service industry which puzzles parents (who believe such is below their daughter's potential) to sister-in-law Melanie's plans to ease their mother from the house, redecorate, and eliminate any trace of the Brownwell childhood home, Keilah's legacy and heritage are all in flux.

Journal entries keep track of back-and-forth links between past and present, building insights that piece together Keilah's life, losses, and relationships, from issues with her own brother to the kidnapping of her landlady Dee's brother.

The story that evolves is about more than Keilah or the Brownwell legacy. The Story of Keilah constructs a series of clues about her missing memories and eventually, like chinks in a dam leading to catastrophic failure, results in a crescendo of shocking revelations about her family and Rosabel that force Keilah to confront a truth she'd long rejected. But before she can truly build a new life, Keilah must come to terms with the old one.

Joann Keder excels in crafting a story so subtle in its purpose that one is more than midway into the book before its real strength leads to an inevitable draw towards a hidden truth.

Vivid, enlightening, and compelling, The Story of Keilah builds a powerful series of slowly-building revelations that begin with a will's stipulation and moves into truths about disappearances, death, and family connections. Novel readers who appreciate the time and attention given to a slow build that leads to relentless observations and a moving story will find The Story of Keilah compelling on many levels.

Einstein's Compass: a YA Time Traveler Adventure
Grace Blair and Laren Bright
Modern Mystic Media, LLC
Ebook: 9780998830896, $1.99
Paperback: 9780998830889, $14.99
Audiobook: 9780998830872 $TBA

Ordering Link:

What if Einstein's remarkable theories came from his personal journeys through space and time? Einstein's Compass: a YA Time Traveler Adventure blends this premise into a broader examination of mythology as it opens with a brief glimpse of life in Atlantis and moves to the dilemmas surrounding Raka, a fallen Angel of Light. The spiritual shudder he experienced an eon ago leads to his theft of a vial of DNA and exposes the resentment he holds for his uncle, who won't share secrets with him.

He seeks rewards and recognition from the Council of the Sons of Belial in exchange for betraying his fellow Atlanteans, but the secret of the Firestone crystal continues to elude him.

This is a YA read; but it should be mentioned that graphic violence is part of the story line ("...with a ghastly smile, Raka viciously yanked the general's hand and ripped the general's entire arm from its socket. As his victim screamed in terror and agony, Raka regarded the arm thoughtfully. He began to gnaw on it with relish. The general lived long enough to see Raka devour his other arm and start on his legs. He did not live long enough to see Raka transform into a perfect replica of the man he was consuming."). Such descriptions may give pause to adults seeking 'clean' reading for teens; but these moments are in keeping with plot development and are not excessive in appearance, nor over-emphasized.

Young Albert Einstein is in possession of a compass that allows him to travel in time and space. Unfortunately, he holds a coveted key to not just enlightenment, but power, and he soon discovers that dangerous supernatural forces from different eras are also searching for his prize.

Readers anticipating the usual timeslip saga may at first be surprised by the inclusion of and focus on these supernatural entities. As Raka stalks his unsuspecting prey, willing to pay the karmic price for assaulting the holder of the prized Shamir, Albert faces the death of a beloved friend, an increasing awareness of his power and its danger, and a journey that embraces not just mythological forces, but Biblical times, Jesus, and Albert's own roots in Atlantis.

These subplots lend a complexity to Einstein's Compass that will be intriguing and absorbing to mature YA readers; especially prior fans of timeslip sagas more used to such stories holding historical rather than fantasy backgrounds.

Under Grace Blair and Laren Bright's hands, Einstein's Compass is more than just another time travel story, but one of soul searching, enlightenment, and classic struggles between good and evil. During this journey, young Albert embraces the threat of death and world-changing perspectives.

Indeed, Albert will change the world, one day. But the roots of his knowledge and endeavors take a different turn in a riveting fantasy about soul-searching and growth which will keep young adult readers engrossed to the end.

Ayahuasca In The Age Of Donald Trump
John Forelli
Independently Published
9781794431027, $2.99 Kindle/$20.00 Paperback

Ayahuasca is a Peruvian psychoactive brew which author John Forelli imbibed on his spiritual soul-searching journey in a move to get away from Donald Trump's America. He was a millennial searching for escape from what he viewed as the collapse of common decency and many ideals he believed in when he decided to focus on one word he'd heard from many different sources - ayahuasca - a word he describes as "the Everest of hardened psychedelic travelers."

Readers anticipating either a diatribe about Trump or a hallucinogenic series of revelations will be pleased to discover that John Forelli's candid survey is also a travelogue, following his journey to Cusco and his encounters with Peruvian culture. As such, it captures the sights, smells, and scenes of Peru as much as his inner spiritual quest for answers.

From a group cleansing of the digestive system to first encounters with a hammock, new friends, and new realizations, Ayahuasca In The Age Of Donald Trump is peppered with color photos capturing Forelli's experiences. This lends visual color to observational writings that impart a "you are here" feel to his experiences.

Trump's cultural prejudices wind in and out of his encounters, drawing him back to American dilemmas, values, and changes even as he experiences his own epiphanies. This documents his walk out of a familiar world into one which changes his perceptions and reactions: "Everything was pure - walking felt like an adventure, air smelled like a miracle, and I was excited to talk to my friends..."

His process of enlightenment is exhausting and demanding: "I sat down on a hard, bare, concrete step and dipped my head, hiding it in tired arms. I wanted to cry, but I was totally fried, and far too exhausted to do anything" As readers absorb this personal journey and its broader contrasts between Peruvian culture, Trump's America, and Forelli's growth process, they will appreciate a series of contrasts that pinpoint the birth of gratitude as he learns how to translate microcosms of experience into bigger-picture thinking: "I saw what existence is in the purgatory of that orphanage - a thin line between life and death, heaven and hell. A line that we all crossed to come into the world, and that we'll all cross leaving it."

As an additional note, readers expecting a singular production (whether it be condemnation of Trump-style thinking, a travelogue about a Peruvian adventure, or a mystical journey fueled by ayahuasca) may feel challenged by Ayahuasca In The Age Of Donald Trump's multifaceted approach. Its depth and diversity reflects the author's self-discovery of his place in the world and considers the evolution of this broader perception.

However, those who want a rare spiritual and soul journey spiced by a changing sense of time and place will find Ayahuasca In The Age Of Donald Trump a powerful choice, and the perfect antidote to despair and isolation.

Ultimately, John Forelli acts as a tour guide leading readers into a world steeped in mysticism and his growing realization of a "magnificent melancholy" that adds new purpose to his life. Ayahuasca In The Age Of Donald Trump is an inspirational series of growth-inducing steps that should not be missed.

Cash Valley
Ryan K. Nelson
Kindle Direct Publishing
9781540335821, $2.99 ebook/$11.99 Paper

FBI agent Alex Travis receives an anonymous tip that reopens a cold case involving a bank robbery. The tip leads him to an isolated Utah canyon home where a man reveals a story behind the events of the biggest bank robbery in U.S. history. Even more importantly, it poses many questions about who is innocent and who is guilty which challenge Agent Travis to make decisions that will impact crime victims and perps alike.

From Jack and his girlfriend Kate, who stumble upon some dangerous truths about the crime's biggest secrets, to a continuing danger that pulls them apart and forces Kate to cooperate with Travis lest she never see Jack again, events spiral through a father's anger and a thwarted romance to an ongoing predicament that seems irresolvable.

Ryan K. Nelson does a fine job of crafting characters and special interests, then building their personalities into reactions to events that present ongoing conundrums to all involved. The action proceeds at a good clip, but attention to detail and character development is not sacrificed for the sake of a good investigative piece.

As Jack and Kate solidify their relationship and new opportunities, they also face increased danger and confront an increasingly dire situation that seemingly offers no way out. Both Kate and Jack are in danger, and the lies they've told to Travis and others are one reason why their lives may be forfeited in the struggle that ensues.

One reason why Cash Valley proves so intensely gripping is Nelson's attention to detail. He builds believable, likeable characters and injects dilemmas that absorb them with sweeping challenges that are both hard to predict and realistically portrayed.

Another strength lies in the twists and turns of a story line that leads to no easy or apparent solutions. A touch of irony sweeps through Kate and Jack's relationship and their choices. This follows them into a mounting quandary and back again as Agent Travis attempts to discover the truth about their involvements.

The result is a thoroughly engrossing saga that toes the line between a crime story, an action piece, and a romance. It embraces the entwined lives and destines of three characters who each discover their own strengths and purposes in the course of discerning the truth about a bank robbery gone bad.

Cash Valley is highly recommended reading for anyone seeking a superior adventure story with fast-paced action and satisfying twists of plot.

Money in Your Pocket
Michael M. Kloian
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B07N8H6V8X, $9.99

Money in Your Pocket is a serious overview of the real estate industry and the specifics of putting more money in your pocket when buying or selling. Its introduction covers setting goals and addressing the common problems associated with reaching them: "The bottom line, when buying or selling real estate, is to get the best deal possible and save as much money over the long haul as possible. The real key is to know when and how this may be accomplished. There are too many obstacles and pitfalls that can interfere with this simple goal, and this book will teach you how to hurdle over many of those obstacles." The rest of the book is devoted to identifying and resolving the types of problems specific to real estate.

The first thing to note about Michael M. Kloian's approach is that it is not a "get rich quick" scheme. It reviews basic principles with an eye to instructing readers on the best processes for making reasonable assessments, investing properly, and understanding what affects the bottom line in the real estate world.

Readers may be surprised to learn that the biggest obstacle to success isn't the seller, property, or agent; but the buyer or seller himself. This is because many sellers and/or buyers oversimplify the process of buying and selling real estate, treating it like a "buy low/sell high" stock market-type of transaction.

Kloian emphasizes that this is just one of the many common pitfalls new and somewhat experienced sellers and buyers make, and he shows how to adjust the perceptions, assessments, and practices of real estate transactions to achieve a 'win-win' situation for all parties involved.

As chapters review the author's own approaches, hard-won lessons from his personal real estate experiences, and his observations of strategic snafus and successes, readers learn how to fine-tune their opportunities with a new eye to better negotiation processes, creating a 'buyer-ready' home, and significant ways of saving piles of money when buying or selling a home.

The chatty, accessible nature of these discussions, backed by examples and real-world transactions and concerns, lends to a solid review packed with money-saving tips. These will be of particular interest to anyone involved in any buy or sell transaction in real estate, who will find Money in Your Pocket packed with key information that reviews both horror and success stories.

It's quite simply a 'must' that stands out from similar-sounding books because of its simple approach, clear example-packed discussion, and concrete information gained from a wealth of real-world experience.

Satan's Synagogue
Brian Josepher
Independently Published
9781796731927, $29.99 paper/$9.99 ebook


Satan's Synagogue: A Faux History is a complex blend of history and fiction, which is why author Brian Josepher calls it a 'faux history' - and also why it defies pat categorization on many levels.

At over 600 pages, this weighty read spans some 2,000 years, embracing Holocaust experiences and spiritual components alike. It's a vivid story of a lost manuscript, a treasure hunt, a search for interconnected and intricate truths behind profits and religious figureheads, and more.

But perhaps the best place to begin is with Josepher's definition of a 'faux history' and how it differs from traditional approaches: "The faux historian begins like the authentic historian, with an investigation. The historian studies the facts of the case...The facts of the case don't form a coherent, researchable story. The reasons for this are many: the facts are few; the facts are dubious; the facts are disinformative. For historians rooted to the historical method, this conclusion closes the door on the case...Without facts, what is history? Without facts, what is a historian? Without facts, what separates the historian from the fiction writer?

The faux history, at this point in the proceedings, picks up steam. Imagination replaces reality. Invention substitutes for truth. Fabrication kicks in. But unlike earlier forms of historical fabrication - historical fiction or alternative history - the faux history maintains the shape of a thoroughly researched history."

This introduction is the first indication that Satan's Synagogue is an offering worthy of technical reading; not a light quasi-historical, fictional journey.

When are 'facts' actually falsehoods, and when are facts embellished? As readers move through Satan's Synagogue, these questions should be kept at the forefront because there is a wealth of interconnected historical information about Elie Wiesel, 1st century historian Josephus (nee Joseph or Josephur. The author is the last of the JDD, or Josephus Direct Descendants), accounts of Jesus, and the writings and motivations of Josephus, who fostered his own legend at the expense of his coverage of the Jesus story.

It should also be mentioned that, faux history aside, many of the approaches may be deemed controversial investigations, by some. Josepher's consideration of sexuality under concentration camp conditions, for one example, is not your usual approach to Holocaust events: "In my research, I had recently spoken to the survivor Siegmund Kalinski regarding Wiesel's hanging scene. He'd given extensive background on the Beton Kommando, or the three men who'd tried to escape from Auschwitz, got caught, were then sentenced to death and hung in front of the full camp at Monowitz. Kalinski spoke about "homosexual friendships in camp" and "zartlichkeiten," as "caresses were exchanged." His reflections caught me off guard but I wondered, as I spoke to Pfefferkorn, if Kalinski offered a self-reference. Was he admitting to his own behavior? Did he have homosexual relations in the camp and did that continue later in life?

I also realized that homosexuality was easier for survivors to talk about then sex-as-fantasy. Even if they disdained such a sex act - and most of them did, coming from that generation and reared in an orthodox, homosexuality-as-deviant mindset - they could register such a sexuality without being personally touched. Sex-as-fantasy, of course, had a different construct to it. There was a personal involvement."

By now it should be evident that Satan's Synagogue is a production designed to challenge familiar approaches to religion, morals and ethics, truths and legends, and the evolution of hero archetypes throughout history.

Under Josepher's hand, history becomes a strange and wonderful topic. It feels at once familiar and unfamiliar when viewed through the lens of disparity, past and present archetypes, and the author's own journey through time and place.

Readers of scholarly historical revisions and fiction, especially those with a special interest in spiritual examination, Holocaust survivors Elie Wiese and Eli Pfefferkorn, and Holocaust topics in general, will find Satan's Synagogue a thought-provoking study in contrasts which lends to reflection long after the final chapter and author's journey are concluded.

Strawberry Summer
Harold William Thorpe
Little Creek Press
9781942586609, $15.00

Strawberry Summer is the fourth book in the O'Shaughnessy Chronicles series and tells of 75-year-old Catherine O'Shaughnessy, who is leading a quiet, peaceful life on the edge of town, reminiscing on the past, until she realizes something is trying to drive her away from her home.

Ten years have passed since her sister Ruby's death, leaving Catherine the last in her family; but Ruby's legacy lives on and still holds the power to affect Catherine's life.

This series is rooted in Harold William Thorpe's own family and its experiences, describing their relationships as he knew them in real life, but adding fictional embellishments. The result is a realistic feel and understanding of the characters that makes Strawberry Summer a warm read for both prior fans of the series and newcomers alike.

Catherine's concerns about her past, present and life are clearly stated and easily understandable, as in this letter to her son: "...just imagine if everyone was gone - your mother, father, sisters, all your friends, all the celebrities that you've admired and enjoyed. My fingers would collapse from exhaustion if I listed everyone who has left me. You wake up one morning, and it's an alien world. The people, the places, and even the morals have changed. All you have are memories - memories and keepsakes. You have a wife and a job to fill your days, but I have neither. My only reason to live is to embrace those memories, to keep my family alive a little longer."

Bill doesn't want her to live in the past; but when she does, Catherine doesn't feel alone. She's committed to not giving up her memories; but in the long run her memories don't always serve her well. When she falls and breaks her leg, she meets Mrs. Amundsen, who encourages her to write her life story and, much like author Thorpe, discovers purpose in putting pen to paper and capturing the events and characters that have shaped her life.

An evolving strawberry business and its added impact on her family's lives occurs during a summer where seedlings are planted, sprout, and brought to fruition. At the same time, Catherine enjoys newfound purpose in her life and comes full circle from past to present.

When taken individually, Strawberry Summer is a satisfying standalone story of an aging woman's acceptance of her life journey, the fact that she can't change the past, and her revised purposes for a better future. As part of the series, it provides a fuller flavor to its predecessors by continuing the O'Shaughnessy family legacy and exploring evolving facets of Catherine's life and connections to it.

Readers seeking a cozy novel of family interactions, aging, and renewed purpose will find Strawberry Summer quietly compelling and warmly revealing.

Eat the Evidence
John E. Espy, Ph.D.
Open Books
9781948598156, $17.95


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Bar Jonah was a suspected serial killer. Author John Espy is considered one of two experts in the United States in the area of pedophilic and paraphilic OCD. Eat the Evidence represents hundreds of hours of interviews with Bar Jonah and those who knew him well, and captures the extent of his life, actions, and death. It is highly recommended reading for those who relish true crime accounts, psychological inspections of criminal and pedophilic behavior patterns, and in-depth inspections of serial killing.

It's important to note that this is the first book in a trilogy about Bar Jonah - surprising, because nonfiction in general and biographical and crime stories in particular rarely run over a single volume. In this case, Bar Jonah's story is provided over the course of multiple volumes to allow for more detailed examination, incorporating the many interview results and facets of his entire life. When one considers that literally thousands of hours of interviews were conducted and synthesized for this effort, three books seems like an excellent way of assuring that nothing important is omitted for the sake of brevity.

One might anticipate a dry compilation of facts from the results of so much research and so many interviews, but Dr. Espy crafts his narrative to read like a novel. Thus, it's packed with dramatic descriptions of encounters between Bar Jonah and those who knew or encountered him. This creates a livelier read than anticipated by the subject matter, making it accessible to a much wider audience than nonfiction readers alone. Many a mystery or crime story fiction reader will find it intriguingly compelling.

This is not to say the treatment assumes a 'whodunnit' or detective-style inquiry. Indeed, it is filled with disturbing revelations about pedophilia and the mind of the serial pedophile, and encourages readers to enter an inner sanctum of this world which they may ultimately be quite uncomfortable navigating.

This caution aside, it's especially notable for this very aspect: it provides a rare and unprecedented opportunity for parents and law enforcement alike to enter the mind of the pedophile to better understand not only his psychology, but how he lives and operates in daily life. From how a pedophile finds victims to the realization that they don't operate in a vacuum, as is so commonly believed, but participate in networks with connections to others like themselves, readers should expect to be disturbed, challenged, and educated by Eat the Evidence.

Eat the Evidence is a powerfully compelling survey that should be required reading for law enforcement personnel, educators, and parents alike. There's simply nothing like it in print - no other coverage approaches the depth of history, psychology, and criminal justice insights of this story.

The Consequence of Stars
David W. Berner
Adelaide Books
9781949180404, $19.50

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The Consequence of Stars: A Memoir of Home is more than just an autobiographical examination. It covers David W. Berner's physical and mental travels, providing a series of interconnected essays that explore life on the road and changing perceptions sparked by death and a return to his home town.

Think Jack Kerouac's On the Road, but with more of a sense of family examination and a return to one's roots. Add a dash of coming-of-age as David W. Berner recounts his childhood, journey away from home, and return: "I loved that porch, my home, my neighborhood. And it never occurred to me in those boyhood years that I might someday say goodbye to such a wonderful world. It was a good place to be from, a town few of those I grew up with would ever consider leaving, a town of stayers. I, however, would be a leaver."

Then wind these two approaches into a blend of philosophical and spiritual discovery which traverses the author's memories, contrasting them with the realities of a sense of place and connections to home, to get a sense of a vivid approach to the memoir form that almost defies the typical self-focused nature of the genre.

This atmosphere's series of changes and contrasts take the smaller picture of personal experience and translate these memories and scenes into bigger-picture thinking, as when Berner confronts his ailing mother's certainty that ghosts of the past are visiting her: "In the days before my mother passed away in a nursing home, dementia tearing at her brain, she insisted my father, who had died some six years before, had come to visit her in her room. I never disputed the visits. It was her reality, and she deserved that. But still, there was the dementia, so some could easily point to her deteriorating condition to explain the visions. Those who study paranormal activity believe there are at least two types of ghosts, the intelligent and the residual. The intelligent spirit is the one who will interact with you, call your name, move an object, throw something. Might they also type? The residuals are those whose energy remains in the place most familiar to them - a home, a favorite bar, an artist's studio. Hemingway in Key West?"

This philosophical approach not only traverses physical landscapes, but connects generations and creates a road map of possibility and reflection: "I wonder now if my sons will one day think of their first home the way their parents did when all of us lived there, as a place of love and safety, as place where toes could be pressed to wet cement. It was a good house. Will they remember that? Will they think of it the same way?"

One doesn't expect philosophy to enter a memoir about place and purpose, but this is a powerful feature in The Consequence of Stars as Berner attempts to define home, connections to life and death, and the kinds of journeys that lead to remarkable discoveries and newfound truths about life and the pursuit of happiness.

Rowdy Randy
Casey Rislov
Casey Rislov Books
9780578429458, $18.95

Rowdy Randy, the feisty heroine in Casey Rislov's picture book, is a cowgirl fly who has earned her name by being bravely annoying others. The goal is to prove that she is the toughest cowgirl in flight, fancying herself as "the greatest outlaw."

Her brazen cowgirl attitude defies cattle, fish, and any tough days, but what she really needs is to lead a team of outlaws, despite her pride in being a loner and her inability to rustle up some comrades.

Kids with good reading skills or parental assistance will enjoy the story of a determined female fly who needs to solidify her life purpose beyond annoying others, but who really needs a lesson in humility to change her attitude about life.

Beautiful, big, bright color illustrations will prove captivating to adult and child alike, providing a whimsical embellishment to the story of a fly who is too daring for her own good. Cowboy lingo pervades the tale and adds to the fun story, while the animal portraits of victims who resist Randy's rowdiness capture both physical images and psychological tales of resistance.

Packed with action and the unexpected, Rowdy Randy is highly recommended for young buckaroos looking for something different in the way of Western-themed action.

B Plus
Michael Langlois
Epigraph Books
Paperback: 9781948796132, $18.95
Hardcover: 9781948796149, $24.95
eBook: 9781948796156, $9.99

Barnes and Noble:


Books and Books:

B Plus: Dancing for Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre: A Memoir is highly recommended for biography and especially classical dance readers, and chronicles the author's experiences working at American Ballet Theatre. It should be required reading for aspiring young dancers whose goals include professional pursuits.

Michael Langlois details his professional journey from a small studio to the major league, assembling a patchwork of experiences from his letters, photographs, and souvenir programs, interviews for Ballet Review, and his memories. Because these experiences are cresting twenty years old, Langlois offers them with the astute wisdom of hindsight, and this is one of the features that makes B Plus an excellent assessment for students just entering the world of professional dance.

Langlois struggled with more than professional ambition. Among the challenges outlined in his memoir: handling romance and relationships within the company; dealing with a famous boss's personality and demands; and obsessing over the dancer's biggest challenges: food and weight control.

His drive for perfection and his body image and its challenges are deftly captured in daily life experiences: "I went home after class that first day back and vacuumed Julie's entire apartment. As I sucked up the dust and bits of dirt and lint that marred the surface of her old, rose-colored, wall-to-wall carpeting, I felt as if those minor imperfections were my imperfections and that by making them disappear, my feelings of dirty, fat inadequacy would disappear, and for a few fleeting moments, I felt clean and perfect and whole."

Sixteen years of professional dance experience create a memoir that is steeped in practical experience, encounters common to aspiring young dancers, and ambitions that are nicely, specifically detailed throughout: "Given the fact that we worked in the same company day in and day out, it always struck me as odd how different our professional lives truly were, and how unfair. I wanted to be working as hard as Julie. I wanted to feel real, genuine fatigue at the end of the day, but the opportunity rarely, if ever, presented itself. In fact, during the entire time I was in American Ballet Theatre, there was but one single solitary occasion when I danced all three ballets in a repertoire program."

From personal perceptions of deficiencies and different standards in French and American ballet to learning how to throw caution to the wind to become the best dancer possible, the journey Langlois documents here will feel familiar and revealing to any aspiring dancer passionate about achievement and making a name in the very competitive world of dance.

Milestones, mishaps, and revelations make this memoir a top recommendation for anyone who would like to know what it feels like to reach for the pinnacle of ballet success.

Thomas A. Burns, Jr.
Tekrighter, LLC
9780578447186 $0.99 Kindle

Trafficked! provides readers with a new Natalie McMasters mystery that newcomers and prior fans alike will relish. The story focuses on a former stripper-turned-pre-law-student who is on leave from school, and who works as a trainee in her uncle's 3M detective agency to help pay her way through school.

Her last case nearly killed her, but her latest case will break her heart. This is a version of Natalie that may prove surprising to prior fans. The story opens with her grief and probes both the circumstances surrounding it and how she becomes enmeshed in a series of events that lead her to follow a key person in her life through the darkest realms of New York City's underworld.

Thomas A. Burns, Jr. uses the first person to capture Natalie's thoughts and heartache. This provides a satisfying backdrop to the mystery as a whole as Natalie winds through unfamiliar territory in search of one she loves, who doesn't wish to be found.

From homosexual relationships, cheating, and duty to alternating viewpoints contrasting Natalie's perspective of events with those of others, Trafficked! is equally adept at traversing byways of the heart, motivation, and choices. Friends and lovers, Natalie's association with her uncle's partner Danny Merkel, and her dilemma over a partner wind into a story filled with satisfying twists and turns, colorful descriptions of dilemmas and spunky personalities, and a sense of purpose that leads her into increasingly complicated relationships and danger.

It should be cautioned that some graphic sex and assault scenes are detailed in the course of the story line. All are appropriate to the action and progression of events. While they are candidly portrayed, they not overdone for 'shock value' and offer a fine balance between powerful description and choices in an atmosphere that emphasizes the overall diversity of Natalie's struggles.

Natalie McMasters is the perfect detective for those who would read about a conundrum between personal choice and professional investigation. It's dramatic, fast-paced, filled with action and revelation, and is just the ticket for readers seeking a solid, superior investigative piece that nicely blends personal concerns with professional savvy.

The Genius Box: How The "Idiot Box" Got Smart & Is Changing the Television Business
David C. Tice
Paperback: 9781543944730, $14.95
ebook: 9781543944747, $ 9.95



Barnes & Noble:



The Genius Box: How The "Idiot Box" Got Smart & Is Changing the Television Business surveys the evolution of television and its impact on society, but David Tice adopts a different approach than other media examinations by considering the psychology of TV watchers, the approaches of distribution systems and content creators, and the social and political impact of television on viewers.

Unlike other media analyses, Tice doesn't take a contrary attitude towards television, but explores its beneficial impact as a source of entertainment, information, and better connections between family and friends: "My friends and I would watch television all the time (yes, we did play outside, too - and without playdates, thank you) and bond over the programs. In high school, meeting other people was a bit easier with some references to Monty Python's Flying Circus or Saturday Night Live. TV even helped me connect with my extended family - all of our relatives lived in England, and we saw them but once every four years or so. Through British programming on PBS or stunts like the innovative schedule switch in 1976 that saw Thames TV programming shown on WWOR in New York1, I was able to feel closer to my distant kin."

To him, the television is "pure genius", and its evolution coincides with better relationships all around, a perspective reinforced by chapters that trace the viewer's changing relationship with the television set.

There have been big changes between the years of rabbit ear antennas and smart TVs, and Tice documents these changes with an eye to considering how the transitions in technology resulted in a concurrent change in viewer attitudes, abilities, and focus.

This is no casual overview. Specifics about the logic behind network and cable television programming approaches provide consumers with many insights into the process: "Churn - the proportion of subscribers who leave a service each month - is an important issue for SVOD/OTT services, with up to two-thirds of subscribers quitting a provider within three months of signing up. In some cases, this is a reaction to the cost or impending cost increases. For many others, it is simply a matter of only wanting to pay for an SVOD service for the months in which their favorite programs come out; traditional premium cable channels have always had a similar problem. Churn is one negative side effect of Netflix's strategy of releasing all episodes of a series at once - if interested viewers watch all those episodes in two or three days, why keep paying? That is why Netflix and other SVOD services have taken a page out of HBO's playbook by constantly releasing new series every month or every few weeks."

Those who have had few clues on why and how television networks have operated in particular ways or made changes to their programming and availability now have all the tools for understanding such choices and their impact. The focus on this evolutionary process means that viewers will wind up with a much better understanding of how standards are set, managed, and assessed; and will have some window into the future approaches of television and its impact on their lives.

What is television? This basic query, central to the book's review, is not as simple as it seems. The medium is constantly evolving and bringing viewers along for the ride. With The Genius Box in hand, consumers receive a rare opportunity to not just understand television history and culture, but to assess the meaning of past, present and future changes and their likely impacts on daily life.

Very, very highly recommended, The Genius Box is a 'must' acquisition not just for media studies holdings, but for sociology and consumer libraries alike.

Our Great Escape: Part 1: Dumbers
Donald Hricik
Independently Published
9781719992503, $11.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle,

Our Great Escape: Part 1: Dumbers is a fantasy piece with a message about the importance of memory and emotions in human endeavors and is set in 2360, where a remnant of humanity exists sans many of the memories which create awareness and a sense of past and place.

Dr. Henry Shannon has been picked to head a new interplanetary mission to Jupiter. The story begins with his reawakening into this strange world and the realization that his charge to save humanity via paving the way for an impossible migration actually has led to his life being extended artificially by hundreds of years in order to foster this "Great Escape" from a dying world.

Even more important is the bigger question of who is controlling this effort and whether they are responsible for the dementia stemming from the universal application of mind-altering drugs.

As Dr. Shannon explores this and other questions, he comes to realize that his mission is more than leading a remnant of humanity to a new home. It also involves probing the mystery of memory connections themselves. When he ventures beyond his assigned duty into the realm of social control and the lengths humanity has taken in order to survive, he begins to question whether the end justifies the means.

Our Great Escape: Part 1: Dumbers is fascinating because it's more than an adventure story or a mystery, but embraces elements of each. Its insights and social concerns are even more compelling than its tale of interplanetary journeys and survival questions, and will prompt readers to reflect on the costs of technological advancements, the challenge of Old and New Worlds, and the visions of future humanity fostered by a few who believe they hold the key to its survival.

At the heart of these considerations lies a literary philosophical approach that invites readers to reflect upon the importance of memory and its connection to "meaningful reasons to be alive."

Who is in control? What is their ultimate purpose? Dr. Shannon faces his own limitations and obstacles as he uncovers modern dilemmas and confronts humanity's murky past as it transitioned from Race Wars and other struggles to arrive at its current, perhaps too carefully controlled condition.

Readers who have a particular interest in memory issues, Huxley's vision of a controlled humanity, and connections between drugs and tyranny will find Our Great Escape: Part 1: Dumbers simply riveting, cultivating a fine blend of reflective insights and action designed to keep readers entertained and thinking throughout the story. As noted in the prologue, the author wrote this first part of a two part series at a time when he was caring for his wife, who ultimately died from dementia manifested by severe memory loss. This science fiction was clearly motivated by real life events that Dr. Hricik chronicles in a separate memoir called Lynne's Last Christmas: A Battle With Dementia.

Our Great Escape: Part 1: Dumbers is an apocalyptic sci-fi scenario with a powerful message for modern man, and deserves a place in not just sci-fi collections, but on the reading lists of anyone interested in cognitive issues and broader questions of what makes the human race a viable, cohesive unit. As an additional note, a follow-up book (Part 2) is in the works.

I Did It...You Can, Too!
Fiona Harewood
Hope Publishers
9780983877400, $15.00 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

I Did It...You Can, Too! is highly recommended, inspirational reading for school dropouts or anyone who would re-enter the educational system and obtain their degree.

This is not autobiography posing as self-help. Fiona Harewood presents many tools for those assessing not just how to return to the educational system, but why. The first questions that should be asked are the purpose of going back to school, whether it be career-related or for a better sense of self.

Topics include assessing common barriers to returning to school as an older learner (those include financial concerns, family makeup and needs, and time and ability) to locating resources, mentors, and handling the routines of school itself by joining a study group or understanding the pitfalls of dropping and adding classes. Harewood covers the entire structure of school systems as she helps readers identify their place in it as adult learners.

Harewood doesn't claim that this process is suitable for everyone. Indeed, readers are encouraged to carefully consider their resources, goals, abilities, and purposes in returning to the educational fold.

By having a reasoned assessment of all obstacles and possibilities involved in re-entry, learners receive all the tools necessary for assuring their goals are met without unpleasant surprises.

I Did It...You Can, Too! might sound as though it will be an autobiographical inspirational piece; but the wealth of practical information gained from the author's experiences are backed by solid insights into the educational system's pitfalls and opportunities, making this book the best place to begin for a successful educational re-entry effort.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Nolo's Quick LLC
Anthony Mancuso
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413325898, $29.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid legal entity having certain characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership or sole proprietorship (depending on how many owners there are). An LLC is a type of unincorporated association distinct from a corporation. The primary characteristic an LLC shares with a corporation is limited liability, and the primary characteristic it shares with a partnership is the availability of pass-through income taxation. It is often more flexible than a corporation, and it is well-suited for companies with a single owner. (Wikipedia)

An LLC can protect personal assets from business debts. Now in a fully updated and revised tenth edition, "Nolo's Quick LLC: All You Need to Know About Limited Liability Companies" by attorney Anthony Mancuso clearly explains how to decide whether an LLC is right for you.

"Nolo's Quick LLC" covers: The unique legal features of LLCs, including limited personal liability for owners; Who should and who shouldn't form an LLC; Hhow to choose an LLC, corporation, partnership, or other business form; How LLCs are taxed; How to manage multiple-owner LLCs; Why an LLC can be the right choice even for a debt-troubled business.

It should be noted that The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides LLCs with a 20% deduction on their pass-through business income.

Critique: Comprehensive, fully up to date, expertly organized and presented, "Nolo's Quick LLC: All You Need to Know About Limited Liability Companies" is an impressively 'user friendly' instructional guide and manual, especially for the novice entrepreneur starting up an LLC operation of their own. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Business Management collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nolo's Quick LLC" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.39).

FSU's Sons of the Sixties
John Crowe and Dale McCullers
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620236246 $19.95 pbk / $12.72 Kindle

Synopsis: Set in the volatile decade of the 1960s, FSU's Sons of the Sixties: A Case For the Defense provides an insider's peek into the work, sweat, tears, challenges, and joy of being a college athlete at Florida State University. This book is not just a nostalgic trip down college football's memory lane; it is a compilation of gridiron stories about a group of stellar defensive athletes and coaches who helped define a decade of success for the Seminoles of Florida State.

The aspiring athletes who came to FSU in the 1960s were the children of the Greatest Generation. These young men came to fulfill their dreams of playing college football and getting an education to honor their parents, who never had such opportunities.

While making their case for the defense, co-authors John Crowe and Dale McCullers, two former Seminole teammates, highlight the experiences of 12 FSU Hall of Fame defensive players and Sons of the Sixties. Their individual rise as star athletes and their relationships with their college coaches is woven into a tapestry of intriguing insights while the critical - and often-overlooked - role that defensive football plays in building an elite college football program is explored through the perspective of those who experienced it firsthand.

Critique: FSU's Sons of the Sixties is a behind-the-scenes tour college football at 1960's Florida State University. Spotlighting twelve Hall of Fame defensive players who attended FSU at that time, FSU's Sons of the Sixties is filled with engaging anecdotes about hard work, dreams of greatness, the bonds between football players and their coaches, and the often-overlooked yet invaluable-to-victory role that defensive players contribute to the team. A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate this celebration of 1960's FSU college football. Highly recommended, especially for avid sports fans! It should be noted for personal reading lists that FSU's Sons of the Sixties is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.72).

1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era
Kevin L. Cope
Bucknell University Press
c/o Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9781684480739, $150.00, HC, 460pp,

Synopsis: First published in 1994, and now in its 24th volume, 1650-1850 publishes essays and reviews from and about a wide range of academic disciplines - literature (both in English and other languages), philosophy, art history, history, religion, and science. Interdisciplinary in scope and approach, 1650-1850 emphasizes aesthetic manifestations and applications of ideas, and encourages studies that move between the arts and the sciences - between the "hard" and the "humane" disciplines. The editors encourage proposals for "special features" that bring together five to seven essays on focused themes within its historical range, from the Interregnum to the end of the first generation of Romantic writers. While also being open to more specialized or particular studies that match up with the general themes and goals of the journal, 1650-1850 is in the first instance a journal about the artful presentation of ideas that welcomes good writing from its contributors.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Kevin L. Cope (Professor of English, Louisiana State University), "1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics & Inquiries in the Early Modern Era" is comprised of 35 contributions, spread among a diversity of academic disciplines. Featuring a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, this particular anthology is the 24th volume in the 1650-1850 series originally launched in 1994 and continues to reflect the most exacting standards of academic scholarship required in order to be unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections. Highly recommended.

Non-Line-Of-Sight Radar
Brian C. Watson & Joseph R. Guerci
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630815318, $149.00, HC, 225pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Brian C. Watson (Chief Technology Officer of the research, Development, and Engineering Solutions Division, Information Systems laboratories) and Joseph R. Guerci (Director of the Special projects Office of the U.S. Defense Advanced research Projects Agency), "Non-Line-of-Sight Radar" is the first book on the new and exciting area of detecting and tracking targets via radar multipath without direct-line-of-sight (DLOS).

This revolutionary capability is finding new applications in the tracking of objects in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) urban environments including detection and tracking of UAVs.

"Non-Line-Of-Sight Radar" brings together for the first time all the essential underpinnings and techniques required to develop and field a viable NLOS radar. It presents many examples, including electromagnetic radiation propagation in urban NLOS environments, extracting building location and morphology from readily available terrain databases, predictive ray-tracing techniques, and multi-target NLOS tracking.

Critique: A unique and seminal work on the subject, "Non-Line-Of-Sight Radar" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to academic, corporate, and governmental library Contemporary Radar Technology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

From Gutenberg to Google
Tom Wheeler
Brookings Institution Press
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-2188
9780815735328, $24.99, HC, 302pp,

Synopsis: In an era of seemingly instant change, it's easy to think that today's revolutions in communications, business, and many areas of daily life are unprecedented. Today's changes may be new and may be happening faster than ever before. But our ancestors at times were just as bewildered by rapid upheavals in what we now call "networks" -- the physical links that bind any society together.

In "From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future", former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler brings to life the two great network revolutions of the past and uses them to help put in perspective the confusion, uncertainty, and even excitement most people face today.

The first big network revolution was the invention of movable-type printing in the fifteenth century. This book, its millions of predecessors, and even such broad trends as the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the multiple scientific revolutions of the past 500 years would not have been possible without that one invention.

The second revolution came with the invention of the telegraph early in the nineteenth century. Never before had people been able to communicate over long distances faster than a horse could travel. Along with the development of the world's first high-speed network (the railroad) the telegraph upended centuries of stability and literally redrew the map of the world.

Wheeler puts these past revolutions into the perspective of today, when rapid-fire changes in networking are upending the nature of work, personal privacy, education, the media, and nearly every other aspect of modern life.

But he doesn't leave it there. Outlining "What's Next," he describes how artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, and the need for cybersecurity are laying the foundation for a third network revolution.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, accessibly organized and presented, "From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future" is an extraordinary history of communication technologies and their social/cultural/political impact. Enhanced for academia with the include of thirty-two pages of Notes and an eleven page Index, "From Gutenberg to Google" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university 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 "From Gutenberg to Google" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.12).

Beyond the Quagmire
Geoffrey W. Jensen & Matthew M. Stith, editors
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417487, $29.95, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Geoffrey W. Jensen (Associate Professor of History at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona) and Matthew M. Stith (Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Tyler) in "Beyond the Quagmire: New Interpretations of the Vietnam War", thirteen scholars from across disciplines provide a series of provocative, important, and timely essays on the politics, combatants, and memory of the Vietnam War.

Americans believed that they were supposed to win in Vietnam. As veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo observed in A Rumor of War, "we carried, along with our packs and rifles, the implicit convictions that the Viet Cong would be quickly beaten and that we were doing something altogether noble and good." By 1968, though, Vietnam looked less like World War II's triumphant march and more like the brutal and costly stalemate in Korea. During that year, the United States paid dearly as nearly 17,000 perished fighting in a foreign land against an enemy that continued to frustrate them. Indeed, as Caputo noted, "We kept the packs and rifles; the convictions, we lost."

It was a time of deep introspection as questions over the legality of American involvement, political dishonesty, civil rights, counter-cultural ideas, and American overreach during the Cold War congealed in one place: Vietnam. Just as Americans fifty years ago struggled to understand the nation's connection to Vietnam, scholars today, across disciplines, are working to come to terms with the long and bloody war - its politics, combatants, and how we remember it.

The essays comprising "Beyond the Quagmire" pose new questions, offer new answers, and establish important lines of debate regarding social, political, military, and memory studies.

"Beyond the Quagmire" is deftly organized in three parts. Part 1 contains four chapters by scholars who explore the politics of war in the Vietnam era. In Part 2, five contributors offer chapters on Vietnam combatants with analyses of race, gender, environment, and Chinese intervention. Part 3 provides four innovative and timely essays on Vietnam in history and memory.

In sum, Beyond the Quagmire pushes the interpretive boundaries of America's involvement in Vietnam on the battlefield and off, and it will play a significant role in reshaping and reinvigorating Vietnam War historiography.

Critique: A seminal work of outstanding collective scholarship, ""Beyond the Quagmire: New Interpretations of the Vietnam War" is an extraordinary contribution to the growing body of Vietnam War literature and an unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century American Military History collections in general, and Vietnam War supplemental curriculum 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 "Beyond the Quagmire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.96).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

The Injustice
James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Jimmy Patterson Books
c/o Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316478830, $9.99

"The Injustice" begins with Theo Foster, a high school student accused of posting a compromising picture of a student athlete on the internet. Theo states he is innocent, but no one believes him, because the circumstantial evidence against him is overwhelming. Determined to prove his innocence. He involves others to help him find the truth he believes is out there. The tale races along with many complicated twists and turns to the finale "The Injustice" is a warning of how careful we all have to be with social media and other related forms of communication today. Paterson fans will not be disappointed with this fine chilling tale for all ages to enjoy.

Mark to Murder: Death in Budapest
Moris Senegor
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781976099076, $20.00,

"Mark To Murder: Death in Budapest" is the first of a series of novels about San Francisco radiologist Mark Kent. This time out receives a message from a childhood friend to meet him in Budapest. When he gets there, he is informed his friend has been murdered. Kent makes it his mission to find out why and who killed his friend as he enters the dark side of the sex world with massage parlors and other places on the trail that just might get him killed as well. The clues take him across several continents until the very end of the story. "Mark to Murder: Death In Budapest" is a fast-paced mystery that races along to its final revealing conclusion.

No Slam Dunk
Mike Lupica
Philomel Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525514855, $17.99,

"No Slam Dunk" is more than just a good basketball novel. It is about the importance of family and teamwork with characters faced with many challenges and conflicts that move the story along to its conclusion. Lupica has always told a great tale of sports but "No Slam Dunk" is one of his best ever. Wes has a father in the military who returns home from war who just is not there for him while he is competing with another athlete on the basketball team. The characters are well defined as the writing deftly moves along to the very end. "No Slam Dunk" is excellent reading for all ages.

Wild Card
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735219281, $28.00,

"Wild Card" is another great Stone Barrington mystery in the long running series. Stone Barrington once again is a target an assassin's bullet. Opening with an attempt that fails, Stone stays one jump ahead, until the very end when things are tied up again in a neat little package. Along for the ride are Dino and other familiar characters who add to the mix of suspenseful circumstances that meticulously unfold. "Wild Card" opens with a bang then briskly moves along to its final fun ending. Woods is in top form with "Wild Card."

In Odd We Trust
Created by Dean Koontz
Written by Queenie Chan and Dean Koontz
Del Rey/Ballantine Books
c/o Random House
9780345499660, $10.95,

Graphic Novels are perfect ways to introduce new readers to an author's works in two different art forms. Dean Koontz took the plunge with "In Odd We Trust" where he presented his character from several of his novels to an entirely new audience of readers. Odd Thomas is nineteen years of age who is a cook at a local diner in the town of Pico Mundo California. People come to the location to try his special creations of tasty pancakes. More important he is able to communicate with the dead. He is very helpful to police to solve cases of murder because he is able to tell many times who committed the act by his ability to talk to the victim. He is brought in to help stop a serial killer on the loose. "In Odd We Trust" is a fast-paced story, that has a lot of twists and turns, to the very end, sure to please Koontz fans.

Gleden Oaks: The Streets Show No Love
Jeremiah Jones
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718128 $17.95,

Chad Johnson is trying to distance himself from portions of his negative past while caring for a grandmother, going to college and working in a steady job while attempting to make something of himself. He reconnects with a childhood friend who offers a quick way to get ahead that will take him into the darker side he is determined to leave some day. Now he has to lead a double life to get to his goal that he hopes will never be revealed to those he loves. "Gleden Oaks" is a well written story of a character trying to not go back to his negative roots of street gang dome while trying to accomplish so much at a young age for so many other people. The author drives the novel along with several conflicts that are in disharmony with each other that races along to a very satisfying ending. "Gleden Oaks" is a gritty, well written thriller that is the first novel by a very talented author.

Escape From The Union School: A Teacher's Untold Story After Desegregation
Karen Jorgensen
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718234, $19.95,

"Escape From the Union School" moves along at a brisk pace until its powerful ending long after a period unrest in the nation's history. Mrs. Arlington is a young woman new to the profession of teaching, who is determined to do a great job, no matter, where she is sent to teach. She is enlightened to the needs of the school and its students she is directed to. that is all black, back in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement period of the country's history. Being a white person, she does not understand the plight of her classes and the school's administration but she undertakes to accomplish while she is employed at the school in North Carolina until the day of the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, when she realizes it is unsafe for her to continue there because of the unrest of the students who are deeply distressed by his death. "Escape From The Union School" depicts the complicated issues of the one turbulent times of turmoil in the nation's existence.

Michelle Obama
c/o Random House
9781524763138, $32.50,

For the first time Michelle Obama tells all about her life before and after being first lady in her revealing auto biography "Becoming" We've heard some of the stories about her growing up and becoming a figure on the world stage but now she candidly goes into more detail about such things as when she was a child and how her parents shaped her brother's and her life, her days in college, her first jobs, meeting Barack Obama and the path of her life after marrying him. "Becoming" is an amazing positive story of one woman's voyage to accomplish so much throughout her life. All Americans can be proud of all the achievements Michelle Obama's deals with in "Becoming" that is an inspiration to all of us to lead more rewarding lives.

A Whisper from Within My Life My Terms
Theresa Gattuso O'Connor
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512704853, $13.95,

"A Whisper from Within My Life My Terms" is the story of one woman's remarkable triumph over overwhelming odds to persevere on her journey through life. At an early age Theresa endured a brain aneurysm to become disabled. Through a caring network of family, friends, professionals, and faith in God, she has overcome so many negatives to lead a more normal existence. Many of her goals would never be obtainable because of limitations, but she has never let them get in the way of tackling many different challenges, to still accomplish so much. "A Whisper from Within" is a shining example of telling yourself, "you can" instead of "can't" that is inspirational reading, for all of us to instill in our lives.

Never Get Angry Again
David J. Lieberman Ph.D.
St Martin 's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250308351, $16.99,

I have to admit, "Never Get Angry Again" enticed me enough, to learn how to not be angry anymore. After a few chapters, I disagreed with David Lieberman's explanation that we lash out in anger because we are angered with our own selves. He later comes up with more premises that just do not add up for why there is so much anger in our society. "Never Get Angry Again" reminded me of the premise of "you can not love someone else unless you can love yourself" laid out in the wonderful book "The Art of Loving" by Eric Frome. Frome made a lot of sense but Lieberman's title makes none as he says we walk around the world ready to lash out at everyone and everything because we are angered with ourselves. His projections are reminiscent. of the those, of Sigmund Freud's three controlling factors of the makeup of a person. "Never Get Angry Again" is not worth anyone's time who wants to deal better with being angry.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Spirits, Stilettos, and a Silver Bustier: Pyper Rayne, Volume 1
Deanna Chase
Bayou Moon Press, LLC
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00R1ZXHJI, $3.86, ebook, 246 pages
9781940299273, paper

Spirits, Stilettos, and a Silver Bustier is a fun mystery story involving a coffee shop owner who is also a medium, a love interest who is a ghost and a vintage gown that is linked to murders across generations. What more could anyone want in a story?

Pyper Rayne is looking through a vintage dress store looking for a dress to wear at an art opening. She finds a dress that catches her eye. She leaves the store with her friend but decides to come back later. She finds the owner of the shop murdered. The police think she is involved. The serial killer considers her his next victim.

Spirits, Stilettos, and a Silver Bustier is a paranormal mystery that seems too contrived to work but it does. It is pure fun to read and its price demands that you read the story. The author knows that anyone who reads her story will be hook and have to search for the rest of the books in the series. It is an easy recommendation for an adult reader looking for a fun escape.

Generation (Shadows of the Void Space Opera Serial Book 1)
J.J. Green
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01LXNGOV6, $2.99, ebook, 255 pages
9781539562689, paper

Generation is a throwback to a storyline that was popular decades ago. It is a solid tale but it doesn't standout. Its biggest drawback is that it is not a complete story but just the first part of a longer story. Its end reads more like the end of a chapter than the end of a book.

Jas Harrington is the security officer on the corporation mining ship Galathea. She senses a huge problem with the initial survey of a new planet. Her captain just sees the dollars that could be made mining the resources. He overrides her objections to starting mining operations and when Jas objects he arrests her. Jas' worries were right. There are aliens imprisoned on the planet and they want the Galathea and escape from their prison. From her jail cell can she save the ship and all of the lives onboard?

Generation is classic SF story. For contemporary readers, its style will feel new but for classic SF readers nothing in the tale stands out. The subplots and story characters have all been done before -- just not in the last few decades. The low price for the story is enough to bring a recommendation for anyone interested in the SF genre. There is a key warning and that is that the story isn't complete but just part one of a larger tale.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook
Paul Gibbons
Facet Publishing
9781783303533, $64.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Freedom of information (FOI) is now an international phenomenon with over 100 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe enacting the right to know for their citizens. Since 2005, the UKs Freedom of Information Act has opened up thousands of public bodies to unparalleled scrutiny and prompted further moves to transparency.

Wherever the right to know is introduced, its success depends on the way it is implemented. In organizations worldwide, FOI only works because of those who oversee its operation on a day-to-day basis, promoting openness, processing requests and advising colleagues and the public. FOI is dependent on the FOI Officers.

"The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook" by Paul Gibbons is a comprehensive guide to FOI and its management. It is designed to be an indispensable tool for FOI Officers and their colleagues. It includes: A guide to the UK's FOI Act, the right to know and the exemptions; Clear analysis of the most important case law and its implications for the handling of FOI requests; Pointers to the best resources to help FOI officers in their work; Explanations of how FOI interacts with other legislation, including detailed explorations of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and how the EU's General Data Protection Regulation impacts on FOI; A look at requirements to proactively publish information and the effect of copyright and re-use laws on FOI and open data; Comparisons of the UK's Act with FOI legislation in other jurisdictions from Scotland to South Africa; An exploration of the role of the FOI Officer: who they are, what they do, their career development and what makes them effective; Suggestions on how to embed FOI within an organisation using effective procedures, technology and training; A stage-by-stage guide to processing requests for information.

The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook includes the latest developments in FOI including amendments made to the UK's FOI Act by the Data Protection Act 2018 and the revised s.45 code of practice published by the Cabinet Office in July 2018.

Editorial Note: Paul Gibbons is an independent consultant and trainer specializing in information rights. He began writing in 2010 reflecting on his own experiences of implementing FOI in three very different public authorities: the Greater London Authority, an NHS Trust in south-east London and SOAS, a college of the University of London. He was later awarded an LLM with distinction in Information Rights, Law and Practice by the University of Northumbria. In addition to the continuing FOIMan blog, he writes a regular series of articles for the Freedom of Information Journal and has also featured in the Daily Telegraph and Times Higher Education Magazine. In the past he has contributed articles to the Records Management Journal and the Journal of the Society of Archivists (as it then was). He is a member of the examination board for PDP's Freedom of Information Practitioner Certificate and is regularly invited to speak at conferences and other events on FOI, data protection and other information rights issues.

Critique: Comprehensive, authoritative, definitive, exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook" is a complete and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide and reference for anyone charged with FOI responsibilities and responses to requests. An essential and core addition to governmental information policy maker reference collections, "The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook" essential reading for all journalists and is unreservedly recommended for community, college, university collections. It should be noted for librarians that "The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781783303540, $173.09).

Going the Distance
William Steele
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781771621946, $32.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: William Patrick "W. P." Kinsella OC OBC (May 25, 1935 - September 16, 2016) was a Canadian novelist and short story writer, known for his novel Shoeless Joe (1982), which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams in 1989. His work often concerned baseball, First Nations people, and other Canadian issues. (Wikipedia)

"Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella" by William Steele is a frank and authoritative biography that explores the life and often controversial work of Kinsella, who was the author who penned iconic lines such as "If you build it, he will come."

With the success of Shoeless Joe, Kinsella's other works began to gain more attention as well, including a popular series of short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin. Although many readers praised the stories for their humour and biting social commentary, Kinsella's success reignited criticism of his appropriation of Indigenous voices for his own benefit, and of what some claimed was overt racism.

For Kinsella, this censure was mitigated by the commercial success of the Silas Ermineskin stories. After scraping by as a taxi driver and restaurant owner, and later as a writing instructor, Kinsella took great satisfaction in being able to make a living from writing alone.

Achievement in his professional life was tempered by chaos in his personal life, including health problems, failed marriages and a tumultuous romantic relationship with writer Evelyn Lau that resulted in a highly public libel lawsuit.

When long-term kidney issues resurfaced causing acute pain, Kinsella made his final arrangements. Never one to shy away from controversy, he made it clear to his agent that his decision to end his life by physician-assisted suicide must be mentioned in the press release following his death.

Though friends and family would remember him as stubborn, complicated, curmudgeonly, honest, loyal and a host of other adjectives, Kinsella answered, "I'm a story teller [and] my greatest satisfaction comes from leaving [while] making people laugh and also leaving them with a tear in the corner of their eye."

Having been granted full access to Kinsella's personal diaries, correspondence and unpublished notes, and with hours of personal interviews with Kinsella, his friends and his family, his biographer, William Steele, offers insight into Kinsella's personal life while balancing it with the critical analysis and commentary his fiction has inspired.

Critique: A deftly told and fascinating life of an author with a distinctive literary style and a body of work that will be valued for many generations of readers yet to come, "Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella" is an extraordinarily informative biography which is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Literary Biography collections and the personal reading lists for fans of the W. P. Kinsella.

Shifting into High Gear
Kyle Bryant
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757321528, $14.95, PB, 220pp,

Synopsis: "Shifting into High Gear: One Man's Grave Diagnosis and the Epic Bike Ride That Taught Him What Matters" charts the course of Kyle Bryant's transformation as he journeys on a recumbent tricycle across the United States in the throes of Friedreich's ataxia, a life-shortening and disabling disease. Full of humor and reflection, it's a heroic journey of a man driven to reframe the language of disease through action and service.

Readers will travel with Kyle during two cross-country bike rides through the American West, Texas, the Southern States, and finally to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, the grueling rides become a compelling backdrop for a series of lessons and ruminations which embrace an alternative world view and provide practical solutions to everyday problems.

While a thrilling adventure story, "Shifting Into High Gear" is also ultimately about helping readers reinterpret the conditions of their own lives and learning how positive thinking, purposeful connection, and deliberate actions can help anyone reach beyond their limits and live a bolder and bigger life no matter what the circumstance.

Deeply passionate and compassionate, Kyle uses his amazing personal story to teach readers how to replace the handicapping language of "disability" with the agency to build a thriving and hopeful life. He bravely exposes the shadow-side of using disabling language and asks us to commit to a collective goal of understanding disease and its emotional impact and embrace the disabled population as equal individuals.

In telling his story, Kyle's desire is that instead of viewing disease as a deficit, we would see it as another state of being -- simply as a life which strikes out on a different path.

Critique: An impressively candid, life affirming, and ultimately inspiring personal story, "Shifting into High Gear: One Man's Grave Diagnosis and the Epic Bike Ride That Taught Him What Matters" is a unique and extraordinary blend of memoir and transferrable insights -- and one of those books that will linger in the mind and memory longer after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shifting into High Gear" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Highbridge Audio, 9781684571345, $29.99, CD).

American Power and Liberal Order
Paul D. Miller
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626163423, $64.95, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have convinced many governmental policymakers and scholars that the United States should pull back in international affairs and that restraint should guide grand strategy. In "American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy", Paul D. Miller offers a tough-minded critique of this trending body of thought, arguing that US security in fact depends on active, sustained support of the international liberal order.

Miller blends academic rigor with his experiences as former Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council to offer conservative internationalist prescriptions for US grand strategy.

Dismissing claims of overextended US resources and perceived safety, Miller argues that nuclear autocracies, armed non-state actors, failed states, and the transnational jihadist movement still pose immense threats to American security and the international system. His analysis offers policy options for balancing against the nuclear autocracies, championing liberalism to maintain the balance of power in its favor, targeting militant non-state actors, investing in governance in weak and failed states, and strengthening homeland security.

As Miller shows, these necessary steps will fortify the international liberal order that forms the outer perimeter of American security -- and aid US efforts to craft a more just peace among nations.

Editorial Note: Paul D. Miller is a Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He previously held the position of Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council from 2007 to 2009, worked as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, and served as a military intelligence analyst with the US Army in Afghanistan. He is the also the author of "Armed State Building: Confronting State Failure, 1898-2012".

Critique: Exceptionally and impressively well written, organized and presented, "American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy" is an insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read throughout. While very highly recommended, especially for community, governmental, and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Power and Liberal Order" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626166424, $32.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.12).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Tomorrow Is Waiting
Kiley Frank, author
Aaron Mashon, illustrator
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781101994375, $16.99, HC, 32pp,

Synopsis: As a child dreams, their parent imagines everything they will someday be: independent and imaginative, kind and courageous, a listener and a leader. And each hopeful, heartfelt wish is paired with a promise of love.

Tender and moving, "Tomorrow Is Waiting" is a modern celebration of the dreams we have for our children for finding their place in the world, and for how they will make it a better world.

Critique: Deftly created by the collaborative team of author Kiley Frank and illustrator Aaron Marshon, this is a perfect gift for baby showers, birthdays, and graduation. "Tomorrow is Waiting" one of those perfect picture books for ages 3-7 that will be treasured, passed down, read and loved -- again, and again, and again. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and elementary school collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tomorrow is Waiting" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

And Social Justice for All
Lisa Van Engen
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825445064, $17.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: With the constant barrage of difficult stories through news and social media, today's kids are increasingly aware of the real problems real people confront every day. And they're quicker than ever to come to parents and other trusted adults to ask how they can help -- or why they're not already doing so.

Lisa Van Engen ( is a freelance writer and a Title I reading and writing interventionist with kindergarten through junior high kids. "And Social Justice for All: Empowering Families, Churches, and Schools to Make a Difference in God's World " is her first book and is intended to equip Christian families to tackle social justice issues together by inspiring them to bring light and love to a dark and scary world.

As an educator and a mom Lisa creates innovative resources to engage kids in understanding and responding to fourteen justice issues such as clean water, creation care, immigration and refugees, hunger, race, and poverty. After placing each issue in kid-friendly context, she offers interactive features: High-interest conversation starters for each age group to challenge thinking and assumptions; A family devotional to anchor each social justice issue in God's Word; Engaging, age-tiered activities for reading, playing, observing, creating, connecting, and experimenting in God's world; Tips and internet links to extend awareness and invest resources in social justice.

Throughout each chapter, children speak their own thoughts about injustice and what they think God is calling them to do.

By looking at both the roots of injustice and what Christians can do right now to help, "And Social Justice for All" empowers both adults and children to encounter a broken world with insight and empathy.

Critique: As real world practical and effective as it is inspired and inspiring, "And Social Justice For All" truly lives up to the promise of its subtitle "Empowering Families, Churches, and Schools to Make a Difference in God's World". Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "And Social Justice For All" is very highly recommended for both community, church, and academic library collections, It should be noted for personal reading lists that "And Social Justice For All" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.35).

A Student of History
Nina Revoyr
Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781617756634, $27.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W--, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it at first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W--, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings.

Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W--'s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals--which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W-- to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan--the elegant scion of an old steel family--who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he'll win her favor.

Although a work of fiction, "A Student of History" deftly explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn't belong.

Critique: A deftly and elegantly crafted novel by a master of narrative storytelling and a genuine flair for originality, Nina Revoyr's "A Student of History" will prove to be an extraordinarily popular and valued addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Student of History" is also available in a paperback edition (9781617756641, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.60).

Anna Goes to a Party and Learns about the Mass
Gabriele Kramer-Kost, author
Tanja Husmann, illustrator
Pauline Kids
c/o Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3433
9780819808622, $10.95, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: Sometimes the best teaching tools are stories! And if you have a child, grandchild, or student you re teaching about the Mass, "Anna Goes to a Party and Learns about the Mass" is a an ideal addition to your lesson plans.

Anna is about to make her First Communion, but she doesn't really understand what it's about until her godmother uses a family birthday party to explain about the Mass. Using that same birthday-party symbolism, you and your child can discuss penance, reconciliation, the Eucharist, and the entire Mass.

Critique: The collaborative work of author Gabriele Kramer-Kost and illustrator Tanja Husmann, "Anna Goes to a Party and Learns about the Mass" is a thoroughly 'kid friendly' and impressively organized and presented picture book that is ideal for teaching Roman Catholic children about the sacrament of the Mass, making it unreservedly recommended for family and Sunday School instructional reference collections.

The Chicago River
Libby Hill
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337071, $24.50, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: "The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History" by Libby Hill is social and ecological account of the Chicago River. Hill tells the story of how a sluggish waterway emptying into Lake Michigan became central to the creation of Chicago as a major metropolis and transportation hub.

In "The Chicago River", Hill deftly weaves the perspectives of science, engineering, commerce, politics, economics, and the natural world into a chronicle of the river from its earliest geologic history through its repeated adaptations to the city that grew up around it. While explaining the river's role in massive public works, such as drainage and straightening, designed to address the infrastructure needs of a growing population, Hill focuses on the synergy between the river and the people of greater Chicago, whether they be the tribal cultures that occupied the land after glacial retreat, the first European inhabitants, or more recent residents.

In the first edition, Hill brought together years of original research and the contributions of dozens of experts to tell the Chicago River's story up until 2000. This newly revised and expanded second edition features discussions of disinfection, Asian carp, green strategies, the evolution of the Chicago Riverwalk, and the river's rejuvenation. It also explores how earlier solutions to problems challenge today's engineers, architects, environmentalists, and public policy agencies as they address contemporary issues.

Revealing the river to be a microcosm of the uneasy relationship between nature and civilization, "The Chicago River" offers the tools and knowledge for the city's residents to be champions on the river's behalf.

Editorial Note: Libby Hill is an environmentalist and educator who has worked as a librarian and a college instructor. She can be found in the woods or on the beach volunteering for ecological restoration projects, writing for her local newspaper, or working with others on regional environmental issues.

Critique: An impressively researched and expertly presented study, "The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History" 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 "The Chicago River" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.27).

Unmasking Prejudice
Melodye Hilton
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620236321, $19.95, PB, 186pp,

Synopsis: Prejudice is a word that is often associated solely with race. However, the truth is that we pre-judge all the time based upon countless factors, including gender, age, race, beliefs, politics, or any other infinite number of minute differences. It is a common and universal habit for all of humanity to form an opinion without facts, firsthand experience, and without empathy and value for our fellow man.

What if these habits changed? What if our default response was first to love, to learn, and to listen?

In 'Unmasking Prejudice: Silencing the Internal Voice of Bigotry', Melodye Hilton thoughtfully addresses: The many faces of prejudice and bigotry; Pre-judgment and assumption as societal stumbling blocks; The dangers of gossip, rumors, and slander; The personal pain of prejudice through real-life stories; Our responsibility as humans to stop devaluation by representing a restorative influence.

'Unmasking Prejudice: Silencing the Internal Voice of Bigotry' invites the reader to recognize and remove the hidden masks of prejudice so that he or she can have a hand in changing the cultural narrative and bringing healing to our land.

Critique: Exceptionally timely for a nation laboring under a renewal of prejudice, bigotry, racism, class division driven stereotyping, sexism, chauvinism, cultural bias, religion-based discrimination, and suffering the rise of White Nationalism, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and domestic-based terrorism, "Unmasking Prejudice: Silencing the Internal Voice of Bigotry" is a necessary and unreservedly recommended addition to every community and academic library in the country. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unmasking Prejudice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Stones of the Goddess
Nicholas Pearson
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620557648, $40.00, PB, 480pp,

Synopsis: Part of Mother Earth, crystals and gemstones are intimate pieces of the body of the Goddess, sacred tools that can help us tap into Her energy for healing, magick, and spiritual growth.

"Stones of the Goddess: Crystals for the Divine Feminine" is practical guide to working with the stones of the Goddess in which Nicholas Pearson explores more than 100 gemstones and crystals strongly connected with the energies of the Divine Feminine, including old favorites like amazonite, amethyst, geodes, and carnelian (also known as the blood of Isis), alongside newer and more unusual stones such as sakura ishi, yeh ming zhu, and Lemurian seed crystals.

Pearson deftly details each stone's spiritual and healing properties, astrological and elemental correspondences, Goddess archetypes and lore, magickal uses, and the aspects of the Divine Feminine it embodies. Providing an overview of major Goddesses from around the world, he reveals how Goddess traditions and myths have incorporated stones throughout history.

Guiding you through the basics of crystal work, including cleansing and programming, Pearson offers step-by-step instructions for Goddess-centered magickal rituals, guided meditations to connect with the Divine Feminine, and the use of crystals for spellcasting. He explains how to create crystal grids, including the Triple Goddess Grid and the Venus Grid; crystal elixirs, such as Aphrodite Elixir and Yemaya Essence; and crystal charm bags for purification, wealth, and a happy home.

With the rebirth of the Goddess now happening after millennia of suppression, Pearson shows how, by working with gemstones and crystals, you can help restore the radiant light and limitless magick of the Divine Feminine and move humanity toward collective growth and healing. The stones of the Goddess are here to support us through practical means as well as serve as anchors for the return of the Goddess's presence.

Editorial Note: Nicholas Pearson has been immersed in all aspects of the mineral kingdom for more than 20 years. He began teaching crystal workshops in high school, later studying mineral science at Stetson University while pursuing a degree in music. A certified teacher of Usui Reiki Ryoho, he teaches crystal and Reiki classes throughout the United States and is the author of several books, including "Crystal Healing for the Heart".

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout, "Stones of the Goddess: Crystals for the Divine Feminine" is an extraordinarily informative volume that is ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject and a 'must read' for all dedicated students of the metaphysical sciences. While very highly 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 "Stones of the Goddess" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.99).

The Mormon Handcart Migration
Candy Moulton
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806162614, $29.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: In 1856 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) employed a new means of getting converts to Great Salt Lake City who could not afford the journey otherwise. They began using handcarts, thus initiating a five-year experiment that has become a legend in the annals of Mormon and North American migration.

Only one in ten Mormon emigrants used handcarts, but of those 3,000 who did between 1856 and 1860, most survived the harrowing journey to settle Utah and become members of a remarkable pioneer generation. Others were not so lucky. More than 200 died along the way, victims of exhaustion, accident, and, for a few, starvation and exposure to late-season Wyoming blizzards.

Now in the pages of "The Mormon Handcart Migration: "Tounge nor pen can never tell the sorrow", historian and author Candy Moulton tells of their successes, travails, and tragedies in an epic retelling of a truly legendary story of the American West.

"The Mormon Handcart Migration" traces each stage of the journey, from the transatlantic voyage of newly converted church members to the gathering of the faithful in the eastern Nebraska encampment known as Winter Quarters. Moulton then traces their trek from the western Great Plains, across modern-day Wyoming, to their final destination at Great Salt Lake.

The handcart experiment was the brainchild of Mormon leader Brigham Young, who decreed that the saints could haul their own possessions, pushing or pulling two-wheeled carts across 1,100 miles of rough terrain, much of it roadless and some of it untrodden.

The LDS church now embraces the saga of the handcart emigrants (including even the disaster that befell the Martin and Willie handcart companies in central Wyoming in 1856) as an educational, faith-inspiring experience for thousands of youth each year. In "The Mormon Handcart Migration", Moulton skillfully weaves together scores of firsthand accounts from the journals, letters, diaries, reminiscences, and autobiographies the handcart pioneers left behind.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and presented, the depth and scope of Candy Moulton's exhaustive research and remarkable detail make "The Mormon Handcart Migration an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to the history of the Mormons in the American West for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Mormon History and 19th Century American History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Effective Early Intervention
Michael J. Guralnick
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781681252889, $89.95, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: After decades of rapid evolution and groundbreaking research, the field of early intervention can be understood within a common framework: the Developmental Systems Approach (DSA).

Created by a highly influential leader in the field, Michael Guralnick (Director of the Center on Human Development and Disability and Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics, University of Washington), this evidence-based, relationship-oriented, family-centered framework focuses on strengthening the quality of key family patterns of interaction that influence a child's development. The overall integration of developmental science, our knowledge of risk and disability, intervention science, and practice provides the structure for the DSA.

In "Effective Early Intervention: The Developmental Systems Approach", Professor Guralnick deftly organizes and analyzes the most current research and developments in early intervention through the lens of the DSA. Starting with a clear explanation of the foundations of early intervention, the book then applies the DSA to four vulnerable populations: children at risk due to biological factors, specifically preterm birth, children at environmental risk, children with developmental delays, and children with autism spectrum disorder.

Readers will discover how the DSA can guide the development of effective services and supports for diverse young children and families, and they'll come away with insights on how to use this framework to improve early intervention programs in their own communities. An invaluable reference for early childhood researchers, faculty, and policy makers, "Effective Early Intervention" is the key to establishing inclusive community-based early intervention systems that nurture each family's strengths and promote child development.

Critique: A seminal, ground-breaking work, "Effective Early Intervention: The Developmental Systems Approach" includes both a twelve page Author Index and a nine page Subject Index. A seminal work of outstanding scholarship, while "Effective Early Intervention" is unreservedly recommended for college and university library Early Childhood collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Effective Early Intervention" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $71.99).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

Small Victories for the Soul VII
Poems & Thoughts by Tom Sheehan
Wilderness House Press
9780359348992, $18.00, paperback, 161 pages

Reading a new book by Tom Sheehan is always a joy, but writing a review is not so simple. His previous books of poetry and prose have been heaped with high praise by reviewers, myself included. I recall saying Tom Sheehan is a "national treasure" and that opinion has not changed. In this review, I'll let Sheehan's words speak for themselves.

In "Saugus, Embassy of the Second Muse" he says: "...when the sound is the music of one word upon another, and it tears two parts of soul to four because nothing like it has been heard before, when the word dances on its own consonants, slides on soft vowels, when the spine knows the word is known by every ganglia, thong and sinew of the body...." that's when simple words, strewn together, become magic. The author's musings here encompass a wide range of thoughts, from his home in Saugus to his time as a soldier in Korea to his friends and family. In "Thomas, Thomas" he shares his joys and sorrows at being a father:

"Oh, years close such ugly jaws between father / and son, between the old and the dreaming, / between the looking back and the looking forward, / so I cheat sometimes and think the looking back / has more magic, the greater reserves of splendor."

In "Ultimatum to a Friend" he memorializes that friend in words: "You will be a poem, a voice on a page, / a leaf rising from the ashes of a winter tree."

And in "Old Saugus Town" his memories range from youth to old age with recollections sweet and sad: "...the back of a study hall seat hard across / my back I later felt only once in a truck / in Korea as I sat stiffly dreaming on a dirt / road thick with corpses of burned-away / visions;"

Tom Sheehan takes readers through seasons, changes, times, joys and losses as only he can, with words that penetrate the heart and linger on in the mind. If you appreciate poetry and prose created by a gifted wordsmith, this book is highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Walter the Wanderer
Pavle Sabic, author
Via Fang, illustrator
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781480872066 $20.45

"Walter the Wanderer: An Otters Tale On A Grand And Global Scale" is a fabulous fable-like tale that uses one otter's compassionate reaction (to intolerance and negativity) to start a chain reaction of cooperation and diversity celebration.

Walter is a happy otter whose parents migrated to Scotland fleeing loss of habitat. Growing up in Scotland, Walter learned many things including Gaelic, how to play soccer, how to dance the ceilidh, wear a kilt, and enjoy listening to the bagpipes. Walter loved his own bothy home in Scotland, but he resolved to set off to explore other parts of the world.

In his explorations, he made many friends, also noticing some others who seemed hostile to him. He decided to deal with hostility by sharing hugs. This turned many unfriendly animals into friends.

When Walter returned home to Scotland, he found his bothy had washed away. He began to cry. To his surprise, all the unfriendly animals he had loved and hugged came to his rescue, helping him rebuild his bothy.

They presented him with a poem, to celebrate the bothy's rebuilding: " Walter the Wanderer, by the Fox: Walter the Wanderer is our friend/ He traveled the earth from end to end/ He went to Scotland and then to Spain/ While in China, he met a crane/ Italy and France were on his plan/ He met a Samurai macaque in Japan/ The USA had a football match/ But nothing Walter was able to catch/ Everywhere that Walter traveled/ Grumpy animals had him baffled/ Then he gave us each a hug/ Whether rhino, cat or bug/ Walter's love has made us friends/ And we will be fiends until the end/ Walter's good deeds made others believe/ That to give is really to receive."

In joyous thanks, Walter gave a toast: "Wander more, because that is what life is for!"

The Scottish set tale of "Walter the Wanderer" is cleverly illustrated with textured gently eccentric mixed media illustrations which are bound to invoke smiles. There are also helpful English translations of scattered foreign terms such as ceilidh, ciao, renshu, and xingfu, among other foreign terms. Endign with Otter Fun Facts, and the phrase "And so it begins,"

"Walter the Wanderer" may perhaps be the first book of a series for young readers ages 4-8 years. With a common theme of friendship, compassion, and curiosity, "Walter the Wanderer" is a wonderful book for children to read.

Marilla of Green Gables
Sarah McCoy, author
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062697714, $26.99 HC
9780062697721, $15.95 PB / $10.99 Kindle, 288pp,

"Marilla of Green Gables" is an homage prequel to the "Anne of Green Gables" series of novels written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

It is sensitively written, thoroughly researched and grounded, and provides a plausible backdrop to the well beloved stories of the orphan Anne in her home with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. As such, it has appeal for both a young and a more matured audience.

How did Marilla come to be alone with Matthew? Why did neither of them marry and have their own families? Who built Green Gables for Marilla and why? And most interesting of all, who did they imagine sharing it with?

Answers to all these relevant questions and more are in this retrospective, modern vintage volume, with many tracings of the sensitive outlook and artistic nostalgia of the the original series, filtered through a slightly modern perspective.

If readers loved and new the "Anne of Green Gables" series, they will also love Marilla of Green Gables. But it also has powerful appeal of its own. Begun by the author as a tribute to both Montgomery and the characters of Marilla and Matthew, "Marilla of Green Gables" explores a quite believable poignant past for both characters that helps to explain how they became the beloved foster parents of the orphan Anne Shirley in the subsequent books.

The unfinished love story of Marilla and John Blythe hinted at in the Montgomery series is opened and delicately explored, and expanded, along with many details of Cuthbert family history. All fits into the sensitive, complex portrait that will eventually include Anne, and even foreshadow her relationship with Gilbert Blythe. "Marilla of Green Gables" is also a nuanced novel with appeal of its own, and may well end up leading newer, younger readers to the original series.

The author's true regard for Montgomery informs every page and passage, but the work also takes on a life of its own. Lovers of homespun Canadian lore, prepare for a treasure and a treat as delectable and delicious as homemade jam with scones and tea.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Mays of Ventadorn
W. S. Merwin
Copper Canyon Press
PO Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368
9781556595462, $16.00, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: A preeminent voice in American literature with a prolific career spanning over half a century, W. S. Merwin has received nearly every accolade available to an American poet including Pulitzer Prizes for his books Carrier of Ladders (1971) and The Shadow of Sirius (2009).

In "The Mays of Ventadorn", this established and renowned poet turns his mastery of language and powerful attention to the origins of twelfth-century Provencal troubadours. Merwin deftly blends personal anecdotes including his pilgrimage at the age of eighteen to visit Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's hospital, and his purchase of an abandoned farmhouse in Quercy with his exploration of Southern France's rich history and linguistic heritage.

Critique: An absorbing and elegantly crafted read from beginning to end, "The Mays of Ventadorn" is a literary masterpiece of writing. Of special note is the inclusion of a complete listing of his published books of poetry, of prose, an anthology, as well as his translations. "The Mays of Ventadorn" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community and academic library collections.

When Death Becomes Life
Joshua D. Mezrich, MD
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062656209, $27.99, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: In "When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon", gifted surgeon Joshua Mezrich illuminates one of the most profound, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting achievements of modern day medicine -- the movement of organs between bodies.

At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Joshua Mezrich creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. In this intimate, profoundly moving work, he illuminates the extraordinary field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

"When Death Becomes Life" offers a true life insider's perspective at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Dr. Mezrich examines more than one hundred years of remarkable medical breakthroughs, connecting this fascinating history with the inspiring and heartbreaking stories of his transplant patients. Combining gentle sensitivity with scientific clarity, Dr. Mezrich also reflects on his calling as a doctor and introduces the modern pioneers who made transplantation a reality -- maverick surgeons whose feats of imagination, bold vision, and daring risk taking generated techniques and practices that save millions of lives around the world.

Dr. Mezrich takes us inside the operating room and unlocks the wondrous process of transplant surgery, a delicate, intense ballet requiring precise timing, breathtaking skill, and at times, creative improvisation. In illuminating this work, Dr. Mezrich touches the essence of existence and what it means to be alive. Most physicians fight death, but in transplantation, doctors take from death. Further more, Dr. Mezrich shares his gratitude and awe for the privilege of being part of this transformative exchange as the dead give their last breath of life to the living. After all, the donors are his patients, too.

Of special note is that "When Death Becomes Life" also engages in fascinating ethical and philosophical debates including: How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves? Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver? What defines death, and what role did organ transplantation play in that definition? The human story behind the most exceptional medicine of our time, Dr. Mezrich's riveting book is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.

Critique: An extraordinary and deftly crafted combination of medical history and personal memoir, "When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon" should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of medical students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "When Death Becomes Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982610722, $39.99, CD).

The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death
Brian R. Dirck
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337026, $29.50, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: From multiple personal tragedies to the terrible carnage of the Civil War, death might be alongside emancipation of the slaves and restoration of the Union as one of the great central truths of Abraham Lincoln's life. Yet what little has been written specifically about Lincoln and death is insufficient, sentimentalized, or devoid of the rich historical literature about death and mourning during the nineteenth century. "The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death" is the first in-depth account of how the sixteenth president responded to the riddles of mortality, undertook personal mourning, and coped with the extraordinary burden of sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to be killed on battlefields.

Going beyond the characterization of Lincoln as a melancholy, tragic figure, Brian R. Dirck investigates Lincoln's frequent encounters with bereavement and sets his response to death and mourning within the social, cultural, and political context of his times. At a young age Lincoln saw the grim reality of lives cut short when he lost his mother and sister. Later, he was deeply affected by the deaths of two of his sons, three-year-old Eddy in 1850 and eleven-year-old Willie in 1862, as well as the combat deaths of close friends early in the war. Despite his own losses, Lincoln learned how to approach death in an emotionally detached manner, a survival skill he needed to cope with the reality of his presidency.

Dirck shows how Lincoln gradually turned to his particular understanding of God's will in his attempts to articulate the meaning of the atrocities of war to the American public, as showcased in his allusions to religious ideas in the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. Lincoln formed a unique approach to death: both intellectual and emotional, typical and yet atypical of his times. In showing how Lincoln understood and responded to death, both privately and publicly, Dirck paints a compelling portrait of a commander in chief who buried two sons and gave the orders that sent an unprecedented number of Americans to their deaths.

Critique: An impressive and valued contribution to the growing body of Abraham Lincoln literature and historical studies, "The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death" by Lincoln scholar Brian R. Dirck (Professor of History at Anderson University in Indiana) is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship and should be considered as a core addition to both community and academic library Abraham Lincoln collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Black Heavens" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.59).

Seeking Chicago
Tom Miller
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780789333872, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Seeking Chicago: The Stories Behind the Architecture of the Windy City-One Building at a Time" is the documented story of the famed Windy City of Illinois. Unlike other books about Chicago's history, In "Seeking Chicago", author Tom Miller reveals the stories of many smaller, more modest buildings that are off the beaten track (the very structures that most guide books overlook) along with the usual iconic landmarks. Chicago is possibly the most important American city for experiencing important architectural masterpieces. There are numerous ways to learn about its architectural heritage, from museums to curated walking tours, driving tours, and even a boat tour. While the basic factual histories of Chicago's landmarks are fairly well known, there are additional layers of history (often with dramatic human interest angles) that don't always get included in these "official" tours. "Seeking Chicago" tells the story of Chicago's rich architectural and social history building by building. The stories behind the city's buildings is an impressive architectural history reading and a dramatic sampling of American social history including family feuds, scandals, and mob hits. In "Seeking Chicago" Miller excels at uncovering the dramas that have unfolded within the architecture and detailing them to tell an engaging and largely unknown side of Chicago's history.

Critique: Meticulously researched, profusely illustrated, engagingly presented, richly detailed, and written with a completely engaging narrative storytelling style, "Seeking Chicago: The Stories Behind the Architecture of the Windy City-One Building at a Time" is a unique, extraordinary, and highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Chicago History and American Architecture collections.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Way of Life - Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076842724, $23.99, 204 Pages

Signs, Wonders, and Supernatural Power

An avid reader for many years I have often found that timing is a crucial factor in getting to the core values and message of an author. Bill Johnson's "The Way of Life - Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth" is an example of content and timing for me - an impact on the here and now, a breakthrough, not watered down doctrines but discoveries of heaven's realities, begging to be embraced in simple obedience.

Bill extends an invitation to read with an open heart with a mandated focus into finding applied wisdom, as he teaches and imparts a commission to pray and walk in a relational journey with God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and fellow travelers in a way that ignites a revival.

Bill reminds the reader that worship goes beyond ritual and routine to miraculous transformation. As Christians, we are mandated to heal the sick, evangelize the world, and to disciple the nations, To let go of old mindsets and to embrace a biblical worldview which results in seeing the earth filled with His glory - the manifest presence of Jesus.

"The Way of Life - Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth" has again opened my eyes to recognize:

God's goodness

Our identity of the Joy of Salvation

A Response to God's Grace

And a focus on His Presence

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

Awakening Pure Worship - Cultivating a Closer Friendship with God
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442861, $16.99, 242 Pages

Experiencing God in a Deeper Way

It is always good to find a new author who writes in a genre that identifies with you and your passion. Jeff Deyo struck just that kind of chord with me. Jeff not only has a passion for worship but a gift of communication that resonates with the reader.

"Awakening Pure Worship" describes a holistic approach to worship; a lifestyle of worship which invites the presence of God into all areas of your life, a biblical devotion expressed in up to date terms for a modern age.

Jeff uses a conversational style, reader-friendly, as he relates experiences of his spiritual journey; his authentic search for God. Jeff's fervor is contagious, as the words of his compelling call to worship appears to "jump off the page" in a celebration of unrestrained praise.

Each chapter opens with a quote from a well-known pastor, author, or worship leader that establishes a desire on the part of the reader to linger in the presence of God, more profoundly, more fully, and more deeply.

Jeff's writing is refreshing, transformational; "Awakening Pure Worship" is a book for anyone seeking a fresh encounter with God in worship. I have personally been helped by Jeff's writing and am asking Jesus to rekindle in me the desire to experience a growing, passionate, daily connection with Jesus God, by "cultivating a closer friendship with Him.

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

Longing for His Appearing - Finding Hope & Victory in the Promise of Jesus' Return
Derek Prince
Destiny Image Publisher's Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418613, $12.99, 164 pages

Hope, Promise, Purpose, Destiny, and Mission

"Longing for His Appearing" is the result of years of Derek Prince's in-depth study and meditation of the scriptures; research and prayer that led to self-examination and a longing forChrist's appearance.

Prince's writing infuses the writer with an expectancy, motivation, in anticipation of the resurrection of Jesus and union with Him. I appreciated his compelling word pictures, new perspectives, and practical approach to understanding the scriptural basis of his work.

Step by step, Prince leads the reader through the reasons we should be excited about

Jesus' coming resurrection, ushering in His reign on earth as the promised Messiah, the completion of our salvation and the cosmic scope of all that God is doing.

Other important teaching includes practical ways in which our longing for His return will cause us to live in a manner that is different from those not longing for His return.

Personal Holiness and Blameless Hearts

Continuing Prayer

Distraction by Worldly Traps

Hastening the Day of His Coming

The Restoration of Israel to her Messianic Heritage

"Longing for His Appearing - Finding Hope & Victory in the Promise of Jesus' Return" is power packed prophecy with an emphasis on proclaiming the message of the gospel kingdom to all nations of the world.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions

expressed are my own.

Overflow - Living Saturated in the Presence and Power of the Spirit
Larkins, Rod W.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768446777, $16.99, 204 pages

A Refreshing Look at Living in the Power of God's Presence

"Overflow" is an invitation to the reader to become saturated in the presence and Power of the Spirit. Pastor Rod W. Larkins guides the reader in a discovery of the hidden treasures and mysteries of the Scriptures; exploring the resources of the deep, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life.

Pastor Rod's writing is impassioned and passionate. He urges spiritually shallow and mature Christians alike to pursue Jesus, pray for a deeper hunger for Him; moving from "attending" church to "being the church." I was challenged to: abide in His presence, spend more time in His Word, recognize His holiness, the importance of prayer fasting, and offering Him praise.

Larkins introduces the reader to four levels of revelation: The Quickening, Visions, Dreams, and discerning the voice of God. He uncovers hidden mysteries and secrets of the kingdom of heaven and how to access his treasures.

"Overflow Living Saturated in the Presence and Power of the Spirit" is much more than a Book for casual reading. It is worthy of rereading, review, and study, and then a regular refresher course in experiencing the manifestation of the Spirit's power in your life.

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

The Prophetic Voice of God - Learning to Recognize the Language of the Holy Spirit
Lana Vawser
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA, 17257
9780768418033, $16.99, 185 pages

"For Such a Time as This" - an exciting response to God's Call

In her book "The Prophetic Voice of God" Lana Vawser relates her story her step by step spiritual journey. The book is Lana's personal experience, of listening for the voice of God through His written Word, dreams, visions, and signs. Her writing is authentic, articulate and inspirational, a handbook of foundational teaching on learning to recognize the language of the Holy Spirit.

Lana is expressive and convincing. Her transparency, deep personal moved me Lana's writing style and her relentless resolve to respond to God's call on her life. Page after page of scripture examples and promises add credence to her teaching.

The Prophetic Voice of God - Learning to Recognize the Language of the Holy Spirit" is filled with examples and promises of life-changing experiences, model prayers, activations, and declarations. Anyone ready to embark on a fresh approach to engaging in hearing and proclaiming the prophetic will of God will resonate with Lana's compelling testimony.

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

Motivate This: How to Start Each Day with an Unstoppable Attitude to Succeed
Steve Rizzo
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978164950696, $15.99, 176 Pages

Success Strategies for Staying Motivated

Bill Rizzo is recognized as "the attitude adjuster." He is highly sought after as a motivational speaker, is a successful author, and standup comic.

I started to scan Steve Rizzo's book "Motivate This" thinking I would get a sense of the format, chapter contents, and other highlights - from the preface to the final reflection I found myself, page by page, intentionally focused on reading word by word, sentence by sentence, diligently filling in blanks in the "Now it's your Turn" response section.

Steve's writing is simple, relatable, and engaging. He writes with passion, humor, enthusiasm, and common sense for all ages. Steve's message is endorsed as "outstanding, inspirational, and memorable" by leaders in business, finance, and industry.

"Motivate This: How to Start Each Day with an Unstoppable Attitude to Succeed" will help you, the reader, streamline your mindset, find motivation, "embrace change, improve your skills, maintain a positive attitude, and enjoy life more."

I can heartily endorse Bill's book; he has reminded me of the importance of purpose, balance, gratitude, and perspective.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Rethinking US Election Law
Steven Mulroy
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788117500, $115.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Recent U.S. elections have defied nationwide majority preference at the White House, Senate, and House levels. A work of interdisciplinary scholarship "Rethinking US Election Law: Unskewing the System" by Steven Mulroy explains how ''winner-take-all'' and single-member district elections make this happen, and what can be done to repair the system. Proposed reforms include the National Popular Vote interstate compact (presidential elections); eliminating the Senate filibuster; and proportional representation using Ranked Choice Voting for House, state, and local elections.

Offering a timely analysis of election law and politics outlining key structural election reforms "Rethinking US Election Law" combines distinct analysis of presidential, Senate, and U.S. House elections reforms, while also addressing reforms at the state and local government level.

"Rethinking US Election Law" argues for fundamental structural changes to U.S. elections like Proportional Representation and Ranked Choice Voting, without requiring any constitutional amendments. Analysis of recent political developments such as progress on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, the adoption of Ranked Choice Voting state-wide in Maine, and the 2018 Supreme Court gerrymandering cases add real-world relevance and applicability.

Providing a sharp examination of a flawed system "Rethinking US Election Law" is vital reading for students and scholars involved in election law and political science, and is approachable enough for lay readers interested in politics and reform as well.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Rethinking US Election Law: Unskewing the System" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship that is as thoughtful as it is thought-provoking. Given the present state of our national electoral politics with problems ranging from systematic voter suppression, to Russian sabotage of our electoral process, to problems/vulnerabilities seemingly endemic to the technologies employed in the voting process, "Rethinking US Election Laws" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, academic, governmental Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Edward Poeton: The Winnowing of White Witchcraft
Simon F. Davies, editor
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985673, $45.00, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Edited with an informative introduction and explanatory notes by independent researcher Simon F. Davies, "Edward Poeton: The Winnowing of White Witchcraft" was originally written in the 1630s and has never been printed.

Edward Poeton was a physician and one of the few non-clergymen to write about magic during the early modern period. His treatise on the subject offers new insights into the problem of popular errors concerning the nature of witchcraft.

As well as advancing a number of standard and not-so-standard arguments for the sinfulness of white witches, Poeton's treatise offers fascinating insight into his practice as a physician and his own youthful dalliance with magic, making it a significant and prized new source in the history of early modern medicine and witchcraft belief.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative history, "Edward Poeton: The Winnowing of White Witchcraft" is an extraordinary and seminal work of exceptional scholarship and unreservedly recommended for college and university library Medieval/Renaissance collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Pretexts for Writing
Sean M. Williams
Bucknell University Press
Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, PA 17837
9781684480531, $99.95, HC, 278pp,

Synopsis: Around 1800, print culture became a particularly rich source for metaphors about thinking as well as writing, nowhere more so than in the German tradition of Dichter und Denker. Goethe, Jean Paul, and Hegel (among many others) used the preface in order to reflect on the problems of writing itself, and its interpretation.

If Sterne teaches us that a material book enables mind games as much as it gives expression to them, the Germans made these games more theoretical still. Weaving in authors from Antiquity to Agamben in "Pretexts for Writing: German Romantic Prefaces, Literature, and Philosophy", Sean M. Williams (who is a Lecturer in German and European Cultural History in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sheffield, UK) shows how European (and, above all, German) Romanticism was a watershed in the history of the preface.

The playful, paradoxical strategies that Romantic writers invented are later played out in continental philosophy, and in post-Structuralist literature. The preface is a prompt for playful thinking with texts, as much as it is conventionally the prosaic product of such an exercise.

Critique: An erudite, extraordinary, and insightful work of impeccable scholarship, "Pretexts for Writing: German Romantic Prefaces, Literature, and Philosophy" is a part of the Bucknell University Press 'New Studies in the Age of Goethe' series. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of twenty-six pages of Notes, a twenty-two page Bibliography, and a seven page Index, "Pretexts for Writing" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to academic library collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pretexts for Writing" is also available in a paperback edition (9781684480524, $34.95), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.20).

Stock Footage + Everything Under the Sun
James Forsher
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615932955, $29.95, PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: "Stock Footage + Everything Under the Sun: Using Archival Material to Make Your Good Film Great" is the only book that gives an overview of the use of archival footage and how it played an expanding and crucial role in documentary and TV films. Readers learn how to research images and clear the rights.

Part One is an overview of archival footage, reviewing exactly what constitutes archival material and how it fits within the broader history of film and TV production. It also introduces the areas of research and legal parameters to the reader.

Part Two examines the variety of styles of entertainment programming that use archival footage, including separate sections on network magazine formats, cable reality shows, webisodes, PBS documentaries, feature-length documentaries, and how documentaries can sway public opinion.

Part Three covers Visual Literacy 101, a short course on how to "read" a film. By looking at only a few seconds of footage, one can deduce some very important facts about the film. This part makes a detective out of any researcher or editor who is determined to find the most authentic setting and context for their film.

Part Four discusses how to use archival footage, writing a script that includes archival material, editing archival material, negotiating rights and budgeting constraints.

Each Part offers interviews with experts who give a realistic idea of how they've used stock footage in their own work.

Editorial Note: James Forsher has nearly forty years of experience producing, writing, and directing documentaries and television commercials. Forsher's productions, ranging from half-hour shows to feature-length documentaries, have aired on the Discovery Channel, The Movie Channel, Cinemax, A & E and PBS. Forsher's productions range from this year's hour-long show Elvis and the Girl from Vienna back to his 1977 documentary Conrad Hilton: Insight into a Giant. Forsher has also taught film and video production at the college and university level for nearly two decades, directed the broadcast program at California State University, East Bay, and has taught communication courses as a Fulbright Scholar in Europe.

Critique: An ideal film school quality do-it-yourself instruction manual and guide, "Stock Footage + Everything Under the Sun: Using Archival Material to Make Your Good Film Great" should be considered an essential and core collection for personal, professional, community, and academic library film making instructional collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for film students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Stock Footage + Everything Under the Sun" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.07).

Guardians of Detroit
Jeff Morrison
Painted Turtle
c/o Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814345702, $39.99, HC, 316pp,

Synopsis: The city of Detroit is home to amazing architectural sculpture, including a host of gargoyles, grotesques, and other silent guardians that watch over the city from high above its streets and sidewalks, often unnoticed or ignored by the people passing below.

In "Guardians of Detroit: Architectural Sculpture in the Motor City" historian and graphic artist Jeff Morrison documents these incredible features in a city that began as a small frontier fort and quickly grew to become a major metropolis and industrial titan.

Detroit developed steadily following its founding in 1701. From 1850 to 1930 it experienced unprecedented population growth, increasing from 21,019 to over 1,500,000 people. A city of giants, Detroit became home to people of towering ambition and vision who gained wealth and sought to leave their mark on the city they loved. This aspiration created a massive building boom during a time when architectural styles favored detailed ornamentation, resulting in a collection of architectural sculpture unmatched by any other U.S. city.

"Guardians of Detroit" is a first-of-its-kind project to explore, document, and explain this singular collection on a building-by-building basis and to discover and share the stories of these structures and the artists, artisans, and architects who created them.

Using a 600-millimeter lens and 23-megapixel camera, Morrison brings sculptural building details barely visible to the naked eye down from the heights, making them available for up-close appreciation. The photos are arranged in a collage format that emphasizes the variety of and relationships between each building's sculptural ornamentation.

A well-researched text complements the photography, delving into the lives of those who created these wonderful works of architectural art.

Critique: A unique and visually impressive history of Detroit's architectural sculptures, "Guardians Of Detroit" is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative read and would well serve as a template for similar studies with respect to other major American cities. While especially and unreservedly recommended for professional, 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 "Guardians Of Detroit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.99).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Birth of China
E. Ted Gladue
Commonwealth Publishing
PO Box 770354, Coral Springs, FL 33077
9781892986115, $17.99, PB, 225pp,

Synopsis: Sean Semineaux, on a merchant ship, coming out of New Zealand in 1986, has to fight for his survival as the ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific in the midst of strange circumstances. Semineaux survives and washes up on the China coast. The only problem, the year is 261 BC, and, at first he thinks he has gone mad, but he becomes a witness to the first unification of China in 221 BC. Although

Editorial Note: E. Ted Gladue is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned his Ph.D. at City University of New York, in International Politics, Chinese Studies, and Clinical Psychiatry from Mt. Sinai Medical School. For six years he traveled the world for the United Nations Director of Political and Security Affairs. He worked as a traveling professor at many universities, including Princeton and taught U.S. military officers on overseas bases around the world. Dr. Gladue is a journalist, author of novels and poetry, has a Ph.D. Dissertation in "China's Diplomatic Behavior in the United Nations", including his book, "China's Perception of Global Politics". He splits his time between Panama City, Florida and Dublin, Ireland where he holds Irish citizenship.

Critique: An impressively written and inherently riveting historical novel by a writer with an extraordinary ability to bring an antique past vividly to life, "The Birth of China" by Ted Gladue is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections and is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists. This is one of those rare works of fiction that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Mr. President: A Life of Benjamin Harrison
Ray E. Boomhower
Indiana Historical Society Press
450 W Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
9780871954275, $19.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: In the 1850s, a young man from Ohio, ready to begin his career as a lawyer, pondered where to practice his new profession, considering Cincinnati, Chicago, and Indianapolis. The attorney, Benjamin Harrison, visited Indianapolis in March 1854 and decided to make the city home. The choice pleased his father, who wrote that the Harrison name would be enough to pave his way and the citizens would love him as they loved his grandfather, William Henry Harrison.

In 1888 Harrison beat incumbent Grover Cleveland, becoming the twenty-third U.S. president. Although he served only one term, defeated for re-election by Cleveland in 1892, Harrison had some impressive achievements during his four years in the White House. His administration worked to have Congress pass the Sherman Antitrust Act to limit business monopolies, fought to protect voting rights for African American citizens in the South, preserved millions of acres for forest reserves and national parks, modernized the American navy, and negotiated several successful trade agreements with other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

As First Lady, Caroline Harrison also added luster to the administration, fighting to improve a White House that had fallen into disrepair, advocating on behalf of fine arts, and serving as the first president-general of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

After losing the White House, Harrison returned to Indianapolis, once again becoming one of the city's leading citizens. He died from pneumonia on March 13, 1901, in his home on North Delaware Street.

Critique: Impressively informative and enhanced with numerous black-and-white period photographs, "Mr. President: A Life of Benjamin Harrison" by biographer Ray E. Boomhower is part of the multi-volume Indiana Historical Society Press youth biography series for young readers and is especially appropriate for students ages 8-12, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both school and community library American Biography collections in general, and Benjamin Harrison supplemental studies lists in particular.

Nine Lies About Work
Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633696303, $30.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: You crave feedback. Your organization's culture is the key to its success. Strategic planning is essential. Your competencies should be measured and your weaknesses shored up. Leadership is a thing.

These may sound like basic truths of our work lives today. But actually, they are all lies. As Marcus Buckingham (a strengths guru and author) and Ashley Goodall (a Cisco Leadership and Team Intelligence head) show in "Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World", there are some big lies in the form of distortions, faulty assumptions, and wrong thinking, that we encounter every time we show up for work. Nine lies, to be exact, and these are the cause dysfunction and frustration, ultimately resulting in workplaces that are a pale shadow of what they could be.

But there are those who can get past the lies and discover what's real. These freethinking leaders recognize the power and beauty of our individual uniqueness. They know that emergent patterns are more valuable than received wisdom and that evidence is more powerful than dogma.

With engaging stories and incisive analysis, "Nine Lies About Work" reveals the essential truths that such freethinking leaders will recognize immediately: that it is the strength and cohesiveness of your team, not your company's culture, that matter most; that we should focus less on top-down planning and more on giving our people reliable, real-time intelligence; that rather than trying to align people's goals we should strive to align people's sense of purpose and meaning; that people don't want constant feedback, they want helpful attention.

This is the real world of work, as it is and as it should be. "Nine Lies About Work" exposes the few core truths that will help you show just how good you are to those who truly rely on you.

Critique: Iconoclastic, provocative, compelling, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World" is an extraordinary and unique volume that should be a core part of every community, college, and corporate Business Management collection and supplemental studies list. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of business students, academia, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Nine Lies About Work" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Rick and Morty and Philosophy
Lester C. Abesamis & Wayne Yuen, editors
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812694642, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: The adult-oriented science-fiction cartoon series Rick and Morty, shown on Cartoon Network as part of its late-night Adult Swim feature, is famous for its nihilistic anti-hero Rick Sanchez. Rick is a character who rejects God, religion, and meaning, but who embraces science and technology.

This leads to a popular show that often presents a world view favorable to science and dismissive of spirituality. It is existentialism mashed up with absurdism with a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of dick jokes thrown in. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Lester Abesamis and Wayne Yuen, in "Rick and Morty and Philosophy: In the Beginning Was the Squanch" the contributors collectively focus on the philosophical underpinnings of the show.

"Rick and Morty and Philosophy" also includes chapters that examine the experience of watching Rick and Morty. One writer argues that many of the Rick and Morty episodes induce within viewers a state of "Socratic aporia," or confusion. Viewers are forced to reflect on their own moral beliefs about the world when characters do something that seems good but results in horrendous consequences.

Critique: Enhanced with a unique introduction (Scientifically, Introductions Are an idiot Thing); a four page Bibliography; an eight page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a five page Index, "Rick and Morty and Philosophy: In the Beginning Was the Squanch" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Philosophy collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, dedicated Rick & Morty fans, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rick and Morty and Philosophy" is also available in digital book format (Kindle, $11.98).

The Law (in Plain English) for Collectors
Leonard D. DuBoff & Sarah J. Tugman
Allworth Press
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781621536680, $19.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: In "The Law (in Plain English) for Collectors: A Guide for Lovers of Art and Antiques", attorneys Leonard DuBoff and Sarah Tugman provide helpful advice on all things legal when it comes to art, antiques, and other collectibles.

Whether readers are into coins or Queen Anne furniture, paintings or vintage books, this guide contains useful and practical information readers need to know to protect and enjoy their collections. Among other important concerns, readers will learn how to: Navigate purchases and customs; Select insurance plans; Properly file taxes; Loan out pieces to galleries, museums, and shows; Bestow work to future generations.

Editorial Note: Leonard D. DuBoff is the founder of the DuBoff Law Group, PC. He graduated magna cum laude from Hofstra University with a degree in engineering and summa cum laude from Brooklyn Law School, where he was the research editor of the Brooklyn Law Review. He was a professor of law for almost a quarter of a century, teaching first at Stanford Law School and then at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.

Sarah J. Tugman graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and magna cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. She has maintained a private civil practice for the past thirty-three years in Anchorage, Alaska, and she is of counsel to the DuBoff Law Group. She is the coauthor, with Leonard D. DuBoff, of several books in the Allworth Press Law (in Plain English) series.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Law (in Plain English) for Collectors" is commended as an indispensable reference for private collectors, gallerists, artists, and non-specialist general readers with an interested in how art is valued, bought, sold, and donated. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal and professional reading lists that "The Law (in Plain English) for Collectors" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

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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