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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 4 April 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf John Taylor's Bookshelf Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf Michael Dunford's Bookshelf Paul Vogel's Bookshelf
S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf    

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Paul Roehrig & Ben Pring
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119785910, $25.00, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" explains how we can responsibly engage with technology, and avoid its darker tendencies, while accepting its necessary gifts. The authors, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring, are true insiders at one of the world's largest tech consulting firms, and together they provide a unique take on: The addictive nature of tech and how to fight it; The growing backlash against big tech -- where it's right and what it misses; Crucial steps for taming technology's role in your life and in your organization -- without becoming a modern Luddite.

Written for managers, leaders, and employees at companies of all sizes and in all industries, "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" will help you understand and take control of technology's powerful role in your life and your organization.

Critique: Essential and unreservedly recommended reading for anyone involved with robotics, computers, automation, and the technologies associated with them, "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" is an extraordinary and core addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for students, professionals, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.00).

Editorial Note #1: Paul Roehrig is the Global Head of Strategy and Growth for Cognizant Digital. He is also the founder and former Global Managing Director of the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant, as well as a co-author of "What To Do When Machines Do Everything" and "Code Halos". Prior to joining Cognizant Digital, Paul was a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, where he researched, wrote, and consulted extensively on challenges and opportunities related to business and technology services. He also held operational positions in designing and implementing global technology services programs for customers from a variety of industries for Hewlett-Packard.

Editorial Note #2: Ben Pring is the head of thought leadership at Cognizant and co-founded and leads Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work. Ben is a co-author of the best-selling and award-winning books, What To Do When Machines Do Everything and Code Halos. Ben sits on the advisory board of the Labor and Work Life program at Harvard Law School. Ben was named as one of 30 management thinkers to watch in 2020 by Thinkers 50.

Moving in Stereo
Thomas L. Trondson
Calumet Editions
9781950743377, $16.99, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: "Moving in Stereo" by Thomas L. Trondson is set 1996 and the story of enigmatic tennis professional Richard Blanco who enjoying a late-career run, is now reaching the Wimbledon quarter finals.

But what no one else knows is that he has begun hearing voices again! It won't be long before the ghost of punk rocker Luke Scream starts whispering dark nothings in his ear.

Over the summer, Blanco hopscotches the circuit from Los Angeles to the tennis academy where he's trained since childhood, but his brilliant play is becoming overshadowed by the escalating chatter in his head.

By turns hilarious and dark, "Moving in Stereo" is a vivid portrayal of an athlete eyeing the end of his career while seeking the dignity that would make his dead father proud.

Critique: The advice often giving to aspiring authors is to write what they know. Clearly this is the case with novelist Tom Trondson who is able to adeptly and expertly draw upon his own personal experience and expertise with the sport of tennis to craft a truly original and inherently fascinating set of characters -- then cleverly embed them into a series of unexpected plot twists and turns that will keep the reader's raptly entertained attention from first page to last. A deftly crafted and impressively original novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Moving in Stereo" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library sports themed fiction. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated tennis fans that "Moving in Stereo" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Lost on the Edge of Eternity
Jonathan Floyd
Independently Published
9780962003172, $11.95

Bill Fellars's training as a high school counselor didn't cover many facts of the job, including helping dead students who haunt the school move on to the next level. But, as he finds in Lost on the Edge of Eternity, this is part of the job description that nobody mentioned, and a vital conclusion to a counseling process that must be adequately conducted if lingering students are to successfully move on after death.

Bill embarks on an unsettling journey when he observes a new student at the school (he's in charge of making sure all new students are properly oriented and introduced); only to find that no other adult seems to know the kid. Furthermore, this isn't a new kid, but one who he'd thought long gone from not just the school, but the planet. He was one of the 'good ones' whose self-inflicted demise didn't really end everything.

As Bill expands his counseling career into new dimensions, readers follow him into a world where some of the dead kids who are stuck continue to cause problems in their new condition, as well. Helping those who want to move on is one thing; but dealing with troublesome kids, which is normally a big part of the job, assumes new meaning when the dead are involved.

Readers who enjoy supernatural encounters and stories of living and dead purposes revisited will find Lost on the Edge of Eternity an intriguing story. Jonathan Floyd's ability to explore Brownsville's adult and teen interactions, the moral and ethical questions that evolve when dead student Randy involves Bill in a steal-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor plot, and intrigue, all become part of a plot which expands this book's potential audience beyond a teen read alone.

From addressing regrets over life choices to facing consequences beyond the grave, the story provides much food for thought as well as adventures and interactions. These involve Bill in his mother's legacy, Sally Brock's unfinished novel, and the kinds of conclusions that tie up loose ends and allow both living and dead to move on.

Readers who enjoy intrigue, supernatural overtones, school politics, and adult/teen interactions will find Lost on the Edge of Eternity an excellent, multifaceted story about life's meaning. The story's unexpected contemporary components place it in the category of being recommended reading for mature teen to adult readers.

Unholy Shepherd
Robert W. Christian
Ten/16 Press
9781645382034, $16.95 Paper / $24.95 Hardcover / $1.99 Kindle

Unholy Shepherd is the first book in the murder mystery thriller series 'The Demon Sight' and tells of Maureen, who has long struggled with nightmares.

Maire opens the story. She is speaking with officers about the death of her beloved son, worried that, due to her past and a mysterious phone call tip, her family will be implicated in Braden's disappearance and death. Her daughter Maureen's psychic vision has located his body, but she can't see the circumstances that led to this tragedy.

Her Irish heritage has painted a stark picture of those in her family who inherit the 'Demon Sight', where a daughter would be marked as Satan's own and will "see with the eyes

of pure evil." Maire's newfound conviction that her beloved son is gone and her daughter is marked introduces a terrible dilemma into her life, challenging the efforts of Detective Manny Benitez to uncover the truth.

As Maureen finds herself the focus of not one but two murders, she discovers that a key to resolving her role in not just these events but future circumstances depends on a process of self-discovery and inquiry that runs headlong into the investigation.

When they become more involved with the detective on a different level than Maureen had anticipated, both Maureen and Manny unearth truths about love, connections, visions, and fate that bring them closer together to a dangerous truth.

As Maureen encounters Father Patrick McGill and his uncanny ability to become part of her life and ferret out her secrets, readers receive a powerful paranormal crime story that excels in creating an edgy story, a powerful series of events, and characters who not only question circumstances of death, but life's trajectory.

Strong character growth and a tense thriller with many unexpected relationship developments contribute to a suspense tale that is hard to put down and compelling in its weave of murder mystery, mental illness, superstition, and intrigue.

Talk Big: How to Interview Celebrities and Make Them Love You!
John Kerwin
QB Publishing
9781734506204, $19.99

Talk Big: How to Interview Celebrities and Make Them Love You! will appeal to anyone charged with interviewing big names from any field, for any purpose. It surveys the discussion process with an eye to identifying and overcoming obstacles common to interviewing success.

These are based on John Kerwin's own rocky start in the industry, as well as the experiences of other interviewers. They range from identifying and addressing the self-doubt which tinges interview questions to understanding distinctly different styles of approaching an interview, and how to choose the right one for a given situation.

But, how does a bare-bones beginner start out interviewing celebrities and honing skills? How does a newbie even gain access to a celebrity? Kerwin doesn't assume prior connections or knowledge at any point of the process, which makes his book very accessible to beginners.

Celebrities can be contacted via autograph shows, for one example: "Throughout the year, there are autograph shows in most large cities. They're a low-pressure way for public figures to meet their fans while making money. Usually, each celebrity will rent a small area in a convention center or hotel ballroom. When I was new to the business, I'd go to these shows and meet fifty to a hundred celebrities in one day. I'd prepare interview questions beforehand for all the celebrities who were scheduled to appear. For just a relatively small entry fee, I'd get to practice interviewing celebrities, which helped build my confidence."

The meat of Talk Big lies in its author's experiences and his candid discussions of how he built his interviewing skills. His revelations about different approaches, experiences, and how he revised his interviews based on the celebrity and the underlying purpose of the questions makes for powerful insights: "I once had the good fortune of interviewing two-time Oscar-nominated and Cannes Best Actor award winner Bruce Dern. I asked simple questions and Bruce gave fantastic answers. I followed up with another simple question or moved on to another topic. Each time he had wonderful answers and anecdotes. As the interview was ending, I could feel my stomach turn. I realized that I didn't get any laughs or add any interesting comments during our conversation."

Talk Big is a practical, powerful examination of the various processes an interview can incorporate to expand the effectiveness and end results of a celebrity piece. It should also be noted that 'celebrity' is defined here as not only lying in the entertainment industry, but politicians and other famous personalities. Many of the same rules of a superior interview apply: "Despite the glaring differences between a politician and a comedian, an interview with either one can fail for the same reason. A politician may be looking to sway voters with his rhetoric, and no matter what question you ask, they'll go into a prepared speech. A comedian may be so locked into their material that they'll use your interview to do a stand-up set. Neither are what you and viewers want."

Talk Big is a 'must' for anyone interested in better-quality celebrity interview results. More so than any other book on the subject, it embraces a series of specific steps any newcomer (or experienced professional) can easily absorb to make their own approach more effective and valuable.

Beyond the Rio Gila
Scott G. Hibbard
Five Star Publishing
c/o Gale/Cengage Learning
9781432866136, $25.95

It's 1844, and teenager Moses Cole is driven to leave his home by an abusive father in Beyond the Rio Gila, which charts his journey from a rural Pennsylvania farm to become a private in the First Dragoons. The long march of the First Dragoons from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego comes to life through the eyes and experiences of young Moses, who finds a newfound purpose in life after the death of his mother and his father's descent into booze.

From its opening lines, descriptions of the protagonist's journey are captured in a compelling manner that leads readers to want to know more about the young hero's journey: Moses kept walking. He walked by farmsteads and passed through towns and talked to travelers who'd quiz this boy on the road alone, weighted with no bag or companion. Moses would say he'd left home to help the grand folks who got on poorly, and he might be there for a time, or that he was off to fetch a mule from an uncle down valley, that he'd be mounted come this time next week...He didn't know he could yarn on like that, tell tales taller than the trees he'd seen. Flat-out lies that blistered the clean place inside, like he'd walked all day in shoes too small.

Moses hasn't just left behind a cruel father. He also leaves open the possibility of romance with Isabella James of Virginia, who captures his heart even as he's set to undertake a different kind of path and struggle in life.

Real history surrounding the First Dragoons and their remarkable achievement blends with the coming-of-age story of a young man who finds his destiny entwined with those of Mormons, who are on a different journey - one destined to become the longest march in U.S. infantry history. Two pregnant laundresses completed the march. The novel is particularly interesting in its focus on these early Latter-day Saints, bringing to life their concerns and interactions with this young man.

The dialogues between them do an exceptionally good job of revealing their differences and discoveries: Orson said, "You are an angel of the Lord, Moses." "No," Moses said. He picked a handful of dirt from the plaza street and rubbed his hands with it, brushed the bloodied dirt off, and wiped his hands on his pants. "Devil maybe." "Our man Moses," Smithwick said, "he's as kind as you'd want a man to be, but put him in a fight" - he shook his head - "the lid blows off, and an animal pops out, and then it gets ugly, doesn't it, Moses?" Orson said, "Angels bear many guises, Moses. You are a Danite at heart." "There you go, talkin' Mormon on me," Moses said. "Takes a while to get him bottled up again, but he settled down quick here," Donovan said. "Must be," - he thought a moment - "maturity." "To tell it straight, Orson, your religion is a strange one, but I'll say it again, you showed something when you crossed that desert.

The result is what strong historical fiction should be, holding appeal for readers of Western experience in general and especially anyone interested in the role and experiences of the Mormons in American history, which is usually under-stated at best and often omitted from history entirely.

A concluding section of biographies for the nonfiction characters sprinkled throughout the story provides a satisfying and in-depth survey of the real history behind Moses's story, completing the novel's strengths in attracting readers who may not usually choose historical fiction.

Beyond the Rio Gila is, quite simply, a compelling coming-of-age story that brings history to life. It's highly recommended reading that should be in any collection strong in historical novels and early Mormon history alike.

A Plan B Camino 2020
Br. Dan O'Riordan
Independently Published
9798561342196, $15.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

A Plan B Camino 2020: A Pilgrim's Prayer Journal for Future Spiritual Camino Seekers should be required reading for any would-be modern-day pilgrim interested in embarking on the spiritual journey of a lifetime.

The practice of making a pilgrimage is an old one. Many pilgrims have not only done so, but have written about their experiences. While Br. Dan O'Riordan originally pictured doing the same with this book, Covid-19 interfered with his plans in 2020 and sparked a different kind of spiritual journey that holds lessons anyone can apply to their own journeys, whether out in the world or in inner space.

Br. O'Riordan applies his discoveries to personal reflection processes, discussing how enlightenment and new realizations changed his perspectives and possibilities: "The more I focus on my thoughts, efforts and life on looking at ways to authentically serve Jesus moment by moment, day by day the more I will find inner peace, joy, happiness, and a sense of deep purpose in my everyday living. Yes, thinking ahead and planning for the future are essential parts of life. Looking back and remembering can often be a gift. But I still can only embrace life in this present moment, and in the here and now."

From local hikes to developing community solidarity, journaling, using video and pictures to share with others in the future, and embarking on a Camino experience daily, using exercise to link to spiritual reflection and "bearing fruits everyday", this voyage of discovery links inner contemplation with small actions that change the world in different ways.

Poems, songs, and a personal prayer journal from his fourteen-day pilgrimage in the White Mountains of New Hampshire create a picture of deeper spiritual insights and how they connect to the world that goes beyond the physical rigors of a pilgrimage and into journeys of the heart and soul.

Readers who contemplate embarking on their own spiritual adventure will find this prayer journal offers many guideposts for the experience, from how to undertake one to connecting the dots between personal and spiritual worlds.

It's highly recommended reading that should ideally be in any spirituality collection.

Never Too Young to Change the World
Br. Dan O'Riordan
Independently Published
9798666604489, $15.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Never Too Young To Change The World: Inspiring True Stories Of Young People captures the observations and sentiments of young Christians who embarked on journeys to change the world and succeeded in making difference. It's especially recommended for disenfranchised young people of all colors who might believe their lives or youth make their ambitions ineffectual, and provides the impetus for positive change through example.

Each story is spiritually grounded, linking religious approaches and connections to God (through Biblical quotes and comments on teachings) to Br. O'Riordan's account of his work with these extraordinary young people.

Take 'A Girl With a Big Heart and a Big Hammer', for example. This short piece tells of Ellen Salmi, a high school girl so determined to help others that her involvement in the school's "Bridges Program" resulted in raising enough money to build a large storage space to hold containers of clothing, books, and toiletries for all in need - a community helping hand that's still in use today.

Her involvement in Marist projects which combined prayer with service activities led to her becoming a missionary in Africa, where she secured grants to build a children's library for the village.

These journeys of faith and community effort provide an invaluable service, linking faith to concrete efforts made by young people to change their world for the better.

It's an inspirational read that is highly recommended for any Christian collection appealing to young adults who want to make a difference in the world through not just their faith, but faith-backed actions.

Those the Future Left Behind
Patrick Meisch
9781684630790, $16.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Those the Future Left Behind is a dystopian story of a future in which individuals who submit their lives for "Collection" at a young age are granted wealth and privilege until their death date.

The story's narrator is a Collector who calls in the debt for the Bureau of Fortune, visiting individuals whose time is up. Their first subject for collection is Mr. Chaezka ('Chazz'), a personable casino operator with a penchant for story-telling.

The Collector is willing to give the man a last gamble and deal with his grief or fury; whichever may come. What is less expected is an engagement that introduces something different.

Patrick Meisch's ability to overlay the social and humanitarian issues of modern times with a futuristic approach to their resolution is exceptional. Passages in the story often comment on the influences that led to this dystopian world and its solution to modern-day overpopulation and resource allocation, as well as the impact of attitudes and choices on relationships and society as a whole: "Many of these forms of technology were initially created in order to bring us, as a people, closer together, but, somewhere along the spectrum, we advanced past the point of caring as much about the people behind the voices as the voices themselves."

This juxtaposition of past and present and the actions which lead to the rise of Collectors and a new form of social order adds a realistic, compelling, and frightening tone to Those the Future Left Behind.

High technology such as ComComs (a type of advanced implanted cellular communication device) are integrated into a story that explores the Bureau's place in the world and the Collectors who work for it, the Collectees who surrender to it, and other forces in society who work for different goals in preserving or altering the world.

One example of a Collectee is Kirsi, whose job is to run an orphanage. She also dabbles in keeping various endangered plant species alive against all odds and the lack of public interest: "Conservation is just another popularity contest. If it isn't pretty or large, think the polar bear for animals, which is just barely getting along, who cares? How will you get the money to save it? No one would notice if this plant disappeared from the world entirely."

The Collector's ability to integrate their worldview with that of other forces operating in different arenas is particularly thought-provoking, as in this segue that illustrates the concept Kirsi presents: "The Bureau is a conservation organization in essence and it works on the same principles you have identified, though with much greater funding. They try to conserve beauty from the threat of excess; given our species will most likely not become extinct any time soon. Your children might have faded from existence unceremoniously without the Bureau's intervention here..."

As their idealistic perceptions of their profession and its importance sour over four years, this Collector comes to some new realizations that rock their world and hold potential for a different approach to valuing life.

Readers who look for dystopian stories of struggle, transformation, and revised social order that begins with individual revelations will find Those the Future Left Behind akin to such classics as Make Room! Make Room!, Soylent Green, Cloud Atlas, and others.

The heavy-hitting set of realizations and growth leads the Collector protagonist to revise their vision of society, their role in it, and the moral and ethical concerns that come with the job.

What matters most in life: the present moment, or the future?

This story will intrigue and delight sci-fi readers who enjoy thought-provoking explorations that ask important, hard questions about the value of living.

The Pumpkin Deal
Alan Venable
One Monkey Books
9781940722078, $10.95

Parents seeking a read-aloud to foster interpersonal skills in their children will find that The Pumpkin Deal: A Win-Win Halloween blends seasonal trappings with a delightfully unique overlay of plot, invention, and moral. The story teaches kids about cooperation, creative problem-solving, intention, and, ultimately, the meaning of a 'pumpkin deal' that changes everything.

This particular Halloween opens with a comical septet of witches and wizards intending to "fill our bitter hearts with gladness/By driving other poor creatures to madness." So this ragtag "posse of loonies," intent on causing mayhem and generating "reptilian nightmares" for those around them, declares, until eighth witch, little "Cricket," reminds them of their most beloved seasonal pleasures, which include carving jack-o-lanterns.

With her reminder, the story becomes a saner but still problematic challenge of finding eight pumpkins to carve at an hour when the market stalls are empty. Will a castaway cabbage do? Perhaps a "nasty old eggplant"?

Here is where the book sets forth to earn its subtitle, A Win-Win Halloween. From here on, the whimsical fun comes to life with unpredictable twists that set the book apart from the staid progression of the usual Halloween adventure for picture book readers.

Delightful illustrations by Lena Venable pair nicely with a rollicking rhyme. Her drawings are fanciful, artistic, and crafted for all ages. Not comicalized or dumbed down to appeal to kids, the art - like the text - is intriguing to adult readers, as well.

Surprising positive turns of events, insights into what constitutes a win-win approach, and Cricket's own realization of how her intentions blend with those around her coalesce to enrich this book with greater heart, awareness and mindfulness than the usual Halloween adventure.

The Moreva of Astoreth
Roxanne Bland
Blackrose Press
9780996731676, $6.99 ebook/$15.00 print

The Moreva of Astoreth, the first book in the Peris Archives series, is a sci-fi romance that will appeal to readers who like feisty women determined to fight for their desires, whether they are physical or related to career or a sense of self.

Priestess Tehi is the granddaughter of a goddess. She's a successful scientist who rebels against her duty to celebrate a holy and intimate religious rite with the race of people she despises.

Banished for her rebellion to a village where technology is scarce and her skills relatively useless, Tehi finds a way to continue her medical research, albeit in secret, while trying to avoid confronting her own ingrained prejudices about the world, other races, and her place in it.

Roxanne Bland's portrait of a flawed heroine who struggles with her own prejudices and the consequences of some bad choices create not just a determined character, but one whose shortcomings make her quite likeable: "I'm in danger of losing my soul...but why? How? What am I doing wrong? Several possibilities ran through my mind, but I dismissed them. None of them made sense. I thought about the hakoi and my feelings for them. Was that it? I shook my head. So what? They are what they are, but that doesn't mean I have to like them."

As her relationship with Mjor's healer Hyme leads to a newfound determination to pay more attention to the needs of the hakoi in Uruk, Tehi receives a surprise - not only can she teach him a few things; but, conversely, he can teach her much about the hakoi, his world, and her deepest desires.

Determined to survive her year of banishment without having any relationships with those who surround her, Tehi instead finds herself falling into the deepest relationships of her life, crossing many lines as she searches for answers, a cure, and the limits of her medical science and technological world's abilities.

The Moreva of Astoreth juxtaposes steamy sexual encounters with thought-provoking growth processes and newfound realizations as Tehi's determination helps her not only survive her banishment, but thrive from her paradigm-changing encounters with new people.

In the course of these new discoveries, even her long-held religious sentiments are challenged, such as the planet's age, the fact that the gods of her belief system didn't create the hakoi, and the idea that these gods aren't immortal, and can die.

The heart of her future ultimately lies in her obedience to her grandmother. As she faces the threat of execution for her choices, Tehi realizes that her change of heart may not be enough to save her.

Bland's compelling story of religious convictions challenged and technological achievements in question creates a story that is memorable and thought-provoking. No single element 'takes over' to dominate the story line, but seamlessly weaves into a wider-ranging plot replete with romance, sexual and spiritual self-discovery, and a life forever changed by living among workers instead of the elite.

Fantasy, sci-fi, and romance readers alike will find The Moreva of Astoreth an involving story with many satisfying twists and turns.

Chateau Laux
David Loux
Wire Gate Press
9781954065017, $15.99

Chateau Laux opens in 1710 where twenty-two-year-old Lawrence Kraymer is a hardworking brewer in Philadelphia, inheriting the business from his grandfather.

A chance event introduces him to a French family and their alluring daughter Catherine, whom he begins to court.

Readers might anticipate a 'happily ever after' scenario to evolve, but before matters get to this point, David Loux crafts a complex story in which romance actually stirs up trouble long buried in the past, leading the young lovers and everyone surrounding them into danger and revelations.

As Lawrence builds a chateau for his future bride, so he also sows seeds of discord. Catherine's near-fatal encounter with mastiff Romulus is only the first in a series of threats that change their lives.

Pierre never realized he would open a can of worms when he invites Lawrence into his home one stormy night. But Pierre succeeds in making him feel beholden to the family in more than one way, connecting Lawrence into a web of unfortunate events that hold threat and the lure of promise - if he can overcome them.

Chateau Laux offers many surprises. What befalls Catherine mid-story is anything but happy, challenging both Lawrence and the notion of frontier justice and family alike. What takes place in the chateau is not a new beginning, but a fatal repeat of patterns buried long ago. This will not only shock readers who anticipated a very different twist to the tale, but introduces a special form of heartbreak and opportunity that births new friendships from the fires of tragedy.

As the story winds through unexpected relationships with Indians and the illness that follows a terrible loss, Lawrence and Pierre continue to find their lives entwined in unexpected ways. This process continues even when the promise of Chateau Laux's new beginnings falls into the disarray and destruction of terrible traumas built on shaky roots of the past.

Readers seeking an absorbing historical novel of transformation, tragedy, rebirth, and renewed relationships set against the backdrop of 1700s frontier America will find Chateau Laux a gripping story of love, loss, and survival that's made even stronger for its roots in real events. It's a riveting read that requires no prior familiarity with eighteenth century history in order to prove compelling.

Dead in the Water
Jeannette de Beauvoir
HomePort Press
B08YFM6HGV, $4.99 Kindle

The eighth book in the Sidney Riley mystery series set in Provincetown, Dead in the Water, opens with Sidney facing a whale watch trip with her mother - a prospect she feels is certain to go awry, if past history with her mother is any indicator.

After the struggle of recent events, Sidney has returned to P'town to resume her life. This sojourn with her mother introduces her once again to darker events that absorb and challenge her; but it should be noted that an undercurrent of humor runs through the writing which offers both insights into interpersonal relationships and fun observations: "He sounds like a nice young man," my mother remarked. "He sounds American." Don't take the bait, I told myself. Don't take the bait. I took the bait. "Ali is American," I said. "He was born in Boston." "But his parents weren't," she said, with something like relish. "I just wish you could find a nice - " I cut her off. "Ali is a nice American man," I said."

When a kidnapping occurs, someone has to take charge...and it falls to Sidney, once again, to be that someone as she's drawn into events involving special agents, a kidnapping, a murder, and the lingering mystery surrounding her sister Alexandra.

Prior readers of Sidney's life, P'town community atmosphere, and mysteries will relish this ongoing story, which both adds another adventure and expands Sidney's personality and life encounters.

Jeannette de Beauvoir has created a likeable, engrossing protagonist who is persistent and spunky and vulnerable. Different theories and options provide new perspectives on Sidney's friendships and potential suitors.

As the whale watch experience moves into concerns over the human trafficking operation embedded into her beloved town, readers gain new insights not only into Sidney's evolving life, but the social issues which affect families and change communities.

Much more than just a murder mystery or a probe of Sidney's world, Dead in the Water offers a close inspection of P'town society and Sidney's efforts to solve a problem that challenges its members: "I don't even know who to talk to," I said. "I don't know who knows anything." "You know people who know P'town," he reminded me. "That's where this thing starts and ends, Sydney. It's not a national story. It's just us here. The Almadas have been part of this town for generations. The answer is in here, not out there."

Prior series fans will find Sidney's latest story offers social and criminal inspections that are absolutely riveting.

The Maltese Attack
Jay Perin
East River Books
9781736468012, $3.99 Ebook / $14.99 Paperback

The Maltese Attack opens in 1974 on the Egyptian/Libyan border, where U.S. Senator Temple is involved in a search-and-rescue mission involving young people he'd inadvertently played a role in endangering.

Even Temple's stint in the army hasn't prepared him for the active combat situation he faces. And this is only the opening salvo in a series of encounters that test him in various ways on the international arena, from dirty politics to the increasingly deadly involvements of diplomat's daughter Lilah in the clans and politics of the Middle East.

Charged with more than survival, Lilah and Harry find themselves immersed in a culture and political situation way over their heads. Temple also finds himself out of his league, even given his determination and abilities.

Jay Perin crafts tense scenes surrounding all three characters in a story that moves deftly through this world: "Could she fight through this nightmare? Could they escape to safety? The men who held this part of the world in their cruel grip did not plan to let their prisoners live. The ones who'd offered help could barely help themselves."

Part of the special strength of The Maltese Attack lies in its plot and subplots, in which danger moves from the Middle East and onto American soil. A successful mission does not mean a successful long-term outcome, as Temple, Harry, and Lilah discover.

Can two clever young people and a savvy senator defy political and economic forces at work in two nations?

Perin's careful crafting of both political ramifications and family interactions is well done, injecting strong psychological inspection into the overall story of intrigue and international conflict: "Without answering directly, Temple walked to the door. "Something else to remember... pride, self-respect... it might get injured, but time heals such wounds. A life once lost will not return. Not yours, not your family's." The boy would figure things out. After all, he knew very well there was one thing in the world Andrew wanted he didn't have yet. The one person whose self-respect he wasn't able to buy."

The result is a story replete with action and interpersonal inspection. It goes beyond political arenas to consider the choices, consequences, and lives of all who fall into the trap of family secrets and international conspiracies.

Thriller readers will find the use of three powerful characters and their different perceptions and strengths makes for a fast-paced and well-written story that offers hope and insight for formulating a brave new world forged on new alliances.

A Home for Hope!
Margie Blumberg
MB Publishing
9780999446300, $12.95

Picture book readers who love dog stories will relish A Home for Hope! Its lively tone conveys the dilemma of a young stray pup who longs for a warm and happy home.

This tale may sound similar to other picture books about lost animals who find a forever home. Yet its lilting, easy rhyme, lovely illustrations by Renee Andriani, and depiction of Hope's life on the street before she is rescued by a shelter aide and put up for adoption add insights into homelessness and what makes a house a home.

The beginning of Hope's adventure leads into the second journey taking place for two siblings who, with their parents, are moving out of their beloved nana's home into a fixer-upper a long distance away.

These intertwining narratives make for more than just a singular story of a puppy. They show how pets and people rescue one another, and how a sense of home is forged through familiar and unknown connections, further strengthening its foundations.

Margie Blumberg has gone above and beyond with A Home for Hope!, which lives up to its name in exploring how that home is built on hope, fresh opportunities, and wonderful surprises. Young readers and adults who enjoy rhyming read-alouds and fun, colorful drawings will find A Home for Hope! just the ticket for exploring themes of change and new possibilities in life.

A music sheet for the song "April Showers," celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is included, along with new lyrics at the close of the book.

The Girl in the Yellow Scarf
C.R. Frigard
Independently Published
9781983575419, $12.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The Girl in the Yellow Scarf, the first of three books in The Opus Series, is set in gritty 1980's New York City and follows the unlikely relationship between black Ivy League graduate, Mike Monroe, and Sarah Davis, a white homeless artist and singer from Kentucky, who is gifted but down on her luck.

Mike first meets Sarah at a soup kitchen where he volunteers on his off night from playing piano at Johnny's bar in midtown. After Sarah shares her arduous life story that led to homelessness, Mike is inspired to pursue his once stifled dream as a composer; turning his back on the family business he is expected to run. Sarah's indomitable spirit not only influences Mike's music, but leads to both romance and a difficult situation for all those around them.

As Mike and Sarah become closer, connections between them are reinforced and new forms of giving and understanding are forged: "Sarah's story transported Mike into her world of loss, hardship, and enduring love...However, he worried her simplistic view of life made her vulnerable to sleazy opportunists. How could she possibly survive? You had to go after life with a stick and beat your way through."

When a chaotic mess unfolds on the night he declares his love for her, readers witness a changing story of vision and a relationship that ultimately comes full circle to present the kind of challenge Mike never thought possible.

Readers seeking heartwarming reads about disparate individuals in an interracial relationship that thrives against all odds will find this story pairs art and the gritty world of New York City streets with an atmosphere of upward change for both Mike and Sarah alike.

The Girl in the Yellow Scarf is an inspirational story of hope, reinvention, and following one's artistic dreams that will delight the heart and soul.

The Empty Cell
Paulette Alden
Radiator Press
9780988518926, $15.00 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Paulette Alden's new novel, The Empty Cell, with its firm roots in history, is a compelling saga set in the world of racial segregation in the 1950s. It should be on the reading list of anyone interested in Southern history, especially the Jim Crow era.

Alden's story is based on an actual lynching, that of Willie Earle, a young Black man, in Greenville, South Carolina in 1947. He had been arrested on suspicion of killing a white cab driver, and was taken from jail by a mob of cabbies who beat, stabbed and shot him to death.

The novel follows four richly drawn characters, each of whom has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by Earle's death. Each embarks on a journey to find a way out of the social and racial constraints that bind them. Lee Trammell, one of the twenty-eight cab drivers acquitted at trial, knows he is guilty and struggles with the aftermath of his actions. Alma Stone, a Black woman who works as a maid and who loved Willie when he was a child, leaves the South after his murder, only to discover that Harlem too has its prejudices and racial injustice. Lawton Chastain, a closeted gay prosecutor, realizes he must end his conventional marriage and change his life in order to find happiness; and Betsy Chastain, Lawton's young daughter, has a racial awakening that leads to an interracial affair.

Readers will be drawn into this absorbing novel powered by the characters' different experiences arising from a shared life-changing event. The Empty Cell is an important and timely testimony concerning this nation's roots, its entangled racial mindsets, and how far we have - or haven't - come since the 1950s.

A Plot for Murder, A Father Frank Mystery: Murder at the Writers Conference
James R. Callan
Pennant Publishing
9781732122734, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Digital

Rod Granet's status as an award-winning writer has earned him a spot as keynote speaker at a writer's conference. But Maggie DeLuca, Father Frank's sister, knows something else about him, and publicly accuses him of plagiarizing her writing. So when he's found dead the next day, naturally, Maggie is the prime suspect - which involves Father Frank in the difficult task of clearing her name.

In A Plot for Murder, Father Frank's efforts at first place him on the bad side of the police, who are convinced this is an open-and-shut case. As he perseveres, unexpected aid joins his side in the form of Texas Ranger Dick Richards, who tries to run interference between a determined sheriff and Father Frank's efforts.

The Sheriff of Timber County may not only have a special agenda, but a reason for pursuing Maggie's guilt. But Dick Richards has no such rationale or limitations. Determined to get at the truth, he considers Father Frank an important cohort in his investigation, and the two embark on a dangerous journey that unravels what really happened at the Lakota Retreat Center on October 29th.

The truth isn't what either he or this book's readers will easily anticipate.

This cozy Christian mystery excels in strong characters and their interests, which keeps the plot both involving and easy to relate to. Why would a small-town sheriff be committed to giving a perp an alibi?

As one character notes, "The Texas Rangers catch most criminals by paying attention to details." Detail-oriented mystery readers will find A Plot for Murder a satisfying jigsaw puzzle of details that fit together in unexpected ways to keep the mystery strong and the characters entwined and changing.

From possible deliberate ploys to cast suspicion on another to the humor which is added for a sense of comic relief ("Richards stood. "In the name of the Texas Rangers, I must commandeer this dessert." "And why is that?" asked Father Frank. "As evidence."), this is a satisfying mystery from start to finish, that ultimately questions a writer's greatest challenge.

The story builds on Maggie and Father Frank's abilities and life experiences in more ways than one, leading to unexpected pathways of growth and realization in this commendably engrossing standalone third book in the Father Frank investigative series.

D.M. Darroch
Sleepy Cat Press
9781890797201, $14.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Young adult readers ages 14-18 will find much to like in Canopy, an intriguing story about a girl who lives in a forest canopy of trees much as her ancient ancestors, who fled to the canopy to evade hoards of cannibals on the forest floor.

Sixteen year-old Ostrya has grown up in this, the only world she knows after society has long broken down and vanished due to climate change.

The world is set to again change - this time around her. as Ostrya finds her safety and confidence in her society challenged by a giant storm. Driven to make a choice between the now-devastated canopy she used to call home and the notoriously dangerous forest floor, Ostrya must make choices that determine not just her future, but the lives of her descendants as she faces a new task for her people and the lure of different options than what seemed to be her destiny.

D.M. Darroch writes with a poetic and lovely descriptive hand that is evocative and effective: "Despite what my enemies think, I'm as average as they come. That is, if average means convicted of offending the Great Ones, dishonoring The Book of Silvanus, and breaking the commandments. Most climbers never knew me, not really, and now they never will. It turns out I didn't know them all that well, either. But then, how well can we really know someone else's heart? Especially when we can't even understand our own. The branch drifts in the wind and here I sit, my past and my future separated by an unimaginable climb."

Ostrya has long been accused of living "with her head in the clouds." Now that she faces something very different, she is tasked with many unfamiliar routines, from handling antique heirlooms from the First Climbers to facing her personal disappointments, which include a proclivity for breaking everything she touches, and making the wrong decisions.

As a medical trainee, Ostrya faces a new romance with Mangrove and a charge of murder that will test even her reputation as her mother's "strong-willed child."

As the story focuses on how Ostrya both connects to and begins to break away from the family fold, including a past tragedy that has haunted her relationships with family and community alike, it builds a compelling first-person world that is intriguingly, refreshingly different from the usual dystopian story and setting.

Teens and many an adult who enjoys this genre are in for a treat, because Ostrya's haunting voice and character drives the dilemmas in a unique and engrossing manner: "The rest of the community would never forgive me...Like bindweed, the rumors were growing and spreading, strangling the life out of the truth."

Snow in Summer
Laura Kemp
Pandamoon Publishing
9781950627349, $16.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Snow in Summer is a paranormal fiction study about ghosts and a mystery that thwarts Justine Cook and brother Adam Mallory in their efforts to settle into a new life. As Book 2 of the Yellow Wood series, it will prove especially inviting to prior readers already familiar with their battles and struggles in the opening Evening in the Yellow Wood.

The prologue draws readers with another mystery - the attempted suicide of Amanda Bennett, who knows what she must do, and that she can no longer choose life over death.

This third-person introduction sets the stage for the mystery that evolves, moving into a first-person narrative in the first chapter, where Dylan and Justine are trying to live the life of a normal, ambitious, future-oriented couple despite lingering scars from past events.

It's a world that includes facets of Immortality and Shamans and girls who are able to break curses with their blood. Events that surrounded Ocqueoc Falls may have been pushed aside, but they are far from either forgotten or dead as Justine is drawn into another deadly paranormal mystery.

Laura Kemp cultivates an uncanny ability to lead mystery readers to the edges of other genres, which range from time travel experiences and paranormal encounters to romance and thriller elements designed to keep them on their toes. That she achieves all this without falling into the formula writing approaches of too many writers in each genre is the reason why Snow in Summer stands out from the crowd.

Suffice it to say that although new readers will want to turn to the first book after reading this sequel, it won't be for the opportunity to fill in any blanks; but to thoroughly enjoy the paranormal thriller elements that make Kemp's characters memorable and completely compelling.

The Greatest Hoax on Earth
Alan C. Logan
Glass Spider Publishing
9781736197417, $34.99 Hardcover; $14.99 Paper; $2.99 Kindle

The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can is a historical hoax escapade surveying the life and crimes of Frank W. Abagnale Jr., a notoriously mercurial figure who was a confidence trickster. His actions fostered a series of myths about Abagnale's real world.

Paula Parks and Mark Zinder, who provide the foreword to this survey, each knew Abagnale in very different ways, which illustrates his chameleon-like ability to fabricate a different persona to different people.

Paula knew him in the 1960s, when he posed as an airline pilot to stalk her, gaining access to her parents' home and stealing from her family and friends before he was jailed at age 21, leaving behind letters the family puzzled over before locking them away with his memory. This was long before Abagnale started telling the fabricated yarns about of his life.

Mark Zinder became his booking agent and advance man after he'd crafted a very different legend about himself in 1970s Texas. In the1980s, Mark traveled the country with Abagnale as he did speaking engagements to promote his autobiography Catch Me If You Can.

It was even later, after the two became aware of author Alan C. Logan's research into Abagnale's life and his discoveries of the disparate pieces of that world, that all three became privy to the bigger picture which is presented here.

More than most true crime or biographical sketches, The Greatest Hoax on Earth reads like a novel, replete with satisfying twists and turns made all the more powerful because of the truth behind them.

The author's own experiences with him are detailed in interview conversations that bring this milieu to life: "Every year the IPA meetings promised household names peppered among unknowns with exciting potential. The '78 meeting was no different. The sixty-two speakers included senators, congresswomen, generals, syndicated columnists, celebrated speechwriters, major TV broadcast news personalities, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and an address from President Jimmy Carter.

And among that impressive lineup was a relatively unknown speaker - Frank William Abagnale - an ex-con who advised businesses. He was certainly a gimmicky outlier. "I didn't know what to expect, but when Abagnale took the stage at IPA, I was in awe," Mark said. "He so deftly described his daring capers. Physician. Lawyer. Professor. Pilot. Millions in bogus checks. One of the most wanted men in the world, eluding all authorities through a five-year on-the-run crime spree! Now turned good guy. By then, he been on Tonight with Johnny Carson, the Today show, To Tell the Truth, and several high-impact talk shows - which all added to his credibility."

Many readers may already be familiar with Frank Abagnale's name, from his notoriety; but few will be privy to the wealth of details about not only the hoaxes he perpetuated, but how he successfully devised ways to recreate his life experiences, presenting them to the world with an aura of authenticity that belayed their fictional wellsprings.

The Greatest Hoax on Earth is startling, riveting, and hard to put down. Its eye-opening survey of not just one chameleon's life, but the methods used by the author and others to put the pieces of this unique puzzle together, will completely enthrall a wide audience beyond historical or crime story readers. The psychology underlying Abagnale's effort to rebuild his identity and the insights on not just how his hoax was perpetuated, but how it was revealed, results in an engrossing story like no other.

The Greatest Hoax on Earth may read with the action and investigative insights of fiction, but no fictional drama could compete with this uncannily true story, which concludes with a startling observation: "The more we have learned about the real life of Frank Abagnale, the more we have come to marvel at how quickly he turned it around."

Gilded Shadows
Stephanie J. Cress
NewLink Publishing
9781934051900, $15.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Gilded Shadows is the first book in the romantic fantasy series 'Elements of Discord' and presents a world in which second-class citizens, the Mixed, are stigmatized because they can't have children. This class structure is threatened when Dela's research indicates that they can, even though only certain kinds of Mixed can reproduce. This discovery leads the governing Sunfolk church to send an assassin to quell her voice and studies.

There's only one problem - the assassin falls for his intended victim. And their evolving relationship not only exposes new truths about men, women, and forces that control their world, but new challenges to each, to rise up and change themselves, each other, and their society.

As Gilwin and Dela change, their different perceptions and the foundations of this evolutionary process are introduced to readers through their eyes: "Gilwin narrowed his eyes, studying the place. An entire town of Mixed Folk. He paused, considering for the first time how he felt about them. Once he sorted out his concern for Dela, he could admit he saw nothing at all wrong with them. They were born of circumstance beyond their control. No one can help the way they are born. He wondered, with all these recent problems, why more didn't alter their appearances. It wasn't especially difficult, legal or not. Steep punishments for racial alteration were unreasonable, but the crime was difficult to determine."

How can an assassin evolve a race of peaceful people? Why was Gilwin's mission to rid the world of Dela doomed to fail, and was it an intentional suicide assignment?

As Gilwin and Dela learn more about how they and their world were (and are) being manipulated, readers become thoroughly engrossed in their dilemmas and growing determination to change things.

As hidden truths evolve about illicit children, a saboteur is unleashed who threatens to flood and destroy everything. Only Gilwin and Dela can stop him...if their love for one another and these newfound truths don't thwart their efforts.

Fast-paced, built with strong characters and an appealingly different world, Gilded Shadows is especially strong in its social and political inspections which, when paired with strong characters and their romantic connection, grow the story into a dark adventure that is engrossing and often satisfyingly unpredictable. It concludes with a legacy that sets the stage for the next book, while providing an appealing end to this segment of the action.

Bird in a Snare
N.L. Holmes
WayBack Press
9798641650951, $14.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Bird in a Snare presents a mystery surrounding Lord Hani, an Egyptian diplomat married to a chantress of Amen, who is assigned to investigate the murder of a bandit leader in Syria.

The last thing he expected was to become caught up in a new king's reforms which affect his culture, his family, and his job. But, as Lord Hani begins to find himself caught in a trap partially of his own making, so he becomes even more entangled in a plot that goes against his own king for the sake of a justice he might have to defend with his life.

N.L. Holmes excels in capturing nuances of Lord Hani's Egyptian world as he considers the rising tide of questions about his ventures and the changing political arena around him: "So many questions to which I have no answers, he thought hopelessly. Not even men of Yanakh-amu's and Ptah-mes's rank have answers. We seem to be working in a blinding sandstorm of ignorance."

Conversations with those around him reveal ulterior motives and connections, leading him deeper into the mystery of who is really pulling the strings behind the scenes: "He might well have had a hand in it, Hani. But he's not the only one who wanted to see Abdi-ashirta out. No, he's not the only one." Hani struggled to retain his aplomb in the face of what had the air of deliberate baiting. He said with a patient smile, "Who else might have wanted to see him out?"

Between northern grudges, nefarious individuals' undercover efforts to become king, political ambitions and influences, and Hani's own growing suspicions about his job and his role in the investigation, readers receive an engrossing mystery set in Egypt under Akhenaten's rule that probes politics and family ties alike.

Readers who like their mysteries embedded with cultural, social, and political inspection as well as an evolving sense of changing family relationships will find Bird in a Snare excels in crafting a sense of place ("Having sung mentally his little song of joyful greeting to the rising sun, like the baboons of Ra, Hani made his way back through the mat that hung over the door of the house to keep out the flies.") It will especially delight mystery readers who want more than a simple whodunit.

Replaced Parts
Stephanie Hansen
Fire & Ice (print publisher)
Tantor (audiobook publisher)
9781953735027, $4.99

Young adult readers seeking romance in their dystopian sci-fi stories will find Replaced Parts incorporates a number of different, compelling themes into its story of sixteen-year-old Sierra, whose sole objective in 2163 is to locate her missing father.

The last thing on her mind was facing the government's corruption and wide-ranging interplanetary control; but when she achieves one goal, it's only to find that her rescue mission has turned into one of bigger challenges.

In the course of her changing mission, Sierra also faces many truths about her actions and the fact that she may not yet be mature enough to understand their ramifications, or her place in the political landscape that is unfolding: "I must have blocked the truth out, not wanting to see pain inflicted on him. My excitement at the thought of seeing him and possibly returning him home clouded my vision. Here I am pretending to be an adult when I feel more like a child than I ever have before."

As she begins to question who to trust and the reality of the situation, Sierra begins to grow and change, questioning the facade of life around her: "Is Colsam's story about being here to be closer to the enemy a cover, or is what he's telling Theopat the true smoke and mirrors?"

A mad scientist, an endangered family, a series of seemingly impossible tasks, and romance all lead Sierra on an unexpected journey not just into the underlying facets of a society she'd barely acknowledged, but into her own place in the world.

As she comes to realize that scientist Cromwell has been pulling her strings all along, Sierra ultimately comes to question many ideas about her father's disappearance and her personal call to action.

Young adults seeking sci-fi stories about personal and political growth, who like additional facets of intrigue, romance, and social inspection added into the mix, will find Replaced Parts an intriguing story. It's powered by a strong first-person adventure that keeps readers on edge and guessing as Sierra evolves, both in her psychological development and by recognizing the ultimate purpose and impact of her efforts to save her father.

Remembering Rosie: Memories of a Wisconsin Farm Girl
Nadine A. Block
Page Publishing Inc.
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781662430503, $17.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Remembering Rosie: Memories of a Wisconsin Farm Girl is Nadine A. Block's memoir about growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm in the 1950s, where she and her siblings learned "to respect hard work, teamwork, and nature." It was an era of hard work, rural challenges in running a family business, and one in which her favorite cow Rosie's ultimate demise cements her newfound realization about her future away from farming: "As a child, I had torn feelings about growing up on a farm. On that day, the bad feelings won. I vowed I would never be a farmer. I would never be a farmer's wife. I would grow up and make a life for myself where work wasn't so hard and I didn't have to participate in killing animals."

While the memoir includes predictable reflections on growing up in a farming family environment, it also includes astute observations of this rural community: "...even with all the advantages of this tight-knit community, there were some drawbacks. It bred a narrowness of ideas and what behavior was acceptable. Outsiders included anyone not white, Christian, rural, or accepting of our values."

As she learns lessons not only from the people but the animals around her, Block transmits to readers how her perceptions of her family and her place in the world change as she goes through school and life experiences.

These come full circle to appreciate the values that her rural Wisconsin roots imparted - values which continue to serve her well in modern times: "Today, the world is so much about greed, money, and material things. I love the fact that my mom grew up on a working dairy farm. It makes me feel more grounded in life."

This juxtaposition of childhood and past experiences and their influence on present-day values makes Remembering Rosie stand out from the number of rural farming memoirs already on the market.

Block recreates many of her memories and modifies them for this book ("Chapter 3, which introduces the Ludwig family in 1950, is my memory of the way our family interacted at that time, rather than an exact story of that day.").

The result is a lovely, inviting blend of past reminiscence and inspection of the rural values that built a foundation for one woman's long life. Pull up a chair and visit a bygone era with Remembering Rosie for a while. These stories and their impact are well worth the time!

Send The Word
James Hockenberry
Pensword Publishing
9780991561247, $14.99

Buy Send The Word:

Buy the trilogy:

Send The Word is part of Hockenberry's World War One Intrigue series, set during the end of World War One, centering on the actions of U.S. Army Captain Gil Martin, his best friend Lieutenant Paul Keller (an army intelligence assistant and long-term partner on the Bomb Squad), and his wife, Shannon Tunney Keller. She works in New York City with the New York City Police Department's elite Bomb Squad unit and detective bureau and does her part from home, never quite knowing if she'll soon be a widow.

They are intelligence officers on the Western Front who struggle to identify an assassin who has targeted General Pershing, and secret betrayers who would thwart the efforts of the Allies in the midst of battle.

A recap of the history of Spring 1918 real-world events is needed, and is provided in an introduction which sets the stage for their actions. This assures that readers need no prior background in World War I military events to understand the nuances and struggles presented in this novel.

The story opens as the German army overwhelms the British front. Shannon is a confident woman in a man's world, joining fellow female suffragettes in shedding the vestiges of female oppression, from clothing to attitudes.

Her current investigation of a Tammany Hall case involving corruption is shadowed by wider-ranging concerns as her new husband, Detective Paul Keller, becomes a member of Army Intelligence and an untested lieutenant on the Western Front.

As Martin and Keller strain to unravel a plot that could change the course of the war, Shannon faces her own struggles at home. She's kept informed by letters from Gil and develops insights into the costs this war has demanded of everyone she knows.

When events turn tragic and Martin must face the fact that Paul is likely dead, his feelings of failure grow. The only things that seem set to survive this struggle are a locket, a promise, and love.

James Hockenberry does an excellent job of juxtaposing the backdrop of a European front embroiled in battle and subterfuge with the concurrent life of a proactive woman who faces her own mission at home.

He is especially strong at describing the environment of the battlefield and the struggles soldiers faced both within themselves and during their experiences: "Exhausted, wet, and furious, Keller received word that the 79th Division attacks were halted for the night. Preparations should be made to continue them the next morning. With the respite, he had time to realize he had suffered numerous wounds.

None serious if tended. All he could do was bandage himself and wait. Maybe he was already in Hell and didn't know it."

The actual history intersects with the fictional story of Shannon's own special charge of thwarting a dangerous plot on the home front, and is seamlessly presented as well as accurately represented: "Maybe issues of life and death are not as black and white as they seem. Did her husband feel the same way about his fight?"

As questions arise on both sides about the costs of these efforts, historical fiction readers (especially those interested in World War I backdrops) will find Send The Word an outstanding interplay of demanding scenarios, intrigue, and strong characters who each grow their personalities from their special challenges.

The intrigue and action make for an involving story indeed, highly recommended for military history readers and those who like stories of strong women conducting their own effective operations on the home front.

The Risks of Dead Reckoning
Felicia Watson
D.X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072899, $18.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

The Risks of Dead Reckoning adds Book 3 to The Lovelace Series, reaching sci-fi and romance readers alike with the story of Lieutenant Naiche Decker, who must set aside her excitement about her engagement to embark on a last mission on the ship Lovelace to investigate a distress call from a space crew who should have died 200 years ago.

Her boyfriend Lt. Commander Talako Jacoway's recent assignment to their ship and her kinship with Captain Ricci must both be set aside in the name of duty. But when a rescue mission turns into a confrontation with vindictive creatures and dangers on the planet Tolu, these connections may be the one thing that gives their ship an edge.

They also make the crew even more vulnerable as relationships as well as lives are threatened, forcing Naiche to make decisions in the best interests of not only her survival, but everyone around her.

As she confronts the dangers and desires of a geide stone (a coveted treasure most of the galaxy is interested in), Naiche uncovers costs that are heavy to pay and perspectives that need to be changed, if she is to enjoy not one but two weddings in her future.

The Risks of Dead Reckoning is a strong examination of best friends both animal and human; achievements; and paradigm-changing missions that lead individual characters to consider their own inherent goals and conflicts as they interact with aliens and each other.

Naiche didn't realize her mission would involve a treasure hunt and a confrontation with aliens and death. Her special challenges and her evolving romantic encounters alike make for an intriguing interplay between special interests and forces, giving The Risks of Dead Reckoning a different feel than the usual space adventure.

Readers who like their sci-fi romances embedded in action and intrigue will find The Risks of Dead Reckoning cultivates a different brand of attraction that will keep women readers, especially, engrossed and involved.

The Constitution and American Racism
David P. Madden
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476683942, $39.95 Paper/$17.99 Kindle

The Constitution and American Racism: Setting a Course of Lasting Injustice is a history book that takes a different approach to the subject of Constitutional process. It examines how racism has slowly been injected into interpretations of Constitutional law since its enactment, from ensuring slavery was protected by law to how the Electoral College supported this flawed process.

Many discussions have cited Constitutional law and precedents in the course of analyzing its role in justice; but few books have approached this topic from the standpoint of connecting the dots between circumstances of injustice and systemic racism.

David P. Madden is a retired trial lawyer who practiced in federal and state courts throughout the country. He also taught law and American history at the college level, so is in the perfect position to make these comparisons and cases.

The Constitution and American Racism documents many circumstances where the Constitution has become not a document of freedom, but an instrument of repression. These include Constitutional flaws that enabled wide-ranging racial, economic, and social disparities that negated the country's own messages of democracy for all and unity to states' rights, tyrannical administrations and manifestos coming from presidents and congressional leaders alike, and interactions between judicial systems and governing heads.

The Constitution and American Racism is highly recommended reading for high school to college readers, as well as law school and American history students. Anybody concerned about civil rights, government power and process, and the ongoing and even strengthening rule of racist attitudes and systems in the U.S. needs to read this book, which ideally will be part of any civil rights or civic studies discussion.

Last Star Standing
Spaulding Taylor
9781789650976, $7.99 Kindle

Last Star Standing gives sci-fi readers a flawed hero in Aiden, a rebel assassin who is awaiting execution for his crimes, who is an unlikely vision of a hero.

That said, Spaulding Taylor also cultivates a wry, sarcastic form of humor as Aiden provides a first-person account of his capture, incarceration, and the ironies of his life: "I was furious. I'd never thought that the blinking Xirfell would capture me. I think I'd always assumed that - despite being the feared rulers of an embarrassing number of galaxies - they were basically just too thick. For this reason, in all of broken Earth, there could be no more pissed-off prisoner than me."

This gritty confessional tone is part of what drives the story...that, and the imperfect persona and life of a rebel who cultivates a set perspective on his life, only to find it challenged not just by adversaries, but friends:

'Aiden, don't you see it's always like this? You always have to be the first, the leader, the centre of everything! You resent Martin, you resent me - I bet you even resent Sebastian! Some new recruit shows up, and you're instantly on guard, like a dog in a pack: is she ahead of me or behind me? Do I have to worry about him, or not?'

I was stunned - because it was true. I muttered, 'But not you!'

She leaned back against one of the trunks - it was one of those tree forts without proper sides. 'Listen, me especially. I'm perceived as a threat to your precious pecking order, so I have to get shoved out of the way. What happened at the Centre was utterly illuminating - of your mind and your feelings. Not merely about the way you feel about women, but about the way you feel about me!'

It's hard to think that a bullheaded, reckless rebel would be the ultimate savior of humanity, but Aiden fits the bill as he faces spider creatures, comes through (seven times!) for the cause- only to be expelled as an officer of the rebellion, the only family he's ever known and the only cause he's ever belonged to.

It's hard to think that a bullheaded, reckless rebel would be the ultimate savior of humanity, but Aiden fits the bill as he comes through (seven times!) for the cause- only to be expelled as an officer of the rebellion - the only family he's ever known, and the only cause he's ever belonged to. There's a fine blend of fast-paced action in the form of battles and confrontations, both with aliens and within traitors within the ranks. Readers will find Aiden's special brand of reflection and irony to be compelling.

Last Star Standing is a gritty, unique sci-fi drama powered by an unlikely hero and unexpected humor. Its encounters and progression will keep even seasoned sci-fi readers engrossed and involved in this world-saving effort that goes awry in the most unexpected ways.

The Concrete Vineyard
Cam Lang
Tellwell Talent
9780228832249, $27.99 Hardcover/$18.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

The Concrete Vineyard blends politics with a cozy mystery as it covers the murder of a retired history professor in a small-town vineyard.

Edward Mitchell just put his mansion, the most revered historic estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, up for sale. Most likely, his death was somehow connected to that move. Or, was it?

Homicide detective Bryan Dee is not keen about his job or its challenges. He just wants to close the case; especially since circumstances look to be clear-cut. But he knows nothing about property sales and taps his old friend Kris Gage, an urban planner who has just returned to his home town to help his parents, to help him understand the issues that seem to be connected to the murder.

When he discovers that Kris also has unexpected links to the event, the plot - and the town's relationships - thickens.

What begins as a murder investigation turns into a question of friendship, trust, and motive as Bryan edges closer to a truth he really doesn't want to confront.

What does all this have to do with Canada's 150th birthday and the War of 1812? Plenty; because apparently it's a battle being re-fought not just in the town, but on Bryan's own turf. And it's already turned deadly.

Cam Lang provides an absorbing story which nicely juxtaposes mystery and confrontation with small-town pleasures such as boating on the water. His use of the first person helps capture Kris's observations and experiences, using a warm tone that involves readers in not just his life, but the politics and milieu of the changing community around him. The story is rich in descriptions and insights.

Readers of cozy mysteries who enjoy social and political community commentary added into the intrigue will find The Concrete Vineyard just the ticket. It's an engrossing story of how development challenges, changes, and threatens long-held values and different generations.

More than just a whodunit murder mystery, this tale of community influence and change will keep readers thinking long after the problem comes to a head, offering insights into development and historic precedent that are thought-provoking and engrossing in and of themselves. The mystery becomes not just part of the cake, but adds an intense flavor to the frosting, as well.

The King's Decree
Torina Kingsley
Trunk Up Books
9781734906240, $9.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

The King's Decree is a novelette recommended for all ages, but especially will reach young adults looking for a unique, appealing vision as they learn about depressed Princess Davina and scullery maid Yasmin, who becomes her friend. Advanced elementary grades to teen readers will find it an easy read that embraces many topics, from depression and friendship to grief and the effects of isolation.

Based on a Russian folktale, 'The Princess Who Never Laughed', The King's Decree evolves a compelling, emotional story of two young ladies who are torn in different ways. It approaches mental health issues from two perspectives, cultivating a tone and insights designed to reach younger audiences who may not normally pick up books about understanding mental illness. The presentation draws readers in with atmosphere and understanding right from its opening lines: "Once upon a time, there lived a princess named Devina. Well...maybe "lived" isn't the best term. It's not that she was a zombie, or some other undead creature roaming the countryside and terrorizing villagers. She didn't sleep in a coffin either, like vampires do. In fact, her bed was very comfortable. No, she was human. She just never felt very lively."

When a cheerful, engaged young woman is cursed on the eve of her 15th birthday, she feels " if all of her emotions had disappeared, leaving her with a terrible emptiness inside."

Other books about mentally ill characters often focus on the faces they present to the world, or come from the viewpoints of those who try to help them. The King's Decree presents these perspectives and feelings in a very personal, relatable manner, bringing young readers into not just the causes and presentation of depression and sadness, but how these emotions effect perspectives on life and how to live it.

It's heady thinking for a younger age group...but key to developing the kinds of coping skills that will lead to better understanding and empathy for those who are mentally ill and still functioning in the world, albeit in a reduced capacity.

Having the folktale overlay these experiences lends not only to better understanding, but encourages discussions as it probes the daily lives and efforts of those who struggle with mental illness: "At first, I was dismissive of this plan that my parents hatched. Now, a week after the princes have started arriving, I am almost desperate for one of them to succeed. At least then I would know that I'm not broken, forever incapable of feelings. I would make my parents, and the rest of the kingdom, happy. I would re-inspire hope in our people. I would quell the rumors and whispers forever. Maybe I would even be genuinely happy. Instead, I feel even worse than usual."

The blend of folk story/fable and treatise on coping with mental conditions both as the sufferer and a friend on the outside results in a creative, involving story presented in a digestible, succinct, yet quite compelling format. This is especially notable because those who should read it most - the young and those suffering from mental illness themselves - often lack the ability to plow through dense or weighty reading.

There's nothing on the market quite like the approach of The King's Decree. It's a highly recommended read that should be in the collections of anyone interested in explaining and exploring mental illness, friendship, and emotional support systems to all ages.

The Search for the Scepter
Julie Dinges, author
Nazar Horokhivskyi, illustrator
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645430087, $15.95 Hardcover

Picture book readers ages 3-12 will find The Search for the Scepter an appealing fantasy about young princesses Rosalie and Scarlet, who embark on a mission when the king's scepter is stolen, one night.

A rollicking rhyme explains the break-in, the missing scepter, and how the two decide to become proactive in returning it. This lends nicely to read-aloud fun as parents review the bright, colorful illustrations that reveal the young heroines' problem-solving abilities as they follow clues to recover their property.

A romp through the royal countryside ensues. They encounter unicorns, genies, mermaid palaces, and all the fantasy trappings that will enthrall young picture book fantasy readers.

Nazar Horokhivskyi's gorgeous drawings power this exploration as the two princesses get into trouble and learn many extraordinary new things during the course of their journey.

Young picture book readers (and, especially, parents looking for colorful, original read-alouds) will find The Search for the Scepter a fitting story of courage, determination, and world wonders that ultimately provides lessons about finding support and friendships in unexpected places.

Piercing Human Experience
Tushar Choksi
Advaya Press
9780578701608, $12.99

Also available at Ingram Spark

Piercing Human Experience Based on Mandukya Karika is recommended for readers of Indian Eastern philosophy, and uses the Vedanta to translate human experience and perception and its spiritual lessons.

The mind affects our experience in a myriad of ways and consists of "...the experiencer, experience, and the means of experience." Piercing this experience with the help of the Vedant or Shruti reveals a consistency and foundation that unifies the seemingly disparate individual experiences.

From detaching from personal self to true self in order to shine, to focusing the mind on God and training the mind not only for meditation but absorbing Godly qualities in a form of mental worship, Piercing Human Experience demonstrates how to achieve a new level of understanding and awareness. It applies tried and true methods of contemplation, reflection, meditation and awareness towards a central, key goal, expanding beyond a focus on the nature of the self to consider greater purposes and connections.

The mind affects our experiences as it translates them. This may also be the element that leads to a better relationship between experience, consciousness, and spiritual perceptions.

As chapters discuss waking and dream states, the causes and remedies of suffering, different states of experience, and restraining the mind using self-knowledge, they provide important insights that readers of Eastern spirituality and philosophy, in particular, will find both enlightening and practical for applying to daily living.

Eastern religion readers will find that Piercing Human Experience connects dots between experience, mind, and consciousness, making for an enlightening and thought-provoking reflection.

Freedom Sex and a Meat Cleaver
Sherman Miles
Independently Published
9780578528724, $10.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Freedom Sex and a Meat Cleaver: Wild Adventures in Southeast Asia romps through Southeast Asia based on real-life events as seen through the eyes of Pierce Colter, a young American adventure-seeker who embarks on his journey in the mid-70s.

Sergeant Pierce Colter doesn't even know where Thailand is when he is assigned to the Headquarters of the Armed Forces Thailand Network in Korat during the Vietnam War, there to forge new alliances with Thailand as the war winds down.

What seems like the opportunity of a lifetime turns into a series of escapades as Pierce explores some of the "most secret places on earth", gets into and out of trouble, and samples the culture and ironies of the region.

Sherman Miles excels in a gritty, realistic delivery that captures the milieu of time and place through conversations and descriptions that are vividly depicted: "The biggest market and I mean the biggest even bigger than Bangkok, for heroin out of Long Tieng was none other than Saigon. Can you fuckin' believe that? Delivered right into the hands of South Vietnamese government officials and military officers. Guess who they sold it to?" I shrugged my shoulders. The question hung in the thick Mekong air. He threw back another shot and purred like a big kitty stoned on catnip. "Umm...." A smirk lifted his red cheeks as he admired the glass held lightly between his fingers. "Whiskey's like a beautiful woman. She demands appreciation. You gaze first. Then it's time to drink."

Real-world issues (such as how so many soldiers returned home as heroin junkies) come to life because of these succinct, hard-hitting assessments, which also will hit home to readers interested in the era and its special challenges: "He seemed to me to be everyman in Southeast Asia surrounded by confusion, destruction, and the imminent end of an era. The grunts on the ground and the pawns in the planes, the last cast of actors in a forsaken play staged by directors safe in their ivory bunkers back in Washington. Mike's job would be over in the seconds it took to sign his final paycheck. Back to Boise, spuds, and snow. No Mekong. No tropical Air America, just life, and death for a leftover in the state of

Idafuckin'-ho. I'd seen guys crying in their beer, watched rookie recruits whining for their mommies, but never seen a grown man shed tears in a shot of whiskey. Sometimes the smartest are hit the hardest because they feel the big picture."

From bar scenes to visa violations, Pierce's journey of discovery gets him bounced from Thailand. This sets him on track to explore and contrast it with the nearby countries of Laos and Cambodia, introducing a contrast in Asian affairs, women, and the sexual underworlds of the region.

It should be noted that these realistic, pointed descriptions won't be for everyone. Readers who look for 'clean' stories will find that Freedom Sex and a Meat Cleaver doesn't fit the bill (which one should have determined by its title alone), but does prove just the ticket for male readers seeking a blend of crazy adventure, cultural insights, and encounters that are, at times, both life- and paradigm-threatening.
Here is the real Asia that temporary tourists don't see. Here is a young man at the peak of his life, experiencing challenges to social and sexual norms. And here is a vivid story that is nicely portrayed, with powerful language and vivid encounters keeping readers engrossed throughout as it contrasts cultures experienced both in and outside of uniform.

As the story winds through "the malodorous

klongs, the sleazy alleyways, and around destitute derelicts," so it captures the spirit and contrasts between an America's perception of freedom and Asian culture and the realities before his eyes.

Sherman grew to love this world. So will his readers. And, females unafraid of graphic, true-life reality depictions and candid male assessments of women will also find much to like in Freedom Sex and a Meat Cleaver. There's never a dull moment.

Anna & the American Puzzle
Jennifer Kasman
Independently Published
9781736060018, $27.99 Hardcover, $19.26 Paper, $11.49 Kindle

Anna & the American Puzzle purports to be set in a near-future America; but many elements of its political setting strike all too close to home, given the events of the last four years.

This America has been taken over by a party based on wealthy, religious, and social media-derived power structures, and is not chipping but hacking away at the foundations of American freedom. Under this rule, technology use is restricted to government purposes. It's here that Anna, who lives in poverty under these limitations, drafts her diary.

Much like the Diary of Anne Frank, the Anna in this futuristic society creates an observational piece that juxtaposes her worldview with personal experience. Unlike Frank, these aren't succinct entries, but full-length chronological observations that open with a surprising prologue seemingly set in an everyday girl's world before it moves into a probe of the forces that pointed her life down a different path than she'd anticipated. At this point, it's evident that Anna's America is becoming increasingly unfamiliar and challenging.

The following quiet reflection leads to the first chapter, 'The Education of a Girl', set in Spring 2024, neatly settings the stage for her evolving story by identifying the past and present realities of a much-changed America and her place in it: "If someone told me when I met Maridel that I would wind up living apart from my mother and siblings because of her, I would not have believed you. Poor families generally lived together forever, it became one common way the poor ensured survival in America. In fact, if someone told me when I was younger that my life would take any of the twists and turns it wound up taking, I would not have believed you. But I guess most things in life are unpredictable, right? Like the fact that although we could use the internet and cell phones when I was in my early days of elementary school, I would wind up living in an America where, during the end of elementary school, the internet and cell phones had been banned for use as a form of connection and social communication, social media becoming only a chapter in our new American history books for the purpose of reminding us of why there was such a ban."

By the time Anna is fourteen, she holds only memories of those freedoms which were once part of her everyday world. These memories eventually foster newfound convictions when Maridel and the Party offer her a key role to play in changing the face of America.

But Anna doesn't remain a child for long. Married and facing the possibility of a pregnancy that is not only forbidden but should have been impossible, Anna finds that her choices have narrowed in some ways, forcing her to expand her worldview and thoughts about those around her: "Are you seriously worried about what they will think about me being pregnant?" I asked heatedly, "We're married. It happens. They don't own us, James. I work for them, but this is our life. So what if they introduced us! So what if they have their hand in everything! At some point, it is not about them. This is about us. This should be a miracle, not a curse," I was shouting by this point, hurt and disappointed at his reaction."

As she becomes important in an alarming new way that tests her abilities and boundaries, Anna finds herself an unexpected (and unwanted) pivot point for change.

Jennifer Kasman's literary examination embraces social issues, politics, and futuristic sci-fi examination as it follows Anna through this milieu. Her changes spark new insights and determination, bringing readers into not only the milieu of a much-changed nation and populace, but creating engrossing contrasts between the perspectives and objectives of rich and poor. This society has been deeply divided by socioeconomic disparities, social media, and civil rights issues alike. How can it heal?

Anna & the American Puzzle is an important, thought-provoking probe of a futuristic possibility. It is highly recommended for a wide range of readers, from sci-fi audiences who will find the near-future setting absorbing to readers of social and political fiction and works embracing feminist thought. All are pieces of the greater American puzzle that empowers Anna to step out of her comfort zone and contribute to an unexpected new possibility for America's future.

It's a story especially recommended for anyone who enjoys contemplating the direction this country is taking today.

A Multicultural Picnic
Victor D.O. Santos
9781649620927, $23.99 Hardcover; $12.99 Paper; $4.99 Kindle

Picture book readers ages 4-9, especially those who have enjoyed the prior contributions to the 'Polygot' series, will find A Multicultural Picnic expands the series by exploring Dylan and Isabella's experiences with grandparents who come to visit from abroad.

A picnic in the park turns into a learning opportunity not just because Dylan's yearly visit with his grandparents involves the opportunity to speak Ukrainian and Portuguese, but because the family confronts unwelcoming forces in the park as the two mixed-race families enjoy a lively conversation in English, Ukrainian, Portuguese, and Zulu.

As the children confront park bullies, an unexpected opportunity to foster understanding arises. This encounter teaches young readers about not just different languages, but how to understand and cultivate kindness.

Victor D.O. Santos builds on the polygot language idea explored in previous books, linking different languages and cultures to a broader sense of acceptance, variety, and facing life challenges, in this book.

Character choices lead to a secret revealed and further connections between different cultures, which educates young readers about different families and newfound opportunities not just for understanding, but working together to solve problems.

Even more so than the previous books in the series, A Multicultural Picnic is an expansive, inclusive production that provides a supportive, positive message worthy of not just young reader attention, but classroom and family discussion.

Alicia Anthony
Drury Lane Books
9781733362481, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

In Fractals, seventeen-year-old Carly Dalton is new in school, and has gotten into trouble. High school teacher Asher Thompson only wants to help when he sees her in a truck stop late at night, but the two instead embark on a dangerous connection when they uncover each other's secrets.

Carly is living a nightmare surrounding a drunk father and abuse, while Asher's in the process of putting a demon from the past behind him.

As the thriller evolves, each character acknowledges the points where they need to let loose of their fears and patterns even as they continue to become entwined in them - and each other: "Dr. Morrison had warned him about doling out pieces of his life without ever allowing anyone to see the full picture. But the words got stuck."

In a milieu where good and evil are shady grey boundaries, how can Carly and Asher truly evolve towards freedom? When issues of human trafficking come into play, each character faces a deadly decision that will affect the trajectories of their lives.

Alicia Anthony excels at injecting psychological tension and suspense into a wider-ranging scenario of good, evil, and desperate choices. As she explores a realistic, dangerous social situation, she also considers how people arrive at conundrums and dangerous points in their lives.

From detectives who think they know all about the usual patterns of abuse and who fit Asher, as the bad guy, neatly into their view of what must have happened, to Asher's own guilt as his ex, Jo, and others are threatened ("God, if only it had been him. He could have been here. Could have stopped the monster that had haunted him for the better part of the last decade. Better yet, why hadn't he convinced her to stay at his place that night."), the story is especially adept at exploring complex relationships, and becomes supercharged in its progression through terror and increasing danger.

Readers who look for stories of psychological suspense that keep them thinking about the foundations and definitions of good, evil, and making the right choices will find Fractals driven by not just math and formulas, but involvements and outcomes they won't see coming.

The Boy Who Loved to Climb Trees
Bruce Sherman
Independently Published
9798648921139, $14.95 Paper/Kindle

The Boy Who Loved to Climb Trees: Stories for Kids provides kids with 61 pages of poetry that centers around playful memories of Sherman's childhood. It will reach children and adult readers alike, who walk those roads and live those memories alongside him.

These rhyming verses explore aspects of childhood that provide a wide age range with food for thought and discussion. One example is 'Hunting', which explores why hunting was never an attraction to the narrator: "I've shot some squirrels with my BB gun, but none of them ever died!/ButI must confess that eating game meat is something I have tried (and liked!)" Adventures described range from fishing to sailing and climbing the Matterhorn.

While the subtitle states that this collection is for kids, it's especially appropriate for advanced elementary to middle grades just learning about poetic forms, who like stories that resonate with their worldviews or experiences.

This audience will find especially delightful the insights on common childhood adventures that range from backyard tenting to dreams of being a movie cowboy or whittling. Games now likely bygone to younger generations, such as Mumblety-Peg, are also surveyed with both fond memory and consideration of why its allure has faded: "Today's kids don't play it anymore...Most of their "games" are played indoor./They also aren't allowed to have a knife.../They're closely protected throughout their life!"

If an activity-oriented collection of boyhood endeavors and memories is of interest, this poetry collection is just the ticket for libraries and read-aloud alike. It brings the experiences of youth to life, and will prove especially appealing for adults who want to discuss those activities of yesteryear with kids who may find some of them appealing today.

Homeless in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020
Freedom from the Streets with Virginia Farris
Independently Published
9798559303079, $14.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Homeless in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020 follows Freedom from the Streets director African-American Junail Anderson's efforts to provide food and shelter to the homeless. It gathers twenty personal stories of men and women who live on the streets of that city.

Anderson and her workers aren't part of any government program. This freedom enables them to move quickly to where they are most needed, keeping their ears to the ground and their eyes open as they move within the homeless community to reach the hurting and marginalized.

The book offers not only personal perceptions and enlightening insights but is written from a Christian perspective. The perceptions and insights from the interviews will prove especially hard-hitting for Christians who volunteer to help the homeless but don't necessarily want to acknowledge the problems in their own communities. In the preface, Pastor Paul Olson provides eye-opening revelations from his own experiences with Director Junail Anderson that will cause many Christians, even those sympathetic about helping the homeless, to stop in their tracks and take a look at their ideas versus their more privileged lives.

These revelations come in the very beginning when Anderson brings 'her people' right to the doorsteps of Logan-Park-area residents from the dangerous, too-large tent city in Minneapolis's Powderhorn Park.

Pastor Paul's initial reaction was to feel overwhelmed by the need and physical presence of this group: "In my almost twenty years of full-time Christian ministry, I have learned to forget "ordinary" and to expect the impossible, but I was worried. As a policy we've never encouraged the homeless we help to sleep in a public space, nor could we ever start. Would the new residents of Logan Park make it? What would they eat? What would they drink? Would their bodies be safe from the elements? Where were they going to go when the weather started to turn ugly and cold and what would they wear? These are the basic questions of life, yet Jesus told us worry and anxiety would not add a single day to our lives. But I was seriously worried, because I knew our church staff had little capacity to help. On that day, however, I saw no worry on Junail's smiling face, only faith and a determination to look out for the people God had called her to take care of."

As readers absorb these diverse stories, they will begin to understand many facets of the homeless community in Minneapolis. For instance, they'll learn about its disparate makeup and experiences that connect under the umbrella of need to the evolution of the Freedom from the Streets organization and the helping hands of active church and community members.

Homeless projects that don't listen to and interact with the people they are helping have a tendency to become ineffective, alienated, and bureaucratically repressive. Freedom from the Streets provides an alternative.

It should be noted that the interview questions that direct and drive this collection are what give it such a powerful impact. They capture the voices and experiences of these people in ways mainstream Americans may not anticipate, as in the case of one homeless woman: "I want people to think of me as loyal and charismatic. I want them to think of my ability to get going and keep going. I never give up. If I start something I have to finish it. I have OCD so bad. I'm a perfectionist in everything I do. I think I'm a great role model for people that have been through stuff that I've been through. I give good advice. I'm able to see the big picture of situations that I'm not really connected to."

These people are not only savvy about survival on the streets, but about their own psyches, potentials, and the forces that have placed them in this situation through a combination of personal choice and life mishaps.

The interview questions ("Do you regret anything?" "What are your dreams for the future?" "What's the hardest thing about being homeless?") are designed to bring the personalities, visions, ambitions, and concerns of homeless people into everyday American lives.

Like author Virginia Farris, readers may not anticipate this level of reveal and involvement. Also like her, it will be hard to ignore the call for help presented within this collection of experiences that aims to personalize individuals within a group too commonly depersonalized by the blanket label and stigma of "homeless."

Homeless in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020 is a powerful collection highly recommended for social issues and contemporary collections. It brings these concerns right into your living room and classroom. Don't open the book unless you're willing to listen much closer to the message of the homeless than the usual distant news report offers.

Apple Pie Ultra 8
Arthur K. Flam
Independently Published
9780578838830, $4.28 ebook/$8.00 Paper

Apple Pie Ultra 8 is a novelette narrating the strange life of twenty-six-year-old Honest Ultra Pure, who becomes part of a dystopian world he no longer comprehends - a world in which "All of this happened, in what was known as the future."

It's a world through which this first-person narrator bounces and jiggles down the street absorbing his win, his revised life, and the end of the Terror of the Terrors which has been destroyed by the narrator, who sees himself as a savior, of sorts.

At this point, several things should be noted. Arthur K. Flam reveals this world and its revised appearance in just 41 pages, which would seem to place it more in the short story/novelette realm. But what a short piece it is, packed with a rollicking, rolling language that uses symbols and metaphor to capture first-person observations of this disparate new world: "My birth name being what it is, that was the beginning of the fruit of the royalty. A name like Honest Ultra Pure, well, you can bet it caused me to be pretty well-known and celebrated from the start where I lived on The Boulevard of Faith by J-Turn Jesus 1280 in my hometown of Honestly. Everybody from that sweet place - Honestly - is sweetly honest, and I am, well, the most honestly honest of all, I'll have to say, and I hate crooked liars and destroy them. And Faith, that is all I have; Permanent Faith and Love. Of course, I am the greatest and indestructible to an unimaginable extent and I won't yield to threats of any kind, and anyone who threatens yours truly in a sadistic manner, with an empty hostility, or a bona-fide hostility, is completely destroyed beyond any possibility of fix. I relish the attacks, any and all attacks. Without limit. Endlessly, for any and all attacks against yours truly writing these words are reversed upon the attacker endlessly."

From this, it should be evident that an appreciation for run-on sentence descriptions that embrace the narrator's rollicking, jiggling worldview is essential for appreciation of this unique venture into a world replete with madness, dystopian survival tactics, religious fervor, or all three elements.

From a confrontation with a killer Terror to the narrator's own self-examination and revelations, this is no light read, despite its bouncy litany, but an absorbing probe of future and self much like the classic Ridley Walker.

As for its title, the explanation is as mercurial as the story: "Apple Pie Ultra 8 is apples grown in these lush regions where I hail from, a special type of apple in the shape of a U called Ultra Apple 8 and nothing else. Ultra for a positively fortunate fortune. It is a unique apple that is served on a hot and seductive and dripping silver tray, that beckons with its U-turn shape as it cradles the apple, and the curvy apple is one of strength for witchcraft purposes. And why the 8? The 8 of course stands for infinity divinity - "

Literary readers interested in a lively expose of the future and self will find Honest's journey towards the "true way home" and his confrontations and encounters along the way to be engrossing, challenging, and worthy of re-read. Much is packed into these 41 pages of transformative experience. Those who enjoy unusually rich stories of strength, survival, and revised purpose will find this piece hard to easily categorize and especially satisfying for its unique format and eerily compelling voice.

Finding Napoleon: A Novel
Margaret Rodenberg
She Writes Press
9781647420161, $16.95

Most casual history readers recall Napoleon Bonaparte's life as being one of a little man who affected one of the greatest wars in human history; but Margaret Rodenberg's historical biography focuses on lesser-known history surrounding the end his life.

The emperor spends his final years in exile on the remote island of St Helena. Author Margaret Rodenberg has actually visited this island, and so is in the perfect position to capture its milieu as the backdrop of Napoleon's final story.

As Napoleon's relationship with Albine de Montholon, his last love, is revealed and the final years of his life are probed, readers will enjoy a fascinating blend of fiction, biography, and history. These elements are made all the stronger by Rodenberg's ability to bring to life the perspectives of not just Napoleon, but those who found themselves part of his final years. Albine introduces this story with a captivating observation of her involvement: "Unless you too stitched a white gown for the guillotine, do not judge me. But if you'd faced the terrors I have - if you were Empress Josephine herself - I'd accept your judgment on my morals."

Interspersed throughout is Rodenberg's adaptation of an unfinished novel Napoleon tried to write when he was young and idealistic. Within its charming coming-of-age love story, readers glimpse the famous man's humble origins and see the man he hoped to be.

This is a powerful example of how fiction can bring history to life, giving its characters personality and purpose that a collection of dry historical dates and events can't touch. This is especially true in Finding Napoleon, because its sense of purpose and discovery holds the ability to reach those with little background in Napoleon's times or his actions.

Besides the psychological insights into events and Napoleon's character, Rodenberg cultivates lively descriptions of surroundings and people that draw readers in and sometimes adds a light touch of humor: "The door opened, and General Sir Hudson Lowe stood on the threshold, gnawing on his lower lip. His prominent forehead overhung a hawkish nose and a receding chin. In an unpleasant way, Lowe's long neck reminded him of his mother. The lanky man spoke through his nose. "I should have liked to have seen you this morning when I informed you I would call. It was most imperative to write my initial report." He sniffed. "You do not appear ill to me." The Emperor had been prepared to overlook yesterday's insulting message, but then he hadn't beheld its sender. Marchand closed the door, leaving him alone to face a man whose eyes shifted like a hyena in a trap."

From the heavy tone of politics which still run through his isolated life on the island to longings for a freedom denied, the story creates a full-faceted examination of the Emperor's world, from relationships and ongoing political strife to daily challenges: "Tobyson and Albine played a game of catch in the garden. The Emperor pressed his palms to his windowpane. He yearned to feel their laughter."

Part of this discussion revolves around the strength and circumstances of women who are part of his life, both past and present. Rodenberg is equally adept at capturing their lives, too, as she describes Napoleon's world: "Poor, sweet Albine. She would have been a better woman if she'd lived under better circumstances. The Revolution had ruined her, as it had corrupted his dear Josephine. Alchemists should forget changing lead to gold. They should transmute fear to courage, treachery to loyalty, debauchery to innocence."

Finding Napoleon is especially recommended reading for women who usually eschew historical biographies. Its fine weave of facts and fiction, its careful attention to detail and authentic events, and its fine capture of environment, politics, and social observation blends perfectly with the fictional devices of drama, psychological inspection, and action. These all make the story a compelling read, highly recommended for history buffs and general-interest audiences alike.

The Battle for Visitation
Bruce Sherman
DMT Publishing
9781935821557, $14.99

The Battle for Visitation: Mothers-in-law vs. Daughters-in-law should be on the reading lists of any family struggling over visitation rights - especially grandparents, who are too often either caught in the middle or blocked from seeing their grandchildren.

More than just the author's opinion, the value of Bruce Sherman's approach to the subject lies in over 100 articles and reports about grandparent visitation rights which support the book's discussions. These pieces can also be consulted after this overview of common issues is read, representing Sherman's personal recommendations for the most effective discussions and background reference materials for each topic.

Most readers who pick up this book will already be in the throes of a visitation rights issue, and will be hoping to find solutions to their issues. Perhaps few are in a better position to give this advice from life experience, because Sherman is now 89 years old, yet has never had any visitation with his own grandkids, despite being an upstanding citizen. His determination to resolve this situation has, thankfully, resulted in a guidebook that others can use to avoid common pitfalls during the process.

The Battle for Visitation is designed not only to provide information, but foster empathy in families for each side of the story. Chapters aimed towards grandparents explore common daughter-in-law conflicts, fears, and attitudes with an eye to revealing the root causes of visitation issues before they cross over into serious legal territory and conundrums.

Next, reports from seasoned professionals provide grandparents with a wide range of articles that cover their position in the family and the basic ground rules for fostering non-controversial family interactions. These range from not visiting too often or staying too long to avoiding criticism and over-indulging. Respect for parental rules and turf goes a long way towards creating the kinds of visits that don't lead to later resentments and outright rejection.

By now, it should be evident that this book isn't just about parental rights. There's an even attention given to the feelings of grandparents, and destructive behavior patterns on both sides.

Sherman outlines many realities that too often are missing in more legal probes of visitation rights issues: "Denying grandparents visitation is also cheating the grandkids...out of new experiences, out of the wisdom that comes with age and - sadly - out of love."

While Sherman's experiences are used as some case history examples, he avoids the temptation to turn this book into a memoir. His purpose was to provide fellow grandparents (and families) with a manual for problem-solving, problem-identification, and resolution before it moves into the legal area of legally denied visitation rights .

Grandparents receive keys to understanding not only daughters-in-law, but the challenges facing children as they grow - issues grandkids face that will ultimately affect the entire family.

As a manual of what to do, what not to do, and how to understand both sides, The Battle for Visitation stands out as a unique coverage of all kinds of major issues affecting the status, quality, and opportunities of grandparent roles in the family. It should be a manual given to any newlyweds' parents before the children even arrive.

Operation Bluebird
Harry Old
Independently Published
9781527282841, $12.32 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

In Operation Bluebird, Carrie Hart has changed her identity to Cara Parry for several reasons; not the least of which is go undercover as a detective and bring justice and resolution to the murdered Lucy. But as she enters this underground world as a quasi-member rather than an outside investigator, her own values and perceptions of life and her role in it are changed in a crime drama which weaves through not just a murder mystery, but a question of identity and self.

Operation Bluebird thus assumes quite a different tone and approach to crime-solving than the usual detective piece. Readers who look for whodunit queries alone may at first be stymied by a story that is much more multifaceted and complex, but Harry Old does a fine job of tasking his protagonist with a bigger-picture purpose that supersedes the latest problem-solving mission.

This adds a satisfying depth to the story of a woman who must recreate the gaping holes left in her life at the conclusion of this deadly mission, which has resulted in amnesia: "She remembered but she didn't. There was light streaming through the window. There was blood on the carpet. She remembered screaming and running and the feeling that there was nothing left. She just ran and ran and ran and then there was blackness. There was blackness for a very long time."

What events could have been so bad that a seasoned, savvy investigator finds herself a victim with few memories? Readers receive the set-up in the first few pages, which then move into Operation Bluebird's intriguing progression as Carrie at first moves through this new world satisfied with her new identity and mission: "A good influence was definitely not what he was, but whether it was down to him or not, she certainly felt good. She leant her head contentedly against the side and tickled the surface of the pool with her toes. The sun was warm on her skin and the water lapped coolly at her shoulders. It wasn't a bad life, if she could ignore where it all came from." Being Cara is fun, at first. The pain and danger come later.

Harry Old is adept at building two personas and entwined characters who lead readers through the mystery and British culture alike. Readers who enjoy romantic suspense stories will find plenty of both explored in the crime-solving environment as Carrie/Cara takes on new challenges both personally and professionally.

Does Carrie love Taehwan despite the world he (and she) moves in? Can Carrie stop being Cara enough to love him fully, even though that love has saved her life and created a different life she loves even more?

The psychological undertones, movements between characters, and crime puzzle are exquisite interplays in a story that will keep readers guessing until the end.

Much more than a whodunit crime tale, Operation Bluebird offers the engrossing account of a detective who recreates her identity, then must make difficult choices about the rest of her life as those around her also begin to question what is real.

Everyday Evil
Monique Layton
Tidewater Press
9781775165965, $12.51 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Everyday Evil: Why Our World is the Way It Is considers modern social issues and historical precedent, linking the two with discussions that delve into social values, moral considerations, and the events that have reinforced or changed both over the course of human history.

This discourse on human history and nature examines the evolution of human order and the barriers that have evolved over time to not only divide the sexes and different cultures, but create a special form of evil embedded in a blend of historical precedent and daily experience.

Monique Layton's anthropology degree enables her to probe these connections with a deeper attention to cultural inspection than other authors might have done. She connects questions about the nature of good and evil with insights into the origins of heroism, moral and ethical perceptions, and the roots of evil deeds.

All these come into play in a complex and satisfyingly well-detailed survey of how popular opinion is built and changed, the origins of shifts in values and perception that have historically moved civilizations either towards or away from good and evil motivations, and how human nature has evolved - or not: "Human nature seems to have changed little when dealing with such basic emotions as anger at (or fear of ) the behaviour of others, followed by the urge to 'correct' them so they may act more conventionally and re-establish proper social or moral order, even when the methods of correction can be worse or far more violent than the acts to which the reformers object."

As she surveys battles (both physical and mental) over human history, draws parallels between modern-day movements and their roots in past human affairs, and analyzes notions of right and wrong in cultural context, readers receive an involving series of interplays between past and present events that enlighten them about the origins of humanity's pull to do either good or evil.

Her research was not without its lasting impact on the author, which is starkly noted towards the end: "At that point in my research, I still wondered whether we might progress over time, either by miraculous grace or natural evolution, hoping to see some improvement through the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and our modern humanism, despite mankind's ever-present temptation (from Adam to Faust) to sell its soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power."

Anthropology, history, psychology, and social issues students alike, as well as many a general-interest reader who enjoys facets and intersections of all four disciplines, will find Everyday Evil: Why Our World is the Way It Is an outstanding consideration of how the world got to where it is today - and where it may be heading.

John Alvah Barnes, Jr. & Naomi Lynn Barnes
Independently Published
9781735094717, $4.99 ebook/$14.99 paperback

Roadwork is a novel about love between high school teen Kyle Sands and Valerie Willard, young teacher trapped in a passionless marriage. It is a story that is embedded in music, with notes about the threat and obstacles to the forbidden relationship that evolves between them. These elements will especially invite and attract music lovers who will relate to this special intersection between musical and personal attraction.

The story takes place in the 1970s, and is steeped in the era's atmosphere. Drugs are commonplace, sex can be casual (even though the narrator admits that women can be complicated), and raging hormones drive many decisions, both good and bad.

John Alvah Barnes, Jr. and Naomi Lynn Barnes do a fine job of crafting the social and personal interplays between various characters as the relationship evolves, for better or for worse, embedding the 1970s atmosphere into the story of a relationship that moves forward as Valerie meets Kyle's family and becomes a part of it.

The problems of her past and his future often clash as Kyle finds himself increasingly involved in her personal life: "I wasn't at all happy about her talking to her ex-husband. Well, technically he wasn't an ex yet. She had talked about divorce, but she'd learned that she needed to live apart from him for at least six months before she could file."

Her husband won't give her up easily...and neither will Kyle.

From evolving threats and growth both individually and together through Kyle's music, which drives them both towards a goal and away from danger into unknown waters, Roadwork creates a compelling story of not just a forbidden love's evolution, but the process by which two disparate lives come together to form new goals.

From student/teacher relationships and a musician's evolving new purposes to the intrigue created by threats that may or may not be interconnected, readers receive a moving journey of developing love and changes which probe the foundations of abuse and transformation.

Readers with a special interest in recovery and growth situations and musician challenges will find Roadwork a realistic, moving psychological and social exploration.

Awakening the Soul of Power
Christian de la Huerta
Soulful Hero Media
9781735059013, $26.45 Hardcover; $18.99 Paper; $8.49 Kindle

Spiritual readers of self-help and recovery books will find Awakening the Soul of Power: How to Live Heroically and Set Yourself Free, the first book in the Calling All Heroes series, offers a basic path forward for those who envision a different kind of life, focusing on how personal empowerment processes affect and are opportunities in every facet of life.

Readers who approach this book looking for singular empowerment guidelines, whether it be in forging healthier relationships or handling life's challenges without sacrificing happiness, will find that it holds a wider-ranging purpose than a particular approach to one kind of problem.

It should be mentioned that Christian de la Huerta cultivates new, revised buzzwords that replace older (perhaps more familiar) approaches to life or empowerment: "Maneuvering the Empire of the Ego is a journey for a lifetime. You now have the tools of understanding and the keys to freedom. You are encouraged to create the support systems, your own Power Pod, to help keep you on the journey, to keep you real and accountable. That is up to you. The adventure continues... Now we are ready to enter the Zone of Power."

A reader who chafes at such revised definitions should know that not only is this book replete with them, but they are utilized to emphasize the new approaches, which is different than choosing familiar terminology to describe old patterns and perceptions.

They are necessary ingredients in a formula that considers how to create and contribute to healthier energy in the world, how to identify and overcome inner demons and obstacles to reaching this point, and how to better process the results of decisions to achieve enlightenment on many different levels.

Examples of such processes pepper discussions that identify the power practices involved in heroic acts and, perhaps even more importantly, then locate and forge new avenues of connection and positivity in the greater world at large.

By including a personal pathway that leads to a greater good, Awakening the Soul of Power advocates a structure and approach that goes beyond individual transformation to connect that process to affecting other lives.

Readers seeking a solid, life-affirming guide on how to seize the moment and make it better will find Awakening the Soul of Power requires only dedication to the concept of psychological and spiritual growth (and the self-help work that comes with it) to prove a success.

It's highly recommended for readers embarking or already on that road to transformation, providing the steps of a powerful process to reawaken accountability, creativity, and growth.

The End of the World Notwithstanding
Janna L. Goodwin
Travelers' Tales
9781609522018, $16.99 Paper/$12.99 Kindle

The End of the World Notwithstanding: Stories I Lived to Tell will appeal to readers who enjoy travel writing, and who like literary yet dramatic stories that revolve around misadventures not just in the wilderness, but in urban environments.

Janna L. Goodwin's true stories lie somewhere between a memoir and a literary travelogue. They reflect not just on adventure, but the life lessons they teach.

Her stories use the "magic of language" to draw readers into each encounter, whether it be from a Wyoming cabin or in a family setting. They also employ humor, as they evolve: "I am up here why? First of all, I don't need a reason: I was born and grew up in Wyoming and they have to let me back in whenever I want. Second, I'm on a self-styled writing retreat."

Goodwin explores how quickly everything can change in everyday life, even in impossible ways: "A cable could snap, fly back, and sever a person instantly from her life. It's not outside the realm of possibility. However, if you search the internet for garage door opener fatalities, you will find yourself reassured. Accounts of cable-related carnage are not abundant in the record, a bit of a letdown." She writes with a wry humor and insight.

From college experiences involving learning about empowerment to medical challenges and hikes, Goodwin chronicles not only transformative moments of life journeys both physical and psychological, but the special challenge of doing so: "I don't think you can have an experience while also trying to document it. The penchant today for capturing the moments of our lives so that we can share them - a word I've come to dislike - is nothing less than alienation, a way to distract ourselves from being fully present, alone or with others, in the moments we're living. While we are preoccupied with framing the here-and-now for later, for our so-called followers, we cannot appreciate the unsettling parts of solitude, the boring parts of being, the ignominy of embodiment, or the meaninglessness of our activities."

The result won't disappoint readers who search for travel adventure writing - but it does inject a concurrent sense of psychological growth that creates its own journey of discovery in a different manner. These elements set The End of the World Notwithstanding's stories apart from the usual travelogue approach.

This memoir creates a journey that appeals on many different levels through a series of reflective stories designed to entertain, educate, and delight. Each story holds the opportunity for readers to remain on edge not about the journey, but its ultimate impact and promise of change.

Everywhere, Somewhere
David Kummer
Independently Published
9781087936789, $12.99

Everywhere, Somewhere reveals the events that unfold when Hollywood actor Bruce Michaels finds himself in the small town of Little Rush, exploring and influencing young and old residents alike.

At first identified (in the first chapter's heading) as "a place of incredible boredom", Little Rush indeed is a microcosm of America, containing simmering emotions within its borders. These range from coming-of-age questions by a group of teens who don't necessarily see their futures as lying in the town to an old man whose struggle with depression draws Bruce and others into a dangerous situation.

Hudson's musing about the likelihood that he will break Little Rush's record of not having experienced a suicide in the town for half a century opens the story - but it's far from the only focus.

Also at risk are the disparate lives of characters who confront past and present ghosts, as when Bruce realizes that the sinister Madeline Suso, a nightmare from his past, has returned into his life in an unexpected way.

As the dance between their lives plays out, a question to old man Bruce serves as one theme that recurs, as each makes their choices: "Why'd you come here? To ask questions or get answers?"

From why they came or are staying to where they are heading, the underlying sentiments, culture, and lives of Little Rush embark on a heady emotional roller-coaster ride through life as Bruce's jaded observation that "there are no good people" dovetails with Hudson's revelations about the illusions he's built surrounding his idol.

Readers looking for a novel about a small town replete with secrets and coming-of-age experiences juxtaposed with old age choices will find Everywhere, Somewhere takes a satisfying journey both sentimental and dangerous. It walks the avenues of mental illness and health, as well as incorporating a newfound conviction that, somewhere out there, there are answers.

Its delightful twists and turns challenge its characters and invite readers to think about life's trajectory and its ultimate course.

Your Nursery Is an Everywhere
Carol Bullman
Blue Whale Press
c/o Clear Fork Publishing
9781950169412, $16.99 (hardcover) / $10.99 (paperback)

Your Nursery Is an Everywhere may sound like an odd title, with the 'an' in front of 'everywhere', but its message of how a nursery expands to include the world, presented in lovely rhyme, offers a nice invitation for read-aloud parents to help connect a child's room to a broader worldview.

Lovely art by Maureen McAfee compliments the narrator mother's lullaby to her child: "It seems inside this little room,/the walls are fading clear..../And all the beauty in the world is shining on us here."

As the narrator reviews elements of life's beauty for her baby, readers receive a gentle fantasy journey through the elements, from farm animals and seaside fun to snowy mountains.

The wise mother reflects on how her child will grow into this world ("How quickly you'll outgrow this room,/this nest, these arms of mine./You'll fit into the wider world and let your sweet light shine."), preparing her child for entry into the pleasures the world has to offer.

The concluding rhyme explains the 'an' before 'everywhere' and offers parents a delightful read-aloud story with a helpful hug not just for young listeners, but for the parent who loves them.

It's rare to see a read-aloud story that so nicely embraces both parent and child with a supportive, lovely lesson about growing up and entering the world. Your Nursery Is an Everywhere is highly recommended for young and old alike!

The Green Woolen Fedora
Deborah Stevenson
Frog Prince Books
9781734824230, Paperback: $12.95; Hardcover: $19.95

The Green Woolen Fedora is a picture book that features whimsical, colorful art by Stella Mongodi as it tells of a young girl who dashes to the movies with her friend, donning a fedora hat to complete her outfit.

When a sneaky wind takes away her prized possession, Nora and her friend Lenny search for it. Meanwhile, the hat is circling new communities and attracting a strange audience of animals and birds; especially a rat, who decides the hat will make a fine new home.

As Nora and the rat struggle over possession, clever Lenny must create a win-win situation over something that only one of them can own.

While this fine story is about problem-solving and friendship, it also evolves into a tale about handed-down objects, good memories and new connections, and what creates special bonds between people.

The large-size, colorful drawings enhance the story and draw young reader attention to the bigger message within. This will delight parents looking for tales that cement positive messages about handling life's challenges in a creative, cooperative, collaborative manner.

Project Evelyn
J. C. Lahoe
Book Baby Publishers
9781098359034, $36.04 Hardcover; $16.45 Paper; $2.99 Kindle

Project Evelyn: Stranger in the Cloud tells of a teenager who awakens from a coma to find herself trapped in a government's medical research facility. Disfigured from an accident that orphaned her, and kidnapped from the emergency room by this physician, Evelyn finds herself in the middle of a power play between a nefarious surgeon and a CEO who plan on experimenting on the homeless to 'improve' mankind.

Recruited in this game against her ethical and better judgment, Evelyn searches for a way out while fielding the creepy Dr. Shepard and the effects of Project Aristotle, which merges AI intelligence with people in a forced evolutionary process that may ultimately create a disaster.

When business interests clash with psychological scars and wounds that defy easy healing, what choices remain for a young protagonist who finds her life and its perceptions completely transformed beyond her control?

As the story moves into international realms involving princes, generals, and political special interests, Evelyn finds herself unwittingly at the heart of a controversy that depends as much on her choices as on her lack of options.

Issues of money and power, weaponizing science, and the lives, experiences, and choices of the homeless in this scenario create a satisfying interplay between social, political, and scientific issues to keep the readers involved in a special blend of thriller and technological suspense story.

As issues of justice and scientific gain come into play, Evelyn faces the ultimate choice of how to use her new abilities. The combination of an ethical and social challenge and the technology involved in AI/human blends creates a story that is filled with action, strong characters and purposes, and an unpredictable course of events. Project Evelyn: Stranger in the Cloud proves nearly impossible to put down.

The Uprising
Jorge Torrente
Independently Published
B08VC4Q9P9, $8.95

The Uprising supplies military and action readers with an adventure story set in 1960s Cuba, and revolves around a battle between farmers and military and political forces in that country.

Elpidio Garcia's legacy to his sons (a farm) has been lost to new laws and the collective takeover of personal lands. It's up to his youngest son to join a rebellion against these processes which negate his inheritance and the family's position on the island - but this means joining a disparate group of rebels.

As the CIA becomes involved in recruiting and training exiled Cubans on American soil, the Cubans find themselves at odds not only with their own people, but the political forces that would harness their energy for their own nefarious purposes.

One might think that a prior familiarity with Cuban affairs is necessary in order to absorb this complex state of events, but The Uprising needs no prior history to prove accessible even to those with relatively little familiarity with Cuban society and events.

Jorge Torrente takes the time to create realistic, memorable characters, whose backgrounds, perceptions, and ideals drive the plot. This, in turn, makes the story of attacks, rebellion, and special interests and daily affairs come to life without the need for prior introduction.

He also excels at depicting the special interests and involvements of those abroad, who hold a particular perspective and interest in Cuba for their own reasons or due to family experiences.

The result is an engaging blend of action-packed confrontation and family life probe that brings to life not just the events of 1960s Cuba, but the different peoples who have an interest in that nation's processes, outcomes, and culture.

Anyone with an interest in Cuban society will find The Uprising involving and educational, filled with vivid stories of escapes, confrontations, and the costs and processes of social and political change.

In the Dead of the Night
JP Robinson
Logos Publications, LLC
9780999779378, $10.99 (Ebook); $15.99 (paperback); $28.99 (hardback)

The third book in the Northshire Heritage series, In the Dead of the Night, continues the story of the prominent Steele and Haber families, the politics and history which swirls around them in the early 1900s, and the choices they make which change not only the lives and minds of those around them, but the world (for better or for worse) of future generations.

The conclusion of the Great War has affected the Steele family in different ways, from a charge of treason against the British Empire to a child's kidnapping by a German spy ring, which threatens political and personal outcomes alike.

There are many underlying themes to this story; from Steele wife and former German spy Leila's personal anguish, which is connected to a continent's survival and safety, to a reinterpretation of sparring match rules ("Be where you're not expected. Do what shouldn't be done."). Both translate well to surviving this latest challenge, outlining the underlying negotiations behind battles and war which strategize politics, economics, and national special interests ("The almighty American dollar can soothe even the most tender of consciences. Since the Americans are a major Swiss trading partner, they are not likely to jeopardize such a relationship - especially as they too feel the effects of a recession. Once money is involved, they will tread lightly."

"But - " Hindenburg cut off Groener's protests with an upraised palm. "We will negotiate terms of a separate treaty with them once Europe is secure.").

As the treaty that would officially end the Great War falls into many hands and under many different influences, events unfold that grip families and institutions in a conflux of power plays and dangerous choices. These test the boundaries of good, evil, and human endurance.

Readers of World War I historical fiction also receive Christian thoughts and perspectives on the influences, motivations, and outcomes of the conflict. Everything comes to a head when a deadly weapon with the potential for mass destruction becomes a bargaining point in more than one way.

History and Christian readers alike will find this a particularly engrossing story that doesn't just peck at the institutions and processes of historical precedent and choice, but ultimately questions the origins of good and evil outcomes, made by individuals who often perceive their actions and consequences as singular occurrences conducted in the name of a greater purpose.

Although In the Dead of the Night is the third book in a series and adds to its predecessors, it also operates as a solid, stand-alone novel. It holds much food for thought, and will especially delight readers of Great War events who don't typically receive such a multifaceted, thought-provoking examination of the war. Perhaps this is because many of the fictional characters are based on real-world personalities, from spymasters to generals and the everyday families who became caught up in events beyond their experience or control.

From Timbuktu to Duck and Cover
US Ambassador (Ret.) Lewis Lucke
Open Books
9781948598330, $19.95

From Timbuktu to Duck and Cover: Improbable Tales from a Career in Foreign Service covers some thirty years working in foreign service and living in over eleven countries, and traverses nations throughout Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, and South America.

Retired US Ambassador Lewis Lucke's career was not only "never boring," but often assumed the feeling of high adventure as he faced and survived a Haitian earthquake, the jungles of Bolivia, the fall of Communism in old Czechoslovakia, and more.

Lucke's experiences working for the US Agency for International Development (USAID; the agency that provides economic development and humanitarian assistance overseas in about eighty countries, which works closely with the State Department) is revealed as he encounters all kinds of people and places.

From the origins of how he realized this career choice to how he made it happen and then embarked on many life-changing interactions with other cultures, From Timbuktu to Duck and Cover is thoroughly engrossing and revealing, moving through the process of making dreams come true: "Maybe it was possible to combine my new experiences and interests into a real profession - something international, using another language and interacting with another culture, doing something important that helped people, living life significantly."

As the narrative evolves, readers receive a series of adventures that not only cover the highlights of his career, but synthesize the management and people-oriented lessons he learned from each encounter.

More so than most accounts of foreign service, Lucke's journeys through fluid and different economic, social, and political situations offers a rare opportunity to juxtapose these situations to better understand the underlying outcomes of decisions made at the top, and their impact on different regions and cultures: "I guess I had been so immersed with the details of Bolivia until the very end that I had failed to focus on what was awaiting me in Amman. There was something wrong with this picture. Jordan had signed a real peace treaty with Israel two years back and was now experiencing severe economic problems."

This approach allows for a rare inspection of changing conditions due to not only foreign service influences and approaches to them, but the underlying challenges to the diplomacy they represent.

Lucke's ability to move his personal encounters and experiences into broader social and political inspection, especially the injection of changing diplomatic efforts in different nations, contributes strength to a story that draws in readers with its promise of travel and adventure, but ultimately provides so much more.

It's a study in understanding, change, and foreign service efforts that teaches much about the special challenges involved in U.S. humanitarian efforts abroad. From Timbuktu to Duck and Cover is highly and especially recommended reading for anyone who dreams of pursuing a foreign service career or, in lieu of that effort, would better understand the special challenges involved in working with other peoples in changing, volatile conditions overseas.

Redefining Financial Literacy
Cindy Couyoumjian, CFP with R. F. Georgy
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626347403, $24.99

Redefining Financial Literacy: Unlocking the Hidden Forces of Your Financial Future is recommended reading for not just business readers seeking a redefinition of financial savvy, but women, in particular, who need to better embrace their role as changers and savvy financial managers of their retirement funds.

Cindy Couyoumjian moved from her focus on an allocation strategy which had cemented her approach to business for seventeen years into uncharted (for her) waters in the multi-asset endowment model.

Alternative investment strategies used to be a choice of the rich, limited to large institutions and wealthy individuals. As they became more accessible to ordinary people, they moved not only to a different level of investment strategy, but into different levels of investors via newfound access to the technological tools who did not necessarily have experience about how to use them: "Another reason alternative investments became available to the average investor was technological innovation. The digital revolution, more specifically computing power, has transformed financial markets and made it possible to record, track, move, store, and analyze previously unmanageable and unthinkable amounts of data. Mathematical innovations, such as the Black-Scholes options pricing formula, enabled investors to quickly and easily price complex financial products such as derivatives and structured securities. In many ways the convergence of several forces helped open up alternative investments to the general public."

From how to better understand endowments and their relationship to asset classes, to working within the revised investment platform that holds both opportunities and ongoing barriers to women, Redefining Financial Literacy excels at identifying common pitfalls, discussing strategies for overcoming them, and educating female investors about the bigger picture of alternative investing strategies: "What we have today is a disconnect between a promising future where women will be the financial decision makers and the skewed reality of women being intimidated by male financial advisors."

There are hidden forces at play behind money management which any savvy woman needs to better understand in order to make more informed, successful decisions. Couyoumjian identifies these forces in the "outdated 60/40 investment model" typical of retirement systems, then shows women how to assess alternative models that may mitigate these investment risks.

More than a singular formula, Redefining Financial Literacy provides an analytical approach to investment that many women won't have considered before. More importantly, it places the risk assessment of underlying factors within the realm of the average investor's understanding.

In exposing, analyzing, and showing how to best utilize these hidden influences, Redefining Financial Literacy cultivates an informed, educated discussion. This will attract all kinds of investors, but particularly average female investors who have, until now, largely been omitted from investment discussion circles at this level.

Any woman looking to better manage her own retirement options and approaches needs to place Redefining Financial Literacy at the top of her financial reading list.

The Spirit Play
Mig Lopez
Independently Published
B08T6BTKDZ, $3.99 on Kindle, $7.99 paperback

The Spirit Play is a fantasy adventure recommended for mature readers who won't mind the confrontations and sexual scenes which pepper and support the underlying action. It's a lively survey of a tournament which, unlike The Hunger Games, holds the promise not of survival, but passage to Heaven, Hell, or rebirth as its prize.

All walks of life watch these games. Everyone is invited. Nobody in Limbo really gets out alive... or is alive. Not in the usual way.

Against this backdrop lies the notion that mankind should be erased and the experiment begun again. Humans aren't the only participants in these games, and extraordinary powers pitted against one another during them come from Godsgifts which aid in the contest.

At this point, it should be noted that Christian readers may experience some discomfort at the interplay between spirit, Christian history, and fantasy within this story. The Spirit Play isn't recommended for avid believers, but offers a truly intriguing setting for those who recognize that, within the fantasy story, lays a reflection on all kinds of values and their origins, and possible threats to their existence.

Mig Lopez's descriptions are compelling, capturing characters and creating a sense of place: "The Beast's speech continues, uninterrupted by Thomas's arrival. He looks at her, and Pearl rolls her eyes as the young girl says "so that's why I'm here. Can you imagine what it's like to be stuck as a little girl for eternity? It's not even fair!" She opens her mouth, ready to speak on, but three beams of light that crash down from above simultaneously draw her attention. They appear in three locations, making noise as loud as thunder, the points where they stand forming a perfect triangle around the contestants."

From angels and gods to how winners can choose hell or heaven or something in between, and how Spirit Play gets warriors on the fast track to a new beginning, this novella creates a compelling world both challenging and embedded with a touch of whimsy.

'The Spirit Play' isn't the only story under this cover worthy of mention and recommendation.

Its companion piece, 'Half Way (at the End)', offers a beast of another color with an end-of-the-world romance that embraces a gay couple's choices and connections as Xavier faces the end of the world he knew: "The world has ended many times in movies, books, and TV shows. They've seen it many times, yet humans seem to have no idea of how to act in this situation."

In a world newly replete with chaos, Axel and Xavier struggle with each other to consummate what might be their final love choices.

These choices take a turn for the unexpected when Fred enters the scene. You'll just have to read the story to learn why and how this happens.

Having two very different tales under one cover makes for a surprising flavor. Readers who enjoy action will thrill in 'The Spirit Play' but might chafe at the very different action, sexual and social, that takes place in ''Half Way (at the End)'. Both are opposite sides of the coin, however, and provide ultimately satisfying reflections on life, love, and choice.

Mig Lopez holds screenplay aspirations for these stories, and it's easy to see why. Both hold aspects of compelling social commentary and surprise that will delight readers looking for a different kind of action and inspection on choices, consequences, and life trajectories.

The dialogue, characters, and quirky outcomes in both stories are satisfying, delightful, and refreshingly original.

Literature readers and those who like genre-busting reads won't be disappointed.

Making a Better World
Michael Lacoy
Monteverdi Press
9780960068937, $23.99 Hardcover; $14.99 Paper; $9.99 Kindle

Making a Better World may sound like nonfiction, but is satirical fiction at its best. The title sets the stage for a survey that reviews the life of middle-aged Oscar Perilloux, a man who just wants to do good, but struggles with relatives who are self-absorbed, sly, and who have agendas not always in sync with his vision of what family and the world should be like.

Only his seven-year-old daughter Gabby holds the kind of innocence he values - and even she is reaching beyond her childhood to inspect facets of the adult world that he'd rather keep hidden...including family relationships.

Faced with his mother's imminent move-in and his brother's fling with a woman Oscar secretly covets, it seems that Oscar can't keep his life in this idyllic New Hampshire town on the track to improve his progeny's future, much less his own present-day state.

Oscar is used to being patient, explaining away the ills of world and family to Gabby. Sometimes these coping methods fail. Sometimes life requires a different skill set for survival. Occasionally, it provides hilarious hiccups, as when his mother, Stella Perilloux, becomes determined to be more involved in his world: "Where are you going?" Stella said."Out near the quarries." "How are you getting there?""The motorcycle!" Gabby said. "I want to come," Stella said. "What?" Oscar said. "I want to come. I'm not staying cooped up in this house all day." "Where would you sit?" Gabby said. "We'll take the car," Oscar said. "Oh, no," Stella said. "I want to go on that bike. I've been watching you guys for weeks. I want a ride too."

Can Oscar make the world better for anyone, much less his family? Will he find romance with Margot? More importantly, will his choices really make a difference against the onslaught of irony and dysfunction that is embraced by too many around him? Will everyone (or anyone) really be happy?

A fun story evolves whereby Oscar reviews his world, makes some changes, faces social issues that invade his home, and ultimately opts for a different, better choice as he floats between being a parent and helping a parent.

Readers who enjoy satire and family relationships will appreciate the witty inspection of Oscar's world in this tale of dreams fulfilled.

Chasing the American Dream
Lorelei Brush
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645434986, $19.95

David will never forget the events of World War II's close, and believes the Nazi torturers have been brought to justice...until he sees a dangerous ex-SS military man, Dr. Gerhardt Adler, walking the Cleveland streets. Apparently he has not only escaped justice, but is back to participating in public - this time, in America.

How can this be?

David's background in the Office of Strategic Services is key to his ability to call upon old routines to get back into an investigative mode to track down Dr. Adler and bring him to justice, even if it means challenging the American dream.

From wartime experiences to tackling prejudice against Jews at home, this story is much more than a detective mystery or a World War II account. It raises disturbing questions about the ongoing nature of hatred and its incarnation and reflection on American soil: "It was a political answer probably required in Shaker Heights since a good deal of the suburb still had covenants on house deeds that prohibited selling to Jews."

Chasing the American Dream also closely examines the rise of anti-communist sentiment in the 1950s, an odd situation in which David, not Dr. Adler, is proclaimed a traitor by public opinion and circumstances. David's determination to fight causes a rift in his family when this belief challenges the safety of his children.

With his family stuck in the middle of a mess and his morals and ethics on the line, David finds the American dream and its values ever-more elusive as he navigates a dangerous situation and weaves through the politics and social processes of his times.

As his family comes under fire not only from outside, but within, David comes to realize that his perseverance and decisions may be destroying the very thing he's fighting for. His wife says to him: "I don't think you can live in a sleepy town like this one. All I see is your continuing unhappiness and your taking it out on the children and me."

With its different perspective on the 1950s and the evolution of prejudice and the lingering effects and mysteries of World War II events, Chasing the American Dream does an outstanding job of blending social inspection and intrigue with personal strife and change.

It's a vivid story of the Red Scare, ongoing U.S. political decision-making processes and their social impact, fears, and media, and the public's responses, which mirror many recent events of the last month in particular and modern times in general.

Readers who think history has little in common with seemingly different current events will find Chasing the American Dream a powerful commentary on the links between historical precedent and modern-day affairs. It's especially astute in its coverage of how the past reaches out to repeat patterns, challenges, and prejudices deemed buried, but which live underground with a life of their own until they rise again.

Adding David's personal dilemmas and an underlying mystery into the mix makes this story accessible to an even wider audience, who will find its attention to struggle and detail compelling, unpredictable, and educational. This novel's story of the costs of obsession and justice is multifaceted and hard to put down.

Fast-Starting A Career of Consequence
Fred Sievert
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781631953583, $16.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Fast-Starting A Career of Consequence: Practical Christ-Centered Advice for Entering or Re-entering the Workforce is recommended reading for ambitious Christians seeking a faith-based approach to boosting their careers.

More so than most career guides, its emphasis is on using faith to build a foundation for advancing into areas of greater responsibility and challenge.

Applying Biblical principles to workplace challenges may seem an unusual business approach, but Fred Sievert does an outstanding job of intersecting both, juxtaposing practical workplace advancement strategies ("If the company you have decided to work for has vision and mission statements, commit them to memory. You don't need to actually recite them; just memorize them so that they are embedded in your brain and you can instantly recall them.") with Christian principles and guidance, helping readers tap into spiritual wellsprings of understanding: "That's a soft approach to open a discussion, ostensibly for your own understanding. It is a very delicate question to be asking someone who may have been instrumental in the decision you are questioning and may possess a high level of ownership in it. So once again, this is a discussion that requires you to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before you enter the conversation. The Holy Spirit will provide opportunities to do so and will also give you a nudge if you don't recognize the opportunity."

This ability to intersect business and spiritual interests creates a foundation for better understanding and purpose based on Christian faith, lessons, and approaches. Readers receive a fine set of insights into corporate decision-making processes and how to make more faith-based decisions, both interpersonally and spiritually.

The 'career of consequence' portion of this book's title is really where the discussion differs from other faith-based or business books. It celebrates advancement and business savvy alike, covering how to succeed without sacrificing one's spiritual, moral, or ethical base.

Fast-Starting A Career of Consequence is specifically recommended for Christians who would incorporate their faith into revised approaches for career advancement. It provides specific Biblical quotes and foundations for recognizing and applying spiritual gifts to corporate scenarios, and is essential reading for career-oriented Christians interested in better aligning their financial and spiritual lives.

Zippy's Special Gift
Therese Van Ryne
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645436744, $16.95

Zippy's Special Gift tells of a zebra who doesn't like standing out from the crowd of other animals, and who hates her stripes because they make her unique.

Therese Van Ryne provides a simple, easy story of a zebra who loves to play and blend in and illustrator Walter Policelli backs the story with whimsical, appealing drawings as a wise mother informs her child that every animal has special gifts - some more evident than others.

Zippy decides to test this theory by asking her many friends about their abilities, and learns much about how each not only has a unique gift, but harbors doubts about its benefits.

Young picture book readers receive a fine story about growth, celebrating differences, and accepting the good and bad aspects of personal abilities and appearances.

Each animal has a gift, and each must come to terms with its opportunities and detriments. Parents who choose Zippy's Special Gift for read-aloud reinforcement of these sentiments will also find many occasions for positive discussion over an engaging story of a happy, stubborn little zebra's newfound appreciation of who he is.

And the Stars Kept Watch
Peter Friedrichs
Atmosphere Press
9781637529706, $19.99

And the Stars Kept Watch tackles the themes of tragedy's impact on a marriage, especially when one partner is the cause of a life-changing disaster.

When the story opens, Catherine and Nathan are a loving couple who have everything...a good marriage, career and home choices, family. In one fell swoop, everything changes with an accident that stems from a bad choice.

Catherine awakens in a hospital bed with no memory of what has transpired, Nate at her side.

This introduction moves to Nathan's perspective and explores their past family interactions and relationships, setting the stage for the event that changes everything.

As Peter Friedrichs moves into the aftermath of the grieving and recovery process of individuals and relationship alike, readers receive insights into how each character grows differently from this singular event: "He wondered what, if anything, the future held for them as a couple. He desperately wanted to be able to fix what had been broken, but his sessions with Robert were helping him realize that he was powerless to do so. It was against his nature to accept that idea, to truly internalize it. He was a problem solver, a change agent, an innovator. He had never encountered a situation that he couldn't resolve by applying some combination of intelligence and determination. But slowly, week by week, Robert was helping him see that he wasn't going to be able to, in Nathan's words, "figure this out."

If there's one overwhelming, important message to this story (and, there are many), it's that grief and recovery is a process that is both unique to each person and something which cannot be micromanaged or directed.

Charged with figuring out their vastly revised future both together and apart, Catherine and Nathan learn how they can be happy again in both milieus, and consider the possibilities of either uniting or continuing their outward trajectories towards new lives.

Peter Friedrichs does an outstanding job of covering not only the major issues and avenues of logic and emotion that the characters face, but the efforts and impact of their lives on a supportive cast of friends and family.

And the Stars Kept Watch's powerful messages of forgiveness, recovery, and grief will attract and engross any reader who has made a life-changing bad decision or faced the dissolution and reinvention of a formerly satisfying relationship. It's especially highly recommended for women who like solid accounts of growth and evolution grounded by recovery processes that change everything and challenge many notions of marital commitment and solidarity.

Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel
Helena P. Schrader
Cross Seas Press
9781735313948, $23.95 Paperback
9781735313955, $9.99 Ebook

Where Eagles Never Flew is set in the summer of 1940, when the Battle of France has just concluded and the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

All efforts boil down to air power and a battle that could ultimately determine whether the Nazis will rule Britain. Standing on the front line is No. 606 (Hurricane) Squadron in general and the efforts of pilot Robin Priestman, who simultaneously struggles with duty and an unexpected romance.

Helena P. Schrader brings these characters and many more to life in a vivid story of not just war and battles, but interpersonal conflicts and choices which change the missions and leaders alike: "From what he had seen and heard, No. 606 Squadron had no esprit de corps and no vitality. He had seen for himself that the little clique of old Auxiliary pilots kept to themselves, leaving the younger pilots wandering about confused and bewildered like fish out of water. On top of that, Allars reported that the only professional Sergeant Pilot, MacLeod, was a loner and an aggressive drinker. Clearly, Jones had failed to mould his squadron into a team, and equally failed to set his pilots a good example. His attacks on the Duty Controller had been unprofessional and misplaced."

As Squadron Leader Priestman finds himself torn between his love for Emily and her personal danger in the Salvation Army as the bombs drop around her, Schrader also focuses on events on the other side of the pond as the Luftwaffe tries to destroy the RAF and recruits increasing numbers of women auxiliaries.

The changing roles and empowerment of women during the war is one focus of a hard-hitting saga that goes beyond military combat and action to consider the motivations, choices, and hearts and minds of those who operate on both sides of the conflict.

While this story is presented as a battle treatise, its real value lies in its broader interpretations and considerations of conflict. These provide a satisfying inspection of the politics and psychology of participants in the war during this pivotal battle.

Readers may pick up Where Eagles Never Flew for its promise of action, but will find it holds unexpected, satisfying psychological depth as its characters grow, evolve, and confront each other and the enemy during a life-changing period in Britain's history. It's a story steeped in real-life events that goes far in tracing the changing roles and influence of women in the world, and is highly recommended reading for World War II history enthusiasts looking for something more than descriptions of battles.

Late, Late in the Evening
Stephen Grant
Propertius Press
9781005972264, $18.50 Paper/$7.49 ebook

(Please note: the books are available wherever books are sold, but our website has a discounted price and free shipping to US addresses)

Late, Late in the Evening takes place in a near-future Britain, where democracy has been overcome by an authoritarian government set on imprisoning anyone who digresses from their rule.

Such a prisoner is poet Gabe, who has been incarcerated for his writings and released into virtual slavery at Arlingham Hall estate, working for the Duke as punishment for his words.

Gabe still harbors an independent spirit despite the circumstances of his nation, and plots to escape the country, as his family did before the borders locked him in.

As he encounters others who are also on this journey and whose backgrounds, faith, and convictions support the vision of a different kind of world, Gabe discovers that the roots of some of this freedom lie in a family connection he hadn't previously acknowledged. These other people serve as harbingers of hope and different forms of thinking that challenge his choices and perceptions: "...the last thing I'm about to do now is start believing in an all-powerful God who loves me." He sighs. "Oddly, it does make it worse to be spoken to like that. From the point when I was old enough to think about it, I always found it absurd that I was identified as being part of a religion I didn't believe in and that this was somehow a reason for attacking me. Yet for all the idiocy, it made me despise him even more when he said that. I assume you have the same issues." "Not exactly. I've never had any doubts. My family, my friends, the people I went to school with, we have all kept hold of what we believe in and Rackman and his friends will never change that. They frighten me, but ultimately, they're to be pitied."

Wherein lay the roots of justice and redemption? Gabe's spiritual and social journey examines both facets as potential paths to freedom as he confronts not just his world and his desire to escape it, but his role in making a difference during the process of saving himself.

Ironically, this enclave of slavery may prove the only real course to safety and freedom of a different nature than the one he'd envisioned, when the world outside falls apart.

Stephen Grant's dystopian world and its philosophical and spiritual inspection provide more thought-provoking ideas than most dystopian stories. Its social, ethical, and spiritual issues are more deeply probed, with the character of Gabe assuming a broader meaning than just the singular story of a man seeking escape.

Readers looking for social commentary, political inspection, and psychological and philosophical depth will find Late, Late in the Evening a powerful tale of truth, lies, and finding one's voice and courage in unusual, new places.

Frameshift: The Immunity Chronicles
A.J. Norman
Independently Published
9798700846226, $8.00 Paper; $0.99 Kindle

Frameshift: The Immunity Chronicles tells of two planets, two very different peoples, and a genetic experiment gone awry as Sutton Bain, heir to the throne of a privileged world, finds his values and preset views of life challenged.

In stark contrast to his steadfast determination to take up the reins of leadership in the manner that has proved successful in the past are the radical ideals of Anasa Heard, leader of a group of Evolutionaries ("do-nothings," to his mind). These people confront their future king with a message that holds the power to change not only his ideas, but their world.

This world is as much controlled by a concern about contamination and germs as it is about ideas of rule that no longer (or, perhaps never did) apply fairly to all.

Sutton is not just exposed to possible germs, but possible new ideas. A.J. Norman describes these using compelling language that contrasts the leader's new revelations and possibilities: "If I were to be infected with something airborne, it is likely I already would have been exposed. I have not touched them and I will wash my hands immediately upon leaving. I am in the midst of my fate, I just do not know what that is yet."

When issues of trust, power, and noble choices come into play, Anasa's influence begins to change Sutton's perception of his role and his peoples' future. This leads generals and ordinary people to operate outside their set roles as descendants of a bygone world that survived only by setting up specific structures to avoid not just contamination, but each other.

Will these encounters with the do-nothings lead back to war, bringing these disparate groups full circle?

As Frameshift evolves, it's evident that the choices lie not in military circles alone, but in the social constraints and rules that have successfully saved and influenced two disparate groups in different ways.

Norman's ability to juxtapose environmental with social and political inspection and her focus on changing ethical conundrums which emerges makes for a story that offers powerful action, surprises, and social inspection. Strong characters and even more astute social inspection work together in a plot which is nicely paced and intriguingly unique.

Sci-fi readers interested in tales of social and genetic engineering will find Frameshift a powerful opener in a projected series. It sets the stage for more, exploring an evolving and potentially volatile relationship between the Evolutionaries and the Aristoneux.

Selected Poems
Rob Couteau, author
Introduction by Edward Foster
Dominantstar LLC
9781736004968, $9.95

Selected Poems features 101 poems; 40 of which have been printed in numerous print and online journals since 1985. The rest are new to this collection, and represent a satisfying blend of old and new works designed to appeal to newcomers and prior fans alike.

Rob Couteau's works are diverse. They follow no set poetic structure, even defying some of them when the muse strikes and special needs indicate that the subject is more important than poetic form.

These are orchestrated as performance pieces in word, capturing facets of life that range from his romance with Argentinian pianist Edda Maria Sangrigoli in his younger years to the dance between literary and social experience fostered by Couteau's involvement with social work with the homeless community.

His inspections of artistic, literary, and social issues are astute and compelling, as seen in the evocative reflection 'The Girls Who Wished To Marry Stars', which crafts the story of two Ojibwa village girls who choose to sleep under the stars instead of wigwams; there to find romance and danger in unexpected places: "The warriors were large/and powerful:/wiser and more handsome/than they could ever

have imagined./But there was something/cold and dead/in their fiery/eyes."

This is no succinct snippet, but traverses the entirety of a fable that follows the girls as they move from a sexual encounter with the sky gods to the realization that "...this world,/which had once seemed so stale,/now seemed more wonderful/than the mysterious realm/of stars."

Readers who absorb Couteau's collection will find a similar set of surprises awaiting them, from explorations of New York in 'Childhood on Brooklyn Streets' to the prose poem reflection of life 'Frozen in Time'.

Don't anticipate set structures, uniform poetic approaches, or singular subjects, here. Selected Poems offers a freewheeling approach to poems and life alike, and is a thought-provoking, evocative gathering of works recommended for literary readers not bound by convention or rules.

Guide to Spiritual L.A.
Catherine Auman
Green Tara Press
9781945085093, $24.95 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Guide to Spiritual L.A.: The Irreverent, the Awake & the True offers a spiritual journey centered on the sacred sites and history of Los Angeles. It represents both a travel guide and an opportunity to better understand that city's spiritual foundations and heritage.

Readers who harbor preconceived notions about the inherent godlessness of Tinsel Town may be surprised at the depth and scope of these spiritual connections. Certainly, many won't know that the notorious Hollywood is considered a 'spiritual vortex'. One example is occultist Paul Foster Case, who formed the group Builders of the Adytum (BOTA) in 1922, which has connections to the Masons and Golden Dawn.

Guide to Spiritual L.A. offers more than L.A. or spiritual history alone. Catherine Auman journeyed to the present-day settings of many of these spiritual places to write this book. Her inspections and discoveries are incorporated into the story, adding a travelogue of excitement that wouldn't have been possible using a historical approach alone.

It's this personal touch that makes her book so accessible to a much wider audience than a singular religious approach alone, providing tools others can use to locate and visit these places themselves. And, yes, lively Hollywood celebrity notes are also included: "If you do want to visit the Temple, which many people never do, you'll find a silent sanctuary inside. If they're having a service, you'll observe a Hindu ritual of worshipping divine statues led by a monk singing Sanskrit chants, blowing a conch shell, and waving incense. Over the years, many celebrities have been involved with the Hare Krishnas including the Beatles, Steve Jobs, Allen Ginsberg, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, and Russell Brand, who married Katy Perry in a Hare Krishna ceremony."

The result, replete with a peppering of color photos throughout, is highly recommended for Los Angeles history buffs, spirituality readers, and those who enjoy lively travel accounts that blend a "you are here" feel with practical, destination-oriented tips for visiting these spiritual enclaves.

Death Perception
Lee Allen Howard
Three First Names
9780615800691, $14.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his infirm mother in a care facility and works in the crematorium in a nearby funeral home. His life isn't what he wants, so when a bizarre ability emerges which allows him to identify the cause of death of any of his charges, it feels like a ticket to freedom.

Unfortunately, most abilities come with a price tag. In this case, it's a ticket to solve crimes and avenge a murder when he learns that the cause of one death isn't what's listed on the death certificate.

Combine this strange power with a murder investigation that takes a perceptive teen on an even stranger journey than he's already on, and it's evident that Death Perception is anything but your staid murder mystery.

Another facet that comes to life early in the story is Lee Allen Howard's wry sense of humor, which captures Kennet's voice in an unexpected way: "Being a creamer suited him because the dead didn't talk back and therefore couldn't order him around. He'd had enough of that from his father growing up, and more than enough from Mr. Grinold, the funeral director. The job didn't require time or worry during his off hours. After this cremation, he could forget about it and go home. Not a home like most people had, but a prison - for old people, invalids, and the mentally deficient. Good job, bad home."

Besides the odd circumstances identifying the problem, Kennet's life holds other special challenges. He knows his task is no laughing matter, but comes to realize that the key to his ability is also the key to saving lives as much as avenging those dead.

"Doctor Death" doesn't drink or do drugs. He does reconsider his place in the world and even forms some surprising connections, given how much he wants to exit the kind of environment he's fallen into by happenstance.

As he learns to defend the living as well as the dead, readers are treated to macabre encounters, abilities, haunting romance, and confrontations that teach Kennet about a different kind of life and his place in it.

Murder mystery readers may not expect ghosts and the touch of ironic humor that spices a supernatural intrigue piece worthy of attracting fans of Stephen King, but this story of visions, dreams, and ideals gone awry is delightfully cynical, thought-provoking, spooky, and fun, all at once.

Tired of your part-time job? It could be worse. It could be Kennet's kind of gig, which walks supernatural paths of confrontation. It could be murder, just going to work. Death Perception is the kind of story that is impossible to predict or put down.

College, Covid, and Questions: Tips and Advice for Incoming Freshmen, Undergraduates, Transfer Students, and Parents
Suzy Beamer Bohnert
B&B Publishing
9780578801575, $10.99

College, Covid, and Questions: Tips and Advice for Incoming Freshmen, Undergraduates, Transfer Students, and Parents offers college-bound students the first of what will likely be many books on the subject. It incorporates findings from various sources, combining the usual college questions with a coronavirus overlay that tackles questions of safety, health, and campus navigation.

It's a specific guide that considers technology and educational opportunities, offsite and on-campus learning strategies, and how to handle roommates and classrooms during Covid, revealing many opportunities for integrating various college approaches with safety in mind.

These range from online classes and tutors to new rules for dining halls in the age of Covid, how to attend virtual career fairs in lieu of in-person appearances, and understanding refund policies in the face of Covid threats that may link to rules little understood before.

The usual advice for parents and their college-bound students is modified for this new environment, providing unique opportunities for better understanding.

Parents, educators, and college-bound students need this navigation course on Covid and college. It outlines many revised approaches to safe education and considers how the campus may be better navigated, both virtually and in-person, for the best results.

No college-bound student or their family should fail to consult College, Covid, and Questions's overview of the special challenges Covid has added to the college education milieu.

The Power of the Emerald Ring
Mark M. Even
Cresting Wave Publishing
9781735413518, $6.99

The Power of the Emerald Ring is the second adventure in the Dragonstone series for middle grade readers and tells of Mandy Mandez, who, along with her extended family of fellow young magicians, is receiving training on how to apply newfound magical abilities to real-world scenarios.

Between the magical umbrella which began her journey away from the normal routines of learning and ballgames to Mandy's appropriate use of her witch powers and her family's effort to work together and learn to use their abilities, Mandy has more on her plate than the usual schoolgirl.

Matters become even more complicated, however, as Mandy faces choices about whether to embrace her gifts or reject them as an evil magical force arises to confront the family before they've fully absorbed their revised status in human affairs, and as an evil wizard threatens Mandy and forces her into situations she's ill-equipped to handle.

Kids seeking a magical adventure filled with action and reflection will find The Power of the Emerald Ring both a satisfying continuation of events begun in the first book and a fine stand-alone tale of not just a young witch, but her entire family's involvements with each other's growth process.

Mandy overhears many conferences between her family and her magical mentor: "J.T. continued, "I think that Miss Helen is right - you need to reflect on all of this. But quite frankly, whatever you decide, I think Mandy will choose to be magical, and I don't think we can stop her from that." Here he paused and looked at each adult before saying, "I don't think we can stop her, even if we try. In her case, we need to coach and support her so that her magical path goes in the right direction."

Another satisfying note to this tale is its firm foundations in modern technology and living. Mandy uses Hulu, YouTube videos, and other devices to search for answers to her questions, and her involvement in human and magical worlds alike creates a satisfying note of realism added to this fantasy story of discovery.

As Mandy's spells go awry and her family's learning curve grows against an impossibly savvy adversary, young readers will find themselves spellbound.

Kids looking for an adventure story of evolving powers, responsible use, good versus evil, and a girl who comes into her abilities alongside her family will find The Power of the Emerald Ring an intriguing mystery fantasy firmly rooted in learning experiences for all ages.

It's highly recommended reading for middle grade kids who enjoy stories of magic that simultaneously remain rooted in everyday experience.

Debra Whiting Alexander
Luminare Press
9781944733438, $15.95 Paper/$14.99 Kindle

Zetty presents a literary examination of the long-term effects of a mother's schizophrenia, a nine-year-old child's abandonment, and a journey undertaken in adulthood for answers to many questions left by these events. While the basic theme may sound familiar, Debra Whiting Alexander's exploration of these life-changing events and their long-term ramifications embraces a poetic and evocative voice that sets this story apart from others.

The first-person reflections are compelling: "I've heard that life-changing experiences put permanent dents in the heart; they make their mark and are remembered. And with every impression made, the heart bends and stretches - sometimes completely changing form. My heart seems living proof of it. Even after thirty-nine years, which seems impossible, the memory of what happened when I was only nine remains remarkably vivid. It rearranged everything inside me."

How can one not read on to uncover the foundations of these changes and why they continue to resonate in Zetty's adult world?

As she forms unconventional friendships with a circle of other women who are also survivors and questioners, Zetty finds answers to her questions that lead her on a journey to examine her own life's trajectory.

Even more gripping, readers are treated to insights about schizophrenia's lasting impact on not just the sufferer, but the family that surrounds this individual.

When a family secret also emerges, Zetty faces her own choices and their long-term consequences.

Zetty makes its mark as a study in family relationships, survival methods, relationships to psychologists and self-inspection, and the roots of strange attractions.

As Zetty evolves and changes, her readers gain insights into many facets of the process of facing love, loss, revised notions of mental illness and family connections, and life-changing decisions that affect adults and children alike.

Its full-faceted exploration will leave readers immersed in questions about how mental illness affects a family and its perceptions of what is ordinary and extraordinary. It covers a range of emotions and family interactions that swirl around the puzzle and reality of living with schizophrenia.

Its solid characterization and insights offers much food for thought and discussion, making Zetty a highly recommended choice for fiction readers seeking realistic stories of psychological survival.

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops
Allison Hong Merrill
She Writes Press
9781647421892, $16.95 Paper/$9.95 Kindle

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is a memoir of Chinese culture, immigrant and women's rights, faith and fidelity, and change. It follows Allison Hong Merrill's extraordinary journey from Taiwan and her family's Buddhist faith to America, where she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dropped out of college to join a mission to Taiwan, married, and wound up in Utah, where her ideals and perceptions clashed with a culture she had long envisioned but little understood.

As if all these experiences weren't already perfect fodder for a memorable piece, consider Merrill's evocative voice, which pulls readers into her story from the beginning: "I discovered that I became a starter wife from a light switch. Not a light bulb, like I had a big idea. A light switch. A light switch in my apartment that I flipped on and off but the living room remained dark, and that darkness caused a pricking, tingling sensation in my hands and feet."

From her journey as a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant speaking only Mandarin Chinese to her voyages back and forth through different spiritual and social frames of mind, Merrill creates a powerful saga of a personal journey replete with emotionally-charged wellsprings of inheritance, discovery, and change.

As readers move through her experiences with husband Cameron and his family, Merrill offers an opportunity to understand not just how her life changes, but the different cultures in which she moves: "Three Mr. Chastains, three generations, three distinctive life experiences, tied together by blood. Immediately I was shocked by the realization of what this meant, as I saw Grandma Chastain, Mrs. Chastain, and me unintentionally stand in a line, the way we would appear on the pedigree chart - - each had her appointed place in the timeline. Three Mrs. Chastains, three generations, three distinctive life experiences, brought together by a choice powered by the love we had for our husbands."

Hers is an exceptionally strong account of Mormon and Chinese worlds as they intersect with other cultures in different places, capturing the nuances of these movements and their lasting impacts beyond the unexpected course of her own life.

Readers interested in BYU, Utah, and immigrant experiences will find this story thoroughly absorbing. It holds plenty of personal, candid self-inspection: "I had run in a huge circle and met myself again at the starting line. I took a detour in life to come to America, only to go back to where I was in the beginning, accomplishing nothing. Nothing at all. Disowned, divorced, dropped out. What good was I, a shameless liar?"

But what really makes Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops a standout is its concurrent consideration of the social, spiritual, and cultural forces that affect Merrill's choices and their consequences.

Memoir readers with a special interest in either contemporary Mormon culture or Chinese immigrant experience will find Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops documents an extraordinary journey.

Painting the Past
Meredith Allard
Copperfield Press
9780578533841, ebook $4.99; paperback $8.99

Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction is a self-help guide for creative writers who want to incorporate authenticity into a lively recreation of history, and covers the special challenge of capturing the past.

In an unusual preface, Meredith Allard opens by stating that she normally isn't a fan of the very genre she's producing here - the self-help writer's guide. The reason, she explains, is that "...often the authors make claims that cannot be substantiated. Declarations about how to create something, anything, ignores the obvious fact that all creators have their own styles, their own visions, their own voices."

This said, there is a place for such a book...albeit one which acknowledges and incorporates these changes...and it's evident early on that Painting the Past provides such a guide. Its purpose is to guide, not admonish, writers, showing them how to tap their creative drive to bring history to life.

Chapters embrace a flexible process that covers strategies and pitfalls with an eye to showing writers typical obstacles they can overcome, which may also include identifying their own unique, preferred methodology: "Part of becoming comfortable with the research process is figuring out what works for you. The notes, in whatever form you write them, come in handy after the library books have been returned and you need that certain date while you're working."

From how to research more effectively to how to incorporate these notes in a way that brings writing to life, Painting the Past covers all the nuances of assembling facts and blending them into a vivid fictional component. Throughout the book, Allard emphasizes that individual inclination and approach are key to creating a process that works differently for each writer, using her own approach as an example and not a mandate: "...for me, if I know how the story ends then I can create a beginning and middle that brings me to where I want to be. Through trial and error and fried brain cells, eventually I'll hit on the last line of the novel. Once I have that last line I can construct a road map that will lead me, and the readers, through. A different way may work better for you. I know writers who prefer to be surprised by the ending as they discover it organically through the writing process. I know writers who focus first on the beginning because they feel it gives them a solid basis for the rest of the story. As with everything else to do with writing, you need to discover your own best way."

These examples stem not just from her own writing, but her role as an editorial advisor, providing many keys to not only producing an excellent piece, but understanding how publishing houses will approach the finished product: "When we receive submissions at Copperfield, the narrative style of the piece catches our attention in either a positive or a negative way. How do you find that balance between too modern and too authentic? By studying examples of historical language handled well and not so well by other novelists. You'll also need patience and practice."

The result is a powerful survey of many different options that ultimately supports each individual would-be writer's ability to grow their task using a uniquely creative approach.

More than just another 'how to write' manual, Painting the Past eschews formula approaches and gently coaches historical fiction writers on a range of strategies proven to produce exceptional results.

No historical fiction writer should be without this...even those who have already published books.

Mermaid Tears
Susan L. Read
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280364, $17.95 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Mermaid Tears reaches young readers ages 8-12 and is the first book in the Michaels Middle School series. It follows Sarah's entry into middle school, where she begins to feel that nothing she achieves is enough.

Her sentiment isn't new, but has been slowly evolving over time. She also acknowledges that the new school milieu may be just what the doctor ordered: "Change is always scary, but maybe a change is what I need. There's no doubt that the past year or so has been getting more and more difficult for me, especially at school."

Her psyche really began a downhill slide when her art teacher missed the point about the shell drawing she produced, deeming it incomplete and inadequate and throwing Sarah into a tailspin about the one thing she thought she could do well in life.

As Sarah finds her emotions buffeted from every area, including home, she makes an evocative call for help through observations that young readers will relate to: "...worse than that, I think, is hearing my parents' raised voices well into the night when I suppose they think my brothers and I are asleep. Blaming each other. Accusing each other of not being firm enough with me. Questioning what they have done wrong. Arguing about what they should do to make me understand, once and for all, that I need to learn to behave and focus on things that matter before it is too late. I just lie in my bed and listen to it all. Powerless. So tired of feeling powerless."

Sarah does have a refuge, as she sinks into depression. And it may be the one thing that either saves or kills her as she develops a longing to escape from a world in which her efforts are never acknowledged.

Depression in children is rarely presented in such an evocative manner. Susan L. Read brings Sarah's dilemmas, thoughts, and feelings to life in a survey that is realistic, absorbing, and offers much potential discussion fodder for adults seeking to engage young people in talk about depression: "It is still pretty hard to think of myself as a gift of any kind. I know I put a huge amount of stress on my family, especially my parents. I was in so much pain myself, and I passed a huge amount of that pain onto others in my life. While I always knew that I could not cure my own pain by causing pain to others, I was powerless to stop myself."

Can a girl so damaged by life bounce back? Will Sarah ever be normal? When she finds another cause to hold on to, can she make a difference there, against impossible obstacles, and save and improve other lives?

Middle grade readers will find her story compelling, realistic, and hard to put down as they journey through Sarah's life, her dive down the rabbit hole of depression, and view the light at the end of a long, unpredictable, winding tunnel.

A Heart To Survive
George Fillis
Bluerock7, LLC Publishing
9781735937205, $14.95 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Readers of Canadian historical fiction and romance will find much to love about A Heart To Survive. Based on the true story of a young Canadian woman who fell in love with a Chinese man in the 1950s, it probes the events of an interracial romance in a country that hardly ever receives close inspection of racial relationships from American readers.

The story opens in December 1949 in Hangzhou, China. Tao Wen Shun is sent to the docks to pick up a package for his grandfather, who crafts musical instruments. He barely makes it home after stumbling into a military confrontation between forces supporting Mao and Chiang Kai-shek, and he and his wise grandfather share a sixth sense that everything they know is on the cusp of change: "What you saw today was people losing their peace. Always remember that we add a few paint strokes to our life's work each day. The work we undertake and the relationships we build are expressions of our character."

As events lead Wen Shun away from his beloved home to a foreign land, he holds these words of wisdom close to his heart as he encounters the promise of freedom against the realities of racial repression in Canada: "You don't understand what it's like here. Most Canadians treat us as lower-class citizens. We were brought here as laborers for the railroads, mines, laundries, and restaurants. Whites hated us because we worked for wages they wouldn't accept, and they couldn't find other jobs. That's still the case now, and we're kept in poverty."

There's romance...dangerous romance...blossoming alongside forces of repression and change, and Wen Shun (now 'Winson') finds himself buffeted on many sides as he makes difficult choices and finds the foundations of safety and love to be fluid and unreliable.

All the elements are here for an extraordinary read that blends a coming-of-age experience with a window into Canadian culture, race relations of the 1950s, romance, and a young immigrant's ability to persevere against all odds.

Most of all, A Heart To Survive chronicles the kinds of choices that lead into danger and opportunity alike, adding a dash of thriller and mystery elements into the mix to create a multifaceted story that is engaging, engrossing, and hard to put down.

Historical fiction readers, particularly those interested in Canadian backdrops, are in for a treat. The story opens the Collingwood series with questions of immigrant experience, paradigm-changing social and political currents, and the lessons passed down between generations which allow people to survive changed and unpredictable circumstances.

Bobby's Diner
Susan Wingate
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
B08W8TFLTN, $3.99

Fifteen years ago, Georgette Carlisle fell in love at first sight with the owner of Bobby's Diner. A married man, Bobby found himself caught between two women. His conundrum was resolved (for him) upon his death, but these women are only beginning to grapple with the impact of his decisions when he leaves the restaurant to them both, in his will.

As if this weren't enough struggle, Bobby's Diner is located in a lucrative highway corridor that has investor Zach Pinzer willing to kill for the opportunity to develop it. Literally.
And so two disparate individuals find their lives entwined by opportunity, love, and threat, creating dilemmas that form the foundation of the powerful read that is Bobby's Diner.

Susan Wingate's wry sense of irony and humor come to light in the first paragraph, which tells of the will's unpleasant surprise: "Bobby did something none of us expected. He gave me half the interest in the diner and the other half to Vanessa! Just like Bobby to be equitable."

This sense of humor is injected into their relationship as Georgette narrates the impact of this revelation on ex Vanessa: "The note talked about his guilt for leaving Vanessa but also about his great love for me how Vanessa spent nearly half her life building the diner but it was my creativity that keep it going. Have you ever heard the term livid before? Well, Vanessa's face turned every shade of livid I've ever seen. I remember sitting there imagining her head filling up like one of those water balloons at the fair and exploding right off her shoulders."

Vanessa and Georgette actually have a lot in common. Perhaps that's why Bobby loved them both. Creative, determined women who are hard workers, the two would have been ideal partners under other circumstances. They are about to find out that the differences between them are less than the threat posed by the man who will do anything to gain access to their inheritance.

The power in Susan Wingate's book lies as much in their evolving partnership relationship and the future of a diner that stands at the crossroads of development as it does in the growing threat to both. Wingate does an exquisite job of expanding on this relationship, drawing both women into a cat-and-mouse game between not just each other, but outside forces.

It's actually a triangle of inherited mess, because Vanessa's daughter Roberta also has an unexpected stake and say in what evolves, and a way of putting both women on the spot: "I may not have any say in this, but... but..." She looked around at me and continued, "But Georgette does!" She was nailing her mother by using me. Vanessa's shoulders dropped and she turned slowly back to face her daughter."

The psychology surrounding these disparate forces and approaches to the diner and life is wonderfully portrayed against the backdrop of crime, business issues, changing interpersonal relationships, and the pivot point of a diner that lies at the focal point of an evolving disaster on many fronts.

Readers who enjoy stories of women at odds with one another, who face mystery, threat, and changing relationships all at once, will relish the lively psychological dilemmas in Bobby's Diner. Much more than a story of suspense or intrigue, it's a vivid study in changing human relationships that will keep readers thoroughly engaged.

Wrath James White,
Denver Horror Collective
9781734191745, $14.95 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

Consumed provides horror fans with a collection of tales inspired by the legend of the Wendigo, a mythical creature said to reside in the forests of Canada and the Great Lakes region, that harbors an insatiable appetite for humans. Centuries of folklore surround this figure, so finding it a prominent figure in a collection of horror stories offers much food for thought about the background history of this supernatural legend.

Horror and fantasy short story writers here tackle the Wendigo's appearance, methodology, and legend with a collection of diverse stories steeped in fine tension and evocative description. All are linked by the legend, which is creatively explored through diverse approaches to its incarnation.

Take the first story, R. Michael Burns's 'Cravings', for example. Here, Liz Miller awakens to realize she's been in a car crash, skidding into a creek during an icy snow storm. Charged with keeping herself and her unborn child alive, Liz is trapped in her car during the storm, which has become a "motorized coffin". And she's starving. She and her little one need nourishment, at any cost.

Burns creates an evocative read through powerful descriptions of not just the crash and dilemma, but Liz's world before everything went awry: " struck her, not for the first time, that carrying a child was more than a little like having a pampered parasite living inside her, ingesting nutrients from her body, making her flesh its home. Miracle or not, there was something distinctly creepy about the whole thing. Never mind that she had invited the little one in - went to great lengths, in fact, to have that life growing within her."

For some reason, her hunger almost supersedes any other concern. It's a motivation that she, and her reader, are about to discover more about as the story unfolds and moves beyond the initial premise of a car accident victim struggling for survival.

It should be cautioned that these are violent confrontations and scenarios that hold the power of shock and surprise. Faint hearts should imbibe elsewhere (conversely, faint hearts usually don't relish the nuances and facets of the literary horror genre, anyway).

Another notable interpretation of Wendigo resides in Steve Rasnic Tem's 'An Gorta Mor', where retired seventy-year-old Jerome harbors his own aching hunger in an isolated world where everything outside his home feels poisoned and toxic, and everything within it holds vanishing keys to survival. Again, evocative, hunger-based descriptions power this story, as well: "Jerome continued to lose weight but didn't starve. He wasn't suffering. He was hungry, but then he wasn't hungry, aching with an undefined rawness going deep as bone, and it did not stop no matter what he did. If things got bad enough, he'd start cooking the food in the freezer, and dip into the supply of canned goods. But life hadn't yet reached the apocalyptic stage. He was sure he'd know when it did."

As a whole, the combined approach of Consumed 's diverse tales create interpretations of the Wendigo which are engrossing, fluid, and unexpected. These are the hallmarks of a superior horror gathering - stories that center around a theme or legend that still remain thoroughly unpredictable in their outcomes.

Horror readers are in for a treat. They will find these tales darkly compelling and hard to put down, expanding the legend and lore of the Wendigo in new, contemporary ways.

Whispers of Deception
Renee Gallant
Castle & Quill Press
9781734066616, $12.99 Paper/$3.17 Kindle

Whispers of Deception is the first book in the Highland Legacy Series, and will appeal to readers of Scottish history and romance. Its special brand of brooding nightmare is centered on an independent 18th century lady whose parents are murdered, testing even Elaina's courage and determination.

Her newly titled brother, Lord William Spencer, begs her not to become involved, but when Elaina receives evidence that their parents' deaths were more than just a robbery gone awry, as the authorities claim, the plot thickens.

1744 Scotland on the cusp of an uprising is no place for a lady to embark on a murder investigation. It's also no place for newcomers who are unfamiliar with the nation's simmering politics and brewing strife.

Elaine refuses to back down, however, causing more problems for her brother as she investigates the mysterious notes and evidence that lead her straight into not just danger, but a political maelstrom of conflict and puzzling opposition parties.

The Scottish lilt is lightly presented here, making for easy reading for those who have received heavier dialogue and challenging interpretations from other Scottish fictional settings: "He had an uncanny way of sneaking up behind her and scaring the living daylights out of her when she was in the stables, but she'd gladly accepted his offer of taking her out for a ride. "Does me just as much good," he replied. "I dinna like the city any more than you."

When she discovers in her mother's papers the evidence of treason, Elaina comes to suspect many around her, including Lady Caroline Taylor, who has her eyes on William and who seems kind, but may be treacherous, herself: "I'm sorry if I have upset you," Caroline's voice came from behind her. "Those were not my intentions." There was a moment of silence. "You can trust me," she whispered. "Oh, can I?" Elaina whirled on her hostess with fire in her eyes and her voice dripping with sarcasm. "How can I be sure? It was at your home, after all, that someone tried to maim me. You, yourself attended the funeral of my parents in Newcastle and were present when we received the first note. What am I to think?"

As Elaine faces her own demons which lie in both her tongue and spirit and her determination to arrive at the truth, a dangerous foray into murky political waters leads her ever into danger as she probes family secrets perhaps best left hidden.

Renee Gallant holds a fine touch in weaving a mystery and Scottish culture into the history of a changing nation and its peoples. Readers who like their historical fiction spiced by a female protagonist forced to confront matters of her own heart will find Whispers of Deception packed with atmospheric and historical details, intrigue, and twists of plot that make it hard to put down. It leaves enough unsolved mysteries to be continued in future books, yet sums up many of them in an unexpected, satisfying manner as war swirls around Elaina and her family.

Melanin Brown Discovers America
Candice Davis
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645433972, $15.95

Advanced elementary school readers interested in stories of how to handle bullying and interpersonal relationships will find Melanin Brown Discovers America a powerful review of the options and consequences of facing down bullies.

It peppers lovely illustrations by Benedicta Buatsie throughout, but Melanin Brown Discovers America is not a picture book read for the young (unless parents wish to use it as a read-aloud). Its verbiage and approach requires reading skills and comprehension beyond the early grade levels, while its protagonist is a savvy 13-year-old seventh grader who witnesses a new student being bullied because of his beliefs - not his looks.

Melanin's first-person story of how she makes the leap from observation to effective action, the conundrums and choices she faces, and questions of moral and ethical behavior all come into play as readers from elementary to middle school grades receive a survey exploring all her reactions and options.

Melanin attends a private middle school in DC; one of the top schools in the nation. This setting, too, differs from the public school approach of many discussions about bullying, in that Melanin is in an elite setting, yet finds that a variety of learning opportunities do not preclude the most important life lessons of all: how to handle prejudice and bullying.

Candice Davis does an outstanding job of crafting bigger-picture thinking about bullying and the options of participants and bystanders alike. Her focus on a savvy young student who faces her own dilemmas about what transpires, the conflict between her mother and the other mom involved, and the puzzling evolution of her former friend Carl into someone she doesn't recognize are all powerful themes not usually woven into the typical one-dimensional coverage of bullying.

All these make for a powerful standout in children's literature. While the age of the reader may not be as easily pegged as in a standard picture book or middle grade production, Melanin Brown Discovers America is designed to appeal to a much wider age range, with its many insights about daily school life and change. It is highly recommended for advanced elementary well into middle school grades.

As the Road Narrows
James Anhalt
Lancaster & Sterling
9781735361802, $14.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle

As the Road Narrows is set in 1970s America, where social and political clashes are coming to a head not only in the nation at large, but in the life course of middle-aged Jeremy Pipkins, who works in his domineering father's bank.

He's the last person one would suspect of a brutal murder, and yet this vice-president of a bank is guilty. He wanted adventure before he turned the staid age of 40. With social turmoil and murder swirling around him, he more than received his wish.

Detective Al Harwood operates on the other side of the coin. His best friend has just been murdered, and he's determined to find and bring the perp to justice even as he is involved in a plot to attack the Governor.

Little Rock and America are changing around both characters, bringing each into a milieu of revolution and mystery that challenges their set courses and beliefs in life.

Readers won't expect the connection of either of these characters to the hippie culture that evolves to change minds and hearts as Jeremy (now Jack) makes a new life and identity for himself, yet confronts the deaths he has influenced: "The same old story, some die so that others could live. But here on this desolate mesa, both life and death were more vivid and surreal."

As the whodunit blends with Jeremy's transformation and a detective's newfound purposes, readers receive an engrossing interplay between old and new worlds and the traditional and alternative forces at work in America.

The result is a satisfying blend of mystery, history, and cultural change which is intriguing, involving, and hard to put down. As the Road Narrows holds psychological and social interplays that are exquisitely portrayed.

Your Destiny Is Inside You
Ana Pat
Independently Published
9781698908267, $10.99 Paper/$.99 Kindle

Your Destiny Is Inside You: Be Your Own Guiding Light presents a spiritual journey based on a single foundation idea: everything is comprised of energy. Thus, each of us already holds the tools to optimistic self-realization in the form of wisdom, strength, and spiritual attractions.

From the start, Ana Pat warns against the interpretative inclination of the mind, which poses barriers against true enlightenment processes: "Don't intellectualize or analyze the words in this book, and don't get too attached to them. Whenever you try to interpret, intellectualize or verbalize the text, you fall into the trap set by the mind, which seeks to take control of your inner self. The mind constantly verbalizes, interprets and intellectualizes everything, thus detaching you from the essence of true understanding."

Religious readers also receive a firm reminder that this book serves as a signpost, not as a pointer to a particular belief system or paradigm.

As such, Your Destiny Is Inside You features a different form of guidance that sets aside analytical approaches for a more intuitive, self-born set of perceptions. This, in turn, offers connections rather than impeding the process with logical dissection.

Can you imagine that everything is energy? That our destiny depends on our thoughts? That "A particular situation is always the way it stands. The only thing you can do is enhance it with your negative or positive attitude."?

Your Destiny Is Inside You ultimately reminds readers of the power that lies within to view and affect the world in positive ways.

As such, it imparts a perspective and approach to life that supports positive thinking and individual strength, complimenting not just spirituality but psychology circles as readers gain renewal and strength from the pointers reviewed here.

While Your Destiny Is Inside You is more likely to be seen on a new age or spirituality shelf, it's also recommended reading for psychology and self-help readers who would tap into the intrinsic possibilities of personal strength through a renewed interpretation of personal empowerment and connections to the world.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Who Is Maud Dixon?
Alexandra Andrews
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316500319, $28.00 HC/ $14.99 Kindle

"Who Is Maud Dixon?" opens with a woman in a hospital after a major incident. It backtracks to Florence Darrow who works for a major publishing house in a subdued flat position. She is trying to escape the influence of her mother in Florida over her life. Darrow dreams of being an author and feels she is on the right track. After a situation, she is terminated. As that door closes, she is contacted by an agent and offered a job to assist a bestselling author who writes under the name Maud Dixon. What happens afterward is a series of developments that changes her life forever. "Who is Maud Dixon?" reveals a lot about the world of publishing from an insider's view, that is also is an extravaganza of suspenseful building tense situations that develops to an explosive conclusion sure to please anyone who is looking for a nail biter to read well into the night.

Skeletons In The Closet
Kim L. Bruce
Independently Published
9798705630424 $11.99 pbk, $0.00 Kindle unlimited

Short stories are still very popular and "Skeletons IN The Closet" is a shining example of why. Taking from real life situations author Kim L Bruce has a collection that resonates long after being read for their brilliance of taking real situations to create tales that are twisty pieces with surprising conclusions. Bruce masterfully uses language from her first paragraphs on to convey many things in rapid thrillers that are often chilling. Great Aunt And Her Faithless Felines, Home Sweet Home, and Reflections are just a few I want to highlight, as all are remarkable gems of slices of life unseen before. "Skeletons In The Closet' marks Bruce's foray into the world of writing and its an amazing work of fiction that is in the class of the original "Twilight Zone"

Forever and a Death
Donald E. Westlake
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
9781785654237, $22.99 HC / $2.99 Kindle

"Forever and a Death" was originally intended to be a script for a James Bond movie that was canceled for political reasons. So, Westlake took the basis of his treatment to expand it into a novel published after his death. Westlake developed his premise of a man seeking revenge on China into a fast-paced thriller with larger-than-life characters reminiscent of Ian Fleming's original escapades of Bond. The writing takes readers along a journey into a world of intrigue and danger with a smashing conclusion. "Forever and a Death" also has an afterword by Jeff Kleeman, one of the team of production people of the movies on what might have been. "Forever and a Death" is a great addition to the many works of Donald E. Westlake for any fan to savor.

Double Jeopardy
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593188385, $28.00 HC/ $14.99 Kindle

"Double Jeopardy" is a bit different from others of Woods in the series. This time out Stone Barrington will stop at nothing to prevent two brothers from succeeding in whatever they attempt. The two who were in prison for the murder of their father are seeking parole. Before the board can rule, a governor issues a pardon that sets them free. Stone knows they are bad news so he uses every resource to prevent them from carrying out anything they do. Woods keeps the pages flowing until the very end. Along the way are many returning characters who aid Stone in his quest to contain the two men. "Double Jeopardy" is a fun filled suspenseful ride that reveals a different side of Stone Barrington

Clash of the Aliens Collapse Book One
M. B Wood
Word Fire Press
9781680570212, $15.99 pbk

"Clash of the Aliens Collapse Book One" launches a series of sf novels that are sure to please. Alien contact has always been fun reading dating back to H. G. Wells. M. B. Wood creates a different perception on humans and other races that begins way back when with the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He carries forward the tale to include rapid pacing with enough twists and turns to the very end to satisfy any buff of the genre.

Back From The Future A Celebration Of The Greatest Time Travel Story Ever Told
Brad Gilmore
Mango Publishing
9781642502053, $19.95 pbk/ $13.49 Kindle

Since they came out "Back To The Future" movies have always been popular. Now with the publication of "Back From The Future" they are even more so as author Brad Gilmore takes the reader behind the scenes to reveal many unknown facts and information until now. For instance, Michael J. Fox was the first choice for the character he played but was unable able to do so until later. Another actor was hired who filmed a number of scenes. There have been many attempts to bring other film projects as well as well as lots of marketing. Gilmore has a fans keen eye on a lot of things are fun trivia "Back From The Future "creates a new perspective to enhance viewing pleasure of all the flicks when viewed again.

Loving and Living your way Through Grief
Emily Thiroux Threatt
Foreword by Michael Bernard Beckwith
Mango Publishing
9781642504828, $18.95 pbk / 9.99 Kindle

"Loving and Living your way Through Grief" is one of the best new titles to come along on the subject in a long time. Threatt uses examples in her own life as well as other people going through the grief process of a loved one or friend. She writes in easy-to-understand terms for people teaching how to move through the sorrowful process "Loving and Living your way Through Grief" is a shining beacon of hope through a difficult portion of living in this life especially now with the Pandemic of Covid19.

Climate Change Captives 2035 And Project Save
Carolyn Wilhelm
The Owl Factory
9780999776681, $7.75 pbk/ $0.00 Kindle unlimited

"Climate Change Captives 2035 And Project Save" is filled with believable characters caught up in an effort to save civilization. In the near future the world is very different from anything we have ever known. Weeds and poison ivy have overrun everything all because humanity for so long ignored all of the red flags of climate change. Tough there is hope from different younger people, solutions will be tough to put into place. "Climate Change Captives 2035 And Project Save" predicts a grim future if we do not change the trajectory, we are currently on in an all to plausible science fiction novel.

Little Timmy Turtle and his First Day of School
Written by Lauren Hanson
Illustrated and designed by Fx and Color Studio
Independently Published
9781735127705, $11.99 / $3.99 Kindle / $0.00 Kindle unlimited

"Little Timmy Turtle and his First Day of School" handles a situation many of us may have experienced some time in our lives showing how to turn a negative into a positive Timmy Turtle looks forward to his first day of school until a short time later other kids make fun of a scar he has on his shell. Uncomfortable he just wants to go and hide out away from everyone. That night he talks to his mom about it and learns why it is there and a lot more about himself that he is happy to share with other children the next day. With artwork and a beautiful prose "Little Timmy Turtle and his First Day of School" is delightful reading for all ages to enjoy the many underlying messages it presents.

My Rainy Day Rocket Ship
Markette Sheppard, author
Illustrated by Charly Palmer
A Denene Millner Book
c/o Simon & Schuster
97815344611772, $17.99 / $10.99 Kindle

"My Rainy Day Rocket Ship" is a charming story of a little boy who has to stay inside the house because it is raining outside. Instead of getting on the computer, utilizing a phone or watching tv he uses his imagination to create a world where he does many innovative things to pass the time. "My Rainy Day Rocket Ship" masterfully shows there is much more to life than technology and that not enough of us utilize other ways to pass the time

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Becoming an Empowered Empath
Wendy De Rosa
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608687190, $15.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, and somatic empathy. (Wikipedia)

As an empathic person, you likely feel the energy of the unseen world and unknowingly take on other people's energy and emotions. This can lead to anxiety, overwhelm, and chronic health issues. Personal growth work alone is not enough to shift this lifelong pattern. In "Becoming an Empowered Empath: How to Clear Energy, Set Boundaries & Embody Your Intuition", intuitive healer and teacher Wendy De Rosa will guide you step-by-step to help you: Understand your empathic nature; Stop taking on other people's energy; Detoxify your subtle body, including your chakras and grounding cord; Recognize and heal ancestral, familial, and personal traumas; Turn your oversensitivity into powerful intuition.

Comprised of guided meditations, journaling exercises, and practices for energetic self-care,"Becoming an Empowered Empath: How to Clear Energy, Set Boundaries & Embody Your Intuition" will empower you to embrace your gifts, embody light, and become a vital agent for positive change.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Becoming an Empowered Empath: How to Clear Energy, Set Boundaries & Embody Your Intuition" must be considered as a seminal contribution to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Popular Psychology collections in general, and Energy/Spiritually Healing supplemental studies curriculum lists in particular. It should be noted for students, practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Becoming an Empowered Empath: How to Clear Energy, Set Boundaries & Embody Your Intuition" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Longmont, Colorado and the founder of the School of Intuitive Studies, Wendy De Rosa is an international intuitive energy healer, speaker, and teacher. For over two decades she has offered education and training programs for spiritual and personal growth, empowering thousands of empaths to joyfully experience their gifts.

Called to Hope
Sarah Koeppen
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973695790, $9.95, PB, 90pp

Synopsis: Sarah Koeppen's life has been full of excitement and trials, yet as presented in her personal memoir "Called to Hope: The Story of Sarah Koeppen, Founder of the Hope Box, Inc." it is still a testimony of triumph. From the miracle of her birth, the challenges she faced as a young child, her struggle to find her life calling, and her breakthrough as a daughter -- her story brings hope as we read about the challenges that she has endured in starting her non-profit organized -- The Hope Box.

Critique: An extraordinary life of extraordinary accomplishment despite extraordinary obstacles. Called to Hope: The Story of Sarah Koeppen, Founder of the Hope Box, Inc." is a fascinating, exceptionally well presented, and ultimately inspiring account. Simply stated, "The Story of Sarah Koeppen" is a story well worth reading. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Story of Sarah Koeppen" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: THE HOPE BOX is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded to address the issues of infant discardment, abandonment, neglect, and abuse through legislation, education, advocacy, and Safe Haven drop centers. THE HOPE BOX is the Safe Haven chapter for the State of Georgia and was instrumental in amending House Bill 391 in 2017. THE HOPE BOX Mission is to eradicate infant abandonment by educating and empowering both women and safe haven providers in the communities. THE HOPE BOX Vision is that every infant would have access to a safe, secure, and stable environment in order to succeed in life. Also, that every woman could feel secure and empowered in her ability to have a happy and healthy outcome in life. And finally, to unify people and resources within communities to support the safety and security of women in crisis and babies at risk. THE HOPE BOX is governed by a board of directors that meets on a quarterly basis. The Hope Box website is:

The Healing Otherness Handbook
Stacee L. Reicherzer
New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781684036479, $18.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: In "The Healing Otherness Handbook: Overcome the Trauma of Identity-Based Bullying and Find Power in Your Difference", Stacee Reicherzer (who is a nationally known transgender psychotherapist and an expert on trauma, otherness, and self-sabotage) shares her own personal story of childhood bullying, and how it inspired her to help others heal from the same wounds.

Drawing from mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Reicherzer will help the interested reader to gain a better understanding of how past trauma has limited their own life, and show the keys to freeing themselves from self-defeating, destructive beliefs. Simply stated, if the reader is ready to heal from the past, find power in their difference, and live an authentic life full of confidence -- "The Healing Otherness Handbook: Overcome the Trauma of Identity-Based Bullying and Find Power in Your Difference" is an effective and thoroughly 'user friendly' handbook will help guide them, step by step, into an emotionally better and more fulfilling life.

Critique: Expertly written, amazingly candid, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Healing Otherness Handbook: Overcome the Trauma of Identity-Based Bullying and Find Power in Your Difference" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Popular Developmental Psychology, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that The Healing Otherness Handbook" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Stacee L. Reicherzer, PhD, is a Chicago, Illinois based transgender counselor, educator, and public speaker. She serves as clinical faculty of counseling at Southern New Hampshire University, where she received the distinguished faculty award in 2018. She also travels the globe to teach and engage audiences around diverse topics of otherness, self-sabotage, and imposter phenomenon.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Griffin's Heart: Mourning Your Pet with No Apologies
Reagan J. Pasternak
Creatures Align Press
9780578704463, $27.99, HC, 242pp

Synopsis: Losing a pet can be devastating and isolating. The trauma and grief that ensues are often trivialized or misunderstood by friends and family but it is unyielding and must be attended to. Through journaling, healing exercises, and contributions, readers find an outlet for their pain while creating a keepsake filled with beautiful memories. Reagan's own story unfolds as the pages progress, reminding readers that they are not alone in their sorrow and that hope exists. Griffin's Heart teaches us to embrace and explore our darkest feelings and transform them into wisdom and strength while commemorating the pet we loved so much.

Critique: Part memoir, part journal, and part memorial keepsake, "Griffin's Heart: Mourning Your Pet with No Apologies" by Reagan Pasternak is a DIY interactive healing tool specifically written and designed for pet owners experiencing grief for the loss of a pet. An unwavering companion during the worst time, "Griffin's Heart" will help pet owners to find meaning in the loss of their beloved animal companion -- and creates a safe space to honor the life that was lost.

The only time this reviewer ever saw his ex-prize fighter, ex- longshoreman stevedore, ex-deputy sheriff grandfather weep openly was when his little dog died. Simply stated, "Griffin's Heart: Mourning Your Pet with No Apologies" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections -- and I wish it had been around when my grandfather needed it.

Process-Oriented Hypnosis: Focusing on the Forest, Not the Trees
Michael D. Yapko
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324016335, $25.95, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: In "Process-Oriented Hypnosis: Focusing on the Forest, Not the Trees", licensed clinical psychologist Michael D. Yapko provides clinicians with a new framework for utilizing hypnosis with their clients. Yapko encourages clinicians to take a broader perspective, in which patterns rather than individual symptoms are the emphasis of therapy. He offers numerous insights into ways clinicians can hone in on the process of how people come to suffer various types of emotional distress.

Beyond these insights, "Process-Oriented Hypnosis" provides highly practical information and specific examples for integrating this innovative perspective into clinical work.

The key patterns of human experience are central to the first section of the book, providing a sound conceptual foundation and a wide range of examples. In the second section, Yapko provides ten richly structured hypnosis session transcripts for clinicians to insightfully adapt to their clients' needs.

"Process-Oriented Hypnosis" offers clinicians a fresh perspective for working with clients that can be integrated into many different treatment models.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Process-Oriented Hypnosis: Focusing on the Forest, Not the Trees" is an especially an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, college and university library Contemporary Psychology collections in general and Clinical Hypnosis supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Michael D. Yapko, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, medical hypnotist, and the author of fifteen books, including "Mindfulness and Hypnosis", which won the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) Arthur Shapiro Award for Best Book on Hypnosis, and the leading hypnosis textbook "Trancework" (now in its 5th edition), Dr. Yapko has taught in more than thirty countries and received numerous awards for his contributions. He has also received lifetime achievement awards from the International Society of Hypnosis and The Milton H. Erickson Foundation.

Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa's Confessor
Michael Battle
Westminster John Knox Press
100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396
9780664231583, $50.00, HC, 396pp

Synopsis: The first biography of its kind about Desmond Tutu, in the pages of "Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa's Confessor" academician and biographer Michael Battle introduces readers to Tutu's spiritual life and examines how it shaped his commitment to restorative justice and reconciliation.

Desmond Tutu (born 7 October 1931) was a pivotal leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and remains a beloved and important emblem of peace and justice around the world. Even those who do not know the major events of Tutu's life (receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, serving as the first black archbishop of Cape Town and primate of Southern Africa from 1986-1996, and chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1995-1998) recognize him as a charismatic political and religious leader who helped facilitate the liberation of oppressed peoples from the ravages of colonialism. But the inner landscape of Tutu's spirituality, the mystical grounding that spurred his outward accomplishments, often goes unseen.

Rather than recount his entire life story, "Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa's Confessor " explores Tutu's spiritual life and contemplative practices (particularly Tutu's understanding of Ubuntu theology, which emphasizes finding one's identity in community) and traces the powerful role they played in subverting the theological and spiritual underpinnings of apartheid. Michael Battle's personal relationship with Tutu grants readers an inside view of how Tutu's spiritual agency cast a vision that both upheld the demands of justice and created space to synthesize the stark differences of a diverse society.

Battle also suggests that North Americans have much to learn from Tutu's leadership model as they confront religious and political polarization in their own context.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa's Confessor" is an extraordinarily informative study of the life and achievements of a modern day spiritual and political icon. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Biography collections in general, and Desmond Tutu supplemental curriculum studies in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa's Confessor" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780664267278, $49.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.20).

Editorial Note: Michael Battle is the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and the Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York, and President and CEO of the PeaceBattle Institute. The author of eleven books, including "Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu", Professor Battle focuses his own personal ministry on nonviolence, Christian reconciliation, human spirituality, and Ubuntu (the African worldview of community). Battle lived in residence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa for two years and was ordained a priest in South Africa by Tutu in 1993. In 2010, he was given one of the highest Anglican Church distinctions as "Six Preacher."

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Earth Keeper's Handbook
Loren Swift
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982235116, $18.99, PB, 290pp

Synopsis: In "The Earth Keeper's Handbook: Assuming Leadership in a New World" by Loren Swift their are a wealth of stories, inspirations, and experiential exercises to help us do the inner work to come in to true connection with ourselves and our hearts, so that we can then do the outer work that this planet so sorely needs. Also shows is how we can begin to more fully trust our place in the cosmos, so that we can step in to greater connection and collaboration with other human beings with focus and purpose.

"The Earth Keeper's Handbook" is a practical and thoroughly 'user friendly' handbook to deepen spiritual practice, to navigate the inevitable tension and conflict that will arise in collaboration with others, as well as grounding back in to a primal unity with the earth.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, informative and insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Earth Keeper's Handbook: Assuming Leadership in a New World" weaves the personal, the spiritual and the intellectual perspectives gleaned author Loren Swift's lifetime of exploring connection to self, others, the earth and the divine. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Earth Keeper's Handbook" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended DIY instruction manual and guide. While immanently suitable for community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Earth Keeper's Handbook" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Loren Swift has spent a lifetime searching for practical strategies to realize her divine self and overcome the personal trauma and addictions of her past. Her history as a horsewoman and massage therapist informed her work as a licensed psychotherapist and Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer.

The Dublin Art Book
Emma Bennett
UIT Cambridge Ltd.
9781912934102, $19.99, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: Expertly compiled and edited with informative commentaries, "The Dublin Art Book: The City Through The Eyes Of Its Artists" by Emma Bennet is a visual tribute to the city of Dublin in the form and format of an impressive artistic collection taking the reader on an inherently engaging and memorable tour through a truly vibrant and enduring city. From historic Trinity College and the iconic Ha'penny Bridge to the lively pub scene and secret hidden corners, Dublin's artists highlight and showcase this remarkable city's beauties in the most unique and diverse ways.

Critique: A simply fascinating volume to simply browse through one page at a time, "The Dublin Art Book: The City Through The Eyes Of Its Artists" is a compendium of unique perspectives of a city. Offering a template for similar artist driven perspectives on the landscapes of other famous cities, "The Dublin Art Book" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Art collections. It should be noted for student artists, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Dublin Art Book" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Divorce, Simply Stated
Larry Sarezky
21st Century Divorce Books
9780996380959, $17.99, PB, 382pp

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry Less and Save Money in Your Divorce" by Larry Sarezky offers a laser-focused yet compassionate approach to navigating the divorce process. It will empower the reader with the necessary knowledge and insight to maximize results, reduce costs, and care for themselves and and their children during the difficult time of a marriage breakup and divorce.

With a rare blend of wisdom, wit, and sensitivity, Sarezky, who is a 35-year career matrimonial lawyer, expertly explains the mechanics of divorce, principles of divorce law and finance, how to find, afford, and work with the right divorce professionals, and how to avoid the dysfunctional conflict that traditional divorce actually encourages, and much more.

In addition to all these divorce essentials, this new edition of "Divorce, Simply Stated" contains a wealth of tips and strategies from a divorce veteran that cannot be found elsewhere. A veritable treasure trove of information and advice offered to the reader in a uniquely engaging way, "Divorce, Simply Stated" includes the extensive use of checklists eliminating the excess verbiage that often can overwhelm readers of other how-to-divorce books.

Of special note is that an array of skills designed to help the reader cope, organize, and relax during this process are punctuated by the Sarezky's 9-year-old granddaughter's drawings to keep the focused on the children, along with stress-reducing quizzes to keep things light while learning, -- and even a golden retriever named "Chuck" to guide the reader through the divorce thicket.

Among many other things, "Divorce, Simply Stated" will help to maximize settlements, avoid common divorce mistakes, learn to recognize divorce myths, avoid unnecessary battles over children, take advantage of tax opportunities (and avoid tax traps), learn "Insider Tips" for working with and saving money on divorce lawyers, and most important of all, to protect children during and after a divorce.

Critique: Comprehensive and expertly written, this new and updated second edition of "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry Less and Save Money in Your Divorce" must be considered as essential reading for the non-specialist general reader with no background or prior experience in divorce law. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Divorce and Family Separation collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry Less and Save Money in Your Divorce" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Larry Sarezky has spent 35 years as a matrimonial lawyer who has seen first-hand the impact of divorce on spouses and their children. With compassion and the well-being of children in mind, Larry has developed an approach to divorce designed to maximize results while minimizing financial and emotional costs. Furthering a career-long concern for children of divorce, Larry also wrote and directed the Telly Award-winning short film, "Talk to Strangers" to help parents and professionals prevent the harm to children caused by unnecessary child-related litigation. In addition, Larry has worked to improve the family court system in his home state of Connecticut. As Chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section, Larry designed a program to provide divorcing spouses pro bono representation and consulted on court rule changes with justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Larry's articles on divorce have appeared in The Huffington Post, Authority Magazine, and He has spoken on divorce issues to judges, lawyers, mental health professionals, and consumers throughout the U.S.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Ian Fleming's War: The Inspiration for 007
Mark Simmons
Rare Bird Books
453 S. Spring Street, Suite 302, Los Angels, CA 90013
9781644281345, $26.00, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: In 1953 Ian Fleming's literary sensation James Bond emerged onto the world's stage. Nearly seven decades later he has become a multi-billion-dollar film franchise, now equipped with all the gizmos of the modern world. Yet Fleming's creation that battled his way through the fourteen Bond novels, from 1953-1966, was a maverick, a man out of place. Bond even admits it, wishing he was back in the real war...the Second World War.

Indeed, the thread of the Second World War runs through all the Bond books, and many were inspired by the real events and people Ian Fleming came across during his time in Naval Intelligence.

In the pages of "Ian Fleming's War: The Inspiration for 007", author, biographer, and himself a writer of espionage books fiction and non-fiction, Mark Simmons explores these remarkable similarities. For example, Thunderball has a clear link to Operation Ruthless, Fleming's scheme to capture a German naval code book desperately wanted by the boffins at Bletchley Park. Also, the exploits of 30 Assault Unit, the commando team he helped to create, provided the inspiration for Moonraker. Both of these examples and many more are explored in this unique study.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informed and informative literary and biographical study, "Ian Fleming's War: The Inspiration for 007" is a 'must read' biography for the legions of James Bond fans. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Mark Simmons has written some 200 feature articles mainly on naval and military, motoring and travel subjects for publications in the UK and USA, and has written eleven books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion
T. Joseph Scanlon, author
Roger Sarty, editor
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
9781771123716, $39.99, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: On December 6, 1917, the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was shattered when volatile cargo on the SS Mont-Blanc freighter exploded in the bustling wartime harbor. More than nineteen hundred people were killed and nine thousand injured. Across more than two square kilometres some 1200 homes, factories, schools and churches were obliterated or heavily damaged.

Written from a scholarly perspective but in a journalistic style accessible to the general reader by the late journalist T. Joseph Scanlon and posthumously edited by Professor Roger Sarty "Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion" explores how the explosion influenced later emergency planning and disaster theory.

Rich in firsthand accounts gathered in decades of research in Canada, the US, the UK, France and Norway, "Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion" examines the disaster from all angles. It delivers an inspiring message: the women and men at "ground zero" responded speedily, courageously, and effectively, fighting fires, rescuing the injured, and sheltering the homeless.

"Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion" also shows that the generous assistance that later came from central Canada and the US also brought some unhelpful intrusions by outside authorities. Unable to imagine the horror of the initial crisis, they ignored or even vilified a number of the first responders.

Critique: Of particular interest to disaster researchers and emergency planners along with journalists, and scholars of history, Maritime studies, and Canadian studies, "Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of three Appendices (Detailed Notes about Sources; The Railway Telegraph; Death Toll); fourteen pages of Notes; an eight page Bibliography; and a seventeen page Index. While especially recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century Canadian History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Catastrophe: Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note #1: Thomas Joseph Scanlon (2 January 1933 - 2 May 2015) was an accomplished Canadian journalist who became renowned internationally as a disaster researcher and scholar. He served as president of the International Research Committee and was awarded the Charles Fritz award for a lifetime contribution to the sociology of disaster.

Editorial Note #2: Roger Sarty, is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, and was in previous careers senior historian at the Department of National Defence and deputy director at the Canadian War Museum. His other books on the Canadian Army in the Maritimes include Saint John Fortifications (2003, with Doug Knight) and Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney Cape Breton and the Atlantic Wars (2012, with Brian Tennyson).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Matchsticks: An Education in Black and White
Fred Engh, author
Jann Seal, author
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757005053, $24.95, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: The year was 1961, a year marking the start of the racial unrest that would last throughout the decade. Living in a trailer camp in Maryland with his wife and children, the future of Fred Engh seemed bleak -- that is, until he heard a college football coach being interviewed on a local radio show talking about becoming a Physical Education teacher. The coach's words would inspire him enough to registrar at Maryland State College, a then all-black college.

The things of it was, Fred Engh was white. He would become the first white student to attend Maryland State, a segregated college. His intention was not to break any racial barriers or make any headlines. He simply wanted a better life for himself and his family as an accredited teacher. What he learned from attending that college however was something he had not expected.

"Matchsticks: An Education in Black & White" is his story.

The National Association of Youth Sports (NAYS) is Fred's non-profit organization, and has positively affected the lives of millions of children throughout the country for decades, making organized sports for kids fun. This has been accomplished by training coaches to be fair, avoid playing favorites, bulling players, and stopping fans from getting out of control.

Fred has also tried to even the playing field for children of different colors and ethnicities. From baseball to soccer to golf, he has made it his mission to let children choose to play the sport they love -- no matter where they live or how well they play. And yet, the story behind how he discovered his calling in life is definitely a remarkable one of transition.

Today, when racial disparagement has once again taken the form of marches, protesters, and daily news headlines, here is a tale of discovery, understanding, and personal change. A lesson still as valuable today as it was then.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Matchsticks: An Education in Black and White" is both timely and timeless. Timely in this era of protests against structural racial injustice and the rise of white power elements in our society and governments, Timeless in that all that is necessary is for good people of all diverse backgrounds work toward creating a non-prejudicial future for themselves and for the next generation. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Matchsticks: An Education in Black and White" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.95).

Communicating the Future
W. Lance Bennett
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781509540440, $59.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: We are facing an unprecedented environmental crisis. How can we communicate and act more effectively to make the political and economic changes required to survive and even thrive within the life-support capacities of our planet?

This is the question at the heart of "Communicating the Future: Solutions for Environment, Economy and Democracy" by W. Lance Bennett ( Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Communication, and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Journalism, Media and Democracy at the University of Washington).

Professor Bennett challenges readers to consider how best to approach the environmental crisis by changing how we think about the relationships between environment, economy, and democracy. He introduces a framework that citizens, practitioners, and scholars can use to evaluate common but unproductive communication that blocks thinking about change; develop more effective ways to define and approach problems; and design communication processes to engage diverse publics and organizations in developing understandings, goals, and political strategies.

Until advocates develop economic programs with built-in environmental solutions, they will continue to lose policy fights. Putting "intersectional" communication into action requires acknowledging that communication is not only an exchange of messages, but an organizational process.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of seventeen pages of Notes and a fourteen page Index, "Communicating the Future" is an original work of simply outstanding scholarship -- making it critically important reading for students, scholars, and practitioners of media and communication, as well as political activists and non-specialist readers concerned about dealing with the environmental crisis. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Communications & Political Science collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Communicating the Future" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781509540457, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.00).

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Sower and the Seer
Joseph Hogan, et al.
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State Street, Madison, WI 53575
9780870209482, $24.95, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: Comprised of twenty-two essays, "The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest" a product of recent revivals of interest in both Midwestern history and intellectual history, argues for the contributions of interior thinkers and ideas in forming an American identity.

The Midwest has been characterized as a fertile seedbed for the germination of great thinkers, but a wasteland for their further growth. "The Sower and the Seer" reveals that representation to be false. In fact, the region has sustained many innovative minds and been the locus of extraordinary intellectualism. It has also been the site of shifting interpretations -- to some a frontier, to others a colonized space, a breadbasket, a crossroads, a heartland.

As agrarian reformed (and Michigander) Liberty Hyde Bailey expressed in his 1916 poem "Sower and Seer," the Midwestern landscape has given rise to significant visionaries, just as their knowledge has nourished and shaped the region.

The essays gathered for this collection examine individual thinkers, writers, and leaders, as well as movements and ideas that shaped the Midwest, including rural school consolidation, women's literary societies, Progressive-era urban planning, and Midwestern radical liberalism. While disparate in subject and style, these essays taken together establish the irrefutable significance of the intellectual history of the American Midwest.

Critique: An inherently interesting, thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of deftly crafted and original essays, "The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest" from the Wisconsin Historical Society is a unique and welcome American regional historical study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library U.S. State & Local History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: Joseph Hogan is the director of fact-checking at Retro Report. Jon K. Lauck is a professor of history and political science at the University of South Dakota and the editor-in-chief of the Middle West Review. Paul Murphy is a professor of history at Grand Valley State University. Andrew Seal is a lecturer in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Gleaves Whitney is the director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University.

Chief Thunderwater
Gerald F. Reid
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806167312, $34.95, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: On June 11, 1950, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an obituary under the bold headline "Chief Thunderwater, Famous in Cleveland 50 Years, Dies." And there, it seems, the consensus on Thunderwater ends. Was he, as many say, a con artist and an imposter posing as an Indian who lead a political movement that was a cruel hoax? Or was he a Native activist who worked tirelessly and successfully to promote Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, sovereignty in Canada? The truth about this enigmatic figure, so long obscured by vying historical narratives, emerges clearly in Professor Gerald F. Reid's biography, "Chief Thunderwater: An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places", newly published by the University of Oklahoma Press and is the first full portrait of a central character in twentieth-century Iroquois history.

Searching out Thunderwater's true identity, Reid documents Thunderwater's life from his birth in 1865, as Oghema Niagara, through his turns as a performer of Indian identity and, alternately, as a dedicated advocate of Indian rights. After nearly a decade as an entertainer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Thunderwater became progressively more engaged in Haudenosaunee political affairs -- first in New York and then in Quebec and Ontario. As Professor Reid shows, Thunderwater's advocacy for Haudenosaunee sovereignty sparked alarm within Canada's Department of Indian Affairs, which moved forcefully to discredit Thunderwater and dismantle his movement.

Self-promoter, political activist, entrepreneur: Professor Reid's critical study reveals Thunderwater in all his contradictions and complexity as a complicated man whose story expands our understanding of Native life in the early modern era, and whose movement represents a key moment in the development of modern Haudenosaunee nationalism.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read throughout, Professor Gerald F. Reid's in-depth biographical study, "Chief Thunderwater: An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places", is a model of original and meticulous scholarship -- making it an especially recommended addition to community, college, and university library First Nations Canadian History Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chief Thunderwater" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Editorial Note: Gerald F. Reid is Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He is also the author of "Kahnawa:ke: Factionalism, Traditionalism, and Nationalism in a Mohawk Community".

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Scimitar (A Kate Redman Mystery: Book 12)
Celina Grace
Isaro Publishing Ltd
B081HCT9FB, $6.99, ebook, 196 pages

Scimitar is slow paced procedural cozy detective story. Most of the story is about the personal lives of the detectives with a basic detective mystery as the core of the tale.

DI Kate Redman finds out her friend and colleague was at the scene of a terrorist attack in London. At the same time Kate is assigned to investigate the murder of a young man at a historic mansion near Abbeyford. Her friend just survives the attack but her boyfriend is killed. The emotional turmoil of the terrorist attack weighs heavily on Kate as she tries to focus on her job, first step to identify the unknown murder victim and second discover who killed him.

Scimitar is a cozy story about people under stress that just happens to involve a murder investigation. Readers looking for a story focused on a detective mystery would be better served reading a different book. Readers who enjoy personal stories about people under stress will enjoy the book while skimming the murder mystery. I personally feel the story suffers from being split between the two story genres and doesn't fully satisfy either narration thread.

The Course of Empire (Course of Empire Series Book 1)
Eric Flint, K. D. Wentworth
Baen Books
B00ARPEJC8, $0.00 ebook, 520 pages

The Course of Empire uses an old trope that has been a mainstay of SF stories for nearly 100 years. The core idea is 'how do you understand and communicate with species from other worlds when there is little to no overlap between your cultures.'

Twenty years ago the Jao conquered the earth. They attacked and took the world over as a step in their ongoing fight with another species, the Ekhat the Jao were lucky in their conquering of the earth. They are space travelers so they had the higher ground during the fighting. Human technology and cultural depth match, and in some cases exceed, the skills of the Jao. The Jao have not encountered a near equal in the past.

The Jao have major problems understanding humans. They are a manufactured race that rebelled against Ekhat domination. They have little understanding of the flexibility cultures develop under normal evolutionary conditions. Being subjugated by the Jao, humans have few opportunities to understand their new rulers. The result is chaos with the added stress of the exterminating Ekhat heading to earth.

A new and young leader of the Jao, is sent to earth with the hopes that his youth and noted flexibility might cut through the chaos. The big question can things improve between the Jao and humans in time to save the earth from destruction?

The Course of Empire is a throwback to the classic space operas of the middle of the Twentieth Century. The storyline follows along the well-traveled lines that made SF one of the strongest genres today. The pacing is a little slow as the story examines the problematic interactions between species with barely enough cultural similarities to understand each other. The story is filled with action and has a solid end. It is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in the SF genre and is also a good introduction into one of the classic tropes of SF during its heyday.

Contemporary readers might be bothered by the info dumps but this is a needed way for SF to layer in cultures and competing histories that are completely new to the reader. To work these details into a story without dumping would require hundreds of more pages and a slower storyline. Writing techniques from the past were used for valid reasons. But many contemporary readers assume that reasonable old style writing techniques are poor techniques and never consider that they exist for a reason.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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