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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 8 August 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education
Jonathan S. Gagliardi, et al.
Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781620365762, $95.00, HC, 252pp,

Synopsis: In this era of "Big Data," institutions of higher education are challenged to make the most of the information they have to improve student learning outcomes, close equity gaps, keep costs down, and address the economic needs of the communities they serve at the local, regional, and national levels. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Jonathan Gagliardi, Amelia Parnell, and Julia Carpenter-Hubin, "The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education" helps readers understand and respond to this "analytics revolution," examining the evolving dynamics of the institutional research (IR) function, and the many audiences that institutional researchers need to serve.

Internally, there is a growing need among senior leaders, administrators, faculty, advisors, and staff for decision analytics that help craft better resource strategies and bring greater efficiencies and return-on-investment for students and families. Externally, state legislators, the federal government, and philanthropies demand more forecasting and more evidence than ever before.

These demands require new and creative responses, as they are added to previous demands, rather than replacing them, nor do they come with additional resources to produce the analysis to make data into actionable improvements. Thus the IR function must become that of teacher, ensuring that data and analyses are accurate, timely, accessible, and compelling, whether produced by an IR office or some other source.

Despite formidable challenges, IR functions have begun to leverage big data and unlock the power of predictive tools and techniques, contributing to improved student outcomes.

Critique: Comprised of thirteen erudite, impressively informative, and exceptionally thoughtful, thought-provoking articles by experts in the field of big data management and education, "The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both college and university library Education & Data Processing collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education" is also available in a paperback edition (9781620365779, $35.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

Meet to Marry
Bari Lyman
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757316050 $14.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Are you fed up with the dating scene? Tired of going on yet another second date? Do you keep attracting the wrong ones? Then it's time to Be the One to find The One.

If you truly want to find your ideal spouse then Meet to Marry is your next step closer to 'I do.' Instead of superficial dating guides, Meet to Marry offers a completely fresh approach that will help you find real and lasting love.

Author Bari Lyman should know. Her love life resembled the movie Groundhog Day, with a revolving door of ill-suited men showing up again and again. One day, she had a turning point, and asked herself, "Why do I always attract the wrong ones?" While the answer took years of research, her eventual epiphany transformed her approach to dating. The result? In short order, she met and then married the man of her dreams. Using what has become a time-tested method, Bari has helped scores of hopeful singles find their soul mates and has created Meet to, the first and only website for marriage-minded individuals.

With candor and compassion, Bari busts the prevailing dating myths that keep us blocked and single. Using her three-step approach - Assess, Attract, and Act - you'll learn how to change your mind-set and remove your blind spots to find your perfect relationship match. Discover for yourself what so many other happily married couples now know. Let this proven and practical approach help you find the love that you deserve.

Critique: Like any life goal, finding and marrying the right person requires effort and a plan. Meet to Marry: A Dating revelation for the Marriage Minded lives up to its title with guidelines to adjust one's perspective and increase the odds of finding a compatible lifemate. For example, one basic tip is to avoid being friends with the opposite sex while dating for marriage. "The energy of a male and a female is, by nature, intimate, and while dating for marriage, it's best not to be friends with people of the opposite gender [...] Friendship is intimate and knowing. It's safe and warm, brotherly or sisterly. Can 'friends' who share this kind of intimacy view each other as potential spouses? Not likely. This is a big blind spot area." Candid, accessible, and reader-friendly, Meet to Marry is a "must" for anyone looking for the right person, especially when under time constraints such as those of a biological clock. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Meet to Marry is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Gurdjieff Movements: A Communication of Ancient Wisdom
Wim van Dullemen
Hohm Press
PO Box 4410, Chino Valley, AZ 86323
9781942493341, $24.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: The teachings of the Russian spiritual visionary G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) are still being studied by an ever-growing number of people worldwide. While scores of books exist about the man and his teaching methods, few devote significant coverage to "the Gurdjieff Movements".

These dozens of precise and mostly asymmetrical gestures, arranged into detailed choreographies for groups of practitioners, were designed by Gurdjieff himself. They are sometimes practiced accompanied by a haunting and highly-rhythmic piano music-developed by the master, with the assistance of Thomas de Hartmann, a distinguished professional composer and one of his earliest students.

"The Gurdjieff Movements: A Communication of Ancient Wisdom" by Wim van Dullemen reconsiders the eminent role of this vital yet often neglected component in the transmission of Gurdjieff's legacy. Dullemen, whose first Movements' teacher received her instruction from Gurdjieff himself, is in a unique position to offer background, theory and first-hand experience about this subject. He is a professional musician and a long-time practitioner of the Gurdjieff work who trained in these Movements and served as a master accompanist for the practice for over thirty years.

No book can "teach" the Movements, as Dullemen candidly admits, since the cosmology they rest within can only be learned in an experiential context from a teacher who has incorporated them at a level far beyond ordinary familiarity. Dullemen makes no such attempt to detail them within the pages of this study. Far from an instruction manual, "The Gurdjieff Movements: A Communication of Ancient Wisdom, offers invaluable insight into and greater understanding of the whys and wherefores of this third arm of the vast teaching that comprises Gurdjieff's complete communication: his books, his oral teachings, and finally his Movements.

Critique: An insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to the growing library of Gurdjieff studies, "The Gurdjieff Movements: A Communication of Ancient Wisdom" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Sacred Music & Dance collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Gurdjieff Movements" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Damnation Island
Stacy Horn
Algonquin Books
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616205768, $27.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: On a two-mile stretch of land in New York's East River, a 19th-century horror story was unfolded. Today we call it Roosevelt Island. Then, it was Blackwell's, site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals. Conceived as the most modern, humane incarceration facility the world ever seen, Blackwell's Island quickly became, in the words of a visiting Charles Dickens, "a lounging, listless madhouse".

"Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York" by Stacy Horn the first contemporary investigative account of Blackwell's. Stacy Horn tells the story of Blackwell in an informative and chilling narrative through the gripping voices of the island's inhabitants, as well as the period's officials, reformers, and journalists, including the celebrated Nellie Bly. Digging through city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports, Horn brings this forgotten history alive: there was terrible overcrowding; prisoners were enlisted to care for the insane; punishment was harsh and unfair; and treatment was nonexistent.

Throughout "Damnation Island" we learn of the extraordinary Reverend William Glenney French as he ministers to Blackwell's residents, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Department of Correction and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man's inhumanity to man. In "Damnation Island", Stacy Horn shows us how far we've come in caring for the least fortunate among us -- and reminds us how much work still remains.

Critique: Impressively detailed research combined with an extraordinary flair for storytelling, "Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York" is an extraordinary and unique contribution to 19th Century American History and is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. Enhanced with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Source Notes, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Damnation Island" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.45) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781684411986, $34.99, CD).

Toys and Play: With Everyday Materials
Sudarshan Khanna, author
Gita Wolf, author
Anushka Ravishankar, author
Tara Books
9789383145577, $24.95, HC, 112pp,

Synopsis: More than ever in the past, now it is necessary to bring in the possibility of free, unstructured, and open ended play to children. We can create opportunities for other kinds of play -- such as through the toys showcases in the pages of "Toys and Play: With Everyday Materials", all of which are based on so-called folk toys created by small-time artisans from all over India.

A child who makes these toys needs to handle physical material intelligently -- an important sense to restore in an increasingly virtual world. Along with step-by-step instructions on how to make a range of toys, "Toys and Play: With Everyday Materials" also contains sections on the science behind some of them, plus tips, poems, jokes, as well as a thought-provoking section for adults to think through issues of toys and play in today's world.

Critique: It is interesting to note that one of the three authors of "Toys and Play: With Everyday Materials is Sudarshan Khanna, who is a globally acclaimed toy researcher, design educator and author who has been associated with the National Institute of Design of India for over 35 years. He has written several articles and books on toys, toy-makers and pedagogy with toys, and is considered India's leading expert on folk and traditional toys. He is also a National Award winner for popularising design-science among children. He continues to conduct toy design workshops across the world.

Profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization, and the presentation of step-by-step instructions for each toy construction project, "Toys and Play: With Everyday Materials" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections -- and a 'must' for anyone who enjoys making (and helping kids to make) their own toys that children can play with.

Quote Acrostic Favorites
Charles Preston, editor
AKA Associates
9780998832272, $9.95, PB, 70pp,

Synopsis: An acrostic is a form of writing in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, message or the alphabet.

Selected by former USA Today crossword puzzle editor Charles Preston, this third volume in his "Quote Acrostic Favorites" series features 50 favorite acrostics revealing wise and witty sayings on topics from culture and humor to politics and science.

Players can crack the clues in the word column; transfer them to the diagram; and discover quotations from people like Joan Collins, Bob Dole, Maureen Dowd, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and more.

The featured 50 favorite puzzles showcase such topics including "American Travel," "Self-Reliance," "The Right Ideas," and "Transformation".

Critique: Anyone who delights in solving crossword puzzles will be equally entertaining with the fifty acrostic puzzles comprising "Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volume 3". Also very highly recommended for dedicated puzzle solvers are the first two volumes in this simply outstanding series: "Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volume 1" (9780998832234, $9.95, PB, 70pp) and "Quote Acrostic Favorites" (9780998832265, $9.95, PB, 70pp).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Santa's Dog
JoAnn Sky
Dogs and Books
9780999843000, $16.95,

Santa's Dog is first in a projected series of "Santa Dog" books, and a portion of each purchase will support animal rescue causes; so those with a special interest in dogs will relish both the story and the beneficial impact of purchasing these books.

Young picture book readers ages 5 and older receive a rhyming adventure that focuses on Santa's best dog, Lance, who he falls out of the sleigh and is taken in by an animal shelter, then adopted by a military family.

Lance is happy in his new home and helps his family when deployment takes their father away from home; but when next Christmas rolls around, where will his loyalties lie?

Ed Koehler provides colorful and fun full-page drawings to accompany a rhyme which will lend equally well to independent pursuit or parental read-aloud as it follows dogs, reindeer games, and one special Santa's pet.

Death, Unchartered
Dorothy Van Soest
Apprentice House Press
9781627201971, $16.99 pbk
9781627201988, $8.49 Kindle

Most murder stories focus on investigative processes. The best provide a side dish of social inspection. But Death, Unchartered takes an additional leap into complexity by providing the subplot of an inner city teacher's efforts to help disadvantaged children at all costs - even possibly sacrificing her career to make a stand on their behalf - and this adds an extra dimension to the story of a child's death, creating a riveting production pairing a murder mystery with ethical and moral conundrums.

Teacher Sylvia Jensen is the last person who should be a candidate to become an investigator: she's already fully vested in her students, and has been for many years. This is exactly why she suspects the mysterious little skeleton unearthed during excavation for a new charter school site is one of her students, and why she's so readily able to connect the dots to link the outstanding mystery of his disappearance with these remains.

Even with this certainty and evidence, there are still many unanswered questions which Sylvia pursues with a gusto the police could never match on a 'cold case' like this. Why was Markus murdered? Investigative reporter J.B. Harrell also wants to know the truth, and the duo join forces to probe the past events leading to a child's death and their possible present-day threat to others.

Under another's hand this story could have become a P.I. probe; but underlying insights on corporate greed, manipulation, deadly deals, and motives that would lead one to kill a child involve "Ms. Sylvia" in a story that directly dovetails with her passion for defending the schoolchildren under her care.

There are also astute insights on Sylvia's personal life and choices which are nicely woven into the scheme of things: "There was another truth, too, which I never admitted to anyone but myself. I was afraid that if I had children of my own, they would eat me alive. I'd offer myself to them on a plate like I did with my students, and because they were my progeny, they'd feel entitled to demand seconds and even thirds." How much will she give of herself, to serve her students? When will her efforts be enough?

Her changing viewpoint about activism on her own turf and how she changes in response to it is also an intrinsic part of an evolving story that draws readers not just into a murder mystery, but issues of educational challenges, union activism, and forces of social inspection and change: "I crossed my arms over my chest and watched in horror as Teresa grabbed the hands of two children, pulled them from the middle of a crowd of picketers, dragged them to the front entrance and deposited them in the door. With long, angry strides, she went back and threw her body between one of the picketers and the mother of the children. As I listened to the picketers' vile language and watched the ugly scene unfold, a seismic shift took place inside me. Any residual ambivalence I had about the union drained away and was replaced by a combative defiance that infused every fiber of my being. The union had crossed a line. It had proven itself unworthy of its association with the union movement. Something had to be done. The violence had to be stopped."

Political activism, forces of corruption that affect public education funding and pursuits, and issues reaching from the 1960s tumult to modern-day graft create a story that is filled with many possibilities and much insight. Teachers, particularly, will find many of these scenarios and concerns true to life, linking classroom and socialization objectives with bigger pictures of societal and political forces overseeing teaching choices and approaches to education.

It's this broader perspective that makes Death, Unchartered more than just another murder 'whodunnit' but an unrelenting probe into the impact of greed and special interests on the educational system. Readers who turn to Death, Unchartered for a murder mystery genre read will find the story compelling, complex, and injected with the protagonist's personal reflections and transformations which keep the plot moving quickly and crafts a gripping read with a surprising outcome.

Guillermo Stitch
Nineveh Editions
9781987775679 $6.99 pbk
ASIN: B07D6YK614 $2.99 ebook

Literature(R) blends speculative fiction with a dystopian mystery's noir atmosphere in a production that opens with a reflection on how literature was defined in the First Era, before the Disaster that changed everything.

In this world, book burning ceremonies are common, literature is reviled, and protagonist Billy is a secret bookworm in a society where fiction has been banned. Therefore, he believes someone is out to kill him.

A single day in the life of this protagonist as he navigates an uncertain world outlines the perils and possibilities of love, death, and redemption in a society where modern literature has fostered a Second Enlightenment which has left fiction behind in favor of something less independent and more unsettling.

There are many intriguing references that become clear as the story unfolds: Pinpoint(R), Cog(R) power, Gripping Tails(R), Applied Lit(R). The satire involved is so delicate that initial references might slip by readers at first; but as the story progresses, these insights and references become tangible, recognizable parts of a plot that readers will come to anticipate with delight. Woven within the dystopian saga of a rebel book reader are comments on social mores, the evolution of thinking trends and altered perceptions, the roots of rebellion, and the fostering or suppression of independent thinking which will provide modern literary audiences with much food for thought.

Literature is facing its "full optimization" as a brand, but not in any form Billy will accept as a replacement for his forbidden passion. In a world where everything is branded, what place is inhabited by the rebel, the independent thinker, and the real literature buff?

Art, alienation, and consumer culture evolution and rules lie at the heart of a story that continually piques readers, inviting them to think about issues of control, manipulation, and forces of change challenging their own independent thinking processes.

Billy's unexpected venture into murder is only one aspect of a frightening story that poses many questions about evolving social change. A series of complex and unexpected faux pas move Billy to the brink of trouble, but with a wry injection of satirical humor throughout.

Literature(R) is a literary piece that may be hard to identify with a particular genre; but which provides a satisfying blend of literary inspection, social commentary, dystopian world analysis and individual dilemmas to keep readers guessing and thinking to the end of Billy's perplexing, fast-paced day. It's highly recommended for its multifaceted themes, social inspection, wry insights, and unexpectedly fun approach.

The Masked Queen's Lament
Dylan Madeley
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B07DD18H76 $2.99,

The Masked Queen's Lament is Book 3 in the 'Gift-Knight Trilogy' and opens with Derek and Chandra enjoying the fruits of their victory as they ride towards a friendly city. They don't have long to savor their success, because dark force Alathea still has designs on the world, and her efforts to conquer it aren't over.

This time, tired of the delays and failures, she's decided to take matters into her own hands and personally embark on her mission to quash her archenemy, Crown Princess Chandra Kenderley, at a point when she's most vulnerable and without her defenses.

As society bristles under the power play between these two rivals with their very different perspectives on how a kingdom should be run, readers are treated to a story that is approached from different viewpoints. There's King Derek, who has chosen a better world for everyone; Alathea, who believes that world should be one of her own direction and choosing; Prime Minister and commander-in-chief Lucen, who has successfully saved the land from the Persecution but finds himself facing other conundrums; and Chandra, who faces military strategists, a ride into danger, and unexpected alliances with strangers.

Woven into the story are accounts of battles and confrontations with self and others as the two travelers find strangers risking their lives for their kingdom and purposes. Each battles both a heritage of hatred and the forces that would exploit that hate for their own purposes.

Readers receive a satisfying blend of social and political confrontation that pairs a quest with new discoveries about different factions operating in the kingdom.

While prior familiarity with the other books in the series will make for a better appreciation of the setting and history of The Masked Queen's Lament, it's not a requirement in order for newcomers to gain a sense of what is going on, why, and how Chandra and Derek have their hands full even after an apparent victory.

Of particular note and strength is how the perceptions of the people juxtapose with those higher-ups who have special interests and influences on the outcome of the battles.

The result is an action-packed quest story that goes beyond clashing encounters to probe the roots of power, manipulation, social forces, and individual strength. The Masked Queen's Lament is a solid addition to the series as well as a good stand-alone read especially recommended for fantasy fans who like their plots multifaceted and well-detailed.

Waiting for You at Midnight
Vicki Salloum
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181368 $13.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle,

Waiting for You at Midnight tells of Arabella, an older woman and recovering alcoholic who spills out her life story, anger, suffering, and trials in a novel that reads like a memoir as it considers her vivid, challenging life.

The story opens where one might think it would end: later in life, after she's gone through a stormy relationship with a husband whom she discovers is a bank robber, who has then suffered from lung cancer and left her a widow.

Arabella still needs male companionship, but because she's both lonely and angry, she initially makes the wrong choice in a man who initially seems charming and exciting, but who actually is a predator. Distancing herself from her previous self-destructive habit of being deceived by men, Arabella finally falls for a fine man who is genuine. The only problem is: he's of a different race and class, introducing new issues that tie in directly with her Southern heritage and cultural bias.

Waiting for You at Midnight might have focused on destructive repetitive relationship patterns; but Vicki Salloum introduces different elements to chart Arabella's growth not only in her choice of personalities; but in the kinds of experiences that challenge her preset notions of love and acceptable behaviors in social situations.

Readers receive a number of surprises, from the specter of a woman over the age of 50 looking for sexual satisfaction and romance later in life to the challenges of being a loving partner in the face of devastating illness; a widow who seeks to continue living a full life after loss; and the kinds of situations that make widows victims of men who would take advantage of them. Add palpable struggles with alcoholism and staying sober under the influence of life's pulls and challenges and the ideals of Southern class and cultural norms in a changing society and it's obvious that Waiting for You at Midnight holds far more than a singular approach to the recovery process, on many levels.

If these descriptions sound like Waiting for You at Midnight would be a demanding read, be advised that its heady descriptions and use of the first person makes for a compelling, empathetic examination that proves hard to put down and thoroughly engrossing as readers follow Arabella's revelations, growth, and determination.

Waiting for You at Midnight is a vibrant story recommended for readers of women's literature who would consider the fundamental differences between the sexes as they follow how an older woman recreates a different course for her love life in later years.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes
Jendi Reiter
Sunshot Press
9781944977207 $12.00,

An Incomplete List of My Wishes provides social inspections in short stories that are astute windows into society's secrets, prejudices, double standards, and individual purpose. In the course of short pieces that examine relationships and reactions to life's biggest challenges, these works offer tightly-written, engrossing inspections that are as diverse in nature as they are connected by the unifying theme of plucking elements of humanity from inhuman conditions and fiery reactions.

Many of these works have won prizes and publication by prestigious literary journals. Their stand-alone nature lends nicely to this pursuit, but when compiled as a whole under one cover, their impact is even greater.

Take the short story 'Five Assignments and a Mistake', for example. The piece opens with a bang ("The day begins with a dead baby.") that makes it impossible to put down, but events turn far from the compelling opener as readers learn about a college psychology student's assignment to watch a child being wrested from its mother as she pursues a degree in social work.

The protocols she's absorbing to handle clinical emergencies are actually the same lessons Laura Sue will need to make it through life, ministering to people who could turn violent, bleed, or bite. Riding shotgun with a woman from the city's Child Protection Department provides Laura Sue with a perspective that uniquely defines the world and sets the path for her involvement in it: one that deftly contrasts reality with the possibility of a different kind of discovery about life forces ("The day begins with dark her sleep, alone, she can lift off again into the oh of discovery: how the buzzing in her limbs subsided, for the first time ever, and she was vast and powerful as a sheet. She was wind. She could lie on the ocean and nothing would stir.").

Laura Sue has evolved to be a student, a thief, a sexual tease to her boyfriend, and a mama's girl who has learned her lessons far too well. She sports a diamond engagement ring, but the engagement dialogue in her heart is another matter.

Like the other observational vignettes in this collection, Jendi Reiter offers no easy conclusion. The "incomplete list" slices pieces from lives that, themselves, are works in progress as yet purposeful and undeveloped, offering inspections that cement the notion of lives led in a whirlwind of self-inspection and social challenge.

The result is a vivid literary and psychological collection especially recommended for those who like their stories passionate yet observational, their psychological depths presented in sips rather than explosions of flavor, and their stories nicely imbedded with social and spiritual reflection alike.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes offers the kinds of inspections that leave readers thinking far beyond the curtain call of quiet dramas in lives lived on the edge of self-realization and social engagement.

Liar Liar
Nancy Boyarsky
Light Messages Publishing
9781761532548, $14.99 PB/$6.15 Kindle

Liar Liar adds Book 3 to the series of Nicole Graves mysteries and tells of Nicole's assignment to care for a witness who is suing a star sports figure for rape. The only problem is that seeming victim Mary Ellen harbors many mysteries that, upon closer examination, lead Nicole to question both her innocence and events; and these mysteries just multiply as Nicole discovers that Mary Ellen isn't the only one lying.

In fact, events are so complex that even Nicole's fiance Josh tries to persuade her not to take on this case. But Nicole is determined to uncover the truth even against the flurry of lies muddying the waters. Can the Bible-studying Mary Ellen be involved in blackmail? And what is the truth of the case when she disappears?

Nicole chases not only lies and truths, but the growing web of intrigue that threatens her engagement with Josh and the course of her own life.

Liar Liar creates exquisite tension in the mystery area, but its focus on Nicole's evolving relationships and the impact of her latest case on her life is the real strength in this saga. Readers receive more than a 'whodunnit': they are given an astute, gripping, personal story that blends courtroom proceedings and criminal investigation with revelations about the protagonist's personal life and how they dovetail and clash.

This personal inspection of the investigator's world has been done before; but seldom with such rich description, psychological depth, and attention to detail. The result is a seamless intersection of personal and professional objectives that draws readers into a vivid story filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Readers who like their mysteries spicy with personal reflection will find Liar Liar an exhilarating exploration of how far Nicole will go to probe the elusive nature of truth and the impact of a series of lies on the truths she values about her life.

The Traitor's Bride
Alix Nichols
Independently Published
9781980601265, $9.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle,

The 'Keepers of Xereill' series is science fiction romance reading at its strongest, and even newcomers who have not imbibed of The Cyborg's Lady (like this reviewer) will find accessible and engrossing the events in The Traitor's Bride, which opens with the specter of ex-army Major Areg Sebi, who is about to be put to death for high treason.

Witness to his imminent public demise is laundry maid Etana Tidryn, who shared hot, passionate love with him just the previous evening, and who has fallen for more than his physical prowess. It would seem unlikely that Lord Sebi can be saved or that their love will overcome death; but Etana has a gift even she doesn't fully understand.

Readers will find that many aspects in this sci-fi saga are unexpected; from the injection of light doses of humor as characters interact to the ribald sexual descriptions that present steamy moments of passion and juxtapose nicely with the story's social, political, and fantasy elements.

Alix Nichols inserts just the right degree of observation and complexity into his story to keep readers involved in the evolving personal relationship of its two main characters: "She was mistaking his worry about her well-being for a selfish whim as if he wanted his gift with the wrapper and the bow on. Like he wanted to be sure it hadn't been used before."
Double standards between menials and lords are explored; a quick move is charted from a brutal death to a lifetime of helplessness and guilt; and a marriage proposal that may offer a way out for both Etana and Areg contributes to a fast-paced story that puts passion firmly in line with bigger-picture circumstances and life-altering decisions.

The focus on Etana and Areg's evolving love under impossible conditions includes fast-paced action that moves from prison to forests filled with bearwolves and threats. The Traitor's Bride follows the growth of political tyranny, grassroots social reform movements, and how two individuals become swept up in a course of events. It profiles injustice, escape, and how a new hope for freedom sweeps through a repressed society.

It should be cautioned that sexual descriptions are a strong feature of The Traitor's Bride. As much as Etana and Areg form personal and political alliances, so they physically cement their relationship and cultivate a growing appreciation and tenderness towards one another. The sexual descriptions and their depth are a necessary part of the story line; not an enticer for readers of soft porn.

In many ways, The Traitor's Bride profiles a long rescue attempt: that of a society held under thrall, hearts longing for the companionship of a partner, and the salvation of freedom, honor, and redemption.

All these facets wind nicely into a quest and story that places more than personal safety at risk, concluding with the kind of open-ended bang that promises more with an ultimate question of who is the villain, who the hero, and if anyone will really survive this kind of ordeal.

Sci-fi readers seeking racy, action-packed reads will appreciate the many avenues taken in The Traitor's Bride's quest as it weaves through delicate issues of social status, power, romance, and sexual awakening.

The Artful Liar
Cynthia Leeds Friedlander
Hybrid Global Publishing
9781938015922 $15.95 print
9781938015939 $3.99 eBook

The Artful Liar: Reflections on Betrayal and Deception combines the memoir form with fiction and presents a series of vignettes based on Cynthia Leeds Friedlander's perceptions, tailored into a third-person protagonist's observations, using the nameless "she" as a deliberate device to reflect a deeply personal history while giving voice to a universal depiction of betrayal shared by many.

The common theme at the core of these observations is a struggle with dishonesty, betrayal, and deception, which prompts a series of powerful insights from the process of letting go and healing to the empowerment experienced by reassessing core values and beliefs to arrive at revised, stronger positions about life and its challenges.

Stark descriptions of the contrast between relationship ideals and reality provide pointed moments of realization and change in which the protagonist comes to understand the impact of underlying deceptions and their effects on the course of life choices: "There was no crystal ball there that April wedding day to see into her future to inform her she would eventually fall madly in love with her gorgeous husband who spoke five languages and who would be a devoted husband and father. She would have no way to know the very pedestal she so wanted to be on, that day in Rome when she married Hank, would at some point begin to feel like a bejeweled trap holding her prisoner and keeping her from finding her own strength and voice. She couldn't possibly have imagined that day when she first wore the wedding band she intended to keep on her finger for the rest of her life that she would venture outside of her marriage to find deep connection."

The lessons of these revelations are reinforced in a 'Messages' section that summarizes the impact of each event ("She learned how important it is to:

*Refrain from making choices based in fear.

*Honor your commitments through honesty.

*Rely on yourself to provide your sense of well-being..."), and this allows readers to not just follow the story, but to clearly understand where that segment of understanding fits in the bigger picture of personal growth and evolution.

The shocking discovery of years of deception in a decade-long relationship reveals growth and self-awareness that comes from a determination to gain strength and wisdom through painful loss. "Mathew was like a snake who could slither away in almost any direction, leaving you wondering if the truth you'd just seen had even existed. It always came to Mathew instantly to re-represent; he was gifted that way. ... She felt dirty and stupid when she realized how often he'd convinced her of what he wanted and needed her to believe. She knew many times whatever it was about was completely harmless. She also knew there was much harm within many of the deceptions and omissions Mathew had perpetrated and there was no safe route back to trust, back to belief. It was only about damage and loss now. It was only about letting go."

As the epiphanies and realizations continue, readers experience adventure, disappointment, and growth through the eyes and life of a woman who perceives each occurrence as an opportunity to embrace change. From ways in which survival becomes linked to identity to patterns of wishful thinking and false perceptions which are identified, then revised, women receive the close inspection of a life that is not just experienced, but closely considered.

The result is a story which opens with a focus on deceptions both internal and external and evolves into a detailed description of processes of transformation. From big lies to false perceptions based on ideals, The Artful Liar considers various forms of deception and their impact.

It's this facet which makes The Artful Liar a powerful presentation. Any thought that the work does not artfully fit into one specific genre (women's fiction, contemporary literature, psychology, family relationships, or a memoir) will be offset by the fact that, in actuality, it's a broader inspection that touches upon all these areas. This makes The Artful Liar of special interest and recommendation to female readers who would cultivate their own avenues of self-reflection and growth. "She wanted to bring hope and healing to others who had been betrayed and deceived. ... She wanted to build bridges to self-worth and contentment that many could travel across and then multiply their well-being among many more. She wanted to pay it forward."

If illumination and fulfillment are among the reasons a reader would choose such a story, The Artful Liar more than fits the bill with its reflective messages on the finer art of letting go and finding peace by cultivating personal integrity and identifying and shedding the deceivers in one's world.

Plays of the American Experience
Thomas Hischak
Meriwether Publishing
c/o Pioneer Drama Service Inc.
9781566082259, $18.95,

Plays of the American Experience: 25 Fascinating Scenes for the Classroom or Stage fictionalizes actual events in American history and tailors them for the stage, creating a dual benefit for young adult actors who would better understand both drama and social life in America over the years.

Each play offers a completely different focus and topic; from the effects of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on a house slave who decides to leave her former owner for a new life in the North to suffragette Susan B. Anthony's decision to pursue her case in the courts. These aren't just scenes capturing well-known historical figures or events: they include many regional social conditions, such as a family's decision to send their eight-year-old son into the mines to follow in the footsteps of his family.

The timeline of these events is provided in chronological order, from 1845 to 1973, which further cements the atmosphere, social concerns, and eras of the characters.

Another big 'plus' to this collection is that there are no pat answers provided in many cases; but a dramatic attention to decisions, consequences, and the impacts of events that promote a deeper understanding of their eras and atmospheres.

In the play about the Emancipation Proclamation, for example, the hard-hitting conclusion questions its negative impact from the viewpoint of one adversely affected by its wide-reaching consequences and the changes it brings to their household.

Quite often, history's facts and lasting impacts are reviewed in notes that outline the real-world aftermath of events presented in the play, as in the drama about Alice Hamilton and her participation in the controversy swirling around issues of industrial toxicology.

Not only will young adults absorb historical facts and the social sentiments of various times; but audiences receive much food for thought through hard-hitting conclusions that cement the lasting impacts of these events.

The result is a highly recommended collection of short 10-minute plays that are particularly well suited to middle to high school presentation under all kinds of conditions. They require neither prior acting skills nor big stage sets, can be used either on stage or in classroom settings, excel in creating engaging and thought-provoking encounters between actors, and present ideas that bring history and controversies to life in a personal manner that dry facts alone couldn't capture.

Educators seeking powerfully-crafted scenes that hold high interest for students normally resistant to learning history could do no better than to choose this versatile, compelling collection as their foundation text for not just teaching drama, but adding life to the American history learning experience.

The Coca-Cola Trail
Larry Jorgensen
G L Management
9780692844304, $22.00,

The Coca-Cola Trail is recommended reading for anyone with a special interest in America's iconic soft drink, its history, and the places across the country where this history is on display.

The 'trail' here is a collection of Coca-Cola building locales, signage, processing and bottling plants, and not a few surprises. Among them is Bellingrath Gardens, a 65-acre visitor attraction in Alabama that came from a Coca-Cola bottler who grew his enthusiasm for Coca-Cola and built what was originally envisioned as a fishing camp, but grew into a national landmark.

This example demonstrates that Coca-Cola's influence extended well beyond business walls and into the community. Author Larry Jorgensen moves from business accounts to personal lives changed by the presence and growth of Coca-Cola in a fine survey that's far more than a business history alone.

Under another hand, this story might have adopted a one-dimensional focus; but the inclusion of a wealth of vintage black and white photos, biographies of men who grew both within company ranks and in community status, and an attention to pairing Coca-Cola history with America's development creates something refreshingly different.

Readers who anticipate a singular approach to the subject thus will be delighted by its expansive embrace of not just Coca-Cola's growth; but the many lives it touched across the country.

Business collections as well as general-interest holdings strong in regional Americana will find The Coca-Cola Trail a versatile, engrossing story that profiles the figureheads and places forever changed by Coca-Cola; all woven into a vivid set of descriptions that make for lively reading.

The Plasma
Kamalendu Malaker
9781981743957, $7.15,

In The Plasma, immigrant James Wilberforce has built a better life for himself in America. He has his own highly successful sprawling business, a wife, and three children. What more could a West Indies immigrant desire?

Good health, for one. When he's diagnosed with a rare cancer, James is offered a unique opportunity to participate in an experimental treatment. The only problem is that it holds not just the opportunity for recovery, but changes that will affect everything he has worked for all his life.

Think of a Robin Cook-style thriller when pursuing the medical mystery that is The Plasma; but with an overlay of social inspection that elevates this production to something more than a quasi-science fiction plot.

Medical details are realistically and convincingly woven into a plot that tackles not only the processes of medical interventions and the outcome and impact of an experimental procedure, but the protagonist's efforts and desire to put his life back together the way it was before his diagnosis.

The waxing and waning of his feelings of helplessness, insights on complicated and changing family relationships in the face of illness ("The children were less joyful this time, but they were delighted to see their dad like a normal person, as their dad again."), and the narrator's introduction to the "fascinating world" of effectively serving as a guinea pig in medical circles make for engrossing descriptions of lay individuals whose lives are changed by medicine.

At times these medical descriptions feel dense and overly complicated; but like any good medical thriller, the proof of the pudding lies in the details and authenticity of description. The connections between medical experiments, a focus on making profits, and moral and ethical conundrums involved in medical experimentation are very nicely presented despite the density of some of these descriptions.

As the narrator defines his concerns over a period of years in which treatment success moves up and down, he explores the impact of his choices on his family and frets about their possible future without him. And as events move into legal circles, readers are treated to an explosive situation that nicely defines the interconnected worlds of patients, physicians, innovative medical treatment choices, and their broader impact.

The Plasma is a powerful medical drama that plays out in the arena of personal experience, special interests, and business motivations alike. It poses many thought-provoking moments especially recommended for readers who enjoy stories of moral and ethical challenges in the medical world. Action is spiced with a fast-paced race to a conclusion which ends with a satisfying bang of social and political surprise.

Lakes of Mars
Elliott Graves
Publisher: TBA
9781949272000, $TBA, Website/Ordering Link: TBA

People say you can't run from your problems, but Aaron Sheridan attempts just this when he signs up for what he believes will be a suicide mission to the never-ending Rim War after he causes his family's death in a shuttle accident.

He's seeking the kind of solace (and redemption) that comes from an honorable death. What he didn't expect was an honorable life as a result of decisions and confrontations which provide him not with respite and peace, but a demanding stint in a four-year school intended to make commanders out of soldiers.

It's a contrary world where sullen students "...didn't look like kids; they looked like old men who'd seen it all." It's an environment which systematically strips the humanity from its warriors and cultivates an atmosphere of alienation, competition, and brutality. It also turns out to be just the ticket Aaron needs for his uncertain path not towards death, but to recovery and life.

Akin to Lord of the Flies with its descriptions of cruelty, confrontations, and change, Lakes of Mars deftly captures military training and processes of control and honing competency in preparation for conflict.

From the complications of modern interstellar life to special political interests, a prestigious command school which may have to be relocated from Mars, and jealousy and intrigue on the job, Aaron finds that his hands are full and his mind has become occupied with something far greater than his personal sorrow.

This blend of military description, sci-fi, and social inspection create a satisfyingly engrossing tale that fills its pages not with battle scenes and high-tech devices, but with ethical and personal conundrums that challenge Aaron to probe deeper into the circumstances surrounding a war he'd initially only wanted to die in.

The result is a well-detailed, complex story that centers on destruction, rebirth, and the emergence of new threats in the face of stress and violence. Sci-fi readers will find Lakes of Mars moves beyond an officer training experience and into the fundamentals of beliefs, goals, and recovery.

Noriko's Journey: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Claire Youmans
American I
9780990323495, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Noriko's Journey is Book 5 in the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series and follows Azuki (a girl who incorporates the elements of a Toki bird with its beautiful plumage), sparrow-boy Shota, and Noriko, who has her own secrets and alter-identity. In this Japanese setting, the boundaries between human and animal are blurred, and special abilities and struggles juxtapose with everyday life changes from an uncle's marriage and new wife Noriko's challenge to accept her niece and nephew's secrets to a coming child who may be more crane than human.

In fact, they aren't the only ones to wonder if the next generation will be entirely stable: in this fantasy version of Japan, nothing is certain, and secrets abound within and between families. It will take a journey of challenge, acceptance, and change before Noriko can fully integrate her new position in life with its myriad demands and uncertainties.

While the story centers around two children who can turn into birds and their relationships with very different worlds, it also focuses on Japanese history and culture, the changing perspectives and dilemmas of those who traverse this odd world and its changing landscapes, and is especially strong in presenting the motivations and perceptions of inhabitants who, in one way, are very Japanese in their shrewd assessments of marriage proposals and life: "Toyoda-san was shrewd, Yuta thought. Marrying a second wife who was an older and experienced business-woman might be one way to acquire a cheap housekeeper and property manager. Yuta concluded that Toyoda-san was truly fond of Noriko and didn't want to see her dazzled by the offer of a late marriage to her ultimate detriment. He decided to forgive Toyoda-san's bad manners."

The surprising depth of the story comes from its focus and reflections on Japanese social strata and cultural inspection: "Noriko was one of the new women, she thought, the ones she read about, the independent ones who questioned traditional society and social roles. Religious life formed a part of traditional society, but Noriko wasn't the type to take that road, Satsuki could tell. Monasteries were for believing Buddhists, or those willing to pretend to be. Satsuki knew without asking that Noriko had never considered it. What she wanted to know was how samurai or aristocratic women functioned outside the system of marriage and family connections without becoming part of the floating world of entertainers. That was another refuge for upper-class women willing to sacrifice respectability for security and sometimes power. Noriko had avoided that, too."

This lends a profundity and series of real-world revelations unexpected in a fantasy setting, giving Noriko's Journey: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy a credible element of not just believability, but astute insights into the perceptions and social connections of the Japanese as a people. Within this backdrop of detail lies a complex world of dragons, humans, quasi-humans, and special forces which operate beyond the usual realm of human concerns.

Interactions are multifarious yet engaging, injecting questions of heritage into an absorbing quest that leads each character to question their roots, objectives, and place in the world.

The result is a powerful fantasy infused with Japanese cultural inspection, description, and changes. While prior familiarity with the settings and characters from the other books in the series will make The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's continuing saga easy to pick up, newcomers will discover that enough background is provided to lend to a relatively accessible read (albeit mid-journey).

What seems like a fairytale about children with uncommon gifts evolves into an engrossing tale that brings medieval Japan and its customs and culture to life. It's rare that a fantasy can claim to educate its readers about real-world circumstances; but The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's approach both entertains and educates, making for a highly recommended, unique story that should appeal to all ages, from children to adults who appreciate history and fantasy stories that journey from individual challenges to the wider-ranging social and cultural inspection of Japanese women who struggle with many facets of their changing worlds.

The appealing tale of a dog's two homes leads to a difficult decision for the canine, and one which youngsters will find easy to understand. The dog's feelings are nicely explored in a compelling plot that invites discussion and introspection, making for a charming story on many levels.

Dear American Brother
Joe J. Elder
Joe Elder, Publisher
9780993993626, $4.99,

"Dear American Brother" follows German-Russian Hans Gerein, who dreams of a better life in America as World War II spins his family and roots out of control while he stands in the crossfire of nations at war. The story opens with the narrator's desperate search for a teenage daughter lost during the recent communist onslaught.

Musing on the numerous tragedies decimating his family and life in the face of social and political upheaval, Hans reflects on his past and his tumultuous world as he undertakes a desperate (likely impossible) search for the last thing giving his life meaning. Readers are deftly carried into a past which includes family life during the 1917 Communist Revolution, Stalin's campaign of mass starvation, and now, WWII.

The promise of America is a beacon of hope as Hans reflects on his past and struggles with his present reality, and readers are swept into his family history, from encounters with the infamous Gulag system to American brother Kurt's promises in the aftermath of war, which injects dreams into the growing realities of oppression and military rule.

One powerful attribute of this story lies in its vivid portraits of what this kind of oppression looks like: "The largest of the military trucks, the timber-framed box stacked with sacks of wheat and flour, rumbled around the corner and ground to a halt in front of the church. Captain Shukov slid from the passenger seat. Exuding an authority one could almost smell, he adjusted his collar and climbed the stairs to face the Reinbolds. He raised his arm, made a fist, then uncurled two fingers and pointed to the trembling couple. "During the search, my assistants found wheat hidden under a pile of potatoes in their root cellar. An entire bucket filled with wheat!" A sorrowful groan rippled through the crowd."

Descriptions of various forms of tyranny are powerfully wrought and bring readers into worlds wracked by special interests, military and political pursuits, and their direct impacts on the culture and lives of the people.

Another strong point to the author's choice of a first-person narrative lies in his attention to ethical and moral conundrums he constantly confronts in the face of atrocities. His choices lead to no clear path to redemption: "A fierce battle raged in my soul. One quick answer in exchange for word of Katie and Amilia, but betray a friend? No. It took great effort to shake my head."

As the narrator navigates a world on eggshells replete with spiritual and physical hunger, readers are carried into a changed landscape where nothing is stable and everything is being questioned.

The result is a chillingly vivid tale of communism, country, and salvation that deftly captures a bygone world and a protagonist changed by the difficult choices it presents. His quest to reunite the remnants of his family under the most impossible of conditions creates story that's equally hard to put down.

CC Wyatt
Me Myself Publishing
9780996778565, $15.99

Perseaus is Book 2 of 'The Ferret Books' and ideally young adult audiences who pursue this continuation of the saga will have a prior familiarity with Book 1 because it picks up the story where Pia Wade, beset with visions, went missing. Here she re-encounters the strange Ferret, who had changed from animal to human and waved goodbye to her as she was leaving the island, in the prior story.

Months later, at the point where the first story ended, she'd espied the human Ferret at a bookstore. Perseaus picks up the tale at this point and runs with it, following feisty Pia's determination to probe the last four years of her life at all costs, and the meaning of the mysterious Ferret.

Most of all, Pia wants freedom. At the story's opening she appears to have achieved this; but soon her suppressed emotions rise to the surface as she discovers that not confronting her past leads to not really feeling free: "Freedom is letting go. For whatever reason the notion brought chills to my arms. I melted away the chills running my hands up and down my arms, thinking how things had changed. I was free now. It had been all I ever wanted, all I could ever think of. Free of the creepy visions, the dreams, and all the craziness that came with it. Free so I could again live a normal life, and now that I was, it was as if "normal" wasn't normal to me anymore."

Pia fears her visions and dreams will return to once again change her life. Odd coincidences and circumstances keep entering into her world, such as picking up a psych book at a bookstore only to discover that the strange young clerk who thinks he knows her from somewhere is actually a haunting figure from her past whom she can't quite place.

As her relationship with Cameron, her rescuer, continues to evolve towards romance and healthy familiarity, so her inspection of the rest of her world begins to absorb the uncertain, warped mystery overriding her life. Is she actively making herself sick with her imagination; or is something really happening, once again?

Perseaus is about a young woman growing into her special abilities, finding her purpose in life, and coming to terms with new possibilities brought about by her ongoing visions and mystery: "Living is life. To not live is to die," I said, as he crushed the leaf in his hand. "And this is my life; it's all I've got, and I need to make the most of it." He now opened his hand and the leaf fell to the ground. "And...I don't remember any other life," I felt compelled to say. "If you could would you want to?" he asked with a trace of something different about his face. Sadness, I believed it was."

Does Pia really want to make the kinds of choices that could solve the mystery but change her life forever? And what will she do with the answers she's demanded from the being she's summoned?

The questions, answers, and mystery are complex and are nicely cemented by Pia's dilemmas and changing life. The consequences of her quest for knowledge and meaning are candidly displayed in scenes that pair adventure with self-inspection ("To remember meant understanding, and understanding was the one thing I didn't have."), while the subplots (such as Cameron's evolving skating prowess) are satisfying juxtapositions to the central fantasy and mystery elements injected into the story of Pia's life and its conundrums.

The result is a complex and nicely evolving blend of fantasy, mystery, and romance that's highly recommended for young adult readers of these genres; but which also will reach into adult audiences with its strong characters, overlying puzzle, and riveting twists and turns of plot.

Desperate Parallels
Lynda Drews
Pen & Ink Publishing
9780692153192, $15.99,

Brave women trying to change not just laws but status quo and its impact on female lives ties a major current news theme into Desperate Parallels.

The novel opens in Japan with a vivid description: "Asami Fujioka's French-manicured fingernails had been her dinner, a wretched substitute for sushi," when daughter Hana fails to show up for her birthday dinner.

The setting then switches to New York with equally-powerful angst when worried mother Etta feels that a sudden silence from her adult daughter portends disaster; a feeling confirmed when her daughter's partner Henri phones Etta to tell her he's been locked out of their home and daughter Chloe refuses to acknowledge him.

The juxtaposition of these very different worlds is just one of the parallels drawn between lives, cultures, and similar experiences as two mothers explore their daughters' lives, their reasons for concern, and past histories that could portend future disasters.

Real-world Japanese culture is embedded into this evolving story of mothers and daughters; from women who served as prostitutes for the Japanese Government to Chloe's ultimate course in life and the possibility that Hana follows in her footsteps.

Etta begins to believe the terrible situation is her fault as she copes with male privilege and abuse and its lasting impact on her life. Asami is changed by her mentor and friend's daughter and her choices as she grows, changes, and comes to challenge her country's cultural perspectives about males and females.

The actual process of making these changes, including adaptations that allow them to slink into forbidden territory, is one of Desperate Parallels' most powerful attributes: "Asami and Etta had been doing what her friend called "the woman's dance." Outwardly there could be no misstep. Neither could inadvertently crush their partner's toes for fear of retribution or ridicule. Both had to let him lead while they followed. Yet, inwardly, they were both determined to change the "dance" - taking measured steps - eyes always focused above his shoulder."

A second strength of the story lies in the evolution of each mother as she confronts her own successes and failures, their lasting impact on their progenies and society as a whole, and the choices she's made as an investigative process exposes hidden influences, office fiascos, and inadvertent messes made of lives in the balance. When irrevocable disaster strikes, Etta and Asami must confront deeply held secrets and truths when they wind up immersed in an unexpected scam.

Desperate Parallels is a quasi-detective tale of two very different women, from two different cultures, who find their lives drawn together in tragically unexpected ways. It will appeal to those who like stories about vulnerable yet powerful women who confront the men in their world, the ideologies dictating their behaviors, and the consequences of cultural and gender teachings that cause them to hide important truths.

Tied to Deceit
Neena H. Brar
Penguide Books
9781775158028, Hardcover: $27.99 US;
eBook: $7.99 US; Paperback: $19.99 US

Barnes & Noble:


Devika Singh is a woman nobody likes: she's deceitful, malicious, a philanderer, and secretive. So when the Indian town of Sanover awakens to news of her murder, few tears are shed.

However, murder is not to be condoned even when the victim isn't liked or respected; and so Superintendent of Police Vishwanath Sharma begins a probe of Singh's life that ultimately reveals far more depravity than the surface events everyone seems to know about.

The first thing to note about this murder mystery is the fact that this is a literary mystery saga. It includes far more depth and psychological and cultural insights than the typical murder mystery's scenario.

Chapters provide in-depth insights into a husband's prior knowledge of his wife's philandering ways and how he both accepts this fact and lives his life with her (and how he comes to terms with a marriage containing no emotional depth). The impact of some of Singh's relationships affect not only her but those around her; and readers learn about the devastating consequences of actions that result in a distancing of affection, attachment, love, and family ties.

Sharma unravels the complex emotional trail of a woman whose puzzling actions led her to be killed because she may have held the key to something in a missing album. Readers are treated to a story line that probes sensational lives in Sanover and the impact of a woman's decision to lead the kind of life that causes multiple people to want to kill her; including her husband.

As readers are introduced to a wife's knowledge about Davika's affair with her husband and the process of how they become strangers after years of betrayals, they are swept into a story not just of infidelity and murder; but of alienation. There's a deeper price to pay for complicated financial and emotional entanglements.

The characters are well drawn, different perspectives are nicely presented and closely examined, and readers receive a healthy infusion of Indian background and culture against the backdrop of a murder mystery that leads an investigator in unexpected directions.

The result is a vivid story that is highly recommended reading for those who like their murder mysteries set against the bigger cultural and social questions entangling an Indian town's residents.

Odessa, Odessa
Barbara Artson
She Writes Press
9781631524431, $16.95,

Odessa, Odessa is a novel that belongs in any collection strong in Jewish history and literature and traces the journey of two young brothers who come from a background of rabbis and cantors in a shtetl near the Black Sea in western Russia, but flee their homeland to escape anti-Semitism.

One chooses to go to America and the other to Israel. Generations later, their choices continue to resonate as their lineage adapts to two very different cultures and children and grandchildren find their relatives to be distant and foreign.

The first thing to note about Odessa, Odessa is that it isn't just about Jewish roots, history, and connections; the novel creates an atmosphere where capitalist and socialist ideals are contrasted on a personal level.

Love affairs, shattered dreams, connections between the past and present worlds of the divided family, and accounts of immigrants who forge new lives in both Israel and the U.S. juxtapose not just experiences and ideals, but changing traditions.

From family dynamics which "rule beyond the grave" to missing information and pieces which stem from family roots that divide and migrate to other countries, Odessa, Odessa documents a powerful immigrant experience that richly details how other cultures impact and transform the immigrant as generations evolve.

The stories and experiences that pass between generations come to life through the vivid characters of Henya, Dora, Roberta, and others steeped in Jewish tradition, creating a memorable saga that explores three generations moving into the 20th century, who lose and regain their history and lost connections.

This highly recommended odyssey should be in every Jewish literary collection.

The Gods Wait
John von Dorf
Vern & Sisters
9781370508549 $0.99 on Amazon, free on everything else


The Gods Wait offers a novel of internet and interpersonal relationships and excels in a complex web of characters and lives that dovetail in unexpected ways. Of necessity, this approach involves building not one or two but many psychological and social profiles: an endeavor that may stymie those who anticipated a lighter read; but which will delight literary readers seeking more depth and reflective reading than most novels provide.

If the chapter titles don't give a clue of this complexity early on (the book opens with 'A Sawmill Discotheque'), descriptive phrasing surely reinforces this notion as characters move through different phases of their lives and interact with the world around them ("Pascal Adanoma sat down to go to sleep, where he thought about baseballs teleporting around a baseball diamond in layers of energy levels. It was dark in his room. He lived alone. He didn't make his bed every morning, and sometimes he didn't shower before lab. His biggest secret, however, was that his socks didn't match that day. He had many secrets.").

Introverts and foreigners, changing times and brutal realizations about life, and questions of anonymity and conspiracy in the chaotic world of daily life flow through character experiences in a mercurial manner that carries readers through different observations, social milieus, and personal perspectives.

It's almost as if readers are flies on the walls of each different character, observing these changes through a series of rapidly-changing scenes that might initially seem to be vignettes of different stories. All ultimately serve the purpose of contributing to a greater good and unifying theme, down the line.

The characters change their language, personas, and perspectives like actors shed costumes between scenes. This serves to illustrate both similarities and differences between their approaches and the kinds of social and interpersonal activities that link humanity.

Literary audiences should not expect a linear read from The Gods Wait; nor is it a hasty meal to be consumed quickly or without thought. Those who enjoy digesting bits and pieces of life and who allow plenty of time for reflection and re-reading will discover The Gods Wait to be a treasure trove capturing intimate and vivid jewels of life experience: something to be savored, lingered over, and only reluctantly set aside at the conclusion; perhaps to be revisited later as events close with a bang and provide a fitting crescendo to the diverse, thought-provoking, attention-grabbing scenarios.

A.M. Manay
Pythoness Press
ASIN: B07D4MR86Y, $4.99

Hexborn represents the first book of 'The Hexborn Chronicles' and provides young adult fantasy readers with opening maps of the Kingdom of Bryn and a listing of the many characters to be found in the story.

The latter, which is surprisingly detailed, should not thwart would-be readers who might anticipate from its length that Hexborn will be overly demanding or complicated. In fact, the story is fast-paced and engrossing and the interplay of numerous characters only serves to enhance the underlying drama.

Shiloh is an abomination in her world: she is 'hexborn' and her illness, combined with her status as a bastard newly orphaned from her father and mentor, translates to isolation, danger, and a threat which others perceive from her special brand of killer magic.

Forces would take advantage of her powers and the fact that she's been raised to be a devout, patriotic, obedient asset to her kingdom; but Shiloh finds herself fighting not for her realm but for her life and singular purpose as she becomes embroiled in a confrontation between those who would use her powers and the wizard academy that would expand them.

Young adult readers will relish the ongoing focus on Shiloh's dilemmas as she faces too many choices that have nothing to do with her real place in the world. She's had a hard education all her young life about law, special abilities, and the requirement that she quickly adapt to the changes that swirl around her.

Now she's primed for the kinds of alliances that will test not only her blossoming powers, but everything she's been taught to value in her life.

Shiloh's suffering under the burden of terrible lessons and fights, her interactions with Academy students and leaders as special interests flow around her, and the political factions which swirl around the king's court which is her new residence makes for a gripping read that young adults will find firmly cemented in fast-paced action.

Realistic dialogue, a fine focus on Shiloh's perspective and challenges, and attention to enough detail to virtually build a world contributes to a story that is hard to put down and, while satisfyingly complex on one level, is relatively easy to absorb.

Many an adult will find this rich tale of oppression, conquest, and achievement a suitable leisure read, as well, making Hexborn a highly recommended, multifaceted read for a wider audience than its young adult genre.

Susan Fleet
Music and Mayhem Press
9781732130104, $15.00 print / $3.99 eBook

Sniper pairs New Orleans homicide detective Frank Renzi's crime-busting abilities with a challenging scenario as he faces a French Quarter sniper, a crime spree, and a set-up in which a deadly killer targets strangers with the precision of pre-calculated automation.

Frank not only can't pinpoint the perp, he has no idea if the killings are random or targeted. Neither is it evident why a clever jewelry store thief's operations should attract the sniper's admiration and earn an invitation for them to meet.

Eventually, Frank comes to believe that someone important will die if he can't get a better handle on the sniper's modus operandi and his identity. Unfortunately, Frank doesn't know who the target will be.

Like Susan Fleet's other Frank Renzi books, Sniper can be read as a stand-alone. While it dovetails nicely with his other adventures, it doesn't require any prior familiarity with Renzi in order to prove accessible to newcomers, who receive all the background details they need in the course of this riveting crime thriller.

Another plus to the evolving mystery is that readers are privy to the sniper's thoughts, actions, and his stormy relationship with his handler, which dictates some of his choices and actions. One glimpses the heart and mind of the killer and sees through his eyes, an approach that creates a tense thriller in which a killer barely on the edge of control chafes at being reigned in and manipulated.

The addition of a clever thief who uses disguises and carefully targets her heist victims delivers a fascinating scenario in which three vastly different perspectives of New Orleans life and culture in the French Quarter dovetail with deadly precision.

Renzi's interactions on the street and with the top brass in his department reveal everyone's stake in protecting their reputations, some of which hinder Renzi's search for the sniper. Fleet's characters are realistic and engrossing, her action swift and precise, and her subplots complex, enhancing the atmosphere of treachery and betrayal.

Fans of detective novels and crime thrillers will find the tension exquisitely wrought with just the right doses of psychological intrigue, insight, and unexpected twists to keep the story line moving along at a swift pace.

Sniper is delightfully unpredictable. Readers may get into the minds of Renzi, the sniper, and the thief; but won't always know where their lives are heading. Mystery fans who crave surprises will delight in another Renzi saga that turns their expectations upside down, a twisty thriller that weaves a far more sinister tale than that of a lone random sniper.

Five Days in May
Ric Ward

Helen and Chase are teens from different countries who meet, fall in love, and are separated by life's circumstances. Under ordinary conditions, their story would end at this point; but fate brings them back together under extraordinary conditions and, as adults, they face many more obstacles to their connection than even the past had offered.

Five Days in May is a love story; but it's not limited to romance alone. In fact, Canadian girl Helen's initial contact with Chase is quite limited, even if they do form an instant attraction that has no time to blossom. Neither believed in the kind of quick romance that has occurred; and after their separation, letters and distance is all that they have left.

Fast forward some years into the future. Communication has dropped off, but neither has forgotten the past. Still, life has gone on for both of them, and memories of the fiery and instant love they once held has been muted by life circumstances and growth on both sides.

They may never forget their first intense love; but it seems destined to end with memories alone until something changes and the intensity returns to their tabled relationship (albeit not in its original form).

The thought-provoking point made by Ric Ward in Five Days in May is that life circumstances create unexpected, quirky, and sometimes lingering connections. As musician Chase rises to fame and confronts a lonely life on the road when he's not in the spotlight of adoring fans, Helen tackles her own issues as a fan of his music, considering whether her attraction now lies in an affection for his art rather than his soul.

Both confront and acknowledge the emptiness in their hearts and lives ("Even though Chase had talent and stardom, he didn't have a wife, kids and the white picket fence. Inside, he longed for that."). When unrequited dreams of the past come full circle into their adult lives, they are better prepared, in some ways, to accept the fuller changes a relationship brings.

Five Days in May is a love story; but its real strength lies in its sag of perseverance, life-changing events and the growth that stems from them, and how two souls eventually reunite under much-changed conditions.

Readers interested in how relationships evolve and blossom will find Five Days in May a warm story of this process, and will relish the initial and lasting affection between two characters who grow into their own lives as well as the possibility of being a couple again: this time with more endurance, thanks to their separation and individual growth.

As a 'beach read' for summer, it's especially inviting. As the Bruce Springsteen song says, "From small things, big things one day come." Five Days in May charts those small things and their eventual big impacts.

Shrouded Truth
Reena Kumarasingham
From The Heart Press
9780956788757, $19.99

Shrouded Truth - Biblical Revelations through Past Life Journeys walks the path of enlightenment through Biblical references that follow the lives and messages of James, Paul, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and others; and is a highly recommended pick for Biblical scholars from novices to advanced thinkers.

By reviewing these lives and their impact and messages on spiritual thinking, Reena Kumarasingham provides a direct connection between how and why these people evolved as they did and God's greater purpose.

If this was the only approach supporting Shrouded Truth's contentions, it would be effective in and of itself. There's a lot more going on than biographical reflection alone. The information presented herein has been obtained not through studying Biblical events but by including information received from sessions of past life regression. Therapist/author Kumarasingham has become an expert in the field, training Regression Therapists around the world in the techniques and possibilities of working with past life information.

The story of Jesus Christ, when viewed from the typical scholarly and religious angles, is already notable; but when imbibed with insights gained from past life regression work, it is particularly insightful: especially, here, where eight different people unrelated to one another contribute their versions of Biblical events and their meaning.

By now it should be evident that one prerequisite for appreciation of Shrouded Truth's focus and contents is an acceptance of past life regression. The memories presented herein popped up over a four-year period in different parts of the world and were experienced by common people who had no prior connection with each other or with Biblical scholarship.

This fact is, perhaps, one of Shrouded Truth's greatest strengths, because it's hard to refute or ignore the kinds of insights and connections that dovetail so neatly and explicitly in this coverage. Through serendipity and possibly determined spiritual effort, these disparate individuals came to Kumarasingham's attention: thus, this book.

A second big plus to Kumarasingham's approach is her attention to blending known, proven facts about the times with these past live experiences. This makes for far more than a collection of impressions and ideas, linking historical fact to the new information: " is not far-fetched to think that James had a commercial network and a small fleet of trading boats that travelled to England. Although the area was not called 'England' during the Biblical period, the memories were being filtered through Mia's current-life vocabulary, hence her use of terms from the current times. As is mentioned by Isabel Hill Elder, 'It is not by mere chance that Arimathean Joseph became acquainted with Cornish tin and Somerset lead mining, for as a Prince of the House of David, Joseph was aware that his kinsmen of the tribe of Asher had made Cornwall famous for the prized metal.' Again, this implies that the family of Jesus was an important, well-to-do family."

The result is a unique blend of historical fact, verbatim chronicles from past life regression narratives, and new perspectives on Biblical events that intrigues and invites debate from Biblical scholars.

Shrouded Truth is a unique, highly recommended Biblical study that should be included in any serious historical and cultural examination of Jesus' life and times.

The Teratologist
Ward Parker
Pandamoon Publishing
ASIN: B07CZ8S4LJ, $5.99 Kindle; $16.99 print

The Teratologist is the first book in a series by the same name and opens with Dr. Frank Follett's early 1900s study of "monsters": individuals born with physical deformities.

Traumatized by war, Follett embarks on a long vacation in search of peace and a different environment. There, he encounters patients who not only have physical deformities, but extraordinary mental abilities; and it's then that the real definition, presence, and possibilities of the monster comes to life.

Follett studies cases; but doesn't treat them. His hands-off approach to his subject is challenged not only by these real-life figures; but by special interests, kidnappings, and threats. His study of birth defects becomes personal and frightening on many levels, carrying him into realms of struggle he couldn't imagine from his war experiences and his professional studies.

Between elements of the supernatural, social considerations, medical challenges and moral issues, and thriller components added into the mix, The Teratologist represents something satisfyingly different from the norm.

Its fast-paced action and contemplative story of a professional physician who is introduced to a monstrous realm beyond his initial studies is unexpectedly involving. Dr. Follett faces many challenges to his belief system; from the fact of possession (despite its unscientific basis) to being locked in a desperate battle where his surgical and mental acuity is challenged.

As memories of the Philippines overlay themselves on present-day events and evoke struggles with PTSD along with more telepaths than the good doctor can handle, readers are treated to an invigorating story that is fast-paced, packed with descriptions of medical procedures and conundrums, and hard to predict or put down.

The Teratologist is a gripping medical thriller of suspense and parapsychological action that reads like a Robin Cook thriller, but with the added impact of the supernatural; all cemented in a Florida backdrop and the sense of a bygone era.

Are You Happy?
Lea Colleens
Harlen Books Pty Ltd
9780648229513, $25.99 Kindle,

Are You Happy? A Guidebook On How To Earn Happiness pinpoints a common problem surrounding happiness: too often, those asked about their level of happiness have no way of gauging it or even defining what happiness actually is.

Lea Colleens isn't the first to question this perception: many before her have tried to quantify, define, or examine the parameters of happiness; but what makes Are You Happy? different isn't her focus on redefining the wheel, but on helping her readers discern what makes them truly happy.

Colleens provides both an explanation (in an introductory section that offers a recipe for happiness) and a series of instructions that encourage readers to look to brand new experiences to help them understand the roots of their happiness.

Colleens maintains that happiness is to be earned and cultivated. It doesn't drop into one's lap. Other books and discussions often identify happiness as stemming from a higher power, a positive attitude towards life, being on top, or cultivating high self-esteem. Are You Happy? points out the common fallacies of such thinking and offers a clear, alternative approach for recognizing happiness, introducing it into one's lifestyle, and utilizing its power for optimum results.

As chapters lead to and review a formula for happiness, readers are given the tools needed to "stretch Master Brain muscles" to explore strange new worlds and new avenues of perception. Wandering is one door that can be opened to self-awareness. Using this approach, 'settling' (either physically or mentally) is seen as a form of enslavement when it becomes a well-worn rut that resists change and new experiences.

Colleens shows her readers how to cultivate the finer art of escaping such life-defining ruts to make time for new experiences and processing life's journey, but she also covers how to recognize and avoid this 'type of people' who are driven by forces of power and submission and those who excel in using the Reptile Brain to manipulate and control those around them. Are You Happy? thus provides a clear guide on how to recognize happiness and how to cultivate avenues that lead towards it while deflecting those which would work against it; whether this be through individual choice and perspective or the happiness-crushing influences of critics.
As different brain perspectives ("Dog Brain" and "Master Brain" to name a few) are defined along with routines for redirecting or deflecting these approaches to life, readers are given the nuts and bolts of how happiness can be defined and achieved despite all the forces (both internal and external) working against it.

Any reader genuinely interested in a blueprint for finding personal happiness in life needs to consult this master guide to success. The only prerequisite to its successful use is a willingness to examine one's life and modify one's perspective.

Electric IMPULSE: Love, Life & Sex
Angel Hilson
Writers' Raven Publishing
Ebook ISBN: 9780692121238, $2.99
Print ISBN: 9780692134092, $16.95
Ebook link:
Print link:

Electric IMPULSE: Love, Life & Sex is Book One introducing an adult romance series and Aria Davenport, who believes her life is on a set trajectory to a predictable course of college, marriage to her beau, and a happily-ever-after conclusion. Unfortunately, life has a way of thwarting even the best-laid plans, as Aria discovers when her fiancee dumps her the day before her college graduation just as she's on the cusp of realizing all her dreams.

Sent into a tailspin over the sudden derailing of her careful objectives, Aria is hurt, confused, and ripe for exploitation. As the savvy, clever, secretive businessman Phoenix catches the eye of this fiery beauty and decides to make her part of his own plans for success, Aria finds her hormones are on fire. Both are consumed by a passion for sex and success that drives them together in a burst of flames that both justifies the title Electric IMPULSE and sets the stage for a rollicking ride through love, lust, success, failure, and everything in between.

The ideal reader of Electric IMPULSE won't be stymied or put off by graphic sexual descriptions or the ribald explorations of a young woman who finds her world has shut down unexpectedly; then opened up in new ways. Crushing disappointment neatly sets the scene for something far from Aria's intentions or knowledge, and while there is a good degree of give-and-take and some manipulation and special interests at stake; also present is the kind of growth opportunity and exploration that sets the stage for confronting childhood issues and adult perceptions.

Aria's growth takes place not just in the sexual arena but in her maturity level as she embarks on a journey she could never have predicted, jump-starting a stagnant love life with a relationship she can barely define as 'love', much less the kind of lifestyle she'd envisioned as being her original goal.

To call this story a 'romance' alone would be to do it a disservice; though a powerful romantic overlay contributes to the story's appeal. Even though lust, sexual encounters, and love are part of Aria's story, just as compelling is the account of how she changes her relationships to the men and women in her life and how she evolves new insights and perspectives about life (whether for good or bad) based on her encounters and observations with Phoenix.

Descriptions of these moments are astute and clear, marking the points where Aria learns about herself, Phoenix, values, and approaches to business and life: "Ari, babe, I've seen it all. I know her type. She's a poser. She talks the talk, but can't walk the walk. Look at her heels. Louboutin yes. But worn to the nub like it's the only pair she owns. Her so-called designer watch isn't keeping time any more. And her diamond stud earrings look more like cheap cubic zirconia. People like her only see limitation, so they discriminate against others every chance they get, just to feel better about themselves. But I'll set it right. Let it go. For what's it worth, she won't reach her financial goals with us. We'll make sure the other associate she brings over gets a nice commission."

Electric IMPULSE is a pointed journey of self-discovery in which Aria lets go of her perception that her worth lies in her relationship with a man and embarks on a hunt for what is truly of value to her world. She initially doesn't know what she's getting into with Phoenix, but things are just starting to make sense. Readers who follow her journey will find it thought-provokingly vivid and filled with confrontation, reflection, observation, and the kinds of questions that lead to new beginnings, empowerment, and growth both for the protagonist and, possibly, for her followers.

Women interested in contemporary blends of literary, psychological, and social reflection will find plenty to like about Ari and Electric IMPULSE, a story of how empowerment and self-realization actually begin.

Unconquered Warrior
J. L. Nicely
Braintree Press
9781732101005, $15.00,

Unconquered Warrior is Book One of the Womara Series and provides fantasy readers with a powerful story set in early human history when women are warriors battling for their clans and equality.

The clan of women warriors profiled here is one which has lived free from patriarchal control, and they battle for equality and, perhaps ironically, peace among men and men clans alike.

The center of this story is Rowan, whose peaceful village life is forever changed by a band of raiders who kill her people, assault her, then sell her into slavery. This world is dictated by clans attacking clans, so when a rival clan then attacks, Rowan takes the opportunity to flee into the forest with a small group of women who decide they will never be controlled again.

They became powerful warriors, the Womara, noted for living without men and living independently. Fast forward a number of generations, when Rowan's flight to freedom has created a powerful group of women now confronting new challenges by males.

Physical and mental power struggles are the forefront of a fast-paced story that is as detailed about its social and political struggles as it is about individual women's blossoming powers and efforts to maintain control of their lives.

As chapters evolve to embrace a surprising romance story set against the backdrop of these powerful inheritors of destiny, fantasy readers will especially appreciate the dual focus on the social and political influences affecting the characters and their development.

From relationships between mothers and daughters - which are well-detailed and pointed in their emotional interactions - to plots involving barbarians, disputed territories, kings and murderers, Unconquered Warrior's fast pace, and deep focus on characters tested by social forces makes it a book that is hard to put down.

Between diplomatic bridges and unabashed confrontation and struggles for change, Unconquered Warrior presents a society of effective, powerful women who must remain flexible enough to adapt to the changing world around them. Its ability to consider the nature of women who take charge of their lives and destinies and who by their strengths and abilities change the perceptions and purposes of the men and women around them makes for a sharp inspection of challenges, choices, and consequences which pairs investigation of a female warrior's heart with the broader questions and impact of her strength.

Fantasy readers who seek female-centric stories challenging perceptions of social and political systems will relish the story introduced in Unconquered Warrior which concludes with the promise of more to come.

Fit for Joy
Valeria Teles
Rowe Publishing
9781939054982, $24.00 hc
9781939054937, $14.95 pbk

Fit for Joy: The Healing Power of Being You comes from a personal trainer who advocates a different approach to fitness: one that blends a memoir with a focus on finding joy in life.

Valeria Teles thought joy would lie in family and career; then looked for it in the fitness world. Nothing brought her the kind of feeling she was looking for; and, indeed, her pursuit of fitness soon became a form of escape.

The memoir portion of her book is important because it not only traces her personal quest, but cements the development of mind/body experiences that together create joy. From introductory chapters linking early trauma to later distortions in perceptions and belief systems to the influence of relationships and the journey from failure to fitness, Teles creates a progressive set of realizations that carry readers through different thought processes and experiences.

These, in turn, lead to newfound revelations about fitness, depression, the rise of spiritual thinking, and how fitness and spirituality actually dovetail. At each turning point Teles examines the experiences, choices and perceptions that either lead her towards or thwart her pursuit of joy. It's this progressive attention to detail that makes her journey so familiar and compelling: "How hard could it be to get in shape again? I got to the gym and asked the front-desk person about the fees. While she was looking on the computer, I got a cold feeling in my stomach. Every single thought I had about the place was negative. The gym seemed too big, too open, too dark. The music was too mellow, the stretch room too crowded, the girls there too thin, and on and on. My mind was looking for ways to sabotage my plans. Then, when the receptionist told me how much the membership was, another thought jumped in - too expensive."

Perhaps the greatest strength of this memoir lies in such reflections. More so than most fitness autobiographies, Fit for Joy goes beyond advocating a belief or charting a path: it surveys the barriers to achievement which are created by both self and other influences.

Teles provides exact discussions about this psychological and spiritual process ("This kind of negative reinforcement of perceived victimhood allowed my mind to build a painful, cyclic reality for me and those around me. The mind could not conceive then what it is aware of now: that I was the cause of my own pain and all the suffering to follow. Accepting this can have profound effects on our lives. Think about going from dissatisfaction to joy. This is the kind of radical change that a shift in perspective can result in."), and that sets her story apart from similar-sounding books.

An acceptance of spiritual reflection is one prerequisite for thoroughly appreciating this story's approach: something readers might not anticipate from a fitness saga. Those who hold such openness will discover a treasure within: the treasure of Teles' exploration and clear discussion of a process that can be duplicated by others, avoiding the common pitfalls too many may experience.

Be True to Yourself
Aaron Parker
York Publishing Services Ltd
ASIN: B07BRJY6LG, $2.99,

Be True to Yourself: Living with my Autism is an essay that offers a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of a man who uses his own experiences in life to illustrate what it's like to live with and be diagnosed as autistic.

As such, it's especially recommended reading for anyone who would go beyond medical or psychological profiles or the observations of outsiders, from family to physicians, to understand how it actually feels to be autistic in this world; and how others react.

Aaron Parker's dual focus on how he feels and experiences the world and how, in turn, the world experiences and defines him makes for thought-provoking, insightful revelations rarely seen in memoirs about autism. His encounters offer a combination of personal experience and insights into how better to relate with an individual diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

The first thing to note about Be True to Yourself is that while it's a short essay, it should be read completely through, to the end. Parker has a lot to say, some of it may prove eye-opening or controversial in nature, and readers who try to skip through his story to lift points they perceive as being relevant to their own experiences will likely miss the bigger picture message he's trying to impart, here.

For one thing, he believes that adrenaline rushes play a major role in autism, and that heightened perceptions and abilities are a part of the autistic individual's profile.

He breaks autistic individuals into two major groups: "The first group struggle to control their adrenaline and fear (flight) and they struggle to cope in life...The second group learn to master and control their emotions to an extent and they tend to go on to do very well in life (fight). This leads to much success, which empowers them immensely, which leads to even greater success. Regardless of which group it is that people fall into, everyone who has Autism leaves traces and clues that give themselves away."

As he describes characteristics, perceptions, traits, and consequences of these different ways of looking at and interacting with the world, readers gain a deeper understanding of the autistic experience and how it fits into this revised approach to everyday experience.

Parker made a conscious effort to both identify the symptoms of autism (which, to him, seemed obvious) and control them (such as body language giveaways). He details these efforts and, even more importantly, provides some astute analysis about the place and presence of autistic individuals in society as a whole: "...there isn't a place in society on a large enough scale for people who have Autism to freely express themselves. It's as if once (a lot of) people know that you have Autism, you suddenly have that condition as a label written all over your face and you become a second class human being. To say that this happens regularly is completely accurate and personally I find to be unjust. This needs to change."

Readers who anticipate a memoir or autobiographical reflection alone may be surprised to read these challenges to social perception, reaction, and sentiments; but they're one of the most valuable pieces of Parker's essay and are key to any serious discussion of autism.

The result is a short but pointed survey by an autistic individual who considers himself, his relationship to and within society, and areas for social improvement and revised thinking. By pinpointing these perceptions, social snafus and failures, and their consequences, Parker has achieved a powerful goal of inviting a greater dialogue on the subject than most books on the topic could give.

This makes Be True to Yourself not only a powerful road map for autistic individuals struggling to live meaningful, effective lives in a non-autistic world, but an important tool for identifying the fallacies, failures, and misconceptions of non-autistic people who encounter and interact with them.

Ideally, Be True to Yourself will be included on the reading lists of any discussion of autism and its place in the social order and how social perceptions can (and should) be changed. Parker concludes: "The time has come to enlighten the World. The World needs to know more about us."

With the appearance of Be True to Yourself, that time is now.

Designer You
Sarahlyn Bruck
Crooked Cat Books
ASIN: B07DH6B38H $2.99 ebook
9781722402648 $12.99 pbk

Designer You introduces Pam's perfect life as a mother, loving wife, and co-owner of a DIY business with her husband. It seems like her pinnacle of success couldn't get any higher; but it's actually delicately balanced on many fragile pillars. When disaster strikes, Pam finds herself alone, with a headstrong teenager to raise by herself.

A number of novels have posed a similar-sounding dilemma: a happy wife suddenly alone and struggling. What sets Designer You apart from these stories is the DIY part of the story: their small business (Designer You) has generated an audience and a blog of followers interested in creating their own home redesign projects. What Pam hadn't anticipated was that its underlying concepts and message of hope, achievement, and reinvention could be applied to major life-changing events in her own life, as well.

At this point, Pam has two choices: become immersed in the struggle to keep ahold of what she's built, or use her business savvy to reinvent her own future. It's this choice and its consequences which makes Designer You a brilliant, different story of grief, recovery, and change.

As chapters evolve, so does Pam. This brings readers on a rocky ride towards self-realization and a new life. From venturing into the world of online dating (which requires her to closely define the ideals she seeks in a partner) after 20 years of marriage to the ideal man to deciding how much to hold onto the life she and Nate so painstakingly built together, Pam's journey is fraught with decisions, challenges, and new directions.

Designer You offers no platitudes about this journey, and no easy answers. One of its special strengths is its ability to pinpoint major obstacles to change; considering choices in how these are approached, managed, or welcomed as focal points for new or revised goals.

Another strength lies in how it precisely captures turning points and moments of connection between a grieving mother and daughter, following them through thick and thin and the underlying worries that affect their relationship: "Do you ever worry you're going to forget about him? Like, forget little pieces at a time? That after a while, you'll forget maybe about how you felt when he'd come home from a trip. I remember I used to run to him when I was little. I could smell the faraway cities and airports and restaurants in his suit jacket."

Readers of women's contemporary fiction who want a story firmly grounded in realistic possibilities and experience will relish the tone and progression of Designer You, a standout story which outlines an unexpected journey from paradise to hell and back again.

50 After 50
Maria Leonard Olsen
Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538109649, $34.00 hc
9781538109656, $32.00 eBook

At fifty years of age, author Maria Leonard Olsen was a divorced drunk who had long abandoned her successful law career for family. 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life documents both her midlife crisis, realization that she was actually at the beginning of a new life rather than the end of what she'd created, and points the way for women in similar situations who have turned to alcohol over enlightenment and change.

Adrift and purposeless, Olsen decided, when she turned fifty, that she would 'gift' herself the purpose of doing 50 things new to her that embraced adventure, spirituality, travel, physical challenges and lifestyle changes.

50 After 50 documents this odyssey and its results, offering midlife readers clues on transformation and change and insights on not only possibilities, but their lasting results.

Chapters unfold the purposes behind each action; from getting off the beaten path to "be a student of the world" to changing the dynamics of daily interactions to make for more meaningful changes and experiences.

Specific approaches, examples, results, and how Olsen let go of the judgments of strangers and family to explore new avenues of personal satisfaction to herself makes for a revealing, involving blueprint indicating how readers could craft their own road maps of transformation.

The result is a powerful blend of lists, journal prompts, autobiography and tips on how to cultivate a more open mind and spirit that offers readers many 'how to' clues for rejuvenating their own approaches to life.

Readers aged 50 and older, in particular, will be not only inspired by Olsen's experiences, but are given the tools for embarking on their own life-affirming journeys in a story that is both engrossing and inspirational; highly and especially recommended for anyone of older years who feels 'stuck' in their chosen path.

Jeffrey W. Tenney
Whistle Creek Press
9780979633300, $14.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle,

At first glance, the time-traveling tale of Caveman would seem a familiar timeslip theme. American archaeologist Trent Marshall didn't expect to embark on a special journey when he entered a French cavern with linguist Bridgette Genet, but when they are transported to Cro-Magnon times in 40,000 B.C.E. along with colleague Sam Jenkins, they find that their expedition has unexpectedly resulted in a closer inspection of history than relics alone could provide.

It wasn't like Trent Marshall started out to prove his groundbreaking theories on prehistoric civilizations with his personal involvement in events; but this is what happens when he finds himself in the middle of a war between Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals.

The first thing to note is Jeffrey W. Tenney's power of expression. His descriptions are delightfully evocative from the start ("His audience of pale, bearded faces could pass for a lineup of sedated zombies. His words fluttered over their heads and around the fusty chamber like decrepit bats. Were he speaking on the anatomy of the Louisiana cockroach he might get more response."), spicing a story that becomes increasingly vivid as events unfold.

The modern lives of the three time travelers are contrasted nicely with the ancient world and the different approaches to life between the primitive and modern variants of man as events lead the trio to explore not only the past, but each others' psyches and motivations.

This close inspection of life purposes, the impact of heritage on decision-making processes, and the contrasts between actions of the past and their impact on the future makes for a delightful interplay between characters as they uncover their unique personalities and special interests as events play out for early man: "What I do here, what I have done, is for my people. I guess I've been careless in the ways I use others. My own life is fucked over, but what I do for them is redemptive. It gives me purpose in a world that doesn't offer me much else."

As the personalities of the Chut, Gat, Musi and other tribal members evolve and interact with the trio from the future, readers are treated to a fast-paced story that reads smoothly and progresses in a logical, believable manner.

The result is a lively timeslip story that is well-developed, action-packed without being frantic, and holds just the right balance of drama and unexpected moments ("Bridgette was going to marry a god.") to keep readers interested, immersed in the different personality contrasts between ancient and modern peoples and the ultimate trajectory that changes all their lives.

Fans of Jean Aul who seek more of an action-based, detailed read contrasting past and present actions and perceptions of humanity will relish the detail and descriptions Caveman embraces as it reveals characters who are educated and insightful, but who ultimately just want to go home.

The 25
Ace Bryant
Bear Notch Road Press
9780997570427, $19.99 print
9780997570434, $0.99 eBook

The 25 is set in the near future in the year 2022, when terrorism in America has ramped up yet another notch and alt-right political supporters of the President are being targeted by assassins.

Unlike modern-day terrorists, these attackers seem like ordinary citizens until their suicide mission, and this fact bewilders and challenges the FBI's investigation until they identify a living member of the The 25 and send an operative undercover to locate him before he, too, becomes a suicide killer.

The first strength to note about Ace Bryant's choices in presenting this story is that it's not only narrated in the first person, from the investigator's viewpoint, but incorporates a series of candid assessments about his world that solidify setting, characters, and atmosphere: "For the umpteenth time, I wonder how Stephens manages to flaunt the Bureau's rules regarding physical fitness, which aren't just guidelines, but requirements. I figure he must have a bunch of secret files on the higher-ups. I wouldn't put it past him. In fact, I wouldn't put much past Stephens. He can be a shrewd son-of-a-bitch."

From Reggie's mixed feelings about conducting his undercover operation and his evolving relationship with Gina as they search for Danny as he builds a web of lies that threatens to unravel to the undercurrent of light humor that coats some of his interpersonal relationships (" my angry dates fumble into their clothes, while giving me the stink-eye like I'm some kind of perv, there's a part of me that wants to shake them and tell them about the horrifying shit I see every day at work. The twisted websites that some guys visit...the gut-churning photos they try to hide on their computers, or phones. To my mind, I'm a Boy Scout by comparison, and I try to focus on that, as my latest paramour storms from the bedroom."), The 25 juxtaposes thriller tension with strong characterization and insights supported by the use of the first person point of view.

Political insights are nicely woven into the evolving terrorism as cops are videotaped shooting victims and political forces clash on either side. From police procedurals to the blowing up of statues and citizens, many of the events profiled in The 25 are presented so realistically that they could too easily seem reflective of modern times.

The 25 is hiding literally in plain sight; but most people are too blind to see them. In the process of ferreting out the group and its purposes, Reggie is forced to see his alter ego persona "die", to re-imagine his own life without the people he's recently become involved with under that disguise, and to ultimately face the consequences of a form of terrorism that challenges American ideals in a cautionary tale about this country's future.

Thriller fans seeking solid tension, satisfying twists and turns of plot replete with political and social reflections, and an attention to solid characterization that carries the story into areas too many thrillers neglect will find The 25 a riveting book that opens with all its guns blazing and keeps the action and tension high until the end in a thought-provoking story of lies, truths, and the foundations of everyday terrorism.

Kristen Wolf
9780999610312, $14.99 print
B07DN1BLC9, $5.99 eBook

Escapement: An Exquisite Tale of Love and Passion explores an unusual relationship between Cristofer Vaughn, a dashing young composer posed on the brink of fame and fortune, and his housekeeper Henri, a woman hiding behind the guise of a man. Both of them find themselves involved in ambitions that not only drive, but threaten them when a wealthy benefactor hands Cristofer his dream and Henri an opportunity that proves to be her biggest nightmare.

Henri's secret, which has her hiding in a successful job that keeps her effective and safe, is torn asunder. Cristofer, too, faces wrenching changes as his inspired charge to create the masterpiece of his career remains elusive and tricky.

The first strength to note about Kristen Wolf's creation is an attention to descriptive detail that crafts powerful, unique imagery: "I have but only once seen a grand piano stripped of its keys. Its soul gouged and gaping. The utter paralysis of spirit - the inflicted and eternal silence suggested by that image - is terrible. Were it not for my undying fidelity to that instrument whose tones still pierce my heart, I would flee in terror."

Cristofer the artist isn't the voice opening this story: it's Henri, who, as it turns out, is perhaps an even greater virtuoso than her master, and who because of him taps into the greatest love in her life, which she has kept well hidden on many levels.

Between the hidden talents of the two and their attempts to reach for the impossible, it would seem that Escapement already has enough on its plate; but Wolf adds depth and complexity through her attention to describing classical musical circles in Europe, scandalous operas that refute traditional musical approaches and challenge their viewers, and opposing circles of classical theory that clash just as mightily as the lives of two main characters.

These descriptions are so astute and revealing that if readers were to turn to Escapement for musical history alone, they would be quite happy with its insights: "Such conversations, either in support or opposition to the Wagnerian school, were occurring in drawing rooms throughout Europe. The speakers' arguments and tempers were enflamed enough to burn books in their shelves. The acrimony that existed between the opposing schools cannot be exaggerated. The first, advocated by Cristofer and the Thornes, among others, honored the upholding of the classical music tradition: pure harmonic scales, unmodified chord progressions, uplifting melodies, and harmonic resolution. Above all, its proponents served as guardians for music of substance, that which attained the highest human aesthetics of grace and beauty and intelligence. The second school, advocated by Wagner, Liszt, and others, was eager to sweep away the cobwebs of "the old guard," including the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Handel. Its ardent supporters hoped to inspire and invent an entirely different music, a new aural experience that pushed the limits of human ingenuity. They were chemists of sound, slaving away in their labs to mix never-beforeheard compounds. They staunchly rejected boundaries and balance and favored discomfort over pleasantries. Decoration over virtuosity."

These exquisite depictions of musical controversy and passion translate equally well to Christofer and Henri's own struggles.

Blazes, fires, and flames are descriptive words used throughout this story that highlight the pretenses at play on all sides. A love of music carries both the main characters and everyone around them on a swell of passion and artistry, providing descriptions as vivid as if they were explicit sexual scenes: "The music swelled. Encapsulating us. There is no embrace, no world, or womb as subsuming as that defined by music's membrane. Together, we floated." From "storms of chords" that tug at audience heartstrings and illustrate a concert's draw and emotional passion to Henri's growing discord and danger, Escapement provides a passionate, evocative and sensitive story that is hard to put down and hauntingly compelling.

Like a fine musical composition, Escapement surprises, challenges convention, lends insights into a composer's greatest crises, and even concludes with a listing of classical pieces that inspired the story.

There is no better tribute to the classical world or passions of the heart than this enchanting novel, which is very highly recommended for those who love music, life, and stories of complex blossoming truths which lead to an unexpected crescendo of emotional power.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico
David Bowles
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781941026717, $24.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: The 34 folk stories and aboriginal myths compiled in "Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky" by University of Texas academician David Bowles deftly trace the history of the world from its beginnings in the dreams of the dual god, Ometeotl, to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico and the fall of the great city Tenochtitlan.

In the course of that history we learn about the Creator Twins (Feathered Serpent and Dark Heart of Sky) and how they built the world on a leviathan's back; of the shape-shifting nahualli; and the aluxes, elfish beings known to help out the occasional wanderer. And finally, we read Aztec tales about the arrival of the blonde strangers from across the sea, the strangers who seek to upend the rule of Motecuhzoma and destroy the very stories we are reading.

These legends and myths captured Bowles's imagination as a young Latino reader. Despite growing up on the United States/Mexico border, he had never read a single Aztec or Mayan myth until he was in college. This experience inspired him to reconnect with that forgotten past.

Critique: A fully absorbing and inherently fascinating read throughout, "Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico" is an impressive work of simply outstanding scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of a two page Pronunciation Guide, a eight page Glossary, a four page listing of Source Notes, and a two page Bibliography. While strongly and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Mexican Mythology collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico" is also available in a paperback edition (9781941026724, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Build It, Sell It, Profit
Allen P. Harris, CEPA
Advantage Media Group
65 Gadsden Street, Charleston, SC 29401
9781599328973, $24.99, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: Allen Harris is the founder, owner, and chief investment officer of Berkshire Money Management which is based in Dalton, Massachusetts where he helps clients stay on course with their retirement plans, capitalize on return opportunities, and develop risk control strategies. As a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA), Allen builds businesses through strategic planning and finds ways to increase a company's value as well as the owner's income. By doing so, he helps to prepare the business to sell for the best possible price.

In "Build It, Sell It, Profit: Taking Care Of Business Today To Get Top Dollar When You Retire" he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to create an instructional guide and manual for business owners do not know what they need to do to prepare to sell their business.

They too often think of their exit as something they'll attend to someday, only to arrive at "someday" and discover that they can't find any interested buyers and won't be able to retire when they planned.

"Build It, Sell It, Profit" addresses such fundamental questions as: What should I be doing today to build my business toward maximum value?; What is my business worth and how do I find out?; When I sell my business, will I get enough money to maintain my lifestyle and take the next step in life?

"Build It, Sell It, Profit" shows just how important it is to get started on the process of planning for the eventual sale or transfer of a business so profits can be maximized when the time comes.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone and commentary style, "Build It, Sell It, Profit: Taking Care Of Business Today To Get Top Dollar When You Retire" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Build It, Sell It, Profit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Writing In America
John Fischer & Robert B. Silvers, editors
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813598451, $34.95, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: In the fall of 1959, Harper's Magazine published a special supplement on the state of writing and the American literary scene. The supplement was greeted with a broadside of commendation and a fusillade of cavil, and has since become recognized as the most useful brief survey of the contemporary state of the American writing arts and of their fellow travelers, the spoken word, the typescript word, the filmed and televised word, and the publishing memorandum.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of the late writer and editor John Fischer (1910-1978) and the late Robert B. Silvers (1929 - 2017) who was an editorial board member for Harper's Magazine and co-founder and editor of The New York Review of Books from 1963 to 2017, "Writing in America" is once again available to a new generation of writers in a newly reissued volume in the Rutgers University Press 'Classics Imprint' series.

"Writing in America" will prove to be as stimulating today as it was in 1960. Here, writers including Robert Brustein, Stanley Kunitz, and C.P. Snow examine the state of writing in American novels, films, and television candidly and critically. The result is a collection of essays that showcase a first-rate and highly entertaining piece of reporting on the American literary scene that resonate in 2017.

Critique: A true classic offering timeless yet timely commentaries and insights into the art and craft of writing, "Writing In America" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone who aspires to a career in writing or who is a dedicated student of contemporary American literature. While especially and particularly recommended for community and academic library American Literary Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Writing In America" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813598444, $17.95).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399177019, $27.00,

Atkins is back with another great Spenser novel with "Old Black Magic." Spenser is brought into a twenty-year-old case of stolen paintings from an art museum. The reason the situation is re-opened is because someone has been sending messages to the gallery claiming they know where the pieces are. Spenser delves into the circumstances in a very complicated story. What's a bit different here is that Hawk and other fascinating regular characters are not a part of the complicated tale. Atkins does keep the dialogue snappy with fast pacing to the very end with a lot of twists and turns in typical Parker style. "Old Black Magic" is another fun read that continues a very popular series.

Yesterday's Tomorrow
G.W. Pomichter & William Dupree
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781539454556, $14.99,

Pomichter who usually writes stories in the Noir detective genre is just as masterful a writer with the novel "Yesterday's Tomorrow" of a nuclear attack on the United States. Added here are the talents of co-writer William Dupree in this nail biting thriller that is a warning of a possible scenario of a terrorist attack on this country. The two authors combined talents to move the story along with crisp writing, great characters, and many complex avenues to the very end. "Yesterday's Tomorrow" is a frightening page turner thrill ride all the way to the end.

Only To Sleep: A Phillip Marlowe Novel
Lawrence Osborne
c/o Crown Publishing Group
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9781524759612, $26.00,

So often the original author dies and a new one is commissioned to continue the character. I know of several that come to mind. They are James Bond, Spenser and Jesse Stone both by Robert B. Parker and Phillip Marlowe has had several authors including Robert B. Parker write new adventures. Not all have been up to par especially in the case of James Bond. I am happy to say that "Only To Sleep" does a nice job of continuing the Phillip Marlowe series but is very different in a way because the character is now in his seventies something I can not recall ever seeing when a series is continued. Marlowe is hired by an insurance company to investigate the drowning death of wealthy man named Donald Zinn. Marlowe pulls the pieces together in an intricate matter that is filled with fascinating individuals along the way. The writing holds readers interest as the tale unfolds with many plot twits and turns. Fans of Marlowe should be pleased with Only To Sleep" by Lawrence Osborne who does a very good job of staying true to the original detective in title and story.

Selected Stories Science Fiction Volume I
Kevin J. Anderson
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132
9781614756321, $19.99,

For the first time these stories are collected in "Selected Stories Volume "I of a series to celebrate a very talented and popular science fiction writer. Some of the notable ones to be aware of are "Memorial" that is a tribute to a well-known item in our culture, "Rough Draft" that has a most interesting situation with an author who makes it big with his first novel. And "Paradox & Greenblatt, Attorneys at Law" where there is a most fascinating client for a litigator team. There are nineteen writings with very interesting commentary about each one by the author that add to the enjoyment.

The Toilet Papers A Collection of Short Stories Places To Go, While You Go
Jaimie Engle
JME Books
9780997170986, $11.99,

Jaimie Engle is back with a new installment of her "Toilet Papers" series of short fiction. This time geared to kids "The Toilet Papers Jr." has the same elements in writing that made the first collection so popular. Now she turns her attention in many of the pieces to our beloved children's fairy tales. Many readers will recognize them immediately but she adds some very interesting twists and turns as well as some very creative ones that are not in that realm but absolutely brilliant. I was captivated with one particular story of a roach in the home. "The Toilet Papers Jr." is entertaining reading for all ages to enjoy.

The Synopsis Treasury
Christopher Sirmons Haviland
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132
9781614732851, $19.99,

At conventions like Oasis, and Spooky Horror Empire, the question at panel discussions is asked "How do you break into the business of writing?" Christopher Sirmons Haviland has answered it and more with his collection "The Synopsis Treasury." For over ten years Haviland collected the letters between editors and writers about their works and now presents them here for the first time in this anthology. Among the names are Robert Heinlein, H. G. Wells, Andre Norton, Joe Haldeman, Jack Williamson, Ben Bova, Frank Herbert, Kevin Anderson, Connie Willis, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and Michael Bishop are some of the writers included in this collection. Some of the writers have been editors themselves like Ben Bova, Jack Williamson and Kevin Anderson but it is the letters between the writers and the editors that make the collection so interesting to read. Two of them are Frank Herbert and Damon Knight about works by Herbert that include "Dune," or Robert Heinlein and Fred Pohl who also became an sf writer, on Heinlein's many short stories and novels. With all of the correspondences you see the friendships between author and editor that developed over the years as well how different works took shape. "The Synopsis Treasury" is a groundbreaking collection that any fan of science fiction or any budding writer can not afford to miss.

Lost Coal Country of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Lorena Beniquez
Arcadia Publishing
9781467126410, $22.99,

We often see stories on the news stations about coal miners and the substance they retrieve from caves in the ground. But what do we really know about them. Author Lorena Beniquez takes readers to the area of Northeastern Pennsylvania on a whirlwind tour through prose and pictures that reveals a lot about the industry that is still in some of the regions of the country producing one form of energy we use every day. She tells stories of the families, cities and towns that relied on this kind of manufacturing. Lost Coal Country of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an educational title that is filled with colorful pictures and writing that brings alive very well this business.

Austin W. Ives
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781947718098, $14.95,

Though I write poetry I often have a hard time understanding other writers who also create in this art form. Many of the works here are ones I have that problem but there are others I didn't. What the author does very well is make you see his imagery and think about the words he has written. Again no one ever said you have to understand everything you read but author Austin does a masterful job of conjuring up symbolism and appearances that begin with the fantastic cover in his mind-boggling collection "Enraptured.

The Haunted Bakery of Seven Pines
Becky Robbins & Erika M. Szabo, authors
Illustrations by Sudipta Dasgupta
Golden Box Books Publishing
9781983225694, $6.95,

Bullies get their due in "the Haunted Bakery of Seven Pines" The authors bring together characters into a most interesting situation combining a haunted mansion with a bully who wants to prove he is not afraid of anything by spending the night in a vacant home that has had many legends told about it for many years. The solution to the aggressive behavior of certain kids is handled in a most unique way that makes for an interesting read that is enhanced by the artwork of artist Sudipta Dasgupta. There are many symbolic renderings for readers to pick up on in "the Haunted Bakery of Seven Pines that increase the enjoyment of this work for all ages to appreciate.

It's Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!
Jody Jensen Shaffer Claire Messer
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481494670, $17.99,

A school bus learns how important it is to be checked out before going on its first drive to pick up school kids. The authors tell a fun story of school from the point of viewpoint of the bus who has never done its job before. "It's Your First Day of School, Busy Bus" has underlying premises that can remind people of what it was like for anyone the first day they went to elementary school.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Girl with the Gun (Sydney Rye Book 8)
Emily Kimelman Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01LTDYFJS, $4.99, ebook, 219 pages

The Girl with the Gun is an in-your-face action shoot-em-up with a female lead. Some of the travel times between areas of the world and situations violate the real world but the social issues of war and the fleshing out of characters are well done. The Girl with the Gun is a solid book to get lost in for a day or two.

Sydney Rye is a wanted vigilante who is blackmailed by Homeland Security into helping strengthen the effectiveness of the female Kurdish fighters in the terrorist war in Syria and Iraq. She decides to go along with Homeland since the situation in the region matches her own beliefs. She heads for a meeting with Homeland in Japan bringing along her personal attack dog and friend, Blue. Sydney knows she is walking into a potential trap between terrorists, opposing armies and a government agency willing to let her die if it serves their agenda.

The Girl with the Gun can be read out of sequence in the Sydney Rye series. It is a solid action story with a strong social commentary. It is an easy recommendation for the action reader with a minimum of fictionalized geography. Sydney is an action heroine who just keeps on going, no matter what happens to her and Blue, her dog, is a full partner in her adventures.

The Dig
Steven F. Freeman
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781973768142, $14.99 pbk
B074RHBP7R, $4.99, ebook

The Dig is a light detective team mystery set in an archeological backdrop. The archeology isn't deep or strong. It is just the setting of the story. The clues to the mystery are not easily accessible to the reader so you can't test your mystery solving abilities with the story. The action in the story is moderate with just a touch of tension. The end result is a comfortable mystery read to relax with that requires little to no investment from the reader.

An earthquake partially collapses a church in Mexico. Underneath the collapsed portion is a complex of tunnels dating back to the Aztecs. The archeological finds are groundbreaking. Two archeologists are murdered and a third is missing. Since the missing archeologist and a few members of the excavation team are US citizens, the US government sends a team of investigators to help with the archeological site security and find out what happened with the murdered and missing team members.

The Dig is a solid detective team mystery that is good but doesn't stand out. Unless you are either fan of the author or the niche genre, the story has an average recommendation at the list price. It would be fully recommended when it is on sale. The Dig is an easy and enjoyable read that demands little from the reader. There are no faults in the story but nothing in it stands out in the genre.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't
Ann Marie Sabath
Career Press Inc.
12 Parish Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470
9781632651341, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Confucius said that a thousand-mile journey begins with one step. The same principle applies to becoming a self-made millionaire except this journey consists of 52 common sense practices.

Debt free or not, "What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't: 52 Ways to Create Your Own Success" will assist the reader in recognizing that they are closer to becoming a self-made millionaire than they imagine.

The reader will be astonished to see how anyone can achieve this status when they create the right mindset. "What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't" shows how white-collar professionals, blue-collar workers, small business owners, even teenagers alike have joined this million dollar net worth rank by methodically and consistently putting into practice the self-made millionaire game plan revealed by Ann Marie Sabath (who is the founder of At Ease Inc., a 31-year-old New York-based business consulting firm).

In "What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't", Sabath clearly explains why "beginning with the end in mind" is so vital for achieving millionaire status. She makes it easy for anyone to implement these simple yet often overlooked strategies by sharing an Action Step at the end of each section to integrate into their lives that will assist them in mastering these self-made millionaire secrets.

"What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't" includes:The Real Definition of Success; How To Create A Self-Made Millionaire Mindset; The 25 Habits That These Accomplished Individuals Have In Common; What These Self-Made Go-Getters Do Differently Than The Average Joe; How Self-Made Millionaires Benefit From What Most People Call Failure; How Life Changes For Self-Made Millionaires After Achieving Their Goal; First-Hand Advice To Readers Who Are Ready To Begin Their Self-Made Millionaire Status; You Have Been Given The Fishing Rod- Now Go Fish.

Critique: Thoroughly 'real world practical' in explanation and implementation, "What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't: 52 Ways to Create Your Own Success" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Money/Finance instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781543690088, $14.99, MP3 CD).

...but few are chosen: A Different Path to Coming of Age
Michael Connolly, Richard Olive, and John Tuohey
Vandamere Press
PO Box 149, St. Petersburg, FL 33731
9780918339836, $19.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Michael Connolly, Richard Olive, and John Tuohey, "...but few are chosen: A Different Path to Coming of Age" is the story of three boys coming of age in the mid-1950s.

Growing up in working class Irish Catholic neighborhoods in the Northeastern United States, they are desperate to escape lives of loneliness, petty crime, and violence. At the age of thirteen, ready to enter high school they each come to the same life changing, and possibly life-saving decision to enter a seminary and begin their journeys toward the priesthood.

"...but few are chosen" chronicles Mike, John, and Ollie's fears, frustrations, hopes, and dreams while they proceed on their very unique path to adulthood via St. John's Atonement Seminary in Montour Falls, New York. There, the three meet, eventually become lifelong friends, and begin the transition to being successful and contributing members of society.

Lives that would undoubtedly have ended poorly are turned around in the structured, orderly, caring, and predictable life of the seminary. For the first time the boys come to realize that life is more than just raised voices and clenched fists. Led by priests on the faculty they learn responsibility, restraint, patience, and concern for others. They develop determination without aggression, and apply their new-found abilities to study, sports, and relationships.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is ultimately inspired and inspiring, "...but few are chosen: A Different Path to Coming of Age" is an extraordinarily engaging read from beginning to end. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this 'Coming of Age' study is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library collections.

The Trigger: Narratives of the American Shooter
Daniel J. Patinkin
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628729191, $24.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: In South Carolina, a young man embarks on a life of crime that culminates in a drug-related shooting and decades in prison; in Chicago, an off-duty police officer engages in a shootout with a murderous gunman, saving a fellow patrolman; in rural Tennessee, a troubled teenager shoots her abusive father in his sleep. Compiled and presented by Daniel J. Patinkin, "The Trigger: Narratives of the American Shooter" deftly recounts the dramatic life stories of six individuals who have shot someone in America.

In 2017, over 15,000 were killed and over 31,000 were injured by gunfire. Faced with these desensitizing statistics, one easily forgets that each incident is perpetrated by a living, feeling human being who has walked a unique path. The causes and consequences of these violent acts are often far more complicated than one might expect.

For "The Trigger" Patinkin exhaustively interviewed each of six shooters about their life experiences and about the unique circumstances that compelled them to use a firearm against another person. The result is a series of profound narratives that is sure to distress and challenge the reader, but also, perhaps, to provide enlightenment and inspiration.

Critique: An extraordinary read from first page to last, "The Trigger: Narratives of the American Shooter" will prove to be a welcome, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to the present national dialogue over the role of guns in our contemporary American society. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections, and deserving of as wide a readership as possible, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Trigger" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality
K. David Hanzlick
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th Street, Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221629, $50.00, HC, 308pp,

Synopsis: David Hanzlick is the Director of Program and Development for Sheffield Place - a treatment and transitional living program for homeless mothers and children. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the Nonprofit Leadership Program at Rockhurst University and the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs at Park University, Parkville, Missouri.

In the pages of "Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality: Women's Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940", he traces the rise and evolution of women's activism in a rapidly growing, Midwestern border city, one deeply scarred by the Civil War and struggling to determine its meaning.

Over the course of 70 years, women in Kansas City emerged from the domestic sphere by forming and working in female-led organizations to provide charitable relief, reform society's ills, and ultimately claim space for themselves as full participants in the American polity.

Focusing on the social construction of gender, class, and race, and the influence of political philosophy in shaping responses to poverty, Hanzlick also considers the ways in which city politics shaped the interactions of local activist women with national women's groups and man-led organizations.

Critique: An exhaustively researched and deftly written work of original and seminal scholarship, "Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality: Women's Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940" is an exceptionally well organized and presented study that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Women's History and Kansas State History collections and supplemental studies lists. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of tables, forty-four pages of notes, a twelve page bibliography, and a twenty-five page index, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $47.50).

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062685353 $15.99 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In this novel authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before--Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline's new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles' hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier's most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

Critique: Fully authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, Caroline: Little House, Revisited is an original work offering a fresh look at the beloved novel "Little House on the Prairie". The story focuses upon Caroline "Ma" Ingalls, a staunch and steadfast character from the novel; her unique perspective has never been quite so closely explored before. A tale of immense hardships but also wondrous joys on the wild, beautiful American frontier, Caroline is a "must-read" for connoisseurs of the classic, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Caroline is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Essential Oil Diffuser Recipes
Pam Farley
The Book Publishing Company
PO Box 99, Summertown, TN 38483
9781570673641 $7.95

Synopsis: Nourish your spirits naturally with the healing effects of essential oils. Used with a diffuser, aromatic essential oils can uplift your mood and safely add fragrance to your home without the toxic chemicals found in scented sprays and candles. This pocket guide describes the different types of diffusers available and explains why quality oils are crucial. This collection of more than 100 diffuser recipes includes combinations for immune support, mental clarity, mood enhancement, relaxation and sleep, romance, and stress relief.

Critique: Aromatic essential oils are a sensible alternative to air freshener sprays, gels, and plug-ins, which can use carcinogens, chemicals that aggravate asthma or affect reproductive development, or even phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a health risk to babies and young children). These products may not even list all their ingredient chemicals because, as "household cleaners", they are not required to do so under the U.S. Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Diffused essential oils are safer to use, and with Essential Oil Diffuser Recipes one can easily tailor a fragrance combination to best suit one's needs - from promoting relaxation or restful sleep to relieving stress or perking up one's mood. A brief introduction guiding the reader in the use of diffusers, as well as an index for quick reference round out this reader-friendly guide, highly recommended for anyon seeking to improve the fragrance of their home.

Their Houses
Meredith Sue Willis
West Virginia University Press
PO Box 6295, Morgantown, WV 26506
9781946684349 $19.99 pbk

Synopsis: As children, two sisters make homes for their toys out of matchboxes and shoeboxes, trying to create safe places after the loss of their mother to psychosis.

Grace, a schoolteacher married to a doctor, appears to have a conventional life but has a breakdown during a undesired move her beloved cottage to another house. Dinah has married a once self-ordained preacher with a troubled past and tries to keep her children safely separate from the world. Meanwhile, a childhood friend is linked to a militia's abortive attempt to blow up the FBI's fingerprint records facility in West Virginia, and later builds an isolated survivalist compound in the mountains.

These three adults, closely bonded in childhood, are reunited on this acreage once owned by a white supremacist group, where they discover in various ways that there is no final protection, no matter how hard they strive to find it or make it.

Critique: Their Houses is an intense novel following the struggles and travails of multiple protagonists. Written with a keen flair for character-driven storytelling, Their Houses will keep the reader's rapt attention to the very end. Highly recommended, especially for personal and public library General Fiction collections.

The Meaning of Happiness
Alan Watts
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685400 $16.95 pbk / $13.56 Kindle

Synopsis: Deep down, most people think that happiness comes from having or doing something. Here, in Alan Watts's groundbreaking second book (originally published in 1940), he offers a more challenging thesis: authentic happiness comes from embracing life as a whole in all its contradictions and paradoxes, an attitude that Watts calls the "way of acceptance."

Drawing on Eastern philosophy, Western mysticism, and analytic psychology, Watts demonstrates that happiness comes from accepting both the outer world around us and the inner world inside us - the unconscious mind, with its irrational desires, lurking beyond the awareness of the ego. Although written early in his career, The Meaning of Happiness displays the hallmarks of his mature style: the crystal-clear writing, the homespun analogies, the dry wit, and the breadth of knowledge that made Alan Watts one of the most influential philosophers of his generation.

Critique: British philosopher Alan Watts (1915-1973), well-known for popularizing Eastern philosophy among a Western audience, wrote The Meaning of Happiness: The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East as a groundbreaking exploration of how the secrets of the internal self directly influence one's emotional well-being. The Meaning of Happiness is as profound and relevant today as it was decades ago, and highly recommended for both philosophy and psychology shelves. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Meaning of Happiness is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.56).

I Am the Product of Rape: A Memoir
Catherine Wyatt-Morley, author
Jalyon Welsh-Cole, epilogue
Four Pillers Media Group
9780996624206, $15.95, PB, 196pp,

Synopsis: No one knew the untold story of the child born from rape and the generational secret that had been kept for so long, until now. When secrets are revealed and healing begins as evidenced by the intensely personal and instructive life story of Catherine Wyatt-Morely in her impressively detailed and candid memoir.

Catherine Wyatt-Morley is the founder, chief executive officer and heartbeat of Women On Maintaining Education and Nutrition, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit social service organization for the at-risk and HIV-positive community. In 1994, Wyatt-Morley founded Women On Reasons To Heal (W.O.R.T.H), the first and what has become the oldest HIV-positive women's support group in Middle Tennessee. Wyatt-Morley's authorship includes "AIDS Memoir: Journal of an HIV-Positive Mother", "Positive People Combating HIV/AIDS", "My Life With AIDS: Tragedy to Triumph" and now "I Am The Product of Rape-A Memoir".

Critique: Dealing unflinchingly head-on with one of the most taboo topics our culture has to offer, "I Am the Product of Rape: A Memoir" is an inherently riveting read that is ultimately both inspired and inspiring. In this age of MeToo and the fight against sexual assault and sexual predators at home and in the workplace, "I Am the Product of Rape: A Memoir" is deserving of as wide a readership as possible and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography, Women's Studies, and Human Sexuality collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes
Linda Stephen, author
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778806165 $19.95, PB,

"150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes" is a collection of toaster oven recipes selected from the author's extensive previous experience and publications and other resources. Ideal for small households, vacationing, and energy conscious consumers, "150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes" begins with a chapter called the Basics, which offers 25 excellent, easy basic recipes that can teach beginning toaster oven chefs just how much can be cooked with a handy toaster oven.

This chapter includes recipes for BBQ meatballs, Vegetable Bean Chili, Fish Tacos, Homemade Chicken Fingers, Baked ham and Pineapple, Baked Fries, Brunch Quiche, Cottage Ham and Eggs, and Small-batch oatmeal Raisin Cookies, plus S'mores, just to name a few. Instructions are simple and written step by step, and measurements are given in both standard and metric amounts.

Variations and notes such as "Make Ahead' are given in sidebars. More information about toaster ovens is given in pages 6-10, About Toaster Ovens, including suggestions for cookware sizes and food safety. Additional chapters offer recipes for Appetizers and Snacks, Fish and Seafood, Poultry, Meat, Meatless Main Courses, Vegetables and Side Dishes Breakfast and Brunch, Breads, Muffins, Cookies and Bars, and Desserts.

Two central sections offer over 15 full page color photographs of completed recipes ready to serve. Each recipe generally take only one page or less. Some of the recipes that tempt the palate include: Mushroom Rice Pilaf, Goat Cheese and herb Souffle, Baked Sausages and Apples, Beef Tenderloin with Mustard Horseradish Sauce, Seafood Rice Gratin, Crab Melts, Tandoori Chicken with Raita, Turkey Breast with Maple Chipotle Glaze, tomatoes Provencal, Baked Asparagus with Parmesan, Country Ham Loaf, and Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies.

If an audience has been found for toaster oven cooking that desires increased versatility and variety, they are meant to use this cookbook. It even include Pears with Honey and Rosemary and Vanilla Custard for dessert. Who knew how much could be done with toaster ovens?

Fast or Slow
Tricia Bergman, editor
Better Homes & Gardens
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9789781328918499 $19.99

"Fast or Slow: Delicious Meals for Slow Cookers, Pressure Cookers, or Multicookers" delivers over 300 pages of excellent, multi-cultural recipes adapted for slow cookers, pressure cookers, or multicookers. Each recipe has instructions headed in green for fast cooker version and highlighted in orange for the slow cooker version, with cook times listed for each. Copiously photo-illustrated with mouth watering servings of delightful entrees, appetizers, breakfasts, sides, and desserts, "Fast and Slow" offers the perfect choice combo for today's busy cooks. A brief introduction explains icon headings (including 'weeknight, vegetarian, healthy, sides ans snacks, and company'), pressure cooker lingo, and slow cooker know -how. Truly global recipes are divided into 11 chapters on appetizers, breakfast, ribs & roasts, poultry, fish & shellfish, sandwiches & wraps, soups, stews & noodle bowls, Pasta, grains & legumes, salads & sides, and desserts. Measurements are standard, but metric information is also given at the end. Example recipes include: German Beef Roulades, Butternut Squash Shakshuka, Caramelized onion Jam and Goat Cheese Crostini, Farro, Black Bean, and Spinach Burritos with Tomato-Avocado Salsa, Balsamic roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Southwest BBQ Pork and Squash Stew, Pulled Pork Gyros with Dilled Radish Tzatziki, Duck Breast with Maple and Plums, Caramel- Ginger Wild Rice Pudding, and Peppered Bacon, Green Onion, and Buttermilk Scones, Cider-Poached Pears, and many more. "Fast or Slow" is a compact, efficient, multi -cuisine sampler of imaginative but simple recipes adapted to appeal to a wide spectrum of home cooks, whether their choice or cooking style is fast, slow, or in between. "Fast or Slow" is a lovely bride/groom or young adult gift to tempt newer cooks to experiment.

The 12 Days of Preschool
Jenna Lettice, author
Colleen Madden, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9781524766603, $4.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 24pp, Ages 3-7,

"The 12 Days of Preschool" is a delightful counting rhyme song based on a beloved seasonal song, embellished with funny, expressive, illustrations of children of many different backgrounds learning to play together. Strengthening prereaders' memory, observation, and musical ear, and counting skills, "The 12 Days of Preschool" emphasizes positive images and experiences for young children in a preschool setting. the final verse concludes:

On the Twelfth day of preschool, we all learned how to share:

Twelve squares for hopping,
Eleven drums for banging,
Ten blocks for building,
Nine cots for sleeping,
Eight books for reading,
Seven snacks for munching,
Six swings for swinging,
Five dinosaurs!
Four finger paints,
Three blue trikes,
Two choo-choo trains.....
and our most favorite fuzzy teddy bear."

This thoroughly 'kid friendly' activities counting book for preschoolers and kindergarten children includes a page of stickers and a resounding "Welcome to preschool!" it would make an especially ideal introductory gift for a beginning preschooler.

Reach For The Kids
Andrew S. Hogan, author
Michael D. Perez, illustrator
Research Press Publishers
2612 North Mattis Avenue, Champaign, IL 61822
#6660, $60.00, 5 Volume Set, 40pp, Ages 4-6

"Monkey on Ken's Back" is a helpful story from the five volume Reach For the Kids series that helps teach kids about dealing with emotional disorders. It begins with Andrew Hogan's Five Steps to Beat Emotional Disorders and REACH to a Heightened Life: "1. Recognize the source of symptoms. 2. Emerge from isolation. 3. Authenticate self and disorder. 4. Control the disorder as you are able. 5. Heighten your life!" "A Monkey on Ken's Back deals with step two.

An introductory idea is that everyone has monkeys on their backs, and somehow it is ok. One morning Ken woke up feeling different. The colors of his familiar room seemed wrong or different. Then he realized he had a monkey on his back! Nothing he did could rid him of the monkey on his back. Ken felt awful, embarrassed, mad, and sad all at the same time. At first he pretended nothing was wrong. Friends and his mother were concerned about him, but he pushed them away. He visited the school nurse who tried to help him understand what he was going through, to help teach him about the monkey on his back. Ken could not listen to her.

After school he went to his secret alone place at the dump, though his parents had warned him against it. He did not want to be seen crying. Then he got scared by a vicious, growling dog(with a name on the collar of Self Harm) and fell into a deep pit. Fortunately Ken was able to remember to use his cell phone to call his father who came to rescue him from the mean dog and the pit. Later, ken's father explained to him that everyone else also had monkeys on their backs, just different monkeys. Ken began to realize that he was not so different after all, and that he too could lead a happy life even if he had a monkey on his back.

The illustrations are a telling key to this moving story of dealing with emotional disorders. From the first page, every character has a different kind of monkey on their back. However, Ken does not see this until his father comes to rescue him from the pit. Ken learns to begin to accept himself as he is, and to emerge from isolation.

"A Monkey On Ken's Back" continues with 4 or 6 pages of helpful tips about how to use the story to teach children of different ages about emotional disorders. First suggestions is to understand on your level, but teach children on theirs. Several helpful points to discuss are suggested, along with the story message, that emotional disorders affect everyone, and need not cause total emotional isolation. Then suggestions are given according to developmental stages of the child or children reading or being read to. The ages are divided into ages 3-5, ages 6-9, and ages 10-11, with corresponding approaches for learning about emotional disorders at the ages suggested.

"A Monkey on Ken's Back" is written by a talented author who has been treated successfully for chronic type I bipolar disorder. See more about the author and his other books at

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War: Volume 2
James S. Pula
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213904, $34.95, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: The second volume of the Savas Beatie American Civil War history "Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War", author and historian James S. Pula (Professor of History at Purdue University Northwest and the editor-in-chief of Gettysburg Magazine) covers the conflict from Gettysburg to Victory, 1863-1865, and completes his magisterial work on this important Union command.

The XI Corps served in the Army of the Potomac for just twelve months (September 1862-August 1863), during which it played a pivotal role in the critical battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Thereafter, the corps hastened westward to reinforce a Union army in besieged Chattanooga, and marched through brutal December weather without adequate clothing, shoes, or provisions to help rescue a second Northern army under siege in Knoxville, Tennessee. Despite its sacrifices in the Eastern campaigns and successes in Tennessee, the reputation of the XI Corps is one of cowardice and failure.

Under the Crescent Moon (a reference to the crescent badge assigned to the corps) is the first study of this misunderstood organization. The first volume, From the Defenses of Washington to Chancellorsville, 1862-1863, opens with the organization of the corps and a lively description of the men in the ranks, the officers who led them, the regiments forming it, and the German immigrants who comprised a sizable portion of the corps.

Once this foundation is set, the narrative flows briskly through the winter of 1862-63 on the way to the first major campaign at Chancellorsville. Although the brunt of Stonewall Jackson's flank attack fell upon the men of the XI Corps, the manner in which they fought and many other details of that misunderstood struggle are fully examined here for the first time, and at a depth no other study has attempted. Professor Pula's extraordinary research and penetrating analysis offers a fresh interpretation of the Chancellorsville defeat while challenging long-held myths about that fateful field.

The second volume, From Gettysburg to Victory, offers seven chapters on the XI Corps at Gettysburg, followed by a rich exploration of the corps' participation in the fighting around Chattanooga, the grueling journey into Eastern Tennessee in the dead of winter, and its role in the Knoxville Campaign. Once the corps' two divisions are broken up in early 1864 to serve elsewhere, Professor Pula follows their experiences through to the war's successful conclusion.

Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War draws extensively on primary sources and allows the participants to speak directly to readers. The result is a comprehensive personalized portrait of the men who fought in the "unlucky" XI Corps, from the difficulties it faced to the accomplishments it earned. As Professor Pula demonstrates time and again, the men of the XI Corps were good soldiers unworthy of the stigma that has haunted them to this day. This long overdue study will stand as the definitive history of the XI Corps.

Critique: A critically important, scholarly erudite, and seminal contribution to the growing library of Civil War Histories, "Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War. Volume 2: From Gettysburg to Victory, 1863-1865" is an extraordinarily informed and informative volume that should be considered as an essential addition to personal, community, and academic library American Civil War collections and supplemental studies lists.

Lost Lives, New Voices
Christopher Gerrard, et al.
Oxbow Books
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781785708473, $35.00, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: In November 2013 two mass burials were discovered unexpectedly on a construction site in the city of Durham in north-east England. Over the next 2 years, a complex jigsaw of evidence was pieced together by a team of archaeologists to establish the identity of the human remains. Today we know them to be some of the Scottish prisoners who died in the autumn of 1650 in Durham cathedral and castle following the battle of Dunbar on the south-east coast of Scotland. Fought between the English and the Scots, this was one of the key engagements of the War of the Three Kingdoms.

Using the latest techniques of skeleton science, "Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the Stories of the Scottish Soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar 1650" gives back to the men a voice through an understanding of their childhood and later lives, tracing the story not only of the men who died through the course of research but also of those who survived. Archaeological and historical evidence allows an informed reconstruction with vivid accuracy how and why these men vanished off the historical radar.

Of the prisoners who survived, about 150 were transported to the colonies. Following the trail of their biographies takes the reader across the Atlantic to the frontiers of New England. An extensive genealogical appendix traces what is known of the later lives of the Dunbar men, through extensive 17th century records including wills, inventories and employment records, examined by their modern-day descendants in collaboration with project historians. The names of just about all the transported men have been established with varying degrees of accuracy and for each there is an entry composed of surname and forenames, residences listed by state, date of first known appearance in New England records, years of birth and death, based on evidence contemporary with the man, together with notes on his later life, employment, family history and decadency, sometimes down to the present day.

Iron- and sawmill workers, farmers and fishermen adapted to a new life in the vast forested landscapes. Some flourished, others did not but none returned to the country of their birth. "Lost Lives, New Voices" continues a forgotten narrative, interrupted for over 350 years, from a distant Scottish battlefield to the New England of modern America.

Critique: Truly impressive in scope, organization and presentation, "Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the Stories of the Scottish Soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar 1650" is an extraordinary and nicely illustrated study of seminal scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of forty-eight pages of Notes, a twenty-six page Bibliography, and a ten page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Lost Lives, New Voices" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.50).

Patricia Sutton
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613739433, $17.99, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland, filled to capacity with 2,500 passengers and crew, capsized in the Chicago River while still moored to the pier. Happy picnic-goers headed for an employee outing across Lake Michigan suddenly found themselves in a struggle for their lives. Trapped belowdecks, crushed by the crowds attempting to escape the rising waters, or hurled into the river from the upper deck of the ship, roughly one-third of the passengers, mostly women and children, perished that day.

The Eastland disaster took more passenger lives than the Titanic and stands today as the greatest loss of life on the Great Lakes. In "Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster" former elementary/middle school teacher and curriculum author Patricia Sutton (who was also a Golden Apple Award finalist for teacher excellence in the Chicago area, and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) details the events leading up to the fateful day and provides a nail-biting, minute-by-minute account of the ship's capsizing.

From the courage of the survivors to the despair of families who lost loved ones, "Capsized!" brings to light the stories of ordinary working people enduring the unthinkable.

"Capsized!" also raises critical-thinking questions for young readers ages 10 to 14, including: Why do we know so much about the Titanic's sinking yet so little about the Eastland disaster? What causes a tragedy to be forgotten and left out of society's collective memory? And what lessons from this disaster might we be able to apply today?

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both school and community library collections for young readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Capsized!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Secrets of the Seer - 10 Keys to Activating Seer Encounters
Jamie Galloway
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418088, $16.99

A Step by Step Exploration to Discovery of Activating Encounters with the Spirit

Jamie Galloway's book "Secrets of the Seer" is packed with personal experiences; gripping stories of God's Intervention. The practical instruction and solid Bible teaching will direct the reader experience:

A Genuine Connection with Jesus as the Source of Your Spiritual Journey

New Breakthroughs in Activating Your Spiritual Eyes

A Fresh Awareness of the Holy Spirit's Presence and Power

Prophetic Insights into Encounters with God's Glory

Activating a Lifestyle of experiencing more of God's practices, precepts, and Purposes

I devoured each page, every concept, and insight hungry for more, for more revelation, leading to a deeper life in God's Spirit. Galloway's writing is fervent, subjective, and credible.

"Secrets of the Seer - 10 Keys to Activating Seer Encounters" will help all believers build a platform of faith and into a deeper understanding of the revelatory realm of the Spirit. Galloway relates gripping stories of the Lord working miracles and performing healing, with illustrations of Old Testament Prophets, who had spectacular and supernatural encounters with God. New Testament disciples and apostles performed miracles of healing, saw visions, and prophesied of things yet to transpire in the end times.

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

The Principle & Power of Kingdom Citizenship - Keys to Experiencing Heaven on Earth
D. Myles Munroe
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418569, $16.99

A Training Guide for Citizens of the Kingdom of God in the context of the Present Day

Dr. Myles Munroe has a gift for taking a complex concept, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, bisecting and dissecting these into visual word pictures that open to the reader a new understanding of eternal truth.

In "The Principle & Power of Kingdom Citizenship" Dr. Munroe helps the reader understand the characteristics of a Kingdom, the rights and benefits of citizenship, and the principle of dual citizenship. Dr. Munroe's gifted teaching style empowers and enables the reader to recognize and enter into their rights as citizens of God's kingdom.

A whole chapter is devoted to exploring the uniqueness of Kingdom citizenship drawing from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, from the prophecies of Isaiah, and Micah, as well as from the book of Acts and the writings of the Apostles.

Dr. Munroe discerns truth from the scriptures and illuminates these same truths to challenge the reader to accept the responsibility of citizenship, to exercise their authority as ambassadors of Christ, and to impact the world around them through the power of the Kingdom of God. "The Principle & Power of Kingdom Citizenship" is a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Myles Munroe.

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

You Can Live an Everyday Supernatural Life
Dr. Joe Ibojie
Destiny Image Books, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768443127, $24.99

Truths that Transcend the Limitations of the Human Mind

"How You Can Live an Everyday Supernatural Life" is an all-inclusive, training manual, based on the books of bestselling author Dr. Joe Ibojie.

The manual is readily adaptable for use as an independent or a supplement study guide with his other works.

I was impressed with the concept of living in a realm of spiritual simplicity while walking in humility, always moving toward spiritual maturity.

The book is made up of 40 chapters divided into four parts. Each chapter contains: Instruction with Points to Note, Exercises with profound questions for consideration with space provided for recording a summary statement on the Practical Principles introduced throughout the chapter.

"How You Can Live an Everyday Supernatural Life" has given me new Perspectives on Living in the Light of the Supernatural while walking in the darkness of the natural.

Dr. Joe Ibojie is the founder and senior pastor of The Father's House in Aberdeen, Scotland. The Fathers House is a family church and community of believers with a mission to build bridges of hope across generational differences, racial prejudices, and gender biases based on the Scriptural precepts and principles for the Word of God.

Christians in all walks of life will find that if you live "by the will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

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

Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit Born Emotions
Mark Virkler and Charity Virkler Kayembe
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417951, $16.99

A Powerful Approach to Experiencing Healing through Spirit Born Emotions

Mark Virkler and Charity Virkler Kayembe are pioneers in the area of life-transformation teaching, deliverance, healing, and experiencing intimacy with God through the moving of the Holy Spirit. Their writing is centered on biblical content, practical teaching with application delivered with compassion and the healing power of the Spirit of God. Their testimony is transparent and their instruction is clear.

The book is made up of four parts which introduce and develop the concept of Kingdom emotions:

1. The Power of Kingdom Emotions

2. Faith: Energized by Love Releases

3. Emotional Healing; The Healing State

4. Utilizing Kingdom Emotions.

Each of these concepts is presented in a natural progression which enables the reader to absorb and understand each new principle.

I found the action exercises and journaling suggestions to be powerful tools for self-examination; cutting-edge teaching for equipping believers for compassionate healing ministry.

Founder of Community of God Ministries and Christian Leadership University, Mark Virkler has written over 50 books. "Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit Born Emotions" comes endorsed by Dr. Virkler's peers; well-known highly recognized ministry leaders in areas of healing and supernatural transformation.

Co-author Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe is known for Her International ministry and is passionate about restoring the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to the daily lives of believers.

"Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit Born Emotions" is written for anyone seeking wholeness, for study groups, and for pastors and leaders in the body of Christ.

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

Encountering the Holy Spirit in Every Book of the Bible
David Diga Hernandez
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417326, $16.99

Truths on the roles of the Holy Spirit found in the Scriptures - Genesis through Revelation

David Diga Hernandez introduces the reader to nine symbols of the Holy Spirit in his book "Encountering the Holy Spirit in Every Book of the Bible." Beginning in chapter one David delineates between; specific mentions, symbolic mentions, and subtle mentions. The next 66 chapters reveal references to the Holy Spirit in of the books in the Bible.

David begins with his childhood memories to relate stories of the supernatural power of God: accounts of divine rescues, unusual occurrences, miraculous healing, and angelic encounters. These stories are interspersed throughout the text and illustrate clearly the biblical examples of miracle and mystery revealed in the Old and New Testaments and provide spontaneous glimpses into the very heart of God in the person of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. David's fervency and enthusiastic spirit are contagious.

As I was reading, taking copious notes and enjoying an extended period of study, I was moved to stop often, allow the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, and to respond to the awareness of His presence in an intense sense of worship.

"Encountering the Holy Spirit in Every Book of the Bible" will resonate with Bible teachers and students alike, who are looking for in-depth teaching, on revival, pneumatology, and new dimensions in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

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

An Introduction to the Three Circle Strategy for a Fulfilling Life
Dave Yarnes
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418223, $7.99

Significant Principles and Guidelines for Maximizing your Perspective, Potential, and Purpose

In his book "An Introduction to the Three Circle Strategy for a Fulfilling Life" Dave Yarnes brings together three dimensions to real success: Spiritual financial, and personal.

Dave's practical principles will be new to many, an essential reminder to others already on the path to a fulfilling life, and significant affirmation for readers at every stage of life.

A unique feature of the book is it's small size, condensed, concise and less intimating for casual readers. Easy to carry in pocket, purse, or briefcase; handy for those moments, in waiting rooms, during coffee breaks, or those meditation moments available throughout the day.

This distinct success formula features personal stories which provide insight and vision for committing to integrity, helping you, the reader, to establish, launch and realize a plan for accomplishing your unique goals. "The Circle of the Spirit" concept gave me a new perspective and understanding of the need for a more holistic outlook for realizing a deeper fulfillment and an intensified spiritual connection with God.

Entrepreneurs, business leaders, life coaches and career advisors highly recommended the book to their leadership staff, and clients.

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

God's Prophetic Symbolism in Everyday Life
Adam F. Thompson and Adrian Beale
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768415896, $25.99

A Rich Resource for Hearing God's Voice through Natural Events and Divine Occurrences

"God's Prophetic Symbolism in Everyday Life" is full of extraordinary examples and testimonies of Kingdom living, offering encouragement, and inspiration. The book is divided into two parts.

Part 1 introduces the supernatural phenomena:

Modern day prophets, signs and symbols through numbers, names, and natural means

Spiritual principles and applications which can draw us into a deeper intimacy with God.

Packed with destiny defining encounters leading to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, and an increased awareness of those natural and supernatural events happening around us.

I especially appreciated the format of the book with: charts, guidelines for interpretation, summary statements, and conclusions.

Part 2 presents resources for:

Interpreting visions and revelatory experiences

A metaphor dictionary

A name and place dictionary.

Co-authors, Adam F. Thompson and Adrian Beale, are well known for their previous books, and their global outreach and ministry; their books are highly recommended and endorsed by Pastors and Christian leaders in prophetic and revivalists movements around the world.

"Gods Prophetic Symbolism in Everyday Life" is a vital ministry resource for interpreting God's will, and equipping the reader to live a life of significance with a supernatural impact.

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

Receiving Healing from the Courts of Heaven
Robert Henderson
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417548, $16.99

Powerful Stories of Holy Spirit Empowerment - For Removing Hindrances to Receiving Healing

In his book "Receiving Healing from the Courts of Heaven" Robert Henderson familiarizes the reader with the concept of the courts of heaven; the devil as being the adversary of the Christian. He goes on to provide the reader with guidelines on how to align their prayers with the legal process of the courts of heaven to revoke the rights of the adversary, the devil.

The book is filled with stories of miraculous healing from his healing ministry, and examples from the healing ministry of Jesus to that exemplify hindrances that delay or deny healing.

Henderson skillfully presents practical insight and faith building tools to help the reader understand and apply proven strategies for petitioning, contending for, and claiming their healing through the process and inner working of God's throne room.

Robert Henderson is driven by to pursue his calling to disciple nations by writing, teaching, preaching, and demonstrating the apostolic message and receiving healing from the courts of heaven. Internationally recognized evangelists, church and ministry leaders, attest to the clear teaching, and commitment to integrity, and authentic character of Robert Henderson, and his realistic approach to ministry.

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

Receiving Healing from the Courts of Heaven Leader's Guide
Robert Henderson
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417609, $14.99

Revoking the Legal Rights of the Adversary for Receiving Your Healing From the Courts of Heaven

The "Receiving Healing from the Courts of Heaven Leader's Guide" is a companion to the DVD video teaching series. The leader's guide is designed to provide:

Basic Leader Guidelines

Pre-preparation Plans for Group or Class Study

Leader's Check List

Weekly Overview

Each of the Seven Week Sessions includes:

Video Listening Guide

Summary Statement

Points for Reflection

Step by Step Agenda

The unique features of this series include the profound discussion questions reviewing the material from the content of the DVD lesson, the companion book, and student study guide. An additional distinctive means of getting the most from each experience are the reflective thoughts; encouraging meditation, journaling, and declaration statements for prayer focus.

Participants will receive instruction on:

Understanding the concept of the Courts of Heaven

Instructions on How to Lead Small Groups

How to Receive and Release God's Healing Power

Robert Henderson is widely known for his writing and speaking; apostolic teaching on the Kingdom of God, and on the Courts of Heaven. Robert is highly endorsed by his peers; global pastors, teacher, authors, and Charismatic Christian Leaders.

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

Essential Oils - Ancient Medicine
Dr. Josh Axe, Ty Bollinger, and Jordan Rubin
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417869, $29.95

Life Changing Potential for More Energy and Better Health

Dr. Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine and doctor of chiropractic clinical nutritionist, and Jordan Rubin, bestselling author, founder of Garden of Life Beyond Organic, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition collaborate with Ty Bollinger, health researcher, and bestselling author, in this updated new edition of "Essential Oils." The authors introduce proven health benefits of the top 50 essential oils and relate how these oils are helping in the healing of critical health concerns using more than 125 natural remedies.

The book is written to help educate the reader about what essential oils are and why they are so powerful. Secondly, the authors want to help the reader feel empowered to use these essential oils both safely and effectively to live healthy lives, and thirdly, to equip the reader through this manual to begin utilizing chemical free oils.

The book is made up of five parts:

History, Foundations, and Safe and Effective Use

Single Essential Oils and Carrier Oils


Special Areas

Essential Oil Recipes

"Essential Oils - Ancient Medicine" is an overall reference guide backed by Scientific Research, historical documentation, and biblical wisdom, more than a book for one-time casual reading. It is a lifetime guide to healthy living.

Our copy has a prominent place on our coffee table, for quick reference, conversation starters, quick review, or concentrated study. The colorful pictures, attractive format, and vital content combine to act as a magnetic force drawing us back, again and again to the fascinating power of essential oils.

Highly recommended.

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

The Art of Optimism - Your Competitive Edge
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97816950214, $21.95

Sage Wisdom, Practical Advice, Proven Principles, and Tremendous Tools

Jim Stovall's "The Art of Optimism - Your Competitive Edge" is timely and relative. Stovall's insights never cease to amaze me.

Although I consider myself an optimist by nature; those pesky, nagging negative traits of pessimism sometimes creep in and try to take over. While doing a quick scan of the contents, I was drawn to the chapter, titled The Pessimism Prescription. I recognized my symptoms and was ready to find the first step to a cure. I quickly learned the detriments of pessimism as stress and anxiety, and the concept that optimism acts as an immunization to protect me from the influence of these negative emotions

Stovall's stories, studies, personal experiences, and challenging, enlightening examples from the lives of well known, successful leaders in business, the entertainment industry, and motivational speakers inspire and motivate me to reflect on, analyze, and examine my motives, attitudes, and self-value as I adapt optimism as my worldview.

The bestselling author of over 40 books, Jim Stovall was honored with the International Humanitarian of the Year award in 2000.

In "The Art of Optimism" Jim Stovall continues to set the standard for books in this genre. I can highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with consistently maintaining an optimistic attitude in their everyday challenges and opportunities.

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

Planting Reproducing Churches
Elmer L. Towns
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417653, $16.99

Reproducing Churches through Multiplying

In his book "Planting Reproducing Churches" Elmer L. Towns carefully lays a foundation advocating a strategy of multiplication presently being practiced and replicated in churches across America and worldwide. He introduces the reader to the foundation, history, and practical principles for and for church planting. He looks at and describes types of church plants, multisite satellite churches as well as innovative step by step planning and essential tools for successful church planting.

Extensive chapter endnotes attest to the research that has gone into this significant work and provides the reader with a broad spectrum of resources for future reading, reference, research. Church planters will get new vision and passion, as they pursue the scriptural mandate for planting reproducing churches.

"Planting Reproducing Churches" should be on the reading lists of seminary and Bible college professors; a valuable resource guide that should be available in the personal and church libraries, of pastors, denominational leaders, and lay leaders in the local church.

Elmer Towns is Dean Emeritus of the School of Religion and Theological University.

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

The Goal Tender - A Journey to Living the Life of Your Dreams
Shawn Doyle CSP
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879953, $15.99

Tools and Techniques for Becoming a Goal Tender

Shawn Doyle introduces a whole new slant on an important theme in his book "The Goal Tender - A Journey to Living the Life of Your Dreams." Doyle has a unique writing style, a friendly and appealing fictional approach that draws the reader into the storyline while subtly taunting them to pick up a pen to respond to the questions in the Goal Tender Action Planner Section, reignite enthusiasm and wake up their passion.

Doyle's writing will resonate with readers at who have put aside their dreams in the business of life and are ready to move forward, inclined to think bigger and realize their potential

There are several features of Shawn's organization of the book that I especially appreciate:

The motivational quotes by well-known successful personalities

The Goal Tender Action Planner Section

The essential lessons packed into the conversations between Joe and Michael

Shawn Doyle's, nearly 30-year career as Certified Speaker, author, executive, and life coach only touches the iceberg of his extensive experience, exposure, and qualifications for leading the reader into A Journey to Living the Life of Your Dreams. "The Goal Tender" has challenged me to take another look at my life, goals, and dreams to set in motion the next step in bringing them to fruition.

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

Napoleon Hill's Action Activities
Judith Williamson
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879785, $15.99

Action Plans & Principles for Successful Living

"Napoleon Hill's Action Activities for Health, Wealth & Happiness" contains 52 short, affirmative action suggestions and modern-day commentary on Hill's Success Principles.

Each chapter challenges the reader with an inspirational quote from familiar "world changers," a short commentary, insights from the works of Napoleon Hill or Clement Stone, and a suggested action assignment.

Designed to be an interactive learning experience and motivational tool each of the creative action assignments challenges the participant to apply a specific prompt that will help them put into motion the 17 Science for Success Principles, to achieve their goals, and launch a program to develop good habits, eliminate bad ones.

These action challenges are reminders to me of the importance of regularly reviewing the original works of Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich and The Master Key to Riches in which he recorded the principles used by Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison, and other famous leaders in the worlds of industry, finance, and statesmanship.

Judith Williamson is director of the Napoleon Hill World Learning Center.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Tasting the Past
Kevin Begos
Algonquin Books
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616205775, $26.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: After a chance encounter with an obscure Middle Eastern red wine, journalist Kevin Begos embarked on a ten-year journey to seek the origins of wine. What he unearths is a whole world of forgotten grapes, each with distinctive tastes and aromas, as well as the archaeologists, geneticists, chemists, (and even a paleobotanist) who are deciphering wine down to molecules of flavor.

In the pages of "Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine" the reader will encounter a young scientist who sets out to decode the DNA of every single wine grape in the world; a researcher who seeks to discover the wines that Caesar and Cleopatra drank; and an academic who has spent decades analyzing wine remains to pinpoint ancient vineyards. Science illuminates wine in ways no critic can, and it has demolished some of the most sacred dogmas of the industry: for example, well-known French grapes aren't especially noble.

The reader then travels with Begos along the original wine routes starting in the Caucasus Mountains, where wine grapes were first domesticated eight thousand years ago; then down to Israel and across the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy, and France; and finally to America where vintners are just now beginning to make distinctive wines from a new generation of local grapes. Imagine the wine grape version of heirloom vegetables or craft beer, or better yet, taste it: Begos offers readers drinking suggestions that go far beyond the endless bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot found in most stores and restaurants.

"Tasting the Past" is viticultural detective story wine geeks and history lovers alike will discover new tastes and flavors to savor.

Critique: An impressively well researched, written, organized and presented study, "Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine" is a unique and extraordinarily informative read that will have immense and special appeal for anyone who has every enjoyed a glass of wine. While an especially recommended addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tasting the Past" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781684411801, $29.99, CD).

Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age
Fred Pearce
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807092491, $27.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: From Hiroshima to Chernobyl, Fukushima to the growing legacy of lethal radioactive waste, humanity's struggle to conquer atomic energy is rife with secrecy, deceit, human error, blatant disregard for life, short-sighted politics, and fear. Fallout is an eye-opening odyssey through the first eight decades of this struggle and the radioactive landscapes it has left behind. We are, he finds, forever torn between technological hubris and all-too-human terror about what we have created.

In "Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age", London-based journalist Fred Pearce reminds us that at first America loved the bomb. Las Vegas, only seventy miles from the Nevada site of some hundred atmospheric tests, crowned four Miss Atomic Bombs in 1950s. Later, communities downwind of these tests suffered high cancer rates. The fate of a group of Japanese fishermen, who suffered high radiation doses from the first hydrogen bomb test in Bikini atoll, was worse. The United States Atomic Energy Commission accused them of being Red spies and ignored requests from the doctors desperately trying to treat them.

"Fallout" then moves on to explore the closed cities of the Soviet Union, where plutonium was refined and nuclear bombs tested throughout the '50s and '60s, and where the full extent of environmental and human damage is only now coming to light. Exploring the radioactive badlands created by nuclear accidents (not only the well-known examples of Chernobyl and Fukushima, but also the little known area around Satlykovo in the Russian Ural Mountains and the Windscale fire in the UK) "Fallout" describes the compulsive secrecy, deviousness, and lack of accountability that have persisted even as the technology has morphed from military to civilian uses.

Finally, "Fallout" turns to the toxic legacies of nuclear technology: the emerging dilemmas over handling its waste and decommissioning of the great radioactive structures of the nuclear age, and the fearful doublethink over the world's growing stockpiles of plutonium, the most lethal and ubiquitous product of nuclear technologies.

For any reader who craves a clear-headed examination of the tangled relationship between a powerful technology and human politics, foibles, fears, and arrogance, "Fallout" is the definitive look at humanity's nuclear adventure.

Critique: An extraordinary study that is as impressively informed and informative as it is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Fallout" is also available in a paperback edition (9780807073506, $18.00), in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781520098814, $24.99).

The Known Citizen
Sarah E. Igo
Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674737501, $35.00, HC, 592pp,

Synopsis: Every day, Americans make decisions about their privacy: what to share and when, how much to expose and to whom. Securing the boundary between one's private affairs and public identity has become a central task of citizenship. How did privacy come to loom so large in American life? In "The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America", Sarah Igo (Associate Professor of History and Director of American Studies at Vanderbilt University) tracks this elusive social value across the twentieth century, as individuals questioned how they would, and should, be known by their own society.

Privacy was not always a matter of public import. But beginning in the late nineteenth century, as corporate industry, social institutions, and the federal government swelled, increasing numbers of citizens believed their privacy to be endangered. Popular journalism and communication technologies, welfare bureaucracies and police tactics, market research and workplace testing, scientific inquiry and computer data banks, tell-all memoirs and social media all propelled privacy to the foreground of U.S. culture. Jurists and philosophers but also ordinary people weighed the perils, the possibilities, and the promise of being known. In the process, they redrew the borders of contemporary selfhood and citizenship.

"The Known Citizen" reveals how privacy became the indispensable language for monitoring the ever-shifting line between our personal and social selves. Igo's sweeping history, from the era of "instantaneous photography" to the age of big data, uncovers the surprising ways that debates over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society. It offers the first wide-angle view of privacy as it has been lived and imagined by modern Americans.

Critique: A thoroughly impressive, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking study, "The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a sixteen page Introduction, 178 pages of Notes; a four page listing of Acknowledgments; a four page listing of Credits; and a twelve page Index. Exceptionally researched, organized and presented, "The Known Citizen" is a critically important contribution to our national dialogue over individual privacy in a technologically modern society and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Personal Privacy Issues supplemental studies reading lists.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

An Aide to Custer
Sandy Barnard, editor
Thomas E. Singlelyn, compiler
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806160184, $39.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: In August 1862, nineteen-year-old Edward G. Granger joined the 5th Michigan Cavalry Regiment as a second lieutenant. On August 20, 1863, the newly promoted Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer appointed Granger as one of his aides, a position Granger would hold until his death in August 1864.

Many of the forty-four letters the young lieutenant wrote home during those two years, introduced and annotated in "An Aide to Custer: The Civil War Letters of Lt. Edward G. Granger" by leading Custer scholar Sandy Barnard, provide a unique look into the words and actions of his legendary commander. At the same time, Granger's correspondence offers an intimate picture of life on the picket lines of the Army of the Potomac and a staff officer's experiences in the field.

As Custer's aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Granger was in an ideal position to record the inner workings of the Michigan Brigade's command echelon. Riding at Custer's side, he could closely observe one of America's most celebrated and controversial military figures during the very days that cemented his fame.

With a keen eye and occasional humor, Granger describes the brigade's operations, including numerous battles and skirmishes. His letters also show the evolution of the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps from the laughingstock of the Eastern Theater to an increasingly potent, well-led force. By the time of Granger's death at the Battle of Crooked Run, he and his comrades were on the verge of wresting mounted supremacy from their Confederate opponents.

Amply illustrated with maps and photographs, "An Aide to Custer" gives readers an unprecedented view of the Civil War and one of its most important commanders, and unusual insight into the experience of a staff officer who served alongside him.

Critique: Simply stated, "An Aide to Custer: The Civil War Letters of Lt. Edward G. Granger" is an enormously important and critically significant 'eye witness' volume that is a 'must' for any personal, community, college, or university library American Civil War collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, Civil War buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, the "An Aide to Custer: The Civil War Letters of Lt. Edward G. Granger" is also available in a digital book format ($32.95).

Miseducating for the Global Economy
Gerald Coles
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583676912, $95.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: All across the United States, corporations, politicians, economists, educators (and now, most remarkably, Ivanka Trump) cry out for new "education for the twenty-first century economy". Meanwhile, millions of Americans face increasing difficulty finding well paying, secure jobs.

But the current employment crisis is not so much due to the educational system as it is to a sustained corporate effort to keep the public in ignorance about the damage wrought by the global economy itself.

"Miseducating for the Global Economy: How Corporate Power Damages Education and Subverts Students' Futures" by educational psychologist Gerald Coles reveals that behind the going concern for "global economy education" lies capitalism's metastasizing indifference to human values, to a fair distribution of resources, to its radical restructuring of workplaces with an attendant intensification of work effort, and to the genuine well-being of workers and their families.

"Miseducating for the Global Economy" provides a real education about the twenty-first-century global economy - and what corporations are doing to prevent our learning about it. Corporations and business organizations, for instance, resolutely withhold massive wealth that could be used to fund more realistic occupational education, even as they skew educational curricula away from too much global economic awareness.

"Miseducating for the Global Economy" describes the intellectually narrow and morally crippling effects of the corporate-control of education; how the imperative for profit maximizes the misunderstanding of communities, nations, and the environment, even as it minimizes aesthetic appreciation, cultural expression, compassion itself. But it is by understanding all this that real change can begin. Using this analysis, educators, parents, educational organizations, and activists can finally begin to craft schooling that truly serves students and advances global humanity.

Critique: A deftly argued, thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of the detrimental role corporations have played with respect to public education, as well as a clarion call for countering it in an Age of Trump where corporate influence with the Department of Education is so dominant, "Miseducating for the Global Economy: How Corporate Power Damages Education and Subverts Students" is a compelling study and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Issues in Education collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, education reform activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Miseducating for the Global Economy" is also available in a paperback edition (9781583676905, $24.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.00).

Turning the Page
David R. Coon
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813593708, $99.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Surprisingly, Hollywood is still clumsily grappling with its representation of sexual minorities, and LGBTQ filmmakers struggle to find a place in the mainstream movie industry. However, organizations outside the mainstream are making a difference, helping to produce and distribute authentic stories that are both by and for LGBTQ people.

"Turning the Page: Storytelling as Activism in Queer Film and Media" by David R. Coon (who is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Washington - Tacoma) introduces readers to three nonprofit organizations that, in very different ways, have each positively transformed the queer media landscape.

Professor Coon takes his readers inside In the Life Media, whose groundbreaking documentaries on the LGBTQ experience aired for over twenty years on public television stations nationwide. Coon reveals the successes of POWER UP, a nonprofit production company dedicated to mentoring filmmakers who can turn queer stories into fully realized features and short films. Finally, he turns to Three Dollar Bill Cinema, an organization whose film festivals help queer media find an audience and whose filmmaking camps for LGBTQ youth are nurturing the next generation of queer cinema.

Combining a close analysis of specific films and video programs with extensive interviews of industry professionals, "Turning the Page" demonstrates how queer storytelling in visual media has the potential to empower individuals, strengthen communities, and motivate social justice activism.

Critique: An impressive work of original and seminal scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction (Telling Stories for Social Change); eighteen pages of Notes; a ten page Bibliography; and an eleven page Index, "Turning the Page: Storytelling as Activism in Queer Film and Media" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library LGBTQ Studies, Film/Media Studies, and Gender Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Turning the Page: Storytelling as Activism in Queer Film and Media" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813593692, $26.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.60).

Plague in Paradise
Jeffrey S. Copeland
Paragon House
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789358 $19.95

Synopsis: Families in the Mexican community of Los Angeles are getting sick. Some are dying. Has the Spanish Influenza returned as some suspect? Dr. Matthew Thompson, the most skilled diagnostician at Los Angeles County General Hospital, fears something even more deadly. When patients develop boils, their skin darkens, and they start coughing up blood, his worst fears are confirmed: Plague?the Black Death?has taken root just a few miles from the hospital and main center of commerce of the city.

Some in civic government and even a few high ranking medical officials would like this outbreak kept quiet, even if the secrecy costs the lives of those presently afflicted. The reputation and future of a whole city is at stake. It is more important to protect "The Paradise of the West," as Los Angeles is now known for its healthful climate, beautiful beaches, and bountiful opportunities.

What happens when a plague hits a minority group whose welfare is of little concern to government and medical leaders? Dr. Thompson, Nurse Maria McDonnell, and Fr. Medardo Brualla of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish decide to fight for the welfare of all, but they find themselves facing much more than a medical crisis: fear, racism, and greed.

Based on a true story.

Critique: Plague in Paradise: The Black Death in Los Angeles, 1924 is a historical novel set during the documented 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles. Pneumonic plague is one of three forms of plague (the others are septicemic plague and bubonic plague) and is hypothesized to be responsible for the "Black Death" that depopulated Europe in the 1300's. Although pneumonic plague can be treated by antibiotics, untreated plague has a rapid mortality rate that is very close to 100%. When pneumonic plague surfaced in Los Angeles in 1924, the local medical community and civic government were divided on how to respond, and ordinary people suffered from the horror. Plague in Paradise tells the stories of medical heroes and villains, and of racism against Mexican-Americans, whose lives were not accorded the same value as white Americans. The result is a gripping read from cover to cover, highly recommended.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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