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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 8 August 2022 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Guarding the Golden Gate
J. Gordon Frierson, MD
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781647790462, $29.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: As a major seaport, San Francisco struggled to control infectious diseases carried by passengers on ships entering the Bay. In 1882, a steamer from Hong Kong arrived carrying over 800 Chinese passengers, including one who had smallpox. The steamer was held in quarantine for weeks, during which time more passengers contracted the disease. This episode convinced port authorities better means of quarantining infected ships were necessary.

With the publication of "Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay", Professor J. Gordon Frierson covers the creation and operation of the quarantine station, which is integral to San Francisco's history, and reveals the steps taken to prevent the spread of diseases; the political struggles over the establishment of a national quarantine station; and the day-to-day life of the immigrants and staff inhabiting the island.

With the advancement of the understanding of infectious diseases and the development of treatments, the facility shuttered its doors in 1949.

Critique: A comprehensively detailed and impressively presented medical history, "Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay" provides an insightful study revealing the efforts of the country's then fledgling federal medical agency to maintain the public's safety during a communicable disease health crisis. Informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography, twenty-eight pages of Notes, and a fourteen page Index, "Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Medical History & Epidemiology 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 "Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

Editorial Note: J. Gordon Frierson, MD, is clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. After a decades-long career in the medical field, Frierson continues his longstanding interest in the history of medicine with the publication of Guarding the Golden Gate. He is also a member of the Bay Area History of Medicine Society, the American Osler Society, and the American Association for the History of Medicine.

Pakistan's Pathway to the Bomb
Mansoor Ahmed
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
978167417230, $134.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: The Islamic country of Pakistan's pathway to developing nuclear weapons remains shrouded in mystery and surrounded by misconceptions. While it is no secret why Pakistan became a nuclear power, how Pakistan became a nuclear state has been obscured by mythmaking.

With the publication of "Pakistan's Pathway to the Bomb: Ambitions, Politics, and Rivalries", author Mansoor Ahmed offers a revisionist history of Pakistan's nuclear program and the bureaucratic politics that shaped its development from its inception in 1956 until the 1998 nuclear tests.

Drawing on elite interviews and previously untapped primary sources, Ahmed offers a fresh assessment of the actual and perceived roles and contributions of the scientists and engineers who led the nuclear program. He shows how personal ambitions and politics within Pakistan's strategic enclave generated inter-laboratory competition in the nuclear establishment, which determined nuclear choices for the country for more than two decades. It also produced unexpected consequences such as illicit proliferation to other countries largely outside of the Pakistani state's control.

As Pakistan's nuclear deterrent program continues to grow, "Pakistan's Pathway to the Bomb" provides fresh insights into how this nuclear power has evolved in the past and where it stands today. Scholars and students of security studies, Pakistani history, and nuclear proliferation will find this study to be invaluable to their understanding of the country's nuclear program, policies, and posture.

Critique: A timely and well informed contribution to Pakistan military history and nuclear capability development, "Pakistan's Pathway to the Bomb: Ambitions, Politics, and Rivalries" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of five Appendices, a two page Bibliography, and a ten page Index. While very strongly recommended for community, college, and university library Pakistan Military History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pakistan's Pathway to the Bomb: Ambitions, Politics, and Rivalries" is also available in a paperback edition (9781647122317, $44.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.99).

Editorial Note: Mansoor Ahmed is a senior fellow at the Center for International Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan. He is a former Stanton Nuclear Security junior faculty fellow (2015 - 16) and postdoctoral research fellow (2016 - 18) with the International Security Program and Managing the Atom project at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. He also served as a lecturer in the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, from 2011 - 15.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

You Will Know Vengeance
W. A. Pepper
Hustle Valley Press, LLC
9781958011003, $24.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

You Will Know Vengeance is a debut thriller that's first in the projected Tanto thriller series, setting the stage with action based upon many of the mental and physical violent challenges facing modern society today.

If this feels too realistic for comfort, move on. W.A. Pepper pulls no punches in sounding out the adversity and conspiracies affecting the world, and so readers will find this scenario as familiar as it is frightening.

From drug abuse and suicide to discrimination and prejudice, there are many triggers in this story's consideration of deep-routed social problems and individual angst.

Those who pursue realistic thriller stories without being torn over man's inhumanity to man will find You Will Know Vengeance a powerful saga which promises (and delivers) a fast-paced, action-packed series of suspenseful scenarios.

The first-person story literally opens with a bang: "The Feds give you zero notice when they kick in your door. There is no warning siren. There is no knocking on your door, which is soon to be shattered by a battering ram. There is only silence before the calculated chaos."

Part of what gives this story an especially vivid "you are here" feel in comparison to the majority of thrillers is Pepper's descriptive prowess, which reaches out to grab readers with sights, smells, and sounds: "The vibration of a stampede of footsteps shakes my body as leathery gloves assault my temporarily handicapable Helen Keller ass and shove me onto my bed, nose-first. The smells of rancid sheets and garlic fill my nostrils. A faceless assailant pins my arms behind my head and zip-ties my hands together. Then I am yanked to my feet."

From dark web routines and Hackers' Haven to a gritty, streetwise analysis of social, political, and legal dilemmas, the story evolves on different levels to reflect the narrator's power and force: "My thoughts on this are that anyone can make a mistake. For example, I once tracked a guy who was downloading a good amount of amateur porn, then he wandered into a baited snuff porn folder. That's the videos with actual blood and gore. He downloaded one file, then went back to minor league porn. For me, that's like drug dealing. The first one is free. For the rest, you pay full price. In other words, you're on my shit list."

While Tanto believes he is working on the side of wider-ranging good, in actuality, his own personality works against him, making him a flawed hero who is too often thwarted by high technology and low-lifes as well as his own pride. His own self-assessment is rich and astute: "If I were a soft drink, I'd be Diet Violence or Pacifist-Lite because, despite what the movies tell you, Bushi warriors were not driven by violence. Honor guided them, and they only took a life when there was no other option."

Readers seeking a thriller steeped in too-possible worlds, undercurrents of society that exist today, technological conundrums, and the added overlay of interpersonal relationship challenges affected by conspiracy will find all these elements and more in You Will Know Vengeance.

This book belongs on the shelves of any library devoted to building a solid, exceptional collection of thriller novels, and is highly recommended for readers who can absorb trigger subjects in the interest of a complex, thoroughly absorbing story packed with surprises.

Blood Dragon Rising
G.S. Carline
Dancing Corgi Press
9781943654178, $6.99 Kindle

Blood Dragon Rising, Book 1 in the Dragon Shadows series, weaves a love story, a fantasy, and an epic adventure into the story of Lisette de Lille, whose marriage to a staid nobleman proves anything but dull.

Just because it's set in the Caribbean and involves pirates doesn't mean that Blood Dragon Rising's audience should be limited to swashbuckling audiences alone. Nor does it represent historical fiction as it follows noblewoman Lisette's much-changed life when she becomes a pirate.

This elusive flavor is just what spices Blood Dragon Rising so nicely, keeping it from being a set genre read by expanding the potential of its attraction to a wide range of readers.

G.S. Carline employs especially haunting imagery to capture Lisette's environment and the influences that lead her astray (or, more likely, into the person she really was meant to be): "Lisette stood on her balcony, trying to draw in breath. This evening's gala required her to wear a corset and although it pushed her breasts into two fine mounds, the reward seemed hardly worth the pain. Such was the price for turning twenty. The sun had sunk below the horizon, but light still fought the darkness, giving the sky an ashen, brooding quality. The island breeze was still too warm, and she pushed at the damp curls along her neck. She gazed outward to sea, willing her body to breathe despite its entrapment."

These descriptions of her world and the dragon that haunts it prove a compelling draw from the first page, luring readers to learn more about Lisette's life, powers, and destiny.

There are many vivid scenes throughout, as in a dagger fight between women who are each more than capable of wielding weapons and anger with equal force. Locked in battle, the two must quit in order to face a greater foe as a Spanish ship threatens them.

Lisette's forceful personality, perceptions, and interactions with a host of women lend an especially vivid, female-driven force to the story which is uncommon in tales of pirates and Caribbean experiences: "Rocco will soon set fire to our fine ship, and the further away we are, the less likely we shall be roasted alive."

The women wailed louder now and one of the younger girls fainted.

"Stop your bawling. You behave like lambs going to slaughter." Lisette glowered at them, spitting her words. "Do you want to die? Or would you rather survive this and return to your loved ones?"

From immortal souls and ladies of the house to pirate ships and dragons, G.S. Carline creates a satisfyingly moving story that proves ever-changing, unpredictable, and hard to put down.

It's rare to recommend a Caribbean pirate story to such a wide audience, but libraries will find that it captures the attention of fantasy readers, mystery fans, and pirate enthusiasts alike. Blood Dragon Rising deserves a prominent place in collections strong in novels that center on a diverse set of female characters whose lives, experiences, and strengths take center stage.

Must Read Well
Ellen Pall
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885539, $27.95 Hardcover, $9.49 Kindle

Must Read Well is a novel steeped in interpersonal relationships, suspense, and revelation. Twenty-something scholar Elizabeth Miller and almost-ninety writer Anne Weil initially seem to have much in common, with their literary interests. But Anne, a recluse, has repeatedly rejected Liz's desire for connection in the past, and only accepts a relationship now because, half-blind, she is in need of someone to read to her.

It turns out that Liz is charged with reading not others' books, but Anne's own journals, written in almost indecipherable hand. They offer surprising clues to her secret life and a love affair that ideally should never see the light of day and public inspection.

Bound by a legal agreement not to disclose what she comes to know, Liz finds herself in an unexpected dilemma as she pursues these journal contents and comes to know Anne's life in a way that her dissertation studies about the woman never prepared her for.

Must Read Well is a study in secrets, literature, love, and connections between a muse and a woman who is still a student in many ways.

It crafts a story filled with literary and biographical inspection as Liz comes to realize that Anne's masterpiece work holds its roots in real life events: "As I read this paragraph, I thought of the early scene in Vengeance when Howard Clark explodes with fury at Catherine for refusing to quit her job. "You do this and people think my wife has to work!" he shouts, stalking around and around her as she sits on their living-room couch. "Is that why you do it? On purpose to humiliate me? Just stay at home, for Chrissake! Just stay home, Cathy. How hard is that to do?"

These, in turn, raise important questions not just about the writer, but Liz's role as a reader who is gaining increasing knowledge about secrets of the past: "But could pure imagination have sustained the torrent of rage in her book?"

Ellen Pall creates an intriguing dance between discovery, literary wellsprings of influence and reflection, and the connections between two powerful, literate women who find their worlds intersecting at a critical junction in their lives.

As Liz becomes more involved in changing hearts and minds based on past revelations, she finds herself in a delicate position with a recluse who fiercely guards the jewels of her journals and their deepest secrets.

The result is a story that excels in suspense, revelation, and unexpected, changing relationships.

Its special psychological tension and evocative explorations of lies, truth, and intention will especially attract libraries and readers interested in women's literary works that goe the extra mile to reveal the ironies and driving force behind a famous author's writing life and real world.

Will Liz accept Anne's legacy and walk further into her life?

The story is gripping on many levels, and is highly recommended reading for women who enjoy exposes steeped in interpersonal relationships, growth, and surprising revelations.

Where Waters Run North
Frank Martorana
VinChaRo Ventures
9780998932668, $14.99

Where Waters Run North, book four in the Kent Stephenson Thriller Series, opens with a discussion of geologic and Native American history in New York, creating an atmospheric description of place and heritage before moving to 1999 in the first chapter. Here, forty-something Owahgena fishermen Lute and Jimmy are enjoying another sterling day, fishing on the Chittenango River.

Disaster strikes before Chapter 2 takes a different turn, moving into Kent Stephenson's daughter, Emily, and her horse riding training. It's a perfect morning for them, too...until a new obstacle to Olympic fame rises at the same time as the scream of sirens.

Frank Martorana's attention to detail is replete in chapters which introduce a myriad of different experiences that dovetail on one tragic event, overlaying that scenario on everything it touches.

Kent Stephenson himself, the main character, doesn't enter the picture until the fourth chapter; but when he does, it's with a bang of authority that swivels reader attention from these three seemingly disparate scenes to an investigator and vet who holds the ability to absorb his own perfect morning and its possibilities for change.

Chapter 6 ends the scenarios of perfect mornings and moves to Kent's vet practice, Compassion Veterinary Center, and its interactions with animals and people in the community. Rocked by tragedy, Kent has slacked off on his passion, but still dutifully fulfills his obligations, backed by a savvy staff that picks up the slack created by his emotional turmoil.

As he enters the unfamiliar world of a murder which may have been orchestrated by business special interests, Kent finds himself once again thrust into an uncomfortable position that tests his abilities, life purpose, and survival on many different levels.

Martorana creates a host of characters who each hold their own diverse perspectives and interests, bringing them together in the course of a thriller that takes many unexpected journeys.

From the involvement of the future Northern Lights Resort in the community's decisions to its satisfying blend of animal and human dilemmas, Where Waters Run North is steeped in both vet insights and an investigator's understanding of the motivations and processes of all life around him: "Kent thought back to how Jodi had talked Azucar down from near panic. She hadn't been just babbling the mindless chatter that most horsemen use to settle a nervous animal. She was talking to him, actually telling the horse something, he was sure of it."

This hypersensitive perspective lends a special ability to Kent's toolkit of problem-solving that eventually reaches not just into the community, but into his own life, as events prove a macrocosm of the psychological struggles he experiences.

As Kent and Lute find themselves both connected and treading dangerous waters of kidnapping, murder, and intrigue, readers who enjoy the juxtaposition of social and political inspection alongside the unraveling of the motivations of smugglers and murderers will find this story filled with poignant and unexpected moments of realization and discovery.

Mystery libraries that look for multifaceted reads flavored with New York atmosphere and Native American interests will find Where Waters Run North an excellent choice.

Nothing You Can't Do
Lindsay J.L. Angus
The Angus Library Publishing House
9780995860810, Soft Cover $12.95 CAD, Hard Cover $16.95 CAD

Nothing You Can't Do is written by the mother of a toddler who was injured and scarred for life, and crafts a story of empowerment that admonishes kids that they can do anything.

A rollicking rhyme accompanies this picture book's representations of kids achieving goals and doing extraordinary things: "There's nothing you can't do,/no dream that's too far./You can travel the world,/swing on the highest star."

From playing hockey or guitar to becoming a musical superstar or "just being you," a mother's appreciation for her child provides an encouraging story that lends to read-aloud and parental discussions with the very young.

The simple yet important message reinforces all kinds of possibilities with a survey that reflects a mother's pride and perception of her child's possible futures.

The colorful illustrations created by Lindsay J.L. Angus are powerful accompaniments to the potent message.

Kids are encouraged to dream big and not let anything get in their way in this early, powerful message that ideally will be reinforced by read-aloud parents looking for books about empowerment and positive goals.

Hunting Rabbits
Mark Gilleo
2020 Press, LLC
9780999047262, $4.99 ebook

Small-town chief of police Charlie Gates isn't an effective investigator. He's spent decades haunted by his sister's murder and unresolved case, and seems no closer to arriving at the truth as Hunting Rabbits opens. That is, until a fingerprint in a recent robbery gives him hope that its link to his sister will reopen her case and solve it at last.

He can't do this alone. He needs fellow investigator Luis Millares to lend his assistance and expertise. What he doesn't expect is a string of murder connections to evolve that tests his resolve to identify ghosts of the past and their links to his personal and professional future.

Mark Gilleo crafts a story built on surprises. There's the bolt from the blue of Charlie's involvement in his sister's case after so many uncertain years; the strange involvement of an intelligence officer (who may be beyond the law) in the messy mix; and the charge on Charlie to step back from a case that holds a special pull on his heart to avoid future accusations of bias and prejudice.

Gilleo is especially adept at crafting the tension of a professional torn between his personal involvement and his professional mission. These create delightful interplays beyond the mystery itself that elevates Hunting Rabbits above most genre reads.

Charlie's sister wasn't the only woman murdered over thirty years ago. As the Matoaka murders reach out to touch and change his life and those who command the investigation of present-day events, the suspense and thriller components of the story are very nicely done, keeping readers guessing about who is the hunter and who is the hunted.

The irony is that Charlie has a job as a chief of police in a jurisdiction where homicides don't occur. His focus introduces revised relationships, including with his father, against a backdrop of hunting that places events in unpredictable perspective that even seasoned mystery readers won't see coming.

The result is a murder mystery especially strong in its psychological interplays and inspections, from community to family and friends. It is said that 'the truth shall set them free'; but in this case, it will also challenge the hearts and perspectives of all involved. This creates a compelling read that operates on psychological levels that are thought-provoking, going above and beyond more predictable, less deep genre reads.

Libraries featuring murder mysteries will find Hunting Rabbits a fine examination of motives for murder and a decades-old case that comes alive with new influences.

Dawn of the Watchers
Winn Taylor
Independently Published
9798986053714, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook, 286pp

Young adult and adult sci-fi readers who enjoy metaphysical elements of magical realism in their stories will find these and more in Dawn of the Watchers. It's a tale that began in Rise of the Protector, which introduced Jinx and her attempt to free Laris from a simulated world that attracted and entrapped those seeking enlightenment.

The story continues in this second book, where Jinx and her team faces the challenge of traversing galaxies in order to fulfill a prophecy that, ironically, initially holds little attraction to her.

Some heroes aren't trying to save the world. And some don't even aim to be heroes. The subtitle of this adventure reflects its mercurial nature as Jinx moves away from any definition of safety and into an endeavor marked by hard science and difficult decisions.

Winn Taylor embeds Jinx's revelations and world with this hard science. This will delight readers looking for edgy stories that operate on the cutting edges of enlightenment and scientific process.

The sense of discovery and opportunity are thus presented on two different levels that juxtapose variables unique to metaphysical and scientific realms alike.

A sense of humor also adds an undercurrent of fun to the serious adventure, creating references that readers will find unexpected and attractive: "Jinx regarded the creature for a moment, deciding to keep it jovial. Pressing through the bodies, she squeezed up to the bar. Thumbing towards her new pest, she yelled, "Can I get two of these hallucination cocktails?"

The story line is marked by fast-paced action that makes for an engrossing story readers will find fun and thought-provoking, as well has hard to put down: "Hey, hold up." Jinx threw out her arm, bringing Jacob to a pause. "I think I saw something near the opening of the pyramid."

"What? What do you mean, something?" Jacob stammered.

"Dunno. I'm gonna check it out. Wait here."

"What?" Jacob jerked his attention to follow Jinx's line of sight. "You expect me to just sit here like bait?"

The result is a top recommendation for readers who like their sci-fi unpredictable, fast-paced, and science-based. The metaphysical elements and changing interpersonal relationships create a compelling saga driven by a spunky, memorable young woman who captures the irony in making thinking nerds the centerpiece of a proactive adventure: "Standing around chewing on concepts was excruciating. But she knew that heading out, guns blazing, in an effort to track down Sartillias wasn't going to get results."

Young adult to adult sci-fi adventure enthusiasts will find plenty to relish in Dawn of the Watchers, a story that stands out from the crowd and ends with more than a hint of ongoing adventure from future books expanding Jinx's saga.

Dangerfield's Promise
Terrance C. Newby
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781977252029, $32.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Dangerfield's Promise is a satisfying blend of literary history and contemporary concerns, laced with the atmosphere of magical realism. With so many elements at work, one might anticipate a weighty read, but the saga of Dangerfield Newby, a newly-freed black man who determines to buy his wife and children out of slavery, is a compelling creation that needs no historical familiarity or literary acuity in order to prove attractive to a wide audience.

Dangerfield can't free his family by himself, and so he joins abolitionist John Brown in an effort to change the law of the land, only to be killed before he reaches his goal.

Fast forward to modern times, where black surgeon Michael Turner is estranged from his family because his ambition and goals set him apart and make him seem not just aloof, but distant from their lives, experiences, and concerns.

A grandmother's deathbed confession introduces the possibility that Michael is related to Dangerfield Newby, intriguing him to the point that he makes it his mission to learn more about his family history.

Perhaps predictably, skeletons rattle in the closet. Less predictable and satisfyingly surprising are the journeys Michael undertakes as he uncovers truths about the past and connects them to conundrums he faces in his present-day life and choices.

Terrance C. Newby creates a powerful story that rests firmly upon these newfound revelations: "His grandmother looked at him and mustered a weak smile. "So that's all they

taught you in school,' she said softly. "All that education, and you don't know nothing about your history, your own people, about what's important," she said. "I never got past eighth grade, but I know about the things that matter to folks."

As Michael's dreams become intrinsically connected to Dangerfield's life, both personalities and their perspectives come to life in a powerful novel that doesn't just present black history, but embraces it. It becomes a living testimony to courage, endurance, perseverance, and the missing pieces of a man's past that reach out to change the present.

Michael's investigation causes other families to examine and raise issues from the past, and they involve new questions about belief, legacy, and destiny. Ultimately, these revelations lead to a new life.

Ideally, Dangerfield's Promise should reach a wide audience that looks for extraordinary black literature that juxtaposes historical precedent with life-changing present-day events.

Its literary and historical roots are powerfully wrought and highly recommended not just for individual reading, but for discussion groups that consider the nature of black history.

Siege: An American Tragedy
Anita Bartholomew
Independently Published
9780983992226, $17.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle/Audiobook $TBA

Siege: An American Tragedy focuses on the January 6th, 2021 storming of the US Capitol, covering events before, during, and after the siege.

In a chronological, analytical manner, Bartholomew documents the rising worries about democratic processes pre-election and the players who inserted such doubts about them into the public mind.

This methodical examination promotes a better understanding of not just of the January 6th insurrection itself, but what prompted the American public to regard its sacred election process with increasing distrust.

Bartholomew pairs these historical events with insights that take specific pivot points of public opinion and contrast facts with misinformation exposes: "If true, this intel was beyond damning. It was explosive. It could offer the proof that Trump had been right all along: the election had been rigged. And foreign nationals - socialists and communists - had been involved in the rigging. The only problem? Almost none of what Bartiromo and Giuliani stated with such authority was accurate."

As the countdown proceeds, from setting the stage to the acts themselves, Bartholomew reviews events with a "you are here" eye that re-considers the choices, actions, and interpretations of the events that took place on January 6th.

This ability to move from point to point to reconsider overt and covert influences allows a wide audience to move through popular knowledge to analyze psychological, social, and political influences leading up to, during, and, and past the insurrection.

Included in these discussions are reflections on democratic processes, ideals, power plays, and inner circle motivations and logic that lend to further insights.

Bartholomew's analysis of changing roles and minds makes for a deeper inspection of the processes of democratic elections and struggles for freedom that begin to make sense under her logic.

The result will prove essential reading for future generations interested in knowing not just the progression of events, but why they happened.

Libraries looking for a thorough coverage of January 6th will find Siege: An American Tragedy a wide-ranging survey that fully considers how American perceptions and ideals were (and are) influenced, inflamed, and often thwarted.

Sweet Little You
Joni Halabi
Independently Published
9780578392165, $16.99

Sweet Little You is a lovely picture book story narrated by a mother who tells her baby about how she was wanted and conceived by a single mother. It is a simple, engaging story that synthesizes the process into a story of love.

Creating a story about a child's origins for a very young picture book audience may feel like a stretch, but Joni Halabi's focus on a loving mother's enthusiasm about her child's potential and growth drives the information, which is provided in a gentle way that emphasizes this acceptance and love over the circumstances of the child's conception.

Engaging illustrations by Lisa Wee capture a toddler's world and a mother's promise to her child to make that world as rich as possible.

The result is especially recommended for single parents who would approach the subject of the purposeful conception of a child with the love and simple explanation suitable for this age range.

The book's lovely blend of colorful illustrations and simple love-centric story make for a winningly inviting production.

KyRose Takes A Leap
Cicek Bricault
KyRose Press LLC
9780578382326, $TBA Paperback/Ebook

Readers in grades 5-8 who look for STEAM novels encouraging literacy and presenting problem-solving viewpoints will welcome the blend of magical realism and struggles with acceptance and unusual talents explored by KyRose, whose special ability to talk to animals alienates her from her peers.

KyRose's life in 2030 is filled with high-tech wonders and accompanying challenges that spice the typical dilemma of a different child who just wants to fit in.

Her special knowledge allows her to communicate with all creatures, from insects to mammals, but also charges her with helping them survive the human world: A tickle runs over my ankle. Time slows. I bend down, staring into the grasshopper's eyes. "What are you doing on this field? There's no food." I brush my hand over the prickly blades of plastic grass.

"Huh? I must have taken a wrong turn," the grasshopper says. She lifts her wings. That's how grasshoppers hear - through a tiny organ near the base of their hind legs.

Coach Hartley shouts orders for us, seventh-grade girls, to line up for jumping jacks.

I lean against the goal post. "You can't stay here. We're in the middle of P.E. You'll get crushed!" I look over, past the school building, onto the street where self-driving cars swerve around each other like synchronized swimmers. My eyes keep combing. "There!" I point to the cluster of oak trees opposite the bleachers. "Come on." I cup the grasshopper. She darts back and forth against my palms. "Don't worry," I whisper, "I'll keep you safe."

As she tackles friendships, social events, and the task of inventing new devices, KyRose finds that her drive to be a champion earns her recognition, but comes with newfound responsibilities and revelations that change her life perspective.

Cicek Bricault's engaging blend of magical realism and a girl's realistic, technology-influenced life will engage those who enjoy stories that operate on the edgy boundary of fantasy and fiction.

KyRose's new discoveries lead her to grow in unexpected ways that both embrace her talents and revise her relationships.

With its intrigue, discovery, problem-solving, and extraordinary encounters, Cicek Bricault has created an engaging story to attract STEAM learners.

KyRose Takes A Leap is highly recommended for advanced elementary to middle school readers. They will relish this captivating story of a girl who decides when to take risks and how to accept more responsibility as a leader.

A Day in Fall
Charles Harned
White Bird Publications, LLC
9781633635883, $22.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

A Day in Fall is a thriller that arrives with a familiar contemporary milieu as it presents the specter of a new president's determination to overthrow the system that elected him.

Lest one believe this story will completely mimic modern events, it should be noted there is a twist to the tale: "In a way, the political world had its business condensed to a laboratory experiment."

In a world where "everything has become controversial," the environment of Washington, D.C. is changing, its ripples of contention and transformation spreading throughout the country.

Charles Harned excels in a thriller that traverses nations, hearts, and minds. It rests firmly upon a foundation of modern-day reality, yet carries its action a step further as Agent Orange, Director of National Intelligence Collins, and other characters interact on a playing field of irony and risk-taking.

All the trappings of high-octane intrigue are here. But wound into the political observations and changed lives of Michael Larson, Slavic beauty Elena Stregor, and other characters is an overlay of special interests that grow in ironic ways under Harned's hand.

As events move from the U.S. to Algeria and Rome, readers embark on a world-hopping tour that is well written and both familiar in some of its scenarios and surprising in its political associations and revelations.

Readers seeking a contemporary thriller that embraces military technology, social change, and political intrigue will welcome A Day in Fall's involving, satisfyingly complex events.

Libraries that choose A Day in Fall for its political thriller components will find that it holds not just action-packed adventure, but an attention to detail and surprises that make for a thoroughly engrossing adventure.

Sophia's Schooling
Maggie Sims
The Wild Rose Press
9781509243020, $18.99 paperback/$5.99 ebook

Sophia's Schooling is the first book in the School of Enlightenment Regency romance series, introducing the character of eighteen-year-old Sophia Wilkinson, an orphan charged with entering London society.

She's a country girl seeking neither romance nor a husband, but both fall into her lap as she navigates the attention of Edward Morduan, a new Earl whose charge is to both manage his family's estate and produce heirs for the future.

If readers anticipate a circumspect romance from this description, they'd be wrong. A fiery passion runs through the story which embraces sexual fantasy and experimentation, erotically described to titillate readers looking for racy reading.

This atmosphere, however, is offset by a story replete in social and political observation, where the sassy Sophia and the uncertain yet powerful Earl are strange attractors in the new worlds they inhabit.

Maggie Sims outlines a satisfyingly complex story that is filled with ironic social observations, and heady emotional and physical passion. She deftly outlines the entwined plights of characters that each must move above their station in life in order to find love while managing everything from estates to special interests.

Edward's penchant for spanking introduces Sophia to blazing new worlds and possibilities both inside and outside the bedroom. Their erotic dance comes to life as they break traditionals rules and make new ones, both individually and with one another.

Sims creates a story that embraces diverse perspectives and the possibilities of a love that wants to teach, possess, and bind its participants in different ways.

Readers who look for a blend of sexual exploration, romance, and social inspection set against the backdrop of high society and characters that introduce prior emotional baggage into their relationship will find plenty to like in this fiery, passionate story.

Edward and Sophia's sexual journey is simply captivating, carrying romance readers into a world of passion and revised purposes.

Spindrift Love
Jocelyn Holst Bolster
Atmosphere Press
9781639883844, $15.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 210pp

Spindrift Love is a young adult novel that centers on fifteen-year-old Jesse, whose first-person story captures the feel of being trapped in the restrictive world of Bourbon County, Kansas.

Jesse longs for adventure, new experiences, and a different environment, but when a vagabond enters her life to offer her an escape into the outside world she covets and dreams of, Jesse discovers that sometimes dreams are illusions and invitations are better left unaccepted.

Her upbringing in a "house filled with love" has failed to prepare her for a world that doesn't operate in the same way.

Evocative moments are captured in a moving manner that brings Jesse's conundrums to life: "To someone from a city I guess it would have been easy to feel lonely out there, but it never occurred to me. Sometimes I felt sad and I didn't know for what. Maybe the empty space around me crept in a bit too close. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to notice that it wasn't really empty."

Jocelyn Holst Bolster takes the time to capture the nature of Jesse's life experiences: "Now, I'm not trying to say that we lived so far out in the country that we didn't even have a CD player. My uncle gave my parents one for Christmas before I was even born. But we only listened to music that was written to praise God or glorify His love. There's some real good stuff that was written for the glory of God, but I just knew Sandy wasn't talking about listening to that kind of music when she whispered that to me; I just knew Sandy was talking about the kind of music I was not supposed to listen to, the kind that, in my parent's opinion, nobody was supposed to listen to, especially not good people like Sandy. The kind of music that may or may not have been written by the Devil himself. The kind of music I'd been straining to overhear since I found out it existed."

As she encounters other family relationships and begins to more deeply inspect her own life, Jesse's assessment of love and her place in the world changes. This doesn't differ from the typical coming-of-age story; but what does give added flavor is Bolster's capture of adult dilemmas that force Jesse to change not only herself, but the nature of her communications with her elders.

From circumstances of luck to choices that challenge her life, Jesse receives the support and backdrop of a family she also struggles to find a place in. The religious and psychological mixes are especially satisfyingly depicted: "Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness," I quoted. "What about the evil in me? How does God decide who suffers and who doesn't? Why was that poor lady made to be beaten by that horrible man? How could that happen ten miles away while I'm here eating pie?"

Young adults seeking coming-of-age stories centered on changing family relationships and the intersection of real-world issues with intergenerational struggles will find Spindrift Love a compelling, attractive choice.

Bolster's creation of a young protagonist on the cusp of abandoning some (but not all) of her teachings shows how Jesse bridges past precedent with present-day evolution to not only forge ahead, but maintain the close connections that helped sculpt her psyche.

Libraries looking for coming-of-age sagas rooted in changing family relationships and life experiences will find Spindrift Love is suitable not just for leisure reading, but young adult book discussion groups interested in transformative and inclusive experiences that ultimately embrace love and connection.

Zoe Hearty and the Space Invaders
Thomas Norris
3982475511, $9.99 Paperback/.99 ebook

Zoe Hearty is "a killer but not a monster." At least, that's what she would have others think. In fact, she'd prefer to be remembered as a savior, despite actions that would indicate otherwise. The reasons for her disparate identity are revealed during the course of a story that rocks its readers with a satisfying blend of intrigue, psychological inspection, and finely-tuned tension.

The first-person tale opens with Zoe in an insane asylum, locked up for what she has done (which, ironically, to her mind, is to save humanity from invading forces). The fact that there was collateral damage during that process is what has landed her in this place. The story then unfolds into a world of romance and change as Zoe enters the unfamiliar.

Thomas Norris describes her journey with evocative phrasing that blends wry inspection with ironic, atmospheric description: "Mister Long-face Scowling Man sounds like a song, huh. Well, if it was a song, it would be a dirge, the background music to my life for the next two years."

These create a haunting sense of place cemented by metaphors that are unexpected in a novel of self-inspection and struggle: "But streets that were soot dark but for the gentle glow of our rolling headlights are now not. It is like being in a city bathed in streetlights fashioned by ash, not sodium."

Zoe questions her experiences early on, wondering if they are hallucinations or illusions. But as she enters the fray to become a serial killer, the question arises as to whether she is saving humanity from aliens, as she believes, or is single-handled destroying lives because of a misguided perception.

Norris crafts an intriguing journey through the mind of a woman who becomes a killer out of necessity.

As Zoe explores her experiences and the rationales for her actions and questions her psyche and perceptions, readers are led to wonder, themselves, if she is insane, or a hero.

She assumes many personas during the course of her journey: investigator, saviour, abuse victim, and adventurer "blowing open the gateway to the Devil's dungeon."

From top-secret plans leading to the end of days to Zoe's evolution as the last chance to prevent a slaughter, readers are led on a march through reality and the impossible through Zoe's eyes and vastly changed life.

The action and tension are well done and keep readers guessing and on their toes, but it's Zoe's spunky personality and changing convictions about what is going on (and her role in it) that provides the foundation food for thought that keep readers engaged in her choices (and also questioning their outcomes).

Norris also injects a philosophical edge to help readers answer why Zoe feels compelled to step up to the plate and defend not just herself and loved ones, but all of humanity: "Humans are imperfect, God knows. We murder and we destroy. We ravage and rape. People and the planet, both.

And yet we are all we have. And we can be better. Better versions of ourselves are within reach, just around the corner, so close. I truly believe that. So close we can reach out and almost touch it."

The result is a venture into aliens, insanity, murder, and redemption which goes the extra mile in creating a hero who questions her flaws, yet perseveres for the sake of a greater good.

Whether readers choose Zoe Hearty and the Space Invaders for its thriller, intrigue, psychological, or social examination components, one thing is certain: it's a story that excels in weaving an inspection of all these elements and more, resulting in a powerful exploration that keeps evolving new influences, possibilities, and realities along the way.

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc.
Ash Bishop
CamCat Books
9780744305869, $26.99 Hardcover/$20.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

When a rare and unusual artifact is found in a grandfather's collection, it attracts the attention not just of grandson Russ Wesley, but a dangerous alien from another world in Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc.

This, in turn, lures a crazy band of alien exterminators who arrive on Russ's doorstep with a mission that not only involves him, but compels him to lend his skill set to their endeavors.

Ash Bishop's humor abounds in a saga that winds fun observation into action-packed scenarios: "The girl they called El Toreador had been on lookout. She was far enough into the darkness that Russ could barely see her, just a wisp of thick brown hair bobbing in the darkness - that is, until she pounded her chest with her fist. The vest lit up red, casting shadows across the trees. "My real name's Atara," she told Russ quickly. Then: "Don't look so worried. We're professionals."

Russ has a lot to learn about aliens, the universe, and his place in it. As he joins the team as a reluctantly conscripted member and faces many challenges, he and his readers become immersed in a zany adventure that holds many unexpected twists and turns and more than a few light-hearted moments of revelation and wonder: "Russ pounded his fists against the window. "Atara!" he shouted. "ATARA!"

"What? What do you need?" Atara asked. She had materialized beside Russ and Nina. She glanced through the window at her own dead body and shook her head. "I'm just going to say it. I look gorgeous, even dead. Kind of scary to stare straight into the eyes of the reaper, though. Not that I don't deserve it, with the performance I put on. The others will be out in a minute."

Russ stared at dead Atara and alive Atara. "Out of where?" he asked, trying to pretend like what was happening made sense.

"The virtual training room. Technically, it exists to refine our combat skills, but we use it every day because it's fun as hell, like a huge, badass video game. Welcome aboard the Flashaway," she said as an afterthought."

What kind of Intergalactic Exterminator will Russ make? Their special brand of pest control rocks through different worlds as laughter and unpredictable action permeate the story.

Nina, whose father is in danger, is also drawn into the action. Perspectives that shift between Nina and Russ are clearly depicted by chapter headings that identify the divergent viewpoints, while the story expands with the addition of character Steven Applebam, who also becomes involved with the Exterminators in an ironic manner.

The result is a compelling, whimsical romp through the universe of intergalactic pest control. It's an inviting read for those who enjoy their sci-fi stories of alien invasion and first contact spiced with the flavor of fun.

Few sci-fi stories hold such humor, making Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc. a special attraction for libraries who seek examples of irony, satire, and action-packed displays of amusement.

Who Holds the Devil
Michael Dittman
Manta Press
9781958370001, $14.00 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Who Holds the Devil begins in Pennsylvania in 1875, an area which holds the roots of a curse that reaches through the centuries to affect modern times. The prologue's violent description of mob justice and a bloody confrontation concludes with a lynching that halts the work and members of Sam Mohawk's Institute, but evil doesn't die forever. It merely lies in wait.

Fast forward to the present, when this Southwestern Pennsylvania setting has been completely transformed. Matt Garvey is charged with taking down a tree with his crew, doing his friend a favor. It's Sam Mohawk's tree. And what lies under it is the entrance to hell, unleashing a force back into the world that was vanquished during Civil War times, but has abided all these years.

Aaron Moody just wanted the city to repair the damage caused by the tree's toppling into his house. The last thing he expected was to release an ancient evil. But as he faces the fact that his hallucinations and blackouts don't hold medical roots but have their foundations in reality, Aaron is drawn into a supernatural world.

Mohawk's history and beliefs receive exposure in alternating chapters which move between past and present, providing snapshots of different perspectives, motivations, and mindsets as the story evolves.

Michael Dittman's ability to inject exquisite tension into the mix while keeping the unexpected alive and readers on their toes makes for a fine horror story that extends its tendrils of tension into disparate lives and special interests.

As an occult checklist, connections to everything familiar, and revised purposes evolve, Aaron's dilemma and his confrontations with the devil create an absorbingly unpredictable story horror that fans will find compellingly and refreshingly different.

Libraries strong in horror literature will find much to like in Who Holds the Devil's examination of the roots of good and evil, and will want to include it on the reading lists of any patron interested in contemporary horror stories.

Suburban Death Project
Aimee Parkison
Unbound Edition Press
9780991378043, $27.95, HC, 176pp

Suburban Death Project is a literary venture into psychological realms powered by the short story format. It makes unexpected leaps, connections, and forays into worlds that are diverse and thought-provoking.

Take the introductory "Theatrum Insectorum," for example. Garner considers himself not just an insect collector, but a spectator of their sport: "At night, Garner gazed through a magnifier at insects he considered actors. Adjusting tiny spotlights, he cherished the actors' talents. He trembled, laughed, and sighed. The insects twitched, danced, and flourished before stilling. Under the scratched lens, the living met the dead, and Garner applauded them all. Slowly, he became sentimental about preservation. He wanted to keep the best actors near him for the rest of his life."

As the story evolves, the elderly Garner's passion becomes a warped pursuit of insects whose plays prove them " be better actors than people." In stark contrast to his delight over his insect performers, his wife Joyce "flinches at every performance." She's terrified of all insects, and even thirty-seven years of marriage can't assuage her fear.

As Joyce gets her revenge and the eerie relationship plays out, readers discover that more runs beneath the surface than the attraction to or fear of passion. A changed scenario emerges which, in turn, transforms Garner's biggest fear into a strange form of rejuvenation.

"Locked In" also offers up a special synthesis of inspections of life and death. Why would a patient specifically prefer being "locked in" (conscious and trapped) during surgery, and why would a doctor agree to this unethical, purposeful request?

More ethical dilemmas emerge as the scenario expands to explain these uncommon patient/doctor decisions: "I never wanted to be in this miserable position, where no choice is without suffering. If the press got word of what I'm taking from his tattoos, the public wouldn't understand how many animals have to suffer and die. Most people think every living thing is replaceable due to cloning, but they don't understand the underclass of female animals used to create clones. More importantly, they don't know about the bioterrorists who have destroyed bio-banks of animal DNA to prevent new additions to the underclass of female animals."

Each story captures a disturbing pivot point between life, death, and moral and ethical choices to lead readers into a realm where logic and thought collides with an emotional draw.

Some of (perhaps even many) of these stories provide trigger points that should be approached with caution (or avoided entirely) by readers who might grapple with the diverse scenarios of death painted in Aimee Parkison's collection. Its astute, disturbing portraits are haunting, lingering in the mind long after their reading.

The twelve short stories are innovative, revealing depictions that embrace black humor, ironic observation, and unsettling horrors that simmer under the surface of ordinary American lives and households.

Suburban Death Project is especially recommended for college-level students of contemporary literature, who will find its short, powerful works creative examples of horror and pleasure that virtually demand analytical inspection and classroom discussion.

Stories, Dice, and Rocks That Think
Byron Reese
BenBella Books
9781637741344, $27.95 Hardcover/$14.99 Kindle, 304pp

"How did we get a point where we could think about the future; influence it; and, finally, perhaps master it? This book tells the story, in three acts, of how our species learned to escape the perpetual present."

Stories, Dice, and Rocks That Think: How Humans Learned to See the Future - and Shape It discusses history, destiny, and how humans evolved a form of cognition that differs from animals, thus shaping the world in radically different ways from any creature around them.

Its special blend of natural and human history and philosophy will appeal to science and social issues readers alike, offering a synthesis of historical inspection and psychological insights that consider just how different a creature the human animal has become.

From storytelling and heritage passed down between generations to examples of synchronicity in action and its development and influence on belief systems and human predictions and interpretations of the world, Byron Reese gets to the heart of what makes humans different from all others.

Key historical thinkers, inventors, and discoverers, and examples of evolutionary leaps, are presented during the course of this human history, inviting readers with a lively tone of analysis and revelation.

Our brains are wired for storytelling, not logic. And yet, logic has developed, however flawed the reasoning ability might be, against all odds and inherent bias.

"Something about [our minds] makes us so different from animals that we are almost aliens by comparison."

These differences, their development, their impact, and their ultimate meaning are the focus of a lively historical discourse that romps through human and natural worlds with a vivid attention to detail.

Libraries seeing strong patron interest in philosophy, history, and considerations of human and natural world similarities and differences will find Stories, Dice, and Rocks That Think a fine choice. Its ability to blend these topics into a lively discourse that invites thought, debate, and interactive discussions among its readers also makes it highly recommended for book clubs interested in connections between how stories give life meaning, and how human evolution, in particular, makes humanity unique.

Shepherd's Warning
Cailyn Lloyd
Land of Oz LLC
9780578664972, $12.29 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Shepherd's Warning is the first book in The Elders series, and will delight readers interested in books about supernatural forces flavored with occult thriller elements.

An abandoned mansion in rural Wisconsin attracts a a family that holds high hopes for its resurrection and revitalization. Unfortunately, the brothers who inherit this home and bring their families to it in search of new beginnings find more than they anticipated when their renovations reveal a deadly threat rooted in its past and in family history.

From lost love opportunities of the past and a heartbeat from hell to the origins of ghosts that affect present-day lives, Cailyn Lloyd crafts the type of supernatural dilemma that at first seems predictable, but quickly turns out to be surprising and gripping, presenting satisfying twists and turns readers won't see coming.

The fact that this haunted house story embraces a difference sets it apart from the usual progression of events. This will especially please readers used to familiar outcomes that, here, take uncommon routes. As the paranormal events examine history and family relationships, readers will find delightful the presence of a ghost and a gift that intersect in unpredictable ways.

How does an unexplained disappearance become a ghostly legend? Can logic explain everything that's happening?

Readers receive a quest for answers that revises the typical progression of a ghostly encounter. The story is replete with fine tension, satisfying character development, and an examination of events that test beliefs in technology and magic alike: "He'd embraced technology at every turn and had become a wizard of a different persuasion, a sorcerer of technology - the only logical path in the modern world. But now, improbably, a dangerous manifestation of that primitive era had found him."

As the first book in a series, Shepherd's Warning provides a satisfying backdrop for an adventure that concludes neatly with a transformation, a new day, and the promise of more to come.

Libraries seeing patron interest in ghost stories will find that the twists and turns of Shepherd's Warning make it a satisfying occult thriller designed to attract attention beyond typical readers of the paranormal, luring readers who look for high-octane action and thought-provoking developments.

Squeeze Plays
Jeffrey Marshall
Atmosphere Press
9781639883691 $17.99

Squeeze Plays is a novel about money, power, and two powerful businessmen who become involved with a Russian oligarch. Their business dilemmas are further complicated by a reporter with a nose for trouble, creating a fine interplay between characters who each hold special interests and demonstrate flawed reasoning about wealth, power, and how to use them.

Jeffrey Marshall presents a fine consideration of high society, the seats and roots of power, and the motivations and special interests that drive them.

As his story swirls through the upper echelons of New York, London, and the lives of men and women who would grasp and hold financial and political power, he leads readers on a romp through different worlds that become connected by power plays and personal gain.

Business and political satire are introduced to give the story a wry sense of comic relief, with allusions presenting uncommon and unexpected correlations that literary readers will find especially interesting: "Restive investors, competitors battling for market share, consumer watchdogs, his own board and executive team, there was no telling where the next crisis would come from. Sometimes it felt like being holed up in a wagon train in an old Western with a band of circling Indians pumping arrows at you."

From blackmail motives and scenarios to poor decisions that compound problems and vulnerabilities, readers receive an intriguing study that moves from business banking and political interests to family traditions and the specter of retirement.

As the Ripovsky investment evolves a cast of characters immersed in secrets, intrigue, and company politics, business readers (and those who enjoy business and political thrillers) will find plenty to like. The absorbing cat-and-mouse game presents new dilemmas and environments to seasoned characters who supposedly are at the top of their financial game.

Libraries seeing interest in business and thriller novels that intersect the two topics will welcome the addition of Squeeze Plays. It's an involving story that takes many unpredictable twists and turns as it winds through business and political influences on poor and good decisions alike.

Echoes from Wuhan
Gretchen Dykstra
Atmosphere Press
9781639882151 $18.95 paperback/$9.95 ebook

Echoes from Wuhan: The Past As Prologue is a memoir of Gretchen Dykstra's encounters and experiences in China decades ago, chronicling cross-cultural revelations and clashes that shaped the rest of her life.

Its ability to combine a memoir with a travelogue and history creates an accessible, engaging story that will reach out not just to readers of Chinese culture, but fellow adventurers who want to absorb those bygone years and their lasting impact.

As Dykstra makes blunders and receives eye-opening lessons about teaching in China, readers learn from her interactions with various people and political entities assigned to both watch and assist her: "I showed Xiao Wang the flyer, and, shrewdly, she suggested that she tell the leaders I had received it.

"Why?" I asked, considering the flyer rather benign, even pathetic, somewhat intriguing, and hardly seditious.

"It will demonstrate to the leaders that you are trustworthy."

Or you are, I thought cynically, aware that I was beginning to question her motives, feeling as if sometimes she was using me, playing me. It was not the first time I had sensed this. She was masterful at helping me as she got exactly what she wanted, too. Like remaining my translator. I, of course, was doing the exact same thing. My daily current event assignments and my only-English-in-front-of-me game were ways of learning things I otherwise might not have known. I, too, was helping others while I helped myself."

Historical and cultural lessons are revealed in the course of her explorations of urban and rural China, and readers will appreciate her two-year sojourn to another world, which opens up China to outsiders who may never visit.

The focus on teaching, students, and Chinese traditions as they encounter Western viewpoints and standards creates a satisfying interplay between cultures that is both enlightening and entertaining. Dykstra moves outside her comfort zone to receive valuable lessons about not just the Chinese, but the nature of social and political connections between East and West.

These revelations follow her back home to New York, where she both integrates her experiences into modern New York life and serves as an ongoing link between the people she met in China and her revised world in the U.S.

While libraries strong in Chinese culture and history will find her memoir appealing, armchair and destination travelers to China and those who look for a blend of entertainment and enlightenment will also find Echoes from Wuhan a compelling read.

The China of yesteryear comes to life under her hand, offering readers of today a strong cultural appreciation that will lead them to better understand the Chinese culture and people.

Echoes from Wuhan will ideally be chosen by book clubs interested in discussions of East/West culture. Its astute analysis deserves to be an active part of any reader group interested in memoirs that capture time and place and the lessons learned from past experience that hold importance for and resonate in modern times.

LIBERATION: Seeking the Meaning of Life
Shogo Onoe
Independently Published
9798814897299, Kindle - $4.99/Hardcover - $19.95/Paperback - $13.50

LIBERATION: Seeking the Meaning of Life is both a memoir of Japanese pilgrim Shogo Onoe (who found himself in Mexico cultivating a new life even as he sought the meaning of his old one) and a Carlos Castaneda-style spiritual journey that offers a dual inspection of personal and spiritual growth.

From its opening lines, it's evident that LIBERATION is a powerful story of a different ilk than the usual travelogue or autobiography: "I have been a stranger to my own country and my own country's people since I was a child. I should confess that I hate Japan from my guts. On top of it all, I have never fitted into Japanese society and have not yet even started to function as a useful person there. To tell the truth, I have never agreed with the Japanese society system and the Japanese way of life. I always wanted to escape from Japan to see the world so that I could be free as a bird. From my childhood on, one thing was crystal clear to me as if it were God's revelation: I definitely do not belong in Japan, and I just happened to be born in the wrong country. I am absolutely a lone wolf and constantly suffocated by loneliness, because I have no one to talk with about my true feelings and even a fraction of my feelings."

When Shogo Onoe, a stranger in his own country, encounters the peoples and culture of Mexico, he finds the contrasts stark and also finds a new place for himself in the world.

This is where the magic of LIBERATION begins to work its spell on the reader.

Onoe's contrast of the emotional, cultural, and spiritual milieus of these disparate countries offers a rare glimpse into the meaning of life as perceived and cultivated under different conditions.

His encounters with others on the road to defining happiness and life's meaning injects his journey with social, philosophical, and spiritual observations that are astutely analytical in their contrasts of personalities and perspectives.

This is a strength of the autobiographical format in general, but under Onoe's hand, it also represents the strength of not just accepting, but searching out new possibilities and opportunities: "Sometimes we cannot explain how a certain thing occurs in our lives. Usually, it is a most crucial thing, which you have fervently craved your entire life. You cry, scream, gibber, pray, and curse, but it never budges. Out of desperation, you swear that you will abandon your faith in Almighty God and will forever turn your back on Him while making the silliest defiant expression on your face. But it is not enough. In order to show your everlasting agony and disappointment with Him, you start pulling your hair out hysterically, dance sacrilegiously, and spit up to the heavens insolently, but it still does not budge a wee bit. It has become beyond your comprehension; you become dispirited to the point of giving it up - that moment, the thing somehow befalls upon you out of the blue."

Underlying these experiences is a consideration of the nature of individualism and exploration that encourages readers to think about their own paths of discovery and alienation in life.

The result is a highly recommended survey that blends literature, biography, and social and spiritual contrasts and reflections. These facets are topped with a dose of philosophical and psychological insight that offer much food for thought for thinkers and book clubs that look for seasoned insights spiced with the experience of a pilgrim actively seeking the meaning of life.

Ghost Boy
Jan Burns
Atmosphere Press
9781639883714, $12.99

Middle grade readers looking for ghostly encounters in their reading will find Ghost Boy a story of intrigue and revelation. Tyler Scott's discovery of a boy's skull places him in the position of being the one charged with helping him.

The young ghost is concerned with finding his missing father ... and who better to tap than the son of the town sheriff, who probably has methods and abilities suitable for the task?

As Tyler becomes involved in a cold case that once shook the town, he hones his own sense of purpose and investigative skills in a manner that rivals his father's experience and savvy.

Young readers receive a satisfying investigative story that moves from supernatural appearances and forces to real-world threats.

Tyler's early sense that everything is on the cusp of radical changes in his life ("Suddenly I got the strangest feeling that something big was going to happen, and I'd be right smack in the middle of it.") comes true in unexpected ways as he becomes involved in stolen silver shipments, altered friendships, and high-action onslaughts from physical and psychic storms.

Evolving evil and mystery hand in hand, Jan Burns creates a fine backdrop of tension that blends history with family and friends relationships and alterations to captivate readers on different levels.

Kids who choose Ghost Boy for its paranormal promises won't be disappointed, but they will also find so much more operating behind the scenes.

It's a moving tale of change, from friendships and family relationships to the history which has left this town damaged.

The combination of thought-provoking encounters and action-packed moments of insight will satisfy middle graders who like ghosts and will receive so much more, making Ghost Boy a top recommendation for libraries looking for high-value, multifaceted fiction.

Tom David
Atmosphere Press
9781639882441, $18.99

How does a college student who drives a delivery truck for side money become involved in a scheme that introduces him to a powerful underworld of crime? Delivery outlines Rob's progression into this dangerous milieu as he purposely makes the decision to infiltrate a crime syndicate, upon discovering his unwitting involvement making deliveries to them.

Gang activity introduces the story with a bang before moving to the first chapter, where delivery men Mike and Rob are beginning their day, bringing furniture to customers. This day has brought them deep into the 'hood, which is well out of middle-class college-bound Rob's milieu but is all too familiar to Mike, who comes from different roots.

As Rob becomes involved over his head and discovers the corruption involves the local D.A. and others in the gang's activities, he becomes involved with Cord, whose world is steeped in violence, opportunistic moves, and the calculated risks of a rival gang's leader.

His meeting with the beautiful but deadly Val introduces yet another facet of life that continues to challenge his role and his objectives for the future as a series of cat-and-mouse encounters evolve to test both his new identity and his resolve.

Readers interested in a crime thriller whereby a relative outsider becomes the lynchpin in a scheme will find plenty of surprises and satisfying developments in Delivery. The plot delivers more than a few revelations as a world seemingly inhabited by local gangs and petty drug dealers expands to embrace a diverse group of politicians and international interests.

Tom David introduces so many changes and conflicts in the course of Rob's evolutionary process that crime readers might suspect the story will be overly complex or potentially confusing.

Not so. David roots his crime world developments firmly in the viewpoint and revelations of Rob, whose character development is finely tuned. This adds interest and logic to all his moves and interpretations of life, smoothing a story that moves through many possibilities before Rob comes to settle in an unexpected place.

Libraries strong in crime thrillers and looking for works cemented by ordinary, believable characters that navigate strange scenarios with savvy and intelligence will welcome Delivery's ability to deliver a series of hard-hitting punches to keep interest high and involvements unexpected right up to the end.

Ashley E. Sweeney
She Writes Press
9781647422332, $17.95 Paper/$9.49 Kindle

Hardland is a historical Western set in Arizona Territory in 1899, where Ruby Fortune faces the choice of either ongoing abuse or murdering her husband. Her decision to kill him gives her an uncertain freedom in a story which is delivered with the gritty tone of a narrator used to surviving a rough world: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, or so I've been told. Well, He must've had His knickers in a knot when He conjured up Arizona Territory because there's nothing but dust and cactus and rattlesnakes in these parts - and some of the rattiest men you'll meet this side of Kingdom Come. This much is true. No one comes to Arizona Territory on holiday. For land or freedom or gold, yes. Or to escape something you'd rather soon forget. Or to be someone you couldn't be in Tennessee or West Virginia or Arkansas, or wherever you come from, your pants or your wit or your dick too short."

Ruby's confiding dialogue of introduction captures her personality, surroundings, and choices. Her discourse might at first feel confessional and rambling, but quickly assumes the intriguing delivery of a character whose world is filled with questions, challenges, and consequences: "One minute, God's perched on my shoulder and I whistle through my teeth, and then, quick as I pulled that trigger in the traveling show, the devil himself's got his claws into me, hissing in my ear, and he's got his reasons for doing so."

"Hear me out," she implores, before her story switches to the third person to describe the journey that led her to this point of a living hell and fading possibilities of ever seeing heaven.

More so than many Westerns, Ashley E. Sweeney's narrative takes time to capture the environment and influences of the West as she creates the backdrop to Ruby's life: "Ruby has borrowed Doc Swendsen's best mare today before she changes her mind. The horse path up Oldfather Peak is slower than the ore road, but less dangerous - don't want to be crushed by a twenty-mule hitch careening down the mountain, hell bent for leather, drivers cussing like cowboys that a woman is riding up into their domain. "C'mon, Maisie. 'Atta girl." Ruby clicks her tongue. She needs to rein in her shaky nerves today. She's had two shots of whiskey and it isn't noon yet."

Sweeney's equal attention to emotional confrontations and individual growth bring Jericho and its surroundings to life, spicing the story with a realistic overtone that compels readers to absorb Ruby's dilemmas. She faces a broken country, Indian troubles and abandoned forts, and new challenges to her own survival. The action is ongoing and well-described, presented with a "you are here" feel that readers will appreciate: "From an indeterminate distance, a gunshot cracks. Sam stiffens. Ruby's hand instinctively goes to her Colt pistol. She spins around. Boulders line the pools in every direction. If someone were after them there, Sam and Ruby would be cornered. Ruby can't see who fired the round or from where."

Ruby's gritty determination to not just survive, but thrive, makes her an admirable character at once flawed and powerful. Women, particularly, will appreciate a female-centered Western atmosphere uncommon in the genre, replete with Ruby's conviction that "women rule the world" despite their seeming vulnerabilities.

The result is a Western that goes beyond most in depicting a strong female character whose changing perspectives and experiences make her a formidable survivor in an alien land.

Libraries looking for Westerns that are high-octane in their action and female presence will welcome the opportunity to add both facets to their collections via the highly recommended, thoroughly absorbing Hardland.

Rune and Flash
Joe Canzano
Happy Joe Control
9798985913200, $9.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Nobody cares what sixteen-year-olds think. But they do care what they do.

Young adult sci-fi readers who choose Rune and Flash: Inside the Dream Prison will find the futuristic scenario and dilemma of sixteen-year-old Markla Flash, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to 1,000 nightmares inside the Dream Prison, a refreshingly original environment and concept.

Her friend Rune is determined to help Markla, but giving her assistance places him at odds with not only his family but society itself, which has promoted the punishment of nightmares as the best solution to criminal behavior.

As he faces the consequences of Markla's actions and his own decisions, bigger pictures come into play as the two find themselves not only defending their actions, but defying the very tenants their society has been built on, and the artificial dreams used to oversee and control it.

Joe Canzano creates an avid fantasy centered on evolving truths about groups, individuals, and this future society. As Markla, Dru, Rune, and others find their lives not only entwined but embracing truths they'd never quite acknowledged about their world and their roles in it, they come to feel that things should change.

Any young adult who has harbored the notion of feeling alien in the world will readily relate to Markla and Rune's discoveries and struggles.

The sci-fi setting is well detailed, the characters compel reader attention through their multifaceted interests and experiences, and the bigger picture evolves with some surprising twists to maintain young adult attention throughout. The themes of control, powerlessness, and taking charge of personal destiny become a study in relationships and choice that offer many intriguing inspections.

While Rune and Flash is a satisfying leisure sci-fi read, ideally it will be profiled in discussion groups and book clubs for its thought-provoking inspections of social norms and what happens to two young adults who move outside the accepted rules of behavior to challenge the system.

The Haunting Of Bridge Manor: The Trilogy
Marc Layton
Blank Publishing
B09NTQKT7T, $3.99 Kindle/$12.95 Paperback

The Haunting Of Bridge Manor: The Trilogy is a young adult ghost story that will reach into adult circles with its compelling portrait of a teen who is just returning to life after being in an induced coma for over two years. She's an accident survivor charged with new beginnings, but is not sure that her parents' choice of buying an old manor in Virginia should be part of this new life.

She treasures her time alone and finds it challenging to face re-entry into a world vastly changed during the two years she was away from it. Even her five-year-old brother, now seven, seems like a stranger to her.

The spooky, dilapidated Bridge Manor gives Rachel chills from the start, but as ghostly encounters begin to shade her experiences and impact her recovery, Rachel becomes part of not just a strange new world, but events from the past that reach out to shake her revised life.

It should be noted that graphic descriptions of violence, although appropriate for the story's evolutionary process, make The Haunting Of Bridge Manor recommended for mature teens.

The murder and violence that rock Rachel's world only serve to cement the fact that Bridge Manor harbors more than ghosts, serving up a legacy of violence that requires flight in order to survive: "Bridge Manor had stood alone, holding darkness within, for two hundred years. Within its walls, dirty secrets were buried, bricks carried unspeakable horrors, and doors shut on the tragedy of the past. Whatever spirits had been roaming there could walk there no more. But, Rachel could see now, there was no remedy, just pain, and havoc."

As Rachel and her younger brother Ben return to Chicago under a pall of pain and murder, their lives change once again. The difference, this time, is that Rachel will have to solve the mystery of Bridge Manor if she's to ever be free of its legacy.

Marc Layton crafts an involving story of recovery, discovery, and a teen's connections to evil spirits of the past that affect the progression of her future.

It's a story marked not just by violent encounters, but by the mental leaps Rachel is forced to take to come to terms with her turbulent life's extraordinary changes.

Mature teens into adult audiences who look for ghost stories of transformation, danger, and the search for truth and redemption will find this story a powerful account of love and challenge that tugs at the heartstrings from different angles.

Layton's attention to building suspense, unexpected twists and turns, and strong characters charged with surviving their decisions and legacy produces a story that's hard to put down and thought-provoking to the end.

Libraries seeking books for mature teens and audiences that look for supernatural stories will find The Haunting Of Bridge Manor: The Trilogy a fine selection.

Bryan McBee
Atmosphere Press
9781639884131, $22.99

Afterworld follows Simon Crandall as he moves through a devastated world of the future, bereft of the technology that marked mankind's pinnacle and then led to its downfall.

A prologue sets the stage and history for Simon's current world, neatly reviewing recent the plague that has transformed humanity, sending it backwards into a new dark age.

Simon was eight when the virus escaped to change everything. The world died and then was reborn while he witnessed its demise and formulated strategies for his own survival.

He can exist in this destroyed world only because forgetting the past is the easiest way to navigate the present: "Simon tried not to think of the past. There was no use in it; living in the past was futile and accomplished nothing. If he could have, Simon would have gladly forgotten his past forever. There was too much pain, anguish, and misery, almost more than he could endure."

So far, the trappings of this dystopian world are familiar; but Bryan McBee offers a twist that readers won't see coming as Simon searches for a final weapon that could complete the job of destroying humanity if it falls into the wrong hands.

Simon's mission drives the story and reader interest alike. McBee creates an engrossing account of men and women committed to being warriors in different ways. As chaos and plots on and off the battlefield come to light, so do the motivations and forces of these future remnants of humanity and others which have evolved from this chaos.

As a ragtag team grows to represent nearly every race left on the planet, readers move from a loner's mission to a group effort. McBee paints a compelling portrait of adversity, impossible odds, and the interactions of very different survivors forced to come together for a greater purpose.

The well-drawn characters and their special interests add nicely to the overall tension described in this dystopian world, while the novel's twists and turns create unpredictable outcomes and circumstances of healing and growth alike.

Will Simon ever feel whole and at peace in this world? These goals don't seem likely, but Afterworld takes some surprising turns. That is part of its attraction, and why it's highly recommended as a notable story of extraordinary efforts, fragile peace, and the differences that individuals make not just in their individual pursuits, but in influencing the fate of humanity itself.

The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen
Gary Eldon Peter
Fitzroy Books
c/o Regal House Publishing
9781646032532, $16.95 (paperback); $8.99 (Kindle)

The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen is a debut novel of young adult fiction that is set in southern Minnesota. It follows teen Carl as he faces not only a secret crush on a city boy and stranger, but the demands of a family business that would place him at its helm in the future, like it or not.

Also part of Carl's complicated equation of growth is the loss of his mother and his distant relationship with his demanding father, who also mourns (but tries to honor) his late mother's legacy of a family farm.

If this were a story of love alone, it would be interesting; but life rarely is a singular experience. Adding the turmoil of changed family relationships and the demands of a family business that was a deceased parent's dream passed on to reluctant inheritors makes for a particularly involving interplay of events.

Gary Eldon Peter employs the first person to capture Carl's perspective, offering interesting contrasts between his youth and the edicts of his father: "As a former high school English teacher he is very concerned about such things, and I should be too because some day, he says, the world would belong to me. I don't want the world, at least not all of it, but it doesn't matter."

Carl's explanations and explorations of his life are presented from the viewpoint of a young man on the cusp of change, caught between adult and children's worlds: "There is a lot to worry about - milk prices (more often down than up); the takeover by the "big guys" (farmers who sat behind desks as if they were the president of IBM and who let the Vet Science grads from Iowa State or the U of Minnesota in color-coordinated overalls milk the 350 head herd); money, and a lot of it, borrowed to keep us going (my father explaining for the umpteenth time, when I asked why we couldn't get cable like everyone else on the planet, how a mortgage worked and me rolling my eyes to let him know that, yes, I did know what a mortgage was, and that, yes, I was well aware that we were way behind on ours). He could have also added that there aren't many friends either, at least not the human kind. With a small operation like ours (around twenty cows, more when the calves come) it's the "girls," as my mother liked to call them, who are your friends."

Carl's introspection, questioning, and experience power a young adult coming-of-age story in a manner that will prove compelling to readers - even those relatively unfamiliar with the Midwest, family businesses, or forbidden first crushes.

As Carl also faces the growth and explorations of his peers, he comes to realize that life and love are not always what they appear to be - or as straightforward as his father would have him believe: "...the truth is I don't feel anything anywhere when I look at her. Except maybe sadness. And mostly for Andy. It's all part of the act: the "crush" on Ellen (the real one), the stuff with the kicking and the boobs when we were having supper, and now this stupid picture. Andy's act. If he can convince me that he likes girls, maybe then he can convince himself."

As Carl explores his world, its expectations, and his place in it, young adults receive adult insights into the psychology of family relationships, social influences, and motivations for actions and choices. These both impart lessons and represent opportunities for deep thinking.

Libraries looking for coming-of-age young adult fiction that explores blossoming sexuality and the possibilities of same-sex love will find The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen a fine study in interpersonal relationships and growth.

Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony
S. McMichael
EK-9 Solutions & Services
9798985032833, $18.99 HB, $11.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle

S. McMichael's Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony receives large-size, colorful illustrations by Justo Borrero as it follows determined young horse-crazy girls and a new pony, Piper, who doesn't have a lot of experience with riders and is afraid of new things.

As picture book readers absorb this story of girl/horse relationships and overcoming fears, they receive side lessons about horse management and about "working smarter, not harder."

Catch That Pony is action-packed and takes the time to paint the back-and-forth of success and failure, offering no pat answers or easy solutions as the girls attempt to tame a nervous, frightened horse.

Issues of trust between rider and horse are explored, along with good intentions and the power of perseverance.

With these lessons serving as the background for an intriguing story about a horse that refuses to be tamed, read-aloud parents will welcome the opportunity to not only follows the uncertain relationship that grows between girls and horse, but the discussion that can come from opening the door to a variety of subjects about handling life challenges.

Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony is ultimately much more than a story about catching or training a horse. Adults will find it a visually attractive and psychologically astute examination that draws on a child's attraction to horses to teach further lessons about success.

Prep School for Serial Killers
Tara Platt
Bug Bot Press
9780984074075, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Fans of The Hunger Games and similar YA dystopian novels will find Prep School for Serial Killers is not an adult story about murderers, but a dark tale set in 2123 about school students being groomed for extraordinary roles in life.

The preface sets the stage for instant attraction with a tone and drama that will make mature young adult readers want to learn more: "Whoever finds this, I hope you have escaped. That you have found a way to overthrow the governing forces and build a life for yourself. It may be too late for me. I will never know freedom - what it feels like to travel the world without fear, to make choices that are not imposed by the state, to choose who I love…and what I fight for. To grow into a woman who knows the truth…If you're reading this, you're probably a student here, and I am long dead. If you haven't worked it out already, I must tell you something: Everything you are learning here is a lie."

The Last Great War destroyed the narrator's family and life, leaving her a survivor at only a few weeks old. Her life in an orphanage and then in a special school designed to tap student abilities for more than higher education is narrated in a gripping style that introduces the promise and dangers of Poluzone, a drug designed to temper humanity's self-destructive rage, that comes with a terrible price.

The recap of how the narrator's world came to be does an exceptional job of both painting the events that shaped this environment and setting the stage for a spellbinding exploration of Anathema's place in it.

From training battles with Vex and others under the school headmaster's guidance to increasing uncertainties that the system students have taken for granted is designed to help, young adults receive an intriguing story of a girl's growing ability to step out of her preordained role to question not just authority, but the basic tenants of her world.

From assassins and poisoned pens to drives to alter history,

Prep School for Serial Killers takes many unusual twists and turns, yet keeps readers thoroughly engaged as characters come to reconsider Killslip killing traditions against a hunter-and-prey series of confrontations.

Are they being groomed to survive, or to kill? Are they warriors, leaders, or pawns in a bigger plot?

Tara Platt creates a fast-paced story of teens who find themselves at odds with the forces that raised them.

Her story holds special appeal for fans of dark dystopian teen reads. Its strong characters, compelling social observation, and satisfying intrigue makes Prep School for Serial Killers highly recommended for libraries seeking dystopian fiction that raises questions suitable for classroom or book group discussion.

Nothing Is Us
E. David Brown
Scarlet Leaf
9798798046119, $23.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Nothing Is Us opens with a prologue introducing a father's death after a myriad of health challenges. But the real meat in this memoir lies not in a father's demise, but in the abusive relationship he cultivated with his son (the author of this book).

It's a tragically familiar story in many ways, but E. David Brown chooses the feel of fiction interspersed with facts, so the drama embraces not just family relationships, but the changing social and political times.

His purpose in recreating this world is especially thought-provoking as the story opens: "Every day since Lt. Colonel E. H. Brown's funeral I have struggled to invent a memory that would redeem my father in my eyes and in turn allow the process of self-redemption to begin. A lot of people think they know the history of Noah but most fail to grasp that the real story begins after the floodwaters recede. Ham discovers his old man butt-naked and drunk. For his indiscretion he is cast out, banished to Canaan (or in my case Canada). Having resolved to uncover the nakedness of my father, the task is now to reconstruct the past as best I can."

From rebellion and abuse at school to becoming an over-achiever with a passion for effecting change, Brown reveals a life buffeted by many different kinds of forces which, ironically, often seem to hold the same kinds of impact and results as abuse.

His descriptions of these circumstances and threats offer intriguing insights into forms of abuse that come not just from home, but the greater world outside it: "Mr. Lesman once waved a sheaf of letters my mother had sent him at me. "Your Mama is worried, crazy worried about you. I have met her. She is a good woman. She's worried, as she has every right to be, about the people with whom you have been associating. She's right to think that they are unwholesome and hold dangerous and perverse views." My silent response infuriated Lesman. "One day you'll cross the line and I'll bend you over and give you something your daddy should have given you a long time ago."

As various abuses plague him and follow him through school and into life, readers receive vivid descriptions that (warning) may serve as triggers to readers tapping their own experiences and feelings about violent interpersonal engagements (especially with those in positions of superiority, whether they be instructors or trainers).

This subject is too often buried in other memoirs about abuse and coming of age, yet takes center stage here, offering readers important insights about bullies, victims, injury and healing processes.

Nothing Is Us is a highly recommended study in contrasts and survival. Its powerful words deserve consideration by memoir readers, but are especially recommended for discussion groups where abuse and recovery processes are closely examined.

Return to Canyon Creek
John Layne
Labrador Publishing
9798986011004, $18.95 Paper/11.99 ebook

Return to Canyon Creek is the third installment of a Western series, but newcomers to the efforts of gunslingers Luxton Danner and Wes Payne will find their world of the late 1800s an effortless place to absorb.

Trained military man Gilford Knox will do anything to acquire land surrounding the town of Canyon Creek so he can turn it into a thriving boomtown. His efforts to bully, cajole, or otherwise buy out the townspeople results in an increasing seat of power which he employs to change the face of the town for his own purposes.

That's when Luxton Danner and Wes Payne are tapped to step up and stop him.

As Albert Loman, Shelley Robertson, and other Canyon Creek residents find themselves caught up in a battle for their town and place in it, readers receive a lively Western struggle for power that paints a vivid picture of place and purpose as various townspeople join together to regain their homes and see justice served.

Frontier events, from murders to mayhem, come to life under

John Layne's hand. His vivid descriptions of standoffs, showdowns, legal and social clashes, and the various special interests of a truly wild - and steadily evolving - Western town make for an engrossing story replete in not just confrontation, but new realizations about the price of growth and change at all costs.

Layne paints vivid scenes throughout the course of these events: "You take to gunning down women?" Danner barked; his fatigued body now energized with the bolt of an adrenaline surge. People flocked out of every nearby building door, including both saloons. Boot and shoe heels clamored on the boardwalks sending echoes up and down both sides of the street. Windows flew open, filled with anxious faces wanting to see the showdown."

The novel's non-stop action, realistic sense of the times and its people, and strong characterization captures the rugged times and the forces which clash over different visions of opportunities and lifestyles in the West.

Fans of Louis L'Amour and other classic Western writers well know the compelling feel of an authentically portrayed world, and Return to Canyon Creek mirrors this powerful approach as it adds to a trilogy about the making and breaking of Texas.

Libraries should consider it a fine addition to any traditional Western fiction collection looking for contemporary writers that capture the passion and fire of yesterday's West.

Connie L. Nelson
George Gregory Nelson Publishing
9798985610512, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Cavalier: The Story of an Unsolved Murder in a Small Town is a true crime memoir that centers on the true story of Connie L. Nelson's friend, Dr. Jack Wahl, who was murdered in his home one night in 1986.

Nelson conducted her own research into the crime, which remained unsolved, using interpersonal communications, the investigation notes provided by the current Pembina County sheriff and his deputy, and newspaper reports from that time. As she pursued a truth that remained elusive, her life changed.

Fast forward to 2018. The crime remains unsolved. No one was ever been charged or convicted with her friend's murder. But the sorrow and pain of being a murderer's collateral damage remained, and so Nelson has written this book about the events that transformed her life.

Law enforcement readers as well as those involved in the psychology of relationships changed by murder and unresolved crimes will find much to appreciate in the way Nelson has pursued her subject.

Her ability to inject thought-provoking angles on murder which affects close friends as much as family, yet constantly locks out friends from discussions and insights, makes for a story that needed to be written as much for other victims of unresolved crimes as for true crime readers: "If you have had a loved one die suddenly, you prob-ably know the heartache of not getting to say goodbye. When the sudden death isn't due to a long-term illness or a car accident, but instead an unsolved murder, it's like a wound that doesn't heal. And when the murder takes place in a small town, everyone you know could be the potential murderer - just one of the ways the crime changed my life.Another way it changed was that I was forced to see myself from the police viewpoint: I was just a friend. If Jack had been a relative, I would have been included in the discussions with law enforcement, but I was not interviewed as part of the official investigation - and I felt I had a valuable perspective on Jack's life."

The memoir blends nicely into true crime experiences, processes, and revelations to create a realistic and emotion-driven "you are here" feel to the story.

In many ways, Nelson has crafted the perfect true crime saga because of its wider-ranging considerations of the effects of a small town murder on those who reside alongside a perp who remains mercurial and unidentified.

This impact is thoroughly explored in thought-provoking passages that broaden the concerns and impact a murder has on the entire community; especially in a small town: "The citizens and communities of Cavalier and Pembina County need closure too. After there has been a murder in a small community, where everyone knows each other, it is difficult to go back to feeling safe and secure. Do they still worry when strangers come to town? Do they lock their doors at night? Does the murderer still live among them?"

Nelson's inspection of psychological, social, and criminal impacts of unresolved crimes is astute, drawing together a number of resources to make points that most true crime memoirs omit.

Her ability to include, yet move beyond, her personal connections and perspective to embrace the wider issues affecting the legal, social, and political processes of a community sets Cavalier apart from the usual true crime story. It's thus a highly recommended pick not just for libraries interested in criminology and sociology, but for discussion groups analyzing the impact of unresolved grief that affects individuals and society as a whole.

A Slow Parade in Penderyn
David Hopkins
Tales from Efre Ousel
B08L27J46G, $0.99 Kindle

Book 1 of the Dryad's Crown epic fantasy series, A Slow Parade in Penderyn, presents a typical fantasy setting on a vast world containing four great continents, but it comes with a difference. The content, setting, and foundation premise of this saga was created as "open content" to encourage the broader fantasy writing community to add their own stores to the ' Tales from Efre Ousel' premise. Contributors maintain copyright of the stories they create but are allowed to build upon the characters and contents of Efre Ousel: "Our hope is to foster a collaborative community, where other storytellers can build upon each other's work."

That said, the story opens with woodswoman Jori's discovery of an abandoned new baby inside a tree. Jori gives up the child to her druid people when they come knocking, but tragedy again strikes in an ironic twist of fate: "That is the way of the gods. When they intervene, everyone loses something."

Fast forward to prized (yet beaten) soldier Silbrey's return to Penderyn. She's an assassin and a mother, vastly changed from her street urchin roots, but still subject to buffeting by the winds of change, which have returned her to Penderyn against all odds.

Silbrey is there to confront her past, which threatens her family and motherhood. What she ultimately faces is herself and her own roots in adversity and mystery as the adult Silbrey walks into a world marked by omens, rumors, legendary battles, and threats. These reach into her life to destroy everything she's built with the violence she thought she'd left behind in her desperate flight from her legacy.

David Hopkins has chosen, as a descriptor, the concept of a "slow parade," but the plot is anything but slow. He cultivates a fast pace of revelation and growth as Silbrey faces not only her own heritage, but the moral and ethical quandaries of choosing violence over reconciliation: "Silbrey could kill her now. She could crack her skull open with her staff. She could break her neck. She could take Dahlia's own sword and stab her through the heart. Silbrey had killed so many people. She could kill Dahlia too, the one responsible for it all. Penderyn would be a safer place, a better place without her. How many lives would be saved with this one act?"

Hopkins cultivates a blend of strong characterization and powerful moral and ethical dilemmas that lend a special depth to the story. Readers who look for stories steeped in promises and the search for home and purpose will find Silbrey's adventures compelling and revealing.

Libraries looking for epic fantasy steeped in emotional growth will welcome A Slow Parade in Penderyn's engrossing environment and character conflicts.

The Second Long March
Patti Isaacs
Atmosphere Press
9781639883165, $18.99

The Second Long March: Memoir from a Witness to China's Transformation documents, on a personal level, the wane of communism and China's pursuit of economic reform beginning in the early 1980s. It comes from a writer whose observations draw important connections between political change and personal lives.

Author Patti Isaacs worked in China in 1981 and returned some twenty-five years later, remembering the country as it had been under the communist economic system. Her entry into the vastly changed social and political milieu of the nation thus provides a satisfying contrast in experiences that pinpoints not only the progression of the changes, but their incarnation and impact at all levels of Chinese society.

The important points of this process are solidified by her experiences and contrasts between past and present China: "If I were in Mexico or Europe, her waffling would have set off alarms in my head, but I was still expecting the wide-eyed honesty I'd experienced many years ago when China was communist and foreigners were treated like rock stars. The bells didn't ring...Fifteen minutes after landing, I'd been scammed out of $20 and learned my first important lesson: my mind still held the map of China as I had left it many years ago, and I could no longer use it to navigate this profoundly changed landscape."

As she learns how to navigate a country newly powered by economic gain and principles of profit, Isaacs creates a narrative that mimics Alice-in-Wonderland experiences past and present, juxtaposing these two so that readers gain a real feel for the nature and strength of the transformations the country has undergone.

As she and her husband participate in tours and explorations of China and its people, their observations create astute insights of different levels of society: "...many on these tours were long-time students of Chinese language and culture, knowledgeable but starved for real-world experience by China's political isolation; forward-thinking businessmen anxious to build ties with China's emerging industry; and Chinese-Americans longing to visit their home country. This group also included power shoppers eager to find bargains on handicrafts."

"China had changed in the quarter century that I'd been gone, and so had I."

The maturity process of land and people receives a "you are here" feel that more analytical studies don't offer. It gives armchair travelers with a special interest in China's past and contemporary milieu a leg up in understanding how the Chinese have undergone transformative processes that changed not just their economic status, but how they perceived and reacted to foreigners - and themselves.

Isaacs provides a unique insider's eye as she focuses on the years 1981 and 2005, when communism was fading and economic development was taking off in China.

The contrast is marked with many interpersonal encounters and revelations to attract readers interested in the nature and cost of progress: "Our handlers followed us around and tried to keep us from having unauthorized contact with our students," I said. "I know that at the time, the government was worried that we and our Western ideas might 'pollute' Chinese society. If you look at things objectively, that is exactly what happened. Now the Chinese are like us. They are materialistic and they worry about health care and the cost of education, and spoiled kids who play video games all day. China is more open, but all the changes haven't been positive."

While travel library collections will want to consider this a lively story suitable for armchair readers who enjoy cultural and historical flavors, The Second Long March is especially recommended reading for those who would better understand not just China's evolutionary process, but how political systems shift their populaces into new mindsets and lives.

Especially suitable for group discussion, The Second Long March portrays a China like few others, and deserves a place in any collection strong in social and political examination or travelogues in general and Chinese culture in particular.

Oh Great, Another Vampire Book
Diane Hunter
Independently Published
9780578395074, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Oh Great, Another Vampire Book, by its very title, portends a freshly original story. This will especially attract those who enjoy unique vampire accounts that come without the usual trappings of overdone plots and too-predictable progression.

A vampire of long standing, Roman McClary finds people boring, even though he is privy to their secrets through mind-reading. After all, one can delve through minds only so many centuries before they become all too banal and unexciting.

That is, until war threatens to break out in modern-day 2018 between vampires and humans, leading Roman to consider going against his long-held conviction not to create another vampire to add to the mix.

Diane Hunter washes this world with an unusual touch of irony and satire as modern-day devices and approaches clash with an ages-old soul who has developed his own intricate moral and ethical standards for one-night stands and relationships: "The process of online dating presented a myriad of challenges for the New England vampire. There was ease in obtaining dates due to his looks and vast wealth, but it was a chore to endure banal conversation. His criteria were simple: if the woman was moral and hardworking, she would maybe get a second date. If she was immoral, unethical, and entitled, she'd never see him again. In a worst case scenario, women of this ilk could visit his private estate in Chestnut Hill, but return home later confused, forgetful, with strange bite marks on her body. He often thought unsavory women were becoming all too common in the twenty-first century. They easily fell under his thrall, doing whatever he wished."

Contrast this introduction with the later first-person observations of a world undergoing vast changes, for a sense of the transformative atmosphere Hunter encourages as it moves from these beginnings to embrace a world where vamp communities blossom: "The vamp population was very small, which we expected being in a sunny climate. They too had developed a means for sustenance without feeding off humans. (Kudos to Charlaine Harris for writing True Blood!) These Hawaiian vamps mixed the blood of feral pigs with fermented poi and other spices. It turned my stomach to see them eat the gelatinous concoction from bowls. The maroon-colored substance resembled a movie prop from a George Romero film."

As Roman pursues his connection with Sara in the always-changing world, readers receive a romp through cultural clashes that contrasts wry observation and fun with the serious questions and dilemmas he faces: "What are you watching?"

"Friends. Sometimes it feels good to turn my brain off and watch something stupid and mindless."

"I agree. I'm a 200-year-old vampire who still watches Gossip Girl sometimes. Don't tell anyone."

"Actually, I like Gossip Girl. It's interesting to see how rich kids grow up in Manhattan. I treat it like anthropology research."

No, I mean my real age. It 's embarrassing how young I am compared to all those old geezers." He gestured to the other side of the door. As if on cue, they exploded in laughter, taunting Larry for eating Fruit Brute cereal.

"Fruit Brute! Werewolf cereal?" Zackary cried in mock horror. "It's food of the enemy! Good god, man. Have some pride."

The social and political satire that permeates the action will prove especially satisfying to literature readers who may be well familiar with the vampire genre, but look for out-of-the-box interpretations and presentations.

In particular, Hunter addresses issues of "woke politics" and responsible media. Unexpected developments? Yes. They introduce an added layer of value that elevates Oh Great, Another Vampire Book beyond entertainment alone, making for a thought-provoking read on different levels.

While Oh Great, Another Vampire Book is highly recommended for leisure readers who will find the progression of events and mercurial interpersonal relationships intriguing, it should not miss attention from students of satirical literature. This audience will find the book a study in contemporary satire. It's suitable for classroom discussion and library acquisition alike and is both a unique, refreshingly different take on the vampire theme and a demonstration of the different possibilities that satirical inspection can embrace.

Flying Fillies
Christy Hui
Kokomo Entertainment Inc.
9798986299815, $9.99 Kindle/$12.95 Paper/$19.99 Hardcover

"Glass ceilings are made to be flown through."

"Flying fillies" is the affectionate term twelve-year-old Dawn Springfield applies to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew military planes during World War II.

Flying Fillies: The Sky's the Limit opens with Dawn's move from Chicago to Sweetwater, Texas, where she looks forward to escaping the bullies that have plagued her school life.

She wants to be a fighter pilot when she is older, but her classmates have used her dream as fodder for teasing. Dawn is already the victim of much abuse, with her sassy countenance and cowgirl ways gained from visits to her beloved grandfather's farm.

Her Aunt Georgia is her inspiration: she's overseas, volunteering with the British Royal Air Force. This sets the stage for Dawn's own involvement in the war and her ability to step up and volunteer in hopes of going where no women have gone before.

Christy Hui deftly captures Dawn's involvement with a group of 'fly girls.' Each represent ordinary females who have stepped up in extraordinary ways. Her descriptions cement these experiences and encounters, following Dawn's admiration for the young women who make difficult choices to achieve their dreams: "The more she learned about the fly girls, the more she loved them. Anyone who walked past Jane Applebaum in the street would see a typical young teenager without a care in the world. Dawn knew better after Jane explained how she had worn herself to the ground holding down three jobs to raise money for flying lessons."

Hui's survey of the history of the WASP program focuses on proactive females who realize their dreams, then connect these dreams to bigger-picture thinking brought about by the war.

Advanced elementary to middle grade readers receive an enlightening tale of World War II that focuses on the idea, training, and challenges of the WASP and their activities during the war.

As Dawn absorbs their stories and readers learn about them through her fascination and education, the changing role of women of the times comes to life in a vivid inspection. The story nicely captures courage, survival, and these womens' determination to lend to the wartime cause (and perhaps even give their lives for it).

The engrossing history and psychological pull of Flying Fillies brings the era and its women to life. More so than most other accounts of World War II for young readers, it connects the dots between personal passion and higher-level thinking and life experiences. It describes WASP training, volunteer efforts, and the contrast between a world of adventure and one spent at home cultivating an ordinary life. The story's conclusion is supported by pages of history that outline America during early World War II and the rise of women's involvement in the war effort.

Flying Fillies is a top recommendation for libraries seeing young patron interest in horses, who want to promote both World War II history and growth-inducing experiences derived from women's choices.

Bear Trap
Bob Asher
Red Shirt Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0B1BTMYD6 $6.99

Bear Trap takes the thriller genre to a new level as it pairs international struggles and intrigue (with action that moves from Alaska to Russia, Washington, and Virginia) with the story of Jon Smith, a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer and retired Navy SEAL officer who only went to Alaska for a vacation.

What he receives instead is a mind-boggling series of events that move him from dangerous Alaskan storms to the equally disastrous storm of Russians who have invaded Alaska in search of a defector.

With all U.S. local military response grounded by the weather, what can Jon do? Plenty. He's tapped to lead a suicide mission to confront the highly trained team of Spetsnaz operators and regain control of now-model U.S. citizen and spy Dr. Karpinsky, a CIA scientist conducting research in the paranormal sciences so he can employ that intelligence against the Russians.

There's only one problem. Jon isn't ready to die. His conviction that he can achieve his goal without huge losses drives a story so packed with political references that readers might initially think it requires prior familiarity with Russian and U.S. intelligence communities.

This is not the case. While the story is steeped in covert and overt action, readers need have no prior expertise in either national espionage or intelligence communities in order to easily absorb the scenarios, politics, and military confrontations between them.

It should be noted that the back-and-forth nonstop staccato events take the form of 78 chapters. Lest readers think this translates to 'tome', however, it also should be advised that there are only 340 pages to the saga. Bob Asher's ability to pack a lot of action and intrigue into short scenarios that capture mind and heart powers a novel replete in many cat-and-mouse plays. These excel in depicting unexpected maneuvers on all sides.

Asher thoroughly embeds his characters in a sense of place, taking the time to create a "you are here" atmosphere that permeates the action from the novel's opening lines: "Jon was the fourth man in a tight stack of seven standing in the dark along a pockmarked, cinder block wall outside the back door of a battle-damaged two-story house. Tonight, he and his teammates were wearing black Iraqi Army Special Forces uniforms. He yawned quietly as his stomach growled. He had been awake and on the move for over thirty-six hours. The only thing he had eaten was an unheated MRE spaghetti entree ten hours earlier. All he could think about was food and sleep. Despite the early hour, the temperature hovered just over 100°F. Sweat flowed steadily from under his helmet and into his eyes before dripping off his nose into his beard. Under his body armor, his pale pink skin was steaming."

The seamless injection of themes of vigilante confrontations, assassination attempts, and paranormal elements driving characters to confront one another and evolve in unexpected ways keeps the action unpredictable and nonstop.

The result is a thriller that comes steeped in Alaskan wilderness challenges and the confrontations that evolve between disparate special interests.

Bear Trap's title perhaps holds a portent of its strengths, because it certainly traps its readers with a thoroughly engrossing read that is impossible to put down or predict.

The Real Paul Makinen?
David R. Yale
A Healthy Relationship Press, LLC
9798986300603 $4.99 Ebook
Paperback, Part 1: 9780979176609 $14.95
Paperback, Part 2: 9780979176616 $14.95
Paperback, Part 3: 9780979176630 $14.95

The Real Paul Makinen? is a novel not for those seeking quick reads, but is highly recommended for readers not daunted by complex, in-depth probes of emotional relationships, from family and work to potential loved ones.

Set in three parts, it introduces the milieu of Minneapolis in the early 1970s, where the 19-year-old Paul receives his draft notice, refuses to go, and is summarily thrown out of his parents' house.

It's not as though he's leaving a loving but strict home. From the start, his abusive and controlling father Edward has created situations that have continually challenged Paul's life. His mother joins him in being harsh. And it seems they'd rather have a dead son, like his more dutiful brother, than one who avoids the call to war and duty.

Paul questions his parents' ultimatum, partially based on his dead brother's plea to him not to follow in his footsteps should he be called. His protests fall on deaf ears as his parents insist that Paul fulfill their vision of his life and its purposes: Duty? What does that even mean? I said. To serve your country, Edward said, banging his fist on my dresser. No son of mine s going to wimp out.

His unforgiving and violent home life seem the least likely roots from which to get a job helping teens, but Paul has evolved beyond his influences in some surprising ways. These paths are probed and depicted during the course of a story that is vividly represented.

David R. Yale introduces many subplots and thought-provoking moments, from the role of a mentor in Paul's life that helps belay his family's negative teachings to a girlfriend who holds the potential to become something more than a transient romantic interest.

Yale peppers his story with reflective passages to give readers pause in their food for thought: "Joe, a grown man, a college graduate, had changed all that. It was Joe who started the Teen Council that turned things around here. And me? Still a teenager, homeless, with a draft notice in my pocket, who still had no idea what he was doing. Everyone knew I was a fraud. I was not the real Paul Makinen, even if I was on the Teen Council for a year."

While an identity crisis lies at the heart of this story, also intrinsic to its success and unique approach is a growth process whereby the simultaneously savvy and life-ignorant Paul receives lessons not just on how community works, but his own possible places in it.

Paul's growing awareness of the world works on broader terms than just his own psyche and life. That's one of the strengths of The Real Paul Makinen? as it grows to embrace issues of climate change, business savvy, and evolving friendships: "Harry pointed up. 'Looks like the wind is finally blowing that red murk away.'

'Can you imagine, we breathe that stuff in!' I said. 'Probably worse than smoking, huh?'

The dialogue and local lingo is also a strong key to the story's developments, juxtaposing action with a personal dramatic inspection that brings not just the first-person Paul but all the characters around him to life.

Part of the reason why this story is so lengthy is that Yale also takes the time to capture the moments of life experience which are steeped in taste, smell, and new experiences: "I took a bite of sandwich. I loved the feeling of salty caviar globules bursting when I chewed them, the contrast between oily caviar and moist, crispy green pepper. As Rennie ate, she perked up. 'You want another, Paavali? I'll make them.'

She came back with ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches. The salty ham and nutty, sweet Graddöst cheese worked together with the tomato to make a flavor harmony."

The level of detail may be unexpected in a coming-of-age story, but here's the thing: The Real Paul Makinen? is not a light examination. It pulls no corners or punches as it gathers a wide range of life perspectives, influences, and logic and emotion that direct the course of Paul's budding new adult years.

Where other stories might skimp in favor of a quicker plot with easy resolution, The Real Paul Makinen? takes the longer, more detailed path whether it's describing changing environments, changing hearts and minds, or teens on the cusp of grasping adult decisions and life-changing choices which come with unexpected consequences.

The Teen Council and Paul's involvement in it is one of the strong threads of a story that shows how different kinds of commitment lead to better lives all around. Its involvement in neighborhood dreams and politics, smear campaigns and union-busting manipulations, and an already-on-edge community that explodes in reaction to its local issues and the overlay of death in Vietnam makes for a powerful, in-depth read.

The Real Paul Makinen? is presented not just in several parts, but many layers. It is not a read for those who expect quick, pat resolutions and the usual coming-of-age growth story, but takes the time to explore the social, political, and psychological complexities buffeting a young man's life and changing the course of his future and interests.

As Paul also tackles the roots of problems caused by his abusive family roots and his tendency to react to life circumstances from dysfunctional teachings, readers will have plenty of opportunity to consider the lasting impact of family psychology and influence.

All these facets and more create a story that is unusually rooted in a sense of time, place, and community interactions and reactions.

While mature teens would be a fine audience for it, it's a shame that a prerequisite for The Real Paul Makinen? is an ability to hold a degree of attention and literacy that Twitter generation users might not have.

Ideally, its powerful messages and winding course of growth and confrontation will be assigned as classroom reading for young adults and the subject of book club discussion for adults seeking a far wider-ranging, bigger-picture story of growth than the usual coming-of-age saga.

Its bittersweet depiction of love, loss, growth, and social and political involvement as seen through the eyes of a teen who influences not just his life, but those around him, is an outstanding representation of life that deserves top billing in any collection strong in literary works that move from personal struggle to deeper political and community inspections.

True North
Jennifer G. Edelson
Bad Apple Books
9781733514026 $18.99

Young adults who choose True North for either its sci-fi or romance elements will find each in abundance, but what really powers the story is seventeen-year-old Indy's personality and drive. These are shaped by a drowning incident in her childhood, in which she had a vision of a UFO before she was saved.

That vision, too, has come back to life as she stands on the cusp of adulthood, experiencing keys to locating UFOs that virtually guarantee their sighting.

Tired of adults dismissing her visions as the results of drowning, Indy establishes a late-night internet radio show presence and begins to connect with listeners who not only believe and support her, but offer their own insights into what is going on.

One of these, Henry, is of special interest as he begs her to help him find 'his people' using her special UFO-sighting powers.

Her radio show True North rapidly evolves to become a viral internet phenomenon sparking rebellion and revolution in listeners committed to unraveling the mystery of Indy's experiences, drawing Indy ever deeper into a world in which the mystery grows. It comes to threaten her budding relationship with Sawyer and even her life.

Jennifer G. Edelson creates a compelling story of possibilities, growth, and impossibilities in True North. Her attention to describing psychological insights that come with these sightings lends special drama to the story that brings it to life in unexpected ways: "The new coordinates provoked a mix of horror and excitement. She didn t doubt that the numbers themselves were legit, but she sometimes wondered if the way she interpreted them might be more psyche-driven than celestial, like a fucked-up Rorschach test. Maybe the part where True North s listeners claimed to see disturbances in the sky was an elaborate hoax, or her listeners made the sightings up because they wanted to believe because sometimes, fantasy was easier to get behind than real life."

The romance element, too, is subject to change as Indy makes discoveries about Sawyer that lead her to question his role and purpose in influencing her life.

Young adults who choose True North for its sci-fi or romance elements won't be disappointed, but they receive so much more. The intrigue, action, characterization, and various interpersonal and bigger picture dilemmas make for a thoroughly engrossing story that takes many unexpected twists and turns.

Libraries who include it in YA sections should find it a popular choice, especially recommended for teens that look for unique representations of love and aliens.

Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween
Fred Gracely
Bisket Press, LLC
9798986136400 $1.99 Kindle

Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a whimsical young adult horror fantasy that tells of 13-year-old loner Goff, who has endured a series of failed foster homes. His latest placement, in the town of Spraksville (which holds a history of witchcraft), seems like just another way station of bullying and isolation until a gargoyle begins to speak to him.

A series of revelations evolves about his unexpected family history, his hidden abilities, and his possible future. With knowledge comes power. Responsibility also comes with his newfound connections, because Goff may be the only one able to calm the storm of supernatural adversity which is coming.

Being a pragmatic teen, Goff may have been overly concerned with facts and not concerned enough about threatening signs: "Goff shook it off, not the type to believe in whispering trees or any other sort of hocus pocus. He was here to do research, and that was just a statue, and the trees were just plants, big plants, very big plants, but nothing more."

From his identity to his abilities and his logical view of his world and place in it, Goff finds all his foundations shaken including his status as a loner, which requires him to work with some odd fellows indeed to stave off disaster.

Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a tense supernatural thriller that teens will find compelling and hard to put down.

Fred Gracely builds a story based as much on the nature of personal transformation as it does on the possibilities of forces that lock down the adults in his town and place Goff in the role of being Spraksville and humanity's only salvation.

"Something was wrong about this place...very wrong."

Goff's ability to "feel like a warrior for the first time in his life" will resonate with those who have played victim to bullying and have yet to come into their strengths.

Young adults will find much to like in Goff's character: like Harry Potter, he moves from being an underdog and victim to a role in which he identifies and makes the most of his strengths, developing new friends (and enemies) in the process.

Young adults who choose Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween for its excellent magical intrigue will find more simmering in its cauldron of possibilities, and will enjoy reading about a character who rises above his teachings and circumstances to not just accept new possibilities, but step into new abilities.

Libraries looking for magic-based horror and fantasy stories that hold underlying lessons for teens will find Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween an excellent acquisition.

Muir's Gambit
Michael Frost Beckner
Montrose Station Press LLC
9798985597417, $28.00

Muir's Gambit is influenced by real-life events, but crafts a fictional thriller revolving around two main characters: CIA spy Nathan Muir and CIA lawyer Russell Aiken, who is determined to exact a confession of murder from Muir for the assassination of CIA hero Charlie March.

The problem is that both are trained spies who sport equally strong backgrounds and savvy in investigating and playing dangerous games.

The story which evolves excels in a chess-like back-and-forth atmosphere, where equally powerful operatives exhibit strong powers of investigation and resistance.

Standing between them is Tom Bishop. And this is where the fun really begins.

Chess fans will especially appreciate the references to the game, the strategy that evolves, and the movements of the players as they navigate world affairs and internal conflicts with the knowledge that "habits kill."

Powerful insights evolve during the course of these confrontations that belay any expectation that this spy story will be the usual singular world domination focus. Indeed, these hard-hitting insights are just as powerfully depicted as the action that swirls around them: "Maybe I m too wasted at this second as the stewardess oh yeah, flight attendant reluctantly gives me another Johnnie-boy I unscrew and shoot. Maybe I am and I m wrong, but he wanted me hammered to join him at his level, and at his level I ve distilled this: every time he s worded phrases to hit me below the belt, I think it s always been a decoy to protect his most vulnerable side. The side that tells the truth."

Michael Frost Beckner plays out these interpersonal games on the wider arena of world conflict, neatly dovetailing first-person observations for maximum impact: "The Israelis taking tanks into Lebanon. Palestinian settlements overrun. Bulldozed from God s planet, and Muir, having flapped butterfly wings in New York, had I become party to this killing? How could that be? How could Muir have anything to do with this Middle Eastern war? Muir was Berlin. Europe. Bishop: new posting to Moscow."

The world-hopping politics which dictate the CIA's movements and responses are every bit as realistically portrayed as the relationships between players who find themselves in a quagmire of conflict, both internally and externally.

It's rare, in the thriller genre, to find such an ongoing and neat juxtaposition of interests and vying forces. Too often, the plot rests firmly on outside influences and less on the psychological profiles and games of those who seemingly are on the same side, but in actuality are contenders with different goals, in different ways.

Gritty observations also include social and cultural references readers might also find surprising in the genre, lending to the story's reality-based times and place: "Muir leads me down a sole-sucking mud path to introduce me to some girlfriend, Björk. I ve never heard of this Björk. Muir said she's been on Saturday Night Live. Excuse me, but I m an SNL expert. If she s not Victoria Jackson, It s Pat, or Ellen Cleghorne, Muir is mistaken. Obviously, one of Muir s stupid jokes. Maybe Björk s one of these obnoxious birds some kind of marsh heron or something gawk-legged he wants to show me what the fuck?"

As Muir's Gambit evolves, it proves a far deeper inspection of a spy's world than most, creating a powerful story that also includes cultural references to icons that some will catch in delightful manners, such as a wife named Jewel.

Even a staid investigator find himself questioning his own objectives: "I was legally assuring, illegally, that the one man who could save him would have no power to do it...what have I done?"

The result is filled with surprises. Isn't that the mark of an exceptional genre read its ability to surprise and delight even the most seasoned follower?

Libraries seeking standouts in spy literature and cat-and-mouse suspense will relish Muir's Gambit, which succeeds on so many levels that its course is not only unpredictable, but thoroughly delightful.

Cemetery Reflections
Jane Hopkins
Headstone Press
9788985029406 $44.95

Cemetery Reflections belongs in any arts or history collection strong in photography or monument records. It provides a powerful visual history of three centuries of American graveyards, pairing black and white and color images with literary reflections (both poetry and prose) which come from philosophical and psychological writing.

Readers interested in the psychology of grief, the literary expression of loss, and the reflections of graveyards as places that both inspire and give pause for thought will find these images and written words capture the longstanding traditions of death, burial, and mourning in America.

The delicate art of mourning and presentation of epitaphs and tributes to the deceased and living alike make for a powerful presentation that should ideally transcend arts audiences to also reach circles of survivors struggling with grief.

These readers receive an evocative mix of insights on all kinds of attitudes towards death, and will relish the dual impact of photos and language surrounding it.

American history to arts and psychology libraries will all appreciate this diverse gathering of headstones and the stories they tell, and will find the collection lends to literary and philosophical insights and discussions.

Ideally, book club discussion groups on grief and surviving will use it to bring to light the emotions that surround death, exploring the artistic and emotional draw Cemetery Reflections explores and represents.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Shadow: A Thriller
James Patterson and Brian Sitts
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538703946, $9.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

"The Shadow" is the first time to my knowledge that James Patterson has ever entered the world of another well-established character. Many authors works become so popular publishers find other authors to continue them like Ian Fleming's James Bond, Robert B. Parkers Spenser, Jesse Stone are two other examples. The newly hired authors try very much to keep the feel of the characters they been recruited to continue "The Shadow" does none of those. In fact, the very essence of the popular creation by Walter B. Gibson who wrote the works as Maxwell Grant are totally ignored. To even call this The Shadow is a travesty. Because I have read many of the Grant novels through the years, I was expecting something very different. A newer generation readers may be pleased with "The Shadow: A Thriller" because they are not aware of the original Hopefully if the two writers continue The Shadow as a series, they will go back to what made the character so much fun to read. All in all, "The Shadow: A Thriller" was a major disappointment.

The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television
Martin Grams Jr.
Bear Manor Media
9780982531105, $44.95 pbk / $44.95 Kindle

There is a very long history of this crime fighter that is detailed by author Martin Grams in "The Green Hornet: A History of Radi, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television" The Hornet has so many types of media that it has been through so many years. Grams takes readers through each version telling everything there is to know about it all. "The Green Hornet: A History of Radio. Motion Pictures, Comics and Television is the bible for any fan of the Green Hornet to learn more about one of their favorite enemies of criminals

The Invaders A Quinn Martin TV Series
James Rosin
The American Road Company
97980972868464, $15.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

For the first time the complete Invaders series is available on DVD. "The Invaders A Quinn Martin TV Series" is the perfect guide to viewing pleasure of this unique show that was only two seasons. Rosin tells about other hit series like The Fugitive, The Streets of San Francisco, and other Quinn Martin productions. Of them all, The Invaders was the most distinctive, because it was the only excursion into science fiction by the studio. There were some common things too that Rosin also goes into like the many guest stars who graced each episode while there are episode guides and a lot of behind-the-scenes info that is interesting. A perfect example is how ABC network executives changed the focus of David Vincent's war with the aliens midway in the second season. "The Invaders A Quinn Martin TV Series" is the perfect resource to include when you want to binge watch this classic Quinn Martin production.

The Time Tunnel A History Of The Television Program
Martin Grams Jr.
Bear Manor Media
97981593932862, $34.95 pbk / $19.00 Kindle

Though the series The Time Tunnel only lasted a season there are millions of us who still enjoy it even more with all the choices we have that include streaming channels, old show ones on cable and blu ray or DVD. To make the viewing more pleasurable "The Time Tunnel A History Of The Television Program" is highly recommended. The author known for his very detailed titles on old television and radio programs once again masterfully tells many ins and outs of this fun series. He reveals Time Tunnel was green lighted for a second season but later canceled by ABC, other Irwin Allen shows, behind the scenes stories of the actors and production, episode guides, episodes that might have been as well as bloopers in each show. "The Time Tunnel A History Of The Television Program" for any fan of the short-lived series know more intimate details of the Irwin Allen classic science fiction universe

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century A TV Companion
Patrick Jankiewicz, author
Foreword by Erin Gray
Bear Manor Media
9781593931711, $29.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

Erin Gray who played Willma Deering in her Foreword tells how this role helped clear the way for other women to play strong lead characters. Jankiewicz picks up from Gray to reveal many new untold behind the scenes stories that makes viewing the Buck Rogers TV show so much more fun to watch. There are also episode guides, cast and guest bios, as well as never before seen pictures to scrutinize before sitting down to watch an episode. "Buck Rogers In The 25th Century A TV Companion" is the perfect resource to enjoy even more than ever before for viewing on DVD, Blu Ray, streaming services, or networks like Me TV.

Emergency! Binge Guide to the TV Series
Greg Enslen
Independently Published
9798718450576, $19.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"Emergency! Binge Guide to the TV Series" is the best study of the popular Jack Webb series ever done. Enslen goes further into the classic show to talk about stars and guest stars, episode guides, little known facts as well how real some of the things the characters do are real everyday practices for emergency responders all around the country. "Emergency! Binge Guide to the TV Series is for any fan of the show.

Top Gun Days
Dave "Bio" Baranek
Skyhorse Publishing
9781620871034, $16.95 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

"Top Gun Days" introduces readers to author Dave "Bio" Baranek's world as a veteran fighter pilot and instructor at one of the most famous combat training facilities in the world. Fans of the "Top Gun" movie will enjoy how Baranek worked with the video teams behind the scenes to make the classic memorable film. Baranek also conveys the feel of actually flying the incredible air craft as a portion of our air defense system. "Top Guy Days" is a revealing look at a world few of us get to

Climate Change Captives 2035 And Project Save
Carolyn Wilhelm
The Owl Factory
9780999776681, $7.75 pbk / $3.99 Kindle unlimited

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

Little Timmy Turtle and his First Day of School
Written by Lauren Hanson
Illustrated and designed by Fx and Color Studio
Independently Published
9781736127712, $11.99 / $3.99 Kindle unlimited

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

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

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

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Engaging Museums: Rhetorical Education and Social Justice
Lauren E. Obermark
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809338504, $25.99, PB, 196pp

Synopsis: Museums offer an opportunity to re-envision rhetorical education through their address of hard, discomforting histories that challenge visitors to confront traumatic events and work toward a better future. While both museum studies and rhetoric center the audience in their scholarship and practices, with the publication of "Engaging Museums: Rhetorical Education and Social Justice", Professor Lauren E. Obermark engages the reader across and between these disciplines, allowing for a fuller theorization and enactment of rhetorical education's connections to social justice.

"Engaging Museums" works to fill gaps between the fields of rhetoric and social justice by going beyond classrooms to sites of public memory represented in museums as it presents three distinct, diverse case studies of recently established historical museums taking on the rhetorically complex tasks of representing traumatic events: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the National World War I Museum, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Through rhetorical and comparative analysis of data collected from the museums and intersectional transdisciplinary frameworks, each chapter theorizes aspects of rhetoric (namely identification, collectivity, and memory) bringing rhetorical theory more firmly into current conversations surrounding civic engagement and social justice.

Professor Obermark's deft weaving of voices and perspectives concludes with a critical focus on how memory may serve as a generative pedagogical topos for both public rhetoric and university-based rhetoric and writing classrooms. "Engaging Museums" helps scholars, students, and teachers bring what museums do (difficult, complicated pedagogical work representing hard history) back inside the classroom and further into our civic discourse.

Critique: Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of Figures, four pages of Notes, a fourteen page bibliography of Works Cited, and a seven page Index, "Engaging Museums: Rhetorical Education and Social Justice" is a seminal work of extraordinary scholarship and is especially recommended for community, college, and university library Social Justice, Museum/Library Science collections, and supplemental curriculum studies lists for Rhetoric and Fiction Writing. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Engaging Museums: Rhetorical Education and Social Justice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.69).

Editorial Note: Lauren E. Obermark is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, co-editor of The Rhetoric of Participation: Interrogating Commonplaces in and beyond the Classroom. She has also published on rhetoric, pedagogy, social justice, and public memory in Rhetoric Review, College English, and Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning. Professor Obermark has a dedicated website at

The Magic of Mushrooms
Sandra Lawrence
Welbeck Publishing
9781787399068, $16.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: At the centre of countless superstitions, folkloric tales and magical beliefs, as well as appearing in recipes and medicines both traditional and modern, mushrooms have incredible powers. Featuring images of over 100 fascinating species, sourced from the archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens - Kew, "The Magic of Mushrooms: Fungi in Folklore, Superstition and Traditional Medicine" by Sandra Lawrence shows that from saving lives to expanding the mind, the potential of these fascinating organisms should not be underestimated.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated in color throughout, "The Magic of Mushrooms: Fungi in Folklore, Superstition and Traditional Medicine" is an inherently fascinating, impressive informative, exceptionally well organized and presented study on the history and role of all manner of mushrooms. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in the science and folklore of mushrooms, "The Magic of Mushrooms: Fungi in Folklore, Superstition and Traditional Medicine" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Gardening & Horticultural collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Magic of Mushrooms: Fungi in Folklore, Superstition and Traditional Medicine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Journalist and author Sandra Lawrence writes for the Evening Standard, Guardian, Financial Times, Times, and the English Garden. She is the London columnist for British Heritage magazine and is on the Q&A panel of experts for History Revealed magazine. She has a dedicated website at

Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany
Kyle Tackwell Ball
She Writes Press
9781647424725, $19.95, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: When Kyle Tackwell Ball's search for a quaint country home near Florence, Italy, in move-in condition somehow led to the purchase of an abandoned church in a small borgo near Greve-in-Chianti called Le Convertoie, she ended up with much more than a project to overcome her newly contracted "empty nest syndrome".

Ball soon found herself starring in a "Stones and Bones Classic"; the ruin she'd purchased would require years of renovation and an endless amount of money before it would become habitable.

But her journey had unexpected rewards, too: she reconnected with some wonderful friends, made new ones, learned the language of her newly adopted home country, and became experienced in the Italian knack of getting around the system.

Most importantly, she learned to appreciate Italian culture, food and wine, and how rewarding it is to give new life to a beautiful old building. Ball's renovation was featured in the March 2010 "Before & After" issue of Architectural Digest, beautifully documented by Kim Sargent of Sargent Architectural Photography.

Critique: A fascinating combination of memoir, architecture, and commentary on Italian culture and cuisine, "Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany" an absorbing, entertaining, humorous, insightful, and informative read from first page to last. All the more impressive when considering that "Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany" is author Kyle Ball's first published book, this exceptionally well written, organized, presented, and personally extraordinary account is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99) and in a paperback edition (9781647420789, $14.95).

Editorial Note: A University of Florida graduate with a BS in Sociology, Kyle Tackwell Ball worked as a court reporter in Atlanta in the early '80s before moving overseas with her family, first to London and then to Brussels. When she relocated to Vero Beach, Florida, after seven years as an expatriate, she began a career in public relations as a consultant for Moulton Media Relations. She holds an APR (Accredited in Public Relations) designation from the Florida Public Relations Association and formerly served as the organization's Treasure Coast Chapter president. She was President of Kyle Ball & Associates, a PR firm specializing in real estate, interior design, and architectural media relations and marketing, before turning to full-time renovation in Italy. She has a dedicated website at

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Cognitive Electronic Warfare
Karen Zita Haigh, author
Julia Andrusenko, author
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630818111, $149.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An Artificial Intelligence Approach ", co-authors Karen Zita Haigh and Julia Andrusenko provide comprehensive overview of how cognitive systems and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in electronic warfare (EW).

Readers will learn how EW systems respond more quickly and effectively to battlefield conditions where sophisticated radars and spectrum congestion put a high priority on EW systems that can characterize and classify novel waveforms, discern intent, and devise and test countermeasures.

Specific techniques are covered for optimizing a cognitive EW system as well as evaluating its ability to learn new information in real time.

"Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An Artificial Intelligence Approach" presents AI for electronic support (ES), including characterization, classification, patterns of life, and intent recognition. Optimization techniques, including temporal tradeoffs and distributed optimization challenges are also discussed.

The issues concerning real-time in-mission machine learning and suggests some approaches to address this important challenge are presented and described. "Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An Artificial Intelligence Approach" also covers electronic battle management, data management, and knowledge sharing. Evaluation approaches, including how to show that a machine learning system can learn how to handle novel environments, are also discussed.

Written by experts with first-hand experience in AI-based EW, "Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An Artificial Intelligence Approach" is the first study on in-mission real-time learning and optimization.

Critique: Of special and particular interest to readers with an interest in Radar Technology, Electronic Sensors, Military Sciences, and the development of Artificial Intelligence, "Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An Artificial Intelligence Approach" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and academic library AI collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Dr. Karen Zita Haigh is a recognized expert in cognitive techniques for physically-embodied systems. She has worked in a wide variety of physically-embodied complex systems, including RF networks, smart homes, cyber security, jet engines, oil refineries, and space systems (Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station). She received her PhD in Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence and Robotics) from Carnegie Mellon University. She has a dedicated online web page at

Editorial Note #2: Julia Andrusenko received B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering in 2002 from Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She currently works as a communications engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. Her recent work focuses on the following areas: ground-to-ground RF propagation prediction, military satellite communications, wireless networking, communications vulnerability, and MIMO technology.

Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century
David Caute
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781839762451, $34.95, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: In the popular imagination MI5, or the Security Service, is know chiefly as the branch of the British state responsible for chasing down those who pose a threat to the country's national security ranging from Nazi fifth columnists during the Second World War, to Soviet spies during the Cold War, and today's domestic extremists.

Yet, aided by the release of official documents to the National Archives, David Caute argues in this radical and revelatory history of the Security Service in the twentieth century, suspicion often fell on those who posed no threat to national security. Instead, this 'other history' of MI5, ignored in official accounts, was often as not fueled by the political prejudices of MI5's personnel, and involved a huge program of surveillance against anyone who dared question the status quo.

With the publication of "Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century" Caute, (who is a prominent historian and expert on the history of the Cold War), tells the story of the massive state operation to track the activities of a range of journalists, academics, scientists, filmmakers, writers and others who, during the twentieth century, the Security Service perceived as a threat to the national interest.

Those who were tracked include such prominent figures as Kingsley Amis, George Orwell, Doris Lessing, John Berger, Benjamin Britten, Eric Hobsbawm, Michael Foot, Harriet Harman, and others.

Critique: A truly revelatory expose of one of Britain's security department made famous to an American readership in James Bond movies and Ian Fleming spy novels, "Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century" is informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of 'Notes on Sources', a List of Abbreviations, a four page Bibliography, seventeen pages of Notes, and a seventeen page Index. An exceptional and seminal work of impeccable scholarship and exhaustive research, "Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library British Espionage and Political Privacy/Surveillance 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 "Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: David Caute, is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Historical Society. His recent books include Isaac and Isaiah: The Covert Punishment of a Cold War Heretic; Politics and the Novel During the Cold War; and The Dancer Defects. He has an online Oxford Reference web page at

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

On the Himalayan Trail
Romy Gill
Hardie Grant Books
c/o Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781784884406, $42.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh", Indian food writer and chef, Romy Gill, tells the story of Kashmir and Ladakh's unique and tantalizing cuisine sharing over 80 extraordinary recipes that can be recreated in your own home kitchen.

With everything from Shammi Kebabs (minced lamb patties) to Wagen Pakora (deep fried aubergine in gram flour) for Nashta (starters) succulent meat curries like the Kashmiri Rogan Josh or Gustaba (lamb meatballs cooked in a yoghurt gravy); to aromatic vegetable dishes such as the Kanguch yakhni (morels cooked in spicy gravy): these recipes shines a light on the magnificent, little-known cuisine of Kashmir and Leh, celebrating its land, its ingredients and its heritage.

Kashmiri cuisine is one of the most delectable cuisines in India. Heavily influenced by Mughal, Persian, Afghan and Central Asian styles of cooking, it offers up a diverse range of dishes, displaying and reveling in a fusion of flavors and influences. Increasingly difficult to access due to the political uncertainty in the region, it's more important than ever to share and preserve Kashmir's secrets and traditional methods of cooking.

Critique: Impressively and profusely illustrated throughout with the color photography of Poras Chaudhary and Matt Russell, "On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh" is an exceptional and comprehensive compendium of authentic recipes that range from Sheekh Kebab (Skewered Lamb Kebabs); Haakh Te Nadir (Spinach with Lotus Root); Kokur Yakhni (Chicken Cooed in a Yoghurt nd Saffron Gravy); and Makai Tchot (Maize Flour Flatbread); to Momos (Dumplings); Ruangan Chaman (Paneer in Tomato Gravy); Aal Posh (Spicy Pumpkin); and Gaad Te Tamatar (Fish in Tomato Gravy). While very highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Ethnic Cookbook collections, it should be noted for kitchen cooks and aspiring chefs that "On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Chef Romy Gill MBE is a British/Indian chef, food/travel writer and broadcaster based in the south-west of England. She was the owner and head chef at Romy's Kitchen. In 2016 she was appointed an MBE in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours list. Romy is one of the regular and much-loved chefs on BBC1's Ready Steady Cook and has appeared on many other TV programmes, including Sunday Brunch, BBC's The One Show, Country Life, Celebrity MasterChef, The Hairy Bikers' Comfort Food, Food Network and James Martin's Saturday Morning. Romy is also a regular on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme. She has also become a regular on Channel 4's Packed Lunch. Romy writes regularly for The Sunday Times, BBC Food and the Telegraph.

Romy regularly contributes to national and international publications including The NewYork Times. She travels across the UK and abroad to food demos and conferences. Romy was recently invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation in New York. She also has a dedicated website at

Chasing Zebras: A Memoir of Genetics, Mental Health and Writing
Margaret Nowaczyk
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd.
9781989496411, $19.00, PB, 300pp

Synopsis: When Margaret Nowaczyk immigrated to Canada with her family from Poland she was determined to be Canadian, whatever that meant, and she was equally determined to be a doctor.

Arriving as a teen with an English vocabulary deeply influenced by the few English books she had, including Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil, Margaret made her way through medical school at the University of Toronto, followed by residencies at Toronto's SickKids until she settled in at McMaster University Hospital as a clinical geneticist.

From leaving Communist Poland to enduring the demands of medical school, through living with a long undiagnosed mental illness to discovering the fascinating field of genetics, plunging into the pressures of prenatal diagnosis and finally finding the tools of writing and of narrative medicine, Margaret shares a journey that is both inspiring and harrowing.

"Chasing Zebras: A Memoir of Genetics, Mental Health and Writing" is a deeply personal story of constant effort, of growth, of tragedy and of triumph, and most of all, of the importance of openness. In the end, Dr. Nowaczyk invites us all to see that "life is precious and fragile and wondrous and full of mistakes" -- And to keep trying!

Critique: An inherently fascinating and compelling memoir, "Chasing Zebras: A Memoir of Genetics, Mental Health and Writing" by Margaret Nowaczyk is impressively well written and ultimately inspiring read -- making it especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary Biography & Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Born in Poland, Margaret Nowaczyk is a pediatric clinical geneticist and a professor at McMaster University and DeGroote School of Medicine. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Canadian, Polish and American literary magazines and anthologies. She has a dedicated website at

Gender, Diversity and Innovation: Concepts, Policies and Practice
Beldina Owalla, editor
Tim Vorley, editor
Helen Lawton Smith, editor
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781800377455, $140.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of academicians Beldina Owalla, Tim Vorley, and Helen Lawton Smith, "Gender, Diversity and Innovation: Concepts, Policies and Practice" presents fascinating new insights on gender and innovation with a central focus on the experiences of women innovators, exploring different geographic and institutional contexts through a series of in-depth case studies. It investigates how intersecting characteristics such as age, race and ethnicity as well as broader contextual and institutional factors enable and constrain the innovation activities and ambitions of women.

Drawing on different theoretical perspectives, expert contributors interrogate questions of gender and innovation to examine the multiple factors influencing women innovators in the contemporary world. "Gender, Diversity and Innovation" also engages with how policies can support diversity and inclusion within innovation, an area that has historically been highly gendered. Further to this, it recommends actions to take to support the development of inclusive practices, and identifies directions for future research.

Exploring the diversity of gender and innovation as a concept as well as in practice, "Gender, Diversity and Innovation" will be a stimulating resource for scholars, educators and students who wish to gain an overview of the topic. Policy makers and practitioners will find the insights on how policies and initiatives can achieve great equality and diversity informative and illuminating.

Critique: Comprised of an informative Introduction (Promoting Inclusive Innovation) and an Afterword, a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as thirteen informative and impressively presented articles by specialists in the subjects of diversity and innovation policies, initiatives and ecosystems, "Gender, Diversity and Innovation: Concepts, Policies and Practice" is a seminal and groundbreaking volume of original and impeccable scholarship that is highly recommended as an essential and core addition to personal, professional, college and university library Gender Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.

Editorial Note: Beldina Owalla is a Research Fellow, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Portsmouth. Tim Vorley is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean, Oxford Brookes Business School, Oxford Brookes University. Helen Lawton Smith is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Director of the Centre for Innovation Management Research, Birkbeck University of London, UK

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It
M. Nolan Gray
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642832549, $30.00, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: What if scrapping one flawed policy could bring US cities closer to addressing debilitating housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, persistent racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development?

With the publication of "Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It", the message of M. Nolan Gray is that it is time for America to move beyond zoning. With lively explanations and illustrative stories, Gray shows why zoning abolition is a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.

The arbitrary lines of zoning maps across the country have come to dictate where Americans may live and work, forcing cities into a pattern of growth that is segregated and sprawling.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. Reform is in the air, with cities and states across the country critically reevaluating zoning. In cities as diverse as Minneapolis, Fayetteville, and Hartford, the key pillars of zoning are under fire, with apartment bans being scrapped, minimum lot sizes dropping, and off-street parking requirements disappearing altogether. Some American cities (including Houston, America's fourth-largest city) already make land-use planning work without zoning.

In "Arbitrary Lines", Gray lays the groundwork for this ambitious cause by clearing up common confusions and myths about how American cities regulate growth and examining the major contemporary critiques of zoning. Gray also sets out some of the efforts currently underway to reform zoning and charts how land-use regulation might work in the post-zoning American city.

Despite mounting interest, no single book has pulled these threads together for a popular audience. In "Arbitrary Lines", Gray fills this gap by showing how zoning has failed to address even our most basic concerns about urban growth over the past century, and how we can think about a new way of planning a more affordable, prosperous, equitable, and sustainable American city.

Critique: A seminal critique of one of our country's most pressing domestic problems with respect to affordable housing and the radically increasing numbers of homeless in our towns and cities, "Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It" will have a very special value and appeal to readers with an interest in urban and land use planning and the sociology of contemporary urban areas. Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of a four page bibliography of Recommended Reading, thirty-two pages of Notes, and an eight page Index, "Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It" is recommended as an essential addition to professional, governmental, community, and academic library Urban Planning collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.59).

Editorial Note: M. Nolan Gray is a professional city planner and an expert in urban land-use regulation. He is currently completing a Ph.D. in urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gray previously worked on the front lines of zoning as a planner in New York City. He now serves as an Affiliated Scholar with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he advises state and local policymakers on land-use policy. Gray is a contributor to Market Urbanism and a widely published author, with work appearing in outlets such as The Atlantic, Bloomberg Citylab, and The Guardian. He has a dedicated web page at

How To Make The Best Coffee
James Hoffmann
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784727246, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: We all expect to be able to buy an excellent cup of coffee from the many brilliant coffee shops available. But what about the coffee we make at home? Shouldn't that be just as good?

James Hoffmann is an entrepreneur with an international reputation on the subject of coffee, combining his guru-level knowledge with a wonderful ability to communicate it. James runs Square Mile Coffee, as well as creating extremely informative, and popular, coffee and equipment reviews for his YouTube and Instagram channels.

With the publication of "How To Make The Best Coffee At Home", he demonstrates everything you need to know to make consistently excellent coffee at home, including: what equipment is worth buying, and what isn't; how to grind coffee; the basics of brewing for all major equipment (cafetiere, aeropress, stovetop etc); understanding coffee drinks, from the cortado to latte; the perfect espresso; and taking it to the next level - home roasting.

Critique: Beautifully, profusely, and informatively illustrated throughout in full color, "How To Make The Best Coffee At Home" is an exceptionally 'user friendly' combination of instructional guide and 'how to' manual for brewing a variety of delicious coffees at home which would equal (or even excel) anything offered in an ordinary restuarant or one of those boutique coffee shops. From how to buy great coffee, to how to taste coffee, to iced coffees, to the making of a great espresso, "How To Make The Best Coffee At Home" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a unique and enduringly appreciated addition to personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated DIY coffee fans that "How To Make The Best Coffee At Home" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: James Hoffmann is the managing director of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, a multi-award winning coffee roasting company based in East London. He is also the World Barista Champion 2007, having won the UK Barista competition in both 2006 and 2007. He writes a popular blog,, about coffee and the coffee business. The World Atlas of Coffee was his first book.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Uncertainty: Experiments in Making from the Chinese Countryside
John Lin, author
Olivier Ottevaere, author
ORO Editions
31 Commerical Blvd., Suite F, Novato, CA 94949
9781954081185, $34.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: The experiments presented with the publication of "Experiments in Making from the Chinese Countryside" are examples taken from a series of design and build projects conducted from the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong over the past 10 years.

They are remarkable in their diffuse explorations and situations. Some were urgent post-earthquake reconstructions, often adapting to extreme topographies or taking place in the midst of major urbanizing transformations, whereas other experiments occurred in forgotten villages with left-behind craftspeople and their disappearing building cultures.

These forays and what can be best described as adventures in building, left us with varied and novel (sometimes failed) experiments with structure and program. But they are presented here for the trait they have in common: an exploration of the limits of material, geometry, construction methods, and even historical context.

The diversity manifested in this collection of projects is a direct reflection of the incredible diversity of climates, locations, and conditions that underlie the ongoing Chinese urbanization experiment. The focus here is not on the what but the how, as each project engages with its own set of limiting factors or un-ideal conditions.

They are stories of design, overcoming and even embracing adverse situations in order to discover some hidden advantage. Each individual chapter explores a different attempt to revert seemingly challenging limitations (particularly those which the architect cannot exert control over) and turn these into novel building approaches.

As often occurs for architects working in a foreign landscape, the differences in language and culture have proven to be a source of constant miscommunication and surprising discovery. The lack of a common spoken language (these remote areas speak their own dialects) has placed an emphasis on drawing as another means of communication. Through drawing we have explored a means of design and a means of building. Therefore, "Experiments in Making from the Chinese Countryside" is also a study about ways of drawing that represent ways of control and, inversely perhaps, what not to control.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with an interview with political economist Rainer Hehl ( and a contribution by Donn Holohan (whose work is focused on the potentials of emerging technology not only as it relates to the practice of architecture, but also to the question social and environmental sustainability), "Experiments in Making from the Chinese Countryside" is informatively and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this invaluable and ground-breaking volume is of particular interest to students and professionals with an interest in Vernacular Architecture, Chinese Regional Architecture, and Urban Land Development & Usage Planning.

Editorial Note #1: John Lin is an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong and the director of Rural Urban Framework (RUF), a research and design platform dedicated to developing sustainable prototypes for rapidly urbanizing areas. The approach combines research into large scale processes of urbanization and the integration of local construction practices with contemporary technology in built projects. He has a personal/professional web page at

Editorial Note #2: Olivier Ottevaere is an Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Hong Kong. He is the director of Double (o) studio, an architecture practice focusing on the design integration of active structural principles, properties of materials, and procedures of construction. He has a web page at

Occupation : Boundary - Art, Architecture, and Culture at the Water
Cathy Simon, et al.
ORO Editions
31 Commerical Blvd., Suite F, Novato, CA 94949
9781943532971, $40.00, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: "Occupation : Boundary - Art, Architecture, and Culture at the Water" from ORO Editions examines the social, political, and cultural factors that have and continue to influence the evolution of the urban waterfront as seen through production created from art and design practices. Reaching beyond the disciplines of architecture and urban design,

"Occupation : Boundary" distills the dual roles art and culture have played in relation to the urban waterfront, as mediums that have recorded and instigated change at the threshold between the city and the sea. At the moment in time that demands innovative approaches to the transformation of urban waterfronts, and strategies to foster of resilient boundaries, architect Cathy Simon recounts her career building at and around the water's edge and in service of the public realm.

In so doing, the work of contemporary architects is presented, while the origins and principles of a guiding design philosophy are located in meditations on art and observations on coastal cities around the world.

The port cities of New York and San Francisco emerge as case studies that structure the reflections and mediate a narrative that is at once a professional and personal memoir, richly illustrated with images and drawings.

Comprising three parts, the first two corresponding parts of "Occupation : Boundary" draw connections between the past and present by tracing the rise and fall of urban, industrial ports and providing context (in the forms of textual and visual media) for their recent transformations. Such reinterpretations, achieved via design, often serve the public through environmentally conscious strategies realized through inventive approaches to cultural and recreational programs.

The work of visual artists, both historical and contemporary, appears alongside architecture, poetry, and literary references that illustrate and draw connections between each of these sections.

The third section features select architectural work by the author, framed by critic John King and the architect and urbanist Justine Shapiro-Kline. Introduced with a foreword by the prominent landscape architect Laurie Olin, "Occupation : Boundary" draws on artistic and cultural intuitions and the experience of an architect whose practice negotiates the boundary between urban contexts and the bodies of water that sustain them.

Together, the instincts, reflections, and architectural production collected here evidence the role of art and design in the creation of an equitable and inviting public realm.

Critique: Profusely and informative illustrated in full color, "Occupation : Boundary - Art, Architecture, and Culture at the Water" features and thought-provokingly instructive essays by Laurie Olin, John King, and Justina Shapiro-Kline. With drawings by Barbara Miglietti and deftly edited by Ashley Simone, "Occupation : Boundary - Art, Architecture, and Culture at the Water" is unreservedly recommended as an addition to personal, professional, and academic library Public Art, Urban & Land Use Planning, and Architectural Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note #1: Cathy Simon is an architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects whose practice has spanned five decades, focusing on transformative design at all scales.

Editorial Note #2: Ashley Simone is the editor of A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form (Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers, 2015), Absurd Thinking Between Art and Design (Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers, 2017), Two Journeys (Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers, 2018), Frank Gehry Catalogue Raisonne, vol. 1. 1954 - 1978 (Paris: Cahiers d'Art, 2020), and a co-editor of In Search of African American Space (Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers, 2020).

Editorial Note #3: Carrie Eastman is a writer and designer who practices landscape architecture independently after having spent fifteen years working on large-scale public projects in and around New York City. She is also an editor of In Search of African American Space (Lars Muller Publishers, 2020),

Editorial Note #4: John King is the Urban Design Critic at the San Francisco Chronicle -- a post that ranges from architecture and planning to landscape architecture and the public realm of cities in all its forms.

Editorial Note #5: Laurie Olin is a distinguished teacher, author, and one of the most renowned landscape architects practicing today.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorriane's Bookshelf

Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides
Seema Desai, author
James Ballance, illustrator
The Jai Jais Ltd.,
9781916324220 $9.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 50pp

"Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides, A Kid's Guide to Navigating Their Emotions" is a handbook to help uncover inner pathways to peace through helpful practices of simple meditation, listening and learning to connect with one's own inner guides to promote peace and understanding. A helpful introduction gives instruction to kids about how to use the book, and to adults for how to encourage kids in their use of the tools taught in the book, and tips about exploring with their own inner guides.

"Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" is described as divided into three parts. The first part introduces you to your inner guides who can be helpful when encountering tough issues and the thorns of life. The second part teaches simple techniques such as meditation to connect with inner guides in time of trouble. The third part explores how to stay connected with your inner guides even during peaceful times so they are close to you when you need their help.

The Inner Guides are described or named as Curiosity, your Inner Guards, Fun, Creativity, Balance, Hope, Empathy, Strength, and Individuality. Helpful exercises include one called tapping, where you tap out your frustrations with your fingers to balance the energy in your body. Another meditation suggests the child envision himself glowing with golden inner light, saying "I bring peace, love, and kindness to those near me and far away."

Ways of helping to stay connected with your Inner Guides include keeping a gratitude journal, checking into your body, tapping the replay button, and more. Another tool is called Putting on Your Perspective Goggles.

Exercises are illustrated with charming black and white drawings of a kid seeking helpful contact with his/her Inner Guides. "Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" is a perceptive, appealing introduction to self understanding designed to appeal to kids but also relevant for adults. It is surely a helpful guide for both kids and adults, parents, teachers, and others who care about kids.

Always sensitive, never heavy handed, "Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" can be a valuable resource for kids facing challenging times or just coping with living.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Future is Fungi
Michael Lim, author
Yun Shu, author
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9781760761608, $34.95, HC, 212pp

Synopsis: A fungus (plural: fungi) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, separately from the other eukaryotic kingdoms, which by one traditional classification include Plantae, Animalia, Protozoa, and Chromista. (Wikipedia)

The kingdom of fungi has survived all five major extinction events. They sustain critical ecosystems, recycling nutrients and connecting plants across vast areas, and help to produce many staples of modern life, such as wine, chocolate, bread, detergent, and penicillin. Today, in the face of urgent ecological, societal, and spiritual crises, fungi are being engineered to grow meat alternatives, create new sources of medicine, produce sustainable biomaterials, and even expand our collective consciousness.

"The Future is Fungi: How Fungi Can Feed Us, Heal Us, Free Us and Save Our World" by Michael Lim and Yun Shu is a complete introduction to this hidden kingdom. Informed readers will explore their past, present, and potential future impact of fungi in four key areas: food, medicine, psychedelics and mental health, and environmental remediation. This is a comprehensive resource that reveals how fungi have formed the foundations of modern life.

Featuring eighteen mushroom profiles, authors Michael Lim and Yun Shu contextualize each species in history and mythology, alongside their medicinal and culinary uses. "The Future is Fungi" is easy-to-follow for the beginner, with rich, informative texts, awe-inspiring 3D digital art, and tips on how to immerse one's self in the world of fungi. It is also a manifesto for the future providing an invitation into a deeper awareness of our relationship with the natural world, each other, and ourselves.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated in full color 3kD digital art throughout, "The Future is Fungi: How Fungi Can Feed Us, Heal Us, Free Us and Save Our World" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a one page Further Reading bibliography, four pages of Notes, and a four page Index. This magnificently presented and comprehensively informative coffee-table style volume (7.8 x 0.87 x 9.84 inches, 2.03 pounds) is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Fungi collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Michael Lim's early transformational experiences with psychedelics inspired his fascination with the fungi kingdom and prompted a career change. He now dedicates his time to researching fungi, psychedelics, ecology, and anthropology. he has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Yun Shu is dedicated to the study of consciousness and uses language and culture as tools for connection and healing. Born in Shanghai, she was exposed to the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine and fungi from a young age.

The Saga of St. Jon of Holar
Margaret Cormack, translator
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866986373, $80.00, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Ably translated into English by Professor Margaret Cormack, "The Saga of St. Jon of Holar" is Volume 579 of the Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies series from ACMRS and is a translation of the version of the Saga of St. Jon of Holar that is probably closest to the first Latin vita.

It is only the second saga of an Icelandic episcopal saint to appear in a modern translation in the present century. The volume consists of two parts, the first comprising a general introduction and a translation by Margaret Cormack. The second part provides a detailed scholarly analysis of the manuscripts, contents, style, and literary connections of the saga by the late Peter Foote, one of the foremost scholars of Old Norse and Icelandic literature.

The Jons saga was written in the early thirteenth century, nearly a century after the death of its protagonist, the first bishop of the diocese of Holar in Northern Iceland. The author of the saga combined Latin learning with native folklore to produce a readable narrative that is contemporary with the earliest family and contemporary sagas.

The text comprising "The Saga of St. Jon of Holar" provides valuable insight into the religious life of ordinary Icelanders in the thirteenth century, and the introduction corrects common misconceptions about ecclesiastical history and the cult of saints in Iceland. It will be of value to scholars of medieval Icelandic literature, hagiography, and history.

Critique: Inherently fascinating and informative, "The Saga of St. Jon of Holar" will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in the lives of Christian Saints. An impressive work of meticulous scholarship, organization and presentation, "The Saga of St. Jon of Holar" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, college, and university library Scandinavian Christian History & Biography collections.

Editorial Note: Margaret Cormack is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston, SC, and Affiliate Professor in the faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland. She is also the author of "The Saints in Iceland: Their Veneration from the Conversion to 1400". There is a dedicated web page about her at

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Catastrophe in the Library (The Secret Library Cozy Mysteries Book 3)
CeeCee James
Independently published
9798520397366 $12.99, 216 pages
B08WBXVD7M $2.99 ebook

Catastrophe in the Library is a fun read but with an uneven narration. The book also has an abrupt beginning where the reader has to read nearly the whole first chapter before understanding the setting of the story.

Laura Lee has been adopted by the mansion's marmalade cat, Hank. Hank hides from workmen behind a wall in the mansion in one of the many hidden passageways. He refuses to come up but yowls to be found. When Laura Lee and her friends work their way to the cat through a portion of the unexplored secret passageway, they find a skeleton. She decides to explore how and why the skeleton was left in the passageway and discovers links to a modern-day murder and a mystery spanning generations.

Catastrophe in the Library is recommended as a light fun mystery. There are weaknesses in the story but, if you are looking for a few escapist hours, this story will work for you. Purists in the mystery genre will have more problems with the tale with its weaknesses.

All Lies ("Lies" Mystery Thriller Series Book 1)
Andrew Cunningham
B00SU4OTJ6 $2.99 ebook, 299 pages

All Lies is a fun pulpy murder mystery with amateurs. The story is a fast easy read that goes deep into the characters. At first the mystery and generational backstory seems simple but there are a few twists that will surprise the readers.

Del Honeycutt goes on a first time internet date. His date isn't what he expected. Instead of a get to know meeting, it becomes an interview about his family history. His date is murdered shortly after the date. He finds himself targeted by unknown assailants who are also looking for information and then someone tries to kill him.

Sabrina, sister to Del's murdered date, contacts him and they both try to go through their perspective family histories to find out why the murder and hopefully stop the people stalking both of them. Both Del and Sabrina's grandfathers were crooks and their fathers were not much better. What happened so many decades ago has come to a head today as the criminals who were involved with their grandparents decide that they are the key to finding the loot hidden in the past.

All Lies is an easy recommendation. The story is better written than most mysteries. The narration is so fun you have to keep forcing yourself to slow down so you can better enjoy the clues and solving of the mysteries. The characters are also well developed and fun.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

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

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