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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 12 December 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

All On One Plate
Solveig Brown, Ph.D.
Paragon House
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789211 $18.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

Synopsis: In All On One Plate, anthropologist Solveig Brown talks to mothers who candidly acknowledge their vulnerabilities as a parent and graciously share the things they do that have made parenting, relationships, work, and life a little easier. Drawing on interviews, surveys, cultural analysis, and the latest academic research, Brown's thoughtful exploration of the gamut of parenting experiences provides readers with a tremendous resource for figuring out their own solutions to issues that every parent deals with.

All On One Plate describes the diverse ways women strive to be a good mom as they balance working and parenting; negotiate the division of labor; give their children freedom while keeping them safe; manage screen time; curb entitlement; oversee their child's nutrition and exercise while helping them maintain a positive body image; promote achievement; and raise good kids. With our high expectations for mothers, it is no wonder that most women in Brown's study routinely felt pressure and guilt, and many sacrificed their sleep, exercise, or leisure time to manage everything on their plate. All On One Plate will prompt many conversations, and is relevant for all parents who have children at home.

Critique: Anthropologist Solveig Brown, Ph.D. presents All On One Plate: Cultural Expectations On American Mothers, a distillation of interviews, surveys, cultural analysis, and the latest academic research about the dilemmas that modern-day American mothers face as parents, as breadwinners, and as human beings. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, All On One Plate discusses the high amount of pressure society puts on mothers; the pros and cons of working full-time, working part-time, or being a stay-at-home mother; the challenges of keeping kids safe and raising them with good health habits; how mothers resist modern advertising's relentless promotion of materialism; and much more. Endnotes and an index round out this lucid discussion, highly recommended especially for public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that All On One Plate is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Light Will Emerge
Kaci King
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781438916514 $17.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Kaci's children have craniosynostosis, a condition where the infant skull sutures (openings) fuse early and a secondary condition, chiari malformation, caused by the growing brain pushing its way down the spinal column. With 13 surgeries between the children, the Kings are often asked how they manage daily life along with the difficult diagnoses and seemingly endless trips to the operating room. Finding help did not come easily. Kaci trusted her instincts and pushed on, focusing on the children's health and leaning on sources of strength. The conditions could be fixed once they found a doctor who knew how to help. Their continued search led to Dr. Ben Carson, Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital: an angel in disguise. The children would have suffered gravely without the treatment they so desperately needed.

As Dr. Carson states in his foreword, "In Light Will Emerge, Kaci King has provided a wonderful mechanism to gain foreknowledge of the difficulties of navigating the medical system..." There is hope even in the worst of situations, blessings when most aren't sure any exist. Life is about attitude. Kaci was taught that for every action, there is a reaction, good or bad. She shares her family's journey: how they coped; how they found their inner strength; and how not knowing what else to do, they prayed. Kaci offers a wealth of information explaining the medical conditions, websites and online support groups. Through this book, she sheds light on what helped them overcome obstacles, how they found strength during difficult times, and encourages others who may feel hopeless. Kaci shares the heartache and many blessings received throughout this journey.

Critique: Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson provides a thoughtful foreword to this heartrending and deeply inspirational testimony of one family's efforts to persevere despite the harrowing necessity of repeated surgeries to save the lives of their young children. Kaci's personal story of finding her way through a complicated, bureaucratic, and obstinate medical system for the sake of her toddlers is a "must-read" for anyone confronting a medical crisis. Readers who primarily know of Dr. Ben Carson through his political candidacy during the Republican presidential primaries will get the opportunity to learn more about him as a doctor and a passionate advocate for child patients in need. Light Will Emerge is emotionally moving, profoundly powerful, and highly recommended.

A Room in Athens: A Memoir
Frances Karlen Santamaria
Tatra Press
4 Park Trail, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520
9780989835299, $15.00, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Originally published in 1970 and now brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers, Frances Karlen Santamaria's "A Room in Athens: A Memoir" is the remarkable and candid journal of a free-spirited, young American woman abroad in Greece with her writer husband in 1964.

Inspired by the sixties' vogue for the exuberant land of Zorba and Lawrence Durrell, they seek an Aegean idyll -- but their plans threaten to go awry when she learns she is pregnant. Settling in Athens, she gives birth to a boy at the country's only natural child birth clinic which is an underground refuge ruled by a mysterious Madame Kladaki.

Afterward, as a new mother in a strange land, Frances struggles to reconcile the myth of Greece, ancient and modern, with contemporary Athens, even while their idyll recedes.

In 1974, "A Room in Athens" was excerpted in the landmark anthology 'Revelations: Diaries of Women'. This new edition, with an informative and extensive Introduction by the author's son, Josh Karlen, unlocks a little-known gem in women's memoir literature for a new generation.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Room in Athens: A Memoir" is an absorbing and compelling read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Room in Athens: A Memoir" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.69).

2017 Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner
YWAM Publishing
PO Box 55787, Seattle, WA 98155
9781576589410, $17.99, Spiral Bound, 208pp,

Synopsis: The "2017 Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner" from YWAM Publishing is a unique prayer and scheduling tool specifically designed to help Christians live an intentional, integrated life connected to God's kingdom. The "2017 Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner" is a multifaceted resource that is far more than an just an effective organizer. It is also a window through which thousands of Christians each year see God's work in the world and join him in that work through vital intercession for the nations. This 2017 edition will empower dedicated Christians to effectively pray for critical needs around the world while connecting them to the daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms of the Christian life.

Critique: 2017 Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner is extremely user-friendly, handy to keep around, and very highly recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted that the "2017 Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner" is available in four basic colors: Navy Blue (9781576589410); Burgundy (9781576589427); Green (9781576589434); and Black (9781576589441).

30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages
Randy Hemphill & Melody Hemphill
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 830711, Birmingham, AL 35283-0711
9781625915078, $9.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: "30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages" the husband and wife team of Randy and Melody Hemphill effectively collaborate to offer married couples validation for the struggles they face. Filled with honest reflections from their own marriage and near divorce, each devotion contains Scripture, questions to consider and discuss, and a glimpse into emotions couples experience, such as anger, confusion, sadness, and hopelessness, when their relationship is strained. There is hope for any troubled marriage. Husbands and wives can persevere through this season of despair and come out on the other side with hope and, by God's grace, a stronger marriage!

Critique: A potentially life changing read and part of New Hope Publishers' outstanding 'Gifts of Hope' series, and written from a decidedly Christian perspective, "30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages" is unreservedly recommended to anyone and everyone who is striving to overcome the problems and stresses that can beset any marriage. It should be noted that "30 Days of Hope for Hurting Marriages" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Tzippy the Thief
Patricia Striar Rohner
She Writes Press
9781631521539, $16.95, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: Tzippy is a wealthy widow, feisty, determined, vain and living in Florida. Her three children will be visiting for Tzippy's 80th birthday celebration and will be bringing with them the old wounds that Tzippy did more than her fair share to inflict. As her birthday approaches, the death of a close friend as well as the aches, pains and daily indignities of aging are preying on her mind. Tzippy wonders how she will be remembered?

Her relationship with her children is not good, particularly with Shari, her youngest and most screwed up. Shari is a problem drinker and still plagued by the eating disorder she's had since adolescence. She always blamed her mother for her problems and lately Tzippy has had the uncomfortable feeling Shari may be right.

On the day of the party, on edge and anxious, Tzippy decides on a shopping trip to Saks which is always her quick fix, and while there, sees a brooch she wants, but not enough to pay for it. It finds its way into her purse and as she is making her get away?unlike the other times?she is caught and hauled off to the police station.

Now that Tzippy is turning 80, there is not an infinite amount of time left. Will She be able to repair the damage that has taken a lifetime to create?

Critique: "Tzippy the Thief" clearly establishes novelist Patricia Striar Rohner as an original and gifted storyteller. A thoroughly entertaining and deftly crafted read from beginning to end, "Tzippy the Thief" is an especially recommended addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tzippy the Thief" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.49).

Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun
Homare Endo
Stone Bridge Press
1393 Solano Avenue, Suite C, Albany CA 94706
9781611720389, $16.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: Over 150,000 innocents died of starvation in Changchun, northeastern China, after the end of WW2 when Mao's army laid siege during the Chinese Civil War.

Borin in China in 1941, a Japanese girl, Homare Endo, then age seven, was trapped in Changchun with her family. After nomadic flight from city to city, Homare eventually returned to Japan and a professional career.

"Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun" is her haunting eyewitness account of survival at all costs and of unspeakable scenes of barbarity that the Chinese government today will still not acknowledge.

Critique: A chilling yet inherently fascinating and intensely personal memoir, "Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Mushroom Essences
Robert Rogers
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170455, $19.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: Robert Dale Rogers has been an herbalist for over forty years. He has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta, where he is an assistant clinical professor in family medicine. He taught plant medicine, including herbology and flower essences, at MacEwan University for ten years, and presently in the Earth Spirit Medicine Program at the Northern Star College in Edmonton. In "Mushroom Essences: Vibrational Healing from the Kingdom Fungi" he draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to provide an innovative contribution to the field of energy medicine.

As a mycologist and herbalist, Rogers offers an extensive guide to healing a range of physical, emotional, and psychological conditions with mushroom essences. Similar to flower essences, but made under a lunar cycle, mushroom essences work subtly to bring deep healing to the mind and body; they are particularly well suited for working with the "shadow" or unintegrated parts of the psyche.

"Mushroom Essences" is accessibly organized as an easy-to-use alphabetical reference, with entries that outline how to create each essence, indications for usage, and healing effects. Along the way, Rogers provides enlivening stories of his personal experience using these remedies in clinical practice.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized, and profound exploration of both the practical and mythopoetic qualities of the mushroom, "Mushroom Essences: Vibrational Healing from the Kingdom Fungi" is an essential reference and study for anyone interested in plant medicine, mycology, personal healing, or depth psychology. Beautifully illustrated throughout with full color images, "Mushroom Essences" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mushroom Essences" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces
Laura Gonzalez
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
9781443890601, 47.99 Brit. pounds, HC, 245pp,

Synopsis: What makes a work of art seductive? "Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces" by psychoanalyst Laura Gonzalez is concerned with the relational and psychodynamic aspects of the encounter between the work of the art and the viewer; one that, when seduction operates, is characterized by interplay, flow and conflict.

The first step is to define seduction, a concept that is contingent, ridden with confusion, contradictions and connotative interpretations, even in the gallery space. Any attempt at pinning it down shows that it is pervasive and operates everywhere.

To overcome this problem, "Make Me Yours" offers a subjective approach, comprised of three practices: photographic, psychoanalytic and writing.

The context of seduction here is multiform: eighteenth-century libertine novels, particularly Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the writings of the Marquis de Sade; Giacomo Casanova's memoirs; Frank Sinatra's arrest in 1938; Sigmund Freud's abandonment of the seduction theory; Soren Kierkegaard's games between Johannes and Cordelia; Karl Marx's commodity fetishism; Surrealist works; and Jacques Lacan's mysterious objet petit a, the object cause of desire.

Personal encounters with Marcel Duchamp's Etant donnes, and a bold shoe in a New York shop window also play a part in delineating seduction, together with the occasional appearances of a detective, who will provide the forensic gaze required.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces" is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. A seminal work of intellectual elegance, "Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces" is very highly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

James Foley Smathers
Privately Published
9780692649022, $15.95,

It only takes a mysterious phone call to shake a marriage; one made by a desperate stranger who advises Jackson Andrews that his wife is playing games. The anonymous call could have been dismissed as a prank were it not for the hesitant and convincing tone of the caller, who casts a seed of doubt that soon blows up into a full-fledged confrontation as Jackson investigates the truth.

Transformations isn't just about a wife's transgression, however. The sequence of events that follows from that one phone call, spreads dissension and change through Jackson's previously-stable life like ripples in a pond.

What does Jackson's experience have to do with a CEO who seeks refuge and anonymity on a little Caribbean island? Plenty; because he's a pilot who has flown into Walker's Cay and into his own drama; and he too is in flight, in more ways than one. A similar sequence of events also gives impetus to an awakening process in his life even as both struggle to protect their psyches from further blows.

A story embracing two broken marriages isn't unusual; nor is the scenario of these two individuals getting together. What is satisfyingly different here is a winding tale of subterfuge, conspiracy, clashing egos and Minnesota atmosphere that permeates a story which moves neatly between two individuals' past and present lives.

Affairs gone wrong, the revenge of jilted love, feelings of anger, regret, and dismay on all sides permeates a story that moves from U.S. soil to the Caribbean and back.

James Foley Smathers imbibes his characters with realistic characters that aren't above a certain degree of subterfuge as they both flee their lives and attempt to exert some manner of control over their changing situations. The story line reads smoothly and vividly.

There's much to like about a chronicle that holds no black-and-white or good and evil and attends to tracking the mercurial emotions of all sides that it's hard to put down, making Transformations a fine saga of evolving romance and changes which take place on more than one level.

Weighing the Truth
Christine Z. Mason
Hillrow Editions
Hardcover ISBN: 9780989795838
Paperback ISBN: 9780989795807
ePub ISBN: 9780989795814

Weighing the Truth's legal suspense story opens with Natalya Drummond and her colleague's visit to their client in San Quentin Prison as they work on his death-row appeal case.

Even in the beginning, all is not as it seems: Nat's determination to do a good job as a defense lawyer for some of the most dangerous people in prison is offset by the recognition that her job holds conundrums and special challenges that other kinds of lawyers don't face every day: "Nat was trying to figure out how they could get through the visit efficiently and spend the least possible time in the company of the pugnacious rapist-murderer they were supposed to get off of death row. None of the inmates she'd represented in the past were as vicious as Hegner, even though they'd all committed serious crimes. And this was her first visit to a death row inmate - and one who was threatening them besides. Despite Hegner's hostility, though, Nat wanted to do a good job on his case; she didn't do things half-assed. A man's life was at stake, after all."

It's this determination to not just perform a duty but do it well that lands Nat in trouble as events spiral out of control and begin to challenge her values and best intentions. From little annoyances to big issues, Nat finds that her carefully honed facade of control and efficiency is being attacked on different levels ("She took several deep breaths, reminding herself she had to act composed, unruffled. That was the way women attorneys were supposed to act, despite any stray emotion - at least from her observation of the older female lawyers she knew; they never seemed to flinch at anything that was sprung on them, however humiliating or outrageous."), to the point that her professionalism and goals begin to erode.

From how appellate lawyers handle issues of guilt and innocence and develop a "natural sense of justice" to Nat's suddenly questionable drive to be conscientious against all odds, Weighing the Truth is more than a legal thriller. It's a close inspection of morals, ethics, and values in the face of threats, gang involvement, attorney interactions, and a level of professional involvement that suddenly turns all too personal, unexpectedly placing Nat on the other side of the witness stand.

When Nat's situation leads to a series of nightmares and a brutal attack, she finds herself moving away from everything familiar and everything she's believed about life.

Fans of legal thrillers are in for a treat: where competing books are driven by legal cat-and-mouse courtroom encounters, Weighing the Truth instead provides a riveting focus on the motivations, psychology, and sometimes-conflicting special interests of the criminal defense lawyer, surveying how this can spill into and alter personal lives and choices.

Far more character-driven than most legal thrillers, Christine Z. Mason's approach will delight readers who look for more personal touches and psychological development in their legal fiction.

The Butcher's Daughter: A Memoir
Florence Grende
Madison Literary Press
9780692803615, $16.95,

The Butcher's Daughter: A Memoir is not a story of meat-cutting, but of survival on its most basic level - and of the impact of that survival on family members generations later.

Florence Grende's parents survived the Nazi invasion in the Polish woods. She grew up in a house filled with ghosts. Images of martyred relatives haunted their lives: "In my home, framed photos of dead relatives stared out from our walls. Images of the martyred many spilled over from albums and shoeboxes, apparitions rising into the ether like ghosts. I was raised with them, the slain, the lost."

Grende brings readers into this world, which opens on an immigrant ship where a child clutching a doll knows that America - and hope - lies only an ocean away. She introduces her audience to a broken world where hopes for the future are in stark and sharp contrast to a too-immediate past filled with death and struggle, and emphasizes this immediacy using stinging, biting language that fully captures despair: "I haven't discovered yet that Mameh wonders why she's still alive, still gets up each morning tasting bitterness, choking on air, while the men in her family, her brother, father, uncle are all dead. I haven't discovered yet that Mameh views her own womanhood as less than: less than men, less than intelligent, less than worthy."

But hers is also a magical place of family members healing from the anguish of their past, brought to life in passages that simultaneously affirm life and death and the importance of these connections: "Carrots, fried onions, raw eggs, pike, and carp form a milky mixture. My grandmother's kerchief covered head bends low over the wooden bowl as she chops, shapes dumplings, then, with thick fingers, drops gefilte fish into boiling water. Opening her prayer book she faces east, whispers familiar words while the big pot bubbles, steam rising, then disappearing into air. The day before, the carp swam lazy circles in our tub, its mouth a slow series of o's. Bubbe grasps the chicken by its yellow legs, holds on tight, swings it high over my head three times, reciting a blessing with each revolution. I watch its flurry of feathers spread wide, the snow white of wing. I am eight or nine, awestruck that this wild creature, appearing like an angel, is in our apartment."

Many family memoirs and memoirs of survival and struggle fall short of depicting the very nuances they seek to bring to life; but this isn't so in The Butcher's Daughter. Florence Grende's ability to lift the moments, impressions, thoughts, and passions from experience and capture them in their crystalline seconds of agony and ecstasy elevates her story above and beyond similar-sounding accounts, creating an singularly striking piece that doesn't have to hammer home its message, because every whisper is a powerhouse of passion.

"Here's how I feel it still ..." is a phrase replete in every chapter and throughout her story, running swiftly and slowly like a river of emotion that turns into a stream, then rages.

Florence Grende is a witness, safekeeping memories and dreams for herself, her family, and future generations. Come along with her on a journey that winds from a family's struggles not just to survive, but with survival's aftermath. It's a journey centered in ancient customs and rituals and modern translations and dilemmas and, under her hand, is one which evolves from being nobody's business to being everyone's business, reaching deep into closely-held memories to pluck out the gems of wisdom that keep life meaningful.

Maximum Impact Minimum Effect
A. H. Kent
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9871540372369 $TBA

How do you create a covert business that operates right under the nose of everyone?

Readers who are interested in how a innovations come to market, and particularly in how a disparate group of non-business individuals come together to form such a company and create a winning product, will find Maximum Impact Minimum Effect just the ticket, continuing the story begun in volume one, The Fine Society, where an ambitious college student on track for becoming a teacher finds herself inadvertently immersed in the technological discovery of a lifetime.

The Fine Society, Volume 2, MI, ME continues the story, alternating its focus between a wider cast of characters, how their disparate interests coalesce, and the business and development processes involved in seeing their idea become 'live' and marketable.

At times the story seems almost too smooth: barriers fall without many setbacks and serendipity plays a major part as everything needed on the road to success seems to fall neatly into place with a minimum of angst and problems. Perhaps because many of the characters do not come from business backgrounds, their naivete on the subject is evident - and often refreshing. Who says success must come only to those with degrees or decades of experience in marketing and development? Or is there another reason for the relatively smooth sailing?

The result of their efforts follow a clear path to achieving an objective that embraces the process of idea and discovery and its translation into a marketable product through a group effort, and is recommended for those who enjoy stories of innovation and development from the perspective of non-technical individuals who fall into an exciting business opportunity. All of that while still under the radar, their secret process still secure.

Homegrown: The Terror Within
Cialan Haasnic
Bournos Press
0615265391, $17.95,

It's hard to believe that a decade after 9/11, the action and realistic challenges presented in the thriller Homegrown: The Terror Within remain as relevant to the world as they did in the past. Perhaps this is because the underlying elements of this terrorism (psychological uncertainty and threats) remain alive in society, operating within the trappings of politics, big business, and homegrown plots to thwart or contribute to society-disrupting forces.

It's these latter elements that are explored in Homegrown, which traces the events and motives behind the development and deployment of a fast-acting bio-weapon that thwarts any scientific efforts to cure its effects.

Today there is almost as much concern and fear about bio-weapons as nuclear weaponry; perhaps because the unleashing of an incurable, spreading plague promises a much more wider-ranging, lasting impact than a local destructive event. Humanity itself could be obliterated with such a weapon; so what group in their right mind could consider this a method that would serve their best interests?

Add the unlikely 'hero' of a mathematician who strives to predict the path of the pathogen, the relentless course of a manmade, mosquito-borne virus, and a focus on warheads, containment struggles, and confrontations on all sides for a riveting thriller that's complex and heady reading.

Subplots, characters operating at different levels of social and with different special interests ranging from the personal to the political, and the thought that "...nothing ever happens here" contribute to a chillingly realistic scenario that's hard to put down. Minor grammatical flaws throughout periodically give pause for thought, but don't significantly deter from Homegrown's dual strengths in plot development and characterization.

Fans of Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, and others who excel in placing personal characters into political and life-threatening social scenarios will find Cialan Haasnic joins them with a story that promises to unfold further, in future books (Homegrown concludes with an open ending as additional danger is hatched).

The Lucky One
Sherry V. Ostroff
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523956210, $9.99,

"The Lucky One" is Ita, a young girl born in a world about to be turned on end from pogroms against Jewish people on Russian soil in 1918 and the years that followed. At first this memoir's name seems to be a misnomer. How could any child facing the terrors of those times be deemed 'lucky' in any sense of the word? The answer to this question lies in the fact that she survived and eventually even thrived. This process forms the crux of a memoir that takes its readers into the world of revolutionary Russia, when Jews were marked for death and an onslaught of horror evolved.

Sherry V. Ostroff is the now-adult Ita's daughter, so is in the perfect position to blend her mother's memories with her own insights on family stories about life in Russia, Romania, and the long journey Ita undertook to get to America. Ostroff's mother was a storyteller, starting her daughter on Bible stories and eventually moving into the saga of her family's struggles in the "old country".

Luckily, Ostroff realized the treasure trove in her mother's memories and encouraged her mother to work with her to craft them into a book. The Lucky One is that book: a testimony to the survival of children and Jewish people, and the saga of a country torn asunder by civil war. Ten years after her mother handed her a 100-page manuscript in response to her daughter's request, Ita was gone. It fell upon Ostroff to preserve this story for future generations.

It should be noted that Ita's manuscript has not been heavily revised. To fully capture the cadence and personality of her mother's voice, Ostroff chose to make only minor corrections to make the memoir readable ("Although the grammar is poor, her story is clear."). That her immigrant mother struggled with the English language is evident, but in the interests of capturing her mother's voice, Ostroff points out that "If a word was omitted, I have used brackets to show my addition; this was done only to improve meaning." Readers should not expect perfection, therefore; and if the brackets throughout sometimes prove a reading challenge, they do help to reinforce Ita's real voice.

As a mother's words alternate with her daughter's insights, Jewish traditions and encounters are described from two generations' experiences. The vivid words and travels from Russia to Romania and then to America capture a young girl's observations and create a "you are there" atmosphere that explores and contrasts the social climate and feel of three countries: "Fire was the feared dread of the people and when a fire broke out all differences and religions were forgotten and everyone helped each other." Another example of this: "If you had asked me at that time how God made rain I would have explained it this way. God had a bigger water barrel then the water carrier on a cloud and when God pulled the plug, it rained."

Readers who enjoy memoirs, and especially those who look for sagas of struggle to survive and flourish against enormous odds, will appreciate Sherry V. Ostroff's attention to bringing her mother's words to life, and Ita's vivid descriptions of that world. Given America's newfound attention to immigration issues, one could not hope for a timelier read than The Lucky One.

Tiger Pelt
Annabelle Kim
Leaf-Land LLC
9780997609004, $18.00,

Tiger Pelt is set in Korea during World War II, when the Japanese occupied the country, followed by the Korean War, and probes the life of a farm boy and a beautiful girl who each embark on separate journeys through countryside and futures vastly changed by the war.

Relatively few historical novels are written about this region during this period of time: a fact that sets Tiger Pelt apart from many other World War II sagas right from the start.

A young soldier opens the saga; one who was "...meant to be a student, not a soldier. He was meant to study, not march." He's lost everything; but when he sees a struggling young woman, he acts almost instinctively to save her and make a difference in a life that has been altered so much that it's been stripped of all powers and dreams.

Instead of gratitude, she responds in anguish ("You should have let me die!"), and at this moment two very different worlds and war experiences collide.

The book reveals the worlds of women forced to perform "wifely duties", the experiences of boys drafted into service who see the destruction of everything familiar, and vivid descriptions of place ("During the war, the stench of gasoline, burnt rubber, over-flowing latrine trenches, and putrid corpses had assailed his respiratory tract without a moment of respite.").

It's a candid, vivid story of two very different lives and the trajectories they journey when they are blown off course by events wider and more demanding than any dreams they had harbored. It's a hard-hitting, gritty work that takes the experiences of Koreans, Japanese, Americans, and urban and rural peoples alike and adds the personalization of two particular individuals and their concerns.

In the end, Tiger Pelt is far more than another historical novel about World War II and the Korean War, presenting a unique opportunity to understand the cultures and lives changed in the course of showing how two disparate souls enter hell and come out the other side. It's a highly recommended pick, and a standout in the genre of literary and historical fiction.

Dicer Heist
John Dixson
John Dixson, Publisher
Ebook ISBN: 9780692791974, $2.99
Paperback ISBN-13: 9781532808906, $7.99

Amazon Kindle Version:

Amazon Paperback:

B&N Nook Book:
B&N Paperback:

Rigged sports games, high stakes gambling in Las Vegas, a professional sports gambler who becomes involved in building a team, and a bigger bet than Daniel Sanders has ever faced, involving real-world consequences, are just a few of the vivid elements that make thriller Dicer Heist an engrossing production.

Dan's early love of sports has naturally led to his involvement in the sports arena as an adult; but the routes he's chosen for this involvement, using his math degree and expertise in probabilities and statistics to build a professional sports betting career, skirts the boundaries of ethical behavior. These choices pale in comparison to a project that involves some of Vegas' biggest political figures and the most money ever spent to support a team, and Dan starts to find that everything - too much, in fact - rides on a sequence of events that he can't predict.

In some ways, Dicer Heist is a gambler's dream story. Dan likes the idea of owning a team, his expertise and connections fit in well with team-building and stadium-building efforts, and at first his investment appears a success.

It's when he conspires with the team pitcher for even bigger money and becomes involved in a rigged game that ultimately abandons the very dream he's built and invested in, that things get complicated. The story spreads across the U.S., follows Dan to Russia, involves the FBI in his apprehension, and brings a host of investigators into Dan's choices and methods.

It's a heist story that moves from Vegas to an international arena, done with finesse and a panache that brings readers not only into Dan's mind, but the thoughts of those who pursue him.

Spiced with financial data and sporting an international flavor, Vegas atmosphere, and a touch of romance, Dicer Heist holds much for thriller readers who enjoy a good heist story that evolves to embrace a myriad of lives, special purposes, and other countries; all firmly rooted in sports team politics, processes, and high-stakes financial arrangements.

Mark the Dwarf
Jack D. Harvey
ASIN: B019KGW0F2, $2.99,

Mark is a seventy-three year old Idaho dwarf living in a small rented house in Arizona, who leads an isolated life surrounded by the parakeets he raises and trains and the books he so loves. It's unusual for him to have any human contact at all, so when two letters arrive in the mail and entice him into the outside world to attend a bowling alley's celebratory event, he makes an uncommon decision to fling solitude to the winds and attend the show.

Quickly he comes to find that the bowling alley is anything but mundane or familiar, and the world much more complicated than he could have imagined as he gets pulled into a virtual rabbit hole of quantum proportions and encounters sinister space clowns from another universe who propose an unusual bargain.

Readers won't expect the adventures of Mark's lifetime to begin so late in his life, along with the special challenges of physics, language, and complicated scenarios involving time dislocations that defy logical progression or linear thinking:

"Like Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Alice, we complement rather than contradict each other's attributed meaning until we are overpowered by our identical squawking and darkness descends- the monstrous black crow in that nursery rhyme. You get what I mean? Now there is substantial agreement among so-called experts and even among us unruly Naturkinder here in the valley of samsara that the idea of any meaningful neural counterpart of what we may call linguistic noise is worthless for any clear and useful understanding of the statistical probabilities underlying what we take for granted as the bedrock of reality, the hard cast-iron bottom of things that we think we are sitting on.

Indeed, it should be mentioned that there's little staid or predictable about Mark's character, encounters or the world he finds himself traversing. The dialogue is lively and challenging and very adult in its choice of words, as Mark explores a very strange universe indeed:

The voice went on: "And of course these heads, like you, are just an inexpensive trick; a trick from way back and less than a treat for them or for you.... We know what you people need. We sell our services or trade them for what we want that you have and you have something we want and you don't want. Now before I begin to talk turkey and get down to brass tacks, trading metaphor for metaphor, some background is in order. As you know, there are many stars and other unseen forces in the sky. Rings of heavenly spheres, which make a strange music in ears that can hear."

Mr. Harvey builds a surreal tongue-in-cheek atmosphere in his story that skirts the edge of sci-fi and fantasy without quite wandering into this familiar genre's territory. He presents a classic Faustian bargain with the powers of darkness and evil, represented by malicious and sinister clowns from another universe, interested in trading good for evil, as he portrays an unlikely hero in the form of a doppelganging, dogged and enduring dwarf who has little to lose towards the end of his life and, for that matter, in his desolate and barren middle age. The effort excels in creating a racy, demanding, sharp-edged parody, placing Mark in his various metamorphoses in a series of dubious positions and chronologies, where the lessons he learns from both his logical and loony choices end up spilling over into what he will make of his life back on Earth and his ultimate redemption.

Clowns and chaos, cursing and cavorting, language that draws the reader in and then misleads him with linguistic ambiguity and multifarious zany passages, bristling with caustic observations, factitious science and pornographic parodies, where nothing is sacred, where nothing is what is seems to be, not even the bizarre impressions and experiences of a dwarf transported to a strange and unpredictable world. This makes for a novel that is not recommended for the staid reader, the prudish reader or a reader whose education has been neglected. This is a book for the sophisticated post-adolescent as well as the educated adult, tired of the same old predictable plots and one-dimensional protagonists and who are patient enough and savvy enough to enjoy some clowning around with language and culture.

Part of the beauty of Mark the Dwarf lies in its ironic perspectives on the world and its parodic and idiosyncratic style; part of its power lies in its vivid language and unusual imagery:

The sooty engine of all evil, the motoring Adversary or simply the Devil, whatever you name it or him, has large horsepower. We want it and can use it and you it don't do no good. So here's the deal. Remember Jesus Christ? The divine semi-conductor? Remember the vicious little girl who made fun of your dwarfhood in the third grade? It's the same job, except we have ways of drawing it on you that your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ or that little girl never thought of. Peccata mundi, pecking away at your peace of mind and your once and future third grade humiliation and the other humiliations at the hands and feet of the drugstore bad boys.

Literary references ('Donna Juan', for one) pepper the story line and demand from its readers a higher level of education and literacy than the normal leisure read requires, but college-level students, properly educated in western culture and literature, social inspection, literary allusion, physics and psychology will find delightful the author's ability to comment, joke, and spoof on more than one level through multiple disciplines and universes. Yes, the language and description are dense - but this isn't meant to be a casual leisure reading choice, but a challenging unsettling parody that operates on more than one level and plays no fair with any of the characters, let alone the reader.

"The real subject includes the heart, but when you consider any object in phase space, you have to get into the question of formal and substantive universals. Like I didn't say earlier. Descartes had his finger up his ass with his je pense donc je suis. Better what the French school kids used to say, je bande donc je suis. Makes a lot more sense and makes a statement about a physical state or condition in terms of space-time."

As far as the snippets in numerous foreign languages, scattered throughout the book (see above quote for an example), the author has provided a "Brief Glossary" at the end of the book, which is extremely helpful.

Ultimately, Mark the Dwarf is a racy allusive read that defies genre categorization and even flaunts and refuses neat audience categorization, providing a complex and hilarious chase through time and space as it spoofs even its own constructs. Readers who like their novels unexpected, spicy and intriguingly philosophical will appreciate the special language and no-holds-barred story of Mark, who, on any level and in any of his metamorphoses, is anything but a stock hero, or more accurately, anti-hero.

Dance to the Devil's Tune
Adrienne deWolfe
ePublishing Works
eBook: 9781614179924, $4.99
POD: 9781614178880, $15.99

Dance to the Devil's Tune is the second book in the historical Western romantic suspense series, 'Lady Law and the Gunslinger'. The story is a lively sequel that continues the dance between Pinkerton Agent Sadie Michelson and her ex-outlaw lover, William "Cass" Cassidy.

Sadie is hot on the trail of the jewel thief and deadly perp, Maestro, who uses music to transform his victims into thieves and murderers, who follow his command. This is rather heady super-science for a Western novel: it brings to mind the satisfying feel of the TV classic, The Wild, Wild West. The descriptions of these puppet perps are very well done and bring the story to life. ("One hour ago, she'd had a name. A conscience. A keen intellect and the heartfelt desire to save the world. But all that had changed the moment the clock chimed the midnight hour, and the music box with the enamel peacock began to play. Now she was staring blankly at her reflection. The mirror hung in the master bedroom of the silver-mining tycoon she'd come to rob.")

Sadie is a savvy, raunchy, determined character. Her latest undercover assignment, as a widowed Italian contessa, attracts more than the intended killer. ("By accepting this mission, she'd also had to accept that her emerald bait would attract opportunistic riffraff."). Her evolving challenges on both a personal and professional level test her determination to rid the world of an especially evil and cunning opponent. But her lover, Cass, complicates matters when he seemingly goes rogue, hatching his own plot to send Maestro to the gallows.

A host of supporting characters adds their own special flavor to this spicy read: a rascally baker, who fences stolen gems; a comical octogenarian, who talks to spooks; an ambitious Italian opera diva, who threatens Sadie's cover; and a mischievous raccoon, who adds levity by complicating Sadie's mission.

Maestro's relentless pursuits, which include disposing of witnesses, bring Sadie her greatest challenges. The ever-rising tension will drive readers to the edges of their seats. This winding, gripping Western moves in satisfyingly unexpected directions in a style that few genre reads can equal.

The result is not your typical Western, not your typical romance, and definitely not your typical detective story. Think Wild Wild West with a spicy heroine. Dance to the Devil's Tune is a special, highly recommended, genre-busting adventure.

Deliverance Mary Fields, First African American Woman Star Route Mail Carrier in the United States: A Montana History
Miantae Metcalf McConnell
Huzzah Publishing
Paperback: 9780997877007, $21.95
eBook: 9780997877014, $ 9.99
Author Link:

The time frame is from 1885 to 1914. The place is Montana. The protagonist is Mary Fields, an Afro-American frontier woman who demonstrates a rugged, feisty independence from the very first paragraph, when she snaps a shard of wood from the woodpile from the palm of her hand and keeps on working, viewing her injury as a mere annoyance in the greater scheme of things.

Mary often is labeled by her color in this rugged world ("Adjusting temple ends across his ears, he added, "That's all, Black Mary. Tell Mother the girls' fabric is backordered. Sugar and everything else."), but she's succeeded in earning respect despite being a black frontier female; perhaps because Montana in the late 1800s is an unforgiving environment that challenges all races to survive and leaves little time for prejudice - at least during seasonal periods of struggle. Racist attitudes and behavior are inevitably launched at Mary Fields: "You think you're so high and mighty. Coming into the Q & L like you're what? One of us? You're trash. To be used and thrown away. As we please. Any of us."

What brought this emancipated slave from Toledo to Montana was her friend's impending death. What keeps her there is a newfound commitment to helping a group of nuns survive their harsh world. And what fuels her passion "to gain equal rights, same as any white man," including the vision of placing her vote, will lead her to change everything she touches in this passionate saga of a frontier woman's engagements and evolving purpose in life.

How can a woman born into slavery develop the determination to defy social norms to gain freedom for all women? How does Mary rise to the occasion to become a formidable legendary figure during a time when Blacks and other minorities were murdered without recompense?

There are early indications that Mary's strength enables her to feel compassion for more than women's issues or Afro-American status. Her concern for the plight of Native Americans and her tendency to defy convention even in the smallest of ways ("Knowing she would be tired from standing at a grill day after day, Mary prepared a window sign to her liking. Instead of the conventional posting, "Closed for the Sabbath" or "Closed Sunday" she used the last of her green paint to print on her placard, "Closed Today, Open Tomorrow".") leads Mary to craft a life fired with purpose and passion.

Readers sensitive to prejudice should be warned that Miantae Metcalf McConnell's story doesn't bow to modern convention, but strives for a realistic feel; so expressions and interactions that would be considered offensive and prejudicial today are precisely portrayed, pulling no punches for the sake of modern political correctness: "Postmaster Joseph Kauffman, who went by Joe K., was first to arrive each morning - his greeting, predictable. "Nigger Mary, could I get a cup of coffee?" This approach represents a breath of fresh air, as it captures the subtler nuances of daily interactions alongside the wider social changes sweeping a young nation.

Under McConnell's hand, the atmosphere, frontier challenges, and landscapes of Montana come to life. Mary Fields is a true historical figure, dramatized in novel format. Her story will delight readers who look for a blend of accurate historical facts, hard-hitting drama, and realistic scenes powered by a feisty protagonist whose values and concerns become part of the social changes sweeping the nation.

A Minor Deception: A Joseph Haydn Mystery
Nupur Tustin
Foiled Plots Press
Print ISBN-13: 9780998243016, $14.95
Ebook ISBN-13: 9780998243009, $4.99
Barnes & Noble:

The subject of a musical mystery revolving around classical artist Joseph Haydn already poses something different to mystery readers; but pair this with the enticing atmosphere of 1766 and the characters of empresses, archdukes, and princes with political and social ties for a truly delightful blend of history and mystery.

A Minor Deception is actually no minor affair, but a compelling saga revolving around real-life musicians and their families, political figures, a network of spies and special interest forces, and an added dash of fictional supporting characters whose disparate flavors add to an attention-grabbing atmosphere.

An 'Overture' sets the scene and prepares the stage for a flurry of action and intrigue that deftly captures the atmosphere and turmoil of Hungary in the late 1700s, while chapters waltz through musicians and officers of the Esterhazy court who display the surprisingly feisty, eccentric personalities of musical genius even as they form uneasy alliances in the name of musical accomplishment.

As bad behaviors, conflicts and strife, querulous encounters, and a principal violinist's disappearance turn high society on end, readers are treated to a stellar performance that revolves around the discovery of a battered violin case in an unusual place, musician Haydn's unwilling assumption of the role of investigator to discover what happened to his best performer, and the true identity of a virtuoso who had his fingers on more than violin strings.

Add political overtones to a story steeped in music and mystery ("Could the emblem on Albert's violin case be a raven? He must remember to examine all the violin cases in the Rehearsal Room on the morrow. The uneasy sensation that he had managed somehow to hire yet another dissident took hold of him.") for a command performance that revolves around Hungarian nobility and a compelling enigma.

Well-written and exquisitely developed, A Minor Deception is a standout in the genre of historical mysteries. An encore is requested!

The Sound Prince and the Pocket Dragon
K M Kennedy
Wynnpix Productions
Ebook: ASIN: B01JV7R20I, $2.99
Paperback: 9780692718858, $9.95

The Sound Prince and the Pocket Dragon represents Volume 1 in 'The Sound Prince' series for middle school readers and is set in the San Juan Islands, where a wizard's accident leads to magic leaking from past to present and undersea to land worlds.

A crevice in the undersea Dim World contains a strange little explorer who becomes the recipient of a dubious gift. Fast forward to many years later, in Puget Sound, where eleven-year-old Prince Devon seeks riches from the sea. When he stumbles on a strange globe containing an even stranger creature, all hell breaks loose.

In Prince Devon's world there are talking dragons, magical opportunities, and unusual friends, from Cali-coon the grizzly-cat to a quest through bogs and beaches. Prince Devon's courage is tested in many ways both large and small as he develops a teasing relationship with a tiny dragon companion who guides him with infinite wisdom and finds himself in the midst of an adventure he never could have imagined.

Pocket dragons, bog monsters, winds that speak, and parents that change: all these are accepted by the young Prince as he traverses a very strange land, indeed.

Quests, clues to a mystery, magical wings, lost souls, and increasing danger permeate a delightful read that many parents will want to consider for an extended bedtime read-aloud narrated over a period of evenings. Even though the story's winding complexity is most definitely not a light picture book production, it includes gorgeous drawings and a plot replete with humor, fantasy, adventure and fun, making it a recommendation beyond its middle school readership, extending to elementary levels, as well.

Young adults - indeed, anyone young at heart who enjoys a rollicking good fantasy adventure - will enjoy the blend of whimsy and action in The Sound Prince and the Pocket Dragon.

The Biography of Mose Jones Jr., Lawrence County Commissioner District 1
April L. Jones, PhD
Visionary Consulting Services, LLC
9781508670599, $36.88

Mose Jones Jr., the father of author April Jones, cultivated values and actions that supported both his political role and his religious, family, and community focus. In The Biography of Mose Jones Jr., Lawrence County Commissioner District 1, a daughter's view of her father's political career receives loving attention as she recounts the history and actions of a man who ultimately left his mark on everyone and everything he touched in the 30 years he served as the Lawrence County Commissioner and in his prior activities as a civil rights leader.

Jones made it his mission to end the racially discriminatory voting scheme being used in Lawrence County. His victory came when he sued under The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and successfully obtained a federal court order striking the discriminatory system. Under a different hand it would have been too easy for this biography to focus on his numerous achievements in adulthood, but in the interests of providing a full coverage that includes his roots and influences, Dr. Jones begins with her father's childhood and moves forward in her review of the entirety of his life and times.

Readers follow Mose Jones Jr. from his family's roots as poor sharecroppers in a small Alabama town under Jim Crow laws to his determination not to fall victim to abuses and fate, but to become a productive, giving and positive person for himself and those around him. Perhaps this is the most powerful aspect of her biographical sketch as it considers how the messages of hard work, resourcefulness and the importance of both self-reliance and of working with others were cultivated at home and reinforced by church and community.

A foreword by David L. Martin, County Attorney for Lawrence County, who has known Mose Jones since 1984 when he entered his first race for the position of Lawrence County Commissioner, provides a fitting introduction to April Jones' account, while news articles from 1986, covering the election, add further details.

In covering these roots, The Biography of Mose Jones Jr., Lawrence County Commissioner District 1 embraces the overall evolution of civil rights struggles and challenges and places her father's legacy in not just a personal, but a historical perspective in the overall evolution of civil rights changes in this country.

His early interest in politics was fueled by a combination of observations of his community and an interest in history: "He was concerned with things like the poor condition of the dirt roads that he and most other black families lived on. Anytime it rained, those roads turned to mud. He was also very concerned about voting rights and how blacks in Lawrence County and throughout Alabama were often prevented from voting through legalized discrimination in the form of tests and other barriers due simply to the color of their skin. His interest in politics was also fueled by a love of history."

A combination of factors brings this entire effort to life for readers likely unfamiliar with Mose Jones Jr., from the inclusion of interviews with the man's associates in all walks of life to small color photos throughout that capture key moments of his life: a bridge named after him, awards received, certificates and honors, newspaper clippings, and more.

Dr. Jones makes certain that each page of her father's life is backed by essential information about his purposes, influences, the social and political milieu he operated in, and why these achievements are historically significant events that go far beyond a family's pride in their patriarch.

The result adds a key note to the annals of civil rights history and is highly recommended for any library holding strong in this subject and particularly in powerful biographies of individuals who may not be household words in national civil rights circles; but who should be.

The Chemist
Alan J. Field
ThrillRide Media
9780998050805, $3.99,

Book 1 of The Chemist opens the thriller series with a bang as an unusually powerful weapon of mass destruction threatens the world, causing Delta Force veteran Daniel Strong to emerge from a fog of addiction to respond to an unprecedented danger: a neurotoxin in the process of being auctioned off in New York.

This weapon wasn't created in a government lab or by terrorists, but is homegrown form by a genius heroin addict. Her knowledge of its formula and the efforts of forces on all sides intent on tracking her down places Danny in an uncertain role as he joins the search for her while battling those on both sides who would use her knowledge for their deadly games.

It's rare to see a protagonist so tortured by his role in an international hunt, which pulls forth his own deeply buried secrets and angst in the process. Thrillers usually formulate plots where there are distinct friends and enemies, with the protagonist on one side or the other, but not here. One of the delights of The Chemist is that there are no clear boundaries of black and white or good and evil. Instead, it places the protagonist on a tightrope of tension as he tries to figure out his place within a tale of stunning plot twists that builds into something much more than just another obvious effort to save the world.

Readers who enjoy international intrigue and spicy confrontations will appreciate the fact that scenes in The Chemist wind from Beirut to New York City, Afghanistan to Israel, and from hackers and hostiles to would-be rescuers and failed missions.

As more characters become involved in decision-making processes that hold conflicting logic and ethical frameworks, readers receive a powerful story as men and women operate on equally potent grounds and struggle with their own evolving perspectives, agendas and dark secrets in the face of a world-changing responsibility: "It's just business, Kate. You've been working on this since graduate school and only now it occurs to you? It's not about ending lives. Think of it as saving them. The balance of power in the world must be preserved. Once everyone has access to the same weapon - and they will--the balance of power will keep the players even and the global economy rolling." "I don't need a geopolitics lecture. I need money. Right now. I need a place to stay. Bad things have happened to me because of what I know. I just can't take it any more."

Drug addiction, personal and political motivation, and terrorism and anti-terrorism all wind into a package backed by strong character development and a frighteningly vivid, realistic story line to make for compelling reading for even the most seasoned thriller audience. (It should also be noted that 20% of all profits from The Chemist's sale will be donated to an organization that aids victims of the Syrian crisis.)

Deborah Rising: A Novel Inspired by the Bible
Avraham Azrieli
9780062563552, $2.99,

A great read will ideally let the reader know this quality in the very first paragraph; but a truly superior one will achieve this rare prize with its very first line. Deborah Rising stakes its place in the world of Biblical literary retellings with its very first sentence ("The girls came early to the stoning.") and follows up with a one-two punch that keeps the compelling imagery and focus moving at a fast pace.

This means that readers of Bible-based Christian fiction who may have seen their enthusiasm for the subject tempered by slow writing or predictable plot development in other books are in for a real treat with Deborah Rising; and not just because Avraham Azrieli has selected for his focus a relatively minor player on the field of Biblical events.

The fire and passion imparted to readers comes from a combined flair for vivid description ("With their brown wool dresses and bent backs, they looked like an army of weary squirrels gathering nuts for the winter."), intriguing twists of plot, and a focus on expanding the social, political, and cultural worlds of Biblical figure Deborah, the first woman in recorded human history to lead a nation.

Deborah initially didn't have this dream. It was her father's vision that she'd become a leader of the Israelites, before his murder. But it isn't just his death that gives her impetus for change; it's the looming fate she faces (marriage to an abusive man) that leads her to not only escape, but form a much greater goal for her life.

Under a different hand, these events could have become overburdened with religious inspection and history; but Azrieli cultivates two special approaches to help make Deborah Rising a standout in its genre: an attention to building a compelling character with all her perfect and imperfect ways, and a special attention to detailing her environment and the logic of motivations and expectations on all sides.

This all lends to a dramatic retelling of her story that injects new angles and provides new food for thought even for readers already familiar with the Biblical Deborah. Under such a hand, early Hebrew traditions, sacred and social realms, a society where Yahweh is always present and influential, and a young girl's realization of her loss and uncertain future ("She cried for herself, knowing that from this day on she would always be alone in the world.") all coalesce to create an especially compelling story that's hard to put down.

From how women live and how Deborah learns to weave both baskets and the path of her future to fallen gods, military presences in daily lives, Deborah's ability to appreciate her world, as in the beauty of the Jordan River, even in the midst of strife, and her choices and their consequences, Deborah Rising is well steeped in the geographic, social, and political descriptions of its times. Whether he's describing a stoning or Deborah's precarious escapes, Azrieli doesn't just tell his story; he steeps it in the fictional approaches that give it not just drama, but an in-the-moment, you-are-there flair to set its approach apart from and above any other.

The additional pleasure here is that one needn't have prior any familiarity with Biblical events, the figure of Deborah, or her world. Azrieli provides it all. The only prerequisite is an affinity for historical fiction and an interest in the kind of religious inspection that injects action and adventure into visionary and religious processes. Anyone who wants a superior, heart-pounding and inspirational read based on Biblical events will find Deborah Rising not just a solid representation, but a thoroughly compelling saga that's hard to put down and ends neatly (but open-ended, holding out the hope of more stories).

Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou
Steven Burgauer
Battleground Press
9780692808122, $14.95,

Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou comes with an intriguing author disclaimer: that the CIA and U.S. Department of Defense continue to deny that the events outlined in this book ever happened - which makes it all the more intriguing a piece of fiction that skirts the line between factual history and a thriller.

The story centers around an event that took place in 1942. It's not set in the usual military battlefields of Europe or the Pacific but in New Orleans, where the Higgins boat landing craft key to military operations in the Pacific is being manufactured.

A fictional Nazi plot to disrupt the manufacture of these boats involves world arenas as disparate as New Orleans, San Diego, North Africa, and beyond. Winding this series of events into a short, two-week period may seem ambitious, but in this case it serves to heighten tension, condense the action, and results in a terse story that excels in detailing a tightly-crafted series of events where no word is wasted.

From a half-drunk aristocratic German's death in a brothel and the discovery of a book that holds a map of the naval facilities nearby (indicating he might be a spy, to other German presences in America and the forces they represent), chapters unfold with the staccato precision of an intrigue and adventure saga spiced by Louisiana dialect and military encounters alike.

It's a desperate race for all sides as time runs out, and readers will find themselves immersed in the desperate search for a hidden book that involves death and individuals who come from disparate backgrounds: "Deputy Marshal Nolan Greeley was new to the Gulf Coast area. His previous assignment had been in the Colorado Rockies, not far from where he grew up, the oldest son of German immigrants. His parents and kin still spoke the language at home. So did he.

But that job in the mountains had gone south on him when he kept showing up in the field half-drunk. So the U.S. Marshal Service transferred him down here, to the Gulf Coast District. For the moment, Greeley rented a home from a woman he met in a local bar his first week on the job, a ramshackle house near New Orleans on the so-called "German Coast." If he screwed this up, the Gulf Coast would be Greeley's last stop before a forced retirement."

An important strength to this story lies in Steven Burgauer's ability to not just describe a scene, but to take readers aboard ships and land alike for a kind of action that translates well to "you are there" impacts: "Now the big guns onboard the taskforce ships let go a salvo. The cruiser USS San Juan (CL-54), the destroyers Monssen and Buchanan. The sound blew away the last vestiges of sleep. Brock was instantly awake and alert. Now came the deadly symphony of artillery. Booming cannon fire. Banks of deadly rockets. Shells launched from armored tanks on deck. All from a menagerie of Navy ships positioned in and around the LSTs in the sea. "CRA-A-ACK!" Again from the San Juan. Sixteen, five-inch guns. Sixteen, one-point-one-inch guns. The ship heeled over following each discharge from its big guns."

This attention to detail embraces characters, plot, subplots, and different settings, lending an authentic and riveting feel to events. From boat contracts and naval forces to sabotage efforts, genuine World War II history is deftly woven into the story line to the point where it's hard to separate fact from fiction. In a war that rips apart entire worlds, who can truly be the winner? Add a dash of romance to the intrigue for a solid World War II thriller that's intricate, frighteningly realistic, and hard to put down.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Breast Cancer
Janet Maker, Ph.D.
Jane Thomas Press
Paperback: 9780997661910
eBook: 9780997661927
Hardcover: 9780997661903

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Breast Cancer: Take Charge of Your Recovery and Remission comes from an author who was surprised to be diagnosed with breast cancer (a shock because she had no family history of the disease) and who immediately faced a plethora of medical choices about chemo, radiation, surgery, and aggressive treatment options.

Though she admitted ignorance on the subject, she wanted to make her own informed decisions outside of immediate recommendations, and so she began a research process which was to ultimately translate not just into a personal program of treatment, but a series of strategies for filtering through and understanding cancer research information. These approaches form the foundation of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Breast Cancer, which should be read by any woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

Readers should anticipate not a 'how to' title, but a blend of autobiography and investigation as Janet Maker, Ph.D. discusses her journey through the world of medical diagnostic procedures and cancer treatments. Chapters discuss how she made her own choices and, even more importantly, highlight the knowledge she holds today that might, in hindsight, have influenced or changed these decisions. Perhaps most telling of all comes from the author's own words in her preface: "This is the book I wished I had when I needed it."

Including details on specific kinds of tests that yield helpful information and yet are often not a part of the diagnosis process (such as the Oncotype DX, specifically recommended for select postmenopausal women with invasive breast cancers, or the Caris test (where tumor slides receive genetic analysis), the wealth of specifics offered here demand slow reading, as they hold much information that likely will be new to readers.

Janet Maker didn't just question her oncologists: she rooted out information from oncology nurses and professional resources, read about new theories and research, and thus offers many specifics lacking in similar-sounding cancer books, such as insights on the value of anti-angiogenesis programs: "If the markers go up, an anti-angiogenic program could be reintroduced. This, of course, is very relevant to me, with my high tumor markers. I was unfortunately not started on an anti-angiogenesis program before surgery, but I should be on one now."

After treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormones is over, conventional oncology considers its work finished. The only thing it offers is tests to see whether the cancer has come back. The problem is that, if it has come back, it will likely have metastasized to other organs and no longer be considered curable. Therefore, it is important to prevent from returning, and conventional oncology offers very little in that regard. Because Janet is at high risk for recurrence and metastasis, she works with an integrative oncologist to try to keep herself in remission. Integrative oncologists believe that there is a second part to cancer treatment: to make the body resistant to cancer. Based on regular blood tests, Janet follows an individualized program of diet, supplements, exercise, stress reduction, and avoidance of environmental carcinogens. This information is shared with readers who may want to make similar choices.

As Janet learned about environmental carcinogens and began making the lifestyle changes required to avoid them, she became aware of the corporations responsible for the carcinogens in the environment, research funded by the corporations, legislators who rely on corporate contributions to keep their jobs, and the cancer charities that take corporate money in return for pinkwashing. She works only with breast cancer charities that focus on corporate and government accountability and cancer prevention, and she avoids those that blame the victims' genetics or lifestyle for getting cancer.

The result is far beyond an autobiography of experience and delves into the worlds of latest research applications, best practices, and treatments every breast cancer patient should know about before they make decisions. This highly recommended pick should be in every general lending library and in every health or women's issues collection.

Hell's Wrath
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01LXPT0R5, $2.99,

Renegade demons from hell are invading Chicago, and the First Circle Club, comprised of Virgil and his team, are tasked with stemming the tide of deadly opponents that are the result of a war between heaven and earth in Book 5 of the series.

In Hell, the Archduke Thammuz holds black magic powers that are unrivaled; but here on Earth, his special abilities are more limited. He's not the kind of leader to let physics stop him from conducting a deadly insurgence, however, and as he leads hundreds of demons on a search to kill angels and harvest souls, a quest for glory turns into something far greater - and something Virgil's powerful forces may not be able to thwart.

Hell's Wrath is an adept, compelling addition to an evolving war saga and holds a special ability to capture newcomers as well as prior series fans. From demons intent on recruiting Satanists for their cause to the evolution of magical abilities, Siegel dashes in a bit of humor at times; an unexpected and fun embellishment to the story: "A strong odor caught her attention and drew her gaze to a mountain of garbage. It appeared modern society produced plenty of trash after all, but they were good at storing it in one spot. She eagerly flew down and landed on top of the pile. The stench of rotting food reminded her of certain parts of Hell. Even though it was the middle of the night, and the air was cool, countless flies buzzed the air. This is perfect for my new nest, Lilith thought."

There's nothing funny about events to come, however, and fans of supernatural fantasy and horror blends will find Hell's Wrath is seat-of-your pants reading, heady in its moves between demons and angels and extraordinary fighters to magical robots, terrorists, and changing angels that place Virgil and his First Circle Club on the brink of eternal damnation and a bizarre afterlife.

Does the Lord have a plan? If so, Hell's Wrath reveals just a hint of what it could be in a rollicking adventure read that adds to a series and which will delight prior fans and newcomers alike.

Sarafina and the Not-So-Wonderful Day
Carol A. Bacon
Himari Publishing
9780998154305, $9.99
Ebook: 9780998154312, $7.99

Picture book readers ages 4-8 years will delight in the pairing of Marvin Alonso's colorful art with Carol A. Bacon's story of young Sarafina, who experiences a fun day of shopping alongside her parents for a necklace with her name on it, all in preparation for her first day at a new school.

This makes her feel special and loved - but when everyone laughs at her long name and teases her, Sarafina realizes she's not really special; but odd. Nobody else has a name with so many letters ... nobody but the teacher.

How can Sarafina feel better about herself? And how can she deal with class bullies determined to bring her down?

The array of animal protagonists (all gussied up in human clothing) and their encounters lends a whimsical and fun feel to a story where a young schoolgirl struggles to find her place in a new classroom.

Kids receive many lessons from Sarafina's story; from self-esteem and the differences between parental and peer approval to how to handle conflict and turn bad experiences into good ones.

It's an early primer on facing life's conflicts head-on and with a positive attitude. Parents choosing it as a read-aloud will find that the story of Sarafina offers many jumping-off points for discussions of courage, conflict, and crafting win-win situations from ego-bashing encounters.

A surprise revelation enhances the powerful message of this delightfully uplifting, simple picture book story, which is highly recommended for ages 4-8 and especially for parental read-aloud and interaction.

Felicity and the Fire Stoppers
Loralee Evans
Privately Published
9780692793978, $2.99,

Felicity the sparrow loves reading books about bird heroes, courage, and communications between bird and man, but one particular book about a thrush's courage has her so enthralled that she's re-read it many, many times.

When a lightning storm brings a bolt down onto the mountain, Felicity finds herself involved in a strange force of nature that moves her into a world of wizards, new words, and encounters well beyond the sparrow-sized books she digests which sends life lessons from reality; all stemming from venturing out and getting to know Mister Yellow Horse, among other influences.

As Felicity hones her skills beyond the book and begins to realize her own special talent, she encounters snakes and sorcerers, opportunities for bravery or foolhardiness, and the threat of a fire that could change everything she knows and loves.

Advanced elementary-grade readers will relish Felicity's pluck and determination as she moves beyond the adventures of her books to confront those challenges.

Her bird's-eye view of the world is fun, charming, and traverses the magic of human and nature alike, while the evolution of her courage and her longing for adventure is very well done. Can a little bird stop a big threat? A plucky saga evolves, perfect for chapter book readers who relish animal protagonists.

True Colors
Express Image Publications
9781495208683, $14.99,

It's rare to find a novel whose publication so eerily coincides with current events, but the political novel True Colors is frighteningly akin to modern times and should find a ready audience in any American immersed in the current political atmosphere.

In True Colors, the protagonist is half Native American and half Caucasian. His swift move through political circles in only thirteen short years leads to a series of serendipitous successes that helps this Illinois city worker with little money or connections to move more swiftly up the ranks than any seasoned politician.

Illinois politics, behind-the-scenes deal-making, and intrigue permeate a story that sounds too true to be fiction, and whose Anonymous authorship lends to speculation about whether all of the political discussions are, indeed, really fictional in their foundations.

To call True Colors a "novel of politics" is actually to over-simplify its many facets, which include social commentary, mystery, intrigue, and a healthy dose of American history and political analysis.

All this might not have succeeded nearly as well under a lesser hand, but attention is given to interpersonal relationships and interactions as much as it's focused on Thomas Oglala's political evolution; and these facets contribute to an eyebrow-raising adventure that closely considers the American election process and its underlying interconnections and support systems.

Anyone who enjoys multi-faceted political fiction will relish the deeply provocative scenarios crafted in True Colors.

Twelve Bells
Bridgett B. Leslie
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01M0QNGUF, $0.99,

Twelve Bells is a novel about finding love through speed dating, and tells of Lynette Frank's decision to boost her recovery from a bad relationship by attending a speed-dating event. As she moves through the Australian speed dating event, so readers join her for a series of emotional revelations that make Twelve Bells a thought-provoking piece probing women's psychology and underlying beliefs about romance and how to find it.

Lynette didn't set out to speed date: she was given a ticket to the event. She actually didn't know how to recover from her bad breakup, much less re-enter the dating game with new vision and goals of better assessing a potential partner. But the speed dating arena gives her more than she bargained for: new processing tools, different opportunities, and revised dreams - and that's the crux of a novel that proves fresh and fun in its approach to romance.

As readers move through 12 male candidates with Lynette, they learn about how an 8-minute "date" can lead to a much-condensed process of attraction and elimination. Condensing such a journey into a relatively short period of time may sound impossible, but as Twelve Bells reveals, the structure and intention of speed dating actually creates a process that shortens and refines one's romance needs.

From different views about strength and sexuality to disparate methods of presenting one's purpose and psyche in the least amount of time, Twelve Bells follows a series of encounters between Lynette and her possible matches that grab reader attention and explore unusual possibilities.

One needn't be familiar with the concept of speed dating in order to appreciate this story. It should also be mentioned that Bridgett B. Leslie's choice of the novella format is the perfect tool, reflecting the novel's theme of condensing choices to eliminate the superfluous and time-consuming explanations inherent in too many a romance read.

The result is a perfect rhythm of action that delves into and moves through worlds of sex manias, egotistical applicants, philosophical reflection, attempts to impress and identify human nature, and, ultimately, one woman's quest for love. Female readers will relish the spirit and descriptions of a woman who takes a speed dating risk, only to uncover more possibilities - and more revelations - than she bargained for.

Healthspan - Live Long, Die Young
Dongxun Zhang, Bob Zhang, and David Kincade
Privately Published

There's much talk of lifespan and efforts to expand it, but as humans age, concurrent discussions increasingly revolve around quality of life; and Healthspan - Live Long, Die Young stands at the forefront of this discussion with its focus on applying concepts of intended evolution fitness to modern health challenges.

The Intended Evolution metabolism program was originally developed by this book's co-author, Dr. Dongxun Zhang, for a patient who wanted to take charge of and direct her genetic predispositions for disease and illness. His program is a synthesis of health and fitness routines designed to actively encourage and direct better health throughout one's lifespan.

This isn't just an idealistic dream: Healthspan acknowledges that the body's ability to be flexible is encoded in DNA and that efforts to build or change its flexibility isn't entirely under a patient's control. However, everyone has different degrees of flexibility which, when identified and used wisely, can protect and enhance the body's natural ability to recover and stay healthy.

The Intended Evolution concept applied in Healthspan is about identifying, assessing, and nurturing these systems; and while a great deal of scientific backing is provided to support its theories and contentions, it's important to note that lay readers can easily skip through the volume and pick up the more succinct points about this process.

The case history examples throughout temper research studies, while discussions are lively enough for lay readers to access and offer much food for thought: "During the course of human evolution, newer functions and relationships often arose as updates to current systems were needed due to environmental demands. New needs were often met by the current cells or systems changing their size or functions or taking on a support role for a newer system. The human brain has many examples of newer functions and structures being "layered over" old ones, so to speak, or by co-opting structures for new functions."

With its holistic discussions of health-preserving approaches to understanding not just longevity but human evolution and quality of life, Healthspan - Live Long, Die Young stands at the crossroads of science and quality of living choices and is a 'must' for readers who contemplate longevity and its costs.

Gasparilla's Gold
Sandra Markle
Tumblehome Learning, Inc.
Paperback: 9781943431205, $9.95
Cloth: 9781943431199, $18.95

Twelve-year-old Gus has been sent to live with his aunt on a Florida wildlife refuge after the family suffers from the loss of his older brother, but it's just one more change in a life filled with new things: an absent brother, the sale of their Manhattan home, and his father's relocation to Seattle.

But some things don't change: his fears about the unfamiliar and unpredictable world and the memories of his brother, which can arise from even innocuous life events like being caught in the rain.

Middle grade readers follow Gus as he encounters the unfamiliar at every step: bats, coyotes, a spunky girl named Fiona, and an aunt who reveres the wildlife she lives amongst.

About halfway through the book, Gus begins to realize where he really belongs - just as he's on the cusp of leaving. Add a mystery revolving around wild animals, rancher rights, the plight of the vanishing Florida panther to the saga of a boy beginning to realize his place in the world and you have a story line filled with courage and confrontation. Sandra Markle weaves a compelling story that holds many different attractions, promising to interest high/low readers who enjoy mysteries and animal tales couched in the attraction of powerful personalities.

Money Can't Lie
Anna Schlegel
Schlegel Press Association
9780998185330 $6.63

A deal with a sleeper agent that leaves no identifiable trace because it dissolves upon completion... a sleeper agent who knows all the players in a high-stakes money game... and a deal that takes place in the ramshackle suburbs of Berlin that opens with a seemingly-innocuous discussion over a grill, of sleeper agents and the assumable, fluctuating identity of one 'Vlad Holt'. All these form the nexus of a thriller that begins with a couple's discussion about intelligence processes and evolves to a cat-and-mouse game played out across the streets of Europe.

Money Can't Lie is replete with intrigue and heavily laced with a dose of reality (author Anna Schlegel's background lends to a frighteningly realistic atmosphere in the events that unwind in her story). It's also infused with a sense of atmosphere through descriptions that bring readers right into the protagonist's world: "There was still a chance hed just left his wife or chosen to lie low. He may be deep into debt, and just made this appointment because he wanted some money? You never know, things do happen. But he would surely come for this appointment with Vlad. Victor and I went out of the taxi about two blocks away from the meeting point. My face was instantly frozen peppered with the prickly salt-like powder snow. Victor turned up his coat collar and gathered his scarf around his neck up to his nose, and tilted his wool hat over his eyebrows. It was a quiet bare park, deserted the way it may be in wintertime only, with its pathways covered in snow a bit melted under the feet of the passers-by and then iced-up. The snow was blinking my eyes with its piercing white so that my closed eyes could still sense the white dazzling trace of it. We separated and started to detour on the park circle-wise."

Money Can't Lie is translated from Russian, events are very well done, and the intrigue throughout lends to a story that is hard to put down.

Money Can't Lie is the first volume of 'The Sleeper' series, presenting financial international intrigue at its best as it journeys from the Berlin suburbs to the pinnacles of chess-like moves between American and German intelligence and counterintelligence and examines thieves, middlemen, bankers and secret services. How does a person vanish into a new persona without a trace? What are the possibilities that someone from Moscow will identify the subterfuge? And who are the real pawns in the game of high-stakes bank takeovers?

Readers needn't have a financial degree in order to fully appreciate the moves made in Money Can't Lie; but those who look for a fast-paced thriller firmly rooted in banking and espionage activities will find they're in for a compelling read steeped in Russian intelligence and circumstances surrounding forgotten agents.

The Absence of Evelyn
Jackie Townsend
9781943006212, $16.95,

Imagine you're newly divorced. Imagine you decide to confront your dead sister's former love - and that you're willing to journey to Rome to do so; only to find he's vanished. Then imagine your adopted adult daughter has been lured in the opposite corner of the world to meet with the same man - a man she's only overheard about from secretive family whispers.

By now it should be evident that The Absence of Evelyn is not a novel of romance, intrigue, or adventure; but cultivates elements of all three, winding them deftly into the saga of a stormy relationship between an almost-fifty adult mother and her daughter which leaves each wondering who "her people" really are in the world.

Sharply defined and challenged, Olivia's journey leads her on an unpredictable route just as Rhonda's separate search takes her in a seeming opposite direction; each filled with connections to the other.

One of the fine devices in Jackie Townsend's story is an attention to motivation and psychology that keeps the actions of each character logical and clear: "Olivia sat down to write her email, opening up Yahoo!, but then she just sat there. She had nothing to say. Had it really been two days since she'd called her mother from the bathroom stall, frightened like a child? She'd come here to hurt her mother, but also to prove to herself that she was not her mother, that she was, in fact, far from being anything like her mother, and her frustrating ambivalence about love. So now would be the moment, Olivia thought, staring at the blank email, to follow through with the plan to hurt her mother, to let her mother know where she in fact was, here, with Evelyn's lover. And yet, now that Olivia was actually here with Evelyn's lover, on this road to the Bay of Dragons, none of that mattered anymore. Something else was taking form. Shape. "I miss you, Mom," Olivia typed finally, which was not what she had expected to type. Would she always miss her mother? This big looming, massive beast of a presence. Her lioness and protector?"

No matter what their motivations, whether it's to connect and discover, love, hate, or reconnect, Olivia and Rhonda find their lives inexorably tangled as they face their own separate meanings in life and confront long-distance challenges to maintaining the family ties that bind them: "Perhaps their present financial situation was Rhonda's only chance at tough love. Perhaps it was what both of them needed. Because they weren't that different, Olivia and her. Both of them had been spoiled."

With the absent Evelyn the pivot point of their dance, a mother and daughter's thoughts and feelings flow through a story line that is compellingly crafted. Readers of women's fiction and leisure beach reads won't find that it neatly fits into the usual genres of a romance or action story; but is filled with psychological insights and interactions in the course of exploring two diverse, entwined lives and their separate and concurrent journeys through self-destructive and enlightening impulses alike.

Inside Moves
Walter Danley
Privately Published

"We're losing him!" an EMT shouts as the ambulance careens down the streets of Santa Barbara carrying Bobby Wainwright, who's fighting for his life. The EMT knows that Bobby's been injured on the job as he inspected a construction site; the novel's ultimate focus isn't on Bobby, but on his brother Garth, who is left with many questions.

Garth and his lawyer wife Lacey leave the funeral determined to search for truth and closure when a jeep drives them off the road and careens Garth and his wife over the edge in Topanga Canyon. Nobody should or could have survived that accident - but a determined sheriff succeeds in rescuing Garth against all odds, and then the real mystery begins as Garth struggles to recover, sans wife and memory, and piece together what happened not only to his brother, but to him.

Inside Moves joins The Tipping Point in Walter Danley's 'Wainwright Mystery' series, but that doesn't mean that prior familiarity with the first novel is a prerequisite to enjoying this one. Flashbacks neatly put together the prior story of Lacey and Garth's relationship and lives while the central them of Garth's uncertain recovery and his ability to investigate without the tools of even his own memory makes for a gripping story of recovery and determination.

Kidnappings and murder plots, a wife indicted by her actions and damning evidence, and lost memories replaced by new knowledge that one's biggest loves in life are questionable - all these are elements of Inside Moves that keeps readers on their toes and in the grip of an affair that is part relationship and part intrigue.

As motivations on all sides grow murky and Wainwright finds himself tested by his own investigative prowess and what it uncovers, readers who appreciate complex stories of prisoners, jailers, and rescuers will relish the many layers of complexity that come between Garth and Lacey in the aftermath of Bobby's accident.

Tests of sanity, goons with murky intentions and deadly, precisely executed plots, and a husband and wife's separate trials all coalesce in a story that is intriguing and hard to put down. This gripping read is highly recommended for audiences who relish solid characterization, series titles that don't rely on one another for support, and approaches that add to the excitement of the prior book without requiring special knowledge.

The Politics of Unity
Michael Cuddehe
Three Worlds Press
P.O. Box 168, Fairfield, IA 52556
9780997577105, $9.95,

The Politics of Unity: An Invitation to the High Road offers a refreshing perspective that counters the divisiveness of current American political and personal lives, promoting a simpler perspective of not just political encounters but life itself. It's directed to those who would create a better world based on cooperative processes and it embraces an integrative process that stems from Michael Cuddehe's interest in the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The Politics of Unity is not just a political treatise; it's about altering a life philosophy that seems to be individually, regionally, and globally headed for a breakdown.

Cuddehe's involvement in both political campaigns and spiritual reflection in the 1990s included a run for Iowa's U.S. Representative in its First District under the Natural Law Party. This led to ideals that stemmed from his opponent, developing the notion of public service and loyal opposition even against the odds of pervading corruption and divisiveness.

This revelation led to a closer examination of the forces at work in creating divisions and dead-ends, and the crafting of processes, values and ideas are presented here in the form of short essays packed with insights, but easily digestible.

From disparities in wealth and income to a pragmatic approach to problem-solving, each essay includes historical references, an overview of the issue(s), and survey of best practices for cultivating alternative courses of action, supporting an overall ethic of public service. It also considers why a balanced outcome to issues of public concern is so often lacking or blocked.

One needn't have a spiritual bent or even a political preference in order to absorb this clarification of how to remedy modern social and political approaches that no longer work. Cuddehe's discussions are balanced and rational invitations to constructive thinking: "A circus-like media environment featuring headlines reminiscent of carnival barkers and one-sided, conflict provoking coverage of political issues and events have become the norm, feeding a trend of polarization that has reached levels not seen since the Civil War. The result has been a schism in national consciousness and competing, incompatible narratives on all matters in the public sphere, making it impossible to find resolution on any of an ever growing list of critical issues. It is not too much to ask to have honest, informative debate on the issues and decide collectively on our course of action. Nor is it too much to expect follow-up to that initial decision with a structured, unbiased method of measuring and reporting outcome over time, so adjustments can be made as needed."

Especially recommended for readers working in political circles in a cooperative effort for positive change, The Politics of Unity provides a formula for remedying the paradoxes of our times, and incorporates responsibility and consequences into a discussion of duty and human and natural law. Forces on all sides that work in various capacities on the edges of moral, ethical and legal boundaries and what can be done to foster unity and encourage service-oriented characters will find it a thought-provoking call for change.

The Conversations We Never Had
Jeffrey H. Konis
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
ASIN: B01IL61MWY, $4.99,

The Conversations We Never Had is about the regrets of a son who wishes he'd probed more of his family history while its elders were still able to tell him about the past; but it doesn't end with the burial of his Grandmother Olga, the last person to have known his father's Holocaust experiences in Europe.

Instead, it blossoms into an investigation of what was, a realization of what could have been, and a family history that incorporates not only conversations made; but those which should have taken place.

How did the family matriarch make the kinds of decisions that would allow her family to survive, adopting and bringing her nephew (the author's father) to a new country? How did his father survive under impossible conditions, and how did she find him after the war to bring him to a new life? The author's regrets of not asking the right questions, only to piece together truths from a patchwork of possibilities decades later, is wonderfully portrayed: "Grandma Ola was the only person in the world who could give me some insight into my father, what he was like as a child, a son - to an extent - as a student, though I knew he must have been exceptional in this regard, given that he overcame a language barrier, simultaneously learning English and the sciences, among his other courses; he did this successfully enough to go to medical school. And yet I never had an in-depth conversation with Grandma about my dad and, for the life of me, I have no idea why I didn't. At least I could, and did, ask my father these questions as I navigated my way through the biased nature of his responses, to get as much truth as possible."

Many Holocaust family stories come from the horse's mouth in the form of reminiscences of parents and grandparents translated through the memories and notes of their descendants. Jeffrey H. Konis adds a new twist to this approach in covering not only the conversations that took place; but those which were unsaid.

As he surveys issues of Jewish livelihood and independence (among many other subjects), Konis comes to realize the forces that shaped and led to his career and life choices, and brings readers into a world enlightened by these discussions of Jewish heritage past and how they were passed down and, in turn, translated into life decisions made by future generations.

The precise links between these translations and applications past to present are enhanced by the author's introspective assessments of what is presented to him, and what it means for his own life: "If I couldn't find a Jewish girl to marry, the selection would be greatly enhanced were I to allow myself to marry someone who converted. But what about everything Grandma was just telling me, that even one who has converted is still not the same as one who was brought up Jewish? It made me think of something my dad once said about Grandma Ola. He told me that, yes, she had raised him like a son, but she wasn't his mother. He said it wasn't the same."

The result is more than another Holocaust survival story: it's a perceptive and examining survey of how ideals, thoughts, traditions and culture are handed down in families, surveying the types of questions asked and those left unsaid, and their impact.

Readers of Holocaust literature and biography will find themselves drawn to the family and personalities surrounding Jeffrey H. Konis and will be particularly delighted to understand how Jewish traditions and family messages helped him shape his own decision-making process.

Vampire Boy
Aric Cushing
Grand & Archer Publishing
9781929730018, $8.99,

Vampire Boy is the first in a projected series for middle grades and introduces young readers to the world of Carpathia, where Alex Vambarey is attending the first year of the Carpathian Academy, educational home to vampires and a host of related creatures of whom he has little knowledge (nobody he knows has ever met a gargoyle, for example).

Alex will learn many things during his first year of school: why vampires and humans are important, why humans are elusive creatures, and why all the janitors at school are collecting dirt.

Think Harry Potter without the angst of an older protagonist facing impossible odds, add more than a light dash of humor into the mix, and toss in a riddle and a school prize that leaves the students of the Carpathian Academy scrambling to unveil secrets that go deeper than even the school instructors can know to get an idea of the essence of this adventure.

As Vampire Boy builds its setting, characters, and quite often a whimsical perspective ("The hall monitors in which Otis was referring to were itty bitty bats. Little colored pests that flew at you the minute you were late - their tiny bat teeth snipping at your heels and yanking your hair from its roots."), readers of all ages (including adult audiences looking for refreshingly original reads enlivened by a powerful blend of strong characters and mystery) will relish Alex's increasingly complex involvement in a mystery that reaches well beyond Academy walls.

Refreshingly fun and well-steeped in the trappings of fantasy, horror, mystery and intrigue, Vampire Boy is a fine introduction to what promises to be a series on par with Harry Potter.

Reflections with God While Waiting to Be Healed
Linda Seger, Th.D.
Clovercroft Publishing
9781942557708, $12.99,

Chronic pain and serious illness not only taxes the body; they take their toll on the spirit, as well. How does the devout Christian address the theological challenges that come with devastating or repeat physical blows, and how does that process translate to a new (possibly improved) relationship with God?

All this and more is addressed in Reflections with God While Waiting to Be Healed, a blend of spiritual discourse and autobiography by a woman on the fast track to success and achievement when she was diagnosed with two disabling physical conditions that lead her to question her relationship with God and his purpose in changing the positive course of her life.

One might expect a scholarly discourse from a theologian, based on the book's title and its author's credentials; but in fact Dr. Seger's story is very straightforward and moves from a happy, successful life to one of struggles with her own body's course (a neurological ailment, dystonia, and breast cancer).

Her journey toward healing is also a journey towards a different kind of relationship with God, as Dr. Seger discovered; and that concurrent journey is charted in an autobiography about healing body and spirit which comes from the perspective of a Christian, Quaker, and Doctor of Theology.

Chapters offer strong assessments linking body and spiritual growth and document how the journey towards healing is also a sometimes-frustrating journey of spiritual understanding that often reveals troubling, fundamental questions and concerns about faith: "From a spiritual perspective, the underlying question is often: "What does God want from us? What is the possibility for our future? And, do we have a future? Is it possible that our illness is God's will? Where is the Holy Spirit in all this?"

The equation of physical and spiritual death, the quest to build a supportive spiritual community in the face of challenging illness, and the process of creating a 'spiritual team' as well as growth-inducing concepts that arise as a result of illness are all outlined in a spiritual discussion that will enlighten and encourage anyone else who suffers from ongoing, chronic conditions.

Dr. Seger's observations are easily accessible by all because she employs a tone devoid of technical terms or scholarly discourse in favor of a personal approach that well connects her words and experiences in language accessible to all: "Surrender might mean coming to terms with our situation. Surrender might mean recognizing that this is how things are at this point. Surrender might recognize that this is the New Normal. Surrender might mean getting into the rhythm of our illness. It might mean we recognize that there are certain processes going on and we can no longer live our daily lives in the same order with the same structure and with the same determination we used to have to achieve other life goals. There is something else going on and attention must be paid to this fact. We try to get into the new rhythm, recognizing that even the rhythm of illness might have something to teach us about slowing down, watching the flowers grow, nurturing ourselves, letting go of some areas in life that create irritations, trying to take more moments for our spouse, friends, and pets, and letting a few other things slide. And always listening for the Still Small Voice and trying to see the Hand of God."

Christian readers challenged to see God's purpose in pain, suffering, and change will find Reflections with God While Waiting to Be Healed is an inspirational roadmap to a different kind of success: one that requires no special degrees, knowledge, or skills; but only an altered awareness of God's hand in the world, provided here.

Reflections with God While Waiting to Be Healed is very highly recommended as an inspirational, uplifting testimony of not just survival, but spiritual growth and different kinds of miracles.

The Alphabet Prayer
Linda Seger & Peter Le Var
Clovercroft Publishing
9781942557852, $12.99,

How can being newly disabled contribute to spiritual development? Ask author Peter Le Var, who was on the cusp of an inviting vacation when he herniated two discs in his back just by bending over, which disrupted not just his vacation plans, but his entire life.

Le Var was a Quaker, and his newfound condition influenced to an extended form of spiritual contemplation that grew to embrace a new ritual of prayer for Bible reading based on the alphabet.

The result is The Alphabet Prayer, co-written with his wife, author Dr. Linda Seger, which is written partially in calligraphy (the alphabet letter and its simple one-line prayer) and juxtaposed with text exploring the meaning of each prayer.

Having an A-Z arrangement allows form and structure to guide the prayer rituals and provides a sense of continuity to the book and its purposes. It's meant to be used as a prayer book, but the comments accompanying each calligraphy prayer help guide readers on the meaning of the words and each prayer's potential for uncovering a deeper relationship to God.

Take 'Q' for example. The prayer here is "Quintessential God, Quiet Me, Quicken Me, in Your Quest for Quality," and this is backed by a supporting Scripture passage, while the accompanying meditative reflection admonishes readers to consider the empowerment of a close relationship with God: "When we run to God, not only are we protected, but God can empower us and change what we need changed in order to restore us to a right relationship with ourselves and with those we perceive as our enemies."

Artistic, thought-provoking, and filled with new possibilities for understanding one's relationship with the Divine, The Alphabet Prayer is more than another spiritual tool. It's a creative approach to translating prayer to deeper purpose in Biblical reading, and is recommended for any Christian thinker who would use the Scriptures to revise attitudes about life's events and their connections to God.

Immigrants Coming to America
Jo Condrill
GoalMinds, Incorporated
Paperback ISBN: 9780974097046, $19.95
Ebook ISBN: 9780998092102, $9.95

Immigration has always been an intrinsic part of American history, beginning with the Puritans who fled England and continuing to modern times; yet the current state of social and political affairs, tempered by worries of terrorism and overcrowding, have led to its premises being questioned by those who would close many doors currently open to new immigrants.

That's why Immigrants Coming to America, written by an author who interviews two immigration law experts in the course of her examination, provides some clear and remarkable insights at an especially troubling moment (and possible pivot point) in American history. Its special blend of history and social and legal analysis clarifies many potentially murky areas of immigration law which all Americans should understand; from the differences between green card bearers and citizens to fact-based, history-backed discussions of America's immigration process and its pros and cons.

Chapters reveal many thought-provoking insights about the overall effects and approaches of this process ("This "melting pot" assimilation of many waves of immigrants to America implied a weakening of their own identities as the immigrants themselves pressed their children to adopt American values and lifestyles.") as they discuss influences on immigration, immigrant status in American society, the cases of "reluctant immigrants" and their experiences, and more.

Jo Condrill's interviews create a personal touch to these immigrant experiences, offering firsthand accounts that form the background of a diverse set of individual experiences about the process of coming to this country and its special challenges. While at times readers might think some of the interviews could have been condensed by eliminating chattier passages ("Well, Diana, this has been a very, very interesting and rewarding conversation."), the purpose here is to inject a personal feel for not only immigrant stories, but to the interview experience itself.

The collection of revelations from twelve immigrants from various parts of the world, each with very different perspectives on and experiences of the immigration process, is recommended reading for those interested in modern immigration stories and the different roots and perceptions of newcomers to America. Anyone who wants insights on both the legal and personal processes involved will find this absorbing.

Justice Restored
Howell M. Woltz
HybridGlobal Publishing
Paperback: ISBN: 9781938015472, $14.99
Ebook: ISBN: 9781938015489, $4.99

While readers will expect that Justice Restored: 10 Steps to End Mass Incarceration in America would provide an indictment of the criminal justice system in this country, the book's true surprise lies in an approach that goes beyond outlining justice system problems to consider concrete solutions. Backed by Howell W. Woltz's lifelong work specializing as a journalist on Constitutional issues, Woltz's call for reform produced an award-winning documentary, Justice Denied, that represents more than another indictment of the system's fallacies and issues.

Justice Restored opens with a shocking revelation: that in the 1970s, Woltz observed the writing on the wall of American democracy and its erosion of freedoms and eventually left the U.S. for a former Soviet Bloc nation in Central Europe. Perhaps most eye-opening of all (and a major motivation to read past the book's preface) is his assertion that: "Ironically, I live with more freedom as an expatriate in a strange land than I could ever hope to experience in my own country."

"Things need to change," Woltz asserts, "and this is the roadmap."

As readers travel down a road carefully constructed with a blend of history, personal case history examples, and legal insights, they receive a healthy dose of "what went wrong" and "how to fix it" that considers the traditional guardians of liberty and the processes that have attacked and diluted it.

Chapters document Woltz's involvement with justice systems and professionals, while each case history is linked to specific admonitions that reinforce concepts such as the need to limit plea bargains or the need to reign in government bodies determined to "win no matter what" in courts of law.

From why judges and prosecutors are not held accountable for criminal actions to how to end government immunity and restore jury rights, Justice Restored goes beyond history or political generalities to delve into the heart of what specific justice systems and processes have failed and how to restore them.

With all discussions presented in easy lay language that focuses on remedying situations, Justice Restored is a key acquisition highly recommended for anyone already concerned about the erosion of civil liberties in this nation.

Presentation Skills for Managers, 2nd Edition
Kerri Garbis
McGraw-Hill Education
c/o McGraw Hill Professional
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10020
9781259643965, $19.00,

Business books for managers often assume a dry format that may be suitable for reading on planes or on the way to a meeting, but which rarely make good leisure reading choices and often pose a challenge for recall. Presentation Skills for Managers offers a different approach that blends new insights on the presentation process with a lively delivery that not just tells, but shows managers how to spice up their presentations.

This is done by applying acting techniques to delivery processes and focusing on audience engagement in the book through the use of sidebars of information such as 'Tricks of the Trade' or 'For Example'.

Basic parts of a stage and movements upon it translate surprisingly well to a presentation pursuit, and are imparted in an effortless and engaging manner to help managers understand the key points of their discussions and how best to display them through a process that blends delivery with visual aids and, sometimes, compelling drama.

It should be noted that this second edition has been fully updated, revising principles and strategies, and reflects the author's own background in both business and acting arenas, which are used to take presentation skills to another level.

Succinct in appearance, compelling in its descriptions, and practical in its applications, Presentation Skills for Managers may cut to the point in its clear title, but adds unexpected spice in covering the types of acting techniques that will help managers create and deliver business content more effectively than traditional business approaches usually offer.

Recommended for all business managers who are tapped to give presentations, Presentation Skills for Managers will prove a treasure trove even to the seasoned business leader.

Catherine's War
Denise Micka
Goleta Press
9780997211009 $18.99 paperback, eBook will be in three parts at, $3.99 each
eBook Part I ISBN: 9780997211016
eBook Part II ISBN: 9780997211023
eBook Part III ISBN: 9780997211030

Catherine is fiery, temperamental, and determined. Henry is handsome, debonair, and her twin brother Caleb's friend. He also delights in knowing "how to spark the fire that would appear in her normally ice blue eyes": a habit and skill that doesn't necessarily ingratiate him to Catherine. It's clear that there are fireworks between these two disparate personalities even in the first sentences of Catherine's War; but things heat up in an unexpected manner as events drag Catherine and Henry into something far greater than a stormy relationship between the two.

Cat and her brother are committed to fixing up the old family homestead; a venture that taxes their strengths after full-time work during the day and places them at odds with each other when Caleb needs some time away.

But Cat's bristly nature - especially around Henry - doesn't just come from his ability to press the wrong buttons, but from his talent at bringing up memories of a past Cat is working hard to forget. While the nutshell of their encounters appears early in the story ("Her icy blue eyes met his in a strong visual battle. She found his closeness unsettling and fought hard to maintain the barriers to her heart."), events will spiral them both away from their set courses in life and headlong onto a road neither anticipated.

Catherine's War is a romance, on the face of it; but it's also a story of friendships, family ties, long journeys, and the juxtaposition of the glories of enlistment over the sacrifices of love. Catherine and other women face tough times as their objects of affection and sources of support vanish, leaving them both vulnerable and strong in new ways they couldn't have anticipated.

Separation, war, and the uncertainty of a familiar home to return to beset Henry and his fellow fighters as much as they do Cat and those whose lives are forever changed by events wider than their relationships and family ties.

How does a man leave everything he loves, descend into the pits of hell, and return again to pick up the pieces? How does the woman he loves cope with challenges that have changed the course of their lives and forced upon each a maturity that in turn creates a new vision of the future?

Catherine's War delves into these transition points and their meanings and impact on love, and though its characters are not deeply presented as complex psychological creatures, they are understandably human in their efforts to survive war, peace, and love. As Denise Micka's characters dance through the compulsions and controversies in their lives, so readers are drawn into a heady saga about what impacts the evolutionary course of love in a leisure read recommended for anyone who enjoys a good love story laced with the lasting impact of war.

Growing Old with Grace
Ramakrishna Michaels
Moana Publications
9781515195146, $14.99,

Growing Old with Grace: A Spiritual Journey of Healing and Transformation is unexpected in its approach, documenting the life of a child who exhibited early musical genius, became involved in a dysfunctional relationship with his mother, and turned into a troubled adult with numerous addictions.

All this changed when author Ramakrishna Michaels met guru Babaji Shambhavananda and began to confront and change his karma and destiny in life; a process that led him on a psychological and spiritual journey replete with growth and newfound insights and directions.

Spiritual readers of autobiographies who seek to understand the exact nature and progression of transformative experiences will relish this story of how a musical child prodigy, who as an adult found himself physically and emotionally crippled, came to take charge of his life and discover a newfound purpose through yoga and meditation.

As chapters evolve, readers receive a healthy dose of Eastern spiritual philosophy and perspective, and will experience an unexpected dose of humor in vignettes that often incorporate a wry humorous observational style even as they consider the ironies and inconsistencies of life.

What are first presented as barriers to growth and obstacles to enlightenment become, ironically, the very vehicles by which lasting change and spiritual insights are delivered. As chapters evolve to cover this process, readers receive many insights on how the author's evolving spiritual practices spilled over into home, work, and greater life purposes: "I soon began to take my newly found meditation practice into my everyday life at the phone company. It wasn't long before I noticed a subtle shift at work. Before I began meditating, I would see certain people who I perceived did not like me, and I would just tighten up. If there was to be any interaction with them, it was nearly certain to be negative. With meditation, I came to realize I was not only the star in my own life's "movie," but was also writing the screenplay and producing and directing it with my thoughts. As my meditation practice took root, occasionally I would see the same people, and poof! My tension toward them would dissolve."

From the challenges of living in an ashram and dealing with the concept of physical work and its lessons ("I first learned the importance of doing seva (or service) at Gurumayi's ashram. The first few days I avoided it. "I don't want to work," I told myself. But seva was considered an important part of the ashram experience, so after a few days, I volunteered to help clean one of the public areas. It was a room filled with tables and chairs, next to the dining hall. As I went from table to table, cleaning each one, I became filled with energy, and the experience became quite magical. I discovered that doing seva took me to a very deep place within myself.") to translating these insights from his guru to broader and deeper life experiences, Ramakrishna Michaels provides a powerful testimony of not only his own growth, but to the influence a guru can make in the process of achieving transformative, lasting change.

Readers of Eastern philosophy and autobiographies of growth and enlightenment will find that Growing Old with Grace charts the precise pivot points of transformation with more insight and preciseness than most spiritual titles, and will find within in its pages much food for thought on how to "...navigate the worldly plane while remaining centered and focused within," while freeing oneself of the life-death-rebirth cycle of karma.

In a Gilded Cage
Mia Kerick
Evernight Publishing
9781773390253, $4.99,

Fairy tale retellings usually add a twist into the story - sometimes major; sometimes minor - but Mia Kerick's approach is darker and more striking than usual as she takes the Rapunzel story and adds a notably tragic element which embraces everything from a child's sale (a strange kind of "win-win" situation which gives his needy parents both money and a better life for their son) to the evolution of a strange relationship that can only be changed by a handyman's intervention.

The vision of Rapunzel as being a young man in need of rescue is indeed quite a different perspective, and as the story line evolves, readers will come to realize that a change in gender isn't the only difference between this Rapunzel and its classic predecessor.

From insights on dysfunctional family relationships and the experience of being a victim in a gilded cage (which also holds its benefits) to the efforts of an outsider to change the destiny and entrapped position of the alluring, damaged Lucci Grimley, In a Gilded Cage requires of its readers a flexibility and liberal outlook. Those without such attributes who unsuspectingly pick up the novel might find its tenants challenging and possibly offensive; but Mia Kerick's intention isn't to shock or disgust; but to provide a powerful story that winds family relationships, interpersonal connections, and the concept of a gilded cage's allure and dangers into a compellingly different vision of the Rapunzel mythos.

If you never leave your mansion-cave, what could you possibly need or desire outside of it? As an evolving friendship brings with it deeper questions, both characters move out of their self-imposed gilded cages and into uncharted territories.

Readers who pick up In a Gilded Cage expecting another predictable retelling of a fairy tale will be amazed - and delighted - by how far this author stretches the original story line's concepts in a dark social and psychological challenge to the innocence of the original Rapunzel story of seduction and love.

Groovin': Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes
Rich Israel
Sandra Jonas Publishing
9780997487138, $14.95,

Many memoirs take a trip down memory lane when it comes to experiences of the 1960s; but Groovin': Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes is a horse of another color, and comes from a father who had been telling his stories for years before the birth of his child prompted him to put them in writing.

His passion for adventure drove many of his encounters, while his memories of these years are backed by the reflections of old friends whom he contacted during the course of penning this memoir. In true keeping with the 1960s, readers should expect a story of drugs, sex, gambling, risky impulses for change, and living on the edge ("The thought of being someone's dinner sent shivers down my spine. Bears? Why so much fear about bears? Had it always been there, and I just wasn't aware of it? I was a rational person and often looked at my feelings in a therapeutic way, weighing what was fact and disregarding irrational emotions and reactions. Even in my far-from-normal state, a soft voice told me my fears were foolish. Standing in the bathhouse, I decided to confront this nagging dread and walk off into the woods.").

While his mishaps and forays into fears, limitations, and freedoms aren't unusual revelations for a memoir of life in the 1960s, what is different is Rich Israel's attention to capturing the sentiments and perspectives forged by these explorations into alternative lifestyles and states of mind - along with matters of the heart. Everything in Groovin' receives a magical perspective, spiced with drugs, but Israel's ability to document different adventures and their results incorporates a practical bent to a memoir that pulls readers into the 1960s and its free-styling attitudes. When horses become a part of this unexpected journey, Israel finds his drive to freedom powered by an equine influence as well.

As chapters present the counter-culture of the time, readers are brought into the rationales and consequences affecting a life lived on the fringes of social acceptance. Israel's travels also take him to Mexico, so cross-cultural experiences become part of an open-minded, spontaneous individual unafraid to test the waters outside the comfort zone of American society.

The result is a spirited story of evolving independence and growth that takes the milieu and zeitgeist of the 1960s and translates them into a romp through psyche, soul, and dangers the author is not unaware of, even as he participates: "I was indulging more than I normally did, but it didn't worry me. I had seen enough dopey people who took too much acid. Their choice, but I preferred my brain cells intact. Once this summer was over, I'd cool it. But for now, I was hell-bent on living life to the max."

Readers seeking an evocative, "you are there" feel to a series of often-zany 1960s encounters will relish the tone and presentation of Groovin': Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, a saga of hippie days gone wild.

The Tower Below
J.R. Roper
CHBB Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 9781540481900, $12.99,

The Tower Below, book three in the Morus Chronicles, continues the saga begun in The Hunter Awakens and The Spirit of Steel with the story of a boy who has newly embraced his role as a treasure hunter, having escaped the clutches of the demon Maura, and who faces new dangers as he is hunted in the woods by a massive bear that is controlled by a Dark force.

But Ethan has powerful friends who journey with him, throwing all caution to the winds despite the fact that the Dark will do anything to achieve its goals. Ironically, it's not just the Dark that covets Ethan's treasure hunting abilities: the Light also wants to prevent him from finding anything else that could prove deadly, and the police want him for blowing up part of his high school.

With everyone after him for different reasons, Ethan must toe a dangerous line between self-preservation and a greater good, and must identify what that greater good could be and what sacrifices he's willing to make in its name.

Warriors and monsters, sword attacks and sorcery, a long journey with friends and supporters that's replete with struggle and threats from all sides, and a greater vision of purpose all coalesce in a fantasy action quest that requires little prior familiarity with its predecessors in order to prove accessible to newcomers of all ages.

Replete with strong characters and evocative encounters that speak to this greater good and the evolution of strength and purpose in young Ethan's world ("Remember my failure, boy. I, who was the protector of all, lost my way and turned to darkness.

Selfishness was my downfall. It cannot be yours."), The Tower Below is every bit as powerful and well done as the preceding books in the series; and though prior familiarity with them is not a requirement, any newcomer who steps into this world will surely want to go back and fill in the blanks as they follow Ethan's evolving path and purpose, which leaves the door open for more in the series.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

1941 The America That Went To War
William M. Christie
Carrel Books
c/o Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781631440557 $34.99 hc / $19.24 Kindle

Synopsis: The America of 1941 was very different from the country we know today. Most people were just getting back on their feet after the struggles of the Depression, their interests personal and inward. Access to the political process was uneven, yet there was no general assumption that all citizens should have an equal voice in government. Magazines and radio provided all the cultural experiences people expected to be able to enjoy. Ethnic stereotypes were widely accepted, and concerns with social justice were only beginning to expand. After the Depression, most workers found jobs related to the growth of the American defense industry, but the nation was fearful of the foreign wars that made increased armaments necessary. Yet everything was about to change with the forced entry onto the world stage. Christie describes all this and more, demonstrating that one cannot understand the United States during and after World War II without understanding the country that entered the war.

Organized in a series of vignettes representing focal events of each month, 1941 brings readers into the mind-set of 1941 America. These stories show both what Americans were doing and how they saw themselves and the world in that last year of peace.

Critique: 1941 The America That Went To War is a vivid depiction of America as it once was before the Pearl Harbor attacks and its entry into World War II. Thoroughly accessible to scholars and lay readers alike, 1941 The America That Went To War is enriched with a handful of color photographs, notes, a bibliography, and an index. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library American History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that 1941 The America That Went To War is also available in a Kindle eTextbook edition ($19.24).

John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad
Mary Sharp and Frederick J. Beier
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862218 $24.95 hc / $19.03 Kindle

Synopsis: John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad provides a look at the principles and personal values that guided John H. Burdakin through a long, successful career as a top manager at three railroads - the Pennsylvania, the Penn Central, and finally the Grand Trunk Western, where he was president of the regional carrier from 1974 to 1986. The book, written from interviews with Burdakin before his death in 2014, gives real-life examples of how Burdakin's management principles and personal qualities helped him solve labor- management problems, update railroad technology, protect worker safety, and improve employee morale while managing a four thousand - person workforce. It introduces colorful characters who were involved in American railroads, as well as the serious, life-threatening issues that confronted railroads in the last half of the twentieth century in America. This book will provide insights for managers of any business as well as for those seeking to balance a successful career and a rewarding home life.

Critique: John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad is a biography of railroad executive John H. Burdakin, whose long and successful career is filled with valuable life lessons for any aspiring entrepreneur. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad is candid, enlightening, and highly recommended. "You've got enough to do - avoid micromanagement. Don't be a 'hover manager.'" It should be noted for personal reading lists that John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.03).

Chronicle of the Murdered House
Lucio Cardoso
Open Letter Books
c/o University of Rochester
Lattimore Hall 411, Box 270082, Rochester, NY 14627
9781940953502 $17.95 pbk / $8.69 Kindle

Synopsis: Lucio Cardoso's 1959 novel - a true modern classic - tells the story of a traditional family's slippage into social and moral decline. Employing a variety of narrative devices - including letters, diaries, memoirs, statements, confessions, and accounts penned by the various characters - the author weaves a complex and thoroughly engaging tale, hauntingly brought to life by a prose style unique in Brazilian literature.

Critique: Chronicle of the Murdered House is an unforgettable page-turner of decay, adultery, incest, insanity, and ultimately, the destruction of a wealthy, patriarchal family. Is the uncontrollable daughter-in-law Nina the cause of the family's ruin? Or are their own, sordid inner demons to blame? Compelling to the very end, Chronicle of the Murdered house is an influential work of Brazilian literature (well-known to have affected the writing of author Lucio Cardoso's lifelong friend and admirer Clarice Lispector), and especially recommended for public library collections. It should be noted that Chronicle of the Murdered House is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.69).

At Home in Exile
Russell Jeung
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310527831 $17.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Russell Jeung's spiritual memoir shares the joyful and occasionally harrowing stories of his life in East Oakland's Murder Dubs neighborhood - including battling drug dealers who threatened him, exorcising a spirit possessing a teen, and winning a landmark housing settlement against slumlords with 200 of his closest Cambodian and Latino friends.

More poignantly, At Home in Exile weaves in narratives of longing and belonging as Jeung retraces the steps of his Chinese-Hakka family and his refugee neighbors. In the face of forced relocation and institutional discrimination, his family and friends resisted time and time again over six generations. With humor and keen insight, At Home in Exile will help you see how living in exile will transform your faith.

Critique: As a sociologist and as Christian, author Russell Jeung presents At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among My Ancestors & Refugee Neighbors, a memoir of working to help refugees resettle, fighting against drug dealers and slumlords, and enduring faith in Jesus Christ even during the most trying of times. A compelling, profoundly spiritual chronicle, At Home in Exile is highly recommended especially for church library collections and Christian book clubs. It should be noted for personal reading lists that At Home in Exile is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

The Game Don't Change
Mazaradi Fox & Brittani Williams
Infamous Books
c/o Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781617754821, $12.87, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Mazaradi Fox wrote "The Game Don't Change" in 2013 during his incarceration at the Orleans Correctional Facility. This inherently compelling novel opens when DeMarco Jones escapes from a juvenile detention center. Successfully evading the law, DeMarco builds his reputation on the streets of Queens as a fearless and charismatic drug hustler. Though he is only sixteen, women of all ages can't get enough of him. He quickly finds, however, that he must battle ferociously to maintain his new kingpin status.

Critique: A gripping, gritty, riveting read from cover to cover, "The Game Don't Change" is highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Game Don't Change" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.82). Librarians should be aware that "The Game Don't Change" has a complete and unabridged MP3 CD audio book edition (Blackstone Audio, 9781504772358, $29.95).

And the Monkey Learned Nothing
Tom Lutz
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609384494, $16.00 PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Tom Lutz (the founder and editor in chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books) is on a mission to visit every country on earth. "And the Monkey Learned Nothing" is comprised of his reports from fifty of them, most of them describing his personal encounters in rarely visited spots in the form of anecdotes from way off the beaten path.

Traveling without an itinerary and without a goal, Lutz explores the Iranian love of poetry, the occupying Chinese army in Tibet, the amputee beggars in Cambodia, the hill tribes on Vietnam's Chinese border, the sociopathic monkeys of Bali, the dangerous fishermen and conmen of southern India, the salt flats of Uyumi in Peru, the floating hotels in French Guiana.

Then there is an Uzbeki prodigy in the market of Samarkand, an Azeri rental car clerk in Baku, guestworkers in Dubai, a military contractor in Jordan, cucuruchos in Guatemala, a Pentecostal preacher in rural El Salvador, a playboy in Nicaragua, employment agents in Singapore specializing in Tamil workers, prostitutes in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, international bankers in Belarus, a teacher in Havana, border guards in Botswana, tango dancers in Argentina, a cook in Suriname, a juvenile thief in Uruguay, voters in Guyana, doctors in Tanzania and Lesotho, scary poker players in Moscow, reed dancers in Swaziland, young camel herders in Tunisia, Romanian missionaries in Macedonia, and musical groups in Mozambique.

With an eye out for both the sublime and the ridiculous, Lutz falls, regularly, into the instant intimacy of the road with random strangers.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, compelling read from beginning to end, "And the Monkey Learned Nothing: Dispatches from a Life in Transit" is a unique and thoroughly engaging kind of travelogue. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "And the Monkey Learned Nothing" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "And the Monkey Learned Nothing" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

A Second Life
Bob Williams
Legacy Book Publishing
9781937952990, $24.95,

World War II novels unlike others involving war continue to fascinate readers. Perhaps it is because at the same time there was the war with Germany history also had the Holocaust. I am not sure why the interest continues but author Bob Williams in "A Second Life" tells a brilliantly written story of that era that is more than just a good novel. The writing is fast paced with a tale that moves from 1943 to 1990 filled with interesting characters set against the backdrop of World War II and the Holocaust. Books like this should be written because so many of the victims of the Holocaust and the "Greatest Generation" are no longer living to tell their first hand stories. Williams does an incredible job of bringing to life the moments in a death camp and the lives of survivors after being liberated from the camps. "A Second Life" is a multi layered coming of age story, war, and love that is vividly told for any reader who is looking for a fast paced well written novel to enjoy.

Cross The Line
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316407090, $29.00

This time Alex Cross makes the case personal in "Cross The Line" as he and his partner search for the killer of an old friend who was a cop. Patterson once again fills the novel with tense situations as Cross and the department search for the killer or killers. But the Cross novels are more than just police procedure novels. Patterson fills the stories with believable characters of the Cross family and their conflicts that make the books so much more fun to read. "Cross The Line" is another page turning thrill ride to the very last page.

Naked Alliances
S.K. Nicholls
Brave Blue Heron Books
9780895609, $14.50

Disney and the other theme parks are the thing people think of when you say Orlando Florida. Author S. K. Nicholls in her mystery "Naked Alliances" shows there is a seamier side to the city that many people have no idea that exists. From the Parliament House entertainment complex to a nudist resort, the novel is filled with sometime bizarre situations and oddball characters that detective Richard Noggin encounters on his quest to find justice for his clients. "Naked Alliances" is fast paced thrill ride thru a darker side of Central Florida that is also the first novel in the Naked Eye series.

Things From Outer Space
Edited by Hank Davis
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781476781662, $7.99, www,

Science Fiction has always had stories of aliens and humans in contact with each other. Now Hank Davis has chosen some of the greatest short stories by writers who show why they are some of the best tales ever written. Some of the authors are Clifford D. Simak, David Drake, Gordon R Dickson, Fritz Leiber, to name a few. "Things From Outer Space" exhibits why a collection by Hank Davis reveals how he has impeccable taste.

The Good Fight
Donna Hicken
Closet Books
c/o Robert Crane Publishing
P.O. Box 440504, Jacksonville, Florida 32222
9781891232183, $24.95,

Donna Hicken who was for so many years a top anchor of news in the Jacksonville Florida area, tells her story of her battle a second time with breast cancer in, "The Good Fight. In her position as an anchor she and news director J. Michael McCormick chose to go public with the news and progress of her fight with breast cancer. "The Good Fight" is an outgrowth of that decision. Hicken set up a weekly journal that viewers could respond to and Hicken includes many of the writings of herself and viewers who watched her progress. But "The Good Fight" is very different from other cancer books because she also talks about how and why she set up a breast cancer foundation in her name. Unlike other foundations the Donna Hicken Foundation she created also helps women monetarily as well as other ways of support which most cancer foundations do not do. "The Good Fight" is an uplifting story of hope for anyone dealing with cancer. All the net proceeds of "The Good Fight" go to help other women fighting breast cancer in the Jacksonville area of Florida.

Get What's Yours for Medicare Maximize Your Coverage Minimize Your Costs
Philip Moeller
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501124006, $19.99,

I have to say that after reading "Get What's Yours for Medicare" I am more confused than ever on the whole Medicare issue. With all the parts of it and what is and is not covered, I do not believe any regular person can fully understand it all. The one thing the author makes clear all the way thru is find someone who knows about the different aspects and talk to them before making a decision. Maybe if I took a lot more time and read "Get What's Yours for Medicare" slower I could grasp more of it. The problem is also Obama Care just further complicated the whole issue of health care. I know the author is trying to simplify the issue but in reality there is really no real way to do so. At any rate "Get What's Yours for Medicare" is a good starting point for people to ask questions of professionals who are not trying to sign you up for healthcare.

Whoo Will Save the Moon?
R. L. Austin, author
Hans Guignard, illustrator
Privately Published
9780615835396, $9.99,

A little girl named Alivia finds out that a bat wants to eliminate the moon. She begins to learn why and how she can save the moon from extinction Though the story is a kid's book there is something for anyone any age to enjoy as she learns why the bat wants to get rid of the moon. She learns there are two sides to every situation and she tries to find a compromise that everyone will accept. "Whoo Will Save the Moon?" is a wonderfully told story filled with charming characters Alivia meets on her quest to save the moon.

Monster in the Closet
R. L. Austin, author
Hans Guignard, illustrator
Privately Published
9780692325339, $9.99,

"Monster in the Closet" is the second Alivia story that is fun reading for any age. This time Alivia solves her monster problem in the closet as well as a situation that involves a small bear who is being stung by bees. The author again shows the importance of compromise to solve problems a delightful children's tale.

Two Homes in Two Places
Sarah Case Mamika, author
Nicolas Peruzzo, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
4062 Plains Ave S.W. Fort Payne, AL 35967
9781612253299, $12.99,

Brad feels he is lucky even though his parents do not live in the same house with him. Instead each lives separately while Brad lives part of the time with one parent and the other with the other parent. He feels he has the best situation because he gets two of everything. In one home he has a dog the other a cat and both presents for birthday and other holidays. Brad is lucky because so often the parents do not do what is in the best interest of their children in a separation or divorce. Parents going through those types of situations should read "Two Homes in Two Places" to figure out what is best for their children.

Little Birdie Grows Up
Wanda Luthman, author
Bryce Westervelt, illustrator
Lilacs in Literature
9780692745090, $6.99,

Told in poetic verse "Little Birdie Grows Up" tells the story of how a mother and daughter bird deal with the fact that the young bird one day will leave the nest. Children will love the beautiful artwork as they learn the story of this little bird that grows up but "Little Birdie Grows Up" is a statement that life is always moving forward that applies to anyone of any age.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins
Reed Farrel Coleman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399169465, $27.00, Hardcover, 342 pp.
9780425282489, $9.99, Paperback, 416 pp.

From the publisher: In the wake of a huge nor'easter, three bodies are discovered in the rubble of an abandoned factory building in an industrial part of Paradise known as the Swap. One body, a man's, wrapped in a blue tarp, is only hours old. But within feet of that body are the skeletal remains of two teenage girls - - soon discovered to be the bodies of girls who went missing during a Fourth of July celebration twenty-five years earlier. Not only does that crime predate Jesse Stone's arrival in Paradise, but the dead girls were close friends of Jesse's right hand, Officer Molly Crane. And things grow even more complicated when the mother of one of the dead girls returns to Paradise to bury her daughter and is promptly murdered. It's up to Police Chief Jesse Stone to pull away the veil of the past to see how all the murders are connected.

Jesse has been the Chief of Police in Paradise, Massachusetts for over a decade, having left his days as an LA homicide detective behind him. (His drinking at that time of his life being the predominant cause.) But he had found a home in Paradise, in more than the literal sense. His colleagues, among them Molly, Captain Healy (head of the State homicide bureau), and Fire Dept. Chief Robbie Wilson, are wonderfully brought to life by the author (who picked up this series after the passing of Jesse's creator, Robert B. Parker, and done complete justice to him, and the series). Molly has four kids and a husband, and has recently been promoted to detective, replacing his good friend, Luther "Suitcase" Simpson, usually referred to as Suit, after he was seriously wounded in an incident where he took a bullet for Jesse, literally.

The reappearance of ghosts from 25 years ago makes it clear to Jesse that "the past was unrelenting and no grave was deep enough to keep it buried forever . . . those two girls found down there needed a voice, and he meant to give it to them." And three murders certainly present a challenge to him, not helped by more bodies that soon turn up. Jesse's private life is looking up, however - he had been divorced for many years from his [cheating] wife when he meets the new ME, Tamara Elkin, who had come to Paradise from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of NYC, in what she describes as "a long story" left for another time.

The title derives from some philosophizing about fate and the devil being unseen factors driving what we do, and what is done to us, one character saying to Jesse, speaking of the devil [no pun intended], "Most of the time he loses, but sometimes the devil wins."

The author wraps it up with a couple of unexpected twists that I for one did not see coming, and doesn't let up on the suspense as to the identity of the remaining 'bad guys' until very late in the book, in very satisfying manner. (Parenthetically, I loved his reminiscences of Ozzie Smith, the great shortstop, called "the Wizard of Oz," a poster of whom hangs in his house.)

A fast read that lives up to the previous novels of the Messrs. Parker and Coleman, and one that is recommended.

Murder Run
Shelly Frome
Sunbury Press
9781620066164, $16.95, Paperback, 239 pp.

From the publisher: In this crime novel, a wayward handyman grapples with the suspicious death of his employer, a fragile choreographer who secluded herself in the Litchfield Hills. As the fallout mounts, the reader is taken to various locales in and around Manhattan, an escapade in Miami Springs and back again to the hills of Connecticut until this twisty conundrum is finally laid to rest.

We are introduced to Jed Cooper, the protagonist of this novel, on the first page, as he answers the phone in his "junk trailer" which he has been house-sitting while doing a job for woman for whom he had started working four months prior. But the caller's identity is unknown, and the call ominous. When Jed drives over to his employer's house, he discovers her dead body. In very short order, the police enter the house and discover him, and the woman's body. It is not difficult to imagine the cops' reaction, and on whom their suspicions fall.

It does not help matters much for Jed that the cops know him well, as he served time in a Juvenile Facility - well, a "place for troubled boys" - thirteen years prior, among other illegal things with which he was involved. There are also several references to "a woman whose lifeless body wound up in the water by the Jersey docks," as well as the present-day killing of one of the male characters.

Most of the rest of the book is a cat-and-mouse game among Jed, the local cops, and several nefarious men who seem determined to convince the police that Jed is the perpetrator, among other things. The action takes place up in the boondocks of Connecticut and surrounding areas, as well in various sites in and around Manhattan.

This was all somewhat hard to follow. "Twisty conundrum" just about captures this novel, as this reader found it difficult to keep up with the plot. But it is indeed interesting, as are its characters, whose p.o.v. alternate through the book, only, I should state, adding to my confusion. There were some parts of the narrative that simply confused me, e.g., "The odds were getting better she was worth the candle." But "Murder Run" is definitely a change of pace.

The Case of the Purloined Painting
Carl Brookins
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO. Box 451, St. Cloud, Minnesota 56302
9780878397082, $14.95, Paperback, 166 pp.

From the publisher: When an American Army unit arrived at the end of World War II, some soldiers appropriated items in what appeared to be an abandoned building. A small painting by a mid-level Polish painter is used by an ex-GI to float a bank loan which results in the founding of a manufacturing firm in Minneapolis. Now the painting and the ledger become the center of murderous attempts by the descendants of the veteran to conceal the painting's journey. World-wide efforts at repatriation of stolen art from World War II is a major ongoing effort and the story links to that effort as international operatives descend on the Twin Cities. Enter private detective Sean Sean. He is a short but effective operative who, unlike many PIs of the modern era, doesn't sleep around, doesn't shoot people unnecessarily, and has many friends among various local law enforcement agencies.

The title of this novel puts one in mind of the great Erle Stanley Gardner, most if not all of his Perry Masons novels bearing titles which begin "The Case of . . ." But this book borrows nothing from great writers of the past; it is entirely Mr. Brookins' own. And that is a good, no, a terrific, thing. Not entirely surprising, since I'd read many of this author's reviews, and his writing is simply great.

The publisher's notes quoted above reference the protagonist's short stature. He is, in fact, just over five feet tall, to the six foot tall Catherine Mckerney, massage therapist with her own school, variously described as his lover, his apartment-mate, friend and sometime partner. Sean has been an active private investigator for a couple of decades. He describes himself as a "tracer of lost persons, collector of evidence of malfeasance, revealer of fraudsters and thieves. . . not only am I very good at my job, I'm also persistent." Three days after the discovery of a body in the Mississippi River, on which body was found a "faint series of numbers tattooed on one forearm," indicating that the man had been in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, Sean finds himself with two different new clients, each of whom relates a tale that his instincts soon tell him are related. The first of these is a woman who tells him she witnessed the scene on the bridge which culminated in the body of a man being thrown to his death. The second is a man who hires him to find a woman he's been dating who seems to have disappeared. This latter client soon neither returns calls nor shows up at Sean's office.

The tale is one that touches upon art work and other stolen property taken during or just after the war in Europe, whose descendants are still searching for them, a search that is ongoing.

Mr. Brookins makes the reader very palpably feel the brutal weather of February in Minneapolis. I loved the author paying homage to both Raymond Chandler, a wonderful mystery writer of days of yore, and the very current [and also wonderful] author named Michael Connolly, and acknowledges a beloved mystery novel discussion group named after Dorothy L. Sayers, appropriately named DorothyL. I also loved his note, after an evening at a blues bar: "Blues music is a label not given to precise definitions. It bears some similarities to crime or mystery fiction in that regard." A sentiment with which I must agree.

Highly recommended.

Next up for this reader is Mr. Brookins' "The Case of the Yellow Diamond" - I can't wait!!

The Case of the Yellow Diamond
Carl Brookins
North Star Press of St. Cloud
P.O. Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302
9780878398164, $14.95, Paperback, 170 pp.

The title of this novel, as was the case with Mr. Brookins last book, "The Case of the Purloined Painting," puts one in mind of the great Erle Stanley Gardner, most if not all of his Perry Masons novels bearing titles which begin "The Case of . . ." And this book, as was the last one, is also absolutely delightful, with the author's trademark sly sense of humor much in evidence throughout.

This book deals, as did the last one, with events which took place in the waning days of WWII. In this book, those events began in the Pacific Theater, and involve "thefts, smuggling, and the acquisition of wealth and influence through illegal means." The tale opens with the protagonist, Sean Sean, entering his office and finding a dead body lying on the floor. He immediately calls his good friend, Minneapolis Police Detective Ricardo Simon. What follows is a flashback to Sean being hired a few weeks before by Josie and Tod Bartelme to assist in their efforts to locate the wreckage of a B-24 bomber that had taken Josie's granduncle to his death near Yap Island, "a speck of coral in the Pacific Ocean." In the ensuing investigation, the dead man had been the principal suspect.

Members of both families and even Josie's college buddies had offered their assistance, and financed their efforts as well. Josie and Tod were planning to embark on a trip to the Pacific to continue their search for the wreckage, and hire Sean to assist in their efforts, notwithstanding that it had taken place nearly 70 years ago.

The protagonist, just over five feet tall, lives with the self-proclaimed love of his life, the six foot tall Catherine Mckerney, a successful massage therapist with her own school, with whom he shares her apartment in Kenwood, Minnesota as well as his home and ranch in Roseville. Sean has been an active private investigator for a couple of decades, the sign on his door reading "Sean Sean, Private Investigator, Ltd." He describes himself as a "tracer of lost persons, collector of evidence of malfeasance, revealer of fraudsters and thieves. . . not only am I very good at my job, I'm also persistent." Sean says of himself "Family dynamics were always convoluted and frequently hard to sort out, which was one reason I didn't do divorces. Give me a nice clean street robbery or random serial killer any time." In this instance, that is an understatement

The cast of characters is large, mostly consisting of family and friends of Sean's clients [including one particularly oversexed and buxom female], some of whom try to dissuade him from continuing his investigation, even going so far as to bad-mouth him in the industry, putting them at the top of Sean's list of suspects, which grows exponentially with incidents of murder, attempted murder, and vandalism taking place.

In his last book, the author paid homage to fellow mystery writer Michael Connolly; this time around the references are to Carl Hiaasen, Bill Crider, James Lee Burke, and Wilkie Collins. I love it!

As was the earlier book, this one as well is highly recommended.

Deceptive Practices
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave.,NY, NY 10001
9781503940383, $15.95, Paperback, 340 pp.

From the publisher: Olivia Shaw grew up poor on the wrong side of the tracks, but with her thriving real estate business and a solid marriage, her life finally feels stable . . . until she discovers her husband is cheating. Enraged, her sister offers a solution: Infidelity Limited, a firm that promises to rough up her husband and scare him straight. Overnight, Olivia's life is upended as she, like all of Infidelity Limited's clients, is drawn into a dark web of blackmail and murder. Now, Olivia is emerging as a prime suspect in her husband's death. As a dogged detective closes in, Olivia has only one option: take down Infidelity Limited before it's too late.

This newest book from Simon Wood grabs the reader from page one, where Olivia, now in her forties, discovers that her marriage of eight years is not what she'd thought, when she sees her husband literally in the arms of another woman. The recommendation of her sister, Clare, older by three years and "the closest thing to a friend Olivia had," despite their rocky relationship, feels like the right course of action, until of course it turns out to be anything but. She is told by the aforementioned Infidelity Limited ("a discreet service that deals with infidelity issues") and its owner, Roy (who was "in his fifties and had an ex-football-player look to him") that they "tailor our approach to your specific situation." Or not.

Olivia is no stranger to widowhood: Her first husband had died in a drunk-driving accident after two years of marriage. Though there was no question at the time that it was an accident, it is only one more reason that the cops are looking at her as the prime suspect in the present situation, something which Roy had counted on.

As the book nears its denouement, the suspense and actual fear of what might happen next are palpable for the reader. From that point on, the pages couldn't turn fast enough. I tried to imagine how the author would wrap this up, with an ingenious plot whose end I just couldn't fathom. To call the book a page-turner doesn't do it justice. I have loved all this author's prior novels, but this outdoes the ones that came before. Highly recommended.

Parenthetically, I was touched by the author's dedication of the book to Royston, his beloved four-legged friend who died not long ago; he also manages to get him [well, his name, anyway] onto a page in the book - well done, sir!

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Last Dragon Slayer
Martyn Stanley
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B009ECABOA, $4.75, US copyright 2013, 210 pages
ISBN: 9781490943196 pbk

The Last Dragon Slayer is the first book in a fantasy saga. The characters are interesting and the quest in the saga is worth the tale. Everything for a great fantasy saga is there. The problem is that there isn't enough to make the story unique in the genre. If you haven't read many books in this genre, you will enjoy the story. This is the first book in the series so there is potential that the whole saga could push the stories into a must read in the genre.

A court mage Saul Karza is given the quest by his Empress to discover if the reports of a dragon raiding the borderlands are true and if it is to kill the dragon. He tries to collect a team of warriors but is only successful in finding two Northmen mercenaries, a dwarf, a dark elf about to be executed, a broken survivor of the last battle with a dragon and an elf. The borderlands he has to travel through are nearly as dangerous as the dragon his team is about to face.

Each member of the team has their own personal reasons on being on this quest that is likely to result in their deaths. The main storyline doesn't revolve around Saul and the dragon but on a relationship that develops between one of the Northern mercenaries and the elf princess on the run.

The Last Dragon Slayer is a complete sword and sorcerer quest but it feels more like the intro to a larger tale. The characters are well developed and the mercenary elf story is intriguing. Anyone looking at the fantasy quest genre will enjoy the book. The biggest problem is that the quest to slay the dragon is just the first part of a larger saga of at least three more books.

Witched at Birth
Dakota Cassidy
Book Boutiques
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00ZJIOZCC ebook price: $4.99, US copyright 2015, 188 pages

Witched at Birth is an adult romance set in an alternative US where witchcraft is the norm. The story starts with in-your-face absurdity but it soon becomes an adult fantasy suspense with deep character development. If you can handle the extreme swings in the storyline, the story is a small fun tale.

Winne Foster is on parole. She has been just released from witch prison where she was serving time for accidently blowing up a building while she was angry. She is sent to Paris Texas to serve her parole as a preschool aid for problem witches. Her halfway house is being run by her ex-boyfriend who was also the person who got her so angry she blew up the building. She arrives in Paris on the hottest day of the year driving a pink wreck of a car with a female hygiene product on the side and sandals made from maxi pads. From there her first day becomes even worse.

Witched at Birth is light story for any adult looking for a laugh. It is a step above average in the genre but only a step. It is a recommendation when it is on sale.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Wines of the Finger Lakes
Peter Burforod
Burford Books, Inc.
101 East State Street, #301, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781580801812, $18.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: New York's Finger Lakes region is rapidly establishing a world-wide reputation for its wines. Peter Burford is the publisher of Burford Books and is a long-time enthusiast of the Finger Lakes and its wines.

In "Wines of the Finger Lakes: Wines, Grapes, and Wineries of New York's Most Dynamic Wine Region" Peter looks at the wines, grapes, and wineries of the Finger Lakes and describes how the area is evolving as an important locale for Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and many other wines.

"Wines of the Finger Lakes" surveys the grapes grown in the region, including the terroir (the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavor and aroma: ), and the unique effect of the Finger Lakes themselves on the region's climate and wine-grape production.

"Wines of the Finger Lakes" informatively surveys the rich history of wine making in the Finger Lakes, beginning with the early 19th century, to a time when the Finger Lakes produced much of the wine consumed in the US.

"Wines of the Finger Lakes" also explores many of the most important and interesting of the over 200 wineries in the region that today produce world-class wines in one of the most beautiful areas in the eastern US.

Critique: Enhanced with both color as well as black-and-white images, "Wines of the Finger Lakes" is impressively informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. The result is a seminal work that any and all wine-lover who lives in or visits the Finger Lakes, or who simply enjoys American wine will want to read. "Wines of the Finger Lakes" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library collections. Those with an interest in wine, food, and New York's Finger Lakes district will find several other outstanding titles on the Burford Books web site at

Choose Your Weapon
Christopher Burchfield
Craven Books
c/o Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610352772, $16.95, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: In Gold Rush - era California, gunfighters weren't just outlaws, bounty hunters, or sheriffs -- they were also prominent journalists, legislators, governors, and judges. "Choose Your Weapon: The Duel in California, 1847 - 1882" by Christopher Burchrield brings to life a now-forgotten time, when California was a raw new state with politics as violent as any banana republic. This was the Golden Age of dueling, when prominent citizens would settle their political and personal disputes with gunfire, all according to the venerable law of the code duello.

"Choose Your Weapon" documents every notable duel to have occurred in California, from the arrival of U.S. dueling culture with the first American settlers to the end of dueling's popularity on the eve of the Civil War.

In the heyday of dueling culture, men from all walks of life, from politicians to manual laborers, fought formal duels. Duels could be triggered by political battles to shape state government -- or they could be fought over a woman or a simple personal slight.

Braggarts often proved to be cowards on the field of honor, and many a quiet and peaceable man could shoot with deadly accuracy when reputation was at stake. For the California gentlemen of the 1850s, honor or dishonor (and life or death) could be decided with a single shot.

Critique: Christopher Burchfield has been researching and writing about the Gold Rush Era of California for more than thirty years. In "Choose Your Weapon: The Duel in California, 1847 - 1882" Burchfield draws upon his exhaustively detailed personal research to create a seminal and unique work of historical scholarship that is truly extraordinary. Informed and informative, "Choose Your Weapon" is unreservedly recommended, especially for personal, community, college, and university library 19th Century American History collections in general, and Dueling History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign
Dennis A. Rasbach
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213065, $29.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain earned the sobriquet "Lion of the Round Top" for his tactical brilliance leading his 20th Maine Infantry on the rocky wooded slopes of Little Round Top at on the evening of July 2, 1863. Promoted to brigade command, he was presumed mortally wounded during an assault at Petersburg on June 18, 1864, and bestowed a rare "on the spot" battlefield promotion to brigadier general. He survived, returned to the command in 1865, and participated in the surrender of Lee's veterans at Appomattox.

Chamberlain went to his grave a half-century later believing he was wounded while advancing alone from the future site of "Fort Hell." His thrust, so he and others believed, was against the permanent fortifications of the Dimmock Line at Rives' Salient, near the Jerusalem Plank Road, through a murderous flank fire from what was soon to become Confederate-held Fort Mahone. This narrative has been perpetuated by Chamberlain scholars and biographers over the past century. Chamberlain's wounding and Rives' Salient are now fused in the modern consciousness. This interpretation was given an additional mantle of authority with the erection of a Medal of Honor Recipient's placard near South Crater Road by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on November 8, 2014.

In fact, author and Civil War historian Dennis A. Rasbach argues, a careful review of the primary evidence left by Chamberlain and his contemporaries suggests that Chamberlain was mistaken regarding the larger context of the engagement in which he fought and fell. An overwhelming body of evidence, much of it derived from Chamberlain himself, demonstrates he actually attacked a different part of the Confederate line in the vicinity of an entirely different road. This part of the Petersburg campaign must now be rewritten to properly understand the important battle of June 18, 1864, and Chamberlain's role in it.

Critique: An iconoclastic and seminal work of impressively detailed research, "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered" is profusely illustrated with photos, original maps, and copiously documented with extensive primary accounts. Rasbach's reexamination of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain account of his involvement in the Petersburg Campaign clearly dispels a well-established Civil War myth, and sets the historical record straight -- making it an invaluable and critically essential contribution to the growing library of American Civil War literature. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Imperfect Union
Chuck Raasch
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-6921
9780811718936, $29.95, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, Union artillery lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson fell while bravely spurring his men to action.

His father, Sam Wilkeson was a New York Times correspondent who was already on his way to Gettysburg when he learned of his son's wounding but had to wait until the guns went silent before seeking out his son, who had died at the town's poorhouse.

Sitting next to his dead boy, Sam Wilkeson then wrote one of the greatest battlefield dispatches in American history.

"Imperfect Union: A Father's Search for His Son in the Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg" by Chuck Raasch is an especially vivid exploration of one of Gettysburg's most famous stories -- that of a father and a son, the son's courage under fire, and the father's search for his son in the bloody aftermath of battle.

Critique: An impressive model of detailed and meticulous research, Raasch deftly reconstructs Bayard Wilkeson's wounding and death, which have been shrouded in myth and legend, and sheds light on Civil War era journalism, battlefield medicine, and the concept of a "good death". The result is a seminal and original contribution to the growing library of American Civil War literature and a critically important addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Imperfect Union: A Father's Search for His Son in the Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg" is also available in a Kindle format ($15.95) and as a complete and unabridged CD audio book (9780811718936, $29.95).

Michael Bloomfield
Ed Ward
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613733288, $26.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Michael Bernard "Mike" Bloomfield (July 28, 1943 - February 15, 1981) was an American guitarist and composer, born in Chicago, Illinois, who became one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental prowess, since he rarely sang before 1969. Respected for his guitar playing, Bloomfield knew and played with many of Chicago's blues legends before achieving his own fame and was instrumental in popularizing blues music in the mid-1960s.

"Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero" by music historian Ed Ward is the definitive biography of this legendary guitarist whom eminent figures like Muddy Waters and B. B. King held in high esteem, and who created the prototype for Clapton, Hendrix, Page, and everyone who followed.

Bloomfield was one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental prowess. He was a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which inspired a generation of white blues players; he played with Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s, when his guitar was a central component of Dylan's new rock sound on "Like a Rolling Stone" and at his earthshaking 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance. He then founded the Electric Flag, recorded Super Session with Al Kooper, backed Janis Joplin, and released at least twenty other albums, despite debilitating substance abuse. He died of a mysterious drug overdose in 1981.

Critique: Impressively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, featuring a section of historic photographs, and a 'must read' for all his fans, "Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero" is extraordinarily informed and informative. This is the definitive biography of Bloomfield's life and work, and very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library 20th Century American Music History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Evangelizing Lebanon
Melanie E. Trexler
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781481302593, $49.95, HC, 276pp,

Synopsis: In 1893, Said Jureidini, an Arabic-speaking Christian from the Ottoman Empire, experienced an evangelical conversion while attending the Chicago World's Fair. Two years later he founded the first Baptist church in modern-day Lebanon. For financial support, he aligned his fledgling church with American Landmark Baptists and, later, Southern Baptists. By doing so, Jureidini linked the fate of Baptists in Lebanon with those in the United States.

In "Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures", Melanie E. Trexler (Assistant Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University) explores the complex, reflexive relationship between Baptist missionaries from the States and Baptists in Lebanon. Professor Trexler pays close attention to the contexts surrounding the relationships, the consequences, and the theologies inherent to missionary praxis, carefully profiling the perspectives of both the missionaries and the Lebanese Baptists.

Professor Trexler thus discovers a fraught mutuality at work. U.S. missionaries presented new models of church planting, evangelism, and educational opportunities that empowered the Lebanese Baptists to accomplish personal and communal goals. In turn, Lebanese Baptists prompted missionaries to rethink their ideas about mission, Muslim-Christian relations, and even American foreign policy in the region.

But Professor Trexler also reveals how missionaries' efforts to evangelize Muslims came to threaten the very security of the Lebanese Baptists. Professor Trexler also shows how Baptist missionary theology and praxis in Lebanon had more to do with bolstering an insular Baptist identity in the U.S. than it did with engaging in interfaith relationships with Lebanese Muslims.

Ironically, American Baptists' efforts to help ultimately spun out of control and led to unintended consequences. Professor Trexler's study of Baptists in Lebanon serves as a warning for missional identity everywhere, Baptist or not: missionary insistence on a narrow and politically useful definition of what it means to be Christian can both aid and undermine, build and destabilize.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal and detailed scholarship, "Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures" is enhanced with the inclusion of a list of Abbreviations, a twenty-four page Selected Bibliography, and a thirteen page Index. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Evangelizing Lebanon" is an extraordinary contribution to Baptist History and very highly recommended for church, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Evangelizing Lebanon" is also available in a Kindle format ($47.45).

Before I Do
Elizabeth F. Schwartz
The New Press
126 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005-4007
9781620971543, $22.50, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Elizabeth F. Schwartz has been practicing law since 1997 and is one of Florida s best known advocates for the legal rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Her practice focuses on family formation (adoption, insemination, and surrogacy), divorce, estate planning, and probate.

Not long ago, same-sex couples had to jump through endless hoops to make their relationships even close to legal. For the most part, those days are over. Same-sex couples no longer have to operate as outlaws -- they too can have in-laws! But here's the rub: many gay and lesbian couples, accustomed to living off-grid, are so thrilled to have the benefits of marriage that they gleefully jump into marriage without fully understanding the consequences.

In "Before I Do: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise" Schwartz draws upon her years of experience and expertise to clearly spell out the range of practical considerations couples should address before tying the knot. She explores the rights marriage provides and those it does not. With cameos from some of the most prominent LGBT professionals, Schwartz explains all of the implications of marriage from name changes and getting a license to taxes, insurance, Social Security, and much more.

Substantial chapters on estate planning, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and organizing finances make "Before I Do" relevant for all couples, young and older, and a crucial handbook for anyone considering marriage -- because, as Schwartz explains, just because you can get married does not mean you should.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Before I Do: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise" should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection in general, and on the personal reading list of everyone and anyone contemplating marriage for themselves in particular. It should be noted that "Before I Do" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Star Struck
David Bradstreet & Steve Rabey, authors
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310344063, $19.99, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: The heavens reflect the glory of God, telling us that nightly in a wonderful, mind-boggling cosmic display that they are indeed the work of the creator. And now, using rovers and satellites, we're venturing further out into the vastness of space than ever before.

In "Star Struck: Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of Our Cosmos", Christian astronomer David Bradstreet and writer Steve Rabey collaborate to take their readers on a guided tour of the biggest story ever, offering both intriguing science lessons and powerful spiritual insights.

As we discover more about cosmos, we understand more about the character of our Creator; The more we see the vastness and complexity of the universe, the more we experience awe, wonder, praise, gratitude and humility; Hundreds of Christian astronomers blaze the way into deep exploration of the universe today, discovering and proving God's work in the heavens.

Combining a respect and admiration for mainstream astronomy with a zeal for uncovering new details about God's celestial handiwork at its core, and from a distinctly Christian perspective, "Star Struck" is about stars, planets, asteroids, nebula, comets, dark matter, and the other fingerprints of God telling us that all of the worlds around are planet Earth are God's and this world is his home for use.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of black-and-white images throughout, "Star Struck: Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of Our Cosmos" is as impressively informed and informative as it is 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. While very highly recommended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation, and unreservedly recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Star Struck" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99) and as a complete and unabridged CD audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781515953920, $24.99).

Marion Dewar: A Life of Action
Deborah Gorham
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781772600094, $18.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Marion Bell Dewar, CM (February 17, 1928 - September 15, 2008) was a prominent member of the New Democratic Party (NDP), mayor of Ottawa from 1978 to 1985, and a member of the Parliament of Canada from 1986 to 1988.

Dewar could never ignore a person who was begging in the street. Along with money, she would offer words of encouragement and friendship. Perhaps it was her training as a nurse, her devout Catholic upbringing, or maybe it was simply because she was a genuinely compassionate woman.

While serving as the mayor of Ottawa, Canada, Marion Dewar worked tirelessly to bring about non-profit housing, better public transportation, support and encouragement for the arts, for peace, and for women's rights.

She advocated for visible minorities, gays and lesbians, and was the driving force behind the initiative to bring 4,000 boat people to Ottawa from Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

She was a prominent member of the New Democratic Party and sat as a Member of Parliament in 1987-1988 - all while raising four children.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of both archival and personal photos, "Marion Dewar: A Life of Action" by Deborah Gorham (who taught History and Women's Studies at Carleton University for forty years, including setting up, planning and teaching the first women's history course at the university - one of the first such courses in North America) provides an intriguing and informative biography of a singular woman's personal life and public political career. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library Women's History and Canadian Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Marion Dewar: A Life of Action" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Sociology for Nurses
Elaine Denny, Sarah Earle, Alistair Hewison, editors
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781509505401, $84.95, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded third edition, "Sociology for Nurses" is an ideal textbook and an invaluable companion for students wishing to get to grips with how sociology can positively transform professional nursing practice.

This thoroughly revised new edition maintains its commitment to providing jargon-free explanations of sociological theories and evidence to show how studying sociology can be useful in all branches of nursing. Readers will develop a clear understanding of what sociology is and why it is essential to practice, gain deeper awareness of social issues such as gender, ethnicity, class and the life course, and become more familiar with the social contexts of health policy and nursing as a profession.

With updates in every chapter, this third edition includes a new chapter on research methods, a reorganized collection of chapters on health policy, extended coverage of long-term illness and disability, as well as contemporary case studies on topical healthcare issues such as dementia, the 'obesity epidemic' and recent attempts to integrate health and social care. In addition, the book provides clearly defined learning aims, a useful glossary of sociological concepts, structured activities and questions for discussion, and annotated suggestions for further reading.

The editors and contributing authors to "Sociology for Nurses" have a wealth of experience teaching sociology to nurses at diploma and degree pre-registration and post-registration levels. This exceptional textbook will continue to spark interest and debate among all student nurses, particularly those approaching sociology for the first time.

Critique: A complete course of instruction under one cover, "Sociology for Nurses" is especially recommended as a Nursing School curriculum textbook and should be a part of every college and university library collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of student nurses that "Sociology for Nurses" is also available in a paperback edition (9781509505418, $34.95) and in a Kindle format ($33.20).

Great Works: Encounters with Art
Michael Glover
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791383019, $35.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Michael Glover is a London-based poet, art critic, fiction writer, and magazine editor. In the pages of "Great Works: Encounters with Art ", Glover has created fully and beautifully illustrated study that offers the reader a highly enjoyable and intelligently-written tour through art history.

Glover's thoughts about a particular piece of art are unfailingly pithy, astute, erudite, often humorous, and engaging. His enormously informative popular essays are filled with compelling and entertaining observations as well as trenchant commentary about art, history, culture, and humanity.

Collected for the first time in book form, this selection of 50 essays (a number of which have been exclusively written for this volume) is organized in an unexpected manner, allowing readers to see connections and juxtapositions between works. Their subjects cover an enormous span in terms of style, era, and geography ranging from Rembrandt's Bathsheba with King David's Letter, and El Greco's The Vision of St. John, to Ai Wei Wei's Iron Tree, and Georgia O'Keeffe's Single Lily with Red. All the texts are accompanied by full-color illustrations of the work in focus.

Critique: A complete course of art history and appreciation in a single volume, "Great Works: Encounters with Art" is an extraordinary body of information, insight, and inspiration that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Art History collections. Indeed, "Great Works: Encounters with Art" will prove of enduring value and interest for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
Valerie Ann Worwood
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781577311393, $26.95, HC, 712pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home and Work Environments" by Valerie Ann Worwood (a consultant clinical aromatherapist with a doctorate in complementary medicine) is a fundamental and definitive resource for anyone interested in alternative approaches to healing and lifestyle. Featuring more than 800 easy-to-follow recipes for essential oil treatments, "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" provides a thorough and accurate guidance to the home practitioner or professional aromatherapist.

"The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" provides the tools required for successfully addressing an impressive variety of health issues, including specific advice for children, women, men, and seniors. Other sections cover self-defense against microbes and contaminants, emotional challenges, care for the home and workplace, and applications for athletes, dancers, travelers, cooks, gardeners, and animal lovers. "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" also offers practical and effective advice on the use of essential oils in beauty and spa treatments, plus profiles of 125 essential oils, 37 carrier oils, and more.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, extraordinary in scope and detail, "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home and Work Environments" is a unique, definitive, and highly recommended addition for personal, professional, community, and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Aromatherapy supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Psalms For the Church: Advent and Christmas
Steven Warner, Christian Cosas, David Sanders, et. al., composers
Psalm texts from the Bible
World Library Publications
3708 River Road, Suite 400, Franklin Park, IL 60131
9781584597728, $12.00,

"Psalms For the Church: Advent and Christmas" is a spiral-bound collection of 22 contemporary settings for psalms of Christmas and Advent. Arranged for SATB choral/piano performance, some of these titles include "I Rejoice When I Heard Them Say" (Psalm 122) by Warner, "Cry Out with Joy and Gladness" (Isaiah 12) by Borkowski, "Forever I will Sing" (psalm 89) by Johengen, "Lord, Every Nation on Earth" (psalm 67) by Tate, and more. Accessible to amateur choirs and musicians, arrangements are characterized by contemporary rhythms and memorable melodies and harmonies. Orchestra parts include parts for choir, cantor, flute, guitar and keyboard, plus the congregation or assembly. For the upcoming season of Advent and Christmas, "Psalms for the Church: Advent and Christmas" offers a wide assortment of contemporary treatments of traditional psalms and Bible readings associated with the Nativity of Christ.

The Happy Moose
Jenna Laffin, author
Brian Hartley, author
Erik Koskinen, musician producer/performer
Cantata Learning
1710 Roe Crest Drive, North Mankato, MN 56003
9781632905512, $33.99, Library Binding, 24pp,

"The Happy Moose" book and CD is from the Cantata Learning educational series for elementary audiences that pairs books with original music/song lyrics to teach young readers through music, movement, art, and text. Geared to children between ages 3 and 9 years, Children Cantata Learning books teach by using books and music to activate all parts of the brain. "The Happy Moose" presents a song about happy feelings, one emotion that children and all people share. The introduction assures readers that all people have many emotions, sad, angry, scared, as well as happy, and that it is ok to share emotions with friends and family. The following pages have song lyrics of the song's verses accompanied by cheery, bright pictures. "Moose is happy when the sun comes out. His fur feels nice and warm. He likes to sing and shout. Sing and shout, that's what we do. Now you can feel happy, too!" In subsequent verses, children read/sing about what makes robin and polar bear happy too. Each refrain asks, "What makes you happy, happy, happy?.... Can you tell me what you do?" A CD recording of the book, the song, and the instrumental accompaniment is included, in addition to a scan code for use with a mobile app. There is also a score of the song melody, the complete song lyrics of 'The Happy Moose,' and a glossary plus suggested guided reading activities. "The Happy Moose" is a fantastic, stimulating, engaging learning approach that entices young readers to participate, promoting physical, cognitive, and social and emotional learning.

Additional titles from this simply outstanding Cantata Learning series that are also highly recommended include the following: "Cinderella, A Favorite Story in Rhythm and Rhyme (9781632905529)" by Susan Sandvig Walker, illustrated by Lucy Fleming, music performed by Drew Temperante; "Who Lives In a Tree? A Song About Where Animals Live (9781632905833),"by Tom David Barna, illustrated by Tim Palin, performed by Musical Youth Productions; "Knock, Knock, Moo! (9781632905857)," by Blake Hoena, illustrated by Klaus Bipper, music performed by Mark Oblinger; "Farmers, Firefighters, and Teachers They Are Nouns! (9781632905888)," by Linda Ayers, illustrated by David Bucs, music performed by Musical Youth Productions; "Amanda the Mammal: What Is a Mammal? (9781632905932)," by Linda Ayers, illustrated by Katy Hudson, music performed by Mark Oblinger; "Clap Your Hands (9781632905994)," by Nicholas Ian, illustrated by Pearl Law, performed by Musical Youth Productions; "Red Light, Red Light, What Do You Say? (9781632906014)," by Nicholas Ian, illustrated by Diego Funck, performed by Musical Youth Productions; "Busy, Busy Bees Clean Up! (9781632906137)," by Jonathan Peale, illustrated by Tom Heard, performed by Drew Temperante; "Engineers Solve Problems! A Song for Budding Scientists (9781632906229)," by Blake and Katie Hoena, illustrated by Kelly Canby, performed by Mark Oblinger; and "Sheila the Shy Sheep (9781632906250)," by Blake Hoena, illustrated by Doreen Mulryan, performed by Drew Temperance.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Suppressed History of American Banking
Xaviant Haze
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591432333, $16.00, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Xaviant Haze is a researcher of ancient manuscripts and alternative history, exploring and documenting his findings on lost cities and the myths of the pre-diluvian world, and the coauthor of "The Suppressed History of America" (Bear & Company, 9781591431220, $15.00 PB, $9.49 Kindle).

In the pages of "The Suppressed History of American Banking" Haze reveals how the Rothschild Banking Dynasty fomented war and assassination attempts on 4 presidents in order to create the Federal Reserve Bank. He also explains how the Rothschild family began the War of 1812 because Congress failed to renew a 20-year charter for their Central Bank as well as how the ensuing debt of the war forced Congress to renew the charter; details Andrew Jackson's anti-bank presidential campaigns, his war on Rothschild agents within the government, and his successful defeat of the Central Bank; and presents just how the Rothschilds spurred the Civil War and were behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Critique: A truly iconoclastic, detailed and compelling history, "The Suppressed History of American Banking" is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library American History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Suppressed History of American Banking" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon
John F. Bronzo
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480819054, $40.99, HC, 426pp,

Synopsis: Mary Bernadette is a Vietnamese girl born on November 22, 1963 -- the day John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Raised in an orphanage, she finds herself unwittingly involved in an international incident at the age of six, when a Russian man who claims to be the second gunman on the grassy knoll during the assassination of JFK stumbles into the orphanage looking for help.

Mary Bernadette is then witness to the opening rounds of Operation Excalibur, the CIA code name for the mission to capture this second gunman alive. In the late spring and early summer of 1971 (while Americans are unaware of the potential for a major international incident that might bring their country to the brink of war with the Soviet Union or China) Operation Excalibur plays itself out in Vietnam. What Mary does not know is that one unintended consequence of this action will be the senseless massacre of orphaned children by an errant North Vietnamese captain -- and that she herself will be among the dead.

Critique: A consistently compelling and deftly crafted novel of love and intrigue set against the background of the Vietnam War, with a detailed portrayal of an attempt to capture JFK's other assassin -- a man who is now a Russian advisor. All this is uniquely told by an innocent young victim from her grave. "Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon" distinctly establishes author John F. Bronzo as an impressively original and talented novelist of the first order. While "Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon" is unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1480819047, $26.99) and in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Trotsky in New York, 1917
Kenneth D. Ackerman
Counterpoint Press
1919 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1916
9781619026070, $30.00, HC, 396pp,

Synopsis: Lev Davidovich Trotsky (7 November 1879 - 21 August 1940) burst onto the world stage in November 1917 as co-leader of a Marxist Revolution seizing power in Russia. It made him one of the most recognized personalities of the Twentieth Century, a global icon of radical change. Yet just months earlier, this same Lev Trotsky was a nobody, a refugee expelled from Europe, writing obscure pamphlets and speeches, barely noticed outside a small circle of fellow travelers.

Where had he come from to topple Russia and change the world? -- New York City!

Between January and March 1917, Trotsky found refuge in the United States. America had kept itself out of the European Great War, leaving New York the freest city on earth. During his time there (just over ten weeks) Trotsky immersed himself in the local scene. He settled his family in the Bronx, edited a radical left wing tabloid in Greenwich Village, sampled the lifestyle, and plunged headlong into local politics. His clashes with leading New York socialists over the question of US entry into World War I would reshape the American left for the next fifty years.

Critique: A seminal study based soundly upon a truly impressive body of detailed and documented research, "Trotsky in New York, 1917: Portrait of a Radical on the Eve of Revolution" is impressively informed and informative. Enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of Selected Sources, twenty-two pages of Endnotes, and an eight page Index, "Trotsky in New York, 1917" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections in general, and Trotsky supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Trotsky in New York, 1917" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.50) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781504786140, $29.95).

Nobody Rich or Famous
Richard Shelton
University of Arizona Press
Main Library Building, 5th Floor
P.O. Box 210055, Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
9780816534005, $35.00, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: "Nobody Rich or Famous: A Family Memoir" by Richard Shelton redefines the concept of family. In this memoire Shelton (b. 1933) immerses the in the hardscrabble lives of his Boise, Idaho, clan during the 1930s and '40s presented within a framework of journals, road trips, and artful storytelling.

Shelton traces three generations of women: His great-grandmother, Josephine, who homesteads a sod shanty and dies too young on the Kansas prairie: His grandmother, Charlotte, as she grows from a live-in servant girl to a fiddle-playing schoolteacher who burns through two marriages before taking up with the iceman. His mother, Hazel, a model of western respectability, who carefully dresses in her finest clothes before walking into a bar and emptying a loaded handgun in the general direction of her husband;

With a truly impressive knack for storytelling, Shelton deftly crafts a tale of poverty and its attendant sorrows: alcoholism, neglect, and abuse. But the tenacity of the human spirit shines through. Illuminating today's cultural chasm between the haves and have-nots, "Nobody Rich or Famous" is "the story of a family and how it got that way".

Critique: Unique, compelling, insightful and thought-provoking, "Nobody Rich or Famous: A Family Memoir" is one of those family histories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nobody Rich or Famous" is also available in a paperback edition (9780816533992, $19.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Measure of a Man
Martin Greenfield & Wynton Hall
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781621572664, $27.99, HC, 250pp,

Synopsis: "Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor" is the personal story of Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield and reveals his incredible life story. Taken from his Czechoslovakian home at age fifteen and transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz with his family, Greenfield came face to face with "Angel of Death" Dr. Joseph Mengele and was divided forever from his parents, sisters, and baby brother.

In haunting, powerful prose, Greenfield remembers his desperation and fear as a teenager alone in the death camp -- and how an SS soldier's shirt dramatically altered the course of his life. He learned how to sew; and when he began wearing the shirt under his prisoner uniform, he learned that clothes possess great power and could even help save his life.

"Measure of a Man" is memoir of a man who suffered unimaginable horror and emerged with a dream of success. From sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory to founding America's premier custom suit company, Greenfield built a fashion empire. Now 86 years old and working with his sons, Greenfield has dressed the famous and powerful of D.C. and Hollywood, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, celebrities Paul Newman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jimmy Fallon, and the stars of Martin Scorsese's films.

Critique: Brutally candid, impressively insightful, ultimately inspiring, written with wit, humor and humanity, "Measure of a Man" is very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Measure of a Man" is now available in a paperback edition (9781621575153, $12.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99). There is even a complete and unabridged audio book edition available for "Measure of a Man" (Blackstone Audio, CD 9781483026572 / MP3 9781483026565).

Selling the American Muscle Car
Diego Rosenberg
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613252031, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: As the muscle car wars developed in the early 1960s, auto manufacturers scrambled to find catchy marketing campaigns to entice the buying public into their dealerships. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, with all their divisions, as well as AMC and Studebaker, inevitably sank billions of dollars into one-upmanship in an effort to vie for the consumer's last dollar.

In "Selling the American Muscle Car: Marketing Detroit Iron in the 60s and 70s", automotive writer and historian Diego Rosenberg examines the tactics and components used by manufacturers in waging war against one another in the muscle car era. Manufacturers poured millions into racing programs, operating under the principle of "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday."

Cars were given catchy nicknames, such as The GTO Judge, Plymouth Roadrunner, Cobra, and Dodge Super Bee. Entire manufacturer lines were given catchy marketing campaigns, such as Dodge's Scat Pack, AMC's Go Package, and Ford's Total Performance. From racing to commercials to print ads, from dealer showrooms to national auto shows, each manufacturer had its own approach in vying for the buyer's attention, and gimmicks and tactics ranged from comical to dead serious.

Profusely illustrated throughout, "Selling the American Muscle Car" takes muscle car enthusiast back to an era when options were plentiful and performance was cheap.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Selling the American Muscle Car: Marketing Detroit Iron in the 60s and 70s" is a truly extraordinary automotive history and a 'must' for all muscle car fans. "Selling the American Muscle Car" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community and academic library American Automotive History collections in general, and American Muscle Car supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Wisdom for Winners - Volume Two
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410389, $ 19.99, 224 pages,

Sage Wisdom for Contemporary Readers and Future Generations of Winners

Wisdom for Winners - Volume Two is a compilation of the writings of Jim Stovall, president of Narrative Television Network, and author of the bestselling The Ultimate Gift book and movie trilogy.

The book is made up of 10 fast moving, reader friendly chapters, packed with selections taken from Stovall's Winner's Wisdom syndicated columns, featuring keys to success in business, economics, and finances. Stovall writes for professional specialists, business entrepreneurs, self-help coaches, and educators. He offers inspiration, motivation, and guidance in areas of facing adversity, time management, character development, the value of wealth, and recognizing and taking opportunity through using applied wisdom.

Stovall is a gifted communicator and story teller. He never wastes words but delivers his message in an easy to read writing style using examples of winner's who have overcome challenges to become successful.

Jim Stovall's life speaks for itself; he has enjoyed success as an author of over 30 books, as an athlete, investment broker, and entrepreneur while dealing with the challenge of blindness. In the year 2,000 he was presented with the International Humanitarian of the year award. His life is proof of the credibility of his practical, powerful success principles.

Readers of Wisdom for Winners will agree that we exercise wisdom as we choose to pursue Jim Stovall's counsel, advice and leadership. Highly recommended.

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

The Success System That Never Fails - Experience the True Riches of Life
W. Clement Stone
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408423. $ 16.99, 248 pages,

Proven Strategies and Principles to Unlock the Powerful Potential within You - Steps on the Road to Success

W. Clement Stone's The Success System That Never Fails will resonate with seasoned sales representatives and goal setters, reminding them of past successes and challenging them new aspirations in their career. The book is especially beneficial as a training manual for a new generation sales force. These principles can become the "common denominator of continuous successful achievement in every human activity."

I was challenged and by Mr. Stone's inspirational examples of men who have become self-builders, motivated by stories of those who have moved up from rags to riches, encouraged by the successes of those who have taken advantage of opportunity, and heartened by others who have found success after experiencing temporary failure.

Stone's keen sense of the elements of story model the power of inspiration to motivate the reader to identify, translate, and apply these action principles personally.

W. Clement Stone's Success System That Never Fails will continue to provide practical techniques, motivation to build character, and specific how to examples of developing a positive mental attitude that insures experiencing true riches in every area of life for generations to come.

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

Jump Start Your Business - 10 Jolts to Ignite Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
Shawn and Rachel Doyle
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768407815, $14.99, 210 pages,

Key Concepts and Ideas for Becoming the Architect of You Own Life

"Jump Start Your Business" is written for anyone who has dreamed of starting their own business, for those who already have a business and want to make it better, and for those who want to grow their business to the next level. Successful entrepreneurs, graduate students, and company employees alike will learn from the many key tips, tools and techniques provided for igniting the entrepreneurial spirit within.

The material is well organized, presented in a natural progression of building blocks (the 10 Jolts) with sound principles and guidelines for establishing clear mission and vision statements which lead to articulate personal and professional goals. The discussion on the importance of time management, taking advantage of available resources, and of networking resonated with me. I also found the chapter on building and maintaining energy while being passionate about identifying tools that motivate and inspire especially helpful.

Other Components include finances, creative thinking, the power of words, and other skills that enable and empower personal growth and success in business round out the 10 Jolts.

Authors Shawn and Rachael Doyle are both experienced in the field of startup businesses, entrepreneurship, advocates of lifelong learning, and actively implementing motivational and training programs. Their writing style is informal, reader friendly, challenging the reader to complete the Work It exercises, included after each chapter, and to work with accountability partners.

This is an important addition to the other "Jump Start " titles published by Sound Wisdom books.

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

Experiencing the Heavenly Realm - Keys to Accessing Supernatural Encounters
Judy Franklin and Beni Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410488, $ 16.99, 2016, 218 Pages

An Invitation to Encounter God in New and Deeper Ways - With a Heart Anchored in another World

"Experiencing the Heavenly Realm - Keys to Accessing Supernatural Encounters" is centered on the theme of invitation. Firstly, it is an invitation to encounter God and His love in new and deeper ways. Secondly it is Judy Franklin's invitation to the reader to learn from lessons she learned along the way in her spiritual journey, supernatural experiences, and visions while accessing God in heavenly places. The book is designed to experience spiritual growth, and to a new realization of the power of prayer available to believers today.

In this new expanded edition, Beni Johnson's first chapter "Healing the Whole Man" challenges the reader to recognize that God wants to connect with us, by laying aside the entanglements that keep us from experiencing these heavenly encounters.

The first eight chapters include activation exercises designed to help you, the reader, to "engage with the Holy Spirit and invite the presence of heaven into your life." I started my own Encounter Journal to discover what it means to lay aside all the entanglements holding me back from entering into God's rest, to experience a new awareness of His love and of His presence.

Judy Franklin preserves the beauty and innocence of a childlike faith; while exploring and interpreting the deeper hidden mysteries of God in light of the basic tenants of the church. Judy also relates lessons learned from object lessons, and symbols revealed in her visions, of spiritual healing, evangelism, and the ministry of intercessory prayer. Her visions and experiences are reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament visions of the Apostles, Peter, John, and Paul.

The book includes sincere testimonies of men and women, from every walk of life, who have had their own heavenly encounters. Beni Johnson brings an additional challenge and invitation, for the reader to understand from the scriptures that it's "God's intention to take us into His realm to uncover his glorious experience God's love and be changed into His likeness."

"Experiencing the Heavenly Realm" is for those willing to risk believing in a big God - for those hungering to know God personally, in an interactive unique relationship. The lessons learned will linger in the hearts and thoughts of the reader long after closing the last page of the final chapter.

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

Re-inhabiting the Village, Co-Creating our Future
Jamaica Stevens
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781944297015, $34.95,

Voices of the Village - Core Values and Common Purpose

"ReInhabiting the Village, Co-Creating our Future" is an amazing collaboration of talented visionary artists, skilled photographers, awesome graphic designers, and expressive writers, from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and collective intellect.

Awe inspiring graphics create a colorful collection of dramatic stories which exemplify the celebration of community projects going on around the world. I especially enjoyed the features on: Media and Story Telling, Transformational Technologies, and Community Land Projects, as they introduced me to the benefits of building community through growing ecological awareness into every aspect of my life. The book is made up of twelve themes designed to "empower the reader through practical wisdom and inspiring perspectives."

"ReInhabiting the Village, Co-Creating our Future" helped me expand my world view, in mid- rural America, by introducing me to multi-platform narrative and world-building techniques, including: Health and Healing, Art and Culture, Learning and Education, The Urban Village, and, Holistic Event Projects.

Nearly every page is filled with quotable concepts worthy of thoughtful consideration, commitment, and interaction. "ReInhabiting the Village, Co-Creating our Future" will be valued by readers at every level community, individual, corporate, and government, by leaders in industry, education, religion, social, and medical. Highly recommended for decision makers, innovators, dreamers, and community builders...change makers in every field of endeavor. An invitation to begin or continue in a pattern of life long learning.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh
Robert Schmuhl
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268100896, $25.00, HC, 158pp,

Synopsis: For over half a century, Robert Schmuhl (who is now the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair in American Studies and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame) interviewed and wrote about the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., who served as the president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 until 1987.

Beginning as an undergraduate student during the 1960s, when he covered Hesburgh and Notre Dame for the Associated Press, to 2014 when he conducted his last visit with the frail ninety-seven-year-old priest, Schmuhl maintained a unique relationship with Father Hesburgh. Over time, Hesburgh's meetings with Schmuhl evolved into a friendship, which is documented in this personal and warmhearted portrait of the man who was for decades considered the most influential priest in America.

"Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh: On and Off the Record" contains excerpts and commentary from various interviews Schmuhl conducted with Father Hesburgh about his service as Notre Dame's president, including the most difficult years of his presidency during the 1960s, when Notre Dame and other college campuses were in turmoil because of student protests against the Vietnam War and other issues.

Knowing and working with four popes and nine U.S. presidents, Father Hesburgh was a moral force in virtually all major social issues of his day, including civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, third-world development, and immigration reform.

Schmuhl records Hesburgh's candid reflections on the U.S. presidents with whom he worked and his assessment of the years after he left the university's presidency and maintained an active life of service in retirement.

Schmuhl expresses his devotion and respect in the chapters about Hesburgh's twilight decades. He describes how Hesburgh dealt with macular degeneration and blindness in his later years, enlisting students to read the New York Times and other publications to him.

During the 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century, Father Ted was, as he liked to say, "everybody's grandfather." His open-door policy extended beyond students to faculty, staff, alumni, and campus visitors, and continued right up until the end of his life. Throughout "Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh", Schmuhl captures the essence, spirit, and humanity of a great leader.

Critique: An impressively organized and presented, informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh: On and Off the Record" is an extraordinary work and very strongly recommended for seminary and academic library American Biography collections in general and Christian Studies supplemental studies reading lists in particular. A 'must' read for anyone who admires Father Hesburgh, it should be noted that "Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

The Martin Archives
Jim Washburn
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
33 Plymouth St, Suite 302, Montclair, NJ 07042
9781495013041, $45.00, HC, 104pp,

Synopsis: Compiled with commentary by Jim Washburn, "The Martin Archives: A Scrapbook of Treasures from the World's Foremost Acoustic Guitar Maker" offers a unique inside look into C.F. Martin & Co.'s reign as America's oldest and most revered guitar maker as viewed through a selection of images, correspondence, documents, and reproduced artifacts chosen from some 700,000 items the company has amassed over nearly two centuries. Many of these have lain unseen in the Martins' attic or vault for generations.

From the concert halls of the pre-Civil War United States to the Grand Ole Opry stage to Woodstock, Coachella, and beyond, Martin's instruments have been on hand to give voice to the human spirit. "The Martin Archives" offers insights into those instruments and the persons who made them, as well as the times the Martins lived through. While some guitar makers predate the advent of the business computer, Martin predates the typewriter, electric lights, and even the steam locomotive, and its archives reveal what an interesting ride that's been.

"The Martin Archives" also contains pockets with reproductions of illuminating bits of its history, including old company records, letters from stars such as Gene Autry and Jimmie Rodgers, the purchase order for the first D-45 guitar, a handwritten history of the company on its 100th birthday by Frank Henry Martin, and other palpable delights.

Critique: Singularly unique, inherently fascinating, exceptionally informative, profusely illustrated, "The Martin Archives: A Scrapbook of Treasures from the World's Foremost Acoustic Guitar Maker" is an extraordinary volume that should be a part of every college and university American Music History collection in general, and the supplemental studies reading list of guitar enthusiasts.

Agony and Eloquence
Daniel L. Mallock
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781634505284, $27.99, HC, 472pp,

Synopsis: "Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and a World of Revolution " by Daniel L. Mallock is the story of one of the greatest friendships in American history and the revolutionary times in which it was made, ruined, and finally renewed.

In the wake of Washington's retirement, longtime friends Thomas Jefferson and John Adams came to represent the opposing political forces struggling to shape America's future. Adams's victory in the presidential election of 1796 brought Jefferson into his administration -- but as an unlikely and deeply conflicted vice president. The bloody Republican revolution in France finally brought their political differences to a bitter pitch. "Agony and Eloquence" covers an enduringly popular and inherently fascinating period of American history including the impact of French foreign policy and revolutionary developments upon the American revolution ranging from the fall of the Bastille, to the fall of the Jacobins, to the rise of Napoleon -- all of which form a disturbing and illuminating counterpoint to events, controversies, individuals, and relationships in Philadelphia and Washington.

Many important and fascinating people appear in the pages of "Agony and Eloquence" including Thomas Paine, Camille Desmoulins, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Tobias Lear, Talleyrand, Robespierre, Danton, Saint-Just, Abigail Adams, Lafayette, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Dr. Joseph Priestley, Samuel Adams, Philip Mazzei, John Marshall, Alexander Hamilton, and Edward Coles. These key figures in the emerging American Republic are vividly brought to life by Mallock's insightful analysis and clear and lively writing.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, impressively well written, exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, definitively informed and informative, "Agony and Eloquence" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American History collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Agony and Eloquence" is also available in a Kindle format ($15.39). Libraries should be aware that "Agony and Eloquence" has a complete and unabridged MP3 audio book edition (Brilliance, 9781531876364, $9.99).

Pierre et Gilles: 40
Pierre Commoy, Gilles Blanchard, Eric Troncy
c/o Rizzoli International Publications
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9782080202802, $60.00, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: On the fortieth anniversary of Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard's romantic union, "Pierre et Gilles: 40" traces four decades of artistic collaboration between the photographer and painter known as Pierre et Gilles. This year-by-year retrospective of their vast oeuvre, accompanied by an incisive essay by art critic Eric Troncy, showcases the genesis and development of their sublime, audacious, and explicitly confected fusion of photography and painting.

Highly sophisticated and shamelessly sexy, their art (in the format of stylized, idealized painted photographs) synthesizes tropes drawn from celebrity and mainstream gay culture with timeless themes of religion, mythology, and beauty, and many works feature international stars including Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Dita Von Teese, Kylie Minogue, Karl Lagerfeld, Mick Jagger, and Iggy Pop.

Critique: An extraordinary body of work, flawlessly reproduced in full color, "Pierre et Gilles: 40" is impressive in both organization and a presentation that is enhanced with an informed and informative critical analysis and extensive introduction. "Pierre et Gilles: 40" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and academic library Photography collections.

The First World Oil War
Timothy C. Winegard
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9781487500733, $36.95, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Even in a post-industrial age, oil continues to a compelling source of wealth and economic opportunity. That also continues to make oil the root source of global conflict, toxicity and economic disparity in the 21st century. In the pages of "The First World Oil War", author Timothy Winegard reveals how and when oil first became such a powerful commodity during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the First World War.

Backed up by documented historical research, Winegard deftly argues that beginning with the First World War, it was oil that became the preeminent commodity to safeguard national security and promote domestic prosperity. For the first time in history, territory was specifically conquered to possess oil fields and resources; vital cogs in the continuation of the industrialized warfare of the Twentieth Century.

"The First World Oil War" is an original and pioneering study analyzes the evolution of oil as a catalyst for both war and diplomacy, and connects the events of the First World War to contemporary petroleum geo-politics and international aggression.

Critique: Exceptionally and impressively well written, "The First World Oil War" is highly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the role oil began (and continues) to play as a cause for national governments to go to war. Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, maps, tables, an appendix (Petroleum Situation in the British Empire, Admiral Sir Edmond J. W. Slade, 29 July 1918), forty-two pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibliography, and an eighteen page Index, "The First World Oil War" is a seminal historical study that should be part of every community, college, and university library collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The First World Oil War" is also available in a Kindle format ($22.99).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Fields Where They Lay
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957469, $25.95, Hardcover, 373 pp.,

Junior Bender, burglar extraordinaire and sometime detective to the underworld, serves as the narrator of this unusual Christmas tale. He is roped in to investigate, on behalf of a Russian mobster and owner of a dying shopping mall in Los Angeles, why there has been a spiking increase in shoplifting in recent months a few days before Christmas Day. Junior, who hates the Xmas atmosphere, is immersed in the Holiday cheer of shopping, Santas, and piped-in popular songs, much to his chagrin.

While undertaking his task, he becomes involved in a few side ventures, including looking into the death of one of the shopkeepers, witnessing the death of another, and discovering the real problems at the mall, typical of similar establishments fading away all over the nation as shoppers turn to other outlets. Another involves his burgeoning friendship with one of the two Santas on the premises, helping him to recover a favorite item apparently stolen from his home. One side benefit, however: he is able to get his own holiday shopping done despite his procrastination.

This novel probably is the most cerebral in the six-book Junior Bender series, with long passages on the business of shopping malls, their dying days, observations on the Holidays, people in general, and his own life and loves. In fact, he faces a crisis with his own lover and her reticence to divulge anything of her past. On the whole, Junior solves a unique problem in his typical fashion, with ingenuity.

This is an excellent series, and one that continues to be recommended.

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
Pocket Books: 9781476793184, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp.
9781476793160, $27.00/34.99 CA$, Hardcover, 304 pp,

The customary courtroom drama in the Butch Karp series takes up about half of this novel, but it isn't as dramatic as most of the prior episodes. Although the legal description is proficient, it is highly technical in nature and less dramatic than many of the previous legal battles, which are always a highlight of a Robert K. Tanenbaum story. This tale is a mixture of a Karp family saga, hate crimes, deranged arsonist and bomber, religious beliefs combined with Nazi sympathizers and events during the Holocaust and World War II, and the conflict between the public school system, the teachers union as led by corrupt officers and charter schools. How's that for a mouthful?

What leads up to the courtroom scene are a series of events and even a murder or two. The Teacher's Federation president is attempting to head off a bill in Albany which would result in an audit that would expose him and his cohorts for stealing funds from the union's coffers. The author certainly knows better than this premise. Certainly unions are subject to regular audits. But for the plot to work, this fact has to be ignored.

So the battle between proponents of the charter school legislation, who want a mandatory audit of the Teacher's Federation, and the corrupt union and public officials, ultimately sets the stage for the dramatic trial. As side issues, we have a scraggly group of Nazi sympathizers who conveniently serves as a red herring in the lead-up to murder charges, and Karp's twin sons' wishy-washy approach to their religious beliefs and late (by several years) Bar Mitzvah.

All in all, however, this was an enjoyable read, and is recommended.

Night Music
Nocturnes Volume 2
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781501183646, $17.00/22.00 CA$, Paperback, 443 pp,

It's been more than a decade since the appearance of Nocturnes,Volume 1. Volume 2 contains all the short stories and two novellas John Connolly has written between then and now. Not that he was idle, having completed the Chronicles trilogy and other novels as well. The present volume demonstrates his writing at its peak. As well, it shows his fascination with the occult, most if not all dealing with otherworldly subjects or events.

A highlight is the award-winning novella, The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository. It is an intriguing story in which the characters of the world's greatest literature come alive, not only in the reading but also in the flesh. There is a marvelous short story, apparently an afterthought, entitled Holmes on the Range: A Tale of the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository, in which Arthur Conan Doyle is confronted with the problem of solving the Library's problems when he resurrected Holmes after killing him off in a mortal battle with his arch enemy. And of course Dr.Watson comes to the rescue.

The various short stories include monsters and ghosts and demons, although one is a tender love story, albeit ending in a peaceful death. It is a wonderful collection, and is a delight to read. Just don't do it on a rainy, dark night when the wind is howling.

Obviously the volume is recommended.

Shanghai Redemption
Qiu Xiaolong
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave.,NY, NY 10010
9781250065278, $25.99, Hardcover, 308 pp.
9781250092458, $15.99, Paperback, 320 pp.

The powerful Inspector Chen series continues with this novel in which he finds himself "kicked upstairs," relieved of his duties as the head of the Special Squad of the Shanghai Police Bureau and under pressure from unknown powerful interests, possibly his life threatened as well. No longer a cop, he lacks the resources to investigate the cause of his problems, but it probably relates to a case he was looking into before his unceremonious dismissal.

With the help of various persons, some colleagues, others newfound friends or acquaintances, Chen begins to piece together bits and pieces of the background to his predicament. But not before bodies start turning up, obviously caused by a continuing effort to cover something up.

All the novels in the series are excellent depictions of life in today's China, and "Shanghai Redemption" perhaps delves more deeply into the corruption widespread not only in doing business there, but just how far the Party will go to cover up anything that might reflect poorly on its reputation. It is one helluva story and is highly recommended.

The Ville Rat
Martin Limon
Soho Crime
c/o Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781616956080, $26.95, Hardcover, 288 pp.
9781616953911, $15.95, Paperback, 304 pp.

When the body of a beautiful Korean woman washes up on the shore of a frozen river, it sets off an investigation that carries Ernie Vascom and George Sueno, two irreverent 8th Army CID agents, into areas far afield from just a murder inquiry. The event takes place during 1974 in South Korea, not far from the DMZ. Not only do they have to fight higher-ups in the chain of command, but must determine the motive for the killing.

Despite the fact that Pres. Harry S Truman "desegregated" the armed forces years before, the novel graphically portrays how black and white soldiers maintained their separate ways when off duty, convening in all Black or all-White bars for recreation. And in the midst of this enters the Ville Rat, the so-called nickname of a former GI who caters to the Black bars by supplying Colt 45 favored by the Blacks because of its higher alcohol content. The Ville Rat holds a key clue to the investigation and Ernie and George desperately try to find the illusive person to solve the case.

As a police procedural, the novel is juxtaposed between a detailed investigation and the seamier side of Army politics and Korean night life. "The Ville Rat" is the 10th novel in the series, each reflecting the author's deep knowledge of the Korean people and culture, much less of the army and its officers. This newest entry is no exception, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Deep Text
Tom Reamy
Information Today, Inc.
143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750
9781573875295, $59.50, PB, 424pp,

Synopsis: "Deep Text: Using Text Analytics to Conquer Information Overload, Get Real Value from Social Media, and Add Bigger Text to Big Data" by Tome Reamy (founder of the KAPS Groups -- an assembly of knowledge architecture, text analytics, and taxonomy consultants) is an approach to text analytics that adds depth and intelligence to our ability to utilize a growing mass of unstructured text the world is drowning in. In "Deep Text" Reamy deftly explains just what a deep text is and surveys its many uses and benefits. Reamy goes on to describe applications and development best practices, discusses business issues including ROI, provides how-to advice and instruction, and offers guidance on selecting software and building a text analytics capability within an organization.

"Deep Text" is specifically written for anyone who needs to be on the text analytics cutting edge including developers and information professionals who create, manage, and curate text-based and Big Data projects, as well as entrepreneurs and business managers looking to cut costs and create new revenue streams. Whether needing to harness a flood of social media content or turn a mountain of business information into an organized and useful asset, "Deep Text" supplies insights and examples on how to do it effectively.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Deep Text" is impressively informed and informative. Enhanced with the inclusion of tables and figures, two appendices, a six page bibliography of books, a six page bibliography of articles and presentations, and a nine page index, "Deep Text" is very highly recommended, especially for professional, corporate, college, and university library Information & Data Science collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Deep Text" is also available in a Kindle format ($41.65).

Destroyer of the Gods
Larry W. Hurtado
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781481304733, $29.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: In "Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World", academician Larry W. Hurtado (Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh) reveals that Christianity thrived despite its new and distinctive features and opposition to them from the pagan Romans. Unlike nearly all other religious groups comprising the Roman world (such as the cult of Isis), Christianity utterly rejected the traditional gods of the Roman world.

Christianity also offered a new and different kind of religious identity, one not based on ethnicity. Christianity was distinctively a "bookish" religion, with the production, copying, distribution, and reading of texts as central to its faith, even preferring a distinctive book-form, the codex. Christianity insisted that its adherents behave differently: unlike the simple ritual observances characteristic of the pagan religious environment, embracing Christian faith meant a behavioral transformation, with particular and novel ethical demands for men. Unquestionably, to the Roman world, Christianity was both new and different, and, to a good many, it threatened social and religious conventions of the day.

In the rejection of the gods and in the centrality of texts, early Christianity obviously reflected commitments inherited from its Jewish origins. But these particular features were no longer identified with Jewish ethnicity and early Christianity quickly became aggressively trans-ethnic?a novel kind of religious movement. Its ethical teaching, too, bore some resemblance to the philosophers of the day, yet in contrast with these great teachers and their small circles of dedicated students, early Christianity laid its hard demands upon all adherents from the moment of conversion, producing a novel social project.

Christianity's novelty was no badge of honor. Called atheists and suspected of political subversion, Christians earned Roman disdain and suspicion in equal amounts. Yet, as Destroyer of the gods demonstrates, in an irony of history the very features of early Christianity that rendered it distinctive and objectionable in Roman eyes have now become so commonplace in Western culture as to go unnoticed. Christianity helped destroy one world and create another.

Critique: A seminal work of outstanding scholarship and impressively well written, organized and presented, "Destroyer of the Gods" is very highly recommended and will prove to be a core addition to community, seminary, college, and university Christian History collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Destroyer of the Gods" is also available in a Kindle format ($26.77).

You Gotta Be Dirty
Michael Grogan
Badger Wordsmith
9780692774366, $14.58, PB, 204pp,

Synopsis: In August 1964, a disheveled band of motorcyclists mysteriously appeared in Milwaukee. Over the course of the next decade, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (OMC) became synonymous with acts of intimidation and violence. In the ruthless world of renegade bikers, the OMC's Milwaukee chapter became known as the "Wrecking Crew".

In "You Gotta Be Dirty: The Outlaws Motorcycle Club in & Around Wisconsin", author Michael Grogan examines the evolution of outlaw motorcycle clubs in the United States. From 1947 - the early 1960s, the influence of rogue riders (the one-percent of motorcyclists living outside the law) spread from the west coast and in to America's heartland.

In Wisconsin, investigators linked members of the Outlaws to at least eleven murders. Four of the innocent persons killed were women and two were elderly. Three children also lost their lives: A fifteen-year-old boy was killed by an explosive device; an infant perished in an arson fire; and a ten-year-old boy was executed vis-a-vis a gunshot to the head.

During the tumultuous 1990s, the Outlaws orchestrated a guerrilla-style offensive in a quest to beat back the expansion of the world's largest one-percent motorcycle club -- the Hells Angels. During this period, the Hell's Angels began courting the Hell's Henchmen Motorcycle Club, a group with chapters in Chicago, Rockford, and South Bend, Indiana. The Hells Angels' bold move into northern Illinois touched-off a seven-year conflict that was exacerbated by beatings, bombings, and shootings.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized, documented and presented, "You Gotta Be Dirty: The Outlaws Motorcycle Club In & Around Wisconsin" is an outstanding and seminal biker history. While highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Gotta Be Dirty" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

A Kineno's Journey
Lauro F. Cavazos & Gene B. Preuss
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729681, $29.95, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: On September 20, 1988, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Lauro F. Cavazos as the fourth Secretary of Education in President Ronald Reagan's administration. A sixth-generation Texan and Kineno (a descendant of Mexican citizens who accepted work on Texas's King Ranch in the 19th century) Cavazos was the first Hispanic appointed to a position in an American Presidential Cabinet.

The story of Lauro Cavazos's journey leading up to his cabinet appointment is a portrait of a life devoted to the principles of education. In 1954, Cavazos married Peggy Ann Murdock; the couple had ten children, all of whom were educated in public schools. To enhance their children's education, the Cavazos traveled extensively, living out the principle that a holistic education includes exposure to others' worldviews.

During his service as Secretary of Education, Cavazos insisted that all children in America be educated to their fullest potential. A key tenet of Cavazos's service was an emphasis on educating minority students which was a particular passion that Cavazos formed early on in his career, first as a faculty member at the Medical College of Virginia, then as a professor and Dean at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and later as President of Texas Tech University.

Critique: "A Kineno's Journey: On Family, Learning, and Public Service" is an exceptionally well written, organized, presented, informative biography of a truly remarkable life. "A Kineno's Journey" is unreservedly recommended as an invaluable addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.

Christmas and the British: A Modern History
Martin Johnes
Bloomsbury Academic
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781474255363, $114.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: The modern Christmas was made by the Victorians and rooted in their belief in commerce, family and religion. Their rituals and traditions persist to the present day but the festival has also been changed by growing affluence, shifting family structures, greater expectations of happiness and material comfort, technological developments and falling religious belief. Christmas became a battleground for arguments over consumerism, holiday entitlements, social obligations, communal behavior and the influence of church, state and media. Even in private, it encouraged reflection on social change and the march of time.

Amongst those unhappy at the state of the world or their own lives, Christmas could induce much cynicism and even loathing but for a quieter majority it was a happy time, a moment of a joy in a sometimes difficult world that made the festival more than just an integral feature of the calendar: Christmas was one of British culture's emotional high points. Moreover, it was also a testimony to the enduring importance of family, shared values and a common culture in the UK.

In "Christmas and the British: A Modern History", Martin Johnes (Reader in History at Swansea University, UK) shows how Christmas and its traditions have been lived, adapted and thought about in Britain since 1914. "Christmas and the British" is about the festival's social, cultural and economic functions, and its often forgotten status as both the most unusual and important day of the year.

Critique: A seminal work of original scholarship, "Christmas and the British: A Modern History" is impressively informed and informative. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Christmas and the British" is enhanced with the inclusion of fifty-six pages of Notes, a fourteen-page Annotated Bibliography of Academic Writing about Christmas, and a nine page Index. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Christmas and the British" is also available in a paperback edition (9781474255370, $29.95) and in a Kindle format ($13.19).

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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