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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 12 December 2017 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

The Wildlife Gardener
Kate Bradbury, author
Julie Watson, photographer
White Owl
c/o Pen & Sword Books
9781526712899, $29.95, PB, 120pp,

Synopsis: Kate Bradbury is an award-winning author and journalist, specializing in wildlife gardening and in "The Wildlife Gardner" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to helps gardeners create wildlife habitats in their personal gardens. "The Wildlife Gardener" is very handily split into sections on shelter, food and water. Kate also gives 'real world practical' advice on the best nectar and pollen plants to grow, dos and don'ts of bird feeding and organic methods of pest control. There are also 10 step-by-step projects that will help encourage wildlife into your garden, such as: creating a bumblebee nester, making a green roof and building a hedgehog box. With step-by-step pictures to help aspiring gardeners to follow the instructions, these homely creations are all achievable in a weekend and are suitable for even the smallest gardens. Also included is a mini field guide, which will help gardeners to identify the birds and other creatures that they are likely to spot in their gardens. Kate gives tips on particular species, explaining what to look out for and how to cater for specific birds, mammals, bees, butterflies, moths and pond life. "The Wildlife Gardener" is a passionately written, instructional that is essential reading for those who would like to make homes for wildlife in their garden.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "The Wildlife Gardener" is an extraordinary and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide that is beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout. An engagingly written and consistently engaging study, "The Wildlife Gardener" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Gardening instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Homing Place
Rachel Bryant
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771122863, $44.99, HC, 255pp,

Synopsis: In "The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Literary Legacies of the Atlantic", Rachel Bryant (current (2017-20190 SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at Dalhousie University in K'jipuktuk) addresses a number of questions including: Can literary criticism help transform entrenched Settler Canadian understandings of history and place?; How are nationalist historiographies, insular regionalisms, established knowledge systems, state borders, and narrow definitions continuing to hinder the transfer of information across epistemological divides in the twenty-first century?; What might nation-to-nation literary relations look like?

Through readings of a wide range of northeastern texts (including Puritan captivity narratives, Wabanaki wampum belts, and contemporary Innu poetry) "The Homing Place" deftly explores how colonized and Indigenous environments occupy the same given geographical coordinates even while existing in distinct epistemological worlds. The analyses Rachel Bryant call for a vital and unprecedented process of listening to the stories that Indigenous peoples have been telling about this continent for centuries. At the same time, she performs this process herself, creating a model for listening and for incorporating those stories throughout.

Rachel Bryant's commitment to listening is analogous to homing - the sophisticated skill that turtles, insects, lobsters, birds, and countless other beings use to return to sites of familiarity. She adopts the homing process as a reading strategy that continuously seeks to transcend the distortions and distractions that were intentionally built into Settler Canadian culture across centuries.

Critique: Unique, exceptionally well researched, deftly written, accessibly organized, Rachel Bryant's "The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Literary Legacies of the Atlantic" is a stellar piece of original scholarship and unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library Canadian Indigenous History & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

That One Cigarette
Stu Krieger
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861448 $22.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: That One Cigarette is a counterfactual history novel following four families from November of 1963 to January of 2009. In November '63, Ed Callahan is an assistant manager at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. His promise to his wife to quit smoking as soon as he finishes the pack in his pocket ends up changing the course of events on November 22. The fallout of this action alters the lives of the Scott family in Rochester, New York, the Kaufman/Goldman family in Los Angeles and the extended Kashat family in Baghdad, Iraq.

It's not until the final chapters that all of these lives intersect, but along the way, That One Cigarette explores questions of fate, love, loyalty and the ability of each of us to make defining contributions to our world by simply being present in our own lives.

Critique: That One Cigarette is a saga of ordinary people struggling to make it in the 20th century. A single promise to quit smoking snowballs into a chain of events far bigger than any individual person could have dreamed. A down-to-earth, poignant tale, That One Cigarette encourages the reader to think long and hard about the long-term consequences of the smallest of actions. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that That One Cigarette is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Collection
Lance Charnes
Wombat Group Media
9780988690363, $14.95 paper/$2.99 ebook,

Four years ago, Matt learned secrets from his art gallery job that landed him in prison for his activities. Newly released on parole, but also newly broke for the first time in years, he now faces the challenge of earning money to get himself out of debt and finds himself on the other side of the laws he once skirted, tracking down a stolen art collection.

The Collection represents Book 1 in the 'DeWitt Agency Files' and is a crime story that brings Matt to Italy, masquerading as a rich collector looking for hot deals. In some ways, this adventure is entirely keeping with the shady deals he's used to making. In others, it represents quite a departure; because Matt also faces other questionable characters who are pursing their own special interests, and all are armed with as formidable an ability for subterfuge and deception as himself.

There are many downsides to Matt's choices, as well as a few obvious pluses ("If I finish early, I get to keep the full twenty days of pay as a bonus. But if I take longer, I lose 500 for each extra day. The clock started running when I cleared Immigration at Brussels' airport. Seventeen days left. Can I do it? No clue yet. The downside? I could get arrested doing something illegal and go to jail over here. My PO could figure out I'm not in New York and kick me inside again..."), but an especially intriguing twist to this story lies in the protagonist's ability to skirt the lines of propriety and honesty while remaining true to his special interests.

In short: Matt is not your typical good-guy detective, but a con artist forced into a good-guy role. It's this difference - and an impossible deadline - that elevates The Collection above other detective stories of intrigue and keeps it fast-paced and satisfyingly different.

Add a gritty blend of international atmosphere, street savvy, art world politics and processes, and criminal interests to the action-packed saga of a ticking time bomb and you have a multi-faceted, well-detailed story that's hard to put down and highly recommended for detective story and intrigue readers looking for something refreshingly original.

Gun Kiss
Khaled Talib
Imajin Books
9781772233483 eBook - $5.99; US Trade paperback - $16.99

Take a deep breath, because Gun Kiss's special brand of high-octane action is on its way to market, and it's a hell of a ride especially recommended for thriller readers who like their action not only nonstop, but tempered with a bit of romance and a lot of world-hopping political confrontations.

The tension begins in the first paragraph as a Lincoln re-enactment event in Washington, D.C. results in a hostage and a bomber intent on thievery. Rick achieves his goals with almost casual precision: it's clear he's not only planned his escapade down to the second, but that he's a pro.

As a missing Deringer from The Ford Theatre Museum involves a host of special interests, the story heats up to become a globe-trotting series of escapades and encounters by disparate individuals who each harbor their own special interests.

A network involved in piracy and smuggling, a monied Chinese drug trafficker who works out a deal that lands him in Tijuana, Goldie's strange party for the paparazzi, and Blake's need for a holiday away from intrigue and complications all join with a range of subplots designed to keep Gun Kiss unpredictable, unexpected, and sometimes unsettling as events keep on creating new connections and surprises.

As a stolen artifact evolves into crimes surrounding a maniacal drug lord, challenges to U.S. and Mexican government relations, and deadly escapades that involve faked deaths and real kidnappings, readers experience a supercharged plot that grabs interest tightly and does not let go.

The mark of a superior thriller lies in its ability to seamlessly transcend borders, boundaries, and special interests to provide a series of interwoven subplots that all come together in a satisfying crescendo of intrigue designed to keep readers on edge right up to the end.

Take a deep breath before reading Gun Kiss. Its special brand of activity and complex personal and criminal interactions makes it hard to put down, and highly recommended for thriller and crime readers alike.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder
Mary Cunningham
Imajin Books
9781772233452 $12.99 pbk
9781772233452 $3.99 ebook

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder is an Andi Anna Jones mystery that presents a protagonist in an unlikely position to solve anything - including problems in her own life and career. A mediocre travel agent in a dead-end job, Andi has little to motivate her until a late-night call from a hysterical stepmother (but then, she's prone to hysterics, Andi knows) leads to an emergency flight to Cancun to investigate why Ruby is being fingered as the murderer in a lounge singer's death.

Before this event, Andi was anything but a sleuth - but in the course of being forced on a path far from what is familiar, she hones skills that lead her into not just another country and the plight of an innocent woman accused of murder; but the sordid truth of what really happened.

One feature to note about the story line is the feisty attitude that is one of Andi's trademarks, evident even as she deals with officials and skirts the line between investigation and involvement: "Aggressive? Demanding? Oh, yeah. That's Ruby. And, you can add horny to the list. But, what I said was, "That doesn't sound like the Ruby I know." Lying to the police. Andi, watch out or you'll be in the hoosegow next to dear stepmom."

This attitude translates well as Andi travels between locales, tracking down evidence and information key to building a case for her stepmother's innocence which, of necessity, involves tracking down the real killer. The fact that author Mary Cunningham was herself once a travel agent familiar with journeys, hotels, and different environments lends a realistic background feel to Andi's experiences and personality: "I tilted my head from side to side. The cracking and crunching of my neck helped loosen shoulder muscles that had me in a vice grip. You'd think sleeping on a three-thousand-dollar pillow-top mattress would make every twinge of back pain disappear. No such luck. I grabbed my Tweety watch off the table and pulled on the sweats I'd packed for lounging purposes. Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the full-length mirror, I paused. "Andi, you shouldn't be seen in the privacy of your own room dressed like this, let alone in public. Ah, screw it."

These are just a few examples demonstrating that the mystery reader is in for a rollicking ride from Cancun to Florida and beyond. Prepare for a solid, involving journey; for Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder offers plenty of twists and turns to keep its ultimate destination a surprise right up to the end, all supercharged by the attitude and determination of Andi, who may have made a mediocre travel agent, but who employs these skills with precision and authority in her new role as an investigator.

Charming, lively, and unpredictable, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder excels in a vivid story mystery fans will relish.

Pressure Cooker Christmas
Ann McCauley
Privately Published
9780999341506 $14.95 Paper
9780999341513 $ 4.99 ebook

Pressure Cooker Christmas may hold a holiday theme, but it's safe to say that it is like no other Christmas book. In fact, even the protagonist admits this possibility in her reflections about the quickly-approaching holiday: "I promised myself this Christmas would be different. But already my life felt like a runaway train, and it was only the day after Thanksgiving."

For one thing, Christmas efforts and traditions don't feel as joyful to Marlene as they should be... Where is her holiday spirit hiding? As dysfunction, family ties, and pressure ramps up, readers are treated to a solid description of very different perspectives about the holidays dosed with a warm set of dreams that neatly juxtaposes the challenges leading up to Christmas Day. The dialogue is crisp and involving, different characters' perspectives are nicely laid out, and the challenges of the season are outlined using a blend of quirky observation and involving insights.

It's the twelve days of Christmas with a big difference. Readers who enjoy holiday stories with angst added into the mix will find Pressure Cooker Christmas a fine tale offering more realistic twists and turns than most, tempering idealism with despair and adding an injection of warmth just when one comes to believe that all may be lost, this particular holiday season. It's a holiday read like no other, especially recommended for women's fiction enthusiasts and served up as a satisfyingly realistic contrast to the usual sanguine Christmas story.

The LGBTQ Meditation Journal
Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon
MLR Press
9781641220415 (print) $14.99
9781641220323 (ebook) $ 5.99

With The LGBTQ Meditation Journal, the fourth volume in their books of guided meditations, Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon have given us an effective, practical, and simple blueprint for increasing self-acceptance, love, peace, pride, and dignity in our lives.

The LGBTQ Meditation Journal provides a month of guided spiritual meditations in a workbook that joins others in a series on meditation, but which is specifically directed to the LGBTQ community.

This means that the journal's focus is on cultivating pride, self-acceptance, dignity and peace at a level few other meditation guides focus on, with chapters offering key information on the types of conflicts common to those in the LGBTQ community.

It should be noted that book readers receive plenty of journal space to record their notes on this book's thirty meditations. In order to duplicate this experience for ebook readers, free software journal app is recommended, and a list of free downloads is provided. The day and meditation number are entered into each journal for recording purposes as readers move through the meditation instructions and experiences fostered by this book.

Readers should approach these meditations by keeping spirituality in mind as they move through processes designed to foster acceptance and love and counter the toxic attitudes many people harbor for one another.

Many of these self-guided meditations take only five or ten minutes, and each builds upon the other. Readers are given all the tools to visualize dreams, emotions, and changing goals in life and connections with others.

Those with some prior experience in meditation techniques will find The LGBTQ Meditation Journal filled with guideposts to better self-awareness, self-acceptance, and more positive interactions with others.

Kris Jacen edits a powerful account that will find its place in the LBGTQ community as well as any new age collection and in any community struggling with peace, pride, and self-worth.

The Jimarian Bible
9781483583839 $39.95 Hardcover; $5.95 Kindle

The Jimarian Bible explains the inner consciousness of both the author and Jimar, making a case for 'bigger picture thinking' as it points out that individuals may experience 100 years on the planet, so have numerous opportunities to make a difference in its evolution.

With that in mind, The Jimarian Bible moves on to explore not only underlying purposes in human life on Earth, but the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, and other major world religions and their guidance on the subject.

As chapters unfold, a wide-ranging discussion of belief systems turns into pointed considerations of self and moves into wider concerns, from an over-populated world and the risks and rewards of parenting to human psychology, expanding the underlying probe (why humans are on Earth) to consider how people interact with the universe.

Be forewarned: this is no light treatment. There are 10 books wrapped into this Bible, and each one addresses a different set of concerns. Each holds its own table of contents, making it easy to locate topics; and each moves from individual concerns to family, community, and social issues after building a spiritual foundation for the journey.

Its surveys ranges from how societies construct laws and administer justice to artistic portraits of experiences as influencers on the progress of humanity ("The magnitude of the evil perpetuated by the artistic community compared to the individual seduced by such influence is, however, the difference between that of a torrential downpour and a drop in the bucket.").

From 'holy constants' to the gods of man and choice, readers receive several things from The Jimarian Bible: a sweeping blend of spiritual application and social inspection, admonitions presented in large print and bold type that reinforce the more powerful points throughout, and an attention to details that link the microcosm of individual experience and purpose to the macrocosm of social and spiritual impact.

The ideal reader thus should be those already on a spiritual path that embraces social reflection and change - and one who is not stymied by complexity. As Jimar maintains in a caution built into the read: "It is not anticipated, that in your first or second reading of the JIMARIAN BIBLE, that you will fully comprehend that which is revealed. If you persevere in the third full reading of the Bible and each time, complete all the exercises, understanding of this poetic enlightenment should become very clear."

Some grammatical improvements would make for a smoother, error-free read.

Enlightenment is not a process of speed-reading or quick absorption - after all, other religious documents receive lifetimes of inspection and consideration. The Jimarian Bible deserves no less, and will benefit from the open minds and hearts of readers intent upon changing not just their lives and perspectives, but their purpose on Earth.

Divine Order Book of Peace & Happiness Volume 01
La Resa Edwards
Publisher: TBA
ISBN: TBA Price: TBA Website/Ordering Link: TBA

Spiritual readers who discover the works of La Resa Edwards should be advised that her book is no casual read or commitment, but a challenging compilation of thoughts representing translated messages directly from God by a daughter who maintains that her "professor is the author of All" and that she has been instructed to transmit specific instructions key to the human race's future.

As such, her document represents an admonition, a call to action, and a set of instructions that provides specifics on God's Program - and does so using capital letters to emphasize connections, action words, and growth-oriented ideas.

Of necessity, Edwards does not always follow the conventions of grammar and punctuation. In a treatise where each sentence is a thought, slow reading and careful consideration take precedence over typical rules of capitalization and structure, especially when the information is so dense that it addresses a sweeping range of insights about the nature of life, reality, God, and human purpose.

Readers who expect rules of convention in their spiritual instruction manuals should note that Divine Order Book of Peace & Happiness defies conventional approaches in many ways, representing a series of departures from the norm that will challenge readers with new approaches to thinking.

Edwards employs a chatty tone to offset the seriously dense information in her book: "Hey, My Friend; nice to see you. Come with me so I can introduce you to Satan, Disorder, and the Theory of Negativity."

Time travel, Biblical messages ("You Believe The Bible is trying to Reveal God's Chosen as people belonging to a race or territory. My Friend, what does color or land have to do with Human Behavior? The Whole of Today's Worlds, including Healthcare Professionals, are Hopelessly Lost. They will never find the answer to the Black Plague until they acknowledge who I Am."), and a blend of history, religious inspection, and admonitions to understand the physical brain's metaphysical connections make for a series of messages that offer powerful insights and a different approach to God's purpose and actions and how His directions are transmitted.

Divine Order Book of Peace & Happiness represents the first step in cosmic understanding - and it's a big one. Each sentence contains a world of thoughts. No easy journey, this; but La Resa Edwards isn't here to provide a quick or easy route to understanding, and her book shouldn't be viewed as a light read. Additionally, it should be noted that any attempt to describe this book's multi-faceted and diverse contents will only scrape the surface of the many, many topics under discussion.

Spiritual readers with background in Biblical and Christian approaches and an openness to new age and expanded spiritual thinking will find Divine Order Book of Peace & Happiness not just intriguing, but densely packed with much food for thought that demands careful pursuit not just over a period of weeks, but far beyond.

Come to My Brother
Christopher Zeischegg
Independently Published
9780692919491 $14.95

Amazon Ordering Link:

Personal Website Ordering Link:


Come to My Brother begins as a romance, telling of two best friends who become brothers and then lovers, united by a love of music and men; but what seems like a novel of gay love evolves into a horror piece as Daniel disappears for years, only to return as a dangerous man whose newfound interaction with David could change the world.

Meanwhile, David has adjusted to Daniel's absence in his life, and has honed a career in film and fetish porn. Surprisingly, it's something that will fit perfectly with Daniel's revamped (so to speak) purpose in life - if he can convince his former lover to change.

Come to My Brother's readers should expect graphic sexual scenes, vivid interactions between characters, and the kind of language and gritty encounters that speak more of changing relationships than urban culture or California's porn film industry.

Sex, horror, and psychological depth aren't common partners in novels (at least, not to the lengths described in Come to My Brother), but Christopher Zeischegg provides just enough detail and changing perspectives to make each facet come to life without having the story line become mired in a particular approach.

This defies formula writing and genre identification but results in a satisfyingly intense story that belays any attempt to market it as 'gay romance', 'horror', or a 'psychological fiction' but entwines elements of all into a tale that is hard to put down.

California readers will appreciate the realistic setting as they absorb a different kind of love story that holds powerful consequences not just for Daniel and David, but for humanity's future.

10 Gulab Jamuns
Sandhya Acharya
Mascot Publishing
9781684012619 $14.95

10 Gulab Jamuns: Counting With An Indian Sweet Treat receives engaging, colorful illustrations by Vanessa Alexandre as it explores the author's experience with a sweet tooth through the eyes of two sons who view their mother making the Indian sweets 'gulab jamuns' (ten of them) that they are supposed to save for guests.

The problem with a sweet tooth is that it doesn't always recognize limitations; and, perhaps predictably, the boys who are sent away to play can't keep their minds off the freshly-made, albeit forbidden, gulab jamuns.

A counting lesson ensues as hungry children decide to ignore warnings and consume the gulabs one by one, giving their mother the sudden problem of not having enough dessert for the guests. Her idea to involve her children in helping her solve the dilemma offers a refreshingly positive approach to their anticipated punishment for over-indulgence.

The result is a warm, family-oriented story that blends a counting story with insights based on positive problem-solving and family cooperation. Add a real recipe and color photos of the Indian treat for a final dash of flavor and class in a picture book story that will appeal beyond India's borders with its powerful combined lesson on math, sweet teeth, and taking responsibility for one's choices.

10 Gulab Jamuns: Counting With An Indian Sweet Treat is highly recommended for parents seeking picture book read-alouds that hold multicultural elements and different insights.

Lucifer in Celestial Gardens
A. J. Harris
Murder Mystery Press
9780999357002 $19.95

Lucifer in Celestial Gardens tells of Lou Siffer ("Lucifer"), the son of a small-town Illinois undertaker who is used to seeing corpses in the basement of their house, as part of his father's profession and the family routine. He becomes embroiled in death in a different way when scandal strikes the town and Lou becomes peripherally involved in adult matters that include a father's conviction that suicide was not the cause of a death, a corruption case that changes this perspective, and a series of circumstances that lead an already-distant son to feel even more alienated from his father: "My father, my stalwart beacon of integrity had fallen to - what I didn't know exactly, but from that time forward, I regarded him differently."

Lou resolves at an early age to never become an undertaker, but death has him on the radar - and so a case that happened twelve years ago continues to haunt him as he grows up to face a real-life dilemma that still holds too many unanswered questions and special interests.

Lest readers think that Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is a murder mystery alone, it should be advised that A. J. Harris weaves fine coming-of-age experiences into events that follows Lou through romance, changing relationships with parents and peers, and a puzzle that plagues him throughout his life.

From an exciting but controversial project planned for the small town's elderly to events at a town hall meeting, an Odd Fellows Lodge, and more, scandal leads to three friends finding their lives challenged and changed.

Lucifer in Celestial Gardens doesn't follow the conventions of formula mystery writing. This may stymie genre readers who expect a succession of clues, whodunit subplots, and a clear murder scene, perp, and detectives. The strange culture and interactions of Winonka are as much a focus as the corruption and murder in a story that follows a funeral home scandal to its aftermath and considers its lasting impact upon a boy who grows up, interacts with others, and forms relationships against its shadow.

From retirement home profits and phony insurance policies to a mounting number of deaths, Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is unpredictable, engrossing, and follows murder cases that have no statute of limitations or age restrictions. It's also unusual to have the story begin with a young boy who evolves into adulthood against this backdrop of loss and sadness that affects everything around him.

The evolutionary process of disgrace, death, and special interests contribute to a powerful, multifaceted story that moves through time, space, and intrigue to present a solidly complex murder story that's hard to put down.

The 12% Solution
David Alan Carter
Independently Published
ASIN Number: B0759X92Z6 $4.99

The 12% Solution: Earn A 12% Average Annual Return On Your Money, Beating The S&P 500, Mad Money's Jim Cramer, And 99% Of All Mutual Fund Managers... By Making 2-4 Trades Per Month should be read by anyone just starting out in the stock market, who doesn't have an active, proven strategy for successful trades, or who has experienced frustration with existing strategies - especially those who still believe that an effective game plan is possible.

This audience will find plenty of tips in The 12% Solution, a refreshing approach to investing which doesn't promise big results, but a steady, predictable growth that beats the market and most mutual funds.

Readers receive a precise blueprint for investment success which is based on years of solid results, which is directed not to bare-bones newcomers to the stock market (plenty of other books on the market will better appeal to them), but to those with some prior familiarity who seek a strategy that has been "hiding in plain sight for years."

Intrigued? You should be. As The 12% Solution reveals this strategy, there are discussions of everything from marketing and promotions and their impact on investment choices and prices to understanding the strategy behind hedging one's bets and the once-a-month trading routine promoted in The 12% Solution, and considering how monthly rotation enhances investment potentials and increases profits.

From identifying these rotation candidates to ignoring the lure of daily market 'notices' that can lead to detrimental trading decisions, The 12% Solution is not only clearly presented, but offers a clever, surprisingly easy solution to volatile markets and emotion-based trading.

From brokers and fees to comparing ETF returns and understanding hidden fees, The 12% Solution offers a solid program that investors will want to consider. There is no magic involved and no 'get rich quick' promises: just a concrete, steady strategy that takes little effort to enact and only a basic knowledge of stocks, all covered in a guide that investors will find easy, specific, and actionable.

Silent Drums
Pam Daniels
Independently Published
ASIN: B01H2WCYM0 $2.99 Kindle; $12.99 Paper

Eye-opening, hard-hitting, and an excellent, compelling read; this book will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.

Four years before the Stonewall riots, one Bob LeBlanc informed Marine Corps investigators "you have no right to ask" when they asked if he was homosexual. He did so again a year before Stonewall. In 1975, for the first time in American history, a federal judge issued a restraining order against the U.S. Military to halt the court martial of Bob for allegedly being gay. Bob's final legal fights with the Marines in 1975 and 1976 would fuel the fledgling gay rights movement throughout the U.S., which has evolved into today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement - and yet until the publication of Silent Drums, these facts themselves were buried.

It can be said that Bob LeBlanc is the Rosa Parks of today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement.

Silent Drums: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome! is thus a military saga like few others, tackling overcoming adversity at the most unexpected of places: among the Marine Corps ranks. It centers on LBGT rights, gay marriage, and the experiences of one military man who struggled not on the battlefield against enemies, but against his own peers and an establishment which discriminated against gays long before "don't ask/don't tell" policies were enacted.

The biography of Robert Lyle LeBlanc is provided in the form of descriptions that read with the vividness of fiction and the immediacy of a social issues discussion, reaching beyond the usual nonfiction approach to immerse readers in a piece of military history that stems from one man's actions and an organization's changes. It remains true to its research roots, however. Pam Daniels spent three and a half years researching and confirming where Bob LeBlanc was during his two combat tours in Vietnam, before spending four and a half years writing, editing and publishing Silent Drums. The book incorporates scans from actual Marine Corp documents, and even adds some of the reports he dictated to HQ during the fierce battles he was part of.

This is not to say that military action isn't a part of the story. Bob faced battles, struggles, life-changing brushes with death, and, forty years later, a witch-hunt affecting his service as a military policeman that seemed to belay everything he battled for and believed in, in his life.

Bob put his life on the line in Vietnam, serving his country. Now, at home, he puts his heart on the line and faces an enemy even more deadly than the Viet Cong.

Silent Drums exposes an aspect of military involvement that too commonly is hidden from the eye. Bob's story moves deftly between past and present experience as he faces various challenges in his life both within and outside the military, and as he fights the ban on gays in the military before the policy of "don't ask/don't tell" became established.

Readers who find his story compelling should be aware that the timeline jumps back and forth between different periods in Bob's life, and that his account reads with the third-person drama of fiction as it explores his world, his choices, and their lasting impacts. A thought or emotion can transport him back in time even as he's in his partner's kitchen cooking dinner, for example. Such jumps are nicely done and are not confusing; but they may stymie readers seeking a methodical, linear story line that stays true to its timeline and progression of events.

However, in choosing this special form of delivery, Pam Daniels assures that the connections between past experience and the choices and lives they've affected and created are clearly delivered. Readers also receive visuals which take the form of Marine command incidence reports, journal entries, and logs that support the battles and events that immerse Bob and his comrades in various struggles.

Silent Drums is not a singular story in any respect. It's not straight biography, military history, fiction or social probe; but incorporates all these elements in a powerful, hard-hitting and solid work of journalism designed to give readers much food for thought and insights on a relatively little-known aspect of military history and processes.

The result blends Marine Corp culture with a powerful story of dangers that come from unexpected places. As Bob adapts to and changes from his experiences and faces after-battle health issues that continue to threaten his life, a personal struggle for full equality in the military assumes a life of its own in a story which embraces and reflects the entire timeline of the LGBT civil rights movement.

This story of how a Vietnam Marine fought anti-gay attitudes in the military should be on the reading lists of anyone concerned about gay rights history in general and military culture in particular. It's eye-opening, hard-hitting, and compelling reading that will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.

Very highly recommended, Silent Drums is a portrait of courage operating on more than one level, and deserves a medal for its in-depth research achievements.

How to Turn Your Mom Into a Monster
Aurora Whittet
Wise Ink Publishing
9781634890878 $9.99

How to Turn Your Mom Into a Monster was inspired by Aurora Whittet's five-year-old son and his friends and offers a positive perspective of young trouble-makers and their antics.

Parents who look for creative, fun read-alouds for youngsters attracted to funny-looking monsters and picture book stories that include psychological insights will relish this story of how children have about ten hours in a day to turn a smiling mother into a Cuddly Monster.

This account takes the form of a how-to manual that gives clues on how to 'bother Mom' that range from flinging her purse into the floor and writing her name on the wall with her lipstick to starting a fake fight with one's sibling.

The purpose? More bed-time cuddles. But, bed-time is the prime time for resistance...isn't it?

Kids and parents will relish a funny story that takes many unexpected turns and encourages dialogue and laughter in read-aloud settings.

Too many bedtime and read-aloud picture books are overly predictable. The serious and fun story presented here offers exceptional psychological insights in a fun and different story, not to be missed.

The Travels of Adventurous Alexander and Restless Russell: Dominican Republic
Kristina Kozak
Mascot Books
9781664013920 $14.95

The Travels of Adventurous Alexander and Restless Russell: Dominican Republic is a picture book that will require either good reading skills or adult read-aloud assistance in order to prove accessible to beginners who would learn about the geography of the Dominican Republic through the fun travels of two real-life young visitors to the island.

Photos, colorful, simple drawings, and maps accompany an exploration of an island too seldom given separate attention in picture books. The story defines various types of adventure, from sushi eating to four-wheel jeep experiences, as the two children explore the island and develop insights about how its people live.

Waterfalls, snakes, horseback rides abound as the kids tour the island. Young readers are introduced to the Dominican Republic's people and culture with sidebars of facts that supplement dramatic descriptions of the two boys' adventures.

The result uses the dramatic elements of fiction as it provides nonfiction geography facts and the real-world adventures of two boys in a production that will delight youngsters with its attractive drawings and an exploration that results in many revelations about the island's lifestyle. It's perfect for young geography learners who want more interest than the usual fact-filled nonfiction survey can offer.

Those who enjoy this format should know that this is the first of a series. The next book will be Costa Rica. Others would include Panama, Florida Keys, Italy, Arizona, and more.

The Death of Galahad
Domenico Iannaco
Mica Press
9781869848064 $12.99

The Death of Galahad represents a poetic form not usually seen in contemporary writing: an epic long poem consisting of over twenty-five sections which depicts the Arthurian hero Galahad as he navigates the landscape of a hell in which vision and purpose have been lost in Europe.

One may view this poetic saga in several ways: as a more mythical form of Dante's Inferno figure in which Galahad navigates an alien landscape; as a commentary on modern European dilemmas and changes; and as a powerful epic free verse poem narrated in a style of yesteryear using the elements of language and drama of modern times.

The latter is perhaps all the more remarkable because although English is Domenico Iannaco's second language, it's deftly and powerfully used here to capture the landscape of a changed world, and suffers from none of the usual awkwardness of phrasing and puzzling word choices too common in literary efforts of those whose English is a second language.

Galahad, the symbol of chivalry and bravery, seeks purity from an impure world, and his efforts to both navigate and rise above his circumstances lead to powerful observations of connections between and differences in landscape and self: "When you lose the landmark,/The shortcut is sad./Mull over the lavishness/That is everywhere./You'll be disgusted because you are the heir./I mean that/The world is rich/In feeling, sensations, everywhere,/But you are there/With yourself."

From observations on how 'decency stifles' to Galahad's desperate efforts to resist the Everyman that he may be destined to become, literary and philosophical allegories abound. Students and enthusiasts of Plato, Dante, Arthurian legend and underworld literature alike will recognize many powerful references which use these various platforms to create a vivid, new inspection of Galahad's psyche and adventures.

Obsessions, idols, quests, passions, pledges, and not a few surprising revelations about Galahad and the author himself abound in an epic work that deserves a spot in any poetry collection strong in modern literary works.

The Death of Galahad is especially highly recommended for high school to college-level poetry students with backgrounds in epic poems, Arthurian legend, and philosophy, and will form the foundation for many engrossing classroom discussions.

Coattails and Cocktails
Rumer Haven
Fallen Monkey Press
1999819705 (paperback) $11.99
1999819712 (Kindle) $ 2.99 (paperback) (Kindle)

One doesn't expect a 1929 dinner party in Chicago to lead to a murder mystery; but there's much potential for murder at the dinner table when drinks, desire, and a disparate group of individuals gather.

Coattails and Cocktails: Murder Straight Up with a Twist takes the dinner party murder to new levels as it pairs an old-fashioned whodunit with a close inspection of possible perps and a penchant for mixed drinks.

Chapter headings take the form of food and wine terminology ('Apertitif to Whet the Appetite', 'Pairings to Enhance the Dining Experience'), lending a wry and unexpected sense of humor to the story as it winds through icy affairs, libations of the wealthy, a leader who emerges to rule a small fiefdom from the rubble of disaster, and more.

Rumer Haven doesn't just serve up a spicy concoction replete with mercurial relationships, the lifestyles of the rich, and a notorious death; she weaves in choices involved in reporting and investigations and employs a deft hand in describing evolving relationships, motivations for all kinds of actions and choices, and indelicate questions that reveal the presence of more than one perp.

Murder mystery fans will delight in an atmosphere replete with satisfying twists and cocktail references which creates an original concoction to delight fans of food, drink, frenzy and fear. Coattails and Cocktails is very highly recommended for its refreshing approach and culinary murder story.

Hidden in Harmony: Danger is Imminent
JR Thompson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781547194278 $2.99

Ordering link:

Author website:

Book trailer:

Altruism isn't always a good idea, as Hidden in Harmony: Danger is Imminent reveals in a story that covers the ramifications of a good Samaritan's decision to help a homeless man; an act which unleashes a tangled web of intrigue and murder.

Scriptural references are just one surprise to Hidden in Harmony: Danger is Eminent, the first book in 'The Harmony Series' (the sequel is expected in a few months) which sets the stage for a Christian story of good deeds and dubious rewards.

Readers receive much food for thought from the start, from a son's reaction to the specter of a homeless man right outside their lives ("Mom, Dad, I know I'm supposed to be in bed, but I can't sleep. I just keep thinking about that guy out there - it's not fair!" "What's not fair, bud?" Dad asked. "I'm in there in a warm, comfortable bed. I have a pillow to lay my head on, nice clothes, and a full belly. I can't sleep knowing somebody is outside freezing and hungry without a comfortable place to lay down." "We know," Mom said, gently hugging him from the side, "but we have to do the responsible thing. We don't have a big house. We don't have any extra bedrooms for him to sleep in.") to the consequences of being a giving person.

Collin believes God has admonished him to go investigating - and with the Lord on his side, he journeys into an unfamiliar wilderness. As his faith bolsters and supports his decisions, the entire family finds themselves entering a maelstrom of promises, warnings, and threats that takes them to places they'd never known existed. At times, faith is all they have to survive on.

From human trafficking to individual plights, Hidden in Harmony: Danger is Imminent crafts an engrossing story which is hard to put down, filled with changes that sweep two families into an unexpected relationship with each other, God, and danger.

Christian readers especially will welcome this blend of spirituality and intrigue which drives a moving, engrossing story line to an unexpected conclusion.

Lucas Sterling
Nurrebbul Productions
9780999338711 $2.99 ebook $9.99 paperback

A cyberattack in Kenya that empties bank accounts throughout the country is only one indicator that the world is threatened in a new way, and as the thriller Srepska heats up and moves around the world, readers follow the trail of intelligence investigations, assassins, and a successful, dangerous test that threatens to move into the U.S.

One of the driving forces of this thriller lies in its excellent attention to powerful characters throughout. They sweep readers into the drama and chaos that ensues when the banking industry goes down.

But banking isn't the only or even the major institution under attack: more plans are being made, and Srepska's hand is everywhere, threatening even seasoned spies who have their own good connections.

Srepska has caused chaos in Africa. Next step: the world, with the U.S.A. the biggest prize of all. The heart of matters is a new kind of war: an economic war that can be conducted against the largest of nations by the smallest. This change of power has everyone scrambling as Srepska proves to be no figment of the imagination, but a real force that is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

This force keeps Lars, Fredric, Sam, and others completely immersed in a tense cat-and-mouse game in which the opponent is mercurial and legendary, the world is filled with pawns at the mercy of a clever enemy, and only a few cold-blooded and determined individuals may prevent the fall of civilization.

Engrossing and powered by characters who each harbor their own well-developed fears, abilities, and challenges, Srepska documents a new kind of war and will delight thriller readers with a riveting story that excels in exquisitely precise tension from start to finish.

The Prison of Doom
Rhory Kadish Lamboy
Publisher: TBA

Jake was diagnosed with a learning disability early in his life and has adjusted to it over the years. He's now in seventh grade, facing a grim teacher who humiliates him in front of his classmates and mocks him for 'being special' - a label he's long tried to avoid as he struggles to fit into regular school circles and get away from the stigma of special ed.

But Jake's talented in different ways. The main way he can recall and work with the world is through rhyme, and his hundred-line rap rhyme 'The Prison of Doom' may actually spell a way out of his struggles with school culture and life.

There are too many things going on in Jake's world, these days. His family is still mourning the death of his mother, there's a creative writing contest going on that he doubts he'll enter despite his poetic skills, and peer relationships - even with his best friends - keep changing.

When a foolproof stunt goes awry, getting Jake and his friends in trouble, even his favorite teacher becomes a potential enemy, and his 'safe places' are threatened. Jake's life seems to be over ... or, is it just beginning?

From grief and imaginary and real battles to a creative punishment that holds some unexpected results, The Prison of Doom provides a snapshot of a particularly moving episode in Jake's young life and the moments that change his perceptions of not only his world, but his place in it.

Middle grade readers will find Jake an engaging character with disabilities and abilities that contribute to a growth process involving not only acceptance, but new paths in life.

From how Jake interacts with adults and peers to the circumstances that help him grow, The Prison of Doom offers much food for thought in an enlightening story of a young boy's newfound control of his future and the friendships and relationships that drive his evolutionary process.

The result is an engrossing read that is especially recommended for stories of special ed kids facing not just disabilities, but paths in life.

Under the Maginot
N.J. Knowlton
Indiereader Publishing Services
9780990887133 $25.99

Frankie plans on a special summer after he graduates high school, and is on track to enter college in the fall of 1939, but though he dreamed of adventure, he didn't anticipate adversity.

When his family falls apart, he finds himself on an ocean liner bound for Europe, involved in with man who may hold the key to a war looming on the horizon which will change not only Frankie's world, but everything.

Under the Maginot is a powerful saga that's hard to put down - and is just as hard to easily categorize. It could be called a 'gay novel' because the main characters develop a relationship that both changes and defines their lives, but it doesn't follow the usual sexually-charged descriptions of so many stories of gay relationships.

It opens with a torture scene made especially vivid through a first-person narration that pinpoints exactly how the protagonist came to be in this situation: "I ran eagerly behind him through all the madness of Europe on the edge of war. Like the Pied Piper, I'd followed him, as long as it wasn't where I had come from. I was like almost any other youth, intoxicated by adventure, money and sex."

As Frankie's world changes, readers follow him through the madness that follows, from a life that begins innocuously ("I set out toward that moment on a day that did not foretell any change.") to one involving an identity revelation, romance, a powerful landing in Europe at exactly the wrong moment in its pivotal history, and a German motorcycle odyssey through Maginot lines, war, a new boyfriend's secret political and military involvements, and ultimately, a test of faith, love, and self.

As he comes to understand Ray's real goal and efforts, Frankie faces moments that promise to change his world as his journey provides readers with a gripping saga of horrible suffering, life's promises and potentials, and the realities of gay relationships in the 1940s: "To the world I was just a working bachelor, too busy to find a nice wife. Even the few men I met who were like me only knew the sexual side of it. The idea of any stronger bond simply didn't occur to them as an option, not even in their greatest imaginings."

The result probes relationships, gay survival practices, and war's effects on everything as it overlays Frankie's life and ultimately determines his future.

Under the Maginot is a spellbinding read, highly recommended for followers of gay fiction who want more depth and detail than the sexual encounters and ribald, racy descriptions offered in typical genre reads.

The Shadow Girl
Misty Mount
Between the Lines Publishing
9780997939583 $14.99 Print; $3.99 Digital

Thirteen-year-old Zylia feels nearly invisible in her life. She blends into the background, is shy, and has always known that she's nearly invisible, even before real invisibility began to overcome her. The surreal spills into reality as Zylia's initial feeling of being 'unnoticed' seven years earlier begins to translate to true invisibility.

Zylia has always had mixed feelings about her condition, both relishing anonymity and chafing against its increasing power ("... the very curse that plagued me was also my protection.").

Only one thing can keep her in the world: investigating an old family mystery surrounding a great-aunt's disappearance long ago. If she can uncover the truth, perhaps she can prevent the same thing from happening to her.

As Zylia explores the circumstances surrounding her great-aunt's vanishing, she gains clues from an old journal, makes some unexpected friends, draws some surprising connections between her familiar world and other dimensions, and slowly begins to learn the truth about her relative's fate and her own future.

With her very survival linked to her ability to move beyond her familiar world, Zylia faces the 'in-between' and her possible role as a Shadow Girl who is brave and visible: everything that she is not, in the world she's always moved through.

Young adults will find The Shadow Girl a powerful fantasy that combines a coming of age theme with insights into changing family relationships, the impact of past worlds on present lives, and a shy girl's unexpected changes. Zylia's character is nicely drawn and realistic, her dilemmas are compelling and vivid, and her strange adventure becomes the start of building a new persona and purpose in her life.

Teens who enjoy compelling plots and a protagonist whose dilemmas weave into bigger issues of character and life purpose will find The Shadow Girl an involving read, filled with astute observations and surprises right up to the end. The Shadow Girl is especially recommended for readers who enjoy fantasies that incorporate real-world elements of change and growth.

Fake News
David Hutter
Self-published via Amazon
9781549898303 Ebook $4.99, paperback $7.50

Fake News: Strange Historical Facts Reimagined In The World Of Donald Trump offers a blend of political satire and a fantasy 'what if' romp as it imagines a different set of circumstances evolving from Trump's Presidency and ego, beginning with his plans, on his second day in office, to replace the Lincoln Memorial statue with one of himself: "Spicer," he said, while logging on to Twitter, "we're replacing the statue at the Lincoln Memorial with one of me and renaming the whole thing the Trump Memorial. I'm about to announce it on Twitter, but I need you to tell the media, as well." Instantly wide awake, Spicer said: "Mr President, I don't think that's a good idea, especially not on your first day in office." "But I'm the best President ever!" "Yes, but we need more evidence to back it up." "I've got a letter from my doctor saying I'm the healthiest President ever and that my test results were astonishingly excellent." "I think the media won't consider that a reason to replace Lincoln's statue." "I hate the media," Trump grumbled. "They treat me very, very unfairly. So, let's just announce it on Twitter and leave it at that."

Things only get crazier as an aborted and ill-fated invasion of North Korea results in a missing nuclear bomb and the event is denied by the President ("That's fake news!" Trump replied angrily, as Conway sat down at the table. "The invasion wasn't aborted - it was incredibly successful, and General Brooks presented some tremendous evidence for it."), a visit to North Korea turns into a geographic snafu ("I never forget a face. It's just names that I'm not that good with - although to be fair, it's also confusing for people from the developed world because you and the North Korean Kim have the same name but you have different capital cities, so it's hard to keep up." Smiling forgivingly, he added: "It's cultural differences." "Cultural differences?" Kim repeated, incredulous. "And what about the cultural differences between South Korea and North Korea? How could you possibly end up in Seoul if you want to go to Pyongyang?" "I don't know how that happened," Mnuchin said defensively. "We did go through the demilitarised zone, but then we must have accidentally crossed back into South Korea. It was very poorly signposted." "I noticed that, too," Trump agreed. "All the road signs were in Chinese first and English only underneath. Makes it very hard to spot for drivers."), and a series of incidences reinforce forms of logic and rhetoric which are employed in the pursuit of identifying what is fake and what is the new reality.

David Hutter's ability to take the psychological and political presence of Trump's most striking approaches and turn them into a tongue-and-cheek satire that remarks on their illogical foundations contributes nicely to a spoof that is at once funny, sad, and thought-provoking.

Trump fans probably won't appreciate Hutter's effort, and that would be a shame; because there's much to reflect upon in a satire that takes real approaches and extends them to the boundaries of irony and odd behaviors.

Fake News offers one of the saddest, funniest commentaries in print on the state of the Trump presidency, and is highly recommended reading for anyone who would seek a light-hearted but hard-hitting blend of satire and political observation mixed with elements of fantastic imagination about the state and future of the world.

The Whale in the Cave
Mike Avitabile
Lumberloft Press
9780999374313 $19.99

An invitation, a packet of information, a very puzzling quiz, and an opportunity to change his life leads Luke Balena on an unexpected adventure in The Whale in the Cave. The story begins with revelations about the exclusive, secret community of Malibu Oaks and its odd perspective and purpose which dovetails with Luke's new position as a secret investigator.

This opener deftly introduces a winding saga that tells of an unusual effort to retain residents of this exclusive realm by injecting actors into the community. Their purpose is to convince its residents that there's value in staying there - a value that's worth the high community fees. But Luke failed the test that would have enabled him to be a happy quasi-resident: instead, he's assigned an investigation which questions the nature of happiness in what might be a dubious paradise.

Why do investigators have so much time off? What are they supposed to be investigating, and what is the data they collect really being used for? And what does all this have to do with the discovery of a beached whale, holes in heads and hearts, and an evolving relationship that moves in unexpected directions despite the surreal challenges of Luke's new job?

Mistakes are made, Luke winds up with more information than he's supposed to know, and he quickly finds himself underwater and in over his head as his own private investigation leads him to a cave and a situation that defies anything in his job description and everything in his skills sets.

The Whale in the Cave at times feels like the iconic old TV show, 'The Prisoner'. There are residents who don't understand the motivations of the Board that attempts to govern their reality, a job applicant who finds himself captive in a different kind of position that challenges everything familiar, and a higher purpose in life that examines romance, friendships, and adversity alike.

Perhaps a simple phrase later in the story best sums up Luke's overall adventure: "Whatever is pulling me is stronger than I am anyway, so I let go."

Luke flies, falls, and floats through this strange blend of real and surreal situations, and as readers follow him, they receive an engrossing story filled with references to oceans, whales, and alternative living.

The Whale in the Cave asks questions and creates thought-provoking moments as Luke seeks to better understand his special purpose and trajectory in this world in a story that draws readers into a compelling saga that's hard to put down: "...have you gotten to the point where you actually realize that this is far better than the life you were living?"

A Police Action
A. A. Freda
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Dr. Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
ISBN: 9781480943513 $24.79 hc
eISBN: 9781480943278 $TBA

Specialist Fourth Class James Coppi thought he was going to escape seeing action in Vietnam. After all, he has only ten months left to serve; and it'll be only six month left after he's completed training. The differences between career Army veterans and untested new men becomes clear as Coppi works with a platoon, is entrusted with a special job, and finds ways to mitigate the relentless duties and stresses of military life.

Changing strategies, ambushes, a suicide mission into near-certain disaster, Texan girl Samantha Powers, who takes a soldier boy home and faces an unexpected friendship at a time when she needs it the most, and circumstances which lead James to help a young woman who is pregnant with another man's child in the wake of war makes for an engrossing story of lives changed both abroad and at home.

"When you want something, you don't let anything stand in your way." But what do James Coppi and Sam wish for in this changing world? Sam thinks she knows, but her best efforts still don't result in her heart's desire.

As military actions turn into romance, readers are lead through the grueling battlefields of Vietnam to an emotionally demanding landscape where two very different individuals explore their choices in a tumultuous world.

From issues of independence and control to military living far from the peace of paradise, Sam and James's worlds come together in unexpected ways to form a different kind of military saga in which two wandering souls face the trials of war to forge new lives in ways they hadn't anticipated.

Readers seeking a blend of Vietnam saga and romance will find A Police Action an engrossing tale that moves deftly from the battlefield to the heart.

The One Apart
Justine Avery
Justine Avery, Publisher
ASIN: B076B7RDWY $6.99

The One Apart is a reincarnation story with a difference: Tres has lived many lives before, and he remembers them all. As a newborn with an adult's memories, he finds himself struggling, along with his teenage mother Sancha, to adapt to a life that once again places him well apart from not only his peers, but every other human in the world.

It's rare to find a reincarnation story that begins in the womb, with the pre-birth thoughts of a boy who discovers (to his horror) that he is going to be born again, fully aware of his pasts and fully cognizant.

Justine Avery takes the time to fully explore Tres' experience, drawing readers into the idea of an old soul trapped in a new body's slow development: "Unable to reach, grasp, or even roll over, he was trapped by his own rotund, untrained form, even as his newborn brain rapidly developed. The limitations of cell reproduction, tendon growth, and even his small size stifled his physical ability while his brain charged with electric pulses, new synapses, and mental connections at an exceptional rate. His body grew unbearably slowly; his mind raced to adapt, process, and encompass the timeless, intangible knowledge contained in his consciousness."

It's her attention to such depth and detail that makes The One Apart more than just another story of living multiple lives, fully immersing readers in the growth experiences, struggles, and thoughts that shape Tres/Aaron's life.

As Tres/Aaron faces the usual challenges of peer relationships and growing up, he also faces the fact that there's a reason why he's being reborn time after time - and that reason involves a threat only he can perceive.

Tres becomes educated about more than one realm, and begins to uncover not only his own purpose, but those of others around him who do not harbor his memories and special condition: "Aself selects corporeal life - the environment of a specific aspect - for the purpose of attainment, Fei imparted. Aself is inclined to seek experiences - situations, challenges, relationships - serving aself's mien. It is... The Natural Order of Things. I chose... my life - this life? The people in it... everything that happens to me? Indeed - of a sense and to an extent - and for all of them, for each of aself's corporeal lives."

Fans of Cloud Atlas and other similar stories of reincarnated lives and special purposes will find The One Apart offers special spiritual and psychological insights and a complexity that more casual approaches don't provide. Indeed, Cloud Atlas would be one solid comparison for readers who enjoy reincarnation stories that present insights into special purposes in and approaches to life.

From considerations of life purpose and evil to the realization that death is not a limitation or an end, but affords new beginnings, readers who follow Tres on his journey will find The One Apart an outstanding, well-detailed story that is hard to put down, evocative, thought-provoking, and filled with surprises and hope.

The One Apart is very highly recommended; especially for fans of reincarnation scenarios who can expect far more insight from this read than most, tempered with a purposeful saga to keep readers thoroughly engrossed to the end.

The Prize
Geoffrey M. Cooper
ISBN Print 9781543912173 $12.99
ISBN Ebook 9781543912180 $2.99

The Prize considers the ultimate impact of a discovery for curing Alzheimer's disease, setting this revelation against the backdrop of a thriller when a promising new drug developed by Pam leads to violence, the involvement of special interests, and a confrontation with greed and corruption that threatens the prize itself.

Dr. Eric Prescott finds himself caught up in the discovery, Pam's life, and greater issues as the story weaves through fraud, research efforts, and betrayal.

A postdoc steals the promising drug, then apparently kills herself, leading to Pam's realization that the person she has trusted is the one who poses the most danger to her and her discovery. The Prize features many satisfying twists and turns as it considers the costs of special interests and individual involvements in research and development results, examining what happens when a prize-winning achievement goes awry.

Pam needs to get back to thinking about science rather than subterfuge. Her greatest challenge lies not in the lab, but in understanding the process that produced the monster she now faces.

Fans of Robin Cook-style medical thrillers will relish the interpersonal relationships, drama, and contrast between lab and scientific research special interests that Geoffrey M. Cooper so realistically profiles in The Prize. Tension is well developed, various characters interact on different levels that outline different objectives and passions, and the result is a thoroughly engrossing science odyssey that touches upon social and research issues alike.

Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy
Richard Due
Gibbering Gnome Press
Print: 9780983886792 $9.99
Ebook: 9780983886785 $4.99

Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy pairs lovely illustrations by Carolyn Arcabascio with the first book in a satisfyingly original, compelling series for ages 9-12, introducing Willamina Gilbert Snap, an eleven-year-old who discovers there's a force keeping the world from destruction - and that force is comprised of Idiots.

She should know: she's apparently one herself, and her destiny is to never see home again - among other things.

Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy represents Willa's "first highly illegal memoir" and details her venture into Grandeur, a city of time-traveling dragons, talkative cats, and scientific discoveries unknown to Outside.

There's a lot to relish about Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy; not the least of which is an approach that offers much food for thought about the structure of Willa's world and the science and psychology behind it: "The problem is that geniuses - both capital G and small g - either think you understand everything they've said as perfectly as they do, or that you're as dumb as dirt. It's one of their biggest flaws."

From the baristas' strange brewed creatures ("a hermit crab the size of a basketball, a foxlike cashier wearing a hat and vest, and a small winged dragon perched in a cage, preening its bright green feathers") to devices that rent unused brain space, Willa sweeps readers along. Sentient Clockwerks, a cat-run curiosity shop, and steam-powered rhino cabs coexist in a setting the author describes as "polypunk."

It's unusual to see such sci-fi depth and detail in a title directed to young adults, but this is precisely what makes Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy such an appealing production: the characterization is solid while its fantastic setting will intrigue ages well beyond its intended 9-12-year-old audience.

Time vortexes, ghosts, and the costs of navigating this odd world make for a complex but thoroughly engrossing story recommended for young sci-fi and fantasy fans who hold a prior attraction to books such as John Bellairs' House with a Clock in its Walls. From its engaging drawings to its powerful message, Idiot Genius will leave readers musing about Willa Snap's adventures long after the winding story concludes. It is highly recommended for young adults seeking something compellingly different in tone, approach, and perspective.

Leah's Story
C.M. Huddleston
Interpreting Time's Past Press
9780996430456 $7.99 Paper; $4.99 ebook

Leah's Story tells of a girl born on a rice plantation, who grows up to serve her rich owners in Georgia. Her life, like so many others, could have ended there were it not for emancipation and education, which give her and her children new opportunities to revise their lives and dreams.

C.M. Huddleston is a historian and retired archaeologist whose background lends to a story that draws from both imagination and a real-world historical mystery, presenting Leah's saga in chapters arranged chronologically by year to reinforce the changing times, from 1827 to 1903.

Huddleston discovered Leah's narrative in a small traveling trunk hidden in a corner of a museum attic, and here reproduces her own words, as written down by the equally mysterious 'S.B. Elliott'.

One notable aspect of this story is its dialogue which is crisp, real, and involving, personalizing the diary and experiences of Leah: "Now, Miss Elliott, don't take my words wrong. Daddy William and me, we was happy. We had good food each and every day and nice clean clothes. I could read and write, though Mistress Martha had suggested I not tell anyone 'ceptin' William I could. Most white people didn't hold with teaching coloreds to read and write. Figured it made them more likely to escape and go North."

Where fictional approaches might miss some of the subtler nuances of Leah's times, the journal chronicling her life captures its daily politics, joys, heartbreaks and intricacies - and this, combined with the overlay of the mystery about her life, makes for a powerful story indeed, highly recommended for history readers and especially for collections strong in documents about a slave's move to freedom during tumultuous times.

The Chaos of Change
J. T. Riggen
Independently Published
ASIN: B0752YHFYV $4.50

Author website:

Book Website:

The Chaos of Change is political thriller writing at its best, and is set in America's near future, when states that see the collapse of federal power move to become more autonomous, and when a political move to dissolve the ineffective federal structure divides the country into three sovereign entities.

Thaddeus had a promising career in politics as the son of the former President of the U.S. before he saw the winds of chaos and fled to Alaska to live a solitary life away from his politically bickering family, but it's not long before government forces come looking for him, recruiting him as a negotiator between his Republican family and the liberals to the north, who are now butting heads over their new realms.

The elite team tapping Thaddeus for help is committed to avoiding a new civil war at all costs - and to bringing back a semblance of democracy in the face of chaos.

As the team and its members solidify their purposes and newfound political objectives, Thaddeus finds himself unwittingly drawn into a deadly game where lessons of the past are ignored and special interests manipulate worlds.

From a harrowing journey to the Federal North Pole to negotiations with the King of the South, J. T. Riggen provides an action-packed, politically charged set of questions that keeps readers thinking about this new America and its changed values.

Independent nations that strive for controlled havoc, CIA efforts to restore peace to a broken nation, and the potentials of a new community and technology that lure Thaddeus away from his isolation all coalesce in a riveting political adventure that will attract readers of survival fiction, political thrillers, dystopian worlds, and solid action stories.

The satisfying blend of fast-paced action and strong characterization makes for a fine story that's riveting, realistic, and hard to put down.

Bear Medicine
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Dancing Seeds Press
Print ISBN: 9780996103862 $18.93
Digital ISBN: 9780996103879 $ 5.99

Bear Medicine follows the stories of two women, Anne and Brooke, who are connected by two Native American women, Maggie and Leila, who help them. One has been attacked by a bear while training for a marathon in Yellowstone; the other woman lived over a hundred years earlier and was camping in the park with her husband when he was captured by Indians.

Both not only survive, but discover new connections and perspectives from their ordeals. It's unusual to see a novel where all the main characters are female, and where parallel lives are nicely contrasted between modern times and the 1800s.

The account opens with a bang, presenting Brooke's reflections in August of 2017 as she sets out on her life-changing journey without the support systems and connections she needs from life: "Life had already grabbed me by its enormous jaws, its fangs scratching at the surface of my sanity. Carson had no time for me anymore. Delaney hadn't spoken to me for months. And my dear husband, Shane? Let's just say he was the main reason I was 800 miles from home in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. I had needed to get away, to capture some time for myself. To run, to think, to be me."

As her introduction ends with the bear attack and the near certainty of her death, Anne's parallel brush with death in August of 1877 is then presented: "I am your husband, he often reminded me, as though I would ever forget the vows I had so naively taken vows that neglected to mention the promise of gentle behavior on his part in the course of these intimate affairs. Closing my eyes, I turned my head to the side and waited. While he proceeded, I listened beyond his moans to the sounds all around us: a swan's honk, a loon's wail, an ever so slight drumbeat."

Brooke and Anne start out fighting for their lives and ultimately wind up fighting for their freedom. Both are influenced by abusive husbands in their lives and the challenges of surviving the wilderness when bears change their lives.

Creating an interwoven story that begins with not only two different women but two different timelines is no easy task; but G. Elizabeth Kretchmer provides a seamless integration that, thanks to chapter headings, includes no confusion between the historical eras of each woman's life and the different perspectives that evolve from their lives.

One doesn't expect issues of abuse, women's roles, wildlife management, and American Indian issues to coalesce under one cover, much less in a novel that covers two women's perspectives on these topics; but one of the pleasures of Bear Medicine is its unpredictability and ability to focus on bigger pictures while exploring their lives.

Each decision and those who change these lives and their trajectories lead Anne and Brooke to grow, creating a secondary story that powers the plots of both experiences, eventually melding them into a potent story of leadership, achievement, growth, and change.

The women find themselves making unexpected journeys as they search for a better sense of self and their place in the world, both finding refuges where they can heal from their ordeals, forming new perspectives about nature, Native Americans, and their roles in life in the process of accepting change.

To call Bear Medicine a novel about any singular objective would be to understate its importance as a multi-faceted story that embraces several different issues. Readers seeking a strong, woman-centered story that gives much food for thought about these challenges will find Bear Medicine an absorbing, purposeful read where the power of the bear results in rebirth and revelations.

Head On
John Monaghan
History Publishing Company, LLC
PO Box 700, 15 Heyhoe Woods Road, Palisades, New York 10964-0700
9781940773230 $18.95

Head On: NYPD Takes On ISIS affords a literary thriller that romps through the streets of New York City as readers follow the intersection of Arab terrorists, Russian mob interests, and NYPD Captain Jimmy Gallagher, who is just beginning to understand their connections when the FBI pulls him off the investigation.

Convinced that a deeper danger exists, Jimmy persists, is suspended from the force for his perseverance, and finds himself at odds with both the law and order he's compelled to support and Russian mafia and Arab terrorists alike.

Caught in the middle between corrupt forces on all sides, Jimmy is forced to question police procedure, politics, and decisions he was never good at making, relying on his instincts to guide him through a labyrinth of confusing associations.

One standout aspect to this thriller is John Monaghan's attention to fully developing the different perspectives of not only the protagonist, but all the characters involved. Readers receive in-depth observations on all sides which perfectly capture motivations and concerns: "Khalil crossed the sidewalk. A few passersby stopped in their tracks. One bowed to him, the others just waited impatiently for him to pass. Khalil frowned and crossed to the waiting cab. His deep hatred for western civilization made it difficult for him to relate even to his fellow Muslims living in this land. He found himself angry all the time."

Tip-offs and traps, fighter jets and rebels, hostages, and confrontations with savages all lead to a standoff that ultimately questions whether survivors (and Americans) are good or evil. In such a conflict, there is no single hero. Jimmy's greatest challenge involves getting hostages and survivors to believe that each of their actions and choices can make a difference.

Replete with fast-paced action and nonstop confrontations, Head On represents the kind of thriller that makes readers stop and think about choices, consequences, and the intersection between political purpose, special interests, and the greater good. It is highly recommended for readers of suspense novels about international terrorism and crime.

The Silver Spear
J.R. Roper
CHBB Publishing
9781979507516 $12.99

The Silver Spear is the final book in the four-part Morus Chronicles series, continuing the story of Mel, who is charged with finding the evil Maura, saving Detsry (who has fallen into her clutches), and righting the wrongs she has inflicted on others through her choices and actions in previous books in the series.

Here she struggles with grief for those she has wronged; not the least of which is the love she still holds for Ethan, even though her previous actions crushed that opportunity for them both. She's prepared to fight to make amends for all these bad choices, but both Mel and Ethan have more decisions to make that will affect their world and their places in it.

These choices revolve around an ancient, lost silver alvar spear taken by the Great Power during battle. Ethan faces a real conundrum: does he go after the spear first, which may give him an edge in his own resolve to rescue Destry; or does he rescue his sister first and possibly forego an opportunity to change everything with a powerful new force?

As Maura makes new alliances, raising an army and strengthening her spells, Ethan faces Maura's new challenges with a newfound weapon that he can only minimally control.

Mel and Ethan face changes that could bond them together as outcasts as the story moves in unexpected directions, taking two young teens and pitting them against seemingly impossible odds and forces of darkness. Powerful tools have the ability to corrupt. Can Ethan avoid their deadly trap?

Teen readers of fantasy will certainly want to have this book's predecessors under their belts, for it builds strongly upon prior events and characters to reach a crescendo of confrontation that provides a satisfying and riveting conclusion to their adventures, which began with a reluctant summer on an old farm that led to Ethan's discovery of his own special abilities and place in the world.

Choke Hold
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
9781537843940 $2.99

Website / ordering links:
Pronoun -
Paperback (Amazon):
Author's blog:

Choke Hold sounds like a legal thriller, but it opens with a dose of unexpected humor: "Putting a law firm above a funeral home might seem an unwise marketing decision. But the price was right on the rent." Both businesses are struggling, and both proprietors are involved in civil rights issues in their community which take them away from their appointed positions and into dangers which include confronting injustice and murder.

Subtle humor is injected into a story line that holds emotional connections, action, and social issues alike ("Whenever they turned on the waterworks, he could feel the size of his retainer shrinking...So, here she was - no cash, no credit - and probably (and this was the real challenge) with no idea whatever where chubby hubby had his assets hid."). The infusion of all these elements into a story that ultimately revolves around murder and survival makes for a multi-faceted production that is, in turn, a gripping story of lost causes, choking situations, and heartbreak.

It should be noted that Choke Hold is replete with descriptions of urban noir culture and a sense of the urgency of race relations in the 1980s. Issues of oppression and justice are wound into the overall story of character choices and interactions, making for a saga that takes one man's ill-fated encounter with the police and expands the tale to demonstrate its wider-reaching impact on individuals and the community.

What happens when authorities and justice systems don't seem to care about injustice and the outcome of brutality?

Choke Hold succeeds in posing some hard questions in the course of its descriptions of a personal injury lawyer's special challenge, making it a top recommendation for those who like police and legal procedural mysteries tempered by a healthy dose of social inspection and a light dash of wry humor throughout.

Out of Rushmore's Shadow
Lou Del Bianco
Niche Content Press Corporation
ISBN: 9780998998725 (paperback) $18.95
ISBN: 9780998998732 (e-book) $9.99
ISBN: 9780998998749 (hardcover) $29.93

Out of Rushmore's Shadow: The Luigi del Bianco Story - An Italian Immigrant's Unsung Role as Chief Carver should be in every American history collection because it's far more than a singular biography of the author's grandfather; but an in-depth exploration of Mount Rushmore's creation - a history that would have faded into relative obscurity were it not for Lou Del Bianco's efforts to explore the life and relatively unsung achievement of his grandfather, a master carver in the Rushmore project.

Lest readers think that the Rushmore story is already adequately represented in general American history titles, it should be pointed out that when his grandson began researching its history, his grandfather's role as master carver on the project was not mentioned anywhere in the literature.

Thus began a research effort to detail his grandfather's role, experiences, and influences in the Mount Rushmore project: an occupation and calling that would consume his life.

Even more important is the secondary story of Luigi del Bianco's immigration to America and how this immigrant came to serve such a key role in the creation of one of the nation's greatest monuments.

Perhaps the introduction by Anthony Fasano of The Italian American Podcast best sums up the importance of this book to all Americans and explains why it's a highly recommended pick for any American history holding deeming itself authoritative: "Immigrants did shape the United States of America, and in Luigi Del Bianco's case, he shaped the face of one of our most important symbols."

From the five-year-old author's initial visits to his grandfather and his early observations of his carving abilities to his discovery three years later that his grandfather was a Master Carver on the Rushmore project, this documents a twenty-five-year struggle to research documents about the project and his grandfather's contributions to it, and to make these documents a part of Rushmore's history.

Photos, letters, and family information enlarge the story from that of an immigrant's lasting achievement to his experiences in forging a meaningful new life in his adopted country. Lou Del Bianco's special blend of family history, probe into immigrant experiences and prejudices, and his captivating quest to see his grandfather's influence exposed and immortalized makes for a thoroughly engrossing narrative.

Perhaps the most powerful question of all is how this key story came to be omitted from the chronicles of American history until now. An early chapter sums it up perfectly: "In 1985, the most definitive book on Mount Rushmore was published. It was titled, The Carving of Mount Rushmore by Rex Alan Smith. No book since has told the story as well (or so we thought). On Christmas Day, 1986, after a marvelous meal of chicken parmigiana, the family sat down to chat. I can still see Caesar yelling at the air, flailing his arms and shouting, "The goddamn book doesn't mention my father once! That's like talking about the Yankees and not mentioning DiMaggio!"

The processes of prejudice, the deliberate omission of historical facts, and the construction of misinformation come to life in the course of a story that never should have been forgotten; and this process, as much as the author's efforts to fill in the blanks and rectify a glaring omission, makes for a powerful testimony on how history can be manipulated and changed: "If Rex Alan Smith's "hook" was about untrained miners carving a masterpiece, surely my grandfather would have disrupted the theme of his book. So, what does he do? He decides not to mention the Chief Carver. A Chief Carver would only imply that there were in fact trained hands involved in the finishing of the faces. Also, Alan Smith was from that specific area of South Dakota. The Borglum Papers from Washington are not mentioned once in his research. If you were going to write the definitive book on Mount Rushmore, wouldn't you do your homework and read the writings of its designer, Gutzon Borglum? Rex Alan Smith had to know those papers existed. Instead, he chose to write a book that was solely "Dakota-centric" in its chronicling of the Rushmore experience, leaving out crucial details that would have told the whole story. You now have an incomplete story with an agenda that Wenk and Popovitch not only embrace but also fiercely protect; not only does Luigi not fit into Rushmore's incomplete story, he is a threat to it."

It's easy to see that Out of Rushmore's Shadow should be an intrinsic part of any American history collection. Far more than a family chronicle or a biography, it asks some powerful questions and delivers equally potent answers about the shaping, validation and delivery of American history itself.

Out of Rushmore's Shadow is very, very highly recommended.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Chasing the Chinese Dream
Nick Holdstock
I. B. Tauris Publishers
9781784533731 $25.00 hc / $23.75 Kindle

Synopsis: China is undergoing the biggest and fastest societal and economic change in human history. Driving this dizzying transformation is the idea of the "Chinese Dream," the promise that in the new China, anyone can make it.

Journalist and writer Nick Holdstock has traveled the length of the expansive country that is China to find out the reality behind this rhetoric?from the factory-owner, to the noodle seller, from the karaoke maids to the hoteliers, and from the deserted, aging countryside to the young and overcrowded cities.

Chasing the Chinese Dream follows a cast of extraordinary characters: the people getting rich; running factories and buying luxury cars and Louis Vuitton bags. But it also provides insight into those left behind, trapped by a system defined by long hours and no prospects.

A spell-binding and magical narrative, Chasing the Chinese Dream tells the story of modern China through the Chinese people living it.

Critique: Chasing the Chinese Dream is an extraordinary nonfiction glimpse into the efforts of Chinese men and women seeking to better their station in life. A particularly tough obstacle for rural people to overcome is the "hukou" system that ties people to the location their parents are registered as living. Urban dwellers with a rural hukou are denied access to services such as subsidized housing, health care, and education for their children, no matter how long they have lived in the city; this restrictive system is seemingly at odds with an expressed national policy to move more rural dwellers to the cities. Chasing the Chinese Dream is a true-life anthology of people who work hard for their success - and people trapped by systems that force them into long hours of labor and poor prospects for the future. Utterly fascinating from cover to cover, Chasing the Chinese Dream is enthusiastically recommended for public and college library international studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Chasing the Chinese Dream is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.75).

The Marine Corps Way of War
Anthony J. Piscitelli
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213607, $27.50, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Marine Corps Way of War: The Evolution of the U.S. Marine Corps from Attrition to Maneuver Warfare in the Post-Vietnam Era", Anthony J. Piscitelli (Adjunct Professor in the Global Transportation Department - SUNY Maritime College) deftly examines the evolving doctrine, weapons, and capability of the United States Marine Corps during the four decades since our last great conflict in Asia. The USMC has maintained its position as the nation's foremost striking force while shifting its thrust from a reliance upon attrition to a return to maneuver warfare. Professor Piscitelli methodically explains the evolution by using traditional and first-person accounts by the prime movers of this paradigm shift.

In Indochina, for example, the Marines not only held territory but engaged in now-legendary confrontational battles at Hue and Khe Sanh. As a percentage of those engaged, the Marines suffered higher casualties than any other branch of the service. In the post-Vietnam assessment, however, the USMC absorbed Sun Tzu's aspects of Asian warfare and returned to its historical DNA in fighting "small wars" to evolve a superior alternative to the battlefield.

The institutionalization of maneuver philosophy began with the Marine Corps' educational system, analyzing the actual battlespace of warfare (be it humanitarian assistance, regular set-piece battles, or irregular guerrilla war) and the role that the leadership cadre of the Marine Corps played in this evolutionary transition from attrition to maneuver. This change has sometimes been incorrectly portrayed (including by the Congressional Military Reform Caucus) as a disruptive or forced evolution. Analysis from former commandants of the Marine Corps to junior officers on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere demonstrate otherwise. The ability of the Marines to impact the battlefield (and help achieve our strategic goals) has only increased during the post-Cold War era.

Throughout "The Marine Corps Way of War", the voices of the Marines themselves, in action or through analysis, describe how "the few, the proud" will continue to be America's cutting-edge force in the future as we move through the 21st Century.

Critique: An impressively informed and informative study, "The Marine Corps Way of War: The Evolution of the U.S. Marine Corps from Attrition to Maneuver Warfare in the Post-Vietnam Era" is a singularly original work of outstanding scholarship that is so exceptionally well written, organized and presented as to make it fully accessible for academia and non-specialist general readers alike. Of particular and lasting interest to anyone who has ever served their country as a Marine, "The Marine Corps Way of War" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Military History collections in general, and Marine Corps supplemental studies lists in particular.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Desert Kill Switch A Nostalgia City Mystery # 2
Mark S. Bacon
Black Opal Books
9781626947191, $14.95,

"Desert Kill Switch" opens with Lyle Deming and his stepdaughter driving along on a desert road where he encounters a dead body on the side of the highway. Stopping to check out the victim, a young male shot in the head, Lyle is careful to not disturb what he realizes is a crime scene. Later they head back to town to report his findings to local law enforcement. Normally this would be a great start to an interesting mystery novel but there are problems from the beginning, starting with the author introducing something called a cactus wren. There should have been a brief description given to alert readers it's a type of bird and that its well known for the region of the country the novel takes place in. Another problem is that while Lyle is concentrating on his driving glancing in the rearview mirror as his stepdaughter looks directly into his dark brown eyes. I find it hard to believe that a passenger can look directly into someone's eyes while they are concentrating on their driving looking straight ahead or in the mirrors of their vehicle. These are just two of the problems I had with "Desert Kill Switch" that lost my interest very early into the novel. With a tighter edit "Desert Kill Switch" could have been a very appealing mystery story.

Be Fierce Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back
Gretchen Carlson
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781478992172, $27.00

Gretchen Carlson who took down Roger Ailes Chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group for sexual harassment now tells in "Be Fierce Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back" the negative treatment she has received from people all over the country. She also cites other cases of sexual harassment by men to other women and how the perpetrators for the most part get away with their actions when they are exposed. Carlson reveals that many times human resources of company's side against the accuser and how their lives are tarnished just because they have come forward. There are other things she reveals as well that are sadly the way things are done today. At times "Be Fierce Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back" is so disgusting in the way females are treated by males that readers can only read a few pages at a time because the abuse is so repulsive to read about. There is hope though because Carlson shows there are men who are just as appalled and are side by side with women to bring about change while she also talks about how parents have to teach children to have more respect for girls and women. We have a long way to go but "Be Fierce Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back" hopefully is a book that will begin the change that is needed for women.

Sisters First Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life
Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce bush with a foreword by Laura Bush
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781538711415, $28.00

On a more positive note is "Sisters First" where the twin George W. Bush daughters reveal many things about their lives as first daughters of the president. Each chapter is written by one of the sisters in their own words. They cover historical events of their families two presidencies they have witnessed firsthand, growing up in the Bush family, their thoughts on their parents, situations they've been involved in and a lot more in a captivating book that is so much fun to read. With all the negative political books on the scene "Sisters First" is a delightful read guaranteed to please anyone of any political party.

Professor Birdsong's 157 Dumbest Criminal Stories
Leonard Birdsong
Winghurst Publications
9780989845229, $7.99,

Professor Birdsong who normally teaches law courses once again takes time out from his classes to take readers on a journey through the Lonny tune world of bumbling criminals from the United States and abroad in "Professor Birdsong's 157 Dumbest Criminal Stories." Some of the stories are so stupid you wonder what the criminal was thinking. An example is a man stole a safe from a business but left behind chewing tobacco spit. The police came and tested it and low and behold got their man. There are lots of other nonsensical things lawbreakers did that got them caught by authorities. "Professor Birdsong's 157 Dumbest Criminal Stories" of laugh out loud entertainment for anyone who wants to read a fun book.

I Tried To Speak
Paul K. Buck
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park FL 32789
9780998012865, $19.95,

Only now are publishers publishing books about America's most unpopular war. For those who don't know I'm referring to the Vietnam War. "I Tried To Speak" tells one man's journey through the nineteen sixties to the present generation in mostly poetic form. Paul Buck writes in a style that is easy to read and understand while very entertaining with thought provoking insight into what led up to the conflict and afterwards. He also forgives the enemy, protesters and others but there is one person he can't ever forgive for that person's actions as is true with so many of us as we learned what this individual did throughout the Vietnam war that if you or I did the same thing we'd be locked away in jail for treason. Instead this person has suffered no consequences what so ever. I will let readers ponder who it could be and I will not give any hints. 'I Tried to Speak" is a ground-breaking collection of writings that should help any veteran of any war to deal with what they encountered and a return to civilian life.

It Never, Ever Snows in Florida
Written by Amy Sweezey
Illustrated by Ricardo J. Rodriguez
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781516800025, $9.95

A.J. loves the things he can do in Florida where he lives, like go to the beach, or wear shorts or sandals are just two of the things he enjoys. Building a snowman or playing in the snow is something that he will not ever be able to enjoy in Florida as his meteorologist mom on TV explains because when and if it snows in Florida it melts as soon as it touches the ground. His mom goes on to explain why that is so in the delightful kid's book "It Never, Ever Snows in Florida." Amy Sweezey who is an award-winning broadcast meteorologist tells a fascinating story of why Florida is the only state in the country where it never snows utilizing her skills of weather forecasting to present a very enjoyable story that is enhances by the artwork of Ricardo J. Rodriguez. "It Never, Ever Snows in Florida" is hopefully the first of many books of fiction for kids by Amy Sweezey that anyone any age can enjoy.

Let's Talk Weather TV Forecasting Behind the Scenes
Amy Sweezey
Story Farm Inc.
9780996944144, $16.95

"Let's Talk Weather TV Forecasting Behind The Scenes" Amy Sweezey's second book is nonfiction for kids this time delving into the world of TV forecasting that many of us never see. She explains the technique of the green screen, devices used to predict the present weather and the future, what causes different types of bad weather conditions and a lot more in a very educational book that is for readers of any age to enjoy. Sweezey who is an award-winning broadcast meteorologist takes readers into the world she works in explaining in easy to understand terms while also posing different scenarios for readers to participate in to get a better understanding of what it takes to predict the weather. "Let's Talk Weather TV Forecasting Behind the Scenes" is filled with lots of information about how the job is done every day of the year at TV stations all across the world.

Reggie and Rocky The Ring-tailed Raccoons Story and Coloring Book
Mary Flynn, author
Donna Craft, illustrator
Cricket Cottage
9780692281383, $7.50,

Reggie and Rocky are two raccoons normally found in the woods but they strayed into a neighborhood of homes and discovered a smorgasbord of food to enjoy because a woman in one of the houses decides they will eat what she does. "Reggie and Rock The Ring-tailed Raccoons" moves along with rhythmic prose to a final satisfying conclusion to the situation of the raccoons who made friends with a woman in community. Readers no matter what age can enjoy these little animals who fill the pages of this beautifully done book. There is also a coloring book version of the story for everyone to participate in the whole story.

Reggie and Rocky The Naughty Raccoons Story, Coloring Book and Recipe
Mary Flynn, author
Donna Craft, illustrator
Cricket Cottage
9780692459638, $7.50,

The two raccoons encounter a whole new set of characters in the sequel to "Reggie and Rocky The Ring-tailed Raccoons" This time they hook up with a bunch of pelicans who fight them when the two raccoons decide to go to the local dump and see what goodies they can take with them. All of the scavengers converge on the land fill to find whatever they can no matter what they have to do to get it. The story of "Reggie and Rocky The Naughty Raccoons is another rollicking fun entertaining story for anyone to enjoy. With both books the artwork by Donna Craft adds so much to the telling of the tale while "Reggie and Rocky The Naughty Raccoons" also has a Macaroons recipe.

Princess Rain and the Dragon
Helena Yates, author
Wendy C. Crouch, illustrator
Taylor and Seale Publishing LLC
9781940224756, $16.95 pbk / $3.98 Kindle,

"Princess Rain and the Dragon" is a wonderful kid's book about confronting your own fears and moving forward in life. Rain often imagines she is a princess in a make-believe land where she dreams she is crushed by a dragon. From then on, she decides she will not go outside and play because of the dragon she is afraid of. One of the most charming portions of "Princess Rain and the Dragon" is Rain's love of a certain kind of sandwich she shares with other characters in the story. "Princess Rain and the Dragon" is a delightful tale by a very talented team that hopefully is the first of more to come stories.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Two Kinds of Truth
A Bosch Novel
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
1290 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10104
Orion in UK
9780316225908, $29.00/38.00 CA$/9.99 BPS, Hardcover, 416 pp

Michael Connelly has written 30 novels, including two previous series featuring memorable protagonists. The first was Harry Bosch, the irascible LA detective, the second the one dubbed the Lincoln Lawyer, who made his office in the car of the same name, and turned out to be Harry's half-brother, Mickey Haller. The most recent, "The Late Show," introduced another, detective Renee Ballard, sure to anchor a third series on a par with its excellent predecessors. This book is the newest entry in the Bosch series, every bit as good - make that 'terrific' - as the ones that came before.

From the publisher: Harry Bosch, exiled from the LAPD after nearly 40 yers, is working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department when he's called out to a local drugstore where the two pharmacists have been murdered. As Bosch and the tiny town's three-person detective squad sift through the clues, they are pulled into the dangerous, big-business world of prescription drug abuse. Meanwhile, an old case from Bosch's past comes back to haunt him when a long-imprisoned killer claims Harry framed him, and he seems to have new evidence to prove it. Bosch left the LAPD on bad terms, so his former colleagues are in no rush to help salvage his reputation. As usual, he must fend for himself as he tries to clear his name and keep a clever killer in prison. The two cases wind around each other like strands of barbed wire. Along the way, Bosch discovers that there are two kinds of truth: the kind that sets you free and the kind that leaves you buried in darkness.

Bosch [and the author] go into great detail about the murder of Danielle Skyler, which resulted in Preston Borders being tried and convicted and placed on Death Row. Harry's forced retirement from the LAPD 3 years earlier has him now working on cold cases, including a 15-year-old case of a woman named Esme Tavares, officially a missing-persons case because no body had ever been found, which has been haunting Harry for years. But everything has to go on the back burner with the occurrence of the new murder case, that of the father-and-son killings, which appears to revolve around the local incarnation of the national epidemic of opioid addiction, with Harry leading the investigation. At the same time, the newly-formed Conviction Integrity Unit's investigation into the Skyler case points to Harry as having planted evidence which led to the Borders conviction. The two story lines compete for the reader's attention and rapidly turning pages as both are detailed in this wonderful novel.

The time is the present, evidenced both by the drug dealer, ever-present today in the news, mention of the homeless population in LA as an ongoing problem, as well as by references to our present U.S. President, tainted by news of a possible Russian meddling, and with one character expressing his hope that there will be an impeachment proceeding before too long.

All aspects of the plot are developed suspensefully and wonderfully well, and the novel is highly recommended.

The Last Mrs. Parrish
Liv Constantine
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062667571, $25.99/31.99 CA$, Hardcover, 390 pp.

(Paperback, May 1, 2018 in US/CA, 1/11/18 in UK)

From the publisher: Amber Patterson is fed up. She's tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more - - a life of money and power, like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne - - a socialite and philanthropist - - and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, a man of apparently limitless wealth, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale. Amber's envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne's compassion to insinuate herself into the family's life - - the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne's closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may destroy everything that Amber has worked toward, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

Part I of the novel is told from Amber's perspective, Part II, roughly half-way through the book, from Daphne's. The two women meet at a gym they both attend, and are drawn together by a shared interest: It appears that Daphne, through an organization called the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, puts out a magazine dealing with that disease. Daphne tells Amber, when questioned, that she had lost her younger sister to that disease, 20 years earlier at the age of 16. When Daphne asks, Amber reveals that her own younger sister had died of the disease at the age of 14. That is the beginning of a friendship that becomes much more than just that, with Amber becoming almost of the Parrish family

The reader discovers late in the novel that Amber's name isn't even Amber - it was Laura Crump. She had made everything up, including the ostensible existence of a sick sister, an abusive father, when in actuality she was a criminal, a fugitive. But we are told very early on that the only sisters she does [or ever did] have are all alive and well. She apparently makes monthly pilgrimages to the main library in Manhattan and to museums, the better to display her apparent knowledge and acumen to others, most importantly to Jackson Parrish. She inveigles her way into the family dynamic and, in doing so, into the "world of the rich and mighty, mingling and toasting each other, smug and confident in their little one percent corner of the world," and ultimately landing a job as Jackson's new office assistant. I have to admit I found myself at one point I could not help but admire Amber's success in achieving her aim of worming herself into the Parrish world in many aspects, although that didn't last too long. The Parrish marriage of 12 years soon is threatened. I also have to admit that once the 2nd half of the book is under way--from Daphne's p.o.v.--that admiration quickly ended.

This novel received starred reviews from each of the most highly respected review sites in the industry, each comparing it favorably with "Gone Girl," one of the mostly highly lauded novels of its kind in the last couple of years [and one I must admit I have never read, unlike, I suspect, most of the readers of this review, I humbly realize]. That said, "Mrs. Parrish" kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could until the very end.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine., a remarkable job, considering they live several states apart! They have created a book that captivates the reader, and one I highly recommend.

Joe Ide
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316267724, $26.00/34.00 CA$/8.99 BPS, Hardcover, 319 pp.

Paperback, In US, CA: Mulholland, $15.99, 352 pp.
In UK: W&N Publishers, ISBN 9780316267731

From the publisher: East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. A high school dropout, Isaiah Quintabe has an unassuming nature that disguises a ferocious intelligence. Most people call him IQ. Word has gotten around: If you've got a problem, Isaiah will take care of it, his rates adjustable to your income or lack thereof. Because of his unconventional business model, cash is getting tight for Isaiah, forcing him to take on the case of a rap mogul whose life is in danger. The list of suspects includes a socially inept marksman who never misses, a crew of hangers-on that conceals at one man with a dangerous agenda, and an attack dog the size of a horse. IQ finds his investigation encompassing much more than he bargained for. No one expects a kid from East Long Beach to have what Isaiah's packing - - a blistering intellect, an incredible sense of percepti9on, and some serous skills behind the wheel. It all adds up to one major advantage: When you come from nothing, nobody sees you coming.

This is the first in a very original new series from Joe Ide, an author of Japanese-American descent, who has created an even more original protagonist in IQ, in a book which won the Macavity Award for best first novel.

The year is 2013. In the opening pages, we meet Isaiah, an unlicensed detective described as six feet tall and rail thin, his roommate, Juanell Dodson, 17, who has been sharing IQ's apartment since the death of the latter's beloved brother, Marcus, 25 years old, in a hit-and-run incident in 2005 which completely devastated IQ. We also meet Juanell's sometime girlfriend, an innocent teenage girl named Deronda. We are told that IQ had more work than he could handle but not many who could pay him. A client who could "pay his per diem gave him enough income to support himself" but often the only compensation given him would be "with a sweet potato pie or cleaning his yard or one brand-new radial tire if they paid him at all." In one instance payment came in the form of a chicken named Alejandro. After his brother's death IQ dropped out of school and quit the academic decathlon team he was on.

IQ likes rap because "music without words let him fill his head with images of his own making or no images at all." Juanell brings IQ a new case, if they can split the fee, the client being one Calvin Wright, a rapper known as Black the Knife. Juanell tells IQ "you lucky you got skills, son, 'cause if you had to survive on your personality you'd be working at the morgue with dead people." But the team does just fine.

The author creates some fascinating characters here, primarily of course IQ, and a book that won't soon be forgotten. One of the many glowing reviews of this book [from fellow author Ben Winters] ended with the words "you'll be as excited as I am for a sequel." I couldn't, and can't, disagree, and when that sequel was published, less than a month ago, I read it as soon as I could, the result of which can be found in the review which will be written as soon as this one concludes - it's every bit as excellent as is this debut novel and, like this one, is highly recommended.

Joe Ide
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316267779, $26.00/34.00 CA$, Hardcover, 326 pp.

In UK: W&N
9781474607223, 8.99 BPS, Hardcover, 336 pp., Feb. 22, 2018
9781474607209, 8.99 BPS, Paperback, 336 pp.

From the publisher: Ten years ago, when Isaiah Quintabe was just a boy, his beloved brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The unsolved crime has gnawed at his gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. The search for the killer sent him plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Now, Isaiah has a flourishing career, a new dog, and a near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown of East Long Beach, but a chance encounter reopens a wound that never fully healed. He has to begin the hunt again - - or lose his mind. A case takes him and his skeptical don't-call-me-a-sidekick partner, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a beautiful DJ and her deadbeat boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn't find the couple first, they'll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ's life: fail, and he'll lose her. Isaiah's quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, leading to the mastermind behind his brother's death, Isaiah's own sinister Moriarty. Rich with action, suspense, and ingenious surprises, "Righteous" confirms Joe Ide as one of crime fiction's most exciting new voices.

To say that Marcus was "the best person in the world" is only an understatement to Isaiah. He'd never gotten over his brother's death, which haunts him more each day, and he is determined to track down the person responsible. Everything that follows in this second book in the series stems from that. And this book is everything that the initial book led the reader to expect from this author. And the more he discovers leads him to only one conclusion: "This was no accident. This was a hit."

Chapter One introduces Janine Van, a young Asian woman working as a DJ, whose name as a DJ is Dama, so chosen because "it was different and the Chinese word for weed." Only 21 years old, she gets paid $750 a set, and plays 2 sets a week, but the gambling she does in her hometown of Vegas eats up her paychecks very ably. Now she and her boyfriend Benny are deeply in debt; the 20% vig has now raised that debt to $9,000, $1400 for the vig alone. She loved Benny, but he was a lousy gambler, "More than half the debt was his." The loan shark is getting very impatient for his money, Janine and Benny were living out of a seedy motel room, "a dump to begin with," and the collector, a man named Balthazar, was seven feet tall, from Saskatchewan, "right across the border from Montana." Their reaction to the unpaid debt is to dump Benny in a 360 acre, 200 foot deep landfill, threatening to give the same punishment to Janine if the debt isn't paid by the end of the week.

The author has a new assortment of fascinating characters to whom his readers are introduced in this book, including Sarita, a young woman who had been Marcus' girlfriend "back when Isaiah was in high school, and he'd always had a crush on her." The bad guys in this series entry are pretty frightening, and there's a great deal of violence and gunplay, reader be warned. But the tale is brilliantly told, Isaiah a fascinating protagonist. Can't wait for the next in the series! And this entry, as was the first one, is highly recommended.

The Ballad of Black Bart
Loren D. Estleman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765383532, $24.99/32.50 CA$, Hardcover, 240 pp.

From the publisher: Between July 1875 and November 1883, a single outlaw robbed the stagecoaches of Wells Fargo in California's Mother Lode country a record twenty-eight times. Armed with an unloaded shotgun, walking to and from the scenes of the robberies for hundreds of miles, and leaving poems behind, the infamous Black Bart was fiercely hunted to James B. Hume, Wells Fargo's legendary chief of detectives. Between robberies, Black Bart was known as Charles E. Bolton, a distinguished, middle-aged man who enjoyed San Francisco's entertainments in the company of socialites drawn to his quiet, temperate good nature and upper-class tastes.

One of the most entertaining of the many entertaining aspects of this novel is that, true to Black Bart's talents and propensities [he signs himself "Po8," after all], the author begins each chapter [26 in all], as well as the Afterword, with a four-line verse, wonderful creations all, as is the book itself.

I will quote only the first and last two of these. Beginning the book, on the first page of Chapter One: "This is the story of bandit Black Bart; who used the gold country to practice his art. His brush was a shotgun, his canvas the road, as he painted his way 'cross the Old Mother Lode." And he ends the book with another: "So here I've stood while wind and rain have set the trees asobbin'; and risked my life for that damn stage that wasn't worth the robbin." And before the Afterword: "My tale it is finished, and my race it is run; but there's one more confession I owe everyone. I speak not of inventions, though admit to this crime; I own to the evils I've committed in rhyme." Everything in between is equally wonderful.

As the book begins, Charles Bolton is described thusly: "Everything about this man was reserved ... A man who drank rarely, smoked not at all, and spent his words as if they assayed out at sixteen dollars to the ounce, was regarded as some kind of sage." The man loved gambling, on horse races or prizefights. That first chapter ends with a rhyme as well: "Come listen to my story, I'll not detain you long. A singing and a humming this simple silly song. 'Tis of the old ex-convicts, the men who served their time for robbing mountain stages of the old Wells, Fargo line."

Charles E. Bolton was a mining magnate who knew him only in that capacity. But one who clung to a shotgun, "a comforting weight in his hands," when he sets out to rob the stagecoaches of that firm, referred to as "the Company," of whom we are told "the frugality of Henry Wells and William Fargo was nearly as infamous as their business practices." His object was only the ironbound strongbox held at the driver's feet, never harming any passengers in the process. Sheriff Benjamin Thorn, who'd held that position for 15 years, and Chief of Detectives James Hume are charged with hunting down the robber, and they prove to be worthy opponents of Black Bart.

Another excellent book from this author, and highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Dead in Their Tracks
JT Sawyer
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B019UH78JY, $0.99, ebook, 2016, 180 pages

Dead in Their Tracks is a nice contemporary action adventure. Unlike most contemporary novels, it doesn't overdo the story. There are no impossibly powerful super villains and no impossible physical events. The character development is enough to bring the reader into the story but not enough to slow the telling.

Agent Mitch Kearns works as a trainer for the FBI in tracking fugitives. He has just finished an extended training session in the desert of Arizona when he finds a beautiful girl surveilling the isolated ranch bunkhouse he lives in.

Operative Devorah Leitner has infiltrated Aeneid Corporation, escaped with information and is on the run from lethal mercenaries employed by the company. Aeneid has just finished plans to open up an oil pipeline in Kazakhstan. The plans involve rogue US government officials and a terrorist attack.

Devorah's father is an old friend of Kearns and he sent his on-the-run daughter to him for help. Before she can even explain the situation to Kearns a large team of Aeneid operatives, backed by rogue FBI and government agents, attack Mitch's home. They escape into the surrounding desert. Can they survive long enough to stop Aeneid's plans?

Dead in Their Tracks is an easy recommendation. It is a very good adult action adventure. The only weakness in the book is that the title could be better. Dead is better than most of the contemporary action adventures coming from the major publishers today.

Steel Maiden
Kim Richardson
Amazon Digital Services LLC
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781517144630, $12.50 Paperback
B00ZDFUADO, $2.99, ebook, 340 pages

Steel Maiden is an action fantasy. The story is fun but has two weaknesses. The first is that the heroine escapes multiple perils not with her own actions but with miraculous interventions. The second weakness is that the story doesn't end. It just seems to stop.

Elena has grown up in the Pit, a medieval style ghetto ruled by malevolent and sadistic priests. She makes her living as a thief. When Elena steals the crown of the old Monarchy that had ruled the land before the priests and is caught, she is given a choice. Win a magical stone in a death race across the land and bring it to the priests or see her family and everyone living in the Pit murdered.

Steel Maiden is a solid action fantasy. The storyline is fun and the character development is good. It suffers from having too many climaxes where Elena escapes more by accident than design. It is recommended only if the reader makes the commitment to read all of the books in the series before starting this story. The ending is too abrupt to recommend the story on its own.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Thriving in the Gig Economy
Marion McGovern
Career Press Inc.
12 Parish Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470
9781632650955 $15.99 pbk / $9.04 Kindle

Synopsis: In the last five years, the world of work has changed dramatically. Thanks to technology companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Instacart, the new "gig economy" seems to constantly be in the news. But most of the media focus is on the low end of the skill spectrum; little attention is being paid to the best-in-class professionals who have chosen an independent path. New digital talent platforms are developing at a rapid clip with a wide variety of business models, many catering to very precise, high-value skill sets.

Thriving in the Gig Economy is an actionable guidebook outlining ways to maneuver in this new world to create a path that optimizes success. You will learn:

* The differences between the gig economy and the sharing and on-demand economies.
* The best ways to work with digital talent platforms and traditional consulting intermediaries.
* Commonsense logistics around digital branding, contracts, and employment issues.
* The tools and services to enhance your practice.

The growth in this marketplace is exponential, and Thriving in the Gig Economy is one way for you to take advantage of all its potential.

Critique: The saying is, "You'll never get rich working for other people," and modern digital platforms such as TaskRabbit, Instacart and more allow individuals to essentially be their own boss. Exceptionally well-written and user-friendly, Thriving in the Gig Economy: How to Capitalize and Compete in the New World of Work lives up to its title, especially for highly-skilled professionals who seek an independent career path. Chapters address how to get the most mileage out of digital talent platforms, digital branding, how to handle contracts and employment issues, and much more. Thriving in the Gig Economy is a "must-have" for twenty-first century workers, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thriving in the Gig Economy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.04).

The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook
Douglas Barnes
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865718449, $32.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: In the face of drought and desertification, well-designed, water harvesting earthworks such as swales, ponds, and dams are the most effective way to channel water into productive use. The result can be increased food production, higher groundwater levels, reduced irrigation needs, and enhanced ecosystem resilience.

Yet, due to a lack of knowledge, designers, and landowners often build earthworks that are costly, inappropriately sized and sited, or even dangerous. "The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook: How to Design and Build Swales, Dams, Ponds, and other Water Harvesting Systems" by Douglas Barnes (who is a permaculture designer who has designed and built earthworks in North America, Japan, and Andra Pradesh, India, and blogs at is the first dedicated, detailed guide to the proper design and construction of water harvesting earthworks.

"The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook" covers the function, design, and construction methods for nine main types of water harvesting earthworks across a full range of climates and includes: Swales, ponds, dams, hugelkultur, net-and-pan systems, spate irrigation, and more; Cost versus benefit of different earthworks; Assessing site needs and suitability; Soil types and hydrology; Designing for maximum efficiency and lowest cost; Risk assessment and safe construction; Stacking functions and integrating earthworks into a design.

Critique: Comprehensive, practical, informed and informative, "The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' handbook in organization and presentation, making it an essential instructional resource for permaculture designers, teachers and students, landowners, farmers, homesteaders, landscape architects, and anyone directly involved in maximizing the water harvesting potential of any landscape at the lowest cost and impact. While unreservedly recommended for professional, community, and academic library Permaculture & Gardening collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $32.99 List / $18.14 Amazon).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture
Mark Voger
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605490809, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: From Woodstock to "The Banana Splits", from "Sgt. Pepper" to "H.R. Pufnstuf", from Altamont to "The Partridge Family", "Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture" is a far-out trip to the era of lava lamps and love beads. This profusely illustrated, psychedelic colored study by Mark Voger features interviews with icons of grooviness such as Peter Max, Brian Wilson, Peter Fonda, Melanie, David Cassidy, members of the Jefferson Airplane, Cream, the Doors, the Cowsills and Vanilla Fudge; and cast members of groovy TV shows like "The Monkees," "Laugh-In" and "The Brady Bunch". "Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture" revisits the era's rock festivals, movies, art -- even comics and cartoons that were a part of the 1968 'mod' ranging from Wonder Woman to R. Crumb.

Critique: A color-saturated pop-culture history that is full and worthy tribute to a psychedelic time now long past, "Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture" will have a very special appeal to the now aging Babyboomer. A nostalgic trip down memory lane, "Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture" is impressively informative and exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library 20th Century American Popular Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Cat's Paw
Louise Clark
ePublishing Works!
644 Shrewsbury Commons Avenue, Suite 249, Shrewsbury, PA 17361
9781614179962, $17.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 270pp,

Synopsis: Christy Jamieson has just confronted the person who murdered her husband Frank, when Frank's wealthy Aunt Ellen arrives unexpectedly, suitcase in-hand. Ellen's home has become a crime scene and she intends to stay with Christy. No one is happy, but the most furious member of the Jamieson household is Stormy the Cat.

Wanting the woman out of her hair, Christy investigates with journalist-friend Quinn, only to discover the body on Aunt Ellen's terrace was the woman who alibied the person complicit in Frank's murder.

But the deeper Christy and Quinn dig into the connection between the dead woman and Aunt Ellen, the clearer it becomes that the only one who can unravel the truth is Stormy the Cat.

Critique: Another solidly entertaining and deftly crafted mystery from the pen of Louise Clark, "The Cat's Paw" is the second volume in her '9 Lives Cozy Mystery' series. The first volume is "The Cat Came Back" (9781614178583, $17.99, PB, 288pp) and revealed the author's genuine flair for originality and her complete mastery of the Mystery/Suspense genre. The newly available third volume is "Cat Got Your Tongue" (9781614179740, $17.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 288pp). These cat themed mysteries will prove to be enduringly popular additions to community library collections and are unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs -- especially the ones who have feline companions of their own! Meanwhile we can all look eagerly forward to the next exquisitely crafted '9 Lives Cozy Mystery'!

The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald
Deborah Pike
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221049, $45.00, HC, 316pp,

Synopsis: Known as an icon of the Jazz Age, a flamboyant socialite, and the mad wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald has inspired studies of her life and work which focus on her earlier years, and on the myth of the glorious-but-doomed woman.

As an unprecedented study of the totality Zelda Fitzgerald's creative work, "The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Deborah Pike (a writer and academic based in Sydney and sometimes Paris) makes an important contribution to the history of women's art with new perspectives on women and modernity, plagiarism, creative partnership, and the nature of mental illness.

Zelda Fitzgerald's creative output was astonishing, considering the conditions under which she lived, and the brevity of her life: she wrote dozens of short stories, several journalistic pieces, a play, two novels, hundreds of letters, kept diaries and produced hundreds of artworks.

Employing a new mode of literary analysis that draws upon critics, theorists, and historians to situate her work in its context, "The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald" rehabilitates the literary and artistic status of Zelda Fitzgerald by reassessing her life and writings in the light of archival sources. Such materials include medical and psychiatric documents; her unpublished novel; an artistic and spiritual diary; and over one hundred letters written from asylums.

While much of her writing can be read as a tactical response to her husband's injunctions against her creativity, it can also be read as brilliant work in its own right. Far from imitating Scott's style, Zelda Fitzgerald's artistic output is vibrantly alive and utterly her own.

Critique: An impressive work of original and seminal scholarship, "The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald" is an extraordinarily informative and insightful study that is unreservedly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library 20th Century American Biography collections in general, and Zelda Fitzgerald supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Yoga For Diabetes
Rachel Zinman
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
9781939681768, $27.95, PB, 314pp,

Synopsis: To say that internationally respected yoga teacher and writer Rachel Zinman was surprised when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 42 (despite her lifelong dedication to a healthy lifestyle which included a decades-long practice of yoga) is an understatement.

In "Yoga For Diabetes: How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda", Rachel shares her personal journey and her hard-won wisdom gained from her own experience of yoga and diabetes.

With "Yoga for Diabetes", regardless of the reader's current state of health, or type of diabetes, they can expect thoroughly 'user friendly' instructions on how to: Reduce stress in minutes and thus improve your overall health index; Achieve healthier and more stable blood glucose levels; Find the secrets to adapting a yoga practice to suit your constitution and individual needs; Find deeper meaning in life and thus a holistic healing affecting multiple levels of your well-being.

Critique: Impressively informative, beautifully illustrated, 'real world practical', exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Yoga For Diabetes: How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and to Yoga and Diabetes Treatment supplemental studies lists in particular.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Survivor Tree
Gaye Sanders, author
Pamela Behrend, illustrator
The RoadRunner Press
9781937054496 $20.00

On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 AM, A terrible explosion shook Oklahoma City, and 168 people were killed and more than 800 were injured. "The Survivor Tree" is the story of a wonderful tree that witnessed and survived this horrific event and went on to become part of a memorial to all those who passed on and reminder to all those who survived. Filled with thoughtful, sensitive painting of the tree from its beginning through the day of the Oklahoma City bombing and the aftermath up to the present, "The Survivor Tree" is a tribute to all survivors' determination not to forget, and to work ceaselessly to never allow such a deliberate act of hatred to happen again.

The tree, an American elm, was planted by early settlers on the prairie almost 100 years ago. The tree grew, nourished children, birds and animals with its shade, leaves, and branches, and survived the growing young city that sprang up around it. When the terrible bombing happened, the tree witnessed many acts of bravery and courage, and many deaths. The tree itself was burned, charred, and appeared lifeless for some time after the bombing. Always the tree was glad to give what comfort it could to weary rescue workers and survivors. At first people thought they would have to cut the remainder of the charred tree down. But it was still alive. It witnessed many sad days and months, of lines of mourning people who came to leave sad tributes to loved ones lost in the bombing.

Throughout the first year following the bombing, the tree stood waiting. But next spring, a few buds and leaves in its branches told the people that the tree was alive, it had survived the bombing. This gave people hope. They named it the Survivor Tree. It had become a living symbol that love will always conquer hate. Seedlings from the Survivor Tree have been planted in remembrance of all lost loved ones, in all states of the union, as well as at the memorial site of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. The Survivor Tree is now part of a memorial park with 168 chairs for the people who were lost that day. The tree is a reminder to everyone to teach and value the power of love and tolerance, and to never forget.

The Kingdom of the Lizards
Katrina Kusa, author
Pavel Kulsha, illustrator
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
97814808436077 $16.99

"The Kingdom of the Lizards" is a fascinating fable about loving and preserving flora and fauna and dealing with bullying behavior. Written by a ten year old girl, "The Kingdom of the Lizards" begins with a beautiful blonde, blue-eyed girl named Clara who loved nature and read stories out of books to her friends the lizards under her favorite oak tree. Clara helped her parents who owned a candy store. One boy who came to the store and demanded more candy was named Daniel. Daniel was greedy, rude, and he collected and imprisoned lizards. His mother did not correct his rude, destructive behavior.

One day Daniel showed Clara a small black lizard with a small ring on its head. She asked him to free it immediately. Daniel rudely refused. Later Clara, very upset by Daniel's treatment of the lizard, was awakened in her sleep by a kind lady lizard. Clara responded by cooperating with a fabulous visit to the lizard's kingdom, which was fabulously beautiful. The Queen lizard begged for Clara's help in freeing her husband, the King lizard from Daniel's jar cage. If the King lizard died, his family and all the other lizards would die too. Clara understood and promised to free the King lizard. later, Clara's parents and other members of the town took steps to persuade Daniel and his mother to behave more humanely towards lizards.

After a scary confrontation, Clara thought quickly and was able to save the little King lizard by subterfuge. He was very thirsty, and could have died if not rescued and returned to his garden. The sheriff talked with Daniel and his mother about a plan for change in behavior, while Clara took the King lizard to his home garden kingdom. Finally Daniel and his mother realized that their behavior and choices were hurting other people and animals and the environment, as well as themselves.

Given the choice to change this self destructive behavior, or to leave the town, they decided to change. The story ends with a pleasant interaction between Daniel and Clara, while the lizard kingdom celebrated the restoration of their king, plus the reading of beloved stories by Clara to the kingdom. "The Kingdom of the Lizards" charming, delicate, detailed illustrations add to the aura of fantasy overlaying the natural world of small lizards, flowers, trees and children.

Winds & Currents: Native American Stories Retold and Illustrated by Joan Henrik
Joan Henrik, narrator /illustrator
Holy Cow! Press
P.O. Box 3170, Mount Royal Station, Duluth, MN 55803
Consortium Book Sales, distributor
9780986448089 $15.95

"Winds & Currents" is an award winning, respectful collection of fourteen traditional North American native peoples' wisdom tales, from thirteen different Native American tribal traditional histories. Each tale is retold in simple storyteller narrative style, with an accompanying black and ecru print designed to embody the spirit of the story, suitable for coloring with pencils, felt pens, ink, or crayons. These fourteen animal icon designs have been inlaid in a new Amsoil sports arena in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The stories are described as "cautionary tales demonstrating what we can learn from the natural world." Their beauty and timeless appeal shines through the line drawings and the stories themselves.

Some of the story titles are; Turtle Gets a Shell (Anishinabe), How the Fawn Got its Spots (Dakota, How the Bear Lost His Tail (Anishinabe), How Rabbit Brought Fire to the People (Native American), The Legend of the Cedar Tree (Cherokee), Wolf Tricks the Trickster (Shoshone), The Loon's Necklace (Tsimshian), the Boy Who Made a Dragonfly (Zuni), Crane the Fisher (Puyallup), Wise Owl (Woodland Indian), how Frog Helped Create the World (Iroquois), The Moon and the Great Snake (Blackfeet), the Salmon (Siletz), and The Great Hunter (Oglala Lakota).

Additional embellishing features include a color coded map of North America indicating different Native American areas of settlement, and on the back cover a series of color photographs of the installation of the terrazo floor of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center from drawing the design on the cement to completion. This book is a stunning, artistic and literary tribute to a long tradition of mixed native American heritage in all of North America.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

William J.l Buchanan
River Publishers
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9788793379107, $67.00, HC, 350pp,

Synopsis: Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties called adversaries.[More generally, cryptography is about constructing and analyzing protocols that prevent third parties or the public from reading private messages; various aspects in information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation are central to modern cryptography. (Wikipedia)

Cryptography has proven to be one of the most contentious areas in modern society. For some, it protects the rights of individuals to privacy and security. For others, it puts up barriers against the protection of our society. In the pages of "Cryptography", Professor William J. Buchanan (School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, UK) aims to develop a deep understanding of cryptography and provide understanding of how privacy, identity provision, and integrity can be enhanced with the usage of encryption.

"Cryptography" has many novel features including: full provision of web-based material on almost every topic covered; provision of additional on-line material such as videos, source code, and labs; and coverage of emerging areas such as Blockchain, Light-weight Cryptography, and Zero-knowledge Proofs.

Key areas covered "Cryptography" include: Fundamentals of Encryption, Public Key Encryption, Symmetric Key Encryption, Hashing Methods, Key Exchange Methods, Digital Certificates and Authentication, Tunneling, Crypto Cracking, Light-weight Cryptography, Blockchain, and Zero-knowledge Proofs. Of special note is the extensive support through the associated website of: by "Cryptography".

Critique: Comprehensive, informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Cryptography" is an extraordinary work of truly impressive scholarship from beginning to end. "Cryptography" is an absolutely essential and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, corporate, governmental, community, and academic library Cryptology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Fearless Path
Curtis Rivers
Findhorn Press
9781844097326, $14.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Fearless Path: What a Movie Stuntman's Spiritual Awakening Can Teach You about Success", readers can follow author Curtis Rivers on an amazing trek through mysterious eastern mountains and unlock the amazing secrets that will take them from an existence of lack and limitation, to the life of freedom they were all born to live.

Rivers is a 'Law of Attraction' expert who has harnessed fear. Eliminating the fear that holds most people back, he shows how to clear the path to unlimited success. This expertise evolved from his days as a top Hollywood Movie Stuntman. Using the methods openly shared in "The Fearless Path", Curtis has bypassed fear to win a Screen Actors Guild award, gain prestigious inclusion into the Hollywood Stuntmens Hall of Fame, and break two Guinness World Records.

Curtis now delivers powerful keynotes and seminars that change the way people think, helping them to smash through fear and transform their lives.

Critique: "The Fearless Path" is especially commended to the personal reading lists of anyone who has somehow lost direction in their lives and have drifted off-course from what they originally intended, who are finding that despite their best efforts, both personal success and career fulfilment still elude them. Exceptionally well written, "The Fearless Path" is inspired and inspiring, making it unreservedly recommended personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Well: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa
Sarah Thebarge
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455553198, $20.00, 322 pages

Lessons You Can Learn when Love Looks Around

After reading the editorial reviews on Sarah Thebarge's new book, "Well - Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa" I knew I had to read the book for myself. I thought I was ready to consider the hard questions we seldom want to face.

Author, Sarah Thebarge, a spokesperson for Compassion International, describes the seemingly hopeless conditions in Togo, West Africa, including the suffering, disease, the cultural conditions, and the discomfort of the climate extremities.

Chapter after chapter, Sarah kept me spellbound as she related her experiences. From baggage claim at the airport in Lome the capital city of Togo, her first shift on the job at the Hospital of Hope in Togo, right on through her three months of Medical Ministry, I was drawn into the reality of a broken world and burdened by a deep concern to find my place in making a positive difference in the healing process.

Sarah writes with candor and an intense vulnerability that draws the reader into the conflicting reactions of the physically demanding, and emotionally challenging trauma of her experiences and in her search to find hope in an intolerable situation. Sarah's writing grips your heart. Her sense of compassion becomes contagious.

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

Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom: A Guide to Unleashing Team Performance
Paul Sean Hill
Atlast Press
9780998634319, $16.99, 342 pages

Learning from the Legacy of Mission Control Management Team

In his book "Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom - A Guide to Unleashing Team Performance," executive consultant and former director of Missions Operations with NASA, introduces Missions Control Department (MOD) leadership values and roles that can be adapted to any setting.

The book is made up of four integral parts. Part one deals with the elements of trust, technical truth, integrity, and courage in all decision making. Part two looks at key points on how management can lose the core purpose and values of the key to performance success. Part three addresses the transformation and empowerment of the management team in all facets of management and critical decision-making. Part four sums up some of the tips and challenges to success as an individual and a team with some final thoughts from the author.

Hill's writing is engaging, forthright, and intense; written with the candor and passion of an evangelist. I was inspired by the story of his personal journey to success, and the importance of understanding the specific challenge, common cause, and mission of team building while accepting a high level of individual responsibility for its success.

"Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom - A Guide to Unleashing Team Performance" is essential reading for business executives, leaders and managers, and should be a readily accessible resource guide for ready reference.

The Compass Solution: A Guide to Winning Your Career
Tim Cole
The Compass Alliance, LLC
9780999057100, $17.99, 264 pages

Lessons for Developing a Sustainable and Successful Career

"The Compass Solution - Guide to Your Career" is designed as a career survival guide to a winning career; time-tested techniques, proven principles, and personal stories navigate the reader through four basic cardinal points and three keys that can accelerate the climb to success.

The book is well formatted, made up of profound principles, presented in practical terms for understanding, application, and execution. Each chapter includes an important "straight talk summary" to optimize the course of your career. Cole offers the reader keys to analysis, insight gathering, and definitive action that produce the determination and commitment for developing your plans for the future.

Author, Tim Cole's successful career in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry includes dozens of restructures and five mergers. Tim is now focusing on sharing the secrets and lessons he learned in the corporate world to help others realize success and fulfillment in their careers.

Brilliant articulate writing, timely up-to-date application of proven principles, add to the value and motivation for the reader. "The Compass Solution - A Guide to Winning Your Career" is written for college students contemplating a career, service personal reentering civilian life, and anyone looking for a career change.

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

Choose Wisely, Live Fully: Lessons from Wisdom and Folly
Donna Gaines
Abingdon Press
2222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., PO Box 280988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781501834240, $16.99, 194 pages

Lessons from the Proverbs - A Transforming Journey of Faithfulness

Author, speaker, and founder of Arise2Read, Donna Gaines is known for her two passions, discipleship and literature. Donna's new book "Choose Wisely, Live Fully - Lessons from Wisdom and Folly" is a balance of the profound life changing truth of the scriptures and practical applications.

As a discipleship tool the book will equip the reader to:

* Discern the voice of god

* Experience the joy of wholehearted obedience

* Allow God to help mentor other lives

* Choose the path that leads to life

The appendices provide additional unique practical pointers and suggestions for:

* Discipleship training

* Discipling teen

* Discipling women

* Creating a Spiritual Legacy Journal

* Creating a prayer notebook

* Instilling Christian values in the home

The book includes important thought-provoking questions and helpful exercises that can be adapted for use as an individual study, as a study guide for small groups, or in a mentoring relationship.

Donna invites the reader to experience abundant life by embracing Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength; hearts captured by Jesus, captivated in awe and worship.

Although Donna writes primarily from a woman's viewpoint, "Choose Wisely, Live Fully - Lessons from Wisdom and Folly" can be readily adapted for family night devotions, as a resource book for a Bible study on the book of Proverbs, or for dads sharing Biblical principles with their daughters.

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

Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy
Becky Baudouin
Kregel Publications, Inc.
2450 Oak Industrial Drive N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825444746, $14.99, 176 pages

Finding Hope and Help in Seasons of Grief and Suffering

Becky Baudouin was devastated when she learned of an inoperable tumor on her mother's lung? Her fear triggered alarm, followed by apprehension and anxiety.

In her book "Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy" Baudouin relates stories from her childhood, and expresses her fears and insecurities at home, in school, and in her relationships. She tells of how, as a teenager, she became a follower of Jesus and the impact this has made on her life.

A central theme of lessons learned from her mother is beautifully woven throughout the tapestry of the book. Each fast moving chapter is filled with faith building examples and scriptural promises.

Lessons I learned from reading "Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy" include:

* A willingness to become vulnerable

* To respect the feelings of other family members

* God never intended for us to walk alone

* Our times are in God's hands

* To be joyful in hope and patient in affliction

* The peacefulness of our mutual faith drawing together in a unique closeness

* Accepting the process of death and the conflicting feelings of loss and agonizing dread, and the wonderful new life awaiting in heaven

"Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy" is an important and meaningful resource for anyone experiencing suffering or facing the uncertainties and grief brought on by a terminal illness.

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

Curse of the Coloring Book: A Novel Inspired by a True Story
Howard L. Hibbard
Ghost Dog Enterprises, Inc.
9780985634469, $16.95, 384 Pages

Combat Veterans and the Frightening Long-Term Impact of PTSD

Howard L. Hibbard, a Viet Nam combat veteran has chosen to relive his experiences through the eyes of his fictional protagonist, Herald Lloyd, in "Curse of the Coloring Book - A Novel Inspired by a True Story."

Hibbard masterfully incorporates the elements of good storytelling as he draws the reader into Herald's life. Tired of living in the shadow of his father's academic accomplishments as a student at MIT and his reputation as a highly successful status as a doctor; fun loving Herald struggling with his studies, quit school and enlisted as a combat infantry lieutenant headed for Viet Nam. On a whim Herald purchased a GI Joe Coloring Book and a half-gallon of whiskey to celebrate with his fraternity brothers.

Through flashbacks and vignettes, Hibbard relates his experiences of serving a year as a platoon leader in an infantry unit on the Cambodian border. He tells of life after the war, trying to adjust to a normal civilian life, his marriage, building a law practice and the ongoing battle with PTSD while defending himself in a malpractice suit, which was the result a clerical error.

Hibbard writes with authenticity, sensitivity, and with eye-opening reality as he describes the intense terror of serving on the front lines, He writes with a balance heartwarming insight and humor as he speaks reverently of the comradeship and loyalty brought on by the uncertainty of life, death, and the heartache that accompanies survival.

The action-packed account of combat and courtroom tension combine to make 'Curse of the Coloring Book' a must-read for the aficionados of both/courtroom drama and frontline warfare.

"Curse of the Coloring Book" is an important book for combat veterans and will resonate with the veterans and their families. Hibbard's account should be must reading for anyone suffering from PTSD. I have read several books of veterans coming home with battle fatigue and PTSD Hibbard's account is among the best; one that will linger in the mind of the reader long after closing the final page of the book.

The 60-Minute Guide to Health Literacy: A common sense approach to informed decision making
Jo Kline, J. D.
Providentia Publishing
9780692955062, $14.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle, 80 pages

Preparing for Decision Making - Managing the Long Range Treatment of Multiple Chronic Conditions

In her new book "The 60-Minute Guide to Health Literacy" attorney and bestselling author, Jo Kline, J.D. provides the reader with the practical tools of managing health care decisions for yourself or a loved one. Kline describes health literacy as "the tools and resources needed to make informed decisions regarding preventative, routine, emergency, and end of life care."

I found the Index of decision making dilemmas and the medical profile forms, as well as the chapters on The Building Blocks of Health Literacy, Palliative Care, Assembling a Health Care Team, and Keeping accurate Paperwork especially helpful.

As an aging senior and designated as the durable power of attorney for health care for my wife, an Alzheimer's patient, I plan to keep my copy of "The 60-Minute Guide to Health Literacy" within arm's reach of my desk for easy reference at all times as I put into practice this "common sense approach to informed medical decision making."

In today's complex world of modern technology, advanced research in medicine, new life sustaining pharmaceuticals, and artificial means of life support Jo Kline's "The 60-Minute Guide to Health Literacy" is important reading for every senior adult, caregiver, designated executor or guardian.

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

Top of the Hill: Learning To Think and Grow Rich at Napoleon High School
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879914, $14.95, 192 pages

Introducing Napoleon Hill's Personal Analysis System to a New Generation of World Changers

"Top of the Hill - Learning to Think and Grow Rich at Napoleon High School" is the second in Jim Stovall's Homecoming Historical Series. "Top of the Hill" is an amazing story of what can happen when a mastermind group or dream team discover and put into practice the Napoleon Hill's 17 success principles.

Philip Madison, a former student and High School English teacher at Napoleon Hill High School, in Wise, Virginia is currently the principal of the school. Madison is recognized for his community service and is considered the anchor of Napoleon Hill High School (NHHS).

Philip was greatly disturbed by a letter, from Ronald Slade, chairman of the state school board, announcing the closing of the NHHS, at the end of the present school year. The closing was due to a drop in enrollment and the loss in tax revenues from the distressing economic conditions; the result of the closing of the local mine.

When Philip arrived at his school office, greeted Amanda Cornett, a senior, possibly the best all-around student ever enrolled at the high school, was already at work as an office assistant. Amanda already completed all her required courses and is working as a volunteer in the principal's office to develop business skills. She is also taking college courses at the local university.

Amanda's tears betrayed the fact that she had read the letter from Ronald Slade, still in her hand. Ronald Slade. Principal Madison attempted to console Amanda. Amanda took note of a poster on the wall containing a list of Napoleon Hill's 17 Success Principles. Principal Madison was reminded of Hill's philosophy that "Opportunity often comes, disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat." Philip went on to show Amanda how setting a goal is the first step toward solving a problem and of the importance of putting together a mastermind group to help solve the problem at hand.

Amanda immediately set about recruiting a "Master Mind Group" or dream team from the class of seniors NHHS to commit themselves to keep their school from being closed. The group included a unique group of talented high school seniors.

The maintenance engineer of the school, Philip and his wife Helen, who worked as an officer at the local bank, and Robert Campbell, an attorney rounded out the team.

One by one each of the dream team members contributed their talent as they discovered a challenge from Napoleon Hill's Personal Analysis. The elements of celebration, disappointment, and intrigue add to the suspense of a well-structured plot, the growth of individual characters, and an unexpected surprise ending.

Stovall has created a fast-moving, plot, driven by an unforgettable cast of characters. Stovall uses a combination of fact, fiction, and core beliefs. Each of the chapters of the book builds on the theme of one of the principles included in Hill's Personal Analysis System.

Stovall writes with an upbeat attitude, often using "tongue in cheek" humor. His writing awakens all five senses with vivid metaphors which describe sights, sounds and smells. Other mental images are formed through his picturesque expressive phrases. These ingenious word pictures create vibrant images which stimulate the reader to move from personal application to positive dynamic action.

"The Top of the Hill" is written to encourage anyone going through a period of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, or overwhelming adversity. High School seniors, college students, or young entrepreneurs, will benefit from this introduction to Napoleon Hill's writing.

All Hands on Pet: Your How-To Guide on Home Physical Therapy Methods for Pets
Susan E. Davis, PT
Joycare Onsite, LLC
9780989275026, $21.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle 234 pages

Tips, Techniques, Tricks, and Therapies for Pet Owners

"All Hands on Pet" is designed to be a how-to guide for pet owners. I found it to be an all-important resource guide to accompany Susan Davis' earlier book A Guide to Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals: A Guide for the Consumer.

Unique features of "All Hands on Pet" include:

1. The Table of Contents has clearly defined Chapter Titles with bulleted topics discussed within each chapter to quickly find your current interest or need.

2. A well-organized resource list that includes:

* Organizations

* Conferences and Events

* Educational Programs

* Physical Therapists and Rehabilitation Providers

* Products and General Helps websites

* An exhaustive Index

* Photos demonstration techniques for therapies describe with the text

* A Key Connects Column that cross-references the reader to her earlier book, A Guide to Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals: A Guide for the Consumer

Susan E. Davis is a career licensed physical therapist, a pioneer in animal therapy. She specializes in helping pet owners prepare and provide

"All Hands on Pet: Your How-To Guide on Home Physical Therapy Methods for Pets" should be readily available as a resource in the home or library of every pet owner, veterinary, practitioner, therapist, and rehabilitation specialists, and students in all these areas.

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

The Overcomer's Edge: Strategies for Victorious Living in 13 Key Areas of Life
Paul Tsika with Dr. Ryan and Kameo Hosley
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768415872, $16.95, 224 Pages

Guidelines, Strategies, Principles and Valuable Counsel for Creating an Overcomers Edge

* Do you struggle with Perseverance, the fear of crisis, or difficult relationships?

* How are you handling the changing seasons of life?

* Are you plagued by the fear of losing your dream, needless worry, and conflict?

Bestselling author Dr. Paul Tsika with Dr. Ryan Hosley, licensed psychologist, and his wife Kameo offer the reader, guidelines, strategies, principles and valuable counsel in the areas of overcoming addictions and the trauma that accompanies betrayal, in his book is his book "The Overcomer's Edge - Strategies for Victorious Living in 13 Key Areas of Life.

The book is made of thirteen chapters. Each chapter is filled with important step by step guidelines for evaluating problems, finding resolutions, and embracing life. The information is a melding of biblical example with sound psychological principles.

Chapters include an introductory story, common mistakes to avoid, or lessons learned, scriptural guidelines, and a final thought. Chapter endnotes bear evidence of the thorough research and careful documentation.

"The Overcomer's Edge" opens the way to discovery for followers of Christ to live victoriously, and to walk in the power of God's grace, His Word, and His Spirit.

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

World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life
Marvin Olasky
New Growth Press
9781945270833, $17.99, 200 pages

Guidelines for Developing a Discerning Commitment to Communicating the Christian Faith through our Conduct and Conversation

"World View - Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life" is made up of a collection of columns from World Magazine. These theme-based articles challenge us as a reader to reexamine changes in institutions and causes we have advocated and defended, and to recognize where we may need to make changes in our perspectives.

In an era of insecurity, economic uncertainty, and widespread injustices, Olasky choreographs the reader step by step through the basics of demonstrating a Christian World View on the themes of institutions, racial reconciliation, environmentalism, and immigration. He encourages the reader to consider being emphatic but passionate, with an emphasis on humility and humanity, while creating an atmosphere of harmonious tension.

Marvin Olasky, bestselling author and editor in chief of World Magazine, is also highly recognized for his excellence in journalism, educational endeavors, and leadership in community efforts. Dr. Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion was named as one of "eight books that changed America" by Philanthropy magazine.

Dr. Olasky's writing provides a balance of heartfelt conviction and reflective compassion, expressed through a genuine attitude of humility. Olasky's Insight inspires the reader to take positive action, in areas of ethical commitments and biblical precepts. His compassion captures my own, often unspoken, deep convictions.

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

School of His Presence: Walking in Power, Intimacy, and Authority, on Earth As It Is In Heaven
Kynan Bridges
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768415001, $16.99, 198 pages

Insights into Walking in the Power, Authority, and through the Confidence of the Spirit of God within You

International minister, pastor, and bestselling author Kynan Bridges passionately appeals his readers to pursue a lifestyle of the supernatural power of God available through his presence in our lives. "School of His Presence" puts an emphasis on practical teaching on how, as Christians, we can consistently experience the presence and power of the Spirit of God within.

Unique features found in "School of His Presence" include:

* Highlighted keys to supernatural living

* Prayers of Activation which result in enlightenment, understanding, and revelation

* Probing Questions which lead to discovery, discussion, and interaction

* Stimulating Practicums with exercises and applications for equipping readers for taking action

* An inviting format style that offers the reader a continuous flow of stimulating insights and scriptural truths

Bridges writes with a dynamic style. His profound insights challenge the reader to adopt the principles of seeing through the eyes of Jesus, experiencing heaven on earth, walking in authority, the glory of God, intimacy with God, living in and from God's presence, and many more.

"School of His Presence: Walking in Power, Intimacy, and Authority on Earth as It Is In Heaven" will resonate with readers seeking a lifestyle of experiencing God's presence and power every day.

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

History Maker: Arise and Take Your Place in Leading Change
Cindy Trimm
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417081, $16.99, 252 pages

Releasing Your Inner Strength - Leadership Principles for Becoming History Makers

In her book "History Maker - Arise and Take Your Place in Leading Change" Dr. Cindy Trimm uses real-life faith-based modern-day stories, deep Biblical truths, and perceptive personal observations to inspire and challenge the reader to make a commitment to join in a quest to influence and lead in bringing about change.

Dr. Trim is a gifted communicator, a former senator, a bestselling author, visionary, and empowerment specialist. She is recognized as a global strategist, and a noted for her cutting-edge message for this generation. She motivates her readers to grow to their fullest potential by unleashing their powers within to radically transform their future and influence change by inspiring and empowering others to become history makers.

"History Maker: Arise and Take Your Place in Leading Change" is a blueprint for the discovery of a transformational process for becoming agents of change. Social innovators, political and business leaders, and individuals looking for ways to make a positive difference in their own lives, and in the lives of others will appreciate Trimm's fresh viewpoint. She is known for her skills in implementing change with a message of hope.

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

Unlock Your Identity: A 90 Day Devotional
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076841498, $14.99, 188 pages

Unlock Your Identity - Fulfill Your Divine Purpose

In his book "Unlock Your Identity - A 90 Day Devotional" bestselling author T. D. Jakes helps the reader discover their personal identity. Each of the 90 Day Devotionals focus on celebrating your identity, fulfilling your purpose, and becoming "the solution the world is waiting for."

By incorporating these unique readings into my regular daily devotional time, I have my personal journey has taken on a new sensitivity and freshness. An important and unique feature of the book "is found in the section Keys to Unlocking Purpose Prayer Points. Every page is filled with life-changing potential.

T. D. Jake's television program the Potter's Touch is viewed by over three million people weekly. He is a bestselling author on the New York Times Best Seller List and has written over twenty-five books. Jakes is a gifted communicator and popular conference speaker.

Readers uncertain about their life purpose or going through a dry spell spiritually will be inspired and empowered to overcome their difficulties and find life-defining direction for discovering their God-given identity.

"Unlock Your Identity - A 90 Day Devotional" is an ideal gift for everyone on your Christmas list, a roadmap for beginning a new a new exciting year of devotion, discovery, and spiritual direction.

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

Is God Really Good?
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768416114, $14.99, 176 pages

Tough Questions Answered About the Goodness of God

Bill Johnson, the senior leader of Bethel Baptist Church in Redding, California and bestselling author, answers the toughest and most common questions about the goodness of God in his book "Is God Really Good?"

This book is based on the result of a series of interview questions relative to how this question is answered impacts the faith and life of the believer. Theme based chapters include questions on the subjects of:

* Your Destiny

* Intimacy with God

* Disease and Pain

* Evangelism

* Dealing with Disappointment

Other chapters look at God's goodness in the Old Testament, grace, poverty, the power of hope, and many other important biblical faith-building foundational truths from the scriptures.

Pastor Bill Johnson draws from his rich heritage in ministry in responding to each of these probing questions. A unique feature of this book is the confident relaxed conversational style and heartfelt passion that define Pastor Bill's walk with the Lord. I felt I was in the room participating in a discussion with a small group of friends in a home Bible study, comfortable in the presence of the spirit of the Lord in our midst.

"Is God Really Good?" will resonate with Pastor's Christian counselors, church leaders, and parents, who will find the book to be a valuable resource for hurting parishioners, discouraged or disillusioned Christians, and troubled teens.

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

Make Some Noise: Sound Effects Recording for Teens
Ric Viers
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615932726, $14.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Ric Viers is a sound designer and author based in Detroit, Michigan. Ric is the world's largest producer of professional sound effects libraries with more than 666 products produced to date. In "Make Some Noise: Sound Effects Recording for Teens" he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to to create a thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual for the millions of teens and young adults wanting to create and upload their 'home made' videos on YouTube. "Make Some Noise is specifically appropriate for young digital filmmakers who don't need a Hollywood studio or millions of dollars of equipment to make their stories come to life. While everyone many have access to the gear, the secrets and tricks that the pros use is where the real magic is found and "Make Some Noise" shows the same techniques used to create the sound effects heard in HALO, Call of Duty, Lego Batman, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, and more! "Make Some Noise" easily explains how sound works, recording techniques, editing basics, sound design tricks, and 100 sound effects to record at home.

Critique: Impressively informative, expertly organized and presented, "Make Some Noise: Sound Effects Recording for Teens" is a complete and comprehensive instructional manual and guide that is unreservedly recommended for highschool, community library Audio/Visual instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of A/V students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Make Some Noise: Sound Effects Recording for Teens" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.94).

Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity
Lars Robger, Michael G. Lenne, Geoff Underwood
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781472411129, $122.00, HC, 258pp,

Synopsis: It's a widely recognized trend that the use of powered-two-wheeler vehicles (motorcycles) have been steadily increasing and is projected to increase further in the decades to come. While providing benefits to the community in the form of reduced traffic congestion and environmental benefits, the risks to motorcycle riders remain and visibility will always be a key issue.

"Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity: Design and Assessment of Interventions to Enhance Rider Safety" (conspicuity means easily seen or noticed; readily visible or observable thereby attracting special attention) aims to illustrate how driving simulation, field studies and laboratory experiments can be used to improve rider safety through the design and evaluation of a range of safety measures.

"Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity" outlines the factors that contribute to motorcycle visibility and detection by car drivers, and presents case studies to illustrate how the various methods can be used to explore the contribution of these factors. The final chapter of "Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity" highlights the utility of a simulation-based approach to improving motorcycle safety and discusses this method's future applications.

The case studies included within "Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity" cover phases of the design of conspicuity treatments and provide a broad spectrum of empirical strategies for assessing the interventions.

Critique: The collaborative work of Lars Robger (University of Technology, Dresden, Germany), Michael G. Lenne (Monash University Accident Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia), and Geoff Underwood (University of Nottingham, UK), "Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity: Design and Assessment of Interventions to Enhance Rider Safety" will prove to be directly relevant to researchers and applied scientists from the fields of traffic/transportation psychology and human factors, as well as to practitioners from the traffic safety sector. Comprised of eleven erudite articles by experts in their field, "Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity" is enhanced as a work of collective seminal scholarship with the inclusion of figures, tables, a listing of contributors and their credentials, and a fourteen page index. While unreservedly recommended for academic and governmental library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Increasing Motorcycle Conspicuity" is also available in a paperback edition (9781138747647, $64.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $64.95).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

After the Fire
Henning Mankell
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
In US: Vintage Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780525435082, $16.95/22.95 CA$, Paperback, 416 pp.

In UK: Harville Secker
9781910701768, 17.99 BPS, Hardcover

Henning Mankell, who died in 2015, capped a distinguished career with this follow-up to "Italian Shoes," in which Frederik Welin, a disgraced surgeon, was the principal character, as he is in "After the Fire." In each novel, Welin looks deeply into his present as a lone resident on an island in the Swedish archipelago, living in his boyhood home built by his grandfather, as well as dredging up past memories.

The major difference between the two novels, however, is in the later book, his house burns down, apparently by arson (of which he is suspected) while he is asleep and narrowly escapes death. Previously, Welin was content to live quietly, taking a daily dip in the sea, even if he had to cut a hole in the ice with an axe to do so. Following the destruction of his home, things change. When a female journalist visits to write a story about the event, it awakens sexual hope in the 70-year-old retired doctor, but to develop into only a close friendship. At the same time, his somewhat strained relationship with his daughter changes for the better.

In other words, the consequences of the house being reduced to ashes forces Welin to approach life differently, accepting life (and death) as it is, rather than as was his attitude toward it in the past. His introspection leads him to develop a more practical approach to his relationships.

Mankell has here written a superlatively insightful look into a man's mind. While, perhaps, better known for his Kurt Wallender mysteries, Mankell has here added another well-written and -thought-out novel to a long list of other books he penned.

Highly recommended.

Two Kinds of Truth: A Bosch Novel
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

Orion in UK
9780316225908, $29.00/38.00 CA$/9.99 BPS, Hardcover, 416 pp.

After more than three decades, Harry Bosch finally gets to experience something new in this latest novel in this excellent series. Harry is now working part time at the San Fernando Police Department, solving cold cases, having retired from the LAPD. And the experiences are somewhat unusual. To begin with, Harry faces an accusation he planted evidence in the conviction of a rape-murderer. And to add to the pressure, he volunteers to go undercover after a double murder of two local pharmacists in a drug case.

The case for evidence planting comes about when the felon (serving time on San Quentin's death row) and his attorney file "new" evidence with a review board "proving" the culprit was another person. The undercover assignment has Harry posing as an addict in a criminal enterprise that is so massive it uses planes to transport derelict users from location to location to obtain pills from compliant local pharmacies. Unfortunately, a young man in San Fernando wouldn't play ball, and he and his father were shot as a result.

The plot involving Harry's reputation gives Mr. Connelly the opportunity to bring in Harry's half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer, to provide some light but significant relief from an otherwise deep and heavy story. On the whole, another positive addition to an outstanding series and one which is highly recommended.

Fools' River
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957506, $26.95, Hardcover, 368 pp.

The author writes in an afterword: "I had a vague idea when I started writing Fools' River that it might be fun to bring together three or four simultaneous stories and see whether I could tell them all in a very compressed span..." And so he did, relating several threads within 36 hours.

So we begin with Edward, the leading man in a play with Miaow, Poke Rafferty's adopted daughter, begging Poke to find his father who is missing for 12 days; the travail of the father, one of a series of men lured by sex and imprisoned while his capturers milk bank accounts and credit cards; the life and times of Lutanh, a boy-girl, which permits descriptions of the seedier side of Thailand and its sex-obsessed trade; then there is Rose, former bar girl, married to Poke for seven years and now bearing his child in a difficult pregnancy, and mother of Miaow; and lastly Poke's constant worry about Rose, while attempting to find Edward's father.

The descriptions of the corruption of the Bangkok police is penetrating as are observations of the sex establishments: the Cherry Girls, the bars and of the farangs chasing after them. Each of the sub-plots is fast-paced and absorbing and brings the reader along to a thrilling finish.


Cold is the Grave
Peter Robinson
William Morrow Paperbacks
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062431288, $15.99, Paperback, 447 pp.

Stranger things have happened, but when Chief Constable Jimmy Riddle asked Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks for a favor the world didn't stop turning. Neither man liked the other, and the antagonism between them was more than apparent. But Riddle recognizes that Banks was good at what he does and is discreet, and that is what he needed. It seems that his daughter had left home some time ago, and there was no word from her. Banks is asked to find her in London, talk to her, and reassure her parents that she's OK.

But Banks does more than that, in just over a weekend. He not only finds her, but he brings her home. And the consequences flow from this simple task. And then a series of murders takes place, and Banks finds himself in the middle of not only a murder investigation, but also in the midst of his chief antagonist's private life. Meanwhile, Bank's own private life begins to take some dramatic turns as well.

As are all he novels in the series, this book is finely nuanced, well-written, and filled with twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Enough said.


Henry Chang
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957858, $24.00, Hardcover, 224 pp.

The protagonist in this series, Jack Yu, is a Chinese detective. The action centers in New York's Chinatown. The novels offer a brutal look into the poverty and violence, the gangsters and crime of the society. The "Lucky" of the title is Jack's boyhood friend, a Chinatown gang leader name Louie who was shot in a Chinatown OTB establishment and lay in a coma for 88 days, finally awakening on Easter Sunday.

Jack believes his blood brother friend has run out of luck, and tries to get him to enter the witness protection program. But Lucky eschews Jack's advice, and upon his recovery after leaving the hospital puts together a small crew in an attempt to regain his position as the crime boss of Chinatown. He masterminds several daring operations against other crime bosses' gambling dens or massage parlors, stealing large sums of money. It is a race with one of two results.

Meanwhile Jack is called upon to perform his duties as a New York City cop, giving the author the means to describe the culture and people of Chinatown (and the satellite areas in Queens), portraying the streets, buildings and environment as only a native can. Henry Chang writes simple, hard prose, tightly plotted.


The Irregular: A Different Class of Spy
H. B. Lyle
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781681440262, $26.99, Hardcover, 292 pp.

In UK: Hodder & Stoughton
9781473655379, 17.99 BPS, Hardcover, 288 pp.
9781784282799, 8.99 BPS, Paperback, Feb. 8, 2018

It's not easy for an author to come up with an original idea for a novel, much less a plot involving Sherlock Holmes. But that is just what H.B. Lyle has done, albeit the great detective here only playing a minor cameo role, offstage, as it was. Instead, he has grasped an historical development, the forerunners of Britain's MI5 and MI6 in 1909 and using the "best" of the Baker Street Irregulars, Wiggins, as a protagonist. Not only Holmes, but no less a personage than Winston Churchill plays a minor role in the plot.

The story revolves around Vernon Kell, who apparently headed up the original efforts to establish a counter-intelligence operation in Great Britain, hindered by his inability to find good agents until his friend, Holmes, suggested Higgins. A substantial portion of the novel recounts Higgins' exploits and a good deal of background on how the Baker Street Irregulars came to be. And, of course, we learn a great deal about the conspiracies pre-dating World War I and espionage efforts by Germany and others not only to obtain secrets but also to sow discontent and confusion in London.

The novel is exciting, interesting and fast-moving. It is an historical mystery, the beginning of what is promised to be a new series, and a welcome one. The author captures the atmosphere of 1909 London with sharp observations and dialogue. We look forward to its sequel with great anticipation.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General
Steven L. Ossad
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221360, $36.95, HC, 492pp,

Synopsis: When Omar Nelson Bradley began his military career more than a century ago, the army rode horses into combat and had less than 200,000 men. No one had heard of mustard gas. At the height of his career, Bradley (known as "Brad" and "The GI's General") led 1.23 million men as commander of 12 Army Group in the Western Front to bring an end to World War II.

Omar Nelson Bradley was the youngest and last of nine men to earn five-star rank and the only army officer so honored after World War II. This new biography by Steven L. Ossad gives an account of Bradley's formative years, his decorated career, and his postwar life.

Bradley's decisions shaped the five Northwest European Campaigns from the D-Day landings to VE Day. As the man who successfully led more Americans in battle than any other in our history, his long-term importance would seem assured. Yet his name is not discussed often in the classrooms of either civilian or military academies, either as a fount of tactical or operational lessons learned, or a source of inspiration for leadership exercised at Corps, Army, Group, Army Chief, or Joint Chiefs of Staff levels.

The Bradley image was tailor-made for the quintessential homespun American heroic ideal and was considered by many to be a simple, humble country boy who rose to the pinnacle of power through honesty, hard work, loyalty and virtuous behavior. Even though his classmates in both high school and at West Point made remarks about his looks, and Bradley was always self-conscious about smiling because of an accident involving his teeth, he went on to command 12 Army Group, the largest body of American fighting men under a single general.

Bradley's postwar career as administrator of the original GI Bill and first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Korean War ensures his legacy. These latter contributions, as much as Bradley's demonstrable World War II leadership, shaped U.S. history and culture in decisive, dramatic, and previously unexamined ways.

Drawing on primary sources such as those at West Point, Army War College and Imperial War Museum, "Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General" focuses on key decisions, often through the eyes of eyewitness and diarist, British liaison officer Major Thomas Bigland. The challenges our nation faces sound familiar to his problems: fighting ideologically-driven enemies across the globe, coordinating global strategy with allies, and providing care and benefits for our veterans.

Critique: The most comprehensive biography of General Omar Nelson Bradley to date, this is an outstanding work of scholarship that is particularly impressive in scope and substance. Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General" is an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library 20th Century Military History, Military Biography, and 20th Century American Biography collections in general, and Omar Nelson Bradley supplemental studies in particular. It should be noted the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.19).

Mission Transition
Janet I. Farley
Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442281615, $30.00, HC, 180pp,

Synopsis: Change is a given in the United States military, but the soon to be applied "Blended Retirement System" is a financial change like no other the military has ever experienced. It is a huge deal that will not only affect the wallets of many active duty service members today and certainly 100% of them beginning in 2018, but it could also have a significant impact on future recruiting and retention of our volunteer military force.

"Mission Transition: Managing Your Career and Your Retirement" is a needed introduction of the military's new "Blended Retirement System" by Janet I. Farley (a long-time respected career transition expert within the greater military community) and accurately represents the big shift in how the DoD manages military retirements.

In the process, "Mission Transition" encourages service members to adopt the new concept of retirement in the military, improve their own financial literacy, and assume responsibility for their own retirement planning.

Finally, "Mission Transition" provides new civilian job survival tips and strategies for service members in the process of leaving the military for civilian life.

Critique: Thoroughly researched, exceptionally informative, impressively well written, accessibly organized and presented, "Mission Transition: Managing Your Career and Your Retirement" should be considered an invaluable 'must read' for anyone contemplating a career with the armed forces and who wish to better understand the myriad of changes to the overall military retirement system. Unique and unreservedly recommended for both community, military, governmental, and academic library Jobs/Careers collections in general, and Military Careers supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Mission Transition" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.50).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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