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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 12 December 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Better Buses, Better Cities
Steven Higashide
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642830149, $25.00, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: The primary underlying message of "Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit" by Steven Higashide is that buses can and should be the cornerstone of urban transportation. They offer affordable mobility and can connect citizens with every aspect of their lives. But in the US, they have long been an afterthought in budgeting and planning. With a compelling narrative and actionable steps, "Better Buses, Better Cities" inspires us to fix the bus system in whatever community we live and work in.

Higashide persuasively argues that better bus systems will create better cities for all citizens. The consequences of subpar transit service fall most heavily on vulnerable members of society. Transit systems should be planned to be inclusive and provide better service for all. These are difficult tasks that require institutional culture shifts; doing all of them requires resilient organizations and transformational leadership.

Better bus service is key to making our cities better for all citizens. "Better Buses, Better Cities" describes how decision-makers, philanthropists, activists, and public agency leaders can work together to make the bus a win in any city.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit" is a welcome and effective resource for social activists, governmental policy makers, city planners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Better Buses, Better Cities" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

The Road to San Donato
Robert Cocuzzo
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680512441, $24.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: With only the bare essentials on their backs, Robert Cocuzzo and his sixty-four-year-old father, Stephen, embark on a torturous 425-mile ride from Florence, Italy, to San Donato Val di Comino, an ancient village hidden in the Apennine mountains from which their family emigrated a hundred years earlier. After getting lost, beaten down, and very nearly stranded, when they finally reach the village the Cocuzzos they discover so much more than their own family story.

For many Jews in the 1940s, the road to San Donato was one of exile; during World War II, dozens were interned in the village. When the Nazis came to ship them off to death camps, however, many of the villagers went to heroic lengths to save their lives. Walking and pedaling through this history, Robert Cocuzzo is determined to learn the role his family played at the time.

"The Road to San Donato" is a story of fathers and sons, discovering lost "cousins," valorous history, and the challenge and exhilaration of traveling by bicycle.

Critique: "The Road to San Donato: Fathers, Sons, and Cycling Across Italy" by Robert Cocuzzo is an adventurous and deftly written and inherently fascinating kind of travel memoir as an American father and son painstakingly traced their Italian heritage and family history by bicycle. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Road to San Donato" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.57) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982636647, $69.00, CD).

Editorial Note: Robert Cocuzzo is an editor, journalist, and author of the critically acclaimed Tracking the Wild Coomba: The Life of Legendary Skier Doug Coombs. He is also the editor of Nantucket Magazine and has written for Outside, Town & Country, Departures, Luxury, and Boston Common. He can be visited online at

The Circassians of Turkey
Caner Yelbasi
I. B. Tauris Publishers
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781788314473, $115.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Turkey's Circassians were exiled to the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in 1864, resettling most notably in the Danubian provinces, Thessaly, Syria, Central Anatolia and the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara. As experienced veterans of the wars with Russia, many Circassians were recruited into the paramilitary groups of the late Ottoman Empire and later fought on both sides in the Turkish Civil War.

In "The Circassians of Turkey: War, Violence and Nationalism from the Ottomans to Atatürk", Caner Yelbasi (Assistant Professor of History at Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey) reveals the complex and important role played by the Circassians of north-western Anatolia in the chaotic years after 1918. Because many of the key Circassian actors either sided initially with The Ottoman Government or later broke away from the 'national' movement led by Mustafa Kemal in Ankara, official Turkish historiography frequently labeled them 'traitors to the nation'.

With the publication of "The Circassians of Turkey", Professor Yelbasi deftly revises this narrative by revealing the overlapping and sometimes conflicting bonds of kinship and political loyalty that inscribed their presence in heartlands of the empire and the republic. Professor Yelbasi shows that the Circassians played an important role in the establishment of the early republic and how the Turkification policies of the Kemalist regime in the two decades following 1918 disrupted their world.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding and meticulous scholarship that expertly draws upon an impressive variety of primary source material (including Ottoman and Republican archives as well as memoirs, the press and secondary literature), "The Circassians of Turkey" reveals a minority group within the general population of Turkey who, unlike the Kurds or the Armenians, have not previously received adequate scholarly attention in Turkish Studies curriculums. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $82.80), "The Circassians of Turkey" will prove to be a vital resource for scholars in Middle East Studies, Turkish Studies and Ottoman Studies, and a unique and core addition to community, college, and university library History of Turkey collections.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Pablo Ponce
Pablo Ponce, Publisher
9789942366740, $26.00, Hardcover

Intuitiveless: Challenging Your Gut Feeling considers what is overrated, underestimated (or overestimated), and what constitutes intuitive approaches, challenging the idea that business and life decisions should be made through intuitive prowess alone (which too many other books advocate).

Pablo Ponce first tackles the origins of intuition ("In reality, a mix of things you've learned give form to your intuition, along with trusting your instincts, similar to the concept of faith in religion. It works for many types of decisions a person must make in life, but for many others, it's definitely not the right approach."), discussing its link with creativity and considering different processes which are either alternatives or supplements to intuitive thinking.

In contrasting the approaches of intuition over rational processes, their different outcomes, and why intuition should serve as more of a double-check than a preferred pathway of choice, Ponce makes a startling and concrete case for the notion that intuition, when employed alone, can actually be detrimental to good decision-making.

His examination focuses on personal decisions, but business leaders should also consider Intuitiveless: Challenging Your Gut Feeling an important blueprint for success because it teaches the foundations of how to blend seemingly disparate forms of thinking to create a better end result.

Originality, instinct, creativity, and sound reasoning are all two-step processes that rely not just on intuition, but upon rules and approaches to life that have been taught and absorbed at an early age. There are many instances where logic defies (and is a better decision-making choice than) intuition.

As Ponce navigates the potential land-mines of his contentions, readers who may have been taught that intuition is paramount are given much food for thought about supplementing intuitive processes with an equally astute attention to logic and detail.

From optimizing time and identifying and halting comparisons with others to refuting the idea of completely 'living in the now' ("Here's one tricky part. It's totally convincing, that concept of living in the moment, as Eckhart Tolle says in his bestseller The Power of Now.80 The only certain thing in life is "now": why waste your time regretting the past or having anxiety about the future? Just enjoy the now, because there is happiness in having the joy of the moment. Applying the "now", if doing it correctly, isn't as difficult as it looks. Maybe this is the best philosophy to apply in life. It's very practical. It is not what most people do, which is enjoying the now, using up the last dime they have and thinking that maybe they'll die tomorrow. Better enjoy now, which means using all their worth plus racking up some debt. ("Why not? The credit card lets me.") It's not smart to trust what the credit card allows you; what the credit card really wants is for you to be in debt for the rest of your life. Doing that is completely misunderstanding the concept of living in the now."), Ponce identifies and analyzes the kinds of life admonitions that lead to trouble.

These include cultivating avoidance through nostalgia and making intuitive feelings a priority over rational examination: "In general terms, the topics selected were those that at first glance a solution to it might be ideal by an intuitive approach but thinking through it was demonstrated that using rational thinking is a better idea. By mistake, lately that rational thinking has been seconded by gut feelings that many times are totally overrated."

Those who have spent years trying to connect with their intuitive reactions and gut feelings in order to better act on them may find Ponce's contentions startling and challenging; but in reality, his book is a much-needed balance to the modern new age emphases on unburying intuition to the point where it is the sole determinant of life decisions.

Readers seeking this kind of balanced thinking in their life and work will be pleased by Ponce's approach, which maintains that logic and rational examination are processes which can work hand in hand with gut feelings.

Intuitiveless is highly recommended for general-interest, new age, psychology, and business readers alike. It defines and provides the type of balance that's key to strengthening decision-making and life choice skills, using a wealth of examples that support both the process and a better life.

Zero Percenters
Scott Grusky
Furthest Press
9780965119047, $14.99, Paper
9780965119054, $4.99, Ebook

Anja Lapin is a conservationist who, at times, has worked against her father's tech company interests. But when he discovers a key to immortality that comes with the big price tag of abandoning humanity itself, she barely has time to protest before terrorists do it for her.

Now Anja is in the position of fighting her father's legacy and ghost when his discovery is disseminated into the population and billions rush to adopt it, abandoning their bodies and leaving only a handful of real humans, including Anja, on the planet.

But there's something even more sinister affecting newly-vulnerable humanity, and Anja is called upon to continue this battle almost single-handedly due to the literal lack of available bodies who can resist the threat.

The first intriguing aspect of Zero Percenters (besides its premise) is that the story is narrated not by Anja or in the third person, but from the perspective of her concierge, Vicia, who has received a soul from her. (That's right - a soul.) Vica's proximity to the key events which shape Anja's life, combined with her love and admiration for Anja, leads her to feel qualified to narrate her story, and so Zero Percenters opens in 2024 from the perspective of a being who observes that "...most biological humans tended to focus on outcomes while neglecting processes. This paradox persisted to their final days, even though each of their major discoveries depended on specifying the exact logical sequence from which it was derived - except their last one."

As Vica neatly sums up the father/daughter conflicts, political forces, corruption, and technology that affect humanity, she adds comments and observations from a dispassionate position that gives the plot an immense boost of insight combined with action, and lends it an intriguing tone.

Now, the premise of mind uploading is not a new one. Sci-fi authors from Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick to Arthur C. Clarke, and novelists such as Corey Doctorow, have all covered the topic from different angles.

What sets Zero Percenters apart from the usual focus on fading humanity and artificial enhancements is the intrigue, mystery, and thriller components of the story, the perspective of an artificial entity's observational role, which documents the ultimate outcome, and the added concerns of global climate change and threats to the remnants of people that remain as the "zero-percenters" who abandon resources that have traditionally maintained civilization.

This unusual observational persona is able to capture and relate nuances of Anja's personality and values to lend depth to the story of her awakening mission: "Anja embraced her destiny and did not believe in using weapons of any kind, even for self-defense."

Can digitalized people be hijacked and controlled in a different manner than has ever been experienced in terrorist circles? And how can Anja, who is only human, stop the biggest plot on the planet? Add this to the matter of the narrator, a "humble concierge without a soul" who finds herself charged with restoring humanity's souls, for a powerful commentary on survival and life's meaning, indeed.

Readers of sci-fi won't be the only audience to appreciate this vivid, personal story of a woman placed in impossible situations. Fans of thriller and high-tech novels of terrorism and survival will also be enthralled by a story packed with satisfying twists, exceptionally strong characterization, and high-tech intrigue that keeps the story logical, fast-paced, yet firmly rooted in emotional elements. All are designed to keep readers invested in Anja's mission, character, dilemmas, and discoveries.

A Season of Sons
Rob Tucker
Tell-Tale Publishing
9781944056865, Paperback, $25.00, Kindle, $5.00

In 2012, FBI investigator Leon Safullo is stymied by a murder that defies his ability to forensically analyze the evidence. A second threat to a prominent man further complicates his efforts because now it's evident that the murder is part of a dangerous pattern that he must overcome if he's to prevent another disaster.

A Season of Sons is a vivid story difficult to easily define. At once a murder mystery, a thriller, and a horror story, it incorporates paranormal and psychological elements to add tension on different levels, creating a compelling story of high-tech manipulation and a deadly being which provokes a powerful confrontation between good and evil.

Fathers and sons are the focal point of a story steeped in blood and tears. Paul Evans senses something is stalking him. His son thinks he may be crazy. As emotional darkness, inner strengths, and obsessions come into play, readers will especially enjoy the contrasts between personalities and the challenges facing not just father and son, but the threats that a diary reveals.

One challenge is that Paul has to set up Matt as bait in order to provoke a confrontation with Guzman. The other revelation is that Paul Evans apparently has a dark side. Even before his disappearance, he was a pleasure seeker who exploited and used those around him. This is in stark contrast to other indicators about the values and morals of his life's progress, and another indication that dark forces are at work.

As Leon probes the progress of different lives and the evil that infected them, he comes to realize that the undercurrent of horror runs deeper than a singular crime.

Unlike most horror stories, Rob Tucker takes the time to inject psychological details about his characters to enhance the story's overall emotional draw. This creates a depth that is revealing and engrossing: "It bothered Leon that he was beginning to question whether there was ultimately any purpose in what he was doing, any value. Growing older, he thought. Maybe all this matters only when you're young and you're not looking to see what's on the other side. Life is short. Life ends."

Readers receive a powerful story of killing, redemption, clashes between good and evil, and a story that probes the nature of father and son connections in a gripping horror piece that holds a powerful undercurrent of grief, light, and love. Is the dark spirit real? Will Guzman's abilities win over all?

Horror and psychological suspense readers seeking a story that stands out for its depth and multifaceted approach will relish the questions, conundrums, and confrontations of A Season of Sons.

Summer of Sun and Shadows
Roger E. Carrier
9781796046014, $22.99, Hardcover
9781796046007, $15.99, Softcover
9781796045994, $0.99, eBook

Summer of Sun and Shadows opens with the death of Beau's friend, a performer who falls from a ladder before reaching the carnival's high trapeze. However, this is not a novel about showmanship or loss, but a mystery steeped in voodoo folklore, a sixteen-year-old boy's coming of age and newfound love, revenge, and a sleepwalker's sojourn into a world of darkness. These subplots defy linear definition and are what gives Summer of Sun and Shadows its unique flavor.

As Tom faces adversary Decker's cruelty, his Jamaican girlfriend Sabrina's foray into supernatural solutions to solve a pressing problem, and a dark secret closely held by a businessman who will do anything to prevent it from being exposed, he enters an adult world fraught with prejudice, depravity and an uncertain new love's progression through a cemetery and other night prowlings.

The story's serial killer is used to manipulating the world with money and power. He can handle anything with clever plans and the facade of respectability. But is he a match for two precocious young people who confront his dangerous passions?

Summer of Sun and Shadows excels at recreating the atmosphere of 1962, with its blossoming civil rights and teens coming of age during turbulent times. It's especially astute in exploring the interactions between bullies like hoodlum Decker and his fellow tough guys and Tom and Sabrina, who are too often at the mercy of not just the thugs, but those whose prejudices lend them authority and respect. The touching first meeting of Sabrina and Tom is particularly moving and well-done.

Tom curses his weakness as he bows to Decker's extortion, but when everything is threatened, including Sabrina and his new family, he finds within himself the maturity and courage to tackle the mystery threatening his newly rebuilt life.

Roger E. Carrier deftly crafts not one, but a series of confrontations and growth-inducing opportunities between Tom and his peers, girlfriends, and adults.

As the murderer's secret life reaches out to affect Tom, a black fortune teller, and Dana (a wife who has seemingly escaped an abusive relationship only to fall into a different kind of trap), readers become immersed in a mystery steeped in the choices and consequences of different lives that revolve around a clever perp.

Enclosed in the tightrope walk of carnival life and efforts to make fresh starts, Tom's actions in Summer of Sun and Shadows offer vivid insights into the milieu of 1960s American culture.

Think The Graduate, Catcher in the Rye, or To Kill a Mockingbird, and then add a stronger element of mystery to the formula. Spice it with the perspectives of supporting characters on their different growth-inducing journeys for a sense of how rich and multifaceted a read Carrier creates in Summer of Sun and Shadows.

Where War Ends
Tom Voss and Rebecca Anne Nguyen
New World Library
9781608685998, $16.95

Where War Ends: A Combat Veteran's 2,700-Mile Journey to Heal - Recovering from PTSD and Moral Injury through Meditation is more than just another veteran autobiography of war atrocities and its lasting impact. Its intention is to cover PTSD's lasting effects and the healing process that meditation can bring, and it thus offers far more hope and possibilities to recovering veterans than any autobiography could achieve.

Tom Voss blends autobiography and a travelogue of his 2,700 walk across America, meeting fellow veterans, into the story of how he became interested in meditation and came to understand its healing properties specific to the PTSD he struggled with.

He is especially powerful when outlining the fact of 'moral injury' from violent confrontations between military experience and underlying fundamental beliefs. This focus is the second strongest attribute of his story because it provides veterans with not only a supportive account of healing, but a discussion of 'moral injury' which is rarely given much attention in overall surveys of PTSD syndrome or military service.

"This wasn't about me...was it?" As Voss questions his perceptions, military training's impact on his psyche, and the physical and mental challenges of his chosen walk, readers follow closely in his footsteps. It's a compelling read which outlines his journey into healing in search of an antidote to moral injury that seems impossible and elusive.

The result is a powerful survey that holds promise and attraction not just for military veterans, but for anyone suffering from PTSD - particularly those whose traumas lie more in the mental than the physical arena, and especially those who have undergone similar challenges to their fundamental beliefs and values.

This audience, largely under-represented in the wealth of literature about PTSD, will find not only a rare focus on these values in Where War Ends, but receive renewed hope for alleviating much of the pain and symptoms of this form of trauma.

So, take a deep breath...and read this book.

Where War Ends starts with a military man's impossible confrontations with his actions and their impact and ends where it should: right here at home.

Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers
Rozsa Gaston
Renaissance Editions
9781732589940, $15.95, Paper
9781732589957, $2.99, Kindle

Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers is Book 3 in the historical fiction series about Anne of Brittany and provides a satisfying sequel to Anne and Louis that's especially recommended for prior fans, as it picks up seamlessly from where Anne and Louis left off.

Queen of France Anne envisions her daughter's arranged marriage to the future Holy Roman Emperor, a move that would make her the most powerful woman in Europe; but father Louis holds a different vision. He wants his daughter Claude to marry his successor.

Anne's political reasoning is astute and clever: "Their daughter Claude would one day rule Brittany as Anne's chosen successor. If, in addition, Claude was wife to the Holy Roman Emperor, it would be the end of France's territorial ambitions to absorb Europe's most coveted independent duchy into its fold." And she's used to getting her way.

Louis is inclined to follow her leadership on most matters, but Princess Claude poses a different dilemma complicated by the fact that she remains their only child. With no male heirs to assume the throne, Claude's future and marriage choice becomes a pivot point for France's future political power in Europe.

Once again, Rozsa Gaston does an exquisite job of weaving the politics and culture of early 1500s France into a personal story of royalty at odds with their choices, destiny, and each other. The blend of political, social, and personal perspectives creates a powerful historical read that requires no prior knowledge of the era or the preceding books in the series to prove satisfyingly engrossing to newcomers - even those who rarely read historical fiction.

The fiery, opinioned expertise of ruler Anne, the determination of her husband Louis (who is used to deferring to her wisdom), and the future of young Claude create a compelling story. Claude's position and choices receives more than one challenge as Louis faces health issues and Anne confronts her own condition, which could change everything both between them and in her kingdom's political struggles. These changing circumstances make for a vivid story that brings not only France but royal circles to life.

One reason why Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers is so vivid is because of Rozsa Gaston's ability to inject dialogues between royalty and commoners to bring these dilemmas to life: "God's breath, Georges, what has she been doing over there all this time? I mean, how long does it take to visit a few shrines?" "She has most likely been administering her realm which, as you know, can be time-consuming." Louis looked frustrated. "Do you think she is holding a grudge, Georges?" "I think she is leaving behind what she knows she cannot change, and is in no rush to come back and face what will be that she does not wish to be. In her shoes, would you not feel the same way, Sire?" "I would not. She is as stubborn as a mule and will hold this against me forever."

The title is well chosen, because the intersections between being lovers and being rulers are even clearer in this story than in the prior book in the series.

Anne's astute and protective vision of her daughter's future and well-being adds another strong aspect to the story as Anne chooses solutions that assure her daughter's power and safety no matter what happens in political or marriage circles: "From her own coffers Anne made a gift to Claude of one million ecus, to remain strictly in her daughter's possession. Anne's intent was to provide her with a line of funds out of reach of her future husband. Eyeing the splendid young dauphin, as sure of himself as a bantam cock, she worried, not for the first time, that Claude would be used by Francis to produce royal heirs, then shunted aside and ignored. She doubted that Francis would treat such a retiring and delicate wife with the loving care that she was accustomed to. If he didn't, Claude could put her monetary gift to good use, creating her own court around her that would be devoted to her."

The combination of fiery confrontation, astute political and social analysis and reasoning, the changing relationship between Louis and Anne, and the fate of a kingdom makes

Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers an engrossing read that is hard to put down.
General-interest readers will find Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers accessible, as well as prior series readers and historical fiction fans (especially those with a particular interest in European court and politics). The story is especially enthralling in its descriptions of cat-and-mouse psychological and political changes, and entirely worthy of the time spent absorbing early 1500s social and political settings.

Misfits, Mystics, Love and Life
Raminder Bajwa
Inkstate Books
9789352019137, $5.00, Kindle

Misfits, Mystics, Love and Life presents poetic celebrations of rapture designed (as poet Raminder Bajwa says in his introduction) to "sweep you away." These are heady words that set up much anticipation and which raise the bar of expectation to loftier realms - and in this aim, Misfits, Mystics, Love and Life succeeds.

Take 'Again and Again', for example, which takes wing with passion and enticement: "Sell me your food, sell me your curries;/Sell me your pain and all of your worries!...So I may eat, please sell me rye;/Sell me your wings so I may fly!" Lest someone think these passionate entreaties overly flighty, it should be noted that the poem ends with an unexpectedly thought-provoking bang that supports its title and introduces a different conclusion than may have been anticipated from the joyful, rollicking tone of its introduction.

Each poem in this collection excels in such twists of fate and observation. This approach is what makes Misfits, Mystics, Love and Life so exceptional.

'A Request' is another example: succinct, hard-hitting, and unexpected, the opening pleas ("Let me forever in sweet magic dwell;/When I can rent out heaven, why stay in hell?") set up readers for another surprising conclusion.

Each poem captures a life experience, love, or tells a story. Most stay true to rhyme, only occasionally departing, as in the opening sentence of 'My Watch': "I'm tired now, soft, getting old./I don't care for this world much anymore."

Each focuses on different kinds of love, expanding the nebula of inspection from matters of the heart and soul to universal themes of living, loving, and dying.

If Bajwa's goal is to induce a feeling of exaltation, passion, and emotion into his poems, empowering them with succinct verse and creating a structure that places them into chapter themes ('American Triumphs & Tragedies', 'Love, Friendships, Gods & Angels, Life,' and 'Misfits & Mystics'), then Misfits, Mystics, Love and Life not only is a worthy achievement that deserves acclaim and honors, but lives up to its own lofty goals: to evoke passion and recognition in readers who will find it a lively collection, indeed.

Cooper Peru and the Curse of Kings
Mister E.
Instagram: @CooperPeruBookSeries

Cooper Peru and the Curse of Kings is middle-grade fantasy writing at its best and tells of 12-year-old Cooper Peru, who is an unremarkable boy even if he is a bit of a loner with odd ears, which he hides. Cooper has an attraction to woods, and one day vanishes in them. When a sighting in the woods elevates his innate comfort in being in nature, he just can't stay away. And so his journey begins.

Cooper Peru and the Curse of Kings excels in showing how a boy who tries hard to fit in (but doesn't succeed) eventually comes to accept not only his destiny and extraordinary heritage, but becomes part of another world which proves the only place he can really call home, given the uncertainty of his heritage.

Cooper is thrilled to have friends at last, excited to be involved in such plans as raiding a temple or developing strategies for games, and faces a deadly enemy in the course of many challenging adventures and new experiences. These experiences enhance his growth and recognition of his unusual powers as he searches for his place between two worlds.

Young fans of Harry Potter will find much to like in Cooper Peru and the Curse of Kings. Yet, this should not be considered a Potter clone, but a unique adventure that blends a quest saga into the probe of a young boy's discovery of his place and importance between two worlds and among newfound friends.

Mister E. takes the time to introduce, explore, and open up these associations, and so Cooper grows into his own in more ways than one. The psychology is well-done, the action fast-paced and often satisfyingly unpredictable, and the story is vivid and fresh. The subtle humor injected throughout provides comic relief to the drama: "After an exhausting ride, they finally pulled up to a dingy pub in the middle of miles of inhospitable forest. Smoke puffed from its chimney. A crooked sign hung over the porch: The Snort 'n Pour."

Cooper Peru and the Curse of Kings will certainly attract young fantasy and Harry Potter fans, but creates a different kind of quest tale firmly rooted in not just magic and elves and wars, but a young boy's evolution. Cooper Peru feels alive, talented, and purposeful for perhaps the first time in his young life. Middle-grade fantasy and magic readers will enjoy his adventures, self-examination, and growth.

Hunting the Devil
Suanne Schafer
Waldorf Publishing
9781643165974, $16.95

Hunting the Devil was written after Suanne Schafer raised her biracial adopted son in a white world, but uses fiction to review his life, which included a visit to Africa as a teen, where he was considered white; the opposite of his American identity as a black person.

The story opens with a powerful quote from feminist writer Helene Cixous: "As soon as they [women] begin to speak, at the same time as they're taught their name, they can be taught that their territory is black: because you are Africa, you are black. Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can't see anything in the dark, you're afraid. Don't move, you might fall. Most of all, don't go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark."

As chapters evolve and move between the experiences of Dr. Jessica Hemings (who volunteers for a medical mercy mission in Rwanda, only to become caught up in a life-threatening political siege), her lover Dr. Tom Powell, and war correspondent Michel Fournier, all three find their lives and perceptions challenged in a whirlwind of events that tests their ethics, morals, resolve, and very identities and purposes.

Readers who anticipate that Hunting the Devil will be about a child's revised idea of cultural identity will be surprised and delighted with a story that is more steeped in African culture and politics than may be anticipated by the book's reference to Schafer's original inspiration.

Despite his worldly reporting, former lawyer Michel is largely ignorant of African politics and culture (as is likely true for most Americans). His education about African issues provides readers with much real-world background and food for thought as not only he but Jess and the other characters learn new facts, firsthand, about Africa's history and cultural influences: "For years, Rwanda remained a tightly-controlled society. The government sat at the top of a pyramid, then districts, then communes governed by the bourgmestres. The MRND, the governing party, had a youth wing the Interahamwe, akin to the Hitlerjugend, they trained as a free-form militia. The bourgmestres, the most powerful men in the communes, claimed an authority far exceeding what the law allowed. They commanded the gendarmerie and passed out weapons and hit-lists to local gangs. Haven't you noticed we now include homicide among our causes of death?"

Tension mounts when Jess finds that her Tutsi features lead her to play a part in the Rwandan Genocide and as she endures atrocities and vows revenge, becoming embroiled in a showdown that will change everything.

Readers seeking a fast-paced story of confrontation, capture, freedom and revenge will find the action swift and the background realistically compelling in Hunting the Devil, but its main attraction lies in an ability to educate readers about African politics, social struggle, and perceptions.

This focus lends depth and interest to Jess's story as she moves from the role of physician to becoming a key player in an unfolding political conflict. As Tom's association with Jessica introduces him to unparalleled dangers, readers will find delightfully absorbing a story that grabs attention, educates readers about real-world political and social struggles, and packs in swift action and dilemmas into every chapter.

Thriller readers looking for more insights about African history and culture will find no better choice than Hunting the Devil, which weaves a story of friendship, justice, violence, and racial discrimination into its personal story of faith, loyalty, and challenges to romance during the quest for revenge.

China Girl
Erec Stebbins
Twice Pi Press
9781942360605, $12.99, Paperback
9781942360582, $3.99, Kindle
9781942360599, $3.99, E-pub

For many, Erec Stebbins' sixth Intel 1 book, China Girl, may strike too close to home with its premise of a repressive government that rounds up citizens and faces terrorist attacks and partisan politics; but readers should be advised that this is only the beginning of the powerhouse of action and confrontation that lies behind China Girl's events.

Indeed, the story contains (among many other facets) graphic violence, scenes of torture, descriptions of murder and imprisonment, and more; and so it is not recommended for the faint of heart (even though these altercations are entirely in keeping with the plot's premise and evolution).

From the increasing terrorist violence in the nation which interrupts the government's goal of exporting eleven million people out of the country to the underlying financial influences of contracts worth millions, confrontations between soldiers and citizens, and moral and ethical conundrums raised in the course of difficult choices ("Collateral damage. A term that once nauseated him. What have we become?"), China Girl represents a powerful extrapolation of current-day events and near future scenarios in a thriller that's almost impossible to put down.

Perhaps this is because Erec Stebbins so thoroughly sets his story in modern times that every facet of these encounters feel realistic. Maybe it's because the nonstop action leaves little room for ennui or confusion. Or possibly it's due to the intense interplays between characters who find their personal, business, political and social lives turned upside down in ways readers will most certainly relate to.

Whatever the wellsprings of the strengths of China Girl, suffice it to say that this novel springs into action from the first page, offers many unexpected twists and turns, and is thoroughly engrossing. China Girl is highly recommended for thriller readers with strong stomachs, an interest in moral and ethical discussions beyond simple action, and a special appreciation for stories rooted in social and political change.

Gun Mania
Bruce D. Thatcher
Independently Published
9781698682419, $18.00

Gun Mania: A New Perspective - What We Must Do to Reduce Shootings, Homicides and Suicides in America is exactly what its subtitle says: a survey of strategies to consider regarding gun rights in this country. It's Book 9 of the 'History Speaks Today' series, and examines historical precedent for lessons about modern issues and their origins, for today's audiences.

Bruce D. Thatcher grew up with guns. He began shooting around age eight on his grandmother's farm, received his athletic letter as part of a college rifle team, and here considers the history and approaches of not only the U.S., but the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This multinational approach allows for a contrast of different laws, regulations, and gun management approaches that each present pro and con lessons for future gun management in America.

Chapters hold a particular, uniform structure; each opening with an Executive Summary, a review of each country's gun history, a section of Analysis and Discussion, and a bibliography for further reading. This structure makes it easy to cross-reference experiences in an orderly fashion, and lends particularly well to discussion, whether it be at the high school, college, or public policymaker levels either inside our out of the classroom.

Another big plus to this survey over other discussions of gun rights and issues lies in Thatcher's ability to gather statistics and present and discuss them in a reasoned manner to reach all readers, whether their opinions be pro-gun, anti-gun, or lie somewhere in the middle. Charts, graphs, and maps support the clear discussions of each point.

As readers move through each country's different approach to gun issues, it's easy to contrast not just laws, but their evolving history and effects. This is more than just a modern history. Thatcher also delves into ancient times, from tribal clashes to more modern weaponry development and regulation.

His survey of how guns and their management move from public to governmental hands and how gun culture changes in response to such regulations makes for interesting observations about each country's approach and its overall effects, beyond homicide rates: "The original settlers didn't have guns, they pushed out indigenous peoples mostly without the use of guns, political and national independence was forced upon them rather than taken, and they never used guns to fight an existential civil war. The best known gun-toting Australian heroes both in history and literature are outlaw bushmen such as Ned Kelly and Ben Hall, but related movies and literature are decades old. The most extant fictional Australian hero is Crocodile Dundee, who doesn't use a gun! And one can't find guns referenced in the indices or texts of most books and articles on Australian history."

Thatcher has created the kind of book that competitors may aspire to, but few achieve. Gun Mania offers a reasoned analysis of guns in society which surveys their history, evolution, impact, and psychological influence.

No collection strong in social issues in general, cultural cross-comparisons, or gun control politics should be without this well-reasoned study. Gun Mania is designed to make it easy to understand not just the present issue, but history's lessons, taken from various aspects.

Women of Scar Clan: True Stories of Transcendence
Lynne Klippel
Thomas Noble Books
9781945586231, $19.95 paperback, $5.99 kindle

Women of Scar Clan: True Stories of Transcendence gathers true stories about women who have used their pain to evolve into new avenues of hope and inspiration, and thus differs from other accounts of hurt and courage.

There are plenty of inspirational memoirs on the market, but Women of Scar Clan adds a layer of inspection into not just the roots of pain, but its potential for transformation. The mechanics of this process receive close inspection with an eye to showing how wounds, anger, and angst can be translated into positive avenues of change.

One example is Yoshi's story, which enraged Lynne Klippel until she used it as close examination of Yoshi's choice's ultimate impact: "Yoshi taught me something important. She had a choice in the internment camp. She could have become angry and bitter; it was her right. Yet, she believed those emotions would harm her. She focused instead on what she could do to improve her future, trusting that God would protect her. Yoshi never gave up on her dream or her faith, and she acted with courage and conviction even when she was afraid."

Different lessons stem from different life experiences, as these biographical sketches illustrate. Take the case of Amelia, who faced a challenging pregnancy: "Amelia's story shows us that we don't have to walk alone. When we are brave enough to ask for help, people will respond. Sometimes, help comes from those closest to us. Other times, family and friends are unable to give us what we need, and new friends arrive who step into the gap. When you're put into a situation in which you know that you must change, reach out and catch the hands of those who will support and celebrate you."

Another plus to this title is its examinations of faith, women's history, and women's traditional responses to adversity and culture: "Whether or not you grew up in a church, you grew up with ideas about earning love. We were all taught we had to be a certain way to be worthy of love from a husband, from others, and from the Divine. It didn't matter who we were naturally - we all needed tidying and polishing to be acceptable. It took constant effort not to become too much of any one thing - too fat, too loud, too old, or too anything that threatened others or called attention to ourselves. This goes back to early history. Women were vulnerable back in the hunter gatherer days. If you were cast out of the cave, you'd be cold, hungry, and likely dinner for something with big teeth. Furthermore, throughout history, women have been traded as possessions."

As Lynne Klippel's approach carries readers through the experience of life events and moments of transcendence, chapters offer powerful connections between spiritual belief, life choices, cultural influences, and the ultimate impact of individual choices on broader world affairs. This added layer of psychological inspection and advice helps change-oriented readers consider how to tailor their own strategies for best results: "If you are preparing to make a big change in your life, give yourself some time to grieve the things you are leaving behind. Next, focus your vision on your future so that you have a clear mental picture of what you want. Only then will you be truly ready to make that exciting leap forward!"

The lessons that stem from individual experience and move into cultural and social change create an inspirational guide that doesn't just ask, but demands 'looking in the mirror' in order to be effective. This approach is highly recommended for women considering transformative experiences and their opportunities. It invites them to contribute to a better world and choose wisely, with the goal of making a difference.

There should be more books like Women of Scar Clan on the market today: accessible, wide-ranging, and connecting personal experience to social inspection and improvement. The world would be a better place if these lessons were absorbed early in life.

Searching for Fire
J. Speer
Archway Publishing
9781480880597, $12.99, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

Searching for Fire reaches young adult fantasy readers with a vivid story of a battle between gods that places a young pregnant woman in the middle of danger and conflict during the rebirth of the world.

If this premise sounds more adult in its complexity, be advised that Searching for Fire is recommended for mature teens, and is quite accessible to this audience. A prologue sets the stage for the characters and action that draws readers in ("This is not our first world. In the beginning, the Sun Spirit created our land and established the Elemental Code for our existence. All the living creatures inhabited this world for the benefit of the Great Spirits in the sky. When the hearts of the land's inhabitants decayed, these same Great Spirits rained fire down from the sky. Among the smoke and ash, a second world was reborn. It prospered, but as with the cycle of the first, the decay returned. The Great Spirits chose this time to bury our world in ice. As to the third world, our people were gifted with the presence of the fire bringer named Ahiga.").

Having this succinct review of the premise and environment offers readers an immediate ability to absorb the concerns and revelations of the story, which moves from the introduction to the crux of affairs when, generations later, a baby is rescued from a shapeshifter wolf pack. This event leads a young boy, his sister, and a wise medicine man on a journey to find a legendary Fire Spirit to save their village from destruction.

As the story unfolds, the clash between ordinary heroes and evil forces becomes a compelling investigation of not just the motives of those who undergo a quest, but the perceptions of those they leave behind: "Charles continued after drawing once more on his pipe. "There comes a time in a young man's life when he must set out on his own ... to set his own path through life." Again, more silence. "You're going with them, then?" Charles motioned to the closed entrance door to the cabin. Sam looked at Charles sadly at this point and said, "Yes, they need my help." Charles just nodded. He thought sadly to himself that there are some things which must be set free."

From windows of opportunity that open and shut to personal struggles with fear and threats ("He did his best to be at ease. Be like Charles. He kept saying this over and over in his head. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be back on the barge with the barge master, back in Stoney Creek. He was beginning to feel deeply afraid."), J. Speer's story goes beyond a fantasy quest to probe the feelings and evolution of those who journey through an unfamiliar, frightening world.

It should be noted that some conflict descriptions are explicit, which further reinforces the recommendation that the best audience for Searching for Fire will be mature teens to new adults and adults. These readers will find such descriptions tasteful and in keeping with the overall story, and will appreciate the inspections into motive, good and evil forces, and psychological growth that blend into the adventure and action. The story even ventures into realms controlled by the legendary Ahiga and the gods in a quest for balance, victory, and salvation from the threatening forces of darkness.

The result is a compelling, involving tale that excels in revealing the growth of all characters as they confront higher purposes and challenges than their individual daily lives.

The Girl and the Tiger
Paul Rosolie
Owl Hollow Press
9781945654319, $15.99

The Girl and the Tiger is an eco-novel set in India and tells of Isha, who is sent into the jungle to live with her grandparents. When she stumbles on a young tiger cub and adopts him, controversy erupts not only over tigers, but their place in India's shrinking world.

Author Paul Rosolie's work as a nature photographer and wildlife filmmaker lends a personal touch to this story. He's personally familiar with the jungles and wildlife that is one of the themes of The Girl and the Tiger. This lends an authoritative, educational touch to the story of Isha's cultural and natural history discoveries.

The intersection between wildlife habitats and human abodes is a fragile, shrinking one. When humans don't understand or appreciate wildlife and fear wild environments, usually it's the predator and the wilderness that suffer.

As Isha journeys through India, the country comes alive under Rosolie's pen (again, due to his own sojourns through that nation): "She rode the night train from Bangalore to Mangalore alone. The blue-trim stacked bedding of the train was swarming with bodies. Businessmen clothed head to toe poked at laptops. Emaciated holy men with painted foreheads and long gray beards sat cross-legged and mostly naked, their hollow eyes searching. Mothers worked to settle sleeping children amid the metal thundering and clamor. Women in burqas or saris or Western slacks. Some fed babies or read books or shouted at one another. At each stop the mendicant amputees rolled through the aisles on square roller boards begging, exhibiting the most gruesome parts of their anatomy to elicit a donation - through fear or compassion, it did not matter."

Isha learns equally hard lessons about people and the world, often interacting with strangers who have spiritual and philosophical food for thought to add to her explorations: "What I'm saying is, what if the second coming is all around us, but we do not realize we are blind."

The themes of hunters and killers, threats and confrontations, and a savvy young girl's observations of the politics and influences on this world delight readers of all ages. The Girl and the Tiger is far more satisfyingly complex than one might anticipate.

No light story of a girl's love for a cub, it delves as deftly into motivations of the human heart as it does the consequences of human actions at many levels.

This level of complexity extends even to those who also fight for wildlife: "I've spent the last forty years guarding this forest. Do you know why there is still a herd of elephants left in that jungle? Because I have been fighting for them. I've lost more than you can know, and I can tell you this: What I am doing is best. Listen closely. What do you think the papers have been doing? What do you think a man like JCB Vijayan will do when he wins this election? Do you think he has not heard that the tribals are thinking of revoking the proposed dam? Do you think the people will allow his fancy hydro-dam projects to go through if it is a tiger sanctuary?

Or do you think he would wipe them both out just as easy as he clears villages? The life of one tiger is not worth every other animal in the forest and the tribal village."

The Girl and the Tiger is a story that features a young learner, but shouldn't be limited to young adults alone. It offers an emotional and social inspection to adult readers looking for stories of wildlife rescue, courage and India's multifaceted people and politics as it creates a solid, compelling read about a young girl facing her strengths and passion with evolving knowledge about forces beyond her zeal and control.

Lustily Ever After
Composed by Stephanie Bentley
Story by Miranda Ray
9781089023753, $6.95, Audio, $2.99, ebook

The audio version of this musical story, created and composed by Stephanie Bentley, is essential listening because it captures the full nuances of the story with all its musical interludes. Stephanie Bentley, Carolyn Jania, and Henry Kaiser provide the multivoice narration that gives this listen a stage production feel. The vocals come from Christiana Arnette and Aaron Wilson, who do a fine job of bringing its musical interludes to life.

As for the story line, Lustily Ever After opens with a sensual description of a lilac bubble bath that's spiced by the narrator's smooth, vivid voice and ability to impart a 'you are there' feel to her descriptions. From sultry descriptions of 'working lather in' to 'blushing breasts', the narrator's ability to impart these sensual moments and feelings is part of what makes this audio story ripple with sensation.

From the protagonist's description of her love for romance novels to the music which accompanies her climax, readers will be immersed in this audio story as much as in any stage production. The audio version is so lively and provocatively narrated that one could not imagine that a book format could compete on the same level of emotional and auditory experience.

What seems obvious should be noted: sensuality and lust are the main focus of Lustily Ever After. Romance novel readers may anticipate and welcome this, but others should beware. Sensuality is embedded in everything from the sultry music to the male and female narrators' voices.

Romance novel enthusiasts will readily recognize that this is also a play on the words, emotions, and devices romance novels use to reel in their readers. The over-emphasis of such feelings and descriptions is at once lusty and hilarious. Seasoned romance audiences will readily recognize the cliches replete in romance writing.

In true keeping with the musical style, chapter titles are sung in harmonies and the characters routinely burst into song in interludes which are fitting, uproarious accompaniments to the sultry circumstances surrounding events.

It would be fitting to say that this audio spoof could have come from few other writers, because Stephanie Bentley is a professional romance audiobook narrator and a musical theater performer. Her dual background allows for a unique perspective not only on the performance side, but in the creation of a comedy that comes steeped in the trappings of romance productions, yet is able to step back and make fun of these same devices.

The plot sounds complicated, but in reality this audio's sensual presentation is straightforward. Raleigh Jackson interviews for a six-week contract to be the fake girlfriend of ladies' man Trystan Lay, a politician, ex-Navy Seal, songwriter, and astronaut who claims to be "the world's most perfect human." What she discovers in the course of this unusual job will change her life.

What the reader discovers in the course of listening to her process will also change their perception of many things, from the structure and approaches of romance writers in general to the attraction of a musical format, which here move into contemporary realms, redefining the appeal and purpose of a musical production for modern times.

Lusty, fun, and compelling, the audio version of Lustily Ever After should ideally be chosen over the ebook because the foundations of the musical delivery can't be duplicated in book form, and because the subtle nuances of romance settings comes to life in audio as it never could via print alone.

Lustily Ever After is very, very highly recommended as a unique standout in the world of audio narrations, musicals, and romance writing.

Wolf Schimanski and B. J. Tiernan
Lulu Publishing Services
9781684703180, $17.00
9781684703203, $2.99

A freelancer writer and a computer technician would hardly seem the sort of folk to become involved in the takeover of an American city, but Lexi-Jo and Herbert's investigation into the changing face of the small Florida city of Margate leads to uncovering a phenomenon that holds its roots in an amulet lost in the Everglades.

The race is on to find a small talisman in a vast swamp that holds the key to Margate's fate and future, but again - these two are hardly equipped to undertake this kind of search based on their skill sets.

It will take the involvement of an unusually savvy detective and the risk of both their lives in encounters with gators, snakes, and deadly forces to confront a psychic phenomenon and violence which leads them to move well outside their comfort zones and personalities.

Captivity and torture changes people, as Lexi-Jo discovers. It can also lead the victim to become as aggressive and violent as the aggressor, when positions change: "Lexi-Jo looked down at Ghost with disdain. When her eyes met his, they were hard. "I know what you're thinking. You think we're stupid for letting you live. You think you still have control, that some day you will find your way back and come for us. But you are a prisoner now. You have no control. You are finished."

But, somehow, more than people are involved in this struggle. As a father discovers his daughter is dangerous, women uncover forbidden passions, and Lexi-Jo struggles to trust strangers in her life, the plot lives up to its name and, indeed, sizzles with unexpected nuances, twists, and turns.
Sizzler combines the atmosphere of an Indiana Jones-type adventure expedition with the cat-and-mouse intrigue of a thriller. It moves back and forth between the two and adds elements of tension and revelation that keep readers on their toes, but doesn't neatly fit into any predictable formula genre story.

Wolf Schimanski and B. J. Tiernan's approach keeps the writing fresh, the characters vivid and unique, and their relationships centered on growth-inducing discoveries and confrontations as they navigate an unfamiliar world embedded within their own.

Will the ordeal bring two disparate souls together, or ultimately drive them apart? This and many other questions give this thriller a multifaceted blanket of intrigue and depth designed to keep readers engaged and wondering right up to the surprise conclusion.

Fans of suspense stories and relationship explorations on many levels will find Sizzler crackles with nonstop action and intrigue.

The Life Engine
Rick Baker
Independently Published
9781076277763, $12.95, Paper, $0.99, Kindle

Though April Gentry is not yet thirty, she works in the rainforest as a doctor of environmental science and the youngest member of the Earth Sciences Directorate for NASA's Goddard Space Institute. She's following in her father's footsteps, interacting with and being a part of a tribe as she did in Homoxi, as a child, as she strives to save medically valuable endangered species before they disappear.

Her search for a healer plant in the jungle leads her deep into the heart of darkness and international strife.

Arvelo, a former mercenary, saves his life by promising his captors he'll steal April's discovery, then will kill her and Cortez, her father's lifelong partner. His partner Juan, April's pilot, has already paid for his resistance with his life. And April is about to find out what lengths her opposition will go to in order to win.

Rick Baker crafts a compelling story of a rare healing plant that could revolutionize the treatment or pain and healing of wounds, the big pharma forces that seek to control its dissemination, and the involvement of Ian Wolfe, a CIA agent who finds himself going against everything he's trained for and his own government in his effort to protect April.

As American Anakim Sebastian kidnaps April's niece during his efforts to hunt down April and the circle of threats follows her from the jungle to the US, tension mounts as a host of special interests stalk Katie, Wolfe, and April.

Whether it's a bus accident that topples it into a paddle wheeler or a jungle confrontation between opposing forces, The Life Engine keeps its action fast-paced and tension high as April somehow manages to navigate all the obstacles challenging her ability to survive her unique discovery.

At times the story, driven by nonstop encounters, assumes the pace and drama of an Indiana Jones adventure - but with more of a moral and ethical overlay that keeps the story vivid. As loner Wolfe begins to understand the value of April's secret, he also enters into a unique sense of family that has eluded him just as deftly as success, in his latest efforts.

With its juxtaposition of shamans and high technology, The Life Engine brims with intrigue and interactions between different cultures and values systems, immersing readers in a series of encounters that profile not just the lives of South Americans, but the myths and beliefs that power their actions. The overall issue of world environmental health powers a story that proves hard to put down.

The Life Engine will especially please thriller and suspense readers, who will appreciate its blend of social issues, cultural inspection, political involvement, and the entwining lives of two very different individuals who are passionate about their pursuits and beliefs.

I'm a Romance Scam IT Detective
Selina Co
Inspiring Publishers
Paperback (with 13 colour pages): $23.80
Discounted Black/White version (Amazon only): $19.80
(book release discount: $17.80); E-Book: $4.49

I'm a Romance Scam IT Detective presents a cybercrime true detective story spanning some seven countries. It comes from a computer engineer who reveals techniques of how to trace criminal activity via the internet and how to identify and track scammers (who do have limitations despite their hacking and scamming prowess), including insights from lawyers, hackers, police, and victims, who discuss typical scams and how they work.

The book opens with an intriguing section on how photo 'evidence' can lie, even including passport images. Each photo receives analysis and pointers to clues that indicate how the image does not support the scammer's contentions, and each imparts a lesson to readers unused to closely examining the types of 'evidence' typical of online encounters.

From how author Selina fell under a spell and became involved in a scam that cost her plenty to how scammer Frederick, in turn, falls for a scam that she perpetuates, back-and-forth encounters been scammer and victim illustrate techniques of those who use information and technology to bring about and build fantasies. When Selina scammed the criminal in "Chapter 9 How to Scam a Scammer," it proved equally easy for her to scam and to be scammed.

Selina did suspect scammer Frederick's photos might not fully match how his story; however, the problems were not obvious enough. Eventually, Selina still became a victim. This shows how confusing 'evidence' on the Internet can be.

Dialogues between the two make this story read like fiction, but it comes steeped in real-world experience and examples, creating a powerful read especially recommended for those who would better understand the exact processes and impacts of cybercrimes.

The lively format, clear photo examples and dialogues, and step-by-step investigations into what constitutes a scam and how it is fostered by methods that appear real and genuine are especially important keys to understanding the psychology, advanced techniques, and the identification and analysis of cyberfraud.

Cybercrime investigation processes often hamstring the investigator. Even Selina (a hacker) has the ability to capture criminal's information, but unlike the criminal, she is confined by laws. These laws do not allow her to hack further into the criminal's machine - not far enough to capture his detailed identity. Sadly, even if she did obtain criminal's detailed identity, the police were not likely to catch the criminal unless she could escalate the case to Interpol. And Interpol does not normally look into Internet scams due to huge amount of effort and international cooperation required (even if Interpol could catch the criminal, the actual monetary recovery is almost always zero).

I'm a Romance Scam IT Detective should be required reading for any who use the internet. The primary audience for this read will be adults, professionals, and government organizations; but computer-savvy mature new adults should be also given this book. All computer users are vulnerable - even those who deem themselves relatively computer-savvy - and this audience may be surprised to learn about the situations and scamming approaches which are described in depth in this book.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The current legal loopholes in international laws on cybercrime make victims suffer. No modern computer user should be without this blend of IT insight, legal examination, and real-world facts about cyberscams and how they operate.

Waiting for Grace
Caroline E. Zani
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
9781948018715, $15.95

Redemption, faith, and a repurposed life after tragedy make Waiting for Grace a powerful story that surveys a formerly successful lawyer's retreat after he loses his wife and daughter.

Eli Cranston's newfound familiarity with loss and grief leads him to embark on a new career helping others change their lives, but his projected Maine retreat is hampered by isolation, mysteries of the past, and the prospect of building new relationships. With so many influences affecting his goals and desires, Eli finds himself at a loss even as he pursues new avenues of salvation and growth.

Dr. Eli Cranston is a questioner and a wanderer, and these traits have led to his ultimate goal: to help other people "know their truth."

Caroline E. Zani starts his story not with the past, but with the present, after many changes have taken place. Readers get to know the Eli who once didn't understand the need for pets, and who begins each day with a gratitude prayer for everything that has led to this point in his life.

This allows readers to become familiar with the new, revised Eli, rather than working forward from a tragic past. The story creates a positive, uplifting backdrop of achievement that forms a firm foundation for considering past, present, and possible future influences and life choices.

As Waiting for Grace unfolds, readers learn of the influences on Eli to become a lawyer and build a new life: "Looking up at the new sign to the right of the driveway he felt a sense of accomplishment, and a pride that never played a role in the courtroom dramas he starred in, defending people he had no doubt were guilty as sin. It was a job, a game, a way of life. His father had taught him this from an early age. "Someone has to defend them and they will pay a lot of money to that person. It may as well be me."

The Maine setting comes to life under Zani's hand ("The snow banks were grey and iced over and not as festive looking as they were the day after the storm, but he loved the downtown area and savored the sunlight warming him, inside and out. The lobster trap Christmas tree was still as stately as it was pre-holiday and seemed to say, "This is Maine, if you were looking for sandy beaches and more warm than cold, don't let the door hit ya on the way out.").

As he pursues redemption, mysteries, and the possibilities of a relationship with local shop girl Rebecca even as he's wounded by circumstances that surround Christmas Day, Eli finds questions keep returning to his mind.

Even a visit to an old friend brings these themes to life: "Tell me, Eli, have you ever thought you would not survive something but you awoke each day to find that you had and ...." Eli nodded his head, knowing he needed to carry his end of the conversation but wanting to hear more at the same time. "Yes, Doctor. I have felt that. I'm still not sure how I survived it." Otto seemed to come alive then, pushing himself to the edge of the seat. "Ah, yes. But are you glad you did? And, Eli, what will you do with that gift?"

What will you do with that gift? That's the central question Eli faces in Waiting for Grace, along with the many choices he alone can make. In many ways, Eli comes full circle during this process, carrying readers from a chaotic series of challenges to the notion of a purposeful world where everything happens for a reason.

Readers seeking an atmospheric story of grief recovery, life purpose, redemption, and romance will appreciate the gentle but pointed story of Eli's transformations in a tale that examines the foundations of family, the challenges to and expansion of its wide, loving heart, and the influence of faith on crafting new directions.

Bombs, Bullets & Bribes
Rick Porrello
Next Hat Press
9780966250848, $18.95

Bombs, Bullets & Bribes: The True Story of Notorious Jewish Mobster Alex "Shondor" Birns comes from a former police chief, who describes the notorious and newsworthy mobster whose interactions influenced organized crime mobs and journal reporting alike.

Shondor cultivated relationships with all kinds of mobs, from Italian gangs and Jewish mobs to black gambling racketeers. Within these circles, many resented the power and savvy of the elderly Jewish man whose influence extended from Israel and Cuba, and whose outrageous actions not only made money and enemies, but sold newspapers.

Few other mobsters have had the wide-ranging influence and actions of Shondor, and few gained as much media attention from their outrageous actions.

Rick Porrello's biography uses press coverage, black and white photos, and daily activities to capture not only Shondor's actions, but his ability to spark the emotions of the public and fellow crime lords alike.

Porrello considers all aspects of this infamous crime lord's world from legal matters to popular image, including quotes from reports from Shondor himself, which bring his perspectives to life: "The 1964 indictment for bribing the Parma detective weighed heavily on Shondor. He anticipated going to prison and was concerned about the bad press that might follow. "If I get another conviction, the papers will murder me," he told a friend. "Life is just a jungle . . . Every time something happens, I'm blamed. They blame it on a Birns sergeant or lieutenant. What do they think I have, an army?"

Revealing judges charged with accepting bribes and the difficulty involved in tracing Birns' influential contacts and researching the underlying nuances of his activities, Porrello combines a well-researched survey with a writing style that adds drama and action to these real-world encounters.

While parts of this story read with the descriptive flair of fiction, all events are factual, and analyses of reporting styles, legal challenges, and social and political influences are very well done, making for compelling reading beyond the history. Porrello offers an in-depth account that traces not just Shondor, but the rise and actions of mobs from Cleveland to Los Angeles.

Any true crime reader interested in mob figures, legal and social impacts, and media reporting choices and struggles will find Bombs, Bullets & Bribes just the right blend of high drama, criminal introspection and biography. It combines solid, detailed research with a lively tone to keeps readers engaged from start to finish.

The Rain Belongs Here
Julie Rogers
Independently Published
9781999254001, $7.59, Kindle

The Rain Belongs Here is set in 2064 in a small experimental, carefully controlled, isolated community that Ana calls home. Her brother Finn has vanished (something seemingly impossible in a community which has had little contact with the outside wild world in decades, and which monitors all its residents carefully), prompting Ana and detective Aaron to embark on a sojourn into the alien outside world to find him.

Other sci-fi books have been written with similar themes, but what sets The Rain Belongs Here apart from most is its focus on a community member who not only becomes homeless as a result of his absence, but who loses everything except the courage to find out what happened to her loved one.

On the one hand, Ana wonders if Finn's absence is purposeful, and if he doesn't want to be found. But then, again - perhaps he's in trouble and only she can rescue him. Someone must know something. But she spent three months finding out that nobody seems to know anything, exhausting her resources in the City. The search demands more from her than giving up everything. And even finding Finn's exit point means entering places she's eschewed all her life and making big compromises in her beliefs, her ambitions, and her safety.

Finn's choice prompts a cascade of emotions in her as Ana confronts decisions of the past and how they changed her world: "Her pulse is racing because she's angry - at Finn for leaving without her, at herself for not noticing his transformation, at Ekhart for encouraging him, at Noah for his condescending gaze, at her parents for choosing to settle in this upside-down village."

Julie Rogers employs a delicate hand that finely tunes and balances action and psychological reflection, documenting changes and realizations that are hallmarks not only of Ana's personal journey, but society around her. Her attention to detail is nicely done and injects a philosophical, observational tone into a series of challenges that take place over a 15-day period, introducing Ana to Aaron and a cast of characters far outside of her comfort zone.

As she faces fellow travelers, the Band, and a growing connection with Aaron, she confronts some impossible choices that involve leaving those she loves, giving up, or putting them through some terrible choices.

The twists of plot and emotional curveballs which Rogers adds to the story keep readers engrossed as Ana finds out more not only about her world and its pitfalls, but the perils of her own heart and motivations.

Replete with action yet always tempering confrontation with psychological insights, The Rain Belongs Here is a powerful story of finding home, family, and shifting loyalties in a much-changed future world.

Sci-fi fans will find The Rain Belongs Here compelling, thought-provoking, and unpredictable enough to make it hard to put down.

Improve Your Health With Simple Data Analysis
Igor Stukanov
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07YQBGNNT, $9.99

It's a well-known fact that drug side effects and interactions compromise many lives; but less familiar is the notion that, given the proper tools, patients can self-assess their prescriptions and treatments by applying formulas that reduce the likelihood of overdose or side effects from prescribed drugs.

The purpose of this book is straightforward: to "...teach patients a simple way to adjust dosages, timing, and compositions of drugs to reduce side effects and avoid overdose."

Why not just go with a physician's recommendations? Because many standardized tests have not accounted for such factors as ethnicity during clinical trials ("18% of people among Ainu ethnicity would have a negative result from use of this drug. 18% is not an acceptable standard by any means."), which means that the risk factor is not spread evenly throughout the population.

Even more important is this example and its conclusion: "Pharmaceutical companies usually do not disclose all the details about clinical trials; therefore a person with a blood type AB would have no knowledge that the negative result was for the group with this blood type. By taking this drug this person risks harm to his/her own health and the possibility of experiencing side effects. The conclusion from this example is the following: What is good for the majority of persons in a specific group may be bad for a particular person; therefore every person should test and optimize medical treatments to suit the real person, not a hypothetical average person."

It is possible for the ordinary non-medical individual to participate in the process of fine-tuning medication, but requires a bit of savvy about the medicine, the process, and the routine and formula for doing so. The latter two pieces of information comprise Improve Your Health With Simple Data Analysis, which is packed with examples and charts that document not only medication management, but its integration with a typical day's lifestyle and exercise.

Using the methods promoted by Improve Your Health With Simple Data Analysis, the average medical consumer is empowered with the tools of managing doses and engaging their physicians in dialogues to fine-tune drug assignments to real-world circumstances and patient reactions.

Examples from real-world situations range from a blood pressure drug patient's experiments with standard deviations and blood pressure to determine the best time/phase of her

circadian rhythm for taking drugs to an early-stage Alzheimer patient's interest in optimizing her treatments using an integrative approach.

After the preface and before the Chapter 1 (page 5) there is a Reminder maintaining that drug tweaking should be done under a physician's guidance.

Improve Your Health With Simple Data Analysis offers a proactive approach that gives patients just these abilities. The steps that promote informed experimentation with dosages, best timing, combinations of treatments, and evaluating the results are ones that anyone can do, and will prove especially beneficial when employed a physician's involvement.

Any patient interested in experimentation and proactive applications of drug regimens, especially those who enjoy a cooperative relationship with their prescribing physician, will find Improve Your Health With Simple Data Analysis an invaluable reference because it presents a concrete analytical method for gathering data, analyzing it, and using it for better medical treatments and outcome.

Days of Future Found
M.K. Wark
9781733427913, $12.95, Paper
9781733427906, Ebook

Ella lives a good life in the year 2039. She has been genetically enhanced to slow her aging process, and lives in a climate-controlled colony safe from the ravages of the outside world. However, her safety is threatened as she comes to realize that her genetically enhanced peers have been disappearing.

Approached by the Longevity Institute to participate as a subject in their research, Ella must decide whether her journey should be towards the destiny of her fellow vanished peers or away from everything she's known that has made for a comfortable, predictable life in a chaotic world.

Days of Future Found examines life purpose, comfort zones, risk-taking, and the moral and ethical promises of longevity and privilege alike as it follows Ella's physical and mental journey.

More so than most dystopian stories, it incorporates a feeling of higher purpose as Ella struggles not only with her own potentially unlimited lifespan, but its impact on everything around her.

M.K. Wark crafts a tale that is exemplary in its descriptions of Ella's world and her thought processes as she makes some very different decisions about her future. Wark takes the time to explore Ella's relationship with neighbors and others, considers the influence of historical precedent on the future, and injects into her novel a sense of purpose and place that bring to life not only Ella's psyche and situation, but the consequences of her decisions.

Days of Future Found is also a probe of elder rights, ethical and moral issues, and Riley and Ella's changing relationship when Ella loses some of her fear and becomes proactive about her future and her growing power to change the inevitable.

Above all, it's a thought-provoking journey not just through a changed future, but through the circumstances which created it and the individual choices which can alter it. As Ella learns to identify what is important at the end of life, audiences become engaged with the life and conundrums of a protagonist who is simultaneously both old and young. Readers will find her adventure and struggles compelling on more than one level.

Days of Future Found is a top recommendation for fans of dystopian sci-fi, who will find its creation and observations of a society in which elders play a special, different role to be thoroughly engrossing.

Lost Witness
Rebecca Forester
Independently Published
B07YN7S91Q, $4.99, Kindle

Thriller readers might presume the 8th book in a series would require prior familiarity with its predecessors, but Lost Witness is actually a stand-alone read that enhances the series while presuming no knowledge of the others in this mystery series, and thus will appeal to newcomers and old fans alike.

The story begins with a captain who hides a passenger on his ship - a passenger who has deadly business to conduct, and whose identity is secret until he is exposed in a moment of careless cabin fever. When the discovery of the passenger's body drags the captain and crew members into a conundrum, threatening the ship's mission and its crew's livelihood, difficult decisions plague the corrupt captain.

This is only the opener to the thriller, because when lawyer Josie Bates is pulled into a dilemma, she finds herself in over her head, facing issues of international law, murder, corruption, and the knowledge that the U.S. Coast Guard is hobbled by political maneuvering that keeps it from doing its job.

A wounded woman found on the ship, Tala Reyes' life is also at stake - a woman the captain denies was ever on his ship. Even Josie's husband questions her ability to solve this dilemma ("We always believed you. It's just that faith doesn't go very far with men like Andreeve or the police for that matter." Archer turned his eyes on his wife. "What are you thinking, Jo?"). But before she can solve the crime, Josie finds herself placing her professional status in jeopardy with actions that circumvent legal process.

Lost Witness combines the investigative proceedings of a murder mystery with a skilled lawyer's dangerous cat-and-mouse game outside the courtroom. It dovetails international thriller tension with stories of supporting characters from husbands to friends who find themselves dragged into Josie's investigation and its political and ethical dilemmas.

It also excels in cultivating an atmosphere of discovery and intrigue that keep readers guessing on many levels.

Between the devil on the deep blue seas and her shadowy struggles with politics and perps beyond her experience, Josie is kept on her toes, calling upon new resources in order to not only solve many puzzles, but keep her integrity and purpose intact.

From the mystery surrounding Tala Reyes and her desperate need for protection to the politics of the Philippines to U.S. Immigration laws, readers receive a fast-paced story packed with unexpected twists and turns.

"Sometimes the truth really doesn't matter," Hannah said. "It's just whoever tells the best story."

In this case, the 'best story' comes from not just Josie, but accused murderer Hannah Sheraton and her kind, patient man Jamal, dangerously impulsive latchkey kid Billy Zuni, the man who loves Hannah, and others who are also drawn into something far beyond their experience and expectations.

Mystery and thriller readers who like their characters complex and challenged beyond their usual comfort zones will find Lost Witness a compelling, involving story that questions a victim's reality and the myriad of forces that clash over her survival.

Eden Waits
Maryka Biaggio
Milford House Press
9781620063545, $16.95 Paper / $4.99 Kindle

Eden Waits is set in Michigan in the late 1890s and tells of a utopian experiment begun by a preacher who encourages cooperation over greed. The idealistic Abraham Byers initiated Hiawatha Colony, a community devoted to cooperative sharing and self-sufficiency. His strivings are recorded in Eden Waits, the fictionalized account of a fascinating historical experiment.

The Colony's very independence is a threat to the outside communities, and the harsh conditions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula also present challenges for the community. But conflict comes from within, as well, as the aging Abraham and Elizabeth Byers battle to make their ideals come true.

Abraham begins his venture as a man with not only a mission, but a history of failures: "Abraham had failed in his fight against the Furnace Company's harsh ways. Still, a man ought to do some good in the world, not end up feeling helpless and poor of spirit. He swore when he moved his family north that he'd make up for what happened at the Furnace Company, and now, as God was his witness, he would." The roots of his idealism lie in ambitions that stem from these blows, but he discovers that more than dreams are required to empower and maintain an entirely different economic system that is based on trust and cooperation.

The community being described is not only historically accurate, but there were many such utopian ventures scattered among around the country at that time. Relatively little has been written about the daily lives of their inhabitants, which lends a special attraction to the blend of history and fictional recreation in Eden Waits.

Readers needn't be history buffs to appreciate this early American saga, however. Abraham and Elizabeth's efforts are lively, realistic, engrossing adventures about early mill workers, lumberjacks, visions of godliness, product-sharing communities and their evolution, and worries over success and failure.

All this is set against Michigan's harsh weather and the backdrop of family, friends, and changing political and personal relationships. These facets contribute to a sometimes-stormy, thought-provoking series of encounters between community members and the outside world in an engrossing tale of controversy and increasing strife.

As the Byers family contrasts their idealistic, God-driven vision with the realities of managing people and adversity, readers receive a warm, involving account firmly rooted in the history of such utopian colonies.

With its astute blend of psychological and historical insights, Eden Waits proves an enlightening, engrossing read that's highly recommended for early American history buffs and general-interest readers who look for a sense of daily interactions and psychological and spiritual struggles in their stories.

The Language Theater
Maria Beatty
The Language Theater
9781543983142, $59.95

Most agree that grammar is central to good communication. Many will also add that grammar books tend to be dull and difficult to absorb. Having a lively, colorful, succinctly arranged presentation of grammatical basics encourages kids (and many an adult) to absorb these rules almost effortlessly.

The Language Theater: A Fun, Fully-illustrated Grammar Book does just that, as it is designed to be an appealing, imaginative textbook for students, parents, and educators alike. Award-winning Illustrator Bill Skrief's colorful, whimsical and captivating illustrations blend seamlessly with the text to help simplify and clarify the foundations of grammar's rules.

Career teacher Maria Beatty's link between grammar and acting is created by making each part of speech an "actor" who enters The Language Theater to perform their specific grammatical functions as they interact with the rest of the cast. Lest educators think this is all fun and games, it should be noted that each chapter's discussion concludes with concrete exercises and drawing activities designed to reinforce learning by adding a playful element that sums up the lessons. (A separate exercise workbook is being penned now and is due out in 2020.)

Engaging illustrations pair with short textual explanations, avoiding the usual too-lengthy explanations of the typical grammar primer. In addition, chapter arrangements by grammatical "Performer" ('Pronoun' and 'Preposition', to name just a few) clarify the idea being learned at each stage and allows adults to quickly locate a specific lesson.

Kids and adults seeking easy refresher courses aren't the only ones who will benefit from this approach. ESL students who require a style of visual reinforcement that comes with specific examples of usage and rules will find The Language Theater's stage focus provides a fun learning method.

Whether it's for young learners, adults looking for simple explanations, or ESL students who can't seem to grasp the usual text-laden tome, The Language Theater provides a uniquely different approach that pairs English language insights with a lively theatrical interpretation that's easy to understand.

What the Owls Know
Paul Bernstein
Kelsay Books
9781950462100 $16.00

Poetry collections run the gamut in themes, often leaning towards the philosophical and ethereal. The best of them describe processes of absorbing knowledge and perceiving environment, and this is exactly where What the Owls Know lies: in an atmospheric milieu which juxtaposes personal experience with reflective insights.

Perhaps his approach is so effective because Paul Bernstein reflects on transformative journeys sparked by aging, and uses his vantage point of years gone by to analyze social situations, personal growth, and world changes alike.

The title poem captures this process perfectly, drawing connections between nature, life lessons, and daily life: "My people know that spirits/speak to us through owls,/hooting threats of sickness/and approaching doom./They fear the owls/and do not speak of them./But I was one of those who listen,/brooding on secrets/the dead alone can tell/until they hatch."

This poem sets the stage for other insights that range from personal introspection ("I matriculated in the Seven/Deadly Sins with a double major/in Sloth and Lust. Now I'm hung up/between languor and longing/with hard desire, clean sheets,/and a bewildered appetite.") to the powerful poem 'Close Encounter', which expands from its initial inspiration from the movie ("In Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, three characters reach the Devil's Tower. Two get to the top. The third never made it. This is his story."). In doing so, it becomes the kind of description that could suit many circumstances, from the promise of freedom to the novice soldier who envisions the glory of battle and the new heights of new experience and change, but falls from grace instead.

The "choice to see or not see" and the options to shape hearts and minds or deal with the revenges of the world and the ravages of love are each described in succinct, visionary, compelling poems.

These diverse themes contribute to a powerful, unified, reflective work in What the Owls Know - a smorgasbord of philosophical, psychological, and historical reflection that holds the power to draw in poets and general readers alike. Life is captured in all its versatile flow - sometimes with rhyme, but most often without, as the structure and subject require.

The best poetry collections provide thought-provoking, evocative verses that linger in mind and heart long after the read. What the Owls Know is one of them.

The Eighth Wonder of the World
Jordan Plevnes
Plamen Press
9780996072267, $16.00

In his last seconds of life in Berlin in 1989, protagonist Alexander Simsar envisions a monument that not only celebrates humanity's achievements, but possibly represents the pinnacle of an individual life lived futilely. Such an achievement would be deemed the Eighth Wonder of the World, and would be a unifying ideal that embraces all peoples, purposes, and achievements.

Dreams of humanity's struggles and God's will are nothing new to Alexander. At an early age, he fell asleep at his father's funeral in a small Macedonian village and dreamed of holding the world in his hands, admonished by his individual history and that of humanity to carve a legacy in stone where: " will either leave your name in it, like on a grave, or turn its stony silence into a thought that lives eternally!"

The dream affects his life - but not in the way the reader would imagine, because life itself twists and changes its meaning and adds a price to achievement that Alexander (who should be great, but isn't) hasn't paid.

As he makes a political and social case for building an unprecedented relic reflecting humanity's meaning, Alexander reviews Europe's history, condition, and the reasons why such a gesture is essential: "Europe needs such a new wonder of the world to overcome the historical logic of its existence, which is marked by a huge machine of death by the two dominant ideologies of the twentieth century, fascism and communism."

Alexander garners contributions towards his visionary project from such unlikely sources as singing on a plane bound for Vienna, promoting his cause to those who have but a cursory interest in the architect's ideals and background as a survivor of Berlin and the small world of his native Macedonia.

As Alexander pursues the dream of his youth, involving his wife and others in his pursuit of the construction of the Cradle of the World in his own village, charged with the idea that "...the cradle and the coffin are the same everywhere, in all religions and all languages. Only birth and death are always the same everywhere!", he brings everyone along on a political, philosophical, and artistic satirical observation of history and culture.

Others comment on the fallacies of his dream and thinking, but Alexander moves ever further from mainstream thought and into worlds bordered by self-centeredness, a touch of insanity, and philosophical conundrums: "The type of perspective on man's presence on earth that your so-called Eighth Wonder of the World or Cradle of the World opens up could have fatal consequences for the 'pale-faced biped' in all his multicolored versions. It could bring about the complete annihilation of the human race so dear to you!"

It's difficult to neatly identify the potential reader of The Eighth Wonder of the World, because at the root of this appreciation should be affection for literary reads and the traditions and high drama of the tragedies this story spoofs and reflects upon. History readers will find these literary devices to be intriguing, while literature readers will appreciate the incorporation of traditional satirical processes within the story of visionary Alexander's downfall and redemption.

Reminiscent of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Shakespeare's tragedies, and the best of philosophical inspection, the style and presentation of The Eighth Wonder of the World incorporates a lively yet complex voice that will especially delight readers who enjoy challenging analyses of the human condition: "If I had fallen from a lesser height

I would have made it lower because, unlike the collective orientation of the Seventh Wonder of the World, with the Eighth Wonder of the World I am proposing not a collective, but an individual and yet international form of reconciliation, especially as the peoples taken collectively, and individuals seen individually, are not reconciled with each other and therefore produce death..."

The result is at once a satire; a celebration; a close inspection of the intersection of history, art and philosophy; and most of all, the revelations and transitions of a man forced to bring his lifelong vision beyond his Macadonian roots, to the world.

Not for the casual audience, The Eighth Wonder of the World will delight literature enthusiasts with a style and approach that leaves literary readers reflecting on the nature of Alexander's passion and life long after they're over (both the life and the story).

Farewell and a Handkerchief - Poems from the Road
Vitezslav Nezval, author
Translated by Roman Kostovski
Plamen Press
9780996072243, $18.00

Farewell and a Handkerchief - Poems from the Road is translated from the Czech and provides poems created by a 1930s classic poet who became one of the founders of the "The Czech Surrealist Group" and who edited the journal Surrealisms.

Between his unique ability to incorporate Czech style and approaches to poetry and writings to his fostering of surrealistic elements outside of their French roots, Vitezslav Nezval is a formidable, notable literary figure. Yet, many outside of the literary circles of Czechoslovakia will be unfamiliar with his name and history, which makes this collection even more important.

Even avid poetry readers are unlikely to know about the Czech fondness for Nezval's 'Sbohem a satecek' (Farewell and a Handkerchief), which captures his travel experiences and cultural encounters through Europe in the 1930s. The handkerchief of sadness with which he waves goodbye to his native land becomes a symbol not just of leaving, but of returning, as these poems introduce new beginnings as well as the end of familiar understandings about the world.

From references to death, sleep, and departures to the crash of preconceived impressions of Europe's most iconic cities ("Oh how disappointing are the cities we dream about!"), Farewell and a Handkerchief successfully captures the sights, smells, and impact of ventures on land and sea alike. It's especially strong in depicting encounters which, tinged with the perceptions of home, prove that reality is a greater puzzle than any traveler can fully comprehend: "In a shabby old train amongst bags, nets, and covers/Today was the first time I met Marseille sailors/They were blue as the fish meat, and frightening as well/They brought me the sea. They carried its smell."

Few poems could be more evocative and startling than 'Gunshots', for yet another example of Nezval's poetic prowess in describing foreign lands: "When I passed through Nice I stopped in Cimiez/Where in its empty gardens and villas/The water in the swimming pools/Had turned green/But there were enough roses to cover the stench/Capitalism decayed in the breeze of their scent/The hotels were haunted and the villas were closed/Opulence without people turned buildings into ghosts/I felt as if I had stumbled on Pompeii/Even the echoes of my footstep frightened me that day..."

Nezval's poetry captures the cultural wasteland of a bygone era in Europe, but it also represents a close inspection of contrasts between wealth and poverty, expectation and reality, and the surrealistic experience involved in choosing to venture well beyond familiar territory.

Poetry fans will find Farewell and a Handkerchief a powerfully evocative read that blends avant-garde observation and literary style with reflections the literary poetry enthusiast can readily absorb.

As a figurehead of 1930s Czech literature, Farewell and a Handkerchief deserves a place in any comprehensive library of European literary figures.

Sisyphus and I
Ilja Kostovski, author
Translated by Jack Hirschman and Donald Hitchcock
Plamen Press
9780996072243, $14.98

Sisyphus and I is a fiery collection of poems written by a Macedonian poet who traveled across the U.S. in the late 1970s, and captures the powerful voice of an observer of different cultures who tackles issues of cross-cultural oddities, philosophy, and faith.

Ilja Kostovski challenges God's intention in creating man after forming an Eden on Earth (" saw/That it was good and beautiful/Why did you need me?/Why did you throw a flaming torch/Into your ripe wheat fields?/I know the earth could easily exist/Without man, without me/Like a lamb without a wild beast/Like a dove without a falcon or eagle/Without hate, without greed/Without the knowledge of good and evil..."), considers the effects of futile pursuits and punishments in his signature poem 'Sisyphus and I' ("Tell me, gods, which one of you/Bound me to the cliffs?/Why did you place me among the thieves?/Not just the one stone/In the myth of Sisyphus/But thousands of stones/Came pouring down on me..."), and rages against the ironies of modernity, sorrow, and belief (whether it be in spirituality or the human condition) in 'Sermon at the Washington Mount' (translated by Donald Hitchcock), in which he calls upon poets across the country to "Get out from your well-heated lavatories/From behind your facades, your rusted chariots/Look at the sky - heaven is pregnant/Very soon it will give birth to some/New rhyme of free-versed idiots/I hear America is not singing anymore/All songs are dead/And you are the executioner..."

Ilja Kostovski's passionate voice translates well and needs no interpretation to prove accessible to modern American poets and literary readers. It's a call to action and a cry against the confusing social, political, and personal forces at work in modern society, offering a vivid representation of the dangers of complacency and isolation.

Ilja Kostovski's work belongs not only in modern poetry libraries, but should serve as a strong starting point for discussions of contemporary poetry's role in social inspection and criticism.

The Mithras Conspiracy
M.J. Polelle
Lido Press
9780960086306, $14.95, Paper
9780960089313, $3.99, Ebook

The Mithras Conspiracy grounds its action in Italy, but keeps it rooted in the mystery genre with a dash of thriller elements as it focuses on Detective Marco Leone's efforts to solve the murder of an estranged friend who was involved in Vatican politics and secrets. When Leone discovers that his former friend's murder is just one in a series of mysterious assassinations involving the Vatican and scrolls that could rewrite history, he becomes embroiled in an investigation with far-reaching implications for European and Catholic political and social influences alike.

A journey to a chaotic Italian government in shambles and a Catholic pope incapacitated involves American scholars, who become pivot points in a battle between a businessman and a religious figure. The cult of Mithras is uncovered, and Leone begins to make some dangerous connections between its past and present which leads to threats not only to his own life, but present-day world order.

Thriller and mystery genres coalesce in a gripping saga that uncovers secrets, lost Roman literature, special interests and influences, and enemies who will stop at nothing to harm him and keep their secrets.

Fans of detective mysteries and international conspiracy-based thrillers receive a vivid, fast-paced story that builds a solid plot, adding twists and turns even a seasoned suspense reader won't see coming.

It excels in not only high drama and confrontations, but incorporates the emotional insights and touches that create three-dimensional characters which are believable and absorbing ("Don't be like me, not like me, his father would say, hugging him after a drunken fit of rage, leaving him confused and ashamed of a father coming unglued.").

From beliefs in divine souls to the influence of scammers, the desire for forgiveness and redemption and the increasing seismic tremors that portend further disasters, The Mithras Conspiracy excels in fast-paced confrontations. Its personal, social, and political changes keeps readers engrossed to the end.

The Mithras Conspiracy is highly recommended reading for mystery and thriller fans. These audiences will appreciate the added dose of religious inspection and Italian politics that complicates and enhances the story's tension and development.

Queen of Egypt
Samuel Ebeid
D.X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072608, $18.95, Paper, $4.89, Kindle

Queen of Egypt may sound like historical fiction set 5,000 years in the past, but it actually runs more along the lines of sci-fi as it surveys alien involvements in early Egyptian culture and what happens when their heralds are kidnapped during a particularly bloody political struggle in that country.

Drawn into battle, the Adorians (known to the Egyptians as People from the Sky, or the Celestials) threaten the land even as the overthrown Princess Merit and her people struggle to regain her throne and subdue the violence.

Add to the scenario the fact that both forces have magic and mythical creatures on their side and a particularly intriguing story evolves that injects intrigue, struggle, and magical influences into the broader examination of Egypt's competing factions and social and political changes.

The first thing to note about this story is the wealth of background detail built into its presentation. Samuel Ebeid takes the time to craft a solid, detailed portrait of this early world and all its nuances: "For the first time in the last three hundred years, two rulers governed the great kingdom of Egypt. Ironically, these two potentates were a brother and sister, who had to wear the old crowns, rolling the kingdom back to the ages before King Menes of the first dynasty. The last pharaoh to wear the Pschent was their father, King Varis, who had ascended the throne after a manufactured rebellion against Senu IV. Hamees took a moment recalling how she ended up on, not the Throne of Egypt, instead, the throne of Upper Egypt."

While this may stymie readers who look for nonstop action and only light background structure, it's one of the keys to why Queen of Egypt works so well. Armed with a thorough understanding of political and social atmosphere and motivations, readers can easily comprehend how the major players in this story make decisions based on their experience, influences, and Egypt's political struggles.

As Princess Merit and Moeris embark on a dangerous journey, she must both soothe those around her and make her own determinations about actions that will have the best impact on not just her future, but her kingdom.

As failed assassination attempts, insurgency, and hidden, stolen treasures emerge along with giant spiders and alien Adorians forced to take sides, readers receive a story that is absorbing and complex. Elements of early Egyptian culture appear alongside fantasy embellishments to keep readers involved in both familiar and unfamiliar changing scenarios.

New priests, opportunities, and a deadly spell that could destroy everything add to a gripping story that is hard to put down.

It should be cautioned that Queen of Egypt is not a stand-alone story, but ends with a cliffhanger. Readers who absorb this unusual scenario and read, with bated breath, of Princess Merit's adventures will find the mercurial conclusion is filled with the tantalizing promise of more to come.

Lockett's Crucible
T.J. Johnston
Vivus Historical Press
9780578465784, $13.99, paperback, $3.99 kindle

The Western Theater of the Civil War comes to life in Lockett's Crucible, which describes the dilemma faced by Lieutenant James Lockett, a Union soldier who helped a Confederate spy and her father escape a Union trap. While readers may expect his story to center on keeping this secret and facing its consequences, this is only one of the plots of a vivid story that brings to life not only ethical dilemmas and military choices, but the relationships between siblings, Americans, and those who battle on either side.

"This war is the damndest thing," Lockett grumbles at the very beginning of the story. Events keep tumbling into irony and serendipity as Lockett encounters Anna's brother Ambrose Tucker, learns about the fine art of hiding from a slave who knows all its nuances, and faces Confederate artillery batteries and a growing forbidden love for one who keeps entering and leaving his life.

T.J. Johnston excels at juxtaposing military encounters and action with matters of the heart and challenges to moral and ethical beliefs. Lockett finds himself torn, as many Americans were, between honor and love. On one level, he knows his duty and supports it. On the other hand, he firmly believes the war is tearing apart everything of value in his life - including his own convictions.

Nothing is black and white in Lockett's Crucible - neither battles nor loyalties. Perhaps this is the greatest message of a story that goes beyond another Civil War description to probe the changing minds and perceptions of everyone involved at different levels of conflict, from common soldiers and military leaders to those who operate outside of battle circles to save their lives and homes.

From betrayals to illusions, hope, and cruelty, Lockett faces ongoing challenges that test his leadership, abilities, and vision of not only his own future, but that of America.

Another strength lies in Johnston's contrast between experiences at Perryville and other arenas of the Western Theater. Where other Civil War novels often center upon one conflict or region, this story moves between Yankee and Reb experience and perspectives as the war moves through different areas.

The result is a more detailed, more absorbing Civil War description than most - one which offers not just precise military description and vivid accounts of battle, but contrasting insights into fidelity and mercurial alliances. These shift as much as the physical battles, giving readers a specific sense of what the Western Theater involved as it moved east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachians and beyond.

Follow T.J. on, Instagram at tjjohnstonauthor, or at

Kalyani Pardeshi
Independently Published
9781079160369, $11.99, Paper, $2.99, Kindle

Unbullied: 14 Techniques to Silence the Critics - Externally and Internally empowers victims to handle bullies in various ways and stands out from the wealth of books about bullying both because it's written for teenagers, their parents, and educators, and because it advises victims to step up with specific techniques for confronting their attackers.

The second standout feature of Unbullied is that it comes not from a professional counselor's perspective, but from an author who has successfully confronted bullying and developed her own proven techniques to thwart it ("I've faced bullying throughout my life: in school, in the workplace, and within family. I think it's safe to say that this has given me enough experience to talk about this subject with the benefit of hindsight.").

Unbullied creates more than an autobiographical coverage or analysis. Its foundation lies in exercises designed to help victims strengthen and reprogram their brains to support positive self-perceptions before honing the kinds of responses that thwart bullies and their emotionally debilitating methods of demeaning those around them.

As chapters move from self-strengthening to lessons that can be learned from bullying, Pardeshi excels in synthesizing life lessons through a combination of sharing experience and insights: "The most important lesson I learnt in this was that even if there's a huge crowd of people picking on you and not accepting you as you are, there will always be someone who will accept you as you are and will not judge you. They will consider you as one of their own. Another lesson I also learnt is that there is always a safe haven no matter how difficult the situation may seem. The problem is, we tend to focus so much on the hurt we feel from those who are bullying us that we forget we do have safe spaces."

The result goes where few others venture as it charts the reactions, support, and the detrimental advice and behaviors of everyone from parents to other adults and peers. The case history examples from personal experience are invaluable keys to understanding how to handle not just bullies, but the psychological blows caused by different kinds of bullying.

It took Kalyani Pardeshi some thirty years to get to a place where bullying didn't crush and dominate her spirit. But it doesn't have to take the reader anywhere near this long to emulate her, given the specific techniques and approaches she shares in Unbullied, which should be in the early hands of anyone who is struggling with the effects of bullying behavior.

A Woman of the Road
Amy Wolf
Lone Wolf Press Ltd.
9781696293563 $10.95 pbk
B07YXK7YPL, $0.99 Kindle

A Woman of the Road takes the theme of a lone wanderer and adds a female twist and historical backdrop to the story as Margaret resists marriage as her destiny, takes to the road, and also confronts her attraction to the worldly figure Aventis.

The history comes from a romp through England, Robin Hood-style, as Megs faces dashing, cloaked, pistol-carrying mentors, King Charles's own carriages and plundering behaviors, and different forms of imprisonment.

Amy Wolf crafts a setting so vivid that one can almost feel the cobblestones and bouncing horses: "As the sun arced west, we two rode north toward London. Jeffries stopped at a Tudor shop on the outskirts while I contemplated dismounting to save my aching rear. I looked around this block, known for its disrepute: nothing but shoddy pawn shops, ale houses, and barely cobbled roads." The descriptions of places to food ("We two have ridden hard and are practically starving, so bring your best bread and cheese, a brace of pigeons, and a dozen scotch collops. We shall consider a fruit pie later.") are just as compellingly realistic as the adventure Megs faces in her new life, as well as its challenges.

Although A Woman of the Road is the first book in a trilogy, it should also be noted that Wolf crafts a fine stand-alone story that leaves the door ajar for more adventure, yet produces a satisfyingly complete ending to Megs' beginning education on the ways of the road and political entanglements.

The added touches of wry humor throughout also enhance the story line as Megs rides through her world and forms the roots of her own legend.

Wolf's descriptions and action remain a key reason why A Woman of the Road is so gripping, from widespread threats from plague to gallows threats and a conflagration that consumes everything around the band of plunderers: "St. Paul's was actually melting. This church, which had stood for hundreds of years, came to a crackling end as lead from its roof poured into the streets. We were forced to run for our lives as stones from walls gave way, chasing us like cannonballs. There was no tolling of bells to mourn the death of St. Paul's for no one was there to ring them; besides, the bells surely formed a silver river flowing at our feet..."

As the feisty Megs becomes more knowledgeable about politics, plundering, and profit, she gains confidence and power that translates to a growing ability to control her own fate. A Woman of the Road is energetic, engrossing, and powered by Megs and her learning curve as she steps into a very different identity and learns to accept something she once wholeheartedly rejected.

Readers looking for a story that holds a solid historical backdrop, yet focuses on the lively personality of a woman faced with many possibilities for her life, will find A Woman of the Road a fun, revealing read that grasps the heart with an adventure that romps through Puritans, royalty, faith, and oppressive laws alike.

Megs is a fitting vehicle for exploring all these facets of an evolving society and her encounters with court and commoners alike is thoroughly engrossing, satisfyingly unpredictable, and powerfully compelling.

Two-Star Hotel
Mike Avitabile
Lumberloft Press
9780999374382 $TBA

Narrator Antonio Palmieri is an artist with a fixation on boats and their possibilities. Piper and Grant are visitors to Paris who have different perspectives on the city and its art. Grant is attracted to painting, while Piper already feels she is wasting her Parisian experience in a hotel that falls short of her usual standards, when an unexpected bounty falls into their laps that changes everything.

Two-Star Hotel explores disparate lives and purposes that revolve around art, shifting perspectives, and the relationships between Wendy, Sam, Grant, Piper, Laurent, and others.

Paintings and hotels become the focal points for change in an international romp that begins in Paris and expands to touch London, Ohio, Los Angeles, and broken dreams. Mike Avitabile adds energy to this changing story by moving between first- and third-person insights, peppering it with powerful reflections into not just art and environment, but people's motivations and lives: "Is this punishment for all of the women? I know plenty of other men who do the same thing, and none of them have had their lives taken away.

Sure, some die here and there, natural causes and other expected maladies, but this? This is worse than death. This is hopeless. None of them are left to wonder if their entire existence was a facade, decades of memories of raising children and maintaining a house and avoiding the destruction of a marriage transformed into what others are calling a complete fabrication created in the recesses of my mind. What has become of me? And why me?"

Memories changed, realities and fantasies, and a stunning painting that stands at the crux of a whirlwind of challenges makes for a story that is complex, involving, and intricately tied to links between art, artist, and subject.

As Grant vanishes somewhere in Europe and good friends make decisions to separate, move, and change, Two-Star Hotel becomes the backdrop for a dangerous game that forces its participants to sort through past and present emotions and change and challenge their lives to reassess karma, relationships, and choices.

At the heart of everything is an odd painting, a passionate painter, and a work that holds the ability to carry its viewer into new worlds just by pursuing its elusive ownership and creator.

Antonio Palmieri is passionate about creating new worlds. His latest effort embraces mystery and free choice for all its subjects and their interactions.

Warm, passionate, and steeped not just in European atmosphere but the changing ambitions and connections between disparate characters, Two-Star Hotel is an outstanding survey that keeps readers engaged and guessing even as it comes full circle to an unexpected, artistically pleasing conclusion.

Smokescreen: A Jewish Approach to Stop Smoking
Bruce Forman, PhD
WellBridge Books
9781942497288, $24.95, Paper, $16.95, Kindle

At first glance, Smokescreen: A Jewish Approach to Stop Smoking feels puzzling. With all the books about smoking on the market today, why should one need a book with a 'Jewish approach' in particular? The answer to this question lies in Smokescreen's focus not just on quitting, but on practical ideas for doing so, based on Jewish philosophy and tenets.

Healing prayers, psalms, and Rabbi insights comprise an introductory chapter that blends Jewish spirituality into the effort to avoid smoking, while the next chapter surveys the techniques and impact of mindfulness, compassion, and meditation on a smoker's efforts to kick the habit.

Lessons from Jewish spirituality and evolutionary psychology alike provide specific guidance and insights lacking in the usual approach to smoking, creating an environment which encourages all people, Jewish or not, to more closely link their desires, objectives, and ideals to daily living.

From a general history of how cigarettes infiltrated society in general to the Jewish history surrounding them (such as the instigation of 'kosher' cigarettes, which created a tacit approval for Jewish smoking), Smokescreen excels in tracing uniquely Jewish patterns and approaches to tobacco not just in the US, but around the world, linking them to concerns and values common to everyone.

Smokescreen goes beyond a strategy for anti-smoking to delve into the roots and ideals of Jewish thought by considering the basic principles which apply to health and smoking, featuring Judaic anecdotes about healing, the sick, and the mitzvah of taking care of one's health.

This is not to say that Smokescreen is entirely spiritual or wholly ethereal in its approach. Plenty of practical tips help smokers examine their logic and thoughts, as in a 'Top 20 Foolish Beliefs About Smoking' list that encourages users to analyze underlying beliefs and their fallacies.

The result is truly a different approach - a self-help guide oriented to Jewish and spiritual readers alike that reinforces the ideals of Judaism while specifically addressing the challenges of smoking and maintaining one's health.

Smokescreen is highly recommended reading not just for Jewish smokers looking to kick the habit, but for any reader looking for concrete spiritual and psychological links between belief systems and the daily challenges of managing health and confronting addiction.

Speaking Being
Bruce Hyde and Drew Kopp
9781119549901, $45.00

Speaking Being: Werner Erhard, Martin Heidegger, and a New Possibility of Being Human is especially recommended reading for college-level and graduate students, who will find it a scholarly, in-depth probe of the ideas and methods Werner Erhard created in an innovative program he called The Forum.

More than just a description of Erhard's communication experiment with The Forum, Speaking Being offers a transcript of a course Erhard led in 1989, as well as a comparative analysis of Erhard's ideas with the philosophy of the thinker Martin Heidegger.

That this transcript is being presented here for the first time makes it an even more important acquisition for any Erhard collection. It captures paradigms that both Erhard and Heidegger questioned, reviews models that came from experiments in thinking processes, analyzes forum sessions which are arranged chronologically, and covers conversations between Erhard and Forum participants, and reflects on cultural baggage, meaningful responses, conversations that operate at cross purposes, and more.

Speaking Being provides a unique and unparalleled opportunity to delve into not just philosophical perceptions and concepts, but their integral relationships in the real world via the communication process Erhard practices, which the authors call "ontological rhetoric."

Its comparative dialogues are key to understanding Erhard's methodology on more than one level, offering students who already have a foundation in his works a rare, detailed opportunity to grasp their underlying principles in action in a dynamic environment.

Students of philosophy, communication studies, and other disciplines interested in the foundations of rhetoric and belief systems will find this book especially effective for detailed classroom debate and discussion.

Sidebars of detail balancing Heidegger's principles of the foundations of a dialogue for the presencing of Being, quotes from source materials, and session notes that provide historical precedent round out this powerful survey. Speaking Being should be required reading for college-level students who already have a basic foundation in rhetoric and philosophy, who are ready to delve into the actual applications of their thinking prowess.

Just like Erhard's original ideas, Speaking Being: Werner Erhard, Martin Heidegger, and a New Possibility of Being Human should not be relegated to solitary pursuit and study. It is meant for discussion in the same kind of dynamic environment Erhard himself fostered.

Destiny's War: Saladin's Secret
Pyram King
Independently Published
9781734135800, $TBA
9781734135817, $2.99, ebook

The first book in the historical fantasy series Destiny's War opens with the advent of the First World War that affects all the empires on the planet, appearing as a series of adventures that operate as independent novellas and stand-alone contributions to the greater story.

Events are narrated through the diaries and perspective of teen Francis Marion Jäger, who weaves together two worlds: the Great War of the early twentieth century, and the ancient world. Saladin's Secret introduces this war and the mystery of Saladin's secret.

It's rare to see a historical fantasy piece so thoroughly rooted in actual historical events, even for an alternate history piece such as this. Pyram King's meticulous research into the culture and sects of the Middle East and the theater of World War 1 (which is, surprisingly, much less covered in historical surveys of the times) provides much insights into Saladin, Templars, Sin?n, Kahn, and more.

Maps, footnoted references to historical facts, and discussions of World War 1 experience blend fiction and fact with a special flair for detail that captures an unusual 'you are there' feel: "The acrid stink of gunpowder fills my nose, and makes my eyes water. My lungs are raw. My ears ring, muting the cracks of gunfire and screams. I am unable to process what is happening; I have no muscle memory for battle. I stand, frozen, staring at the man I have just shot."

And this is the second powerful note to Destiny's War: its ability to capture, through the eyes and experiences of a young man, the "thin line between life and death" and the moral and ethical choices that stem from war and life-changing battles.

As Mare navigates both battles and mysteries of the Middle East, readers are treated to a tense, gripping series of encounters that contrast military encounters with his growing realization of the power of an ancient artifact to change everything. As the ancient war's aftermath begins to shadow his own experiences and involvement in battles, Mare comes to recognize a far greater purpose to his life, bringing readers into an arena packed with cloaked enemies and cults.

Describing Destiny's War: Saladin's Secret as an alternative history alone would be somewhat of a disservice. Few alternative histories hold such exacting detail about past and present events; most don't add footnoted research, maps, and illustrations to the story; and few hold the ability to pair the paradigm-changing world of a young adventurer with the realities of war and secrets of the past.

Think a solid historical piece paired with an Indiana Jones-style adventure and toss in some historical fantasy devices to get an idea of the flavor and absorbing read that is Destiny's War: Saladin's Secret. It's a vivid work highly recommended for alternative history fantasy fans who like more than a light dose of real-world history in the mix.

Susan Fleet
Music & Mayhem Press
9781732130111, $15.00
B07Z2B42M7, $3.99, Kindle

Payback is the 9th book in the Frank Renzi crime thriller series to revolve around homicide detective Renzi's world, but requires no prior background to prove accessible to newcomers.

Mobster Brian Devlin, a man Renzi put in jail fifteen years ago, is out of prison and seeking revenge. But it would be too easy just to kill Renzi. First, Devlin intends to make him suffer by destroying everything Renzi holds dear. He begins with attacks on Renzi's father and daughter, accompanied by ransom demands and threats.

But Renzi isn't just a detective. He's fully capable of exacting his own form of payback. And so the story assumes a cat-and-mouse atmosphere as it explores the back-and-forth plays of two clever men who attack each other with intelligent chess-like moves and counterpoints.

Readers who enjoy crime stories that center as much on personal dilemmas as professional challenges will find Payback a powerful story. The ransom request isn't just for revenge - it, too, is a form of clever payback, requiring Renzi to make good on the ultimate impact of his efforts to quash the mobster's income stream.

Even the actual kidnapper faces a problem as Devlin's sister begins to get cozy with her victim and faces a series of conundrums about her choices and their impact.

Payback becomes a vivid tale of cause, effect, and confrontation, immersing readers in multifaceted layers of intrigue that involve them in not just Renzi's struggles, but those of Devlin and others around them.

Each prepares for the ultimate confrontation in a different way, and each faces forms of paybacks and revenge that they never anticipated.

Detective and thriller readers alike will find these interplays and actions absorbing and hard to put down, creating a clash between titans that is riveting right up to an unpredictable conclusion that closes some doors and opens new ones for Renzi and his circle.

Everybody Poops!
Justine Avery & Olga Zhuravlova
Suteki Creative
9781948124386, $14.95, Hardcover
9781948124379, $7.95, Paper
9781948124355, $4.99, Ebook

Everybody Poops! is a fun, 36-page picture book discussion of defecation and its universal ties to humanity.

The story features bright, colorful drawings as it moves through identifying people who poop; from various family members to businessmen, scuba divers, sports personalities, and more.

After reviewing humanity's pooping history, the story moves into the animal world, emphasizing that every body on the planet poops in various ways, places, and forms.

The conclusion will surprise some, but supports the idea that poop is nothing to be ashamed of, and actually is something to celebrate.

The clear message and involving story is presented in a lively format that lends to parental read-aloud to small children just beginning to realize their own pooping abilities and their place in the world.

The Other Magic
Derrick Smythe
Dorean Press
9781734095302, $22.00, Paperback
9781734095319, $.99, Ebook

The Other Magic is the first book in the Passage to Dawn series, exploring a land where only clerics can practice magic. Kibure is only a slave. He shouldn't have any access to such powers, but when he demonstrates otherwise during an emergency, the inexplicable nightmares he's experiencing turn into a frightening reality.

Lost stories and centuries-old magic flavor an unexpected journey undertaken with a defiant priestess who sees in Kibure something more than a slave who has dabbled in the forbidden. Readers are treated to a wide-ranging adventure that pits two unlikely heroes against social and political forces well beyond their experience.

At the same time, in another land far away, Prince Aynward supports Kingdom customs, embarks on an exodus, and faces his own mishaps and perils.

Readers receive a cast of characters from various segments of this society who hold their special interests at heart as they face issues of magic, opposing belief systems, and social change.

The Other Magic poses a series of conundrums and curses, from Kibure's hesitant use of his magical abilities to get what he wants to spiritual leader Grobennar's belief in the power of his god Klerós and his ability to influence the God-King who defies his teachings. It deftly follows Kibure's uncertain steps as his journey and decisions threaten the few people he's come to trust and call friends.

Defying the Empire holds its price. Readers will find thoroughly engrossing Kibure's moral, ethical, and personal challenges as he navigates an increasingly dangerous world cognizant not only of his growing abilities, but the ultimate impact of his decisions.

Readers interested in sci-fi and fantasy stories of quests, magic, and political entanglements will be delighted to find that The Other Magic expertly balances all of these into a story that will hold their interest until the very end. It's a thoroughly engrossing opening to a journey that examines not just Kibure's evolution, but the deadly challenges that face Prince Aynward and force him into a terrible dilemma.

Always Be You
Ioana Stoian
Busy Hands Books
9780957619210, $12.95

Always Be You provides a gender-neutral board book for youngsters and their read-aloud parents with lovely hand-cut paper illustrations by Dawn M. Cardona that accompany a gentle rhyme providing a positive perspective on individuality.

At first glance, the story would seem to be about color identification. Soon the underlying message about diversity and celebrating different colors comes to light, creating a positive series of messages that basically maintain that no color, emotion, or choice in loving another is 'bad'.

It's difficult to imagine a better way of giving a message about acceptance, diversity, and love to a very young reader. Always Be You is the perfect introduction for kids who normally would be too young to absorb such a message. This audience will be easily able to understand the very simple, compelling lesson in this easy reader.

Parents and educators seeking a board book primer with a powerful yet bright, happy perspective on accepting others and handling emotions will find Always Be You artistic, accessible, and involving.

Geraldina & the Compass Rose
Geraldine Brown Giomblanco
GBG Books
9781733742207, $18.99, Paper, $6.99, Kindle

Geraldina & the Compass Rose; One Woman's Faith-Filled Journey To Find Love is a memoir many women will find compelling, with its foundations in faith and convictions tested by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco's quest to find the right man to complete her world.

Unlike other stories of faith and love, Geraldine Brown Giomblanco waited some thirty years to find her match, finding love after age fifty, based on prayers, hope, and remaining stalwart in the face of failure. She believed in love as strongly as in God, desired this love in a martial relationship, and views love as "...a state of grace that makes you want to be your best and give your best to others."

As she clarifies her intentions, creates a list of "Fifty Things I Want in a Man", and fields chance encounters and potential relationships that fizzle for different reasons, readers are introduced to a world controlled not just by possibilities and intentions, but an overlay of belief that reinforces morals, ethics, and values about romance.

Giomblanco learned about acts of service from her grandmother, who also imparted lessons about strong faith and holding on to convictions. She also absorbed from her a belief in angels, saints, and the spirit world, which helped guide and interpret her experiences.

In many ways, Geraldina & the Compass Rose is as much about staying centered in the face of obstacles and tests of faith and direction as it is about finding true love. Readers who enter this story interested in receiving a roadmap of possibilities will find Giomblanco admonishes her audience to cultivate and explore their own realizations about men and themselves.

Stories of illusions confronted, fairy-tale desires thwarted by cross-purposes, and the differences between initial attraction and real relationships afford lessons to those who are on their own quests: "We were both figuring out who we were and daydreaming about realities we didn't have. We were both judging books by their covers."

Freedom holds its costs, and so does the price of seeking love. Giomblanco comments frequently on these facets of the process: "I've always believed that marriage was a soulful, sacred union that was made of authentic love, not matter-of-fact decision. It wasn't just affection that you could expect to grow into love over time. It was the committed love of two people that grows stronger the longer they are together as "one."

With its powerful comments on faith, belief, love and relationships, and commitments both spiritual and emotional, Geraldina & the Compass Rose is more than a memoir of one woman's quest. It holds the elements of analysis that will lead others to identify what makes for a truly fulfilling, wonderful life, whether the reader is single, searching for love, or in a relationship.

Readers who follow the road of faith and questioning through Geraldine Brown Giomblanco's memoir will find this a moving, rich story of prayers answered, spiritual involvements, and the process of trusting in emotional and spiritual pointers to 'True North'. Geraldina & the Compass Rose is a heartwarming and compelling journey rich in experiences, reflections, and lessons for the faithful.

Dead Cats Don't Meow - Don't Waste the Ninth Life
Tolu' A. Akinyemi
B07P255BWF, $10.98, Paper, $3.93, Kindle

Dead Cats Don't Meow - Don't Waste the Ninth Life is the third book of a poetry series with overriding message: every individual is unique and has the opportunity to contribute to the greater good.

Though other books impart this message through self-help admonitions, Tolu' A. Akinyemi chooses the poetic form to reinforce wisdom and the notion that every individual holds the power to be proactive in the search for personal greatness.

A cat is said to have nine lives. In much the same way, each human harbors individual talents and opportunities which can be grown and cultivated. These poems provide one way of accessing this energy, combining Akinyemi's personal experiences with self, family, and the world with a broader set of lessons about the wellsprings of improvement and aspiration.

Each poem represents a piece of a larger puzzle, with the author, Akinyemi, serving as a mentor of free verse to literary students who would blend psychological and philosophical perspectives into their worldviews.

By choosing the poetic structure to impart these messages, Akinyemi makes accessible thoughts of encouragement, reflections on pain and suicide, considerations of love and spouses, and insights on how spoken words can assume powers beyond original intentions: "Some embrace positivity/Others thrive in negativity/You get in equal measure/The harvest of your spoken word."

It should be cautioned that the ideal enthusiast of Dead Cats Don't Meow - Don't Waste the Ninth Life will be the poetry reader who harbors a prior affection for playful free verse and psychological and philosophical insights. Such a reader should be able to accept admonitions couched in poetic form and advice from an unexpected survivor of life's slings and arrows.

This audience will find Akinyemi's insights to be succinct, pointed, positive guideposts to a better life perspective, and will welcome the opportunity to use them as discussion and reflection points in the broader literary and psychology community as they explore the semantics and perspectives of life, love, and everything in between.

Never Play Games with the Devil
Tolu' A. Akinyemi
The Roaring Lion Newcastle
B07WPM5ZXX, $8.22, Paper, $2.99, Kindle

Never Play Games with the Devil represents a diverse collection of poems unified not just by three distinct themes; but three personas which poet Tolu' A. Akinyemi assumes as he juxtaposes positive reflections with life lessons and admonitions.

These different voices are at once commanding, playful, and influential, blending satirical observation with passionate entreaties for change and perfection which admonish free verse poetry readers to keep the faith: "You say poverty knows your name & being piss-poor/is your lot./I tell you, life is so unpredictable-like Manchester's/weather-/rain one-minute, intense sunlight the next."

Life events can either imprison or prove empowering forces of change. These sentiments combine with the author's accounts of determination, life legacies, individual strife and pursuits, and personal accountability to evoke not just passion in his readers, but self-reflection.

As with the poet's other works, a prior interest in self-examination and poetry that captures the various struggles, insights, and life experiences that form human nature is a prerequisite to the successful appreciation of Never Play Games with the Devil.

Some poems are autobiographical, some reflect on the common patterns and reactions of everyday human beings, and some offer hope, revelation, and opportunities for new choices, as in 'Sweet for Nothing': "We say so many words that are sweet-for-nothing/Too many attention-grabbing words eroded with the/ passage of time./We build a home on the sand with strangers/from the foundations of emptiness and sweet-for-nothings."

Reflective, insightful, and ultimately inspirational, Never Play Games with the Devil is a collection best digested slowly and thoughtfully. It's a series of insights and admonitions about life's purposes and coping mechanisms for "...not crashing under the weight of the world."

It's Raining Cats! It's Raining Dogs! It's Raining Bats! And Pollywogs!
Sherry West
Morgan James Publishing
9781642793918, $9.95, Paper, $8.69, Kindle

It's Raining Cats! It's Raining Dogs! It's Raining Bats! And Pollywogs! receives fun illustrations by author and illustrator Sherry West, who works with co-illustrator Larkin Stephens-Avery to bring to life the story of a rainstorm that produces more than the usual cats and dogs.

Indeed, every possible creature that can rain down from a zoo of animals falls to earth during this incredible storm. The whimsical, fun, rollicking rhyme is simple enough to lend to read-aloud to the very young.

High and low, fast and slow, these animals fall to earth in a easy reader that can be used to explore different creatures, textures, and shapes. Each falls to earth with a plop, slither, or confused countenance, which especially lends to parental read-aloud complete with sound effects and high drama.

Within the whimsical, fun approach lies a story that will entertain and educate kids with a quirky approach perfect for capturing attention and interest.

Parents who choose It's Raining Cats! It's Raining Dogs! It's Raining Bats! And Pollywogs! will find it a delightful, fun story that is a fanciful, original creation that stands out from the crowd.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Murder, She Wrote: A Time for Murder
Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land
c/o Penguin Group USA
97801984804303, $26.00,

"Murder, She Wrote A Time for Murder" is a special case for mystery author turned sleuth as it is the 50th in the long running series of novels from the popular TV show. This time out it involves a case that Jessica was a part of 25 years ago when she was a school teacher. It also is a retelling of her first involvement into crime solving. It also ties in with a present case that makes the novel so much fun to try to figure how they are related. The Murder She Wrote novels are lighthearted fare in Cabot Cove and other locations but "Murder, She Wrote A Time for Murder is special because we learn more about Jessica and how she became prominent in law enforcement and mystery writing. Fans will love the wonderful addition to the popular series.

The Shape of Night
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9781984820952, $28.00

Taking a break from the popular Rizzoli & Isles series, Gerritsen tells a chilling gothic tale in here newest work "The Shape of Night." Author Ava Collette has a devastating event happen in her life in Boston that forces her to move to take up residence in a small town in Maine where she plans to finish the manuscript for a cookbook she has been working on. In the house she purchases strange things begin to happen including what she believes to be the ghost of a sea captain who once owned the home. She also learns from the townspeople that all of the female owners before her died in mysterious ways. "The Shape of Night" is a stand alone novel that races along, with enjoyable characters caught up in this great eerie twister of suspense that will have readers turning pages until the very end.

Kiss the Girls And Make Them Cry
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
9781501171703, $26.99,

Its been a while since I've reviewed a Clark novel. I am very pleased to say this is the best I have read of all her works. Her writing style has changed to shorter chapters that help drive the narrative along at a break neck pace unlike others of hers I've read. Gina Kane receives an e mail stating that the writer had a terrible experience at her place of work that is a major news network. Gina is intrigued to delve further to find the woman died of mysterious circumstances while out of the country. As she digs further, she finds a lot of other questionable activity with the news network that could be a major news event that also could get Gina killed. "Kiss The Girls And Make Them Cry" is a roller coaster ride until the very last page that is a perfect suspenseful ride all the way to the end.

The Knife Slipped
Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A. A. Fair
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
9781783299270, $9.95,

Most noted for his Perry Mason series, Gardner was also known for many other titles of mystery fare under the name A. A. Fair. "The Knife Slipped" is one of those novels that has been out of print for so long. The style of writing is very different from the Mason books but just as enjoyable with a lead female character who rivals any male private eye for toughness. It is the first Cool and Lam tale that races along to a final ending for readers to want more. Though "The Knife Slipped" is a bit dated it still is an enjoyable mystery that is bound to find new readers to also want more of the titles to be reprinted by Hard Case.

Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780593083130, $28.00,

Stone Barrington takes some much-needed time off in Florida but it is short lived, as he joins a private detective in a complicated tale, of greed that stretches from Florida to Manhattan. Once a cop with the NYPD, Stone is more like the officer he was, as he the criminal activity,7 wherever it goes. Stone novels are fun fare and "Contraband" delivers in a wild excursion of crime fiction.

Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780593083161, $28.00,

After the events in "Contraband" Stone Barrington is once again trying to get some much-needed R&R when he heads to his residence in England but, it does not last as he is recruited by MI6 to take down a ruthless thug with a sinister plot of death and destruction. The stakes are at the highest level as Stone works with the secret service to maintain the security of the world. Along the way are many of the familiar characters readers of the series have come to know as "Stealth" races along to the very end. Woods has for so long taken readers all over the world with suspenseful complicated plots that "Stealth" adds to the Barrington legacy.

Star Destroyers
Edited by Tony Daniel and Christopher Ruocchio
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982124144, $7.99, www,

Hollywood has always shown science fiction with big starships and fantastic battles of aliens and humans. "Star Destroyers" has that and a lot more, in a collection of short stories dealing with the vast depths of space exploration. The tales are also character driven, of how explorers handle other races in war and peace. Some of the best writers of military science fiction are together in a wonderful collection that highlight their many wonderful ways to involve the reader. Some of the authors to look for are David Drake, Jody Lynn Nye, Steve White, Robert Buetttner. In total, there are 15 grand tales of exciting sf. Many of the authors utilize their own military backgrounds to bring a new perspective to the realm of the genre. "Star Destroyers" is a fantastic collection bound to please any fan of science fiction.

A Grand Madness U2 Twenty Years After
Dianne Ebertt Beeaff
Hawkmoon Publications
9780965618878, $24.95,

"The Grand Madness U2 Twenty Years After" is a tale of a fan on the run, to see her favorite band U2, whenever and wherever, on their tours all around the world. The journey tells Dianne Ebertt Beeaff's thoughts on U2 members, concerts, and the music. It is also, a travelogue of all the cities and countries, with observations about attractions, places to stay or eateries, she, and her troop of fans traveled throughout the years to follow U2. Readers of "A Grand Madness U2 Twenty Years After" will enjoy this great behind the scenes expose.

The Hanukkah Bunny
Award-winning story by Mort Laitner
Illustrated by Daniel Oviedo
Transitional Press
9780996036931, $10.00,

Hanukkah through the years, has gotten more and more popular with plenty of things, like cards banners and lots more. "The Hanukkah Bunny" celebrates a little know mythical tale, that is freshly told in a wonderful children's story for all ages to enjoy. "The Hanukkah Bunny" also reveals many other aspects of the holiday not really known until now. "The Hanukkah Bunny" is a perfect gift that even Bugs Bunny would be proud of.

Sophia the Christmas Eve Snow Bunny & the Real Gift
Written by Wanda Luthaman
Illustrated by Mara Reltsma
Lilacs in Literature
9780998195814, $6.99,

Santa needs help delivering all the gifts to everyone in the world, so he commissions a rabbit named Sophia to deliver, presents to all of the orphaned animals that one special night. She takes the job and has a great time racing around the universe, to complete Santa's mission. "Sophia the Christmas Eve Snow Bunny & the Real Gift" has many underlying messages to all of us, including, everyone is special in their own way, in a wonderful children's tale that is for the whole family to celebrates the true meaning of Christmas.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Your Money Made Simple
Russ Crosson
Harvest House Publishers
PO Box 41210, Eugene, OR 97404-0322
9780736976947, $13.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Does successfully making the most of your money feel like a mystery? Are you wondering where it goes or how to get a grip on your spending?

For Christians, there is the New Testament in the Gospel Matthew and the Gospel of Luke warning about trying to serve both God and Mammon (commonly thought to mean money, material wealth, or any entity that promises wealth, and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain).

Author and Christian financial advisor Russ Crosson has spent more than 40 years guiding individuals and couples in everyday financial situations. In "Your Money Made Simple: The Key to Financial Freedom", he offers the key to mastering your finances biblically -- and it's not about how much money you make.

Customized to meet your needs, "Your Money Made Simple" is the ideal informational resource guide to manage your income wisely by: Offering proven formulas that work for any income level, age, or vocation; Setting you on a path to freedom from financial worries; Providing easy-to-use financial planning tools and graphic charts.

Packed from cover to cover with Christian oriented financial wisdom and practical applications, "Your Money Made Simple" will help you make the most of your money and how you spend it.

Critique: An ideal money management guide, "Your Money Made Simple: The Key to Financial Freedom" is especially recommended to all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Money Made Simple" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Russ Crosson is executive vice president and chief mission officer of Ronald Blue Trust and executive vice chairman of the board of directors for Thrivent Trust Company. Russ is the author of several books, including Your Life...Well Spent, The Truth About Money Lies, and What Makes a Leader Great. He has been a featured speaker at many venues, including Promise Keepers, Issachar Summit, and America's Best Hope. He and his wife, Julie, are active in teaching and mentoring around the country on the subjects of money, marriage, and communication.

Somewhere Enchanted
J. F. T.
Independently Published
9781694574800, $5.99, PB, 44pp,

Synopsis: For countless generations the inhabitants of the village named Elnubrium have passed down one rule: Never enter the forest that surrounds them. Hidden deep beyond its borders is a world full of secrets and wonders to behold, but also death to those that don't belong. However, the village is slowly dying, blocked by impassable mountains and the ancient forest, there isn't enough room to provide for people of Elnubrium. If something isn't done soon, drastic measures will be taken to preserve the current way of life in the village.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and intrinsically entertaining read, "Somewhere Enchanted" is a wonderfully captivating short story of fantasy, love, and sacrifice. While highly recommended for community library fantasy fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fans that "Somewhere Enchanted" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.50).

Wanderlust Warrior Project
Michelle Rose Gilman & Peter Mikulecky
Waterside Productions
9781941768471, $19.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: Equal parts workbook, inspiration and empowerment, "Wanderlust Warrior Project: Discover You. With Us." starts young women on a path of self-discovery. The combination instruction manual and self-help inspirations includes couples interviews with radically successful women from all industries with intellectually challenging activities and insightful narratives about the traits of a Wanderlust Warrior. Traits such as Curiosity, Bravery, Intelligence and more. "Wanderlust Warrior Project" is a game changer -- especially for young women who are ready to begin their own Wanderlust journey!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Wanderlust Warrior Project" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections for women of all ages. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wanderlust Warrior Project" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time
Rachel Kodanaz
Fulcrum Publishing
9781682752463, $15.95, PB, 196pp,

Synopsis: Personal possessions tell the story of a person's life. "Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What To Do With Your and a Loved One's Personal Possessions" by Rachel Kodanaz helps to capture and share these stories by providing tools for how to thin, repurpose, and redistribute these possessions so they continue to be with us today and for future generations.

In the digital era, personal possessions include not only physical objects but also the accumulated data of a lifetime. These physical and digital footprints combine into an extension of ourselves and what we signify. Finding a new home for these items helps maintain a connection to those who are no longer physically with us. Their possessions embody memories that should be saved, shared, and treasured in the hands of those who want to forever be connected.

Critique: "Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time" is especially commended to the attention of family members charged with the responsibility of dealing with the possessions of a loved one who has passed. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time" is a unique and impressively 'real world practical' little compendium of advice, instruction and insight that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary and style, it should be noted that "Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.72).

Accomplished Women Of Color
Martha Ward Plowden, author
Barry Duperon, illustrator
Ward Plowden Publishing Company
9781540644288, $24.95, HC, 338pp

Synopsis: Ranging from the historically obscure to the nationally famous, "Accomplished Women Of Color" by Martha Ward Plowden is a compilation showcasing the life and successes of forty-seven women of color who were able to overcome social, cultural, economic, educational, and political obstacles and hardships to ultimately realize their dreams, ambitions and goals through the exercise of their personal courage, persistence, ingenuity, intelligence, talent, ability, will and determination.

Each individual chapter is devoted to a particular woman of accomplishment in her chosen field of endeavor and includes a black-and-white portrait drawn by artist and illustrator Barry Duperon. Of special note is the historical information (including the concluding section 'In Their Own Words' on just how these women went about setting precedents as they successfully fought against both racial and misogynist forces to promote and achieve justice for themselves and others.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, notably thoughtful and thought-provoking, painstakingly researched, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and presented, "Accomplished Women Of Color" is a unique and unreservedly recommended for of students, academia, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. It is especially endorsed as a unique and invaluable contribution to community, college, and university library Women's Studies and African American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: When Martha Ward Plowden saw that students at Crawford W. Long Middle School in Atlanta were having trouble finding books about African-American leaders and heroines, she decided to fill the gap by researching and writing her own books. Plowden has served on the executive committees for the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP, and the Atlanta Urban League. She was the first state coordinator, and later the chair, of the Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics for the Georgia State NAACP. She received a doctorate of curriculum and instruction from Walden University and was the media specialist for Crawford W. Long Middle School, where she worked for twenty-four years. A pillar of her community, Plowden has received numerous awards and commendations for her public service. She believes that the history of important African-American women should not only be told but also be told in a way that can reach audiences of all ages. She remains an active member of the Georgia Retired Educators Association and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism
Intan Suwandi
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583677827, $89.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism" by Intan Suwandi (who is a frequent contributor to Monthly Review magazine and has written on imperialism for various publications) uncovers the concrete processes through which multinational corporations, located primarily in the Global North, capture value from the Global South. We are brought face to face with various state-of-the-art corporate strategies that enforce "economical" and "flexible" production, including labor management methods, aimed to reassert the imperial dominance of the North, while continuing the dependency of the Global South and polarizing the global economy.

Case studies of Indonesian suppliers exemplify the growing burden borne by the workers of the Global South, whose labor creates the surplus value that enriches the capitalists of the North, as well as the secondary capitals of the South. Today, those who control the value chains and siphon off the profits are primarily financial interests with vast economic and political power -- the power that must be broken if the global working class is to liberate itself.

"Value Chains" depicts in concrete detail the relations of unequal exchange that structure today's world economy. This study, up-to-date and richly documented, puts labor and class back at the center of our understanding of the world capitalist system.

Critique: Winner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy - Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, "Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism" deftly examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains, "Value Chains" offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx's own theory of exploitation. A critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Economics collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, government policy makers, social activists, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Value Chains" is also available in a paperback edition (9781583677810, $23.00) and in digital book format (Kindle, $18.09).

The Turn-On
Steven Goldstein
Harper Business
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007
9780062911698, $29.99, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: As a television producer, Congressional lawyer, leader of state and national civil rights organizations, and communications advisor to corporate and political leaders, Steven Goldstein has been a mover and shaker in every sector of American power. He knows what makes public figures likeable. Based on his twenty-five years of experience and original teachings, Goldstein tells us why we like certain people, and dislike others, in politics, business, and entertainment in the pages of "The Turn-On: How the Powerful Make Us Like Them-from Washington to Wall Street to Hollywood".

Why do we let some into our personal world and refuse to let others enter? Goldstein has developed a paradigm that describes how we fall in like, reminiscent of falling in love, with the public figures who shape our lives. And Goldstein names names. Why do we like Ellen DeGeneres and Morgan Freeman, yet find Gwyneth Paltrow sometimes maddening? Why do we like Warren Buffett, Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Google's Sundar Pichai aside from their products and profits? And apart from our ideology, why do some of us like Barack and Michelle Obama and others Donald Trump, and what does Ben Franklin have to do with any of it?

Goldstein identifies eight traits of likeability that every public figure reveals to us in pairs, with each pair deepening our relationship with that person. The pairs are: Captivation and Hope; Authenticity and Relatability; Protectiveness and Reliability; Perceptiveness and Compassion.

Goldstein not only tells us how we fall in like with public figures, but he also reveals the behind-the-scenes players in politics, business and entertainment who shape who we like. Likeability isn't just something you have or you don't. Likeability can be manufactured -- and it can be destroyed. Public figures can be their own worst enemies in saying or doing things that turn us off. Why do we forgive some but not others?

"The Turn-On" will make you think twice about a celebrity re-invention, a glamorous media appearance or a perfectly crafted speech, and will give you tools to take control of your own likeability and become more like your favorite star!

Critique: An inherently fascinating and potentially life changing read from cover to cover, "The Turn-On: How the Powerful Make Us Like Them-from Washington to Wall Street to Hollywood" is an extraordinary study that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. While fully endorsed and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Turn-On" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781094028163, $39.99, MP3 CD).

Boy on the Bridge
Andrew Marble
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813178028, $36.95, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: The life and career of John Shalikashvili (1936 - 2011) was the embodiment of the American dream. He was born in Poland, descended from aristocratic European families that served with distinction in both battle and government for centuries. After barely surviving the Warsaw Uprising, he and his family fled to Germany during World War II to escape advancing Soviet troops and emigrated to the United States in 1952.

Shalikashvili was drafted into the army as a private in 1958 and rose steadily through the ranks, serving in every level of unit command from platoon to division. In 1993 Shalikashvili was tapped by President Bill Clinton to replace General Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the first immigrant, first draftee, and first Officer Candidate School graduate to hold the position.

"Boy on the Bridge: The Story of John Shalikashvili's American Success" is the first-ever biography of Shalikashvili's riches-to-rags-and-back-to-riches story and reveals how his distinctive background helped him become one of the United States's greatest military leaders. He exhibited a unique and unconventional leadership style (employing expertise, humility, straightforwardness, and empathy) that he adroitly used to resolve or prevent destructive conflict.

John's distinctive leadership style greatly benefitted the United States, Europe, and beyond: as when he led the rescue of 500,000 Kurdish refugees in the first Gulf War's aftermath; when he represented Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell in helping secure loose nukes in the former Soviet republics; as he joined forces with fellow immigrant Madeleine Albright on the Partnership for Peace initiative and NATO enlargement program in the 1990s; and in retirement, when he helped end the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, thereby finally allowing gay service members to serve openly without fear of dishonorable discharge.

Critique: Impressively detailed, written, organized and presented, "Boy on the Bridge: The Story of John Shalikashvili's American Success" is an especially recommended and inspiring addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Boy on the Bridge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines
Annie Harrower-Gray
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781781592717, $24.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: With the publication of "Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines: Women's role in Scottish society from 1690-1969", author Annie Harrower-Gray opens up an alternative view of Scotland's turbulent history, revealing three centuries through the eyes of the nation's women. The whole of society appears, from ordinary laborers, prostitutes and factory hands to their more celebrated sisters and even witches, body snatchers and female Jacobites.

All their tales are freshly researched and told with a sense of humor. Colorful characters abound! Step inside the boudoirs of Edinburgh's ladies of pleasure, whose civilized manners so confused one church minister that he 'accidentally' took tea in a brothel. Creep into the graveyard with Helen Torrance and Jean Lapiq, convicted of bodysnatching half a century before Burke and Hare. Uncover the murky history of Scotland's last witch Helen Duncan, whose eerily accurate wartime predictions led to her imprisonment. "Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines" offers an exciting and erudite voyage through the social history of Scotland. Honor the heroines who helped to shape Scotland, yet rest in unvisited tombs!

Critique: Deftly organized into two main sections (Part One: 1690-1800 & Part Two: 1800-1900), "Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines: Women's role in Scottish Society from 1690-1969" also features an informative Introduction, a two page Select Bibliography, and an eight page Index. Impressively informative, impressively original, exhaustively researched, deftly written, accessibly organized and presented, "Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines" is especially commended for community, college, and university library Scotland History collections in general, and Women's History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Scotland's Hidden Harlots and Heroines" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

A History of Women's Lives on the Isle of Wigh
Daisy Plant
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526720290, $24.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "A History of Women's Lives of the Isle of Wight" author Daisy Plant focuses in on women who were living on the Island between 1850 and 1950. These ladies were not queens. They weren't courtesans, or rogues, or royalty. They were just like the women we see every single day. They thought their own thoughts; they felt their own feelings; and they have been lost to time. Because a woman must be more than ordinary to be remembered.

Except what is ordinary? Is it a single mother nursing her child through a deadly disease? Is it giving up on your own dreams to take on the role of mother when yours passes on? Is it becoming one of the greatest artists of the modern era, only to wind up with none of your paintings on display in any of the most prestigious museums? We're not all queens. But in being ordinary, maybe we're really extraordinary.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and exceptionally well written, "A History of Women's Lives on the Isle of Wigh" by author Daisy Plant is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a two page listing of Resources and a five page Index. While "A History of Women's Lives on the Isle of Wigh" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A History of Women's Lives on the Isle of Wigh" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Tracks West - New Mexico
Elizabeth W. Rogers
Independently Published
9781075252358, $12.99, PB, 377pp,

Synopsis: An expanding young nation, America was beset by trade and slavery issues, which quickly descended into war. Unprepared for the onslaught, southern New Mexico was easy prey for Confederate Texans. Rebels attacked and occupied the southern territory for ten months before reinforcements were supplied.

"Tracks West - New Mexico: The True Cost of Civil War" is a personal story that begins with the letter of an Indian agent and Treasury officer in Santa Fe to his friend, an Apache agent on the southern border. He affects humor to lighten the gravity of his warning to return to Santa Fe. Although brief, the letter's contents reflect nearly every concern of the entire story. The Territory must connect to national trade for economic survival, hence the title: Tracks West.

The action begins with the untold account of the second phase of New Mexico's Civil War: the war with Apache and Navajo Indians. These Indians resisted the encroachment of Union forces on their gold fields and easterners on their buffalo herds.

The Union solicited the aid of private enterprise to mine the gold fields and support eastern soldiers. The nation was desperate for income. Corporations were formed to join the mining companies with mainstream eastern businessmen.

Following the war, the two-million-acre Maxwell Land Grant in New Mexico and the half-million-acre Costilla Estate in Colorado were sold abroad. Arizona officials arrived in Santa Fe in November and December 1863 to establish the new territory.

A mystery begins when one arrival is accidentally identified as a Union spy, the error awkwardly covered. A conflict is set in motion when the Army escort leader, Colonel J. F. Chaves, takes offense for the questioning of his request. He asks for a wagon master to furnish his donkey teams for a crossing of the flooding Rio Grande. Martial law is in effect.

The youngest Arizona party member, Steve Elkins, opts to remain in New Mexico. His cunning and quick mastery of Spanish soon has him elected to the legislature. Adventures in law and politics continue throughout the account. The focus is on Elkins who confronts many challenges. As an official and attorney he must deal with peonage, a feudal form of slavery practiced in the Territory, assassination of a Supreme Court judge, and many other outrageous incidents which mark a harrowing account of a chaotic culture clash, power struggles, land grabs, and claims of wealth.

Critique: "Tracks West - New Mexico: The True Cost of Civil War" by Elizabeth W. Rogers is packed from cover to cover with complicated intrigues and dire treacheries -- and impeccably researched historical details that are fully documented with a wealth of footnote references. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Tracks West - New Mexico" is a simply fascinating and entertaining read from beginning to end. While fully endorsed and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tracks West - New Mexico" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.00).

In Another Place
Susan Mailer
Northampton House Press
9781937997977, $27.95, HC, 316pp,

Synopsis: Norman Kingsley Mailer (January 31, 1923 - November 10, 2007) was among the most celebrated, talented, and controversial writers of the 20th Century -- and Susan Mailer was his daughter. The Naked and the Dead (1948), inspired by his experience in World War II, was a bestseller and made him famous at the age of 25. Notoriously combative and egotistical, Susan's father enjoyed a good fight both physically and verbally. Whether cheered or booed, Mailer was front and center in America's cultural battles for more than 50 years. He married six times and was father to nine children. Susan, born in 1949, is the eldest.

Susan's parents separated when she was a baby. She grew up shuttling between her mother's home in Mexico and New York. Later she would marry a Chilean activist, spending the majority of her adult life in Chile, where she is a practicing psychoanalyst.

In "In Another Place: With and Without My Father, Norman Mailer" Susan tells the story of her intense and complex relationship with her father, her five stepmothers and nine siblings, and the joys and pains of being part of the large Mailer clan. It is a tale of separation, and of the rewards and struggles of living in two very different cultures. Of being someone who belongs everywhere and nowhere, always longing for a life in some other place.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating read and a 'must' for the legions of Norman Mailer fans, "In Another Place: With and Without My Father, Norman Mailer" is an extraordinary and impressively detailed memoir that is fully endorsed and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic American Biography library collections.

Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum
Judith Hebron & Caroline Bond, editors
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Inc.
400 Market Street, Suite 400, Philadelphia, PA 19106
9781785924606, $35.00, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Judith Hebron (Lecturer in Psychology with Education, University of Leeds) and Caroline Bond (Senior Lecturer in Educational and Child Psychology, University of Manchester), "Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum" specifically addressing the gender gap in the understanding of autism.

Offering a multi-perspective approach, the contributors to "Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum" deftly explore the educational needs of girls on the autism spectrum from early years to secondary school, in both mainstream and special settings. The collection, comprising insights from autistic women and girls and educational and medical professionals makes data-based recommendations for a collaborative and integrated approach that enables girls on the spectrum to reach their full potential.

By establishing close collaborations between girls on the spectrum, their parents, teachers and specialist professionals, the field can move forwards in terms of providing understanding and an appropriate educational framework for success.

Critique: Offering a listing of the contributors and their credentials [Author Biographies], as well as a Subject Index, and an Author Index, "Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum" is unreservedly recommended as an Autism Studies curriculum textbook and a core addition to professional, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of teachers, education administrators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.25).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Think on Your Feet
Jen Oleniczak Brown
McGraw Hill Professional
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10020
9781260457032, $24.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Our professional lives are full of situations outside of our control. A job interviewer asks a question out of left field. A coworker puts you on the spot in front of the boss. Your PowerPoint presentation crashes at a critical moment.

Most people react to the unexpected with anxiety and unease. We get rattled, stumble over our words, and overthink the situation. Others, though, handle it with self-assurance and aplomb. They gain a sense of empowerment and energy when the pressure is on. Like great improv actors, they're able to think on their feet.

The great thing is, improv isn't about winging it or flying by the seat of your pants; improv at its core is about listening and responding. It's based on rules and techniques, and it taps directly into your soft communication skills. By incorporating it into your prep work for professional situations, you'll learn how to retrain your brain for the unexpected and get out of your own way in those unexpected (and expected) professional situations. Practicing improv isn't about being funny. Instead, it's about developing the mental agility to spin any surprise in your favor and to communicate with confidence.

Filled with engaging improv activities, "Think on Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication Skills on the Job" by Jen Oleniczak Brown is an interactive guide that will ensure you never come away from a tough moment pondering the woulda, coulda, shoulda! again. You'll learn how to nurture your personal style for communicating in every professional situation. From effective listening in the office, giving presentations, and leading meetings to negotiating a raise, acing an interview, and more, you'll start communicating with confidence and stop letting the unexpected hold you back. Take your workplace communication (and your career) to the next level by mastering the art of Thinking on Your Feet.

Critique: An ideal DIY curriculum in the fine art of situational communication flexibility, "Think on Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication Skills on the Job" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, and academic library Communication Skills collections and supplemental studies rosters, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Think on Your Feet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.05).

Editorial Note: Jen Oleniczak Brown is the Founder of The Engaging Educator (EE), a women-owned and operated company dedicated to helping people find their unapologetic, authentic, and best voice/communication style through improv-based education. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Bustle, and Moneyish. She is also the author of Improv(E): Using Improv to Find Your Voice, Style, and Self.

Unholy Alliance
Peter Levenda
Ibis Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9780892541904, $28.95, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: In June of 1979, Peter Levenda flew to Chile (then a country under martial law) to investigate claims that a mysterious colony and torture center in the Andes Mountains held a key to the relationship between Nazi ideology and its post-war survival on the one hand, and occult ideas and practices on the other. He was detained there briefly and released with a warning: "You are not welcome in this country." The people who warned him were not Chileans but Germans, not government officials but agents of the assassination network Operation Condor. They were also Nazis, providing a sanctuary for men like Josef Mengele, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, and Otto Skorzeny. In other words: ODESSA.

How did occultism come to play such an important role in the development of Nazi political ideology? What influence did such German and Austrian occult leaders as Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List have over the fledgling Nazi party? What was the Thule Gesellschaft, and who was its creator, Baron von Sebottendorf? Did the Nazi high command really believe in occultism? In astrology? In magic and reincarnation?

This is a new and expanded edition of the original text, with much additional information on the rise of extremist groups in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the United States and the esoteric beliefs that are at their foundations. It is the first book in a trilogy that includes Ratline and The Hitler Legacy. This is where it all began.

Critique: Brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers, "Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult" was originally published in 1995, making it the first book in English on the subject of Nazi occultism to be based on the captured Nazi archives themselves, as well as on the author's personal investigations and interviews, often conducted under dangerous conditions. "Unholy Alliance" continues to be an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unholy Alliance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

The Decameron: A Critical Lexicon
Pier Massimo & Rezo Bragantini, editors
Christopher Kleinhenz, English Edition editor
Michael Papio, translator
ACMRS Publications
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985970, $90.00, HC, 502pp,

Synopsis: When originally published in 1995, "The Decameron: A Critical Lexicon" represented a major, new departure from the "normal" sort of scholarship on Boccaccio's masterpiece, and its unique approach and contents are still valid and valuable today.

The seventeen original essays comprising "The Decameron: A Critical Lexicon" focus on providing a comprehensive view of the Decameron through the analysis of particular aspects, particular problem areas in the reading and interpretation of the work. Each individual essay offers a critical window on a defined topic (indicated by the headwords), and, when taken together, these individual essays intersect with, supplement, and reinforce one another, thus emphasizing the harmonious nature of the work as a whole and the importance of examining it through a variety of lenses.

The enduring value of "The Decameron: A Critical Lexicon" for scholarship also consists in its introduction of innovative exegetical approaches and the identification of previously unidentified sources and influences. While not providing an orderly reading of the Decameron as a more traditional series of day-by-day lecturae would do, the essays examine multiple novelle from various Days and from differing perspectives so as to provide an assemblage of comprehensive views on the text.

For the English-language edition two new items have been added: an update to Vittore Branca's essay on the history of the text of the Decameron and a bibliographical overview of North-American studies on the Decameron and, more generally, on Boccaccio's life, works and influence.

Critique: A collaborative work of meticulous, detailed, and documented scholarship that is effectively translated into English for an American readership, this ACMRS edition of "The Decameron: A Critical Lexicon" is unreservedly and especially recommended as a core addition to college and university library collections.

What's Killing My Chickens?
Gail Damerow
Storey Publishing
210 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
9781612129099, $19.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: For backyard chicken keepers and large-scale farmers alike, the single greatest challenge is protecting poultry from predators. "What's Killing My Chickens?: The Poultry Predator Detective Manual" by Gail Damerow is the ultimate guide to identifying the culprit behind a coop intrusion and ensuring safety for the flock.

Often, by the time an attack is discovered, the predator has already left the scene. In "What's Killing My Chickens?", author and chicken expert Gail Damerow uses the style of a detective manual to teach readers how to follow clues such as tracks, trails, scat, and other signs to pinpoint the attacker. Profiles describe key habits of the possible predators (ranging from raptors to rodents, foxes to bullfrogs) and provide the best techniques for blocking their access to the coop and yard, including removing attractants, using poultry guardians and lighting, and installing the most effective type of fencing.

Critique: "What's Killing My Chickens?: The Poultry Predator Detective Manual" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and profusely illustrated instruction guide and manual offering essential knowledge, and DIY peace of mind for both the amateur and professional chicken farmer. While unreservedly recommended for farm and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "What's Killing My Chickens?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.95).

Editorial Note: Gail Damerow has written extensively on raising chickens and other livestock, growing fruits and vegetables, and related rural know-how in more than a dozen books, including the best-selling Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, The Chicken Encyclopedia, The Chicken Health Handbook, and Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks. Damerow is a contributor to Chickens and Hobby Farms magazines and a regular blogger for Cackle Hatchery. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, where they operate a family farm with poultry and dairy goats, a sizable garden, and a small orchard. Her readers can visit her online at

Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism
Ariella Aisha Azoulay
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781788735711, $44.95, PB, 656pp,

Synopsis: Ariela Aisha Azoulay is a professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture, and Media at Brown University, as well as a curator and documentary film maker. Her many books include The Civil Contract of Photography and Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography, and she has curated exhibits for galleries and museums around the world.

With the publication of "Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism" she has created a theoretical tour-de-force that calls on her readers to recognize the imperial foundations of knowledge and to refuse its strictures and its many contributions to violence.

Professor Azoulay argues that the institutions that make our world, from archives and museums to ideas of sovereignty and human rights to history itself, are all dependent on imperial modes of thinking. Imperialism has segmented populations into differentially governed groups, continually emphasized the possibility of progress while it tries to destroy what came before, and voraciously seeks out the new by sealing the past away in dusty archival boxes and the glass vitrines of museums.

By practicing what she calls potential history, Professor Azoulay argues that we can still refuse the original imperial violence that shattered communities, lives, and worlds, from native peoples in the Americas at the moment of conquest to the Congo ruled by Belgium's brutal King Leopold II, from dispossessed Palestinians in 1948 to displaced refugees in our own day. In Potential History, Azoulay travels alongside historical companions (an old Palestinian man who refused to leave his village in 1948, an anonymous woman in war-ravaged Berlin, looted objects and documents torn from their worlds and now housed in archives and museums) to chart the ways imperialism has sought to order time, space, and politics.

Rather than looking for a new future, in "Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism" Professor Azoulay calls upon us to rewind history and unlearn our imperial rights, to continue to refuse imperial violence by making present what was invented as "past" and making the repair of torn worlds the substance of politics.

Critique: An impressively informed and informative work of meticulous scholarship made completely accessible to the non-specialist general reader and academician alike, "Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Best of Bridge Comfort Food: Recipes for Family and Friends
Sylvia Kong and Emily Richards, authors
Robert Rose Inc.
9780778806325, $29.95, Spiral Bound, 256pp,

"Best of Bridge Comfort Food: Recipes for Family and Friends" is a classic collection of down home comfort foods that have been adapted for home use by two Canadian inheritors of the Best of Bridge mantle. Since their beginning in the 70's, their motto has been 'Simple recipes with gourmet results.'

"Best of Bridge Comfort Food" lives up to this motto, from Breakfast and Brunch, and including Vegetarian Meals, to Sides and Breads and Sweets, with many delicious chapters and recipes in between, each recipe is clearly presented in two pages or less in clear script, with thoroughly kitchen cook friendly instructions that are outlined in red -- and with important details also highlighted in red. Both standard and metric measurements are given, to the left and the right side of each listed ingredient.

Here are some favorites with very special appeal: Zucchini Chocolate Chip Loaf (p. 300, Roasted Veggie Pita Sandwiches (p. 52), Smoky Tomato Chickpea Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons (p.58), Roasted Squash and Lentil Tostadas (p.78), Oven Baked Risotto with Paprika Shrimp (p.112), Chicken Souvlake with Tzatziki (p. 124), Nonna's meat Sauce with Basil and Cheese Polenta (p. 152), Liver with Bacon and Balsamic Onions (p. 180), Poutine with Oven-Baked Fries (p.2020, and Lunar Rhubarb Cake (p. 240). There are 24 pages of full color photos of entrees and dishes in three sections in "Comfort Food."

Here are a wide variety of appealing, exciting recipes for classic daily table fare with deft, imaginative twists and flair. Many cuisines are represented and all results are scrumptious and classically comforting. "Best of Bridge Comfort Food" belongs in everyone's kitchen library.

A Child's Life In Trees
Deanna Scelzo, author
Dan Smith, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
9781612254197, $12.99, PB, 26pp,

"A Child's Life in Trees" is a woman's lovely poetic tribute to the stabilizing, inspiring, protective presence of trees in her environment as she was growing up. Evocative, descriptive lines of verse pair with sensitive paintings of the girl experiencing changing seasons in the presence of her guardians, the trees.

Over time, and looking back as an adult, the girl's view of trees changes: "They defined my space and offered protection,/ Unbeknownst to me, they were my playground,/ In my youth, I took them for granted,/ Unselfishly giving of themselves so profound./ My view of the world is different now,/ I look at those trees and now I see,/ Not a wall blocking the world,/ But the life they gave to me."

"A Child's Life in Trees" invites readers to explore their friends the trees using their imaginations. As a reminiscence, it has appeal for adult audiences as well as juvenile. It also emphasizes the protective role that trees can play for humans as well as creatures.

The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper, A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery
Eric Hogan & Tara Hungerford, author/artists
Firefly Books
PO Box 1338, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205
9780228101963 $6.99 32 pages

"The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper" is a Gumboot Kids nature mystery about Scout's discovery of a mysterious wooden timekeeper in the woods. Daisy, Scout's field mouse twin, helps Scout investigate the wooden timekeeper in the woods. They find a tree stump with 11 or more tree rings showing in the wooden top of the stump. Investigating in the library, Daisy and Scout learn that eery ring in the tree stump represents a year in the life of the tree. The tree rings can help show a history of years of steady growth, years when a fire scarred the wood, and years when other traumas such as falling timber damaged the tree, plus years when there was slow growth for the tree. Daisy and Scout learn that the tree stump's eleven rings show that it was 11 years old. They also learn that trees are an important part of the ecosystem, helping to keep the air clean by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Scout and Daisy had a wonderful time learning about the wooden timekeeper they discovered in the woods.

"The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper" also contains helpful field notes about coniferous and deciduous trees, plus instructions for a nature craft to make a tiny creature from a pine cone with buttons, pipe cleaners, felt, and glue. All the illustrations of Scout and Daisy are delicate color photographs of two carefully created felt/fabric field mice characters, carefully crafted and posed in their homes and forest settings. The gumboots Kids nature craft mysteries series is intriguing and appealing to young readers with interest in the ecosystem.

Additional titles in the Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery series that are also highly recommended include: "The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar (9780228101949, $6.99)," "The Case of the Story Rock (9780228101925, $6.99)," and "The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder (9780228101901, $6.99)," all by Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Binford's Bookshelf

The Lost City of Z
David Grann
Simon & Schuster
9781471166617, $12.00

In 1925, Colonel Percy Fawcett set out on an expedition into the "green hell" of the Amazon jungle with his son and they both disappeared. That is the bottom line of "The Lost City of Z," but it doesn't begin to tell the story. Many hundreds of explorers, soldiers and fortune-seekers have been lost in the Amazon, yet the story of Fawcett rings with layers of wild adventures, obsession, endurance and unbelievable hardships that have inspired dozens of explorers to follow his footsteps, including the author, David Grann.

Fawcett was a Lieutenant in an artillery brigade in the British colony of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, when he was given a letter by a fellow officer that hinted of an ancient city called Galla pita Galla, or "Rock-upon-Rock." A treasure was hidden there, "obscured by stones, jungle and long grass." Fawcett took some leave from his military work, searched for the lost city, and found it. There was no treasure, but it inspired Fawcett to quit the army and join the Royal Geographical Society so that he could search for other lost cities.

The chapter titled "Into the Amazon" explains his first sortie into the jungle. A border had not been clearly drawn between the countries of Bolivia and Brazil. The journey would take two years, it was offered to Fawcett, who later said that "he felt his heart pounding. He thought about his wife, Nina, who was pregnant again, and his son, Jack, who was almost three years old. Still, he didn't hesitate: 'Destiny intended me to go, so there could be no other answer!"

During his telling of the boundary drawing expedition, Grann goes into details of the hazards of jungle trekking. There were dangerous animals, uncharted places, the threat of starvation, encounters with the local natives, who were rumored to fire poisoned arrows from hidden ambushes. There were also the bugs, and Fawcett describes the multiple ways that an average human could be destroyed by the tiniest creatures. There were "sauba" ants, ticks, leeches, "cyanide-squirting" millipedes, tiny flies that laid their eggs under the skin, as well as death-dealing tarantulas the size of dinner plates. The familiar mosquito was the most hazardous of all, carrying diseases like malaria, elephantiasis and yellow fever, and were described by another explorer as the "single chief reason why Amazonia is still a frontier to be won." In the rivers there were piranhas, electric eels, and anaconda snakes as long as 60 feet.

World War I interrupted, Fawcett volunteered as an artillery officer, served on the western front, and when he returned to England he found that the Royal Geographic Society had modernized. No longer were the hardy explorers of Fawcett's breed required; they were replaced by specialists. University trained anthropologists and archaeologists were getting the funding, which led one explorer to lament "the general practitioner in this everyday world of ours is being squeezed out."

Fawcett was convinced, by tales of the city of El Dorado chronicled by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, that there was a lost city in the jungle. He went to Brazil, talked the Brazilian government into backing his scheme to find Z, and headed up an expedition in the early 1920's which ended in disaster. Fawcett's team reached a place in the jungle he called "Dead Horse Camp," where he put a horse "out of its misery with a bullet." He had to turn back, but the name of that camp resonated with Grann when he went on his own exploration decades later. Fawcett had believed he was getting close, the Lost City of Z lay just beyond.

Funding for a second try eventually came from a consortium of investors in the United States, introduced to Fawcett by an ex-RGS member named George Lynch. The money, amounting to only $5000, was enough for Fawcett to gather the basics for a meager expedition that included his then 22 year old son, Jack. Their destination was the town of Cuiaba, pretty much in the center of the state of Mato Grosso on the Paraguay River. Here, an Indian from the jungle told about a great city, with stone houses, and a "great square crystal on a pillar. It shines so brightly as to dazzle the eyes." This encouraged Fawcett, who wrote to Nina that "I have seen no reason to budge a hair's breadth from the theory of Z."

They reached the old Dead Horse Camp after nine days, where the "white bones" of the pack horse were still visible. From there they headed into the territory of hostile Indians, the tribe of the Kayapos. Further on, there was the even deadlier tribe of the Xavante. The time came when Fawcett decided to send his guides back. He sent with them his final letter to Nina. In his last words, he wrote: "You need have no fear of any failure."

Grann's own expedition to Brazil is not only remarkable in that the author of a book about an explorer became an explorer on his own, but that he was enabled with satellite maps. He located Fawcett's granddaughter, Rolette, who had inherited the archives left by Percy Fawcett, which led Grann to learn the coordinates for Dead Horse Camp. He proceeded to there and went as far as the last known whereabouts of Fawcett's final expedition.

I became aware of this engaging book by reading another book by Grann, "Killers of the Flower Moon," about the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. "The Lost City of Z" was shortlisted for the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. Grann has earned several awards for journalism, including the George Polk Award. In the middle of the book, there are some outstanding photographs from a variety of sources showing Fawcett, Jack, local tribesmen, his wife Nina, among others.

I would highly recommend this read, with the caveat that there are no maps, which would have been useful. Also, the index is often out of step with the reference; the page numbers don't match up. That was a bit frustrating while writing this review, but all in all, it was a book that I looked forward to sitting down with at the end of the day.

Paul Binford, Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The World Was My Garden, Too
Sam Pickering
Madville Publishing
9781948692144, $19.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: For 67 years Sam Pickering was a classroom teacher dedicated to education. In the pages of "The World Was My Garden, Too" he roams New England, Arkansas, the Caribbean, Nova Scotia and the familiar and odd plots of mind and thought. He explores shorelines and climbs "hillish" mountains. He sits on porches and talks to passersby and their dogs. He meets strange and delightful people, most of whom are real.

Critique: An inherently fascinating compilation of deftly scripted and reader engaging essays showcasing a perceptive mind and a born storyteller's narrative style, "The World Was My Garden, Too" will prove to be a welcome addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The World Was My Garden, Too" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Illustrated Generic Names of Fungi
Miguel Ulloa & Elvira Aguirre-Acosta
APS Press
3340 Pilot Knob Road, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780890546185, $199.00, HC, 451pp,

Synopsis: A fungus (plural: fungi or funguses) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, fungi, which is separate from the other eukaryotic life kingdoms of plants and animals.

Featuring 1,000-plus original watercolors and 1,700 descriptions of genera, this "Illustrated Generic Names of Fungi" from the American Phytopathological Society is a unique combination of scientific and artistic content and clearly distinct from the usual mycology texts. This exquisitely illustrated and up-to-date reference is the first of its kind published in English.

Critique: As inherently fascinating to simple browse through as it is comprehensive and exceptionally informative in organization and presentation, "Illustrated Generic Names of Fungi" must be considered as absolutely core and essential addition to professional, community, and academic library collections.

2020 National Home Improvement Estimator
Ray F. Hicks, editor
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
9781572183568, $98.75, PB, 568pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Ray F. Hicks, and including free estimating software downloading resources, "2020 National Home Improvement Estimator" is an essential compendium of current labor and material prices for any and all home improvement projects.

With "2020 National Home Improvement Estimator" as a comprehensive informational resource, construction professionals can easily take advantage of home improvement jobs that may never have bid on before by relying on the solid cost figures in this reference. That's why so many home improvement contractors use this manual as their company price book.

Critique: A critically important and impressively reliable informational resource on labor costs, material costs, city coast modifiers, as well as selling prices fo all home improvement projects, this fully updated edition of "2020 National Home Improvement Estimator" is unreservedly recommended for professional contractors and will prove to be of information value for DIY home improvement project enthusiasts as well.

Triumph of the Will?
David Lewis
MLI Press
9781513641409, $14.00, PB, 332pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Triumph of the Will?: How Two Men Hypnotised Hitler and Changed the World", author David Lewis solves one of the 20th century's most baffling mysteries. What transformed Adolf Hitler from a purposeless drifter into a leader able to manipulate the minds of millions?

In October 1918 Adolf Hitler, a lance-corporal in the Austrian army, lost his sight following a British gas attack. Doctors diagnosed his blindness as being due not to physical injury but hysteria. He had suffered a mental breakdown. Rather than being treated in a nearby hospital, he was sent 600 miles from the Front to a 'nerve' clinic in the Pomeranian town of Pasewalk. There Dr Edmund Robert Forster, one of Germany's leading hysteria specialists, used hypnosis to treat him.

Although his sight was restored, the experience left Hitler convinced he had a divine mission to 'make Germany great again.' He believed, from then on, that every step he took was dictated by a supernatural power.

In 1931, Erik Jan Hanussen, a clairvoyant, astrologer, millionaire media tycoon and Nazi supporter, taught him how to hypnotize the masses. Hitler proved himself the greatest hypnotist of them all.

"Triumph of the Will" is the extraordinary true story of the lives and deaths of Forster and Hanussen. It details the techniques they used and describes the vital roles played of hypnotism, astrology, clairvoyance and the occult in the Nazis' rise to power.

Critique: A unique and impressive contribution to the growing body of literature about Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime, "Triumph of the Will?: How Two Men Hypnotised Hitler and Changed the World" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted that this meticulously researched and detailed account is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.36).

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

I Am Accountable - Ten Choices that Create Deeper Meaning in Your Life, Organization, and Your World
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
9781640951112, $15.99, 256 pages

Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Success

By the end of the first chapter of Sam Silverstein's "I Am Accountable," I was exposed to five core concepts and three principles of accountability. I learned that responsibility has a ripple effect and that our life has meaning in a direct relationship to our accountability.

I was hooked and hungry for more, and I was not disappointed.

The book is made up of three parts. Part one describes the elements of commitment and an awareness of specific personal commitment to you and others.

Part two looks at accountability in the workplace and ten commitments to sharpen your commitment to the team. The reader is challenged to discover and realize persona potential and to help others reach theirs.

Part three gives the reader and enlarged vision and challenge to take a stand for the community and to become a part of building an accountable world.

In "I Am Accountable," Sam Silverstein's writing is comprehensive, challenging, and motivating. I have long been a fan of Silberstein. He keeps getting better. "I Am Accountable" is must reading for everyone willing to make deeper commitments, creates lasting relationships, and takes accountability for enlarging and impacting their community while expanding their world.

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

100 Worst Employees: Learning from the Very Worst, How to Be Your Very Best
Jim Stovall & Kristine Sexter
Sound Wisdom
9781640951143, $15.99, 178 pages

Business, Economics, Success, Human Resources

Jim Stovall, the best-selling author of over forty books, eight of which have been produced as successful movies, collaborated with Kristine A. Sexter, Human Resource expert, professional speaker, and consultant, in this remarkable collection of stories, illustrations, and applications.

From the sloth and the scorpion, the boar and the alpaca, the leech, and the stink bug Jim Stovall and Kristine Sexter relate true stories and case studies of employees comparing human personalities with the traits of animals.

These stories are designed for employees and employers:

For employees: To help examine their wrong attitudes and personality traits for success and open doors of opportunity.

For employers: To spot toxic employees with wrong attitudes and negative personality traits, when hiring, and training job applicants, or when counseling faltering employees.

Throughout the book, the author's combined humor, their wealth of experience and wisdom shine through to showcase their communication skills, their broad base of knowledge, and their awareness of various fields of business leadership, success, self-help, and personnel management.

I can highly recommend this book as an essential resource tool for everyone in today's workforce, employees, entrepreneurs, and corporate managers.

When God Breaks In - Secrets to a Lifestyle of Tangible Encounters with God
Ben Hughes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768450408, $16.99, 194 pages

Spiritual Breakthrough, God Encounters, Refreshing Revival Stories

"When God Breaks In" is a compilation of stories and testimonies of miracles, wonders, and incredible moments with God. These accounts are destined to bring a quickening of the spirit of the reader, bringing hope, healing, and freedom into lives across the world.

Ben Hughes imparts a spiritual hunger in the reader to meet God in new ways as he relates the story of his spiritual journey. Ben's story is a living example of experiencing a life-style of tangible break-through encounters with God.

These stories are relevant to today's Christian desirous of encountering God, at a deeper level, to know Him more intimately. As Ben guides you through these stories, expect to experience a profound life-changing fresh awareness of God's presence.

The following features provided me with extra insights leading to a personal application:

Encounter Moments - specific variations of prayers for break-through

Chapter End-Notes - which provide resources for future reading or study

Throughout each chapter of the book, I experienced God's power, love, and presence. I learned that God manifests Himself to us, in us, and through us. I met Him as the God of the "suddenly - the unexpected - and the God of surprise. I was challenged to seek Him diligently and to embrace Him and to recognize His passion.

Chapter after chapter Ben describes God's definitive guidance, supernatural spiritual encounters, and over 20 years of spirit empowered ministry.

The Power of Consecration - A Prophetic Word for the Church
Jeremiah Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
978076805781, 2019, 146 pages

Catalysts for Spiritual Awakening and Reformation

Readers of "The Power of Consecration - A Prophetic Word for the Church" can anticipate a fresh encounter with the power of consecration. Jeremiah Johnson is known for his prophetic vision and holy passion for preparing the church, the bride of Christ for readiness for the return of the bridegroom for the wedding day of the Lamb.

Jeremiah's writing is a wakeup call to the church, a call to the church to be set apart, to live a life of consecration and holiness. His message is powerful filled with relevant truth for believers today.

I found the chapter dealing with a lifestyle of fasting to be insightful, motivating, and plan to incorporate these principles into my daily walk with the bridegroom. These truths are a definite challenge for a deeper intimacy with the Christ, and a more meaningful discipleship.

The prophetic nature of Jeremiah's writing with Biblical terms, and important references to Old Testament passages will require some serious study for many. The importance of the Holy Spirit's revelation and teaching ministry to believers cannot be under estimated, to get the most from the important basic truths presented throughout the book.

"The Power of Consecration - A Prophetic Word for the Church" by Jeremiah Johnson may well become the standard by which the Lord will rebuild his people.

Living with No Regrets - Get Ready for Your Future by Getting Over Your Past
Greg Fritz
Harrison House Publishers
9781680312140, $15.99, 172 pages

Overcoming Regrets and Failures

In his book "Living with No Regrets," Greg Fritz helps his reader find transformative life-changing healing through exchanging regrets from the past to promises of freedom for the future.

Gregg Fritz introduces page after page of Scripture promises, prayers of confession, and affirmations for releasing regrets of the past.

Fritz provides the key to finding the fullness of life with no regrets by leaving behind the disappointments, missed opportunities, past sins, unforgiveness, and broken relationships, of the past.

I could quickly identify with the wakeful times of recounting past mistakes, and "if only I had" moments, Gregg discusses. I found exhortations like this one to be a blessing and a challenge: "Get on with the program. Get over the past and get ready for the amazing future God has for your life." I am claiming the promise of Psalm 147:3, "He hears the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

I found the chapter titled "Getting over Grief" especially helpful and timely. I claimed the promise of Jeremiah 30:17. "I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds."

"Living with No Regrets - Get Ready for Your Future by Getting Over Your Past" offers the reader healing for the brokenhearted and freedom from guilt and bitterness.

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

How To Keep Your Head on Straight in a World Gone Crazy - Developing Discernment for These Last Days
Rick Renner
Harrison House
9781680312904, $19.99

An Urgent Message for Today's Chaotic World

In the opening chapter of "How To Keep Your Head on Straight in a World Gone Crazy - Developing Discernment for These Last Days," Rick Renner presents the challenges we are facing in our times. He challenges Bible Believers to keep focused on truth and to recognize the widespread evil and dangers of deception being spread by seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.

In the following chapters, Renner addresses subjects and themes, including the reprobate mind, an end-time mutiny, Gnostic errors, early and end-time failures, and much, much more.

Each chapter ends with a "Think About It" feature which includes:

A challenge

An exercise

Self-examination opportunities

An action step directive

Thought-provoking statements for further consideration

These same considerations are readily adaptable as a resource for a small group study or Bible class.

Rick Renner is a respected prophetic voice bringing fresh insight for developing discernment for these final days. His writing is authoritative, Biblically-based, thoroughly researched, timely, relevant, and crucial for Christians today.

Recognized for his credibility and authenticity as a a spokesman for truth, Rick's book "How To Keep Your Head on Straight in a World Gone Crazy," is wholeheartedly endorsed by Christian Leaders, Pastors, and Bible Teachers.

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

The Power of Prophetic Vision - How to Turn Your Dreams Into Destiny
Joan Hunter
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768450262, $16.99, 148 pages

Dreams, Prophetic Vision, and Calling

Joan Hunter combines her knowledge of the Word with her ability to inspire others to listen for, hear, God's message for them, and to pursue their calling. In her book "The Power of Prophetic Vision," Joan helps the reader find great insight and understanding of their future through their dreams and visions.

I was deeply engrossed in my reading as I envisioned translating my dreams into destiny, my visions to reality, the prophetic into a promise, and my calling to accomplishment.

Before I had completed, I completed the foreword and introduction I had a full page of notes and found myself eager to discover more of prophetic evangelism and dream interpretation. I had already learned more about how to claim a break-through and the power of a prophetic vision.

As I proceeded in chapter one and beyond, I learned from the illustration of heroes of the Bible who, although they experienced failure at some time in their life, went on to pursue their dream, follow God's plan and fulfill their destiny. These examples include men like David, Moses, John Mark, Paul, Peter, and others. Joan shared her testimony and that of Aimee Semple McPherson to demonstrate other examples which show that God is still working and has a plan for our destiny.

"The Power of Prophetic Vision" opened up to me a whole new concept of releasing my dreams to fulfill my destiny. Throughout the book, Joan encourages the reader to dream big, focus on Jesus and your calling, and to put your ideas into action.

I can highly endorse this book.

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

Healed - God's Breakthrough Blueprint for Receiving and Releasing Miracles
Dr. Joe & Heidi Wadlinger
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768450361, $15.99, 210 pages

Testimonies of Despair and Hope, the Depths of Pain and the Joy of Relief

"Healed - God's Breakthrough Blueprint for Receiving and Releasing Miracles" is the story of Dr. Joe and Heidi Wadlinger's spiritual journey. Joe was diagnosed to have arachnoiditis, the worst possible inflammation of the spinal column. Surgery after surgery failed. Joe suffered from excruciating pain over five years.

It is a straight forward account of the ups and downs of despair and hope, the depths of pain and the joy of relief, and the victory of ultimate healing. Their journey continues as they help others to expand their faith and claim their healing.

The Wadlinger's story is an absorbing read, written in a conversational style; a testimony of faith, persistence, agonizing in prayer and the miracle of healing, a story filled with life-changing challenges.

Their story has challenged me to claim my healing over a pattern of chronic illnesses. It is my prayer that I can stand taller, walk stronger, endure more, conquer diabetes, and regain keener eyesight.

"Healed - God's Breakthrough Blueprint for Receiving and Releasing Miracles" is a must reading for anyone needing hope and healing, as well as anyone encouraging others through a ministry of healing.

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

Worship Without Limits - The Place of Supernatural Access To God's Presence and Power
Philip Renner
Destiny Images Publishers, Inc.
97807687450828, $16.99, 170 pages

The Priceless Gift of Authentic Worship - Liturgy, Charismatic, Pentecostal

In his book "Worship Without Limits - The Place of Supernatural Access To God's Presence and Power" Philip Renner reminds the a reader that a pure heart of praise and worship is about magnifying our Lord and King and seeking His presence.

Although the book is designed to challenge and equip praise and worship leaders in the elements needed to fulfill their ministry the role, the principles apply to the heart of all worshippers.

Philip's insight and prayers read like the anointed Psalms of David, and the Musicians of the Old Testament.

Page after page as I read Phillip's anointed writing, I was moved into an attitude of reverence and spontaneous praise. Even the format of the book's pages elicits a reaction of worship.

Nearly a dozen illustrative sample prayers designed especially for the worship leader lead to acts of submission and surrender, intimate communion and humility.

The "Take Away Keys" in chapter twelve are essential for every worship leader as well as every true worshipper of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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

Angelic Allies - God's Messengers, God's Warriors, God's Agents
Lenika Scott
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768451023, $16.99, 236 pages

Powerful Teaching, Compelling Testimonies

Lenika Scott, a true trailblazer, takes a bold stance on a neglected area of Biblical doctrine in her book "Angelic Allies - God's Messengers, God's Warriors, God's Agents."

A careful review of the table of contents reveals the completeness and depth of Lenika's study of the work and presence of angels throughout Jesus' ministry, as well as the ministry of angels today, and the functions of angels in our lives.

In a logical progression, the chapters cover the functions of angels, the protection of angels, their ministries, and the the subject of dispatching angels.

A natural communicator and storyteller, Lenika includes testimonies and verified accounts of exciting angel encounters in areas of healing, deliverance, revelation, prophetic words, and visions.

Another vital topic included is a study from the book of Daniel, illustrating the importance of fasting and how it impacts angel activity.

After a quick preview of the book, I was already deeply engrossed and blessed with a dream which revealed the time in my life when angels intervened to protect me from bodily harm, deliverance from temptations, and in ministry opportunities.

"Angelic Allies - God's Messengers" is a book you will want to preview, read, and read again. In this review, I have only touched the surface of how you can partner with angels within your sphere of influence.

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

Oooky Pooky Spooky Fear: Telling Fear to Go Away!
Dian Layton
Illustrated by JD Hornbacher
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768449914, $9.99, 32 pages

Meeting Fear with Confidence - Fighting the Dragon of Fear of Bullies

Dian Layton is known for her storytelling adventures. A gifted communicator, Dian understands children, their emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. In this book, she addresses children's fear of the dark, the first day at school, and bullies.

JD Hornbacher's illustrations are "right on" and fabulous: capturing the priceless expressions on the kid's faces, moving from freight to boldness, gloating delight, and shear victory as they gain confidence over fear as the dragon retreats in awe of their courage.

There are several features of the book include that are essential when

relating a message on fear to children:

An Introduction with suggestions for parents to help get the most benefit from the book

The Illustrations by Illustrator JD Hornbacher

The rhythm of the Text - A Song Story cadence

A Bible Application

A Unique "Talk About It" time

The book is designed for early readers, ages 6-9, but is delightful reading for all ages - a strong message of Jesus as King who takes away fear.

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

Lumi the Light Learns to Shine
Kelley Isika
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768450569, $15.99, 32 pages

Christian Message, Early Reader, Age Appropriate Application

Kelly Isika demonstrates an understanding of children and insight into helping them grasp Biblical principles for age appropriateness and application. Artist Natalia Hubbert's colorful illustrations reinforce Kelly's rich insights into the Scriptures and the minds of children.

I remember, as a child, how during the early evening hours, even though accompanied by my aunt, how the shadows emphasized the the darkness of an alley we had to cross on our way to the corner store, frightened me.

Lumi, the Light, felt this same fear on a gray and cloudy day. She looked for a hiding place. Her story will help young readers better understand what it means to let their light shine for Jesus - a story beautifully told and artistically portrayed.

Lumi, the light is an "illuminating." read along with the story for young readers ages five through eight years old.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Louis L'Amour
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593129906, $5.99, 212 pages

L'Amour wrote mostly westerns and because of that he is looked at as just a niche writer. The problem with this is that he was also a great storyteller and his stories are rich with detailed scenes that are created with a few very well-chosen words. The quality of the storytelling is so smooth that most readers never realize it. If you read a few L'Amour stories you will find two repeating weaknesses. The first is that nearly every main character in the story (both good and bad) has a strong core morality that is a factor in how the story unfolds. The second is that he will narrate at least once, if not more frequently, an underlying western code that his characters live by. This is not a factor in the storytelling because the tales are fiction. But everything else in his stories are extremely accurate and filled with details that are many times missing from actual historical textbooks. The contrast between the code and accuracy can become glaring after reading a few of his tales.

Fallon is a moral drifter who has stumbled into being a con artist and gambler to make a living. On the run, he encounters along a desert trail a wagon train in trouble. He knows of an abandoned town in the hills nearby and decides to con the people in the train. He claims he owns the abandoned town and convinces them to take up residence. He builds and organizes his town until it becomes less a con and more of his own legacy.

A criminal gang is working the territory around Fallon's town. They have their eyes set on raiding and stealing the wealth of the settlers. Fallon has to decide whether to stand and fight or take what he can and run.

Fallon is an easy recommendation to any reader. The quality of the writing transcends the western genre. Most fiction and non-fiction readers will find a portion of the story to their liking.

Zakhirkoot: The Great Adventure
Noah Milhouse
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B076LRP7YV, $0.99, ebook, 459 pages
9781973109433, paper

Zakhirkoot is the first book in a youth adventure/quest saga. The characters are extreme and unusual but are well written with enough details to bring them alive. The quest is your typical growing up adventure and doesn't stand out. The only real weakness is that Milhouse uses the story to repeatedly preach a religious code. The reason this stands out is that the saga is filled with your typical wizards, demons and fantasy creatures but Milhouse's sermons are separate and tend to stand outside of the rest of the mythology of the saga.

Lightson is a young boy from a village in a world without magic. He is magically transported to a different world where magic and fantastical beings exist. He has no memory of how he got to this new world and is found by a dwarf and taken in. The king is a harsh ruler who uses force to control the population. Any strangers could disrupt his rule so, when Lightson becomes known to the local soldiers, Lightson and his new dwarf friend have to run for their lives.

Lightson becomes a catalyst to others traveling through the king's realm. The travelers on the run soon become a force that disrupts the stability of the king's rule and a focus of forces on all sides.

Zakhirkoot is a solid tale but it is just the first book in a series so expect that the book to end with much of the storyline left dangling. The basic tale is youth oriented. Older readers would likely prefer a stronger storyline but Zakhirkoot could fill the niche of family reading. If you don't mind the preaching and family slant to the story, Zakhirkoot is a book for you.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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