Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 12 December 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Family Office
William I. Woodson, author
Edward V. Marshall, author
Columbia Business School Publishing
c/o Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231200622, $35.00, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Family offices are private organizations that assume the daily administration and management of a wealthy family's personal and financial affairs. Historically, these repositories of great wealth were shrouded in secrecy, their activities conducted behind closed doors. But recently, family offices have acquired a considerably higher public profile: they represent a mere 7 percent of the world's ultra-high-net-worth population -- yet they control a staggering 50 percent of the world's wealth. As only a select few families now hold a disproportionate amount of global wealth, there are significant social implications to how such assets are managed and used.

"The Family Office: A Comprehensive Guide for Advisers, Practitioners, and Students" by William I. Woodson and Edward V. Marshall provides an insider's view for anyone looking to understand family offices and how to best serve and advise them. Offering a thorough guide to family offices this instructive study covers: why wealthy families create them, what they do, and how to manage them effectively.

"The Family Office" also presents these insights through a series of problem-based learning cases that follow a single family's journey from the time of a significant liquidity event; through the creation, staffing, and management of their family office; and on to its succession. Each case study is supported by detailed background reference material.

The cases and background materials are drawn from two the authors' years of expertise and practical knowledge, a network of industry experts, and their professional experience advising family offices large and small. "The Family Office" goes on to shed light on the unique issues that ultrawealthy families face and the solutions they adopt to address them throughout the life cycle of a family office.

Critique: A definitive and comprehensive resource for practitioners and students, as well as family principals, advisers, service providers, and all others who engage with the world of family offices, "The Family Office: A Comprehensive Guide for Advisers, Practitioners, and Students" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Business & Wealth Management collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that this impressively well written, organized and presented study is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.24).

Editorial Note #1: William I. Woodson is a lecturer on wealth management at Columbia University School of Professional Studies and serves on the advisory board for the Stanford University Global Family Office Initiative. He is the former head of a family office and ran the family office practices for Citi Private Bank and Credit Suisse.

Editorial Note #2: Edward V. Marshall is a family office expert, author, consultant, and speaker. He is the global head of the family office practice at Dentons, the world's largest law firm. Marshall has held leading family office roles at Credit Suisse, Citibank, and Boston Private, and he is also a guest lecturer on the family office at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Extraordinary Threat
Justin Podur and Joe Emersberger
Monthly Review Press
9781583679166, $25.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In March 2015, President Obama initiated sanctions against Venezuela, declaring a "national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela." Each year, the US administration has repeated this claim. But, as Joe Emersberger and Justin Podur argue in their timely book, Extraordinary Threat, the opposite is true: It is the US policy of regime change in Venezuela that constitutes an "extraordinary threat" to Venezuelans. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans continue to die because of these ever-tightening US sanctions, denying people daily food, medicine, and fuel. On top of this, Venezuela has, since 2002, been subjected to repeated coup attempts by US-backed forces. In Extraordinary Threat, Emersberger and Podur tell the story of six coup attempts against Venezuela.

This book deflates the myths propagated about the Venezuelan government's purported lack of electoral legitimacy, scant human rights, and disastrous economic development record. Contrary to accounts lobbed by the corporate media, the real target of sustained U.S. assault on Venezuela is not the country's claimed authoritarianism or its supposed corruption. It is Chavismo, the prospect that twenty-first century socialism could be brought about through electoral and constitutional means. This is what the US empire must not allow to succeed.

Critique: Extraordinary Threat: The U.S. Empire, the Media, and Twenty Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela is a shocking examination of repeated U.S.-backed coup attempts in Venezuela, as well as the harm brought by U.S. sanctions. Authors Justin Podur and Joe Emersberger advocate that Venezuela's government was legitimately elected, and decry biased news reporting by corporate media. Extraordinary Threat is a clarion criticism of modern-day American imperialism, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Extraordinary Threat is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Editorial Note: Justin Podur is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. He is the author of Haiti's New Dictatorship, Siegebreakers, and America's Wars on Democracy in Rwanda and the DR Congo.

Joe Emersberger is an engineer, writer, and activist based in Canada. His writing, focused on the Western media's coverage of the Americas, can be found on,,, Telesur English, and

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness
Christopher Martin
Martin Family Bookstore
9780990826958, $19.95 Hardcover, $12.95 Paper $8.95 ebook

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment comes from a psychologist and father of 6 who has battled multiple invisible chronic ailments ranging from asthma and allergies, a primary immune deficiency disorder, sleep apnea, and more. While any of these would seem enough to struggle with, the combination results in a real challenge to leading a joyful life, injecting the specter of debilitation and illness into the most mundane of daily rituals.

Invisible chronic illness is more prevalent in society than one would think. There are all kinds of conditions that create pain, uncertainty, and struggles with daily routines, yet are not observed by those outside the family. As a result, they are less understood by others, are often self-diagnosed outside of medical circles, and are challenging for everyone involved.

Chris Martin advises that the first step in dealing with chronic illness is to gain an accurate medical diagnosis, but he's careful to also say that this isn't the last step in the process of regaining a meaningful life: "While an official diagnosis represents a huge step forward in the management of your condition, it also represents a new beginning in your journey of further seeking help for your condition, not the end. In dealing with a chronic illness, the search for improved health and a better quality of life never ceases. Likewise, despite an official diagnosis, you will continue to confront challenges when accessing quality healthcare or dealing with others, but it will be that much easier to confront these challenges. You have cleared a major hurdle."

Finding Joy acknowledges both the complexity of searching for better treatments and health through medical circles and gaining support from family and friends who may come to question a process which holds no clear avenue to resolution, yet impacts many life choices: "When others doubt the validity of your illness, they may view you as faking your illness and encourage you to just push through it. They struggle to understand why you frequently need to cancel on them, why you are not up for social gatherings or outings, or why you do not appear productive. Although most people with chronic illness would prefer to stay productive than chronically ill any day, they may view you as lazy and over-indulging in rest or your "time off." In short, they often perceive your invisible chronic illness as not severe enough to prevent you from engaging in daily life activities."

Martin offers concrete paths to better health, communication, and mind-stretching/supporting routines such as mindfulness, and tailors all these approaches to chronic illness.

While there is plenty of information here about acceptance, self-compassion, reappraisal, encouraging self-talk, social support, and positive psychology concepts and stress management techniques, the heart of this discussion lies in putting these ethereal concepts and ideals into daily life and interactions with others.

All this lends an ultimate purpose of finding joy in everyday life against all obstacles. Martin's discussion incorporates how to create new mindsets, habits, and approaches to living for optimal results. These offer a revised set of actions and new solutions for those who have found themselves swamped with chronic ailments and daily life challenges.

Anyone with chronic illness needs this blueprint of new pathways to joy. It's a survey recommended not just for the chronically ill patient, but also for the family and friends supporting their efforts.

Those Brisbane Romantics
Danielle de Valera
Old Tiger Books
9780994274564, US$4.45 (ebook); US$20.30 (print)
AU$25.99 (Australian bookstores)

Brisbane, Australia in the 1960s is the pastoral setting for a romantic and social inspection in Those Brisbane Romantics. Set in an old mansion where new adults struggle with issues of commitment and change, the story revolves around Tara and Joe, who each have set paths of achievement and creative opportunity ahead of them.

A budding romance threatens to derail these plans; and so each resists the other for different reasons - but even though romance is an intrinsic part of the story line, so, also, is Australian history. Danielle de Valera examines the White Australia Policy's racism and the impact of engrained attitudes on the nation's indigenous Aboriginal population.

These facets are brought to life through the eyes and experiences of Doug Jarratt and Tara's best friend Cass Clayton, who face personal issues of romance as well as racism's impact on their lives and choices.

Danielle de Valera does an excellent job of weaving the aspirations and observations of disparate individuals into a story that is rooted in romance, but embraces a wider range of concerns than individual pursuits alone.

She captures interpersonal conflict and points of difference using astute and pointed dialogue that brings each character to life: "Joe watched a pigeon diving for a piece of bread someone had thrown to it. "Security means nothing to me." "That is because already you have the security. You are in familiar surroundings, among friends. Later you will learn just how much of your security was really due to you and just how much was due to other things. But you do not like to talk like this, I see." Joe decided the best method of defence was attack. "Why don't you want to marry now?"

de Valera is also skilled at pointing out the barriers to romance and deeper connections as her characters inquire, interact, and evolve: "Tara had a flash of how her life would be if she married Alan. It would be very lonely once the sex wore off. "Sometimes," she said, "when I'm up really high, I feel as if I could step off, that I've escaped from myself for just a moment. But the minute I move or even realise what I'm thinking, I'm back in there again, imprisoned. Have you ever felt that?" Alan shrugged. "Don't think I'd want to. It sounds a bit dangerous to me."

Those Brisbane Romantics is as much about changing times as shifting hearts and minds. With Australia's history and social issues blending into these romantic stories and inspections, the story that engages on more than a linear or singular level. Danielle de Valera has crafted an engaging saga of 1960s Australia and affairs of the heart alike, as her characters enter the wider world, and childhood is left behind.

HŠlend's Ballad
Ian V. Conrey
Independently Published
9781736880623, $4.99 Ebook

HŠlend's Ballad is an epic fantasy that will delight fans of Lord of the Rings and other works more than lightly steeped in a sense of place and purpose.

No light read, it's a tale of dark places, dark hearts, and a quest that joins three unlikely comrades in a world-confronting journey where their choices and impact do not always make them the good guys.

The first feature to note is the exquisite sense of place that opens the story with powerful atmosphere: "Stepping through the open entryway, the smell of sour milk and lantern oil filled EilÝvur's nose. Several Sunderian men, clothed in brown leather tunics and jerkins, sat at the bar. As with just about everyone else in Sunder, they looked like poor farmers. One man, with a leathery face, smiled, revealing his toothless gums. Another man chewed on something, probably tobacco."

Ian Conrey's ability to bring alive this backdrop, injecting three very different characters whose perspectives of the world work at cross purposes to not only each other, but their own best interests, is part of what makes HŠlend's Ballad a compelling force to contend with.

Fantasy readers who look for satisfyingly complex reads cemented by history, cultural, and psychological examination will find each flawed character equally compelling. This succeeds in creating subplots that hold the ability to stand powerfully on their own, yet interact in unexpected ways as a militia man, an abused teen, and a mother accused of murder each find themselves in an unexpected dance with fate and each other.

One defining moment describes appearances, but also equally applies to matters of changing hearts as experience and new revelations change these characters: "They must feel like true Daecish lords now," said a young soldier standing next to EilÝvur. "I'm sure they do," he said. "But what you wear does not define who you are."

The shadow which enters these people changes their perceptions, intentions, and interactions: "He was different now. Ever since the shadow entered him, he had a new strength and saw things from a different perspective." As each struggles with their choice to accept forces beyond their ability to properly assess, readers are treated to a compelling saga that closely examines the results of good intentions gone awry.

The spiritual reflections that affect these choices are also very nicely done: "Don't you ever get frustrated at your god for making you go through all of this? I mean, wouldn't he want to stop it if he loved you?"

As these multifaceted stories coalesce to become a powerful inspection of moral, ethical, and spiritual paths, readers receive a fine story that embraces and contrasts dark appetites, terrible memories, and beauty alike.

HŠlend's Ballad lingers in the mind as it explores the end of one life and the beginning of another. Its complex saga of adversity, forgiveness and new possibilities will delight readers looking for more than a light fantasy.

Ill Intent
Geoffrey M. Cooper
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633812901, $15.95

Medical thriller readers will find Ill Intent a powerful saga that opens with a letter confessing "a sin against science and truth." The confession was made by Ellen Turner's dying uncle. And his admonition to reveal a secret forty years in the keeping will destroy lives. Including her own.

Mentor Carolyn Gelman didn't expect death and danger to stalk her when she accepted Ellen's plea to get together. But when her friend is murdered before they can meet, her secret left untold, Carolyn embarks on a dangerous investigation of her own not just because of their friendship, but because Ellen managed to convey that her uncle's secret would shake their research field. And the threat is only beginning.

As Carolyn, Professor Brad Parker, and FBI Special Agent Karen Richmond probe the scientific community's inner sanctum of secrets, a host of complex interactions between peer reviewers, scientific papers, experiments, and individuals who have vested interests in different outcomes collide in a riveting thriller story.

As readers absorb the nature of the secret, the threat, and its potential impact on not just science but society itself, they receive a gripping account that moves from Carolyn's dual desire for closure and information to a series of decisions about love and life that bring Brad and Karen closer to each other as well as danger.

Geoffrey M. Cooper is masterful at creating a plot that simmers with changing relationships between investigators, experimenters, and scientists. As all are challenged by the mysterious letter that threatens to expose everything, each character steps up to make changes that adjust their attitudes and ideas about their goals, jobs, and roles.

The changing viewpoints need some chapter heading clarification to prove seamless, but readers will appreciate how the different first-person inspections add contrasting dimensions to the plot that keep it fast-paced, personal, and involving.

The shifting landscape between Maine and Boston and the developing issues that result from decisions to change research structures and individual objectives makes for an involving, multifaceted read.

Ill Intent's focus on moral and ethical conundrums, its dash of romance, and its ability to keep the action on track and varying creates a medical thriller that is firmly rooted in psychological interactions and unexpected developments.

Medical thriller readers can expect a treat with the depth and many surprises in Ill Intent.

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 4
C.M.H. Koenig (compiler)
C.M.H. Koenig Books
9781737732402, $14.99 Paperback

Like its predecessors, the fourth volume of Old Testament Readings & Devotionals offers Bible students a reasoned course of study. This book explores portions of 1 & 2 Samuel, first Chronicles, and Psalms, providing a survey that links devotionals to Biblical readings that cover 1025 BC - 1010 BC.

As C.M.H. Koenig moves through this Bible study, students receive the opportunity to savor and re-examine the scriptures and their underlying meaning and messages.

This is accomplished not just by profiled passages themselves, but through the added value of excerpts from the devotionals by Robert Hawker (1753 - 1827), Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), and Octavius Winslow (1808-1878). The Psalms utilized are interspersed throughout the Old Testament volumes.

It's easy to differentiate the key verses (from the Christian Standard Bible) from these associated writings - they appear in italics. It's also easy to link these to a daily pursuit, as each quote and piece appears in a daily format to encourage succinct, thought-provoking reading.

One example is that presented on Day 38, with a reading from Psalm 54: "God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might! God, hear my prayer; listen to the words from my mouth. For strangers rise up against me, and violent men intend to kill me. They do not let God guide them. Selah. God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life." Psalm 54:1-4.

This pairs with an inspection by Winslow from his Evening Thoughts work: "Where was David now? "In the wilderness of Ziph, in a wood." With not a follower or companion, this favorite of the nation was a homeless wanderer, hunted like a partridge upon the mountain by the bloodthirsty king. But oh, the deep teaching of which he would now be the subject! The nothingness of earthly glory - the emptiness of human applause - the poverty of the creature - the treachery of his own heart - in a word, the vapid nature and utter insufficiency of all earthly good, would be among the many holy and costly lessons he would now learn. Nor this alone. Driven from man, he would now be more exclusively and entirely shut in with God. In his happy experience, that wilderness would be as a peopled world, and that wood as a blooming paradise."

These linked passages offer newfound opportunities for reflection, interpretation, and debate.

Koenig does readers a great service in making these pairings relevant to contemporary times and philosophical and spiritual reflection alike, creating bonds and methods of inquiry that support belief and Biblical relevance alike.

Another note to this collection is that its links are easy to digest in length; yet designed for a contemplation that lends to day-long consideration. An example of this is Day 63's reading of Psalm 73: "It is good for me to draw near to God." Psalm 73:28 (AKJV). This seemingly clear one-liner assumes new meaning when paired with Winslow's Morning Thoughts: "Reader, are you a professing child of God? Content not yourself to live thus; it is a poor, lifeless existence, unworthy of your profession, unworthy of Him whose name you do bear, and unworthy of the glorious destiny towards which you are looking. Thus, may a believer test the character of his love. He in whose heart divine affection deepens, increases, and expands, finds God an object of increasing delight and desire..."

More than a study of Biblical passages alone, Old Testament Readings & Devotionals offers key connections between Biblical words and modern living. As its predecessors do, this fourth volume allows readers the opportunity to slow down and take a reasoned look at the underlying meaning and impact of the Old Testament.

Students can use this volume for either self-study or/and (ideally) discussion. Its powerful associations offer much food for thought, making Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 4 an ideal choice for all kinds of Christian collections and readers.

Jeremy C. Gredone
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781684017010, $19.95

Maxwell's picture book story opens on the first day of school, when a perfect spider web appears on the side mirror of the family car. When the car gains speed, an angry spider appears, only to find further challenge with a freeway ride under the watchful eyes of the humans who both move along in their daily routine and observe Maxwell's reactions to the road.

As colorful drawings by D. Sherene Offutt capture the spider's dilemmas and the family's reactions, the spider tale comes to life.

The family comes to believe that Maxwell's perseverance makes him no ordinary spider...a fact proven by extraordinary circumstances the next day.

Maxwell presents a whimsical fantasy story that imparts lessons about adaptation, courage, and determination.

Kids will enjoy the fantasy superhero visions the young characters develop over Maxwell's abilities and the spread of a legend that just keeps getting more fantastic.

Nothing lasts forever...but, can Maxwell live on in the minds of those around him? He can, and does...albeit in an unusual manner that concludes with a surprise twist over exactly what made Maxwell so amazing to the humans who became part of his life.

Jeremy C. Gredone excels in creating a fun and thought-provoking book that addresses all kinds of themes, from building legends and courage to handling the impermanence of life. Its warm, whimsical story invites picture book readers and read-aloud parents to thoroughly enjoy.

It's Time to Say Goodnight
Dr. S. Amna Husain, MD.
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645437833, $14.95

With so many picture books on the market that provide bedtime stories for read-aloud parents, one might wonder at the perspective and need for yet another in It's Time to Say Goodnight.

But, between the gentle rhyme which presents a cadence and reflections that are slow-moving and relaxing and Ana Sebastißn's lovely, colorful drawings that capture a range of animals preparing for bedtime, this sleep-encouraging story deserves a spot in any bedtime collection for the very young.

As the day draws to a close, each animal prepares for bedtime in a different manner.

Young puppies, bears, owls, and others all receive different kinds of directions from their parents on how to enter sleep, and kids will appreciate the warm observations of how different parents encourage this process.

With its varied and warm depictions of "feeling loved, warm, and tight," kids and parents will appreciate the calming atmosphere of love that weaves into these stories and the experience of telling them. Sleep becomes an accessible goal under the calming influence of a story that embraces all kinds of parent/child support imagery.

Split City
Andy Straka
Clovercroft Publishing
9781954437173, $13.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Split City is a contemporary Christian mystery set in the Catskills and tells of an ex-pro bowler and owner of bowling alley Split City Lanes, Billy Gills, who is charged with identifying his twin brother Bo at a morgue. From there, he becomes determined to uncover the truth about his brother's life.

The story opens with a wry observation "In bowling, as the old joke goes, there is never a good time to clean the gutters. Likewise, I suppose, there is never a good time to visit the morgue."

This leads to Billy's increasing dilemma as he probes not only his brother's world, but his connections.

In the typical whodunit mystery environment, investigators are supported by a cast of friends and professionals who augment their abilities. Here, Billy is drawn to investigate the Christian community, powered by the "Jesus Spares" church service environment. This spiritual component to the investigative process will delight Christian readers who enjoy mysteries and social examinations that move into religious realms - a relatively rare combination.

The advantage of being Bo's twin opens many doors into his life that ordinarily would be shut. The benefit of holding a belief system and community ties that overcome a circumspect sheriff's own investigations into Bo's life and legal difficulties adds intriguing elements to the Jesus Spares events that intersect with the evolving mystery.

As the Jesus Spares episode becomes more deeply connected to Bo's life, Billy uncovers many revelations about faith, community, politics, and special interests: "Jesus Spares had filled Split City with a cacophonous assortment of people. They'd come from all walks of life, from all races and backgrounds, young and old - from Partridgeberry, Madaga, and beyond. They'd showed up seeking free food, free bowling, laughter, and fun - and for some, maybe even some measure of truth and forgiveness. This particular Sunday, there seemed to be plenty of forgiveness, smiles, and laughter to go around."

Is the small-town and spiritual community family that connected Bo and Billy and Split City to be trusted?

Split City creates a powerful story of bowling, adversity, small-town politics, and Billy's search for truth and community. Its blend of mystery and social inspection will delight readers seeking solid psychological stories of self and community ties, tempered by surprising twists and turns.

Sparks and Disperses
Cathleen Cohen
Cornerstone Press
9781733308687, $17.95

If ever there was an appropriate time for the appearance of a poetry collection rooted in concepts of fracture and recovery, it's now, during a raging major pandemic. That's when such approaches and words hold their greatest power to deliver messages that resonate - and is one reason why Sparks and Disperses feels so powerful.

But, perhaps this collection would hold equal strength during more peaceful times, as well, because Sparks and Disperses cultivates a special voice and brand of inspection that is the perfect panacea and inspiration for everyday challenges during less dramatic times.

Shards of logic, spiritual reflection, and philosophical insight permeate poems that come soldered with the glitter of possibilities and angst.

Cathleen Cohen captures worlds from spectator as well as participant viewpoints, embedding these observations with powerful messages that readers will find compelling as they question events, responses, and results: "We didn't witness the explosion./But sometimes/don't you feel tremors?"

If there is any poetry collection which demonstrates the power of brevity when done right, it's Cohen's work. Every word is important. The insights can be amazing, as in "Maybe a Hawk", which juxtaposes a child's imagination with harsh contemporary reality over the social dilemma of gun control: "Last week, a box of bullets/appeared/beneath a fourth grader's desk./The children say/it fell from the sky,/or maybe a hawk dropped it."

The poems are diverse, "beautiful, and sharp." They capture layers of life and psyche that lead to breaking and coming back together, with each poem presenting both a scenario and a wider-ranging inspection of personal and social struggle.

Sparks and Disperses feels so powerful because it is a reflection of modern times that delves into the angst of coming apart and the process of putting life back together to uncover meaning in its processes, against all odds.

It's the perfect poetic reflection of our pandemic times and human nature's ability to recover, and belongs in any contemporary poetry collection and on the radars of readers looking for hard-hitting poems.

So Beware
James Hockenberry
HN Books, LLC
9780991561230, $3.99 Kindle

One would expect that the third book in a World War I novel series would require prior familiarity with characters and setting. But, then, that same newcomer to James Hockenberry's work will also be surprised at the blend of history and intrigue that sets this book apart from most World War I scenarios, requiring no prior familiarity with its predecessors in order to prove accessible.

The blend of intrigue, suspense, and World War I events is taut and attractive. A rather long list of characters at the beginning helps newcomers understand that this novel will be wide-ranging both in its viewpoints and its international scope. It is followed by a section of historical background that will delight readers of nonfiction who want to understand both the milieu and premise of the novel and also serves to introduce the reader to the coming narrative.

Chapter 1 opens with 'The Last Day' and is set in France in 1918, where Captain Gilbert Martin and the Kellers (heroes of the first two books, Over Here and Send the Word) return to the limelight.

A threat to the signing of the Versailles peace treaty emerges to threaten catastrophe unless the military intelligence officers can thwart a dangerous plot.

A series of cat-and-mouse encounters based on lesser-known World War I real events and people keeps the story fast-paced and readers on their toes. Even those versed in history will find many of the intelligence and historical insights riveting and unexpected.

From links between chess moves and encryption puzzles to political deals and schemes that determine the fate of nations and their connections to one another, Hockenberry provides a seamless intersection between history and fiction that keeps his story action-packed, believable, and hard to put down.

Readers should ideally be attracted to historical backdrops surrounding World War I, while also satisfied with fictional intrigue and action that bring these situations to life. There are many passages of historical insight that reflect not just the usual physical battles, but behind-the-scenes maneuvering and special interests that result in political alliances and agreements: "The Allies would promise to remove their entire forces from Russia and end the blockade. They would also stop all financial and military aid to the White Russians and would guarantee the White Russians would accept the conditions. Lenin gave the Allies one month to accept the deal. Bullitt ended by saying, 'These are excellent terms. Better than we could have hoped for.'"

Through the lens of accusations, confrontations, and agreements, fragments of a puzzle "click into place" as readers follow the intelligence leaders in a desperate struggle to prevent calamity. The drama and complexities of the Peace Conference jump off the pages, culminating in the electrifying moment when German delegates are invited to receive the punishing terms.

James Hockenberry's story will reach even those who enjoy thrillers but have little World War I interest. Its vivid blend of action, drama, and political intrigue will keep audiences on edge and wondering about outcomes, especially with the twists and turns that keep intrigue high and results unpredictable.

Any historical fiction collection looking for more than battle stories alone will find So Beware a fitting, complex, appealing addition.

Halloween Party '21
David Yurkovich, Editor
Gravelight Press
c/o Devil's Party Press, LLC
9781734091847, $14.99 Paper, $.99 Kindle

Halloween Party '21 is a horror anthology that belongs in any collection strong in frightening reads, featuring a wide range of vampire and ghostly scenarios that will delight genre fans.

Many of these writers will be unfamiliar, but that doesn't mean their works within are any less powerful than better-known authors. Halloween Party '21 presents a wide range of presentation forms, from poetry to prose, which also expands the vision of what constitutes a horror read.

Take Morgan Golladay's "It Is Highly Illegal to Hit Someone With an Egg," for example. This hip-hop poem captures some "hard-boiled attitude" over Halloween egging and how the devil gets into those who celebrate the holiday in ways that impact their frightened neighbors.

Faye Perozich's "Unwell," in contrast, is about a happy life changed by tragedy, leading to the contemplation of suicide. A father and daughter find themselves in the same place, for different reasons: "It felt like they were two complete strangers who just happened to be in the same place, each doing the same thing by sheer coincidence, an entire world of loneliness, guilt, and grief separating them." But the real horror lies in the intersection of blame, love, murder, and a macabre twist of fate.

Each piece brings with it a different form of horror inspection that is both delightful and thought-provoking.

Readers young and old who are interested in horror accounts that go beyond the usual spooks and hauntings to poke at the heart of horrors that remain unseen, unspoken, and unacknowledged will find the diversity and literary excellence of these writings to be captivatingly different from any other horror anthology.

While Halloween Party '21 will likely be chosen for horror collections, it also deserves a place in any literary collection seeking to push the boundaries of genre reading to attract thinking audiences who relish unexpected twists and turns.

Champagne Window
Rebecca Rosenberg
Lion Heart Publishing
9781732969919, $16.00 Print, $9.99 ebook

Historical fiction readers who enjoy stories centered on France, wine, and women will find Champagne Window an attractive tale. It revolves around 1800s twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole, who inherits a taste for champagne and business from her famous champagne maker great-grandfather.

There's only one problem. At this time, the Napoleon Code prohibits women from pursuing businesses. Deciding to marry a her childhood sweetheart because his title opens the door for her business venture despite his mental illness, Barbe-Nicole continues to pursue her passion for champagne against all odds - including the war and the death that surrounds her.

A coming child also affects her abilities and passions, promising to change everything even as Barbe-Nichole faces the fact that her near-perfect arrangement holds its flaws.

Rebecca Rosenberg recreates the times with a deft hand that embraces one woman's determination to pursue positive courses in her life while capturing the culture and milieu of 1800s France: "Don't worry, Barbe-Nicole. He'll get used to the idea," Lizzette says when she brings me a chocolate croissant in the morning. "Men are spoiled little boys when they think they have to share your attention." "I don't want to share his attention, either." I take a bite of croissant while Lizzette plaits my hair which has grown to my waist. "It was perfect, just the two of us." "Qui n'avance pas, recule," she says in her native Occitaine tongue from her Trobairitz heritage. "Those who don't move forward, move backward?" I guess her meaning."

Her ability to personalize business concerns, marital transactions, and political and military strife allows even readers who normally eschew historical novels to easily absorb the setting and influences of Barbe-Nichole's times.

The portraits of international business agreements and politics, as well as the evolution of Napoleon's own concerns and rule, are presented through vivid scenes that juxtapose Barbe-Nichole's concerns with broader politics. Passages provide illuminating insights into how this clever woman navigates some major obstacles to further her champagne business during challenging times: "If Louis can't sell champagne, we make no money, yet I still have to pay his substantial expenses. At what point must I cut our losses? Louis has no luck in the Scandinavian countries either, with their hatred of Napoleon and France, so I ask him to return to Russia where his brawn and bluster are appreciated with open arms. I agree with the Russians. The longer he is gone, the more I miss the way he lights up a room with his antics and stories."

One particular strength of Champagne Window lies in its ability to weave complicated social and political affairs into the perspectives and objectives of a strong woman who refuses to quit, back down, or completely bow to the role of women in her times.

As issues of personal and political empowerment emerge against the backdrop of change, Barbe-Nichole (now called Veuve Clicquot) must consider whether to cede her position in the name of love and for the sake of her business, or stand against Napoleon.

Vivid, lively, and packed with psychological and social inspection, Champagne Window is highly recommended for women who enjoy passionate stories of friends, fine wine, and the delicate lines between personal and political empowerment.

Mainely Angst
Matt Cost
Encircle Publications
9781645992844, $16.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Fans of Matt Cost's prior Goff Langdon's 'Mainely' mystery series will relish the appearance of another standalone story of intrigue, Mainely Angst.

The pandemic has affected both Langdon's bookstore, which is suffering from lack of customers and pandemic restrictions, and his PI business (because fewer people are getting into the kinds of trouble that require his services).

Typical of life, a challenge emerges that simultaneously affects both endeavors when his bookstore reopens at the same time that three major investigations drop into his lap.

It's all or nothing. And Langdon discovers that 'nothing' may be preferable, after all, to the convoluted dilemmas faced by three people: a lobsterman who believes his wife has been kidnapped, a frantic family trying to save a youngster being held hostage by a madman who is trying to subvert the pandemic restrictions on his life, and a quest for proof of sexual harassment against a fellow business owner.

The pandemic has caused many to pull away, become distant, or react in unusual ways. As Langdon and those who hire him struggle with their revised lives, Matt Cost does an especially good job of injecting the pandemic's affects and milieu as a backdrop to these seemingly diverse (but somehow interconnected) investigations: "What was wrong with her, she wondered? It was long before her boy had been abducted that this creeping alienation had entered her life. Was it the pandemic? The polarized politics that dominated the news every day had seemingly torn a hole in her soul and filled it with a despair that she was unable to escape. Nothing was right with the world. The one thing that she'd felt in quite some time was the abduction of Eddie. For that, she was almost, if not quite, grateful, to feel again, even if it was a pain and fear that gripped her with an icy claw and even now, made it hard for her to breathe."

From lives destroyed by both Covid and restrictions to confrontations that lead Langdon to lose his professional cool and get angry about all kinds of circumstances, Cost creates a moving story that is as much about the psychological impact of revised social conditions as it is about the terror and conundrums that grip a community to provide no easy answers.

Langdon is not immune to angst or the impacts of political decisions. Neither is he one to back down from evil or politicians.

As readers follow him on journeys that weave through disparate lives and special interests, the mysteries become more than another story of perps, leads, and threats. They consider resolution and motivation, make the perps not just believable, but human, and pair confrontation with understanding in a manner that allows for a touch of romantic inspection along the way.

These unexpected twists and thought-provoking considerations keep Mainely Angst centered not just on mysteries, but in community interactions, responses, and anxiety.

Mainely Angst's special relevance to post-pandemic readers keeps its concerns contemporary and its mystery especially vivid, which will delight genre readers looking for a story firmly rooted in community struggle and current events.

Rocky's Christmas Journey
Kim Dwyer, Ph.D.
Independently Published
9781737325338, $12.95 Paper, $9.99 ebook

When Baby Owl outgrows his nest in Rocky's Christmas Journey, his dilemma prompts him to take flight away from his comfort zone and parents to find a new home.

He appears to discover the perfect nap spot, but when a strange forest noise awakens him in the daylight, he finds a dangerous threat to his forest home. What can a young owl do to save the day, even if he has moved from Baby Owl to Brave Owl?

Brave Owl's new nest is very warm and the world is very cold. So he goes back to sleep. And when he awakens, his world has changed.

What's a Baby/Brave Owl to do?

Kim Dwyer's story is simply delightful, spiced with exquisite, colorful drawings by Moran Reudor. It's based on a true story of a little owl who was found in the Rockefeller Christmas tree, which makes it an even more compelling.

The holiday season and decorations come alive under Dwyer's hand in a story based on a real discovery. A concluding section of owl facts and a guide for caregivers on how to interpret this story and discuss it with young picture book readers and listeners completes its value not just for the Christmas season, but for year-round lessons.

The blend of Christmas experience, the gift of giving and care, and the little owl's observation of his changing world is a warm story that both captures the holiday spirit and provides important lessons about conservation and moving away from safe, familiar environments.

The Pop Tart Insurrection
Marcus Herzberg
Oren Village, LLC
9780991267293, $19.95 HC, $9.98 PB, $4.99, Ebook

The Pop Tart Insurrection represents satirical humor at its best and poses a battle that begins when a new toaster destroys Magnus Haycock's pop tart, leading him to become determinated to take over the world and correct such wrongs: "I wasn't mad at the ten-year-olds working in the un-airconditioned factory who had assembled this contraption, or the red-and-tan-clad cashier who scanned it and bagged it for my mother. I understood that they were just cogs in a machine. I was mad at the assholes who designed it, and okayed it, and at the system that allows shit like this to be sold for $29.99, only to dash the hopes of high school seniors looking for a semi-nutritious late-night snack. We're the future of the damn country, after all."

His decision to assume command of his world and life, sparked by the seeming low-importance specter of a pop tart gone awry, provides a hilarious scenario that teen to adult readers will find fun and thought-provoking as Magnus struggles with graduating high school, pursuing his goals, and enduring dumb instructors who come with higher-level studies and pursuits.

All these encounters just serve to prove to Magnus that his special abilities are needed, and that taking over the world may not be an impossible goal when faced with the IQs of those who currently run it.

As Marcus Herzberg romps through the visions of a new adult who thinks he can do better, readers gain a vivid story of brewing revolution, institutional craziness, family relationships gone awry, and instructor Dr. Thorn's precarious position between administrator and student perceptions.

Another word for 'troublemaker' is 'revolutionary'. Does Magnus really hold the ability to change the world?

The Pop Tart Insurrection's special brand of social inspection is sassy, funny, and thought-provoking, all in one. Its social, religious, and political inspections may rub some readers the wrong way, but that's the delight of an edgy story designed to keep them thinking about sane and insane pursuits.

The satire embedded in these inspections is as strong as the revelations that challenge Magnus to achieve his goals, and come from unexpected, crazy places: "...rather than becoming immersed in this country's ridiculous attachment to sport, you need to figure out how to use it, and eventually, to degrade it and replace it with a consciousness about your concerns. You need to wake people up, Magnus. You need to shake them out of their stupor and lead them into the light of day."

How is social change achieved? From the people who have had enough, and what they decide to do about the forces that direct their daily lives.

People like Magnus, whose reeling journey through his new adult years intrigues, delights, and sometimes puzzles his readers with inspections of how the foundations of insurrection can emerge from daily life frustrations and routines.

Christmas at Hembry Castle
Meredith Allard
Copperfield Press
9780578814896, $10.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Christmas at Hembry Castle transports readers to Victorian times and the holiday season as it tells of the dilemma of a ghost, the former Earl of Staton, who tackles both Christmas and family problems.

Ordinarily, the earl is a patient ghost who keeps a watchful, passive eye on his family. But this season brings with it new challenges, from his niece Daphne's wedding (which will take place without him) to being cursed not only by his position, but by his ghostly spectator role after his death.

This is not a ghost who feels empowered to make changes. In fact, he holds many regrets for his actions when he was alive: "I should have given it more thought," the ghost said aloud to the rain now splattering his bowler hat. "I should have considered how my actions would affect my family. Perhaps I've only ever thought of myself when there are so many who think of me." He was embarrassed, the ghost. Ashamed, even."

As he becomes a force in Daphne and her beau Edward's world, everything changes. Daphne's heart is broken as the ghost awaits his opportunity to change the world. He is an unobtrusive ghost, so can his presence affect Daphne, his family, and the Christmas season?

Meredith Allard's novella creates a compelling vision of Victorian times, romance, and Christmas conundrums. Like a different version of A Christmas Carol, Christmas at Hembry Castle brings to life an atmosphere of change, personal transformation, and the intersection of ghostly and human endeavors in a manner that embraces living and dead concerns.

The blend of holiday feel, romance, and a touch of intrigue that offers new possibilities brings the season and times to life, and will delight readers looking for a holiday read that touches the heart.

The final twist to this tale offers an especially delightful surprise, providing a satisfying icing to the sweet story of holiday angst and family interactions.

Ghost Town
A. J. Thibault
Independently Published
9798651774159, $24.95 Hardcover, $19.99 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

It's hard to easily peg the audience of Ghost Town because it holds a special mix of Western, thriller, and paranormal elements that keep it an intriguing read for all three genre readers as well as those who look for exceptional reads that defy simple categorization.

There are ghosts and a ghost town. There are military encounters and backdrops. Combine these with eerie paranormal encounters, then add a heavy dose of suspense over a surprising move from modern to Western times. These are just a few of the devices that combine to create a story that is as compelling as it is indefinable.

The story pulls readers in from the first paragraph: "V.M. Moodbain was about to breach the door to the study when he heard voices shouting in a Russian dialect inside the oak-paneled chamber. He couldn't make out what they were saying, but he could guess."

CIA operative Richard Hart is about to meet the famous Moodbain, but something goes awry, and instead he is transported to a ghost town 100 years in the past, where he battles ghostly figures and tries to figure out a way back to his own world and life.

Hart is trained to be a survivor. But he hasn't been trained to be a time traveler or a Western figure. What he does have going for him, ironically, is the very perseverance that has proved destructive in his marriage: "He and Barbara were held apart by the steel arm of a misplaced balance like two figurines on a coffee table gripped in mutual bondage that never allowed them to be together and yet resisted their efforts to break apart. Never having resolved his ongoing dilemma with women made Richard Hart feel incapable of sorting out some other tangled webs in his life. Yet this unsettling dynamic worked in his favor because it forced him to believe that anything he set his mind to, he could somehow achieve."

This force is why he always challenged himself with impossible assignments in his job. It may be the sole reason why he survives this impossible new position.

A. J. Thibault does an exceptional job in weaving together high-octane suspense and the dilemmas of a time-traveling agent who finds his flexibility and strengths tested by an alien milieu that strands him in time.

Hart's ability to navigate a world that doesn't abide by the same rules he's been used to all his life and his involvement with Erica Burns, who also looks to escape this life (but in a different way), makes for a thriller that is hauntingly and refreshingly different.

Readers who enjoy the blend of paranormal experience and the nonstop action of an engaging thriller will find the perfect formula for engrossing reading in Ghost Town. Can Hart ever go back? His desire to turn back time proves a challenge in more ways than one.

Librarians could find Ghost Town a shelving challenge. The solution is to acquire several copies and file them under 'thriller', 'paranormal', and 'Western'. Audiences from all these genres who look for original writings and vivid stories will find Ghost Town hard to put down.

Ralph Pezzullo
Atmosphere Press
9781639880676, $17.99

Ralph Pezzullo lived in Saigon during the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the overthrow of Diem, and a number of other coup d'etats, experiencing numerous daily Vietcong terrorist attacks against Americans. Perhaps this is why Saigon is so vividly portrayed. Its strength comes to life through the eyes of not just a momentary reporter's short-term perspective, but a resident American's long-term experiences.

In the summer of 1962, Pezzullo had just turned 13, and was on his way to Saigon with his family. The saga opens with a child's eye of the journey and Vietnam's unknown milieu: "My father says that we're traveling to Vietnam to fight communism like it's some kind of disease. But I don't understand how it infects peoples' brains and causes them to act like zombies."

Pezzullo's initial introduction to Vietnam involves making friends and asking questions about their culture, but as his story evolves, his innocence gives way to dangerous associations and threat: "When I tell him the rumor some Vietnamese generals are planning a coup, his ears perk up.

"Who told you that?" he asks, closing the door.

"Is it true?"

He stares at me with penetrating eyes and asks again, stronger, "Where'd you hear that, Michael?"

"Nobody told me. It's a feeling I have."

"A what?" he asks.

"An intuition."

"An intuition?" he repeats in a mocking tone. "Do you think for one minute that any serious person would put the slightest bit of credence into the imagination of a thirteen-year-old boy?"

As he comes of age and romance and peer relationships change, so does Saigon and Vietnamese culture and daily living.

All these are narrated from the point of view of a young man on the cusp of his own changes as a coup d'etat affects his life.

More so than most stories about Vietnam, Pezzullo holds the ability to follow a young man who finds himself embroiled in adult concerns that change his life while he explores an evolving cultural milieu around him.

Saigon's world is undergoing transformation, and as rapidly as he comes to understand it, new facets send it and his life in another direction.

As an American son's involvement changes his father's perceptions of choices and their world, readers are drawn into the overthrow of a country in a personal way that comes to life under the young man's eyes and unique role as an American teen navigating a foreign land.

Readers who would absorb the politics, culture, and family struggles that this environment brings with it will find Saigon a standout because of its ability to not just personalize the political and cultural struggles of the Vietnamese people, but present these changes through the eyes of a young man just beginning to explore his impact on the world around him.

Splitting Pennies
Joseph Gelet
Elite E Services,Inc.
9781533331090, $24.99

Splitting Pennies: Understanding Money makes a lot of sense, in many ways. It will especially appeal to financial professionals and would-be pros interested in issues of debt, the global financial system, and building a better investment portfolio.

Joseph Gelet has worked for some 15 years in Forex, whom some view as the driver of the world economy despite the fact that many outside the financial world may not have heard of Forex. (Surprise! Just because you may not have heard of Forex doesn't mean you aren't already trading in it!)

Speaking of having prior familiarity, Joseph Gelet first published Splitting Pennies years ago. It's a testimony to this subject's importance that, despite the passage of time, the book remains as relevant to modern investors and financial circles as it was upon its first appearance.

Gelet assumes no reader knowledge of the financial world. In fact, in the first few pages, he defines what a "market" is and how it works. This will especially please novices who might think such a book will be beyond their comprehension from the start. It isn't. Splitting Pennies leaves no reader behind and makes no assumptions about education or financial savvy. This is one of its strengths.

Another strength (especially for more seasoned financial audiences) lies in its historical overview of changing regulations and regulatory perspectives, discussions of Forex operations at the Fed and highest levels of economic activity, and (later) in-depth discussions of its financial algorithms.

From adopting flexible winning strategies as markets and regulations change to understanding the future of various currencies and why the ordinary person who ventures into Forex tends to lose money, Splitting Pennies juxtaposes financial inspection with broader social and economic issues to provide a well-rounded discussion of pros, cons, history, and financial approaches.

Who benefits from this? Why is the American Forex system basically anti-competitive, solidifying the USA's monopoly on money? Why is the history of law and Forex in the U.S. so ironic?

From opening a bank account overseas to understanding the various social, political, and economic forces at work in the Forex environment, a wide audience will find Splitting Pennies essential, accessible reading.

The combination of financial savvy, history, and social and political questions and inspections create a powerful, insightful read that will, of course, appeal to financial readers. But, ideally, it should also reach the general public with its hard-hitting analysis, as well as into legal, accounting, trader and broker, and financial manager circles.

Serious business holdings (and many a general-interest library) should add Splitting Pennies to the ranks of powerful, insightful foundation financial writings.

Hitchhiking Across America: 1963
Daniel Robinson
Atmosphere Press
9781639880294, $18.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

Hitchhiking Across America: 1963 tells of a young man's decision to hitchhike across the country during a pivotal time in America's evolutionary process. It follows nineteen-year-old Nick's journey as he experiences not just different regions and people, but some of the cultural and political changes that embroiled the nation during the 1960s.

From the start, Nick explores why the act of hitchhiking opens more doors and results in more candid revelations than staying put and absorbing what an environment can offer: "I'd hitchhiked a lot and discovered that people who pick you up will often say whatever might be on their mind. They talk about their wives, girlfriends, jobs, regrets. They'll say things they'd never tell a wife or a friend or even a priest. Because their relationship with you is so temporary, what difference does it make what you know about them."

As he assesses people, diverse perspectives, and different environments across America, Nick transmits these findings to his reader in ways that give insights into the different towns and contrasts between them: "I walked around Waco for a while. The Brazos River, Baylor University, a Dr. Pepper cannery, a couple of big white silos, Baptist churches and cowboy hats. It didn't seem much different from a medium sized town in California, like Bakersfield or Fresno."

As Nick moves across the country and encounters Jim Crow, picks up and leaves behind fellow travelers and would-be companions, and absorbs the realities of the world around him, the 1960s comes to life in many ways: "I looked at President Kennedy. He wasn't smiling. At certain moments, he looked like he was in pain. He held his hands clasped behind his back, or he'd put one hand into the pocket of his suit jacket. He looked different from when he first took office, like he'd aged a lot and was tired."

Hitchhiking Across America: 1963 reads with the drama of fiction, but its nonfiction roots provide realistic elements key to understanding how life evolves, and the sentiments of people across the nation during these times.

The result is more than a novel about a new adult's journey across America. It's a survey of the hearts and minds of the nation during the 1960s, and the effects of temporary relationships and fleeting moments of understanding. It will engross readers of Kerouac's On the Road with a different road trip through bygone times in America.

Valuing Ourselves as We Get Older
Mary L. Flett, PhD
Five Pillars of Aging Press
9781734239553, $9.99

Valuing Ourselves as We Get Older: Explorations of Meaning and Purpose: Aging with Finesse belongs in any collection strong in the psychology of aging, and is the first book in a series.

Unlike many books about aging already on the shelves of psychology holdings, Valuing Ourselves as We Get Older cultivates a comparative sense of how the aging experience and its perception has changed for different generations, thanks to medical advancements and psychological insights.

This book comes from a series of blogs Dr. Flett wrote. It is centered on the topics of values, life purpose, and how these change over a lifespan to become something different, as the years go by.

Many coping mechanisms for improving life are juxtaposed with Dr. Flett's experiences, which are presented in a personal manner that makes them accessible to a wide audience: "With each loss I have also learned how to keep my heart open, even though it hurts and I may doubt that the hurt can ever go away. I try to stay aware of my feelings, especially when I am feeling lonely, afraid, or invisible. While I am not always successful in doing so, I get better with practice...Extending compassion to self, and being patient with a process that is anything but linear and predictable, are sound techniques to help patch over the gaping wound that loss creates."

These personal blog posts are punctuated by daily life events and news that sparked their creative spirit, as in a story of the trauma caused by observing California's fire season in 2018, and the coping mechanism chosen to handle its ravages: "I RAN AWAY THIS WEEK. Fled. Gave up the ghost. Abandoned my post. It all finally became too much, and so I fled to a place that wasn't in the pathway of raging fires, appeared to have taken appropriate precautions for COVID-19, and held happy memories of better times for me. I have returned home, somewhat chastened, definitely improved in mental state and capacity to face what is a continuing challenge, but also keenly aware of how much I need sanctuary."

As metaphors for survival and transformation are injected into the process of aging, growing, and accepting change and challenge, readers receive an inspirational series of reflections that are grounded in the author's experiences, everyday events, and her changing reactions and learning process.

Aging with finesse often translates to making those inner leaps of faith that lead to new ideas and opportunities. Dr. Flett considers the special approach of learning and growing that comes with aging in modern times.

Collections strong in psychology, self-help, and social inspection will find these reflections powerful ideas for continuing the upward trajectory of wisdom that often comes with aging.

Essential Skills for Growing Old with Grace
Mary L. Flett, PhD
Five Pillars of Aging Press
9781734239577, $9.99

While it might be presumed that this title's subject has already been adequately covered in Dr. Flett's previous books about aging, in actuality, Essential Skills for Growing Old with Grace is a review of how these prior discussions tie together. This makes for its essential inclusion in any collection which found Valuing Ourselves as We Get Older and Connecting with Ourselves and Others as We Age to be important and popular reads.

In some ways, Essential Skills for Growing Old with Grace is a weightier read than its predecessors. That's because it embarks on hard conversations that consider such subjects as dying, integrating old and new paradigms of belief about aging and living, and asking the question "What is enough?" when it comes to life choices and achievements.

All these issues and more require that the reader stop, take a deep breath, and reconsider the outcome of their life path and its motivating drive. And this is why, even more than the other books in the series, Essential Skills for Growing Old with Grace needs to be digested in segments that allow enough time for contemplation.

As Dr. Flett faces her own health crisis and the decisions that this brings, readers receive a blend of autobiographical inspection and keys to unraveling their own desires and underlying tensions and influences.

These, in turn, lend to a revised idea of aging, coping, and decision-making that ultimately feed the main messages of these books, on how to lead a better, more mindful life as one ages.

From finding nourishment on many levels to cultivating a sense of gratitude and attending to building daily competency in the face of Covid and other challenges, there is no better formula for moving into advancing years than the strategies outlined in Essential Skills for Growing Old with Grace.

This is why it and its other series companions deserve a place not only in psychology and self-help collections, but in any general library catering to those who would walk more mindfully and purposely into later life.

Connecting with Ourselves and Others as We Age
Mary L. Flett, PhD
Five Pillars of Aging Press
9781734239560, $9.99

Book 2 in the Aging with Finesse series, Connecting with Ourselves and Others as We Age, continues Dr. Flett's survey of the modern process and impact of aging. It discusses new opportunities posed by growing and establishing new connections with self and life.

Unlike many other books on aging on the market today, the focus on how to achieve the positive benefits of aging uses Dr. Flett's experiences and blog as a pivot point for exploring the process of continuing growth and evolution.

Take "Becoming a Pathfinder," for one example. Dr. Flett reflects that she wishes aging continued the pride and process of striving for Girl Scout badges that recognize achievement. Then she explores how to duplicate this feel of success through life approaches that encourage adaptation and collaboration with others.

From the benefits of travel and the mindfulness it can bring to solo travelers to differences in conversations and content between old and new friendships, acquiring the trait of curiosity when none is previously evident, and embarking on brain-stimulating, life-supporting ventures ("Your brain literally lights up when it is faced with a problem to solve or a new experience to incorporate."), these offer different approaches to revising the perception and experience of aging into a positive venture.

Connecting with others first requires connecting better with self. Both pursuits involve cultivating a more open, flexible, and mindful approach to aging and growth than they may have harbored before picking up this book.

As Connecting with Ourselves and Others as We Age documents not only the benefits of making these diverse connections, but shows how those unfamiliar with the process can begin, it provides another brick in the wall of exploding common myths about aging, being stuck, and living in the past.

As a companion to Valuing Ourselves as We Get Older, it continues a program of insight and connection recommended for any collection strong in the psychology of aging and self-help opportunities for changing its progress and perception.

Elijah Goes to Cleveland
Mark Darden
Buckeye Muscle Media, LLC
9781736703007, $17.99

Elijah Goes to Cleveland presents a boy's discovery of Cleveland, Ohio, and is the first in a series that will involve him visiting different cities across the U.S.

Elijah is visiting his grandparents when he decides to attend a concert. In order to obtain a free ticket, he has to embark on a scavenger hunt to find members of the band at Cleveland's various landmarks.

Mark Darden presents a scenario in which the entire family participates in the hunt, adding fun insights into family connections and shared experiences which receive delightful illustration by Anh Bui.

As Elijah and his grandparents trek around the city using their smart phone to locate places and solve clues, young readers will appreciate both the geography lesson and the image of a family working together to achieve a goal.

An engaged grandparent who is depicted as being active and intelligent rather than old and infirm is another refreshing difference that sets Elijah Goes to Cleveland apart from typical picture book stories of family interactions.

Whether Elijah Goes to Cleveland is chosen as a read-aloud by parents looking for stories of families of color, as a geography lesson about Cleveland's history, or as an example of multi-generational experiences, it is certain to reach a diverse audience of picture book readers who will appreciate its adventure and lively characters.

Mona Dolgov
You Live Right Publishers
9781736675601, $29.95

Satisfy: Delicious, Healthy, and Full-Filling Meals for 500 Calories or Less! combines gluten-free recipes with calorie consciousness in a presentation designed to emphasize that healthy food can meet both objectives without being flavorless. Mona Dolgov emphasizes fiber-rich content, from vegetables to whole grains and legumes, and tailors her recipes for busy cooks who have limited time (30 minutes max) to produce family-friendly fare.

The recipes are all based on the Mediterranean diet. This will delight health-conscious readers who look for innovative fare based on this proven system of healthy eating.

Satisfy includes tips for streamlining prep and making cooking easier, as well as insights for using the latest time-saving kitchen devices more effectively, but the recipes that are the mainstay of Satisfy shine, between their at-a-glance format, appealing color photos of finished dishes, and ease of prep.

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Spinach, for example, is flagged as a "skillet and one-pan meal," while the simple introduction mentions the gluten-free chickpea or lentil pasta ingredients and the taste appeal of marrying chicken sausage, mushrooms, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese in a one-pot production that minimizes cleanup, as well.

In contrast, Chicken Parm Burgers with Grilled Italian Veggies advocates creating an entire summer meal using the outdoor grill, showing how streamlined timing can produce an entire meal in 10 minutes. An 'Ingredient Insider' sidebar of additional information provides flavor-enhancing notes ("I prefer the flavor of the ground chicken breast for these but ground turkey breast can also be used.").

With its winning formula for quick meal success, gluten-free tips and foundations, calorie-conscious approach, and eye-catching, flavor-filled choices, Satisfy is a standout cookbook for all levels of home cooks seeking family-friendly recipes that embrace both gluten- and trouble-free cooking.

Satisfy should be in any cook's collection not just because it's healthy, but because its flavor blends and appealing attention make healthy fare not just palatable, but desirable.

Winter Solstice
Diana Howard
Atmosphere Press
9781639880768, $15.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

Winter Solstice shares poems written over a fifteen-year period during which a daughter observes her mother's mental demise, offering a special form of solace that those who struggle with a loved one's mental decline will readily appreciate.

From the introductory poem "Diana, I Remember the Important Things," which brings to life Diana Howard's mother, "A woman who is kind, forgiving and a little forgetful./A woman who can't quite tell anymore/what is true and what is false./A woman who gives more than she takes." to a series of progressive leaps in which this woman changes, Howard brings readers into her world and her mother's life.

Her ability to move through time, juxtaposing past, present, and future moments, captures experience and emotion in a fragile grasp that brings others into her milieu: "I am 19, home for the summer/snuggled down under sheets/that smell like bleach./I am drenched in a Boone's Farm hangover./My mother's voice, trilling like a lark,/seeps upward through the porous oak floors./There is the fragrant scent/of lilacs on my nightstand./She remembered."

From ghosts of fathers in glasses of whiskey to the vivid autobiographical notes present in both poems and (occasionally) as explanatory notes, Howard's skill at bringing her mother's world and their family to life is powerful and revealing whether presented in poem or prose: "My mother lost my dad when he was 65 and she was 63. She lived alone until she died at the age of 93. She would get teary if Dad was ever mentioned in conversation. Sometimes she would talk to him. Her confusion broke my heart. She had lost most memories of him yet saw him in every man she met."

The result gives voice to the passion of love and the process of letting go to find that love rekindled in different ways through aging and memory challenges.

While Winter Solstice will likely appear in collections geared to contemporary poets, it also deserves a place in any literary library alongside reflections of family and dementia experiences. Its powerful voice offers a perspective many similar attempts don't begin to match.

The Undiscovered Descendants
Jo Visuri
Pohjola Press
9781737763901, $13.99

Once upon a time, long ago, four clans located in remote regions of the planet joined forces to defeat a threat to humanity. They were gifted special abilities to win their fight...traits that set them apart from normal humans, and which were passed along to their descendants, who kept apart from humans.

Fast forward in time to Auor Island. Here, seemingly ordinary girl Elin Bodil becomes simultaneously involved with a new neighbor and a motorcycle-riding stranger.

A powerful prologue draws readers into the story to reveal the aftermath of what is to come: "My family was safe. How I longed to be enjoying myself with the rest of them, but I knew I was different...I hoped I'd see them again soon, but for now, it would have to be silence. I had no choice. It was my fault after all - I had to go. Some would argue that where I was now going was impossible or imagined - a fantasy - and until a few months ago, I would've agreed with them. To be found and invited to join was unexpected. Learning their secrets was beyond my wildest imaginings. Landing in the middle of a brewing conflict was never part of the plan."

This both sets the stage and opens Elin's first-person narration of events as the first chapter explores the new neighbor's arrival and the changes he introduces to her life.

As readers pursue her story, supernatural elements emerge to add intrigue and danger. Elin and her new friends attempt to juggle regular lives (school dances, other friendships, and family life) with an emerging truth about the Clan and its latest threat.

Jo Visuri does an outstanding job of juxtaposing fantasy and real-world concerns as the tension and action escalate.

Her ability to portray both worlds creates a read which is involving as Elin faces school life without formerly trusted friends (they are attending a new school on the mainland) and finds herself forced to rely on new, untested relationships with Tristan and those whose psyches and intentions remain obtuse.

Another solid device for depicting the concerns of all sides lies in shifting viewpoints which change from Elin to Aedan and Tristan.

Teen fantasy readers who want a story about new and evolving relationships, changing life purposes and perspectives, and threats to family and community connections will find The Undiscovered Descendants an excellent, satisfying story.

It takes the time to depict home and small town/island life, creating a firm foundation for exploring the events that threaten change. This, in turn, crafts the perfect scenario for considering just how and why these young people become so invested in outcomes that challenge their worlds and individual lives.

The Undiscovered Descendants is highly recommended for teen fantasy readers who look for more than action and adventure in their stories. The community, family life, and growth opportunities presented to this disparate circle of new friends reflects a bond that makes for a compelling, solid read.

Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War
Jonathan Schanzer
FDD Press
9781956450019, $29.95

Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War should be required reading for anyone looking for a closer inspection of Gaza politics and events than is usually provided in the typical survey of the Middle East's conflicts.

It provides a hard-hitting inspection from a personal perspective. This adds details and insights unavailable from third-party reporting.

Jonathan Schanzer first visited the Gaza Strip in 1998 as a graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

At that time, he found his calling in not only researching the region, but conducting personal research to get a better feel for its people, history, and controversies.

This approach provided him with a historical and personal familiarity that contrasted rich and poor perspectives, setting the stage for understanding why Gaza proved a focal point hotbed for Hamas terrorist activity.

After his visit, the area fell under the complete control of Hamas, but the insights he gained from that experience still led to a book essential for probing the roots of the war between Hamas and Israel that took place in May of 2021.

Neither a debate about Israel's military justification for its actions nor a condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organization, Schanzer's probe seeks to present the events of this conflict (the fourth between these forces) as a microcosm that employs hindsight to better explain its evolution and why it is important to consider and reconsider its lasting ramifications.

Chapters identify a fundamental disconnect between reality and reporting methods which holds important meaning for media studies students; especially those interested in capturing historical and military events.

This audience receives a pointed history of events which is critical, because it outlines important departures between reality and reporting choices: " reporting during the 2021 conflict often ignored the clear patterns from the previous rounds of conflict between Hamas and Israel. There is plenty of material from which to draw...Here in America, the reporting and analysis on the 2021 Gaza war also ignored the brutality of Hamas."

That these and other inconsistencies in coverage prompted Schanzer to produce his own inspection of the conflict is to be celebrated, because he brings to the table a perspective, personal experience, and observations that is not covered in typical reports of the war.

Lest any wonder, Gaza Conflict 2021 is not an opinion piece. It's a carefully researched, highly footnoted survey that overlays the author's insights with the facts surrounding both sides.

More so than most, this book identifies just why Gaza stands out in Israel's historical record of conflicts: "Israel's wars with Hamas are very distinct from the uneasy but pragmatic relations that currently exist between the PA and Israel. Gaza is now ground zero in a proxy conflict. It is part of a bigger battle between Israel and Iran, along with other determined foes."

Collections strong in Middle East history might be tempted to see Gaza Conflict 2021 as a familiar coverage that is already reflected in other books, but this would be a fallacy. The book is actually a standout, identifying perspectives and falsehoods that other surveys gloss over.

It should be considered essential reading for any library strong in Israeli history and the Middle East region's conflicts as a whole.

Nerds Gone Wild
Mister Victor
Independently Published
9781737611332, $19.99 Paper, $5.99 ebook

Nerds Gone Wild offers a special blend of serious reflection and wry humor, providing a social observation of the nerd's history and place in world events. It is a lively and unexpected journey into 'nerddom' that lends particularly well to browsing rather than linear examination, as the preface to its Table of Contents suggests: "Chapters are arranged solely by the author's sagacious insight, which generally means sheer happenstance - so feel free to read them in any order you choose."

Yes, there are "big words." And that is one of the pleasurable challenges to be found in a witty, unpredictable collection of humor essays that skirt the boundaries of autobiography and social inspection.

Take "Food," for example. Readers might expect this chapter might be a dry historical survey; but in fact it's as lively an inspection of food and culture as the "Civics and Winning" essay before it linked football games with moral and ethical ideas and strategies for winning.

The discussion of food opens with a hilarious query: "History Question: What is the man in the picture doing?

A. Tinkering with the design mechanics of an early atom bomb.

B. Measuring the electrostatic potential of a substation stepdown transformer.

C. Praying to God that somehow he'll manage to extract his right hand from this man-eating machine.

D. Putting the finishing touches on a modern cooking device."

As the microwave's history is revealed, its "supernerd" creator (self-taught engineer Percy Spencer) comes to life, as does the very purpose and idea of saving kitchen time against too much activity in human lives: "The adoption of the microwave is quite indicative of the broader nerd experience which our society is currently experiencing. The way a microwave can rapidly speed up cooking, is the same way the speed of our lives is accelerating. Considering our lives are jam-packed with work, rent, bills, kids, school, texts, emails, social networks, shopping and errands, we are racing to get more things done all the time. However, the irony is that there seems to be more and more to do all the time. As a result, we always have the gnawing feeling that there is no time for anything,.........and forget having time to do nothing."

And, that's the real beauty of these essays. Readers who expect humor alone will be surprised at the route taken from initial comedy overlay to serious discussion. Where other essay collections might cut to the chase but lose their audience with dryness, Mister Victor's droll, wry sense of humor allows for examinations that link daily pursuits, experiences, and ideals to bigger-picture thinking.

The result is a satisfying blend of humor and serious social reflection that belongs on the shelves of not just humor collections, but those interested in representations of the angst and problems of humankind done in a refreshingly different manner.

OldEarth ARAM Encounter
A.K. Frailey
A.K. Frailey Books
9781732395206, $14.95 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

OldEarth ARAM Encounter will delight readers of alien invasion sci-fi works with its story of space visitors to OldEarth; and Aram, Ishtar, and others who lead primitive lives on the young planet.

Think Clan of the Cave Bear mixed with extraterrestrial perspectives and influences for a sense of the unique approach A.K. Frailey cultivates as the story unfolds to juxtapose old worlds with futuristic alien overseers.

When an Ingoti trading vessel on an intercept course with Earth changes perspectives about the planet's future, readers receive a introductory insight into the events destined to connect the very different races sooner than later.

Information always pays. But, does it? As magical abilities, powerful desires, and portents of the future change OldEarth, humans and aliens alike adopt new responsibilities as their lives intersect.

From the rigors of the guardianship role to confronting evil in its different incarnations, OldEarth ARAM Encounter romps through warriors' lives, good fights, and clans that take risks to fulfill destinies.

As Frailey moves through these various clans and their changing worlds, quests, confrontations, and questions keep their stories and encounters fast-paced.

There are a host of earthly and alien characters and special interests at play in OldEarth ARAM Encounter, which make it more complex and thought-provoking than your usual alien/human encounter. These juxtapositions of purpose and place may stymie those who anticipated a linear, predictable production, but will delight readers who look for originality and plots that are anything but staid.

From obsessions with gods to visions of a different future, Frailey provides a story that considers the sources of evil, good, and evolving moral senses.

OldEarth ARAM Encounter is more than another alien invasion story. It's an inspection of budding ideals and values that charts a course through turmoil to find the path that brings peace and resolution to a world, and will prove a satisfying read for sci-fi fans looking for more than a series of confrontations from their alien scenarios.

Breaking Barriers
DeWitt S. Williams
Independently Published
9781098384579, $19.21 Paper, $3.99 ebook

A century ago, three black women confronted racism and the white glass ceiling at Ivy League schools, entering them against all odds to become, in June of 1921, the first black women to earn PhDs. Breaking Barriers: The First Ladies of Education chronicles and contrasts these women's lives and efforts in a story that has received surprisingly little publicity despite modern-day attention to biographies of civil rights pioneers. That's just one of the reasons Breaking Barriers deserves a prominent place on the shelves of any collection strong in civil rights issues.

The stories of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Eva B. Dykes, and Georgiana Rose Simpson are not just portraits in courage, but illustrations of how personal perseverance can pave the way for peers and future generations.

DeWitt S. Williams notes that ""Firsts" are trailblazers. They go where no one else has been or thought to go." One reason why these stories deserve special attention is the trailblazing process itself. As he reviews each woman's background, from childhood to adulthood, and considers the psychological, social, and political perspectives that created their drive to succeed in a world that would seem impossible to penetrate, he produces an analysis that bridges the gap between personal experience and social change.

At issue are more than individual obstacles, but those of educational accreditation, standards of excellence, and many underlying admittance routines that kept black women, in particular, from reaching higher education goals.

Focuses on change agents such as church involvements in this process provide particularly eye-opening discussions of community influences on educational pursuits. This is especially astute because in many communities and religious groups, education is not only promoted, but is overseen and fostered by the religious organization itself.

The history includes contrasts between White and Black Adventists and documents anti-education for black sentiments that evolved from plantation management: "In this area of Virginia, Blacks and Whites worshipped in the same churches. The owners did not like slaves having their own unsupervised religious meetings. Personal servants were allowed to sit with their owners in the pews and in some churches in the rear. 'No guns. No schools. No books. No learning.' Ninety-nine percent of the slave owners used this as their motto. Even slaves who worked in the house shouldn't have too much education and book learning."

These reflections and studies mean that while Breaking Barriers offers three biographical sketches and an in-depth focus on these women's lives, it concurrently considers the evolution of inclusive education in the U.S. as a whole, following how this revolutionary concept took hold in the course of American history.

At times, Breaking Barriers reads with the drama of fiction. At other times, it injects letters and source materials into various discussions. If these writings had appeared in italics or with more separation, the flow between nonfiction story and source letter might have been more seamless; but they still serve to illustrate important points in the development of events and provide invaluable examples of sentiments and processes.

Seventeen black and white photos of each woman are excellent adjuncts to their stories, and bring them to life.

While it's likely that Breaking Barriers will find its way into any American civil rights history or women's issues collection, its audience shouldn't be limited to these arenas alone. Ideally, educators interested in the progress of inclusive education will find it just as eye-opening and important, and will want to see Breaking Barriers in their libraries, as well.

Around the Edges
Henry Wyatt Parr
Atmosphere Press
9781639880096, $18.99 paper, $7.99 ebook

Around the Edges is the first book in a series that mingles a detective thriller with a literary inspection of madness. It opens with the image of a wandering writer's reflections on death as he scribbles in his notebook and mourns what has been lost: the love of his life.

What does this milieu have to do with the investigations of determined Boston attorney Whitney Horowitz? Plenty; because she's adopting different ways to face her own loss while at the same time unraveling the strings of a situation which may hold its roots in a wide-ranging conspiracy.

As love, loss, and legal ties between disparate characters coalesce, Henry Wyatt Parr creates an involving story packed with character emotions, satisfying twists and turns of plot, and unexpected moments that even seasoned thriller and mystery readers won't see coming.

Parr is especially adept at capturing atmospheric details that resonate with readers and give relief to the action components, fleshing out the entire story with a sense of place and interpersonal relationships that embraces a realistic sense of progression as the events unfold: "This is probably gonna sound stupid, but you ever out on a call at night and see the city lights and everything and think, 'this is my city?'" he asked, looking over at Ellory. "Yeah, I think I've felt like that before. Cheesy, but yeah," she agreed, looking out the passenger side window absentmindedly. She let silence set in; Fuller, weary as he was, didn't mind. And he knew it was just part of her personality - she was self-assured and confident, indifferent to what went on around her to the point of seeming unaware at times. She was comfortable in quiet where others would be uneasy. She seemed born for silence."

There is just the right degree of mystery, personal reflection, and sense of place woven into the story to keep it a multifaceted production that feels realistic and engrossing on many different levels.

Readers seeking a literary thriller investigation that goes beyond nonstop action and intrigue to immerse them in a variety of characters' lives will find Around the Edges an excellent probe of not only discovering a murderer's identity, but probing matters of the heart.

Tales From the Liminal
S.K. Kruse
Deuxmers, LLC
9781944521158, $6.99 ebook

Tales From the Liminal gathers fifteen short stories that are firmly rooted in both realism and humor, and represent a diverse set of scenarios that excel in succinct wild rides through opportunities and conundrums alike.

Literary readers who enjoy the unexpected will find these stories both digestible and thought-provoking.

Take "When They Come For Me," for one example. Here, the first-person narrator rails against rules and those who have unsuccessfully "hunted me for decades" because his life's mission is to "wake people the fuck up."

From giving kids a sermon about subliminal advertising to launching a diatribe on the steps of a county courthouse on a Sunday when people hurrying by don't pause to listen to a word, the narrator (who has been called 'crazy' more than one time) finds that an encounter with a woman changes everything - including the nature of his message.

S.K. Kruse captures this individual's perspective, passion, and life: "I fled through the streets of the town, past the ignorant, blind masses gorging themselves on pancakes and bacon and the endless stream of indoctrination pouring out of their phones and televisions, preparing them, like calves fattened for the slaughter, for the coming of 'they.' I could hear their footsteps behind me. I knew this was the day."

An intriguing contrast is "Goodbye, Bonavento," in which an old monkey named Bonavento and a little girl, Angela (who has taken the place of her "angel mother" in her father's life), faces a world in which his organ grinding gig is fading away.

Can Angela continue the tradition, even though the monkey Bonavento has been taken away? Kruse excels in portraits that capture the girl's desire to recreate the appeal of a vanishing attraction: "The happy tune is halfway over now. The next one is a little sad. The very old Humans like it but not the kids. The rich Shamnais parents will be too impatient to stay for it. The novelty of the organ grinders has worn off, and, unlike the poor Humans and Shamnais, they can afford access to all the wonderful music ever created by both species, and to go to the new shows and concerts. I should take the hand of one of their little ones and start dancing. If they dance, then the older children might too..."

Literary, thought-provoking, and magical, these stories probe the roots of changing lives and different worlds, providing proof that the power of the written word does not need length in order to be outstanding and influential.

The diversity and power of these creations results in a collection that will delight literature readers who want consistently powerful examples of the short story form used to its greatest effectiveness. It delights with hard-hitting messages that linger in the mind long after their reading.

Love in the Time of Wormholes
Jess K. Hardy
Mystic Owl
c/o Owl City Press
9781648981173, $12.99

Love in the Time of Wormholes operates on the edge of sci-fi and romance, as demonstrated by a steamy cover that's more often associated with romance novels than fantasy.

Sunastara Jeka ("Sunny") is an interstellar businesswoman whose pleasure cruise among the stars attracts a diverse clientele of aliens. Her main charge is keeping them happy. Her secondary concern is not becoming romantically involved with any of them.

Both objectives are thwarted when a former one-night stand joins her crew with romance in mind, wooing her when he's not on duty in a manner that challenges her self-imposed rules and the ship's decorum.

Her life is further complicated when a hostile species chooses her vessel for their holiday, endangering not just everyone on board, but the universe.

As many romances do, Love in the Time of Wormholes opens with the sordid aftermath of a night with an alien that Sunny doesn't actually remember: "Scratching his chest between his stunning pectorals, he said, "Argos makes a strong drink. Do not feel ashamed." "Did we...? Did I...?" Sunny gulped. He shook his head, rueful. "We did not join. We were not worthy of each other." A profound relief buckled her knees. Worthy, on Argos - where males tended to outweigh females by one hundred kilos or more - referred to the way body parts might or might not fit together between two partners. Sunny offered a silent prayer of thanks to the sweet gods of fermentation who had blessed her with complete amnesia of the evaluation of said worth. "Apologies, dear man." She clicked her tongue. "Anatomy strikes again, eh?"

At this point, it should be evident that one of the delights of Love in the Time of Wormholes is its wry sense of humor, which observes Sunny's life and evolving challenges with an attention to whimsical reflection.

As drinking, sex, and the perils of various associations intersect, sci-fi readers who also like romances will find the story sports the exceptional ability to weave between relationships and broader conundrums.

Perhaps this is because Jess K. Hardy employs a lyrical touch to her descriptions to bring her characters and their emotional dilemmas to life: "The way Sunny felt, wrapped inside the senator's embrace, sharing tears with another mother, it wasn't fear or pity or despair. It was love, just love. It made her wonder why she'd been keeping this pain to herself for so long. And then, like the anchor that had been weighing down her heart gave the rope one final tug before it snapped free..."

Readers will enjoy the capable yet bawdy Sunny and her milieu, the unusual specter of a pleasure trip amongst the stars gone awry, and the social, sexual, and political challenges that threaten more than individual objectives.

Sunny and Freddie find their worlds turned upside down and their assumptions and expectations tested. Usually, romantic choices affect individuals alone. This time, they could change the balance of power in the universe.

It's rare to see a steamy romance folded into a serious sci-fi adventure, tempered by an escapade that draws all the characters into world-challenging and changing scenarios. The dance between genres is finely done. Akin to a ballet that dances between subjects and emotions, it opens with the unexpected and draws readers with a sassy, zany, often thought-provoking story that excels in mercurial changes and unexpected developments both emotional and political.

Readers looking for something different in either romance or sci-fi will find Love in the Time of Wormholes more than fits the bill for a romp through space and desire.

My Life in Gray: A Widow's Journey
Rebecca Brooke
WIP Publications, LLC
9781736458235, $9.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook

My Life in Gray: A Widow's Journey outlines the unexpected journey of a young widow whose questions begin in the first few paragraphs: "How did I get here? How is it possible that I am here helping to pen an obituary for my best friend? My thirty-nine-year-old husband, who was just helping me get ready to host our first Thanksgiving dinner for the family. What happened to my life?"

The story doesn't come from an expert on grief, but one who charts her experience knowing that this can help others newly on the same path. She includes observations that circles of friends to loved ones can also absorb as they offer support: "I am here to tell you when you lose a close loved one, you do not ever forget; therefore, there is no need to fear reminding someone. The memory of the lost loved one is never too far away from one's brain and hearing the name of that loved one or a happy memory can help remind them that that person is still alive in another person's memories, which is a comforting thought."

Rebecca Brooke begins her memoir with childhood experiences and how she came to know her best friend Darwin, whom she eventually would marry.

As they grew and moved away from one another and into relationships with others, the intimacy and friendship formed at an early age was never far from Rebecca's mind, cemented by candid letters between them that served to remind her of different choices and possibilities until she eventually threw them out, despairing that this type of relationship would ever come her way: "During these times after breakups, I would take out the letters that Darwin had written me years ago from bootcamp. Yes, I still had them. I never could throw them away. I just wanted a man to talk to me that way he had, to spill all of his feelings out in the open and not leave me wondering where I stood. These letters held plans two teens had for a future together. Darwin had wanted to give me a future all those years ago. Yet, I walked away. Maybe this was the reason my relationships always failed. Nobody could attain the status Darwin held in my mind."

As the story moves into her marriage, Darwin's death, and its impact on her entire family, readers learn from a set of inspections that focus on the newfound vulnerability of a single mother with children, the impact of losing an irreplaceable soul mate, and how Brooke funneled her despair into new paths while grieving her loss.

Anyone who has not been through the loss of a loved one will find much food for thought as Brooke reveals her emotions and how she slowly rebuilt her world. Those who have been through such a loss will find that much will resonate about Brooke's fears, thoughts, and adaptations.

My Life in Gray: A Widow's Journey emphasizes that this is not a 'process', but a journey that holds much potential for enlightenment in various ways.

It should be on the reading lists of everyone who loves, as well as those who have lost.

What Seems True
James Garrison
Touchpoint Press
9781952816567, $4.99 eBook, $16.99 Paper

What Seems True is crime writing fiction at its best, mingling social and political commentary with a murder mystery centered in Texas, where black supervisor Billy Graham, who works at a refinery, is found dead in an abandoned drive-in theater.

Refinery attorney Dan Esperson never expected a murder investigation to be part of his routine company consultations, but as he's drawn into a probe that fingers company employees as the perps, his involvement takes a personal turn as he becomes a target.

Perhaps one reason why What Seems True feels so realistic is that it's based on a real-world event that took place in 1979. Another reason is because of the way James Garrison crafts his fictionalized story, filling it with first-person reflections that incorporate both a sense of place and the times: "This being the South in the waning days of Jimmy Carter and the Klan still holding sway in this neck of the woods, a lot of people were interested in how and why the refinery's first black supervisor had met his end. And who killed him."

An indictment for murder leaves Dan shaking his head and wondering about the truth as readers embark on a survey that embraces hearings, truths, lies, and a forbidden romance that looms to complicate matters even further.

Garrison does an excellent job of juxtaposing all these interests in a way that supports the rising tension of the story, adding social and political observations to strengthen the events that unfold.

Insights about legal and political process are provided in the course of an engrossing exploration that incorporates realistic scenarios and questions: "These questions are highly improper," I said as calmly as I could, but I was shaking. "They have no bearing on this tape." I tapped the cassette on the table. "Or on this arbitration case. I object to Mr. Landry using this red herring to confuse the issues and divert attention from what's really at issue here."

Fans of noir detective stories that embrace legal proceedings and social issues will find that What Seems True questions many attitudes, moral and ethical standards, and motivations.

The touch of philosophical inspection (which appears at various times) cements the story and lends an introspective eye to detail that keeps it a winning proposition for readers who like more than a whodunit scenario alone: "'The Law' was just a thin patina of regulation over the instinctive hard core of human nature. A frail web holding together the larger society, a porous sponge buffering individuals and families and cliques struggling against each other."

These vivid inspections make for a story that should be on the shelves of any Texas mystery collection, certainly - but also on the radars of holdings interested in broader portraits of social and ethical concerns.

The Dogs Who Play Baseball
Thomas Louis Carroll
Almanor & Loraque Press
9781736633939, $3.99 ebook, $10.99 Paper

The Dogs Who Play Baseball is a whimsical story of how a group of Bronx children teach their dogs to play baseball. It's especially recommended reading for middle graders who love both the sport and dogs, and provides a fun exploration that outlines an inviting cast of characters.

While, on the surface, The Dogs Who Play Baseball is a tale about animals and people, it's also a story about facing adversity, creative problem-solving, and cooperative ventures and thinking.

Under the trappings of a sports/dog feature, therefore, lies the beating heart of a positive experience that shows how ordinary children create an extraordinary atmosphere to defy the odds.

Thomas Louis Carroll's tale delves into not just playing games, but managing teams. He also includes girls and boys as effective, proactive, strong players and team members, which is another satisfying feature of the story.

"Are you going to play by the rule book or not?"

As the kids learn how and when to challenge rules and how to create a winning environment, young readers will relish the approaches to playing and winning which keep the story lively and engaging.

Middle graders with a special interest in baseball and dogs will be lured into reading a positive, action-filled story of cooperation and success. The lessons The Dogs Who Play Baseball provides go beyond the baseball field to address life challenges and how to creatively solve problems in a manner that creates positive results for all.

These focuses make for a winning story that will delight young readers and adults seeking more than a tale about winning and losing, but a social inspection that works on different levels.

Grandma Lou's Wonderfully Weird Christmas Dinner
Linda LaRocque
9781736833711, $9.85 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

Grandma Lou's Wonderfully Weird Christmas Dinner is a holiday story with a difference. It tells of a determined grandmother who decides that, rather than being alone on Christmas Day, she'll invite some friends to join her. Even if they are a little odd.

Beginning with the first-person vantage point of nine-year-old Earnestine, who lies abed with chicken pox the week before Christmas and sees her holiday fun vanishing, Grandma Lou's Wonderfully Weird Christmas Dinner evolves over a father's intention to entertain his grieving child with an extraordinary true story.

Her father always spent Christmas with his mother, at her house. One year, after he's married, he decides to spend the holiday with his wife's family instead.

What's a Grandma to do about spoiled holiday traditions?

She decides to call an old friend who likely will also be alone, and invites him over. One thing leads to another, and Gil's caregiver Tom is also invited. The celebration keeps expanding as wide as hearts and the Christmas spirit can go.

Readers receive an important message about celebrations, invitations, traditions, and widening one's circle to include others as Earnestine absorbs her father's lovely story of a grandmother who is proactive about making certain that her holiday is the best ever.

From helping the homeless to solving holiday dilemmas in a way that brings the real Christmas spirit home for a home-cooked meal for all, Linda LaRocque creates a moving story that invites all ages to imbibe.

Its many messages about giving, creative problem-solving, changing traditions, and turning disappointment into a positive experience will be ones adults will especially welcome introducing to a young listener's world, while independent readers will appreciate the detail of one zany Christmas dinner that comes to unexpected life.

No collection strong in children's family and holiday stories should be without this unusual portrait of a Christmas conundrum that turns into a celebration to remember.

The Jewish Book of Horror
Josh Schlossberg, Editor
Denver Horror Collective
9781734191776, $15.99 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Many readers may be surprised at the association between 'Jewish' and traditional horror writing, but as this collection shows, Jewish history and legends hold strong roots in depictions of horror. The Jewish Book of Horror presents both sample stories and introductory discussions of the tradition.

Rabbi John Carrier kicks off the survey with "An Orchard of Terror: Scary Stories and the Jewish Tradition." This provides readers with a historical and literary backdrop for the connection between horror and Jewish experience, offering a scholarly but lively inspection of the Jewish psyche, its dilemmas, and its incarnations in the horror genre.

He also points out that "If you dissect the stories herein, you may be stricken by themes, vocabulary, or a particular sense of humor that set them apart from horror that is not explicitly Jewish. The ingredients speak more to "our" demonology or eschatology. What we fear (and what we don't) may be different based on our unique historical experience. Ultimately, what makes Jewish horror, I believe, is that a Jew made it."

And yet, the sources of these legends and their influence have a long tradition of being "...all carried around in our heads for the first thousand years or so, or at least carried in the heads of specialists who, like Homer, stored vast collections mnemonically to be shared at hearth, by campfire, and from one dungeon cell to the next."

The experiences of the Jewish people and culture carry over into these diverse explorations and will prove delightful reading to both horror genre readers and those of Jewish descent, who will find them uncanny and satisfyingly creative.

One example of this diversity lies in KD Casey's "The Last Plague," which opens with a reference to a Jewish tradition: "My mother sends me to open the back door to admit a prophet. "Be quick and don't let out all the heat from the house!" she says. Pesach is early this year."

As the young narrator depicts a Seder dinner that, like Groundhog Day, seems destined to repeat (albeit with different outcomes to being sent to welcome in a prophet), Pesach changes...and so do the lives of the Jewish people who celebrate it.

As life changes for the narrator over a period of Pesachs and time, readers receive powerful inspections of its downfall: "I dream of our life before, our backyard and our family, and wonder if Jerusalem smells like chicken fat and onions...We do not go to Jerusalem but to a farm in upstate New York, rented from an Amish farmer my mother pays in cash. My father no longer writes; his last letter said there is a paper shortage."

The true horror lies on the impact life has on this Jewish family through the eyes of a young observer of tradition and change.

In contrast, Lindsay King-Miller's "How To Build A Sukkah At The End Of The World" holds some of the same elements of faith during end times, but with a different focus on not just survival, but preserving traditions when the logic for having the celebration has vanished: "The ready-made sukkah your mother put together and took apart each year was stored in the basement. You'll improvise. Three walls and a roof made of branches - there are more rules than that, but these are the ones you remember. A sukkah must be beneath the open sky, so you can see stars between the branches. Well, that's an old rule from when there were stars."

The Jewish Book of Horror excels in portraying different forms of horror. But its real value lies in explorations of Jewish identity and changing tradition that depict the real horror: the erosion of facets of Jewish culture that face vast changes and horrors that range from sorcery to insurrection.

Each tale comes steeped in a background of Jewish lives and traditions. Each holds a powerful key to understanding the varied sources of horror in adversities that challenge heart, soul, and spiritual wellsprings alike.

While The Jewish Book of Horror will likely be a literary addition to Jewish collections, it should not be missed by gentiles, either. Its inspections, lessons, and sources of true horror make its diverse tales standouts.

Pretty Deadly
Kelsey Josund
Dark Stroke Books
9798483552086, $7.99 Paper, $3.99 ebook

Thrillers written for YA audiences are few and far between, but it's impossible to categorize the nonstop action of Pretty Deadly as anything but a genre read for teens. Its depiction of petty crime, society events, and revenge will reach mature teen to adult audiences with a vivid story that tells of parallel plots and nefarious schemes that involve Cinna and con man/best friend Johann in a competition to quash the social event of the year.

Kelsey Josund creates atmospheric descriptions throughout to bring the backdrop to life: "Fog rolled down over the hill that housed the graveyard, not thick yet but promising to become denser as the night deepened. Perfect for sneaking, if that had been what he wanted to do, but not necessary for his purposes."

Johann finds himself unnerved by Cinna's astute abilities and perceptions. He even harbors a bit of terror over her intentions towards him, as well. Cinna is the "girl of his dreams and nightmares" who knows his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and is in a position to exploit them.

Mature teens receive a story that is as vivid in its interpersonal inspections as it is in its action and social and political commentary.

The story evolves into a plot that embraces a dead duchess and a burned mansion, and the elements of intrigue meld nicely with the tale of princes, soldiers, an assumed identity, and a plot that has Cinna wondering what her alter ego Elena would do.

When a prince rescues Cinna, Cinderella comes to mind...but with a distinct criminal backdrop that keeps readers thinking about unexpected developments and emotional connections.

The result blends romance, intrigue, and action in a delightful story that will build thriller enthusiasts from YA audiences unused to the experience, while attracting adult readers with a special blend of action that revolves around royalty, heists, and a relationship doomed to explode.

My Name on a Grain of Rice
Richard Voigt
Atmosphere Press
9781639880737, $18.99

My Name on a Grain of Rice opens with the first-person narrator's somewhat gruesome reflection: "When exposed to air, blood darkens and thickens. I knew this simple fact from childhood when I watched scabs form. But those scabs came from only a few drops of blood, which coagulated quickly. A pint of blood that runs from a man's mouth and then stiffens into a maroon jelly is something different."

Given this introduction, readers might expect a murder mystery to evolve. But Richard Voigt paints a compelling portrait of a man from a monied family who makes the move to enter a milieu he's completely unfamiliar with (and unprepared for). As his story evolves, it becomes one of romance and tragedy.

Harry Travers walks away from a seemingly secure future set in stone on many different levels. As his journey unfolds, he quits his job at the Speed of Light ("...or SOL as we called it - a software startup."). For better or for worse, this move begins a new path in which nothing is on Harry's agenda but change and survival: two milieus he is ill-equipped to handle.

Harry has always chosen to be a spectator of life. Driven towards a series of choices that place him in a more active role, he reflects on how his family fell into better fortunes, and the effects of this on his life: "I can't say that initially I was unhappy with these developments. My parents were certainly excited by their success when it first appeared. But eventually, everyone's attitude changed. I felt marooned on our property and my parents began to act as if they had lost their bearings. With so much money coming in, it was no longer something real to them. It could now be spent without careful calculation; it could be wasted without regret."

Despite this aura of success, Harry knows that something has gone increasingly wrong. Wealth does not necessarily bring with it freedom. And, for that, mistakes have to be made.

Richard Voigt builds a story of transformation, change, redemption, and growth. As Harry moves into a relationship with Minnie and comes to absorb a very different family milieu that comes with her, he enters into a bond that promises even more change and challenges.

Voigt creates a powerful tale that revolves around a death, a renewal, and choices that hold unforeseen consequences for future health, happiness, and success.

Readers who navigate the special trials and opportunities of Harry's world will especially appreciate the conundrums of a man from a newly-monied family who chooses blue-collar work and the unfamiliar world it introduces.

The unexpected results of Harry's blind trajectory and the consequences of his actions and his ability to rise above both to create a new life and love make for an engrossing novel especially recommended for readers interested in stories of family influences and change.

Murder at the Olympiad
James Gilbert
Atmosphere Press
9781639880232, $17.99

Murder at the Olympiad brings American counsel and investigator Amanda Pennyworth to Puerto Vallarta, where she works with local investigators to uncover a killer involved in the murder of a gay American tourist in a sauna.

On the line is not only her reputation for problem-solving, but her job with the Foreign Service; because as she refutes evidence that fingers a young boy as the murderer, she inadvertently opens a bigger can of worms that revolves around the identity of the real perp, and his political powers.

The story opens at the scene of the crime, where the cleanup crew faces more than the usual sauna disarray. The cleanup men are not detectives, but they know something is seriously wrong when they discover the inert American reposing in the sauna after hours, and cannot awaken him.

The Olympiad Sauna is in trouble. And the only one who may be able to address the problem is the same person who finds herself drawn deeper into its issues.

As a Consulate official, Amanda becomes involved early in the case. A murder would be a welcome diversion from the paperwork she usually pushes during the course of her job. It also leads her to be cautious about making assumptions that hold political ramifications: "If it was something serious, she would have to be careful; her relations with the authorities had been strained at best. If only Captain Morelos of the Tourist Police hadn't been transferred back to Oaxaca several months ago, everything would be a lot easier."

The State Department frowns upon entanglements with locals...a rule Amanda has already broken once, via a romance. Now she's about to run headlong into that rule again - this time, over a murder investigation she is both ill-equipped and yet in the perfect, unique position to handle.

As events unfold, James Gilbert does an excellent job of juxtaposing the milieu of Mexican culture and the political divides and interactions between Americans and Mexicans with the whodunit segments of the story.

Amanda's vow to support her country first takes on a challenging new meaning when she confronts the aftermath of a murder that is anything but cut and dried. The political and cultural inspections are as engrossing as her focus on perps that tend to fly under the radar of authority.

Another satisfying approach is that chapters alternate between Amanda's processes and those of Mexican locals as they search for the killer and confront (or overlook) suspects both Mexican and American. This adds depth and insights to the story that go beyond the singular approach of a savvy female's probe to delve into the hearts and minds of Mexican authorities and civilians.

Gilbert creates a concurrent consideration of gay issues and life in Mexico as he unfolds his story, which is another facet that adds astute social inspection into the picture.

Murder at the Olympiad is a murder mystery that embraces social, political, and psychological tensions between two nations, creating a multifaceted read that is enlightening and gripping on more than one level.

Amanda has put into motion dangerous undercurrents that lead her to question her own motivations, principles, ethics, and whether to keep secret the knowledge she's uncovered. Has her perseverance unleashed a force that she cannot control?

Mystery readers looking for the full flavor of an international affair that contains the previous Puerto Vallarta background Gilbert employed in other books along with a second profile of Amanda Pennyworth's cleverness as an amateur sleuth will find Murder at the Olympiad a satisfying mystery.

Kite Jenson
Furthest Press
9780965119078, $2.99 ebook

PsycheDeliah is about a purposeful suicide designed to snare a web of characters into answering questions about Deliah's life and demise, and provides novel readers with a powerful story of psychological intrigue and tension.

From the start, Deliah's tale comes from the jigsaw puzzle perceptions of others, from a husband who relishes her sexuality and considers her his lusty soul mate to his regret that his actions couldn't prevent her death.

From the beginning, Kite Jenson paints a series of sexually explicit scenes to make it evident that PsycheDeliah revolves around not just regret or redemption, but the kinds of sexual trauma that lead to psychological challenges.

Others besides Deliah are involved in these stories of serial rapists, lovers, and abuse. From predatory father Walter to a childhood boy also raped by him who grows up to be a trans club dancer, and a series of victims also devastated by Walter's clan involvements and their actions, the story moves between social impact and psychological trauma as victims band together to search for peace and recovery.

Deliah's loss impacts different victims and those she loved. The perspectives of each individual are presented with a fine attention to detail that explores and explains the lasting effects of sexual trauma on a wide circle of people: "That was exactly why I'd lost Deliah. All those years I'd cared so much about other people's image of me. I'd thought it was a sign of weakness to rely on money and power to prop up oneself."

Concerns about money, white privilege, choice and consequences, and patterns of living and survival created by trauma also contribute to a hard-hitting, thought-provoking account.

PsycheDeliah is not recommended for those looking for circumspect representations of abuse. Its candid, graphic portrayals of different kinds of physical and psychological challenge will likely trigger readers who may come from circumstances similar to Deliah. Kite Jenson pulls no punches in pursuing the connections between victims and abusers alike, and as his novel progresses through different experiences, rapists and victims alike confront their own impulses and survival tactics.

Rich in descriptions of psychological control, trauma, and unusual routes to resolution and recovery, PsycheDeliah will prove especially inviting reading for fiction enthusiasts who like their stories complex, well-detailed, thought-provoking, and unpredictable.

Dancing At the Gate
Carol K. Grosz
Heavenly Light Press
9781631835292, $12.99 Paper, $2.99 ebook

Dancing At the Gate: Facing Pain With Hope and Courage is a testimony to survival. It comes from a 'Chronic Pain Warrior' who has struggled with the crippling effects of a neurological pain disease for decades.

Christians who look to the Bible for inspiration on how to overcome suffering or live with chronic conditions will find this memoir a fine adjunct to Scripture. It blends the perspective of a woman who faces daily trials with the uplifting insights of a Christian who finds in Biblical passages her personal salvation and inspiration, and will appeal to religious readers, especially, with its mix of spiritual and psychological insights.

Carol K. Grosz speaks of faith and strengths to be gained from such belief, and imparts her messages in an inspiring manner: "It requires a lot of trust in the Lord. It takes all of the trust that heaven provides. And if we can breathe in and jump in and live in that trust, we are emboldened. Let's get bold enough to give God a great big God-size chance. After all, He did create the Universe!"

She employs Bible quotes to teach readers a better approach to tackling life's pain, doing so without diminishing the special challenges of believing in better things even in the throes of agony: "This is a short course in how to live each day. Hold on to this verse when you just can't concentrate and when it seems impossible to tackle the day's "to do" list. If you're experiencing a pain flare or dealing with chronic fatigue, the number of days the "to do" list gets left behind can begin to stack up. At some point, it's easy to begin to feel diminished."

As chapters juxtapose Gospel analysis and quotes with Grosz's own experiences, readers gain insights on how to more effectively turn to faith, reflections, and trust to alleviate physical and mental suffering.

Sometimes the memoir takes the form of a letter to God: "I woke up this morning believing a lie. I thought because I am in pain that today wouldn't count. I told myself that because my body hurts and my mind is restless that You must have abandoned me and taken away my hope. But those are lies."

At other points, it's a letter to self and to readers who also hold faith, yet struggle with life's slings and arrows.

At all times, it's a reminder to step back, take a breath, and revel in faith and the belief in a greater purpose and a better life; all of which can be found in Scripture, and in the experiences, reflections, and lessons of Dancing At the Gate.

Its admonition encourages these introspective thoughts: "In this journey of ever seeking healing, we should just try being a leaf. Instead of working so hard and trying so hard and constantly striving for positivity, we could just give Jesus a chance to make us new."

Collections strong in faith-centered memoirs and self-help titles will find Dancing At the Gate inspirational, reflective, and motivational - a fine choice for Christians who want to better cement their relationship to God against all adversity.

Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury
Kinley Bryan
Blue Mug Press
9781737915201, $14.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook

Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury is a historical fiction piece set in 1913 and tells of Great Lakes galley cook Sunny Colvin, whose world revolves around feeding a freighter crew even as her dreams center on doing something more.

The story opens with a succinct yet compelling note about the state of seagoing affairs in 1913 on the Great Lakes: "Only fools and shipping bosses would boast of safety before the boats were in winter layup, but the sailors were keenly aware how few fatalities 1913 had seen: only nine - ten - men lost, with mere weeks to go."

Sunny's culinary efforts are part of the reason why the crew of steel freighter Titus Brown seems particularly lucky - and happy. She's sailed with Captain for ten years, now. It's time for a change.

Between culinary references and steamer and barge descriptions, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury comes alive with a sense of time and place that immediately involves readers in Sunny's life.

As action heats up, Kinley Bryan's portraits are mesmerizing, cementing strong characters with challenges that evolve from their actions and the seafaring world around them: "Where was Herb now that they were all about to die? The Titus Brown hung, mid-tilt. Suspended between air and water long enough for Sunny to change her mind half a dozen times about whether they would or would not tip all the way over."

Sunny has plans for a life ashore, but her husband Herb, the steward, wants to sign on for yet another year on the lakes. The contrasts between their perceptions of danger offer an intriguing comparison between land and sea life: "Boats are lost every season. There are accidents." "There're accidents everywhere," Herb said. "There are plenty of dangers on land, my love. Illnesses, fevers."

Sunny's efforts to change her world as she feels herself changing embrace not only the milieu of her times, but the dichotomy of male/female relationships and duties. She's got a cafe location all picked out. But Herb thinks he can't make money ashore.

Kinley Bryan does an outstanding job of portraying the midlife crisis of a woman who, at age thirty-three, no longer waits for a family to cement her life's purpose. Sunny's decision to forge ahead with her own business, a passion reinforced by a deadly storm, leads the couple to make financial and emotional decisions that move them away from their familiar lives and routines into something different.

Kinley Bryan was born and raised in Northeast Ohio, and counts numerous Great Lakes captains among her ancestors. This familiarity lends to a solid sense of place and culture to the scenarios she describes, cementing both their atmosphere and facts which are based on the real history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which operated throughout the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic Coast from the mid-1800s until 1915.

The events of the paradigm-changing storm are also based on real-world meteorological events, while the husband-and-wife team reflects the Howard M. Hanna Jr.'s real-life cook and her heroism during the storm.

Filled with psychological twists and physical confrontations as Sunny and Herb move through their environment and towards the Great Storm that will change everything, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury is a riveting period piece especially recommended for Ohio and nautical history holdings, as well as general interest readers, who will relish the tale of a spunky wife's determination to survive and grow against all odds.

Marlena Fiol and Ed O'Connor
JRS Books
9781737531401, $16.99 Paper, $2.99 ebook

Called presents a historical piece that opens during World War II and stands out from the crowd by weaving together three disparate lives that unfold in a non-European milieu: a shy Mennonite nurse, a physician whose calling is to serve the poor, and a female attorney who is an Argentinean activist.

It would initially seem unlikely that these very different individuals' lives would coalesce in any way; but World War II brought together people who might otherwise have never met - and that's one of the hard-hitting messages in Called.

Another reason why this particular story is so strong is because its events reflect the true experiences of Dr. John and Clara Schmidt, Kansas Mennonites who devoted their lives as medical pioneers in Paraguay, South America. Marlena Fiol and Ed O'Connor researched over seven hundred references for this piece, from published books and diaries to conducting interviews with those who knew the Schmidts.

Thus, readers receive much in-depth background information about the Mennonite community, its activities in South America, and the special challenges affecting its work and people over a period of decades.

From challenging new notions about the treatment and understanding of leprosy to clinical trials of drugs, a mission that evolves past war times and into the 1960s, and John and Clara's own connections to each other, God, and their work, the story unfolds with an attention to both medical challenges and social change.

Only at the book's end are its autobiographical roots revealed. By then, readers have become thoroughly engaged in John and Clara's mission and discoveries - and also thoroughly educated in their community-building legacy, which lives on to this day, in Paraguay.

Further insights on missionary work and the history behind this story may be found at Suffice it to say that the blend of high drama and real-world events creates a compelling draw, covering, in-depth, a mission that changes hearts, minds, and lives.

Called is a powerful tale that deserves a spot in a wide variety of holdings, from historical fiction and memoir collections to those interested in missionary and medical challenges, South America in general and Paraguay in particular, and the drive to follow God's calling to create and support better lives for everyone.

Its powerful message of ministry, faith, and perseverance also belongs in libraries strong in spiritual stories of heroism against all odds.

John Brown's Women
Susan Higginbotham
Onslow Press
9781737474906, $9.99

John Brown's Women chronicles the foundations of early struggles for democracy and freedom with a sweeping historical review that personalizes events that took place from 1833 to 1859. It opens by noting that the main character, Mary Day, was not originally expected to be John Brown's wife. Her sister was. But the widowed John Brown proposes instead to Mary, who accepts more as a sensible decision than for any sense of love.

The saga unfolds as Mary experiences the tides of social and political change that sweep the country and affect her world. She becomes privy to her husband's daring plot and finds herself not just a supporter, but an active participant when it fails.

John Brown's Women doesn't just outline Mary's adventures. It concurrently weaves in the stories of Wealthy Brown (who marries John's oldest son and moves to Kansas, only to find their lives embroiled in controversy and struggle over slavery) and daughter Annie Brown, who finds her own life changed because of the role she takes in the raid her father has planned.

Historical events come to life through the experiences and perspectives of three women who all find themselves caught up in social and political issues far beyond their experiences.

These events test their beliefs and their courage as each make decisions that originate from the actions of the men in their lives.

Susan Higginbotham provides a vivid inspection of the times that will delight fiction readers seeking women's perspectives and historical representation. These forces often test their beliefs in their men, their world, and their own moral and ethical foundations: "The next morning, the Sabbath sun had risen to reveal five dead bodies, all slashed with swords, and some shot as well. It was Mr. Harris who had identified Father Brown as the man in charge of the killing party, and the widows Doyle and Wilkinson had agreed that an older man had led the expedition. Wealthy thought of all the fuss her father-in-law had made about keeping the Sabbath holy. Evidently, he had been willing to make an exception."

That John Brown's Women takes the time to portray more than events, but their deeper issues and ramifications, makes for a historical work highly recommended for readers who want their action and facts reinforced by attention to the impact these events hold on women's daily lives and psyches.

Collections strong in women's representations in historical fiction surrounding Civil War events, in particular, will find John Brown's Women thought-provoking reading that brings the times to life.

Stay With Me, Wisconsin
JoAnneh Nagler
Coyote Point Press
9781970151930, $18.99 softcover, $11.99 ebook

The short stories in Stay With Me, Wisconsin represent a sense of Midwest place and are set in small towns and communities across Wisconsin. Steeped in diverse experiences, they coalesce under the flags of family and community as each character grows and changes.

Take Shelby, in "Doggie Stay." She's a dog trainer who was married to a deadbeat man. Once she kicked him out, she quickly falls for another...a fact that distresses her mother: "You're like a goddamned Labrador," her mother said when she told her about getting married. They were having lunch at the Dipsy Diner, Ruff at their feet at an outside table, the sixties tune Don't Let Me Down blaring on the outside speaker. The early autumn heat was winding down, just-turning leaves on the trees above them wavering and threatening to drop. "I mean, for God's sake!" Evvy shoved French fries into her mouth while she spoke, ramping up her volume. "You like every man that smells good! What - he licked your hand and you knew it was love? Why can't you just wait?"

When another short-term relationship falls apart, Shelby is tasked with finding a warm, enthusiastic man. Her description of her heart's desire sounds amazingly like a dog...

Contrast this piece of love in the making and dog-oriented descriptions with the powerful voice in "Atotoniclo," which opens with the bang of observing that "You are just fine - you know you are; you're just friggin' fine, for God's sake - managing, bearing up - you're absolutely handling it. And then one day, you abruptly realize, you most certainly are not. It is the day your husband dies, and you are standing next to his bed - home now, nothing they can do, the two of you in this box of a Milwaukee apart-ment (not your real home; that was Janesville, a life before this wasting.) He is disconnected from all of the tubes and beeping objects and screens he has been wired to - screens you watched for months on end, like a mesmerizing but over-dramatized Thursday night movie-of-the-week (red, digital numbers declining or rising; alerts and alarms going off so often that you came to think they were part of the clatter of your own brain) - and then, all at once, you throw your heavy-heeled boot through the apartment window."

As rebellion, anger, and family come together over a death, the "unraveling" of watching a spouse die and reassessing what remains of value in life is brought to light in emotionally vigorous passages as events lead to transformation and travel beyond the Midwest, into strange foreign realms of the heart.

Each story offers a succinct, diverse portrait of an individual firmly rooted in Wisconsin, whose life events and choices create an upward trajectory.

Brought to light by emotionally vigorous passages that travel beyond the Midwest into the strange, foreign realms of the heart, Stay With Me, Wisconsin crafts a wonderful journey. Filled with a delicate sense of place and purpose, its characters work their way inside the reader's soul, allowing access into delightfully unexpected regions of the evocative and the sensual.

Ultimately, each character finds a way "back to myself" and to the roots that cemented the foundations of their journeys. Each step to finding a renewed sense of self allows readers to reexamine their own journeys, influences, and roots.

Delightful and unexpected in their progression, each piece in

Stay With Me, Wisconsin embraces a sense of place and purpose that carries readers into both the Wisconsin milieu and the lives and growth of characters who at once embrace and move beyond these influences.

The journey represented in these stories is thought-provoking, hard-hitting, and filled with bright moments of inspection and reflection.

Flower Girl
Merida Johns
Coffee Cup Press
9781733279024, $16.99

Flower Girl opens in 1984, where Suzanna finds herself charged with "living her truth." Her decision to flee her abuser and start a new life involves more than changing physical proximity.

Her story then moves back in time to her Ohio roots and birth in 1958. As Suzanna follows the patterns of her upbringing and relationship developments, Merida Johns provides a series of revelations about life's progression and probes subconscious and deliberate choices in how it unfolds: "I view my life as an open highway crisscrossing the countryside of my beloved home state. Like the scenic and undulating Ohio hill country, there are ups and downs."

From coming of age in an upper-middle-class suburb of Columbus to husband Jonathan's temper and move from subliminal to overt threat, Suzanna navigates a life where inspection and discovery increasingly dictate that she make sweeping changes in order to survive.

Her development of healthier, more conscious friendships and relationships as a newly single woman still faces obstacles even as possibilities expand: "As Robert would say, my life was running on octane. My work was fulfilling as I cut a path toward my North Star. My strengths of love and kindness overflowed with supportive friends and colleagues and a trusting relationship with Craig. My home and the splendor of western New York powered my appreciation of beauty. And new hobbies and music, music, music on Friday evenings nourished my soul. It was perfect until . . ."

Merida Johns crafts an outstanding story of mistreatment, recovery, and growth that will resonate with any woman who finds herself on the receiving end of abuse. These readers will avidly follow Suzanna's pursuit of a better life and her realizations about what influences have blinded her, in the past.

Its attention to realistic descriptions of this process and the changing momentum of Suzanna's world creates an outstanding inspection of the undercurrents and influences life holds as she strives to keep her personal North Star firmly in mind against all odds.

Collections strong in women's literature and fiction surrounding domestic violence and recovery processes will find Flower Girl an evocative, compelling read that chooses no easy paths to resolution. Suzanna's changing choices and perceptions are outstanding examinations of the darkness that pervades her world, and provide important keys to recovery that women will want to learn about.

Blood Brother: A Memoir
Susan Keller
TouchPoint Press
9781952816390, $16.99 paperback/$5.99 Kindle

Blood Brother: A Memoir details a powerful search for a missing brother whose bone marrow could save Susan Keller's life. It combines the author's efforts to locate her brother with deep reflections on family ties, medical conundrums, and the lengthy process of forgiveness.

While some might think this memoir is about a genealogical pursuit alone, oncologists and those in the medical profession will find Blood Brother equally eye-opening and important as it charts a moral, ethical, and psychological journey through family trauma and considers the special connections of donor and recipient under life-threatening conditions.

Susan was fifty-five and happily married when, overnight, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer that prompted both hallucinations and questions about mortality and life.

To live, she needed a stem cell transplant from a blood relative. At that time, her brother Johnny had been missing for over thirty years, having escaped the violent childhood that Susan also experienced.

Her journey to find him and save her life connects past and present in a tale of not only reaching out to rebuild lost family, but understanding how, without cancer, this never would have happened.

Keller also explores social consideration of life-threatening illness and expensive treatments: "Cancer and money are not strange bedfellows. Being in the medical education field, I've heard health economists say, with all due respect and disassociation: Death is very cost effective. A deceased patient is no longer a drain on health care resources. It's the treatment that's expensive. And as sad as it is, even in these wealthy United States, cancer can have a devastating monetary effect on victims and their families."

Susan's family ties, recovery from dysfunctional family scenarios, and the ethics of medical treatments woven into her journey provide a satisfying blend of emotional revelation, unexpected humor, and thought-provoking considerations of family and medical community alike.

While Blood Brother will be chosen by many who read about cancer survivors and changed lives, it also is highly recommended for medical professionals at all levels, from doctors to nurses and therapists. It offers a compelling, multifaceted approach to cancer diagnosis, treatment, making the most of a second chance at life, and simple ideas for better medical and hospital experiences which patients and doctors can use to improve both the system and their own individual approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Adam's Roads
Edwin Litts
Atmosphere Press
9781637529768, $17.99

Adam's Roads is an engaging story about Adam Bell's romance with Mary, a young woman he sees as a perfect potential mate. But, his story doesn't begin with love. It begins with a stark description of life in an apartment off the expressway, a milieu of noise and racing engines where residents are prompted by a Big Brother-like sentiment to keep their homes in perfect appearance and their lives under the eye of Big 7.

Adam is twenty-five, out of the military, and ready to pursue his academic and personal dreams. Armed with a GI bill and new motivation, he pursues life as a freshman with a new apartment and goals which need to expand if Mary is to have a place in them.

Readers who expect a romance, social inspection, or coming of age story alone will be surprised at the philosophical reflection which powers this story. Adam faces changes not only from his environment, but his psyche. These lead him to reflect on new possibilities in many circumstances: "As a survivor of this English class brawl and other previous confrontations as well, Adam had been reminded of high and low human promise. He knew that each individual possessed an available set of retaliatory genes. These genetics were ready to be activated at will. Oneupmanship never failed to remind of the fight-back potential and whether or not to employ said innate option. Understandably, some are better than others and more comfortable when fighting back. We admire the ones who can do this well. Does it take guts to break the rules of civilized decorum? It would require less courage to retaliate when it becomes apparent that there is no other alternative but to fudge on the etiquette of these bylaws."

Adam may be a late bloomer, but he approaches potential romance and life with a reflective eye that brings not just Mary, but his world to life. Edwin Litts writes with a lyrical hand that captures this milieu's blend of philosophical and social inspection: "This beer can hate was a potential case of life and death; a neverending lifelong case of enjoyable living being gushed right down the drain. Every single day of unease. Unhealthy on the nerves. Unhealthy on the organs. Unhealthy on life. Unhealthy on living. Unshedding and forever clinging bad stuff. Definitely. It would be the era of forever waiting for something bad to happen."

From promise and hope to angst and travels which demonstrate to Adam that roads and goals can be flexible and ever-changing, Litts offers a compendium of inspections and reactions that make for a smooth-flowing experience punctuated with the Big 7's noise: "Grruumm! Thank you, 7, he thought. Boom blimpf flip. Then, Adam's conviction continued: Continuing on with our present and busy life, we advance. blimph flip."

Adam's Roads is a story highly recommended as an alternative road trip and coming of age journey for modern readers who live within the confines of social expectation and emotional assumptions. It will lead this audience out of the box with an unexpected narrative highly recommended for literary collections. Ideally, Adam's Roads should appear alongside such books as (and be read concurrently with) Catcher in the Rye and other coming-of-age classics.

Out of the Darkness
Jeanne Fortune
5Ms Publishing
9781735092843, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Out of the Darkness is a novel about Haitian teen Cynthia Josaphat's move from Haiti to the United States. The immigrant experience depicted comes not from a single background, but is a compilation of stories that holds a focus different from most - an attention to the mental health of the immigrant, which here overshadows legal and social concerns.

The young narrator is set to leave her home and her mother to move to the U.S. with her sister, living with a distant father she barely knows to journey to a country she feels no connections to.

Jeanne Fortune chooses the first person point of view to bring Cynthia's world to life as she faces changes, health challenges in her new home, and a father who proves more demanding in his expectations of her than she can accept.

As Cynthia moves from Haiti to an unfamiliar milieu in which her physical and mental resilience is tested, readers receive an unusual focus in the course of a dangerous journey that leads Cynthia to sinister places and the darker relationships to be found within them.

How do immigrants navigate matters of the heart and mind while learning about an entirely new world? Very tentatively. In Cynthia's case, this involves decisions which lead not to freedom, but brushes with death.

Much more than an immigrant's journey, Out of the Darkness also addresses how young women fall into abusive situations and not only tolerate, but justify them: "I forgave him because I thought he loved me; he would never hurt me again, I convinced myself. He never stopped telling me how beautiful I was and how he was so lucky to have me. He made me feel so special; I was the best thing that ever happened to him. How could I leave him for hurting me? After all, it was an accident. He didn't do it on purpose, I told myself. Besides, he didn't leave any scars that I would have to explain to people outside my home. No one needed to know. It was our secret. A dangerous one indeed."

From the financial struggles that come with being an independent adult to Cynthia's ties with the Haitian community and her family, Jeanne Fortune is especially skilled at exploring how Cynthia begins to confront the forces that have fed her darkness: "I finally had the courage to tell my father how much he had hurt me. I told him about my emptiness, the depression, the sadness. I told him how his absence affected me throughout the years. I told him how he'd been complicit in allowing others to hurt his children while giving his love to another man's children. I told him how the way he treated my mom had affected me as a woman. He didn't even show up to her funeral. I told him we all stayed away because we couldn't handle the pain he caused. Because of his absence, I had looked for love in all the wrong places and had gotten hurt too many times. I had dealt with homelessness, and nearly died in an abusive relationship. All before I was twenty-one years old."

Filled with more psychological inspection than the usual immigrant story, Out of the Darkness transcends its roots to hold appeal for not just immigrants, but any woman who has struggled to disengage from abusive patterns in her life.

This audience will find much to recognize and applaud about Out of the Darkness as Cynthia finds a way to make a better life and home for herself, even in a strange land which doesn't fully address mental illness issues.

Jeanne Fortune was born and raised in Haiti, and is in a special position to make that culture and its contrasts with the U.S. come alive.

Janet Kelley
Atmosphere Press
9781639880065, $17.99

In Taint, Rebecca's day has come. She is ready to write her love story - a "necessary fiction" that returns to the days of high school, when her senior year coincided with the explosion of terrorism during 9/11 and the rape of her best friend in a small town in Kansas (which only Rebecca witnessed).

It was also a time when Rebecca loved Luke. -- This is his story.

From the start, Taint presents the scenario of impending doom and powerful response. As the sole witness to an atrocity which didn't happen to her, Rebecca is charged with both keeping a secret for the sake of her friend and navigating the milieu of high school in which the rapist plays a prominent public role.

Rebecca is a savvy teen who approaches her world with a solid sense of survival tactics: "By twelfth grade, however, idealism goes underground as one of "unspeakables." I am smart enough to know that I want to look dumb. I know that I know just enough about politics, art, religious ecstasy, et cetera to look dumb. So I say nothing at all about any of these things that could trick me up into looking like a "stupid teenager."

She also is determined to seek justice on a level that taps into a personal well of courage, while remaining circumspect for the sake of her friend.

This dual challenge leads her to find a chilling way to exact revenge, and prompts teen readers to consider the moral, ethical, and social conundrums of rape and terrorism's effects on not just victims, but everyone who loves them.

From her friend's evolving feelings about the experience to Rebecca's determination to "keep her mouth sealed. For good" against all odds and pressures, Taint provides a thoroughly thought-provoking read for teens that questions the foundations of sexual abuse, friendship, loyalty, and justice.

The adult themes of this story make it recommended for mature teens who will find in Taint a powerful narrative that will lead them to reflect on issues, both social and sexual, that injects terrorism into daily life. Its hard-hitting story should be in any collection seeking to address these topics for mature audiences.

The Store-House of Wonder and Astonishment
Sherry Mossafer Rind
Pleasure Boat Studio
9781736479926, $16.00

The Store-House of Wonder and Astonishment is a unique collection of natural history poems that capture animal life, wilderness, and journeys that reflect both human and animal relationships. The poem is written as a journal, in the voice of Antonio Pigafetta.

Sherry Mossafer Rind's science-based consideration of world wonders reflects natural history writers of the past. Thus, such names as Pliny, Aristotle, Saint Ambrose, and Herodotus consider the habits of animals such as magpies, llamas, iguanas, and toads.

Folklore and science blend in many of these pieces, which trace the evolution of discoveries about different creatures and reflect on their meaning to humanity.

Rind writes with a studied attention to detail and perception. One good example is 'The Physic of Toads', in which toad folklore is presented: "If someone offend a toad, she gathers air into her body/and sighs out that poisoned breath/as near the offending person as she can get/and thus has her revenge./If air causes blindness or dizziness, seek the toad."

The weave of human and natural history is nicely done. Observations of the intersections of these worlds, the mysteries and myths of nature, and the long-ranging history of these encounters are captured in the chronological journey 'Paradise', in which explorers who initially encountered these animal mysteries found remarkable danger reflected by them: "Declaring himself a servant of the King of Spain,/the Sultan of Bacchian filled our ships with cloves./He also gave us beautiful dead birds/of a kind never before seen. The size of thrushes/with small heads and long beaks like crows..."

As this work moves through different experiences in the 1500s age of exploration and daring, Rind creates a beautiful (and thought-provoking) examination of the routes of sailors and encounters with the "birds who would bring us Paradise."

A concluding section of notes bows to the sources of inspiration that fueled these works, offering readers more opportunities to investigate source materials.

While The Store-House of Wonder and Astonishment will likely be considered for collections strong in contemporary poetry, it holds value and recommendation for natural history and travel holdings, as well.

Its different perspectives, studied and reasoned contrasts between human experience, exploration, and encounters with animals, and its thought-provoking, lyrical commentary are astute, evocative considerations of human roots in the natural world (which, in modern times, are too often forgotten): "Nothing then is lost; the vital heat survives in air, wheat,/cloth, mice, the very clay on which we stand or dig for pots./Beings generate in every combination, and everything on earth is life."

The Bronze Scroll
Paul Donsbach and Alia Sina
Independently Published
9781737397816, $19.99 Paper, $29.99 Hardcover, $9.99 ebook

The first book in the Knights of the Lost Temple series, The Bronze Scroll, will attract adventure readers who like Indiana Jones-style action combined with romance and crime investigation. High-profile, successful investigative attorney Sam Romero has resolved many corporate crime situations, uncovering evidence in the most impossible circumstances.

Pursuing a treasure map, a rogue corporate executive who kidnaps an Israeli journalist, and a murder in Israel all seem somewhat out of his comfort zone, but Sam is motivated to lend a hand to rescue the beautiful reporter. Her salvation depends on his uncovering clues to a deeper mystery that goes beyond fingering or capturing corporate perps, delving into hidden treasures and a Temple scroll's message.

Paul Donsbach and Alia Sina excel in an action-infused story that also includes spiritual components as Sam taps not only his investigative skills, but his hidden spiritual wellspring of strength.

Sam and Rebecca's relationship becomes deeper as events unfold, while the historical backdrop powers a compelling story: "Jason and Steve took me to a traveling exhibit at the Getty about this bronze scroll. It's usually referred to as the Copper Scroll because that's what the scientists thought it was made of when it was discovered in the 1950s. When it was finally tested, it turned out to be ninety-nine percent copper and one percent tin. So it's a man-made alloy but with only a trivial amount of tin. Normally, bronze is ten or twenty percent tin, which makes this alloy stronger and more resilient than pure copper. But since this scroll was only one percent tin, that means that the tin was added only for symbolic purposes." "Really? Like what?" Dawn asked. "Like giving an antiwar speech in front of the Bronze Gate to the Jerusalem Temple, after the Jewish revolt of the year 66 broke out," Sam replied. "The speaker wanted a powerful metaphor made of bronze to remind his audience of the spiritual meaning of the bronze that was used at the Jerusalem Temple at that time."

As spiritual metaphors, too many surprises, and law enforcement conundrums rise, readers are treated to a story that exudes action on many levels, from psychological and spiritual entanglements to political, social, and historical intrigue.

Sam's ability to accept the realities of his profession while thinking outside the box to solve a special dilemma that proves both personal and professional makes for a story that injects realistic elements to keep suspense and believability equally high: "It may sound innocuous, but the bar association tightly regulates attorney activities. Like most bureaucrats, the bar officials would probably split the difference rather than do the work necessary to figure out what had actually happened. That was the easy path that public officials often followed, making these kinds of things inherently damaging for everyone involved."

Think The DaVinci Code, blended with the fast pace and ancient mystery of an Indiana Jones production. Then add a healthy dose of romantic entanglement to the action, for a sense of how compellingly rich The Bronze Scroll feels.

Collections strong in action and adventure fiction that toes the line between historical mystery, legal thriller, and political inspection will find The Bronze Scroll nearly impossible to put down - or predict.

Spirituality for Badasses
J. Stewart Dixon
PIE Publishing
9780985857905, $15.00 Paper, $7.95 Audiobook, $5.99 ebook

Spirituality for Badasses may sound sassy, but its message is seriously intentional and revealing: that achieving a spiritual foundation takes work and a brand of self-examination that can't come from easy paths to enlightenment.

J. Stewart Dixon's chapter headings alone portend a greater revelation than most self-help or spirituality approaches embrace, with such admonitions as "How to pay attention without being a suck-up," "How to put your cell phone down for one goddamn minute," and "How to evolve from a suffering badass-hole to a spiritual badass."

There's swearing. In a spirituality guide? Oh, yes. This isn't your usual staid encouraging voice, but a brash, contemporary series of admonitions that works especially well to reach younger audiences who largely eschew the ennui and dispassionate approaches of similar books about building spiritual foundations.

From handling being an emotional wreck to moving into emotional bliss and being mindful during a crisis, Dixon tackles situations that are part of daily living and that, too often, are not part of the typical self-help guide on finding spiritual lessons from everyday life.

The prerequisites for thoroughly appreciating this discourse (and, there's much to like about its honest dialogue) are an affinity for mindful practice, spiritual investigation, and candid language that pulls no punches as it addresses the common snafus of choices and approaches to life: "Sometimes it requires an ass whipping to wake you up from a bypass. Sometimes life keeps handing you lemons until, one day, you finally decide to make lemonade. A few lemons here and there are okay. Just don't make a career out of that lemonade stand. I mean - shit, do the math. There is just no way you are going to pay your rent or mortgage with a fifty-cent paper cup of squeezed fruit, water and sugar."

Spirituality for Badasses should be part of any self-help, spirituality, or mindfulness collection. It goes where no other books in these genres dare travel, doing so in such a manner that older readers may be offended...but younger audiences will find it enlightening food for thought that speaks their language in a way no other book matches.

Highly recommended for discussion, contemplation, and action-oriented response, Spirituality for Badasses is sassy, brash, forthright...and just the cup of tea needed for modern generations. (Heck, make that a cup of vodka. It really packs a punch.)

Gotham Kitty
Ann Greyson
Independently Published
9780578705064, $13.99

Gotham Kitty opens with an interspecies confrontation on an alien planet as a Catusapien captured by the insect alien Brozians escapes before the ship sets down on Earth for refueling and supplies.

Human Allison Banes is in East Africa, working on her doctorate degree in zoology, when she comes upon what looks like a sleeping kitty, brings the little alien into her home, and unwittingly unleashes a force that involves an ancient curse and a threat to the Bantu tribe.

As earthling and alien each struggle with unfamiliar conditions and threats, 11-year-old African girl Cassidy Mkama finds herself involved in a fine blend of horror and sci-fi that will especially appeal to middle grades who like unexpected action and cats.

Can a little alien stranded on earth prove the catalyst for defeating an ancient threat? Fans of paranormal fiction will relish the growth of Kitty as she perceives her new world, finds a place in it, and uncovers a strength unusual for the females of her species.

Gotham Kitty also excels in a sense of family and community as Kitty is introduced to the Chagga people, whose prophecy helps events and mysteries become more understandable.

As Cassidy, Laila, and others confront the Evil Shadowy Figure, Allison's rescue and protection of Gotham Kitty is perhaps the only thing keeping complete disaster at bay.

The blend of sci-fi and paranormal elements raise the book's appeal to a wider audience. Despite its youthful characters, the story should reach into adult circles with its satisfying twists and turns and unusual premises.

Whimsical, involving, and filled with action, Gotham Kitty is recommended for a wide age range, who will find the mix of sci-fi and paranormal action inviting and original.

Stoves & Suitcases
Cynthia D. Bertelsen
Turquoise Moon Press
9781734557923, $19.95 Paper, $11.95 Kindle

Stoves & Suitcases: Searching for Home in the World's Kitchens should be in the holdings of any collection strong in culinary biography and history.

What began as a search for home and roots evolved into a culinary exploration, as Cynthia D. Bertelsen documents in chapters that move from Florida and Washington food discoveries to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Europe, and Africa.

Being born prematurely and placed in an oxygen-rich environment damaged Bertelsen's hearing and sight. She developed a passion for reading books in response to her disability and abilities, which then morphed into a passion for cooking and food. An early discovery of the Time-Life Foods of the World book series allowed her to journey far from her home and roots and led to her next obsession: travel.

Stoves & Suitcases is a memoir about how all these experiences coalesced into a passion for new experiences, new flavors, and world travels that introduced her to ordinary cooks producing extraordinary new results from their home kitchens.

Whether the reader is interested in stories of disability recovery, world travel, or cooking, all these subjects and more receive lively inspection and attractive insights, here.

Bertelsen writes with an evocative hand that brings these worlds and their cooks to life: "The sight of an old-fashioned iron stove. The smell of wood smoke. The aroma of beefsteak milanesa. Or the crackling sound of empanadas, stuffed with ground beef and hard cooked eggs, perfumed with a hint of cumin, frying in smoking-hot grease. That's all it takes to reconstruct Do˝a Olga's magical touch in the kitchen, in my mind anyway."

Her ability to capture and contrast such different milieus, incorporating them into her own learning experiences and solidifying their value for the reader with recipes, provide the opportunity to duplicate these culinary encounters at home.

From a Fish Fry batter to the staple African Cornmeal Mush and a Balinese Sambal Rica-Rica, Bertelsen's encounters with chefs, ordinary home cooks, and foodies examines more than the culinary roots of each place.

She faces social unrest and conflict, struggles with bureaucracies (as in Honduras), and eye-opening experiences ("I was alive. Thanks to a stranger.") that bring not only cooking, but other cultures to life.

Black and white photos and postcards add visual embellishments to an appealing format that contrasts recipes with experiences.

It's hard to compare Stoves & Suitcases to other books of its ilk. Perhaps Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour comes closest. But, the blend of insights on different countries, cooking, and an evolving sense of self is hard to find elsewhere. All these elements make Stoves & Suitcases highly recommended for a diverse audience and collections whose subjects range from memoirs to travel and culinary explorations.

The Tests
Robert W. Kirby
Independently Published
9798525672994, $12.18 Paper, $21.66 Hardcover, $2.99 ebook

The Tests will appeal to fans of psychological thrillers. It opens with a foray into the world of Alex Clayton, who is living with his wife in Edinburgh in 2019, but remains threatened by dreams of his childhood and the initiation rites he underwent with his group of peers, who changed his life forever.

Faced with intense memory dreams that bring back these past events so vividly that they threaten his marriage, Alex decides to journey back to his roots in Kent, reconnect with the group members, and face his demons once and for all.

What evolves provides a gripping story of torment and tragedy that reaches from the past to involve his wife Natalie, who is determined to uncover and dismiss the demons that are trashing her marriage.

There is such a thing as repressed memories; even of events that are so stark that one would think they would be engrained in the mind forever. There is also the phenomenon of false memories, as Alex comes to realize when his rekindled relationships reveal events he has no memory of.

As the group investigates, compares, and considers the real truth about the tests they underwent in the past, the darkness of their initiation trails comes back to life in a new, deadly manner.

Robert W. Kirby keeps readers guessing with a story that moves between thriller, psychological inspection, and the lasting impact of one tragic day on all involved (and even those who love them).

Alex's consideration of these times comes to life as his story moves between past and present: "Alex's heart was thudding as the memory of his previous encounter here came flooding back. He could almost hear the shouts and curses coming from the boys as they hunted him that grim day. The terror had been overwhelming. But he'd not succumbed to them, and he'd fought back and escaped, and he'd do whatever was required to repeat that scenario."

Patrick, too, recalls the depraved course his life took. Gavin still blames Alex for the outcome of their experiment. All face emotional damage and game-changing decisions now, in their future world as adults, when they confront these past decisions.

Kirby is especially adept at contrasting the psychological changes and responses of his characters. Their varied choices and influences on who they became and their current feelings now (or, even their intrinsic ability to process emotions) come to life in a game-changing story that is fast-paced and firmly centered in a psychological inspection filled with many surprises.

Readers who relish stories of uncertain recovery, damaged adults who return to their childhood milieu for answers and redemption, and interested outsiders who are determined not to let the past ruin their future will find The Tests a powerful story of recollection, depravity, and redemption. Its moral and ethical force will remain in the mind long after the final pages are read.

The Final Decree
Shami Stovall
Capital Station Books
B099QV8TL6, $5.99 ebook

The Final Decree blends fantasy and horror genres with a vivid inspection of powerful God-King Eliezer, who uses the power of a curse to rule his subjects. His decrees are written in stone and his magic allows him to instantly know when they've been broken.

What hope does the land have under such an all-powerful ruler? They have Artemisia, a girl who has been cursed by the king, but who is on the run, somehow having escaped being turned into a monster for her transgression.

If she transforms (which is still a real possibility), she will join the ranks of beasts that destroy everything they love. If she doesn't, she may be the only hope the kingdom has of defying the powerful rule of Eliezer.

Enter Rylion Nasos, a monster hunter who captures her. Rylion well knows Artemisia's danger, but he also comes to realize her potential. Together, they pool resources and strengths to organize an overthrow attempt.

One fine attribute of Shami Stovall's story is that it adopts a progression of events that are not entirely linear. Other voices add information and interludes that expand the perceptions and events, as in the section "Interlude-Steen Callows," which provides the perspective of a follower whose wife has been injured in one of the battles led by Rylion and Artemisia: "It was only a matter of time before we met with a casualty. Rylion and Wulf relied on Artemis to act as their sword, but I still didn't trust the woman. Sure, she wielded fire. Yet when they had faced two monsters, Lydia had been injured."

Dovetailing different perspectives affects perceptions of outcomes and possibilities as the story moves through action-packed scenes and new revelations. It also provides a fine series of supporting reflections by Steen, Lydia, Thea Yellahjar, and others, which enhance the growing romance and confrontations between the main characters and their world.

Stovall crafts a fast pace that is richly accented by matters of the heart as Artemis and Rylion join forces and the Forsaken and the King Killer clash.

Readers seeking an epic fantasy that adeptly weaves psychology with social inspection and occult horror will welcome The Final Decree's ability to create a fantasy that rests on an evolving mission and changing perceptions about freedom, rulers, and decrees worth fighting for.

While the story provides a satisfying conclusion that makes it a stand-alone read, it also paves the way for more books in the series. Yes, please!

Fantasy and occult horror collections alike will find that The Final Decree draws different readers with its unique, compellingly original voice.

Perilous Gambit
Kevin G. Chapman
Independently Published
B09HT232BP, $4.99 Kindle, $12.99 paperback, $23.99 Hardcover

Perilous Gambit is a Mike Stoneman murder mystery/thriller that opens in 2019 in South Dakota, where Senator Harlan Bushfield's flat tire leads to a deadly encounter, one snowy night. The local cops have no clue as to who could have accosted and killed him. His wife can't even think of anyone who would've wanted to kill him.

Meanwhile, in New York, homicide detective Mike Stoneman and his partner Jason have their hands full. Dr. Michelle McNeill's best friend, Rachel, set to marry Jason, has just discovered unwelcome news. But that's about to be overshadowed by circumstances that draw her brother Jackie into a murder investigation that lures Mike into unfamiliar territory.

As perspectives about unfolding events shift between Mike, Rachel, Michelle, and Jason, the wide-ranging story is given satisfying depth and unexpected twists of plot as disparate killings evolve.

The killers are making a deadly mistake. Can Mike and Jason convince them of this before events spiral out of control completely?

Kevin G. Chapman creates a mystery thriller especially strong in its nonstop action and varying character perspectives. These elements work together to create a smooth presentation that is so multifaceted, it seems to hold the potential for confusion. However, it deftly slips between characters, special interests, and crime so smoothly that readers are thoroughly engrossed and intrigued...and not at all perplexed.

It's a pleasure to see a professional woman (Michelle) contributing her research and savvy to find answers that even Mike and Jason cannot discover. The Las Vegas backdrop that emerges is realistic and unexpected as Mike moves from territory he's familiar with into a milieu that baffles him.

Wedding jitters can't begin to describe the events that lead bride and groom down a deadly path. As Mike works to find answers, he gambles with lives that reach beyond his friendships and relationships in a manner that injects moral and ethical concerns into the mystery and action.

The result is a cat-and-mouse game about matters of the heart and detective investigations alike, which create a story of love, life, and death that will prove delightful to both prior fans of Mike Stoneman's life and newcomers who arrive at the wedding late.

Elizabeth Radcliffe
Bublish, Incorporated
9781647044077, $12.00 paper, $9.99 ebook

Soulwork: Connecting with the Universe and your Spiritual Path to Find your True Purpose in Life points out that self-awareness is a goal to be earned, not inherited. The path to purpose often begins with a rendering of reality - a rip in the cloth of expectation or a challenge to one's lifelong preset notions of the journey and what it should entail.

Whether sparked by a breakup, death, or psychic devastation, the road to defining and achieving one's uniquely true purpose isn't a singular path, but often seems to include many diverse byways and experiences.

Soulwork offers to connect these dots in a different way, blending autobiographical stories about the process with a close inspection of the Universe and various ways of relating to it.

Spirituality, science, and psychology intersect through Elizabeth Radcliffe's specific considerations of such challenges as how to quiet the mind to achieve superior inspection, how to seek and follow guidance that leads in better directions, and how to adopt an intentional path towards healing, redemption, and a better life.

With each piece of advice, Radcliffe cements her life's experiences and changing perceptions with tips on how readers can acknowledge and follow their own paths by employing more astute rationale and intuitive understanding.

It should be noted that soulwork is no easy venture. Radcliffe readily admits its pitfalls and special challenges: "With my years of experience navigating Soulwork, I knew immediately that seeking out ways to feel wanted wouldn't help me heal. That was the subconscious strategy I had been employing for years. It had only brought me unhappiness and disruption. But if generating a feeling of being wanted wasn't the cure for feeling unwanted, what was?"

As she moves from personal inspection and transformation to bigger-picture thinking about world processes and impacts, Radcliffe draws important connections that readers need to know about the ultimate impact and purpose of attempting soulwork in the first place.

How does a person evolve to embrace their life destiny in a different way?

Soulwork is a highly recommended road map for those who have predetermined that this process and the work it involves are worthy of pursuit. It provides cautions, directions, and insights that help streamline processes and promote better understanding of soulwork's promises and potential, and is highly recommended for new age, self-help, and spirituality collections alike.

Where the Rain Cannot Reach
Adesina Brown
Atmosphere Press
9781639880812, $18.99

Where the Rain Cannot Reach opens with an image from "Before": "Through the thicket lay a crying child. Stuck in time though she was, the child was no more than three years of age. The child could no longer cry for her parents, who she had forgotten long ago, and still she sobbed over a future lost far too soon. Just a little thing, with only the missai birds to watch over her, until a kind hand reached out and awakened her to a new world."

Tair is shown kindness and has been raised by elves in Mirte, but her sheltered, protected life will not remain that way for the rest of her days. At age fourteen, she is no longer a child, and remains alienated from the Elven world around her, by her Human roots.

Racially and socially isolated by her heritage, Tair embarks on a journey to Domain, the current abode of Dwarvenkind where past human inhabitants left a dark legacy behind.

There, she forms new connections with the almost-alien-seeming Humans of Sossoa and is forced to reconsider not just her heritage and uncommon upbringing, but her loyalties and friendships.

Adesina Brown does an outstanding job of capturing a sense of place and background, bringing to life Tair's world and her path through it: "They then followed the curve of the nearby Dessoa River that stemmed out from Doman's lake. The summer was heat thick as the night deepened and, later, steadily turned into dawn. Though they relished in the cold, refreshing water that lapsed at their shoes, they were careful not to lose their footing. In the receding darkness, the water was their only guide - along with the rising Red Sun and the retreating moon. Tair had been so long without them that they now took on a new beauty."

As Tair experiences new realms and ways of living and interacting, her growth and reactions are captured in a compelling, realistic manner: "As tall and sprawling as the city had seemed from the outside, it was even bigger inside. Winding streets with shops and restaurants and pubs, residential areas, passing wagons with patrons loaded up on the back - everything felt disorganized but there were clearly rules, unknown to Tair though they were. It was as if everyone wanted to live in chaos. It became more overwhelming by the second..."

From the repercussions of prejudice, perception, and love to changing political status that challenge mates to accept one another, Brown captures the heart and soul of characters that confront, break, heal, and move on in different ways.

The emotional and political components added into the fantasy make for compelling reading.

From training and untraining to the relentless rain and the unfolding nature of Tair's significance to this world, Brown crafts an involving story of a Child of Sossa whose journey beings her into the presence of the son of King Usnano, Rain Storm, whom she will have to kill in order to foster a rebellion that will set the world free.

Is there anywhere the rain in this world does not reach?

Brown's ability to bring the sense of place and their characters to life in a vivid, compelling story gives fantasy readers a multifaceted, involving tale that's hard to put down as Tair questions her identity, origins, and involvements.

Where the Rain Cannot Reach is a riveting tale that deserves a spot in any fantasy or epic adventure collection. Even though it holds a definitive conclusion, the 'After' note leaves the door open for more. This would be a welcome thought.

Somewhere Different Now
Donna Peizer
Atmosphere Press
9781639880775, $18.99

Somewhere Different Now is Annie Cahill's three-part story, opening four years after the end of World War II.

Her family has moved out of the city to a new suburb and teenager Annie feels isolated, alienated, and out of sorts with her parents.

Her astute examination of the social and historical influences that affect her world are provided from the vantage point of hindsight and blossoming maturity: "I don't mean to sound all Pollyannish or suggest that trouble did not visit me from time to time, because it did. I'm only saying that the environment created by the circumstances of that unique historical period was a perfect fit for me and allowed me to blossom in ways I did not experience at school or behind the closed doors of my often-chaotic family life."

Resisting her mother's attempts to turn her into a young lady despite her tomboyish, outdoorsy personality, Annie chooses a different path. It's easy to flee privilege and angst when you're young, and so she takes off, prompted by a fight and a dream that portend a different kind of future.

An abandoned cave seems the perfect isolated place to heal, but it's not long before Annie finds herself facing an unusual visitor: black girl Clydeen Hollifield, who is fleeing the authorities.

Her voice and experiences dovetail nicely with Annie's trauma, offering a contrast of their lives and the racial milieu of their times.

Clydeen's complex story of family and authorities is narrated in a voice that brings her experiences to life: "My mama, she called Beth Hollifield. Her real name Bethany, but everybody call her Beth. My daddy, he was James Hollifield. My mama call me Baby, and she tol' me the story of my birth 'bout a million times. How she lift me up naked to the full moon and whispered my name to me, not Baby, mind you, but my real name, Clydeen. Is it a true story or jus' her imaginins? I don't know, but I like the story anyhow. It makes me feel like there was a time she loved me best."

As the two disparate girls uncover secrets, consider their next moves, and find themselves locked in an odd relationship and struggle against those who would control them, an uncertain friendship develops. This is further tested by the arrival of another stranger: a former WWII resistance fighter.

Donna Peizer brings many elements and scenarios to life in her story. Some might say that the complexity of evolving social issues against the post-war recovery injects almost too many subjects into one story; but Somewhere Different Now represents a dance of social and political developments that is well done and perfectly orchestrated.

The juxtaposition of evolving racial issues of the times; the two girls' different voices, backgrounds, and experiences of opportunity and angst; and the added value of a different political perspective imparted by artistic dreamer Ulie (who disappeared during the war) and his mother Eva (who longs for his return) makes for an enlightening tale.

With so many character stories involved, Peizer identifies the different, changing perspectives in chapter headings to eliminate any possibility of confusion.

The result is a thought-provoking contrast between dreams, disparate realities, and the experiences of characters who all grow beyond their foundations, thanks to their interactions with one another.

Teens will find Somewhere Different Now quite a different exploration of the post-World War II milieu, and an intriguing probe into the social and racial issues of a recovering country and the individuals within it who struggle with their own destinies.

The Whisper of a Distant God
David L. Gersh
Open Books
9781948598491, $17.95

The Whisper of a Distant God is recommended for military history readers who may enter the story knowing little about the War of New Mexico, but will depart its pages with a much more thorough grounding in the war's events.

The realistic representations are captured in a blend of letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and both first and third person dialogue that focuses on the lives, thoughts, and experiences of three main characters involved in the fray: Henry Sibley, commander of the Texas Mounted Volunteers; Edward R. S. Canby, the Union commander; and his wife Louisa, deemed the Angel of Santa Fe.

From Louisa Hawkins' diary of her forthcoming marriage to Edward and her visions of a perfect life as his wife to Henry's letters to his wife in which he expresses his convictions and uncertainties ("I will fulfill the honor done to me by President Jefferson Davis and achieve historic things, in spite of the obstacles placed before me. Yes, my dear, even in our Confederacy, there are obstacles. Alas, it reflects a basic defect that exists in some men everywhere, I fear."), the story excels in contrasting first-person inspections of the social and political forces affecting each character's life.

David L. Gersh crafts a story that is filled with psychological insights as much as politics and struggle. Readers who anticipate a story of military strategy alone will be surprised (and delighted) that Gersh takes the time to candidly reveal the contrasting experiences and perceptions of those who fought on both sides: "That Bob's a funny one. Today, during the battle, he don't go and hide like the other slaves. He found hisself a spot near where we was, where he could watch the fightin'. I seen the look on his face. Maybe more hate there for the Yankees than I have. Don't rightly know why, since them Yankees is supposed to be fightin' fer him. Can have him, far as I'm concerned. Can have all of them for the good they are."

These approaches raise the story beyond a war novel alone to represent the depth Gersh has captured in exploring the roots of the war.

From moral and ethical issues of brutal struggle to the changing lives of all involved, The Whisper of a Distant God will attract military fiction readers with its battle coverage - but then delivers something much more.

Filled with the unexpected depth and detail that comes from a well-researched production, The Whisper of a Distant God deserves a prominent place not only in collections about New Mexico history and North/South struggles, but in discussion groups about ethical issues. These will find its reflections on prejudice and vivid descriptions of the horrors of war to be more than thought-provoking, encouraging considerations of loyalty, traitors, and the costs of fighting for one's convictions.

Hey, White Girl
Judith Bice
Atmosphere Press
9781639880980, $18.99

Hey, White Girl takes place in the 1960s, an era of promise and possibility when men land on the moon and music festivals such as Woodstock can bring peace to the world.

Despite its ideals and enthusiasm, it's also an era of rising racial tensions, captured in Hey, White Girl.

The white Randolph children face this firsthand; especially Nell, who begins her senior year at a black school that offers such controversy that her concerned mother pulls her out to enter a private school instead. At the same time, Nell's older brother is facing the draft and the Vietnam War: another life-changing event.

Between rising civil rights issues and the war, the Randolph family is caught in a tide of change. All this is captured from the viewpoint of Nell, who is able to transmit both the promise of the times and its potential for sweeping, unprecedented changes.

Judith Bice captures this milieu in an intriguing manner, juxtaposing white and black worlds and experiences with descriptions that are thought-provoking: "St. Mary's was a safer school than Stonewall. No one pushed me during gym class or "accidentally" knocked my elbows in the hall. I wasn't nervous about going to the bathroom or worried about standing in line to buy milk. My presence didn't provoke anger; it didn't provoke anything."

The contrasts between these worlds are particularly well done, standing out from any preset notion of prejudice on either side: "Had I never been to Stonewall I would have adjusted to St. Mary's. I could have been part of the chatting circle of girls if they had been my friends from the beginning. I could have been the kind of student the nuns would have loved: engaged, pious, submissive. But even if I had to be on my guard in the halls and bathrooms of Stonewall, I missed the authenticity of Claudia, Venetia, and Fergy, even if I couldn't name it at the time. The girls of St. Mary's were tiresome and boring in comparison and I had to be on my guard in much harder ways than holding tight to my pocketbook."

From candid conversations about the color of skin, opportunities, and prejudice to the dilemma of being a different kind of thinker who doesn't quite fit in with set notions on either side, Bice takes the time to document and reveal her characters' feelings and reactions: "I'm tired of being the different one. I didn't fit in at St. Mary's. Most of my white friends, like Sally and Allison, don't understand why I like to hang out with Venetia and Fergy. But I'm not black, and I know I won't ever really fit in with them either."

The result is a compelling story of a how a close-knit family and community fracture and come back together again. It's an astute reflection of the country and the times, and will prove involving and revealing to both those who have lived them and new generations coming up.

Collections strong in civil rights fiction and social issues in 1960s America will find Hey, White Girl a powerful examination and a compelling work of fiction.

The Lion in Your Heart
R.C. Chizhov
Blissful Conch LLC
9781737952602, $11.99 Paperback, $4.99 ebook, $19.99 Hardcover

Picture book readers and adults looking to teach the very young about fears and how to conquer them will find The Lion in Your Heart a winning story about tapping into inner strengths.

Dennis has moved to a new house and is afraid to sleep alone. His mother tries to explain that there's a fierce lion of survival and courage who lives in his heart, but Dennis doesn't see matters this way, and questions that concept.

Anil Yap's lovely drawings illustrate the conundrums young Dennis faces with an overactive nighttime imagination, a new environment, and a loving mother who responds to her young child's fear with wisdom and lessons on how to confront the unknown.

Especially thought-provoking is the focus on the fear of new experiences and how to overcome them while accepting that it's okay to feel afraid.

Beautiful drawings, a bedtime story with an important message for approaching life's changes, and a lesson in what courage really means makes for a picture book story that appeals on many different levels; but especially to read-aloud parents seeking to prepare a child for a new situation.

Munchimonster Zero-Waste Sustainable Eco-Fun
C. Purin
Independently Published
9798623256430, $7.75 Paper, $2.99 ebook

Munchimonster Zero-Waste Sustainable Eco-Fun is a delightful picture book exploration of the concepts of zero waste and environmental responsibility. It provides the very young with a basic primer that adults can use to introduce concepts of green living and recycling at an earlier age than most children's books.

The appeal comes through the character of Munchimonster, who defines the concept of zero waste, explores why everyone should be interested in creating a healthy environment, and draws important connections between nature and human affairs.

These connections are reinforced by facts and pages that invite kids to actively participate through coloring. This is the perfect format for parents looking to teach kids through interactive processes.

All this is presented in full-color pages that are packed with attention-getting drawings that move from fantasy creatures to realities such as compost. The action-oriented, brightly colored panels will attract and maintain young reader attention with a fun focus.

Other art projects promote the idea of sustainability, such as a bag that can hold a water canteen for multiple uses (rather than the usual one-use plastic bottle), providing practical tools that reinforce the notion that even the youngest child is capable of making informed, sustainable choices.

From cloth bags that can be used many times to watering a home garden at day's end to save water or making organic gardening a hobby, kids receive a book that goes beyond outlining facts about recycling and ecology.

Its blend of "can do" choices, revised approaches to living, and knowledge educates picture book readers about options they can choose to help change the world for the better.

This emphasis on individual empowerment and better choices, presented in a fun format that will appeal to the very young, goes beyond picture books that explore the issues in a less interactive manner. The result is a title that should be on the bookshelves and in the hands of any adult seeking to involve a young child in assuming early responsibility for the stewardship of the planet.

Munchimonster, who fosters understanding, is also featured in other titles in the series which tackle different subjects. Adults and kids who find Zero Waste an attractive, positive package will want to look for the other series titles.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The President's Daughter
Bill Clinton and James Patterson
Little Brown and Company / Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316540711, $30.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

"The President Is Missing" the first collaboration of Clinton and Patterson was a very uneven work. "The President's Daughter" their second effort is far better. President Mathew Keating is struggling to stay afloat after a disastrous attempt to wipe out a vicious terrorist who unlike his family got away. Keating's own vice president challenges him as he seeks reelection that he later losses. Now. as a former head of the country, he and his wife have secret service protection but his daughter because of her age doesn't. She is a wide-open target for the madman filled with revenge. "The President's Daughter" races along with well fleshed out character, filled with behind the scenes detail that only an insider like former President Clinton would know. A lot of fun is also to see if you can spot who of the team has written portions of the brilliant heart pounding novel of suspense.

The Shadow: A Thriller
James Patterson and Brian Sitts
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538703953, $17.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

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

Fantasy Play 101: A Couple's Playbook Of 101 Teases, Tales And Tantalizing Temptations
Kattrina "Katt" Morgan
Flying Monkey Press LLC
9781736634707, $9.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

"Fantasy Play 101" delves into the world of erotic techniques to add spice to couple's sex life that may be lacking. "Katt" who is the author is also character who reveals her own adventures from going to her doctor where she has an explicit enjoyable sexual experience to other exciting exploits that is the first of a series of novels guaranteed to add zest to any relationship that is lacking some zip. "Fantasy Play 101" is not written as a text book as so many sex books are. Instead "Fantasy Play 101" is a page turner of hot racy activity for couples to enjoy and practice themselves.

Never Forget: A Novel
Andy Adkins
Independently published
9781736387801, $9.95 pbk/ $1.99 Kindle

"Never Forget" deals with three generations of males in one family and how all are affected by military service of two of them. Vietnam veteran Tom Reilly estranged from his father Ed for so many years receives word that his dad has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Tom has not spoken to his dad for so many years while Tom's son has never had the chance to know his grandad. Now its up to Tom to decide because Ed's should he see his father or continue to distance himself and his son. Tom's decision is to see his father and take it as it comes. What develops is men who fought in different wars years apart with commonalities as well as differences. "Never Forget" is a work that moves along on many fronts to its satisfying conclusion. It is also how family members handle the devastating disease as well as veterans coming to terms with the deeply hidden dark sides of war that have not been dealt with for so long. "Never Forget" is an inspirational work that is long overdue for anyone who served in Vietnam.

Top Gun Days
Dave "Bio" Baranek
Skyhorse Publishing Inc
9781620871034, $16. 95 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

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

A Visual History Of Walking Sticks And Canes
Anthony Moss
Rowman & Littlefield
9781538144954, $75.00 HC

Who would have every thought there were so many different mechanisms to aid us in being able to walk? "A Visual History Of Walking Sticks And Canes" takes us along through many centuries to expose many different facts for many of us to enjoy. There are wonderful pictures that show things like sculptured handles of historical people as well as so many diverse types of devices to assist people that we are not used to seeing. "A Visual History Of Walking Sticks And Canes" is a lavish coffee table extravaganza sure to generate some very interesting conversations.

Pumping Sunshine: A Memoir of My Rural Childhood
Susie H. Baxter
Independently Published
9780998082920, $15. 95 pbk / $0.00 Audio MemoirChildhood/dp/0998082821

Say Florida to anyone and the first response is the theme parks in Orlando. "Pumping Sunshine" reveals there is another side to the state that few know about. Drawing from her own childhood Susie H. Baxter beautifully details a much quieter place that so many will never know other than hers and other works about Florida in a different era. Nestled in a more naturistic region her world as a child is very different from what many are used to today. "Pumping Sunshine" takes readers into a bold adventure of a long ago period that will not ever be again.

Up Colony: The Story of Resource Exploitation in Upper Michigan
Phil Belify, PhD
Ziibi Press
c/o Modern History Press
9781615996063, $12.95 pbk, $3.95 Kindle

"Up Colony: The Story of Resource Exploitation Upper Michigan" would be in interesting work on an area of Michigan that is one of the highest poverty areas of the state, but the author has detailed it as if it is to an academic audience. He begins by saying this was a college paper he turned into book form. Any author before publishing a book must ask one question. Who would want to read their work? Unfortunately, "Up Colony" was not prepared for a mainstream audience. It is hard to follow as well.

The Best New True Crime Stories: Well-Mannered Crooks, Rouges & Criminals
Mitzi Szereto
Mango Publishing
9781642505689, $18.95 pbk/$2.99 Kindle

True Crime has always fascinated people and "The Best New True Crime Stories" is a welcome addition to titles in this genre. Mitzi Szereto has impeccable taste for finding the best writers to expose so many different type of cases where victims were taken in by charming criminals who in many cases were brought to justice. "The Best New True Crime Stories: Well-Mannered Crooks, Rouges & Criminals" is the latest volume in a very popular series.

The Side Road Kids: Tales From Chippewa County
Sharon M. Kennedy
Modern History Press
97816159960632, $18.95 pbk, $3.95 Kindle

"The Side Road Kids" is a wonderful collection of stories for all ages to enjoy. The year is 1957 in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Mi8chigan where things are very quiet until the some children in the area have a series of adventures that include a Christmas play, some newborn kittens, and a snowball fight. The tales stand alone but can be read in order as well for perfect reading enjoyment of a very different time in the country. "The Side Road Kids" is a great stocking stuffer for Christmas.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Global Unitive Healing
Elena Mustakova
Light on Light Press
9781945026768, $18.99, PB, 366pp

Synopsis: "Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation" by Dr. Elena Mustakova introduces a practical healing methodology for lives and nations in an ailing world. "Global Unitive Healing" masterfully awakens us to collective authenticity and a unifying language of the heart for a diverse and interdependent humanity. Step by step, Dr. Mustakova weaves a path toward grasping an emergent interconnected, cooperative, prosocial world informed by the way of unity - a mid-19th century evolutionary leap of consciousness, which integrates Eastern and Western spiritual thought.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, with an iconoclastic approach to dealing with the ills of the world today, "Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation" is a potentially life changing read for the individual and for the whole of modern society. An inherently interesting philosophical and spiritual study, "Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation" is very highly recommended as a unique and valued addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Philosophy, Ethics & Morality collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of philosophy students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Elena Mustakova has dedicated three and a half decades of work as an educator, psychotherapist and social scientist to the evolution of human consciousness in cross-cultural contexts. She has accompanied diverse populations in North America, Europe, Africa and the Arab Peninsula on the path to developing resilient and mindful relationships to others and our world. Her experience growing up under totalitarianism, and life on three continents, inform her grasp of the profound historical transformation shaking our planet. Dr. Mustakova has an interdisciplinary background which spans literature, Eastern and Western philosophy, history of art, psycholinguistics and structural dimensions of meaning, as well as developmental and critical social psychology.

Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey
Sylvia Olsen
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
9781771622868, $22.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Toques, mittens and scarves are all associated with northern climates, but the quintessential garment of Canadian knitting is surely the bulky and distinctly patterned West Coast cardigan. In the early twentieth century, Indigenous wool workers on southern Vancouver Island began knitting what are now called Cowichan sweaters, named for the largest of the Coast Salish tribes in the region. Drawing on their talents as blanket weavers and basket makers, and adapting techniques from European settlers, Coast Salish women created sweaters that fuelled a bustling local economy. Knitters across the country copied the popular sweaters to create their own versions of the garment. The Cowichan sweater embodies industry and economy, politics and race relations, and is a testament to the innovation and resilience of Coast Salish families.

Sylvia Olsen married into the Tsartlip First Nation near Victoria, BC, and developed relationships with Coast Salish knitters through her family's sweater shop. Olsen was inspired to explore the juncture of her English/Scottish/European heritage and Coast Salish life experiences, bringing to light deeply personal questions about Canadian knitting traditions. In 2015, she and her partner Tex embarked on a cross-Canada journey from the Salish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean with stops in more than forty destinations to promote her books, conduct workshops, exchange experiences with other knitters and, Olsen hoped, discover a fresh appreciation for Canada.

Along the way, with stops in urban centres as well as smaller communities like Sioux Lookout, ON, and Shelburne, NS, Olsen observed that the knitters of Canada are as diverse as their country's geography. But their textured and colourful stories about knitting create a common narrative. With themes ranging from personal identity, cultural appropriation, provincial stereotypes and national icons, to "boyfriend sweaters" and love stories, "Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey" is both a celebration and a discovery of an ever-changing national landscape. Insightful, optimistic, and beautifully written, it is a book that will speak to knitters and would-be knitters alike.

Critique: Certain to have a very special and enduring appeal to needlecrafters everywhere, "Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey" by Sylvia Olsen is exceptionally well written, organized and presented -- making it an especially recommended and unique addition to community, college, and university library collections. Informative and entertaining blend of memoir, travelogue, and Canadian knitting history should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated knitting enthusiasts that "Unravelling Canada: A Knitting Odyssey" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in North Saanich, BC, Canada, Sylvia Olsen (who holds a PhD in history) is an adult educator and facilitator specializing in First Nations. She is the author of over twenty books for adults and children, including Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater (Sono Nis Press, 2010), which was awarded the Lieutenant Governor's Medal for Historical Writing.

Helmi's Shadow
David Horgan
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781647790202, $28.00, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: "Helmi's Shadow: A Journey of Survival From Russia to East Asia to the American West" by author and essayist David Horgan tells the sweeping true story of two Russian Jewish refugees, a mother (Rachel Koskin) and her daughter (Helmi). With determination and courage, they survived decades of hardship in the hidden corners of war-torn Asia and then journeyed across the Pacific at the end of the Second World War to become United States citizens after seeking safe harbor in the unlikely western desert town of Reno, Nevada. This compelling narrative is also a memoir, told lovingly by Helmi's son, David, of growing up under the wings of these strong women in an unusual American family.

Rachel Koskin was a middle-class Russian Jew born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1896. Ten years later, her family fled from the murderous pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire eastward to Harbin, a Russian-controlled city within China's borders on the harsh plain of Manchuria. Full of lively detail and the struggles of being stateless in a time of war, the narrative follows Rachel through her life in Harbin, which became a center of Russian culture in the Far East; the birth of her daughter, Helmi, in Kobe, Japan; their life together in the slums of Shanghai and back in Japan during World War II, where they endured many more hardships; and their subsequent immigration to the United States.

This remarkable account uncovers a history of refugees living in war-torn China and Japan, a history that to this day remains largely unknown. It is also a story of survival during a long period of upheaval and war from the Russian Revolution to the Holocaust, as well as an intimate portrait of an American immigrant family. "Helmi's Shadow" reveals both the joys and tragedies he experienced growing up in a multicultural household in post\-Second World War America with a Jewish mother, a live-in Russian grandmother, and a devout Irish Catholic American father.

As David develops a clearer awareness of the mysterious past lives of his mother and grandmother (and the impact of these events on his own understanding of the long-term effects of fear, trauma, and loss) he shows us that, even in times of peace and security, we are all shadows of our past, marked by our experiences, whether we choose to reveal them to others or not.

Critique: An inherently astonishing, engaging, and informative blend of family history and memoir, "Helmi's Shadow: A Journey of Survival From Russia to East Asia to the American West" is an extraordinary and memorable account that is especially recommended for community, college, and university library Jewish Biography & 20th Century History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Helmi's Shadow: A Journey of Survival From Russia to East Asia to the American West" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.60).

Editorial Note: David Horgan is a writer and professional musician. His book of short stories titled The Golden West Trio Plus One received the Merriam-Frontier Award from the University of Montana. His stories and essays have appeared in a number of publications, including The New Montana Story, The Best of the West, Portland Review, Quarterly West, Northern Lights, and The Crescent Review.

The Color Orange
Me'Chele Sevanesian
New Degree Press
9781637303207, $15.99, PB, 196pp

Synopsis: With her first book, "The Color Orange", Me'Chele 'Mech' Sevanesian wanted to create a relatable story about disability and neurodiversity. Her tireless advocacy for the differently abled gave her extra insight into the fact that most books written about disability (especially ones written by neuro-typical authors) were condescending and sought to separate those in the neuro-diverse community.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Color Orange" is original, grounded in day-to-day reality, insightful, memorable, thoughtful and thought-provoking, While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, highschool, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Color Orange" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Me'Chele Sevanesian began her love for writing in a tiny middle school that can be seen from the freeway. Her English teacher made her truly want to connect her love for societal issues and the written word. She spent most of school trying to be the president of every club she could find while exceeding at Mock Trial all through high school and beyond (especially during her freshman year when she went to Stanford.)

Married Sex: A Christian Couple's Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life
Gary Thomas, author
Debra Fileta, author
Brilliance Corporation
9781713636854, $26.99, MPW-CD

Synopsis: A great sex life is something you make, not something you find. If you feel confused or frustrated about your sex life -- or simply wonder if there is more to it than this? -- Then "Married Sex: A Christian Couple's Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life" is exactly what you need to make your marriage stronger, in and out of the bedroom.

Including the stories of real-life couples, research results from hundreds of comprehensive surveys, and professional perspective from a bestselling spiritual writer and a licensed counselor, this audio book edition of "Married Sex" will: Help you understand why married sex is one of God's best ideas; Teach you the inner workings of your body and your spouse's body in order to achieve optimal pleasure; Guide you through the most common sexual problems couples have and what to do about them; Help you see how your past experiences and expectations influence your present sex life; Give you practical suggestions and techniques to enhance your sexual experience; Encourage you to take ownership in the process of making love, seeing a great sex life as a beautiful opportunity to honor both God and your spouse.

Psychology, theology, research, story, and let's-get-started ideas combine to make "Married Sex" a resource for you and your spouse like no other instructional guide or manual you will have ever read before. Discover practical, biblically informed answers to your questions about intimacy as you find more satisfaction in your marriage than ever.

Critique: Ably narrated by the authors, Gary Tomas and Debra K. Fileta, this complete and unabridged MP3 CD edition of "Married Sex: A Christian Couple's Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, church, seminary, college, and university library Human Sexuality, Christian Pastoral Counseling
General Sexual Health, and Christian Marriage collections.

Editorial Note #1: Gary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of nineteen books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, and Sacred Marriage--over one million copies sold. He has a master's degree from Regent College and was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Western Seminary.

Editorial Note #2: Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates, Choosing Marriage, Love in Every Season, as well as Are You Really OK? She's also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog,, reaches millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram @TrueLoveDates

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Golf: Peak Performance Through Self-Hypnosis Training
Joseph Tramontana Ph.D.
Archway Publishing
9781665705325, $14.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Golf is geared toward golfers open to the idea of improving their game through hypnosis.

Joseph Tramontana, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in clinical hypnosis, is an internationally known author and speaker on the subject.

In simple language, he shares how to:

achieve golf goals using hypnotic techniques;
create and develop a plan to get the results you want;
identify behaviors and beliefs that are holding you back;
gain precise control over your body.

Throughout the book, Tramontana provides numerous case studies of athletes who have improved their game as a result of hypnosis. He also explains why almost anyone can be hypnotized.

Tramontana's previous book on sports hypnosis was written for the hypnosis practitioner or sports psychologist, but this book is written specifically for golfers. You will learn methods to improve your game through mental training techniques.

Critique: Clinical psychologist Joseph Tramontana, Ph.D. presents Golf: Peak Performance Through Self-Hypnosis Training, a guide written especially for avid golfers. Chapters discuss self-hypnosis, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and mental training techniques to improve one's skill at golf, as well as advice for golfers who are recovering from injury, or who have anxiety disorders or other difficulties. A candid guide thoroughly accessible to amateur and professional golfers alike, Golf: Peak Performance Through Self-Hypnosis Training is an excellent supplementary resource and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Golf: Peak Performance Through Self-Hypnosis Training is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Editorial Note: Joseph Tramontana, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in hypnosis for enhancing performance in sports and life. He is former Secretary and currently President-Elect of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and formerly on the Board of Directors of Southern Pain Society. He is also the author of Hypnotically Enhanced Treatment for Addictions: Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse, Gambling, Weight Loss, and Smoking Cessation and Sports Hypnosis in Practice: Scripts, Strategies, and Case Examples.

Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt
Howard White
Harbour Publishing
9781550179248, $19.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: No matter where people live on the BC coast, says Howard White, they have certain shared experiences: frustration with rain and ferries, familiarity with gumboots, bumbershoots, seagull droppings and barnacles in the wrong places. But each little community clings to its own sense of uniqueness and considers itself the true West Coast Canada.

As a case in point, with the publication of "Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt" White offers fifty funny sketches of life as he has come to know it in sixty-odd years of living along that hundred-mile stretch of monsoon-prone shoreline ironically known as the Sunshine Coast.

Included is what must be one of the most admiring testaments ever written about the virtues of the old-time outhouse; fond remembrances of saltwater fishing when a bad day meant you didn't hook something in twenty minutes; and explorers who stooped to naming islands after favourite racehorses.

We also meet a "bouquet of characters," including a lyrical logger known as Pete the Poet; a diabolical seagoing remittance man; the saintly Quaker philosopher Hubert Evans and White's barrier-busting Aunt Jean who taught him the advantages of "scientifically enlarging the truth." And then there are the accounts of waste disposal wars and wry observations on modern technology.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and entertaining read from cover to cover, "Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt" is a masterpiece of the storyteller's art. Unique, laced throughout with humor, history, and cultural insights, "Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Canadian History & Culture collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Howard White started Raincoast Chronicles and Harbour Publishing in the early 1970s and his own books include A Hard Man to Beat, Spilsbury's Coast, The Accidental Airline, Writing in the Rain, The Sunshine Coast and A Mysterious Humming Noise (Anvil, 2019). In 2000, he completed a ten-year project, The Encyclopedia of British Columbia. He has been awarded the Order of BC, the Canadian Historical Association's Career Award for Regional History, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award and a Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Victoria. In 2007, White was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology
Robert Olen Butler, editor
Phong Nguyen, editor
University of New Mexico Press
9780826363039, $24.95, PB, 232pp

Synopsis: In the first anthology of its kind, co-compilers and editors Robert Olen Butler and Phong Nguyen assemble an impressive collection of stories that cause readers to contemplate war, peace, and social justice in a new light. The fourteen stories comprising "The Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology" explore the varied and often unexpected outcomes of violence. The various authors explore the tragedies that occur closer to home -- not on military battlefields but rather in places that are never meant to be battlefields, like schools and churches. These fictional short stories reveals the violence that renders our most sacred and seemingly safest of places vulnerable.

Not a utopian literary project, "The Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology" collectively asks whether literature has a role in furthering the ongoing pursuit of peace and justice for all. While exploring tragedy, these original stories also offer hope for healing, illuminating how people can move forward from the moments when their lives change and how they can regain and reshape safe spaces to find solace.

Critique: While an inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking anthology, "The Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology" will prove to be a unique and enduringly appreciated addition to community, college, and university library Political Fiction and War Fiction short story collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Editorial Note #1: Robert Olen Butler is the Krafft Professor of English and creative writing at Florida State University. He is also the author of twenty-four works of fiction, including Perfume River and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize.

Editorial Note #2: Phong Nguyen is a professor and the Miller Family Endowed Chair of Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri. He is also the author of two story collections and three novels, including Roundabout: An Improvisational Fiction.

Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men and Power
Karen Hinton
Sartoris Liteary Group
PO Box 4185, Brandon, MS, 39047
9781736211694, $29.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men and Power is Karen Hinton's compelling coming-of-age memoir, set both in small-town Mississippi and big-city New York, with a long layover in the nation's capital.

Karen chronicles her life from tiny Soso, Mississippi (pop. 408), to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where she played on the Lady Rebels basketball team, had embarrassing encounters with literary luminaries such as William Styron and Willie Morris, and received a degree in journalism ... to stints at two newspapers, where she worked as a reporter-the Jackson Daily News and the Rocky Mountain News-to working on the political campaigns of two Black political candidates, one of whom was elected to Congress, thus becoming the first Black representative from Mississippi since Reconstruction.

Karen went on to become one of the most colorful and outspoken political communications professionals in Washington and New York. Best known for her role as press secretary to both former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, Karen played what Politico dubbed the "Helen of Troy role" in the clash between the former Governor of New York and the Mayor that the New York Times called "one of America's ugliest political feuds." The Wall Street Journal described "the wisdom she dispensed in a Southern twang" in dealing with the strutting and chest pounding of New York's two most powerful leaders.

At the center of Karen's incredible rise to the pinnacle of success was an undercurrent of men behaving badly. The role that "penis politics" played in Karen's personal and professional life began in childhood with a male school employee who demanded sexual favors from her female classmates -- and extended throughout her life as she bore witness to the struggles that she and her friends and colleagues have undergone to deal with sexual abuse, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Critique: Impressively candid, exceptionally informative, immensely thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men and Power" is an extraordinary, revealotry, and riveting read from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men and Power" is also readily available in a paperback edition ( 9781736211687, $21.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Forty-five years after she left her small town in Mississippi, Karen Hinton was ranked as one of the 50 most powerful people in New York public relations. She ascribes her success to ignoring the advice a boy in high school inscribed in her yearbook: Karen, we love you, but would you please shut up!

The Healing Power of Pleasure
Julia Paulette Hollenbery
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644113264, $19.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Hidden just below the surface of ordinary day-to-day reality lies an abundance of pleasure and delight. By learning to look beyond your daily challenges, you can ease your stressed mind and body and rediscover the magic, mystery, sensuality, and joy that is possible in everyday life.

Taking you step by step through a sensual journey of healing and transformation, with the publication of "The Healing Power of Pleasure: Seven Medicines for Rediscovering the Innate Joy of Being", author Julia Hollenbery explores seven easily accessible spiritual "medicines" or pathways to discover more sensual pleasure and delight in your body, relationships, and way of being. Journeying through slowing, embodying, deepening, relating, pleasure, power, and potency, each medicine invites you to engage through reflections, practical somatic and breathing exercises, prompting questions, and meditations. Energetic transmissions help you reconnect body, mind, and soul in an integrated way and reclaim your innate source of pleasure.

A visionary call to action to inhabit your universe of deliciousness, "The Healing Power of Pleasure" combines scientific fact with ancient spirituality, insight, humor, and poetry -- presenting an invitation to reawaken your body, realizing the depth and web of relationships within which we live, and embracing the pleasure, power, and potency that arise when we look inward as well as confidently relate outward with the world around us.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation for the non-specialist general reader, "The Healing Power of Pleasure: Seven Medicines for Rediscovering the Innate Joy of Being" is highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Emotional Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "The Healing Power of Pleasure: Seven Medicines for Rediscovering the Innate Joy of Being" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Julia Paulette Hollenbery is a bodyworker, therapist, mystic, healer, and facilitator. For more than 25 years she has guided countless clients into deep confidence and self-authority. She maintains an informative website at:

My Famous Brain
Diane Wald
She Writes Press
9781647422059, $16.95, PB

Synopsis: "My brain was famous, but I was not. Not every gifted child invents a pollutant-free fuel, paints a masterpiece, or finds the cure for cancer," Jack MacLeod tells us. "Some of us just live out our lives."

Jack died in 1974; now, he's ready to narrate his story from beyond the grave. Jack's prodigious memory, which allows him to memorize books, and his penchant for psychic connections give him unusual insights into the events of his past life and make him fiercely curious about his current state of existence.

In the pages of "My Famous Brain", Jack immerses us in interconnected tales of his childhood participation in a research study on the intellectually gifted, his dual career as a clinical psychologist and university professor, his participation in the unmasking of an unscrupulous colleague, his long-term health issues, his brief but life-changing love affair with a student, his deep friendship with another man, and his eventual acceptance and celebration of the circumstances of his fate.

How Jack dies, and how he deals with the murder of someone close to him, mirrors how he has lived and grown, and marks the significance of everyone and everything that ultimately brings him to yet another level of brilliance.

Critique: Impressively original, extraordinarily clever, inherently fascinating, and deftly scripted, "My Famous Brain" by author Diane Wald is an extraordinary fictional biography laced through and through with elements of the metaphysical. While highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted that "My Famous Brain" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Even So
Lauren B. Davis
Dundurn Press
9781459747647, $18.99 pbk / $10.49 Kindle

Synopsis: Angela Morrison has it all. She's married to a wealthy man, adores her son, grows orchids, and volunteers at Our Daily Bread Food Pantry. What more could she want? More - much more. And she's willing to risk everything after meeting Carsten, the landscaper with the glacier-blue eyes.

Sister Eileen, who runs Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, struggles with the silence of God and harbours a secret she believes is unforgivable. She yearns to convince Angela she is loved by God, despite her selfishness and destructive behaviour, but in order for that to be authentic Eileen must learn to love her first, and that's no easy task - especially after Angela causes a terrible tragedy. Through the crucible of their relationship, Angela and Eileen discover how caring for the most difficult among us and practising forgiveness, no matter how painful, opens a door to the miracle of transformation.

Critique: Even So is a deeply spiritual book about two women who live dramatically different lives. Angela is a privileged, wealthy housewife; Sister Eileen is a nun who runs a food pantry. Yet both of the grapple with moral and ethical dilemmas - what does it mean to truly do good? When Angela's choices cause a vehement tragedy, the fallout compels each woman to confront their flaws. A story about the importance of forgiveness and the challenges of personal growth, Even So thoughtful, compelling, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Even So is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Editorial Note: Lauren B. Davis is the author of The Grimoire of Kensington Market, Against a Darkening Sky, The Empty Room, Our Daily Bread, and The Radiant City. She has been longlisted for the Giller Prize and the ReLit Awards, and shortlisted for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

First Nations Crystal Healing
Luke Blue Eagle
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591434276, $20.00, PB, 264pp

Synopsis: Crystals and stones come from Mother Earth, and indigenous Shamans have been using them to help and to heal for millennia. Their techniques, although simple, have proven effective through the innumerable healers who have handed down these teachings across the generations.

In the pages of "First Nations Crystal Healing: Working with the Teachers of the Mineral Kingdom", and with the permission of his elders and teachers, Luke Blue Eagle shares the therapeutic and spiritual use of crystals as taught in the traditions of First Nations tribes. He offers guidance and teachings designed to spiritually and energetically prepare you for crystal healing work, detailing the connections between the five elements and crystals as well as the energetic properties of different colors as they manifest in stones. He explains how to purify, care for, and protect your crystals, including how to establish right relationship with a crystal and perform a consecration ceremony for a new gemstone.

"First Nations Crystal Healing" also explores the properties and healing uses of 38 important crystals and stones, including Herkimer diamond, amethyst, and citrine (the coyote stone), as well as providing safe and effective healing techniques that include how to make crystal essences, how to program a crystal, and how to purify the energy centers or perform a healing treatment with clear quartz crystal.

Presenting an authentic guide to First Nations wisdom for working with the teachers of the mineral kingdom, Blue Eagle shows that, by forming respectful relationships with crystals and stones, we can not only amplify healing energies and intentions but also bring ourselves back into harmony with Mother Earth.

Critique: Enhanced with a section of full color photographs of crystals and stones, as well as exploring the properties and healing uses of 40 important crystals and stones, "First Nations Crystal Healing: Working with the Teachers of the Mineral Kingdom", is an impressively informative resource that will be a prized addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Metaphysical Studies, Alternative Medicine, and Shamanism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, alternative medicine practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "First Nations Crystal Healing: Working with the Teachers of the Mineral Kingdom" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Luke Blue Eagle started working with crystals at a young age. In 1979, after being contacted by his ancestors, he began a 25-year period of training in the indigenous healing arts with elders from several First Nations in Canada and the United States, including William Commanda of the Algonquin nation, Sun Bear of the Chippewa nation, OhShinnah Fastwolf of the Apache nation, and many others.

The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History
J. Gordon Melton
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Road, #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578597635, $69.95, HC, 736pp

Synopsis: There is more to vampire lore and legend than is to be found in Bram Stoker's "Dracula" or the every growing number of Hollywood vampire movies.

But what accounts for the undying fascination people have for vampires? How did encounters with death create centuries-old myths and folklore in virtually every culture in the world? When did the early literary vampires (as pictured by Goethe, Coleridge, Shelly, Polidori, Byron, and Nodier as the personifications of man's darker side) transform from villains into today's cultural rebels?

Showing how vampire-like creatures organically formed in virtually every part of the world, "The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History" by Professor J. Gordon Melton examines the historic, societal, and psychological role the vampire has played (and continues to play) in understanding death, man's deepest desires, and human pathologies as it analyzes humanity's lusts, fears, and longing for power and the forbidden!

Today, the vampire serves as a powerful symbol for the darker parts of the human condition, touching on death, immortality, forbidden sexuality, sexual power and surrender, intimacy, alienation, rebellion, violence, and a fascination with the mysterious. The vampire is often portrayed as a symbolic leader advocating an outrageous alternative to the demands of conformity. Vampires can also be tools for scapegoating such as when women are called "vamps" and bosses are described as "bloodsuckers."

In this comprehensive compendium the reader will meet all of the villains, anti-heroes, and heroes of myths, legends, books, films, and television series across cultures and today's pop culture as "The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History" assembles and analyzes hundreds of vampiric characters, people, and creatures, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vlad the Impaler, Edward Cullen and The Twilight Saga, Bram Stoker, Lestat De Lioncourt and The Vampire Chronicles, Lon Chaney, True Blood, Bela Lugosi, Dracula, Dark Shadows, Lilith, Vampire Weekend, Batman, Nosferatu, and so many more.

Critique: Comprehensive, inherently fascinating, exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Mythology/Folklore collections. It should be noted for academia and non-specialized general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781578597192, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: J. Gordon Melton, is the Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Baylor University and serves as the director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. Dr. Melton is best known for his work on religious cults, and he is considered America's senior scholar in the field of new and unconventional religions, having studied them for more than 40 years. Simultaneously, he has emerged as a leading scholar of vampire and Dracula studies and previously served a tenure as the American president of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, an international association of vampire and Dracula scholars. He has authored multiple books in the field, two of which received the Lord Ruthven Award as the best nonfiction book in vampire studies.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Luschiim's Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicines
Luschiim Arvid Charlie, author
Nancy J. Turner, author
Harbour Publishing
9781550179453, $29.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Respected Cowichan Tribe Elder and botanical expert, Luschiim Arvid Charlie, began his education in early childhood, learning from his great grandparents and others of their generation. "Luschiim's Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicines" represents his dedication to the survival of the Hul q umi num language and traditional knowledge of plants for future generations.

From the healing properties of qaanlhp (arbutus) to the many practical applications of q'am (bull kelp), the information presented in this remarkable guide shares knowledge of plants that Luschiim is familiar with through his own Elders' teachings and by way of direct experience over the course of his lifetime, and compiled from field outings and interviews with notable ethnobiologist and botanist Nancy Turner.

An unprecedented collection of botanical information, "Luschiim's Plants" features over 140 plants which are categorized within their broad botanical groupings: algae and seaweeds, lichens, fungi and mushrooms, mosses and liverworts, ferns and fern-allies, coniferous trees, deciduous trees, shrubs and vines, and herbaceous flowering plants. Each individual entry is illustrated with a color photo and includes the plant's common, scientific and Hul q umi num names; a short description; where to find it; and cultural knowledge related to the plant. Additional notes encompass plant use, safety and conservation; the linguistic writing system used for Hul q umi num plant names; as well as miscellaneous notes from interviews with Luschiim
Critique: Simply stated, "Luschiim's Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicines" will prove to be an inherently fascinating and informative read for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in plants of the West Coast and their traditional uses by Coast Salish peoples. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Luschiim's Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicines" is an absolutely recommended and essential addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Ethnobiology, Botanical, and Native American Pharmacology collections.

Editorial Note #1: Luschiim Arvid Charlie was born in Quamichan, one of the Cowichan Villages, in 1942 and has lived in the Duncan area all of his life. From the age of three, he began learning about plants and their various uses from the Elders in his family. Since then, he has made it a personal priority to gather knowledge about the natural environment. In 2007, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree at Malaspina University-College in recognition of of his extensive contributions to the teaching of Coast Salish culture and traditions in a wide range of contexts, as well as his commitment to the protection of the environment and preservation of the Hul q umi num language.

Editorial Note #2: Nancy Turner is internationally known for her work in ethnobotany, the study of plants and cultures. She is a Distinguished Professor Emerita in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, and holds honorary degrees from Vancouver Island University, University of Northern British Columbia and Simon Fraser University and a doctorate from the University of British Columbia. Turner has published over 20 books, and dozens of scholarly papers and popular articles. For many years Nancy Turner has worked closely with Indigenous Elders, her teachers, collaborators and friends, to record their knowledge and understanding of plants, ecology and traditional stewardship practices. Working closely with many First Nations, she has helped develop and support programs for retaining, enhancing and promoting the rich heritage of traditional botanical knowledge within communities. Her work with the Haida spans almost 50 years and reflects an intimate respect for their traditional ecological knowledge and the uses and importance of plants on Haida Gwaii.

Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge
Jeremy Narby, author
Rafael Chanchari Pizuri, author
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608687732, $19.95, HC, 152pp

Synopsis: "The dose makes the poison," says an old adage, reminding us that substances have the potential to heal or to harm, depending on their use. Although Western medicine treats tobacco as a harmful addictive drug, it is considered medicinal by indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest. In its unadulterated form, it holds a central place in their repertoire of traditional medicines.

Along with ayahuasca, tobacco forms a part of treatments designed to heal the body, stimulate the mind, and inspire the soul with visions. In the pages of "Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge", anthropologist Jeremy Narby and traditional Amazonian healer Rafael Chanchari Pizuri hold a cross-cultural dialogue that explores the similarities between ayahuasca and tobacco, the role of these plants in indigenous cultures, and the hidden truths they reveal about nature.

Juxtaposing and synthesizing two worldviews, "Plant Teachers" invites readers on a wide-ranging journey through anthropology, botany, and biochemistry, while raising tantalizing questions about the relationship between science and other ways of knowing.

Critique: A comprehensive, meticulous, inherently fascinating and informative, "Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge" is a unique exploration of Shamanic uses of plants that while misused can caus all manner of illnesses and even death, in the proper dosage alleviate and even cure serious injuries and illnesses. Expertly written, organized and prsented, "Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Alternative Medicine, Pharmacology, and Native American Culture collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge" is also readily available in a digital book format.

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in Switzerland, Jeremy Narby, PhD, studied anthropology at Stanford University and now works as Amazonian projects director for Nouvelle Planete, a nonprofit organization that promotes the economic and cultural empowerment of indigenous peoples.

Editorial Note #2: Residing in Iquitos, Peru, Rafael Chanchari Pizuri is a native of the Peruvian Amazon, an elder of the indigenous Shawi people, and a traditional healer.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Renewed for Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery
Victoria Gilbert, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th Street, Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643857862, $26.99 HC, $13.99 Kindle, 345 pages

"Renewed For Murder" is the latest title by Victoria Gilbert in her popular Blue Ridge Library Mystery series of cozy mysteries. A familiar cast of characters include sleuth/library director Amy Webber and dancer husband Richard, along with Amy's friends and relatives including Aunt Lydia Talbot, art dealer Kurt Kendrick, mayor and sleuth sidekick Sunny Fields, long time friend Zelda Shoemaker, who is the innocent accused for a strange murder of an old classmate and lookalike group vocalist, Claudia.

Set in the historically colorful town of Taylorsford,, Virginia,, against an impending August school reunion that uncovers a deadly chain of secrets including blackmail, previous injuries and death, "Renewed for Murder" boasts a twisting plot that challenges Amy to use her considerable history/research/sleuthing skills to help clear her Aunt Lydia's friend Zelda of the courage of murder.

Familiar repeating characters include Chief Deputy Brad Tucker, local townspeople, and adorable cats Loie and Fosse, who complete Amy and Richard's newlywed family.

A complex pattern of past grudges, blackmail, social climbing, and shadowed successes dogs Amy's desperate efforts to untangle clues to clear her accused friend Zelda of the charge of murder.

Fans who have followed the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series will recognize recurring characters and underlying plot hints and threads. "Renewed for Murder" is engrossing, challenging, and intriguing, with believable, lovable characters and vivid settings for just the right amount of danger, spice, and thrill.

Highly recommended for community library "Mystery/Suspense" collections, cozy mystery lovers will want to give "Renewed for Murder" their fullest attention to figure out the final turn of the screw in the plot.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Unnatural Disasters
Gonzalo Lizarralde
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231198103, $35.00, HC, 328pp

Synopsis: Because of climate change, storms, floods, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other disasters are more frequent and also closer to home. As the world faces this onslaught, we have placed our faith in "sustainable development," which promises that we can survive and even thrive in the face of climate change and other risks. Yet while claiming to "go green," we have instead created new risks, continued to degrade nature, and failed to halt global warming.

"Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail but Some Succeed" by Professor Gonzalo Lizarralde offers a new perspective on our most pressing environmental and social challenges, revealing the gaps between abstract concepts like sustainability, resilience, and innovation and the real-world experiences of people living at risk. Professor Lizarralde explains how the causes of disasters are not natural but all too human: inequality, segregation, marginalization, colonialism, neoliberalism, racism, and unrestrained capitalism.

Professor Lizarradle includes the stories of Latin American migrants, Haitian earthquake survivors, Canadian climate activists, African slum dwellers, and other people resisting social and environmental injustices around the world. Professor Lizarralde shows that most reconstruction and risk-reduction efforts exacerbate social inequalities. Some responses do produce meaningful changes, but they are rarely the ones powerful leaders have in mind.

"Unnatural Disasters" clearly reveals how disasters have become both the causes and consequences of today's most urgent challenges and proposes achievable solutions to save a planet at risk, emphasizing the power citizens hold to change the current state of affairs.

Critique: A unique and invaluable contribution to today's national debate with respect to climate change issues and consequences (both intended and unintended), "Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail but Some Succeed" is highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Environmental Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, environmental activists, government policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail but Some Succeed" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Gonzalo Lizarralde is a professor of architecture at the Universite de Montreal, where he holds the Fayolle-Magil Construction Chair in Architecture, Built Environment, and Sustainability. He is also the director of the Canadian Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Reconstruction Research Alliance. His books include "The Invisible Houses: Rethinking and Designing Low-Cost Housing in Developing Countries" (2014).

Living on Deadline: The Amazing Adventures of a Southern Journalist
James L. Dickerson
Sartoris Literary Group
PO Box, 4185, Brandon, MS, 39047
9781736211656, $35.00, HC, 426pp

Synopsis: At a time when print journalism is rapidly fading away, there is a need for journalism students about the day-to-day life of a newspaper and magazine writer. "Living on Deadline: The Amazing Adventures of a Southern Journalist" is the personal and professional memoir of investigative journalist James L. Cikderson. In addition to providing exciting stories about investigative reporting and investigative editorial writing (a concept he developed at The Commercial Appeal of Memphis), "Living on Deadline" pulls back the newsroom curtain on the many intrigues that often accompany reporting, along with the scandals that happen behind the scenes at a daily newspaper.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organize and presented (which is to be expected of a professional journalist and reporter), "Living on Deadline: The Amazing Adventures of a Southern Journalist" is a truly remarkable, inherently fascinating, informatively entertaining, and an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Journalism and Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of journalism students, academia, reporters and journalist, as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Living on Deadline: The Amazing Adventures of a Southern Journalist" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781736211649, $21.95,), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Currently celebrating 50 years of journalism, James L. Dickerson is one of the most successful journalists in the South. He has been a staff writer for three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers while writing for magazines and authoring more than 30 books on investigative history and investigative biography (one of his investigative biographies Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley's Eccentric Manager was purchased by Warner Bros. for director Baz Luhrmann for his upcoming Elvis movie starring Tom Hanks).

Go on assignment with Dickerson when he investigates the Shah of Iran's sudden appearance in Jackson, Mississippi during the Iran hostage crisis; when he organizes a nude pictorial for Playboy on the "Girls of Country Music"; when he chases after Bill Clinton for a Q&A interview for Playboy; when Omni magazine asks him to investigate historical murder cases; when he interviews the first Marine Corps pilot in history; when he interviews the stars of country, blues and rock music; and when he romances one of the first women to be elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives; and much more as he writes more than 30 investigative books on civil rights, hate crimes, and internment camps, to name just a few.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Fury Rising (Fury Unbound Book 1)
Yasmine Galenorn
Nightqueen Enterprises, LLC
9781945657009 $15.99
B01I26MFSS, $6.99 Kindle, 345 pages

Fury Rising is an urban fantasy that takes place in a world broken by human wars and magic. The storyline is typical urban fantasy but the real core to the story is the world Galenorn has created. The detailed and deep world Galenorn builds slows the action but its richness makes up for the typical plotline.

The human Weather Wars were about to destroy the world when Gaia shifted the world bringing back the gods and creatures of world mythology. A relic from the Weather Wars is stolen and is being used by a group of magicians to bring about a reign of chaos. Fury, a Theosian or demigod serving Hecate, is assigned the task to retrieve the relic Thunderstrike before a world shift occurs destroying most life on the world.

Fury Rising is an easy recommendation for fantasy readers. The world building makes the tale. Longer epic stories of hundreds of pages are usually required to produce as rich and complex fantasy world as Fury Rising. A noticeable, but minor, problem with the story is the time taken away from the action plotline to build the world. The following books in the series should read faster and most readers will immediately start looking for the sequels.

Below Zero (Ingrid Skyberg Book 5)
Eva Hudson
9781916019553, $11.99
B08L9G7M8M, $3.99 304 pages

Below Zero is an action thriller. The casual reader will enjoy the tale. More detailed readers will notice some problems. FBI Special Agent Ingrid Skyberg is an odd mix of skilled operative and novice. The story glosses over the mix by noting the stress of the situation and lack of sleep and food but Ingrid's problems were apparent from the beginning before any action started. The ending, although solid, was done as a glossed over summary and was a letdown after the non-stop action of the rest of the story.

FBI Special Agent Ingrid Skyberg has a debt to pay to a clandestine organization that helped her in an earlier story. They call in the debt by asking her to make a covert pickup of dangerous military parts in Stockholm and deliver them to the next operative in a chain of handoffs required to smuggle the parts across Europe. Her own FBI and European and US governments have to have complete deniability for the operation so, outside of the organization involved, no one else knows what is happening.

Things go wrong with the operation nearly from the beginning. A political group sets off a bomb and mistakenly kidnaps Ingrid thinking to use her as a bargaining chip to release their leader from custody. Ingrid has to escape her kidnapers while avoiding the police and still make it to her handoff.

Below Zero is a reasonable action thriller. Most readers will have few problems with it. Technical readers will have some difficulties but aspects of Hudson's writing are a joy to savor, such as Ingrid's inner dialogue with her dead childhood friend. The method used in ending the tale is the story's biggest weakness.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design