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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 2 February 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Photographer's Wife
Suzanne Joinson
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620408308, $26.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: In 1920s Jerusalem, eleven-year-old Prudence watches her architect father launch an ambitious (and crazy) plan to redesign the Holy City by importing English parks to the desert. He employs a British pilot, William Harrington, to take aerial photographs of the city, and soon Prue becomes uncomfortably aware of the attraction flaring between Harrington and Eleanora, the young English wife of a famous Jerusalem photographer. Palestine has been a surprisingly harmonious mix of British colonials, exiled Armenians, and Greek, Arab, and Jewish officials rubbing elbows, but there are simmers of trouble ahead. When Harrington learns that Eleanora's husband is part of an underground group intent on removing the British, a dangerous game begins. Years later, in 1937, Prue is an artist living a reclusive life by the sea when Harrington pays her a surprise visit. What he reveals unravels her world, and she must follow the threads that lead her back to secrets long-ago buried in Jerusalem. "The Photographer's Wife" is a powerful story of betrayal: between father and daughter, between husband and wife, and between nations and people, set in the complex period between the two world wars.

Critique: Suzanne Joinson has skillfully written another terrifically entertaining novel with "The Photographer's Wife". A deftly crafted and engaging read from beginning to end, "The Photographer's Wife" is certain to be an enduringly popular and sought after addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Photographer's Wife" is also available in a paperback edition (9781408840788, $12.95) and in a Kindle format ($10.99).

Mile High & Healthy
Jayne McAllister
Story Farm
162 Lincoln Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789
9780996603829, $24.99, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: Information about health and wellness on and off the road abounds. The $40 billion diet industry delivers us advice daily via Twitter, Facebook, TV, magazines, websites and other media. We are almost drowning in health advice. But advice is useless if you don t know how to apply it. "Mile High & Healthy: The Frequent Traveler's Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life" by former travel magazine publisher turned wellness expert Jayne McAllister is for the busy traveler who finds him- or herself constantly on the run, with very little time to sort through information or to get started on their path to health. Inspired by her own journey from globe-trotting, caffeine and sugar fueled executive to healthy, energetic entrepreneur and wellness practitioner, "Mile High and Healthy" is an invaluable source of practical information for anyone who finds themselves in airports and hotels on a regular basis. All aspects of travel wellness are covered, including eating right in impossible situations, exercising when you don t have time, increasing energy levels, jet lag recovery, sleep quality, avoiding sickness on the road, handling stress and increasing resilience. The very serious subject of health and wellness is delivered with humor and practicality. In the pages of "Mile High & Healthy" you will find a wealth of down-to-earth advice and insider tips.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' throughout, " "Mile High & Healthy: The Frequent Traveler's Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life" is impressively well written and exceptionally accessible in its organization and presentation. Of special note is the chapter dedicated to 'Jet Lag and Jet Stress'. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Travel Health and Medicine reference collections, it is especially commended to the attention of anyone who travels extensively for business or pleasure.

The Oil Pulling Miracle
Birgit Frohn
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620553275, $12.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: "The Oil Pulling Miracle: Detoxify Simply and Effectively" by science journalist and medical writer Birgit Forhn is focused upon the use of coconut, sesame, and other oils to heal chronic conditions, strengthen the immune system, and prevent illness. "The Oil Pulling Miracle" details the process of oil pulling, including when to do it, how long to swish the oil in your mouth, and other oral care techniques that complement it; explains the health benefits of 10 different cold-pressed oils, including sesame, coconut, and pumpkin seed, allowing you to choose the best oil for your needs; and includes a step-by-step 7-day detox plan and information on additional detox techniques that enhance the benefits of oil pulling

Oil pulling is much more than an oral cleansing method. Originating in the ancient healing systems of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, where it is well known that "disease begins in the mouth," this simple health practice triggers detoxification and healing throughout the entire body. The mouth and tongue are home to bacteria, fungus, and many toxins from the rest of the body. Oil pulling not only cleanses the mouth and tongue, preventing harmful bacteria and toxins from entering the bloodstream, it also triggers enzyme production in the digestive tract, which in turn activates cleansing processes throughout the entire body. Practiced daily, oil pulling leads to better dental and gum health, a stronger immune system, detoxification of major organs including the intestines, lungs, and liver, and healing from many conditions caused by internal toxins and chronic inflammation.

"The Oil Pulling Miracle" is detailing the simple process of oil pulling, including when to do it; how long to swish the oil in your mouth; other oral care techniques that complement it such as tongue scraping; and explains the specific health benefits of 10 different cold-pressed oils that can be used in oil pulling, from traditional sesame oil to vitamin-packed pumpkin seed oil to highly popular coconut oil, allowing readers to choose the best oil for their needs. "The Oil Pulling Miracle" also reveals the vast number of ailments that can be healed and prevented by regular oil pulling practice, including: Acne; Allergies; Canker Sores; Arthritis; Eczema; Flu and Colds; Sinus Infections and Bronchitis; Cavities and Gingivitis; Headaches and Migraines; Constipation; and a great many more.

"The Oil Pulling Miracle" also explores additional detox techniques that enhance the benefits of oil pulling and concludes with a step-by-step 7-day detox plan for those who want to maximize the effects of oil pulling and accelerate their return to better health.

Critique: An impressive amount of detailed and practical information succinctly presented in a thoroughly 'reader friendly' manner in tone, content, organization, and presentation, "The Oil Pulling Miracle: Detoxify Simply and Effectively" is very highly recommended do-it-yourself instruction guide for the non-specialist general reader, and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Alternative Medicine reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that "The Oil Pulling Miracle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.50).

Pagan Portals - Hekate: A Devotional
Vivienne Moss
Moon Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785351617, $9.95, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: Hekate, Fair Queen of the Shadow-Lands, is the Goddess of Witches, the Queen of Shades and Shadows, and the ever-eternal Dark Muse. Hekate haunts the pages of this poetic devotional by Vivienne Moss (a Solitary Witch, Mystic, and Priestess of Hekate who resides in a small Indiana town), enchanting those who love Her with the charm only this Dark Goddess can bring. Join in the journey as we meet Hekate, Queen of Sorcery, in the realms of Dream and Enchantment, weaving magic through the worlds both seen and unseen. In the pages of "Pagan Portals - Hekate: A Devotional" metaphysical devotees will take flight to the Lands Eternal in this part devotional, part grimoire, all while learning how to venerate this Great Goddess of antiquity and connect with the Spirits of the Shadow-Lands.

Critique: As inherently fascinating as it is informed and informative throughout, "Pagan Portals - Hekate: A Devotional" will prove to be an enduringly valued, reader friendly, and enduringly popular addition to any personal, community, or academic library's Metaphysical Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "Pagan Portals - Hekate: A Devotional" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.03).

The Sword and the Song
C. E. Laureano
3820 North 30th Street Colorado Springs, CO 80904
9781612916323, $14.99, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: The shadow of war. A clash of brothers. A terrible sacrifice. In the face of powerful darkness, who will prevail? The island of Seare is at war. The Red Druid is gathering strength and power to stand against Conor, Eoghan, and the brotherhood. But there is strife within the brotherhood as well. Eoghan still refuses to claim his rightful rule, and the resulting conflict creates an uncomfortable distance between him and Conor. When Conor leaves to find the key to defeating the Red Druid, Eoghan and Aine worry he will succumb to the danger. They set out on their own mission to defeat the Red Druid through Aine's magical gifts. But nothing (and no one) is as it seems.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and a thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end, "The Sword and the Song" reveals author C. E. Laureano as a master of the action/adventure fantasy genre. The third volume in her 'The Song of Seare' series, "The Sword and the Song" is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fans. It should be noted that "The Sword and the Song" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Also strongly commended are the first two volumes of this outstanding series: "Oath of the Brotherhood" (9781612915876, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 448pp) and "Beneath the Forsaken City" (9781612916316, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 416pp).

Listening for God's Voice
Ruth Pearson
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781490883717, $30.95, HC, 148pp,

Synopsis: In a world of constant noise, it is no surprise that many of us struggle to tune in to hear what God has to say to us. Yet, God is very interested in every detail of our lives. He still speaks. Do you believe that God can communicate with you today as He did with Eve, Abraham, Samuel, and Moses? Do you believe that He wants to have intimate conversations with you like He had with Mary, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Peter? Do you believe that He still performs miracles to make lame individuals walk again, as He did in the past? "Listening for God's Voice: 40 Days of Developing Intimacy with God" by Ruth Pearson is devotional in which she shares personal experiences and life lessons learnt from biblical characters and nature, "Listening for God's Voice" encourages the reader to have a more intimate relationship with Father God. Her prayer is that you will be renewed and transformed by developing your own personal relationship with Father as you listen for His voice.

Critique: Impressive, exceptional, informative, scripturally sound, inspired and inspiring, "Listening for God's Voice: 40 Days of Developing Intimacy with God" is a life-changing, spirituality enhancing, and one of those rare works of Christian insight that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. "Listening for God's Voice" is very highly recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Listening for God's Voice" is also available in a paperback edition (9781490883694, $14.95) and in a Kindle format ($6.99).

Ghost Letter
Helen Currie Foster
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781522716587, $12.99, PB, 316pp,

Synopsis: When a local antiques dealer presents a letter to Congressman Sandro Navarro that suggests his father, Alejandro, is the illegitimate heir of a long-dead oil scion named Alex Drinkman, Alice knows that this information will likely cause plenty of waves in the community.

Sure enough, someone leaks the letter to the press, setting off a chain of events that culminates in the death of one of Sandro's top aides...and Alice agreeing to represent ninety-four-year-old Alejandro in his quest to establish himself as Drinkman's rightful heir.

But powerful oil barons don't take kindly to people staking claim on their land or money. Alice and Alejandro quickly find themselves targets of the Drinkman family's considerable power, thereby plunging Alice into a world of antique rifles, spy technology, and corrupt politic. All this while juggling her friendships with local characters like Red, who runs a horse rescue operation, and navigating an increasingly smoldering relationship with Ben Kinsear.

Critique: A deftly crafted mystery suspense novel that reveals author Helen Currie Foster to be a true master of the genre, "Ghost Letter" is the third in a series of Alice MacDonald Greer stories. Impressively well written from beginning to end, "Ghost Letter" is an exceptionally compelling and thoroughly absorbing read that is especially recommended for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to any community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "Ghost Letter" is available in a Kindle edition ($7.99) as well. Also very highly recommended are the first two novels of this outstanding mystery series: "Ghost Cave" (978-1505414301, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 214pp); "Ghost Dog" (978-1505378269, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 256pp).

Debra Schildhouse
SelectBooks, Inc.
87 Walker Street, Suite B1, New York City, NY 10013
9781590793572, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: With just two fingers from each hand, the healing process can begin. "Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" by Debra Schildhouse (an editor and a contributing writer for the monthly online newsletter for the International Foundation of Bio-Magnetics) is the story of the scientifically-proven, touch-based healing technique proven to alleviate pain, stress, the symptoms of disease, and depression.

Initially a skeptic, Debra was drawn to Bio-Touch after feeling helpless to do anything for her daughter's agonizing headaches from viral meningitis. Her search for a method to heal other's physical pain gradually becomes an inner journey of personal healing as she opens her mind, expands her self-awareness, and eventually becomes a certified instructor and practitioner of Bio-Touch.

In tandem with her own story, Schildhouse recounts Bio-Touch founder Paul Bucky's story, following the many twists and turns his spiritual path takes him from childhood to adulthood and finally to the discovery of Bio-Touch. Throughout the narrative Schildhouse relates miraculous stories of healing. Touching and often funny, "Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" draws together the many invisible bonds of the universe linking us all together.

"Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" is made up of seventeen sets of points, each one specifically designed to address a particular condition by encouraging the body's natural healing abilities. It is a complimentary therapy that can be used in conjunction with mainstream medicine. Ability to pay is not a criterion for receiving sessions and it is easy to learn and no special talents or beliefs are required. "Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" comes with several diagrams illustrating how to find correct "touch points" on the body.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" is refreshingly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to academic library Alternative Medicine and community library Health/Fitness instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bio-Touch: Healing with the Power in Our Fingertips" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero
Emily V. Gordon
Seal Press
1700 - 4th Street, Berkeley, California 94710
9781580055758, $16.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Superheroes don't start from glorious beginnings. Their origins are almost always marked by traumatic events that leave them helpless and scared. Batman witnessed his parents' murder. Superman was sent away from his dying planet with no one to guide him as he grew up. Orphaned Catwoman was forced to steal food to survive on the streets of Gotham. What makes these superheroes super is their determination to not be defined by helplessness. They embrace their origins, their flaws, and their mistakes, and strive every day to become the best versions of themselves for the benefit of themselves and others. "Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero" is a fun, friendly, and unabashedly geeky guide to becoming the superhero of your own extraordinary life, as author Emily Gordon examines comic book tropes to find lessons that anyone can apply toward overcoming tragic events and adversity in their own lives. With activities in every chapter to help identify each person's superpowers, special tools, personal kryptonite (and weapons against it) "Super You" is the perfect sidekick for every growing hero, empowering everyday people to transform into the most kick-ass versions of themselves.

Critique: A truly novel but effective approach as a self-help guide, "Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero" is an inherently fascinating read that is as informed and informative as it is inspiring and practical. Simply stated, if you only have time for one do-it-yourself book on self-improvement, make it Emily Gorden's "Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero". Very highly recommended, especially for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.18), as well as in an Audio CD format (HighBridge Audio, 9781622319749, $29.99).

Arrogant Agitation
Anna Baumbach
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480818170, $44.95, HC, 500pp,

Synopsis: For Gretchen Brooktree, life is a bit of a struggle. It is 1961, and she works as a secretary to the commanding officer of an air force base, returning home at night to her family's farm. She is isolated from city life and worldly affairs by both distance and a fundamentalist parochial education. Gretchen can recite Bible verses and the tenets of her religion and loves to learn, but she is unsophisticated and unfamiliar with the social ways of the world. Thus, when she suddenly finds herself in love with a highly educated, city-born college graduate, Gretchen faces the prospect of numerous challenges and adjustments. Identifying with her new nickname (Brook) she pulls herself together and gets to work. She enters the University of California-Berkeley, where she is stunned by what she does not know and struggles to keep up. Slowly, she loses the archaic ideas and concepts she has carried since childhood and learns how to make her way in the world. As she does so, Brook emerges into the person she has always known she could be. Based on a true story, "Arrogant Agitation: Pleasure and Struggle in the 1960s" is an historical novel that explores the life of one woman in the chaotic 1960s as she struggles to overcome her past and become a new person.

Critique: A deftly written saga, "Arrogant Agitation: Pleasure and Struggle in the 1960s" is a truly absorbing and entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Historical Romance collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Arrogant Agitation" is also available in a paperback edition (9781480818163, $28.99) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Speak Right On
Mary E. Neighbour
UpRiver, DownRiver Books
9780996254113, $29.99, HC, 340pp,

Synopsis: Though declared a piece of property by the US Supreme Court, Dred Scott insisted on telling his own story, on speaking freely. That was his freedom, and he didn't require a court to help him find it. "Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott" by Mary E. Neighbour deftly explores the story of Dred Scott and the history of slavery that has changed our cultural landscape. From the eastern coast of Virginia to the farthest reaches of the US frontier, from house slave to field hand to surgeon's assistant, from boy to man, from young love to family life, from enslavement to freedom, "Speak Right On" is an epic story of dignity and determination.

Critique: A deftly crafted work by an impressively talented writer, Mary Neighbour's "Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott" is an inherently fascinating read that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is fully absorbing and illustrative of one man's struggle to be perceived as a human being with all the rights and responsibilities that slavery would deny him and all who were like him. A fact-based work of historical fiction, "Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott" is also available in a paperback edition (9780996254106, $15.00) and in a Kindle format ($5.99).

Rising Darkness
Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764211591, $14.99, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Sophie Wittenbauer left her strict Mennonite hometown under a cloud of shame and regret. After a rough childhood, her teenage poor choices harmed others, leaving her with no choice but to change her life. Her entry-level writing job at a newspaper puts her in the right place at the right time to overhear office gossip about a prisoner who has information on a decades-old unsolved crime. While the other reporters write off the tip as the ravings of an angry criminal, Sophie can't ignore it because she knows the name of this prisoner from her old life. Upon learning from the man that one of the other suspects is hiding out in the Missouri town of Sanctuary, she takes on a false identity to investigate and meets the young pastor of a local church--the very man she'd loved as a troubled teenager. As she gets closer to finding the suspect, will the truth of her own past come out before she discovers the identity of the criminal--or the very person she's seeking puts a fatal stop to her investigation?

Critique: Nancy Mehl is a master of the Romantic Suspense genre whose latest novel, "Rising Darkness" is yet another carefully crafted, thoroughly absorbing, and unfailingly entertaining story from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rising Darkness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Refuge at Highland Hall
Carrie Turansky
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601425003, $14.99, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Penny Ramsey has always considered Highland Hall her home, but when Britain becomes involved in World War One she travels to London to assist her sister Kate with the eight orphan children she and her husband Jon have taken into their home. Doing her part for the war effort takes priority over Penny's dreams of romance until she meets Alex Goodwin, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot in training. Alex is determined to prove his worth and do his part to defend his country. Knowing he is heading off for the dangerous assignment of chasing Zeppelins across the front line in France, he feels it's unwise to form any romantic attachments. But he can't help admiring the pretty, warmhearted Penny and wondering what it would be like to find her waiting when he returns home from the war. As Penny writes to Alex, their friendship blossoms, and she becomes his tie to home and normalcy as he faces the hardships war. But being an RNAS pilot means confronting the enemy, and the fallout form those experiences push Alex beyond Penny's reach. Can God mend the brokenness left by the losses of war? Will faith and forgiveness bring them together again?

Critique: Another impressively written and thoroughly entertaining novel by a true master of the Edwardian Romance genre, "A Refuge at Highland Hall" by Carrie Turansky is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Refuge at Highland Hall" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Alexandra Bracken
c/o Disney-Hyperion
114 Fifth Avenue, 14th floor, New York, NY 10011
9781484715772, $17.99, HC, 496pp,

Synopsis: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she's inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she's never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods-a powerful family in the Colonies-and the servitude he's known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can't escape and the family that won't let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them-whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.

Critique: Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to high school and community library YA Fiction collections, "Passenger" is an enormously entertaining and deftly crafted read that clearly underscores author Alexandra Bracken's impressive storytelling talents. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Passenger" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Whistleblower's Dilemma
Richard Rashke
Delphinium Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers (dist.)
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
Orange PR & Marketing (publicity)
9781883285685 $16.00 / $11.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In June of 2013, Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former CIA employee, leaked thousands of top secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents to journalist Glen Greenwald. Branded as a whistleblower, Snowden reignited a debate about private citizens who reveal government secrets that should be exposed but may endanger the lives of others. Like the late Karen Silkwood, whose death in a car accident while bringing incriminating evidence against her employer to a meeting with a New York Times reporter is still a mystery, Snowden was intent upon revealing the controversial practices of his employer, a government contractor. Rightly or wrongly, Snowden and Silkwood believed that their revelations would save lives. In his riveting, thought-provoking book, Richard Rashke weaves between the lives of these two controversial figures and creates a narrative context for a discussion of what constitutes a citizen's duty to reveal or not to reveal.

Critique: The Whistleblower's Dilemma: Snowden, Silkwood and Their Quest for the Truth is a timely and troubling scrutiny of the peril endured by people who dare to voice unpleasant secrets. There is no American law that unilaterally protects whistleblowers from legal repercussions, including prosecution and jail time, let alone the lengths that criminals and assassins will go to in order to silence witnesses. A list of major sources and notes rounds out this thought-provoking discussion of a serious and ongoing social issue.

Seeing Off the Johns
Rene S. Perez II
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781941026113, $16.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: People in the small town of Greenton mark their lives from that day in late summer when crowds lined the streets to see off high school athletic stars John Robison and John Mijias. That was the day the Johns, as they were known by adoring fans in Greenton, left for state college, and never made it there -- or back. The Johns had spent their high school years putting that nowhere losing town on the map with playoff runs in football and state championship bids in baseball. For Concepcion "Chon" Gonzales, the days that the Johns headed out and didn't return was the first day of his new life. He had waited all his growing up years for a shot at Araceli when one of the Johns, John Mejia, stole her away. Now, while Greenton mourns, while the Johns' families become actors in a spectacle of grief, while Johns memorabilia is sold in every gas station and convenience store in town, while Araceli has to endure a senior year in the watchful gaze of the whole town, Chon Gonzales makes his slow methodical move on the only girl he's ever loved, hoping maybe that she won't notice what he wants.

Critique: "Seeing Off the Johns" is an absolutely absorbing and deftly crafted novel that clearly establishes author Rene Perez as a master of the YA Fiction genre. Very highly recommended for both school and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Seeing Off the Johns" is also available in a paperback edition (9781941026120, $11.95) and in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Gollywood, Here I Come!
Terry John Barto, author
Mattia Cerato, illustrator
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781496935090, $15.15, PB, 32pp,

Synopsis: Who doesn't fantasize about becoming a big movie star, living up all the glitz, glam and glory that comes with it? A talented little turkey named Anamazie does, all while practicing in the small town of Gobbleville. After a few hard knocks, she gets discovered and is chosen to star in a major motion picture.

Critique: Terry Barto's charming picture book story of a young turkey's rise to cinematic stardom is impressively enhanced with the full color illustrations of Mattia Cerato. The result is a young children's picture book entertainment that is very highly recommended for family, school, and community library collections. It should be noted that "Gollywood, Here I Come!" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99). Also very highly recommended for picture book collections is Terrry John Barto's "Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon" (9781496954541, $15.15 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 34pp) which is playfully illustrated by Kim Sponaugle.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Blood Seed: Coin of Rulve Book One
Veronica Dale
Nika Press
Print ISBN: 9780996952101
ASIN: B0199BD0E8 $5.99

Sheft is an eighteen-year-old who harbors a deadly secret: his blood, when shed, attracts a terrifying entity that threatens his small village. Convinced that he is a danger to all around him, Sheft keeps himself apart. So when he falls in love, it's an unexpected (and in some ways unwanted) experience that he believes can only lead to tragedy.

That's the basic gist of Blood Seed. Veronica Dale could easily have stopped here, focusing on the developing romance and Sheft's struggle to break his bonds of isolation. But events move in a different, more complex direction and love serves only as the starting point for a journey that leads Sheft to find out more about his role as a strange attractor to underlying supernatural forces at work in his world.

It's difficult to categorize Blood Seed - and that is part of its attraction. In a book world replete with formula genre reads, Blood Seed offers up something different: a potent mix of fantasy, romance, intrigue, and a believable protagonist whose current dilemma is just the beginning of his evolutionary process.

Descriptions of how Sheft balances the passions and promises of love while struggling with a seemingly invincible curse are compelling and poignant, as are those of Mariat's increasing and unbreakable involvement in his life. They drive the underlying fantasy and horror elements in the story: "She needed him, he realized with a pang, as no one else ever had. In spite of what Gwin had spewed at the fair, what if courage and compassion demanded he stay by her side? What if love demanded he never let her go? They drew apart, and her eyes were awash with grief. But they also held a kind of aching wisdom, as if she had gazed upon a darkly shining mystery that had forever deepened her. She had witnessed two deaths in less than half a year."

With Blood Seed holding the power to attract so many different genre readers with its fantasy, romance, supernatural, and horror elements, it's a challenge to neatly categorize its audience. Readers journey through a strange land in Sheft's footsteps, partake of his agonies and ecstasies, and ultimately revel at his tenacity and strengths.

Is there a curse, or isn't there? Can what is broken be healed? And will the process of discovery change Mariat's own life? Certainly it's changed Sheft's world, which moves from the hidden powers of an isolated loner to something much greater. What each will become, and the events that take place in the eighteenth year of Sheft's life, provides an action-packed saga that carries readers on an evocative journey that holds no pat ending.

Fans of genre crossovers who appreciate romance, powerful protagonists, and coming-of-age reads will relish a touch of the unexpected in the complex world explored in Blood Seed, the first book of the four-book series Coin of Rulve.

Reason for Existence
Richard Botelho
Windstream Publishing Company
303 Windstream Place, Danville, CA 94526
ISBN: 9780964392663 (softcover) $14.95
ISBN: 9780964392670 (ebook) $2.99

Reason for Existence at first looks to be another apocalyptic story of impending nuclear war, as its scenario is set in 2017 and opens with military exercises undertaken by the Chinese along a vast Asian border. As events progress, it seems inevitable that the Earth will sizzle under nuclear fire.

As if this weren't enough of a problem, aliens have also deemed this an opportune time to launch a biological weapons attack against humanity!

It would seem highly unlikely that a single government (much less one individual) could change the relentless march of the human race towards extinction, but such a hero is David Jordan, whose private life is about to embrace a much bigger scenario where humanity's ultimate fate is literally in his hands.

One explanation of why Reason for Existence is such a delight is that the story doesn't stop with these engrossing challenges: It embraces philosophical and spiritual approaches using a sage (yet seasoned) plot that involves readers in not just nonstop action, but higher-level thinking. All this is couched in the form of a thriller that is absolutely engrossing.

Another reason why Reason for Existence stands out is its protagonist, who is edgy, distantly intrigued by political dilemmas, and who harbors a secret that questions his own origins and connections with the human race: "Three million years of human evolution stared me in the face, replete with countless wars, genocides, environmental degradation, nuclear destructions, and a general maliciousness of men toward their fellow men. Still, something propelled humanity forward, something worth living for that I had never quite grasped, and I wanted to learn of its nature. I guess you could say it was my quest."

Duty, global war or peace, and battles on many fronts ... a thriller-seeker couldn't ask for a better series of events, which takes the standard apocalyptic political thriller and moves it into the arena of wider-reaching science fiction: "Earth was not the first hospitable planet with intelligent life to order its own demise. I guess you could blame physics. That's why The Council often intervened to save planets from themselves. Even advanced species like The Council recognize the inviolability of entropy; and that recognition is a primary reason we work so hard with other intelligences to someday devise a solution to a universe otherwise proceeding toward its own death."

Inject moral, ethical and philosophical concerns into the story line for a powerful account that mixes human destiny with extraterrestrial influences and places everything solidly in the hands of one American man who questions what it means to be human in a riveting, didn't-see-that-coming saga packed with satisfying twists and turns.

Thirst: An Alex Graham Novel
Katherine Prairie
Stonedrift Press Ltd.
Box 14308 Granville Island PO, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6H 4J6
9780994937704 (paperback) $14.95
9780994937711 (epub) $7.99

Geologist Alex Graham's primary task is to locate a silver mine; but her prospecting involves far more than minerals in Thirst, which follows Canadian/US politics, a deadly pesticide spill, and a dangerous adversary who threatens numerous innocent lives.

It's unusual to pair a female investigator with a job typically associated with males (geologic field work is demanding and strenuous), but this marriage works and readers are instantly immersed in the character of Alex and her job, which is already challenging even before a perp rears his ugly head: "Eyes tightly shut, she clenched her sleeping bag tight beneath her chin. Massive boughs shook as the high-speed downdraft lashed at towering evergreens that lined the lower reaches of the steep rock face. The rattle of thousands of aspen leaves whipped into frenzied movement betrayed the wind's push across the valley floor."

From this early example, it's easy to see that Thirst promises to not just describe a compelling setting, action and adventure; but plunges readers into a 'you are here' experience that is profoundly captivating. Thirst not only goes where other detective/thrillers fall short, but it provides a riveting story line that's hard to put down.

A geologist's life embraces many rules and Alex has not only thrived with this career choice, but has crafted more rules for her own psyche which have served her well, but which are broken one by one as she embarks on an incredible journey: "Why am I doing this?" she said aloud. "Because you didn't follow your own rule. Don't get involved. Don't volunteer. How many times will I ignore my own good advice?"

As she and sidekick Neil investigate further, all her training and skills leap to the forefront to track down not minerals and mines, but a dangerous killer. And when she's forced to make ultimately-hard decisions to protect herself and those around her, she could face legal fallout from a deadly scheme that threatens millions.

Lethal encounters. Dangerous defenses. Bombings and Homeland Security. These topics are usually far from the topic of a geologist's field work. But Alex is no usual geologist, and Thirst is no typical mystery. Detective and mystery genre readers will find it a compelling, involving read.

Tokyo Decadence
Ryu Murakami
Kurodahan Press
9784902075786 $20.00
Prepublication Manuscript: ETA March 2016

Murakami's short stories are presented in a chronological sequence (from 1986 to 2003) and explore the lives of several individuals who move in different circles of Tokyo society; from a college student who works as a specialty sex prostitute for high-end clients, pleasing their whims by playing out their sexual fantasies while handling her own unrequited love for a married man, to others who turn to sex to boost their processes of personal transformation.

First of all, readers should be advised that the graphic sexual descriptions are, of necessity, a powerful part of many of these stories; if sexual scenes are offensive (these include erotic asphyxiation, light s/m bondage, or role-playing fantasy), then choose another book. Potential readers should also know that the special richness of Tokyo Decadence lies in its attention to presenting sexual experiences that reflect and change each protagonist's life. The collection thus excels in diverse scenarios of fortune, love and redemption.

It quickly becomes evident that Tokyo Decadence holds quite a bit of psychological depth and is not simply an exploration of sordid sexual encounters. Under Murakami's hand, prostitution becomes a multi-faceted affair, its insights revealed through multiple viewpoints. These include revelations about Japanese society ("Whenever I go abroad I'm reminded that Japan is a special case, and that the Japanese are hopelessly spoiled. The prosperity here is due mainly to geopolitical factors, but everyone thinks it's because we work so hard."), explorations of interpersonal relationships, and discussions of choices that result in both positive and negative impacts.

There are intriguing cross-cultural comparisons ("Studying the people there, it struck me how everyone inevitably ends up a slave like everyone else. Slave faces, slave fashions, slave cars, slave speech, slave attitudes - they just keep replicating themselves, endlessly. In Japan people aren't even aware of it, but in a place like Calcutta the discrimination is so total and so blatant that you can't kid yourself about where you really stand."), subtler observations of generational differences ("I'm feeling a lot better now, and a funny thought occurs to me - that if I were someone my mother's age I'd probably still be bowing in his direction."), and the experiences of mistresses, men, and other characters caught up in sex, drugs, and cultural inconsistencies.

While Tokyo Decadence's sex scenes are indeed graphically portrayed, it's important to note that, more so than most fiction where sexual activity is one of the main themes, Murakami's exact details employ precise blends of sexual, sensual and psychological intimacy. They incorporate emotional responses, past history, and present revelations to craft a bigger picture far more complex than one might anticipate from a collection that includes 'decadence' as part of its title.

Readers seeking a progressive story of emotional and physical evolution together with insights about Japan's cultural psyche will find Tokyo Decadence a sensual gathering of fifteen intersected stories of individuals who love, lust, and trade revelations with others about their dreams, fantasies, and personas: "These facts define who I am and limit my freedom and possibilities. And I didn't really want to think about all that."

Short story readers with a special affection for Japanese culture will find Tokyo Decadence a rich, multi-faceted collection: candid, startling, and satisfyingly diverse in its perspectives.

Banished Threads
Kaylin McFarren
Creative Edge Publishing LLC
9781518806919, $9.95,

It's been rumored that Banished Threads concludes a vivid mystery series revolving around sleuths, spies, and treasure hunts: so those who have relished Kaylin McFarren's prior books should be prepared to read slowly, carefully, and enthusiastically, because this final book will end the series unless Kaylin surprises us all.

That said, Banished Threads should not be missed by either prior fans or newcomers, and twists the threads of family ties to their breaking points, as it uncovers stolen paintings, a missing granddaughter, an uncle accused of murder, and a plot to destroy a family.

Rachel and Chase have their hands more than full, especially since Rachel faces building her own future family circle, which may become endangered by her actions.

Taunt scenes of confrontation between characters, underlying issues of trust, forthcoming nuptials changed by unexpected voyages, and the terror of a kidnapped woman are all wound into atmospheric descriptions of setting and psyche alike. But it's the psychological depth that keeps the protagonists filled with life and three-dimensional personalities: "He'd been protecting her from his psycho partner in the next room - a man who would beat her to death if given the chance. She slowly opened the door, exposing her fears and vulnerability. Then she slid down to the floor and stared straight ahead, waiting like a mouse in a trap."

These revelations, liberally peppered throughout a story of danger and motivation, keep the plot moving quite a step above the usual genre mystery: "Where are my friends? She wondered. Maybe they never existed outside of her imagination. They were as phony and wicked as the fairy tales she had once believed in - the fairy tales her language teacher had enjoyed reading in boarding school and had cruelly destroyed the night he snuck into her room. It suddenly dawned on her that, no matter where destiny took her, she would always be caged, always be trapped in her childhood nightmares. Begging for love, begging for power. Begging to wake up and be free."

Mystery and thriller readers will find this level of description sets Banished Threads apart from more singular plots as it evolves into a gripping story of life and death told on many levels, using real living, breathing protagonists whose actions and thoughts move beyond the art and intrigue circles they traverse.

Quite simply, Banished Threads is an emotion-charged ride through a series of close encounters that are as psychologically gripping as they are filled with action.

Mystery and thriller audiences are in for a real treat.

Mistaken Enemy
Dennis A. Nehamen
Golden Poppy Productions
4200 Park Blvd., #544, Oakland, CA 94602
9780989057233, $15.99,

A flight to Israel takes first-person narrator Zach on a journey "seven hundred fifty miles from where I intended to shop for groceries." Apparently a visit to the Middle East was not on his original shopping (or bucket) list, and matters only become more convoluted as he unwittingly becomes involved in the politics and personalities of the region, bringing readers along with him for a ride that is entirely unexpected.

The surprise lies not in a thriller set in the Middle East (many modern thrillers take place in such settings) but in the fact that readers not usually interested in political thrillers will find Mistaken Enemy uniquely gripping and nearly impossible to put down, from its intriguing introduction ("I'm sorry. I'll always think of you as my brother." Those are the last words I recall him a flash my mind's eye blinked, exhibiting for me a panoramic view of all the events that had transpired to land Hell. I hadn't betrayed him...but I had planned to.") to its masterful method of personalizing politics.

A good thriller should create powerful protagonists that draw in readers across genres. A superior work will cement its action using a range of character experiences which are not just realistic and believable, but whose lives reach out to grip its audience. Mistaken Enemy is that superior production, creating and then questioning the tenuous relationships and decisions that influence friends, enemies, and family ties.

Its capability of drawing reader attention using powerful individuals who represent different social and political struggles is especially exquisite; perhaps because, as in life, these individuals and their relationships to one another are never easy, often unpredictable, and (under Nehamen's hand) always understandable.

Too many thrillers work with one-dimensional characters and never quite achieve what they strive to create: living, breathing protagonists who love, hurt, recover, and make both good and bad choices. And too many novels give up psychological depth in favor of an overall plot structure supercharged with action and intrigue.

While these last two elements are certainly present in Mistaken Enemy, what drives (and binds) the entire story line is an attention to the emotional and life encounters of Zach, from his uncertain romance in a different culture to a mission that embraces Middle Eastern politics and acknowledges volatile issues.

From a New Mexican Native American woman and bonds between women ("I think what really bonded us was that our personalities are identical. We both have this talent for knowing what we have to do and not letting anything get in the way of accomplishing it. All kinds of spiritual and religious confusion drive us nuts. We handle loneliness the same, hiding in work.") to subconscious mental influences and encounters with leaders, Mistaken Enemy features the rare ability to juggle a myriad of plots and subplots to become a real winner. It's a standout in the world of either political novels or thrillers, and is highly recommended as a captivating read.

Power: A User's Guide
Julie Diamond, PhD
Belly Song Press
518 Old Santa Fe Trail, Suite 1 #626, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
978099666033, $18.95,

Power: A User's Guide discusses leadership roles, the negative spin given to the concept of acquiring or handling power, and how to exercise authority properly and ethically. It blends psychology and social observation with exercises and stories from author Julie Diamond's career as a leadership coach helping clients develop their own high-power roles in business and personal lives, and it provides a powerful survey of different aspects of power management, from how to hone it in oneself and one's life to navigating the issues that arise from how others wield it.

Chapters offer plenty of cautions on the pitfalls of power in the process of surveying its management and power-sharing strategies and how to overcome or work with inherent individual limitations.

Connections between emotions, trigger events, and the exercise of power cultivate discussions that consider historical uses of power and adult perceptions of authority, offering checklists and guidelines designed to foster psychological growth and better understanding.

The result is a wide-ranging discussion accessible to audiences of business readers and those interested in self-improvement, identifying the basic characteristics of power, linking these to various personality traits, and providing an in-depth set of ideas for more effectively understanding and applying powerful approaches to life and business alike.

The Dead Bank Diary
Anna Schlegel
Schlegel Press Association
ISBN-13: 9780986174919 ASIN: B00OPAZQMI, Price: 0.99

Interview with Anna Schlegel:

One might anticipate from its title that The Dead Bank Diary will be another 'cops and robbers' brand of mystery/detective story; but although the bank has, indeed, been compromised, it's not from the usual robbery. It's more than a takeover of the bank: it's a heist where the winner takes all - the money and the bank itself, together with the staff.

Russian author Anna Schlegel is in the perfect position to craft such a tale: a PhD born in Moscow who fell into the job of a securities trader, then become involved with a Foreign Intelligence Officer who was an expert financier/fraudster himself, her unique background lends to a thriller which, although not based on reality, holds all the trappings of a real political and financial event.

The intersection of 'dead banks' in 1998 Moscow (which fell down like a house of cards), a million-dollar bond's uncertain future, and an unemployed bank trader asked to perform a job that will change and challenge her life makes for vivid reading. Add a series of criminally masterminded events during the Financial Crisis and you have a detailed story line that delves deeply into a world that many a fiction reader won't expect.

The novel's satisfying depth and intrigue do come at a small price. Occasionally-stilted dialogue and lack of the usual punctuation quotes around dialogue (English is not the author's native language and at points the wording or punctuation could have benefited from an editor's hand), and more financial details than one might appreciate means that readers without some basic knowledge of banking could become lost.

This is more than offset, ultimately, by a story that is charged with intrigue and action, realistic and vivid protagonists, and revelations about swindlers, con artists, and about raider takeover of a bank and its forced bankruptcy. It should also be noted that the action and intrigue doesn't involve the usual violence, so if it's heart-stopping deadly confrontations that are desired from a thriller, look elsewhere. The Dead Bank Diary relies upon far more complicated scenarios and threats to drive its action, and that makes it a standout in a genre too commonly littered with nonstop murders.

Those who anticipate a light action piece may be stymied by the story's well-developed technical details, but readers who look for thought-provoking complexity from their suspense thrillers will find The Dead Bank Diary holds the uncommon ability to show how easy it is to break the bank if you think like a banker.

T.J.'s Last Summer in Cape Cod
Garfield Whyte
Privately Published
9781519232250, $16.00, PB,

Eighteen-year-old Taj James (aka TJ) is on the cusp of adulthood and his last summer in Cape Cod involves a romance with a younger girl and a changing relationship with the 55-year-old womanizing uncle who tried to make TJ his protege. In much the manner of Evan Hunter's classic Last Summer, T.J.'s Last Summer in Cape Cod is a coming-of-age story about adolescent sexuality, but Whyte's focus on evolving and changing relationships is much more emotionally charged and detailed, making it a top recommendation for readers of adolescent experience.

Many issues are explored in the best coming of age novels: not just changing hormones and evolving sexuality but, more importantly, an understanding of and growing moral and ethical platform. Behind predictable beauty and appeal lie hearts and minds conflicted by desire, psychological challenges, and emotional puzzles. Behind every athletic boy and beautiful girl lie choices and questions and the hard edge of decisions that only go to show that in life, appearance is the tip of the iceberg.

As T.J.'s Last Summer in Cape Cod unfolds its protagonists' interactions, growth, and secrets which can change perceptions of family and life itself, so readers are carried along for a closer inspection of what it means and feels like to teeter on the cusp of adulthood. From an uncle's life-changing decision to marriages on the edge of dissolution, the story throws in all the physical, emotional, and moral challenges that will bring TJ into the adult world.

While mature teens are a predictable audience for this story, it's also strongly recommended for adults who want to look back on those years with more than a one-dimensional perspective, to understand more deeply the workings and perceptions of the young adult mind.

Project Sparta
B.B. Gallagher
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
Ordering Link:

'Project Sparta' is the code name for a private black ops training program driven by adolescent prodigies who have been chosen for their ability to counter terrorism by becoming forces with no identity, no limitations, and nothing to hold them back. They are young killing machines: ruthless, unconnected to family or social mores, and capable of much more than their training.

Xander is one of those Spartans and exists only to safeguard his country. His parents were killed when he was eight in an event that erased his memory, making him a convenient soldier serving the cause of justice and America. His talent for analyzing the logical progression of events to a predictable outcome borders on the psychic while his photographic memory makes him a powerful force to be reckoned with: unstoppable and nearly superhuman.

There's only one problem: he's beginning to question his training. And when that happens, trouble looms.

On the face of it, Project Sparta is a thriller that adopts a familiar-sounding plot similar to many on the market these last ten years (the enlistment and training of adolescents for military or political causes, and their almost superhuman special abilities). Read further, however, to discover that Project Sparta is familiar only in its opening act. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing, fine psychological depth as characters and their motives are developed, and a healthy dose of espionage and terrorist encounters. The story's set in different time periods, which serves to further develop protagonists and action.

Xander, Fiona, and others interact on personal levels that are psychologically revealing, and there are plenty of insights on their different motivations: "Duke, caught off-guard, narrowed a derisive expression at him. Xander sensed an initial impulse that was gracious and heartfelt but it was quickly supplanted by the image of intimidation Duke so tirelessly fought to maintain."

Mature young adult readers and adults who like thrillers featuring young adult protagonists will find the depth and action of Project Sparta to be captivating and understandable.

The mark of a good, solid thriller lies in its ability to create memorable characters, realistic scenarios and concerns, and to weave in more than a light dose of uncertainty and intrigue in the process of delicately walking a fine line between a spy story and an action-packed read. Project Sparta is such an achievement, and is highly recommended.

Killing Juggernaut
Jared Bernard
Paperback: ISBN 9781682224045 $19.00
Ebook: ISBN 9781682224052 $ 3.99
Novel website:
Author website:
Book trailer:

While all sci-fi and thriller readers will appreciate Killing Juggernaut, Jared Bernard's focus on three individuals who separately (and differently) react to the scientific premise that ecological destruction will bring about the end of humanity will especially delight fans of apocalyptic and environmental works.

Written from the perspective of an astronomer's reaction to impending disaster, his journey to the desert and his diary of events make for a gripping story.

The title Killing Juggernaut may portend a military novel or a thriller but in fact the story line begins with a scientist's desperate mission to understand the events that have led to humanity's downfall, and it is enhanced by two very different individuals' experiences and perspectives about the path of humanity's rocky road to ruin.

The scientist protagonist strives to 'keep his writing simple' for whomever might discover his saga, and so his scientific explanations are tempered by observations that clearly explain his discipline and perceptions without jargon or confusing technical explanations.

The story is narrated from these different perspectives and includes news reports, personal feelings towards these events and outcomes ("It seems as if witchcraft has befallen our society."), insights on the Mission for Humanity project, and other struggles for survival which makes for a gripping saga that is precise and revealing in its approach.

Killing Juggernaut reveals the killing forces at work on levels ranging from personal and environmental to social and political as it documents the end of humanity's long journey. There's even room for love in such a scenario: a surprise touch for a story filled with angst and special interest insights on impending disaster.

Revealing, engrossing, and hard to put down, Killing Juggernaut is just the ticket for sci-fi readers who want a pointed observational piece on the survival (or demise) of humanity.

Second Chances
Lincoln Cole
LC Publishing
9780692559741 $2.99 Kindle*Version*=1&*entries*=0

"Why are people so committed in this battle against fellow Americans?" While that's an early question posed in Second Chances, it's also the crux of a story about strife and struggle in the life of Nichole. She is ready to graduate from high school when friction over racial issues brings livid parents into a town meeting to display a generalized prejudice and fear of threats to the educational and social system. It quickly becomes evident that undercurrents of prejudice are directed at her family.

After painting a simple portrait of Nichole and her kin, the second chapter jumps ahead a year and introduces Richard, a married attorney who has moved from courtrooms to mediating business legal conflicts. His decision to move away from his role as a public defender into situations less dependent on an uncertain legal system hasn't, unfortunately, lead to peace. Nichole has applied to work as an intern in his office and her race is, in this different situation, a benefit because of Richard's desire to help deserving minorities by giving them professional opportunities.

These two very different lives change drastically, and suddenly their focuses and carefully-built stabilities are gone. Nichole is unexpectedly saddled with family responsibilities that will challenge her goals, while Richard faces a series of crises that come to include Nichole primarily because she's the most brilliant intern he's ever had, and her changing life could threaten both her future and his choices in ways neither could imagine.

Entwined decisions, consequences which ripple out from their initial influences and circles of family and friends, and the harsh lives of some of the kids Richard encounters all become part of a bigger picture in a thought-provoking read about what constitutes success and how failure can thwart all positive achievements.

The various protagonists are consistently clear about their motivations, influences, and lives: "How the hell are you supposed to make friends when your mom is a drunk and your Dad left? We were outcasts, shunned by everyone we met. I didn't have any friends, and I didn't really want any either. I was just fine being alone, and if those assholes didn't want to hang out with me that was just fine." Readers thus receive a healthy dose of social insight throughout the story line.

It should be noted that the insights on educational system pressures, structure, and choices are particularly well done. Lincoln Cole's approach (of having events move back and forth in time) could have proved confusing; but plainly marked chapter headings place these timelines in clear perspective and the recurring theme of what constitutes a 'second chance' (and when such is solicited or given) unites the various protagonists' perspectives and stories ("I've been sleepwalking for years, making the right decisions for the wrong reasons. Now, I want to start making those decisions for the right reasons.")

The result is a vivid saga of racial and social situations that's highly recommended for readers seeking a story that revolves around changing hearts and minds and positive character growth.

The (First) 4 Maxims Of Social Conservatism
By "WE"
Amazon Digital Publishing
B00XZN6MYW $2.99

What is social conservatism and how can The Four Maxims help you understand and apply it to everyday life? Most such discussions stem from a single individual or expert, but an important difference in The (First) 4 Maxims Of Social Conservatism (evident in the author line, if nothing else) is that this book comes not from a one perspective but from a collective effort.

The authors, "WE", embrace one of the basic premises of social conservatism by placing this discussion not in the hands of the usual politician associated with being a 'conservative', but in the lives of everyday individuals. The authors of this book work in various trades and professions, are members of civic organizations or school groups, and bring to the table diverse family backgrounds and experiences, blending insights on social conservatism into a unified theory based on maxims that apply to everyday American life.

Thus, The (First) 4 Maxims Of Social Conservatism gains its strength not from political mandate or expertise, but from the life experiences and homegrown tenants of its contributors.

Lest readers anticipate a blend of autobiography and self-help, however, they shouldn't. The (First) 4 Maxims relies on the intersection of history, science, and logic to craft these keys to daily living. It's not a discussion based on religion and it isn't written just to appeal to conservatives, but reaches out to anyone who would consider how to best live, and what kind of society supports those goals.

'Social conservativism' itself is all about addressing social problems starting not from the political top, but from the bottom - and this means the lives, hearts and minds of the common man. It advocates less government by laying forth the kinds of lifestyles that result in less dependency, and less isolation, psychological issues, crime, divorce, incarceration, out-of-wedlock births, and drug dependency (among other goals).

How can these lofty ideals be achieved? Not by enacting laws; but through grassroots changes from the bottom up. If this all sounds impossible, read on. The idea is not to force people into niches, nor is it about governments enacting laws: it provides both a foundation for better living and a springboard for linking personal and social transformation processes by applying the initial four maxims described in this book (more are projected to evolve from this effort).

From clarifications on what differentiates a social liberal from a social conservative ("If your outlook is: "Life should be lived by a Pleasure Principle," and you strive to live that outlook (especially in the area of social relationships), then you're a social liberal. If your outlook is: "Life should be lived by a Happiness Principle," and you strive to live that outlook (especially in the area of social relationships, then you're a social conservative.") to exactly how these efforts manifest in choices in living one's life, The (First) 4 Maxims Of Social Conservatism couldn't get any clearer in its ideals and discussions.

Indeed, The (First) 4 Maxims is packed with so much food for thought that it's recommended for reading in bits and pieces, as each digested concept is weighty and ideally should be thought about in the context of a reader's past, present, and future life choices.

Embedded with website reference links throughout and peppered with evidence on what makes people happiest and most satisfied with their choices in life, this lively discourse is a 'must' for any thinking reader, conservative or liberal, who would consider behavioral and philosophical adjustments in pursuit of a greater goal.

Blood Stripe
Gina Maria DiNicolo
St. John's Press
9780966298604, $11.99,

Susanna Marcasi is in Washington, D.C. on a quest to reclaim her lost memory, life, and self. Surprisingly, the prologue to Blood Stripe: The Susanna Marcasi Chronicles doesn't begin with this journey, but with the harsh and derogatory thoughts of a man who has held her in disdain at the U.S. Naval Academy during their tenure together and who hates her achievements and is determined "not to let the bitch win." A violent attack nearly destroys her physically and mentally and, true to her nature, she's fought her way back - but not without lingering effects.

All this is a satisfying prelude to the story of her subsequent involvement with an investigation of Defense Secretary Manfred Stahl, whose methods and evil actions cross social, political and military lines behind closed doors. In true keeping with the feisty willpower that has allowed her to survive both U.S. Naval Academy daily strife and its vicious aftermath, Susanna finds herself utilizing all of her strengths, skills and determination in a dangerous game that creates a variety of insights on many levels.

The action is nonstop, the thriller format embraces a strong women's quest to take back her life and the notion of deadly adversaries that are backed by the American political process, and the saga is cemented with the personality, hopes, and evolution of a protagonist who won't give up her dreams.

Blood Stripe's scenarios are authenticated by author Gina Maria DiNicolo's background as a former US Marine and military historian and a Naval Academy graduate. These experiences place her in the unique position of writing accurately and convincingly of the world of women in uniform and the struggles they face for equality in traditionally male-dominated services. Stories of abuses of power are not uncommon; but Blood Stripe provides a closer inspection of military inner circles than one might expect from a thriller format.

Despite the prologue and introduction, it's important to note that Blood Stripe is not a linear or predictable read. Many satisfying twists and turns along the way are both in keeping with the story's overall theme; yet provide a wealth of unexpected moments. These are the marks of a truly superior thriller: one which makes the military and social prowess of Blood Stripe an unstoppable, thoroughly engrossing read, driven by protagonists who don't know when to quit and who persevere in quest of justice against all odds.

Champion Bubbler
Jules Mitchell Bailey
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511942010, $14.95,

Bubbler's real name is Mercedes, and she earned the nickname as a child when she first began dancing before she could walk. Now she's an exotic dancer in a club in the tourist resort area of Montego Bay, and her experiences have been filled with dark encounters: family corruption, drugs, a dangerous, depressed neighborhood, and an absent father whose identity remains uncertain.

Under such circumstances one wouldn't expect the protagonist to be feisty, upbeat, or determined - but these are all special facets of Mercedes' survival skills, and they only serve to show that tenacity can evolve even under the most adverse of conditions.

As Mercedes becomes involved with two very different men, she increasingly finds herself wound up in lies that confuse her world ("I thought about what lies I was going to tell Danny so that I could be free when Greg arrived."), and when she sets aside her dancing career in pursuit of other goals, she begins to more closely examine the course of her life and her choices in it ("I took a back seat at the club and slowly sipped on a glass of White Rum and Coke. This was not my usual drink, but I needed something strong that night to help me sort out my emotions.")

Peppered with accounts of changing family relationships and connections between past, present and future ("I love my sister and was really happy that she had a father who was proud of her and one she could depend on, but it always reminded me of the fact that I did not even know who my father was."), Champion Bubbler is a novel about succeeding against all odds, and documents the progress and choices of a Jamaican ghetto-born woman who is willing to take risks in love and life as she strives for a greater goal.

Novel readers who enjoy Caribbean settings and stories of personal achievement will relish Champion Bubbler 's satisfying juxtaposition of psychological growth and social commentary, which come alive under Jules Mitchell Bailey's hand.

Goose Feathers
Robert Koermer
1264 Old Alpharetta Road, Alpharetta, Georgia 30005
9781610056403 $12.95

The picture book Goose Feathers is crafted as a "U&I Read Aloud" book, which means that it requires parental read-aloud participation. Parents familiar with the traditional definition of read-alouds (which largely require a parent to do the reading while engaging the child) will be surprised to learn that this alternative approach has the parent and child reading alternate chapters.

This level of participation means that kids transitioning into chapter books receive an extra added-value level of participation to smooth their entry with a book that features a lowered reading level and larger font sizes in the chapters for the child to read - an inviting way of introducing the next level of complexity.

As for the story itself: expect a fun series of adventures centered around Lucie, a Canadian goose who hatches her brood of seven and interacts with the humans who have come to know her.

Goose natural history blends seamlessly into the story line and educates kids about geese as anthropomorphic birds and animals interact with fictional characters. From EMT assistance in hatching chicks to a little goose's initial fear of water and animals in their new Castle Lake home (which faces threats from intruders Tuffy Turtell and his Scottish turtle clan), the stories outline dilemmas, compromises, confrontations, and even court proceedings involving the influx of Canadian geese into the country.

All this is accompanied by Thomas Swofford's coloring-book-style color drawings throughout. Add a list of questions parents can ask during the reading to help a young reader consider the psychological impacts of the animals' interactions and choices and you have a wonderfully multi-faceted story that is both well-developed and designed to encourage kids to successfully move to the chapter book level from traditional picture books.

Parent/child supportive interactions thus create a bridge to reading that introduces a fun new dynamic to the finer art of advancing through different early reader stages.

Mollie: Bride Of Georgia
Lorrie Farrelly
Amazon Digital Publishing
ISBN: 9781519213594 $2.99

About a year go, over forty independent authors decided to create a series ('American Mail Order Brides') set in the late 1800s, with each author creating a story (or two) for one of the 50 states, following the order that the state was admitted to the Union.

Each book is a stand-alone creation, and Mollie: Bride of Georgia adds to this series in telling of an unusual eligible bachelor doctor who could have his pick of gals, but who chooses to place an unusual ad for a bride in The Groom's Gazette, and romance author Mollie, who seeks a new life ... but not necessarily with a distant, crusty vet.

That's the background about this novel's creation and a quick overview of its plot; but among its strengths and pleasures is an attention to detail that includes humor, strong characters, a realistic setting, and a series of compelling issues that join some protagonists while alienating others.

The trials, tribulations and human and animal characters of an early American vet's practice, the personalities of beaus who are either humble or spoiled, and the underlying expectations of romance between men and women are all explored with a fine eye to adventure and insight.

Under Farrelly's hand, early America's worlds and characters come to life, with the aftermath of struggles and traumas of war influencing perceptions and choices. From the feisty, opinionated character of Willie Mae (whose wisdom and advice often hits the nail on the head with more than a light dose of humor) to unfortunate introductions and the surprising events that evolve from them, the hopes, dreams, motivations and choices of Mollie, Nick, and their circle come to life.

It's fairly rare (but not unique) to have a collaborative literary effort spark a powerful series. What is even more notable here is that the book stands alone superbly and the series theme both links productions and allows for a good deal of author creativity under a general umbrella. The result is everything a successful collaborative effort should be. Mollie: Bride of Georgia might not have been written without this inspiring project, but it moves beyond its themed boundaries to create a truly wonderful, compelling historical romance piece, highly recommended for any reader looking for a rollicking good read.

All People Lives Matter
Billy McCoy
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519630155 $13.96

An abusive priest, a police state that condones violence by simply not acting, a family tasked with an exhausting struggle for justice, and a movement called 'All People Lives Matter' that takes the battle into a new level: all these are powerful themes in Billy McCoy's latest novel, which holds exceptionally close ties to modern news of violence and police actions.

Readers who follow such events will find that, in many ways, All People Lives Matter mirrors these struggles, taking the microcosm of one girl's life and creating thought-provoking connections between her influences, choices, and community experiences to use them as a mirror for those taking place in modern America.

The female narrator on the cusp of young adulthood is Holly, a biology student at the university, and her parents are successful executives. It only seems logical, at first, that she should volunteer at an organization that promises hope and social change, contributing her time to an altruistic venture. But her idealism is about to change, and is portended by others who pinpoint her future successes and failures in a nutshell: "You're young, a rabid idealist, impressionable, stupid and going to change the world with your over-powering hope and youthful enthusiasm. The movement is better off with your naivete, it's a fifth wheel to a truck. You'll jump in with both feet and boldly change the world. Pity you!"

A bystander's cryptic and cynical remarks before the narrator even has a chance to immerse herself in the culture of a do-good organization sets the stage for what is to evolve: a movement that holds more to it than an image of positive change, powered by a leader whose real persona is something more than the public sees.

As church, state, idealism and romance intersect in Holly's life, what seems a relatively straightforward series of events becomes complicated, casting readers into the roles of judges and participants themselves as Holly's blossoming perceptions embrace some of the most volatile issues affecting Americans today.

Is Holly intoxicated by love and social action, or is something more going on under the surface? As Holly comes to understand the real motivations and influences of the movement she's chosen, her true imprisonment really begins. Trapped by her ideals and a ruthless leader, Holly's world turns upside down just as society is manipulated on all sides by police and social leaders alike.

Nothing is as it seems; from the volatile and changing relationships between men and women to the same patterns that affect opposite sides of society. At the center of it all is Holly, whose privileged life would seem to belay her desire to volunteer in a service position for the greater good.

The process of a young idealist's disillusionment with her world is a painful one, convincingly and creatively explored by Billy McCoy, who takes the microcosm of one life and expands upon it until it becomes the macrocosm of social breakdown. There's simply a lot going on (both personally and politically) in one white girl's life, which holds plenty of eye-opening moments and more than a small degree of social and psychological inspection.

Readers who enjoy stories of personal transformation, political and social involvement and the methods by which connections, estrangements, and real change is made will appreciate All People Lives Matter as a multifaceted, compelling read, tracing Holly's evolution as she moves far from family ties and everything familiar into uncertain, mercurial territories.

The Winbourne Affair
Foley Western
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781518899560, $12.99

Mark works for a successful law firm and Debra is its newest member. Both are powerful personalities, so when Debra seeks to intervene in Mark's life, a 'situation' develops which challenges them both personally and professionally. That's the basic premise of The Winbourne Affair, a romance which focuses on the common scenario of tangled affairs.

Delve a little deeper to find that not everything centers upon a fairytale romantic involvement, even if it is a verboten workplace affair; for Mark tends to be controlling and nearly-thirty Debra has had many years to develop her own stubbornness from an aristocratic background and training. Neither are kids, and neither are immune to trying to control the consequences of their choices.

The circumstances of their rocky road (a divorce in process but not yet complete, a relationship that can't be completely acknowledged due to uncompleted affairs and challenged workplace ethics) are evident in the first few pages: what then evolves is how each character handles what comes next, and how they've arrived at this point.

This refreshingly different focus allows for insights into impulsive actions, romantic surprises (such as unexpected lunches in unexpected places), hopes and dreams ("She dreamt of being married to Mark, and living in a big house in the suburbs. In her dream they had three children. Two of them were boys and had their fatherís dark hair and handsome smile. The youngest was a little girl with her motherís blonde hair and dimples. They were barbecuing as a family in her dream, and were all just about to jump into the large, blue swimming pool when Debra woke up."), and legal confrontations with choices that could translate to political suicide.

As their association with Eli takes a dangerous turn, The Winbourne Affair diverts from its romantic involvements to add something even more complex with the possibility of changing the lives of all involved.

Readers who enjoy strong romances fueled by powerful, mature protagonists, family connections, legal concerns and more than a dose of intrigue will find The Winbourne Affair a satisfying saga which winds towards a conclusion not necessarily inevitable.

Agent Ginger (The Extra Mile)
Foley Western
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519162823, $12.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 326pp,

It's unusual to find a spy story that includes a good dose of romance; especially one whose protagonist is a feisty woman who won't take 'no' for an answer; but Agent Ginger is such a creation. Ginger's an extraordinarily capable, talented spy on the level of James Bond, whose mission to China leads her to cross into forbidden territory by falling in love with her boss.

As capable as she is in the arena of international politics and infiltration, she finds herself somewhat less in control when it comes to the puzzles of romance, and so Agent Ginger's latest mission is a challenge on many levels as she seeks to thwart forces that would prevent the peaceful return of Hong Kong back to China as well as those which would compromise her heart.

As Amanda ('Ginger' is her code name) struggles, she finds herself unable to use the information that usually reliably helps her steer a course in life, and finds herself navigating the murky world of love and intrigue on an uncustomary thin line. Chapters follow her wavering course, which offers a blend of confidence and uncertainty about the impact of her decisions.

Especially powerful in its consideration of how communications between couples can deliver mixed messages ("He was lying to cover his mistake. Except that he wasnít, Ginger thought she knew a lie when she heard one, but she also knew Clive well enough to know that he didnít make excuses.") and in how two already-powerful individuals come to find first connection then solace then love in one another, Agent Ginger is especially recommended for readers who relish international intrigue, a good spy saga, and an overall blanket of emotional interplays that links and guides these themes.

Life on Base: Quantico Cave
Thomas P. and Nancy Wise
210 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633931381 - Print $12.95
9781633931398 - Ebook $3.49

Life on Base: Quantico Cave is first in a projected series of middle school books and introduces Stephen, whose life on a military base is presented in exact detail. While many novels introduce the themes of 'army brats' interacting with their peers, few actually take the time to reveal base life itself, with all the uncertainties and altered realities that it brings.

As an example of the latter: what non-base kid needs to know their parents' ranking? What civilian child lives in a world where everyone's parents do the same job and everyone is trained to interact in a self-contained environment of military history and experience? And what average middle-school student is more concerned about decorum and exercise strategy than play?

There are plenty of experiences and differences on a military base to separate an army brat from a civilian child, and all these are thoroughly explored in a story set on a base where military structure and values override all concerns.

As Stephen faces constant changes, good and bad kids, and temptations and alternate directions, messages from the military and his parents' training permeate his consciousness and dictate his choices ("Keep your head up, his dad's voice shouted from somewhere in his mind. Don't cry, boy. You'll be a Marine someday. We protect those who can't protect themselves.")

From life on a base under lockdown and how children and their parents react to 'Clothes Monster' nightmares to the lingering affects of absent parents and constant moving, Life on Base: Quantico Cave is a story of friendships made and lost, of military family social interactions, and of one boy's coming of age in a world where routines are part of a rigid, essential system linked to survival and a greater good.

Anyone who wants to know exactly how base life is perceived by the young will find Life on Base: Quantico Cave engrossing and unparalleled in its descriptions of military base life's impact on family and friendships.

When Giorgione Died: A Rebilungsroman in Two Volumes
Gloria Kury
Periscope Publishing Ltd.
9781934772317 $35.00

If When Giorgione Died: A Rebilungsroman in Two Volumes sounds familiar, perhaps that's because of the reference to one 'Giorgione' in its title: a Renaissance artist about whom little is known (although much has been speculated, as he's received scholarly attention over the centuries).

One might expect that an art history and biographical sketch holding such a title and topic would be limited to the attention of Renaissance-era experts and art historians; but one of the pleasures of When Giorgione Died is its ability to reach out to lay readers who may be interested in art matters, but who lack an art researcher's credentials.

Gloria Kury's approach to her subject cultivates a chatty, warm style that eschews the usual dry approach of art histories to add a lively and fun set of insights into the artist and his times, using language that is accessible to all: "Giorgione. He was never quite real. Not real like Titian. Maybe that's why people back then, during the 16th century, said he went into hiding after Titian outdid him in painting the facade of a building on the Grand Canal."

Famous for a particular style of painting and for being so mysterious that even his dates are hypothetical, with his background as shadowy as his art works, this exploration seeks to make shadows visible and provides two very different 'volumes' under one cover to fully express the ironies and inconsistencies, providing an artistic approach that examines the processes peculiar to understanding elusive artists and their works.

Much-cited books needing new translations, objects and subjects, art works which fabricate an artificial alternate reality, and mirages, scams, and clues to Giorgione and his paintings are all presented using almost surreal insights and language, translating a wealth of conflicting speculations and facts about the man and juxtaposing them with bright, intense words that promote a different way of viewing the world.

When Giorgione Died is no linear analytical production for the typical art historian, and so it requires (and even demands) of its reader an unusual affinity for non-linear thinking: an approach that involves delving behind appearance to embrace the strange coincidences and surrealistic impressions that are as much a part of the art world as intellectual discourse.

Lest one wonder: two volumes actually reside under one cover, here, so there's no need to look for a second book. The 'two volumes' mention fits neatly into the light-hearted exploration of the ironies of art history presentations and traditional biographical treatments of artists. As an added bonus, 27 illustrations accompany a text that unfolds like a slideshow lecture.

Bam! Bam! Slap! Slap! Listen! Look! These are not typical words in art histories, but they are highly appropriate here, illustrating the one-two punches of a survey that is as steeped in fun as much as it's backed by the authenticity and insights of a Vassar graduate well versed in both art and psychology. Her absorbing treatise takes a cloudy history and transforms it into a mercurial, surrealistic vision.

While no art history collection should be without its delightfully unique approach, general-interest readers will find When Giorgione Died to be wonderfully accessible, lively, and thought-provoking. Slow reading is a requirement here, as well as re-reading. There's so much to see, hear, and absorb in a treatise that is neither a scholarly tome nor a light treatment; but an intriguing affair that compares literary and artistic figures alike as it romps through the art world of Renaissance times.

Pardon Me While I Close The Door
Marjan Sierhuis
Privately Published
9780994065308, $l5.00 CAD,

In the Spring of 2014, author Marjan Sierhuis read Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, an account of how the twenty-six-year-old embarked upon a life-changing hike of some eleven hundred miles. Inspired to undertake her own (albeit shorter) odyssey, Sierhuis kept a journal of her experience which evolved into Pardon Me While I Close The Door, a different urban walk of self-exploration.

The walk reflects a middle-aged woman's life journey and choices and the changes she experiences upon the death of her parents, and it captures a vivid personal odyssey that ultimately revolves around the acceptance of loss and how to move on.

The door closes upon a chapter of pain and confusion even though the walk itself is only some thirteen kilometers and undertaken in an urban setting. Lacking the usual life-threatening rural obstacles, readers might wonder what an urban sojourn could mean to an effort to change one's familiar surroundings in order to gain perspective; but Pardon Me While I Close The Door demonstrates that a rural experience or a long journey are not prerequisites for growth and enlightenment.

The sojourn allows time for Marjan to explore memories of her family and life, to process them under different conditions than her everyday familiar world could allow, and to invite a kind of closure that wasn't possible when immersed in familiar routines.

Her memoir thus offers many touching moments that readers will find poignant, candid, and heart-felt: "Marjan, I hope you are not with me the day I die," he said, "because you will try and save me." Looking at him in silence, I didn't know what to say. I felt there could be some truth in his words. And perhaps if I did speak, it wouldn't be what he wanted to hear and I would regret it for the rest of my life."

The author's process of accepting her parents' deaths didn't begin with her walk, but it synthesized and completed a process that had actually started before her parents died: "Close friends and colleagues empathized as I rambled on endlessly about my father. I read voraciously - every book I could find on death, dying, and bereavement. I started journalling. When I wasn't working twelve-hour shifts, I walked through forests, provincial parks, along lakes and riverbeds, trying to find a spiritual connection to my father. I tried to hang on and let go at the same time."

Pardon Me While I Close The Door also explores the movement from friendship to lover as the author forms and then re-examines different connections in her life.

The result is a memoir that intimately follows the process of how the stormy present becomes a gentler past, both in death and in romance, and shows how a walk out of one's world can serve as a catalyst for closure and change.

Roller Babes
Tim Patten
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 9781491783290, $23.95, PB
ISBN: 9781491783283, $3.99, Kindle

Roller derby has numerous enthusiastic followers and leagues around the world; so a novel based on the sport will draw from these groups as well as reaching into general-interest audiences. While the plot and characters of Roller Babes: 1950s Women of Roller Derby are based on real people and events, Patten takes the process a step further with a saga that adds fictional embellishments to real events and protagonists to heighten drama and explore the derby world.

Tim Patten is himself a former professional roller derby champion, so he's in the perfect position to craft a story that explores these early skaters and their achievements using more than a researcher's familiarity. His background lends insight, authenticity, and direction to the novel, which honors these early players by examining their lives and the social and sports conditions under which they played.

As Lottie and others feel their skills, passions, and interests alienate them from peers of both sexes ("The boys wanted Lottie out of their games for good. She felt her pulse in her throat. As the only girl, she had never fit in. Even among other girls, Lottie stood out from the crowd, and not in a good way: gawky, rough-and tumble, forever uncomfortable among the little ladies in their pretty dresses and beautifully curled hair. Lottie's hair was choppy. She was an oddball."), they come to find in roller derby a new venture more accepting of who they are.

The alienation of 'tomboys' in sports in the 1950s is well documented through character experiences ("The stickball game officially broke up. Lottie's teammates turned their attention elsewhere and once again, the girl who never felt like she fit in found herself alone, a cavity hollowed out inside her chest."), while roller marathons, the habit of staging accidental collisions between marathon couples in competition to up the ante and audience, and the evolution of American Roller Derby antics to supplement skating prowess provides a powerful account of the major figures of the sport and how entertainment and competition intersected to draw large audiences.

From skaters in professional and physical battles to the difference between showmanship and dangerous emotional confrontations, Patten delves into the darker side of roller derby as well as its evolutionary process and juxtaposes character motivations and experiences with insights on roller derby's appeal and rationales and the development of the contact sport.

The result is a powerful historical sports novel combining elements not usually gathered under a fictional cover to blend a thought-provoking survey of the history of women in derby with a very personal perspective of its pros, cons, and special challenges.

Roller derby evolved from early risk-takers and sports revolutionaries. There's no better way to learn about this history than through a lively, teeth-gritting read of close encounters on the skating track.

Cornelius Goes West
Charlie Steel
Condor Publishing
ASIN: B00BO0AGE0, $2.99,

"Cornelius Kogelschitz hated his name with all the passion his mind could muster." With a vivid opening line capturing attention and interest, middle-school readers are off and running in a Western story set in a time when typhus runs rampant and 'Corny' is adopted into a large family when his parents die.

In a harsh urban environment where diseases and poverty rule, Corny spies an advertisement for the rugged and beautiful Colorado mountains, and determines early on that someday he will journey to that paradise. That day arrives sooner than expected after he overhears his aunt and uncle arguing about the strain his presence has added to their 11-children family. Thus begins a trip that takes him far from the familiar urban world and into the rugged wilderness.

Kids who appreciate sagas of self-reliance, adventure, and an unusually mature attitude in a child (one who perceives his relatives' struggle and decides to alleviate their stress himself) will find Cornelius Goes West a vivid saga.

From the strife that erupts between a father and daughter to Corny's uncertain life, the personalities and background of the West strengthen upon Corny's departure from New York City and fill in as the story moves along. The later inclusion of a dash of romance might leave some younger Western readers cringing: after all, romantic involvements are typically more of an attraction to female readers at this age, and Corny's life and times will primarily attract middle- to high-school male readers of Westerns.

The three themes that wind through this short story - Corny's escape to a new world, his encounter with a feisty girl, and the evolution of their friendship - make for a well-rounded short read while the scenery, setting, and logical growth of the protagonists are very well done indeed, bringing the West to life.

Cornelius Goes West's focus on an underage youth's roles in that milieu offers a rare glimpse into the concerns and independence of teens who make their own decisions early on in the adult world of the American frontier. Since fewer truly Western themes are directed to this age group, Cornelius is a standout.

One Woman Three Men
Pouline Middleton
Over and Above Press
9780989091787, $19.95, PB,

Can a life and relationships change completely between April and July? They can, as Pouline Middleton demonstrates in a new romance novel that outlines the evolution of a relationship between one woman and several men. The story is based on Middleton's premise that a modern woman actually needs not one man, but three: one for sex, one for intellectual stimulation, and one to help around the house.

This open marriage exploration takes the form of a diary by a "...nice, well-behaved Danish girl " who believes "...that my good behavior would create peace in 'Palesrael,' equal wages for men and women and reduced poverty in Africa, while I waltzed into the Copenhagen sunset with my prince, till death do us part."

What's wrong with this picture? Everything, as a failed marriage, single parenthood, and a lack of positive relationships proves to the novel's narrator. Even her relationship with a millionaire doesn't pan out - and when the 'metrosexual' choice also fails, it's time for something completely new.

One Woman Three Men explores this different perspective of romance with an eye to blending philosophy, fiction, and real-world relationship concerns. Nothing is perfect or easy here, whether the goal is traditional or alternative in nature; but in the course of following the diary writer's life and revelations, readers gain a better sense of the sexual and psychological differences between men and women and the ideals and realities that can come between them.

"As a woman, I'm living in a golden age. There are so many possibilities for coupling, I can live exactly the way I wish to live - or so they say. What am I dreaming of? Or should I ask: what is my mind dreaming of? It seems we're not always in agreement." Exploring such possibilities in a truly different fashion involves re-examining one's illusions, delusions, the precedents set by powerful social innovators of women's rights (such as Erica Jong and Gloria Steinem), and identifying the ideal man's qualities. The realization that no such ideal can exist in a single body leads the narrator to explore how such goals can be met through more than one relationship and, more importantly, how these polyamorous relationships can be successful.

Open relationships and modern love concepts certainly aren't new ideas, but it's their enactment which creates new ground and proves the real challenge. Employing humor, angst, intellectual analysis and psychological understanding, One Woman Three Men delves into how alternative romances are forged and how a 'nice girl' moves into uncharted romantic territories with no roadmap for success.

One intriguing aspect of the narrator's encounters is that they consider open relationships using different analytical tools: thus she becomes involved in intellectual discussions that liken her philosophy to business world pursuits and organizational models as well as social experiments ("Imagine you had a factory or an organization with an operational model that just didn't work: you'd change that model. In only about 25% of all relationships, the relationship model works really well. The rest of the relationships accrue enormous debts, and society ends up spending billions picking up the pieces."), all the while dancing around blossoming possibilities that come, go, or evolve.

Can a depth of vision be achieved in a three-man/one woman model? As the narrator finds her philosophy questioned, so opportunities arise for further clarification and definition of her chosen course: "I have yet to meet a man who will do as much for me as I will do for him," I said. "Maybe you are doing too much and therefore expecting too much back?" he asked. "Yes, exactly. The three-men model helps me keep a cool head." "To me, it sounds as if your heart remains cold."

Readers of the nonfiction classic Open Marriage as well as those who seek a fictional set of revelations for a new relationship model will find One Woman Three Men a spicy, thought-provoking read steeped in entertaining moments and intriguing blends of psychological and philosophical inspection: the perfect romantic alternative to one-dimensional, singular novels about relationships.

T.J. Roberts
Fairalon Books
ISBN: e-book 978-0-9970071-2-1 $2.99
ISBN: Print: 978-0-9970071-0-7 $31.99
Amazon Kindle Link:
SmashWords other e-book formats:

Eleven-year-old Iris already has strikes against her: she's the new kid in town, and her quirky behaviors involve repetitive rituals and actions that have, in the past, been labeled an illness.

Now she knows they're something more: they are instinctive reactions to her strange and evolving abilities, and they hold the power to alert her of future disasters. That's why she was able to save a young girl from a peculiar car accident, and why she sees things others don't.

The first thing to note about this captivating fantasy is that it's liberally peppered with full-color (and well-done) illustrations that enhance its story line. From autos in the woods to strange mischievous beings, Fairalon is packed with visual interludes that enhance the story without taking it over completely. Middle-grade readers will thus appreciate the enhancements which create visual interest in Iris's adventures.

The second notable feature of Fairalon is an attention to supplementing a fantasy adventure feel with the realistic saga of a young girl's evolving perceptions of her powers, her world, and whom she can trust. Fueled by strong psychological insights and solid character development, it's a story young readers will empathize with as they read about Iris's unusual challenges.

Fairalon excels in a steady plot that offers several twists and turns and much insight on not just the origins of inherited traits, but choices in how power is wielded.

Middle school fantasy fans will be enthralled as Iris' world expands in unanticipated directions. It should be mentioned that its conclusion paves the way for more books, yet completes her story in a manner that is satisfying and exact, making for a fine introduction to what might become a series. An exciting blend of adventure, psychological insight, and beautiful illustrations make Fairalon a prime pick in its genre.

Common Stones
Alicia M. Smith
Inspiring Voices
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 9781462411641 (sc)
ISBN: 9781462411634 (e)
For Purchase:

It's a well-known fact that many people have the strength to overcome impossible obstacles to happiness, health, and better living, and their stories sometimes serve as examples for others. But, exactly how do they overcome and persevere? What reserves do they draw on while reaching for life's positive experiences?

Common Stones may hold a name that sounds ordinary, but its message is anything but common. Its subtitle ("A glimpse into several different worlds, in an effort to become more acquainted with our own") actually holds clearer keys to understanding its approach, while its focus on spirituality, a better connection to God, and the powers of hidden grace make it especially recommended for spiritual readers.

Stories of miracles, achievement, and large and small successes are supplemented by an overall attention to the details of philosophy, psychology, and spiritual living: "We all have a common thread, our own stories, our own soundtracks that represent our lives. We struggle with a desperate hope to persevere. We want to be needed, to be appreciated for our talents, our passions, and our characteristics - what we bring to the table, unique from everyone else on this planet. We want to fulfill some type of purpose, whatever that may be. These threads create not only our own patch of tapestry, but combined, become a bigger idea, a masterpiece linking each of us. Not a single thread can be replaced. It may dull or endure wear and tear, but it maintains its purpose. It supports the others, creating a one-of-a-kind symphony of intention."

The stepping stones of stability and purpose are the focus of this survey, which identifies and shares these approaches to personal freedom. The stories are selected for their ability to impart inspiration, hope, and healing, and blend first-person autobiographies with insights on how the power of prayer and connections changed lives or influenced directions.

At each step, illustrations of how the struggle itself resulted in growth on many different levels makes for a thought-provoking testimonies about different kinds of survival tactics and their ultimate success.

The result is recommended for any Christian and spiritual reader who would look at adversity and life challenges with a new eye to identifying and working with their growth potential: an inspirational read that includes captivating testimonies affirming the superpowers of faith.

The Rose Temple
S. Mitchell Weitzman with Lucia Weitzman
Solomon Berl
9780996117708 $24.95

The Rose Temple: A Child Holocaust Survivor's Vision of Faith, Hope and Our Collective Future blends history and memoir with a social plea as it follows a woman who not only survives the Holocaust, but becomes a spiritual messenger.

Lucia Weitzman's transformation began with her struggle to survive both physically and spirituality: a journey through turns of events that take readers far from the usual Holocaust autobiography about surviving atrocities. The story is told by her son, S. Mitchell Weitzman.

It was after the author's father died that his mother's spiritual exploration began ("Her friends and family expected her to seek security and comfort with a companion. Instead she chose to spend her time documenting her mystical dreams and visions in a private journal.") in a quest that will eventually draw him into what was to prove an incredible journey for them both as son and mother drew together in unexpected new directions: "I began writing The Rose Temple as an admiring son. Unexpectedly, it turned into something more. My own spiritual sensibilities have developed, often in synchronicity with my mother's. It helped promote my own healing. And it has affirmed my role and even my duty to make this a better world. The process has been joyful, challenging and intense."

A popular saying mentions that more value lies in the journey than in the ultimate destination, and readers interested in Weitzman's journey and its accompanying spiritual revelations will thus find The Rose Temple a powerful testimony of faith, endurance, and the evolution of mysticism. Lucia's identity was erased during the Nazi era and her long journey to reclaim her birthright and heritage led her in unexpected directions.

As the wellsprings of divine inspiration pour forth from circumstantial encounters, serendipitous and life-changing events, and a journey of heart, memory and soul, so readers are carried along a passionate ride that seeks answers, connections, and meaning from life.

Though the drama of family encounters and events are evident in perfect autobiographical form, so are the queries into purpose and meaning that elevate The Rose Temple from a Holocaust memoir to something much more: "Perhaps instead of asking if God is communicating to you, you need to ask what God is communicating to you," Mitchell said.

Because events move back and forth in time in place from Poland to New York to Israel and beyond, readers should be prepared for a somewhat mercurial read that flows easily between past and present, with clear chapter headings and contents allowing little possibility of confusion.

Has Lucia been granted life only to save another life? Do her dreams portend a mystical solution? Can her journey and record of these dreams lead to something more?

The Rose Temple is a good choice for those seeking something more than a Holocaust history or memoir: something steeped in spiritual exploration and, ultimately, a journey to arrive at the crux of the meaning of life. While it's a heady read that ultimately asks readers to examine their own lives, it's also fueled with the passion of an individual's journey and thus is accessible to a wide audience: very highly recommended as a standout read in the literature of Holocaust survivors and Jewish spiritual exploration.

The Jigsaw Man
Leigh Goodison
Sheffield Publications
9780692534212, $13.99 (paperback), $6.99 (ebook),

Readers who enjoy good, solid suspense thrillers with thought-provoking premises should muse on what they would do if they woke up one morning to find they were someone else ... but the story doesn't begin here; it actually begins with an impromptu murder conducted by a professional supposedly on the side of the law.

Thirty years later a revolutionary surgical approach to reconstructive surgery based on 3D laser printing and DNA allows a doctor to flawlessly produce a realistic, changed face, opening the door to applications and ethical conundrums she could never have dreamed of.

A partnership between a doctor on the cusp of a revolutionary new treatment and an entrepreneur who sees its possibilities as something more than helping the disfigured is only the surface action in a story that takes many unexpected twists and turns.

At what point does altering a face alter a personality? By what means are monsters created? The thought of a Frankenstein creator's unintended result from manipulating life comes to mind as The Jigsaw Man evolves in complexity. What seems to be a murder mystery changes direction to become a medical thriller and becomes something much more, opening a can of ethical worms in the process.

As masks come off, literally and figuratively, the plot turns into something even more compelling, on the lines of a Robin Cook medical mystery: replete with powerful protagonists, special interests, and a healthy inspection of underlying motivations.

The result is a powerful, top recommendation for readers who relish unpredictable, believable medical murder mysteries fueled by both high technology and solid protagonists.

How to Marry Your Wife
Stella Marie Alden
Soul Mate Publishing
9781619359864, $3.99,

Fans of Alden's prior book How to Train Your Knight might remember the protagonist Thomas in her latest How to Marry Your Wife, who was featured under main character Marcus in the first book. Set in England in 1276, Templar Knight Sir Thomas D'Agostine has found the ideal woman with whom he will handfast; only a love potion hastens matters and changes their lives - and this is only the beginning.

Anticipate the same solid attention to medieval history and detailed sexual scenes as in How to Train Your Knight; only from a different perspective as a minor character assumes major proportions in this novel. Time moves swiftly using two different, alternating timelines identified by chapter headings, so readers need to be on their toes to absorb a satisfyingly fast-paced story line that revolves around romance.

But the marriage (when it happens) is a farce and is completed only because Thomas won't have Merry bedding another man nor raising his son, and so love seems to vanish as the consequences of sex and love potions evolve. It's not often that a brand new bride hates her husband before the marriage takes place, but Merry has been branded a harlot because of Thomas, and her hatred of him is just as intense as her reluctantly ongoing attraction.

The process of turning hate into love and rekindling more than the physical fires of passion is the theme of a rollicking good medieval read that infuses its protagonists with the lingo, culture and social mores of its times, yet includes a healthy dose of sexual description for spicy reading.

Romance readers with an affinity for early history will relish its passionate, powerful protagonists and their diametrically opposing personalities, and will find this saga of scoundrels, secrets, idiots and wise men (and women) is filled with satisfying medieval atmosphere and twists and turns of plot.

Under Alden's hand, the sexual encounters reinforce and flavor events and the juxtaposition of battle scenes, romance, and the era's political overtones is exquisite. There's no need for either a prior familiarity with How to Train Your Knight or with medieval history and culture. As events unfold, Thomas and Merry are continually challenged both in their stormy relationships and in their stubborn natures which will ultimate lead to not just survival, but real love.

Without revealing spoilers, suffice it to say that the conclusion of How to Marry Your Wife leaves the door wide open for more - and readers who relish historical romances will welcome this possibility!

A Passing Phase
J. Paul Devlin
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484834343, Book $12.99/ ebook $6.99

Teenager Nate doesn't see himself as gay, but he's still exploring his sexual identity. He sees himself as a normal teen in flux, and believes his infatuation with boys is likely a passing phase of his life before he ultimately settles down with a girl. But is this really a 'phase'? What if it isn't temporary?

A Passing Phase is an absorbing, realistic exploration of a teen's realization that his sexuality is heading towards an inevitable, singular identity that doesn't fit with his perceptions of how his adult life will evolve.

What begins as an attraction ("Nate had stolen a kiss from Ronnie, and Ronnie's eyes had darted away as he said, "I've always... I've always thought that... you were really cute." Nate had been flying high when he heard that. He'd never had a guy say that about him. But then again he never really thought of himself as cute.") turns into something more consistent than Nate's ever known - and something that will change his ideas of family and connections in unexpected ways.

In some ways A Passing Phase is a typical teen coming-of-age story: picture Catcher in the Rye's grittiness with a heavier dose of sexual description. In other ways it's an in-depth story covering perceptions of right, wrong, social and religious expectations, and what happens when a teen's evolution doesn't fit into anticipated paradigms.

Is Nate's secret relationship with a boy a sin? What's the difference between fun, 'messing around', and a more serious, committed path in life that deviates from everything Nate has been taught to value? Such a struggle would be too hard, and so Nate rejects the possibility after running it by others ("You're not gay. Every guy goes through a phase when they think they might be. I mean, I did." Nate did a double take. Now he felt like the one whose jaw had dropped. "You did?"), and decides to change his apparent sexual direction (" any red-blooded American teenage boy trying to change his sexuality, he just wanted to get laid...").

At the heart of A Passing Phase is the question of whether sexuality is a choice or a pre-programmed, innate trait unique to every individual. Nate believes that with enough determination and desire, he can change; and his efforts revolve around this objective. Pressured on all sides by friends, family, social norm and opinion, and a cast of often-oddball characters, Nate must find his way through a virtual quagmire of opinions and social pressures in order to achieve and understand his true self.

What will give Nate the greatest freedom? Readers should anticipate a number of graphic sexual encounters as Nate embarks on the process of pulling his life and persona together. His interactions with men, women, and the dating scene are realistically portrayed and his different, difficult family relationships are crafted in scenes that portray the fallout of his decisions.

The result is a vivid saga, especially recommended for readers of sexual coming-of-age stories open to the idea of a teen discovering who he really is and what constitutes a 'passing phase' versus a permanent, true direction.

Why Are You Here?
Franklin L. Kury
University Press of America
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
Paperback: 9789761864622 $24.99
eBook: 9780761864539 $24.99

Why Are You Here? A Primer for State Legislatures and Citizens looks deceptively slim at barely over a hundred pages, but its diminutive appearance masks a treasure trove of information on how state legislatures operate that will provide students from high school to college (and the general-interest reading public) with a key to understanding their purpose and function.

Most political process books are overly complex, mirroring the weight of a political system that tends to bog down from its structure. Not so Why Are You Here?, which pairs analytical discussion with clear explanations of how legislatures handle issues of criminal, personal and ethical scandal, lobbyists and special interest groups, and pressures to perform.

Citizens and elected officials will find it packed with insights on these demands and how they are (or are not) handled, with discussions including notes and assessments that stem from real-life political encounters, embracing a practical clarify that is simply refreshing to read: "Legislatures, however, are not seminaries. They cannot teach the basic difference between right and wrong. Individual legislators come to the capitol with whatever moral compass they were raised with at home. A state capitol, with all its pressures and temptations, is not the place to learn a moral code of conduct. Rather, the capitol may be the ultimate testing ground for the strength of that code. On this point all legislators must be accountable to themselves and their constituents."

From monetary expenditures and reapportionment processes to the issues surrounding campaign funding and fairness, the focus on political process and ethical results pinpoint all facets of legislative activity in a manner especially relevant for citizens who envision serving or operating in government and public service sectors.

Franklin L. Kury served six years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and eight in the state's Senate. Citizens and would-be political figures could ask for no clearer assessment of the ethical and political pressures involved in such service than Why Are You Here?, which should be required reading for any who would enter legislative office and for any high school to college-age student who would better understand its workings.

The Last Refuge
Martin Roy Hill
Amazon Digital Publishing
9781518682711 $3.99

Book Two in the Peter Brandt thriller series is set in Iraq in 1991, where a terrible mistake has resulted in the 'friendly fire' massacre of a small group of American soldiers and one mysterious civilian found behind enemy lines. Who was this engineer civilian? When a reporter stumbles upon the aftermath of the story years later and decides to investigate further, events take a darker turn as a cover-up and deadly mystery are revealed.

One of the many attributes of The Last Refuge is that it offers a twist on the usual thriller format of international intrigue, military operations gone wrong, and government secrets. Peter Brandt's moved from being a hired reporter to a freelancer and his comparative freedom in following a case the way he wishes offers mixed opportunities to explore new directions and face different kinds of danger. Just because he's not using the usual investigative routines doesn't mean he's not up to the challenge of a special case, and so his nose for trouble exposes his greatest challenge yet.

Peter doesn't do suicide stories anymore, but this mystery holds one. His home is a small, old office, and his beat has become the beach. All this changes in an instant with a whirlwind of danger as his investigation of the death of Robert Stanning turns into a series of confrontations with too many stunning possibilities revolving around Project Qari and a deadly scenario with Desert Storm.

Industrial espionage, intelligence agents and uncertain friendships, government-sponsored actions, and collateral damage purposely masked by survival decisions: all these are hallmarks of this solid thriller which is spiced with interpersonal actions and surprises throughout that challenge both Peter Brandt and his perceptions of the war.

Although The Last Refuge is fiction, it's based on historical facts. Perhaps that's what lends the story line its realistic, heart-stopping edge and what helps make it a standout in the military/thriller genre, highly recommended for prior fans of Peter Brandt and the espionage/thriller genus as a whole.

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: Un Homme Qui Attend
GN Hetherington
GNH Publishing
9781519235718, 10.00 Brit. pounds

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: Un Homme Qui Attend introduces a French policeman who has been working abroad in London as an investigator for over a decade; but when he's called home, it's not for family reasons but to investigate the death of a child - an event replete with town politics and special interests.

As if a child's deliberate murder wasn't enough, the protagonist of Hugo is quite gay, romance runs through the story line, and the story's sense of place is immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of France: "He exhaled and inhaled again, taking in his first proper gasp of Parisian air for over a decade. Or was it longer? It was true, he believed, that each city, each country had their own smell. Centuries of history left their imprint on atmospheres. Paris, like London, was old and the pages of its history were littered with sense memories that hung in the air, never able to truly dissipate. The smell of wars. The smell of souls that had come and gone."

The result is a powerful saga that does more than describe a veteran investigator's dilemma: it's infused with the culture of France, gay sexuality, and foods, wines, and characters who are steeped in the French countryside: "The mayor had laid on a beautiful spread, local wines, cheese and baguettes that were all delicious and reminded Hugo of the lavish lunches that had been served at his Grand-MŤre's plush home."

All this is part of what serves to make Hugo Duchamp Investigates such a vivid read: even those who have never set foot on French soil will find themselves involved in politics, investigative processes, and personalities that are uniquely French, from village residents to reporters to investigators: "They are investigating this tragic death, they are not paid for by the French public to answer your quite irritating, and pointless questions which are centred more on discrediting me and my office than the real reason we are all here."

As Hugo peels back layers of long-held town secrets, powerful individual special interests, and the specter of possibly more children in danger, he edges ever closer to a truth that might ripple out and destroy long-held secrets and Hugo's world alike. It all boils down to what will be done for love and revenge, and what will be wrecked in the process.

The feisty detective work of Hugo, his French culture, and his love life promise something satisfyingly different in the world of investigative mysteries, and making this especially recommended for readers who enjoy a firm sense of place and a protagonist whose interests and life don't exactly fit the norm.

Helm of Shadows
P G Badzey
Privately Published
9780997139709, $TBA,

The Grey Riders who 'serve the holy way' in Helm of Shadows live on a world called Damora in a star system nearly twenty light years from Earth. It's much like Earth, but it has a number of planets aligned against it, so its enemies are legion and its inhabitants are ruled by prophecy. They use gates that allow them to travel between worlds and regularly confront Daemons who consider Damora their playground.

Against this backdrop these warriors journey south and east on winged steeds that carry their Viking-like heroes to lofty heights and purposes to quench the fires of evil, embarking on a quest for a relic whose powers will change the world even as they confront the dark forces that twist their own hearts.

That's the basic plot of the third (concluding) book in a multi-faceted series, but readers expecting a linear progression of events will be happy to learn that each series title in fact expands upon its predecessors and adds further information about the past, present and future lives of Dar Cabot's family as it wraps its cloak of fantasy around an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue.

Helm of Shadows provides a number of maps to help clarify Damora's geography, uses a rhyme about the Riders and their purpose to introduce them to newcomers to the series, and employs the gaming style of Dungeons and Dragons in book form to bring a successful role-playing formula to new life. Although Helm of Shadows stands well on its own for newcomers to the series, it does represent the third (and final) book in the trilogy, and so is especially recommended for prior fans who will appreciate the neat wrap-up of events and smooth answers to many questions about an ongoing evil and a family's connections to the threat.

Perhaps this is the greatest strength of Helm of Shadows, which sees the series' complex, evolving theme to satisfying fruition. Badzey takes the time, even in his concluding novel, to assure that readers enjoy that same sense of place and time that was crafted in his prior books: "Eric gave the air a long, careful sniff. He detected prairie grass, heather, oakwood, hartberry and fern... some moss and fungus as well. There was something else... something musty and animal-like... it reminded him of a dog."

Dangerous shamen, elven senses, and magical potions that pack protection (and a punch) when consumed ("Holy saints," he coughed after the last. "Peppery, orange, chocolate, salty, lemony and minty, one after the other... I bet Melinor makes those flavors just to laugh at people after they drink them."): by steeping the senses in the flavors, colors, sights and sounds of Damora, Badzey assures that this journey and its consequences are impressively vivid.

Most fantasy sagas (especially multi-volume productions) hold common denominators and attractions: missions, prophecies, extraordinary adversaries, and dangerous encounters that challenge and change hearts and minds. All of these components are central devices of the more successful works.

The best of them, however, create living, breathing protagonists who function so smoothly in their worlds and roles that readers are drawn by both setting and challenge and encouraged to not just care about characters and events, but to envision themselves facing such obstacles with the powers of purpose and choice at their fingertips. And fantasies which add subliminal connections to familiar ideas (whether it be religious, psychological or social) truly stand out from the norm. Such was the case with C.S. Lewis in his Christian-based Narnia fantasy series, and many of these same elements and approaches are intrinsic to Helm of Shadows and its predecessors.

Newcomers who hold a particular affinity for fantasy role playing and complex, action-packed stories from Tolkien to Brooks will be delighted with this winning trilogy which is solid, engrossing, and compelling to the end.

The Murdered Messiah Prologue & Book 1: Miracle in Galilee
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 442 Westlake Village, CA 91362
Ebook: 9780985238117, $.99 cents

If just one epic series set in Jesus' time and revolving around his life and death were to be read, then The Murdered Messiah series would be the winner, rising to the top of all the novels devoted to the subject. The first book Miracle in Galilee introduces the set and provides the basic information key to understanding early Roman times.

Plenty of single novels and a number of series titles have attempted the same thing; but the difference here lies in Len Lamensdorf's focus on the brutalities of Roman overlords during Jesus' times, the daily lives of everyone under them and within the Roman ranks, and how all this affected Jesus' life, choices, and those around him. With such a close inspection of social structure and social issues, it's clear that The Murdered Messiah takes a different approach to its subject right from the start, couching Jesus' persona, spirituality, and developments from Biblical accounts of his life in terms that take into account the actions and impact of political affairs.

How does a good man - even a messiah figure - emerge under the rampant cruelty of his times? How does his word of peace spread? And what are the underlying consequences of his actions, beyond Biblical discussions of their lasting religious impact? The Murdered Messiah answers all these questions and more through its exploration of the juggernaut of Roman brutality and its lasting effects on humanity.

Perhaps the strength of this particular approach lies in its focus on expanding, without refuting, the traditional image of Jesus as a miracle worker and pacifist. Retaining these traditions while adding a depth of political insight and social inspection is no easy achievement, and neither is the juxtaposition of historical fact with religious insights. Most fictional treatments of Jesus favor one approach over the other - but his life is not an 'either/or' situation and so Lamensdorf's treatment abandons both traditional and easy portraits in favor of exploring more complex bigger pictures. This may mean that readers hoping for a casual treatment need to look elsewhere. (In all fairness, there's nothing about a five-book series that promises 'casual'.)

Original research is one reason why The Murdered Messiah diverges from the norm. Did Jesus himself believe he was the Messiah? What did that image entail, and how did he both conform to it and reject its principles? Gospel passages, theological analysis, the early history of Jewish lives under Roman rule, and insights from Jewish and Christian Scripture and sources all contribute to this exploration, which includes numerous maps, a historical timeline of events, black and white early images of Jesus' times, and an approach that is both scholarly and yet accessible to lay readers (that's the beauty of adopting a fictional approach, with its ability to add drama and human elements to the process of a social and political examination.)

Lamensdorf's initial character in the Prologue uses the first person present tense approach to open events in Book One, Miracle in Galilee, and the novel starts with (literally) a bang: "The pounding on the door of my tiny apartment shocked me from sleep at 3 A.M. on a Saturday morning. I didn't immediately respond because I resented being awakened on the Sabbath, the one day I could sleep late. But I knew the voice yelling at me - Wajeeh Nuseibeh."

The sights, smells, sounds, and politics of this old world town come alive in passages that are captivating, realistic, and sparkling with intrigue and mystery from the start: " - Come, come! They will kill each other!" I immediately knew who he meant, and I pulled on pants and a shirt without underclothes and jammed my feet into sandals, while Wajeeh virtually shoved me out the door. It was still dark, but the streets were filled with thousands of pilgrims dressed in thousands of different styles, some carrying flaming torches, some flashlights, all with unlit candles, and all hurrying to the same place. Wajeeh never let go of my arm, dragging me though the narrow streets of the Old City, not letting go even when we bumped into other people or bounced off walls. It wasn't easy running on the uneven streets, even though I was accustomed to this part of the city." The man is Yossi, an Israeli guide on his way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he'll be confronted by six priests and patriarchs, who are furious about the theft of precious ancient scrolls.

But, wait: there are Glock handguns and Israeli/Arab struggles for religious artifacts and areas of Jerusalem! Isn't this the modern world and not Jesus' times? Yes, it is - but past and present are deeply connected in Miracle in Galilee. A date on the Prologue would have eliminated confusion for those who entered the story pre-convinced that all the action would take place in ancient times; but Lamensdorf has a particular objective in mind in keeping the initial dates obscure until Miriam arrives on the scene, and satisfying surprises that confront and challenge a reader's anticipation of events is just one of the devices superbly honed in this series.

Fragments of a life and time bound together and unwound and re-interpreted by a Biblical scholar. A woman named Judith, who claimed to be the sister of Yeshua of Nazareth, who captures the intricacies of her world's logic, actions, politics and social affairs. A close inspection of the psyches and motivations of everyone involved ("This spring morning, Miriam had risen before dark, dressed and hurried to the well, anxious to complete her chores and still have time for a stroll through the hills. She loved to walk through the mists, piercing them with her own footsteps, making them curl and dip and rise in mysterious patterns... Miriam seldom picked the flowers. She hated to kill anything, and besides, plucked flowers would wilt in the heavy heat of the day."). The third person experiences are just as beautifully crafted as the first-person introductory prologue, portraying lives and times with a sparkling attention to detail and realistic feelings.

Up until the Messiah's appearance, which includes this book, the common man prays for a miracle. Caught in the crosshairs of early events that can only lead in one direction, Judas, Joseph, Miriam, and other Biblical figures enter the action and come alive. The plot has taken its time to develop, and has been crafted with an expert's attention to riveting action and realistic events. Time for Book 2!

The Murdered Messiah 2: Massacre Of The Innocents
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 442 Westlake Village, CA 91362
Ebook: 9780985238124, $2.99

In Book Two, Joshua (Jesus) has grown into young adult who faces the realities of his times, Roman rule, and the dangerous character of Pontius Pilate. He meets John the Immerser and encounters many of the trials familiar to the rites of passage of young adulthood, including finding love, coping with family loss, and growing a better understanding of his world.

Joseph has taught his son to follow him in his carpentering career, teaching him care and attention to detail, and Joshua is acknowledged by his parents as a clever child limited only by a sense of recklessness and the kind of impatience that youth cultivates. Together Joseph and Miriam have borne a large family of six more children and are raising each child to be true to the word of God in a world fraught with inconsistencies, challenges, and brutality.

But Joshua is different than the other children. It isn't just his fairer skin and the glow about him; it's the fact that he's growing into some unusual abilities that first appear when family friend Ari is stricken by a stroke, only to be brought back from the edge of death by Joshua's admonition to him not to depart. This is the first clear indication that Joshua is truly different from the others, even though their child won't acknowledge that he's anything special: "How did you heal Ari?" one of the elders asked. Joshua spoke sharply. "Only GOD heals," he said. Something in Joshua's eyes intimidated them. They stepped back, confused. The boy was only eight years old. Why did they feel fear?"

Soldiers and attackers, conflicting feelings about whether to stand up and fight or allow injustice to continue unchecked, pilgrims and rebellions, and the guidance of a young man who stays steady and true to his heart and his God all come to life through dialogue and action that explore Biblical events and provide a solid sense of the times: "Joshua listened to the arguments with avid interest. He could feel the anguish of his people deep in his bones. Jacob poked a hand in his back. "We going back?" he asked. Joshua shook his head. "Why not?" Jacob asked. "Aren't we going to fight for God?" Joshua smiled at him. "Only if the Lord tells us to." "How will we know?" "We won't talk," Joshua said, "we'll listen."

Another notable feature of this book is its ongoing attention to developing sub characters, plots, and political and social atmospheres to explain the rationales, lives, and approaches of protagonists on all sides: "Gaius had little enthusiasm for military service. But he had no personal means beyond his army pay and he was determined not to return to Rome, far from Miriam and her child. Nevertheless, he promised himself that he would stay away from Miriam and thus save both of them further distress. But as the years passed his curiosity continued to grow and he finally resolved to search her out."

Where so many coverages of Jesus' times focus on a single perspective, by Book Two, Massacre Of The Innocents, the pattern of how and why things happen and evolve becomes evident, creating a sweeping saga that strives for historical, Biblical, and psychological and social accuracy in its depictions of the times.

The fact that readers receive this progressive exploration in a lively story that makes for a delightful read both entertaining and thought-provoking (even for those with relatively little background in Biblical history) makes it a highly recommended read for all kinds of audiences. It comes enlivened with the sense of joy, wonder, moral and ethical confrontations, and characters that sparkle in Jesus' life and times. He understands that for John the Immerser, "Impurity did not mean sin, but this fellow was taking care of repentance and cleansing and using the living water to do it. Here was a man doing the Lord's work whose devotion was mixed of equal parts of reverence and joy. Joshua, pleased, laughed to himself."

Can Joshua's approach triumph over brutal forces set on destroying his world? Will his message of love be overcome by vengeance and hatred? Events are riveting and engrossing and conclude with uncertainty and trepidation, setting the stage for Book Three.

The Murdered Messiah 3: Rising Storm
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 442 Westlake Village, CA 91362
Ebook: 9780985238131, $2.99

It may be a misnomer to call Book Three Rising Storm because in many respects, the entire life of Jesus is a rising storm of inevitability because his spirituality and ideals are on a collision course with his world from day one. But be that as it may, Book Three more clearly charts the ensuing journey of Joshua after his world has crumbled, and how his loss and travels result in encounters that solidify his spiritual perspective.

Rising Storm is thus not just about the brutal overlords affecting his life, but the inner storm of emotional and spiritual growth that forces him to consider, analyze, and make choices between religious paths and belief systems.

From his encounter with a desert band of healers, who live and work in a compound near the Dead Sea, and Joshua's new studies into the Torah's words and predictions to his second encounter with Johannon the Immerser, the baptism he accepts, and the newfound path he walks as a leader and preacher, Rising Storm presents a logical series of encounters and progressions that finally begin to fine-tune the character that will emerge as Jesus, who holds a special message to deliver to his troubled world.

While, clearly, any of these books could stand alone; it should be mentioned that their true value lies in their progressive reading, because the story's depth takes five books to tell properly and is actually served as a series of building blocks or stepping stones, with one foundation work segueing neatly into the next.

The point here isn't that Jesus preaches and provides guidance. It's the spiritual, psychological, social and political influences of his times that lead to his special brand of wisdom: "Judas leapt to his feet. "Then we must attack the Romans at once!" Joshua raised a hand to calm Judas, who slowly sat back down on the ground, but his eyes still blazed. "Yes, my friends, we must act - we must confront the Romans, but not with weapons of war. In such a war we are doomed. The Roman armies will overwhelm us. Many, many will die, but we will not be free. The end time will not be the Lord's time it will be the end of Israel. "We must all rise at the same time - not in war, but in peace." And then Joshua reveals his plan, startling in its simplicity, terrifying in the risks it creates, but compelling, as Joshua himself is compelling: courageous wise and totally committed.

This crystal clarity about the progressive nature of these (then) revolutionary concepts cannot be achieved without a sequential reading of each novel in the series; but if the lay reader anticipates this to be a plodding affair requiring much prior Biblical knowledge, it should be noted that neither is a prerequisite.

The novels read with the fiery passion of adventure and intrigue, the thought-provoking depth of both personal introspection and social observation, and with an unusually thought-provoking attention to detail that captures the emotions and perceptions of all kinds of common men and their special interests in Jesus' time: "They say the dove is a bird of peace," Joshua said. "True," the merchant said, "a very lucky bird to own." "I say we need more than luck, friend," Joshua told him, "if we are to have peace." "But there is no war," the merchant said. "Hasn't been a battle fought in these parts for years." Joshua shook his head. "I can't agree with you. People are struggling with hunger and poverty. Many battles are being fought - but they are inner battles - battles of the soul." "I wouldn't know about that," the merchant said. He didn't like the way the conversation was going. As far as he could tell, Joshua carried no purse and there was nothing strapped about his waist. He didn't look like a buyer - though he surely didn't seem dangerous."

The point, many times, is not that Jesus engaged a range of characters in his world - it's how he did so. With exact passages pinpointing the many ways he touched hearts and changed minds, The Murdered Messiah succeeds in achieving what few other novels about Jesus have accomplished by rendering the souls and evolutionary processes of its times into a logical and dramatic story which, even for readers well versed in Jesus' life and times, succeeds in coming to life like few others.

And with the rising tides of passion and purpose comes Book Four, a further engagement between author, reader, and spiritual leader; recommended for anyone who would not just read about the life and times of Jesus, but would feel these peoples and their passions tug at their heartstrings.

The Murdered Messiah 4: Waging Peace
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 442 Westlake Village, CA 91362
Ebook: 9780985238148, $2.99

With the prior three books in the series concurrently following Joshua/Jesus' evolution and growth and the increasing dangers of Roman oppression and brutality, the stage is set for war - which is one topic that makes Waging Peace unexpected from the start. It's no longer enough to oversee healing and miracles on a small scale: as political and social injustices ramp up, it's more clearly Joshua's duty to step up to the plate and respond with a powerful rebuttal.

Again, the 'how' makes for the story here; and his choice of peaceful protests lies both in astute observations (that he has no ability or resources to respond with war and violence in return, even if he wished to) and an option in keeping with God's goodwill and charge to meet brutality and violence with peace by turning the other cheek and serving as a living example of an alternative lifestyle.

Can he change the minds and hearts of the Zealots who are determined to amass forces and meet violence with violence? Can he save both individuals and an entire society and world order? While we believe we know the ultimate outcome there are more surprises yet to come., The Murdered Messiah series isn't about that outcome alone: it's about the choices, consequences, and roads that led there.

At every point the feelings, perceptions, and psyches of the characters are well presented, from Romans to all who interacted with Jesus: "Johannon, the Baptizer, sat on the stone floor in his cell, a small room in one of the towers of Machaerus. There was no window and the only light came from the torches in the corridor. The ceiling was too low for Johannon to stand up, but the room was dry and free of insects. The food was sparse but clean. Johannon was cheerful in his captivity. He was relieved that Joshua, the Messiah, had come, and that his own service was, therefore, at an end. He hoped to see the new king firmly on the throne before he died, but considered his own continued existence of little importance. All that mattered was that God had decided that the hour for Israel's rescue had arrived and that made Johannon very happy."

These specific insights, from doubts to convictions, lend The Murdered Messiah its strength in portraying how individuals and ultimately nations are swayed, changed, and embark on different journeys: "After leaving Joshua, Judas felt serious misgivings. He had promised Joshua that the Zealots would come to the festival in great numbers, but they would not carry weapons. Nevertheless, He had told the Zealots they should bring their weapons and hide them somewhere in or very close to the city. whated himself for his uncertainty. Did he believe in Joshua's non-violent methods or not?"

As Joshua ben Joseph becomes increasingly and widely acknowledged as the Messiah of legend, forces are set in motion that lead toward the inevitable tragedy that Jesus has already foreseen..

From the personal risk Joshua represents to Governor Pilate to his crafty decision to let Joshua's supporters reveal themselves so he better knows his enemies, the depth and detail continue to inject realistic, logical, and compelling drama into this fourth coverage of Jesus' life and times.

Time for the conclusion in Book Five - and even though readers may believe they know the ending, they may well be surprised, and they should anticipate the same blend of subject and psychology that successfully mingles political and social insights with a solid attention to recreating the psyches and sentiments of the times in an approach that injects the entire saga with new life.

The Murdered Messiah Book 5: Death and Tranfiguration & Epilogue
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 442 Westlake Village, CA 91362
Ebook: 9780985238148, $2.99

Passover, The Feast of Liberation, is approaching, and matters laid out in the previous four books are coming to a head in what will become both an ending and a new beginning for Joshua and his believers.

Jerusalem has become the focal point of troop activity, pilgrim and rebel alliances, and the massing of forces on all sides, further complicated by the hidden Zealots who have amassed weapons in preparation for a bloodbath. In such a scenario, conflict is inevitable. The only question is: how many will die? And Joshua, in his wisdom, sees that his choices and actions are one of the few variables that will dictate this last piece of the complicated equation.

From plots and meetings with high priests to Joshua's serene convictions, the final book in the series shines with compelling scenes that mix religious beliefs, political events, and special interests. It's here that readers will come to recognize the final power of Jesus' life and his interactions with all the disparate forces of his times, and here that some of the series' most powerful scenes are vividly portrayed: "I have not come here to quarrel with you. I am here in the hope that we share the same vision: the peaceful liberation of Israel and that we, as all Jews, may share in that liberation. I want you to know what my intentions are, so that you may inform the Sanhedrin, if you choose, so that all men of wisdom and influence may share in this great day." Caiaphas was totally confused. He had been certain Joshua had come to ask him to participate in his coronation and he had been ready to refuse in the most ringing terms. Joshua, it seemed to him, had evaded the issue, but he wasn't even certain of that. What did this man want? Caiaphas was too arrogant to ask a direct question."

The intricacies of behind-the-scenes political and religious maneuvers become clearer as Joshua's role in his world becomes more complex and understandable: "Caiaphas had deliberately not called a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin, deliberately not called all of the members. He knew that what action might be taken would not, in terms of the established traditions, be fully legal.... They gathered in his great hall, most of the more important men of the nation. They were priests and scholars, landowners and merchants. Some were wealthy, some rather poor, most somewhere in between. They were all noted, in one degree or another, for their devotion to the law and to the nation. Most important of all, they were devoted to God."

It's this deeper attention to not just actions and events but underlying influences, meanings, and intentions that lends the entire series an exceptional sense of place, purpose, and logic where so many similar attempts fall short.

As readers move towards the final series of events, absorbing these details along the way, the sequences of Joshua's choices and their impacts (and the inevitability of the line he's walked from birth) becomes clearer than ever.

"A chill spread through Caiaphas's bones. He suddenly felt old, very old. And the honor and glory of being the High Priest seemed a great burden, as if all the sacrifices of a Passover had been heaped upon his head instead of the altar.

Pilate's lips pried open and the words came forth like darts. He had to know, had to be sure "Who is this man?" he asked.

For a moment, they all stared at him as if he were mad. But he had moved forward until he was within a few steps of the prisoner. Joshua looked at him with cool, blue eyes that hardly blinked. He showed no fear and little concern. Pilate wondered, did he know, did he understand what they had in store for him? Impossible. He couldn't know, and remain serene.

"Who are you?" Pilate asked.

"If I told you," Joshua said in his mellow, compelling voice, "you would neither believe nor understand."

The final acts and decisions the Roman oppressors make, thinking the Jews will remember this man and learn a lesson in futility rather than remembering him as a leader promoting new beginnings, sets the stage for the world to come.

A first-person Epilogue returns events full circle to where they began, with Leila, an Arab-Israeli and noted archeologist, and the scrolls which have provided another, more religiously controversial perspective on the life of Jesus. Which is the more accurate interpretation of history? As Leila struggles with professional challenges that include the Vatican itself, the importance of her work and of the different insights on Jesus' life and times become strikingly apparent.

Why is this so important? Consider this: "All Christians believe that Jesus was crucified by the Romans, that he was laid to rest, that he was resurrected, made many appearances to his disciples and others on earth, and was then translated to heaven. If you challenge these beliefs you are insulting and offending two billion people - many of whom will instantly become the enemies of Israel."

A compelling story driven by the motivations, fears, and temperament of the times pairs with a powerful historical re-interpretation of events to make The Murdered Messiah series a top recommendation even for those who have read many a fictional re-interpretation of the life of Jesus. It's much more than a rehash of the life of Jesus: it's about his entire world and how it evolved socially, politically, and spiritually.

The entire series presents a magnitude of depth lacking in similar-sounding treatments and cements all in a satisfying blend of solid research and attention to psychological depth that will delight all kinds of readers.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Free Knowledge
Patricia W. Elliott & Daryl H. Hepting
University of Regina Press
University of Regina
3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, S4S 0A2
9780889773653, $27.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: Alarms are being sounded around the globe over the increasing commercialization of public knowledge for private profit. Whether you are a farmer, a medical patient, or a library user, these developments impact your daily life. Knowledge privatization holds growing sway over the choice of the foods you eat, the medicine you take, the software you use, the music you hear, and even the flowers you plant in your own backyard. This is the result of a world where plant seeds have become subject to patents, medical research is overseen by pharmaceutical giants, universities are beholden to corporate funders, and indigenous knowledge is expropriated. The good news is that people are fighting back, working to create spaces where humanity's knowledge can be reclaimed and shared for the public good. Composed of fifteen essays from seventeen writers, ranging from academics to farmers to indigenous knowledge keepers, "Free Knowledge: Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery" is a seminal body of work on the front lines of the shared project of creating and protecting our Knowledge Commons.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Patricia W. Elliot (Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism at the University of Regina, Canada) and Daryl H. Hepting (Associate Professor of Computer Science and an Associate Member of the Film Department at the University of Regina, Canada), Free Knowledge: Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery" is a clarion call for awareness of how corporations in the name of commercial profiteering are seeking to subvert and expropriate information in our increasingly knowledge-based economy and it's supportive political and educational systems. Compelling, timely and a seminal anthology of outstanding and deftly presented scholarship, "Free Knowledge: Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery" is very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Educational Issues, Public Policy Issues, Social Issues, and Contemporary Ethics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Boy Wanted
Ryan Christiansen
North Dakota State University Press
North Dakota State University
Dept. 2360, PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
9780911042832, $13.00, PB, 124pp,

Synopsis: When Alvi's father, a failed auctioneer in the North Dakota town of Red River, becomes tangled up in bootlegging and leaves town during the Great Depression, Alvi and his mother find themselves in dire straits. Hiring himself out for work, Alvi helps an old man build a ski jump along the river. Alvi learns about his Norwegian antecedents and ski jumps, and a young girl named Rose -- along with other things less welcomed.

Critique: "Boy Wanted" is a deftly crafted novel set in the era of America's Great Depression that showcases author Ryan Christiansen as a master storyteller of the first rank. A compelling read from beginning to end, "Boy Wanted" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections.

From Stress to Growth
Marcus Noland & Donghyun Park, editors
Peterson Institute for International Economics
1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20036
9780881326994, $28.95, PB, 386pp,

Synopsis: Asian financial systems, which serve the most economically dynamic region of the world, survived the global economic crisis of the last several years. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Marcus Noland and Donghyun Park, "From Stress to Growth: Strengthening Asia's Financial Systems in a Post-Crisis World" is comprised of insightful contributions by scholars affiliated with the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Asian Development Bank who argue in separate essays that Asian systems must strengthen their quality, diversity, and resilience to future shocks in order to deliver growth in coming years. "From Stress to Growth" examines such phenomena as the dominance of state-owned banks, the growth of non-bank lending (the so-called shadow banks), and the need to develop local bond markets, new financial centers, and stronger supervisory tools to prevent dangerous real estate asset bubbles. China's large financial system is discussed at length, with emphasis on concerns that China's system has grown too fast, that it is overly tilted toward corporate borrowing, and that state domination has led to overly easy credit to state-owned actors. Asia needs investment to improve its infrastructure and carry out technological innovation, but the contributors to "From Stress to Growth" argues that the region's financial systems face challenges in meeting that need.

Critique: A work of solidly detailed and researched scholarship, "From Stress to Growth: Strengthening Asia's Financial Systems in a Post-Crisis World" is a highly recommended and essential contribution to corporate, governmental, and academic library Contemporary Economics reference collections in general, and Asian Economics supplemental studies lists in particular. Of special note is 'Financing Asia's Growth' by Gemma B. Estrada, Marcus Noland, Donhgyun Park, and Arief Ramayandi. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "From Stress to Growth" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.95).

Walk, Don't Run
Steven Jae Johnson
Kallisti Publishing
332 Center Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
9780984816262, $15.00, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: "Walk, Don't Run: A Rockin and Rollin Memoir" is the personal story of Steven Jae Johnson. It's a life story that is by turns glamorous, inspiring, and gritty a marvelous fusion of the ups, downs, and in-betweens of life and music and passion in 1960s Hollywood, California -- the place where dreams are made and chased and, sometimes, die.

When Steven Rusty Johnson, Eddie Olmos, and Joey Zagarino met in high school in 1962, the sky was the limit and rock n roll stardom was a record deal away. These three friends forged a life-long friendship that would take them through triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat, success and failure all in the pursuit of reaching the rock n roll dream.

"Walk, Don't Run" is not only the story of three dreamers, it is a true tale that shows that success and life is about taking it from the top, catching a good groove, and taking it one beat at a time.

Critique: Told with candor, insight, detail, wit, and hard won wisdom, "Walk, Don't Run: A Rockin and Rollin Memoir" is an inherently fascinating read. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Walk, Don't Run" is very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Walk, Don't Run" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Elijah in Jerusalem
Michael D. O'Brien
Ignatius Press
PO Box 1339, Fort Collins, CO 80522
9781586179465, $22.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: A convert from Judaism, a survivor of the Holocaust, and a participant in the founding of Israel, Father Elijah was for decades a monk on Mount Carmel, the mountain made famous by his Old Testament prophet-namesake. In the events of the preceding novel, the Pope commissioned Father Elijah to meet the President of the European Union, a man rising toward global control as President of the soon- to-be realized World Government. Recognizing in the President a resemblance to the anticipated Antichrist, the Pope asked Father Elijah to call the President to repentance, a mission that ended in failure.

Now a Bishop, Elijah is wanted for a murder he did not commit, tries again to meet the President. Accompanied by his fellow monk Brother Enoch, he enters Jerusalem just as the President arrives in the holy city to inaugurate a new stage of his rise to world power. This time Elijah hopes to unmask him as a spiritual danger to mankind. As the story unfolds, people of various backgrounds meet the fugitive priest, and in the encounter their souls are revealed and tested.

Elijah perseveres in his mission even when all seems lost. The dramatic climax is surprising, yet it underlines that God works all things to the good for those who love him.

Critique: "Elijah in Jerusalem" is the long-awaited sequel to the author Michael D. O'Brien's outstanding first novel "Father Elijah: An Apocalypse", and continues the story of a Catholic priest who is called to confront a powerful politician -- a man who could be the Antichrist whose coming was foretold in the Bible. A riveting page-turner of a read, "Elijah in Jerusalem" is very highly recommended and deftly crafted novel. Christian fiction at it's very best, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Elijah in Jerusalem" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.77).

Proclivities: A Pop Culture Odyssey
Jay Alan Reeves
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480816336, $35.95, HC, 242pp,

Synopsis: "Proclivities: A Pop Culture Odyssey" by Jay Alan Reeves is comprised of a series of essays that throws politically correct ideas out the door and delivers a candid look at the dynamics of modern pop culture thinking. You will find random thoughts on words that start with N and an examination of the thinking of liberals as compared to conservatives, including their different thoughts on global warming. Of special note is a fun section on the nature of the human male as well as a penetrating examination on the chronic condition of "vaginitis" also known as Chronic Complaining Syndrome; (CCS) which describes a small minority of constantly complaining women. There are also a few succinct and insightful comments on politics and economics, including; "Liberal economist? There is no such thing as a liberal economist. You are either liberal or an economist! Asking a liberal to discuss economics is like asking Satan to discuss Christianity".

Critique: Iconoclastic, exceptional, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Proclivities: A Pop Culture Odyssey" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Philosophy & American Popular Culture collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Proclivities: A Pop Culture Odyssey" is also available in a paperback edition (9781480816350, $17.99) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Two Crowns
John Graham O'Neill
Mercadier Publishing
25/51 Leahy Close, Narrabundah, Canberra, ACT
9780994268426, $35.00, HC, 514pp,

Synopsis: The Crown of Thorns held in the Notre Dame Cathedral is a fake. The reliquary held in the Treasury and revered by the Christian world is not the Crown of Thorns that was brutally thrust on Jesus Christ's head for his crucifixion.

In the year C.E. 75, an old priest chisel's words onto a small stone tablet declaring that the Crown of Thorns held in the Church of Zion, is a fake! In the year C.E.34 Joseph of Bethany, then a ten-year-old boy, stole the Crown of Thorns that fell from the head of Jesus Christ when he was brought down from the cross, forcing the Roman Soldiers to make another crown to deliver to the Church.

Revelation of the existence of the real Crown of Thorns stands to destroy the Christian belief of the revered reliquary that has been held in the Notre Dame Cathedral since 1239. The Venetian Merchant, Bertrando Ferrante who sold the Crown to King Louis the ninth of France, foolishly admits to the corrupt Archbishop of Vincennes to finding evidence that the Crown delivered to King Louis is a fake! An enraged Archbishop tries to arrest Bertrando. While Bertrando escapes, the Church pursues Bertrando and the Ferrante Family over the centuries to admit to the crimes of heresy and blasphemy.

During the First World War, a German General serving in Turkey is an unwilling possessor of the Crown and decides to help the Ferrante family clear its name.

The real Crown of Thorns has the power to heal people if they are still alive; but not the possessor. A message on the floor of the leather case that holds the real Crown, while written in Hebrew, is an ancient code that defies attempts to decipher it by any of the possessors throughout its journey; until Charles Edmonds and Lord James Halliday become involved in 1989.

The epic journey of the real Crown through the ages reveals the evil of man, exquisite love, greedy grasping commercialism, heartbreaking tragedy, and the intense passion of those who have either possessed the Crown or stolen it.

Critique: An impressively written saga, "Two Crowns" by John G. O'Neill is an inherently fascinating and fully absorbing novel from beginning to end. This deftly crafted literary work is an extraordinary read and very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Two Crowns" is also available in a paperback edition (9780994268402, $25.00) and in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Summit Lake
Charlie Donlea
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781496700988, $25.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled. At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca's friendships, her love life (and the secrets she was keeping) the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past.

Critique: Exceptionally well written from beginning to end, "Summit Lake" is all the more impressive when considering that this deftly crafted mystery is author Charlie Donlea's debut as a novelist. A riveting read from first page to last, "Summit Lake" is very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For individual mystery buffs it should be noted that "Summit Lake" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99) and in an MP3 CD format ($19.99).

All Jokes Aside
Raymond Lambert & Chris Bournea
Agate Bolden
c/o Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781932841954, $16.00, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Chris Rock. Jamie Foxx. Steve Harvey. Dave Chappelle. Some of the biggest names in American entertainment today all appeared at Raymond Lambert's club All Jokes Aside, the legendary Chicago showcase for African-American comedy, early in their careers. Collaboratively written by Raymond Lambert and Chris Bournea, "All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is an insightful memoir follows up on Lambert's critically acclaimed 2012 Showtime documentary, Phunny Business, and tells the story of his life as seen through the lens of All Jokes Aside, showcasing its successes, failures, and lessons learned. By the late 1980s, Lambert was earning a six-figure salary as an investment banker on Wall Street, but dreamed of starting his own company. With zero experience, an equally committed partner, and a little borrowed money, he opened All Jokes Aside, and before long was helping to launch some of the biggest names in comedy. "All Jokes Aside" is story of Lambert's journey, a behind-the-scenes look at the world of show business, and an inspiring tale for any would-be entrepreneur. Chock-full of cautionary tales both humorous and dramatic, revealing details on the early careers of top performers, and tangible guidance on how to build a business from the ground up, "All Jokes Aside" is a much-needed recent history of black entertainment and a powerful memoir of entrepreneurial ups and downs in the entertainment business.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, " "All Jokes Aside: Standup Comedy Is a Phunny Business" is very highly recommended for community library collections where it is certain to be an enduringly popular addition. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "All Jokes Aside" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Elevation: 6,040
Ernest J. Finney
Texas Review Press
c/o Texas A&M University Press
4354 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4354
9781680030495, $12.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: It's 1981, and thirteen-year-old Roscoe McAdams and his brother and sister have always lived with their parents, Sebastian and Moonstar, in an isolated cabin high on a ridge in California's northern Sierra, though often in spring when Moonstar can't stand the snow anymore she takes them for a stay down below. They've mostly been home-schooled. Then, through a fluke that April, Moonstar becomes a substitute teacher in a small town and enrolls the kids in school there. Roscoe assumes that when summer comes, they'll go back to the ridge and Sebastian: that's how it's always been. But they don't, and then everything Roscoe thinks he knows for sure begins to fall apart.

Critique: Winner of the 2014 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize, "Elevation: 6,040" is a deftly crafted story by Ernest Finney that offers an impressively consistent entertainment from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Elevation: 6,040" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Motion to Kill
Joel Goldman
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
978143610296, $15.21,

A dead body washes up on the shore of a Missouri lake. It turns out to be Richard Sullivan, an up and coming powerful Kansas City lawyer. A short time later another partner, is found dead. For trial attorney Lou Mason the two bodies are related. As he delves into the case he finds out just how. "Motion to Kill" is a great legal thriller that slowly builds to a suspenseful ending.

Razor's Edge
Robert W. Walker
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
97815581671, $7.99,

"Razor's Edge: opens with a murder in Orlando, a medical examiner like Quincy is brought in to help solve a series of grisly murders. The author began with a great premise but clearly did not do very much research into the Central Florida area when he has Seminole Indians in modern day Altamonte Springs. He also has other nonsense that detracts from the story. "Razor's Edge" could have been a much better novel if the author had done his homework.

Final Justice
Nancy Kopp
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451410276, $6.99,

Ann Monroe is a highly principled attorney who chooses her cases very carefully. She becomes a target of hate groups who want her not to represent a particular client. Whatever it takes she will not cave into their demands. Another case is of a student who cannot graduate from high school because the administration has a strict no tolerance policy which is interesting because the student saved a classmate's life when she had an allergic reaction to something she had eaten. The school's punishment policy is just too strict for the situation. "Final Justice" is a fast paced story that says a lot abut the legal system.

The Killing Man
Mickey Spillane
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781101174623, $6.99,

After a long absence Mickey Spillane returned with "The Killing Man" that was worth the wait. Mike Hammer enters his office to find a dead body sitting in his chair with a note attached to the corpse, while his secretary is on the floor unconscious. The novel races along in typical Spillane fashion to a final showdown between Hammer and the killer. "The Killing Man" was a welcome addition to the series of Mike Hammer novels.

Just Revenge
Alan M. Dershowitz
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
97804465608718, $7.99

Alan M. Dershowitz poses a moral dilemma in "Just Revenge." For professor Max Menuchen, the Holocaust has never gone away. The Nazis wiped out his entire family. Max learned that Marcellus Pranclus, the militia captain who carried out the orders to kill his family, now lives in the same city as Max. Now Max engineers a plan to seek revenge on Pranchlus and his family that oversteps the laws of the United States. Attorney Abe Ringle from the novel "Advocate's Devil," defends Max. Legally what his client has done is a criminal act but morally it's not. "Just Revenge" is a two-fold novel. On the one hand it's a great novel, while on the other hand it's a warning to never forget what the Nazis did to innocent people in World War Two.

Glenda Sanders
Harlequin Temptation
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373253340, $5.99,

"Gypsy" begins in a fictional Florida town when a sheriff teams up with a woman who was once a gypsy. As the unlikely pair work together, they find they have strong feeling for each other while pursuing the bad guys. "Gypsy" is light hearted fair that is sure to please any romance fans.

Mama Solves a Murder
Nora Deloach
Hollaway House
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780870677410, $7.99

The Mama mysteries by Deloach are fun reading. The mother and daughter team of Candi and Simone Covington solve mysteries in light hearted tales that are fast paced. The relationship of mother and daughter and how they work together to solve their cases adds to the enjoyment of the books. "Mama Solves a Murder" is easy reading with very likable characters.

Daddy Darling
Glenda Sanders
Harlequin Temptation
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373253340, $5.99,

Dory Karol a graduate of Florida State, lives and works in Tallahassee; her boyfriend, Scott Rowland is a professor at the university of Florida in Gainesville. They have a perfect weekend together relationship for three years until Dory finds herself pregnant with Scott's child. Complications in their relationship change hem Sanders tells a fine story with great banter between her characters "Daddy Darling" is Sanders' most graphic work and some of her fans may find it a little harder to take.

Waiting on America From One Server to Another
Mario Ponce
Amer Service Pubns
9780962397738, $16.90,

If you are considering any job in the serving industry "Waiting On America" is a must read title. The author gives pointers on how to deal with even the worst customer and still get a good tip. Many of the things the author deals with are sound logical conclusions that will help to make eating out a more enjoyable experience for the diner. "Waiting on America has been included in the training of workers by the restaurant chain Red Lobster.

Making Magic, How Orlando Won an NBA Team
Pat Williams with Larry Guest
Tribune Publising
435 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611
9780941263115, $3.98 used,

"Making Magic" tells the fully story how the Magic came into being. Williams and Guest reveal the behind the scenes such as the con artist named "The Cakeman" who almost single handedly destroyed all that William and his backers had accomplished or how the Orlando's support could have lost he franchise. "Making Magic is a fan's paradise of funny and not so funny tales of how a city got its team.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Checked Out
Elaine Viets
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451466327, $24.95/29.95 CA$, Hardcover, 276 pp,

This is the 14th book in the Dead-End Job Mysteries by Elaine Viets, who also authors the Mystery

Shopper Series which features Josie Marcus. The protagonist in the present novel is Helen Hawthorne, who with her husband and private eye partner, Phil, run Coronado Investigations, in Fort Lauderdale. When Helen is hired to find a missing watercolor by John Singer Sargent whose worth is estimated to be a million dollars due in part to a handwritten note by Clark Gable on the reverse side, Helen goes undercover as a library volunteer to try to find the small piece of art, part of a collection donated to the Flora Park Library, which is believed to be tucked into one of the thousands of books which comprise the collection, as have been two other important documents, a birth certificate and a deed to a Tallahassee property. The various characters who people the library and become suspects include the library director, the librarian whose province is the checkout desk, the head of the Friends of the Library, and a benefactor who confuses the library with her own persona, among others. Another mystery arises with an apparent ghost haunting the library.

At the same time, Phil is tasked with his own undercover job, as a gardener at a luxurious home from which the owner's gift to his daughter on her 21st birthday, a very expensive diamond and ruby necklace, has been stolen, as has a golf cart, as to which I suppose one has to be a Floridian to understand. Another colorful group of characters populate this aspect of the story.

Not surprisingly, the author includes references to various authors, mainly but not exclusively those who write mysteries, along with a lot of interesting information not familiar to those of us who are not librarians. There is also a lot of what I found to be somewhat superfluous descriptions of the clothes worn by the library's workers and patrons. Things get more sinister when a fatal hit-and-run incident occurs, the only clue being that the vehicle in question was white, following which nearly every car owned or driven by any of the characters is white, nearly each of these sporting a dent or a ding from one supposedly innocent event or another. The author amps up the suspense as the book nears its conclusion and the solution to the two sets of mysteries. As always, Ms. Viets has provided us with a very entertaining novel. It is a fast read, and one which is recommended.

And Sometimes I Wonder About You
Walter Mosley
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385535977, $25.95, Hardcover, 308 pp.,

Leonid Trotter McGill's New York City office now officially answers its phone "McGill and Son detective agency," a recent development. One of his sons, Twilliam (usually just "Twill"), is a new addition. His relationships with just about all his nearest and dearest being fraught with complexities: He hasn't seen his father, Clarence, the charismatic revolutionary who calls himself "Tolstoy" McGill, in years; his wife has recently attempted suicide. His "blood son" and daughter are Dmitri and Tatyana; Twill and Shelly are the two sired by other men but who Leonid raised exactly the same as his own offspring. And then there is Gordo, his mentor, boxing trainer, and the man who he considers "his true father."

Those relationships, and the assorted women who cross his path, either professionally or otherwise, (with several of whom he falls in love or lust, or both) are a major part of this novel, the balance of which are the several cases that come to him. These multiple plot lines arise in different parts of the book, which is as complex as these may make it sound. But with this master storyteller, that is not a deficit. The first of these is introduced in the first pages of the book, and she is a gorgeous woman named Marella Herzog, who fits both definitions: Client and lover. Their first meeting, when he is aware of a scent she is wearing, causes "a strong reaction in a section of my heart that had almost been forgotten." He describes his secretary as having "gray-blue eyes [which] carried all the sadness of the last days of autumn and her voice was so soft that it could have been a memory." Another sometime lover is the "color of pure gold that hadn't been polished for some years," with hair that was "naturally wavy and darkly blond."

He thinks "sadness had as many striations as a rainbow - - only in grays." The writing is replete with lines like these: When McGill visits his wife in the hospital, he thinks "I wanted to say something kind, to slap her and tell her to snap out of it. I would have torn out my hair if I wasn't already bald." McGill, 55, is self-described as an "old, off-the-rack straphanger;" and "it has always amazed me how a woman's eyes and her words can find a direct line to my animal heart;" when he speaks to a waitress, she smiles at him, and he muses "as had been its purpose since humans became a species, the smile socialized me." I briefly had a difficult time recognizing the quote that provides the title of the book, but the author kindly reminded me: "Sometimes I think that everybody in the world in crazy, except for me and you - - and sometimes I wonder about you." The writing throughout is wonderful, but then we expect nothing less from this author, who carries the reader along swiftly on the ride through his newest, 49th novel, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.

Killer, Come Hither
Louis Begley
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553392449, $16.00, Paperback, 272 pp.,

The protagonist of Louis Begley's newest novel is Jack Dana, a former Marine Corps Infantry officer who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being badly wounded and returning home. He is now, seven years later, a bestselling writer, with two books behind him and a third in its early stages. He is a self-described warrior, as were his father and grandfather before him. Having attended Oxford and Yale and invited to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard, there also following in his forebears' footsteps. The latter was a graduate of Harvard College and had been awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star; his grandfather the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.

Now his only remaining relative is his father's brother, Harry [now Jack's surrogate father], a prominent New York attorney, who himself had graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law and was a leading partner at a prominent New York law firm. Shockingly, en route home after a long over-due vacation in Brazil, Jack discovers that his beloved uncle is dead, having been found hanging in his Sag Harbor home in the exclusive east end of Long Island.

Jack becomes convinced that his uncle had not committed suicide, especially after he is told that Harry's secretary was also dead, after an apparent accident that had put her in the path of an oncoming subway train, one day after Harry's body was discovered. He believes that both deaths had to be connected to the law firm and its largest client, a Texas oilman and right-wing multi-billionaire and activist whose political beliefs had him "somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society and Attila the Hun." Aided by Scott Prentice, his closest friend since their days at school, and Kerry Black, recently made partner at the firm and Jack's lover, he pursues his own investigation. Soon, faced with the near impossibility of finding the man who he believes caused his uncle's death, the meaning of the title becomes clear: Jack decides he must make the man come to him.

It was a bit disconcerting to me that, as the novel is written in the first person, nowhere in the book do quotation marks appear, and it was initially off-putting, to have to realize in the middle of a paragraph that what appears on the page is not exposition, but a conversation between two people. But I hasten to add that when the plot, and the suspense, kicks up a notch or three, about mid-way through the novel, I didn't even notice that, I was so busy turning pages. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and recommended.

Thieves Fall Out
Gore Vidal, writing as "Cameron Kay"
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 Central Park West, NY, NY 10025
9781781167922, $22.99, 25.95 CA$, 16.99 BPS, Hardcover, 240 pp,

It had been a long time since I'd read a novel by Gore Vidal (partially due to the fact that he passed away 3-1/2 years ago at age 86). It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to read a novel by thisprolific author, thanks to publisher Hard Case Crime, which discovered a lost pulp crime novel written in 1952, unavailable for more than 60 years and never published under his real name. This is a tale of a down-on-his-luck American trying to smuggle an ancient treasure out of Egypt on the eve of a bloody revolution.

From the publisher: It is a pulp yarn through and through, defiantly non-literary (and non-P.C., but then Vidal always was that, with echoes of "Casablanca" in its wartime intrigues and desperate rogues. But it will also hold interest for modern readers for its depiction of Egypt in the throes of a revolution, with the ouster of a corrupt monarch leading to rioting in the streets, bloodshed and chaos.

Peter Wells, 31 years old, born in Salem Oregon, finds himself in Cairo in July, the hottest possible time of the year. He has been robbed by a prostitute and left penniless with nothing except, fortunately, his passport. In quick succession, he meets two beauteous young woman, one French and one German, each of whom quickly has him under her spell, despite warnings against each and a slight unease that they may each cause harm, either directly or indirectly, to him, as well as the mission he is on: to smuggle out of the country a piece of jewelry said to be cursed but worth over $100,000, for a 'commission' of 10%, which he desperately needs. The not-too-far-distant history of one of the women with Nazis, and of the other with the present Egyptian king, in addition to a mysterious hunchback known as Le Mouche, enter into the tale as well.

The novel reads quickly, and the plot is intriguing, neither Peter nor the reader knowing who can be trusted, and certain that each has been telling him nothing but lies. It is a very interesting novel, especially considering its true authorship, and is recommended.

It Won't Always Be This Great
Peter Mehlman
Bancroft Press
3209 Bancroft Road, Baltimore, MD 21215
9781610881364, $16.95, Paperback, 374 pp.,

This is a first novel from a writer whose background includes longtime writing for the tv show "Seinfeld," which gives one an inkling of what will be found in its pages:. Its plot is somewhat hard to describe, for it consists of a tale told by its protagonist, to a friend, the identity of whom is made known to the reader only very gradually. Suffice it to say that the latter has known since their college days at Baltimore University. The story he is relating (at what even he describes as being at a "ridiculously slow pace") is a series of events which took place the previous December and unfolded over a period of days, events triggered by a moment of rage on his part. To say the least, it is non-sequential, which can be seen by its chapter titles: "Friday, Then and Now," "Saturday Then," "Saturday Now," "Sunday Then," "Monday Then," "Sunday Now," and "Tuesday Then."

Our nameless protag is a podiatrist, now 51 years old, married for over 20 years to the former Alyse Epstein, from whom he grew up "fifteen miles and ten income tax brackets apart." They have 2 children, and live in a community on Long Island whose population is primarily Jewish. The kids go to "public school because I wanted my kids to meet a black person before they turned thirty." Those two things - the religious affiliation and the racial reference - - are important to the tale, but in a very funny way. The story itself is nearly impossible to sum up without spoilers; suffice it to say that it involves, among other things, cops, reporters, hate groups and the FBI.

This book was a welcome change of pace for this reader, after the more common fare of thrillers and suspense novels, and was an absolute delight. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and I found myself still smiling several minutes after I'd put down the book for sundry necessary tasks, such as eating. But otherwise I didn't want to put it down at all. It is highly recommended.

How a Gunman Says Goodbye
Malcolm Mackay
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316337335, $15.00, Paperback, 356 pp.,

This is the second book in The Glasgow Trilogy, following The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. That title character, Lewis Winter, was a necessary sacrifice two months before the present action, in what would be only the first step in an all-out war between crime syndicates the likes of which hadn't been seen for decades.

From the publisher: Frank MacLeod is one of the best at what he does. Thoughtful. Efficient. Ruthless. But with his health failing him, how long before he's no longer of use to his employers? A new job. A target. A chance for Frank to prove he's still got what it takes. Something is about to go horribly wrong, though. And up-and-coming hitman Calum MacLean will be called upon to pick up the pieces. Most gunmen say goodbye to the world with a bang. Frank's still here. No longer in his prime, certainly, at 62. But with decades of experience at the top of his profession, underestimating such a man could prove to be deadly.

Calum, 29, is a good choice for several reasons: He has never been arrested, no convictions, never seen the inside of a jail cell. He's been in the business for over ten years. He succeeds in finishing the job MacLeod couldn't. And the fallout over that job is that his boss feels Frank may have no further use to him. Callum, Frank's mentee, is at the heart of the solution. The title is not meant as an existential question, it is a very realistic one. When a hired killer has to pack it in, so to speak, how does he go about it? Frank thinks "He's lasted longer than he should have. Retirement, old age, they aren't things men in his line of work usually have to deal with . . . Gunmen don't get happy retirements. Nobody gets to walk away." It quickly becomes obvious that not many people can be trusted to do the jobs they are being paid to do, or not only those jobs at any rate, no matter which side of the law they're on. Frank thinks, prophetically, "Typically, really, you should never trust anyone in this business."

Calum is a fascinating man. About a third of the way through the book, we are told that "Calum's reading a book. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, if you care." And he is experimenting with a real relationship, for nearly the first time. Interestingly, p.o.v. moves among the men in "the business" or "the industry," as they refer to their criminal activities, as well as a couple of cops. And the "saying goodbye" can translate to something truly dangerous for all concerned, with the knowledge in the gunman's head, and it often comes down to self-protection and not risking a disgruntled gunman feeling kicked aside and somewhat useless, wanting to find a way out of that mindset, to the possible (probable?) detriment of others.

This is a wonderful novel, highly recommended, and I can't wait to read the last book in the trilogy, "The Sudden Arrival of Violence," up next!

Midnight Sun
Jo Nesbo, author
Neil Smith, translator (Norwegian)
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385354202, $23.95 HC, $24.00 LP-PB, $10.99 Kindle,

Well, this is a first! For my husband and I to both read the same book is a logistical luxury we can little afford, but this is the first time we have both read/reviewed the same book. Neither of us was willing to miss out on reading the newest book from one of our favorite authors, so here's the second of the two J

From the publisher: From the internationally best-selling author of the Harry Hole novels comes this short, lyrical tale of a man on the run from a crime lord's deadly retribution, lost far beyond the Arctic Circle, where the sum remains in the sky for months on end. A wayward hitman, mourning a recent loss, arrives in a tiny town on Norway's far northeastern border. He calls himself Ulf and gives a halfhearted excuse for his presence, but the locals, who seem as if out of a folk story from a previous century, ask him few questions and supply him with food, shelter, and a gun. In his previous life, Ulf worked as a fixer for The Fisherman, one of the cruelest drug kings in Oslo, a man whose reach spans the globe. After acting foolishly (but out of mercy and desperation), Ulf has now become the man his boss needs fixed. Can this strange town - - and especially a curious, lonely boy with his taciturn mother - - offer Ulf a chance at redemption while he awaits the arrival of those who would hunt him down?

The tale begins with this introspection from our protagonist, 35 years and whose real name appears to be John Hansen, a solitary person who acts as a fixer, getting rid of persons his pimp boss wishes to remove from the living world: "We store up all sorts of stories with fabricated logic, so that life can look as though it has some meaning. So I may as well start here, in the midst of the confusion, at a time and a place where fate seemed to be taking a short break, holding its breath. When, just for a moment, I thought I was not only on my way, but had also already arrived." He also thinks "I was an evolutionary aberration, and the future of humanity would only be served by my immediate extinction." Which seems to be a real possibility, as The Fisherman has men searching for him with just that goal in mind. It is August of 1978, in a place called Kasund, close to the North Pole. It is said that "The Fisherman always finds what he's looking for."

This new series continues to give what the reader expects from Mr. Nesbo: gorgeous writing. The setting plays an important role: "Even the urban landscape had something oddly desolate and relentless about it: here too you had a nagging sense that nature was in control, that human beings were tiny and impotent . . . Even when the midnight sun was at its zenith, it was as if nature was resting, as if its heartbeat had slowed down." As with the first book in the series, "Blood on Snow," as well as the Harry Hole series, the newest book is highly recommended.

The Sudden Arrival of Violence
Malcolm Mackay
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316337328, $15.00, Paperback, 384 pp,

This is the final novel in The Glasgow Trilogy, and it is a wonderful way to wrap up the series, living up to the high standard set by the earlier novels: "The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter" and "How a Gunman Says Goodbye." The war between crime syndicates is coming to a showdown.

From the publisher: It begins with two deaths: A moneyman and an informant. The deaths offer a unique opportunity to a man like Calum MacLean. A hitman who has finally had enough of killing. It's never easy to walk away from a job. It's near impossible when that job is murder. Nobody's gotten away with it before. But nobody who's tried is as good as Calum MacLean at leaving no trace. Calum plans an unprecedented escape just as his employers need him the most. Glasgow's biggest criminal organizations are gearing up for a final, fatal confrontation. The panic over Calum's abrupt disappearance may finally give Detective Michael Fisher the chance he needs to close the case of a lifetime. But first he must track down a man who has become a master at staying in the shadows.

Calum is 29 years old. "After ten years of killing people for a living," the 'complicated turf war' has gotten to the point that he wants to walk away, although he is mindful of how difficult that is: "They're going to do what they do to anyone who tries to walk away without permission. Anyone who knows too much. They'll put a bullet in him." He relearns something he already knew: "As long as you trust them all to be untrustworthy, they'll never let you down." The bad guys and the ostensibly good guys (the cops) are filled with people who can't be trusted, by the other side or their own. Can Calum finally get away from all this?

The author once again masterfully conjures up this world, and the suspense builds as the denouement nears. A fitting conclusion to a trilogy well worth reading, and this one as well is highly recommended.

Paul Thomas
Bitter Lemon Press
9781908524492, $14.95, Paperback, 288 pp.,

This sequel to "Death on Demand" brings the reader back to New Zealand and the Central Police Dept. There are a number of cops who alternate in prominence in the plot, among them District Commander Finbar McGrail, who, we are told, became Auckland District Commander and developed an appreciation for wine pretty much at the same time. McGrail is still haunted by a 27-year-old case, his first, when as a new D.I. he investigated the murder of a 17-year-old girl, Polly Stenson. The investigation comes to a halt less than a year later when the police still have no viable suspects in her killing, coming to the conclusion that she was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Only a year from retirement, he is approached one day by a man who was present at the murder scene at the time in question, and given a lead as to who might have killed Polly.

We then meet former D.I. Johan Van Roon, and the man who had at one time been his mentor: Maori cop Tito Ihaka, described as "unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane" and "the brown Sherlock Holmes," the latter having been banished to the hinterlands several years ago after a case which he had stubbornly insisted was a murder, not, as everyone else was convinced, a 'simple' hit-and-run accident. Now a Detective Sergeant, he is asked by McGrail to follow up on the new lead. Van Roon has left the force in disgrace, now a pariah in the police force and working, when he can find employment, as a private investigator and security consultant. He is hired to find a man who disappeared right after the Stenson murder, for a very attractive fee. Events occur in such a way that both Ihaka and Van Roon reopen the cold case to try to find the murderer.

At the same time, Ihaka starts a completely different investigation, one that involves the death of his father, "a union firebrand and renegade Marxist," decades ago, thought to have been of natural causes. To make things even more complex, a man with whom his father was involved died in a supposed accident one week later. Coincidence? He thinks not.

The author was born in the UK but has lived for most of his life in New Zealand, which is the setting for his novels. The biggest hurdle for me in this book was with the local vernacular/regional jargon/idiom, as well as the many political discussions, making it somewhat slow reading. But the complex plot was very interesting, and on the whole the book was enjoyable.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Witch Hunt
SM Reine
Red Iris Books
1180 Selmi Drive, Suite 102, Reno, NV 89512
9781494879198, $9.99 PB,$2.99 Kindle, 234pp

Witch Hunt is the typical urban paranormal adventure story. It has a government agent, who is a witch, tracking down and arresting witches and paranormal beings who are breaking the law or doing things that might make the public aware of magical forces. Nothing stands out in the book. It doesn't break new ground in the paranormal genre. But there are also no real shortcomings to the storytelling.

Preternatural Affairs agent Cesar Hawke wakes up with no memories of the night before in a wrecked apartment with a bloody body in the tub. The police arrive before he can get fully clothed. He is arrested and no one at Preternatural Affairs will talk to him. He breaks out of jail and goes on a hunt to find out what has happened while running from the police and his own Preternatural Affairs.

Witch Hunt is an action packed whodunit. It is a solid read in the genre. If you enjoy paranormal adventure stories this would be a good addition. The weakness in the story is that nothing really stands out about it. It is average. There are no problems with the storyline but there is nothing surprising as well. It is a solid addition to the genre which won't disappoint the reader. At list price there are more exciting paranormal adventures but it is an easy recommendation when it's on sale.

A Short History of the World
H.G. Wells
Amazon Digital Publishing
9781420938494, $9.99 PB, $0.90 Kindle, 180pp,

A Short History of the World is really a scholarly essay and not a history book. You will find the book in many versions by many publishers. It is off copyright so it is easy to find.

Wells wrote his History nearly a hundred years ago. With its age, you can find many differences between a modern history text and science but it is surprisingly well written. He tries to theorize underlying cultural and physical events that very possibly push the massive sweeps of historical migration and events. This type of focus on history in a larger scale is usually missing from the individual fact based histories we read. Even when Wells' bias comes through it is tempered with an understanding which is again missing in many modern texts. The one fact that pushes out at the individual is that he lays out easily understood facts that contradict the political and cultural myths that are common in every day discourse. This makes this history surprisingly relevant to the typical reader of today.

A Short History of the World is an easy recommendation for any reader. There are obvious short comings with the missing measurements and discoveries that have taken place over the one hundred years since the story was written. But you will find that most of the bogus political and cultural biases about science and history in modern conversations are successfully negated by Wells. Some modern readers will be amazed that scientific work that took place hundreds and even thousands of years ago contradict the words of modern pundits that hold sway over many people today. In the final pages of the History, Wells describes the after effects of WWI and accurately predicts much of the coming century, including WWII. His ideas on the cultural and social immaturity of humanity still seem valid today.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Alien Letters
Charles Eby
1760 East River Road, Suite 145, Tucson, Arizona 85718
9781604949742, $9.95, PB, 158pp,

Synopsis: If a visitor from another planet began writing a human letters about life on earth, what would he say? How many letters would he write? What topics would he address? In "The Alien Letters", author Charles Eby provides a series of provocative answer to these questions. In a style that is engaging, enlightening, and entertaining, the alien writes about topics as diverse as one's view of God, falling in love, hardship, growing older, forgiveness, sex, one's attitude about work, and many others. Armed with the razor-sharp scalpel of truth, the alien strips away the false, and sometimes hidden, assumptions that cloud human existence, to reveal golden nuggets of insight that are often surprising."The Alien Letters", presents a thought-provoking, mind-opening, and spirit-stretching investigation as the alien explores and even challenges aspects of human life from the perspective of an outsider. At once deadly serious and pleasantly compassionate, the alien leaves us wiser and better able to discern what is truly important in life.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "The Alien Letters" is one of those rare volumes that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "The Alien Letters" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Meditations of a Great Lakes Sailor
Stanley B. Graham
Belding Publishing
10 Bradley Court, Medina, OH 44256
9780967485201, $15.95, PB, 278pp,

Synopsis: In June of 1952 Rick Stevens, a young college student who has just finished his sophomore year, ships out on an iron ore freighter as a deckhand. He had acquired his U.S. Coast Guard card and had taken this summer job because he wanted to save money for college. This is the first full-time labor job he's ever held, and he soon learns that he may not be physically capable of doing a deckhand's job. But he is later assigned to the galley where he works as a porter, a job he can handle. He is intrigued by the work-a-day life of the sailors, and by living and working with them he comes to know how they think and feel about their lives and relationships with other people. Rick had always been searching for friends, and he strikes up two strong friendships among the sailors. Unknown to all of them, he keeps a diary which he hides under his mattress; in it he records fragments of their conversations, descriptions of the work, character sketches, and his own meditations. During ths summer of working on the lakes, Rick learns a great deal about himself, his abilities, his interests, and decides upon a course of action with respect to his future career.

Critique: A work of fiction that is based upon elements of the author Stanley Graham's own life experiences working as a deckhand and a porter, "Meditations of a Great Lakes Sailor" is an impressively written novel that is an inherently interesting and entertaining read from beginning to end. "Meditations of a Great Lakes Sailor" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

No Such Thing as Evil
Andrew Hunkins
Beaver's Pond Press
7108 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592989997, $22.00, HC, 504pp,

Synopsis: Laura Richards, a political science professor, and her husband Ben Richards, an astrophysics professor, unexpectedly find themselves at the center of a dark conspiracy after they adopt Chris Lumiere, the orphaned son of Laura's friend Marian. Following the bizarre circumstances of Chris's birth, Laura and Ben uncover clues revealing an intelligent force surrounding Chris. Meanwhile, the Circle of Six (a powerful clique of men with otherworldly abilities) are sacrificing kidnapped young women and relying on advanced global technology in their efforts to locate genetically unique fetuses before birth. The group's painstaking plan unfolds on the unsuspecting mother of the first fetus. Worlds collide when Laura and Ben get in the way, pushed by Chris's inner force with a plan of its own.

Critique: A solidly entertaining read from beginning to end, "No Such Thing as Evil" is a deftly crafted novel of the first order and establishes author Andrew Hunkins as a truly gifted storyteller. "No Such Thing as Evil" is the first volume in the 'Circle of Six' trilogy and will leave enthusiastic readers looking eagerly toward the next two titles yet to come from Beaver's Pond Press. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "No Such Thing as Evil" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Echoing Hylas
Mark Heerink
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299305406, $65.00, HC, 243pp,

Synopsis: In "Echoing Hylas: A Study in Hellenistic and Roman Metapoetics", Mark Heerink (associate professor in Latin literature at the University of Amsterdam) argues that the story of Hylas (a famous episode of the Argonauts' voyage) was used by poets throughout classical antiquity to reflect symbolically on the position of their poetry in the literary tradition. Certain elements of the story, including the characters of Hylas and Hercules themselves, functioned as metaphors of the art of poetry. In the Hellenistic age, for example, the poet Theocritus employed Hylas as an emblem of his innovative bucolic verse, contrasting the boy with Hercules, who symbolized an older, heroic-epic tradition. The Roman poet Propertius further developed and transformed Theocritus' metapoetical allegory by turning Heracles into an elegiac lover in pursuit of an unattainable object of affection. In this way, the myth of Hylas became the subject of a dialogue among poets across time, from the Hellenistic age to the Flavian era. Each poet, Professor Heerink demonstrates, used elements of the myth to claim his own place in a developing literary tradition. With this innovative diachronic approach, Professor Heerink opens a new dimension of ancient metapoetics and offers many insights into the works of Apollonius of Rhodes, Theocritus, Virgil, Ovid, Valerius Flaccus, and Statius.

Critique: A truly impressive and seminal work of outstanding scholarship, "Echoing Hylas: A Study in Hellenistic and Roman Metapoetics" is a very welcome contribution to the growing body of Hellenic mythologically based poetry. Enhanced with the inclusion of forty-eight pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibliography, a ten page Index, and a six page Index Locorum, "Echoing Hylas: A Study in Hellenistic and Roman Metapoetics" will prove to be a highly valued addition to academic library collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that "Echoing Hylas: A Study in Hellenistic and Roman Metapoetics" is also available in a paperback edition (9780299305444, $55.00).

Made in British Columbia
Maria Tippett
Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550177299, $32.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Is there such a thing as British Columbia culture, and if so, is there anything special about it? This is the broad question author and academician Maria Tippett answers assured "yes!" in the pages of "Made in British Columbia: Eight Studies in Artistic Achievement". To prove her point she looks at the careers of eight ground-breaking cultural producers in the fields of painting, aboriginal art, architecture, writing, theatre and music. The eight creative figures profiled in Made in British Columbia are not just distinguished artists who made an enduring mark on Canadian culture during the twentieth century. They are unique artists whose work is intimately interwoven with British Columbia's identity.

Emily Carr portrayed BC's coastal landscape in a manner as unique as her lifestyle. Bill Reid's carvings, jewellery and sculpture stand as a contemporary interpretation of his reclaimed Haida heritage. The name Francis Rattenbury is less known than The Empress Hotel in Victoria, one of many prominent BC buildings he designed, while Arthur Erickson's modern architectural contributions are recognized worldwide. Martin Allerdale Grainger's experience in the BC woods in the early days of hand-logging inspired him to write one of the undisputed classics of BC fiction, Woodsmen of the West. Jean Coulthard struggled for respect as a female composer during the 1920s and 1930s in British Columbia but eventually proved her extraordinary musical talents internationally. George Woodcock left Britain in 1949 to forge his career as an influential author, editor, mentor and tireless promoter of literary scholarship in the province, while playwright George Ryga, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, exposed the anguish and reality of life for Native women in our cities with his 1967 play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

Featuring images of the artists and their works, "Made in British Columbia" presents a history of the treasures found in our galleries, concert halls, theatres, museums, libraries and streetscapes, and explores the legacy of a cultural tradition as unique as the place that nurtured it.

Critique; Adhering to the highest standards of scholarship and thoroughly accessible to both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in British Columbian history and culture. Of special note is the opening chapter 'The Imperial Garden of Eden: Francis Mawson Rattenbury' (1867-1935) and the concluding chapter 'Beyond Provincialism: Arthur Erickson (1924-2009). Very highly recommended for community and academic library Canadian History reference collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that "Made in British Columbia: Eight Studies in Artistic Achievement" is also available in a Kindle edition ($22.99).

K9 Karson Comes Home
Abbie Beam
Orange Frazer Press
PO Box 214, Wilmington, OH 45177
9781939710321, $12.00, PB, 151pp,

Synopsis: "K9 Karson Comes Home " by Abbie Beam is the true story of a beloved police dog who escaped from a boarding facility in order to find his owner who was on vacation. K9 Karson survived for 61 days in subzero temperatures while an entire community banded together to find him. This amazing story takes place in the small farming community of Wilmington, Ohio, the community that has only ever been in the news for loss and tragedy that is now known for one of the most miraculous and heartwarming tales of our time, when K9 Karson was found alive.

Critique: An exceptionally well written account, "K9 Karson Comes Home" is a feel-good read that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended, "K9 Karson Comes Home" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

In the Ruins
Zabel Yessayan
AIWA Press
c/o Armenian International Women's Association
65 Main Street, #3A, Watertown, MA 02472
9780964878792, $13.72, PB, 262pp,

Synopsis: In 1909, following the Turkish massacre of 30,000 Armenians in Adana, Turkey, Armenian writer and activist Zabel Yessayan (4 February 1878 - 1943) journeyed to the region to provide relief to survivors. She wrote her monumental account "In the Ruins: The 1909 Massacres of Armenians in Adana, Turkey" as a powerful testimony of this devastating event, considered a prelude to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Her compelling images convey the horror and destruction she witnessed. Translated here into English for an American readership by G. M. Goshgarian in its entirety for the first time, "In the Ruins" has been justifiably acclaimed as one of Yessayan's most influential works.

Critique: Even today the Turkish government denies their historically established involvement in the first genocidal holocaust of the twentieth century. "In the Ruins: The 1909 Massacres of Armenians in Adana, Turkey" is a clear testament and an effective rebuttal to Armenian genocide deniers. No community or academic library 20th Century Armenian History reference collection or supplemental studies lists should be without a copy of Zabel Yessayan's "In the Ruins: The 1909 Massacres of Armenians in Adana, Turkey".

The Subversive Utopia
Yasir Sakr
MSI Press
1760-F Airline Highway, Hollister, CA 95023
9781933455143, $19.95, PB, 186pp,

Synopsis: "The Subversive Utopia: Louis Kahn and the Question of the National Jewish Style in Jerusalem" examines the critical role of modern architects in shaping and transforming national Israeli memory with special regard to Jerusalem. Using as a background the attempts of various architects since the 19th century to construct a national Jewish style, Professor Yasir Sakr focuses his analysis on Louis Kahn's design of the Hurva synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. This study scrutinizes and pieces together discrepant archival documents, drawings, and accounts of intentions, interpretations, events, policies, and projects in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. "The Subversive Utopia" reveals an unrecognized crucial interplay of Kahn's Hurvah design with the competing traditional and national symbols of Jerusalem.

Critique: Yasir Mohammad Sakr is an expert on architectural design, theory, criticism, and history. He is a visiting scholar at the harvard Graduate School of Design and has managed urban regeneration projects at the center of the holdy city of Mecca, including the grand expansion of the Haram Mosque. In "The Subversive Utopia: Louis Kahn and the Question of the National Jewish Style in Jerusalem", Professor Sakr draws upon his years of experience and expertise to present a landmark study of exceptionally informed and seminal scholarship that is very highly recommended for professional and academic library Architectural Studies reference collections in general, and the history of Jerusalem architecture supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Why Ghosts Appear
Todd Shimoda, author
L. J. C. Shimoda, artist
Chin Music Press
1501 Pike Place, #329, Seattle, WA 98101
9781634059022, $24.50, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: A fortuneteller hires a detective to find her missing son in Todd Shimoda's existential noir mystery "Why Ghosts Appear". A startling clue leads the detective into the underground worlds of fortune telling and "pleasure" tours. The missing son reminds him of an old case which ended badly, one he is compelled to reopen. As he investigates both, he finds his life becoming more ghostlike.

Critique: An impressively written and deftly crafted novel that documents Todd Shimoda as a master of the mystery/suspense genre, "Why Ghosts Appear" is a thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end that is uniquely enhanced by the artwork of L. J. C. Shimoda. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for noir mystery fans' personal reading lists that "Why Ghosts Appear" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).

Ghosts - Images of War
Carrie Zeidman
Swiss Creek Publications
15565 Swiss Creek Lane, Cupertino, CA 95014-5452
9780970227652, $40.00, PB, 72pp,

Synopsis: "Ghosts - Images of War" by author, digital artist and photographer Carrie Zeidman uses uniquely designed images of the past and present combined to take you on a haunted ride through history. By expertly superimposing and digitally manipulating historical images of the past with photos of the present, "Ghosts - Images of War" connects the spirit and people of history to the present day world. Almost as if you've traveled to the past, or the past has been transported to the present, the images evoke nostalgia, sadness, reflection, and hope. Battles and monuments included range from Valley Forge to the Beaches of Normandy. After visiting concentration camps in Poland in 2008, viewing monuments and ruins filled with tragedy and despair, Carrie came home with unrelenting visions of the people who once occupied these spaces and whose lives were cut short. Searching out authentic photos from the Holocaust and combining them with images from her personal travels, she realized she could mesh the old and the new, contrasting the heartbreaking past with a hopeful present to create these unique images.

Critique: Unique and memorable, "Ghosts - Images of War" is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking visual experience enhanced by the inclusion of an informed and informative commentary for each visual presentation. "Ghosts - Images of War" is one of those rare volumes that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Simply stated, "Ghosts - Images of War" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

Flood of Lies: The St. Rita's Nursing Home Tragedy
James Cobb Jr.
Pelican Publishing Company
1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, LA 70053-2246
9781455617890, $24.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: In the media storm that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nursing home owners Sal and Mabel Mangano were vilified for allegedly causing the deaths of 35 residents of St. Rita's Nursing Home in low-lying St. Bernard Parish. James Cobb Jr. was the lawyer who defended them, and in "Flood of Lies: The St. Rita's Nursing Home Tragedy" he reveals the gripping, true story behind the couple's heartrending decision not to evacuate and their persecution at the hands of the government sworn to protect them.

Critique: An impressively well written and true life cautionary tale, "Flood of Lies: The St. Rita's Nursing Home Tragedy" is a compelling read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Flood of Lies" is also available in a paperback edition (9781455621309, $14.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.49).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Family Caregiver's Guide
Harriet Hodgson
WriteLife Publishing
9781608081264, $14.95, PB, 170pp,

Synopsis: What does caring for a loved one at home really involved? What does it mean for your family and future? Tens of millions of Americans have had these questions and more as they prepare for this unsettling yet necessary task. "The Family Caregiver s Guide" fills in the informational gaps, connecting the dots between research and real life. Drawing on the author Harriet Hodgson's own extensive caregiving experience, "The Family Caregiver's Guide" provides strategies to care for your loved one, inside and out, as well as for yourself including how to use your natural skills in your new role, and which skills you may need to add. You ll discover how to set up your home for caregiving, including a safety checklist, equipment suggestions, and words you should know. And for those days that are more than a handful, you ll find positive affirmations, a section on facing and accepting illness, and smart steps at the end of each chapter, in case you need guidance in a hurry. Caregiving has both rewards and challenges. But through it all, you ll discover what s most important that caregiving is love in action.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is real-world practical and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Family Caregiver's Guide" should be considered reading essential for anyone anticipating or already engaged in caring for a loved one in the family home. Of special note are the chapters on 'What Skills do You Need?' and 'Getting Ready for Home Care'. Particularly useful are the three Appendices: Home Safety Checklist; Medicine Cabinet Supplies; Terms to Know. Simply stated, a copy of Harriet Hodgson's "The Family Caregiver's Guide" should be a part of every community library, senior citizen center, and family counseling center instructional reference collection. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Family Caregiver's Guide" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).

Making Books with Kids
Esther K. Smith
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781631590818, $24.99, Flexibound, 144pp,

Synopsis: "Making Books with Kids" is an inspiring collection of ideas and projects for encouraging an artistic spirit in children featuring more than 25 creative, kid-friendly projects in design, illustration, paper decorating, binding techniques and more. "Making Books with Kids offers an exciting resource of easy-to-follow instructions supported throughout with step-by-step, full-color photographs and illustrations. Each sequence is accompanied by finished samples and variations as well as the inspiring work of a prominent book artist. Whether you use these projects independently or as a curriculum for hands-on, family-friendly, bookmaking experiences, you'll find that the lessons in this book are open-ended so they can be explored over and over-with different results each time! Colorful photos illustrate how different people using the same lesson will yield different results, exemplifying the way the lesson brings out each artist's personal style. "Making Books with Kids" is the perfect book for creative families, friends, and community groups and works as lesson plans for both experienced and new art teachers. Children of all ages and experience levels can be guided by adults and will enjoy these engaging exercises. Spread the love of and craft of do-it-yourself book making in your family with "Making Books with Kids".

Critique: Esther K. Smith creates artists' books and limited editions at Purgatory Pie Press, collaborating with hand-typographer Dikko Faust and other artists and writers. Her work has been exhibited at such prestigious venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Tate Gallery (London), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the Whitney Museum. In "Making Books with Kids: 25 Paper Projects to Fold, Sew, Paste, Pop, and Draw" she draws upon her many years of experience and expertise to deftly craft a series of projects that will produce hours and hours of sheer family fun. Especially useful for those rainy day and family activity night pastimes, "Making Books with Kids" is thoroughly 'user friendly, unique, ideal, and very highly recommended resource.

In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics
Katarzyna Olga Beilin
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212905, $83.95, HC, 305pp,

Synopsis: "In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics: Anti-Bullfighting, Animality, and the Environment in Contemporary Spain" by Katarzyna Olga Beilin (a Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and a Faculty Affiliate at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) takes readers on a journey through the history of alternative thought that challenges mainstream understandings of the relations between the human and nonhuman realms. Weaving through the works of Mariano Jose de Larra, Eugenio Noel, Luis BuŮuel, Luis Martin-Santos, Pedro Almodovar, Pablo Berguer, Juan Mayorga, and Rosa Montero, Beilin convincingly demonstrates that "the question of the animal" has long been of particular significance for Spanish culture.

Analyses of the synergy of press debates on bullfighting and the War on Terror, as well as media debates on King Juan Carlos's hunt in Botswana and his resignation, reveal how the concepts structuring human/animal relations condition national biopolitics. Professor Beilin traces a main principle, where sacrifice of some lives is deemed necessary for the sake of others, from bullfighting, through environmental destruction and immigration policies, to bioeconomy. Ultimately, "In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics" argues that to address ever-increasing threats of global warming and future catastrophes, we urgently need to redefine concepts structuring the human and the nonhuman realms.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, an informative Introduction (Bulls, Apes, Genes, and Clouds), a significant Conclusion (In Search of Alternative Biopolitics), a twenty-four page bibliography of Works Cited; and an eight page Index, "In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics: Anti-Bullfighting, Animality, and the Environment in Contemporary Spain" is an impressive work of original and seminal scholarship. Very highly recommended for college and university library Animal Rights Social Issues reference collections in general, and Spanish Bull Fighting cultural issues in particular. It should be noted that "In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics" is also available in a Multimedia CD format ($14.95).

Lessons Not Learned
Susanne Trimbath
Spiramus Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781910151242, $75.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: In a time of mind-boggling complexity in financial regulation that are too complex for the Federal Reserve System to understand its impact according to Ben Bernanke, "Lessons Not Learned: 10 Steps to Stable Financial Markets" by economist Susanne Trimbath is a refreshing call to return to a simpler, more basic approach. "Lessons Not Learned" emphasizes that the failure to implement regulations, a key factor in the crisis of 2008, remains the system's Achilles heel.

"Lessons Not Learned" features a refreshing combination of research grounding and pragmatic experience and lists the lessons not learned before the financial crisis. "Lessons Not Learned" demonstrates that the theoretical and intellectual frameworks for regulating financial systems that had been available since at least 2001 could have prevented the systemic failure in the United States that led to the collapse of global credit markets in 2007-2009. Step-by-step, "Lessons Not Learned" will guide readers through what can be done right now, and/or what could have been done before 2008 or the Dodd-Frank Act. "Lessons Not Learned" concludes with a key idea for how to make financial service businesses stand out from the crowd and be successful in the coming decades.

The list of '10 Steps' is quite straight-forward and simple: Have private, independent rating agencies; Provide some government safety net, but not so much that banks are not held accountable ("Too Big to Fail"); Allow very little government ownership and control of national financial assets; Allow banks to reduce the volatility of returns by offering a wide-range of services; Require financial market players to register and be authorized; Provide information, including setting standards, to enhance market transparency; Routinely examine financial institutions to ensure that the regulatory code is obeyed; Enforce the code and discipline transgressors; Develop policies that keep the regulatory code up-to-date; Encourage the creation of specialized financial institutions. For each step, the reader will find legislative/regulatory background on the existing rules, plus what academic work is available on the theory. "Lessons Not Learned" also includes facts showing where they were not implemented/enforced in the US (with examples of countries that did get it right), where applicable, and data supporting the connection between the steps and the events of 2008.

Critique: A truly impressive and articulate analysis, "Lessons Not Learned: 10 Steps to Stable Financial Markets" should be a part of every community, governmental, corporate, NGO, college, and university Contemporary Economics reference collection and supplemental studies reading list. Informed and informative, it should be noted for academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in economic reform on a national scale that "Lessons Not Learned: 10 Steps to Stable Financial Markets" is also available in a paperback edition (9781910151235, $39.95).

Teaching the Latin American Boom
Lucille Kerr & Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola
Modern Language Association
26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789
9781603291910, $35.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: In the decade from the early 1960s to the early 1970s, Latin American authors found themselves writing for a new audience in both Latin America and Spain and in an ideologically charged climate as the Cold War found another focus in the Cuban Revolution. The writers who emerged in this energized cultural moment--among others, Julio Cortazar (Argentina), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba), Jose Donoso (Chile), Carlos Fuentes (Mexico), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia), Manuel Puig (Argentina), and Mario Varas Llosa (Peru) -- experimented with narrative forms that sometimes bore a vexed relation to the changing political situations of Latin America. "Teaching the Latin American Boom" provides a wide range of options for teaching the complexities of the Boom, explores the influence of Boom works and authors, presents different frameworks for thinking about the Boom, proposes ways to approach it in the classroom, and provides resources for selecting materials for courses.

Critique: The collaborative compilation and co-editorship of Lucille Kerr is Professor of Latin American literature in the Deptartment of Spanish and Portuguese, Northwestern University) and Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola ( who is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Spanish at the University of Michigan), "Teaching the Latin American Boom" is comprised of twenty erudite scholarly articles by an outstanding list of contributors; and enhanced with the inclusion of a four page Notes on Contributors; a twenty-four page bibliography of Works Cited; and a fourteen page Index. "Teaching the Latin American Boom" is especially recommended as a core addition to academic library Latin American Literature reference collections and supplement studies reading lists. It should be noted for academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Latin American literature that "Teaching the Latin American Boom" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1603291927, $29.00) and in a Kindle format ($19.49).

Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers
Kathleen T. Isaacs
ALA Editions
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838913444, $52.00, 248pp,

Synopsis: For children, reading level and experience level are not always the same. Eager readers are often interested in ideas and topics that seem advanced, but situations and subjects that sixth graders can handle with aplomb may be emotionally confusing for a younger child. Early and eager readers deserve stories they can get into, information that's challenging and up-to-date, and ideas that are new and stimulating, all while remaining age appropriate. In the pages of "Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers" children s literature expert Kathleen Isaacs offers 300 book recommendations for early able readers ages 4 10, honing in on writing that will challenge but not frustrate young readers. Assisting librarians, teachers, and caregivers, "Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers" is an invaluable resource that provides recommended titles both old and new in a multitude of genres, including short stories, mystery, fantasy, adventure, picture books, poetry, historical fiction, classics, biography, folklore, mythology, fairy tales, animal fantasy, and nonfiction. It also offers guidance on steering kids towards the best books for their age; points to resources for finding quality books; and includes an extensive index for locating titles, authors, and themes quickly.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers" is a practical and comprehensive reference that is very highly recommended for librarians, teachers, and home schooling parents to encourage children who love to read for pleasure and purpose alike. Simply stated, "Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers" is an especially appropriate as a Reading Instruction curriculum supplemental reference.

The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams
Cat Bennett
Findhorn Press
Delft Cottage, Dykle Forres Iv36 2TF, Scotland, UK
9781844096756, $16.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: "The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams" by author and artist Cat Bennett shows how to create a drawing club to grow our art and creative selves. What makes this drawing club different from a regular drawing class is the one rule we apply to all we do. Rather than looking for what's wrong, we look for what's strong and interesting, for what we love and what we most desire, and then we learn how to build on that. "The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams" gives instructions for how to get going and lesson plans for three full 8-week sessions that will take a club through its first year. The exercises are designed to hone skills, visual thinking and the ability to explore freely without fear of mistakes. We learn too how a club can become a sanctuary for creative exploration and for being the artists we dream of being.

Critique: Offering a complete course of instruction under one cover, "The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams" is exceptionally 'user friendly' and informative in content, commentary, organization, and presentation. Beautifully illustrated throughout, "The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams" is very highly recommended for art class curriculum supplemental studies reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Arrogant Agitation
Anna Baumbach
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480818170, $44.95, HC, 500pp,

Synopsis: For Gretchen Brooktree, life is a bit of a struggle. It is 1961, and she works as a secretary to the commanding officer of an air force base, returning home at night to her family's farm. She is isolated from city life and worldly affairs by both distance and a fundamentalist parochial education. Gretchen can recite Bible verses and the tenets of her religion and loves to learn, but she is unsophisticated and unfamiliar with the social ways of the world. Thus, when she suddenly finds herself in love with a highly educated, city-born college graduate, Gretchen faces the prospect of numerous challenges and adjustments. Identifying with her new nickname of Brook, she pulls herself together and gets to work. She enters the University of California-Berkeley, where she is stunned by what she does not know and struggles to keep up. Slowly, she loses the archaic ideas and concepts she has carried since childhood and learns how to make her way in the world. As she does so, Brook emerges into the person she has always known she could be. "Arrogant Agitation: Pleasure and Struggle in the 1960s" is based on a true story. This outstanding historical novel explores the life of one woman in the chaotic 1960s as she struggles to overcome her past and become a new person.

Critique: Impressively written, "Arrogant Agitation: Pleasure and Struggle in the 1960s" clearly showcases author Anna Baumbach's truly exception storytelling talents with a riveting novel that holds the reader's totally absorbed attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, "Arrogant Agitation" it should be noted for personal reading lists that this outstanding and entertaining novel is also available in a paperback edition (9781480818163, $28.99) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Frankie Styne & the Silver Man
Kathy Page
1520 Wyandotte Street East, Windsor, ON N9A 3L2, Canada
9781771960380, $15.95, PB, 250pp,

Synopsis: Frankie Styne is the physically deformed author of violent best-selling novels, and clearly understands that it is in ugliness that true power lies. Nominated for a top literary prize, his intensely private life is exposed, and he hatches a revenge-plot from his own novels targeting his agent. Set into motion, it changes not only his own life but that of the young woman and her near-brain-dead, but beautiful, son next door in an unexpected way. "Frankie Styne & the Silver Man" is a novel of literary revenge and celebrity culture and the power of beauty in an ugly world.

Critique: An amazing and unique read from beginning to end, "Frankie Styne & the Silver Man" by Kathy Page is a deftly crafted work of truly memorable literary fiction that is especially recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Food, Faith, and Fasting
Rita Madden
Ancient Faith Publishing
PO Box 748, Chesterton, IN 46304-0748
9781936270484, $17.95, PB, 259pp,

Synopsis: Orthodox Christians fast approximately half the days of the year. But in our food-obsessed society, how do we determine our approach to eating in general? Nutritional expert Rita Madden expands on her popular podcast to help us eat, exercise, and manage stress in a way that is healthful for both our bodies and our souls in times of fasting, feasting, and the ordinary days in between.

Critique: "Food, Faith, and Fasting: A Sacred Journey to Better Health" will prove to be an extraordinarily valued, practical, and 'real-world' useful instruction guide that is strongly recommended to all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. Very highly recommended for both community and church library collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Food, Faith, and Fasting: A Sacred Journey to Better Health" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Beth Moore
B&H Books
c/o B&H Publishing Group
One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234
9781433690525, $17.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Thirty years in the making, "Audacious" is a deep dive into the message and calling that has compelled Beth Moore to serve women around the globe. Glancing over the years of ministry behind her and strengthening her resolve to the call before her, she came to the realization that her vision for women was incomplete. It lacked something they were aching for. Something Jesus was longing for. Beth identifies that missing link by digging through Scripture, unearthing life experiences, and spotlighting a turning point with the capacity to infuse any life with holy passion and purpose. What was missing? Well, let's just say, it's audacious and it's for all of us. And it's the path to the life you were born to live.

Critique: Inherently compelling, impressively well written, as informative as it is inspirational, "Audacious" truly lives up to its name and is very highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Audacious" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.55).

Hidden Gold
Ella Burakowski
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781927583746, $12.95, PB, 348pp,

Synopsis: "Hidden Gold" by Ella Burakowski is the true story of the Gold family and the oldest daughter, Shoshana, who personally experienced the Holocaust of World War II first hand. "Hidden Gold" begins with the Jewish family's idyllic prewar life in Poland. It then follows their journey during the war years, when they were forced to hide in a cramped, secret enclosure for twenty-six months, facing appalling conditions, starvation and fear of imminent betrayal and capture. "Hidden Gold" is a heart-stopping testament to the human spirit.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "Hidden Gold" is a valued and welcome addition to the growing library of Holocaust literature. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Holocaust Studies collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Hidden Gold" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

Angels with Dirty Faces
Walidah Imarisha
AK Press
3500 Parkdale Avenue, Building 1, #A28, Baltimore, MD 21211
9781849351744, $16.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption" is no romanticized collection of tales about crime and punishment. The three lives in this creative nonfiction account are united by the presence of actual harm -- sometimes horrific violence. Author Walidah Imarisha, dealing with the complexities of her own experience with sexual assault and accountability, brings us behind prison walls to visit her adopted brother Kakamia and his fellow inmate Jimmy "Mac" McElroy, a member of the brutal Irish gang the Westies. Together they explore the questions: People can do unimaginable damage to one another -- and then what? What do we as a society do? What might redemption look like? Imarisha doesn't flinch as she guides us through the difficulties and contradictions, eschewing theory for a much messier reality. The result is a nuanced and deeply personal analysis that allows readers to connect emotionally with the lives of people caught up within, and often destroyed by, our criminal justice system.

Critique: An inherently candid and fascinating read from beginning to end, "Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption" is impressively well written, and as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Social Issues and Criminology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for interested individuals that "Angels with Dirty Faces" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Dear David
Martha Wegner
Beaver's Pond Press
7108 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592988372, $16.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: "Dear David: Dealing with My Son's Addiction One Letter at a Time" is Martha Wegner's firsthand account of how her son David's addiction to drugs affected her family. The content for "Dear David" comes from the letters Wegner wrote to David after he walked away from a treatment program in 2014 and disappeared. By turns heartbreaking and humorous, the letters share the ups and downs of David's decisions and how they influence his family, as well as Martha's hopes for his eventual recovery.

Critique: Compelling, heart-wrenching, intensely personal, "Dear David: Dealing with My Son's Addiction One Letter at a Time" is an absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end. Especially commended to the attention of anyone having to deal with a substance abuse problem with a friend or family member, "Dear David" is highly recommended for both community and academic library collections.

The Age of Amy: Behind The Fun Zone
Bruce Edwards
Lambert Hill
PO Box 1478, Brea, CA 92822
9780983760467, $9.95, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: A Jimmie is a tiny microchip, that when painlessly implanted into your brain, magically transforms your eyes and ears into the ultimate hands-free device. No more fumbling with fragile phones, loose earbuds, or clumsy controllers. Watch movies without looking at a screen. Shoot video through your eyes. Text with your brain waves. It tracks your location, monitors your health, and even comforts you when you're lonely. Plus, it drives your car!

Every teenager wants a Jimmie, except 16-year-old Amy, who detests technology in any form. She is particularly disgusted by how easily people are manipulated into wanting one. Like smartphones, Jimmies spy on your cyber activity, but being hard-wired to your brain also allows them access to your personality. They can read your innermost thoughts and eavesdrop on your deepest feelings. What Jimmieheads fail to consider is that the wireless devices don't only transmit, but receive--allowing it to control what users see, hear, and feel. Regardless, the hi-tech device becomes a worldwide sensation.

But when thousands of teenage Jimmie users mysteriously vanish, foul play is suspected by the billion-dollar corporation that manufactures the device. Immune to Jimmie's influence, Amy embarks on a quest to find the missing teens. Her search ultimately reveals a connection between the bizarre disappearances and the Fun Zone--a spooky, old amusement park that's been dark for 50 years.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that demonstrates author Bruce Edwards' mastery of the young adult fiction genre, "The Age of Amy: Behind The Fun Zone" is an unfailingly entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for school and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Age of Amy: Behind The Fun Zone" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99). For those to whom "The Age of Amy: Behind The Fun Zone " is their first introduction to Bruce Edwards' outstanding 'The Age of Amy' series, they are encouraged to visit, for a complete listing for all 'The Age of Amy' titles.

The Cat Who Came In off the Roof
Annie M. G. Schmidt, author
David Colmer, translator
Delacorte Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780553535006, $14.99, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It's almost as if she's a cat herself. But how can that be?

Critique: A deftly crafted and purely delightful story for young readers ages 10 and older (and for students in grades 5 and up), "The Cat Who Came In off the Roof" is very highly recommended for school and community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Cat Who Came In off the Roof" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

TangleEasy Wildlife Designs: Design Templates for Zentangle, Coloring, and More
Ben Kwok, author
Design Originals
Fox Chapel Publishing
1970 Broad Street, East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781497200272, $14.99,

Filled with intricately patterned, elaborate black and white animal design templates, "TangleEasy Wildlife Designs" presents large animal templates on pages with an accompanying inspirational quotation suggested on the facing page. One example of the quotes is opposite a template of a dragonfly: "The beauty of the natural world lies in the details. Natalie Angier" In addition to the over 50 animal templates, there are many pages of an Inspirational Gallery, consisting of completed, ornate templates in the beginning after the inspirational introduction: About the Templates. There are also instructions and ideas about adding color, adding patterns, and designing your own patterns. The reader is directed to to find free template downloads and explore another gallery of finished art using the author's original designs. the concept of Zentangle art is refreshingly explored and one part of the definition is striking in particular: "People like the templates because they allow them to create amazing, beautiful art, even if they're just beginners or can't draw like a professional." "TangleEasy Wildlife Designs" is a treasure trove of projects for either the experienced artistic creator or the adult beginner. It is also feasible that these templates are accessible to the skills of young adults and teens.

The Experimental Music of Hermeto Pascoal and Group, 1981-1993
Luiz Costa-Lima Neto, author
Laura Coimbra and Stephen Thomson Moore, translators
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576472248, $54.00, 158 pages,

"The Experimental Music of Hermeto Pascoal and Group, 1981-1993: Conception and Language" presents analytic thought about the music of Brazilian composer/bandleader and group from 1981-1993. Hermeto and the five members of his group were Itibere Luis Zwarg (electric bass, tuba and bombardon), Jovino Santos Neto (piano, keyboard, flutes), Antonio Luis Santana ("Pernambuco" percussion), Carlos Daltro Malta (saxophones, flutes, piccolo) and Marcio Villa Bahia (drum kit and percussion). Costa-Lima Neto traces the multi-hued influences on the music of Hermeto Pascoal, such as contemporary jazz, pop music styles from northeastern Brazil including cocos, emboladas, repentes, baido, frevo and choro, and other traditions. The end product is described as a blend of folk influences, Brazilian rhythmic and musical traces, blended into a complex form of art music. After bibliographic discussion, the focus shifts to examining the creative process of Hermeto and group, with additional biographical data and photos of the individual group members.

Costa-Lima Neto is interested in tracing the group's and Pascoal's creative process through apprenticeship, offering the following observation by Hermeto: "When a musician enters my group, generally he knows how to play an instrument. Little by little I encourage him to pick up others, which may lead him to completely change instruments. In any case, this will only enrich his creativity. Practicing music implies constant research and apprenticeship. When a musician joins my group, I want him to know a lot about music, and very soon he will se that, in fact, he knows very little, and has a lot to learn. He is not necessarily a composer when he joins the group, but in two or three years, he will be able to write a score for our repertoire, and above all, to fly with his own wings, to make a solo disc. (Hermeto, Jazz Magazine, 1984), (p. 58)." Thus, Hermeto is intensely concerned with creativity, both group and individual collaborative efforts.

Further implications of the music of Hermeto and Group are explored in chapter 4, Reflections on Acoustics and Psycho-Acoustic and also in chapter 5, Selected Compositions for Analysis. finally, Costa-Lima Neto arrives through bibliography, group musical process and rigorous analysis at "the genesis and the conception of a musical language." The book's efforts explains why Hermeto is considered to be a unique composer who has developed an original language, achieving highly complex compositions and improvisations with diverse rhythms and deep roots in Brazilian popular music.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Eat, Chew, Live
John M. Poothullil, MD
Over And Above Creative Group
9780990792406, $25.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Diabetes is perhaps the fastest growing medical condition in the world. In the U.S. 1 in 3 adults over age 20 has high blood sugar -- and 1 in 4 adults over age 65 is fully diabetic. Yet, nearly every single person could avoid diabetes if they understood its real cause. If you are overweight or concerned about getting diabetes, "Eat, Chew, Live: 4 Revolutionary Ideas to Prevent Diabetes, Lose Weight and Enjoy Food" by Dr. John M. Poothullil (who has spent more than two decades studying the causes of hunger, satiation, weight gain, and diabetes) provides exactly what you need to prevent this serious disease from altering your life -- without drugs.

"Eat, Chew, Live" offers a revolutionary new science-based explanation of what really happens in the body to cause high blood sugar. While traditional medicine blames diabetes on "insulin resistance", Dr. Poothullil disagrees, offering systematic proof of a far better biological explanation for it. According to him, diabetes is not a hormonal disease; in fact, he demonstrates that insulin resistance is not even logical. Instead, high blood sugar and diabetes are the result of the over consumption of grains and grain-based products that cause a normal bodily metabolism (cells burning fatty acids rather than glucose) to go haywire. This insight alone changes everything previously thought about preventing diabetes -- including the possibility that you can reverse your existing diabetes and halt your medications.

"Eat, Chew, Live" goes on to present three other revolutionary ideas to help you get in tune with your body's need for nutrition, your real hunger signals, and the causes of your overeating. You will learn how eating mindfully, chewing fully to enjoy and savor food will help you eat less, lose weight, and get control of bad eating habits.

Unlike other books on diabetes, in "Eat, Chew, Live" there are no special diets to follow, no third party eating programs, and nothing to buy, It's about learning to respect your body, reconnect with your "authentic weight," and learn to enjoy food as nutrition for your body.

Critique: Informed and informative, extensively documented and insightful, but above all 'reader friendly' in it's impressively organized and presented 'real world' practicality, "Eat, Chew, Live: 4 Revolutionary Ideas to Prevent Diabetes, Lose Weight and Enjoy Food" is very highly recommended, especially for the non-specialist general reader with concerns regarding diabetes. Enhanced with the inclusion of more than thirty illustrations and two story boards to explain the science visually "Eat, Chew, Live" is printed in color and should be considered as an essential addition for both community and academic library Health & Medicine instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eat, Chew, Live" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Asante Sana Tanzania
Donna Marie Seim, author
Martin Seim, photographer
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801
9781937721275, $49.95, HC, 128pp,

Synopsis: With the publication of "Asante Sana Tanzania", armchair travelers can take an African journey with Donna and Martin Seim as they encounter, cheetahs, tented showers, incredible spices, and the proud Maasai people. "Asante Sana Tanzania" includes a Swahili pronunciation guide, vocabulary list, and fun animal facts. Featuring more than one hundred gorgeous full color photographs that fully capture the sights and reflect the experience of Africa, "Asante Sana Tanzania" is comprised of humorous and thrilling stories of animals in the bush, bartering in markets, visits to a Maasai Boma, and local schools, and more.

Critique: A beautifully produced and elegant volume, that is both informed and informative throughout, "Asante Sana Tanzania" is an inherently fascinating and thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in contemporary Africa, its people, and its wildlife, "Asante Sana Tanzania" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

A Splendid Savage
Steve Kemper
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393239270, $27.95, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: Frederick Russell Burnham's (1861 - 1947) amazing story resembles a newsreel fused with a Saturday matinee thriller. One of the few people who could turn his garrulous friend Theodore Roosevelt into a listener, Burnham was once world-famous as "the American scout." His expertise in woodcraft, learned from frontiersmen and Indians, helped inspire another friend, Robert Baden-Powell, to found the Boy Scouts. His adventures encompassed Apache wars and range feuds, booms and busts in mining camps around the globe, explorations in remote regions of Africa, and death-defying military feats that brought him renown and high honors. His skills led to his unusual appointment, as an American, to be Chief of Scouts for the British during the Boer War, where his daring exploits earned him the Distinguished Service Order from King Edward VII.

After a lifetime pursuing golden prospects from the deserts of Mexico and Africa to the tundra of the Klondike, Burnham found wealth, in his sixties, near his childhood home in southern California. Other men of his era had a few such adventures, but Burnham had them all. His friend H. Rider Haggard, author of many best-selling exotic tales, remarked, "In real life he is more interesting than any of my heroes of romance." Among other well-known individuals who figure in Burnham's story are Cecil Rhodes and William Howard Taft, as well as some of the wealthiest men of the day, including John Hays Hammond, E. H. Harriman, Henry Payne Whitney, and the Guggenheim brothers.

Failure and tragedy streaked his life as well, but he was endlessly willing to set off into the unknown, where the future felt up for grabs and values worth dying for were at stake. Steve Kemper brings a quintessential American story to vivid life in this gripping biography.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively researched biography of the colorful life and adventurous times of a truly remarkable man, "A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham" is enhanced with eight pages of illustrations and is written with an engaging perspective from beginning to end by a biographer who has a true gift for narrative storytelling. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Splendid Savage" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.16).

Making Every Lesson Count
Shaun Allison & Andy Tharby
Crown House Publishing
6 Trowbridge Drive Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
9781845909734, $31.95, HC, 290pp,

Synopsis: Packed with practical strategies and case studies, "Making Every Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Teaching and Learning" bridges the gap between research findings and classroom practice. Authors Shaun Allison (Deputy Head Teacher at a large comprehensive school in West Sussex) and Andy Tharby (a practicing English teacher with nine years of classroom experience at a secondary school in West Sussex), collaborate to examine the evidence behind what makes great teaching, and how to implement this in the classroom to make a difference to learning. Using case studies from a number of schools, "Making Every Lesson Count" demonstrate how an ethos of excellence and growth can be built through high-quality classroom practice. Combining robust evidence from a range of fields with the practical wisdom of experienced, effective classroom teachers, "Making Every Lesson Count" is a must-read for trainee teachers, experienced teachers wishing to enhance their practice, and school leaders looking for an evidence-based alternative to restrictive test-driven definitions of great teaching. "Making Every Lesson Count" is a kind of do-it-yourself toolkit of strategies that teachers can use every lesson to make that lesson count. No gimmicky teaching - just high impact and focused teaching that results in great learning, every lesson, every day.

Critique: Informed and informative, practical and insightful, and above all, 'real-world' pertinent in commentary, organization and presentation, ""Making Every Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Teaching and Learning" is extraordinarily 'user friendly' and should be considered a "must read" for all who are new to classroom teaching and has a great deal to offer by way of a refreshing and useful review for even the more experienced classroom instructor. ""Making Every Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Teaching and Learning" is very highly recommended for academic library Teacher Instruction reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Making Every Lesson Count" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.78).

The Merman
Carl Johan Vallgren
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605989129, $24.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Ably translated into English by Ruth Urboom, "The Merman" by Carl Johan Vallgren is an exhilarating modern fairy tale about what happens when the tragic and mundane collide with the strange and wonderful. Nella and her brother Robert live a difficult life with their mother and father in a small town on the west coast of Sweden. Robert is bullied at school, and Nella has to resort to debt and petty crime to pay off his tormentors. When she turns to her friend Tommy for help, her suspicions are aroused by the mysterious comings and goings of his brothers at their dilapidated boat house. But when she uncovers the reason behind their enigmatic behavior, her life is opened to the realities of a mind-boggling secret. "The Merman" is a dark and haunting novel about sibling love and betrayal, as well as about what happens when the mundane collides with the strange and beautiful.

Critique: A beautifully and deftly scripted story that clearly and compellingly showcases Carl Johan Vallgren as a master novelist able to fully engage his reader's rapt appreciative attention from beginning to end. Certain to be an highly prized addition to community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Merman" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Angel's Lamp
Ashby Jones
Top Hat Books
John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785352232, $19.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: "The Angel's Lamp" by Ashby Jones is set in a war-torn Ireland just after the Easter Rising. The novel centers around a love affair between Johnny Flynn, an Irish-bred, English staff-sergeant in charge of the rebellion's soon-to-be executed leaders, and Nora Connolly, the firebrand daughter of James Connolly, the uprising's charismatic leader. Johnny meets Nora while standing guard over her soon-to-be executed father and is struck by her determination to take the fight to the British. But then, unknown to Nora and under the threat of death Johnny is unexpectedly summoned to serve on the firing squad that executes Connolly. Ridden with guilt after the execution and feeling a traitor to his heritage given all he has seen and done, Johnny deserts the British Army, joins the ragtag Irish rebels, and soon crosses paths with Nora. The story that follows culminates in an fiery emotional conflict between Johnny and Nora that pits the possibilities of love against the unyielding obstacles to forgiveness.

Critique: A deftly crafted, immensely entertaining, and reader riveting novel from beginning to end, "The Angel's Lamp" documents author Ashby Jones as a remarkably talented writer. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Angel's Lamp" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Mortal Imitations of Divine Life
Eli Diamond
Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL 60208
9780810130692, $99.95, HC, 333pp,

Synopsis: In "Mortal Imitations of Divine Life: The Nature of the Soul in Aristotle's De Anima", Eli Diamond (Associate Professor in the Department of Classics at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada) offers an interpretation of De Anima, which explains how and why Aristotle places souls in a hierarchy of value. Aristotle's central intention in De Anima is to discover the nature and essence of soul -- the principle of living beings. He does so by identifying the common structures underlying every living activity, whether it be eating, perceiving, thinking, or moving through space. As Diamond demonstrates through close readings of De Anima, the nature of the soul is most clearly seen in its divine life, while the embodied soul's other activities are progressively clear approximations of this principle. This interpretation shows how AristotleAEs psychology and biology cannot be properly understood apart from his theological conception of God as life, and offers a new explanation of De Anima's unity of purpose and structure.

Critique: A work of erudite scholarship, "Mortal Imitations of Divine Life: The Nature of the Soul in Aristotle's De Anima" is enhanced with an informative Introduction, a List of Abbreviations, fifty-eight pages of Notes, an eight page General Index, and a four page Index Locorum. "Mortal Imitations of Divine Life" is an extraordinary and welcome addition to academic library Philosophy collections in general, and Aristotelean Studies supplemental reading lists in particular. For academicians and non-specialist general reader with an interest in the philosophy of Aristotle, it should be noted that "Mortal Imitations of Divine Life" is also available in a paperback edition (9780810131781, $39.95) and in a Kindle format ($37.95).

Protest in Hitler's National Community
Nathan Stoltzfus & Birgit Maier-Katkin, editors
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781782388241, $120.00, HC, 308pp,

Synopsis: That Hitler's Gestapo harshly suppressed any signs of opposition inside the Third Reich is a common misperception. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Nathan Stoltzfus (Associate Professor of History at Florida State University) and Birgit Maier-Katkin (Associate Professor of German at Florida State University), "Protest in Hitler's National Community: Popular Unrest and the Nazi Response" presents a series of studies of public dissent that prove this was not always the case. The contributors examine circumstances under which "racial" Germans were motivated to protest, as well as the conditions determining the regime's response. Workers, women, and religious groups all convinced the Nazis to appease rather than repress "racial" Germans. Expressions of discontent actually increased during the war, and Hitler remained willing to compromise in governing the German Volk as long as he thought the Reich could salvage victory.

Critique: "Protest in Hitler's National Community: Popular Unrest and the Nazi Response" is comprised of nine erudite and instructive articles that are impressively written works of seminal scholarship. Of special note are 'Women and Protest in Wartime Nazi Germany' by Jill Stephenson, The Possibilities of Protest in the Third Reich: The Written Demonstration in Context' by Julia S. Torrie; 'Protest and Aftermath: Placing Protest in the History of nazi Germany' by Nathan Stoltzfus. Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, an informative Introduction and Afterword, nine Appendices; a four page Select Bibliography, and a forty-one page Index, "Protest in Hitler's National Community: Popular Unrest and the Nazi Response" is strongly recommended for academic library 20th Century German History reference collections in general, and Nazi History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Projectionist
Carlo Gebler
New Island Books
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781848404571, $27.99, HC, 440pp,

Synopsis: An Irish writer of Czech origin, Ernest Gebler (31 December 1914[1] - 26 January 1998), is the author of such international bestselling novels as "The Plymouth Adventure" and "Call Me Daddy" (which became the film Hoffman), and who led a truly remarkable life. "The Projectionist: The Story of Ernest Gebler" is an unauthorized biography written by Carlo Gebler, Ernest's estranged son, and tells the many stories of his father's life, ranging from Ernest's turbulent personality and strict disciplinary attitude, to his staunch socialism, to his stormy marriage to Carlo's mother, the writer Edna O'Brien, to his final struggle with Alzheimer's disease. In "The Projectionist", Gebler explores and interprets his father's life in the hope of understanding why their relationship was such a difficult and emotional one, and which things from his own upbringing made his father the elusive man he was.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and fully absorbing read, "The Projectionist: The Story of Ernest Gebler" is a candid and insightful account of a remarkable man's life and achievements, his struggles and the consequences his choices would impose upon himself and his family. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Projectionist" is very highly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century Biography collections in general, and a "must read" for Ernest Gebler fans in particular.

The Orange Peel and Other Satires
S. Y. Agnon
The Toby Press
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776
9781592644384, $16.95, PB, 177pp,

Synopsis: "The Orange Peel and Other Satires" is a new collection of political stories written by the late Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon (1888-1970). In this outstanding anthology readers witness the satirist sharpening his pen like a carving knife, revealing his opinions from behind the mask of his art. Treating themes and events in the history of early twentieth-century Zionism, these stories continue to fascinate contemporary readers, questioning the degree to which a gap remains between aspiration and implementation in Jewish life and civic society in the modern State of Israel.

Critique: Combining wit and wisdom with a storytelling by a master of the short story format, "The Orange Peel and Other Satires" is a fully engaging read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Orange Peel and Other Satires" will be of particular value to anyone with an interest in 20th Century Israeli politics and social issues.

Manifesting 1, 2, 3: And You Don't Need #3
Ken Elliott
Solace Press
5282 Red Pass Way, Castle Rock, CO 80108
9781514875421, $14.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: Have you ever had the sense that your thoughts might actually be doing something? Imagine you are a genie and everything you wish begins to form up right in front of you. First is the thought and thought creates form. Ken Elliott's experiences and the stories comprising "Manifesting 1, 2, 3" describe exactly how your thoughts take form. You have been doing this all your life, but it has never been fully explained for you until now. At last, the true Secret is revealed about how thoughts create reality. This is the game changer, the real knowledge behind the workings of manifesting and the law of attraction.

"Manifesting 1, 2, 3" is a rare book with fundamentally new evidence that will change your view of the world. It clearly and simply explains creation itself. For 20 years, author Ken Elliott has experienced sending objects in thought and having them appear in real-time. This is a core Truth, and now the knowledge is yours to apply in your life.

"Manifesting 1, 2, 3" is a results-oriented book and not a series of exercises or complicated techniques. Readers will soon learn how to create the desires of a lifetime while overcoming the worries and blocks that impede their happiness. Indeed, "Manifesting 1, 2, 3" contains a Key to the Kingdom.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Manifesting 1, 2, 3: And You Don't Need #3" is an absorbing read and one that could well be life-changing for the better. Very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Manifesting 1, 2, 3: And You Don't Need #3" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Ology
Marty Machowski
Illustrated by Andy McGuire
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, Suite L-101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781942572282, $28.99, HC, 258 pages,

A Resource Guide for Parents - Multilayered Teaching of Biblical Truths for All Ages

"The Ology" is filled with life changing; Biblically sound stories that will equip parents to introduce their family foundational theological truths on the subjects of: God, man, sin, promises of the law, Christ, the Holy Spirit, adoption into God's family, the Church, end times, and God's Word.

The scripture passages and commentary challenge the reader to go beyond a casual reading and help establish a lifelong habit of Bible study, search for truth, assimilation, and personal application.

A parental guide describes how this multilevel resource can be adapted to every age level, from early and upper elementary students, through teens and adults. I like the suggestions for using discussion questions, the different Bible study approaches and the use of journals for optimum effectiveness. Suggestions are also provided for techniques to develop Scripture memory. A glossary of important Bible words helps the reader understand and embrace their meaning.

The format, artwork, graphics, and quality paper all add to the enjoyment and sense of importance of the permanence and the truth of the message being illustrated.

"The Ology" is a work of art. Every member of the family should be provided their own individual copy and be encouraged to make it a permanent addition to their personal library.

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

A Chameleon a Boy and a Quest
J. A. Myhre
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, Suite L-101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781942572084, $15.99, 160 pages.

A Tale of Adventure and Fantasy with Lessons on Redemption and Sacrifice

Author, J. A. Myhre, and illustrator Acacia Masso expand the mind of the reader and give the child a broader understanding of the world and peoples of Uganda, Africa and of man's universal need for fulfillment, purpose, acceptance, and family as seen through the eyes of ten year old Mu, a young African boy on a quest. A quest for identity and purpose, stolen from him as a baby.

"A Chameleon a Boy and a Quest" is an allegory, rich in adventure, full of fantasy; a combination of myth, superstition, folklore, and reality. Ten year old Mu is sold by his great uncle to men intent on using Mu for their evil purposes. In a fast moving series of events Mu faces danger, an ever present evil enemy, the friendship and guidance of a chameleon called Tita, and the protection of a dog named Botu.

Masso's bold pen and ink drawings add a new depth of meaning to Myhre's delightful narrative, and creative word pictures. Picture ten year old Mu riding bareback across the "nearly four meters above the African grasslands," or sleeping soundly, without fear, in an oversized deserted ant hill, with the howling of hyenas, and the snarling of a lioness, guarding her cubs in the background.

A compelling story, reminiscent of C. S. Lewis, insightful and compassionate full of hope in the midst of endangerment, an amazing story of miraculous provision sustenance and protection on each step of Mu's quest.

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

Legging It - Life Lessons Learned Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Craig Clapper, AKA Hoosier
Xulon Press
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9781498418867, $14.99, 2014, 116 pages,

Legging It - A Life Changing Pilgrimage

The Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Craig Clapper brings together for the reader three facets of life observed during his 2,186 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hiking experience: the physical, mental, and spiritual.

In a logical progression Hoosier, Clapper's trail name, carefully describes the topography of the trail, the climate, the scenic beauty, and the pitfalls and dangers along the way. He uses his keen power of observation to draw parallels from these unique experiences and shows how they mirror life and give insight into man's personal quest to find purpose and meaning.

Hoosier devotes a full chapter to the benefits of "Traveling Tight - Traveling with Friends." The community of hikers on the Appalachian Trail attest to the fact that the camaraderie and companionship developed along the trail is a driving force behind reaching Katahdin and attaining their goal of becoming a thru-hiker.

Photos taken of scenic markers and of fellow hikers add a significant dimension to Hoosier's creative word pictures of these new friends; they include: Sparks, Caribou, Dovetail, Nickelodian, Rash, Punkin Pie, Mot, Joe the Hiker, Samson, and many others. Hoosier compares this to the bond of friendship of David and Jonathan described in the Old Testament.

I especially appreciated the emphasis of the final chapters: Traveling with the End in Sight - Staying Committed, and The Joy of Completion. After completing the journey the thru-hikers received certificates of completion. The author's certificate is made out to "Hoosier, formerly known Craig Clapper." Hoosier reminds the reader of a more important "Joy of Completion" for the Christian, that is when at the end of our journey we hear the words from Jesus, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

Sunrises and Sunsets, Final Affairs Forged with Flair, Finesse, and Functionality
Holley Kelley, M.S, C.P.G.
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759974, $19.95, 212 pages,

A Template for a Life Long Planning Guide - Preparing Your Own Personal Living Legacy

In her book "Sunrises and Sunsets" gerontologist and journalist Holley Kelley helps the reader's perception of end of life issues from a taboo subject into a non-threatening road map or planning guide; leading the reader into an exciting exercise in finding a life of fullness and a legacy for experiencing a new richness in family relations, and a unique sense of peace through simplicity.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to a discussion of life and death, and your thoughts on these. I enjoyed her insights into the origin of the term "bucket list and of the benefits of having one.

Section two covers the importance of having: Advance directive, a will, preparing a written record of your finances, insurance policy. This section also includes important insights into making your final wishes and funeral preferences known.. Valuable sample forms, templates, with important commentary help the reader think through and record each of these issues. Interesting illustrations and stories reinforce the need for advance planning.

I especially liked section three. Forms are provided that will helped me create a summary of special dates, events, family traditions, early memories, core values, family history, and some parting "words of wisdom." A sample chart is provided for tracing your family tree, final planning checklists, and much, much more.

I enjoyed Kelley's writing style, appreciated her expertise, and plan to incorporate her suggestions in my advance care planning, with the intent of deepening family relationships and continuing a memorable and honorable family heritage. The importance of the content, reader friendly format, and universality of the subject make this a "must" addition to the family of every household at whatever stage of life being entered. Highly recommended.

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

Focus - Eliminating Distractions for Enhanced Spiritual Vision
Margie Fleurant
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408973, $ 15.99, 2016, 186 pages

Practical, Powerful, Tools to Identify Distractions from Maintaining a God Centered Focus

"Focus - Eliminating Distractions for Enhanced Spiritual Vision" helps the reader discover a new reality in Christ providing spiritual insight, enabling a clear vision for fulfilling and living out God's intended destiny for their life. Fleurant encourages the reader to undertake a self-examination with the intent of identifying the diversions that keep them from focusing on God.

Part One considers ways to restore our spiritual focus based on Biblical principles and standards. Part Two looks at the "10 most common distractions" that keep us from focusing on God's vison for our lives. Each chapter opens with a thought provoking quote from a highly respected leader and closes with a powerful prayer for reflection, affirmation, and application, providing specific steps to finding our spiritual identity.

I liked Fleurant's layman friendly writing style and familiarity with finding ways for an active spiritual walk with God in a fast moving technical age. Her practical illustrations, Christ honoring content, enlightening commentary reflect spiritual understanding, and discernment.

"Focus - Eliminating Distractions for Enhanced Spiritual Vision" is an important read for genuine Christ followers sincerely seeking to Find God's purpose for their life or desirous of regaining lost vision.

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

Created with Purpose
Johannah Clark Leach and Victoria West Henady
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408553, $14.99, 2016, 190 pages

Identity and Destiny - A Message of Hope and Redemption

In their book "Created with Purpose" Johannah Clark Leach and Victoria West Henady share their stories that are testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. The authors write with transparency identifying personal vulnerabilities experienced in their youth. They pass along the lessons they learned by breaking a pattern of destructive choices and of being healed of brokenness.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One looks at the personal journey of discovering and becoming "yourself." These chapters can become a tool for the reader to find encouragement, comfort, and hope, especially for anyone facing difficulty in discovering their identity in Christ.

Part Two helps the reader in areas of living with grace, sharing your story, fulfilling your destiny, and unlocking your dreams. I received new insights into the stewardship of the mind, taking control of our thoughts, communicating effectively, and the importance of a positive attitude. I also liked their approach to guiding the reader by providing practical specific steps to hone in on activation in their walk of faith that ignites faith in others.

Johannah Clark Leach founded Dance Revelation. Victoria West Henady has a Master's Degree in Counseling and works with Johanna's father, Dr. Randy Clark, in the organization Global Awakening and in the dance studio with Johannah. Johannah and Victoria have a passion for mentoring young teens and youth, in Christian values, social skills, and working through finding their identity and destiny.

This is a book that will resonate with a new generation of youth who are focused on Christ's mandate to discipleship, discovering purpose in life and stepping into their destiny through understanding the deeper meaning of loving God, self and others in light of the redemptive love provided in Jesus.

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

Hearing God through Biblical Meditation - Unlocking Fresh Revelation Daily
Mark Virkler
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408812, $15.99, 180 pages

Meditation - A Journey of Discovery - Read, Explore, Reflect, Activate

"Hearing God through Biblical Meditation - Unlocking Fresh Revelation Daily" is made up of easy to follow exercises designed to help the reader understand and experience the process of prayerful, reflective, contemplation on the Scriptures, while allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate the passage, and to provide guidance while pursuing God's purpose. Each of the 20 short chapters is filled with practical tools for communicating with God and knowing Him experientially.

The chapters contain instructions on basic principles for encountering God through the Scriptures, reflection exercises, space for journaling, a suggested Scripture of mediation, and meditation prompts. I found the suggestions for Spirit led observation of a Bible story, especially interesting, and helpful. The discussion on how Bible study and meditation work together, provided practical observations on man's doctrine versus sound doctrine and how "the conditions of one's heart is crucial in coming to truth.

Mark Virkler is recognized internationally for his ministry in helping others how to receive healing and develop intimacy with God through prayer and Biblical mediation.

"Hearing God through Biblical Meditation - Unlocking Fresh Revelation Daily" is intended for anyone desirous of hearing God more clearly and for those willing to commit to pursuing a deeper more intimate relationship with the Savior.

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

Unmasking the Devil - Strategies to Defeat Eternity's Greatest Enemy
John Ramirez
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408904, $15.99, 180 pages

Discern the Devil's Deception - Activate a Strategy of Spiritual Warfare to Defeat him and his Demons

In his book "Unmasking the Devil - Strategies to Defeat Eternity's Greatest Enemy" John Ramirez explores the realities of the devil, the dangers of demonology, and the subtleties of angelology. He also exposes the devils deception in the teachings of other religions, the new age movement, and spiritualism. He alerts the reader to the ways Satan blinds man's spiritual eyes and captures their imagination through horoscopes, paranormal phenomena, Ouija boards, horror movies, music, and pornography.

Ramirez writes with authority, is relevant in content, written for a contemporary audience. The book is arranged in a reader friendly format, with topical headings, and step by step instructive strategies which encourage review, retention, and activation.

"Unmasking the Devil - Strategies to Defeat Eternity's Greatest Enemy" is written with the prayer that readers will learn "how to expose and combat Satan and be inspired to live sanctified lives and fulfill their God given destiny..." He challenges his readers to fight the devil through spiritual warfare and provides a guide to finding spiritual freedom. John Ramirez, a former high ranking priest in Santeria, spiritualism, and the occult had an encounter with Jesus Christ, became a Christian, and is now an international evangelist, speaker, and author

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Jericho River
David W. Tollen
Winifred Press
9780985451721, $12.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 356pgs,

I want to say right off that I really loved this book. It drew me in and captured my soul as I began a journey of learning and adventure. I loved how he brought the characters to life and the wonderful travel we the reader was able t enjoy. A story that draws you in right away, yet takes other roads that you would have never thought you would travel. Almost like making a special cake the ingredients are added, mixed and with each one the reading experience becomes sweeter., richer and like honey keeps you marching forward. I think you will lie this read. Book received for a honest review.

Ghosts Don't Do Homework
Carolyn J. Gold
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511764063, $9.99 168 pages,

This is a great Ghost story with a learning experience added to it. We travel with a family who moves into a new house that has a History of hiding Slaves years before. However, little did they know there was also a Ghost that lived there as well. Was he evil or good? I am not going to tell. rusty, the son of the family encounters this Ghost and the story wraps around their relationship. I was really pulled into this tale and could not put it down. It had facts in it about the Slave days but also had a great family story. I liked it a lot from beginning to end and I am happy to recommend it to you. I received this book for a honest review.

The Cemetery Paintings
Ricardo M. Fleshman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497477872, 123pgs, $9.99,

In this story we are with the famous Deceptive Boyne Novels as he is thrown into a case with a past beautiful woman love . Will this bring him help or cause him more trouble than he ever thought. Another fast paced yet adventurous Detective adventure awaits you in this read. As always and what I have come to expect this book is well written with a page turning adventure and a surprising ending. Good read.

The Chorus Effect
Russell Boyd
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478750321, $14.95, 460pgs,

I really didn't think at first I would like this book but I certainly had a change of mind once I got into the read. I loved the way he brought the characters alive, regular and the 'strange' ones. It really held my attention and the story line moved along at a great pace. This is a different read, which I found refreshing and very enjoyable. Good job.

Bats and Bones
Jeffrey Hickey
Big-n-Boo Productions
9780991257546, $14.95, 44pgs

I was quite surprised with the reading of these stories. I found myself captivated in the tales and especially when I heard them read on the CD. They just truly came to life, almost giving me chills. This book is very captivating entertaining and interesting. Perhaps not the norm or what you are use to, but that's a good thing from time to time. I'm happy to recommend this read to you. I really believe you would truly enjoy the listening tales. Very well done.

The Shiver Men
Ricardo M. Fleshman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781517246433, $14.95, 156pgs,

This book was a little bit lighter than others I have read in this series, however it was still captivating and held my attention. Our Detective never disappoints us in his actions and your always at least once in these reads on the edge of your seat. Yet you are drawn into adventure, excitement, and darkness, evil people, love affairs and one great ending. Quite a ride.

Lumbar Herniated Disk
Veritas Health
790 Estate Drive, Deerfield, IL 60015
9780996517508, $12.95, 58pgs,

You know you might not think this is the type of book that you would want to pick up and read but you need to realize that the information in this book could be just what you or a loved one needs. It is a book about problems with a Herniated Disc and how to help fix them. As stated at the beginning of the book this statement is true, "The Essential Guide to Finding Back Pain Relief" and so you will.

I like how it states right up front that the goal of this book is to help you to understand your condition, and have knowledge to get the proper treatment, medicine, and support. It is packed full of useful knowledge written in a way that all would be able to understand and put to use. You have 'Self-Care Treatments' Medical Treatments" "Therapeutic exercises" and much more all giving you knowledge which you will find very useful.

Sometime things happen in life that seem overwhelming and we just don't know where or who to turn to. If you, or someone you love are dealing with these issues this book will definitely be a God send to all. It definitely kept my attention and I read it from cover to cover. It is going in my Bookcase so I know exactly where it is. I'm happy to recommend it to you. It is worth its weight in gold and will answer probably every question you have. Highly recommended, thankful to have received this for a honest review.

Vacation Land
Nat Goodale
Bowditch Press
9780989840606, $24.69, 236pgs

I grew up on the East Coast so did spend some time in Maine so the site of this read was interesting to me. Our author did a great job at bringing the story to life, both with his description of the land, the waters, the occupations they held, which is important to the entire storyline, the town people and the new comers. All was clear in your mind. All added just the right pieces to bring the story to life. Of course I am one of those people who feel. 'Don't move into our community and try to change it because it's working just the way we want it to' What can I say? Anyway

The story wrapped around well giving you some mystery, joined with excitement, romance but also with the characters moving in their daily business and I really found the life and jobs on the water so interesting, and so important to so many. You actually will learn from this read but enjoy a well written story as well. Good Job. Book received for a honest review.

Bearly Geography
K. A. Meade
Meadow Lane Publishing
9780993346231, $10.99, 60pgs

Did you ever want to know just a little bit more about Bears? Are all Bears the same no matter what Country they live in? Well do all Countries have Bears at all? Hum. In this delightful take you will find out about the bears in eleven Countries. What do you know about a Japanese Bear? Or an Irish Bear? Hum! This is a great book, illustrations are wonderful, information told in a fun way, and great for learning. Young and old will enjoy this read. Well worth your consideration. Book received for a honest review.

Being a Captain is Hard Work: A Captain No Beard Story
Carole Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781522781783, $12.99, 60 Pages,

I am always thrilled to be asked to review one of Ms. Roman's books because I know it will be great, and once again she proved me right. In this tale Our Captain and his crew are sailing away, but it seems the Captain thinks he can run everything without help of his crew, and does not listen to their knowledge of different situations. Not good. As we continue reading we learn what can happen when the person in charge is not open to wisdom from others he or she works with or is over. In this read we quickly learn that working together and listening to others who perhaps have more knowledge than us, can certainly help to stop some bad situations. This is a wonderful read for both young and old alike to teach just that. The pictures are top-notch as always and certainly help bring the story to life. I have to say another winner from a Author who never lets us down. Great read, received for a honest review.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Hounds of the Lord
Kevin Vost
Sophia Institute Press
PO Box 5284, Manchester, NH 03108
9781622822898, $18.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: The Dominican order of the Roman Catholic Church are called Hounds of the Lord. For 800 years they have fearlessly declared Christ's gospel message, saving countless souls and showing us how to think, do, and love for the glory of God. Inspired by the stories of their saints, we join the Dominicans in celebrating the Jubilee of their first 800 years. In these pages, readers will draw inspiration and spiritual strength from the lives, lessons, and legacies of their intellectual giants and enrapture mystics, the men and women who scrubbed floors, and those who cared for the dying. Readers will discover countless fascinating and pious stories, prophetic dreams and visions, apparitions of Christ and Our Lady, appearances of the devil in disguise, miraculous healings, episodes of bi-location, stigmata, incorruption after death, and more. From St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Martin de Porres, in story after story readers will see how God favored these holy men and women in so many surprising and supernatural ways. Even 800 years later, these Hounds of the Lord are still out there today, roaming the world, seeking out souls to retrieve for Christ.

Critique: an inherently fascinating and fully absorbing read from beginning to end, "Hounds of the Lord" is as informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring. "Hounds of the Lord" is very highly recommended to the attention of anyone curious about the role and history of the Dominican order within the Christian community. An important addition to seminary and church library reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hounds of the Lord" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Power of Unlimited Imagination
Neville Goddard
Devorss Publications
PO Box 1389, Carmarillo, CA 93012
9780875168791, $10.95, PB, 150pp,

Synopsis: The late Neville Goddard (1905-1972) was an erudite and articulate presenter of a metaphysical philosophy called New Thought. Goddard maintained that it was observing our consciousness was merely the beginning of self-understanding. Of critical import was the role imagination plays in directing our consciousness, that there is where the life-changing power resides. Imagination was at the core of the message Neville taught for so many years. "The Power of Unlimited Imagination: A Collection of Neville's San Francisco Lectures" is a collection of some of Neville's most eloquent lectures and speaking engagements from San Francisco in 1952. This edition of "The Power of Unlimited Imagination: A Collection of Neville's San Francisco Lectures" covers such topics as Your Infinite Worth; Desire; Seeing God; the Perfect Will of God; The Pearl of Great Price; Self-Remembering; Your Destiny; Your Personal Autobiography; The Human Spirit; Awake, O Sleeper; and more.

Critique: As informed and informative as these lectures were thoughtful and thought-provoking, no personal, community, or academic library should be without a copy of "The Power of Unlimited Imagination: A Collection of Neville's San Francisco Lectures" included in their Philosophy & Metaphysical Studies reference collections or reading lists. It should be noted that "The Power of Unlimited Imagination: A Collection of Neville's San Francisco Lectures" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.95).

Fox Tooth Heart
John McManus
Sarabande Books
2234 Dundee Road, Suite 200, Louisville, KY 40205
9781941411100, $15.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: John McManus's long awaited short story collection encompasses the geographic limits of America, from trailers hidden in deep Southern woods to an Arkansas ranch converted into an elephant refuge. His lost-soul characters reel precariously between common anxiety and drug-enhanced paranoia, sober reality and fearsome hallucination. "Fox Tooth Heart" is an outstanding anthology comprised of nine short story masterpieces of twisted humor and pathos which re-establishes McManus as one of the most bracing voices of our time.

Critique: A truly impressive collection of deftly crafted, original and absorbing stories by a master wordsmith, "Fox Tooth Heart" by John McManus is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fox Tooth Heart" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.69).

Grant Notley
Howard Leeson
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772121254, $29.95, PB, 276pp,

Synopsis: Grant Notley, leader of Alberta's New Democratic Party from 1968 to 1984, stood out in Alberta politics. His goals, his personal integrity, his obvious dedication to social change, and his "practical idealism" made him the social conscience of Alberta. He bridged the old and the new; he provided the necessary hard work to ensure the continuation of a social democratic party in Alberta. Albertans felt intuitively that he represented a part of their collective being, and his untimely death in 1984 touched them deeply. Now in a newly updated second edition, Howard Leeson's "Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta" recognizes Notley's significant contribution to the continuity and health of his party while acknowledging the important work of his daughter, Rachel Notley, who led the Alberta NDP to electoral victory in 2015.

Critique: Especially commended to the attention of those with an interest in Canadian politics in general, and the political career of Grant Notley in particular, "Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Canadian Political Science, Canadian Social History, and Canadian Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta" is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.99).

I Sleep in Hitler's Room
Tuvia Tenenbom
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652298713, $21.95, PB, 334pp,

Synopsis: "I Sleep in Hitler's Room" by Tuvia Tenenbom is an essentially Jewish story, a tale told with biting humor. A travelogue in the form of a journal kept by a Jew from New York traveling in today's Germany, "I Sleep in Hitlers Room" is also a story about modern anti-Semitism, about hate that refuses to disappear, about a disease that wont get cured and a curse that wont let go. Traveling across Germany and seeking out that elusive quality that is the German character, playwright and journalist Tuvia Tenenbom wonders whether he has identified it in any one of several striking social phenomena the proclivity of Germans to join clubs and group activities; how their aptitude for visual design shapes their architecture and their daily life; how their daily life is suffused with soccer and beer, the omnipresent beverage for all occasions; how they proudly self-define themselves by their achievements in precision technology; and, what is most disturbing to this son of Holocaust survivors, how their crushing awareness of their dark history coexists with virulent anti-Semitism and a stubborn obsession with Israel. Tenenbom integrates deep seriousness with the most lighthearted comic touch in this critical but affectionate look at both left and right in contemporary German politics and society.

Critique: Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, as insightful as it is laced with wit, "I Sleep in Hitler's Room" is one of those rare volumes that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. "I Sleep in Hitler's Room" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Judaic Studies, Anti-Semitism Studies, and Contemporary German Social Issues collections.

Trouble I've Seen
Drew G. I. Hart
Herald Press
1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
9781513800004, $16.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: What if racial reconciliation doesn't look like what you expected? The high-profile killings of young black men and women by white police officers, and the protests and violence that ensued, have convinced many white Christians to reexamine their intuitions when it comes to race and justice. In "Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism", theologian and blogger Drew G. I. Hart places police brutality, mass incarceration, antiblack stereotypes, poverty, and everyday acts of racism within the larger framework of white supremacy. Leading readers toward Jesus, Hart offers concrete practices for churches that seek solidarity with the oppressed and are committed to racial justice. What if all Christians listened to the stories of those on the racialized margins? How might the church be changed by the trouble we ve seen?

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking in organization and presentation, "Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism" provides a biblically based Christian perspective in the form of a candid analysis of racial injustice in the twenty-first century. Of special note is the call to action for Christians committed to racial justice and creative proposals for antiracist practices for churches. "Trouble I've Seen" is very highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.

Blind Reef
Peter Tonkin
Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl., New York, NY 10022
9780727885333, $28.00, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Richard and Robin Mariner, relaxing in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, suddenly find themselves saving the lives of several refugees when their boat flounders on Shaab Ruhr Siyoul, known as the Blind Reef. One of the survivors, Nahom, is of particular interest to the Mariners. His twin sister, Tsibekti, has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by smugglers. Shocked by Nahom's story, Richard and Robin soon become dangerously involved, traveling into the heart of the Sinai in their quest to find the lost girl. But they will need to tread a perilous path, steering clear of Egyptian police, Bedouin smugglers and militant Islamists to have any hope of rescuing Tsibekti and getting out of the desert alive.

Critique: The newest addition to the 'Richard Mariner Nautical Adventure' series by novelist Peter Tonkin, "Blind Reef" is a truly riveting read from beginning to end and continues to demonstrate Tonkin as master of the genre. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blind Reef" is also available in a paperback edition (9781847516374, $17.95) and in a Kindle format ($13.99).

Decoding the Workplace
John Ballard
Praeger Publishers
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781440838262, $37.00, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: "Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations" by John Ballard (Professor of Management in the School of Business at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) is highly readable career development book reveals dynamic aspects of the workplace that are hidden to many, ignored by others. These are factors that can make or break careers. "Decoding the Workplace" provides easy-to-read information that allows readers to better understand the workplace around them, the behavior of others, and even themselves; offers proven advice that can help readers be more effective, regardless of what stage they are in their careers; discusses 50 keys for unlocking the workplace and illustrates key concepts through dozens of stories and practical examples; and presents insights grounded in what management scholars know about human behavior, management, and the workplace.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of ten pages of Notes, as well as a five page Index, "Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations" is as informed and informative a read as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Of special note are the chapters on 'Norms: Beware the Unwritten Rules of the Workplace' and 'Job Satisfaction, Conflict, and Stress: What's Good, What's Not, What's Hidden'. An absolute "must" for community, corporate, and academic library Business Management Studies collections, "Decoding the Workplace" should be considered critically important reading for anyone working in a corporate environment. For individual reading lists it should also be noted that "Decoding the Workplace" is also available in a Kindle edition ($29.60).

One Out of Two
Daniel Sada
Graywolf Press
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555977245, $14.00, PB, 88pp,

Synopsis: The most distinctive thing about the Gamal sisters is that they are, essentially, indistinguishable (except for a modest mole). The twin spinsters spend their time trying to mask any perceptible differences they have while working hard at their thriving tailoring business in a small town in rural northern Mexico. When? Thirty years ago? Fifty years ago? Who can say-the world seems not to intrude on Ocampo very much. Gloria and Constitution take an almost perverse delight in confusing people about which one is which. But then a suitor enters the picture, and one of the sisters decides that she doesn't want to live a life without romance and all the good things that come with it. The ensuing competition between the sisters brings their relationship to the breaking point until they come up with an ingenious solution that carries this buoyant farce to its tender and even liberating conclusion. Suffused with the tension between our desire for union and our desire for independence, Daniel Sada's "One Out of Two" is a giddy and comic fable by one of the giants of contemporary Latin American literature.

Critique: Exceptionally well translated from Spanish into English for a contemporary American readership by Katherine Silver, "One Out of Two" is a truly impressive work of literary fiction that will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "One Out of Two" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Plotinus: Ennead II.5
Cinzia Arruzza, translator
Parmenides Publishing
3753 Howard Hughes Parkway, #200, Las Vegas, NV 89169
9781930972636, $37.00, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: The term dunamis (potentiality) entered into the philosophical vocabulary with Plato, but it was with Aristotle that it acquired, together with energeia (actuality), the strong technical meaning that the two terms have maintained, with variations, throughout subsequent philosophical tradition. The significance of the notions of actuality and potentiality in Plotinus' thought can hardly be overstated. Throughout the Enneads, they are crucial to understanding the specific causality of intelligible realities and the relation of participation between intelligible and sensible realms.

In Ennead II.5, Plotinus for the first time provides a systematic clarification of his peculiar use of these terms, through a sustained revision of Aristotle's own elaboration of the topic and of his terminology. The treatise discusses the different meanings of potentiality and actuality as well as the way each of them applies or does not apply to the sensible realm, to the intelligible realm, and to matter. While the structure of the text unfolds in a coherent and cohesive manner, Plotinus' writing in this treatise is dense and at times dry in its technicality. The detailed commentary guides the reader step by step, making an otherwise particularly difficult text accessible.

Critique: Erudite, insightful, deftly written, organized and presented, ably translated with an informed introduction and an informative commentary by Cinzia Arruzza "Plotinus: Ennead II" is an especially recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Greek Literary & Philosophy reference collections in general and Plotinus supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Mr Green Jeans
Chris McGee
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861134, $22.95, PB, 263pp,

Synopsis: A middle-aged married couple throw caution to the winds to help the ecologically stressed planet. traveling from the Midwest to the Southwest in a converted VW van, they clandestinely exhibit their earth messages. Their actions soon become viral, and a following erupts. But there are those who want to shut them down, and with that, Jack and Lake Creek's lives change forever.

Critique: Exceptionally well written from beginning to end, "Mr Green Jeans" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Chris McGee's debut venture as an eco-novelist. "Mr Green Jeans" is very highly recommended, especially to the attention of environmental activists, and will make an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections.

The Last Best Hope
Ronald Reagan, author
Introduction by Michael Reagan
Humanix Books
PO Box 20989, West Palm Beach, FL 33416
c/o Perseus Book Group (dist.)
250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107
9781630060497 $26.99 hc / $17.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Here in this collection of twenty-eight speeches spanning the Reagan era, readers can find inspiration in Reagan's "sermons." From his first speech in the political arena in 1964 to his Last Letter to America, informing Americans of his Alzheimer's disease, Ronald Regan's words show a profound belief in God, freedom, individualism, limited government, and his great love for his country. In addition to an introduction by Reagan's son, Michael Reagan, each speech features an informative introduction which puts the speech into historical context, making The Last Best Hope the perfect entree into the influence of one of the major figures of the 20th century.

Critique: President Ronald Reagan earned the name "The Great Communicator" while in office; his talent for connecting with Americans of all walks of life shined through his speeches, and to this day political hopefuls (and incumbents!) invoke his name. The Last Best Hope is a selection of his more inspirational and moving speeches, and a reminder of why Reagan was so popular that he won two consecutive Presidential elections with landslide victories. Featuring an introduction by Ronald Reagan's son Michael Reagan, The Last Best Hope: The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagan is highly recommended for library political science shelves.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Blood on Snow
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780804172554, $14.00, Paperback, 192 pp,

This novel is offered as a standalone by the author of the popular Harry Hole series, creating a new, very different type of protagonist, a contract killer with a convoluted personality full of paradoxes. His name is Olav Johansen and he is a solitary person who acts as a fixer, getting rid of persons his pimp boss wishes to remove from the living world.

After establishing a pretty good picture of Olav as a person, the beginning of a extraordinary plot evolves. His boss, who controls both prostitution and heroin rackets in Oslo, tells Olav to kill his wife, creating a dilemma for the fixer. In researching the wife's activities preparatory to killing her, he instead falls in love with his intended victim. And this leads to further ramifications later on, not to be revealed in this review.

Happily, the sequel to this novel, "Midnight Sun," is due out in February, 2016 - can't wait! The author always gives us such wonderful plots, written with intensity, and characters who provide us with charm, amusement and insights.

Highly recommended.

Six and a Half Deadly Sins
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955588, $25.95, Hardcover, 256 pp,

A package arrives addressed to Dr. Siri Paiboun, the retired Laos coroner, containing a pha sin (a knitted dress). Examining it, he discovers a severed finger sewn into the hem, setting him, his wife and a friend on a sort of treasure hunt in the northern part of the country in the midst of the beginning of an invasion of Vietnam by China, with PRC troops making incursions into Laos to establish a third front. To complicate matters, the good doctor and his wife exhibit flu-like symptoms, which continually worsen as the trip progresses.

The object of the trip is to discover who sent the package, which had no return address. So, traveling from village to village, from weaver to weaver, to identify each package containing another pha sin and a clue sewn into the hem given to him at each location, the trio plod on. Along the way they encounter an opium-and heroin-smuggling operation and a nasty, murderous foreman of a road-building group sponsored by the Chinese.

All in all, this is another bizarre adventure for Dr. Siri, and he is complemented by his madcap entourage and their caustic humor enabling them to cope with the vagaries of the communist regime in Vientiane. This time, his sardonic humor doesn't help him solve the couple of mysteries haunting him. But logic and planning come to the fore. Lots of fun, and recommended.

World Gone By
Dennis Lehane
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062351814, $16.99, Paperback, 320 pp,

The life Joe Coughlin has lived began in "The Given Day" as a young man rebelling against his stern police captain father in Boston, and continued in "Live By Night" as he turned to a life of crime, rising in the ranks to run the rackets in Florida and elsewhere. Now, "World Gone By" brings the story to a conclusion.

This segment takes place around the time the United States entered World War II and takes a deep look at Joe's machinations as he operates between the various elements of society, government and the disparate areas of their less reputable members with whom he comes into contact. At the same time, we see Joe as a doting father of a motherless son, having lost his Cuban wife in a horrible murder at the end of the last novel.

For all his money and power, the fear of death always pervades a gangster's life, and the plot has Joe learning that a contract has been taken out on his life, his murder scheduled for Ash Wednesday, less than a week away. The steps Joe takes to learn of the plot and what to do about it has ramifications for the remainder of the story, which is as about well-written and -plotted as anything recently read.

This novel, as the entire trilogy, is highly recommended.

Rock with Wings
Anne Hillerman
c/o HarperCollins
101 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062270511, $26.99 Hardcover, 320 pp,
9780062270524, $9.99, 384 pp., Paperback,

Ann Hillerman clearly demonstrated in "Spider Woman's Daughter," her initial effort to continue the extremely well-accepted Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito series written by her father, Tony, that she was more than capable of doing so, although this reviewer believed she still needed to develop more of the characteristics of the originals, hoping to see Tony's deft touches of descriptions of the Southwest and Indian culture in her future efforts. While to some degree we find it here and there throughout this second novel, there is still room for improvement, and no doubt she will achieve that goal.

Also the bullet in the brain of the legendary Lt. Leaphorn was questioned, effectively removing a main character of the series from the plot. Fortunately, he returns in this novel, while he continues to recuperate. Although unable to speak, he is able to communicate by tapping his fingers to indicate 'yes' or 'no,' and even using a laptop. So he is able to perform key service to his two proteges, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, two Navaho police officers now married to each other for two years. Here the two are separated for some days as two different plot lines are developed. He is sent to Monument Valley to watch over an area occupied by moviemakers and becomes more involved with unexpected mysteries and murders. She meanwhile makes a routine traffic stop which develops into an obsession and further crime and even physical violence. The two are able to bring their efforts to fruition with assistance from the legendary lieutenant.

On the whole, "Rock with Wings" is an excellent novel, and if weren't for the high standards set by Tony Hillerman, much of the criticism above would not be made. Unfortunately, that can't be avoided and the bar is high. Nevertheless, the novel is worthy of a reading and it is suggested that one do so.


Memory Man
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455559824, $28.00, Hardcover, 416 pp.,
9781455559817, $15.99, Paperback, 432 pp.,

Amos Decker played in only one game in his pro football career, but it changed his life. On the very first play of the very first game he appeared in, he was hit so hard that he died and was resuscitated twice. But more importantly, his brain was affected in such a way that he never forgets anything. He went on to be a cop and then a darned good detective until he came home one day and found his wife and 10-year-old daughter murdered. He quit the police force and went downhill from that point, eking out an existence by living in a one-room Residence Inn and taking on odd jobs as a private detective.

A little more than a year after he lost his wife and daughter, a man walks into the police station and confesses. And Amos is not convinced he is guilty. It turns out that he isn't, and his case is dismissed. But Amos is asked by his old boss to become a consultant when the high school is invaded and four members of the football squad, a female senior, the gym teacher and an assistant principal are shot and killed. And so begins a deep look into not only this event, but additional murders and how Decker's brain works.

The author is well-known for his meticulous plotting and eye for detail. And this ability is more than adequately exhibited in this 400-page novel. One questionable aspect is Decker's penchant to be a one-man show, shunning backup even the rawest recruit would know enough to request, making for a questionable conclusion. Yet it is a viable story, one that is recommended.

The Stolen Ones
Owen Laukkanen
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735210813, $16.00, Paperback, 384 pp,

This thriller brings back Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere. Partners in the newly established joint BCA-FBI violent crime task force, they find themselves in the middle of an international kidnapping and prostitution operation without a clue. The women (and literally girls) are recruited in eastern Europe with glowing promises, shipped in a false compartment in a shipping container, first across the Atlantic and then across the continent. That's the experience of Irina and Catalina Milosovici, Romanian sisters.

At one stop, the driver shoots a police officer, setting off a manhunt but enabling Irina to escape. What follows is a plodding police procedural that requires plenty of sheer luck to catch the culprits and save any of the girls, especially Catalina. It takes the protagonists back and forth from Montana all over the country until they reach the port of entry for bringing the girls to this country, the Port of New York.

The plot, such as it is, is woven to include some violence, especially at the conclusion, during which the culprits, the Dragon, a murderous and greedy criminal, and Andrei Volovoi, the importer of girls and operational man, meet their fate. The story moves quickly along and is smoothly written, and is recommended.

The Ghosts of Belfast
Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
c/o Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781606957698, $9.99, Paperback, 400 pp,

The "Troubles" in Northern Ireland have spawned many novels, but none as intense and different as Ghosts. Based on the past efforts of Republicans to force unification with Eire and the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the North, the novel focuses on the torment of Gerry Fegan who has, as an assassin on orders from above, killed a dozen victims, some of whom were innocent, two of whom he liquidated while on a furlough from prison to attend his mother's funeral.

After serving his prison sentence, Fegan returns to Belfast and is given a sinecure by the Party to support him. But he is haunted by the "ghosts" of his victims who demand he avenge them by slaying those responsible for ordering their deaths. The novel is divided into 12 sections, one for each of the avenging ghosts. As Fegan accomplishes each step in the series, complications in the political situation arise as he upsets the delicate balance achieved in the peace process.

The story is told basically through the eyes of Fegan and Campbell, an undercover British intelligence operative. Both are viewed sympathetically, although Fegan more so. Each, however, is considered redundant in the present-day province. Meanwhile, British, IRA and other northern Irish personages are treated as hypocritical opportunists.

The history of both parts of the Irish isle is gruesome, and the events and characters in the novel emphasize the cost. As one of the "ghosts" states: "Everybody pays." Tightly written and graphically presented, the debut novel was the first in a series, giving the reader much to look forward to.

Highly recommended.

In Like Flynn
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250075185, $15.99, Paperback, 321 pp,

The Molly Murphy series now numbers 14 and is still going strong. This novel was published a decade ago, and is now offered as a reprint in paperback form. As in other stories centering on the young Irish immigrant aspiring to be a detective, this one starts innocently enough but quickly evolves into a more complicated plot. With the turn of 20th Century lil' Old New York in the throes of a typhoid epidemic, Captain Daniel Sullivan schemes to get Molly away from the crowded city by asking her to undertake what he considers to be a quiet and safe undercover assignment at the Hudson River mansion of Sen. Barney Flynn.

Molly goes there under an assumed name, posing as the Senator's Irish cousin visiting the country, meanwhile attempting to find evidence that two spiritualist sisters are frauds. And she becomes embroiled in several other mysteries, including who was responsible for the kidnapping of the Senator's son, and possible murder, years before, among others.

In any event, this novel, which appeared early in the series, is not only an excellent crime story, but, as usual, an interesting look at Molly's evolving development as a character, her relationship with her future husband and her growth as a person, and is recommended.

Fox is Framed
Lachlan Smith
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802125503, $24.00, Hardcover, 244 pp,

In this, the third novel in the Leo Maxwell series, Leo's older Maxwell brother, Teddy, obtains a new trial for their father, Lawrence, who has served 21 years in San Quentin for the murder of his wife, Caroline. The basis for the retrial was prosecutorial misconduct, the withholding of evidence from the defense. In the second trial, it is never clearly explained by either the DA or the defense attorney if disclosure originally would have made any difference. However, the new trial allows the author, a practicing attorney, to write a detailed and interesting description of the tactics and planning for a murder trial.

In the new trial, the DA introduces evidence of a "confession" made by Lawrence to a fellow inmate while incarcerated. Soon, however, the snitch is found dead and the specter of Lawrence being charged for the murder looms over the trial. While a brilliant attorney defends Lawrence in court, it remains for Leo to follow up on leads, both large and small.

To give the author his due, he graphically portrays the courtroom scenes realistically, showing how the judge rules with wisdom and fairness, as well as how an attorney goes about probing a witness. He continues the high drama surrounding the Maxwell family found in the previous novels and lays the groundwork for the next addition to the series. A very fast read, and one which is recommended.

Burning Down George Orwell's House
Andrew Ervin
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781616954949, $26.00, Hardcover, 272 pp,

This introspective debut novel chronicles the ups and downs in the life of Ray Welter, a farm boy who rose to the top of his profession until his inner self caught up with him. Then he tossed it all away in effort to escape everything he had left behind in Chicago: a high-paying advertising job, a wife, and a way of life with which he had increasingly become disenchanted. He takes off to the Scottish Isle of Jura. And rents, for six months (with the last of his funds which he hopes to spend before his wife grabs the money in the divorce settlement), the cottage where George Orwell wrote and finished the satirical novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

The inhabitants of Jura are an eccentric bunch, protective of each other and their way of life, especially disdainful of outsiders, tourists and the like. Ray's intrusion sets up many amusing situations. That Inner Hebrides island is known for its single malt scotch, and Ray consumes a prodigious amount in an effort to either lose or find himself. In the meantime, not only does he have to cope with his own troubles but also deal with the foibles and problems arising from the various characters in the community.

The author uses comedy to mask the seriousness of the novel, which deeply probes Ray's thinking, seeking to define the good and bad of his life as he knows it and distilling the results until Ray can reach an inner peace. It is quite an achievement, rarely seen in a first effort. Can Ray reach his nirvana? Read and enjoy the book, which is highly recommended, and find out.

Book 2: The Chronicles of the Invaders Trilogy
John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard
Emily Bestler Books / Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476757162, $16.00, Paperback, 464 pp.,

The middle novel in a planned trilogy about earthling Paul Kerr and his beloved Syl Hellias, an alien female born on planet Earth, continues in separate adventures that keep them apart. After Syl aided Paul and his brother in escaping from Edinburgh castle in Conquest, they were subsequently captured and given a choice to join the brigades, eventually assigned to investigate a distant planet. Syl, on the other hand, is given the option with her friend Ani of entering the sisterhood on a moon satellite of the Illyri planet and trained to become a member of the order.

Individually, Paul and Syl during their separate adventures discover an evil so horrible it could destroy the Earth and the rest of the known world. As they struggle with their knowledge they must find ways to develop their abilities and make known the truth of what they have learned, much less to save everything before it is destroyed.

While the books were primarily intended for a teenage audience, an adult can also read and enjoy the novel, which is no less a sci-fi fantasy and what is loosely a love story. The two novels, and the third yet to come, were written by John Connolly, the Irish novelist perhaps best known for the Charlie Parker mysteries, and his partner and mother of his two sons, Jennifer Ridyard. This is not the first time Mr. Connolly has turned his attention from Charlie Parker to a different type of novel. He also is the author of a trilogy for younger readers and even a modern fairy tale. Now we have the completion of another trilogy to look forward to. "Empire," like "Conquest," is recommended.

Falling in Love
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802123534, $26.00, 264 pp.,

Flavia Petrelli, a renowned opera singer, appeared in the very first Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, in which he saved her life. Now, 27 novels later, she reappears singing Tosca at the Venice opera house, La Fenice. In the first book, she was a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. Now, she is the victim of an unidentified admirer who inundates her with yellow roses, not only in Venice, but in London and St. Petersburg, where she had sung earlier.

The plot unfolds as the soprano becomes more and more concerned about the flowers, especially when she arrives at the apartment she is temporarily occupying and finds more roses. How was the person who delivered them able to enter the building? The Commissario and his wife, Paola, attend an early performance and meet with the singer following the opera and invite her to dinner at his titled in-laws. During dinner, Brunetti learns of her fears and begins to connect her apprehensions with another case he is investigating, that of an assault on a young woman who was pushed down the steps of a bridge resulting in a broken arm and stitches on her head.

The story gives the author the means to not only highlight Venice and its attributes, as is usual in the series, but also the world of opera and the mind of a stalker, as he narrows his efforts to nab the culprit before any further harm occurs. Somehow, some of the endearing aspects of prior novels are downplayed in this latest effort. Brunetti's prodigious appetite is muted, relegated too often to the equivalent of fast food restaurants; the more-than-adequately described succulent meals (and recipes) Paola prepares are seemingly offered as an afterthought; the tender relationship between husband and wife is almost ignored as well as the precociousness of the son and daughter, much less the conversations over the dinner (or luncheon) table we have come to love. While these are charming, their lack hardly takes away from the Commissario's skills as a detective as he pursues the case.

The novel is well worth reading, and recommended.

Midnight Sun
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385354202, $23.95, Hardcover, 288 pp.,

This short noir tale examines the life of Jon Hansen, who sold hash for a living in Oslo before becoming an employee of the largest drug lord, the Fisherman, as a fixer, one who collects outstanding debts and even murders people when necessary. It seems to ask the question whether such an evil man has any redeeming qualities and can be saved.

On Jon's very first assignment as a fixer he couldn't pull the trigger. Instead he accepts a bribe, half of what the victim stole from the Fisherman along with a sizable amount of drugs, and fled Oslo to the northernmost portion of Norway near the Arctic Circle in an effort to avoid his employer's clutches, knowing his efforts would probably be unsuccessful since the Fisherman never stops looking until he sees the body. In the little town he meets a woman immersed deeply in her religion and befriends her son, who he tells him his namee is Ulf. He hides in a cabin far from town with a rifle that the woman lends him.

Written in the spare language Mr. Nesbo has shown in previous novels, and excellently translated, Hansen is placed in a variety of situations each illustrating a test of sorts as to his real traits, until he finally sees the light. Having never really experienced love, except for a daughter who died at a extremely young age, can Hansen find the emotion? It is a simple question in an unadorned story that captures one's heart, and it is highly recommended.

The Whites
Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9780312621308, $16.00, Paperback, 352 pp,

Captain Ahab had his frustration in a white whale. The Wild Geese, five free-ranging policemen in the stormy Bronx, four of whom are now retired, have theirs in the form of the "whites," the perpetrators who walked away from their crimes, never apprehended and convicted. Only Billy Graves remains on the job, sort of, while the others are enjoying their pensions pursuing other endeavors, ranging from mortician to real estate mogul.

Because of a fluke shot which Billy made at an attacking dope peddler which penetrated his body and continued on to kill a little boy, Billy's career was utterly sidetracked. He is buried as the head of a night squad of misfits which pick up cases between midnight and 8 am, only to turn them over to daytime detectives. But Billy takes the job seriously, especially when he discovers the whites, one by one, are being murdered, and he suspects his four friends. What to do? Bring them to an accounting or turn the other cheek? Meanwhile, Billy faces another dilemma: someone is harassing and even assaulting his family.

These themes are so interestingly presented that the reader must keep turning pages. The descriptions of New York City and The Bronx (where this dyed-in-the-wool Gothamite grew up) are so accurate and graphic that it invokes real nostalgia. There may be too much detail throughout the novel, but such depth is necessary.

Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Raiding the Trust Fund
Allen W. Smith
Ironwood Publications
74 Oakridge Drive, Frostproof, FL 33843
9780990303664, $9.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: The money's gone! Social Security doesn't have $2.7 trillion stashed away for paying benefits, as so many people believe. It cannot pay benefits for another 20 years, as is often claimed. In fact, Social Security does not have enough money to pay full benefits, even for 2014, without borrowing money from China or another of our creditors. How can this be? Wasn't Social Security fixed by the Social Security Amendments of 1983, which included a large increase in payroll taxes? That's what we were told at the time. President Reagan signed that legislation into law with great fanfare on April 20, 1983. With his comments at the signing ceremony, Reagan gave the impression that it was a proud day for America. But, instead of being a proud day for America, as Reagan implied, the day the new legislation was signed into law, turned out to be a day of shame for the United States.

The Social Security Amendments of 1983 laid the foundation for 30 years of government embezzlement of Social Security funds. The money was used to pay for wars, tax cuts for the rich, and other government programs. The payroll tax hike of 1983 generated a total of $2.7 trillion in surplus Social Security revenue. This surplus revenue was supposed to be saved and invested in marketable U.S. Treasury bonds, which would be held in the trust fund until the baby boomers began to retire in about 2010. But not one dime of that money ever made its way to the Social Security trust fund. The 1983 legislation was sold to the public, and to Congress, as a long-term fix for Social Security. With the help of Alan Greenspan, Reagan was a super salesman, who could have sold almost anything to the public - even a scam. And that's exactly what he was selling. Reagan intended to use the surplus Social Security revenue to replace revenue lost because of his unaffordable income tax cuts. Instead of being set aside for the retirement of the baby boomers, as was the intent of the legislation, the extra Social Security revenue was deposited directly into the general fund just like income tax revenue.

From the very beginning, Reagan and his advisors had no intention of saving and investing the new revenue for the retirement of the baby boomers. They needed additional general tax revenue, and an increase in the payroll tax would be much easier to enact than higher income taxes. Also, the potential to get vast amounts of revenue was much greater with a payroll tax increase than from an income tax increase. The baby boomers, the largest generation of Americans who ever lived, were already making large contributions to the Social Security fund. Like all previous generations, prior to 1983, the boomers were being required to pay the full cost of benefits paid to the previous generation. But, the proposed new legislation would hit the boomers with a double whammy. In addition to paying for their parents' benefits, the new law would require the baby boomers to also pay enough additional taxes to prepay the cost of their own benefits. This would generate a potential gold mine of surplus revenue that could be tapped and used for other purposes. But none of the $2.7 trillion in additional Social Security revenue was ever saved or invested in anything.

The actual surplus money was replaced with nonmarketable government IOUs, which cannot be converted into cash or used to pay Social Security benefits. It would have been bad enough if only Reagan had looted Social Security money. But George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all followed in Reagan's footsteps and spent all of the Social Security surplus revenue for non-Social Security purposes, just like Reagan. "Raiding the Trust Fund: Using Social Security Money to Fund Tax Cuts for the Rich" is a must read for all who care about the future of Social Security and the integrity of their government.

Critique: An impressively researched and documented study by Allen W. Smith (Professor Emeritus of Economics, Eastern Illinois University), "Raiding the Trust Fund: Using Social Security Money to Fund Tax Cuts for the Rich" is a significant and timely contribution to our national discussion regarding Social Security during this presidential election year. Simply stated, "Raiding the Trust Fund" should be read by every Social Security recipient, political policy maker, and member of the AARP. No community or academic library should be without a copy of "Raiding the Trust Fund" in their collections. It should be noted that "Raiding the Trust Fund" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Hydroponics for the Home Grower
Howard M. Resh
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781482239256, $29.95, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Hydroponics offers many advantages to traditional soil-based horticulture. These include greater control over many of the limiting factors, such as light, temperature, and pests, as well as the ability to grow plants in all seasons. With instruction from one of the top recognized authorities worldwide, "Hydroponics for the Home Grower" provides step-by-step guidance on how to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, arugula, bok choy, and various herbs year-round within your home or in a backyard greenhouse. "Hydroponics for the Home Grower" presents background information on how hydroponics evolved; nutritional and environmental demands of plants and how to control these factors; formulations of nutrients optimal to the plants you wish to grow; many different hydroponic systems you can purchase or build for yourself; designs for different types of greenhouses with components to fit your personal taste and budget; information on crop selection and step-by-step procedures, including seeding, transplanting, training, pest and disease control, and harvesting?along with when to plant and when to change crops; and most notably - How you can grow microgreens on your kitchen counter. "Hydroponics for the Home Grower" includes an appendix with sources of seeds and other supplies, along with helpful websites and lists of books, articles, and conferences on growing hydroponically and caring for your crops. By following the guidelines in "Hydroponics for the Home Grower", you'll understand everything you need to know to get your home-growing operation up and running in no time.

Critique: As practical and comprehensive as it is 'user friendly' throughout, "Hydroponics for the Home Grower" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library General Gardening instructional reference collections in general, and Hydroponic Gardening supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted that "Hydroponics for the Home Grower" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.17).

Silver to Steel
Rachel Delphia & Jewel Stern, authors
Catherine Walworth, contributor
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791354637, $60.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative effort of Rachel Delphia (the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh), art historian Jewel Stern, and Catherine Walworth (Curatorial Research Asstant at the Carnegie Museum of Art), "Silver to Steel" is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated volume that examines the work of celebrated modernist industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk, an international leader in his field during the mid-twentieth century. "Silver to Steel" is a groundbreaking book that situates German emigre Peter Muller-Munk (1904-1967), among the most influential designers of his generation. It presents the untold story of a man who rose from anonymity as a young silversmith at Tiffany & Co. to become a crucial postwar designer, promoting the practice of industrial design across the globe through one of the top design consultancies in America: Peter Muller-Munk Associates (PMMA). This profusely illustrated book begins with Muller-Munk's remarkable Art Deco silver and provides new context for his best-known designs: the streamlined Normandie pitcher and Waring waterfall blender. But the revelation comes in his previously undocumented work: memorable products like cameras, radios, cocktail shakers, power tools, and refrigerators; and total environments for gas stations, international expositions, and mass-transit vehicles. Muller-Munk's prestigious clients included Bell & Howell, Westinghouse, U.S. Steel, Texaco, and Schick. This compelling overview of Muller-Munk's life and impressive legacy is punctuated by colorful case studies of his firm's contributions to wide-ranging aspects of mid-century life.

Critique: A complete art appreciation course for the life and work of a truly gifted and versatile designer, "Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk" is a critically important and very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library 20th Century Industrial Design reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry
Jay C. Martin
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476663395, $35.00, PB, 205pp,

Synopsis: Few 19th-century Americans were as adventurous as Henry Baxter. Best known for his Civil War exploits-from leading the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in the first daylight amphibious assault in American history, to his defense of the Union line on day one of Gettysburg -- Baxter accomplished these despite having no prewar military training. His heroism and leadership propelled him from officer of volunteers to major general in the Army of the Potomac. A New York emigrant from a prominent family, Baxter was involved in developing Michigan's political, business and educational foundations. He excelled at enterprise, leading a group of adventurers to California during the Gold Rush, co-founding what would become the Republican Party and eventually becoming President Grant's diplomat to Honduras during one of the most dynamic periods of Central American history. His story parallels Michigan's transition from territory to state and the United States' transformation from a divided republic into a fledgling world power.

Critique: "General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry" by Michigan historian and author Jay C. Martin (who is also an Associate Professor of History and Director of Museum Studies at Central Michigan University) is a truly extraordinary biography of an exceptionally notable figure in the Union conflict with the Confederacy, who went on to make significant and substantial contributions to post-Civil War national politics and policies. Enhanced with fourteen pages of Chapter Notes; a six page Bibliography; and an eight page Index, "General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry" is a work of impressive scholarship and a major contribution to the growing library of American Civil War literature.

Blacksmithing Techniques
Jose Antonio Ares
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764349355, $29.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: "Blacksmithing Techniques: The Basics Explained Step by Step, Complete with 10 Projects" by Jose Antonio Are4s is the perfect resource for starting work in metal forging. This profusely illustrated instructional guide introduces the traditional blacksmithing techniques from a modern perspective. It focuses on the basics, and includes classic procedures of the craft like punching and bending, as well as modern processes such as plasma cutting, heating with a blowtorch, or the use of manual power tools. With clear instructions and over 500 detailed full-color photos throughout, "Blacksmithing Techniques" introduces the craft's materials and tools, from the raw material (iron and steel), to the fuels, to the forge and its accessories. Next, basic techniques in eight key subject areas are taught step by step. "Blacksmithing Techniques" includes instructions for ten creative projects ranging from a cold-forged table trivet to a candelabra, and even a large sculpture applying industrial processes. A creativity-inspiring photo gallery features a selection of pieces by artists worldwide.

Critique: Jose Antonio Ares holds degrees in fine arts, printmaking, and sculpture. He works with various metals, and also teaches technique as head of the studio at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Barcelona. In "Blacksmithing Techniques" he draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to deftly write, illustrate, organize, and present a complete course of thoroughly 'student friendly' instructions on the craft of blacksmithing for purposes both utilitarian and artistic. No personal, professional, community, or academic library metal working reference collection should be without a copy of "Blacksmithing Techniques".

The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History
Louis S. Gerteis
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826219725, $29.95, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: Guerrilla warfare, border fights, and unorganized skirmishes are all too often the only battles associated with Missouri during the American Civil War. Combined with the state's distance from both sides' capitals, this misguided impression paints Missouri as an insignificant player in the nation's struggle to define itself. Such notions, however, are far from an accurate picture of the Midwest state's contributions to the war's outcome. Though traditionally cast in a peripheral role, the conventional warfare of Missouri was integral in the Civil War's development and ultimate conclusion. The strategic battles fought by organized armies are often lost amidst the stories of guerrilla tactics and bloody combat, but in "The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History", Louis S. Gerteis (Professor of History, University of Missouri-St. Louis) explores the state's conventional warfare and its effects on the unfolding of national history.

Both the Union and the Confederacy had a vested interest in Missouri throughout the war. The state offered control of both the lower Mississippi valley and the Missouri River, strategic areas that could greatly factor into either side's success or failure. Control of St. Louis and mid-Missouri were vital for controlling the West, and rail lines leading across the state offered an important connection between eastern states and the communities out west. The Confederacy sought to maintain the Ozark Mountains as a northern border, which allowed concentrations of rebel troops to build in the Mississippi valley. With such valuable stock at risk, Lincoln registered the importance of keeping rebel troops out of Missouri, and so began the conventional battles investigated by Gerteis.

"The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History" is the first book-length examination of its kind. Professor Gerteis dares to challenge the prevailing opinion that Missouri battles made only minor contributions to the war and specifically focuses not only on the principal conventional battles in the state but also on the effects these battles had on both sides' national aspirations. "The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History" broadens the scope of traditional American Civil War studies to include the losses and wins of Missouri, in turn creating a more accurate and encompassing narrative of the nation's history.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History" is a seminal work of truly impressive scholarship and an outstanding contribution to the growing library of American Civil War literature. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Civil War reference collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for American Civil War buffs that "The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History" is also available in a paperback edition (9780826220783, $24.95) and in a Kindle format ($16.17).

The Real Peaky Blinders
Carl Chin
Isis Large Print
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781785411212, $35.50, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: In the backstreets of Birmingham after the First World War, Billy Kimber was a feared fighter with an astute mind and magnetic personality. These attributes earned him the leadership of the Birmingham Gang that dominated the highly profitable protection rackets of the racecourses of England. The members of this gang had once been "sloggers" or "peaky blinders", and their rise to supremacy was attributable to their viciousness and to Kimber's shrewd alliances with other mobs. But they soon incurred the envy of the Sabini Gang of London, who fought violently to oust Kimber and his men and take over their rackets. The Birmingham Gang battled back fiercely in the infamous and bloodstained racecourse wars of the 1920s. These were the real Peaky Blinders, and "The Real Peaky Blinders" by Carl Chin is their true story.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end, this large print edition of"The Real Peaky Blinders" is very highly recommended for personal, community and academic library 20th Century English History and 20th Century British Criminology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Celebrated Museum of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus
Anastasi Callinicos & Daniel Hohr, translators
Peter Davidson, editor
Saint Joseph's University Press
5600 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131-1395
9780916101879, $120.00, HC, 172pp,

Synopsis: "The Celebrated Museum of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus: A facsimile of the 1678 Amsterdam edition of Giorgio de Sepi's description of Athanasius Kircher's Museum", with a translation into English of the Latin text by Anastasi Callinicos and Daniel Hohr, annotated by Jane Stevenson, and edited, with an afterword, by Peter Davidson, is Athanasius Kircher's catalogue of the prodigious early museum (a Wunderkammer or cabinet of curiosities) which he assembled and arranged at the Roman College of the Society of Jesus was completed by his assistant Giorgio de Sepi for publication in 1678.

This superbly produced edition, with many expertly-engraved illustrations, is one of the most sumptuous and most curious examples of high baroque book production. It has memorable images of exotic birds and animals, of one of the first magic-lanterns or projected images, its text hints at the presence of machines which are little short of computers, it also illustrates numerous wonderful machines, be those clockwork automata, chiming and ambulant clocks, or multiplying and distorting mirrors. It is perhaps most famous for the exceptionally lavish fold-out plates of Roman obelisks which it contains, each page dedicated to one of the obelisks re-discovered in baroque Rome or new obelisks with pseudo-hierolgyphics by Kircher, devised according to his own scheme of interpretation of hieroglyphics as pictograms or, in baroque practice, emblems or impresa.

A full facsimile, including foldout plates, there is also a commentary to the translation, identifying objects, sources and facts while also explaining something of the status which the museum and its description share, as epitomes of the scarcely-credible range of activities and disciplines in which Kircher involved himself. The commentary also identifies passages which refer to others of Kircher's numerous and prodigious works. The edition also contains an afterword, reflecting on the current state of scholarship on Kircher, his museum, and his world. At last a text which has often been mentioned in studies of baroque Rome, of museums in early-modern Italy, of intellectual networks in 17th-century Europe, is available to the English-speaking reader in a lavish edition which preserves and enhances the splendor of the original production.

Critique: This impressively reproduced 10" x 15" facsimile includes 28 illustrations and 7 folio-size foldouts (28 3/4" x 18"). "The Celebrated Museum of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus" is an ideal and very highly recommended addition to seminary, college, and university library Renaissance History and Jesuit History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

All My Dogs: A Life
Bill Henderson, author
Drawings by Leslie Moore
David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567924350 $19.95 hc
9781567925517 $16.95 pbk

Synopsis: In this intimate, moving, and revealing memoir, Bill Henderson, the beloved founder of the Pushcart Press, divides the stages of his life into canine epochs. There was (and there always is) the first dog, the worst dog, and the one dog who saved the marriage. With lovely line drawings by Leslie Moore, this slim volume, filled with life lessons and genuine affection, is a book that anyone who has known and treasured canine affection will embrace.

Critique: Gentle and inspiring, All My Dogs: A Life is a heartwarming read, and a true tale of how animal companions enrich everyday life. Uplifting with a dash of wit, All My Dogs is especially recommended as a gift for dog lovers, but pet ownership isn't required to take pleasure in a casual browse. Highly recommended.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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