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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 2 February 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes
John A. Shivik
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807071519 $26.95 hc / $25.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Why are some cats cuddly and others standoffish? Why are some dogs adventuresome, others homebodies? As any pet owner can attest, we feel that the animals we've formed bonds with are unique, as particular (and peculiar) as any human friend or loved one.

Recent years have brought an increased understanding of animal intelligence and emotion. But is there a scientific basis for animal personality and individuality, or is this notion purely sentimental? It turns out that science has been reluctant to even broach the subject of individuality until recently. But now, a fundamental shift in scientific understanding is underway, as mainstream scientists begin to accept the idea that animals of all kinds - from beloved beasts like apes and birds to decidedly less cuddly creatures like crabs and spiders - do indeed have individual personalities.

In Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes, veteran wildlife expert Dr. John A. Shivik brings us stories from the front lines of this exciting new discipline. Drawing on his scientific training, as well as his storytelling gifts, Shivik serves as an accessible, humorous guide to the emerging body of research on animal personalities. Shivik accompanies researchers who are discovering that each wolf, bear, and coyote has an inherent tendency to favor either its aggressive nature or to shyly avoid conflicts. Some bluebirds are lovers, others are fighters. And some spiders prefer to be loners, while others are sociable. Unique personalities can be discovered in every corner of the animal kingdom - even among microscopic organisms. The array of personality types among all species is only beginning to be described and understood.

As Shivik argues, animals' unique personalities are important not only because they determine which animals we bond with. Individual animal traits are also fundamental but still inadequately understood drivers of evolution, adaptation, and species diversity. Ultimately, Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes offers insight into the similarities humans share with animals and presents evidence of an unbroken biological connection from the smallest organisms to Homo sapiens.

Critique: Written by a wildlife expert who work experience includes service as a federal researcher, state predator biologist, and a search-and-rescue dog handler, Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes offers an unprecedented glimpse into the minds and characters of animals. While any dog or cat lover will have stories about the personalities of their furry friends, Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes analyzes the issue with the critical mind of a skilled scientist. Studious in its detail, yet written to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes is fascinating from cover to cover and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes is also available in a Kindle edition ($26.95).

In Sickness and in Health
Ben Mattlin
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807058541 $27.95 hc / $25.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Ben Mattlin's wife, ML, recalls falling in love with his confidence and sheer determination. On one of their earliest dates, he persuaded her to ride on his lap in his wheelchair on their way home from an Elvis Costello concert. Thirty years later, they still travel like this from time to time, undaunted by the curious stares following them down the street.

But In Sickness and in Health is more than an "inspiring" story of how a man born with spinal muscular atrophy - a congenital and incurable neuromuscular condition - survived childhood, graduated from Harvard, married an able-bodied woman, built a family with two daughters and a cat and a turtle, established a successful career in journalism, and lived happily ever after. As Mattlin considers the many times his relationship has been met with surprise or speculation by outsiders - those who consider his wife a "saint" or him just plain "lucky" for finding love - he issues a challenge to readers: why should the idea of an "interabled" couple be regarded as either tragic or noble?

Through conversations with more than a dozen other couples of varying abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and orientations, Mattlin sets out to understand whether these pairings are as unusual as onlookers seem to think. Reflecting on his own experience he wonders: How do people balance the stresses of personal-care help with the thrill of romance? Is it possible that the very things that appear to be insurmountable obstacles to a successful relationship - the financial burdens, the physical differences, the added element of an especially uncertain future - could be the building blocks of an enviable level of intimacy and communication that other couples could only dream of?

We meet Shane Burcaw, a twenty-three-year-old writer, who offers a glimpse of his first forays into dating with a disability. There's Rachelle Friedman, the "paralyzed bride," as the media refers to her, and her husband, discussing the joys and challenges of a new marriage and a growing family; and acclaimed journalist John Hockenberry and his wife, Alison, who reveal the intricacies of long-term married life. What emerges is a candid glimpse into the challenges and joys of interabled love - from the first blush of sexual awakening to commitment and marriage and through to widowhood.

Critique: In Sickness and in Health: Love, Disability, and a Quest to Understand the Perils and Pleasures of Interabled Romance is an inspirational true-life memoir of author Ben Mattlin (who was born with spinal muscular atrophy), also contains a wealth of anecdotes about other romantic couples where one person had a disability and the other did not. Openly candid about the most intimate of issues, In Sickness and in Health is enlightening from cover to cover and a "must-read" for anyone contemplating or involved in an inter-abled relationship. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that In Sickness and in Health is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.99).

Reign the Earth
A. C. Gaughen
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781681191119 $17.99 hc / $12.99 ebook

Synopsis: Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for an end to the violence that has claimed so many of their loved ones. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bone Lands, a country where magic is outlawed and the Elementae--those that can control earth, air, fire and water--are traitors, subject to torture . . . or worse.

Before she is even crowned, Shalia discovers that she can bend the earth to her will. Trapped between her husband's irrational hatred of the Elementae and a dangerous rebellion led by her own brother, Shalia must harness her power and make an impossible choice: save her family, save the Elementae, or save herself.

Critique: Part of the "Elementae" fantasy series, Reign the Earth will appeal to teenagers and adults alike with its epic story of a young woman, desperate to end the war that has brought so much suffering to the people of her desert home. She becomes Queen of the Bone Lands, a country where magic is outlawed, yet she awakens to the elemental powers within herself before she is crowned. Her husband hates Elementae, while her brother leads a reckless rebellion; amidst the chaos, can she save her family, the Elementae, or even herself? A tale of intrigue, war, and love, Reign the Earth is a riveting read from cover to cover, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Reign the Earth is also available in an ebook edition ($12.99).

This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home
Margot Kahn & Kelly McMasters, editors
Seal Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781580056687, $16.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: Home is a loaded word, a complex idea: it's a place that can be comforting, difficult, nourishing, war-torn, or political. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters, "This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home" is thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of essays from 30 women writers who individually and collectively explore the theme home that includes neighbors, marriage, kids, sentimental objects, homelessness, domestic violence, solitude, immigration, gentrification, geography, and more.

The impressive roster of contributors include Amanda Petrusich, Naomi Jackson, Jane Wong, and Jennifer Finney Boylan, each of whom lend a diverse range of voices to this subject that remains at the core of our national conversations. What makes a home? What do equality, safety, and politics have to do with it? And why is it so important to us to feel like we belong?

Critique; Engaging, insightful, and full of hope, the erudite, insightful, and engaging essays comprising "This is the Place" are both emotional and cerebral focuses on the concepts, realities, and fantasies of home, wherever thought to be. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "This is the Place" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

A Song of Home
Susie Finkbeiner
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825444821, $14.99, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: Pearl Spence has finally settled into a routine in Bliss, Michigan, far from her home in Red River, Oklahoma. Like all the other kids, she goes to school each day, plays in the woods, and does her chores. But there's one big difference: Mama is still gone, and doesn't seem to have a thought for the family she's left behind. Escaping from her worries is another part of Pearl's new routine, whether that's running to Aunt Carrie's farm, listening to the radio with Ray, or losing herself in a book. In fact, a chair in the stacks, surrounded by books, might be her favorite place on earth -- until she discovers swing dancing. The music transports Pearl to a whole other world. When Mama unexpectedly returns, it isn't the happy occasion Pearl had imagined. Mama is distant and Pearl can't figure out how to please her. And the horrible way she treats Daddy is more than Pearl can bear. Seems life would be better if Mama would just stay away.

Critique: Author Susie Finkbeiner's deftly crafted portrayal of both tragedy and everyday life in times of great change is charged with a raw beauty that make "A Song of Home" one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Song of Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99). Community librarians should also note that "A Song of Home" is available in a large print edition from Thorndike Press (9781432846763, $29.99, Library Binding).

Navigating The Storm
Beth Fortman-Brand, Matthew Schonbrun, Agnes Deason
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504377935, $12.99, PB, 146pp,

Synopsis: What is the Origin of Life? Why do we exist? What is the Law of Attraction? How do we participate in creating our reality? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is this all there is? "Navigating The Storm" by the team of Beth Fortman-Brand, Matthew Schonbrun, and Agnes Deason chronicles the spiritual awakening and personal journeys of a series of characters told in the manner of an extended fable that explores the seven core truths that provide insight on the purpose of life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, entertaining, inspired and inspiring read from beginning to end, "Navigating The Storm" is very highly recommended reading and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Navigating The Storm" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Federal Government is Run by Idiots!
James E. Joyce
9781490396415 $11.95 Paper; $2.99 Kindle

There's little doubt about its contents, with a book named The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! This represents plain and simple thinking, and is a "nasty little book" that pinpoints federal government processes as the cause of forces destroying American society and democratic ideals.

Taxpayers in revolt receive a presentation that looks like an illustrated comic book coverage in many places, featuring large-size print and an approach that would seem to indicate its appropriateness for a younger audience; but which actually will prove accessible to busy adults who want more of a quick synthesis than the usual weighty political read presents.

Appearances aside, it should be noted that The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is a book most decidedly directed to adult American taxpayers, and is crafted in such a manner that even those with low reading skills or who are unfamiliar with statistics, math, or politics will find it enlightening.

There's no love of either Democrat or Republican leaders in this damning report: both receive 'F' marks, along with the government entities that have supported bureaucratic snafus and leaders that promote tax codes with sweeping debt attached to them. James E. Joyce maintains (and supports with facts) that were it not for the federal government's shenanigans, the average American would have $40K more in their pockets annually for retirement income.

There are many eye-opening accusations (supported by statistics and facts) that will give liberals and conservatives alike pause for thought - including that the current social security system is akin to a "federal Ponzi scheme" and should be replaced by a National Investment Retirement Fund. Joyce maintains that social security has been a dishonest scheme since its instigation in 1935, and advocates a better replacement vehicle on the state level. He points out that in 1935, "the average American died before reaching age 65." Now that longevity has increased, proponents of the system are trying to assure that the benefit age is adjusted so that those who pay into the system actually don't reap its full benefits.

It should be noted that professional editing would have made the book a smoother read. But as a counterpoint, this is intended as a comic book and, as such, is a more inviting way of comprehending many serious facts without the grammatical density of comparatively complex discussions of the subject.

The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is no light discourse, but a solid review that is purposely presented in a format that will lend to accessibility and inspection by even the busiest reader. After a section of admonitions and damning evidence, the meat of the book lies in a second section that details the 'Restoration of the American Dream'.

This may be a nasty little book; but truthful examination of a complex system is never a cozy read. Want to change things so that Americans can retire at 52 and lead a better life? The keys included here offer food for thought on making this process a reality.

Surviving Cancer
John M. Poothullil, MD
New Insights Press
9780998485027 $14.95

Surviving Cancer: A New Perspective on Why Cancer Happens & Your Key Strategies for a Healthy Life offers several new perspectives on cancer that don't appear in other books, despite the volume of literature produced yearly about cancer survival. The audience most likely to gain from the book include those who have been diagnosed with localized cancers that have not yet spread and those with a family history of cancer who have not yet been diagnosed. It also contains many points about diabetes and its link to cancer and treatment approaches; so diabetics will find much food for thought, here.

The first of these new perspectives lies in a key to understanding the science and medicine of cancer itself, fostered by Dr. Poothullil's original thinking that since the dawn of time, cells are driven to divide. This backdrop suggests that we cannot stop cancer cells from forming - they constantly occur, but the body usually eliminates them. The remainder of the introductory section on why cancer happens thus delves into the physical properties of cancer, from abnormal and dysfunctional cell development and influences on cancer's chemistry within the bigger picture of gene mutations. Those processes influence cancer development, the internal and external characteristics of cancer cells, and the role chronic inflammation plays in cancer's ability to metastasize.

Part 2 presents the meat of the title and comes after explaining that cancer's birth and progression is substantially aided by the consumption of carbohydrates from grains, producing glucose that feeds cancer cells. A surprising insight is also that the insulin the body produces to convert glucose to energy aids in producing a cancer-enriching environment. As a result, the book recommends that the way to halt cancer growth is to 'starve' cancer cells, by not consuming grains ("...if you have cancer, your goal should be to reduce your intake of glucose-producing grains to as close to zero as possible."). This approach involves adopting a diet that may actually assist diabetic diets.

Dr. Poothullil also places matters in perspective when he points out that stopping cancer is a priority over controlling diabetes. This means that diabetics should try to cut down on their insulin injections and use diet to reduce their blood sugar, given that insulin promotes cancer growth.

Diet adjustments, exercise, and managing stress are not typically seen as key components of cancer-busting routines; but keep in mind that Surviving Cancer is not just about beating cancer, but promoting a healthier lifestyle overall.

Pair a new theory about the biological basis of why cancer appears and spreads which maintains that the body is constantly producing cancer cells as part of its natural process with a focus on changing the milieu which makes for a welcoming environment for cancer and you have a very different kind of cancer survival book that focuses on prevention, understanding, and an overall better approach to living.

Readers willing to make lifestyle changes to prevent, limit, and curtail cancer's appearance and spread will find Surviving Cancer offers not just hope, but a proactive approach that places patients in charge of many different options.

The Vestals Conspiracy: A Novella
Tomasz Chrusciel
Agato House
9780992957452 $0.99

The Vestals Conspiracy is a prequel to Tomasz Chrusciel's Nina Monte mystery thriller series, and follows Professor Monte's journey to Rome when her mentor informs her of a strange archaeological discovery of a mosaic that needs her professional attention and her expertise in ancient religions.

When she arrives at Filippo Oliveri's excavation site, it's to find him missing, leaving behind a greater mystery than she could ever have imagined. The mystery involves a depiction of six Vestal Virgins who are being presented with a gift the last Roman king turned down. It represents a vast revision of religious history and poses a particular danger that immerses Nina Monte and Filippo Oliveri in a dangerous historical truth that tackles women's issues, the real meaning of the Vestal Virgins, and prophecies that make for an intriguing thriller in the line of The DaVinci Code with a dash of Indiana Jones-style intrigue.

The Vestals Conspiracy is filled with many twists and turns that make it hard to put down. At its heart lies the expertise and investigations of a professor who finds her preconceptions, research, and lifelong personal and professional perspectives challenged by a startling revelation that could change the world.

As artistic and religious masterpieces, closely-held legends, and a stolen book draw Nina ever further into the mystery, she needs to use all her personal and professional savvy to get at the heart of what really happened in ancient times and why it's changing everything. Just as vivid is the character of Oliveri, who may have discovered his life's passion in the final years of its existence, belaying any thoughts of retirement.

This engrossing thriller that binds history and mystery with a determined professional woman and an aging researcher's investigation will appeal to newcomers to Nina Monte and Tomasz Chrusciel as well as old fans, who receive a fine high-octane blend of action and investigative intrigue in a story that's hard to put down.

General Rahmini's Dilemna
Benson Grayson
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B077YT1DLQ $2.99

One of Saddam Hussein's top military officers is recruited to head a suicide mission to the U.S., and enters the country disguised as a priest. The general curses the luck which placed him into the hands of ISIS, to be used as their puppet; but as it turns out, matters takes an unexpected turn when he winds up in a small Montana town and is forced to live the life and represent the beliefs of his chosen disguise.

What transpires is a delightful departure the thriller format as an unwilling man with military expertise who is caught in a dilemma between ISIS and Americans (both of which would happily see him dead) turns adversity into an opportunity for something quite different than his mission dictates.

Rahmini has the ability to craft plans to create chaos and confusion in American cities by disrupting their power grids; but he also holds the talent for tiptoeing between opposing forces with his life on the line. His soldier training means he's not adverse to killing, but he also maintains a moral perspective which leads him to feel reluctant to participate in any scheme designed to murder innocent women and children. And he's in unfamiliar territory by donning the garb of an Episcopal priest, which requires him to learn new perspectives and approaches to properly fit into his assumed identity.

As Rahmini assumes more than the facade of a giving priest, he finds his perspective changing - and with it, his mission.

Now he's truly facing a dilemma: one which carries thriller readers into territory that might be equally unfamiliar to them as General Rahmini/Priest Rahmini find their deepest intentions are in conflict.

From officiating over ceremonies about which he knows next to nothing to interacting with kind and everyday Americans, Rahmini continually finds his purposes challenged - but on a subconscious level; not an overt one.

As a rector, he learns about delivering the word of God. As a General, he's expected to fulfill his duty. And as a pawn of ISIS, he could prove expendable at any moment.

The dual forces of moral and ethical challenges and a hired terrorist's intentions clash in an outstanding thriller that rests not upon the high-octane action of more one-dimensional reads, but on the inner adaptations, thought processes, and changing mindset of a would-be terrorist. As Rahmini becomes more a part of American culture, even romance is not impossible. But what may be truly unattainable is preserving his secret identity and forging a new life in this strangely appealing new culture.

The result is a powerful story that keeps thriller readers immersed, sympathetic, and empathetic and involved right up to the story's powerful conclusion. General Rahmini's Dilemna is highly recommended for audiences who look for more than military-style action and confrontations in their political thriller reads.

The Time of Our Lives
Elliot Schubert
The Ardent Writer Press
Paperback: 9781938667893 $TBA
Hardback: 9781938667909 $TBA
eBook: 9781938667916 $TBA

Author Elliot Schubert retired and took up his pen to begin recording his life, experiences, and his encounters from the Depression era and the Second World War to "the Golden Age of the Fifties and Sixties, and the looming clouds of the Seventies and Eighties." The Time of Our Lives: Memories and Fantasies of a Blissful Nonagenarian is the result, spanning an entire lifetime and embellishing Elliot Schubert's life only a little in a dramatic, engrossing series of stories that embrace small experiences and life lessons learned from them.

Take, for example, the short story 'Kissing Cousins.' The setting is a birthday party where Schubert's escort services are required. The dilemma revolves around a spin-the-bottle game where his inexperience at kissing becomes evident and the conflict surrounding decorum on a first date that isn't really an official date is evident. Decades later, girl and guy reconnect and old guilt is laid to rest in a gentle tale of old memories and new beginnings.

Compare this with the short tale 'The Sage in the Dugout,' a story that embraces sports and lessons in letting go; or a lesson learned about trust in 'A Bikini in Paradise,' which covers the problem of a wrong accusation in the face of evidence of theft.

Truths are revealed, conspiracy theories are laid to rest, and fun moments where insights prevail are captured in stories that are gently reflective, entertaining, and revealing.

The result is a powerful collection that captures not only Elliot Schubert's life and times, but those little moments that linger in one's mind forever, encapsulated as lessons that teach about patience, love, and different kinds of relationships.

Short story readers who enjoy autobiographical reflection will relish the diversity and succinct flavor of literary pieces which deftly capture one working man's life and times.

Blood Horse
Christopher Thomas
9781974687961 $10.00
Ordering link (UK) -

Ordering link (US) -

Stories featuring horses usually revolve around racetracks or young adult infatuations with equines; but Blood Horse is a horse of another color. Its sci-fi revolves around an experimental DNA treatment intended to promote healing from an injury, but which actually supercharges the killer instinct.

In a horse? Read on, because horse action doesn't get any more gripping than this.

The story begins in a familiar way: a teen jockey's horse fails a jump and breaks a leg. Usually this is where the story would become one of a teen's love for her broken steed and her ability to heal it; but Blood Horse takes a different turn when high-tech is applied as a solution and seemingly produces a miracle.

As Christopher Thomas follows the evolution of a mild-mannered, beloved family horse into a killing machine, readers receive a slow build-up into the inevitable that takes a nice turn away from the specter of a girl's love for her horse and moves into the realm of a well-meaning scientific experiment gone awry.

Interestingly, the main characters are young adults, which would seem to peg this read as one recommended for this age group were it not for the Cujo-like horror involved in the horse's altered personality. This means that mature teens to adult readers alike will appreciate the story's premises and direction, finding it an accessible read driven as much by the teens' evolving personalities and relationships as by the story of a DNA experiment gone wrong. (Caveat: there are enough adult themes and references here to keep this from being recommendable for teens below the age of 17. Blood Horse decidedly stands on the cusp of mature teen to new adult and adult readers - and this is a fine audience for it.)

As Sammy runs away during his ongoing evolutionary process, Tina follows, and readers receive a gripping story that offers satisfying changes as she comes to realize her former best friend is deeply changing on psychological and physical levels alike.

Involving and dark, Blood Horse holds adventure and a message and will keep its readers thoroughly on board for a vigorous ride holding plenty of surprises right up to its unexpected ending.

There's a Hole
James Sarjent
9781874398416, $9.49 paper, $3.99 ebook

There's a Hole: A Sarjent Family Chronicle is Christian family reading at its best and depicts a happy family living peacefully on a hill above a town. There are strong family ties and family values in their universe, and all is well until the children dig up some bones in the backyard, evoking a mystery and a conundrum that changes their lives.

A wry sense of humor permeates this discussion, which is anything but a murder mystery or the usual approach of a faith-based story. The characters are quirky even as they exhibit ordinary concerns. Family patriarch Mr. Sarjent would rather focus on family life and church than murder; but Mrs. Sarjent commands him and his sheriff friend to uncover the truth behind the bones.

This leads them all on an adventure to confront death, whodunit, and investigative skills Mr. Sarjent would rather not know he has; all commanded by the determination of "the Lady" of the house: "This has gone far enough....You couldn't help what they found in back, but now someone else has been killed, practically in front of us. I don't like it." "What would you like me to do?" I ask. She gives me the look, the one which means I'm supposed to be smart, brainy, nearly a genius. "Stop this. Look into it and find out who's doing these things." Yes, dear. Sherlock Holmes at my lady's service." "Sherlock Holmes," she says, "did not have children to protect."

People are dead and dying around him. All Mr. Sarjent wants to do is have his old life back: quality time with good family meals and the happy, carefree world they once knew. How can he make his world return to normal?

There's a Hole is delightfully original, quirky, fun, and thought-provoking all in one. While the characters are cemented by their family values and Christian faith, this is just one facet of the story line, which is more than accessible to anyone outside the faith seeking a good, wholesome, funny, pointed mystery.

The greater story about the shape of a family man's world and the thin borders that define it and keep it safe is nicely wound into a tale that keeps readers amused and involved with a blend of whimsy and intrigue that eschews the usual formula mystery genre writing style and skirts any sense of preaching or heavy-handed spiritual or philosophical questions.

All Mr. Sarjent wants is to be happy with his family. Is that too much to ask? Readers uncover the answer just as the kids uncovered an unexpected problem in this very highly recommended story which is filled with whimsical twists and turns and a plot that keeps readers thoroughly immersed to the end.

The Language of Bears
John Eidswick
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B075L6BFBQ, $4.95
9781549736179, $14.99

Amazon link:


Author Blog:

The Language of Bears Book 1: the Polyps of Christ may be difficult to easily categorize, with its blend of literary perspective, philosophical and spiritual insight, and a degree of intellectualism not ordinarily seen in fiction; but readers who enjoy all these elements are in for a rare treat.

Adam is a 17th century New England Puritan farmer who leads a sedate and ordinary life until he discovers a television in the woods, which leads to his downfall.

The religious references are thought-provoking and often whimsical reflections. Adam Green is a farmer with very simple needs ("All he ever wanted was peace and all life had ever given him was horseshit.") who finds himself in an impossible situation.

How do you describe a television set from the perspective of another era where TV never existed? John Eidswick's attention to detail is just one example of the kind of approach and perspective that keeps readers delightfully intrigued as this thought-provoking story evolves: "It wasn't a hive. There were no bees. The noise was not of many small things but of one big thing. It was trilling frantically from within, thousands of tiny dots prancing and skittering in - on? - the creature's middle. Gnats? Adam grabbed at the thought, trying to find anything to explain the impossibility in front of him. The body of the creature was the strangest of all, devilishly unnatural, squared off like a dough box, black as the scars of the scorched oaks, fine-angled as saw teeth... The dots vanished. They didn't fly away, didn't go anywhere, yet they were gone. And more unfathomable was that in their place another thing appeared, all pink and familiar and smiling through the leaves. It was a human head. And it spoke to him. "

As unholy elements enter his life and challenge his peaceful existence and the land he's come to love, Adam faces accusations of witchcraft, a bid for the black gold that's seeping through his land, and encounters with complex characters and family members that change everything he's taken for granted about his life and its progression.

It should be noted that the ethereal nature and religious, philosophical, and fantasy elements that permeate The Language of Bears are described in detail in a story line that is which is filled with succinct, thought-provoking images and moments, representing literary fiction at its best example. Readers used to light drama from their leisure choices might find the story line less one-dimensional than their usual reads. The Language of Bears is more about exploring challenges to the nature of reality and perception itself, examining the kinds of choices that lead people (and bears) beyond the borders of their expectations and familiar definitions of life. There's plenty of action, from battles to beehives to thwarting skinners, but these events illustrate richer context and meaning as the story progresses.

Characters are well-drawn and wonderfully rich in detail, dialogue and plot progression are powerfully depicted, and the subtle power and social issues bring to mind Orson Scott Card's Prentice Alvin, to name one 'read-alike'.

Take an early American world, inject a modern American technological wonder, challenge character lives and expectations, then sit back and watch the conundrums evolve.

Lyrical language, hard-hitting descriptions, and a story that moves from Adam's discovery to its impact on George, Hildegard, and others who are imprisoned and affected by the clash between imagination and reality are hallmarks of a literary piece that blends weird fiction with an alternative Eden threatened by forces beyond ken.

The Language of Bears is delightfully original and satisfyingly unpredictable: highly recommended reading not for those who look for superficial action, but for readers who delight in finding an original voice that excels in alternative history and unique perspectives.

Silver Blood
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07883P4XB, $2.99

Silver Blood is the third book in Alex Siegel's Paranormal Enforcement Administration series, depicting a top-secret government entity busy fighting paranormal threats to the country; and it opens with puzzle. The kidnapping of a little girl would hardly seem the kind of issue this agency is charged with addressing, but the team's been called in because this is no ordinary little girl. Her secret identity (a secret even from her) makes her a lethal entity that could have deadly consequences in the wrong hands.

The first thing to note about Silver Blood is that Heaven and Earth alike are involved in the fate of this powerful recluse. Readers familiar with the events and setting of the prior series titles will be well aware of this already; but newcomers who begin here will be surprised to learn that this paranormal setting embraces religious, investigative, and paranormal elements alike.

The second thing to mention is that high-octane action ripples through Silver Blood with little let-up. The very first sentence follows Stony on a high-speed van ride as the team looks to 'bag a vampire', and each team member's special talents (Stony, for example, can make his skin hard as stone, which acts as impenetrable body armor), a part of their problem-solving abilities, are quickly evident as the action-packed events unfold.

Only one human on the planet has known what Maggie really is. Now a host of people are involved, and events move from the poisoning of a judge, a ghoul which could take down even Stony, and Maggie's increasing awareness of her special powers, God's energy, and evil's presence. Her growing self-awareness mingles with the special team's desperate mission, injecting satisfying tension, drama, and many unexpected twists and turns into a story that reaches beyond both paranormal and detective genre boundaries to create a thriller packed with relentless energy.

Forest chases and forts, a ceremony that slates Maggie as a ritual sacrifice, private eyes and top secret information in public places, and a desperate race against time all coalesce to bring readers a superior story that is as mercurial as its main characters.

While prior enthusiasts of Siegel's latest series will be the first to read Silver Blood, his ability to inject background and prior settings into his latest makes it equally accessible to newcomers.

Very highly recommended; especially for readers who like unrelenting battles, characters filled with powerful abilities and a story line somewhere between a thriller and a paranormal piece where witchcraft, secret armies, and special interests take center field.

Dead to Them
Smita Bhattacharya
Story Mirror
9789386305916, $4.25 (paperback), $1.99 (Kindle)

Dead to Them is psychological thriller writing at its best, is set in Mumbai, and centers upon a missing woman who has either been kidnapped, murdered, or both. Unlike most thrillers, the story begins with a series of text messages to Moira's cell phone - messages that go unanswered, and which are increasingly urgent.

So how do her co-workers become involved in the mystery of her disappearance? Moira is one of management firm Brevity's star consultants, and exhibits all the traits for business success that Kartik doesn't have. He's charged by his boss to find out what happened to his star co-worker. Maybe she's had a nervous breakdown, like a year ago. Perhaps a series of threatening communiques has evolved into something more. And maybe the truth behind her disappearance is something more sinister - something that rattles too many well-hidden skeletons in the corporate closet.

As Kartik and his colleague Kavya reluctantly embark on an investigation into Moira's life, they move ever closer to the dangerous secret she's immersed in, and encounter a level of corporate intrigue that threatens more than just Moira.

Is Moira crazy, manipulative, and conniving; or is she a victim? And can Kavya and Kartik uncover the truth without endangering themselves and everything around them? In the context of a business investigation directed by boss Himanshu Chawla, a story created as a subplot slowly blossoms to become a powerful portent of secret identities, forgery, and alternate lives created by the bored and talented.

Readers will quickly discover that Dead to Them is not your usual whodunit mystery, but probes into the heart of genius, subterfuge, and deception as it recreates the missing Moira's life and what happens when co-workers stumble into something far more complex than they'd expected, which demands an equally-brilliant thought process to solve ... skills they don't possess.

Thriller fans who delight in psychological depth are in for a treat. Dead to Them is feisty, fast-paced, unpredictable, and filled with satisfyingly unexpected twists of plot.

The Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars and Depredations
Edward Osborne
History Publishing Company
B076B4V513, $8.99

The Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars and Depredations provides readers of Native American (Osborne maintains early on that the term is misused: "The correct scientific name for the so-called "Native-American" is Indigenous Aborigine.") history with a scholarly, footnoted narrative and a narrowed focus on the years between 1850-1866. It uses the experiences of Native tribes in general and particularly those of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe to support quite a different history of these early times, refuting the notion that they were victims of white oppression and supporting the idea that the American Plains Indians were little more than violent butchers who meted out hideous tortures and cruelty.

This revisionist history will open many eyes; particularly readers who were raised with the notion that Natives were inherently peaceful peoples confronting a technologically advanced, greedy race who exploited and murdered them without compunction.

In the course of his survey, Edward Osborne includes further general comments and insights into revisionist American history, making his book more wide-ranging than expected, and a special recommendation for American history classrooms looking to shake up and challenge conventional representations of historic events: "The idea that the Constitution was made by the people, for the people, and to protect the people is nothing more than nonsensical, romantic idealism. It is this idea that, however, has become the accepted interpretation. Even the Preamble to the Constitution begins with a major falsehood: "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more Perfect Union..." The people had absolutely nothing to do with the writing of the Constitution."

As chapters present a methodical revisionist perspective, Osborne takes care to support his contentions with many primary source material quotes throughout. While admitting that "The settlers .... were innocent immigrants searching for a small plot of land to grow their crops, tend their animals, and provide a safe place to raise their families," he makes a case that differentiates between settlers, military and government entities and the results of their encounters with American Plains Indians: "...the Indians had every right to fight the government officials and even the Army. But their gruesome butchery of the defeated Army troopers and settlers was not, and will never be, acceptable! This is also especially true in reference to the mutilations of the innocent settlers and their women and children."

The fact that he takes time to document primary references that differentiate between different levels of early immigrant encounters and the Indians who clearly viewed all whites the same and treated them with cruel brutality whether they were settlers, military soldiers, women, or children makes for an intriguing perspective that closely considers the politics, psychology, and social and cultural influences of Natives and whites alike.

The introduction clearly sets the stage for what is to follow ("One of the primary focuses of this book is the horrendous and vicious nature of Indian raids.") and makes an important point: if the level of atrocities and brutality of these early times were translated to ISIS activities in modern times, these actions would not be explained as the desperate struggles of victims with little recourse; but the brutal actions of oppressors and tyrants.

From mountain men who were some of the first to encounter the "...depredations and heinous brutality of the Plains and Rocky Mountain Indians" during the course of their early explorations of the American West to contrasts between movie myths, fictional legends, and reality supported by primary source accounts, The Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars and Depredations offers ongoing, often startling contrasts between actual events and their revised interpretations over the decades.

Ambushes, uprisings, massacres, and underlying motivations for attacks and violence are all thoroughly analyzed from these sources, including minute details such as the contract between Calvary horses and Indian ponies, depicting major players, influences on successes and failures on both sides, circumstances that led to "unprovoked" attacks, and descriptions of fundamental cruelty. Osborne's analysis of the rationale and (often) excuses that accompanied primary source material descriptions and later studies offers a powerful (and, certainly, a controversial) perspective that should be a part of any serious American history debate: ""Wild" is their surreptitious term for heinous savagery. Their excuse being that they were retaliating in kind. Their inhumane behavior is generally dismissed as ritual mutilations that needed no further explanation. This behavior certainly does need explanation, accurate description, and most importantly accountability."

All these facets make The Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars and Depredations especially recommended as powerful a revisionist history and debate material for college-level audiences. It's rare to see a scholarly, footnoted piece so lively in content and presentation, so charged with evidence-supported contentions about how popular historical viewpoints fail, and so applicable not just to Native history, but to current events where violence is explained as a regretful but acceptable part of cultural clashes and survival efforts.

No history reader should be without this well-reasoned study.

Love of Finished Years
Gregory Erich Phillips
Sillan Pace Brown Group, LLC
9781640580114, $18.95

Love of Finished Years takes place before World War I and focuses on sweat shop worker Elsa, who faces a better life for herself when opportunity arises to work for a rich family in Long Island.

Immigrant experiences on New York's Ellis Island merge with Elsa's awakening and transformation in a gentle story that is as much a novel of German-Americans facing war in Europe and their reinvention process in a strange new land as it is about the microcosm of a young girl's battle for a better life.

As romance emerges to tie everything together, a poignant and powerful force in her world compels her to re-examine her hopes, dreams, and the changing social and political atmosphere that creates a backlash against everything she values.

In many ways, Love of Finished Years mirrors many of the events happening in modern-day Ameria. It also deftly portrays several generations of a German immigrant's family and their different perspectives on life events. Elsa speaks to her parents in German, but successfully navigates American social circles. She isn't as likely to marry (her mother believes) as her sister Sonja; because she works. Her mother is also involved in a women's strike for better conditions at the garment workers' factories, so Elsa's perspective on her future is quite different than her sister's experiences.

Her activist mother holds a lion's heart: "You cannot do it alone," her mother said. "America is ready to give women a chance, but we must fight for it." A woman involved in battle for economic and social identity is less likely to find herself wed - or, is she?

Spies and American military operations, blackmail against German-Americans in America, and evolving threats against 'Kaiser-lovers' in this country form the backdrop of a powerful story of family connections and those who would do good against forces of prejudice and conflict.

Elsa experiences two drastic changes in her life: coming to America and building new connections. Can she persevere against the forces that would rip apart this new life, love, and family?

Especially intriguing is the manner in which Gregory Erich Phillips presents changing immigrant experiences and perceptions between different generations of the same family. Such dynamics are intricately explored against the broader backdrop of World War I's emergence, making for a powerful historical novel that follows ethnic Germans navigating a changing America in the face of prejudice and fear.

Historical novel readers who appreciate strong family ties and romantic interludes will relish the dance between rising sentiments on all sides which is carefully presented in Love of Finished Years, a story designed to reveal the hopes, fears, and logic of actions and choices made on all sides.

The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes
Lora L. Hyler
HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc.
9781595985880, $13.95

The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes revolves around a middle school science experiment gone awry, Marty's struggle with his newly evolving superpowers, his attraction to a girl in his class, and a school bully - among other things.

While middle grade leisure readers will be lured by the story's superpower theme, there are many other subplots and adventures that Marty experiences on an emotional, educational, and technological level that make for a multi-faceted, well-rounded adventure story that goes far beyond a singular approach. A multicultural cast of superheroes, and spy gadgets on full display, aid the story.

While The Stupendous Adventures seems like a complex read with so many elements entwined, one of its pleasures is that the story's progression is logical and compelling, from the realistic portrait of Marty's first day in 7th grade in an era when the Zika virus is big news to his fascination with CRISPR-Cas9, a gene editing technique which his advanced science class is investigating.

Marty's prowess in navigating science, his evolving and uncertain powers, and life in general are central themes in a fast-paced adventure that follows his romp through maturity and a rapidly-changing world, and these elements, combined with a hearty attention to strong character development, keep young hearts and minds engrossed in his story.

Marty's family is as much a part of his adventure as his peers and classmates; and this too is a fine highlight: his actions and choices don't take place in a vacuum of peer relationships; but embrace the entirety of his world and everything he holds dear. Young readers get a dose of history as they learn of past spies of color, and how Marty's Granny used her superpowers to aid Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Smartphones and superpowers, adults who struggle to understand and support Marty's evolutionary process, and missions involving spy manuals and games in the name of science coalesce in a vivid and engrossing tale filled with satisfying twists and turns as well as subliminal messages on choices and consequences.

Middle grade readers who pick up The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes expecting a one-dimensional story of a young would-be scientist/superhero will find the read exciting, stimulating, and a powerful probe of heroism's roots and friendship's special challenges; highly recommended as a standout tale.

Time Candle
Veronica Dale
Nika Press
9780996952149, $14.99, Paper

Time Candle is Book Three of the Coin of Rulve series about twin brothers who have been separated for most of their lives. They are about to encounter each other again. Sheft has been wounded and expelled by the town council, while his brother Teller's duties charge him with apprehending a wanderer regardless of the fact that it happens to be his twin.

They may be twins, but they seem nothing alike. One is charged with duty and truth and the other is the Teller-of-Lies. One has found love and the other is alone. While both struggled to survive a harsh upbringing, one managed to escape while the other remains haunted.

The forces that separated them bring them together in a clash reflective of a changing world. As each begins to absorb the other's loneliness, special challenges, and vast differences, they slowly evolve to join forces against a poison which threatens their entire world, learning that the foundations of their evolving relationship and lessons learned about one another may be the last hope the world holds.

Great journeys, the victims of a deadly poison, the erosion of final hope, and issues of forgiveness, justice, and a wounded hero charged with saving a land where "...only those emptied can be filled to the brim" makes for a downward spiral into a crushed world where two brothers' relationships and backgrounds serve as examples and microcosms of what is to come. What will it take to meld two disparate forces into one in an event that will either embrace the kingdom and recharge it with hope, or cause the world to succumb?

Time Candle's story of magic, exhaustion, abandonment and redemption is a powerful addition to the series. While newcomers should be able to access and enjoy the story line, it's the prior reader of the Coin of Rulve series who will gain the most from this addition, because it flushes out characters, builds upon prior scenarios, and takes readers in unexpected directions they may not have prepared for in previous books.

The result is highly recommended for fans of the series, weaving a complex blend of psychological challenge and growth into an overall fantasy about peoples and kingdoms on the edge of destruction. All this builds towards a sweeping climax that will conclude in a final book in the series, with Time Candle carefully crafted to keep readers on the edge of their seats, anticipating the grand finale.

A New Quantum Scientific Method: Enabling Positive Possibilities for Our Lives
Dr. Phil Petersen
Balboa Press
9781504394970, $13.99, Paper
9781504394994, $30.95, Hardcover

A New Quantum Scientific Method blends science and self-help as it explores how the latest discoveries in brain science and psychology can lend to perceiving more positive pathways for leading an effective life, but the roots of this quantum theory aren't brand new. They actually began almost 400 years ago, when thinker Frances Bacon first outlined a 'Scientific Method' blending philosophy with science.

The difference between that method and this book lies in centuries of scientific advancement in general and applications of quantum science's concepts, particularly to the realm of self-help and psychological advancement. These topics are nicely covered in a book that connects the dots between experiments, theories, and daily life.

Chapters begin with a historic overview of concepts and a history of the processes of The Scientific Method. With this foundation in mind, readers are better able to assimilate the meaning and impact of today's quantum science as it expands upon, clarifies, and creates new avenues of opportunity for self-help readers.

One of the strengths of this discussion lies in its direct connections between theory and applied change, a process that introduces a spiritual element into the mix: "What is a miracle? A Course in Miracles explains that the love of God is the miracle. I interpret that to mean that our Divine Self creates a flow of positive possibilities (love) to our world and allows them to manifest. From a Quantum viewpoint, this flow of possibilities recreates a new universe and even a new past for a person to perceive. A miracle is a personal shift to a new parallel universe! However, miracles are not the highest manifestation of the Divine Self. 'A Course in Miracles' suggests transcendence, or experiencing what is behind our observations and miracles, is higher. I agree. Experiencing your Divine Being takes you beyond the universe you perceive. It is our love of God that helps us transcend."

Of course, this requires an open mind that can flexibly move between science, philosophy, psychology and spirituality. Such an individual will appreciate the special brew of ingredients that Dr. Phil Petersen offers in a series of discourses that consider the foundations of social ills, enlightenment, the process of finding and applying inner peace, and how to recognize and reflect a 'field of positivity' throughout life.

In many ways, the title of A New Quantum Scientific Method belays its contents, because one simply doesn't expect the degree of social reflection, spiritual insight, and psychological inspection in a survey which initially sounds like another quantum physics discussion. But the connections between hard science and life purpose are very clearly drawn throughout, leading readers to a better understanding of the underlying meaning behind both scientific inquiry and the process of personal discovery and evolution: "Whenever the brain is stimulated, molecules are jiggled in the neuron cell walls (later discovered to be electrons in microtubules, which give neurons structure, instead of molecules). This causes them to emit photons in phase, indicating they are jiggling together. Thus, the photon Bose-Einstein condensate may be just an outplaying of a unified quantum state of the physical microtubule sub-structures called 'tubulin dimers' in the brain. When the energy is sufficient this single quantum state is reached. The photons are sent out as a quantum signal to the cells and environment. Individual neurons are like computers, but become like one supercomputer when activated simultaneously. This seems to be the process of choosing or collapse by entanglement. It could go either way. Which would you rather do? Choose your path or let entanglement with destructive thoughts and feelings choose it for you?"

All this sounds complex, but one of the delights of A New Quantum Scientific Method is its accessibility to lay readers, who need no prior scientific, psychological or sociology background in order to appreciate the paths of discussion created by a close inspection of quantum theory and its connections to life. The positive insights are infectious, and any thought that the hope for a better humanity is overly optimistic is belayed by concrete insights on how these better paths are created.

The result is a powerful synthesis of quantum theory, spiritual reflection, psychology, and holistic living ideas which packs in much food for thought and is particularly recommended for new age thinkers seeking science-backed methods for effecting positive changes in their approaches to life.

Sheep Gate Prophecy
Dr. JE Van Horn

Sergeant Evans ("Jenn") is down to his last option. He is going to try to get a job in Baltimore with a deceased military friend's uncle; the one contact he has in the civilian world since his sister married and has been out of touch, and since he was discharged from military service minus an arm. The Andersons generously set him up with a job, a place to live, and an invitation to attend their Pentecostal church, where Jenn's life is changed.

He's not new to the idea of God's presence in his life; but what is new is a feeling of being unconditionally loved and the promise and threat that this brings as he finds himself facing the biggest mission of his life.

After setting the scene with Jenn's personality and motivations, Sheep Gate Prophecy moves into the lives and spirituality of other characters, creating a story line that moves from heaven to Earth in its exploration of different worlds, perceptions, and purposes: "A small glorious committee of the angels, chosen by God Almighty, comprised of watcher, guardian, warrior, and healing angels in their majestically adorned robes were having an informal meeting to discuss their strategies for assisting Laura, when they had been alerted by the watcher angel about their covert reconnaissance mission regarding the most recent Accuser meeting being held in the lower courts. The resplendent upper court was as dazzling and awe inspiring as the lower court was vile and repugnant. The room itself glowed due to the luminosity of the angels themselves, and darkness could not survive extinction."

By now, it should be evident that the first prerequisite for enjoying Sheep Gate Prophecy is an affection for religious observational pieces that include a surprising mix of scientific investigation, encounters with Lucifer and God, and the special purposes of a host of characters who interact, clash, and create new paths and purposes as they walk through heavenly and earthly realms.

Grady, Laura, Ryan (her husband), and Oliver (Grady's father) and others face trial, judgment, and literal and figurative challenges on both spiritual and human levels as they navigate a powerful storm of controversy and conflict that shakes the foundations of both worlds.

The result is a compelling religious inspection of portals, demons and Holy Terrors (a covert taskforce of elite warrior angels), and a renewed struggle for the control of heaven and earth.

Fans of religious thriller stories who like their spiritual elements to take concrete forms with face-to-face clashes will relish Sheep Gate Prophecy for its hard-hitting, action-packed read which combines character growth with a story designed to shake spiritual foundations, lives, and perceptions.

TITLE 13, A Novel
Michael A. Ferro
Harvard Square Editions
9781941861462, $22.95

TITLE 13, A Novel is frighteningly realistic, opens with the leak of a top-secret government document, and pairs an unexpectedly wry, ironic sense of humor with an observational piece about mental illness, government operations, and societal fragility, as evidenced very early on in a description of events that are especially succinct and thought-provoking: "Once even a single page of TITLE 13 paperwork is lost, it is not long before a ripple effect spreads among the populace, targeting the lives of a select poor few and ushering in an enhanced form of absurd chaos only known within the likes of the United States federal government."

But to call this a political expose or thriller would be too pat of an answer to the question of what drives TITLE 13, because its ongoing examination is much more than a sequence of events. It's a series of psychological insights that takes common perceptions about democracies and their peoples and gives them closer examination: "One of the reasons that so many people loathe the United States government is that it is a massive hoarder of personal information - like some jaded recluse stockpiling damning evidence on the world at large," Heald said to Mi?osz while he packed away his paperwork for the day. "Every single embarrassing love letter that you've ever written or received, every horrifying account statement or profession of greed, every damning secret you've buried in a shoebox and tucked away in some forgotten closet at home - that is what the federal government embodies to your average cynical tax-paying member of the American public. Too much is known by too many, and our paranoia is enhanced by the simple fact that we can never know just who knows what."

This winning approach is backed by changes in format and style throughout the text, which take the form of news alerts, transcripts, interviews, and approaches that take familiar types of events and add doses of wry examination and irony to bring them to life: "FLOHARD: Do you have any news concerning the missing TITLE 13 information? JOHNSTON: Well, not yet, but I'm sure that it will come up soon. You'll find that the party responsible for losing it is no one under my supervision. Regardless, I'm confident that one of my people will turn it up. My goodness, what a stunning brooch you have there! Might I just - FLOHARD: You say that you don't think that the leak was from within your department? JOHNSTON: No, ma'am. Not with one of my people directly. FLOHARD: And just why is that your conclusion? JOHNSTON: Well, you see, I don't run a ship so loose into the wind. My ship is tight. I have a ship-shape ship. My sails are - "

Even given the current political climate in Washington and its serious implications, it's impossible for even the most concerned citizen not to find continuous insights, hilarious moments, and a resonating force within TITLE 13. Like a horrific accident, it draws spectators who might feel unwilling to observe, on one level; yet who are fascinated as events unfold, on another.

It's this ability to elicit that blend of concern, horror, and insight from his readers that keeps Michael A. Ferro's story the perfect example of a individual and political catastrophe in the making, mirroring modern events from a delightfully fresh series of changing perspectives - especially from the perspective of the leaker himself, who is described as a 'harbinger of doom' and the 'apogee of destruction'. The investigation will keep readers on their toes while Heald's actions and reflections add a personal pivot point to cement events as they unfold.

Readers who enjoy stories of political and individual blundering and irony should run, not walk, to TITLE 13: it's a hard-hitting story wrapped in a unique voice that makes it nearly impossible to put down.

Wild Youth
Mike Craig
Finch Field Drake Publishers
9781775123729, $11.99

Wild Youth features twelve short stories that are quite different from the coming-of-age sagas that might be anticipated from the book's title.

For one thing, Mike Craig sets his stories in locations around the world, giving each tale a different setting and focus which reflects the nuances and atmospheres of different nations.

Take, for example, 'The School Uniform'. The young overseas protagonist's father has taken a job in the U.S., it's already been a year since his son has seen him (and it may be several more years before they meet again), and his family's lives are affected by both from his absence and because of the privilege they enjoy from having more money, which allows the son to go to a private bilingual Spanish/English school while some of his peers work or haunt the streets for food.

When he befriends a poor boy and gives him food, his school uniform betrays him in a big way, and he receives a hard lesson about poverty and class separation.

This isn't what one expects: the 'wild' youth isn't 'wild' in the usual sense, and the lesson learned is anything but common.

Each story explores families, friendships, and social issues from a youngster's perspective, creating a literary lesson in children's' courage, their ability to adapt, and vastly different perspectives in the world.

These are not your typical coming-of-age stories, but powerful, succinct short stories of how each young protagonist encounters a different challenge that results in a lesson that changes him.

Hauntingly revealing and diverse in its experiences, yet unified by the specter of youths at different crossroads, Wild Youth is recommended reading for high school into adult circles, and is especially suggested as discussion material for high school classrooms involved in blends of literary and social studies.

The Lubecker
M. J. Joseph
The Peppertree Press
9781614935247, $26.95, Paper, $34.95 Hardcover

The Lubecker takes place just before World War 1 and portrays a sundry group of characters who each struggle with their own lives and destinies on the cusp of a war that engulfs their families and lives.

The first thing to note about The Lubecker is that its epic, sweeping visions are anything but easy reads. M.J. Joseph is serious about portraying a wide range of individuals and circumstances that grapple both with their worlds and with the consequences of greater decisions made by others; and so the cast of characters is complicated and diverse. Among them is a young doctor who struggles with a forbidden love in Florida and eight-year-old David Rosenberg and his family, of the northern German city of Lubeck, who all face their own life challenges.

It should be noted that The Lubecker is as much a literary work as an epic history. As Joseph flushes out her characters against the milieu of a changing world, readers gain a series of insights that move from a young military man's entry into war ("He did soon, however, begin to feel the excitement of the new possibilities available to him: new people to know, a foreign world to explore, and the prospect of interesting work to demand his attention. Wisdom and suffering, he remembered from his dream. He pushed the recollection aside in his mind, shaking his head and concentrating on removing his boots to free his sweat-conjoined toes and offer the room a whiff of real life.") to the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of characters who adapt to these changes: "He sat on the foredeck of the little ship, and between naps, he was finally able to brush the questions from his mind, accepting the events of his life as steps forward. Wouldn't life end if he achieved an ultimate goal? He decided that his natural, judicious combativeness was more important than solving the riddle of his destiny. He would just keep the philosopher at bay, and get on with life, as always."

There's a deeply rooted philosophical tone that permeates events and observations, and there's also a reflective series of insights provided about lost and new connections, budding romances, and the experiences of military and civilians alike: "As he turned toward the swamps, he knew that his rendezvous with the Indians would be dangerous, but if Witt's intelligence was correct that the British planned to move the naval gun in place near Kantana, its presence would almost nullify any attempt to capture the east side of the canal. He must be successful in disproving this information or destroying the gun, David thought. After four hours of traveling, he settled his train of camels and rested until dawn, when he would make navigational observations and care for the animals. The rest of the day would involve constant vigilance and water."

All this is brought to life in a narrative that moves deftly through different settings and events, exposing the encounters and clashes between different peoples.

Readers seeking a sweeping historical novel that highlights the social, spiritual and political challenges of the World War I era will find the time invested in reading The Lubecker is time well spent. The Lubecker is very highly recommended for its ability to move beyond the trappings of romance, military, or social experience to embrace elements of all three as it pursues its characters across changing landscapes.

A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments: Applying the Science of Mindfulness and Happiness
Barbara Larrivee
Shoreline Publications
9780965178006, Paperback, $16.99, e-book, $7.99

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There are plenty of books on the market about cultivating mindfulness; many of which offer meditations and paths for understanding and achieving mindfulness. What differentiates Barbara Larrivee's A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments from much of the existing literature on the subject is an attention to blending the author's personal journey to a more mindful life with closer examination of different layers of mindfulness. Larrivee then applies these facets to overall well-being and building better strategies for coping with life's stresses. Many books stop short of all this, either providing a brief definition of mindfulness with accompanying exercises, exercises alone, or a philosophical and spiritual reflection.

Readers interested in how to understand mindfulness' many applications, how to achieve it, and how to apply it to all aspects of their lives receive an analysis of meditation practices that examines the time it takes, the return results that can be expected from an investment of time and energy, and a discussion based upon the author's own routines and discoveries.

Another important aspect of A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments is that all discussions are backed by research notes from documented studies. This lends scientific credence to Larrivee's contentions and supports her overall focus and approach. All the notes are footnoted and documented to add scientific, business, and historical support to her claims and assertions.

From rituals to transition out of one's workday role to actively cultivating compassionate perspectives, actions and reactions to life, and recognizing the value of kindness, A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments is not the anticipated collection of short daily vignettes for better living, but an in-depth review backed by facts; not just ideals.

The result is a highly recommended pick for anyone interested in applying mindfulness concepts to the pursuit of living a more mindful life supported by positive choices and activities.

Surviving the Twenties Transformation
K.L. Martin
Waconda Books
97809998961002, $12.95

Surviving the Twenties Transformation: Empower Your Soul and Change Your Life is directed to those in their twenties whose future is ahead of them, but who still feel that something is lacking in their perspectives and goals for work, family, and overall quality of life.

But unlike most financially-oriented or lifestyle guides that prompt young people to hone better directions in life, Surviving the Twenties Transformation focuses on spiritual goals, reconnecting with God and faith, and assessing career and life objectives in line with this focus.

Chapters discuss God's Plan, difficult people encountered in life, the process of connecting faith in God with faith in one's soul's objectives, and the goals of cultivating solitude, embracing struggle, and thwarting egotistical impulses that can serve as barriers to understanding. Young adults receive a clear road map that blends discussions of common pitfalls with reviews of critical transformative moments that lead to making better choices.

A belief in God will enhance appreciation of this book's objectives and perspectives as it provides the supplemental connections and routes young adults can follow to better guide their lives and choices, making this a special recommendation for religious readers who would better connect the processes of faith, soul-searching, and overall life-changing decisions.

The Chronicles of Neffie
A.L. Gibson
Amazon Digital
B07916STHF, $2.99, Kindle

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The Chronicles of Neffie is the first of six projected novels in which teen Neffie, a slave girl growing up in 1800s Alabama, lives her life and observes tumultuous changes, bringing her and her readers into a world that pits the legendary Southern charm and hospitality with the harsh realities of living life as a slave.

A.L. Gibson presents this world using the first person, nicely capturing Neffie's encounters and the few choices she can make to influence the course of her life in the Deep South.

The first thing to note about this approach in general and Neffie's character in particular is that the teen seems both wise beyond her years and as able to observe social norms and changes as the white folk and slaves who move through that world; from their clothing to their demeanor towards one another and her people: "It's not sumthin' I would wear or would ever get the chance to wear. Ain't no dress like that meant for no slave. Rags only. As she walked up to the front porch to greet everyone, I couldn't help but to notice that there was a niceness to her. She smiled and greeted everyone out there just the same and she looked you right in the eye. It didn't matta if you were White or a slave. She saw you for who you are. A human-being. I sure wish there were more White folks like her around these parts because we could use it."

Neffie's dialect is well-done and clear, reflecting Southern lingo without becoming confusing. That's a plus in a title which will likely will be read by teens unused to dialects.

The second strength of The Chronicles of Neffie lies in its ability to take Neffie's perspective and wind it into the greater social, cultural and political changes that take place in a whirlwind around her. Neffie doesn't just speak about the white overlords that control her life; she also reflects on other choices slaves make in the process of survival; and it's these comments that lend The Chronicles of Neffie a depth and insight that more singular approaches can't touch: "Somebody needs to come buy Miss Reisa and get her from around these parts. She don't do nuthin' but stir up trouble and sleep around with some of these ole White men that have been hanging around here lately. I guess Quaid must've told them about her so now they wanna try her out. That's on her. Miss Reisa is dumb enough to do it. She's giving herself a bad name and the rest of us girl slaves. These no-good White men around here are gonna think we're all the same. It's bad enough being a slave girl down here in the South, no need to make it worse."

Neffie is wise beyond her years as she observes the impact Miss Reisa makes and those choices and actions that belay her thirty-five years of life experience.

But are Neffie's intelligence and survival skills enough? She's in a lot of trouble, and there is no clear path to resolution in this powerful story that blends a slave girl's coming of age with bigger-picture history from a Southerner's personal perspective.

Readers of slave stories and early civil rights history will find The Chronicles of Neffie replete with action and an observational style that immerses one in Neffie's encounters with White people right up to an unexpected conclusion that twists Neffie's familiar world into another realm.

The Telling Image
Lois Farfel Stark
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9781626344716, $27.95

The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times comes from a documentary filmmaker who examines the extent of human history, revealing how people explain the world as they represent it in their art and endeavors.

While this topic might initially seem better fodder for the screen, The Telling Image succeeds in its objective to translate this sweeping review of civilization into book form, employing a visual approach that supports its focus on how architectural endeavors shape and reflect world perceptions.

In migratory times, humans perceived the world as interconnected. Early peoples lived in close contact with nature and eventually learned to control their immediate environment, and their nomadic existence became stable. This change prompted a shift in social organization and physical structures and shapes, and affected every aspect of human society from economics to politics.

Over the centuries, different forces of change continue to shape these human efforts; and although history oscillates and science and spirituality influence perspectives, the continuity remains in how humans seek to describe the world in ways that reflect their changing thinking processes.

It's not easy to reflect shifting mindsets either in text or in visual form. Although buildings, behaviors and beliefs can be closely examined, their underlying influences, psychology, philosophy, and, most of all, the forces at work to change them can prove mercurial.

In considering how innovations have helped humans see how the world is changing and how they can build new social structures, Lois Farfel Stark reveals that many clues about that decision-making lie in images and architecture. Her book surveys everything from how networks encourage knowledge of relationships between moving parts to what the next stage of new technology may bring to alter human perception and purposes.

With expanding ways to create and capture images, technology offers unprecedented opportunities for transformational thinking. Accelerated change holds options that can offset the dilemma of being stuck in a given mindset. Why is this key to understanding the importance of The Telling Image? Stark's own words best explain it: "Relationships are the payoff that gives us pattern. As we become familiar with the pace and pattern of exponential change, we can project further into the future, giving ourselves a chance to change things, to participate in better outcomes..."

While The Telling Image is likely to be chosen for arts holdings, it would be a shame to limit its audience to architecture readers alone. Its comments on social history and what shapes changing human perception are highly recommended for any sociology, history, psychology, or social issues reader; and should serve as the foundation for many a college-level classroom discussion.

Implicit: Soul Invictus
Mark Tiro
Second Dharma Books
Ebook: 9781948037013, $TBA
Kindle Ebook: $4.99 Ebook (and free to read in Kindle Unlimited)
Paperback: 9781948037006, $14.99

Readers of spiritual fiction and fantasy about reincarnation, mystical visions, and driving forces that span millennia will relish Implicit: Soul Invictus; a past-life thriller that moves across time to embrace the true purpose of Maya's many lives.

If this already sounds complicated, be advised that under another hand, Implicit: Soul Invictus might well have proved a challenge to absorb, with its winding and ever-changing setting and lessons. Mark Tiro, however, provides a realistic attention to Maya's own struggle to find and accept her destiny, creating believable and absorbing links to all that transpires and reinforcing some of the Course in Miracles concepts.

Readers need have no prior familiarity with the Course in Miracles to successfully absorb Maya's story, however. Her story begins with her incarnation as a teacher who is often at odds with her students and especially with one clever psychopath who decides to manipulate her for a better grade. It's not the spiritual seeker personality and opening one anticipates from a story about soul journeys and uncovering life purpose.

This reality-based introduction progresses through further lifetimes and scenarios, from ancient Rome to vivid rebirth processes that bring Maya into different lives that hold familiar patterns.

Sabine, Diana, Yoshio. Legal challenges won and lost. Arrogance faced down or victorious. There may be no wrong choices; but there are different forms of illusions, and as Maya strips away the veils of her many lives, she undertakes an ancient journey in an unexpected blend of philosophy with a touch of romance that's heavy in spiritual inquiry.

As the journey takes over and Maya repeats many of her past life courses, the powerful story blossoms as Maya contemplates the lessons she receives about anger, setting aside judgments, and pursuing love.

While anyone with a prior interest in a novel about reincarnated lives will appreciate a story line that traverses history as its character pursues her life purpose and its lessons, it's the reader already grounded in the concepts of the Course in Miracles who will find this fictional incarnation of many of its concepts so striking.

Maya's journey is just beginning, and her feisty, determined personality shines in a series of events designed to keep readers immersed and thinking right up to the end (...which may be only the beginning).

All These Things: Maya Invictus
Mark Tiro
Second Dharma Books
9781948037020, $4.99, Ebook
9781948037037, $11.99, Paperback

Maya's overall story and life in the first book, Implicit: Soul Invictus, sets the stage for a slightly different focus in Book Two, All These Things: Maya Invictus, which focuses on Maya's role as a young trial lawyer charged with defending one David from a murder accusation.

While Implicit posed a series of trials and legal and soul challenges, All These Things takes a more personal turn as it uses the courtroom scene to examine what happens when two interconnected souls collide.

As in the first book, the story's spiritual backdrop is an inescapable and particularly compelling facet that makes this tale recommendable not to the usual John Grisham-style fan of legal process, but for readers seeking deeper spiritual inspections of everyday life.

In this case, public defender Maya Lee's carefully-honed perspective (which comes from more than one lifetime) faces direct challenge when it turns out the man she is to defend assumes the role of a more enlightened master in her life.

Sound intriguing? The compelling factors are just beginning in a novel about a tough lawyer whose greatest challenge lies not in the courtroom but in more closely examining her own life and perceptions.

In many ways, All These Things introduces her journey of enlightenment and realization and proves an easier book to digest than the wider-ranging Implicit. At stake is not only her ability to trust against impossible odds (something she's been trained to eschew in favor of cold, hard facts), but her ability to grow beyond her position and training into a deeper spiritual persona.

Needless to say, readers seeking courtroom thrillers alone may find the spiritual and psychological component of Maya's journey to be less high-octane than they'd anticipated. To bill All These Things as a 'courtroom drama/thriller' would not only be to do her story a disservice: it will attract and then disappoint readers who don't anticipate or desire a spiritual element to their reading.

Yes, there are plenty of legal processes and courtroom scenes; but these are wound into Maya's emotional and spiritual lessons about how to view the world differently. Maya has often been credited with changing others' lives in the course of her professional career. Now she's challenged with transforming her own.

As Maya faces a terrible repressed event from her past, the reasons not only why she's never looked back, but why she's made the choices she has, and the conundrum posed by a religious revelation that resulted in a life-destroying disaster, readers are swept into a closer inspection of her life and its challenges than one might anticipate from a book replete with legal processes.

It should also be cautioned that reading All These Things is no quick or easy endeavor. Lest readers begin here without knowledge from the book's Maya predecessor, it should be cautioned that while many elements of a legal thriller are present, it's a story to be digested slowly and savored in bites rather than one to be pursued at breakneck speed.

Life's not a race; it's a series of lessons. All These Things will especially appeal to readers who want to take the time to absorb these lessons and to those who enjoy a spiritual aspect to their stories that keeps them in a mode of thoughtful examination and perhaps self-inspection. This audience will relish All These Things as both a powerful adjunct to the opening Maya novel Implicit and a stand-alone, winning story about self-destruction, redemption, belief, and learning from different lifetime incarnations.

50 Ways to Worry Less Now
Gigi Langer, PhD
Possum Hill Press
9780999122006, $14.95,

50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking to Find Peace, Clarity, and Connection comes from an author who is personally as well as professionally familiar with her topic. Thirty years ago, she used alcohol and professional obligations to escape worries. It took a blend of recovery programs, therapies, and spiritual insights to finally lead her to calm her own fears and those of others; and 50 Ways to Worry Less Now reflects this process, synthesizing it into four life strategies and some fifty tools that squelch negative thinking patterns.

Readers needn't expect a complicated journey, here. Dr. Langer has already done the legwork in this process, and her book moves easily from managing stress to channeling it into positive avenues, then eventually giving back to others.

What could have been a complicated read with demanding routines is thus condensed into a series of stories and examples that are easily absorbed, in digestible chunks that even the busiest person can readily read. These are paired with ideas for action that range from developing one's own growth program to identifying 'whispered lies' and developing antidotes to negativity through positive reflections.

Plenty of books advocate countering negative thinking; but too few actually provide step-by-step measures on how to do so. Others simply choose a singular path and follow it. The pleasure of 50 Ways to Worry Less Now lies in its examples, specific exercises, and injections of how the author used various routines to find her way out of negativity: "These exercises helped me see my divorces and addictions as merely misguided attempts to find love and security. I let go of my self-condemnation and began to believe I could be happy."

The result is an important set of guidelines that any reader can easily follow, highly recommended for anyone who worries too much, lives too hard a life, and searches for a better way.

Night Music
Deanna Lynn Sletten
Deanna Lynn Sletten, Publisher
9781941212301, $4.99, eBook
9781941212332, $14.99, Paperback

What does a sixteen-year-old girl do when she loses her brother to the Vietnam War? In Night Music, she joins a group of college women who correspond with solders and begins communicating with soldier Joseph; only to have him vanish, as well.

Still struggling with her loss and the ongoing war, Char enters college and begins to date her brother's best friend, who is an anti-war activist. Her life is not destined to become predictable, however, because a stranger comes to town and brings with him a different perspective and an opportunity for healing.

Night Music blends a romance theme with turbulent social times and the impact of Vietnam on different lives and small-town America, in particular. Although one might anticipate, from the introductory age of its protagonist, that this is a teen read, one of the special notes to Night Music is that it incorporates many wider-ranging issues beyond romance and Vietnam-era politics alone, and will reach women readers in their 20s, 30s and 40s as they follow Char's evolutionary process.

Charlotte's letters began something that seems never-ending, sending her in unexpected directions as she contemplates the long-lasting effects of Vietnam, the changes in her life because of it, and casual friendships that turn into something greater.

As peaceful protests break down, out of control, and Char finds her life equally chaotic and torn from its familiar roots, Joe, Char and Deke must make some hard choices about their own actions, inactions, and futures.

Night Music is about a special period of time in a girl's life as she comes of age and grows older in a turbulent era marked by protests and life-changing events. Char's search for answers she can live with mirrors much of the struggles of her times and makes for as involving a read as the injection of romance, jealousy, and conflict that stems from her choices.

Adult readers will find her development an especially compelling read that successfully captures the nuances, influences, and cultural and social turmoil of the Vietnam era.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Black Wings of Cthulhu 5
Edited by S.T. Joshi
Titan Books
9781785656910 $14.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: H. P. Lovecraft's brand of cosmic horror has long forced readers to an inexorable truth - there are powers in the universe whose immensity dwarfs petty human conflicts. Inspired by Lovecraft and brought together by editor S. T. Joshi, the stories in Black Wings of Cthulhu 5 explore the very essence of fear.

Between these covers lie many of the finest Lovecraftian authors, including Sunni K Brock, Donald R. Burleson, Mollie L. Burleson, Nicole Cushing, Jason C. Eckhardt, Sam Gafford, Wade German, Cody Goodfellow, David Hambling, Lynne Jamneck, Mark Howard Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, W. H. Pugmire, John Reppion, Darrell Schweitzer, Jonathan Thomas, Donald Tyson, Robert H. Waugh, and Stephen Woodworth.

Critique: H. P. Lovecraft's classic, cosmic horror stories have chilled the hearts of generations. The Lovecraftian legacy of Cthulhu mythos lives on in this anthology of terrifying tales by a diversity of masterful authors. Fear the mind-warping powers of the Great Old Ones and their dread minions in these tales, including "Diary of a Sane Man", "In Blackness Etched, My Name", "Seed of the Gods", "The Red Witch of a Chorazin" and more. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the gruesome fantastic! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Black Wings of Cthulhu 5 is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Black Star Renegades
Michael Moreci
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250117847 $27.99 hc / $14.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Cade Sura holds the future of the galaxy in his hands: the ultimate weapon that will bring total peace. He didn't ask for it, he doesn't want it, and there's no worse choice to wield it in all of space, but if he doesn't, everyone's totally screwed. The evil Praxis kingdom is on the cusp of having every star system under its control, and if that happens, there'll be no contesting their cruel reign. Especially if its fanatical overlord, Ga Halle, manages to capture Cade and snag the all-powerful weapon for herself.

Cade can't hide from Praxis, and he can't run from the destiny that's been shoved into his hands. So he only has one option: He has to fight.

Cade's not going to let destiny send him on a suicide run, though. With some help from his friends?rebels and scoundrels alike?Cade's going to use this weapon to chart a new destiny for the galaxy, and for himself.

He just has to do so before everyone around him discovers that he's a complete and total fraud.

Blending the space operatics of Star Wars and the swagger of Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Star Renegades is a galaxy-hopping adventure that blasts its way from seedy spacer bars to sacred temples guarded by deadly creatures?all with a cast of misfit characters who have nowhere to go and nothing to lose.

Critique: Black Star Renegades is a sweeping science fiction epic, chronicling war, rebellion, and desperate hope. A band of misfit heroes determined to change the seemingly doomed fate of the galaxy and turn the tides of war form the character-driven core of this star-spanning space opera. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the genre! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Black Star Renegades is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Handmade: Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction
Gary Rogowski
Linden Publishing
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721-9875
9781610353144, $18.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: In an era when there are countless competing claims on our attention and time, how do we find the internal focus to be creative? For master furniture craftsman Gary Rogowski, the answer is in the act of creative work itself. The discipline of working with one's hands to create unnecessarily beautiful things shapes the builder into a more complete human being.

Rogowski's "Handmade: Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction" is a profound meditation on the eternal value of manual work, creativity, human fallibility, and the stubborn pursuit of quality work.

Rogowski also tells his life story of how he became a craftsman and how years of persistent work have taught him patience, resilience, tolerance for failure, and a love of pursuing beauty and mastery for its own sake.

Critique: Part autobiography, part guide to creativity, part guide to living, and a perfect antidote to a modern world that thinks human labor is obsolete, "Handmade: Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction" is specifically intended for craftspeople, artists, and non-specialist general readers seeking clarity, purpose, and creativity in their work. Exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Handmade" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Handmade" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

The Chief Data Officer's Playbook
Caroline Carruthers & Peter Jackson
Facet Publishing
9781783302581, $79.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Chief Data Officer is a new and rapidly expanding role and many organizations are finding that it is an uncomfortable fit into the existing C-suite.

The issues and profession of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) are of significant interest and relevance to organizations and data professionals internationally. "The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" is written by two practicing CDOs who offer a practical, direct and engaging discussion of the role, its place and importance within organizations.

Bringing together views, opinions and practitioners experience for the first time, "The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" offers a compelling guide to anyone looking to understand the current (and possible future) CDO landscape. "The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" covers: Why does any organization need a CDO?; The secret ingredients of the successful CDO; Avoiding the hype cycle; The CDO place in the C-suite; Building the CDO team; The CDO and technology; Enablement not red tape; Advice to give the business owners.

"The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" will offer key insight for CDOs looking to understand their position better, for aspiring CDOs and data officers looking at career progression, for those recruiting CDOs, and anyone else looking to understand the CDO landscape.

Critique: A seminal work of impressive depth and scope, "The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" is essential reading and a critically important addition to professional, corporate, community, and academic library Corporate Management instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Chief Data Officer's Playbook" is also available in a paperback edition (9781783302574, $55.00).

Even If It Kills Me
Donivan Blair
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594395390, $15.95, PB, 234pp,

Synopsis: Donivan Blair is the bassist for the rock band the Toadies. Over the past twenty-five years he has recorded seventeen albums and toured the world. Spoiler alert: He holds a first-degree black belt in taekwondo.

"Even If It Kills Me: Martial Arts, Rock and Roll, and Mortality" is his personal of being rock and roll musician who took up taekwondo at the age of forty.

As a kid Doni was obsessed with ninjas and kung fu movies. He and his brother took up taekwondo?there was no ninja school in Sherman, Texas. Classes were expensive, especially considering their parents' tenuous employment status and fondness for alcohol. The family lived like "white-trash gypsies," Blair writes, adding that he got good at moving furniture at three in the morning.

The Blair kids loved taekwondo, but the family just couldn't afford classes. Doni walked away from martial arts. Thirty years later, he's walking back.

Doni discovers the road to black belt is rough and, well, weird. He meets martial seekers of every sort. He has run-ins with a teenage savant who seems determined to break the author's leg. He drives a van full of seven-year-olds for the dojang's after-school program. They puke everywhere.

Critique: Smart and funny, introspective and irreverent, impressively well written, organized and presented, "Even If It Kills Me" blends rock and roll with taekwondo in an exceptional and unreservedly recommended memoir that is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Even If It Kills" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.69).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Life's A Mother
Beth Ellen Adubato
9781543901405, $29.20

Three women's lives become intertwined because of their kids in New Jersey in the excellent novel "Life's A Mother." Melissa is a gifted plastic surgeon in private practice with her husband. She begins to view her life and realizes how unhappy she is after she learns her partner has been straying for a long time. She is now faced with a dilemma to stay in the marriage or get out. Mary Rose Flaherty also unhappy with her existence takes risks with men and becomes a totally different person from the one everyone has known for years and Wendy Romero also divorced now living and working in Birmingham Alabama as a weekend sports anchor is very displeased with the course hers has taken.. Opportunity knocks for her but she has to return to New Jersey and live with her mother who constantly bombards her with criticism about her weight, and everything else she can think of. The three women come together and form a group that helps each other through whatever comes their way. The characters are well defined as they face the challenges of everyday life together while the writing is smooth that takes readers along a wonderful trek through different conflicts that help move the story along to a satisfying conclusion. Classified as a woman's book "Life's A Mother" is instead a first-class novel by an up and coming author I hope to see more from in the future.

Hidden Truths
Jeff Boyle
Bold Venture Press
9781537556703, $12.95

Jeff Boyle tackles the short story with ease in his collection "Hidden Truths." With the skill of a master craftsman he shows why with each piece why the short story is still a popular art form. He takes readers on an excursion with plausible characters with many different conflicts to be resolved by the end of the tale. Some of the noteworthy stories are "The Boy," "Miss Piano." "We Should Meet." All the instances are collected for the first time together. "Hidden Truths" continues the tradition of the short story by a master story teller.

Love on the Edge
Kerry Evelyn
Swan Press
9780999586112, $14.99

Lannie Owens goes into hiding after a stalker nearly ends her life. She takes refuge in a costal resort in Maine where she tries to put her life back together with the aid of Army Ranger Matt Saunders. Like her Saunders is a damaged person who carries around guilt for the loss of a friend under enemy fire. Matt believes he is responsible for the death of his friend. Together the two wounded individuals come together to help each other as they try but fail to stay hidden from Lannie's vicious attacker. Kerry Evelyn is a new voice of fiction who deftly handles the situations in "Love on the Edge" to a final rewarding ending. Her characters are flawed while bettering themselves in a story that is very realistic. The suspense reaches a high point and never disappoints the reader. "Love on the Edge is the first of the Crane's Cove series that is off to a great beginning.

The Mysterious Woman on the Train
Kay Williamson
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440162053, $15.95,

David Martin a college professor, is on a train bound for Chicago when he has a bizarre encounter with a woman who one moment is in front of him and the next completely disappears in the blink of an eye. While visiting his mother in "The Windy City" he learns who the lady was and that on this particular day each year, she reappears on the train because she was murdered, and the case is still unsolved. The following year he encounters her again on the same line. She later begins to show up wherever he goes with a message solve the case and I can move on to where I should be. David and his mother become amateur sleuths to resolve the case as they travel around the country following clues to close the situation "The Mysterious Woman on the Train" has likable characters, plenty of conflicts that drive the story along to the very end and a lot more but there is one factor that completely detracts from the enjoyment a tad. That being the author used the same words or described the same thing repeatedly that slows down the pacing. Here is an example when David and his mom talk to one of the characters who knew the victim Rosalind He tells, "I was Rosalind's model agent, and I found her a big job in Chicago. She met Rodger in Chicago...." There are other ways to have said the same thing and pick up the pacing a lot better. Even with its faults "The Mysterious Woman on the Train" is recommended reading for any mystery fan.

The Quotable John Wayne The Grit And Wisdom Of An American Icon
Compiled and Edited by Carol Lea Mueller
Taylor Trade Publishing
c/o The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
4501Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
9781589793323, $14.95

Long after his death in 1979 John Wayne is still written and talked about so many years later. "The Quotable John Wayne" is still available in stores around the nation. There was just something about the man and actor that keeps the legend alive. Carol Lea Mueller shows why people continue to be fascinated with him with things he said throughout his long career. Many are from his films but others are from interviews and personal appearances on different shows on TV including "The Rowan and Martin's Laugh In." There are many actors who have played in westerns and other genre movies but "The Quotable John Wayne The Grit And Wisdom Of An American Icon shows why the Duke continues to reign supreme as the icon of the modern day western.

Creating Personal Presence Look, Talk, Think, And Act Like a Leader
Dianna Booher
Berrett Koehler Publishers Inc
235 Montgomery Street Suite 650, San Francisco CA 94104-2916
9781609940119, $16.95,

Whatever you want in life is obtainable. You just have to know how to play the game to get ahead. "Creating Personal Presence" lays out many solid presentations for anyone to follow to project a better image to others. Some of the things author Booher covers are how you use your voice, the clothes you wear, your posture and how you carry yourself, facial gestures, listening skills and a lot more. She shows circumstances of why some people got the job while others more qualified on paper did not. "Creating Personal Presence" is an informative book that can help many people fine tune themselves to a better life no matter what the situation

Wayward Cat Finds a Home
Dana Trantham
Illustrations by Brandi Trantham
Wayward Cat Publishing
978193899147, $7.99

"Wayward Cat Finds a Home" begins with the birth of a kitten and siblings to a stray cat in the garage of a nice woman. She is forced to take them to an adoption center to find them homes. One in particular is not taken until a volunteer takes him to her home where the kitty encounters an older cat named Squeakers who is the master of the domain and does not like the youngster who threatens Squeakers very existence. Trantham takes a very familiar situation to any one who has ever had a cat and a kitten in the same house and shows from the kitten's point of view what it's like to grow up in a very hostile environment. The characters are believable while the writing flows along in an easy style that concludes with a very logical ending. "Wayward Cat Finds a Home" is a delightful novel that is sure to please any feline owner.

Scuba Zak Meets Thaddeus the Barracuda
Alice Cypress
Illustrations by Blueberry Illustrations
Protective Hands Communications
9780978739423, $9.95

"Scuba Zak Meets Thaddeus the Barracuda" has several lessons for kids to learn about the world of diving and first impressions that are not always accurate. A diver encounters numerous different types of sea life on his trip through the ocean waters off the Florida Keys. While underwater he encounters an infamous Barracuda that has had a reputation for being very dangerous. He decides to confront the fish and learns that not everything is as it seems. "Scuba Zak Meets Thaddeus the Barracuda" exposes a world few of us ever get to encounter with a solid story that reveals about humans and animals and how we relate to each other.

We Can't Move at Christmas
Steve Altier
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781503015463, $5.99

Christmas is coming and Gabby and Maddox are getting ready by sending Santa Claus a list of things they want for the big day. They are informed by their parents that they will no longer be living in Florida this year when the holiday begins because their father has taken a new position with his job in another state. Geared to the Christmas holiday "We Can't Move at Christmas" is for any time of the year when families are faced with moving to another area. There are several conflicts that move the story along while there are likable characters and solid writing that locks onto readers from the first page to the last. "We Can't Move at Christmas" is bound to bring back memories to anyone who as a child had to move away from an area or someone who had a close friend who had to do likewise.

SamBoy VS. The Closet Monster
Written by Keith & Nikki Helton
Illustrated by Tricia Arvanis
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781517484750, $9.99

When we were littler we all had something that terrified us. "SamBoy VS. The Closet Monster" take that premise and shows how a brother comes to the aid of his sister to quash her fear of something in her bedroom closet. The story begins with Carolyn explaining to her mother that she saw something in her closet. Mom's response is that her room is messy and that it has to be cleaned up. Sam her brother has a different response where he will take care of her monster for her. There are several underlying premises of relationships that run through the work. "SamBoy VS. The Closet Monster is enjoyable reading for all ages.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Man in the Crooked Hat
Harry Dolan
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399185410, $27.00, Hardcover, 354 pp.

From the publisher: Jack Pellum is a Detroit detective who left the force after his wife was murdered in a random attack. But Jack never bought that theory, and the case was never solved. Eighteen months later, Jack is working as a part-time private investigator while continuing the hunt for an elusive person of interest in his wife's murder: a man in a fedora who Jack is convinced could break open the case. When a local writer's cryptic suicide note suggests the man in the fedora actually exists, Jack picks up the thread he's certain will lead him to his wife's killer. He never imagined it would also unravel twenty years of secrets and unsolved crimes or make him the target of a psychopath trying to erase his own past.

In the early pages of the book, Jack meets Paul Rook, 26 years old, whose mother was killed nine years earlier, and who shares a similar obsession, trying to find a man in a fedora who he thinks killed his mother. When Jack asks him what he thinks the man's motives are, the reply he receives is "'He kills people. He doesn't have motives.' He tells Paul that he has been doing his own sleuthing, and that he's 'found sightings of him. Some of them go back years. The earliest one I've found was twenty years ago. It happened about thirty miles from here, in a town called Belleville. I think the man in the hat got his start there' ... Paul had told him about more than a dozen murders - - each one with a witness who claimed to have seen a man in a hat. The sightings took place at different times, sometimes on the day of the murder, sometimes in the days before. Never at the scene of the crime. " Jack then is told about another boy who was killed, about a month later, in a town six or seven miles from the scene of that murder.

Jack is relentless in his search, and at times I must admit it became a bit too much of a slog for this reader. But the tension and the suspense mount, and almost before one realizes it one is caught up in the investigation almost as much as its protagonist. In the very first pages of the book we meet Michael Underhill. It is over 70 pages later before we meet him again. But surprisingly, that doesn't lessen the suspense. Even when we learn "who," the "how" and "why" are absorbing, and the resolution is very satisfying. The novel is highly recommended.

The Woman in the Window
A.J. Finn
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062678416, $26.99/33.50 CA$, Hardcover, 427 pp.

From the publisher: Anna Fox lives alone - - a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her days drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn't, her world begins to crumble - - and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one - - and nothing - - is what it seems. Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving.

Before I begin my review, I must state that every one of those adjectives is absolutely accurate. The novel spans a period of less than two months, with the first chapter beginning on Sunday, October 24th, and the penultimate chapter on Monday, November 15th, with each chapter (sometimes only a single page) describing events within that single day, the final chapter taking place six weeks thereafter, or just about at the end of the year. There is a lot that happens in that relatively short time.

Anna lives alone - her husband has left her, taking their teenage daughter with him. Anna - or Dr. Fox, as she prefers to be called - is agoraphobic, somewhat ironic, as many of her patients in her private practice suffer from the same malady. She herself sees a therapist on a weekly basis, whose visits are conducted at her home. So her ventures outside of the front door are minimal, to say the least. Which works out well, as she can barely open the front door at all, except to admit visitors, such as her physical therapist/yoga instructor and her therapist.

Her doctor has added some powerful psychotropics to her meds, warning her that she must not take them with alcohol, a warning which Anna ignores, to say the least, if anything increasing her use of alcohol, resulting in hangovers that are nearly disabling. (Her consumption of Merlot, e.g., becomes prodigious.) But when Anna's constant voyeurism when it comes to her neighbors suddenly reaches a near crisis, and the woman in the window of the title describes not only Anna, but also the woman whose house is across the way, when Anna sees things that are, to say the least, very disturbing.

This novel was hard to tear myself away from, the poetic writing almost hypnotic. This is a book that stays with the reader long after the final page has been finished.

Highly recommended.

Clownfish Blues
Tim Dorsey
William Morrow
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062429230, $15.99, Paperback
9780062429223, $26.99, Hardcover, 334 pp.

From the publisher: If you're loud and proud Floridian Serge A. Storms, how do you follow up on your very own remake of Easy Rider? You shoot your own "episodes" of your favorite classic television show, Route 66! With Coleman riding shotgun, Serge is rolling down the highway of his dreams in a vintage silver Corvette. It doesn't matter that the actual Route 66 doesn't pass through Florida, for Serge discovers that a dozen episodes near the show's end were filmed (really!) in his beloved home state. So for Serge and the always toked and stoked Coleman, the Sunshine State is all the road you need to get your kicks. But their adventure traveling the byways of Florida's underbelly is about to take a detour. Someone is trying to tilt the odds in the state lottery amid a long line of huge jackpots, resulting in more chaos than any hurricane season. Soon every shady character wants in - - crooked bodega owners, drug cartels laundering money, and venture capitalists trying to win one for the mathletes. They're also gambling with their lives, because when Serge and Coleman get hip to this timely (and very lucrative) trip, there's no telling whose number is up next. Throw in Brook Campanella, Serge's old flame, as well as the perpetually star-crossed Reevis Tome, and it's a sure bet that the ever lucky Serge will hit it big.

This is the 20th book in the series, and I have to state right up front that it kept a perpetual smile on my face from page 1. I really needed a break from a spate of books filled with violence, blood and gore, and news cycles that would be difficult to top for their outlandish details of the current political climate. But the author has managed to produce just that! We are told that "there are parts of greater Miami where even crime doesn't pay." The novel jumps around a lot, kinda like Serge and Coleman (his life-long friend, generally "stoned and tipsy"), with Serge driving a "genuine 1964 Corvette Stingray, just like Martin Milner drove in the third season of Route 66. For Serge and Coleman, it's all about Route 66."

The book is filled with recurring scenes such as, e.g., worm-grunting searches [no, I never heard of it before either], and "when the hucksters and hoopla dissipated, a tastefully quaint community accidentally emerged from the fog of failed avarice;" we meet a cable news cameraman named Gunter Klieglyte, and we find "a bicyclist with dangling iguanas, looking in the rearview mirror as officers interviewed Korean saloon workers, an Australian film crew, Marilyn Monroe and JFK, while a man in a camo hat ran through a dozen bodies chasing a small alligator... twenty-four-hour pedestrians moving with less verve and direction than zombies... sidewalks full of businesspeople on lunch and aimless people on parole... a dead guy hanging from a billboard and another with his head wrapped in scratch-offs."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is, as you might have guessed, recommended.

The Hostess with the Ghostess
E.J. Copperman
Crooked Lane Books
34 W. 27th St., 10th fl., NY, NY 10001
9781683314509, $26.99, Hardcover, 336 pp.

Alison Kerby returns in the 9th book in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious thirteen-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison's resident Internet expert, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father. It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts. She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily 'spook shows.' From the publisher: Things are never quiet for long at the Haunted Guesthouse. Right as Alison Kerby finally gets some peace, long-time deceased Paul Harrison's recently murdered brother, Richard, shows up looking for the ghostly detective. But Paul has left for parts unknown months ago - - and Alison doesn't know how to find him. As she searches for Paul, Alison discovers that Richard, who was a lawyer, was working a case about a woman accused of murdering her stepfather. It quickly becomes clear that Richard was getting too close to the truth and was forcibly kept quiet. Now as Alison continues her investigation, she gets a creeping sensation that the murderer doesn't appreciate her snooping around. And if she doesn't stop, she'll be next . . .

I found it very helpful to have a "Cast of Characters" on the page before page 1 of the book. I also loved the first paragraph: "'Something's missing.' I was sitting on a barstool next to the center island in my kitchen, having a conversation with five other people, two of whom were alive." But Alison, whose quote that is, quickly goes on to explain, and to introduce those with her, both living and otherwise. After getting divorced from her 1st husband, who she not-so-lovingly refers to as "the Swine," she returns to her hometown of Harbor Haven, on the "deservedly famous Jersey Shore," where she opens her guesthouse. Her euphemisms for the ghosts who reside there, after she introduces the "alive people in the room," range from "non-living" to those who have been "deprived of life," but they definitely come to life in this delightful, wholly entertaining book. There is also Maxie's ghost husband, Everett, who still spends time at the local gas station, where he died. He thinks of it as standing guard at his post.

When first meeting the aforementioned Richard, her "first thought was, "I wonder if he'd do some spook shows." Alison et al agree to search for his missing dead brother, who she refers to as her "conscience. He was the Jiminy Cricket of ghosts." Alison has now been remarried for four months, to one Josh Kaplan. Also added to the mix is her daughter Melissa's little adopted ghost dog, destined to "always be a puppy," of course. I loved the comment made when Melissa's interactions with Alison prompts the latter to think that she couldn't even be grumpy, which puts "something of a damper on my day. If you can't be grumpy, what's the point of being from New Jersey?" The plot moves nicely into the investigation into the murders, which is resolved with contributions from the ghosts, of course.

As I have said in the past about the Copperman books, and it remains just as true, he writing is wonderful, with the author's s trademark laugh-out-loud wit and intelligence, well-plotted mystery and very well-drawn characters, alive or otherwise. My preference in mystery genres generally does not include either "cozies" or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there's anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add). But this author's writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part - - his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended. His dedication to several brilliant comics of years past ends with the words "there aren't enough funny people in the world," a deficit which he certainly helps to overcome.

The Bomb Maker
Thomas Perry
The Mysterious Press
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802127488, $26.00, Hardcover, 372 pp.

From the publisher: In "The Bomb Maker," Perry introduces us to the dark corners of a mind intent on transforming a simple machine into an act of murder - - and to those committed to preventing that outcome at any cost. More than just a weapon, a bomb is an expression of the bomber's thoughts about you, his predictions of your behavior - - a performance designed to fool you into making one fatally wrong move. A threat is called in to the LAPD Bomb Squad, a team dispatched to a house whose owner is away, and a bomb disguised inside photography equipment explodes in the kitchen. But it is a second bomb hidden in the basement that has devastating consequences - - half of the entire Bomb Squad is obliterated within seconds. The fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Stahl is reluctant to accept the offer, but senior technicians he had trained were among those killed. On his first day back as the head of the squad, Stahl's team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb outside a gas station. It quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with the same mastermind behind the weapon that killed fourteen highly trained men and women barely twenty-four hours before - - and that the intended target may be the Bomb Squad itself. As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of terror puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on the high-stakes plot only burns faster.

This masterful novel is told primarily from the p.o.v. of Stahl and the eponymous killer himself, and the reader sees through the eyes of the latter in a very unsettling manner. His hatred of the Bomb Squad and its members, and of Stahl in particular, is clear, and his brilliance at what he does is also clear. He thinks of himself, rightly, as a "person who killed unseen and from a safe distance. All bombs came from a small, scheming, self-protective part of the mind. . . No bomb came from bravery. At most, bombs were cunning or imaginative, cleverly disguised as something harmless - or even appealing. . . Bombs were acts of murder, but they were also jokes on you, riddles the bomber hoped were too tough for you, chances for you to pick wrong when it was almost impossible to pick right. . . Only one day ago he had killed half the LA Bomb Squad. He'd accomplished the largest police kill-off in history." That alone is the biggest part of his motivation. And he keeps getting closer to his major target: Stahl and anyone close to him. Other than that, there seems to be no pattern to the placement of his fiendishly clever devices, which one must admit, with a shudder, are brilliant. As Stahl says, "Bombs are crude, brutal weapons. What's complex is the deception, using people's mental habits against them." And we see just how accurate is that assumption on Stahl's part It was also upsetting that Stahl gets a text giving the final score of a baseball game in which the Dodgers beat the Mets - but that's probably just me. The reader gets to know much more than one would perhaps want to know about the bomb maker - married but now divorced [something he has in common with Stahl], with parents who didn't like him much and "were not enthusiastic supporters of the marriage."

Stahl, and his squad, seem to be equally brilliant, all with over a decade working with bombs, with most of them having been LA cops or federal agents before that. In an eerily prescient plot line, there is some question about the propriety of the relationship between Stahl and a female sergeant on his team. Equally prescient is the plot line about background checks on people buying guns and rifles, and the ease with which they are purchased by members of the public from licensed dealers across the country. The suspense grows steadily as the book nears its end, and that end is very satisfactorily wrapped up by this author. The book is highly recommended.

The Wife
Alafair Burke
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY, 10022
9780062390516, $26.99, Hardcover, 338 pp.

In an eerily prescient novel, Alafair Burke has given us a psychological thriller that feels more than ripped from the headlines, one that kept this reader rapidly turning pages to see what will happen next.

From the publisher: When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived thing, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother's home, to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past. Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

The novel opens with these provocative words: "In an instant, I became the woman they assumed I'd been all along: the wife who lied to protect her husband." And a woman who is told "You're more than a bystander. . . Don't let Jason take you and your boy down with him." Angela had met Jason at 24, when she was a mother to a six-year-old boy, Spencer, whose legal adoption by Jason turns out to be more difficult than anticipated. But difficulties and complications are just beginning. It is impossible to read this book without flashing back to the headlines of the recent past.

The author, a former prosecutor who now teaches criminal law, has given the reader a page-turner of a book, one which is highly recommended.

Tango Down: A Sam Acquillo Mystery
Chris Knopf
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579625016, $29.00, Hardcover, 286 pp.

From the publisher: A routine visit to one of Sam Acquillo's job sites becomes anything but. The home's owner, Victor Bollings, is lying in a pool of blood, the back of his head bashed in. And one of Sam's closest friends in the cabinetry trade is quickly behind bars, the obvious suspect. For the cops, this is all standard fare. But as it turns out, nothing about the case is routine, obvious, or standard in any way. Sam and defense attorney Jackie Swaitkowski are used to an uneasy, though often reciprocal, relationship with law enforcement. But when the chief of police tells Sam to stay the hell away, this time he really means it. For Sam and Jackie, words like this are highly motivational, until strange new forces enter the fray. Forces from well beyond the borders of Southampton, from worlds as sinister as they are unfathomable. That doesn't mean Sam and Jackie still don't have a job to do. And a responsibility to defend the utterly defenseless: a Colombian immigrant with no legal status, no political power, and no alibi. With the full weight of the judicial system - - local, state, national, and international - - arrayed against him. For Sam and Jackie, it's also a lesson in the confluence of all evils. When the murder weapon is determined to be a gold club given to Ernesto Mazzotti by the dead man when the latter was giving Ernesto golf lessons, he becomes the only suspect, and is promptly arrested. It doesn't help matters any when Ernesto's criminal record becomes known, to wit: he had gotten off on a charge of assault and battery, "beat a guy to within an inch of his life," a rich customer with whose wife Ernesto was involved.

Jackie, now the defense attorney for Ernesto, convinces Sam to take the required test and get his private investigator's license, thus enabling him to act officially as Jackie's staff investigator who can act as her proxy. "Jackie had to declare that I'd been her assistant in investigations for at least three years. She hadn't paid me, since it was usually hard to tell who was working for whom, but she knew a guy at the governing commission who gave us dispensation." (Sam is told "If you think innocence is a criterion for defense attorneys taking a case, you don't know much about how the law works."" One more thing he can now add to his resume, which already included having been a professional boxer earlier in his life. A prominent creature in the narrative is Sam's dog [his only companion in his home after he "blew up his marriage and professional life"] named Eddie Van Halen, who Sam refers to as a "forty-pound ball of fur." As Sam says: "we lived in the same house, in a congenial arrangement where I fed him and gave him a place to sleep, while he hung around when I was there . . . Unlike other dogs I'd known, he often looked me directly in the eye, as if assessing my reliability in continuing the relationship, understandable since he'd spent his formative years as a feral animal, as had I."

For this reader, the wonderful writing is always a highlight of this author's work. Another is his passion for baseball [one which I happen to share]. In discussion with the Southampton Town detective, they make "a preliminary assessment of the Yankees' prospects - - a frothy brew of irrepressible hope and thwarted expectations. Though we had to admit, the highs had exceeded the lows over the years, and for the thousandth time thanked the Lord we hadn't been born in Boston or Philadelphia. 'Or God forbid, Chicago,' said Sullivan." Another aspect ripped from the headlines is the fact that Ernesto, born and raised in Colombia, is still undocumented in the US, giving rise to the rampant anti-immigrant hordes who periodically gather to make their feelings known. The investigation, and the novel, are masterfully wrapped up, and this is one more novel by Chris Knopf that I can heartily recommend.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Dark City
Kit Hallows
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781539538028 $12.99 pbk
B01LYVVSRN, $0.99 Kindle 272 pages

Dark City is a solid take on a paranormal living alongside our normal world. It is a light suspense action story without much setting it apart from other tales in the genre. Its biggest strength is solid contrasting scene setting that the author uses between our normal world and the paranormal.

Morgan Rook is a paranormal trouble shooter for an organization trying to keep supernatural creatures from interfering with the normal world. He does this by killing or capturing various vampires and ghouls who are murdering everyday humans. The organization he works for supplies Morgan with magical equipment to augment his own limited magical abilities. As a sideline, Morgan has his own hit list of paranormal creatures and witches which have murdered people who were close to him.

Morgan's personal vendettas cross over into his sanctioned job. He is told to take a vacation but starts to investigate anyway. Soon he is running for his life while trying to stop forces he is ill-equipped to handle.

Dark City is a light read with a small touch of humor. It doesn't stand out in its genre but is a good weekend read.

Duel in the Dark
Jay Allan
System 7 Publishing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
9780692803417 $16.95 pbk
B01MCZZTPS, $0.99 Kindle 370 pages

Duel in the Dark is a well written military space opera. The science fiction is used as the dressing for a solid military tale that could take place in any era in history or the future where you have a battle involving navy and ground forces.

Humans have migrated into the galaxy. The civilization that supported the migration to various colony worlds has collapsed. The various colonies have fragmented into different styles of political entities and have started warring with themselves in a struggle to rebuild the interstellar civilization. If the basic storyline sounds familiar, it is. Gordon Dickson's Dorsai novels are the standard in this genre niche.

The Confederation and the Union are building their forces up for war. The Militaristic Union has tricked the Roman military based Alliance into raiding the flank of the Confederation. The battleship Dauntless is the only Confederation ship near the flank. Dauntless was being refitted and updated at a nearby space port after ten months of monitoring the border between the Confederation and the Union. A successful Alliance raid would mean the end to the Confederation in the upcoming war with the Union. The tired crew of the Dauntless has to stop the best of the Alliance military by themselves.

The military story about the individuals on both the Confederation and Alliance ships with the respective ground forces assaulting the stations at the edge of the Confederation is very well written. For the military reader this alone would make Duel in the Dark a must read. Unfortunately for the science fiction reader the science in the story is lacking but the tale is fast enough and strong enough for this drawback to be forgiven. Duel in the Dark is a recommended military space opera. It should be noted that this is the first book in the series and many readers will be interested in reading the whole series.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Thermodynamic Interactions
Javier Garcia-German
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781940291222, $24.95, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: Javier Garcia-German has Master's degree from the School of Architecture of Madrid (ETSAM), studied at the Oxford School of Architecture and at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he was Fulbright scholar, and currently heads the office TAA (ToTem associated architects) and is associate Projects professor at ETSAM.

In "Thermodynamic Interactions: An Exploration into Material, Physiological and Territorial Atmospheres" he draws upon his experience and expertise in explaining that energy and sustainability is a complex topic that needs to address simultaneously core disciplinary values and ideas that come from other fields of knowledge.

The interconnection between the environment and its climate, its built structures and the human body requires overlying architecture with other disciplines such as meteorology, thermodynamics or physiology to engage them in a holistic way.

"Thermodynamic Interactions" is structured in three blocks (Territorial Atmospheres, Material Atmospheres and Physiological Atmospheres) which present three distinct and successive realms at which thermodynamic exchanges are taking place.

Territorial Atmospheres deals with the thermodynamic interaction between the environment and its built structures. Material Atmospheres focuses on the interaction between a building and the climate it generates. And lastly, Physiological Atmospheres centers on the interaction between indoor ambient and the physiological and psychological effects on human beings.

Each of the blocks has a coeditor: Silvia Benedito for Territorial Atmospheres; Inaki Abalos for Material Atmospheres and Philippe Rahm for Physiological Atmospheres.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written, organized, illustrated, and presented, "Thermodynamic Interactions: An Exploration into Material, Physiological and Territorial Atmospheres" is especially and unreservedly recommended as an informatively seminal work of exceptional scholarship, and core addition to professional, college, and academic library reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

Bullets into Bells
Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, Dean Rader, editors
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807025581, $15.00, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Focused intensively on the crisis of gun violence in America, and collaboratively compiled and edited by that team of Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, Dean Rader, "Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence" showcases poems by dozens of poets, including Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Brenda Hillman, Natasha Threthewey, Robert Hass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Juan Felipe Herrera, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Yusef Komunyakaa.

Each individual poem is followed by a response from a gun violence prevention activist, political figure, survivor, or concerned individual, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams; Senator Christopher Murphy; Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts; survivors of the Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston Emmanuel AME, and Virginia Tech shootings; and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir, and Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis.

The result is a stunning collection of poems and prose that speaks directly to the heart and a persuasive and moving testament to the urgent need for gun control.

Critique: A unique volume of deftly crafted verse on the controversial subject of responding to the gun violence so epidemic in our society today, "Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence" should be on the shelves of every community, college, and university library in this country. Compelling, thought-provoking, relevant, effective, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce
John Bellamy Foster
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583676806, $14.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce", John Bellamy Foster (Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) does what no other Trump analyst has done before: he places the president and his administration in full historical context.

Professor Foster reveals that Trump is merely the endpoint of a stagnating economic system whose liberal democratic sheen has begun to wear thin. Beneath a veneer of democracy, we see the authoritarian rule that oversees decreasing wages, anti-science and climate-change denialism, a dying public education system, and expanding prisons and military -- all powered by a phony populism seething with centuries of racism that never went away.

But Professor Foster refuses to end revealing and detailed study in despair. Inside his analysis is a clarion call to fight back in the form of protests, popular demands, coalitions -- everyone is needed.

Change can't happen without radical, anti-capitalist politics, and Professor Foster demonstrates that even now it may yet be possible to stop the desecration of the Earth; to end endless war; to create global solidarity with all oppressed people. All that is required is an informed electorate taking action with respect to their elected representatives in the Congress and active participation in the electoral process.

Critique: Still another clarion call to resist the multiple sources of damage that the Trump presidency and administration is doing to the basic fabric of fundamental democracy in the United States of America. Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce" is unreservedly recommended reading for every citizen and should be a part of every community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collection in general, and Donald Trump supplemental studies reading list in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.27).

Race on the Brain
Jonathan Kahn
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231184243, $35.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Of the many obstacles to racial justice in America, none has received more recent attention than the one that lurks in our subconscious. As social movements and policing scandals have shown how far from being "postracial" we are, the concept of implicit bias has taken center stage in the national conversation about race.

Millions of Americans have taken online tests purporting to show the deep, invisible roots of their own prejudice. A recent Oxford study that claims to have found a drug that reduces implicit bias is only the starkest example of a pervasive trend. But what do we risk when we seek the simplicity of a technological diagnosis and solution for racism? What do we miss when we locate racism in our biology and our brains rather than in our history and our social practices?

In "Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for Racial Justice", Jonathan Kahn (who is is the James E. Kelley Chair in Tort Law and Professor of Law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law) argues that implicit bias has grown into a master narrative of race relations -- one with profound, if unintended, negative consequences for law, science, and society.

Professor Kahn emphasizes its limitations, arguing that while useful as a tool to understand particular types of behavior, it is only one among several tools available to policy makers. An uncritical embrace of implicit bias, to the exclusion of power relations and structural racism, undermines wider civic responsibility for addressing the problem by turning it over to experts.

Technological interventions, including many tests for implicit bias, are premised on a color-blind ideal and run the risk of erasing history, denying present reality, and obscuring accountability. Professor Kahn recognizes the significance of implicit social cognition but cautions against seeing it as a panacea for addressing America's longstanding racial problems.

A bracing corrective to what has become a common-sense understanding of the power of prejudice, "Race on the Brain" challenges us all to engage more thoughtfully and more democratically in the difficult task of promoting racial justice.

Critique: A pivotal work of detailed, meticulous, groundbreaking scholarship, "Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for Racial Justice" is an extraordinarily well written, organized and presented study that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twenty-page Introduction (Rethinking Implicity Bieas -- The Limits to Science as a Tool of Racial Justice', forty-eight pages of Notes and an eight page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Psychology of Racism collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for Racial Justice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.24).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers
Ruth Ayres
Stenhouse Publishers
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781625310903, $28.00, PB, 156pp,

Synopsis: In "Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers", Ruth Ayres deftly weaves together her experience as a mother, teacher, and writer to share stories of helping to heal children with strategies for helping students discover and write about their own stories of strength and survival.

Ruth candidly shares her own struggles and triumphs and hard-earned lessons from raising a family of four adopted children. Her experience is invaluable to any teacher who's met children living in poverty, in unstable households, or in fear of abuse.

"Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers" also explores recent brain research on the way trauma changes the brain and makes a case for encouraging all students to write.

Ruth firmly believes that all students benefit from revealing their stories, by communicating information and opinion that allows darkness to turn to light in the lives of children. In the last part of her book she offers up practical suggestions for enticing all writers, regardless of their struggles.

"Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers" invites readers on Ruth's journey to become a teacher who refuses to give up on any student, who helps children believe that they can have a positive impact on the world, and who (in some cases) becomes the last hope for a child to heal.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended reading for all classroom teachers wanting to help their students deal with the stresses and problems of their lives through the techniques and experiences of writing about themselves and those around them, "Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers" is unique and thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation. Simply stated, "Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers" should be a part of every school district, college, and university library Teacher Education collection and supplemental studies reading list.

Not Now, Not Ever
Lily Anderson
Wednesday Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250142108, $18.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mom's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her determination, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and run away to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College?the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program, and her dream school. She's also going to start over as Ever Lawrence: a new name for her new beginning. She's even excited spend her summer with the other nerds and weirdos in the completion, like her socially-awkward roommate with neon-yellow hair, and a boy who seriously writes on a typewriter and is way cuter than is comfortable or acceptable.

The only problem with her excellent plan to secretly win the scholarship and a ticket to her future: her golden-child, super-genius cousin Isaiah has had the same idea, and has shown up at Rayevich smugly ready to steal her dreams and expose her fraud in the process.

Critique: An original, superbly crafted and unfailingly entertaining read from cover to cover, "Not Now, Not Ever" by Lily Anderson will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Not Now, Not Ever" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Wellness Compass Travel Guide
Joda P. Derrickson
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532012051, $30.95, PB, 512pp,

Synopsis: Do you want to maintain high levels of health, happiness, and accomplishment for a lifetime?

In The Wellness Compass Travel Guide, Dr. Joda P. Derrickson provides a practical framework for assessing, improving, and maintaining diverse aspects of personal well-being. "The Wellness Compass" is a flexible step-by-step handbook puts the reader in the driver's seat by providing: a navigational tool to maintain balanced; well-being; a compilation of resources and activities that facilitates self-defined strategies for resolving wellness challenges; and a three-step process for goal achievement with step-by-step guidance, tips to prevent backsliding, and strategies to maintain a lifelong wellness lifestyle.

Whether using "The Wellness Compass Travel Guide" as a system to accomplish a single New Year's Resolution, or utilizing it to maintain high levels of well-being across a lifetime, it's flexible and readers can adapt it to make it their own achieve their personal health goals.

Critique: "The Wellness Compass Travel Guide" is impressively 'real world practical' and extraordinarily 'user friendly' in tone, organization and presentation. A life-enhancing, life-changing read, "The Wellness Compass Travel Guide" is very highly recommended for community library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Wellness Compass Travel Guide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Under a Cloudless Sky
Chris Fabry
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496428288, $24.99, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: 1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers?one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner ?Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean's mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He'll pay homage to the past?even the massacre of 1933?while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman's grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

Critique: A deftly crafted and entertaining novel by an author with a natural flair for creating memorable characters skillfully embedded in a narrative driven and multilayered storylines, Chris Fabry's "Under a Cloudless Sky" is a truly extraordinary read and unreservedly recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Under a Cloudless Sky" is also available in a paperback edition (9781414387789, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management: The 12 Essential Skills
Len Sperry, M.D.
Health Professions Press
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781938870743, $48.99, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Administrators and managers in healthcare can improve their own expertise and performance by learning and mastering the 12 critical interpersonal, financial, and organizational management skills in "Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management: The 12 Essential Skills", a highly practical guide by Len Sperry -- a physician who has practiced medicine and healthcare leadership for more than 40 years and is a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where he teaches graduate courses on health counseling and leadership.

"Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management" is easy-to-read instructional guide and manual that applies basic business leadership principles specifically to the field of healthcare administration. Based on solid research findings as well as the author s experience as a healthcare executive, consultant, and instructor, this approach teaches health care managers how to increase productivity and employee performance, and preparing them to meet the inevitable challenges of the healthcare system of tomorrow.

Offering new insights on staff empowerment and engagement concepts, this newly updated and revised second edition of "Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management" also provides: Self-assessment tools, individual and small-group experiential exercises, and review questions; Case studies and examples from hospitals, clinics, nursing facilities, and other medical care facilities; Financial management tools; Details on effective orientation processes; Ways to address problematic behaviors occurring in healthcare settings, and the coaching role of healthcare leaders.

Healthcare supervisors can improve their own leadership skills or mold exceptional leaders and managers among their staff by using this guide in workshops and continuing education seminars. It is also a valuable text for healthcare management courses and workshops.

The 12 Essential Skills include: motivation, time and stress management, communication, teamwork, delegation, conflict management, counseling and interviewing, strategic thinking, budgeting, personnel management, resource management, and staff coaching.

Critique: An ideal introductory textbook for students of healthcare management, and an invaluable continuing resource for anyone already engaged with healthcare management administrative responsibilities, "Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management: The 12 Essential Skills" is extraordinary, 'real world practical', and highly recommended for professional, community, health care center, and academic library instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of health care students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Management: The 12 Essential Skills" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.49).

Create More Flow
Camille Preston
AIM Leadership
9780984904112, $16.00, PB, 166pp,

Synopsis: In today's overwired, social media dominated world, we are expected to be always on and always connected, but trying to always be connected has some dire and unintended consequences and side effects.. For example, workplace engagement is at an all-time low and complaints about work-life balance are at an all-time high.

In the quest to optimize while restoring balance, more people than ever before are now 'embracing flow'. When we are in flow, we are in the zone. When we are in flow, we are more creative and more productive. But flow isn't just about unlocking engagement and impact in the workplace. Flow rests on our ability to take care of our bodies, wellness, and work-life balance.

In the pages of "Create More Flow: Igniting Peak Performance in an Overwired World", speaker, author and renowned leadership coach Camille Preston introduces the concept of flow, offers compelling evidence for its impact, and provides actionable strategies to start experiencing more flow more often.

Critique: Informative, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Create More Flow" will prove to be a truly life-enhancing and inspiring read that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone trying to make a more effective and less stressful adaptation to our modern world that "Create More Flow" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The People Shall Continue: 40th Anniversary Special Edition
Simon J. Ortiz, author
Sharol Graves, illustrator
Children's Book Press
c/o Lee & Low Books
95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780892391257 $9.95

"The People Shall Continue" is a 40th anniversary special edition of the same work, first published in 1977. it is a narrative prose poem history of the reactions of many varied North American Indigenous peoples to the European colonization of the land of North and South America, and their continued struggle to remain centered and connected to their lands and beliefs, and their sacred sense of honor to the Earth and to all life.

In the beginning the People came to exist in different lands of America. Some fished, others hunted, some farmed, some were artisans. There were leaders, healers, hunters, warriors, teachers, and elders, who taught: "The Earth is the source of all life. She gives birth. Her children continue the life of the Earth. The People must be responsible to her. This is the way that all life continues." The People learned to share gifts, resources, knowledge, and land. They respected each other. But life was hard and uncertain, and nothing could be taken for granted.

One day, the people heard of new returned white visitors. They heard terrible stories of these white men who came seeking treasure and slaves, causing death, destruction, and enslavement of many of the People. The people tried to communicate with these strangers, but soon the People learned that they must fight to protect their land and themselves, as well as their way of life. For 300 years and more the people fought the invasions of the white settlers, who called themselves Americans. Then the people became weak, and hungry. They agreed to peace Treaties that restricted them to limited reservation lands to live their traditional lives. Because the reservation land was poor and the game was scarce, the people were broken in their strength. Their children were taken from them to boarding schools far away where they were taught to become American, and to be ashamed of being part of the indigenous Peoples. But all across America, the struggle for indigenous identity continued.

Parents began to remember and to teach their children: "You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima. You are Acoma. You are Tlingit. You are Mohawk. You are all these Nations of the People." Once again, the People talked and the People listened. They shared the history and knowledge of their struggles with others, other people of many skin colors who had been kept poor by the greedy rich and powerful Americans. They said: "We are all the people of this land. We were created out of the forces of earth and sky, the stars and water. We must make sure that the balance of the Earth be kept. There is not other way. We must struggle for our lives. We must take great care with each other. We must share our concern with each other. Nothing is separate from us. We are all one body of People. We must struggle to share our human lives with each other. We must fight against those forces which will take our humanity from us. We must ensure that life continues. We must be responsible to that life. With that humanity and the strength which comes from our shared responsibility for this life, the People shall continue."

"The People Shall Continue" is enhanced and illuminated by deeply expressive, copper colored portraits of many Indigenous leaders, and portrayals of the white skinned Americans' deeds of conquest, and also others. "The People Shall Continue" is a classic and should be textbook required reading for elementary students of the Americas.

An author's note added to the end contains a pleas for "NO DAPL," an environmental cause which is shared by Indigenous peoples and other non-indigenous peoples who recognize the need to stop severe pollution, contamination, and devastation of the environment that is concomitant with the oil pipeline.

The Pumpkin and the Worms
Krasimir Karamfilov, author
Mira Mira, illustrator
Zafi LLC
9781543912975, $13.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle

"The Pumpkin and the Worms" is a sensitively illustrated morality fable that can be read at least dual levels. The story is of a large greedy Pumpkin who decided he wanted to be the only pumpkin in the pumpkin patch, since he claimed he had the most pumpkin seeds, and he wanted to be the biggest pumpkin, and drink all the water. Because the Pumpkin could not kill the other pumpkins, he appealed to the worms, promising them extra food and habitat from the dead pumpkins if the worms would eat the roots of 270 or more of the other pumpkins.

In November the worms began their work and the Pumpkin got his wish. However when the lone Pumpkin grew so large, he began to destroy the field, making the soil very acidic. The maple tree to the north nearby also was threatened, and the dahlia patch to the south also was very threatened. The worms told the Pumpkin he needed to stop growing because they were dying. The Pumpkin denied this fact and told the worms he controlled their fate. The worms went deep underground. Only snakes and rodents still went near the Pumpkin.

One night the worms rose up and ate every root the Pumpkin had underground and every green vine and leaf above ground. Birds ate the few rodents and snakes who tried to defend the Pumpkin. The mighty Pumpkin pleaded with the worms not to take his life but they slowly demolished the Pumpkin's orange rind and hollow body. The tyrant died a slow and painful death.

Slowly the field recovered over time. The maple tree and the dahlias both recovered and blossomed, and new pumpkins grew in the field. Plants and animals lived in harmony with each other. "The worms kept the soil healthy and life continued as if The Pumpkin had never lived."

The political allegory suggested by "The Pumpkin and the Worms" is made clear in the illustrations when the Pumpkin is in his selfish growing stage, drinking more water than it had ever drunk before. "Its vines grew longer, stretched all across the field, and took root. Its leaves spread, and what looked like a combover took a life of its own." The resemblance between the Pumpkin and President Trump is unmistakable.

At any level, "The Pumpkin and the Worms" is a story worth reading and deeply considering.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism
Donald S. Lupez Jr.
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226517902, $35.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: In the year 721, a young Buddhist monk named Hyecho set out from the kingdom of Silla, on the Korean peninsula, on what would become one of the most extraordinary journeys in history. Sailing first to China, Hyecho continued to what is today Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, before taking the Silk Road and heading back east, where he ended his days on the sacred mountain of Wutaishan in China.

With the publication of "Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism", Donald S. Lopez Jr. (the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan) deftly re-creates Hyecho's trek.

Using the surviving fragments of Hyecho's travel memoir, along with numerous other textual and visual sources, Professor Lopez imagines the thriving Buddhist world the monk explored. Along the way, Professor Lopez introduces key elements of Buddhism, including its basic doctrines, monastic institutions, works of art, and the many stories that have inspired Buddhist pilgrimage.

Through the eyes of one remarkable Korean monk, the reader will discover a vibrant tradition flourishing across a vast stretch of Asia. "Hyecho's Journey" is simultaneously a rediscovery of a forgotten pilgrim, an accessible primer on Buddhist history and doctrine, and a gripping, beautifully illustrated account of travel in a world long lost.

Critique: A unique an invaluable contribution to the growing library of Buddhist History, "Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism" is a work of extraordinary and seminal scholarship, Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism" is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Buddhist Studies collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.25).

Views of the Salish Sea
Howard MacDonald Stewart
Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550178036, $39.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Two-thirds of the Canadian population of British Columbia occupies lands bordering its great inland sea, the Strait of Georgia, and connected waterways collectively known as the North Salish Sea.

Averaging forty kilometers in width and stretching some three hundred kilometers from Vancouver and Victoria in the south to Powell River and Campbell River in the north, the North Salish Sea has long sheltered a bounty of habitable lands and rich maritime resources ideal for human settlement. While the region's intricate shoreline of peninsulas, promontories, estuaries and plains has been occupied by human communities for millennia, the last century and a half has been an unprecedented age of rapid colonization, industrialization and globalization.

The Strait of Georgia has influenced human affairs, even as people have changed the Strait, in a complex relationship that continues today. British colonization and the commodification of the Strait's resources launched a resource rush around the sea that began in earnest in the decades before the First World War, often at the expense of Indigenous populations. Coal mining developed earliest and grew rapidly. Fishing, lumbering and metal mining were also established by the 1880s and soon experienced exponential growth. From the earliest salmon canneries to today's cruise ship industry, all have depended on the Strait to ensure economic prosperity and the easy movement of people and goods.

As competition for space and resources increases, and as the effects of climate change are amplified, the pressure on this ecologically vulnerable area will only intensify. If this precious sea is to be passed to future generations with any semblance of its inherent richness and diversity intact, then it will need to be effectively managed and vigorously defended.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with black-and white period photos, and featuring an informative Introduction, ten pages of Notes, and a three page Index, "Views of the Salish Sea: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Change around the Strait of Georgia" by Howard MacDonald Stewart is an impressively informed and informative regional history that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Environmental Studies and British Columbia History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Views of the Salish Sea: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Change around the Strait of Georgia) is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.57).

My Opposition
Robert Scott Kellner, editor
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108418294, $34.99, HC, 520pp,

Synopsis: A mid-level official in a provincial German town, Friedrich Kellner kept a secret diary from 1939 to 1945, risking his life to record Germany's path to dictatorship and genocide and to protest his countrymen's complicity in the regime's brutalities. Just one month into the war he is aware that Jews are marked for extermination and later records how soldiers on leave spoke openly about the mass murder of Jews and the murder of POWs; he also documents the Gestapo's merciless rule at home from euthanasia campaigns against the handicapped and mentally ill to the execution of anyone found listening to foreign broadcasts.

This essential eyewitness testimony of everyday life under the Third Reich is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an informative foreword by Alan Steinweis, as well as an account of the remarkable story of how the diary was brought to light by Robert Scott Kellner, who is Friedrich Kellner's grandson.

Critique: Deftly compiled and expertly edited by Robert Scott Kellner, "My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner - A German against the Third Reich" is a truly unique and impressively informative account of Nazi Germany at war and of one man's struggle against totalitarianism. An absolutely essential and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library World War II History collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "My Opposition" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.00).

Demon Cycle: The Core
Peter V. Brett
Graphic Audio
7520 Standish Place, Suite 100, Rockville, MD 20855
9781628515411, $19.99, MP3 CD,

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose -- men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat -- and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka -- the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear - a swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen's wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil - from which none of them expects to return alive.

Critique: The first volume of a four volume audio book fantasy series by Peter V. Brett, "Demon Cycle: The Core" is brought vividly to life in a true 'theatre of the mind' listening experience. Magnificently performed by a full cast of accomplished actors, and deftly augmented with the inclusion of dramatic digital effects and cinematic quality music, "Demon Cycle: The Core" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library collections -- and leave dedicated fantasy fans eagerly looking forward to the remaining three installments of this original and impressively entertaining series. (1 MPW CD, 5 Hours 30 Minutes).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Gospel Fluency Handbook
Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly
Saturate Publishing
9780996849326, $24.99 spiral-bound / $9.99 Kindle, 262 pages

The Gospel in Me, the Gospel with Us, and the Gospel to Others

"Gospel Fluency Handbook" provides in-depth studies of the Gospel with a concentration on helping the reader recognize areas of unbelief to strengthen and grow in their faith equipping the reader to live the gospel message as the central purpose of daily life immersing them in their local community culture. Practical and interactive penetrating self-examination questions call for a keen sense of honesty, transparency, and accountability among the participants.

Each of the eight-week chapters includes guided readings, reflections, group discussions, exercises, and suggestions for prayer. Themes are centered on foundational truths of the creation, the fall, redemption, the new creation, the fullness of Christ, and unity in the faith. The authors differentiate between "Bible Fluency" and "Gospel Fluency" to address topics related to culture shifts and demonstrate how the impact of "Gospel Fluency" becomes a life-changing reality. A helpful appendix explains over a dozen defining theological concepts.

The handbook is designed to be used in a group or community and is structured for interactive discussion which encourages personal Christian growth, application to daily life, becoming fluent in expressing and proclaiming your faith, and reaching beyond to the ends of the earth. Whether used in a class or as an individual learning experience, you will want to participate in a fellowship of believers to encourage you to share the good news of Jesus that can change lives forever.

F. I. T. For Success - All Things Are Possible if You Keep Going
Adrean Turner
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879952, $15.99, 216 Pages

Strategies, Tools, and Solutions for Developing the Six Most Important Building Blocks of Success

"F. I. T. For Success - All Things Are Possible if You Keep Going" is made up of remarkable stories, and stunning anecdotes telling of professionals, laborers, and entrepreneurs which illustrate Turner's unique six point F. I. T., a model of coaching for attaining a lifestyle of success.

Turner's six-point program emphasizes the importance of attitude, personal development, handling stress, relationships, celebrating individual uniqueness, building confidence, and setting and achieving goals.

The F. I. T. acronym incorporates the word "Fearless, Inspired, and Transformed." The material is adapted from the T. I. P. Tips for Success Podcast. From the first paragraph of the introduction, Adrien makes it clear that her book "F. I. T. For Success" is written for readers eager to achieve their maximum potential, who are looking for "practical and precise principles for moving forward toward success in their personal and business life."

Chapters are jam-packed with: benefits, and bulleted paragraphs, lists, steps, and strategies, suggestions, tips, and solutions, attitudes, passions, and action steps. These succinct introductions cover such important principles as: planning, practice, and preparation, overcoming procrastination, finding focus, teamwork, and dozens more.

"F. I. T. For Success - All Things Are Possible if You Keep Going" is an important book for professional entrepreneurs, executive professionals, and should be on the reading list of Corporate Trainers, Career Advisors, and Professional Life Coaches.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Cracking Codes with Python
Al Sweigart
No Starch Press
245 - 8th Street, San Francisco, CO 94103-3910
9781593278229, $29.95, PB, 416pp,

Synopsis: Python is an interpreted high-level programming language for general-purpose programming. Created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991.

Al Sweigart is a professional software developer who teaches programming to kids and adults. In "Cracking Codes with Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Ciphers" he draws upon his experience and expertise to show aspiring Python users how to program in Python while making and breaking ciphers -- the algorithms used to create and send secret messages.

"Cracking Codes with Python" shows how to make, test, and hack programs that encrypt text with classical ciphers like the transposition cipher and Vigenčre cipher. Aspiring users will begin with simple programs for the reverse and Caesar ciphers and then work your way up to public key cryptography, the type of encryption used to secure today's online transactions, including digital signatures, email, and Bitcoin.

Each program includes the full code and a line-by-line explanation of how things work. By the end of "Cracking Codes with Python", aspiring users will have learned how to code in Python and have the clever programs to prove it!

"Cracking Codes with Python" also shows how to: Combine loops, variables, and flow control statements into real working programs; Use dictionary files to instantly detect whether decrypted messages are valid English or gibberish; Create test programs to make sure that your code encrypts and decrypts correctly; Code (and hack!) a working example of the affine cipher, which uses modular arithmetic to encrypt a message; Break ciphers with techniques such as brute-force and frequency analysis.

Critique: Comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Cracking Codes with Python" is an ideal instruction manual, guide and reference that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library computer science instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Cracking Codes with Python" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

The Trumpets of Jericho
J. Michael Dolan
Monochrome Books
9780998700809, $26.00, PB, 552pp,

Synopsis: Although a work of fiction, "The Trumpets of Jericho" by J. Michael Dolan is historically based on one of the more remarkable and time-obscured episodes in the annals of Jewish resistance to the Nazis -- the defiant 1944 uprising at the SS death camp Auschwitz.

Four young female rebels were arrested and savagely tortured by the Gestapo during the investigation that followed the uprising.

As one of the architects of the rebellion, Roza Robota, arguably the greatest Jewish heroine to come out of the Holocaust yet all but unknown to this day, is brought to vivid and long overdue life in the pages of "The Trumpets of Jericho".

Readers will heroes, and villains in this epochal saga explores religion and the existence of God, the psychology of genocide, friendship and romantic love, sexual and other pathologies, the nature of good and evil, right and wrong.

Above all, the triumph of the human spirt in the face of genocide.

Critique: An impressive and deftly crafted saga that seamlessly interweaves historical fact with illustrative fiction, "The Trumpets of Jericho" is the stuff from which block buster movies and television mini-series are made. Simply stated, "The Trumpts of Jericho" is a riveting read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended, especially for both community and academic library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Trumpets of Jericho" is also available in a digital book format".

Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana
Arik Kaplan
Book Baby
9781543917659, $14.98, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: A few years ago Arik Kaplan noticed that astute investors such as Peter Thiel (PayPal) and the Pritzker family (Hyatt Hotels) had invested millions in Medical Marijuana (MMJ) related firms; his contrarian investing curiosity became intrigued. As a consequence Kaplan commenced acquiring legal Medical Marijuana dispensaries and ancillary firms in Los Angeles County -- the largest MMJ market in the world.

Because marijuana usage and legalization is currently such a hot topic in social and political circles; the novel, "Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana: The Los Angeles Marijuana War", although a work of fiction, accurately describes the current situation.

Although the Mexican cartel largely abandoned the MMJ cultivation and distribution business after the legalization of MMJ dispensaries by the Los Angeles City Council, Kaplan wrote this novel to describe the avaricious miscreants that still dominate the Los Angeles MMJ market.

Drawn to the immense potential profits in MMJ, these MMJ owners make used car salespeople appear to be paragons of virtue. To this day, Kaplan is astonished at the magnitude of violence, intimidation, police abuse, and illegal trafficking.

"Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana" describes the actual threats Kaplan received, the forgeries of identification to obtain lease approval, the never-ending partying, the deaths from drug overdosing, and the proliferation of tweakers whose occupation is to steal to finance their noxious habit.

Incidentally, due to threats to Kaplan's life regarding the writing of this fact-based novel, Arik Kaplan is a pseudonym that has been selected to protect his family.

Critique: "Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana: The Los Angeles Marijuana War" is a simply riveting read from cover to cover and has all the earmarks of authenticity. A deftly written novel from beginning to end, this is the stuff of which block-buster movies and ratings breaking television miniseries are made. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana" is available in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance
Joseph Campbell
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608683666, $24.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Dance was one of mythologist Joseph Campbell's wide-ranging passions. His wife, Jean Erdman, was a leading figure in modern dance who worked with Martha Graham and had Merce Cunningham in her first company. When Campbell retired from teaching in 1972, he and Erdman formed the Theater of the Open Eye, where for nearly fifteen years they presented a wide array of dance and theater productions, lectures, and performance pieces.

"The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance" brings together seven of Campbell's previously uncollected articles on dance, along with "Mythology and Form in the Performing and Visual Arts", the treatise that he was working on when he died, published here for the first time.

In this new collection Campbell explores the rise of modern art and dance in the twentieth century; delves into the work and philosophy of Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and others; and, as always, probes the idea of art as "the funnel through which spirit is poured into life". "The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance" offers the reader an accessible, yet profound and provocative, insight into Campbell's lifelong fascination with the relationship of myth to aesthetic form and human psychology.

Critique: An absolutely 'must read' for the legions of Joseph Campbell fans, "The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. Librarians should also note that "The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance" is available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781543662252, $19.99, MP3 CD).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
An Andy Carpenter Mystery
David Rosenfelt
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250145611, $15.99, Paperback, 328 pp.
9781250106766, $24.99, Hardcover, 336 pp.

Andy Carpenter is more interested in sports than the law, but that hardly stops him from winning murder cases. This one starts when a zoning board cites a friend of his, Martha "Pups" Boyer, for having too many pets on her premises, the law permitting merely three. The complainant is a neighbor who is subsequently murdered, and "Pups" is accused of shooting him.

It is up to Andy and his rag tag team to uncover what essentially is a plot against "Pups" to solve the case. All the evidence seems to indicate her guilt: she was seen as she was leaving the scene of the murder; the murder weapon was found in her basement; and it was the same gun used to kill her husband and another a year or so earlier. The trial against "Pups" includes a charge for the murder of her husband.

Each of the novels in the series combines mystery, courtroom drama and humor throughout, and Twelve Dogs repeats the formula. The final twist in this novel, however, not only is the usually unexpected fillip, but is based on Andy's passion for sports.


The Pyramid of Mud
Andrea Camilleri
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143128083, $16.00, Paperback, 251 pp.

The discovery of the body of the chief accountant of a construction company in a sewer pipe on the development site is all the clue Inspector Montalbano needs to wonder what it's all about, in this, the 22nd novel in this wonderfully understated series. Was the murder the result of his wife's affair with her lover and being shot when catching them in the act? Or a smokescreen created by a corrupt group of contractors?

This is but one of several questions to which the Inspector needs an answer before he can solve the murder. And at the same time discover the goings-on in the area of construction and public works contracts.

As is usual in the series, the author exhibits many subtle touches, making the Inspector more human. Beside his love of food, Montalbano shows signs of aging. Is his hearing and sight going? And he reminds himself, if that's the case, it's time to retire. And his long distance love life with Livia. In this novel she exhibits an illness or, perhaps, lethargy, until she gets a dog as a pet that keeps her hopping and bouncing back, giving rise to the old minor arguments with the Inspector on the telephone, which he enjoys, recognizing it as a symptom of recovery.


Crime Scene
Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780399594601, $28.99/38.99 CA$, Hardcover, 381 pp.

This novel, a joint effort by the Kellermans, pere et fils, is said to be the first of a new series featuring Clay Edison, a deputy sheriff in the coroner's office, as the protagonist. It is a sort of crime story mixed in with a lot of psychology. Edison seems to be a compulsive sort of guy who can't let go.

The job of a deputy sheriff is to rule on whether a death is natural or has some other cause. When he went to pick up the body of Walter Rennert, it appeared to be an open-and-shut case, and the autopsy proved he died of a heart attack. But Rennert's daughter tells Edison her father was murdered, contrary to the evidence. So, instead of closing the case, he keeps it open and undertakes an investigation way beyond his duties, leading him far away from approved procedures, even looking into previous apparently unrelated deaths. Meanwhile, he becomes more and more involved with the daughter.

This is a hard novel to follow and, for a Kellerman effort, relatively slow reading. Even a cameo appearance by Dr. Alex Delaware does nothing much to help. Let's hope any follow-up overcomes this concern. Nevertheless, it is an interesting plot, and the novel is recommended.

Dying to Live: A Detective Kubu Mystery
Michael Stanley
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781466881563, $27.99/38.99 CA$, Hardcover, 320 pp.

The sixth in the series featuring detective Kubu ("hippopotamus" in Setswana, the language of Botswana), this novel has an unusual plot: a secret plant indigenous to the desert, for which three men are murdered, is the basis for this mystery. The pathologist Dr. Ian MacGregor, who does the autopsy on a bushman found dead in the desert, discovers an aged body containing youthful organs. He calls Kubu when he suspects the man was murdered. It turns out the victim was a highly respected witch doctor who treated a variety of "patients" with a secret potion promising a long life.

Thus begins a long, complicated investigation, in which Kubu is assisted by the first female CID detective, a case that expands when another witch doctor turns up murdered and a visiting anthropologist from the United States goes missing. As if that's not enough to keep him busy, Kubu is confronted by another case in which controlled substances, powdered rhino horn, is being smuggled out of the country. Kubu suspects the two cases are inter-related.

Just as important to this novel, as well as the series, is Kubu's home life, his relationship with his wife, Joy, and his daughter Tuni, and adopted daughter, Nono, who is HIV positive and suffers a breakdown causing considerable concern until a prescribed cocktail of medicines can be formulated to stabilize her condition. These aspects give the writing team who authored the book the opportunity to show how human Kubu is, as well as the detective's well-known appetite. Other constant features of the series are the atmosphere and characteristics of the Batswana (the people of the nation). We await the seventh novel in the series after recommending the sixth and current one.

Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay
Reed Farrel Coleman
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399171437, $27.00/36 CA$, Hardcover, 338 pp.
9780425279069, $9.99, Paperback, 384 pp.

A piece of advice before reading "The Hangman's Sonnet," the next novel in the Jesse Stone series: Read the book reviewed herein first because the background from this plot is important to understand what transpires. Just as the preceding novel in the series is a predicate for what takes place in "Debt to Pay."

Mr. Peepers once again appears to vex Jess, among others, with every intention of paying him back for interfering with his plans in the last novel which resulted in his being shot by Suitcase Simpson, who in turn was shot by the arch villain. Mr. Peepers intends to wreak vengeance on Stone in some diabolical manner, perhaps by taking it out on Jenn, Stone's ex-wife, who is getting remarried in Dallas. Jesse at first refuses to attend the wedding, but then decides to travel to Dallas, along with Diana, with whom he is deeply in love, in an effort to protect Jenn. Meanwhile Mr. Peepers toys with Stone, giving all sorts of false clues as to his intentions.

Mr. Coleman has developed Stone's neurotic and alcohol-inflamed personality to a greater degree than the late Robert B. Parker did in creating this interesting character. And he has written fuller novels, deepening the plots, than the master. And that is all to the good. A top-rated effort, and highly recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

First Templar Nation
Freddy Silva
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620556542, $19.95, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: Conventional history claims that nine men formed a brotherhood called the Knights Templar in Jerusalem in 1118 to provide protection for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. "First Templar Nation: How Eleven Knights Created a New Country and a Refuge for the Grail" overturns this long-established historical narrative as Freddy Silva (a leading researcher of alternative history, ancient knowledge, sacred sites, and the interaction between temples and consciousness) shows that the Order of the Temple existed a decade earlier on the opposite side of Europe, that the protection of pilgrims was entrusted to a separate organization, and that, in league with the Cistercian monks and the equally mysterious Order of Sion, the Templars executed one of history's most daring and covert plans: the creation of Portugal, Europe's first nation-state, with one of their own members as king.

Including over 700 references, many from new and rare sources, Silva reveals Portugal, not Jerusalem, as the first Templar stronghold. He shows how there were eleven founding members and how the first king of Portugal, a secret Templar, was related to Bernard de Clairvaux, head of the Cistercians. The author explains the Templars' motivation to create a country far from the grasp of Rome, where they could conduct their living resurrection initiation -- whose candidates were declared "risen from the dead" -- a secret for which the Church silenced millions and which the Templars protected to the death.

Placing the intrepid Knights in a previously unknown time and place, Silva's historical narrative reveals the Portuguese roots of key founding members, their relationship with the Order of Sion, the Templars' unshakeable devotion to Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist, and how they protected a holy bloodline in Portugal. He also provides evidence of secret Templar holy sites, initiation chambers, and hidden passageways throughout Portugal, often coinciding with pagan and Neolithic temples, and explains how their most important site forms a perfect triangle with the Abbey of Mont Sion in Jerusalem and the Osirion temple in Egypt.

"First Templar Nation" also reappraises the meaning of the Grail and reveals its exact location, hidden in plain sight to this very day.

Critique: An extraordinary, definitive, comprehensive, and inherently fascinating study, "First Templar Nation: How Eleven Knights Created a New Country and a Refuge for the Grail" is impressively informative and iconoclastic read the is nicely illustrated and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "First Templar Nation: How Eleven Knights Created a New Country and a Refuge for the Grail" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $14.99).

The One Percent Solution
Gordon Lafer
ILR Press
c/o Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781501703065, $29.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the 2010 Citizens United decision, it's become commonplace to note the growing political dominance of a small segment of the economic elite. But what exactly are those members of the elite doing with their newfound influence? "The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time" by Gordon Lafer (Associate Professor at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon) provides an answer to this question for the first time as Professor Lafer's study presents a comprehensive account of the legislation promoted by the nation's biggest corporate lobbies across all fifty state legislatures and encompassing a wide range of labor and economic policies.

In an era of growing economic insecurity, it turns out that one of the main reasons life is becoming harder for American workers is a relentless and concerted offensive by the country's best-funded and most powerful political forces: corporate lobbies empowered by the Supreme Court to influence legislative outcomes with an endless supply of cash. These actors have successfully championed hundreds of new laws that lower wages, eliminate paid sick leave, undo the right to sue over job discrimination, and cut essential public services.

Professor Lafer shows how corporate strategies have been shaped by twenty-first-century conditions -- including globalization, economic decline, and the populism reflected in both the Trump and Sanders campaigns of 2016. Perhaps most important, Professor Lafer shows that the corporate legislative agenda has come to endanger the scope of democracy itself.

For anyone who wants to know what to expect from corporate-backed Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., there is no better guide than this record of what the same set of actors has been doing in the state legislatures under its control.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time" should be considered as an essential, core addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Thoroughly researched, exceptionally well written, accessibly organized and presented, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, that "The One Percent Solution" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.88).

Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness
David A. Treleaven
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393709780, $27.50, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment,[ which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training. From elementary schools to psychotherapy offices, mindfulness meditation is an increasingly mainstream practice. At the same time, trauma remains a fact of life: the majority of us will experience a traumatic event in our lifetime, and up to 20% of us will develop posttraumatic stress. This means that anywhere mindfulness is being practiced, someone in the room is likely to be struggling with trauma.

At first glance, this appears to be a good thing: trauma creates stress, and mindfulness is a proven tool for reducing it. But the reality is not so simple.

Drawing on a decade of research and clinical experience, psychotherapist and educator David Treleaven shows that mindfulness meditation (practiced without an awareness of trauma) can exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress. Instructed to pay close, sustained attention to their inner world, survivors can experience flashbacks, dissociation, and even retraumatization.

This raises a crucial question for mindfulness teachers, trauma professionals, and survivors everywhere: How can we minimize the potential dangers of mindfulness for survivors while leveraging its powerful benefits?

"Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing" offers answers to this question.

Part I provides an insightful and concise review of the histories of mindfulness and trauma, including the way modern neuroscience is shaping our understanding of both. Through grounded scholarship and wide-ranging case examples, Treleaven illustrates the ways mindfulness can help or hinder trauma recovery.

Part II distills these insights into five key principles for trauma-sensitive mindfulness. Covering the role of attention, arousal, relationship, dissociation, and social context within trauma-informed practice, Treleaven offers 36 specific modifications designed to support survivors' safety and stability. The result is a groundbreaking and practical approach that empowers those looking to practice mindfulness in a safe, transformative way.

Critique: A seminal work of outstanding scholarship, "Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing" is impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented so as to be of enduring value for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. Featuring twelve pages of References, ten pages of Endnotes, and a five page Index, "Trauma-Sensitive Minfulness" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended contribution to community, professional, college, and university library Counseling/Psychology/Psychotherapy/Psychiatry collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

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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