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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 2 February 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

New Way to Care: Social Protections that Put Families First
John C. Goodman
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428
9781598133172, $28.95, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: The COVID-19 pandemic. The Great Recession. The dot-com bust. The early '90s recession. Every decade or so a disaster hits the United States and reminds us that many American families live one calamity away from financial ruin. But what if there were a better way to help families protect themselves from life's risks? And what if that way did not further bloat large government bureaucracies and inflate even more their obscene budgets?

Fortunately, author, economist, policy entrepreneur, and Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, Ph.D., has forged just such a path in his new book, "New Way to Care: Social Protections That Put Families First". In this timely study Goodman offers a bold strategy for giving Americans more control over their destiny, while still promoting (at far less expense) the important social goals that gave rise to government safety-net programs in the first place.

"New Ways to Care" presents effective solutions to: Growing too old and outliving one's assets; Dying too young and leaving dependent family members without resources; Becoming disabled and facing financial catastrophe; Suffering a major health event and being unable to afford needed medical care; Becoming unemployed and finding no market for one's skills.

In "New Way to Care", Goodman also invites us to envision smartly crafted social protections that better serve the nation's families -- and eliminate the risk that America's safety-net expenditures will drive the U.S. economy over a fiscal cliff.

Critique: Erudite, eloquent, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, "New Way to Care: Social Protections That Put Families First" is an invaluable and timely contribution to our on-going national discussion on how to equitably and effectively resolve the deleterious economic impact that the COVID-19 driven hardships have imposed on individuals and families in these especially troubled and political divisive times. While a very highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Economics and Social Services/Welfare collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists, it should be noted for students, academicians, economists, governmental policy makers, and political activists that "New Way to Care: Social Protections That Put Families First" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: John C. Goodman is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, President of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research, and a regular guest on CNN, PBS, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and CNBC. He also frequently writes for the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, USA Today, Forbes, National Review, and Health Affairs. Frequently invited to testify before Congress on health-care reform, Dr. Goodman received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.

Blade Runner 2019: Vol. 1: Los Angeles Artist's Edition
Michael Green, author
Mike Johnson, author
Andres Guinaldo, illustrator
Titan Comics
9781787735309, $29.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: A 128-page collection of the black and white artwork from the smash-hit, critically acclaimed Blade Runner 2019 comic series drawn by Andres Guinaldo, "Blade Runner 2019: Vol. 1: Los Angeles Artist's Edition" from Titan Comics collects together issues #1 - #4 of the Los Angeles story arc.

This collection of Andres Guinaldo's artwork, previously unpublished in this black and white format, includes never-before-seen layouts, roughs, thumbnails, sketches and cover roughs, giving a unique glimpse into the process of the artist. The collection also includes an interview between Andres and the writers Michael Green (co-screenplay writer of Blade Runner 2049,Logan and Murder on the Orient Express) and Mike Johnson (writer of Star Trek, Transformers, Superman/Batman and Picard).

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Blade Runner 2019: Vol. 1: Los Angeles Artist's Edition" is a 'must' for all dedicated Blade Runner fans and will leave its fully entertaining readers looking eagerly towards the second volume in this outstanding science fiction volume series from the team of Michael Green, Michael Johnson, and Andres Guinaldo.

Editorial Note: Michael Green In addition to writing for television, Green has written several feature film screenplays, including Logan, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049 and Murder on the Orient Express, all in 2017. For Logan, which he co-wrote with James Mangold and Scott Frank, Green was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay . He is also the co-author of several graphic novels including Batman: Lovers and Madmen, Super-Man/Batman and Supergirl with Mike Johnson.

Mike Johnson is a prolific comic book writer with credits writing Titans, Superman, Batman, Star Trek: Nero and Star Trek: The Official Motion Picture. He is the ongoing writer of the IDW Star Trek series, as well as comic book tie-ins to Fringe, Transformers.

Andres Guinaldo (who is from Segovia, Spain) is a Spanish penciller, inker and cover artist. He has worked for Marvel, and DC comics on titles such as Captain America, The Riddler, The Joker, Son of Hulk, and Hawkeye. His first comic was drawing Joe R. Landsdale's The Drive-in and By Bizarre Hands.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

A Flood of Posies
Tiffany Meuret
Black Spot Books/Vesuvian Media
Print: 9781645480266, $17.95
Ebook: 9781645480273, $7.49

In A Flood of Posies, two sisters, Doris and Thea, live very different lives in 2025, even through they reside near each other. Climate change shows no preference to economic status or lifestyle, however, and as waters rise and threaten them both, they make survival choices that are very different.

Fast forward a year, to a flooded world. Thea (newly renamed Sestra) and her companion Robert float through this ravaged world still facing starvation and deprivation, but with the added challenge of the Posies - mysterious Levitian-type sea monsters who have arisen with the flood waters, from unfathomable depths.

Sestra is a survivor of both her sister and her former life, but she has no idea where she is heading, or why. She swims, she floats, and she tries to keep track of the strange beasts that have ended the lives of so many other humans: "Aside from the basic functions of trying to not die, Sestra had spent the past year running from posies and praying they wouldn't take her too. That she wouldn't be stolen into the water like so many others, never to be seen again. As if the earth-ending flood of biblical proportions wasn't enough, of course there had to be monsters too."

As this dystopian story evolves, it's pleasing to note that Tiffany Meuret's examination is as much upon changing relationships and human endeavors as on the face of world-changing disaster, focusing upon the very different, yet interconnected, psyches of two sisters who lead disparate lives both before and after the flood.

This perspective is wound into the story in such a way that the strength and mysterious purposes of the monsters within are just as powerful and evolutionary as those which come from this changed reality.

It's the sisters' relationship that really drives the plot. The overlay of an apocalyptic event doesn't just change everything - it reinforces the very different approaches to life, and the perceptions, that these sisters have always cultivated: "It was becoming more difficult to see, which was a comfort for Doris. She could imagine then, in the dark. It covered her up. Life was easier when all of her was in the dark. Thea breathed raggedly, laboring like a pneumonic wheeze. Doris listened to her for a long time, grateful for the noise. They were quiet for a while before Thea couldn't tolerate it any longer. She never could handle silence, stuffing the void with her noise whenever it got too quiet. Always a bark, a gnaw, a stab at Doris's senses. Always sharp - Thea would never let Doris fade out. She took it as more of a personal slight that she had to remedy, another break she had to try and fix..."

As Meuret's story unfolds and newfound family connections are made, readers come to realize that this story of apocalyptic change is both internal and external. Meuret does an exquisite job of capturing the descriptions of family dynamics in this newly-fluid environment: "The family couldn't help but be strangled by her sister - Thea worst of all. The golden child, the pedestal for all others to be judged against. She wanted to hate Doris; she wanted so badly to tell her off, to blame Doris for her own emotional paralysis. Most times, Thea felt like burying her sister, as if the universe would right itself if she was gone, like cutting off the head of the villain in a fairy tale. But then she'd catch that look from Doris, that watery marble gaze of a drowning person, and Thea knew that her sister hated it all as much as she did."

Memories return in flashes as various aspects of these relationships are explored, so readers treated to an unexpected study in family psychology and survival tactics will come to appreciate the power of A Flood of Posies for more than its dystopian setting.

A Flood of Posies is highly recommended reading for readers of fantasy and women's literature who look for more in their world-ending and world-building studies than an action-packed survival saga alone.

Auto Bio Nobody, Part 1
Rasheed Soofi, MD
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781664128446, $42.00, Hardcover

Auto Bio Nobody, Part 1 blends the fictional format of a novel with the scope and background of autobiography as it provides the first-person story of the narrator's journey from Chicago to California on a trip that will change everything.

Reflections move from a childhood in which the first-person narrator acknowledges "...that I was a member of a family in disarray, which would later be a textbook-quality dysfunctional family" to experiences in Iran and the social and political dictates and mandates of Tehran.

As the narrator moves to New York and begins to absorb American culture, readers who have learned much about the Middle East family and social structure receive lessons in not just immigrant ambition and opportunities, but how interactions and experiences continue to be cultivated in a new country, based on the roots of the old.

Rasheed Soofi does an outstanding job of incorporating world journeys into experiences and interactions with other cultures. From the evolution of professional and social life from these roots to experiences in America and other countries, readers receive a close inspection of different encounters and life-changing experiences that charts both physical and mental roadblocks in life and the process of overcoming them.

Auto Bio Nobody, Part 1 crafts the first segment of a life that moves from family and love entanglements to newfound purpose and revised perspectives. The juxtaposition of personal childhood interests and adult worlds is very nicely explored: "In the winter of 1973, the crackdown on armed opposition groups, mostly Marxist and communist groups, around the country, had peaked, it was parallel to the surge in assassinations of high-ranking elements of the Monarch government. In the province of Gilan, one could not find one adult not knowing the name of someone that was arrested, tortured or executed in the dreadful political prison of Evin in Tehran."

The result is a story which, though fictionalized, will especially interest readers of immigrant autobiography and experience, providing a solid introduction to coming of age in a changing world and the love, professional, and life experiences which change family connections and perspectives alike.

It's a narrative that successfully melds social and political change with a revised vision of personal goals influenced by these tides of oppression and opportunity, and is recommended reading for anyone who enjoys memoirs and autobiographical writings.

The Part That Burns
Jeannine Ouellette
Split/Lip Press
9781952897061, $16.00

"Expectations can be slippery." This quote from the opening segment of The Part That Burns: A Memoir in Fragments sets the stage for events that live up to its title as Jeannine Ouellette cultivates a memoir that moves from family adversity and growing up to bigger-picture lessons about life: "Mom taught us that when small things go missing - her favorite hairbrush with its yellowed bristles, her wide black comb, her silver sewing scissors - you look for those things until you find them. "Look harder," she would say. "Use your goddamn eyes." But when big things go missing - men, houses, dogs - you don't ask questions. You don't mention it again. You simply move on."

This story is replete with a sense of place. From detailed myths about whiskey-loving jackalopes to the tumbleweeds that emerge from a move to Casper, Wyoming, where "things just don't grow," the sense of place, people, and life-altering experiences - rich with lessons - runs strong in Ouellette's story. This gives readers a vivid blend of life inspection and philosophy and the views of a child growing up in a rough-and-tumble world of change, adversity, and dreams: "One day I find a hidden canyon full of wildflowers. This is the kind of place where I might find a doorway. Not my favorite kind of doorway, where two branches meet to form an arch that you can step through into another dimension. I won't find that, because there are no trees in the canyon. But maybe I could find another kind of doorway, like a circle of wildflowers where the sun casts its rays at precisely the right slant to open the door to a new world. I make my way down to the bottom of the canyon and discover a trickle of water. All around me, the canyon walls are bursting with tiny blossoms and the sweet, oily scent of sage. But no doorway."

This environment you can see, feel, and touch - along with a growing sense of purpose, exceptionally compelling descriptions, and their intersections - creates a story filled with a child's great adventures, revelations, and family relationships. The result is both fun and food for thought.

Ideally, a memoir does more than review an author's life experience. The meat of the memoir format lies in the synthesis of these encounters with the greater life lessons which evolve from them. In The Part That Burns, a series of insights that change the narrator's outlook and trajectory create a superior read. As Ouellette's sense of self evolves, readers receive encouraging reflections relevant to their own life journeys and reconciliations of past influence and present-day persona: "My story is not my mama's story. In psychology, the life story model says people in modern societies provide their lives with unity and purpose by constructing internal and evolving narratives of the self. This model explains that identity takes the form of a story, complete with settings, scene, character, plot, and theme. I remember Mama's stories. And mine. I remember it all."

Readers who join Jeannine Ouellette on a journey inspecting a mother/daughter relationship will find The Part That Burns features fragments of memory that come together to form a unified approach to life. This eventually comes full circle to a point where the daughter is herself a mother, passing insights about the hardness and softness of the world to her newborn child.

The Part That Burns is a lovely memoir of what it means to recall childhood's impressions, lasting lessons, and ultimate impact, for better and for worse.

Twist of Fate
Samuel J. Spitalli
Real Stories Press
9787732956520, $19.99 Paperback, $7.99 Kindle

Twist of Fate's crime story is centered on the actions of Joel Scranton, a car dealership owner who is also a con man frustrated with his life and choices - including his marriage to a too-savvy psychotherapist.

There seems to be only one way out: start his life anew. Faking his death, Joel at first seems successful in his endeavor to build a new personality and life. Unfortunately, deceit and danger follows as he finds himself struggling not only to maintain his revised identity and life, but faces the impact of a look-alike who is a murderer.

Ironically, proving his innocence might involve a return to his former life in a way that requires the help of one he'd left for dead when he fled that life.

Spitalli excels in creating a story filled with tension and twists of not just fate, but plot. The unrelenting changes and challenges Joel faces and the revised actions he must employ to stay ahead of the game on many levels is narrated in an intriguing set of encounters that keeps both Joel and readers on their toes: "How would Ted know that Jordin was a blond unless he was watching their every move? Ted must also know Joel's background in the car business and the reason he wanted Clayton killed. Joel quickly acquiesced. "Okay, man, don't worry about it. You'll get your money. What do you want me to do?"

Even more engrossing are the ironic events that keep Joel from not only realizing his dreams, but revisiting his choices and actions and their unexpected impacts.

As other perps elude the police and leave Joel holding the bag for crimes he (for once) did not commit, readers receive a lively journey through Joel's world and its unexpected (and often unwanted) connections.

Many moral and ethical revelations emerge against the backdrop of crime and deceit. These add a philosophical and social approach to Joel's escapades and encounters: "To be honest," St. Peter said, "I really don't care about your good intentions. People are defined by what they do, not by what they intend. And we all know what you did. You made your life what it was. You created it all by yourself and got no help from anyone. Everything you ever did, you chose to do it. So, own it! You had infinite opportunities to make your life anything you wanted it to be - and you chose this one."

The result will satisfy crime story readers on two levels, pairing a rollicking good story of flight, deception, and revised purposes with an ironic, humorous sense of moral and ethical payback. Whether its sexual harassment or murder, events keep Joel from achieving his goals and readers from anticipating a set trajectory as his new life becomes convoluted and challenging on many levels.

Twist of Fate is especially recommended reading for those who like their crime stories unpredictable and as saturated with discovery and interpersonal revelations as the crimes themselves.

Bad Medicine
Geoffrey M. Cooper
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633812482, $15.95

Bad Medicine adds another new medical thriller to Geoffrey M. Cooper's arsenal of hard-hitting novels in a new adventure that takes Brad Parker and Karen Richmond to the brink of disaster.

Brad's new job as interim director of the Maine Translational Research Institute introduces him and FBI agent Karen Richmond to a dangerous world when he begins to realize that this temporary position holds a current of danger that places them both in the crosshairs of an assassin.

The opening chapter details an operation by a killer who is not only adept at his job, but purposeful in his intention to destroy an experimental cancer.

Researcher Gellman has established herself as tops in the field, but undercurrents of angst and danger affect her abilities and position. When disaster strikes, the toxic death at the research institute immerses Brad Parker in a dangerous situation he feels ill equipped to address; especially since the threats build.

Geoffrey M. Cooper creates a compelling story that swirls around a research project's special interests, a criminal force bent on stopping it, and the efforts of two savvy, experienced leaders and investigators to both keep the project on track and identify who is trying to thwart it.

As the thriller evolves, a murderous conspiracy is uncovered that has manipulated fools, fostered negligent acts, and challenges Brad to compare patient trial results in an effort to find out what is going on. His cross-comparison of the data seems to check out, but his senses tell him something is still wrong.

Cooper excels in a cat-and-mouse game that places his medical thriller on par with those of Robin Cook and other genre standouts.

Readers of medical thrillers who look for well-drawn characters, mercurial motivations and perps, and settings designed to challenge reader and characters alike will find Bad Medicine a compelling read, worthy of acclaim and recommendation.

Under the Light of the Italian Moon
Jennifer Anton
Amsterdam Publishers
9789493231009, $14.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook

Under the Light of the Italian Moon is a novel inspired by Jennifer Anton's Italian family heritage. Its premise was "given to her" by the Italian women in her family, whose stories impacted her greatly.

Searching for answers after a tumultuous period in her life and the death of her grandmother, Jennifer Anton made trip after trip to Italy to gather oral stories of aging relatives while she still could.

Her questions about how life in fascist Italy gave way to life during a world war and how Catholicism influenced it all contribute to a powerful story. The saga begins in November of 1914, when ten-year-old Nina Argenta faces the puzzles of the Catholic Church's rituals and the departure of the town's men to find work abroad, as far away as America.

As Nina grows to question her world, struggles with love, and faces many changes, readers are swept into Italian culture and women's perspectives of the times, through Nina's own struggle with romance and motherhood.

From fathers who are 'happy fascists' who find reasons to disbelieve misplaced loyalties and the truth about what underlies their passions to women forced to live under tyrants, keeping their thoughts to themselves, Jennifer Anton evolves a powerful saga. The story moves into long-distance love in the 1930s, the evolution of new opportunities and challenges to Italy's women, and an overbearing midwife mother who tries to protect Nina from a rapidly changing world.

It also discusses, as a sub story, the midwife women who labor to bring life into the world under the rising hand of Fascism which threatens repress both their lives and vocations.

Always, Anton places the relationships and evolving social and political perspectives of these women in the foreground of her focus. Readers receive a remarkably astute examination of how women's' lives and perspectives change both with and without men around them, and how these independent Italians forge bonds and barriers alike when left to their own devices.

More importantly, the institutions of marriage, war, church, motherhood, and families torn apart "because boys love to fight" brings home the compelling changes these strong Italian women confront in the face of worldwide disaster and suffering that affects Nina's children's future and all their lives.

Anton brings to life all these facets from Nina's changing world and personalizes them in such a way that readers gain a solid view of Italy's social and political changes and how they challenge these women to survive in many new ways.

The result is a gripping women's story that is realistic, involving, and a tribute to mothers and daughters in Italy. It's a story that will embrace and enlighten both women with Italian backgrounds and those who want to know more about the evolution of Italian women at home and abroad.

Ten Tangled Tales
Suduhita Mitra Sankhe
9781736382400, $8.99

Ten Tangled Tales offers 'quick bites for a fast life' in the form of short contemporary stories about Indian culture, illustrated with introductory black and white line sketches by Sourabh Sankhe. It's the perfect choice for a busy day, a hectic life, and those with the desire to examine whimsical and ironic circumstances in modern times.

Take the opening romance story 'Matched', for example. In a move to be liberated from her parents' traditional wishes for her future, Riya has moved into her own place close to her job. Yet, she attends her mother's lunch discussions weekly, where the primary subject revolves around possible matches for a husband.

Over thirty, she's holding out for a man she really "clicks with" and is drawn to online dating as one of the possibilities for finding him... not her mother's relentless drive to be a matchmaker. An arranged situation that worked for her mother cannot work for her... Riya is certain of this, especially when she finds a fellow bookworm during her online search and begins to think she can find her own romance apart from her mother's plans.

The fact that they never would have met otherwise, given their very different upbringings, makes the world of online dating seem all the more attractive. An instant attraction based on seemingly improbable similar tastes leads to the feel of a relationship with "a year-old maturity" after only a month.

When Riya uncovers a mystery about AJ's past and encourages him to solve it, her mission leads her into an improbable coincidence that changes everything.

The story is nicely done, involving, and unpredictable.

Another winner is 'Burn Appetit', which opens with a deity from Hindu mythology and moves to mother Lata's concern over a son who always seems to get hurt during the yearly festival of Diwali.

Every year, she spends the celebration worrying about her son. Every year, she wonders if the curse has vanished or will re-emerge. As Lata faces protecting her son yet again, fate intervenes, and in the end the reader is presented with surprises about the source of the curse, Neel's accidents, and Lata's involvement in his life.

Each story features a satisfying twist. Each traverses Indian culture and custom in a manner that encourages familiar appreciation from those of Indian heritage and newfound understanding from those whose roots lie elsewhere.

The result is an intriguing collection which will reach a wide audience of literary readers who like well-written short stories with surprise conclusions that can't be seen coming. It's especially highly recommended for literary collections interested in strong, contemporary Indian writings.

Not My Ruckus
Chad Musick
Cinnabar Moth Publishing LLC
9781953971005, $24.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Not My Ruckus explores the life of 14-year-old tomboy Clare, who does many things even a tomboy usually doesn't do, from toting a gun to kissing her friend Esther (even though her family "wasn't our kind of people.").

Everything seemingly stems from that illicit kiss - the gunshot, the feeling that she should protect Esther, murder, and the secrets Clare feels she must expose. Mature teens who choose Not My Ruckus are in for a real treat because, in Clare's world, nothing is set in stone - including her motivations, strengths, and sense of place in a changing world.

Chad Musick paints an unusual portrait of a young woman who takes command of her emotions and carves a place for herself in the world which is anything but common.

From the process by which Clare and Esther build an uncertain best friend relationship to Clare's worries about becoming a burden to her family, her acknowledgement that bully Gunnar will never bow to reason, and her foray into an adult world with Esther, readers will constantly be startled and amazed by Clare's experiences, fortitude, and determination as she sojourns into the adult world.

Not My Ruckus embraces many mature themes, from sexuality to murder and beyond. This is not a read for anyone looking for a staid coming-of-age piece, but the perfect recommendation for readers seeking a spunky, unusual heroine who doesn't conform to the standards of her community or her age group. It's a vivid tale of remarkable exploits in a world that continually challenges notions of age-appropriate experiences.

Mature teen to adult readers looking for a feisty character who grasps her adult world with both hands and gives it a genre- (and mind-) bending shake will relish the creative force and life events that set Not My Ruckus in a class of its own.

It's a satisfying, highly recommended read that embraces many elements not typical of the usual young adult protagonist or story line.

The Lovely Haze of Baby Days
Lindsay Kellar-Madsen & Mie Frey Damgaard
Little Otter Press
9788797250709, $14.99

The Lovely Haze of Baby Days employs rhyme and humor to both entertain the very young book listener and warm and welcome the harried mother reader who may believe she is alone in her trials and tiredness over a new baby's arrival.

In this board book's scenario, there are "babies, babies everywhere", and the mother feels that "Our rhythm beats the baby way. Most every night blurs into day."

The mounds of work involved in baby care are offset by cuteness and smiles, while a mother's feeling of complete exhaustion is eased through her sense of community with other mothers.

While The Lovely Haze of Baby Days lends nicely to read-aloud, it's as much for the mother as for her child. A baby will find the rhymes and bright, lovely illustrations appealing, while the message of a mother's changed life and new challenges will prove more than familiar to parents at their wits' end.

It should also be noted that diversity is celebrated through the varied drawings of women and babies of all colors and ethnicities.

The Lovely Haze of Baby Days's message and its delivery are powerful, lovely, and ultimately uplifting. Overwhelmed mothers will feel support and love from its special form of acknowledgements and words.

Crucible: Records of the Argos
Michael J. Farlow
Wolf Press
9781732730649, $12.95

Crucible: Records of the Argos introduces a new series in which is set after the Arkon war in Host Saga, but requires no prior introduction to prove accessible and engrossing.

Ships are vanishing in one sector of the Arkon empire, prompting Nick Hall and his crew to investigate in an old cargo ship, the Argos, which disguises their technological prowess.

The crew and their AI discover that the disappearances are part of a bigger struggle. This outcome might be predictable; but less expected is the dilemma that draws them personally into a planet's bid for freedom against all odds.

While the prologue opens with the capture of yet another cargo vessel, the real action begins in the introductory chapter, which provides a first-person introduction to Nickolas Hall, who captains the old ship Argos on its journey into danger. Here, Nick and his crew confront piracy and the planetary Resistance, are overpowered and outgunned, and find their mission on the fast track to failure - or transformation.

Either course holds its dangers. As Nick and his cohorts face Resistance and Arkon clashes, Nick is forced to revise some of his perceptions of each force: "I didn't think the Arkon I knew of were very flexible. But the value of the potential gains on their part probably contributed to their flexibility."

Points of view shift between vying factions, giving readers a multifaceted set of impressions about the conflict and the acuity of all involved: "The former Resistance member and leader had some regrets at having to take this action. She knew everyone in the town. Grew up with many of them...If she survived, she would be comfortable for the rest of her life. But she was still mentally burdened by the consequences to her people caused by her new position and actions. In the end, survival won out over sentimentality."

Michael J. Farlow builds his story on two strong foundations: action-packed confrontations, and psychological explorations of all the characters and their influences. This underlying attention to detail creates both a fast-paced story in which all the characters, including a quirky AI, become three-dimensional.

Transformation is never an easy process. As all the participants find their perceptions and values challenged, the story assumes an engrossing complexity that juxtaposes intrigue with a mission that births something unexpectedly new into the political and world-building mix.

Discerning readers of this genre as well as fans of high adventure will be delighted to find this story both expands the dimensions of Farlow's original Host Saga worlds and stands well on its own as a captivating story of war and one crew's involvement in the lasting ramifications of its outcome.

A Place to Hide
David Salner
Apprentice House Press
c/o Loyola University Press
4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210
9781627203456, $19.99

When fugitive Bill Waite moved to New York City in 1923 and begins working on building the Holland Tunnel, he was just seeking work and a refuge. He didn't intend on befriending anyone, much less the only Jewish man he's ever encountered. However, this experience opens up a new world as he is educated about Jewish trials in the slums of the Lower East Side in A Place to Hide.

David Salner explores not just Jewish culture and society in the 1920s, but the life of a blue collar worker who is on the lam from Montana authorities, who finds his life equally changed by both work and friendship.

The first strength to note about this story is that Salner takes the time to explore the psychology behind motivations, actions, and the logical progression of work and leisure relationships alike. This is evident in passages which reveal power plays and assessments Bill makes about the new people in his life, from bosses to friends: "I'm not a hard man to please," Arnoldson had told him. "And if I approve of you, certain privileges apply." Arnoldson had approved of his work, and this gave him the thought that he was changing Bill "for the better." But that was the thing Bill could never accept.

There is no such thing as honest work under the scruples of someone who wants to change you. Wants to erase what you consider you: He sensed that, to Arnoldson, any spark of anger would constitute the ultimate provocation. Jacob Arnoldson surveyed all of creation and noted that it was pliable and could be made obedient to his will. Obedient, or else."

Bill's evolving skills and relationships don't just lie in the adult arena, either. He becomes familiar with another group he has never encountered much before: children. Again, his progressive learning is nicely described and helps cement not only the events at hand, but his overall approach to life: "The cake made them relax. They were very interested in what it was like to work under a river and chattered away with him, until one by one their eyes grew heavy and they nodded off. Was this really such a frightening business, making small talk with children? He dozed off a little, also. Several times they woke up, and he had them sing songs. But at two he started to wonder what he would do with them when he had to begin preparations for his shift."

Another powerful facet to this story is its emphasis on blue collar work and the methods by which one man decides to better himself against all odds: "He didn't want to spend the rest of his life doing unskilled work. Now was the time to get a skill besides mining and mucking. The world was changing, and those two trades, if you want to call them trades, were no longer in great demand. Bill suspected that the world would always have some need of miners and muckers, but let someone else try their hand. He didn't want to wait until he was too broken down to learn a trade. He'd seen fit men wear down and fall by the wayside. No one knows how many disappear like that. The scrap heap isn't well-publicized."

A Place to Hide begins with a search for refuge, but it evolves into a powerful examination of cultural encounters, evolving friendships, and newfound perceptions of work and purpose. All this is set against the backdrop of the Holland Tunnel's construction, one of the most ambitious engineering feats of its times.

Add mystery, intrigue, and enemies into the mix for a powerful story filled with compelling action, psychological depth, and tension that pushes Bill to change his life on more than one level.

Historical fiction readers, as well as those who appreciate solid psychological depth, will find A Place to Hide a compelling narrative, indeed.

South of the Border: Women Travelers to Latin America
Evelyn M. Cherpak, Editor
Palmetto Press
9781649900791, $17.99 Paper, $7.99 ebook

A surprising number of women traveled overseas to Latin America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some journeyed with spouses or company; others traveled alone. Many wrote about their experiences in letters, journals, and essays. South of the Border: Women Travelers to Latin America gathers these early insights for armchair travelers and women's history buffs alike.

These women were not just pleasure travelers. They assumed a variety of roles in visiting other countries, from a plantation mistress in Cuba to a teacher in the Honduras, a YWCA director in Brazil, and a consul's wife in Chile.

The attention to exploring the experiences of different classes and purposes of female travelers in these varying countries achieves two purposes. They consider women's diverse roles and strengths as they traversed foreign milieus, and provide surprisingly in-depth discussions of social conditions.

These range from the treatment of Chinese and other ethnic groups as observed by social reformer Julia Ward Howe to experiencing Uruguay and Paraguay for the first time, presented from the viewpoint of Naval officer wife Marguerite Bates Dickins.

The contrasts between these countries, female perceptions of various layers of society and culture, and the reactions and notes of women who wrote about what they found important in these nations creates a collection that may surprise those who expected more of an adventure travel approach, but will delight readers interested in serious accounts of early women's sojourns and their social and political awakening.

The Sweetness of Venus
Sarah Chadwick
Wild Pansy
c/o Armin Lear
9781736298831, $21.95 paperback; ebook $14.99 US/$16.99 CAN

The Sweetness of Venus: A History of the Clitoris is recommended for health and women's history holdings alike. It provides a discussion about female sexuality that delves into not just sexuality and biology, but social and political history.

Chapters introduce the physiology of the clitoris and how viewpoints of its origins and purpose changed over the centuries as more was discovered about its functions and changing social perspectives about female sexuality.

Major chapters on anatomy, perception, and language contain topics that assume an unexpectedly lively, personal explorative tone as Sarah Chadwick conducts interviews, researches, speculates, and links facts and history to intriguing perceptions about the changing role of women's sexuality in human history: "The issue, apart from the fact that the sex is written about in code, is that a lot of 18th- and 19th-century literary heroines who have great sex are creations of 18th- or 19th-century male imaginations, and it doesn't end well for the fictional sexualized women. Take Anna Karenina, for example. As if those symbolic thundering trains thrusting though the novel were not enough, she has to die underneath the wheels of one, too. Now I know about Victorians and trains, I get that it's a metaphor; she gave into sexual passion and it killed her."

This lively, engaging tone is unexpected and welcome, allowing non-history readers and those with little background in the subject to engage on a more personal and passionate level: "We've come a long way from the days when women were not allowed to show their ankles and had to wear long skirts or dresses, but there is still a clothed modesty about the area between a woman's legs. It's as if by splaying them she opens the way to her vulva - and this is taboo. I care about this taboo, because by censuring the vulva we limit knowledge. We imply there's something to be ashamed of and what's there is not decent - or why would it need to be kept hidden? Come back, women of Persia, we need you!"

The first-person insights, reactions, and feelings throughout keep the discussion on a personal as well as a political and physiological level. This contributes to the overall impact of a survey that will educate, enlighten, and engross women interested in the overall history of women's sexuality as well as the specific evolution of knowledge focusing on the clitoris.

Even those not normally versed in women's history or biology will find The Sweetness of Venus an appealing and dynamic coverage.

Hobson's Mischief
Caitlin Decatur
Atmosphere Press
9781649219046, $17.99 Print, $7.99 eBook

It's Election Day, and software engineer Ellen Matthews has uncovered evidence of election tampering in Hobson's Mischief. Her first-person story opens with a thought-provoking discussion of the mindful behavior she has always practiced and believed in, and the consequences and impact presented by those who hold different attitudes.

Ellen holds inherent faith in the system and her ability to navigate it, but soon finds that nefarious players have evolved a deadly game. This discovery places her in their crosshairs.

Forced to flee for her life, Ellen and her boyfriend Zack embark on a journey that pits their cyber skills and friends against a force that turns out to be greater than they'd anticipated. The story that evolves may sound like a thriller, but it's literary satire and action wound into a tale that offers much philosophical and ethical food for thought, and should reach an audience interested in more than mystery and intrigue alone.

The opening lines are especially powerful in presenting this promise: "I like to think my choices are my own and, since I make mindful choices, the consequences that follow are expected, but, actually, a lot that happens in our lives is brought about by the enigmatic choices of others followed by circumstances the consequences of which we cannot fathom. At any moment, we may not grasp what just happened, let alone perceive what's going to follow. Sometimes, we're unmindful, even when patiently told time and time again of planned misfortunes and rampant corruption - past, present, and looming - because, well, it's inconvenient to be mindful."

From the question of whether a single rich man intent on expanding his wealth and influence can change the outcome of an election by influencing state and national elections to evading the powerful forces who would silence her and keep this knowledge from becoming public, Hobson's Mischief provides a fine story that keeps readers wondering about its outcome and Ellen's ability to do the right thing and survive at the same time.

It's made all the more powerful for its roots in reality and a specific report that Caitlin Decatur references online, so that readers can absorb the real-world foundations of the story and its frightening origins.

Hobson's Mischief will reach fans of intrigue and thriller stories, but ideally will move beyond this genre audience to attract those who look for savvy, powerful female protagonists and close inspections of truth, political power, and special interests that venture into moral, ethical, and social responsibility realms.

Literature readers looking for these added touches of social inspection will relish Hobson's Mischief's ability to build on the thriller/mystery format to create something satisfyingly different and more complex.

The Bond
A.M. Grotticelli
Atmosphere Press
9781649219145, $18.99

The Bond: How a Mixed Bag of Foster Kids Became a Family for Life goes beyond most stories of adoption to consider the heart of what makes a family and what actions solidify family connections. This memoir of adoption and foster children is about much more than the process of physical adoption.

Its lessons on family unity cover how unrelated siblings form bonds, chronicling ten years in A.M. Grotticelli's turbulent life during which he interacted with eight other kids from broken families who were thrown together under one roof.

Where other books paint pictures of evolving domestic bliss, Grotticelli offers more concrete assessments of the difficulties in building a blended family from disparate roots and the evolving "distance, denial, and disturbing lows" that ultimately affected the family and his feelings about his newfound 'parents'.

Despite all obstacles, this family ultimately offered connections he couldn't have received elsewhere: "We came from different worlds and were brought together through no choice of our own. Despite the chaos, we hit it off in a way that has endured many tests of time."

As he provides the history of his adoption and foster care experience, readers receive clear insights into not only his particular home dynamics, but how they influenced his life: "For Mrs. Nelson, having us all at home and not visiting our natural parents was preferred. She used the carrot of adoption to keep us on our best behavior and keep the world thinking the Nelsons' home was a successful and nurturing place. In reality it was both good and bad, depending upon Mrs. Nelson's mood. That made her frustrating to gauge. The good days made the bad ones tolerable. Adoption made foster care a bit more palatable."

From evolving struggles with drugs and absent parents who reentered the picture without providing support to the adults' detachment from the Nelson experience, The Bond provides a hard-hitting series of insights into the effects of the foster care and adoption systems on each of the diverse children in the household.

More so than most books about adoption, The Bond covers the long-term impact and bigger pictures of fostering and adoption. These elements make The Bond a 'must read' for anyone interested in how these systems work, how family ties are formed, and how dysfunction affects even the best of intentions. It covers the relationship these children evolved with each other independent of their foster home parents and system, covering their struggles and ultimate triumphs.

The Bond's dynamic, highly recommended examination commands attention and features many eye-opening lessons, especially for those unfamiliar with the foster system and its approaches to family support, organization, and maintenance.

Soul Seeker
Kaylin McFarren
Creative Edge Publishing LLC
9798665284903, $13.95 Paper, $1.99 Kindle

Book 1 in the Ghenna series of supernatural stories, Soul Seeker, is a paranormal romance centered upon the classic struggle between good and evil forces, set against a small town's backdrop.

Here, demon Crighton Daemonium clashes with family man Benjamin Poe, who is tricked into murdering; then commits suicide in prison.

It takes a concerned group of scientists and fighters, The Sovereign Sector, to not only face this demon, but transform his mission by tricking him into having a relationship with an angel.

From the firefighter's story and ultimate failure to Crighton's imprisonment, his unlikely evolving connection with angel Ariel, and the evolution of their unlikely bond, Kaylin McFarren provides a vivid set of encounters spiced with unexpected emotional ties between traditional enemies: "She raised her chin. "Then do it. Kill me." "I can't." "Why not?" The demon drew a blank and looked down. "It doesn't feel right." "Your emotions are stopping you." "I don't have any. I - " "Take a look at yourself, Crighton. No demon would miss the opportunity for such an easy kill. Yet, here you are, just a few feet away. How many angels have you killed? Probably enough to give me nightmares. Killing one more should be easy for you, but it isn't. Is it?"

These twists of plot bring readers to unexpected moments of confrontation as Crighton's drive for freedom and blood are countered by an angel's very different mission. This brings with it changing loyalties and many unexpected moments that readers won't see coming, which is one of the strengths of a story in which a seeming main protagonist is developed and then killed off, with a demon proving to be not as dark as he first appears.

Soul Seeker will satisfy readers who relish the unexpected, developing its characters and plot with fine connections to detail and fast-paced action. A host of characters support the changing worlds of Ariel and Crighton, and readers are invited to care about them all in the course of a story that is at once suspenseful, racy, and thought-provoking.

Its focus on the fine line between good and evil and what happens when this line shifts makes for an involving read that will delight paranormal romance readers looking for something refreshingly different and less predictable than most in the genre.

Rusty Kenneficke's Third Quarter
Keith Thye
Classic Day Publishing
9781598492965, $18.95 Hardcover, $4.95 ebook

This third book in Rusty's trilogy, Rusty Kenneficke's Third Quarter, explores his ongoing struggle to prove his innocence in the hit-and-run murder of Boomer Laughlin (an event which concluded the second book in this series). It evolves a dual suspense story and the trials of a man who has finally found a woman to settle down with and a career to love, only to find his life in upheaval.

The evidence against Rusty points to the likelihood that he deliberately mowed down Boomer after an altercation. It all seems irrefutable, as an eyewitness saw everything, but Rusty believes he's being set up for an unknown reason. As evidence against him mounts, Rusty faces the prospect of prison and ruin.

Rusty has always been good at reading people - but not in this situation. His ambitions and life seem headed for a big downturn if he can't up his game in not just reading people, but solving the biggest mystery of his life.

Rusty decides to become proactive about his defense, mounting his own investigation that leads him far from the staid life he's built and into the underworld of casinos, nefarious interests, and high stakes crime. His gamble on the side of justice takes a dangerous turn as he probes these perps with innocence and naivety, only to uncover a world he is ill-equipped to navigate.

All Rusty wanted was happiness and a better life. All he seems to do is get deeper into trouble. As Rusty faces many changes in his life, his moral and ethical boundaries are challenged, as when he resigns his post at the Portland Chamber of Commerce in response to an ill-fated decision to unfairly appoint a new board member based on political whim. His observations of his community and his changing place in it on many levels are astute and involving, reflecting this moral compass: "Four meetings into his three-year term, he realized he had made a mistake. He was beginning to see this board as a "good ol' boys club" that was primarily interested in promoting their own positions within the community, not particularly for the betterment of it."

As Rusty's past decisions and present-day dilemma are explored more deeply, readers of the prior two Rusty books receive an even more astute picture of the roots of his actions and the motivations behind his struggles.

Will his soft heart get him deeper into trouble, or prove to be his redemption?

Readers should be prepared to enjoy these forays into Rusty's psyche. If this were a murder mystery alone, the depth likely wouldn't be nearly as satisfyingly well-detailed. From Rusty's interactions with small-town folk and beau Jan to a series of 'ridiculous things' that keep thwarting his desire to work both within and outside the system, Keith Thye's final story about Rusty is replete with many of the satisfying approaches of his previous books.

Readers come away from these events not with the usual whodunit focus, but with a greater sense of Rusty's evolving place in his community, and his vision for a revised future. These elements drive a tale that is unusual and compelling for its focus on elements beyond an event that threatens everything Rusty aims for.

Rusty Kenneficke's Third Quarter is recommended for suspense and novel readers who want more than a formula approach, but a walk through the fine building of a life with all its influences, including the intrigue and nuances that threaten to change the nature of Rusty's choices.

Somebody's Watching You
Robin D'Amato
Atmosphere Press
9781636495965, $17.99

What do you do when your husband leaves you to join a cult? Melody Hollenback faces this dilemma and her husband's evolving mental illness in Somebody's Watching You. This is a powerful saga of an entrapment which strengthens its grip when Melody joins the cult to protect her husband, only to find it hard for either of them to gain freedom.

The two felt a near-instant connection from their first meeting. Robin D'Amato takes the time to cement this connection and their personalities before introducing the cult's threat and their responses.

This translates to a story filled not just with intrigue, but personality and passion as Melody and Jeff face the Church of Philomathics and bizarre people who harbor their own form of mental illness, disguised as faith.

As Jeff's condition changes, he believes that Philomathics is the answer to everything. Melody believes it's the answer to nothing, and is a hazardous endeavor that threatens their relationship and future.

As Melody faces the dangerous moves of a cult which always keeps a tight reign on its members' minds and movements and comes to understand its power outside of Jeff's attraction to it, she begins to realize many of its tactics of abuse in isolating its members from everything, from outside connections to physicians to those who could help them.

Melody initially just wants Jeff to feel better. If Philomathics will help him, who is she to judge? Then she wants Jeff free, and back. This is much more of a challenge, because it involves not just separating Jeff from the increasing lure of the church, but separating its objectives from theirs and mitigating its impact on the wider community.

Somebody's Watching You may sound like a murder mystery, but it's a solid, compelling story of psychological control that reaches into the reader's heart and mind with a gripping saga of slowly evolving mental illness that becomes paired with an outside entity's objectives.

As Jeff confronts the specter of failing the Pathway and the upper Tiers which could give him extraordinary abilities, Melody faces her own possibility of failure. The story's twists, turns, and psychological depth makes it a literary work that will not just engage but enthrall anyone interested in stories of marital change, mental illness, and cult influences.

Somebody's Watching You is very highly recommended for its astute dance between all three subjects.

MC Plays Hide and Seek
Eva Grayzel Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645431435, $12.95

Ages 5-10 receive an enlightening, positive picture book about a deadly serious subject (cancer) in MC Plays Hide and Seek, which presents a little creature that excels in playing hide and seek with the children around him.

The outstanding simple descriptions which drive the story covers the basics of cancer's hidden ravages in a manner the very young can relate to: "In a game of Marco Polo, if you FEEL the water/moving, you know the person hiding is nearby. But not with me. When I'm around, everything/usually feels the same."

Each page in this 34-page picture book pairs a child's photograph with the image of this little creature, who states that "The bigger I grow, the easier it is to find me. The bigger I grow, the harder it can be to get rid of me."

Cancer is deadly serious and complex. It's a challenge explaining this concept to the very young in terms they can not just understand, but relate to on an emotional level. The discussion moves from how cancer hides and shows itself to the different kinds of medical professionals charged with looking for elusive cancer throughout the body.

A child's emotional response to the subject is also reviewed, and conversations are encouraged to explore these feelings ("There is no right or wrong way to feel. Everyone feels differently.").

Eva Grayzel draws these connections in a way that is critical to conversations with kids about cancer. MC Plays Hide and Seek should be the picture book of choice that is consulted whenever a discussion must arise about cancer in a child or loved one. It leaves no stone unturned in exploring the physical and psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis and the efforts to keep it at bay.

Dungeness and Dragons: A Driftwood Mystery
William J. Cook
Independently Published
9798621829469, $15.99 Paperback
B085HDKP5H, $3.49 Kindle

The fourth book in the Driftwood Mystery series, Dungeness and Dragons, combines the thrill of crabbing season with a murder probe that begins when the crabbing boat Johnny B. Goode goes down in a storm. Circumstances lead Officer Charley Whitehorse to believe it's not an accident, but murder. However, he already has his hands full with the ongoing disappearance of young women up and down the Oregon coast. How can he tackle two major problems simultaneously?

He can't. But the possibility that these events are interconnected emerges slowly as Whitehorse and partner Tony Esperanza find themselves immersed in a thickening plot that draws local figures, international cartels, human trafficking, and drug operations into one big problem.

William J. Cook's descriptions of crab fishing operations are detailed and exact. This and the Oregon atmosphere lend authenticity to the story, driving both the evolving crimes and depictions of the region's culture.

Cook also devotes time to exploring police procedurals and investigative processes, which further imparts a sense of real tension and methodology into the story: "He used his phone to take a picture of the tag before he touched it. Then he cut the tag from the buoy and put it into a plastic evidence bag. Another Kudu moment, he thought with a grin. He called his partner. "Got it, Tony. Just like you said. A buoy tag. Smaug is the name of the boat." "Hot damn!" was the response. "You heading back?" "No. I'm gonna look around some more, then head down to Newport with the evidence I picked up yesterday and today. I'll drop them off at Forensics."

While some readers looking for nonstop action might chafe just a bit at the step-by-step descriptions of both processes, these enhance the story line by adding details that later will circle back to prove pertinent to the evolving mystery.

What does the next President of the United States have to do with this evolving scenario? Politics and policies, whether that of Dragon Brothers Fisheries or higher offices, also come into play as Whitehorse and Esperanza broaden their investigation, uncovering more and more elements of intrigue and danger in the process.

The behind-the-scenes actions of Vasily Volkov, the head of the biggest crime syndicate in the Pacific Northwest, come into play and a missing daughter (21-year-old Patricia) is located, but faces entering a witness protection program to keep her safe. Thus, a powerful Russian plan emerges that only holds a faint hope of defeat if one simple policeman, Whitehorse, can uncover the truth in time to thwart the plot.

Replete with tension that goes beyond a simple whodunit to delve into a wide range of social issues and local politics, Dungeness and Dragons cultivates a sensational atmosphere that will attract not only mystery enthusiasts, but readers of thrillers - especially those with a particular interest in an Oregon backdrop and a story of justice.

Dare to Survive
Carolyn V. Hamilton
Swift House Press
9780990966494, $17.95 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Like many, businesswoman Cathryn Prentis dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, and made the journey. Unlike most, she is arrested at the airport, charged with drug trafficking, and must confront authorities both inside and outside of Peru to escape in Dare to Survive, a legal thriller charting the course of her international conflicts.

Carolyn V. Hamilton excels in fast-paced plots and compelling scenarios strong in unexpected twists and turns, evident from the first sentence introducing the experience: "Lima's airport security check-point my life changed forever."

She also injects powerful atmosphere into the story from the start, which will be more than familiar to anyone who has entered a country where English is not the primary language: "A new group of airport personnel arrived to look at the scuba tank and babble in Spanish and stare at the gringa on the floor. The airport spun in a haze of other-world activity. I was the only person in the whole galaxy who spoke English."

These observations are careful to point out moments that stem not just from cultural differences, but outright prejudice: "The Peruvians were staring at me, and I knew the girl Esther had given the phone to would in turn hand it to another Peruvian. I felt like a fool standing in a phone line, waiting for nothing. I walked away, feeling the pressure of a nasty headache gathering between my temples. Assholism has no ethnic boundaries, I thought. I wished my alter ego was Mike Tyson."

Cathryn's vivid impressions of conditions in prison, her precarious position, and the few options that lead to freedom are presented in a compelling manner that reviews her choices and their consequences: "I considered running. If I ran, I would be running for the rest of my life, always looking over my shoulder. If I ran, I'd destroy Olivia's career and credibility because she had put up a personal guarantee for me. I decided running wasn't an option. If the prosecutor had his way, I would go back to prison to die."

Charged with a legal mess and the need to learn Spanish to help her bid for freedom, Cathryn faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles and daunting legal and cultural precedents on foreign soil.

Part of why this story is so compelling might be because it's based on a true story. Hamilton's review of all the facets that lead Cathryn to struggle for not just her freedom but her life in a foreign country makes for a gripping story strengthened by first-person observations and Cathryn's powerful, defiant voice.

The milestones she achieved in making her case under impossible conditions create in a compelling tale that is hard to put down and unpredictably satisfying. Mystery and thriller components blend with true crime and a fictional overlay that bring Cathryn's experiences to life with its immediacy. The involving insights into the legal process overseas and one American caught in a dangerous set of circumstances that will change her life no matter what the outcome of her court case are hard to put down.

Dare to Survive is simply riveting reading from start to finish.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds
Mark Matthews
Wicked Run Press
9780578786834, $12.99 Paper, $4.49 Kindle

When Kori Persephone Driscoe's father entered a psychiatric hospital, she'd hoped the treatment for his mental illness would heal him. She never expected him to vanish. When she haunts the corridors of the institution in search of answers, she discovers a deadly danger and a dark truth in The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, a psychological horror piece that excels in injecting mental illness into a werewolf story.

It's unusual to see a horror theme that holds such strong roots in the real dilemmas of psychology and mental illness. More than just a horror story alone, Mark Matthews has taken the werewolf theme...and the mental illness new levels, combining both for a powerful result that is highly recommended for readers of horror and psychological suspense alike.

From family tensions and familiar patterns of response and flight to the evolving truth, Matthews takes the time to create solid insights into Kori's life, logic, and world: "Mom was fishing for a fight and Kori was used to taking the bait. She eyed the front door, the oft-used escape route for this house when the walls dripped with tension...Dad's manic energy still filled the house even though he'd been gone for years. The last time Kori saw him was just a drop-off at the porch during the divorce. She had no idea it would be goodbye. If only she could've bottled up his fantastic flurry of enthusiasm and saved it for later, sipping on it when needed - but his bizarre rages and incantations that followed were a horrible aftertaste forever poisoning her life. "

Anyone who has lived with mental illness and its challenges will readily recognize Kori's life and perceptions. They will also find that the special events surrounding her situation elevate this story into a new dimension beyond struggles with bipolar disorder and its impact on the family.

As events move between Kori's exploration of the hospital's deeper secrets to the child science experiment Lilith and her impact on the world, Matthews moves the story to powerful levels as the hospital - and the world - unravel.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds excels in the unexpected. Be prepared to enjoy a dark horror piece rooted firmly in real history and psychology that uses the metaphor of the werewolf mythos in not just horror literature, but psychological circles.

It's a powerful, compelling story that's hard to put down and impossible to forget.

Debt-Free ASAP!
John Nicholas
Nicholas Group Publishing
9781736158708, $14.99 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

Debt-Free ASAP! gives a simple three-step process to recovering from debt and learning how to better manage money. It comes from an author who has both built multi-million dollar businesses and been flat-out broke.

These experiences lead to a type of financial savvy that understands both sides of the money management equation and culls the best practices of those both monied and broke, creating a game plan for lasting success that doesn't depend on debt.

Debt-Free ASAP! didn't stem from the author's own financial focus, but from his need to conduct newfound soul-searching in the face of COVID's challenges. This book is intended as a guiding light and legacy for future generations, promoting a better path to not just money, but life management skills.

His focus is useful for any in financial stress due to a crushing weight of debt, as well as those who would cultivate a debt-free approach to living life.

This 'debt-free' protocol is based on three simple approaches: assessing individual situations, reviewing the options, and creating the best plan for one's unique situation. Three sections discuss each protocol in a manner that can apply equally to all readers whether they are struggling students, families coping with debt, or successful individuals.

It should be advised that this guided lesson is based on a step-by-step approach. No fair skipping chapters...each is an essential building block that jigsaws into the next piece of the success puzzle, and each contains information all readers will find useful and specific.

It should also be pointed out that discussions of spirituality and faith, not usually seen in financial guides, are part of this process. Readers looking for a strictly business approach may find this surprising, but all pieces of the larger picture are included in the discussions of financial and personal well-being.

With discussions of such wide-ranging subjects as crafting vision and purpose ("Vision is your ability to see the future with imagination."), readers are encouraged to improve their situations in many different ways.

From case histories and concrete tools for creating a solid game plan to understanding the connections between plans and outlooks on life in general, Debt-Free ASAP! is especially recommended reading for those who want more than just another financial discussion, but a broader review of life purpose that helps readers analyze how and why they fell into debt in the first place - and how to evolve a much better approach.

Younger and Wiser
Gene S. Jones
Dreamquest Publishing
9780998324081, $14.95

Younger and Wiser: Peaceful Words for a Troubled World pairs vignettes of examples about human experience and lessons learned over time with stories reflecting Gene S. Jones' personal journey. It provides an important link between example stories and growth by taking the form of a poetic expression on one page and a back-story of its message or wellspring on the facing page.

From a reflection on what could have saved poet Sylvia Plath from suicide and the effects of her brilliant, troubling psyche and words to how crafting the poem 'Brain Ride' forced Jones to "contemplate his own dark side and what a private dungeon might look like," Younger and Wiser draws important connections between the poetic form, philosophical thought, and the psychological interplays between life experience, creativity, and growth.

Readers should expect a wide range of topics, verse that enlightens, and back-story discussions that incorporate self-help approaches into the structure of a memoir.

The inspirational, peaceful result is recommended reading for not just poets and self-help readers, but those who enjoy memoirs paired with commentary on life experience and lessons.

Galveston '44
B.W. Peterson
Independently Published
9781735604909, $17.95 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

In 1944, Sheriff Sam Baker struggles with the death of his son in World War II, the anguish that is leading him into alcoholism, and a downhill slide that threatens his marriage when a shocking murder jolts him from his grief and forces him to do what he does best - investigate a crime.

In this case, it's the brutal execution of someone close to him, which personalizes matters and leads him on a hunt that produces no evidence, no clues, and no resolution; much like his grief over his missing son.

His hunt is not without its impact, however, and soon he finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer who seems to have a powerful organization backing him. How can Sam solve a case with such a dominant and elusive entity at its heart - and how can solving this case also heal wounds of the heart which remain raw and open?

B.W. Peterson does more than craft a whodunit or a suspense story. He winds in facets of grief, recovery, strength, organized crime, and more as a quest for justice turns into something more personal.

One doesn't expect an undercurrent of wry humor to permeate some of the action, but its presence lightens the mood and captures Sam Baker's gritty voice and perspective: "Horace," Sam said. "I'm going to ask you a question. If you lie to me I'm going to hog-tie you and throw you out in that swamp for snake bait. You understand me?"

The contrasts between the dual dilemmas of his personal and professional lives and the challenges which evolve in each realm are also very nicely presented: "The places she had touched vibrated with something that felt like healing and desire. He couldn't deny what he felt for her physically, and he couldn't help but be flattered by the attention from such a young, pretty woman. But right now he couldn't give anything of himself. Every thought and action went into finding Wayne and Gus' killer. That obsession wouldn't leave room for anything or anyone else."

This attention to detail and psychological insights lends Galveston '44 more attraction than the usual thriller because it probes Sam's ongoing motivations and influences in the course of doing his job and moving ahead in his life. Readers become involved in Sam's evolutionary process on many levels, which creates a compelling and attractive read as he forges ahead into more and more danger.

The result is a novel that blends a healthy dose of Texas culture and environment into a piece that incorporates history, social climate, racial concerns, and grief recovery into the bigger pictures of crime and resolution. More than a thriller alone, it's a literary work that leaves its mark on readers who enjoy the realistic elements of locale and history added to a crime story replete with psychological tension.

Unexpected Findings
Jenifer Rowe
Foothills Press
9781736088029, $15.00 paper, $5.99 Kindle

The unlikely friendship between a young foster girl who has suffered abuse and neglect and an antisocial 85-year-old widower is the focus of Unexpected Findings, a poignant literary work that at first seems directed to young adults (protagonist La'Teesha Baxter is a teenager).

However, it would be a shame to limit the audience of this compelling piece to teens alone, because its story of homelessness, connections, assault, trust, and recovery explore very adult themes that will appeal widely, from mature young adults into adult circles.

Tess is determined to solve the gaps and mysteries her amnesia has left in her life, but she can't do it without help...and without trusting those around her: "Shit! Who's left that I can trust? She remembered Janelle telling her that she couldn't invite Tess in because she had a visitor. Janelle had also claimed not to remember Antwon's last name. That had to have been a lie. Tess felt confused, angry, double-crossed. She was also frightened. If Janelle was part of the reason her mother was missing, what would she do once she knew that Tess was on to her? What would Antwon do?"

As the story shifts between issues of danger, discovery, and trust, readers receive a compelling saga that follows Tess as she navigates uncertain situations, pursues the truth, and develops an odd friendship with the elderly Irv who also has many reasons to fear the outside world.

Jenifer Rowe follows Tess's growth in a compelling manner that juxtaposes past and present, the influences she uncovers on her choices, and their consequences: "She had always disliked this sticky, humid time of year. The damp made it almost impossible for her to brush her hair, which was always a challenge anyways. Braids were the answer, said her Gram. Mama used to tell her to be proud of her hair, and to let her curls fly free. She'd never been sure which voice to listen to, since she loved them both. Now, though, she knew what she heard. It was her own voice that spoke the loudest to her, telling her what she must do."

Under Rowe's hand, Tess becomes a vivid, believable, likeable character whose search for answers embraces some of the foundations of character-building and change.

Unexpected Findings is a compelling story especially recommended for mature teens to adults. This audience will ideally look for stories that go beyond mystery or problem-solving, examining the kinds of relationships that lead to building determined survivors who rise above their circumstances as outsiders in life to become mutually beneficial to one another in unexpectedly supportive new ways.

Those who like their stories poignant, realistic, and complex will relish the encounters between Tess and Irv and the unexpected resolution which joins them and redefines their disparate life challenges.

The Patriot's Grill
Steven C. Day
Independently Published
9798676198220, $13.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Joe Carlton never imagined he would one day lead a national insurrection that would challenge democracy and change the face of America. He's just one man interested in atoning for his betrayal - an individual who finds himself inadvertently caught up in a wave of rebellion that sweeps him into a very different America than he'd once believed in.

The Patriot's Grill opens with the stark and unlikely portrait of the President of the United States walking a dirt road alone in the moonlight in rural Montana in 2106 before the story turns back seven years earlier to 2099 at the Patriot's Grill, where bartender Joe hates his job.

He has dreams of moving to California and becoming an actor. But these feel far from the reality of his Patriot's Grill dive bar job, where his cantankerous attitude doesn't earn him many tips.

All this changes when Joe falls into a stranger's vision of a free country and inadvertently finds himself representing the face of a rebellion he didn't start. Growing up in the toxic industrial town of Loyalty in the 2000s, Joe has become used to conditions without questioning how the world has changed.

As he learns how democracy was stolen by the rich, he becomes embroiled in changing this dangerous world, resulting in violent ramifications for all involved.

One of the reasons why The Patriot's Grill is so compelling is that it holds its roots in events of modern times. The politics, takeovers, subterfuge, and struggles between rich and poor, politicians and individual interests, and those with vision who fall into the wrong crowd all seem especially familiar and involving, given the events of recent times.

Readers who look for works grounded in issues and possibilities they are already newly familiar with will find part of the lure of The Patriot's Grill lies in this social and political milieu, while part lies in the struggles of the 'everyman' protagonist who never envisioned himself part of a political struggle, but becomes caught up in it despite his own failings and angst when his relationship with an ex-con reveals new possibilities for his future.

From issues of democracy and how it's killed to Joe's recognition that he could possibly make things better...or worse...Steven C. Day does an outstanding job of juxtaposing a realistic character with an equally vivid dilemma he faces when his personal objectives and influences clash with political purpose.

The blend of Joe's personal dilemmas and the changing winds of society keep The Patriot's Grill's portrait of a much-changed America compelling and intriguing, cementing its action both in personal choice and consequences and political fallout.

The result is a cautionary story about endings and beginnings. It's neither a history nor a lesson, but one vision of what America's future can bring, and will reach readers open to understanding this as one possible route, and how individual choice can affect outcomes and possibly the destiny and definition of democracy itself.

It's Me
Jeff Kubiak
9781970133998, $18.95 Paper, $5.95 Kindle

It's Me gives readers (ages 9-15) 57 pages of picture/comic book vignettes based real stories written by students, teachers, and educators about diversity, prejudice, and inclusively.

Each short account is accompanied by a fine drawing of each contributor by illustrator Briannah Altpeter, a note about the special challenges faced by that writer (eleven-year-old Britney has dyslexia and a processing disorder; twelve-year-old Zach has autism, for examples), and a short explanation that adds the feelings of each contributor about his life, perceptions, and challenges.

From a sixteen-year-old with Tourette's Syndrome to teens struggling with depression, bulimia, dyslexia, and just being of different ethnicities, these short pieces are designed to help children understand the special life challenges faced by different people.

The stated age range for this picture-style book is 13-15, but it's recommended for advanced elementary school readers, as well, promising to reach beyond its intended age range to educate kids about the meaning of the words 'diversity' and 'inclusion' by presenting personal insights they can easily relate to.

As a starting point for a dialogue about understanding and building support systems, It's Me offers critical insights that should lend nicely to wider discussions between adults and peers, and is highly recommended reading for any collection looking for clear insights that build empathy as an antidote to hatred, fear, intolerance, and prejudice.

Daytime Drama
Sarahlyn Bruck
TouchPoint Press
9781952816208, $4.99 eBook, $15.99 Paperback

In Daytime Drama, soap opera star Calliope Hart has become accustomed to balancing a demanding day job with being a single mom - until the network cancels her show and she finds that the only job that remains is that of being a mother.

Callie has held this same acting role for 25 years. It's become not just part of her life and that of her pre-teen son, but her identity. Newfound financial worries pair with a stormy relationship with her ex and her son's budding determination to follow in her Hollywood footsteps even though she strictly forbids it.

All these contribute to a daytime drama that moves away from the TV screen and into the living room and life of a woman called upon to reinvent not just her professional wsorld, but her personal life and her relationship to her family.

Sarahlyn Bruck excels in crafting a story that follows this middle-aged woman's attempt to erase her fictional character from her life and replace both it and her trajectory with something positive and different. Even her lover Paul, the one good thing in her life, comes under scrutiny and is re-evaluating his role as being in second place in her life: "We don't have to get married. Let's just move in together. We could stay in your house, so Jonah doesn't have to switch schools. It might be a bit crowded, but we can try it out before maybe we look to buy something together." The words spilled out of him. Dread filled her chest like smoke. Callie held up her hand to make the words stop. "Paul, I can't have this conversation right now. We're about to lose our show. I have to concentrate on keeping it all together for my kid. More change is not going to make things easier on him. You have to understand that." "No, I don't." Paul gestured toward Callie. "I get it. You have a kid. Your kid comes first. But I can't be last."

Callie finds that everything around her that she built or took for granted as long-term winning propositions is changing. She's charged with considering where she wants to go, how she can handle the financial obligations of paying off a money-grubbing ex who sees her as a meal ticket, and how she can redirect her impressionable son's future away from the mistakes and choices she made in her life.

All this contributes a sense of realistic, engrossing action to the thought-provoking story as Callie juggles an underage son determined to follow in her footsteps as a performer and a series of challenges to everything she'd once valued. Her perceptions of her son's evolving goals and abilities are particularly astute: "Questioning her middle schooler's artistic talents felt wrong. Forbidden. Parents were supposed to be supportive and encouraging, even when their broods' efforts were far from viable in this fickle marketplace. But most parents didn't have a son who at twelve wanted to go up against the big boys onstage in Hollywood comedy clubs with material he'd written himself. Callie realized with a combination of both dread and shame that she knew next to nothing about his stand-up act."

Readers interested in how women reinvent their lives will find Callie's story compelling reading, highly recommended for women seeking stories of single mothers who continue their growth process beyond and after success and during child-rearing.

Why Can't Life Be Like Pizza?
Andy V. Roamer
Nine Star Press
9781951880668, $4.99 Ebook
9781951880675, $14.99

Book 1 of 'The Pizza Chronicles', Why Can't Life Be Like Pizza?, reaches young adult readers with an introduction to RV, a good kid who is the son of immigrants. He's a new high school freshman challenged to maintain his grades while fielding bullies and mean teachers alike, and also struggles with his fluid sexual identity.

At this stage in his life, everything seems questionable, unbalanced, and difficult - even his friendship with a supportive gay teacher, his decision to date a girl, and his crush on a fellow classmate who confesses he might be gay.

Only his love for pizza in all its variations seems straightforward and relatively uncomplicated. Why can't life be this way?

As RV navigates questions, decisions, and experiences with a jaunty first-person narrative, young adult readers receive a compelling story spiced by a powerful voice that comments not just on his own emotions, but the environment around him: "Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global terror, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I'm-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world. Grateful? Ha! As far as I'm concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building."

Also attractively compelling is RV's candidness, whether he's considering his own looks ("I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I've been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I'm pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it?") and feeling like a loser, or his determination to forge a new identity at Boston Latin School, a pressure cooker of learning for smart kids.

Many teens will readily understand his feelings as RV explores these volatile emotions and questions their meaning: "Who would think a simple friendly gesture would feel major. But it was. I've never felt like that before. It's as if my whole body came alive. That's a stupid thing to say, isn't it? My body's been alive for fourteen years. But this felt different. Like everything changed in an instant. Like all my feelings suddenly connected together in some deep way."

While the title may sound light-hearted and portend an inviting romp, the story itself is filled with many realistic, involving moments from family squabbling, secrets, and decisions to newfound understanding of both his sexual identity and exactly how peers notice things and build threats from differences.

Teens who are questioning or building their own sexual identity will be quite pleased at the many realistic situations RV faces in this story of his evolving new life. They will find it a believable, involving account that not only covers his emerging emotions, but many new points of recognition about social situations and his place in the world.

Why Can't Life Be Like Pizza? invites teens to imbibe with an intriguing title, then delivers something as tasty and enjoyable as pizza itself. It's highly recommended for teens learning about not just the questions surrounding being gay or straight, but the family and social environments supporting or undermining them.

Why Can't Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza?
Andy V. Roamer
Nine Star Press
9781648900204, $4.99 Ebook
9781648900211, $13.99

Why Can't Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza? sports an odd name, and readers who come to this book without prior familiarity with the first in 'The Pizza Chronicles' series might wonder about its very strange query.

RV is now fifteen and is looking forward to a summer off from his demanding term at Boston Latin School. He wants to have more leisure time with his best friend Bobby, who also may be gay; but his immigrant parents have something else in mind for his time and Bobby's parents, too, have come up with productive ways for him to fill his time off - which do not involve RV.

RV's other best friend, Carole, is also going away for the summer, leaving him with only advisor/teacher Mr. Aniso to talk to whenever he feels lonely or confused.

While he initially feels like this will be a summer of isolation, it becomes one of more discoveries as RV gets involved in a violent threat at a garage and gas station store where he holds a part-time casual job and finds himself suddenly estranged from Bobby when he inadvertently spills his friend's deepest secret to his supportive teacher.

Mr. Aniso treats him like an adult and RV aspires to fill these expectations; but he also too often feels like a child, confused and helpless about his feelings and his place in the world.

How can he reconcile these emotions with new friendship opportunities and a better recognition of choices and their consequences?

RV continues to question and navigate this strange world that lies between young adult and adult. His dilemmas and realistic dialogues with himself and those around him will attract teens seeking involving discussions that offer no easy answers, but more than a few possible solutions to the kinds of choices RV considers.

Why Can't Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza? is a continuing exploration of RV's world and ideally should be read after the introductory Why Can't Life Be Like Pizza?, rather than as a stand-alone piece.

RV's character continues to delight as he makes headway in identifying the kind of person he wants to be and the people he wants to embrace in his life, albeit in different ways. Teens questioning their own sexual identity and friendships, especially, will find RV's examination of the differences between them and 'more than friends' makes for thoroughly engrossing, enlightening reading.

A Converted Woman's Voice
Maria Covey Cole
Atmosphere Press
9781649218995, $17.99

Maria Covey Cole is a Latter-day Saint who explores what it means to have such a perspective about the world and God in A Converted Woman's Voice: Being Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus and in His Restored Gospel.

From her conversion and newfound mission to life-changing teachings from the Book of Mormon and the role of women as Latter-day Saints, this story blends reflections on God and those teaching his word with the story of how Cole's renewed faith and determination changed her approach to her life and religion's place in it: "Several years ago, I made a commitment to follow my brother's example to increase the frequency of my temple service and to claim the blessings God had in store for me. I, too, have felt a source of spiritual power come into my life that I had not previously experienced in all of my years of inconsistent temple attendance."

Numerous quotes and references from elders and other Saints throughout this discourse explore various ways of testifying and living according to the restored gospel: "Elder M. Russell Ballard says he likes to compare spiritual armor with chain mail - the dozens of tiny steel links that allow greater movement, yet effectively keep us safe from harm. He explains: "It has been my experience that there is not one great and grand thing we can do to arm ourselves spiritually. True spiritual power lies in numerous smaller acts woven together in a fabric of spiritual fortification that protects and shields from all evil." Former General Young Women's President, Sister Elaine Dalton, further clarified: "When you do small things consistently, they become part of who you are, and they change you. It really is 'by small and simple things [that] great things [are] brought to pass.'"

Readers seeking to learn about the Latter-day approach to living life and worshipping God will find that Cole provides many powerful connections between both, from discussions of emotional well-being to teaching kids family mission statements that both reinforce spiritual teachings and the family structure united in such a pursuit.

Much more so than most religious discussions, this focus on the attitude, process, and beliefs of the converted woman, in particular, provides insights that are not often revealed in competing books about faith: "There is no one more powerful or influential than a converted woman who knows who she is, what she stands for, and who is prepared to do battle for the cause of Christ. A woman like that can change the world."

Cole's voice stands strongly alongside those she quotes from liberally in her book as major influences of her thinking, from religious leaders in the church, DIY bloggers, and ordinary men and women to others who reflect on the presence of God in their lives.

A Converted Woman's Voice's spiritual-driven focus on the converted woman's power, presence, and possibilities is especially recommended reading for those who would understand the teachings and approach of the Latter-day Saints and womens' roles in reaching for, incorporating, and better understanding the influence and direction of God in daily living.

Strong Like Water
Laila Tarraf
She Writes Press
9781647420222, $16.95 Paper, $8.99 Kindle

For twenty years, author Laila Tarraf has held leadership positions at the intersection of business and people - first at the internet division of Wal-Mart, then as Chief People Officer of Peet's Coffee & Tea, and now as Chief People Officer at Allbirds. She achieved success and won respect from her male peers largely on the strength of her ability to be tough, firm, and impassive - traits exemplified by her hardline Lebanese immigrant father. But her prized business reputation came at a personal cost: routinely, and often subconsciously, suppressing her natural feminine qualities. Like many high-achieving women, Tarraf struggled to balance courage and compassion, being respected and being likeable. After suffering three devastating losses, she finally accessed her buried emotions and gave herself permission to be vulnerable and caring - to be fully human as a leader and in all aspects of her life.

In Strong Like Water, Laila Tarraf writes with emotional depth and honesty about her painful journey of self-discovery and her profound transformation as a leader, a mother, and a woman. A blend of memoir, psychological probe, and leadership guide, her book offers timely lessons for women - and for men at the top as well - about the value of leading others with sensitivity to their differences and challenges, a commitment to values beyond profit, and empathy. "I have come to see that true power comes from connecting your head to your heart," Tarraf states, and through her powerful and moving story, readers will come to see that too.

The eldest child of a cold, hard father who could be cruel and violent and a needy, helpless mother who often relied on her for solace, Laila learned at an early age the importance of being responsible, keeping the peace, and never being seen as weak. Still, she believed her parents loved her and would come through in a crisis - until her husband died from a drug overdose. While reeling from shock and grief, Tarraf realized her parents were both incapable of giving her the emotional support she desperately needed. With that awakening, the author began to reassess what being strong truly means. With the help of a therapist and mentors, she came to recognize how her determination to stick with her decisions and never show her feelings had hurt her colleagues and employees, her past relationships, and herself.

Strong Like Water's focus on developing flexibility incorporates all kinds of influences on the author's learning and growth processes - some from unexpected places and people, including her young daughter. "My little girl had become the catalyst for me to reconnect with my heart, and in this way, she was my teacher," Tarraf reflects. Yet, she also emphasizes the danger of letting a child step into a mother's role, and her commitment to not repeating the pattern of damage. She writes about how she became a better delegator and collaborator when she let go of her "hero persona," and why she now takes great pride in being known as a leader who is able to combine strength with love.

Throughout Strong Like Water, business readers who look for such connections will find plenty of inspirational moments, as well as practical guidance on how to be an effective leader who builds trust and empowers others. Written with striking candor and, yes, heart, Laila Tarraf's story also speaks to those grappling with loss and those searching for more meaning in work and a more balanced, fulfilling life.

Fishing for Something
Andrew Scott Bassett
Luminare Press
9781643883526, $4.99 Ebook, $15.95 Paperback, $28.95 Hardcover

When their father dies, estranged brothers John and Audie Barrett find themselves on an unusual cross-country journey that reveals secrets about the family and each other in Fishing for Something. It's a death that not only highlights their alienation from their father and each other, but introduces many surprises - such as the fact of their father's wealth, which they won't inherit unless they follow his last wishes about embarking on a trip together.

Charged with a mission of contacting and visiting their father's old friends, the brothers find that each person contributes a different piece to the puzzle of their father's life and decisions, as well as their own psyches.

Fishing for Something takes the road trip concept to another level as it throws together two disparate lives and a shared background that has weakened family bonds over the years.

It should be cautioned that readers who anticipate a large number of fishing descriptions or a philosophical worldview such as that presented in the classic A River Runs Through It receive much more than a fishing journey alone, here.

Andrew Scott Bassett's story embraces all kinds of colorful characters who each present a different view of not just their relationship with the boys' father, but their lives and perspectives on it. This expands the scope of the story, building not just the sons' revelations, but the father's world.

It should be mentioned that Fishing for Something is presented from the third person point of view of an outsider looking in. This provides a sage look at all the characters as the father's life is revealed through reflections and recollections of escapades and events that forged lasting friendships: "John then interrupts again. He's still wondering how they became friends..."He had the worst hangover the next day on the boat. I spent that second day sitting next to him, talking with him, getting to know him and his past. He let down his ego then and we talked all that day. Beneath all the bravado, he was a good guy and we became fast friends from that day forward."

This isn't just a compendium of staid, back porch revelations. The boys encounter a variety of characters and also some threats, including an unexpected rescue from a deadly situation by Sonny Ricci, a mobster who controls most of the southeast seaboard.

The result is a road trip of family and self discovery that captures ironies, changing relationships, good and bad characters, and the true impact of a father's legacy on sons who are just getting to know him and each other after his death: "You cast your line out into the great unknown, like you do yourself. You patiently wait to see what happens, and you hope it's something good." "You hope for what exactly?" John's curious. "You hope you catch something really big," Audie says...

Readers seeking literary stories of family entanglements and developments will find this journey exceptional.

Super Dense Crush Load
Aneesh Abraham
Independently Published
9798568463306, $8.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

Super Dense Crush Load: The Story of Man REDUX represents history, fable, and philosophical in a package that will appeal to thinking readers searching for something thought-provokingly different.

One might expect a chronological history, but Aneesh Abraham embraces a different approach by considering classic human conflicts with world, self, and the broader universe at large.

The actions of mankind both within himself and in the world, as well as perceptions of the greater universe, are distilled into a survey some might say is replete with verbiage. However, the story strings together language and concepts in a way that is enlightening and unique: "The story of Man has historically been recounted in many forms, condensed and hashed into digestible pop capsules - all praiseworthy products of our supremely evolved skills. The distilled brew here is extracted and reduced from three potent entities - nature, Man, and the universe, into a schema that is nothing short of a black hole, pulling everything in, including mankind's past, present, and future, crushing it into an uncomfortable density. As against standard chronological history, the journey of mankind is seen in a different light, not with studio perfection, but with all the hard shadows and noise. For our purpose, we can conceive a trinity of sorts playing out in the higher plane of the Cosmos."

As this candid history plays out, readers will be surprised by the emotional focus replete within its survey that is missing from the usual historical reenactment of human affairs: "The famine of 1943 was a result of the callous attitude and complicity of the then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who fared little better than his Axis counterparts when it came to valuing life."

Be prepared for mind-bending connections that do more than present history, focusing on the underlying motivations and ethics that changed lives: "Many policies and tactics of the British, including the innovation of concentration camps in the Second Boer War, and the "master race" conviction went on to become the inspiration for the Nazis."

No doubt about it: Super Dense Crush Load is indeed a remake of and remark on perceptions of past events, present-day psyche, and future ambitions and struggles.

Certain to be controversial, Super Dense Crush Load provides many points for discussion, newfound reflections, and intriguing ideas about some of the dangerous possibilities mankind faces in the future: "Artificial intelligence, designed by humans for machines, is envisaged to supercharge humanity, giving it an ally of equal, if not more competence. In the quest to develop better tools, AI may be the breakthrough that will allow us the pleasure and power of humanized machine slaves."

Super Dense Crush Load is especially recommended reading for college-level students who would enjoy and contemplate a very different approach to human affairs than the usual historical, philosophical, or technological focus on mankind's evolving society and values.

Make it a Double
Randall McNair
Bits of Steak Press
9781735108049, $10.99 Paper, $24.99 Hardcover, $4.99 ebook

Make it a Double is Randall McNair's second book of poems and adopts a solid, belligerent attitude from the start, with a poetic disclaimer identifying McNair's audience and intentions: "This is not/your mother's poetry - /erudite and finished./No, this is swinging-dick poetry,/big-hanging-balls poetry,/written by a man for men."

The collection is replete in profanity, whiskey, and powerful reflections on encounters from both sides of the bar stool. It sizzles and synthesizes as it depicts a life not usually committed to verse: "I write love poems about/wood bars and darkened rooms/ice-cold beer and whiskey./I cherish the voices of my fellow drunks/and wear the foolishness of their words/like wool around my neck,/our tumblers clanking/like wind chimes/as we toast our luck."

The brash candor of these pieces will certainly offend the politically correct, many a female mind, and those who equate the poetic form with circumspect wisdom...but this collection isn't written for the usual audience. Those seeking literary odes or traditional epic approaches would be advised to look elsewhere; because while Make it a Double is both literary and epic, it doesn't reflect the usual sense of these words, and is guaranteed to raise hackles in the erudite mind.

If there was ever 'poetry for the people' designed to explore the experiences, perceptions, and milieu of a class not usually committed to verse, it would be this collection.

McNair's observations of drink, drunks, bars, women, and the underbelly of life will resonate strongly with anyone familiar with this milieu: "The whiskey weighs on me/like a leaden cloak/leaching into my bloodstream,/changing the very structure/of my face."

Even the poem titles are often gritty and revealing, as in 'Uncle Jim's Last Shot of Whiskey on a Cloudy Day in Late September Just Before he Was Swallowed by the Earth.'

Readers (especially men) looking for poems that speak to the heart, embedded with reflections on alcohol and life, with a bit of hair of the dog that comes with the bite of originality, will relish these reflections.

Falling Love Notes
Samantha Bennington
Around the Way Publishing
9781735529905, $16.95 Paper, $9.98 Kindle

Falling Love Notes: Memories of a Rock Star Wife offers a revealing close-up examination of life before and after Samantha's marriage to Chester Bennington, the lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park. It provides a view not only of the world of this rock music star's wife, but her perspective on growing up in the music industry and her passion for both its routines and the world outside of it.

Most of all, it's a story about remaining true to oneself and the values of family and friendship while becoming more mindful about life and one's place and role in it. In this way, Falling Love Notes may begin with an appeal to the rock music fan in general, but holds notes that will attract any audience interested in growth and creating a lesson plan for contributing to the greater good.

Readers receive a powerful tale that opens with a child's fight with a grown woman and mother figure, one of two such important people in her life who were both "bat shit crazy." Her trust and belief in a father who ultimately failed to support her and instead chose to placate a stepmother's desire that broke the family is just one of the themes that come full circle in this story.

From fresh starts and close sibling relationships developed against all adversity to forming a chosen family who have her back to then becoming part of a traveling music group 'family' on the road, Bennington's description of mental and physical health challenges, life, and her evolving world offers many insights: "We all lived and worked together, traveling from city to city, state to state, and even country to country. When that happens, the people you spend time with really do become family. Our new family of friends were there for us in both our day-to-day and our business lives. Together, we all became a fusion of love."

There are plenty of musician bios on the market which chart similar paths and experiences, but Bennington's memoir differs with its focus on the growth of not just relationships between band members and fans, but her own pursuit of renewal and growth and her especially astute realizations of challenges during this process: "I gave him space to not have family pressures when he recorded. Then our fights became the "I miss you fight" instead of him taking the day-to-day studio grind out on yours truly. It wasn't that he meant to. Like many people, Chester was harder on the ones he loved because he thought they loved him so much they would put up with his shit. I'm not going to start pointing fingers. I know I'm guilty of doing the same. But, maybe because I did love him so much I made excuses for his behavior."

While readers will likely pick up this book because of a specific interest in the band Linkin Park or the rock music world in particular, they'll leave with something else - a sense of how purpose, place, and family is reinvented as the winds of change buffet their lives: "With scary conspiracies and so many people in our lives we needed to be completely removed to see clearly and make the best decisions for our future and safety."

Readers who choose Falling Love Notes for its celebrity reveal promise gain much more through Bennington's story of how she moved upward in the worlds and choices she was given, to learn and love in different ways.

As an inspirational read, Falling Love Notes is just as powerful as in its role as a celebrity memoir.

The Talking Mango Tree
A H Benjamin, Author
Daniel J. O'Brien, Illustrator
CaribbeanReads Publishing
9781953747006, $8.99 Paperback
9781953747013, $16.50 Hardcover

The Talking Mango Tree receives gorgeous, full-color tropical pictures by Daniel J. O'Brien and presents a 44-page reader suitable for elementary to middle grade readers. It tells of the dilemma faced by forest creatures when the mango tree with the tastiest mangos begins to make demands of its would-be harvesters.

Peacock finds this out when the tree commands him to sing for his supper. Snake is just about to take a bite when he's told to stand on his head. Monkey is commanded to do acrobatics. Each is challenged to perform a task they aren't naturally suited for, and the mango tree is much amused by these efforts.

Why is the tree suddenly talking? And why are its demands so challenging? The forest creatures decide to ferret out the truth, but the story's joy lies in events that transpire before this effort.

Kids with rudimentary reading skills will find this story thoroughly absorbing, unpredictable, and fun, powered by the illustrator's unique knack for capturing both colorful tropical settings and the whimsical responses of each animal to impossible demands.

More so than most picture book stories, The Talking Mango Tree is a keepsake that will not 'age', but is certain to receive repeat attention and enjoyment from a wide audience of young readers (and even read-aloud adults working with them).

It is very, very highly recommended reading.

Days of Hope, Miles of Misery
Fred Dickey
Lost River Books
9781735834108, $15.95 Paper; $22.95 Hardcover; $7.95 Kindle

Readers of Western historical fiction well know that many novels have already been written about events surrounding the Oregon Trail. However, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery - Love and Loss on the Oregon Trail take a different approach than most, depicting the strife caused by a disparate band of wagon train travelers who face life-threatening adversity with different approaches to living, loving, and problem-solving.

Many wagon train accounts focus on a single family facing pioneer challenges. This story follows the group as a whole, from Hannah Blanc, a physician mourning the loss of her husband by suicide and a terrible new marriage to a cruel man; group leader Nimrod Lee, who harbors a secret mission beyond guiding the wagon trains through the wilderness; and others who face disease, dissent, Indians, and physical and mental challenges to survival.

Fred Dickey uses descriptive language that captures the experience of being a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, not only presenting the physical challenges, but the shared trials of the wagon train group: "The other pioneers hugged each other for warmth. They shivered in ragged, smelly clothes, and endured the wind as it moaned through fir branches and gave teeth to the cold. Hannah hoped that when dawn came, and it was time to rise, every one of them would. For those companions, it was a night of misery of a terrible kind. There was no defense and no escape. Stupor was their refuge. The mountains' intent was to break their spirits so they would quit the survival struggle and slide into death."

He also excels in the dialogues and interactions he creates between all involved in the Oregon Trail experience [This about Nimrod letting a snake live.]: "Indians say you rile up a bad spirit if you kill just to be killing. It stayed coiled because that's how they protect theyselves. If it stretches out to crawl, it's got no defense. When he crawled away, he was leaving peaceful. Anyway, Captain, you got to respect a rattlesnake's honesty. He is who he is, and he don't lie about it. He don't want trouble, but if called on, he's sure to give it. If you make him nervous, he'll make you sorry." A man asked, "Surely you don't believe that bad spirit business?" Nimrod tipped his head in thought. "Until I see it proved wrong, I'm going to walk soft around it."

From children who must learn the difference between mercy and cruelty to how the trappings of civilization and civilized behavior standards are negated in the frontier experience, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery is a compelling story that is especially strong in probing how one woman reassesses abuse, tenderness, and weakness in her life and choices.

More than another Oregon Trail history, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery is an outstanding survey of the pioneer spirit and what it takes to survive and make a new life replete with new values, discoveries, and dreams.

Set against the backdrop of a life-threatening journey, it's a powerful saga that takes the wagon train trek and closely examines what it means to be a survivor.

Fans of Western fiction looking for superior stories will relish the spirit, descriptions, and experiences in Days of Hope, Miles of Misery, which is more than a cut above other Oregon Trail stories

Road to the Breaking
Chris Bennett
CPB Publishing, LLC
9781733107938, $16.99 Paperback
9781733107945, $2.99 Ebook

In early 1860, war is challenging everything across America, including the life of war hero Captain Nathaniel Chambers, a Texas outpost commander who receives the news that his father has died in Virginia. His family calls for his return home to oversee the family plantation not just to assume his father's role, but to save them from a dangerous, scheming neighbor. Never mind the fact that Nathan had other plans for his life.

Road to the Breaking tests these plans and more as it provides the first book in a series about the Civil War's lasting impact on families, destinies, and even a war hero's future.

More so than most Civil War novels, it focuses on the choices presented and possible during a conflict that has deeply divided the nation. Battles are fought on many levels, and Nathan's military background has, ironically, prepared him for all kinds of conflict...including those of schemers who would become rich from inheritance and death.

Chris Bennett takes the time to examine the atmosphere and actions of Nathan, Megs, and a host of other characters, providing intricate details of everything from a murder attempt and a slave's implication in it to the changing nature of a poker game: "The introduction of exponentially more combinations of hands made it impossible to predict what your opponent might be holding. This led to a whole new type of betting, not based on how good your hand actually was, but rather on fooling your opponents into thinking your hand was better or worse than it was. In fact, this new form of betting had so altered the psychology of the game that many people now simply referred to it as "Bluff." The element of chance had, to some extent, been replaced by one's ability to "read" other player's reactions. How they behaved when looking at their dealt hand, how many cards they exchanged in the draw, how enthusiastically they bet, and so on, all had meaning. Men who became expert at reading these "tells" had a great advantage over those who simply knew the rules of the game."

While, at times, these details might feel too verbose or intricate, they contribute to the overall approaches of characters charged with change and problem-solving outside the box, demonstrating the origins of their abilities to move beyond the familiar to resolve issues in strange territories.

From daily life challenges and the emotions that respond to changing circumstances and new dangers to diverse characters from different walks of life who interact and intersect on personal battlegrounds, Road to the Breaking isn't just about one man's revelations and choices, but the various layers of interaction that change the face of a nation as it stumbles into conflict.

The conflicts between prejudice and loyalty during and after battle are particularly well drawn in conversations such as this one between Nathan and a hotel proprietor over Nathan's Indian employee: "Let me ask you something, Mr. Wilburn. Have you ever served in the Army, or been a lawman, or done anything dangerous for the benefit of others? In fact, anything at all besides working in this grand, fancy hotel in the midst of this great, sparkling city?"

"Uh ... no sir. I have never done any of those things." "Well then, let me tell you something, sir! While you've been here wiping up spilled whiskey, and cleaning out dirty ashtrays, that ... 'Indian' has been risking his life fighting for the United States Army in Texas. Fighting against the enemies of our civilization. Serving this country so people like you can live in a nice, comfortable, safe place with no fear of ravaging Comanches, bandits, or foreign armies. And he has never asked for anything in return, not even a thank you. He is respectful, literate, polite, and clean - cleaner than most white men I've known, for that matter."

The result is a vivid study in not just American ideals, but early race relations that places Nathan at a pivotal point in his personal history as well as the fate of the nation.

Road to the Breaking's ability to provide a lively discourse between different segments of society on a collision course lends it a realistic, compelling feel that will attract historical novel and Civil War readers. But it also will reach into general-interest audiences who like engrossing stories of romance, ethical and moral conundrums, and evolving predicaments that range from murder attempts to military confrontation.

Far Sweeter Than Honey: Searching for Meaning on a Bicycle
William Spencer
DartFrog Books
9781951490928, $15.99
9781951490935, $5.99 eBook

Far Sweeter Than Honey: Searching for Meaning on a Bicycle is a multinational journey that begins in England and moves through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. William Spencer travels eight thousand miles via bicycle, encountering different cultures and environments that challenge and shift his worldview.

The author begins by admitting that while he and his buddy said they were embarking on an overland journey to India via bicycle, they weren't sure they'd make it. It took six months for them to crystallize this notion. They had little savings, but Spencer's mother and stepfather, avid travelers themselves, supported the adventure.

He brings along for the ride a lesson he learned from a prior trip, which is that "being on a bicycle brings out the best in those we meet." This perception supports him through long days of cycling, nights spent sleeping under the stars, every time they find themselves accepting the hospitality of hosts that teach them about the societies they are passing through, sickness, and bad moods.

All of the realities of a cross-cultural exploration are incorporated into this cycling adventure, in which Spencer adopts a "you are there" storytelling style to explore both interpersonal relationships and encounters with strangers, as well as the ongoing challenges inherent in the experience.

Cycling and travel aficionados will relish Far Sweeter Than Honey for its attention to detail. The concurrent growth and revelations evolve into gratitude and wonder for the journey and its newfound gifts.

Readers looking for a book that goes far beyond the usual single-country exploration will find Far Sweeter Than Honey the next best thing to undertaking such a challenge oneself.

And for those who dream of following in this author's footsteps, reading his account is a sure way to better understand the realities of doing so, and the rewards of growth and understanding that come with the journey.

Crazy Kind of Beautiful
Whiskey Gray
Happy Tag Press
9781735452210, $2.99 Ebook, $9.99 Paperback

Crazy Kind of Beautiful will reach readers interested in stories about Southern living as it explores the special challenges of teenager Madison, charged with caring for her six siblings while her father struggles with end-stage cancer.

The guardian who is set to take over upon her father's death is unreliable, their ex-mother Lisa left the family long ago, and Madison wonders what will happen to her family.

"It's all of us or none of us," she pronounces, in response to proposals to split them up. "I'm not going anywhere without all my family. Our family sticks together no matter what." But can she hold tight to this admonition against all odds?

Madi is challenged to not only keep her large family together, but to make her father's final days and their goodbye to him more meaningful. As life becomes even crazier, she and those who undertake to become part of her family acknowledge " in the midst of all this strangeness...all the crazy, something beautiful is growing out of it."

Crazy Kind of Beautiful goes beyond Madi's personal focus to explore how everyone is touched by the death, the family, and their own personal choices and consequences in the process of life's evolution.

Madi's father's deathbed confession of a wrong that Madi sets out to make right changes everything for all of them, begs forgiveness, and sends her on a journey to strangers who inadvertently become family.

Crazy Kind of Beautiful's powerful story of redemption, newfound connections, and redefined life purpose creates a compelling story that interlaces a series of encounters by family and friends who discover within adversity something greater that drives and connects their lives.

It's a vivid read that lingers in the mind long after the story is over...a story of growth, belonging, and expanding boundaries that will delight those interested in uplifting reading.

Yanks Behind the Lines
Jeffrey B. Miller
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538141649, $29.00 Paper; $94.00 Hardcover; $27.50 ebook

General-interest history readers who look for lively stories that bring to life events and people will find Yanks Behind The Lines: How the Commission for Relief in Belgium Saved Millions From Starvation During World War I just the ticket. It provides a revealing, engrossing experience of the efforts of young, inexperienced American volunteers who entered German-occupied Belgium to save that nation from starvation during World War I.

It's startling to note that this is the first in-depth coverage in more than 30 years of their efforts, which succeeded in saving the nation of some ten million from certain disaster. Readers with any interest in social issues as well as history - particularly the nuts and bolts of providing food relief under wartime conditions in enemy-occupied territory - will find this an amazing story indeed.

Embedded within the story is the overall evolution of the guiding principles and efforts of food relief, both from a capitalist viewpoint and a humanitarian perspective. These ideals often clashed as different people lectured about both sides of the coin: "Hoover fashioned it in a completely different way from how other relief efforts had been established. He organized it like a big business, which had opened it up to criticism that Smith acknowledged and described. "Many people still think of it as a huge American concern, eager to sell its goods. Every delegate has that anxious down-town look for a new customer, precisely as if he were to get a certain percentage or rake-off from a sale." "But that is where the difference comes in," Smith declared. "Though organized like a big business, where every account is scrupulously examined, every expenditure tallied, there is absolutely no diversion of funds [away from relief ]. . . . Though the Commission acts like a commercial house in reducing its expenses to the very lowest and in bringing its efficiency to the very highest, it is in its motives and spirit wholly an experiment in ideality, and that is what lends to the work such an absorbing, not to say exciting, interest." Moving quickly into hyperbole, Smith went on to say, "Almost every dream of the idealist comes true. People, for once in the world's history, are governed by purely unselfish motives."

Herbert Hoover (who would later become the 31st U.S. President) and the politics surrounding this humanitarian effort are given plenty of in-depth attention as Jeffrey B. Miller recreates dialogues and arguments, profiles major players both in the effort and behind the scenes, and brings all to life with dialogue and interactions that at times read with the lively drama of fiction.

The World War I atmosphere is given a 'you are here' feel that juxtaposes history's facts and statistics with a personal touch to reach general-interest readers beyond the usual World War I scholar or history buff. Extensive references at the conclusion support the history and contentions, adding sources for further reading.

From skirmishes between Belgian workers and German soldiers to forced deportations, internal conflicts, and relief processes that broke rules and offered no guarantees, Yanks Behind The Lines should be required reading for anyone interested in how humanitarian efforts operate behind the scenes during war times in general, and in Belgium during World War I in particular.

To Be Enlightened
Alan J. Steinberg, MD
Adelaide Books
9781953510600, $22.30

To Be Enlightened isn't another self-help guide, but a novel that tells of philosophy professor Abe Levy's drive to achieve personal enlightenment even if it costs him his long-term marriage. His wife is perfectly willing for him to explore religion within the larger context of their daily lives, while Abe's process involves more of an immersion into a different lifestyle that eventually captivates Sarah, as well.

As the new techniques help keep her anxiety and panic attacks at bay, Sarah begins to change as much or more than Abe, who suddenly finds himself left behind in a process he began in a leadership role.

Does Vedic philosophy hold all the answers? As Abe questions whether enlightenment is actually a different form of mania and draws connections between God, philosophy, and daily life's relationships, both within his marriage and himself, Abe's journey becomes even more complex (and often more puzzling, to him).

As theoretical, philosophical, and spiritual concepts collide with school politics and Abe's struggle with ego and enlightenment, readers receive a wide-ranging story that embraces the foundations of meditation and Eastern religion in a manner even general-interest readers with experience in neither can readily absorb.

From his involvement with troubled child Tom to his changing relationship with his wife, a number of subplots emerge during the course of this story. Some may say there are almost too many threads, but they all wind together nicely in the end.

Readers with a special interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality will find To Be Enlightened is not only an absorbing novel, but also astutely shows how the Eastern concept of enlightenment can be realized by everyday Westerners.

As Abe confronts the evolution of Self and his relationship to it, readers receive a fine survey of Eastern and Western mindsets. It is especially strong in its consideration of the intersection between Eastern and Western approaches to life's meaning, and the impact of bigger-picture thinking on ordinary lives.

Paris in Ruins
M. K. Tod
Tod Publishing
9780991967049, $14.99 pbk
9780991967056, $4.99 ebook

Historical fiction readers who look for stories set in the 1870s during the Franco-Prussian War will find this focus on Paris and its siege comes to life in Paris in Ruins. The story is a compelling saga that captures the coming Prussian army, the threat of a siege that could last for months, and the lives and sentiments of Parisians who lived through it.

One of these people is twenty-two-year-old Camille Noisette, a young woman who does not aspire to a good marriage, like most, but handles the grief of a sister's loss by keeping men at an acceptable emotional distance. She's fine with flirting with them, but wants nothing more, as she still mourns Juliette's loss.

As friends Mariele de Crecy, Bertrand, and others join her family and each survive the chaos and battles that consume their beloved city, readers gain a powerful vision of not just the struggle but its aftermath, and the changed social norms that emerged from Paris's ruins.

Descriptions of the emotions experienced by each as the siege introduces not just newfound powers but the possibility of anarchy make for a lively, revealing piece: "When will this end? Camille was keenly aware that if the siege didn't end soon, it would be compounded by an uprising pitting citizen against citizen within the walls of Paris. An uprising that could lead to anarchy and another bloody revolution."

The women move into different, more powerful roles and consider their changed positions and goals in both family and society. This is one of the many side effects of the siege of Paris, and readers receive an astute examination of these forces and their incarnation in each woman's life.

While the tests of friendship under duress come alive in this story, as well as changing social and political conditions, so does an emphasis on how individual choice and perception changes the effects of the tumultuous Paris experience both from the outside and from within, in its own peoples.

The conversations between this group and their acknowledgment of different social conditions and requirements are all well done and compellingly presented as the friends interact and strengthen their ties: "...make sure you know about the business, Mariele. A wife shouldn't concern herself only with household matters. My mother made that mistake, and I imagine yours has too. Although very different personalities, they're both too confined by social convention."

The result is a historical work based on real events, which blends in solid descriptions of the forces that buffeted and changed a nation.

Readers with a special interest in the Prussian War or Paris history will find Paris in Ruins personalizes the experience of living during tumultuous times and the lasting changes that evolved from these encounters. It's highly recommended reading for its emphasis on these psychological and social forces.

The Third Side of Murder
Joseph LeValley
Bookpress Publishing
9781947305229, $24.95

The Third Side of Murder presents the third Tony Harrington novel and opens with an Iowa newspaper reporter and his mother's journey to Italy to attend the funeral of a beloved cousin. Readers who enjoy stories of organized crime and mob interactions are in for a treat, because the tale takes off from there as Tony finds himself drawn to investigate his cousin's death and becomes involved in not only a murder investigation, but romance.

Joseph LeValley excels in capturing the nuances of Italian culture on both sides of the pond, slowly building his story with a series of introductory events that at first seem unrelated, from Tony Harrington's martial arts class to the beautiful Noemi's seeming contentment with her life and choices just before she dies.

As Tony becomes move involved in Noemi's life and the events that led to her demise, he moves from Italy to New York and back again in a complex pursuit of her killer that places him in danger. His moves cause even his best friend Doug Tenney to become more and more upset with his choices: "As we drove back here, the whole way I'm thinking what an idiot you are. You stirred the hornet's nest with no plan, no thought to the consequences, no damn clue about anything." "I..." "Don't make me say it again." Doug stared at him. "Just listen. My second thought was no, he's not clueless. He has a plan. I thought you'd decided to kill him. I feared you'd made up your mind to take this situation into your own hands and end it with a bullet to Costello's head." Doug paused to take a breath. His eyes were stony and unblinking. "But I've realized I was wrong about that too. I've realized you don't want to kill anyone. I'm not sure you could kill anyone, regardless of what they've done. A few minutes ago, it dawned on me. Your plan is worse. You want that asshole to come after you."

More than just a murder mystery, this thriller is about taking risks, making choices that hold dangerous consequences, and moving beyond the role of being a small-time reporter for the Orney Town Crier. Tony embraces a bigger picture outside of Iowa's small-town world, from crime syndicates and mob bosses to confronting his mother's desire that he find a "nice Italian girl" and settle down.

Readers who enjoy multifaceted stories of small town reporters and big city problems will find The Third Side of Murder especially strong in its cross-cultural, social, and political revelations. These elements go beyond a whodunit to probe Italian culture and crime connections alike. The story's fast pace and personal connections will keep readers involved to the end.

The Other Mrs. Samson
Ralph Webster
Independently Published
9798564829403, $15.99 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Readers of historical fiction and biography will find The Other Mrs. Samson an attraction both for its background histories of a Jewish and a German woman and its intriguing romance as these two disparate, strong individuals become participants in a love triangle over the same man, Dr. Josef Samson.

The story opens in 2020, where the first-person narrator stumbles upon a secret while searching for furnace filters in the attic during the pandemic. A hidden compartment in a chest of drawers reveals a bundle of letters and a notebook that will shatter the narrator's perception of the past and reinvent family history in a challenging new way.

Thus begins a story that spans generations and continents as two remarkable women with a shared husband find their lives changed by war, travel, other cultures, and love.

As a nineteen-year-old narrator comes to understand Mrs. Samson's life, the scenes move backwards and forwards in time, easily identified by chapter headings.

The opening salvo of the Great War and the pulsing liveliness of Berlin before that moment are captured in descriptions that admit that the underlying political moves of the times were not a part of the narrator's perceptions: "In those early days, I was not aware of Germany's ambitions. I did not know that the Fatherland was poised and ready, waiting for the opportune moment to strike and stake its claim to the empire. I had no knowledge of Europe's web of secret treaties and alliances that would soon foretell such a calamitous outcome. And I most certainly would have been unable to predict that within a short time, Josef and I would join the crowd of thousands milling in the streets and massed in front of the Berliner Schloss on the first of August when we anxiously awaited Germany's response to the answer Russia had given to Kaiser Wilhelm II's ultimatum. That afternoon, at five o'clock, we listened soberly and in hushed silence to the official announcement that war was about to begin, and we recognized that our lives were about to be turned upside down."

This juxtaposition of daily life, interpersonal relationships and connections, and the tides of social and political change that change everything is an exceptional strength in a story that keeps interest grounded by both personal and political affairs.

Another plus is the time Ralph Webster takes to thoroughly explore these events and the broader public perceptions of the times: "France's leaders were tired, politically divided, and still haunted by the memories of the Great War, when a generation of young men had been lost and more than four percent of France's population killed. The French public was not in a rush to get into another war with Germany, particularly one that would be fought again on French soil. The French weren't pacifists, but they were wary and cautious. If machine guns, artillery, and barbed wire had soaked their land with the blood of millions during the Great War, surely another war with more advanced technology and air power would be far more destructive. This time the government vowed to be prepared, but their military plan would be passive. They would be patient and wait."

The injection of a mystery, complex relationships buffeted by the winds of war and change, and a series of choices that cement the worlds of future generations are all wonderfully written, presented in a manner that will attract both historical fiction and general-interest readers alike.

The Other Mrs. Samson offers a gift of surprises, secrets, and political and social change that are often mirrored in modern times. From Katie and Joseph's unusual love to early 1900s immigration experiences in America, this sweeping epic will find a place among audiences who like their characters richly three-dimensional, powering a saga that excels in connecting different generations to a radically changing world.

Catch a Falling Knife
V. J. DeFil
Independently Published
9781736327005, $19.95

Catch a Falling Knife presents a thriller that opens with the killing of cabbies in New York, but then fast forwards to a future in which Valentina Vittorio, a Wall Street career saleswoman who runs in dangerous circles of the beautiful and the rich in the top echelons of the finance world, has been summoned to Hong Kong to work on a brand-new initiative headed by Mr. Jimmy Wen.

She's worked her way to the top quickly in only two years, but her greatest challenges lie ahead. V.J. DeFil captures the nuances of this world and her place in it from the start, exploring the ethical blur between boundaries that require that any success be tempered by savvy acknowledgment of the consequences of financial and business decisions: "Initially, in Valentina's mind there were two kinds of people in the financial realm: honest players who were above reproach and responsible, and bad actors who scammed and connived and ruined people's lives. It hadn't taken her long to realize how naive that was and that there were no ones and zeroes, only fractions of honesty or dishonesty. No black or white, only varying shades of gray. Not a problem. She could work with that, and she had."

When she is paired with Lucas Vaughn, a Chinese Australian businessman, she finds herself involved with a gritty and savvy individual who defies many of the conventions she's absorbed to get to the top: "Mr. Wen was most impressed with how you handled the Kalso-Moore deal," Vaughn said as they left the hubbub of the trading floor well behind them. "Very few could have pulled that whole cluster-fuck together as well as you did."

Hong Kong is a world in which the real money is made not on the stock trading floors she's used to, but under very different conditions. Lucas has known and worked with Jimmy Wen for years. His relationship and his position are about to be challenged.

As money laundering, big-stakes deals, and global marketplace shares come into play, Valentina finds that everything she thought she knew about Hong Kong's financial and political circles is being challenged in a dangerous game in which she is at a distinct disadvantage.

Jimmy Wen's Ponzi scheme envelopes her relationships and threatens her professional achievements; but like so many others, she finds herself drawn into the black hole of his circle. He's always a step ahead of her. Or, is he?

From dirty banks and her personal motive for bringing down Wen's empire to her concern for the small investors who likely will also fall, due to her actions and choices, Catch a Falling Knife traverses layers and layers of social and financial intrigue. The capable, purposeful Valentina finds herself drawn further and further into a trap she had a hand in creating, but can't extract herself from.

Between strategic thinkers, CEOs, and high-level negotiation strategies to the evolution of Valentina's own deadly game and the secret about her past, readers are lead on a globe-hopping journey by a woman who is a savvy and purposeful protagonist on a mission.

Readers of thrillers, corporate finance stories, intrigue, and global money matters will find Catch a Falling Knife replete with action, cat-and-mouse games between equally powerful players, and secrets which emerge only at the end.

Catch a Falling Knife is a compelling saga that will keep readers engaged in a high-stakes world that holds many twists and turns of purpose and plot up to its satisfyingly unpredictable conclusion.

Who's Jerry?
T. M. Jackson
Scrubs Like Us For Us, LLC
9781736128213, $12.99 Paper, $15.99 Hardcover, $9.99 ebook

Kids in Kindergarten to fifth grade will find Who's Jerry? a colorful picture book story about mental illness that begins with a young girl's excitement over an 'A' grade paper that she brings home to share with her mother. Her mother, however, is cruel and angry towards her. Why?

Her mother refers to someone named 'Jerry,' but Imani has never met this person, who seems to be stealing her mother from her. Why does he hate her? And why is her mother's behavior increasingly irrational?

Imani wonders why her mother is no longer taking care of herself...but most of all, she wonders why her mother no longer seems to love her.

As a caring teacher notes her grade fall from A to C and decides to intervene, young readers receive a careful consideration of the presence and effects of a parent's mental illness on the entire family.

T. M. Jackson does an exceptional job of presenting observations from Imani's point of view, slowly covering the indicators of mental illness and its effects on the young protagonist.

The only question that evolves as Imani explains matters to her father, who is called to the school, is why he never noticed anything wrong with Imani's mother, even before the work trip he's just returned from. Surely, some warning signs were there before he left? But, when Imani's father asks how long her mother has been acting a certain way, Imani states, "She' s been acting weird for a while, Daddy. She was hiding Jerry from everyone before, but now she doesn't anymore..." This reinforces the notion that mental illness can hide, for a time, until it's too overt to be overlooked.

Who's Jerry? excels in its consideration of a mother's mental condition from a child's viewpoint.

Who's Jerry? requires good reading skills and ideally will be read by an adult seeking to explain mental illness to the young picture book enthusiast. It provides a strong starting point for a child's understanding not just of the condition, but how a family can come together to improve matters.

There are too few books written for the very young about schizophrenia's impact on the family, making Who's Jerry? an important acquisition.

Glory Roslyn and the Heart of Universe
Independently Published
B085B8G65M, $0.99 Kindle, $8.40 Paper

Eleven-year-old Glory Roslyn has a warm and loving, giving perspective about life at her young age, even though her adoptive mother died when she was sick, sending her adoptive father into a whirlwind of alcohol and anger and leaving his cruel son to make Glory's life miserable.

Besides her giving heart, she is aided by a magical tiny snake that holds the ability to absorb her pain, keeping her loving heart intact against all the onslaughts of loss and trials in her home.

It turns out that Glory's serpent isn't the only force in her life that changes things. There's a broader power at large, just waiting for her discoveries and choices.

Glory Roslyn and the Heart of Universe doesn't open with Glory's perspective, but with an exploration of a broader world that includes the waning beauty of The Colossal (as the residents of the old homes name their colony). Beautiful gardens are waning, the too-hot sun is wiping out England's creatures, and havoc and madness are in the air with the violent weather changes.

A storm seems to indicate the end of the world, but instead it appears to be transformed. And in one old house, Glory is introduced, "lost in creativity" in her carving effort. Between the spooky milieu of a changing world and the crescendo of change that follows, readers of all ages will be drawn into a blend of fantasy and fairy tale that takes 'happily ever after' and gives it a spin of unpredictability.

Glory Roslyn and the Heart of Universe features all the trappings of a creative, solid read that inject Glory's world with a fine overlay of magic. Its descriptions are vibrant and compellingly original: "Glory was a sharp-featured, pale-faced eleven-year-old girl. She wore her black hair in a ponytail. She looked like a living body whose blood was sucked out and a few drops were left for the sake of mercy."

A search for the heart of the universe leads Glory, Pinku, Dream Walker, and a host of characters on an unexpected journey that leads to encounters with talking apple trees; a cult leader who has changed the hearts and minds of subjects to the king; ghosts; spells and counter-spells; and more.

Middle-grade kids and older who appreciate fantasy and evocative, heartfelt descriptions of quests that involve brave moves and different perceptions of the promise of the Heart of Universe will find Glory Roslyn and the Heart of Universe especially compelling for its beautiful, lyrical descriptions and thought-provoking insights that move well beyond the usual fantasy quest theme.

Readers of all ages searching for fresh, original descriptions and satisfying fantasy will find Glory Roslyn and the Heart of Universe an exceptional read.

Artima's Travels
E. A. Dustin
Verify, LLC
9798636199632, $13.30 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Sci-fi fans who have been binging on 'pandemic fiction' reads will find the satisfying backdrop of a post-pandemic world blended with military sci-fi in Artima's Travels. It's the story of a determined young woman charged with tracking down the hacker who has caused a missile to misfire in the Pacific, further threatening world stability.

Arty's effort sends her on an unexpected journey through both relationships in her life and intrigue as she faces a storm of change and encounters that test her perceptions of life outside the military circles she runs in.

Unlike most hard sci-fi or military sci-fi reads, E.A. Dustin knows how to embed emotional scenes, connections, and emotion-driven encounters into her story. This makes Artima's Travels far more compelling than the majority of genre reads.

This attention to emotional detail permeates not only her investigations but her team's approach to problem-solving as Artima struggles to redefine those people she thought she knew: "Yes, we first met in San Diego during your last visit there," Harry replied, quickly looking away. The familiar nod between Harry and Paul in San Diego flashed in front of Arty. Why would Harry say they first met in San Diego when clearly, they had met before?"

As problem-solving, intrigue, family relationships, and Navy politics entwine, readers will find the story strongly driven by a feisty female who knows how to get things done, who confronts the technological, social, and gender challenges of her position and life.

The result is a compelling read that cements its action with a vivid, believable protagonist. Arty's world and concerns are central in a story that's filled with surprising twists and hard to put down. Military sci-fi readers may pick this up for its Navy references; but civilians, too, will find Artima's Travels absolutely riveting.

Mickey on the Move
Michelle Wagner
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645433446, $16.95,

Mickey on the Move receives fun drawings by Jenny Phelps and follows the story of Mickey, who is about to start sixth grade at a new school. Unlike most stories about new kids, this one isn't's his fifth new school and move, after all.

As the story evolves, picture book readers with good reading skills learn that Mickey is hard of hearing, and gets around in the world with help from friends, technological adaptations, and an attitude that demonstrates a creative, positive spirit.

Mickey's transition at this new school seems to be on track, but there are still adjustments everyone needs to make, such as how his ochlear implants fail to cope with a noisy cafeteria environment. His wise mother knows that all it takes is a little knowledge and planning to make life go more smoothly for Mickey.

Kids who know little about hearing problems receive plenty of details during the course of Mickey's story. They also will learn about problem-solving, solutions, flexibility, and cultivating positive interpersonal relationships.

With its emphasis on education, adjustment, and cooperative thinking, Mickey on the Move is a highly recommended story that educates kids about those who are hard of hearing and the adjustments that make their lives better. This engaging story about a new kid who is slightly different also teaches kids about tolerance and adaptation, making this the perfect story of choice for parents looking for educate the young picture book readers about living with a hearing problem. Mickey on the Move is also highly recommended for collections seeking books about diversity.

The Adventures of Forkman: What's That Noise?
Tiffany Caldwell & W.R. MacKenzie
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645433965, $15.95,

The Adventures of Forkman: What's That Noise? is the second book in the 'Adventures of Forkman' series, enjoys fun drawings by Vanessa Alexandre, and tells of utensil superhero Forkman's instructions to kids on how to load the dishwasher and clean up.

This may sound like anything but an adventure, but Forkman makes it fun, educating kids about right and wrong ways to work while bringing young picture book readers into a world where talking forks and dishes with names (such as Peter the Plate) come to life.

The kids in this story can't understand what could be fun about cleaning dishes. Forkman enlightens them not just about proper procedures (such as positioning the dishes in the right areas in the dishwasher), but about working as a team to get a job done.

Forkman is soon joined by friends who advise the kids on safety, as well: "Hey, William!?" Knifeguy shouted. "Can you please turn me around and put my pointy end down? I do

not want anyone to get hurt by my blade!"

The result is a whimsical and fun romp through kitchen duty that expands into table etiquette as Forkman and his friends help kids understand the logic behind routines and etiquette.

Good reading skills or adult assistance will lend value to this engaging story of utensils that come to life to impart wisdom and fun to young learners.

Journey To A New Earth
Zeiny Sher, author
Zuzana Svobodova, illustrator
Zeinab Sher, Publisher
9789914703856, $10.99 Paper, $19.56 Hardcover, $4.99 Kindle

It's hard to identify just one strength in the engaging picture book story Journey To A New Earth: Penelope Panda and Kobi Koala Discover A New Earth; but certainly its most immediately striking aspect lies in gorgeous, colorful drawings by Zuzana Svobodova which prove instantly compelling before the story itself is even pursued.

Parents who choose this story for its read-aloud value will relish the lovely animals featured within as Penelope Panda decides it's a beautiful day for a stroll in the forest.

After eating some lovely leaves, she's just about to settle down for a nap when a crying koala captures her attention. It's Kobi, who explains that his home caught fire, and he was separated from his friends when everyone fled.

When they encounter a wise singing, talking tree who explains everything is connected, the real message of the story, beyond its introductory themes of friendship and helping those in need, emerges.

Parents who want to give kids different messages about giving, friendship, interconnected lives, and the enchantment of nature will find all these elements are explored in this gorgeous presentation.

Journey To A New Earth is highly recommended as a read-aloud that lures with especially vibrant color images and backs up this initial attraction with a message that parents and teachers will find especially important (and not often imparted with this mix of depth and simplicity) for young picture book readers.

Mommy's Oven
Brandi Pearce, author
Nazar Horokhivskyi, illustrator
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645434955, $15.95

Mommy's Oven is a picture book story about young August, who learns he soon will be the older brother in his family.

Nazar Horokhivskyi provides realistic, appealing illustrations that trace August's changing role as a single child, which he greets with enthusiasm. He's always wanted a sibling. But, how, exactly, will this new arrival come into their lives?

Brandi Pearce spins an attractive story that equates a mother's tummy to an 'oven' where the baby is baking until done. The major difference to this story is that the 'oven' lies not in August's mother's body, but in another. And so the concept of surrogacy is introduced.

Another difference is that the surrogate mother, Julia, is introduced to Augie, and a relationship develops between them all as her pregnancy evolves.

But, will the baby be Mommy's, or Julia's? How will this affect his relationship as the boy's brother? And how can they be related, if Julia is carrying the child?

Brandi Pearce does an excellent job of following through on the 'oven' and 'bake' concept, even explaining the relationship of the brothers by responding to Augie's question, saying that "the ingredients are the same" even though Julia provided the "oven."

The result is an introduction to surrogacy that will best benefit from parental read-aloud, as it requires good reading skills and a level of comprehension about the process that would best be reinforced by adult participation.

This fine story that celebrates surrogacy and how a special family comes together with a little extra help is recommended for any collection strong in health and family education.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Robert B. Parker's Someone To Watch Over Me
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Random House
9780525536857, $27.00,

While reading "Robert B. Parker's Someone To Watch Over Me" I was reminded how similar the novel is to the Jeffery Epstein abuse case. Spenser is asked by Mattie Sullivan a woman he aided a number of years ago to now help a friend of hers. His investigation sets off a chain of events that lead to privately owned Caribbean island, where a billionaire for years has been providing teenage girls for clients to have massages and sexual favors. Atkins races the story along with snappy dialogue, a solid story ripped from the headlines, and favorite characters who fill the caper with a rapid-fire pacing to a gratifying conclusion "Robert B. Parker's Someone To Watch Over Me" is a wonderful addition to the Spenser series.

Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593188354, $28.00,

A Stone Barrington story is always exciting adventure and "Hush-Hush" maintains the suspense full throttle all the way through. Stone receives a message on his computer to pay a demand or his hard drive will be destroyed. He responds with a three-word reply. To unlock it he enlists the aid of Rocky, a female computer whiz, who is a lot more than she appears. She reveals that his home and office have been broken into but there is no clear evidence until his terminal detonates exposing someone placed explosive materials in the device. From then on "Hush-Hush" is a series of twists and turns to find the mastermind behind it all. "Hush-Hush" is a page turning thrill ride to the very end.

Every Kind Of Wicked
Lisa Black
Kensington Books
9781496722386, $26.00,

"Every Kind Of Wicked" opens with a dead body in a cemetery. What better place for one? Clearly, it's a case of murder. Enter forensics expert Maggie Gardiner who already has enough to deal with Cleveland detective Jack Renner, her ex-husband Rick who has doubts about Jack and a series of vigilante murders and now a corpse in the graveyard. "Every Kind Of Wicked" races along with believable conflicted characters and a story that comes to a satisfying conclusion. Lisa Black is a master of suspense utilizing her expertise of forensic science to tell one hell of a great read in "Every Kind Of Wicked."

Splintered Silence
Susan Furlong
Kensington Books
9781496711670, $7.99,

Former Marine MP Brynn Callahan and her canine partner Willco abruptly end their tour of duty to return to her hometown in Tennessee. As she begins to settle into her new life, she starts to learn that all she knew when she went to combat is not true. She confronts a number of issues while working with local law enforcement that include her family's past, including her mother did not die in the manner she had always been told. "Splintered Silence" is the first of a new series of suspense novels that is sure to please anyone looking for a new author to pick up/

Saving Freedom
Joe Scarborough
c/o Harper Collins
9780062950499, $29.99,

Through the years there have been many books written about Harry Truman and his presidency. None has concentrated on only a single aspect until "Saving Freedom." With a keen eye Scarborough focuses on the beginning of The Cold War with Russia. After World War II Russia attempted to take over the governments of Greece and Turkey. Truman with stiff opposition from members of Congress realized we must aid these nations to keep them from becoming communist. He realized the United States could not go back to isolationist policies "Saving Freedom" like the Three-Day series by Bret Baire is for anyone who wants a behind the scenes look at past presidents and how they dealt with a particular aspect of their presidency. These titles should be required reading to better understand that branch of our leadership.

The Last Days of John Lennon
James Patterson with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316429061, $30.00

"The Last Days of John Lennon" reads like a Patterson novel but is nonfiction. Though the title says it's the last days of the famous song writer, performer it goes into more detail of the former Beatle to establish who he was and his multi accomplishment. For many Lennon's life will be new because there are so many people in the world who have no idea who he was and his influence on the world in so many ways. The portrait of Chapman, Lennon's executioner is a chilling progression of warped thinking precipitated that him to murder Lennon to be more famous than his target. "The Last Days of John Lennon" is an eye-opening read that dispels many of the myths of Mark David Chapman

Mess To Majestic
Laura McCarthy M. A. LMHC. MCAP
Restoring Hope Publishing
97981734607703, $16.95,

"Mess To Majestic" is one woman's struggle to kick her addictive habits to a better life. McCarthy shows how far a person can go when you have low self-esteem. Striving to do better in her own existence, she utilized different techniques that included a return to a belief in God. She worked her way up the ladder to become a professional mental health counselor to assist others "Mess To Majestic" is an inspirational journey through darkness by hard work to obtain a brighter future with a belief. If I am able, so too can others.

Dear Cancer: A Collection of Letters from One Woman's Fight
Rita Pamplin
Independently Published
9798648749146, $5.00,

Rita Pamplin's "Dear Cancer" is the only other title I would not recommend for anyone going through the ordeal of the disease. Here are some reasons. "Dear Cancer" is a tough read because much of it is very confusing to understand what she means; it has many conflicting messages. For instance, she talks about having tolerance for things of change and yet she is very put out with a person who is not her regular treatment nurse is just one instance. There often is a clash of cancer this way or Cancer. The significance is to not give it an overwhelming quality with a capital C. and often she addresses cancer including things that are not relevant She has not changed anything in her life of how she deals with stressful situations. There are other things that complicate her battle. Most Cancer survivors also say you learn what is important in life and value what you have turning negatives into positives. She does not seem to have gotten to that level in her fight and the book ends abruptly. "Dear Cancer" is not something I would ever prescribe to anyone facing the challenges of any disease.

Florida's Healing Waters
Rick Kilby
University Press of Florida
9780813066530, $29.95,

So often people think of Disney World and the other attractions in Orlando but there are other aspects of the state that are just as interesting as shown by author Rick Kilby in "Florida's Healing Waters." Readers are treated to a historic journey that reveals more about its past through the springs and healing waters that in many cases are no longer a part of the region. Also, there are resorts and hotels that also played important roles in the development of the territory. Filled with artwork, pictures, and documents Kilby has brought forth a wonderful look at the past of the Sunshine State. Even for native residents "Florida's Healing Waters" is an educational tool to enlighten of a very different area of the country that should not be forgotten.

Freeda the Frog & Her New Blue Family
Nadine Haruni, author
Tina Modugno, illustrator
Mascot Books
9781684011322, $14.99, www,

Blended families are a way of life now but they are not always like "The Brady Bunch as many sometimes think "Freeda the Frog & Her New Blue Family" shows the conflicts kids have when one of their divorced parents remarry. Some of them are letting the other parent know they love him or her the same as always while adapting to the new one, going from parent to parent and accepting someone who is very different from them are some of the underlying issues that are dealt with. "Freeda the Frog & Her New Blue Family" is for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Wear the Damn Mask
Izzy the Frenchie, author
Rick Hendricks, author
Shane Jordan, author
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781982171223, $12.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: A French bulldog and doggy celebrity Izzy loves going out and about just like the rest of us, but she also knows how important it is to be stylish and safe. In the pages of "Wear the Damn Mask", the four-legged "sassy fashion lover" (Vogue) shows how you can effortlessly be both.

Featuring endearing and funny full color photos of Izzy accompanied by cheeky words of wisdom on when to wear your mask and how to properly social distance, "Wear the Damn Mask" is a laugh-out-loud, clever read that will help prevent COVID-19 from literally going to the dogs.

Critique: Funny and relevant, "Wear the Damn Mask" is recommended for all community library collections -- and would make an excellent gift to anyone that isn't wearing a mask when they go out into today's pandemic infested world. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wear the Damn Maks" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Izzy the Frenchie became famous on Instagram for her snazzy style and clever quips. She has been featured in People, Vogue, Paper Magazine, and many more. Her "wedding" to Whoopi Goldberg's granddog, Fil, received extensive coverage from Brides and was named "2019's Wedding of the Year" by Entertainment Tonight and "Cutest Dog Wedding Ever" by The View. She was a 2020 Webby Award Honoree and August 26, 2020 was proclaimed "Izzy the Frenchie Day" by the Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, in her honor. She lives in East Hampton, New York.

Editorial Note #2: Dr. Rick Hendrix was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Shane Jordan was raised in Dallas, Texas. Hendrix and Jordan ran a music marketing firm for more than two decades, helping score hundreds of number one songs and more than 250 million-selling albums for artists like Whitney Houston, U2, Garth Brooks, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, and others. The duo worked on the soundtracks to the hit films The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson), The Prince of Egypt, and Hannah Montana: The Movie. Jordan is a civil and human rights contributor to The Advocate and HuffPost. Hendrix received a doctorate in sacred music and theology, and later studied at Oxford while advising several US politicians on faith and religion.

Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers
Jeff Porter
Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781617759079, $37.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: "Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers" by Jeff Porter is the personally intimate story of the untimely death of his wife. It is an impressively candid account of the following year of madness and grief. As his life unravels, Porter analyzes his sadness with growing interest. He talks to Claire as if to evoke a presence, to mark a space for memory. He reports on his daily walks and shares observations of life's sadness, while reminiscing about various moments in their life together. Like Orpheus, the author searches for a lost love, and what he finds is not the dog of doom but flashes of an intimate symmetry that brighten the darkest places of sorrow.

Critique: An inherently absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers" is laced with unexpectedly effective blend of humor and heartbreak, love and loss, that is as intimately personal as it is recognizably universal. The result is an account that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. While unreservedly recommended for community library Death/Grief/Bereavement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781617758461, $16.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781705212899, $24.99, CD).

Best Women's Erotica of the Year: Volume 6
Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627783019, $16.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Expertly compiled and deftly edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, "Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 6" from Cleis Press is comprised of twenty adventure themed stories that take readers around the globe an introduce them to characters eager to indulge their sensual sides.

From competing on a reality show and getting "Inked on My Skin" by an extremely sexy tattoo artist to exploring a "Cabinet of Curiosities," these characters say yes to their most daring desires. Whether a single mom having a hot vacation fling, a vegetarian lusting after a hunky butcher, a couple visiting a kinky escape room, or a divorcee hitting up a motorcycle club and going on an "Easy Ride," these erotic tales bare all. Women who've been told they're "too much," by an ex or the world, discover the joy of asking for more and more and more -- and getting it.

Mature readers will enjoy women's sexual fantasies come to life, from fetishes to kinks to a very arousing way to use an instruction manual. With stories by popular erotic romance authors Shelly Bell, Zoey Castile, Jeanette Grey, Mia Hopkins, Katrina Jackson, Elizabeth SaFleur, Naima Simone, Olivia Waite and Elia Winters, and newcomers to the genre, this latest volume of pansexual sex tales from Cleis Press will make hearts, minds and imaginations race with excitement!

Critique: For a mature readership only, "Best Women's Erotica of the Year: Volume 6" is a collection of the best women's erotic writing being published today. Especially and unreservedly recommended for women seeking vicarious erotic fantasy entertainment, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Best Women's Erotica of the Year: Volume 6" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat
Aubrey Gordon
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807041307, $25.95, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: Hostility toward fatness is to be found everywhere. In "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat", Aubrey Gordon unearths the cultural attitudes and social systems that have led to people being denied basic needs because they are fat and calls for social justice movements to be inclusive of plus-sized people's experiences.

Unlike the recent wave of memoirs and quasi self-help books that encourage readers to love and accept themselves, Gordon pushes the discussion further towards authentic fat activism, which includes ending legal weight discrimination, giving equal access to health care for large people, increased access to public spaces, and ending anti-fat violence. As she argues, "I did not come to body positivity for self-esteem. I came to it for social justice."

By sharing her experiences as well as those of others (ranging from smaller fat to very fat people) she concludes that to be fat in our society is to be seen as an undeniable failure, unlovable, unforgivable, and morally condemnable. Fatness is an open invitation for others to express disgust, fear, and insidious concern. To be fat is to be denied humanity and empathy. Studies show that fat survivors of sexual assault are less likely to be believed and less likely than their thin counterparts to report various crimes; 27% of very fat women and 13% of very fat men attempt suicide; over 50% of doctors describe their fat patients as "awkward, unattractive, ugly and noncompliant"; and in 48 states, it's legal (even routine) to deny employment because of an applicant's size.

Advancing fat justice and changing prejudicial structures and attitudes will require work from all people. "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat" is a crucial tool to create a tectonic shift in the way we see, talk about, and treat our bodies, fat and thin alike.

Critique: Uniquely dealing with one of the most pervasive social discriminations, "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat" is a clarion call for attitudinal and social reform. Impressively informative, exceptionally insightful, motivationally inspiring, "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat" deserves as wide and extensive readership as possible, making it unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university Feminist Theory, Contemporary Social Issues, and Eating Disorder collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781662053214, $24.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Aubrey Gordon writes under the pseudonym of "Your Fat Friend" to illuminate the experiences of fat people and urging greater compassion for people of all sizes. Her work has reached millions of readers and has been translated into nineteen languages. She is a columnist with SELF magazine, where she writes about health, weight stigma, and fatness. Her work has also been featured in Health magazine, Vox, and Gay Mag, among others. A writer and organizer, she maintains a website at, and can be followed on the social media platforms at YrFatFriend on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Midnight in Vehicle City
Edward McClelland
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807039670, $27.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: The tumultuous Flint sit-down strike of 1936-1937 was the birth of the United Auto Workers, which set the standard for wages in every industry. In "Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Created the Middle Class", author, journalist and historian Edward McClelland tells the gripping story of how workers defeated General Motors, the largest industrial corporation in the world. Their victory ushered in the golden age of the American middle class and created a new kind of America, one in which every worker had a right to a share of the company's wealth. The causes for which the strikers sat down (collective bargaining, secure retirement, better wages) enjoyed a half century of success. But now, the middle class is disappearing and economic inequality is at its highest since before the New Deal.

"Midnight in Vehicle City" brings the action-packed events of the strike back to life through the voices of those who lived it. In vivid play-by-plays, McClelland narrates the dramatic scenes including of the takeovers of GM plants; violent showdowns between picketers and the police; Michigan governor Frank Murphy's activation of the National Guard; the actions of the militaristic Women's Emergency Brigade who carried billy clubs and vowed to protect strikers from police; and tense negotiations between labor leader John L. Lewis, GM chairman Alfred P. Sloan, and labor secretary Frances Perkins.

The epic tale of the strike and its lasting legacy shows why the middle class is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and will guide our understanding of what we will lose if we don't revive it.

Critique: A timely and informative historical study, "Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Created the Middle Class" is an especially recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections in view of the Biden administrations determination to assist the rebuilding of unions as a means of refurbishing and expanding the middle class. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Midnight in Vehicle City" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781662077449, $24.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Edward McClelland is a journalist, a historian, and an author born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. His work has been published in numerous places, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Chicago Reader, and on Salon and Slate. He is the author of several books, including Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President, Nothin' but Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland, and How to Speak Midwestern. Connect with him online at his website at as well as at @TedMcClelland on Twitter.

Complex Effects of International Relations
Ofer Israeli
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438479392, $95.00, HC, 310pp

Synopsis: "Complex Effects of International Relations: Intended and Unintended Consequences of Human Actions in Middle East Conflicts" by academician Ofer Israeli is a comprehensive and unique theory-practice study. Israeli examines complex effects of international relations relating to various indirect (intended and unintended) consequences of intentional human action. These effects may be desirable or undesirable, overt or covert, anticipated or surprising, foreseeable but unanticipated, and anticipated but simultaneously neglected or discounted.

Israeli focuses on six case studies from the Middle East, analyzing the unexpected and accidental results of interventions in this region by the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western powers during the Cold War. From this research, he develops a complex-causal mechanism or practical tool that countries may use to implement foreign policy, with the goal of reducing the number of conflicts and wars globally, especially in the Middle East.

Critique: Deftly organized into four major sections (Theoretical Background; The Complexity of Unintended Consequences: Rebound Results; The Complexity of Unintended Consequences: Derivative Products), "Complex Effects of International Relations: Intended and Unintended Consequences of Human Actions in Middle East Conflicts" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a forty-two page Bibliography, seventy-two pages of Notes, and a ten page Index. Impressively informative throughout, "Complex Effects of International Relations: Intended and Unintended Consequences of Human Actions in Middle East Conflicts" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, university library Contemporary International Relations collections in general, and Middle Eastern Studies supplemental curriculum lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Complex Effects of International Relations: Intended and Unintended Consequences of Human Actions in Middle East Conflicts" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $32.95).

Editorial Note: Ofer Israeli is a Lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a Senior Lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College. He also teaches at the Israel Defense Forces Academy for Strategic Commanders, the Israeli Air Force Academy, and the Israeli Naval Academy. His books include International Relations Theory of War.

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

Motivating Self and Others
Martin E. Ford and Peyton R. Smith
Cambridge University Press
9781108798785, $27.49 paperback, $26.12 Kindle, 544 pp

The authors are two respected experts in the field of human motivation but their book is much more than an academic treatise. Motivating Self and Others: Thriving With Social Purpose, Life Meaning, and the Pursuit of Core Personal Goals will enlighten and inform everyday people and business professionals as well as students and academics.

Why did ancient homo sapiens survive and thrive despite their many adversities? Over time they learned from each experience, learned to cooperate together as a group, remembered what they'd learned and used that knowledge to thrive against all odds. Through such cooperation, ancient man gained insights and developed practical tools to help each other survive. They evaluated past and present problems, imagined desired outcomes, and formed their plans accordingly. Modern man is no different. Only the environment has changed. Humans are hard wired with the biological, emotional, neurological and evolutionary tools to control our life situation by thriving with social purpose and finding life meaning by encouraging self and others.

Throughout history, individually and collectively, humans have gone through periods of suffering and disappointment. Life cannot be rosy all the time. A good leader understands that and encourages personal growth and teamwork to promote the well-being of self and others. Social purpose, life meaning, and achieving positive goals has the potential of empowering, reinforcing hope and confidence, and energizing individuals and groups. Those who find life meaning are more positive, hopeful and resilient, better able to cooperate, teach, innovate and communicate with others in reaching positive outcomes and lasting change.

The authors present the data in ways I found useful and intriguing. In addition to proven science, they frequently use humor and familiar modern memes to make a point. They also provide helpful tables, formulas, summaries, figures and questions and answers to enhance information. Readers can easily pick and choose topics that interest them by reading chapters piecemeal, or read the entire book in order as I did to see the full picture. Whether you're an academic, student, or layman, this book is helpful, enlightening, and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism
Abigail R. Esman
Potomac Books, Inc.
c/o University of Nebraska Press
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166-2012
9781640122314, $29.95, HC, 264pp

Synopsis: In the days after 9/11, Abigail R. Esman walked the streets of New York haunted by a feeling that was eerily familiar: the trauma of violence that hovered in the air. Friends, family, and strangers moved, walked, even stood as she herself had done earlier as a victim of domestic battery and abuse. Since then, Esman, a journalist who specializes in writing on terrorism and radicalization, has studied the connections between domestic abuse and terrorism and the forces that inspire both forms of violence. In "Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism Esman" brings into focus the complex web that ties them together, illuminating the terrorist psyche and the cultures that create it.

With this new approach to understanding terrorism and violence, Esman presents clear explanations of pathological narcissism and its roots in shame-honor cultures (both familial and sociopolitical) through portraits of terrorists and batterers, including O. J. Simpson, Osama bin Laden, Anders Breivik, and Dylann Roof. The insights of psychiatrists, former white supremacists, Islamist terrorists, national security experts, and others elaborate her thesis, while Esman's own experiences with abuse and the aftermath of 9/11 on the streets of New York City further enrich the narrative.

At a time when so many lives are threatened by public violence and terrorism, understanding the forces that incite them has become crucial, and finding solutions, urgent. Esman proposes social and policy initiatives aimed at reducing violence while engendering social equality and enriching women's rights. Such proposals, she argues, are essential to overcoming the cultural and political forces that hinder progress toward security and peace. This groundbreaking book sheds new light on the roots of violence and terrorism while advancing proactive measures to protect our values and traditions of justice, equality, and freedom.

Critique: Erudite, insightful, alarming, recognizable, informative, timely and timeless, "Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism" is a fully absorbing read and an invaluable contribution to our on-going dialogue with respect to the kinds of issues that are tearing our families and our country apart with the rising tide of American home-grown radicalization leading to insurrectionist attacks on democracy itself. Deserving of as wide a readership as possible, "Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. Exceptionally well written, 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 "Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.32).

Editorial Note: Abigail R. Esman is also the author of "Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West". An award-winning journalist and essayist, she has contributed to Foreign Policy,, the New Republic, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, World Policy Review, and other venues. She is a regular contributor to the Investigative Project on Terrorism and has spoken widely on the subject, including appearances on radio programs such as WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, BBC News, and CNN.

Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents' Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, revised edition
Leslie A. Lindsay, R.N., B.S.N.
Woodbine House
6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
9781606132937, $29.95, PB, 424pp

Synopsis: Apraxia is a motor disorder caused by damage to the brain (specifically the posterior parietal cortex or corpus callosum) in which the individual has difficulty with the motor planning to perform tasks or movements when asked, provided that the request or command is understood and the individual is willing to perform the task. The nature of the brain damage determines the severity, and the absence of sensory loss or paralysis helps to explain the level of difficulty. Some children may be born with apraxia although the cause is unknown. Symptoms are usually noticed in the early stages of life as the child develops. Apraxia that results from a brain injury or a neurodegenerative illness is known as acquired apraxia. Acquired apraxia is typically caused by a traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, brain tumor, and other neurodegenerative disorders. There are multiple types of apraxia and are categorized by what specific ability or body part is affected. (Wikipedia)

Written by a mother whose daughter's CAS is now resolved, this newly published second edition of "Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents' Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech" is extensively updated and jam-packed with reliable information and research, and covers: speech basics; getting a CAS diagnosis; treatment methods, coping and advocating; working with speech-language pathologists; early intervention and special education; creating a language-rich environment at home; and preparing for school and learning.

New to this revised edition are discussions of helpful apps to stimulate and encourage speech; information on cutting-edge, evidence-based approaches to treating CAS; considerations related to using augmentative and alternative forms of communication; and updated, parent-friendly summaries of important research on CAS.

Each individual chapter offers insightful anecdotes and tips, step-by-step approaches to address concerns, troubleshooting, ideas to augment speech therapy, and helpful resources, making it easy for readers to zero in on their child's specific needs.

Wherever a parent or care giver are on the journey with their child's CAS, "Speaking of Apraxia" is an indispensable primer.

Critique: Also an essential resource for speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and other professionals in child development, this fully updated and expanded second edition of "Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents' Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech" is especially and unreservedly recommended for parental, professional, community, college, and university library Communicative Disorders in Special Education, Pediatrics, and Disability Parenting collections in general and Apraxia supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Leslie Lindsay is the author of Speaking of Apraxia, which was originally published in 2012 following her daughter's 2007 diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Leslie's writing and photography have appeared in various literary journals; she has been recognized as one of the most influential book reviewers, interviewing hundreds of bestselling and debut authors. Leslie is a former Child & Adolescent Psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic and currently at work on a memoir. She maintains an informative website at:

The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate
Jeannie Gainsburg
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538139400, $32.00, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: "The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate" by Jeannie Gainsburg is an enjoyable, humorous, encouraging, easy to understand guidebook for being an ally to the LGBTQ+ communities.

Chock full of practical and useful tools for LGBTQ+ advocacy, author and LGBTQ advocate Jeannie Gainsburg provides: Current and relevant information on identities and LGBTQ+ language; Tips for what to say and what not to say when someone comes out to you; LGBTQ+ etiquette and techniques for respectful conversations; Common bloopers to avoid; Tools for effectively navigating difficult conversations; Suggestions for addressing common questions and concerns; Actions for creating more LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces; Recommendations for self-care and sustainable allyship.

"The Savvy Ally" is particularly relevant for teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, medical technicians, and college professors, as well as parents who want to be supportive of their LGBTQ+ child, but don't know how. It is not a book about why to be an ally, but how to be an ally. The goal of "The Savvy Ally" is to create more confident, active allies who are effective advocates for change.

Critique: An ideal, practical, effective, and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY instructional guide and manual, "The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, personal, professional, community, college, and university library LGBTQ collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate" is also readily available in a paperback edition ( 9781538136775, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.00).

Editorial Note: Jeannie Gainsburg is an educational trainer and consultant in the field of LGBTQ+ inclusion and effective allyship. Formerly the Education Director at the Out Alliance in Rochester, N.Y., she has personally facilitated or cofacilitated more than five hundred trainings and workshops in more than twenty different states at corporations, colleges, government agencies, K-12 schools, hospitals, faith communities, and more. Gainsburg has a BA in psychology from Brown University and an MA in social work and social research from Bryn Mawr College. She received a citation from the New York State Assembly for Distinguished Educational & Human Rights Services for her work in promoting LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. The Savvy Ally is her first book. Interested readers can visit her website and download free ally goodies at:

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity After Large-Scale Disasters
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
97800309680257, $70.00, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: In the wake of a large-scale disaster, from the initial devastation through the long tail of recovery, protecting the health and well-being of the affected individuals and communities is paramount.

Accurate and timely information about mortality and significant morbidity related to the disaster are the cornerstone of the efforts of the disaster management enterprise to save lives and prevent further health impacts. Conversely, failure to accurately capture mortality and significant morbidity data undercuts the nation's capacity to protect its population.

Information about disaster-related mortality and significant morbidity adds value at all phases of the disaster management cycle. As a disaster unfolds, the data are crucial in guiding response and recovery priorities, ensuring a common operating picture and real-time situational awareness across stakeholders, and protecting vulnerable populations and settings at heightened risk.

"A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity After Large-Scale Disasters" reviews and describes the current state of the field of disaster-related mortality and significant morbidity assessment. This report examines practices and methods for data collection, recording, sharing, and use across state, local, tribal, and territorial stakeholders; evaluates best practices; and identifies areas for future resource investment.

Critique: A seminal work in the field of Emergency Medicine, Policy, Reviews and Evaluations, "A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity After Large-Scale Disasters" is a definitive study that is fully endorsed and unreservedly recommended for college and university library Contemporary Health/Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of health care workers, emergency planning staff members, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity After Large-Scale Disasters" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.99).

The Resistance Network
Khatchig Mouradian
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611863857, $24.95, HC, 262pp

Synopsis: "The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915 - 1918" by Khatchig Mouradian is the history of an underground network of humanitarians, missionaries, and diplomats in Ottoman Syria who helped save the lives of thousands during the Armenian Genocide.

Mouradian challenges depictions of Armenians as passive victims of violence and subjects of humanitarianism, demonstrating the key role they played in organizing a humanitarian resistance against the destruction of their people. Piecing together hundreds of accounts, official documents, and missionary records, Mouradian presents a social history of genocide and resistance in wartime Aleppo and a network of transit and concentration camps stretching from Bab to Ras ul-Ain and Der Zor.

Mouradian ultimately argues that, despite the violent and systematic mechanisms of control and destruction in the cities, concentration camps, and massacre sites in this region, the genocide of the Armenians did not progress unhindered -- unarmed resistance proved an important factor in saving countless lives.

Critique: An original and meticulous study, "The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915 - 1918" is an invaluable, informative, and significant contribution to our understanding of one of the major genocides of the 20th Century. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Resistance Network" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a ten page Bibliography, sixty-eight pages of Notes, and a sixteen page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Armenian Genocide collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Resistance Network" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.99).

Editorial Note: Khatchig Mouradian is a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies at Columbia University. He is also the editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Armenian Reviews and in 2020 was awarded a Humanities War & Peace Institute Grant from Columbia University.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

The Disappearance of Butterflies
Josef H. Reichholf
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781509539796, $35.00, HC, 260pp

Synopsis: In the last fifty years our butterfly populations have declined by more than eighty per cent and butterflies are now facing the very real prospect of extinction. It is hard to remember the time when fields and meadows were full of these beautiful, delicate creatures -- but today we rarely catch a glimpse of the Wild Cherry Sphinx moths, Duke of Burgundy or the even once common Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. The High Brown Fritillary butterfly and the Stout Dart Moth have virtually disappeared.

Josef H. Reichholf (who is an environmental biologist, entomologist, and an author who has twice received the German Science Book of the Year prize) began studying butterflies in the late 1950s. In the documented pages of "The Disappearance of Butterflies", he brings a lifetime of scientific experience and expertise to bear on one of the great environmental catastrophes of our time.

"The Disappearance of Butterflies" takes us on a journey into the wonderful world of butterflies - from the small nymphs that emerge from lakes in air bubbles to the trusting purple emperors drunk on toad poison - and immerses us in a world that we are in danger of losing forever. Step by step this definitive study explains the science behind this impending ecological disaster, and shows how it is linked to pesticides, over-fertilization and the intensive farming practices of the agribusiness.

"The Disappearance of Butterflies" is a passionate plea for biodiversity and the protection of butterflies.

Critique: Eloquent, detailed, expertly organized and presented, "The Disappearance of Butterflies" is a definitive study that will have immense value to students, scientists, and the general public alike. While unreserved recommended for community, college, and university library Butterfly Biology and Nature Conservation collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Disappearance of Butterflies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.00).

The Dogs of Winter
Ann Lambert
Second Story Press
9781772601404, $19.95, PB, 328pp

Synopsis: The sequel to author Ann Lambert's crime novel "The Birds That Stay", this edition of "The Dogs Of Winter" from Second Story Press begins after a howling snowstorm envelops Montreal, and the body of a young woman is discovered in its wake.

The only clue to her identity is the photograph in her pocket, and on it, the phone number of Detective Inspector Romeo Leduc. Meanwhile, Marie and Romeo are busy navigating their deepening relationship, and a student at Marie's college is the victim of a terrible assault.

While Romeo begins to think that the dead woman may be linked to violence against several homeless people in the city, the search for justice in both cases is thwarted by societal apathy and ignorance, even as the killer is stalking the frigid streets of Montreal, preying on and terrorizing its most vulnerable citizens.

Critique: Another finally crafted suspense thriller of a read from cover to cover, Ann Lambert's new mystery novel, "The Dogs Of Winter" is certain to be an immediately sought after addition to any and all community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "The Dogs Of Winter" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

A Deadly Edition, A Blue Ridge Library Mystery
Victoria Gilbert, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 W. 27th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10001
9781643854762, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 359 pages

"A Deadly Edition" is the fifth title of the Blue Ridge Library mystery series by beloved author Victoria Gilbert.

This Southern Book Prize finalist has created a librarian's world in Taylorsford, Virginia, where library director Amy Webber confronts the dual challenges of her upcoming nuptials with fiance Richard Muir and the murder of art dealer Oscar Selvaggio, a rival with a jagged relationship with neighbor and wedding cohost, Kurt Kendrick.

Amy enlists the help of her beloved Aunt Lydia Talbot and friend/mayor/ coworker, Sunny Fields to get to the bottom of the mysterious murder.

Avalanches of innuendo, crossplots, and intrigue entangle while the heart of the furor revolves around competition for a rare illustrated volume by William Morris' Kelmscott Press. Author Gilbert skillfully weaves a rich tapestry of suspense, suggested guilt, and motive by association around the principals, which challenge Amy to us her top shelf detective skills in both librarianship and life.

"A Deadly Edition" combines mystery, suspense, romantic sentiment, and danger with a colorful locale and beloved cast of recurring characters in this heady mix of love and logic so familiar to readers of the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Road Trip Dialogues
Jass Richards
9781926891422, $14.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Rev and Dylan are intelligent, sensitive, idealistic, enthusiastic, -- and utter failures. When they reconnect twenty years after teacher's college, Rev is en route to Montreal to see the fireworks festival. (Something with great social and political import.) (Oh shut up. I tried. For twenty years. So to hell with it.). Dylan goes along for the ride. (Typical.)

Critique; "The Road Trip Dialogues" by Jass Richards is a coming of age story -- for those in their forties. With a wicked sense of humor and a familiar wealth of deftly crafted insights into the human condition, author Jass Richards narrative style of storytelling as a novelist makes for an inherently engaging, fully entertaining, and impressively thought-provoking read. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Road Trip Dialogues" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Sons of Rome
Gordon Doherty, author
Simon Turney, author
Head of Zeus Ltd.
9781800242005, $27.95, HC, 528pp

Synopsis: As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms, and savage civil wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian's dream is announced to the imperial court. Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome's savage stations, to the zenith of empire. For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon.

Critique: An inherently riveting historical novel set in the twilight decades of the Roman empire, "Sons of Rome" is a superbly crafted and fully engaging story that showcases the cooperative literary talents of its two co-authors, Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney who have more than fifty novels between them. Original, entertaining, and leaving the reader looking eagerly toward any further novels set in the antiquity of that ancient empire, "Sons of Rome" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sons of Rome" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.69).

Editorial Note #1: Residing in Yorkshire, England, Simon Turney is the author of the Marius' Mules and Praetorian series, as well as The Damned Emperor series for Orion and Tales of the Empire series for Canelo.

Editorial Note #2: Residing in Scotland, Gordon Doherty is the author of the Legionary and Strategos series, and wrote the Assassin's Creed tie-in novel Odyssey.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

A Journey to Hell Heaven and Back
Ivan Tuttle
It's Supernatural Press
c/o Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768458350, $16.99, 184 pages

Inspirational, Revelation, Heaven, and Hell

In his book "A Journey to Hell and Back" Ivan Tuttle tell his story - from a childhood anointing, physical beating and verbal abuse, through his troubling teen years, Bible College, a change in direction, and his visit to Hell, a revelation of heaven and of his return to earth, to ultimately tell his story.

Ivan captured my attention from the first paragraph of his introduction to the "Final Words" of the last chapter.

"A Journey to Hell Heaven and Back" is a book you will want to reread, pass along copies to Christian friends, or use as an evangelistic outreach resource.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Highly Recommended.

Revealing the Healer
Yvon Attia
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453928, $16.99, 178 pages

Prayer, Spiritual, Growth, Healing

In her book "Revealing the Healer," Yvon Attia tells her story of a miraculous life, from childhood miracles to her call to minister, write, and her current role teaching at the University of the Supernatural in Miami, Florida.

Yvon and her husband Mina minister through a weekly Christian Arabic program, teaching divine healing principles that reach a worldwide audience.

Chapters of the book are filled with miracle stories and testimonies of healing. Yvon provides the reader "A Complete Guide to Manifesting the Healing Power of Jesus" through subjects including:

A Scriptural Basis of Healing

Method of Jesus in Healing

The Role of Faith

Equipping Believers to Heal the Sick

The Principles of Faith in Healing

"Revealing the Healer" is written for anyone wanting to learn more about the Biblical Method for Divine Healing.

I received a complimentary copy fo this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Teach Us to Pray - Prayer that Accesses Heaven and Changes Earth
Corey Russell
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768455595, $19.99, 198 pages

Prayer, Spiritual Growth, Charismatic

Corey Russell is known for his passion for making known God's greatness, the beauty of Jesus, intimacy with the Spirit, and the power of prayer. In his book "Teach Us to Pray," he challenges readers to "Access Heaven and Change the Earth."

Corey's writing reflects remarkable insights into what we can learn from Jesus' experience in the wilderness. He writes for those eager to know more of God in these days of trauma, confusion, and urgent turmoil, as well as for a new generation of believers. Corey's message provides the reader with an awareness of the cultural and external forces that can distract Christians from pursuing their calling and recognizing their identity in Christ.

My heart was stirred in areas of intercession, steadfastness, and intimacy. I read much of the book aloud to hear and declare each word, principle, and new insight.

"Teach us to Pray" is a dynamic guide to effective prayer and is highly endorsed by leaders in the prayer movement within the churches today.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Essential Fasting
Jordan Rubin and Dr. Josh Axe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454758, $26.99, 288 pages

Diet, Healthy Living, Personal Growth

Jordan Rubin and Dr. Josh Axe provide the reader with simple strategies that can be easily implemented, producing astounding results. I read with interest \ the minor changes in my eating patterns that will result in health improvements in both the physical and spiritual values in my life.

I regularly pray for insight into spiritual renewal, mental clarity, and increased energy - and found it quite "exhilarating" to pursue the benefits of fasting by following the steps stope guidelines for eight different types of fasting.

The chapter dealing with blood sugar and heart health was especially helpful, very practical, and within the realm of incorporating into my eating habits.

I am making plans to move my copy of "Essential Fasting" from the library shelf to my breakfast table for ready referral and meal planning.

Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Outwitting the Devil - The Original Unedited Complete Text
Napoleon Hill
Sound Wisdom
9781640951815, $24.95, 2021, 308 pages

Success, Motivation, Inspirational

I first read "Think and Grow Rich" in my college years and several times over the years since then. However, I had forgotten how Hill's writing has the power to draw the reader into his life story, the principles of the power of and achievement, and now, the discovery of his other self.

In "Outwitting the Devil," Hill takes the reader step by step into reaching their full potential as well as the major causes of failure.

The original "Think and Grow Rich" was published during the "great depression," when the world's population was filled with fear and misery while crushing their dreams. What better time for "Outwitting the Devil" to be published than now in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has a new generation plagued by fear, anxiety, and despondency? "Overcoming the Devil" will help the reader tackle the causes of disaster and gloom by becoming self-reliant in overcoming the causes of personal apathy.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Woman Thou Art Blessed - A 90 Day Devotional Journey
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768452730, $16.99, 260 pages

Devotional, Women's Issues, Spiritual Growth

Bestselling author T. D. Jakes is known for his keen sensitivity to understand the heartfelt issues we face as Christians. In "Woman Thou Art Blessed - A 90 Day Devotional Journey" Jakes addresses the process of transformation in light of the challenges faced by women in our contemporary culture.

Each devotional reading includes:

A Scripture

A Devotional Entry

A Purpose Point Quote

A Transformational Moment

Couples who share devotional times will find this 90 day journey can be a life-changing experience while finding mutual purpose as they fulfill the life journey together.

"Woman Thou Art Blessed - A 90 Day Devotional Journey" provides the reader with insightful reflections, thoughtful meditations, and powerful principles

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Think & Grow Rich - A Latino Choice
Lionel Sosa
Sound Wisdom
9781640951204, $14.99, 226 pages

Business, Personal Success

"Think & Grow Rich - A Latino Choice" not only introduces a whole new generation to Napoleon Hill's principles of success. But also acquaints a whole new culture to these proven success principles of achievement.

From "Definite of Purpose" to "cosmic habit force." Lionel Sosa cajoles, encourages, and inspires his reader to take action, incorporate each principle and reap the benefit of a full life of satisfying achievement.

Reading "Think & Grow Rich - A Latino Choice" has given me new insights as well as a new motivation to revisit Hill's principles and to realign the Masterplan Alliance at a new stage in my life's journey.

I have been reminded of the importance of the personal initiative, creative vision, good judgment, applied faith, and a burning desire.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Think & Grow Rich, in 10 Minutes a Day
Napoleon Hill
Sound Wisdom
9781640952096, $11.99, 110 Pages

Self Help, Personal Growth, Success

"Think & Grow Rich, in 10 Minutes a Day" is a synopsis of Napoleon Hill's original unedited "Think and Grow Rich" published in 1937. The book has given me a new impetus to begin the year by taking the challenge of spending 10 minutes a day reading, reviewing, and implementing Napoleon Hill's principles of achieving success.

I have reestablished my Mastermind group, identified my major purpose, and restated my all-consuming passion. As I move on through the year, I plan to continue to review these goals and create a concrete plan to accomplish my most profound desire as I pursue the suggestions provided daily.

"Think & Grow Rich, in 10 Minutes a Day" is a book that anyone who has read and practiced Napoleon Hill's principles of success in the past will want to read and reincorporate into their life afresh.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Mystery of the Power Words - Speak the Words That Move Mountains and Make Hell Tremble
Kevin L. Zadai
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768455694, $26.99, 324 pages

Prayer, Spiritual Warfare, Pentecostal, Charismatic

Recently in my Bible Study and devotional reading, I have intentionally tried out various forms of word study.

Kevin Zadai's book "Mystery of the Power Words" came to my attention. Kevin's writing is anointed with heavenly revelation. The book's premise is clearly stated in the subtitle; "Speak the Words That Move Mountains and Make Hell Tremble."

I intend to follow the action steps and access Heaven's battle strategies that reveal His intent for my life, practice the power words, and claim God's promises of anointing, revelation, and in Kingdom authority.

The mystery of the Power Words is an important book for every Christian. This book is one you will want to read, apply, read again, and have readily available for future reference.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

10 Levels of Glory
Hrvoje Sirovina
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768455632, $19.99, 208 pages

Spiritual Growth, Prayer, Pentecostal, Charismatic

Hrvoje Sirovina introduces the depth and levels of glory available to every Christian. He creates a hunger in the reader to know more of Jesus and to encounter God at each of ten levels of His glory. He answers the question, "What is glory?"

Hrvoje's writing is clear and encouraging as he provides example after example of signs, wonder, and miracles of God's glory. He exemplifies holiness and the joy of encountering the personal presence of God in his life.

I particularly appreciated the pointed questions throughout the book, which challenged me to progress from glory to glory while being transformed into the image of Christ.

Hrvoje's writing is Holy Spirit inspired, filled with examples from scripture; through the lives of Adam and Eve, Moses, Esther, the Apostle Paul and the early life and ministry of Jesus.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Hey God, Can We Talk? Real-Life God Encounters for Real-Life Circumstances
Sarah Bowling
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768455731, $19.99

Prayer, Spiritual Growth, Christian Living

Sarah's book "Hey God, Can We Talk?" came to my attention on a day when I felt bogged down with detail. As I read the table of contents I was delighted to find that each chapter held promise and application for me.

Sarah's writing encourages the reader to experience an openness and honesty in a conversational relationship with God. I am already incorporating Sarah's suggestions by including, gratitude, forgiveness, in light of God's majesty and grace.

The book can be life changing as Sarah introduces guidelines and steps to opening conversations with God: when you feel you have failed God, when you desire nearness, when the future looks desolate, or you are confronted with choices.

I begin to feel that each chapter was designed with me in mind as felt the impact of the presence of God at in these encounters. Examples from the Scriptures and real life experiences of real people demonstrate the depth of connecting with God through meaningful conversations.

Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Strategic Real Estate Investing - Creating Passive Income Through Real Estate Mastery
Billy Epperhart
Harrison House Publishers
978168031747793, $19.99, 238 pages

Real Estate, Buying & Selling Homes, Wealth Management

In his book "Strategic Real Estate Investing - Creating Passive Income Through Real Estate Mastery," Billy Epperhart challenges the reader to explore a practical method for making dreams come true with a real estate investment plan with guidelines for creating lasting wealth and avoiding pitfalls.

The book is divided into 5 parts and includes a valuable glossary helpful appendix. I was intrigued by the encouragement, which helped me visualize key thoughts, guidelines, principles, a quick review, or a focused study.

"Strategic Real Estate Investing - Creating Passive Income Through Real Estate Mastery" is a book for anyone who ever dreamed of serious real estate investing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Mutzphey's Last Stand
Hank Kunneman, author
Norris Hall, illustrator
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768456950, $17.95, 32 Pages

Values and Virtues, Humor, Friendship

On a hot summer day, Mutzphey and Milo devise a plan to earn some money during the summer school break. Together they come up with a plan to open a lemonade stand.

As Mutzphey envisions big sales and mounting bank accounts, Milo makes up the first batch of lemonade. Things do not go as planned. Within the first day, a rift between the two ends the partnership.

Mutzphey's Last Stand is a story of loyalty, greed, jealousy, a shattered friendship, forgiveness, and reconsolidation.

Hank Kunneman understands how to capture a child's imagination. Norris Hall's illustrations heighten the storyline and the child's enjoyment of the reading experience.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Portals of Revelation - Releasing the Kingdom of God through Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
Jerame Nelson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768414882, $15.99, 224 pages

Prayer, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Spiritual Growth

"Portals of Revelation - Releasing the Kingdom of God through Signs, Wonders and Miracles" is filled with stories of supernatural encounters taking place throughout the world.

Jerame has seen evidence of angelic visitations, revelatory visions, supernatural signs, wonders, and miraculous healings throughout the world. He then helps the reader understand how to release the Kingdom of God's power in an anointing of supernatural power.

I have been challenged to "hold on to the key of intimacy." My prayer for a "revolution" in my life is to set unsurmountable goals, commit them to God, and rely on Him for the strength, wisdom, and anointing to accomplish them.

Jerame's writing is compelling, authoritative, and anointed. "Portals of Revelation" is a book for anyone wanting to hear God's voice and walk in the supernatural power of God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The expressions expressed are my own.

Pray Like Jesus: Learn to Pray to God as Father
Mark Driscoll and Ashley Chase
Charisma House
9781629999265, $17.99

Mark Driscoll and his daughter Ashely Chase share from their life stories examples of how they have experienced the presence of God in their prayers. They have a strong desire to help others, grow in the faith, deepen their relationship with God, and learn lessons from the life and prayers of Jesus.

"Pray to God as Father" is a powerful book drawing from the prayers and examples of Jesus: prayers to God the Father; in the Lord's prayer, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the High Priestly prayer of John, chapter 17.

The book is formatted to help the reader review and remember the essence of each chapter. The questions for reflection at the end of each chapter are thought-provoking, soul searching, and potentially life-changing.

I found the practical suggestions that reinforced my prayer life and introduced me to a deeper relationship to God as my father and my perspective as an early father of four sons.

A significant "take away" challenge I received from the book are the lessons on intercessory prayer:

For laborers in the harvest fields of the world,
For evangelists, ministers, and teachers.
For families and friends
For Non-Christians

I can highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a deeper and more effective prayer life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Angel Armies on Assignment
Tim Sheets
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453966, $19.99, 2021, 208 pages

Angelology & Demonology, Spiritual Warfare, Pentecostal, & Charismatic

"Angel Armies on Assignment" introduces and describes the practices of Acts chapter two at Pentecost. Tim Sheets relates his revelation, dreams, and vision of a second Pentecost, awakening in our time. A radical remnant, a reigning ecclesia, is reborn to rise above the church's status quo in its prophetic destiny.

Sheets' writing is direct; his conclusions are logical and clearly communicated. He writes with conviction and determination as he interprets his prayer language to relate prophetic dreams of the Holy Spirit's anointing. God promises to send Angel Armies to assist the church through a period of a new beginning, the second apostolic age in a "raising of the bar."

"Angel Armies on Assignment" introduces and describes the practices of Acts chapter two at Pentecost. Tim Sheets relates his revelation, dreams, and vision of a second Pentecost, awakening in our time. A radical remnant, a reigning ecclesia, is being reborn to rise above the church's status quo in its prophetic destiny.

The divisions and assignments of angels and how we can partner with them in prayer were so new and so vital that I made copious notes, chapter by chapter. I moved forward page after page gaining additional insights as I read further.

Each chapter if filled scripture passages highlighted key thoughts, prophetic and Holy Spirit Declarations. "Angel Armies on Assignment" is an important book for every Christian; a book that will help them discern and discover how Angels function.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Alboran Codex: A Carter Devereux Mystery Thriller Book 3
JC Ryan
Independently published Services LLC
B01N0KNWPE, $3.99, ebook, 496 pages
9781519064806 $19.95 pbk

The Alboran Codex is a fast paced action adventure. It uses its own fantasy science as a core to the plotline. But since this is book 3 in a series, it takes the reader the first third of the story to flesh out the details of the fantasy. As with many books in this genre, there is a historical backstory to the plotline. More could have been done with the backstory but it does make for a fun addition to the tale. The story starts immediately after a rescue of the protagonists that had to have happened at the end of book 2 in the series. The rescue exposes a worldwide plot that shakes up the governments of the US and the Near East. The repercussions across the world caused by the rescue take up the first portion of the story.

Carter Devereux, his family and a group of friends and associates are freed from captivity in the Near East. Carter's archeological work on a civilization that existed before recorded history was the catalyst for the captivity and the secretive three thousand year old Nabatean ethnic group want what he has learned for control of the world. The Nabateans have killed many times over the centuries and have acquired technology greater than any single nation. They have decided to kill Carter and everyone else who might know about what he has learned about the ancient civilization of the Giants to both protect themselves and to gain control of the world. Can Carter and his friends survive the Nabateans and blunt the worldwide threat?

The Alboran Codex is a fun easy action/adventure but it is book 3 in the series and too much of the story depends on the earlier books. It presents itself as a historical science fiction adventure but most of the history and science only exists within the story. If the reader doesn't mind the heavy fantasy and is willing to struggle through the first part of the book which depends heavily on the earlier tales in the series, it is an easy recommendation. The characters a likeable and relatable. The complete series should be an easier recommendation as long as you can put aside the heavy reliance on fantasy science.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs
Lisa Randall
Harper Collins Publishers
9780062328502, $17.99, 412 pages

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs is a lighter read than Lisa Randall's other science books. It is a summary of the astronomy of our solar system within the universe and how dark matter might play a part in how everything interacts.

The first two thirds of the book is one of the easier to understand overviews of what is known of the history of the universe and our solar system. Occasionally the best layperson explanations of technical topics comes from people not directly involved in a particular scientific discipline. Randall is a physicist, not an astronomer. By looking at astronomy as a skilled scientific outsider, she is able to foresee many of the questions laypersons might have in the topic. This first part of the book gives a well-rounded introduction into what is known about the universe and our own corner of it.

The last part of the book is more speculative. Most of the substance of the universe is unknown and has been labeled 'dark' energy. The portion of the universe that we can see and directly explore is just a small fraction of the whole. We can't even see the majority of the matter in the universe. This unknown, or dark matter, is just being studied in the last few decades. Because dark matter only directly interacts with visible matter by gravity, characteristics of the dark matter have to be inferred from the gravitational imprint on visible matter. Randall and a few of her colleagues noticed that the gravitational effects of dark matter indicate that there are some interactions between dark matter. The original ideas of dark matter had it being of a single non-interacting type. An idea Randall and her colleagues came up with is that some dark matter form condensed rotating disks within spiral galaxies cause by dark interactions. A consequence of this disk would be a periodic disturbance in our solar system causing comets to cross paths with the earth. Comets such as the one that ended the era of the dinosaurs on the earth.

Scientific discovery has basically always worked by this method. You observe something. You organize what you are seeing. You create an idea of how what you are seeing could happen. You then try and verify if your explanation fits. Randall in Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs has built an idea about dark matter that just possibly can be tested and understood by everyday curious people.

Dark Matter is recommended for those who like to read about and understand science. It is not Randall's best book but it easier for the general public to relate too. How can it not be when it has dinosaurs in it?

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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