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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 2 February 2022 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy
Anthony M. Annett
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647121426, $29.95, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Economic inequality is skyrocketing. In a world of vast riches, millions of people live in extreme poverty, barely surviving from day to day. All over the world, the wealthy's increasing political power is biasing policy away from the public interest toward the financial interests of the rich. At the same time, many countries are facing financial fragility and diminished well-being. On top of it all, a global economy driven by fossil fuels has proven to be a collective act of self-sabotage with the poor on the front lines.

A growing chorus of economists and politicians is demanding a new paradigm to create a global economy for the common good. In "Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy", Anthony M. Annett unites insights in economics with those from theology, philosophy, climate science, and psychology, exposing the failures of neoliberalism while offering us a new model rooted in the wisdom of Catholic social teaching and classical ethical traditions. Drawing from the work of Pope Leo XIII, Pope Francis, Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle, Annett applies these teachings to discuss current economic challenges such as inequality, unemployment and underemployment, climate change, and the roles of business and finance.

"Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy" is an ethical and practical guide to readers of all faiths and backgrounds seeking to create a world economy that is more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable for all.

Critique: With the current pandemic rapidly expanding the economic inequality gap between the 1% and the 99%, "Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy" is a timely and clarion call for reform and the restitution of economic fairness and justice. It would serve the economically privileged well to give "Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy" a careful reading because there is always the example of the 18th Century French Revolution solution for when the economic inequality gap becomes so wide and so deep that it is unsupportable and the result is a bloody revolution when the poor rise up against the wealthy -- despite their control of the politicians, the military, and the police. While a highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary Economics & Ethics collections, it should be noted that "Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.49).

Editorial Note: Anthony M. Annett is a Gabelli Fellow at Fordham University and a senior adviser at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has a PhD in economics from Columbia University and spent two decades at the International Monetary Fund, where he worked as a speechwriter to the managing director. He is also a member of the College of Fellows of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible
Phil Scheidt
Independently Published
9780578636887, $29.95, PB, 530pp

Synopsis: Be forewarned, "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" by author and humorist Phil Schedit is unlike any book you have ever read about the movies!

"Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" answers such questions as what if the pharaoh of Egypt could post on social media using the moniker "@atmakeegyptgreatagain" and he describes his encounters with Moses? What if eighteen characters are in a movie theater watching dozens of films about Bible stories, and they are free to comment or yell about absurdities and errors they see on the screen? And for example, in the famous scene of the parting of the Red Sea in the Ten Commandments what does a drunken defrocked minister yell when it parts from the wrong direction?

What if there is a radio station that has been broadcasting since the time of Noah? "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" reveals that there is -- with the exception of the two times it is destroyed and the announcer, The Salty Dog, is killed each time. First in the flood of Noah and the second time when he is playing the song, Great Balls of Fire as Sodom is being incinerated.

As you enter this cinematic history be prepared to laugh out loud, as you see how "Holy Wood" has changed Bible stories. By the time you finish "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" you will realize you have learned a few things while you were laughing, and in some cases these things do make a difference.

Critique: Unique, funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" is a great and memorable read from cover to cover. A 'must read' selection for anyone who is a movie buff or who enjoys the biblical film genre, "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Cinematic History & Contemporary Humor collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Holy Wood: Movies Doing the Bible" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.95).

The Bloody Price of Freedom
Richard D. Heideman
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023051, $29.95, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: Recent historic breakthroughs have introduced a new hope for peace in the Middle East. Following the lead of the first two Arab League countries who entered into peace agreements with Israel (Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994) the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco each did so in 2020.

Time will tell if the dove of peace will touch down in the hearts and minds of the Arab people across the region and whether or not these winds of change will result in a further departure from the century-old Arab League mandates of hatred against Israel.

The fact remains that since the emergence of the modern Zionist movement in the nineteenth century, the idea of the reestablishment of the Jewish national home in its ancient land has been under assault. With the publication of "The Bloody Price of Freedom", author Richard D. Heideman traces the battle the democratic State of Israel has faced for its existence since its legally sanctioned establishment in 1948.

Heideman deftly analyzes the insidious attacks; maligning worldwide propaganda; economic, academic, and other boycotts; as well as the misapplication of international law in the United Nations and elsewhere that have been leveraged against Israel. A special section on the International Court of Justice's 2004 nonbinding advisory opinion on the construction of Israel's terrorism-prevention security fence includes detailed illustrative maps.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Bloody Price of Freedom" is a meticulously documented volume and essential reading for students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non- specialist general readers interested in the subject of the demonization of Israel and the continuing antisemitic attacks upon the Jewish people world wide. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bloody Price of Freedom" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.84).

Editorial Note: Richard D. Heideman is a highly acclaimed attorney in Washington, DC, who represents American victims of terror and their families. He has been passionately involved in Holocaust-era assets litigation and has submitted amicus filings in support of Israel and the Jewish people at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, and the US Supreme Court. Richard's communal leadership has included serving as President of B'nai B'rith International, Chair of the Institute for Law and Policy at the Hebrew University Faculty of Law, Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Lawyers Committee, and currently as President of the American Zionist Movement. His expertise has been widely recognized; he has been invited to testify before the US Congress. Richard also co-chairs the Israel Forever Foundation.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Under the Great Elm
Rich Flanders
Yondering Star Press
9781737968405, $14.95 Paper/$24.99 Hardcover/$6.99 ebook

Under the Great Elm, A Life of Luck & Wonder is recommended for literary readers looking for evocative works that capture life and enlightenment across America.

The great elm is the narrator's "companion through the prairie years" of his Western Springs, Illinois childhood. Its sweeping limbs of boyhood refuge and structure introduce a vivid story that moves from Illinois to California in a search for "a better place that would match our expanded spirits."

The author's reflections on the roots of his childhood returns in a different form as his story moves away from childhood to a theatrical career on Broadway and adult pursuits: "The asphalt world of New York was soul deadening. In the bleakness of my surroundings, I summoned scenes from the movie Friendly Persuasion and lost myself in a book I'd spotted at an East Village bookstore, Pleasant Valley. Meadows of clover, clear running springs, lowing cows, and a writer named Louis Bromfield, turning sod and reclaiming a farm in the Ohio sunshine, sustained me. Whenever I lost my way in these grey years and forgot what mattered, scenes from Pleasant Valley and its sequel, Malabar Farm, returned me to the land of the "great elm."

For all its bucolic roots, Under the Great Elm is like an explosion as the narrator moves his experience from rural to urban roots, encounters military and spiritual challenges that both stymie him and open his eyes to the world, and brings readers along on a ride that moves from past lives to present and future expectations.

The sea changes and journey move author and readers through spiritual, psychological, and physical changes that shake the foundations of belief and perception alike as the saga moves from America to India and Europe.

The sense of wonder, enchantment, and growth that accompany these journeys provides armchair readers with a "you are there" feel of emotional transformations that are engrossing and, often, unexpected.

The result is a literary piece that belongs in a range of collections, from those that feature autobiographical explorations to others that focus on spiritual or psychological growth opportunities and the search for a place to truly call home.

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon
Eve Cabanel
Twenty Two House Publishing
9781777908812, $14.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon is the whimsical fantasy story of Eli, a "strange yet adventurous creature who deeply cares for all the animals of the enchanted forest."

From Eli's feathered ears and purple eyes to a beautiful night forest where a mystery evolves ("Strange sugar crystals had begun coating the forest at night, turning anyone who touched them into hard rock candy."), Eve Cabanel crafts a gorgeous picture book story packed with magic, from shooting stars and legends to a wise grandfather who may hold the key to a rock candy conundrum.

Parents who choose Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon for read-aloud will find plenty of detail accompanying the lovely illustrations, an adventure that includes sound effects and dialogue between characters, and a dragon whose sadness may be contributing to the dilemma Eli and her bunny friend Luna face as their friends turn into rock candy.

Fairies, unicorns, and magic...what's not to love? All these trappings of a fine fantasy adventure include plenty of detail to bring this world to life, cementing it with a mystery that sends Eli and her friends on a journey through different worlds.

Success is not a given and not set in stone, and that is is one of the more delightful elements to this story. Added attraction lies in its depth and descriptions, which lends not to one night's read-aloud adventure, but many.

Kids who choose this book's paragraphs of action and description for individual pursuit and adults who pick it for read-aloud will find the saga evocative, warm, and thought-provoking beyond its adventure component.

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon is highly recommended for libraries and adults seeking more depth and detail from their picture book choices than is usually presented for younger audiences.

This approach, and its exceptionally lovely drawings, make for a standout book that's easy to love.

Liberty Call
Dennis Doherty
The Mad Duck Coalition
c/o Big Ripple Books|
9781956389067, $20.00

Walter Schmerz is a petty officer on a Navy ship, in training in the Philippines at the U.S. Navy Base at Olongapo. What evolves during this experience turns out to be more challenging than preparing for a military engagement. Walter and his crewmates find themselves challenged in a moral and ethical arena that leads them to commit crimes neither the Navy nor they will ever forget.

As he experiences a milieu in which "craziness is the plan of the day," Walter finds his place in the shore patrol team, makes choices about his actions and faces their consequences, and juggles alcohol and duty, along with his peers.

From combat theater and military tests to radioman challenges and romantic interludes (complete with graphic sexual descriptions and scenes), Liberty Call covers Walter's training on more than one level, capturing the daily life and challenges of the Navy environment and juxtaposing it with stories of substance abuse, twisted visions, and lives that teeter on the edge of control.

Dennis Doherty does an exceptional job of portraying the different levels of trouble and challenge that a Navy man can experience abroad. From motives and consequences for actions to lessons on life, death, and love, Walter's growth and dilemmas are detailed in a manner that will especially appeal to military or ex-military readers, as well as general-interest audiences.

His descriptions of history and events are vivid: "Things with Iran were hot since the hostages were taken. The volume of message traffic had bloated. Battle lines were being drawn. More ships into the Arabian Sea, into the Persian Gulf itself. The Iranians sent P3s and second-hand U.S. destroyers out to recon the fleet, each appearance prompting a flash report from the forward picket. The Russians accelerated activity and the usual cat and mouse games intensified. Rumors abounded among officers and crew. Everyone was caught between the dread of battle and the excitement of involvement, secretly longing for action. But not now, now that it might happen. Contingencies. Al told of the time they were making a simple R and R cruise from Yokosuka to Pusan and got mugged in Sasebo, where they loaded some spooks and a van on board and spent the next month chasing a Russian aircraft carrier all over the North Pacific. "Bravo Zulu. Keep charging." Everyone got gedunk ribbons. Contingencies: Russians, pirates, Boat People, Iranians - mopping up from their nation's previous adventures. Walter Schmerz juggling it all in the fluorescent hysteria of radio central on the USS Outland, frigate. Looking ahead, beyond the Philippines to Indian Ocean contingencies. That was a mistake. Heavy weather."

As internal threats from Chief Parma and external forces collide, an eye-opening story evolves that is powerful in its unexpected developments, made all the stronger for its roots in a real-life story.

Highly recommended for any military reader or collection, but surprisingly accessible to general-interest readers, Liberty Call is thoroughly engrossing, packed with action and moral dilemma, and is thought-provoking right up to its unexpected conclusion.

The Back Forty
Darrell W. Gurney
Hunter Arts Publishing
9780967422916, $24.95

The Back Forty: 7 Essential Embraces to Launch Life's Radical Second Half outlines the basic tenets of an approach to life that maintains that midlife is a time to revise perspectives to reach for new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. It's a welcome antidote to the notion that midlife begins the slow slide into inability and retirement from life, providing readers with an inspirational survey of these opportunities and how they may be realized. Consider it a perfectly timed tool for reevaluation brought on by "The Great Resignation" occurring in today's world economy.

Making the most of and cultivating these 'back forty' years involves re-evaluating and embracing past experience, present-day objectives, and future perspectives.

It involves identifying one's gifts, values, and objectives - which means that one of the prerequisites to using The Back Forty effectively involves the reader's willingness to closely examine their lives and make changes that lead to a new or redefined purpose in life.

This process is clearly outlined from the beginning: "Just as the term "commencement" is used for graduation ceremonies, which mark the end of a course of education and the beginning of a next stage, I was at my own commencement in midlife. It was time for me to begin. Not to start over. Not to be renewed or revitalized. Not to be re-invented. It was clear to me that I wasn't to be re-anything-ed. I started to clearly see that everything that had come before had perfectly prepared me for this commencement and that I was entering my own "Back Forty" to be who I came here to be and to do what I came here to do. Now."

Readers should be prepared to write in a Back Forty Freedom Fliers Journal, as this engagement is part of the process of re-examination and reconsideration. At each point in the step-by-step instructional, Darrell W. Gurney adds his own life's processes to reinforce direction and new applications: "I'll share my own abbreviated sequence of life events compiled from my exploration several years ago and then show you how I plotted those onto my own Back Forty Initiation Timeline" (from "Embrace 5: Your Initiation").

These personal reveals serve as reinforcing examples to the exercises, which are designed to guide readers through their own self-examination process.

Whether readers are on the cusp of or well into midlife, The Back Forty: 7 Essential Embraces to Launch Life's Radical Second Half offers many opportunities for not just re-envisioning the second half of life, but creating a solid game plan to make leading up to it in prior years.

Self-help readers seeking an inspirational program to guide them through negative times and positive possibilities will find that embarking on the Back Forty program offers many new perspectives to help guide all ages into a better future.

Reckoning Waves
Elliott Foster
Calumet Editions
9781950743674, $16.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Reckoning Waves is the second book in the Panic River trilogy, and takes place four years after the events presented in Panic River.

Having fled from the shooting that involved him, Corey has spent a good amount of time reinventing his life, even changing his last name as well as his entire life and interests. Only his mother and his best friend Billy bridge his past and present worlds...that, and the nightmares that return him to everything he fled from, despite his best efforts to forget.

One would think that moving to California and becoming involved in the painting community would be far enough away from the Midwest, but the past has a way of resurfacing. When Corey finds himself involved in a new love relationship with a man, he is forced to not only reexamine that past and the truths that brought him freedom and love, but must return to the Midwest to confront his demons.

Usually, a book sequel requires that readers have familiarity with the ongoing story line; but one of the benefits of Reckoning Waves is that while it enhances and expands its predecessor, prior familiarity with the story is not a requirement in order for newcomers to be completely absorbed in Corey's new life and dilemmas.

Elliott Foster crafts a story that focuses on geographic differences between West and Midwest and changing connections and love relationships, providing insights into how these new steps into a revised world can contribute to a different view of the past - and the courage to confront it.

As a new murder involves Corey in events that mirror what happened long ago, readers are brought into both mother Ginny and son Corey's lives as everything changes.

Foster is especially adept at detailing the logic Corey employs, both in changing his identity and life and embarking on new relationships affected by his decisions. These psychological depth and involvements are solidly intriguing and thought-provoking, enhancing a vivid tale that moves from past choices to present-day consequences.

From sexual encounters and legal investigations to ethical concerns ("I think that almost everyone can harm another person under the wrong circumstances. Everyone."), Reckoning Waves juxtaposes a story of retribution, redemption, and recovery with one of love and revenge.

What can cause the past to melt away, and how can everything turn from hopeful and positive to impossibly challenging, in an instant?

Readers won't anticipate the epilogue that concludes this story, nor the forces that work both with and against Corey to help him create a different life.

While it's a fine addition to its series, Reckoning Waves also stands nicely alone as a thought-provoking story of Midwest lives, same-sex relationships, and new possibilities for redemption. This focus will attract a wide audience, from readers of Midwestern fiction and literature to those looking for engrossing stories of evolving relationships and the challenge of forging a new life.

Flippity Floppity Wing
Hayden K. Billingy
Sugar Apple Books
9781735124445, $17.95

When Butterfly loses her wing in the picture book tale Flippity Floppity Wing, suddenly everything changes.

She's used to dancing and singing joyously as she flies over the flowers, until one wing becomes stuck on a branch and pulls away, leaving her crippled.

Hayden K. Billingy explores Butterfly's loss and suddenly-changed life through appealing rhymes: "Oh, my wing! My wing! My flippity-floppity wing! Where can I go without my wing? Oh, what an awful, awful thing to happen to my flippity-floppity wing!"

A wise owl offers advice, and other forest creatures try to help her mend her wing and return her to the life she knew, but all seems lost. Without her wing, she is land-bound and cannot fly or experience freedom.

As the story progresses, young picture book readers receive an astute examination of loss, grief, and growth that helps them understand both choices in reacting to adversity and different possibilities inherent in changed conditions.

Julia Sarapata de Carvalho's lovely illustrations capture the little butterfly girl's world in vibrant colors, injecting a multicultural, visual perspective into the story of loss and adaptation.

Parents will find the book's uplifting message, lilting rhyme, and portrait of maintaining positivity and adjusting well to even the devastating circumstances in life is especially relevant as COVID changes the world.

This unusual opportunity to teach important lessons to young picture book readers should be on the shelves of any library looking for picture book portraits of positivity and courage.

A Fairy on My Sleeve
Mari Sherkin
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645434351, $14.95

Picture book readers who enjoy stories about fairies will find A Fairy on My Sleeve an attractive tale of magic, with illustrations by David Gnass bringing the story to life.

Mari Sherkin's gentle rhyme introduces the possibilities of finding magic in the everyday world with an invitation to kids to observe the world closely: "If you look closely through the green/there are wonders to be seen:/that little glimmer in the sky/caught from the corner of your eye."

The story is narrated by an adult, who reflects on her childhood belief in magic and her adult decision not to believe in or read fairy tales any longer...until something happens to change her too-adult perspective.

As she explores a delightful, strange world right under her nose, kids and read-aloud adults receive a charming story of magic, observation, and an adult's determination to prove something that is considered to be impossible.

A Fairy on My Sleeve is a compelling story that takes a different approach to not just fairies, but the contrasts between magic, reality, and believing in something different.

The gorgeous drawings highlight the examination of adult pragmatism and the conversion to believing in new things, bringing a delightful blend of whimsy and thought-provoking wonder to kids and their adult readers alike.

A Fairy on My Sleeve is recommended for all ages (whether they believe in magic or not), and for young reader library collections seeking a different mix of adult and child perspectives about the world.

An Impossible Life
Rachael Siddoway and Sonja Wasden
The Gap Press, LLC
9781733619493, $19.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle/$5.95 Audio

An Impossible Life is a rare insider's chronicle of mental illness as seen from two collaborative perspectives: a mother and her daughter.

Sonja Wasden, a mother of three, was only thirty-five when she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by her husband and her father. A suburban housewife who appeared to have it all, Sonja resisted the possibility of mental illness, maintaining that the chaos that surrounded her life was not of her making.

Daughter Rachael Siddoway's work in making her mother's experiences and story public is to be celebrated, as is her choice in capturing her mother's life in a manner that stays true to her mother's perspective. As Rachael puts it in her introduction: "I may have put in the hours to write this story, but she put in the years and lived it. This story was written in first-person narrative as Sonja. Writing this book with my mother is my love letter to her."

And, what a tribute it is!

The story's first-person perspective captures the extent of Sonja Wasden's emotions as she falls deeper into the trap of mental illness: "Well, I do have a somewhat religious question," I admitted.

She nodded and smiled, encouraging me to continue.

"I go to church every week, read my Scriptures, and pray, yet I feel all the punishment of a sinner."

"What do you mean by punishment?"

"You know in the Bible where it talks about the weeping, gnashing of teeth, and being cast out into outer darkness?"


"That's how I feel inside. I feel like I'm in outer darkness."

Sonja's ties to her life, her family, and her world are shaken and examined, and readers receive insights into how it feels to descend into a mentally challenging place with only one compelling reason to stay the course: "I could disappear from the earth, but since my children needed me, I remained."

As life goes on and trials and tribulations affect her trajectory, the manner in which Sonja finds the courage to move on, and the impact of her choices on her family, are brought to life: "I started burying my grief deep, deep in the abyss of my soul, never to be found. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself and closed my eyes as God gave me strength. I felt pieces of my soul coming apart; for now, I would use these broken fragments to provide me with just enough strength to save my family, not knowing if I would ever be whole again."

Plenty of books about mental illness are on the market today. Some are written by family members; some by those who have emerged from the other side to reflect on their experiences; and some come from therapists who document events from their side of the couch.

Few hold the dual ability to illustrate both a mother's anguish and struggles and the intersection of faith and recovery which offers a way out for mother and daughter. More so than most books about mental illness, An Impossible Life: The Inspiring True story of a Woman's Struggle from Within succeeds in capturing the many facets of life that coexist to influence a spiraling descent and recovery process alike.

Replete with powerful, vivid inspections of an evolving and devolving world, An Impossible Life should be at the top of any reading list. Mental illness needs to be better understood on a personal level. This story provides a key to understanding, enlightenment, and love.

An Impossible Wife
Rachael Siddoway
The Gap Press
9781733619448, $19.99 Paper/$5.95 Audio/$3.99 Kindle

An Impossible Wife: Why He Stayed: A True Story of Love, Marriage, and Mental Illness is the second book in Rachael Siddoway's 'Impossible' series about mental illness. It comes from daughter Siddoway's examination of her mother's mental illness and its impact on the family, presenting a close inspection of a marriage challenged.

The family's courage in sharing their individual and family insights and experiences is to be commended. An Impossible Wife goes where few books on mental illness dare investigate, closely inspecting the impact of illness on a marriage and the factors which influence the relationship's preservation against all odds.

As in the prior book, An Impossible Life, which presented her mother's first-person view of her world, An Impossible Wife is again a loving tribute crafted by a daughter who captures these events in a manner few other mental illness books reveal. Her attention to an honest portrayal of events and their foundations in love is outlined from the beginning: "My parents' love story is not the kind I grew up watching in Disney movies. Their love is a complicated love, and at times an impossible one. Yet I think their story is worth sharing, despite its absence of simplicity. It's through great struggle that heroes are realized, and it's through even greater sorrow that two young people can age into one. And that's exactly what happened to my parents. This is their love story."

And, so it is.

Rachael Siddoway holds the rare ability to walk in another's this case, a husband and father who juggled his family responsibilities and his wife's mental illness.

This piece is narrated in the third person as it observes husband Mitch's quandaries and self-inspection: "How did self-harm become a part of our life? Mitch thought. Had he been too dismissive of her symptoms? Could he have prevented this if he had forced her to get individual therapy? He had his fair share of fights with Sonja, but he never forced her to do anything. Was that the problem here? Was he relying too heavily on her to make choices that would help her get better? He wondered if he was going crazy along with Sonja. She was getting sicker and sicker, and he was becoming more accustomed to it, like it was normal."

More so than most stories about mental illness, An Impossible Wife holds the special ability to delve under the skins of the entire family as they observe, react to, and are buffeted by a mother's mental illness in different ways.

Most of all, the focus on husband Mitch's various coping methods at different stages of his wife's illness makes for gripping, personal review of the special challenges that mental illness brings to a life partner: "Often, the mentally ill and their loved ones feel helpless and hopeless. But Mitch knew he needed hope to get through this, so he hoped for the best and prepared himself for the worst. He took Sonja's name off the house, the cars, his bank account, all his credit cards, and anything that would provide her a way to access money. During the week that she was in the hospital, he bought a safe where he would lock all checks, credit cards, and his wallet. Mitch wondered if Sonja would get off that runaway train, and if she did, what stop they would end up at next."

As a story of mental illness, An Impossible Wife is hard-hitting. However, as a love story, it is especially astute in its examination of how love is tested but remains alive against all odds.

Any family who has ever struggled with mental illness and any reader who would better understand how spouses cope - and remain committed and in love - needs this story of inspiration and survival, which should be a top priority for library collections interested in accounts of mental illness and recovery.

The Winged Child
Henry Mitchell
Creative James Media
9781735392639, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Many have dreamed of flying, in childhood: a memory that rarely surfaces in dreams in adulthood. But, in The Winged Child, Appalachian girl Millicent McTeer does more than dream. She realizes those dreams when she is forced to create a new life and identity as politics changes her world.

Flying isn't the only topic in The Winged Child, a tale of magical realism that embraces humans who can be dragons, machines, and demons.

The story opens not with Millicent's changing world, but with Wendl's dream of walking alone into danger. From the start, descriptions weave between fantasy and reality as Wendl faces his fear and finds it's actually a device from the real world: "The vibration swelled and gathered into an audible rumble. The darkness ahead paled into a gray fog, swallowing up the railbed where Wendl stood. The rails either side of him gleamed in the rising light, and the rumble gathered and grew into a deafening roar like the voice of a dragon. Wendl turned to behold the blinding and terrible eye bearing down upon him. He might have taken it for a dragon, but there were no dragons yet among the Fallen. It was only a train, and Wendl was standing in its way."

From this introductory encounter, it should be apparent that readers are in for a treat. Henry Mitchell's vivid visionary descriptions and his characters both come to life as characters face the boundaries between reality, fantasy, and threats that demand they transform on many different levels, both personally and politically.

While fantasy elements embedded within the tale make it attractive to fantasy audiences, it would be a shame to limit The Winged Child to these readers by pegging it as a fantasy alone.

The story features thought-provoking social, political, and psychological insights to draw and delight readers across genres, posing questions that even tread lightly into spiritual realms as Millicent finds other travelers on her path and begins to wonder if her choices, life, and actions are being influenced and directed in some manner.

Lessons come from all kinds of unexpected places: "...the plants had become his prevailing preoccupation, to the extent that Eric Lee had become, to all who knew him in Laurel, Eric Treetalker. When he was not tending his garden, he was thinking about it. When he was asleep, he dreamed it. "There's a deeper language in them," he tried to explain to Millicent. "Something more subtle than the few words we catch. They want to teach us, but we don't have the tools to learn."

From an abiding presence that Millicent taps to the process by which others uncover their own special gifts, the Appalachian world and that of fantasy blossom and entwine in a compelling saga of journeys, changes, and layers of worlds that coexist with our own. Peel them away for a profoundly thought-provoking story that holds its roots in both reality and other dimensions.

"The past is ever within touch, Dry McTeer," he said. "That was your first lesson. The past is as near as the future and the future is only the becoming of our present unfolding. As there are roads leading us from place to place, so there are ways between times, that are plain to see if we pay attention to our journey."

"I've paid attention," Millicent said quietly, making a statement rather than an argument. "The times, on closer inspection all turned out to look the same."

Are You Okay, Elliot Hart?
Kate S. Martin
Creative James Media
9781956183900, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

It's rare that a book title is catchy enough to mention in a review, but Are You Okay, Elliot Hart? grabs the young adult reader, promising something different, and finishes the job by juxtaposing two disparate lives that embark on a journey together: a bully and a victim.

Elliot ("Matchstick") has spent the last years of his life "making himself invisible." He's fine-tuned the art of vanishing into the woodwork, caring for his mother at home and hiding from school bully Josh, who harbors his own secrets and reasons for acting out.

It seems impossible that these two could set off on a shared experience, given the dance they perform in public, but their hidden pain and secrets create an unexpected situation when both independently decide to leave for the big city, and wind up together.

Kate S. Martin explores these disparate experiences and viewpoints in alternating chapters clearly marked with each young narrator's name, making it easy to move between their experiences and perspectives.

She also creates some intriguing twists, as Josh finds himself the victim much in the way he's treated Elliot: "I prepare myself for the worst, tell myself I deserve this. For all the crap I've given Matchstick over the years, I deserve this."

Each character taps their hidden powers, reassesses his choices and options, and finds renewed and surprising insights from the changed relationship with one another. Martin creates an interplay of emotions and experience that provides young readers with both action and thought-provoking moments as she considers bullies, victims, and their dreams.

Between blossoming romantic interests with girls to Elliot's transformation from a victim to someone with purpose and courage, teens will find much to relish in Are You Okay, Elliot Hart?

All this gives Elliot the courage to speak out: "Please, next time you look over at the fat kid, the quiet kid, the smelly kid, or even the mean kid. Please, stop for a moment and ask why?"

Are You Okay, Elliot Hart? features the rare ability to impart understanding that empowers the shy, the victim, and the bully alike. It is highly recommended reading for young adults who would better understand what lies behind the emotional responses of those around them.

Alejandro's Lie
Bob Van Laerhoven
Independently Published
9798451056851, $14.92 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

When is the right time to confront corruption, and what happens when that corruption moves from political systems to influence individual choice?

Musician Alejandro Juron has just been released from prison after his country's dictatorship begins to loosen its grip. To members of the resistance, this signals hope that he will return to them to contribute to another uprising, but in Alejandro's Lie, the spark of revolution has changed.

Alejandro's betrayal of his fellow musician and friend, combined with years behind bars to reflect on his treachery, has altered his heart. The outside world he steps into has also changed. As he faces this new world with music in hand and his heart newly protected from the passions of inflaming revolution, Alejandro grapples both with the new political milieu outside and his own aching soul within.

It was his betrayal that led to his fellow musician Victor being tortured to death. Unmoved by his observation of youth who are determined to "open the doors to democracy" through a defiance that cost him both his friendship and his soul, Alejandro is no longer inspired to protest, create inspirational music that fans the flames of revolution, or even pursue his secret love.

As political, social, and personal forces break through his ennui with new opportunities that even Alejandro can't deny, the story enters the territory of a thriller, which will delight audiences who appreciate both literary and suspense elements in their novels.

As Alejandro moves back into a connected world of passion on many levels, Bob Van Laerhoven captures new opportunities, observations, and choices that drive not just Alejandro, but those he loves and hates: "You're standing there in the corner with Pelaron, singing and poking the dragon," he said as he jumped over the ropes of the ring and hopped nimbly on the springy canvas. "I'm storming wildly towards you because I love Pelaron, and we start fighting. Shall we try that for a moment?"

Thriller readers will anticipate the high-octane action that permeates this story, but they may not expect the powerful undercurrents of guilt, love, treachery and redemption that influence many of Alejandro's decisions. This blend of psychological and moral inspection and politically charged action explores the Latin American milieu and culture in a manner that will keep readers thoroughly engaged.

Those who want to absorb the look, feel, and challenges of living under, defying, or bowing down to a military dictatorship will find Alejandro's Lie a powerful reflection on the forces that oversee average lives. The thriller components evolve into a heart-touching history to draw important connections between individuals and social conditions.

While thriller readers will be its main audience, Alejandro's Lie is highly recommended as a mainstay of any literary fiction collection strong in Latin American political, cultural, and social affairs.

Dead Cereus
Kira Seamon
Independently Published
9798985095609, $4.99 ebook

Cozy mystery readers who look for more than a light dose of humor that permeates unexpected conundrums will relish the tone and style of Dead Cereus, which packs a punch with puns, perplexing situations, and plants.

The rare night-blooming cereus plant will blossom at a gala planned to celebrate its opening, but audiences attracted to the spectacle include a clever killer who challenges Holly's life. Her scholarship at Shellesby College is on the line, but blows to her reputation and life goals set her adrift as her plot to become Professor Ogletree's intern goes awry.

She joins forces with William Smith, a sexy master gardener who takes care of all the rare plants and woos her with meals, plants, and passion, but the elusive killer keeps them guessing as the threats mount.

As romance, amazing food, and deadly struggles ensue, readers will find Kira Seamon's sense of humor spices events to create a spunky, determined, beautiful, amazing character whose close encounters are vividly depicted.

The result is a story that excels in the unexpected, from the twists and turns Holly takes in pursuit of her different goals to the plant- and food-driven plot which embraces gardening and romance alike.

Readers who like passion, plants, and love stories are in for a treat with a cozy mystery that is both hilarious and heartwarming. Dead Cereus is also highly recommended for any library interested in a cozy story that operates beyond the usual small-town depictions.

The Land of Irgendwo
Grayson W. Hooper
River Grove Books
9781632994684, $7.99 ebook

The first book in the Shadebringer series opens with a military engagement that doesn't portend that this story will move into fantasy realms.

Clyde Robbins is a soldier in the 1960s who confronts the feeling that his life is meaningless by joining the army, where he discovers that survival in and of itself lends meaning to his efforts...but is something that he also fails to achieve.

However, death is not the end of matters. He awakens in the land of Irgendwo after dying in a firestorm of bullets, and this is where the action really begins.

The first thing to note is that The Land of Irgendwo is not your usual formula fantasy adventure. The first-person conundrums of Clyde hold their roots in real-world feelings and events from the start: "If you're so goddamn smart, why aren't you going to college?"

"Because I'm poor white trash with no way out of here and no hope otherwise, so I figured I'd try my hand at killing commies rather than my stepfather. Besides, I feel like I owe this county for all my free books." Of course, I didn't give a rat's ass about the books, but I didn't feel like explaining why my life was otherwise meaningless."

Readers used to the injection of typical fantasy elements will first find that the story is well rooted in real-world scenarios. They may initially find these elements confusing and too close for comfort as history and characters navigate familiar territory that is not spiced with fantasy.

But, just wait. The story captures Clyde's gritty life, choices, dilemmas, and finally his death, then moves into other worlds with a deft attention to detail and surprises which defy any notion of a formula reading experience.

The language is up-front and in your face. This may stymie some, but is entirely in keeping with the characters and events, and will delight readers who seek a more refreshing tone of realism: "I hadn't even stepped off the bus before a pile of shit fell in my lap. On our way to the reception station, some fuckhead from New York decided to get froggy, so I split his upper lip."

The military isn't the only force that will "tear you down and rebuild you." So are events entirely beyond Clyde's predictions or control as he enters a realm in which he faces dark magic, a rabid cult, and the impact of his own decisions, inadvertently awakening a force that challenges the status quo in this dark world.

Battles, military encounters, and vivid inspections of good, evil, and the struggles between them permeate a story that also presents solid moral and ethical inspections: "We have learned nothing." I boiled with anger. How could Keats have served such evil? Why the hell would Jens do business with them? What kind of god would allow that place to exist? I shot a child dead and went to lunch an hour later. The reminder snuffed my righteous anger. Perhaps I deserved to be there with Bernie."

As Clyde trains for a very different kind of war and continues to face various demons, he participates in a chess game that includes beasts, attacks, strange alliances and friendships, and traitors.

Does anyone really have free will?

These and other questions mark a fantasy adventure like few others, that will captivate on many different levels.

While The Land of Irgendwo is not recommended for those who look for clean, circumspect formula fantasy writing, it's a top recommendation for readers who like their stories action-packed and unpredictable and their characters gritty and determined. The changing scenarios are compellingly rich with philosophical and moral reflection that adds an extra dimension to this hard-driving tale of loss, love, and lifetimes of struggle.

The Shadow in the Mirror
Roberto Guerra
Independently Published
9781695221383, $10.25, PB, 421pp
B07ZL22QY2, $2.99 Kindle ebook (Free with Kindle Unlimited)

From the day he was born, Harold's arrival portended a force that threatened humanity. Fast forward to 1980, where Harold is nine. The Shadow in the Mirror really begins at the moment of his birth, but moves forward in time to capture Harold's growing awareness of another force in his reflection, a "serpent in disguise."

His own self-awareness of something "off" continues to grow as he realizes that friendships and relationships never evolve in his life. Everyone around him senses the threat that he represents to the world, even if on a subliminal level.

The problem? The alter ego in the mirror is leading the successful life that Harold has always wanted. Who is evil and who is the threat, in this scenario? The answers lie in this mirror shadow, two lives, and a destiny that portends changes for both worlds.

Roberto Guerra does a fine job of exploring the psychic forces of darkness and light that permeate Harold's world. He paints these conflicts using vivid imagery that is delightfully evocative: "Harsh gusts of nocturnal wind blew across central Indiana, whipping the trees into motion, rattling my bedroom window. It was as if I'd shaken everything up by disrupting whatever was suppressing me. I swore that within that howling wind was an encrypted message trying to reach me."

As action and tension mount to place Harold in a position of realizing the truth about his birth and heritage, readers receive a powerful supernatural horror story that is satisfyingly complex and hard to predict.

When Harold's dreams and nightmares begin to spill into reality, readers are treated to a tense story of parallel dimensions and haunting influences that raise new questions. Who is the real Harold, and what is his place in the world?

Readers who look for blends of supernatural horror, psychological suspense, and turbulence from an "internal dungeon" will find The Shadow in the Mirror replete with discovery and insights that keep changing Harold's perceptions of his life.

Its powerful saga of mental illness, alter egos and warped realities, and destiny will keep readers not only entertained, but thinking about their own life realities and influences. It's highly recommended for readers of not just supernatural fiction and horror, but psychological suspense.

Crossing the Pressure Line
Laura Anne Bird
Orange Hat Publishing
9781645382836, $18.95 Hardcover/$12.95 Paper

Crossing the Pressure Line tells of twelve-year-old Clare Burch's loss of her beloved grandfather and how this changes her world, following her from her Chicago home to rural Wisconsin as she seeks to honor her grandfather's last wishes.

A special component of Clare's loss is that she feels that she should have been able to save Grandfather Anthony. And, history threatens to repeat itself as Clare confronts her strengths and weaknesses and the possibility that she can't really rescue much of anything.

As she interacts with Grandma Lulu and faces the fact that her friends are far away, unable to help her, Clare tests her courage and abilities. She embarks on a journey into unfamiliar territory powered by her grandfather's last wishes and his memory.

Laura Anne Bird gives middle grade readers a multifaceted story that examines a feisty young girl's upward momentum as she works through her grief and faces new tests and opportunities during a summer that changes everything.

As time passes, Clare begins to set forth goals and solutions to her problems in a methodical manner. This allows her to process her grief and loss when her grandmother contemplates further changes that will take even more away from their lives.

This realistic account of loss and adjustments stands head and shoulders above most middle grade stories of family grief. It recounts not just Clare's adaptations and challenges, but those of her family, as everyone makes different, new decisions for their futures.

Middle grades receive a richer examination of the ripples caused by a death in the family than most similar reads offer. They will find Crossing the Pressure Line a compelling story that embraces not one, but the many facets of loss and change. Its consideration of support systems and how all ages may both offer and use them lends to a story that is thoroughly absorbing and thought-provoking as it reveals Clare's journey.

Tails From Down Under
Tara Lala
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645437857, $16.95

Tails From Down Under is a lively story about Paradise Royale, a girl who lives in Ophelia's Orphanage in Paris. Not the Paris of coffee and cafes, but the underside of town, where the forgotten reside.

One day, a family comes to the orphanage to adopt her, specifically. And everything changes.
The opening chapter sets the stage for her adoption and move to America, but the heart of this tale actually begins nine years later.

Young readers will not anticipate the results of Paradise's transformation. She's moved to Los Angeles, barely recalls her French language and heritage, and dreams of becoming a model with her best friend, eschewing school and failing classes, as a result.

Her adoptive parents don't support her goals, and favor their birth son: "Mom and Dad had always been against my dreams. Even though I was so appreciative that they adopted me, they seemed not to care about me; they only doted on Sam. Although Sam was spoiled and got whatever he wanted, he'd grown to be a humble and nice guy. Sam was now a senior and wanted to become a movie director. Mom and Dad fully supported him, but whenever I brought up modeling, they immediately criticized my dream."

Despite her mother's efforts to dissuade her from her goal, Paradise meets a model on the airplane and solidifies her dreams. Then she discovers the truth about her adoption, and why her adoptive parents seem to resent her. And everything changes once again.

Tara Lala creates an engaging story that evolves into directions that pre-teen readers won't see coming.

As Paradise finds herself in a milieu where all the rules have changed and magic becomes part of her world, readers will appreciate the juxtaposition of real-world dilemmas, problem-solving on many levels, and Paradise's search for a place and feeling she really can call home.

Pre-teens will identify with her changes and adventures, and will appreciate how the story comes full circle in an unexpected way. Tails From Down Under is an extraordinary work that pairs real-world with magical dilemmas so seamlessly that the reader's mind and heart are delighted by Paradise's spunky charm.

Advanced elementary to middle grade readers will find Tails From Down Under captivating.

Mike Maroney
9781916118119, $8.99 paper/.99 ebook

It's unusual to see adventures for ages 7-12 set in Russia, but Mishka holds special appeal for dog lovers as well as sporting an unusual setting. Kids receive an education about the geography and culture of Russia ("June in the Russian north was as warm as December was cold.") as they read about dog Mishka's crime-busting exploits.

Think Lassie, but on a bigger scale. Mishka becomes involved in bank robberies, scares thugs and thieves, and saves children.

But, a dog story isn't all that is happening in Mishka. Mike Maroney takes the time to explore the emotions and growth of those around Mishka, as well: "Max was sorry for being cross at Natasha. If there's one thing that makes you feel big, it's someone being scared when you're not."

This injection of psychological inspection and keys to understanding interpersonal communications makes Mishka much more than the story of a superhero dog. It's a study in bullying, friendships, relationship-building, and best friends and family that brings all these elements into a vivid tale.

Kids may initially choose Mishka because of their love for dogs, but ultimately they will pursue the story because of its descriptions of love between people and animals alike.

Adults who direct kids to Mishka will find its warmth and Russian backdrop simply delightful.

Ernest Cohen
Independently Published
9798761916890, $12.95

JUST ONE LIFE (all caps intended) introduces Geoffrey Zukor, a walking disaster who navigates life on a tightrope of ongoing problems.

His story opens with a vivid account of falling into a death pit of doom. Then the scenario moves from Geoffrey's feelings and observations to a more dispassionate analysis of events that teases the mind with delightful tongue-in-check humor: "Rather dramatic, the whole falling into the death-smeared pit of doom bit, wasn't it? Surprisingly though, drama was not the objective here. What the man behind the curtain was going for was memorable. That's what you need in a situation like this; you need m-e-m-o-r-a-b-l-e. For you see, Geoffrey's impending high-speed head butt with the cold, blood-stained rocks of the canyon floor wasn't just some run-of-the-mill neural oscillation run amuck. No, this snippet of dream was something else entirely."

Ernest Cohen adds footnotes that are anything but staid and scholarly during the course of exploring Geoffrey's navigation of life: "Really Odin, old boy, it never dawned on anyone to potty-train the Valkyrie? Really?"

These add delightful embellishments to a tale replete in humorous plays on words, family life, and situations that keep Geoffrey on his toes and dancing through life.

Even his hospitalization and release receive a special brand of attention that readers won't expect: "He wondered if he could confide in him; tell him how damn strange it felt to be out of the hospital, to be out in the world, out on his own. Tell him how everything on the drive overlooked the same, the same streets and buildings, yet it all felt so different, so unfamiliar. It was so weird. But should he tell him that? Tell him that maybe, somehow, he'd gotten used to the hospital, used to having everyone around, the endless barrage of smiling, familiar faces; tell him how maybe he had even come to feel part of something, something larger than just his own recovery."

By now, it should be more than evident that Geoffrey's transformations will be extraordinary and unpredictable; both in his life and in the story.

From how transitions in life are achieved and how sequestered people become free, to disturbing, strange events that Geoffrey must address, readers receive a romp through life, politics, psychology, and realms of insanity that give them a delightful run for their money.

Ernest Cohen succeeds in spinning both a hilarious and a thought-provoking yarn.

JUST ONE LIFE is a captivating reflection on life's ironies, challenges, and changing situations that both test and transform the characters in different ways.

Its lively inspections and unexpected twists will keep readers involved to the end.

The Seekers: Soul Ties
Anton Anderson
Independently Published
9798504782874, $5.28 ebook; $14.73 paperback

The Seekers: Soul Ties will appeal to fantasy readers who like their adventure stories fast-paced and action-packed, but it also presents an unusual format. It takes the form of two stories of couples who face different challenges as they tackle changing threats from the natural world they thought they knew well.

Sabiri and Iskrila are forced to go to war to protect their village when a new force hits. They are igni: a fast, agile creature on this world which sports "two legs ending with hooves, two arms, but also a tail. Unlike animals who walk on all fours, the igni, as any sapient species of the Lands, preferred to walk upright, meaning on two legs. Each igni was two meters tall, wide and muscular, making them the second strongest and biggest sapient species." They are unique, creative makers whose curiosity can either pose trouble or offer a solution to the challenging new threats that plague the world.

Maria and Bacara's lives (they are also igni) revolve around a different village world. They, too, face mysterious attackers who seem to have no specific reason for decimating their village. The only solution involves a quest to gain control of magical artifacts that may hold power to protect their village from the attack or some other useful ability.

With various clans, good allies, dangerous enemies, unique species, close friendships, different goals, desires, and perspectives, Anton Anderson crafts a complex, appealing world. He peppers his story with black and white illustrations that add visual context to its characters and setting.

There are ancient, mysterious temples with magical doorways that lead you where you command them, magical fountains that become full of running water at your single wish, and books that are crafted unnaturally well. There are encounters with diverse species and a variety of colorful and dangerous flora and fauna.

Most of all, their quest involves satisfying their curiosity about the world and testing their courage and responses to it as all four move outside their familiar comfort zones and into realms where the rules no longer apply.

Anderson's story seems a simple quest tale on one hand, but draws readers with a complex fantasy setting and evolving relationships that often give pause for thought. Uncertain new alliances test everyone and bring with them new dilemmas as the power of the artifacts becomes evident.

Will they tap this new force to save the world, or will they transform it?

The struggles these igni face within themselves and between one another makes for an involving fantasy that paints an involving picture of creatures connected to the land, but somewhat disconnected from one another.

The adventure that drives them into unfamiliar territory is recommended reading for fantasy fans from advanced middle school grades well into adult circles.

War Train
Donald Willerton
Terra Nova Books
9781948749770, $14.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

War Train is set in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and revolves around teen Mogi Franklin, who becomes involved in his architect sister's refurbishing of an old hotel, only to find himself investigating its mysterious past.

An attic filled with treasures that needs to be emptied introduces Mogi to World War II history and mysteries, from the Harvey Girls and bank robbers who pulled off a heist that has never been solved to family experiences during the war that created changes, secrets, and extraordinary events.

Teen readers who choose War Train will find the history nicely embedded within this historical backdrop, all powered by Mogi's present-day dilemmas as he uncovers more and more facts and mysteries that dovetail with his family's past.

Donald Willerton doses the story with a heavy hand of World War II facts, but assumes no prior reader knowledge of this backdrop as he spins a yarn that keeps Mogi investigating and on his toes.

Chapters alternate between past events and present day, adding more characters into each era to bring both worlds to life. These are clearly identified in chapter headings, so the flow between eras proves seamless, with each offering captivating insights that keep readers engaged and moving forward.

The past decisions and events that lend to the future mystery makes for a story that juxtaposes adventure and discovery with new revelations about the Castaneda Hotel, the famous Harvey House restaurant, and a mother's love for twins which creates both a dilemma and a solution that resonates through the years.

Teens who choose War Train for its action and mystery will find themselves intrigued, entertained, and educated, all in one.

War Train is especially recommended for collections seeking a way of imparting World War II history to today's youth in a manner that embraces both facts and entertaining adventure leading to new discoveries and revelations about the present.

How to Hunt a Bear
Revital Shiri-Horowitz
Horowitz Publishing
B09MHRBGDD, $7.99 Kindle

Readers of historical novels centered on World War II events will find How to Hunt a Bear a fine saga. It follows a Jewish family from 1939, as Nazis enter their village, and is revealed from three perspectives. Eighty-seven-year-old Itzhak, a nursing home resident in Jerusalem, seeks to document his family story; young Itzhak (Ichu) is seven years old at the beginning of the war; and Maya, a family history genealogist, finds that her research into the Hauzer family legacy changes her life.

As the story moves from 1939 Poland and first-person experiences and Jewish culture there to a grueling Russian winter in 1942, then to modern-day (2019) Holland, readers will find all the characters provide thought-provoking experiences.

Changing places and times are clearly labeled in chapter headings which clarify the back-and-forth perspectives and shifting timelines that carry the family and readers from past to present.

Modern characters attempt to understand their place in the family history based on newly emergent knowledge about the past, lending How to Hunt a Bear an excellent sense of interconnected heritages and Jewish cultural experiences.

These revelations are powerful strengths of the story, nicely answering the question contemporary young people may have about the relevance of historical events to their modern lives: "I couldn't conceive how people had survived the war for so many years, only to be unable to return to their homes, forced to spend a few more years in a DP camp and then embarked for Israel, a country rising from the dust, where they would begin a new life from scratch, unwilling to let their darkest memories and their lost loved ones hold them back, difficult as it may be. How did people start over after enduring that kind of suffering?"

The use of first-person observations brings these disparate worlds to life, strengthening the connections between characters who share not just history, but Jewish culture.

These elements make How to Hunt a Bear a purposeful, revealing testimony to survival that is highly recommended for any collection strong in Holocaust history and Jewish experience.

Life After
Anna Mitchell Hall
Cane Mill Press
9781737560432, $6.99 ebook/$9.99 paperback

Life After: Finding Strength And Spirit In Unexpected Change is a testimony to facing challenging changes with courage and hope. Typically, such books center on loss. Anna Mitchell Hall's focus is on all types of transformative change (whether they stem from loss or vastly altered directions in life) which bring with them new opportunities for reconsidering faith and life's meaning.

As chapters explore the skills for surviving and thriving life, Christian readers receive keys to adaptation and how to tap into the kinds of religious support systems, concepts, and actions that keep them moving onward and upward.

Being Christian or even religious does not automatically translate to flexibility. The effort needs to be made to adapt to, grow from, and embrace life expereinces: "As Christians, we are called to set our hearts and minds in such a way as to be receptive to the inbreaking spirit of God. This can be one of the biggest challenges of our faith. Loving our neighbor is no picnic but being open to changing our preferences and routines is a whole other ball game. We all have opportunities to be transformed by the changes that come into our lives. Yet many of us, and many of the organizations we are a part of, remain stubbornly static, unchanged, and even raging against the change that comes to our doors."

As Hall delves deeper into the riches and wisdom of transformation, readers begin to draw important inspirational connections between Christian belief, life's progression and challenges, and the choices involved in adopting attitudes that contribute to the world in a positive way.

Each step is clearly delineated and analyzed. These lessons also present room for journaling and daily admonitions ("What might you need to let go of to make room for change?") as they teach in various ways - by example, author experiences and insights, those of others she's heard of or encountered on her journey, and the intersection of spiritual and psychological thinking.

Readers who want a specific, inspirational blueprint to improving their own journeys after catastrophic loss or change will find Life After even more pertinent and necessary in a world challenged by COVID and other paradigm-altering events.

Life After should be in Christian and self-help collections alike as a solid inspection of the routes that may be taken to mitigate depression and fatalistic thinking.

The Pod Tower
Pete Alexander
Independently Published
9781291875683, $15.48 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The Pod Tower blends the dystopian backdrop of a cold 2057 winter with a story of intrigue as a renegade who lives outside of his technological world comes to realize that a family secret is threatening his son.

Marcus Calvert has rejected many social norms and made decisions that have negatively impacted his family life, but he can't turn his back on either his past or his son Elliot's future. An added motivation for his newfound involvement in both is the threat posed to his carefully construed lifestyle by this family secret.

Marcus begins a search for truth that holds frightening ramifications not just for his own life or his son's, but for the future of mankind.

Pete Alexander paints a compelling portrait of a world not that far ahead of (or vastly different from) some of the directions modern society is heading in. That makes this story all the more attractive. Marcus shapes his world with newfound knowledge of actions made in 2009 by a middle-aged father whose irreversible decision causes consequences that ripple into the future.

Marcus lives outside the Containment Walls and operates in a milieu replete with nature, despite constant threats to change it in every way imaginable. Pete Alexander captures the look, feel, and focus of this world: "Calvert had always loved the wind, whether just a soft summer breeze upon his skin or a full-on epic winter onslaught. To him, it was one of the last touches of reality he could relate to in a world which, day by day, seemed hell-bent on becoming systematically poisoned and technologically crippled. The very notion that it was a force too powerful to be changed or corrupted by the human race was one he was able to draw some reassurance from."

Calvert believes that "society has changed for the worse, rather than the better." Many of his observations, insights, and experiences will reverberate with modern readers who face their own dismay over social and environmental changes and human impacts.

This is one reason why Alexander's The Pod Tower resonates so strongly. It contains many elements of modern angst and dilemmas, and while it contains a futuristic dystopian backdrop, these concerns and the realistic portrait of a rebel drawn to solve a long-standing mystery to change his own life and those around him makes for particularly engrossing reading.

Marcus has spent decades carefully avoiding the one thing he needs to confront. Readers who follow him on his adventure will find both the setting and the psychology impeccably depicted and thoroughly compelling.

It's hard to craft a detailed work of social inspection within the larger context of a sci-fi adventure. Alexander has achieved both of these goals, and The Pod Tower thus holds the ability to serve as not just an involving dystopian read, but a story that holds discussion material for book clubs interested in community and individual transformation from the seeds of social injustice.

Prince Ewald the Brave
Dylan Madeley
Independently Published
9798741692691, $15.00 Paper/$1.99 Kindle

In Prince Ewald the Brave, Prince Ewald Kenderley, in line to inherit the throne as the oldest in the family, faces a threat not from outside the kingdom, but from within...from its own leader and king, his father.

King Jonnecht is a tyrant whose temper and violence threatens not just his family, but his kingdom. He operates in direct opposition to the queen's kind ways, and Ewald's siblings have developed their own survival tactics designed to preserve their lives and little else.

It's up to Prince Ewald to find a way to confront his father and king's rule to save not just the kingdom, but his family. How can he defeat a ruler who holds the power to inject his attitude throughout his kingdom?

As Prince Ewald hones a plan, others also plot to bring down the tyrannical king: "The King of Osterik instead looked to the mountains where he would soon send whole armies; from there, they hoped to charge down the western slopes, and like a new river not to be stopped, push the Kenderleys all the way back to Bayrock, and there, smash the glass house that Jonnecht was building to taunt his foes. He sighed. Ah, dreams."

Soldiers amass and battles begin as Ewald learns new tactics, both physical and mental, to challenge his powerful father's rule.

It should be noted that while Prince Ewald the Brave is connected to a trilogy, it operates as a stand-alone prequel that requires no prior familiarity with events to prove accessible and interesting even to newcomers who may have chosen it as a singular fantasy adventure.

Another note is that, despite a cover that seems designed to appeal to young adults and preteen readers, the action and deeper messages of this story will reach into adult fantasy reader circles.

What does it take to be a nobler, truer king rather than a dictator who appears to wield all the power? As Ewald tests his boundaries and limitations and considers the choices he has in defeating a monster, the prince's changes and considerations prove enlighteningly thought-provoking: "If the truth only needed itself to win, what a place Kensrik would be," the Prince mused. "Too often it's about who's best at using force."

The result is a fantasy that will appeal to a wide age range as a determined prince is forced to consider what makes a better ruler with an outcome that resonates with his values and the kind of world he wishes to influence.

Libraries strong in fantasy collections will find Prince Ewald the Brave inviting.

The Fate of Lenn
Dylan Madeley
Independently Published
9798476324775, $13.00 Paper/$1.99 Kindle

The Fate of Lenn follows the trials and tests of Duke Lenn Wancyek, and opens with his childhood and fragments of memories that influence his growth to adulthood.

A prologue offers his early questions, his growth and introduction to cousins, the loss of his beloved father, and the issues which continue to influence his evolution.

Lenn's search for a peaceful life despite his duties and position in the kingdom are evident from the start: "Lenn remained troubled. None of this changed his responsibilities. If Lenn kept his kingly uncle happy, this Dukedom would continue to benefit from trade and protection. And Lenn could safely read in his personal library without so much as needing a guard to watch the manor, so peaceful was his countryside. He supposed that some inconvenient task was necessary in exchange for such luxury. His family had made many deeper sacrifices than this."

As he comes of age and comes to feel increasingly detached from the responsibilities his position brings, Lenn confronts both opportunities and conflicts of interest that dare him to reconsider his role in the kingdom even as invaders arrive.

As Duke Lenn engages in a war that carries him beyond his inclination to live a quiet life, readers are treated to a story of good, evil, and the ultimate impact of a legacy that influences "....a people who survived and would one day thrive again."

It's difficult to peg the audience for this story. Dylan Madeley crafts a memorable story of inner and outer conflict as he follows a young man who takes on the political and social conflicts of his kingdom. The story works on psychological and fantasy levels to reach a wide age range. Other characters facing their own life-changing issues and influences intersect with Lenn's life to provide a full-faceted story of a kingdom under siege in different ways.

The cover illustration and some of the story would seem to appeal to middle grade readers and older; but many of the fantasy elements will reach into adult circles with their thought-provoking insights into survival and transformed lives.

The Fate of Lenn is a tale of good men and legends that create hope for the future with stories that live on in the hearts and minds of survivors.

The story of a quiet Duke who steps up to become a hero figure despite his reclusive inclinations will appeal to readers who like powerful stories of courage, battle, and political and social strife that lead to thought-provoking, life-changing situations.

Mouse Trap
Matthew Cost
Encircle Publications
9781645993292, $17.99

Fans of Wolfe Trap and investigator Clay Wolfe (who was introduced in that mystery) will relish his reappearance in Mouse Trap, another Port Essex story that revolves around Wolfe's probe into a missing mouse.

This isn't just any rodent. It's a resident of a genetics lab that has been subject to a well-meaning genome editing experiment gone awry. And the mouse's fate could determine the fate of humanity, if what it harbors also gets loose.

Matthew Cost's latest mystery thus moves from a whodunit to a thriller as Clay's new task holds implications for life far beyond Port Essex, Maine. As opposed to Cost's Mainely Mystery series, the Clay Wolfe/Port Essex series is a thriller series, following up Wolfe Trap about heroin being smuggled through lobster traps and Mind Trap, where society is threatened by a cult run amok.

Good genes, bad intentions, and an evil plot to unleash havoc all revolve around the mouse's fate and Clay's ability to pursue the truth about its importance. Is this genome editing being done on more than just mice?

From Victoria's search for a way to create an above-average baby to the intersection of business, science, and Clay's conflicts with a new police chief who doesn't appreciate the fact that a P.I. has set up shop in his own jurisdiction, right under his nose, Cost creates a riveting story filled with subplots and small-town characters who all have their own special interests.

Russians may or may not be involved in stealing or buying scientific discoveries involving superior mice. Clay comes to the realization that, like it or not, he's going to be a father with a woman he doesn't love. Cost creates a fast-paced, riveting story that moves through characters' lives and bigger-picture thinking alike.

Clay, his Grandpops, and a group of his supporters edge closer to the dangerous truth about the missing mouse, giving readers many satisfying twists and turns to keep them on edge and guessing.

Mouse Trap is a vivid story that mystery and thriller genre readers alike will find involving on many different levels. Libraries catering to these audiences will find that Cost has crafted another winner.

The truth is stranger than fiction, in this story especially. (Wait. It is fiction. Isn't it?)

Otzi's Odyssey
Neil Perry Gordon
Independently Published
9781732667730, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Otzi's Odyssey - The Troubled Soul of a Neolithic Iceman is a metaphysical fantasy thriller. It embraces these genres in a manner that will intrigue and delight readers looking for something refreshingly action-packed, employing a different flavor in timelines that move from modern to prehistoric eras and back again.

Otzi the caveman's mummified body is found trapped in ice, in 1991. What isn't trapped is his soul, which awakens from its long sleep to find itself in a strange new world.

In an effort to uncover answers to many questions about his life and reincarnation, Otzi journeys from present to past. This brings readers into his perception of caveman conflicts and daily life and the conundrums his journey poses not only to that world, but present-day events.

Imagine waking up to see your frozen body. Neil Perry Gordon paints a vivid picture of Otzi's awakening: "While I observed a body, half-buried in the glacial ice, I could not reach out and touch it. While I heard the shrieking winds, I could not feel the frigid snow being pushed up into towering drifts. While I shouted my anguish aloud, my words fell silent on the mountainside. If it is true that I existed, then it must be also true that I am not of body."

As he struggles to answer haunting questions of how his soul remains connected to his body, and what the purpose of his reincarnation serves, readers follow him a journey that brings him to Jolly Jane, who joins him and others in this strange state of being half-alive.

Jane was known as a murderess, committing others to death because it "helped her cope." Otzi sold his soul to the devil in a bargain which has apparently landed him in this position. Both find themselves undertaking a journey through tortured souls, guided by a Voice that seems to inject a higher purpose to their conditions and present-day dilemmas.

Gordon's story is thought-provoking, action-packed, and thoroughly unpredictable. Spiritual wisdom and guidance juxtapose nicely with the adventure component to keep readers both entertained and enlightened.

As memories of past life and loved ones are channeled in unexpected ways, Otzi must find the courage to follow his calling through past lives and into a future where he makes better choices.

Readers who enjoy more than casual metaphysical inspection, spiced with the thriller components of an adventure through past and present realms, will relish Otzi's Odyssey. The story is highly recommended for fantasy, spirituality, and thriller collections alike.

The Ventriloquist
Steven Cortinas
Independently Published
9798490681397, $14.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Dystopian sci-fi readers who like alternate history stories will find The Ventriloquist an unusual tale. It creates a different spin on the events surrounding JFK's murder.

This alternate world is connected by the Hive network. Everything is automated, and nothing is secret. When Lee Hussein Oswald murders JFK, the death creates an international incident and war in the Middle East. Oswald was just the fall guy for an insidious takeover plot designed to control the world's population.

This is when the Ventriloquist enters the picture with his dual identity as an assassin and comedy act. As iTech influences and presence fall onto his radar of attention, the "armed and extremely Muslim" Oswald fears for his daughters, raised under the technological surveillance and prejudice of this nation. His role as a "dumb patsy" is apparently to confront demons, CEOs, and the growing divide between Muslims and the world.

Steven Cortinas captures the moment-by-moment reality of JFK's death, but couches it in this futuristic scenario involving the Hive, the Ventriloquist, high technology control methods, and issues affecting the Muslim community.

This creates a diverse inspection that seamlessly pairs a futuristic setting with the facts surrounding JFK's murder and how it is reported to, interpreted, and investigated by forces hidden to the public.

This combination of fantasy and reality is very nicely done. It introduces compelling notes of social and political inspection that introduces the Legacy Universe in a way that feels both familiar and alien. The chronicle also employs a humorous overtone, at times, to offer comic relief as impossible circumstances embrace Gateways, doors, and brick walls that keep even the clever Ventriloquist on his toes.

Part sci-fi alternate history and part investigative drama, The Ventriloquist is an excellent study based on a thought-provoking what-if. What if social media existed on the day JFK was shot? How would its pressures, interpretations, and structure have changed the events that followed JFK's murder?

Readers who enjoy strong social inspections that keep them wondering and thinking will find that The Ventriloquist does both as the power of the Legacy permeates this universe and directs the actions of ordinary people and extraordinary quasi-heroes alike.

Sci-fi collections strong in alternate history, social commentary, and dystopian settings will relish the different flavors strongly represented in The Ventriloquist. Those who tire of JFK rehashes will be especially delighted to discover the story moves into much unfamiliar territory.

Imani's Undersea Adventure
Tess M Jackson
Onyx Prose Publishing
9781736128282, $16.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Picture book readers who enjoy stories of undersea encounters will relish Imani's Undersea Adventure. The story opens with a young girl's visit to an aquarium with her grandfather, where she views scary sharks.

As her wise grandfather teaches her that the shark is more amazing than scary, Iamni views a marine biologist feeding them inside the tank. She and young readers learn more about shark biology, studies, and history, which dovetails with her grandfather's review of their heritage and those who were forced onto slave ships in Africa to be brought to America.

Imani learns much more than natural history in a story that embraces human and natural affairs. It teaches kids about science, research methods, historical examination, and modern dilemmas (such as the fact that many African Americans don't know how to swim).

What does this have to do with sharks? As Imani comes to realize truths about more than just sharks, she fosters a deeper appreciation of her heritage and modern-day opportunities, and develops a new goal, as a result of this information.

Young readers may anticipate the adventure that revolves around confrontation and problem-solving from the book's title, but Imani's Undersea Adventure offers so much more. It's an adventure that explores fear, heritage, opportunity, and revised experiences.
Imani's Undersea Adventure is highly recommended for picture book libraries seeking inclusive fiction about strong young Black girls who learn about new opportunities via lessons from the past.

Its positive note about engagement and understanding links past and present to help youngsters understand how the past influences present-day choices and opportunities, with the possibility of changing the world.

Paradox: The Attack on the Ladies Room
Timothy Perper and Martha Cornog
Independently Published
9798729693818, $18.95

Paradox: The Attack on the Ladies Room blends mystery with a time travel story and humor. Agents John and Krylla Smith are experienced in tracking down puzzles for a group operating within a semi-covert government agency.

This particular endeavor, however, involves an investigation of matters far from the usual staid approaches to world realities and threats: "And what is DivEs? It stands for the Division of Esoterica. But while operating quietly within OIO, it's not a division of anything, not really, just a loose collection of folks interested in everything from the Land of Oz to water sprites to little blue men from Mars. Doesn't matter if such beings are real or not - they might be real, and that starts to get some high-powered people involved, like the Executive Branch of the government..."

The problems it solves embrace everything from lost tricycles to possibilities such as 'paratime.' The descriptions of these paradoxes might challenge readers who harbor less affection for physics explanations: "...wars in paratime are not so simple as they might be in mere three-dimensional space. Assume, for argument's sake, that your target is place X at time T, in some tau dimension tau-sub-one. Pop up there, you say, make a quick strike, and - whammo. All is said and done, and you've won. Ha. Not so, not if the enemy also has tau-time capabilities, as they say in the military. When they find out about your victory at X,T, tau-sub-one, they sneak up in a parallel universe to X,T, tau-sub-one minus 2 minutes and clobber you the instant you show up. You see, we must remember that for any given event in a given paraverse, there is an infinity of similar or like events elsewhen. Only in one of them did you perhaps achieve the victory you wanted."

However, readers who enjoy science and speculative works injected with thriller and mystery components, who relish challenging scientific observations and possibilities set against an action-packed backdrop, will find Paradox: The Attack on the Ladies Room just the ticket.

And, don't forget the humor. It laces through the adventure, spices the missing person situation involving Krylla, and draws readers with a sassy, observational tone that is wry and revealing all in one.

Many of the descriptions seem like weighty run-on sentences, but incorporate vivid descriptions that are detailed, yet accessible: "In those emerging Innoryas where Krylla herself was listen-ing to Yvor, she was indeed impressed by his scenario. She readily envisioned herself dashing down darkened alleys, woboes at her heels, breathless, hurrying through the gloom amidst sullen beggars and drunken revelers who grabbed at her while making leering remarks - (Krylla, too, had her kaleidoscopic moments, and she visualized herself simultaneously kicking one of the leering revelers and slitting a random brigand's throat with a Malayan kris that had materialized out of nowhere) - and then, leaping over the sodden body of a gshthwk addict (a terrible drug, invented by Krylla solely for the purposes of the scenario, that degrades the soul while destroying the body: O woe!) and seeing ahead the lights of the local Paratime Troop headquarters, suddenly - snaffle! - there opens up a Wessel time trap - "

Yes, there is complex language, intriguing paradoxes, and a story that is both science-laden and weighty. But these elements are tempered by a rollicking romp through time and space that is satisfyingly unpredictable, filled with twists and turns to keep readers guessing about the outcome.

Paradox: The Attack on the Ladies Room is highly recommended for readers who like sci-fi and time travel mysteries laced with a side order of jokes that temper the story's complexity. The result is a fun atmosphere overlying a serious dilemma.

Sci-fi, humor, and time travel fiction readers will find that Paradox: The Attack on the Ladies Room steps out of the boundaries and comfort zones of these genres to represent a unique blend of mystery surrounding, for example, the Origin of the Capsillon transmitter, and who invented what, somewhen.

Holcomb's Potato Song
Peter Obourn
Ivy Books
9781736336526, $TBA

The whimsical title and youthful appearance of this book's cover art suggest a young audience, but Peter Obourn's story of a farm boy's adventure and coming of age is recommended for young adult and adult readers alike.

Holcomb Bascomb's upbringing and experience offer few options for a wider-ranging life. His countenance to his small rural community is that of a quiet man who is solid, yet circumspect in his interactions with others. He isn't involved in small-town politics or drama...which is why his entanglement with Grace Illingwood, who embarks on a search to find a father who was never part of her life, is so unusual.

But Holcomb has overheard a conversation not meant for his ears, and this sends him on an unexpected journey that belays his staid approach to life and poses new challenges that go beyond an awakening sexual attraction and emotional connections.

Peter Obourn paints a compelling portrait of a young man's crush on an older woman (Grace's mother Agnes), his struggles to understand his emotions and reconcile them with his urges and his place in the world, and his growing determination to do something about his situation: "I just said hi and went to the reading room, which is a nice room. It has couches and easy chairs. It's kind of like a living room with books in it. I sat, and even though it made my stomach hurt, I started to think about Agnes Illingwood. I had to because something had to change with Agnes."

As Holcomb's decisions land him in the middle of emotional, sexual, and social conundrums that he has no experience with and little ability to handle, he finds that doing what he thinks is the right thing isn't always the simplest answer.

Between confronting theft and envy to confronting the truth about Grace's father's identity, Holcomb finds his hands full and his heart heavy.

Obourn takes the time to paint a fine backdrop for this story. This atmosphere and the small-town descriptions lend a vivid, realistic touch to the tale: "We sat together on a rock. We were the only climbers at the top. We could see peaks fifty miles away and all the lakes and forest in between. We looked back over Forestville and out to the farm and up the river that disappeared into the trees and at the mountain peaks that got hazier and hazier until they disappeared over the horizon. Close to us we saw individual trees, then patches of green and red and gold that gradually merged into a single hue and then merged again into a soft line between earth and sky."

The coming-of-age component nicely drives a plot in which Holcomb comes to better understand himself and his place in the world. Readers will realize that his intrinsic patience and quiet ability to listen may be not his greatest detriments, but his greatest assets - and the answer to many of his questions.

Young adult and adult audiences who look for quiet revelations about those evolving into a more effective life will find Holcomb's Potato Song a worthy, quietly compelling read. It's the perfect adjunct to Catcher in the Rye and other grittier stories of emerging sexuality and social inspection.

The Beyond
Ken Brosky
Timber Ghost Press
9781736586747, $4.99 ebook

The coal mining town of Blackrock, Pennsylvania has seen its share of problems; but when Moon Song's brother Hye goes missing, an investigator discovers a cover-up of events that involves far more than a single missing person.

Moon suspects that her brother's disappearance is more than just a slide back into addiction, so she hires P.I. Ben Sawyer to help her get to the truth. What they uncover is so unexpected that it defies all notions of truth, reality, and the politics and processes surrounding the town's key industry, the mining operation.

At this point, it should be mentioned that The Beyond is a paranormal crime thriller that goes beyond any anticipated story of political or business greed or shady operations. Horror and thriller fans, too, will relish the components of adversity and unexpected revelations that follow Moon and Ben's tracks as they not only reveal the truth, but struggle with what to do about it.

As their investigation leads to learning about mine deaths and an entity that resides underground, they come to realize that the only way they can survive is to thwart an impossible threat that is more powerful than any mankind has faced before.

Ken Brosky does a fine job of creating tension, injecting unexpected twists and turns, and presenting a story that at first seems predictable, but soon excels in unpredictable events.

At first, nobody seems to care about missing people in Blackrock. But they're about to care in a big way, because the secrets that lie in the mine present risks that the entire town has a vested interest in thwarting.

Whether he's describing small town interactions and relationships, the coal mining industry, or the efforts of a grieving sister to uncover the truth about her brother, Brosky does a wonderful job of detailing action and emotion in a powerful saga of second chances gone awry.

Readers of thriller, horror, and supernatural mystery will find The Beyond an exciting, involving story that keeps them guessing to the end, thoroughly immersed in the dilemmas faced by Moon, Ben, and the people of Blackrock.

Pilate's Faith
J. Alexander Greenwood
Caroline Street Press
9780578301020, $13.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Pilate's Faith is the eighth book in the John Pilate mystery series and will draw prior fans, especially, to its latest investigations.

John Pilate is tired of problem-solving and challenges to living, but he's forced to operate beyond his weariness on yet another case that turns all too personal when a small town is terrorized in his name. Added angst comes from the fact that his prior support systems (family, friends, faith) are falling apart under the latest onslaught, leaving him virtually alone in the fight. As in many situations where everything seems to fall apart, faith and foundations thought unshakeable are often the most fragile. And the most enduring.

The story opens with a curious kidnapping...curious because Pilate is locked in a small container, in a strange conversation with his captor that slowly reveals clues to the situation as their back-and-forth banter develops.

Through this discussion, J. Alexander Greenwood provides a sense of mystery and intrigue and psychological inspections of perp and victim alike, creating a thought-provoking atmosphere which only becomes more complex as the story unfolds.

Newcomers to Pilate will find no barriers to quick immersion in his personality and situation, while prior series readers immediately become involved in another conundrum which tests his skills and the ways in which others view him in his world.

Under Greenwood's hand, the chase scenes and intrigue which follow Pilate are almost secondary to the psychological depth of inspection he is forced to conduct as all his tried and true methods and life relationships crumble under pressure.

Some may be initially confused by the dialogues with his inner persona, Simon. This device lets people into the logic and pro/con directions Pilate considers during the course of his confrontations, adding an extra dimension of insight to the story despite its initially-confusing appearance (not because the author hasn't described this conversation properly; but because it's unusual to see a character inwardly divided, who explores the pros and cons of his choices through an alter ego who has another name and identity within him).

Simon is the one entity who stands beside Pilate when everything else falls apart. He should - he's part of Pilate. It's this critical inspector persona who may give him the edge to not just survive and solve the mystery of a killer's identity, but allow him to reinvent his world.

Readers who look for whodunit components in their mysteries will find an added value of deep psychological and social inspection in Pilate's Faith.

Designed to be thought-provoking, the story keeps readers on their toes to the end, functioning as both a fine stand-alone read and an exciting addition to the mystery series as a whole.

Libraries who look for solid, well-written crime thrillers and cozy mysteries will want to take a hard look at this well-written story of intrigue and personal transformation, which should be on their acquisition lists.

Box Lunch Lifestyle
Cheryl K. Johnson
Traction Books
9781735085753, $16.00

Box Lunch Lifestyle: Using Your Lunch Break to Win Back the Life You Deserve is recommended for self-help readers who find themselves at a crossroads in their journey towards personal transformation and becoming a more effective, positive force in the world. It comes from a successful professional who found herself 'stuck': "I could barely get a grip on my workday, let alone feel like I had any influence over the world."

How can a literal-minded, practical problem-solver address the bigger questions of purposeful living and effective choices that go beyond checklists of achievements? What moves lead to visions of a less flawed lifestyle?

Cheryl K. Johnson tackles these questions and more in Box Lunch Lifestyle, which is especially recommended reading for self-help readers involved in business pursuits, who struggle with personal lifestyle values and changes. More importantly, she considers the definitions of what this revised future would look like, helping readers refine their individual notions such a goal before following a path to its achievement.

Making better choices in a non-pressured manner is part of what makes the Box Lunch Lifestyle work. The notion of 'lunch' is uncomplicated: it's a meal that can be easily put together, shared, justifiable, and personal. The image serves as a snapshot for better life possibilities, and is represented in constant, digestible approaches that remove the overwhelming feeling that stems from larger, seemingly unachievable self-help efforts. This is part of what differentiates the Box Lunch Lifestyle concept and book from other goal-oriented discussions of personal transformation.

"By making better choices about the food you eat at lunch and how you spend your time, you prove to yourself that for thirty minutes today - not at some point in the future - your life can look more like the one you really want."

Can change really be this easy? It can - with the program shared in this book, the concept of bite-sized approaches to change, and discussions of how to get out of the pressure cooker and into better routines and interactions in all facets of life.

Self-help and business collections alike will find Box Lunch Lifestyle: Using Your Lunch Break to Win Back the Life You Deserve a winner because it presents all its bigger-picture thinking through smaller-picture windows. This gives readers a clear and unobstructed chance of effecting the kind of change they value in both their lives and the wider world at large.

Nobody is too busy for lunch. And nobody is too busy for Box Lunch Lifestyle: Using Your Lunch Break to Win Back the Life You Deserve.

"You What?!"
John Chase MD
Throne Publishing
9781949550450, Paperback: $19.95; Kindle: $7.95

"You What?!": Humorous Stories, Cautionary Tales, and Unexpected Insights About A Career in Medicine is not your usual surgeon's story of medical experiences, but a light-hearted look at the profession that's narrated through anecdotes, recollections, and nostalgic stories from Dr. Chase's career.

It captures the nuances, experiences, and training of a doctor involved in orthopaedic surgery, capturing the moments that represent highlights and eye-opening experiences of over 40 years.

It's rare to find irony and humor in such depictions. Most books written by physicians and surgeons are staid presentations devoid of any semblance of wit, which often translates to dry reading. In contrast, "You What?!" adds an entertaining, delightful flavor into its mix of medical conundrums and educational insights.

Aspiring surgeons and doctors will be the first audience for this book. They will enjoy a variety of experiences that illustrate the daily routines, challenges, and processes of becoming a good doctor. Dr. Chase offers plenty of advice to young doctors, as well: "The secret is to "Get a guy." (Good advice for life, as well.) Find somebody you can go to who understands young people don't know everything. Go to a quiet place, away from everybody else, where you can ask questions. Find someone who will give you good advice and won't blab to everybody."

He also provides cautionary advice on how to avoid common mistakes: "Want to avoid those "YOU WHAT?" Moments? Developing your 'people skills' will go a long way toward a lasting, rewarding and fulfilling career."

From learning how to listen, use humor appropriately, and handle the unexpected during and after surgery to understanding the stated and unstated facts of bureaucracies and HIPPA and the pros and cons of choosing to be a physician, Dr. Chase pulls no punches in outlining the realities of a doctor's life.

Yes, there is humor. But all is not chuckles and jokes. Underlying the comic relief is a very serious approach to the nuts and bolts of being a physician that reveals very specific details about the medical community that med students often won't fully realize until they've been immersed in the culture for years.

That's why "You What?!" should be on the reading lists and in the graduation gift bag of any aspiring doctor. More so than most books written by physicians, it outlines routines, strategies, coping methods, and underlying politics and medical processes that would-be doctors need to know in order to make the best decisions about their careers, their patients, and their lives.

No medical library should be without it.

John Armbruster
Ten16 Press
9781645383147, $17.99

Tailspin is a World War II memoir that focuses on the experiences of a German POW who survives his ordeal and returns home still in the tailspin which began with his capture.

Unlike most stories of wartime capture and recovery which focus on military and war traumas, tail gunner Gene Moran returned home to face new challenges between his memories, war atrocities, and life in a changed world.
His encounter with author and neighbor John Armbruster gave life to his story as three years of interviews led to the stories in this book, which functions as both a biography and a World War II expose.

It's important to note (as the author does in his preface) that this isn't the complete story of Eugene Paul Moran. Such an all-inclusive approach would have likely taken more than twice the pages and turned a gripping story of survival into a weighty tome that might have challenged many of its readers.

It's a collection of highlights and sights, sounds, and ordeals of a bomber pilot who went missing mid-war after surviving a four-mile free-fall tailspin in his plane, was captured, and survived, only to return home to face further trails.

That eighty-year-old Gene Moran was able to recall so many details of explicit, exquisite description makes for an even more powerful nonfiction saga that Armbruster made all the more notable by doing the legwork and research to support the events. He reviewed combat records, letters, recorded recollection, phone interviews with relatives of the characters, and all available sources concerning Moran's service in the 96th Bomb Group and his time as a prisoner of war.

When facts or dialogue were missing, Armbruster filled in the gaps to create a seamless read, using vetted information and a small degree of conjecture at the few points where mystery remained.

Readers who choose this saga for its World War II history may initially be surprised that the story is a memoir of the extent of Moran's life; not just his wartime engagements. Those who pursue this story for its biographical elements will not be disappointed, but may also be surprised; for it's a concurrent story of Gene's wartime experiences and Armbruster's struggles with his wife's cancer diagnosis and her progressive decline.

What evolves is anything but singular. The story of how these two men's lives dovetail in unexpected ways makes for a powerful story that should be on the shelves of not just World War II collections, but men's relationship literature and any library collection where stories of friendship and connection are valued.

Catastrophic Rupture: A Memoir of Healing
K. Jane Lee
Ten16 Press
9781645382461, $15.99

Catastrophic Rupture: A Memoir of Healing is recommended for educators, healthcare professionals, and parents who will appreciate these rare insights from a physician and parent whose daughter was brain injured at birth.

As a doctor, the author witnessed many families struggling with a child's disease or injury. She saw families ripped apart by these circumstances. Little did she know that her observations would one day prepare her for her own struggle with her child's disability and its impact on their family's relationships.

Key to appreciating this memoir's special approach is the candid assessments Dr. Lee shares from the start as she treats young patients and interacts with their parents: "My years of training were full of patients and parents like this, children whose severe neurologic disabilities allowed them only the most basic interaction with the world, parents so devoted that they would do anything to keep them going. The questions nagged me: Do those parents really understand what is going on with their child, that there is no hope for improvement? Do they really believe that their child is capable of the thoughts and emotions that they attribute to them, or is that just a way to cope with spending day after day caring for a child who can't respond? Why do they keep subjecting their child to medical treatments that only serve to prolong this tortured existence?"

As her questions become personal inquiries in an unexpected development, readers receive a moving story of how she overcame her fears of such trails to start her own family, only to find herself living the nightmare she had clinically observed in so many other parents who came to her hospital in desperation and fear.

Lee's unique dual status affords inspections that could not have come from a physician or a parent alone: "When I looked at the children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, I saw only the disabilities. Sure, I treated them in a kind and competent manner, but I didn't really connect with them. When I looked at the parents, it was not with empathy, but with a vague curiosity - as if they were from a foreign culture. As if their lives had always been this way; as if this were normal to them. I never thought about how it was for them at the beginning, when they had dreams of a typical healthy child and felt the anguish of losing that.

While I recognized and supported the rights of families to make decisions for their children, I didn't understand some of those decisions."

Her distinctive position creates an analytical and emotional blend rarely imparted in memoirs of disability and parental challenge. All these elements make Catastrophic Rupture a standout in memoirs of a child's disability, and an important choice for parenting, healthcare, and psychology library collections and readers.

The Bus Driver's Mother
Beverly Pridgen
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280746, $29.95 Hardcover/$23.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Bus Driver's Mother weaves two lives into one story, following the evolving relationship of a mother and her son. This would seem to make for an ordinary story, but it's not. The juxtaposition of emotions and observations between a special needs son and a mother whose life is complicated because of his needs creates a dynamic not typical in stories of either mother and son relationships or special needs children, adding a compelling twist to the tale.

Andrew grows up to be a simple man: a bus driver who genuinely cares for his passengers and job, who perceives the world in relatively simple terms.

The story opens with baby Andrew posing a few challenges to his mother while presenting a "bewitching charm" that prompts the invention of a song that belays any difficulties that may come in raising him: "There's sunshine in my boy, there's sunshine in my boy.... There's sunshine in his big blue eyes, he is my greatest joy...."

Andrew's simple, plump countenance and obvious pleasure in life is in stark contrast to his worrying mother Ella's struggles to raise him.

The first chapters of the story revolve around Ella's childhood, coming of age, and family structure. Money was enough of a concern that "My siblings and I, if we learned anything, was that you were never, ever late to the table and you always took as ample a portion first time around as you could get away with. You couldn't always eat what you took or get away with what you wanted, but you'd have a go at it, knowing that whatever you got, you got, and that leftovers were nonexistent."

These lessons translate into adult habits as Ella builds her own family and comes to understand her mother's conundrums and complexities during childrearing.

This sets the stage for Andrew's evolving health crisis and Ella's discovery that she really has few others to rely on but herself...and her father. A too-busy working husband doesn't step in to provide the kind of support she needs. And so she navigates doctor visits and Andrew's health with worry and concern while baby Andrew continues to develop his happy perspective of life, unconscious of the challenges his condition presents to those around him ("He hasn't a worry in the world.").

As Andrew becomes a special needs child with unusual abilities and reactions to life, Ella and Sam navigate the years during which he evolves in ways they could never have predicted ("Andrew's path was not remotely clear.").

Andrew has proven adept at falling through any cracks in social systems, whether they be healthcare or education. Where will he land as an adult? In their laps?

Most of the chapters revolve around mother Ella's personal journey as she holds her family together and creates the best world possible for Andy.

Andy's chapters, in contrast, are simpler expressions of delight as he is eventually given his own bus to drive and takes pride in making his passengers comfortable, happy, and safe during long-distance bus trips. His earliest dream was to become a police officer for much the same reason (helping others), but life doesn't always go as planned, and he has a special flexibility that allows him to absorb this and enjoy other opportunities that feel just as important.

Beverly Pridgen outlines Ella and Andy's perspectives in chapter headings that clearly identify the point of view being explored. While Ella's perspective receives nearly twice the feature of son Andy's, they work together to provide a powerful perspective on different ways of perceiving and navigating life.

The result is especially recommended reading for those who would understand both the challenges of raising a special needs child to become an independent adult, and the perplexities mother and son each face during this process.

While fiction collections will find it attractive to mothers and women who enjoy family chronicles, The Bus Driver's Mother should also be included on the reading lists of parents and professionals involved with special needs families. From navigating health care to education and legal systems, it offers many insights into a process that shapes and directs mothers, sons, and their independent and connected lives alike.

Pandemic: Chaos is Bleeding
Cynthia Fridsma
Privately Published
9798773139225, $15.55 Paperback/$18.00 hardcover/$2.50 ebook

Horror and thriller readers who like their settings contemporary and realistic will find Pandemic: Chaos is Bleeding embraces modern times and horror scenarios alike.

Like many, Sybil Crewes hasn't left home since the pandemic began. This leaves her job (she's an anti-terrorism agent) in limbo. The kidnapping of her friend Harry drives her to do what she fears most: leave home to embark on an effort to venture into the dangerous world to find him.

When she uncovers a lab devoted to tweaking the COVID variant into something even more deadly, Sybil is prompted to enter her former job full-force in order to stop them in an effort to save what's left of humanity.

The story doesn't open with Sybil, but character Sean's descent into a dark tunnel that leads him into danger. It then moves to Massachusetts State Trooper Nancy McCann's investigation into the Deer Island incident.

These two events merge into Sybil's life as she wonders about her lover Harry's safety. He's hours late coming home, and she knows something is seriously wrong.

Cemented by these events and personalities, the horror and thriller components of the story unfold as Sybil conquers one fear, only to find it replaced by something even more insidious. She's made her reputation on stopping threats...until COVID.

As subplots emerge involving vampires, thirsts for revenge, betrayals and gangs, and more, diverse elements added into the plot keep readers on their toes and surprised about the evolving characters and their influences.

Cynthia Fridsma does an outstanding job of combining the thriller and horror formats. As Sybil's true identity and the reason why she's become especially deadly are revealed, along with many surprises, readers will find the tension very nicely done, the unexpected twists of plot satisfyingly complex, and the story powered by characters who hold their own special interests beyond survival alone.

The medical and social dilemmas juxtapose nicely with the horror components, drawing from both real-life worries and conundrums and horror genre backdrops.

The result is a satisfying horror story especially recommended for thriller readers who like quasi-real life settings and challenges that go beyond political and social challenges alone.

Readers who enjoy vampires, pandemic dramas, and stories of terrorism and redemption loosely based on real-world events will find a special winner in Pandemic: Chaos is Bleeding.

Change Happens
E. Aly
Marshwinds Press Company
9780961449667, $29.95 Hardback; $19.95 paperback; $9.9 e-book

Change Happens: But Will They Understand? is a study in moral and ethical behavior, justice, and crime. The novel revolves around bad decisions made almost two decades in the past which continue to reverberate and affect individual lives in modern times.

E. Aly provides a cast of characters who each face the consequences of a day which marks the end of Judge Ernst "Cal" White-Callaway's life as he knew it. Two strong women face decisions that will also change their focuses in achieving their goals or making decisions that result in a legacy beyond their lifetimes. A young couple shares a love relationship that most can't understand. And the innocuous-sounding Berkshire Book Club, based on Haitian spirituality, undertakes a venture into political effectiveness that holds ramifications for future generations.

Readers won't anticipate the diversity of characters and perspectives in this story, much less those who seem to operate from entirely different segments of society and belief systems.

Aly is adept in crafting descriptions that capture both bigger-picture thinking and the nuances of small-town life and decisions that enter into social and political circles: "'Yes, Madam Chair - and, I will add, ladies' club champion in tennis, golf, and bridge. It was sneaky of you to partner with John Emerson rather than your gorgeous judicial boy toy. We want to know if the relationship with John is no-trump or love.' The ladies giggled."

Whether it's dialogue, describing politics and public personas, considering crime and redemption, or analyzing judicial systems, Aly provides a fine multifaceted story that ranges from individual choice to social impact: "Something isn't right. I should have been instructed to send the Paschal boy's file to Boston. The governor didn't ask for the file. I sent it anyway, that same day, to the governor's office. They should have forwarded it to the panel. The panel should've finished within a week of the governor calling me. I've heard nothing from anyone. The governor mentioned an investigator. Inquiries don't have investigators; criminal investigations do. It fits with a judicial criminal investigation. Nothing in the file warrants that approach."

The result is an examination of hearts, values, and influences on social and political change that cement these considerations firmly into the disparate lives of individuals affected by the winds of chance and choice.

Readers interested in stories of justice, crime, and the pursuit of happiness will find Change Happens: But Will They Understand? a lively, thought-provoking experience. Its consideration of a community changed by one man's decision is especially recommended for book club discussion groups. There's even a reader's guide at the end for this audience that reinforces the themes and issues that appear throughout this story.

Three Questions: Stories
E. Aly
Marshwinds Press Company
9781734117011, $21.95 Hardback; $12.95 paperback; and $6.99 e-book

The title of this short story collection may portend only three questions, but it consists of twelve short works that consider how people face turning points in life that change their purpose and trajectories.

Each short piece features a twist and a learning experience that encourages readers to reflect on the forces of change that move people into different directions.

The opening piece, 'Beach Walk,' presents an incoming tide of unhappiness that carries readers into Anita's world, where her love of the ocean and beach intersect with her anguish over love, relationships, and change.

E. Aly intersects the natural world with human affairs, using evocative descriptions: "In the early years, what they called the BC era, their code for "before children," they would come down before dawn with a beach towel, make love in a swale in the sand dunes, and look at the stars. They had both professed their love for each other, confident of God's blessing if they were fortunate to see a shooting star. As the sun rose, they had stood in the surf and promised anew to love each other as they did at that moment. What had changed? Who had stopped this love ritual? She did. He did. They both did. You can't have sex in the sand dunes before dawn with babies and toddlers alone in the rental house. Other times, crying children and sleep deprivation dissipated the sunrise magic. She and Dave's love renewal ritual had slipped away just like the tide went out. But at least the tide came back in twice a day, every day. Scanning the expanse of ocean, she wondered: can our love come back in?"

As a mid-life crisis time is tackled during the walk, readers are invited into a world replete with similar tales and changed lives as the tide nudges Anita along and moves her into new discoveries and possibilities.

"Can two miles of beach change the course of life?" Read this story for the answer.

Each story features very different characters, dialogue, reflections, and twists. 'Cinderella Dress', for example, follows small-town visitors to the big city of New York, a far stretch from their small town of Lumber City, Georgia.

A drive of over fourteen hours brings them into another world as Ryan, his fiancee Betty Sue, and Ryan's best friend Jody embark on a journey that leads them to the custom-made unique Cinderella Dress, designed "...for the most perfect female body God could create. The dress, as you can see, is all pleats. This is the challenge. Each pleat must envelop its part of the body in just the right way, expanding slightly but not too much. Many young women are beautiful in certain spots: their legs, their buttocks, their breasts, their face, one place or another. What they are not is beautiful in every place. The dress commands total beauty. That is why it is the Cinderella Dress. It will fit no one except God's perfect creation." Is Betty Sue that bastion of female perfection? Only the perfect woman can wear this dress.

There's only one problem. Perfection comes with a price, and it's often that of revised perceptions of life's possibilities.

Each story holds a delightful twist. Each contains a moral and a thought-provoking conclusion.

Literature readers who look for works that excel in employing the short story form to its hardest-hitting, best advantage will find each tale a gem that lends to reflection and insights about pivot points in life that often emerge at unexpected junctures.

The Hunt for the Peggy C
John Winn Miller
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885706, $25.95

The Hunt for the Peggy C combines World War II history with a nautical thriller as it follows Captain Jake Rogers, a smuggler used to transporting contraband who is tasked with the most challenging job of all: to save a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

What began as a business arrangement with slightly unusual cargo turns into a humanitarian endeavor that challenges Jake's skills, perspective, and heart as he finds himself intrinsically woven into the fabric of this Jewish family's life.

Is the old cargo ship Peggy C up to such a task? More importantly, can Jake summon enough courage and resources to keep his newfound charges safe from both human and natural threats on the high seas?

John Winn Miller keeps his eye on the history surrounding this era, but translates it into action-packed scenarios that will delight readers looking for a backdrop of nonfiction spiced by the intrigue and psychological depth of fiction: "For two years since the war started in 1939, the Peggy C and her ragtag crew had dodged the mines and torpedoes and random naval duels from Africa to the North Sea, managing to eke out a living while the competition dwindled. Outside the protection of a convoy, fewer and fewer commercial ships dared ply these waters. Though Germany's focus had shifted to the Russian and Mediterranean fronts, too many trigger-happy U-boat captains still lurked about in search of trophies from sunken tonnage. The situation was truly dire and desperate. Rogers loved every minute of it."

As U-boats, chases, romance, and special interests coalesce, the story becomes riveting on many different levels. The interplays between disparate special interests and characters illustrate some of the conundrums of political and social interactions during wartime:

"'There's a U-boat out there that wants its boarding party back,' Rogers said.

'You will turn them over to the British authorities when we dock.' (rescued RAF pilot Lt. Gaylord)

'And the refugees?' Rogers was getting agitated.

'The Jews will have to go back where they came from,' Gaylord said with a haughty assurance that irritated Rogers even more.

'One of those Jews saved your life. You'd send her and her family back to die?'

'Rubbish,' Gaylord said. 'Truth be told, the Nazis are more civilized than you damn Yanks.'"

From spies and missing crews to losing battles and unexpected love, Miller spices his story with intrigue, close encounters, escapes and confrontations, and historical facts.

More so than most World War II tales, the intrigue and realistic backdrops create a compelling story that operates for all readers, no matter the degree of their familiarity with World War II politics or events.

The Hunt for the Peggy C is a vivid inspection of moral, ethical, social and political changes set against a thrilling backdrop of confrontation and revelation that will reach not only historical novel readers, but those typically attracted to thriller and action stories.

Library collections on the lookout for vivid World War II accounts and lively plots will find The Hunt for the Peggy C a winning attraction.

Jamie Andrea Garzot
Girl Friday Books
9781954854291, $24.95 Hardcover/$7.99 ebook

Unconventional: A Memoir of Entrepreneurism, Politics, and Pot comes from an early pioneer in cannabis retailing in California. It shares the concurrent stories of the legalization of cannabis and Jamie Andrea Garzot's business adaptations as the legal environment changed and evolved.

Garzot holds eleven years experience as a state-licensed cannabis retailer, an appointed city official, and an industry advocate.

Her unique position as an appointed city official, businesswoman, and personal advocate of legal cannabis contributes to an insider's history that reviews and personalizes the issues involved in the legalization and sale of cannabis products.

Tasked with being a leader and advocate even though being a relative newcomer to the industry, Garzot evolved into her role much as the cannabis industry moved from being an illegal operation to a legal business. Business readers will appreciate the gritty observations she makes about the process of adopting regulations for a neophyte industry that promotes business while protecting consumers and professionals alike.

They learn how she navigates the concurrent jobs of being an industry advocate and a business owner: "Making it a priority to be part of the process in Sacramento, I started to put systems and processes in place in my store that would allow it to run semi-autonomously, like a well-oiled machine, regardless of whether I was across the street in my office or across the globe."

Social issues and political science readers will relish her accounts of how this outsider became an insider, privy to regulations and details of how the medical, political, and business communities interacted over marijuana's growth, distribution, and use: "Prior to the passage of Proposition 64, California law required that anyone wishing to use medical cannabis obtain an annual recommendation issued by a state-licensed medical doctor. The terms "prescription" or "script" were commonly used interchangeably with "recommendation," but technically, due to the federal status of cannabis, a doctor could not prescribe a Schedule I controlled substance, but they could "recommend" its use in the same way that they might recommend vitamins or an emotional-support animal."

Also enlightening are personal trials and experiences that contributed to and shaped her ability to become an effective businesswoman in the retail cannabis environment. From childhood influences to how she grew her business as a solo female operator to see $12M in annual revenue without investor money, the juxtaposition of personal, social, and business insights and developments is astute and revealing, and will appeal to a wide audience.

While her experiences are California-specific (and thus will prove of particular interest to California collections and readers), they hold lessons and insights as the rest of the nation considers their own cannabis regulation processes.

Unconventional: A Memoir of Entrepreneurism, Politics, and Pot is recommended not just for California collections (though it will be of particular interest and importance to these), but to anyone who would absorb a business and social issues examination that peppers personal observation with political, legal, and social analysis.

Its lively presentation and consideration of a myriad of interests and issues does a fine job of exploring all sides of the pot issue and its adaptation into mainstream society, cemented by one plucky female entrepreneur's vision and drive to achieve business success in a blossoming, changing, often controversial environment.

Back Time
Igor Max
Independently Published
9798762928830, $8.99 paper/$.99 Kindle

Back Time combines a thriller with science fiction to produce a time travel study in danger. Temporal physicist and researcher Peter Waylan is only interested in science. His time-travel lab, however, attracts those who would use time travel to direct outcomes and change the past and future.

When an attack on his lab sets him adrift backwards through time, Peter learns more about this futuristic strike force and its intentions. He comes to realize that he may be the only one able to thwart their influence, even though his own position as a time traveler feels uncontrolled and tenuous, at best.

As he traces the origins of these killers of the future to past history and embarks on his own campaign to protect the timeline, a series of suspenseful cat-and-mouse encounters emerges which will delight sci-fi and thriller readers looking for action-packed encounters and unpredictable twists and turns.

Igor Max uses compelling, unusual language to capture Peter's perspective and emotions: "Something isn't right about this fall. Something fundamental doesn't make sense. It's a strange thing to think in the last second or two of life.

More like a second and a half. That's his estimate. Shouldn't his last thought be something more profound? Shouldn't his life flash before his eyes? Shouldn't he question his big life choices? Shouldn't he feel something? Some final, desperate emotion? No. Peter Waylan focuses on the science."

His revelations power the nexus of a story that details pitfalls and dangers in nearly every choice Peter makes: "Before he pulls out, he steels himself for what's required: a complicated balance between not only the backward physics, but the event horizon. He might cause certain driving conditions to manifest in the future if he follows through with them in the past."

Max also injects humor and wry observation into these encounters to provide a subtle sense of comic relief: "They ignore Waylan, for now. Except in one forward interval, when they call him "Spook" as they talk among themselves. It's not a bad nickname. He's little more than a dark specter moving through this reality, casting a deathly shadow in his wake, unleashing a new Nazi reign on the future that will swallow these men and everyone else in its maw. They must have seen him twitch when he jumped back in time."

Typically, time travel encounters focus on either returning to one's timeline or effecting positive changes to it. Scientist Peter initially seems ill-equipped to thwart an enemy of time, but as he steps into his role and the past, his skills and direction prove not just the ticket to save the world, but likely its only option.

The result is a science story strongly rooted in thriller components that will delight readers seeking something different from their time travel stories.

It's very highly recommended reading for any sci-fi collection where time travel adventures are of interest, but should also be attractive for thriller novel fans that enjoy science and social and political dilemmas alike.

The Sundance Revenge
Mike Pace
Foundations Book Publishing Company
B09KZH7RZH, $4.49 Kindle

In The Sundance Revenge, ex-Marine Belle has returned to civilian life harboring anger issues, which she grapples with as she works as a guide at a snowy Utah park. It seems a good job for both her skill level and her desire to interact with the public in a particular manner...until people begin dying on her watch in "accidents" and suicides which leave her wondering.

As the bodies mount, Belle comes to realize these events are part of an insidious, deeper plan that involves a century-old mystery and killers that have her (and the town) in their crosshairs.

Maybe she should go back to quilting. That, or become more involved than she'd planned, to follow the clues into an impossible scenario of revenge.

Mike Pace builds a thoroughly engrossing story that blends an ex-military woman's IED affliction with a larger picture of adversity that calls upon both her resources and, surprisingly, her ailment, to resolve.

From a dangerous shooter that places her in a serious life-threatening situation to the "impure thoughts" that emerge with Alonzo, and the charge she faces to confront both the unknown and her inner demons, Pace creates a compelling thriller that holds strong psychological depth as well as cat-and-mouse moves between Belle and the unknown assailants.

As she faces a town in deadly danger, friends who fall in the line of duty, trying to help her, and guilt (both past and present), Belle finds within herself the courage to both change and face the impossible.

Just in time, too.

Fans of mystery, intrigue, and psychological drama will find The Sundance Revenge builds a fast-paced story firmly centered on the psyche and conundrums of an already-strong woman who finds the foundations of her strengths, beliefs, and relationships sorely tested.

With its strong characterization, mystery, and engaging saga quasi-based on real people, Pace crafts a tale that is thoroughly involving and hard to put down.

Song of Cigale
Mark Perretta
Heaven Above, Earth Below LLC
9780997143942, $24.95 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Song of Cigale presents the stories of people on both sides of World War II, whose lives are changed by Nazi invasion and calls to battle.

These include two sets of siblings: one in France (brother/sister), and one in America (two brothers) who become entangled in circumstances that lead to a second D-Day in Southern France in August (an event that receives lesser mention in the chronicles of military World War II history compared to the much-covered June D-Day).

Mark Perretta's story opens with this second D-Day and a bang of action in which the main character runs for her very life, fleeing German soldiers who are arriving at her home. These soldiers confront her parents who chose to stay behind to buy more time for their daughter's escape: "'Cours!' her mother cried. 'Run, Caro! Run!' Caroline's feet pounded the gravel path as she propelled herself into darkness. She was a whirlwind of limb and emotion, her short raven hair bouncing with each hasty stride."

The action-packed opener draws even non-history fans into a story steeped in the heart-stopping threat of Nazi discovery. Four years earlier, the Germans invaded. War entered their lives, and the family began preparing for the inevitable.

Somewhere over France, paratrooper Michael's bomber is going down, in another vivid scene: "The gaping bomb bay door glared back at him with an evil grin. Moments before, the mission had been as normal as any other nighttime jump Michael had made. But the bullets of 20mm flak guns from a German night fighter ambushed their plane, shredding one of Lucky Lady's wings. Then, one final time, the fighter blasted the coup de grÉce. Gas tanks exploded, the B-24's bomb bay door ripped open, and the remaining wing, upper gun turret, and rear fuselage blazed in flames as the plane screamed toward earth."

Each chapter reveals another life, another vivid circumstance, and the wartime experiences each character shares (albeit from very different vantage points). Perretta creates original, satisfying contrasts in perspective, ideals, and the hell of a war that forces each individual to make impossible decisions.

Readers won't expect romance to evolve under such circumstances of strife, but Perretta's attention to exploring the many different facets of life under siege also embraces the human mind's ability to grasp new possibilities and grow under even the most adverse conditions.

He is especially skilled at juxtaposing the effects of these dilemmas on choices and consequences: "Frank's mind raced with images of Caro, sunflowers, Germans, and blood. He tried to focus, for soldiers' lives depended on him. Perhaps, if I refuse to think her name. But that was impossible. Wave after wave of regret washed through his tortured soul."

More so than most World War II stories, the convergence of these very different lives and the moral and ethical conundrums each character must face alone creates a deeper psychological probe of the war's effects on all people.

The novel is replete with a blend of action and psychological inspection that goes beyond capturing historical events to illuminate readers about these changing and challenging times.

The characters are well developed, their different perspectives and experiences are logically and nicely documented, and both history and interpersonal connections come to life.

When will the war really be over? It won't happen when peacetime comes, but when injured hearts settle down and future generations help reconcile past and present. And it won't happen until readers begin to understand how life can go on after losing so many loved ones to fellow man's violence.

As Arthur reflects towards the end of his story: "War is like some swift river, and once you're caught in its current, you can't escape. It carries you downstream, and no matter how hard you fight, escape is impossible. When you finally do emerge, if you're lucky enough, it's like you're still... not clean. And definitely not the boy you were when it started."

Readers of World War II fiction will find in Song of Cigale a powerful, highly recommended story of different kinds of confrontation (both internal and external) and healing processes which hold hope for a better future.

Scoundrel in the Thick
B.R. O'Hagan
Pedee Creek Press
9781734226300, $25.95 Hardcover/$17.95 Paper/$7.99 ebook

Scoundrel in the Thick is a historical novel set in 1882 Colorado, where former Civil War hero Thomas Scoundrel sets out on a mission to rescue his best friend's kidnapped fiancee.

B.R. O'Hagan adds plenty of real characters and historical events to further spice the tale as Scoundrel partners with Bat Masterson, encounters old friend Buffalo Bill Cody, and interacts with famous literary figures during the course of what can only be described as a rollicking ride through the icons and images of America's past.

An introductory letter to Scoundrel by Walt Whitman admonishes the protagonist that he must "...habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life. Do anything, lad, but let it produce joy."

This leads into a prologue that takes place in 1882 Mexico, where a bullet rips into Diego's bedroom and violence takes place by unknown assailants. As the confrontation evolves, he is charged with finding Thomas, the only man who will "know what to do."

Indeed, Thomas does know what to do. He's in New York City, at the first electrically lit musical event ever held in the nation, where inventor Thomas Edison is being honored for his revolutionary achievement. And Thomas is busily starting a romance.

O'Hagan excels in both recreating this period of time and its famous personalities and adding an action and adventure flavor to a story that captures the sentiments and people of Thomas's world: "Theatrics aside, William F. Cody was a man you wanted in your corner when the big fight was on."

As Thomas and Rosalilia's journeys coalesce, readers receive a vivid inspection of the social, political, and cultural intersections of a bygone era. These add a realistic flavor to the fictional events that unfold with drama and action.

From political plots to blame Colonel Scoundrel and the Cheyenne for the total destruction of two border towns, to former Mexican Vice-President Resposo's participation in plans that will affect the destiny of nations, readers will enjoy a vivid romp through 1800s personalities and a plot to steal a country.

Scoundrel in the Thick represents historical novel writing at its best. With its blend of fictional and real events and attention to strong character development (which captures personal and political special interests), it's a story that will captivate even those who may have little prior knowledge of these times.

Historical fiction library collections strong in early American representations and action-packed adventure stories will find Scoundrel in the Thick a worthy addition.

Ekstasis - The Return of the Sovereign Heart
M.I. Dugast
Independently Published
9781514399798, Paperback: $19.99/Kindle: $11.99

Ekstasis - The Return of the Sovereign Heart offers a spiritual journey with the first book in the Ekstasis magical realism romance series. It follows the trials and experiences of spiritual seeker Mona Devek, who publishes a fictional story that changes atheist reader David Wilkins, shaking him from his grief over the loss of his beloved family.

Mona's publication not only transforms David, but leads him into a new venture as he decides to make a movie about her story. When he discovers that Mona's journey has taken away his ability to meet and interact with her, he faces yet another shock...and a revised purpose in life.

M.I. Dugast crafts an outstanding story of reincarnation, recovery, discovery, and spiritual survival that operates on many delightfully unexpected levels.

On the one hand, it's a concurrent survey of two disparate individuals who find their destinies unexpectedly entwined. On another level, it's about trauma and healing from losses that provides quite involving descriptions which (it should be cautioned, and is consequently marked as trigger warnings at the start of the book) sometimes embrace graphic violence and horror.

Readers who expect a spiritual journey alone may be surprised by the concurrent reflections and revised experiences a host of characters face as they consider the purpose and possibility of new life approaches and meanings: "The visions at the millennium and, much later, her experience with Cillian, had been the last times she had felt something close to what she was feeling in the present moment, although this was very different. Not only was it more intense, but there seemed to be a distinct echo to it - a reciprocity. The thought sent her head into a vortex of activity that seemed to have a life of its own, contracting and expanding, like breath, like heartbeats - paving a way to a new life, her inner being whispered. 'Yes! I really am wholeheartedly ready for a new life!'"

From hyperdimensional doors to the concept of David as a host who carries a destiny beyond his understanding, Dugast crafts a metaphysical tale replete in thought-provoking considerations of what it means to adopt a new lease on life.

Readers who enjoy uplifting metaphysical and spiritual sagas will find Ekstasis - The Return of the Sovereign Heart filled with characters and choices that enlighten, delight, and ultimately lead to love.

The unusual blend of romance and enlightenment creates a story that blossoms with inspiration and meaning. It's especially recommended for spiritual readers who enjoy fictional accounts of journeys towards enlightenment.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Ambulance Chaser
Brian Cuban
Post Hill Press
9781637582411, $17.00 pbk, $8.99 Kindle

"The Ambulance Chaser" is a new addition to the popular legal thriller genre. Jason Feldman attorney at law is contacted by a college friend to meet on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. They reunite and a short time later Jason learns the friend attempted suicide and is in the hospital. As the story unfolds Jason becomes a suspect in a murder of another former classmate. Jason's life already a mess because of his drug abuse and drinking has everything against him when he begins to try to establish his innocence. "The Ambulance Chaser" establishes "The Ambulance Chaser" establishes Brian Cuban as an author to look for other exciting thrilling tales.

The Chain
Adrian Mckinty
Mulholland Books/Little Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316531238, $16.99 pbk, $11.99 Kindle

From the first page "The Chain" draws the reader with a roller coaster ride to the very end. Rachel O'Neil's day is complicated enough with a medical appointment she is worried about. On the way to it she pulls into a parking lot to answer her phone, to learn someone has kidnapped her daughter. Bad enough is the communication, made worse as the caller tells her, in order to get her child back she has to do the same thing to someone else, because of something called The Chain. From then on Rachel does everything she can to protect herself and to have her daughter returned. Taking the premise of a chain letter the author propels the story along with rapid pacing, detailed characters caught up in the mayhem of someone's evil plan that gets more and more complicated as it rolls along. "The Chain" is for anyone looking for truly suspenseful yarn to enjoy.

Robert B. Parker's Bye Bye Baby
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Random House
978059328514, $28.00 HC// $14.99 Kindle

The Spenser series by Robert B. Parker himself or Ace Atkins has always been great mystery fun, but "Bye Bye Baby" is very different. Atkins draws on the political climate of today to tell a story that reads like something you'd see on the nightly network broadcasts or any of the 24-hour news stations. Spenser is hired to protect a Congresswoman running for re-election for a second term. Her views and ethnic background have stirred up a hornet's nest of extremist organizations throughout the nation. Spenser runs into complications when law enforcement agencies of the federal government inform him, they are surveilling the groups and want him to keep a low profile to the extent of letting an attack take place. Spenser risks everything with the aid of Hawk, and Sixkill to continue the job he was hired to do. "Bye Bye Baby" races along with crisp writing, snappy dialogue worthy of Robert B. Parker that is a great addition to the long running series.

Fear No Evil
James Patterson
Little Brown And Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316499149, $29.00 HC, $14.99 Kindle

Alex Cross is back in "Fear No Evil" a rip-roaring thriller from the first page to the very end. An enemy Cross has faced before makes it personal when Cross and detective John Sampson are targets in the wilderness. Alex's wife Bree is working on a case in France that later becomes intertwined with his own one that adds to the exciting slam bang suspense. Patterson is a master of holding readers interest and "Fear No Evil" is a shining example of why he has such a high following for each new title

Patricia Cornwell
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
9780063112193, $28.99 HC, $14.99 Kindle

"Autopsy" the newest4 novel of the Scarpetta series is the most complicated one to date that is one of the best as well. Kay Scarpetta is brought into a crime scene of a female body is found on some train tracks in a park. A bit later she and her husband are taken to the White House for a briefing about a space disaster at a top-secret lab orbiting in space that could cause a worldwide catastrophe. Later while visiting a family member, she is poisoned by something she drank with a very violent reaction. "Autopsy" is crisp writing with well fleshed out characters with so many complicated story lines that race the story along for a satisfying conclusion.

Lacey Unlocked Atwood Coleman I: A Fantasy Play Series Book
Jodie Jamison
Flying Monkey Press LLC
9781736634714, $12.99 pbk, $0.00 Kindle

"Lacey Unlocked" is a novel filled with a lot of good things that is all about relationships and how doing many different things can only enhance it. Lacey Coleman is a social worker who deals with many of the dregs of society She like so many in her profession see some of the darkest sides of humanity especially domestic matters. To cope with it all she has to find ways to not take the job home with her. Lately she looks forward to her budding relationship with professional photographer Nick Atwood. In his line of work, he has been issued a special invite to the Fantasy Hotel in Charleston South Carolina where he will also take his new girlfriend Lacey. Lacey is excited because the owner is also the author of a book entitled "Fantasy Play 101" that Lacey has enjoyed reading. "Lacey Unlocked" moves along at a brisk pace to the very end that is a very enjoyable read for anyone to enjoy.

Shenandoah Dreams
Clinton Harris
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718890, $19.95 no Kindle

"Shenandoah Dreams" covers a lot of topics that include racism, bullying, crime and live in a small southern community. This is a novel that takes readers on a journey through reality and dreams that help the main character cope with all that life throws at him in a portion of the country that is not often written about. "Shenandoah Dreams" also incorporates many motivational teachings that we take for granted. Harris captures the feeling of this part of the country and his characters are memorable as are the situations they deal with. I felt the work did not lead up to its ending as well as it could have. That said "Shenandoah Dreams" still has a lot of good things going for it that readers can find to enjoy.

Broken Bread
Derrick Mobley
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718753, $19.95 no Kindle

Breaking bread has many connotations that include food, but the author explains it's the way you live your life as well. In his case he is devoted intertwining God's love and humanity. He uses biblical passages that apply to today's world more than ever before, then writes his own personal stories representing that he like all of us have fault to also ask for God's support and guidance to maintain a better life. Also nice thing is how he tells the inspiration behind his writings. "Broken Bread" is roadmap for all of us to follow to experience a more satisfying life by following the teachings of the ancient writings that still have merit in our complicated lives of today

What I Couldn't Leave Behind My Career As A Cop
Neil Loewe
Independently Published
9781737467700, $13.99 pbk, $4.99 Kindle

"What I Couldn't Leave Behind" is one mans journey through a major portion of his life as a police officer. Neil Loewe takes readers into the world of a crimefighter in a small town near Chicago Illinois that takes us all back to the 1970's where some think law enforcement was very different from today. In some ways they are right but as Loewe shows they are also wrong. Cops deal with many things most of us never see or even know about. Some of the stories are sad while others are funny, but all are things other departments and officials are very familiar with. Examples are a driver who tells Loewe "You can't give me a ticket because I am an attorney." The two meet again in court and the outcome is rewarding while another traffic situation has a woman coming on to Loewe who solves the problem brilliantly. There are cases of domestic abuse that are dark while others of a missing person. really dealing with dementia. Lowe entertains as well as educates the public about what all departments have been deal with every day. "What I Couldn't Leave Behind" should be read by all of us to understand better how the job cops do affects them personally and their families.

We The Presidents: How American Presidents Shaped the Last Century
Ronald Gruner
978173782310, $18.50 pbk, $8.99 Kindle

Publishers know a good thing in titles about our presidents and "We The Presidents" is one of the best to come along in a long time. Ronald Gruner's writing is easy to follow and points out a lot of details many of us never knew. He begins with President Wilson and Warren G. Harding and closes with Donald J. Trump. Some of the interesting facts revealed are, the whole Make America Great Again is nothing new in fact America First under Harding was exactly the same kind of thing. Harding was perceived as a weak president but there are a lot of things he accomplished as well as calling out racism. Other presidents are Harry Truman who came into the office with no knowledge of the office because he was kept out of everything by Roosevelt as is well known but Truman accomplished so much with very little support. "We The Presidents" is great reading for all of us who want to know about all the men who have served as president for the last 100 years. "We The Presidents" should be required reading for courses of history in high school and college courses throughout the nation.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

The Myth of Closure
Pauline Boss
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324016816, $21.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people haunted by feelings of anxiety, despair, and even anger. With the publication of "The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change", pioneering therapist and academician Pauline Boss identifies these vague feelings of distress as caused by ambiguous loss, losses that remain unclear and hard to pin down, and thus have no closure. Collectively the world is grieving as the pandemic continues to change our everyday lives.

With a loss of trust in the world as a safe place, a loss of certainty about health care, education, employment, lingering anxieties plague many of us, even as parts of the world are opening back up again. Yet after so much loss, our search must be for a sense of meaning, and not something as elusive and impossible as "closure".

"The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change" provides many strategies for coping: encouraging us to increase our tolerance of ambiguity and acknowledging our resilience as we express a normal grief, and still look to the future with hope and possibility.

Critique: Timely, well written, organized, and presented, "The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change" will prove of special value and enduring interest to professionals and non-specialist general readers alike. Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change" is an especially recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Psychology, Grief Counseling, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Pauline Boss, PhD, is emeritus professor at University of Minnesota. She is known worldwide for developing the theory of ambiguous loss and as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of family stress management. Dr. Boss is also the author of Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss.

The Widow Wore Pink
Robyn Dykstra
Gossamer Pres, LLC
9780996368100, $24.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Robyn had spent years as a Playboy Bunny, oblivious to God's master plan for her life. But she escaped a life of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity for a fresh start with Jesus. Cleaned up and happy, with a handsome husband, a nice house, and two wonderful children, her life seemed perfect. Then, the unthinkable: In an instant, everything changed. That one moment triggered a chain reaction of unwanted challenges, and her life would never be the same.

In a brutal and unexpected instant, her husband is dead, her marriage is over, job ended, car wrecked, money's gone, and a diagnosis is pronounced.

Critique: "The Widow Wore Pink" is an impressively personal and candid autobiography that reveals that the God who was faithful to Robyn will also be faithful to anyone else. "The Widow Wore Pink" illustrates how unwelcome changes in life can be successfully dealth with by knowing and trusting the promises of God in our lives. Highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community and anyone else who finds themselves struggling with dramatic or horrific events in their own lives, it should be noted that "The Widow Wore Pink" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780996368117, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

Editorial Note: Robyn Dykstra (who has been widowed twice in just four years) is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves Jesus. For decades, Robyn has been presenting life-changing messages to help thousands energize their faith in God and find the strength to face life's challenges. She maintains an informative website at

Adventure in Zanskar
Amy Edelstein
Emergence Education Press
9781954642133, $24.95, HC, 231pp

Synopsis: In 1983, twenty-one year old Amy Edelstein set out on a solitary 500-kilometer journey in the highest valley in the world. Zanskar, the westernmost corner of the Tibetan plateau which had only recently become opened to travelers. She would spend several months walking by foot, crossing passes above 16,000 feet, sleeping in caves, meeting high lamas and monastics, and exploring a culture that had remained virtually the same for thousands of years.

It was a culture that would change dramatically and irrevocably in the few short decades since. What drew her was the eternal seeker's quest for wisdom and insight, what shaped the rest of her life is what she found. A young woman's solitary journey to reach physical and metaphysical heights, "Adventure in Zanskar" is her story.

Timely and timeless, "Adventure in Zanskar" will be especially appreciated by readers in our stressed and troubled times who can now share in the fruits of Amy's once in a lifetime adventure and learn from what she discovered about courage, perseverance, kindness, meditation, awakening, and the difference between Eastern and Western worldviews.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and potentially life-changing memoir, "Adventure in Zanskar" is especially recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in Tibetan Buddhism & Travelogues. While certain to be a welcome addition to community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Adventure in Zanskar" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781735265087, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Amy Edelstein is the author of six books, including "The Conscious Classroom". She is also the recipient of a Philadelphia Social Innovation Award for her nonprofit Inner Strength Education, Amy has developed a potent curriculum of mindfulness & systems thinking, empowering over 17,000 teens in under-resourced schools. Anyone interested can learn more at

Psycho-Spiritual Healing
Guy Needler
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265933, $21.00, PB, 296pp -How-We-Incarnate/dp/1940265932

Synopsis: The publication of "Psycho-Spiritual Healing: And Other Techniques for Dysfunctions Created by Who We Are and How We Incarnate" by Guy Needler is the result of over 20 years of healing experience. It describes the various healing modalities used by the author in treating physical, energetic, and psycho-spiritual issues that result in illness, disease, and psychological/mental health issues.

"Psycho-Spiritual Healing" provides a step-by-step description of the issues, why they manifest, and the modalities used to cure them.

Energy and vibrational healing is a gentle, noninvasive therapy developed by Barbara Brennan. It heals the physical manifestation of dis-ease, which results from imbalances in the human energy field. These imbalances are created by mis-perceptions of events encountered during our early years of life that are reflected on the body's energy system. These ultimately create physical dis-ease and dysfunction.

"Psycho-Spiritual Healing" creates the ability to reprogram the thoughts, behaviors, and actions of the patient at their point of origin, thereby removing mental blocks, bad habits, anxiety, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolarism, and incorrect DNA programming. It is also used to create confidence, clear and expansive thinking, and trust in one's ability.

Used together with other modalities developed by the author, energy/vibrational and psycho-spiritual healing techniques provide a comprehensive healing methodology that can heal most if not all health issues.

"Psycho-Spiritual Healing" is a useful core text and companion for those who wish to embark upon a career in healing but need to know more behind what causes illness and how to cure it.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Psycho-Spiritual Healing: And Other Techniques for Dysfunctions Created by Who We Are and How We Incarnate" will prove to be a highly valued and appreciated resource for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subjects of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Energy Healing, and Metaphysics. While an exceptional choice for professional, community, college, and university library Alternative Medicine & Pyschology collections, it should be noted that "Psycho-Spiritual Healing: And Other Techniques for Dysfunctions Created by Who We Are and How We Incarnate" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Guy Needler a qualified Reiki master, and his training and experience in energy-based therapies have resulted in him being a member of the Complementary Medical Association. Along with his healing abilities, his spiritual associations include being able to channel information from Spirit, allowing for constant contact with other entities within our multiverse and his higher self and guides.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation
Jacoby Ballard
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623176518, $17.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation", Jacoby Ballard provides an empowering and affirming guide to embodied healing through yoga and the dharma, grounded in the brilliance, resilience, and lived experiences of queer folks.

Part I deconstructs the ways mainstream yoga perpetuates queer- and transphobia and other systemic oppressions, exploring the intersections of yoga, capitalism, cultural appropriation, and sexual violence. Ballard also addresses the trauma (complex, vicarious, historical, and collective) perpetuated against queer communities.

Ballard also offers tools for self-compassion, tonglen, lovingkindness, and grounding, and helps readers explore questions like: What is trauma? How is it a product of injustice--and how can healing it create justice?; The world won't stop being homo- and transphobic, so how do I encounter that in a way that does the least harm?; How do we love what is uniquely trans about us?; What are affinity groups, and why do we need them?

In part II, Ballard offers a queer-centered, fully embodied, and equity-rooted practice with meditations, practices, and sequences for processing and healing from trauma individually and in community. He explains concepts like lovingkindness, letting go, compassion, joy, forgiveness, and equanimity through a queer lens, and pairs each with corresponding meditations, practices, and beautiful line drawings of queer bodies.

Enhanced with stories from Ballard's personal practice and professional experience teaching yoga in schools, prisons, conferences, and his weekly Queer and Trans Yoga class, "A Queer Dharma" is a guidebook, reclamation, and unapologetically queer heart offering for true healing and transformation.

Critique: Informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation" is an inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring read that is recommended to all members of the LGBTQ community, as well as community, college, and university library Yoga, Religion, and Spirituality collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Jacoby Ballard is a social justice educator, yoga teacher, and Buddhist teacher-in-training. As a yoga teacher with 20 years of experience, he leads workshops and trainings around the country on diversity, equity, and inclusion-inviting participants into the inner process and the outer manifestations of that practice on high school and college campuses, and in yoga spaces, trainings, and retreat centers, and runs the Resonance Mentorship Program for certified yoga teachers to find their niche and calling. Ballard has taught in schools, hospitals, nonprofit and business offices, a maximum security prison, a recovery center, a cancer center, LGBT centers, gyms, and a veteran's center as well as many yoga studios. Ballard has been an advisor to the Yoga Service Council since 2014, and on the Faculty of Off the Mat, Into the World since 2016, and consults for Lululemon, Yoga Journal, and Yoga Alliance. He is currently being mentored by Buddhist teacher DaRa Williams in the Insight lineage. He also maintains an informative website at

Disputed Messiahs
Rebekka VoB, author
John Crutchfield, translator
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814341643, $94.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: "Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation" is the first comprehensive study that situates Jewish messianism in its broader cultural, social, and religious contexts within the surrounding Christian society. By doing so, author and historian Rebekka VoB shows how the expressions of Jewish and Christian end-time expectation informed one another.

Although the two groups disputed the different messiahs they awaited, they shared principal hopes and fears relating to the end of days. Drawing on a great variety of both Jewish and Christian sources in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Latin, "Disputed Messiahs" examines how Jewish and Christian messianic ideology and politics were deeply linked. It also explores how Jews and Christians each reacted to the other's messianic claims, apocalyptic beliefs, and eschatological interpretations, and how they adapted their own views of the last days accordingly.

"Disputed Messiahs" is a comparative study of the messianic expectations of Jews and Christians in the Ashkenazic world during the Reformation and their entanglements, contributing a new facet to our understanding of cultural transfer between Jews and Christians in the early modern period.

"Disputed Messiahs" includes four main parts. The first part characterizes the specific context of Jewish messianism in Germany and defines the Christian perception of Jewish messianic hope. The next two parts deal with case studies of Jewish messianic expectation in Germany, Italy and Poland. While the second part focuses on the messianic phenomenon of the prophet Asher Lemlein, part 3 is divided into five chapters, each devoted to a case of interconnected Jewish-Christian apocalyptic belief and activity. Each case study is a representative example used to demonstrate the interplay of Jewish and Christian eschatological expectations. The final part presents VoB's general conclusions, carving out the remarkable paradox of a relationship between Jewish and Christian messianism that is controversial, albeit fertile.

Critique: An original work of original, meticulous, exhaustively detailed, and impressively informative scholarship, "Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation" is especially recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, rabbis, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780814348611, $36.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $35.14).

Editorial Note: Rebekka VoB is an associate professor of Jewish history at Goethe University, Frankfurt. Her research focuses on Jewish cultural history in early modern Europe, with a particular interest in cultural transfer between Jews and Christians.

The Empires of Atlantis
Marco M. Vigato
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591434337, $25.00, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: Exploring more than 100,000 years of Earth's history, with the publication of "The Empires of Atlantis: The Origins of Ancient Civilizations and Mystery Traditions throughout the Ages", author Marco Vigato combines recent discoveries in the fields of archaeology, geology, anthropology, and genetics with the mystery teachings of antiquity to investigate the true origins of civilization. Establishing the historical and geological reality of Atlantis stretching all the way back to 432,000 BCE, he traces the course of Atlantean civilization through its three empires, revealing how civilization rose and fell several times over this lengthy span of time.

"The Empires of Atlantis" shows that Atlantis did not vanish "in one terrible day and night" but survived in a variety of different forms well into the historical era. Revealed is how the first Atlantean civilization lasted from 432,000 to 33,335 BCE, the second one from 21,142 to 10,961 BCE, and the third Atlantis civilization--the one celebrated by Plato--collapsed in 9600 BCE, after the Younger Dryas cataclysm.

"The Empires of Atlantis" also examines the role of Atlantean survivors in restarting civilization in different parts of the world, from GĒbekli Tepe and Egypt to India, Mesopotamia, and the Americas. He explains how they created colonies and outposts around the globe, as evidenced by the colossal network of pyramids, earthen mounds, and other megalithic monuments they left behind. "The Empires of Atlantis" shows how these monuments testify to the survival of a "Sacred Science" of Atlantean origin, and documents the survival of the primeval Atlantean Tradition through various secret societies into the modern era.

Drawing on more than 500 ancient and modern sources and his own personal exploration of hundreds of archaeological sites around the world, Marco M. Vigator shows not only that Atlantis was real but that the whole world is now being called to become a New Atlantis and awaken into a new Golden Age.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Empires of Atlantis: The Origins of Ancient Civilizations and Mystery Traditions throughout the Ages" is an iconoclastic historical study that is enhanced with the inclusion of a section of color photography, as well as the occasional black-and-white illustration. A detailed work that will have a particular interest to both academia and the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "The Empires of Atlantis: The Origins of Ancient Civilizations and Mystery Traditions throughout the Ages" is highly recommended for personal reading lists as well as community, college, and university library Antiquarian History collections in general, and Atlantis history supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Marco M. Vigato is an Italian born author, researcher and explorer who has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to the task of uncovering the truth about the origins of civilization. He has appeared on numerous documentaries, podcasts and TV shows as an expert in ancient Mesoamerica and the worldwide megalithic phenomenon. In 2020, he founded the ARX Project ( with the objective of uncovering more evidence of what he believes was once an advanced global seafaring culture that vanished at the end of the last Ice Age. He can be followed on his website

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Behind Frenemy Lines: Rising Above Female Rivalry to Be Unstoppable Together
Dr. Amber Tichenor, PhD
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781631955419, $21.95, PB, 354pp

Synopsis: Female rivalry is boundless. Partly due to biology and partly due to culture. As a result, there is a hunger for this topic, to better understand it, to curb the behavior, to dive into the misconceptions and reality that it's not just a cat-fight. But it is so much more than that. It's a silent epidemic. Women who are recipients of this type of behavior often don't speak about their experience until it is behind them, or near to being over. Silent in the fact that there is often awareness by others about the behavior, but traditionally it's not dealt with until after the fact, if ever.

"Behind Frenemy Lines: Rising Above Female Rivalry to Be Unstoppable Together" by Amber Tichenor is a practical guide to help women find their peace, explore how they trust, establish true connections and know they are not alone when they are experiencing these types of behaviors. By sharing personal and relatable stories, "Behind Frenemy Lines" addresses the raw ugliness of female rivalry head on. It also offers tips with structure to educate and help women connect with one another about the seriousness of the phenomenon so that they can forge relationships that help them be unstoppable, together.

Critique: Timely, relevant, insightful, informative, inspirationally motivating, "Behind Frenemy Lines: Rising Above Female Rivalry to Be Unstoppable Together" is a life changing read that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Women's Issues and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Behind Frenemy Lines: Rising Above Female Rivalry to Be Unstoppable Together" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Amber Tichenor has a PhD in I/O Psychology and is the founder of To Be, Coaching + Consulting(R). She is a thought leader in the topic of women's rivalry and has 20+ years' experience as an Organizational Change Strategy and Leadership consultant where she helped guide businesses through transformational change. Amber is deeply passionate about the phenomenon of rivalry between women. She has studied this issue extensively and wrote her PhD dissertation thesis, "A Phenomenological Study of the Experience Of Rivalry Among Women in The Workplace" about it. She consults with organizations and offers speaking engagements and workshops on this important topic. Amber's goal is to promote collaboration over competition. Dr. Tichenor also writes a monthly blog that addresses specific topics about rivalry between women. She has been published in the On Purpose Woman Magazine and has had guest appearances on numerous podcasts and webinars. She is a leader and member of BossBabes RVA, a community of 7100+ female entrepreneurs whose focus is to uplift, learn and surround themselves with motivated, passionate and creative individuals.

Exile, Nature, and Transformation in the Life of Mary Hallock Foote
Megan Riley McGilchrist
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781647790189, $40.00, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Deftly combining a breadth of scholarship, insightful critical thinking, and an engaging personal interaction with Mary Hallock Foote's substantial collection of illustrations and writings, author Megan Riley McGilchrist provides a significant contribution to western literature and the lives of western writers with the publication of "Exile, Nature, and Transformation in the Life of Mary Hallock Foote".

This exceptional literary biography opens a window into the remarkable, little-known nineteenth-century personal history of the accomplished American author and illustrator, Mary Hallock Foote (1847 - 1938), who was a woman both of her time, and ahead of it.

When Mary gave up a successful career as an illustrator in New York to follow her husband, a mining engineer, to the West, she found herself in a new, unfamiliar, and often challenging world -- sometimes feeling like an exile. The thousands of pages of her unpublished letters, which form the foundation of this study, give rare insight into the process of acculturation and eventually the transformation that she experienced. This wide-ranging analysis also examines the role that nature and Mary's lifelong connection with the natural world played in her adaptation to the western mining towns where she spent much of the rest of her life.

In many ways, Mary's life mirrored that of author Megan Riley McGilchrist, whose parallel exile began in 1977 when she left America for England. Drawing equivalences with Mary's life as an exile and her own life as an expatriate American woman, Megan provides a meditation on her own transformation, as much as on Mary's. Megan demonstrates what it has been like to be a twenty-first-century American expatriate, Californian-turned-Londoner -- and to find common ground in the life of a nineteenth-century woman.

Comprising elements of biography, literary analysis, history, and personal history, and containing many unpublished excerpts from Mary's voluminous correspondence, "Exile, Nature, and Transformation in the Life of Mary Hallock Foote" offers insight into the ways Mary perceived the world around her. It also provides insight into the experiences of exiles of any time -- people who have left a familiar environment to embark on a new life in a new and not necessarily comfortable setting.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Exile, Nature, and Transformation in the Life of Mary Hallock Foote" is an extraordinary and definitive study of a particularly remarkable and talented woman of her time. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library American Literary Biographies collections as a work of original and painstaking scholarship, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Exile, Nature, and Transformation in the Life of Mary Hallock Foote" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $38.00).

Editorial Note: Megan Riley McGilchrist is a native Californian who has lived permanently in England since 1983. She is an English teacher at the American School in London and the author of "The Western Landscape in Cormac McCarthy and Wallace Stegner".

Our Mothers
Robbi Henderson
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781528999434, $11.95, PB, 194pp

Synopsis: Compiled by Robbie Henderson, "Our Mothers" is comprised of stories written by a group of friends who met during school and university days. Rarely celebrated, these short stories are about their mothers. While these women were from different backgrounds and some were born, or lived their early lives, in different countries, they shared some things in common. They were British by either birth or ancestry. They were middle class and they were young mothers during the latter part of World War 2, or shortly thereafter. They lived in Canberra during the '50s, '60s and '70s (longer in some cases) and contributed to the social life of the growing city in a variety of ways.

Critique: An fascinating and informative read from cover to cover, "Our Mothers" is a unique celebration of an impressive diversity of women who became mothers. A welcome and unusual addition to community library collections, it also should be noted for personal reading lists that "Our Mothers" is available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.50).

Editorial Note: On completion of her initial studies at the Australian National University, Robbie Henderson worked as a teacher, a biochemist, a political activist and a feminist activist in Australia and the United Kingdom culminating in her election as a member of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly. Thirty years working in the non-government sector and the New South Wales (NSW), Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Australian governments followed. In 2004 she joined Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as an advisor to the Solomon Islands' Prime Minister and Head of the Cabinet Office, and in 2008, she worked as an advisor to the national police (PNTL) in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Arrival of the Light Beings
Linda Haley
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982267933, $33.95, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: Contact with extraterrestrial and multidimensional beings began for Olive Stuart on New Year's Day 2000 when she heard the Voice declare: "It's time." Childhood terror of an extraterrestrial presence triggered panic in Olive when the Voice later spoke to her through a client who was soundly sleeping during a Reiki session. Communication and trust with the Voice developed for several years until Olive's fears of anything extraterrestrial were fully released and she understood why she had been selected for contact. Slowly a friendship developed with Avratar, a Fifth Dimensional being who guided Olive to a greater awareness of life beyond Earth's three-dimensional boundaries.

"They must understand that we are here to help" was the message Avratar wanted humans to hear. "Time is limited .... There are many individuals on your planet who wish to live in harmony with the planet and each other, yet they are denied this opportunity. That was not the original intention for this planet. The injustices and the continuing harm to Gaia will not be permitted to continue."

Reports of unidentified flying objects are increasing across the globe; soon even more ships will be appearing in our skies. Sightings, direct contact and even abductions can no longer be dismissed as fabrication. Changes, and the light beings, are definitely coming.

The publication of "Arrival of the Light Beings: How to Prepare for the Shift and Contact with Extraterrestrials" by Linda Hawley is designed to help alleviate the anticipated fears and increase awareness of their objectives, how to comprehend the massive Earth changes that have been foretold, and most importantly how to "prepare your heart." Written in the style of narrative fiction, "Arrival of the Light Beings: How to Prepare for the Shift and Contact with Extraterrestrials" is in reality an autobiography of the author's growing awakening and acceptance of her role in the planet's evolution.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, iconoclastic, informative, thought-provoking read from cover to cover" Arrival of the Light Beings: How to Prepare for the Shift and Contact with Extraterrestrials" will have a special appeal to non-specialist general readers with an interest in metaphysics, UFOs, spirits and ghosts. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Arrival of the Light Beings: How to Prepare for the Shift and Contact with Extraterrestrials" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781982267919, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Linda Haley is the founder and executive director of The Reiki Center, a comprehensive natural wellness center for people and their pets based in Columbus, Ohio. Contacted by a Fifth Dimensional being named Avratar on New Year's Day 2000, Linda's terrifying experiences with ghosts and other non-human entities when she was a child led to immediate panic and a complete rejection of his request for support. Twenty years of subsequent contacts with Avratar and other non-human messengers have helped her to now understand why she was selected to deliver their urgent appeal for greater understanding of spiritual truths, the importance of a deeper connection to Source, and why beings from throughout the galaxy are now advancing towards Earth.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Design Resilience in Asia
Oscar Carracedo Garcia-Villalba, editor
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
440 Park Avenue S, 17th FL, New York, NY 10016
9781948765251, $89.95, PB, 488pp

Synopsis: Led by the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment, edited by Oscar Carracedo Garcia-Villalba, "Design Resilience in Asia: Thinking the Unpredictable, Designing with Uncertainty" presents the research by design results of four consecutive years in four different countries (China, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand) responding to the current challenge of building more resilient cities in front of impacts of climate change, such as coastal and river flooding, water and air pollution, water scarcity, urban heat island effect, aquifer depletion or subsidence.

"Design Resilience in Asia" brings together the work of highly-reputed academics, professionals and scholars drawn from 20 universities worldwide with the aim of serving as a guide for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, and more specifically to reinstating the environmental qualities of our cities through carbon-neutral or carbon net-positive urban designs and plans.

Critique: A timely and invaluable contribution given the current and expected increasingly serious impacts of climate change, "Design Resilience in Asia: Thinking the Unpredictable, Designing with Uncertainty" is an essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, college, university, and governmental library Sustainability & Green Design, Regional Architecture, and Urban & Land Use Planning collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: An architect, urbanist, educator and an expert in digital transformation and business development, Oscar Carracedo Garc°a-Villalba is the Director of Resilient and Sustainable Cities Design and Planning. Research and development lead Director Designing Resilience Global Program.

A Bloodstained Hammer
Alison Townsend, author
Brian T. Seifrit, author
Hudu Creek Publishing
9781777328085, $12.96 (publisher), $7.47 (Amazon), PB, 178pp

Synopsis: Co-authored by Alison Townsend and Brian T. Seifrit, "A Bloodstained Hammer" is a fictionalized description based on the actual Townsend murders that occurred in the outskirts of Fruitvale, British Columbia in 1959.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections, "A Bloodstained Hammer" is a deftly crafted and inherently fascinating novel that is inspired by, and accurately based upon, an horrific incident of two homicides that took place in a small Canadian community over 60 years ago, "A Bloodstained Hammer" is an inherently riveting and memorable read from cover to cover.

Hold The Apocalypse
Bob Lorentson
Independently Published
9798454735616, $8.99, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Hold The Apocalypse: Pass Me A Scientist Please And Other Humorous Essays From An Optimist In Dreamland", Bob Lorentson, a terrified yet occasionally optimistic environmental scientist, takes a humorous look at the science behind the human and animal behaviors that make a doomed planet so interesting.

If you've ever wanted to get the real dirt on forest bathing without getting muddied, or on animal arsonists without getting burned, or on DIY transcranial Direct Current Stimulation without risking all those excitable neurons that already have one foot out the door, then "Hold The Apocalypse" is for you. Should you be of the type, however, that has found life's little pleasures interrupted of late by the loud ticking of the Doomsday Clock, put in some earplugs, because it's not yet too late to have a good laugh while you learn about 'Cat Research for Dummies,' 'Brain Wars - the Gender Variations,' or 'Boredom - It's Not Just for the Boring.'

Critique: Comprised of fifty erudite and occasionally iconoclastic essays, "Hold The Apocalypse: Pass Me A Scientist Please And Other Humorous Essays From An Optimist In Dreamland", Bob Lorentson combines humor with science, philosophy, psychology, history, and even poetry to examine a myriad of curious subjects while he (and you!) wait for the collapse of civilization. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hold The Apocalypse" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Bob Lorentson is an environmental scientist, humor writer, and serious technophobe. When not writing, he can usually be found running from the 21st century. He lives in East Haddam, CT with his wife, two rescue animals, and his fears of spontaneous combustion. Oh, and of a world dominated by artificial intelligence and real ignorance.
You can find his website and blog at, and follow him on Instagram (@boblorentson1212).

Urgent!: Save Our Ocean to Survive Climate Change
Captain Paul Watson
Groundswell Books
c/o Book Publishing Company
PO Box 99, Summertown, TN 38483
9781570674037, $9.95 PB, 92pp

Synopsis: We know now that despite all the climate change denier protests that a pandora's box of environmental disasters has been opened, threatening the ability of the natural world to recover and humanity to survive. From devastating fires and storms to the emergence of deadly new viruses, it's become impossible to deny the terrifying reality of climate change.

Captain Paul Watson, founder of the direct-action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has spent decades protecting the ocean's ecosystems and marine life and developing a knowledgeable and intimate relationship with our seas. With depth, clarity, and compassion, Watson identifies the numerous ways we are sabotaging the ocean's ability to sustain life on this planet with the publication of "Urgent!: Save Our Ocean to Survive Climate Change".

"Urgent!" explains the apocalyptic scenario that is our future if we don't act now. There still is time to mitigate some of the consequences of the climate crisis. Watson provides a roadmap for us to navigate a way out by lowering our carbon footprint, becoming actively involved, and drawing on our passion and courage to find potential solutions. His credo is: "We don't change the world without making waves."

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for everyone concerned with the dramatic and disastrous impacts that climate change is already having (and which are predicted to increase in severity and frequency), "Urgent!: Save Our Ocean to Survive Climate Change" needs to be a part of every professional, community, college, and university library Environmental Issues collections and studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, environmental activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Urgent!: Save Our Ocean to Survive Climate Change" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian/American marine conservation activist who founded the direct-action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. He became familiar to the public through Animal Planet's popular television series Whale Wars A prolific writer, Watson has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books, including Orcapedia, Death of a Whale, Dealing with Climate Change and Stress, and Captain Paul Watson: Interview with a Pirate.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Ships and Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes
Richard Gebhart
Greenstone Books
c/o Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781948314091, $29.95, PB, 182pp

Synopsis: From the day that French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle launched the Griffin in 1679 to the 1975 sinking of the celebrated Edmund Fitzgerald, thousands of commercial ships have sailed on the vast and perilous waters of the Great Lakes.

In a harbinger of things to come, on the return leg of its first trip in late summer 1679, the Griffin disappeared and has never been seen again. In the centuries since then, the records show that an alarming number of shipwrecks have occurred on the Great Lakes. If vessels that wrecked but were later repaired and returned to service are included, the number certainly swells into the thousands.

Most did not mysteriously vanish like the Griffin. Instead, they suffered the occupational hazards of every lake boat: collisions, groundings, strands, fires, boiler explosions, and capsizes. Many of these disasters took the lives of crews and passengers. The fearsome wrath of the storms that brew over the Great Lakes has challenged and defeated some of the staunchest vessels constructed in the shipyards of port cities along the U.S. and Canadian lake shores.

With the publication of "Ships and Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes", Great Lakes historian Richard Gebhart tells the tales of some of these ships and their captains and crews, from their launches to their sad demises -- or sometimes, their celebrated retirements.

Critique: A unique and informative Great Lakes maritime and nautical history, "Ships and Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes" by historian Richard Gebhart is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library Great Lakes Maritime History collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, nautical history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ships and Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Richard Gebhart was director of the White River Light Station lighthouse museum from 1975 to 1980. He has authored numerous articles of historical interest and essays for journals and newsletters of Great Lakes historical societies.

Boundless Leadership
Joe Loizzo, author
Elazar Aslan, author
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611809213, $26.95, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: "Boundless Leadership: The Breakthrough Method to Realize Your Vision, Empower Others, and Ignite Positive Change" by Joe Loizzo and Elazar Aslan provides a complete and systematic roadmap to finding meaning in your work, realizing your full leadership potential, and inspiring your team with resilience, innovation, compassion and confidence. "Boundless Leadership" offers the reader a new science-based vision of leadership that prescribes disciplines of mind, heart, and body to help leaders cultivate clarity, compassion and fearlessness for themselves and throughout their organization.

"Boundless Leadership" also offers accessible, real world applications to bring ease to leading oneself and others, and provides examples drawn from the authors' years of experience with clients, including CEOs of multi-billion-dollar businesses, entrepreneurs and managers trying to balance the complex challenges of work and life in our interdependent age.

Each section comprising "Boundless Leadership" includes a range of practices based on neuropsychology and contemplative science, including guided meditations to improve focus and awareness, cultivate empathy and compassion, and build fearlessness and flow. Each section also offers a practical application to ease daily challenges, including clarifying intentions for better decision-making, improving accountability and responsibility for better team collaboration, and embodying purpose to optimize impact on one's organization and society at large.

"Boundless Leadership" is especially relevant during this current explosion of pandemic driven remote working and provides advice and guidance to remain productive and joyful when your work environment is in flux. Whether you're a CEO, manager, team leader, consultant, coach, social entrepreneur or community activist, "Boundless Leadership" offers the tools needed to clarify your vision, lead others, and ignite positive change in the world--giving you a much needed advantage in today's fast-paced digital age.

Critique: Exceptionally insightful, 'real world' practical, and inspiringly motivational, "Boundless Leadership: The Breakthrough Method to Realize Your Vision, Empower Others, and Ignite Positive Change" is an extraordinary and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections. It should be noted for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, business managers, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Boundless Leadership: The Breakthrough Method to Realize Your Vision, Empower Others, and Ignite Positive Change" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note #1: Joe Loizzo, MD, PhD is a contemplative psychotherapist, a clinical researcher, and Buddhist scholar-teacher. He founded Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, a nonprofit organization that interacts with over 12,000 people per year. On the faculty at the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Columbia University Center for Buddhist Studies, he lectures widely on the role of meditative learning in the future of health, education, and leadership, and teaches regular public classes and workshops.

Editorial Note #2: Elazar Alsan, MBA, PCC is an executive advisor, speaker, and entrepreneur. After a successful career as a business executive, he became a professional coach over a decade ago, bringing his meditative practice and leadership principles to corporations including Chase, D&B, MasterCard, American Express, and ADP, as well as hyper growth start-ups. He is the founder of A Day of Kindness in Philadelphia, President of the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia, and a Nalanda Institute board member.

The Alien Disclosure Deception
Charles Upton
Sophia Perennis Publications
9781597311847, $19.95, PB, 254pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Alien Disclosure Deception: The Metaphysics of Social Engineering", author Charles Upton tries to answer two questions: 1) Why has the U.S. Government suddenly done an about-face in 2021, from debunking UFOs to officially admitting that they are "real"? 2) Since UFOs appear on radar, leave physical traces, and produce a wide spectrum of psychic and paranormal phenomena, exactly what are they?

The answer to the first question is: "Because 'disclosure' is part of a long-term social engineering project beginning at least as early as the end of WWII." The answer to the second is: "They are psycho-physical entities such as have been reported throughout human history, called the Jinn by the Muslims and Fairies by the Northern Europeans.

The social engineers have opted to use this well-known phenomenon (whether or not they fully understand it) to shift the paradigm in the Western world from Democracy and Christianity to Technocracy and Transhumanism. Extensive evidence is given for both these theories, drawing upon history, individual and social psychology, traditional metaphysics and eschatology, the physical sciences, and the phenomenology of the paranormal, thus producing the most global and consistent explanation to date (if not the most easily accepted one) of the UFO phenomenon.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Alien Disclosure Deception: The Metaphysics of Social Engineering" is impressively informed and informative. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, iconoclastic and insightful, "The Alien Disclosure Deception: The Metaphysics of Social Engineering" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library UFO Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Alien Disclosure Deception: The Metaphysics of Social Engineering" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Poet and metaphysician Charles Upton was born on December 13, 1948, in San Francisco, California. He is a protegee of the Beat Generation, a veteran of the psychedelic counterculture, a peace activist, a Sufi Muslim, a writer of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, and author of 20 books -- mostly on the subjects of "metaphysics and social criticism". In 2013, along with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, he co-founded the international Muslim/Interfaith peace movement known as the Covenants Initiative, and is presently Executive Director of the Covenants of the Prophet Foundation. He has been writing on the subject of UFOs since 2001.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives
Rick Bleiweiss, author
Black Stone Publishing
31 Mistletoe Rd., Ashland, OR 97520
9781665046756, $26.99 HC, $5.39 Kindle, 300pp

Winner of the PNBA BuzzBooks award, "Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives" by Rick Bleiweiss offers historical mystery buffs a whole new palate of slick "tonsorial sleuths" plus the dapper Pignon Scorbion, the new eccentric inspector who must use his superior detective skills to solve a puzzling trio of deady crimes, covering a continent and country-spanning locale, while based in a quaint 1910 English village.

Many allusions and homages to classical mystery cliches are buried in this delightful text. Uncovering them can be as addictive as solving the mystery in triplicate. Pignon Scorbion is compared to Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and maybe even Lord Peter Wimsey. This promising introductory title is sure to attract fans and followers for further tales of Pignon Scorbion and the Barbershop Detectives. Light in tone, gently acerbic in touches, the prose of famous rock star promoter and associate Rick Bleiweiss never fails to intrigue avid readers.

Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections and the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs, "Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives" introduces a new mystery series that is not to be missed.

Shady Hollow: A Murder Mystery
Juneau Black, author
Vintage Crime/ Black Lizard Mysteries
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593315712, $16.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 219pp

"Shady Hollow" is the latest animal murder mystery in the cozy mystery series of the same name. Co-authored by Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagle, this delightful series features woodland creatures as characters with disturbingly human attributes.

The cunning reporter fox Vera Vixen chases down a rumor that Otto Sumpf, a grouchy toad, has been murdered. In the peaceful society of Shady Hollow, a small settlement where "woodland creatures of all types and temperaments, from the tiny mouse to the mighty moose, live together in a successful and mostly peaceful society," murder is a grievous offense to stability of the natural order.

Vera resolves to solve the dangerous mystery murder, and discovers information that endangers her and the other Shady Hollow animals. These include BW Stone (a cigar-chomping skunk editor), Lenore Lee (a raven expert on mysteries), Joe (a gossip tracking moose), Chief Theodore Meade (a bear law enforcement officer), Deputy Orville Braun (another bear officer), Ruby Ewing (sheep), Reginald von Beaverpelt, (plus Anastasia, Esmerelda, and Edith von Beaverpelt), Lefty the small time criminal raccoon, and Ambrosius Heidegger (owl professor of philosphy), and Sun Li (panda proprietor of a vegetarian restaurant called the Bamboo Patch).

Danger looms when Vera tracks down elusive clues, and threats to other woodland creatures and inhabitants of Shady Hollow materialize. All creatures possess helpful traits, and working together, they offer help to Vera in solving the mysterious murder.

"Shady Hollow" has been aptly described as '"Watership Down" meets Mickey Spillane. All imaginative characters promise an unusual romp and a quirky reading experience to devotees of the cozy mystery. Very highly recommended for community library collections, indulge your whim for animal identification and cross species learning, and explore the wondrous world of Shady Hollow.

Sing Like Never Before
Justin Stoney, author
Mark Pate, illustrator
Mission Point Press
9781950659753, $49.95 PB, $49.95 Kindle, 225 pages

"Sing Like Never Before: A Creative Look at Vocal Technique & Pedagogy for Singers & Voice Teachers" is a comprehensive, succinct, vividly presented and illustrated vocal teaching manual that offers helpful content on the technical tools, scientific principles, visual illustrations of vocal concepts, creative imagery, practical tips, comedic scenes and soulful passages, all of which contribute significant inspiration and encouragement to aspiring vocal performers.

Described by performer Tony Shaloub as "a game changer" "Sing Like Never Before" is divided into 10 chapters covering breathing, the larynx, vocal resonance & tone, posture & alignment, the tongue, jaw, & mouth, vocal registration, larynx & vocal fold control, vocal health & speech, vocal performance & acting, and singing from the soul.

Filled with SLNB Quick Tips sidebars, colorful accurate illustrations, engaging style, and accessible vocal technique tips and tricks, "Sing Like Never Before" offers excellent, valuable vocal coaching and training exercises and knowledge to singers of all levels. here is an example of the vocal practice explanations from Chapter 29, Soft Palate:"To sing like never before, become a vocal myth buster! Don't just lift your soft palate like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. Instead, develop heroic control over your soft palate's full range of motion. If you do, then vocal freedom will never be all Greek to you!" This is followed by the SLNB Quick Tips sidebar: "1. Practice singing nasal consonants (M,N, and NG) to experience a lowered soft palate. 2. Practice singing any pure vowel (like EE, OO, of AH) to experience a raised soft palate. 3. Practice nasalized vowels (like MAHM or NEEN) to experience an "in between" soft palate.

"Sing Like Never Before" is chock full of helpful information, exercises, and humorous explanations of the working of successful vocal performance. The fantastic diagrams of all the related muscles required for vocal performance help to engage, visualize, and integrate vocal practice techniques. There is a positive emphasis on healthy practice and performance and enjoyment of vocal performance.

"Sing Like Never Before" is a fantastic vocal pedagogy resource that should be on every vocal student's and teacher's bookshelf.

Mama: A World of Mothers and Motherhood
Helene Delforge, author
Quentin Greban, illustrator
Polly Lawson, translator (from French)
Floris Books
9781782507710 $19.95, HC

A collection of twenty-one artistic masterpieces with poignant poetic descriptions, "Mama: A World of Mothers and Motherhood" presents sensitive portraits and moments of motherhood in globally diverse cultures and situations.

Created by a team of sister and brother -in- law, (author Helen Delforge and artist Quentine Greban) and ably translated from French into English for an American readership by Polly Lawson, these painfully sensitive words and pencil and water color images are hauntingly beautiful portrayals of nearly all aspects of a mother's love for her child and the bond it strengthens.

From the heart rending portrait of a mother who is devastated by the loss of her child to the mother with bell-like prayer stick, the fears, doubts, uncertainty, risks, and joy of mothering a child is portrayed and celebrated, across miles, across oceans, across cultures and home settings. "Remember that everywhere on this earth/ children are held, helped to grow, protected, loved./ Let us take this world full of love/ into our hearts."

All who treasure the experience of a mother child relationship will find rich enhancements of that life stream in this beautiful collection, "Mama: A World of Mothers and Motherhood" is highly recommended for personal, family, elementary school, and community library non-religious holiday collections for young readers ages 6-12.

Christmas At the Movies
Phillip Keveren, arranger
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
PO Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781458407740, $15.99, PB, 56pp

"Christmas At the Movies" is a collection of 16 popular movie classic holiday themes arranged for solo piano by master arranger/performer/composer Phillip Keveren. A partial list includes old favorites paired with newer hits: "My Favorite Things," "We Need a Little Christmas," God Bless Us Everyone," "Somewhere in my Memory," "Star of Bethlehem," "Where Are You Christmas?" and "Carol for Another Christmas."

The first four songs, which come from "Miracle on 34th street," "The Sound of Music," "White Christmas," and "Mame," can be played as a Christmas at the Movies Suite background holiday medley for a slide show or holiday media event. All arrangements are tastefully jazzy, moderately challenging, smoothly paced, and beautifully framed, as is typical of all Keveren piano solo arrangements.

Teachers and students who perform at holiday recitals will want to avail themselves of this trendy yet timeless collection of holiday movie theme favorites. A piano music book for late intermediate/early advanced pianists, the arrangements comprising Christmas at the Movies" linger on the palate like tasty holiday treats, chocolates, sugar plums, or buns.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

iWater and Other Convictions
Robert D. Kirvel
Steel Toe Books
9781949540253, $18.00, PB, 220pp

Synopsis: We all do it on occasion: spew words to defend or offend. But when someone insists "Nobody knows anything" or "All [insert political or religious affiliation] are idiots", just what is really going on?

"iWater and Other Convictions" by Robert D. Kirvel is about the people we all have met who embrace unfounded political, social, sexual, or moral mindsets drawn from untrustworthy sources. The literary snapshots comprising "iWater and Other Convictions" show why individuals who are sure they know the most often know the least, how empathy is not always as positive as it's cracked up to be, where conspiracy theories originate, and what personal authenticity can mean in perplexing and polarizing times.

Critique: Written specifically the benefit of readers who have tried again and again to make sense of social, cultural, or political conversational nonsense, "iWater and Other Convictions" is challenging, insightful, thoughtful and thought- provoking. Impressively timely, especially when considering the current political scene debased by elaborate and deceptive misinformation campaigns on social media, "iWater and Other Convictions" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library collections.

Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner
Mario Lopez-Goicoechea
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781528994309, $19.95, HC, 94pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner", Mario Lopez-Goecoechea address a number of topical and timely questions including: What does a certificate of naturalization mean to an immigrant in Brexit-plagued modern Britain? How do we navigate the various identity markers we acquire through life? Which ones stand out? Which ones blend in and get forgotten? And why? How does language affect the process of adaptation to a new country? Should writing from an "English as an Additional Language (EAL)" perspective be seen through the prism of aesthetics (writing per se) or identity politics? What is masculinity in the 21st century? How big is the Afro-Cuban scene in London nowadays? Is it time the Cuban government acknowledged Virgilio Pi§era's contribution to the island's literary canon and apologised for the way it treated the writer? What is the linguistic future of the next Latin American generation?

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner" is an impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking read that will be of special interest and appeal to both academic and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subjects so well and articulated discussed by Lopez-Goicoechea, who is a Cuban-born, London-based writer and blogger who has lived in the British capital since 1997. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner" is also available in a paperback edition (9781528994293, $12.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.50).

Editorial Note: Mario Lopez-Goicoechea's success as a blogger merited his inclusion in the first anthology of Cuban bloggers called Buena Vista Social Blog (editor, Beatriz Calvo Pe§a) in 2010. In 2012, Mario published three separate essays on the centenary of Cuba's foremost playwright, poet, essayist and short storywriter, Virgilio Pi§era in The Guardian, Prospect magazine and The Prisma newspaper. For the last twelve years, Mario has built a strong and ever-growing diverse readership.

Explain This!: A Lateral Thinking Party Game
Sam Hicken
Independently Published
9798454633578, $6.99, PB, 74pp

Synopsis: Parties are fun. Games are fun. "Explain This!: A Lateral Thinking Party Game" by Sam Hicken is fun. Combining them yields the fortuitous equation: Party + Game + Book = Fun x 3. "Explain This!: A Lateral Thinking Party Game" is comprised of 25 top lateral thinking puzzles, some traditional some original, plus an introduction that's designed to be both informative and funny. Two original cartoons accompany each brainteaser, and there are other humorous elements scattered throughout.

Lateral thinking puzzles (also called situation puzzles, the explanation game, or two-minute mysteries) proceed as follows. The "host" reads a seemingly odd scenario, after which the group uses yes or no questions to figure out the circumstances that led up to it. Puzzles can take from a few minutes to over an hour to solve.

Lateral thinking puzzles can be intellectually entertaining (and challenging detective work!) plus they're a natural jumping off point for party banter and jokes. "Explain This!: A Lateral Thinking Party Game" makes entertaining reading, but it's even more fun to try the puzzles with friends.

Critique: A guaranteed and fun ice breaker resource for any and all parties and family gathering and get-together events, and also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), "Explain This!: A Lateral Thinking Party Game" is highly recommended for personal, family, and community library Puzzle and Humor collections.

Paths of the Righteous. Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope
Ari Mittleman
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9657023730, $14.99, PB, 145pp

Synopsis: What does it mean to be a righteous person in these uncertain times? When anti-Semitic violence has rocked the Jewish community, it's common to turn inward. Our heroes who give us hope shine a light through dark times. Throughout history, Jewish leaders have shown our community and humanity what it means to rise to the occasion. But do you know the stories of non-Jewish luminaries that uplift our community while inspiring their own?

With the publication of "Paths of the Righteous. Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope " by Ari Mittleman readers will discover eight individuals who have gone above and beyond for Israel and the Jewish people during a difficult and turbulent period. Largely unheralded and not in the headlines, their stories can inspire us. They each demonstrate unique attributes. No matter how hidden it may seem during an uncertain journey and challenging times, collectively they teach us what it means to pursue a righteous path in the twenty-first century.

King Solomon in Proverbs wrote: "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn; it shines ever brighter until the day is perfect." Black, White and Latino from Africa, Europe and North America, "Paths of the Righteous. Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope" introduces four men and four women that through their actions demonstrate the true meaning of this verse.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Paths of the Righteous. Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope" deserves (especially in this dark times) the widest readership possible. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Judaism & Religious Ethics collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Paths of the Righteous. Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.56).

Editorial Note: Ari Mittleman works at the nexus of politics, policymaking and the press in Washington, DC. Proficient in both modern and biblical Hebrew, he has formally studied the language and traditional Jewish texts since kindergarten and travels regularly to Israel. In total, he has visited over 40 countries and has worked with heads of state, celebrities and global business leaders. As a native Pennsylvanian deeply involved in the pro-Israel community, the tragedy in Pittsburgh deeply affected him.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Jason Krumbine
Independently published
9781719829663, $16.99
B07FSW6CY5, $4.99, 2018, 320 pages

Defiance is a SF war between species novel. There is little hard science in the story but there are enough illusions of science to satisfy the SF reader. The characters are well-fleshed with pages and pages of details. The biggest drawback is, when you get to the end of the story, you find it is just an introduction to a series.

One hundred years after a deadly encounter with an alien race Captain Mitchell and his ancient falling-apart ship USS Defiance is sent on a supply mission across a dangerous expanse of space with a supply run. There is a secondary secret agenda to the mission. Hints that the alien race, which was fought a hundred years earlier, is still active in the region. Mitchell and his ship have the deadly task of finding out if it is true while keeping everyone else in the dark.

Defiance is a well written introduction to a solid SF space opera but all it is is an introduction. If you aren't willing to commit to reading the series, it is hard to recommend. The storytelling is reasonably done but the packaging is the problem. It should be marketed as an intro to a series and not a standalone story.

Pawsitively Poisonous: A Cozy Witch Mystery (A Witch of Edgehill Mystery Book 1)
Melissa Erin Jackson
Ringtail Press
9781732413467 $8.44
B07R8D29RN, $0.00, 2019, 260 pages

Pawsitively Poisonous is a fun cozy witch mystery. It had a slightly different take on witchcraft blended with a reasonably complex murder mystery. The one real pleasure is that the protagonist doesn't really know how to investigate a mystery but still muddles through.

Amber Blackwood owns a small shop in Edgehill, Oregon called The Quirky Whisker. When her best friend is killed shortly after stopping by her shop, she becomes a suspect in her poisoning. To clear her name she decides to find out what happened.

Pawsitively Poisonous is an easy recommendation in the cozy witch mystery genre. It has complex and interesting characters and a solid mystery. The stumbling investigation of a novice sleuth adds to the fun.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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