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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 2 February 2023 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

Our Home and Treaty Land: Walking Our Creation Story
Raymond Aldred, author
Matthew Anderson, author
Woodlake Books
9781773434148, $19.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: The words "Treaty means that your identity is bigger than just you" are used both literally and metaphorically. "It's tempting to start the story of a long journey, even a journey of realization, with the arrival rather than the first, uncertain, steps. But it's really those first steps that prepare for everything else."

"First steps are what this book is about," writes Matthew Anderson in his preface, and understanding Treaty is an essential first step. Treaty - what it meant to the First Nations and to the Newcomers who originally entered into it, and what it could and should mean for all of us today - lies at the heart of this book.

Treaty is key to the shared narrative, shared spirituality, and shared respect for the land that Ray Aldred says are necessary for our peoples (Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike) to walk well, to live well together on the land because Treaty still is, or should be, a lived reality. Treaty doesn't refer to a onetime, historical event, but to a lasting, daily way of "living well," in right relation to each other, to the land, and to the Creator.

Critique: "Our Home and Treaty Land: Walking Our Creation Story" by co-authors Raymond Aldred and Matthew Anderson is a timely and useful contribution to national discussions regarding governmental treaty rights and responsibilities made by governments with Native American community and Indigenous Peoples populations. Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a six page Appendices, twelve pages of Notes, and a seven page Bibliography, "Our Home and Treaty Land: Walking Our Creation Story", while highly recommended for community and academic library Canadian History collections, it also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) for the personal reading lists of students, academics, governmental policy makers, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Editorial Note #1: Reverend Doctor Raymond Aldred ( was first ordained with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada and is now ordained with the Anglican Church of Canada. He is status Cree from Swan River Band, Treaty 8. Ray is also the director of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology, whose mission is to partner with the Indigenous Church around theological education. Ray's passion is to help as many as possible hear the gospel in their heart language.

Editorial Note #2: Reverend Doctor Matthew Anderson was born and raised on Treaty 4 territory. He is an Affiliate Professor in Theological Studies at Concordia University, Tio'tia:ke (Montreal). He was recently appointed Director of Camino Nova Scotia at the Atlantic School of Theology and is an ordained Lutheran Pastor. He podcasts at Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase, and blogs at and

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

A Town Called Why
Rick Lenz
Chromodroid Press
9780999695333, $16.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

In A Town Called Why, people know detective Frank Gaines as a man of achievement and courage. What they don't know is that he's also a man harboring deep insecurities and doubts. These lead him into therapy, where he not only tackles his problems, but falls in love with his therapist. Like Frank, she harbors Apache blood and special abilities that compliment her savvy wisdom and attraction.

It's a recipe for disaster when Frank's relative is murdered and therapist Sunny must inform him that his sacred duty is to not just find a killer, but to torture and murder in turn.

Rick Lenz is adept at capturing the natural and human worlds of Arizona:

"A Mexican gray wolf, then three, then a dozen stare at the desert, immense, motionless, aglow. As if with a single eye, they see the unshadowed forms of sheep bones, an empty prairie dog town, rabbit brush, pinon, creosote bushes, and a half dozen kinds of cactus. A purple block mesa looms ageless in the distance. The only noise, apart from the insects, is a gourd rattle, sounding like a diamondback in an upside-down kettledrum on a sheet of granite."

Ordinarily, readers can expect a certain supportive atmosphere to accompany any mystery. But Lenz looks to achieve more than a casual backdrop, steeping his characters and their dilemmas in the culture, environment, and influences of Arizona and its native peoples. This adds an extra element of intrigue by embedding mysticism, moral and ethical dilemmas, and Native American heritage into the mix of a murder mystery.

Add a dash of romance for a sense of the appeal and complexity of A Town Called Why, in which a seasoned detective finds his own moral compass tested and pointing in a different direction than his career has dictated in the past.

These insights extend beyond Frank's special form of angst and into general observations about his job:

"...police work can also be self-serving and worse - at least for some cops. It can also be lonely. Sometimes, it's like being a little boy, playing... pretending to be tough, like people are looking at him with... maybe not always respect, but at least they pay attention to him. Most people know he's there to keep the peace as skillfully as possible. They can't see into whatever his little insecurities might be. Why would they want to? Except now he's off where people couldn't possibly be looking in on him; he's all by himself, wandering up some godforsaken excuse for a road toward some other desolate soul."

A Town Called Why is a vivid portrait of self-doubt, new directions, cultural and social influences, and murder that places Native American communities and ideals in the center of a detective's unfolding revelations.

The philosophical reflections on the part of more than one character are exceptionally revealing: "She wonders about her generous nature. But that's never taken her anywhere useful. No matter how kind she is, or reasonable, or even a twisted sort of honest sometimes, she's still ... what she's always been."

Libraries and readers that look for remarkable stories of cultural identity and discovery couched in murder mystery scenarios will find A Town Called Why an outstanding read. Tense, character-driven, and culture-steeped, it is filled with atmosphere and intrigue tempered by unexpected twists and turns that keep both Frank and his readers thoroughly engaged.

Needles, The Forgotten Christmas Tree
Richard Wagner
Mascot Kids!
c/o Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645437086, $19.95

Richard Wagner's Needles, The Forgotten Christmas Tree deserves year-round mention and should be included in any elementary-level collection seeking evocative seasonal stories that hold impact beyond a singular holiday event. Its ultimate message of hope, perseverance, overcoming bullying and poor self-image to achieve goals, and more will involve picture book readers and their adult read-aloud companions in a saga that is warm and lovely.

Sydni Kruger provides snowy Christmas tree illustrations to bring to life the story of a diminutive tree that faces constant messages that he's not good enough: "The other trees would tell him that he was too small and nobody would want him. This frightened Needles. What would happen if no one brought him home for Christmas?"

Needles is determined not to be neglected, forgotten, or left out of the festivities, and this strength carries him through many changes.

Adults who choose Needles, The Forgotten Christmas Tree for read-aloud will find the story suitable for a number of nights of exploration. A slow reading pace will assure that its many messages will be discussed with the very young ("Would he be forgotten and dry up and turn brown, never to be decorated? Needles told himself, No! He would not be forgotten, and he would not give up hope.").

While it may be tempting to view the story as a Christmas saga alone, in fact, Needles, The Forgotten Christmas Tree deserves year-round recognition and feature as an important opportunity for kids to learn the foundations of positivity and differing perceptions of beauty in the world.

Milestone Visual Documents in American History
Craig Kaplowitz, Editor
Schlager Group Inc.
9781935306726, $395.00 print & ebook

Milestone Visual Documents in American History is a study in visual images that helped shape America, and contains multiple volumes under one cover that explore these visual impacts over the decades.

Volume 1 covers 1540-1858, the second covers 1859-1940, and the third moves from 1940 to 2021. Entries arranged chronologically by year follow the same uniform arrangement of Fact Box, Document Image, and Analysis. This makes it easy to move between the decades with cross-comparative attention to details between them that lend to scholarly study and ready understanding of their connections and features.

The reason why this venture is so weighty and expensive is that it represents a vast synthesis of visual materials to highlight the heart of visual images that have represented and interpreted American experiences from the country's inception.

More than a gathering of such images, the authors take the time to analyze and place within the timeline the images' creators, purposes, perceptions, and choices in depicting American history. This lends especially well to high school to college-level classroom discussions on a wide range of topics, from American history's representation and depiction to the background and intentions of each visual image's creator.

The accompanying commentary both places the image(s) in context and allows students an analytical insight into the process of capturing and displaying history with all its inherent prejudices, influences, and outcomes.

Editor Craig Kaplowitz selected each image for its individual strength as well as its opportunity for classroom discussion. Of particular note is the analytical prowess that not just invites, but compels students to consider how views or claims about American historical events are influenced by images and approaches to their creation.

Questions for further study complete the educational prowess of this collection by prompting students to look beyond the book's representations to consider viewer influences on historical events and their depiction.

Bibliographic references for further reading include books, articles, and websites. These additionally enhance the wide-ranging educational impact of this collection.

Pricey it may be; but any library or school with a special interest in engaging students in the process of better understanding how visuals affected historical facts and analysis, and how they reflect both the creator's focus and the changing milieu of the times, will find Milestone Visual Documents in American History a key acquisition well worth its price tag.

There is no price to be placed on critical thinking development. Milestone Visual Documents in American History's added value in this department makes it a standout.

Mother Knows Worst
Sofia Bella Roma
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645433620, $17.95

In Mother Knows Worst, Rose knows she has never been good at self-inspection. She has also failed at acting, leading to her next endeavor in life: law school. This latest effort comes with an unexpected side dish of romance with an Indian boy that leads Italian girl Rose to therapy to question her trajectory and experiences.

It's Anil's mother who takes the lead in prompting Rose to question many things she had taken for granted about herself and her place in the world. As she navigates the stormy waters of a mother-in-law who injects resentment and discord into their lives, Rose comes to realize truths about her own family roots and the choices in life which bring her to re-examine her motivations and options.

Sofia Bella Roma does an outstanding job of depicting Rose's process of growth, juxtaposing her self-examination with the life events that lead her into positions of discomfort.

Her examination of the changing roles of wives and mothers with marriage is particularly astute, as is her consideration of the insidious undercurrents that direct their influences:
"Rose felt like she was losing her mind. This was when Rose started saying to herself, What is in this bitch's cooch juice that no one can see how she manipulates? Rose started to notice it with other mothers too. She would listen to her friends, and after their husbands or boyfriends would be around their mothers, it was like they changed and were tweaked."

From a son's motivation for not supporting his wife and wanting his family's approval to a daughter-in-law's perception of a changing marriage that is heading into murky waters she never saw coming, Roma creates a compelling series of psychological interplays and revelations that are realistic and involving.

Rose faces accusations from those outside as well as within the family as things begin to go awry not just between herself and her husband, but her husband and the world. Centering her emotions and self-respect are friends who inject thought-provoking observations into the mix: Amy laughed. "It may be enabling, but you had so much going on and you did what you had to do to survive. You were in full blown survival mode. I think it is more complicated than saying you are an enabler."

The result is a lively, thought-provoking journey into one young woman's marriage, cross-cultural encounters, and life. Mother Knows Worst is recommended not just for novel readers seeking stories of women's experiences, but for reading groups interested in the psychological entanglements between different cultures and generations.

Libraries that choose Mother Knows Worst for its entertainment value will find much more reasons for recommending it than its leisure read attraction alone.

The Fall of Faith
Jeff Berney
BAQJAC Entertainment
9781734392142, $21.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$7.99 ebook

The Fall of Faith doesn't sound like it will be a thriller, but a delve into the story reveals that its roots lie not just in religious discourse, but in a plot that revolves around sin, survival, redemption, and death.

The story opens with trucker Jimmy consuming food in a diner at the crack of dawn. Jimmy displays a style of pondering that feels unusual for a truck driver: "As he stared at his receding hairline, he acknowledged, if only to himself, that his life had been filled with neither luck nor courage. He had always been more comfortable inside himself than out in the world."
Perhaps it's because he's now on the cusp of giving up the trucker life. Perhaps it's because other changes are also on the edge of moving his life into unpredictable directions. His run-in with a senile old man is just one experience that changes everything overnight, moving him into a life that juxtaposes death and faith with transformation.

Jeff Berney takes the time to inject evocative atmosphere into this story:

"He loved the fall in Missouri, and especially in his hometown of Kansas City. The air had a crispness about it that woke your senses. Sounds traveled farther. And the leaves would turn shocking colors of reds, oranges and yellows before raining down like a firestorm to the cold ground below. Jimmy felt more alive when the rest of the world was preparing to hibernate."

Metaphors and insights permeate a tale replete with the unexpected as characters inject further thoughts and dilemmas into Jimmy's life:

"You can quit. Leave your girl and your pride behind and ride off into the sunset. But you know why the movies always fade to black as the hero rides into the sunset? Because if they lingered on that shot too long, you'd see nothing special happens when you ride away. The next town is the same. Your problems ride shotgun with you wherever you go."

The chance encounter Jimmy has with a stripper reveals a secret that not only shakes him, but the town and the world he's so carefully construed and moves through.

Berney's story is anything but the usual genre read. Its characterization, plot progression, and the detailed, realistic atmosphere of Missouri and Kansas that come alive under Berney's hand leads readers into realms which are entirely unpredictable.

This is just one of the compelling aspects that make The Fall of Faith a journey into more than murder and belief, but an examination of life changes that lead an ordinary trucker into a world he never saw coming.

Libraries seeking suspenseful stories that embrace philosophical, psychological, and social influences will find all these elements and more in The Fall of Faith, which is highly recommended for readers seeking surprises in powerful writing.

Witchy Illusions
Stephen Spotte
Open Books
9781948598590, $17.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Witchy Illusions is set in the 1500s and follows the trial of fifteen-year-old Mademoiselle Ambrosine, accused of witchcraft. Readers who expect that events will come from her perspective will find the first pleasing surprise is that one Barthelemy de Chassenee, her lawyer, is actually the chief participant and observer of events. He employs a first-person descriptive prowess to bring this world to life... albeit, from the afterlife.

The second surprise (especially given its serious subject) is an undercurrent of joviality that runs through dialogues and encounters as the protagonist interacts with other post-living beings and reviews the circumstances of his life and demise:

" it is: Monsieur Chassenee, you are dead."


"You no longer kill time, so to speak, among the living.

You have become a specter like me, a ghost. Death

has struck you down, my friend. You have acted in your

last play, at least as a living being. As the saying goes,

la farce est jouee."

"Oh, dear God!" I said.

"Revigny shook his head in mock sadness. "He can't help."

As events of the witchcraft accusation, the resulting trial, and the social and cultural impact of beliefs surrounding witches during these times comes to life, Stephen Spotte produces a wonderful, evocative story that reflects on many historical facts and experiences, embracing spiritual, social, and philosophical reflection alike:

"I'll pause a moment and pose a question many have pondered: if Satan can act alone in causing any misery he chooses, why is he so eager to encourage witches?

I can only speculate and offer this theory. It's probably more fun planning and then making mischief in the company of fellow believers than alone. And what more delightful venue for a being who embodies ultimate evil than a drunken orgy?"

Magical realism meets historical fact head-on in a delightful exploration that presents a feisty young woman, a lawyer who sometimes finds himself at a legal loss, and a portrait of inevitability about the outcome of a trial that then takes satisfying twists and turns into arenas of the unexpected.

While all these elements will delight readers of historical fiction, they also create a vivid dance between the drama of fictional accounts and the reality of the times. This will attract readers who may know little about this era, but will find it comes to life between the narrator's observations and the accused's court appearances.

Witchy Illusions is a delightful survey of demons, legal determinations, illusions and realities, and belief systems under attack.

It is highly recommended for libraries seeking exemplary examples of how history and its underlying influences can come to life under the right pen, reaching beyond its intended audiences to those who are simply looking for entertainment. This audience will appreciate the surprises and insights that unfold a sense of magic with thought-provoking material suitable for book club discussions.

Communication Essays
Rodney G. Miller
Parula Press
9781737489542, $15.99

Communication Essays provides seven essays about the fine art of building public debate, discourse, and communication. It is authoritative and key to both improving community interactions and fostering democratic principles.

These explorations, written from 1979 to 2010, pinpoint the foundations of building strong public communication processes, considering best practices that have been distilled from landmark businesses displaying success because of their successful problem-solving approaches.

The translation from business circles to public debate and communication objectives is achieved with an eye to exploring how some approaches break down and thwart the very process they intend to support: "When the goal of communication is just to "get a message out," stakeholders understand intuitively that their views, feelings, or perspectives are not considered important."

These examples provide important insights into various approaches to communication, from stylized methods to those which support principles of institutional as well as individual advancement, compiling benchmark approaches that have proven to be successful and superior.

As the essays move through different communication protocols and methods in different kinds of institutional, business, and public settings, communications students and those majoring in business receive a powerful set of contrasts between different programs and their encouragement of the types of questions and interactions that further their organizational strength and purpose.

The result is a powerful survey that displays how systematic personal communication can foster growth, change, and dialogues that promote organizational and community trust alike. Each paper comes with bibliographic references that both support the essay and lend to further research and reading.

A wide-ranging audience will appreciate these discussions, whether they are students of communication studies, business, government, or linguistics.

Communication & Beyond
Rodney G. Miller
Parula Press
9781737489528, $14.99

Communication & Beyond deserves inclusion in any collection strong in higher education, educator biographies, or Australian social innovative education processes. It synthesizes Rodney G. Miller's encounters and participation in the evolution of communication study and teaching in Australia, noting changing faculty personalities, educational mandates, and the growth of communications studies programs and curriculum and their impact on both the university and Australia as a whole.

While some might think that Communication & Beyond would be of limited interest to those outside Australia, the book outlines the process of developing collaborative programs that moved outside individual and university circles to affect educational progression in many other facets of society. Its examination of the evolution of sociological and ideological interpretations of communication documents will pertain to other countries, as well. Its survey profiles changing institutional and governmental culture that affected learning strategies and ideals, improved education resources, and led to institutional advancements that fostered innovation throughout the community.

The focus of Communication & Beyond fosters bigger-picture thinking about the interactions between institutions of learning and the community, tracing the impact of new programs and ideals as they ripple from academic into public arenas.

Miller's story expands into international circles to document the effects of QUT's development efforts on other segments of world society, making the importance and impact of this survey even more evident.

Communication & Beyond's accessible and thought-provoking examination of human communication studies translates to an effort that should be not just absorbed by, but debated in educational and community circles around the world, joining other notable explorations of higher education processes and impact in libraries ranging from university to education collections alike.

Reef Road
Deborah Goodrich Royce
Post Hill Press
1604 Westgate Circle, Suite 100, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781637584965, $27.00 Hardcover/$31.95 Audio cd/$9.99 Kindle

Reef Road is a novel of murder and intrigue with the added attraction of surprises and twists of disparate lives brought together by death. In most circumstances, such a plot would deem the book's genre as a 'murder mystery,' but to do so would be a literary injustice, because Reef Road is the perfect example of literary and psychologically-driven action that takes suspense to a different level.

Readers are introduced to "the wife" in a prologue set in 2020, where two teen surfer boys breaking all the rules with an illicit outing at Reef Road stumble onto a severed hand on the beach.

The prologue of discovery leads from third-person experience to a first-person narrative in the next chapter. It introduces the specter of Noelle, who was "marked for death" by a killer when she was only 12 years old. This event has changed many lives, and these play out in chapters that follow, moving between perspectives and experiences to draw intriguing links between seemingly-disparate lives.

One never knows how wide the ripple of untimely death will spread to affect others: "I grew up under the shadow of a dead girl - a girl I had never met, whose family had not heard of me, a family I would not know if I passed them on the street, nor would they, in turn, know me. Yet the death of this girl long before I was born has clung like pollen to my life."

In this case, Noelle's fate lends a fearsome resonance to a life that is synthesized through a writer's thoughts, a young woman who faces her own missing family, and the events on Reef Road, past and present, which reach out to change everyone.

The progressive movement from past to present and the delicate dissection of these perspectives creates a thought-provoking literary mystery that both tugs on the heartstrings and piques the mind.

Deborah Goodrich Royce is especially skilled at crafting the kinds of characters whose lives not only dovetail unexpectedly, but entwine unusual tendrils of influence to change paths that at first feel inevitable: "Linda's unseemly outburst with me that night helped her to see that the path she was on was untenable. And I was the gateway to a different path. At least I was the gateway for Linda to begin to consider that she would be able to forge her own path."

The back-and-forth movements between first- and third-person descriptions of events create a satisfyingly compelling contrast between observation and experience that develops a "you are here" atmosphere and then steps back to place the experience in perspective.

The suspense unfolds on both a psychological and mystery level to juxtapose intrigue with revelations in a manner that introduces many surprises and insights readers won't see coming.

The result is a novel of psychological suspense and intrigue, cemented not only by the sense of place that is Reef Road, but characters that revolve around past and present events with no guarantee that the future will prove any different.

Libraries seeking literary reads that incorporate vivid characters and situations where there is no going back from the brink of discovery will find Reef Road a compelling vision of "what if" and "why" as the wheel of destiny moves between monsters and men.

In the Event of Death
Kimberly Young
Post Hill Press
1604 Westgate Circle, Suite 100, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781637586662, $28.00 Hardcover/$14.99 Kindle

In the Event of Death is a novel about childhood trauma and its ongoing impact on Liz Becker, a mother, wife, and business owner, decades later. An event planner in Silicon Valley, Liz struggles in 2008 when an economic downturn forces her to become involved in end-of-life events she's always avoided lest they dredge up troubling memories of the past.

Liz fears death. Her new business venture demands that she face those fears - and when she does, all hell breaks loose.

Planning memorial services entails many of the same trappings as planning a celebration, with flowers, speeches, and food, but Liz knows the stakes are completely different. She must balance the need to support her family with the emotional toll of reliving the loss of her younger sister when Liz was just ten years old. Liz becomes immersed in a journey that threatens to upend the stability she has fought to maintain since childhood, but which ultimately leads to healing and recovery.

Kimberly Young's moving story of life, death, and the generational experiences in between, creates a study in survival tactics. Liz grapples with unforeseen pitfalls in her business, changing dynamics within her family, and disturbing revelations about her sister's death.

Under these challenging circumstances, cracks in integrity and intention appear in various characters, setting up dramas that will grab readers' attention and immerse them in life's quandaries and questions regarding death, grief, and the way forward. These themes will resonate especially well with book clubs looking for meaningful subjects to discuss. Humor and fast pacing make this book surprisingly easy to read despite its sometimes dark subject matter.

Libraries seeking novels exploring inter-generational issues related to family life, financial challenges, the rituals and taboos around death, and the power of forgiveness will find In the Event of Death a satisfying addition to their shelves. In the Event of Death is a captivating study in family secrets and revelations that ultimately bring loved ones together on the cusp of the "hard work of dying."

A Logger's Tale: An Origin Story
Gary John Gresl
Visiphilia Press
9781948326179, $10.99

A Logger's Tale: An Origin Story is a children's myth story that revolves around 'Hodags' and the Northwoods legends surrounding them. This Wisconsin legend will attract a wide audience, from young followers of American myth and folklore to Wisconsin residents well familiar with the wilderness of the north woods who like vivid accounts of fantasy and magic.

The Hodag holds the added value of being a multi-personality. Some view it as a monster; but it also can be something more. This emerges when a Logger becomes involved with a Hodag and comes to realize its transformations as being something less monstrous and more amazing.

Janet McClintick Roberts provides enchanting, colorful illustrations based on her own "encounters" with Hodags. These bring the fun story to life as young readers and adult read-aloud companions follow the mystery of the Hodag through its connections to look-alike Loggers and seasonal lumberjack experiences.

Most children's stories about legends offer relatively one-sided representations. One of the special pleasures in A Logger's Tale (besides its Wisconsin atmosphere and roots) lies in its ability to provide a multi-faceted vision of both legends and how they evolve as it reveals how Loggers tackle the problem of the Hodags' tall tale legend and special form of magic.

The result is an outstanding story especially recommended for libraries looking for fantasies based on regional American environments and legends.

Macbeth's Spinners
Justine Johnston Hemmestad
Antimony and Elder Lace Press
9781955329101, $9.99 ebook

Macbeth's Spinners is based on ancient Greek and Roman legend, opens in 11th century Scotland, and poses a "what if" fantasy that uses the foundations of Shakespeare's classic, twists it in an unusual manner, and contrasts witches, Apollo, and the gods with the affairs and perspectives of men.

Readers can anticipate, from this literary and legendary coverage, a vivid story set on the playground of new possibilities. What they won't expect is the accompanying psychological depth that examines not just the trappings of legends and man's purposes, but romance and deeper revelations:

"Apollo, however, could not accept the freedom in their reality; he did not know what it meant to be unhindered by the weight of vengeance. They knew how beleaguered he was, for they could feel it in the air like minuscule, sharpened teeth. Little did he know that they saw him for who he was - vain, self-consumed, and self-righteous - rather than the benevolently healing deity he projected himself to be."

As spells, illusions, and power struggles play out, Macbeth's Spinners poses the literary and social inspections of men, witches, and women who vie not just for power, but for control over their lives and destinies.

Justine Johnston Hemmestad writes with a vivid attention to detail, capturing motive and meaning within these interactions:

"Writing about him was the only way to calm her mind and separate her fears from his manipulative grasp. She wrote faster than time moved... about Apollo's wickedness, her memory of his love, and even her fear of him. She had to be honest, for writing equaled truth. Her script would be added to the Book of Life with a single hope of her heart; her truth would register in this moment of time. The most powerful spell she had ever cast was written in the Christian canon long before, and therefore she had used the transformative power in writing to spread wings she did not have to create."

Between gods whose power seems inevitable (and impossible to vanquish) to women who rise against them to control of their own destinies, the story excels in vivid clashes and revelations about the nature of these individual strengths: "...she knew instantly that as long as she ran from Apollo, as long as she sought places to hide from him, she would never be free, and her captivity would be self-imposed, a product of his captivity."

To call Macbeth's Spinners a fantasy alone would be to do it a grave injustice. Its multifaceted plot, clashes between gods, women, and traditional ways of viewing and acting, and its quest into a romance torn between a god and a man provides much food for thought. This lends particularly well to book club discussions about power plays, different forms of love and freedom, and the injection of legend and fantasy into a quest for truth.

Libraries looking for literary and psychological depth in a story that stands out from the crowd of legend-base fantasy pursuits will find Macbeth's Spinners a worthy addition which should reach a broad audience with its tale of enchantment and cross-purposes.

Much in the way Shakespeare twists his stories to provide unexpected and thought-provoking conclusions, so Hemmestad creates a final turn of perspective that readers won't see coming.

Nora, a Neanderthal girl
Mary A. Graves
Bowker Identifier Services
9798986288901, $12.99

Nora, a Neanderthal girl is a historical novel for young chapter book readers. It recreates a day in the life of a Neanderthal girl Nora and her cousin Runi, who lived more than 20,000 years ago in a cave with friends and family.

Mary A. Graves injects what is known about Neanderthals and their times with a lively fictional tone of action that helps young readers view this as a leisure adventure while absorbing prehistoric background history embedded in the tale.

Vivid color photos also highlight this sense of adventure with realistic scenarios, bringing the past to life in a tale that opens in a cave in Europe or Asia. The photos showcase evidence of Neanderthal life found at different Neanderthal sites. The first photo is of Shanidar Cave where an anthropologist and his team dug up Neanderthal remains in a 1951 expedition. Colorful illustrations by Isabelle Arne pepper the tale to complete a strong visual component that adds interest to the plot.

The juxtaposition of past and present events is nicely portrayed as detailed descriptions bring Nora's world to life from the start:

"Nora feels a soft breeze on her face. She yawns, shivers, then snuggles down under the animal skins covering her. She sighs softly, opens her eyes, and looks up. Her eyes follow the sunlight slowly moving across the ceiling of the cave. She hears her mom adding wood to the fireplace nearby."

From the fine art of scraping deer skins to a favorite meal of deer meat and chestnuts, Nora's world comes to life with descriptions that enhance a young reader's understanding of the distant past.

The result is a rare opportunity to absorb the Neanderthal world while enjoying Nora's fictional life. The tale represents the best merging of the worlds of fiction and nonfiction, educating kids about prehistoric life and how Neanderthal children may have experienced it.

Libraries seeking chapter books that pair entertainment and leisure reading value with the supportive foundation of anthropological science will welcome Nora, a Neanderthal girl's rare ability to synthesize fiction and nonfiction in one fell swoop.

Love Queen
Mireille Parker
Atmosphere Press
9781639886180, $18.99

Love Queen: The Making of a Master is a memoir of both recovery and discovery. What do you do when you can't travel, can't escape, and have no job, money, or health?

You start over.

This experience comes to readers in the form of journal entries that capture Mireille's life, from 2007 when she was a 28-year-old teacher and would-be writer to the present day, where she is in flux and finally forced to stay still and contemplate.

"What is it that makes me always want to be appreciated? What is it that needs constant reassurance of love? How can I rise above these petty feelings and be as strong as an anchor on the seafloor? Is it my upper-limiting belief that we need to be a certain way for things to be right, or else I am just like my parents?"

Questions are both a part of this journey and the reason why these journal entries reflect life's progression so powerfully. They bring readers not just into the milieu of Mireille Parker's life choices and development, but encourage self-inspection in her readers.

From strange attractions and connections to the power of love and the transformative experience of coping with its ebbs and flows, Parker brings readers into a world buffeted by revelations about growth, healing, and change.

Parker hopes that the very act of producing this book will prove cathartic: "I am hoping that in the writing of this tale my thoughts will form some order and my life too. I need a reason to get up and stay awake. I can imagine that with the regular setting down here of thoughts and words, this story will take on its own life and move through me like Life itself."

It does - albeit possibly not in the manner she anticipated.

Readers and book clubs that choose this memoir for its unique life experiences and discussions of various emotional and physical survival tactics will find much food for thought and debate because this book encourages deeper-level thinking about not just surviving, but staying present in and engaged with life.

Libraries looking for memoirs about growth and opportunity in adversity and life influences will find Love Queen: The Making of a Master rich in its descriptions of love, life, and the challenge of learning how to be here now.

Distress & Determination
James Wollak
Atmosphere Press
9781639885466, $19.99

The title of Distress & Determination doesn't portend a genre read in either Regency or historical fiction, but James Wollak incorporates elements of both as he reveals the trials not of the usual young woman associated with Regency-based novels, but young gentleman Frederick Darcy. His self-confidence and legacy is tested when, not even twenty, he finds himself assuming the role of the master of Pemberley estate.

Wollak prefaces the story with a somewhat daunting cast of characters both within and outside the Darcy family. The Lintons, Duvalls, Rutledges, and other families are also listed which may introduce the feeling that this novel will be weighty and laden with many personalities and perspectives. Readers will be delighted to learn that the complexity is accompanied by a story cemented in action and psychological allure.

As the story opens, Frederick has been expelled from Cambridge for gambling and behavioral issues, sent home in disgrace to face a father who had expected so much more from his son. In fact, Frederick resisted temptation, and readers gain the first sense that this young man has a moral compass that could serve him well in the trials to come.

As he becomes conflicted over his legacy and its impact on his life, readers follow the familial and interpersonal relationships which test this moral compass, and the lessons his relatives try to impart to him about not just his role as the Master of Pemberley, but its impact on his freedom:

"...on the one hand it is very attractive to talk about freedom and think that you can do anything you please; but there are few people who can truly do so." She looked at him. "Such freedom is for monarchs, or itinerants and vagabonds - not for a gentleman like your father, or even those who honestly earn their living in trade." She thumped her cane. "As far as I am concerned, you can have freedom. You know that I admire those who perform their duties and carry out their responsibilities." He nodded. "Yes, I can see that you think your path has been determined for you; no more choices for you, it seems. But do you think I was ever able to go off and do exactly as I pleased?"

This passage exhibits one of the many strengths of the novel, following a new adult into adult choices, consequences, and experiences. All lead Frederick to assume the reins of a more commanding role in his family, relationships to his sister and others, and in his own life.

For every young man who has chafed at the burden of a legacy and the responsibilities it imposes, Frederick's role and confrontations will prove not just understandable, but a strong emotional draw. The story invites discussion and food for thought over social propriety, personal values, and the trust and forgiveness a family both cultivates and struggles with.

James Wollak creates a moving saga that follows this young man into adulthood and the world of 1835 as he navigates many obstacles, from social and familial expectation to his own sense of self and his role in family and life.

Libraries looking for Regency-based coming-of-age stories that use a young man's evolutionary process to cement a story of growth will find Distress & Determination a powerful story. It is aptly named, steeped in involving scenarios and personal relationship issues, and thoroughly reflective of the Regency times and values that affected society in the 1800s.

Hidden in the Shadows
A.D. Vancise
Atmosphere Press
9781639886913, $18.99

Hidden in the Shadows introduces several unexpected facets as twenty-three-year-old protagonist Evie Day confronts a mystery that draws her back to the small town of Woodsville, Arkansas; there to reveal a well-hidden secret that threatens to embrace her life and the entire community.

It's been five years since Evie left. She never wanted to come back. But, charged with looking for photos for her grandfather's funeral, here she is; reviewing his life, experiencing nostalgia both for his times and her past, and reconsidering one photo which has always been a mystery to her.

As she experiences automatic writing and forces that seem to reach out from a spirit world, Evie finds herself confronting more than a mystery alone, but the forces lurking in her own psyche: "Something was twitching beneath her consciousness. Something dark, something... ugly. Stuck somewhere between her subconscious and the here and now. Just out of her reach. Like words sitting on the tip of a tongue."

A.D. Vancise excels in crafting a dark, atmospheric story that moves from Evie's return home to a growing force that threatens to not just solve a puzzle, but take over her life.

The tension is nicely wrought, the characters strong and purposeful in their perceptions and intentions, and the story moves nicely between personal and bigger-picture thinking as Evie comes to realize many startling truths about Woodsville and her life.

Another device deftly employed to inject tension into this thriller is the juxtaposition of Evie's third-person experiences with the first-person reflections of the leader of a dangerous children's foundation who has created a haven for clients. His tastes run to an attraction to forbidden youth.

As murderous evil arises, Evie's interference may prove the only cap to the deadly force that is miring itself in the town under the eyes of everyone.

Libraries seeking thrillers that are firmly based on community and individual actions, and which hold elements of surprise through twists and turns readers won't see coming, will find Hidden in the Shadows does a fine job of connecting the dots between a mysterious photo that actually holds all the answers to a young woman who navigates unfamiliar and too-family territory, past and present.

Bobo's Wild Chase
Ivan Lin and Stephanie Fu
Pistachios Publishing
9798986332604, $17.99

When Mr. Moore leaves town, he entrusts the care of his sprightly dog to the young girl and her father who live next door.

Charged with walking the dog, the child insists she can hold onto Bobo's leash tightly. But perhaps not tightly enough, because Bobo escapes when a squirrel proves irresistible to him, leading child and father on an urban run. Robyn Ng's fun illustrations capture the strangers that become involved in the effort to capture Bobo.

As the girl chases Bobo in and out of places that involve other people, unexpected connections from strangers result from the small kindness she takes a moment to impart into both her hectic effort and the world around her.

On its surface, kids will appreciate the zany story of a dog walk gone awry. Dig deeper for the kernels of wisdom which make this story far more alluring for adult read-aloud participants who seek to instill in the very young an appreciation for handing out kindness even in the midst of adversity.

This audience, as well as libraries catering to elementary picture book readers, will find Bobo's Wild Chase more than another dog story. It's an adventure in friendship, diversity, and giving that deserves profile, inter-generational discussions, and top recommendation.

I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind
Gungor Buzot
Atmosphere Press
9781639886975, $16.99

I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind: My Journey From Illness and Opioids to Healing, Liberation, and Transformation is a memoir about living, dying, euthanasia, and a woman who was imprisoned not only by bodily pain, but by the expectations which limited her options and treatment protocol.

Readers who anticipate that this story will be one of reincarnation, euthanasia's processes, or physical challenges alone will find much more in Gungor Buzot's story. As she reviews the suffering that takes over her life and seems to dictate that peace can only be found in death, Buzot provides thought-provoking insights through eye-opening passages:

"Over many years, doctors, outstanding in their profession and in whom I trusted implicitly, would inform me that I either needed an operation or that the illness I suffered from had no cure. The more I went to doctors, the more they prescribed painkillers, addressing only symptoms, while my overall health deteriorated day by day. Pain took on such a role in my life that when I was not in pain, I felt something was missing. I did not know how to live without suffering."

Anyone who has felt this (or known someone whose lives seem dictated by suffering and pain) will find in I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind nuggets of hope and possibility that can come from considerations of alternative medicine solutions. These are what changed Buzot's trajectory and life.

That this took place after over sixty years of chronic pain will prove an inspiration to those who have long been on this path of illness, and who have come to believe there is no hope in life and no solution but death.

Chapters weave through the recovery process with an attention to how Buzot became more and more dependent on painkillers and then faced addiction issues on top of ongoing physical health challenges.

Her drive towards healing was not always an uphill journey of discovery. It was exhausting, debilitating, and challenging, requiring her to accept different physical and mental insights, new alternative therapy routines, and the most challenging part - taking care of herself. This required a different mindset about not only her options and abilities, but the roles of her family and friends in supporting her in a different way: "I was starting a journey to recovery, but I longed for a place where others could look after me. I could barely make the journey alone."

The notion that "traditional medicine" also includes traditional mindsets to support it that also need to be revised is part of what makes I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind an exceptional read.

Layers of habit, perception, predetermined ideas surrounding health and disease, and insights needed to also be revised in order for real recovery to happen.

Those who have long struggled with illnesses, ailments, addiction, or life challenges that immersed them and their loved ones in battles will find I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind filled with much food for thought not only about alternative approaches to healing, but the required psychological changes that need to accompany any true move towards lasting health. The spiritual component that winds into this process is also inspirational and enlightening.

Libraries looking for memoirs that support physical and mental health alternatives will find that all the steps towards new possibilities are outlined in I Was Dying... Then I Changed My Mind, a memoir that is vivid, candid, and ultimately hopeful.

Jayne and the Average North Dakotan
Chandler Myer
Atmosphere Press
9781639886999, $18.99

You can take a boy away from the Midwest, but can you take the Midwest out of the boy by revising his community connections? Sure you can.

LGBTQ audiences and libraries catering to them will find Jayne and the Average North Dakotan a fictional study in intriguing contrasts as middle-aged North Dakotan Randy Larson struggles to find a place in the gay community. He is adopted by flamboyant drag queen Jayne Mansfield, who introduces him to a world both familiar and alien at the same time.

Chandler Myer injects a wry sense of humor into razor-sharp descriptions which add elements of surprise into a tale that begins with a high school swim session:

"A mile-high waterspout agitates the Minot High School indoor swimming pool. I heroically battle the dyspeptic current, spending more energy calling for Mother than implementing any swim training. In my defense, none of the swimming instructors ever mentioned waterspouts, indoor or outdoor, so I looked to my usual comfort source. The razor-sharp concrete deck tears my hand as I pull myself to safety. Intense seasick-ness reverberates through my body. If I could just sleep, this would all pass. A thunderclap startles me to semi-consciousness. "WELL, LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN!"

Is Randy dreaming, or is his past catching up to his present world?

Readers who embark on the rollicking ride Randy experiences will find much to appreciate about the manner in which his transformations are delivered.

For one thing, Myer excels in a wry first-person sense of inspection that captures not just Randy's influences and conservative roots, but the changing culture which uproots him. As much as he fits into this world, he also has long resided outside it - and still does, in many ways.

His education under the wing of a seasoned gay culture veteran (and on his own) results in a sea change of emotion and conflict as Randy learns a new language and different forms of friendship and connection:

"Well, no, I haven't had experience with women. I've never been interested." His sincerity encourages me to keep talking. "And, if we're honest, I haven't had much experience with men, either."

"That's too bad. Why not? You're a cute guy, in my humble opinion."

I really want to run around like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer yelling, "He said I'm cute! He said I'm cute!" But I realize he's just being nice. We're having a conversation like real friends, and I should enjoy that.

There is a saying that "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Randy experiences this as he examines his move to Washington and whether he's doing it solely to recreate the life he had back in Minot. His goal of independence feels shaken by both the support systems and connections he's cultivated, accompanying the question of whether he's really finding himself, or falling into another pattern of dependency and convention (albeit defined in a different manner in a new community).

Is Jayne a fairy godmother, or the devil?

Randy struggles with the well-meaning but dominating Jayne's moves to push him further and faster than he's willing to go (and with developing a meaningful gay romance for the first time in his life). His readers follow him into a milieu which is as astute at examining his patterns of action and reaction as in exploring the gay community's rich undercurrents of sexual and emotional connections.

The result is a story that is unconventional in its depiction of a thirty-something coming-of-age world; in its contrasts between straight and gay experiences; and in vivid characters who each reflect their origins and different perspectives of life, love, and everything in between.

Libraries seeking realistic LGBTQ novels will find Jayne and the Average North Dakotan a study in growth, understanding, and the varied support systems which emerge from an "exploration year" to revise and open a closeted life.

A History of Silence
Cynthia J. Bogard
Atmosphere Press
9781639886333, $19.99

A History of Silence opens with a startling prologue set in 1986 Texas, which depicts a murder scenario:

"Professor Johnny Wharton the Fifth had finally found the ultimate way to keep us all talking about him. He'd gotten himself murdered, bled out all over the expensive Persian rug that graced the floor of his spacious office. Stabbed to death with the office scissors, I'd heard from our department secretary, Maria, her voice hushed and excited...Even in death, the man had a huge ego. His funeral had to be held in an architecturally interesting, historically important church built circa 1855."

The wry sense of humor cultivated in Maddie's introduction continues (albeit under different circumstances) as the story moves back in time. Events follow how the professor's daughter Jenny runs away to Madison, accepts the overtures of a scary friendship despite her alienation from her past and determination to remain free and solo, and then becomes involved in a web of disappointments and changes that reverberate through her present and past lives.

Maddie and Jenny aren't the only characters Cynthia J. Bogard cultivates in her story. As Maddie's lesbian lover leaves her against all odds and Johnny's wife Liz seeks to reconnect with her daughter, a web of deceit, realization, and discovery evolves that spins a different kind of yarn as four women's lives intersect and connect in unpredictable ways.

Each character's voice is represented in alternating chapters which bring these disparate attitudes and perceptions to life:

"It was hard to keep trying, hard to keep giving when silence and insults were your only rewards. It was hard to keep caring, a shameful thing to admit about your own flesh and blood, your only daughter, your only child. But when Johnny's sorrow could be heard in his voice, or times like this, when Jenny's contempt for me was written in red on a birthday card envelope, I found myself wishing I had had a son instead - or no children at all."

Jane Meyer's growth involves acknowledging the price a father has imposed as a legacy to his wayward daughter. It also involves acknowledging the cost of her own infatuation with a college professor who treats her as other than a grandfather or mentor. These realizations lend to vivid scenes in which a teaching assistant assumes a very different role than she'd originally envisioned: "It was terrifying to think something so illusory could cause such a lack of control in my life."

The result is a powerful interplay between disparate women who each circle around Jonathan and their own goals for their futures.

Libraries looking for women's fiction that builds quiet psychological drama based on a central figure's violent and dangerous tendencies will find that A History of Silence creates a vibrant story of what happens not only when women are silent, but when they roar.

Book club discussion groups will find A History of Silence replete with themes that lend to debate and closer inspection.

Dominant Species
William Burke
Severed Press
9781922861368, $13.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle

In Dominant Species, love and death run too closely to high technology and danger for the likes of well-trained mercenary Dave Brank and his lover Emily Lennox. Having survived a terrible confrontation, they can't begin to relax and heal before the next challenge - North Korea's confiscation of genetically engineered dinosaurs from a secret lab. Their intelligence is growing by leaps and bounds, threatening mankind with a singularity that is far from the usual computer-driven AI scenario.

Horror, sci-fi, and high-tech components marry well in the story that features not just the tense, high-octane action of a thriller, but the ethical and moral dilemmas humans face as the creators of something they no longer can predict or control.

William Burke's inclusion of action and quandaries based on this consideration of the role of the creator in destroying intelligent creatures makes Dominant Species a standout. The story captures not just the levels of human concerns and individual pursuits of special interests, but the perspectives of the creatures themselves as they experience a sea change, moving from primitive response to calculated reasoning: "Vulcan let out a hiss, barring them from attacking. Staring down at the cluster of humans his primitive instincts gave way to more evolved, abstract thought patterns. He formed a plan."

The contrast between human and animal perspectives allows for an intriguing mix of elements between the typical thriller format of international struggles and the sci-fi challenge of a genetic engineering experiment that proves more successful and deadly than its creators ever could have imagined.

Burke weaves a cat-and-mouse game of survival into political and thriller components to keep readers engaged on many different levels. The contrast between horror, light injections of humor, and overlay of social and political inspection results in a story that operates nicely as a dance between sci-fi possibilities and human follies.

The result is a multifaceted, thoroughly absorbing action read that moves through a futuristic dilemma with the precision of a thriller, the special interests of a work of international intrigue, and the ethical quandaries of a creation that evolves beyond any predictable progression.

Libraries seeking works that operate as both horror and sci-fi reads will relish the strength and action-packed progress of Dominant Species and its ability to capture and hold attention through satisfyingly unpredictable scenarios and developments. These also will spark bioethical debates in book club circles.

Clara in a Time of War
C.J. McGroarty
Atmosphere Press
9781639884315, $18.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Clara in a Time of War is set in 1777 Pennsylvania, where wife Clara is holding down the farm while her husband Malachi is off fighting the war. Faced with responsibility for family, work, and far from her Philadelphia urban roots, Clara is both exhausted and lonely. When she helps a wounded man who winds up in her carriage house, Clara receives the first indication that her set life will be changed not just by war, but by love.

A vivid first-person introduction sweeps readers into Clara's reflections and story: "I can only tell you, forthrightly as I may, how my life, my old life, you might call it now, was swept away as capriciously as a leaf in the wind and some other life put in its place."

As she moves into unfamiliar territory, developing an emotional attachment to the wounded man while awaiting her husband's return, Clara finds the ripples of war reaching her doorstep in many different ways.

On its surface, Clara in a Time of War would seem to be a love story about kindred spirits who touch in a time of crisis. Dig deeper to discover that this is a story of a woman's blossoming in a way that refutes her life's values, trajectory, and commitments on many different levels.

The war provides a backdrop of transformation and change. This, in turn, brings Clara into a milieu in which she observes stranger Decan O'Reilly's manners affecting not just her own life, but the habits and responses of her family:

"Rob wants to learn Irish," he said.

"And you will be his tutor," said Declan.

"Right enough," Jamie declared and went back to his seat.

Right enough. Something else of Declan O'Reilly's that over the last few weeks had become my son's.

The result is a powerful review of the secrets, transformations, and challenges that war brings even to isolated pockets of rural life.

Clara's story of a stranger's impact on her world is captivating, injecting history and politics with emotional ties that prove hard to put down and thoroughly compelling.

Libraries looking for historical novels about early America will find that history comes to life in this powerful story of Clara's transformative experiences.

The Adventures of Lefty & Righty: The Windy City
Lori Orlinsky
Mascot Kids
c/o Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637554272, $18.95

The Adventures of Lefty & Righty: The Windy City is the whimsical picture book story of socks that fall into an adventure when they escape the dryer to embark on a Chicago exploration. Where are they heading? To a White Sox game, of course!

A rollicking rhyme accompanies the socks through Chicago landmarks, from taking the Blue Line through Jefferson Park to exploring Soldier Field, the Field Museum, and grabbing a water taxi.

Kids receive a survey of Chicago's highlights as the socks experience a fun day before the big game begins.

And when it does ... socks and kids are in for a surprise.

Adults who choose The Adventures of Lefty & Righty: The Windy City for its geographic value will find the fictional components of adventure wind nicely into the explorations of Chicago's milieu.

Kenn Vidro's engaging illustrations lend drama and visual attraction to Lori Orlinsky's story, inviting leisure readers to learn about Chicago and baseball through a pair of odd eyes indeed.

Readers that choose this story for its attractive visuals or Chicago foundations will relish the story's inviting format, engaging rhymes, and the opportunity to teach the very young about the Windy City, powered by the lively presence of two fun characters.

The Paper Pirate
Dawn McIntyre
Running Wild Press
9781955062183, $19.99

The Paper Pirate blends humor with a cozy mystery to invite readers into small-town bookstore The Paper Pirate, owned by five partners who face a threat that targets their store and their homes. Why would bookstore owners be subject to peril? Because a rare book sparks greed and makes them all vulnerable.

It doesn't help that the owners also harbor their own secrets. These threaten exposure under the close scrutiny of a crook whose search reveals more than the hidden notes of a wealthy man's ancestor.

The story celebrates both booklovers and the secret worlds books can harbor as events unfold: "Books were my escape when I was a lonely kid. The characters were my friends, their adventures were my adventures when I wasn't allowed to have any of my own. I started out getting my fix in libraries, but as I grew up and could afford to build a collection of my own I began haunting book stores, and

I've just never stopped. My life has been rich because of books. My life has been a joy because of books."

Dawn McIntyre's approach creates bibliographic undercurrents that will especially attract fellow enthusiasts of written word and intrigue alike.

McIntyre crafts the perfect story for small-town pursuits and scenarios, exploring book contracts and publishing, the possibilities of treasures hidden in plain sight, and the puzzles that accompany a special form of adversity that refutes logic: "But we bought the place five years ago," Felicia almost whined. "Did someone just realize they wanted the book in the past couple of weeks? And, we're a store. Why the hell didn't they just waltz in and buy it?"

Why, indeed? Much more is taking place than is evident at first and on the surface, making The Paper Pirate as much a study in hidden lives and social influence as it is a bibliofile's dream of unearthing treasure hidden on the dusty shelves of a book collection.

Libraries looking for cozy mysteries that are solidly grounded in the book world will find The Paper Pirate a fine choice.

The Dark Side of Grace
Ronald Chapman
Terra Nova Books
9781948749879, $18.95

Thriller readers interested in stories of terrorism and journalistic investigation that delves into spiritual and psychological dilemmas alike will find The Dark Side of Grace both a compelling draw on various levels and a fitting adjunct and sequel to the previous A Killer's Grace.

Opening in New Mexico with a terrorist bomb that sends reporter Kevin Pitcairn and his love Emily on a search for answers, The Dark Side of Grace introduces its story with the backdrop of the state's countryside. This injects the welcome dose of a sense of place and atmosphere before the drama begins with a sudden explosion that pulls apart this quiet countryside: "A huge, gray cloud cascaded up directly ahead of them, towering against the idyllic blue skies, endless carpet of snow-covered land, and brilliantly backlit mountains. It seemed surreal - a perfect landscape scarred by what was clearly a plume of destruction."

Pitcairn's reactions are unexpected, keeping readers both wondering and absorbing a different personality whose ability to find humor and meaning in even great adversity is one of the strengths and commanding forces of the novel: "Pitcairn could not help but laugh. It was an insane moment which brought with it a release. "When you've seen the humor, you've seen the truth," he re-minded himself as he turned to watch the billowing cloud. Already its fringes were beginning to dissipate and feather off into the morning light."

As the story moves into spiritual realms, from discussions of making amends to inspecting the ideal of Grace which injects moral, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas into Pitcairn's job and choices (" can you make it right when you've killed someone?"), it evolves on different levels that make it impossible to say that it's the usual thriller genre read.

Sparked and driven by the motivations of its characters to not just solve problems, but understand the religious and moral motivations in the fabric of their lives, The Dark Side of Grace crafts adventures and encounters which lead characters and readers to debate the nature of redemption, good and evil, and the essential ingredient of prayer in discovering better choices and truths in everyday adversity.

Christian readers and book discussion groups centering on the importance of prayer and Christian living will find plenty of food for thought as events unfold to test concepts of how Christian belief incarnates in the decisions and choices of man.

"Our lives are prayer being lived."

The spiritual force of a novel that appears with the trappings of a thriller but moves deeply into realms of social and political enlightenment as well as Christian values and concepts makes The Dark Side of Grace highly recommended for Christian readers seeking deeper inspections than adventure reads usually offer.

Whether it's addressing the lasting impact of PTSD or the healing process of faith and posttraumatic growth, The Dark Side of Grace will prove not only riveting on an entertainment level, but hard to put down as it winds through issues of enlightenment, faith, recovery from trauma, and better living.

Bewitching a Highlander
Roma Cordon
CamCat Books
9780744305074, $17.39 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Bewitching a Highlander blends Scottish romance with supernatural overtones as it follows healer Breena MacRae's search for her missing father. This endeavor leads her into the clan hold of the Campbells, where she encounters fiery leader Egan Dunbar.

Attraction between the two supercharges their missions and secrets as each dances around the question of heritage, romance, and separate quests that might lead to betrayal and family threat.

By injecting the story with more than issues of attraction, Roma Cordon creates a magnetic pull towards physical and psychological revelations through descriptions steeped in powerful force:

"His lips searched, probed, then devoured hers, they were warm, strong, sinful, and wicked against hers. The taste of mint leaves on his lips made her delve further into the kiss. Breena fought to breathe, caught up in this whirlwind of luscious emotions that tugged and flooded her. It was like what she'd imagined happening if she drank an entire bottle of port wine, multiplied a hundred times."

While it's evident that romance readers are the primary audience for this story, look deeper to discover more themes ranging from the wealth and opulence that divides clans and individuals to the influence of history on the evolution of rival clans and secrets that reach from the past to affect the future.

Steeped in Scottish traditions, influences, and flavor and seasoned with a romantic interlude that draws each character from familiar territory and preset notions into new worlds, Bewitching a Highlander is about wielding love as a force of discovery, redemption, and transformation.

As events draw close to a confrontation with the Campbells and matters of their own hearts and family roots, Breena and Egan's different perspectives and heritages coalesce in unusual twists that will keep romance readers guessing about outcomes and motivations.

Are they willing to risk sparking a clan war for love?

Libraries looking for steamy romances well steeped in cultural exploration and historic events will find Bewitching a Highlander a compelling historical romance that holds the power to attract on different levels.

Sister Liberty
Gregory Hill
Daisy Dog Press
9798218081690, $16.99

Sister Liberty, the first volume of the Stables Family Chronicles, opens with an "author's note" by C.J. Stables, who recounts his birth in 1942 and his family circle and upbringing. Actual author Gregory Hill adds his own introduction after this (he's identified as the 'ghostwriter' of this novel) that follows the family link into modern times with an added note of humor that permeates the story that follows.

The ghostwriter's challenge of traveling to the world of the 1800s to properly begin this family history again is delivered with the force of a writer seasoned with humor: "It's often said that the man who knows he has a small anus does not swallow coconuts. As I continue to wrestle with this project, I'm beginning to suspect that, in answering Mr. Stable's call, I've swallowed the whole fucking deserted island."

The actual tale begins in 1885, with a murder. But the perp isn't fleeing - he's turning himself in.

In addition to wry humor, Gregory Hill excels in a sense of observation that juxtaposes contemporary language with powerful images that contain both a sense of place and a strong sense of people:

"Speaking in his clusterbomb of a voice, Arthur would pace the cell's hardpacked floor while Annie tidied his grammar and rendered sensible the overall rhetorical shape of what would be his last words. These were the happiest moments of a marriage that had endured twelve years of famine, had produced one child, and which was very nearly at its end."

As a romp ensues to America and through issues of religious folk, intolerance (and tolerance), revivals and unwritten rules, and the odd lesbian couple who find themselves, ironically, encountering an Indiana cult (the Solemnites, whose edict forbids pleasure), irony and religious satire abound which is guaranteed to lightly offend and generate much laughter in the process.

Under the veneer of social and religious connections, Hill adds a heavy dash of atmosphere permeated by commentary that is unexpectedly wry throughout:

"Are you afraid of the werebear?"

Auguste's eyes grew wide, his mouth dropped open. "Holy smoke! I think I saw it last night!"

"Saw what? And it's holy smokes, plural."

The result is a delightful romp through mystics and cults, a fractured American Dream, an immigrant experience of the odd kind, and the rollicking world of the late 1800s which introduces a literary and historical flavor not to be found elsewhere.

Libraries seeking entertainment and literary value will find Sister Liberty an outstanding read that is hard to easily categorize but easy on the eye, destined to attract a wide audience looking for a novel that is thought-provokingly original.

Healthcare Heroes ABCs
Courtney Booth
Independently Published
9798987136904, $11.99 Paper/$26.99 Hardback/$2.99 ebook

There are plenty of children's picture books about health and nutrition, but few focus on the providers of this care or the teamwork required to foster good health in patients of all ages. This is why Healthcare Heroes ABCs: A Journey through the Alphabet with Your Healthcare Hero Team is a standout in the literature of health information for kids.

The alphabetic format takes on new life through an exploration that opens with the job of anesthesiologists and ends with Z for the "zillions of other healthcare heroes" that participate behind the scenes to foster well-being.

From medical social workers who work to match people with services to lactation consultants that help new moms learn how to feed their babies, a wide range of healthcare heroes is covered, from emergency care providers and counselors to teachers and researchers.

Bright, full-page color illustrations by Christina Michalos illustrate Courtney Booth's exploration, providing warm images of links between providers and young recipients of health care services.

4 to 8-year-olds that absorb these messages about the wide variety of service providers and their efforts to keep people healthy additionally have a fine opportunity to consider future careers in the industry - ones that move way from the traditional doctor/nurse options.

The result is more than alphabet coverage, and also more than the usual narrowed focus on a particular kind of healthcare provider. Its ability to survey the range of services and workers that make up the healthcare team and industry makes Healthcare Heroes ABCs an enlightening review that even some adults will find educational as they read aloud to the very young, as some of these service providers are relatively new.

The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success
David J. Muchow
Skyhorse Publishing
9781510770645, $18.99 HC, $17.99 Kindle, 368pp

So many business books on startups have swamped the market that readers might wonder about the need for yet another. David J. Muchow cultivates a different approach in The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success: What You Need to Know to Win that sets his book apart from similar-sounding titles about startup operations.

For one: he identifies, early on, the choices of supportive partners that must be made to reinforce the startup's position and role. These range from partners to lawyers and accountants. Accompanying advice tells how to best utilize these services to form the type of company and employee situations that best support the startup's objectives.

The second chapter moves to risk management, examining the nature of a business's risk, how to identify and evaluate the risks, and providing examples of common startup and real-world experiences of risks that led to disaster.

From understanding and protecting intellectual property to legally managing money and avoiding liability in the process of building a new business, David J. Muchow tackles the kinds of hard development questions that many competing business books skim over. He also takes a more comprehensive view of the startup process than many books in the field, that tend to concentrate on the usual subjects like marketing and finance.

Perhaps this is because Muchow brings decades of practical and broad experience to a wide range of subjects, being a serial CEO, corporate lawyer, inventor, investor, former prosecutor, and a faculty member for Law, Business, and Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University.

Another difference lies in the book's adventure component, unusual in a business title. Like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it's entertaining to read, with a continuing adventure story after each chapter that illustrates the principles in the chapter. The adventure involves Professor Scooter Magee, who travels around in his classic Austin Healey convertible fixing troubled startups. Along the way Scooter fights off mob figures and falls under the spell of a mysterious femme fatale. Think: Professor Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Silicon Valley.

While candidly acknowledging the chaos and promise that invades the startup's new world and vision, Muchow adds practical real-world advice and experiences that lead entrepreneurs away from the typical sinkholes that would challenge or destroy their new venture from the start.

Advice is specific and candid; from new routines to instigate to considering the peril in not seeing the bigger picture as a myriad of smaller challenges test new businesses and their leaders: "You must be able to focus while also knowing what's going on around you that might explode. But how can you do this when they're contradictory goals? There are ways and you need to build this into your company's DNA by adopting the right processes."

The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success: What You Need to Know to Win does not guarantee startup success. It does identify common pitfalls and how to avoid them to lead a business from uncertainty onto rock-solid ground.

Entrepreneurs contemplating a new startup, and business libraries catering to them, will find The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success: What You Need to Know to Win just the right blend of specific instruction and overall advice on how to tailor a winning proposal and foster it to fruition.

The Queen's Player
Anthony R. Wildman
Plutus Publishing Australia
9780648945444, $14.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

The Queen's Player: The Lost Years of William Shakespeare Book 2 is a historical mystery that turns a literary figurehead into a detective. The first note to present to potential readers is that they need not have a prior background in either Shakespeare or his times. Anthony R. Wildman introduces the milieu with an attention to detail that injects atmosphere and background information seamlessly into a story riddled with political and social observation:

"The archbishop waited, fingers twitching at his robes as he tried to disguise his impatience while Henry of England, newly crowned as the fifth king to bear that name, sent packing some importunate friends from his younger days who had come to court in expectation of preferment. Remember that he is but a youth, a little voice in his head kept telling him, though he may seem older than his years. Listening with half his mind as the king berated his former friends, he remembered what the old king, bent and worn with the cares of his crown, had said of his son: 'a rude youth, which with grief will end his father's days'."

This grounding in the times is important to understanding the plot's progression as Shakespeare becomes a key name both in dangerous political maneuvers between nations and in the world of Elizabethan theatre, where his literary reputation is on the rise.

The Queen's Men is not a chess move, but a troupe the young Shakespeare joins to further his acting ambitions. But, too soon, he finds the group and himself mired in affairs that seem to pull him away from his intention to become a theatre great.

Wildman's meticulous research into these times is evident in the passages of detail which explain the interconnections between common man and their leaders while offering a unique foray into young Will's investigative involvements.

Readers who delight in mysteries will find the added attraction of a good deal of historical insight enhances the realistic feel of the plot, while those who choose The Queen's Player for its historical or literary references will be drawn into an accompanying dilemma that increasingly challenges Will to operate far from his familiar artistic comfort zones.

From a dank prison cell in Verona (which Will manages to escape from) to the conflicts which affect his role in the acting company and his ambitions outside of detective work, Wildman presents a thriller steeped in both espionage and actor experience:

"Though dressed in his usual woollen doublet and patched hose, he somehow managed to move and look like a young woman. It was a remarkable skill, to create such an illusion with nothing more than his voice and some tricks in the way he walked and held himself. Not for the first time, Will realised that this pleasant and amusing young man was also a very fine actor."

The Queen's Player's blend of history, mystery, and biography places it a cut above fictional explorations in any of these genres. Its ability to attract on different levels, yet keep the story line engrossingly realistic and accessible to all kinds of readers, makes for a story highly recommended to libraries and individuals looking for well-detailed, nicely-researched, intrigue-laden fiction.

Those who choose The Queen's Player will come away from it not only satisfied with their time travel journey into Elizabethan times, but with a better understanding of Shakespeare, steeped in the lingering atmosphere of a story replete with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns.

The Wood Dwellers
Stormy Lynn
Independently Published
ISBN: TBA, $7.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

YA readers seeking fantasy and paranormal adventures will find The Wood Dwellers a fine sequel to the tale spun in The Little Door, where Rose faced an unwanted summer vacation at her grandparents' place in the isolated woods until magic entered the picture.

In this sequel, the magic continues and grows ... and so does Rose as the story opens 496 days (and counting) after she left Mavarak. She is entering 10th grade at high school and presumably will have much more on her plate than magical encounters.

Think again: because the magic continues, as it is wont to do.

Stormy Lynn does provide a recap of events so that newcomers won't be left entirely adrift, but given the strength of the events prior to this point, it's highly recommended that YA readers have a grounding in The Little Door to achieve a fuller sense of the past precedent that sets the stage for Rose's continuing adventures.

Here, she has (with great effort) "forced the thought of the half-elf, half-human species - the Wood Dwellers - out of her head." But she finds that one can take the extraordinary out of daily thoughts, but not the soul. Once touched by magic, it has a tendency to be drawn to miracles.

And so (perhaps predictably) Rose falls into another fantasy encounter in which the alluringly beautiful village of Mavarak again pushes to the forefront of her life.

This time, Rose must regain her lost fighting ability to support her reputation as a warrior - abilities lost when she became too human, too long ago.

Joining her for the wild ride is Drew, Rylan's younger brother who, at age 12ish, is there to greet her when the little door comes back to draw her yet again into another world and life.

Stormy Lynn embeds her story with intrigue, eccentric characters, thoughts about wisdom and maturity, and a compelling progression that marries a coming-of-age story with the observations and experiences of a girl on the cusp of realizing her powers and the choices they bring.
From battle plans and the call for Rose to step into her role as a warrior to lead them to Rylan and Drew's involvement in a fantasy world that at times feels like a dream, Rose embarks on a mission that tests both her friendships and her special abilities.

Lynn's evocative story of maturity and purpose drives a tale replete in rebellion and the dilemmas faced by a teen who walks between two very different worlds.

Young adults seeking a story that is vivid, compelling, and refreshingly realistic, driven by psychological growth as much as fantasy adventure, will find The Wood Dwellers crafts a mercurial plot as compelling and involving as C.S. Lewis's classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Libraries looking to make associative recommendations to this audience will find The Wood Dwellers a draw to Lewis fans seeking "more, please."

The Songs of My Family
Jillian Arena
Atmosphere Press
9781639886579, $17.99

How would you live your life if you were responsible for a car accident that killed a family?

Myra Jenkins faces just such a quandary in the novel The Songs of My Family after a tragic accident places the blame and guilt directly upon her. In the novel's opening chapter, Myra is finally facing the Garcia children who have lost their parents.

The eldest child, aged sixteen, refuses Myra's gesture of help, further identifying it as coming from a pat and privileged life the kids thoroughly reject:

"We are not a charity case, Ms. Jenkins. In fact, before you killed our parents, we were living rather comfortably. So please, don't insult us with your stupid gifts and expect it to make everything all right just so you can sleep at night. I have to watch over my sister and brother now, and I will not teach them to take handouts from people like you, people who think they can buy their way out of anything."

Through her, Myra comes to realize she can never begin to make things right. Or, so she thinks.

Life has a way of changing perceptions and convictions, so when unexpected events bring her full circle back into the kids' lives, redemption turns out to be yet another opportunity as these very different worlds intersect.

At first, readers will anticipate that The Songs of My Family is about moves towards recovery. The high degree of racial and social inspection, however, reveals the kinds of connections which are unexpected, bringing two disparate groups together through a shared tragedy that brings with it new opportunities as well as grief.

The strength of this story lies in how these cultural and social disparities come to light within the needs of Myra to make amends and the kids to stay together as a family, even though orphaned. As readers pursue a mixed bag of experiences that come together under unusual circumstances, they will find within the richness of family connections that can be formed from shared adversity and struggle.

Jillian Arena's story explores many questions about family make-up, connections, and stormy emotional relationships that ebb and flow with the tides of Myra's life and the children's future prospects.

Libraries seeking novels about family change, growth, loss, and evolution will find The Songs of My Family a powerful tale. It also deserves recommendation to book clubs exploring issues ranging from ethnic differences and perspectives to family make-up and recovery processes.

Deborah Jean Burris-Kitchen, Ph.D.
Atmosphere Press
9781639887132, $18.99

Exposed uses poetry, short stories, and photography (the latter by Dr. Heidi M. Williams) to explore issues of social injustice, love, and toxic masculinity. This approach creates an unusual and powerful synthesis and contrast between black and white image and written word.

From the start, these disparate contrasts are juxtaposed, as in the poem 'To be Short, Blonde, Female, and White,' in which the writer reflects that "My skin color is a cruel reminder/Of what my brothers and sisters/Have done to people of color./They may hate me for it."

Hate, poison, and potency are just a few of the themes running through discourses that expose emotional, cultural, and social connections and disconnects in a manner that departs from the usual staid ego-centric focus of too many poetry collections.

Intent on exposing not just her personal connections and reactions but social injustice and ironies, Dr. Deborah Jean Burris-Kitchen creates a collection of literary inspections that attacks American caste systems, women's repression, and the forces that contain them.

A great deal of anger is embedded into these protests and proclamations: "...mine is a loving God who embraces me

While I fight to escape the body, I have been imprisoned/erroneously/Your maltreatment of me has/infuriated him/Take a good long look at me/I am beautiful, strong, and powerful/Because I walk proud and tall next to him..."

With its passionate voice, compelling images, and vivid, damning survey of the "petty bourgeoisie" and their methods of legitimizing atrocities, Exposed reveals not just the author's personal outlook and experience, but the underbelly of America itself.

Libraries seeking contemporary social issues works that not just protest, but roar, will find Exposed a powerful example of personal and political examination. It ideally will find its place not just on a shelf of contemporary women's writings, but on the lists of discussion groups and book clubs interested in works and words that arrive on fire to spark debate and reflection.

It's a Tango, Not a War: Dancing with Type 1 Diabetes
Karen Meadows
Agua Fria Publishing
9798985236705, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

It's a Tango, Not a War: Dancing with Type 1 Diabetes doesn't dance around the subject of staying healthy with Type 1 diabetes. It engages readers with the promise of action and success, blending humor with practical lifestyle change recommendations that support both the emotional and physical process of adjusting to a diabetes diagnosis.

This is the book that ideally would accompany initial diagnosis. It takes the feel of a war away from the equation, instead pursuing the idea that diabetes offers not just challenges, but new opportunities for building a better life.

From understanding why blood sugars go up and down (sometimes against logic or efforts to keep it stable) to addressing the progressive challenges of the disease, Karen Meadows promotes the idea of a tango over a struggle.

This perspective alone lends the book an unusual flavor as it taps into the myths and realities of a new diagnosis and offers food for thought that belies the inevitability of decline that such a diagnosis used to portend:

"Another myth you may have bumped up against is the assumption that because you have diabetes you are likely to be depressed. Depression has long been linked with all types of diabetes and may affect you...Getting support from a professional who knows depression and what to do about it is essential. Meanwhile - all of us have emotional responses to life difficulties, and a number of those are associated with diabetes self-care. A lesser-known diagnosis to investigate is Diabetes Distress...Diabetes distress is not a mental illness. And it appears much more frequently than clinical depression among people with diabetes."

As Meadows reviews the effects of obtaining a Fitbit to encourage physical activity, the process of finding and building a diabetes support team, and adjusting to life with diabetes, she also adds her own life experiences into the mix.

It's not being overly dramatic to point out that her experiences and book could even save lives. A case in point is when she had to educate a physician about the signs that she was entering a dangerous state that could lead to coma and death: "My diabetes educator and the ER nurse saved my life. My father and the unwise doctor might have unwittingly let me die. In crucial moments, even near coma, I spoke up for myself. I am proud that I knew what to say and was able to convince the unenlightened doctor in charge."

This is just one example of why It's a Tango, Not a War tops many of the other books about diabetes, a new diagnosis, and its progressive effects. Readers who absorb Meadows' own dance will find many lessons on not just adjustment, but finding renewed purpose and better living with diabetes.

Libraries and book discussion groups interested in health, recovery, and daily wellbeing will find plenty to talk about in a book that provides the blueprint to better living with diabetes. It's as much a book about personal empowerment and building self-awareness as it is about managing the disease.

A Florist Called Daisy
Elsie G. Beya
Atmosphere Press
9781639886951, $18.99

A Florist Called Daisy features a sassy, proactive, independent woman who has not added "pursue a man" to her to-do list - until she attends the after party of the indie band Cardinal and encounters its lead singer, Stewart Burns. A celebrity crush is not her style, but Daisy Gordon experiences an attraction that moves her from her usual comfort zone of observer to being an active participant in Stewart's world.

Stewart does more than bring out the best in her. He questions her inherent pessimism about life: "'She thinks everyone she loves will leave her,' Nan answers for me. I sigh, pushing my teeth together. They do. Eventually."

Humor drives the story line, injecting interpersonal clashes that come as much from Daisy's encounters with those around Stewart as with her own heart:

"It's not what it looks like!" I shout out as I chase her, the steps have never seemed so steep, so mountainous.

Izzie bursts through my bedroom door with such force, she could have easily ripped the hinges out.

"It looks like you're shagging Stewart from Cardinal!" Izzie screams.

Then yes, it is what it looks like.

As Daisy struggles to maintain control of situations she sees spiraling out of control, readers follow her floral-wrapped foray into romance with an eye to understanding the thoughts and trials of an independent woman who finds herself involved in a romance that's over the moon - and clearly over her head.

Elsie G. Beya does a fine job of exploring the life of an already-strong woman who tackles love with the same degree of clarity and force that has made her successful in business and life, only to find that old habits don't work well in new situations.

Her depiction of Daisy's struggle to not only admit her heart, but tell Stewart that she loves him, and how this effort is thwarted by his lifestyle and other relationships, makes for a moving saga that is at once fiery, dramatic, and thoroughly understandable.

Powered by the firm and boisterous personality of a woman who doesn't take no for an answer, A Florist Called Daisy will attract women who enjoy their romances laced with emotional growth and revelations that move beyond relationship-building to personal empowerment and maturity.

Libraries seeking romance reads that depict an "anxious coward" will find this story of a character that is firmly rooted in the world of flowers and growth to be absorbing, filled with unexpected twists and turns that bring Daisy and her readers closer to a depth of love that can withstand public inspection.

Lose It For The Last Time, second edition
Amy Newman Shapiro, RD, CDN, CPT
Snewman Media
9780988607149, $19.95, Kindle $7.99

The second updated edition of Lose It For The Last Time is the first and last diet-oriented book a reader should consult in the effort to lose weight. Last, because it will prove definitive, to many, eliminating the need to add more diet instructions to one's personal library.

Plenty of books have been written either promoting specific diets or covering why diets don't work long-term, but Lose It For The Last Time's encouragement of self-assessment to determine eating habit triggers and how to change them goes the extra mile by helping readers adopt new habits that become part of an ongoing lifestyle change.

The first edition of this book was published almost a decade ago. The many scientific and technological advancements which have taken place since dictated the need for an updated edition incorporating these tools and changes, making this second edition a suitable replacement for any library's aging, outdated copy of the prior book.

This self-help blueprint allows readers to read, reread, think about and implement the approaches in each chapter of Lose It For The Last Time, embarking on a weight loss program designed to last a lifetime.

Examples from clients who worked with the author accompany specific insights into unhealthy and healthy behaviors accompanying food choices, exercise, and more.

At every step, Shapiro adds her own reflections, experiences teaching others, and client weight loss efforts to reinforce the messages.

The result is a self-help book that goes beyond 'diet' and which will appeal to anyone looking for a lifelong learning opportunity for adjusting habits for permanent weight maintenance.

Libraries seeking weight loss books that are accessible and involving will find Lose It For The Last Time an excellent choice promising lasting results.

Once to Die
T.S. Epperson
Multivalent Press
9788986606408, $16.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Once to Die is the first book in The Other Side of Dead series, and is a novel of Christian suspense that will appeal to Christian collections seeking blends of spiritual stories and intrigue.

Perry is homeless and endangered by witnessing a drug deal on the streets. Father John is also endangered - but by a temptation that invites him to cast aside some of his most treasured beliefs as he struggles with exhaustion and new possibilities.

Add an unexpected twist with a priest's confrontation with murder and redemption for a sense of the combined power of a spiritual quandary and a murder mystery under one cover.

Seasoned murder mystery fans will find many of the familiar trapping of suspense in Once to Die. However, the stakes are higher because choices and temptations faced on the earthly plane hold a resounding spiritual impact on eternal life.

A flawed character's move from a life of independence, strength, and spiritual lack to one awakening to renewed possibilities of heaven drives the story, rather than the usual focus on mystery alone. This lends Once to Die the attraction of philosophical, psychological, and religious insights that inject added value into its plot.

The story opens with the death of a young man. A radio report on his death laments the tragedy of another youth's life wasted on the streets, but this turns out to be the tip of the iceberg as the story moves into unexpected territory.

From the culture and community of the police who investigate to the spiritual sanctuary of a weary priest who finds the death almost more than he can bear, Epperson creates a multifaceted story that examines good and evil, the gray area in-between, and the efforts of both good and questionable men to follow the paths ordained by God.

The relationship between Perry and Father John is particularly well done, with its contrasts between the questions and decisions each faces and the unexpected connections that evolve from their association. Social expectation and perceptions blend nicely with dialogue that reinforces their different worlds and the ways they intersect.

The result is a mystery and Christian inspection that may contain streetwise language and the momentum of death and danger, but juxtaposes these traditional mystery routes incorporating a sense of discovery and growth that makes for a solid, Christian-based foundation.

Christian collections looking for mysteries and fiction that places spiritual confrontation at the center of the plot will find

Once to Die an excellent, thought-provoking story.

Werewolf for Hire
Sue Denver
JGF Press
9781959431824, $11.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Werewolf for Hire is the first novella in the Sara Flores, Werewolf P.I. series, and follows the supernatural mystery of an investigator who just so happens to have been turned into a werewolf. Sara thinks she might be the only werewolf on the planet, but she may not be alone. She never thought she'd be taking on P.I. cases in her new form, but she can't turn down Lillian Knudsen. Not when the woman believes she is a murder target, and that Sara's special skills could save her.

Sue Denver creates a riveting story that juxtaposes the struggles of a P.I. facing changes to her job, skill set, and life with the equally monumental struggles of an ex-military amputee woman who faces an unknown adversary on American turf.

As Lillian and Sara's new worlds collide in an unexpected way, new friendships evolve, along with controversies that test the mindset, recovery process, and future prospects of each woman (or, should we say, woman and woman/wolf?).

Transforming hurts. That's only one of the new realities Sara faces in her new form as she goes to bat for Lillian, only to find the battle has become personal on her own turf, affecting her future possibilities and survival potential, as well.

Werewolf for Hire builds its strength upon not just mystery, but growth and discovery as each main character reaches for a different life carrying the baggage from the past along with them.

Intriguing moments personalize Sara's discoveries about her new condition to add a touch of wry humor to her inspections:

"She never screamed from the pain of transforming. Not because she was holding it in. Sara wanted to scream more than anything. She screamed inside her mind with all the power she could give. But nothing came out. Sara suspected it was a werewolf evolutionary thing. They wouldn't have lasted into the 21st Century if they screamed when transforming."

The special blends of military and civilian issues, PTSD from different sources, and the mixed signals of the living and dead create an especially vivid story that entertains and involves on different levels of intrigue and psychological inspection.

Werewolf for Hire is especially highly recommended for libraries seeing patron interest in paranormal as well as P.I. scenarios. This intersection, combined with the added attraction of psychological growth and discovery, also should place Werewolf for Hire on the radars of book clubs interested in thought-provoking mysteries that go one step beyond the usual whodunit (or, who will do it) scenario.

To See God
Bruce J. Berger
Black Rose Writing
9781685131579, $22.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

To See God is a novel about faith, divine missions, and a quest for truth which arises when a devout Greek Orthodox nun experiences a vision that informs her that her black grandnephew in America is the second coming of Christ.

Because this story completes a trilogy, it's recommended that newcomers pursue the prior books before embarking on this final conclusion to an epic spiritual quest.

Faith, family, and distance bring together a family divided as the story introduces new conundrums, the possibility and impact of miracles, and underlying questions about God's purpose and mystery.

Christian readers will find these thoughts engrossing and captivating adjuncts to the spiritual and emotional quandaries faced by each character as they struggle to understand both themselves and God's vision.

"There are many venerated icons of Jesus..." This examination shakes preconceived notions of how Jesus might re-appear and what countenance he might assume, in the process also shaking both spiritual and social presumptions about the Second Coming and its incarnation.

As Jewish and Christian beliefs and interests clash and force social, legal, religious and emotional quandaries and confrontations, readers will find themselves inspecting their own teachings and ideals about life and the nature of Divine missions.

To See God represents not just a process of acknowledgment, but discovery on many different levels as the characters interact, share a tragedy that leads to mourning and redemption, and ultimately consider the dual importance and validity of Jewish and Christian family and faith.

"Are we not living proof of God's story?"

To See God certainly is. It is highly recommended for spiritual readers - especially those who familiar with the prior books in the trilogy, who will find this concluding volume thought-provoking, essential reading.

The Little Door
Stormy Lynn
Independently Published
9798520864127, $7.99 paper/$3.99 ebook

The Little Door is a coming-of-age YA fantasy designed to attract readers through vivid adventures. It opens with the punch of a first-person experience of drowning. The narrator realizes that she's dying, but just as she is about to succumb, a helping hand rescues her.

Rose's vague memory of this childhood accident usually resurfaces in dreams, but is also sparked by her parents' bitter battles beyond her bedroom door. This time, determined not to let her nightmare affect her last day in junior high school, Rose is off to a different kind of adventure in which growth and new opportunities are on the horizon ... unless she drowns in events that shake her world and her perception of self, reality, and her future.

Stormy Lynn crafts a compelling fantasy which presents the world of Other-Siders, in which Rose is a curious human creature that stands out. The world of Mavarak doesn't take kindly to humans and the trouble they tend to bring, but Rose also commands new possibilities that appear through little doors to change all kinds of purposes and the nature of reality itself.

Lynn's depiction of the growing connections between Rose and Rylan and the mission that drives them both takes the time to inject atmosphere with descriptions that cement the broader purpose of Rose's experiences with small details such as a meal with delicious new flavors.

From bonds between Keepers and Guardians and Wood Dweller interests to a major snafu that leads Rose to threaten the world by introducing Other-Siders that force the Wood Dwellers to leave their beloved village, Lynn creates a moving tale of vying forces and special interests where Rose becomes the focal point of controversy, confrontation, and change.

Much like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Rose's inadvertent influence upon this fantasy world changes her and everything around her. Time moves differently in this milieu. Can Rose finish what she started ten years earlier?

The underlying messages about responsibility, choice, and moral and ethical behaviors that revolve around Rose's encounter with a strange new world adds to the fast-paced adventure component. This elements create a remarkably vivid, moving saga highly recommended for young adult and adult fantasy readers alike.

Libraries seeking contemporary examples of YA fantasy couched in bigger-picture thinking will find The Little Door just the ticket for book club and reading group discussions.

The Maid and the Socialite
Lynda Drews
Little Creek Press
9781955656474, $16.95

True crime history readers in general and Wisconsin residents in particular will relish the events and explorations of The Maid and the Socialite: The Brave Women Behind Green Bay's Scandalous Minahan Trials. In the milieu of Green Bay's early 19th century's politics and attitudes toward women, Drews' powerful storytelling voice, presented with the drama of fiction and the compelling research of fact, traces the stands of an illiterate maid and a college-educated socialite against the city's celebrated surgeon and closet abuser, Dr. John R. Minahan.

At the end of the 19th century, syphilis was on the rise. Nobody was immune to its touch, whether the rich and famous, artists and politicians, or ordinary people. What does this have to do with crime?

Because it was wielded as a sword of accusation and abuse by the socially celebrated Dr. John R. Minahan, who accused two women of the disease in order to stifle their intentions to expose him publicly for the abusive monster he was.

Illiterate maid Mary Cenefelt and college socialite Mollie Bertles had little in common other than their connection to Dr. Minahan and their intention to speak out. Turns out they also shared the dangerous eye of his intention to destroy them, resulting in further determination on their parts to speak out and tarnish his reputation with the truth - even if it cost them their jobs and positions in life and society.

Lynda Drews develops this story with the drama of fiction and the compelling research of fact-driven progression, liberally quoting from archival records, letters, and written documents to trace the progression of each woman as she makes her stand. She also explores the fate that brought them from disparate statuses to share a wrenching experience both during the abuse and in its aftermath.

The truth emerges with a powerful storyteller's voice from the opening lines, drawing in even readers who may usually eschew historical nonfiction or true crime's tendency for formula approaches to facts: "The Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul train screeched to a halt on January 9, 1893, its cowcatcher encased in ice, and Mary Cenefelt stepped off, a small suitcase in each hand. She had lived on her sister's charity for three months, and Mary had returned to the cities of Fort Howard and Green Bay seeking employment and hope. She had no way of knowing the hell that awaited her."

As Drews delves into these women's' experiences and decisions to pursue justice that led to the courts and shook the foundations of typical legal proceedings, she recreates the times and the back-and-forth contentions that destroyed reputations and tested the justice system alike: "Attorney Martin insisted that Dr. Minahan was entitled to a fair trial before twelve unbiased jurors. Attorney Olin said he would consider the proposition of proceeding with eleven. Since the civil case was expensive to conduct, Judge Hastings said he was not ready to call a mistrial. Instead, he would question the rest of the jurors before he made a ruling."

"Inhuman behaviors," society duties, overt and unspoken rules, and the impact of these women's' decisions on family life and reputation alike are explored with an eye to revealing the true courage and costs of their determination to buck the system and their own life trajectories to stop Dr. Minahan by any means possible.

Mollie faces losing her husband and her boys. Twenty-six-year-old Mary sees little chance for happiness in her future. As pressure on the two of them comes from all levels and walks of life, Mollie and Mary find themselves facing ruin and despair, questioning their ability to continue pursuing the truth: "Her only option was to yield to Minahan's demand and have Dr. Fairfield burn her signed statement."

Green Bay and its social and political connections swirl throughout the story as a compelling look at the then-small-town atmosphere that linked various levels of society and resulted in backroom agreements and political entanglements.

Mary feels trapped into accepting Minahan's terms. Mollie was an optimist and an early feminist. Yet, against all odds, these two disparate women persevered, and ultimately won.

Drews focuses on the emotional and physical impact of abusive behavior, revealing these aspects with precise insight and description that could prove triggers to modern readers who have experienced similar circumstances in modern times.

From jealousy and entrapment to a stormy divorce that shook Green Bay at all levels, Drews takes the time to capture the atmosphere and impact of the times.

This true crime history is absolutely compelling in its progression, social inspection, and contrast between two women from very different walks of life who take courageous stands against Green Bay's famous surgeon and closet abuser, Dr. J.R. Minahan.

While libraries strong in either true crime or Wisconsin history will be the logical audience for this story, it ideally will receive additional attention from book clubs interested in pursuing topics of justice, abuse, and social and legal influences on courage.

Two improbable women fought the same man and won, confronting not just one man, but an entire structure designed to support his reputation and actions.

To call The Maid and the Socialite a work of historical true crime alone would be to do it an injustice. Its probe of courage and perseverance against all odds will give modern women food for thought and encouragement for fighting their own abusers.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Static And Other Stories
Jason Nickey
Independently Published
9798361310814, $10.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

"Static And Other Stories" is a dark and sinister collection of short fiction in the horror genre that is surefire entertainment. "Juice Box" has a most interesting take on getting revenge on someone, "Dearest Catherine" is a look into a man's warped love of a woman, "Hot Tub Hallucinations' a couple hooks up with a man in a bar for a strange relationship, are a few of the gems to relish. "Static And Other Stories" has 8 selections that should please anyone looking for a new author to enjoy in the horror genre.

Double Feature
Donald E. Westlake
Hardcase Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group
9781785657207, $12.95 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Anything by Donald E Westlake is to enjoy and "Double Feature" does not disappoint. Out of print for over forty years Hardcase has given new live in this new edition of this little-known Westlake selection. "Double Feature" is a film critic caught up in a tightly written page turning mystery with well-drawn characters by the master of the comic caper genre.

Freehold Defiance
Edited by Michael Z. Williamson
9781982126124, $8.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

No matter what kind of society there will always be ways for beings to protest. "Freehold Defiance" has many selections from modern master science fiction writers on who, why and how disobedience is carried out. "Freehold Defiance" is a great collection of tales for those of us who love the short story form of writing.

Weird World War IV
Edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett
9781982192402, $9.99 pbk $6.99 Kindle

No matter how you slice it societies change but human nature doesn't and one of those things is there will always be wars. "Weird World War IV" takes readers into future worlds to view many different way conflicts will take place and be resolved. Written by many who have served in the military the stories are fresh approaches to potential outbreaks in different universes. "Weird World War IV" is one of a series that hopefully will continue with more volumes to come.

Worlds Long Lost
Edited by Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard
9781982192303, $18.00 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

"Worlds Long Lost" is another fabulous collection of fantasy and science fiction short fiction by some of the finest authors today including Oraon Scott Card, Les Johnson, Brian Trent, and 11 other authors who take readers into other worlds of different possibilities. Ruocchio who has done many other collections for Baen has announced "Worlds Long Lost" will be his last. Lets hope he reconsiders because he has always edited fantastic collections in the past.

So Help Me God
Mike Pence
Simon & Schuster
9781982190330, $35.00 HC /$16.99 Kindle

"So Help Me God" the expected bombshell writing by Mike Pence on events of January 6, 2021 and the involvement of President Trump is major dud. Billed by so much of the press, as the tell all behind the scenes book of the Trump administration after the loss to Joe Biden is nothing like the hype. Instead, it's the rise of Pence in politics to the second highest office in the land and his praise of the Trump presidency for all the things he believes they accomplished. He pretty much glosses over the mob that stormed the capital was out to do harm to members of Congress including himself. "So Help Me God" does not reveal anything new on one of America's worst days.

Tell The Truth, Pangolin
Melinda Beatty & Paola Escobar
Anne Swartz Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593180136, $18.99 HC / $8.99 Kindle

The appearance of "Tell The Truth Pangolin" is a simple kids book but it is so much more with many underlying issues for readers to find. Pangolin is on a swing that is owned by the queen of the land he lives in. Confused of what to do he seeks out many friends' advice. The responses are laugh out loud fun and interesting as his bewilderment continues to befuddle him. "Tell The Truth Pangolin" is a beautifully told story for anyone any age to enjoy.

You So Black
Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., author
London Ladd, illustrator
Denene Millner Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665900348, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

To kick off Black History month this year comes "You So Black" for children to be proud of their heritage and celebrate diversity. The author reveals words to show different aspects of the black color, to make people more aware of its distinctive qualities "You So Black" is a beautiful kids title for all ages to enjoy.

Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Lead the Civil Rights Movement
Sandra Neil Wallace, author
Bryan Collier, illustrator
A Paula Wiseman Book
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534451032, $18.99 HC /$10.99 Kindle

Most of us know the names of Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X, but there are so many others who deserve recognition. "Love Is Loud" focuses on Diane Nash who was involved in so many of the marches and aspects that changed so much of the country to make it better for many citizens in the United States. We learn Diane Nash's parents where she was born, education, who she worked with throughout the Civil Rights Movement. "Love is Loud" educates us all to one of the major players and her role to make the world a better place for many people.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood
Mary Alice Hostetter
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299340407, $26.95, HC, 168pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood", Mary Alice Hostetter shares her personal journey to define an authentic self amid a rigid religious upbringing in a Mennonite farm family.

Although endowed with a personality "prone toward questioning and challenging", the young Mary Alice at first wants nothing more than to be a good girl, to do her share, and (alongside her eleven siblings) to work her family's Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, farm. She feels fortunate to have been born into a religion where, as the familiar hymn states, she is "safe in the arms of Jesus".

As an adolescent, that keen desire for belonging becomes focused on her worldly peers, even though she knows that Mennonites consider themselves a people apart. Eventually she leaves behind the fields and fences of her youth, thinking she will finally be able to grow beyond the prohibitions of her church.

Discovering and accepting her sexuality, as a lesbian she once again finds herself apart, on the outside of family, community, and societal norms.

Critique: "Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood" is powerful memoir of a young woman who while yearning for acceptance, 'casts a humanizing eye' on a little-understood American Mennonite religious tradition and a woman who seeks to grow within and beyond its limitations of gender role and definition. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.60), "Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Mennonite Christiany and LGBTQ issues. "Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Mary Alice Hostetter ( grew up the tenth of twelve children in a Mennonite farm family and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. While pursuing a career in education and human services, with a brief lapse into cheesemaking and restaurant management, she has studied writing whenever and wherever she could.

The Minimum Method
Joey Thurman
BenBella Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781637742297, $26.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: The truth is most people don't actually need grueling, extreme workouts or aggressively limited diets to lose weight and feel proud to flaunt their bodies in bathing suits. What they need is a plan that is focused on efficiency (the best results for the least amount of time and effort) and one that is actually designed to be maintained for more than 30 days.

With the publication of "The Minimum Method: The Least You Can Do to Be a Stronger, Healthier, Happier You", nutrition expert and celebrity fitness trainer Joey Thurman presents a wealth of practical advice, simple nutrition truths, minimal-effort recipes, and instructions on how to exercise smarter, not harder.

Instead of unrealistic workouts and time-consuming meal plans, Thurman's science-backed method is based on getting the maximum benefit out of things like quick and simple "exercise snacks" and sleep hygiene hacks.

Thurman doesn't shy away from the shortcomings of the mainstream health/fitness/diet industry -- in fact, he acknowledges and apologizes for his own past experience in perpetuating the harmful myth that everyone should be pushing their bodies to the limit in order to improve. Now, he is on a mission to help others prioritize genuine health instead of some imaginary and unattainable standard of perfection.

Ultimately, "The Minimum Method" shows how to adopt a healthier mindset and lifestyle: feeling your best when you don't get enough sleep, working fitness into your busiest days, getting back on track when you slip up, and celebrating your progress. With "The Minimum Method", you will have the key to better health, using small, easy changes that add up to huge, life-altering results.

Critique: Impressively informative and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Minimum Method: The Least You Can Do to Be a Stronger, Healthier, Happier You" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Health & Fitness and Motivational Self-Help collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of readers with an interest in Ab Workouts, Stretching Exercises, and Weight Loss Control Diets that "The Minimum Method" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212342391, $36.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Joey Thurman ( is a health, fitness, nutrition expert, and television contributor. He is the author of 365 Health and Fitness Hacks That Could Save Your Life and the host of The Fad or Future Podcast. Joey was named the best trainer in Chicago by the Chicago Sun Times in 2015 and's top 3 favorite celebrity trainers. Joey's work has been featured in publications such as Men's Health, Women's Health, Pop Sugar, U.S. News and World Report, NPR, People, Shape, NY Post, Fitness Magazine,,, Daily Burn, Inspiyr, TimeOut Chicago, CaliDiet, The Chicago Sun Times, Spartan, OpenFit, and many more.

Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation
Dr. Jenelle Kim
Watkins Publishing
9781786785947, $18.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Most forms of meditation ask us to be still and quiet, to take time away from our busy lives and forget about our ever-growing to-do lists. 'Myung Sung', the peaceful art of Korean mindfulness, does the opposite. Myung Sung is active, dynamic, a connectedness woven into our everyday experience through the practice of eight simple steps.

Comprised of stories and wisdom passed down through generations and practical tools, with the publication of "Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation", Dr. Jenele Kim will help you to: Find balance and happiness; Calmly resolve conflict; Walk through stress; Accomplish your life goals.

With "Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation" as a kind of DIY instructional guide, you can learn to connect to your limitless reserves of natural energy and discover how your struggles (in work, marriage, parenting, friendships, health, money) become less difficult. By practising the eight keys of Myung Sung, you can transform the way you live your life and uncover a greater sense of balance between mind, body and spirit.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Meditation and Mental/Spiritual Healing collections. It should also be noted that "Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Jenelle Kim ( writings focus upon living a happier daily life through traditional principles that have been held within her lineage for centuries. Dr. Kim is a mother, educator, Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, and the founder of JBK Wellness Labs, an award-winning formulator and manufacturer of luxury natural health and beauty products for brands across the globe. She can be followed at: @drjenellemkim

Fandom Acts of Kindness
Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph
Smart Pop
c/o BenBella Books
9781637741702, $17.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: "Fandom Acts of Kindness: A Heroic Guide to Activism, Advocacy, and Doing Chaotic Good" by co-authors Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph is first of its kind, actionable and inspirational resource provides the tools and motivation necessary for pop culture fans to make a difference while having fun!

Fandoms are united as a community because of the power of story. And it's exactly the magical alchemy forged when mixing story and community that has helped fandoms across the world feed thousands of hungry children, donate countless books, build schools, register voters, disrupt online hate speech, and save lives through crafting PPE for COVID-19 frontline workers, natural disaster response, and mental health crisis support.

"Fandom Acts of Kindness" not only tells the stories of the good fans have done in the world but serves as a kind of dungeon master's guide to how to be a hero yourself. Perfect for those who want to inspire others, organize collective action, sustain, and nurture your own mental health and creativity, and do it all through a pop culture perspective.

Critique: As inherently fascinating as it is inspiring, "Fandom Acts of Kindness: A Heroic Guide to Activism, Advocacy, and Doing Chaotic Good" is a unique and exceptional kind of DIY instruction manual and 'how-to' guide that is especially recommended for everyone who enjoys a fan hobby of any kind and wants to help make the world around them a little bit better and within the scope of their particular choice of fandom based volunteer activities. Deserving of as wide a readership as possible, "Fandom Acts of Kindness: A Heroic Guide to Activism, Advocacy, and Doing Chaotic Good" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Fandom Acts of Kindness: A Heroic Guide to Activism, Advocacy, and Doing Chaotic Good" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Tanya Cook, PhD, ( is a Professor of Sociology at the Community College of Aurora near Denver, CO. In 2019, Cook was one of 26 community college faculty awarded a research grant from Mellon/ACLS to support sociological research on fandom. Her research and writing interests include social movements, sociological theory, and popular culture. Cook has written articles for The Journal of Fandom Studies and The Journal of Screenwriting that feature Game of Thrones and Wynonna Earp, respectively. She was named the Inclusive Excellence Faculty of the Year in 2018 by her college for her efforts to engage diversity in the classroom.

Editorial Note #2: Kaela Joseph ( is a licensed clinical psychologist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area as a program manager, clinic director, and clinical supervisor. Kaela has published and presented at professional conferences and Comic-Cons on the topic of fan activism, as well as on fandoms and sexuality. Kaela attributes much of their own identity development as an activist, as well as their coming out as queer and nonbinary, to participation in fandoms, including many years of taking part in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (GISH), which benefits the nonprofit Random Acts and other causes.

Before We Were Born
Kathleen Ready Dayan
Cosmic Egg Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803410708, $24.95, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: Elia and Kalli are soul mates who travel together through lifetimes. This time, in 1977, Kalli is reborn as Joy Sanders to a family who instantly adores her, but Elia, who chooses a mother based solely on her proximity to Kalli, fares less fortunately. He is reincarnated as Jeremy Blake, born prematurely and affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. But he is keenly intuitive and can hear the voices of the spirits who guide him in his new life. Fiercely intelligent and strong willed Joy becomes his closest childhood friend and protector. Together they form an unbreakable alliance.

Critique: A fascinating, deftly written, memorable metaphysical novel, "Before We Were Born" by novelist Kathleen Ready Dayan is a unique and compelling read from first page to last. With a special appeal for readers with an interest in reincarnation and occult fiction, "Before We Were Born" is recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Before We Were Born" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Ten years ago Kathleen Dayan ( was working as a lawyer and writing in her spare time. Some personal losses led her on a spiritual journal that ultimately resulted in her being able to channel the spirits of her loved ones and also spirit guides and teachers. The information she received changed her perspective and her life, and she left the practice of law to write a novel based on the principals she had learned.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Norman Rockwell's Models: In and Out of the Studio
S. T. Haggerty
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781538170359, $45.00, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: In 1940, America's favorite illustrator Norman Rockwell, his wife Mary and their three sons moved to the picturesque rural village of West Arlington, Vermont. The artist discovered a treasure trove of models. With the publication of "Norman Rockwell's Models: In and out of the Studio", by S. T. Haggerty is the first to detail these models' lives, friendships with the artist, and experiences in his studio.

Dressed in quaint work clothing, the models were dairy farmers, carpenters, country doctors, soldiers, and mechanics. "Norman Rockwell's Models" features non-fiction narratives telling the story of these folks during an era when they helped the war effort, farmed with horses, and received home visits from doctors. This seminal study also describes the challenges the models faced in their own lives and how these affected their expressions in the paintings. For example, in several 1945 masterpieces, the jubilance Americans felt after the close of the second word war is revealed in their faces.

Upon meeting people, young or old, the artist would say, "Call Me Norman". Rockwell learned the models' roles in the community and their personalities, which fostered genuine paintings. He strove, for example, to find real-life soldiers to model as WWII heroes and spirited boys and girls for lively paintings. In the studio, Norman was charming and polite, but painstaking. He demonstrated poses and did whatever was necessary to evoke his trademark expressions, including telling stories of his own life, sometimes laughing or crying.

Spending entire summers at his family's farmhouse near West Arlington, Vermont, the author, S.T. Haggerty, grew up knowing many models, including those who posed for such iconic works as Freedom of Speech, Breaking Home Ties, and Girl at the Mirror. Along with models and their families, the author hayed the scenic fields in the Batten Kill River Valley and swam under the red covered bridge on the Village Green. This experiences give him a unique perspective for telling this story.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of historic photos, a six page Bios of the Models, fourteen pages of Notes, and a sixteen page Index, "Norman Rockwell's Models: In and Out of the Studio" is the first to tell the stories of Norman Rockwell's models and their time in his studio and a 'must' for the legions of Norman Rockwell fans. While an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century American Art History collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Norman Rockwell's Models: In and Out of the Studio" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.50) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212256506, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: S.T. Haggerty ( is a longtime writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. He is known for his intriguing, heartfelt, and lively storytelling. He received his BS from Southern Vermont College, and MA in Journalism from the University of South Carolina.

A Solar-Hydrogen Economy: Driving the Green Hydrogen Industrial Revolution
John Mathews
Anthem Press
9781839986413, $79.95, HC, 88pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A Solar-Hydrogen Economy: Driving the Green Hydrogen Industrial Revolution", Professor John Matthews focuses upon strategies for sustainable development.

Guiding the emergence of a new green economy, based on a green industrial system and on green growth for its propagation, is the core challenge of our time. Efforts so far to switch to renewables in power generation have succeeded in partially transforming energy systems.

However, efforts to capture the process through imposition of carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes have fallen far short: these are policies based on simplistic comparative static economic frameworks involving changing prices but never engaging with the dynamic industrial drivers of change.

A systemic perspective, focusing on the supersession of one technoeconomic system, based on fossil fuels, by another system, based on hydrogen, renewables and circular flows, is called for. The argument is developed that a new politics of energy is evolving from one based on fossil fuels to one where our industrial civilization is maturing and sees the manufacture of energy and energy devices as central to its continued survival.

Critique: "A Solar-Hydrogen Economy: Driving the Green Hydrogen Industrial Revolution" will have a very special relevance to readers with an interest in environmental economics and sustainable business development, especially in light of continuing developments in alternative energy technologies. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Solar-Hydrogen Economy: Driving the Green Hydrogen Industrial Revolution" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Alternative Energy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Solar-Hydrogen Economy: Driving the Green Hydrogen Industrial Revolution" is also available in a paperback edition (9781839986420, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Editorial Note: John Mathews ( is emeritus professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, tenable in the Macquarie Business School. He is also the author of Global Green Shift (Anthem Press 2017) and of a blog on greening issues at He was awarded the Schumpeter Prize in 2018 for his work on green industrial dynamics.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

When Birds Sing: My Journey from Trauma to Triumph
Arielle Spring, Inc.
9781982279066, $30.95, HC, 170pp

Synopsis: With the publication of her memoir, Arielle Spring experienced a succession of traumas, two of which were sexual assault, in her teens. She was stricken with PTSD which, left untreated, sent her into a downward spiral lasting over two decades. She then began her ascent to discovering her true self. Her story is life changing.

After experiencing so much trauma in her life (including becoming homeless), Arielle looked into the mirror one day, got on her knees and concluded she was as low as she would allow herself to go. She began her ascent through hard work and dedication to discovering her true self. Arielle took a job as a domestic violence crisis group facilitator which inspired her to create her own dv support group to teach women to transition from the victim mentality. She went on to become a certified professional life coach and health coach. All the while, Arielle continued to pursue her own healing and growth.

"When Birds Sing: My Journey from Trauma to Triumph" takes the reader on a harrowing journey from darkness to light with many twists and turns. The writer's conversational writing style will make you feel like you are right there in the moment with her.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively candid, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "When Birds Sing: My Journey from Trauma to Triumph" is a very special and inspiring memoir that will have a very special appeal to readers who themselves have suffered from any kind of trauma and feeling that there was no coming back from their despair and depression. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists for those interested in Post-Traumatic Stress recovery that "When Birds Sing" is also available in a paperback edition (9798885313322, $15.99).

Flowers of Fire
Hawon Jung
BenBella Books
9781637742419, $18.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Beginning in America the #MeToo movement has now spread world wide. Tens of thousands of people in South Korea having taken to the street, and many more brave individuals took a stand, to end a decades-long abortion ban and bring down powerful men accused of sexual misconduct -- including a popular presidential contender. South Korean feminists know that the revolution has been a long time coming, between battles against its own patriarchal society as well as challenging stereotypes of docile Asian women in the Western imagination.

With the publication of "Flowers of Fire: The Inside Story of South Korea's Feminist Movement and What It Means for Women's Rights Worldwide", author Hawon Jung will show the rest of the world that these Korean women are no delicate flowers -- that they are trailblazing flames.

"Flowers of Fire" takes the reader into the trenches of this fight for equality, following along as South Korean activists march on the streets, navigate public and private spaces where spycam porn crimes are rampant, and share tips and tricks with each other as they learn how to protect themselves from harassment and how to push authorities to act.

Jung, the former Seoul correspondent for the AFP, draws on her on-the-ground reporting and interviews with many women who became activists and leaders, from the elite prosecutor who ignited the country's #MeToo movement to the young women who led the war against non-consensual photography. Their stories, though long overlooked in the West, mirror realities that women across the world are all too familiar with: threats of defamation lawsuits to silence victims of assault, tech-based sexual abuse, and criminal justice systems where victims' voices are often met with suspicion and abusers' downfalls are met with sympathy.

These are the issues at the heart of their #MeToo movement, and South Korean women have fought against them vigorously -- and with extraordinary success. In "Flowers of Fire", Jung illuminates the strength and tenacity of these women, too often sidelined in global conversations about feminism and gender equality.

Critique: As informative as it is inspiring, "Flowers of Fire: The Inside Story of South Korea's Feminist Movement and What It Means for Women's Rights Worldwide" is an exceptionally well written and compelling study that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Feminist Theory, Contemporary Korean Culture, and Women's Rights Issues. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Flowers of Fire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Hawon Jung ( is a journalist and former Seoul correspondent for the AFP news agency with more than a decade of experience writing about the two Koreas. She covered the 2011 death of then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, the rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-Un, South Korea's presidential impeachment, and K-pop's rise on the world stage. Her coverage of South Korea's #MeToo movement was short listed in the 2019 Awards for Editorial Excellence by the Society of Publishers in Asia. Born and raised in South Korea, she earned a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Get Changed: Finding The New You Through Fashion
Kat Farmer
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784727789, $24.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: "Get Changed: Finding The New You Through Fashion" is meant for the countless numbers of women who are wondering whether they know who they are anymore. Loss of identity is an experience all too familiar to Instagram style guru and professional stylist Kat Farmer. In her own life, she found that fashion helped her regenerate herself and rediscover her confidence.

With the publication of "Get Changed", Kat's authentic, down-to-earth voice, trademark humor, and insights into some of her personal anxieties make you feel like she's right there in the room with you. "Get Changed" delivers the personal stylist experience to readers in the form of a step-by-step and practical guide to building the ultimate new wardrobe.

Borrowing from the structure of a recipe book, the prep, the ingredients and the method, Kat breaks down the process with easy-to-remember tips and tricks; the reader will come away inspired and confident that they can build a wardrobe of clothes they love. Most importantly, Kat will show that finding your confidence again and discovering the new you can be as simple as getting changed.

"Get Changed" covers all the basics including sorting out and assessing your current wardrobe, working out what works for your body type and your lifestyle, how to shop successfully, key wardrobe pieces (crucially that will work together) all tackled with Kat's helpful, warm and funny approach.

Critique: A fun, fascinating and useful read, "Get Changed: Finding The New You Through Fashion" is an extraordinary and illustrated DIY compendium of fashion advice and insight. Exceptionally well written, illustrated, organized and presented, "Get Changed" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Fashion History & Craft collections.

Editorial Note: Kat Farmer ( is the creator of the Does My Bum Look 40 In This? Instagram and Facebook accounts. She is a fashion stylist and digital-first talent, known for her role in BBC1 styling show You Are What You Wear and the fashion segment of ITV's This Morning. Kat is celebrated for inspiring people to dress for themselves and innovate using both old and new pieces from their wardrobe. With a following of more than 335k across her digital platforms, Kat documents her journey as a UK-based fashion stylist, offering an honest, no holds barred opinion on fashion trends, interiors and beauty products. As an authoritative voice in the fashion industry, Kat's advice has featured in the Guardian, the Telegraph and culminated in a stunning Christmas cover shoot for Stella magazine. Named 'a hugely successful one-woman brand' by The Times, Kat is has worked with a variety of prestigious brands including Marks & Spencer, The White Company, Whistles and John Lewis.

Cafe Society: Time Suspended, the Cafes & Bistros of Paris
Joanie Osburn
Goff Books
c/o ORO Editions
9781954081772, $49.95, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Cafe? Society: Time Suspended, The Cafe?s, and Bistros of Paris", author Joanie Osburn offers the reader a beautifully presented view of the origins, progression, and current state of the centuries-long tradition of the Parisian cafe?, bistro, and brasserie.

Neither a history book nor a cookbook, "Cafe? Society" is an extraordinary and nontraditional travel guide and coffee table style (8.75 x 1 x 11.25 inches, 3.28 pounds) volume showcasing a treasured life style. 

The introductory text and timelines provide a concise narrative of the history and evolution of coffee, coffeehouses, cafe?s, bistros, and brasseries in Paris and across the globe and form a backdrop for the text and photos in the body of the book that highlights contemporary cafe? life. 

The list of establishments at the back of "Cafe Society" will guide the traveler, who will benefit from Osburn's unique perspective, honed over many decades as an American in Paris exploring and capturing cafe? society, captivates and amuses with anecdotes and insider recommendations.

Critique: Impressively timely, "Cafe? Society: Time Suspended, The Cafe?s, and Bistros of Paris" is of special interest and value now as the world begins to reopen from the years of Covid-19 shutdowns as and eager travelers return to France. A magnificent compendium of full color photography and informative captioning, "Cafe Society" is an ideal and recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Photography collections in general, and Parisian History & Culture reading lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Joanie Osburn ( is an interior designer, artist, and photographer based in San Francisco, CA. She holds a BA in Humanities from the University of California at Berkeley, a degree in Interior Design and Color from the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design, San Francisco, and studied painting, photography, and sculpture in Paris and Cal Arts Los Angeles. Her art is exhibited in galleries and museums across the US, and interior design projects featured in magazines, newspapers, and books, including the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Sunset Books, and Architectural Digest.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Best Minds: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry from Madness
Stevan M. Weine
Fordham University Press
45 Columbus Avenue, Rm 312, New York, NY 10023
9781531502669, $34.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Allen Ginsberg's 1956 poem "Howl" opens with one of the most resonant phrases in modern poetry: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness." Thirty years later, Ginsberg entrusted a Columbia University medical student with materials not shared with anyone else, including psychiatric records which documented how he and his mother, Naomi Ginsberg, struggled with mental illness.

With the publication of "Best Minds: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry from Madness", psychiatrist, researcher, and scholar Stevan M. Weine, M.D. (who was that medical student), examines how Allen Ginsberg took his visions and psychiatric hospitalization, his mother's devastating illness, confinement, and lobotomy, and the social upheavals of the post-war world and imaginatively transformed them.

Though madness is often linked with hardship and suffering, Ginsberg showed how it could also lead to profound and redemptive aesthetic, spiritual, and social changes. Through his revolutionary poetry and social advocacy, Ginsberg dedicated himself to leading others toward new ways of being human and easing pain.

Throughout his celebrated career Ginsberg's writings and most public life made us feel as though we knew everything there was to know about him. However, much has been left out about his experiences growing up with a mentally ill mother, his visions, and his psychiatric hospitalization.

In "Best Minds", with a forty-year career studying and addressing trauma, Dr. Weine provides a groundbreaking exploration of the poet and his creative process especially in relation to madness.

"Best Minds" examines the complex relationships between mental illness, psychiatry, trauma, poetry, and prophecy -- using the access Ginsberg generously shared to offer new, lively and indispensable insights into an American icon. Weine also provides new understandings of the paternalism, treatment failures, ethical lapses, and limitations of American psychiatry of the 1940s and 1950s.

In light of these new discoveries, the challenges Ginsberg faced appear starker and his achievements, both as a poet and an advocate, are even more remarkable.

Critique: A masterpiece of definitive and seminal scholarship, Best Minds: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry from Madness" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in the life and poetry of Allen Ginsberg. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99), "Best Minds" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented -- making it an inherently fascinating, informative, and insightful study that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century Literary Criticism and Contemporary Psychology/Psychiatry collections.

Editorial Note: Stevan M. Weine ( is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where he is also Director of Global Medicine and Director of the Center for Global Health. He is the author of two books: "When History is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina" and "Testimony and Catastrophe: Narrating the Traumas of Political Violence".

Eating Up Route 66: Foodways on America's Mother Road
T. Lindsay Baker
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806190693, $34.95, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: From its designation in 1926 to the rise of the interstates nearly sixty years later, Route 66 was, in John Steinbeck's words, America's Mother Road, carrying countless travelers the 2,400 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles. Whoever they were (adventurous motorists or Dustbowl migrants, troops on military transports or passengers on buses, vacationing families or a new breed of tourists) these travelers had to eat. The story of where they stopped and what they found, and of how these roadside offerings changed over time, reveals twentieth-century America on the move, transforming the nation's cuisine, culture, and landscape along the way.

Author T. Lindsay Baker, a glutton for authenticity, drove the historic route (or at least the 85 percent that remains intact) in a four-cylinder 1930 Ford station wagon. Sparing us the dust and bumps, he takes us for a spin along Route 66, stopping to sample the fare at diners, supper clubs, and roadside stands and to describe how such venues came and went -- even offering kitchen-tested recipes from historic eateries en route.

Start-ups that became such American fast-food icons such as McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Steak 'n Shake, and Taco Bell are feature alongside mom-and-pop diners with flocks of chickens out back and sit-down restaurants with heirloom menus.

Food-and-drink establishments from speakeasies to drive-ins share the right-of-way with other attractions, accommodations, and challenges, from the Whoopee Auto Coaster in Lyons, Illinois, to the piles of "chat" (mining waste) in the Tri-State District of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, to the perils of driving old automobiles over the Jericho Gap in the Texas Panhandle or Sitgreaves Pass in western Arizona.

Describing options for the wealthy and the not-so-well-heeled, from hotel dining rooms to ice cream stands, Baker also notes the particular travails African Americans faced at every turn, traveling Route 66 across the decades of segregation, legal and illegal.

Critique: A very special, unique, and comprehensive study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library American History collections, "Eating Up Route 66: Foodways on America's Mother Road" will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in the history of Route 66 with travel dining, hospitality, and tourism. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Eating Up Route 66: Foodways on America's Mother Road" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.49).

Editorial Note: T. Lindsay Baker holds the W. K. Gordon Chair in Industrial History at Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas. He is also the Director of the W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History, Thurber, Texas, and editor of the Windmiller's Gazette. He is the author of A Field Guide to American Windmills and North American Windmill Manufacturers' Trade Literature: A Descriptive Guide.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Post-Traumatic Thriving: The Art, Science, & Stories of Resilience
Randell Bell, Ph.D.
Core IQ, Inc.
9798218022648, $24.95, HC, 412pp

Synopsis: Trauma doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone, anytime. And in all likelihood, COVID-19 has traumatized each and every one of us to some degree. Everybody hits a low point once in a while, and ultimately, the quality of our lives depends on our ability to process heartbreaks and catastrophes successfully. So how do we do that?

With the publication of "Post-Traumatic Thriving: The Art, Science & Stories of Resilience" world-renowned expert on disasters and trauma Dr. Randall Bell deftly interweaves science and academic research with stories of people who have not just survived but have used their trauma as their fuel to thrive.

Critique: Dr. Bell interviews survivors of the Holocaust; murder-victim's families; crime victims; suicide survivors; and those who've experienced homelessness, disasters, addictions, depression, death, divorce, disabilities, defeats and disease to explore the rare mindset of the post-traumatic thriver. The result is an informative, insightful, instructive study that will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in mental and spiritual health, parenting and relationships, and healing/recovering from physical, mental, or emotional trauma. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Post-Traumatic Thriving: The Art, Science, & Stories of Resilience" is also available in a paperback edition (9780996793193, $19.95) as well as in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: Randall Bell, PhD, ( is a sociologist and economist who specializes in disaster recovery projects. No stranger to how harsh the world is, Dr. Bell has consulted in more tragedies around the world than anyone. He was retained for the World Trade Center, Flight 93, Sandy Hook, BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test sites, the Northridge earthquake, OJ Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey, Heaven's Gate, and hundreds of other cases. He has been retained by the Federal Governments of the United States, Canada, and Australia to help resolve numerous crises, and his work has generated billions of dollars to rebuild damaged communities. Dr. Bell's investigations have taken him to 50 states, and seven continents. Having met with countless victims, he earned the nickname of Master of Disaster. In every case, Dr. Bell observed the emotional consequences and how some fared better than others. He was inspired to put his unique research skills to work and study the cycle of trauma.

The Munich List
Alton Brunswick
Addison & Highsmith Publishers
c/o Histria Books
9781592111794, $29.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Steffie Shroeder has a quiet, normal life and is weeks away from graduating military school as an officer in Munich. Her world is, however, brutally shattered when a badly wounded black man gets in her car in the parking lot of a mall. Suspecting he is in trouble, she sets to raise the alarm but when she sees his gun pointing at her and the riddling of her door with bullets from his assailants, she backs the car up and takes off.

The man gives her a black envelope, credit card, and instructions. He alerts her that her military ambition is over once seen together before dying moments later. The envelope contains information on Jeurgen, a Nazi looter who runs to the US and makes a name for himself. Only one person knows his identity and he is determined to silence him. Her task is to reach a man in California, the recipient of the envelope.

Her life takes a twist as she is pursued by men determined to get the list back quietly. Declared terrorist and wanted, she fights a network intent on keeping her in Germany and succeeds, only her will keeping her alive as she overcomes another scare in California.

Critique: A completely riveting action/adventure that will have a special appeal to readers with an interest in crime thrillers, "The Munich List" by novelist Alton Brunswick is a fully absorbing read from first page to last. While unreservedly recommended for community library Suspense/Thriller crime novel collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Munich List" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Ghana, Alton Brunswick is also the author of "Mt Asford Bridge". Before becoming an author he wrote screenplays, some of which he has novelized. He received a BSc(Hons) in Civil Eng from the University of Sci & Tech, Ghana and an MA in International Business from the University of Northampton, UK. He worked briefly as a graduate engineer in Birmingham and a Math tutor at a private Senior High School in Ghana. He fondly remembers his love for action movies as being the reason why he decided to become a writer. (

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Murder on a Hawaiian Note: Blood On the Beach
Shelley Glodowski, author
Shelmyst Publishing
9798888314166, $14.99, PB, 214pp

Synopsis: In "Murder On a Hawaiian Note," novelist Shelley Glodowski's 5th title in her Murder, Mayhem, and Music contemporary mystery series, we find that Sam and Ian and baby Connor George are in Hawaii to attend the wedding of Sam's cousin Anni Cassidy and Ian's cousin, James Temple.

Ian's father, Nate Temple joins them for the wedding along with his former wife, Brenda, with whom he had recently reconnected. Nate encounters an unexpected plea for help from an old friend, Professor Ben Johnson, but before they can meet up on the beach for scuba diving, Ben is found murdered.

The mystery solving family is involved up to their eyeballs in a swimming murder plot that connects to multiple darker undercurrents, with international implications. Once again Sam and Ian find themselves working with the feds, assisted by their newly married cousins, Brenda and Nate, and a growing cast of friends and fans.

Solving this conspiracy related murder tests mystery skills both new and old, as Sam and Ian balance parenting responsibilities with sleuthing talents, relying upon the gracious support of Grandma Brenda and Elise Stratton as well as mystery solver accomplice Dr. Henry Young, an old professional friend of Nate's whose help in solving the mystery surrounding the death is invaluable. Networking with contacts at the University of Hawaii plus local and national law enforcement officials further tightens the net of the fusion mystery solving team.

The reader is drawn into a beautiful island setting for weddings and celebrations while racing towards the definition of the murder plot conspiracy, which is vast, evil, and chilling. Short chapters and logical procession of plot points are illuminated by exciting glimpses of white supremacists' international plots and plans for chaos. Action races towards a conclusion and thanks to a combined team effort, the plotters are identified and captured. In between are more than a few breathtaking moments of suspense contrasting with beautiful descriptions of an Eden like setting.

The author's experience of life and travel in the South Pacific underlies much of the scenic descriptions in "Murder on a Hawaiian Note." For those who choose to live in a colder climate, here is a satisfying, entertaining book with promise of yet more celebration to come as Nate and Brenda contemplate once again tying the knot and relationship they began so long ago.

Critique: Original, entertaining, and of special appeal to dedicated fans of 'whodunnit' mysteries, "Blood on the Beach" is recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "Blood on the Beach" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Medieval Plants and their Uses
Michael Brown
White Owl
c/o Pen & Sword Books
9781526794581, $42.95, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: Plants were an essential part of medieval life. Most people lived in houses made of wood and thatch, which often accidentally burned down when they cooked their food or huddled over wood fires to keep warm. People wore linen clothing dyed with plants. They drank ale, cider and wine as they danced to music played on wooden instruments. Beauty, love and seduction could all be made easier with a few herbal preparations.

If you became ill, plants provided many of the cures. The unwary may have mistaken a poisonous plant for one that was good to eat, with fatal consequence. Others may have used the poisonous plant to remove an unwanted rival. Some plants had magical properties. The mysterious mandrake could kill anybody who tried to dig it up without taking the appropriate precautions. Demons could be summoned or dismissed by the aid of plants. The church used powerful incense to clean the air and induce a sense of religious euphoria.

With the publication of "Medieval Plants and their Uses", Professor Michael Brown provides a broad introduction to the plants that were used during the medieval period. With many colorful photos, a list of plants that were available and some original medieval recipes to try, you can set out on an adventure to explore the wonderful world of medieval plants.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "Medieval Plants and their Uses" is an extraordinarily informative and invaluable contribution to personal, professional, community, and academic library Medieval Studies collections in general, and Medieval Medicine curriculum studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Medieval Plants and their Uses" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Brown ( is Professor of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews. His main research interests centre on the political society of Scotland c.1250 - c.1500 and on the relationships between the various communities of the British Isles during the same period. He has published studies of the practice and ideology of royal and aristocratic lordship in Scotland.

Romania: Landscape, Buildings, National Life in the 1930s
Kurt Hielscher, author
Olga Goga, contributor
Ernest H. Latham, editor
Center for Romanian Studies
c/o Histria Books
9781592111725, $59.99, HC, 342pp

Synopsis: Originally published in 1933, "Romania: Landscape, Buildings, National Life in the 1930s" by Kurt Hielscher is an memorable and impressive volume of historical photographs depicting the life of Romanian people in the interwar era.

In 1931 Kurt was invited by the Romanian government to visit the country. "As time went on," he said "every day, every week I loved the country more." It was a love that grew throughout 1931 and 1932 and resulted in over 5000 photographs of which 304 were finally selected for this album. Unfortunately in 1944, an Allied bombing destroyed his life's work after hitting his workshop in Poland. He lost over 40,000 photographs and negatives.

"Romania: Landscape, Buildings, National Life in the 1930s" is a photo album that recreates Kurt Hielscher's work and brings an homage to the love and appreciation he showed for Romania. Featuring over 300 black and white and sepia photographs, a colorized cover, a preface from Octavian Goga, and an introduction by Ernest H. Latham, Jr., it's a precious and unique collection that will have a very special appeal for anyone interested in the history of 20th Century Romania.

Critique: It is a delight to simply browse through this compendium of captioned duo-tone historical photographs. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99), "Romania: Landscape, Buildings, National Life in the 1930s" will prove to be an enduringly prized addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Photography and Photo History collections.

Editorial Note #1: Kurt Hielscher (1881-1948) was one of the most famous German photographers of the interwar period. He was renowned for his books portraying various countries of Europe. (

Editorial Note #2: Octavian Goga ( was born in Rasinari, near Sibiu, on 1 April 1881. He attended Eotvos Lorand University and was a Romanian politician, an active member in the Romanian nationalist movement in Transylvania, a poet, playwright, journalist, and translator. His most popular books include Poezii, A Prayer, Ne cheama pamantul, and Cantece fara tara. He died on May 7, 1938, in Ciucea, Romania.

Editorial Note #3: Ernest H. Latham, Jr. ( is an American historian and diplomat. He served as the American cultural attache in Romania between 1983 and 1987. He is the author of Timeless and Transitory, and numerous articles and reviews about Romania. He edited and reintroduced Athene Palace by Countess R. Waldeck, republished in several editions and translations. He revised the entries on Romania for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, edition 2000. He was a Fulbright Professor in Romania, at the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, and at the University of Bucharest.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Art of Danger (John Kite Book 1)
Stuart Doughty
Independently Published
9798640841268 $9.99 paper
B087NPQGZT, $0.99 ebook, 298 pages

The Art of Danger is an enjoyable fast paced introduction to a series of stories about John Kite, a PI that specializes on the recovery of stolen art. The complex tale is about a minor painting that has been offered back to the insurance company for a fee. Kite is about to purchase the painting when the sellers are murdered and the painting re-stolen.

Against all reason this minor painting sends Kite into a lethal search that seems to entail a possible Middle Eastern war.

The Art of Danger takes the time to develop the characters and build up the complex details of the plot. The investigation is well thought out. The only minor weakness in the story is the high tension action ending. The end doesn't fit with the balanced storytelling of the previous 250 pages.

The Art of Danger is an easy recommendation to anyone interested in the mystery/thriller genres. Its story development would even thrill those who normally only read cozies. Your only real danger is that you will immediately check out the next book in the series.

Galactic Thunder (Iron Hammer Book 1)
Cameron Cooper
Stories Rule Press
9781774383414, $19.99 paper
B08VFHJ3GT, $5.99 ebook, 267 pages

Galactic Thunder is a well written space opera. It has a satisfying mix of high tech and alien species. There is nothing unique about the story but it does have a satisfying twist at the end (although there are frequent hints about the twist within the story).

Danny is trying to take a break from saving the galaxy when her ex, Dalton, shows up asking for help. Dalton's son, Mace, is missing. His wildcat ship, Ige Ibas, has gone dark.

Danny pulls together a group of her old friends to find the ship and Dalton's son. Her friends include a self-conscious ship and some of the leaders in the galactic arm. Their small group stumbles upon marauding slavers with unique tech threatening their corner of the galaxy. Can this small group win against the organized marauders from the next arm of the galaxy?

Galactic Thunder is an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys space operas. It hits all of the key points that make a good opera. It is an introduction into a series so you could easily get lost in the continuing saga of Danny and her friends.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

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