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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 1 January 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Art of Reading
Jamie Camplin & Maria Ranauro
Getty Publications
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1682
9781606065860, $34.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Jamie Camplin is a Cambridge-educated historian who retired in 2013 from a distinguished career as Thames & Hudson's editorial and then managing director. Maria Ranauro studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art before joining the publishing department at the National Gallery, London, where she was responsible for the visual content of a number of seminal exhibition catalogues. She is now a senior picture researcher at Thames & Hudson.

Together they collaboratively address the question of why artists love books in the pages of "The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books in Paint", a profusely illustrated volume that takes this tantalizingly simple question as a starting point to reveal centuries of symbiosis between the visual and literary arts.

First looking at the development of printed books and the simultaneous emergence of the modern figure of the artist, "The Art of Reading" appraises works by the many great masters who took inspiration from the printed word. Bringing together more than one hundred paintings that include books as part of their subject matter, this lively and companionable survey examines how the book became the single most ubiquitous feature of our cultural lives and, in large measure, of everyday existence.

"The Art of Reading" deftly weaves together an engaging cultural history that probes the ways in which books and paintings represent a key to understanding ourselves and the past. Paintings contain a world of information about religion, class, gender, and power, but they also reveal details of everyday life often lost in history texts -- and all the more so when books are depicted. Such artworks show us not only how books have been used and valued over time but also how the significance and practice of reading have evolved in Western society.

Featuring work by artists from across Europe and the United States and all painting genres, "The Art of Reading" deftly explores the two-thousand-year story of the great painters and the preeminent information-providing, knowledge-endowing, solace-giving, belief-supporting, leisure-enriching, pleasure-delivering medium of all time: the book.

Critique: Beautifully produced, impressively informative, as thoughtful and it is thought-provoking, "The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books in Paint" is a unique and extraordinary study that is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated bibliophiles and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community, college, and academic library collections.

The Common Law Inside the Female Body
Anita Bernstein
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107177819, $99.99, HC, 300pp,

Synopsis: In "The Common Law Inside the Female Body", Anita Bernstein (an American tort law scholar, with expertise in feminist jurisprudence and legal ethics) explains why lawyers seeking gender progress from primary legal materials should start with the common law. Despite its reputation for supporting conservatism and inequality, today's common law shares important commitments with feminism, namely in precepts and doctrines that strengthen the freedom of individuals and from there the struggle against the subjugation of women. By re-invigorating both the common law (with a focus on crimes, contracts, torts, and property) and feminist jurisprudence, "The Common Law Inside the Female Body" is a highly original work that anticipates a vital future for a pair of venerable jurisprudential traditions.

Critique: Specifically written for academics, gender equality activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in understanding how the common law delivers an extraordinary degree of liberty and security to all persons (women included), "The Common Law Inside the Female Body" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Common Law Inside the Female Body" is also available in a paperback edition (9781316629185, $34.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.00).

No Thanks, Simon!
Donald W. Kruse, author
Donny Crank, illustrator
Zaccheus Entertainment
9780999457139, $14.99, PB, 56pp,

Synopsis: "No Thanks, Simon!" is the hilarious yet heartwarming picture book story about a toddler named Simon who makes Dennis the Menace look like a choirboy. But he's only two years old --- how bad can it be? What could possibly go wrong with a jar of peanut butter; finger paints; scissors; a mouse; a snake; a can of worms; a trumpet; a giant, man-eating cricket; or a ghost --- in the hands of Simon? Plenty!

No wonder Mom and Dad and Simon's 12-year-old sister try to avoid him like the plague. Unfortunately for the sister, one Saturday morning Mom and Dad decide to do some shopping and order Simon's sister to stay home and babysit Simon. Say what? Immediately she throws herself on the floor, wrapping her arms around Dad's ankles, pleading with Mom and Dad to let her do the shopping instead---anything to keep her from staying home alone wth the dreaded Simon. But Mom and Dad are no fools. They know their rights (and their authority) and they walk out the front door, leaving the poor girl behind ... with Simon!

Instantly the misadventures begin with Simon locking himself inside the bathroom. Uh-oh! Do we hear water running? Young readers ages 4 to 10 can join the fun and try to keep up as Simon leads us (and his sister) through one fast-paced antic after another, eventually ending up in the attic, face to face with an angry ghost who scares the daylights out of Simon's sister. But that ghost is no match for Simon, who steps in and saves his sister in a way that only Simon could do.

Critique: "No Thanks, Simon!" by author Donald W. Kruse combines a story told in verse with Donny Crank's lively and colorful illustrations. The result is an original and delightfully entertaining read from first page to last. It should be noted that "No Thanks, Simon!" also features a foreword by child actress Jeanne Russell and an introduction by legendary comedian Marty Allen, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library extended picture book collections.

A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty
Mimi Matthews
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526705044, $22.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: Women's clothing changed dramatically during the course of the Victorian era. Necklines rose, waistlines dropped, and Gothic severity gave way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings. Sleeves ballooned up and skirts billowed out. The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-molded corsets cinched women's waists ever tighter.

As fashion was evolving, so too were trends in ladies' hair care and cosmetics. An era which began by prizing natural, barefaced beauty ended with women purchasing lip and cheek rouge, false hairpieces and pomades, and fashionable perfumes made with expensive spice oils and animal essences.

Using research from nineteenth century beauty books, fashion magazines, and lady's journals, Mimi Matthews brings the intricacies of a Victorian lady's toilette into modern day focus in "A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty".

In the process, she gives readers a glimpse of the social issues that influenced women's clothing and the societal outrage that was an all too frequent response to those bold females who used fashion and beauty as a means of asserting their individuality and independence.

Critique: Mimi Matthews writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine.

Very nicely illustrated throughout, "A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty" is arguably Mimi Matthew's best historical treatise/history to date and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library English Victorian History & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.77).

Love All: A Romance
Rachel Spangler
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941370, $16.95, PB, 275pp,

Synopsis: Throughout her long career, professional tennis player Jay Pierce has been burned by both players and the press. She's learned the hard way that she can trust no one and nothing, especially her own judgment. So, when she undertakes one last career comeback, she knows the only hope she has to redeem her legacy is to go it alone.

Sadie Larsen knows virtually nothing about the world of professional tennis when her daughter, Destiny, breaks onto the women's tour at the age of 17. Sadie learned everything she needed to know about single parenting on her own, and she knows she can do the same now that the stakes are higher than ever. All she has to do is stay laser-focused on protecting her family of two.

Neither Jay nor Sadie expects the path ahead to be easy. The only thing neither woman had prepared for is each other. As Jay and Destiny fight their battles on the court, Sadie and Jay fight their attraction off it.

Critique: An original and superbly crafted romance by an author with a genuine flair for deftly crafted and memorable characters expertly woven into a narrative driven story of unexpected twists and unforseen turns leading to a dramatic conclusion, "Love All: A Romance" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of romance enthusiasts that "Love All: A Romance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.00).

Divine Dog Wisdom Deck
Barb Horn, author
Randy Crutcher, author
Teresa Shishim, illustrator
EnlightenUp, LLC
9780998897301, $18.99, Cards,

Synopsis: Dogs reflect the truth in human hearts while revealing our inner wisdom. A dog's honesty teaches us about life as they are naturally forgiving, joyful, loyal, and live in the present.

The team project of Barb Horn, Randy Crutcher, and featuring the illustrations of Teresa Shishim, "Divine Dog Wisdom Cards" is specifically designed and intended to inspire, delight, and entertain while offering meaningful guidance for daily life.

Comprised of 62 unique cards portraying universal themes such as Passion, Purpose, Balance, Cooperation and more, this canine themed 'wisdom' deck and its accompanying guidebook offer users a fun yet deeply insightful and stunningly beautiful work of the heart.

Critique: Unique, exceptional, eloquently expressive, meaningly thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Divine Dog Wisdom Deck" is truly exceptional and unreservedly recommended, especially to the attention of anyone who has a canine companion of their own.

Let Me Tell You My Story
Twila Bird, editor
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781641700498, $29.99, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Over the course of two years, a group of award-winning photographers, filmmakers, painters, and writers trailed and documented the flood of refugees pouring into the West from the Middle East and Africa, recording the refugees' firsthand accounts of who they are and what made them refugees.

Spare, haunting, utterly magnificent, and profoundly human, "Let Me Tell You My Story", compiled and edited by Twila Bird, is an inspiring collection that creates a portrait of the greatest humanitarian crisis of modern history.

From the pregnant mother in the dusty warehouse-turned-refugee-camp in Greece to the emaciated child in a mud-filled tent in Bangladesh to the lone Sudanese crouched under an overpass in Italy -- the people inside this remarkable volume of exquisite photography and stories of resilience teach us that the surest way to draw humans together begins with the words "I want to tell you my story . . ."

Critique: An extraordinary collection of extraordinary lives lived out in extraordinary circumstances, "Let Me Tell You My Story" is a compelling read and one that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. A unique and outstanding contribution to our contemporary national discussion over refugees and immigration, "Let Me Tell You My Story" should be a part of every community and academic library collection in the country.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

A Lady in Havana
Ashley Morgan
Gatekeeper Press
9781642371420, $9.95,

A Lady in Havana is set in Havana in the late 1950s and captures the culture and world of an era where elegant rich folk visit busy casinos run by gangsters despite government instability.

Dimple Duncan is a Southern belle helping her husband gain a business deal with the government in Havana, but when she meets a handsome Latin lawyer also involved in the effort, things begin to go awry.

However, to call A Lady in Havana a romance story alone would be to do this novel an injustice; for it's just as much about differing cultures, politics, and perspectives as it is about a proper Southern gal entering forbidden territory in more than one way.

As the story progresses, readers are treated to a good dose of Cuban history as Dimple encounters Fidel Castro at the early stages of his political life through her law firm beau. Because Dimple has no idea about Cuban culture, history, or politics, her journey is one of discovery that carries readers into this culture. No prior familiarity with any aspect of Cuba is required in order to follow Dimple where few Southern belles of her time ever thought to venture.

When the pendulum swings towards Castro, it carries Dimple into new territory that challenges her preconceptions, her mission, and her life. Dimple is not just in love with Roberto, but with her husband; and that poses a conundrum as she visits Cuba, relishes her time with Roberto, yet knows she will return to her old life despite having broken her vows.

Investments in time, love, and money change everyone as Roberto assumes a more important role in his old friend Fidel's life and a host of characters with their own special interests enter the fray of change.

On one level, A Lady in Havana is a romance; but as Dimple's eyes are opened wide by her experiences, it becomes so much more. Readers with an affinity for Cuban history and culture who are interested in international business pursuits that wind into affairs of the heart will find A Lady in Havana a moving and educational pursuit. It's a cut above the leisure beach read one might anticipate from its title, and assumes literary strength as it progresses from US soil to overseas entanglements.

Brass Ring
Stephen Rife
Perago Press
9780998382104, $TBA

Students of film history interested in changing forms of cinematic presentation and how they have evolved over the years will find plenty of history and food for thought in Brass Ring: Achievement, Error, and Amendment of the Hollywood Blockbuster; but it should be warned that this in-depth survey represents no light overview. It provides an in-depth, critical examination of film changes from analog to digital; examines changing viewer experience as a result of these departures; and considers the differences between traditional and modern productions.

Readers will ideally be college-level students or serious film critics and scholars who will appreciate Brass Ring's outstanding attention to detail, which demands no less than complete attention, a film background, and critical thinking skills from its audience.

Chapters are peppered with black and white still shots and open with an astute observation: that film is currently at a crossroads, facing the choice of either becoming a form of mass art or being regulated to private screen productions.

Is mainstream cinema to be viewed as an entertainment form alone; or a form of protest, art, or social engagement? Can its current pop trends, format, and content be ascribed to Hollywood manipulations, technological advancement, artistic or social endeavors, or consumer demands? And can viewers and film producers at all levels contribute to the evolution of a greater screen culture, or is the form itself experiencing and reflecting a cultural crisis?

These and many other considerations mark a weighty and thought-provoking analysis that delves into the foundations of modern perception and production alike. Brass Ring is not the kind of production that lends to amateur pursuit. It demands a higher level of critical, analytical, artistic, philosophical, and social thinking from its readers, and requires the kind of background that a student of the arts will have firmly in hand.

Those with such experience will find that the heady blend of film history, critical analysis, and social inspection weaves an account that moves between past and present cinematic experience as it selects quotes from industry professionals and movies, considers past, present, and future forms of cinematic expression, and delves into the underlying historic technological, social, and artistic influences upon both producer and audience.

Using cinema's recent transition from analog to digital formats as a transition point, Brass Ring considers the extent of mainstream cinema's evolutionary process, building a case for why modern times represent a more crucial juncture to the survival and future of cinema than in the past.

In many ways, Brass Ring operates as a mirror between commercial interests and pressures and cultural reflection, considering such various facets as digitalization's attempts to reverse aging in actors, the illusions and dangers of CGI and CG representations ("One's appearance at a given moment or stage in life isn't simply a matter of height and the tautness of skin, but of the complexity of that person's body in all its elements, in how these elements interact, within the body itself and in relation to its environment, visibly and invisibly, in the immediate sense and over extended periods. A world of dynamic materiality therefore stands against such effects - a materiality that viewers, particularly older viewers, are well aware of."), and how classic Hollywood principles of continuity, economy, and balance actually function in today's cinematic environment.

In other ways, Brass Ring's wider-ranging approach represents a departure from classical film analysis structures because it also considers the digital revision of classic films and film projects undertaken along with the writing of this book. These seek, through concrete projects supporting this analysis, to cement the connections between film commercial interests and cultural reception, response, and change.

At times, it feels like an overwhelming amount of information is provided. Time will be required to not just read through the wealth of information, but to properly absorb its critical perspectives. Specifics regarding medium choice, presentation, form, and contrasts between new technology and past devices provide thought-provoking scenarios that film students will find accessible and intriguing: "We often hear of movement being expressed in sculpture, but if a publicly displayed work is static (except for its decay by weather and other extraneous factors), how is this movement achieved? The simple answer is by movement elsewhere, at other moments, in objects and three-dimensional space that in some manner correspond with the piece at hand. The same applies to medium and form."

Perhaps the heart of the unique impact of this consideration lies in Stephen Rife's own active participation in the revisionist process in the projects that accompany this analysis. It is in his own notes reflecting on his cinematic effectiveness in light of new objectives that makes his book such a powerful, singular presentation: "If my alterations to the commercial materials were narratologically "true" to the films (i.e., if the alterations do not focus on mood, music, color, composition, etc., at the expense of narrative logic/legibility; as, for instance, an experimental short based on the same materials might be), and these alterations were subtle to the point of being undetectable (without the aid of ready comparison with the sources), then what could be admired as new, apart from a more convenient running time? Where is the achievement of the revision, if it says nothing - if no distinct voice is heard in critique, reflection, or repurposing? My only response to these questions was to reference the expository function of this book (at the time a work in progress). I argued that the revised 'Rings must be considered in the context of recent developments and trends in film, if it were to have any value beyond itself. A book, this book, might provide such a context. One could of course write a recent history of cinema unfavorable to consumer-authored, fundamentally reactive/derivative work, and the accountant's history of commercial cinema, with its many decades of hits, sleepers, flops and blockbusters, seems destined to disfavor film art in its finer expressions - more so fan art, however fine. Odds are therefore against this project's success, on the public screen it requires."

Students, contemporary film producers, critics, and industry analysts will find it's worth the time and effort to read Brass Ring's 700 pages of dense, reflective history, analysis, and insight. By couching its wisdom in real-world efforts, productions, revisionist approaches, and cinematic observation, Brass Ring offers a rare opportunity to formulate an informed protest against the trends of modern cinema in lieu of passively watching and accepting its demise.

Jo M. Sekimonyo
Venus Flytrap Press LLC
9780990867456, $3.99/Kindle,

Ethosism is a pragmatic map to revolution that avoids the usual routes of linking itself to an 'ism' (i.e. socialism or communism) and comes from a self-proclaimed non-conformist of Congolese roots with ideals bred in America and steeped in intellectual purpose and analysis.

The first thing to note about Ethosism is its attention to social and political detail that combines autobiography with close social inspection using an often-passionate voice: "...once I reached dry land, my saneness and veracity did not make my life easier. I was always hunted down like a witch by mobs of sophists and anarchists. They sought to castrate and then burn me on a cross for my public plea to get rid of capitalism and my enmity for socialism and communism. I have come to expect that even people whose beliefs differ from strict economic orthodox views and Islamic economics shenanigans will find my voice to be exceedingly radical, but heresy?"

Jo M. Sekimonyo's narrative is powerfully written as he surveys basic principles of power. While better editing would have produced a smoother, more accurate presentation, what is lacking in grammatical preciseness is offset by a strong voice that clearly outlines issues of race, class, economics, and politics: "Individuals who see all the arguments for the free-market become blind to the arguments against it. To break the poor solidarity and to canonize moneyers, the new breed of slave traders has kept up with their mission of exorcising emotion out of people head. These deductions leave out the fact that sympathy toward the less fortunate is the human traits."

Some of Sekimonyo's perspectives neatly capture the Millennial perspective of the value of labor and the current system: "By lumping the poor together, poor countries in one pile, every side propaganda machine was able to paint out and sell stories of tragedy and triumph. The hoi polloi sleepwalked to a factory and performed a limited number of tasks. For their pathetic contribution, they received a minimal means for remaining in existence until their productivity mileage ran out. After what they were sent home with a bouquet of flowers to wait for the impendent death. The cycle made life a pointless charade."

The ideals and rise of an alternative system which is posed and identified in Ethosism is worthy of not just intellectual discourse, but classroom debate and attention from students of social, political, and economic systems. Ethosism offers a different perspective on business and society, with revenue and wages receiving top billing in contrast to capitalism's focus on production. Its possibilities as a new, socially-based revamp of economic and social perspectives will especially be welcomed by new generations who view the current system as flawed, repressive, and tainted by greed.

Driven: An Oaktown Girls Novel
Suzanne Falter
New Heights Publishing
9780996998130 $12.99 paperback, $4.99 eBook

Driven is an Oaktown Girls novel that provides glimpses of urban life and connections, and is recommended reading for those who would absorb the lives, motivations, and impacts of women who operate outside of the norm.

It introduces Tenika, a dreadlocked and driven Oakland, California woman with a reputation as being "The Fixer" of broken things. Perceiving herself as a "life engineer," she stays true to her reputation and fixes many things around her.

Not only are Tenika and her neighbors busy reinventing themselves, but so is her world - sometimes with results that are less than effective, she thinks, as she observes a new business that holds mixed messages: "Six shiny, new massage chairs were lined up in front of the window. Behind them, a space barely recognizable as a garage sported gleaming painted concrete floors, impeccable lifts, and, yes, even a sushi bar off to the side. It looked more like a dealership than a garage. Or, hell, even some high-end boutique hotel lobby. There wasn't even a single greasy tool lying around. In fact, there wasn't a tool in sight at all. Tenika wondered where they kept them. Above them, the sign said it all: Mindy Rose's All-Star Garage and Sushi Bar The Garage with Class."

As Tenika's own Driven Garage (woman-owned and woman-powered; once a draw for the community's lesbians, but now fading in the face of glitz and glamour offered by a high-end competing garage offering sushi and chair massages) involves a number of women in Lizzy and Tenika's dilemmas, readers gain a range of insights about the San Francisco Bay Area's changing culture. Readers already familiar with the area will especially relish a story that excels in this broader conflict between Driven Garage and nemesis Mindy Rose's All-Star Garage and Sushi Bar. These business and personality clashes serve as a microcosm for a broader community-wide changes and struggles, making the story much more than a singular survey of women's lives and dreams.

This is the unexpected heart of a vivid story that doesn't just capture two women at the crossroads of their own business and personal transitions, but a community on the cusp of values changes. It's just one of the reasons why Driven stands out from most other novels centered in the Bay Area.

Its intense focus on women's lives, the pressures of changing business environments, Kate's delve into Mindy Rose's special brand of reality and the cost of seven years of devotion to Mindy's driven dream ("Kate had been firmly in the Mindy Rose micro-bubble for so long she'd forgotten about the rest of life."), and the costs of sacrificing a race car spotlight which requires Mindy to hide her lesbian persona create a multi-faceted, engrossing story that moves from individual and couple conundrums to broader questions about the changing alternative community in the East Bay.

Readers receive a lesbian love story, a tale of players in right and wrong games who come to realize their true strengths and desires, and a series of insights about the fearless pursuit of dreams and where ambition leads.

Driven's ability to highlight and immerse readers in Oakland's culture and social pressures both within and outside of the lesbian community make it a powerful production highly recommended for readers who want a purposeful sense of place, values, and changes in their fiction.

Trials and Trails: Adventures and Unexpected Discoveries of Life
Jim Halverson
Gail Force Publishing
9781732619401 (paperback) $14.95
9781732619418 (Kindle) $4.99

Trials and Trails: Adventures and Unexpected Discoveries of Life is set in the Reconstruction era of American history and tells of LeRoy, a black cowboy who faces prejudice in the West and who chafes under restrictions so numerous that he must select which injustices to safely confront. Johnny B, a young Sioux Indian, is similarly challenged by prejudice against his people. The two seem an unlikely duo for navigating the uncertain, changing Western frontier, but in Trials and Trails, their similar experiences actually create a bond that helps each to traverse the changing landscape of their times.

Readers expecting a light story of cowboy experiences and trail adventures will find Trials and Trails surprisingly thought provoking because it mixes social and political concerns into its story of frontier life.

From a basic description of the politics of an Indian and a black man eating with their fellow cowboys after a day's hard work ("Inside, mother and daughter also questioned Able's decision. "Do we have to serve them in our house?" "Yes. Your father said we should.") to their attempts to inject self-respect and value into their revised lives, LeRoy and Johnny B. find themselves not just on the trail, but facing legal challenges and a range of people who influence the course of their lives.

Light moments of good-hearted attempts to bring helpful attitudes into this world are peppered throughout ("Johnny B didn't know what or why, but he was pleased to be helping."), but while they may seem innocuous points, their overall effect is to highlight how the two move beyond their roles in life and the forces of injustice to effect positive changes in the world around them.

Options, changing directions (both physical journeys and psychological changes), good causes, and attempts to bring better results into a sometimes-chaotic world of murderers, preachers, and gold-diggers makes for a frontier story that takes many unexpected twists as it follows LeRoy and John's evolution.

Trials and Trails is a Western novel that moves far beyond the usual trail encounters and trappings of the old West to probe the process of individual efforts to overcome prejudice and make their communities a better place. Western readers seeking more ethereal messages from their frontier settings will relish a story that is both astute in its observations and hard to put down.

Root Cause
Steven Laine
Turner Publishing
200 - 4th Avenue North, Suite 950, Nashville, TN 37219
9781684422593, $19.99 PB, $19.99 Kindle
9781684422609, $32.99, HC, 368pp,

Mystery and thriller novels typically don't delve into wine industry operations; but Root Cause is an international thriller firmly rooted not just in the wine industry, but in author Steven Laine's personal familiarity with the wine business; thus including a slice of reality above the usual mystery genre approach.

Corvina Guerra harbors dreams of making a success of her family's vineyard in her native Italy; but when she visits the area, she discovers the vines are infested with the grape-killing Phylloxera blight.

As a 'flying winemaker', Corvina is used to troubleshooting other winery owners' vineyards and production challenges. What she isn't used to is an issue that strikes too close to home, and which leads to a discovery about her employer, Universal Wines, that could threaten not just a few vineyards or her own dreams, but the entire worldwide wine industry.

Readers of Root Cause should ideally have an interest in wines, grape-growing, and the politics of international grape industry management as well as an affection for stories of intrigue that surpass the usual whodunit murder or espionage focus.

From the economic impact of a worldwide wine industry collapse (hoarding, inflated prices, counterfeit wine) to multinational company involvements, CEO interactions, sommelier Bryan Lawless and his special knowledge of wine auctions and industry operations, and Corvina's ability to join her winemaking expertise with his background in viticultural history, chapters of investigation are nicely tempered by realistic industry encounters, operations, and threats.

When action moves out of the boardroom, Covina confronts a possible betrayal by her own boss and discovers that she already holds the keys to saving wine and lives through her special perceptions and actions.

Root Cause is as much about industry politics as it is about the roots of manipulation and greed. These elements combine with an exquisite flavor of special interests and hints of deadly consequences to create a multifaceted, engaging thriller that's hard to put down.

Hidden Colours
Nillu Nasser
Evolved Publishing
9781622537839, $15.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 300pp,

Hidden Colours profiles an immigrant circus in Berlin which operates year-round and which is designed to represent and bring together immigrants and Germans in an innovative, positive manner.

Ellie is drawn to these immigrants and their special lives and needs, but her passion for its presence and intentions is in direct conflict with her newspaper job, which vehemently opposes it and requires her to go against her nature in reporting it.

Yusuf is a Syrian refugee who has found a new community, opportunity, and hope in the circus environment; but when violence breaks out, both his position and new home are threatened.

As Ellie's work stands at the crossroads of fear, rejection, and assimilation conflicts, she finds herself a possible lynchpin in representing not just an incident which fuels the fears of anti-immigrant groups in Germany; but in the hopes and dreams of refugees who have escaped one form of repression, only to discover others in their new, possibly temporary home.

In many ways, there is no better time for the appearance of Hidden Colours, with its themes of intolerance, repression, prejudice, and communities clashing with each other as they assimilate immigrant newcomers. The stage is ripe for this story of different perspectives, desires for safety and community, and the issues posed by immigrants who are viewed as threats, and Nillu Nasser does an exquisite job of reflecting this environment and the social and political forces at work among all groups.

Precarious situations are balancing acts in more ways than one and the underlying concerns of immigrant and German characters alike are deftly and clearly explored in a story that adds psychological and social depth to political dilemmas.

The result is an engrossing portrait of clashes between cultures, shared bonds and points of contention, and how Ellie and Yusuf reconcile their lives with the impact and influence of changing social situations. Steeped in the cultures and flavors of Berlin, it's obvious that Nasser's story contains a personal familiarity and affection for the city's structure and peoples as well as many insights on xenophobia among and outside of immigrant groups. The issues surrounding refugee integration processes and descriptions of experiences and clashes of different cultures thrown together are astute, and result in new perspectives and challenges. The long journey faced by all isn't just about arriving in a new place: it's about making it home.

Any fiction reader interested in immigrant experiences and issues will find Hidden Colours the perfect vehicle for assimilating the passions, purposes, and disparate visions of all sides.

The Learning Project: Rites of Passage
Lincoln Stoller
Mind Strength Balance
Print: 9781775288008, $24.95
ebook: 9781775288015, $8.99

Distributors: Ingram, KDP

The Learning Project: Rites of Passage reinvents the basic concept of becoming human and growing from life learning approaches, collecting interview stories from those who have adopted different approaches to this evolutionary process, as outlined in The Learning Project.

Discussions of mind/body healing and psychology too often tend to become singular as they represent accounts from subjects all too similar in their perspectives. One of The Learning Project's strengths lies in its focus on dissimilar individuals who come from diverse walks of life, cultures, and backgrounds, who arrive at similar results and key decisions through very different paths.

From artists and psychologists to scientists, medical professionals, everyday blue collar workers, and sports personalities, these individuals provide stories on how to take control of life. The individuals interviewed for this book were each asked three basic questions: What are the most important things you've learned, how did you learn them, and what do you hope to accomplish?

Their answers illustrate different approaches to and perceptions of success and failure and offer a blend of philosophical, psychological, and spiritual insights that help pinpoint the roots of effective, life-changing lessons. As individual as these insights might be; together they serve as a blueprint especially recommended for readers embarking on their own lifelong growth process.

The format of The Learning Project is particularly notable. One might expect an interview structure, but Stoller also includes black and white photos of each subject, an introductory history of their lives, and concludes interviews with notable roundups that help readers hone in on why each person is exceptional, as in the example of the interview with the late Jerome Lettvin, a university professor and a famous neurophysiologist, engineer, and psychiatrist: "... you're asking me how I go about things. I go about things in a way that has nothing to do with what universities teach. It's very different from what universities tell you to do, what teachers tell you to do. You make it up as you go along, and god knows how it comes out; you don't know...I'm a garbage picker-upper as a mode of science: I focus on the garbage truck. I look at the parts that others choose not to pay attention to. It's interesting the number of things that are not paid attention to... absolutely astounding."

Another subject, Nancy White, has ADD and remarks on how her learning abilities, albeit different from the norm, were powerful avenues to individuality and achievement: "My purpose was set in the womb, and my purpose was learning. That's always been my identity. I'm interested in so many things, and my ADD contributes to that by giving me this open focus in which everything catches my attention. I want to know about everything, and I want to do it. As I went to school I found that I didn't function like everybody else. My learning was unique and my thoughts were unique. Luckily this was in a world before the classrooms were large and the teachers were impatient. It was before they thought teaching had to do with how well you did on a test. I wanted to be constantly engaged and stimulated, and my ADD expressed itself by my talking and interrupting."

The Learning Project is no droll compilation of student experience, but a thoroughly engrossing exploration of the kinds of learning that stem from a blend of personality traits, life experience and challenges, and different approaches to how adversity is handled.

Anyone interested in the actual mechanics of lifelong changes, success, and growth will realize that The Learning Project offers an unprecedented, invaluable key to achievement that no growth-oriented learner should bypass.

Zimbabwe Falcon
David Maring
9781543945836, $17.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 318pp,

That Zimbabwe Falcon is written by an author who is a historian is quite evident by his focus on the rich history of an ancient civilization, the Great Zimbabwe, built by black Jews. The British Rhodesian Pioneers took control of a nation that had seen Zulu rule for only sixty years, when they took it from the Shona tribe. The roots of these conflicts are deeply fraught with tribal struggles that aren't just limited to history, but continue to influence Zimbabwe's rule and struggles to this day.

Zimbabwe Falcon employs the drama and characterization of fictional characters in portraying the evolution of the nation, but stays true to historical facts as it surveys colonial times, families, and communities, contrasting three different cultures facing changing social, political, and economic conditions.

It would have been all too easy to choose a singular path to portray these events; but David Maring's attention to historical precedent and his depth of detail affords a deeper inspection of all facets of these cultural clashes and entanglements, crafting a story that involves journeys, confrontations, battles between warriors and families, and more.

By juxtaposing individual and family experiences with those of leaders, decision-makers, and special interests on all sides, Maring creates a multifaceted read that moves from Cape Town to Bulawayo and beyond, providing a close inspection of Rhodesia, a "place of divided loyalties."

Readers looking for a vivid historical novel that brings together past, present, and future influences on Zimbabwe politics and processes will find Zimbabwe Falcon rich in historical precedent and observation, and will savor its attention to how the nation evolved under many hands, despite ongoing clashes.

Awakening Within
Chris Hawke
Space Age Publications
9780692151181, $14.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 148pp,

Awakening Within: The Journey Back to Love and Freedom of Choice: A Conversation Between Dimensions provides a more thoughtful ecological view of life than most, maintaining that the notion of human beings somehow being elevated above or separate from other life forms is an illusion based on ego.

In fact, the reality is that 'life is within itself' and humans who awaken to these connections will find new possibilities within them that reinforce balance, relationships, and a sense of self based not on individuality, but upon a reawakening of human consciousness and world connections.

As Awakening Within undertakes this journey of connection and revision, readers are treated to a both the author's symbolic memories of his own awakening journey and a new philosophy of being based not on disconnection and separation, but the interconnectedness of all. In this new arena of awareness lie new opportunities that begin with a revised history of how humanity was 'knocked out' from its purposes and connections for thousands of years. It's a proverbial Garden of Eden castaway story revised, where the notion of separation and the power of belief affect reality itself.

Chris Hawke doesn't just attack the artificial notion of division and separateness in the human psyche: he offers tools for achieving balance, reclaiming both individual and society-wide acceptance of 'oneness', and keys to opening doors to revised opportunities based on changing one's relationship with oneself.

At each stage, Hawke surveys metaphors, belief systems, and the journey using a series of question-and-answer sessions designed to address reader skepticism in a succinct manner. This makes it easy to absorb potentially complex ideas.

One example of this back-and-forth dialogue: "Physical reality is not real? Again, not in the way you mean it. It may indeed seem solid and real to your senses, but it is still, nonetheless, a projection of your consciousness...I'm dreaming, aren't I? Yes, you are. You are within your own imagination, as I have said. That's what a dream is, after all - a creation of the imagination. What will happen when I wake up? That is why I am here with you now. To help you awaken to your true Self so that your life can be as you imagine and believe it to be - consciously. You will discover for yourself that what you focus on and believe to be true for you out of infinite possibility is what you'll find and experience."

Readers who have absorbed the Seth-channeled discussions between Jane and Seth may find an aura of familiarity in the tone of these dialogues, which provide accessible information in a manner all readers can easily understand.

Awakening Within is not a blueprint for awakening as much as a road map based on Hawke's own journey. It will require an inquiring mind willing to closely examine and contemplate the routines of life, reality, and purpose in order to prove a successful guide to something greater than a singular life.

Those interested in spiritual examination and a blend of autobiography and inquiry will welcome Awakening Within for its thought-provoking discussions of connection, disconnection, the polarity of life, and methods of real personal transformation. It's highly recommended for the inquiring mind who wants to follow the path to a higher consciousness and, ultimately, a new age for self and humanity as a whole.

The Crowns of Croswald
D.E. Night
Stories Untold
9780996948654, $10.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle
9780996948630, $24.99, HC, 320pp,

The Crowns of Croswald will appeal to readers ages 9-12 who like solid fantasy, strong female protagonists, and tales of magical realms. Ivy Lovely has lived her sixteen years unaware of the magic inside her, consigned to the role of a drudge, working the kitchen with dragons. When her own powers begin to emerge, she discovers strange new forces afoot outside the Halls of Ivy, a school designed to help hone magical abilities and protect those within from the dangers of the world.

Young adults will enjoy this complex world where dangers lie beyond the magical barrier that has protected Ivy all her life. There are dragons and a myriad of strange creatures, royalty, different stones that produce magical connections, and a different form of magic that stands out from other young adult fantasies.

D.E. Night crafts a rich world filled with interesting characters, special interests, and a feisty young protagonist new to many concepts of the world around her, and this draws in readers with an easy hand despite the potentially confusing complexity of such a rich tapestry of images and backgrounds.

In order to build such a world, details are a necessity: many of them. Young readers seeking a quick adventure read might at first chafe at the depth of description and the many characters and subplots running through The Crowns of Croswald. There is also more than mild similarity to the Harry Potter series; but rather than being a detriment, these just lend to the story's appeal to Potter fans craving more than the Potter background, because Ivy diverts from Harry in many different ways even as her adventures and encounters are just as full-flavored.

Not all potential avenues are fully explored, here. A hint of possible romance, for example, is unrequited between friends. This means that some developments simply don't happen the way readers might anticipate, and this is another plus to the story: its many unpredictable choices. Ivy thinks she "didn't do anything" when in fact her choices and actions mean she is doing so much more than anyone around her believes possible. Nonstop action and confrontation power Ivy's quest in a manner that makes The Crowns of Croswald nearly impossible to put down and a compelling young adult fantasy that excels in all the trappings of a fine quest/magic saga.

Ivy is a believable protagonist who evolves from drudge to heroine, confronts a set of challenges to her awakening powers and possibilities, faces down a Dark Queen whose evil affects the world, and makes a seeming-futile attempt to save Croswald before it becomes buried in deception.

Fans of Harry Potter who want a read-alike that is both similar and divergent in its structure and world will relish The Crowns of Croswald as an exciting, challenging magical adventure whose greatest asset is the story of a young heroine whose courage and daring powers a compelling journey to not just save the world, but discover herself.

The Crowns of Croswald: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow
D.E. Night
Stories Untold
9780996948661, $12.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 384pp,

The Girl with the Whispering Shadow is the second book in the series and is especially recommended for prior fans The Crowns of Croswald. This is because D.E. Night creates a rich, complex world whose foundations are nicely laid out in the prior book, and those with this foundation will find renewed and easy access to the events befalling Ivy Lovely on her latest quest to locate the last pieces of the Kindred Stone which will save Croswald from the Dark Queen.

In this surprise sequel, Ivy finds her destiny lies not at the school she loves, but in the secret town of Belzebuthe. At this point, her quest becomes two-fold: to find the rest of the Stone and save the world, and to return to her beloved Halls of Ivy school. At this point, these seem to be impossible goals.

Ivy's nightmares about the Dark Queen's threat spills into her walking life as she is charged with new tasks, reunites with the now-older Fyn, confronts her feelings about her own growth and mission, and tackles a mystery that returns favorite characters to the foreground and adds new challenges.

Obviously, Ivy has matured, but her journey of self-discovery is no less vivid in this sequel. It's this growth process and journey which fuels the magical action and encounters with good and evil in The Girl with the Whispering Shadow, which really comes into its own as Ivy confronts more trouble, is deemed "strong even though she is small," and confronts a school curse that began the prior year and has gained in strength.

As Ivy comes to grasp the Stone itself and realize its long-hidden truth, so she begins to realize her own powers, her resources, and the ultimate consequences of her actions.
Once again, the story is directed to ages 9-12; but many an adult who appreciated Harry Potter's stories and who also seeks a story spiced by a feisty young protagonist's journey will find that The Girl with the Whispering Shadow gives Harry a run for his money both with a complex, involving, believable background story and in a tale that is filled with action, revelation, and satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns.

Ivy is growing up; and she's bringing her readers along for the wild ride into maturity, magic, and achievement.

Audrey's Magic Nine Book 2: The Pencil and the Dream
Courtney Huddleston and Michelle Wright
Penny-Farthing Productions
9780999170922, $14.95 HC, $2.99 Kindle, 144pp,

Young Audrey Hinkle is on a quest to locate nine magic puppets to defeat a queen in another realm in this middle grade fantasy story. The Pencil and the Dream is the second book in the series, continuing her explorations with a tale that works well both as a sequel to the first adventure or as a stand-alone read.

First, it should be noted that this novel differs from other fantasy reads in many ways. It's told in over a hundred pages of full-color graphic illustrations that will appeal to kids who like visual embellishment to accompany their stories; it features a dynamic black female protagonist whose grit and determination fuels an epic story of achievement; and it holds many underlying messages about perseverance, creative problem-solving, unconditional love, and broader issues that embrace the well-being not just of the protagonist and her circle of friends, but all around her.

Audrey is not just a 'do-gooder' but is a savvy child able to perceive the underlying motivations of others and the problems these may represent: "...Tabitha and Jonathan will be sooo disappointed in me." "Oh lass, I know they're good people, but I think they run you ragged just to impress their "friends"...and by friends I mean a pack of jackals. Nasty critters."

Humor and wisdom runs alongside Audrey's quest as events unfold and lead to questions about her choices, motivations, and those of both realms who help her both willingly and because they've been compelled to ("I do not know you, yet you have awakened me into a world of cruelty.").

Another note is that many of the action panels are wordless, leading young readers to fill in blanks and draw connections between words and actions and results which need no text to prove evident and obvious.

With the magical Asa in tow, Audrey romps through her quest and brings young readers along for a colorful, action-packed ride.

The Pencil and the Dream is a fantasy that holds many powerful attributes, especially the colorful cartoons that draw attention to a story that neatly moves beyond a fantasy quest alone to delve into issues of understanding, ethical behavior, choices and consequences, and kindness to others.

Advanced elementary to middle grade fans of the graphic novel format will relish the many levels of magic in Audrey's journey, which pairs beautifully-drawn art panels with a story steeped in truths and much food for thought.

Lara's Story
Diane Merrill Wigginton
Jeweled Dagger Publishing Company
eBook ISBN: 978194614609 $7.99
Paperback ISBN: 9781946146908 $19.95

19th century Irish lass Lara Flannigan seems firmly rooted in her home, surrounded by loving family; but when tragedy strikes, she embarks on a journey that leads her to another country, family, and a life that crosses not only oceans, but social class.

Becoming a high-society Philadelphia girl holds heartbreak as much as opportunity as Lara is forced to shed her childhood connections to assume a role she doesn't quite fit into: the new daughter of a posh couple.

In Ireland, Lara notes: "Our days were long and our lives were hard, but our nights belonged to us. I never knew life could be anything other than what I had experienced. My world was very small in those days, so I never missed the things I didn't have." America is quite different, however, and she arrives at her new home at age 13 as a grieving, disillusioned child angry about her losses and changes. She doesn't view America as an opportunity, and because she's been transplanted as a blossoming teen, she'll hold memories of the 'old country' all her life: "Oh, I have everything a person could ever desire. Enough food to ward off hunger for a lifetime. Good health, a beautiful home, fashionable clothes, and the love of my family. I truly have every comfort one could want at my disposal, yet still, I long to recover the missing pieces of myself torn from me the day I left my native land of Ireland. A loss that can still be keenly felt whenever I lay my head down upon my pillow at night. And even though I am far from familiar old haunts, I swear I hear the land beckoning to me in my dreams, calling from across the ocean, summoning me home to the cliffs of Dunmore Head on the westernmost shores of Ireland. Closing my eyes now, I can still recall the smell and taste of the breeze on my tongue and the tangy feel of her salty sea air as it mixes with the sweet scents of wildflowers growing on her craggy cliffs..."

As Lara opens a Pandora's Box of memories for her fiancee, she invites readers to enter the panorama of her past, present and future. This unleashes a treasure trove of experiences that embrace both personal challenge and evolving American and Irish history.

Lara's Story is a young adult historical fiction read well steeped in the cultures and young challenges of two evolving nations which come together in Lara's immigrant experience. Diane Merrill Wigginton excels at bringing this world's sights, sounds, smells, and texture to life through Lara's eyes, lending a personal touch to historical events that includes astute observations of social classes, differences, and struggles.

In 1840, Lara has a foot in both the common lives of ordinary people and the elevated experiences and expectations of her adopted family and world. These clashes and contrasts make for a vivid story line powered by personal perspectives. Lies, truths, love and death, and the wrenching choices of poverty which lead to secrets and closely-held passions create a vivid, memorable saga that readers of all ages will find hard to put down.

Spiced by spunky Lara's determination and challenges, Lara's Story offers up a treasure trove of immigrant experience from both countries, weaving them into a vibrant tale that is evocative, thought-provoking, and nicely steeped in the cultures, economics, social issues, and history of its times.

The concluding section of 'True But Interesting Facts About History' will especially delight teachers who choose Lara's Story for its combination of historical insights and leisure reader appeal.

The Sojourners
T.L. Hughes
Outskirts Press
9781977201744, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 322pp,

The Sojourners is a sequel to Searching for Paradise, but it should be noted that no prior familiarity with its predecessor is required in order to appreciate the characters and continuing story of Mike Hogan, Decky Brady, and Luke Coppens, who are still pursuing dreams of music video fame.

Michael Hogan narrates his story of lost love, revised perspectives, dreams broken and renewed, and a journey from America to London using a wild blend of cultural observation and revelation reminiscent of Kerouac's On the Road. From Britain's music video production business and England's disorienting cultural differences to a group of friends who take a chance on making their dreams come true with a one-way ticket to a strange new world, the observations and challenges of "the sojourners" comes to life through vivid passages.

As the group experiences 1980s London street culture and embarks on a journey through Europe, their travels are punctuated with poetic interludes capturing their process of awakening: "As I sleep, I awaken./When I awaken, I sleep/I am spirit eternal/While life's river runs deep."

Revised plans sometimes involve "losing the safety net of friends," creating more risks undertaken in the course of a journey that ultimately questions goals, belief systems, and the mercurial changes life brings: "Perhaps I would sleep on the street somewhere. Maybe I shouldn't have turned down Larry Tate's offer of a place to stay, after all. My situation turned from happy to sad, past the stroke of midnight."

From youth hostels containing their own odd cultural clashes and milieus to encounters with various personalities and different countries, Mike and his gang's experiences are always presented with vivid descriptions of atmosphere and place, which are one of the strengths of The Sojourners: "It was a mad, windy morning in Ios. It brought tears to my eyes as we all stepped out into the day. "This damn wind would blow a dog off a chain!" Barry shouted as the four of us ventured down the long road through town. We would spend the next two days on and around the little coved beach."

People interact, grow apart, come and go, and develop romances, connections, and shared experiences as The Sojourners moves through revised dreams into realms that challenge not just professional and artistic visions, but their views of life itself: "Why worry about anything? What's the absolute worst that can happen?" Terra had said on that first anxious night in Turkey. For she believed that even when we die, we go on living."

Readers seeking an evocative, thought-provoking romp through the psyches, atmospheres, and 1980s cultures of Europe will find The Sojourners a compelling, revealing story that stands nicely alone while complimenting its predecessor.

How the group members change both collectively and individually from these interactions and experiences makes for especially vibrant reading. The "whys of life" are considered by a young protagonist who sees his future as a series of changes as he solidifies what he does and does not wish to keep from a myriad of opportunities and challenges.

Lasting Happiness
T. M. Hoy
Pan Media
P.O.Box 41132, Tucson, AZ 85717
9781732791909, $2.99, Kindle,

Lasting Happiness: Secrets of the Heart, Mind & Spirit Revealed offers a step-by-step blueprint to creating a better, richer life, making a clear statement of intentions in a foreword that leaves no room for doubt about the book's focus: "Your actual needs are few, and in your heart you know what you really want in life. But that's not what you work towards every day. You ignore the quiet inner voice of your true self. Instead, you listen to the much louder voices of your loved ones, of advertisers, and those in power, who push very different visions of what brings happiness. Your inner self tries to remind you of what matters, telling you the suggestions of those other voices lead away from your deepest desires. But you listen and follow them anyway, because of the benefits they give you, ignoring the costs. And so you fail to find happiness."

It would have been all too easy to proceed with a set of text instructions, but T.M. Hoy's tools and techniques for building a better life rest on visual photos that embellish a blend of how-to, historical, physiological, and psychological insights, pairing these with personal details of the author's own experiences.

This blend of approaches reinforces the concepts being presented, emphasizing lessons on everything from methods proven successful at bringing love into life to managing relationships with self and others and encouraging new experiences and connections that promote flexibility and expand one's capacity for love.

As readers move between admonition, scientific research, and psychological revelation, they begin to understand the unique approach of Lasting Happiness as a blueprint to not just survival, but for thriving.

There is a difference between existing and purposeful, joyful living. Hoy brings this disparity to life through examples, references, and identifying those factors and approaches that create flow, excellence, and revised perceptions of reality and possibility.

Lasting Happiness requires not just an open mind; but one committed to change. Its readers will range from new age to psychology and self-help students seeking to expand the possibilities of love and fulfillment in their own lives.

An index, extensive chapter notes and bibliographic references, and concluding discussions linking personal transformation processes with planet-wide social issues makes Lasting Happiness a powerful message highly recommended for anyone who would change the world, beginning with their own lives.

The American Duke
August Jade Sterling
Strategic Book Publishing
9781948858281, $16.50, PB, 286pp,

The American Duke: Crossed Lines, Twisted Faith is set in the 1800s just after a British decision to exert diplomatic pressures on American slavery dovetails with the reunion of two brothers separated by distance and estrangement.

Because the Sixth Duke of Westmoure's future and fate is tied with his transplanted American brother Avery, he makes efforts to influence the abolishment of slavery in America, a move which will favorably affect his brother and his unusual chosen wife.

The Duke is successful at passing a British legacy to his American brother, but this is just the introduction to the challenges the family faces when a British-American lord who has inherited his brother's title also has a wife of another color and a son from that union.

A murder spree challenges everything when this mixed-blood son inherits a role previously reserved for the lords and ladies of British society. On the surface, Britain has refuted American slavery and prejudices; but underneath, its own social and class wars remain prevalent. The notion of a mixed-blood duke defies many traditions and perceptions of nobility and sets off a chain reaction that tranforms ideals and reality alike.

The American Duke does an outstanding job of considering the motivations, perceptions, and special dilemmas of all involved. As its subject expands from Avery, his brother, and their legacy to other outcasts of society who face their own prejudices ("Joycellyn was curious about these people. They were warm and eager for them to become a part of the family. Did they mean it? Didn't they know what she was? Of course they did. They didn't seem to care. As a child of an unwed woman, she was the outcast and was labeled all that was unholy. But the Duke and his family were Negroes. The old duke had told her how Negroes were treated in America. Were the indignities Negroes endured like that of being a bastard? The question hung in the back of her mind."), The American Duke introduces a cross-cultural dialogue. This leads readers to more closely examine their own concepts of history, social connections, and the roots of prejudice and decorum, on many levels.

Fueled by the reports of Society News, events move from murder to social propriety as the characters embark on their personal voyages of discovery: "Before now, she'd never realized how abnormal life was for those who were mixed blood. For those in America, it meant you didn't have choices to do what white Americans did. You didn't count. Here in England, no one cared what you were, unless you were an aristocrat. Bloodlines, purity of lineage, antecedents, that's what counted."

The American Duke contrasts reports and perceptions, crimes evolving from dangerous games, issues of social acceptance, and questions revolving around the "sanctity of the aristocracy."

Vivid in its twists and turns of plot, which toe the line between historical novel, comparisons of American and British social prejudices and perceptions, and struggles to fit into changing worlds, The American Duke offers a warm study of 1800s society on both sides of the pond. This focus is fueled by characters who skirt some major questions about the aristocracy as they search for romance, meaning, and acceptance.

Fans of historical novels, British romances, and stories of slavery will relish the depth and events that make The American Duke a compelling read.

The Black Cloud Blues
Christine A. Emery
Koehler Kids
c/o Koehler Books
9781633938199 (soft cover) $16.95
9781633938212 (hard cover) $24.95
9781633938205 (eBook) $3.99

The Black Cloud Blues is illustrated by Kellie R. Emery, who brings to life the dark story of a youngster who feels a 'black cloud hanging over me' which he inherits from his father, who got it from his dad. This 'cloud of doom' has passed through many generations; but the uplifting message here is that the cloud can be lifted. But, how?

As the young narrator reviews why positive thinking is so elusive and considers some of the many worries which keep that black cloud active, young readers receive an enlightening account of which efforts can thwart the cloud and why some just don't work.

"Woe is me!" the character cries as his various creative approaches fail. When he encounters a savior that actually can make a difference, a lighter, brighter story emerges that, while a fantasy, offers hope and a real-world approach to ending depression and negativity.

Adults and kids who share this story will benefit from a tale that doesn't deny the strength of depression; but offers a way out. The lively format and realistic descriptions stay true to real life, embellishing just enough to provide entertainment as well as enlightenment. Adults looking for insightful and involving psychology reads to share with the very young will find this survey of confronting depression to be compelling, educational, and fun all in one.

J. Mercer
Bare Ink
Paperback: 9781732133242, $12.99
ebook: 9781732133259, $4.99

An 8-day Alaskan cruise hitting some of the state's top attractions may seem ideal to adult passengers; but perhaps not to teens Navy, Isaiah, and Jesse, whose parents drag them along for the ride. Each teen holds resentments about the unwelcome voyage, but when a series of thefts occurs, they fall under suspicion due to both their youth and their obvious rebellious attitudes.

As chance encounters turn into camaraderie, shared adversity, and an uncertain friendship, the teens become investigators to clear their names, only to uncover a string of events that extends beyond simple pilfering into dangerous territory.

Truths, lies, and acts of self-preservation riddle the trio's movements and choices, highlighting the investigative operation and the events that unfold aboard the ship.

It should also be noted that although the main characters are teens, Triplicity should not be limited to young adult audiences. The depth of characterization, flavors of romance, adult confidences ("I drank my day away, and I plan to drink my night away. If I'm lucky, I'll drink this whole vacation away, and then maybe I'll be okay with what I'm going home to."), and alternating viewpoints keep this story lively and involving for all ages.

From its elements of intrigue to its daily exposes and challenges, Triplicity is an engrossing chronicle that is recommended for mystery and thriller enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy strong, proactive, often rebellious teen protagonists more than capable of taking matters into their own hands.

The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke
Keith Thye
Classic Day Publishing
9781598492538, $18.95,

The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke is the first book in the projected trilogy and introduces the character of Rusty, a frugal writer with two books to his name who experiences a midlife crisis at age 37 when his muse dries up. Obviously he needs some new experiences outside his usual quiet life to re-charge this muse, and so he sells what he owns and embarks on a road trip, leaving the culturally stimulating San Francisco to return to his Portland, Oregon roots.

That's the basic story, but what evolves is a lively romp through the ironies and inconsistencies of life as Rusty opens his tale with an unusual dilemma that leads him away from everything he's built: "Rusty Kenneficke was lost. Or at least his car was. He couldn't find it. Driving from his home in San Mateo to San Francisco, he always parked under the same building on Market Street, down the ramp to the fourth level. Where was the car, and who was in his space? Did someone steal it? Probably not, because he had the ticket, and a thief would have needed to pay the maximum to get it out. Plus, it really was not worth stealing."

As Rusty reflects on the path that has led to this place in his life, readers receive a combination of biographical background and reassessment of the process of finding that final 'home run' influence that will carry his prior publications to new success. His publisher believes in his capability ("...we don't know each other that well, but I do know that you have talent. It's buried deep down in there somewhere."), but can't finance a roadmap to tapping this creative muse. It's up to Rusty.

And so the journey begins, including readers in a sometimes-elusive search for inspiration that begins with Rusty's dream/solution ("I'm going to move out of my apartment," Rusty replied, "sell my car, buy a motor home, and travel the West writing about the people and experiences I meet along the way."), is spiced by his editor's skepticism of this approach ("That's not an idea - it's a pipe dream. Not the idea of taking off - that sounds like something you might come up with - but the idea of finding a story out there in the wilderness is. "Tell you what, Rusty. You go find your story, write it, and then bring it in. If it's worthy of our time and money, we will publish it. But there will certainly be no advance on a non-story. We have yet to make any serious money on your books, and I'm in no position to front you on this escapade."), and becomes a road trip not just to find inspiration, but to discover himself.

Keith Thye has revealed that the wellspring of this novel comes from his own experiences and choices. This personal familiarity pairs nicely with autobiographical roots lending consistency and realistic elements to a fictional life journey that many readers will readily recognize in themselves.

From lack of purpose and inspiration to a form of restlessness that leads to taking new risks and handling misadventures far from familiar routines, tasks, and choices, The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke isn't just about a road trip gone awry; but about a middle-aged man searching for revised meaning and newfound connections with family and friends.

The result is a powerful self-examination that draws readers into the prospect of self-assessment, travel, and the wellspring of inspiration and creativity. It's a story that begins with Rusty's seemingly-impulsive decision which nobody will fund or approve and which emphasizes the idea that Rusty's choices impact those he encounters: "Christ, Rusty, ya got a real problem with life, don't ya? Yer probably more a screwup than me. How could ya have all them troubles in such a short time? Ya know, I'm not sure I should associate with ya myself. Yer just bad news."

Who hasn't felt this way at some point in their lives? More importantly, what can be done to change this perception?

The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke isn't just a comedy about a road trip gone awry: it's a parable for self-discovery, and is a satisfying beginning to a trilogy covering where life will ultimately lead. Novel readers who like a combination of comedy and thought-provoking reflection about creativity and change will welcome this story for its lively characters and the ironies of a road trip that challenges one man's set course in life: one which will either make or break his ultimate dreams.

The Captive Girl
David Nees
9781790386864 $TBA pbk
B07KYVF3WC, $0.99 Kindle,

The Captive Girl is the third book in the Dan Stone series, and continues to offer thriller and suspense readers an exceptional read. Evangeline, the heroine in this story, has lived with the presence of security in her rich world for all of her life. She's also lived with the notion of 'horrors in the basement' which have cost her mother's life on the day that begins this story, but successfully makes her long-planned escape through a tunnel that releases her to Zurich and the world.

The very next chapter introduces the son of a billionaire Saudi businessman who has inherited both the family's wealth and a commitment to Islamic terrorist activities. Rashid instigates bold moves to insert terror into Western lives. His latest big plans are his most decisive yet.

And then there's Pietro, hired to rescue Evangeline and kill the man presumed to have kidnapped her. Missing for two years and only recently located, Evangeline seems in need of rescue and revenge is in the wind. The problem is that Pietro is personally charged with a mission he wants to farm out to a third party.

Dan Stone arrives in the middle of these special interests and events. His work as a professional sniper involves striking targets from afar; but this latest mission will immerse him in close encounters he isn't prepared for, as a cat-and-mouse set of experiences challenges even his extensive training and familiarity with missions.

As The Captive Girl alternates perspectives, experiences, objectives and events, readers are treated, again, to a multifaceted thriller that requires no prior familiarity with Dan Stone's persona or prior missions in order to prove satisfying.

The degree of complexity in these evolving situations keeps readers on their toes as the story creates satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns. As Dan struggles with locating and preserving a missing ledger packed with key information; managing a team consisting of Dan, Jane, Marcus, Warren, and Evangeline; and facing treaties, international espionage, and the surveillance challenges of tracking terrorists, he encounters situations and people who may or may not support his charge to locate terrorists like Jabbar and take them down.

The dilemma of a possible romance which pairs Jane with a paid assassin who happens to be her own employee completes a spicy, action-packed read that promises to keep readers guessing about outcomes, motivations, and connections right up to the end.

Extreme Prejudice
Dharma Kelleher
Pariah Press
Paperback ISBN: 9780979173059 $12.99
Ebook ISBN: 9780979173042 $5.99

Extreme Prejudice provides the second book in the 'Jinx Ballou, Bounty Hunter' series, and will attract political thriller and crime story readers to a saga that revolves not only around Jinx's pursuit of a killer; but her confrontation with her own past and near-death trauma as a teen.

Confronting one's assailant in the course of pursuing a different case would seem an unlikely coincidence, but Jinx's life is packed with such ironies. Suddenly, she's charged with not just tracking a murderer, but bringing two men to justice.

Because Extreme Prejudice does such a terrific job of focusing on Jinx's double challenges both to rectify her personal life's ongoing traumas and complete her professional tasks, the story provides a multifaceted set of circumstances which then develop to embrace bigger social issues and experiences than Jinx's activities alone.

The second thing to note is that Jinx's personality and reactions are very well detailed, linking her choices, responses, and special life challenges to the evolution of her psyche: "I should've gotten over all this shit years ago. My love for Peyton. His father's brutality. And the deep wounds they both had caused me. It was so pathetic. I thanked the stars Conor wasn't there to see it. A part of me wanted Conor to hold me. To reassure me that I'd get through this. That I was tough. And yet the thought of moving in with him triggered feelings of claustrophobia. His place wasn't just a house, it was a bunker. A real bunker. A place of hiding. A place where he was hiding. And what was I hiding from? Why didn't I want to move in with him? Was I worried he'd cheat on me as Wilson had?"

These moments, with their thought-provoking insights, not only create a deeper understanding of Jinx's world, but they contribute to the evolving series of events that allows readers to understand how and why Jinx is flummoxed by her latest experiences: "Memories of the shooting flashed in my mind. I kept hearing the one shooter shout "Fucking fairies" before the turmoil began. His voice sounded familiar. I'd heard it before and recently. I just couldn't place it."

As she navigates through explosive situations that test body and mind, Jinx must summon all her background and resourcefulness to understand her unique situation of loving a wanted man, and all the implications this holds for her career and choices.

Readers familiar with Jinx through her previous adventures won't be disappointed by her latest conundrums, while newcomers will find the feisty, determined, and resourceful bounty hunter woman to be a compelling protagonist whose realistic dilemmas and personal challenges are as involving as her professional tasks.

Extreme Prejudice is highly recommended for prior fans and newcomers alike. It's a gripping thriller about a survivor's confrontation with both her training and the elements that make her human. The action-packed scenarios don't quit, right up to the story's unexpected, satisfying resolution.

The Warrior
Andy Palasciano
Garden Oak Press
9781732375314, $15.95

All veteran teachers have gone through substitute teaching years, so Andy Palasciano's incidents and encounters in The Warrior: Tales of A Substitute Teacher and Job Coach will well resonate with the experiences of many. But, wait: what is that 'job coach' reference tacked onto the title? This is what elevates the memoir The Warrior to more than another teacher's story, because it tackles much more than adolescent angst and instructive conundrums.

Palasciano actually faces two problems: wanting to be liked by his students, and a spiritual crisis that thwarts many of his efforts in life; teaching included. It's the spiritual aspect of his journey that's charted here, and which leads to his new identity as a job coach.

The road to that unexpected career is laced with humor, gratitude, growth, and observations about the process of learning and changing, bringing readers along for the uplifting, challenging ride. The message is clear and illustrates many thought-provoking moments about the wellspring of instruction and its authenticity. Teachings transmitted with faith-based conviction tend to reach students, while those which are imparted without foundation tend to be refuted or rejected.

Palasciano captures these poignant thoughts and moments with an uncanny flair for not just description, but psychological and spiritual enlightenment laced in more than a light dose of humor: "When I said things that weren't guided by God, the kids would act as though I hadn't said anything at all. I began agreeing with them. Why should they pay attention to anyone but God? I should have listened to other teachers who tried to give me advice on how to control a class. When I first started, a teacher told me, "You can't show fear. You have to believe in what you are telling them."

Fear was all over my face. I refused to bribe the kids with candy bars (one teacher's suggestion), and I couldn't keep threatening them with detention (another piece of advice). "I'm going to give them the choice to listen to me," I told myself, "or run rabid." The kids chose the latter."

Guided by his belief, Palasciano evolves beyond his expectations and perceptions of being a teacher and enters the uncharted territory of life coaching as he hones his skills, tackles his students and his faith, and ultimately arrives at paths which make sense to him.

Identifying those elements that stimulate him are just part of this process, which Palasciano documents with many insights and reflections on the building of life, career, and goals: "I kept trying to avoid boredom. Ironically, thinking a lot withers the mind, while boredom and downtime preserve it. My whole life had been downtime, so being a Job Coach sent my mind into uptime."

From surfing to bailing out, using comedy as a "way to shut doors" and absorbing dreams to represent turning points in life, the author's journey is at once whimsical, memorable, and packed with lessons.

Readers seeking a memoir imparted in a light-hearted, accessible manner that ultimately captures life-affirming methods, movements, and memories will relish The Warrior for its moving account of being lost, finding purpose, and the recurring theme of 'coolness' that permeates a life well lived.

What Luck
Suzanne O'Connell
Garden Oak Press
9781732375321, $16.95

What Luck contains 85 poems that represent a series of contrasts not just in subject, but in tone and style. With such diversity under one cover, it might be easy to say that the result is scattered and not uniform. However, the connecting point to this collection lies not in subject or format, but in Suzanne O'Connell's unique way of tying in seemingly disparate topics to create a broader perspective than the individual writings could have achieved using a more singular approach.

Take the first poem, 'Chances Are', for example. Two mothers are portrayed, sitting in a living room, taking a break from the rigors of parenting. They are not in a bar, and this is a 'slice of life' observed by an stranger outside their window; but their attitudes and life are deftly captured: "The mothers pile up their regrets/like unpaid bills./They want someone to look at them/with stars from the skies in their eyes." The ghostly observer looking through the window ultimately can't discern whether these mothers are being loved or killed by their offspring in this powerfully-written observation of parenting.

Contrast this with the first-person approach of 'Conversation at Musso and Frank's.' Here the observer is also participant, and as the narrator shares lunch with a companion and asks "what kind of train" each can be, she also hones an astute observation of the weight of dreams, reality, and connections.

Each poem offers a contrast in lives and sums up its observations with astute, rich, diverse conclusions. Each creates a dialogue between reader and first-person narrator, and many are complimented with black and white photos that visually embellish some aspect of the poem.

The result is a collection that is ripe in imagery and experience, from a description of a "bucket of sighs" to connections between romantic partners, friends, and strangers.

Poetry enthusiasts seeking descriptive connections will relish What Luck, which operates in a powerfully evocative, visual world that often concludes with especially poignant food for thought: "I wish things were different," he said. "Me too," I said. He thought I meant I wanted to become a better listener."

Yoga for Writers: Quick and Easy Fitness at Your Computer
Taylore Daniel
T.D. Publishing
e-book: 9781988904207 $4.99
Print book: 9781988904191 $18.99

Yoga for Writers: Quick and Easy Fitness at Your Computer addresses a common complaint among not just writers, but those who have desk jobs: the lack of activity and the concurrent dearth of time that lead to an inability to perform typical yoga or exercise regimens.

Taylore Daniel has crafted an alternative that leaves little room for either excuse: a series of yoga exercises that can be inserted into a busy sit-down day at computer or desk.

Daniel observes that "more and more of our lives are automated" and notes not only that "...there's a paradox at work, because the more 'ease' we have in our lives, the more 'dis-ease' we have in our bodies," but that "According to recent studies, 'Sitting is the new smoking.' That is, it wreaks absolute havoc on our health."

With these thoughts in mind, all desk-bound individuals (not just writers) should keep Yoga for Writers close at hand. It offers an alternative that is easy, achievable, and requires no special time commitment, exercise equipment, or prior yoga savvy in order to prove accessible.

Chapters offer not only the anticipated step-by-step written instructions, but include a handy line drawing of the pose being described and introduce each with a "Why do it?" exploration of the pose's benefits.

60-second "micro-break" instructions offer additional instruction on duration, while a peppering of quotes from doctors and professionals reinforce health ideas.

The routines are organized by chapter heading covering health purpose and yoga stance, and each makes the most of 60-second "micro-breaks" that not only improve health, but supercharge the writer or worker's creative impulse.

The result is a book that can be used by any reader, but which is especially recommended for those who want to expand the notion of 'break time' to include productive revitalization.

Yoga for Writers is available on Amazon, Kobo, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, & Nook.

Twilah Hiari
Koehler Books
210 - 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
1633937429, Softcover $18.95; hardcover $26.95;

Because Regression is told from the point of view of an autistic woman and author who struggled with her condition for years before the medical community caught up with her situation and special needs, it should be forewarned that its descriptions and insights will pose a challenge to some readers.

The challenge lies not in understanding, but in the vivid recreation of memories, experiences, and perceptions that form a visceral, immediate series of encounters more heavily laced with description than most accounts of autism: "Miss Teacher was saying something about how Jesus commands us to love everyone like they're our brothers and sisters. I'd been told I had a brother. My mother said the screaming creature in the bayonet was a brother. I only had the vaguest idea of what brother meant. The piercing cries that came from the bayonet made me run outside to hide. I listened to Miss Teacher say how Jesus said I was supposed to love everyone like I loved the creature in the bayonet, but I didn't love that creature at all. It was loud. Its skin smelled like puke, poop, and cigarettes. Everything in the house smelled like cigarettes, but when you put puke and poop smells on top of cigarette smells, it's too much. I didn't want to go anywhere near the creature." This description is just the opening act of an autobiography that represents one of the most starkly compelling accounts of the autistic experience in print.

From her clashes with various levels of work and society ("We've decided not to move forward with your training. You won't be going to the management course in Michigan." My eyes widened. "Whaa - " "You're no longer a candidate for promotion, is what I'm saying. It has nothing to do with you going to the hospital. Nothing at all. We're just changing course with our goals and needs as a company," he added without taking a breath. "We're going to assign your team to Travis. He'll be going for leadership training; you'll be going back to the floor. "You know, you really just have to pick yourself up and get over this. Shake it off. Pull yourself together. I've had problems with anxiety before and I pulled myself together, because that's what people have to do.") to Twilah Hiari's push/pull confrontations with life and self, episodes create vivid portraits of the author's confrontations with therapies, diagnoses, medications, and a medical community that tends to misunderstand and add to Hiari's various life challenges.

From PTSD and cognitive assessment testing to restoring abilities lost during crippling regression processes, Hiari's life is under the microscope - and so is the reader's perception of autism, mental illness, and treatment programs.

The popular notion is that autism is a medical condition independent from environmental and medical influence. Hiari refutes this and other lies as she pursues the process of surviving not just her condition, but the medical community's misunderstanding.

Any reader interested in autism experiences, diagnosis, and life changes must include Regression on their reading list. No, it's not an easy read. It's one to be digested slowly, because it's guaranteed to dispute popular perceptions and snap assessments of autism's reality.

The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum
Al E. Boy
Al E. Boy, Publisher
9781979055529, $14.99 PB,$3.50 Kindle,

The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum returns Fawn and her friends to a second book and a new adventure revolving around a mission to save a magical device that allows Santa to remain ageless.

While this holiday theme and the animal characters would seem to indicate The Ona Pendulum is a read for youngsters, it should be mentioned that its complexity, length (over six hundred pages), and insights lend to its recommendation for all ages; not just kids.

The fundamental concept behind this adventure is Santa's motivation for being who he is and doing what he does. This focus is not only the heart of the inquiry, but provides much food for thought throughout as Fawn and her friends absorb the history of Santa legend and assess the talents of Kris, elves, and a patchwork of problems that challenge Santa's mission and Fawn's efforts to support him.

In a way, The Ona Pendulum serves as a beacon of hope and change as they confront a pendulum capable of redefining the aging process. What is set in motion by a toy maker and a young wizard may soon prove greater than their efforts, with consequences that cannot be reversed: "Before the Ona Pendulum is set in motion you must decide if you want to undergo this change to your lives. I must warn you. It is irreversible. If you do not wish to do so--you must leave now!"

From issues of staying young forever to maintaining the ultimate goal of helping others, Kris and his companions each tackle the special challenges of keeping elves safe and the Christmas spirit intact. A series of tests to the safety of the Ona Pendulum and those who seek to use it create adventures that ebb and flow from one conundrum to another.

Black and white drawings pepper the story and lend to its feel of appeal to children rather than adults; but the story line itself poses adventure, action, and much food for thought, creating a contrast between the characters designed to appeal to youth and the philosophical approaches that will resonate with older readers.

Can people, elves, and animals all live together in peace and harmony? How can Fawn continue to grow in a way that expands her potential and her connections with her community? The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum concludes with questions that will leave all ages thinking long after the possibilities and promise of the Ona Pendulum have been thoroughly explored.

David Maier
David Maier, Publisher
9781522013464, $14.99, PB, 659pp,

Balance is a strong military espionage thriller that revolves around the character of American agent Darick Triplett, who has just infiltrated a North Korean operation in the Middle East, only to find that a massive electrical event has knocked out power not just in Dubai, but the entire region.

Stranded without the high technology Triplett and his team rely on for sensitive communiques, they must garner all their skills to cultivate non-technological ways of reaching out in continued pursuit of not just their original mission, but the world-changing political and military ramifications caused by an outage which affects the world.

Readers will find that the story actually begins not with these futuristic events, but with a prologue set in 1943 in which Nikola Tesla, an important but reclusive man of science, has just died, and his research on a "death beam" technology has gone missing. Several governments consider this research to be of vital national interest, as such a weapon could change the world; but Tesla's research notebooks are lost.

Fast forward to the novel's setting in 2065, where terrorist attacks are a way of life in the Middle East. Dubai has proved a relatively calm oasis in the midst of chaos -- until now.

As Triplett and his team struggle to survive, handle dangerous information, make contact with their superiors, and keep their mission on track when their technological assets vanish, readers are treated to a combination of thriller, post-apocalyptic survival story, and military engagement piece that presents solid action, satisfying twists and turns, and alternating perspectives.

The gripping blend of investigative piece, survival story, political intrigue, and military battles keep the pace swift and involving, while characters are nicely drawn and provide vivid insights into 2065's confrontations between Western and Middle Eastern special interests.

Readers who look for espionage and military action reads that hold more than just descriptions of battle will find the multifaceted, absorbing survival elements of Balance to be captivating as the balance of not only political power but human life on Earth shifts in unpredictable ways.

The Curing Room
Michael Winn
Michael Winn Publications
ASIN: B07KNB3B7S, $8.99, Kindle,

The Curing Room crafts a suspense story strong in psychological foundations and riveting drama, and is a highly recommended pick for readers interested in the trappings of horror with a thriller overlay.

Ava Stassi is spunky, with a bright disposition, a blossoming career as an adjunct professor, and an attitude which is helping her recover from a recent breakup. With trauma newly past, Ava faces tragedy from an unexpected direction and adversity in the name of student Jared, whose actions force her to face her past, the future, and some long-buried feelings.

One of the main strengths of The Curing Room is its ability to cultivate a seemingly linear direction in its story line, only to make quick turns into the unexpected. These choices keep readers on their toes: a special delight in a genre where too many tales hold few elements of surprise.

The blend of horror and thriller is another exceptional approach that makes The Curing Room a winner, along with Michael Winn's attention to detail in character development, plot progression, and atmosphere. Winn knows just how much detail to provide, when to linger and when to run with the story line, and how to draw readers in with unexpected moments that give pause for thought.

From a moving memorial vigil and tribute to the cruelty of love, the worries of parents facing a missing child, and a new professor determined not to "push my career over the edge of a cliff," protagonist Ava faces many choices in just how she will interact with her students, her acquaintances, and adversity. Juxtaposing her dilemmas with the vioewpoint of student Jared provides a fine contrast in personalities, motivations, and impressions and adds depth to an already-intriguing story.

Psychological thrillers have a habit of focusing too intently on the psychology piece; but The Curing Room is an outstanding balance of thriller and psychology, drawing readers not only into a blossoming mystery, but the conundrums Ava struggles with as she considers options and deals with obstacles, only to be stymied by these same choices, much as in a chess match.

Readers of psychological suspense who often eschew the pat, predictable approaches of plot and character of too many other thriller novels will welcome The Curing Room for its edgy, realistic, involving, unpredictable read. Its volatile story not only keeps readers involved, but provides food for thought long after the story's conclusion. In some ways this brings Ava full circle back to the world of classrooms, students, and literary success; but in others, the wisdom she gains represents a divergence and new understanding of her life.

Not So Gone
Charles Levin
Charles Levin, Publisher
9780578417684, $16.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle,

Not So Gone is the new Sam Sunborn thriller that opens with a prologue from the near future about Frank, who reposes in a virtual world of leisure before his nemesis appears to murder him. But if everything is virtual, is he really dead?

This question continues in the first chapter, with the first-person impressions of Sam, who awakens in the same world where Frank is "alive." Sam, too, is dead; but his persona has been uploaded to the Cloud. He is " to ponder the question of returning to the physical world, although I am not living in it now." Although his very existence is theoretical, he's still able to exist (in a manner of speaking) and communicate with the non-virtual world he once inhabited.

This computer-held persona of memories and experiences is about to face its biggest challenge when a real-world psychopath threatens his son and adds a timeline to the efforts of scientist Frank Einstein, who is working on a way to release Sam back into the real physical world.

Who is real? Who is a digital facsimile? Immigration issues, SWAT team actions, global food crises, urban chaos and destabilization, and murder permeate a fast-paced story that is filled with satisfyingly complex twists and turns.

Add the specter of a world-wide disaster, an evil genius called The Cub, and a blend of threats to those Sam loves and to humanity as a whole for a thoroughly engrossing techno-thriller that begins with a high-tech dilemma and maintains a quick pace through terrorist and domestic crime.

Sam's potentially catastrophic failure to prevent attacks and keep The Cub from carrying out his deadly mission is only one highlight in a story that closely considers the sources of terrorist efforts and mental illness, a computer geek's most important task, and the foundations of science and technology as they apply to human psychology and endeavors to survive whatever way is possible.

When death itself becomes an experience to be relived and overcome, what meaning is there to life's battles and goals? Frank and Sam are evolving, and their journey provides riveting food for thought in a techno-thriller supercharged with action, confrontation, and struggle.

The Eclipse Dancer
Laura Koerber
Who Chains You Books
ASIN: B07L3874CV, $12.97 PB, $3.97 Kindle,

Andy's eclipse glasses allow her to view the sun through her personal darkness and the haze of the cigarettes she smokes. She's an adult now, with children of her own; but long ago, she gained notoriety in her small town for being "the little girl saved from aliens."

As an adult, she's lost all connections in her life with friends and family. There are only memories, today, and an eclipse which proves the impetus for memories about her past encounters with something extraordinary.

Although The Eclipse Dancer largely focuses on Andy's memories of what she did right and wrong when she was younger, it shouldn't be considered a read for young adults alone. As she processes a life-changing event that continues to affect her present-day isolated world, Andy captures accounts of trailer park living, a strange old woman who lives in a forest with cats, the truth about her father (who she knows as 'Tom' but who has a different persona, in the form of Ashigan River), and why she's attracted to night and the moon, and other strange facets about her life.

As Andy's story evolves and she delves into her encounters with beings who provide the truth about her family, her special talents, interests, and odd perspectives begin to suddenly make sense.

Readers receive a mercurial story that flows from adult to childhood perceptions and questions, leading to Andy's ethereal dancing, which reflects life itself: "...the cycle of intertwined life and death was an on-going act of creation that stretched backward and forward through time...".

Nature spirits are one expression of this existence, Andy discovers. As she draws connections between her world and another, finds her secret nighttime flying threatened by discovery, and battles with the notion that humans are dangerous, she evolves to think of herself as something neither human nor jiibay. As a hybrid, she must define her own life, its meaning, and its parameters. But even magic and longevity can't thwart death, and as Andy comes to accept the "two devils" of her "North Star and her Southern Cross," readers are treated to a delightful evolutionary story that blends fantasy with a different, broader interpretation of coming of age and growth.

As Andy comes full circle to realize "...that the great cycle was larger than the earth and much, much larger than her," readers will delight in an uplifting stories of disconnect and newfound connections that succeed in providing thought-provoking moments as they probe Andy's unusual origins and her ultimate confrontation with death.

Beautifully written and compellingly presented, The Eclipse Dancer is a winning celebration of life, death, and universal connections in the face of alienation and fear.

The Rigel Affair
L M Hedrick
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684331628, $20.95

Many novels of wartime romance and battle open with predictable scenarios, but picture an initial Huckleberry Finn-type feel of adventure in The Rigel Affair, and then be prepared for more. Its young protagonist faces big changes during his story, which is set in World War II and steeped in the atmosphere and world of both Mississippi and wartime America.

L M Hedrick first builds Charlie's character with an early portrait of the sights, sounds, and smells of his world ("Dry dirt boiled up from the wheels as a steady reminder of that waiting hoe. Timber buildings, lonesome in the vast landscape, stood in a row parallel to the track. The last building was Bill Rogers' general merchandise store, adjoining the Bank of Falkner, with its wide-swept timber porch bearing the hopeful message of Welcome in the break of day."). She takes the time to craft a setting in which Charlie escapes a life of drudgery with his uncle, embarks on a cross-country journey with schoolmate Roxy, becomes a US Navy diver, and finds himself voyaging to New Zealand after Pearl Harbor is bombed.

Hedrick excels at bringing readers along for Charlie's ride, which is replete with observations of foreign lands and infused with national pride: "Hawaii: the very name excited the troops onboard, and the constant bouts of vomiting were soon forgotten as early morning brought the shores of Waikiki rising above the horizon off the port bow. A green land, thick with vegetation, ablaze with hazy pink and chocolate-colored mountains, drastically changed as the ship rounded the corner of Pearl Harbor and slowed to five knots. Charlie ogled the first fleet of battleships that circled Ford Island. The USS California gave reason to their mission. A feeling of respect unexpectedly fell upon him as he stood there in amazement, his eyes fixed on the strength and the size of the battleships. A symphony of whoops and hollers lifted from the decks surrounding him, men proud at the power before them."

Those who expect a quick read may find the buildup and attention to the details of Charlie's pre-war life to be slow precursors to the action; but this is a major attribute of a story which takes its time, resulting in the payoff of depth in a thoroughly absorbing read.

Romance takes an unusual turn as Charlie considers and contrasts different romantic possibilities, but becomes increasingly committed to New Zealand girl Mattie. Torn apart by war, Charlie and Mattie conduct much of their romance via correspondence until Charlie's letters stop, leading Mattie on a desperate search to find him.

Perhaps one reason why their story is so hard-hitting and evocative is that it's based on real-life events. This background, combined with well-researched information about events of the times, lends an authenticity and rich profundity to the story line. Quite often this sense is transmitted through small details: "I saw you looking around with your fork upside-down... not very American." "If you'd like to know," Charlie scratched his head, and tried to act the perfect gentleman. "I eat with my hands. We all do on the ship, I mean. We can't keep cutlery, it's not allowed. Shows up on Jap radar. This is top secret."

Graphic descriptions of battle and other encounters capture scenes and translate to descriptions of romantic connections and military associations alike: "Wipe that smirk off, Kincaid." He twitched his crop. "None of you, and I repeat, none of you, have the balls to become a Navy Diver." He paced and slapped the riding crop against his thigh, "That's my job - to give you balls and turn you into the best. We will soon uncover the pussies." The Chief pivoted again to Charlie, "Why did you come here?" "The Navy's my home." Charlie answered, and promptly wanted to erase the words."

Historical fiction readers who like more than a light touch of romance in their wartime reads will find The Rigel Affair a vivid portrait of the times. Waiting, hoping, dreaming, and struggles to survive on many levels permeate the love story of Charlie, who is torn between two lovers and two worlds. When even an engagement becomes bittersweet, what can mend the heartbreak of loss?

The Rigel Affair is very highly recommended for its blossoming adventure, relationships, and characters who grow, change, and confront their worlds.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

The San Saba Treasure
Written by David C. Lewis
Illustrated by Ricky Blalock
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417357 $19.95 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In 1868, four treasure hunters from San Marcos, Texas, searched for a lost mine on the San Saba River, near today's Menard. It was popularized as folklore in J. Frank Dobie's treasure legend classic Coronado's Children. One hundred and fifty years later, a descendant of one of those four men set out to discover the history behind the legend. This book recounts that search, from the founding of the ill-fated 1757 mission on the San Saba River up to the last attempt, in 1990, to find the treasure in this particular legend. It describes Jim Bowie, a fake treasure map industry, murder trials, a rattlesnake dancer, fortunes lost, a very long Texas cave, and surprising twists to the story popularized by Dobie.

The book will not lead anyone to the legendary ten-thousand pounds of silver, but it will open a treasure trove of Texas history and the unique characters who hunted the fabulous riches.

Critique: The San Saba Treasure: Legends of Silver Creek is an expertly researched chronicle of a treasure hunt that spanned centuries. Extensive endnotes, a bibliography, and an index round out this truth-is-more-amazing-than-fiction saga, highly recommended especially for public library American History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The San Saba Treasure is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Life in History
David Kaiser
Mount Greylock Books
9781732874503 $19.99

Synopsis: A Life in History is the autobiography of the distinguished historian David Kaiser. This remarkable book combines the story of Kaiser's own life as an historian, beginning in the second grade and continuing through his undergraduate education and his 37 years of teaching at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, the Naval War College and Williams College, with a running commentary on changes in the historical profession and their consequences. The book concludes with a discussion of the related crises in the historical profession, higher education, and American public life.

Critique: Part memoir, part examination of the scholarly discipline of history as well as its decline in modern-day America and consequences thereof, A Life in History reflects upon drastic changes in American society. Author and historian David Kaiser has sharp criticism for how the study of history has increasingly become fragmented and concentrated into disciplines that narrowly scrutinize the perception of small, often marginalized groups, to the detriment of furthering human understanding about broad political, societal, military, and economic trends. Furthermore, Kaiser directly links the decline of the traditional study of history and politics with the rise of increased American nationalism, as seen in the presidential election of 2016. A Life in History is insightful, thought-provoking, at times troubling, and highly recommended.

River Queens
Alexander Watson
Orange Frazer Press
PO Box 214, Wilmington, OH 45177
9781939710857, $27.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: The river (any river) is another planet, with its own language, rules, and culture.

"River Queens" by Alexander Watson is the true life story of the unlikeliest of fellows (and a dog) coming to the river and what happens to them once they arrive.

At first glance, it seems to be a how-to manual for any adventuresome (but perhaps foolhardy) type who's ever thought of restoring a wooden yacht and sailing it halfway across the country. Second glance, however, shows that it's a classic travel narrative in which two intrepid (but perhaps foolhardy) explorers head out to tour what is usually called "a distant, alien world".

To Alexander Watson and his partner, Dale Harris, the river is as exotic as any foreign locale they'd previously traversed. There is danger, of course- unpredictable nature, lurking water hazards, quickly rising human squalls but the initial difficulty is language: can they become fluent in the argot of harbormasters, helmsmen, navigators, and the various deck hands, skippers, and swabbies? The language of river people is gloriously colorful and idiosyncratic, and Watson has a gift for capturing it.

River talk is the animated essence of "River Queens", in which these typically hard-working people are rendered so specifically, in all their salty humanity, that they become a kind of tribe, passing Watson and Harris along from outpost to outpost, encumbered by their hospitality. This is the genius of River Queens, in which Watson's sensibility is so adroit that he captures perfectly the two sides of America that seem elsewhere on permanent outs.

Here on the river, though, they become assembled in a near-perfect unity, displaying a charity that seems to be missing on the inland geography. With happy authority and never a condescending glance (well, only where one is deserved), Captain Watson gives us a striking, often hilarious picture of river life, elevating its savvy inhabitants into the first rank of admirable Americans and showing us finally how little divided America actually can be.

Critique: Impressively written and inherently engaging from beginning to end, "River Queens" is a very special 'real world' adventure story in the form of a unique, thoughtful and thought-provoking travel journal. An exceptionally entertaining read throughout, "River Queens" is very highly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

A Delicate Touch
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978735219250, $28.00,

Stone Barrington is back and this time it begins as a simple case where he is asked to find someone to open a safe for a client. Simple enough but there are many complications as the contents are revealed that also involve his best friend Dino. "A Delicate Touch" is another surefire mix of rapid pacing with well fleshed out characters who enter the realm of Stone's world. Woods keeps the pages turning with a complicated plot that concludes with a fantastic ending. "A Delicate Touch" is guaranteed to please Woods many fans.

Law Of The Gun
Edited by Martin H. Greenburg and Russell Davis
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786042333, $6.99,

Westerns have always been great entertainment in the movies and TV shows but they are also fantastic reading as short fiction as well in "Law Of The Gun." Some of the most popular western genre writers are gathered together in a first-class series of tales of the old west. Among the authors are John Jakes, Jory Sherman, William W. Johnstone, Loren D. Estleman and Andrew J. Fenaday along with 12 other masters of the old west tale. The tales are fast paced with guns a blazing of a long time ago. "Law Of The Gun" is the third installment of a series that includes "Ghost Towns," and "Lost Tales" that are great cowboy tales of excitement

The Defense
Steve Cavanagh
Flatiron Books
c/o Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250134424, $9.99,

"The Defense" begins with an attorney who vows he will not conduct another case again, who is coerced into defending a Russian mobster in a unique way. At stake is the life of the litigator's daughter as well as he must win the case at all costs no matter what he has to do. Author Cavanagh draws a rope of suspense from the first page to the last with a difficult task to win in the first place, but even more so by the threat that hangs over the main characters family. "The Defense" races along to its end with enough plot twists and turns to satisfy any legal thriller fan.

Fighting Fire!
Michael L. Cooper
Square Fish
c/o Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
978125007341, $14.99,

With all the attention on the recent camp fires in California "Fighting Fire!" reveals other places in the country that have had as severe fires through the centuries. Beginning with the fire in Boston in 1760 the book concludes with blazes in San Diego County 2007 telling in all the events how it began, the death toll, how it was fought by fire department and a lot more. There are also drawings and photos that add to the information of historical documentation of events that continue to cause so much destruction to buildings and natural lands in the country. Though geared for young adults, "Fighting Fire!" is for all ages to enjoy and marvel at the positive image of the men and women who daily risk their lives to keep us safe

Miami, Real and Imagined
The Photography of Hank Klein
Schiffer Publishing
4880 Lower Valley Road, Alglen PA 19310
9780764351754, $24.99,

Hank Klein at one time worked in the field of real estate. Due to a stroke he had to change his life drastically. Thus, the book "Miami, Real and Imagined" was born after he changed his lifestyle to a lower stress level. Dabbling in painting and photography Klein studied the city of Miami that he loved so much. He was a mover and shaker who now presents his favorite municipality in two art forms that beautifully captivates the feel of the Miami area as never before. He focuses on different aspects of the same thing in his own painted image then with a camera that is amazing with the detail of both images. "Miami, Real and Imagined" is a beautiful tribute to a vital community in the state of Florida that is a gem of a man's perception of a place he calls home that should be enjoyed by anyone who wants to know more about this dynamic place the artist shares with others from around the world.

The Kicks Saving The Team
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442485716, $6.99,

Devin Burke and her family leave Connecticut to move to the state of California. She is the new kid at her school finding at first it hard to make friends. Slowly she makes a connection with some other girls her age who play on the soccer team. Gradually, she is accepted by all of the teammates as she establishes herself in her new environment. Their record is hideous as many opponents laugh at them leaving messages of losers for The Kicks to endure. Devin, like the other girls begin to learn that years ago their coach and other ladies were a winning team. Devin and her confidantes rise to the occasion to turn the image around in the first novel of a series. Alex Morgan who is a World Cup champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, who now plays for the Orlando Pride brings to life a wonderful novel that shows the trials and tribulations of competitive sports. "The Kicks Saving The Team" is a fast-paced tale that anyone of any age can enjoy.

The Kicks Sabotage Season
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442485761, $6.99,

Now that The Kicks are flexing their muscle showing that they are a team to be reckoned with, someone is sabotaging them in many different ways. It begins with the theft of Devin's gym bag with other strange things happening including notes left behind saying losers. The girls of The Kicks use many talents to find out who and why someone is interfering with their game and members of their squad. "The Kicks Sabotage Season" moves along briskly as The Kicks are on a path to a winning season that is filled with many pitfalls to the final page. Readers who like sports novels will not be able to resist this wonderful second story in The Kicks series.

The Adventures of Sir Clumsalot: The Princess has a Birthday
Cassandra Foster
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9780998012841, $19.95,

Dudley James Remington the Third has a problem. He is a klutz who lives in the kingdom of Perfectown. Dudley is given the task to escort the princess of Perfectown to an event. Because he gets nervous, he becomes very clumsy. That is how he got the name of Clumsalot. The story moves along showing other times Dudley drops things and has a hard time living in the kingdom with others he feels do not ever have the problems he does. "The Adventures of Sir Clumsalot: The Princess has a Birthday" is a fun kids' books that moves along to a very surprising end that is for all ages to enjoy as Dudley encounters so many different characters and situations.

Maggie M. Cooper
Illustrated by Tyler Helms
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781947718074, $15.95,

You do not have to like frogs to enjoy the charming kid's book "Bumper." Thru the use of the frog Bumper author Maggie M. Cooper shows to kids its alright to be different as opposed to being like everyone else. There are other messages for kids to learn as the story unfolds that are wonderfully told with artwork by Tyler Helms that help set the tone of thins wonderful tale of a very interesting character that would be great to see in other books in the future. "Bumper" has a lot of things to say about the world we live in and how we treat each other that is for all of us to take heart and practice in our lives

Santa and Jesus
As told for Grandma
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781947718258, $19.95,

Through the years so much has been written about Jesus and Santa but this is the first time to my knowledge that there is a direct link to both symbols of Christmas. The author reveals the true meaning of some of the things associated with both. For instance, the star in the sky has significance to both Jesus and Santa, where the act of giving came from, the possibility of other means of transport for Santa are just a few of the things established. The story adds a new dimension to the established lore we have come to know while the art work beginning with the cover draw the reader into the wonderful children's book that is entertainment for all ages. "Santa and Jesus" is a perfect gift for Christmas but is also a wonderful tale for all year long to savor.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Sword and the Dragon: Wardstone Trilogy
M. R. Mathias
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B003X9775Q, $2.99, ebook, 613 pages
9781946187116, paper

The Sword and the Dragon is a well written fantasy saga. As with nearly every saga, there is a quest and young semi-reluctant heroes growing into their destiny during the quest. In The Sword and the Dragon, Mathias has created a complex and detailed world. The tale leans closer to the adult than the teen reader with the multiple and gruesome battlefield deaths. Unlike many contemporary sagas, The Sword and the Dragon has a solid and satisfying end while still opening the story up for the remaining books in the trilogy.

Two rural village brothers are touched by destiny and separate on differing quests at the annual fair. A young squire is given a task by a dying King, poisoned by the court wizard and his own son. A powerful witch will start a war that will spread across the world. Prophecy foretold that a world encompassing war would begin but failed to portend what will happen next. The personal choices of each individual will decide the fate of all.

The Sword and the Dragon is an easy recommendation for any reader who enjoys the fantasy quest written as a massive saga. The world creation and the detailed character development are good. It is easy to get lost in the storyline. The only possible problems are the length of the tale and pacing. The reader will need to commit a significant block of time to finish the story.

Eric Asher
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B018RK2RC8, $0.00, ebook, 294 pages
9781519330857, $TBA paper

Steamborn is a fun young adult quest set in a steampunk SF world. It is solid but light fun. There is a problem with the story. Steamborn is book one of a series and it doesn't have an ending. It stops at the end of a chapter. This might be why it is listed at $0.00. After investing the time to read 300 pages of a good story you might feel forced to purchase the rest of the series so you can find a conclusion.

Jacob is a resident of the Lowland district. His father is ill and to help make ends meet he does a little pickpocketing. On his school graduation festival, Lowlands is attacked and wiped out. Jacob and his family and friends become refugees in the more heavily fortified upper-class district. There he comes into his own and discovers dangerous truths about his city. He and his friends are again forced to flee. Can he survive long enough to find answers and make his way back to his family?

Steamborn is a well written young adult tale and is easily recommended. The only major problem is that the story doesn't have an end. It just stops. But if you enjoy the steampunk genre with well-developed characters and world setting, it is a solid enough read to invest your time in.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Official Residences Around the World
Abby Clouse-Radigan
The White House Historical Association
740 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, DC 20006
9781931917872, $75.00, HC, 300pp,

Synopsis: Completed in 1800 in the new City of Washington, the White House, like its European predecessors, would be a home and office for the president of the United States, and the setting for state functions and ceremonies. With "Official Residences Around the World" by independent researcher, editor and writer Abby Clouse-Radigan, the White House can be seen in a global context.

This impressively illustrated survey of official residences and offices of some fifty nations, offers a unique look at their histories, architecture, and uses. Many of these official residences are designated for heads of state-elected presidents and hereditary royal families with ceremonial roles. Others are designated for heads of government-prime ministers and chancellors with executive power.

These national landmarks represent nearly one thousand years of building and renovating beginning with Prague Castle in the twelfth century. The thirteenth century marked the beginnings of Austria's Hofburg, Monaco's Prince's Palace, Morocco's Royal Palace, and the Moscow Kremlin's stone walls. In the fourteenth century work began on Latvia's Riga Castle while the fifteenth century brought the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

Bute House in Edinburgh and 10 Downing Street in London, date to the seventeenth century while Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) was built in the eighteenth century. Many more residences date to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and building continues in the twenty-first century with an entirely new Presidential Palace in Estonia and another in Japan.

Over the centuries, many of these edifices have endured the ravages of fire, war, and mother nature; some like the White House have been rebuilt, expanded, and renovated. From the Arg in Afghanistan to the Presidential Palace in Vietnam, each chapter reveals the rich history and the ongoing aspirations of a nation.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating photographic study, "Official Residences Around the World" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library International Architecture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Stephen Decatur House: A History
James Tertius de Kay, et al.
The White House Historical Association
740 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, DC 20006
9781931917704, $75.00, HC, 460pp,

Synopsis: A celebrity for his heroics in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, Commodore Stephen Decatur built his home in 1818 within sight of the President's House with prize money awarded to him by Congress for his military victories.

Decatur commissioned Benjamin Henry Latrobe, America's first professional architect, to create a home "fit for fine entertaining" and the resulting three-story square townhouse constructed with red brick in the Federal fashion is known as Decatur House today.

Stephen Decatur's time in the fine house was cut short in 1820 when he was mortally wounded in a famous duel in nearby Bladensburg. After his death, his widow Susan Decatur rented the house to such prominent figures as Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and Edward Livingston, and ultimately sold it to John Gadsby.

In 1872, General Edward Beale purchased the house and created a fashionable Victorian home.

In 1956, Marie Beale, the last owner, bequeathed the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation; and in 2011 the White House Historical Association became a co-steward of the historic site.

Profusely illustrated, "The Stephen Decatur House: A History" chronicles the history of the house and its occupants in four parts-a biography of Stephen Decatur and his naval accomplishments by James Tertius de Kay; an architectural history by Michael Fazio; a study of the fine and decorative arts collection by Osborne Mackie; and an essay on the evolution of the house from private home to historic site by Katherine Malone-France.

An essay by Jessie Kratz, Historian at the National Archives and Records administration introduces a collection of documents that tell the story of enslaved persons who lived and worked in the house during the time after Decatur's death and before Beale's

Critique: Featuring an impressively informed and informative text that is enhanced thoroughly with beautifully reproduced images, "The Stephen Decatur House: A History" is a unique and extraordinary work of original scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Architectural History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Learning to Love
Eileen Caddy, MBE
David Earl Platts, Ph.D
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620558355, $12.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: A part of the Findhorn Press 'Classics" series, "Learning to Love" is an insightful guide for consciously bringing compassion and love into your life by Eileen Caddy with the aide of David Earl Platts that: Explores feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and past experiences that block us from loving and receiving love; Includes deceptively simple yet profound exercises, meditations, and visualizations to support the exploration of your inner world; Explains how these principles and techniques originated in Roberto Assagioli's system of psychosynthesis, enriched by the Findhorn experience of living in community.

Indeed, the teachings comprising "Learning to Love" are based on popular workshops that Eileen, (who is a co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation Community), and David (who has facilitated for years in and outside Findhorn). It should also be noted that many of the underlying principles and techniques originate in the system of psychosynthesis, devised by Roberto Assagioli.

"Learning to Love" invites the reader to make a free and informed choice to bring more love into their life, and then helps implement this choice step-by-step with confidence and joy.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking, notably inspired and inspiring, "Learning to Love" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Spirituality & Self-Help collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Learning to Love" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $8.99).

Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation
Heather Dawn Godfrey, PGCE, BSc
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620557624, $16.99, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: Heather Dawn Godfrey is an aromatherapist, fellow of the International Federation of Aromatherapists, and an aromatherapy teacher. In "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation: Relax, Replenish, and Rejuvenate" she has created a hands-on guide showing how essential oils can support and enhance meditative and mindful practices.

"Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" provides the latest scientific research on the emotional, psychological, physiological, and neurological effects of essential oils on the mind, body, and nervous system and features an easy-to-follow chart to help choose the right essential oil for a particular person.

For millennia, the spiritual power of odor (such as from incense or frankincense) has been used to symbolize intention, stimulate awareness of our spiritual self, and accentuate rite and ritual. Drawing on this power, as well as their healing qualities, essential oils can provide the perfect complement to meditation or mindfulness practice.

Outlining the practice and benefits of meditation and mindfulness in combination with the use of essential oils, "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" explains how these practices hone and sustain a conscious awareness of "being" in the present moment, focusing attention on what you are sensually experiencing and leaving no space for regrets, traumas, fears, anxiety, or anticipation.

Providing the latest scientific research on the restorative, rehabilitative, and psycho-emotional healing effects of essential oils, "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" explains how the sensory experience of odors can immediately draw your attention to the present moment, trigger a specific state of consciousness, such as a deeper meditative state, or offer a way to regain composure quickly when dealing with life's ups and downs. "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" also shows how many essential oils naturally reduce stress and anxiety, promote a peaceful attitude, support concentration, regulate breathing, and stimulate serotonin and GABA pathways in the brain, making them ideal aids to mindfulness and meditation.

Explaining methods to incorporate essential oils into your practice, "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" introduces readers to the "Gem" essential oils, which are a group of oils specifically selected for attaining and maintaining a state of mindfulness, as well as a broad spectrum of therapeutic properties.

An easy-to-follow chart will help the reader to select the oil that is right for them.

Offering a hands-on practical guide to integrating essential oils into mindful and meditative practice, "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" shows how each of us has the ability to self-generate a calm, tranquil, and worry-free state of mind.

Critique: Comprehensively informative, accessibly and deftly organized, thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary and presentation, "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation: Relax, Replenish, and Rejuvenate" is a complete course of instruction that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Health & Mindfulness collections in general, and Essential Oils supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Aggression in Play Therapy
Lisa Dion
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393713190, $25.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: With an understanding of aggressive play based on brain function and neuroscience, "Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity" by teacher and clinical supervisor Lisa Dion, (who is also the creator of Synergetic Play Therapy), provides therapists with a framework to work authentically with aggressive play, while making it an integrative and therapeutic experience for the child.

Through the lens of neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology, therapists are taught how to integrate the intensity experienced by both the child and the therapist during aggressive play in a way that leads towards greater healing and integration. "Aggression in Play Therapy" explains the neurological processes that lead kids to dysregulation and provides therapists with tools to help their clients facilitate deep emotional healing, without causing their own nervous system to shut down.

Topics covered in the pages of "Aggression in Play Therapy" include: embracing aggression; understanding the nervous system; understanding regulation; developing yourself as an external regulator; authentic expression; setting boundaries; working with emotional flooding; supporting parents during aggressive play.

Critique: Exceptionally articulate and very well presented, "Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to Child Psychology and Counseling collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of psychology students, academia, school counselors, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Aggression in Play Therapy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.18).

Lean Impact
Ann Mei Chang
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119506607, $30.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Around the world, a new generation is looking beyond greater profits, for meaningful purpose. But, unlike business, few social interventions have achieved significant impact at scale. "Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good" by Ann Mei Chang (a former Silicon Valley executive who is now a nonresident fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings) turns our attention towards the goal of achieving radically greater social good.

Social change is far more complicated than building a new app. It requires more listening, more care, and more stakeholders. To make a lasting difference, solutions must be embraced by beneficiaries, address root causes, and include an engine that can accelerate growth to reach the scale of the needs. "Lean Impact" offers bold ideas to reach audacious goals through customer insight, rapid experimentation and iteration, and a relentless pursuit of impact.

In the pages of "Lean Impact" Ann Mei Change features inspiring stories drawn from interviews spanning more than 200 organizations across the U.S. and around the world.

Critique: An informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented throughout. While especially recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of nonprofit managers, social enterprise entrepreneurs, triple bottom line company officers, foundation administrators, government agency policy makers, individual philanthropists, impact investors, and anyone who simply donates their time and money to charitably organizations "Lean Impact" should be considered an essential guide to maximizing social impact and scale. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lean Impact" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Women in God's Mission
Mary T. Lederleitner
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
9780830845514, $18.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Mary T. Lederleitner is founder and executive director of Missional Intelligence. She has a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an MA in intercultural studies from Wheaton College, and teaches as an adjunct professor at both institutions. She is a veteran mission leader and researcher who has served for two decades with the Wycliffe Global Alliance in a variety of international leadership roles. She serves on the OM Global Board and as a board member for Catalyst Services.

For "Women in God's Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead", she interviewed and surveyed respected women in mission leadership from across the globe to gather their insights, expertise, and best practices. She unveils how women serve in distinctive ways and identifies key traits of faithful connected leaders.

When women face opposition based on their gender, they employ various strategies to carry on with resilience and hope. In the paes of "Women in God's Mission", real-life stories and case studies shed light on dynamics that inhibit women and also give testimony to God's grace and empowerment in the midst of challenges. Women and men will find resources here for partnering together in effective ministry and mission.

Organizations can help women flourish through advocacy, mentoring, and addressing structural issues. Wherever God has invited a woman to serve and lead, by reading "Women in Go's Mission" will discover that she are not alone as she answer the call.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Women in God's Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation that "Women in God's Mission" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

A Year with Nature: An Almanac
Marty Crump
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226449708, $30.00, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: "A Year with Nature" An Almanac" by Marty Crump (Adjunct Professor of Biology at Utah State and Northern Arizona Universities) deftly combining science and aesthetics, in a compendium of daily affirmations of the extraordinary richness of biodiversity and our enduring beguilement by its beauty. An herpetologist and natural history writer, Professor Crump's informed and informative text is enhanced with a profusion of original black-and-white illustrations by Bronwyn McIvor. The result is a quirky quotidian reverie gazes across the globe, media, and time as it celebrates date-appropriate natural topics ranging from the founding of the National Park Service to annual strawberry, garlic, shrimp, hummingbird, and black bear festivals.

"A Year with Nature" wonderfully celebrates the wonder and beauty of our natural world as expressed in the visual arts, music, literature, science, natural history, and everyday experience. But more than this, the almanac's vignettes encourage the readers to contemplate how they can help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the landscapes and rich biodiversity we all so deeply cherish.

Critique: An inherently engaging, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, "A Year with Nature: An Almanac" will prove to be an extraordinarily popular addition to community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Year with Nature: An Almanac" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Balsam Range, et al.
Mountain Home Music Company
P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704
B07KLCVXXH, $13.98, CD
B07K2N255R, $9.49, MP3 CD

"Aeonic" contains masterful examples of the award -winning contemporary bluegrass group, Balsam Range (comprised of Buddy Melton, Darren Nicholson, Caleb Smith, Tim Surrett, Walt Wilkins, Marc Pruett).

Their audience mesmerizing style and genre expanding numbers include the @1 radio single, "The Girl Who Invented the Wheel," "Tumbleweed Town," "The Rambler," "Get Me Gone," "Hobo Blues," "Help Me To Hold On," "Let My Life Be a Light," "My Cross To Bear," "Graveyard Blues," "Angel Too Soon," and an arrangement of the Beatles' "If I Needed Someone".

Listening to the tight vocal harmonies, ornamental bluegrass orchestration, and easy mountain style wedded to musical sounds and skillful genre blending of old and new, it is effortless to understand and experience the signature review of Aeonic: "Great music has no expiration date".

French Fries in the Park
J M Sheridan, author
Jamie Forgetta, illustrator
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781546209638 $16.99, PB, 28pp, www.jmsheridan/books

"French Fries in the Park" is a gently color illustrated book for children about autism. It is written simply and allows kids to identify with other children who may appear to be different.

It begins with a sensitive poem titled Be My Friend, by Janey Coyne-Scaturro: "I walk a very different path/ Sometimes it's hard for me to laugh/ I would also like a hug/ But sometimes all I do is shrug/...The world is a puzzle and I don't fit/ i need some space to make sense of it." After other descriptive lines, it ends with: "I like to have fun we are truly the same/ It's just that i have a different brain/ If you make room for me inside of your heart/ With a little patience a friendship can start."

In the story, Brianna is a young girl excited to be going to the park with her dad and favorite stuffed animal friend, Mrs. Moomoo. At the park she meets another boy named Tommy with his dad. Tommy was waving his hands in the air, and Brianna asked his father why he did that. His father answered it was because he had autism, adding "Hand waving is called stimming. It helps him control his emotions inside."

Soon Brianna is ready for a snack with her dad at the picnic table. Tommy and his dad and his dog, Shadow have a snack of french fries too. The children gradually learn to communicate with each other and they share their snack together. Tommy did not look at Brianna with his eyes, but she understood that was because of his autism. They played quietly together in the sandbox and on the wobbly butterflies. Tommy surprised Brianna with a strong squeeze when it was time to say goodbye. Brianna was happy that she made a new friend who liked her, and who liked french fries just like her.

Tenderly told and carefully illuminated, "French Fries in the Park" is a wonderful children's introduction to an acceptance and understanding of children with autism spectrum disorder. A percentage of all sales of "French Fries in the Park" will go to help fund The Autism project, a charity that benefits children with ASD.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Entrepreneurial Marketing
Robert D. Hisrich & Veland Ramadani
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788111317, $120.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: One key for success of an entrepreneur is to obtain sales (revenue) and profits as quickly as possible upon launching the venture. Collaboratively written by Robert D. Hisrich (Associate Dean of Graduate and International Programs, Bridgestone Chair of International Marketing, Kent State University) and Veland Ramadani (Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management, South-East European University, Republic of Macedonia), "Entrepreneurial Marketing: A Practical Managerial Approach" focuses on the essential elements of success in order to achieve these needed sales and revenues and to grow the company.

"Entrepreneurial Marketing" builds a comprehensive, state-of-the-art picture of entrepreneurial marketing issues, providing major theoretical and empirical evidence that offers a clear, concise view of entrepreneurial marketing.

Through an international approach that combines both theoretical and empirical knowledge of entrepreneurship and marketing, "Entrepreneurial Marketing" informs and enhances the entrepreneurs ' creativity, their ability to bring innovations to the market, and their willingness to face risk that changes the world.

Key components addressed in "Entrepreneurial Marketing" include: identifying and selecting the market; determining the consumer needs cost-effectively; executing the basic elements of the marketing mix (product, price, distribution, and promotion); and competing successfully in the domestic and global markets through implementing a sound marketing plan. Numerous illustrative examples throughout the book bring the content to life.

Critique: Very highly recommended for professional, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections and supplemental studies reading lists, "Entrepreneurial Marketing" is comprised of a mix of theoretical content, examples, empirical analyses, and case studies, making it an informative, comprehensive, and unreservedly recommended resource for students, professors, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds
William A. Birdthistle & John Morley, editors
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781784715045, $270.00, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment fund that pools money from many investors to purchase securities. These investors may be retail or institutional in nature.

With fifty trillion in worldwide assets, the growth of mutual funds is a truly global phenomenon and deserves a broad international analysis. Local political economies and legal regimes create different regulatory preferences for the oversight of these funds, and academics, public officials and legal practitioners wishing to understand the global investing environment will require a keen awareness of these international differences.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by William A. Birdthistle (Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology) and John Morley (Yale University Law School), the contributors to the "Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds" are leading scholars in the field of investment law from around the world who collectively provide a current legal analysis of funds from a variety of perspectives and using an array of methodologies that consider the large fundamental questions governing the role and regulation of investment funds.

"Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds" also explores the identity and behavior of investors as well as issues surrounding less orthodox funds, such as money market funds, ETFs, and private funds.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds" will prove to be an extraordinarily useful instructional reference to legal and financial scholars, academics, lawyers and regulators on the subject of the regulation of mutual funds. The seventeen erudite articles are deftly organized into four major sections: The Role and Regulation of Investment Funds; Identity and Behavior of Mutual Fund investors; The Broader Range of Investment Funds; International Perspectives on Investment Funds. Of special note is a one page listing of the contributors and their credentials. The "Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds" should be considered as a core addition to college and university library collections and would well serve as a curriculum textbook on the subject of Mutual Fund regulation.

Data Visualization
Robert Grant
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781138553590, $99.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Robert Grant is a British statistician specialising in data visualization and Bayesian models. He worked in biomedical research and taught statistics at St George's Medical School, Kingston University, the Royal College of Physicians of London, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence before launching his own training and coaching business, BayesCamp, in 2017.

Data visualization is viewed by many disciplines as a modern equivalent of visual communication. It involves the creation and study of the visual representation of data.

In "Data Visualization: Charts, Maps, and Interactive Graphics", Professor Grant gives an overview of a wide range of techniques and challenges, while staying accessible to anyone interested in working with and understanding data.

"Data Visualization" includes: Focusing on concepts and ways of thinking about data rather than algebra or computer code; Features 17 short chapters that can be read in one sitting; Includes chapters on big data, statistical and machine learning models, visual perception, high-dimensional data, and maps and geographic data; Contains more than 125 visualizations, most of which were created by Professor Grant; And is supported by a website with all code for creating the visualizations, further reading, datasets and practical advice on crafting the images.

Critique: Part of the ASA-CRC Series on Statistical Reasoning in Science and Society, "Data Visualization: Charts, Maps, and Interactive Graphics" is especially recommended reading for students considering a career in data science, analysts who wants to learn more about visualization, and managers of teams working with data. Introducing a broad range of data visualization methods, "Data Visualization: Charts, Maps, and Interactive Graphics" is a valued and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Data Visualization" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.95).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

No Matter What: The 10 Commitments of Accountability
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9781640950160, $24.99, 156 pages

A Journey into Valuing People and Understanding Accountability

"No Matter What - The 10 Commitments of Accountability" the title of Sam Silverstein's new book encapsulates an understanding of accountability I had not considered before. In the book Sam introduces ten core commitments of responsibility providing clarity and increased focus, helping the reader get unstuck how to move on.

The book opened my eyes to the importance of keeping my commitments, and following the 10 Core Commitments as an example to effectiveness in leadership and to accomplish mutual goals in an organizational structure.

Each of the ten chapters concentrates on one of the core commitments to accountability by highlighting key elements, topic highlights, and in-depth discussion.

Silverstein's writing is highly informative, deeply inspiring, brilliantly formatted, and superbly motivating.

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

God Made Me and You - Celebrating God's Design for Ethnic Diversity
Shai Linne
Illustrated by Trish Mahoney
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, Suite 124, Greensboro, NC 27404
9781948130134, $15.99

A Strong Message, Delightful Lyrical Writing, Reinforced with Outstanding Colorful Illustrations

"God Made Me and You - Celebrating God's Design for Ethnic Diversity" is told using a poetic rhyming style. Trish Mahoney's art and illustrations capture and significantly enhance and reinforce the application message for children.

The book can be used as a read-aloud book or is an ideal opportunity for advanced readers to read to their younger siblings to and to help them develop their reading skills.

A practical and helpful section for parents introduces Six Ways to Help a Child Appreciate God's Design for Ethnic Diversity. A letter to parents at the opening of the book becomes the introduction of the book. Linne's intent for writing the book is "To lead the reader to intentionally pursue and demonstrate a lifelong pursuit of appreciation for ethnic diversity to the glory of God."

Shai Linne's book "God Made Me and You" is highly endorsed by pastors, theologians, Christian leaders, and educators. The book is designed to help children ages five through eleven and fosters embracing people of another color and ethnic differences.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

A Psychobiography of John F. Kennedy, Jr
Joseph G. Ponterotto
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092511, $36.95, PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: Psychobiography aims to understand historically significant individuals, such as artists or political leaders, through the application of psychological theory and research.

"A Psychobiography of John F. Kennedy, Jr.: Understanding His Inner Life, Achievements, Struggles, and Courage" by Joseph G. Ponterotto (Professor of Counseling Psychology, Division of Psychological and Educational Services, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University) represents a psychobiographical story of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

This study covers JFK Jr.'s search for identity and purpose, and the depths and vibrancy of his personality. Professor Ponterotto approaches the life of JFK, Jr. as a psychologist and psychobiographer with the goal of understanding the workings of John's mind; his inner feelings, fears, hopes, and desires perhaps not visible on the surface.

"A Psychobiography of John F. Kennedy, Jr" is presented in four parts. Part One explores the death and legacy of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in a psychological and social context. His life and place in history is introduced, and the conditions around his death are deconstructed and examined. Psychological theories used to frame and understand John's psychological development are briefly introduced, and his ethnic and religious influences are discussed.

Part Two tells the story of John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s life in a somewhat chronological order. Important events and relationships in John's life are discussed with respect to early childhood, early schooling, high school and college years, law school study, and his work as an Assistant District Attorney for Manhattan, including his co-founding of George magazine and his life with Carolyn Bessette.

Part Three speculates on the future of John's professional career and his marriage had the couple lived a full life. Emerging in this part is a strong impression that John was destined for a life in politics and that he would have succeeded in this quest. John's marriage to Carolyn Bessette and the possible directions of their partnership is analyzed. Borrowing from quantitative research methods in personality psychology, JFK Jr.'s personality traits on a popular and well-validated measure of personality is assessed. His personality profile is then compared to select U.S. presidents throughout history.

Part Four provides additional theoretical and research methods information. The leading theories of personality and psychosocial development first introduced in Part One are expanded.

Finally, ethical issues related to John's psychobiography are explored and discussed.

Critique: With illustrations and tables supplementing the text in exemplifying relevant data, "A Psychobiography of John F. Kennedy, Jr" is an unique and insightful resource to address unanswered questions about JFK Jr.'s life, his achievements, his struggles, and his courage. An extraordinary life lived out in extraordinary times and which came to an extraordinary end, "A Psychobiography of John F. Kennedy, Jr" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century American Biography collections.

American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s
Keith Dallas, et al.
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605490847, $44.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: The "American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s" continues its ambitious series of full color hardcover comic book histories, where TwoMorrows' top authors document every decade of comic book history from the 1940s to today!

Jason Sacks and Keith Dallas coordinate the compilation of "American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s", an illustrated history covering all the pivotal moments and behind-the-scenes details of the 1990s, which was the decade when Marvel Comics sold 8.1 million copies of an issue of the X-Men, saw its superstar creators form their own company, cloned Spider-Man, and went bankrupt.

It was the decade when Superman died, Batman had his back broken, and the runaway success of Neil Gaiman's Sandman led to DC Comics' Vertigo line of adult comic books.

It was the decade of gimmicky covers, skimpy costumes, and mega-crossovers. But most of all, the 1990s was the decade when companies like Image, Valiant and Malibu published million-selling comic books before the industry experienced a shocking and rapid collapse!

These are just a few of the events chronicled in this exhaustive, full-color hardcover. Taken together, "American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s" forms a cohesive, linear overview of the entire landscape of comics history, sure to be an invaluable resource for all comic book enthusiast!

Critique: Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections, "American Comic Book Chronicles: "The 1990" is an impressively informative and profusely illustrated history that is a 'must' for the personal reading lists all dedicated comic book and graphic novel enthusiasts.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

A Knight for the Ages
Elizabeth Morrison, editor
Getty Publications
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1682
9781606065754, $55.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: The Livre des faits de Jacques de Lalaing (Book of the Deeds of Jacques de Lalaing), is a famous Flemish illuminated manuscript that relays the audacious life of Jacques de Lalaing (1421 - 1453). It is a biographical story that reads more like a fast-paced adventure novel. Produced in the tradition of chivalric biography, a genre developed in the mid-fifteenth century to celebrate the great personalities of the day, the manuscript's text and illuminations begin with a magnificent frontispiece by the most acclaimed Flemish illuminator of the sixteenth century, Simon Bening.

Compiled and edited by Elizabeth Morrison (who is the Senior Curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum), "A Knight for the Ages: Jacques de Lalaing and the Art of Chivalry" presents a kaleidoscopic view of the manuscript with essays written by the world's leading medievalists, adding rich texture and providing a greater understanding of the many aspects of the manuscript's background, creation, and reception, revealing for the first time the full complexity of this illuminated romance.

The texts are accompanied by stunning reproductions of all of the manuscripts' miniatures (never before published in color) as well as a plot summary and translations, allowing the reader to follow Jacques de Lalaing on his knightly journeys and experience the thrilling triumphs of his legendary tournaments and battles.

Of special note for academia is the inclusion of a one page Description of the Manuscript; a two page Genealog of the Lalaing Family; a one page listing of the contributors and their credentials; an eight page listing of References, and a three page Index.

Critique: An elegant, erudite, spectacularly illustrated, extraordinarily informative, inherently interesting biographical study, "A Knight for the Ages: Jacques de Lalaing and the Art of Chivalry" must be considered as an essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Medieval History & Biography collections and curriculum supplemental medieval studies reading lists.

The Drug Hunters
Donald R. Kirsch & Ogi Ogas
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628727180, $24.99, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Donald R. Kirsch has been a drug hunter for thirty five years, holds twenty-four drug-related patents, has written more than fifty papers, has been a reviewer for prestigious journals, a director, research group leader, and chief science officer at Wyeth, Cyanamid, Squibb, and Cambria Pharmaceuticals, and currently teaches drug discovery at Harvard Extension School. He lives in Bedford, MA.

Ogi Ogas, PhD, is a professional science writer.

Together they have collaborated in "The Drug Hunters: The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines" to reveal the surprising, behind-the-scenes story of how our medicines are discovered.

The search to find medicines is as old as disease, which is to say as old as the human race. Through serendipity (by chewing, brewing, and snorting) Neolithic people discovered opium, alcohol, snakeroot, juniper, frankincense, and other helpful substances.

Otzi the Iceman, the five-thousand-year-old hunter frozen in the Italian Alps, was found to have whipworms in his intestines and Bronze-age medicine, a worm-killing birch fungus, knotted to his leggings.

Nowadays, Big Pharma conglomerates spend billions of dollars on state-of the art laboratories staffed by PhDs to discover blockbuster drugs. Yet, despite our best efforts to engineer cures, luck, trial-and-error, risk, and ingenuity are still fundamental to medical discovery.

"The Drug Hunters" is a colorful, fact-filled narrative history of the search for new medicines from our Neolithic forebears to the professionals of today, and from quinine and aspirin to Viagra, Prozac, and Lipitor. Individual chapters offer a lively tour of how new drugs are actually found, the discovery strategies, the mistakes, and the rare successes.

Additionally Dr. Kirsch infuses "The Drug Hunters" with his own personal expertise and professional experiences from thirty-five years of drug hunting, whether searching for life-saving molecules in mudflats by Chesapeake Bay or as a chief science officer and research group leader at major pharmaceutical companies.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating read that is especially remarkable for its adherence to factual detail in a history that reads with the smooth fluidity as a novel, "The Drug Hunters" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Health & Medicine collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Drug Hunters" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.44) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781515964681, $24.99, CD).

The Great Battle Never Fought
Chris Mackowski
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611214079, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: After his stunning victory at Gettysburg in July of 1863, the Union commander, George Gordon Meade, spent the following months trying to bring the Army of Northern Virginia to battle once more and finish the job. The Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee, robbed of much of its offensive strength, nevertheless parried Meade's moves time after time. Although the armies remained in constant contact during those long months of cavalry clashes, quick maneuvers, and sudden skirmishes, Lee continued to frustrate Meade's efforts.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Meade's political enemies launched an all-out assault against his reputation and generalship. Even the very credibility of his victory at Gettysburg came under assault. Pressure mounted for the army commander to score a decisive victory and prove himself once more.

Smaller victories, like those at Bristoe Station and Rappahannock Station, did little to quell the growing politically motivated clamor -- particularly because out west, in Chattanooga, another Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, was once again reversing Federal misfortunes. Meade needed a comparable victory in the east.

And so, on Thanksgiving Day, 1863, the Army of the Potomac rumbled into motion once more, intent on trying again to bring about the great battle that would end the war.

"The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26-December 2 1863" recounts the final chapter of the forgotten fall of 1863 -- when Meade made one final attempt to save the Union and, in doing so, save himself.

Critique: Impressively researched, profusely illustrated, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this historical study by Chris Mackowski (a Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York), "The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26 - December 2, 1863" is a part of the Savas Beatie 'Emerging Civil War Series' and unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of Civil War buffs, as well as a core addition to both community and academic library American Civil War History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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