Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 1 January 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History
Paul Farmer
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
9780374234324, $35.00, HC, 688pp

Synopsis: In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic health-care facilities were few and far between. Causing severe loss of life and economic disruption, the Ebola crisis was a major tragedy of modern medicine. But why did it happen, and what can we learn from it?

Paul Farmer, the internationally renowned doctor and anthropologist, experienced the Ebola outbreak firsthand as Partners in Health, the organization he founded, was among the first international responders. In the pages of "Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History" he offers the first substantive account of this frightening, fast-moving episode and its implications.

In vibrant prose, Farmer tells the harrowing stories of Ebola victims while showing why the medical response was slow and insufficient. Rebutting misleading claims about the origins of Ebola and why it spread so rapidly, he traces West Africa's chronic health failures back to centuries of exploitation and injustice. Under formal colonial rule, disease containment was a priority but care was not -- and the region's health care woes worsened, with devastating consequences that Farmer traces up to the present.

"Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds" presents a thorough and hopeful narrative that is a definitive work of reportage, history, and advocacy, and a crucial intervention in public-health discussions around the world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of ninety-four pages of Notes and a twenty-six page Index, and a six page listing of Acknowledgments. A major work of exhaustive and meticulously detailed research, "Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds" is a seminal work that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library West African History and 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 "Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781662053139, $22.99, CD).

Saving the Oregon Trail: Ezra Meeker's Last Grand Quest
Dennis M. Larsen
Washington State University Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874223743, $28.95, PB, 266pp

Synopsis: Ezra Meeker first came west on the overland trail in 1852. At age 75 he trekked east over the Oregon Trail with oxen and a covered wagon, setting markers along the way, and became a national celebrity. Never one to shy away from adventure, his other exploits included publishing books, lecture tours, additional Oregon Trail expeditions, attending the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, experimenting with motion pictures, founding societies, cruising in what may have been the first motorized RV, performing in a Wild West show, and roaming the country selling commemorative coins. Endearing and captivating, but also at times exasperating and irrational, his extraordinary preservation efforts were crucial to saving the trail. A part of his story no one has previously told, this volume begins in 1901 and completes an ambitious biography.

Critique: An inherently fascinating man, "Saving the Oregon Trail: Ezra Meeker's Last Grand Quest" is an extraordinary work of exhaustive and meticulous research bringing him out of obscurity and to the attention of a whole new generation of American history students, academia, and non-specialist general readers who appreciate the story of a life well and truly lived out in interesting times -- making this an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Biography collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: A retired high school history teacher Dennis M. Larsen became captivated by the extraordinary life of Ezra Meeker, who faced tremendous adversity and heartbreak, but always rose above it. The Washington State Historical Society preserves close to 50,000 letters written by the Puyallup businessman, and he started transcribing that mountain of correspondence. Now considered a foremost expert on the Oregon Trail pioneer, Larsen has written articles for local newspapers and historical society publications, including the Oregon-California Trails Association's "Overland Journal." His other books include "The Missing Chapters: The Untold Story of Ezra Meeker's Old Oregon Trail Monument Expedition" (Ezra Meeker Historical Society), "Hop King: Ezra Meeker's Boom Years," "Slick as a Mitten: Ezra Meeker's Klondike Enterprise," and "A Yankee on Puget Sound: Pioneer Dispatches of Edward Jay Allen, 1852-1855" (all Washington State University Press).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Possible Lives
Jon Ballard
Kelsay Books
9781952326790 $18.50

Possible Lives is a poetry collection that takes on a "life of its own" (the title of the first section), cultivating a series of insights about life, joy, evolution, and the fungible nature of memory and truth. These range from a field quite happy to be left alone by humans, to a model who becomes so much more than the builder ever bargained for, to a messenger attempting to share his knowledge with a person who is, ultimately, not capable of the depth of feeling required to fully receive it.

Possibilities are replete in these free verse observations, with their deft attention to detail and connections between intention, emotion, and changing worldviews: "When humans forget/a field the field/rejoices, seeds itself/with buzzing and/distances/and wind miscellanea."

Each piece captures a feel of these illusions, observations, realities/unrealities, and inner visions, painting a different picture of the world each time, whether it be the sad legacy of Flint's water issues and its longtime connections to oppression in 'A Picture Book of Michigan' or an observation contrasting America's brave new world with traditional European culture in 'Nothing Prepares You': "Perhaps you'll marvel/having awakened ten thousand/feet above the city, peering/slantwise into history's locus,/flinted lambency of eons, such/Roman patina. Easy in that moment/to knock American light, its/relative newness and naivete,/insisting its waves and particles/rate exception - God's very own."

These poems are succinct and pointed references to life's relationships, the power of ideals and imagination, and the perception and allure of love.

Dread Tribunal of Last Resort
Brian Kaufman
Five Star Publishing
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432869649, $25.95, HC, 359pp

Decker Brown is an educated young Virginian who has the world ahead of him as he plans both a new career producing 'illuminations' (fireworks) and his marriage to Paula Crane, the daughter of a flour mill operator. Everything seems bright until the Civil War disrupts their lives. It's not just that Decker has to go to war himself. It's that he's fighting a battle of ideals in his own life with a fiancee who won't fight the friends and family she loves even if Decker is convinced that the Republic and liberty are worth the cost.

Dread Tribunal of Last Resort moves the Civil War experience away from the usual battlefield focus and into the ordinary lives of those forced to choose a side. It analyzes the choices, influences, ideals, and struggles between individuals as well as within the blossoming nation. The story moves between the perspectives of Decker and Paula as he fights, she tends the wounded, and each finds their dreams turned upside down, much like their relationship with one another.

How do couples heal from such a breach? Much like the nation does. Brian Kaufman crafts a story that considers both sides and the causes that drive them. From what makes a hero and the consequences of decisions to the rebuilding of relationships after terrible loss and confrontation, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort creates a moving story that delves into the hearts and minds of those who become swept up in a war of ideals.

More so than most Civil War fiction, it represents both sides and the impact of this event on their present and future worlds.

Readers interested in historical fiction that goes beyond the typical battlefield experience to delve into the changed daily routines and ideals of those involved will find Dread Tribunal of Last Resort a strong story of recovery that finds its way back to its opening focus on illumination in a compelling, revealing manner.

The Frosell Affair
Heddy Frosell da Ponte
Frosell da Ponte Publishing
9780578606729 $14.95

Thriller readers receive a riveting true story of international intrigue in The Frosell Affair.

Having survived the Nazi occupation of Paris, wealthy businessman Oscar Frosell eagerly looks forward to getting back to a normal life in post-war France. But a cabal of well-connected thieves - a French naval hero, a close friend of Charles de Gaulle, and the Swedish general consul - conspire to defraud him of his vast family fortune. A complex scheme is hatched that begins with their falsely identifying Frosell as a Nazi collaborator and Gestapo agent, which will ultimately end (they hope) with their seizing his all properties and treasures.

Trumped-up evidence and personal attacks find Frosell caught in a merciless maelstrom engineered by ingenious villains, culminating in court proceedings that savage everything he's ever believed in or worked for.

Frosell is ultimately forced to face the truth about his shameless persecutors: "He'd been falsely accused of the worst kind of treachery; driven from his home by the conniving admi-ral and his duplicitous friend, Raoul Nordling; had all his possessions illegally commandeered - no, stolen - by the very agents who were supposed to have been ensuring their safety; and incarcerated based upon nothing more than falsehoods and downright lies. And all so that one Major Alla Dumesnil could be rewarded, according to the official paperwork Dzeroginsky had managed to dig up, for her "services to Air Marshall Bouscat."

Readers will be swept into this engrossing saga, which is based on author Heddy Frosell da Ponte's family story and experiences. This is a remarkably shrewd, realistic probe of postwar European recovery and one man's confrontation with wartime injustice. Ms. Frosell da Ponte deftly unravels the politics and players of postwar Europe as well as the lingering impact of Nazi domination, giving readers both an astute political thriller and an absorbing historical investigation.

Readers will be tempted to compare Frosell's lot to that of Alfred Dreyfus' infamous scandal that rocked France a half-century earlier - and they wouldn't be far off. In both real-world dramas, execrable characters manipulated government bureaucracies and courts to their own ends. This is what adds power to The Frosell Affair. This authenticity, mixed with the elements of a top-notch thriller, creates a read that is simply spell-binding.

The Frosell Affair is highly recommended for readers interested in the Second World War's aftermath, the stories of ordinary citizens trying to rebuild in a cataclysm, and the lengths some unscrupulous people will go to prey upon those vulnerable people.

The Frosell family's lasting ordeal is vividly brought to life in 'novelized' format, inviting a wide audience to fully immerse themselves in those anarchic times while making The Frosell Affair a standout in European and World War II literature.

The Wisdom of the Flock
Steve M. Gnatz
Leather Apron Press
9781735348001 $19.99 Paperback; $5.99 ebook; $34.99 Hardcover

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris is set in 1776 and opens with Benjamin Franklin's sea journey to gain financial support from the French king for the new United States. As an ambassador, his job is to promote goodwill and the financial ties that will strengthen both nations.

Given this setting, readers might anticipate a historical novel about political processes, but Steve M. Gnatz adds much background about Franklin's life, personal concerns, scientific interests, and relationships which all operate in the arena of changing times. This adds a depth and interest to the story that will attract not just historical novel readers, but anyone interested in an appealing account of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Franz Anton Mesmer is a Viennese physician who copied Franklin's musical invention from blueprints Franklin's lover Marianne shared with him. He claims to have discovered a new force in the universe that gives him the power to cure illness. He circles around Franklin's life, involved in his inventions, with his lover, and in the social and scientific worlds that affect their choices and opportunities.

Gnatz is a master at interlacing these two disparate lives and their similar progressions. From seances and quasi-supernatural 'science' to fiery interpersonal interactions, the dance between Mesmer and Franklin comes to life with facts strengthening the fictional overlay of events.

With changing affairs and relationships between a steadily widening cast of characters to a Parisian interlude in which strange things begin to happen to Franklin, Gnatz captures both the psychological progress of these two real men and the events and emotional entanglements that surround them and affect their choices.

These changes are captured in scenes ranging from personal encounters to talks such as the one Ben gives at the Masonic Lodge, that bring the people and concerns of the times to life: "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading - or do things worth writing. Our Brother Voltaire had the fortunate experience of accomplishing both of these in the rich life that we celebrate today . . ." Ben went on to highlight some of the philosopher's more notable accomplishments. He tried carefully to avoid highlighting Voltaire's more heretical and revolutionary ideas in hopes of keeping his eulogy as non-controversial as possible. He spoke of his last meeting with the great man, where he had discovered both the strength and the frailty Voltaire possessed. "Brother Voltaire stood for reason. He did not believe or follow blindly. He questioned everything, bowing only to Truth. He fought injustice as long as he lived. For those qualities, we honor the man."

While the story largely pursues the intellectual and psychological encounters between the two men, the supporting characters in the cast also receive much attention, as does the atmosphere of Europe: "Upon her arrival in Paris, Marianne sent word to Mesmer. He showed up at her hotel with a bouquet of fresh spring flowers - daffodils and Spanish bluebells, hyacinth, and tulips. Later, she eagerly walked to the Pont Neuf only to find that there was no Basque houseboat docked below. She bought a baguette from the vendor there. She descended the stairs to where Marko's boat should have been moored and ate the bread alone by the side of the river. Marianne was disappointed that Marko was missing, but it felt good to be back in Paris. Given Mesmer's recent enthusiasm, and the likelihood that Marko would soon return, she decided to postpone letting Ben know that she was back. He was probably too busy to see her anyway."

Readers interested in far more psychological and social detail than historical novels usually contain will relish the depth, approach, and insights of The Wisdom of the Flock, which goes out of its way to provide a satisfyingly multifaceted examination of not just two key figures of the times, but the milieu of 1776 Europe and America and their changing relationships.

Everything is Fine
Gillian Harvey
Orion Publishing Group Ltd.
9781409191865 $15.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Everything is Fine is at once hilarious, pointed, thought-provoking, and evocative - the perfect panacea for hard times, recommended for cozy reading by a warm fire.

Its heroine, Jessica Bradley, seems to have it all: a happy home, a popular blog about healthy eating, and a successful PR career. Behind the scenes, though, none of this is true. Her actual life doesn't reflect the public image she so carefully cultivates, and as the truth emerges, things begin to fall apart.

Her reflections on how she arrived at this point are both sad and funny: "Dave was one of those people whose passions were infectious (he'd also given her chlamydia in the first month, but they were over that now) and she'd suddenly found herself pumping iron and posting the kind of selfies usually only taken by millionaires with buttock implants. The clicks on her blog had gone through the roof, and she'd even had a post-workout picture of her sweaty cleavage go viral.

But who can keep that level of commitment up long-term? she thought. After all, she was only human, and had eaten so many eggs in various guises recently that she'd forgotten what it was like to do a normal poo."

As readers receive a lively exploration of the myths and realities of Jessica's life, they are drawn into a story that explores the ironies, inconsistencies, and influences of a modern young British blogger. Her focus on dietary health begins to challenge her role as a mother and individual whose life does not adhere to the trajectory of her public image.

Gillian Harvey excels in peppering fun images and reflections throughout this story: "She tried to remind herself that no publicity was bad publicity. But she couldn't put a positive angle on the picture of her bottom straining through her leggings. There was no positive angle."

As Jessica faces beau Dave's support for her getting 'back on track' (the kind of track he approves of...) and the consequences of a weight gain that threatens everything, women will readily relate to the process of her growth beyond her body image and the industry she's built around ideals of health and beauty.

Funny, absorbing, and entirely recognizable, Jessica's story is highly recommended for chick lit and women's fiction readers. These audiences will find it just the ticket for fun, offering pointed reassessments of bodily image and life challenges and pursuits that consider that, in her all pursuits, "Maybe she'd not recognised the good in her own life."

Back Again
Jamie Stoudt
Publisher: TBA

Jamie Stoudt's debut novel Back Again holds many surprises; not the least of which is its powerful, well-organized plot and voice. Debut novels can either make or break a writer. This one's a clear winner from the start: "Wendy Halstad was in church, up front, all alone, in a jar. She was dead, ashes to ashes and all that. Massive heart attack, fifty years old, no warning, no symptoms, no time to say goodbye. Just kerplop, and that was that."

This ironic observational style weaves through the story with finesse unusual in a first novel. As readers absorb the tale of a woman who seemingly returns to life years after the funeral detailed above, showing up at her husband's workplace, it embraces new possibilities.

Why has Wendy returned? There's always unfinished business, but Wendy has her sights set on something special...tasks that embraces Michael's living world in a different way.

If you could return from the dead, would it be for small concerns or bigger-picture objectives? Wendy's newfound mission to improve not just the town or her husband but the world serves as a driving force for good even as its roots stem from an impossible scenario.

As Jamie Stoudt focuses on a 'noble scheme' for conflict abatement, humor maintains a steady stream through meetings, ambitions, and impossible discussions: "Excellent!" Melinda nearly yelled. "The link between the elimination of coal and the advent of fully renewable! Why haven't I heard of this before?" "Umm... because I'm an itty, bitty cog in a giant industrial conundrum?" Peter replied. Melinda let out a howl. "How did you get out of MIT with a sense of humor intact?" Peter responded modestly, "They figured they either had to graduate me or shoot me. Nobody's a very good shot up there."

As a newfound fixer with a new purpose to life, having left and returned to it with a different perspective, Wendy spreads her message and purpose everywhere. Along with it are altered perceptions of those around her and their rationales for good and bad choices alike: "...a young man shot me there as well, in front of the Al-Hakeem Mosque in Minneapolis. It turned out that he was a caring fellow who was somewhat confused." Crowley chimed in, "And this 'caring young fellow' shot you." "Three times, actually, but he apologized, and I helped him with an alibi." And she shrugged. "What can I say? It's not about me. It's about humans rejecting nonsense, dogma, and their self-imposed limitations. Killing each other in the name of god. It's about intellectual growth, after thousands of years of near stagnation."

As she cultivates this revised objective, Wendy will change everything not just by her resurrection, but by her responses to adversity in the world, from personal to political and beyond.

Jamie Stoudt's novel is delightful. It weaves together new perceptions of social ills, individual responsibility, the effects of resurrection on the world, and business ventures that create new underlying values for living life.

Perhaps his finest achievement in writing this story is how one individual's miraculous appearance and revised attitude slowly begins to change the world around her.

Stoudt adopts a tone that resides somewhere between the processes of a business novel and the evolution of a miracle. The fact that Wendy has no real idea of exactly why she's come back again, but proceeds to live a vastly revised life that ripples out to affect everyone around her, makes for an intriguing read that blends social and political transformation into the notion that revising attitudes and lives is an achievable goal for one person.

Readers who choose Back Again will delight in its unusual combination of pragmatic systems assessment (business, social, and political) and personal relationships changed by not just Wendy's appearance, but her newfound approach to life. It's highly recommended reading for its original perspective. If at times this all seems too positive...that's a big plus in a literary environment more commonly filled with descriptions of angst.

Sex, A Love Story
Jerome Gold
Black Heron Press
c/o Independent Publishers Group (dist.)
9781936364367 $16.99

Bob and Jen are high school seniors and sweethearts at the end of the Eisenhower era. Their story is set in California, where the two meet in a creative writing class. While readers might think that this would make the novel suitable for young adults, it should be cautioned that its fair amount of erotic description makes it more appropriate reading for new adult and adult readers, who will appreciate both its depth and focus and the erotic encounters experienced by not just Bob and Jen, but the characters surrounding them.

From the sunny culture of Southern California to descriptions of the girls Bob dates and the relationships he fields, the story assumes a realistic tone that draws readers in with a blend of sexual escapades and the efforts of two lower middle class white kids to fit into a changing world.

Those who choose this story for its sexual promise alone will find it a tale that embraces all kinds of new adult concerns, from getting married in Mexico to trying to forge lives and careers in a rapidly-changing USA.

From Bob's adventure trying to stealing a turkey when they can't afford one for Thanksgiving to family affairs, the possibilities of having children, and warehouse work that enhances his strength but presents unexpected health challenges, readers move through an era replete with challenges.

Jerome Gold's choice of making his main characters somewhat under-educated (Bob has never heard of the Green Berets, even though he's a new adult) and under-employed lends a tone of realistic assessment to their world and experiences. There is a satisfying difference between this story and typical new adult coming of age tales which take place under different socio-economic settings, revealing the special struggles of two young adults as they try to find a way to afford the American dream.

Bob's frustration with his life is nicely portrayed: "Sometimes when she wasn't home when he returned, he wanted to scream loudly enough to destroy the world. He imagined himself yelling at her, throwing things against the wall - a lamp, dishes, an ashtray - and he would pace the living room, unable to keep himself from looking out the window each time he came to it, hoping to see her in the distance, walking back to their apartment from Tom's."

Social issues of the times, including the rise of anti-Semitism and prejudice, are nicely added into the plot to give it a full-bodied flavor.

The result is a fine saga not just about a sexual relationship or love, as the title suggests, but about new adults who field sex, a breakup, and new beginnings to come full circle. It's a warm story that will engage any reader interested in how relationships grow, change, and eventually move from couple-oriented visions to embrace new possibilities in the wider world.

American Rome
Adam W. Perin
Cold Saturday Press
9780578763101 $2.99

Political thriller readers interested in a fast-paced story receive a satisfying pace in this tale of a missing president, a nation changed overnight and seeking someone to blame, and too-familiar partisan bickering that keeps the truth from emerging. In many ways, American Rome holds firm ties to events unfolding in modern America, which is why the story will resonate so deeply in readers well versed in American political processes and conflict.

Adam W. Perin is adept at quickly creating the backdrop of an easily-distracted nation under crisis. While one might think that his summary of recent events in the prologue might indicate a series of explorations devoid of interpersonal interactions, this lead-in cements the milieu of the times. It contrasts nicely with the opening of the first chapter, which includes the dialogue, psychological grab, and characterization that builds a powerful, hard-to-put-down story.

From Ahearn's unique approach to presidential activities and his handling of press and political challenges alike to LA Republican Braden Cooper's increasing involvement in a challenge far above his position and experience, Perin adds complex social and political commentary to back a mystery that circumnavigates the globe, replete with tension, discovery, and confrontation.

Readers who like their thrillers well steeped in international special interests, influences, and capture and imprisonment will find the action and motivations of this wide cast of characters compelling. It invites readers to absorb an ongoing series of tense threats and continual surprises along the way.

As murders, deals, and investigations come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, readers will relish the special blend of political and social inspection cultivated in this fast-paced mystery.

American Rome's ability to ground its events in realistic scenarios and believable special interests makes it an engrossing read, highly recommended and filled with surprises. Political thriller readers are in for a special treat.

Mallast 2: A Sequel
Bob Prevost
RLP Industries
9780984636945 $16.95

Mallast 2: A Sequel gives historical fiction readers (especially those who have already read its predecessor Mallast) the well-researched story of August Mallast, the author's great-grandfather, who, together with his brothers, immigrated to America from Europe in the mid-1800s as turmoil swept the continent.

This is a family epic about immigration, transformation, and the changing social and political landscapes of nations. It uses August's perspective, from age five to adulthood, to trace these game-changing events and is especially powerful in following family dynamics and interactions as they form alliances, partnerships, and businesses, intermarry, involve themselves in the German Church and other social institutions, and integrate into American society.

Many novels use the immigrant experience to explore the early roots and influences of America, but Bob Prevost's in-depth focus and blend of family history and research brings the times alive like few others.

From a father and son's talks and dreams about the future and the logic for staying or leaving to the process of moving to unfamiliar territory with new opportunities, Mallast 2 takes the time to explore new phases of young lives, adjustments, and cultural and generational interactions on many levels.

Embedded with the influences and politics of the Prussian-Denmark wars and their economic, psychological, and social influence on generations of Mallast members, Mallast 2 is a compelling account that follows ambitions and influences of parents, sons, and daughters.

Historical fiction readers seeking a sweeping epic that draws readers into daily life and the concerns of the times will find Mallast 2 realistic, involving, and hard to put down.

The Story of the Masters
David Barrett
Tatra Press
9781732222724 $30.00

The Story of the Masters: Drama, Joy And Heartbreak At Golf's Most Iconic Tournament is recommended reading for avid golf fans, who will find its year-by-year report by a veteran golf journalist to be detailed, compelling, and a fine history of the highlights of the sport from 1934 to modern times.

From its founding by Bobby Jones and its first ten years from 1934-42 to later events, David Barrett cultivates a style that captures the plays, personalities, challenges, and achievements of each Masters tournament player, as in his depiction of one early icon: "Horton Smith stormed out of Missouri at the age of 20 to win eight tournaments on the winter tour of 1928 - 29. By the end of 1930 he ran his total to 14 victories. Taking advantage of that success, he embarked on exhibition tours, primarily with Hagen. He was on the road constantly for 20 months, playing in some 130 exhibitions and 50 tournaments. The rigorous schedule left Smith with a bad back."

Golfers receive all the stats, game-changing decisions and events, and coverage that capture influences on the game's rules and players over the decades: "He left the table but was called back from the cabin before he made it to the interview. Aaron had glanced at De Vicenzo's scorecard lying on the table and noticed the total 66. He was certain Roberto had shot a 65. Neither player had filled in the box for total; this was unnecessary, since the hole-by-hole scores were what was official once a player signed. A committee member at the table had added the scores and written in the 66. Aaron saw the offending "4" and knew that he had to point out the error. Aaron was hoping that something could be done to rectify the situation. But he knew, and the officials knew, that under the Rules of Golf if a player signed for a score higher than he actually shot, the higher score would stand (if he signed for a lower score, he would be disqualified). There was no need to consult with the USGA."

Non-golfers might think the sport dry enough to have little action to describe, let alone over such a long period of history, but David Barrett demonstrates that every year holds its milestones, amazing achievements, and different flavors of golfing greats and their success and failures.

This all comes to life in chapters that might even intrigue those with only a mild interest or experience in the sport, because these descriptions embrace not just the plays but the politics behind them.

The Story of the Masters is everything a golf history should be: passionate about its subject, exciting in its descriptions, astute in its analysis, and hard to put down. Readers need have some familiarity with the sport to imbibe, but even those casually interested will find it an exciting coverage.

Beyond Revelation
John Hazen
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684336050, $19.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 256pp

Investigative reporter Francine Vega has appeared in several prior books, but Beyond Revelation provides a stand-alone thriller that requires no introduction to prove accessible to newcomers as it probes the fine line between a cult and a religious order.

Francine is drawn into the Beyond Revelation group when her friend goes missing. But what she found when she gets behind the backdrop of their spiritual passion is a deadly conspiracy involving Russians and the nation. And so her personal objective to help her friend becomes a tense nail-biting read that circumnavigates the presidency, the FBI, international special interests, and the future of a nation.

John Hazen excels at taking personal motivation and perspective and expanding them into a bigger picture scenario. His choice of the first person perspective captures Francine's involvement, life, motivations, and difficult choices. This creates a personal 'you are there' feel to the story as it traverses not just her problem-solving abilities, but her life: "My weekly show was approaching, and I contemplated canceling it...To be honest, I really didn't feel like doing it; I didn't feel like doing anything at all."

The blend of personal and broader social and political issues, the various components and influences of Beyond Revelation, and its lasting impact on Francine's life as well as others creates a compelling thriller powered by strong characters, a believable plot, and twists and turns both Francine and readers won't see coming.

The many emotional layers Francine experiences as she confronts her biggest case and nightmare without some of the key support systems she's relied on in the past makes for a story that is gripping, involving, and hard to put down.

Thriller readers who like action tempered by strong emotional involvement will find Beyond Revelation a real winner.

Mneme ("Memory"): A Homeric Mystery
K. Partridge
Argive Press
9780578577364 $16.95

Mneme ("Memory"): A Homeric Mystery features illustrations by Barbara Harvey and takes place around 750 B.C. on the island of Chios, off the coast of Turkey. A detailed introduction both sets the time and place and reviews the history surrounding it, also explaining the use of Harvey's black and white icons throughout. These also serve an unusual role in the story, indicating changing time and place through character images. Explanations of 'tricky pronunciations' also highlights K. Partridge's attention to detail and the concern that readers not be confused by any of the complex facets of this story.

This long introduction and its explanations might lead readers to suspect a dry read, but a delightful surprise awaits those who persist. The book incorporates a sense of language and discovery that is compelling, lively, and belays the necessary information provided earlier to assure a quick involvement with the story via poetic, lovely language: "He had no name, no home. No past or future. The present was oblivion, except for a dream in which he could not understand the speech of his own dream figures. In the dream, a man clung to a log, except that sometimes it was the mast of a ship. On shore, the woman in his poem pleaded. But it may have been his wife, not the woman in his poem. Though he could hear her words, they were meaningless to him. For a moment he opened his eye, but it might have been someone else's. It was day."

From an old healer's treatment of an accident victim and the lasting repercussions of Homeros' injury to evolving history, receive a changing timeline (easily identified by said icons) and very detailed, compelling descriptions: "Chry'se nibbled off a piece of chicken and returned the leg bone to her plate. She chewed so daintily that Homeros couldn't even tell she was doing it, and when she swallowed, it was just as refined. She sipped her wine from a two-handled goblet as if she had been bred to the task. The vessel had a long, thin stem and was adorned with a squid. Homeros drank from a similar one decorated with seashells. He'd seen similar goblets a few times among the richest of the lords, but never ones decorated so ornately. He wondered if they'd been passed down from one generation to the next."

K. Partridge takes the time to build his story, which may not attract readers who seek less literary productions and nonstop action. But this type of reader wouldn't be able to appreciate the story's depth and lovely detail, either. It's the literary and historical fiction reader who will recognize the real value in a tale that not only weaves mystery into ancient times, but brings everything to life in a compelling, vivid manner.

As Homeros slays Zethos in an action ruled self-defense, faces brother Ma'ron's possible revenge, consults an oracle on a journey with Calliope, and stumbles into his destiny as a murderer tormented by twisted memories of past and present lives, readers are treated to a saga of injury, quasi-recovery, destiny, and early Greek culture that is hard to put down.

This is an observation that rarely can be made about historical pieces set in ancient times, but the language and personal approaches Partridge employs in the course of exploring Homeros' journey and mystery is simply exquisite, powering a quest for recovery and answers that is truly compelling.

Readers who enjoy the overlay of real historical facts outlined both before and after the main tale will especially appreciate the scholarship and detail that accompanies Mneme ("Memory")'s vivid story of discovery and change. It's very highly recommended reading for anyone who seeks the complexity of historical fact, fictional drama, and powerful metaphorical descriptions.

Methuselah's Legacy
T.W. Fendley
Soul Song Press LLC
9780999843451; $14.00/Paper; $4.99 ebook

If you were diagnosed with a terminal condition, wouldn't you give anything to live longer? In Methuselah's Legacy, Lilith Davidson is the perfect candidate for testing an experimental longevity serum. She's got nothing to lose, after all. She's ninety-two and has just been diagnosed with a disease that will end her life. She and her husband have been working on this experiment for over a decade, and just needs a human subject. What better choice than Lilith, now that she is truly at the end of life?

On some levels, the treatment works. It offers a transformation beyond belief. But, as anticipated, any treatment holds its detriment as Lilith and eleven other volunteers soon discover when its real cost emerges.

Lose one's identity, or lose one's's a heck of a choice, as potential subject Peter protests on the cusp of signing onto the project. And there are broader issues of humanity and social change that have even more dangerous ramifications not just for the original Pioneers of the experiment, but mankind as a whole.

T.W. Fendley does a fine job of capturing the swelling social forces that are part of this transformation process as well as the science involved in a longevity experiment that doesn't exactly go awry, but fulfills its potential all too well.

These conundrums are woven into a story replete with strong characters, intriguing inspections, and events that blend the disparate lives of Lilith, Kameitha, and others both within the experiment and outside of it.

Fendley's ability to review the political and social response to a side effect of transformation that threatens established order and perceptions of decency and human sexuality is powerfully described from both perspectives: "I believe the biggest threat to the security of our great nation are the insidious forces working from within that so drastically alter the character of our free institutions - those institutions we proudly call the American way of life."

Readers of sci-fi that revolves around genetic manipulation and human transformation will welcome a story that is vivid and fast-paced, containing many elements that will keep them engrossed to the end. It's more than a cut above most science-oriented surveys because its inclusion of social norms, political responses, and revised visions of what it means to be an altered human are especially well detailed.

The Big Tilt
Dan Flanigan
9781733610353 $14.95 print
9781733610360 $7.99 ebook

The Big Tilt is the second book in the crime/PI thriller series featuring Peter O'Keefe, and tells of the tough survivor's struggles with childhood friends and murder, during which he becomes a target for the local mafia.

Can things get more complicated? They can when it involves a team effort.

As Peter ventures into the heart of danger to save not only his friend Mike but his life in his home town, readers receive a fast-paced story of intrigue, cat-and-mouse games, and social inspection that incorporates an examination of privilege and struggle into the crime story.

At every turn, Peter is thwarted not just by Mafia efforts, but his own special interests as Harrigan maintains his innocence against all odds and Peter considers the links between his choices and his future: "No matter how this turned out, surely everything would change now. Selfishly, he could not help considering what Harrigan's downfall might mean to him and his shaky private detective business. He had Harrigan to thank for many things - rescuing him from the hellhole he had been digging for himself some years ago, providing him a fairly steady stream of work in the early days of his business to jump start the business, talking him up around the legal community, and down to almost that very day in the form of the loan Harrigan had helped arrange. But if I can't fend for myself by now, then I don't deserve to be fended for. His petty concerns paled compared to the fate that had befallen his lifelong friend. He wondered what Harrigan would soon reveal to him. Was this a true tragedy, the consequence of a tragic flaw? Or just a melodrama? Maybe some of both."

Peter's ability to reconsider his relationships, his approach to life and business goals, and his self-defeating attitude adds a series of personal confrontations and reassessments to the crime story. These are satisfying embellishments of not just the events, but the changing psyches of these characters: "No more self-delusion. Now he had to acknowledge and reckon with it, and the reckoning made it hard for him to breathe."

Dan Flanigan's ability to juxtapose personal with professional challenges enhances a plot that goes beyond a whodunit or a crime syndicate tale to probe the changing motivations and tilting world of everyone who comes in contact with Peter and his client.

The result is a gripping account that moves between underworld special interests and the changing objectives and approaches Peter experiences, which continually lead him to grow as both a person and an investigator.

Readers who enjoy high suspense, crime intrigue, and psychological tension will find plenty of all these elements in a vivid story that holds not a few surprises not only about Peter O'Keefe's relationships, but the police and criminal communities alike.

The Big Tilt is very highly recommended for its tense blend of confrontation and self-realization, achieving the goal of serving as a fine stand-alone read to newcomers and a satisfying continuation of Peter O'Keefe's life for prior fans.

A Betting Woman
Jenni L. Walsh
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
9781948018951 $15.95

A Betting Woman tells of Simone Jules (aka 'Madame Mustache'), who arrives in San Francisco in 1849 after the death of her family in a fire. Broke and bereaved, Simone needs a job, fast. Fate brings her into the unusual position of being a blackjack dealer at a card table, where she makes her mark as an exotic French-speaking woman who adds pizzazz to the process.

Jenni L. Walsh presents this vivid story in the first person. This approach brings the milieu of early San Francisco to life as Simone captures the City's sights, sounds, and women's lives.

But the story doesn't end there, because romance and murder lead Simone to a new town, a new identity as gambling hall matron Eleanor Dumont, and yet another revised life changed by death.

With the Gold Rush serving as the backdrop for her achievements and confrontations, A Betting Woman provides historical novel readers with a special blend of real history and fictional drama that will attract not just history buffs, but women who enjoy strong female characters determined to survive.

Walsh's vivid imagery and language is part of what drives this moving story, from its first paragraphs: "I had arrived; ready to start anew, with nothing but two trunks, a mouth of deceptions, and my broken memories. Opportunity whistled through San Francisco, where its gold was discovered accidentally, unexpectedly. One could've said the same about my coming here. Unexpected."

Walsh carries this spunky character's feel throughout life's slings and arrows and the buffeting, changing circumstance that drives her not outward, but upward. The addition of romance and its delicate dance is also very nicely described and compellingly written: "The night continued. David and I danced around each other in words, expressions, and stolen glances. To say his presence shook me and left me off kilter would be an understatement. I didn't want to let on that I knew him beyond an old acquaintance, and he seemed to understand me and give me that courtesy. He didn't refer to me as Simone, nor as Eleanor. Only Madame. His eyes flickered to my ringless finger now and again, perhaps wondering when and why I exchanged the title of mademoiselle, as I was so often called back home. Had I married? Or did I simply prefer the more respected title? I saw the questions in his head."

A Betting Woman is an engrossing story, very well done and hard to put down. Hopefully, it will reach beyond historical fiction audiences and into enthusiasts of women's literature who look for powerful voices, experiences, descriptions, and growth in their novels.

It's very highly recommended reading.

First Steps to Fly Fishing
Michael Temple & Kris Neely
Cresting Wave Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B08946S6ZZ $9.99

First Steps to Fly Fishing: The 1924 Classic Updated for Today first appeared in 1924, giving beginners fisherman Michael Temple's advice on how to fly fish with better results. As the decades passed, his book became an industry classic and often was the first technical book consulted by newcomers to the sport.

Its reappearance in an updated edition adds new material by Kris Neely and fly fishing expert Joshua Bergan, who saw the necessity for updating the classic to reflect new equipment and approaches. To their credit, they didn't just update the book. They juxtapose old and new ideas about the sport.

This approach results in a contrast and synthesis of the best of fly fishing techniques past and present, retaining the feel of the authoritative classic while adding important new information that modern 21st-century fly fishermen will need to know.

The publisher and writers' attention to maintaining the integral quality of Michael Temple's original is to be applauded. So often, a redo of a classic involves tearing it apart. This production melds the best of both worlds together imparting a unique strength to both that re-places this classic into the hands of modern audiences.

The introduction which talks about the challenges and focus of this process is particularly nicely done: "There are updated sections on rods, reels, lines, and other equipment, loads of information on specific recommended flies, how to cast, where to fish, when to fish, and more. And don't discount the value of a fly angler's glossary, which is included as the final section of this book. Temple thoughtfully omits more advanced concepts, such as fly tying, line mending, and entomology (with brief exceptions in the "Flies" section). Reading First Steps to Fly Fishing is quick, easy, to the point, and won't leave your head spinning."

There could be no better gift to accompany a new fly fisherman's first gear than this comprehensive, lively, readable book.

Yes, it's that good.

Plan to Kill
C. V. Hamilton
Swift House Press
9781733720960 $17.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

When Roe vs. Wade is overturned, what will happen next? Chaos, if Plan to Kill is any indicator. Admittedly, one is a political thriller novel and the other real life, but the intersection between these two is the focus of this story, which evolves a plot surrounding a struck-down Supreme Court decision and women who decide to take matters into their own hands.

These aren't reactionary housewives. They are astute, clever, professional business folk who find their choices in the business world lend nicely to a political confrontation over women's rights that segues into murder.

Planning a president's assassination might seem an unlikely pursuit for those not in the business of murder, but nothing's impossible, to these determined women.

Part of the strength of this story lies in the evolution of this plot, while its other potency lies in the psyches of the perps themselves whose actions, reactions, and solutions to the problem are about to shock the nation.
From interactions between the President and staff members at the White House to the real purpose behind the plot, readers will find themselves on edge throughout this satisfyingly complex, unpredictable read.

One might think that its basic premise stemmed from current political events, but readers will be surprised to learn that this novel's concept began many years ago, before the current political milieu evolved. This fact makes it even more commendable and surprising.

From a woman who sacrifices herself for a greater purpose to political subterfuge at all levels of the White House itself, this powerful story keeps readers involved and guessing up to the end.

Its strength in depicting strong women who both become part of the political process and operate outside its constraints makes for a thoroughly engrossing thriller that genre readers will find unexpected and delightful.

The Alchemy of Planes
C. L. Nehmer
Finishing Line Press
9781646622467 $19.99

Plenty of books have been written about aviator Amelia Earhart, but The Alchemy of Planes offers a poetic exploration of her life and influence, blending free verse and traditional poetic forms with a biographical sketch that personalizes Amelia's achievements and disappearance.

It seeks to capture not just the facts surrounding her life, but the driving force that made her accomplishments so vivid and inspirational to generations of women. As such, The Alchemy of Planes cultivates a unique perspective that focuses not on her disappearance alone, but her presence.

Prompted in a workshop to write a single poem celebrating an admired woman's life, C.L. Nehmer found that Earhart could not be constrained by format or a singular approach to the topic. And so this book was born. When a teacher told C. L. Nehmer that the poem was 'full of ghosts' because it tried to include too much, this collection was her answer.

From birth to death, the extent of Amelia's extraordinary life is revealed based on in-depth research and an equal amount of passion.

As for the poems themselves, they are sparkling stars in Amelia's world that track the cadence of her family's evolution and the progression of her life with lovely imagery and astute observation. It's almost as if Nehmer were there, growing alongside Earhart: "They say a man/will hang himself if you give him enough rope./But there are no instructions for a man/dangling from the side of a building, twisting/and trying to climb, no way to tear your eyes/away from the terrible struggle,/the inevitable drop./Amelia will learn to sew."

Readers who have admired Amelia's flying prowess but may know relatively little about the rest of her life receive a poetic journey through her various roles as a teacher, a lover, and a daughter.

This is more than an external celebration. Nehmer seeks to get into the atmosphere, world, and skin of her subject. This approach creates poems that are emotionally compelling and moving: "Mutton and soap and shit and smoke/and the broken lines of a new language/bleed through the walls/where Amelia comes to teach/the immigrant mothers".

Readers who enjoy literary productions that blend free verse and traditional forms and those who maintain a special interest in Amelia's life or the intersection between biography and literature will find much to relish in The Alchemy of Planes, a beautiful celebration of not just one life, but the power and passion of poetry.

Dream It & Do It
Holly Sharp
Dream It & Do It Publishers

Dream It & Do It: 100 Possibilities, Stories, Real-Life Role Models is for all kids and adults who love them, who would provide children with an inspirational blueprint for success via biographical sketches and self-help exercises.

The opening letter to 'dreamers' cultivates a positive approach to life, from the start: "What an exciting time to be looking to the future. The world around you is changing faster than it did for your parents or your grandparents. Technology is changing every day, the earth is counting on you, and we are working to be a kinder, more equal human race. You will have a major part in all of that. The question is: what will be your role in this change?"

The difference between this book and some others isn't just the admonition to dream big, but to follow in the footsteps of others who made seemingly-impossible dreams a reality.

Fearless perseverance and concern for the greater world drove these people, and also drives the message in this book, which is dedicated to not just self improvement, but global improvement.
The format takes a dream ("Dream of Writing Books"), pairs it with a selected figure ("Like Dr. Seuss"), and adds a colorful drawing of each selected individual. This accompanies lyrical, lovely descriptions of each individual achievement: "Songs are like snowflakes, there are millions of them in the world and each one is unique. Each one is made up of only twenty-one notes, but combined in a way that makes it different from every other song written before it. It is songwriters that are responsible for the words and music that make a song unique. The Sherman Brothers were songwriters that spent their career writing songs for Disney."

The biographies go beyond simply outlining life accomplishments or adversity, stretching the subject into how each person succeeded in translating their vision and efforts into contributing to a better world. Problems are clearly outlined and the thinking which went into resolving them are reviewed so that young readers receive an idea of the problem-solving process.

One strong example is the work of resource manager Esther Ndichu: "She learned that there are 800 million people in the world that go hungry (that is almost three times the number of people in the United States). What surprised her even more than the number of hungry people was that there was enough food in the world being produced to feed these hungry people. The problem is that food is being wasted, just like she saw on her uncle's farm. In fact, she says that one-third of all the food produced in the world ends up going to waste. She realized - this is not a food shortage problem. This is a logistics problem. The reason it is a logistics problem is because the food to feed people is not ending up in the right locations at the right time."

Elementary to middle grade readers thus receive an all-in-one workbook pairing biographical sketches with specific details on dreams that evolved for the greater good.

Adults seeking to install in youngsters the basic concept of growing, giving, and realizing their dreams in a broader context than individual interest alone will find Dream It & Do It a powerful model not just for success, but for cultivating a giving attitude towards life and society.

Very highly recommended, this is an outstanding approach that cements dreams with practical life experience and reality.

Life of a Firefly
Sandra Brown Lindstedt
Independently Published
9798679133327 $9.85 Paper/$1.99 Kindle

Life of a Firefly: The Incredible Adventures and Mostly True Stories of Sandy Forte reaches elementary to middle grade readers with a strong gathering of moral stories surrounding Sandy and her firefly, who go on adventures that support the notion of growth and flexibility in confronting new situations.

Sandy's moves between Texas and Chicago, her 'mistakes' in life and lessons learned from them, and the warm nature of her family and community come to life in descriptions that are thought-provoking and joyful in nature.

Her earlier memories are of her mother leaving them to go to Chicago, and her nearly cutting off her foot. She also recalls how her mother's absence changed those she left behind: "After my mother had gone, everything seemed to change, even Glory. At night, we used to make up silly knock-knock jokes, but then the silence took over. It was like Glory was still there - but not. There were a lot of serious, quiet gazes. I would see her and even touch her, but I could hardly ever hear her, because she rarely spoke. Instead of telling me her secrets, she chose to write them in her diary. This went on for many years, prompting Grandma to call her the silent sister."

Black and white drawings pepper these stories and bring them to life, while Sandy's spunky descriptions and escapades glow through vivid words that bring the culture and people of the South to life: "I stole peach preserves from the smokehouse because I was hungry. I was hungry because my grandma decided to cook squirrel meat, which I didn't eat on account of I liked little animals and it looked disgusting. And when Grandma asked if I'd taken the peach preserves, I lied because I didn't want to get a whipping. And when I did get a whipping, I cussed because it hurt. My grandma has tried to tame my behavior by the use of various punishments and rewards such as buying me a Popsicle every time I emptied the slop jars instead of hiding them under the bed. The Missionaries have even tried rubbing my head with annoying - I mean anointing oil - but it didn't take."

Cultural insights, Sandy's observations of her world and her place in it, and lessons learned from people, nature, and community all drive a powerfully compelling story.

Everything changes when Sandy swallows a firefly and opens up to the bigger world around her. Her philosophical reflections, as well as her antics, are equally powerfully described: "As I rocked her back and forth, I wondered why everything was the way it was. But who knows why things are what they are. They just are. Even my firefly."

Adults seeking stories of growth, change, and a child's roller-coaster journey through fun, family, and faith will find Life of a Firefly a compelling adventure indeed; worthy not just of leisure pursuit, but family and school discussion. It's very highly recommended reading.

The Seagull
Anton Chekhov, author
Anton Korenev, translator
Anton Korenev Entertainment
9781953608000 $29.95 Hardcover; $19.95 Paper; $9.99 Ebook; $29.95 Audiobook

The Seagull is translated from Russian and adapted by Anton Korenev, and benefits from this Russian director and actor's dramatic flair for capturing the underlying humor and irony in Chekhov's classic work.

College-level students already familiar with Chekhov's works might wonder at the need for another translation, but this one adds textual and visual cues that are essential to the story and character interpretation which make their way into the English language for the first time. It also features online access to additional materials, including the translator and director's selected notes and audio and video resources.

Chekhov's original story was a comedy about misguided romances between a cast of characters. Its translation here began as a task to make this tale production-accessible

to English speakers in New York City while retaining the nuances and flavor of the author's native Russian. English captions were the key to staying true to both objectives, and lend to a production that incorporates stage directions in a manner that remains true to Chekhov's original intention.

An introduction outlines these and other technical challenges, lending insight into the roles, choices, and dilemmas of a translator's world before it moves to the work itself, from a cast of characters to the play.

Literature readers and drama students alike will appreciate the details and care that have gone into this translation, and will find that it stands out as a solid piece of literary research, language interpretation, and drama that, more so than many, captures the intention, nuances, and feel of Chekhov's writing.

The Seagull is especially highly recommended for literary students of Chekhov's works and drama students who would perform the play; but it also serves as a fine example of how translation achieves it goals, and ideally should gain attention from college-level audiences studying translated works and their processes and impact.

The Friends of Allan Renner
Dave J. Andrae
Kaji-Pup Press
9781649701282, $25.98 hardcover
9781649701312, $5.99 ebook

Allan Renner is approaching forty, but in many ways he's never left home. He physically resides in a Florida granny unit above his parents' garage, he has a job as a film production assistant, and he leads a quiet life. The Friends of Allan Renner explores this milieu and the forces which finally lead him away from his roots and predictable security and into new possibilities.

While in many ways the main character is a mirror of his creator, Dave J. Andrae, the story is narrated from the changing perspectives of not only Renner but eight of Allan's friends. This makes for an astute observation of the evolution of Allan's life and psyche, both from the protagonist's viewpoint and those around him.

The contrast between Renner's life and choices and those of his friends is excellent, creating a synthesis of life objectives and impressions that explore different processes of maturity, life choices, consequences, and their ultimate end results.

Like the film community it explores, the pace of this story is provided in staccato impressions with segues that link characters, events, and changing circumstances in a satisfying cinematic-style experience.

The story opens with Alan's review of a not-unsatisfying, calm life: "Allan Paul Renner knew the drill as he approached his forties: he and everyone else who wasn't under the gun and faced with the unspeakable were lucky to be alive. He hadn't always felt this way. In the past, it might have seemed as if human life had been devalued by the world; existence entailed much hassle for such fleeting rewards, and an awful lot was riding on very little. Or maybe very little was riding on an awful lot, he wasn't sure. Either way there seemed to be a lack of love in the public sphere."

Allan's adult friends are all very different, from Akhil Das, a high school guidance counselor whom he meets by chance at a ball game both have little interest in attending, to Fred Seelenfreund, a filmmaker who joins his inner circle. Some of his friends are dogs, such as the faithful Ruby. And some are even stranger, such as Xynnulu, who brings Allan on a universe-hopping journey.

As The Friends of Allan Renner evolves, readers will find the expansion of friendships and their impact to be delightful. There is no clear, predictable path to the outcomes Allan faces during his romp through life, and thus readers receive no singular approach, as a result.

From rocky film productions to strategic life moves and world-changing introductions to new ideas, Allan's journey embraces not just psychological but philosophical sea changes that lead him in unexpected growth directions: "How many times have I looked up at that ceiling at night instead of at the stars? That's the problem with being a person on Earth: you're almost always confined in some way. We fetter ourselves just as much as the world fetters us, he thought."

The result is much more than an exploration of middle-age angst, surveying the special kinds of growth friends can influence and foster, and what evolves when a man becomes privy to universe-changing secrets.

Fans of novels which begin with typical middle age concerns and move into fantastic realms will find The Friends of Allan Renner a multifaceted, delightful read.

Pay Less for College
Elizabeth Walter and Debra Thro
College Admissions HQ
9781735602929 $17.99 Paper/$24.99 color paper

Most guides to college financing outline scholarships and other programs that provide financial aid, but Pay Less For College: The Must-Have Guide to Affording Your Degree is different. Its focus is on understanding the net cost of attendance and how to bring that cost down, and it includes the formulas, assessment approaches to financial aid, and calculations necessary to approach college and grad school with long-term understanding of their real costs.

Chapters focus on all kinds of related subjects, from debt assessment and management to taxes, understanding how financial aid packages are built, and all the costs of attending college beyond tuition alone.

Website links help assess these costs, from those that survey the actual costs of living abroad to renting books online and locating the best data upon which to base decisions.

There is a lot of confusing information about college financial aid and how it works. Pay Less For College seeks to help families get a realistic assessment of what any college would cost them, given their unique situation; and reviews a variety of strategies they may be able to use to both reduce that amount and/or find ways to reach it.

The charts, graphs, and worksheets are an invaluable part of this process, clarifying many points and providing links to resources that contain relevant supportive information.

Families of college-bound students looking for a clear, comprehensive coverage of all the options and considerations should consider Pay Less For College a 'must have' acquisition. Its outline of various processes and approaches to financial management is clear, versatile, and mines the best of college financial concerns and programs to present strategic insights that parents and students will find essential to the task.

The Soul of an Addict
D.J. Mitchell
Alma James Publishing LLC
9781735680811 $16.95 Paper/$8.95 Kindle

The Soul of an Addict: Unlocking the Complex Nature of Addiction will reach both general-interest readers and those involved in the medical field or studying sociology with a survey written for non-addicts who seek a deeper level of understanding of the addictive personality than most books provide.

Unlike many others, D.J. Mitchell views addiction not as a disease or a choice, but a more complex lifestyle approach that embraces social, spiritual, and psychological elements as part of its formula.

Based on the author's personal experiences with addiction as well as the insights of others, The Soul of an Addict compares addiction to religion, using the author's life as its own case study to show how addiction becomes a lifestyle.

This reference is both specific and heavily footnoted, linking to studies and articles that support Mitchell's personal experiences and contentions. His review of how addiction can be overcome embraces specific changes rather than general contentions: "A life of addiction is a habit in the classical sense: our actions stem from an "internal disposition" to use drugs. This is not something we're born with, but something that develops as our addiction satisfies our internal needs. That need is to fill the hole. Our actions reflect this need. In order to change, we need new actions and another solution for the hole in us. Our habit is deeply ingrained, but not unchangeable. We change these habits by practicing new habits. But we also change our habits by finding a new purpose for life. We have to find something new to love, besides the drug. This only makes sense: if we want to adopt new habits, we have to have a good reason for taking these new actions. Otherwise, we will only be motivated to take actions that feel good and that tends to lead us into another addiction."

Many passages such as this illustrate why addiction can be so pervasive and difficult to overcome.

The Soul of an Addict's ability to delve into the heart of the addictive personality and mindset leads readers onto a path of discovery and insights on the path away from addictive traits and habits.

The footnoted references and quotes support Mitchell's coverage with thought-provoking, revealing precision: "The strange aspect of this with respect to addiction is that we're talking about life itself. What could be more important? Yet, especially as our lives improve in recovery, we become distracted. Priorities shift. The job, the family, and the hobbies take up more time and energy. We face problems we never had before. As one of my friends says, "I now have problems in areas where I didn't used to have areas." Perhaps these areas represent new addictions. Surely, if we put our job before our spiritual health, that would fit Gerald May's definition of addiction as "the attachment... of desire to specific objects." In that sense, Dunnington may be correct. In practical terms, as addicts we need to work to maintain our focus on what is truly important."

The Soul of an Addict is an eye-opening, relevant, insightful guide that's highly recommended for any individual interested in addiction - especially those who have absorbed the standard treatises on the subject and who seek wider-ranging analysis and insights about the problem and its solutions.

Crimes and Passion
Jeffrey S. Stephens
Mandevilla Press
9781627040518 $15.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Crimes and Passion's murder mystery revolves around psychotherapist Randi Conway's patients, who begin to die under mysterious circumstances. It covers the persistent investigations of former New York City cop Detective Robbie Whyte, who expected a quieter environment in affluent Fairfield County, Connecticut. He discovers the error in his thinking because affluence doesn't prevent death and actually adds an additional element of social and political conundrums to his probe.

Elizabeth Knoebel didn't anticipate her early demise. If she had, she might have better hidden the revealing memoir she created, "Sexual Rites." And she might have come to suspect her part in a dangerous game that takes not only her life, but those of others. Her actions leads readers to both hate and, surprisingly, come to understand (if not love) her. This adds a satisfyingly complex feel to the story that is delightful in its surprises and revelations.

Readers are privy to her journal writing from the start. They also observe the scene of the crime and the fate that awaits her without suspecting the identity of the perp, although his motivation for killing her (to stop her dangerous games) is clearly stated.

Detective Whyte is handling a suicide jumper threat when he is pulled into the puzzling homicide. He's also handling differences between his big-city history and his new position: "It was no secret within their small police force that Chief Gill was not a fan of Whyte's big city style, but it was always Whyte he turned to when things became messy."

This affects his choices, actions, and relationships as he is drawn into an investigation that leads him to consider Randi Conway's psychotherapy practice. She's the 'X factor' in his probe, and he is increasingly convinced that her connection to his cases translates to something insidious and dangerous.

Readers will find that Crimes and Passion does an outstanding job of not just crafting a whodunit, but injecting the psyches and perspectives of Whyte, Randi Conway, and others into the picture. The murderer's own interest in Randi complicates matters as Whyte pulls together troubled pasts and possible motives, examining why Randi is so reluctant to talk.

The juxtaposition of a hard-boiled detective's typical modus operandi for solving crime and the changing perspectives and fates of victims and those on the periphery of danger is very well done, drawing readers into a changing story that explores deceit, love gone awry, dangerous games, and deadly consequences.

Readers who love a good murder mystery embedded in exploring psyches of victims and perps alike will find Crimes and Passion turns love and violence upside down in a satisfying, riveting manner perfect for a cold night's read in front of a blazing fire.

The surprise conclusion will keep readers thinking long after the story ends.

Finding Your Way
Drake Taylor
New Insights Press
9781735934402 $9.95 pbk / $7.95 Kindle

Self-help readers who choose Finding Your Way: How to Navigate Yourself Back from Depression, Personal Crisis, & Life's Mistakes will find its instructions specific, useful, and empowering. Its wellspring comes from Drake Taylor's own struggle with depression at a point in his life where he felt his best friends had turned against him.

His candidness about his own successes, failures, and transformation is the first thing to strike a reader of his memoir and guide: "I was in a perpetual loop of misery until I finally began to restructure my thinking. Though this time was challenging to me in so many ways, it was also one of the most positive experiences I have had. It forced me to do some deep introspection, to look at myself and do more self-analysis than I have ever done. It ultimately led to a period of tremendous personal growth. It became one of the greatest developmental periods in my life. Now that I have rediscovered the right path, I feel that I have something to share with others about what I learned."

Plenty of books offer insights on moments of crisis and how to learn from them, but Taylor's survey is different. It focuses on how to use fear and anguish as transformative tools. Readers are encouraged not just to pursue Taylor's words, but start their own journals to accompany the reading of his experiences so that they can chronicle and write about the exercises he includes as learning tools in Finding Your Way.

Readers should be prepared to appreciate the blend of autobiographical self-inspection and bigger picture thinking that comprise Finding Your Way. It weaves these two elements into a series of admonitions, discoveries, and strategies for living life in a better way: " have to take action every day to improve your situation. You cannot sleep your way out of depression, being upset, sadness, and the feelings of being lost. As soon as you wake up from what was hopefully a restful night's sleep, and before you even step out of bed, you have to decide whether the day is going to run you or you are going to run the day. It is literally that simple and that profound. Between those 5 to 30 seconds right after you turn off your alarm, check in with yourself, then swear that you are going to control the day."

Even more important, Taylor addresses the need for readers to reflect on their own recovery process, taking the time to acknowledge and develop their own unique approaches to "coming back" from the brink of despair. Worksheets help readers solidify these goals, lifestyle changes, passions, and other elements that form the basis of a roadmap or blueprint to success.

The Appendices of this book are packed with tools for achieving the revised mindset of positivity which were a key to Taylor's success, and which will be central to any reader's better future: "You must be willing to grab this bull by the horns and command it. Go kick your ass harder and longer - you can do it! It's not until you get that feeling inside your gut that you truly have a burning desire to survive that things in your life will change. You may have lost that feeling. But you can create it. You must create it. You have to make that decision - and it all begins with that first step in your mindset."

From identifying and eliminating outside distractions to exactly how to link journaling to self-analysis that leads to real change, Finding Your Way's special blend of admonition, autobiography, and strategies for self-exploration is especially highly recommended for self-help readers looking for practical tools for effecting transition from negative situations, influences, and most importantly, mindsets.

The Sugar Maple Grove
John E. Espy
Open Books
9781948598361 $21.95

Historical fiction readers interested in 20th century small-town Kentucky's struggles with racial strife will find The Sugar Maple Grove a powerful saga of confrontation, uprising, and change. It holds a frightening message for modern times as it outlines the possibility of the kinds of prejudice this nation may be returning to.

As such, John E. Espy's message, albeit seemingly about the past, could not hold a more timely reminder of our possible future as the story unfolds. It presents one woman's revolt against prejudice and murder, which resonates through the years to affect future generations determined not to let repression take over again.

From courts that condoned the status quo and inhumane operations and perceptions to the corporate tyranny that condoned these attitudes for the sake of their bottom lines, The Sugar Maple Grove is replete with eye-opening observations made all the more powerful for the colloquial accents of its presentation, as in these opening lines: "And then, there was Flem. Flem Lemaster'd had three brothers, who now are long at rest. And always when he was tossin' and turnin' this way and that, the same distressin' dream would come to haunt him and he'd see them after the blast, layin' there boxed-up with their arms forever folded across their breasts. On that airish fall morning about 6:00 or so, he awoke to a thick hoary fog covering the holler."

Espy's ability to cultivate unique local voices, hard-hitting perspectives, and changing lives, and his focus on making subtle links between the immediacy and events of the past and modern times is what gives The Sugar Maple Grove its impressive strength.

The revelations of how individuals are influenced are particularly well written: "Happy Jack listened and listened. The more time he dedicated to listening and learning the ins and the outs of union organizing, the better his life got. Brand new this and brand new that, it always seemed he had something new to show off, either by folks noticing or him just outright bragging it up."

Under another hand, these events would have been regulated to historical matters. Between Espy's powerful descriptions and his attention to capturing the social and cultural atmosphere (as well as the politics) of the times, readers are in for a real treat. The novel that is striking in both its voice, its descriptions, and its captivating chronicle of how people bow down to or rise up against prejudice and forces of greed and repression.

Readers seeking a hard-hitting, powerful novel of a changing world and the forces and choices that dictate its directions should consider The Sugar Maple Grove a 'must' not just for its exploration of the past, but for its undercurrent of warning about the future of relationships and freedom in America.

Yes, it's that powerful. -- The Sugar Maple Grove is very, very highly recommended reading.

Milestone Documents in American History
Kelli McCoy, Editor in Chief
Schlager Group Inc.
9781935306511 $395.00 print
9781935306528 $395.00 ebook

If one should wonder at the hefty price tag of the second updated edition of Milestone Documents in American History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped America, it should be noted that there are literally thousands of pages of research here that are unavailable under one cover elsewhere. The depth and authority of this presentation is thus unparalleled and deserves not just its price tag, but acquisition by serious high school to college-level American history holdings, as well as public libraries interested in well-researched, authoritative source material references.

The collection of referenced works begins with 1619 and includes letters, The Mayflower Compact, agreements and acts, declarations of rights and independence, treaties, doctrines, and more documents.

Embedded in these presentations is the opportunity to learn the basic analytical skills of handling and considering source materials and primary resources. This will prove key to a student's ability to develop critical thinking and historical analysis skills.

The introduction states the power and expansion of this second updated edition, which enlarges the scope and references of the first by adding significant important documents to the rich grouping in the prior edition: "The second edition substantially expands on the first, with nearly 40 new primary source documents included in the set. These milestone documents include foundational sources from the National Archives, landmark Supreme Court cases, government documents, and significant speeches and writings from influential Americans. Together, they represent many of the most significant political, legal, social, and economic ideas and events in U.S. history, spanning the colonial era to the present. The new additions include recent developments in legal, legislative, and presidential history, but they also include a range of significant documents that reflect the breadth and complexities of U.S. history. The expansive new material in the second edition makes this an even more inclusive group of sources, with significant additions in the areas of African American history, women's history, LGBTQ history, and immigration history."

As for the documents and writings themselves, these are introduced with an overview, a discussion of historical context, in-depth biographical sketches of their authors and their political and sociological importance and approaches, and the audience for and impact of the piece. Also concluding the presentation are questions for further contemplation and extensive bibliographic references suitable for classroom assignment and additional study, from books and articles to websites.

The importance of this foundation collection to any American history holding should not be understated. Its scope, depth, and inquiries are unparalleled, outstanding, and make for a top recommendation made even more important with its second appearance and expansion than in its original incarnation.

The Lamps of History
Michael Sandler
FutureCycle Press
9781952593024 $15.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Poetry readers looking for works that explore personal and political relationships, estrangements, and expressions of hope and despair will find The Lamps of History a fitting testimony to connections between personal and historic experience.

The opening poem, 'Gauze', perhaps represents these swings and this tone the best, offering ethereal images of hope and change that are transformative and reveal connections that lie on the edge of life, the subconscious, and the soul's observance of human affairs: "A light shaft cleaves my gurney from the room/and its rood-tree of IV bags, tubes. An absurd/double take on a Roman catacomb:/my flashlight scans a rack of skulls and shards/as Charon quips, the lamps of history/go out for guests lost in these cobweb shrouds - /so I try to count them, ninety-nine, ninety.../a mask says Now breathe deeply, and I vanish,/a plastic wristband flashing Vacancy/to distant chatter..."

From facing a father's death and what is left behind in 'Betelgeuse and Rigel' to Jewish religious inspection (as in 'Still: Yeshiva Examination') which brings to life the mystique underlying ritual and belief ("Vortex in black, an ellipse of elders/delving into intractables from benches three-deep, eyes clouded by riddle. At their pith,/a rabbi fingers a book between foci of two candlesticks./He too appears lost,/compressed by the sweep/of bookcases above - shelf on shelf of volumes tilting/somewhat precariously, a wall clock in the corner/out of kilter."), Michael Sandler's weave of history, philosophy, spirituality, psychology and social observation is astute and revealing.

These works linger in the mind long after their reading, lighting the lamps of historical and personal examination in a work that resides on the intersection between personal, political, and spiritual realms alike.

There's a sense of both hope and despair in these pieces which often juxtapose nicely through the placement choice of these works, as in 'Adon Olam' and its lament ("The message well-cloaked in this country night,/void-blackened slate scrawled in stars, chalk-white - /perhaps they blink in code though they peer/from eons ago - before me - and maybe all./Suppose they signal the end of days?") and the illusions we grant ourselves in the pursuit of happiness and hope, as in 'Fibonacci Sonnet': "Numbers don't lie/though we make them fib/as naturally as plucking certitude from a daisy,/believing they will always add up: one coupling with one ought to form/a golden mean - indeed, together our sum seemed greater than two, till one/of us slept elsewhere and we became three,/the lawyers made five, and/nothing bound us."

At once chilling, revealing, and poetically powerful, The Lamps of History represents a worthy, enlightening collection that will delight those who look for more than a simple expression of personal experience. It is a delight to recommend to poetry audiences seeking depth and superior imagery.

Dear Mama's Loving Arms
Ceece Kelley
Soaring Kite Books
9781953859006 $18.99

Dear Mama's Loving Arms will reach new parents, future parents, and those looking for loving read-aloud choices with its gentle story celebrating a new day in a loving mother's arms.

Sawyer Cloud provides gorgeous drawings for this commemoration, which not only covers love from the perspective of a very young child, but uses images of characters of color to reach audiences of all ethnicities.

The acknowledgement of the child's perception of motherly love is also especially nicely done, and is rare in a picture book world presented from adult viewpoints: "She scoops me up into her soothing arms. I know exactly what comes next. No nap, Dear Mama! I smile sweetly and bat my long lashes. But nap time is calling me."

As Baby copes with play, naps, and other child's-eye concerns, readers of all ages will delight in the cuddly, warm perspectives of a mother and child's interactions.

An early reader could not have said it better: this is a "lullaby of love" and is highly recommended for parents who would choose books that celebrate a baby's perspective of life, love, and diversity in a picture book presentation.

Dear Mama's Loving Arms is very highly recommended for its gorgeous drawings and gentle message of love and unity.

Tideon: A New Myth
Elizabeth MacDonald
Mindstir Media
9781734691610 $22.95

Tideon: A New Myth is a simple reader for grades 1-2 and tells of young Tideon, who starts out his life "always laughing, always playing and hiding, always racing away to the shore near his home to fall in love with the ocean, over and over again."

The introduction of a child who has a good life until it changes leads to a quite complicated revelation of how his father doesn't like him; and why.

A warrior father's determination to go into battle and his wife and son's reactions are intriguingly presented as the story evolves. Mother and son live together, but often see the world from different perspectives. A son's favorite hiding game brings anguish to his mother, for example.

These elements belay the idea that this is a children's primer alone. Elizabeth MacDonald introduces adult concepts of emotional reactions, feelings, and responses that ideally will require an adult co-reader to explore these themes more easily for the very young (and even those who hold the reading skills to absorb the paragraphs of description that accompany lovely colorful drawings throughout by artist Bron Williams).

Can Tideon's magical perceptions of the world counter the violence and darkness embedded not just in his father, but in life? Themes of evil, crisis, heritage, and growth make this story a powerful saga of survival and transformation that belays its initial appearance as an easy picture book reader.

The result is an ethereal, powerful blend of folk tale and psychological inspection designed to reach all ages with a message that lies somewhere between the realms of magical realism and psychological exploration. Its lovely, compelling production imparts a fine message that readers won't see coming, in a manner that is absolutely engrossing.

Spectrum: Short Stories of Science Fiction, the Unusual and the Unpredictable
Michael Duda
Privately Published
9780998498447 $15.95 print
9780998498430 $7.99 ebook

Readers who like sci-fi which adds elements of horror and speculative fiction will relish Spectrum: Short Stories of Science Fiction, the Unusual and the Unpredictable for its ability to contrast stories that traverse the boundaries of predictability.

Michael Duda's short stories hold many attributes - the most notable being their diversity. His characters are strong, their dilemmas are varied, and the stories thus excel in creating scenarios readers won't see coming.

Take the opener, 'Edge of Twilight', for example. Dr. Kelvin Gardwin faces the alien Harvesters who gobble up planets in days. This threat is rapidly heading towards Earth, leading scientists to contemplate deploying an untested virus to stop it...a move he deems too risky.

Despite his skepticism, Dr. Gardwin is deployed to the front lines in an effort to enact this dubious defense.

Meanwhile, the No-Un alien monstrosity that is biologically linked together is denying its instructions to remain silent and restrained as its memory of a blue/green planet interferes with its careful programming.

A powerful, unique story of changing alien and human perspectives evolves.

Another example of surprising intersections between different viewpoints and life reality lies in the short piece 'Good-bye, Sweet Mercury', about a Christmas spirit who haunts a Chicago bungalow and his former family. He could stay with them year-round, but nobody would ever know he was there. He could also embrace a true life on the other side, as his spirit guide Mabel desires - but that would mean giving up the one thing that remains important.

A haunting association between life and death's meeting point, and a final decision Tim faces, creates a different kind of Christmas spirit story.

Duda's ability to weave sci-fi elements into stories of eerie circumstances with strange, haunting beginnings and endings creates a diverse collection of tales recommended not just for sci-fi short story readers, but for fans of eerie and haunting works that defy pat categorization.

Genre readers who choose this collection for its promise of sci-fi elements will find that much more is going on in many of the tales than science fiction alone, and will appreciate its forays into the world of horror and its literary reflections of the meaning of life on Earth and beyond.

Spectrum will prove an especially satisfying read for literature enthusiasts who look for diversity and unpredictability in their short stories.

The Fiddler in the Night
Christian Fennell
Firenze Books
9781777281021 $17.99

The Fiddler in the Night is the second book in the 'The Real and the Imagined' series and introduces Leonard, a orphaned teen who rides his bike through life's threats and challenges, empowered by his ability to navigate treachery and love alike.

Christian Fennell's descriptions are raw, metaphorical, and sometimes startling as Leonard observes this world: "His arms held out to the sides of him, his mind never trapped by his own self, never buckling under the weight of what he should be, or shouldn't be, understanding the truth of himself, always, in this world, hard as that was, and of course, in this moment too, riding a bike through the lonely continuum of time. He smiled at his knowing, where others couldn't, and knew he was right, and always would be. He rode on, his arms still there, to the sides of him, and he said, come, cover me. Gliding and dipping and soaring, and we do, going on and on, down a lonely long road, and free now, or at least so he thought. Free and wanting."

As the story unfolds, Leonard expands his approach from simple observations of nature to probes of the human psyche; both of which offer "So many endless possibilities of strange and wonderful things."

But Leonard is no ordinary boy. And this is no ordinary coming of age tale, but a dark inspection of murder, motivation, and choice that leads into various lives, including sheepherder Jonathan, his mother Kathleen, and his ill father Conor; the abused Holly; and Rachel and her interactions with the 'state-sponsored woman' who questions her life and relationships.

As violent reactions to life change Jonathan and Leonard and everyone around them, Christian Fennell cultivates an atmosphere of quiet desperation and normalcy in which even the most inhumane of reactions and actions receive calm, almost reasonable assessments.

Tragedy, love, luck, murder, and more coalesce in a delicate dance between horror and life evolution that changes all the characters in different ways.

It should be noted that dialogue between them does not include the usual punctuation quotes, but is perfectly comprehensible. Equally compelling is the contrast between quiet, reasoned determinations ("...of course it is") and life-altering violence.

Haunting and ethereal, Fennell's stand-alone The Fiddler in the Night is a masterpiece of reflection that is at once gritty, disturbing, and hard to put down. Literary readers looking for something different will welcome its contrasting harshness and light as it evolves themes that draw disparate characters into challenged lives.

Carrying My Father's Torch
Gail Weiss Gaspar
Oceanwalk Press
9781735814209 $16.95

Carrying My Father's Torch: From Holocaust Trauma to Transformation is not just about the legacy of the Holocaust. It's about keeping family secrets, the effects of carrying tragedy through generations, and what happens when secrets explode into the public arena.

Gail Weiss Gaspar not only inherited the legacy of these secrets and their consequences, but was assigned the task of carrying her father's torch to keep them. Her break from the past involved her father's participation in a different kind of tradition and revelation that changed them all.

In exploring her father's persecution, torture, and suffering, the process of making these events public and known heals the entire family in different ways.

Carrying My Father's Torch pulls no punches and provides an immediacy and 'you are there' feel, strengthened by Gaspar's first-person narration of the process of her father's coming out with his history: "Marty's hand shook, rattling the notes he held tight. He kept his eyes on what he'd written. I knew within the first few sentences he uttered that he wasn't holding back, releasing anguish with sorrow so overwhelming it wailed, despite the uncertain delivery. He spoke about days of being crammed into filthy and dark train cattle cars with fellow captives, not knowing where they were headed."

Few other stories of the Holocaust provide such a gripping inspection of not just the secret and its revelation, but the effects on future generations of keeping such a secret within the family circle: "That our relatives perished without a trace was a family secret that no one must know. Shoved into industrial ovens designed to extinguish evidence of their ever having lived, without our having a photograph, timepiece, handkerchief, broach, or letter to prove that they had. This secret inspired a vigilance I did not know I possessed. The pressure to excel, to please, and to keep the secret was crippling. Disappointing my parents was not an option." The strength and lesson of Carrying My Father's Torch lies in its ability to explore the consequences of these family secrets and how to defy the tradition of maintaining them.

Gaspar's realization and vigilance in pursuing a different path makes for a powerful, striking testimony as well as a call to action for fellow readers who may be harboring their own damaging family secret: "Standard fare for the second generation of survivors was to stay mired in guilt, quietude, or work. Many times, I'd get up to the batter's plate and choke. I'd want more, wish for it, talk about it...but wouldn't take a swing. Making known what was unknown, unspoken, invisible with the help of those who would help keep me accountable, writing MY story became devotion, a sacred practice."

While Carrying My Father's Torch is a logical recommendation for Jewish history and cultural collections, it also is a top pick for psychological holdings interested in family history, intergenerational secrets, and the possibilities of making different choices that ultimately result in a new form of transparency and healing for all.

Readers interested in any of these topics will find the power and process of Carrying My Father's Torch truly extraordinary reading.

Abide With Me
Jane Willan
Ayesha Pande Literary
9780578805313 $15.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Abide With Me gives mystery readers a Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn story centered on the Anglican Welsh Gwenafwy Abbey, where ten new nuns from Los Angeles bring with them youthful enthusiasm, another culture, and murder when a reporter from The Church Times is found dead on the beach.

Sister Agatha suspects trouble and adds sleuthing to her seasonal Epiphany list of rituals. Her nose for trouble soon ferrets out too many clues to process as a relentless threat moves closer to home.

The first thing to note about this story is that it is steeped in English countryside traditions, sounds, smells, and feelings: "Reginald Thurston, retired Archbishop of Wales, had recently located to Pryderi and moved into the Castle View Retirement Condominiums on the renovated estate of Lord Ednyfed. He said he wanted to throw himself into village life after the relentless demands of the archdiocese in Cardiff. And indeed, Sister Agatha often saw him, swathed in his overcoat, muffler, and mittens, stopping by the Buttered Crust Tea Shop, or filling a basket of groceries at Lettuce-Eat-Vegan, or attending the lecture series at the Public Library."

Life at the Abbey is anything but dull and quiet, which is another notable feature that Jane Willan employs in her story. Everything is vivid, meaningful, and lively...something readers may not initially ascribe to a nun's contemplative vocation, but which is satisfyingly present in a mystery that connects the nuns to the outside world in more than one way.

Church politics and relationships contrast nicely with Sister Agatha's discoveries and newfound realizations about how she approaches life and adversity as she questions not only her perceptions of her world, but herself: "Sister Agatha walked back to the Abbey lost in thought. Why hadn't she just asked Reverend Mother about seeing Peter in the dovecote? Or alerted her that there was an intruder on the grounds? She hadn't even considered talking with Reverend Mother. None of the other nuns would have responded by telling the deputy constable first."

Her ability to cultivate the attitude and inspections of a detective, creating a murder book of notes as facts and threats unfold, is equaled only by her creative formation of the Gwenafwy Abbey Murder Club and her determination to bring long-held secrets out into the open against all odds.

Willan has crafted a compelling mystery that is perfect winter reading for anyone interested in a whodunit that pairs questions of faith with the exposure of a murderer and a thief, and concurrent challenges such as the health of the Abbey's favorite Shetland pony.

Readers seeking a warm atmosphere and many satisfying twists and turns will find Abide With Me a delightful read.

2HVěRHVNěT: To Have Or Have Not
Jared K. Chapman
Apotheosis Press
9781953366009 $16.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

2HVěRHVNěT: To Have Or Have Not will reach young adult to adult readers of LGBT horror and fantasy with a dystopian piece that defies easy audience identification or pat categorization. Its elements of thriller, horror, sci-fi and intrigue, as well as its social inspections, draw readers with details of a futuristic world where telepathic monks control the superpowered Mighty via inspections of the future.

In this world, twenty-year-old Mario has a routine of work for a Mighty and a job he actually likes. As he confronts a Mighty-killing monster; questions of good and evil; creepy and odd strangers; and supermen who actually need saving by ordinary folk like him, Mario assumes a position of power that he'd never before imagined he could hold.

Readers receive an action-packed yet touching story that revolves around citizen Mario's relationship with a Mighty and his employer and a system that enslaves instead of encouraging he is called upon to help change.

It's unusual to see a dystopian story where a twenty-year-old is offered the opportunity to change the world, but 2HVěRHVNěT: To Have Or Have Not excels in its portrait of a young person who becomes empowered at an early age in ways neither he nor society expected.

One does not also anticipate murder to enter the picture in a story for young adults. This is yet another surprising twist in a story tailored for a younger new adult audience, who usually don't receive tales that embrace moral concerns, a murder mystery, and an ethical conundrum.

The result may seem appropriate for new adults, but should reach into older teen to adult audiences with its sci-fi exploration of social, political, and psychological issues that test a young citizen to become something more than his heritage dictates.

Readers of dystopian stories will find 2HVěRHVNěT: To Have Or Have Not compelling and unexpected. It's hard to categorize and equally hard to put down.

The Printer and the Strumpet
Larry Brill
Black Tie Books
9780996083454 $5.99

The Printer and the Strumpet is Book 2 of the 'Misadventures of Leeds Merriweather' trilogy, and opens in 1773 Boston, where Englishman Leeds Merriweather owns a newspaper. Trouble is brewing between England and America, placing him in a precarious position in more ways than one. His greatest challenge is to try to remain neutral in the face of this blossoming conflict.

Prostitute Sally Hughes is making no attempt at neutrality, and is firing up the passions of patriotic Americans by passing along to Leeds stories of British scandals and secrets that she and her girls learn while servicing clients at the Flagg Alley Bordello.

While they share an objective to expose secrets that could change the outcome of rising conflict, each wants to protect their current status and business efforts. It seems only logical that they would join forces to create an anonymous publication that exposes all.

Leeds and Sally not only face political differences in the course of their uncertain endeavor, but added danger when the specter of romance rears its somewhat ugly head to add fire to the fray.

Readers are swept into a world that opened in Book 1 with 2013's The Patterer, but this sequel needs no prior introduction to prove thoroughly engrossing. Leeds narrates his eavesdropping, discoveries, and conundrums in the first person, drawing readers neatly into the era and his reactions to new challenges that place him in different positions he actually relishes: "If I had learned anything from being a witness to a crime and reporting the facts that I saw with my own eyes, it was that I may have stumbled upon a previously unheard of form of journalism. Reporter involvement. Until now, newspapers passed along letters, essays, articles from other newspapers, officials documents, and advertisements. Repeating information that was from a two-week-old copy of some other newspaper was considered fresh news. This level of involvement - seeing, hearing, and then reporting - was unheard of. I liked it."

As his little print shop becomes the focal point of opposing forces, Leeds faces many new challenges, introducing readers to the evolving politics of these times with a personal flair for description: "Politics make strange bedfellows," I paraphrased Shakespeare with a shrug. I was not fully convinced at that moment that I had skipped across the partisan river to join them on the other side. This fight was too personal for that. I lost my battle in early March."

Readers might also recognize many of these conundrums as being timeless or applicable to modern times, from conspiracy theories and real and imagined government abuse of power to corporate pirate Clinton Murdoch, who loots his beloved News-Journal, only to suffer a sudden death that may be more sinister than the assignment of natural causes.

Sally's spunky persistence contrasts nicely with Leeds' evolving personality and processes. The lively characterization, paired with a fine flavor of the social and political norms of the times, creates a read which carries readers into the era with a deft, precise attention to description, atmosphere, and intrigue.

Readers seeking a historical romp through early Boston that layers interpersonal and political struggles with a touch of humor and realistic observation will find The Printer and the Strumpet works nicely as both a stand-alone read and an addition to the series.

The Grammar of Untold Stories: Essays
Lois Ruskai Melina
Shanti Arts LLC
Softcover: 9781951651411 $16.95
ebook: 9781951651428 $TBA

The essay form is under-utilized, these days, in favor of novels and fiction; but when done correctly, it is every bit as dramatic and compelling as fiction.

Take, for example, the diverse writings in The Grammar of Untold Stories. Each essay excels in its subject and reflection. The collection is arranged by theme ('Family', 'Work', etc.) and embeds power and personal insight into every piece.

The title work 'The Grammar of Untold Stories' offers one such example as it explores Lois Ruskai Melina's journey to Hungary in search of her grandmother's roots, which were so vague, after her death, that Lois had to conduct research in advance just to discover what village her grandmother came from.

As Melina explores her family and heritage, social messages are imparted from these revelations; one of them being the immigrant experience and questions about the family's background: "People often asked me, "What are you?" My father told me it was none of their business. I was to answer: "American." He himself would make what he thought was a joke. "Hawaiian," he'd say, at a time when that, too, meant "not American." When the person inquiring stared back at him, trying to find a Pacific Islander in my father's angular features and olive skin, my father would deliver the punch line: "You know, Ruskai. Like Molokai." Then he'd chuckle. Even as a child, I knew it wasn't funny. I didn't understand until much later that he was deflecting his own embarrassment onto the person who seemed to question whether my father and his family belonged here. I think now of the irony in his choosing the name of an island where lepers were sent."

Each essay weaves into the next, adding more pieces to the bigger jigsaw puzzle of Melina's life and heritage. Each contributes its own stand-alone piece that juxtaposes history with social observation and personal experience, drawing its power from all three: "That summer the university implemented Title IX by stitching together the men's and women's athletic departments in a way that moved all the women's positions into the organizational chart of the men's athletic department, like fingers from one hand slipping into the fingers of another. Each woman - including the AD - became organizationally subservient to the man who held the comparable title...When I asked the Women's AD why she agreed to it, she said it gave her a seat at the table. I didn't say anything, but I knew it wasn't our table anymore and that power is not located in a seat but in a body with a voice and a chest that whirrs like a sewing machine."

The beauty and precision of the language which stitches together all these seemingly diverse experiences to create a quilt of memory, experience, and social observation makes for a beautiful production.

While literary and memoir readers will be a major audience for this creation, The Grammar of Untold Stories will ideally reach beyond literature students into the hearts and minds of readers seeking succinct, hard-hitting, and pointed writings about life, liberty, and the pursuit of quality and insight.

This collection's unified power makes it a highly recommended addition for scholarly to general-interest collections.

Everything That Came Before Grace
Bill See
Independently Published
9798697945605 $12.99 paperback
9781626601567 $2.99 ebook

Everything That Came Before Grace reveals a father-daughter journey like few others. Not only is protagonist Benjamin Bradford a single father in charge of raising his child, but he simultaneously struggles with mental illness. The question becomes: can he exert enough control over his condition to be an effective and good father?

Some of the characters are fictionalized, as is the first-person narrator Benjamin Bradford. All are based on real-life events and people. Added drama and human interest follows this journey with realistic insights into the process of obtaining therapy and being a father: "As I wait for my long-time therapist to bring up my chart for about the millionth time, I take my usual seat next to the window overlooking the teeming traffic on Washington Boulevard. I look up at the Christmas cards draped from one side of the office to the other. It's that time of year. The dread and anxiety brought on by the holiday season, and judging by how crowded the waiting room was, business must be booming around here. Nine years ago, I was a wreck. Just trying to keep it together after everything that happened. Someone told me to get some therapy, and I've been coming here ever since."

As the story evolves, readers receive a powerful literary coming-of-age story about struggle, achievement, and change as Benjamin raises Sophia to the best of his ability.

From letters exchanged between Anna Robertson, the only girl he ever loved, and Benjamin to her marriage to his best friend and the changes that take place between them, Bill See crafts an extraordinary compelling tale that embraces love, loss, college life, parenthood, and other transition points in life with an astute eye to detail.

Readers become immersed in Benjamin's life and conundrums even as they absorb the special bond between parent and child that leads Benjamin on the road to an uncertain recovery as Sophia grows up and into her own role in her life and his.

The Los Angeles culture and music woven into this story add depth to its atmosphere and revelations.

The result is an engrossing saga of evolution and insight that will touch any reader interested in love, loss, and learning as a vet tech struggles with past, present, mental illness's challenges, and his duty to his daughter. It's especially highly recommended reading for those who look for complex probes of how mental illness overlays daily life.

Casey Grimes: The Mostly Invisible Boy
AJ Vanderhorst
Intense Publications
9781947796478 $14.99 (paperback)/$4.99 ebook

Casey Grimes: The Mostly Invisible Boy is Book 1 in a children's fantasy series and incorporates elements of adventure into the magical story of an eleven-year-old boy who finds himself mostly invisible to his new school. Literally.

He devises ways to make himself seen, from a high-intensity bright vest to slamming his locker door so the girl next to him will notice him, but these are, at best, temporary solutions to a growing problem. And hope fades when routines which used to work to make him visible seem to no longer be effective.

Casey Grimes is well on his way to vanishing from the world when he and his little sister uncover a secret society in the woods whose members can see him.

What first seems a plus, however, turns into something deadly as Casey discovers the difference between being seen and being accepted. Complicating things is the fact that Sylvan Woods is in charge of keeping monsters out of the suburbs - monsters that Casey didn't even know existed.

What if being visible only made things worse? As he delves into the heart of Sylvan Woods and its secrets, including Trickery School, Casey has the feeling that his former dilemma may be nothing compared to the threats that await him in this woodsy, wild environment.

Casey faces the unpredictable and savvy Luci West, a school that laughs at safety protocols, and the threat of death by student duel. The fearsome Sylvan Watch is also hunting him.

When the Butcher Beasts invade, he faces the deadliest fight of all.

Casey Grimes: The Mostly Invisible Boy excels while venturing into unpredictable territory, combining the feel of a fantasy with a treasure hunt while exploring a boy's evolving abilities and changed perceptions of the world and his place in it.

AJ Vanderhorst creates an adventure story that comes with the satisfying twist of a personality who explores a strange new world, Trickery School, and the mandate to become part of an inner circle looking out rather than a fading loner looking in.

Between Casey's personal conundrums and the magical world he uncovers, middle grade readers are in for a treat.

The Ghosts of Italy
Angela Paolantonio
Independently Published
9781537410913 $12.95 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

The Ghosts of Italy: A Memoir documents Angela Paolantonio's return to her Italian roots during a visit to a mountain village, the home of her grandparents, that becomes her home as well. As much a travelogue and celebration of Italian culture and countryside as it is a memoir about a striking personal journey that resulted in fresh connections to a new place, The Ghosts of Italy is a delightful, atmospheric read for anyone interested in returning to one's roots and exploring heritage in another country.

Paolantonio opens her journey with a present-day observation of its culmination: "I dared dream years ago, conjuring an image of one day living in a stone house on a hillside in Italy, a flock of sheep grazing in a field beyond a balcony. Well, now I have them in view. Yet it is not just any view, nor any stone house on a hillside in Italy. It is the house where my grandmother was born, the balcony view of her youth."

With this, readers embark a journey that embraces the expedition, the destination, and the meaning of family connections alike in a memoir that celebrates all this and more.

As readers follow Paolantonio's revised life, they receive a fine discussion of losses, gains, and perseverance in the face of defeat. Black and white photos illustrate her words, while the magic of red fox, gray wolves, and dancing leaves comes to life.

The experience is not without its classic Italian romance as she widens her world and embraces family and new experiences alike.

Perhaps the most striking facet of this memoir lies in its ability to traverse the Italian countryside with a sense of determined purpose as Paolantonio evolves a relationship that will eventually challenge her relationships with her relatives and the town.

Readers breathe in the heart and soul of Italian culture and countryside and absorb the revised life of a woman who must decide where her heart truly lies. The discoveries that evolved from a search for the spirit of a grandmother go in unexpected directions, providing a moving saga that embraces the author and her readers to the end.

Those looking for moving stories of discovery and family heritage, as well as love, will find The Ghosts of Italy excels in its ability to introduce the spirit of not only a family, but a nation.

It's a memoir well worth the read.

Celiac Mom
Ann Campanella
The Bridge
9780578708287 $17.95 paper/$9.99 ebook

In Celiac Mom, Ann Campanella's daughter Sydney exhibits, at age two, health symptoms that physicians assure her will disappear as she grows older. It's not until she's five years old that a diagnosis finally arrives - celiac disease, a gluten intolerance - and with it, the beginnings of a journey towards health that involves dietary adjustments and many food challenges before Ann Campanella learns how to identify and avoid the gluten exposures that are slowly killing her daughter.

The evolution of gluten-free habits was challenged across the board not just by her own mother's test in learning different eating habits, but by encounters ranging from school lunches and summer camps to family gatherings.

Campanella was never a cook, and wheat was the family's former mainstay. This made the learning curve especially steep as she absorbs hard lessons on all the places wheat can appear, and why her daughter was not being nourished on a diet the rest of the family easily absorbed without thought.

Many books cover celiac disease. A large number of them are cookbooks, while others cover the medical aspects of gluten intolerance. Few adopt the point of view of a mother charged with raising a special needs child in a world where celiac disease is barely recognized and little understood; where poison can lurk in virtually any food.

Family relationship adjustments and the psychology of struggling with such a basic lifestyle change are nicely outlined in a manner that other parents will find compelling and informative: "I had talked with Sydney beforehand and explained in simple terms that gluten was very likely the cause of her stomachaches. As a sweet and compliant child, she was eager to do the right thing. It was just hard having to watch all the other kids eat huge slices of a three-layer birthday cake right under her nose."

From homeschooling and friendships to the terrible results of gluten exposure and the mystery of identifying threats when safety is paramount and protocols are seemingly being followed, Celiac Mom goes where few other parenting books attempt in tracing the daily challenges of raising a celiac child safely.

Anyone facing a child's food allergy and the crisis of raising them safely in an environment loaded with the allergen will find Celiac Mom a powerful discussion of problems, solutions, and the tangled path towards recovery and health.

This should be the book of choice given to any parent holding a new diagnosis of a child's celiac condition and wondering what to do next.

Try Moving Yourself!
John A. Elie
Independently Published
9798600768307 $14.95 Paper/$9.95 Kindle

Think of a household move and the first thought that usually comes to mind, if you have belongings of consequence or volume, is researching moving companies. Those who have done so well know they are expensive, but John A. Elie offers a different approach in Try Moving Yourself!: The Complete Self-Moving Guide for a Full Household Move Using U-Haul Products and Services, available now on Amazon Kindle. His book is for the DIY reader who would coordinate a household move without a professional company, and provides the toolkit necessary to make this important leap. Consider this book the 'Instruction Manual' for using U-Haul to complete a stress-free end-to-end household move.

From estimating the truck size needed to fit all furniture and belongings to using the 12 Excel template downloads provided with this book to plan each step of the packing and moving experience, Try Moving Yourself! Is the item of choice for anyone who wants to take charge of their own move, whether it is a short distance or cross-country.

One might initially think this process straightforward enough that a book would not be necessary, but neglecting a read through this impressive manual will cost in many ways. It's packed with tips the ordinary non-professional mover might not know, such as the importance of choosing uniform moving boxes over haphazard materials on hand: "You can add hours to the loading process if you have to contend with irregular shaped boxes versus the standard size boxes.

Back when I was a professional mover, we used to dread working on a move with the term "PBO." PBO stood for "Packed by Operator," and it generally meant every single box was a different shape and size. What a nightmare to load onto the truck! It made the loading process much longer, and more often than not, there was some breakage on the unloading end. You will spend a few hundred dollars for moving boxes, but remember, your belongings are worth thousands of dollars, and you will be saving thousands by doing it yourself over the cost of using a full service moving company. So don't skimp, buy the boxes you need."

Along with the step-by-step procedures and specific tips are discussions of why each is important to the overall success of the move. Elie emphasizes each step's logic and importance: "Notice on our timeline that the weekend of July 11 is our target to complete packing, which is the weekend before the planned truck-loading day of July 17. Finishing packing the weekend before the move may be the most important advice that I can give you."

Elie does more than review the templates. He goes through each move, helping readers review and understand the complete process and the choices which differentiate a successful move from a stressful one.

This not only allows readers to avoid common mishaps made by non-pros, but emphasizes a logical sequence of planning events that neatly dovetail into the bigger picture of moving success.

Extensive reference is made to the Excel spreadsheet, so readers need to have this program (and a rudimentary knowledge of its use) in order to follow the advice Elie links to it. The newest version of the Moving Templates, available for download at the Author's website (, features the auto-populating of data cells so you only have to enter certain data once (like the number of boxes needed). The data loads to other related worksheets automatically.

Black and white photos pepper the account, providing visual embellishment of the process of packing and loading and other auxiliary concerns, while links to videos on YouTube and other web information sources support contentions with further visual reinforcement.

The result is a full review of the entire moving process (from beginning concepts to planning stages, packing, loading, and unloading) that identifies common misperceptions and pitfalls and advises how to avoid them: "Many do-it-Yourselfers make the mistake of inviting ten or more friends to help out on loading day, thinking the more helpers the better. Big Mistake!! It does not help to have 10 people bring items to the truck at the same time as that only creates chaos. The best arrangement is to have one Loader, who stays on the truck, and four helpers working in two teams. The job of the Loader is to tell the teams which item, or type of item, to bring out next. The two teams will alternate going into the house and bringing items to the truck."

By breaking down these pieces into understandable segments, Elie creates an approach that encourages non-movers to get involved, backed with a specific knowledge of the entire process.

This book should be a top shelf item for anyone who wants to do a move with certainty, knowledge, and understanding of all the elements that make a move not just successful, but achievable for the ordinary person. Its clear instructions and formula for success could not be better.

Who Are Our Heroes?
Eliana Melmed
Independently Published
ASIN : B0889YZ2YR $9.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Who Are Our Heroes? A Reminder to Say "Thank You!" in The Time Of Coronavirus and Beyond provides a fine picture book admonition to not only be polite, but to recognize the emotions, lives, and efforts of those around us. It is the perfect tool for adults looking to teach the very young about courage, achievement, and gratitude.

Amy Tian provides simple yet compelling drawings that illustrate a young girl's observation of the newly-empty world outside and being alone with her family inside. A series of simple two-line rhymes illustrates her feelings as she watches the outside world and identifies everyday heroes such as the mailman, who keeps outside communications alive, or the teachers who engage with her via Zoom.

At each step, the young observer is reminded that all these people help make the world less isolated and lonely, often taking risks themselves so she can be educated, receive communications, and feel safe and connected to others.

Ultimately, this picture book fosters a sense of recognition and appreciation of others that will last long after COVID is (hopefully) a disease of the past. It encourages kids to think about what services and people make their world smooth and meaningful, and is the perfect tool for cultivating an attitude of gratitude even in the midst of a pandemic and beyond.

Parents will find Who Are Our Heroes? an excellent starting point for discussions about courage, giving, service, and appreciation. It's equally highly recommended for collections interested in books that reach the very young with basic information about engaging with life.

Deven Greene
Black Rose Writing
9781684336081 $19.95

Unnatural is Book 1 in the 'Erica Rosen MD' trilogy and a fine medical thriller along the lines of Robin Cook. It considers Dr. Rosen's first investigative conundrum in the course of her practice when she observes a Chinese child with striking blue eyes and a secretive mother who seems afraid.

When she finds that the girl's brother harbors a genetic mutation as well, Dr. Rosen begins to suspect that more is going on than a possible illegal immigrant situation. She embarks on an investigation that reveals a secret Chinese experimental human embryonic gene editing program and the threat posed by a scared mother's children.

Dr. Rosen's ability to reconcile her role as a pediatric doctor with her evolving skills in thwarting not just the operations of a secret lab but an international plot enhances a story that is filled with intrigue as she visits China and immerses herself not only in a mystery, but Chinese culture and history.

There's also a welcome side dish of humor served at subtle points that melds nicely with the medical intrigue and cultural revelations: "As we drove through the wild streets of Beijing, our NASCAR professional spoke obsessively about the cars and the drivers he saw, constantly reminding us the motorists in Beijing showed terrible technique, which explained why there were no Chinese NASCAR drivers. I wondered if the real reason was the Chinese were simply too smart to drive around in circles all day."

Murder, genetic engineering, and Dr. Rosen's increasing involvement in not just solving a mystery, but becoming part of a process she barely understands, makes for an action-packed story that cements its riveting adventure with strong characters, hidden motives, and twists and turns readers won't always see coming.

This vivid read contains much food for thought as it exposes a Chinese plot to assassinate children and gain more dominance in the world through manipulating scientists and citizens alike.

Readers looking for a fast-paced medical thriller will find Unnatural a powerfully compelling story that sets the stage for more.

Relationship Solutions
Sonia Frontera
Coventina House
9781733569545 $15.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Relationship Solutions: Effective Strategies to Heal Your Heart and Create the Happiness You Deserve is the third book in the self-help 'The Sister's Guides to Empowered Living' series, but needs no prior introduction to serve as a stand-alone read for newcomers.

Plenty of books on the market discuss marital harmony and healing, but few adopt the approach of Relationship Solutions, which covers how to identify and work through underlying negativity to arrive at equitable solutions that work for all.

This isn't a one-formula-fits-all-relationships approach, but a set of strategies designed to help readers first gain clarity about their own needs, responses, and lives; then work with another to meld interests and rebuild relationships and love.

It surveys common traits of an unhappy marriage, provides tools for re-assessing whether the couple individually holds enough connections and purpose to reform a bond together, and builds a positive mindset not just for relationship rebuilding, but for divorce (if this seems the best solution).

This approach sets Sonia Frontera's book apart from other relationship discussions, but there's more. In the interests of not providing a singular model for the road to equitable partnership or disbanding, Frontera provides candid assessments that include financial as well as emotional concerns: "Technically, a mediator may help you craft an agreement you are comfortable with but may not be an optimal outcome in your situation. If you have not received adequate counseling, you may agree to terms that are not good for you. That's why, unless the issues are simple and few, the parties should consider bringing their respective attorneys to mediation to protect their interests and avoid accepting unfavorable terms. Having attorneys present makes mediation more expensive, a factor you need to consider when selecting your divorce model."

The emphasis on self-care, self-knowledge, and better understanding the process of coming together or moving apart to create a win-win situation for all makes this book outstanding in many ways. Relationship Solutions is the item of choice for anyone interested in pursuing what makes for not just a stronger relationship, but a better, more independent and mindful relationship with life itself.

Fully Alive
Michael J. Surdyka
Independently Published
ASIN : B08LTGQ641 $4.99 ebook

Many self-help books about sobriety offer programs and insights, but Fully Alive: Using Your Individuality To Conquer Addiction adopts a different approach, considering how diet, exercise, and a focus on change integrate with strict regimens for recovery that do not deviate, especially in the vulnerable first year of transition.

Michael J. Surdyka's book embraces a specific tool he's devised ('The Sobriety Blueprint') and its focus on making individuality more of a priority in the planning stages than it's been given credit for in other game plans.

The plan that evolves must be "fiercely" applied to one's life in order to prove successful long-term and Fully Alive addresses this approach and difference, covering its four major cornerstones to success (self-reflection, diet and exercise, new friends and hobbies, and spirituality) in depth.

The primary goals of lifelong sobriety and a joyful life receive close inspection with the goals of individuality and perseverance in mind. Chapters reveal the backbone of not just the process of gaining sobriety, but the more elusive goal of sustaining it.

Exercises (both physical and mental), admonitions, and insights are all geared to supporting a rock-solid sobriety path that will not give way under pressure.

Fully Alive also acknowledges the void left by letting go of addictions, and the possibility of filling this void with new life adventures, hobbies, and challenges to keep from slipping back into a suddenly-yawning pit of addiction and despair.

At each step, Surdyka's attention to specific methods and proven paths for avoiding or mitigating the effects of common obstacles encourages readers to create their own individual lives using these cornerstones as guidelines to building a bigger picture of lifelong success.

Some approaches will feel surprising, such as the need for "getting rid of all old friends and acquaintances immediately." But the goal is to rebuild a new life without relying on prior foundations or patterns of dysfunction, and this and other seemingly radical moves are designed to assure that the newfound vulnerable sobriety is not short-lived.

Fully Alive's attention to long-term results based on individuality and sweeping changes places it in a different category than most self-help books about recovery. Its challenge (to change everything on many different levels) will be embraced by determined readers interested in pursing sobriety as a long-term solution. Fully Alive is especially recommended for addicts who have been through programs before, only to slip back into the same old patterns.

Happiness Power
Robert Gill Jr.
Teaching Press
9780578718323 $12.49 paperback
9780578780443 $7.49 Kindle

Happiness Power: How to Unleash Your Powers and Live a More Joyful Life is about self-actualization and empowerment, offering a basic treatise that considers the roots of happiness and how to find them in everyday life and personal effort.

It opens with an interpretation of and insights defining happiness. This may seem overly simplistic, but identification actually lies at the heart of being able to locate happiness in life, and is the best starting point for success.

Self-empowerment is one of the keys to manifesting happiness and well-being in daily living. Robert Gill shows readers how to achieve this in various ways, from physical exercise to developing self-awareness and mindfulness.

Important links between happiness and self-esteem are provided, building and getting involved in community projects are promoted, and practical considerations of giving without getting taken are also analyzed to emphasize the various paths that can achieve and support a happier life.

Gill addresses common obstacles to all these efforts, such as probing underlying roots of dissatisfaction and depression to locate their sources and deal with them appropriately: "When you learn to understand the cause of your emotions, you can begin to repair them. That source is usually something that you can easily interact with once you identify it. By interacting, you can change your thought processes to a more positive outlook. That opens up the mind to receive happiness power."

Why develop routines that address the needs of others in addition to oneself? Because "It creates clarity in your life and leaves you feeling gratified. It helps to create a value-based life and allows you to live a life of integrity. It makes life fun. The goals established by our sense of purpose often change the lives of others, such as establishing charities, disease research, or supporting the Peace Corps."

The result is a goal-oriented set of projects that all reach and support the objective of leading a happier, more effective life, designed to reach readers interested in applied solutions to ennui, depression, and negativity.

Happiness Power differs from similar-sounding books in that its goal is to identify, then find and unleash happiness into the wider world at large. It's highly recommended as a panacea for depression, especially in a world riddled with COVID, worry, and angst.

Can happiness be achieved even under such circumstances? It can, with the help of Happiness Power.

A Few Yards Shy of Heaven
Kevin Giffin
9781452047003 $17.99 Paper/$28.49 Hardcover

A Few Yards Shy of Heaven is a football story set in 1980 South Heaven, Ohio, and tells of a small town that finds comfort in football season against the strife, poverty, and changes that affect residents from all walks of life.

Readers might expect this story to adopt a small town perspective, but it opens with the first-person reflection of an outsider - a young reporter who finds a South Heaven assignment a paradigm-changing journey.

On the surface, Melvin Wright's assignment to venture into the town to write about the impact of auto plants which are closing is simply another feather in his professional news cap; but underneath, he acknowledges that change is in the wind: "With a couple of decades under my belt, I thought I was too old to be consumed by the sensation of homesickness. For the educated, such a sensation had to be a weakness of a shallow and uncreative mind. I was hardly that person. Still though, as cityscape bled into suburbia, suburbia touched the fringes of small town America, and small town America recognized the serenity of the country, I felt a disappointing twinge and tingle in my gut. Beyond the family vacation, I never had a reason to leave Cleveland and home."

When he becomes a sports reporter and not a beat reporter, he encounters quite a different world that he anticipates will be singular...but it's not.

His exploration of South Heaven's culture, politics, sports and business worlds captures just why the small town pins all their hopes and dreams on the Rangers games. It's especially grudgingly investigated because Melvin resents his latest assignment and, conversely, the people in this small town. He never wanted to be sent to the middle of nowhere to become involved in a sports season's highlights and lows.

Despite all this, Melvin finds the town replete with interesting characters, simmering underlying social pressures, and a story that expands from football and a town's passion to its connections with growth and survival. He also discovers the newspaper is one of the pivotal mainstays for keeping these people together: "Don't let nuthin' happen' to the paper, Boy. The story's the team now. Paper needs to be followin' the team."

It should be noted that, like the protagonist, readers will find that football game explorations and play-by-play descriptions abound. Those who read on will find that the soul of the small town lies within these plays and audience reactions. Most of all, Melvin's own attitude, professional approach, and life are unexpectedly changed by his assignments.

The result is a novel that embraces not just the sport, but the psyche of a small town beset with strife.

Its story of faithful believers, hope, and impossible wins will draw even non-sports fans into the tale of a reporter's dive into a world he not only hasn't acknowledged before, but initially resents.

Literary readers who look for stories of evolving community life will find A Few Yards Shy of Heaven has its finger on the pulse of American small town changes as it uses the passion of a sport to reflect the hopes, dreams, and impossible pursuits of a world in flux.

She's So Cold: The Stephanie Crowe Murder Case
Donald E. McInnis
J&E Publications
9781732322257 $18.95

She's So Cold: The Stephanie Crowe Murder Case A Defense Attorney's Inside Story gives true crime readers a powerful read, and comes from a defense attorney who probed the 1998 case of a child murdered in her bedroom in a California town.

The police found no evidence of a perp, but upon questioning the victim's older brother and his friends, a confession was obtained after hours of interrogation...a confession made under duress, that was then rescinded.

Unlike most true crime stories, this provides much legal insight into the process of interrogation, juvenile rights, and the nature of confessions. Donald E. McInnis does an outstanding job of pinpointing the problems of juvenile prosecution methods: "In my opinion, the theme developed by the investigator through interaction with the suspect is the key to the psychological interrogation. The theme gives the impression to the suspect that it minimizes the suspect's responsibility for the crime and its perceived legal consequences. The danger of this form of interrogation is that children as well as adults can be led to falsely confess..."

As the story unfolds, the focus is on the legal process, court system, and evidence that evolves to contradict a building case of what really happened to Stephanie.

This story evolves with an astute eye to legal and investigative processes to draw readers into the mechanics of a system designed to quickly identify and prosecute murderers. But its not as well designed to handle juvenile psyches and affairs. It surveys the rights of minors, refers to other cases, and points out the inequity of a system heavily biased towards certain ethnicities and groups: "It doesn't take much to imagine what the outcome could have been had the three teenagers been born to parents of color. In all likelihood, they would be living out their lives behind bars, wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit, after having been battered psychologically until they "confessed" and then tried as adults."

Defense attorney Donald E. McInnis provides a special insider's viewpoint of the system's pros and cons and, in this case, offers a thought-provoking examination of the various issues of minors involved in crimes.

More so than most true crime stories which tend to center on adult perps and concerns, She's So Cold exposes many details about juvenile criminal justice procedures that are key to understanding its special challenges.

No reader of true crime or juvenile rights should be without this outstanding book about a case that challenges adult prosecution procedures and concludes with a Children's Bill of Rights that offers much food for thought. Law professors will find She's So Cold holds much fodder for classroom discussion and debate, as well.

Kids Word Cookbook
Scott Ravede
Sulurue LLC
9781734867114 $10.99 Paper/$17.99 Hardcover

Kids Word Cookbook receives fine drawings by Rivka Ravede and provides kids with fun picture book wordplay suitable for teaching and learning, inviting them to explore homophones, homonyms, tongue twisters, and more.

The subjects of this whimsical survey are a fly who flies high, a fly who lies around, and Bea the bee, who "does not want to be a fly/or fly as high as a High Fly flies."

Kids will delight in the evolving adventures and tongue twisters that teach language in an involving, engaging manner; while parents and teachers will find the stories encourage kids to think differently about word meanings, usage, and language's flexibility. The recipes offer formulas for understanding and invite kids to wordplay on their own, with a glossary of terms in back supporting this learning environment.

Between the fly and bee, moles in troll holes, a new gnome who is as "new as your gnu was when your gnu was new" and more characters, Kids Word Cookbook is an inviting production that puts the idea of fun back into language study. It is simply a standout, worthy of acquisition by libraries and homeschoolers alike.

Its lasting value lies in its humor, approach, and fun drawings, which come together to form a package of educational enlightenment in a delightfully unique way.

How to Make a Life
Florence Reiss Kraut
She Writes Press
9781631527791 $16.95 Paper/$9.49 ebook

How to Make a Life introduces Beilah and daughter Chaya, who flee a catastrophic pogrom in Kotovka, Ukraine, for America in 1905. The effects of their decisions will resonate through the decades as family trauma, secrets, love, and hard choices affect the Weissman family's lives in America and beyond, generations later. How to Make a Life provides a focus not just on single choices and actions, but how these ripple across other lives who inherit the legacy of these decisions.

It should be cautioned that this is no light psychological survey. Violent scenes open this story of oppression and conflict as Beilah and Chaya face the wrenching results of an attack that kills their loved ones, including children.

Determined to leave the threat behind and start new lives, they manage to escape to America, change their names, and start over. But the past is never far behind, and Ida, and Bessie's new world is tinged by heritage and connections they cannot ignore.

As new lives in Brooklyn lead into World War II and around the world as cultures entwine, reconnect, and change the family, Florence Reiss Kraut creates a sweeping saga that is vivid. It embraces social and political changes, capturing the dilemmas and past and present challenges of a family whose real inheritance lies in the lives and connections of those they loved, lost, or grew close to.

The changing social times are nicely portrayed: "Women working? That's a man's job. And to Irene's hesitant thoughts that she enroll in Brooklyn College, he had roared his disapproval. Why do you have to go to college? What are you going to do with a college degree? Faye insisted that he just didn't want Irene to be more educated than he was. He was afraid she would outshine him. Irene had wondered if that were true."

The true value of an intergenerational epic like this lies in its ability to capture the perspectives and legacy of choices and consequences passed down over the years. Kraut deftly captures these pivot points, juxtaposing past and present in a compelling fashion that illustrates the changes and characters' reactions to them, and how their bequests live on to change lives.

Each of the four generations explores new possibilities. The move from tragedy and severance to rebirth and revision is traced with a strong attention to not just changing lives, but perspectives altered over time by all forces, past and present.

The result is an immigrant story that will delight readers interested in how the seed of tragedy in one life takes root to produce hope in the future. It's a full-bodied story that will attract novel readers looking for a read both epic and well grounded in both adversity and recovery.

Chronicles of a Spell Caster
J. J. Singleton
Empire Publishing
9798687363198 $15.45 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Chronicles of a Spell Caster, Book One: Orientation is the start of a series that follows Jet, who enters his freshman year of college with the usual educational and social challenges, plus a new one - students must complete some of their assignments using a virtual reality program called the AITS, eventually spending an entire spring in said virtual reality.

But this is no ordinary college and no normal freshman year. It's a time where Powers are honed, and assessed, and competition is fierce. The human world has advanced in a way where everyone has some type of abilities. Jet is about to enter unknown territory in which everything he's been taught and has identified with is about to change.

As Jet faces virtual and real opponents, makes new friends and enemies, and interacts in a way that truly challenges his evolving skills, readers enter a world which is both familiar in some ways (the college milieu, with its social and political coming-of-age tests) and yet a different milieu where Powers rule.

As Jet finds his deepest secrets exposed, he has some hard decisions to make about his future. And they involve changes he'd never anticipated from the college experience.

Fantasy readers looking for an overlay of quasi-reality to their stories, and unexpected twists, will find Chronicles of a Spell Caster excels in creating a subplot that opens with a logical test of Powers and then introduces an dog eat dog virtual world in which the holders of Powers have repressed and changed peoples native to the AITS virtual world who do not confirm to their purposes: "Many moons ago, generations past, the Powers slowly began to become fearful of our abilities. We were strong, fast, and all in all, we could contend with them. So, we were hired as bodyguards and other types of hired hands for many villages, cities, and kingdoms. The Powers didn't like this challenge to their authority. So, they devised a plan to get the edge against us."

As Jet journeys through this AITS realm he uncovers an evil, dark plan, his own special abilities as a Caster, and the multitude of choices this world presents . Readers are introduced to a different kind of coming of age story that involves a transition not just into adulthood, but into powers which hold special consequences for the world.

Mature teens to new adult and adult fantasy readers receive a powerful story that begins in college but evolves to embrace the moral, ethical, and very adult world decisions Jet needs to tackle not just for the sake of his own growth and evolution, but the world.

Chronicles of a Spell Caster creates a powerful introduction to a conundrum that makes for a special first year and leads Jet to question his own motivations in opting for good or evil paths in handling his magic.

It's a powerful opener that concludes events neatly, but leaves the door more than ajar for Jet's continuing maturity and the next adventure. Chronicles of a Spell Caster is especially recommended for teens on the cusp of their own transition into adulthood who appreciate stories of not just magic, but challenging growth opportunities.

Marshal Sea
Brynda Mara
Independently Published
9781070991344 $5.58

Marshal Sea began with a short 2007 love affair in Santorini, where poet Brynda Mara both found and lost a part of herself. Her return to New York City ended the month-long romance and evolved into ten years of emotional pain, during which the pieces in Marshal Sea were penned.

The process by which Brynda Mara bonded with Santorini and the possibilities of love are explored in a moving series of images that capture both: "Bound with the sand,/And in your lips/I tasted the seven seas./Your body/The sand/Grinding me,/Binding me with the island."

Brynda turns to poetry to help express and lift her from her pain (to turn sadness into something beautiful/darkness into light). Readers more than familiar with love and choices that change everything will find plenty to relate to in these stark contrasts between love and life and pain and loss: "Words had no meaning before you,/But now I voraciously wait/I wait in vain/In hunger and despair/For thy words/Are all that I would like to have/Thy words..."

These are evocative works that cry out in despair and longing: "I have drunk from your golden goblet of intellect/Which now in my mirror I reflect/Marshal, my Marshal Sea/I still enchanted by thee/Rip me apart/Send your hurricane/Destroy what is left of me/In your golden goblet I shall place my heart..."

Readers seeking emotionally compelling works that capture love, loss, and the lure of the 'mysterious seashore' will find these tributes to the process are heartfelt, emotional pieces that linger in the mind long after their reading.

Still Life With Saints
Angela Paolantonio
Independently Published
9798571716765 $21.95 Paper/$9.95 Kindle

Still Life With Saints is a sequel to the 2016 The Ghosts of Italy, and continues the journey Angela Paolantonio began in her first memoir of her old country Italian family roots. In this continuation, she moves from Los Angeles to the village of Calitri, where Italian women take her under their wings and help her explore her heritage.

There she continues her life and discoveries, transporting readers into a life journey that captures the village's culture, nuances, and sights and sounds with lovely descriptive passages: "How do I feel when I have to leave the place that is now running in my veins? I am lost. To walk the village each day is to walk within an Alan Lomax recording. The sights and sounds are authentic, the traditions deep and true. They are in the pastoral lilt of women's voices in summer, heard from behind a beaded doorway, or men's acapella singing in a grotto in winter, the tufa stone acting as a natural acoustic enhancer. I am transported by their longing..."

The introduction, in which she returns from a Christmas holiday in that village to feel newly lost in her Los Angeles environment, will feel quite familiar to any who have journeyed to another place, only to find its lure more powerful than the abode they once called home.

As Still Life With Saints returns to that world and explores it more fully and deeply, readers are transported by discoveries that lead to inevitable change: "One thing rang true and had been coming on for some time: the more I found myself embedded in the traditional ways of her old village - a novice to the slow-cultured pious life of the bundled women on via Fontana - the more I wanted to return to it, to live it."

Too many memoirs about such journeys gloss over the real day-by-day challenges of cultural transformation. One of the strengths to this account is that it pulls no punches, but delves right into that process: "The everyone's fantasy of "living in Italy" was quickly dispelled by the culture shock and differences of this world to mine, or even to what Americans think as Italian life. Los Angeles' Mulholland Drive to the Centro Storico and the legend of water; from the fountains of via Fontana to the Colorado River and the engineering feat of bringing water to the village and Los Angeles, religious, pagan, and all in between the challenges of living here then. No American shower was the least of it in my new, two-room stone house. There was no heat, no landline, no internet, no TV or radio, up to love loss and reverse immigration consequences. Leaving not the village but the USA behind."

The result is a powerful survey of family roots, national ties, and the journey Angela Paolantonio embarks on as she moves between two very different worlds; one of them both familiar and alien at the same time.

From myths and legends to romance and a form of 'reincarnated soul journey', Still Life With Saints proves even more captivating than its haunting predecessor The Ghosts of Italy. It's a top recommendation as a powerful memoir both for prior readers and newcomers interested in cross-cultural encounters and life changes.

Lineage of the Trees
Jane Brunette
Flamingseed Press
9780989260558 $14.95 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Readers of Native American literature will find plenty to appreciate in this novel, Lineage of the Trees, which draws on Menominee tribal history and the author's own family.

Lata's investigation of the demise of her Aunt Charlotte opens up a can of worms as the woman's life, relationships, and determination to protect a remaining stand of urban forest are revealed.

The story opens with a bang: "The day before my eighth birthday, my Aunt Charlotte poured gasoline in a crooked line through the house and put a match at one end. I stood on the front lawn where she told me to wait. The last time I saw her, she stood in the attic window waving at me, a solid wall of fire behind her like a stage curtain."

It will take a lifetime for Lata to understand her aunt's devastating actions, which brings with them her surviving Uncle Jesse's overwhelming grief and a legacy of activism and destruction that she is convinced nobody really understands: "I didn't like what they were saying - that what Aunt Charlotte had done was crazy, terrible and strange. Some-times I had to fight those voices from seeping into me or they would have collapsed all the beauty and gift of her into their verdict of craziness, even as my belly told me that Aunt Charlotte was the sanest of them all."

Her aunt has left Lata with "a taste for wildness." This connection between human affairs and the importance of wild places is one of the novel's top strengths as Lata's story evolves: "I clutched at the tiny islands of wildness along the edge of that cemetery - the places where the mower didn't go, where a half-dozen trees might stand together and make something that to me was more holy than a temple. In those places, seeds were planted by the wind - the fingers of God. Sometimes I'd imagine how those islands could be made larger. If I scattered those seeds just right and watered them, they could expand inch by inch until they met other islands of trees. Then those islands would meet the trees that lined the streets and there would be a continuous forest. But when I looked around, I knew it wasn't possible. Not with all the fences around people's yards, the manicured lawn of the cemetery. They'd pull those little saplings out like weeds. But maybe someday all the fences would be gone, the lawns would become meadows, and someone like Aunt Charlotte would come and be able to make a forest again."

As Lata absorbs the real meaning of her aunt's place in the world, her odd choices, and Lata's own evolving relationships both within and outside her family, readers are carried into an evocative chronicle of love for not just people, but nature.

Different points of view and events come into play, from butterflies and bulldozers to Jesse's return to find that the images he carries of the past have been completely changed by development and time. Even the "random sticks that Charlotte stuck in the ground" have grown into unrecognizable mature trees. The passage of time assumes a translucent quality that draws readers into a world both bygone and present, albeit in a new way.

Jane Brunette's evocative, almost poetic descriptions of this passage of time and the events which coalesce around human and natural affairs creates a compelling account that weaves together tragedy, hope, and transformation alike.

Literature readers interested in stories of lineage, inheritance, and nature preservation will find Lineage of the Trees a lovely celebration of forest, tribe, and spirituality. It creates a poignant awareness of how roots are set down between generations who find connections to the land, where "growing up in the city, my soul depended on little islands of wildness."

Haunting and stunning.

Max and the Spice Thieves
John Peragine
Crumblebee Books
9781735389639 $27.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper

Young adults who choose Max and the Spice Thieves for its fantasy adventure won't be disappointed. The book embarks on a romp through a universe of spice pirates and action far from the ordinary, boring world Max wakes up to at home with his mother, right from the story's opening lines.

How Max moves from this staid existence, living with a skin condition that reacts dangerously to the cold and keeps him restricted, to a paradigm-bending encounter with a teen warrior queen and an assassin (among other powerful characters) lies at the heart of a story that probes Max's puzzling past to slowly reveal the truth about his identity and world.

Any young reader who has imagined a different life or heritage will readily relate to Max's conundrums as the truth emerges.

Everyone thinks his father dead, lost at sea among the Spice Islands chain, for one. But Max knows differently, even if his mother refuses to believe it. And when she finally does relent about taking a journey, it isn't to where Max thinks his father would reside, but to a dangerous island rumored to be home to the Midnight Men who hunt and eat people. Why would his mother choose Sanctus as their destination?

As Rules are thrown away, Max confronts people who believe he must belong to a royal family, and who knew his father in unexpected ways. Max makes new friends, encounters dangers on the sea such as kelpies, and journeys to the Witch Queen's temple for answers, and the action and encounters become fast-paced and thoroughly absorbing.

If he finds his father, will he accept Max's invitation to embark on a shared journey? The power that has been awakened in him is pushing him in a direction beyond the search for a lost father. Max's discovery of his abilities and purpose adds to a close-hauled story that reveals the first leg of new adventures as he steps into a strange world of snow bears and Spice Pirates and finds his place in it.

Middle grade to high school readers are in for a real treat in a swashbuckling fantasy that challenges Max's perceptions of himself and his former role beyond his life as the physically challenged son of a missing father.

Max and the Spice Thieves is very highly recommended for kids who like their action fast paced and their plots replete with self-discoveries and satisfying twists.

Hunting Snipes +four
David Martin Anderson
ConRoca Publishing
9781892617347 $11.98 trade
9781892617354 $6.99 ebook

Hunting Snipes +four gathers literary short stories that vary immensely in length and subject, but are held together by the unified high quality of each tale's evolutionary process. The novellas and novelettes in this collection are each powerful works that would stand well alone in any literary publication; but when taken together as a whole, their effect is mesmerizing and powerful.

Take the title story, Hunting Snipes. The definition of the snipe hunt that's provided before the first word of the tale points out the snipe's ambiguity and fluid definition, defining it as both a hunting attempt and "A practical joke in which an unwitting victim pursues something that does not exist."

What this has to do with the evolving story of Utah's El Diablo Serial Killer demonstrates David Martin Anderson's ability to produce plays on words, life and death, and a macabre dance between predator and prey. Protagonist and ex-military man William Snipe finds himself both in a complicated love triangle between a ghost wife and a real beau and a deadly game played by a wanted killer when his plane crashes and brings the two men together.

There is so much happening in this story that readers not light on their literary toes could find its many twists and changes challenging, at first read. One really needs to go over the story several times not just to understand it, but to get all the subtle nuances, tongue-in-cheek allusions, and underlying psychological details and wordplay which elevate this tale from an encounter with a murderer to one which portrays twists on survival, love, the hunt, and a deadly game that questions who is truly alive.

Anderson injects philosophical reflections into events to supplement the action and discoveries that keep readers guessing: "There's not a day goes by when I don't stare the past right dab square in the face. The past isn't our enemy. It's the future." Some of the real meanings behind these reflections won't become full-faceted until later in the story, which is why rereading will be both needed and desirable.

In stark contrast in tone and subject is 'Orson Welles and the Lindsay Park Redemption', which blends historical and literary approaches. Set in 2020 Brooklyn, NY, it focuses on the relationship between a grandfather and grandson when an elderly grandfather must teach his intolerant (and very ill) grandson the wisdom of patience, using the backdrop of Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' with a revised setting that brings its lesson to new life for the boy.

Each very different story holds its own attractions. Each offers a lesson and message beyond its apparent plot and characters, and each takes the time to capture not just a sense of purpose, but a sense of place, as in 'Runner Speaks': "Crawling belly-low to the river, Karl knows Kickapoo warriors will be soaking horses where a freshwater spring slogs into a brackish bight in the Pecos. He also knows better than to cross a spot upstream where scouts sentry for shadows lit by moonlight. Instead, he fords downstream under cover of mesquite scrub and an errant sycamore with octopus limbs collapsing over water. He wades the stream and hikes its bank to a caliche bench, and slides between limestone boulders sheared from a looming cliff towering overhead."

The two other fine stories in this collection are 'Colette & Cole' and 'Jessica Collector'.

The strength of the novella and short story format lies in the details. Anderson's ability to squeeze each scenario for the last drop of compelling action, insight, and contrasts between fantasy, reality, and changing purposes and perceptions of many of the characters makes for a powerful literary collection.

Hunting Snipes +four is especially highly recommended for readers who like their stories full-bodied, unexpected, and delightfully complex, clothed in the initial trappings of everyday experience that moves deftly into the unexpected.

Something Found: A Coin
Troy Aaron Ratliff
Independently Published
9798681931058 $9.99 Paper/$0.99 ebook

Something Found: A Coin introduces a new trilogy and provides a fantasy action story especially recommended for those who like tales of new beginnings, recovery, and unexpected adventure that evolves from the best of intentions.

Artist Todd Freeman has developed a new purpose in using his metal detector to locate lost items in the sands of the Florida Keys and return them to people. But this doesn't completely mitigate the pain of recent events that has led to loss and uprooting...until he uncovers a mysterious coin that leads him in yet another direction.

Todd was never actively involved in sleuthing or solving crimes, but his discovery leads him to master both in the process of uncovering an adventure he'd never looked for or wanted.

As Todd's past is revealed, readers receive the story of a man who has lost everything and is back at square one, recreating his future while questioning his past: "Todd wasn't completely optimistic about this trip south and really didn't know where this whole experiment was taking him. Yeah, he thought a place down here would be good for him, but after that...what? Sell oranges on the side of the road? Take up surfing? Quitting a good job, settling for a mutual divorce without much fight, and selling your home of well over fifteen years to pick up and move to another state were all major, not to mention majorly traumatic, things to do in a such a short time. In fact, he wondered what force, beyond his personal grief and desire for warmer temperatures, was pulling him down here. Was it to start a new life? To get away from the past?"

Troy Aaron Ratliff does more than tell Todd's story. He captures the sights, sounds, and smells of the strange new world Todd explores: "Inside the fragrant house, the floors creaked, naturally. Hardly expecting a palace within, Todd was indeed greeted with copious amounts of clutter and the leavings of an aged packrat. What little light broke through the old curtains didn't illuminate much of anything, so shadows of thirsty houseplants and worn furniture and what looked like a wooden statue of a Pacific island god were Todd's first impressions of Hamok's decorative tastes. The underlying odor of a house pet filled his nostrils and the sounds of TV commercials drifted though the musty air."

Todd doesn't expect events to lead him into a war zone or bring down newfound acquaintance Hamok's 'shrine of research', but as he comes to realize the true meaning of the coin he's stumbled upon, Todd finds that his definitions of life and its meaning are being challenged. Again, readers will find the descriptions of this process especially intriguing and uniquely striking: "The house vomited over into the street, a mess of waste and loss."

Ratliff's compelling use of language and description elevates this story beyond a typical adventure tale. Readers receive an outstanding, fast-paced Florida story of intrigue, fantasy, action, and confrontation that proves increasingly hard to put down.

As the tale moves from one small discovery to a paradigm-changing adventure, fans of Indiana Jones and similar action tales will find much to love in Something Found: A Coin's approach to description and unexpected, escalating escapades.

The time Ratliff takes to cement Todd's background and psyche are well worth the read as the story becomes a hypnotic magical thriller and leaves the door open for Book Two as Todd searches for and tests this strange new Magic.

A Simple Job
Kelly Kenyon
Ebound Books Publishing
9781735702414 $2.99 Kindle

In A Simple Job, Eli Asher's lies to his family about their financial health is about to catch up with him. The only solution is to find a good job. One is offered...but it's not the kind of job he would have chosen, under other circumstances. But the lure of a secret society that promises good-paying 'simple' jobs is too much. The lack of opportunities because of COVID mean he hasn't many choices, and so Eli embarks on a journey that takes him away from his beloved 'love pod' family and into a daunting world that challenges him on many new levels.

Readers who anticipate that this story will be a dystopian piece about COVID, or a mystery, will find that A Simple Job holds many surprises. It's a work of literature that pairs humor and growth with twists that occur from the start, when Eli's job interview fails before he even gets a chance because his competitor is somehow recognized and granted the position without even an interview.

The COVID reflections and realities add a realistic overtone to events as Eli learns more about a job that requires a leap of faith: "Eli winces and he unconsciously taps his pocket containing the past due bills. "Let me ask you one more thing; toilet paper?" "Yeah?" "Did you hoard it?" Eli laughs out loud enjoying the break from the tension. He holds up his fingers in the Eagle Scout pledge position, "I do solemnly swear that I, nor anyone living under my roof hoarded toilet paper."

Although Eli is forced to not confide much to his wife about the secret society, he does connect with her via phone in different ways. Their conversations reinforce their long-distance bond and disparate lives. They also acknowledge his growth and changes: "He tells her about the humidity, the work, and mostly about Terrance. The deep affection he already has for the man is clear to her. She is surprised and happy. Her husband usually isn't one to make fast friends, especially with older men. She had noticed Jim's fatherly affection for her husband right from the start. Eli still fought most of the man's attempts to bond and any offer of help that he ever made. This Terrance must be impressive in more ways than his giant size."

The help he provides to others and their reactions to COVID and rebuilding lives assume newfound meaning and purpose that Eli has never felt before as he hears, from the trenches of the work world and life, how determined people are changing everything: "When I started a business, I told myself that every employee that I hire who works hard and does a good job will have a job for as long as I have my business. I will keep them working in the best conditions for the best wages that I can possibly offer through whatever life throws my way. Things are a little tough right now, but it's a small price to pay to have kept my word." "That's great that you kept your word to them." "No, you are mistaken, you do not understand. I kept my word to myself. Keeping your word is something some people think you do for other people. I know keeping your word is something you do for yourself."

A Simple Job is a novel about understanding and transformation beyond jobs, debt, and family circles, set in an age when everything is distancing and changing.

Any fiction reader in 2020 and beyond will find Eli's journey memorable, remarkable, and compelling as Eli finds something he loves and comes full circle to bring it all back home.

The Substitute
John Catan
DartFrog Plus
9781951490638 $12.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

The Substitute follows the journey of a reclusive professor who became a virtual hermit after a terrible accident. Davyn Daeger is the last person anyone would suspect of becoming involved in espionage...which is why he is the perfect candidate for a mission that forces him out of his comfort zone and into the role of a secret agent.

Especially challenging via his brother Magne's edict to join this dangerous group is the fact that it's splintering apart - not to mention that the untrained Davyn thinks his brother long dead.

Professor Davyn Daeger's embrace of peace and quiet ends with a bang as his world ramps up to embrace impossible alliances, enemy factions, and dangerous cat-and-mouse games played out on the world chess board of intrigue. All of this brings readers into a world where the protagonist is not a willing participant, but is given the truth by Leo, a stranger charged with not only telling him that his twin brother Magne isn't really dead, but that Davyn's real inheritance is a new world of undercover operations and danger.

Readers will be engrossed by the story of a reluctant participant in espionage and spy operations. John Catan creates a logical, believable story in which an unwilling and psychologically challenged brother delves into a reality he'd never suspected.

Kaleo Sandalwood is the agent charged with leading him into this milieu, helping him locate enemy agents and hobnob with the underworld bigwigs. But can she lead him back out safely?

Catan's attention to psychological depth and detail as Davyn makes impossible leaps, only to find that his skills lend to the job in unexpected ways, makes for a powerful story of not just spies, but personal growth.

The intrigue is well done and a sense of humor often enters into the picture as Leo and Davyn interact and move back and forth between very different worlds:

Leo came around to his side of the car. "I know you just put them on, but pull down your pants. I have to clean up that leg."

"But we have to get to the university."

"It can wait ten minutes. You could develop an infection. Maybe gangrene."

Davyn shook his head and unzipped his pants, then pulled them down around his ankles.

Leo laughed. "Ooh, nice boxers."

"I know," he said with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. "Max picked these out for me. Nice, right?"

The Substitute is inviting, whimsical, engrossing, action-packed, and a different kind of crime thriller that will appeal to mature teens and adult audiences alike.

Donald J. Trump's Imperial Presidency EXPOSED through Rhyme
Valerie Luhman Anderson
9781627878340 $10.95 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

Donald J. Trump's Imperial Presidency EXPOSED through Rhyme is a hilarious and artistic pairing of poems by Valerie Luhman Anderson and cartoons by Arnie Bermudez. The book tackles such topics as the cult of Trump, the 'lyin' king', impeachment, the virus crisis and the many maverick policies and events surrounding the Trump presidency.

The chronological path to these poems' creation began when Anderson first heard about Trump's win in 2016 and read about his rule-bending decisions and scandals. The poems are a compilation of her comments over 3 1/2 years to articles in the online New York Times and Washington Post publications - comments that capture breaking news and events in real time. Anderson references these articles before each poem, lending authority and authenticity to their history.

Chapters are organized around key events covered in articles and news reports, with topics such as Hijacking the GOP, The Chosen One, Mueller 'Hoax', and Impeachment Travails, and subtopics including 'I Alone Can Fix It' and 'I Take No Responsibility.'

In her chapter 'The Great (non)Communicator' (subtopic 'The (mis)Spoken Word'), Anderson comments on the language and message Trump employed during his term in office: "Trumpty loves illiterate folk,/And it's clear that he does; that is no joke./For HE's one of them as his bad tweeting shows,/Full of misspellings and challenging prose." And goes on to comment, "It's what we expect from this moronic Pres,/We're forced to examine each word that he says."

This succinct collection embeds the flavor of political events within appealing rhymes. Cartoonist Arnie Bermudez's pointed black and white illustrations bring several of the poems to life, and his cover illustration, in color, vividly captures the foolishness of this 'wannabe autocratic' President.

The book stands out as a gem among the many Trump-centric publications by offering the reader a targeted and humorous time-in-office history through a format that is different, accessible and easy on the eye.

TaterCat and the Missing Necklace
Mike Moore
Independently Published
9781715777074 $25.00

Andy Young's vibrant and fun drawings in TaterCat and the Missing Necklace will attract elementary-grade readers and parents, and falls somewhere between a picture book and a chapter book. 98 pages follow the story of evil kitty TaterCat, who steals a good queen's necklace.

Queen Lily's kindness has gained her a host of friends who support her, but can they all join together to solve the case and confront TaterCat?

A tongue-in-cheek humor, recognition of animal psyches, and interest in presenting characters that may not be the powerful beast heroes expected is present throughout. One example is the character of Lord RoscoDog the Loyal, who "...was the queen's faithful and unwavering long as Queen Lily fed him treats."

Young's full-page drawing of a sword-sporting dog is engaging and fun.

Then there are three mischievous boys: Prince Max the Quick, Prince Eli the Brave, and Prince Dash the Strong. Their powers? "There wasn't a dragon they couldn't tame, a castle they couldn't storm, or a cupboard they couldn't get to the top of to find the cookie jar."

As for the missing thief and necklace - at one point, they encounter the elusive TaterCat not in hiding, but lying flat-out on a rock in the sun by the river. Even when confronted, the TaterCat seems more hilarious than mean, either by author or artist intention.

Kids thus receive a multifaceted story where the pictures impart both supportive and different messages than the written word. This provides lovely insights into perspective, art, and intention that adult teachers can use to point out how the fun atmosphere in TaterCat and the Missing Necklace is created.

Whether or not the young princes succeed, Queen Lily is always appreciative. Her gratitude, their adventures, and the TaterCat's objectives meld into a story filled with unexpected images, moments, and how Very Wise Thoughts may succeed where grumpiness and heroism meet.

Parents looking for an engaging transition point between picture book and chapter book formats will welcome this fun adventure. TaterCat and the Missing Necklace will appeal to young fans of cats, fantasy, and unlikely heroes. Its ability to help readers think about events, psyches, and writer and artist intentions sets it more than a notch above most other books for this age group.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

David Brookover
Outskirts Press Inc
9781977235220, $19.95,

Brookover's newest tale "Sinister" is a chilling tale of horror by an author who gets better with every book. Beginning with the killing of a public official of a town in Ohio by ominous bat like creatures who disappear as fast as they appeared "Sinister" races along to its final ending. Fresh from his encounter with wicked things in Florida Nick Bellamy and his team of investigators track the demon beings as they also confront some old nemesis. "Sinister" makes you think these things are real, that is sheer reading pleasure for a dark night

Curveball at the Crossroads
Michael Lortz
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718685, $19.95,

"Curveball at the Crossroads" appears to be a baseball book, but is a lot more with a character driven story, set against the backdrop of a good and evil universe. JaMark Reliford is on his way to a possible career in the major leagues until an earth-shattering injury topples all of his plans. A while later he is offered by a man wearing black pants, shirt and top hat at a fork in the road, a way in to the game. The agreement has terms to be met or there will be consequences. For a while JaMark is on top of the world but something changes and the bargain takes a new turn. "Curveball at the Crossroads" is a wonderful first novel that is a multi-layered story that moves along at a brisk pace to its final pages with writing and a story that is guaranteed to please.

Frank Herbert's Dune The Graphic Novel Book 1
Adapted by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Illustrated by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
9781496722386, $24.99,

When "Dune" was originally published in the 1960's it became a huge instant success for its very different multi layered science fiction story. Now Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson two giants in the genre add a new dimension with the release of "Frank Herbert's Dune The Graphic Novel Book I. combining the talents of two exceptional artists this "Dune" version takes it into a new realm with there artwork. The authors also treated the project like they were writing a script for a film. The end result of "Frank Herbert's Dune The Graphic Novel Book I "works very well as fans of the original story will be pleased with this new adaptation of a classic that continues to thrill readers of many generations.

Midwinter Murder
Agatha Christie
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
9780062959140, $16.99, www,

Winter months are a great time to stay in and read a great book and one that is sure to please is "Midwinter Murder." Christie is at the top of her game with many different types of short mysteries with some of her most famous characters. Christie continues to dominate the genre and it is easy to see why her works continue to thrill. "Midwinter Murder" is a welcome addition to the succession of Agatha Christie

I am a Runner: The Memoirs of a Sepsis Survivor
Maria Papialia Meier with Pameal Ackerson
Privately Published
9781075802553, $10.99, www,

No one said life would be easy is a very true statement evidenced in "I am a Runner: The Memoirs of a Sepsis Survivor." Meier was being treated for strep that later was determined to be the fatal bacteria Sepsis. It got so bad that she had to be admitted into a hospital with very slim odds to survive. Somehow, she did. But it has been a long ordeal that included many surgeries to amputate portions of her feet. Being a runner, she was continually told by medical personnel, she would never run again. Once more she has defied the probabilities to do so with a goal to compete in a major race in the future. Meir's story reveals, one person's courage, determination and will when faced with overwhelming challenges to survive. "I am a Runner: The Memoirs of a Sepsis Survivor" is uplifting to anyone facing bleak situations that you can make it you just have to want to fight your way there.

Tales 2 Inspire The Ruby Collection
Created by Lois W. Stern
Privately Published
97981495940088, $11.25,

Life is filled with many different types of situations that possibly begin with very negative circumstances. "Tales 2 Inspire The Ruby Collection" gathers many different personal writings that conclude in a more positive manner. Some of the pieces are; a horse faces a grim future, a Holocaust survivor confronts a situation that dredges up the past, a man faces copes with a grim medical outlook. The rest of the works are in the same manner but all have more upbeat finales. "Tales 2 Inspire The Ruby Collection" is perfect reading for the Covid19 world we are moving through that reinforces there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A Work of Art
Melody Maysonet
Simon Pulse
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781440582547, $17.99,

"A Work of Art" is a timely different YA title that tackles a dark and sinister social issue. Seventeen-year-old Tera is about to enter an art school in Paris, France. Her world is bright and happy as she adores her artist inspirational father with little regard for her mother. But all that changes when he is arrested and taken away to jail. Then her whole world collapses as she learns the truth about both of her parents. From the end of the first chapter where the arrest is made to its close "A Work of Art" is filled with twists and turns that concludes with a substantial ending that should be a topic of discussion more often.

Leslie Loves The Law
Glen Riser
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718524, $19.95,

Attorney Glen Riser takes young readers through different aspects of the court system in his novel "Leslie Loves The Law." Leslie is a girl who adores the legal profession, so much so that she patterns her life to a possible career. She prepares by researching the law to help others with problems they are having. Among them are a neighbor who can't get her landlord to do repairs to her home, another resident is injured in the grocery store and a fellow classmate is being bullied. The situations are interesting as Leslie assists others and moves along to her goal of a future occupation. That said there are some problems with this novel. The first is the authors artsy use of the letter L for first and last name of characters that at times is confusing of which character is which. Two other problems are Mr. Lincoln an attorney has an office in the courthouse, but we have no idea if he is the County, City, Attorney, a Public Defender or a Prosecutor. Mrs. Landry is the Clerk of the Court but readers have no clue of the importance of that office. Even with its faults "Leslie Loved The Law" does highlight some of the positive aspects that litigators play in society to prompt kids to learn more about it.

Angel's Forever Home
Rita Cigante and Bobbie Sterchele-Gigante
Co-written by Donna McDine
Illustrated by Renie De Mase
Mascot Books
9781643071213, $39.95,

Dog lovers everywhere will love "Angel's Forever Home" Angel a small dog is a casualty of an earthquake in Chile who is rescued and brought to the United States. For a bit of time, he has no idea where he is going as he is sent from place to place but finally there is a possible home for him to as he meets several people who may become his owner. "Angel's Forever Home" is an uplifting story that is for all ages to enjoy.

Adventures From Scratch
Let's Roam
Adventures From Scratch
9781735730509, $39.99,

In all my years as a critic I've never seen a worse presentation for a title than "Adventures From Scratch." To begin with I was contacted by someone about the book for me to review it. Not knowing what it exactly was about, I said as I do to many authors, publishers, and PR firms send me a copy. Next UPS alerted me a notice that something was being sent from the Shipping Department, no other information presented. Once it made its appearance, I looked through it for a contact person to find none, no price listed including on and a book that is for an age group with no idea what its purpose is. When I tried to check a website of the publisher it too was very complicated. "Adventures From Scratch is a difficult title that has no point nor function. I have to say this is a total waste of time

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Our Rightful Place
Terry L. Birdwhistell & Deirdre A. Scaggs
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813179377, $50.00, HC, 262pp

Synopsis: In 1880, forty-three women walked into the president's office at the University of Kentucky (UK) and signed the student register, becoming the first female students at a public college in the commonwealth. But gaining admittance was only the beginning. For the next sixty-five years (encompassing two world wars, an economic depression, and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment) generations of women at UK claimed and had to reclaim their right to an equitable university experience. To this very day their work remains unfinished.

Drawing on yearbooks, photographs, and other private collections, "Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880 - 1945" examines the struggle for gender equity in higher education through the lens of one major institution. In the face of shifting resistance, pioneering women constructed opportunities for themselves. In this collaborative study academicians Terry L. Birdwhistell and Deirdre A. Scaggs highlight three women (Sarah Blanding, Frances Jewell McVey, and Sarah Bennett Holmes) who fought for access to basic facilities that were denied to UK women for decades, including housing and study spaces. By examining the trials and triumphs of UK's first female undergraduates, faculty, and administrators, "Our Rightful Place" uncovers the lasting impact women had on higher learning in the early days of coeducation.

Critique: A seminal work of articulate and meticulous scholarship, "Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880 - 1945" is a unique study that could well serve as a template for similar studies at other institutions of higher learner. An extraordinary contribution to 19th & 20th Century Women's History collections, and unreservedly recommended for college and university library studies, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880 - 1945" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $47.50).

Editorial Note: Terry L. Birdwhistell is senior oral historian and founding director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. He is also a former president of the Oral History Association and previously served as Dean of Libraries at UK Libraries. He has contributed to numerous collections, including The Encyclopedia of Louisville and The Kentucky Encyclopedia, and is co-general editor of Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series. His articles have appeared in publications such as Kentucky Law Journal and the Kentucky Review.

Deirdre A. Scaggs is an associate dean of the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center. She also serves as director of the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. She is author of Women in Lexington and coauthor of The Historic Kentucky Kitchen: Traditional Recipes for Today's Cook.

Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce
Nuala O'Connor
Harper Perennial
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062991720, $16.99, PB, 496pp

Synopsis: The city is Dublin, the year is 1904, and Nora Joseph Barnacle is a twenty-year-old from Galway working as a maid at Finn's Hotel. She enjoys the liveliness of her adopted city and on June 16 (Bloomsday) her life is changed when she meets Dubliner James Joyce, a fateful encounter that turns into a lifelong love. Despite his hesitation to marry, Nora follows Joyce in pursuit of a life beyond Ireland, and they surround themselves with a buoyant group of friends that grows to include Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and Sylvia Beach.

But as their life unfolds, Nora finds herself in conflict between their intense desire for each other and the constant anxiety of living in poverty throughout Europe. She desperately wants literary success for Jim, believing in his singular gift and knowing that he thrives on being the toast of the town, and it eventually provides her with a security long lacking in her life and his work. So even when Jim writes, drinks, and gambles his way to literary acclaim, Nora provides unflinching support and inspiration, but at a cost to her own happiness and that of their children.

Critique: An historical novel but one that pays scrupulous attention to biographically accurate detail, "Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce" by author Nuala O'Connor deftly blends elements of love, ambition, and extraordinary people with extraordinary talents with the kind of narrative storytelling style that creates great and enduringly memorable fiction. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781799951308, $39.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Nuala O'Connor is the author of Miss Emily and a well-regarded short-story writer and novelist, writing in her native Ireland under the name Nuala Ni Chonchuir. She has won many fiction awards, including RTE radio's Francis MacManus Award, the Cuirt New Writing Prize, the Jane Geske Award, the inaugural Jonathan Swift Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, and the Kerry Irish Novel of the Year Award, among others. Her short story ""Peach"" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was shortlisted for the European Prize for Literature for her short story collection Nude. She has been published in Granta, The Stinging Fly, and Guernica, among many others.

Screen Kids
Gary Chapman & Arlene Pellicane
Northfield Publishing
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802422200, $15.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: For many families it seems that technology has taken over their homes. In this digital age, children spend more time interacting with screens and less time playing outside, reading a book, or interacting with family. Though technology has its benefits, it also has its harms.

In "Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World", Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower parents with the tools needed to make positive changes in the lives of their children. Through stories, science, and wisdom, parents will discover how to take back their home from an over dependence on computer and iPhone screens. Plus, they will learn to teach the five A+ skills that every child needs to master: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention.

With "Screen Kids" as an informative guide parents will learn how to: Protect and nurture a child's growing brain; Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference; Recognize the warning signs of gaming too much; Raise a child who won't gauge success through social media; Teach a child to be safe online

This newly revised edition of "Screen Kids" features the latest research and interactive assessments, so parents can best confront the issues technology create in their home, equipping children with a healthy relationship with screens and an even healthier relationship with others.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World" is an ideal, thoroughly 'user friendly', and unreservedly recommended guide for all parents and caregivers having to deal with the impact of social media technologies on the lives and well being of children. While commended for community library Parenting collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

Editorial Note: Author, speaker and counselor Gary Chapman has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the author of The 5 Love Languages series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He maintains a website at

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker, podcaster, and author of several books including Parents Rising, 31 Days to a Happy Husband and Calm, Cool, and Connected. She is the host of the Happy Home podcast, and has been featured on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Wall Street Journal, and Focus on the Family. She maintains a free family resources at

The Way of Eating: Yuan Mei's Manual of Gastronomy
Yuan Mei, author
Sean Jy-Shyang Chen, translator & annotator
Berkshire Publishing Group
122 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
9781614728283, $39.95, HC, 250pp

Synopsis: "The Way of Eating: Yuan Mei`s Manual of Gastronomy" is the first English edition of one of the world s most famous books about food. "The Way of Eating" is both a treatise and a cookbook that written in the late eighteenth century by the Qing dynasty poet Yuan Mei.

"The Way of Eating" includes recipes for well-known dishes such as birds nest and sharks fin, and offers modern readers an appealing perspective on Chinese history and culinary culture, and was translated and annotated by Sean J. S. Chen with editorial advice from E. N. Anderson and Jeffrey Riegel.

This edition is in English but includes Chinese characters and vocabulary, and is 250 pages in length. The team s aim was to convey the charm, humor, and erudition of one of China s greatest writers. Also included are a glossary and a bibliography of additional sources.

Chinese food expert Nicole Mones (author of the novel The Last Chinese Chef), has contributed an engaging introduction to Yuan Mei and his work.

"The Way of Eating" is far more than a cookbook:. It is food history at its finest, providing a window into a fascinating and long-lost world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Way of Eating: Yuan Mei's Manual of Gastronomy" is an inherently fascinating and informative read. An extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, community, college, and university Food History collections in general, and Chinese Cuisine History reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "The Way of Eating: Yuan Mei's Manual of Gastronomy" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781614728276, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance
Ntozake Shange
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807091876, $19.95, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: Many learned of Ntozake Shange's ability to blend movement with words when her acclaimed choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf made its way to Broadway in 1976, eventually winning an Obie Award the following year. But before she found fame as a writer, poet, performer, dancer, and storyteller, she was an untrained student who found her footing in others' classrooms. "Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance" is her tribute to those who taught her and her passion for rhythm, movement, and dance.

After 20 years of research, writing, and devotion, Ntozake Shange tells her history of Black dance through a series of portraits of the dancers who trained her, moved with her, and inspired her to share the power of the Black body with her audience. Shange celebrates and honors the contributions of the often unrecognized pioneers who continued the path Katherine Dunham paved through the twentieth century. "Dance We Do" features a stunning photo insert along with personal interviews with Mickey Davidson, Halifu Osumare, Camille Brown, and Dianne McIntyre. In what is now one of her final works, Ntozake Shange welcomes the reader into the world she loved best.

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Ntozake Shange fans, "Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance" is a much appreciated posthumous publication of her work in which a truly revered poet crafts a personal history of Black dance and captures the careers of legendary dancers along with her own rhythmic beginnings. While especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Black Studies collections in general, and Dance Studies/History collections in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Ntozake Shange (October 18, 1948 - October 27, 2018) was a renowned poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, best known for her Broadway-produced and Obie Award - winning choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. She wrote numerous works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, including If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, Wild Beauty, and Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Fullness of Free Time
Conor M. Kelly
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647120146, $39.95, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: In the work-centric culture of today's world of economic capitalism and competition, it is easy to view free time as indulging laziness or extravagance. In the pages of "The Fullness of Free Time: A Theological Account of Leisure and Recreation in the Moral Life", Conor M. Kelly compellingly argues that free time possesses enormous potential for good if exercised in accordance with theological ethics.

By examining pursuits such as television, digital media use, sports, and travel from the perspective of Catholic solidarity, Kelly demonstrates how individuals can choose new free time activities or restructure current pursuits to be more relational and socially conscious.

The first published study to use the Catholic theological tradition to explore the importance of free time, "The Fullness of Free Time" addresses a crucial topic in the ethics of everyday life, providing a useful framework for scholars and students of moral theology, philosophy, and political theory, as well as anyone hoping to make their free time more meaningful.

Critique: An inherently absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, "The Fullness of Free Time: A Theological Account of Leisure and Recreation in the Moral Life" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, seminary, college, and university library Ethics & Theology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Fullness of Free Time: A Theological Account of Leisure and Recreation in the Moral Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.99).

Editorial Note: Conor M. Kelly is an assistant professor of theology at Marquette University. He is a Catholic theological ethicist who works at the intersection of fundamental moral theology and applied ethics. He is the co-editor of "Poverty: Responding Like Jesus" with Kenneth R. Himes and has published articles in a number of journals, including Theological Studies, the Journal of Moral Theology, Horizons, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.

Let's Talk About Your Wall
Carmen Boullosa & Alberto Quintero, editors
The New Press
120 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005
9781620976180, $25.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Despite the extensive coverage in the U.S. media of the southern border and Donald Trump's proposed wall, most English speakers have had little access to the multitude of perspectives from Mexico on the ongoing crisis. Collaborative compiled and co-edited by the team of novelist Carmen Boullosa (author of Texas and Before) and Alberto Quintero (a PhD candidate at Stanford University and the editor-in-chief of Literalia, a digital publishing and translation platform for Mexican writers), "Let's Talk About Your Wall: Mexican Writers Respond to the Immigration Crisis" redresses this imbalance with this collection of essays (translated into English for the first time) drawing on writing by journalists, novelists, and documentary-makers who are Mexican or based in Mexico.

"Let's Talk About Your Wall" uses Trump's wall as a starting point to discuss important questions, including the history of U.S.-Mexican relations, and questions of sovereignty, citizenship, and borders. An essential resource for anyone seeking to form a well-grounded opinion on one of the central issues of our day, "Let's Talk About Your Wall" provides a seminal and compelling counterpoint to the racist bigotry and irrational fear that consumes the debate over immigration, and a powerful symbol of opposition to exclusion and hate.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Let's Talk About Your Wall: Mexican Writers Respond to the Immigration Crisis" is an impressively timely and much needed contribution to the on-going national discussion around American immigration policies, practices, and needed reforms. While especially an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Immigration Policy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Let's Talk About Your Wall: Mexican Writers Respond to the Immigration Crisis" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.33).

Musings: The Short Happy Pursuit of Pleasure and Other Journeys
Joseph Rosendo
Travelscope, Inc.
9781735330709, $10.99, HC, 274pp

Synopsis: Joseph Rosendo is the passionate, affable host of the Emmy-winning PBS series Joseph Rosendo's Travelscope, and in the pages of "Musings: The Short Happy Pursuit of Pleasure and Other Journeys" invites his readers to join him as he ventures to some of his favorite places on the planet.

Travel connoisseur, travel writer, motivational speaker, broadcaster and four-time Emmy-award winning director and host, Joseph's "Musings" is a collection of informative, entertaining and inspirational stories about travel and life's other pleasurable pursuits for which we all yearn. It is a touching and often-humorous journey through a life propelled by a passionate and compassionate view of the world. It is written in a conversational tone that captures the heart and soul of the author and reveals his deep connection to the travel experience, especially as a path to pleasure, enlightenment and cultural connections.

Many of Joseph's "Musings" are directly related to travel. They offer how-to tips on bargaining, packing, planning and other nuts-and-bolts travel issues. Others are less solidly connected to travel as an activity, and explore topics such as Joseph's childhood travels, his year of spring, his Cuban grandparents, his quest for the holy platter, his brunch-conquering brother and other happenings. These musings describe Joseph's personal journey, touching on many topics, but the voyage, the passage, is always the subtext.

Joseph's various tales takes his readers on a journey of discovery. In choosing the stories, composing the introductions and selecting the images showcased in "Musing", Joseph wandered through past days, events and relationships and dug up manifestations of himself long forgotten. His readers benefits from an experience that proved humbling and illuminating, as well as reaffirming and reassuring. Joseph's meditations may amuse, anger or touch his readers, but whatever the case, it's a joy to join him on the ride!

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Musings: The Short Happy Pursuit of Pleasure and Other Journeys" is an inherently engaging, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Travelogues & Travel Essays collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of Joseph Rosendo fans that "Musings: The Short Happy Pursuit of Pleasure and Other Journeys" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate for Success
Tricia Kagerer
Brown Books Publishing Group
16250 Knoll Trail Drive, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75248
9781612543307, $22.95, HC, 180pp

Synopsis: Navigating the workforce as a woman can feel like making your way through a minefield. Step too far in one direction, and suddenly, you're considered bossy and overbearing and difficult to work with. Too far in the other, and you lose your power and voice. And if you try to stay in the middle, you could still be contributing to generations' worth of a stagnant mindset that has hindered women from reaching true equality.

In "The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate for Success", Tricia Kagerer uses her experience and the experiences of other women to provide guidance to help women of all ages and in all walks of life achieve their goals. Kagerer identifies the challenges (both internal and external) that hold women back both personally and professionally, explores their impact, and outlines strategies for overcoming them. Whether that means navigating difficult relationships with coworkers, building effective professional networks, or confronting one's own limiting beliefs and biases, Kagerer's advice shows how we can break through these obstacles and find our way to self-defined success.

"The B Words" argues for true equality in the workforce and calls for bridges to be built not only between women but between men and women as well, fostering open communication and understanding that will lead to a brighter future.

Critique: Insightful, inspiring, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in personal finance and business from a woman's perspective, "The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate for Success" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, corporate, business school, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate for Success" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Tricia Kagerer is the executive vice president of risk management for Jordan Foster Construction, a large construction organization that performs civil, multifamily, and general contracting across Texas. A construction industry expert and speaker on various leadership, risk management, and safety topics, and with degrees in business administration and communication-public relations, Tricia has a special passion for servant leadership and diversity in the workplace. Over the course of her more than twenty years in a historically male-dominated industry, Tricia has found herself too often in the lonely position of the sole woman in the room. It has become her mission to change that. Tricia Kagerer is also a chartered property casualty underwriter (CPCU), a certified safety professional (CSP), a construction risk insurance specialist (CRIS), an associate in risk management (ARM), associate in claims management (AIC), a licensed Texas claims representative and commercial agent, and a past construction panel arbitrator with AAA.

From the Lake House: A Mother's Odyssey of Loss and Love
Kristen Rademacher
She Writes Press
9781631528668, $16.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Dizzy with grief after a shattering breakup, Kristen did what any sensible thirty-nine-year-old woman would do: she fled, abandoning her well-ordered life in metropolitan Boston and impulsively relocating to a college town in North Carolina to start anew with a freshly divorced southerner.

Dismissing the neon signs that flashed Rebound Relationship, Kristen was charmed by the host of contrasts with her new beau. He loved hunting and country music, she loved yoga and NPR; he worried about nothing, she worried about everything. The luster of her new romance and small-town lifestyle soon (and predictably) faded, but by then a pregnancy test stick had lit up. As Kristen's belly grew, so did her concern about the bond with her partner -- and so did a fierce love for her unborn child. Ready or not, she was about to become a mother. And then, tragedy struck.

Poignant and insightful, "From the Lake House" explores the echoes of rash decisions and ill-fated relationships, the barren and disorienting days an aching mother faces without her baby, and the mysterious healing that can take root while rebuilding a life gutted from loss.

Critique: A riveting, emotional, and candidly engaging read from first page to last, "From the Lake House: A Mother's Odyssey of Loss and Love" is an extraordinary story by an extraordinary woman. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library American Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "From the Lake House: A Mother's Odyssey of Loss and Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

We Need To Talk: A Memoir About Wealth
Jennifer Risher
Xenos Books
9781939096463, $26.95, HC, 280pp

Synopsis: When Jennifer Risher joined Microsoft in 1991, she met her husband, and with him became an extra-lucky beneficiary of the dot-com boom. By their early thirties, they had tens of millions of dollars. Today, there are millions of people like her. "We Need To Talk: A Memoir About Wealth" is Jennifer's thought-provoking, personal story that also includes the voices of others in her economic demographic and explores the hidden impact of wealth on identity, relationships, and sense of place in the world. At a time when income inequality is a huge problem, our country's economic system is broken, and money is still a taboo subject even among those closest to us, "We Need To Talk: A Memoir About Wealth" is engaging, introspective memoir is essential reading: a catalyst for conversation that demystifies wealth and inspires us to connect.

Critique: Informative, insightful, candid and compelling, "We Need To Talk: A Memoir About Wealth" is an especially recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Wealth Management/Income Inequality supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "We Need To Talk: A Memoir About Wealth" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance
Bradley Rogers
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609387327, $55.00, PB, 294pp

Synopsis: In "The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance", Bradely Rogers persuasively argues that musicals burst into song and dance when one body can no longer convey the emotion. Rogers shows how the musical's episodes of burlesque and minstrelsy model the kinds of radical relationships that the genre works to create across the different bodies of its performers, spectators, and creators every time the musical bursts into song. These radical relationships (borne of the musical's obsessions with "bad" performances of gender and race) are the root of the genre's progressive play with identity, and thus the source of its subcultural power. However, this leads to an ethical dilemma: Are the musical's progressive politics thus rooted in its embrace of regressive entertainments like burlesque and minstrelsy?

"The Song Is You" shows how musicals return again and again to this question, and grapple with a guilt that its joyous pleasures are based on exploiting the laboring bodies of its performers. Rogers argues that the discourse of "integration" (which claims that songs should advance the plot) has functioned to deny the radical work that the musical undertakes every time it transitions into song and dance. Looking at musicals from The Black Crook to Hamilton, Rogers confronts the gendered and racial dynamics that have always under-girded the genre, and asks how we move forward.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, "The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance" is an extraordinary and seminal study that is enhanced for academia and dedicate musical theatre students with thirty-eight pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibliography, and a six page Index. A unique and meticulous presented work of seminal scholarship, "The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Performing Arts History collections in general, and Musical Theatre supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, dedicated musical theatre fans, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.35).

Editorial Note: Bradley Rogers is the Assistant Professor of Theater Studies, English, and Gender Sexuality and Feminist Studies; and Director of the Duke in London Drama program.

Chasing My Son Across Heaven
V. Joy Pavelich
Rainbow Ridge
c/o Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9781937907662, $16.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: In the early morning hours of August 4, 2013, Joy Pavelich's world was shattered when she found out that her twenty-year old son Eric had taken his own life at the family farm in Saskatchewan. Struggling to make sense of Eric's sudden and unexpected suicide, Joy took a deeply personal and difficult journey through his past -- from his happy childhood, to his mental health struggles in his early teens, to his death and the resulting aftermath of his passing.

She shares that journey in the pages of "Chasing My Son Across Heaven: A Story of Life, Loss and the Strength of Enduring Love" with the intention of demonstrating to others how they too can rebuild a life fractured by extreme trauma using storytelling as a powerful healing tool.

"Chasing My Son Across Heaven" also tackles some of the most pressing issues facing society today; youth mental health, suicide and post-traumatic stress. Through her explorations, Joy reveals how we can all find the courage to rebuild our lives while continuing to honor the deep love for those we've lost.

Critique: Sensitive, compassionate, and deftly handled on an inherently painful subject, "Chasing My Son Across Heaven: A Story of Life, Loss and the Strength of Enduring Love" is an absorbing and ultimately inspiring read. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections on death, loss, grief, emotional trauma, and love, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chasing My Son Across Heaven: A Story of Life, Loss and the Strength of Enduring Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, V. Joy Pavelich holds a Master of Arts degree in Professional Communications from Royal Roads University. After the loss of her son, Joy transferred her communications skills into supporting mental health awareness, advocacy and action. She has served on several national advisory councils for mental health, and was featured in Canadian Living magazine and the Calgary-based Home of the Brave initiative as an expert in coping with extreme trauma and loss.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

America's Entangling Alliances: 1778 to the Present
Jason W. Davidson
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647120283, $103.47, HC, 300pp

Synopsis: Since the Revolutionary War the United States has entered into dozens of alliances with international powers to protect its assets and advance its security interests. America's Entangling Alliances offers a corrective to long-held assumptions about US foreign policy and is relevant to current public and academic debates about the costs and benefits of America's allies.

In "America's Entangling Alliances: 1778 to the Present", Jason W. Davidson (who is a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington) informatively examines these alliances to shed light on their nature and what they reveal about the evolution of American power. He challenges the belief that the nation resists international alliances, showing that this has been true in practice only when using a narrow definition of alliance. While there have been more alliances since World War II than before it, US presidents and Congress have viewed it in the country's best interest to enter into a variety of security arrangements over virtually the entire course of the country's history.

By documenting thirty-four alliances categorized as defense pacts, military coalitions, or security partnerships, Professor Davidson finds that the US demand for allies is best explained by looking at variance in its relative power and the threats it has faced.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of illustrations, fifty-six pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and an eight page Index, "America's Entangling Alliances: 1778 to the Present" is an impressively informative and meticulous study of exhaustively detailed research. Well written, deftly organize, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "America's Entangling Alliances: 1778 to the Present" is especially commended for both community and academic library American History, International Studies, and Political Science 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 "America's Entangling Alliances: 1778 to the Present" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781647120290, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.49).

Editorial Note: Professor Jason W. Davidson is also the author of "America's Allies and War: Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq"; "The Origins of Revisionist and Status-Quo States", and (with Fabrizio Coticchia), "Italian Foreign Policy during Matteo Renzi's Government: A Domestically-Focused Outsider and the World".

The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan
Stephen Wynn
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781473835788, $34.95, HC, 1600

Synopsis: How did a once great nation that built an empire lose it all? From the Meiji Restoration in 1868, restoring Imperial rule under Emperor Meiji, until Japan's surrender at the end of the Second World War in 1945, the dream lasted a comparatively short period of time: seventy-seven years from beginning to end.

Under Emperor Meiji's rule, Imperial Japan began a period of rapid industrialization and militarization, leading to its emergence as a world power and the establishment of a colonial empire. Economic and political turmoil in the early 1920s led Japan down the path of militarism, culminating in her conquest of large parts of the Asian and Pacific region. The beginning of this path can be traced back to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, when Japan's proposal for racial equality was supported and approved by the other members, but overruled by the American President, Woodrow Wilson. Was this rebuttal by the West, and in particular the United States, the moment that changed the course of history?

During the empire's existence, Japan was involved in some sixteen conflicts, resulting in the occupation of numerous countries and islands throughout Asia and the Pacific regions. Thousands were under the emperor's control, not all of whom were treated as they should have been.

"The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan" by Stephen Wynn culminates with the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which finally brought about Japan's surrender and the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan" is exceptionally organized, expertly written, and is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a three page Index. Impressively informed and informative, "The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Japanese History and World War II collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students, academia, military history buffs, and non-specialist general readers that "The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Stephen Wynn is a retired police officer having served with Essex Police as a constable for thirty years between 1983 and 2013. He is married to Tanya and has two sons, Luke and Ross, and a daughter, Aimee. His sons served five tours of Afghanistan between 2008 and 2013 and both were injured. This led to the publication of his first book, Two Sons in a Warzone - Afghanistan: The True Story of a Father's Conflict, published in October 2010. Both Stephen's grandfathers served in and survived the First World War, one with the Royal Irish Rifles, the other in the Mercantile Marine, whilst his father was a member of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the Second World War.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

I'm Not the Boss: I Just Work
Howard Jonas
The Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592645565, $16.95, HC, 120pp

Synopsis: Serial entrepreneur Howard Jonas has been creating successful enterprises since the age of fourteen, when he opened a hot dog stand near a local hospital. He went on to develop lucrative and prosperous businesses, the most successful being IDT, a multibillion dollar telecommunications corporation that is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the pages of "I'm Not the Boss: I Just Work Here", Jonas shares his reflections (deeply personal and incredibly inspiring) about how faith and his relationship with God helped him and his family face their deepest fears and rise from life's challenges.

Critique: Inspirational, motivational, and an inherently interesting read from cover to cover, "I'm Not the Boss: I Just Work" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community, corporate, college, and university library Business Professional Biographies, Leadership & Motivation, and Personal Finance collections and personal/professional reading lists.

Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World
Michael Lerner
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520304505, $24.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: From social theorist and psychotherapist Rabbi Michael Lerner comes a strategy for a new socialism built on love, kindness, and compassion for one another. "Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World" proposes a method to replace what Lerner terms the "capitalist globalization of selfishness" with a globalization of generosity, prophetic empathy, and environmental sanity.

Rabbi Lerner challenges liberal and progressive forces to move beyond often weak-kneed and visionless politics to build instead a movement that can reverse the environmental destructiveness and social injustice caused by the relentless pursuit of economic growth and profits.

Revisiting the hidden injuries of class, Rabbi Lerner shows that much of the suffering in our society (including most of its addictions and the growing embrace of right-wing nationalism and reactionary versions of fundamentalism) is driven by frustrated needs for community, love, respect, and connection to a higher purpose in life. Yet these needs are too often missing from liberal discourse. No matter that progressive programs are smartly constructed -- they cannot be achieved unless they speak to the heart and address the pain so many people experience.

Liberals and progressives need coherent alternatives to capitalism, but previous visions of socialism do not address the yearning for anything beyond material benefits. Inspired by Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Carol Gilligan, "Revolutionary Love" offers a strategy to create the "Caring Society." Lerner details how a civilization infused with love could put an end to global poverty, homelessness, and hunger, while democratizing the economy, shifting to a twenty-eight-hour work week, and saving the life-support system of Earth. Rabbi Lerner asks that we all develop the courage to stop listening to those who tell us that fundamental social transformation is "unrealistic".

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography, six pages of Notes, and a twenty-nine page Index. A wonderfully visionary and impressively timely contribution to our current and on-going national dialogue arising from the deep seated political divisions, the erosion of civic discourse, and the growing hostility exacerbated by a pandemic, economic collapse, and the outgoing Trump Administration, "Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World" is deserving of the widest possible readership. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Non-US Legal Systems collections in general, and Comparative Political Science supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of political science students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Revolutionary Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.05).

Editorial Note: Rabbi Michael Lerner is the author of the national bestseller The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right. He is also the editor of Tikkun, one of the most respected intellectual/cultural magazines in the Jewish world, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, CA.

Rude Awakenings from Sleeping Rough
Peter C. Mitchell
Stark Publishing
9781989351413, $29.99, PB, 204pp

Synopsis: For years you have passed them on the streets. You see them as often as you see your own family. The disenfranchised. The rough sleepers. The homeless. Camped out and befouling the sidewalks and alleyways of your daily commute, their worldly possessions, such as they are, spread around them -as dirty and worn out as the sleepers themselves but valuable to them.

Occasionally you get the urge to throw some loose change at them as a gesture of magnanimous humanity. You have conditioned yourself to look through them - allowing your eyes to pass over them without actually seeing them. A defeated acceptance of lives gone wrong; uncomfortable reminders of what can happen when the best laid plans of mice and men go horribly awry.

But they are not you -- until suddenly in this time of pandemic and economic collapse the are. And you discover the life you have built was nothing more than a house of cards that crashed down around you with frightening ease. A spate of bad luck, a poor decision or two, and the ubiquitous 'circumstances beyond your control' conspire to create a perfect storm of events that leaves you cast away on the streets feeling dazed, disjointed, and damned.

Critique: "Rude Awakenings from Sleeping Rough" is both timely and timeless. A compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Rude Awakenings from Sleeping Rough" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Philanthropy & Charity, Poverty, and Urban Sociology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rude Awakenings from Sleeping Rough" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781989351376, $18.99), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Grounds for Murder
Tara Lush, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th Street, Floor 10, New York, NY 10001 295 pages
9781643856186, $26.99 HC, $12.99 PB, 295pp

The debut title of an exciting new Coffee Lovers' cozy mystery series, "Grounds for Murder" by Tara Lush offers rich stimulation in the choice of exotic background (sunny Devil's Beach in Florida), eccentric, lovable characters (a stoned hippy Dad who partakes in traditional and New Age enlightenment practices ), and trendy, appealing gourmet coffee creations (at Perkatory, Lana Lewis' island coffee shop). Even more appealing are the choice descriptions of setting, characters' appearances, and ever present heady aromas of exotic coffee blends and other tastes and smells.

"Grounds for Murder" is a treat for all the senses. In a rush to compete in the local Sunshine State Barista Championship, Lana is distracted to discover first the abrupt resignation and then the suspicious death of her handsome java maker, Fabrizio Bellucci. Can Lana untangle the twist of clues with the help of her new punk rock barista, and her newly adopted Shih Tzu Stanley, inherited from Fab? Only a true Floridian could supply the wealth of detail that marks this exciting new offering to the cozy mystery genre.

All readers will quickly attach to the mystique of former prize winning reporter turned barista and coffee Queen, Lana Lewis. All's well that ends well, leaving a faithful audience of Coffee Mystery fans awaiting the next installment title with great anticipation.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

West of the River, North of the Bridge: Stories from Michigan's U.P.
Richard N. Hill
Gale Force Press
9780981737171, $19.95, PB

Synopsis: In trying to define Michigan's Upper Peninsula and its people, words like grit, solitude, and resiliency come to mind. Enjoying brilliant summers and enduring inescapably long winters, the hardy souls who live here have much in common. Some bend over backwards to make a living, some seek love and adventure, and others simply strive for a way to fit in.

"West of the River, North of the Bridge" is a collection of short stories in which author Richard Hill reflects on issues ranging from personal relationships and family traditions, to hoarding and compulsive gambling, and from the wild ideas and rebellion of youth to the regrets and hard-earned wisdom of old age. These are stories reflect the experience of living in such a challenging environment.

In "West of the River, North of the Bridge" the reader will follow one recurrent character, Jake Powell, as he deals with the frustrations and disappointments of growing up. He struggles to accept himself, but in time learns to trust others and the world around him.

Critique: An inherently interesting read that is as entertaining as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "West of the River, North of the Bridge: Stories from Michigan's U.P." is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library American Literary & Short Story Anthology collections.

Editorial Note: "West of the River, North of the Bridge: Stories from Michigan's U.P. " is also readily available from Thunder Bay Press at:

Other stories tell about distinct aspects of U.P. culture, from its casinos to its deer camps. In "Whiteout," an ice fisherman encounters a life-threatening blizzard. In "Letters from Maria," a deckhand on a Great Lakes freighter tries to hold together a long-distance relationship with a woman he loves. "Crisp Point" tells of two college women who unexpectedly confront a black bear in the woods and are chased to the supposed safety of a lighthouse.

Overall, author Richard Hill presents a cross-section of hopes and fears, courage and cowardice, all set in the rugged but starkly beautiful landscape that is the U.P.

The Legend Of Rabbi Ben Levi
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author
Avi Katz, illustrator
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch
255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023549, $14.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "Give me back my sword!" screams the Angel of Death at the renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi of Zippori as they battle high above the gates of Paradise.

Inspired by this legend from the Talmud, the 1862 poem "The Legend of Rabbi Ben Levi" by the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes the epic struggle of Rabbi Ben Levi to defeat the Angel of Death and end his reign of terror over mortal men.

This stunning illustrated volume deftly presents to a whole new generation of readers Longfellow's poem with mosaic style paintings which are enhanced by quotations from the original Aramaic Talmud text.

Critique: Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular, appreciated and valued addition to personal, family, community, college and university library collections, "The Legend Of Rabbi Ben Levi" is an especially entertaining, memorable, and recommended acquisition for readers of all ages.

Editorial Note: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 - March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and was one of the Fireside Poets from New England.

Avi Katz was born in Philadelphia and moved to Israel at age 20, where he graduated from the Bezalel Art Academy. He has been the illustrator of the Jerusalem Report since its first issue in 1990, and is active in the Cartooning for Peace program. He has illustrated over 150 books in Israel and the U.S. and his books have received the National Jewish Book Award, a Sidney Taylor Notable honor (twice)IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Honors (four times) and Israel's Ze'ev Prize (eight times).

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

February's Files (Manny Rivera Mystery Series Book 2)
Rich Curtin
Monticello Press
B007Q4750Q, $3.99 ebook, 329 pages, 2012
9781469908694, paper

February's Files is a detective mystery tale that takes place in the bucolic area surrounding Moab, Utah. It reads like a cozy mystery with a deputy sheriff as a protagonist. The story has the great scenery of the area around Moab, unique local characters plus a nice set of gruesome murders to solve.

Manny Rivera is a Grand County deputy sheriff. He is assigned the investigation of a murder of a local ex-newspaper man, February Flanagan, whose body was found behind a pile of rocks in Labyrinth Canyon. He had been tortured and shot three years earlier. The investigation is three years late and Manny plays catchup trying to find out what happened. As he investigates, another body is found killed by the same gun. Someone is willing to murder to keep hidden what February discovered.

February's Files is a nice smooth murder mystery. The clues are a little obvious but it is still fun following Manny as he tries to uncover the three year old trail of the killer. February's Files is an easy recommendation for anyone who likes cozy style mysteries that you can solve along with the main character.

The RHAPTA KEY: An ALEX HUNT Archaeological Thriller
Urcelia Teixeira Services LLC
B078116WN3, $2.99 ebook, 300 pages, 2017
9780639966502, paper

The RHAPTA KEY is a light archeological adventure mystery. It has a light plotline, light logic, light mystery, light... But it does make for a simple weekend read if you just want escapism.

After her mother is taken and killed in Africa, Alex Hunt has become for three years an agoraphobic. A phone call from her father, as he is being taken as a hostage, forces her to leave her home in England and go back to Tanzania. An archology student, Sam Quinn, who just happens to also be a medical doctor travels with her. They have to find her father in the African bush and either save him or trade him for the location of an ancient lost city.

Rhapta uses a real lost ancient city as a McGuffin but the rest of the story is simplified. The African sequences read like they had been lifted from Hollywood films from the last Century. Much of the mystery is obvious from nearly the first chapter and the lost city is hidden by a fantasy creature. The strength of the book is with the agoraphobic Alex and her companion Sam. The characters are likeable if not logical. Rhapta is an okay read but there are better stories in the historical action/adventure genre that are stronger and more satisfying reads. Pick up the book if you are interested in a light non-thinking story break.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design