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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 1 January 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Fall of the FBI
Thomas J. Baker
Bombardier Books
c/o Post Hill Press
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781637586242, $30.00, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Americans have lost faith in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an institution they once regarded as the world's greatest law-enforcement agency. Thomas J. Baker spent many years as a special agent with the FBI and is deeply troubled by this loss of faith. Specific lapses have come to light and each is thoroughly discussed in this book: Why did they happen? What changed? The answer begins days after the 9/11 attacks when the FBI underwent a significant change in culture.

To understand how far the Bureau has fallen, "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" shows the crucial role played by the FBI and its agents in past decades. It was quite often, as the reader will see from these firsthand experiences, an adventure with exciting skyjackings, kidnappings, and bank robberies. At the same time, the reader will also see the reverence the Bureau had for the Constitution and the concern agents held for the rights of each American.

"The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" is not just a mere memoir -- it is revealed history. From the shooting of President Reagan and the death of Princess Diana to the TWA 800 crash and even getting marching orders from St. Mother Teresa, "The Fall of the FBI" shows and documents how the FBI has played a pivotal role in our country's history.

Critique: A timely insider's account of a once prestigious law enforcement agency, "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" is essential reading -- especially in light of the new and troubling information about the FBI, the DOJ, and the Secret Service during the Trump years (including the June 6th insurrection) uncovered by the congressional June 6th Committee. A simply fascinating (and alarming) read, "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" is especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Law Enforcement & Corruption collections and supplemental curriculum studies syllabus. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental reformer advocates, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200983827, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Thomas J. Baker ( has over thirty-three years of investigative and management experience as an FBI Special Agent. He has experience with police management and training issues, having served as a management instructor at the FBI academy.

His international experience is extensive. He served as the Legal Attache in Canberra, Australia, and Paris, France. He was the American security representative to the Calgary Winter Olympics and was commended by the Canadian government for his role in the event.

As the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, he was one of the first agents on the scene of President Reagan's shooting; Tom directed the FBI's initial response to that crisis.

Tom has a bachelor's degree from Fordham University, a MPA in Police Science from John Jay College, and he completed the Senior Command Course at the Police Staff College in Bramshill, England.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Dropping Out
Danielle de Valera
Old Tiger Books
9780994254526, $9.96 paper/$2.99 ebook

Short story readers who look for character-linked stories that traverse decades of experience will find Dropping Out an excellent literary collection. It creates a series of experiences steeped in Australian culture, then follows characters who each decide to drop out of their routines and lives, with varying results.

Many people wind up in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. The region holds both attraction and challenge, as it requires different skill sets to navigate, often leaving pilgrims broke and struggling to survive.

The introductory story, "Busting God," presents the dilemma faced by an aging narcotics agent sent to Northern Rivers on a mission to snag a big-time drug dealer. Admitting that he "loves the work too well," Michael has struggled to keep up with his younger peers on the force, fielding injury and confrontations with death with the same strengths that led him to partially recover from his post-traumatic stress from Vietnam War experiences.

As the allure of Northern Rivers grows on him and his partner, they enter very different lifestyles and make revolutionary (for them) choices that lead to revised purposes.

Danielle de Valera grows both the region and other dropout experiences from the kernels of wisdom that these two narcotics agents experience during the course of their self-discoveries.

Each story represents a window into not just psychological strengths and struggles, but the evolution of characters that have chosen this region for a reason.

Take, in contrast, "Stella by Starlight." Set in 2002, this story revolves around ex-inmate Charles Lawson. It begins with an especially compelling commentary about routine and choice: "On the day he planned to kill himself, the day hed decided had the best chance of success, he rose at six as usual."

As the story evolves, readers gain insights into the tipping point that has turned Lawson's formerly satisfying life into one that faces a dark future, indeed.

It takes a beloved cat's disappearance to alter The Plan, which in turn introduces him to new possibilities for the future.

Each story is a world in itself. Each combines a literary inspection with the social, psychological, and philosophical heartbeats of discovery.

Short story readers looking for an interconnected set of Australian lives and experiences on the fringes of society and life will find much to relish in Dropping Out. It is highly recommended not just for literature libraries strong in short stories, but for discussion groups interested in how place and time are woven into stories to reflect and capture other cultures and disparate lives.

Wiilder Adventures & Animals A-Z
Joachim Christgau & Alex Whitman
Independently Published
9788794043083, $19.95

Wiilder Adventures & Animals A-Z is a picture book adventure that follows Join Hubi, Luna and the WiiLDER pals into a "surfari" exploring ocean animals of the world.

It opens with a world map and the awesome animals spotted on this journey, from eagles and rattlesnakes to lobsters, octopus, and kangaroos.

The A-Z format features one creature per letter, pairing sidebars of facts with rhymes and colorful illustrations that invite youngsters to learn in the course of their adventure.

Some of the colorful illustrations that accompany these contain their own humor, as in the page on 'F', where a young surfer finds himself confronted by a plethora of flying fish. Others explore the wonder of undersea life, such as the luminous jellyfish observed by Italian children.

Many of the sidebars include bigger-picture thinking. The jellyfish note, for example, adds: "Jellyfish have been drifting around Earth's oceans for 600 million years. Have you ever ended up somewhere fantastic without searching for it?"

The result is a picture book that operates on several different levels: as an adventure story of discovery, an A-Z primer, and as a natural history of world wonders.

Libraries and read-aloud parents looking for inviting, colorful explorations that impart a sense of discovery along with educational opportunities galore will find Wiilder Adventures & Animals A-Z a wonderful selection sporting a fun-friendly format the whole family can enjoy.

Islanders: The Pacific Chronicles
James & Richard Eldridge
Independently Published
9798355175214, $9.99

Islanders: The Pacific Chronicles is a Hawaiian-based children's fantasy story that explores the changing lives of eleven-year-old Kilikina and her older brother Kaimana, who are granted access to an unusual world that lies under their familiar Hawaiian home. With this gift comes recognition of extraordinary magical abilities which connect them to the world in ways they'd never imagined.

On its surface, Islanders: The Pacific Chronicles is a children's fantasy adventure. Look deeper to discover that it's also a tale of ecology and life connections which closely examines all kinds of relationships; human and animal alike.

Yes, talking animals occupy this milieu. Encounters between magic and high technology explore the unfamiliar and the amazing facets of each.

As young readers navigate this different scenario and adventurers both human and animal which move through it on different missions, they will absorb the contrast between perceptions, experiences, and concepts of shifting places in life as alongside a classic good-against-evil struggle.

A touch of philosophical inspection provides further added value as the characters assess themselves and each another: "He's got a strong mind and even stronger spirit. Everything he does is for a purpose, although much of it is left to be discovered."

The result is a thought-provoking, multi-faceted fantasy adventure for advanced elementary readers and up. It raises important questions about talents, life perceptions and goals, the interconnectedness of different natural systems, and the future of them all. It should be noted that, as the first in a series, the story concludes with the rise of changes that promise further adventures.

The two brothers who author this creation grew up on the Big Island, adding atmosphere through colorful illustrations and authoritative, inviting descriptions based on their lives.

Adults seeking books containing discussion points about bigger-picture ecological and magical thinking, as well as revised definitions of good and evil, will find Islanders: The Pacific Chronicles an excellent choice that comes steeped in Hawaiian culture, mythology, and legends.

Lucas Sterling
Nurrebbul Productions
9780999338742, $13.29 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Contrarian is a crime thriller steeped in action and intrigue, offering an espionage tale that rests on the idea that neither situations nor people are what they appear to be, whether they are heroes or villains on the side of good or evil. Indeed, everything lies somewhere in-between these black-and-white definitions, as Contrarian maintains in its intriguing cat-and-mouse espionage tale.

On one level, suspense readers will readily recognize the devices common to classic genre reads. The back-and-forth movements of characters, the fluid situations that exact from them unusual responses, and the nature of a conspiracy set to unleash a reign of terror and destruction into the world are all familiar scenarios.

What makes for a superior read in this instance is the unexpected. And, in this, Lucas Sterling excels; whether it's pairing a truly unlikely set of characters in an effort that each approaches from a different perspective, or the thoughts of those who hunger for conflict: "In his mind, he could already see the bodies of the men popping open as he filled them up with bullets. The moment of waiting and watching had bored him; this moment excited him. He was ready."

It should be noted that vivid, potential trigger events pepper the story, from snuff film descriptions and scenes of torture to the psychological evil that lies in the hearts of seemingly-ordinary individuals. The faint-of-heart should look elsewhere for their thriller reads.

Those unafraid of learning about monsters, men, and the environmental and psychological challenges that link them will find the intrigue and devices of Contrarian provide an extraordinary story that surveys the underside and turbulent emotional undercurrents of success, failure, and second chances.

Libraries seeking genre reads that employ all the usual devices of literary suspense, then go a step further in adding the unpredictable, will find that Contrarian intersects action and psychological revelation in a vibrant drama that's hard to put down.

WAVES on the Potomac
R. Ann Bush
Konstellation Press
9780998748252, $14.99

WAVES on the Potomac is a novel following the evolution and experience of serving in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) during World War II. It opens with Meg Burke's venture into unknown territory to help serve her country during a time of crisis.

Through Meg's eyes, as she moves from civilian to naval officer candidate at a time when women rarely entered upper ranks of military service, readers gain a perspective on history that has received relatively little exploration in fiction.

Meg's choices and moves reflect more than olden times. Her actions chart the move from civilian to military support personnel from a woman's viewpoint, considering the motivations, interactions between different classes of officers of both sexes, patriotism versus changing women's roles, and specific job descriptions that delve into the daily actions of WAVES:

"My analysis work is a little different from most of the group's. I concentrate on the water transport communications, which are largely weather reports and certainly have a more limited vocabulary than the Fleet Code. I start working on a transmission the same way the other analysts do. I look down a vertical column and use the current additive to subtract numbers. I then rewrite the numbers horizontally." She stopped and took a deep breath. "But the complexity of the additives is sometimes a little much for the radioman on a fishing boat or a convoy ship. Occasionally, they forget and just send the message, so when an additive doesn't seem to be working, I go back and check if the message is uncoded."

Through Meg's eyes, the process of code training, indoctrination and training, and changing social and political influences of the times are revealed.

R. Ann Bush's novel embraces this world with such an attention to daily details that the complete impact of this changing world on women's lives is finely tuned. Meg's confrontations, growth, examinations, and revised duties and perspectives receive central examination, as do her friendships and relationships; whether with colleagues or fellow leaders.

Along with this history comes a portrait of changing social conditions which lends added value to the history of Meg's experience of the WAVES.

The result is a thought-provoking story that brings readers into the milieu of World War II and the motivations of one young woman to contribute to her country's efforts, including a note of intrigue that challenges Meg to rise above and beyond her training to view the bigger picture around her.

Collections looking for fictional accounts of WAVES will find much food for thought and historical background in WAVES on the Potomac, bringing history and experience to life.

Tainted Wine
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815219, $3.99

Tainted Wine is the second book in the Steve Daniels mystery series, and is particularly recommended for readers interested in San Francisco Bay Area backdrops and winery settings.

Investigator Steve Daniels is pulled into the puzzle of a murdered vintner found in his vineyard, a corkscrew in his throat, and finds himself determining the innocence or guilt of Jessica, an heiress to the family fortune and first in the line of suspects.

Add romance into the mix and things get sticky quickly; especially when Steve makes discoveries that affect his blossoming relationship with food and wine editor Isabella (Izzy), a sophisticated woman who at first feels out of his reach.

Wine tasting terminology ("the nose") permeates the tale, adding satisfyingly complex flavors of authenticity and revelation as Steve delves into worlds he'd been unfamiliar with, uncovering a peck of possibilities and trouble that reach out to immerse him in a complex situation.

The atmosphere of the 1950s comes to life as Steve navigates court proceedings, winery discoveries, and situations which flashback to when he had to kill in self-defense. Will circumstances lead him to kill again, against all odds and his own nature?

The spellbinding component lies in Steve's quandary over not just his investigation of innocence or guilt, but his own participation in events that test his moral compass and his investigative prowess alike.

Linda Watkins does a fine job of following the initial puzzle into unexpected territory, splicing the murder mystery with Steve's own changing intentions and revelations.

The result is a powerfully rendered story that draws readers with Steve's first-person quandaries and probes not just the winery industry, but good and bad guys whose choices don't often result in predictable paths of revelation and resolution.

Libraries looking for mysteries nicely rooted in a sense of place and shifting discoveries will find Tainted Wine an excellent choice; especially for those located in California's wine country.

They Will Be Coming for Us
Kim Catanzarite
Forster Publishing
9781735952215, $18.00 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Combine a thriller about genetic engineering with a sci-fi premise that unfolds as a mystery and you have They Will Be Coming for Us, a multifaceted production. On the surface, it seems like another novel about family entanglements, but Kim Catanzarite adds unexpected elements that will simply delight readers who enjoy intrigue, discovery, and surprises.

Svetlana Peterman's marriage to wealthy astronomer Andrew Jovian at first seems a match made in heaven. Indeed, her first-person story opens with the light-heartedness of twenty-something sisters playing like kids in a field, drunk with happiness, youth, and life's possibilities as they dance on the cusp of adulthood. Everything changes with Sveta's marriage - but not in predictable ways.

For one thing, Andrew's family seems uncommonly focused on her procreation abilities, preoccupied with her "task" of carrying on the family lineage to the point of rudeness in their push for an heir. While Svetlana wants children, she doesn't necessarily want them immediately. A career is foremost in her mind.

Despite her timetable and dreams, she becomes pregnant. And then the family's oddities really begin to surface, leading her to question whether she really knew what she was getting into, and where she is heading in the future.

Part of the allure of Catanzarite's story lies in its ability to move from the initial setting of a marriage and traditional processes into the extraordinary reality a young woman faces when she discovers that her life is not what she'd imagined it would become.

Big steps are taken away from the carefree, spirited, introductory lines of the story, carrying readers on an unexpected yet logical journey from predictability to extraordinary circumstances that involve Sveta in bigger-picture thinking.

Although the book's title is somewhat of a spoiler about the progression of its plot, there are plenty of surprises along the way that offer twists that thriller and sci-fi readers may not see coming.

Expecting to absorb a very different world of wealth, Svetlana moves beyond this challenge to also realize that her perceptions of life and her place in it necessitate intense revision.

The result is a powerful story that evolves many unexpected paths to revelation and discovery. Driven by solid characters, the first-person insights that probe Sveta's heart and reactions, and a family whose raw emotions don't always fall into politically correct territory, the suspense/sci-fi blend works exceptionally well, and will attract a wide audience from both genres.

The result is a foray into intrigue that's thoroughly steeped in psychological revelation: "I knew we wouldn't get away. I'm powerless against them."

Libraries looking for exceptional stories will find They Will Be Coming for Us, the first book of a duology, to be a compelling and popular draw among readers of sci-fi, high-tech intrigue, and fiction who look for engrossingly unpredictable reads.

Jovian Son
Kim Catanzarite
Forster Publishing
9781735952239, $18.00

Jovian Son, the second book in the duology begun in They Will Be Coming for Us, is recommended reading for prior fans who absorbed and delighted in the unusual blend of sci-fi, suspense, and high technology in the introductory title.

It's been ten years since Svetlana's flight with her son resulted in taking refuge in Russia, certain that no matter what happens, someday her ruthless in-laws will be coming for them.

Her son Evander is special for many reasons. His physical appearance has the Russian girls swarming around this adolescent: "If only they knew. These Russian girls who flit around my son with stars in their eyes, with their straight-legged jeans and their belted suede coats, their thoughts of sex and dating and maybe even marital bliss written all over their optimistic faces." But only his family knows his true potential and the meaning of his past, present, and future role as a pivot point in Jovian prophecy about events that will change and challenge humanity.

It's unusual to have such a story told from the vantage point of a mother who strives to protect her son from his legacy. Svetlana's story in the first book continues this approach as she struggles to keep Evander safe against all odds - from kin, legacy, and inevitability alike.

When Evander is kidnapped and begins to walk into his destiny, Svetlana is faced with many impossible decisions - the decisions of a mother, a human being, and a woman who made a choice that could change the world.

Kim Catanzarite excels in depicting changing family interactions and relationships against the backdrop of sci-fi events. Svetlana is forced to involve her own family as she continues to interact with the Jovians. This places her in a dangerous position as she navigates her son's legacy and tries to stop what she has contributed to with the birth of her son and the DNA changes which are moving through humanity.

Why would her Jovian family try to hurt her?

As Svetlana uncovers more and more truths, she finds herself trapped in a whirlwind of a social and political Jovian-sponsored movement to change humanity in many different ways.

Readers who follow her story will find Jovian Son expands the nature, purposes, and interactions created in They Will Be Coming for Us.

The lyrical and psychological depth of Svetlana's discoveries make for engrossing reading: "All of this has happened before, I'm sure, and in this way my intuition tells me that life truly is a circle without beginning, middle, or end, and one way or another, it continues to spin as the universe furls and unfurls again."

Libraries that saw patron interest in They Will Be Coming for Us should considers its follow-through story a "must have" for any collection strong in intrigue, sci-fi, and psychological and social discovery.

Gut Driven: Jump-Start Digestive Health to Nourish Body, Mind, and Spirit
Ellen Postolowski
Frankie Mahwah Publishing
9798218050719, $7.99 ebook/$17.95 Paper

Gut Driven: Jump-Start Digestive Health to Nourish Body, Mind, and Spirit should be in any library strong in nutrition and health topics. It covers nutrition and digestion with a special focus on how a three-week plant-based diet can eliminate inflammatory foods, promoting health.

From common dietary inadequacies to achieving the kind of system balance that curbs hunger and reinforces healthy eating, Ellen Postolowski's survey is more than another diet plan. It's an approach to lifestyle changes and identifying the foods that one's body responds to in the healthiest way.

From learning which foods cause reactions by eliminating and then re-introducing them to better understanding classic body signals of dysfunction such as acid reflux or chronic fatigue, Postolowski identifies many common ailments that readers might not ordinarily link to gut health and food choices.

This approach sets Gut Driven apart from many other nutrition or diet discussions, teaching how to better understand gut signals that something is wrong, and how to interpret the signals that indicate dietary changes are on the right track.

Recipes add further value to Gut Driven by presenting selected dishes that are a cut above most traditional foods. One example is Mexican Baked Potatoes which sport onion, bell pepper, refried beans, and salsa, encouraging going beyond the traditional russet potato to explore purple yams and other healthy alternatives.

The resulting lesson in listening to one's gut reactions is highly recommended for health and self-help libraries strong in books that take a bigger step into the arena of self-care through recommendations that encourage readers to identify their own unique dietary needs.

A World Without Men
Randall Moore
Atmosphere Press
9781639885848, $18.99

A ban on men? In A World Without Men, such is not only possible, but has happened 150 years in the future, when the incubation of men has been prohibited and males have been regulated to lower-class near-slaves.

In this woman-controlled world, Eleanora is tasked with finding solutions to problems. Maternal desires are satisfied by simulated children, and new citizens are grown in birth factories, not wombs, which lends to more specialized selection than in the once-free world. Ordinary working women rarely have the opportunity to raise a child of their own in this milieu, and men have effectively been eliminated from the gene pool.

So, why is Eleanora viewing bootleg images of men? Raised in a group home with nurturing women, Eleanora would seem the least likely to become a revolutionary in this unusual setting. But she is, and her role upholding the status quo is challenged by encounters with those who have less acceptance of their roles and future opportunities - especially the rare man who lives in this repressive society: "It seems that is the sole act of personal autonomy left to me. All my daily comings and goings are dictated by others. Throwing myself to my death would be my choice and mine alone, my only avenue of power."

Be careful what you look for. You may find it.

Eleanora's secret passion becomes a dangerous reality as she finds herself walking on the dark side of the minority in this world without men. Her character and observations carry readers into an arena where flawed heroines and oppressed men venture into unfamiliar territory.

Randall Moore's ability to inject moral, ethical, and social questions into the story gives it the allure of a plot that lends nicely to book club debate and group discussion: "It's better to nip bad behavior in the bud rather than wait until it takes full flower. This is the way things are and have been in our society for a very long time. If a child is judged unable to take a constructive role in society, then they're removed."

Questions of control, superiority, hypocrisy, and slavery result in some surprising twists that will encourage readers to think about the origins of repression and the bad results of good intentions gone awry.

The result is a futuristic novel about dangerous trends, attitudes, and possibilities that should earn a place in any library strong in works like The Handmaid's Tale, Animal Farm, and other novels of social inspection and moral and ethical quandary.

Eye of the Ocelot
Volta Rose
Green Heart Books
9780972751841, $9.99 Kindle/$16.99 Paper/$26.99 Hardcover

Eye of the Ocelot seamlessly blends mystery and romance in the first book of the Abigail Fiorelli series. Set in Cape Cod and steeped with the ambitions and efforts of a woman who is both flawed and effective as an individual and as a detective, Eye of the Ocelot sports a mercurial countenance that opens with childhood discoveries.

Volta Rose arbors the ability to create a compelling story that avoids the usual methods of mystery to draw readers into a different set of purposes, whether it is a family confrontation with illness, endangered species encounters and appreciation, or a series of challenges that bring Cape Cod and Abigail to life.

From the death of Dian Fossey and her mission to help her beloved apes which leads her to become Abby's heroine to the adult Abby's realization of bigger-picture thinking, readers receive a mystery more steeped in environmental issues and social revelation than the usual formula genre read offers.

Rose's descriptions of Abby's growth process are inviting and thought-provoking adjuncts to the intrigue: "Abby felt she could not sustain it, and had a vision of the arc of her own life: long, awake, and alive. She became acutely aware of the sound of a killdeer's lonely keening, the salty scent of the sea breeze, the wind in her hair, and moving with the rhythm of the undulating dune grass bending in the wind. Chris's touch brought a clear picture to her mind: a perfect circle she'd recently seen etched into the surface of the sand by a sharp tip of dune grass, turned round and round the base of its stem by the oscillating ocean breeze."

Few mysteries can claim such attention to building a sense of environmental understanding and purpose. Fewer can maintain an effort to bring their characters into touch with not only their surroundings, but their broader life purposes and the effects of their actions.

There's plenty of suspenseful action, ranging from a too-close encounter at the Three Sisters Lighthouse to unusual cop behaviors, case breakthroughs, and confrontations that bring tenacious detective Abigail Fiorelli to the brink of death.

Her journey will delight not just avid mystery readers, who will readily recognize the difference in quality between this blend of environmental and social examination and the usual genre story, but will reach audiences who usually eschew mysteries for their too-predictable plots.

Libraries seeking exceptional reads based as much on environmental discovery and personal recovery from loss and trauma as on a ruthless international organization's purposes will find Eye of the Ocelot satisfyingly unique and original in its approach, character-building, and blend of romance, social understanding, and intrigue.

the pause and the breath
Kwame Sound Daniels
Atmosphere Press
9781639884124, $15.99

Poetry enthusiasts who look for evocative reflections of heart and soul will find "the pause and the breath" representative of the type of writing that lends to deeper contemplation about life and its processes than most.

Take the opening poem, 'Morning'. This exploration of the rituals and routines of the day opens with the ordinary, then moves into extraordinary possibilities: "Think about/your decision to grow your hair out and /how it feminizes you. Decide that/you can't afford to care. Your hair journey/is too important. Loving your routines/is too important. Caring for yourself/is too important."

The initial setup of the norm thus moves into prospects for transformation and change that identifies what is important under the facade of automatic rituals and behaviors.

Readers should anticipate the same attention to heart-felt self-discovery and life meaning as in the opening poems, with each work providing rich slices of insight that reach deeply into potentials for growth. Another such example is the powerful 'Rumi.' It seems almost sacrilegious to lift a quote from this work for a review, because every word shines and, when taken in its entirety, contributes to a greater overall impact. But, for a titillating taste, consider: "Wait for the cut and the recovery./The heart resides in the hands. How shall I/live? How shall I keep my head held high, my/mouth pursed, anticipating? This is how/the heart touches the world. This is how hearts/of doctors touch me. They shape my body/the way I dreamed it. That is the future.

This is the past; every moment that is/lived has been. Chickpeas have already been/soaked and boiled. Collards have already been/sauteed. Season with salt and harissa."

With surgical precision, these pieces capture breaths of life and the pauses between them. Poetry readers would do well to allocate the time to make these pauses and take these breaths when consuming "the pause and the breath". Its intense study of life and meaning deserves a place in any library strong in literary contemporary works that shine.

Waiting for Happiness
R.L. Dean
RLD Publications, LLC
B0BGZ7RQM3, $8.99 Kindle

"Sokwa had a way of pulling people back. But maybe it was where they need to be."

Waiting for Happiness revolves around Yejin (a devout Christian who cares for her mother and younger sister) and her encounter with Seoyoung, a high school classmate who has heavy responsibilities at home. The opening story takes place seventeen years after the suicide of their classmate

Kang Jiwoo, long after Yejin has forgotten about most of her classmates after graduation.

Yejin's faith permeates her life, down to the everyday choices that introduce opportunity and trials into her world: "There was a certain amount of stoicism built into her genes, and she could do all things through Christ, nevertheless, Yejin felt herself sigh before turning to help."

R.L. Dean's attention to profiling this thread of faith provides consistency, patience, and strength to the story of a young woman that traverses Korean culture. Further widening understand are perspectives that alternate (in clearly identified chapter headings) between Yejin and Seoyoung.

As adept as the author is at exploring the emotional states of these young women, attention is also provided to capturing the culture, atmosphere, and quandaries of Korean daily life, right down to the stark school setting which leads Seoyoung to wonder why some degree of attention isn't given to improving the high school environment: "There was a line of trees that separated the street from a row of old houses, with the convenience store shoved in among them. A trail through the trees had been made by students cutting across the schoolyard in the mornings and when school let out. It was dirty. Ugly. Why couldn't they put a sidewalk there for the students?"

Atmospheric details add to the emotional and spiritual spin of two girls who move through their high school years in very different ways, but adopt similar perspectives that bring them together almost two decades later.

Why doesn't God heal these lives?

As Dean injects spiritual inspection into social description and psychological growth, the experiences of these two girls join with Korean cultural insights to create absorbing lessons in faith, caregiving, perseverance, and transformation.

The individual feelings about growing up and into seemingly dead-end lives in bleak places creates a story that excels in descriptions of coming full circle back into belief and circumstances that define life's meaning within events that divide and connect.

"Sokwa had a way of pulling people back. But maybe it was where they need to be."

Libraries looking for vivid works with a Korean backdrop and Christian insights will welcome the close inspection of faith and fortune that creates a compelling series of realizations in Waiting for Happiness.

What About Lilly?
Kim Delmar Cory
Gatekeeper Press
9781662927966, $11.99 paper/$6.99 ebook

Young adult readers who enjoy historical backdrops will appreciate the approach of What About Lilly?, a novel set in the 1950s. It follows teen siblings to their uncle's farm for the summer, where cultures are thrown together as their uncle invites a pair of Amish siblings and a seven-year-old Korean-American orphan with polio to join them.

In the aftermath of the Korean War (which is fading but still within recent memory), these disparate personalities and simmering prejudices evolve as the uncle who has thrown them all together leaves town for work, and a resentful aunt decides to bail on them all.

Though the story swirls around Will's feeling of responsibility for his father's death, in reality it's about so much more, opening with a recap of his father's sudden death in the prologue and then moving to Will's injury and Aunt Alice's absence.

Will's efforts to keep those outside the family from discovering the truth - that six children are living on their own while awaiting the uncle's return - consumes a lot of energy, as does his self-flagellation for his father's much energy that there's barely enough left to field nosy questions or hold their makeshift group together.

"...those other kids don't belong here!" the man growled. "They ain't American!"

Kim Delmar Cory has created, in a nutshell, the compelling story of a group of resourceful children who must draw together to combat prejudice both internal and external, preserving a place of safety against all odds.

Cory excels in bringing the atmosphere of 1950s America to life - especially its daily encounters and challenges which have influenced Will's perceptions and life:

"They'd talk about sports. The neighbor knew exactly what his favorite football team's quarterback needed to do in order to win. They'd discuss politics. Or, in reality, the neighbor asserted his political stance while Will's dad watered the lawn in tight-lipped silence. The neighbor vociferously touted Senator Joseph McCarthy, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, as an American hero for exposing 'Reds', or communists within the United States. According to the neighbor, Joseph McCarthy was 'culling the herd' by targeting communists within American society so the everyday person would be safe and our country saved from the 'Red Menace'."

Passages such as these contrast nicely with Will's own blossoming ideas and psychological challenges as children knit together against a world coming apart around them.

As Will evolves into unexpected talents and finds ways to cope with his father's memory and his own choices, young adults receive a moving, soaring story of light and darkness which both pulls at the heart and educates about new possibilities and trials: "This violin allowed him to soar beyond the everyday, the sun and pain. Allowed him to revisit himself as a musician, his violin as a part of him. This astonishing instrument - unlike anything he could have imagined playing. This violin his father had gifted to him."

Cory's ability to dovetail broader social inspection and bigger-picture thinking with the macrocosm of personal adversity and conflicts which arise at home in the aftermath of the Korean War makes for a thoroughly engrossing read.

Libraries looking for memorable stories will find it weaves history so intrinsically into the plot that it becomes a part of personal revelations and growth, making What About Lilly? a thought-provoking read on many different levels.

W.I.T.C.H: Your Guide to Becoming a Woman in Total Consciousness Healing
Siobhan Claire
Siobhan Claire Books
9798986394305, $9.99 ebook/$15.95 Paper

W.I.T.C.H: Your Guide to Becoming a Woman in Total Consciousness Healing is a spiritual guide to building self-confidence and faith that uses the author's own journey as a starting point for discussion.

These discourses range from accepting the pros and cons of the evolutionary process and the changes that accompany growth to cultivating "witchy acts;" creating support systems ("covens"); and accepting the possibilities, influences, and messages of spirit guides who inject psychic clarity into the bigger picture of growth.

This requires either an open mind or a prior affinity for new age consciousness and healing possibilities. Readers who cultivate such an awareness will find W.I.T.C.H. a repository of guidelines for achieving greater clarity and accepting intuition and the notion of reaching the spirit world through automatic writing, meditation, and other means.

Siobhan Claire is specific about her own revelations and awakening process in various arenas, including sexuality: "As my programming around "the right partner" dissolved, I was also healing my expectations around who I had to be in partnership and sexual encounters - someone smaller, daintier, and skinnier. This was the beginning of my conscious sexual expansion."

New age, self-help, and alternative health women who would receive a specific guide to refining and fine-tuning their connections with self and the spirit world will find W.I.T.C.H. replete with sage advice that blends metaphysical teachings with psychological discovery.
Libraries seeing patron interest in such books will find W.I.T.C.H. stands out from most, with its encouraging specific examples and routines for connecting to both innate psychic abilities and one's true self.

Its blend of autobiography, spiritual reflection, and psychic instructions creates just the right potion for readers to follow in Claire's footsteps.

Every Three Hours
Janet Malcolm Hayles
Tarheel Shaw Writes
9798986568805, $6.99 ebook/$16.95 paper

Every Three Hours: A Mother's Story of Raising a Child with Chronic Illnesses from Car Seat to Career is about caregiving, survival, and the life of a mother whose child was diagnosed with two rare chronic conditions.

Readers might anticipate, in such a memoir, the kind of progression that juxtaposes caregiving requirements with survival tactics - but they won't expect the sense of empowerment that comes through Janet Malcolm Hayles's growth process.

From exploring the roles of control freak, advocate, and caregiver to fielding disasters and successes, moving forward, and taking big steps that helped mother and child move into life against all odds, Every Three Hours is a powerful account steeped in adversity, love, and possibility. It offers hope, insights, and familiar thoughts to fellow caregivers.

There are many books on the market about caregiving spouses, parents, or kids. Every Three Hours chronicles the process of becoming engaged in a child's growth and the world apart from the caregiver's routines: "I did not turn into a bathrobe-wearing, soap-opera-watching slob. I threw myself into number-crunching for the PTA. I coordinated the summer swim team at Lake Quivira. I worked with the kids at church to create Christmas pageants, herding thirty angels and shepherds onstage. I scrubbed toilets at home and simmered Bolognese sauce. I made one hundred scones for Tee's history unit on Victorian England. Every day was different, and every day was tied to my family. It was amazing. My brain still got challenged, and I got to flex my organizational skills. Who started the myth that the stay-at-home mom wears a cute apron and sips martinis? She puts in sixteen-hour days, yet they are very good days."

Caregivers who well know the stifling possibilities of directing another's care and very life will find this sense of uplifting joy and new possibilities a standout in the literature, featuring routes, perceptions, and options available to all to emulate and consider. The result is more than just another caregiver's memoir, but a blueprint for recovery, discovery, and growth that teaches by example.

"For the first time in years, our family felt the vibration of anxiety quietly slow down."

The ups and downs of this course, as charted in Every Three Hours, makes the book highly recommended for parenting, health, and self-help libraries, and discussion groups alike.

Owl in the Oak Tree
Penny Walker Veraar
GG Publishing
9798986734309, $26.95 Hardcover/$15.95 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Owl in the Oak Tree isn't about owls, trees, or nature. There's a lot going on in this story, from a drive-by shooting to a single mother who is trying to make the best life for children left behind after the death of their father, including a child with the dual diagnoses of Downs Syndrome and autism.

As if this weren't enough to cope with, Reagan Ramsey witnesses a murder that introduces outside forces and conflict into her already-battered family life.

And here's where Penny Walker Veraar's effort shines as she crafts a story that moves beyond one of family struggle, special needs, and survivors to a mystery that introduces bigger issues into Reagan's life and challenges her to choose what is right.

It's rare to see a thriller so thoroughly engrained in family dynamics. Usually, the genre is replete with worldly views and experiences that eschew the sense of everyday life concerns. In contrast, Owl in the Oak Tree takes the opposite approach, building intrigue slowly while introducing elements that feel ordinary and mundane, but create a satisfying realistic portrait of daily life. One such example is the opening lines, where schoolteacher Reagan fields a class study:

"Ew, they're nasty!" said one of the girls, her pouty mouth drawn downward.

"Disgusting," her partners agreed.

Reagan stopped in front of the girls and frowned. "Okay, they're gross, but stick to the discussion items, please."

She strolled around the classroom, trying to keep the commotion in her science lab to a manageable level. The gurgling of aquarium pumps blended with the murmuring of twenty-four seventh graders, six tables of four, gathered around their workstations to observe milkweed bugs in their habitat."

Readers who look for developments and action that begin with the microcosm of ordinary life and then move into extraordinary circumstances that challenge that world will find much to appreciate about the tension development in Owl in the Oak Tree.

Veraar's detail and description brings the logic and reality of this world into direct contact with the mystery that draws Reagan and her readers into unusual, murky waters of discovery and investigation.

Embedded deeply into the intrigue are the realities of parenting a special needs child: "Soon they were laughing at stories, one after another - many about the situations they'd found themselves in with Lizzie, a few they told every time they got together. Lizzie was happy being the center of attention. "We shouldn't talk about her like this." Reagan retrieved a pack of wipes from her purse. "She's enjoying it entirely too much and understands more than you think. I don't want to reinforce that behavior."

Will Reagan always be Lizzie's caretaker? Are her children in danger? How will her actions and choices either resolve or contribute to the crisis outside that threatens to settle inside their home?

Readers will find much more going on than the designation of 'thriller' indicates. At the heart of this story is home life, issues of safety and danger, a mother's love for her needful child and her attempts to build normalcy into a world battered by adversity and surprises, and the efforts of an ordinary schoolteacher to navigate the unknown.

Libraries looking for powerful stories that defy pat progression or categorization will find Owl in the Oak Tree attractive not just to readers of intrigue, but patrons and discussion groups looking for solid stories about family life and change.

Jack Mayer
Proverse Hong Kong
9789888492664, $19.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Entanglements: Physics, Love, and Wilderness Dreams is a poetry collection that reflects on various types of relationships, interactions between self and the world, and the personas which evolve in response to the stimuli of nature and man alike.
Composed in relative isolation, the poems analyze and represent ideals of what it means to be human and unique, providing readers with a sense of evolutionary process that conveys both singular and quantum entanglements.

Jack Mayer introduces this collection with thought-provoking insights into and definitions of his subject: "Whether or not there is a point to our existence, and whatever that point might be, we nevertheless strive for elegance, perfection, beauty, and contentment. Relationships seem to be the matrix in which we endeavor to understand. We are entangled."

Take the 'Doctor Poems' segments which open the book. Each poem opens and furthers the discussion of entanglements that stem from the author's role as a doctor and his encounters with patients. The poems about his practice and experiences form the 'micro' introductory stage of his works, examining just one aspect of the different kinds of entanglements presented in this collection.

From the experiences of a young physician alone on the Canadian border who confronts a lethal diagnosis to the circumstances of environment and atmosphere which inject a sense of nature into the emotional angst, Mayer is adept at juxtaposing surprising scenarios for maximum impact: "I feel weightless, cresting the roller-coaster hill./For a moment of Newtonian indecision/my car balances, tips down/and I fear the fall./This hill will be a son-of-a-bitch/when it snows next month."

Entanglements really needs to be read as a progressive building block of experiences leading to realizations of the different natures of complexity, because each poem and grouping lends to and redefines the idea of an entanglement.

Washed in the oceans of Maine, the pastoral countryside of Vermont, and the changing life circumstances that embrace the poet and his craft, the poems are steeped in a sense of place that comes alive under Mayer's hand: "In sleep we float on waves/of flannel sheets and eider down,/the cat curled amongst our legs,/last night's fire smoldering in the stove./You roll over, a gentle tide/flowing over my body."

The outdoors environments are tempered by philosophical and metaphysical reflections which inject human concerns into wilderness experiences: "From the windswept summit,/Earth's existential mass is eclipsed/by a feeling, mystical and revelatory,/unfocused like peripheral vision./I am grateful for the respite,/for having survived, thrived,/and for my trail mix and water."

The result is a powerful reflection of wilderness, nature, man, and entanglements that form the threads of life, moving within and outside human nature to connect everything and everyone.

Libraries looking for literary contemporary poetry that dances through senses of place and purpose will welcome and relish the special reflections and atmosphere that Entanglements promises and presents.

CONSTANT CHAOS The Daily Battle to Protect the Environment
Ron Holcomb
Independently Published
9798986549309, $30.00

CONSTANT CHAOS The Daily Battle to Protect the Environment is a collection of true stories gleaned from Ron Holcomb's decades with the Washington State Department of Ecology. It traces the job and passion to carry out an environmental protection edict that belies the usual image of the government worker as a dispassionate pusher of paperwork.

The image of the career public servant thus receives a facelift in a series of extraordinary true-life insights documenting the efforts of spill responders to identify and minimize the impact of environmental disasters.

A wide range of events are described, from marine and river cleanups, hazardous materials episodes, and criminal investigations into environmental tragedies to conspiracies, train wrecks, illegal drug labs, and human folly.

Insights evolve on everything from chemtrails, oil pollution, and safety to the "wild world" of derelict vessels and the regulatory challenge represented by events surrounding the 431-foot barge Davy Crockett in the Columbia River. These diverse stories make for engrossing, eye-opening examinations of the political, scientific, social, and business dilemmas posed when humans make mistakes, equipment fails and natural disasters occur.

Given such a serious topic, one might believe that CONSTANT CHAOS will assume the dry and overly detailed progression of an analytical piece. Ron Holcomb cultivates a lively sense of discovery and revelation in each of these stories, making them accessible and interesting to readers who may come from far outside the scientific and regulatory world.

The result is a powerful account of the human aspects and involvements of agencies charged with protecting the environment and fostering public safety.

CONSTANT CHAOS is highly recommended not just for libraries looking for insightful additions to ecology topics, but for discussion groups that look for debate material and reading which provokes deeper thinking about the processes and objectives of, and influences on, environmental protection standards.

The Pirate Queen's Daughter
William Frank
Terra Nova Books (SCB Distributors)
9781948749831, $19.95

Readers of the detective/mystery genre well know there are numerous stories about art theft on the market - so many that they could easily become a sub-genre themselves. The progressions of such plots tend to be predictable: a valued painting is sold at auction, struggles over ownership ensue, and mysteries surrounding vanished paintings abound until the relic finally returns home.

Those who anticipate that The Pirate Queen's Daughter will assume such a backdrop will find themselves pleasantly surprised by William Frank's special attention to unusual details which expand the usual investigative progression to take some unusual twists and turns.

Yes, protagonist Tommy McNaul is a long-time art-crime detective. But his latest investigation of a theft and murder comes home to roost in unusual ways in Santa Fe, where he operates, connecting this world with that of Boston Irish mobsters and a family's drive to uncover the truth from their tumultuous history.

For one thing, Tom is drawn to the case by an alluring university professor whose dilemma he can't ignore. His expertise in handling stolen fine art cases with his brother results in their immersion into Bostonian affairs through an elusive Monet piece that comes with no background records at all. They have only a seven-year-old's memories to work with. Nor is there proof of ownership, making matters even more complex.

These are just the opening quandaries in a story that evolves so many questions that Tom fears he will not only fail to find answers, but may be endangering more than a family legacy by taking on an impossible challenge.

A father's murder in Northern Ireland and thieves whose legacy falls on the shoulders of the next generation bring Tom, his older brother, Willie, and FBI agent Kate Baco closer to an amazing truth. Readers will find just the right blend of history, mystery, and cat-and-mouse intrigue develops, tempered by changing relationships. The story's foundations of art, history, and murder expand to include social issues particular to Ireland, Boston, and mob involvements. Readers will find themselves immersed in a captivating, intriguing series of plots and oddly interconnected characters.

Libraries seeing interest in contemporary mystery stories that base their dilemmas on art and history worlds alike will find The Pirate Queen's Daughter an excellent story. William Frank takes the time to build atmosphere and believable characters, evolving dilemmas that even seasoned genre readers won't see coming.

A fine addition to the subgenre of art history mysteries, The Pirate Queen's Daughter represents a standout story of a strange inheritance and its impact on a widening circle of parties of interest.

Moonlight Can Be Deadly
Charlotte Stuart
Walrus Publishing
9781940442471, $16.95

Moonlight Can Be Deadly may be the fourth book in the Discount Detective series, but it comes with an introductory cast of characters that makes it easy for newcomers to slip into its background and story. Even hidden agendas are outlined to help readers fall more seamlessly into the plot, which revolves around a family's involvement in a midnight ritual. The tale opens with the everyday scenario of a woman whose day has been off-kilter since she organized breakfast for her barely-teen children.

It's unusual to find a protagonist as thoroughly immersed in matters outside of murder as Cameron, but it's just this sense of everyday experiences, tempered by odd coincidences from life circumstances, that creates an immediate connection with Moonlight Can Be Deadly's audience.

If you stumbled upon a woman crying in a mall, would your impulse be to help? And if she asked about the reputation of your own business in said mall, wouldn't your investigative savvy sense danger? Both events happen to Cameron as she stumbles upon events and secrets that immerse her family in a new quandary.

Charlotte Stuart's attention to detail and discovery keeps the story fast-paced enough to satisfy mystery readers, yet firmly rooted in real-life everyday situations for those who would receive a sense of reality-based developments between Cameron, her colleague Yuri, and her kids.

As the Full Moon Society's operations and dilemmas come to light and increasingly affect Cameron's life, readers will welcome Stuart's attention to presenting both worlds side-by-side as unfolding events threaten murder and danger.

Moonlight Can Be Deadly represents a satisfying dance between changing scenarios. Choose coffee or wine as you wish, but the story comes steeped in both quiet and overt drama, from locked doors and changing dating possibilities to haunting hatred and deadly dangers.

Readers who look for situations nicely rooted in everyday foundations will find Moonlight Can Be Deadly a fine study in building tension from normal life encounters up to and including murder scenarios.

Libraries will find the story worthy of not only inclusion in a mystery collection, but recommendable to book clubs interested in light-hearted mysteries that revolve around little indiscretions, lies, and bigger-picture events.

Magoo and His Magic Poo
H.D. Ronay
Independently Published
9798842197637, $9.99

Magoo and His Magic Poo is the delightful picture book story of a cat that sports magically stinky poo and a taste for adventure and helping others. Even dogs.

Magoo stumbles upon caged dogs whose purpose seems to be to "make more of us," and decides to affect a breakout and rescue. How can he help? Through his magical powers, of course!

Black and white illustrations by Michael Harring accompany a fun story of confronting a rage-filled human with the only weapon at hand (or, should it be said, behind?). Success comes paw in paw with failure as Magoo confronts the obstacles surrounding his special form of magic.

The mere mention of poo will grab the attention of readers young and old, while they simultaneously receive a rollicking, fun story about a very special cat's efforts to help others.

To say that Magoo and His Magic Poo is unexpected would be an understatement. The story is freshly unique and original from beginning to end, offering valuable discussion points on not just bodily functions, but humane animal treatment, kindness, and acceptance.

Parents who choose Magoo and His Magic Poo for an enlightening read will find its opportunities for laughter, entertainment value, and surprising life insights to be simply delightful, making the book highly recommended as a standout for any home or school library collection.

Graduating from the Electoral College
Tomas J. McIntee
Hurricane Lamp Press
9781959266013, $44.99 hardcover, $19.99 paper, $2.99 ebook

Perhaps in no other time in American history is Graduating from the Electoral College so necessary. This is because the events of the last five years have swirled around misunderstandings and disinformation about how the Electoral College works, its purpose, and how and why it has vastly strayed from its original intentions.

Tomas J. McIntee provides a reasoned, timely history of the concept behind the Electoral College and its changes through the decades under various administrations, from Washington and Jefferson through the Civil War and beyond.

Present-day events aren't the only time the Electoral College has been challenged. From 1876 accusations of fraud to the transition years of the 1960s and 70s, McIntee surveys major challenges to and influences upon the Electoral College which both refined its operations and intentions and decreased its democratic principles.

This background history leads up to perhaps the most important discussion in this book and modern times: the historic and calculated balance of power in the institution, and questions of large and small state representation in the political process.

To say that Graduating from the Electoral College is key to understanding the American democratic process is an understatement. This is the book that should be assigned reading from high school upwards, required background reading for any educated voter who wants to enter the modern fray of controversial discussions with more than innuendo and vague notions of the College's history, intentions, and relevance to the power struggles that affect this nation.

Graduating from the Electoral College concludes this survey with a review of the College's quirks, detriments, and methods to abolish the flawed system entirely. The analysis of numerous flaws in the system, from minor to major, pinpoints exactly how it has strayed far from the baseline of fairness and efficiency.

When is the best time to fix this? There have been pivot points during this process in the past, which points to today as being another historically good time to reassess the Electoral College entirely: "The best time to fix the Electoral College and replace it with a better system was at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The second-best time was in 1788 after the first presidential election had finished. The third-best time to start rolling out a replacement was in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written up. When this book goes into press, it will be the 236th best year to move forward with abolishing the Electoral College."

With its reasoned and fact-cemented history, its survey of social and political issues that have battered and shaped the Electoral College from its birth, and the questions that surround its operations today, it's easy to recommend Graduating from the Electoral College for not only any library strong in democratic history and examination, but for discussion groups. A wide audience can use it to consider the Electoral College's relevance today, supporting the argument that indicates a final graduation is in order.

I Rode the Second Wave
Fran Abrams
Atmosphere Press
9781639886548, $16.00

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir combines a memoir with poetry to reach a wider audience than either genre could offer.

The "second wave" of feminism was that which evolved in the 1960s and 70s, centering on equal pay and career opportunities for women. Fran Abrams was a college freshman posed to enter the job market at the time, placing her in the center of new events, decisions, and changes.

Her coming of age in a society that believed women's ultimate goals should be as wives, mothers, and homemakers thus took place during a sea change in women's perceptions of their capabilities and purposes, reflected here in her poetry collection.

What makes this book stand out from others on the subject is not just its combined literary and memoir format, but its unique perspective at a point in history which began in the 1950s and evolved past social norms into career and motherhood.

Fran Abrams's trajectory thus reflects and documents the feel of these times. It opens with an introductory "Dear Reader" poem which sets the stage for future generations by explaining that "before women revolted," ads for jobs were separated by gender; women's roles dictated that only certain careers were appropriate and available; and that it wasn't until 1974 that a woman could get credit in her own name.

Events embrace losing virginity and illusions to loneliness in the workplace, where Abrams found herself the only woman programmer on one job, and was on track for the career she pursued against all odds.

The presentation of these events in free verse assures a personal feel of experience that prose could not have achieved. It also provides a deep connection between social inspection, memoir, and literary form that holds the promise to reach a wider audience than any of these singular genres could do.

Libraries seeking works of women's literature and history that also look for the added value of writings that easily speak to the general public will find much to recommend to a wide range of patrons in I Rode the Second Wave.

The Wisdom of Winter
Annie Seyler
Atmosphere Press
9781639886487, $15.99

The Wisdom of Winter is a lyrical novel powered by the evocative reflections on a reunion (not a beginning) between interconnected worlds. Its first-person usage creates a surreal atmosphere from the start, drawing readers into the world and perceptions of Beatrice and opening with birth: "I surrender to the pull, not by hands or forceps, but by the life ahead of me. The family I will thrill and disappoint; the rush of love and the crush of rejection; the ground I will skip over and the roots I will trip on; the words I will say and the ones I will withhold."

Annie Seyler's story of life, growth, and the juxtaposition of certainty and uncertainty as she moves through very different worlds from Vermont to San Francisco captures the ebb and flow of tides of life and time to make for passionate, memorable, reflective reading.

Readers who seek fictional life revelations that move back and forth through time and place to capture the grains and minutiae of experience and evolution will find much to appreciate in Seyler's expressive voice.

Beatrice's revelations and experiences connect the macro to the microcosmic worlds of perception and influence, exploring the history, look, feel, and sensations of life: "The pickup engine transitions smoothly. I've forgotten how much I love driving a stick shift, but soon Route 42, winding, banked, and unpredictable, demands my focus. I downshift around a bend, then accelerate and upshift. Oliver's truck, my copilot, offers no resistance. It simply wants to go."

Under Seyler's hand, the search for place and experience comes to life. Beatrice's visions prove compelling features that bring readers into a series of thought-provoking encounters: "I am fully present as he holds me, fully engaged as he kisses my neck, my ear, and my mouth, but by the time my front door clicks closed behind him, I am back at the window searching for horses in the shadows."

Libraries seeking literary novels of growth and the contrasts between ages, people, and places will find much to relish in The Wisdom of Winter 's approach to the world. Ideally, they will also recommend it highly for book clubs seeking women's literature that promotes growth, healing, and the appreciation of large and small events in life's journey.

Speaking to No. 4
Alta Ifland
New Europe Books
9781734537970, $16.95

Speaking to No. 4 is a novel of international intrigue that focuses on a journey undertaken by a man whose fiancee, Alma, has vanished. In order to find her, he must interview her exes and probe her past to understand both her trajectory and possible reasons for hiding (or potential perps if she's been taken against her will).

The first note to this story is that it is conducted through the voices of Alma's different husbands, starting with No. 1, who is in a bar choosing a beer. His discourse with a stranger opens an intriguing survey of his relationship with Alma: "You must know that our lover's past is like an invisible mountain standing between us and them. You know it's there, but you can't give it a shape, you can't touch it. And it drives you crazy. Believe me, I know. So you wanted to see the mountain. Here it is. Take a good look. Keep in mind that I'm fifteen years older than when I met her."

As he recounts how they met and the disintegration of their love ("Everything that is touching and charming before becomes unbearable after."), No. 1 begins to realize that, rather than being the confessor, he is actually being interviewed about his relationship with Alma because he is first in the mystery the chatty stranger is trying to unravel.

This unusual twist of story and fate lends the novel an immediately touching, revealing literary voice that portends its plot will be neither mundane nor predictable.

As Alta Ifland reveals Alma's life through the lens of very different players in it who operate in different countries and cultures, readers receive a delightful interplay between psychological encounters and intrigue that both keeps them guessing and sheds light on the possibilities surrounding Alma's disappearance in each man's life.

Architectural wonders and psychological insights permeate the saga, exemplified by the story of a mason who constructed an amazing monastery on the foundations of his grief, followed later by the reflection on American women's psyches: "...the contradiction and the split at the core of the American woman: deep down she is the wholesome wife from The Dick Van Dyke Show, but she feels obligated by the progressive values she's been taught in school, and especially by her idols, the French feminists, to look down upon what constitutes her very core. So, in the end, the American woman is a knot of tangled guilt and repressed desires..."

Readers who enjoy blends of satire, psychological inspection, and wry humor - all cemented by a form of intrigue that assumes an unusual world- and ego-hopping venture - will relish the literary devices and insights that pair revelation with entertainment.

Libraries seeking contemporary fiction that excels in both literary presentation and psychological inspection will find Speaking to No. 4 highly recommended for the fiction reader seeking something different, as well as for book clubs that like deeper stories of relationships and their social and philosophical ripples:

"There is nothing closer to the great scheme of things than nothingness. I just realized this - just now, as I am writing these words. Don't we spend our entire lives moving slowly toward nothingness (all the while trying to postpone reaching it) as toward our own origin, and shouldn't we honor the mystery where we came from by spending as much time as possible in the proximity of nothingness? I could spend the rest of my life staring at this wall, and that would be a noble life."

The Incompleteness Theorem
Mark McDowell
Independently Published
9781667824864, $19.99 Paper/$6.49 ebook

The Incompleteness Theorem is a novel of middle age, reinvention, and isolation, following the evolution of a new widower whose world is changed not only by the demise of his wife, but by the isolation of COVID and the trajectory of his teenage son and daughter, who are on the cusp of leaving home.

Sudden death is always a challenge, but when paired with the looming empty nest syndrome of a family disassembling even further and a middle-aged man's crisis over his unexpectedly changed future, it's especially hard-hitting.

As readers follow Jack Callany's reflections on his past, present, and what is likely for his future, Mark McDowell weaves many threads of modern life into a story which will reach contemporary audiences with its inspections of later-life possibilities.

The isolation brought by death and COVID's concurrent appearance is furthered by the specter of his in-house support system dissolving, leaving Jack both free to pursue a different life and alone in his journey in more ways than one.

McDowell injects a sense of quiet desperation and growth into this saga of re-envisioning one's future under vastly changed circumstances. His attention to dialogue, detail, characterization, and life choices as the backdrops to unprecedented events brings with it a vivid familiarity with the characters, allowing readers to contemplate their own situations and the choices that influence unexpected developments.

Readers won't expect the wry humor or the sense of joy that supplements pain with pleasure, but, much like life, The Incompleteness Theorem reflects the juxtaposition of many facets as Jack's world contracts, then expands in surprising ways. This charts both the highs and lows of a life that at first seems to be unraveling, but eventually reforms in a delightfully realistic manner.

Libraries and fiction readers seeking contemporary middle-age-crisis novels that move beyond the obvious to probe the moments and maturity of individuals still steeped in life and learning will find that The Incompleteness Theorem crafts a welcome journey. It invites readers to step right in and come along for the ride of Jack's life: "The sun was deep red now and kissed the watery horizon. For a moment I had no history, no sadness, no plans. Every part of me mustered into the extreme present, making me intensely alert and profoundly calm all at once."

Running Dreams
Carlos R. Servan
Atmosphere Press
9781639886432, $17.99 Paper/$27.99 Hardcover

If you were disabled and blinded by a bomb, would you then immigrate to a safer yet unknown land? Running Dreams presents this situation when Peruvian cadet Carlos finds his initial dreams and life exploded by a bomb's aftermath, destroying not only his abilities, but his ideals of family, place, and safety.

In search of the latter (and peace) Carlos moves from military life at the Peruvian academy to the unknown in the United States; there to experience a different form of explosive change and challenge that further tests and revises his convictions and his place in the world.

From his initial vision of working for the antiterrorist unit and identifying the forces of the dangerous Shining Path terrorist organization to the realization that his passion for running has led him to run from his own home and vision of life, Carlos R. Servan creates a powerful memoir of this world that draws readers into the atmosphere of Peru and the move between that nation and an alien world.

After he is injured, Carlos counts down the hours until he can visit the U.S., there to be more effectively treated by doctors who can offer him better alternatives for his life. What he finds is much more than medical relief, but a renewed sense of life purpose despite moving away from everyone he knows and loves and into an environment not only tempered by blindness, but replete with prejudice and additional trials.

There are many memoirs of immigrant experiences on library shelves, but what sets Running Dreams apart from many is its focus on healing and coming to terms with a very different life:

"As I thought about the immigration process and my need for a sponsor, my brain worked overtime. And those were not my only worries. When my training ended, I would have nowhere to live, and I'd be unemployed. Add to that my inadequate language skills and my aching homesickness. Still, I didn't complain. I had not come to the United States assuming that everything would just fall into place. I knew it would be tough going. I thought to myself, Well, here I am. And, sure enough, it is just as tough as I imagined it would be."
Whether Carlos is tackling his new blindness, paperwork, social and legal obstacles, or the price of success, readers walk easily in his shoes and experience, with him, the ups and downs of his life:

"I thought of my mother who suffered - maybe more than I did - when I lost my eyesight. I thought of my humble roots in Peru, my poor neighborhood, the jobs I had as a teenager, and getting into the police academy. I thought about the struggles I faced when I arrived in the United States and all my sleepless nights studying."

The process by which he gains a new, different vision of opportunity and how to grasp it will involve not just readers who are immigrants or disabled, but anyone who has faced a total challenge to their dreams and familiar life, requiring a sea change of revision to perceptions and psyches.

Libraries looking for a memoir that stands out for its dual exploration of disability and achievement as well as immigrant experience will find Running Dreams a winner not just for patrons, but for book clubs looking for standout reading about immigrant dreams and realities.

American Nonsensical
Edward D. Webster
Casa de los Suenos Publishing
9780997032048, $14.95 Paper/$24.95 Hardcover/$6.99 ebook

American Nonsensical: A Farce, Both Tragic and True excels in the fine art of farce and satire. Its uncommon characters range from a pair of loony detectives who spend more time arguing than investigating to a decades-old mother/son preacher team who wielded magic and faith, then vanished.

The scene opens in 2001 Nebraska, where Jeff is called upon to perform yet again for a disquietingly small audience that has come to view a glorious (but bogus) story of faith and miracles. From the start, Edward D. Webster embeds experience with wry humor that is his trademark throughout the entire sordid tale: "Once he'd felt superior to these people. He thought they'd all come to worship him. But how many came just to gawk at a freak of nature? His mother was clever or evil. Jeff was superior or even holy, as she'd told him, or just another charlatan. "It doesn't matter how we convince them," she'd said. "We bring them to the Lord, and He saves them." He didn't feel clever or holy tonight. He felt vile as fresh cow plop."

Jeff's nagging self-doubt about his so-called abilities plague him, and he, too, hopes for a miracle. What he gets is something quite different, surprising even those who want to believe he is "the Messiah's chosen," but don't know he's actually the prime player in his mother's intricate deception.

The second chapter moves thirteen years back in time to trace the origins of this splendid farce and the evolving relationship between mother and son. It moves beyond kinship and into matters of odd blessings and evidences of faith in everyday experiences, no matter how small or seemingly adversarial.

Sarah Lamb's convictions carry mother and son into a world of illusion and opportunity that Jeff feels himself increasingly at odds with - but the story is about much more than a purposeful or misguided sojourn into healing and deception.

Webster unfolds the resulting scenarios delicately, weaving a story of misguided love with multiple missing persons cases that involve detectives Stan and Bud in bizarre circumstances ranging from investigating healers and oddities to tackling COVID and love.

The first person is used in clearly-identified chapters that move between Stan and Bud's perceptions and experiences, linking Bud to Sarah. Contemporary scenarios range from fake news references and perceptions to forays into political farces and ironies. These prove as consistently puzzling as peoples' choices and reactions to altered life and states of consciousness.

Take Sarah Lamb's views on Donald Trump: "Donald mocked the pompous do-gooders. He denounced the godless ones who excused abominations. Pornographers! Homosexuals! Rapists! Illegals! Donald called them out. But Donald was a scamp with the women. I questioned how such a lustful man could achieve righteous ends. Still, week after week, America's evangelicals flocked to him. He won the election and appointed God's chosen judges to the High Court. Donald encouraged Israel to annex more and more. The Biblical Land ascending! When Christ returns, He will behold what Donald Trump has wrought, and He will smile!"

The resulting romp through farce and satire demonstrates the strengths of all these literary devices in a manner that is both hilarious and thought-provoking. Even the romance which evolves is tinged with irony, giving pause for thought as readers move through modern America's struggles with a renewed vision of its concurrent wry paradoxes and insincerities.

Libraries looking for works of contemporary fiction that capture and demonstrate this sense of incongruity about modern events and beliefs will find American Nonsensical an excellent tour de farce that surveys charlatans, conspiracy theories, and democratic ideals, providing shrewd assessments of all the forces assailing belief systems.

American Nonsensical will also attract discussion groups, serving as an example of how beliefs and perceptions are perpetuated, vetted, or disproven; or as a sterling example of the use of wry wit in fictional observations of peoples' lives.

A Shadow Melody
Brian Kaufman
Black Rose Writing
9781685131005, $25.95 Hardcover/$20.95 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

"People are quite attached to their beliefs. They interpret the most random of occurrences through the temple of those beliefs."

At what point do beliefs define and create reality? And what happens when scientific certainty is derailed?

In the 1800s, author Marie Correlli produced A Romance of Two Worlds, a novel steeped in Christian tradition that blended supernatural and scientific evolutionary processes.

Its blend of mysticism and science comes to mind in A Shadow Melody as the novel evolves relationships based on love, achievement, and ghosts.

A Shadow Melody opens in 1899 Ohio, where young Harry and his father enter an opulent house to collect a one-time payment for work provided. A broken miracle representing this new age, a telephone, helps young Harry Browning display his knack for problem-solving even as it impresses him with a special form of magical allure.

Harry's special power follows him into adulthood as he employs technology with creative problem-solving to produce what seems like miracles.

When he meets Elizabeth, who also could have worked in the science field, but finds " in the sciences are hard to find, and women are not at the top of the hiring list," a relationship evolves which tests the strengths, commitments, and knacks of both.

Brian Kaufman creates an Ohio-centric story steeped in the culture and technology of the 1920s. It moves into occult realms as well as science applications as the plot tests machines, men and women, and ghosts in different ways, creating a multifaceted story designed to attract readers with a strongly-rooted Midwestern milieu.

As Kaufman explores the strong personality of a woman as equally adept at science as Harry, readers enjoy a tale of partnership and a foray into the unknown which rests upon two strong characters and the personal and professional relationships they forge.

Together, Harry and Elizabeth will change the universe. If it doesn't transform them, first.

Filled with scientific and artistic allusions that spice a compelling story of a series of radical departures from tradition, A Shadow Melody will appeal to a wide audience. Libraries will find it an attraction and a welcome addition to their fiction collections.

The Treatment Plan
Andrew Wolfendon
Black Rose Writing
9781685130930, $23.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Imagine you're a psychiatrist whose conscience troubles you about your past treatment of several former patients. Now imagine those same patients have banded together to give you a taste of your own cure.

That's the premise of The Treatment Plan, a psychological thriller that adds a healthy dose of ethical inspection into its story.

The tale begins with a newly-awakened patient who comes to realize that the hospital has gotten his name wrong. His partial amnesia blurs the details of why he is there, but one thing he does know is that he's in Arizona ... and that he may prefer to not recall his life's details: "The reason I'm having trouble recalling personal data is not that I can't remember, it's that I don't want to. Some part of me - a major shareholder, I think - is terrified of acquiring the knowledge of who I am."

The story evolves from this mystery to grip readers with the first-person perspective of a man who awakens into a nightmare of his own creation.

With kidnapping and torture part of the bigger picture, who is the real psychotic, here - patient, or doctor?

Readers may think they know what's coming in The Treatment Plan, but Andrew Wolfendon has a way of turning the tables on expectations and ordinary scenarios. This flavors his thriller with a seat-of-your-pants feel as readers view events from the narrator's confused eyes, only to find his premises and prognoses constantly overturned or thwarted.

A recently deceased daughter becomes caught up in these events, and the narrator must stifle his inherent arrogance in favor of reconnecting with her in a different, more spiritual manner.

Wolfendon crafts a tale that is exemplary in its representations of compulsions, mental and spiritual crisis, and the contrasting world of science and logic which perhaps can't fully resolve the dilemma the narrator finds himself caught in. Long ago, he slammed the door on spiritual mysteries. Should he return to that possibility, or double down on the science and logic which led him to this place?

Readers with prior interest in and familiarity with medical thriller books will find both recognizable tension and satisfyingly different threads in this story. Most readers have known a "professional cynic," but rarely does this logical mind come to life as in The Treatment Plan, which represents an analysis of processes as much as individuals.

As the story boils down to a challenge over gut belief systems, readers will enjoy a thought-provoking examination of inner fears and a learned psychiatrist's revised position as a patient confronting them, powered by the efforts of his own clients.

While The Treatment Plan is highly recommended for libraries strong in medical thrillers, it ideally won't repose on such shelves, but will assume an active role in book discussion groups centered on ethical and moral medical dilemmas and spiritual contrasts between science and belief systems.

Its ability to build ongoing tension alongside concurrent revelations makes for a winning combination that constantly raises questions in the reader's mind as twists and turns lead them on unexpected paths.

Flawless Witness
Merida Johns
Coffee Cup Press
9781733279048, $9.99 Paperback/$3.99 ebook

Flawless Witness is a novella and a sequel to the novel Flower Girl and opens in 2020, over thirty years after the conclusion of Flower Girl. The first note to this novel is that it deals with narcissism and a dangerous, predatory husband. These topics may prove triggers to those in similar situations, but offers many insights about survival and growth that it would be a shame to miss.

The narrator has taken refuge from the COVID pandemic at Honey Bear, a western New York home that offers solitude, protection, and the chance to re-examine the events that led Suzanna ("Flower Girl") to this point in time.

The journal written by Jonathan Herbert Spencer III that emerges from an unlikely source to see the light of day reveals far darker secrets, purposes, and visions by her ex-husband than Suzanna could ever have imagined.

An obituary portrays her ex as a physician as a selfless bastion of the community. Suzanna knows better; because Jonathan was a master of deceit, and his true persona is that of a dangerous stalker and vengeful predator.

Even his death does not give her a sense of freedom after so many years of abuse: "Mr. Hyde may reach from the grave and wield more wicked wrongdoing." And, he does - albeit not in the manner she could have anticipated. It arrives in the form of a journal that details his deepest, most dangerous thoughts about not just her and his new love, but his views of women as a whole.
Readers interested in the long-term prospect of surviving spousal abuse, dangerous personalities, and those who present one picture to the community while keeping their darknesses well hidden will find much that resonates in Flawless Witness.

As Suzanna reads this intimate journal of depravity, readers gain an inside look at the nature and danger of a sociopath able to operate as both a pillar of the community and a dangerous figure of horror at home.

More so than most stories of spousal abuse, Flawless Witness reveals the predator's mind and the victim's actions and reactions as she tries to wiggle away from the traps intentionally set by a treacherous personality.

From the "Bunny" names he attaches to women he seemingly loves (but actually scorns) to the ironies and disparities between Jonathan's choices and his attitude, readers receive a powerful juxtaposition of threat and possibilities that keep Suzanna within grasp of deadly danger no matter how far she flees from Jonathan's hold.

The fact that Jonathan "won't hunt deer or even kill a Woodchuck" doesn't mean he won't hunt or methodically attack the women he purports to love.

More so than almost any other book about predators and their victims, this intimate glimpse into the mindset of a stalker is compelling, absorbing, and frightening. Long after its reading, it lingers in the mind like a ghost.

Libraries seeking women's literature that delves into the psychology of abusers and the reactions of their victims will find Flawless Witness devastatingly revealing, while book clubs or discussion groups addressing topics of dangerous relationships and survival will find A Flawless Witness packed with eye-opening revelations suitable for much discussion and debate.

"The Mighty Red Knights!"
Dr. Paul Fuller
Independently Published
9798844206733, $27.50

"The Mighty Red Knights!": An Intriguing Story of Morristown College (1881-1988) follows the evolution of an African American junior college from its initial mission to educate former slaves from East Tennessee rural routes to its closure in 1988.

During that time, Morristown changed thousands of lives, producing students that gained an education despite prejudice and racism, and who went on to make a difference in the world through their education and actions.

The athletic department's "Red Knights," in particular, over-performed in relation to the meager funding they received. The nickname referred to the fighting spirit of the team and also reflected the unique qualities of the school's student body, leaders, and perspective. The actual Knight mascot was black, leading to the insight here that "This was an indication that blackness was embraced as a positive characteristic to be proud of rather than a negative curse to be scorned."

Indeed, the history of this school is one of overcoming America's racism and repression, and it reflects the mirror of black pride that followed a move from slavery to a purposeful, effective, educated life on the parts of students and faculty alike.

In particular, the school's founder, Dr. Judson S. Hill, faced an uphill battle in his mission to create opportunities for the black community at a time when public funding was minimal and attitudes negative. Were it not for his religious faith and conviction that what he was envisioning and doing was not only right, but essential, his mandate for African American achievement might never have come to fruition.

Any library strong in African American history must have "The Mighty Red Knights!" in its collection. Its profiles of the individuals, attitudes, and struggles to overcome much to provide young blacks with unprecedented opportunities makes it a cornerstone of educational history and social change, describing a process that succeeded against all odds.

Tyler's Purple Arm
Amanda Donahue
Independently Published
9798985764918, $2.99 Kindle, $9.99 Paperback, $15.99 Hardcover

In a school full of diverse children, Tyler stands out as the most exceptional of all. He was born with two arms - but one is purple.

Tyler's Purple Arm explores all kinds of reactions Tyler receives due to his purple oddity, which is deemed to be a 'birthmark' that contributes to his individuality rather than a mark of shame.

A lesson in accepting physical differences is imparted through a lively rhyme in a picture book that advises kids that "Birthmarks aren't bad,/they're not gross or contagious./If you see one, don't stare - /just ask! Be courageous!"

While this idea may contrast with some adult admonitions that it is rude to ask questions about appearances, Amanda Donahue's story is more about encouraging thoughtful understanding than rejecting others because of their differences or oddities.

Tyler experiences cruelty as his new classmates focus on his different arm, and fail to see other attributes: "They stared and they pointed./They laughed at his arm./They did NOT see his smile/or notice his charm."

The positive notes that follow Tyler's exceptional countenance and the reactions of his classmates explore the feelings of bullies, the experience of being teased, and Tyler's reactions to the stares and his own body.

Instead of drawing back, Tyler embraces his differences and strives to teach lessons about other facets of his personality through a "big grin" that invites friendship.

The result is an important picture book exploration of differences, positivity, teasing or bullying, and reactions on all sides. Ideally, Tyler's Purple Arm will prove a lesson adults can use to help kids react to others' differences as well as show those who are different how they can turn negative reactions, prejudice, and fear into friendships.

It's highly recommended for its many opportunities to engage picture book readers about better ways of handling life and communicating. Positive attitudes can make all the difference in life, and this important message deserves widespread engagement through Tyler's Purple Arm.

A Few Bad Men
Maj. Fred Galvin, USMC (Ret.) with Sal Manna
Post Hill Press
9781637584132, $19.49 Hardcover/$36.95 Audio/$9.99 Kindle

How do you win decisive battles, but ultimately lose a war?

Until now, pictures of military engagements and experiences in Afghanistan have been fairly singular. A Few Bad Men: The True Story of US Marines Ambushed in Afghanistan and Betrayed in America expands the portrait of what happened in Afghanistan (and why) through an exploration of one Marine team's battle not just with opposing Afghanis, but their own government and leaders.

During an ambush in country, the elite Marine special ops unit was bombed and shot at. What then transpired was a set-up: they were accused of gunning down innocent civilians in the aftermath, and the unit's leader (and this book's author) Major Fred Galvin was relieved of duty, his unit evicted from Afghanistan in disgrace.

Coming home, they faced further condemnation and a Marine trial in the first Court of Inquiry in fifty years. These reactions would have been justified - were they true. Major Galvin refutes these charges and points out the various ways political and military special interests intersected to set up his team as fall guys.

From changing ROE (Rules of Engagement) to a vivid story of leadership, challenging choices, betrayal, and the opportunities of the major players in the event to be either heroes of villains, A Few Bad Men creates a powerful, true story of adversity and choices. Events are based not just on personal experience and recollection, but official documents and courtroom testimony which backed the emerging, amazing true story.

Were it not for these facets, readers might be tempted to label A Few Bad Men fiction. It is, most assuredly, factual and is highly eye-opening and condemning, exploring the narcissism which has infected officer ranks, creating toxic military leadership with deadly results.

Readers might believe that a prerequisite to this story is a thorough knowledge of Afghanistan history and military actions. In fact, no such background is needed. Galvin even opens his story with a long list of key military leaders from 2006-2008, a list of acronyms and terms, and a chart of military rank structures, including service and pay grades, to set the stage for those less familiar with the Marines.

While it could be argued that these lists would ideally have concluded the story, their appearance at the forefront allows for a quick review of references which will prove key to understanding the ranks and interactions between individuals throughout the book.

Major Galvin doesn't just answer the question of why America lost in Afghanistan, and the coverage involves more than a probe of military strategy. He pinpoints basic corruption and flawed ideals and approaches which ultimately led to failure on more than just a strategic level: " was the words and inactions of senior military leaders who restrained and hamstrung tactical units, while repeatedly falsely testifying to Congress and the international press that the training of the Afghan National Army would lead to an effective exit strategy."

The result is a powerful discussion that recreates history, reviews politics and the processes by which good men choose bad paths, and provides a thoughtful discussion of leadership and failure. A Few Bad Men ideally will earn a place not just in military history libraries, but throughout military and civilian discussion groups interested in good and bad choices and the influences that lead not just individuals but nations into bad situations.

Cristina LePort, MD
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885577, $27.95

Dissection blends medical and political thriller elements in a story that takes Robin Cook-style suspense to a whole new level.

When D.C. heart surgeon Dr. Steven Leeds notices that his patient caseload is being overtaken by instances of a formerly-rare arterial injury, further investigation shows that these heart-attack-causing conditions were preceded by a card announcing the victims' eminent demise.

Enter P.I. Kirk Milner and FBI agent Jack Mulville. Relatively quickly, they pin the likely perp as a former lover of Dr. Leeds who is connected to the victims. But as the threats expand and the vascular demises continue, it's evident they've been grasping the wrong possibilities.

Dr. LePort embeds a sense of humor into the process which emerges at unexpected moments: "You don't need any soundwaves to get a heart attack," Mulville said, starting at the waitress in the Irish outfit. "You just have to regularly come here for dinner a couple times a week." These provide surprising comic relief to a deadly set of circumstances which keep investigators and readers guessing as the medical world reels around internal politics and relationships and the dissection of its own structure.

Dr. LePort's medical background adds realistic and thought-provoking information about medical processes and personnel into the story. This creates a realistic and compelling piece that lends as much insight into the medical community as to the evolving medical conundrum that affects perps and participants of all types.

The contrasting dances between these personalities proves a draw that will prove hard to put down as the story continues from obvious conclusions to more intricate and less predictable possibilities. There is not just one, but a series of climaxes throughout the tale that lead even seasoned thriller readers into unfamiliar territory filled with solid characterization and backed by the experiences of the cardiologist author.

Dissection's fast pace, believable progression and characters, and attention to detail makes it an outstanding recommendation for libraries seeing patron interest in medical thrillers. This audience will find Dissection a gripping story that proves hard to put down and thought-provoking to the end.

Alysa Wolfe
Independently Published
9781669846321, $35.99 Hardcover/$19.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Evolve is the powerful science fiction story of a young woman who, at age 21, faces the loss of her mother in an attack that was meant to prevent daughter Kamille from taking the throne of her kingdom.

Locked in the castle for her own safety and assigned a nameless guard who holds her in distain for her privileged status, Kamille finds herself struggling with loss, altered perceptions of her world and her place in it, a stranger who becomes an unlikely ally, and family secrets that emerge from the depths of despair.

Readers who look for intriguing stories of adversity told in a structure filled with dialogue and poetic-style stanzas of interaction and revelation will find Evolve lives up to its title, by requiring them to absorb an unusual format steeped in complexity and dialogues.

Those who normally eschew the appearance of poetry may at first balk at this style, but Alysa Wolfe's portrait of a milieu in which the "enhanced vibrations" of the Evolved introduce Kamille to new opportunities and ideas makes for vivid reading.

Philosophical and psychological revelations embedded within the plot provide science fiction fans with much food for thought as Kamille makes many discoveries and ponders their ultimate impact:

"She started thumbing through Gramma's Divinity book.

How can people find the space for cruelty?

Reducing a human to screams and bones?

Is it reckless hatred or just apathy?

And how do people bring humanity back with forgiveness?"

Kamille determines that there are no easy answers to her questions, which only serve to open further doors of query and realization that will delight readers seeking both adventure and bigger-picture action.

While its young character may seem to direct Evolve to young adult audiences, adults also will find its mandates and action inviting and revealing.

Libraries looking for stories that steep action in psychological growth, social and political revelation, and otherworldly encounters that bring disparate peoples together will find Evolve a thought-provoking, engrossing story. Its unusual format takes some getting used to, but those who persevere will find the tale rich in surprises and considerations of family, survival, and the precedents set by one's choices.

At the Museum
George Neeb
Lee Press/Young Dragons Press
9781633737648, $14.99

Picture book readers interested in stories about museum discoveries will find At the Museum a fine blend of fictional drama and nonfiction facts about museums.

Like many kids, Ryan is typical, in that he considers history dull and would much rather view videos than take a field trip to a museum. "Why do we have to spend Saturday at some dumb museum?" he asks his father, who wants his son to take a break from technology to do something different.

Ryan's reluctance ends when history literally comes to life, introducing him to ancient Greece, a flying Pegasus, Medusa, Trojan horses, and more. An ancient vase opens the process, refuting Ryan's bored reaction to this world with a wink of promise and a mystery that Ryan simply can't resist.

Engaging, colorful illustrations by the author, sound effects that read-aloud adults will enjoy embellishing, and Ryan's avid participation in a historic event refutes any notion of boredom, drawing readers into a fantasy/history blend that is original and delightful.

Adults who seek to bring history alive for the very young will find At the Museum an engaging tale that opens the door for a new appreciation of the real meaning of history and the adventures and insights it can reveal.

A concluding author's note about the artifacts Ryan encounters in the museum invites kids to not just appreciate the idea of a museum as a representation of living history, but to look forward to their own visits with a different eye to understanding history's allure.

Alexandra Almeida
Spiral Worlds
9780645510508, $20.00 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Unanimity is the first book in the Spiral Worlds series, providing sci-fi and mystery readers with a satisfying blend of both genres. It is projected to span six days (and books), ten worlds, and decades of life between books. If this feels like heady reading, it should be mentioned that Unanimity is especially recommended for those who like their sci-fi 'hard' and their stories complex and richly thought-provoking.

One might thus think that the tale will prove weighty, but Alexandra Almeida adopts a spirited, lively voice that brings events to life right from the story's prologue: "No one should live past hope, and he was ready to die. The girl screamed as he walked away, death struggling to cull so much life, and so her agony lingered, and so did her screams. Another voice roared: the avenger he dragged away from the crime scene as she raged and kicked and screamed. Her wrath was his grail; its cost impossibly high."

As each day unfolds a new chapter in this story of suicidal god Tom (biological twin of Shadow), whose broken life rests on the creation of a simulated form of reality that helps humanity confront its dark side, readers receive a thoroughly engrossing story of a man's downfall into his own self-created form of angst and insanity.

Tom confronts Stella, a Spiral Worlds goddess meant to replace him, and moves further away from the true love of his life, activist poet Nathan Storm, confronting his existence in a different world, the elements he's created to avoid becoming the person he has fallen into now, and the demons that pillage and plunder both worlds.

Between forces that are trying to kill Nate and the power of the soulless to absorb human experience, Almeida creates an engrossing series of confrontations that follow Tom into the depths of despair and darkness, lead him to confront his own creations, and result in new truths powered by dangerous convictions.

Throughout the tale, readers are invited to consider the juxtaposition of reality, fantasy, and the psychological forces that convert people, resources, and behaviors.

Tom's involvement in re-imagining the world takes many unexpected turns, bringing readers along for a wild ride into new possibilities involved in crafting "Ingenious stories that increase the life and wellbeing of all liv - umm, beings. Those are true stories - the type of sticky stories we need. Better stories. Rebellious stories."

The resulting unusual blend of queer social inspection, hard sci-fi, mystery, psychological revelation, and the nature of consciousness and human endeavors when a software program consumes the world makes for a thoroughly engrossing tale. It's highly recommended for libraries looking for hard sci-fi that eschews outer space for inner world exploration.

Ideally, book clubs will select Unanimity for its many discussion points, which range from special interests and AI reinventions of reality to Shadow's search for answers in a self-created world of personal demons that reaches out to embrace humanity itself.

A Wrinkle in the Long Gray Line
Cary Donham
Independently Published
9781667874326, $23.99 softcover/$9.99 ebook

A Wrinkle in the Long Gray Line: When Conscience and Convention Collided is a memoir that starts not with the usual review of the author's childhood, but with a prologue about Russia's attack on Ukraine and the toll this has taken on the world. In the course of describing events of that struggle, Cary Donham examines the allegory of Br'er Rabbit and the tar baby, reconsidering it not as a tale of racism, but one of resistance, "with Br'er Rabbit being the alter ego of enslaved African-Americans."

That tar baby, this resistance, and its interpretation open the memoir with the knowledge that this will be an unusual story filled with wider-ranging perspectives than those created by personal experience and response alone. This particular reference ends with the thought-provoking insight that "Wars are like the tar baby. Once they start, countries start kicking and punching, increasing military aid, sending more troops, building more weapons and suddenly realize they are stuck. But so far, no one has found a briar patch to escape to."

This idea segues neatly into the Introduction, where a New York Times headline captures the news of a West Point cadet seeking discharge as a conscientious objector. That cadet was the author, and his spiritual revelation that led to an unprecedented request for discharge continued to resonate throughout his life. But the meat of the story lies in these early years and how a young man from a military town came to realize that his religious beliefs were in direct opposition to training to be an effective killer.

From gambits to indoctrinate, educate, and shape the minds and bodies of young men to West Point's tolerance of hazing, the struggle to make it through training to graduation, and the confrontations Cary Donham faced as he found his lessons challenging the core of his beliefs, readers receive a "you are here" feel of the West Point milieu and the experiences of young men and women who are students at the academy.

Its politics, social atmosphere, and training are all reviewed in a book that charts three years of conflicted training and the "wrinkle" the author introduced to an institution which was not prepared for his ilk. At the heart of this story is a review of the process of staying true to one's beliefs versus the moral dilemma involved in accepting and believing in training and institutions of authority.

Anyone contemplating military service or the methods and responses of being a conscientious objector will find that this memoir represents more than one young man's experiences. It serves as an information-laden blueprint following the West Point training program and ideology, and ideally will be chosen as a thought-provoking review before enlistment.

Libraries looking for books filled with information, photos, and military court case processes will find A Wrinkle in the Long Gray Line a unique standout for its thought-provoking inspections of the ultimate charge and challenge of military training programs.

Soso and the Kako Leaf
Bella Disu
The Good Work Company
9781838221607, $9.99 Kindle

Picture book readers and read-aloud adults interested in stories about Nigerian traditions and self-esteem will find Soso and the Kako Leaf a lovely choice exploring both topics in a compelling manner.

Awele Emili's illustrations pepper the story of a young girl's 9th birthday and a strange mound that leads her into other worlds.

There is a lot going on in this story, which makes it particularly suitable for adult interactive discussions with the young.

Soso struggles with hiding a birthmark that keeps growing, she finds her coveted birthday plan is taking place on the day of her brother's big sports event, and she follows a trail of gleaming plants that leads her on an unexpected journey of discovery. This journey leads to encounters which profile the culture and history of her people, adding further educational value that moves beyond the entertainment component while creating a vivid story that involves young people in an adventure.

Adults who choose Soso and the Kako Leaf will find much value in this tale, from its lovely, colorful illustrations to the tough journey Soso faces as she steps into a different world and role and learns about her abilities and choices.

The picture book format is longer than most, offering several nights of reading pleasure and interactive discussion opportunities as all ages absorb Soso's lessons about the world and herself.

Libraries looking for multicultural fiction that embraces new ideas and different cultures will find Soso and the Kako Leaf a standout.

Who Are You?
R. T. Lund
Little Creek Press
9781955656344, $17.95

Who Are You? forges its mystery on the shores of Lake Harriet, in an affluent neighborhood where the popular president of the Minneapolis City Council is murdered, her dead body marring the ritzy community's image.

Events are narrated from the first-person viewpoint of Detective Lincoln Barnes, who is called to the scene along with partner Warren Lindquist to find that evidence suggests that Kate Patterson Bagley knew her assailant.

This requires a probe into her life as the detectives struggle with evidence and background checks to find the perp. Unfortunately, the circumstances of that life offer a simmering brew of confusion and possibilities that lie below the surface of Kate's public appearance. And so Lincoln and her partner find themselves immersed in untangling the romance between a judge and a political figure and the dangerous game they played.

As they explore Kate's life and the increasingly dangerous obsession she harbors, Lincoln finds her own perceptions and future unexpectedly challenged when the trail leads too close to her own life and her career expectations.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, other relationships and connections, and a passion for running and competition, Lincoln edges closer to a truth which lends revelation and uncertainty to everything she's believed in the course of her life.

The result is the first book in a murder mystery series that is engrossing, well-written, and packed with personal and professional revelations that keep readers thoroughly engaged.

Strange connections, recurring dreams, and ironies come together in unexpected ways that keep readers guessing.

The atmospheric intrigue of Who Are You? makes for a strong story that libraries will find a fine addition to their mystery sections. Its ability to explore the devils within and without individuals, examining how these lives entwine in unexpected ways, lends it bigger-picture value as readers absorb both the mystery and the new challenges to Detective Lincoln's trajectory in life.

Wandering... a long way past the past
Sharon Kreider
Gray Wolf Books
9781737239338, $27.95

Travel accounts pack library shelves, as do memoirs, but combine the two and add a spiritual component for the taste of something different that is Wandering...a long way past the past.

Sharon Kreider was 22 when she embarked on a 3-year solo journey from a small town in Canada to Asia with little more than a small backpack of trekking gear, one change of clothes, and a heart full of dreams.

Keep in mind that this was the 70s. The internet information age had not yet blossomed; nor had adventure tourism. Kreider represented the cutting edge of these movements, and so experienced a magical time and experiences that were completely unpredictable and unable to be studied in advance. Her encounters with foreign cultures and strangers would shape her new adult years.

From meeting Sir John Edmund Hillary on the way to climbing mountains to encountering 'men's clubs' and navigating uncharted territory in Iran before the overthrow of the Pahlavi Dynasty, Kreider was prompted to question herself along the way. Where was she going? What was her ultimate destination?

Her attention to detail in recreating conversations, personas, and situations blends with a special degree of naivete about the history of the places she traversed. This lends an element of surprise to her experiences that is both pleasing and points out how today's travel itinerary, often carefully studied and researched well in advance, belays the growth inherent in discovery.

Another difference between Wandering and the usual modern travelogue is that photos are minimal. Kreider simply didn't have the means to cart bulky photo equipment along on her journey; nor was it the time of compact cameras.

This translates to a deeper reliance on written description and word to impart the "you are here" feel of her journey - and in this, Kreider does not disappoint. Readers are here alongside her at every point, from witnessing a national rebellion and falling in love to encountering locals in small farming villages. This sense of immediacy and word images ultimately sets Wandering...A Long Way Past the Past more than a notch above contemporary travelogue memoirs, making for a vivid read that libraries will want to consider for its lasting value.

Capturing a bygone era pre-internet and the trekking journey of a young woman in search of place and self, Wandering...a long way past the past is a powerful recreation of a bygone world of innocence and wonder:

"The rakshi kept everyone in good spirits. Laughter mixed tenderly with the chime of yak bells. Quickly, the cold evening turned frosty, and we climbed into our sleeping bags. All of us, including the locals, shared the same space on the animal-skin rugs. A silver mist cloaked the peaks the next morning, and sunshine glowed gold along the horizon, shifting into rosy pinks and a striking, fiery orange."

Shears of a Clown
Louise Jane Watson
Independently Published
B0BJMG1YNX, $2.99 ebook

Cozy mystery readers who enjoy more than a light dose of humor in their reads will find Shears of a Clown a fine story of derailed lives and unexpected encounters. The humor pops up from the start:

"Taking certain fruits and veggies into the state of California was against the law and I still had a few grapes sitting on the passenger seat. As he approached, I put all four of those bad boys in my mouth and then lowered the window as instructed.

"Any fruits or vegetables to declare ma'am?" the guard asked me.

"Ghffuh mmnet." I held up a finger, swallowed, then gave a grin. "Not anymore."

The not-amused border guard waved me through with a monotone, "Welcome to California, ma'am."

I entered the golden state.

Murder is no laughing matter, however - especially if one's estranged sister becomes a suspect. Sadie Simpson thus finds herself not en route to a new life, but returning to her old hometown of Blue River in a diversion that brings her into full contact with the past.

Samantha has been arrested for the murder of would-be mayor and local gossip Cara Armstrong. The murder weapon was a pair of cannabis trimming shears. And so pot enters the picture of small-town politics and adversity as Sadie, once an insider and now considered an outsider, returns to probe the underbelly of a community she once called home.

"Quirky" comes to mind in considering this first book in The Humboldt County Mysteries Series. The cast of characters is anything but ordinary and the murder suspect list admittedly too long for her to tackle effectively. Sadie's involvement, reluctant as it is, soon assumes the finer art of investigating the town's politics and personalities as much as the motivation for murder.

Each forward movement Sadie makes involves one step back into the muddied waters of her past and the puzzles of modern-day life. Each progression and experience is cemented by a wry sense of humor:

"Carefully folding a sequined satin jumpsuit, I imagined a window display complete with disco ball and platform boots; how much fun it would be to make window displays for this place. The radio must have been tuning into my brain because Donna Summer started to sing. The jumpsuit might not be my size but platform shoes next to them were. I strapped on the clunky things and immediately enjoyed being several inches taller. Donna Summer blended into Diana Ross...I danced it out, under the scathing eye of Fergie. Finally pausing for breath, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Jarrah, plus two younger people, watching my performance through the clean window. I gave them a bow, then puffing a little I opened the door.

"Hi!" I said.

"Nice moves, kinda look like a wallaby in labor," said Jarrah."

The result is a cozy mystery that reaches out to envelope its readers in a return to Blue River and the champions, set-ups, and intrigue that simmers under its surface.

Libraries looking for memorable cozy mysteries will welcome the opportunity to follow Sadie's journey into past and present dilemmas and the patron laughter that will accompany her discoveries.

The Fall of Immortals
I.D.G. Curry
Atmosphere Press
9781639885299, $19.99

The Fall of Immortals is the first book in the Shogun of the Heavens fantasy series and tells of gods, kings, cosmic threats, and the playing field of eons of time, during which a power struggle embroils all. Witches, mages, military men and priestesses are only a few of the forces that participate in a struggle instigated by a fallen Immortal and the kings and queens that command power and obedience in this milieu.

I.D.G. Curry writes with descriptive hand and pays particular attention to the moral and ethical dilemmas that evolve from chaos: "For the power in this book to truly belong to a new master, the old one must die. The nature of power is to be taken by those strong enough to keep it. For their sakes, I hope these foolish notions die with you, and the next generation learns from the manner in which you failed yourselves."

Fantasy readers at first may find themselves challenged by the wealth of characters and the cosmic playground of the gods, which unfolds a different kind of fantasy tale. There is simply much to absorb in the story's opening chapters, which belays any thought that The Fall of Immortals will be light entertainment reading for those who seek adventure tales set in other universes.

Fast-paced it is; but under the veneer of challenges and confrontations lays an intellectual prowess that compels readers to think about broader themes. These include sacrifices, dangerous choices that hold deadly ramifications for self and community, and the social and political price to be paid for "endeavors that will not have a happy ending."

The Fall of Immortals unfolds a complex world and plot whereby gods and men lead intersected lives. Each are driven by special interests and forces that would give much to attain their ultimate goals.

Who truly rules? What is a king to a god? When gods and men clash, with romance injected into the plot for further dilemmas, the result is a powerful saga embracing old regimes, new life forces, and the rise of a campaign that embraces Atlantis and the potential for revelation, revision, or disaster.

Curry places a glossary at the conclusion of the book. This might best be skimmed first, by those interested in more quickly and seamlessly immersing themselves in the story. The references include histories of place and people, locations of significance, special terminology, and even objects of significance and a review of the Eythrope Immortal's rules. Having such elements in mind will lend to a quicker absorption of all the forces at work in this epic story.

Libraries looking for world-building fantasies replete with gods, men, and clashes between different belief systems and special interests will find The Fall of Immortals a recommendation for those who enjoyed Game of Thrones and similar world-building, complex fantasies.

Tunnel Vision
Hank Quense
Strange Worlds Publishing
9798985309768, $15.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Science fiction has had a checkered history when it comes to adding humor into the mix. Too few attempt this combination of elements. Even fewer are successful at blending the methodology of hard science and fantasy with a wry twist of humor.

Hank Quense's anthology Tunnel Vision belays the notion that sci-fi is entirely serious ... some 22 times, in short pieces that juxtapose humor and diversity. It's an expanded reprint of a work that first appeared in 2009, today sporting two additional pieces.

Many of its stories highlight the central theme outlined by Quense in his introduction: "The title Tunnel Vision comes from a trait displayed by many of the characters: the ability to view events through a set of filters that allows them to interpret the events in strange ways."

With this clarification of the anthology's focus in mind, readers embark on a journey through these filters that twist circumstances to suit the realities and odd experiences of each character.

Take the opening story 'Staphmeyer's Mantra', for example. Here, Robert Staphmeyer's medical internship belays the notion he has of "chasing fame to improve his sex life," a goal he believes most men have, but few will admit to.

The last thing he expected was to meet an alien in the ER who asks him to "Take me to your proctologist" because his long-seated interstellar journey has caused problems. Will Robert be famous for being the first human to treat an alien? Oh, he achieves fame - but not in the way he envisioned, and with less than predictable results.

In contrast is 'Lucy in Love,' a story that revolves around a business-oriented Satan and the evolution of slumlords, loan sharks, and devices to improve Hell's market share in souls. Lucy has long suffered from being "only a woman" through the centuries. Heaven wants to close down their company, but Lucy and her colleagues have other ideas.

A zany relationship between business practices and the damned evolves, powered by the choices and ageless experience of a woman determined to rise above her circumstances to embrace a position of power before Hell freezes over.

Each story is a prime example of diversity, with disparate backgrounds and environments contrasting nicely with characters that both purposefully and accidentally fall into strange situations.

The result is a collection that presents humor and sci-fi in very different ways designed to not only prompt laughter, but thought-provoking reflections on how ordinary life can be warped into something quite extraordinary through the fine art of employing tunnel vision to its progression.

Libraries and reading groups looking for sci-fi stories that profile different examples of humor and life dilemmas will find Tunnel Vision lends especially well to discussions about what constitutes humor and irony in life, and the ways in which it incarnates in disparate challenges.

Red Clay Suzie
Jeffrey Dale Lofton
Post Hill Press
9781637585764, $28.00 Hardcover/$31.95 Audio/$14.95 ebook

Novels based on true life events tend to exhibit a ring of authenticity that strengthens their message. Red Clay Suzie is one example of this added value, reviewing the circumstances surrounding the coming-of-age of gay Georgia boy Philbet, who suffers from abuse, bullying, and being the odd boy out in too many ways.

Readers might anticipate a story replete with adversity, but the special pleasure of Philbet mirrors much of life - he manages to find refuges, solace, and support in unexpected places, and these give him the ability to field many of the situations that come his way.

Many novels about gay kids depict them in a somewhat predictable black-or-white situation in which the gray areas of survival too often take second place. One of the strengths of Red Clay Suzie lies in its ability to detail the different kinds of support systems which are embedded in Philbet's life on the fringes of everyday experience, from his rural Deep South culture and its pleasures to family pros and cons, which juxtapose love with confusion over how to react to Philbet's differences.

Another plus is its setting. In the 1960s, mental illness was a stigma to be hidden; disability another family secret; and gay feelings were vastly misunderstood and cause for rejection and anguish on all sides.

All these facets come to life in a novel that embeds adaptation and courage with ordinary life experiences and observations of its incongruities, bringing narrator Philbet and his world to life from the start:

"He flashed a big smile and said, "Hi. Um... I fixed your pop's truck, and I'm meeting him here to hand it off."

"You live just down the road," I blurted out.

Of course, stupid me just told him I was stalking him. Why would I know he lives down the road? Why would I care? My brother wouldn't notice a boy. Adam would see a guy on the basketball court and play one-on-one just because another guy was there and never ask his name or really even look him in the face. Only I would sit in a wrecked car in this boy's backyard to watch him come and go. Only I would wait, skip lunch, or not do my homework just to listen for his car's engine so I could hurry out to hide myself next to the road to catch a half-second peek into his window to see his hand pull the shifter into second gear as he rocketed off somewhere.

Perhaps it's the semi-autobiograpical roots of Red Clay Suzie which pull with such authority; or maybe it's the cultural expectations which create fears of missteps, exposure, and family pressures. What goes on behind closed doors is often a variant of life perception and experience, and as Philbet navigates the usual and unusual challenges to growing up, readers move through this world alongside him.

Red Clay Suzie is the novel to point to when anyone asks what it was like to come of age gay and different in too many ways in the rural South.

Its 'you are here' atmosphere makes Red Clay Suzie a top recommendation for any library building a collection of fictional stories about the South, family, culture, or gay outsider children.

Diego the Smelly Dog
A.G. Russo
Red Skye Press
9780990710295, $10.95 paper/$5.99 ebook

Diego the Smelly Dog is a picture book story recommended for kids who like dogs. It tells of Ava, who is out walking with her grandfather when a big dog follows them home.

Gramps reminds Ava that her mother's rule is 'no dogs' because they are too expensive to keep, so Diego goes to the shelter, where he awaits adoption and a new family.

Ava never gives up on him, however, and mourns the lack of interest others have in adopting an old dog like Diego.

Lovely color panels by Alona Baulina accompany a story that kids will relish. It's not just about a girl's desire for a pet, but about an older animal that tends to be outside the adoption eyes of families looking for youthful pets.

Diego the Smelly Dog comes with lessons in kindness, surprises, and youth and old age. These elements will delight read-aloud adults looking for opportunities to discuss them with the young.

Libraries seeing young patron interest in dog stories will also find Diego the Smelly Dog an attraction.

An Instrument for Florenda
Tomeko Brown
Independently Published
9780578358406, $9.95

An Instrument for Florenda is a chapter book for children who enjoy stories about music and discovery. It tells of Florenda, who has long loved music and has always wanted to play an instrument. Now she is finally old enough, and the school will have a band class.

Florenda has grown up listening to music in her home, and the clarinet particularly calls to her. But, what instrument will she be assigned to play - and what if she can't learn?

As Florenda navigates friendships, a summer before the new semester opens with all of its musical promises, and the unexpected rewards that come with hard work and pursing her dream, readers receive a joyful, uplifting story that follows Florenda into her calling.

Young readers trail Florenda through the experience of band class, new learning opportunities, obstacles and successes, and musical notes of achievement. They will learn much about the challenges and delight of a young girl's evolution as Florenda transports them into musical revelations with notes of delight and discovery.

The result is a delightful music-celebratory offering that will prove of interest to any leisure reader with an affinity for music, as well as adults interested in teaching chapter book readers about the promise and experience of learning a new instrument and playing in a band.

Heart & Brain
Ramana Rao MLV
Independently Published
9798357793744, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Heart & Brain: A Sci-Fi Anthology That Connects Both! also comes with the added value of connecting the Indian heart, brain, and culture to the sci-fi world. This is perhaps the collection's greatest strength, and should be mentioned at the start because it's a major feature of the collection's unique approach and stories.

Crafting works that pull at heart and intellect is a fine art that Ramana Rao employs with special skill. Each tale in this five-story anthology is designed to play on emotions while encouraging readers to think and learn about scenarios that evolve inspiration, aspiration, and strange situations.

Take the opening tale 'The Sphere,' for example. Here, the minutiae of punctuation, oration, and discovery move from the microcosm of the narrator's perceptions to the macrocosm of the society and milieu that comprises an Indian company. Rao's introductory analysis of the effort is as painstakingly detailed as a Proust vision:

"My voice resonates strongly through the public address system. At least, somehow, I feel it does. I always experience a strange pleasure listening to my own voice coming out of the speakers. They amplify the secret tones, and my silence echoes more prominently. The planned silence sounding through the hidden speakers always accentuates the force of my words."

The psychologist narrator's audience may be small, but his words still require amplification, because the promise of and focus on the freedom to experiment, and the funding required to do, so indicate a powerful presence that machinery can augment.

The narrator's quest for the funding and freedom to create the "perfect AI" comes with a consideration of spheres of influence and boundaries broken by the efforts of science: "All of us have our own sphere that encloses our unique personal space. Everyone has it without being aware of it. The broader the sphere, the broader the knowledge."

At what point does the quest for knowledge and perfection become a situation of horror breaking the boundaries of self, machine, and humanity? Can the concept of a personal sphere be used to contain an AI creation? Rao provides a story that is as thought-provoking as it is emotionally compelling.

The same can be said of the four other disparate works in this collection. Whether discussing the foray of a Virtual Reality expert who comes to India to find the unexpected, or the challenges of becoming a natural mother in a future Indian society where childbirth has been circumvented, Rao's attention to diversity and detail offers an intellectual and emotional discourse and cultural connections rare in the sci-fi world.

Whether it's personal space theories involving submission or survival traits that go beyond merely existing to ask "Who am I? The thing is - does it matter?", Rao's collection not only encourages, but demands thought, debate, and consideration.

Libraries interested in contemporary Indian literature that turn a foray into disparate sci-fi societies and scenarios into an occasion for philosophical and intellectual exploration will find Heart & Brain a cut above ordinary sci-fi writings.

Sci-fi readers who look for entertainment value alone have plenty of options; but the special insights and properties of Heart & Brain lends to its additional employment as a discussion source for book clubs and groups. Especially those that would consider works steeped in Indian backdrops, holding connections between sci-fi scenarios and the human drive for going above and beyond the norm at all costs, creating unexpected results that make this book eminently recommendable and enlightening.

The Price for Glory
M.N. Snitz
Classic Day Publishing
9781598493153, $23.95

"The Greater The Difficulty, The Greater The Glory." - Marcus Cicero

The Price For Glory is a novel so dedicated. It challenges man's proclivity for good and evil and his unavoidable memory of war as numerous characters share two particular illusions:

"GLORY, that offers a natural proclivity to inspire and fulfill a vision for success. And DESTINY, a purveyor of the unknown, the dominant architect of the past, and an imprecise prognosticator of the future.

Both are phenomena of inconspicuous intellect and reason."

With this introduction firmly in mind, readers embark on a historical trip that begins in the First Century AD. Arminius, a warrior leader of disjointed Germanic tribes destroys three Roman legions in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest to create a nation. Amid an early 20th century violent storm, protagonist Abraham Steinnermann's father declares his only son a prodigy of Arminius. So destined, Abraham, however, chooses an early life of self-indulged debauchery and egotistical hedonism. Changed by his survival in a death camp he rejects his religion and accepts the mysticism of Destiny. Humanism replaces self-centrist folly. Strangers challenge his convictions but aid his new reincarnation.

The evolutionary process this novel chooses is remarkably detailed and compelling. The story opens with a wide-ranging consideration of the history of war and conflict which at first portends a piece laden with historical precedent and events. This backdrop is necessary in order to absorb, early, on, Abraham's passion for legends, his parents' efforts to direct his obsessions and insights, and the psychological draws and formulas that lead him into adulthood where he "inculcated his personal image of this mythical warrior into his own psyche."

His steadfast pursuit of victory produces a persona that embodies both success and an undercurrent of psychic failure as his absorption of Germanic lore results in a confidence and ego that runs headlong into destiny in unexpected ways.

Abe loathes the military, even though he supports his son Jack's choices, which reinforce his parent's worst fears. Jack's waged war is on two fronts: his parents, and a military psychiatrist who eventually expels Jack's demons. PTSD drives all the characters in different ways as the story evolves.

M.N. Snitz's ability to move through the world and its conflicts from the microcosm of Abraham's transformative encounters makes for a story replete in social and political commentary as various characters enter and interact against the backdrop of Abraham's life and the war-torn world of the 1940s. The juxtaposition of military and social flux with the movements of disparate characters within them follows the shattering of a character that becomes sterile, deaf, and "spiritually naked and barren."

Such reading is not for the unthinking mind or faint of heart. The value of The Price for Glory lies not in its entertainment value, but in its philosophical, ethical, spiritual, and moral reflections, which ideally will lend to discourse in a variety of intellectual settings.

Libraries looking for a multifaceted story of war, redemption, existential anguish, and discovery and recovery will find The Price for Glory a study in contrasts and lives. It proves compelling and hard to put down, rich in insights that prompt readers to think about conflict, life purpose, and the meaning of the journey between life and death.

The Bell Tower Ghosts and Other Stories
Shel Danielson
Drifting Boat Media LLC
9798986502106, $12.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

The Bell Tower Ghosts and Other Stories provides middle grade to teen readers with a compelling set of diverse ghostly scenarios that illustrate the diversity and complexity of hauntings and spirits. It's a leisure read choice that offers added value for the uniformity of its central characters, which keep falling into ghostly situations.

From lighthouse skeletons and floating mansions to bell towers, twins Jack and Sylvia certainly have a proclivity for encountering the supernatural. Their propensity for discovery and trouble creates a gripping set of tales that delights in a "...sense of adventure. Now it was too late to turn back."

The twins must muster their courage, willingness to broaden their perceptions to question choices and outcomes, and the ability to think outside the box. Young readers will relish the disparate situations that challenge these characters to rise above their belief systems and abilities to confront both the unknown and new possibilities.

Shel Danielson creates atmospheres that support these events and encounters, but the special nature of these stories lies in the dire situations and hard choices the twins must make to rise above their own needs and even their lives to help those around them against all odds:

"Jack, we have to help him," Sylvia shouted.

"It will be dangerous, Syl. We could die. But hang on while I row."

Each ghostly encounter brings with it the opportunity for not just better understanding and new revelations, but a form of growth that would not have been possible were it not for adversity and shocking surprises.

From ghost stories told by ghosts and the kernel of truth behind their impossible supernatural origins to revised definitions of bravery and the impact of personal choices, Danielson injects added notes of surprise and revelation into the action that will encourage young readers to think beyond the usual ghostly encounter.

Libraries seeking added value with action-packed ghost stories that encourages young readers to think about mysteries, dreams, and proactive behavior will find The Bell Tower Ghosts and Other Stories juxtaposes the overlay of rich ghostly encounter with an undercurrent of life messages. These attributes makes it the perfect choice for discussion groups and leisure readers alike.

EINSTEIN: The Man and His Mind
Gary S Berger and Michael DiRuggiero
9788862087841, $70.00, HC, 209pp

EINSTEIN: The Man and His Mind gathers photo highlights from the Berger Collection that illustrate chronologically significant moments in Einstein's life, pairing them with Einstein quotes, signed letters, and biographical notes. The result is a synthesis of personal and professional insights that, when taken as a whole, reveal and profile Einstein's persona and achievements in a manner that has somehow been missed by the wealth of Einstein books already on the market.

Between historical resources from the Albert Einstein Archives and the collaborative prowess of two researchers who bring to the table different approaches to Einstein along with a shared admiration for his achievements (Dr. Gary S. Berger is an avid collector of documents related to Einstein, while Michael DiRuggiero plays an active rule in curating the Berger collection of photos), the result both differs from and vastly enhances any other Einstein coverage.

Delving into EINSTEIN: The Man and His Mind for an idea of this significance, the first note is that the biography and notes are represented in a unique manner - via vintage photos juxtaposed by a facing page of information explaining the image and the circumstances of its creation.

Biographical material is thus linked to visual pieces that will appeal beyond the usual science or biography reader, reaching into circles of genealogists and photographic arts enthusiasts interested in the intersection of visual and written explorations.

This quote, the opening introduction to the collection, illustrates the power of history, biography, and art which are all given equal attention: "The year 1896 was memorable for Einstein in other ways as well. While boarding with the Winteler family, he fell in love for the first time with eighteen-year-old Marie Winteler. And, to avoid mandatory German military service, which he detested, Einstein renounced his German citizenship (for the first time; he would renounce it for the second time in 1933). He was stateless for the next five years, finally becoming a Swiss citizen in 1901. This photograph, a formal studio portrait in the carte-de-visite style, printed on card stock, was designed for presentation. Einstein gave it to his lifelong friend Albert Karr-Karusi and inscribed the back (in German): "To my dear Albert / Your Albert." It was a memento of their friendship, given in the spirit of today's high school students who sign each other's yearbooks."

An exquisite dance connecting past history with present-day experience is crafted which continues throughout the presentation, allowing modern-day audiences to understand the ongoing relevance and importance of Einstein's life and times by relating his processes and life to modern experiences.

From his enjoyment of and respect for children to interpretations of Einstein's portraits and their reflection of his changing life in later years ("This image shows Einstein in an unusual pose, squarely facing the camera. His formal posture in front of a studio background delightfully contrasts with his attire, a leather jacket buttoned over a dress shirt. Earlier studio portraits of Einstein typically showed him wearing a suit. This portrait of Einstein at age sixty-five reflects his more informal way of life at Princeton."), the insights provided by Gary S. Berger and Michael DiRuggiero are both key to understanding Einstein's evolutionary process and unparalleled in the vast body of Einstein literature that seeks to capture his life and works.

These days, ebooks are often easier choices than hard copies of a book, lending to easier browsing and return to a thought via entering keywords in searches. Those who eschew the hard copy, however, are more than missing something. Einstein is packaged in a lovely oversized hardcover that does complete justice to the vintage images that power the production. This quality creates a visceral impact that does not fully translate to ebook formats.

The idea was to reproduce the experience of looking at the original documents and photos as realistically as possible. The heavy weight of the book due to its superior paper quality and glossy varnish on the photos required the book was published in Italy by a publisher with experience in reproducing artwork and photos.

It cannot be emphasized enough that any library seeking a definitive collection of Einstein information should consider the powerful, well-researched EINSTEIN: The Man and His Mind a 'foundation pick' to their holdings.

With its ability to reach a wide audience, from those with a special interest in Einstein to others who may have relatively little prior familiarity with the man, EINSTEIN: The Man and His Mind is a standout in Einstein literature and in researched biographical and artistic studies, and deserves a place not just in Einstein libraries, but in those representing the intersection between photographic art and biography.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Skeletons II Relish In The Eerie And Unpredictable
Kim L. Bruce, author
Joshy Pellerin, illustrator
Independently Published
9798779638395, $12.99 pbk $1.98 Kindle

"Skeletons II continues fine enticing short fiction selections, brought to you by, master author Kim L, Bruce. Several of the recommended choices are Comfort Zone, where a woman gets a surprise from a man she met on social media, Free Hugs reveals their importance and Dead Dad Club is a unique view of dads. The remaining pieces are all noteworthy forays into rare domains of imagination. "Skeletons II combines story telling magic with artistic renderings for a recipe guaranteed to whet anyone's appetite for extraordinary writing

Trinity's Children
Dave Bara
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982192112, $16.00 pbk $8.99 Kindle

"Trinity's Children" is the sequel to "Trinity opened the fantastic world of Commander Jared Clement. Now faced with colonization of new domains he has many complications that propel the story along. Back are some of the other characters from "Trinity" with added new ones who are part of his hurdles to populate new a new planet. Bara handles all with fine writing with tense situations that propel the conflicts to the final pages. "Trinity's Children" is simply one of the most enjoyable science fiction fare to come along in a long time that is an example of the best of the genre that is reminiscent of authors from the "Golden Age of Science Fiction."

Chicks in Tank Tops
Edited by Jason Cordova
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982192358, $18.00 pbk $8.99 Kindle

Science fiction has always been at the forefront of possibilities and "Chicks in Tank Tops" is a perfect example. Have to say the title is a bit misleading but once immersed in its pages it's clear where editor Jason Cordova took the collection. These are stories by some of the finest names in modern science fiction telling tales of women who are soldiers in a new wave of wars in the near future. Some of the authors are Jody Lynn Nye, Ester Friesner who also did the foreword, A C Hoskins, and David Drake who has two wonderful selections. "Chicks in Tank Tops" is filled with top notch characters and writing that add new depth to the statement "Women can do anything."

What Happened to the Bennetts
Lisa Scottoline
c/o Penguin Random House
9780525539698, $9.99 pkb / $9.99 Kindle

Lisa Scottoline has always composed a thrilling novel but "What Happened to the Bennetts" a stand-alone dark tale of suspense. A single act, in mere seconds, of a traffic situation, changes the life of Jason Bennett and his family forever. The violence done to them has caused them to decide if they want to go into federal witness protection or not in a humdinger roller coaster ride to the very end. Scottoline has etched out superbly defined characters faced with conflicts no one should have to face. "what Happened to the Bennetts" takes the legal thriller to new heights of exciting page turning tension to the very end.

How We Say I Love You
Nicole Chen author
Lenny Wenn, illustrator
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
97805935628299, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

Several generations of one family are depicted in the lovely children's title "How We Say I Love You." Hana celebrates the love of her household in many different ways with different members that is a tribute to family. One of the characters of the artwork is reminiscent of the character of the animated classic film "Up" that achieves an even deeper appreciation of the melding of prose to art to tell the work for everyone no matter the age to enjoy.

Reindeer in Here A Christmas Friend
Adam Reed, author
Xindi Van, illustrator
Simon Spotlight
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665900133, $29.99 HC / No Kindle

The presentation of "Reindeer in Here A Christmas Friend" is a combination of action figure of a reindeer and a kid's book contained in one single presentation for one single price. We all know the story of Rudolph that is a classic. Now there is another reindeer who tells how he wants to be one of them to take Santa Claus on his mission. The writing also is in harmony with the beautiful artwork that tell a new chapter in the legacy of Santa. With the added bonus of the reindeer toy "Reindeer in Here A Christmas Friend" is something to enjoy all year long by adults as well is children.

This Book Is My Best Friend
Robin Robinson
Simon Schuster Books For Kids
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665906814, $18.99 HC /$10.99 Kindle

Kids' books are at their best when they have underlying messages placed in a story. "This Book Is My Best Friend" has several that add to enjoyment of this wonderful story of two children and one book at the library they both are intent on having for themselves. "This Book Is My Best Friend" is a beautiful collaboration of art and prose that tell a beautiful story of the deepness of friendship.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Becoming American?
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781602584068, $24.99, HC, 100pp

Synopsis: Countless generations of Arabs and Muslims have called the United States "home". Yet while diversity and pluralism continue to define contemporary America, many Muslims are viewed by their neighbors as painful reminders of conflict and violence. With the publication of "Becoming American?: The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America" renowned historian Yvonne Haddad argues that American Muslim identity is as uniquely American it is for as any other race, nationality, or religion.

"Becoming American?" first traces the history of Arab and Muslim immigration into Western society during the 19th and 20th centuries, revealing a two-fold disconnect between the cultures -- America's unwillingness to accept these new communities at home and the activities of radical Islam abroad.

Urging America to reconsider its tenets of religious pluralism, Haddad reveals that the public square has more than enough room to accommodate those values and ideals inherent in the moderate Islam flourishing throughout the country. In all, in remarkable and succinct fashion, Haddad prods readers to ask what it means to be truly American and paves the way forward for not only increased understanding but for forming a Muslim message that is capable of uplifting American society.

Critique: A timely and critically important contribution to our national dialogue given the rise in and exacerbation of anti-Muslim sentiments and discriminations fostered under the Trump administration and which continue to increase in today's volatile political climate, "Becoming American?: The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues, Church/State Politics and Emigration/Immigration Issues collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Becoming American?: The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America" is also available in a paperback edition (9781481319287, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.74)

Editorial Note: Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad ( is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Chair of Inter-religious Dialogue in Muslim-Christian Understanding, Emerita, at Georgetown University. She is also the author or editor of many books, including Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today and Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Fighting for Justice
Mark Shaw
Post Hill Press
9781637586440, $28.00, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: How does an explosive "whistleblower" account from a Warren Commission (WC) member never identified before destroy once and for all the biggest lie in American history, the "Oswald Alone" theory? On what basis did the member admit, "It's more than Oswald. There is internal corruption on the Commission. I do not agree with the Report"?

Is the "whistleblower" the same one who surreptitiously passed Jack Ruby's WC testimony to journalist Dorothy Kilgallen prior to its release date? And how did President Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover strong arm the commission to prevent any investigation of the truth about who killed JFK and why?

Based on fifteen years of research, answers to these questions and more are uncovered and published in "Fighting for Justice: The Improbable Journey to Exposing Cover-Ups about the JFK Assassination and the Deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Kilgallen", author and noted historian Mark Shaw lays out his improbable journey resulting in exposing cover-ups of the JFK assassination while proving Marilyn Monroe and Kilgallen were murdered.

Critique: A conspiracy theorist's expose, "Fighting for Justice: The Improbable Journey to Exposing Cover-Ups about the JFK Assassination and the Deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Kilgallen" is an inherently fascinating and iconoclastic read and a study that is very highly recommended reading for those with an interest in the controversial deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Kilgallen. And a 'must' for anyone interest in the assassination story of President John F. Kennedy. Highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fighting for Justice" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Mark Shaw ( is a former criminal defense attorney and network TV legal analyst, the author of "The Reporter Who Knew Too Much", a respected investigative reporter, and noted historian who has published nearly thirty books, including six touching on the JFK assassination. His most recent book, "Collateral Damage", connected the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Kilgallen, and JFK for the first time. An archive of his impressive body of work can be found at:

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Guide To Smart Wedding Planning
Edna Dratch-Parker, author
Jeri Solomon, author
Real Deal Wedding Insiders
9798986588803, $18.99, PB, 146pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Real Deal Wedding Insiders' Guide to Smart Wedding Planning", wedding planning experts Edna Dratch-Parker and Jeri Solomon provided aspiring brides and novice wedding planners with a series of practical and actionable steps to take control of the wedding planning, make the best decisions, and keep everyone's sanity along the way.

"Guide To Smart Wedding Planning" covers: Navigating stressful relationships; Creating a vision that represents the bride and groom; Understanding and building a realistic budget; Choosing the right venue and vendors; Staying present and having the bride and every member of her party enjoying the wedding day

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Guide To Smart Wedding Planning" is the ideal combination of instructional reference and 'how-to' manual for creating a memorable event that the bride, the groom, and the entire wedding party will cherish. Comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly', "Guide To Smart Wedding Planning" is highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Wedding Budget and Event Planning collections. It should be noted that "Guide To Smart Wedding Planning" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: With a combined 30 years and hundreds of weddings produced, the Real Deal Wedding Insiders have seen it all. Edna Dratch-Parker is the founder and creative director of Event Planning & Design Creative, and Jeri Solomon is the owner of Jeri Solomon Floral Design. Together bring their depth of knowledge and real life experiences to helping the bride on have a successful wedding planning journey.

Keep Those Feet Moving
A. J. Coleman
Masada Publishing
9798218039226, $14.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: A. J. Coleman was devastated when he lost his wife to cancer, leaving him alone to raise their baby daughter. He felt an almost debilitating mourning as he faced this and other challenges -- becoming a single father, accepting his hearing impairment, learning to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, and recovering from job losses.

"Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower's 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds" is his gift to other widowers and people suffering losses and challenges to encourage them with his heartfelt advice gleaned from his journey. He offers actions anyone can take to move beyond difficulties and toward happiness.

We all have obstacles and setbacks, but having the tools to triumph over barriers can make the difference between giving up and thriving. "Keep Those Feed Moving" is an eight-step guide and memoir will inspire you to reflect on your reactions to hardship and give you the power to achieve your ambitions.

"Keep Those Feet Moving" showcases: 4 ways to cope with the loss of someone you love; for example, consider it a marathon; 5 steps to success as a single parent, such as prioritizing your children; How to bounce back from a job loss, with ideas to make the job search smoother; Self-reflection footsteps, including guided questions and exercises to help you recognize obstacles and create a response; 5 tips to help "keep those feet moving," like honestly assessing your emotional and mental health.

The primary message of A. J. Coleman is that strength comes from your response to change and adversity -- and that you can find the motivation and tools you need to Keep Those Feet Moving today!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower's 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds" is especially and unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone who is having to deal with loss, grief, and the sudden conditions of widowhood for men. While appropriate and commented for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower's 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: A. J. Coleman ( is a widower and single father who's overcome a hearing impairment, job losses, and crippling anxiety. Through it all, he embraced, accepted, and grew. Now he shares his experiences, practical guidance, and resources to help others conquer life's challenges. A financial crimes expert, AJ earned his MBA from the University of Arizona. He lives in Illinois with his family and is a devoted father.

Ships In The Desert
Jeff Fearnside
Santa Fe Writer's Project
9781951631154, $14.95, PB, 136pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Ships in the Desert" (a linked essay collection), author Jeff Fearnside analyzes his four years as an educator on the Great Silk Road, primarily in Kazakhstan.

Peeling back the layers of culture, environment, and history that define the country and its people, Fearnside creates a compelling narrative about this faraway land and soon realizes how the local, personal stories are, in fact, global stories.

Fearnside sees firsthand the unnatural disaster of the Aral Sea -- a man-made environmental crisis that has devastated the region and impacts the entire world. He examines the sometimes controversial ethics of Western missionaries, and reflects on personal and social change once he returns to the States.

"Ships in the Desert" explores universal issues of religious bigotry, cultural intolerance, environmental degradation, and how a battle over water rights led to a catastrophe that is now being repeated around the world.

Critique: Impressively descriptive, thoughtful and thought provoking, "Ships in the Desert" will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in travelogues, travel essays, environmental issues, and a traveler's memoirs. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ships in the Desert" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Jeff Fearnside ( is the author of the short-story collection "Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air" and the chapbook "A Husband and Wife Are One Satan", winner of the Orison Chapbook Prize. Other awards for his writing include a Grand Prize in the Santa Fe Writers Projects Literary Awards Program, the Mary Mackey Short Story Prize, and an Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Oregon Arts Commission. His work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies such as The Paris Review, Los Angeles Review, Story, and many others.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities
James Cuno, editor
Thomas G. Weiss, editor
Getty Publications
9781606068076, $85.00, PB, 648pp

Synopsis: The intentional destruction of cultural heritage has a long and horrific history. Contemporary examples include the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, mosques in Xinjiang, mausoleums in Timbuktu, and Greco-Roman remains in Syria. Cultural heritage destruction invariably accompanies assaults on civilians, making heritage attacks impossible to disentangle from the mass atrocities of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Both seek to eliminate people and the heritage with which they identify.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by James Cuno and Thomas G. Weiss, "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" is comprised of essays by thirty-eight experts from the heritage, social science, humanitarian, legal, and military communities.

Focusing on immovable cultural heritage vulnerable to attack, the guiding framework of "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" is the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a United Nations resolution adopted unanimously in 2005 to permit international intervention against crimes of war or genocide. Based on the three pillars of prevent, react, and rebuild, R2P offers today's policymakers a set of existing laws and international norms that can and (as "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities argues) must be extended to the protection of cultural heritage.

Contributions consider the global value of cultural heritage and document recent attacks on people and sites in China, Guatemala, Iraq, Mali, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. Comprehensive sections on vulnerable populations as well as the role of international law and the military offer readers critical insights and point toward research, policy, and action agendas to protect both people and cultural heritage. A concise abstract of each chapter is offered online in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish to facilitate robust, global dissemination of the strategies and tactics offered in this pathbreaking call to action.

The free online edition of "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" is readily available at Also available are free PDF, EPUB, and Kindle/MOBI downloads "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities".

Critique: The thirty-two erudite essays that comprise "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" are deftly organized and presented in five major sections: Cultural Heritage and Values; Cultural Heritage Under Seige (Recent Cases); Cultural Heritage and Population at Risk; Cultural Heritage and International Law; Cultural Heritage and Military Perspectives. An informative and thought-provoking work of seminal scholarship, "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Cultural Policy and Museology/Museum Studies collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities" is also available in a PDF, EPUB, and Kindle/MOBI formats.

Editorial Note #1: James Cuno ( is an historian and curator. He is also the President Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Editorial Note #2: Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science and Director Emeritus of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center. (

Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions
John Samuel
Baron Publishing
9798986677224, $21.99, HC, 168pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions: A 30,000-Mile Journey for Love, Confidence and a Sense of Belonging" by John Samuel, readers will discover how to turn differences into opportunities with an accessibility expert's worldwide search for belonging.

After a diagnosis of a degenerative eye disease, John Samuel's life (and his chance at success) started to vanish. In a world systemically unequipped for accessibility, disability inclusion is often left out of conversations about diversity. For people with disabilities, it can feel impossible to adapt and thrive when you're already set up for failure.

But A more accessible world is possible -- when we see the amazing opportunities in our differences.

From traveling the world and hiking mountains to finding love and raising a family, "Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions" shares Ablr CEO and cofounder John Samuel's inspirational journey against his inevitable blindness as he searched for acceptance. A powerful story for both professionals with disabilities and individuals working to create an inclusive culture at any organization, this memoir will empower you to accept yourself and others, break down barriers, and rebuild a world where everyone belongs.

Critique: Offering a heartfelt, insightful perspective of someone who is visually impaired and his day-to-day challenges, "Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions: A 30,000-Mile Journey for Love, Confidence and a Sense of Belonging" is the kind of personal story that can change and improve the lives of thousands of others. With its emphasis on embracing your diagnosis or disability as an advantage for achieving your dreams, "Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, community and academic library Disabilities Self-Help oriented collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions" is also available in a paperback edition (9798986677200, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: John Samuel ( is the CEO and cofounder of Ablr, a disability inclusion and accessibility business working to remove barriers that hinder people with disabilities from all aspects of life. In college, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic and degenerative disease that caused him to lose his eyesight. After struggling to belong and succeed in the sighted world, John now empowers both individuals and organizations to overcome accessibility challenges and build more inclusive environments.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

How to Think About Catastrophe
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, author
Michigan State University Press
9781611864366, $34.95, PB, 194pp

Synopsis: During the last century humanity acquired the ability to destroy itself. The direct approach to destruction can be seen in such facts as the ever-present threat of nuclear war, but we have also developed the capacity to do indirect harm by altering environmental conditions necessary for survival, including the looming cloud of climate change. How can we look forward and work past the dire position we now find ourselves in to achieve a sustainable future?

With the publication of "How to Think About Catastrophe: Toward a Theory of Enlightened Doomsaying", Jean-Pierre Dupuy presents a new way of thinking about the future as he examines catastrophe and the human response.

"How to Think About Catastrophe" examines different kinds of catastrophes that range from natural (e.g., earthquakes) to industrial (e.g., Chernobyl) and concludes that the traditional distinctions between them are only becoming blurrier by the day. "How to Think About Catastrophe" aims to build a general theory of catastrophes with a new form of apocalyptic thinking that is grounded in science and philosophy.

An ethics for the sake of the future is what is required, which in turn necessitates a new metaphysics of temporality. If a way out of the imminent danger in which we find ourselves is to be found, we must first look to radically alter our ethics.

Critique: Ably translated into English for an American readership by M. B. DeBevoice and Mark R. Anspach, "How to Think About Catastrophe: Toward a Theory of Enlightened Doomsaying" by Jean-Pierre Dupuy is critically important reading for those with an interest in Disaster Relief Planning, as well as Disaster/Catastrophe Ethics & Philosophy. While highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How to Think About Catastrophe: Toward a Theory of Enlightened Doomsaying" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.69).

Editorial Note: Jean-Pierre Dupuy ( is Professor Emeritus of Social and Political Philosophy at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University.

The Charlton Companion
Jon B. Cooke, author
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605491110, $43.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: "The Charlton Companion" by Jon B. Cooke is an all-new definitive history of Connecticut's notorious all-in-one comic book company! Often disparaged as a second-rate funny-book outfit, Charlton produced a vast array of titles that span from the 1940s Golden Age to the Bronze Age of the '70s in many genres, from Hot Rods to Haunted Love.

The imprint experienced explosive bursts of creativity, most memorably the "Action Hero Line" edited by Dick Giordano in the 1960s, which featured the renowned talents of Steve Ditko and a stellar team of creators, as well as the unforgettable '70s "Bullseye" era that spawned E-Man and Doomsday +1, all helmed by veteran masters and talented newcomers -- and serving as a training ground for an entire generation of comics creators thriving in an environment of complete creative freedom.

From its beginnings with a handshake deal consummated in a county jail, to the company's accomplishments beyond comics, woven into this prose narrative are interviews with dozens of talented participants, including Giordano, Dennis O'Neil, Alex Toth, Sanho Kim, Tom Sutton, Pat Boyette, Nick Cuti, John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Joe Staton, Sam Glanzman, Neal Adams, Joe Gill, and even some Derby residents who recall working in the sprawling company plant.

Though it gave up the ghost over three decades ago, Charlton's influence continues today with its Action Heroes serving as inspiration for Alan Moore's cross-media graphic novel hit, Watchmen.

Critique: Profusely and effectively illustrated throughout, "The Charlton Companion" by Jon B. Cooke is an extraordinary history that effectively rescues from an undeserved obscurity one of the comic book industry's most influential publishing houses and its contributions to a distinctively American popular culture literary genre. Informative and fascinating, "The Charlton Companion" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of dedicated comic book fans and community/academic library Comics/Graphic Novels literary studies collections.

Editorial Note: Jon B. Cooke ( is best known for Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist (2007), Favourite Haunts: A Journey Thro' H.P. Lovecraft's Providence (1990) and Bowery Rhapsody: The Rise and Redemption of Hollywood's Original 'Brat Pack'.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Jetan: The Martian Chess of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Fredrik Ekman, author
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476687933, $49.95, PB, 211pp

Synopsis: Throughout its hundred-year history, the game Jetan has influenced many science fiction writers and game designers. Jetan was invented by author Edgar Rice Burroughs for his 1922 novel The Chessmen of Mars, Jetan has been played by enthusiastic fans and serious gamers alike.

"Jetan: The Martian Chess of Edgar Rice Burroughs" by Fredik Ekman is first-ever study of Jetan and explores the game's rules in depth and provides new interpretations based on up-to-date research. It also chronicles the game's history, explores tactics and variants and provides a complete standard for notating games.

Of specialnote is the inclusion of three annotated Jetan play-throughs and several practice exercises. Over 80 diagrams and photographs are used as illustrations, and an essay about Edgar Rice Burroughs' lifelong interest in sports and games further contextualizes the game.

Critique: A unique contribution that is a 'must' for the legions of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, "Jetan: The Martian Chess of Edgar Rice Burroughs" is informatively enhanced for the reader by Fredik Ekman with the addition of three Appendices (The Original Rules of Jetan; The Rules of Thuria Jetan; The Rules of Jetan-Sarang); a two page Bibliography; and a five page Index. While a strongly recommended pick for community and academic library Science Fiction History and Chess/Gaming collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jetan: The Martian Chess of Edgar Rice Burroughs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.49).

Editorial Note #1: Fredrik Ekman is a middle school teacher living in Sweden. He is an active member of Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom, and often writes on various ERB-related topics. (

Editorial Note #2: Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 - March 19, 1950) was an American author, best known for his prolific output in the adventure, science fiction, and fantasy genres. He created the characters Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, the Pellucidar series, the Amtor series, and the Caspak trilogy. (

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

BEYOND: SPACE OPERA: Science Fiction Short Stories
Milo James Fowler
Effervescent Press
B012TOHYI0 ebook price: $0.00 US copyright 2015, 115 pages

BEYOND: SPACE OPERA is a collection of short stories by six different authors. The shorts are reminiscent of the old pulp SF magazines. One or two great stories with a handful of good tales to finish off the magazine.

The shorts range from obvious tales that need to be found in a series to speculative tales that push a bit too far.

Aficionados of SF will find the collection a little weak but worth keeping on hand for a short break. Those new to the SF genre could use this as an introduction to the space opera genre. The old SF pulp magazines do a better job exploring the genre but this is priced right for the reader to get a taste of the storytelling. BEYOND is best considered as a way to explore the writing styles of the authors included in the series. You should be able to find an author whose style you like.

Shadow Corps: A Space Fantasy
Justin Sloan
Elder Tree Press
B075WYSSV6 ebook price: $0.00 US copyright 2017, 314 pages

Shadow Corps: A Space Fantasy is a fun space opera with a paranormal touch. Shadow isn't a hard science tale or even a story that pretends to be based on science. It does incorporate a science framework but it uses a paranormal or even magical touch to hold the tale together.

The earth has been in a war against alien invaders. Samantha is a young girl in the earth resistance who has become a leader in the fight. An alien with powerful technology recruits Samantha and other earth fighters to an even larger battle spanning multiple galaxies.

Samantha begins, on-the-job training, to become part of the Shadow Corps -- a special forces unit designed to take on covert and emergency tasks in this greater intergalactic war. She has to learn, while fighting, how to use the physical and paranormal powers she has been endowed with or the intergalactic war and earth might be lost.

Shadow Corps: A Space Fantasy is an easy space opera to recommend. The story is fast moving. The plot is just enough different to feel new. The characters are interesting. It is a complete story although it is obviously part of a larger series. Readers who like space opera will not be disappointed with the book and it is a strong enough tale that readers who want to test out this genre niche will be happy.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

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