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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 7 July 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit
Peri Pakroo, J.D.
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413325232, $29.99, PB, 552pp,

Synopsis: Today more and more women are become entrepreneurs and founding their own businesses. "The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit: A Step-by-Step Legal Guide" by Peri Pakroo (who is a business author and coach specializing in creative and smart strategies for self-employment and small business) is specifically written for women who have an idea or skill that they are ready to turn into a profitable business, or who want to expand or improve their current business operations.

Now in a fully updated and expanded fifth edition, "The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit" covers how to: Draft a solid business plan; Raise start-up money, including through crowdfunding; Choose a legal structure and hire employees; Manage finances and taxes; Qualify for special certification programs and contracts for women-owned businesses; Efficiently market and brand their business online and off.

"The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit" also features contributions from successful women business owners whose insights will inform and inspire women seeking to start their own business, including valuable tips for maintaining a sound work-life balance.

"The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit" is completed updated to cover new tax deductions for pass-through entities, changes to the Affordable Care Act, and other issues affecting small business startups under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Critique: Reliably informative, impressively comprehensive, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit: A Step-by-Step Legal Guide" is an extraordinary, 'real world' practical, and very highly recommended addition for personal, professional, community, and academic library Business Management instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.64).

Exploring Research Data Management
Andrew Cox & Eddy Verbaan
Facet Publishing
9781783302789, $85.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: A data management plan is a formal document that outlines how data are to be handled both during a research project, and after the project is completed. The goal of a data management plan is to consider the many aspects of data management, metadata generation, data preservation, and analysis before the project begins; this ensures that data are well-managed in the present, and prepared for preservation in the future.

Research Data Management (RDM) has become a professional topic of great importance internationally following changes in scholarship and government policies about the sharing of research data. "Exploring Research Data Management" provides an accessible introduction and guide to RDM with engaging tasks for the reader to follow and develop their knowledge.

Starting by exploring the world of research and the importance and complexity of data in the research process, "Exploring Research Data Management" considers how a multi-professional support service can be created then examines the decisions that need to be made in designing different types of research data service from local policy creation, training, through to creating a data repository.

"Exploring Research Data Management" includes an insightful discussion of the drivers and barriers to RDM Institutional policy and making the case for Research Data Services Practical data management Data literacy and training researchers Ethics and research data services Case studies and practical advice from working in a Research Data Service.

"Exploring Research Data Management" will be useful reading for librarians and other support professionals who are interested in learning more about RDM and developing Research Data Services in their own institution. It will also be of value to students on librarianship, archives, and information management courses studying topics such as RDM, digital curation, data literacies and open science.

Critique: Andrew Cox is a senior lecturer at the Information School, University of Sheffield and led the RDMRose Project. His research interests include virtual community, social media and library responses to technology. He coordinates Sheffield's MSc in Digital Library Management.

Eddy Verbaan is Head of Library Research Support at Sheffield Hallam University. He established a Research Data Management infrastructure at Sheffield Hallam University and worked as a Research Associate at the Information School, The University of Sheffield, on RDM-related projects.

Together they have produced a complete course of instruction in research data management, and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for librarian in-service training curriculums, as well as college and university Library Science collections in general, and Data Management supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Miss Palmer's Diary
Gillian Wagner
I. B. Tauris Publishers
9781788310062, $30.00, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: In 1989, while moving furniture in the billiard room at the family's old estate in Cefn Park, Dame Gillian Wagner's relatives discovered, among old game boxes and household ledgers, three locked journals. They were diaries, it turned out, the work of Miss Ellen Palmer, Wagner's great-grandmother. Though they had lay hidden from family view for nearly 150 years, Wagner began transcribing them, revealing a remarkable record of her ancestor's life in high society Victorian England, now chronicled in "Miss Palmer's Diary: The Secret Journals of a Victorian Lady".

The entries begin in 1847, when seventeen-year-old Ellen had the world at her feet. A debutante at the start of her first London season, Ellen was beautiful, rich, and accomplished - and about to experience the world of dances, opera visits, and dinner parties, a rite-of-passage for young women of her class. To record the glittering whirl of activity, Ellen started a diary, which she would then write in, daily, for more than 8 years. She must have been known around the house for this effort; included in the book's section of photos and illustrations is a pencil sketch of the diarist at her table, hunched over, documenting her thoughts.

For Ellen, her debut and the path to true love in society circles did not run smooth. After a scandalous encounter with a duplicitous Swedish count, her marriage prospects suffered. The family also struggled to hide a terrible secret in that era: Miss Palmer's father was mentally ill, and had epilepsy. There were snubs. In 1852, her mother died, and her father's inability to manage the estate left the duties to Ellen, now in her early 20s. But still, she kept at her diary, recording her fate and thoughts on it all.

Undeterred by her increasing social isolation - and the expectations of the era - Miss Palmer next packed up family and servants, and set off on a treacherous trip across Europe, in pursuit of her beloved brother, Roger, an officer in the Crimean War. After astonishing the Embassy upon arrival, she became the first woman to visit the Crimean front, touring several battlefields, including Balaclava, the site of the tragic battle made famous in The Charge of the Light Brigade. Throughout, she records the incredible scenes and events of the war, and there meets Archie Peel, an officer who would become her husband (if he promised not to boss her around) after their move back to Britain. Family life meant her writing would become less frequent, and she would die in 1862 from childbirth, at age 33, after she and Archie had 4 children.

Despite her tragic and early end, Miss Palmer's vow at age 18 to "one day astonish the world" is in a way made true by this important social history that reveals the incredible voice of a woman who was both ahead of her time, and part of it.

Critique: A truly extraordinary and inherently fascinating biography of an interesting life lived out in interesting times, "Miss Palmer's Diary: The Secret Journals of a Victorian Lady" offers a kind of 'window into the past' that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of extensive notes, a bibliography, index, and 34 color and duotone plates. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and academic library 19th Century Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Miss Palmer's Diary" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.99).

A Light So Lovely
Sarah Arthur
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310353409, $19.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Beloved author Madeleine L'Engle (November 29, 1918 - September 6, 2007), and Newbery winner for her novel "A Wrinkle in Time", was known the world round for her imaginative spirit and stories. She was also known to spark controversy -- too Christian for some, too unorthodox for others. Somewhere in the middle was a complex woman whose embrace of paradox has much to say to a new generation of readers today.

"A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle" by Sarah Arthur (who is the preliminary fiction judge for the Christianity Today Book Awards, through which she grades on a L'Engle-inspired curve) paints a vivid portrait of this enigmatic icon's spiritual legacy, starting with her inner world and expanding into fresh reflections of her writing for readers today.

There are intimate interviews with L'Engle's literary contemporaries such as Philip Yancey and Luci Shaw, L'Engle's granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis, and influential fans such as Makoto Fujimura, Nikki Grimes, and Sarah Bessey, that reveal new layers to the woman behind the stories so well known and loved.

A vibrant, imaginative read, "A Light So Lovely" pulls back the curtain to illuminate L'Engle's creative journey, her persevering faith, and the inspiring, often unexpected ways these two forces converged.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, and a simply delight to read from beginning to end, "A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle" is a 'must' for the legions of Madeleine L'Engle fans. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

A Court of Refuge
Ginger Lerner-Wren, author
Rebecca A. Eckland, author
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807086988, $26.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: As a young legal advocate, Ginger Lerner-Wren bore witness to the consequences of an underdeveloped mental health care infrastructure. Unable to do more than offer guidance, she watched families being torn apart as client after client was ensnared in the criminal system for crimes committed as a result of addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. She soon learned this was a far-reaching crisis with estimates showing that in forty-four states, jails and prisons house ten times more people with serious mental illnesses than state psychiatric hospitals.

With the assistance of freelance writer Rebecca A. Eckland, "A Court of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America's First Mental Health Court", is Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren's informative story of how the first dedicated mental health court in the United States grew from an offshoot of her criminal division, held during lunch hour without the aid of any federal funding, to a revolutionary institution.

Of the two hundred thousand people behind bars at the court's inception in 1997, more than one in ten were known to have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. To date, the court has successfully diverted more than twenty thousand people suffering from various psychiatric conditions from jail and into treatment facilities and other community resources.

Working under the theoretical framework of therapeutic jurisprudence, Judge Lerner-Wren and her growing network of fierce, determined advocates, families, and supporters sparked a national movement to conceptualize courts as a place of healing. Today, there are hundreds of such courts in the US.

"A Court of Refuge" demonstrates both the potential relief mental health courts can provide to underserved communities and their limitations in a system in dire need of vast overhauls of the policies that got us here. Judge Lerner-Wren presents a refreshing possibility for a future in which criminal justice and mental health care can work in tandem to address this vexing human rights issue -- and to change our attitudes about mental illness as a whole.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Court of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America's First Mental Health Court" is an extraordinary, compelling, and persuasively inspiring presentation that will prove to be of particular interest to judicial reformers and mental health advocates. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Court of Refuge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.99).

Song of Riddles
Geula Twersky
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652299086, $19.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Geula Twersky has an MS in Judaic studies from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and an MA in Bible from Bar-Ilan University. In addition to being a teacher of Bible for over two decades, Geula is also an award-winning professional artist who has exhibited her paintings in the Knesset and in galleries around the world. Geula has published several scholarly articles on topics in Bible in a variety of academic Bible journals, such as Jewish Bible Quarterly, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, and Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament.

In "Song of Riddles" Geula Twersky inquires into the meaning behind the metaphors that animate the Song of Songs, based on a wide range of source materials and scholarship. The core question prompting this inquiry into the Song of Songs is whether, given the opaque literary confines of the text, it is possible to access the Song's intended subtext, using the text itself as a guide in uncovering its underlying theological message. The nexus between metaphor and meaning in the Song lies at the point at which the three planes of dream-fantasies, riddles, and love wisdom intersect. Understanding how the Song functions simultaneously on these independent trajectories is the first step toward arriving at the concealed meaning of the Song's seemingly impenetrable metaphors.

The research presented in this book demonstrates the Song to be part of the rare literary genre of riddles and points to the two lovers in the Song as hinting to the Temple keruvim. These angelic figurines were the sequestered keepers of the Holy Ark and the Divine law, as well as the representatives of the nation of Israel before the Divine presence. The approach to understanding the Song presented in "Song of Riddles" seamlessly and authentically merges the traditional rabbinic allegorical approach to the Song with the plain sense of the text.

Critique: Instructively and insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Song of Riddles: Deciphering the Song of Songs" is a compelling and original study that is especially well considered, written, organized and presented. While very highly recommended for synagogue, community, and academic library Judaic Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Song of Riddles" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Robert Lockridge
Sims and Pipen Group Ltd.
9781977823311, $12.99

The Bitterroot Mountains of the Northern Rockies may be the setting of a story that spans decades, but in this tale, it's actually the terminus of a story that began with a Scottish boy's migration to the U.S. in the 1800s, and thus a story that opens in 1956 and feels like a Western novel actually holds deeper roots that are unfolded as the tale evolves.

The first thing to note about Bitterroot is that it's a production whose atmosphere changes from a frontier Western feel replete with wranglers, ranches and horses to events that led to the family's settlement in the Bitterroot Mountains.

The family custom has long been for the youngsters to strike out in their own directions which have led far from home and family, and as Angus considers the Craddock family tradition and the possibilities for young Luke's future, he mulls over the events that have led generations to this point in time, carrying readers into the past on a journey that traces the family stories Angus has heard from his father and grandparents.

Another notable facet of Bitterroot lies in its ability to paint striking portraits of different settings from the eyes of different characters that reflect on and experience their worlds: "Jennings began to dream. He could at first see the clan's plaid as it washed away, clearing the way for a bright light. His homeland came into view, as clear as if it were real. Jennings could smell the sea air and feel its relentless chill and see the lone, stone walled cottage with its high slated roof, and the smoke rolling from the chimney being blown horizontal by the brisk sea wind. The dwelling sat up in a cove, high on a rocky cliff overlooking the Celtic Sea."

These visionary moments help cement the changing sense of place that permeates the sweeping saga as the adventures of Jennings and Sky document the progress, dreams, and hopes of each new generation: "The prairie was dotted with a vast array of wildflowers, and swaying knee high grass, and the river which flowed through it was hemmed in by beautiful golden, flower weeping, trees. Everything was still as if it was a dream. Both exhausted and light headed they'd waited for the sound of their pounding hearts and breath to stop echoing. As they'd stood in tall green grass viewing the red setting sun, they'd stopped and clasped hands. Looking back over their shoulders, there were no monsters now."

As Angus, Luke, and others find their lives interconnected by shared experiences despite the passage of time, they come to find that the "nostalgia of the past" is with them in more ways than one. Strangers become family, family separates and rejoins, and the backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana and the journey that leads to a farming lifestyle and deep roots in a strange land makes for a compelling, sweeping story that doesn't get lost in its moves between and connections to past and present worlds.

Bitterroot presents a solid novel of different generations who struggle to find their place in America and realize their desires for independence, and is a fine historical fiction piece that cements the initial immigrant experience with the efforts and psyches of future generations.

Astral Fall
Jessica Mae Stover
Privately Published
9780997054415 (epub/iBooks)
9780997054408 (mobi/Kindle) $12.99

When a war goes on for too long, it can become mundane, predictable, and perhaps even part of everyday life. That's what appears to have happened with the 100-year interplanetary war that is no longer receiving attention in Astral Fall.

The first thing to note about this military sci-fi read is that Jessica Mae Stover goes beyond capturing military strategy and hierarchies, including psychological details and tension designed to attract non-military buffs with a thrilling adventure story.

The opening line from a top-secret memo by media specialist Briar at first reads like a step-by-step play, but it quickly becomes evident that Briar is describing a horrible scene of ambush and death. A few paragraphs later, events are depicted from the third person perspective of the (now-old) battle logs of the Red Theater, imparting lessons for modern-day combatants in the field.

Intelligence recons gone bad, biomech transitions, terrestrial alien engagements, and deep space operations quickly enter a picture complicated by changing leader perceptions of past, present, and future engagements.

Several great military fighters have designs on ending this century-long conflict. These broader-thinking individuals stand to win or lose much as they dare to consider approaches no other leader has chosen. They will also change reader perceptions about military skills and their origins. Without providing spoilers, suffice it to say that Astral Fall attempts to identify, address, and turn upside down reader preconceptions of battlegrounds, conflicts, gender assignments, and the nature of military sci-fi as a genre. And, it succeeds.

Prepare for many surprises in Astral Fall. Even readers who formerly believed themselves open to any possibility will find many presumptions challenged; whether it be concepts of aliens and humanity, military might, ethical and moral choices, or impossible hostage situations.

Think the classic Ender's Game, but without any attempt to mimic Orson Scott Card's scenarios or success. Think a military battle structure holding the epic confrontations of Lord of the Rings, complete with its promise of multiple series books; yet with an attention to intricate detail that belays the (too-often) hasty series production. There is no artificial division of action felt in Astral Fall: it's a complete story that may end with a cliffhanging bang; but it reveals a world readers will want to pursue. Why?

Because they'll have spent an unusually long period of time with a satisfyingly complex and lengthy read that takes the proper time to create not just a world, but a universe in which confrontations between alien and humanity have become more than commonplace and seemingly undeserving of obsession.

Suffice it to say that casual fans of military sci-fi looking for dramatic entertainment will find themselves challenged by such a winding plot, characters, and complex universe. This isn't for the light sci-fi reader; but for the fan of Ender's Game who appreciated that story for its intense moral and ethical surprises, and who will discover the same kind of attention to thought-provoking scenarios here, as an endless conflict unwinds to its final conclusion.

Astral Fall is highly recommended for any military sci-fi fan looking for superior writing and fresh, original plots.

On Burning Mirrors
Jamie Klinger-Krebs
Jamie Klinger-Krebs, Publisher
9780692113059, $24.99, Hardcover, $15.99, Paperback, 3.99 Kindle

On Burning Mirrors falls into the category of books that are difficult to describe and 'peg' to a specific reader audience. On the one hand, it embraces elements of a romance as it discusses a forty-year-old woman's illicit affair with another woman and the fallout that occurs as tragedy strikes when a husband recovering from addiction finds out that his solid relationships harbor some surprising secrets.

As Will begins an investigation that will bring him face-to-face with his wife's lover and the kind of relationship she cultivated behind his back, he begins to confront some eye-opening truths not just about her and her lover; but about his own life and its assumptions.

One big plus to On Burning Mirrors lies in its ability to craft believable, multifaceted characters who don't neatly fall into preconceived categories either in appearance or through their lifestyles and actions. Erin, Jules, and Will have all faced their demons and seemingly carved out successful lives from the obstacles they've confronted; but in reality there's an undercurrent of secrecy that runs through their lives which brings them together in unexpected ways.

That's another positive attribute that sets On Burning Mirrors apart from other contemporary fiction reads: its ability to sprinkle surprising revelations throughout its story line, continually challenging readers to confront their own preconceptions, misconceptions, ideals, and ethical standards.

As a series of challenges continually threaten Erin and Will by exposing long-held secrets, they are forced to confront their own choices and consequences in life, and this is the third big plus in a story that excels in complex situations and family connections.

Readers who choose On Burning Mirrors for its insights into same-sex relationships and marital struggles will find it a powerful emotionally-driven exploration of love, friendship, closely-held memories and unexpected futures. The novel is particularly recommended reading not just for fans of gay fiction; but for those outside the genre who can anticipate an emotional story of the processes of coming together, moving apart, and forging new connections.

Blue Fire
Katherine Prairie
Stonedrift Press Ltd.
9780994937759, $14.95, paperback
9780994937773 (epub)

Readers might not expect a geologist family to become involved in detective work, much less international intrigue; but Blue Fire isn't the first to depart from the usual PI roots of its protagonist: it is Book 2 in a series in which geologist Alex Graham uses her rocky position to uncover clues to a dangerous international situation.

This said, thriller and detective readers should consider Blue Fire a fine stand-alone piece that needs little prior introduction to prove accessible to newcomers; while prior fans will relish a new adventure that again tests Alex's abilities on international turf.

How do events move from the discovery of a secret tanzanite mining operation to international terrorism? Because the earnings from that mother lode are being funneled to terrorist groups in an untraceable way. Brian Graham and his geologist daughter split their teams into two countries to expose the truth in missions that move from Brazil to Tanzania, involving Tanzanian miner Mosi Ongeti in an experience that surpasses any mining expertise he's honed in the past.

Terrorists don't usually take kindly to their secrets seeing the light of day and so, perhaps predictably, Alex finds herself on the bad side of an arms dealer determined to stop her at all costs.

How can a rock expert nearly single-handedly thwart the savvy and wide influence of an international terrorist group? With the help of a few good friends, of course.

Any good geologist knows that surface appearances are only one layer of a complicated history that lies beneath appearances. One attractive aspect of Blue Fire lies in Katherine Prairie's attention to detail as she peels away various strata of deception, special interests, and secret connections and activities to keep readers on their toes and engaged.

As Alex candidly assesses her geologist abilities and her place in both the world of international intrigue and the science of geology, she embarks on another venture far from her usual comfort zone.

Tension is exquisitely drawn, the particulars of tanzanite and its mining and value are educational and true to real life, and readers receive a fine, realistic story that probes both dangerous mines and deadly times.

The result is a thriller that holds various strata of suspense and intrigue as Alex and Mosi race against time to stop the funding of a smuggling operation. Events swirl around mine break-ins, murders and threats, an arms dealer's involvement with the ubiquitous Tabitha Metals, and a missing father who leaves his daughter alone in struggles which are many, as she's been followed from Brazil to Tanzania.

Another thing to note about Blue Fire is that, like its predecessor, the story spreads like ripples in a pond. A singular investigation in South America turns complex as Alex faces kidnappers; murder, and assassins; missing friends and family; threats to safe places; and trapped miners and explosions. At the end of her resources and lacking support systems, can Alex nearly single-handedly resolve a complicated international situation?

Thriller and mystery readers will find this, like Prairie's prior Thirst, more than a cut above the usual thriller read both in depth and quality. Like its predecessor, Blue Fire is absolutely compelling and so nicely drawn in characterization, detail, and plot that it could have been streamed directly from real life and people.

Understanding Antidepressants
Wallace B. Mendelson, MD
Independently Published
9781980438298, $15.77 Paper, $9.99, Kindle

Understanding Antidepressants tackles a big subject because there are many, many antidepressants on the market today, and their prescription and use have skyrocketed over the years. Readers new to the subject might find the array of products (and their potential side effects) confusing; but retired Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Pharmacology Wallace B. Mendelson simplifies the subject for novices to the medicine world, creating a primer that requires no prior knowledge to prove accessible.

Perhaps the most important message Dr. Mendelson delivers is that doctors and patients should enjoy a cooperative relationship in which drugs are assessed and understood; not just prescribed and dutifully ingested.

In order to cultivate such interactions, it's up to patients and their loved ones to take responsibility for accumulating a basic understanding of antidepressants, how they work, and the pros and cons of their use; and that's where Understanding Antidepressants enters the picture.

Chapters provide basic biology and health information, discuss how different classes of antidepressants affect the body in different ways, consider their interactions with other drugs and possible side effects, and include discussions of alternative medications and what to do if the antidepressants don't work. While the focus is on the treatment of major depressive disorders, other related conditions are also covered.

The idea isn't to offer a substitute to consultation with a physician; but a supplemental study piece that gives patients the kind of knowledge and tools to ask informed questions and make savvy decisions.

From a quick review of the history of modern neurophysiology to how drugs accumulate in the body long-term and why effective treatment of depression relies on different factors, readers receive a thorough, professional foundation of insights based on history, research, typical medical office applications, and knowledge of dosages, overdoses and exactly how different drug classes work.

Millions of Americans currently take antidepressants. How many of them really know what they are taking? With the help of this book, which organizes technical information into a series of non-technical definitions, visual charts, and detailed discussions; they'd at least have the basic medical details at their fingertips.

While all this information is not unique to Understanding Antidepressants, having it all under one cover in a succinct, non-technical, accessible format creates a survey that should be given to any depressed patient and their loved ones who want to understand what they're being given, how the drugs work, and their potential benefits and detriments.

The Palm Reader
Christopher Bowron
Koehler Books
9781633936362, $18.95, Softcover
9781633936386, $26.95, Hardcover
9781633936379, $7.99, eBook

The Palm Reader provides a Jackson Walker thriller read to audiences with an affinity for fast-paced reads with strong regional roots and edgy, surprising conflicts.

In this case, Southern Florida's swamps provide the backdrop for a story that pairs the investigative lawyer's personal struggles with a case that mirrors his controversies and heightens his angst.

While the disappearance of a sleazy client specializing in taboo pornography might seem more like just desserts or possible flight than a real mystery that deserves attention, Jackson comes to find that far more is involved. The disappearance is actually careful bait designed to lure him into an Everglades Black Mass where he is slated to serve as the sacrifice in the Church of Satan's ritual.

Not so fast: Jackson may be relatively unfamiliar with the Church and its designs on his life; but that doesn't mean his ignorance will lead straight to disaster. Jackson is not only a savvy investigator; but he's faced demons in his life before. This isn't the first time that he's found past and future on a collision course of familiarity and repetitive patterns.

Meanwhile, a fortune teller's visions complicate matters for all, creating conundrums as she foresees a grizzly death as well as an alternative future in which the victim is destined for greatness. Lolita's connections with the spirits and her ability to tap into supernatural forces lend a mystical element to Jackson's life and endeavors. As her connection to Jackson evolves, she finds herself immersed in a situation beyond her usual fortune-telling interactions.

On one level, The Palm Reader is about one man's ongoing struggles to come to terms with his life and abilities. On another, it's about a woman with special talents who stumbles into evil forces beyond her control and ability to predict, the winding association they create as a subplot to the wider questions of justice, pursuits, and the dance between good and evil.

Thriller readers will quickly discover that many complex and involving insights are added into the mix; from cultural and social influences to the possible reality of spirits, good and bad karma, and Jack's ability to reconcile his hard-nosed reality with a more ethereal realm's influences.

The result is a gripping thriller which excels in unusual twists and turns, explorations of family heritage and truths, and one man's ongoing journey as he explores new connections and threats to his life.

Thriller readers who enjoy more than a light touch of supernatural discussion will relish The Palm Reader's ability to weave a delicate dance between different perceptions of reality and their ultimate influences on life and death as Jackson confronts his own personal devils.

Without Jenny
Mark Gunther
Koehler Books
9781633935440, $16.95, Softcover
9781633935464, $29.95, Hardcover
9781633935457, $7.99, eBook

Mark Gunther's hard-hitting novel Without Jenny presents the emotionally charged story of parental grieving over the loss of a child, yet is distinguished from similar accounts of parental grieving through the inclusion of Judaism and its rituals. These are fully explored in a fictional format that adds understanding as it captures the drama, pain, and conflicts of a young life abruptly ended.

Readers of literary fiction receive a story that begins with a happy, successful family headed by mother Joy. When ten-year-old Jenny is killed, Joy struggles with a level of grief that seems to hold no comfort; whether it be from the Jewish community, her husband, or surviving family members. Her downward spiral will feel more than familiar to any parent who has suffered the loss of a child, then faced the feelings of disconnecting from the values and purposes of life itself.

From puzzling visions that challenge her perceptions of her once-ordered world to specific challenges faced by couples who mourn differently, Without Jenny holds the ability to immerse its readers both in the process of grief and in the challenges to recovery. Joy's husband can " . . remember seeing my dad through the door of his bedroom, sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. That became what grief looks like to me. But it doesn't work for me, putting my head in my hands. It doesn't work for me to do what you're doing, whatever it is. I don't see how it isn't just going to be there, every day for the rest of my life. It's going to be a lot harder to manage if you go south on me." Joys thought is "Manage. That's it? She had nothing more to say...It's going to be really, really hard, she thought, to get through this together.")

Jewish rituals, teachings, and insights are a big part of Joy's process; and while readers without spiritual inclinations might find these processes a surprising adjunct to the usual psychological approach to grief, they are a big part of the story that adds an extra dimension of understanding of the various ways of accepting the sudden death of a child.

Another device that might surprise or even stymie some readers is Joy's relationship with "Dead Jenny" and how this appears to guide her way: "Good. Cut yourself a little slack, said Dead Jenny. I like it when you're nice to me, Joy told her." Those with specific spiritual belief systems might chafe at some of these perceptions; but they, too, are a powerful piece of the overall story, and ideally they won't dissuade literary fiction readers holding different belief systems.
How does the luckiest woman in the world face the dissolution of not just a child, but other pillars of her life? Without Jenny dives into a personal hell hole but shows how powerful rituals and examinations can bring a grieving parent out the other side to a brave new world.

Without Jenny is a highly recommended pick for literature readers able to fully absorb the story's various themes, character conundrums and growth, insights on Jewish rituals and philosophy, and how a family moves through a touch-and-go situation to embrace life once again.

Fast Backward
David Patneaude
Koehler Books
9781633936140, $18.95, Softcover
9781633936164, $26.95, Hardcover
9781633936157, $7.99, eBook

Fast Backward takes a different approach to the threat of nuclear annihilation by directing its story to young adult audiences who experience events from fifteen-year-old paperboy Bobby Hastings' perspective as he witnesses the explosion of a nuclear bomb at a secret military base in 1945. Even more puzzling is the sudden appearance of a naked girl who speaks with a German accent and begs for acknowledgement that she's a time traveler with an important message from the future about a forthcoming war.

She's on a mission to change history; but can she be believed? And even if she is believed, can history be changed by a teenager?

Time travel and history-changing stories are nothing new in the YA world: the literature is so loaded with such tales that the 'time-slip' genre has been well established.

What is satisfyingly different about Fast Backward is not only its potential to provide an alternate history story to younger audiences who may not be prior fans of alternate history or timeslip sagas, but its marriage of timeslip sci-fi and historical issues.

David Patneaude chooses the first person as a method of delivering a "you are there" feel to Bobby's story, and this works particularly well to capture his challenges, the puzzle of Cocoa's appearance and message, and the larger question of what a teenage boy can do that adults cannot.

As Cocoa faces interrogation and threats from the very government forces she seeks to influence and protect, readers are given a thoroughly engrossing story that centers on Cocoa's role as a possible historical time bomb: "After a flurry of farewells, McCloy and his driver are gone like a passing hailstorm, heading back to Albuquerque for the night before returning to Washington. The rest of us sit and wait. For what? Something from Cocoa? Nobody stares at her, but she's the center of attention anyway. An encyclopedia. A time-bomb. A secret weapon harboring secrets not even she knows."

The inclusion of racy language should be mentioned for those who look for 'clean action'; but this is well-defined and is designed to add to the realism of Bobby's reactions and encounters as the plot embarks on a fast pace towards a riveting conclusion.

Its anti-war message is stark, engaging, realistic, and hard to put down; making Fast Backward a highly recommended read not just for young adults, but for adults seeking an unusually compelling alternative history timeslip saga.

How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book
Penny C. Sansevieri
Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
B07C6V6NRF, $3.95

In an ideal world, How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book: Simple and Smart Strategies to Sell More Books would be on the reading list of any self-published author considering a re-release or new edition of their book because in making such a move, a world of new marketing opportunities opens up that is too often missed.

Most believe that a daunting level of work is involved in a book re-release, but as Penny C. Sansevieri points out, there are different levels of re-releases and the work involved needn't necessarily be prohibitive or overwhelming.

There are different approaches involved in re-releases and different choices that come with each option; all of which are covered in this guide.

An author has many reasons to consider re-releasing a book, from books that have failed in their original goals and which need editing and revision to an author re-acquiring the rights to their book, looking for a better cover, or updating information contained in the original production.

The reasons for re-launching a prior publication can be many; but Sansevieri points out that the choices involved in these processes are similar and her book covers each option; from determining whether a new cover image would worth the new release effort to how to make a new version stand out on Amazon, how to bundle an older book with a newer one to revive interest, and how to promote the re-release differently and more effectively than the original production.

Many publishing guides gloss over the potentials of the re-release, but How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book's specific considerations show how to make the most of the effort and how to reach into areas the original publication might have missed both in audience development and marketing approaches.

The result should be a 'must read' for any author looking to re-release their book for whatever reason; who needs specifics on the special opportunities present in the re-release environment.

Walking Shadows
Chijioke Dikeocha
Farreach Books
9781985088443, $17.95 Paper; $4.99 Kindle

Ordering Link:

Book trailer:

Regular readers of Nigerian fiction know that a form of renaissance is taking place around the world: African-centered literary works are on the rise. Walking Shadows: Stories of Tragedy, Love & Triumph is just one example of a form of contemporary fiction that winds Nigerian social reflection and issues into a literary work designed to appeal beyond Nigeria's borders.

Each story in this nine-piece set outlines a different facet of social struggle through the eyes of a very different protagonist, from campus lovers affected by both a love potion and a professor's lustful envy to a young boy's journey to the Kingdom of Animals; a place from which no human returns.

It's important to note that no prior familiarity with either Nigerian literature or the nation's social issues is required in order to find these stories enlightening, educational, and compelling. Chijioke Dikeocha outlines universal experiences of love, struggle, change, and survival; and these are themes any reader can readily understand.

Greater issues embrace each individual story; from the speed of life that leads an inquisitive young mind to confront a tortoise's choices and style of movement through existence and a lesson in diplomacy in 'My Journey with Tortoise to the Animal Kingdom' to the lessons learned outside of school in 'Hard Times Never Last' as Chuks at last takes an exam cancelled previously due to violence, only to find his dreams shattered by their results.

As with most writings from those who don't claim English as their first language, at times the phrasing or punctuation in these pieces gives pause for thought ("He was honest in the school as a teacher."). But it also should be noted that while better editing might have smoothed these moments, they could also have detracted from the atmosphere and voice of the author as he captures various scenarios with honesty and humor. There is a brief explanation of some non-English words and expressions used in my book in the Notes section provided at the end of the book.

Readers of African literature will find these stories reflect the social atmosphere and culture of Nigeria, providing enjoyable works that nicely describe the dilemmas and struggles of individuals who strive for circumstances beyond their stations and sometimes beyond their control.

Marriage By Fire
Nancy Scott
Big Table Publishing Company
9781945917318, $15.00 Paper/$8.00 Kindle

Readers of women's literature who enjoy snapshots of life and relationships will appreciate the approach of Marriage By Fire, the story of an otherwise-rational woman who finds herself too readily accepting all the challenges of bad boy Mike.

Claire's husband Ben is attracted to both sexes and as they move through life together, a number of 'ambiguous circumstances' come to her attention that results in fights between them. Despite this, Claire is relatively happy (minus sexual satisfaction): she is busy with their kids, demanding jobs, and generally enjoys her life and the arrangement they have.

Divorce seems inevitable, given the opening pages of the story, and it's then that Claire's life really begins to open up.

Poetry and prose highlight chapters in which Claire embarks on her own journey, continually drawn to "men in trouble." Her conversations with men about relationships and marriage never quite seem to be in sync with her companions' views or willingness to examine their own mistakes and romantic prospects, and so Claire often finds herself on shaky ground with many of them ("Some days I felt in control. Then something would happen - a word, a gesture, an object carelessly dropped on the floor - and suddenly nothing made sense anymore. I felt as if I were planning my future on sand.").

With Mike, rationality and reasoning fly out the window. Claire finds herself in some questionable situations, and as the novella moves through her encounters, female readers are led to question their own concepts of romance, edgy relationships, and processes of seduction.

In the midst of a divorce, Claire finds herself searching for something different; and just what that difference will comprise is anyone's guess.

Women who choose leisure reads for their focus on relationships and life choices will find Marriage By Fire provides more food for thought than the usual light relationship probe. It considers connections within and outside marriage, the roots of infidelity and sexual identity, and follows Claire's myriad encounters with Ben, Mike, Charles, and others as she tries to figure out what she really wants from life and men.

The result is an account of ultimatums and transformations that will especially appeal to women's fiction readers who like to sample their scenes in small bites and learn from psychological insights as they consider Claire's evolution.

Peregrine's Call
Elizabeth Cole
SkySpark Books
9781942316299, $4.99

Peregrine's Call is the fourth book in the Swordcross Knights series, is set in 1146, and tells of Robin, a homeless orphan in rural England. She survived by assuming the guise of a boy and hunting her food until she was rescued by a kindly family and raised to be a proper women, but Robin still maintains a wild heart in search of a cause. It's ironic that she endured starvation and threats to survival only to discover that her greatest challenge lies in her conflict between becoming a lady versus finding and championing a cause, but Robin's greater challenge lies in an uneasy association with a knight who might be the only thing that can either guide her towards domesticity or encourage her to finally accept a different destiny than keeping house.

Lady Robin makes for an attractive countenance: can she reconcile this with her Warrior Robin persona? And what about romance: is this goal outside of her comfort zone?

As she comes to realize that her traveling companion may be more than a fellow wanderer, and he gets to know Robin beneath her volatile exterior, both find their journeys increasingly treacherous and each other progressively more compelling.

Politics and confrontations, a trio that defies all definition and logic, and secret messages to kings that are worth dying for makes for a fast-paced saga that requires no prior familiarity with the Swordcross Knights series in order to prove immediately accessible and compelling.

Robin's character truly blossoms in this tale as she embraces all the possibilities of her life and looks for a kind of connection that defies death, duty, and social expectations.
Elizabeth Cole excels in providing a read that captures the atmosphere of the times, juxtaposing Robin's evolving sense of self with the greater concerns of the society around her. The result is an engrossing story of a journey that moves from physical to emotional, and which neatly concludes yet holds the door open for further adventures.

Readers of historical fiction, romance, and coming of age sagas will find Robin's character a vivid creation, her dilemmas compelling, and her world a lively set of choices that all hold lasting consequences and possibilities, and will find that Peregrine's Call is hard to put down once the journey is begun.

From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal
Christopher Cooper
Independently Published
9780692105702, $22.00, Hardcover
9781979335423, $14.00, Paperback
B07DHZHNQS, $3.99, Kindle

From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal charts the author's path through hell from the death of a loved one, but holds several differences from the usual account of grief and dying.

Christopher Cooper's counselor introduces his story, admitting that when he first came to her for help in accepting and living through his wife's imminent demise, she questioned her ability to help him. Unlike others in such situations, Cooper was only thirty years old and just beginning his life in many ways; not at the end of it, like so many who face the loss of a spouse from a terminal condition. He had babies to care for and a life to rebuild.

With this and other factors in mind, she began not at the usual first stage of the five stages of grief; but at the last: acceptance.

Cooper lived through his wife's agonizing cancer progression, her death, and beyond. His descriptions of this process pull no punches, it should be warned: they are brutal reminders of cancer's terrible toll on everyone involved: "After more than a year and a half of fighting, thinking we had beat her cancer, and then finding out it was back for good, that it would eventually kill her, after her struggling through countless rounds of treatment and the horrible side effects it caused, after all of that, she was exhausted. Jenn didn't want to die, but she was ready. This spasm, which she described as exponentially more painful than child labor contractions, and which must have lasted for twenty minutes as we lay on the living room floor, she curled in the fetal position while I held and talked her through it, this was the thing that finally broke her."

From Hell to Happiness doesn't sugar-coat or gloss over a single moment of the experience; and that's the second remarkable aspect of its story. It lends a 'you are there' feel to events which go beyond following Cooper's life and experiences to delve right into the agony and ecstasy of love, loss, and survival processes.

A third note to his story is that no false hope is offered. There is no magic pill for grief and loss: only the experience of another man's journey through hell and back again, and some of the lessons it offers which may resonate with the reader: "By sharing my story in this book, I hope to help others who are going through their own devastation or grief. Cancer sucks. Any terminal illness sucks. You watch your loved one disappear one small piece at a time. Sometimes it takes a while before you realize, "Wow, they didn't used to be this way." It is hard. It is gut wrenching. How do you cope when the life you built with someone you love is falling apart? I offer no promises or easy answers. These pages do not contain expert opinions or science but my personal experience. You may learn more about your own journey by reading about mine. While everyone's grieving process is different, many of the emotions and coping mechanisms are the same. What worked for me and my family might work for you and yours."

By now, it should be evident that Christopher Cooper writes with a remarkably candid, straightforward approach that pulls no punches. During his wife's initial treatment for an exceptionally aggressive form of breast cancer, Cooper mused on life without her, driven by the grim statistic that her form of cancer (triple negative) held a zero percent survival rate after five years. He envisioned a joyless future as a struggling single father trying to juggle family and career alone without his beloved partner and without all the dreams they held for their future. He wondered if happiness would ever return to his life. And he faced her ongoing battle, which wore both of them down and changed their strength, personalities, and relationship.

Throughout the remainder of her life, he cultivated new tools for 'living in the now', and after her death he was challenged to use these and the task of rebuilding his life without her. Her caretakers and family also weigh in, here, while color photos capture her journey to provide startlingly real reminders of the progression of not just her disease, but her connections and relationships to those in her life.

From Hell to Happiness offers others in similar situations a series of frank insights from Cooper's experience. While it can't be said to be a 'blueprint' in the usual sense because everyone's approach and lives are different, it does make for a remarkably astute, sincere coverage that others may use to help clarify and support their own choices, options, and lives.

Those struggling with grief, a new diagnosis of a terminal condition, or an end-of-life changed relationship should read From Hell to Happiness. Its lessons resonate in a voice that is strikingly clear, reflective, and specific about how Jenn and Christopher handled the end of her life and the advent of his revised goals. It was all about finding the 'silver linings' which made this transition not just survivable, but a gentler shift for the entire family. The experiences charted in From Hell to Happiness provide a invaluable lessons on better approaches to death and its aftermath.

Prime Time Rising
David H. Lewis
9781986148726, $12.95

A celebration of 1950s TV programming and a selection of color ad images promoting the infancy of the television age introduces Prime Time Rising: Growing Up at the Dawn of Television, a history and celebration of early TV in America which includes many rare, hitherto-unseen images and references from The Museum of and Radio and Television in Beverly Hills (now named The Paley Center for Media), which offered David H. Lewis a treasure trove of early-day TV programming for this book.

From how Lewis initially fell in love with television (thanks to hospitable neighbors with the new technology) to other cultural pleasures of the 50s, including board games and a slower pace of life that actually involved sitting still, the atmosphere and attractions of these times are nicely portrayed.

Vintage movie stills and black and white and color images throughout nicely illustrate this discussion of favorite moments in TV shows such as I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, and Ozzie and Harriet. Each review of show themes and approaches offers a contrast between the cultural and social milieu of the 50s and modern times; and each provides not a sage critique but a fiery assessment designed to capture a flavor of these times. They often conclude with an assessment of the lasting impact of TV shows on American society as a whole: "Gleason's Ralph Kramden quickly grew suspicious of infidelities or betrayals, and his bellowing outrage could nearly blow the entire set into smithereens. Soon enough, finally faced with the truth, volcanic anger melted into contrition and humility, and he faced wife or best friend like a whimpering child. In its irascible way, The Honeymooners championed strong traditional values."

This is just one example of how Lewis employs vivid, scene-capturing language to introduce new audiences to these old-time shows, bringing them to life even for those without a prior familiarity with early television. The main audience for this discussion will, however, be media fans and those already familiar with some or most of the shows, who will especially appreciate the walk through time and comparative analysis that Lewis brings to the table.

The cultural reflections are astute, lively, and engrossing as they capture not only the overlay of television's rise to importance in average American living rooms, but the atmosphere powering these shows and their reception: "American hubris. Oh, what a show. The country became so full of itself, that being the best on the globe was hardly enough. We had to be better than best. Super good. Super right. Super smart. From eggheads to autos, ours, we bragged, were the brightest and the best in the world...Funny and yet so wholly appropriate that American bravado would end up facing its ultimate challenge - and a not very pretty outcome - on a TV game show set, where contestants from all walks of life sweated under glaring lights to answer erudite questions fit for practicing professors. Questions requiring them to recite phrases from famous poems; to identify inventors of popular products, to link places to events. On television, anybody could be an egghead, no entrance exam required. All they need do was supply the correct answers - or make it appear as if they were. Hordes of aspiring contestants lined up for the opportunity to be screened for the volunteer role of Very Smart Person."

As Lewis delves into political events and changing cultural perceptions, Prime Time Rising documents how television both influenced and reflected these changes in American society. It turns out that the earlier chapters discussing the rise of television programming and viewing in the country set the stage for a broader reflection on media influences on American perception and values. This adds an extra dimension to a discussion which at first seems a history of early television; but then moves into more compelling surveys of the changing nature and impact of TV's influence over the decades.

The result is a map of changing life which bases itself in prime time programming choices but adds a nice dose of drama and lively discussion into the mix. Having a cultural examination and media history under one cover may sound like daunting reading (and, under another hand or approach, it would be), but the special attraction of Prime Time Rising lies in its ability to retain and maintain a vividly engrossing atmosphere throughout.

Readers who want to travel through time to consider just how prime time evolved and its lasting impact on Americans will relish the facts, rare images and insights, and astute discussions in this all-encompassing survey of American television programming history and its cultural evolution.

Ideas, Influences and Income
Tanya Hall
Greenleaf Book Group
9781626345140, $21.95
9781626345157, $9.99, eBook

Ideas, Influence, and Income: Write a Book, Build Your Brand, and Lead Your Industry goes beyond most writers' guides on how to write to address the nuts and bolts of not just publishing, but successfully launching a book.

The meat of Ideas, Influence, and Income lies in the idea of creating a brand: something many authors should focus on; but few actually understand. This focus on gaining clarity about publishing choices, objectives, and the mechanics of building an author platform covers all the bases authors need to know to not just publish their book, but identify its audience, reach them, and assure success.

From protecting a book's content and copyright to considering the appropriateness and help of an agent, developing a unique book idea so that the author is perceived as an 'expert', and calendaring writing goals to stay on track, Ideas, Influence, and Income creates important links between initial book ideas, the road to publication, and the relationship between a book's appearance and its potential for growth and success.

The result goes well past what most books cover on the publishing process, providing would-be authors with discussions that assume no prior business or book industry knowledge. Ideas, Influence, and Income fills in the blanks by charting tested paths to achievement in the publishing world.

Ideas, Influence, and Income should not only be on the reading lists of aspiring writers, but should be required reading for anyone who would see their idea to fruition and their published book on the road to recognition and acclaim.

Fresh Start: A Guide to Eliminating Unhealthy Stress
Sarah O'Flaherty
Connect the Dots
9781980919841, $7.99 Paperback, $0.99 Kindle

Amazon link:

Plenty of books have been written about burnout, stress, and emotional challenges in life; but Fresh Start: A Guide to Eliminating Unhealthy Stress offers a difference in acknowledging these challenges to healthy living with an eye to addressing and reducing the sources of such stress.

From a basic definition of what constitutes stress to insights on its incarnation, management, and not just one but several different coping strategies, Fresh Start advocates the notion that stress can be put in its place to allow for a healthier, more active engagement with life.

As chapters survey the kinds of life events that are both intentionally and accidentally influenced by personal choice, they consider how negative cognitive patterns too often serve to reinforce, create, or add to stress to create a repetitive blueprint of negative actions, reactions, and choices. This in turn leads to major differences in the ways that people approach life and its challenges.

This is not to say that tension isn't useful, but that sometimes it holds value and, other times, it's unnecessary. Fresh Start shows how to differentiate between the two and how to mitigate the effects of everyday tension in favor of the kinds of challenges that encourage growth.

From cultivating healthier relationships through a variety of strategies to figuring out what triggers stress and how to cope with it, Fresh Start offers many different keys to better life experiences. It is especially recommended for self-help readers who know they are too often under the kinds of stress that doesn't lead to productive choices.

Gazelle in the Shadows
Michelle Peach
Independently Published
9780692112762, $11.99, Paperback
9780692116500, $3.99, Kindle

Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University and has achieved one of the pinnacles of success: study abroad in Damascus, where she will continue her immersion in the Arab language and culture. It's the latter which involves her, next; and which creates the atmosphere and cultural exploration of Gazelle in the Shadows.

While this might seem a straightforward story of an extended education, Gazelle in the Shadows opens with the kidnapping of the former British diplomat which introduces her present-day dilemma before she begins to reveal her past and the circumstances which led up to it.

One important note is that this story line isn't about identifying criminal, terrorist, or political forces alone. Michelle Peach creates an atmosphere of cultural understanding and discovery in the course of presenting Elizabeth's dilemmas and challenges. This serves to both personalize proceedings and setting and educate readers about the various forces at work in the Middle East.

Even though she becomes immersed in a series of events that involve deception, murder, and life-threatening encounters, Elizabeth also cultivates trust among her female associates, is excited about exploring the region and its peoples, and uses diary entries and descriptions to consider the lives and social and political influences of those she encounters.

Her resiliency and attitude go far to help her survive when things turn bad, and readers receive a fine, multi-faceted survey of her world which includes her discovery that some of her initial friendships may have served political interests, placing her in a position of danger as she comes under surveillance by those she initially trusted.

Gazelle in the Shadows is a hard-hitting and vivid journey undertaken by a language student who finds herself captive in more ways than one. Elizabeth eventually discovers that her experiences are alienating her from everyone she once trusted.

Compellingly realistic and packed with both psychological and physical action, Gazelle in the Shadows adds an extra layer of cultural understanding to its espionage thriller theme, making it a recommendation for genre readers seeking more cultural insights from their fiction than others would offer.

The People's Crusade
Val Jensen II
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181406, $14.99, paper, 6.99 ebook

In 1096, the Crusades fired up religious fervor among the populace of France. Their passionate call for action affected lives around the world; but in this novel, they especially impact a forbidden relationship between Jewish girl Channah and Anseau of Valois.

Book One of The Lotharingian Chronicles sets the atmosphere of these times, from politics to religious beliefs, and emphasizes that, in those days, Jewish people were viewed as alien entities and local relationships with the Church were more important than life or love. Battles in England between Normans and Saxons are depicted where Geoffroi, once a soldier in the battles in England between Normans and Saxons, is worried about his impressionable son from afar ("...we grow more worried about Anseau. He follows his heart and doesn't listen to reason."), and a monk's portent of terrible times ahead precede Anseau's journey.

This evolves into a quest which sparks a host of questions rather than leading to any logical resolutions ("Anseau unpacked the loaf his mother gave him and a pain of sadness swept over his face. It was only then that he realized how alone he was. Was all this happening? Nothing made any sense. Was it so bad that he loved a Jew? Was his love hurting anyone? He knew why Gile cared. Gile only wanted to see him suffer."). Not only is his love under attack by Church-backed ideals, but Anseau finds he must move away from his more passive role in life to become a leader in political circles and a champion of his heart's true desire.

Plenty of books have been written about the Crusades era; both nonfiction and fiction. Few succeed in capturing the atmosphere and purpose of the times like The People's Crusade, which juxtaposes the moral, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas of a young man's life with his initiation as an active participant in his world's politics and social mores.

Val Jensen II's descriptions of duels, battles, training, and the Church's powerful influence on faith and life decisions are detailed and exact. Readers receive a good amount of solid history which intersects nicely with Anseau's life and perspectives as he marches into both danger and transformation.

From sieges and encounters with inhabitants of other countries to Channah's trials as she loses family, country, and everything she loves in life, Marie, Geoffroi, Anseau, and other characters find their family ties torn and rebuilt, their purposes in life revised, and their beliefs assailed by guilt, self-doubt, and the swirl of religious fervor around them.

Anseau must decide who he is really fighting for: his bishop, or his freedom of choice. Channah must survive devastation to bring new hope into the world. As each character experiences their own trials against the backdrop of the Crusades era, readers become thoroughly engrossed in their different dilemmas; and that's the strength of a story that is vividly portrayed, steeped in well-researched fact, and which brings the Crusades era to life.

Readers of historical fiction will especially appreciate the reflective moments throughout the story ("He thought about all the choices he made so far - life and death choices, moral choices, choices he made because of the vow he took, and the very few choices he had left.") which provide the depth and emotional connections needed to make Anseau's world and saga completely compelling reading.

Take It Back
D. Ray Thomas
Amazon Digital Services
B079C8ML1K, $0.99

Take It Back is the first short read in a series by the same name, pairing action with unexpected humor in a story designed to attract and hold the interest of busy readers who look for entertaining, absorbing tales without the demanding complexity in so many modern productions.

In order for a quick read (under 100 pages) to prove engrossing, every word counts; more so than with longer stories that have more room for description and forgiveness if some passages fail to compel. Thus, Take it Back is packed with moving moments in nearly every paragraph; not the least of which is a opener that demands pursuit from the start: "I was being held at knifepoint - always knifepoint. Why, I had no idea. I was a big guy. I could see over the crowds at Walmart. People moved aside as I walked down the street. You'd think I'd warrant being held at gunpoint. But it was always knifepoint. Always. Dammit."

Douglas Gage has exposed his assailant's scheme to defraud unsuspecting health insurance recipients, and for this, he faces a con man's knife and an attack on his quest for justice for the average guy who, as it turns out, doesn't quite believe that Douglas has actually saved them. Gage is fighting for the poor, lowly man who doesn't always seek a champion or appreciate that Gage is such.

Unforgiving victims with a vested interest in remaining conned, clever men who gladly step into roles of taking advantage of others, and a special kind of Lone Ranger who attacks stupidity as well as greed contributes to a fast-paced read nicely steeped in the atmosphere of small-town lives, poverty, fights and plots, and confrontations with not just one but four conmen.

Rural Georgia comes to life in just a few pages: proof that a short piece written by a talented hand can prove just as engrossing as any full-length novel. Readers who enjoy crime stories that are specific and nicely embedded with humor and action will relish Take It Back not only for its intrigue, but for its purposeful consideration of life values.

Magic After Midnight
C. Gockel
Privately Published
B07CG36L43, $4.99
9781717012326, $18.99






Magic After Midnight's paranormal romance revolves around a strange romance between individuals who are literally from different worlds, and is based upon a work Gockel originally wrote as a short story. While reference is made to events and people in the I Bring the Fire series, prior familiarity is not required in order to enter this piece as a stranger to Gockel's world.

Marcia lives in a modern Chicago filled with magic. She is raising three children, and to one of them at least, she's the wicked stepmother who needs to be overcome. Count Darerick Razvano ("Dare") is a Night Elf who appears half her age and is in command of a secret that Marcia inadvertently stumbles upon.

Romance may be in the wind for these two; but it doesn't immediately ignite upon their initial encounter. There's a world of difference between them, special interests (children and world-preserving), and the satisfying challenges of a world both different and familiar to readers: "In the living room, the magical activity reporter on the local news is saying, "No trolls or wyrms have been spotted in Chicago today. The sea monster sighted in Lake Michigan was a partially deflated pool toy - " Since she'll be driving a rental car tonight, the news that there won't be any magical-monster related traffic jams should make her relieved, but she feels too sick to care."

When Marcia barged into the strange Night Elf Official Residence, she felt good: a new feeling, considering the illness that consumed her at the beginning of the story. Her world is finally opening up instead of contracting, and as she returns to the streets of Chicago and faces challenges apart from health concerns, Marcia brings readers along into the world of Night Elves, Dark Elves, Light Elves, World Gates, and much more.

C. Gockel is an expert at introducing background within a wider context of action and adventure: so much so that newcomers barely realize they're being given an introductory primer on this strange reality through Marcia's eyes as they follow her dilemmas and struggles.

This background shapes Marcia's world in such a way that entry into it is seamless, incorporating such specific questions as the notion that magic can either create or cure cancer; whether the royal factions of Earth and elves can find common causes and ideals; and if the age difference between two beings (Marcia's 50 years versus Dare's "three thousand and some odd centuries") will hinder the development of their relationship and deeper connections.

There's also an unexpected and regular dash of humor added to events as Marcia faces both life-changing struggles and the antics of elves who unwittingly release magic onto the internet in the form of a dancing virus.

Changing atmospheres and encounters are very agreeably detailed throughout the tale ("Dinner is over, and in the museum wing of the embassy a group of Night Elves is playing on traditional instruments. Prince Rayne is teaching a Saudi Prince and the year's Top Model a traditional dance. The floor is a moving tapestry of humans and Night Elves swirling together."), bringing this odd world to life through Marcia's eyes.

As adventure moves rapidly beyond parenting, ancient secrets, and modern struggles between these two very different worlds, readers receive a satisfyingly complex, multifaceted read that is engrossing, yet easy to absorb and nearly impossible to put down, once begun.

Magic After Midnight takes the ordinary trappings of a magical encounter and injects it with new life. With such a series of engrossing characters and conundrums, it stands out from ordinary genre reads with an original and lively flare and spark.

In Search of Jimmy Buffett
Ashley Oliphant
Warren Publishing
9781943258918 $14.95

In Search of Jimmy Buffett: Key West Revival is steeped in Jimmy Buffett music references embedded in the fictional story of Livie Green, a feisty North Carolina girl who stops toeing the line of proper behavior in high school and becomes known as 'Live It Up Livie'. Moving faster and further than her former clique of Baptist peers, Livie's life eventually comes full circle; but as the narrator of her story, Blair Chrisman (her best friend), demonstrates, her course is anything but predictable.

Events are narrated not only from Blair's observations but from letters and memorandums, emails, and third-person surveys of Livie's progression. The juxtaposition of these reporting devices lends a lively tone and differing perspectives on Livie's evolutionary process.

At some point in life, routine, ritual, and even success become jaded. Livie's newfound place in the world thus isn't the culmination of her explorations; but only a resting place that begins to unravel in middle age as she chafes at routine: "Grading papers had consumed Livie's nights and weekends for the past decade, even though only a handful of her most industrious students bothered to read her meticulous and copious revision suggestions. The futility of it all piled on the most tender spot of her already shaky emotions."

A journey to meet her idol Jimmy Buffett holds deeper questions of what Livie is really seeking from her life. The formerly-feisty "girl with the answers" now has only questions, and her path to wisdom and self-satisfaction seems frighteningly elusive even when she reaches what she thinks is a coveted destination that will reveal all: "You're on the right island to be lost. You can't sail with your anchor down. You're dragging something. Figure it out."

While In Search of Jimmy Buffett can be chosen as a "beach read", it's anything but light and airy, weaving close ties between Livie's idols and dreams and the reality of failed efforts and destinations that actually don't provide the revelations or satisfaction she'd anticipated.

Although Key West is far from her North Carolina roots, Livie comes to realize that, in many ways, she never really left home, but brought the South along with her, with all its connections and conundrums.

Steeped in Florida locales and culture, Livie's ongoing quest to find purpose in her life, In Search of Jimmy Buffett brings readers into a world that is socially fluid, spiritually revealing, and psychologically powerful. Readers will benefit from many moments of surprise in a story that provides specific insights into the process of self-assessment, growth, and enlightenment: "By putting her worries on a shelf to collect dust, she birthed an inconceivable and splendid dream into reality."

The result is a compelling saga tracing one self-aware woman's journey. It's a vivid account that interlaces insights on music and pop culture, regional influences, and the process of making a "trip towards something better" in life. Readers will especially enjoy Livie's inquisitive and determined character and how she pursues even vague hints of happiness and life goals with determination and flexibility. Livie's process of figuring out the challenges, routines, choices, and ultimate progression of her life and values makes for a lively story and compelling reading especially recommended for fans of women's contemporary literature.

In many ways, Livie's journey is a manifesto for living life to its fullest. In Search of Jimmy Buffett isn't so much a blueprint as a road map. Women who appreciate stories of self-actualization and attempts to embrace life fully will delight in Livie's vibrant self-discoveries.

The Lost Years of Billy Battles
Ronald E. Yates
Mill City Press
9781545632819, $5.99, e-book, $18.99, softcover

The Lost Years of Billy Battles concludes the 'Finding Billy Battles' trilogy with an exploration of years of kidnapping, deception, political intrigue, and adversity in the early 1900s.

Billy Battles' story is taken from the meticulous journals he kept all his life. Billy bequeaths those journals to his great-grandson, Ted Sayles, who years later put's Billy's amazing life to paper. Billy indeed vanished for several years of his life, and was presumed dead for quite some time.

Many have dreamed of entering into an alternative life; but few receive the kind of phone call that Billy did, which lead him to become an undercover agent in Mexico during its 1910-20 revolution, challenged to maintain a secret identity under the turmoil of opposing political factions conducting their own undercover manipulations of events.

It was only when things went horribly awry that he vanished, and his family and friends believed he'd perished. These missing pieces are vibrantly detailed in a story which proves hard to put down and even more surprising given the roots of its events in reality.

One pleasure of this book (and the series as a whole) is that Yates doesn't just tell Billy's story. He recreates Billy's voice and perspective to craft a saga that is thoroughly engrossing and vivid: "You would think when a man entered the sixth decade of his life that he would be settled and reasonably contented. I thought I was that man. I was wrong." Its chatty, homespun narrator's voice cements events with an original perspective often tempered with a dose of humor: "I didn't know it at the time, but, as my mother used to say, I was about to go up Fool's Hill on the slippery side."

Another plus is that while the third title in a trilogy typically demands prior familiarity with past stories, The Lost Years of Billy Battles holds the dual ability to not just pick up where the last book left off, but to form a complete stand-alone story. Thus, this focus on these 'vanished years' requires only reader interest in life in a bygone era and the kinds of social and political forces that would lead a family man to leave his home, successful career, and life for something different. Few who choose to walk out of their worlds ever leave behind such a full accounting of their disappearance.

As U.S. special interests and Mexican forces clash, Billy finds himself in the center of an impossible situation and a terrible tragedy that brings him full circle from past to present. From Mexico to the Philippines and then to Saigon and beyond, Billy traverses a world of changing friendships, experiences, and purposes. His heady series of encounters with local peoples, politics, and intrigue make for compelling reading.

However, readers expecting a story of international intrigue alone will be surprised to discover that while Billy's saga embraces world experience, he actually does return home to Chicago (albeit with a mixed-race family, a secret, and much guilt over the carnage wrought in the course of his experiences and difficult choices).

Billy's story and his globe-hopping adventures, narrated in a series of candid, engrossing descriptions, will lead any newcomer to look for the other books in the trilogy while providing prior fans with a satisfying, gripping conclusion to the saga of Billy's life and its many unexpected turns.

Shift Happens
Margot Jarvis Genger
Bumpfoot Media
9780999632512, $15.95 CreateSpace / $18.00 Ingram Spark / $4.99 Kindle

Shift Happens - Breakdowns During Life's Long Hauls is the memoir of a woman who decides to break with tradition and the confines of her 1970s lifestyle to become a long-haul trucker in a profession dominated by men and loneliness. At age 28, Margot Jarvis Genger stood at a crossroads in her life, hovering between a promising small-town California cheerleader's life after high school and down-and-out struggles with addiction and despair.

Not only did success elude her in adulthood; but Margot's psychotic breakdown precipitated an identity crisis that led her on an unexpected physical and mental journey cross-country to find not just herself, but the world that is America, and her place in it.

Readers might anticipate a memoir that largely focuses on cross-country travel adventures, but in Shift Happens, the inner journey and how it began is just as vivid and important as the outward trajectory of re-purposing one's life.

One notable aspect of this memoir is that it probes not just psychological underpinnings, but the mechanics of being a big-rig driver. Genger's trucker descriptions are well-detailed and capture the challenges and experience of learning to drive one of these big rigs: "I turned left to enter the freeway and the gears shifted up like butter. "This is so much easier than a 5x4." "A 5x4! I've never even driven one of those. But, this trailer is empty. Shifting is totally different with a load." Miguel's calm presence felt the opposite to Dick Dart."

Just as clear-cut are the self-assessments Genger makes about her addiction, identity, and the realities of her life: "I didn't drink near as much as Bobby or my mother or Ben. I'd never passed out in the gutter. I owned a house, was saving money, kept my promises. Fear didn't run my life. I wasn't a flake. Mostly, I had already recovered from this supposed "bottom" everyone in AA talked about. I knew I didn't belong in AA. I wasn't an alcoholic."

Her longing for real friendships, connections, and a different future are some of the motivators causing her to re-examine not just her goals and progression through life, but her perceptions of the realities of her choices.

This self-examining focus returns to her roots as she considers the influence of family patterns and her problems with AA's particular method of self-examination: "I'd heard volumes on the absurdity of adults blaming their parents for their own poor choices. Being raised by an alcoholic might be an interesting aside, but I could hardly blame my mother for my predicament. Besides, for being drunk every night of her life, she sure had plenty of people who loved her. She held a good job and never missed work. Who was I to cut her down in an AA meeting? And really, why would I blow the whistle on her when my mother was the one friend I had?"

By now it should be evident that Shift Happens is neither fish nor fowl: it's not a travelogue, a psychological inspection, or a survey of influences on poor choices and revised attitudes; but incorporates facets of all these approaches in the interest of bigger-picture thinking.

Readers interested in recovery, transformation, self-assessments, and landscapes of America and how Americans grow, change, and live will find Shift Happens a multifaceted memoir that takes personal experience and closely considers how deep connections are formed with a new 'tribe' committed to sobriety and living life fully.

Its lessons are poignant reminders of the journey, rest stops, and opportunities for change that life offers which, when grasped with both hands, can lead to the kinds of lasting connections that transform everyday patterns with new meaning.

Shift Happens is especially recommended for readers on the road to making such changes themselves.

They Must Be Monsters
Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad
The Manor Publishing House
9781732448902 $TBA

Anyone who grew up in 1980s America likely recalls the explosion of allegations and information surrounding a California preschool sexual abuse case that hit the newspapers and resonated throughout society with long-term impacts on social systems, psychological processes, childcare standards, and parenting approaches alike.

They Must Be Monsters: A Modern Day Witch-Hunt: The untold story behind the McMartin Phenomenon - the longest, most expensive criminal case in U.S. history documents the McMartin Preschool Trials. It weaves a narrative nonfiction prose with authentic records to tell the perspective of a schizophrenic mother whose perceptions of 'monsters' running her son's preschool instigated a process that changed the awareness and lives of those around her in a prestigious Manhattan Beach community, much as the Salem witch hunt events achieved in early American history.

The first thing to note about They Must Be Monsters is that its format lends to pursuit by readers looking for entertainment value as much as education.

An introduction cements the personal experience the authors had with these events and their early awareness that these would not only set but define the stage for broader issues: "Ironically, I'm afraid, with all of our progress and advancement, we've devolved in the most subtle ways. A simple accusation, true or contrived, enters the news cycle and moves across the airwaves before facts are verified, destroying reputations before due process takes form. False narratives incite angry mobs into the streets, where they loot and burn down businesses in some misguided act of retribution. Across the globe, our fellow countrymen are beheaded by zealots, and yet our interest wanes as the next newsflash hits our smart phones. Sadly, after so many volumes of history as our reference, common sense and decency continue to take a backseat to a salacious story. People hear what they choose to hear. They believe what they choose to believe. There is no defense against a wave of passion. There is no reasonable defense."

It's the birth, evolution, and process of this 'wave of passion' that proves so riveting in a book that, ironically, may be especially relevant in modern times with the advent of 'alternate reality' and 'fake news' scenarios. Previously unpublished real facts in this particular case provide the backdrop for the heart-stopping implications of social hysteria as the story moves from singular experience to social change, following how insanity can spread even over a long period of time, such as the thirty-year period documented herein.

After introductions provide historical perspective and discuss interview processes, ensuing chapters present the creative non-fictional overlay of preschool figurehead Virginia McMartin and the determined passion of a mother who becomes convinced that her boy has been raped by authorities at school.

The choice of using creative dialogues and inconsequential embellishments is a solid one because it lends a gripping drama to real events and allows for expanded descriptions and perceptions that strike at the heart of what forms a belief or conviction, how it grows, and how it expands beyond the participants to become part of society's popular mythology.

As events embrace death threats, a dissolved marriage, an unhinged mother who pursues both justice and her own personal demons, court proceedings, and children removed from their homes, it's easy to trace how one mother's passion becomes a society's flashpoint for change.

At each step, Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad document the perceptions, logic, illogic, and influences that lead to each character's perceptions, choices, and decisions that in turn hold a lasting impact on everything around them. They researched both the original events in the 1980s and their impact on modern times, interviewing those on all sides, from accusers to defenders, spending three years doing so in order to tell both sides of the story from different perspectives. Their account not only documents the origins of social hysteria, but shows how these generate their own definitions of reality and revised values throughout society.

As social workers, law enforcement entities, and individuals become caught up in something far greater than a singular possibility or event, Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad offer perspectives on various possibilities through a research-supported account that injects questions, answers, and ideas to supplement actual events and their interpretation.

Satanic cults, law enforcement raids, spiritual, social, and political perspectives, and child abuse task forces charged with investigating similar crimes enter into the overall story's evolution, creating a multifaceted analysis that moves unexpectedly far beyond a singular perspective to embrace a wide range of issues.

Anyone who lived through these real-life events, and generations that came after who live with their results, will find They Must Be Monsters a vivid account not just of one community's eye-opening changes; but of a process that affected American perceptions and reflects ongoing ideas of monsters and saviors today.

Very, very highly recommended not just for its detailed background research and approach; but for its ability to tailor a wealth of information into a digestible, understandable narrative non-fiction format that will hold readers riveted to the end, highlighting lasting questions about the underlying causes of community hysteria and its implications in modern times.

Wheels Up - A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival
Jeanine Kitchel
Jeanine Kitchel, Publisher
9780692064696, $13.95, paperback
9780692097212, $3.99, e-book Kindle
ASIN (Amazon) B07CQDK8MY

Imagine a jet loaded with two tons of cocaine careening over the Yucatan peninsula jungle, out of fuel and destined to crash, with helpless passenger Layla Navarro riveted at the window observing her own imminent, certain death. Wheels Up opens with a breathtaking fall into Mexico that carries readers and Layla into the story of how she arrived at this tipping point in her life.

Layla is no stranger to this dangerous world. Her uncle was a notorious drug lord and she took over the reins of his cartel; so it's not like she simply stumbled into trouble. Danger is her chosen profession.

Many novels would quit at this already-full plate of a female drug lordess taking over the family biz; but a powerful plus to Wheels Up is its nonstop, high-octane action that embraces not just drugs and female leadership, but Latino machismo, a sex trafficking ring, amigos, bandidos and terrorists, and a host of other characters' special interests, from pilot Donavon's involvement with Canada's big-time pot dealer Clay Lasalle to Layla's attempts to save a Guatemalan girl from Layla's own business partners.

One special note to this story is the ethical conundrums it considers and reviews. Layla is not a static, classic 'bad guy' figure but a woman who confronts not just the realities of drug trafficking and political and social strife, but her own choices in navigating this uncertain terrain.

Another strength lies in the discussions of Mayan locals and folktales about Yucatan inhabitants and their jungle survival skills. Mayan culture is presented in the wider context of a dramatic thriller story. This gives readers a background knowledge that sets the stage for Layla's interactions with Clay and her ability to survive under impossible conditions in the jungle.

The tale is replete with plots, subplots, vivid descriptions of cartel operations and maneuvering, and a strong protagonist who deftly navigates both her inherited profession and her human interest in the dilemmas and lives of those around her. Her love for her people nicely dovetails with her position of power and the choices it brings to make for a multifaceted thriller that prompts readers to dig deeper to think about choices and their consequences.

It's a fast-paced race through Mexican culture and politics, local struggles, and the complex operations of cartels that pulls on emotions by creating situations that hold no clear answers and no easy way out for an already-strong woman. Layla finds that her background has not fully prepared her for the kinds of decisions she must make about the course of her life and those it touches.

Readers who enjoy high-octane international thrillers may be used to the staccato pace presented in Wheels Up; but what makes this novel a standout over others is the pairing of an already-powerful woman's dilemmas as she finds herself entangled in a complex situation that demands every ounce of the kind of integrity she never thought she had.

Wheels Up is highly recommended for thriller fans who want their female protagonists already-powerful, their knowledge of Mexican culture expanded through the story's strong attention to history and detail, and the story's conclusion delightfully unexpected.

Counting on America
Kurt Reiner & Gary Reiner
Motivational Press
9781628654912, $19.95

Everything can change in four months. In July of 1938, young Austrian Kurt Reiner, one of the authors of Counting on America, was a 25-year-old newlywed and Jewish engineering student at Vienna's Technical College. On November 10, 1938, Kurt was arrested by the German Gestapo and wound up in the brutal death camp Dachau. Thus began an eighteen-month journey of escape, terror, flight, romance, internment in France as an "enemy alien," and a series of tangential events of serendipity as raw grit and divine intervention bring Kurt and his bride to America.

If this sounds like fiction, be advised that every event is real, endowed with a ringing truth that eschews the typical approaches to escape and survival and instead opts for a survey embedded with the hope and ideals that America represents.

As chapters and experiences unfold, Hennie and Kurt's son (and co-author) came to realize the unique aspects of their experience, which documents the powerful obstacles involved in coming to America; from financial hardship and blocked immigration attempts to life lessons learned from their experiences.

Their story is packed with scarce photographs and documents that can be used in classrooms and other educational settings to help students and historians visually absorb these harrowing experiences, from the camps to the long and often seemingly-impossible journey to America.

There are so many Holocaust survivor stories already on the market that one might wonder at the need for yet another. A number of features separates Counting on America from others; from struggles between hierarchies in the camps ("As I made my way into the warm refuge, I attempted to make myself as unobtrusive as possible. I had hoped to be disregarded by those wary of an unfamiliar face. As per policy, I removed my shoes before entering. I then positioned myself close enough to the stove to absorb its warmth. Unfortunately, it was not long before my presence was discovered. I was challenged by a Jewish inmate who had advanced to the assistant of the Stubenaltester; he questioned my presence. In Dachau, the hierarchy of inmates was Blockaltester (block chief, an inmate in charge of one block), the Stubenaltester (room leader), and third, the block Schreiber or assistant Stubenaltester responsible for the paperwork.") to attempts to obtain visas and emigrate under conditions that separated husband and wife: "Personally disheartening was not hearing back from the United States for months on end, as well as our concern of finding a way to afford the exorbitant travel costs to America should our visas be approved. These challenges plus dependency on small sums of aid from our limited resources made it increasingly difficult to remain optimistic. In addition, communication between Hennie and me was typically restricted to letters and postcards. The situation was made even more forlorn by the scarcity of our personal interaction accentuated by other difficulties."

From the camps to America and the realities of living in a small Portland Jewish community and becoming noted as a Holocaust survivor, the authors provide a powerful documentary of not just two lives saved, but tests of faith, acts of individual heroism, and the realities of efforts made by Jewish and non-Jewish peoples both during and after the war: "The reality that many non-Jews were sensitive to the Jewish plight during the Holocaust is important to acknowledge; however, many non-Jewish persons were either not in a position to help or were too frightened to act."

While no Holocaust collection should be without Counting on America, it is hoped that its themes and approach will also reach into general-interest collections interested in accounts of immigration challenges and the ideals of what America actually offers to refugees seeking peace. Highly recommended.

Contemporary Bloody Literature
Martin Connolly
Snowchild Press
9781911100133, $5.50

Contemporary Bloody Literature: Stories & Poems is a synthesis of literary reflections that excel in astute observation and thought-provoking moments: "The officer clearly lived in a world where numerals and data followed strict procedures and had meanings above and beyond the ken of the uninitiated."

That said, it should be mentioned that 'literary' in this case does not translate to linear narrations, but to a style and approach to its five short stories and eighteen poems that feels fresh and new. Poems are juxtaposed with prose stories and we encounter characters in situations which only initially appear diurnal and undramatic: an employment office interview waiting room, a hospital bed, a lecture theatre. Ironies, errors of perception and miscommunication abound.

These slice of life vignettes in prose and poetry provide not just literary perspectives, but thoughts about compliance, media and data manipulation, afterthoughts and observations on behaviour, and insights into complicated interpersonal relationships.

At first glance, the poems and prose seem to jump all over the place in terms of subject and style. As readers pursue Contemporary Bloody Literature, it becomes evident that the effort should be viewed in its entirety; with each piece becoming part of a larger literary puzzle and vision.

Through Martin Connolly's eyes, the world takes shape with all its underlying psychological facets painfully exposed and explored: "Separateness had been written into this vacation from the start. Sarah and her family prepared what they had brought and Michael prepared what he had brought, and never the twain did meet."

The logic surrounding such diverse topics as work, daily living, travel, war, reading habits and family relationships comes in for some interesting scrutiny, in a variety of situations: "This line of thinking brought Michael to wonder about other aspects of his behaviour, here and in Japan." This quote comes from a story which is set in post-9.11 America, and which provides a snapshot of life at that time.

Perhaps the strongest piece in this collection is both the concluding account and the one that contributes the title to the entire effort, 'Contemporary Bloody Literature'. In this story, an eminent professor voices some strong opinions about contemporary literature in a public venue. He believes in the literary icons of the past and sees what is on offer now as a poor imitation, in a system run by people who know nothing of art. Later, Professor Gallagher comes into contact with a young female fan, one he finds alluring. He soon discovers that she is also a writer. Here, Professor Gallagher unwittingly enters terra incognita, a place of possibilities and... of dangers, too.

Literature readers who appreciate poetry and prose alike and who want a well-seasoned literary gathering of diverse perspectives and lives will relish the approaches and unexpectedly diverse scenarios of Contemporary Bloody Literature.

A Beagle's First Christmas
Pegg Chirhart
Beaver's Pond Press Inc.
9781592987450, $15.95

Special educators who look for easy lessons contained in subjects that hold near universal appeal will welcome A Beagle's First Christmas, the simple story about a little dog that will appeal from beginning readers into adult audiences despite its diminutive 29 pages.

These pages contain a gem of family story set in the countryside, are illustrated with color drawings by Mary Longley, and depict the intersection of lonely lives on a snowy country road during the holidays when a retired farmer and a lost dog find comfort in one another.

With Christmas serving as the backdrop, readers receive two perspectives: the struggles of a baby beagle puppy abandoned by its owner, and farmer Lloyd, a happily retired loner who welcomes the little lost dog into his life.

Besides the plus of covering events from two very different viewpoints, A Beagle's First Christmas cultivates an upbeat, positive perspective about life that permeates even potential disaster and gives this story a fun overlay of optimistic anticipation as the farmer gently trains his young charge and both adjust to changed circumstances that bring the spirit of Christmas into each of their lives.

As beagle and human review sweet memories and share them together, readers will delight in a story of renewed purpose in life created by the chance coming together of man and beast.

If it's a universal story of animal/human relationships, love, and heartwarming repurposing of life that's desired, whether for young chapter book readers or special education participants, then this holiday heart warmer will be the item of choice, going where other easy readers do not by creating a warm atmosphere of hopefulness revolving around the circumstances of life in general and Christmas in particular.

Musical Road Kills
Nevard Tellalian
Just Ain't Right Books
9781732015517, $19.95

Musical Road Kills is both a memoir and a caution, documenting alt rocker author Nevard Tellalian's career, her stormy love affair fellow with musician Joey Ramone, and her touring days with such big name musicians as Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. The memoir part reviews her extensive experiences in the music world and includes ribald scenes of drug use and sexual encounters. The cautionary note lies in its outline for would-be musicians and groupies about the consequences of such a lifestyle. Understanding the pressures, forces, political, and psychological challenges of a life on the road will help educate those contemplating a similar lifestyle.

Part of the charm of Musical Road Kills also lies in a critique about its style and presentation: this is not a polished piece. Awkward phrasing ("If other members of your band sing, problems like this are not so looming."), the overuse of capitalization even mid-sentence ("If you're reading this, you might not know it really DOES take a while to set up, mic, and get the sound you're looking for on drums, but if you don't want to take the time required, it's just LAZY and sloppy, and I don't think a drum MACHINE belongs on a recording anyone will hear."), and minor grammatical issues throughout beg the point that a professional editor would have polished the story and made it more accessible.

However, this criticism begs the notion that if Musical Road Kills had been a more polished production, some of the passion might have been removed from the 'rants and raves' feel of Tellalian's story; and that would be a shame.

It's this combination of practical details about touring musicians, 'oh my god' moments of sexual harassment, copyright theft, and stormy interpersonal encounters, and insider exposes of industry experiences not commonly seen in the course of musical biography that make Musical Road Kills a standout despite the observation that better editing would have produced a more sophisticated result (sans the over-capitalization, for one).

You can't say that Nevard Tellalian doesn't tell it like it is. From moral challenges to how music is packaged and sold to audiences and how political and social issues influence the musical process, Tellalian addresses issues of dynamics, connections, and recording industry publicity alike, moving readers from the microcosm of her life in rock and roll to bigger questions about musician lifestyles and the evolution of popular music as a whole.

Readers should anticipate a zealous, commanding read that reviews the pros, cons, and special world of the touring rock musician and the values and lessons this lifestyle poses.

While editorial perfectionists will likely pass on Musical Road Kills, those interested in or involved in musical circles who look for honesty over editorial accuracy will find Tellalian a candid writer who challenges many common misconceptions about musical lifestyles and musician experiences on the road.

Bindweed Highway
Aaron Michael Ritchey
WordFire Press
9781614756484, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Bindweed Highway is Book 4 of The Juniper Wars series, set in 2058 after a devastating epidemic has resulted in a mostly-female world. In this world, electrical failure has resulted in a five-state alliance, the Juniper, which is considered a deadly territory even to Cavatica Weller and her gunslinging sisters, who have carved out their survival niche in the face of ongoing threats and disasters.

The first powerful device to note about Bindweed Highway is the same atmosphere that makes the other books in this series compelling: Aaron Michael Ritchey's attention to language that is a powerful blend of vivid description and Western candor and lingo translated to a futuristic realm: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, you can't help me with this next part of my story 'cause I don't believe in you, in Saint Joseph, in Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a mule. When I was in the autumn of my sixteenth year, the silence of God drifted down upon me and I faltered. Micaiah and Pilate, the two men I loved to hate, and hated to love, had been stolen from us, or so we thought when we found the coffee mug and the bracelet outside of Glenwood Springs. The city was burning even as zeppelins shined spotlights down, trying to find us."

Part of the exceptional enchantment of this series lies this language, which injects unexpectedly vivid descriptors into the story line to create continual surprises and engrossing revelations: "Since Wren could heal at a preternatural rate, her muscles never started to atrophy. She'd grown stronger, faster, and more deadly. She'd put the beatdown on two grown men back in Aces's gladiatorial games in Glenwood Springs. But now, maybe the Gulo Delta was mutating her on a more aggressive level. Her entire skeletal structure seemed to be thickening. Maybe it was the first part of her mutating. But mutating into what? A hog? No, that was prolly just gossip. The women in the Juniper loved rumors like they liked refried beans and queso dip."

This approach transcends the usual 'show and tell' method of other authors of apocalyptic scenarios to grab readers by the collar, gives them a shake, and drops them headfirst into a heady brew of clashing environments and personalities that quickly proves hard to stop imbibing.

One might anticipate that the fourth book in a series includes the prerequisite of prior familiarity; but Ritchey's ability to sum up past events and set the scenario and pace of his world makes for an unusual stand-alone read (although those enamored of this book will surely want to pursue the others, which hold different adventures paired with the same vibrant language).

As the Weller sisters battle their way towards frontier Kansas, they discover that their enemies may not just lie around them but are within their own ranks.

Blend powerful female protagonists, volatile interactions between them and outside forces, and a rich, first-person perspective that deftly observes this strange new world and how it came to be ("The mint passed on my right, a nice big park, the Capital building, but with the roof gone on account of the gold. The U.S. Military had come in after the Knockout to get the money in the mint and to get the gold on the dome 'cause Lady Liberty was funding a war with China and every bit of cash helped.") for an exhilarating, powerful saga that both stands nicely on its own and compliments the series.

It's rare that this can be stated; but steampunk sci-fi and Western fiction readers alike will relish Bindweed Highway and its kin, which represent an unusual marriage between genres that usually are widely separated.

Very, very highly recommended.

Please Stay
Greg Payan
9781540493736, $7.99, Kindle, $12.99, Paperback

Please Stay: A Brain Bleed, A Life In The Balance, A Love Story is a poignant, striking story of a thirty-nine-year-old's life-changing brain aneurysm, and documents the struggles experienced by author Greg Payan's fiancee Holly, a vibrant, healthy, happy woman who found her world turned upside down overnight.

Readers might expect an overview of events from Payan's perspective; but one of the most notable features of Please Stay's choice of presentation is its narrowed focus on 24 days of ICU experiences and the correspondence that flowed between friends, colleagues, and family as Holly struggled for her life.

Romance and appreciation is a big part of this saga from the start ("If you're lucky, one person like Holly might come into your life - someone who makes everything you do with them just a bit better than if you did it with anyone else. She forced me to think and made me care about things I'd never thought I'd care about. Holly made me live my life deeper than I ever thought possible, and she was everything to me."), but to call Please Stay a 'romance story' alone would do it an injustice.

In reality, it's a series of love letters reinforcing life connections, only available here because Payan solicited letters from Holly's family and supporters so he could read them to her whenever she became conscious, and kept these emails and notes for future reference.

Months after Holly's unexpectedly complete recovery, an incredulous physician, who at first refused to believe that Holly's episode had taken place only five months earlier, said: "We say that eighty percent of people who have a grade IV brain hemorrhage die. And of those that live, eighty percent wish they had died."

If love was restricted, or if Holly and Greg were less connected to others, her story would have been limited to their experience and relationship alone; but the fact that they have a wide circle of friends and family unafraid of responding with love and support is part of what makes Holly's story as exceptional as her recovery in Please Stay.

Readers not only receive insights into their lives and connections to it; but on the medical challenges of aneurysms and the recovery process and prognosis.

The result is a surprisingly invigorating celebration of life unexpected in a memoir that depicts a close encounter with death: one which pulls heartstrings, educates about aneurysm and disability, and is replete with emails, text messages, and a peppering of black and white photos throughout.

Readers who seek uplifting stories of recovery and life challenges will relish the tone, presentation, and surprisingly multifaceted story of Holly and Greg's journey from the brink of no return in a saga that proves hard to put down.

Odysseus in Absaroka
John David Muth
The Aldrich Press
c/o Kelsay Books
9781947465688, $14.00

When a poem (in this case, intriguingly titled 'Her Tight White Blouse Made Me Do It') introduces a book, the reader (rightly) anticipates a poetry collection despite a title that references Odysseus, lending to anticipation of an odyssey. It should be cautioned that Odysseus in Absaroka blends the poetry format with the structure and content of a literary reflection on travel's ironies, oddities, and challenges as John David Muth embarks on a sojourn from New Jersey to Wyoming on a mountain-hiking vacation. In the course of his experiences, readers receive his vivid awakening and realizations about life in general.

To call Odysseus in Absaroka a travelogue, however, is to do it as much an injustice as to call War and Peace a military expose. There's much going on underneath the trappings of travel description, wrapped in the metaphor and the succinct form of poetic structure. Readers interested in life experiences captured in free verse will relish the observational style and progressive understanding that gives Odysseus in Absaroka a special atmosphere and flavor not seen in other poetry collections revolving around journeys and discoveries.

Take, for example, the poem 'Benadryl and Whiskey'. On the surface, it's about checking in luggage at the airport. But under the description of a slowly-moving waiting line are subtle insights on addiction, inhumanity, and the modern ennui and cruelty which underlies too many ordinary transactions in modern America: "We stand for hours/in the baggage check section/silent and forlorn/like ancient Egyptian slaves/sealed into a pharaoh's tomb/waiting to die from starvation...."Slowly moving airport employees/sip Benadryl and whiskey/from large metal cups/as they scribble signatures/on boarding passes/stifle laughs as the elderly/try to lift their suitcases onto the scales."

Contrast this beginning of the journey to later experiences for a satisfying juxtaposition of man and nature in 'First Night at the Absaroka Ranch': "The sky is scattered with stars/diamonds in the black gloved hand/of a TV movie cat burglar./There isn't a streetlight or multi-story building/for over twenty miles./I dream of a fully loaded tractor trailer/skidding on the Turnpike/during a winter storm/and awaken to the howling of a wolf."

Succinct, attention-grabbing, and thought provoking, every piece in Odysseus in Absaroka is a gem: just what poetry readers on their own physical and philosophical journeys will want to reflect upon!

Angel Curs - The Trilogy
Michael Thomas Griswold
Amazon Digital Services
B0749P389Z, $0.99 Kindle

Angel Curs - The Trilogy is a sweeping story that embraces paradigms of reality and worldviews throughout society and religious groups. Of necessity, it requires an open mind and affection for complexity from its readers.

Familiar figures permeate Michael Thomas Griswold's history; from the specter of a dying Marcel Proust introduced in the first few paragraphs to Muhammad's dialogue about the history of Angels on Earth which offers questions, answers, and a startling alternative view of life on Earth: "Muhammad was confused. "If there are no gods, who made the earth?" "Who made the gods, if the gods made the earth?" replied Michael. "These are good questions but are circular and have no answers. The path the Angels chose was to love your fellow man, love the planet, and love all the animals and plants. These are the beliefs of the Angels." Muhammad also liked the stories about Noah and the fall of Atlantis, but couldn't understand how they lost the war since the Angels were the superior race. "It was their peaceful nature which led to their defeat; they were incapable of the violence necessary for victory." Muhammad thought that was foolish. "It was the duty of the leaders to protect their people." "When someone accepts and practices love there is no turning back. A person cannot love one minute and hate the next. The Angels simply could not change who they were and lost the war and their Empire."

As one can readily see from the dialogue above, one notable facet of Angel Curs - The Trilogy lies not only in its alternative history of humanity but in challenges to belief systems, perceptions, and events that lead to alternative interpretations of well-known episodes in human history.

This places Angel Curs - The Trilogy in a difficult position, marketing-wise. It can be deemed a fantasy or an alternative history; but either definition doesn't begin to describe the underlying complexity and spiritual and philosophical challenges that Angel Curs brings to the table. It can also be recommended for audiences who enjoy stories of revised worldviews, history, and stories of conflict between individuals and nations which move from past events into future experiences around the world.

It's political in nature but personal in approach, including a host of characters who each hold their own separate worldviews and struggles; and it jumps between nations (Paraguay, Jerusalem, Hungary, Russia, Washington DC) with a breathtaking connection of the presence of Curs in the world, and their perceptions throughout time and within other cultures.

Angel Curs is presented as a trilogy of three books under one cover. This approach allows for a careful move from foundation concept to epic spiritual fantasy that is weighty in content, but essential for crafting its building blocks of understanding.

While placing all three under one cover might prove daunting to readers seeking a lighter alternative history, it should be emphasized that Angel Curs is not your usual leisure adventure read but a serious work of literature. It asks questions about what constitutes historical perception and interpretation and how actual events may be interpreted by special interests, over time.

Because it's complex, weighty, and winding, Angel Curs is not recommended for the average reader of alternative history. However, it will prove an unmitigated delight to those who look for thought-provoking, multifaceted productions that reach far beyond their genre roots to offer something different in the way of philosophical, spiritual, historical and paradigm-changing, challenging reading.

Midsummer's Bottom
Darren Dash
Home of the Damned Ltd.
9781717200211, $15.99
B07CHVFL1K, $2.99, Kindle

If the name Midsummer's Bottom doesn't lend a clue that Shakespeare somehow inspired its proceedings, consider the fact that events are introduced in a play format which stays true to the Bard's initial creation while offering a satisfyingly whimsical embellishment on the theme.

The Midsummer Players re-enact the Dream outdoors, every year, in a forest at night. This year they're joined by the fey folk, who add an extra element based on the deal Shakespeare struck with them long ago, which returns to haunt the living in both worlds on this special eve.

A prior familiarity with (or re-reading of, if too much time has gone by) Shakespeare's masterpiece is in order for proper appreciation of Darren Dash's tongue-in-cheek approach in Midsummer's Bottom. This will provide added familiarity with the foundations of the story and a renewed appreciation for how Dash moves from Shakespeare's foundation to his own take-off, set in modern times with contemporary characters.

Shakespeare's key characters return in the beginning (Puck, Oberon), but Midsummer's Bottom isn't a verbatim re-enactment of events. Chapters leave the dramatic format for the usual trappings of prose after setting the act and scene, moving into the life of Del, who has "...sold his soul - temporarily! - to the horned devil of paid employment."

As themes of magic, chaos, fairy involvements, and mundane lives converge, readers are treated to a lively romp through modern times and enchanting influences that capture the ironies and drama of adventurous encounters between fairies and humans with very different goals in life: "Have you ever been in a plane?" Ingmar asked. "Never," Finn said sadly. "I could take you up one day," Ingmar said. "I have a friend who's a pilot. I could wangle a couple of seats for us if you - " Finn gasped, grabbed Ingmar's hands and kissed the knuckles as fairies in his world were wont to do. "If you could truly take me there, Ingmar of the Dorslaer, you would have my love from now until the cessation of time." Ingmar stared at the thrill-struck banker, then at his saliva-shined knuckles. "I'll see to it as soon as I can," he gurgled."

Shakespeare fans in particular will find the atmosphere and humor exquisite. While they stay true to some of the Bard's ironic contentions and satirical approaches, they also add embellishments unique to Darren Dash's style and contemporary approach to Midsummer's spectacles.

The result blends mythology and folk stories with a satirical overlay and contemporary observation style that toes the fine line between an original work and a literary parody.

Readers who love Shakespeare in general and his Midsummer production in particular will well appreciate what Dash has done here. He combines past and present themes and settings to create a lovely synthesis of human and magical worlds as a play's recreation goes awry in unexpected ways.

Divine Choreography of Redemption: Setting the Eternal Saga in Time
William E. Jefferson
Hybrid Global Publishing
9781948181082, $19.95

Divine Choreography of Redemption: Setting the Eternal Saga in Time considers the idea, incarnation, and spiritual and philosophical mechanics of redemption; but it does so using fiction, not nonfiction analysis; and this makes the study much more palatable and accessible to general-interest readers despite its complex-sounding title.

On the Storied Sea on the ancient Isle of Estillyen in the 17th century lives a troupe of Message Makers who have traveled time and space, charged with bringing the concept of redemption to contemporary audiences too infatuated with the modern and distracting devices of their world.

The story opens in this Estillyen world, where the troupe celebrates its members and long history and faces the fact that time is about to exact its worst toll. They need to prepare for new stages upon which to bring their message of redemption. Their background is nicely synthesized in an introduction which neatly sets the stage for their next incarnation: "On February 4, 1637, as the record shows, Bevin Roberts and his troupe set foot on the Isle of Estillyen. There time moved at a slower pace. Months gave way to years, and years to decades. Eventually Bevin Roberts, like his voice, faded into time. One by one, the original troupe followed suit, yielding to the future present. Yet their storytelling ways carried on, rooted deep in Estillyen soil. Today, the Message Makers of Estillyen dutifully carry on the work of Roberts and his troupe. The ancient texts of Scripture propel them. They have a way of becoming the message."

The narrator, Story, speaks of fellow monk Brother Narrative as he reviews his purpose in life, struggles with a dry phase which thwarts his usually-effortless ability to capture events for posterity, and becomes both witness and participant in a series of events that begin with the author of an odd book and concept (Platform Building in the Age of Technopoly) and moves into realms he'd never before considered.

As the story unfolds, a classic battle between technology and spirituality unfolds which considers not just the trappings of high-tech, but its approaches to life and relationship to myths, reality, past and present, from Dante to Christ. These images and experiences portend a divine covenant and the troupe's personal encounters with figures from heaven and hell.

In some ways, Divine Choreography of Redemption reflects a journey akin to Inferno re-imagined for modern thinkers. It recreates the methods of historical reenactment, the drama of mythology and religion, and key struggles over belief systems as deftly as it weaves a narrative about a troupe's determination to make spiritual and philosophical inquiries. Most of all, it captures the underlying drama behind Scripture and the process of bringing it alive and applying it to modern life.

The troupe doesn't just re-enact Biblical concepts and scenes: their mission is to weave a thread of connection between characters, choices, and resulting miracles. These receive winning description by wordsmith William E. Jefferson in a vivid spiritual approach that will delight readers of religious literary pieces: "...thus they carried on, with Inquisitor reading names written in the ribbon of gold and Voice winding them round the staff. Up, up, the gold ribbon spiraled. Damsel, daughter of Jairus, Lazarus whom Jesus loved, the man among the tombs that everyone feared... around the shepherd's staff, Voice wound them in. The exercise had a spellbinding effect on the crowd. Certainly no one had ever seen costumed men winding a gold ribbon of miracles round a shepherd's staff. I thought, "The novelty of the act forces the mind to embrace what's known in patterns new. Nothing is one-dimensional, flat and factual. I'm watching something very rich taking place upon the stage."

Readers of Christian works will appreciate the revelations the narrator experiences as he observes the troupe's methods in action and considers how miracles are woven into everyday affairs and how they reflect redemption's divine choreography.

The entire piece becomes a spiritual dance; one that Christian readers will find particularly lively, moving, energetic, thought-provoking, and unique; whether the story is speaking of past, present, or future; monks; high technology; or dramatic devices designed to reach Everyman with carefully choreographed messages of divinity.

No Christian collection should be without this theological examination of spiritual connections, mankind's struggle for balance and redemption, and blend of allegory and metaphysical inspection that leaves readers thinking long after the story's conclusion.

Questioning Evolution
Maurice Williams
Maurice A. Williams, Publisher
B01LZYNRRL, $2.99 Kindle, $8.50 Paper

Maurice William's essays comparing concepts of evolution to those of creationism are directed to a younger audience (ages 9-12) than that which usually receives such considerations, and this offers the possibility of a dialogue between adults and teens over the topic, using Questioning Evolution's writings as a foundation for debate.

No matter what side the reader is on, it should be mentioned that the structure, contents, analysis and foundations of not just intelligent design but belief itself are analyzed using a blend of philosophical and spiritual inspection.

Despite Questioning Evolution's stated age range on Amazon, it should be mentioned that this is no light discussion, and doesn't adjust its tone or contents for a younger audience. From references to mutations and extinction-level events to how and why it is possible to misunderstand the physical origins of the universe itself, Williams applies physics and spirituality with an eye to exploring and explaining contrasting belief systems and approaches to both.

He also succinctly outlines the differences between different, seemingly-opposite perceptions and why it's important to consider them both as valid: "There are two worlds I am immersed in: the physical world and the spiritual world. I need to come to terms with both worlds. One can be investigated through observation and experimentation; the other can only be approached through faith in the testimony of someone who knows."

These introductory passages lay the groundwork for essays which range from a consideration of what is faulty about Darwinist thinking to human choices involved in going to Hell, the existence of extraterrestrial beings and their place in God's plan, a simpler perspective on what constitutes good and evil, and the hurdles of pride in a personal relationship with God.

Williams provides many thought-provoking insights that move from scientific discussion to an analysis of the mechanics of belief. Therefore, Questioning Evolution is a thought-provoking read best served up in religious settings not just to teens; but to a mixed group of adult and teen thinkers who will find in this collection a solid foundation for debates and personal analysis.

It cements its approach with author perspectives and insights to lend a personal touch needed not just for acceptance of its concepts, but how they can be digested and analyzed. The wide-reaching topics in these essays will surprise those who anticipated a survey centered on evolution; but the process is clearly more complex than a singular perspective about what constitutes evolution, embracing many different interpretations and approaches.

The heart of the discussion lies in what can be accepted on faith alone. Adult and teen audiences alike will find much to reflect upon, here.

A Letter to the Pope
Dr. Jennifer Wortham
New Insights Press
9780999580103, $14.95, print
9780999580110, $2.99, eBook

A Letter to the Pope: My Journey of Forgiveness, Faith & Love is an autobiographical piece based on true events and Dr. Jennifer Wortham's journey under the influence of the Catholic Church, and provides an unusual discourse that ends up advocating for the Pope's recognition of victims of child abuse.

Here Dr. Wortham discusses issues of parish priests and young children, her spiritual awakening, her eventual meeting with the Pope himself, and her newfound mission to help him transform some of the Catholic Church's processes and perceptions.

Readers won't anticipate such a wide-ranging journey from the title of this book; but one of the notable attributes of its approach lies in its ability to take personal and family experiences and traumas and transform them into not just life-changing paths, but religion-changing influences that reach into the depths of Catholic traditions themselves.

Dr. Wortham experiences not only spiritual and psychological conflict but confrontations with love and God's purpose for her. She finds that her choices lead to revised paths in both spirituality and romance, and that these paths, in turn, embrace a bigger picture than she'd originally perceived or intended.

Catholic audiences who find themselves torn between a fundamentalist approach to the church's doctrine and the style of compassion promoted by Pope Francis will readily recognize and acknowledge Dr. Wortham's struggles to bring her message to a leader who holds the power to enact changes for the greater good. They will, especially, be fascinated by the process of how Dr. Wortham gained an audience with the Pope after sending a letter detailing her family's anguish upon discovering that two of their own had been molested by one of the Church's priests.

One anticipates either a correspondence format or use of the first person; but another surprising aspect to A Letter to the Pope is that it's presented in the third person with an attention to description and situations which reads almost like a novel complete with drama, characters, and psychological examination and insights.

This usage succeeds in capturing the unique aspects of Pope Francis and the Catholic world through an observational style of different approaches and connections between God and humanity, whether it be Jennifer's observations of the Pope's reactions to an unexpected circus act ("Perhaps it was his way of bringing light to the tragedies of the world, by reminding us that comedy and circus make us laugh and we are but mere mortals all. If anything, it reminded her how unique Pope Francis is, not hiding behind the curtain of religion to love everyone.") or her chance, newfound love and discussions with her mother ("Whatever happens between Stephen and me, I've come to realize, Mom, that things change all the time. The only constant we have in life is God. It's our faith in God that we can always count on when everything seems to be changing around us. I know it's God who can help us get through the hard stuff.").

Catholic readers who maintain strong connections with the Church despite ever-changing pressures and revised perceptions of spirituality and the Church's place in the world will relish Jennifer's journey, the descriptive form Dr. Wortham uses to describe her world, and the messages in an autobiographical piece that deftly probe the underlying healing message of religion, Catholicism, Pope Francis, and how love, faith and family join together.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide, third edition
Ronald L. Krannich
Impact Publications
9104 Manassas Drive, Suite N, Manassas Park, VA 20111
9781570233999, $13.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded third edition, "The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide: The 10 Sequential Steps to Re-Entry Success" continues to be America's most widely used re-entry guide for job seekers. This user-friendly instructional guide serves as a personal re-entry counselor/coach for ex-offenders in transition to the Free World. It helps America's huge red flag population quickly find employment -- 77,000,000 citizens with criminal records; 11,000,000 people cycling through prisons, jails, and detention centers each year; and 650,000 prisoners annually released into communities.

Life can be hard for anyone living inside or outside a cage, but re-entry is especially hard for ex-offenders who have lost everything, including precious hope and optimism, and who lack job search smarts and digital skills. Without a decent job and support network to help meet immediate food, housing, transportation, and health care needs, and often saddled with onerous financial obligations (fines, restitution, child support payments, accumulated debts), many ex-offenders fall back on old dysfunctional habits, relationships, and temptations that lead them back to depressing correctional institutions.

What ex-offenders most need is a good paying steady job. While many employers may not want to hire someone with a criminal record, others are willing to give them a second chance. Knowing this, what should ex-offenders do to land a good job? Where can they best find a job they do well and enjoy doing? What job search strategies work best for them?

"The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide" is a ground-breaking book provides important answers to many re-entry employment questions. Beginning with a job search self-assessment, users address such critical issues as asking questions, taking responsibility, telling the truth, and becoming trustworthy before examining 10 sequential steps to job and re-entry success. These steps include changing attitudes, seeking assistance, assessing skills, writing resumes, networking, interviewing for the job, and more. This new edition of "The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide" also includes two special chapters on developing an action plan for re-entry success, and navigating today's challenging digital world.

Rich in insights and filled with practical examples, exercises, self-tests, and resources, "The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide" can make a big difference in the lives of ex-offenders because, written by one of America's leading career and correctional experts, it shows ex-offenders how to effectively communicate their qualifications to employers who will want to hire them because of their unique talents, positive attitudes, and strong employer-centered motivations!

Critique: Authoritative, comprehensive, thoroughly 'real world practical', exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, and ultimately inspiring, "The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide: The 10 Sequential Steps to Re-Entry Success" is vitally important for the personal reading lists of any and all ex-offenders trying to reenter the job market, and should be a part of every community library Jobs/Careers instructional reference collection, as well as Parole Office and Employment Services Office collections job guides for ex-offenders.

From Rebel Yell to Revolution
Joel B. Gardner
Brandylane Publishers
5 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781947860032, $28.95, HC, 244pp,

Synopsis: Joel Gardner was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Virginia with an Honors Degree in History in 1970 and from its School of Law in 1974, where he was a member of the Law Review. He returned to NYC to practice law at a major Wall Street firm and subsequently entered the investment banking world, where he was an M&A banker for three decades specializing in transactions involving Asian-based companies. Gardner has been actively involved with the University of Virginia in numerous capacities since his graduation.

"From Rebel Yell to Revolution: My Four Years at UVA 1966-1970" is an entertaining and informative memoir, in which Gardner delves into the four most turbulent and transformative years in the history of UVA.

Arriving as a total outsider in 1966, Gardner, a born and bred New Yorker, soon found himself immersed in a sheltered world of customs and traditions that had existed virtually unchanged for decades. Yet within his tenure, this genteel Southern culture of coats, ties, and party weekends would be irrevocably disrupted, as the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements at last caught up with "The Old U."

With a sharp eye for detail and a canny sense of historical relevance, Gardner recreates the turbulent world of UVA in the late 1960s, a microcosm of the tides of change that swept the world. In these four short years, blazers and bourbon gave way to denim and demonstrations, changing the face of Mr. Jefferson's University and forever altering the spirit of an American institution.

Critique: An inherently interesting and exceptionally well written memoir focusing on his university experiences both on and off campus, "From Rebel Yell to Revolution: My Four Years at UVA 1966-1970" is recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.

The Burden
Rochelle Riley, editor
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814345146, $26.99, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Detroit newspaper columnist Rochelle Riley, "Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery", is a powerful collection of twenty-four succinct essays that collectively create a chorus of evidence that the lingering burden yesteryear slavery on today's African-American population is quite real.

"The Burden" expresses the voices of well-known Americans, such as actor/director Tim Reid who compares slavery to a cancer diagnosis, former Detroit News columnist Betty DeRamus who recounts the discrimination she encountered as a young black Detroiter in the south, and the actress Aisha Hinds who explains how slavery robbed an entire race of value and self-worth. This singular collection of essays is a response to the false idea that slavery wasn't so bad and something we should all just "get over".

Critique: The principle purpose behind the publication of "The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery" is to issue a plea to contemporary non-black Americans to understand what life post-slavery remains like for many African Americans, who are descended from people whose unpaid labor built this land, but have had to spend the last century and a half carrying the dual burden of fighting racial injustice and rising above the lowered expectations and hateful bigotry that attempt to keep them shackled to that past.

A unique and exceptional read from cover to cover, "The Burden" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library African American Studies, American Cultural History, and Contemporary Social Issues collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Burden" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Dragon Teeth
Michael Crichton
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062473363, $9.99,

"Dragon Teeth" Michael Crichton's last novel returns readers to the world of dinosaurs in the wild west. The creatures are not alive as in Jurassic Park but there is a paleontologist, his nemesis and a student all searching for fossil remains in the area of Wyoming in the late 1800's. Filled with colorful historical characters the story races along to its conclusion in typical Crichton style. The conflicts move the story along as the three individuals dig for remains. Unlike many other authors who last title fizzled "Dragon Teeth" is a sparkling exit for this very popular author.

Alias Emperor Rodgers A Majestic Memoir by Baltimore's Emperor of Insanity in the Crazy
Daze of 60's Top 40 Radio
Paul H. D. Rothfuss
R L Publishing LLC
9781732162310, $14.99

From the 1950's to the 1970's the world of radio comes alive in the new memoir by one of the most famous on-air personalities in the Baltimore area. "Alias Emperor Rodgers" is not just about the author but the wacky contests, DJ's and the behind the scenes of how records were played by stations. Though he is talking about his life in radio the events he deals with could be any station in the country during the evolving industry of radio. Rothfuss tells his life story in an easy style that moves along to the final pages where it is left open for a possible sequel. Readers from all across the nation will be able to relate to "Alias Emperor Rodgers" as they reminisce of the times and stations they had growing up.

Tiger Woods
Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501126420 $30.00,

If you like Tiger then do not read "Tiger Woods" but if like me you have no opinion then by all means enjoy this very well written expose of one of the worlds most famous golfers. Beginning with the death of Tiger's father the authors trace Tiger's life back to when he first began to play the sport. What emerges is a picture of a man who is very complicated because of the life he had as a kid and the father who was obsessed with him being a champion golfer. Interesting enough Tiger states he wants to be nothing like his dad but overall is very much like him in many ways. The authors show he is very talented but also there is a very dark side to him as well. "Tiger Woods" is an honest appraisal that is very unflattering to the man that may change a lot of people's minds on the famous athlete.

Nadia Book One: Poland
Lois Gerber
Taylor and Seale Publishing
3408 S. Atlantic Ave Unit 139, Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
9781943789337, $14.95

Nadia is a teenage girl growing up in Poland during WWII. She becomes much older than her years as she enlists in the underground resistance to the Nazi occupiers of her beloved country. The author exposes what people will do to survive the worst situations by the character of Nadia and others in a fast-paced novel that shows the best and worst of mankind in a chilling tale of WWII. "Nadia Book One Poland" races along with a strong female character and conflicts that drive the novel to its satisfying ending.

Lizardville The Ghost Story
Steve Altier
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
978535399455, $9.99

Steve Altier has always told great stories but "Lizardville The Ghost Story" is his best so far. The story races along as Johnny and his friends get ready to go camping. Later one of them named Parker tells them about a factory in town and a set of murders that happened there. From then on things get stranger and stranger as they live their lives in the small Pennsylvania town. "Lizardville The Ghost Story" moves briskly along with interesting characters and mysterious situations that are all revealed in the end. Altier is a wonderful storyteller and I'd love to see more titles like this wonderful chiller. "Lizardville The Ghost Story" is for all ages to enjoy anytime of day or night.

Pairs At Nationals
Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt
Taylor and Seale Publishing
3408 S. Atlantic Ave Unit 139, Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
9781943789542, $14.95

"Pairs At Nationals" opens with a devastating situation for skaters Jamie and Matt who are getting ready to compete in the Nationals competition. They learn their coach was in a car crash and is in a coma. Luckily, they are able to find a new coach to guide them along who also has several other talented skaters she is coaching as well. For Jaimie it's tough but it gets tougher as she has another girl skater who will do anything she can to prevent Jamie from out doing her. "Pairs At Nationals" continues with the two main characters of "Pairs on Ice" with new challenges for them to overcome on and off the ice. The writing is fast paced and enjoyable reading for all ages. "Pairs At Nationals" also shows the behind the scenes conflicts all skaters face as the try to compete against incredible odds.

Best Jokes Ever Jokes for Kids
Chantelle Grace
Broadstreet Kids
c/o Broadstreet Publishing
978142454645 $4.99,

The jokes in "Best Jokes Ever" are corny but also very funny for all ages to enjoy. The chapters are broken down into type of jokes that adds to their enjoyment. Here is are some examples. "What does a baby computer call her father? Data" or "Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed" Chantelle Grace has picked some of the best ones to fill this charming collection.

I'm Sad
Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
97814814762702 $17.99,

We've all been down at one time or another. For a pink flamingo he is always sad for no apparent reason. He talks to many of his friends asking if they are ever that way to be told sometimes but not always. As "I'm Sad" unfolds the flamingo learns many valuable lessons of life where he begins a little to change. "I'm Sad" is filled with other meaningful lessons for all of us to learn that is not just for kids. "I'm Sad" is a delightful excursion into someone who is very unhappy trying to learn how to be happier.

Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids
Rob Elliott
c/o Baker Publishing Group
P. O. Box6287, Grand Rapids MI 495166287
9780800788032 $4.99,

Here is another great collection of jokes to make us all laugh. Though geared for kids we can all read and enjoy all of them in this wonderful assortment of types. Here are some examples. "What happened when the Frog's car broke down? It had to be toad away." Why did the robber wash his clothes before he ran away with the loot? He wanted to make a clean getaway. We all need with the world we live in more things to help us get through the negative things. "Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids" hopefully fills the bill to make things a little bit easier to deal with.

Ocean Meets Sky
The Fan Brothers
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481470377 $17.99,

In a tribute to his grandfather a boy named Finn builds a boat setting sail to find the magical place his grandfather often told him stories about. "Ocean Meets Sky" is filled with wonderful artwork that beautifully depicts the prose of the story of Fin and his quest. Along the way he meets some interesting characters who help him along his journey. All ages will enjoy "Ocean Meets Sky" for its uplifting tale of adventure.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

James A. McLaughlin
10 E. 53rdSt., NY, NY 10022
9780062742797, $26.99/33.50 CA$, Hardcover, 352 pp.

From the publisher: Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He's taken a job as a caretaker for a remote forest preserve in Virginia, tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. It's totally solitary - - perfect to hide from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed back in Arizona. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, his quiet life is upended. Rice becomes obsessed with catching the poachers before more bears are harmed. Partnering with his predecessor, a scientist who hopes to continue her research on the preserve, Rice puts into motion a plan to stop the bear killings, but it ultimately leads to hostile altercations with the locals, the law, and even his own employers. His past is catching up to him in dangerous ways and he may not be able to outrun it for much longer

The underlying plot line has to do with the killing of bears so that their galls and paws may be harvested and sold to what apparently is a steady demand by drug cartels' clients.

Rick Morton is using the name of Rice Moore so his real identity could not be tracked by those trying to find and kill him, apparently not a short list, headed by a Mexican drug gang against whom he had testified a year prior. (He already apparently had a glass kneecap.) I was amused when he introduces himself to someone using a name he had picked from the phone book "because he didn't want to use his real fake name." The owners of a cabin Rice is working on wanted to turn the cabin into a guest house for scientists. The people from whom he is hiding are not to be trifled with. One man they were hunting had his face skinned, then sewed back on, just to "prove they could do whatever they wanted." A woman with whom Rice is very close had been kidnapped and then raped. As Turk Mountain Preserve Caretaker, Rice, who was born in New Mexico and grew up mostly in Tucson, is a target whose capture is always a threat. Rice is "intrigued by the concept of bear culture," leading to the reader doing likewise. Much of this is fascinating stuff, I have to say (although it may not seem that way at first blush). Recommended.

Head Wounds
A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464208164, $26.95, Hardcover, 335 pp.

From the publisher: Psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime - - those who've survived an armed robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them. "Head Winds" picks up where Rinaldi's investigation in "Phantom Limb" left off, turning the tables on him as he, himself, becomes the target of a vicious killer. "Miles Davis saved my life." With these words, Rinaldi becomes a participant in a domestic drama that blows up right outside his front door, saved from a bullet to the brain by pure chance. In the chaos that follows, Rinaldi learns his bad-girl, wealthy neighbor has told her hair-triggered boyfriend Rinaldi is her lover. As things heat up, Rinaldi becomes a murder suspect. But this is just the first act in this chilling, edge-of-your-seat thriller. As one savagery follows another, Rinaldi is forced to relive a terrible night that haunts him still. And to realize that now he - - and those he loves - - are being victimized by a brilliant killer still in the grip of delusion. Determined to destroy Rinaldi by systemically targeting those close to him - - his patients, colleagues and friends - - computer genius Sebastian Maddox thrives to cause as much psychological pain as possible, before finally orchestrating a bold, macabre death for his quarry. How ironic. As Pittsburgh morphs from a blue-collar town to a tech giant, a psychopath deploys technology in a murderous way. Enter two other figures from Rinaldi's past: retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes, once a patient who Rinaldi treated for night terrors; and Special Agent Gloria Reese, with whom he falls into a surprising, erotically charged affair. Warned by Maddox not to e3ngage the authorities or else random innocents throughout the city will die, Rinaldi and these two unlikely allies engage in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an elusive killer who'll stop at nothing in pursuit of what he imagines is revenge.

The reader is put on notice of what awaits with a quote from no less a writer than Albert Camus: "The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself."

The Miles Davis reference, which is the first line in the book, is from a scene where Rinaldi is reading a 3-inch-thick dossier written about his late wife, hidden in the pages of which "was an overlooked or ignored piece of evidence proving that my wife's death almost a dozen years ago hadn't been what it seemed. That the gunfire that ended Barbara's life was not the lethal result of a mugging gone wrong. It was murder." Two bullets killed his wife, the third hitting him in the head. The ensuing novel is all about finding the man who had killed his wife, who now wants him dead. He is now "working out my survival guilt. A misguided attempt to make up for the fact that Barbara had died that fateful night and I hadn't." It is an understatement to say that it is wonderfully well-written, suspenseful, and a complete page-turner.

The descriptions of Pittsburgh are terrific [to a lifelong New Yorker]: "The Steel City continued to morph from a blue-collar, industrial town into a gentrified, white-collar hub of business and technology. . . Pittsburgh now boasted a new, modern skyline, no longer obscured by dark plumes of smoke from a hundred smokestacks." Rinaldi and his two comrades take on Maddox in an unpredictable chase that kept me glued to the page.

Another fascinating entry [the fifth] in a much-loved series, and one which is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Hokee Wolf
Clark Veihwig
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B0732RMDZ4, $4.99, ebook
9781533464361, $14.95 paper, 279 pages

Hokee Wolf appears on the surface to be a detective mystery. It isn't. It is a cozy paranormal battle between a Native American shaman and a dark arts practitioner. This odd mix in genres can take some time to get used to but it is a reasonable story. The story suffers from some poor structure and fanciful timelines. The most glaring structural problem is the misplacement of two complete chapters which breaks the storyline. The timeline problem is very noticeable because the author attempts to make the story function within the real world. He has the hero in the story build his own home with furnishings by himself, a project that would take decades of ten hour days five days a week, while working as a fulltime private detective and shaman in training.

Native American missing person detective, Hokee Wolf, takes on the job of solving a multimillion dollar bank heist. The banks in West Yellowstone use a bread truck and not an armored truck to move money in and out of the park area to Pocatello, Idaho. The method used to rob the bread truck defies normal explanation. Hokkee discovers a paranormal answer for the theft and attracts the attention of a sexy New York reporter. This begins two battles, a romantic one between East Coast and Native American cultures and a second between white and dark paranormal adepts.

Hokee Wolf is a slow moving cozy paranormal that blends in world myths. The storyline and strong character development makes the story worth its slow moving pace. The story is definitely a niche genre but if you are interested in any of its major components, Native American shamanism, paranormal battles, Rocky Mountain locations and romance, the story is a recommendation. Hopefully in the near future the major flaw of misplaced chapters will be fixed and the story will have a smoother read.

Rather be Fishing
Lucretia Stanhope
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B01MQU9U9N, $2.99, ebook, 197 pages
9781540730930, $7.99 paper

Rather be Fishing is a collection of monster hunting short stories. The lead character, Mike, is a Southern good-o-boy with an abrasive personality who prefers fishing instead of working as a monster hunter. Stanhope does a good job of explaining how there can be monsters in the world as we know it by redefining what the monsters are. The short stories are light and mildly funny but nothing pushes the book into standing out in the genre.

The short stories in Rather be Fishing make a great filler for the multiple times you are sitting in a room waiting to see your dentist or doctor. One short story per medical visit and you will have a year's worth of wait-time filled without reading two year old magazines or listening to the coughing of your neighbor. Rather be Fishing is recommended as a fill book at the standard pricing. It does a great job in this specific niche. The book is a solid read but doesn't stick out above others in the genre.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War
Maarten Otte
Pen & Sword Books
9781526714459, $19.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Although the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which began in late September 1918 and continued through to the Armistice, was not the first major action fought by the AEF, it was the greatest in which it engaged in the Great War. Indeed, the casualty count in the fighting at the Meuse-Argonne makes it the bloodiest battle in the whole of American military history to date.

The Argonne was an area that had been heavily fought over, particularly in the early part of the war; its eastern part, towards the Meuse, then became enveloped in the first great attritional battle of the war, Verdun. The area is marked by extensive woodlands and rolling countryside; however, unlike the Somme, it is interspersed with numerous waterways, deep ravines and higher ridges, along with significant hills, such as at Montfaucon.

To be frank, the opening stages of the Offensive were marked by considerable unforced difficulties for the Americans, who after all were facing a far from strong enemy opposition (however formidable the defensive line might have been). Errors were made, logistical problems multiplied, command was often less than satisfactory. In many respects this should not have come as a surprise: this was an army that was relatively new to the Western Front, which was being reinforced at an awesome rate (approximately 300,000 men a month by July) and whose senior commanders had never before faced the challenges of modern warfare, themselves evolving at a dizzying rate.

In "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War: The Meuse Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line", author Maarten Otte gives a background narrative to events before the opening of the Offensive and its development. Taking each of the US corps in turn, he then provides tours that will help the visitor to understand the fighting and the problems that were faced. This opening study of the Meuse-Argonne takes the reader, more or less, to the date when General Pershing handed over command of the US First Army to Major General Liggard in mid October, a change in command that marked a significant improvement in the American performance as they pushed the Germans ever backwards.

The Great War battlefield of the Argonne is marked by numerous physical remains of the war, some fine (some might argue over grandiose) monuments and by the stunning American cemetery at Romagne, the second largest in the world administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. There is much to see in a battlefield that has been largely neglected in the decades since the Second World War.

Critique: Maarten Otte is a long time resident of the Argonne, whose home is in Nantillois, situated between Montfaucon and Romagne. Growing up in the Netherlands with a fascination with the Great War, some eight years ago he settled in the Argonne, where he has developed his interest in the war, particularly the role of the United States and therefore brings a very special expertise to the writing of "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War: The Meuse Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line".

Exceptionally well researched, organized and presented, "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of maps, historic black-and-white photography, three Appendices (Order of Battle, First US Army; Composition of an American infantry division; Some notes on the AEF); a one page 'Advice for Travelers', a two page Bibliography; and a five page Index.

An invaluable and extraordinary contribution to the growing library of World War I Histories and highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.50).

Ninja: Unmasking the Myth
Stephen Turnbull
Frontline Books
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781473850422, $32.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: A ninja was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare. Their covert methods of waging irregular warfare were deemed dishonorable and beneath the samurai, who observed strict rules about honor and combat. (Wikipedia)

The ninja is a well-known phenomenon in Japanese military culture, a fighter who is widely regarded as the world s greatest exponent of secret warfare. He infiltrates castles, gathers vital intelligence and wields a deadly knife in the dark. His easily recognizable image is that of a secret agent or assassin who dresses all in black, possesses almost magical martial powers, and is capable of extraordinary feats of daring. He sells his skills on a mercenary basis and when in action his unique abilities include confusing his enemies by making mystical hand gestures or by sending sharp iron stars spinning towards them. That is the popular view, but it is much exaggerated, as "Ninja: Unmasking the Myth" explains. _

"The Ninja Unmasked" is a revealing, fascinating and authoritative study of Japan s famous secret warriors. Unlike all previous books on the subject author Stephen Turnbull (who is an Honorary Research Fellow at Leeds University and the author of more than fifty books on the military history of Europe and the Far East. He lives in Horsforth, Yorkshire) does not take the ninja for granted. Instead he examines the entire phenomenon in a critical manner, ranging from accounts of undercover operations during "the age of Japan s civil wars" to the modern emergence of the superman ninja as a comic book character.

The popular ninja image is shown to be the result of several influences that were combined to create the world s greatest secret warrior. Many well-known features of the ninja tradition such as the black clothes and the iron stars are shown to be complete inventions. One important feature of "Ninja: Unmasking The Myth" is the use of original Japanese sources, many of which have never been translated before.

As well as unknown accounts of castle attacks, assassinations and espionage they include the last great ninja manual, which reveals the spiritual and religious ideals that were believed to lie behind the ninja s arts. "Ninja: Unmasking The Myth" concludes with a detailed investigation of the ninja in popular culture up to the present day including movies, cartoons and theme parks.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Ninja: Unmasking The Myth" is an extraordinary and detailed study that is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ninja: Unmasking The Myth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.77).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War
Kathryn J. Atwood
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613730744, $19.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: One of just a handful of women reporting on the Vietnam War, Kate Webb was captured by North Vietnamese troops and presumed dead -- until she emerged from the jungle waving a piece of white parachute material after 23 days in captivity.

Le Ly Hayslip enjoyed a peaceful early childhood in a Vietnamese farming village before war changed her life forever. Brutalized by all sides, she escaped to the United States, where she eventually founded two humanitarian organizations.

Lynda Van Devanter was an idealistic young nurse in 1969 when a plane carrying her and 350 men landed in South Vietnam. Her harrowing experiences working in a combat zone hospital would later serve as inspiration for the TV series China Beach.

In the pages of "Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More" young readers ages 12 to 18 will meet these and other brave women and girls who served in life-threatening roles as medics, journalists, resisters, and revolutionaries in the conflict in Vietnam as author Kathryn J. Atwood presents a clear introduction to each of five chronological sections, guiding young readers through the social and political turmoil that spanned two decades and the tenure of five US presidents.

Each woman's story unfolds in a suspenseful, engaging way, incorporating plentiful original source materials, quotes, and photographs. Resources for further study, source notes and a bibliography, and a helpful map and glossary round out this exploration of one of modern history's most divisive wars, making it an invaluable addition to any student's or history buff's bookshelf.

Critique: Exceptionally informative, impressively written, organized and presented, "Courageous Women of the Vietnam War" is especially and unreservedly recommended for school and community library 20th Century Military History and 20th Century Women's History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Courageous Women of the Vietnam War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99)

Transforming Harry
John Alberti & P. Andrew Miller, editors
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814344910, $84.99, HC, 212pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by John Alberti (Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at northern Kentucky University) and P. Andrew Miller (Professor of English at Northern Kentucky University), "Transforming Harry: The Adaptation of Harry Potter in the Transmedia Age" is a volume of eight essays that collectively examine how the cinematic versions of the seven Harry Potter novels represent an unprecedented cultural event in the history of cinematic adaptation.

The movie version of the first Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", premiered in 2001, in between publication of the fourth and fifth books of this global literary phenomenon. As a result, the production and reception of both novel and movie series became intertwined with one another, creating a fan base who accessed the series first through the books, first through the movies, and in various other combinations.

Professors Alberti and Miller have gathered scholars to explore and examine the cultural, political, aesthetic, and pedagogical dimensions of this pop culture phenomenon and how it has changed the reception of both the films and books.

Divided into two sections, "Transforming Harry" addresses both the fidelity of adaptation and the transmedia adaptations that have evolved around the creation of the books and movies.

In her essay, Vera Cuntz-Leng draws on feminist film theory to explore the gaze politics and male objectification operating in the Harry Potter movies. Cassandra Bausman contends that screenwriter Steve Klove's revision of the end of the film version of Deathly Hallows, Part II offers a more politically and ethically satisfying conclusion to the Harry Potter saga than the ending of the Rowling novel. Michelle Markey Butler's "Harry Potter and the Surprising Venue of Literary Critiques" argues that the fan-generated memes work as a kind of popular literary analysis in three particular areas: the roles of female characters, the comparative analysis of books and films, and the comparative analysis of the Harry Potter series with other works of fantasy.

Critique: An extraordinary body of seminal scholarship, the primary focus of this informed and informative collection is academic, but it will have immense appeal to a broad range of dedicated, non-academic Harry Potter fans. While an immediate and enduringly popular and appreciated addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Transforming Harry" is also available in a paperback edition (9780814342862, $27.99); in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.74); and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781684413881, $29.99, CD).

The Brazen Woman
Anne Gross
Beaufort Books
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9780825308802, $16.95, PB, 308pp,

Synopsis: Mademoiselle Lenormand, the infamous Parisian fortune-teller, has been given the impossible task: find the golem she'd conjured, and bring it back to the shadowy society of witches where it belongs. She must hold her tarot cards close to her chest to survive as the drums of war start to sound between England and her homeland. The entire fate of womankind rests upon her success. But for Mlle. Lenormand success is entirely dependent upon the quality of her repas. Suffice to say, the ship's biscuit and salted pork is just not up to snuff.

Napoleon Bonaparte curses the day he'd ever met that drat fortune-teller who stole his emerald. She had the gall to blame it all on a golem. Golem, indeed! There is no such thing! That slippery swindler Lenormand knew full well the emerald holds the only key to a peaceful world. "Find that woman and her accomplice," he tells his minister of police. "I'll hang them both by their fingernails until they give me what I want."

Elise Dubois, unwitting golem and 21st Century time-traveler, has one thing in mind: getting the heck out of the 19th Century and back to Tucson, Arizona. She clutches the emerald like it's her only ticket, but so far it's only dragged her into a marriage she doesn't want and a nurse's position with the British Army. She prays she'll wake up from her nightmare before the war begins!

Elise has two things in mind: getting home, and Thomas, the sultry and sulking former barman of the Quiet Woman. But Thomas doesn't count, does he?

"The Brazen Woman" is a tale of hot pursuit on the high seas and passion on the battlefield -- and when magic and manipulation doesn't help the situation, at least there's rum and romance.

Critique: Although a deftly crafted and complete 'stand alone' novel, "The Brazen Woman" is also the second book in author Anne Gross' 'Emerald Scarab Adventures' series and continues to showcase her genuine flair for originality, reader engagement, and more plot twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Brazen Woman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Story Of Queen Victoria 200 Years After Her Birth
Danielle Thorne
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620235300, $19.95, PB, 218pp,

Synopsis: Almost 200 years ago, the cries of a newborn baby echoed through the halls of London's Kensington Palace. No one who celebrated Princess Victoria's birth in the late spring of 1819 could have imagined that the little girl born fifth in line to the English throne would be the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom in just a few short years.

The 19th century was a time of great change. For Princess Alexandrina Victoria, misfortune would strike early with the loss of her father, a lonely childhood, and a mother determined to control her.

As teen queen, Queen Victoria ruled with stubbornness, strength, and humility that nourished the advancement of the Industrial Revolution, soothed the tempers of European warmongers, and changed life in England in diverse and sometimes controversial ways. Through her published journals and letters, this beloved figure has come to be known as more than just an aristocratic young woman with a crown, but a queen for the ages.

Victoria ruled on her own terms for an astounding 63 years. She survived illness, political plots, the birth of nine children, assassination attempts, and a personal heartbreak that would transform her from a royal ruling mother into a mourning widow. Through it all, she maintained an iron determination to finish her course. Under her reign, the United Kingdom reached its historic peak of world power and dominion, influencing change and life around the globe.

A small woman with glowing, round eyes and a ready wit, Queen Victoria is remembered today as the charming giantess who ruled while the sun never set on the British Empire.

Critique: The newest entry in the simply outstanding 'People Who Changed The Course Of History' series from the Atlantic Publishing Group, "The Story Of Queen Victoria 200 Years After Her Birth" by Danielle Thorne ( who is the author of a dozen historical and contemporary books and adventures) is impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented.

Enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page Glossary, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a two page Index, "The Story Of Queen Victoria 200 Years After Her Birth" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to highschool, community, college, and university library biography collections in general, and Queen Victoria supplemental studies lists in particular.

It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Story Of Queen Victoria 200 Years After Her Birth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Battle Lines
Joel Baetz
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
9781771123198, $85.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: For Canadians, the First World War was a dynamic period of literary activity. Almost every poet wrote about the war, critics made bold predictions about the legacy of the period's poetry, and booksellers were told it was their duty to stock shelves with war poetry. Readers bought thousands of volumes of poetry. Twenty years later, by the time Canada went to war again, no one remembered any of it.

"Battle Lines: Canadian Poetry in English and the First World War" by Joel Baetz (who is a Senior Lecturer at Trent University) traces the rise and disappearance of Canadian First World War poetry, and offers a striking and comprehensive account of its varied and vexing poetic gestures. As eagerly as Canadians took to the streets to express their support for the war, poets turned to their notebooks, and shared their interpretations of the global conflict, repeating and reshaping popular notions of, among others, national obligation, gendered responsibility, aesthetic power, and deathly presence.

"Battle Lines" specifically focuses on the poetic interpretations of the Canadian soldier. He emerges as a contentious poetic subject, a figure of battle romance, and an emblem of modernist fragmentation and fractiousness. Centering the work of five exemplary Canadian war poets (Helena Coleman, John McCrae, Robert Service, Frank Prewett, and W.W.E. Ross), "Battle Lines" reveals their latent faith in collective action as well as conflicting recognition of modernist subjectivities.

"Battle Lines" identifies the Great War as a long-overlooked period of poetic ferment, experimentation, reluctance, and challenge.

Critique: A unique, extraordinary, fascinating, exceptionally informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from first page to last, "Battle Lines: Canadian Poetry in English and the First World War" is a critically important and very highly recommended addition to community, college, and university collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Battle Lines" is also available in a paperback edition (9781771123297, $34.99).

Nobody Knows
Larry Schneiderman
Beaver's Pond Press
7108 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592987924, $19.95, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: Jake Horton possessed every marker of success: A moral upbringing on the Iron Range with solid working-class parents. A substantial in at Sommer's Carpet and Tile, leading to ownership. A reputation as a man of integrity. But beneath all the outward affirmations, Jake wanted something more. And to get that, he had to become someone his loved ones wouldn't recognize.

How do you hide a side of yourself that, if discovered, would undermine every important relationship in your life? How do you reconcile fooling the people you love into believing you're something you're not? What price would you pay to make sure your secrets stay hidden under the carpet?

In the confessional novel "Nobody Knows", Jake unapologetically gives voice to the inner monologue most of us are ashamed to admit, revealing that the road to redemption is sometimes littered with frauds.

Critique: An intriguing and deftly crafted work of thoughtful and thought-provoking fiction, "Nobody Knows" is embedded with philosophical themes and stresses that are paradoxically both individual and universal. With "Nobody Knows" author Larry Schneiderman reveals a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nobody Knows" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook
Camilla Fayed, author, with Susie Pearl, Emily Pearson, and Pietro Cuevas
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781912023462, $29.99 HC, $18.99 Kindle, 256pp,

"Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook: Plant-Based Recipes For Conscious Living" is a luscious vegan cookbook and mission statement from famous food guru Camilla Fayed, daughter of former Harrods boss.

"Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook" begins by making a startlingly convincing case for a plant-based healthy lifestyle, with all statements enhanced by stunning cuisine photographs by Nick Hopper and illustrator Ella Mclean. Helpful nutritional info recipe codes are explained and used throughout (GF, MF, R, VG). Inspiring tips and healthy eating suggestions are attractively displayed in oval, plant framed sidebars. Concepts of conscious living, food as medicine, dairy detox, and chemical free farming are explained.

Fantastic, creative, plant-based recipes are presented in chapters on Basics, Breakfast, Dips & Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Earth Bowls, Mains, Sides, and Desserts. There is even a concluding chapter on Home & Beauty with all natural recipes for body scrub, body butter breath rinse, natural toothpaste, and more.

"Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook" is all about building a healthy plant-based lifestyle, free of harmful additives, and good for the planet. Some of the delicious recipes include the following: Soothing Porridge (contains millet, coconut oil, spices, coconut milk, figs and honey), Fluffy Pancakes, Farmacy Hummus, Eggplant Rolls with Green Sauce, Wild Teff Wraps with Mushroom Filling, Sea Mineral and Mushroom Soup, Beet Top Salad, White Bean Salad, Kimchi Bowl, Butternut Squash and spinach Casserole, Sweet Potato Home Fries,Roasted Broccoli in Chile and Garlic sauce, Banoffee Pie, Matcha Lime Avocado Cakes, and Fig Tarte Tatin. Many international flavors and styles permeate the recipes of "Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook," enriching its widely varied, palate tempting offerings.

"Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook" is an especially recommended addition to personal, family, and community library Vegan & Vegetarian Cookbook collections.

Mother Teresa: The Story of the Saint of Calcutta
Marlyn Evangelina Monge, FSP, author
Seung-Burn Park, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
9780819849663 $10.95

"Mother Teresa" is a beautiful illuminated biography of the famous Saint of Calcutta written for young readers age 6 and up. Beginning with her early family background in Skopje, Yugoslavia, her devotion to and love of Christ is underlined from the beginning. She was born Agnes Bojaxhiu in a family of five. After the death of her father, whom she loved very much, the family experienced poverty. Agnes had a certainty that she wished to become a missionary sister at the age of fourteen. Her mother insisted she was too young to make such a decision, and reminded her that she had always suffered from poor health, with a weak chest and horrible coughs. Agnes continued going to school as her mother wished, still praying to know God's will for her. Finally she was given permission to petition to join the Loreto Sisters and enter postulancy, at the age of 17 years. On may 24, 1931, she made her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the first time.

In the eventful years that followed, Sister Mary Teresa studied English, Hindi, and Bengali, and became a teacher. She followed her calling to become Mother Teresa, one who spent her life working to help the poorest of the poor. Eventually Mother Teresa founded her own order, after working with the Little Sisters of the Poor. She taught children in the bustees in the open air, continuing to provide help and instruction for the poorest of the poor. At first Mother Teresa was lonely,not being with her former sisters of the Loreto convent. But gradually, she began to attract and train followers from among her former students. The first of these was Subhasini Das, on march 19, 1949. Gradually, Mother Teresa's order and staff grew, and received Papal approval as the Missionaries of Charity, On October 7, 1950.

Descriptions of the work of the Missionaries of Charity are told and illustrated: caring for the sick and dying, helping children find a home to belong to. The Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa faced a threat of violence from a Hindu man who believed the sisters were trying to force Hindus to become Catholic. One man, who had threatened to kill Mother Teresa, snuck into the Nirmal Hriday or pure Heart sanctuary for the ill and dying. he observed the sisters caring for the patients, respecting their different faiths. The man's attitude changed to one of profound respect for Mother Teresa. When asked if he still wanted to evict the sisters from Nirmal Hriday, he said,"I will evict the sisters on one condition.... When your own mothers and sisters come to take care of these men, women, and children, then we can tell these Catholics to leave." The Missionaries of Charity were allowed to continue their work.

Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity continued to provide shelter and care for the sick, dying, and youngest children of the poorest of the poor of Calcutta. In December, 1979, mother Teresa received the Nobel peace prize for her work. She used the honorary ceremony to invite all to help her continue in caring for the homeless, the sick, the disabled, those who some might call a burden to society.

Plagued by ill health most of her life, Mother Teresa stepped down as superior of the Missionaries of Charity in January, 1997. Frequently hospitalized, mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997. Many people honored her funeral as a holy woman who saw Christ in every person. On September 4, 2016, Mother Teresa was canonized a saint by Pope Francis.
"Mother Teresa" is a gentle but accurate portrait of an amazing woman, sure to inspire all who read it to find ways of helping others in need, and to see God in everyone.

Finding Home: Five Heart-Warming Stories for Children
Casey Hoffmaster, author
David Eldred, illustrator
WestBow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781512777048 $20.95

"Finding Home" is an inspiring collection of faith- based stories that have their sources in both daily life and the Bible.

The first story, 'Waiting," is about a female donkey who learns to be patient and to listen to a little voice inside her, while she is waiting for her baby to be born.

The second story, 'Love in Your Heart,' is a beautiful story of children learning to provide tender loving care to baby chicks. One special black and white chick named Oreo is very small and has times when he appears to stop breathing. Both the children and the man named Jim help comfort Oreo by holding him close to their hearts until they can feel his little heart begin to beat again. The moral is, "If we invite God into our heart we will see miracles."

The third story is 'The Cat Who Like Cantaloupe.' The twin girls, Maggie and Lila, have their 7th birthday party at an animal shelter to see if anyone might like to adopt one of the shelter animals. A 4 year old Maine Coon cat named Tiger needs a permanent home. His previous owner gave him up for adoption because he could not get along with the owner's new puppy. A surprise was in store for the twin and Tiger. Instead of one of the children deciding to adopt him, Lila's Grandmother Casey, who is a lonely cat lover, chose him for her home. She noticed his quietness and his personality, and his unhappiness at being in the Plexiglass cage. At home, she renamed him Joseph, and he answered to that name when she called him. Joseph and Grandma Casey went through many adjustments in learning to live together happily. In a year they have come to a happy understanding and have learned to communicate their love and caring to one another.

God's message in this story is as follows: "God wants us in a relationship with Him, because He loves us the most, and wants us to love Him the most. This kind of relationship makes life worth living." BTW, although Joseph liked cantaloupe for a treat, veterinarians say that cantaloupe is not good for cats to eat because it has too much sugar in it.

The fourth story is "Loved the Most Love", about unconditional and the adoption of a French bulldog puppy who is born with a handicap of future deafness. Maggie and Lila and their parents want to adopt Luis because they miss their former bulldog, Samson, who has passed on. They have a special fenced in yard and are prepared to learn special hand signals to communicate with Luis when he becomes deaf as he gets older. Everyone wants to give him a perfect, loving home, filled with unconditional love. Finally the adoption of the adorable Luis is approved, and the family is very thankful for him, promising to give him "'Gaga love, Head-over heels love and can't get enough of you' Luis love." The message is to remember to be thankful to God, with great love, because God's greatest gift is love.

The fifth and last story is 'What God Wants - You!' It is about a sick, sad, lonely little boy who wants to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. He knows that he is ill and may soon die. Because the boy is unaware that All children are accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven, he spends his limited energy seeking the answer to how to find Heaven. Finally He decides to go to the edge of the wood and ask Wise Owl, "How do I find my way into the Kingdom of Heaven?" Wise Owl answered, "Ask for it, Believe in it, and Receive it. In this way, it will be easy, not hard, to get there." The boy pondered the meaning of Wise owl's reply. He realized that the key seemed to rest in the idea of accepting the Kingdom of Heaven. Once this was done, the boy felt a lifting of his body and spirit, as he was invited by God,"Do not be afraid. I want you now, and I love you the most. Come... Come into My Heaven, live with Me always." The key thought is in God's words, "Ask, Believe, Receive."

All five children's stories have warm hearts of knowledge/belief in God. Gentle pastel illustrations of each story's characters help sustain the faith and belief that are engendered. "Finding Home" is for children of all ages.

Butterfly Wings: A Coloring Book for Grieving Children
Rev. Penny Stemley, author
Thinkstock, imagery for illustrations
WestBow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781512773170 $16.95

"Butterfly Wings" is a Christian based healing tool for children experiencing grief in the form of a story and a coloring book. A dedication page (page ix) allows spaces for the child's name, the giver's name, and the name of the person in whose memory the gift is given.

"Butterfly Wings" is a hopeful story about a grieving queen named Faith whose husband, King Hope had died. In desolation, Queen Faith renamed herself Queen Doubt and withdrew from all rainbows, song, joy, gaiety, and hope.

She closed herself off to all but darkness for many years. Then one day she ventured to peek outside her bedroom window, but though the castle was still dark and gray, she saw a tiny, little light off in the distance. It grew brighter and closer until she thought she recognized a butterfly!

Imagine the joy of Queen doubt when she realized that the rainbow and the butterfly meant that her faith had returned, even though King Hope was still dead. A moving chain of images traces the metamorphosis of Queen Doubt into Queen Hope again, inviting bright colors from young artists.

Finally Queen Hope ran outside where the butterfly landed on her shoulder, answering her question about his name, "My name is Love, and I have been here all along."

The moving story closes with the words of I Corinthians 13:13, "Now faith, hope and love remain - these three things - but the greatest of these is love."

"Butterfly Wings" closes with a beautiful prayer of blessing for your child, and a prayer of salvation.

Twenty-One Days: A Daniel Pitt Novel
Anne Perry, author
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780399179884, $28.00 HC, $14.99 Kindle, 303pp,

The latest Edwardian era mystery in the Daniel Pitt series, "Twenty-One Days" showcases the popular author's finely honed skills of story building and character development within an accurate portrait of a much beloved era in London.

Daniel Pitt, junior barrister and secret successor to famed sleuth parents' Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, faces a new and baffling mystery which leads him to question the very roots of his family's integrity and history.

Set in 1910, "Twenty-one Days" portrays all the bitter tangle of secret enigmatic alliances, power brokers, and respected allegiance to the duty of law that frequently characterized the mysteries of Charlotte and Thomas Pitt. Daniel must solve a baffling murder case to free an innocent man from the death penalty, despite the fact that the same man is bent on publishing biographical material that could ruin or incriminate Daniel's father and extended family.

The fine focus is brought by Daniel upon himself as he questions the assumptions of his father's integrity and his own very security, while battling to correctly defend a despised man who may or may not be guilty of the murder of his wife. Only dogged detective work and authoritative application of logic and analysis of clues can lead Daniel to the proper defense in the allotted time, twenty-one days, to save his client from the death penalty.

Fans of the earlier Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels will find historic references to their favorite characters in this spine chilling and challenging Edwardian thriller that reveals Daniel as a worthy son of his father and defender of the law. The author is unusually skilled in portraying action through innuendo, expressed through fine details and well crafted clues to the actual shape of the heart of the mystery .

"Twenty-One Days" makes excellent reading for all fans of Anne Perry, old and new.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Road to Armageddon
Thomas L. Whigham
University of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
9781552388099, $49.95, PB, 672pp,

Synopsis: In 1864 the capture of Brazilian steamer the Marques de Olinda initiated South America's most significant war. Thousands of Brazilian, Argentine, and Uruguayan soldiers engaged in a protracted siege of Paraguay, leaving the Paraguayan economy and population devastated. The suffering defied imagination and left a tradition of bad feelings, changing politics in South America forever.

"The Road to Armageddon: Paraguay Versus the Triple Alliance, 1866-70" by Thomas L. Whigham (Professor of History at the University of Georgia and a member of Paraguay's National Academy of History) is the definitive work on the Triple Alliance War.

Professor Whigham deftly examines key personalities and military engagements while exploring the effects of the conflict on individuals, Paraguayan society, and the continent as a whole.

It is interesting to note that "The Road to Armageddon" is the published study to utilize a broad range of primary sources and materials, including testimony from the men and women who witnessed the war first-hand.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of Illustrations, Maps, eighty-two pages of Notes, and a fifteen page Index, "The Road to Armageddon: Paraguay Versus the Triple Alliance, 1866-70" is an outstanding work of detail driven scholarship and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Paraguay History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Road to Armageddon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $47.45).

The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860
Caoimhin De Barra
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268103378, $45.00, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: Who are the Celts, and what does it mean to be Celtic?

In "The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860: Celtic Nationalism in Ireland and Wales", Caoimhin De Barra (Assistant Professor of Irish Studies at Drew University) focuses on nationalists in Ireland and Wales between 1860 and 1925, a time period when people in these countries came to identify themselves as Celts.

Professor De Barra chooses to examine Ireland and Wales because, of the six so-called Celtic nations, these two were the furthest apart in terms of their linguistic, religious, and socioeconomic differences.

"The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860" is divided into three parts. The first concentrates on the emergence of a sense of Celtic identity and the ways in which political and cultural nationalists in both countries borrowed ideas from one another in promoting this sense of identity.

The second part follows the efforts to create a more formal relationship between the Celtic countries through the Pan-Celtic movement; the subsequent successes and failures of this movement in Ireland and Wales are compared and contrasted.

Finally, "The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860" discusses the public juxtaposition of Welsh and Irish nationalisms during the Irish Revolution.

Critique: "The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860" is a deftly crafted and seminal work of outstanding scholarship and the first published study to critique what "Celtic" has meant historically. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Celtic History collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Coming of the Celts, AD 1860" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.75).

Writing Flash
Fred D. White
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610353175, $14.95, PB, 150pp,

Fred D. White received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa. He has taught courses in writing and literature in Minnesota and, since 1980, at Santa Clara University in Northern California, where he is now Professor of English, Emeritus. In 1996 White received the Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence. White has published several books on writing, as well as dozens of stories, essays, poems, and plays. He lives with his wife in Rancho Cordoba, California.

In "Writing Flash: How to Craft and Publish Flash Fiction for a Booming Market" he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to create a fast and informative guide to developing writing skills and a career in one of fiction's most challenging genres -- Flash Fiction, which is the art of the ultra-short story.

"Writing Flash" takes the aspiring writer thorough the steps necessary for compressing a story to its most essential elements and make their writing vigorous, evocative, and full of emotion.

"Writing Flash" also provides an in-depth introduction to a fascinating genre, complete with exercises to develop and strengthen your flash-writing techniques.

"Writing Flash" presents a complete and thoroughly 'user friendly' guide to the writing techniques and creative possibilities of writing flash fiction, plus tips on publishing and marketing flash fiction to build a writing career.

White also shows how the writing techniques of flash fiction are invaluable tools for any kind of writing, including writing novels and longer short fiction.

Critique: "Writing Flash: How to Craft and Publish Flash Fiction for a Booming Market" is a unique and ground-breaking instructional guide and reference that deserves to be a part of every aspiring author's personal 'how to' collection who wants to establish a flexible, varied and successful career as a published writer. "Writing Flash" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to both community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections as well.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

I Am a Son
Don Nori, Sr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768439991, $15.99, 164 pages

A Tribute from an Authentic Surrendered Son to his Heavenly Father

Using compelling questions, inspiring meditations, and motivating challenges, Don Nori, Sr. writes from his heart. He draws from his own experiences, contemporary stories of others, and Biblical illustrations to encourage the reader to experience God's love as a Son and to reproduce this love by allowing Christ's abiding life, and the power of the Holy Spirit to work through them.

Don addresses explicitly directions for maturing sons, sons in the process, courageous and determined sons with encouragement for the focused sons, comfort for desperate sons and truths for transformed sons.

Over and over again I identified with Don's struggle as he shared thoughts from his heart. He lifted my spirit by directing my thoughts to God's love, His kingship and the reminder that I am His Son. I desire to yield myself to God's plan for me, his purpose; to experience a Christ infused lifestyle, and to walk transparent before Him.

"I Am A Son" is a book I want to reread, and read again, drawing spiritual strength and inspiration from every page. This book is Don Nori's tribute from a Son to His Heavenly Father.

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

Living with Purpose - Knowing God's Design for Your Purpose
Barry D. Ham, Ph. D.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417289, $16.99, 286 pages

A Directional Guide for Living with Purpose and Knowing God's Design for Your Life

Using practical illustrations drawn from life, and selected biblical certainties, Barry D. Ham, Ph. D. helps the reader creates a pattern for living life to the fullest. Step by step Dr. Ham establishes foundational truths in a quest for meaning and purpose in life. He leads the reader into a life of adventure, significance, and meaning. He provides insight that replaces doubts with confidence, fulfillment, and discovery.

A college professor, marriage, and family therapist, Dr. Ham is authentic. He writes with clarity and confidence. Dr. Ham asks and addresses the hard questions, foundational questions that need to be answered, questions on the meaning of life, the purpose of life, God's will for an individual's life, and how this impacts all of life. The book is divided into three parts: Love God with everything you have. Love your neighbor, and love yourself.

I was challenged to become more intentional in my quest for direction as I enter into a new phase or season in my life journey. I am in the process of examining my focus and reestablishing my goals in areas of family, ministry, and recreational activities as I seek to know and pursue God's purpose.

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

Prayers that Avail Much for the Nations - Powerful Prayer for Transforming the World
Germaine Copeland
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418163, $16.99, 190 pages

Partnering with God to Become an Agent of Change through Intercessory Prayer for the Nations of the World

Germaine Copeland's book "Prayers that Avail Much for the Nations" provides the reader with powerful prayers for transforming the world and is an important guidebook for becoming partners with God as agents of change in countries around the world in the midst of political upheaval, social injustice, and famine, and natural disasters.

The book is made up of five sections. Each section features a region of the world, country by country with powerful specific prayers. These prayers introduce the reader to specific areas of need in over 190 nations. Needs vary country by country, including cultural differences, social issues, global causes, persecuted churches, those living under the threat of imprisonment for standing up for Christ and Christianity, refugees, poverty, and disease.

I was moved as the Holy Spirit unveiled God at work in our nation and the nations of the world giving a new perspective and worldview and the need to become involved in becoming a prayer partner with God; joining millions of others in daily, systematic prayers that will transform the world, and impact the ministry of world evangelism.

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

Winning the Worry Battle: Life Lessons from the Book of Joshua
Barb Roose
Abingdon Press
2232 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37228
9781501857843, $ 16.99, 230 Pages

Powerful Stories and Life Lessons, For Facing, Worry, Anxiety, and Struggle

In her book "Winning the Worry Battle" Barb Roose takes the reader on a journey with Joshua in facing the battle of worry. Barb uses stories and powerful life lessons from Joshua's life to confront: daily struggles of fear and winning more significant actions in victory while experiencing a radical transformation of peace by adopting a God-centered perspective.

Barb's tools, techniques, and behaviors will resonate with readers overwhelmed by the stress of uncertainty and anxiety.

"Winning the Worry Battle" can be used as a six week Bible study, for group or personal use. A helpful study guide is available for additional hints for making applications from the life of Joshua as he leads the Israelites into God's Promised Land; as he claimed victory over hostile trials, fear, and uncertainty by learning to move forward in fighting the battle in faith, and exploring the unlimited power of God available to His followers.

Readers will be equipped and encouraged with practical tools for overcoming worry, and personal struggles, as well as the more significant battles of fear that we face. Barb's incredible insight and practical advice are simple and easy to apply personally.

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

Highly recommended.

Your Holy Spirit Arsenal - Waging Victorious Warfare through the Holy Spirit
Wade & Connie Hunter Urban
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418958, $16.99, 2018, 256 Pages

In-Depth Teaching, Instruction and Practical Training on Determining and Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

Wade and Connie Hunter Urban collaborate in "Your Holy Spirit Arsenal" to help the reader develop a passion for becoming a dynamic witness and for growing into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Wade's have different writing styles and experiences with a common goal to become mentor's in basic training, introducing new dimensions of life in the Holy Spirit.

The book is presented in three parts: The Revelation Gifts, the Speaking Gifts, and the Power gifts. Wade's military background provides the reader a distinctive parallel between today's military combat and spiritual warfare. Connie's comes from a practical application of the spiritual gifts. Wade's knowledge combines an emphasis on knowledge gained from the study of doctrine, and experience in the Holy Spirit's operation in and through individuals willing to participate in victorious warfare by exercising the arsenal of weapons available to the Christian.

The profound but straightforward analogies to life revealed critical spiritual principles and applications. These concepts caused me to examine my heart as the Lord showed me how I could more fully minister in areas of my giftedness by continuing to be a positive encourager, by being an attentive listener so that I could more specifically minister drawing on the incredible power of the Holy Spirit available to believers today.

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

Flowing in the River of God's Will - Your Place of Effortless Trust & Perfect Peace
DRS. Dennis & Jennifer Clark
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410808, $15.99, 204 Pages

Exchanging a Life of Striving by Finding Rest in the Gift of Peace

Drs. Dennis & Jennifer Clark share their insights, experiences, and individual perspectives in their book "Flowing in the River of God's Will - Your Place of Effortless Trust & Perfect Peace."

Dennis stresses the importance of getting to know God by spending time in His presence. Jennifer compliments this approach with an emphasis on the indwelling abiding life of Christ. She demonstrates how to walk in the spiritual realm by providing insight into the emotions as expressed through the fruit of the Spirit.

I found the inserts with prompts to practice essential steps especially challenging.

Practice the Experience Peace in Prayer

Pursue These Practical Prayer Steps

Listen to Hear God in Prayer

Practice Steps of Forgiveness of Loving and of Releasing

Wait in His Presence with a Hearing Heart for a Word from God

Written with clarity, compassion, and concern, "Flowing in the River of God's Will" is sure to resonate with new believers looking for a how-to guide for living the Christian life and mature Christians eager to experience more of the peace of God through a deeper intimacy with Him.

"Flowing in the River of God's Will - Your Place of Effortless Trust & Perfect" can be life change and transformation, when striving is exchanged for a lifestyle of "effortless trust and perfect peace."

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

Preparing for the Glory - Getting Ready for the Next Wave of Holy Spirit Outpouring
John & Carol Arnott
Destiny Image Publishers
Inc., P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417876, $16.99, 198 pages

Preparing for an Invasion of God's Spirit While Anticipating a "Tsunami Wave" of Worldwide Revival

John and Carol Arnott introduce transferrable principles and personal applications for heart preparation for revival on preparing for revival in their book "Preparing for the Glory."

The Arnott's unique, and compelling writing creates a spiritual hunger for revival and draws the reader into allowing the spirit to prepare them, not as spectators, but as participants of a revival through the transforming touch of the mind of God. Readers will be encouraged to grasp the concept of revival as an invasion of God's spirit in an unparalleled outpouring of a global spiritual revival.

"Preparing for the Glory" is endorsed by Christian leaders, pastors, and lay leaders in the church, worldwide as a crucial apologetic study in the preparation of revival. The Arnott's exhort readers to prepare for revival that directs them to a living God with the power to impact others to pursue a revival of God's Spirit in their lives.

My spirit burst into flame with the longing for revival in my own heart, a strong desire to know more of God and the anticipation of becoming part of a "tsunami wave" of revival.

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

God is Good - He's Better Than You Think
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417425, $ 16.99, 264 pages

Radical Transformation and an Unshakable Foundation

In his book "God is Good - He's Better Than You Think" Pastor Bill Johnson clarifies God's redemptive message as he captures the essence of God's nature in a strategic message for these critical times.

Although Bill introduces and addresses thought provoking hermeneutical and theological issues; he writes with clarity as he opens the Scriptures to his readers. My reading led me to a new awareness of God's presence as I offered Him praise for His goodness to me. Contrite confession resulted in expressions of worship. As I meditated on the promises of God, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and heart to a transforming discovery of God's never-ending goodness and the joy of living in the freedom that Jesus bought for us at the Cross.

A 30-page addendum highlights scriptures from the Old and New Testaments which declare, define, and exemplify God's gracious nature and His goodness.

"God is Good" is written for members of the Body of Christ, followers who are seeking deeper levels of experiencing God's goodness as revealed in Jesus. This is a book you will want to add to your reference library for frequent review. The reader-friendly format also provides easy access to inspirational devotional reading, with a personal application for daily living.

Highly recommended, endorsed by well-known Pastors and Internationally recognized Christian Leaders.

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

Five P's to a Wow! Business
Bill Matthews
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950351, $15.99, 170 Pages

A Top Rated Business and Management Tool - That Will Move Your Company to WOW!

A quick scan of Bill Matthews' book "Five P's to a Wow! Business" convinced me that I was about to begin a WOW experience. I instinctively knew Matthews has developed a proactive professional management system that works.

Matthews writes with clarity and with easy to follow directives in planning, and implementing, the right staff, the right processes, and a way for measuring performance. His enthusiasm and passion for excellence are contagious.

Matthews' introduces case studies, sample forms, and step by step action plans, as well as a current status survey, and other helpful tools to guide the reader on a path to success. These guidelines are practical and flexible and are adaptable for use in any business venture.

Bill Matthews' resume covers a 30-year career with a broad base of experience gained in management positions in Fortune 500 companies, privately owned businesses, and numerous entrepreneurial educational organizations. Bill has a passion for working in an advisory capacity with business and professional management leaders in areas of strategic planning. His books, toolkits, and training materials are being distributed on a worldwide scale.

"Five P's to a Wow! Business" should be required reading for management personnel at every corporate level, and for entrepreneurs moving into new business ventures.

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

Lead the Field
Earl Nightingale
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950382, $21.95, 192 pages

Classic Management Philosophies for a New Generation of Leaders

For over 50 years "Lead the Field" has inspired established professional leaders and aspiring young scholars to pursue Earl Nightingale's principles success into their business practice through creating and accomplishing their goals, while impacting and influencing change in others.

Readers will discover:

The power of words

The power of attitude

The power of goals

The power of commitment

Nightingale describes "success as a matter of following a common sense paradigm of rules and guidelines."

Twelve chapters, twelve principles, and twelve exercises - a key to getting the most from your reading of "Lead the Field" is to invest an hour each day in completing and incorporating the results each exercise into your life action plans. I have already begun to incorporate these exercises in my quiet morning contemplation hour.

I made a note of several of Nightingale's definitive axioms: Purpose as volition to accomplish your goal. Our attitude can alter our mind. The idea that: "We become what we think about," and the concept that "When you accept responsibility for your attitude, you accept responsibility for your entire life."

"Lead the Field" has inspired personal coaches, business consultants, and self-help authors in the formulation of their books, training curriculum, workshops, and seminars. A true classic.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
Martin Guevara Urbina, author
Sofia Espinoza Alvarez, editor
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092160, $42.95, PB, 420pp,

Synopsis: Written by Martin Guevara Urbina, edited by Sofia Espinoza Alvarez, "Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System: Ethnicity, Ideology, and Social Control" is now in a newly updated and expanded second edition revealing the documented findings that race, ethnicity, gender, class, and several other variables continue to play a significant and consequential role in the legal decision-making process.

"Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System" is deftly structured into three sections, each of which corresponds to a different body of work on Latinos.

Section One explores the historical dynamics and influence of ethnicity in law enforcement, and focuses on how ethnicity impacts policing field practices, such as traffic stops, use of force, and the subsequent actions that police departments have employed to alleviate these problems. A detailed examination of critical issues facing Latino defendants seeks to better understand the law enforcement process. The history of immigration laws as it pertains to Mexicans and Latinos explains how Mexicans have been excluded from the United States through anti-immigrant legislation. Latino officers must cope with structural and political issues, the community, and media, as these practices and experiences within the American police system are explored.

Section Two focuses on the repressive practices against Mexicans that resulted in executions, vigilantism, and mass expulsions. The topic of Latinos and the Fourth Amendment reveals that the constitutional right of people to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures has been eviscerated for Latinos, and particularly for Mexicans. Possible remedies to existing shortcomings of the court system when processing indigent defendants are presented.

Section Three studies the issue of Hispanics and the penal system. The ethnic realities of life behind bars, probation and parole, the legacy of capital punishment, and life after prison are discussed.

Section Four addresses the globalization of Latinos, social control, and the future of Latinos in the U.S. Criminal justice system. Lastly, the race and ethnic experience through the lens of science, law, and the American imagination, are explored, concluding with policy recommendations for social and criminal justice reform, and ultimately humanizing differences.

Specifically written for professionals and students of law enforcement, "Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System" will promote the understanding of the historical legacy of brutality, manipulation, oppression, marginalization, prejudice, discrimination, power and control, and white America's continued fear about racial and ethnic minorities.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System: Ethnicity, Ideology, and Social Control" is a critically important contribution to the study of the contemporary judicial system and how it is influenced/impacted by racially and culturally motivated bias. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Criminal Justice collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Hispanics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System" is also available in a digital book format (eBook, 9780398092177, $42.95).

Finding Einstein's Brain
Frederick E. Lepore
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813580395, $27.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Albert Einstein remains the quintessential icon of modern genius. Like Newton and many others, his seminal work in physics includes the General Theory of Relativity, the Absolute Nature of Light, and perhaps the most famous equation of all time: E=mc2.

Following his death in 1955, Einstein's brain was removed and preserved, but has never been fully or systematically studied. In fact, the sections are not even all in one place, and some are mysteriously unaccounted for! In the pages of "Finding Einstein's Brain", Frederick E. Lepore (Professor of Neurology and Ophthalmology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey) delves into the strange, elusive afterlife of Einstein's brain, including the controversy surrounding its use, and what its study represents for brain and/or intelligence studies.

Carefully reacting to the skepticism of 21st century neuroscience, Professor Lepore also examines the philosophical, medical, and scientific implications of brain-examination dealing with such questions as: Is the brain simply a computer? If so, how close are we to artificially creating a human brain? Could scientists create a second Einstein?

This "biography of a brain" attempts to answer these questions, exploring what made Einstein's brain anatomy exceptional, and how "found" photographs (discovered more than a half a century after his death) may begin to uncover the nature of genius.

Critique: An extraordinary, informed and informative study that reads with the gripping attention of a riveting novel, "Finding Einstein's Brain" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of thirty-eight pages of Notes and a seventeen page Index. While strongly and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Finding Einstein's Brain" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.55).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Shadow Killer
Arnaldur Indridason
Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10016
9781250124043, $26.99, Hardcover, 356 pp.

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, was occupied by British troops even if that country was neutral in World War II, and in the months before Pearl Harbor, U.S. Troops relieved the Tommies [as they were called] so they could return home and face the possible Nazi invasion. Iceland, of course, was a prominent way station for naval shipping across the Atlantic, with U-boat activity quite active. In the midst of this activity, a man is found murdered, shot in the head by a weapon commonly used by American troops.

The investigation is undertaken by Flovent, the only detective with the Icelandic CID. He enlists the help of a U.S. military policeman by the name of Thorston. Together they center their attention on a family of German extraction, a paralyzed doctor, his son and his brother-in-law, the headmaster of a school, as well as the doctor's brother who lives in Germany. The victim remains unidentified, while initially believed to be the resident of the apartment, when it turns out he was a boyhood friend of the resident, the doctor's son, who is in hiding and becomes the focus of a hunt.

Various subplots complicate the story as Flovent and Thorston delve into possible leads, including any possible role of U.S. Intelligence and a possible visit to the island by Winston Churchill. The sharp prose and excellent translation enhance this second novel in the series. Mr. Indridason continues to provide us with top-notch thrillers, and we look forward to his next effort.

The novel is highly recommended.

Death of an Honest Man
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455558315, 2565 pp., $25.00, 32 CA$, Hardcover

All the familiar characters and nuances of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries are present in this novel. That does not diminish the charm of the tale, which begins with a new arrival in the Scottish sergeant's patch, one Paul English. The newcomer prides himself for stating honest observations, which are really insults. For instance, telling an overweight woman she's fat, or the minister his sermons are boring. And, of course, there's always Chief Inspector Blair and his hatred for Macbeth, and his constant attempts to take credit for crimes Macbeth solves.

Well, English's mouth actually results in his misfortune, and he is murdered. With any number of potential suspects, Macbeth has his work cut out for him. A couple of subplots round out the novel: first is Macbeth's fixation on his wild cat who apparently is no longer with him, and he finds and nurtures another in the hope that it is his lost pet; and then there is the constant loss of his assistants to the food industry.

The addition of a new novel to this long-running series is always a joy to read and "Honest Man" is good fun, and is recommended.

Murder on the Left Bank
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781616959272, $27.95, Hardcover, 288 pp.

There are several constants in a novel in the Aimee Leduc series: To begin with there is always Paris, in which a crime for Aimee to solve takes place in a different section. Then there is Aimee's juggling between her job running the agency with her partner, Rene, trying to solve the crime and getting herself into danger, and her baby girl, Chloe, now several months old. And of course, her mysterious mother who disappeared when she was young and is a wanted woman, as well as her memory of her father, a member of corrupt Parisian cops, murdered when he tried to quit the group.

The victim on the Left Bank is the young nephew of an attorney charged with delivering to the prosecutor a tell-all notebook compiled over decades by an old man, an accountant, detailing payoffs, bribes and other nefarious payments to the corrupt cops known as The Hand, including Leduc pere. Instead he hides the notebook and meets up with his girlfriend. The attorney hires Aimee to find the notebook. And additional pressure is brought to bear by The Hand when they mistakenly arrange to kidnap Aimee's friend's young daughter instead of Chloe. Along the way, there are other murders, including that of the kidnapper (so much for making mistakes; The Hand fixes everything).

Oh, another constant arises when Aimee runs into blind alleys: Mobier, a retired corrupt cop, friend of her father and her godfather and someone Aimee has a love-hate relationship with; her father's other friends, and her family. As Bogie said in Casablanca: We'll always have Paris. And the author demonstrates that with the sights and sounds of the twisting streets and ancient buildings. For that reason alone, the novel is recommended. Of course the plot also helps.

Exit Strategy
Charlton Pettus
Hanover Square Press
195 Broadway, N.Y, N.Y. 10007
c/o Harlequin
9781335016928, $26.99, Hardcover, 368 pp.

Life certainly offers a myriad of choices, but Jordon Parrish narrowed what was available to him when everything seemed to be going belly-up. A brilliant scientist and co-head of his public company (albeit for some strange reason listed on the Hong Kong exchange rather than on NASDAQ here in the States), the experiment he was working on, which the company hoped would be a bonanza, showing no progress, the company's finances in a shambles and his marriage going on the rocks, he looked to possible solutions, narrowing them down to suicide (which would kill any insurance), or selecting a secret organization that would give him a new identity, allowing him to disappear, care free.

Of course, he chooses the strategy that allow him to exit from all his woes, and he is relocated to Tokyo, where eventually he begins to miss is wife and two children. Provided with another chance, he is moved to France, but the same nostalgia for his family arises. Apparently the "Exit Strategy" is not to his taste, and not what he wished for. The remainder of the novel describes his efforts to extricate himself from his hidden life and return to his former one.

This is a first novel, and it is well done, at least up until the denouement which, to this reader at least, is overdone. The author has written a thriller, but has ended it with a heavy hand, rather than a subtle conclusion. Perhaps he's seen too many movies. On the whole, however, the book certainly is well-written and satisfying, and can be - and is - recommended.

Dead If You Don't
Peter James
Pan MacMillan
9781509816354, $24.95, Hardcover, 400 pp.

Two nightmares face Detective Superintendent Roy Grace almost immediately in the latest novel in this wonderful series of police procedurals. First is a bomb threat in the Amex Stadium, the new home of the Albion football team in the first game in the Premier Leagues. Roy is attending with his son Bruno and notices an unattended camera in an empty seat a few rows in front of him. Acting intuitively he grabs the instrument with merely seconds left on a timer and rushes out of the arena, tossing it as far as he can. It doesn't explode, but is meant to reinforce an extortion demand.

The second is the disappearance of a young lad while his father met and spoke with a client at the match. Later, he receives a ransom demand for a quarter of a million pounds. Grace spends the rest of the novel attempting to save the boy, while any number of murders and other mishaps arise under the purview of his High Crimes Unit.

The Roy Grace novels specialize in the meticulous attention to the investigative process in solving crimes, and Dead if You Don't carries on this tradition. It sometimes seems tedious, but that's what police procedurals are all about (and give authors the chance to introduce all kinds of red herrings). Perhaps, in this novel, this technique is carried a bit too far, with solutions offered with merely a second or two before it is too late, but we can recommend it nevertheless.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Dividends of Decency
Donald Lee Sheppard
Figure 1 Publishing
9781773270326, $26.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: When former executive and entrepreneur Don Sheppard awoke the morning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, he was horrified to learn that Donald Trump had become the 45th president of the United States. Committed to strong business principles and ethics throughout his varied career, Sheppard was concerned about the role model Trump as a businessperson (and now the most powerful person in the world) presented to corporate America, and to broader society in general. Leaders strongly influence those who follow them, and there had to be a better way.

Part business manifesto and part memoir, "Dividends of Decency: How Values-Based Leadership will Help Business Flourish in Trump's America" shows why and how doing the right thing in business is also doing the right thing for business. Principles and profits are not mutually exclusive; in fact, conducting business in a principled way can significantly improve profits as well as relationships with all key stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers and partners, shareholders and the community at large.

After decades of corporate scandals (including Enron, and Lehman Brothers and the other firms who precipitated the Great Recession of 2008-09) the ethical bar for business has fallen to a new low in Trump's America. "The Dividends of Decency" is a timely reminder of what is truly important in business, and a guide to values-based leadership that will help American business indeed be great again -- by being ethical, accountable and sustainable.

Critique: History has shown time and time again that the downfall of nations is due more to internal corruption that external seduction. The rise of Donald Trump exemplifies how America is succumbing to a corruption fueled by two basic forces -- financial greed and a lust for political power.

That is why the Evangelical Christian community is so fervent in their support for a self-professed sexual predatory and serial adulterer because of wanting to influence the appointment of conservative federal judgeships. Why traditional Republican members of congress will not confront Trump or call out his lies because of wanting to insure their own re-election to office. Why an overwhelming majority of registered Republicans are so willing to approve of Trump's debasement of such supporting pillars of basic democracy such as his attacks on a free press, his denigration of such law enforcement institutions as the courts, the FBI, the intelligence community, and his attempts to criminalize political opponents beginning with Hillary Clinton.

"Dividends of Decency: How Values-Based Leadership will Help Business Flourish in Trump's America" is a much needed and practical counter to the political and corporate corruption that has our democracy in such dire peril today. "Dividends of Decency" should be read by every corporate executive, by every political leader, and by every American citizen wanting to restore civility, courtesy, respect, and tolerance to our political discourse and issue driven debates.

While absolutely and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dividends of Decency" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Cold As Thunder
Jerry Apps
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299315900, $24.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Since the Eagle Party took power in the United States, all schools and public utilities have been privatized, churches and libraries closed, and independent news media shut down. Drones buzz overhead in constant surveillance of the populace, and the open internet has been replaced by the network of the New Society Corporation.

Environmental degradation and unchecked climate change have brought raging wildfires to the Western states and disastrous flooding to Eastern coastal regions. In the Midwest, a massive storm sends Lake Michigan surging over the Door County peninsula, and thousands of refugees flee inland.

In the midst of this apocalypse, a resourceful band of Wisconsin sixty-somethings calling themselves the Oldsters lays secret plans to fight the ruling regime's propaganda and show people how to think for themselves.

Critique: Jerry Apps is a natural born storyteller whose books on and about Wisconsin continue to be extraordinarily popular with each new generation of readers that encounter them. Now with "Cold As Thunder" he turns his immense literary talents to the task of crafting an inherently riveting novel that features elements that could be torn from tomorrow's newspaper headlines given the extraordinary political divides afflicting our nation today. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of Jerry Apps fans that "Cold As Thunder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Collecting Muscle Car Model Kits
Tim Boyd
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613253953, $29.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: In the 1960s, model kit building was a huge hobby. Model kit building was one of the most popular hobby activities. Car and airplane kits were the most popular, and among the car kits, muscle cars, as we know them today, were one of the most popular categories.

Many owners of real muscle cars today were not old enough to buy them when the cars were new, of course. Yet kids of the 1960s and 1970s worshiped these cars to an extent completely foreign to kids today. If you couldn't afford or were too young to buy a muscle car back then, what could you do? For many, the next best thing was to buy, collect, and build muscle car kits from a variety of kit companies. Hundreds were made. Many of these kits have become collectible today, especially in original, unassembled form.

Although people still build kits today, there is a broad market for collectors of nostalgic model kits. People love the kits for the great box art, to rekindle fond memories of building them 40 years ago, or even as a companion to the full-scale cars they own today.

In "Collecting Muscle Car Model Kits" world-leading authority Tim Boyd takes his readers through the entire era of muscle car kits, covering the options, collectability, variety availability, and value of these wonderful kits today. Boyd also takes his readers through the differences between the original kits, the older reproduction kits, and the new reproduction kits that many people find at swap meets today.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated from cover to cover, "Collecting Muscle Car Model Kits" will prove an essential guide for anyone looking to build a collection of muscle car kits, or who are interested in getting the kits of their favorite manufacturer, or even just of the cars they have owned in the past. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections, "Collecting Muscle Car Model Kits" will prove to be a popular, valued, and valuable resource for any serious or dedicated model kit search.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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