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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 7 July 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development
Heather Mair, editor
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781800370050, $245.00, HC, 460pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development", editor Heather Mair (Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Canada) brings together experts from around the world to reflect critically on the relationship between tourism and rural community development.

It first orients the reader in the important conceptual and epistemological foundations of the topic, before moving to consider key concepts and the most significant and salient theoretical and methodological developments in the field.

The chapters comprising "Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development" are written by a range of well-established, leading and emerging scholars in the field consider crucial issues facing tourism development in rural communities across different geographical settings.

"Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development" represents a variety of traditional and emerging forms of scholarly writing, including theoretically driven chapters, empirical case studies and first-person narratives, to offer a detailed study of the topic. With a forward-looking angle, it studies tourism development in rural areas, including working with rural communities, tourism governance and ethical considerations. The individual chapters also consider new directions in the field, examining food and tourism, degrowth, landscapes, animals, social impacts and women social entrepreneurs.

Comprehensive and innovative, "Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development" offers a wealth of empirical and theoretical knowledge on tourism and rural community development, and as such will be a critical resource for tourism, development studies and human geography scholars and students.

Critique: Comprised of thirty articulate, informative, and inherently interesting articles provided by experts in tourism and rural community development the contributions are deftly organized and presented in three major sections (Conceptual Foundations; Epistomological Foundations, Paradigms and Worldviews; Key Conceptualizations; Processes and Practices; Emerging Matters and New Directions), "Handbook on Tourism and Rural Community Development" also features a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials -- making it an ideal instructional textbook for personal, professional, governmental, college, and university library tourism development collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Lonesome Traveler
Jack Kerouac
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
9780802162106, $17.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: "Lonesome Traveler" by the legendary Beat Generaton author Jack Kerouac is his first directly autobiographical book. Kerouac relates the exhilarating stories of the years he spent restlessly traveling and writing his acclaimed novels. He journeys from the California deserts crisscrossed by train tracks to the bullfights of Mexico to the Beat nightlife of New York City, and across the Atlantic to Paris, Morocco, and London. With echoes of landscapes that appear in his other novels, including The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels, and featuring his distinctive exuberant style and "jazzy impressionistic prose" (New Yorker), Lonesome Traveler is a unique addition to Kerouac's body of work.

Critique: Originally published in 1960, and now made available to a new generation of appreciated readers a new paperback edition from Grove/Atlantic, "Lonesome Traveler" is an essential and core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American 20th Century Literary & Biography collections, as well as supplemental Jack Kerouac curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and Jack Kerouac fans that "Lonesome Traveler" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.95).

Editorial Note: Jack Kerouac ( was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922. He won a scholarship to Columbia University, where he first met Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. On the Road, published in 1957, epitomized to the world what became known as the "Beat generation" and made Kerouac one of the most best-known writers of his time. Publication of many other books followed, among them The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, and Big Sur. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

A Persistent Echo
Brian Kaufman
Black Rose Writing
1685132626, $20.95

The reason why most historical fiction appeals to a relatively specific, narrow audience with a basic interest in facts is because too many genre reads are more concerned with numbers than emotional draw. That's why Brian Kaufman's A Persistent Echo stands out from the crowd, drawing readers to the 1897 life and experiences of August Simms, who is drawn back to Rhome, Texas by the lure of a mysterious airship which has been spotted in several places in the area.

Simms chases dreams and possibilities. His investigations and experiences come to life with a "you are here" feel that Kaufman injects into the story to bring setting and adventure to life from the opening lines: "Like images in a tintype, the sun, the train station, the vegetation beyond the platform, and the dusty sky appear in shades of yellow and brown. Rhome, Texas. He has arrived."

August deems this place as close to home as he's ever been. He's spent his days wandering and adventuring, but at his age this is about to come to a full-circle end: "August sniffs the hot air. The locomotive stinks of coal and oil. He'd boarded the train in Folsom, New Mexico, riding the "Denver Road" into Texas. He has traveled all his life, as far east as Russian Armenia and as far west as the Solomon Islands. Today, his hips and back tell him that his traveling days are at an end." But, wait...there is something more. One more search that brings delightful mystery and interpersonal connections that August never saw coming.

August's survey of news stories, his association with friend and fellow investigator Ackerman, and his ability to track down eyewitnesses and news reports are translated into dialogue which is one compelling feature of the story:

"What made you think he was a scientist?"

Scully downs the last of his whiskey. "He had that faraway look."

August waits.

"You know. That faraway look, like his head's too full of thoughts and about to explode."

Humor and revelation are juxtaposed neatly via such dialogues and encounters, keeping readers thoroughly engaged in the history and mystery which unfold.

Kaufman keeps the emotional draw intense, whether it's over evolving discoveries or the death of a beloved horse. He also maintains the undercurrent of humor which runs like a river throughout even the most serious scenes, even those involving a tribute to a loved beast of burden: "We humbly ask your blessing for Bullet the horse, who lived the sort of life any Christian man or woman might strive for. He was loyal, hard-working, and uncomplaining. Most of all, he was a good friend. As Bill here took care of him over the years, we ask that you watch over him now." He takes a deep breath. "The world you created, Lord, is not perfect. Otherwise, horses like Bullet would live longer lives, and men, perhaps, would live shorter ones."

From scientific revelations to secret histories about wars and their behind-the-scenes influences, A Persistent Echo harbors the power to attract by both action and thought-provoking passages about historical, scientific, and social developments that translate nicely across history to modern times.

A Persistent Echo is a powerful story of revelation and discovery that assumes many countenances: a historical probe, a mid-life man's adventure, and a philosophical discourse in pursing truth and justice. It's a powerfully rendered novel that holds the rare ability to traverse genres to attract a wider audience of reader than the 'historical fiction' label portends.

It's highly recommended for readers who look for can't-put-it-down adventure and life reflections alike, making it especially notable for libraries that look for original, refreshingly intriguing reads that book clubs will find of special interest:

"His life strikes him as a progression of noble failures in the service of justice. He might as well have tried to hold back the moon, for all the good he's done. The world resists change."

Frankinschool: Monster Match
Caryn Rivadeneira
Red Chair Press LLC
c/o Lerner Press (distribution)
9781643712413, $16.99

Frankinschool: Monster Match provides a delightfully whimsical tale for kids ages 7-11 as it explores Fred and Luisa's exposure to a mysterious potion at school that places them directly onto the pages of a thrilling experience.

Fred is supposed to receive a personally autographed book from its author, but his name isn't written on the flyleaf. And he doesn't know anybody named 'Frank.' Or, he didn't until he read those words.

His classmate Luisa, who is always mean to him, poses a theory that embraces not only the snafu, but his inherent stupidity. That's nothing new: "Every day she says something awful to him."

The difference today is that Fred's transformation into Frank and Luisa's move to become Princess Luisa comes to life in an unexpected way as a writing assignment introduces him to new possibilities for leading his life in a different way ("What if I am Frank in school? Fred wrote. He looked at the words: Frank in school. Frank-in-school. Frankinschool!").

Kids who choose this book expecting a scary monster story will find far more simmering than hidden identities. Lessons on bullying and forgiveness, friendship, adventure, and alter egos permeate Fred's experiences and translate to insights that invite discussion and understanding.

Even more important is the theme of discovery and acceptance that brings Fred and Luisa to better understand each other and their amazing new conditions.

Caryn Rivadeneira crafts an unusual story that is embedded with the sleuthing and mystery of strange circumstances akin to Danny Dunn or Encyclopedia Brown, but adds the extra value of psychological discovery as the kids alter their relationship and themselves.

The result is an engrossing story that may disappoint youngsters who expected frightening monsters, but will delight all readers with its intriguing tale of self-discovery, transformation, magic, and changed interpersonal relationship skills as the also-newly-reinvented Princess discovers in Fred some hidden and admirable talents.

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen
Cameron A. Straughan
Kadath Press
9780968698112, $8.00 Paper/$5.99 ebook

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen is a study in satire and humor that enters the fantasy realm with the bang of a nightmare and a life that teeters on the mundane until a series of events transforms it.

Anthony Zen is not one for adventuring - except in his dreams. Getting up, going to work, and living with a Buddha-like cat is plenty for him, until irony and impossibilities begin to plague his life and movements:

"Running along, he became increasingly aware of the sound of hooves behind him. Turning quickly, he encountered a large giraffe, following him closely. He didn't know what business the giraffe had on that side of town. Quite frankly, he found the situation rather startling. After all, the entire area had been designated a 'Giraffe-free Zone', following the brutal mauling of a young wheel-chair bound boy by an LSD-induced escapee from a giraffe retirement home. It only takes one bad giraffe to ruin it for all the others..."

As amazing surreal encounters build, Anthony finds that his world becomes one of struggles, whether it be with a hippo policeman, a frustrated wise man who refuses to help Boy Scouts in trouble, or scenarios that test Anthony's ability to lead a staid, quiet life:

"Do you have a telephone I could use?" he hollered back, hoping to be heard. "I would like to call my parents and let them know where I am."

"No, I don't have a telephone!" the wise man screeched.

"What the hell do you think I'm running up here - a fish factory?"

The ancient wise man turned to Anthony. "It used to be real nice and quiet up here, until I wanted to get this house built. Now these damn kids are bugging me all the time and I've just about ..."

Readers interested in unpredictable stories filled with thrills, spills, cheers, and surprising intersections of fantasy and reality will find The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen an attraction that keeps its momentum supercharged by fun encounters.

Those who have come to feel that humorous stories too often sound alike will especially appreciate the vivid scenes and confrontations that evolve here:

"Falling to his knees, he desperately tried to remove the sticky blueberry filling from the front of his 'I Killed Your Mum' t-shirt. The other gang members leaped up in a mixed state of fear, amazement and sobriety, because they suddenly realized that marijuana had yet to be legalized; however, they were also rather shaken by Anthony's sudden show of force."

The result is hilarious, eye-opening, thoroughly unpredictable, and embellished with a wry sense of social and psychological observation and wonder that keeps readers laughing and thoroughly engaged.

Libraries looking for out-of-the-box fantasy and humor blends will find no better choice than The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen's solid and special brand of rollicking adventure that represents escapist reading at its finest.

Loverless Love: Stories
Christopher Guerin
Amika Press
9781956872675, $5.95 Kindle, $22.95 Hardcover, $15.95 Paperback

Loverless Love: Stories consists of seventeen stories that focus on American love experiences over a period of fifty years. As Christopher Guerin traverses these landscapes of intimacy, readers gain insights into the connections between sex, romance, and exploitation that emerge from clashes and character realizations.

Take the opening story 'Loverless Love,' for example. The successful Midwestern orchestra's marketing director meets enigmatic, rude business consultant Tina Hawthrone, whose brisk methodology includes an invitation for Daniel to meet at 11PM in her room to discuss music marketing strategies.

Tina's invitation to conduct business later that night feels strange to him, but the real oddness comes from her ability to continually mix up their appointments, then pin the blame on him. Daniel is not new to relationship subterfuge, but Tina's ability to constantly sweep him off his feet with twists of intention and blame make him vulnerable to her odd approaches and needs, which include the habit of sleeping alongside a man without engaging in sex.

As the story unfolds, readers might anticipate that the next stories will evolve in the same vein - but they'd be wrong. One of the hallmarks of Loverless Love is its diversity and ability to present very different sexual scenarios, motivations, and psychological insights in each of its scenarios.

The tales thus assume a cloak of disparity and unexpected sexual and psychological revelations which will prove satisfyingly thought-provoking to readers looking for literary, social, and psychological inspections that embrace irony, satire, and sexual revelations.

In contrast to the title story, for example, is 'Peaches,' about a relationship that develops from the roots of love, but which also serves as a convenient cover for a job with a shadowy government agency.

Aaron's involvement with Peaches also represents an enigma - but of quite a different ilk than Daniel's experience with Tina in the title story.

Aaron finds that Peaches idolizes the women who appear to represent "a woman, and a warrior." A question about what women are attracted to in a man becomes a probe into what promiscuous women are really seeking:

"What the woman wants is love."

"Now you're being contradictory."

"No. Just a little love. Loose women require revenge, which is what promiscuity is all about. I'm not talking the big 'L,' - just enough love so that she can walk away knowing the poor dope has been hurt, if just a little bit."

Some of the themes in the title story intersect with this, such as business pursuits that shadow the relationship's evolution. But Guerin injects the sexual and psychological overtones that change this pursuit, once again, into a raw story of a vivid woman who "sees things that other people don't," and whose manipulation leads to a dangerous form of attraction.

Each story is replete in a different form of angst and inspection of love that contrasts obsessions, grace, and romance in unexpected ways.

Libraries and readers looking for literary and psychological contrasts in approaches to love, strong women who well know what they want (often leading men into dangerous scenarios and sexual play), and enlightening tales about manipulation, control, and assumptions in conventional and unconventional romantic entanglements will find Loverless Love: Stories appealing. Book clubs, especially, will consider its inspections and contrasts of relationship quandaries worthy of discussion and debate.

Judaism Disrupted
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld
Ben Yehuda Press
9781953829375, $24.95

Judaism Disrupted is a re-invention of Judaism that challenges Jewish readers to convert ... not to another religion, but to translate the basic principles of the Torah in a new light so they receive better attachment to social and moral issues, caring for the planet, and acknowledging how religion too often fails God.

Think 'disruption', and accompanying visions of anarchy and destruction come to mind. While it's true that, too often, something must be destroyed in order to allow new opportunities, in this case Judaism is not under fire, but facing a transformative process that better connects community with spirituality, and spirituality to new ways of thinking and engaging.

"Why would you want to be a rabbi?" This is a question Rabbi Michael Strassfeld is often asked when he attaches his title to his name. The far better question, he maintains, is: "Why would you care so much about Judaism as to actually devote your professional life to it?"

Judaism Disrupted answers both questions - but more importantly, it draws clear connections between core issues affecting humans around the world and key principles of Judaism.

Why bother or care? Because, as Strassfeld maintains, "Judaism is actually about how to live a life of freedom." That's something we all say we want, but few claim to feel - especially in recent years.

As Strassfeld examines the basic principles of prayers and rituals, he unfolds layers of belief and assumption within them that invite readers to think about and open discussion amongst themselves and within their communities:

"Time is a key element of our lives. The challenge is not its management, but the understanding that we shape time by making certain days significant. Shabbat and festivals are ways we overlay structure and meaning on the astronomical course of the universe."

His analysis of the underlying principles of routines and values that people often take for granted provides a fresh, contemporary flavor to Judaism which enriches it, keeping it in line with modern thinking and experience.

These are specific insights tied to principles which have too often been translated with past experience in mind, not present-day and future thinking. The analysis provides not just for thought, but starting new visions of how Judaism can better apply to contemporary world problems:

"For centuries, the emphasis has been on settling the land (yishuv ha-aretz) in a world where human habitation seemed tiny compared to the vastness of the earth. The story of America and the ongoing settlement of its frontier is a specific example of this process. Our situation is now very different. There are no vast unexplored or unsettled areas. It took over two million years of human history for the world's population to reach one billion people, and only two hundred years more to reach seven billion. The world no longer needs to be settled - it needs to be protected. How can

Judaism frame a response to the environmental crisis? Can we use the word sin when we pollute this world? When we destroy the ozone layer, we haven't actually hurt another person, but we have hurt the world. I want to suggest that we reinterpret a biblical category that has basically fallen into disuse: tum'ah/impurity."

Judaism Disrupted will drive Jewish people to turn back to their religious roots for revised, different answers. It will also encourage non-Jewish people to consider how spiritual thinking can both enlighten and provoke social challenges. Gratitude, mindfulness, blessings ... it's all here, reformed in a new light that offers hope and transformative thinking.

While Judaism Disrupted will be featured in and chosen by Jewish libraries and thinkers, its real power lies in its ability to reach beyond Jewish readers alone to challenge the hearts and minds of any spiritual theorist.

For this reason, it is hoped that Judaism Disrupted will be included in a wide range of collections, from general-interest libraries to those strong in social issues and philosophical subjects. Ideally, it will become an intrinsic part of debates and considerations of how Judaism's core principles can be seen in action and better employed to solve world issues, changing traditional methods of viewing self and connections to others.

Foot Solider in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Jeffrey Cooper
Independently Published
9798359740128, $14.95 Paper, $9.95 ebook

It's rare to see a memoir that blends a technology history into autobiographical experiences, but Jeffrey Cooper's Foot Solider in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is both, following his rise as a high-tech financial specialist and the concurrent developments that have led the world to embrace smart micro-devices in daily living.

The story reviews Cooper's childhood in the 1950s and 60s, following how he developed the technical prowess and special interests that would lead to his financial management career at GE and then at ASML, after he was downsized.

Cooper maintained the perspective that "some things are better left unsaid" while he searched for control over his life. Foot Solider in the Fourth Industrial Revolution challenges the notion of unsaid things and tells all - about his upbringing, his entry into high-tech circles, his evolution as a financial manager and as a person, and his constant search for jobs that would teach him beyond the high-tech finance skills he developed.

His reflections mirror the upward momentum of technology in delightful ways: "Later in my career, I would reflect on this job and think about how I had often worked with electronics in one form or another, as almost all high-tech industries were built on a foundation of electronics which became increasingly sophisticated over the years. I would think how interesting it was that my career followed the arc of the maturation and sophistication of electronics."

From new product development and technical specifications to navigating depression, childrearing, and the changes that came from moving away from a life partner, Cooper adopts a candid assessment and voice that links his life and choices to social and technological evolutionary processes.

The result is a memoir that sparkles with personality, drive, and technological history. The story of how this era unfolded to impact participants active in creating widespread technological changes is fascinating, told with a depth and perspective that is rarely seen in the memoir format.

Libraries and readers interested in engaging memoirs that link the changes of the 1960s onward with concurrent transition points in life will find Foot Solider in the Fourth Industrial Revolution compelling not just because of the era it covers, but because of its lively exploration of how a 'foot soldier' participated in this technological revolution, challenging and changing his own life in the process.

Horse to Water
Peter Bailey
Independently Published
9798385535255, $9.54 Paper, $.99 Kindle

Horse to Water opens with an evidence video presented at a trial in which DCI Miles Archer narrowly escaped the bombing of his car at New Scotland Yard police headquarters. DCI David Taplin has been handed the task of uncovering the perp, even though his murky relationship with Archer places him in the uncomfortable position of trying to identify the bomber who threatened a man who once betrayed him.

As Taplin comes to realize the crime involves more than a single incident, placing him in the crosshairs of a threat to greater London, the two men face the current threat with a bow to past circumstances that led to their clash and present-day connections:

"Well, I'm sure I can rely on you to do a professional job despite our differences," Miles said through the fake smile.

"Oh yes. I'll do a bang-up job, possibly without dropping any junior officers in the shit."

Mutual loathing opens the story, but its driving force lies in the motivations, mystery, and events that not only bring two disparate personalities together, but forces Taplin to come to his enemy's defense in an unusual manner.

Peter Bailey unfolds a tense work of psychological suspense against the backdrop of terrorist and police activities as the game unfolds to deeper, ever more complex levels.

The game being played between Archer and Taplin is one that involves each man in a dangerous dance between not only one another, but their professional abilities to unearth answers about both the bombings and their relationship.

This blend of psychological and investigative suspense dovetails intrigue on two different levels, thoroughly involving readers in a story packed with unexpected revelations, twists, and scenarios that keeps characters and readers on their toes.

Between motivations for fiery killings and the upset of a delicate balance of power that raises further questions, Horse to Water evolves a special sense of justice, revenge, retribution, and issues. These place Taplin at the center of a web of lies and their impact on his future.

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers that evolve a fine sense of political and personal entanglements and murky motivations before a surprise conclusion is revealed will find Horse to Water filled with delightful moments powered by not just intrigue, but a situation that may prove impossible to resolve.

The Arrows of Mercy
Jill MacLean
Tellwell Talent
9780228887324, $26.00 Hardcover, $17.00 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Historical novel readers interested in 1300s Europe will find The Arrows of Mercy brings this milieu to life as it introduces the return of archer Edmund from the French battle of Crecy and siege of Calais. Now he faces new conflicts in the form of a brutal, resentful older brother, condemnation from the local priest, and spirited encounters with three very different women, which test his mettle and ability to return to civilian life and serfdom.

Jill MacLean writes with a vivid tone of immediacy that captures Edmund's perceptions about his world and his shifting place in it:

"He was indeed one of the thousands of archers who slaughtered French knights on the slopes of Crecy, though he doubts he was as frightened then as an instant ago, waiting for Bart's rage to be unleashed for an ill-judged collision. Two years since his conscription into the king's army and him shrunk to a helpless little-un in fear of a beating."

The battles Edmund avoids and those he chooses to engage in (or is forced to face against his will) engender passages that immerse the reader in Edmund's life and times.

The dialogue is rich with inflection and local lingo, yet easy to understand: "Them withies wouldn't keep a chick in a coop - did you forget how to be cottar while you was killing Frenchmen for the king?" Bart laughs. "Your hand a-shake like a poplar leaf, you might as well drop your knife now 'n' save me the trouble o' wresting it from you. Ah, little brother, hard as you tried, you never could stay out o' my way."

Lessons learned from war and times of peace, turbulent though they may prove, are imparted in passages that capture Edmund's changing relationships and newfound realizations: "We all got scars, Edmund, inside and out, war or no war..."

How Edmund reconciles his military service with the difficulties it causes in his home, and his efforts to change his future in a world poised on the brink of further disaster make for an involving story. The Arrows of Mercy will particularly attract those interested in tales of survival, plague, and power struggles between nations and within families.

The social, religious, and political influences affecting Edmund's world require no prior background in the events of the 14th century. All that's needed is an initial interest in daily life in medieval times, in order to appreciate the nuances of a once-ordinary life in Berkshire rocked by war, pestilence, and a deed that Edmund eventually realizes was "...both his most terrible and his most merciful," placing him in the dual role of hero and - possibly - villain.

The thought-provoking contrast between moral and ethical conundrums makes The Arrows of Mercy a strong recommendation for libraries looking for a powerful historical novel with a compelling plot and intriguing messages about war, family conflict, and the ultimate sources of peace.

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, author
Chhanda Chattopadhyay Bewtra, translator
9781946582386, $34.95

Literary readers interested in Indian literature in general and portraits of Bengali rural life in particular will find Ichhamoti a powerfully rendered exploration of caste, social order, and historical events that take place in the second half of the 19th century.

This is an era fraught with new inventions, political turbulence, and revised possibilities as rural villagers face the influence of the British empire on their lives and the social and political currents that buffet their future potential.

The Ichhamoti is a small river that flows through the Jessore district and eventually empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay's ability to capture the nature of the driving force of its story embeds his novel with a vivid "you are here" feel that requires no prior familiarity with Bengali atmosphere or people in order to prove compelling:

"Suppose you take a boat from the quays in Morighata or Bajitpur and sail straight onto Chanduria Ghat. As you travel, you will see the two banks lined with red palte madar flowers, wild bonyeburo, clusters of water lettuce and the bright yellow flowers of wild tithpalla. Ancient banyan and pipal trees loom over the high banks, with bamboo groves and shadowy clusters of uluti, bachra, and boinchi peeking around them. The nesting holes of bank mynahs look out of frames of dainty little vines and climbers. You won't see many houses on the riverbanks. Instead, you'll find soft green grasslands, empty sandy banks, shrubs bright with wildflowers and forests filled with chirping birds."

The time taken to create the foundations of this special place and time is also reflected in depictions of the people of this region, their dialogues and interactions, and their concerns about everyday life, as well as their futures.

Bandyopadhyay laces his descriptions and encounters with the force of growth, realizations, and relationships that experience the turbulence of change. This leads to such disparate events as the task of hiding bodies, spiritual lessons passed from father to son, and the political and economic choices that involve an indigo plantation's survival or demise and its lasting impact on villagers who depend on its existence.

The presence of these relics of yesteryear in daily lives is well-described and revealing:

"The mansion's rooms remained as full of large, heavy furniture as ever; the Bengal Indigo Concern had sold those along with the building and pocketed the money. Sure, the plantation had sold for a pittance, but what villager could buy a mansion full of fancy furniture at its actual value? Sending the pieces elsewhere was too expensive and too much work to organize. So, the furniture had been left as it was."

From its depictions of wealth and power to poverty and spiritual revelations, Ichhamoti is a force to be reckoned with. Its epic contrasts between the lives of humans and the nature that coexists peacefully alongside, powered by the Ichhamoti, which "rules the area with a firm, kind hand," makes for engrossing reading that's compellingly enlightening.

Libraries and readers attracted to epic Indian literature will find Ichhamoti a historical novel whose literary attractions are many. It deserves profile in any definitive literature collection featuring Indian backdrops, and in book club discussion groups about Bengali experiences.

The Girl Who Knew Death
Norm Harris
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509242313, $11.66, Paper, $4.99 Kindle

The fourth book in the Spider Green Mystery Thriller series, The Girl Who Knew Death, requires no familiarity with its predecessors in order to prove engrossing, although readers who come from the prior events will note that Fay continues to evolve and grow from her experiences.

Here, Kat, who was rescued by Fay and is her adopted daughter, must face her destiny and is just coming of age into her role as a princess when she is thrown into an Egyptian prison. Katrinka manages to escape with the help of young Latina American Embassy Guard, Marine Corporal Lopez, forcing Fay to once again navigate stormy international waters in an effort to save her.

The angel of death claims Lopez's soul early in the story, when she falls asleep in the taxi - but this is not the end of her involvement. Lopez's death has a purpose that involves Fay's life and Katrinka's deal with the devil. As more characters discover Lopez's real identity and mission, a struggle between mortal souls and angels ensues.

As Katrinka finds herself in flight, she and Fay also attract the attention of demon Mazikim, who introduces further confrontations and impossible dilemmas as the two women struggle towards freedom and an elusive truth that will change their lives and relationship yet again.

Like its predecessors, The Girl Who Knew Death excels in the fast-paced action, unpredictable twists, and injections of extraordinary encounters that are the trademark of author Norm Harris's special brand of female-driven thrillers.

The foray into paranormal suspense realms is even more developed in this latest venture, which will prove seamless to prior readers of the series and delightfully surprising to newcomers who might have anticipated a thriller platform alone.

These women are power points in their own right. Far from being a delicate princess, as one might expect from her looming title, Kat's clever strengths are acknowledged as being equal to Fay's abilities: "Lady Katrinka is what Sasha said. She is a tough, intimidating, and uncompromising badass. And she did escape from prison using only a pen."

As Kat steps into her roles as adopted daughter, a Russian military agent, and an uncommon friend of Azrael, the Angel of Death, readers receive a powerful story that weaves elements of time travel and paranormal encounters into the center of the international intrigue that powers the plot.

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers that dance on the edge of genre boundaries with tantalizing forays into unpredictable realms that defy logic and ordinary life progression will find The Girl Who Knew Death continues to expand the series as a whole, but stands delightfully well on its own as a compelling novel of intrigue and new possibilities for Fay, Katrinka, and those around them.

An Open Secret
Chris Enss and Deadwood History, Inc.
c/o Rowman
9781493061464, $19.94 Paper, $15.49 Kindle

An Open Secret: The Story of Deadwood's Most Notorious Bordellos is a top recommendation for American history library collections interested in 19th century events in general and South Dakota history in particular.

It narrows the focus to South Dakota's bordellos and the madams who operated them, using the historical novel format to capture real-life events that shaped the culture and nature of the small town of Deadwood, South Dakota. This town was burned to the ground, yet its survivors persisted against all odds, facing hardships and abuse during battles the town's women fought.

An Open Secret's candid look at the profession of prostitution during these times and the impact it held on men and women's lives embraces historical fact without glorifying it. This choice brings the motivations, struggles, and people of the town to life through the eyes and experiences of madams who fostered reputations as tough but fair managers. Readers will be surprised to note their efforts didn't ruin young girls, but actually supported them in different ways.

Rowdy patrons, murders, and gamblers all come to life as Chris Enss explores the world of Deadwood and its people, adding vintage photos that bring this milieu to life.

The choice of pairing historical fiction's action and vivid descriptions with facts embracing Deadwood's history and culture results in a special brand of regional history that will prove surprisingly accessible to a wide audience, from history readers to those who enjoy 19th century settings and rollicking good stories based on vivid characters and events.

Libraries strong in historical novels that center on 19th century American history will find An Open Secret's powerfully compelling examination of prostitution, bordellos, and the madams who ran them to be an involving, enlightening experience that is highly recommended for book club discussion groups, as well.

Jerome Silbert
Independently Published
9798988208303, $14.95 paper, $2.99 ebook

As follow-up to Jerome Silbert's mystery stories Paris Gone Dark and A Bomb in the Palace, Revenge continues to explore a case based on the retired defense attorney author's experiences in Illinois with the Siberian Liberation Army (SLA). The early (and real) terrorist group's activities are woven into events in all these books, and Revenge picks up where the prior stories left off, making it especially recommended for readers who enjoyed these vivid explorations.

Retired Chicago police officer Billy Dee Jackson and his wife Janine have just returned from Paris, but they're barely off the plane when they receive the terrible news that someone destroyed their home only hours earlier. It's an unwelcome homecoming for the couple - and a vivid reminder that the terrorism they faced in the past has come home to roost.

When Billy's detective friend Jack Sheppard joins him to investigate, both become immersed with two people they know, Susan Dumont and Jack Monte. At the same time, Dumont and Monte struggle with one another and their dance of revenge, which reaches out to embroil others in conflict.

In the old days, the retired cop was drawn into murky international intrigue by a bombing he and Sheppard investigated. History reinvents itself here as events lead back to the forces Billy thought he'd left behind in Paris.

"It's the little things that lead to something big."

In this case, connections keep sparking new conflict, forcing Billy and Jack to engage with dangerous forces that have their own special interests at heart.

Jerome Silbert moves between Billy and Jack's perspective and the perceptions of perps who operate under different rules and possibilities. This adds a special dimension of inquiry and ideas to the story that embeds it with life as events play out and new possibilities emerge:

"As Dumond advised, 'Think it through.' She played through the various scenarios regarding Jenko and concluded that if he was dead, it was a gain. All the ones who could talk about the bombed house and murders were themselves, forever silent. She let out a sigh of relief. But, then this Pappy. Was he alive? What did he know? Dumond would often say, 'Information is the coin of the realm.' How does she find out without jeopardizing herself further?"

As SLA connections involve the two detective friends in yet another cat-and-mouse game, readers will find the constantly shifting revelations absorbing, satisfyingly unexpected, and intensely action-packed.

Thriller and mystery readers who like their crime stories accented by real-life cases, replete with strong characters whose concerns range from tying bombings to specific individuals or groups to juggling survival with motives for revenge, will find Revenge a powerfully rendered story.

Libraries who have its two predecessors in their collections will want to add Revenge's additional world-hopping intrigue to their shelves, while readers who appreciated the blend of intrigue and high-octane action in the previous books will be happy to learn that Billy and other characters continue to grow as they face new challenges here.

Chipper Sends Sunshine
Kimber Fox Morgan
Creative, Simple Wonder Press
9781737038672, $18.99 Hardcover, $15.99 Paper, $5.99 ebook

Chipper Sends Sunshine's focus is animal friends having fun at a camp which is much warmer (and very different) than the arctic environment they come from. Its message is about the shared delights friends can experience from unfamiliar encounters and environments - but add Kim Sponaugle's delightful, whimsically colorful drawings for a touch of thoughtful adventure that will keep kids both reading and thinking.

From bonding over water play to soaking up the sun and building friendships with disparate animals during new, shared activities, the camp experience highlights the unique opportunity for forming new relationships.

The bigger question is: how do these friendships survive the challenges of long distance? Each arctic animal friend's determination to stay in touch is tested by mishaps that thwart the best of intentions.

Picture book readers receive encouragement to write letters, maintain friendships from afar, and consider the joys of pen pals. Parents who choose Chipper Sends Sunshine for its positive messages about how to maintain connections with others will find plenty of discussion material suitable for all ages.

Elementary-level libraries will especially appreciate this colorful quest for connection, which lends to read-aloud and display alike as it reveals the power of positive thinking, writing, problem-solving, and friendships forged by new shared experiences and efforts to engage.

Secrets of the Wild
Olivia Kent
Mascot Books
9781645431107, $15.95

Secrets of the Wild invites picture book readers to consider another possibility to the unseen natural world's activities, maintaining that "animals are wild, and wild they shall be" as it presents a fantasy portrait of what really happens deep in the forests where humans don't go.

One scenario is that of a beaver party: "Beavers hold massive and elegant parties in their dams. You have to be the brightest and strongest of the flock, herd, or gaggle to be invited. Creatures dance, species mingle happily, and hundreds of bottles of beaver-made beverages are consumed."

Srimalie Bassani's illustrations capture the vibrant possibilities of this world as they follow the antics introduced by partying critters at night, in a milieu where "...nothing compares to the rodeo that goes on when the weasels show up every Sunday."

Read-aloud parents looking for bright, adventure-filled fantasy stories of animals that live alternative lives far from the prying eyes of science and humanity will find the rollicking nighttime activities and animal secrets in Secrets of the Wild just the ticket for giggles, fun, and considering new possibilities in the "beaver parties, bear den game nights, or weasel rodeos" that could occur outside the realm of scientific inquiry and logic.

This invitation for speculation will engage the very young with a story that is delightfully original and fantastically vivid.

The Flaws in Our Prayers
Magdelana Stanhoff
Ling Artist
9788396242686 $20.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

The Flaws in Our Prayers is a novel about two self-reliant, determined single adults who have different ways of avoiding romance and the possibilities and conflicts love brings, until a chance encounter melds their lives into a different (and dangerous) trajectory.

Sebastian Litomski is a thirty-four-year-old man who "avoids clingy females" and believes that love is not a goal, but a weakness. Kim Hana has methodically avoided any possibility of love in her life since she left her homeland with her small daughter.

Readers might predict the intersection of these two stalwart personalities at this point, but what they won't see coming is a set of circumstances that doesn't just bring them together, but introduces further adversity that seems to both support and conflict with their feelings about romance and love.

Magdelana Stanhoff presents a revealing story of two disparate couples powerful in their independence and intrinsically flawed in their logic. She juxtaposes this foundation with life events that traverse cultures as Krakow residents Yoon Sori and Filip Socha also find their lives unexpectedly joined against all odds.

As these two love stories evolve, readers receive thought-provoking events and realizations that focus on building trust and new realizations and going against cultural and social lessons to adopt new ways of viewing and moving within the world.

As each character learns to trust and grows both within and outside the relationship, readers will enjoy satisfying revelations that also arrive steeped in irony:

"Isn't it what you always wanted? A woman who abhors shackles? And here she is, just as you wished, and she seems to value her freedom even more than you. Aren't you happy?"

The contrast between these personalities, their cultural influences and origins, and the forces that bring them together makes for a satisfying dual unfolding of love. This will appeal to readers interested in thought-provoking contrasts between love and issues of freedom, convention, and trust.

Libraries and readers seeking romance stories that evolve in creative and unexpected ways, injecting wry twists of humor and irony into the process of discovery, will relish this story of lives that intersect in unexpected manners.

The Flaws in Our Prayers is especially delightful in its survey of how these choices impact not only the couples-in-the-making, but friends and future generations.

Echo of the Evercry
E. J. Dawson
Literary Wanderlust
9781956615166, $15.99 paper, 5.99 ebook

In most scenarios, the ability to kill would be considered a detriment. But in Echo of the Evercry, it's an attribute sadly lacking in the sisterhood that Larissa is involved with, which is charged with hunting down corrupt sorcerers who have fallen to the Evercry and slaying them.

In this milieu, magic is something to be quashed. And Larissa's big secret is that she is not only drawn to it, but feels just as compelled to engage with and wield it as the sorcerers she's supposed to hate.

The Evercry was an evil force that employed dark magic before it was vanquished. The history that binds this present-day perception and logic is impeccably explained from the start:

"Any who apply themselves can learn to bend the world to their will, but magic holds within its heart the same darkness and chaos as the Evercry once did. Power begets power, and through these human vessels, slivers of the Evercry find a home. Insinuating itself like weeds through farmland, the Evercry's appearances are subtle, but infect the unwary fields of humanity until the blight is too well rooted to be removed with anything other than death."

Larissa has well learned these lessons at her mother's knee, and is set to walk in those some precedents when her mother is called by the Fair Lady to slay her own foe. A daughter's duty to grow up to hear the Evercry and slay her own knight is thus dictated by lesson and tradition, but defied by her own heart, which encourages a very different path.

The specter of a world governed by darkness and powerful women who are trained to come into their powers by killing foes is nothing new; but what is delightfully original here are the twists E. J. Dawson employs as shades of gray are injected into a world seemingly clear about goodness and evil forces.

These come to fruition and are represented in Larissa as she interacts with fellow Fair Lady sisters, confronting the dichotomies that govern her life and choices and defying the history and training she's always viewed as a given:

"They didn't even know who they were running from. No, that was a lie. Their enemy, the one responsible for this attack, was whomever her mother was fighting. The Evervast."

As Larissa and her band face the strongest Evercry ever known, she summons the courage to not only confront it, but challenge herself and her companions in unexpected ways.

Larissa's growth, self-realizations, and considerations of the real roots and impact of magic and power in the world explores her changing role and reinterpretation of the history that has been handed down in the world. Ironically (and relatively unique to this story), Larissa's choices ripple out to affect her companions in unexpected ways as they reassess their own beliefs, actions, and ability to support their sister against both traditional and unconventional foes.

These types of revelations, in which not just protagonist but the circles around her are transformed, make for an unusually evocative read which blends sword-and-sorcery action with equally powerful depictions of interpersonal relationships and revelations that rock the world. The interactive nature of the characters as they intersect is as much a draw as protagonist Larissa's process of self-discovery.

Libraries and readers that choose Echo of the Evercry will discover its wide-ranging themes of transformation and revised perceptions about good and evil, friendship and support, and power struggles lend to thought-provoking moments that create the foundations for lively book club discussions, as well.

Expletives Not Deleted
Leon Acord
Larilee Entertainment
9798449228505, $3.99 ebook

Blend memoir with political humor and hard-hitting insights about performance and politics for the feel of Expletives Not Deleted, which opens with the admonition that "I've been trying very hard lately to not become a grumpy old queen. I fear I'm not being entirely successful."

What is life like after sixty? Leon Acord pulls no punches in saying that it isn't a picnic, despite the proclamations of (usually younger) people that "sixty is the new forty."

"On second thought, I have every reason to be grumpy." Leon Acord reflects powerfully on the forces that affect his aging process and future, presenting a lively survey of social and political changes that have coalesced with aging to render him both less effective on some physical levels and more powerful than ever in a literary and activist sense ... as is demonstrated in Expletives Not Deleted.

His romp through performing arts and film and his considerations of connections to everyday life and political challenges creates lively, evocative reading.

As he surveys gay culture, creates lists of references that readers can use to bolster their own perceptions and realizations, and asks questions that likely lie in the minds of most modern Americans, his writing serves as an invitation for inspection and change:

"What the hell is happening to us? It seems the very foundation of society is not only cracking but crumbling. At record speed. In front of our very eyes."

His connections between media influences, underlying lessons of film and culture, and the evolution of his psyche provides an intriguing contrast between a singular life and the society that shapes and influences its moral and ethical fiber:

"From my earliest exposure to the comic books, I also appreciated that Wonder Woman's mission set her apart from all the other spandexed superheroes and made her truly unique. She wasn't the world's greatest detective, out to strike terror in the hearts of criminals, like Bats. She wasn't the guardian of the universe and enforcer of truth and justice, like Superman. She wasn't thrust into her role by events outside her control - like the demise of her planet, or murder of her parents, or a bite from a radioactive spider. She chose to be the hero."

Herein lies the real nuggets of wisdom, controversy, and revelation of Expletives Not Deleted - its close connections between personal evolution, the social and political influences that tailored a young gay man's life and career, and the explorations of such seemingly disparate subjects as aging, gay culture, and political paradoxes. How does one remain happy and engaged when the world seems to be falling apart?

These subjects make Expletives Not Deleted a lively, likely controversial, and wholly discussable read recommended for a broad library audience, especially book clubs interested in the intersection of personal and political evolution.

As fun as they are to read, these comic essays represent a growth opportunity for those who would look more closely at the elements contributing to social change and individual enlightenment, making Expletives Not Deleted a unique, highly recommended exploration.

Outbreaks and Pandemics
Nicholas A. Daniels, MD, MPH
Atmosphere Press
9781639886616, $20.99

Outbreaks and Pandemics: The Life of a Disease Detective - A Memoir is an account of investigative processes that holds special relevance in pandemic times. Pre-COVID, this book's interest would have been limited to a narrower audience. Now, its message and processes will receive attention by a far wider audience interested in how diseases are identified and tracked, their impact mitigated by research and public awareness.

More than a research history, however, Outbreaks and Pandemics also unfolds a success story in which author Nicholas A. Daniels rose from poverty to become an infectious disease epidemiologist. This progression holds many lessons for others who would overcome life circumstances to reach the pinnacle of success, reviewing the work of fellow disease detectives who tackled seemingly insurmountable puzzles of public infection to reveal how investigators uncover the nature and transmission of diseases.

From pre-pandemic surveillance measures and key elements of preparedness to understanding the social prejudices that repress potentially brilliant individuals and keep them marginalized and stereotyped, Outbreaks and Pandemics is flawless in its intersection of personal experience and broader social inspection:

"It is common for some of my white friends to ask me, "Why can't all Black people be like you?" This question is presumptuous and often based on stereotypes and biases. I know thousands of educated and well-mannered professional Black people, just like me. But, given our racial divide, most white people do not know or interact with Black people socially or professionally, and only see stereotyped images on television, leading to their misconceptions.

My ability to relate to all people at a basic human level and feel comfortable has allowed me to thrive in predominantly white environments all my life."

Aside from its value as a blueprint of medical investigative history and processes, Dr. Daniels includes important points about how individuals succeed and make a difference at all levels of society by their influences, attitudes, and choices.

The result is a powerful document of personal and social achievement that educates readers on several fronts: that of disease research and management, and the concurrent importance of fostering and raising strong individuals (no matter what their race or gender) in order to overcome the health challenges humanity faces.

Libraries and readers interested in medical and social issues will find Outbreaks and Pandemics an especially wide-ranging memoir that holds much food for thought. It ideally will be chosen for classroom and book club inspection and debate.

Earth's Ecocide: Desperation 2647
David A. Collier
Atmosphere Press
9781639888658, $16.99

Earth's Ecocide: Desperation 2647 will appeal to climate change and apocalyptic sci-fi readers and libraries looking for broader subjects than climate change and social destruction alone. It opens a series replete with action as seventeen-year-old Livia navigates a world of global temperature increases and the rising threat and promise of AI.

As Livia interacts with both, her world comes to life. David A. Collier injects the explanations, insights, and revelations that keep the story logical and involving, from AI explorations to Livia's own charge to stay alive and build a life against all odds:

"Kutter recognized Nila's emotional module wasn't developed enough that she could experience strong human emotions like hate or love. Nor did she perceive the danger of his military deployment. Service was her primary mission, but she gathered human vocal cues, such as anger or sadness, through her biological signaling subroutines. She knew that when Kutter told her to protect his mother and sister, he meant it."

As the struggle to become (or remain) human unfolds against the backdrop of world-changing events, teen to adult readers become thoroughly immersed in the revised stakes of navigating a world well on course for environmental destruction and human extinction.

Livia faces as many dangerous situations from her fellow human beings as she does the climate change and AI forces at work in her world. Having longed for freedom, she discovers, after only three days, that such comes with a deadly portent of the revised reality of a disintegrating world.

Without the military forces that usually protect her, Livia is alone ... except for the strange blue orb that appears to save her, and which holds its own game plan for the future of Livia and her family.

Collier juxtaposes action with believable technological backdrops in this futuristic world. His attention to revealing this world through Livia's experiences, choices, and training creates a "you are here" feel to events that unfold to test her education and emotional responses.

Twists and turns are introduced that many won't see coming, adding intrigue and surprise as Livia navigates not only the well-known aspects of her sheltered life, but the less familiar challenges that exist outside her perceptions.

Libraries and readers might initially deem Earth's Ecocide: Desperation 2647 a teen sci-fi read, or a work of ecological apocalypse alone. But there is so much more happening here that the story is highly recommended for sci-fi readers of any age who would contemplate and discuss a scenario in which reality itself is on the chopping block.

Its tension, twists, and thought-provoking surprises makes for a thoroughly engrossing story.

Love Will Turn You Around
Mary Munson
Gnome Road Publishing
9781957655017, $17.99

Love Will Turn You Around is a lovely picture book lesson featuring a unique character - Heart, who wakes up one morning feeling blue.

Illustrator Kate Talbot creates a gorgeous, expressive set of images that bring Heart's story to life as he interacts with Circle, Triangle, Square, and other shapes that enjoy playing in ways he cannot.

Young readers learn about shapes as they absorb Heart's experiences and dilemmas, receiving an important lesson in friendship from Star, who points out that even a defeated Heart can "twinkle."

Star's perspective is enough to give Heart an important idea about changing perspective to turn a frown upside down into a smile.

Parents who choose Love Will Turn You Around for read-aloud will find its concurrent lessons in shapes and attitude the perfect starting point for instructing the very young about love, friendship, and overcoming adversity through revised attitudes. The lovely illustrations make Heart's dilemmas and solutions appealing and fun.

Elementary-level libraries will find Heart's story suitable for read-aloud, and will appreciate its invitation to engage and educate kids in a variety of subjects, from primary and secondary colors and basic math to skills development and teamwork principles.

Finley: A Moose On The Caboose
Candace Spizzirri
Gnome Road Publishing
9781957655031, $18.99

Chantelle and Burgen Thorne's fun illustrations for Candace Spizzirri's engaging picture book adventure Finley: A Moose On The Caboose add artistic flair and a sense of humor and positivity to the story of "the friendliest moose" Finley, who loves to greet train passengers to his town with a smile and a willingness to listen to their adventures.

These efforts lead to Finley's own desires to travel the rails - but he finds, when he attempts to jump aboard a moving train, that 'wild animals' are not welcome on a train (even though he is a very friendly one).

Not one to admit defeat, Finley decides that a disguise is the perfect way to board. Too bad he's chosen the one disguise that also is not allowed!

Failure doesn't deter this moose, and Finley's daily antics to sneak aboard a train while adhering to its too-many rules will provide young readers with much laughter, cemented by the zany illustrations which capture Finley's exploits.

"Rules are rules." But, in special circumstances, they can be broken.

Parents, kids, and educators who choose Finley: A Moose On The Caboose for its entertainment value will find its underlying messages about perseverance, problem-solving, and adhering to (while creatively re-interpreting) rules to be both fun and thought-provoking.

Finley: A Moose On The Caboose is a lively, colorful choice for any library strong in tales that both entertain and lead to broader young reader discussion about rules, determination, and utilizing one's special abilities to get ahead.

Jock Sniff America
Marcus Herzberg
Oren Village, LLC
9781733302050, $19.95

Jock Sniff America is a fictional satire of professional sports moral and ethical challenges and the evolution of narrator Magnus Haycock's entry into the circles of the "jock sniff elite."

The story opens with a family Thanksgiving. Magnus is on the cusp of new adulthood, and has encounters with family and others where he 'pretends he is an adult' while navigating the oddities and complexities of the professional and business world of sports and community engagement.

The subtle irony and satire replete throughout this account shines, from Magnus's last name to the cultures he explores which revolve around popularity, sports, politics, and incarceration.

The holiday season has itself become a joke and a parody to Magnus, who is both tired of the expectations and shallowness of the season and taking a trip to sign new talent that calls into question his own abilities and perceptions.

Marcus Herzberg's romp through American morals and culture offers the feel of Catcher in the Rye and other classics of young adults exploring the nuances and ironies of the adult world, commenting on their shifting roles and disappointments after the action begins.

Where Holden Caulfield's primary focus is in Catcher is losing his virginity, Magnus's challenge involves losing his attitude and perceptions about sports and his place in the world. He realizes "the course of my life could be forever affected by the choice I am about to make." The impact of his decisions and the forces motivating and guiding them makes for thoroughly engrossing reading as Magnus steps up to the plate of addressing double-edged sports swords and making his mark on the world.

The story opens with his big dreams of taking over the world. It closes with the baby steps of possible romance and life-changing approaches that reflect Magnus's newfound maturity and revised thoughts about his place in the greater scheme of things.

Libraries and readers seeking a vivid coming-of-age story about professional sports, athletics, and a young man's growth as he explores both familiar and unfamiliar cultural influences will find Jock Sniff America not only a compelling journey, but worthy of book club recommendation. It can be used in discussions about bigger-picture thinking, growth, and satirical examinations of American sports culture.

The Yewberry Way Book I: Prayer
Jack Gist
Defiance Press & Publishing, LLC
9781959677192, $24.95 Hardcover, $18.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

The Yewberry Way Book I: Prayer is a visionary dystopian story highly recommended for fans of George Orwell and futuristic philosophical reading. Jack Gist's world is controlled by the System, which regulates the hearts and minds of humanity. In this post-apocalyptic scenario, violence and hate have been stricken from human society. The cost of this prohibition includes denial of the metaphysical forces at work in the world, so when a recluse Outpost Keeper encounters a Praying Man in the desert world outside, the status quo is threatened.

Dr. Yew Uket is theoretically on the side of the System and is called in to extract the Outpost Keeper's memories of his encounter, but what she's really interested in are the keys that will lead her to the Praying Man. Her foray into the mind becomes the motivating factor for a journey into the world in which a truth that becomes twisted into lies upon interrogation turns into transformational revelations of magic and opportunities.

"Living things are always shifting." While the System has attempted to halt this process in favor of survival and predictability, inevitability is a funny thing. It refuses to remain repressed, but bursts forth despite all efforts to quell it.

As Gist evolves a scenario replete with odd characters and encounters between Raggedy Man, Yew, Doc Waters, Mean Eyes, and others, he also reinforces the underlying values, perceptions, and changes of this strange futuristic world that buffet individual and social concepts of reality and illusion.

He moves between first person and third person descriptions to add the full flavor of revelations and responses into his story, cementing the ironic and purposeful choices of characters with interludes of description that bring this world to life ("The sky is the color of baby powder.").

The clash between the undisciplined (and untrainable) Cactus Eaters who defy the System's attempts to control them unfolds in a thought-provoking way that will lend to discussion and insights from book clubs and reading groups - especially those who have tackled Orwell's writings, and who look for a more contemporary author's take on social manipulation and clashing realities.

Call it a work of dystopian fiction, magical realism, or social inspection as you will - one thing is certain: the shifting nature of social constructs and efforts to regulate the world bring not just change, but war.

Libraries and readers interested in compelling works that invite classroom and reading group discussion about future trends and social and political possibilities will find The Yewberry Way Book I: Prayer a potent study of the power of transformation, prayer, and alternative thinking.

The Yawning Gap
C.V. Vobh
Thuban Books
9781961425019, $14.99 paper, $4.99 ebook

When COVID began, some months into the worldwide pandemic it was revealed that some very isolated vacationers out of touch with civilization had re-entered the world to find it in the grip of an unfathomable experience. Similar circumstances affect an entire village in the epic fantasy The Yawning Gap, in which Cor Volucre's home has been isolated from influences outside the wall which has surrounded it for centuries.

Unlike other books about isolation and discovery, Cor never intended to venture beyond the boundaries of his home. It was an accident ... one which portends resonating changes as a result. Cor's mother has long set him up for believing he is special, and that one day his actions would change the world; but as time passed, he grew less certain that he was destined for something great. Now he stands on the cusp of his mother's vision for his future.

The first book in the Wanderers Cycle follows his stumble into this destiny and strengths as Cor discovers bigger picture thinking about his village's place in an artificially divided world whose boundaries are in similar flux to his own.

C.V. Vobh writes with a vivid hand as Cor and companion Brayleigh Mirin tap the "fires of youth" to encounter powerful tyrants, kings, and opportunities for salvation not only of kingdoms, but their own roles in a vastly revised worldview.

The entire fragmented world is in decline, and only those who wander (such as Cor and his odd troupe of friends) hold the potential to save it.

Cor's discoveries about his place in the greater scheme of events takes center stage in a story about a boy coming into his own and confronting the nature of reality.

Vobh provides lyrical and compelling descriptions as characters confront forces of good, evil, and world-building or destroying entities. A misguided quest for "true equality" becomes an attempt of folly in attempting to level a playing field that disintegrates without the Elements' opportunities for 'unjust' and inequitable benefit.

The result is a powerful saga of realization, growth, and confrontation that keeps Cor and his band of adventurers (and their readers) on their toes and thoroughly engaged in a story that sports an unpredictable outcome.

Libraries and readers seeking epic fantasy introduction that juxtaposes not just action and tension, but character discoveries about the effects of their isolation and persistence in unraveling new opportunities will find The Yawning Gap compelling and commendable not just for its action and intriguing twists, but for a special brand of world inspection that brings with it new opportunities for transforming reality itself.

Victoria McKay and the Kingdom of Creatures
Marina Aerin Richardson
Many Realms Media
9798396980129, $14.99 print, $5.99 ebook

Victoria McKay and the Kingdom of Creatures is a fantasy adventure novel written by a twelve-year-old whose literary prowess is every bit as powerful as writers many years older.

Tween Vicky does what many children do - wishes she never had a pesky younger sister. However, when she awakens in the morning to find that Ashley has vanished, Vicky discovers the love between them that underlie her frustration, and embarks on a journey to another realm to rescue the person she once wished away.

From encounters with unusual creatures and friends who exhibit impossible abilities and quirky senses of humor to forays through Black Woods, encounters with ghosts, and powerful realizations about the world and Vicky's place in it, Marina Aerin Richardson exhibits a descriptive exuberance that translates nicely into unusually compelling images: "I turned and turned like a human Ferris wheel, trying to locate the source of the sound."

Lovely illustrations pepper the story, accenting its characters and adventures, but it's Richardson's vivid descriptive phrasing and sense of lively adventure that bring the tale to full-bodied life, immersing readers with a "you are here" voice that is vibrant with original, unexpected observations:

"I'll spare you most of the details of what followed my screaming descent into what turned out to be a vast, sprawling, and totally nonsensical complex solely devoted to Mariposa's twisted sense of beauty. I certainly don't remember every bit, anyhow. In fact, I don't even know exactly how long I was subjected to the "beautification." It's quite possible I missed my twelfth birthday somewhere around the fifth step. Or maybe I was only gone a few hours - who's to tell?"

Besides the adventure and fantasy, Vicky's evolutionary process (as she makes many different kinds of friends who support her in diverse ways and discovers new ways of dealing with the world and realizing her place in it) creates a story that attracts on more than an action-packed level.

As human Vicky faces a Magical Council she is not supposed to know about and confronts magical creatures, she becomes both a witness and a participant in a world filled with both attractive and terrifying creatures and rules which only partially apply to her, as a human.

The emotional flavors which run through Vicky's extraordinary encounters power the story with vivid responses to her changing sense of reality, magic, and her blossoming abilities: "Despite all the chaos this day had been, despite the severity of me being here in a court run by three evil maniacs with only a kindly rabbit and redhead pixie on my side - despite all that...I was still a naturally curious girl."

Although Victoria McKay and the Kingdom of Creatures is a fantasy that tweens and young adults will find attractive, its force and example should not be missed by older readers, as well. Richardson's ability to flavor her world with the emotional and physical forces that dovetail to create compelling scenarios and shifting lessons of interpersonal relationships and experiences translates to not just an effective story, but one that's hard to put down.

Libraries that choose Victoria McKay and the Kingdom of Creatures for their collections will also want to note the age of its author, while creative writing teachers can use the book to point out that age is no barrier to producing original, literary works of art that stand out from the crowd with a fresh, compelling voice.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Guided By Love: Navigating Life with a Mother with Memory Loss
Sarah Cion and Elizabeth Heller
Foreword By Murray Cion, MD.
Safflower Publishing Inc
9798379285906, $17.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Today there are more books coming out on Dementia and Alzheimer's, that shed new light on the diseases that affect not just a single person, but all of those around them including, family and closest friends. "Guided By Love Navigating Life with a Mother with Memory Loss" is very different at least, in the many titles I have read and reviewed, because it is not written by a medical professional. Instead it's a daughter who as is often the case, put in the position of her mother's caregiver. Sarah tells her portion with love, compassion, and understanding while Elizabeth reveals thoughts she experienced throughout their life at home until it was time to seek other means of full-time care as the Dementia progressed. "Guided By Love Navigating Life with a Mother with Memory Loss" is a first-hand account of the journey through the devastating disease of a daughter and her mother that should be a resource to let others know they are not alone as they are entering or moving along the path of the illness where no two cases are exactly alike while, presently, there is no cure. "Guided By Love Navigating Life with a Mother with Memory Loss" should also be given out to patients by their doctors, or on reading lists of medical research facilities, colleges, and talked about on news segments for the beautiful way this truly remarkable book tells one family's passage along this one-way devastating disorder.

Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel
Anthony Horowitz
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
9780062395115, $16.99 pbk, $11.99 Kindle

"Trigger Mortis" the first Horowitz narrative is close in style and feel to the original Fleming classics that were so much fun to read. Opening with a murder, "Trigger Mortis" races along at a brisk pace to its final shattering conclusion. Bond's newest mission begins a short time after his battle with Goldfinger. Along the way are some familiar characters with some new and interesting allies thrown in. The villain is evil in the same mold as other Fleming, Bond enemies. Included in several chapters are pieces of unpublished works by Fleming himself that add to the novel. "Trigger Mortis" is a great James Bond story in many years that is a tribute to Ian Fleming's original novels. James Bond is back in action, and better than ever.

Forever And A Day
Anthony Horowitz
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
9780062873620, $16.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

The British secret service is very interested in a murder in the French Rivera as it involves one of their agents. M. sends in James Bond to investigate opens "Forever And A Day" the second novel by Anthony Horowitz. Bond hooks up with the mysterious Joanne Bochet who goes by the name of Madame track down the clues that lead to an ominous evil mastermind plot to wreak havoc on citizens of the world population. Horowitz once again moves the plot along with solid writing in the fold of Fleming that concludes the story with a satisfying ending. "Forever And A Day" is highly recommend reading for anyone who enjoys the Bond novels. James Bond will return and hopefully Anthony Horowitz will too to write another Bond thriller.

With A Mind To Kill
Anthony Horowitz
c/o Harper Collins
9780063078420, $18.99 pbk / $13.99 Kindle

James Bond is back in action in "With A Mind To Kill" As a teenager I read all of the Ian Fleming novels, many as they came out. "The Man With The Golden Gun" being the last Fleming title. Afterwards many other authors have come along to write novels of 007. To my knowledge Anthony Horowitz is the closest in style to Fleming with all three of his works. "With A Mind To Kill" begins two weeks after the end of "The Man With The Golden Gun." Horowitz also ties in events "You Only Live Twice" the novel just before "Golden Gun" Horowitz utilizes a scene in "Golden Gun" that opens "With A Mind To Kill." As the story unfolds there are other references to other Fleming characters and situations in other books that make "With A Mind To Kill" so delightful to read. I hope Horowitz continues to write the world's most popular secret agent in the future. I have been and always will be a fan of Bond books and I loved "With A Mind To Kill" "With A Mind To Kill" races along with rapid pacing and a villain worthy of Fleming. Sadly "With A Mind To Kill is the last of the bond novels written by Anthony Horowitz who has been a perfect choice to continue the missions of 007 James Bond in novel form.

Near Miss: A Stone Barrington Novel
Stuart Woods and Brett Battles
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593540060, $29.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

Stone Barrington is back in a brand-new thriller in "Near Miss." Stone and Dino are enjoying a meal in their favorite restaurant, when they witness an incident between a man and a woman at another table. The male leaves while Stone offers the female assistance. From then on things for Stone get very complicated to include another brush with enemies he has encountered before, who only want to see the demise of Stone, and they do not care how its done. As always a Stone Barrington novel is a fun read but "Near Miss" is different in it's the first instalment with a co-writer because Woods passed away in 2022. Hopefully "Near Miss" continues the series of Stone and all the wonderful characters created by Woods.

Black Tide Rising Volume 1
Chuck Dixon, author
Brett Smith, colorist
John Ringo and Derlis Santacruz, draft writers
Baen Publishing Enterprises and Hound Dog Media
c/o Baen Publishing
9781982192631, $18.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

"Black Tide Rising Volume 1" is the first of a series of John Ringo novels to be done as a graphic novel. It is also a first for Baen to publish this type of media art form. The world is in a crisis state with a disease running amok with no solution in sight. Several characters attempt to create a vaccine to thwart the growing epidemic that has become a pandemic. "Black Tide Rising Volume 1" is a cautionary tale told in a very different art form that is guaranteed to please both fans of John Ringo and comic book lovers,

Picturing America's Pastime: Historic Photography from the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Mango Publishing
9781642505337, $53.95 HC/$9.99 Kindle

Baseball has a long history and "Pictures America's Pastime Historic Photography from the Baseball hall of Fame Archives "celebrates with a collection of photos and prose of the players and the game. Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Catfish Hunter, are some of the players while there are many stories revealed as well an interesting tie in with MC hammer and the Oakland Athletics. "Pictures America's Pastime Historic Photography from the Baseball hall of Fame Archives " is for all of us who love the game of baseball and for trivia buffs to gain more to relay many unknown facts about Americas favorite pastime

Bella Santini in the Troll War
Angela Legh
Waterside Productions
9781956503203, $14.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

"Bella Santini in the Troll War" is the second of a series of fantasy novels, for all ages to enjoy. Bella Santini is still not sure if she is a human girl with magical powers or one of the people in the unreal world she finds herself in. While there she is kidnapped to be involved in a conflict between two factions of beings. "Bella Santini in the Troll War The Santini Chronicles" races along with many interesting characters, prose that flows to the final page and a story that leaves readers, thirsting to return to this domain in a other adventures.

Amy Wu and the Ribbon Dance
Kat Zhang, author
Charlene Chua, illustrator
Aladdin Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665916721, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Amy Wu and the Ribbon Dance" is filled with wonderful prose as well beautiful art that adds to the telling of Amy Wu's story. Amy Wu loves to dance and she is gong to have a party with many of her friends but there is a conflict. She would like to celebrate a tradition but the item she needs to make it happen is no where to be found. She is so upset thinking everything will be ruined. "Amy Wu and the Ribbon Dance" has many positive messages for all ages to enjoy the unfolding story.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter
Benjamin Perry
Broadleaf Books
510 Marquette Avenue N, Minneapolis, MN 55402
9781506485119, $26.99, HC, 225pp

Synopsis: As one of our most private acts, weeping can forge connection. Tears may obscure our vision, but they can also bring great clarity. And in both literature and life, weeping often opens a door to transformation or even resurrection. But many of us (especially boys and men) have been taught to suppress our emotions and hide our tears. When writer Benjamin Perry realized he hadn't cried in more than ten years, he undertook an experiment: to cry every day. But he didn't anticipate how tears would bring him into deeper relationship with a world that's breaking.

With the publication of "Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter", Benjamin Perry explores humans' rich legacy of weeping -- and why some of us stopped. With the keen gaze of a journalist and the vulnerability of a good friend, Perry explores the great paradoxes of our tears. Why do we cry? In societies marked by racism, sexism, and homophobia, who is allowed to cry -- and who isn't? And if weeping tells us something fundamental about who we are, what do our tears say?

Exploring the vast history, literature, physiology, psychology, and spirituality of crying, we can recognize our deepest hopes and longings, how we connect to others, and the social forces bent on keeping us from mourning. When faced with the private and sometimes unspeakable sorrows of daily life, not to mention existential threats like climate change and systemic racism, we cry for the world in which we long to live.

As we reclaim our crying as a central part of being human, we not only care for ourselves and relearn how to express our vulnerable emotions; we also prophetically reimagine the future. Ultimately, weeping can bring us closer to each other and to the world we desire and deserve.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, surprising, original, unique, "Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter" will leave the interested reader with a thoughtful and thourght-provoking reexamination of an heretofore obscure, neglected, and yet a universal and essential facet of the human body, the human mind, and the human soul. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter" by Benjamin Perry is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Emotional Mental Health, Cultural Social Science, and Spirituality/Religion collections. It should be noted that "Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Benjamin Perry ( is a minister at Middle Church and an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in outlets like The Washington Post, Slate, Sojourners, and Bustle. With a degree in psychology from SUNY Geneseo and an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary, Perry has worked as an organizer with the New York chapter of the Poor People's Campaign and as an editor at Time, Inc. Perry has appeared on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and NY1, and is the editor of the Queer Faith photojournalism series.

Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path
Connie Zweig, Ph.D.
Park Street Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644117224, $19.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path: The Dance of Darkness and Light in Our Search for Awakening", author Connie Sweig argues that within each of us is a spiritual longing that prompts us to unite with something greater than ourselves, to awaken to our unity with all of life. Yet, no matter the spiritual path we choose, we inevitably encounter our own shadow, those unconscious aspects of ourselves that we suppress or deny, or the shadows of our teachers and their secret desires about money, sex, and power. Meeting the shadow can derail the journey, but we can learn to recover from loss of faith and move from spiritual naivete to spiritual maturity.

Calling on us to expand our vision of religious and spiritual life (and our vision of awakening) to include the human shadow, "Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path" examines the yearning that sets us on the spiritual path, showing how it can lead to ecstatic, transcendent experiences or to terrible suffering by projecting it onto an authoritarian teacher, priest, or guru who abuses power.

Also included are the stories of renowned teachers (Sufi poet Rumi, Hindu master Ramakrishna, and Christian saint Catherine of Siena) whose lives unfolded as they followed their spiritual yearning. Additionally added are the cautionary tales of contemporary teachers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Catholicism, who acted out their shadows in devastating ways, leaving their followers traumatized and lost.

"Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path" goes on to explain how meeting the shadow is a painful but inevitable stage on the path to a more mature spirituality -- describing how to use spiritual shadow-work to separate from abusive teachers, reclaim inner spiritual authority, and heal from betrayal.

With guidance for both inspired and disillusioned seekers, "Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path" deftly explores how to navigate the narrow path through the darkness toward the light, rekindle the flame of longing, and once again engage in fulfilling spiritual practice.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an eleven page Bibliography and an eight page Index, "Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path: The Dance of Darkness and Light in Our Search for Awakening" by Connie Zweig will be of special interest to readers concerned with emotional and spiritual self-help and personal transformation. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Connie Zweig ( is a retired psychotherapist and former executive editor at Jeremy P. Tarcher Publishing. She is also co-author of "Meeting the Shadow and Romancing the Shadow", and author of "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" -- and a novel, "A Moth to the Flame: The Life of the Sufi Poet Rumi". She has been practicing and teaching meditation for more than 50 years.

You Don't Have to Carry It All
Paula Faris
Worthy Books
c/o Worthy Publishing
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781546003731, $27.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: In her most important reporting yet, "You Don't Have to Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Find a Better Way Forward" by journalist and mother Paula Faris reveals a game plan that will not only make being a working mom "work" but will also reveal how and why society needs to value mothers first.

Weaving together groundbreaking research with inspirational wisdom, she: Recognizes the history of working moms in America and its lasting impact today; Shows how motherhood has scientifically improved the minds and capabilities of women; Encourages moms to link arms, not only with each other but also with men; Proves why corporate America is better with moms at the helm.

After interviewing countless experts, thought leaders and mothers, Faris believes we can join together to create a path forward for ditching the mom guilt, ending burnout, and finally giving working moms the support they so desperately need. Because with working moms on the job, there are literally no hands more capable of creating the change we need!

Critique: Of special interest to women who are concerned with balancing the demands of a job with the responsibilities motherhood, "You Don't Have to Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Find a Better Way Forward" is as insightfully informative as it is inspiringly motivational. Exceptionally and impressively well written, organized and presented from a Christian perspective, "You Don't Have to Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Find a Better Way Forward" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Parenting/Motherhood and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "You Don't Have to Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Find a Better Way Forward" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781668630563, $35.00, CD).

Editorial Note: Paula Faris ( is the founder and leader of CARRY Media, an organization that champions, advocates, and celebrates working mothers through content, resources, and storytelling. She is an Emmy Award - winning journalist, speaker, bestselling author of Called Out, and host of The Paula Faris Podcast. With over two decades in broadcast television, Paula started her career with TV affiliates in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Dayton. She then worked almost a decade at ABC News, where she co-anchored Good Morning America Weekend, co-hosted The View, and launched the podcast Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris.

Nature Devotional
Rebecca Reitz
Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711280687, $20.00, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Nature Devotional: Eco-spiritual reflections, meditations and affirmations" you can learn to embrace enlightening meditations, mantras and visual messages of hope to uplift your heart, mind and soul.

With Colorado-based illustrator Rebecca Reitz (and contributor to @spiritdaughter) as your earthy, magical guide, this is the definitive 'prayer' book every nature devotee will cherish.

"Nature Devotional" includes passages such as: I embrace the richness of life; I choose to celebrate my delicate grace; I sip the sweet nectar of joy, love, and Beauty that surrounds me.

"Nature Devotional" by Rebecca Reitz will take you on a path toward tranquility, grounding your energy in the spiritually rich world around you and helping you find calm with the healing power of the natural world.

"Nature Devotional" also embark your on a spiritual journey through six seasonal chapters of meditations, mantras and reflections:

Early Spring | Quiet Growth
Late Spring | Blossoming
Summer | Emergence
Early Fall | Reconnection
Late Fall | Preparation
Winter | Stillness

Truly stunning illustrations and a beautiful design accompany the insightful teachings and meditations throughout this book, making it an object to treasure as well as an invaluable guide in the journey toward inner peace through nature.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively presneted, and potentially life enhancing compendium of metaphysical and eco-spiritual reflections, meditations, and affirmations, "Nature Devotionals" will have a special relevance and value for readers with an interest in mental wellness, spiritual healing, and enlightening mediation through the various seasons of the year. While very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Meditation and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted that "Nature Devotionals" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Rebecca Reitz ( is a eco-spirituality advocate and illustrator. She has a deep respect for nature and all the meditations, teachings, and musings that arise from her time lived in it. With her work @spiritdaughter and personal designs, she aims to inspire others to notice, appreciate and respect the spiritual energies, power and patterns of nature, through the seasons, elements and the divine feminine aka mother nature. You can find her perpetually inspired by the nature and mountains surrounding her, always seeking where the universe may take her next. She can be followed on Instagram: @becca_reitz / @spiritdaughter

To Thine Own Self Be True
David Richo
Paulist Press
9780809156238, $19.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "To Thine Own Self Be True: Shakespeare as Therapist and Spiritual Guide", David Richo has chosen twenty-three components of humanness, each a topic of an individual chapter.

He begins each chapter with a short section about the topic as it is described in psychology or spirituality. Then he presents quotations from Shakespeare on that theme. Every passage walks us into who we are and can be, both psychologically and spiritually. The quotations are wonderfully imaginative kick-offs into it.

After each Shakespeare quotation is a short re-phrase in modern English. After each set of quotations, he presents a paragraph or two, based on the points made in them, meant to show how they can be springboards into becoming more sensitive to the topic.

"To Thine Own Self Be True: Shakespeare as Therapist and Spiritual Guide" is deftly divided into three parts. In Part One, David Richo explores who we are. In Part Two, he looks at what happens to us during a lifetime. In Part Three, he presents specific suggestions found in Shakespeare about how to put these themes into practice.

Critique: Of special and particular value for readers with an interest and relevance to what Shakespeare's dramas and plays have to do with Christian Living, "To Thine Own Self Be True: Shakespeare as Therapist and Spiritual Guide" is a fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read that is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, church, seminary, and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: David Richo ( is a therapist and author who leads popular workshops on personal and spiritual growth. Known for drawing on Buddhism, poetry, and Jungian perspectives in his work, Richo is the author of How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving and The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find in Embracing Them. He has also written When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships, Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side, The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know, and Being True to Life: Poetic Paths to Personal Growth.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Palestine Laboratory
Antony Loewenstein
9781839762086, $29.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Israel's military industrial complex uses the occupied, Palestinian territories as a testing ground for weaponry and surveillance technology that they then export around the world to despots and democracies alike. For more than 50 years, their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has given the Israeli state invaluable experience in controlling an "enemy" population, the Palestinians. It's here that they have perfected the architecture of control.

Journalist Antony Loewenstein (who is also the author of "Disaster Capitalism"), uncovers this largely hidden world in a global investigation with secret documents, revealing interviews and on-the-ground reporting. With the publication of "The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World", Lowenstein shows in-depth, for the first time, how Palestine has become the perfect laboratory for the Israeli military-techno complex: surveillance, home demolitions, indefinite incarceration and brutality to the hi-tech tools that drive the 'Start-up Nation'.

From the Pegasus software that hacked Jeff Bezos' and Jamal Khashoggi's phones, the weapons sold to the Myanmar army that has murdered thousands of Rohingyas, and drones used by the European Union to monitor refugees in the Mediterranean who are left to drown. Israel has become a global leader in spying technology and defence hardware that fuels the globe's most brutal conflicts. As ethno-nationalism grows in the 21st century, Israel has built the ultimate model.

Critique: Given current world events that include a resurgence of Israeli/Palestinian violence, "The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World" is a timely, informative, and insightful expose of Israeli's role in democratic and autocratic societies and governments alike. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction and Conclusion, a three page bibliography of Further Reading, thirty-three pages of Notes, and an eleven page Index, "The Palestine Laboratory" is an especially commended addition for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Privacy/Surveillance Technology, Policy, and Practice collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Palestine Laboratory" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Antony Loewenstein ( is an independent journalist, author, filmmaker and co- founder of Declassified Australia. He's written for The Guardian, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and many others. His books include Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside The Bloody War On Drugs, Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe and My Israel Question. He's the co-editor of the essay collection, After Zionism. His documentary films include Disaster Capitalism and the Al Jazeera English films West Africa's Opioid Crisis and Under the Cover of Covid. He was based in East Jerusalem 2016-2020.

Beasts of 42nd Street
Preston Fassel
Cemetery Dance Publications
9781587678530, $17.99, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: In the kingdom of the damned that is 42nd Street, there's no lowlier subject than Andy Lew. An unrepentant junkie, voyeur, and degenerate, he's only tolerated by the more dangerous men around him because he keeps the projectors at the Colossus theater running on time, entertaining them with the most extreme horror cinema money can buy.

There's something unique about Andy, though. He owns a movie. It's the only one of its kind. No one knows who made it. Only he knows where it came from. The woman it stars is beautiful beyond imagination - and the images it depicts are more nightmarish than the darkest depths of Hell. The beasts of 42nd Street will do anything to possess it, but there's something they don't understand. Andy loves the woman in the movie - and he'll go to any lengths to protect her...

A savage love letter to 70s exploitation cinema and a biting satire of toxic fan culture, Beasts of 42nd Street makes horror dangerous again as it ventures into the mind of a psychopath like no other - one that will have readers recoiling even as they keep coming back for more.

Critique: A saga of murder, bloodshed, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Times Square at the height of its decadence and depravity, with the publication of "Beasts of 42nd Street", novelist Preston Fassel has deftly crafted a memorable tale of life in New York City in the 1970s. Graphic, raw, compelling, "Beasts of 42nd Street" is especially appropriate and recommended for personal reading lists and community library urban based suspense thrillers collections. It should be noted for the growing legions of Preston Fassel fans that "Beasts of 42nd Street" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Preston Fassel ( is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in FANGORIA, Rue Morgue, Screem, and on The Daily Grindhouse, Dread Central, and He is the author of the first published biography of British horror actress Vanessa Howard, Remembering Vanessa, which appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Screem. His debut novel, Our Lady of the Inferno, won the 2019 Independent Publisher's Gold Medal for Horror and was named one of the ten best books of the year by Bloody Disgusting. He currently serves as the Managing Editor for The Daily Grindhouse.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Saving: A Doctor's Struggle to Help His Children
Shane Neilson
Great Plains Publishers
9781773371030, $21.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Why do we fall ill? How do we get better? When his two-year-old son develops epilepsy, Shane Neilson and his wife, Janet, struggle to obtain timely care for him while at the same time navigating their young daughter's diagnosis of childhood depression.

"Saving: A Doctor's Struggle to Help His Children" is Dr. Neilson's family's journey through a sometimes inadequate and often uncaring medical system is uniquely informed by his personal history of bipolar disorder and his professional experience with disability as a practicing physician.

With poetic language and imagery, Dr. Neilson illustrates his personal experience of " madness" and describes his struggles with neurodivergence from the point of view of both patient and practitioner. In his poignant memoir about fatherhood, illness, and family, Shane Neilson shows that it is possible to not only escape the wreckage of the past, but to celebrate living with disability in the present.

Critique: Candidly engaging, emotional poignant, impressively informative, and ultimately inspiring, "Saving: A Doctor's Struggle to Help His Children" is an extraordinary memoir and one that will be of extraordinary interest to anyone facing the often daunting task of securing appropriate and adequate health care for their own families. While highly recommended for community library Health/Medicine and Canadian Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Saving: A Doctor's Struggle to Help His Children" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Shane Neilson ( is a writer and a family physician. His previous books include Meniscus, Gunmetal Blue, and Complete Physical, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Poetry Award, and the short story collection Will. Neilson has published essays and reviews in many Canadian literary magazines and newspapers. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

She Rides: Chasing Dreams Across California and Mexico
Alenka Vrecek
She Writes Press
9781647424565, $17.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: At fifty-four, Alenka was running out of time to follow through on a dream she'd written down in her pocket-size Rumi book just after her first marriage crumbled. Years later, as she slowly rebuilt her life with her second husband, things started spiraling out of control. The only way she knew how to heal and connect all painful parts of her life was by riding her bike, and she didn't want to have regrets. But was she brave enough to embark on an unknown path and risk losing everything -- perhaps even her own life?

Determined to awaken her dying spirit and heal her battered body, Alenka loaded her mountain bike with 50 pounds' worth of camping gear and set off on a 2,500-mile journey. Starting in Lake Tahoe California, she hoped to ride along the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, following remote mountain trails. She traveled alone.

What followed was an irrevocably transformational journey of love, hope, courage, and resilience -- and with the publication of "She Rides: Chasing Dreams Across California and Mexico", Alenka tells that story in a voice stripped of self-pity and infused with a good dose of humor.

"She Rides" is a galvanizing wake-up call for anyone who wants to unearth and follow their own deeply buried dreams --and reclaim their life!

Critique: Fascinating, informative, inspiring, in "She Rides: Chasing Dreams Across California and Mexico" author Alenka Vrecek deftly blends memoir with travelogue. While unique, special, and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library American Biography/Memoir and Solo Travelogue collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "She Rides: Chasing Dreams Across California and Mexico" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Alenka Vrecek ( was born at the foot of the Alps in Slovenia, a part of former communist Yugoslavia. Born with a spirit for adventure, she came to America at twenty years old with a backpack, a pair of skis, and a pocket full of dreams. She was a ski coach and a director of Pedagogy for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows Ski Teams for thirty years. Alenka also owns Tahoe Tea Company.

Bad Vibes Only: (and Other Things I Bring to the Table)
Nora McInerny
One Signal Publishers / Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781982186715, $27.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Nora McInerny (host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking) does not dance like no one is watching. In fact, she dances like everyone is watching, which is to say, she does not dance at all. In her podcast she has captured the hearts of millions with her disarming and earnest approach to discussing grief and loss. Now, with the publication of "Bad Vibes Only: (and Other Things I Bring to the Table)", she turns her eye on our aggressively, oppressively optimistic culture, our obsession with self-improvement, and what it really means to live authentically in the online age.

Comprised of nineteen erudite and eloquent essays that revisit her cringey past and anticipate her rapidly approaching, early middle-aged future, in "Bad Vibes Only" McInerny lays bare her own chaos, inviting us to drop the facade of perfection and embrace the truth: that we are all (at best) slightly unhinged.

Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. "Bad Vibes Only" is especially meant for people (the overthinkers, the analyzers, the recovering Girl Bosses, and the burned-out personal brand) who have taken that dictum a bit too far -- reminding us that a life worth living is about more than just "good vibes".

Critique: Fascinating, insightful, memorable, thoughtful, thought-provoking, fun and funny -- while "Bad Vibes Only: (and Other Things I Bring to the Table)" by Nora McInerny is unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of those who have an interest in memoirs of love and loss and the art/craft of the humorous essay, "Bad Vibes Only" is now available in a paperback edition (9781982186722, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Nora McInerny ( was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1997. Since then, she's written the bestselling memoirs It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) and No Happy Endings, as well as The Hot Young Widows Club and Bad Moms. She hosts the award-winning podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, has spoken on TED's mainstage, and has contributed to publications like The New York Times, Time, Slate, and Vox.

Amanda Bucci
BenBella Books
9781637742532, $18.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Since the boom of social media in the mid-2000s, tens of millions of people have started their own platforms in hopes of creating success on their own terms. But with great visibility comes great vulnerability. We become riddled with self-doubt and trapped performing a version of what they believe will be acceptable to others -- optimized for more external approval and algorithmic success.

What if the mere act of being followed (including the criticism, judgment, and expectation social media creates) could actually become a tool for your personal growth?

With the publication of "Followed: The Content Creator's Guide to Being Seen, Facing Judgment, and Building an Authentic Personal Brand" by Amanda Bucci whose message is that by embracing self-discovery through self-expression, you can learn to see exposure as an opportunity for personal development -- and break free from the imaginary boxes that were always too small for you, anyway.

As a content creator and well-known business and life coach, Amanda Bucci has dealt with imposter syndrome, oceans of criticism, and multiple identity crises trying to fit into a box. Today, she's successfully pivoted her brand to stay aligned with her purpose, having coached hundreds of clients, dozens of companies, and thousands of community members in their journeys of creating success while staying authentic.

In the pages of "Followed", Amanda shares her unique, effective process to: Finding your unique niche without feeling imprisoned by your online persona; Overcoming your fear of judgment, imperfection, and rejection; Using exposure as a chance to explore and grow; Decreasing your social media related stress and anxiety; Stop comparing yourself to others and define success on your own terms.

Empowering, perspective-shattering, and validating, Followed proves that even on social media, it is never necessary to sacrifice self for success.

Critique: Timely, relevant, and increasingly essential in today's social media dominated popular culture, "Followed: The Content Creator's Guide to Being Seen, Facing Judgment, and Building an Authentic Personal Brand" should be considered imperatively necessary, fundamental, and essential reading by anyone contemplating, establishing, or maintaining a social media presence for personal, financial, political, or social goals. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Followed" will prove to be a welcomed and invaluable addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Social Media collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Followed" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Amanda Bucci ( is a business coach, author, and creative entrepreneur. She helps digital entrepreneurs and creators start, grow, and scale their businesses using strategies rooted in authenticity, alignment, and transformational healing. Pulling from her Spiritual Psychology and Trauma-Informed Life-Coach certifications, real-world experience as the 7-figure CEO before the age of 25, and recognizing key patterns in her clients, Amanda has dedicated her entire career to supporting the modern-day digital leader in creating personal fulfillment and global impact through their businesses.

Love in Recovery
Rachael Killackey
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781646802104, $17.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: "Love in Recovery: One Woman's Story of Breaking Free from Shame and Healing from Pornography Addiction" is shame-free essential reading for Catholic women who want real answers about how to handle sexual desire and addiction to pornography and masturbation.

The author of "Love in Recovery', Rachael Killackey, is the founder and executive director of Magdala Ministries (an organization that helps women heal from sexual addiction) and shares her personal story as she helps you to overcome your dependency, be free from shame, and live in hope.

A much-needed and practical resource, "Love in Recovery" offers compassionate, down-to-earth advice and identifies the gateways to pornography addiction, its complexities, and the path to healing. You will learn that you can: Understand that your first exposure to porn was not your fault; Forgive yourself; Be honest with the Lord through the Sacrament of Confession; Seek accountability and help in a group setting and professional, counseling or spiritual direction, if needed; Replace old habits of lust with new ways to love; Share your story for the sake of freeing others.

"Love in Recovery" is also an ideal and effective resource for anyone working to minister to sexually broken women.

Critique: A mature, compassionate, and Christian approach to an intensely personal and sensitive issue, "Love in Recovery: One Woman's Story of Breaking Free from Shame and Healing from Pornography Addiction" is unique, extraordinary, informative, and recommended addition to church, seminary, college, and university library Human Sexuality and Counseling instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love in Recovery: One Woman's Story of Breaking Free from Shame and Healing from Pornography Addiction" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: Rachael Killackey ( earned bachelor's and master's degrees in theology from Ave Maria University and is pursuing a certification in sex addiction therapy from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She previously worked as the assistant director of faith formation for catechesis for the Diocese of Nashville. Killackey has been a guest on various podcasts, including Lust is Boring with Jason Evert, Pints with Aquinas with Matt Fradd, The Covenant Eyes Podcast, Wide Open Spaces, Wellness Wednesday, and Edify. Killackey is a contributing writer for The Young Catholic Woman website and its magazine, Vigil.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy
Gretchen Cherington
She Writes Press
c/o Spark Point Studio
9781647420833, $17.95, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: Three powerful men converge on the banks of the Red Cedar River in the early 1900s in southern Minnesota. They are George Albert Hormel, founder of what will become the $10 billion food conglomerate Hormel Foods; Alpha LaRue Eberhart, the author's paternal grandfather and Hormel's Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary; and Ransome Josiah Thomson, Hormel's comptroller.

Over the next ten years, Thomson will embezzle $1.2 million from the company's coffers, nearly bringing the company to its knees.

"The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy: A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry" by Gretchen Cherington opens in 1922 as George Hormel calls Eberhart into his office and demands his resignation. Hailed as the true leader of the company he had helped Hormel build -- is Eberhart complicit in the embezzlement? Far worse than losing his job and the great wealth he'd rightfully accumulated is that his beloved young wife, Lena, is dying while their three children grieve alongside. Of course, his story doesn't end there.

In scale both intimate and grand, Cherington deftly weaves the histories of Hormel, Eberhart, and Thomson within the sweeping landscape of our country's early industries, along with keen observations about business leaders gleaned from her thirty-five-year career advising top company executives.

"The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy" equally chronicles Cherington's journey from blind faith in family lore to a nuanced consideration of the three men's great strengths and flaws -- and a multilayered, thoughtful exploration of the ways we all must contend with the mythology of powerful men, our reverence for heroes, and the legacy of a complicated past.

Critique: A seminal and ground-breaking history of a major American company, "The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy: A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry" is a fascinating and detailed study that will be of particular concern to readers with an interest in 19th Century corporate crime in general, and the history of the Hormel meat packing company in particular. Illustrated with black/white historical photos, and also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy: A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry" is an extraordinary and meticulously researched study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century American History, Biography, and True Crime collections.

Editorial Note: Gretchen Cherington's first memoir, Poetic License, has won multiple awards; her writing has appeared in Crack the Spine, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Women Writers/Women's Books, MS. Girl, Yankee and more; and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay "Maine Roustabout" in 2012. ((

The Principles of Comedy Improv
Tom Blank
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609388850, $25.00, PB, 261pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Principles of Comedy Improv: Truths, Tales, and How to Improvise", Tom Blank presents an authoritative handbook and introduction to Improve Comedy Performance for beginners and seasoned experts alike. Not just another entertainment 'how-to' manual, the tenets comprising "The Principles of Comedy Improv" will enable you to change every moment of your life as Tom Blank is your guide to improv, and experienced Improve comedian who crystallizes two decades of his experience to convey improv in unparalleled scope, depth, and fun.

Critique: Complete, comprehensive, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Principles of Comedy Improv: Truths, Tales, and How to Improvise" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Acting, Auditioning, and Improv Comedy Performance collections and studies lists. It should be noted that "The Principes of Comedy Improv" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.75).

Editorial Note: Tom Blank ( is senior instructor at the Groundlings Theatre & School, where he teaches improv and sketch comedy. He lives in Los Angeles.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Superheroes!: The History of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon from Ant-Man to Zorro
Brian R. Solomon
Applause Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
9781493064519, $26.95, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Superheroes!: The History of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon from Ant-Man to Zorro", author and American pop-culture expert Brian R. Solomon provides the ultimate reference book about the men and women in tights and capes who fight for what's right and the comic book phenomenon that conquered the world.

From their origins in stories created by barely grown men during an era of global war and printed on cheap paper for consumption by children, superheroes have grown into a popular culture whirlwind that has attracted millions of fans and crossed over into every form of media. Encompassing early coming books, indie outliers, and the mammoth fictional universes managed by DC and Marvel, "Superheroes!" chronicles the rise of a distinctly American invention, the modern-day evolution of the myths and legends of old.

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Captain America, X-Men, the Justice League and the Avengers -- they all represent our greatest hopes, and sometimes our darkest fantasies. "Superheroes!" tells a story that goes from the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages of comic book history right up to the Modern Age of multimillion-dollar Hollywood movies, and beyond. Perhaps no fictional genre has endured and blossomed over the past eighty years the way superheroes have.

"Superheroes!" covers all the major creators who have brought them to life ranging from artists like Jack Kirby and Jim Lee, to writers like Stan Lee and Alan Moore, to actors like Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey Jr., as well as directors like Tim Burton and Joss Whedon.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, and enhanced for the reader with a section of illustrations, "Superheroes!: The History of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon from Ant-Man to Zorro" is a remarkable history of a major pop-cultural phenomena that began with a focus on children and has grown in just a couple of generations to be a major influence on the minds and imaginations of superhero fans of all ages. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Popular Culture collections, it should be noted for the reading lists of those with an interest in comics, graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy that "Superheroes!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.49).

Editorial Note: Brian Solomon ( is pop culture and film writer and English teacher with a master's specialization in Shakespeare.

Romanian Crucible: The Trial of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Gheorghe Buzatu, author
Kurt W. Treptow, editor
Diana Livesay, translator
Center for Romanian Studies
c/o Histria Books
9781592111299, $49.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (13 September 1899 - 30 November 1938) was a Romanian politician of the far right, the founder and charismatic leader of the Iron Guard or The Legion of the Archangel Michael (also known as the Legionary Movement), an ultranationalist and violently antisemitic organization active throughout most of the interwar period. Generally seen as the main variety of local fascism, and noted for its mystical and Romanian Orthodox-inspired revolutionary message, it gained prominence on the Romanian political stage, coming into conflict with the political establishment and the democratic forces, and often resorting to terrorism. The Legionnaires traditionally referred to Codreanu as C?pitanul ("The Captain"), and he held absolute authority over the organization until his death. (Wikipedia)

The trial of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu as the leader of the Legionary Movement in Romania, marked a critical moment in the history of the country between the two World Wars. It destroyed the last vestiges of democracy and laid the groundwork for the establishment of the royal dictatorship by Carol II.

"Romanian Crucible: The Trial of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu" presents the transcript of the trial, for the first-time in English translation, edited and accompanied by an introductory study by two leading specialists on Romanian history, Gheorghe Buzatu and Kurt W. Treptow. "Romanian Crucible: The Trial of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu" also contains a series of appendixes, which include journal entries from Codreanu in prison.

Critique: Ably translated into English by Diana Livesay and deftly edited by Kurt W. Treptow, with the publication of "Romanian Crucible: The Trial of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu", Gheorghe Buzatu presents and documents every aspect of a political trial whose outcome was a key factor in 20th Century Romanian history. Originally published by The Center for Romanian Studies, this new edition from Histeria Press is highly recommended for college, and university Romanian History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Romanian Crucible" is also readily available in a digital book formalt (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note #1: Gheorghe Buzatu (6 June 1939 - 20 May 2013) was director of the Institute and is the author of numerous books, including Maresalul Antonescu in fata istoriei. Kurt W. Treptow is the author of Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula, and editor of A History of Romania.

Editorial Note #2: Kurt W. Treptow ( first studied in Romania as a Fulbright scholar during the communist regime toppled in 1989, has written and edited numerous books on Romanian history, including one about Romania's pro-Hitler World War II dictator, Marshal Ion Antonescu, and another on Vlad Tepes, the historical model for Dracula.

Editorial Note #3: Diana Livesay ( is a journalist and the Assistant Director and Literary Translator at Histria Books.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

A Spiritual Revolution
Andrey V. Ivanov
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299327903, $79.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: The ideas of the Protestant Reformation was followed by the European Enlightenment, and had a profound and long-lasting impact on Russia's Orothodox Christian church and society in the eighteenth century. Though the traditional Orthodox Church was often assumed to have been hostile toward outside influence, with the publication of "A Spiritual Revolution: The Impact of Reformation and Enlightenment in Orthodox Russia, 1700 - 1825", Andrey V. Ivanov (Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin - Platteville.) argues that the institution in fact embraced many Western ideas, thereby undergoing what some observers called a religious revolution.

Embedded with lively portrayals of historical actors and vivid descriptions of political details, "A Spiritual Revolution" is the first large-scale effort to fully identify exactly how Western progressive thought influenced the Russian Church. These new ideas played a foundational role in the emergence of the country as a modernizing empire and the rise of the Church hierarchy as a forward-looking agency of institutional and societal change. Ivanov addresses this important debate in the scholarship on European history, firmly placing Orthodoxy within the much wider European and global continuum of religious change.

Critique: A seminal and detailed study that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Spiritual Revolution: The Impact of Reformation and Enlightenment in Orthodox Russia, 1700 - 1825" is a ground-breaking study, making it unreservedly recommended for personal, seminary, college, and university library Russian Studies in general, and Russian Orthodoxy Christian History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, clergy, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Spiritual Revolution" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780299327941, $32.95).

Before All Who Have Ever Seen This Disappear
Michael Gillis
Madville Publishing
PO Box 358, Lake Dallas, TX 75065
9781956440317, $21.95, PB, 276pp

Synopsis: "Before All Who Have Ever Seen This Disappear", is author Michael Gills' fifth novel and plumbs the depths of the Stepwell family tendency toward theatrical catastrophe.

When Weldon Stepwell, bare-knuckled catcher for the Danville Little Johns and town florist, has his leg amputated in a wood-cutting accident, the team shows up on the hospital lawn to give blood, pray, and curse God. Mostly they gather to be with the stricken wife, daughter, and son and wait to see if their teammate will live through the night. One teammate is sent to retrieve the leg, and just what on earth do you do with such a thing?

It's rural Arkansas in 1950, and these are men who had just whipped Hitler and the came home to play ball. Wolunteer firemen, rural mail carriers, the senator-to-be, hardware store workers, and fish farmers -- spanning three generations, they just can't seem to outrun whatever it is that stalks their periphery.

Finally, an adult grandson must contend with the Stepwell business in the form of a plague that comes on them and the world from nowhere. Quarantined between a gleaming football stadium on one side of the road and the city cemetery on the other, a moment comes when they must walk out under the sun and re-commune.

"Before All Who Have ever Seen This Disappear" is story that dives as deep as you like into the abyss, then fights its way out with all the hope and grace this life allows.

Critique: Original, riveting, memorable, deftly scripted, and an especially, unreservedly recommended pick for community and academic library Contemporary American Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Before All Who Have ever Seen This Disappear" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Gills is the author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel New Harmony (Raw Dog Screaming Press), Book 4 of the Go Love Quartet. Other work has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and won the Southern Humanities Review's Theodore Hoefner Prize for Fiction, Southern Review's Best Debut of the Year, recognition in the Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize Anthology, and inclusion in New Stories from The South: The Year's Best. His undergraduate novel writing workshop has been featured in USA Today, and several of his students have gone on to publish books of their own, including Emi Wright's Alegria (Madville Publishing, 2021). Gills is a Distinguished Honors Professor at the University of Utah.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Book Swap
J.E. Rowney
Little Fox Publishing
9781739689926, $10.99, paper
B09YS56S9D, $3.99 ebook, 315 pages

The setup for The Book Swap reads like an ideal book for anyone who reads a lot of mystery stories. But the blurbs are slightly misleading. The Book Swap is mostly a tale about Laura, who is in the process of getting a divorce. She is also suffering from a breakdown and needs to live with her mother for support. About 300 pages in the story follow her angst and slow rebuilding of her life. The remaining pages are the actual mystery.

The Book Swap is well written. Rowney is a writer who can build with words but it is a little slow with the telling of the mystery. Swap is a niche story, which many readers will love, but for a mystery reader the pace is way too slow.

The Book Swap is recommended for readers who like stories that delve deeply into the characters. Mystery readers will find themselves skipping pages and pages while looking for the details of the mystery.

Outlaw Rising: A Parse Galaxy Novella
Kate Sheeran Swed
Spells & Spaceships Press
9798437297438, $9.99 paper
B09W4B1MWR, $0.00 ebook, 108 pages

Outlaw Rising is an odd but fun space opera. There is a balance between fantasy and science in a space opera tale. Outlaw's story has nearly every aspect of the opera painted with fantasy but the fantasy makes the story fun. For a rich fantasy tale to work there has to be an internal logic to the story that keeps boundaries between the fantasy and science in check. Swed has doesn't push the boundary so it is easy to get lost in the fictional tale.

Sloane Tarnish is a rich girl lost in college and in life. She loves her Uncle Vin who is a thief. Vin fails on a job and comes to Sloane for help. He needs her rich girl skills to infiltrate a ball for a second attempt at stealing the information he needs. Unfortunately, there are many people wanting to steal the information and a group has followed Vin to Sloane's college. With part of the campus destroyed, Sloane leaves with her uncle to try to stop the mayhem.

Outlaw Rising is a fun quick space opera. Don't expect much logic or intelligence -- just plenty of fun. It is well enough written that most readers will look for the rest of the books in this series.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Poe Prophecies - The Raven
P. Anastasia
Jackal Moon Press
9781952425066 $8.99 pbk, 146 pages

Words have a way of bringing back the past...

Twelve-year-old Aidan Grey is a student at Prophets of Erudition (P.O.E.) Academy. Since he was young, he has always been obsessed with everything Edgar Allan Poe published.

He aims to complete the Advance Prophets (A.P.) courses offered in his fourth year at the academy. To accomplish this goal, he studies his cousin's old textbooks to help ensure that he can turn his dream into a reality.

Aidan believes Poe intertwined secret messages in his writings. They are so powerful they could help save a life or stop a tragedy from occurring. Will his theory prove correct as he dives deeper into the poet's true meaning?

Will he find himself exploring a legend of the past, which will unlock hidden secrets?

Poe Prophecies is an outstanding book! I loved every page of this story. It will allow anyone unfamiliar with Poe's great works to seek out and learn more.

P. Anastasia, you should be very proud of this book. You have successfully incorporated one of the leading names in the literary world in this exceptional novel. I am very impressed with this offering and how you took the reader back to relive some memorable quotes and passages that only Poe could master. This reader appreciated every moment spent reading this tale, for she grew up loving Edgar Allen Poe and found everything about this book fascinating!

Radio Free Olympia
Jeffrey Dunn
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280944, $TBA, HC, 404pp
9781642280951, $TBA, PB
9781642280968, $TBA, Ebook

Come, see the world through my eyes...

In 1993, Washington State's Olympic Peninsula called my name, and I answered. Throwing caution to the wind, I packed myself and my family and whisked them away into the untamed wilderness of Elma, Washington. I didn't look back as I was leaving the safety and security of the industrial world of Pittsburgh, PA.

I had a dream to make my mark on this land, which involved introducing a Pirate radio station. I wanted the voices from the Olympic mountains to come alive and become adopted into the world.

Will my dreams be turned into a reality? Or will I fail to give society a glimpse of my world?

Radio Free Olympia provides a different method of reading a book. Four primary characters relate life in their particular tone and personality. Each one offers a unique breath of air that keeps the book moving forward at an enjoyable pace.

Jeffrey Dunn has created a book like no other I've ever experienced. Having four solid characters and seeing the world through their eyes was a unique and unexpected surprise. I liked how he used different ways to present their story. One moment you read it in a first-person stance, and the next, you find yourself immersed in poetry. To say this book provides a wealth of variety is an understatement.

Jesse Clary
Privately Published
9798987733509, $7.99 (Ebook), 455 Pages

Earth as we know it will never be the same again...

Earth as we know it is slowly coming to an end. It all started seven years ago when a black diamond appeared to be savagely destroying its existence. Each day, the ending quickly turns into a grim reality.

Jay finds himself with only a week left of the Earth's existence. He knows he must keep a promise he made to his last wife. It involved burying her ashes at her childhood home in Escanaba. He realizes traveling to her hometown will take an act of courage, for he will enter into a war zone existence. One that will challenge him at every turn.

Will he be able to succeed in keeping his promise? Or will his journey to Michigan be one that will be putting him on a pathway of destruction?

Convergence overflows with high-action drama. Every scene is well-developed and will keep the reader on edge. There is no way that once a person starts this book, they will be unable to put it down until the last pages are turned.

Jesse Clary, you have carved out a lasting name for yourself in the literary world with this book. This book showcases your skill as a talented author who provides all the elements readers crave when they embark on a new book.

The Christmas Camel
Susan Permut, author
Zoe Saunders, illustrator
9798218149079, $8.99, PB, 30pp

It's just two days before Christmas, and what is Santa to do when all his reindeer come down with the flu? The sleigh's packed with children's gifts, and he's ready to get on the road but finds himself grounded without his reindeer.

Santa can envision all the unhappy children if he can't find a quick solution. He enlists his trustworthy elves' aid to try to devise a brew to rid the reindeer of their ailments. Unfortunately, their efforts are not enough to cure them.

A gracious eagle joins the cause and flies high up in the air with a banner for help. The animals gather to see who can help. One by one, they refuse to answer the call. Then a gracious camel steps forward and offers to help. The animals do not believe a camel has what it takes to lead a sleigh.

With the help of Donner and Blitzen, the camel gets harnessed up to the front of the sleigh. Will she succeed in helping to save Christmas for the children? Or will she fail in her attempt to help Santa?

The Christmas Camel is a pure delight! It provides an entertaining Christmas story that makes the reader stop and think, what if the camel wasn't available? The colorful illustrations bring the story to its true light, all perfectly designed to give maximum enjoyment to this book.

Susan Permut, you have captured this reader's heart! This book is exceptional and one that I plan on revisiting during the holidays. It's the perfect addition to any library. Children and adults will fall in love with this story and realize even reindeer can get sick!

The Fine Art of Deception: A Provincetown Mystery
Jeannette de Beauvoir
HomePort Press
9798986865423, $6.99 (Ebook), 243 Pages

Sydney Riley feels as though her life is in a rut. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Working as a wedding coordinator provides for her well-being but doesn't fulfill her inner desires.

To complicate matters, Sydney's life with her boyfriend Ali is a negative experience. She feels that their relationship is taking a downward spiral. She finds herself wishing her life were different and filled with excitement.

Her wish for a change in her lifestyle comes when her father visits. A hit-and-run death suddenly became the talk of the town. Sydney is determined to piece together the puzzle to help her solve the mystery of death.

Will her detective skills place her in a path of danger? One that she can escape? Or will she uncover a plot that is surrounded by murder as she gets closer to solving the mystery?

The Fine Art of Deception contains all the elements required for an outstanding reading experience. Although this is the ninth book in this series, it was easy to understand the plot without going back and starting from the first book.

Jeannette de Beauvoir should be very proud of this book. It showcases her skills as a talented author. This was the first book I read by this author; it made a dramatic impact that will have me long remembering her name. This book has the substance to make for an award-winning novel.

Life Lessons of Lucy Lu: Lucy Lu Gets Adopted
Gwen Kelly, author
Leo Brown, illustrator
Every Animal Counts Publishing
9798390728352, $12.99, PB, 33pp

Lucy Lu was found at the shelter's door abandoned by her owner. She couldn't understand why she was left behind to fend for herself. Salvation came from Beth, who took her inside to comfort and care for her.

Although the shelter was welcoming, Lucy Lu found her stay long and drawn out. She did find a friend named Sally, who also never seemed to get adopted. People would come looking for a new pet and quickly take one look at her and pass her by for another option.

The day came when someone took an interest in Sally. Lucy Lu was happy her friend had found a new owner but sad she would be left at the shelter with no one to talk to.

Will Lucy Lu ever find her forever home? Or will she be doomed to live out her days at the shelter?

Life Lessons of Lucy Lu is a very eye-opening book about what a pet experiences when its owner surrenders it. I felt my heart break as I saw Sally and Lucy Lu get separated. Viewing the beautiful illustrated front cover, you cannot resist Lucy Lu capturing your heart.

Gwen Kelly has written an excellent book that allows a reader to experience the life a dog sees living in a shelter. This book will be a fantastic educational tool encouraging people to adopt from the local animal shelter. It would be the perfect addition to any school library.

But in Wonder
Dan A. Baker
Catbird Publishing 2023
9798388107350, $ 6.99 Ebook, $ 16.95 Paperback, 352 Pages

Together Great Things Are Destined to Occur...

Jasmine is a talented scientist whose work can change the world. When she meets Biotech Scientist Will Behlen, she feels instantly attracted to his intellectual mind and handsomeness.

Together, the two join forces to develop a formula to allow a person to return to regenerate their body to their younger years. It approved no one would endure suffering death. Instead, they could return and relive their life again.

Will their experiment be successful and accepted into the world? Can their chemistry lead to a growing relationship?

But in Wonder is a fantastic book. Even though it is a sequel to Forever and Ever, I could not feel lost as I read the story. Jasmine and Will are two strong characters who together have a fascinating story. The way this story is presented makes it possible to believe that one day an experiment they were working on could exist.

Dan A. Baker is an impressively talented author whose novel, "But in Wonder", is fascinating. I predict this series will quickly become many people's favorite series and have a new favorite author.

Met The End: An Investigation of the Past, a Daughter's Duty to Herself
Holly Brians Ragusa
Amused Moon
9798986915654, $17.99 PB, $27.99 HC $9.99 Ebook, 326 Pages

Life as we know it will never be the same again...

Fifteen years old Holly Brians Ragusa's life spiraled out of control when she learned her dad, John Powell, had been involved in a severe motorcycle accident. In a coma, the extent of his injuries or if he would recover was unknown.

One of John's care team was Donald Harvey, a nurse's aide. Unbeknownst to the world, Harvey was a serial killer who took great joy in poisoning his patients with, among other things, cyanide. Upon the death of John, Donald's wicked acts of violence were discovered, and his name became the top news story when it was revealed that John hadn't been his first victim.

Holly and her family were shocked at knowing her father had died at the hands of a serial killer. It was more painful to have it in the news, knowing her father's death had been violent.

Met The End - An Investigation of the Past, a Daughter's Duty to Herself, is a memoir that gives a personal account of how a family had to cope with the senseless death of a loved one at the hands of a killer. The author's emotions showcase the grief and devastation this one family endured.

Holly Brians Ragusa has bravely revealed a part of her family's tragedy that provides an authentic look at how one family is left scarred for life by a serial killer. This story will send chills at the level of insanity that goes through a serial killer's mind and the devastation his actions have on the victim's family. This story will stay with the reader as the last page is turned.

Suzie Housely
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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