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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 6 June 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Laurie McCammon
Conari Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950-4600
9781573246835, $18.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Do you, like so many of us, believe that you will never have enough time, money, talent, or love to be truly happy? Do you think you're not good enough, not rich enough or thin enough or smart enough, to have the life you want? Or that the problems in your community and the world around you could be solved if only there were more to go around? Everywhere, all the time, we get this message that there is something lacking, something more, something better to strive for. In fact, the idea that there isn't enough or you aren't enough is so deeply ingrained in us and into our culture that it holds sway over pretty much every aspect of our lives, from how we perceive our self-worth and our skills as parents, friends, and partners (I am not enough) to the ways in which we are taught and governed.

But what if it's a lie? Author and activist Laurie McCammon (the founder of the Women's Institute of Maine, holds an MS in Adult Education with a thesis on transformational learning, and who has served as an NGO delegate at the UN International Commission on the Status of Women) wrote "Enough!: How to Liberate Yourself and Remake the World with Just One Word " to show you that it is all a lie. Discover how your own never-enough thinking has been limiting you and how to challenge it in all the places it lurks. Let "Enough!" show you how to develop a sense of 'enoughness' that can change not only how you feel about yourself but how you view time, your relationships, your work, and the possibilities for helping to shape a better world.

Critique: Challenging, iconoclastic, insightful, informative, erudite, compelling, and ultimately inspiring, "Enough!" is very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Enough!" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Clean Language
Julie McCracken
Crown House Publishing
6 Trowbridge Drive Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
9781845901257, $34.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: The concept of Clean Language was first developed in the 1980s and 90s by psychotherapist David Grove as he sought to find respectful and effective ways to work with trauma victims. The approach he devised was based on a new type of questioning (and listening) that was rooted in honoring the client's language rather than paraphrasing it, reserving advice rather than pushing it, and cleaning up his own communications with respect to assumptions and metaphors. What Grove learned was that these adjustments allowed his patients to discover and build on the metaphors that were meaningful to them. Once established, they could explore that meaning, experience it in their own ways, learn from it, heal, and move forward. David Grove called his questioning approach Clean Language untainted by assumption or metaphor. Inspired by the effectiveness of David Grove's work, James Lawley and Penny Tompkins studied the approach, eventually codifying it, then expanding upon it and adapting it for classroom teachers. Now in "Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds", authors Sullivan and Rees and take this revolutionary way of communicating completely out of the closet, introducing the concepts to the broad range of helping professional (from psychotherapist to organizational coach) as well as interested non-specialist general readers. Clean Language (Clean, for short) allows access to the deepest levels of people's communications so that the real issues are revealed early and real helping strategies can be created to meet them. When the patient is invited to find the solution, then time isn't wasted in the vain attempts to convince, cajole, or coerce. The basic perspective is straightforward. You should keep your opinions and advice to yourself. You should Listen attentively and ask clean questions to explore metaphors. You should listen to the answers and then ask more Clean questions about they've said. There are just a dozen key Clean questions, and when combined with the words offered by the person being questioned, they become part of a flexible, multipurpose toolkit. The possibility of positive change is just a natural part of the process nobody forcing it, nobody being forced. It's as natural as using clean language.

Critique: Clean Language describes a simple yet potentially revolutionary concept in Communication Studies. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds" is very highly recommended for professional, community, and academic library Educational Studies instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure
Nancy Atherton
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781101981290, $26.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: While exploring the attic in her cottage near the small English village of Finch, Lori Shepherd makes an extraordinary discovery: a gleaming gold and garnet bracelet that had once belonged to Aunt Dimity. When Lori shows the garnet bracelet to Aunt Dimity, it awakens poignant memories of a doomed romance in Aunt Dimity's youth in London after the War. Regretfully, Aunt Dimity asks Lori to do what she could not: return the bracelet to her unsuccessful suitor, setting Lori off on an adventure through London (and through history) to put a piece of Aunt Dimity's past to rest.

In the meantime, a new family has moved to Finch. The villagers are thrilled because their new neighbors are avid metal detectorists. Metal detectors soon become all the rage in Finch and the villagers unearth a lot of rubbish (some of it quite embarrassing) before one of them stumbles upon a trinket that could hold the key to the origin of Aunt Dimity's bracelet.

Is the bracelet a priceless and protected national treasure? Was Aunt Dimity's lovesick suitor a common thief? If so, how will Lori break the news to Aunt Dimity? And what will she do with the bracelet? As Lori searches for answers, she discovers an unexpected link between the buried treasure in the village and the treasure buried in Aunt Dimity's heart.

Critique: Another riveting entertainment from the pen and imagination of Nancy Atherton, "Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure" confirms her impressive mastery of the genre. While very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of mystery buffs in general, and Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity novels in particular, "Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99) and in a complete and unabridged Audio CD format (Dreamscape Media, 9781520006208, $29.99).

Beatrice Bunson's Guide to Romeo and Juliet
Paula Marantz Cohen
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881051, $11.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: High school begins, and to Beatrice Bunson nothing is the same, not even her best friend, Nan. The "new" Nan doesn't hang out with Bea; she's running for Student Council and going to parties and avoiding Bea at lunchtime. The boys who were gross in middle school have become surprisingly polite, while the "cool" kids are still a mystery. Bea's older sister, meanwhile, acts like she's living in a soap opera.

On the bright side, there's English class with Mr. Martin, where Beatrice discovers that Shakespeare has something to say about almost everything -- and that nothing in life is as dramatic as Romeo and Juliet. But when Nan gets in over her head in her new social life, it's up to Beatrice to restore her reputation - and she may need to make a few new friends to pull it off. One of them, the slightly brainy guy that Beatrice meets at her grandmother's retirement home, is definitely kind of cute, and probably dateable.

As Beatrice and her classmates tackle Romeo and Juliet, they unveil the subtleties of the play as well as broader lessons of love, family, honor, and misunderstandings. Guided by Mr. Martin, these ninth-graders help us to understand Shakespeare, as Shakespeare helps them begin to understand themselves.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, compellingly entertaining from beginning to end, "Beatrice Bunson's Guide to Romeo and Juliet" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Beatrice Bunson's Guide to Romeo and Juliet" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.17).

She Poured Out Her Heart
Jean Thompson
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399573811, $27.00, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: The night that Jane and Bonnie meet on a college campus sets them on paths forever entwined. Bonnie, the wild and experimental one, always up for anything, has spent the past two decades bouncing between ill-fated relationships, while Jane's seemingly perfect life, perfect husband, and perfect children have all but materialized out of a fantasy. But these appearances contradict the quiet, inescapable doubt Jane feels about her life. One night, in the middle of her own Christmas party, she steps outside into the snow, removes her clothing and shoes, and lies down in the backyard. When she is discovered, nothing is the same for anyone. As Jane begins to have visions and retreat into a private inner world, Bonnie finds herself drawn inevitably into an affair with Jane's husband.

Critique: A deftly crafted story of multilayered female friendship, psychological suspense, the complex nature of love, "She Poured Out Her Heart" is a compelling and consistently entertaining novel from beginning to end. While "She Poured Out Her Heart" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that this outstanding work from the pen of Jean Thompson is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99) and in an MP3 CD format (Blackstone Audio, 9781504715188, $29.95).

Shelby's Way...Maybe
Katherine Mitchell
Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Road, New Augusta, IN 46268-3005
9781457544132, $12.95, PB, 214pp,

Synopsis: Shelby is a stunning beauty, a young mother whose husband, a Hollywood stuntman, runs off with a rich glamorous older woman. On her own, Shelby is raising 8-year old Pamela and goes to work to make ends meet. She is naive, unaware of her luminous beauty and easy-going charms neither of which goes unnoticed by men, even a world famous novelist who sets his eyes on her. She meets an irresistibly handsome and successful attorney who instantly takes up residence under her skin. Her topsy-turvy world is grounded by motherhood. Into this curious limbo where all that is required of Shelby is not to do anything she would regret, enters Marc, a successful screenwriter and former family friend who, with his final divorce decree in hand comes calling. Because of Shelby, the lives of the three men intersect and interact in surprising ways as their just comeuppance is served. Where is the love? Who is the future?

Critique: An impressively crafted and compelling read from beginning to end, "Shelby's Way...Maybe" is a novel about the coming-of-age of an overprotected young mother who must become an adult who can deal with what life throws at her. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shelby's Way...Maybe" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

The Red Door Inn
Liz Johnson
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800724023, $14.99, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she's hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn't move three thousand miles to work on his uncle's B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian--and to forget about the fiancee who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they've got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It's a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won't you stay for the season?

Critique: A compelling and consistently entertaining read from first page to last, "The Red Door Inn" is very highly recommended for community library Romantic Suspense collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Red Door Inn" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.29). Librarians: There is also a large print edition available for "The Red Door Inn" (Thorndike Press, 9781410487773, $30.99, 449pp).

The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation
K. O. Morgan
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781601389824, $19.95, PB, 282pp,

Synopsis: "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation: Learn What Your Dreams Mean " by K. O. Morgan will tell you everything you need to know to comprehend what your dreams are telling you. You will understand how to interpret some of the most common subjects in dreams, including flying, falling, problems with money, tests and even death. You will learn ways you can create a more dream-friendly bedroom and how to use a journal to track your dreams. "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation" will also cover paranormal dreams and explain more about extrasensory perception, deja vu, and out-of-body experiences. "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation" is an A to Z interpretation guide that will ensure interpreting your dreams doesn't turn into a nightmare. "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation" is the result of hundreds of hours researching what dreams mean to provide a comprehensive guide for decoding them.

Critique: Featuring more than 1,000 symbols and situations that commonly appear in dreams, "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation" is thoroughly accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds. "The Young Adult's Guide to Dream Interpretation" is highly recommended for personal browsing to better understand one's own dreams, as well as for high school, community, college, and university library collections.

What Women Really Want from Men
Melanie Rubin
Privately Published
9781944241025, $24.95, PB, 334pp,

Synopsis: "What Women Really Want from Men: A Step-by-Step Dating Manual" by Melanie Rubin is dived into two major sections: Preparing to Date and Step-by-Step Success During Dating. "What Women Really Want from Men" will prove to be an invaluable instructional guide for those women who want to clarify for themselves their own needs when they are dating, and better understand the men they date. Simply stated, "What Women Really Want from Men" is about helping women of all ages and backgrounds to get the results they want quickly, simply, with the most fun and with the least stress. While the focus is on heterosexual relationships, "What Women Really Want from Men" will prove useful for other sexual preferences and gender orientations as well.

Critique: Unique, exceptional, practical, insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "What Women Really Want from Men" is an impressively well written, organized and presented guide that will prove to be an enduringly valued reference for women -- especially those new to dating or who are returning to the dating world after divorce or widowhood. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Women Really Want from Men" is also available in an inexpensive Kindle edition ($0.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Hansel and Gretel: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella
Mike Klaassen
ASIN: B01FVE0DG0 $3.99

Ten-year-old Hansel is hungry and poor, his sister Gretel is an annoyance to him, and he overhears his starving parents talking about a famine that seems to have fallen not just upon their family, but over the entire realm.

Determined to save their children, his parents decide that abandoning them in the forest may be the only way of saving them - and yet Hansel keeps cleverly finding his way home, while his extraordinary ability to eavesdrop keeps him one step ahead of their plans.

Because this retelling stays true to its original story line, the inevitable happens, and Hansel must employ all his cleverness if he and his sister are to survive the evil Petra, who has entrapped many children before them.

It's no light task to take a well-known fairy tale and rework it in such a way that familiar, stale story lines become vivid with new meaning, especially with such a classic as Hansel and Gretel. Retellings often must stray quite far from their original roots to capture this sense of originality, but such is not the case with Hansel and Gretel: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella, and this is because Mike Klaassen's approach is to add a great deal of psychological insight to explain characters' choices and rationales.

From Hansel's changing relationship with his little sister ("Hansel couldn't stand to see his little sister abused, and he said, "Do as she says, Gretel.") to his problem-solving abilities ("He considered refusing to eat any more food, but then Petra would hurt Gretel again. He needed to find a solution to his problem, but he could think of nothing that would save their lives."), psychological depth brings this classic story to new life.

Why is Hansel so clever? What are the conflicts he faces between protecting his little sister and feeling that she's a stubborn obstruction in his life? Why would their parents consider that abandoning their children was a better option than all of them starving together, or searching out a different way of living? How does Hansel's ability to observe and analyze his world, both within the home and outside of it, open them up to new options?

These are just some of the ideas in a retelling that stays entirely true to its roots, but injects new understanding into a dark and otherwise-puzzling story line. Those with a special affinity for fairy tale retellings will quickly recognize that this Hansel and Gretel is more than a notch above the usual approach, remaining more connected to its original than most and yet offering something far more compelling. A reading of this novella along with other fairy tale reworks will quickly highlight Klaassen's unique strengths.

M. B. Lehane
Pounce Publications
9780994489401 $15.25

Open with a typical student soccer game in which player Jack declines team celebrations at the end of a successful game to examine an illuminated device on his ankle in the privacy of the still-empty locker room, then flees. But there's something extraordinary in the method of his flight and in his ride home, implying that Jack is not the ordinary soccer-playing schoolboy he portrays.

Not every boy has a secret compartment in his closet and a jetpack accompanying his lunch bag. No normal boy can rocket into the sky through his rolled-back bedroom ceiling. And what boy can face his greatest enemy with nary a quiver? Nobody, it turns out - even Jack. But, a boy can dream!

In a world that constantly challenges Jack to be extraordinary, he consistently fails. His performance in class, in P.E., and in life are all met with obstacles and his best intentions to do better send him into a dream world filled with creatures more realistic than his own life. In contrast, his twin Phoebe is a winner at nearly everything she does. Even worse, his mother is about to become his teacher at school.

What's left to enjoy are dreams, which sometimes come with nightmares attached. And in this world, he shines.

Conductoid is a super-hero story, a saga of dreams and reality, and tells of a boy who shifts between the persona of a failure and that of Conductoid, a superhero with extraordinary abilities who saves lives and faces down challenges. What, exactly, is a 'conductoid'? It's "A being who can have another's powers transmitted through them.'"

As Jack faces strangers, transformations, and challenges even in his super-world, he finds that the very qualities that limit him in one world come back to haunt him in the one place he feels powerful: "'In the short term, the danger is more pronounced,' replied the man grimly. 'If you wish to proceed, you will need to listen to my instructions carefully and follow them - a task that may be beyond your capabilities.'"

Not everything in Conductoid focuses on Jack's changing worlds: in between there are family encounters and relationships, field trips, and revelations about the underlying meaning of being powerful ("...he was a Conductoid. With great power comes great responsibility.").

Readers move between fantasy adventure and Jack's real world as Jack explores his position in both. Do the stories Jack creates have their roots in reality? While readers are treated to a satisfying intersection between fantasy and reality, the real questions lie in Jack's ability to move between two worlds and face the consequences of his choices in each.

This gripping saga will especially delight advanced elementary to middle grade readers who secretly dream of being heroes even as they struggle with being.

Pilgrim Spokes
Neil Hanson
High Prairie Press
9781944868017 $14.95

Pilgrim Spokes: Cycling East Across America continues cyclist Neil Hanson's story of his journey across America via bicycle, and begins where the first book (Pilgrim Wheels) left off as he rides from Medicine Lodge in Kansas to Annapolis on the east coast.

At 60 years old, Hanson is beyond the age when most people would take on this sort of self powered cross country adventure. He averaged 100 miles a day in the course of his ride, traveled alone for part of his journey and then continued on with a fellow cyclist. Pilgrim Spokes delivers a delightful blend of travelogue, cycling insights, and reflections on his journey along America's byways.

Pilgrim Spokes and Pilgrim Wheels adopt such a similar tone that one might wonder why the two books weren't merely incorporated under one cover; but as Hanson explains in his introduction, "the complete answer revolves around things like taking the time for deep and meaningful reflection, transforming the pace of a bicycle ride into a book, and wanting to tell a more complete story."

Not a hasty rush through America, his journey allowed a deep and meaningful embrace of the experience as he meandered from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It would have thwarted the spirit of this journey to have edited out many of these experiences for the sake of cramming them all into one book. Reflecting the slower pace of a bicycle ride, Pilgrim Spokes indulges the reader within a journey that fully explores the sights, sounds, sensations, and encounters of the road.

Readers need not be avid cyclists in order to appreciate Pilgrim Spokes. The focus is on the experience and the journey, not just the destination or the mechanics of getting there. Armchair readers will be as enchanted with this book as will be the cyclist who contemplates this sort of epic journey.

Hanson immerses the reader in the cultures and experiences of the communities who invite him in to their world: "It's late in the night when the music gets underway down in the living room. The cool September night air feels good creeping in through my open window, the quiet disturbed only by wonderful sounds from the living room below, filling the air with the songs of musicians expressing themselves through the souls of their instruments. Their music drifts out through the windows downstairs, across the old porch, and folds itself luxuriantly around me in my bed above. Music has been an unexpected and delightful surprise to me as I've crossed Missouri."

The introspection prompted by Hanson's encounters is wonderfully done - "I lay awake, watching lights from outside the partially closed curtain playing across the ceiling. I'm a lucky man to have the solid oak planking of a friendship with Dave in my life. I'm a lucky man to have been part of a marriage that lasted 30 years. I hope to be wise enough to recognize and appreciate the wise and imperfect people I will cross paths with as I continue down this road I'm on.") They blend nicely with the pedaling progress of his road trip: "This old secondary road may very well be the Old Old National Road, hinted at by an old covered bridge sitting by itself in a city park in the town of Lewisburg. I ride over to and around the bridge, a feeling of disappointment hanging over me. The bridge is clearly out of place here in the dry park, like a once-proud lion panting on the concrete in a cage at the zoo."

While Hanson's story shares many moments of joy and sweet reflection, there are also darker experiences, including physical exhaustion and pain, deadly attacks from passing thugs, and deep personal regret. Many of the obstacles that he discovers emerge as much from emotional psyche, the need for flexibility, and gaps in comfort as they do from physical effort.

Hanson's story takes the time to capture subtle nuances within his journey, and this sets it apart from other travelogues. Pilgrim Spokes is a vivid read filled with personal reflection, philosophical insights, physical challenges, and a dose of spirituality that immerses the reader in an exhilarating ride.

The One
B.A. Sherman
B.A. Sherman, Publisher
Paperback: 978-1530616039 $11.65
Ebook: ASIN:B01D3HQIWA $ 2.99
Amazon Website:
Author Website:

The One presents the second book in the Greg Dorn series and opens with a dream by Mica, who has returned to her family home mourning the absence of partner Greg, who left her long ago. Now he's dead and gone forever, killed, and Mica must close the book what could have been - or should she?

It's not often that a thriller begins with the death of the main protagonist, but The One is filled with surprises, and this opener is only one of them. Is Greg Dorn dead, or is there an insidious plot underway with new and dangerous scheme? Under what circumstances can a family man dedicated to justice become a killer, and what would it take to twist that man to change his most basic impulses?

As Greg navigates unfamiliar surroundings and is primed for a mission far beyond anything he's considered a part of his psyche, he finds himself literally and figuratively speeding on a fast train to nowhere, immersed in lives and circumstances designed to remake all his abilities to point them in an entirely new direction.

In the end, all he may have are dreams of what was, to guide him to a different path as he rampages through his new persona: "Greg flashed awake, breathing heavily and sweating. He could feel that he had been crying and still felt the sadness from his dream. All he could remember was Daddy, please help us, and it echoed in his head making his ears ring. "I have to leave this place, I need to be with them," Greg said out loud as he lay in his bed looking up at the ceiling in the dark."

Can Greg Dorn ever return to his real self; and will his newfound mission and direction return him full-circle into his familiar world? These are just a few of the questions readers of this psychological thriller will relish as they follow the transformation of good man into killing machine.

Readers of psychological thrillers and intrigue are in for a treat with The One.

Throw Away Girls
Jennifer Vaughn
Waldorf Publishing
9781944245627 $16.95

Fans of novels that feature high-octane action and powerful female protagonists will quickly realize that the characters and nature of Throw Away Girls represents the embodiment of passion and purpose in the form of reporter Jaycee Wilder, who sets out to snag a big story and a bigger career in Los Angeles.

She gets more than she bargained for, however, when a series of murders draws her from her safe role as a reporter into the more dangerous world of an involved investigator edging ever closer to a clever killer.

Throw Away Girls doesn't open with Jaycee's perspective, however: shockingly, it documents a murder in progress, immediately letting readers know that violence and danger will permeate the story line, which is not a powder-puff piece for light mystery readers.

This killer specializes in the seedy kinds of girls who frequent nightclubs; so in order to break the story, Jaycee must track dangerous, savvy killer whose methodology and expertise in murder is only part of his cunning in knowing how to disappear and how to observe, from a safe distance, Jaycee's increasing involvement in the hunt.

At times it feels like the roles of predator and prey is continually switching, and that's because each protagonist faces a worthy, equal opponent in the other. And so a cat-and-mouse game evolves that keeps Jaycee - and readers - on their toes as a dangerous romp through the seedy side of life embraces agony, awareness, and the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde life of a family man by day, who is a passionate killer by night.

Is Jaycee about to become a "Throwaway Girl" in the killer's limelight? Evidence warns her of the danger ("If she wasn't in the throes of a big story, using insider information, and about to reveal even more about a killer on the loose, she'd consider this a coincidence. Some crazy guy letting her know he thought she was hot. But then she flipped the picture around and all hope of bad cosmic timing was lost. No, this was intentional, a killer's way of telling her to back off in bold red pen."), but her response is to not only persevere, but adopt a level of cunning equal to that of her opponent.

In such a game, who will win? There are no pat answers and no quick solutions, and readers of detective fiction who like well-developed characters, twists of story line, and engrossing moves and counter-moves will love the approach of Throw Away Girls, which takes a brutal vigilante's personal quest for justice and blends it with a savvy reporter's passion for her job.

Readers enthusiastic about smart, successful, creative female protagonists will find themselves rooting for Jaycee's ultimate success and chafing at the many obstacles and increasingly insurmountable hurdles she faces in the process of playing a dangerous game.

Tell My Dad
Ram Muthiah
Waimea Publishing
9780997390681 $2.99 (Kindle), $11.95 (Paperback)

It's not often that a mystery is based on real-life events; but Tell My Dad presents such a thriller in presenting a child's kidnapping and the kind overture that truly turned deadly in the California scenario which plays out in this book.

The opening seems an unlikely setup for crime: Amanda, a senior in high school, is on top of the world about her Stanford admission and shopping habit. But when she is abducted in broad daylight, shock waves hit the community and immediately involves the law in a desperate search for a serial killer who is an expert at snatching and murdering girls with wanton disregard for any witnesses.

Inspired by a late-night internet chat, the perp has hatched the perfect plan - but something goes awry. Someone has quickly found him, and plans on exacting their own revenge for his crimes. Readers won't expect what happens next, which is one of the specialties of Tell My Dad: it takes a murder mystery and twists its scenes so that what is seemingly inevitable becomes a big surprise.

Having a vigilante killer who takes on the chore of doing the police's job is nothing new; but what is new is a professional approach to the task that sets up and perhaps even creates kidnappers.

The dangers of internet interactions with strangers, the culpability of teenagers to dangerous online situations, and the determination of a killer who has serious intentions of reducing the number of kids kidnapped in America all intersect to make for a gripping study in tension.

Why is the killer so seasoned and expert at his tasks? How can the savviest of detectives be thwarted, and who will track down this vigilante hero?

Add a healthy dose of ethical conundrum on the parts of the investigators charged with bringing him to justice ("I still think that whoever killed these monsters is a good guy. If not for him, these monsters would have killed even more children.") for a mystery packed with satisfying scenes and many a surprise to keep even seasoned thriller readers engrossed to the last page.

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro
Jodi Okun
15th Street Publishing
9780997352726, Hardcover: $25.95 Paper: $14.95

As kids near college age, financial planning for higher education becomes imperative; yet too many parents and students enter the process without all the tools they need to make reasoned financial decisions (or learn of their far-reading consequences).

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro: Master the College Funding Process and Give Your Child Lifelong Financial Skills Without Losing Your Cool goes beyond the usual focus on how to locate loans or scholarships in offering a complete method of achieving this major task. The result is not a listing of financial sources so much as a strategy for college funding and beyond which can move into life and business circles just as easily as it assesses the college planning process.

Funding is a basic issue in any life endeavor, whether it be college, starting a business, buying a house, or achieving almost any big goal. That's why, in most cases, the bigger picture boat is missed in other college planners: and that is one of the basic process of gathering, assessing, and applying funding options across the board.

There are more than a few surprises revealed in this wider-ranging approach; among them the idea that such planning should ideally begin in middle school, and that middle school and high school student can possess the skills and information to make solid financial decisions about their futures (with a little parental insight and knowledge, the latter of which is provided here).

Chapters admonish parents to involve their kids more in major financial matters ("It's important to start teaching your child about money, budgeting, and saving early in life. Giving your child responsibility for saving toward big purchases, like a car, or teaching them how to budget their allowance helps them understand the value of their money and how hard they have to work for what they want.") and emphasize the difference between a finite resource and no resources.

Step-by-step instructions for applying for funding (such as filling out forms for the FAFSA) juxtapose with life funding and money management tips and insights, such as why a student should understand how credit works and use it carefully and cautiously: "It's important to teach your student about the implications of bad credit. Not making payments, paying minimum amounts, skipping payments, or having too much credit are all reported to the various credit bureaus. While this might not seem like a big deal to your student now, having a bad credit rating can cause a lot of harm later in life. It could affect their ability to rent an apartment, purchase auto insurance, buy a home, or get a car."

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro's tone assumes that parents will be reading the book and working with their child: it covers the basic financial skills needed for life itself, organizing them into digestible bits that take college funding a step further, using it as a template for lifetime money management routines.

No parent should be without this essential guide, whether their child is going to college or not.

Gambling Demons
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services
B01D5R0WSY, $2.99 (Kindle)

Once again angels and demons that inhabit the world powered by The First Circle Club are facing an adversary that may move in circles beyond Heaven and Hell when a series of disasters affecting a football team toes the line between a losing streak and a curse. Why should a supernatural vigilante team become involved in a football team's dilemma? Because it's not just the team that's endangered, as club leader Virgil comes to realize in a progression of deadly encounters and bloodshed.

The second scene opens with the admission that Virgil has no heart. Literally. But this doesn't mean he can't enjoy a good heart-pounding game of football on TV at the headquarters of the First Circle Club which he leads. It's there that he first learns about the string of amazingly deadly events affecting his favorite team - and since he's the leader of a group charged with investigating and resolving supernatural possibilities, the task seems right up his alley in more ways than one.

The problem is: that alley is, in actuality, only one long, winding road in a dangerous journey, and Virgil's initial interest has just sent him, unsuspectingly, straight into the heart of a new danger. News of the curse actually feels like a set-up by the perp, using a personal lure to beckon him to investigate; and when Virgil grabs the bait, eternal punishment seems like a picnic in the face of this new danger.

One of the pleasures of this ongoing series is that the multiple, action-packed books allow readers to enjoy characters that become more developed with every book.

From FBI involvements to visions of monsters chasing Virgil and a bet with gambling and the gaming community that turns deadly, Gambling Demons moves swiftly beyond its initial scenario and premises to grab and absorb readers with another supernatural battle involving insanity, mythical demons, the murder of a master, and scenarios even demons find impossible to comprehend or predict.

Readers should be forewarned that familiarity with the prior First Circle novels will contribute to a smooth transition into this latest novel (although Gambling Demons opens with enough of a bang to immediately draw newcomers as an undercover cop meets his maker).

Combine a 'whodunnit' with a healthy dose of supernatural intrigue and a conflict brought to the gates of Heaven and Hell themselves and you have a riveting read that's hard to put down, especially recommended for prior First Circle Club fans who will find this latest struggle knocks on the door of Heaven itself, begging for God's involvement.

A More Deadly Union
Gayle Carline
Dancing Corgi Press
9781943654079, $3.99, (ebook)
9781943654086, $13.99 (paperback)

Peri Minneopa's in a bind in more ways than one: her detective boyfriend of 10 years, Skip, is in a coma in a hospital after being shot and she can't even visit him (since they're not married), while her client is facing a deadly stalker.

Blinded by grief and thwarted by an impossible task, Peri looks at death from both sides of her desk as she struggles to make sense of her life.

The reality of hospital limitations on non-relatives ("Um, I'm sorry. This group is for relatives and spouses only." "But I've been dating him for ten years." Peri reasoned with her. "We lived together." "I'm sorry, Ma'am." The nurse sounded contrite. "We have rules. Confidentiality, you know.") comes to life in the saga of a police office down and sends Peri into a tailspin; specially since her client's case keeps conflicting with police investigations.

It may take more than a bullet to bring Skip down, but his greatest challenge in life is well on its way to making a direct hit on his home turf at the time as he faces his own struggle for survival.

This riveting saga will engross any interested in police procedural mysteries, adding a powerful sense of purpose and angst between two protagonists who must not only face the demands of their jobs; but their own relationship.

Can Peri investigate a shooting she's been giving a "hands off" order to avoid when new clues falls directly into her hands? Can friendships prove harder than being alone? And what happens when the hunter becomes the hunted?

As the detective and P.I. struggle to regain their lives and find new purpose in them, readers are swept along in a mounting story of intrigue and strange associations in a satisfyingly complex, engrossing mystery from start to finish.

Dark Moon
Deborah Hawkins
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN 9780988934757 (ebook) $.99
ISBN 9780988934764 (print) $17.15

Criminal defense attorney Sarah Knight has made a name for herself while spending over forty years in hiding from her own truth. Having just journeyed coast-to-coast to San Diego, she faces one of the most challenging cases of her life in representing a former Supreme Court clerk arrested for murder; but the process of her defense leads to an investigation of more than another's guilt or innocence in Dark Moon.

True to the rest of Deborah Hawkins's legal thrillers, Dark Moon injects more than a light degree of personal involvement into the story of a high-profile case where Sarah is advised to make only a mild defense effort for the sake of preserving her professional career.

The only trouble is: Sarah's efforts can't be bought with threats, and it can't even be swayed when she and her investigator, ex-FBI agent Jim, face death threats as their probes go too far.

Who would be willing to set up Alexa so that she's quickly sentenced to death for a crime she may not have committed, and who would be willing to risk the deaths of her defenders in a very high-profile, public case? The answer is: only someone with everything to hide and too much confidence that their road to success is virtually guaranteed.

As Sarah embarks on one of the biggest challenges of her professional career - one which quickly evolves to become a challenge to survive on more than one level - she faces losing everything she's built and the secret she's so carefully preserved all her life.

What makes Dark Moon such a standout (much like the author's other legal thrillers) is the concurrent themes of personal challenge and achievement which run through the story line with a powerful ability to draw in even readers who usually eschew this genre for its too-common over-reliance on legal process over character development.

Interactions between characters are vividly portrayed and readers become drawn to the story by many personal moments and connections: "I'm serious, Sarah. You look as if you're burning up from the inside out." And maybe I am, she thought. Maybe I'll be a pile of ashes by morning, and I'll be free of you and Alexa and the torment of this case."

The result is a gripping study in psychology and legal process wound deftly into the footprints of a legal thriller that is hard to put down, holding the rare ability to immerse both genre readers and more general-interest thriller and mystery enthusiasts, alike.

Dandelion Iron
Aaron Michael Ritchey
WordFire Press
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132-1840
9781614753490 $14.99 Paper; $5.99 Kindle

Dandelion Iron is Book One of The Juniper Wars and is set in 2058, when men have largely been exterminated by war and the remaining population is mostly sterile. Under these conditions, humanity's survival is in jeopardy. In this world, five U.S. states (now known as the Juniper collective) have banded together in a struggle to survive. Three spunky girls who are trying to save their cattle ranch stumble upon an oddity - a boy who represents one of the last remaining hopes for a new generation.

So what happens when three feisty girls find one boy? Trouble. One falls in love. One sees the profit in the matter and wants to sell him off. The other wants to get trouble out of their lives.

As if this weren't enough, an army knows about Micaiah and is searching for him, too. With four conflicting special interests surrounding him, action is swift and engrossing. And with spirited, largely-female characters running the show, there's a lot to like in Dandelion Iron.

Take a deep breath to absorb the smells, sights, and feel of Aaron Michael Ritchey's apocalyptic landscape, which is steeped in Western tradition and atmosphere: "Right then, it was as if such violence had never happened there. The morning air was heavy with ranch smells: three thousand head of cattle, fifty horses, pigs, chickens all created quite a bouquet. A gust of wind brought the smell of dry, winter grass and drying mud - the perfume of my homeland."

Then prepare for a rollicking good ride in a romance that deftly toes the lines between an odd version of a new morality, a romance, and a Western gun slinging adventure powered by female interests and perceptions and fueled with solid dialogue.

Under Ritchey's hand, the writing is compelling ("Cavatica, I'm in trouble. Real trouble. If your sisters get their way, I'll either be dead in a week or sold into slavery. I need your help. What we had, well, it was powerful, unexpected, incredible, but I understand what you're getting at. However good it was, we can't be together under these circumstances." Now I wanted to protest, 'cause, dang it, I wanted to kiss him again. "I'll convince my sisters. You're with us 'til the end. In Wendover, you'll be able to catch a bus easy to Vegas, or a plane. And maybe you and I ..." More dead syllables, scattered all around. Maybe you and I could go to Vegas together. Didn't say it, only thought it - fell into a little fantasy, right there. He and I in a hotel suite, him respecting my decision to be chaste, and me wanting him more than I should."), the characters come alive, and the story line is engrossing and practically impossible to put down.

It's great to see another, different take on an apocalyptic scenario: one that takes 'woman power' to a whole new level, leaving them in charge and in defiance of some of the concepts and options in their new world. Dandelion Iron is a compelling read because of these powerful women and their different quests through a rugged, semi-familiar Western territory, making for a highly recommended pick for any who enjoy stories of survival against all odds.

Escapee: Repelling the Invasion
Edward Hoornaert
MuseItUp Publishing
9781771277945, $2.99,

Hector is a career military man who finds himself pushing papers more than battling for what he believes in, while Catt ekes out a living and learns to survive through conducting commerce on the same mining moon that Hector's forces occupy.

When invaders capture the moon, destroying Hector's command and power and taking away Catt's only source of income, their lives and different goals become connected when Catt rescues Hector from the rubble of disaster.

Far from being grateful, Hector wants Catt to join him in a counterattack - just the two of them - but Catt hasn't planned on becoming a soldier anytime soon, much less one under the command of another. And both of their lives are in danger, not only from the new occupying forces, but from a notoriously fierce environment of eruptions and storms.

Given their fierce independence, disparate goals, and strong personalities, it feels inevitable that their differences would draw them together sooner or later; but the romance develops in a satisfyingly logical manner and offers a number of surprises along the way as each evaluate the other for more than survival purposes or military might.

Readers holding a special affinity for romances and military sci-fi will enjoy the blend of these genres and scenes which describe both love and battle: "Hector stabbed a finger at the map projected in the middle of the cabin. Then he glanced at Catt - Captain Sayer, that is - who frowned back at him. In the last two hours, she had frowned non-stop. Which did she regret - agreeing to take him to the enemy headquarters? Or the kiss?"

If love takes the reins, will survival and revenge take a back seat? A powerful story of invasion, destruction, newfound love and threats to life evolves in a story of strikes, counterstrikes, and just the right dose of romance to give it all a satisfying personal overlay. Military sci-fi readers who like romance stories will find Escapee: Repelling the Invasion an engrossingly satisfying read.

PMS: The Power & Money Sisters
K.P. Robbins
MuseItUp Publishing
9781771277976 $5.99


MuseItUp Publishing:

When Beth and her best friend Elaine decide to form a women's networking group called the Power and Money Sisters (PMS) in 1998, the last thing they expect to find is a powerful set of female friends who share not just business interests, but life experiences.

But as events over the course of a year center around not just individual business pursuits but romance, breakups, pregnancy and health concerns, the women's group comes to realize that their most powerful allies may not lie in family foundations, but in friendships with each other.

One might expect the casual interplays in such a story, but these protagonists are deadly serious not only about what they've achieved against all odds, but the costs of success and the lifestyles they have chosen: "Lately she felt the lure of marriage and motherhood tugging at her, perhaps because she'd already achieved her career goal, the presidency of a bank. Seeing women her own age shopping with teenaged children made her realize how much time had already passed."

Against the backdrop of success lies the reality of diverging paths and failures along the way, brought to light and examined by PMS members who use the bonds of affection to form new associations and handle the breakups and dissolutions inevitable in life, love, and business: "Breaking up is hard to do, even if it's just business, not love."

Fans of women's fiction will find a lot to like in a story that explores the foundations of friendships and love alike: "Men come and go," she said, "but girlfriends are forever." It's refreshing to see these women's bonds center around personal power over male interactions. Even when the women speak of lovers, partners, and male associates, it's always tempered by their own strong interrelationships with each other and other facets of life.

As each woman faces the opportunities and limitations of her life and choices, sharing the results with others, a subtheme of growth and change emerges which offers candid assessments of the special challenges facing women who dream of both careers and family: "She was thankful he seemed oblivious to the implications of her question, that what she really wanted to know was if he wanted to have children with her. She wanted to kick herself for so badly misinterpreting his proud fatherhood. He'd already produced his progeny; he was done, while she was eager to begin."

Women's fiction readers will relish these empowering encounters between business professionals who each have a foot in the trials and challenges of daily living.

The Black Ten Commandments: National Warning Order
Tony Caligula, M.R.E.
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478727057 $29.95

The title of Tony Caligula's book The Black Ten Commandments actually comes from a quote by Ossie Davis, from a comment during the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1971, which called for a black plan of action that eschews leadership in favor of personal responsibility The book offers an intriguing mix of military process and social insights on the black community and comes from an Army Captain who synthesizes some 20 years of research into his game plan.

What are the real roots of dysfunction in the black community? While many may claim that these lie in racism and heritage, Caligula maintains that in fact the high illegitimacy rate in the black community is one of the key starting points of poverty, crime, and repression.

While some single parents have defied the odds, statistical evidence points to an overwhelming disparity between the comparative statuses of two-parent, wealthier homes and those headed by a single, struggling parent - and since the latter is the norm in the Black community, it's a major problem that needs to be addressed and changed.

At what point does victimization become an excuse for repeating patterns that have historically lead to failure, and how has the Black community been steeped in following familiar but self-defeating paths? The purpose of The Ten Black Commandments isn't just to change the course of the Black community: it advocates creating an independent, economically powerful low-income Black United States of America sub country loyal to the U.S. constitution, but fiscally separate; and its startling opener is that Dr. Martin Luther King's vision and dream is officially dead - it's time for another game plan, which is covered here.

Chapters defy the usual statistics to strike at the heart of what keeps Black America in thrall and oppressed, and then they build this concept up by showing exactly how abuse can be identified, codependent actions eliminated, and mis-education processes thwarted.

Whether one agrees with the processes and procedures or not, the information is precise, strategic, and actionable - and these approaches are only one reason why The Black Ten Commandments is highly recommended for any who would consider causes, effects, and alternatives in building a more powerful Black community.

The other reason embedded in this process is hope, which lies in a specific model for change by an aware, much-decorated military officer.

Pulse: When Gravity Fails
John Freitas
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530117567 $2.99
Amazon link:
Author's website:

When the Alpha Centauri star system collapses, it creates a gravitational wave across space that changes everything when it hits Earth, but at fist these strange changes are viewed as localized odd phenomena. It will take a savvy scientist, such as Dr. Paulo Restrepo, to connect the dots and discover not only the problem, but a cure - if there is one.

Pulse: When Gravity Fails is Book One of an apocalyptic series, but unlike many of its genre peers; it's not an epic tome but a relatively quick, digestible read. While this fact may disappoint readers who like complex and lengthy stories, in fact its concise format makes Pulse far more accessible than many and allows for a series of adventures that aren't rooted in over-complexity or "filler" descriptions.

The opening examples focus on several vastly different scenarios. From a laundry room child's impromptu flight to a military pilot's unexpected plane crash and odd happenings in a remote Siberian outpost, the different events are connected together in a thrilling tale that moves from scientific impossibility to revelation. Earthquakes, satellites knocked out of orbit, a changing world, and different characters who struggle to understand and then survive all make for lively, engrossing reading that explores not only efforts to live, but connections between different cultures and characters.

What will the human race do if it has prior warning that its way of life will soon change? And what if that warning is incomplete? As efforts to survival emerge, the story line is fueled by believable protagonists who hold clear goals and face many challenges. Can peace and trust emerge from chaos and unprecedented disaster?

Pulse's strength lies in its ability to quickly immerse readers in several simultaneous scenarios revolving around the effects of changed gravity on the world. Characters and events in Russia and Arkansas create satisfying contrasts of experience and perspective and juxtapose two stories under one larger umbrella of earth-altering disaster - all this completed in under a hundred pages of gripping description. Fans of apocalyptic scenarios will relish this concise, compelling story and will look forward to more books in the series.

A Very Physical Spirituality
Michael Abramowitz
9780992559618 Free
"A Very Physical Spirituality" at Smashwords
"A Very Physical Spirituality" at Google Play

A Very Physical Spirituality: A Bridge Over the Divide Between Science and Religion draws important links between the spiritual and material world and, from the start, defines the roots of disparities which have divided the two: "While it's not possible to test the veracity of any other-worldly claims, the descriptions of this world by many religions have proved to be scientifically inadequate, and this has aroused suspicion of their other-worldly offerings."

The alternative idea of a sentient spirituality is presented, along with supporting evidence that examines the presence of patterns and their orders as one key to understanding the connections between spiritual and material forces.

Chapters consider how meaning can be derived from these patterns, show how a combination of scientific analysis and logic can be adjusted in order to allow a plausible context for spirituality, and present a brand of physics that requires no scientific mindset to prove accessible and understandable.

Make no mistake: just because it's accessible doesn't mean that Michael Abramowitz's discussion is easy. A Very Physical Spirituality is best digested slowly, in bits and pieces, because its concepts and admonitions present much food for thought for scientific, spiritual, and general-interest readers alike: "We construct our narratives, and the narratives of the people and things around us, on the basis of the meanings we comprehend. The mode of sentience we choose can determine the mode of the serial meaning in which the reality we are responsible for unfolds."

It should also be cautioned that believers in one God or one system will find many challenging points here; not the least of which is the presence of layers of Dieties: "The sentiences of these deities did not precede the material world. From this perspective, the fundamental forces of physics are dumb natural spirits, the phenomena of connectivity and the architective constraining thereof are dumb natural spirits, the entire basic material universe is itself a dumb natural spirit while all sentiences, even spiritual sentiences, have arisen in it."

By now it should be evident that A Very Physical Spirituality requires more than a scientific or a spiritual mind: it demands of its readers the flexibility of belief and thinking to envision a different kind of connection between science, spirituality, and the material world. Readers who enjoy higher-level thinking about cosmic consciousness will relish a discussion which is semi-scholarly in tone but clear enough to educate and challenge readers looking at different kinds of connections and purposes between Heaven and Earth.

Redefining Darkness
Alaric Cabiling
Alaric Cabiling Limited (Ltd.)
ISBN: 9781513609591 $15.00 paper
eISBN: 9781945170423 $2.99
Author website:


Barnes & Noble:

Redefining Darkness is a short story collection pairing protagonist choices and experiences with solid plots representing vignettes of time and place, and demonstrates just how much can be accomplished within the short story format.

Ten circumstances of 'redefining' one's world are illustrated in stories that run the gamut in presenting characters of different ages, sexes, and approaches to life.

Take the opener, 'Day of Darkness', for one example. Seven-year-old Francis is confessing his little crimes, but a bigger one takes place instead. Instantly the scene changes to a police report on television, then to the reactions of the Church, both internally and externally.

Readers receive only four pages to this short story, which create the precise and concise staccato impact of a verbal photo shoot, the camera clicking along from scene to scene while viewers receive a dose of just one definition of a growing darkness.

'Cause of Death', the next story, takes longer to build and describe its particular brand of darkness: here the anniversary of a wife's murder thirteen years earlier brings with it the nightmare of a life lived in grief, among bodies and murders, fueled with the fiery results of vodka and horror.

Again, experience the staccato paragraphs of description that click from scene to scene with the clarity of a camera shutter capturing images and vignettes. Readers have no idea where the journey is heading: all they know is that it's going straight into the darkness of death - with a peculiar twist.

Suicide. Abandonment. Death. The pursuit of fortune and sex. Each short story expertly hones the knife of angst and moves between vastly different character perspectives; and each adds a piece to the evolving jigsaw puzzle theme.

The result is a powerful, gripping gathering that grabs readers and doesn't let go. How does darkness evolve and grow? Read these stories and find out.

That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Spider 2-3
Robert Vallier
Jaguar Publishing Inc.
eBook: 9780990881179 $3.49
Paperback: 9780990881148 $13.99

Ordering Links:
Amazon (USA):

Spider 2-3 is the kind of thriller that takes the familiar theme of international espionage and elevates it to a whole new level. Within this genre lie the usual suspects: murderers, kidnappers, traitors and spies, and intelligence games played on all sides of the international arena.

If it's nonstop, staccato action that's desired, readers should definitely choose Spider 2-3 above others: the adventure starts with cool observation ("The elevator doors opened. The night receptionist looked up from her keyboard and glanced at the man. She noticed the light brown coat, the dark shoes, the grey hair. No-one important. She put away her empty smile. It would be the last smile he'd ever see.") but moves quickly to the streets of Berlin and the mission of a man who walks - then runs - straight into darkness.

Fast forward to the Caribbean three weeks later for a change of scene that at first seems unrelated to events in Berlin. The beaches of paradise are the last place one would expect to find the intrusion of international intrigue - but JP and Stella head into the heart of danger when a disappearance brings heartache into the picture: "Those emotions were fighting the strong practical approach that he knew he had to maintain."

Readers easily follow the give-and-take action, largely because of Robert Vallier's attention to exploring emotion, motivation, and the complexities of international affairs that enter into the story line and give it added flavor and a logical progression of events : "In discussion with the Chief of Police, JP pointed out that when the kidnappers make contact it would be with Stella's family in South Africa and so he should leave the island immediately to be with them. The Police agreed - if there had actually been a kidnapping. So far there was only a missing person, and so they were understandably reluctant to let JP off the island; what if the woman turned up dead? There would be a murder investigation and the prime suspect would then be JP himself."

As international agents and confrontations rise to the forefront, a myriad of subplots engage in satisfyingly vivid descriptions that wind a series of events around the Spider, whose actions represent larger threats.

As heroes and villains clash and the killings escalate, a desperate race against time ensues, with subterfuge and secret motivations powering events surrounding nuclear weapons, espionage, international money matters, and more.

Thriller readers who appreciate a blend of nonstop action and a romp around the world chasing Muslim extremists and facing chess-like moves on an international playing board will find Spider 2-3 a powerfully moving read that's hard to put down.

Things on a Tree
D.L. Finn
eBook: 9780996258241 $2.99
Print: 9780996258258

Teen Aimee has a lot on her plate at Christmas time: she's ill, her father died in a car accident the previous year, and her only wish for Christmas is to turn back the hands of time. Her family is outside playing in the snow, yet Aimee is not only ill, but can't bring herself to act as though nothing has happened to change her life - not at Christmas, when her broken family should be together.

As Aimee discovers the truth about Santa and Christmas magic, she uncovers a magical mess that leads her deeper into strange worlds she never knew existed.

Christmas magic, yetis, reindeer and quests, and the legacy of Santa are all wound into a revealing adventure story centered upon a girl's recovery from trauma. What is magic all about, and how can belief be cultivated in impossible conditions?
Things on a Tree is an evocative, involving journey through magic, control issues, challenges to trust and belief systems, and what is to be scarified in the name of survival.

Can time be turned back? Not without many changes and revelations, the process of which will keep middle school grade readers involved in a fantastic journey offering many surprising twists and turns.

How to Buy a Green Home
Seth Asare
Ebenezer Real Estate, LLC
ASIN: B01CQWO4EM $7.00

What is the definition of a green home, how does it differ from a conventional house, and how can a new homeowner consider, purchase, and best use and maintain a green home?

Seth Asare answers all these questions and more in How to Buy a Green Home: A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Your Green Home Without Losing Your Shirt, discussing everything from green-oriented mortgages and real estate agents and how the process differs from conventional homes to the pros and cons of buying a new or used green home, assessing it, and how to understand its systems.

Chapters cover why it's important to request a certified green home inspector, how to examine home warranties, and what to look for in the fine print as they promote the concept and realities of green home ownership.

While lay readers might think that a green home loan and purchase process would mirror that of a standard house, it's quickly evident that there are many differences in the process which require additional information and understanding, provided in this book.

One of these points is that green inspectors are particularly well qualified to assess the green points of such a home, are better able to verify claims about materials and environmental-friendly features of the home, and are different from energy auditors whose job it is to assess the applications and results of a green feature.

Many pros and cons discussed are particular to the green home environment, while others (such as home warranties and the potential problems involved in making a claim) can be applied to any home purchase process.

The result is a 'must' review of all the features, qualities, benefits and detriments, and cautions involved in making a green home purchase. With this book in hand, no potential 'green' homeowner need enter the process uninformed.

Lauren Rico
Harmony House Productions
9780997430325, $14.99 print, $4.99 electronic

Julia's gone into hiding in response to her terrible childhood experiences - not in a usual secret place, but in full public view. As one of the top cellists in the country, her ambitions and work assures that she won't become involved in any pressing or dangerous relationships, and won't have to face either her own sexuality or the ghosts of her past.

But fellow musician Jeremy has broken down these barriers, and Julia finally feels able to trust, open up, and move on from her past, since she's now found the right person to help - or, has she?
Reverie is a powerful story about hiding and dangerous patterns, it's about playing from memory and turning those memories into powerful instruments of change, and it's about what happens when that determination to succeed against all odds is attacked by something different.

It's not that Julia doesn't have friends - Matthew and other musicians are some of her biggest fans. It's that she hasn't let anyone get close, until now. And her hardest decisions may be yet to come.

Reverie focuses on the demanding world of professional music, the opportunities it holds for success and safety, and what happens when someone breaks through professional boundaries.

Julia didn't expect a charming and complicated guy to penetrate her well-honed defenses. She didn't opt to fall for someone who gets along with few people in her world. And most of all, she didn't expect that the techniques she carefully put into place to survive would all come crashing down around her the instant she relaxed.

Jeremy, too, is in for more than a few surprises ("I've been blindsided, that's what happened. And I don't do blindsided.") What evolves is an increasingly complicated example of what happens when different worlds - and relationships - collide. What makes a stalker or contributes to the relationship between stalker and victim? What happens when others get in the way of carefully-laid plans?

As perspectives change between Jeremy and Julia and immerse everyone around them in music and personal worlds, the story becomes a riveting example of what happens when things fall apart. The story revolves around a competition in more ways than one, and its outcome will surprise and delight readers looking for a blend of professional music world insights, romance, and psychological tension. Most of all, Reverie profiles dreams, shattered visions, and survival. Tenacious and absorbing, Reverie is a story hard to put down.

Shadows And Teeth: Ten Terrifying Tales Of Horror And Suspense, Volume 1
Various Authors
Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
9780991074570, $3.99 e-book / $19.99 paperback

Shadows And Teeth makes for exquisite reading for those who like dark stories filled with horror, bloodshed, demons, and the bizarre. The anthology delivers tense thrills. Each story excels in its craft and provides horror readers with twists and turns that are unexpected and engrossing.

Survival instinct kicks in both for protagonists and readers alike as terrifying scenarios are presented in which the unexpected turns deadly. In Rich Phelan's 'The Pied Piper's Appetite', a sadistic, psychotic man kidnaps and tortures women he deems to be whores, with the larger scheme in mind to involve an unwilling accomplice in murder. Mark Meier's 'The Final Spell' tells of a modern day wizard who hand-picks his replacement, and what terrible things befall his power-hungry protege.

The only prerequisite for complete appreciation of this powerful collection is a penchant for the macabre. Each tale is a surprising celebration not of life, but of death and the things that genuinely frighten us. I recommend Shadows And Teeth for fans of a good scare.

The Distance To The End
Michael Aaron Casares
Serasac Press
9780692667835 $14.95

Nicholas has just been reunited with his estranged lover when they are invited to go to Las Vegas. There they imbibe a lush and lavish lifestyle by friends whose newfound lottery wealth leads them to embark on a pleasure-filled and lavish whirlwind trip.

All is not hedonistic enjoyment, however, for embedded in this journey is the reunion and slow evolution of Raoul and Nick's relationship, the realities that are revealed when wealth strips away illusions and true desires are uncovered, and the injection and influence of drugs and fast living into the mix of interpersonal growth and connections.

Expect a rollicking ride through drugs, Vegas, and the glittery attraction of self-indulgent and materialistic living ("Fat Tuesdays would never run out of drink! They had enough booze and slush to last lifetimes, and we would see how many of those lifetimes we could go through before we ran out.") set against the backdrop of a journey exploring the pathos and angst of modern America.

From poetry and passion between men to coming to grips with life and self ("When I began to take account for myself, I found a great peace because I could forgive everyone who'd transgressed me, or anyone I may have been angry at. I began to see a lesson in altercations, and they became less and less and less. I found myself more at peace, more at peace. I found it easy to let the energy flow; I didn't attach myself to things or people as much, though that isn't to say storms didn't brew, because when they did I let them blow over methodically.") to the promises and possible failures of returning to a once-failed relationship to retry and jumpstart it, The Distance To The End offers a compelling journey into hope, awareness, empowerment, and ultimately, forgiveness.

The path to these places is what makes The Distance To The End shine in a revealing, passionate read that takes the glitzy impersonal backdrops of Vegas, sex, and relationships and elevates them to new levels as Nick winds his way through changed worlds only vaguely familiar from past encounters.

Holy Mirage
A. Aboud
Publisher: A. Aboud
0615636160, $0.99

Holy Mirage is a book for any who have loved, lost, or found their faith misplaced or shattered - it's not for the true believer who harbor a faith unexamined. A. Aboud closely inspected the roots of his own faith, and Holy Mirage's opener outlines the results and moves on from there: "On the day when I came to understand that there was no God, I cried. I cried because I loved God. I cried because I had been wrapped in the softness of his spirit. I cried because I knew that I would never find him waiting for me after death; I cried to awaken from such a pleasant dream. But, then, I wiped away my tears and made ready for the new day. On this day, I learned to face the trials of life with my own strength. After this, when I woke to face each morning, sometimes I would smile, and, sometimes, I would cry once more. But it doesn't matter. I will be rational. I will take the world as it is. And, most of all, I will be free."

Holy Mirage offers more than an autobiographical account of this process. It considers how faith began, how it evolved into a doctrine that opened slowly and 'shyly' only to evolve into institution, judge and executioner all in one. Many wars have revolved around belief, atrocities have been committed in the name of conviction (or its perceived lack), and oftentimes, religious belief has redefined the nature of reality.

Holy Mirage creates its analysis using plain language which may sound simple and accessible, but which is actually hard-hitting (to believers who may bristle at its contentions) and thought-provoking (to those who would question and think about the real contentions, outcomes and controversies surrounding faith): "...the idea of God is an ancient carpet, borne aloft above the world by the winds of history. Its fabric, its color, its pattern - all are greatly changed by time and circumstance."

Chapters trace the history of this process from early to modern times, always with a critical eye towards showing how concepts evolved and were embraced, how different (and seemingly opposed) religions actually contributed to the evolution of not just their modern counterparts, but to society's perceptions and belief systems as a whole, and how much-embraced religious concepts represent extensions of human rituals and changes more than admonitions from above: "...the idea of Jesus sacrificing himself for humanity is also an extension of these old rituals, in which, sometimes, even humans were offered up as sacrifices."

From rituals of marriage and laws of worship processes to the real forces that dictate religious change ("The terms of reality are reacting with each other in a dynamic and continuous way, and that's why there is always a new reality. Religions are a part of this reality, and are engaged with the other terms of reality. Despite the existence of a tendency in religion against progress, reality requires, over the years, that religions change."), Holy Mirage leaves no stone unturned and no cows sacred in its steady, relentless, and unerringly candid critique of how religions have changed (and have changed their believers) over the centuries and why discrepancies between religious law and human behavior have created disparities between institutions and those they were designed to oversee.

Any who would think, question, and receive a different and critical angle on the nature and evolution of belief as a whole - whether it be Muslim, Christian, or otherwise - will find Holy Mirage an excellent, hard-hitting and highly recommended discussion, filled with carefully presented ideas cemented by history, philosophy, and insights into the nature of reality itself.

Fated Memories
Joan Carney
Eastlake Publishing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Ebook: ASIN: B01CL4WAAK $3.99
Paper: 9780692663868 $13.99

Kitty is being transferred to a different section of the hospital where her ex works - and she's certain she can't do this. Her parents want her to live at home and go back to school to gain better skills that would lead her away from dead-end jobs, but Kitty has other ideas, and Fated Memories probes these choices which lead her from a limited world into the full blossoming of war.

As a timeslip saga blends with a girl's struggles to gain meaning from her life, Fated Memories brings with it a unique brand of time-travel lessons as it uses a journey into the past to reveal not just romance and war, but how meaning can be gleaned from everyday life, choices, and circumstances.

In the beginning, Kitty feels her options are very limited ("If I quit the hospital I'll have to go back and live with my parents. I'm such a loser.") while her good friend tries to make her see that adversity can translate to opportunity with just a small attitude adjustment ("Life is all about changes that's what makes it interesting. You've always known you were too smart for that job. This is your chance to break free, turn the negative into a positive. Spread your wings. Grow."). Neither expected that such opportunity would come in a very different way, or that Kitty would find herself on the cusp of self-growth even as the world around her falls apart.

Where has the time gone, and what are her choices in navigating between two very different worlds? As Kitty finds within herself new resources she didn't know existed, she also hones a new purpose in life and a new set of abilities that brings with them not just adversity, but unexpected love.

Is she really stuck in time and place, and does she really have choices? Fans of Time and Again and other timeslip romances and classics will love the twists and turns presented in Fated Memories, which provides a different kind of coming-of-age saga of growth and revelation.

The Vatican Protocol
Brian Gallagher
Mirror Publishing
9781612253343, $15.95,

Fans of intrigue rooted in religious tradition and history and steeped in the mysteries of sects, discoveries, and ancient texts will relish Brian Gallagher's The Vatican Protocol, a novel based on real events.

Sean O'Shea is researching clues pointing to alien life; but the last place he expects these clues to lead is to a cover-up involving the Vatican. His journey to a secret UFO crash site in Germany starts the clock ticking over the Vatican's most closely-held secret: one that will shake the foundations of religion, humanity, and perhaps reality itself.

The Vatican Protocol opens with a bang - the bang of a crashed aircraft in Germany - and creates a tense thriller that begins with events in 1936 and immediately moves to 2014, where Sean, who has lost nearly everything in a financial meltdown, has cultivated a goal-oriented approach to life that has returned his world to a semblance of stability.

His desire to probe mysteries and create a great book in the process leads to an obsession with history and supernatural forces that swirl into intrigue, death, and some hard truths that rival anything he could have dreamed about aliens and mankind.

Black operations groups, old wars between popes and Catholic hierarchies, heretics and philosophies challenged, and castles, labs, and dangerous discoveries all blend in a thriller centered on religious secrets.

Readers will find The Vatican Protocol follows no predictable paths and involves an unusual kind of power struggle that sharply redefines Sean's life, purposes, and the extent he will travel in his search for the truth. There are many surprises along the way, embedding the story line with a progressively tense atmosphere to keep readers guessing about the truth.

Any who have enjoyed The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones adventures will find The Vatican Protocol a hard-hitting novel of intrigue and adventure whose protagonist crosses continents in a quest to reveal an increasingly challenging truth.

The Rose Within - A Gothic Romance
Sana Pirzada
Book Empire
9781911357001, $5.99 GBP,

Envision Henry James' classic Turn of the Screw melded with Bronte's Wuthering Heights with a touch of Jane Eyre thrown in to a novel of mystery and uncanny supernatural romance and you begin to get a taste for what's being served in The Rose Within, a delicious gothic romance that emphasizes elements of horror in a winding, subliminally appealing story line.

The time is the 1920s and the setting is England, but the protagonist is male - one Jonathan, whose infatuation with Selina draws him into her world at Winter Grange, an estate permeated by ghosts and mystery.

In great literary classics, time and place are well detailed. Using a similarly-compelling approach, Sana Pirzada blends a diary format and Jonathan's observations to capture, in exquisite description, the sensory impressions which bring this world alive: "I remember seeing a long hallway with white marble floors and white Roman columns. White curtains of a sort of delicate, translucent fabric gently fluttered in the winds, and tiny bells chimed. In the background, I could hear one large bell ringing. It was a church bell, I was certain, and the purity of the mise en scene suggested this was the interior of a convent, perhaps somewhere in Italy. Amidst the muffled noises in the background, I faintly heard a Gregorian chant. The soft and sensual voices, combined with the sound of the subtle winds, built up to a gradual crescendo."

Drawn in by setting, readers then receive a taste of mystery ("There, standing in front of the altar, was the figure of a woman in a long, pure white dress, her head covered with a white hood. At first, I took her for a nun, but then she turned around and walked in the direction of the hallway; though her attire was graceful and noble, I realized it was not a nun's raiment. As she passed me, I smelled the sweet scent of roses, and when she lifted her sapphire eyes demurely, they glowed like fireflies in the night sky. Without thinking, I gently put my hand on her supple arm to feel whether she was real or a fairy. But she walked on as if I was never there, as if I had never existed."): one not just appropriate for its murky dream world, but which sets the stage for similar encounters presented in a different reality.

These are the kinds of devices great novels are made of: atmospheres of dread and evolving tragedy, a reflective inspection (via hindsight) of how events have transpired to reach this moment; and most of all, the urges of a man who longs for love and mystery outside of his circles of experience ("I too have always dreamt of traveling to a faraway castle and encountering a mysterious supernatural being; reading of the isolated glaciers in Frankenstein, I too want to witness nature's deadly beauty and seclusion.").

Pirzada admits an obsession with Phantom of the Opera, and elements of this passion and pathos are reflected in proceedings that swirl around Jonathan like a thick London fog; but to call The Rose Within a modern take on Phantom would be doing it a grave disservice.

Embedded in a rich tapestry of mystery, supernatural encounters and love is a story line that also features a spiral staircase into what might be the pits of Hell itself; and as readers follow the protagonist into these murky depths, unexpected encounters and tension give The Rose Within its own, uniquely powerful take on life, love, and everything in between these passions and the final throes of death.

Fans of supernatural fiction, romance, and gothic horror will find much to like in The Rose Within: its attention to atmosphere and detail will leave them riveted as Jonathan descends into horror on the journey of his life, with a first-person description blending observation and reflection creating a powerhouse of a read that's nearly impossible to put down, holding many surprise twists of plot throughout. A five-star production, The Rose Within is very highly recommended.

Fatal Formula
A.J. Harris
Murder Mystery Press
9780984782574 (paperback) $17.95
9780984782598 (hardback) $26.95
9780984782581 (ebook) $2.99

The time is 1953: the place, Cook County Hospital of Chicago where a gifted intern, Dr. Henry Mason, hangs himself, shocking his colleagues. Why would he commit suicide when he seems to have everything?

The quick answer is: he didn't. But embedded within the question of how Dr. Mason died is the bigger question of who in the medical community might have had a reason to want him dead, and as puzzles increase and attention focuses on Henry's ground-breaking research, disparate and powerful forces coalesce to gain control of what will be one of the biggest discoveries in the history of medicine.

Fatal Formula is a riveting story that will appeal to fans of Robin Cook and other medical thrillers. It crosses the line into the mystery realm yet focuses on a discovery that could change the world and those forces that would do anything to control it.

But unlike many of these thrillers, which focus on discovery, treachery, and murder, Fatal Formula also includes the formulas of people's relationships, from their professional associations to their love lives, considering how these forces enter into the equation of innovation and confrontation.

Readers who normally eschew some of the medical thrillers on the market for their formula approaches will find something different in A.J. Harris's production: a survey of the fundamental forces affecting forensic pathology resident and investigator, Dr. Sam Davisís life, an examination of romance, flings, and the primary foundations of lasting relationships, and a detailed examination of formulas for greed, success, love, and lives well lived.

As Dr. Sam Davis edges ever closer to a dangerous truth, so he uncovers the kind of relationship that will support rather than injure him - if he can navigate the obstacles that threaten to inject defeat and danger into a formula that negates success.

Does Dr. Henry's find promise miracles, or is it a recipe for disaster? And will Dr. Sam learn the difference in time? The result is a powerful, compelling, and revealing story line that adopts a winding, twisting approach through all kinds of possibilities and takes no linear path in its journey. It's the kind of medical mystery thriller that will keep readers guessing about love and loss right up to its unexpected conclusion.

I Am Enough
Cheryl Miguel
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
ISBN: 9781504338561 (sc) $22.99
ISBN: 9781504338578 (hc) $39.95
ISBN: 9781504338554 (e) $6.99

Most lives are a combination of pain and suffering juxtaposed with achievement and happiness; but for some, the weights fall more heavily on pain and loss. Such was the case for Cheryl Miguel, who found herself physically and emotionally in shambles after a series of onslaughts challenged her very will to survive against all odds.

I Am Enough chronicles a descent into hell and back into enlightenment, and opens with the author's sudden fall. Alone and living on acreage far from anyone who could hear her cries for help, Miguel reflects on the circumstances which have brought her full circle from health to in a life affected and changed by lupus.

Having watched the same disease swallow up her father's hopes, dreams and life, Miguel is now besieged by a diagnosis that includes increasing disability, family challenges, and more. How does one rise from the ashes of disaster, divorce, and declining health?

One might expect the trials and tribulations, but what evolves from I Am Enough is more than hope: it's a description of the healing and enlightenment process that moves beyond physical and emotional challenges and into the realm of spirituality.

As Miguel opens up to new possibilities, she finds the course of her life changing in unexpected ways. The process involves asking basic questions ("I understood life was always changing and our job was to go with the changes rather than resist them, but I continued to ask myself, How do I look forward if everyone is moving on except me?") and how she finds the answers provides the core of a memoir that goes beyond struggle and into the process of finding meaning in all that occurs.

Coping with chronic illness, the deaths of loved ones, and isolation, Miguel fights with those around her ("It was lonely suffering with a chronic illness. Coping with it alone - the solitude - was crippling....I did have the girls. But for how much longer? As soon as their lives opened up, they would be gone. In a sense, they were trapped too. I feared my future a little more each day, knowing that I eventually burned people out, becoming nothing more than a burden.") in an effort to battle the growing darkness seeping into her heart, body and soul.

How does a person evolve from this point? Where does one find strength for self, let alone family members? How do you move from being an observer in life to a participant?

I Am Enough is about the process, the journey, and overcoming impossible physical and emotional obstacles. How Miguel defies not only the odds of living into her fifties with a chronic disease but learns to live well, absorbing new lessons of healing and enlightenment, makes for a powerful spiritual and psychological read especially recommended for others struggling with issues of dependence, independence, deteriorating health, and who want to learn the path of creating a well-lived life from the ashes of angst.

Candor Candy: Global Poems
Helene Pilibosian
Ohan Press
9781530080861 $13.95

What is a 'global poem'? Perhaps it's best to let poet Helene Pilibosian define her own genre: this opens the collection and leaves nothing to question about the purpose and poetic structures of her work: "I hang a gauze curtain made of the verbs/from cultures all around the world./As it swings/lightly with every breeze,/it looks like a see-through image/to make sure Igor and Giovanni/can converse without anger."

With that intro, readers are off on a journey through different cultures and worlds in a poetic romp that "...juggles French food,/Egyptian sun, gustatory glitches,/perfume of foreign trees/standing on a harvest of harbors."

In order to traverse this world and bring armchair readers along for the ride, it's essential to capture sensory experiences; and Pilibosian presents these images in spades, steeping readers in the sensual tea of European and world travels: "Castles of kings welcomed her/as she bit the French language/like a crepe with its sauce."

This well-balanced poetic production explores not just sensory information, but plots, protagonists, and hearts and minds as well, as in the story of Here: "She meets old friends in a restaurant/in a square called There,/in spite of tiny typos that dance around/like mosquitoes in the evening/and wrap words around her emotions."

Peppered atop the production like sprinkles on icing are social commentaries, interpersonal interactions, and reflections on the dance that is life itself, journeying ever further on the trajectory of foreign soils and experiences: "His youth took her hand/and sprinkled its demands/all around the world/on a dizzying circumference:/the curl of Shell Oil,/the curve of a nose,/the verve of an African harvest,/the deserving Italian phrase."

In any successful poetry collection, it's the journey that counts. Candor Candy creates a global whirlwind of senses, sounds, emotions and clashes individuals who come together in a maelstrom of discovery. Poetry enthusiasts who love world cultural encounters will find that these experiences permeate powerful words juxtaposed with "you are there" tastes and smells.

Planet Tome Reborn
Helene Pilibosian
Ohan Press
9781530080786 $13.95

What comes after a whirlwind poetic tour of Earth? The stars and planets are next on the journey, and narrative poet Helene Pilibosian is just the pilot to take readers there in Planet Tome Reborn, a driving dervish of a production that follows a family who journeys to Earth, there to explore love, life, and immigrant dreams from Boston to beyond: "My heels have/a Cambridge and Boston ring./They sputter, try to tell/a story that is/too long, too edgy for feet/that want to be free/to cross the boundaries/for a social pun or two."

Planet Tome Reborn is more centered in living and observing this daily life than her Candor Candy production, and after taking the whirlwind world tour offered there, presents both a celebration of homebodies and an observational piece on the lure of local places from a true foreigner's perspective: "I set the table again/for the din of discussions/on repercussions of the recession./The waiter floated the meal/that featured roasted new year/with sauce of coffee quotes/and the latest in jollity."

Just as immigrants rebirth themselves under new conditions, reflect their cultural origins, and remake their lives, so the observer in Planet Tome Reborn deconstructs the ironies and inconsistencies of the human race and concocts a formula for love and acceptance that embraces both worlds: "I turn on the radio - /intergalactic to be sure - /to flood the atmosphere/with the notes of Mozart..."

While the poem 'For Sunflower Sanity' explains much of the sci-fi setting of this collection (even though it appears much later), readers will have gleaned much from the Tome pieces before this point, and even newcomers without prior familiarity with Helene Pilibosian's otherworldly creation will appreciate both its narrative approach and attention to building the details of an immigrant's melding of experiences.

Fans of the poetic narrative format who relish evocative imagery and unexpected word constructions will recognize Planet Tome Reborn as an outstanding example of how two very different worlds collide and blend.

90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more)
Felice Cohen
Dividends Press
9781500657857 $10.00
Ordering Link:

Author Felice Cohen lived in New York City in a 90-square-foot abode; a feat which demanded a high level of organization and a clutter-less approach to life. The last thing she planned to do was produce a book based on her ability to live in such a space; but 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more) evolved from a demand to know how this was achieved, in response a YouTube video profile of her tiny accommodation, and her book will be an invaluable map for any who would do the same.

That Cohen struck a nerve with her achievement and the downsizing of her dreams was evident when the video of her place took off: "After five years of living in a tiny space on the fifth floor of a former tenement building on the Upper West Side, I had arrived at the same conclusion: I had grown accustomed to an independence from stuff. Along the way, my fantasies of "one day" living in a large home with a voluminous foyer illuminated by skylights, had changed too. Instead, they were now of living with just the space I actually needed, preferably near a bike path. When I eventually showcased that independence - and my lean, mean, 12' x 7.5' Manhattan studio - on YouTube, the video went viral."

For the 'how to' details, there couldn't be a better book than 90 Lessons: it doesn't explore ideals, but shares actual techniques Cohen crafted from her years of living successfully (and uncluttered) in a tiny space. The idea is to help motivate readers to downsize, get rid of clutter, and live more simply.

In all fairness, Cohen was a professional organizer; so she wasn't exactly out of her league by contemplating living in an impossibly-small space.

Chapters follow her experiences as she decides to take the tiny space, grasps the concept of what 90 square feet actually translates to in living space terms ("Imagine the perimeter of a 2001 Honda Accord. That was the size of my new home. I know this because I had drawn the apartment layout in chalk on the driveway of my parents' Cape Cod home the week before the move. Then, for fun, I pulled my car into the outline. It fit perfectly."), then faces her initial challenge of moving in and unpacking (" usual professional-unpacking routine - first empty every box - wasn't going to work. There wasn't enough room.").

The real meat of the title lies not just in following Cohen's life adjustments, but in her surveys of the attitudes that lend to downsizing: "Turning a "should" into a positive action and setting an intention can help you avoid entirely the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" syndrome. Then watch how quickly the burden of having to get rid of stuff becomes more about a gratifying goal."

Armed with the right tools for simplifying life, readers can adopt her strategies to any size space or lifestyle - and that's the real strength of 90 Lessons: its ability to translate Cohen's adaptations to a 'bigger picture' lesson plan for any who would look for keys on adaptation and change.

Readers who seek to downsize and simplify not just physical elements but attitudes revolving around possessions will find 90 Lessons a powerful starting point for success.

Regina Shen: Endurance
Lance Erlick
Finlee Augare Books
9781943080168 $12.95

Ordering links:

Both newcomers to and prior fans of Lance Erlick's Regina Shen series will find much to like about her latest adventure, Endurance, which portrays Regina as an outcast caught in a political struggle for a new world power.

As an outcast, Regina should be relatively immune to the twisting process of choosing a new World Premier, and should be better able to focus on using her skills to locate hidden ancient treasures and her quest to free her sister - but her life is anything but focused, and requires a series of deadly confrontations and battles to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, who covet her extraordinary DNA and its special abilities.

It's not that Regina doesn't want to help the human race solve its fertility crisis through her special genome; it's just that special interests are taking over both her life and the world order; and they don't hold the same view of life, death, and survival as Regina.

Once again Lance Erlick has crafted a powerful, compelling saga in Book 4 of a series which opened with a hard hit and just keeps punching. It's a difficult proposition to produce a multi-book series and have each book stand well on its own with new subplots, riveting adventures, characters that stand out, and a spunky young woman who refuses to give up or give in.

The family connections, social and political conundrums, and interpersonal relationships all come tempered with Regina's ability not just to find antique treasure, but to problem solve in the most impossible of situations.

When Regina is forced to make a choice between her sister and the greater good, something has to give - and it might not be what the reader anticipates, which makes for a powerful story leading right up to the precipice of good and bad choices and impossible situations.

Prior fans won't be disappointed with Endurance. The same attention to building subplots, crafting Indiana Jones-type encounters and dangers, and surviving impossible odds develops a story line that's gripping and hard to put down. At the same time, newcomers who may have walked into this story late will easily fall into Regina Shen's world and its various forces and influences, and will find it so compelling a sci-fi saga that they'll want to find the preceding books for more.

Triple Love Score
Brandi Megan Granett
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
9781942545408 $14.99

Triple Love Score tells of Miranda, a poetry professor in a small town whose life seems set and quiet, until suddenly everything changes. This is a challenge for a woman who has purposely built this life based on something she knows well - writing - but when she decides to move beyond conventional approaches to use a Scrabble board as the foundation for her works, she begins to not only think outside the box, but acts outside it, as well.

Conventions and long-held patterns are all called into question as Miranda embarks on a journey that reveals romance, and a change in a process that will transform her life and her perceptions of how to live it.

There's nothing new about Miranda's revelations; but what is refreshingly different are descriptions of how and when convention fails, what causes a very quiet life to evolve into something different, and how the soul can be awakened to new opportunities.

As Miranda takes the kind of baby steps that lead to new horizons, she faces some truths about her choices and world that lead to a closer examination of 'poet words' and revised relationships with men and women alike.

Women seeking a solid story of a poetry professor's awakening will find Triple Love Score a delightful romp through options Miranda never realized she had.

Comrade Baron
Jaap Scholten
Helena History Press
P.O. Box 838, Saint Helena, CA 94574
9781943596027 $24.00

Jaap Scholten's Comrade Baron: A Journey through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy travels through the social and political worlds of Romania and Hungary's aristocracy as it probes events of 1949, in which nearly all Transylvanian aristocrats were arrested and taken away to forced labor in quarries and labor camps under the rule of Gheorghiu-Dej and (later) Ceauescu. Motivated by stories of the old country which the author learned from one Erzsebet, who related compelling sagas of a bygone, vanished world that has received relatively little mention and coverage, he embarked on a trip through Transylvania and Hungary, interviewing descendents of the aristocracy that was persecuted and almost wiped out under communism, whose stories stood on the brink of extinction until now.

Comrade Baron is essential reading for any who would understand the history and culture of Transylvania in general and, in particular, the stories of nobles who have nearly been forgotten. The author's promise to Erzsebet - that these truths would not be revealed until after her death - was kept until now, and so the life and experiences of a countess born in a beautiful Transylvanian castle blooms with passion and excitement as it presents a true story of a bygone world.

Interrogations, harassment, lush worlds, and Communism's impact - all are revealed in a personal saga that mixes the author's observations and story with those of the aristocratic peoples he interviews. His attention to capturing the sights, sounds, and political and social worlds of the region results in a captivating blend of history, cultural observation, and local color: "The villages I drove through this afternoon were holding street parties and funfairs, their lamp posts decorated with the Hungarian tricolour. The May Day celebrations are a legacy of Communism. There was always maypole dancing in the villages on International Workers' Day, while in Budapest crowds of workers were delivered to Heroes Square to walk singing, waving red flags and banners, past the party leadership gathered on a high platform, and until 1956 past a large statue of Stalin."

Under his hand, political structures, women and men of noble blood, experiences in deportation camps, and the challenges of understanding other languages provide a blend of gripping narrative and an investigative piece that chronicles just how challenging it is to put the pieces of a puzzle of the past back together: "There's one unfortunate thing: I can only half understand what she's saying. She speaks Hungarian and no other language. I generally understand the Transylvanians better than the Hungarians, since they tend to speak a beautiful archaic Hungarian that I find easier to follow than the torrent of words in Hungary. A Transylvanian friend once told me that twenty years ago the old ladies often still spoke Hungarian with a French accent and enunciation, since French was the language of their youth, but this woman uses words I don't know, and her sentences join themselves up into incomprehensible streams of sound."

Maps, vintage black and white photos, and candid observations from a range of viewpoints together capture the vast changes Transylvania and Hungary experienced under the hands of repressive leaders and Communism: "You might say that communism destroyed three generations here: the generation of my grandparents, that of my parents and my own. My parents' generation had a great childhood and could learn languages, but had a tough time after that. My generation had a pretty tough time too."

The result is a powerful journey over a rough road that follows several countries' changes from wealth to poverty, telling of secret loves, flights, and the remnants of local aristocracy and its lasting impact generations later. No reader of Transylvanian history and culture should be without this magnificent, moving journey through the changed hearts and minds challenged by political forces.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Leadership the Antarctic Way
Dr. Roger Podell
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494253714 $12.00

What lessons do Antarctic expedition leaders have for any who would command a mission and assume responsibilities for a crew? While at first glance the subject of The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Leadership the Antarctic Way might seem unrelated to the topic of business management styles, Dr. Roger Podell shows, here, that in fact they have everything to do with the type of leadership that operates in relative isolation from support systems.

This information is imparted to both business managers and adventure story readers in a series of explorations of different Antarctic expeditions from 1897-1922, when some sixteen expeditions to Antarctica were captured in a series of diaries and first-person accounts.

Quotes from these writings pepper these adventure encounters, but the meat of the leadership lessons lie in each chapter's conclusion, which round up these experiences and the leadership concepts they illustrate.

From maintaining morale during impossible conditions to selectively sharing sensitive information, preserving optimism, and creating routines to improve satisfaction under challenging circumstances, the pairing of leadership lessons with Antarctic exploration adventure is very well done and makes for a vivid, engrossing account far more accessible than the average business leadership lesson plan. Business readers will relish the addition of history and true-life adventure into the mix.

Self-Publishing Safari
L.A. Jamison
GotWords? Publishing
9780986154928, $9.99,

Self-Publishing Safari: Navigating the Publishing Jungle for Authors offers an assessment many authors need: a reasoned survey of self-publishing versus traditional publishing and the strengths and weaknesses in each approach. With these tools in hand, would-be authors can enter the process with eyes wide open about not only which to chose, but how to navigate around the pitfalls and into the arena of success.

Many times the choices boil down to how much control an author wants and how much they are willing to be hands-on versus having a publisher take over some of the nuts and bolts. Other times, it boils down to time or money - major differences between self-publishing and traditional approaches involve all these considerations and more.

Self-Publishing Safari's goal is not to advocate one over the other, but to show authors exactly what they need to consider in each process in each process of self-publishing. Chapters define commonly-confusing publishing terminology and approaches (such as trim size or page design processes), cover the specifics of print versus e-book forms and requirements, and encourage authors to look beyond the writing process into the marketing world as they fine-tune their manuscript and consider how best to publish it.

Plenty of books offer an emphasis on 'do it yourself' or advise authors on how to get out of the slush piles of larger publishers; but the advantage to Self-Publishing Safari's approach lies in candid assessments backed by the author's own experiences. Screen shots and illustrations throughout emphasize the user-friendly approach to a guide that assumes absolutely no prior knowledge of the publishing process.

Not many can publish a book with only $500 in hand and say that it has gained sales and attention. L.A. Jamison did, and his tips on exactly how to do all this even on a strict budget, with a healthy dose of knowledge about how all the processes work, makes Self-Publishing Safari a 'must' read that should be 'first' on the list for any author interested in self-publishing.

Song of the Blackbird
DB Michaels
Dream Tower Publishing
9780997279801 $3.99

There are plenty of romances on the market and plenty of novels about prison experiences; but combining the two under one cover in a prison romance is a different approach, indeed, and so Song of the Blackbird provides a powerful saga of the unexpected.

Romance doesn't flare between prisoners, but between a prison doctor who has taken the job in hopes of reconnecting with a family member and a formidable warden who rules his kingdom with a firm hand.

Prison life is deftly portrayed as naive, newly-graduated doctor Emma finds herself in a strange world she can barely navigate: one in which her physician training and her inclination to do good is continually confronted by physical and psychological traumas she can't heal.

DB Michaels does an excellent job of portraying both this world and an outsider's attempts to navigate it, using an evolving romance as just one of the subplots in a story of personal and professional discovery.

As Emma grows, learns, and becomes more flexible rather than more jaded, so those around her grow, in turn. Doors open (and some close) during the course of Emma's evolution both as a physician and through the zigzag paths of first impressions and evolving love.

Romance readers who look for more than surface passion in their stories will find the complex world of a prison environment an intriguing, satisfying backdrop for an unusual connection between two very different people. The emphasis on medical procedures, heartbreak, and different kinds of love is well done and creates an intricate maze of encounters that are believable and involving.

Those who want more than a bodice-ripper from their romances will relish the well-developed protagonists and backgrounds presented in Song of the Blackbird.

Searching for Paradise
T.L. Hughes
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478765707 $13.95

Too often road trips conclude in California; but the protagonists in Searching for Paradise are already in California - and they want to get out. Thus begins a cross-country journey that, from the start, redefines the traditional notion of 'paradise' as its characters leave the Golden State for New England and points beyond.

But that's only one note in a series of adventures that begin in 1984 with three friends who each find themselves at a crossroads in life. Mike Hogan left the East Coast at the age of twenty-five in search of the dream and promise that was California; but now he's escaping Eden after three years of struggle and hard work.

Short-lived rewards, meager paychecks, desperate times, and unrealized goals have sent the California dream into the realm of a nightmare, and "life is still one big riddle that needed to be solved". Part of this search involves a dream job or career, and plans are made to leave the U.S. and backpack around Europe in an effort to realize this elusive goal.

And so readers embark on a rollicking ride permeated with musical references, new experiences with family and friends, and the quests of a self-proclaimed "beat generation of the 80s" as they take the road trip of their lives and revisit places and people they'd left behind.

Tom Wolfe's admonition that "you can't go home again" is belayed by the experiences in Searching for Paradise. Sure, you can go home again - and re-view it from the vantage point of new insights and life experiences. Connections between past and present are well done in a story that reveals just where this paradise is to be found.

Readers interested in novels about old roots, new beginnings, and a coming-of-age saga revolving around three young adults in their 20s who live out the dream of a life-changing road trip will find much to like in Searching for Paradise, which creates outstanding connections between past, present, and future choices.

Vengeance Obtained
Eric M. Gore
Green Ivy Publishing
1945379073 $14.99

When an Army Sergeant begins raving about devils, angels, God and apocalypse during an interview about events that transpired around 'cleaning house' during a surprise party for GAIA, that's unusual enough: but the interviews of witness involve over ninety individuals who all say the same, impossible things have happened. What's going on?

Vengeance Obtained creates an unusual kind of apocalyptic scenario and Judgment Day in which a quantum computer, aliens and vampires, and proof of all manner of magical beings from legend erupt and threaten to change the world.

As the military probes further, events leading back to Nazi times reveal the evolution of a series of apocalyptic events that have gone largely undetected by mankind. Nazi attempts to raise evil have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams ("To my horror, I could see the creatures ripping open the chests of some of the soldiers and entering them, wearing them like suits, while the terrified soldiers were somehow still alive. The worn ones then began to attack the soldiers that were still themselves. They now had to deal with the krauts as well as these creatures."), and a book made of flesh seems to be the key to raising this army of supernatural forces.

In any scenario of dark forces there are also conveyers of light, and such a benevolent force is Marcel Dekrey: "I am an angel of the Lord, who has been charged by God to observe and report the day-to-day occurrences in this treacherous world of vampires, werewolves, wizards, witches, and many other supernatural beings."

How a nine-hundred-year-old night- and day-walker who leads a clan of varied forces against the darkness can make an impact in what is to come is only one facet of a story line that will delight readers who enjoy a blend of military encounters and a very different breed of vampires, werewolves, and creatures who, until now, have managed to coexist largely secreted away from humanity.

Insights on reality, supernatural battles, and a different interpretation of Judgment Day are nicely portrayed ("You cease to exist, because you are no longer recognized by reality. Those who may have known you previously will eventually lose their memory of you, as your place in existence has been lost.") and action heats up from the initial military report and doesn't let go. Readers enter a battlefield where manmade monstrosities designed to eliminate supernaturals turn on their makers, where first contact between humanity and these disparate forces is made only on the eve of humanity's elimination, and where gifts from God come from strange places and assume even stranger countenances: "They seemed to be getting a handle on the situation, and Turk knew that it wasn't the weapons. It was the faith. The thing with his hand had worked two more times since the first, and it seemed to be getting easier to use the more he tried. It was the faith."

Readers of Vengeance Obtained will have to accept a good number of violent encounters and descriptions, discussions of God, faith, and darkness and light forces. They should harbor a penchant for supernatural and vampire themes that run through a winding story line that deftly moves between good and evil and blurs the lines of who occupies which side.

Eric M. Gore's Judgment Day story has roots in Biblical tradition but takes its scenarios far beyond the Good Book, injecting a good degree of urban fantasy into the mix. From the foundations of faith and belief to God's role in what looks to be an unholy evolution of forces on both sides, Vengeance Obtained is recommended reading for any who would take Christian horror and urban fantasy one step further than most in a series of clashes and revelations about the real meanings of faith, good and evil forces, and survival.

Astrologer's Apprentice
David John Jaegers
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780692662113 $14.99

Book One of the Astrotheologian series tells of teen Robert, who undergoes a vast change when he moves from a comfortable suburban prep school world to the country, where an eccentric uncle's passion for astrology rubs off on the impressionable young man.

But what seems a crazy passion turns into something more deadly as Robert begins to discover that his uncle's special brand of spirituality holds some insidiously-dangerous results.

It's difficult to easily brand this story: with elements of a coming-of-age saga mixed with Christian and new age overtones and spiced with the overlay of a thriller tempered by moral and ethical questions, it holds the ability to cross genres and appeal to a wide range of audiences, from readers seeking stories of young adult personal and spiritual evolutions to leisure reading audiences who want elements of theological discussion in their reading.

Astrologer's Apprentice skirts the edge of a variety of genres, but its overlying Christian theme will especially attract and interest those who like more than a light hand on the spiritual tiller. Connections between astrology and conventional religion are explored ("Astrology has offered me a framework for understanding what God wants me to do with my life. When I was born, I was given gifts, attributes, qualities, talents. That can mean strengths, and depending on how I handle it, can mean weaknesses. So how do I use that knowledge to help me praise God? By realizing that my share of the gifts is only a very limited part of the total gifts that God bestows, I embrace humility. You and your father also have your own limited parts of the total gifts. Each person's obligation to God is to do his best with the gifts he has.") as Robert searches for answers, asks questions, and questions his uncle's path in life as well as his own future.

From the sacrifices involved in a collaborative research project and a treasure hunt across some fifty states to the kernel of sane truth in seemingly mad pursuits, Astrologer's Apprentice calls much into question and uncovers the basic elements in lives well lived, their underlying belief structures and influences, and most of all, the choices involved in accepting the gift of transformative knowledge.

Robert finds his life changed by his pursuits, and readers along for the journey - particularly those who enjoy theological discussion and astrology mysteries - will relish their travels in Astrologer's Apprentice, a hard-hitting novel wrapping elements of a mystery and thriller with greater questions about morality and belief.

Mays Landing
J.C. Mercer
Amazon Digital Services
9780997453003 $2.99

Life for Parkhill Mays has been on a downward trajectory since he flunked out of medical school, so landing in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt seems like another logical point of failure. But Parkhill is different, as a fellow Bellevue patient T-Bone immediately sees: his skills, under the right hands, can add high technology to his pursuit of selling body parts and drugs.

And so Mays moves ever downward in a spiral that embraces not just mental illness, but the seedier underworld of a life in which abilities are honed and used for dangerous purposes.

May's Landing is a dark story about one young man's spiraling descent into not just madness, but a mad world where special abilities translate to opportunity, for those who would see and exploit them.

Readers follow Parkhill's descent with bated breath as a series of incidents neatly thwart any desire on his part to rise above his mental condition and his situation. In a manner true to some of the best novels of intrigue and mystery, twists and turns permeate a story line that excels in keeping its readers guessing.

Because there's no linear direction to his course, some readers may find Parkhill's progression challenging or disturbing: this is not a light and breezy read, nor does it promise a swim through placid waters. Turbulence is embedded into the story line and the reader's emotions are constantly tweaked as Parkhill (and the reader) struggle to make sense of his evolving world and its implications.

The characters Parkhill encounters are also different on varying degrees of disturbing levels: "I tried my best to think of something life-affirming to say but, of course, being death's unofficial champion, came up with nothing. "You don't think every day is like some miracle?" Audrey asked. Even if our opposite life views weren't a good omen for our long-term prospects, I was heartened by the fact that I had met someone potentially even more damaged than myself."

As Mays searches for the meaning of life and a way out of the warren of underworld encounters he's chosen in an experiment gone wrong, a vivid story emerges that is especially recommended for fans of evocative, emotionally-charged novels.

Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams: Inspired by Navajo Culture and Folklore
Gwen Jackson
Friesen Press
Suite 300 - 990, Fort Street, Victoria, BC, Canada V8V 3K2
9781460264393 (ebook)
9781460264386 (paperback) $11.49

Numerous adaptations of folk tales from other cultures appear as children's picture books, yearly; but few are as compelling and highly recommended as is Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams: Inspired by Navajo Culture and Folklore.

Perhaps this is because its full-color illustrations are simply gorgeous, eye-popping productions that truly stand apart from what is normally presented in a picture book to captivate both children and adults reading aloud to their kids.

Or maybe it's because of the story line, which takes certain motifs from Navajo culture and folklore, and weaves them together to create an original tale. Not only did Navajo weaver Barbara Teller Ornelas contribute a blanket to the story line for illustration, but she served as a consultant for the story, helping to fine-tune its Navajo cultural insights. (Ms. Ornelas' weavings are in the Smithsonian, the British Museum, and many other galleries.)

Maybe it's the story line, which tells of a winter's approach and a little bear, Lump Lump, who just can't seem to go to sleep despite all preparations. His task is to gather materials from the forest, with the help of his animal friends, so that Spider Woman can weave him a Blanket of Dreams to help him sleep.

Or maybe it's the evocative, soaring, image-filled language which will attract all ages with stunning metaphors and visual and verbal beauty: "Later that morning, Robin returned with a piece of the white light of morning, and Mother Bear and Lump Lump gave her the grass they had gathered. All the way home, Lump Lump munched on his honeycomb and sang, "The white light of morning, the red light of evening, the falling rain, and the r-aa-iii-nnnnbow."

Yes, parental assistance will be required for the young picture book reader: there are paragraphs of description, dialogue, and many insights that will not only benefit from numerous nights of read-aloud pleasure, but which invite kids and their parents to learn about Navajo culture.

The result is a delightful, very highly recommended story: a 'must have' acquisition that will easily move beyond the category of 'picture book folklore read-aloud' and into the realm of Native American studies (especially as the author intends to support it with lesson plans and ESL materials, produced in conjunction with language arts, wildlife biologist, and Native American cultural specialists).

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

How to Get What We Pay For
Joe Flower
The Change Project Inc.
9780983995333, $15.95, PB, 340pp,

Synopsis: The health care system in American today is broken. We can fix healthcare now. We can rebuild the system to give us better, cheaper care for everyone. We now have the tools. This is the moment, while healthcare is already changing rapidly. Who is "we"? Everyone who affects the system, from doctors and nurses to healthcare leaders, health plans, employers, and consumers -- you. Along the way, we can each get better healthcare for less for ourselves and our families.

Joe Flower's remarkable new handbook "How To Get What We Pay For" shows how and comes complete with checklists and pages of resources. It challenges all our usual ways of thinking about healthcare, and especially the assumption that we personally cannot do anything about it.

A veteran healthcare insider, industry analyst and futurist, Flower presents an in-depth, easy-to-read breakdown of the current system and the seven "levers" that are changing it: Shopping; Transparency; Results; Prevention; Targeting; Trust; Tech. As confusing as today's healthcare seems, there is hope.

Critique: "How to Get What We Pay For" is a practical guide that puts the tools in the readers hands to make better, cheaper healthcare available for themselves, their families, their neighbors, their community, their country. A critically needed contribution to our national dialogue over health care in this country, "How to Get What We Pay For" is an emphatically recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. For personal reading lists for health care reform activists and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "How to Get What We Pay For" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Don't Just Manage -- Lead!
Arthur F. Coombs III
Scrivener Books
9780989552363, $12.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: Within the first few pages of Don't Just Manage -- Lead! by Arthur Coombs (who is currently President and CEO of KomBea Corporation, where he has served for more than a dozen years developing and marketing tools that blend human intelligence and automation to improve call center phone interactions), the reader will realize something with new clarity: managers are a dime a dozen. Most people know or can learn how to manage. But leaders? They're something special -- and what they contribute to an organization is what sets it apart from the competition. Effective leaders make the difference between an organization that succeeds and one that stagnates. Effective leaders make solid decisions, but they take it a step further in that they bring the guidance, vision, creativity, and motivation necessary to powerfully execute the decisions. They influence behavior, shape goals, and encourage the best. An influential leader's footprint is forever engraved on a successful organization's heart. With the help of "Don't Just Manage -- Lead!", anyone can learn to be the kind of leader who will makes a difference.

Critique: The basic premise of "Don't Just Manage -- Lead!" is that most people don't want to be managed, they want to be led. "Don't Just Manage -- Lead!" is a compelling, practical, immediately applicable, and an enduringly useful instructional guide which is very highly recommended for community, corporate, and academic library Business Management reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Don't Just Manage -- Lead!" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Free Days With George
Colin Campbell
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385682879, $29.95, HC, 217pp,

Synopsis: After Colin Campbell went on a short business trip abroad, he returned home to discover his wife of many years had moved out. No explanations. No second chances. She was gone and wasn't coming back. Shocked and heartbroken, Colin fell into a spiral of depression and loneliness. Soon after, a friend told Colin about a dog in need of rescue -- a neglected 140-pound Newfoundland Landseer, a breed renowned for its friendly nature and remarkable swimming abilities. Colin adopted the traumatized dog, brought him home and named him George. Both man and dog were heartbroken and lacking trust, but together, they learned how to share a space, how to socialize, and most of all, how to overcome their bad experiences. At the same time, Colin relived childhood memories of his beloved grandfather, a decorated war hero and a man who gave him hope when he needed it most. Then everything changed. Colin was offered a great new job in Los Angeles, California. He took George with him and the pair began a new life together on the sunny beaches around L.A. George became a fixture in his Hermosa Beach neighborhood, attracting attention and giving affection to everyone he met, warming hearts both young and old. Meanwhile, Colin headed to the beach to rekindle his love for surfing, but when George encountered the ocean and a surfboard for the first time, he did a surprising thing -- he jumped right on the board. Through surfing, George and Colin began a life-altering adventure and a deep healing process that brought them back to life. As their story took them to exciting new heights, Colin learned how to follow George's lead, discovering that he may have rescued George but that in the end, it was George who rescued him.

Critique: A compelling read from first page to last, "Free Days with George" is very highly recommended for community library collections as an uplifting, inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Free Days with George" is also available in a paperback edition (9780385682893, $16.95, 224pp) and in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Grumbles From The Grave
Robert A. Heinlein
Edited by Virginia Heinlein
c/o Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9780345362469, ebook $6.00, www,

Until "Grumbles From The Grave" there was very little known about the author's personal life. He seldom gave interviews or did publicity tours. On his orders waiting until his death, his widow released this collection of his letters that finally reveals many unknown facts about the author and some of his most famous works No enthusiast of Heinlein should pass up this collection of letters because they begin with his earliest works and conclude with his last one and show the progression of the writer. "Grumbles From The Grave," the title picked by Heinlein himself, reflects and shows the true Heinlein and ranks alongside any of his great works.

Double Shot
Raymond Benson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9789780515130614, $7.50,

The sixth Bond novel by Raymond Benson has 007 on medical leave on a personal mission to avenge the killing of a friend. The group that first appeared in "High Time to Kill" is out to destroy Bond's reputation with a perfect double who kills openly so that Bond will get the blame. The story races along with lots of action until Bond confronts his look alike. Benson's complicated plot is at times reminiscent of some of the best Fleming novels. "Double Shot" is a top notch Bond novel.

What's The Worst That Could Happen?
Donald E Westlake
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446604710, $6.50

John Dortmunder is recruited by a friend to burglarize a billionaire's vacant home. A simple task for this master criminal. But there is one minor flaw. Max Fairbanks, the owner of the house, just happens to be home. Along for the caper are his cohorts in crime, Andy Kelp and Stan Murch and some other interesting characters that add to the hilarious caper that will once again have readers laughing out loud at the funny situations the gang get themselves into. "What's The Worst That Could Happen?" is typical Westlake fare that shows why he was the master of the comic caper.

The Sky Is Falling
Sidney Sheldon
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780007101887, $7.99,

Something very strange is happening with the Winthrop family. Dana Evens and anchorwoman for a Washington TV station is on a mission to find out why all of the members have all died mysteriously. What she finds takes her all over the world. "The Sky Is Falling" is a non-stop Sidney Sheldon read for readers to discover this author.

A Very Strange Trip
L. Ron Hubbard with Chris Smith
Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 200, Hollywood CA 90028
9781573181655, $25.00,

"A Very Strange Trip" is a satire of other time travel novels with many exciting and funny characters. Dave Wolverton one of the past winners of The Writer's of the Future contest has written a novel from an idea by L. Ron Hubbard. Everett Dumphee is falsely accused and convicted of a crime he did not commit. The judge gives him a choice, go to jail or serve in the military. He chooses the second option. Later he and several other soldiers are given the task of transporting a time travel device from one military base to another. Through a freak accident he and the vehicle are transported through time. Along the way he meets three Indian maidens who add spice to his adventures. "A Very Strange Trip" is also available in an audio version that plays like a radio drama with actors reading dialogue, narration, and sound effects that adds to anyone's enjoyment of this novel.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 32
David Farland, editor
Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 200, Hollywood CA 90028
9781619865020, $15.95,

Volume 32 continues the yearly compilation of novice SF writers and artists who for the first time get a chance to be professionally published. Hubbard firmly believed in helping the emerging writer. Also there are essays by major SF writers including Hubbard himself. "Writers of the Future" is the longest running short story collection that has launched the careers of so many great writers in the genre of science fiction.

Computer Legends, Lies & Lore
Iris Forrest, Editor
Ageless Press
9780963517715, $10.95,

Computers are the target and many authors take their pot shots at them in a great collection of short stories. Anyone who thinks computers and the internet always work should read "Computer Legends, Lies & Lore" a fine collection of writings by many talented writers

Bewitched Forever
Herbie J. Pilato
Foreword by William Asher
Tapestry Press
9781930819405, $14.99 (Used), PB, 302pp,

For the first time many unknown facts are revealed of the TV show Bewitched. The underlying premise that worked so well for 8 seasons was the relationship of Samantha, a witch, and her mortal husband Darin and how they loved each other. Pilato talks about the actors and actresses, guest stars, spin off series and he provides episode summaries for each season. No fan of "Bewitched" should miss "Bewitched Forever."

The Bewitched Cookbook Magic In The Kitchen
Kasey Rogers "Louise Tate"
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9781575660950, $15.95,

Rogers in "The Bewitched Cookbook Magic In The Kitchen" tells many unknown facts about the show she was a part of and reveals many different recipes that were inspired by the classic TV show. "The Bewitched Cookbook Magic In The Kitchen" is another great way to enjoy episodes of "Bewitched"

Company of Thieves
Gil Roscoe
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
978075820036, $6.99,

Warren Allison has a great job with Pacific Bell. He runs a machine that stuffs phone bills into envelopes. He has his own place and a girlfriend who re-enters his life. "Company of Thieves" has the feel of a Donald E. Westlake comic caper novel that is filled with interesting characters that will keep you laughing out loud.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Seven Days Dead
John Farrow
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250057693, $25.99, Hardcover, 298 pp.,

From the publisher: During an epic storm in the Gulf of Maine, a lone woman races - - first by car, then by a life-threatening sea crossing - - to the island of Grand Manan. Her father is dying - - will she make it in time? Others also venture out into the maelstrom that night, including a mysterious band of men and women who gather on Seven Days Work, the sheer cliff that overlooks the wild sea. A housekeeper, a pastor, and a strange recluse are also wandering about in the tempest. Who else risks being out in the turbulent black night? And how many murder victims will be revealed at the break of dawn?

Emile Cinq-Mars, a retired Montreal detective whose reputation precedes him, is embarking on the first ever summer holiday he and his wife have taken in their long years of marriage. They have booked a cabin built in the 1920's, "tidy, clean, and as charming as a fawn nuzzling a doe in a spring meadow." When three men are found dead, he is asked to assist Officer Wade Louwagie (who suffers from PTSD) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,. They have absolutely nothing to go on, no leads, and too many suspects.

Early on, we meet 57-year-old Reverend Simon Lescavage, "a pastor who's lost his faith yet still enjoys, and wants to keep, his job," who is called - - ordered, really - - to hear the confession of Alfred Orrock, the patriarch of the island with the reputation, well-earned, as a tyrant, and now at death's door. The day does not end well for either man.

The area is brought to graphic life in the wonderfully evocative descriptions by this author. As are the inhabitants: "For the most part . . . the natural friendliness of islanders surfaces first. Sometimes disputes are resolved by burning cars, but not a tourist's car, and rarely even in the summer, because that's just bad for the island's reputation. Even when it comes to arson, a standard of etiquette is followed. You wrong me, I burn your dinghy. I wrong you, you burn my shed." Towards the end, things take a much more lethal turn, and the writing at times had me breathless, as in literally holding my breath.

There is a wholly unexpected finish to the novel. I found this book, as its predecessor, "The Storm Murders," very enjoyable, and it is recommended.

The Assassins
Gayle Lynds
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312946098, $9.99/11.99 CA$, Paperback, 496 pp,

Another fast-paced novel from Gayle Lynds! In the opening pages, which take place in 2003 in Baghdad at the site of the National Museum of Iraq, the reader is introduced to the eponymous killers, the best in the world at what they do, whose mission it is to steal a cuneiform tablet which will in turn lead them to the many tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars that had belonged to the now-dead Saddam Hussein.

Jumping to the present time, with a hit-and-run murder quickly taking place, the novel brings the reader to Washington, D.C. and nearby spots in Maryland and Virginia, as well as Marrakech, Iraq and Beirut, with plenty of bloodshed, a lot of weaponry, and some fascinating history along the way. The author manages a seemingly impossible task: to humanize each paid killer, among them Judd Ryder, a 34-year-old former member of US Army Intelligence who had done 'blood work' in Pakistan and Iraq; Tucker Andersen, from a secret CIA unit; Burleigh Morgan, a Brit from the old East End; a former KGB member; an Israeli; a former Cosa Nostra killer; others including "the Padre," "the Carnivore, "the Choirmaster," a former Islamic Jihad, as well as a couple of women who are no less fearless than the men. Each also, it appears, has a target on his/her back, often from one or another of their own group. As the author says, "an assassin could never be too careful with his friends."

I must admit to at times having difficulty keeping up with just who is who in this cast of characters, each having at least one alias and various very professional disguises, but that in no way took away from the suspenseful ride. Spy thrillers generally are not among my favorites, but Gayle Lynds transcends the genre, with terrific characters and an imaginative plot, and I greatly look forward to any future books she writes, in this series or otherwise.

Highly recommended.

Second Shot
Zoe Sharp
Felony and Mayhem Press
174 W. 4th St., Ste. 261, NY, NY 10014
9781631940798, $14.95, Paperback, 337 pp.,

The Second Shot of the title is the one that has, as this book opens, inflicted a nearly fatal wound to Charlotte ("Charlie") Fox, nee Foxcroft, former SAS Army and present-day bodyguard. Charlie is employed by her lover, Sean Meyer, who runs an exclusive 'close protection agency,' and her present assignment is to guard Simone Kearse, a recent winner of a little over $13,400,000 in lottery prize money, and her four-year-old daughter. The fear is that Simone's ex, the father of the little girl, is stalking her.

A second meaning of the title is about the chance for new beginnings.

We learn the aforementioned background after the first few [rather harrowing] pages, following which is a flashback that lasts for well over half the book [a bit disorienting initially when the flashback ends and we go back to real time]. Back in the present, a fairly low-risk job turns into anything but when, after the recent death of her mother, Simone decides to travel from England to the US to try to find her biological father, who disappeared when she was a young child. The tale then takes us to a New England winter, where a local investigator's search has found evidence that the man they are seeking can now be found. That is, until the investigator's dead body is found after his car apparently ran off the road. Then things start to get more complicated. Especially when after a few days they are approached by a man claiming to be Simone's father. Charlie doesn't know who is lying and who is telling the truth, nor does she know who to trust, and things inevitably lead to the incident described in the opening pages of the book, with Charlie being shot and seriously wounded and Simone dead, shot by the police.

Charlie's own backstory, of which we are given tantalizing bits and pieces, has to do with a scandal that forced her to leave the Army and an incident nearly a year earlier when she had her last assignment in the US, memories of which leave her spooked at the thought of returning there. Another thread has to do with her very cool relationship with her parents, who have thoroughly disapproved of the paths her life has taken, resulting in part in her changing her surname. She feels a need to prove to her father she "wasn't quite the psychopath" he feared she had become. Charlie is a quite fascinating and original protagonist.


The Storm Murders
John Farrow
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250057686, $25.99, Hardcover, 312 pp.,

From the publisher: On the day after a massive blizzard, two policemen are called to an isolated farmhouse in the middle of a pristine, snow-blanketed field. Inside the lonely abode are two dead people. But there are no tracks in the snow leading either to or away from the house. What happened here? Is this a murder-suicide case? Or will it turn into something much more sinister?

On the first page, the reader knows instantly that (s)he is in for some gorgeous writing: "Wild gusts sculpted fields of fresh powder into rhythmic waves overnight, but as the storm passed the wind ceased. No trace of movement disturbed the distant view to the horizon, a seamless ocean of white lying perfectly still as though arrested at the moment of a tidal shift. Plows made a pass, yet the road remained slick with a glimmer of snow. The two cops fumbled for their sunglasses, neither for effect nor from any sense of police propriety, but the reflection off snow on a clear day under a cold snap in February created a brilliance more luminous than any summer's noon." The idyllic scene soon morphs into something much more sinister, for the two cops checking out the farmhouse soon add to the body count. The eponymous crimes are a series of serial killings which take place during or immediately after natural disasters, in this case a blizzard at an isolated farmhouse in northern Canada. The other serial aspect of those murders is the dismemberment of the victims' ring fingers.

It soon appears that similar murders have taken place in various cities in the U.S., which we discover when an FBI agent investigating those murders seeks assistance from Emile Cinq-Mars, the retired Montreal police detective whose reputation precedes him. Emile's adored and much younger wife, Sandra, 46 years old, encourages him to take on the investigation, in which she asks to be kept informed and involved, and since she'd recently told him she was contemplating leaving him, he is quick to agree to do so. The case soon involves them traveling to New Orleans, where the ante is raised considerably soon after their arrival, in a very personal way. As is the suspense level.

There is much here about police in different jurisdictions stepping on each other's toes, figuratively and otherwise. The cops are very well-drawn characters, not the least of whom is Cinq-Mars, but also his former longtime partner, Bill Mathers, now a Sergeant-Detective; FBI Agent Rand Dreher; his female colleague, Vira Sivak; hotel security cop Everardo Flores; and the fascinating mixed-race New Orleans cop, Dupree. The fact that cops have been killed in this most recent murder, of course, makes this a very special case for all of them.

The denouement is quite unexpected, and things are wrapped up in very satisfactory fashion. This is the fourth appearance by Emile Cinq-Mars, and the first in a promised trilogy. It was my first encounter with this author, but it will certainly not be my last! Happily, the 2nd entry in the trilogy, "Seven Days Dead," is due out on May 24, 2016, and it is next up for this reader. Highly recommended.

Remember Me This Way
Sabine Durant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476716336, $16.00, Paperback, 368 pp,

From the publisher: One year after he husband Zach's death, Lizzie Carter, 41 years old, goes to lay flowers on the site of his fatal accident. Since the tragedy, she just hasn't been the same, racked with grief and guilt and regret and . . . relief. Even though her friends tell her she's grieved enough for her 'prince charming,' her memories of a darker side of Zach that no one else knew are burned into her brain and won't let her forget him. But as she puts her flowers down at the roadside, she sees a bouquet of lilies at the foot of the tree. Addressed to her husband. She isn't the first to pay her respects . . . but who is Xenia? As Lizzie learns more about her husband's past, she begins to realize that maybe she didn't know Zach at all. But she's still tormented by her guilt and the memories that just won't fade . . . because Zach doesn't seem to be as gone as everyone thinks. And she just can't shake the feeling that he's still out there, watching her, waiting to claim her as his own once again. After all, just because we love someone doesn't mean we can trust them . . . .

Lizzie does psychometric testing for a living; Zach is an artist, although a not-yet-successful one. The p.o.v. alternates between that of Zach (the first page is his, and though only one page long [before the narration switches to Lizzie's], it is quite startling, letting the reader know at once what he/she is in for. Lizzie's p.o.v. sections take place initially in February 14, 2013, a year to the day of Zach's car crash, on a Cornish roadside in the middle of Cornwall and 200 miles from her home in London. She thinks to herself "His death feels real for the first time. I must let him go, hard as it is, because, despite everything, he was the love of my life." The next section, Zach's, takes place in July, 2009. As opposed to Lizzie's thoughts as described above, he is thinking "She doesn't appreciate me, that's the problem."

All the following alternating p.o.v. sections follow those same timelines [Zach's last ending on the day of his car crash], wherein initially Zack has a significant other named Charlotte, overlapping with his meeting and becoming involved with Lizzie. All who meet Zack, who is pretty much addicted to Xanax and tramadol, see him as a very handsome and charming man, although he is self-described as being "not very nice" [with which the reader wholeheartedly agrees], and ". . . People like me can't relax. We may roam outside the boundaries that restrict the behavior of other people, but we're never free."

The characters all come alive in these pages, but Zack is one of a kind, displaying love, jealousy, and vengeance, among other traits. The ending is shocking, but thoroughly believable. This is a book, and characters, who will stay with the reader after the last page is read, and it is highly recommended.

Shady Cross
James Hankins
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781477820988, $15.95, Paperback, 308 pp.,

From the publisher: In one hand, small-time crook Stokes holds a backpack stuffed with someone else's money - - three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of it. In the other hand, Stokes has a cell phone, which he found with the money. On the line, a little girl he doesn't know asks, "Daddy? Are you coming to get me? They say if you give them money they'll let you take me home." A wrenching story of an unscrupulous man torn between his survival instincts and the plight of a true innocent. Faced with the choice, Stokes discovers his conscience might not be as corroded as he thought, with the life of a six-year-old girl in his hands.

Stokes, 36 years old, is nothing if not a man of contradictions. A high school dropout living in an Indiana trailer park, he has, as the story opens, spent the last night in jail being questioned about breaking and entering and robbing a local homeowner, the latter now in the hospital being treated for serious injuries sustained during that incident. But Stokes is also a man of compassion and empathy, perhaps belied by the fact that when necessary, he could still, among other things, break into a house and steal its contents, and make a cuckold of a neighbor with a pretty wife.

Shortly after his release from jail, he causes the death of a man by his careless driving and, after finding a windfall of over a quarter of a million dollars in the dead man's car, steals it. But as the story evolves, he realizes that he has stepped into the middle of a kidnapping, and that a little girl's safety - - and perhaps her life - - are in the balance. Images of his own little girl, who he hasn't seen in 13 years, since she was two years old, keep intruding on his thoughts, and his decisions.

In debt to a loan shark for $75,000, which has now grown to $100,000, he contemplates leaving Shady Creek, a city that "may have grown up around a shady crossroads in the middle of a small town, but in the hundred fifty-odd years of its existence, Shady Cross had gotten quite a bit bigger and uglier." He is determined to try to save the little girl, but has no idea how. This is a page-turner of a novel, filled with suspense, as the clock literally ticks down, and it is recommended.

Innocent Blood
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
P.O. Box 35038, Panama City, FL 32412
9781888146493, $26.99, Hardcover, 255 pp.
9781888146509, $16.99, Paperback, 264 pp.

The sub-title of this novel by Michael Lister is Book #7 and A John Jordan Mystery, to which description is added The Atlanta Years, Volume One. It is basically a prequel to the six earlier books in the series, and a fascinating look into what made the protagonist into the man he became, to wit: an ex-cop turned prison chaplain.

From the publisher: When he was twelve years old he came face to face with the man who would be convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders. Six years later, John returned to Atlanta determined to discover who was truly responsible for all the slaughtered innocents. But first he must ascertain whether or not LaMarcus Williams belongs on the infamous list of missing and murdered children. The questions in the case are many, the answers few. Who killed LaMarcus Williams? How was he abducted from his own backyard, while his mom and sister watched him? Is he a victim of the Atlanta Child Murdered that didn't make the list or is his killer still out there, still operating with impunity?

Opening with a brief Introduction by Michael Connelly, whose own iconic creation, Harry Bosch, assists John and gives him all the impetus he needs to devote the next several years of his life to becoming a cop like Bosch [whose telephone conversation has the background of jazz saxophone that Bosch fans will immediately recognize]. Although Bertram Williams was found guilty of both of the murders with which he was charged, one of them of a 27-year-old and the second a 21-year-old, John is not convinced that he committed all or any of the other murders mostly of young black children who had been victims of the Atlanta Child Murderer, not all of whom were young or black. His commitment is made at age 17; as he is told, "the empathy you feel with the victims, the unquenchable thirst burning inside you for justice . . . for restoring some kind of order . . . the rage you feel at the murderer . . . your obsession with knowing, with uncovering, with finding the truth . . . they are the very things that make you perfect for this kind of work." And John himself feels "That's what I'm called to do - - help people damaged by violent crime, salve the suffering of the living while searching for some kind of justice for the dead. As both a minister and an investigator I'd be in a unique position to do both."

John Jordan's dedication to the task he has set for himself results in a well-plotted, well-written mystery, the resolution of which is stunning, and one which I for one did not see coming, and the novel is recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Echoes of Apollo
G.A. Thompson
Wiseman Press
Amazon Digital Services
9780996122368, $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 365pp,

Echoes of Apollo is a fun technical action adventure. Its only weakness is Thompson's attempt to put too much life and death action in the story. By lowering the life and death situations just a bit, Echoes would read like a possible near future event adding a nice escapist plausibility to the story.

Commander Jack Harding is flying the retrofitted Atlantis shuttle in a mission to put a defense satellite into space when sabotage brings the shuttle down. The Chinese have covertly placed a weapons platform on the far side of the moon and don't want the interference of a new US defense satellite. A covert war by the Chinese has begun. The CIA and an aerospace billionaire have been secretly working on bringing back the lost Apollo technology. They recruit Harding to lead a mission to stop the Chinese.

Echoes of Apollo is an easy recommendation for any reader in the tech action adventure story. The technical details of flying into space and the equipment feel real. The only weakness is the excessive life and death situations.

Sword of Shiva
Jeff Edwards
Stealth Books
9781939398031, $4.95, eBook, 304 pages

Sword of Shiva is high tech military novel in the same vein as a Clancy or Bond story. This tale focuses on the actions of a US stealth destroyer USS Towers. A terrorist attack in Tibet kills the son of a Chinese leader and China responds with the destruction of an Indian village near the border. Tensions between the two countries increase as incidents between their two military forces touch off escalation. The US tries to cool off the combatants before they resort to a nuclear exchange by putting a US taskforce between their opposing fleets. Instead of stabilizing the fighting, the presence of the US fleet escalates it.

The Sword of Shiva is a great military tech novel with a feel for the action that takes place during conflicts. It does have an annoying problem and that is an essay about the historic development of cruise missiles that is interlaced between the action filled chapters. Even with this problem the book is an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys the military genre. With the removal of the essay the story, although short, is easily within the quality of any of the other well known military tech authors.

On a side note: The book is very well edited but the conversion to ebook format wasn't done as well as it could be. Too many print layout artifacts made their way into the ebook conversion. With a self-published book this wouldn't be as big of a problem. Details like this are beyond the abilities of most self-published authors. But with the quality of the formatting produced by this niche publisher the problem is apparent. This type of eformating difficulty usually occurs with the larger publishing companies with their myopic focus on physical print.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Brought to Light
J. Scott Kenney
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771121941, $38.99, PB, 308pp,

Synopsis: Secret societies are becoming increasingly controversial as the continue to be thrust into public awareness by popular books, films, the Internet, and a host of recent documentaries. In academia, this exposure finds a parallel in the proliferation of research, institutes, and conferences. Yet the media depictions tend to be caricatures, a playing to pervasive stereotypes for public consumption, while the academic stress historical and philological matters. Indeed, to the extent a sociological focus exists, it largely emphasizes the roles these groups played in social history. And for the societies' members themselves, there has been a paucity of work on the contemporary meaning of these groups -- a neglect made mystifying by the vast social changes that have taken place over the past century.

"Brought to Light: Contemporary Freemasonry, Meaning, and Society" by J. Scott Kenney (Associate Professor of Sociology at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland) is an academic study that moves beyond history and applies the methods and theoretical tools of contemporary sociology to study the lived world of freemasons in today's society.

To provide a clear portrait of the patterned experiences of contemporary freemasons and the issues faced by "the Craft" today, Professor Kenney draws on qualitative data from three primary sources: (1) extensive interviews with 121 contemporary freemasons in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; (2) video footage shot for a feature film on contemporary freemasonry; and (3) his observations and experiences in nearly fifteen years as a freemason. "Brought to Light" provides a highly original contribution to sociology, Masonic scholarship, and the social sciences generally.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Brought to Light: Contemporary Freemasonry, Meaning, and Society" is enhanced with the inclusion of six pages of Notes, a ten page Glossary, a ten page bibliography of Works Cited, and a twenty-one page Index. An inherently compelling, informed and informative read, "Brought to Light" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to academic library collections and the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Freemasonry as it is practiced today.

Against Capital
Cliff Slaughter, editor
Zero Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785350948, $29.95, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: 'The problem is not how to manage the capital system, but to get rid of it'. And who will do the job? These are the questions posed at the start of "Against Capital: Experiences of Class Struggle and Rethinking Revolutionary Agency" a compilation of thoughtful and thought-provoking articles edited by Cliff Slaughter (who now retired, for many years taught social anthropology and sociology at the Universities of Leeds and Bradford). Professor Slaughter assembles contributions by participants in recent movements in South Africa, Britain, Spain, Mexico, countries in the former Soviet zone and - in a major contribution from Yassamine Mather - the Middle East. He offers an extended critique of 'vanguardist' conceptions such as Trotsky's 'the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of working-class revolutionary leadership' and Kautsky's and the early Lenin's formulation that socialist consciousness must be brought to the working class 'from the outside'. Finally, "Against Capital" examines the necessary theoretical foundations of a rebuilt working-class movement, with special attention to the concepts of class-consciousness and the relation between theory and practice.

Critique: A critically important and inherently challenging series of critiques, "Against Capital: Experiences of Class Struggle and Rethinking Revolutionary Agency" is a very highly recommended addition to academic library Economics reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For academics, students, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Against Capital" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Enthusiast
Jon M. Sweeney
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781594716010, $18.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In "The Enthusiast: How the Best Friend of Francis of Assisi Almost Destroyed What He Started" independent scholar and historian Jon M. Sweeney relates the heretofore untold story of St. Francis's friendship with Elias of Cortona, the man who helped St. Francis build what would become the Franciscan movement. Sweeney uses the complexities of their relationship in a gripping narrative of how their efforts changed the world and how Elias's enthusiasm betrayed the ideals of his friend.

Blending history and biography, Sweeney reveals how Francis and Elias rebuilt churches, aided lepers, and entertained as "God's troubadours" to the delight of everyday people who had grown tired of a remote and tumultuous Catholic Church of Rome. At the height of their spiritual renaissance, however, Elias became "the devil" to many of the other friars; they believed him to be a traitor to their ideals. After Francis's premature death, the movement fractured. Scorned by most of the Franciscan leadership, Elias followed a path that would leave him a lonely, broken man. Sweeney shows how Elias's undoing was rooted in his attempts to honor his old friend.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Enthusiast: How the Best Friend of Francis of Assisi Almost Destroyed What He Started" is an exceptionally well informed and informative study from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community, church, seminary, and academic library collections, it should be noted for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the history of the Franciscan order that "The Enthusiast" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe
Andrew Fazekas
National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426216527, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: As Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary, "Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe" reveals the real science behind its fantastic and beloved fictions, inviting the legions of Star Trek fans to step outside, gaze up at the night sky, and observe some of the destinations the Starfleet has visited. Many of the galactic destinations featured in Star Trek over the years, including multiple star systems, alien worlds, supernova explosions, emission nebulae, voracious black holes, and which are all scientifically valid, so much so that one can step out and view them in the night sky. In "Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe" takes Star Trek fans on that journey, starting with specific Star Trek voyages, explaining the science behind them, and guiding them in observing and learning more about the real-universe corollaries of planets and places in the Star Trek universe.

With a foreword from William Shatner and stunningly illustrated with hundreds of full-color images, including some artists' interpretations and some real images generated by the most recent NASA missions, plus stills of favorite Star Trek scenes and characters, "Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe" uses Star Trek to teach astronomy, taking every reader on a voyage of discovery. From Altair to Vega, from red giants to white dwarfs, from our solar system to exoplanets we are only beginning to imagine, the book visits dozens of celestial objects, spotlighting some 20 in careful scientific detail and offering easy-to-follow star-gazing instructions to find them in the night sky.

No warp-driven starship, not even a telescope is required to go on these voyages: Most destinations are bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. For Star Trek fans and budding stargazers who are ready to launch their own space mission, this inventive book blends science and fiction, making learning fun and making Star Trek's 50th all the more worthy of celebration.

Critique: A unique and welcome addition to the growing library of Star Trek literature, "Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to highschool, community, college, and university library collections. Simply stated, no dedicated Star Trek fan should fail to have a copy of "Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe" for their own!

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special
Jo Anne White
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478767527, $22.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Based on a true story, "More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special" by Jo Anne White is about six children with autism, their special needs, and their teacher who gives them a chance at learning and life. Despite challenges and a lack of support, Miss Tina Randolph's commitment to reach, teach, and inspire these children is unwavering. By accepting their uniqueness and participating in their private fantasy world, while at the same time engaging them in the real world, she eventually succeeds. Tina, her teacher's aide, Kaye, and the children mount a tireless, daily battle to shift the tide toward the acceptance of people who are different.

The experiment, begun in chaotic, uncharted waters, bridges the gap of understanding and paves the way for the inclusionary practices of education and society's acceptance of children and adults with special needs. This is a road that continues to need paving, making the messages in More Heaven: Because Every Child Is Special equally relevant today.

"More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special" evolved from an experiment in the Philadelphia school system in the late 1970's in response to the 1975 Education for the Handicapped Act, ruling that public schools in the US educate all children with disabilities, despite their severity. Previously, many of these special needs children were kept at home-isolated and denied access to the mainstream. More Heaven is a powerful story of compassion, determination, disappointment, triumph, and love. "More Heaven" reaches in from the heart outward to all children; they will be heard!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special" is as informative as it is inspiring, making it very highly recommended reading for parents, teachers, and caregivers working with autistic children. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content and commentary, "More Heaven" will prove to be an enduringly popular and valued addition to community and academic library Autism reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "More Heaven" is also available in a paperback edition (9781478765479, $12.95) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Widow: A Four-Letter Word
Judy Crowell
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491782415, $29.95, HC, 258pp,

Synopsis: "Widow: A Four-Letter Word" is the personal story of Judy Crowell, a sixty-three-year old widow who is shaken out of her topsy-turvy malaise of widowhood by an old acquaintance seeking to cajol and woo her back to the dating world of the twenty-first century -- a world she last experienced when Eisenhower was president. Tackling a pile of disregarded old photos, Judy reminisces over the men in her life: a hormones-raging teenage Lothario in a lime green '50s Chevy; an eighty-year-old Benedictine monk; a Johnny Walker-swilling uncle, and a husband taken too soon by cancer. After forty-two years of marriage, can she share another man's popcorn at the movies? Feel another man's beard against her cheek? Another man's touch? Another man's bed? In "Widow: A Four Letter Word", humor and tragedy intermingle as Judy looks back at the men in her life and grapples with a persistent suitor wooing her to date and, perhaps, to love again.

Critique: A consistently compelling and intimate read from beginning to end, "Widow: A Four-Letter Word" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Biography & Memoir collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Widow: A Four-Letter Word" is also available in a paperback edition (9781491782408, $19.95) and in a Kindle format ($5.99).

Pagan Portals - Brigid
Morgan Daimler
Moon Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785353208, $12.95, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: "Pagan Portals - Brigid: Meeting The Celtic Goddess Of Poetry, Forge, And Healing Well" by Morgan Daimler (a blogger, poet, teacher of esoteric subjects, witch, Druid, dedicant of Macha, and wandering priest/ess of Odin) is a basic introduction to the Celtic Goddess Brigid and focuses on her history and myth as well as her modern devotion and worship. "Pagan Portals - Brigid" is primarily focused on the Irish Goddess, but also includes a discussion of her Pan-Celtic appearances, particularly in Scotland. Brigid's different appearances in mythology are discussed along with the conflation of the pagan Goddess with Catholic saint. Modern methods for neopagans to connect to and honor this popular Goddess include offerings and meditation, and personal anecdotes from the author's experiences are included as well. "Pagan Portals - Bridget" addresses the questions: Who was Brigid to the pre-Christian pagans? Who is she today to neopagans? How do we re-weave the threads of the old pagan Goddess and the new? Readers will learn about Brigid's myths among the pagan Irish, the stories of Bride in Scotland, and the way that people today are finding and honoring this powerful and important deity to find the answer.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, consistently compelling from beginning to end, "Pagan Portals - Brigid: Meeting The Celtic Goddess Of Poetry, Forge, And Healing Well" is a significant and welcome addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Pagan Portals - Brigid" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.03).

Song of Silence
Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon Press
PO Box 280988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781501816376, $24.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Lucy and Charlie Tuttle agree on one thing: they're committed to each other for life. Trouble is, neither of them expected life to look like this. While Charlie retired early, Lucy is devoted to a long-term career . . . until the day she has no choice. Forced to retire from her position as music educator in a small Midwestern K-8 school, Lucy can only watch helplessly as the program her father started years ago disintegrates before her eyes. As the music fades and a chasm separates her from the passion of her heart, Lucy wonders if her faith's song has gone silent, too. The musical score of her life seems to be missing all the notes. When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees (and hears) everything.

Critique: Another terrific read from the pen of Cynthia Ruchti, "Song of Silence" will prove to be an enduringly popular and sought after addition to any community library General Fiction collection. For the personal reading lists of Cynthia Ruchti fans it should be noted that "Song of Silence" is also available in a paperback edition (9781426791499, $14.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Activism and Aid
Ann Wigglesworth
Monash University Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9780980510874, $39.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste is a sovereign state in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The country's size is about 15,410 km2 (5,400 sq mi). Timor-Leste's independence was forged at a time when international developmental theory had rejected top down approaches and recognized the importance of participatory approaches in developmental strategies. In 1999, with the arrival of the United Nations and a multitude of bilateral, multilateral, and non-governmental organizations in Timor-Leste, it was hoped that the international intervention would at last produce a development success story. Independence also brought the realization that dreams for an independent Timor-Leste varied, often according to their generation. Three generations of Timorese - the political elite, a younger generation of independence activists (gerasaun foun), and today's youth of independent Timor-Leste - each bring their own experiences and face different challenges in Timor-Leste. Today, stark contrasts between the values of customary life and those of the modernizing world place both community leaders and young Timorese at a crossroads. The experiences of the Timorese are unique, and "Activism and Aid: Young Citizens' Experiences of Development and Democracy in Timor-Leste" reflects a broader analysis about how an aid-influenced process of development can work in greater harmony with the people to realize their own visions of the future of the nation.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Activism and Aid: Young Citizens' Experiences of Development and Democracy in Timor-Leste" is impressively informative, thoughtful, and thought provoking. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of acronyms, a glossary, maps of Timor-Leste, and a list of references, "Activism and Aid" is very highly recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, and is an invaluable contribution to academic library International Studies reference collections in general, and Timor-Leste supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Community Nutrition in Action: An Entrepreneurial Approach
Marie A. Boyle
Cengage Learning, Inc.
20 Channel Center Street, Boston, MA 02210
9781305637993, $192.95, HC, 797pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded seventh edition, "Community Nutrition in Action: An Entrepreneurial Approach" by Marie Boyle (Professor of Nutrition, Chairperson of the Foods and Nutrition Department, and Director of the Graduate Program in Nutrition at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey) introduces the program planning, policies, resources, and nutrition issues specific to community nutrition and provides an understanding of creating and implementing nutrition programs from various constituencies (elderly populations, children, impoverished populations, college students, etc.). Successful practitioners in community nutrition have proven to have a mind and skill set that opens them up to new ideas and ventures. Incorporating an entrepreneurial approach, "Community Nutrition in Action" helps readers learn how to take risks, try new technologies, and use fresh approaches to improving the public's nutrition and health status. "Community Nutrition in Action" also delivers the core material important to those who will be active in solving community nutritional and health problems, including program delivery, nutrition education, nutrition assessment, and planning nutrition interventions.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Community Nutrition in Action: An Entrepreneurial Approach" is an ideal textbook for college and university curriculums. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library instructional reference collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Community Nutrition in Action" is also readily available in a Kindle edition ($127.99 Purchase / $65.76 Rent).

Children and the Tundra
Doris Haggis-on-Whey & Benny Haggis-on-Whey
McSweeney's Publishing
9781940450049, $20.00, HC, 64pp,

Synopsis: For many years the scientific and educational community has wondered and worried about the possibility that semi-sane scholar pretenders would find the means to put out a series of reference books aimed at children but filled with ludicrous misinformation. These books would be distributed through respectable channels and would inevitably find their way into the hands and households of well-meaning families, who would go to them for facts but instead find bizarre untruths. The books would look normal enough, but would read as if written by people who should at all costs be denied access to pens and pencils. Sadly, with the publication of this, the fifth volume in a proposed series of 377 reference books, that day has come. "Children and the Tundra" is actually two books in one, as Dr. Doris Haggis-on-Whey, due to space constraints, is forced to explain both the concept of children (a species she doesn't trust for a second) and the tundra, in one book. She is, as always, joined in her crusade of lies by her husband, Benny, who is mostly useless.

Critique: An elegant and bizarre, yet consistently entertaining read from first page to last, "Children and the Tundra" is the fifth volume in the ludicrously mis-informative HOW Series from McSweeney's Publishing and a recommended addition to personal and community library collections of the odd and the offbeat.

Through Early Yellowstone
Janet Chapple
Granite Peak Publications
9780985818265, $29.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: An anthology of entertaining accounts of travel through Yellowstone, "Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis" features selections and annotations by Janet Chapple and takes readers back to 1871, before the Yellowstone Park was a major and well known tourist destination, through the time when autos were allowed into the park. The adventurers include an intrepid mother who posted the sign "Park or Bust" on her family's covered wagon, a strong cyclist and a hiker who traversed the whole park for fun, an expert guide on skis, and a New York horsewoman who presented park management with a plan for an interconnected circuit of bridle trails. Along with numerous historical photos and artwork, "Through Early Yellowstone" features a color gallery of watercolor paintings by Thomas Henry Thomas from 1884 and have never been seen outside of Wales.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is inherently fascinating and consistently compelling, ""Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis" offers a unique 'window in time' history of America's most famous national park. Enhanced with the inclusion of a Bibliography and an Index, "Through Early Yellowstone" is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists for anyone that has visited and appreciated the Yellowstone country, and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Travel History and American History reference collections in general, and Yellowstone National Park supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex
Jenny Block
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627781510, $16.95, PB, 244pp,

Synopsis: Masturbation is a many-splendored thing, but even here, all of us can get into a comfortable rut. Take what can be really good to really great with Jenny Block's guide to getting in on with yourself. Whether you are happily coupled, on your own, poly, or demonstrating your solo skills for your lover(s), Block has the very best advice on how to pleasure yourself masterfully and share the love. Replete with thorough research, Block's covers the science of sex, wild and wonderful ideas for upping the masturbation ante, and lots of suggestions for how to incorporate toys. There are only one or two truly good books on the market about "sex for one," and those are years and even decades old. "The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex" makes its entry as an instant classic that shows readers how to go from mundane to mind-blowing self-pleasuring.

Critique: Fully living up to its title, "The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex" is a complete, comprehensive, thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide for successfully engaging in masturbation. "The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex" is not pornography, this is a serious and practical study of human sexuality which is strongly recommended for mature readers of all ages. It should be noted that "The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Posters To Color: Oceans
Erika Sirotich, illustrator
Running Press Kids
c/o Perseus Book Group
2300 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
9780762459988, $9.95,

"Posters to Color: Oceans" is a collection of four 18"x 24" foldout posters in black and white detail featuring ocean layers, sharks, and a vast variety of marine life for children to color. In addition, there are 23 cram packed pages of activities, games, fun marine facts, puzzles, dot to dot puzzles and brain teasers to provide hours of educational fun for young readers/artists age 7 and up. "Posters To Color: Oceans" is a fantastic find for parents and caregivers approaching a long summer of time and space for enrichment activities and opportunities. This creative poster coloring series invites interaction and participation. Also highly recommended is another title from this series, "Posters to Color: Space (9780762459971, $9,95)," illustrated by Carmen Mok.

Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths
Marilyn Singer, author
Josee Masse, illustrator
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780803739925, $16.99,

"Echo" is a dazzling collection of reverso poems about famous Greek myths, elegantly illustrated in tones of blue, gold, and white with touches of brown, in an updated retro style reminiscent of ancient Greek vase and pottery paintings. A reverso poem is a form invented by the author which consists of two poems about the same myth story, one in reverse order of the other, each presenting a contrasting point of view. On the narrative poetry pages, the page background is divided into a blue half with white print and a white half with blue print, with an overarching title in gold. Both poems are read from top to bottom, but the words, or sentences are almost exactly reversed. An example is: "Gods and Mortals

Once our imaginations are opened,
they can never be closed.
Gods and mortals
enter these portals to
tellers and listeners alike.

These myths We,
make sense of the world,
the world. make sense of
We - these myths.
tellers and listeners alike-
enter these portals to
gods and mortals.
They can never again be closed,
once our imaginations are opened.

The creative use of the reverso format casts new light on ancient myths, adding mystery and depth to already rich tales. The author explains her creation thus: "The reversos are a new way of looking at old, unforgettable tales. The author has also created more reversos in her books, "Mirror, Mirror," and "Follow, Follow." "Echo" is a double treat in its referral to the past in Greek myth lore and its being in the present moment of time, casting new interpretations and meanings on a rich store of source myths.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Honor Bound
Ryan P. Brown
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780199399864, $29.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: "Culture of honor" is what social scientists call a society that organizes social life around maintaining and defending reputation. In an honor culture, because reputation is everything, people will go to great lengths to defend their reputations and those of their family members against real and perceived threats and insults. While most human societies throughout history can be described as "honor cultures," the United States is particularly well known for having a deeply rooted culture of honor, especially in the American South and West.

In "Honor Bound: How a Cultural Ideal Has Shaped the American Psyche", Ryan P. Brown (Professor of Social Psychology at The University of Oklahoma) integrates social science research, current events, and personal stories to explore and explain how honor underpins nearly every aspect of our lives, from spontaneous bar fights to organized acts of terrorism, romantic relationships, mental health and well-being, unsportsmanlike conduct in football, the commission of suicide, foreign policy decisions by political leaders, and even how parents name their babies.

Sometimes the effects of living in an honor culture are subtle and easily missed. For example, there are fewer nursing homes in the American south, as more parents live with their children as they age-and sometimes the effects are more dramatic, as in the fact that there are more school shootings in honor states, but they are always relevant. By illuminating a surprising and pervasive thread that has endured in our culture for centuries, Professor Brown's narrative will captivate those raised in these types of honor cultures who wish to understand themselves, and those who wish to better understand their neighbors.

Critique: "Honor Bound: How a Cultural Ideal Has Shaped the American Psyche" is a seminal work of truly impressive scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction, a four page list of References, and a twenty-nine page Index, making it very highly recommended as an acquisition by both community and academic libraries. For the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Honor Bound" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.23).

The Beer Geek Handbook
Patrick Dawson
Storey Publishing
210 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
9781612125312, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: "The Beer Geek Handbook" by Patrick Dawson was written to provide answers for beer buyer at the liquor store ask needing advice in this age of micro breweries and specialty beers. Do you understand the difference between a turbid and a single infusion mash? Do you travel with a tulip glass handy? Have you even eaten ramen just to afford a vintage Cantillon gueuze? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be a Beer Geek and in need of this hilarious guide. Patrick Dawson provides everything you need to fully live a life ruled by beer, from the Ten Beer Geek Commandments and the Beer Geek Hall of Fame to guidance on what to drink, how and where to drink it, how to gracefully correct an uninformed bartender, where to buy "geek goods," how to flawlessly execute a beer tasting, how to plan the ultimate beer-centric vacation, and much more. Enhanced with the light-hearted illustrations by Gregy Kletsel, "The Beer Geek Handbook" includes quizzes to help you determine your level of geekery.

Critique: As fun as it is informative, "The Beer Geek Handbook" is a terrifically entertaining read from first page to last. While very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Beer Geek Handbook" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

No Orchids for Miss Blandish / Twelve Chinamen and a Woman
James Hadley Chase
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520069, $19.95, PB, 284pp,

In "No Orchids for Miss Blandish" Riley gets word that Miss Blandish is going out on the town with her new pearl necklace, he decides to stage a jewelry snatch. Things get a little out of hand, and the gang ends up snatching Miss Blandish, too. Now they've got a kidnapping on their hands. But that's when the Grisson Gang steps in and takes over. Ma Grisson wants the pearls, but her sadistic son Slim wants Miss Blandish. And whatever Slim wants, Slim gets - one way or the other. So the ransom is paid, but Mr. Blandish doesn't get his daughter back. That's when Fenner is hired, a detective as ruthless as the gang he's after. They've broken Miss Blandish, but will Fenner be able to break them? In "Twelve Chinamen and a Woman", Hot off the Blandish case, Dave Fenner is contacted by a frightened young lady who is looking for her sister. Laying down six grand as a retainer, she tells him that all she knows is that her sister is mixed up with twelve Chinamen. Intrigued, Fenner agrees to take the case, only to find that someone has planted a dead Chinaman in his office. No sooner has he removed that problem, Fenner is than visited by two Cubans who search his office, pistol whip him - and lead him to an apartment where he finds his murdered client. Now it's personal and Fenner will stop at nothing to find the gang behind this strange operation. Which leads him to Pio Carlos, trafficker in human cargo...and Glorie Leadler, a beauty who is not at all who she seems.

Critique: The late Rene Brabazon Raymond (December 24, 1906 - February 6, 1985) was better known by his pseudonym, James Hadley Chase. The author of over 90 books, most of them hardboiled Americanized thrillers, Chase remains one of the best known mystery writers of all time. Now two of his 'time lost classics' have been republished in one volume for a new and appreciative generation of mystery fans. The Stark House Press edition of "No Orchids for Miss Blandish / Twelve Chinamen and a Woman" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Shared Prosperity in America's Communities
Susan M. Wachter & Lei Ding, editors
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812247855, $59.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: While the nation's GDP has doubled in the last thirty years, significant increases in family income have been restricted to a small subset of the American population. This disjunct between national economic growth and stagnating incomes in all but the very top tier of the population corresponds with increasing economic inequality and a lack of social and economic mobility. As a consequence, neighborhoods and metropolitan areas have become more polarized. Stark geographic differences in levels of poverty, income, health outcomes, job opportunities, lifetime earning potential, and educational attainment highlight the degree to which place matters in terms of social and economic opportunity. "Shared Prosperity in America's Communities" examines this place-based disparity of opportunity and suggests what can be done to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared. Contributors' essays explore social and economic mobility throughout the country to illuminate the changing geography of inequality, offer a portfolio of strategies to address the challenges of place-based inequality, and show how communities across the nation are implementing change and building a future of shared prosperity. Approaching the problem from the vantage point of economics, sociology, and public policy, "Shared Prosperity in America's Communities" offers a timely analysis of the country's growing socioeconomic and geographic division and shows how communities can respond to the challenge of economic inequality to build a nation of opportunity for all.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Susan M. Wachter (who is the Albert Sussman Professor of Real Estate and Professor of Finance, The Wharton School; Professor of City and Regional Planning, School of Design; and Co-director, Penn Institute for Urban Research, at the University of Pennsylvania) and Lei Ding (Community Development Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia), "Shared Prosperity in America's Communities" is comprised of twelve major articles contributed by informed and insightful scholars. The result is a critically important study and a very highly recommended addition to professional, governmental, community, college and university Urban Studies, American Economics, Current Political Science, and Contemporary Social Issues reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Living with Purpose - Devotions for Discovering God-Given Potential
Dr. Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408447, $14.99, 2016, 252 pages

Prerequisites to Discovering the Process of Developing the Potential of Living a Life with Purpose

"Living with Purpose - Devotions for Discovering God-Given Potential" from the writings of internationally recognized statesman, bestselling author, and highly esteemed Christian leader, Dr. Myles Munroe, is a collection of inspirational devotional selections including Biblical wisdom for spiritual growth with applications for personal development in Christian living.

Dr. Munroe challenges the reader to discover, understand, and consider their tremendous untapped potential. He urges them to commit to maximize their hidden talents, unused successes, reserved power, and unexposed ability. The pages are filled with God's promises, spiritual insights, instructions, and guidelines into finding, releasing, and living out your full potential.

One final word of wisdom from Dr. Munroe is an example of his distinctive ability to deliver a "personal" message that speaks uniquely to individual readers; helping them discover their divine purpose and to fulfill their destiny. "Accept yourself as God has made you. Allow His power to transform your weakness, rather than belittling yourself when you make mistakes."

"Living with Purpose - Devotions for Discovering God-Given Potential" is a book you will want to read and reread. It is also an ideal gift for family or friends for those special gift occasions. Powerful advice for discovering and experiencing God's gift of man's potential.

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

Business in Blue Jeans - How to Have a Successful Business, on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style
Susan Baroncini-Moe
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box, 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879228, $21.95, 230 pages,

Starting Out or Growing Your Entrepreneurial Dreams - The Path to Success

"Business in Blue Jeans - How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, and in Your Own Style" is written for entrepreneur's setting out on an adventure of starting up or running a small business. Business and marketing coach Susan Baroncini-Moe provides the tools for readers to pursue their dreams, and to become successful.

Baroncini-Moe offers keen insight, relevant advice, attainable goals, pertaining to practical business principles, combined with tools for designing marketing strategies, implementing branding, and suggestions for working through "brain junk." Susan's writing is transformative.

It is important that the reader complete the homework assignments to receive the greatest benefit from their reading. These are designed to be done as independent exercises. From the table of contents right through to the end notes and index, the material is well organized and formatted for ease in reading, assimilating, and for future reference and study.

"Business in Blue Jeans - How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style" will resonate with newbies, those moving into startup companies, and for existing business owners seeking coaching for growing their company. It is must reading for: revolutionaries with a dream to start and succeed in their own business.

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

Hope for the Praying Nation - Petitioning Heaven for Change in Your Country
Don Nori, Jr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409719, $6.99, 2016, 152 pages

A Call to Prayer - Impacting Our Nation's Destiny

In his book "Hope for the Praying Nation - Petitioning Heaven for Change in Your Country" bestselling author Don Nori, Sr. defines authentic prayer and describes a praying nation.

The book is filled with helpful instruction based on Biblical principles, and compelling challenges, including contribution from select writers relative to the concepts included in the book.

Don Milam, Jr., Discusses how history proves the power of prayer. Cleddie Keith provides instruction on the importance of using patterns in prayer, four levels of prayer, and discovering the power of prayer. Dian Layton specifically answers on how we should talk to God and on praying for government leaders, praying for the military, for our schools, families, and other important issues. Don Nori emphasizes the importance of the power of a praying nation, and our God ordained purpose in prayer.

Provision is made for journaling your own thoughts, prayers, prayer starters, or scriptures for further contemplation, meditation.

Nori has a unique gift for adding enlightenment to complex issues and concepts making them understandable. "Hope for the Praying Nation - Petitioning Heaven for change in Your Country" is a timely, important, and relevant book for these uncertain times.

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

Your Next Chapter - Rewriting Your Life Success Story
Evelyn D. Watkins
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Spartanburg, PA 17257
9781937879327, $14.99, 128 Pages,

Becoming a Master at Mending When Plans B (plus) Have Failed

Life coach, business trainer, and corporate development liaison, Evelyn D. Watkins, provides key tools for creating a stimulus plan when "plans b and c and..." fall apart.

"Your Next Chapter - Rewriting Your Life Success Story" is for those who are facing the life altering setbacks which cannot be changed: job loss, broken relationships, marriage failures, or the death of a loved one. Whatever the disappointment, the stages of grief are not that much different.

Watkins helps the reader allow brokenness to pave the way for learning to evaluate the options, make informed choices, and regain control of your live. Each page is packed with valuable strategies for: assessing and identifying your current status, reinforcing your self-perception, creating practical action plans, suggestions for forming a life mission statement, and for starting your "Next Chapter Journal."

Other chapters include recommendations for: life building life investment, pruning the unnecessary, and hindrances to growth and vision. Helpful suggestions are included for allowing others to participate in your next chapter, and ideas for becoming an expert, the importance of nurturing creativity, removing negativity, being involved in creating a winning mind.

Although the illustrative stories and personal examples focus on the examples of women the concepts are adaptable and practical and all-inclusive for any individual. Watkins writing is dynamic, relevant, and passionate. "Your Next Chapter" is a powerful tool for establishing, rewriting, pursuing, and attaining your "Life Success Story."

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

Troubled Mission
John Wagner
Kelly House
Sacramento, California
9780996248501, $14.99, 2015, 292 pages

A Quest for Personal Transformation and Self Discovery in the Midst of Terrorist Violence, Corrupt Government, and Injustice

In "Troubled Mission" author John Wagner takes his reader on a dramatic adventure; a quest for personal transformation, justice and human rights, in the midst of terrorist violence, and increasing corruption in government. Wagner combines the literary forms of the fictional novel with this gripping personal memoir presented as an eye witness account of his personal mission to fight for the plight and rights of the underprivileged in Peru, South America. The novel is based on the events, terror, and bloodshed which occurred during the chaotic period of Sendero Luminoso's regime.

Wagner's writing is penetrating and thought provoking, filled with descriptive phrases and carefully crafted word pictures that enable the reader to visualize the scenic wonders of Peru and become immersed in the culture of the people. The introduction of romance adds another human dimension to an already dramatic, fast moving plot filled with corruption and terror, spiritual redemption and social interaction.

"Troubled Mission" is a fascinating account of one man's potential impact while on mission for the human rights of the under privileged in the midst of a country plagued by injustice, under an autocratic government, and political corruption. The book is highly readable, with unforgettable content; steeped in social, political, and spiritual awareness.

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

The Lost Art of Intercession - Restoring the Power and Passion of the Watch of the Lord
James W. Goll
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Spartanburg, Pa 17257
9780768409284, $14.99, 2016, 224 pages

Profound, Passionate Teaching on the Power of Intercessory Prayer

Bestselling author and co-founder of Encounters Network James W. Goll is highly respected and recognized for his insightful teaching and for his impassioned call to spiritual revival and intercessory prayer.

This updated edition of Goll's book "The Lost Art of Intercession - Restoring the Power and Passion of the Watch of the Lord" implores Christians everywhere to become Watchmen of the Lord, priestly prayer warriors. These are impassioned men and women who will unlock the supernatural power of the Lord through corporate prayer, heralding the news of "Watch" groups being formed in America and abroad, who are experiencing a new dimension of communion with the Lord.

Goll's writings come as a result of his experiences in a passionate, contagious prayer life. His writing is infectious, infusing the reader with a "righteous obsession" to pursue a craving for a life of ardent, authoritative prayer, and bringing about spiritual revival around the world.

"The Lost Art of Intercession" is unique in its message for anyone willing to pay the price to help restore a new visitation of the glory of the Lord on earth. This is a message for today's prayer warriors and for a new generation of empowered watchmen. An enriching life changing read leading to supernatural results.

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

Carriers of Glory - Becoming a Friend of the Holy Spirit
David Diga Hernandez
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780678410211, $15.99, 2016, 192 Pages

The Person, Power, and Presence of the Holy Spirit - Authentic Christian Living

Within the first page of David Diga Hernandez's book "Carriers of Glory - Becoming a Friend of the Holy Spirit" I knew I was about to receive a unique message from God through His Holy Spirit, a message that would leave "a major mark on the timeline of my personal and spiritual growth."

I found myself immersed in the desire to know and experience more of the Holy Spirit's transforming power for consistently living a life of holiness. I gained new insights into the importance of humility in the realm of prayer when threatened by spiritual warfare. Hernandez carefully details the work of the Holy Spirit in the body life of the church, the source, oneness of the Godhead, the categories and nature of the spiritual gifts, and the Spirit's prompting and guidance ministry to the believer. He goes on to develop the concept of being intentional in cultivating a growing relational friendship with the Spirit. The final chapter answers the most frequently asked questions on the fundamental Pentecostal teaching on the doctrine of the person of the Holy Spirit.

Hernandez's writing is penetrating and anointed; an inspired passionate Charismatic message with informative insight into the Biblical teaching on the friendship and person, on the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

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

Daily Invitation to Friendship with God - Dreaming with God to Transform Your World
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409543, $14.99, 2016, 395 pages

Profound Insights into Dreaming with God and Transforming Your World

"Daily Invitation to Friendship with God - Dreaming with God to Transform your World" is made up of 365 inspiring quotes, thoughts, meditations, and reflections from bestselling author, Bill Johnson's book "Dreaming with God." It is the author's intent to connect the reader with the purposes of God through a fluid process of co-laboring with Him.

I personally found myself pondering the concept of moving from "servants to the master" to becoming "intimate friends" with Jesus, and the personal transformation that comes with divine encounters with God. I was also struck with the importance of realizing the creative force of our words, the potential of our communications, and of living as though nothing is impossible.

On the practical side Pastor Johnson emphasizes the significance of the focus of our worship, our perspective on values, and on the potential of our communications.

The reflections from the pen of Bill Johnson inspire the reader to search and discover the secret things of God's heart through intimacy with the Savior. "Daily Invitation to Friendship with God" is powerful reading, leading to embracing divine wisdom, the spirit of revelation, and complete abandonment to God.

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

Saturate Field Guide - Principles & Practices for Being Disciples of Jesus in the Every Daily Stuff of Life
Jeff Vanderstelt & Ben Connelly
9780996849302, $24.99 Spiral Bound, $9.99 Kindle, 234pp,

A Guide for Understanding the Theology, Philosophy, and Practice of Christian Discipleship

"Saturate Field Guide - Principles & Practices for Being Disciples of Jesus in the Every Daily Stuff of Life" is designed to encourage group interaction, and to inspire individual thought provoking introspection and self evaluation. Specific exercises facilitate personal Christian growth, and equip them to reproduce followers of Jesus.

The material is formatted to be used over an eight week period, with different lessons for each of six days per week. To receive the greatest benefit from the course; it is anticipated that each lesson may require approximately one hour per day. An added feature of the manual is in the design to lay flat during study.

The authors have a heart for discipleship, and a passion to saturate participants in the gospel, to intentionally live Christ like lives in the mundane routines of everyday life. "Saturate Field Guide - Principles & Practices for Being Disciples of Jesus in the Every Daily Stuff of Life" is an excellent disciple teaching manual for anyone desirous to live a life of influence and impact on others while growing in Christian character and vision for mission themselves.

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

Life Lessons from Proverbs
Jack Nordgren
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500252434, $ 9.95, PB, 108 pages,

Thoughtful Wise Words to Live By

In his book "Life Lessons from Proverbs" Jack Nordgren draws practical applications for daily life from selected verses found in the book of Proverbs; through personal stories from Jack's own life experiences.

A unique feature of Jack's writing is his "down to earth" way of communicating truths, in practical terms that speak to the heart. He is open and honest in his writing. He writes with an amazing insight into human nature and the resultant consequences of sin and selfish desires; the pain divorce, the chains of addictions, tragedy, hurt and suffering. He also offers encouragement with stories of the blessings of reconciliations and changed lives.

Each chapter is filled with hands-on guidelines for practical living and with suggestions for effective ministry, including: lessons on listening, lessons from the lottery, and the secret of facing the fear of sudden disaster.

Jack's earlier books tell of his spiritual journey, from surfing in Lake Michigan to a call to Chaplaincy and a ministry to surfers on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. "Wave Chasers' Volume I and II tell of searching for surf on Lake Michigan and on the Great Lakes.

Jack writes for surfers, men and women. Life Lessons from Proverbs is a book and for all readers facing the struggles and challenged of life today.

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

The Ultimate Legacy
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410426, $9.25, 176 Pages,

A Legacy of Significance - Embracing the Future

'The Ultimate Legacy" is the final chapter in the "Ultimate Gift" and the "Ultimate Life" series. Miss Sally Anderson, wealthy owner and of the exclusive Anderson House is recognized as hostess to prominent world leaders and celebrated personalities. The Anderson House has a reputation as a house of healing, hope, and destiny. Meetings around the Anderson House dining had more influence and impact on "humanitarian work around the world than any board room in the world."

Miss Sally Mae presents the conditions of her will to her trusted attorney, Theodore J. Hamilton, naming her grandson Joey Anderson, as heir to The Anderson House. It is her aspiration that through Joey, the only remaining link to the Anderson House Legacy, will create an indelible impact for generations to come

Jim Stovall is a gifted and natural story teller. The elements of good story telling are evident in his narrative, his character development, dialog, and with an under lying message or "take away." His characters are multi-dimensional, are believable. They show personal values and unique personalities. They continue to develop depths in their insights and concern for other; as demonstrated by Joey's transformation and vision for the Anderson money to continue as a source of healing, education and inspiration for now and future generations.

"The Ultimate Legacy" is entertaining, inspiring, and motivating. The novelization of the film gives the reader a photographic visualizing of each scene

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Breaking the Veil of Silence
Jobst Bittner
TOS Publishing
9783981244182, $16.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: "The Veil of Silence" by Jobst Bittner (President of TOS Ministries and initiator of the international March of Life movement, which has taken place in more than 80 cities in 12 countries) addresses a phenomena that is commonly encountered at every turn, whether in our personal life, our family, our church or congregation, our cities and nations. "The Veil of Silence" is the reason for inner coldness, loneliness, and the sense of being lost in darkness. Through a captivating blend of history, theology, and psychology, the German pastor, theologian, and activist, Jobst Bittner, provides a brave, discerning perspective on this 'Veil of Silence' and how the weight of history can be lifted. "Breaking the Veil of Silence" is a powerful and practical intervention and spiritual guide to reclaim our authority by uprooting all destructive tendencies of covering up the past, uncovering our own family history, rediscovering the Jewish roots of our faith, and moving forward into action. The principle message of "Breaking the Veil of Silence" is that once the veil is lifted, true healing, restoration, and change can begin.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Breaking the Veil of Silence" is a compelling, inspiring, and life-changing read that is very highly recommended for personal, community, church, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Breaking the Veil of Silence" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Evolution Delusion
Bo Kirkwood
Guardian of Truth Foundation
9781584274070, $12.95, PB, 222pp,

Synopsis: "The Evolution Delusion" by Bo Kirkwood, demonstrates that not everyone who opposes theory of evolution as propounded by Charles Darwin is an uneducated religious fanatic. In "The Evolution Delusion" Dr. Kirkwood examines evolution from a scientific perspective to show that evolution is not based on the scientific method; rather it is a philosophy accepted by men who have rejected God's revelation and excluded the possibility of the miraculous. The evolutionary theory conflicts with many scientific facts. The presuppositions assumed by evolutionary theory are mathematically so improbable that only a rabid faith in the theory would cause one to continue to defend it. After showing the weaknesses of the evolutionary theory, Dr. Kirkwood looks at the Biblical alternative - the Genesis story of creation. Dr. Kirkwood's work is written so that anyone who is not a science professional will have little trouble comprehending his arguments.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Evolution Delusion" is especially commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in defending the biblical account of creation against proponents of Darwinian theories of evolution.

Sky Shamans of Mongolia
Kevin Turner
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583946343, $24.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: Part travelogue, part experiential spiritual memoir, Kevin Turner takes us to visit with authentic shamans in the steppes and urban centers of modern-day Mongolia. Along the way, the author, a practicing shaman himself, tells of spontaneous medical diagnoses, all-night shamanic ceremonies, and miraculous healings, all welling from a rich culture in which divination, soul-retrieval, and spirit depossession are a part of everyday life. Shamanism, described in the 1950s by Mircea Eliade as "archaic techniques of ecstasy", is alive and well in Mongolia as a means of accessing "non-ordinary realities" and the spirit world. After centuries of suppression by Buddhist and then Communist political powers, it is exploding in popularity in Mongolia. Turner gives compelling accounts of healings and rituals he witnesses among Darkhad, Buryat, and Khalkh shamans, and goes on to provide us with his insights into a universal shamanism, principles that lie at the heart of shamanic traditions worldwide.

Critique: "Sky Shamans of Mongolia: Meetings with Remarkable Healers" is an astounding, inspiring, deftly written, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' account will that scholars and nonspecialist general readers with an interest in shamanism, Mongolian culture, and comparative religion. While very highly recommended for community and academic library Biography/Memoir; Metaphysical Studies; and Mongolian Culture collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sky Shamans of Mongolia" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).

The Last Royal Rebel
Anna Keay
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620409343, $35.00, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: At first light on July 6, 1685, the last battle ever fought on English soil was almost over. On one side of the watery pasture at Sedgemoor was the dashing thirty-six-year-old Duke of Monmouth, the charismatic son of Charles II, adored by the people. A reformer, a romantic, and a Protestant, he was fighting the army he had once commanded, in opposition to his uncle, King James II. Yet even before he launched his attack, Monmouth knew he would die.

Born in the backstreets of Rotterdam in the year his grandfather Charles I was executed, Monmouth was the child of a turbulent age. His mother, the first of Charles II's famous liaisons, played courtesan to the band of raw and restless young royalists forced abroad by the changing political current. Conceived during a revolution and born into a republic, Monmouth, by the time he was twelve, was the sensation of the most licentious and libertine court in Europe. Adored by the king and drenched in honors, he became the greatest rake and reprobate of the age.

On his path to becoming "the last royal rebel," Monmouth consorted with a spectacular list of contemporaries: Louis XIV was his mentor, William of Orange his confidant, Nell Gwyn his friend, the future Duke of Marlborough his pupil, D'Artagnan his lieutenant, John Dryden his censor, and John Locke his comrade.

Critique: Anna Keay is an historian and broadcaster specializing in Stuart England. She studied at Oxford and received a Ph.D. from London University. Having worked as curator of Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London, and as curatorial director of English Heritage, she is now director of the Landmark Trust. Anna's television work includes a series for the History Channel and commentating on royal events. In "The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth", Keay has created a definitive biography based on meticulous research resulting in an informed and informative work of impeccable scholarship. "The Last Royal Rebel" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers is should be noted that "The Last Royal Rebel" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.49).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Dance of the Bones
J.A. Jance
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062297679, $9.99, Paperback, 448 pp,

Mixing Indian legend with old-fashioned sleuthing, J.A. Jance has utilized a long-time favorite character, retired detective J.P. Beaumont, with a recently introduced protagonist, retired Sheriff Brandon Walker. The two, 1,500 miles apart, work to identify the culprit. Beaumont has now appeared in 24 novels, and Walker makes his fourth appearance.

It all begins with the murder of Amos Walker, whose remains in the Arizona desert are not discovered for some years. On purely a circumstantial case, his partner, Big John Lassiter, is convicted and sentenced to life without a chance of parole. Now, 30 years later, as a result of efforts by an organization that seeks to rectify wrongful past convictions, he is offered a deal: release on pleading guilty to a lesser charge for time served. He refuses to plea guilty to a crime he didn't commit. So, it remains for the dynamic duo to substantiate his claim.

It is a suspenseful story, supplemented by Indian lore and well-drawn characterizations. Written crisply, the plot develops swiftly continually propelling the reader forward. While there is never any doubt who the culprit is, it is a race against time before a conclusion can be reached. And it is an exciting end.


Blood Ties
Nicholas Guild
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765378453, $25.99, Hardcover, 318 pp,

A manhunt for a monster, a police procedural and a love story all wrapped up in a thriller sums up what this novel is all about. Its characters are fascinating, beginning with a serial killer who probably has murdered hundreds of women by torturing them to death in his decades-long career. More important is his rationale for doing so: putting them out of their misery (just life on this old planet, a living hell in his view). The murders were committed all over the country, but the most recent took place in the San Francisco area, where homicide detective Ellen Ridley and her partner, Sam Tyler, become the lead investigators on three related murders (and possibly five all together).

Ridley at first suspects Stephen Tregear, a highly intelligent, charming computer genius and code breaker for the Navy, as a suspect, but soon eliminates him, learning instead that it is his father who is the ogre. The two form a relationship and with his help the story moves on until father and son confront each other. It is a study really of psychological insights into each character and what motivations led them to act as they have.

Among the themes that contribute to these manifestations are growing up in an abusive home and why one family member turns out to be a brutal serial killer, while another becomes a highly educated, intelligent person with admirable values who risks his life to save those of others. The story is well-presented, and moves along at a steady pace, and the reader becomes totally absorbed in a beguiling plot.


Independence Day
Ben Coes
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250043160, $26.99, Hardcover, 512 pp.
9781250043191, $9.99, Paperback, 560 pp.

Dewey Andreas, who has appeared four times in the previous books in this series, now is a tired facsimile of himself in the wake of the murder of his fiancee. His superiors in the CIA have lost confidence him and want to sideline him in a facility where he can rest and the shrinks can rehabilitate him to his customary superhero status. But he isn't buying the diagnosis and when he is passed over for an assignment in Moscow he takes matters into his own hands. And his adventures follow, in this novel of computer hacking, terrorism, atomic bombs and other assorted plot lines.

Essentially, the novel recounts an evil deed which lies at the heart of a planned explosion of an atomic bomb in the United States. A five-year-old witnesses the murder of his parents by a CIA agent seeking a valuable formula developed by his scientist father. The son grows up to be a computer genius hacking his way to millions of stolen money and obtaining control of an atomic bomb which he plans to use to gain revenge for the loss of his parents. And Dewey, off the books, to the rescue.

The story is really exciting, filled with gobs of information on the use of computers and how they can be used for both good and evil purposes. It is a well-constructed and -plotted novel recounting efforts to prevent the bomb from exploding somewhere in the nation on the Fourth of July. How's that for unusual fireworks?


Solitude Creek
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455517152, $28.00, Hardcover, 452 pp.
9781455517176, $7.99, Paperback, 624 pp.

Nothing in this novel appears to be what the reader expects. And that is a good thing. Kathryn Dance, in this, the fourth novel in which she is featured, faces perplexing and unexpected situations both as a member of the California Bureau of Investigation and in her personal life. And in each, the author demonstrates the sleight of hand in authorship for which he is well known.

Professionally, Dance faces two cases. In the major one, a series of crimes are committed by a crafty perpetrator in which large groups of people are forced into panic-driven rioting in an attempt to escape from a mass venue, such as a theater, resulting in injuries and deaths. In the other, she interrogates a Latin man who is later released, after which while leaving he grabs her pistol, the upshot being her suspension and transfer from criminal to civil cases. The common thread between the two is all sorts of subterfuge, twists and turns. The same applies to her personal life, both in relation to her children and her love life.

Bringing all these elements to a logical and interesting conclusion, the author treats the reader to some off-the-beaten-path conclusions, all of which are unforeseen or even telegraphed. The surprises may not be earth-shaking, but certainly make for entertaining reading. Recommended

Six and a Half Deadly Sins
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956387, $14.95, 272 pp,

A package arrives addressed to Dr. Siri Paiboun, the retired Laos coroner, containing a pha sin (a knitted dress). Examining it, he discovers a severed finger sewn into the hem, setting him, his wife and a friend on a sort of treasure hunt in the northern part of the country in the midst of the beginning of an invasion of Vietnam by China, with PRC troops making incursions into Laos to establish a third front. To complicate matters, the good doctor and his wife exhibit flu-like symptoms, which continually worsen as the trip progresses.

The object of the trip is to discover who sent the package, which had no return address. So, traveling from village to village, from weaver to weaver, to identify each package containing another pha sin and a clue sewn into the hem given to him at each location, the trio plod on. Along the way they encounter an opium-and heroin-smuggling operation and a nasty, murderous foreman of a road-building group sponsored by the Chinese.

All in all, this is another bizarre adventure for Dr. Siri, and he is complemented by his madcap entourage and their caustic humor enabling them to cope with the vagaries of the communist regime in Vientiane. This time, his sardonic humor doesn't help him solve the couple of mysteries haunting him. But logic and planning come to the fore. Lots of fun, and recommended.

Time of Death: A Tom Thorne Novel
Mark Billingham
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802123633, $25.00, Hardcover, 434 pp.
9780802124999, $16.00, Paperback, 448 pp.

Tom Thorne and his significant other, Helen Weeks, arrange to take a short trip to the Cotswolds, leaving her baby to be cared for by her father, but the vacation is cut short when two young girls go missing in Helen's home town. She decides to go to support a girlhood friend she hasn't seen in 20 years when the woman's husband is arrested for the abductions. Tom, of course, accompanies her, and can't resist sticking his nose into the investigation, especially when the first girl turns up dead.

Tom becomes convinced that the man jailed for the offenses did not commit the crimes, but the police are convinced they have the right man. But how to prove his theory? With the help of his good friend, the pathologist Phil Hendricks, the first clue emerges and the quest for additional evidence goes on.

This novel goes deeper into developing Tom, Phil and Helen as characters, showing their human frailties, as well as their professional talents. Moreover, the theme of the novel is one that the author uses to demonstrate the terror and helplessness of victims of violent crimes. Another fine book in this top series, and one that is recommended

Theodore Feit

Vogel's Bookshelf

Troubled Mission
John Wagner
Kelly House
9780996248549, $24.99, HC, 284pp,

Synopsis: What happens when, after a life-changing study-tour of Peru, a successful US attorney abandons his law practice to volunteer with a religious organization and travel to Peru to fight for human rights in the midst of a culture of violence and terror? -- Not what he expected.

In his sometimes romantic, sometimes terrifying, always inspiring memoir, "Troubled Mission: Fighting for Love, Spirituality and Human Rights in Violence-Ridden Peru", John Wagner reveals the true story of his search for love, spirituality, and the chance to fight against injustice and oppression in a country not his own, while working for a religious organization he could not fully trust.

Wagner lives under a death threat from the fanatical Sendero Luminoso terrorist organization that he must keep secret from his religious community. He develops an on-and-off love affair with Bella, a beautiful but mysterious Peruvian teacher. He faces dramatic betrayals. He accidentally travels into the heart of the drug capital of the world. Day by day, he sees the increasing violence in Peru and overnight, he sees Peru's president become a dictator, shredding the rule of law. After a terrorist attack in a small town, he confronts Peruvian Army officers head-on to gain access to the scene. Then he must help prepare for burial the bloody, ravaged, body of a Campesina woman killed in that attack.

Wagner skillfully interweaves his inner struggles, including coming to grips with a new language, a new culture, a lower station in life, and a new perspective on his native Catholicism. Finally, he stumbles into what would become a landmark human rights case, stopping the Peruvian government from persecuting human rights lawyers.

Ultimately, "Troubled Mission" is the story of human redemption. Many people seek personal change only to find unexpected obstacles. "Troubled Mission" shows how we can find redemption (or redemption finds us) in so many unexpected ways.

Critique: A compelling example of how life can be more dramatic and traumatic than any Hollywood movie, "Troubled Mission: Fighting for Love, Spirituality and Human Rights in Violence-Ridden Peru" is a truly extraordinary memoir and very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. A deftly written and impressive account, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Troubled Mission" is also available in a paperback edition (9780996248501, $14.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Unpaid Debts
Antonio Jimenez Barca, author
Benjamin Rowdon, translator
9788494349621, $17.00, PB, 326pp,

Synopsis; Pablo Esteban is returning as usual from his poorly paid job in a shabby office in Madrid when he runs into Trendy, a friend from his teenage years. Shortly after, Trendy is murdered on the street and Pablo will be forced to collaborate with the police during the criminal investigation and to revisit the places and people of his past.

Critique: "Unpaid Debts is Spanish author Antonio Jimenez Barca's debut and award winning crime fiction novel. A deftly written and compelling thriller which is ably translated into English for an American readership by Benjamin Rowdon, "Unpaid Debts' is a compelling and consistently entertaining novel that is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Unpaid Debts" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.06).

Release from Stasis: The Future is Now
Graham Clingbine
9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp
Leicestershire, England, LE8 0RX
9781784625474, 15BP, ($16.28), HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: Consider humankind existing in the distant future. Perhaps they are the extraterrestrials speculated to exist following anomalous sightings on planet Earth of today. Maybe it is ourselves in a different anatomical guise who are the 'visitors'. In the distant future, planet Earth is a much-altered place in which the sun has aged and is bombarding the Earth with deadly solar particles. John Powell is the last surviving human and is battling to save mankind from extinction by abducting humans from the past and genetically engineering them to survive in the harsh environment. John's aim is to repopulate the Earth as part of a Great Plan for survival. However, an unprecedented violent solar eruption kills his experimental subjects and he has to abandon the Earth with his family and a few other survivors and undertake a long space voyage while safely placed in stasis. When released from stasis and still onboard the spacecraft, John and his family are shocked to discover that the other occupants have formed two conflicting astral religions, the Muons and the Pions. Escaping from the turmoil, John and his family utilize a portal acting as a time-travel device to return to the old Earth and start over. The spacecraft continues on its journey and lands on a habitable planet, leaving the Muons and Pions to sort out their own destiny.

Critique: "Release from Stasis: The Future is Now" is the sequel to "Disclosure: The Future is Now", author Graham Clingbine's first science fiction story of time travel, human survival and human dilemma. It will appeal to science fiction enthusiasts and those interested in the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Exceptionally well written and consistently entertaining from beginning to end, "Release from Stasis: The Future is Now" clearly showcases author Gaham Clingbine as an impressively gifted storyteller. While very highly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of science fiction enthusiasts that "Release from Stasis: The Future is Now" is also available in a paperback edition (9781784625283, $9.81) and in a Kindle format ($5.99).

Washington Rocks!
Eugene Kiver, Chad Pritchard, Richard Orndorff
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
9780878426546, $18.00, PB, 144pp,

Active volcanoes, like Rainier and Baker, dominate Washington's western half, and Columbia flood basalt covers much of the eastern half, but scattered here and there are other equally amazing rocks and features that make the Evergreen State one of the most geologically interesting places in the entire country. With "Washington Rocks!" as a guide, anyone can now easily find limestone caves, billion-year-old gneiss, glacial moraines, petrified forests, fossilized palm leaves, upside-down sandstone beds, and ancient landslides. Or interested travelers can explore the mind-boggling canyons, waterfalls, and scabland carved by the torrential Missoula Floods, check out the glacially carved granite of the North Cascades, or watch sea stacks erode in the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean.

"Washington Rocks!" is part of the state-by-state Geology Rocks! series from the Mountain Press Publishing Company that introduces readers to some of the most compelling and accessible geologic sites in each state. The 57 sites showcased in "Washington Rocks!" are scattered throughout the state, from Steptoe Butte in the southeast, the namesake of the steptoe geologic feature, to trilobite-bearing limestone in Box Canyon in the northeast, and from glacial gouges on Iceberg Point in the San Juan Islands to ghost forests in Willapa Bay, trees killed during the last great earthquake.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with colorful photographs and instructive diagrams make "Washington Rocks!" an indispensable travel planning guide for Washington State rockhounds, students, tourists, and residents alike. A perfect browse for the armchair traveler, "Washington Rocks!" is very highly recommended for community and academic library American Geology collections in general, and Washington State geological studies collections in particular.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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