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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 6 June 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Excelling with Autism
Brenda Smith Myles, PhD, Ruth Aspy, PhD, Kerry Mataya, MS and Hollis Shaffer
AAPC Publishing
6448 Vista Dr., Shawnee, KS 66218
9781942197386 $25.95

Synopsis: Excelling with Autism: Obtaining Critical Mass Using Deliberate Practice introduces a new way to optimize the progress of learners with ASD. Reaching critical mass helps learners apply information in new ways spontaneous generalization. This book is about doing things differently to positively impact individuals on the spectrum by supporting the development of critical mass in areas that are necessary for successful functioning in home, work, and community using the research-based elements of deliberate practice.

In this book, the four elements of deliberate practice -- developing specific goals, ensuring focus, moving out of the comfort zone, and communicating outcomes -- are applied to teaching social, communication, and daily living skills. Critical mass and the related science of deliberate practice will change the life course of individuals with ASD. Incorporating the elements of deliberate practice is a critical step toward helping individuals with ASD to reach their unlimited potential.

Critique: Excelling With Autism: Obtaining Critical Mass Using Deliberate Practice offers techniques to help learners with ASD improve their abilities. From tips to ensure focus, to providing immediate and informative feedback to ASD learners, to helping ASD learners move out of their comfort zone and more, Excelling With Autism is a superb resource from experts in the field. Highly recommended, especially for library and professional educator's collections concerning ASD students.

Detox Your Home
Christine Dimmick
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442277205, $31.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Today in America cancer affects one out of every two people, and almost every has or knows someone who has an autoimmune-related disease or allergy. We live in a world where the incidence of illness grows as fast as the GDP. Industrialization has created a world that puts products before human and environmental health. Exercise and eating right is not enough. In this rapidly growing world, our resources are depleting along with our health and the public sees and feels this daily.

Christine Dimmick is the founder and CEO of The Good Home Company Inc. She pioneered the move to combine natural ingredients and true to life scents in cleaning products over 20 years ago in her NYC kitchen. In the pages of "Detox Your Home: A Guide to Removing Toxins from Your Life and Bringing Health into Your Home" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to show homeowners and apartment dwellers just how they can limit exposure to common toxins and take control of their own health and the health of their families and loved ones. "Detox Your Home" addresses all relevant issues ranging from clothing, to food, to the household cleaning products used every day. "Detox Your Home" unveils what corporate manufacturers won't, so exposure to harmful toxins can be avoided.

Critique: "Detox Your Home" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, making it an ideal and invaluable addition to community library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Detox Your Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.25).

3D Character Development Workshop
Erik Van Horn
Mercury Learning
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781683921707, $54.95, PB, 234pp,

Synopsis: "3D Character Development Workshop: Rigging Fundamentals for Artists and Animators" by Erik Van Horn (who is an artist, animator and writer, and the Program Director of Game Art at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is specifically designed to fast-track comprehension of the concepts, tools, and methods of character rigging so that the aspiring artist can get past the technical hurdles and on to animating. This comprehensive guide is simple enough for non-technical artists to follow, yet presented in a holistic, comprehensive, best-practices approach so professional and student animators and artists can begin designing and animating their own fully-functioning characters.

"3D Character Development Workshop" features: Uses a holistic, end-to-end process that empowers the reader with an understanding of the entirety of the character development pipeline--from concept to completion; Includes a fast-tracked learning by example method. Short, iterative lessons create familiarity of best practices through rote exercise; Contains full color photos (throughout) and downloadable examples/starter files that allow out-of-sequence or selective learning.

Critique: A complete course of thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction under one cover, "3D Character Development Workshop" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, technical college, and university library Art & Animation collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "3D Character Development Workshop" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.95).

Breaking Up with Busy
Yvonne Tally
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685257, $18.95, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: Overbooking and undersleeping have almost become status symbols, and having it all seems to be synonymous with doing it all, yet what do we really accomplish with so much busyness?

Yvonne Tally leads meditation and mindfulness programs for corporations, private groups, and individuals in Silicon Valley and throughout the United States. She is an NLP Master Practitioner and cofounded Poised Inc., a fitness and lifestyle company.

In "Breaking Up with Busy: Real-Life Solutions for Overscheduled Women", Yvonne draws upon her years of experience and expertise to give women back their lives by helping them to break the busyness habit.

Yvonne offers realistic, step-by-step, and even fun ways to get off the busyness hamster wheel and reclaim personal time. Yvonne also shows how the benefits of living a more balanced life can improve longevity and spiritual well-being.

"Breaking Up with Busy" outlines ways to shift and calm the mind, learn how to say no, and create our own "busy-busting solutions".

With fifty-two refreshers and reminders, "Breaking Up with Busy" provides incremental ways to change habits, transform thinking, and reconnect with your unique, personal sense of play and pleasure.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, practicality, organization and presentation, "Breaking Up with Busy: Real-Life Solutions for Overscheduled Women" will prove to be an invaluable and prized addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Breaking Up with Busy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Oresteia
Aeschylus, author
David Mulrow, translator
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299315641, $19.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: First presented in the spring of 458 B.C.E. at the festival of Dionysus in Athens, Aeschylus' trilogy Oresteia won the first prize. Comprised of three plays (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Furies) it is the only surviving example of the ancient trilogy form for Greek tragedies.

This drama of the House of Atreus catches everyone in a bloody net. Queen Clytemnestra of Argos murders her husband Agamemnon. Their son Orestes avenges his father by killing his mother. The Furies, hideous deities who punish the murder of blood kin, pursue Orestes. Into this horrific cycle steps Athena, goddess of wisdom, who establishes the rule of law to replace fatal vengeance. Orestes is tried in court before a jury of Athenians and found not guilty. Athena transforms the Furies into benevolent goddesses and extols the virtue of mercy.

An important historical document as well as gripping entertainment, the Oresteia conveys beliefs and values of the ancient Athenians as they established the world's first great democracy. Aeschylus (525/4 - 456/5 B.C.E.) was the first of the three great tragic dramatists of ancient Greece, forerunner of Sophocles and Euripides. In this trilogy he created a new dramatic form with characters and plot, infused with spellbinding emotion.

David Mulroy's fluid, accessible English translation with its rhyming choral songs does full justice to the meaning and theatricality of the ancient Greek. In an introduction and appendixes, Professor Mulroy also provides cultural background for modern readers, actors, and students.

Critique: David Mulroy is a Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. His translations of The Complete Poetry of Catullus and of Sophocles' Theban trilogy (Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus) are all published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Now he has turned his attention to translating "The Oresteia: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Holy Goddesses" for the benefit of a new generation of appreciative readers in a volume that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Classical Greek Drama collections and supplementary studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Oresteia: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Holy Goddesses" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

White Squall: Sailing the Great Lakes
Victoria Brehm
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780970260611, $29.95, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: From the Native water monster who raised canoe-killing storms to thousand-foot cargo ships, sailing the Great Lakes has inspired autobiography, folksong, poetry, and fiction about some of the most beautiful, most dangerous, waters in the world.

"White Squall: Sailing the Great Lakes" is comprised of the words of the men and women who survived the storms, here showcased are the dangers and triumphs, the ghosts and mysteries, the daredevil risks and losses, spanning the worlds of Native journeys, wars on the lakes, early canoe travel, schooner work, yacht racing, steamer travel, and the great bulk carriers.

Their accounts are deftly edited by Victoria Brehm with introductions and technical explanations, illustrated with photographs and drawings, and accompanied by notes and a glossary of sailing terms.

Heavy-weather sailors, arm-chair sailors, and every reader in between will find something interesting. Essentially, "White Squall" is a history of the lakes written by those who knew them best in all weather and all eras from the beginning to the present.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "White Squall: Sailing the Great Lakes" is a seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Great Lakes History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "White Squall" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.99).

Endangered Species, Enduring Values
Shizue Seigel, editor
Pease Press
9780990417347, $17.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Shizue Seigel (a third-generation Japanese American writer, visual artist and community activist), "Endangered Species, Enduring Values" is a unique anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by San Francisco Area writers and artists of color.

Essentially, "Endangered Species, Enduring Values" is a kind of guide to the real San Francisco -- the seldom-heard 58% of the population that brings color and diversity to the city in every sense of the word.

"Endangered Species, Enduring Values" includes than 150 pieces by more than 70 creative men and women of color who have roots in Native America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Europe.

Contributors include current San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck, as well as artists, curators, physicians, educators, poets, performers, and activists for unions, LGBT, mental health, housing and more.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of color photography, "Endangered Species, Enduring Values" is a unique and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as a critically imposing and important addition to community and academic library Cultural Anthropology, Social Sciences, Contemporary American Literary Studies, and Contemporary American Art collections.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Winter of '79
Atwood Cutting
Echo Hill Arts Press
Print: 9780999506196 $14.99
eBook: 9780999506189 $2.99

Available to public libraries through the Self-eBook free distribution program.

The Winter of '79 finds Kate alone on an Alaskan mountain in the dead of winter while husband Tim commutes to work on an old snow machine. Kate had come from Hawaii, determined to experience a winter. Tim had migrated from Boston in response to Jack London's Call of the Wild. After eloping, the pair settled on a remote parcel of wilderness and prepared to live out their dreams. This second volume of the "Sleeping Moose Saga" trilogy describes five particularly severe seasons in a row that the newlyweds experienced together.

It's important to note that this story is autobiographical in nature and documents isolation, primitive living conditions, and a life made without benefit of communication or even everyday basic amenities such as running water.

Kate's journal of being a wilderness wife captures the heart of a wild Alaskan experience using a fictional overlay which lends her memoir a dash of dramatic embellishment. The mountain abode's location is fictional, but their bush adventures are not.

The story of Kate and her small family's private paradise receives added adornment with black and white photos that beautifully illustrate the events she depicts as Alaska's heart and soul reflects their daily lives.

One exceptional attribute of her story is its depiction. Alaska's wilderness beauty is captured in descriptions that impart a "you are there" feel of her surroundings: "'When we're finished here,' Kate said to her little companion, 'we'll go out for few rays of sunshine, and maybe collect a bouquet of spring wildflowers. It's such a beautiful day. I want you to get a gander at all the grandness that surrounds us.' When the dishes were done, the young mother saddled her little one in a pack tied across her front, and they headed out for an Alpine denizen's delight."

Usually a new reader presented with Book 2 in any given series is at a serious disadvantage as far as setting and plot are concerned; but The Winter of '79 holds the rare ability to stand alone even as it compliments its predecessor. This means that newcomers can dive right in without feeling lost, while those already familiar with Kate's story will relish its ongoing encounters.

There's an undercurrent of humor that runs through her observations and adventures: "Kate doubted his whole story. If he'd been raised by the Sioux, then she'd married Prince Rainier...", as well as a style of candidness in communications which reflects a spunky, forthright personality. "'If you'll wait outside, I'll bring you a drink,' Kate finally offered. 'But I'm not comfortable with you coming into my house uninvited.'"

There's also a mighty dose of philosophical reflection as the nature of change and its pros and cons is contemplated: "On the other hand, what would it be like to have people parked right there on the other side of those trees? How would having other people living close by change things, exactly? Would life really get better, or would it simply get more complicated?"

Warm family interactions and relationship-building moments as young Attie contemplates her first walk (which Daddy eagerly awaits) operate against the backdrop of nonstop blizzards and innovations conceived in the struggle for survival as The Winter of '79 offers a bracing, invigorating portrait of a young family's encounters with Alaska's wilderness.

The result is a saga that is hard to put down, reaching out on several different levels to illustrate a frontier lifestyle punctuated by journal entries capturing the sights, sounds, flavors, and peoples of the Alaskan bush. This story is especially highly recommended for memoir readers who like their accounts spiced with the passion of a pioneering spirit of adventure and appreciation of life.

A Child Went Forth
Boston Teran
High Top Publishing
9781567030579 $22.00

A Child Went Forth tells of a thirteen-year-old con artist, Charlie Griffin, who journeys from Brooklyn to Missouri to give secret cash to abolitionist leaders in 1851. While the age of the protagonist might lead some to think this is a young adult novel, it should be advised that A Child Went Forth is actually fodder for adult readers as much as mature teens, offering a different look at slavery and racism through the eyes and experiences of a young character in a novel replete with heroes, heroines, romance, and danger.

It's immediately evident that Boston Teran writes with a hand nicely dipped in metaphor and description: "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature in his pictures. I learned this from you, Mister Beecher. And what is the great canvas of our age? It is America, sir. And the country we paint together will determine the future of this great nation."

The words of evangelist Henry Ward Beecher and father Zacharia Griffin's utter disrespect of the abolitionist efforts leads Charlie to question growing perceptions of the political and social injustices of his time and his father's impact and choices in that world: "His father had that way of making Charlie disbelieve there was a heart beating under all that duplicity."

From confidence schemes and slave catchers to encounters with assassins, millionaire gunfighters, church involvements, and thieves and liars, A Child Went Forth blossoms into a social examination as Charlie learns how to make his own decisions about doing the right thing in a world riddled with deception.

The historical roots of abolitionist America are reflected throughout A Child Went Forth as a host of fictional and historical figures interact and special interests unfold. Many characters enter and exit Charlie's story; but under Teran's hand, psychological and social developments are nicely done and well-detailed. Action moves the story along in a spirited manner that allows time for reflection.

The result is an involving novel with the unique ability to entertain and educate all at once: a story of resolution, adventure, and America's emerging values as seen through the eyes and experiences of a young man coming of age along with his country.

Historical novel readers will find A Child Went Forth to be astute, penetrating, and quite involving.

The Dark Cabin Murders
Frank L. Gertcher
Wind Grass Hill Books
Hardcover: 9780983575429 $29.95
Softcover: 9780983575412 $16.95

The Dark Cabin Murders opens in the year 1840 in Indiana, where successful swindlers John Edwin and Maude Worthington and their eleven-year-old-son Thomas have gained title to an isolated cabin where they set their sights on another victim: wealthy newcomer John Murrow, who harbors his own dark secrets of murder and thievery. Predictably, Murrow vanishes; but not before these events gain the attention of those already suspicious of the Worthingtons.

As the years pass, son Thomas pays the price of his family's decisions, even though he's grown up to be a wealthy architect and seemingly is a successful man. His childhood friends James and Samantha notice that success does not seem to have given Thomas lasting satisfaction; but when his parents are murdered, the trio of friends returns home from the Civil War to find a new battle has evolved on the home front: one involving past injustices and present-day vengeance.

The Dark Cabin Murders is not your typical murder mystery. It's steeped in Indiana historical background and the challenges presented to a good-hearted boy faced with dark cruelty and lasting guilt.

There's also a healthy dose of mystical encounters as Samantha's soul delves into otherworldly encounters with puzzling visions of the past that lend both clarity and clues to her friend's life and struggles. These insights into interconnected lives of Thomas, James, and Samantha and the consequences of their choices lend a multidimensional facet to the story line and move it from a murder mystery to a deeper examination of life purpose: "Like James before her, she saw that each path had different people, events and outcomes. Every person was free to make choices. Some choices made by others would affect her, some would not. She also saw that some of her choices would affect others."

It's difficult to easily peg the audience for this original story. The initial youth of the characters would seem to indicate a young adult readership; but the subjects of murder, Civil War encounters, the deeper spiritual impact of character choices, and the passage of time involving interconnected lives of Samantha and her friends would suggest appropriateness for an adult audience.

Suffice it to say that as the story line evolves, readers from mature teens to adults will both find the murder mystery strong in characterization, dialogue, and psychological and spiritual revelations. The Dark Cabin Murders opens the door to a new kind of murder probe that relies not so much on the 'whodunnit', but upon explanations of life choices and their lasting impacts on all.

Readers of murder mysteries looking for a range of insights into motivations cemented by strong descriptions of place and time will relish the many facets of The Dark Cabin Murders, which is anything but singular, involving readers in probes of inner being as well as mysteries and events that ultimately examine wider issues of the impact of life choices.

Not Without Risk
Pete Trewin
AIA Publishing
9780987627216 Paper: $13.00; Kindle: $2.99

Martin Bennett isn't a detective or an investigator by trade. He's a man who has narrowly escaped a health issue and seems to have a new lease on life. When, by chance, he sees an ex-friend (who'd destroyed his marriage) murdered on an elevator and finds that the body has been hastily disposed of and the case seemingly covered up, he has no idea that his job of restoring Merseyside to prosperity has somehow become entangled with a murder mystery.

Forced by circumstance to become an amateur sleuth, Martin finds himself navigating murky political and social waters in Merseyside that he'd never considered in the past, moving from the cardiac clinic to an unlikely association with a woman who rejects the corruption in her own profession, as the town mayor's key assistant.

Not Without Risk is no casual murder mystery, but a complex and well-detailed story that embraces British politics, culture, and the experiences of an urban planner who faces corruption and special interests in the course of his job of redesigning communities.

Being an amateur to detective work, Martin often operates outside his comfort zone and his inquisitive nature actually can work against him; but the real meat in the story lies in well-detailed, absorbing descriptions of community and personalities which draw readers into the story and keep them on their toes and immersed.

Political ambitions and hard bargains, the process of laying a deadly trap that precludes possible witnesses and Martin's increasing involvement in complex matters involving computer hacking, key contracts, and political enemies turned deadly makes for an involving tale that's hard to predict, with many special forces at work in the background.

The result is a classic British investigative piece that juxtaposes Martin's medical condition with some special sacrifices that may or may not lead his job through murky influences and into a better light for all. Riveting and engrossing, Not Without Risk is especially recommended for prior fans of British murder investigations who like their reads steeped in social and political insights.

Stories from the Witch Store
Olga Gutsol
Independently Published
9781975614133 $1.99 Kindle, $5.95 paperback

Amazon link:

Goodreads link:

Nook link:

Stories from the Witch Store presents a young witch whose ambition to open a magic store in a small town turns into trouble when her charming idea results in an unexpectedly boring business environment. It seems that Arelia, though she's an adept witch, wasn't cut out to be a small business owner; and so she begins a diary about her real passion in life: teaching non-witches the ins and outs of magic.

The diary format is used to explore her evolution as Arelia moves from a dull beginning ("How did I end up here, in the quintessence of boredom? When I first came to Burnaville to open my magic potions store, I fell in love with the town, with its decorated balconies, stone pavements, and brightly painted wooden buildings...Yet only two years later I am in a constant fight with this impenetrable monotony.") to a promising new venture in life.

Though Stories from the Witch Store features a young witch on its cover and would initially seem to be a fantasy story for teen readers, the presence of big words and larger ideas will also lend to its enjoyment by adults looking for something refreshingly different.

The diary entries are at once poignant and whimsical ("Morning was unpleasant. Rain was unpleasant. Lack of clients was unpleasant. I played cards with Cat and Puck, lost five times in a row, and called Puck a swindler, with which Cat agreed wholeheartedly. Puck called Cat a traitor and locked himself in a chimney") and offer a few puzzles (how does one lock oneself in a chimney?) and many amusing observations about village life ("I met Madame Rouge in the market today. It is fascinating how makeup can transform women. From merely fearsome, she became explicitly dreadful.").

The cute black and white cartoon-like drawings introducing each chapter contrast with a tone of serious inspection throughout. This keeps teens and adults on their toes as they absorb the unpredictably whimsical tales surrounding an aspiring shopkeeper's observations of townspeople who both learn from and protest her offerings: "Draculus sent an owl message reporting that the blocking illusions had worked. The girls spent another day running around in complete confusion and then by pure coincidence discovered...Victor. Now they are running around Victor and arguing whether werewolves are better than vampires. Typical girls' dilemma."

The plethora of big words inject a learning experience into these fun tales ("We did not interfere, just sat on the windowsill admiring the strength of Burnaville women and listening to musical and fruity opprobrious language slowly dying down in the romantic mist of a looming night.").

While it may prove a challenge to easily peg the age group of a potential audience for Stories from the Witch Store, this should reach and delight readers who enjoy humorous fantasy, the opportunity to increase their vocabulary in the course of a lively read, and those who appreciate the ability of the diary format to lend a tone of personal observation that a first- or third-person approach couldn't match.

Zany, fun, and unexpectedly original and unpredictable, Stories from the Witch Store shouldn't be limited to young readers alone, but will find an appreciative audience among any who relish stories of magic, witches, and entrepreneurial endeavors gone awry.

Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow
Joseph O. Adegboyega-Edun
Yoruba Boy Books
9780692995037 $13.00 Paper; $3.99 Kindle

Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow is the first book in a series that provides a fresh, new look at the fantasy genre billed as 'Afrofuturist' as it follows Dara Adeleye, a student in the year 93 O.O. whose world was changed decades before her birth by the Miracle of Elegua, which stabilized collapsing humanity on Earth. Her future as an artist blends with a determination to help her loved ones rise above poverty in a world that seems, once again, on the brink of collapse.

Kristano Arvelo is a trazer: a graffiti artist whose words can ignite revolution and change. The mystic trazer community is just one of the forces that influence whether the world survives this latest challenge, or whether the carefully-built social stratas separating humanity fall into chaos once again.

Although Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow holds teen characters and therefore can be readily marketed as a teen fantasy novel, it should be mentioned that its level of complexity, social issues, and Yoruba-based spiritual elements injected into a futuristic setting make it a top recommendation for adult readers of dystopian novels, as well.

From medical experiments on those with extranormal abilities to Dara's determination to challenge processes of indoctrination in her school and her attempts to rise above both her station in life and the propaganda teachings that would keep her there, Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow creates a complex and delicately balanced society of kids who aspire to be something more than their backgrounds and training.

Creative terminology unique to this story ("phrinways" and slang language) will challenge teens as they navigate this very different world, but dialogue and actions cements character relationships and interactions nicely and never stray too far from the norm: "The little pudgy boy in my dreams was protective and fiery. There was destiny in his waddle. He spoke of the gods in a tone of true belief. Even then you gave off the air of purpose." (There's also a Glossary at the back of the book which defines and clarifies any lingo that may remain a puzzle during the course of this adventure; though confusion is minimal because context is nicely woven into any slang references.)

Perhaps the strongest feature of Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow lies in its ability to move its young characters from self-centered actions and perspectives to bigger-picture thinking. As the kids take risks and murder becomes part of the equation, readers are led into a world that asks many questions about morals and ethics, the consequences of individual pursuits, and belief systems that involve faithful followers and purposeful political pundits alike in a struggle for survival.

Mature teens to adults will relish the evolving spiritual and cultural message of legacy and inheritance which runs through this saga, as well as the thought-provoking considerations of evil, monsters, and the truth behind these creations.

Readers looking for a complex, multi-faceted futuristic story firmly rooted in both Yoruba culture and broader world issues will relish this fast-paced, very different story which stands out from all others in the genres of dystopian reads or teen fantasy to create a powerful adventure and message during the course of unpredictable action and satisfyingly intricate subplots.

Cross x Wired: A Psycho-Sexual Investigation of The Thrill Detective
Robert Rubenstein
9781986204491 $10.75 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Cross x Wired: A Psycho-Sexual Investigation of The Thrill Detective combines a dark noir detective piece with a psychological drama replete with elements of literary and political satire; and while the effort sometimes proves a challenge to neatly categorize for genre-specific marketing purposes, it cultivates a dark sense of entertainment and angst.

On the surface, this is the story of a detective recovering from electro-shock therapy who is on a mission to find the girl who landed him in trouble. However, this is no light pursuit. Cross x Wired presents graphic metaphorical sexual scenes, violence, a talented female photographer's penchant for depicting realistic terror in her 'galleries of the gruesome', and evolving relationships between men, women, and those who would obtain power over one another.

All this is woven into a complex backdrop of social inspection and accusation, the creation of masterpieces of depravity, terror and horror, and sizzling scenes designed to agitate reader sensibilities as they follow a murky, complex world and characters who can barely navigate their lives; much less each other.

Hidden within the overlay of a detective piece are a series of literary and social reflections that force readers to wade through scenarios of depravity and dark characters in survival mode to navigate the trajectories of love and its high price.

There are characters willing to die for love and possession as well as moments of passion intertwined with graphic displays of depravity, juxtaposed with sweet scenes that each demonstrate Robert Rubenstein's prowess at crafting metaphor and analysis: "As a detective, he searched for clues. As a man, he was searching, too. There were hidden intimacies. Shared moments when love had come briefly. A blush, a kiss. An unrushed moment when two hearts touched. The eyes adrift in the morning dew. The smell of earth, of grass and green fields. The dizzying sea, angling to cover him inside an endless summer wave."

The language is as much a draw in the story line as its characters and their special purposes, immersing readers in a mercurial adventure story that moves from political jest and social inspection to the dilemma of the personal with an 'everyman' lost in illusions surrounding the pursuit of love and connections.

From the two-sided nature of modern culture to the setting of post-apocalyptic America and its fractured society, Cross x Wired continually challenges its readers with thought-provoking clashes of reason, psyche, and social and political structure. It is especially recommended for literary audiences who like their stories steeped in metaphorical yet explicit sexual encounters tempered with satiric and pointed observations of social and individual condition. Wired, indeed!

The Freedom Game
R.A. Blumenthal
Loose Leaves Publishing, LLC
Softcover: 9781624320309
eBook: 9781624320316

In 1842, a teenager grows up as a slave on Vanner's place, affects a daring escape that leads not only him but over twenty fellow slaves on a journey for freedom, and eventually returns to Webb's Bend, a small town in the corner of Cherokee territory, as a free man.

While readers might anticipate the usual focus on abolitionists, slavery, and struggles for freedom from this introduction, it's important to note that The Freedom Game has its roots in a lesser-known historical fact. Native Americans themselves owned thousands of slaves before the American Civil War; and this book is based on the true story of events of the Slave Revolt of 1842, when twenty-five slaves successfully escaped from a Cherokee plantation.

This story of not only one teen's successful and unprecedented efforts but the lives of the twenty-four other slaves changed by their sojourn to freedom thus examines not only slavery's issues but the cultural clashes between races and ideals of the times. It's especially powerful in offering many insights into Native American involvements in slavery that will be lesser-known facts to most readers.

Young adults receive a vivid, engrossing examination that includes solid psychological depth because the characters don't just operate under conflicted and challenging social and political circumstances, but confront the progress of their own lives and interrelationships: "I hesitated to share everything with Rose. I was getting used to my thoughts and actions being kept secret, not trusting anyone with the whole truth. It was hard for me to do because I didn't like dishonesty. Some people like to keep secrets, they enjoy pretending, making a lie look real. I'm not one of them. If I'm not telling the truth, it makes me feel like there's a hard rock in my stomach. Lately, that's all I seemed to be doing, though, keeping secrets, hiding the truth, telling lies."

The true strength of historical fiction (particularly when it's directed to younger adults who require action, adventure, and solid characterization to maintain interest in the background issues being presented) lies in its ability to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the times and character concerns as they make choices and live their lives.

The Freedom Game personalizes political and cultural clashes and makes them vivid and engrossing, winding them into local atmosphere for good measure and addressing the kinds of changes that lead individuals to become transformed with new options and the promise of new lives: "In a leather holster at his side, where he once carried tools to build, he kept the long, sharp knife he had used to cut the rope. Caleb the mechanic, the carpenter, had become Caleb the rustler and warrior. Could I become such a warrior? I had read stories of ancient knights who fought with honor for a worthy cause. They were willing to sacrifice, face danger, perhaps death, not for sport, not to impress. They believed that their fight was more important than themselves. Could I be such a knight? I wasn't sure, but I was determined to try. As we felt our way through the darkness, I looked up at the wide night sky. I didn't know what the sky looked like in other places, but here, in Webb's Bend, the clear fall air allowed every star to sparkle its best sparkle, and the moon to shine its brightest bright. We were like those stars and that moon, shining our brightest bright, daring to cast away everything we had been taught about who we were and what our lives were for..."

Young adults who want different visions of Cherokee and Native American society and their relationships to slavery will find The Freedom Game a vibrant, revealing odyssey that cements history exactly where it becomes most relevant: through the eyes, hearts, and minds of individuals in general and a young protagonist who faces romance, adversity, and struggle in his world.

Very highly recommended!

Earth Healing
Dr. Mahdi Mason
MoshPit Publishing
9781925666618 (paperback) $19.95
9781925666625 (ebook) $ 9.99

Earth Healing: Healing the Earth to Heal Ourselves is for any activist (or would-be activist) reader interested in taking personal responsibility for healing the Earth, and evolved from the experiences of a doctor whose work in environmental management and indigenous culture adds an extra dimension to the usual insights on connections between environmental concerns and human affairs.

Chapters help readers understand how environmental influences enter into their daily affairs, using receive a "you can do it" sentiment throughout that takes individual perceptions of powerless when facing bigger issues and turns them into a focus on things that can be done on an individual level to make an impact.

It expands the usual focus on reducing one's personal environmental footprint to consider the next step, which involves reversing damage already done. The effort embraces committing to and becoming an 'Earth Healer' and the methods for achieving this are as diverse as fostering new connections to nature and Mother Earth, generating less waste by avoiding single-use items and packaging, growing, using, and choosing natural products, and embarking on a metaphysical effort to 'Dream the World Into Being' ("In other words, focus on what you want to happen so that the Universe can make it happen for you. In terms of Earth healing, it's imperative we keep dreaming a better world into being.").

After locating one's individual voice, renewed purpose, and commitment to life-sustaining choices in everything from consumer products to food and making the kinds of changes that can blossom into circles of like-minded individual education, Earth Healing proceeds to promote revised ways of living life with gratitude, positivity, sensitivity, and a newfound awareness of one's personal impact and power.

The result is a set of guidelines that move from ethereal, spiritual, and psychological adjustments to a focus on 'giving back' to the planet as a whole. It represents a call to action on many different levels. While new age readers will be the major audience for this kind of message, any reader interested in personal empowerment and environmental issues will find its diverse tips for change to be astute and achievable.

Earth Healing is especially recommended for those already on the path of environmental concern who want concrete physical, mental, and spiritual approaches to making a real difference in the planet's future and humanity's place and role in Mother Earth's evolution.

Squatter's Gold
Timothy A. Brown
NFB Publishing
9780999620861 $14.95

Squatter's Gold is Book 1 of the 'Sam White Homeless Mysteries' series, introducing a historical novel based on the experiences of successful 1850 California Gold Rush prospectors, Sacramento's historic Squatter's Riots, and the legend of lost gold hidden in a tree. With such diverse roots in reality, it seems a no-brainer that a story based upon these events would be engrossing, and Squatter's Gold lives up to this expectation with a fast-paced, multifaceted plot that keeps readers enthralled and involved right up to the end.

The first thing to note about Squatter's Gold is that its timeline moves unexpectedly between 1850s California history and events to modern-day 2002, where homelessness in the state's capital city is rampant.

It's unusual to see a historical background paired with an modern urban mystery, but Timothy A. Brown deftly pulls off this marriage of timelines in a production that will attract the very difference audiences of history buffs and readers interested in the social issues of poverty and homelessness. The central character is a social worker who is anything but an investigator, but who finds himself drawn to past and present in an unusual manner.

As the story evolves, readers receive solid descriptions that range from murder in a homeless encampment to political and social advocacy efforts and Sam's efforts to address the homeless issue: "Sam knew Police and Park Rangers who would shake their heads at the notion of ending homeless camping simply by enforcement. When campers took their cases to court the City often lost and keeping homeless people in jail for non-violent offenses was a huge waste of money the city couldn't afford. Of course the constant camping citations did criminalize homeless people, many of whom suffered from addictions and mental illness."

At this point it should be pointed out that readers who pick up Squatter's Gold anticipating either a Gold Rush adventure or a hardboiled mystery will find that this mercurial story is neither; yet embraces some of the drama and trappings of both. While readers of formula and genre productions who seek entertainment value alone might chafe at the additional depth and social perspectives offered in a leisure read, the result elevates the entire production beyond the usual confines of a singular genre choice to create an engrossing series of encounters that send Sam on a treasure hunt beyond his wildest dreams as a social worker.

As threatening notes, homeless community interrelationships, and violence emerge, Sam finds his job moves into street encounters and efforts to save a legendary treasure and vindicate a man's death over its discovery.

Readers who like their stories firmly rooted in a sense of place (in this case, California's Sacramento) and a sense of purpose (Sam's newfound efforts to make a difference in the lives of the homeless) will find Squatter's Gold a compelling, vivid read whose underlying consideration of social issues will linger in the mind as much as its story of a struggle for gold and new opportunities.

Kfir Luzzatto
Pine Ten
Kindle: 9781938212727 $4.99
EPUB: 9781938212734 $4.99
Paperback: 9781938212710 $TBA

Ordering links:





Chipless presents an uncertain and strange utopian/dystopian future world in which chips are placed in the brains of each infant to prevent disease. Perhaps predictably, those with chip implants can ultimately be manipulated and ruled. When a young physicist discovers the truth behind the 'health chips,' he also finds his life is threatened.

Amber is a chipless girl who is determined to help Kal escape from the forces threatening them both, and they embark on a journey to escape the city, armed with a weapon that could change everything. This makes them of special interest to those with a vested interest in subjugating humanity.

Unfortunately, to reach a place where they will be safe, they must journey through even more dangerous territories; and their high adventure, which involves leaving the dubious civilization of a protective but controlled city in an effort to find safety elsewhere, may be an even more questionable venture than fighting the forces that would control mankind.

From scientists' rights to struggles over technology's use, Chipless provides a host of scenarios that offer thought-provoking moments throughout: "What you want to do will turn everyone with a chip into a marionette, even more than they are today. When we started this work, following that of our mentor, the first High Professor, we wanted to do good. We aimed to shelter our people from the plagues of the world outside, to give them a healthy, good life. And look what you've done with that - you have taken their freedom away by feeding their brains with lies! If I were to tell you how to change their memories as well, I would become a criminal just like you. I won't do it."

The seeming utopia that represents the bastion of civilization in The City vies with the price of eliminating diseases and creating hope about the future survival of humanity, and these elements are carefully wound into a gripping story of moral, ethical, and social conundrums experienced by all the characters.

Readers gain an interesting perspective on a dying utopian community that attempts to influence a very different realm, Freeland, with a choice of aggression or cooperation serving as a model for change. They also receive an intriguing adventure as Kal and Amber journey through the countryside via rickshaw, take gambles, and hone their abilities to achieve the unimaginable in order to survive and ultimately regain control of their memories and lives.

Chipless offers an engaging story line that excels in unexpected twists and turns; and while the tale doesn't end in a cliffhanger per se, it does conclude with an open-ended feel promising more.

Fans of dystopian fantasy who enjoy stories of societal and personal challenges to values as threats to survival emerge will appreciate the especially vivid characters and action of Chipless, which is ultimately designed to make readers think about the roots of tyrannical impulses and freedom. Chipless is very highly recommended both for its strong characterization and a deeper action that revolves as much around ethical questions as it does upon individual choice.

Heaven vs. Reincarnation
The Dharma
Clink Street Publishing
9781911525172 $2.98 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Are there rational explanations for spiritual concepts like karma, heaven and hell, and reincarnation? Heaven vs. Reincarnation is not for the reader who would delve into the definition and proof of reincarnation; but rather for those who would more closely examine the intersection between the basic Biblical narrative of God and human interpretations of spirituality as it relates to their personal goals in life.

Hinduism offers no easy explanations or rationales, the author points out. Its foundations are contrasted with 'king religious' approaches to faith, contrasting this with the welcoming nature of 'teacher faith' and its very different, open classroom-style approach to sharing belief. Essential teachings in karma and reincarnation from this and other religions are contrasted for their different styles, approaches, and impacts in a survey that discusses dreams, goals, and fallacies in expectations and interpretations of God.

The Dharma's language is both reasoned and chatty, in tone: "God is not sugar daddy. You will get what you asked for - Heaven is real, but you might yet be disappointed - for you are asking for something that is unnatural - just joy and happiness to be given to you without any pain or suffering - only the lower forms of life can enjoy that - to be reborn as a tree or a rock - to throw away human life for the life of a tree! But that is what you chose."

As discussions move from the difference between faith and religion to considerations of processes of revenge, justice, vengeance, why Hinduism has never taught 'fear of God' and other facets of its approach, readers receive not the anticipated review of reincarnation's relationship to Christian belief systems; but a deeper inspection of its incorporation into Hindu beliefs as well as a consideration of what Heaven truly promises or means to many believers.

It's unusual to see psychological insights and interpretations in what is basically a spiritual survey; but Heaven vs. Reincarnation's wide-ranging and often free-flowing style doesn't leave out psychology, philosophy, politics, world affairs, or social issues in its consideration of the larger meaning of life on earth and human connections to and perceptions of heaven and reincarnation.

Examples of ordinary people who contribute to life on Earth in different ways consider whether they would likely choose to return to continue their processes, offering a much broader perspective than a historical or religious survey alone could have accomplished.

The result is not a series of definitions nor even a cross-comparison of religions and their teachings; but a detailed discussion of choices, rewards, and perceptions of heavenly attributes and benefits in a revealing probe of values, ethics, and life purposes that takes a broader view and invites readers to consider their own life process and how they fit into the definitions of heaven, reincarnation, and a life well lived.

Confound It
Maggie Toussaint
Camel Press
9781603815963 $16.95

Confound It is the fifth book in the Dreamwalker mystery series and returns psychic sleuth (she prefers the term 'Dreamwalker') Baxley to a new mystery that both compliments others in this ongoing series and stands well on its own for newcomers.

Here Baxley Powell faces a home meth lab fire that is much more than it initially seems, and finds her talents and inquisitive nature challenged not just by crime, but by the complex twists and turns of family relationships and interactions.

Mystery fans will anticipate a probe into a drug ring's operations; but should be advised that there are satisfying surprises woven into the story line which create a bigger picture than either a drug ring investigation or family involvements.

As the story progresses, Baxley finds her special abilities tested in the search for an especially clever killer as she interacts with a Cherokee leader (who shows her respect as not just a psychic detective, but a powerful spiritwalker equal to his prowess), assesses healing possibilities, considers how a palm reader may be connected to the case, and works with the police and her own investigative senses to solve what turns out to be a truly confounding crime.

Mystery readers who enjoy detective pieces based on both supernatural touches and interpersonal relationships will relish the combination of whodunit and a vivid threat to a boy's body and soul that connects children to secret meth lab operations and goals.

The result is a complex, multifaceted read that holds many satisfying twists and turns even for the staid detective story reader. Confound It will prove hard to put down and surprising right up to its final revelations.

Gate 76
Andrew Diamond
Stolen Time Press
9780996350761 $12.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

It's mysterious enough when a fleeing woman boards the wrong plane and vanishes; but as troubled detective Freddy Ferguson discovers early on in Gate 76, matters are even more frustrating because the woman seems to be the only witness to a crime that's making headlines in the nation's newspapers.

Freddy's method involves not just tracking her movements, but backtracking through clues about her life. What he uncovers holds dangerous implications for not only his missing witness, but the world.

Gate 76 is a complex mystery not only because the perp at large and the threatened witness are in the crosshairs of investigation; but because of threats to the investigator's life and the processes of airline security, among other things.

What's Freddy's special interest in this case? He simply wants to make sure the woman is ok. It doesn't make sense that a call girl would commit such a heinous act of violence and then vanish: motive and method are both far from plausible.

As Freddy examines his own relationships with women, his life choices, his ongoing struggles, and his sometimes-poor decisions (such as promising his four-year-old son that a menagerie of animals will appear at his birthday party when in actuality his ex is holding it at Chuck E. Cheese with quite a different atmosphere in mind), he sidles ever closer to a truth that leads readers to think about not just choices in life, but differing perceptions of how they should be made and applied.

As Freddy and his readers edge closer to the truth, the question becomes what he will do about it - and what they will think about this particular choice, which is perhaps one of the bigger ones in his life.

Diamond's sharp inspection offers a different psychological approach to the typical whodunit mystery, taking a terrorist dilemma and adding personal touches that almost force self-inspection on a reader's part as they wade through Freddy's dilemmas and almost-predictable self-destructive ways.

The result is a vivid story not just of terrorism and missing perps and witnesses (that would actually be a simpler scenario to paint); but one of interpersonal relationships, motivations that spill from personal to professional circles, and how one flawed hero might get it right (or not).

Readers of mysteries and terrorism plots are in for a different kind of adventure and a real treat with Gate 76.

Primary Anomaly
Peter Sonntag
Izzard Ink Publishing
Softback: 9781642280005 $18.95
Hardback: 9781642280012 $27.95
eBook: 9781642280029 $7.99

Primary Anomaly takes place in the decades following 2033, after an experiment in human genomes has gone awry and destroyed much of humanity.

A corporation has proved key to mankind's survival, establishing Habitats that save the last bastions of the world after the illusion of good intentions has long died. But humanity's kick start must of necessity be selective; and so only those who are proven to be unaffected by mutation are allowed to enter this brave new world.

A clear introduction sets the background and stage for what is to come, using a recap from 'S.V.'s Logs' to follow the progress of a super virus, doomsday machines, and the social, political, and physical disintegration of a society. Mutants and survivors clash in this changed world, whose fable taking place against the backdrop of the controlled Habitats which both lock out humans and lock in new possibilities.

But a new beginning for mankind isn't the only theme in Primary Anomaly. A new augmented soldier program experiment results in one surviving drone evolving new powers in this confused world. Unregulated and unsupervised for the first time in his life, the young man embarks on a journey through and past the world he's always known as a drone, facing vicious encounters between Three, the Taskmaster, Enforcers, abominations, and more.

As Peter Sonntag walks through this world of struggle, readers receive a powerful view of its too-few promises and numerous obstacles to survival. And yet, humanity in general and the characters in particular seem to find purposes, new meaning, and revised vision within the chaos and violent encounters which lead them through an army of the animated and slaughter of innocents and into confrontations over a new weapon.

As Three and his companions face a corporate cloaking device, military strategies and confrontations, and their own responsibilities in setting in motion a new wave of events that will change the world, readers find themselves in a gripping position as the observers of the world's final evolutionary process.

It should be cautioned that a cliffhanger conclusion may stymie those who like at least the basics of the story tied up in the introductory book in a projected series.

The result is a sci-fi blend of military and social commentary wound into the form of a fable that holds messages and meaning not only for mankind which possibly teeters on its last legs, but for readers interested in the price of survival and the ultimate meaning of remaining human in the aftermath of a catastrophically changed society.

Beneath the Same Heaven: A Novel
Anne Marie Ruff
Open Books
9781948598019 $19.95

The initial story of American woman Kathryn (who marries Pakistani Muslim man Rashid) and their two children at first seems to mirror the nonfiction story of Not Without My Daughter, an account of an American woman's involvement with an Iranian man which leads to her entrapment in the Middle East. But Beneath the Same Heaven: A Novel takes a different turn when Rashid's father is killed by an American drone near the Afghanistan border, prompting cross-cultural family connections to fray and shatter.

Suddenly questions of grief, loyalty, and revenge are mixed into issues of terrorism, political alliances, and family relationships and duties, bringing the international arena solidly into their homes to wreak anguish and havoc on their love for one another.

It quickly becomes evident that Beneath the Same Heaven is about many things in the course of describing personal and political events; not the least of which is how love survives the greatest of family battles and clashes of cultural perception.

One doesn't anticipate the sense of mystery that also hovers over evolving events, but it's present from the very first lines which introduce Kathryn and Rashid's dilemmas: "So you don't know where he is?" the man asks, with some urgency. "What do you mean?" Kathryn answers into the phone, soap bubbles dripping off her hand into the kitchen sink. "You scheduled his off shore job. He told me he'd be gone for a week or so." "You better call him, and find out where he's at," the man abruptly hangs up.

Moving back and forth in time and between countries, Beneath the Same Heaven deftly draws connections, builds (and sometimes destroys) interpersonal relationships, and crafts poignant, unexpected insights during moments of crisis: "How do you do that? Show me the world I think I knew, but upside down. Making me understand that maybe what I had thought was right and wrong isn't so black and white."

At many points in the story, cultural conflict leads to greater understanding and much-revised perceptions of the world; and this is one of the strengths in Beneath the Same Heaven's approach to the process of a family's coping with the personal impact of terrorism.

From Kathryn's emotional transitions between love, hate, and reconciliation to a divided family and how they come to terms with life-threatening and life-changing new paradigms, Beneath the Same Heaven winds a sticky web of complex interactions through the first-person perceptions of both Rashid and Kathryn.

Twenty years later, their lives are still in flux, and readers are swept into a time-traveling ride that follows consequences and aftermaths like ripples in a lake. This sense of adaptation, change, and even surprising transformations lend Beneath the Same Heaven a delicate sense of balance and insight that will delight readers seeking strong cross-cultural connections in the course of their reading.

A powerful literary piece that excels in cultural understanding, Beneath the Same Heaven should not be missed by any reader who enjoys not just a love story, but a close inspection of evolving connections against political and social devastation.

Fates Awoken
P. Anastasia
Fluorescence Books
9780997448559 $16.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Fates Awoken is a young adult fantasy adventure that picks up where Fates Aflame stopped; so it's especially recommended for prior young fans who want a continuation of the tale. Despite this note, it's important to point out that Fates Awoken is designed to be a stand-alone novel, so while author Anastasia's enthusiasts will welcome this continuation, familiarity is not a requirement for newcomers.

War has been declared on Rayvenstar Castle and Admiral Hawksford's team is sent to address the threats. Soon she discovers that the facts as presented to her don't support reality as she faces the clash of disparate personalities, the test of her powers as Elemental Guardian, and circumstances which lead her to realize her affinity for magic is more powerful than she'd realized.

P. Anastasia employs the first person to bring Valhara's world and impressions to life; and this is the first strength to mention in a vivid fantasy saga that combines a traditional quest with the story of a woman evolving into the powers of her world.

Another important note; this is clean, epic reading. No heads will graphically roll; nor are there steamy scenes, contributing to the enjoyment of a story that rests as much upon psychological self-inspection as on epic adventure.

Widely respected as a powerful Elemental Guardian, Valhara finds not only her powers but her beliefs tested in events to come, facing ice dragons, bloodmanes, and even more important tests of truth and lies in the process of confronting everything she believes.

If all this sounds like heady reading for young adults, it should be noted that mature teens already reading epic fantasy stories will find nothing overly challenging about the language or concepts, here. They merely invite YA readers to think about deeper issues without proving overly complex.

Having an epic adventure tempered by strong characters, vivid fantasy threads, and personality clashes is always a good and rare occasion, and Fates Awoken doesn't disappoint in its ability to gain sympathy for an already-strong woman who finds her powers sorely tested.

Book 2 in the series crafts a rollicking ride through political and physical threats compounded by the volatile temperament of a king who demands that he be defended, yet too often threatens his own life. YA readers and many an adult fantasy fan alike will find Fates Awoken a potent saga that proves hard to put down, firmly rooted in Valhara's changing perceptions about her place in the world.

A Well-Respected Man
David W. Berner
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
9781948260008 $7.99 Kindle/$13.50 Paper/$26.00 Hardcover

A Well-Respected Man documents a successful college professor and novelist whose acclaimed romance and celebrated career splinter around him when an affair with a student crosses lines and shatters his well-respected life.

Emotionally compromised, with a career in ruins, Martin Gregory retreats to a quiet English village to lick his wounds; but his life is not destined to become that of a recluse. When Emily brings him a message that sends him on an unexpected journey, this once-respected man finds he's not only re-examining his past, but reconsidering his future.

Love, loss, and transformation are common themes in novels but they assume more literary proportions under David W. Berner's approach, which winds messages about choice, consequences, and wider-ranging life changes into a saga of male and female interactions and perceptions.

Is Martin worthy of such a message and mission? Even before the life-changing communique is delivered, Martin doubts his importance: "In a few minutes, a woman would be at his door with a message that could alter his life, a woman who would look him in the eye, survey his world, and in minutes decide whether Martin was worthy of the message she had promised to deliver. Certainly the outcome of this night would have little to do with whether Martin's flat was messy or spotless, but it seemed at that moment to be the only thing Martin could control. He didn't know what he wanted, what this all meant, or exactly how he fit in, but he was certain he had to show his best side, for whatever reason, for whatever it might mean."

Can Martin pay tribute to a woman he once loved and the situation she's in, which demands support and a response he may be ill-prepared to give?

It should be warned that philosophical reflection is as much a part of Martin's journey as the psychological factors revolving around ethics, responsibility, and a call to action upon a man who has just destroyed his life. The impossible situation leads him to not only confront himself, but Amelia, Bobby, and the fate of a child.

Readers interested in reflective drama pieces that swirl around the obstacles and rewards of a past relationship's lasting impact on the future and one man's destiny will find

A Well-Respected Man somber, absorbing, and the beautifully-penned story of a man's process of coming out of his shell and re-embracing the world in a new way.

The Artist and the Soldier
Angelle Petta
Warren Publishing
9781943258727 $15.95

The Artist and the Soldier opens in 1938 on Long Island, where two young men meet at a Nazi-American summer camp and develop feelings for one another in an era when gay love was barely acknowledged, much less understood.

Torn apart by circumstance and war, under normal circumstances Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel would never meet again; but fate and brings them back together five years later in the most unlikely of places, on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Now they find their friendship both evolving and tested against the backdrop of the rise of Italian fascism.

Coming of age stories with historical backgrounds like this hold vast opportunity for understanding both of social milieu and personal struggle. Under the right hand, the historic events almost take second stage to character development, but entwine into the story in such a manner as to reinforce the overlay of familiar history with a powerful undercurrent of psychological insight.

The Artist and the Soldier's delicate progression through war, peace, an evolving gay relationship, and the forces of love and hate at work on everything creates a commanding story that builds from the roots of friendship. These facets evolve into commitment, different social and political growth, and choices that blend military encounters with personal obligations and fears.

How does the making of a film lead to the saving of lives? Max's dangerous plan, which unfolds in Nazi-occupied Rome and involves hiring Jews as 'extras' in a movie in an elaborate ruse to help them escape the Nazis, brings a lesser-publicized piece of World War II history to life.

When shown against the backdrop of a different kind of dangerous relationship, The Artist and the Soldier succeeds on several fronts. It deftly pairs a historical novel background with many social insights and uses the experiences of two very different young men to bring their personal relationship to life.

Readers of historical novels and gay fiction will applaud the depth and diversity of this story, which stands out from the crowd in both historical novel and gay fiction genres.

Stumbling Stoned
Andre van Wyck
Self-published through Amazon
9781980669210 $4.99 ebook/$10.99 Paper

Stumbling Stoned sets the tone for 'The Patchwork Prince' series. While the cartoonish cover could lead some to think this effort is directed to younger readers, adults will be the best audience to appreciate Andre van Wyck's astute synthesis of cultural observation, wry humor and a sense of irony in this: a series of events that center around a state-sponsored culture of drugs and the life of a non-Frenchman who is ensconced in a French 'nuthouse'.

Stuck with a life that is anything but what he could have imagined, the protagonist is not only ignorant of his past and the French language, but carries readers into a world akin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - but with more astute observations and language that is drolly ironic: "Men don't get un-masculine tattoos like that unless there's a really good story that goes with it. I'm stuck with just the stupid tattoo. Like my extremely limited repertoire Francais it is a milestone on the road to nowhere. It's the kind of thing that could drive you insane except, you know: nuthouse. A name would be nice. A home address. Next of kin. Occupation prior to 'shuffling zombie', et cetera. Some bits I've managed to piece together. A difficult enough task when one doesn't speak the language and complicated further by my staple diet of drugs. I once spent the better part of a day, in a narcotic haze, trying to tie the shoelaces on a pair of shoes I wasn't wearing. (Say what you will about the French, their national health care does not suck.)"

As this demonstrates, Stumbling Stoned is a special, insightful examination of life from the viewpoint of a man who moves from one chaotic, confusing scenario to another; confronting death, making impulsive decisions, facing the consequences of bad choices, and retrieving his lost identity in the process.

Readers move from institution to battlefield during a series of mishaps and encounters that receive a combination of engrossingly descriptive language ("And then the sky is racing away from me and the wind applauds loudly in my ears.") and unexpected encounters with drugs, cats, and a host of supporting characters including surprising monsters.
Stumbling Stoned is a whirlwind ride through insanity to a drug-induced, unlikely reality ... ours.

Those who seek literary psychological and social reflective pieces spiced with the astute and astonishing observations of a narrator who struggles to piece together his non-existent life's meaning will relish the lively tone, lovely metaphorical descriptions, and many unexpected encounters in Stumbling Stoned: a vivid story of recovery, defeat, transformation, and monsters both real and imagined.

Secret Agenda: Who's Castrating the Wolves of Wall Street?
Barbara Brett
Homecrest Press
Paperback: 9780997971002 $15.99
e-book: 9780997971019 $ 5.99



Amazon PB



Apple iBooks


Given a title like Secret Agenda: Who's Castrating the Wolves of Wall Street?, a reader might envision a nonfiction indictment of Wall Street shenanigans; but in actuality this is fiction; and a solid political mystery, at that.

Billionaires set for a takeover of the presidency of the United States have been so successful at their financial heists that they think nothing can stop them. But somebody is stopping them in a big way, and as the story evolves, a host of secret agendas and wronged women emerge.

Secret Agenda could easily have focused on the mystery portion alone, but Barbara Brett includes a healthy dose of psychology surrounding predators in high places, and conversations and insights highlight the plight of women who are often at the mercy of these wealthy thugs, early on: "I doubt it. You have more to fear if word got out about our little rendezvous. I can either deny it and say you're lying in order to get publicity to save your career from going in the toilet. Or, a simple businessman who is unacquainted with women and their wiles, I can tell the world that you seduced me - and turned out to be a lousy lay. Either way, you lose big."

Between its expose of elite male privilege and its abuse to the ex-detective who owns a bookstore and a cat but can't quite shake the lure of investigations when a case lands right on his doorstep, Brett crafts a compelling narrative that moves between political and monied forces and cat-and-mouse moves.

As these special forces collide on various levels, readers will find this mystery gripping and hard to put down, flavored with a sense of urgency as a host of characters discover they've been emasculated by a savvy attacker bent on serving up revenge in the most intimate of ways.

Brett is a master at developing characters, tension, and personal and political scenarios designed to grip readers with a relentless attention to twists and turns and realistic scenarios. As detective Tom finds himself involved with a woman he shouldn't be considering in the midst of a case which draws upon an expertise he'd thought he left behind, readers will relish a story that rests firmly on personal attractions and psychological insights.

Fast-paced and beautifully written, Secret Agenda is a highly recommended pick for readers who like their political thrillers steamy, passionate, and thoroughly involving.

Political Dirty Trick
James R. Callan
Pennant Publishing
Digital: 9781732122710 $4.99
Paperback: 9781732122703 $14.95
Hardback: 9781732122727 $25.95

Ordering Link:

Political Dirty Trick is a suspense thriller that revolves around candidate Ron Drake's run for governor of Texas, the fake news campaign that evolves to smear his good name, and his friend Crystal's increasingly dangerous attempts to get to the bottom of the dirty politics being played, which evolves from a smear campaign into murder.

Ron has been gracious about his opponent, whom he describes as a 'nice guy' (when he has to refer to him at all); but the methods and content of the dirty tricks being played thrust Crystal and Ron into a political campaign replete with threats, innuendos, and nasty, life-threatening approaches.

That's the surface story of Political Dirty Trick, but it should be cautioned that this is no easy entertainment read; but a thriller designed to challenge opinion, imagination, and perceptions of the political process. Chapters create a stealthy overlay of moral, ethical, and social considerations as the characters grow into roles beyond familiar political and personal objectives.

The story opens with a burglar attempting to snatch a painting from a home when Ron's property manager returns, forcing her to hide. What's a politician doing with a valuable Mondrian piece; and why is it so important that a thief would target it? As the story line winds back and forth between thief Ginnie Loverett's efforts and Drake's political encounters, readers receive a powerful, riveting drama centered around the concept of the Political Dirty Trick or Podirt ("...Something that drags your opponent's numbers down like they had a cement anchor attached.")

Any skeleton from a politician's past is fair game for such a trick. And if there are no such specters available, one can be readily construed with just a little thievery and an artful deception.

One particular pleasure of Political Dirty Trick is that its readers will think they know exactly what is happening and where the plot is going. After all: terms are defined, personalities crafted, and viewpoints move between victim and perp. What could be left to wonder about?

Plenty: and therein lies the strength in Political Dirty Trick's story line: it is anything but linear. As a host of characters interact on different levels and in different ways, readers are treated to a gripping saga that winds its way through various lives, motivations, and issues of fairness, justice, and double-crossings.

An added strength actually lies outside the plot itself and in the timing of this book's release: at a period in American history when political dirty tricks appear to be at their height of usage and public awareness. If timing is everything, then Political Dirty Trick has not only hit that nail on the head, but creates a compellingly different political thriller that will satisfy readers who enjoy not just murder stories; but savvy explorations of the underlying motivations and personalities surrounding such events.

Powerful in its characterization, plot, and narrative interactions, Political Dirty Trick is the item of choice for thriller readers who like their stories steeped in realistic scenarios and possibilities.

Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change
Hilarie Gamm
9781985690356 $15.95 (print); $2.99 (kindle)

Ordering links =

Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change documents the progression and results of the massive move of tech industry jobs to other countries; but that isn't to say that the subject is treated to a political survey condemning one party's approach or ideals over another's efforts.

Hilarie Gamm's intention is to assess the overall state of the U.S. technology industry today and provide a history of how it got here; and her eye-opening book attends not to the usual political finger-pointing, but to identifying the economic, social, and global influences that led to the mass exodus of U.S. technology and jobs to more lucrative sites overseas.

The second thing to note about this survey is that this isn't just Gamm's solo effort. She states: "I amassed a team of researchers and professionals and spent countless hours, writing, editing, researching, and formulating my theories."

This collaborative approach between professionals and industry experts creates an atmosphere of authority and well-researched facts which have been checked, cross-referenced, and balanced with various viewpoints and theories; all with an eye to encouraging dialogue, insight, and foresight among Billions Lost's readers.

As chapters provide a history of an exodus more devastating than the loss of manufacturing, the third strength of this account evolves as it documents the process's social impact: "As the research has confirmed, billions of dollars have been, in essence, given away to foreign economies through the offshoring of technology jobs. The significant and negative effects on our country's education, workers' rights, and national security have been obvious to me."

The question of why every American should care about this history and Gamm's projections of future issues stemming from the problem is neatly answered as she maintains that the general public's ignorance of the impact of these events is part of what endangers us all.

While potential readers might think that experience with the tech industry is a prerequisite, it should be noted that no such background is required. Gamm provides a foundation of knowledge from the start, building a history that provides deeper insights into how tech visas work, the use and problems of employing foreign technology labor, how STEM education for foreign students in the U.S. actually contributes to the deficit in domestic technology labor, and trade policy impacts on U.S. technology and economics.

Concluding with research-backed suggestions for changes that can trickle down from policy adjustments to American pockets, there's no better book for the average non-tech, non-economics reader than Billions Lost, which successfully weaves an overview of the topic with a call to action in a well-researched, in-depth and accessible package for all.

Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change is thus a top recommendation that should be on the reading list of anyone concerned about the future of this nation's technology industry and its lasting impact on every American.

Moon Beam
Steven Burgauer
Battleground Press
Print: 9780692105351 $12.95
Kindle: B07C756G8S $ 2.99

It used to be that hard sci-fi enthusiasts and detective mystery readers were seldom on the same page when it came to leisure reads; but Steven Burgaur's Moon Beam combines both fields and easily crosses genres with its powerful story of intrigue and space discovery, proving that this division of genres has become mercurial in nature.

Imagine a killer loose on a lunar station, who lives for the fear she generates and whose latest prey is the engineering team assigned to build the first lunar space elevator. Add additional threat from a solar flare. Living and working in space is dangerous: that's why there are rules...all of which are about to be challenged in a most dangerous fashion.

From its opening salvo of circumstances, Moon Beam promises tension, whether it be the psychological challenge of managing men and women in a restricted environment; the physical test of surviving in space for long periods of time; or the purpose of triaging risks for the greater good.

Topics of surveillance, terrorism, and a deadly killer's modus operandi blend with greater questions of high technology's ability to thwart the greater effects of solar threats to mankind's greatest creation. Moon Beam's trajectory is thus consistently vivid, filled with a satisfying blend of physics and psychological tension, and includes the kind of technological and emotional descriptions that hard science and detective readers alike will relish.

The reason why Moon Beam succeeds so well at crafting this atmosphere where others might fail is perhaps because

Steven Burgauer has a diverse set of interests and a background in writing both sci-fi and historical fiction.

Of necessity, this blend of genres requires attention to different kinds of detail which are employed to exceptional advantage in Moon Beam. By creating a story line that juxtaposes technical description and psychological tension, Burgauer excels in marrying the complex worlds of hard science and soft psychology in a way that keeps the story line informative, engrossing, and satisfying.

Many elements are added to the mix which might be confusing under another hand; but another strength of Moon Beam lies in its ability to add a dose of unexpected humor which turns dark at times, but adds a different flavor to the story: "Any reports of someone missing a hand?" Santini asked. "Don't you mean, where is the rest of the body?"

"We both know the answer to that question." "We do?"

"Further down the drain somewhere," Santini said. "The hand didn't clog the drains; the rest of the carcass did."

Chief Flynn threw up violently, dropping the severed hand in the process. "Great! Now you have gone and soiled the crime scene," Santini mocked."

It should also be cautioned that readers anticipating a milder leisure investigative piece will be additionally challenged by scenes of torture as well as in-depth, detailed descriptions of space science. Both are presented in good taste in keeping with the story line as the personality and objectives of the dangerous Ouida are described and clarified.

Moon Beam is a powerful saga that takes the foundations of human nature and discovery and gives them a twist that will keep sci-fi and thriller readers thinking long past the final, unexpected conclusion to this very highly recommended, hard-to-put-down tale.

The Way of the Warrior Mama
Sally Clark
Morgan James
9781683509974 $14.95

Mothers (and fathers) watching their daughters grow up who are protective of their bodies and minds as they enter into adulthood will relish The Way of the Warrior Mama: The Guide to Protecting and Raising Strong Daughters. It's a virtual roadmap to adolescence which focuses on young adults in the teen years and offers parents a different way of viewing events as their daughters move into adulthood, but it goes beyond theory and ideals to tackle the nuts and bolts of the last years of raising a daughter.

This focus on sexuality goes beyond the usual birds and bees to tackle serious issues of preventing sexual assault, reconsidering the "body temple" and its boundaries and possibilities, and parental mind games that often place women in eternal 'warrior' modes without respite. Metta practices are reviewed to help mothers overcome common obstacles to communication and empathy, hard questions tackle common stereotypes about mothers and daughters and how women can work to identify and mitigate their impacts, and interviews with leading experts in adolescent psychology and new age practices provide 'meat' to a discussion designed to reduce the stresses of parenting.

It should also be noted that Sally Clark includes many cross-cultural references to how girls and women are treated, linking these to Western concepts and belief systems for contrast and added insights.

From moving from "a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset" in relating to other women and cultivating more generous, accepting approaches to friendships and acquaintances to blending several different kinds of therapies in the pursuit of faster healing processes, The Way of the Warrior Mama clearly outlines paths women can choose to help not only their adolescent daughters; but themselves.

The effort becomes cooperative in nature, rather than authoritative, as mothers reading this book receive keys on how to engage daughters in processes which lead both to new insights and approaches to life.

Too many books about mothering, parenting, and adolescent girls serve as admonitions for change. The Way of the Warrior Mama is a healing discussion that doesn't impart wisdom from lofty realms, but on a level designed to promote equality, respect, better self-understanding, and processes which bring all women closer through shared goals, perceptions, and acceptance.

Women who acknowledge that helping their daughters may coincide with self-healing processes for both will relish the path of this discussion, which considers obstacles to growth and how they can be overcome. The Way of the Warrior Mama is very highly recommended reading, especially for mothers and daughters who are, after all, on this journey together.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Urban Raptors
Clint W. Boal & Cheryl R. Dykstra, editors
Island Press
2000 M Street NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610918398, $80.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Raptors are an unusual success story of wildness thriving in the heart of our cities and they have developed substantial populations around the world in recent decades. But there are deeper issues around how these birds make their urban homes. New research provides insight into the role of raptors as vital members of the urban ecosystem and future opportunities for protection, management, and environmental education.

A cutting-edge synthesis of over two decades of scientific research, "Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities" is the such study to offer a complete overview of urban ecosystems in the context of bird-of-prey ecology and conservation. This comprehensive volume examines urban environments, explains why some species adapt to urban areas but others do not, and introduces modern research tools to help in the study of urban raptors. It also delves into climate change adaptation, human-wildlife conflict, and the unique risks birds of prey face in urban areas before concluding with real-world wildlife management case studies and suggestions for future research and conservation efforts.

Collaborative compiled and deftly co-edited by the team of Clint W. Boal (who is a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Surveys Texas Cooperative Research Unit and holds a joint appointment as Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Texas Tech University) and Cheryl R. Dykstra (who is an independent researcher and serves as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Raptor Research) "Urban Raptors" is a single source for information on urban birds of prey.

Among researchers, urban green space planners, wildlife management agencies, birders, and informed citizens alike, "Urban Raptors" will foster a greater understanding of birds of prey and an increased willingness to accommodate them as important members, not intruders, of our cities.

Critique: An outstanding and nicely illustrated instructional reference comprised of nineteen contributed articles by experts in the subject, "Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities" will prove to be a welcome and extraordinary addition to both community and academic library Urban Wildlife collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Urban Raptors" is also available in a paperback edition (9781610918404, $40.00) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $39.99).

All the Oceans
Ron Holland
Ron Holland Design
9781775096801, $45.00, HC, 350pp,

Synopsis: Ron Holland is a celebrated yacht designer who drew his first yacht at 19 years of age. He rapidly went on to make a name for himself as one of the most successful and sought-after designers in the highly competitive world of international ocean racing before advancing to bigger things. Holland's seminal influence on the then new category of superyachts, those toys of the rich and super-rich, brought him fresh success, and an introduction to a world of fascinating personalities: business tycoons, royalty and rock stars. For over 50 years Holland has developed unique relationships with his international clients, allowing him an intimate view of social and economic trends during the early days of the new millennium.

Critique: Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections, "All the Oceans: Designing by the Seat of My Pants" is an inherently interesting and impressively informative memoir of an man living in interesting times, and involved in pursing intrinsically challenging projects with and for other interesting people.

Dylan on Dylan
Jeff Burger, editor
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780912777429 $30.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In a 1969 conversation with Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, Bob Dylan proclaimed, "I don't give interviews." But in truth, he has spoken at length with print publications large and small and with broadcast media around the world, given numerous press conferences, and even answered listeners' questions on call-in radio shows. Dylan can be as evasive and abstruse as he is witty; he can also be cranky and sarcastic. But in the right moments, he offers candid, revealing commentary about his groundbreaking music and creative process. These engrossing provide glimpses into the mind of one of the most important performers and songwriters of the last hundred years.

Dylan on Dylan is an authoritative, chronologically arranged anthology of interviews, speeches, and press conferences, as well as excerpts from more than eighty additional Q&As spanning Dylan's entire career - from 1961 through 2016. The majority have not been previously anthologized and some have never before appeared in print. The material comes from renowned media outlets like Rolling Stone and TV's 60 Minutes and from obscure periodicals like Minnesota Daily, a student newspaper at Dylan's alma mater. Interviewers include some of the top writers of our time, such as Jonathan Lethem, Douglas Brinkley, and Mikal Gilmore, as well as musicians like Pete Seeger and Happy Traum. Introductions put each piece in context and, in many cases, include the interviewer's reminiscences about the encounter.

Critique: The ultimate compilation of Dylan interviews from 1961 through 2016, complete with an extensive index for ease of reference, Dylan on Dylan is a "must" for anyone interested in the life and works of this talented musician. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library music biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Dylan on Dylan is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Think and Grow Rich The Legacy
James Whittaker
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950184, $24.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy" by James Whittaker includes unflinching accounts of some of today's most successful entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and cultural icons who rose above the unlikeliest and in some cases, most tragic of circumstances to find personal fulfillment and make their mark on the world. Potential is not predicated on age, race, finances, education, or any other perceived misfortune. It is the consistent application of a proven formula that turns simple thoughts into massive action, elevating ordinary people to extraordinary success.

The against-the-odds stories featured include: Former pro-athlete and media mogul Rob Dyrdek; Venture capitalist and television personality Barbara Corcoran; Self-help guru and international speaker Bob Proctor; NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon; Property mogul and bestselling author Grant Cardone; as well as stories featuring: Janine Shepherd, Jim Stovall, Sharon Lechter, Satish Verma, Lewis Howes, Noel Whittaker, Derek Mills, Joel Brown, James Hill, John Lee Dumas, Brandon T. Adams, Tim Storey, David Meltzer, John Shin, Lionel Sosa, Errol Abramson, Blaine Bartlett, Dennis Kimbro, Sandy Gallagher, and Don Green.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring from beginning to end, "Think and Grow Rich The Legacy" is very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Think and Grow Rich The Legacy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Extinction of Menai
Chuma Nwokolo
Ohio University Press
215 Columbus Road, Suite 101, Athens, OH 45701
9780821422984, $22.95, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: In the early 1980s, a pharmaceutical company administers an unethical drug trial to residents of the Niger Delta village of Kreektown. When children die as a result of the trial, the dominoes of language extinction and cultural collapse begin to topple. Decades later the end looms for the Menai people.

Continents-apart twin brothers separated at birth, an excommunicated daughter living an urbane life with her doctor husband, and an infamous vigilante are among the indelible characters whose lives are shaped by this collective tragedy. Not least of these is the spiritual leader Mata Nimito, who retraces his people's ancient migration on his quest to preserve the soul of the Menai and resolve the consequences of a centuries-old betrayal.

In "The Extinction of Menai", author Chuma Nwokolo moves across time and continents to deliver a story that speaks to urgent contemporary concerns. He confronts power relations between large corporations and small communities, corporate lobbies and governments, and big pharma and consumers, all expressed through the competing narratives that record the life and death of a civilization.

In a novel of stunning scope, Chuma Nwokolo moves across time and place to deliver a story that speaks to urgent contemporary concerns. His characters' indelible voices offer perspectives that are simultaneously global, political, and intimately human.

Critique: An extraordinary novel that showcases Chuma Nwokolo's genuine flair for originality, deftly crafted narrative storytelling, and ability to fully engage his reader from first page to last, "The Extinction of Menai" is an especially recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Extinction of Menai" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.39).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Fata Morgana
Steven R. Boyett and Ken Mitchroney
Blackstone Publishing
31 Mistletoe Rd. Ashland OR 97520
9781504757447, $26.99,

Boyett and Mitchroney whose work has been for a long time in the world of animation including some of the "Toy Story" movies have combined their talents to tell a fantastic tale in "Fata Morgana." An American bomber crew is on a mission in east Germany when something happens to the ship and the men aboard. Somehow, they proceed through a warp to another time and civilization. Now they must try to survive while also attempting to get back to their own period. What begins as a normal WWII novel, midway through becomes a wonderful science fiction tale of courage and survival against overwhelming odds. "Fata Morgana" is a page turner of suspense containing believable characters set in another world. "Fata Morgana" has all the elements for a blockbuster film.

17th Suspect
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316274043, $29.00

Attorney Yuki Castellano is determined to prosecute a case that is a very iffy one to win while Lindsay Boxer is asked to look into a series of murders of homeless people. For her she is even overstepping other jurisdictions to investigate the random killings. This is one that could affect her career as she is on the trail of a vicious murderer. "17th Suspect" rapidly proceeds along with a lot of twists and turns that will have readers turning pages to the very final one. The Women's Murder Club novels have always been exciting but "17th Suspect" from the first page takes off and never lets go constantly building the suspenseful situations.

Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735219199, $28.00,

"Turbulence" begins in Key West with Stone Barrington and friends preparing for a massive hurricane that is bearing down on the state of Florida. Stone and company are stuck in Key West as the storm approaches as everything in the area is closing down. Afterward Stone flies back in his own plane to New York where he is recruited for a simple task. Unfortunately, it isn't trouble-free. In fact, it becomes a very complicated matter that could get him and others killed. "Turbulence" begins in Florida but takes place in many other areas with a plot that unfolds steadily until the final pages. Woods has always written interesting tales of Stone Barrington as "Turbulence" is one of the best of the series.

Busted in Bloomington A Tragedy in the Summer of 68
Greg And Candy Dawson
Dog Ear Publishing
4011Vincennes Rd. Indianapolis IN 46268
9781457557378, $17.95,

The 1960's were one of the most turbulent times in the country's history. Now authors Greg and Candy Dawson tell the story of one group of high school students from Bloomington, Indiana and how they dealt with the events of that era. But "Busted in Bloomington A Tragedy in the Summer of '68" also shows how one teacher can influence so many students while also having administrations try to end his career because he does not fit the norm of what an educator should be. "Busted in Bloomington" reads like a work of fiction but is the true story of a small area of the country and how the events of the time affected them. "Busted in Bloomington" is highly recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn what it was like to live in that chaotic time of our country's history.

Love Notes 101 Lessons From the Heart
Jim Brickman and Cindy Pearlman
Hay House
P. O Box 5100 Carlsbad CA 92018-5100
9781401906085, $17.95,

"Love Notes 101 Lessons from the Heart" has many inspirational stories from famous people and others who tell about things that have happened to them in life and how they were able to cope with them. There are many positive lessons for people to follow as Jim Brickman and Cindy Pearman have collected the many accounts and presented them for the first time in this wonderful collection. "Love Notes 101 Lessons from the Heart" is a perfect gift for any occasion.

Zombie Cats
Dana Trantham
Wayward Cat Publishing
9781938999208, $9.99

Something bizarre with cats is going on in Brevard County Florida where they are becoming zombies. Alfie Whitaker a teenager, makes it his mission to solve the mystery of why the felines are dying and coming back as the undead creatures. Author Dana Trantham takes readers into a very chilling scenario in "Zombie Cats" that is fast paced reading sure to please any age. Readers will never look at the common tabbies the same after stating "Zombie Cats."

Pairs On Ice
Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt
Taylor and Seale Publishing
3408 S. Atlantic Ave Unit 139, Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
9781943789580, $14.95

Jamie is a girl aged 12 who has a lot of deep seated anger of just about everything in her life. Her father and mother are divorced while she learns her dad is about to re marry a woman who has a male child Jamie really does not like, while her figure skating coach wants her to pair with a male to achieve a lot more than she can on her own. Author Vollstadt fills "Pairs On Ice" with many complex conflicts that drive the well written novel along to the very end. All ages should enjoy "Pairs On Ice" a fine first novel of a series of stories delving into the world of ice skating competition.

Flora & Ulysses
Kate DiCamillo Illustrated b y K. G. Campbell
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville Massachusetts 02144
9780763660406, $17.99

A lot of times I am asked how do I pick some of the books I review. For "Flora & Ulysses" I can say I was in a thrift store and looked over the books subject matter as well as its cover and loved it enough to give it a try. I often find other titles this way as well and am grateful that we have so many of these types of stores and used book places. While some authors pan this way of finding new material they are not looking at the bigger picture of new audiences who might pick up their titles as well. Flora Belle Buckman lives with her mom a romance writer who wants the young girl of 11 to stop reading comic books. Flora is in her room on the second floor when she looks out to see her neighbor Mrs. Tickman use a strange looking vacuum cleaner that picks up anything in its path including a squirrel who just happened to be in the way. Flora rushes down the stairs proceeding next door to save the animal. She saves its life and becomes friends with it as the creature can now communicate with Flora. Thus, begins the story of Flora that takes readers on a grand journey of comic books and relationships between children and adults. "Flora & Ulysses is a well written novel with interesting characters that has a lot to say about the world we live in. I would love to see more works of Kate DiCamillo in the future and hope others would too as "Flora & Ulysses" is a wonderful novel for any age to enjoy.

The Royal Dragon and the New Kid
Written by Joan Harris
Illustrated by Brandy Winston
Taylor and Seale Publishing
3408 S. Atlantic Ave Unit 139, Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
9781943789702, $15.95

So often people judge others by the way they look or talk and never give a person a chance. That is the case here in "The Royal Dragon and the New Kid" where Maria a new girl in school is afraid to speak because of how she has been treated. Billy Bob the official dragon of the kingdom establishes a rapport with her that eventually spills over to other children. Harris has written a wonderful tale of acceptance of someone who is different that is an educational resource that schools should use to teach children tolerance. Adults could also read and learn from "The Royal Dragon and the New Kid" to be a lot more tolerant of others.

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy
Erin Danielle Russell Illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
97814814677322 $17.99,

Kaylee is a young girl who loves to play pranks on everyone she comes in contact with. When she does so to the tooth fairy she learns two can play at the game and that sets up the rest of this wonderful kid's tale of magical proportion. "How to Trick The Tooth Fairy" is filled with beautiful artwork that adds to the marvelous enchanting story for everyone to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies
Ace Atkins
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399177002, $27.00, Hardcover, 370 pages

For some reason I had not read this entry in the Spenser series created by Robert B. Parker, but have finally caught up to it, I'm delighted to say.

From the publisher: Connie Kelly thought she'd found her perfect man on an online dating site. He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the CIA. She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment. But within weeks, both Wells and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser's card. A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows, speaking with authority about politics and world events. But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge. Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that everything about Welles is phony. His name, his resume, and his roster of associates are nothing but an elaborate fraud. But uncovering the truth won't be easy, as he'll have to keep his client from falling back into the mystery man's tangled web, all while staying a step ahead of trained killers. As the trail winds from Boston to the back roads of Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Tedy Sapp to make sure Welles's next con is his last.

The author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker's writing. (Mr. Parker died in January 2010.) But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character's choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner's love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox. Connie Kelly's early appearance notes that she "was dressed in a white sleeveless silk top with a black pencil skirt adorned with chrysanthemums and a pair of black open-toe heels that highlighted her shapely calves. Her toes had been painted a festive red." In her next appearance "she wore a very short red floral dress and black tights with black suede booties," with a purple cardigan. She explains what attracted her to Mr. Welles thusly: "I wanted a tall, successful, and interesting man. Someone who liked to travel and took time to enjoy sunsets." Well, she got all of that and a lot more that she could have done without. Spenser is now living in the area of the Charlestown Navy Yard, where Pearl the Wonder Dog keeps him delightful company.

This is another exciting entry in the series, thoroughly entertaining, and highly recommended.

Next up for this reviewer is the next in the series by Mr. Atkins, another Spenser novel, Old Black Magic.

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic
A Spenser Novel
Ace Atkins
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399177019, $27.00/36.00 CA$/19.35 BPS, Hardcover, 336 pp.

From the publisher: Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions. The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston's premier art museums. Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence. But when the museum begins receiving detailed letters about the theft from someone claiming to have knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings, the board enlists Spenser's help to navigate the delicate situation. Their particular hope is to regain the most valuable piece stolen, The Gentleman in Black, a renowned painting by a Spanish master and the former jewel of the collection. Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas. A five-million-dollar-reward sets Spenser and pal Vinnie Morris onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, murder, and double-crosses.

For some reason I had allowed myself to fall behind in reading the "new" books in this wonderful series, just as wonderful when authored by Ace Atkins, of which this is the newest. The preceding entry in the series was "Little White Lies," which I finally caught up to in the last few weeks. With apologies for redundancies, as I said in my review of that book, "the author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker's writing. But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character's choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner's love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox. (In fact, very near the end of the book we find Spenser escaping a close call and thinking "I'd hoped these guys didn't plan ambushes like Branch Rickey planned ballgames.") One character appears dressed in a "light blue guayabera, his white hair loose and scattered as always, with some black reading glasses down on his nose.' There is also a lot about food. When he prepares a Cobb salad for himself and Susan, and she hands him a vodka martini, he thinks "You couldn't eat a Cobb salad without [it]. It was a law in California." Then there are the nicknames, e.g., "Fat Freddy," "Famous Ray." The terrific plotting and action are always present, as Spenser goes about solving "the biggest theft in Boston history," a painting worth sixty or seventy million.

Spenser's love of jazz is always present, from Coltrane playing from speakers in a restaurant, to the final scene where Tony Bennett "reached for the tree of life and picked him a plum," and Spenser saying "The Best Is Yet to Come," to which Vinnie replies "You better believe it." I loved the author's tip of the hat to another terrific mystery writer, Hank Philippi Ryan, reporting on Boston's Channel 7 with a live shot from a crime scene. Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best. As was "Little White Lies," "Old Black Magic" is also highly recommended.

In Plain Sight
The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders
Kathryn Casey
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062363503, $7.99/9.99 CA$, Paperback, 477 pp.

From the publisher: On a cold January morning, the killer executed Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse in broad daylight. Eight shots fired a block from the Kaufman County Courthouse. Two months later, a massacre. The day before Easter, the couple slept. Bunnies, eggs, a flower centerpiece gracing the table. Death rang their doorbell and filled the air with the rat-a-tat-tat of an assault weapon discharging round after round into their bodies. Eric Williams and his wife, Kim, celebrated the murders with grilled steaks. Their crimes covered front pages around the world, many saying the killer placed a target square on the back of law enforcement. It seemed that Williams' plan was to exact revenge on all who had wronged him, one at a time. Throughout the Spring of 2013, Williams sowed terror through a small Texas town, and a quest for vengeance turned to deadly obsession. His intention? To keep killing, until someone found a way to stop him.

The book's Prologue references the murder of an assistant DA, Mark Hasse, in the small city of Kaufman, Texas. The identity of the killer is unknown, although there is speculation that it was the work of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a powerful prison group, as well as a Mexican cartel. Mike McLelland, Mark's boss and Kaufman County's DA, believes that the killer is local, and is "somebody bent on revenge." Meanwhile, one Eric Williams believes that "he has pulled off the perfect murder." The Prologue ends with these words: "The killing wasn't over."

The ensuing tale reads like a fine work of fiction, although it is immediately apparent that that is not the case: This is a true crime story, proven on nearly page by the quotes from conversations by the author with each of the parties involved, from the killer and his wife [and collaborator], Kim, as well as from the aforementioned Mike McLelland, about whom nothing more will be said for fear of giving anything away. Suffice it to say that a man thought of as a small-town good citizen turns into a vengeful killer. The publisher has called the book an "expertly researched account" of the killings, and truer words were never said. Frequently, while reading this wonderful book, I felt as though I were reading an interesting novel, then almost immediately coming across a photo, or a fascinating quote from one of the main, or even subsidiary, characters, making it plain that this was a fascinating true account of the proceedings. Eric Williams had had his life ruined, his livelihood taken away for $600 worth of computers, especially when one sat on his county desk, "did seem excessive." But "Eric never admitted the murders."

A riveting book, and one which is recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Raven One
Kevin Miller
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Braveship Books
B013CHD37O, $3.99, ebook, 362 pages
9781939398222 $15.00 print

Raven One is a true to life military action story. This is both its strength and its weakness. The narration reads more like a detailed daily journal with technical details than an action story. If you talk to most people who have dangerous jobs such as those in the military or law enforcement, they will tell you that their jobs are 90% tedious boredom with just a fraction of a percent terrifying action. Miller does try to write a more active storyline filled with fine details a fighter pilot understands but the majority of the story does read like a filler between the few action sequences. In many ways, the story would be stronger if it was written as a novella.

Navy fighter pilot Jim Wilson, call sign Flip, is forced into Iranian airspace, during a tough deployment in the Persian Gulf supporting military actions in Iraq, when his wingman loses consciousness. He was on a rare training mission and is unarmed. He declares an emergency and instead of help an Iranian fighter shoots down his stricken wingman and tries to shoot him down. He has to engage the enemy fighter without any weapons to survive.

Raven One is an easy recommendation to military buffs, especially pilots. For the average reader Clancy, Brown, Herman, Bond... have a more enjoyable narration styles while still giving all of the technical military details the reader can absorb. Miller with Raven One does deliver a solid and enjoyable short tale. He does show the potential of growing as a writer so following titles may be much better.

The Atlantis Riddle
Kevin Tumlinson
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Happy Pants Books
B01MQ4QITL, $4.99, ebook, 320 pages
9781548167387 $13.99 print

The Atlantis Riddle is a light action adventure with an illusion of history. It doesn't have a strong historical or archeological backstory but a mythology dressed with a blend of a bit of information about Edison. The stories strength is with the characters and not with logic or history.

Dan Kolter is a wealthy polymath who has recently focused on exploring the unusual in archeology. In the first book of this series he helped discover a hidden Viking city underneath the Rocky Mountains.

Kolter is confronted on the street by a beautiful woman, Gail McCarthy, who wants his help finding Atlantis. She has just inherited an ancient engraved block, once owned by Edison, which she claims is part of the key to finding the Atlantis of ancient myth. A ruthless smuggling ring wants the riches of Atlantis and is willing to kill to get it.

Kolter recruits his FBI friend, Agent Roland Denzel, who happens to be investigating the same smuggling ring that is after the block Kolter now has in his possession. Before the day is out, Gail is kidnapped and used to threaten Kolter into finding the rest of the key and a map on how to use it.

The Atlantis Riddle is a very good weekend escapist tale. What history there is in the story is only there to support the fictional action adventure. The storyline and character development is strong enough to recommend the book to any reader in this genre. Those readers who like a strong historical backstory will find this story wanting.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Jean Baudrillard: The Rhetoric of Symbolic Exchange
Brian Gogan
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336258, $35.00, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: The late Jean Baudrillard (27 July 1929 - 6 March 2007) was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer

In "Jean Baudrillard: The Rhetoric of Symbolic Exchange", Brian Gogan (Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the Department of English at Western Michigan University) establishes him as a rhetorician, demonstrating how the histories, traditions, and practices of rhetoric prove central to his use of language.

In addition to Baudrillard's standard works, Professor Gogan examines many of the scholar's lesser-known writings that have never been analyzed by rhetoricians, and this more comprehensive approach presents fresh perspectives on Baudrillard's work as a whole.

Professor Gogan deftly examines both the theorist and his rhetoric, combining these two lines of inquiry in ways that allow for provocative insights.

Part one of the study explains Baudrillard's theory as compatible with the histories and traditions of rhetoric, outlining his novel understanding of rhetorical invention as involving thought, discourse, and perception. Part two evaluates Baudrillard's work in terms of a perception of him - as an aphorist, an illusionist, an ignoramus, and an ironist.

A biographical sketch and a critical review of the literature on Baudrillard and rhetoric round out the study.

Professor Gogan makes the French theorist's complex concepts understandable and relates them to the work of important thinkers, providing a thorough and accessible introduction to Baudrillard's ideas.

Critique: An original and seminal work of outstanding scholarship, and the first book-length study of Jean Baudrillard as a rhetorical theorist, "Jean Baudrillard: The Rhetoric of Symbolic Exchange" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. While very highly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Jean Baudrillard: The Rhetoric of Symbolic Exchange" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $19.25).

1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?
Ezio Di Nucci & Stefan Storrie, editors
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812699791, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Although the year 1984 has long ago come and gone, George Orwell's science fiction political novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" continues to have a huge readership and to help shape the world of 2084. Sales of Orwell's terrifying tale have recently spiked because of current worries about alternate facts, post-truth, and fake news.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Ezio Di Nucci (Associate Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark) and Stefan Storrie (an independent scholar, has held the position of Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland), "1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?" brings together brand new, up-to-the-minute thinking by diverse contemporary philosophers about Nineteen Eighty-Four as it relates to today's culture, politics, and everyday life.

Who's controlling our lives and are they getting even more levers to control us? Is truth objective or just made up? What did Orwell get right -- and did he get some things wrong? Are social media opportunities for liberation or instruments of oppression? How can we fight back against totalitarian control? Can Big Brother compel us to love him? How does the language we use affect the way we think? Do we really need the unifying power of hate? Why did Orwell make Nineteen Eighty-Four so desperately hopeless? Can science be protected from poisonous ideology? Can we really believe two contradictory things at once? Who surveils the surveilors?

Critique: Remarkably timely, thoughtful and thought provoking, "1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?" is an extraordinary and valued contribution to our current and on-going national political dialogue with respect to the philosophical clash of values as reflected by and routinely exacerbated by Donald Trump and his presidential administration. "1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?" is an absolutely essential addition to both community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of philosophy students, political science students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in politics and philosophy.

Amsterdam Exposed
David Wiener
De Wallen Press
9780999355909, $12.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Amsterdam Exposed", author David Wiener tells the true and one-of-a-kind story of an innocent exchange student who moves to Amsterdam hoping to write a book about the red light district and everything that follows.

Essentially an American abroad story, "Amsterdam Exposed" is also a love story; an uplifting tragedy; and full of humor from beginning to end.

"Amsterdam Exposed" can also be viewed by the reader as a kind of Amsterdam survival guide that offers a sympathetic look at a societal problem; as well as a little piece of policy; a sweet farewell to a world just about gone; and, ultimately, as close as the armchair traveler can come to a free trip to Amsterdam.

"Amsterdam Exposed" takes readers deep into the district on a journey never before possible, forever reshaping their understanding of one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, and the women who work there.

Critique: The next best thing to actually being there, "Amsterdam Exposed" is an extraordinary combination of memoir and travel guide. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Amsterdam Exposed" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Promise of Failure
John McNally
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609385750, $19.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: "The Promise of Failure: One Writer's Perspective on Not Succeeding" by John McNally (the author or editor of seventeen books and who teaches at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon) is part memoir of the writing life, part advice book, and part craft book; sometimes funny, sometimes wrenching, but always honest.

In "The Promise of Failure" McNally uses his own life as a blueprint for the writer's daily struggles as well as the existential ones, tackling subjects such as when to quit and when to keep going, how to deal with depression, what risking something of yourself means, and ways to re-energize your writing through re-invention.

What McNally illuminates is how rejection, in its best light, is another element of craft, a necessary stage to move the writer from one project to the next, and that it's best to see rejection and failure on a life-long continuum so that you can see the interconnectedness between failure and success, rather than focusing on failure as a measure of self-worth.

As brutally candid as McNally can sometimes be, The Promise of Failure is ultimately an inspiring book -- but never in a Pollyannaish self-help way. McNally approaches the reader as a sympathetic companion with cautionary tales to tell.

Written by an author who has as many unpublished books under his belt as published ones, "The Promise of Failure" is as much for the newcomer as it is for the established writer.

Critique: Candid, realistic, informative, instructive, pragmatic, ultimately inspiring, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Promise of Failure: One Writer's Perspective on Not Succeeding" should be considered mandatory reading by anyone who has every aspiring to become a published author. An ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Promise of Failure" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

How Hitler Was Made
Cory Taylor
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633884359, $25.00, HC, 295pp,

Synopsis: How did an obscure agitator on the political fringes of early-20th-century Germany rise to become the supreme leader of the "Third Reich"? Unlike many other books that track Adolf Hitler's career after 1933, "How Hitler Was Made: Germany and the Rise of the Perfect Nazi" by Cory Taylor (a veteran producer of historical documentaries) focuses on his formative period -- immediately following World War I (1918-1924) and brings to life this era of political unrest and violent conflict, when forces on both the left and right were engaged in a desperate power struggle. Among the competing groups was a highly sophisticated network of ethnic chauvinists that discovered Hitler and groomed him into the leader he became.

Based on archival research in Germany, England, and the US, "How Hitler Was Made" also underscores the importance of a post-war socialist revolution in Bavaria, led by earnest reformers, some of whom were Jewish. Right wing extremists skewed this brief experiment in democracy followed by Soviet-style communism as evidence of a Jewish-Bolshevik plot. Along with the pernicious "stab-in-the-back" myth, which misdirected blame for Germany's defeat onto civilian politicians, public opinion was primed for Hitler to use his political cunning and oratorical powers to effectively blame Jews and Communists for all of Germany's problems.

Critique: Definitively researched, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "How Hitler Was Made: Germany and the Rise of the Perfect Nazi" is an extraordinary study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How Hitler Was Made" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman
Iris Ruth Pastor
Ladies, Ink
9780965283236, $15.99, PB, 242pp,

Synopsis: Iris Ruth Pastor wrote "The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" specifically for the benefit of women who think they think about food too much. Who envy those "skinny bitches" and wonder how they do it. Who use the needle on the scale as a measure of their self-worth. Who constantly feel that they are you "just ten pounds" away from happiness.

Iris Ruth Pastor was once herself a weight-obsessed woman who found a way to eat all those tempting goodies -- without putting on a pound. At age eighteen, she began bingeing and purging daily and didn't stop for forty-six years.

"The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" reveals how she tame those triggers that led to her binging and purging?

"The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" is Iris's candid and intensely personal story of ripping down the facade of her "perfect" life and taking steps to break free of her own eating disorder.

In this honest, insightful, and ultimately inspiring book, Iris Ruth Pastor candidly shares her story of recovery from a decades-long battle with bulimia. She brings a poignant and relatable honesty to this memoir, using both wisdom and humor to bring readers on the journey from despair to healing.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented from first page to last, "The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" is a forthright, sincere, candid, inspiring memoir. A potentially life-changing, life-affirming, life-enhancing read, "The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" will prove to be a valued and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Modern Guide to Energy Clearing
Barbara Moore
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738753492, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Tarot provides just enough structure so that we don't get lost as we explore the mysteries, plumb our dark corners, and locate our North Stars.

In the early 1990s, at a party, someone put a tarot deck into the hands of Barbara Moore and she's held on tightly ever since. Over the years Barbara has published a number of books on tarot, including Tarot for Beginners, Tarot Spreads, The Steampunk Tarot, The Gilded Tarot, The Mystic Dreamer Tarot, and Tarot of the Hidden Realm.

Now she turns her attention to drawing upon her own experience and expertise to write an instructional metaphysical manual for transforming our lives with the publication of the "Modern Guide to Energy Clearing", a complete guide to working with energy. Usable by anyone, regardless of their own particular spiritual path, "Modern Guide to Energy Clearing" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' and down-to-earth, as it shows how to make a personalized toolkit of techniques for any circumstance, from clearing long-standing blocks to cultivating the energy you want.

"Modern Guide to Energy Clearing" will helps the reader to develop a practice that works for them and the life they are living right now. Readers will first learn to clear inappropriate energy and maintain healthy energy within yourself. Then they will expand that energetic wellness into their home, their workplace, and other shared or public spaces.

Readers will explore numerous techniques, including personal clearing, cording, shielding, clearing clutter, setting intentions, and addressing the elements. Build good energetic habits using a variety of tools, including sage, incense, runes, candles, wind chimes, crystals, drums, and blessings.

Critique: "Modern Guide to Energy Clearing" is an inspiring guide that offers guidance on bringing peace and abundance not just to our lives, but also to the broader world around us. Exceptionally well written and fully accommodating in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Modern Guide to Energy Clearing" is a life-changing, life-embracing, life-enhancing read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for community library Metaphysical Studies and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Modern Guide to Energy Clearing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.14).

Figures and Faces: The Art of Jewelry
Patrick Mauries & Evelyne Posseme
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500021811, $24.95, HC, 128pp,

Synopsis: Jewelry has always been a vehicle for the deepest of human emotions: remembrance, faith, devotion, love, belonging, and mourning. The human figure has long been a source of inspiration and a means of expression for jewelers, and it is perhaps the most intimate and involving of subjects. "Figures and Faces: The Art of Jewelry" is the third book in a series from Thames & Hudson that is devoted to the splendid jewelry collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

The museum's collection begins in the Byzantine era and ranges through the medieval and Renaissance periods and beyond, with mythological figures and biblical scenes represented on pendants and rings. In the nineteenth century, Rene Lalique, Alphonse Fouquet, and the Maison Vever produced brooches and necklaces that embodied elegant sophistication and technical brilliance, while in the twentieth century, artists such as Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti joined jewelers like Jean Lurcat, Line Vautrin, and Claude Lalanne in creating works that interpret the body in deeply personal ways.

Specially photographed by Jean- Marie del Moral, Figures is packed with striking and witty works of art, and enhanced with the inclusion of some 120 illustrations, "Figures and Faces: The Art of Jewelry" is the collaborative work of Patrick Mauriees (who is a Paris-based writer of many notable titles on fashion and design. Among his previous books are Maison Goossens: Haute Couture Jewelry, Jewelry by Chanel, and Androgyne, all published by Thames & Hudson) and Evelyne Posseme (who is chief curator at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris).

Critique: A stunningly beautiful volume that is both informed and informative by two simply outstanding experts in the subject, "Figures and Faces: The Art of Jewelry" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it clearly and unreservedly recommended as an instructive read and detailed reference that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story
Stuart R. Kaplan, et al.
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
9781572819122, $45.00, HC, 440pp,

Synopsis: Pamela Colman Smith (16 February 1878 - 18 September 1951), also nicknamed Pixie, was an artist, illustrator, writer and occultist. She is best known for illustrating the Waite-Smith deck of divinatory tarot cards (also called the Rider-Waite or the Rider-Waite-Smith deck) for Arthur Edward Waite.

The work of Stuart R. Kaplan (with contributions by Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O'Connor, and Melinda Boyd Parsons), "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" brings together the efforts of four distinguished scholars who have devoted years of research to uncover the life and artistic accomplishments of Pamela Colman Smith.

In addition to her work with tarot, Pamela Colman Smith was also a stage and costume designer, folklorist, poet, author, illustrator of ballads and folktales, suffragette, and publisher of books and broadsheets.

"Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" is a collaborative work presenting a richly illustrated biography of Pamela's life with essays on the events and people that influenced her including Jack Yeats, Ellen Terry, Alfred Stieglitz, Bram Stoker and William Gillette. Of special note is the inclusion of a chronological survey of her folktales, art and poetry and an exploration of her lasting legacy.

Beautifully and profusely illustrated with more than 400 color images of Pamela's non-tarot art curated from her publications including A Broad Sheet, The Green Sheaf, Blue Beard, Annancy stories, Russian ballet, "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" is a definitive volume of her art and artistry.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, beautifully showcasing the work of an amazingly talented artist with flawless reproductions of her art craft, "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" is a unique and inherently fascinating read from first page to last. A welcome and long overdue introduction of a truly remarkable metaphysical artist, "Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition the personal reading lists of all tarot reading enthusiasts, as well as community and academic library Metaphysical Collections in general, and the History of Tarot supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Queen for a Day
Maxine Rosaler
Delphinium Books
9781883285753, $24.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Mimi Slavitt's three-year-old son is autistic, but if anyone told her, she wouldn't listen, because she doesn't want to know -- until at last Danny's behavior becomes so strange even she can't ignore it.

After her son's diagnosis Mimi finds herself in a world nearly as isolating as her son's. It is a world she shares only with mothers like herself, women chosen against their will for lives of sacrifice and martyrdom. Searching for miracles, begging for the help of heartless bureaucracies while arranging every minute of every day for children who can never be left alone, they exist in a state of perpetual crisis, normal life always just out of reach.

"Queen for a Day" is a story told from Mimi's point of view and theirs, as we are introduced to these women, each a conflicted, complex character totally unsuited for sainthood and dreaming of the day she can just walk away.

Taking its title from the 1950s reality TV show in which the contestants, housewives living lives filled with pain and suffering, competed with each other for deluxe refrigerators and sets of stainless steel silverware, "Queen for a Day" portrays a group of imperfect women living under enormous pressure expressed in ironic, precise and vivid prose, and told with a dark humor and insight born of first-hand experience.

Critique: An inherently compelling, and exceptionally well written novel by an author with a genuine flair for narrative storytelling and the creation of memorable characters, Maxine Rosaler's "Queen for a Day" is an extraordinary read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Queen for a Day" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

The Year of No Summer
Rachel Lebowitz
9781771962193, $19.95, PB, 180pp,

Synopsis: On April 10th, 1815, Indonesia's Mount Tambora erupted. The resulting build-up of ash in the stratosphere altered weather pat-terns and led, in 1816, to a year without summer. Instead, there were June snowstorms, food shortages, epidemics, inventions, and the proliferation of new cults and religious revivals.

Hauntingly meaningful in today's climate change crisis, in the pages of "The Year of No Summer: A Reckoning", author Rachel Lebowitz's lyric essay charts the events and effects of that apocalyptic year. Weaving together history, mythology, and memoir, "The Year of No Summer" ruminates on weather, war, and our search for God and meaning in times of disaster.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and informative read from first page to last, "The Year of No Summer: A Reckoning" is an impressively crafted study that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is historically accurate and contemporarily relevant. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Year of No Summer" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader that "The Year of No Summer" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.95).

The Aging Mind: When Dementia and Alzheimer's Threaten Our Elderly
Esther B. Boggs
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480927384, $24.00, PB, 401pp,

Synopsis: Cynthia Client was a 93 year old wealthy woman who worked her way up from an uneducated child whose mother didn't believe in educating girls to the one supporting her entire family. With her determination and hard work, she home schooled herself and secured a job at one of the largest companies in Hartford, Connecticut. She saved and invested her hard earned money while anxiously waiting to enjoy her retirement at her old age. Shortly after she retired, she is diagnosed with dementia.

Annelle Bright, is Cynthia's patient care assistant (PCA) and became her closest confidant, being told Cynthia's life stories. Together, the two women learn from each other's ups and down real life experiences.

"The Aging Mind: When Dementia and Alzheimer's Threaten Our Elderly " sheds light on the life we all live here on earth and how it can be interrupted by different circumstances, such as diseases. It details some of the relationship between elderly dementia/Alzheimer's patients, their families and care givers.

Critique: An inherently absorbing read, "The Aging Mind: When Dementia and Alzheimer's Threaten Our Elderly" is an impressively well written and presented story of the human condition. An important and valued contribution to our national dialogue regarding Alzheimers in an era of an aging babyboomer generation, "The Aging Mind: When Dementia and Alzheimer's Threaten Our Elderly" is an especially commended addition to personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library collections.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Eat This!
Andrea Curtis, author
Peggy Collins, illustrator
Red Deer Press
9780889955325, $16.95, PB,

"Eat This!: How Fast-Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (and how to fight back)" is a well researched, hard hitting juvenile book about striking back at destructive marketing tactics for unhealthy fast foods, especially targeted at children. Repeated illustrated pages and chapters detail the effective use of advertising, marketing, product placement, use of social media, and more to increase sales of junk foods to juveniles. Countering the definition chapter pages are sections outlined in yellow titled DO THIS! These sections offer creative alternatives to kids and others concerned about junk food promotion and its unhealthy consequences, including, retiring spokescharacters, standing up for junk free checkouts, drawing attention to healthy, sustainable foods such as fruits and vegetables, kids speaking out against junk food, and cracking down on kidvertising. The importance of environmental sustainability and healthy family mealtimes together is emphasized. Illustrated with colorful cartoons and characters, "Eat This!" is sure to be a big splash in the field of intelligent consumerism for juveniles and adults.

Crayola Colorology
Mari Schuh, author
Lerner Publishing Group
1251 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781541528796, $12.99, 112pp,

"Crayola Colorology: Color in Science, Nature, Art, and Culture" by Mari Schuhis a beautifully illustrated book about colors for kids of all ages, and especially for children preschool through third grade. Four chapters cover the science of color, color in nature, the art of color, and color in culture. Filled with stunning color photos of scenes in nature, color contrasts, color wheels, and color puzzles, "Crayola Colorology" teaches causes and definitions of color as well as human reactions to color and history of color significance in different cultures. in Chapter 3, The Art of Color, famous works of art are reproduced to illustrate the significance and impact of color. The associations between color and feelings and the significance of color in different cultures is also explored. At the end of the book, a page of Crayola colors help readers identify the different colors seen throughout the book. The colors have unusual creative names, such as "razzmatazz, melon, unmellow yellow, purple mountains' majesty, blue bell, brick red, and granny smith apple." following is a glossary on pages 106-107, and a resource listing related books and websites section on page 108-109. "Crayola Colorology" is a fun crash course in the theory and practice of color for kids and highly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections..

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

It Was and Was Not So
Bill Castle
Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.
274 North Goodman Street, STE D-214, Rochester, NY 14607
9781941688564, $17.95, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: Bill Calvin is an old man, daily losing words, forgetting words. That forgetting prompts his preoccupation with his earliest memories. He remembers that baby was his very first word it is his name well into his toddler years. He is the youngest of six children and the only boy. It's 1945 and the end of WWII. His father, known to him only from a photo of a handsome soldier wearing an army uniform, is about to enter his life.

Everything changes when his father decides to sell their family home and use the money to buy a meat packing company he works for in rural western Pennsylvania. Three-year-old Billy Calvin narrates these events. Possibly one of the youngest narrators in fiction, his confusions and perceptions give the story a unique humor and poignancy. By the time he is six years old, events thrust Billy into a world outside of his family and his small town. His funny and touching view of that world continues to be framed by his obsession with words.

Like all stories, "It Was and Was Not So" by teacher and playwright Bill Castle is told with words but this story is also about words. It balances precariously between the very first baby talk, and an older person's loss of words.

From Billy Calvin's earliest puzzling over what "dead" means to his later-in-life reflections on his real experiences with death -- lives lost to aging, to war, the AIDS epidemic and the events of 9/11, "It Was And Was Not so" is the story of how language helps us make sense of a lifetime.

Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently fascinating novel by an author with a very special and genuine flair for narrative storytelling, Bill Castle's "It Was And Was Not So" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. One of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "It Was And Was Not So" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West
Peter H. Hassrick
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806160047, $60.00, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: As one of America's most prominent nineteenth-century painters, Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902) is justly renowned for his majestic paintings of the western landscape. Yet Bierstadt was also a painter of history, and his figural works, replete with images of Plains Indians and the American bison, are an important part of his legacy as well.

"Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" by Peter H. Hassrick (Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming) is splendid full-color volume highlights his achievements in chronicling a rapidly changing American West.

Born in Germany, Bierstadt rose to prominence as an American artist in the late 1850s and enjoyed nearly two decades of critical success. His paintings propelled him to the forefront of the American art scene, but they also met with reproach from his peers and critics in the press who viewed his painting style as outmoded. Bierstadt's star has both risen and fallen as modern art historians have reconsidered his complex oeuvre.

"Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" takes a major step in reappraising Bierstadt's contributions by reexamining the artist through a new lens. It shows how Bierstadt conveyed moral messages through his paintings, often to preserve the dignity of Native peoples and call attention to the tragic slaughter of the American bison. More broadly, the book reconsiders the artist's engagement with contemporary political and social debates surrounding wildlife conservation in America, the creation and perpetuation of national parks, and the prospects for the West's indigenous peoples. Bierstadt's final history paintings, including his dual masterworks titled The Last of the Buffalo (a special focus of this volume) stand out as elegiac odes to an earlier era, giving voice to concerns about the intertwined fates of Native peoples and endangered wildlife, especially bison.

Along with its rich sampling of Bierstadt's diverse artwork, "Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" features informative essays by noted curators, scholars of art history, and historians of the American West.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout with flawless reproductions of Albert Bierstadt's artwork, "Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" is the latest addition to the simply outstanding 'The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West Series' from the University of Oklahoma Press. An impressively informative study from beginning to end, "Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition for personal, community, and academic library American Art History collections in general, and Albert Bierstadt supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" is also available in a paperback edition (9780806160054, $35.00).

The Page Fence Giants
Mitch Lutzke
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476671659, $39.95, PB, 274pp,

The Page Fence Giants was an all-star black baseball club sponsored by a woven-wire fence company in Adrian, Michigan, graced the diamond in the 1890s. Formed through a partnership between black and white boosters, the team's respectable four-year run was an early integration success -- before integration was phased out decades ahead of Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut, and the growing Jim Crow sentiment blocked the Page Fence Giant's best talent from the major leagues.

Mitch Lutzke was an award-winning radio reporter before beginning his second career as a high school history teacher and coach in Michigan. He has had history themed articles published in newspapers, magazines, web pages and with SABR.

In "The Page Fence Giants: A History of Black Baseball's Pioneering Champions" Lutzke tells the story of a long-ignored team at the close of the 19th century, whose Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman Sol White was just one of their best players.

Critique: Extraordinarily informative, "The Page Fence Giants" is an exceptionally impressive and unique history that is an especially recommended for community and academic library Baseball History and African American History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, baseball fans, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Page Fence Giants" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

New Jersey: A History of the Garden State
Maxine N. Jurie & Richard F. Veit, editors
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813554099, $27.95, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: The state of New Jersey has a rich Native American heritage and complex colonial history. It played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, early industrialization, and technological developments in transportation, including turnpikes, canals, and railroads. The nineteenth century saw major debates over slavery. While no Civil War battles were fought in New Jersey, most residents supported it while questioning the policies of the federal government.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Maxine N. Jurie (Professor Emerita of History at Seton Hall University) and Richard F. Veit (a professor in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University), the contributors to "New Jersey: A History of the Garden State" also turn to industry, urbanization, and the growth of the shore communities.

A destination for immigrants, New Jersey continued to be one of the most diverse states in the nation. Many of the evolving changes created a host of social problems that reformers tried to minimize during the Progressive Era. Settlement houses were established, educational institutions grew, and utopian communities were founded. Most notably, women gained the right to vote in 1920. In the decades leading up to World War II, New Jersey benefitted from back-to-work projects, but the rise of the local Ku Klux Klan and the German American Bund were sad episodes during this period.

The story of New Jersey then moves to the rise of suburbs, the concomitant decline of the state's cities, growing population density, and changing patterns of wealth. Deep-seated racial inequities led to urban unrest as well as political change, including such landmark legislation as the Mount Laurel decision. Today, immigration continues to shape the state, as does the tension between the needs of the suburbs, cities, and modest amounts of remaining farmland.

Well-known personalities, such as Jonathan Edwards, George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, Dorothea Dix, Thomas Edison, Frank Hague, and Albert Einstein appear in the narrative, while the contributors also mine new and existing sources to incorporate fully scholarship on women, minorities, and immigrants. All the chapters comprising "New Jersey: A History of the Garden State" are set in the context of the history of the United States as a whole, illustrating how New Jersey is often a bellwether for the nation..

Critique: An extraordinarily informative and exceptionally well organized and presented history, "New Jersey: A History of the Garden State" is enhanced with the inclusions of the findings of archaeologists, political, social, and economic historians provide a new look at how the Garden State has evolved. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library American History collections in general, and New Jersey history supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "New Jersey: A History of the Garden State" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813599168, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Cleansing, Healing Power of the Blood
Dr. Sandra G. Kennedy
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768419399, $14.99, 164 Pages

The Transforming Power of the Shed Blood of Christ on the Cross - Continuous Cleansing and the Priestly Role of Believers

In her book "The Cleansing, Healing Power of the Blood" Dr. Sandra Kennedy introduces solid Biblical teaching on the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus in salvation, the power for living in obedience to the Word of God, and for victory over spiritual darkness.

I found the emphasis on spiritual growth, prayer, purity, reconciliation, and restoration was edifying and very insightful. I especially enjoyed Dr. Kenney's personal stories and illustrations. I would have like to see more of these stories.

Other Biblical truths emphasized include the need for a pure heart, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law by Jesus, and the ministry of reconciliation. Dr. Kennedy writes with clarity and passion, faithful to the teaching of God's Word in a ministry of "growing the body of Christ." She is the founder and senior pastor of Whole Life Ministries and internationally known for her television ministry and teaching resources.

"The Cleansing, Healing Power of the Blood" will resonate with anyone looking for a deeper relationship with Jesus, hungry to know more of the power of God in their life, or anyone facing the devastation of defeat through difficulty.

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

A Lifestyle of Divine Encounters - Through Prayer, Prophecy, and the Living Word
Patricia Bootsma
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418828, $16.99, 198 pages

Abiding in Christ - Growing in His Character and Christlikeness
Patricia Bootsma writes from her study of God's Word. Her lifestyle demonstrates how she is actively living out the title of her book, "A Lifestyle of "Divine Encounters through prayer, prophecy, and the living Word of God." She defines knowing God relationally, personally and powerfully through: intimacy, encounter, and in an experiential dimension of prayer

Bootsma includes a balance of Scripture, Biblical examples, instruction, and insight from the writers of many classic books on prayer. I was quite amazed at the power packed pages throughout the book. I was drawn into Rees Howell's intense urgency for prevailing prayer, as well as the prayer secrets Reinhard Bonnke, Reese Howells, Charles Finney, and other prayer warriors, past and present.

In a logical progression, Patricia helps the reader discover reasons for pursuing regular, diligent prayer, develop a two-way dialog with God, enhance a more in-depth relationship in His spirit, recognize spiritual gifts which result into finding open doors for active service.

The extensive chapter endnotes become a compilation of essential books for every prayer chapel, pastor's library: a resource list for Christians in all walks of life.

"A Lifestyle of Divine Encounters - Through Prayer, Prophecy, and the Living Word" is a book I plan to recommend to friends, refer to often. I plan to put into practice the pointers, keys, and tips that have already motivated me to reexamine my prayer life, Bible study habits. I also want to study more deeply the chapters on prophecy, revelation, and walking in the realm of the spirit.

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

Passing the 21 Tests of Leadership
Larry Kreider
Destiny Image, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768419528, $16.99, 220 pages

Preparation for Leaders to Face Future Pressure During Times of Trial and Testing

"Passing the 31 Tests of Leadership" presents the reader with Biblical insight for leaving a legacy of leadership, and influence. The book is made up of 21 short fast moving chapters packed with vignettes, anecdotes, and principles for achieving maximum leadership skills for effective ministry.

At the end of each chapter is a test with personal perceptive questions for reflection and discussion. These questions revealed areas where I need to be more transparent and open in my relationships as I transition into a new season of life.

For me as a leader, what would it mean not to walk in integrity?

How do your priorities reveal what you value in life?

Why is it essential that a leader "knows himself" during a transition time?

How can ego get in the way of vision?

Larry Kreider, prolific author, and director of Dove International trains leaders worldwide. The Dove Leadership & Ministry School sponsor seminars which provide practical training in leadership, and in personal and spiritual growth.

Living on with Purpose - Devotions for Discovering Your God-Given Potential
Dr. Myles Munroe
Destiny Image, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411034, $14.99, 254 pages

Keys to Finding Your Purpose and Releasing Your Potential

Readers will discover their God-given potential through devotional in thematic readings developed into progressive thematic steps that direct the reader to fulfill their God-given purpose.

Part 1 - You Have Potential

Part 2 - Turning Potential Into Action

Part 3 - Learn to Work Hard

Part 4 - Don't Waste Your Potential - Share It

As I began reading the first devotion, I asked the Lord to expand my vision, my world, and my potential.

As I began reading the section "Turning Potential into Action" I was reminded of my earlier prayer as I considered a new concept for me. When you take your imagination and put it on paper you are looking at a visionary that is becoming a missionary; you are looking at becoming a world changer; coincidence or destiny? I am taking the first step by becoming a visionary and ultimately to fulfill my God-given purpose.

I have a whole new appreciation for Dr. Munroe's writing after reading and apply the principals outlined in "Living on with Purpose - Devotions for Discovering Your God-Given Potential."

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

Defeating the Enemy - Exposing and Overcoming the Strategies of Satan
Phil Hopper
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417821, $16.99, 186 pages

A Field Manual for Spiritual Warfare - Strategies and Tactics for Overcoming Satan's Deception

In his book "Defeating the Enemy - Exposing and Overcoming the Strategies of Satan" Phil Hopper helps the Christian overcome and avoid Satan's attacks; those hindrances that keep us from living the abundant life in Christ.

The book is divided into three parts: Part One traces the Battle of the Ages from the beginning, Satan's fall from heaven, man's fall into sin at Eden, and the Birth of Jesus at the Manger in Bethlehem.

Part Two introduces Satan's deceptive tactics and attacks.

Part Three provides tools and weapons for winning the battle; living in freedom and healed from the effects of sin.

Pastor Phil's writing will resonate with readers of a new generation with a message for Christians of every age. Candid and transparent Phil writes with integrity and knowledge as he shares parallels from his life in law enforcement fighting evil to equip the reader for overcoming and avoiding Satan's devious strategies and tactics.

Hopper's sharp and discerning illustrations and word pictures opened the way for me to experience biblical scenes, healing services vicariously, and recognize the battlefield we face.

"Defeating the Enemy - Exposing and Overcoming the Strategies of Satan" puts a new slant on becoming victorious over Satan and growing into spiritual maturity.

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

Accelerated Healing - Accessing Jesus' Finished Work of Divine Healing
John Proodian
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768419047, $16.95, 180 Pages

Expect to be Encouraged, Equipped, Fortified, and Expectant

Dr. John Proodian's book "Accelerated Healing - Accessing Jesus' Finished Work of Divine Healing" is packed with thirty-one fast-moving chapters; candid, honest, unassuming stories from personal experiences openly relating early disappointments and lessons learned from testimonies of miracle stories of accelerated healings.

These chapters introduce the ministry of miraculous healing, the word of knowledge in healing, faith response, and Jesus' anointing for healing, and a remarkable revelation into the study of living out the book of Acts in healing encounters and the manifestations of the Spirit. Dr. John calls for boldness, explains three levels of faith, and provides the reader with insight from the Old and New Testament scriptures.

These stories draw the reader into accessing the miraculous through the words and works that reveal Jesus' finished work of divine healing. Readers can expect their study to create a desire to initiate a relationship and encounter with Jesus as they recognize the reality of Jesus ministry of faith.

I enjoyed Dr. John's conversational writing style. He piqued my interest in this new paradigm shift with questions and concepts I had not studied in any depth in the past. I went away from each reading with lots to think profoundly moving challenges and personal applications.

Dr. Proodian work is highly endorsed by well-known Christian leaders in the prophetic and healing ministries globally.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Breaking Babe Ruth
Edmund F. Wehrie
University of Missouri Press
201 S. 7th Street, Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221605, $29.95, HC, 302pp,

George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (February 6, 1895 - August 16, 1948) was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball (MLB) spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935. Nicknamed "The Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat", he began his MLB career as a stellar left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.

Ruth established many MLB batting (and some pitching) records, including career home runs (714), runs batted in (RBIs) (2,213), bases on balls (2,062), slugging percentage (.690), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164); the latter two still stand today. Ruth is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. In 1936, Ruth was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its "first five" inaugural members.

Babe Ruth was also an ambitious, independent operator, and someone not afraid to challenge baseball's draconian labor system. To the baseball establishment, Ruth's immense popularity represented opportunity, but his rebelliousness and potential to overturn the status quo presented a threat. After a decades-long campaign waged by baseball to contain and discredit him, the Babe, frustrated and struggling with injuries and illness, grew more acquiescent, but the image of Ruth that baseball perpetuated still informs how many people remember Babe Ruth to this day.

Critique: "Breaking Babe Ruth: Baseball's Campaign Against Its Biggest Star" by Edmund F. Wehrie (Professor of History, Eastern Illinois University - Charleston) is an extraordinary and seminal study of an iconic baseball player. A seminal and original body of impressive research that is deftly organized and presented, "Breaking Babe Ruth" is an impressively informed and informative work that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of all baseball history enthusiasts in general, and Babe Ruth fans in particular, that "Breaking Babe Ruth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Governing the Evergreen State: Political Life in Washington
Cornell W. Clayton, Todd Donovan, Nicholas P. Lovrich, editors
Washington State University Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874223552, $26.95, PB, 259pp,

Synopsis: Washington State is a place well known for its political mavericks. Split tickets are a source of pride and independent voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans.

Washington was first to have a voter-approved state Equal Rights Amendment, first to elect a woman as governor, and first to elect a Chinese-American to the position. Today, Washington s open primary election system and voter registration process demonstrate it has not drifted far from its populist roots.

With chapters on interest groups, the constitution, the environment, media coverage, the court system, the legislature, political parties, changing demographics, and more, "Governing the Evergreen State: Political Life in Washington" provides a wealth of thematically relevant material for fresh discussions and analysis written by academics from universities across the state, as well as a senator, a pollster, a newspaper reporter/blogger, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and a court administrator offer a springboard for further examination and discussion.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the editorial team of Cornell W. Clayton (Director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University, where he also serves as the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government); Todd Donovan (who is a professor in the Department of Political Science, Western Washington University - Bellingham); Nicholas P. Lovrich (Regenta Professor Emeritus and a Claudius O and Mary W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Washington State University); "Governing the Evergreen State: Political Life in Washington" provides an absorbing look at an ever-evolving state political and judicial system and presents intriguing case studies that is comprised of twelve expert, erudite and scholarly articles. "Governing the Evergreen State: Political Life in Washington" is an extraordinary contribution to personal, community, and academic library Political Science collections in general, and Washington State History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
Steve Brusatte
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062490421, $29.99, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Some sixty-six million years ago, the Earth's most fearsome creatures, the dinosaurs, simply and suddenly vanished. Today they remain one of our planet's great mysteries. Now in "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World", A paleontologist who hunts and writes about dinosaurs, Steve Brusatte (and is on the faculty of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland), reveals their extraordinary 200-million-year-long story.

In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Professor Brusatte (who as young American paleontologist is credited with naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork) masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy.

Professor Brusatte also recalls compelling stories from his globe-trotting expeditions during one of the most exciting eras in dinosaur research (which he calls "a new golden age of discovery") and offers thrilling accounts of some of the remarkable findings he and his colleagues have made, including primitive human-sized tyrannosaurs; monstrous carnivores even larger than T. rex; and paradigm-shifting feathered raptors from China.

Critique: As descriptively informative and instructively engaging as is entertaining and inherently fascinating, "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World" is extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of palenotology students and the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of dinosaurs that "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Israel in the American Mind
Shaul Mitelpunkt
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108422390, $49.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Israel in the American Mind: The Cultural Politics of US-Israeli Relations, 1958-1988" by Shaul Mitelpunkt (who is a Lecturer in US History at the University of York, England) examines the changing meanings Americans and Israelis invested in the relationship between their countries from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

Bringing to light previously unexamined sources, "Israel in the American Mind" is an impressively informative study that is the first to investigate the intricate mechanisms that defined and redefined Israel's place in American imagination through the war-strewn 1960s and 1970s.

Departing from traditional diplomatic histories that focus on the political elites alone, "Israel in the American Mind" places the relationship deep in the cultural, social, intellectual, and ideological landscapes of both societies. Examining Israeli propaganda operations in America, Professor Mitelpunkt also pays close attention to the way Israelis manipulated and responded to American perceptions of their country, and reveals the reservations some expressed towards their country's relationship with the United States.

By contextualizing the relationship within the changing domestic concerns in both countries, "Israel in the American Mind" provides a truly transnational history of US-Israeli relations.

Critique: A solid work of original scholarship, "Israel in the American Mind: The Cultural Politics of US-Israeli Relations, 1958-1988" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of listings for figures and abbreviations, and introduction (Did I see only America?), a twenty-six page bibliography, and a sixteen page index. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library International Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Israel in the American Mind" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $40.00).

The Doctor Danced with Us
Louis A. Hieb
Rio Grande Books
9781943681259, $19.95, PB, 370pp,

Synopsis: On Christmas Day, 1880, a young doctor from Madison, Indiana, arrived at Keams Canyon, Arizona, to be the physician at the Moqui [Hopi] Pueblo Indian Agency. From early in 1881 until the summer of 1888, Jeremiah Sullivan lived on the Hopi First Mesa, practicing medicine, participating in the social and ceremonial life of the community, and recording songs and narratives.

Soon dismissed as agency physician, arrested, threatened with expulsion by military force, blacklisted from employment by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Smithsonian Institution, slandered by Frank Hamilton Cushing, and all but forgotten in the history of anthropology, Sullivan's residence among the Hopi was the immediate cause of the creation of the 1882 Executive Order Moqui [Hopi] Pueblo Indian Reservation.

Based on over thirty years of archival and field research, "The Doctor Danced with Us: Jeremiah Sullivan and the Hopi, 1881-1888 and Other Essays" by Louis A. Hieb presents the story of "Jere Sullivan, M.D." and also includes biographies of his contemporaries: the Hopi men, Wiki and Polacca; the students of Pueblo architecture, Cosmos and Victor Mindeleff; the ethnologists, F. H. Cushing (Zuni), Washington Matthews (Navajo), and A. M. Stephen (Navajo and Hopi).

Critique: A uniquely informative and impressively researched, written, organized and presented biographical study, "The Doctor Danced with Us: Jeremiah Sullivan and the Hopi, 1881-1888 and Other Essays" is a simply outstanding contribution to personal, community, and academic library American Biography and Native American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Right of Publicity
Jennifer E. Rothman
Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674980983, $39.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Who controls how one's identity is used by others? This centuries old legal question today demands an even greater scrutiny in the age of the Internet. In "The Right of Publicity: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World", Jennifer E. Rothman (is Professor of Law and the Joseph Scott Fellow at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles) uses the right of publicity (a little-known law often wielded by celebrities) to answer that question, not just for the famous but for everyone.

In challenging the conventional story of the right of publicity's emergence, development, and justifications, Professor Rothman shows how it transformed people into intellectual property, leading to a bizarre world in which you can lose ownership of your own identity. This shift and the right's subsequent expansion undermine individual liberty and privacy, restrict free speech, and suppress artistic works.

"The Right of Publicity" also traces the right's origins back to the emergence of the right of privacy in the late 1800s. The central impetus for the adoption of privacy laws was to protect people from "wrongful publicity." This privacy-based protection was not limited to anonymous private citizens but applied to famous actors, athletes, and politicians. Beginning in the 1950s, the right transformed into a fully transferable intellectual property right, generating a host of legal disputes, from control of dead celebrities like Prince, to the use of student athletes' images by the NCAA, to lawsuits by users of Facebook and victims of revenge porn.

The right of publicity has lost its way. With the publication of "The Right of Publicity", Professor Rothman proposes returning the right to its origins and in the process reclaiming privacy for a public world.

Critique: A unique and exceptionally well written study of impeccable scholarship, "The Right of Publicity: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World" is an extraordinary and very highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. Enhanced with the inclusion of forty pages of Notes, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, and an eleven page Index, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Right of Publicity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $37.20).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Cutting Edge
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455536412, 448 pp., $28.00, Hardcover

What starts off as a murder mystery turns into a multi-faceted conspiracy in the latest Lincoln Rhyme novel. It begins with the murder of a prominent diamond cutter in the heart of New York's jewelry district on 47th Street, although the murderer apparently left behind a small fortune in gems, so the motive remains obscure. A young apprentice walks in during the murder and is shot at but is saved when the bullet hits a bag filled with rocks instead.

Subsequent murders take place, ostensibly by a psycho who is out to save diamonds from being defaced as engagement rings and who trails young couples in the act of making purchases and killing them. Meanwhile Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are analyzing the few clues available and seeking to locate the apprentice, who is hiding from view. Then a series of explosions take place, believed to be earthquakes in the heart of Brooklyn.

And as a sidelight, Rhyme agrees for the first time to assist a defendant, a murderous Mexican drug lord on trial in Federal court for illegal entry and murder, by reviewing the evidence in the hope of establishing an error. This gives he author another chance to fool the reader with another twist.

Of course, the whole plot is premised on Mr. Deaver's ability to surprise readers by leading them down a path only to divert them finally by revealing something else in the end. The series is long- standing and always diverting, especially when forensics are analyzed and explained.


Cult X
Fuminori Nakamura
Translated by Kalau Almony
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957865, $26.95/33.95 CA$, Hardcover, 497 pp.

Ostensibly, this novel begins with a young man who is seeking a woman he has known who apparently had entered the strange world of a cult, which he then joins in an attempt to find her. As he progresses in his quest, the reader is exposed to a variety of topics, ranging from sex and violence to religion, astrophysics and neuroscience.

This gives the author the opportunity to write about all kinds of subjects, with long discourses ranging from good and evil to Japanese politics, from war criminals to peace. Perhaps inspired by the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the novel is an examination of what attraction extremism has to most people.

The reader has to plow through more than 500 pages of this material, struggling to grasp all the meanings and context in what starts out as a simple love story. And the task is hardly easy. It takes a lot of effort and for that reason it is rated lower than one would expect a book written by this author, whose past works received [deservedly] higher ratings. Nevertheless, Nakamura pushes us to the limits in his writings, which have made him one of the top Japanese authors. For this reason, for those willing to stick with it, Cult X is recommended

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Whispers of the Dead
Spencer Kope
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250072887, $26.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: There has been a murder, but not only is the identity of the victim unknown, most of the body itself is missing. All that's been found is a pair of feet, stored in a portable cooler, and left in the house of a Federal judge in El Paso, Texas. The killer apparently broke into the judge's house, left his grizzly message, and disappeared without a trace. With no clues as to the killer, the person killed, or the intent behind the cooler, all the authorities really know is that this likely isn't the killer's first (or his last) victim.

Magnus "Steps" Craig is an FBI agent and an elite tracker, easily the best in the world. Steps is renowned for his incredible ability to find and follow trails over any surface. As part of the three-man special team, FBI's Special Tracking Unit (STU), he is called in on cases where his skills are indispensable. But there's a secret to his skill. Steps has a kind of synesthesia, an ability that allows him to see whatever each particular person has touched in a unique color?what Steps calls 'shine.' His ability is known to only a few people?his father, the director of the FBI, and his partner, Special Agent Jimmy Donovan.

While the Special Tracking Unit tries to grapple with the gruesome scene in El Paso, they soon discover another, earlier victim. Once again, only the feet (in a disposable icebox) were left behind. With almost no clues besides the body parts, Steps and his team find themselves enmeshed in the most difficult case of their careers. And The Icebox Killer has only just begun.

Critique: Another deftly crafted mystery novel from the author of "Collecting the Dead" (9781250072870, $25.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle), "Whispers of the Dead" continues to showcase Spencer Kope's impressively flair for originality and the creation of a truly riveting and memorable read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Whispers of the Dead" is also available in a paperback edition (9781250308405, $9.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Macmillan Audio, 9781427285805, $45.99, CD).

Love and Death in the Sunshine State
Cutter Wood
Algonquin Books
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616207304, $26.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: When a stolen car is recovered on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it sets off a search for a missing woman, local motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler. Three men are named persons of interest - her husband, her boyfriend, and the man who stole the car - and the residents of Anna Maria Island, with few facts to fuel their speculation, begin to fear the worst. Then, with the days passing quickly, her motel is set on fire, her boyfriend flees the county, and detectives begin digging on the beach.

Cutter Wood was a guest at Musil-Buehler's motel as the search for the missing woman gained momentum, and he found himself drawn steadily deeper into the case. Driven by his own need to understand how a relationship could spin to pieces in such a fatal fashion, he began to meet with the eccentric inhabitants of Anna Maria Island, with the earnest but stymied detectives, and with the affable man soon presumed to be her murderer.

But there is only so much that interviews and records can reveal in trying to understand why we hurt those we love.

Telling a story that exists outside of documentary evidence, in the pages of "Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Crime" Cutter Wood carries the investigation beyond the facts of the case and into his own life, crafting a tale of misguided love, writerly naivete, and the dark and often humorous conflicts at the heart of every relationship.

Critique: An impressively well crafted, informed and informatively written study, "Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Crime" is an extraordinary and riveting read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for community library True Crime collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781684413386, $29.99, CD).

A People's History of the Vampire Uprising
Raymond A. Villareal
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316561686, $27.00, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising" by Raymond A. Villareal is panoramic fictional oral history begins with one small mystery: the body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, disappears from the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult with the local police, it's an impossibility that threatens her understanding of medicine.

Then, more bodies, dead from an inexplicable disease that solidified their blood, are brought to the morgue, only to also vanish. Soon, the U.S. government--and eventually biomedical researchers, disgruntled lawmakers, and even an insurgent faction of the Catholic Church--must come to terms with what they're too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

With heightened strength and beauty and a stead diet of fresh blood, these changed people, or "Gloamings," rapidly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society. Soon people are beginning to be "re-created," willingly accepting the risk of death if their bodies can't handle the transformation. As new communities of Gloamings arise, society is divided, and popular Gloaming sites come under threat from a secret terrorist organization. But when a charismatic and wealthy businessman, recently turned, runs for political office -- well, all hell breaks loose.

Critique: A deftly crafted, imaginative, reader riveting novel from cover to cover, "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising " is told from the perspective of key players, including a cynical FBI agent, an audacious campaign manager, and a war veteran turned nurse turned secret operative. Exhilarating, genre-bending, original, and unfailingly entertaining, "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for dedicated vampire fantasy fans that "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, (9781549143670, $35.00, CD).

Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society
William Oldfield & Victoria Bruce
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501171208, $26.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America's Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective who Brought Them to Justice" by archivist and historical lecturer William Oldfield (and with the assistance of Victoria Bruce) presents the incredible and true story of the US Post Office Inspector who took down the deadly Black Hand (an early Italian-American secret society that preyed on immigrants across America's industrial heartland, and was the precursor to the Mafia) and features fascinating and never-before-seen documents and photos from the Oldfield family's private collection.

Before the emergence of prohibition-era gangsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano (who founded the modern version of the Mafia beginning with the Five Families of New York and their board of directors), there was the Black Hand: an early twentieth-century Sicilian-American crime ring that preyed on immigrants from the old country. In those days, the FBI was in its infancy, and local law enforcement were clueless against the dangers - most refused to believe that organized crime existed. Terrorized victims rarely spoke out, and the criminals ruled with terror - until Inspector Frank Oldfield came along.

In 1899, Oldfield became America's 156th Post Office Inspector -- joining the ranks of the most powerful federal law enforcement agents in the country. Based in Columbus, Ohio, the unconventional Oldfield brilliantly took down train robbers, murderers, and embezzlers from Ohio to New York to Maryland. Oldfield was finally able to penetrate the dreaded Black Hand when a tip-off put him onto the most epic investigation of his career, culminating in the 1909 capture of sixteen mafiosos in a case that spanned four states, two continents -- and ended in the first international organized crime conviction in the country.

Hidden away by the Oldfield family for one hundred years and covered-up by rival factions in the early 20th century Post Office Department, "Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society" is incredible true story out of America's turn-of-the-century heartland will captivate all lovers of history and true crime.

Critique: A simply riveting read from cover to cover, "Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America's Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective who Brought Them to Justice" is a unique and extraordinary study that will prove to be an immediately popular and enduringly valued contribution to both community and academic library American Organized Crime collections and supplemental studies lists. Impressively informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Darwin's Secret Sex Problem
F. LaGard Smith
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973617075, $39.95, HC, 364pp,

Synopsis: For all his revolutionary insight into the fascinating processes of evolution so useful to current scientific research, health care, and technology, Charles Darwin never seriously confronted the crucial, insurmountable gap in his grand theory between asexual replication and sexual reproduction. Nor could Darwin's famed theory of natural selection have provided simultaneous on-time delivery of the first male/female pair of millions of sexually unique species required for evolutions bedrock premise of common descent a fundamental flaw fatal to the romanticized microbe-to-man Evolution Story.

Critique: "Darwin's Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution s Fatal Flaw the Origin of Sex" by F. LaGard Smith (who is a career professor in higher education, and the author of over thirty books ranging from law, to faith, to hot-button social and cultural issues) is an impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking study. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Darwin's Secret Sex Problem" is highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Darwin's Secret Sex Problem" is also available in a paperback edition (9781973617068, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

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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