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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 6 June 2020 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change
Solomon Goldstein-Rose
Melville House Publishing
9781612198385, $19.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The world must reach negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Yet no single plan has addressed the full scope of the problem -- until now!

In "The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change", climate activist Solomon Goldstein-Rose makes clear what needs to happen to hit the 2050 target: the manufacturing booms we must spur, the moonshot projects we must fund, the amount of CO2 we'll have to sequester from the atmosphere, and much more.

Most importantly, "The 100% Solution" shows us the more prosperous and equitable world we can build by uniting the efforts of activists, industries, governments, scientists, and voters to get the job done.

"The 100% Solution" calls for a WWII-scale mobilization intensify (especially among youth activists). This fully illustrated, action-oriented book arms us with specific demands, sets the stakes for what our leaders must achieve, and proves that with this level of comprehensive thinking we can still take back our future.

Critique: Impressively thoughtful, informative, innovative, and DIY practical, "The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change" will prove to be a timely and inspiring contribution to our on-going national dialogue over climate change and what can be done about it on a personal, local, national, and global scale. The 100% Solution lives up to its title as a clear-cut roadmap to a global future that staves off environmental ravages from human-made climate change. Offering a multi-point plan to achieve a 2050 target that reduces carbon dioxide emissions and sequesters carbon dioxide without sabotaging long-term global prosperity, The 100% Solution is a "must-read" for environmental activists, politicians, eco-friendly business leaders, and much more. While especially recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, and academic library collections on Climate Change, it should be noted for students, academia, environmental activists, governmental policy makers, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Solomon Goldstein-Rose was elected to the Massachusetts legislature on a climate change-focused platform at age 22. He previously interned in the Obama White House and in Congress, and ran a statewide carbon pricing campaign. He maintains a website at:

The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania
Steve Wiegand
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610884945, $33.00, HC, 274pp,

Synopsis: The Maryhill Museum of Art is located on 5,300 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. Miles from any sizeable town and surrounded by the gorge's spectacular scenery, Maryhill is an internationally recognized (and undeniably eclectic) repository of art that ranges from one of the nation's best Rodin collections to one of the world's largest assemblage of chess sets.

"The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania" by Steve Wiegand is the detailed story of the four widely disparate people whose lives intertwined in such a way as to lay the foundation for the museum.

Loie Fuller was once the world's most famous dancer, who dreamed of becoming beautiful by creating beauty. Alma Spreckels was one of America's wealthiest women, who dreamed of being accepted for who she wanted to be rather than who she was. Sam Hill was a rich man who dreamed of becoming a great man. And Marie of Romania was a real-life queen who dreamed of being a fairy-tale queen.

"The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania" is also the story of those who followed them. These were the people who nurtured and grew Maryhill from a fascinating oddity that Time magazine once called "a top hat in the jungle" to one of the relatively few U.S. museums accredited in every category by the American Alliance of Museums.

Critique: Deftly organized into fourteen informative and exceptionally well presented chapters, and featuring a section of both black/white and color illustrations, "The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania" will have a very special appeal to art lovers, museum aficionados, history buffs and non-specialist general readers who enjoy an inherently fascinating true history that readers with all the eccentricity and drama of a deftly penned novel. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Museum & Museology Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Steve Wiegand is an award-winning journalist and history writer. His 35-year journalism career was spent at the San Diego Evening Tribune, where he was the chief political writer; San Francisco Chronicle, where he was the state capitol bureau chief; and Sacramento Bee, where he was a special projects writer and politics columnist. Wiegand is also the author, co-author, or contributing author of eight books, including U.S. History for Dummies, which is currently in its fourth edition and has been published in both Chinese and German; the Mental Floss History of the World; Papers of Permanence; Lessons from the Great Depression for Dummies; and The American Revolution for Dummies.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

How the Deer Moon Hungers
Susan Wingate
Roberts Press
c/o False Bay Books
9798629230182, Paperback $14.99, eBook: $9.99

A child's death changes everything, whitewashing the dreams of siblings and family and replacing them with overwhelming, ongoing sadness that stretches through lives and years.

How the Deer Moon Hungers opens with a moonlight bike ride, but the demise of seven-year-old Tessa is only the beginning of the story, not the end. The actual beginning lies in her older sister's life after the event, and moves through the many changes she experiences, from language and relationships ("Allegedly became an important word for me after Tessa died. It's weird when I think back on how much I liked the word after learning it, and then how much I hated it afterward, when I heard the cop use it. "Allegedly," he'd said, "the younger one was in the older sister's care," and then as though no one understood, "the older one was supposed to be watching the younger one." He said "one" like we were buttons on a conveyor belt at some stupid button factory. The jerk.") to a new habit adopted from Tessa's last fascination in life: "Mom showed up and fell apart, and that's around the time I started counting the days of the moon as it grew through its phases from crescent to half to gibbous to crescent again. I call it moon-spying. I run outside every month when the moon is ripe to find the deer Tessa saw, but more, maybe, to spot my little sister somewhere inside that big ol' cheese wheel. Maybe seeing that dreamy face of hers searching for me."

How the Deer Moon Hungers is allegedly about death, recovery, growth, and rebuilding a new life, but it's also about recapturing a piece of the old life and celebrating its roots.

As sibling narrator Mackenzie moves through this process into an "intellectual love" for another girl that operates on a level quite different from anyone else around her, readers gain insights into how relationships flourish not just because they are more than different, but because they hold the ability to heal: "Gemma had a way to make me forget my troubles."

As she enters the world of separated families, divorce, moral conundrums revolving around love and money, and correction officers and facilities, redemption and sorrow struggle for top billing in a story that wrenches the heart as it follows the ongoing pain of Mackenzie and anyone who knew her sister Tessa.

From the ashes rises the phoenix. As a family descends into an abyss of pain, so Mackenzie fights to discover her own way out of the overwhelming circumstances of her sibling's death.

Surprises include changing viewpoints between Tessa and Mackenzie (all nicely documented in chapter headings which eliminate any potential confusion), insights into the origins of love, alienation and hope, and a focus on changed interpersonal relationships which, like a pebble in water, spread outward from a given event horizon to touch all manner of choices, decisions, and their consequences.

Susan Wingate is gifted at capturing these shifting nuances as events continue to pull characters apart and put them back together like puzzles, albeit in a different way. How the Deer Moon Hungers carries the reader through this process, creating a powerful and memorable saga that is hard to put down, lingering in the mind long after the story is over.

Life Cycles - Coincidences
Neil Killion
Life Cycles Publications
$TBA print / $6.99 Kindle

Life Cycles - Coincidences is the fourth book in psychologist Neil Killion's series which maintains that life experiences run on 12-year cyclic patterns, verifiable by statistical data based on biographical analysis.

Killion states that his main aim is to introduce the Life Cycles Theory as a brand new form of coincidence. This coincidence does not involve the people being studied or their reactions at all. He builds on the long past history of writings about the subject to suggest that his objective and predetermined coincidences are best suited to challenging the orthodox position of statisticians and rationalists; that all coincidences can be explained by mathematical principles.

Further than this, however, he approaches a leading worldwide skeptics organization with his evidence and gets them to agree to an ad-hoc test, the results of which are so astounding, that they have produced no answer or rebuttal. This, he says, is almost unheard of.

Statistical validation of Killion's theory in general and coincidences in particular juxtaposes with unexpected personal touches such as emails and dialogues, creating an accessible survey that will reach not just scholarly or psychologist readers, but general-interest thinkers.

The depth of references mentioned in or connected to this discussion may challenge those who anticipate or want a casual survey. From J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and its success, to how Sister Theresa became Mother Teresa, Star Trek's evolution, and how the Beatles got their recording contract; these examples and many more document the kinds of coincidences Killion studies and connects. From popular culture to various scientific disciplines, this wide-ranging approach holds value to a much more diverse audience than psychologists alone. Readers who enjoy biographies and motivational true stories will find much of interest here.

Some striking coincidences are documented throughout history, from two women murdered 157 years apart to many, many other events and patterns: "The men accused of these horrific murders of both women had the same last name of Thornton and both of them were acquitted of their crimes. Some other strange coincidences were that the women were both 20 years old when murdered and they shared the same birthday! Both women had visited a friend the evening they were killed. They had changed into brand new dresses and also went to a dance on the same night. The odds of this happening by pure chance are just enormous and would look like a long string of zeros following the first number. Maybe these crazy similarities could just happen and if not, then what else could be posited? Are we talking about the weird possibility of some form of reincarnation of both the original woman and the original killer, resulting in a replay of the same events around 150 years later?"

It's one thing to have these stories peppered in diverse accounts over the decades; but juxtaposing them side-by-side, complete with statistical evidence for life cycles and their accompanying coincidental qualities, makes for thoroughly engrossing, thought-provoking reading.

Killion is frequently surprised by the results of his own data and research on coincidences: "This sort of amazing correlation happens on such a regular basis that, though I am grateful to find each separate case, on the other hand I'm less surprised than I should be." This admission lends a humbling sense of discovery to efforts based not on preconceived theories, but on uncovering strange connections that turn out to be prevalent throughout human history. (He confirms that he is the first and only person to come upon these straightforward correlations, which he says have been hiding in plain sight).

His most in-depth study is of just two weeks worth of Obituaries from one source. The discussion delves into the data, summarizes its results to arrive at (some thought-provoking) conclusions, and further evidences Killion's critical process: " terms of random occurrence, very little by way of evidence drawn from the obituary text could be expected. Perhaps one example of a "Year of Revolution" and equally one example of a "Year of Broken Pathways", and not necessarily found together....(followed by "instead we find 26 instances listed for 12 Obituary texts...if we were to look at this as 26 times a successful roll of the dice (which I know it isn't exactly) then it would be a huge number, 1 chance in 17,058,173 trillion, trillion to 1) (Leaving out In terms of a clear-cut instance of the overall importance of the age 36 "Year of Revolution" to the person's whole life mission, we could not even reasonably expect one random example, when taken on its own. I mean, literally speaking, why should it? I have a fairly explicit definition of what I am seeking and this, of course, is totally unique to "Life Cycles Theory". Maybe the one "Year of Revolution" example, that we could expect, might coincide and maybe it mightn't.")

Life Cycles - Coincidences offers lay readers the opportunity to delve into scientific and statistical inquiry by considering connections in their own lives and throughout history. It adds to the series and ideally should be pursued by those with prior familiarity with the Life Cycles concept and its analytical direction.

However, it can also be enjoyed by those who want to consider the mechanics and direction of life in general and their own patterns in particular. Anyone interested in exploring the framework that underlies life's progression and choices will find intriguing, accessible, and absorbing; the theory and examples packed into Life Cycles - Coincidences.

Geoffrey M. Cooper
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633812239, $15.95

Forever is a medical thriller along the lines of a Robin Cook-style saga, but with the added bonus of Brad Parker's first-person perspective. This adds personal drama and observation to a research professor's brush with the FBI and ever-increasing danger.

High-octane action is present from the start, from a simple walk down a work hallway to confront the FBI's unusual presence to an evolving story of academic espionage. This draws the professor from his beloved research and long-deserved sabbatical from the classroom, and back into the same style of intrigue and investigation that drained his energy previously.

Brad was content in the lab, happy to be just another worker. When he enters a quagmire of deadly danger, Chinese espionage attempts, and high-tech spying operations, he begins to see that the science he loves so much has evolved a special kind of threat that goes beyond foreign special interests and subterfuge. From the possible misuses of gene editing and engineering human traits and abilities to the manipulation of unknown entities that defy identification and apprehension, Brad increasingly finds himself pulled from the coveted job he loves back into arenas he swore never to re-enter.

The pressure and lies surrounding the funding of his project from Walter Monroe's foundation lead him to understand why fellow researchers might fudge their data to produce fundable results. Presented with the dilemma of a major grant that would buy his loyalty at a steep price, Brad faces many moral, professional, and ethical conundrums that keep him on his toes in more ways than one.

Unlike Cook's typical focus on the thriller angle alone, Geoffrey M. Cooper adds many professional and personal layers into his story to keep readers engaged not just in subterfuge, but a struggling professor's research and commitments. A solid, realistic dose of scientific insight peppers the story to cement this sense of purpose: "The behavioral tests were actually rather ingenious. I liked the smell test best. It determined how effectively a mouse could smell the major component of fox urine on a piece of filter paper - by measuring how far the mouse kept away from the threatening scent."

The fact that there's a time bomb ticking over the entire process lends satisfying tension and intrigue as Brad navigates dangers inside and outside the lab and comes to realize that his choices, actions, and abilities may not be enough to ward off disaster on many different levels.

Herein lies the second strength of Forever: its ability to flavor its multifaceted story with layers of complexity and involvement that move from scientific and political circles to personal challenge. At every step, Brad confronts one of these elements. His work and objectives prove mercurial as he is buffeted by various influencers and forced to constantly reexamine his objectives, connections, and strengths.

The result is a gripping, science-based story that revolves around manipulation, mutants, and murky situations. Forever is designed to keep readers on edge to its satisfying conclusion. It is highly recommended reading for science thriller readers looking for more lab focus, more depth, and more action than the usual formula production offers.

American Ripper
Patrick Kendrick
BlueWater Press
9781605421559, $28.95

True crime readers looking for an in-depth coverage of a high-profile serial killer's impact in the 1960s and 70s will find American Ripper eye-opening reading. It which pulls no punches in its coverage of Florida law enforcement officer and killer Gerard John Schaefer.

American Ripper is no light leisure crime story. This is an in-depth study that excels in including and reviewing court transcripts, evidence lists, interviews, and other technical papers relating to Schaefer's story. While this adds length, depth, and a form of complexity that may stymie casual readers, its approach will delight law enforcement, psychologist, and social issues readers seeking an expose that embraces the entirety of the process.

As a further cautionary note, American Ripper also includes case histories that capture moment-by-moment graphic experiences of victims and criminal. This is not a read for those who would casually learn a serial killer's modus operandi, but a detailed exploration and description of his victims and how he lured them into dangerous territory through an amiable approach and the power of his police badge.

As part of the well-rounded approach to describing events, Patrick Kendrick includes the perp's own notes documenting these crimes, noting that "Schaefer's own writings perhaps best describe what he felt and undoubtedly what he intended to do." Interviews, court proceedings, written reports, and notes are all detailed with an eye to following how one man became a clever, sadistic murderer. The details provide in-depth coverage and leave no stone unturned, including Kendrick's own visits to and encounters with Schaefer, his interviews with families of victims, and his documentation of the local, regional, and global responses to serial killer threats.

The intricate notes are woven into a story that reads with the tension and drama of fiction, but delves into and analyzes all facts and connections in a well-researched, documented piece: "Of the fact that Leigh knew Gerard Schaefer, there is no doubt. The two grew up together as neighbors just a few houses apart. They met in their early teens and often played tennis and went swimming together. Although Schaefer's name appears only once in Leigh's missing person's report, a private investigator, William Marshall, found evidence that linked the two just prior to her disappearance." Depositions, arguments for and against the case, questions on coincidence and the solidity of evidence, and issues of subjective interpretation of code and law all enter into Schaefer's ultimate fate.

The graphic nature of these descriptions of such preparations may horrify and surprise readers not just because of their intricate planning, but because of the nature of the details. Kendrick includes memories of the victims who survived, as well, juxtaposing their impressions with those of Schaefer.

As facts emerge about his victims, his methods, and the fact that nobody realized the extent of Schaefer's dangerous behaviors before multiple murders took place, readers receive a gruesome, gripping, and startling discussion of not just a murderer's threats, but justice and law enforcement systems gone awry.

Readers who regularly imbibe in true crime memoirs and biographies will find that American Ripper is a step up from the ordinary fare - more challenging, more detailed, and replete with lively dramatic descriptions that usually are prevalent in fiction than nonfiction.

American Ripper is a powerful survey of not just one man's killing spree, but the processes of law enforcement, justice, and psychiatric evaluation in modern America. More than just a crime story or a saga of innocence and guilt, it's an indictment of an evolving psychosis and how it gained ground in an environment replete with conflicting information, processes, and purposes.

The toll this book has taken on its author and his life are also revealed in a concluding twist that offers much food for thought about this type of focus and investigation and its ultimate impact and costs on the writer's life and those he questioned: "I've paid dues for working on this book beyond financial ones. In addition to the sheer physical work of a once young man tracking down details at a time when it was very difficult and uncomfortable to do, I've become part of the drama I'd just as soon have not played. It has cost me greatly and, along with my other traumatic work in the fire service, has plagued me with things seen that will never leave my mind. Going through this manuscript, even these many years later, has not eased that, and I have to ask why did I write it, and why has it stuck with me, existential questions that may never be answered. "

The broader questions posed by American Ripper make it highly recommended reading beyond its likely audience of true crime aficionados, hopefully moving into law enforcement, legal process, and psychology circles as an in-depth example of not just a serial killer's modus operandi, but the systems that allowed him to continue his crime spree unchecked.

I Have Feelings...and That's O.K.
Jordan Mayfield, LSCSW
Family Psychological Press
9781733462389, $TBA

I Have Feelings...and That's O.K. features colorful and fun drawings by Shelby Hild and is written for ages 3-6, who will benefit from adult interaction as they review the story (told from a cat's observations) of young Grace and her friends, who may not be grown up, but who experience feelings "just as big."

Each panel explores an emotion and holds a facing colorful page illustrating it. Avery, for example, feels sad over everything, from a dropped cookie to being regulated to timeout. But it's ok for her to feel sad. On the next page, she has another cookie...and timeout isn't permanent, but ends soon.

Each page presents an emotion, a dilemma, and its resolution. But each page also reinforces that it is O.K. to go through that emotion to experience and accept it.

Whether the different characters are feeling silly, frightened, happy, or mad, it's all ok, because they can be proactive in managing their emotions. The very young not only learn how to readily identify an emotion and its cause, but how to both accept and mitigate any lasting negative impact or outlook about life in general.

Simple message; direct proactive, emotion-accepting approach; great book!

Saving Tuna Street
Nancy Nau Sullivan
Light Messages Publishing
9781611533309, $14.99 Paperback
9781611533323, $6.99 Ebook

Mystery readers of Saving Tuna Street will be delighted with the strong sense of seaside place and the personality of Blanche "Bang" Murninghan in this story of a part-time journalist who lives an idyllic life in a beachside cottage until it's threatened by developers who try to force her to sell.

But this pressure is only the tip of the story iceberg. When her good friend is murdered, Blanche's probe leads her to confront drug runners, kidnappers, and murderers who then turn their sights on her.

As the community changes and faces new challenges, Blanche finds that the idyllic atmosphere of her once-peaceful home has changed ("Nothing's the same around here anymore. Something's been broken."). People are locking their doors and their hearts. Can her journalistic inquiries and investigative skills change anything?

Saving Tuna Street is more than just a murder mystery. It's about the injection of special interests into a community's makeup, the changes experienced by those who confront adversaries who will do anything to achieve their goals, and a lone woman who faces murder, a community's disruption, and kidnapping with equal courage.

Those who support Blanche find themselves at a loss when she vanishes. As the interconnections and support of this seaside town come under assault, Nancy Nau Sullivan does a terrific job of flushing out characters, special interests and influences, and the special interests and goals of a host of characters.

As events progress, double lives are revealed to add to the intrigue. At the heart of this whirlwind of angst and change is a tenacious woman who doesn't let go. She may have to hone this skill further in order to save her own life as well as her community.

Sullivan builds the connections between community members with an eye to exploring the different ways they grow and change as events progress and become more serious.

The result is a mystery which incorporates many elements of psychological transformation, investigative skills development, and changing community makeup. Saving Tuna Street will initially draw readers with its mystery theme, but injects broader subjects and concerns to keep readers guessing and reading until the story's surprise conclusion.

(It should be noted that Saving Tuna Street is first in a series. After this, Blanche is off to find mayhem in Mexico City, then Ireland, Vietnam, Spain, and Argentina.)

What Color is My Hijab?
Hudda Ibrahim, author
Meenal Patel, illustrator
Beaver's Pond Press
9781643439204, $17.95

What Color is My Hijab? is about learning colors as well as Muslim traditions, emphasizing both with lovely color illustrations by Meenal Patel that pair beautifully with Hudda Ibrahim's celebration of hijab headwear (scarf).

Picture book readers will appreciate this lively perspective: "Hijab is the crown/I wear every day./It is worn many ways,/and it comes in every color."

As the young narrator recounts the various intelligent, skilled women who wear the hijab - engineers, athletes, and stylish models among them - she draws associations between hijab choices and the messages they impart to others as well as the strength they lend to her world.

As the young narrator decides what hijab she will wear that day and what message it will impart, readers receive a colorful and thought-provoking series of insights into what a hijab means and why so many Muslim women wear one proudly.

Any picture book collection seeking to expand cross-cultural insights and communication will relish this simple, uplifting exploration.

The Black Album: Writings on Art and Culture (Expanded Second Edition)
Bradley Rubenstein
Meridian Art Press
9781732221932, $14.99 Print
9781732221925, $7.99 ebook

The Black Album: Writings on Art and Culture gathers writings by painter and writer Bradley Rubenstein and represents a decade of artistic commentary and reflection through art criticism that Bradley Rubenstein published online and in printed journals.

While this description might lead readers to believe The Black Album is suitable only for art historians and artists, Rubenstein's approach to presenting cultural, social, political, and artistic reflections under one cover expands its audience to many other disciplines as well as the general public.

Another note is that usually art criticism involves staid language, whether it's calmly presented or passionate in nature. Rubenstein's voice is both analytical and gritty, often moving into the realm of candid street talk tempered by an intellectual overlay that is pointed, intriguing, and anything but dull: "It was not that long ago that David Salle seemed to strike a collective nerve with his simulations of paintings: for some, he resurrected Painting; for others he fucked its necrotic corpse. Among critics he was praised for revivifying the art form, along with his colleagues Julian Schnabel and Eric Fischl, and vilified by feminist critics for his reified soft-core porn subject matter."

Readers need not have a prior familiarity with the art works under consideration. They don't even have to have a background in painting or sculpture, or any classical training in art criticism. All that is required in order to fully appreciate Rubenstein's analyses is an interest in the intersection of art and social and cultural influences and an appreciation for succinct, pointed literature.

Rubenstein creates a delightful interplay between criticism and outrage. He injects these feelings into writings that use eloquent language to point out an artist's ironies and inconsistencies: "If Smith's sculptures represent the Alpha of this exhibit, Pollock's are the Omega. By the time of their Jersey weekend, Pollock had all but ceased producing work. Following an earlier intervention with Barnett Newman, who, along with Smith jumpstarted Pollock with the seeds of paint that became Blue Poles (1952), Smith again played art therapist, presenting Pollock with materials and objects for him to press into service as sculpture. The less said about the results here, the better. There is little that can be added to the cairn of Pollock lore that would shed any light on his already monumental achievements, and to dwell on his faltering end smacks too much of the gleeful necrophilia usually reserved for Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kennedy, or Elvis."

Through these examples, it should be evident that The Black Album is a unique voice and window on the art world that doesn't direct its observations to the intellectual art community alone. This in and of itself is a refreshing approach that opens the subject of art criticism and inspection to a much wider audience.

A Christmas Love Story
Maureen McCabe
The Christmas Ornament Shop
9781734745511, $TBA

A Christmas Love Story: Nicholas Nutcracker and Brittany Ballerina provides picture book readers and their read-aloud parents with a lovely seasonal story based on The Nutcracker, but with a contemporary twist.

Harmonie Homeowner is prepared for all the rituals of the busy holiday to begin once Thanksgiving passes. She and Harrison look forward to the grandkids visiting for the holidays.

Nicholas Nutcracker looks forward to them, as well. He resides in a box with other 'roommates' who are toy soldiers from Germany, but Britt the ballerina is all alone in her own box, and can't perform her greatest piece without a beau to dance with her.

Each ornament knows something is missing in their lives...something involving love. When Christmas arrives and everyone is unboxed, there is a Meeting of the Ornaments. Nicholas has already espied the most beautiful ornament, but she now resides a few branches down in the tree. Will True Love be thwarted by proximity alone?

As Maureen McCabe unveils this gentle story of holiday romance, youngsters receive a fun account that follows the evolution of a friendship against all odds and barriers, becoming real love.

Kids with good reading skills or read-aloud parents will find A Christmas Love Story a warm tale of ballet aspirations, romance, and overcoming obstacles. It's all set against a holiday backdrop that is beautifully rendered, nicely illustrated with colorful drawings by Anastasiia Khmelevska, and just the ticket for an original holiday read.

Legend of the Storm Sneezer
Kristiana Sfirlea
Monster Ivy Publishing
1948095572, $21.99 Hardcover
1948095564, $15.99 Paperback
1948095556, $3.99 E-book

Legend of the Storm Sneezer is the first book in the Stormwatch Diaries and tells of Rosebud Thunder Rose (aka teen Rose Skylar), a girl who sneezed a magical storm at birth that plagues her life with unstable magic and unpredictable dilemmas. Sent to an asylum for patients with unstable magic, she quickly uncovers a mystery which lurks in the haunted forest and graveyard that surrounds it.

Complicating matters is the fact that there is more than one Rose Skylar, who is a time traveler extraordinaire. An introduction to this topic informs readers about Rose's unexpected additional talents in a 'time traveler's diary' format.

As letters from the future collide with mercurial events of the present, Rose is tasked with solving a mystery that traverses the barriers of time, space, and magic alike, bringing readers in elementary grade levels (who have good reading skills) into a romp through intrigue and abilities that have no clear path to resolution through much of the story.

Kristiana Sfirlea's ability to juxtapose mystery, fantasy, and humor into the tale of Rose's evolving conundrum contributes to a refreshingly different form of ghost story/time travel/coming of age experience that keeps readers on their toes.

One of the strengths of Legend of the Storm Sneezer lies in a sense of humor which permeates discoveries and revelations, injecting a fine degree of fun into the young peoples' explorations: "Hey! What the - whoa." Aiden picked up the rock."Seph, look at this! Is that - ?" "Dried ectoplasm." Sephone whipped out I Look Like I've Seen a Ghost: Memoirs of a Ghost Hunter and rifled through the pages. "White, crusty, it matches the description, but... well, it could be bird poop for all we know."

Curses and murders, ghosts and graveyards, time travel, and wry observations of Rose's ability to redefine her world create a story that is lively and filled with satisfying insights and analyses: "Rose considered herself something of an expert in heads that weren't screwed on right, and at present, Sephone's was as crooked as they come."

Charged with saving her world, Rose wonders if she can even save herself, given the onslaught of information and the accompanying puzzles and conundrums they raise.

While readers of Legend of the Storm Sneezer are identified as 4-6 graders, older readers several age brackets above this will find the story especially accessible and fascinating reading. It's a delightful, whimsical production that keeps the preteen thoroughly engaged in a story about growing up, solving dilemmas, and growing into one's powers.

Raw Thoughts
John Casey
Adelaide Books, LLC
1951214056, $27.30 Hardcover
1950437019, $23.20 Paperback

Raw Thoughts is a photo-poem pairing designed to enhance daily thought processes, blending image and word in a cathartic, emotionally compelling synthesis of literary and psychological inspection.

Each 'raw thought' builds on its predecessor to create a building block of reflection, insight, and wonder. Many poems are paired two to a page and complement each other, as in 'Wondering If' and 'Loss', which lead from musing about whether knowledge is really a good thing to the anguish of confronting a loss. A stark black and white facing image of feet perched on the edge of a rooftop cements these poetic reflections with visual acuity.

Take the survey of love's divide and alienation which is complimented by a particularly striking photo of a man and a woman facing each other in different ways, a wall between them, to the juxtaposition of 'We Were There' and 'With You', which reflects on too-close connections between 'love' and 'goodbye' and the journey towards increased connections with all their uncertainty. Here, it becomes evident that many of these 'raw thoughts' center on romance and interpersonal communications.

Not all, however, involve family and love. 'Stigma', for example, provides a stark view of walking past a suffering homeless man who is a "blight to the world."

As artistic photographs blend with psychological inspection and revelations, readers receive an interconnected series of insights that incorporates elements of mindful reflection, growth, and social inspection. The process of thinking lends to and changes who we are, as do these poems and images, which hold the power to linger in the mind long after they are read.

Readers seeking a synthesis of photographic and literary expression steeped in psychological and philosophical reflection will find Raw Thoughts just the ticket for an emotionally gripping, evocative read.

Bankruptcy Didn't Break Me
Kassondra R. Lewis
KGSL Enterprises
9780998676913, $9.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

Many books discuss the mechanics of either avoiding bankruptcy completely or entering into it. Few add the benefit of personal experience, as does Kassondra R. Lewis in Bankruptcy Didn't Break Me: How to Learn the Keys to Success To Increase Your Credit Scores.

This is a guide to coming out of the other side of bankruptcy and resuming one's life, complete with building the kinds of credit scores that lead to full recovery. It's an 'insider's' perspective that doesn't come from a financial advisor, but one who has been there, done that, and not only survived, but flourished.

The key, however, isn't just recovery over a long period of time. Lewis advocates a series of strategies for quick recovery - ones which involve not just the ability to regain credit, but to garner the good credit terms enjoyed by those without a bankruptcy on their records. As a living example of this success, Lewis currently lives in her 'dream home' with a mortgage at a low interest rate, and has rebuilt her credit score to 700.

Her focus on rebuilding credit and qualifying for these attractive rates, combined with her personal experience, crafts a bankruptcy guide like none other. As chapters survey emotional ups and downs, low points and lessons learned from them, and her determination that her bankruptcy should NOT prevent future success, readers absorb a candid account that doesn't say this process is easy, but does maintain that it's achievable.

Facts about the bankruptcy process and its impact on one's credit and personal affairs, debt-to-income ratios, accepting the temporary blow of bankruptcy with an eye to rebuilding a better future, and the best starting steps to getting a new credit card and rebuilding a positive credit history all make for a practical blend of financial and emotional recovery.

Lewis includes insights on exactly what lenders look at when examining a credit history, how to maximize the best score possible, and tips and tricks of making financial decisions. There are some unexpected insights provided during this process, such as the idea that one shouldn't close an account just because it's not being used because its background credit history will also vanish - information that could contribute to an overall credit picture.

Practical, positive money management strategies blend with bankruptcy-specific insights to give consumers a clear picture about how the process of financial recovery works.

Anyone considering, in the midst of, or grappling with the aftermath of a bankruptcy should place Bankruptcy Didn't Break Me at the top of their reading list. It goes above and beyond most other guides on the topic, pairing the emotional with business angles in a manner that makes the subject digestible and thoroughly understandable.

Gizmo for President!
Suzanne Kline & Dulce Da Costa
2 Paws Up Studios LLC
9780999234822, $17.99

Gizmo for President! is a fun picture book about a little surfer dog who begins a campaign to run for president so he can save the ocean.

Linking his love of nature to political involvement, Gizmo undertakes a campaign to save his sea friends and share his ideas for caring for the planet.

Parents will appreciate the educational opportunities embedded in this fun story. Some words are in blue, linked to a glossary of definitions that helps expand vocabularies.

Good reading skills are one requirement for the complete appreciation of Gizmo's latest adventure. Each page holds several paragraphs of detail as Gizmo contemplates his latest endeavor, learns about the process of campaigning, and crafts a positive approach to solving a broad problem in the world.

From picking a running mate and handling negative responses from the public to "letting every creature have a voice in his campaign," Gizmo explores his capacity not just for getting elected, but for effecting real change throughout the course of his efforts.

The result teaches kids about politics and campaigns, saving the environment, making a difference, and inclusive practices. It will delight parents who are moving their kids from picture book to chapter book arenas and who seek socially responsible messages from their leisure choices.

Beep, Beep, Gizmo!
Suzanne Kline & Dulce Da Costa
Independently Published
9780999234808, $17.99

Beep, Beep, Gizmo! is a fun picture book story of little dog Gizmo and his attempt at surfing in the Fifth Annual Puppy Cup Surfing Classic.

As Gizmo faces a bully, tests his abilities, and learns about winning and losing, kids with good reading skills receive a lively story about kindness, achievement, and fun that excels in colorful drawings by Jim Hunt.

His rude bullying peer, Riley, loves zipping past Gizmo and showing him up with "beep, beep" noises. He's already pushed Gizmo's friend Kayla out of the contest. How can Gizmo compete against a rude bully who labels Gizmo a loser?

The fun story emphasizes overcoming adversity and cultivating kindness as it follows the determined Gizmo through a variety of challenges to not just his skills, but his confidence.

It's a fun Gizmo adventure that read-aloud parents will appreciate, offering opportunities to speak with kids about such wide-ranging subjects as handling bullies and developing self-confidence.

Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1
Deborah Stevenson
Frog Prince Books
9781732541030, $11.95 Paperback, $2.99 Kindle eBook

Signed copies available at

Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1 receives fine illustrations by David Stedmond as it tells of friends Chicken and Egg, who are sweltering in a heat wave. Each anticipates being cooked if they don't do something soon, so a visit to the local ice cream shop seems the perfect antidote to too much heat.

The problem arises from an ironic place: both are too polite to enter the ice cream parlor first. What can be done to decide who enters?

A series of tests takes place out in the heat, but the outcomes range from woefully inconclusive to comically hazardous. When the winner finally is declared, yet another problem emerges and demands the two join forces to solve it.

Who's First? offers young readers an exploration of friendly competition, issues of fairness, and the kinds of social interactions that don't always result in a clear path of resolution.

Kids will find this story whimsical and fun, while read-aloud parents will appreciate the opportunity to discuss issues of give-and-take in friendship, creative problem-solving strategies, and more.

The drawings are excellent embellishments to a tale that is warm and friendly in tone, and which holds important lessons about the sometimes-surprisingly-complex topic of cooperation.

Book 2 in the series, Why Did Chicken Cross the Road? will be out this fall.

The Discovery
Patrick M. Garry
Kenric Books
9780983370376, $14.50

When scandal drives Frank Horgan from his law firm job, he can't seem to let go of his dream of being involved in a big-ticket case, even though he's relocated from the big city (where such cases are common) to a small town (where lawyers tend to operate in relative obscurity).

When he becomes involved in what at first seems to be a family spat, only to find it leads directly to a Wall Street investment scam, he may have his big break at last. It's then that further family issues emerge in The Discovery, a fine story about big aspirations and immense trouble in small town places.

As Frank becomes increasingly privy to small-town secrets and more aware of their ties to Wall Street, he finds his low-key legal operation turning into something far more challenging than he anticipated. Will the price of professional fame perhaps be too much to pay?

From bodies that could prove or disprove dubious connections to why a lawyer from New York is being hired to oversee a small-town case, the mystery deepens as Frank finds himself drawn into the secrets that both fuel the town's undercurrent of society and threaten various lives in different ways.

When his father Seamus Horgan suffers a heart attack, Frank's loyalties are tested. His ability to field both personal and professional challenges becomes mercurial as he tackles too many circumstances beyond his control.

Patrick M. Garry presents his case and Frank's story from alternating viewpoints. From the insights of former colleague Parker Longren to a hospital worker who admits Frank's father, these different perspectives add meat to the story, flushing out Frank's character and presenting him as he appears to others: "I went to law school in California, but I started at the firm the same time Frank did. There were eight of us who started at the same time. The first couple of weeks, we, the new attorneys, went out for lunch together, and stayed late at night and talked about our assignments and all the odd senior partners at the firm. But after that, Frank went his own way. He didn't work in the library with the rest of us; he worked alone in his office. He was friendly on the surface, when you'd pass him in the hall. In fact, he was a real glad-hander and backslapper. But his conversations never lasted more than a minute."

The result is an intriguing series of observations that dig up dirt, provide insights and inspect motivations, poverty, and wealth, and probe Frank's own process of self-discovery, which proves every bit as important as his goals of being a famous, effective lawyer.

Readers interested in legal and personal investigations will find The Discovery an excellent exploration of not just court proceedings, but a lawyer charged with family burdens and changes that bring him full circle back to the roots he left so long ago. It's an excellent, involving story that's especially recommended for those who look for legal-based dilemmas beyond courtroom confrontation.

Me and the Spirits
Jacob Michael King
Mutineer Press
ISBN: TBA, $2.99

Me and the Spirits tells of an unusual father-son endeavor. This father can talk to spirits, and his son can read minds. Jacob Michael King captures first-person reflections on their lives using a sense of description that is captivating and atmospheric: "It was just me standing outside, and I only came out there for the stink, and because I could hear the buzzing from inside. When I looked, I saw our dog slumped over by the fence and he looked empty and torn up, like the dog soul that stuck around in his body all those years had up and left."

Jordy's perceptions and voice represent a shining light of insight and description that keeps readers immersed in this evolving story of extrasensory perceptions: "He was real scared at the end, when he felt the bobcat's teeth. He didn't think about that: he's a dog, so he can't think about much. All he wanted was to be gone. But the getting there is the hard part, he found that out. He was scared worse than he'd ever been in his life. And he was thinking that he didn't want to go. That he just wanted it to stop. He couldn't say it, but he was thinking that maybe it wasn't so bad after all to walk with rickety bones and aching teeth, and to be slow and old."

As Joseph imparts his special spirit knowledge to others about what it's like to live and die, and son Jordy fills in the blanks with his own abilities, readers are drawn into a story that begins to center upon one Howard Farmer's life and choices as much as it does upon the dead. The consequences of one man's actions ripple through the lives of everyone around him, including two individuals who find themselves confronting a dangerous psychopath.

As beliefs, dreams, and nightmares challenge Jordy's world, readers are immersed in a story of violence, redemption, and a union between spirit and human worlds that lead Jordy and his father into dangerous territory.

It should be noted that violence and descriptions of it are an intrinsic part of Me and the Spirits. While these descriptions are in keeping with the evolving plot and the conundrums of the characters, those who want lighter descriptions should look elsewhere for their quasi-horror reading. Me and the Spirits is astute in its discoveries and representations of conflicts and the making of 'spirit food', and this attention to detail is also part of the wide-ranging power in this story of spirits, broken hearts, and sick minds.

Jacob Michael King has crafted an extraordinary intersection between horror, supernatural, and literary piece that will live in the reader's mind long after the story's crescendo of confrontation and realization.

Adjusting My Sails
Chloe Finn
Independently Published
B0859NHZMY, $0.99 Kindle
B0858TT49W, $6.99 Paperback

Adjusting My Sails follows Hannah Curran's realization that her alcoholism is destroying her family, life, and future. It provides readers with a vivid story of her recovery process as she moves from reluctant realization to life-changing choices.

The story opens with Hannah waking up in jail, moves through the dissolution of her sixteen-year-old marriage, and perfectly captures husband Jason's anger and frustration as he demands his wife quit justifying her actions and move out of their house: "You think you can do whatever you please and then say, 'but I was drunk!' and we'll forgive you. Well, I'm sick of it. I can't keep living like this. Wondering what I'll come home to after work. Worrying that the police are going to show up at my door one day to tell me you're dead. Or worse yet, that one of the kids is dead because they were in the car with you when you were drunk."

Even more important, it follows the small changes Hannah makes which she believes are big enough steps to earn forgiveness, along with the feelings of those around her that these gestures of change can no longer be trusted.

As the story evolves, readers receive a strong series of encounters between Hannah, her loved ones, and her own inner explanations and justifications. As Hannah learns that she can't always turn to drink to soothe loss and heartache, she slowly evolves to become a better person. But the challenge still lies in changing her image in those around her, who have been repeatedly disappointed for a very long time.

Her goal of getting her family back seems as elusive in sobriety as it is when she was drunk, leading Hannah to question her objectives, her life, and her trajectory.

Readers receive a powerful account that goes beyond most stories of recovery to delve into the process of turning away from the impulse to drink. Dialogue is realistic, scenarios are compelling, and Chloe Finn's ability to delve into the minds and hearts of not just Hannah but everyone involved with her creates a story replete with poignant, realistic dialogues: "I want a drink." Hannah called Leslie to share the news about Joy, and she was crying into the phone. "I don't want to think about any of this. I want to drink and make it all go away." Leslie's voice was calm and soothing. "Of course you do. You're an alcoholic, and that's what we do when we're in pain. But you have to think the drink through." "What's that supposed to mean?" Hannah was feeling devastated right now, and she wasn't in the mood for a bunch of AA slogans and platitudes. "It means you need to think about that drink, from beginning to end. Where is it going to take you? Sure, the first one will feel good going down, right? Instant relief. But then there will be a second one and a third and so on, until you pass out. If you're lucky."

Readers of the exact back-and-forth progress of recovery from addiction will find Adjusting My Sails a strong novel about the process. They will relish Hannah's long journey not just back from an abyss, but into new purposes and more meaningful methods of communicating. Adjusting My Sails is especially highly recommended reading for anyone who is in recovery, or who knows an addict struggling through the process.

J.M. Stephen
D.X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072745, $18.95 Paperback
9781941072752, $6.99 Ebook

Nod is a Biblical land that receives only very limited mention in the Bible, but in J.M. Stephen's Nod, it receives an embellishment that brings it to life in a compellingly original manner.

J.M. Stephen's ability to pull readers into this story is evident from the first sentences of Nod, which are unlike anything a reader might expect or has read before. The evocative, compelling twist on the story of Nod shines in this introduction and throughout the story that follows: "We have always been here. We have always lived this way. We were together, tightly compacted and then something shattered and went skipping about into so many fragments and it started. They call it time now. It fell from the great expanse that hovered above us like rain, like wind, it wasn't and then it was and we move through it now. It started when they came, those who have walked with Giants, the first second ticking into the next and the next and the next and we have been forever bound by it. Before we delved into that soupy mix of time, before our hands ran through the thick sludge of matter, of dirt, of earth and ground, before thought, when we did not grow old and we did not grow, before we were, we were here. We have always been here. We have always lived this way. They were not of this world."

Stephen points out that a river runs through this land, but it's the same creative force that powers her story with such a passionate voice that the story proves unexpected and hard to put down. The surprise lies in the creative descriptions, which are anything but a staid Biblical re-enactment of events. Whether this is because of Stephen's unique descriptive style, her extrapolations of this strange land's peoples, purposes, and reality, or her use of compelling first-person narrator Lailah (who relates encounters with Biblical peoples and couches Biblical events within the framework of the reality in Nod), Nod is an exquisitely original story that is delightful in its encounters: "Cain turned to go; he waved once more, turned back, looked at me again, and followed his brother west, to the west. For so long whenever I saw them they were heading west. I watched for a while, wondering if I could find this place again on my own, if I could go in their direction and see Cain with his mother and father, Abel and the sheep, where they lived, these people from the west who were not like us."

Time offers a steady progression and movement and is documented and noted as Cain, Abel, Haval, and others form connections and relationships in Nod. The relationships between these Biblical figures are probed as events both parallel Biblical mention and extrapolate on other areas only vaguely alluded to in the Bible.

Stephen's language is compelling, her perspective is unique and constantly surprising, and through the eyes of a Nod resident, Cain and Abel come to life: "I watched Cain, wondering what it was that had changed, what it was that was not Cain. The mark had cursed him but he seemed to have moved beyond it. I saw Abel in his face but something else, something more. Nod was his..."

Unlike most Biblical stories and recreations, Nod holds the ability to reach beyond its likely Christian audience and into secular circles with its beautiful phrasing, involving story, and compelling account of two very different, almost alien peoples and the intersections which change their lives.

Very, very highly recommended as an original work that takes an 'origin story' and turns it upside down.

Sins in Blue
Brian Kaufman
Black Rose Writing
1944715592, $21.95 Hardcover, $5.99 Kindle

Sins in Blue follows the unlikely relationship between two music-loving truth seekers: young would-be-musical-talent-manager Kennedy Barnes and aging ex-blues musician Willie Johnson. It's the 1960s. Kennedy stumbles upon an old rock 'n roll song first recorded by a 1930s blues musician and embarks on a quest to find that extraordinary unheralded genius, whom he believes fostered the birth of rock 'n roll.

Music has always been a part of Kennedy's life, as much as it influenced Willie's youth. A blow-up with his family over his attitude and trajectory leads to the loss of his believed record collection as well as a home, so he has nothing left to lose and much to get from a journey that could connect him with an undiscovered genius.

Indeed, both music lovers have much to gain from their encounter, if trust and a relationship can be built between strangers who are generations apart in age.

Brian Kaufman excels at capturing the gritty, spunky styles of each of his characters. He also deftly creates realistic scenarios of the music world, from relationships between managers and musicians to often-stormy connections between musicians and their audiences and club owners: "Willie pocketed the money and headed for the side exit. There was no use arguing. If he hit the man, he'd end up in jail or worse. He gripped the neck of the guitar, choking it, and stepped into the alley. The sun was gone, and the air was cold and wet. Fucking Chicago. I hate this place. Willie paused to calm himself, reluctant to leave. He needed the job. That little stage manager might realize he'd made a mistake and follow him out. There was a show bill to fill out, after all, and those manager types always turned their foul tempers on the next victim the moment something else went wrong, which was, in the entertainment business, every five minutes. He might realize that Willie wasn't the enemy. Might even rehire him."

Many of the characters and settings are based on real figures, either overtly or in fictional settings (Alan Lomax, for one example, is a real music historian who captured many source recordings and documented music history that would otherwise have been list. He features in the story, as well).

Each character is charged with finding his place in the music world. As the story evolves, Kaufman excels at capturing this process as it unwinds for two disparate individuals at odds with society and themselves: "Do what you love.

Can't make any money at that. The first voice was Willie's. The answering voice was his father's. Where's my voice? he wondered. What do I want to do?"

Each character also traverses the charged and changing racial relations of their times. A cultural odyssey emerges which influences their decisions, music, and relationships. As behaviors and patterns of racial encounters change, so, surprisingly, does opportunity and musical ambition.

Blues history and the cultural influences which lead it to become an intrinsic part of American rock 'n roll is just one of the powerful roots in this novel, which celebrates a strong, uncertain love of music on many levels.

The result is a potent journey through 1960s music history and the two very different yet interconnected worlds of a musician and a wanna-be manager who struggle to find their places in a changing world.

It's a compelling story especially recommended for readers who love music and music history, who will appreciate this different take on two music-loving individuals who change their worlds and the music industry as a whole. Sins in Blue is a 'must' for readers of American music history and blues in particular.

Thomas Holladay
Severed Press
9781922323262, $12.95 Paper, $4.95 Kindle

Treasure is a captivating thriller that delves into the occult as it opens with combat veteran Maj. Michael Crooke's decision to take some time off and visit the Caribbean island of St. Arcane.

Trouble follows him when he becomes involved in a treasure map, a captain's search for ancient relics, and a competing group's determination to wrest the largess from Captain Hatch, even if it means kidnapping Michael's wife and stealing it for themselves.

The story opens with a gripping dream aboard an ancient ship where a priest struggles with the supernatural powers of a blood red crystal skull and skips quickly to the present, where a Caribbean vacation becomes a nightmarish host of vivid characters with very special interests.

Think Clive Cussler combined with Indiana Jones for an idea of the atmosphere and adventure that Treasure promises to its readers. Then add a dose of espionage-style thriller components as the characters interact and Michael discovers that his beloved Katrina is threatened on more than one level.

Thomas Holladay excels in descriptions that are gripping and action-packed: "A muffled shriek turned him back. Katrina's legs and flippers frantically churned water, pushing hard to get out. A long train of hair followed her up and stopped. The long hair belonged to one of many corpses suspended between the massive beams supporting the deck above. Lobster, shrimp and crabs swarmed in the gnarled hair, feeding on rotting flesh. The train of hair jerked tight, yanked the head of the corpse and extended the body. Chain shackled to an ankle pulled tight, flesh cleaved from bone and the ankle separated. The corpse followed Katrina up."

The fast pace of the adventure, combined with the myriad of special forces operating against one another and the backdrop of supernatural influences, makes for a story that is compelling and hard to put down.

If it's a supernatural adventure story in the style of Indiana Jones that is desired, Treasure provides just the ticket for a gripping journey filled with twists and turns, whether it be over the ownership of a dangerous treasure or matters of the heart.

Death By the River (A St. Benedict Novel, Book I)
Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor
Vesuvian Books
9781944109141, $18.95 Paper, $8.99 ebook

All teens need a hangout where they can be with friends, away from the prying eyes of adults. In Death By the River, that hangout - the abandoned St. Francis Seminary by the river - turns deadly as one rich and spoiled member, Beau, turns out to be a young evil psychopath who ventures into the dark side of murder and torture in an increasingly deadly journey.

Beau always gets what he wants through gaslighting, aggression, and pursuit. And the things he wants most are those people who defy him, whom he seemingly can't have. And nobody seems able or willing to stop him.

Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor excel at describing the relationship twists Beau introduces as he pursues Dawn, handles twin Leslie, and manipulates everyone around him with purposeful, evil vengeance: "Dread cascaded through her. She couldn't lose him. What would happen to her reputation? Last night things had been great between them, and now this? What the hell?"

As a psychological study in how women become victims and how victims become easy prey to evil manipulators who operate under the guise of something different, Death By the River represents a standout in the literature, and is the first book in the St. Benedict series. It probes not just events, but how they transpired, cultivating an acuity and insight that is vivid, realistic, and engrossing.

Given its subject and approach, there is a fair degree of violence. While this is graphically portrayed, it's in keeping with the nature and evolution of the story line. That said, readers who want lighter treatments of violence should look elsewhere. Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor pull no punches in either description or their psychological probe, and leave nothing to wonder.

Mature teen to adult readers will find this story mesmerizing. It's a mystery, it's a suspense novel, and it's a psychological portrait akin to Lord of the Flies - but centered on a psychopathic individual's ability to manipulate and attack his peers. Group dynamics are also a part of this equation, in that a circle of peers see what is going on, but are helpless to stop it.

From crazy parties and growing terror on the river to individuals who try to escape the web of intrigue and horror, Death By the River is especially powerful in its portrait of not just how a psychopath grows, but how he operates within and outside of normal social circles. Why do victims keep quiet? What power is wielded by those who would abuse and kill?

The result will draw mature readers interested in this evolutionary process with a story that is centered on developing relationships, good and evil, and a group of teens who teeter on an uncertain adulthood. Some will survive. Some will not. Their choices, values, and thoughts drive a story that is thoroughly engrossing even as it's emotionally gripping in its journey through sexual assault, harassment, and challenges to justice.

Greg Trine
Malamute Press
9781733958943, $22.99 Hardcover
9781733958936, $9.99 Paperback

Giant provides a different kind of Jack and the Beanstalk story - one in which the giant's fall from his stalk results in a crash into a swimming pool, amnesia, and a new life in a strange world.

Young readers in grades 2-6, ages 7-10, who have prior familiarity with the original Jack story will find the giant's perspective, tempered by amnesia, as thoroughly engrossing as the tone Greg Trine uses to impart this revision: "Here's the short version: Jack climbed a beanstalk and broke into an innocent man's house. A rather giant innocent man. Jack stole his money, his singing harp, and a goose that laid golden eggs.

Bottom line? Jack was not a stand-up guy. He's the hero in most fairytales that tell his story, but basically, he's a criminal. Never forget this fact: the giant was minding his own business, taking a nap in his home in the clouds. It was his right to do so. A man's home is his castle, and the giant's place really was a castle."

Parents who choose this very different fairytale will find it just as absorbing, offering lessons in contrast and perspective that will prove especially valuable to adults who take the time to explain the different facets of Jack and the Giant's perspectives.

As the giant struggles to regain his memory and makes progress in an odd series of encounters with other human beings, readers are treated to a warm story of revised plans, contrasting personalities and perspectives, and the involvement of a circus which sometimes belays its own name (Happy Dan Circus).

As the giant teams up with Sam, a boy trying to escape his own evil circumstances, the duo make a splash in the world in more than one way...until Jack shows up again.

Greg Trine's story is sassy, original, and satisfyingly fun. The giant, Sam, and other characters interact on a level that leads to growth and evolution in many different ways, bringing young readers into a zany, rollicking adventure.

Kids and parents alike will find this a delightful story that takes a very familiar scenario and turns it on end for an unexpected, spirited story of fear, discovery, and growth.

Very highly recommended as a completely different perspective, based on the classic!

Marc Cavella
Belle Devereaux Publishing
9781734183009, $9.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle

Forewords to books are rarely worth reading. Too often they prattle on about a subject totally unrelated to understanding the story line. Tabernacle opens with a foreword that is fun and enlightening in a thoroughly satisfying introduction to a story that promises the same, reviewing the unique lingo of the South for "...readers who had the misfortune o' bein' born somewhere outside o' the deep South might have a hard time understandin' how we talk."

As this foreword sets the stage for the story, it also sets the tone and the humor which runs through Tabernacle: ""Less'n" - That just means "unless". As in, "You shouldn't read this story less'n you wanna laugh, and cry, and have your faith in humanity both annihilated and restored."

Edward Jones is a salesman who can sell virtually anything...even products none of his buyers actually want. His journey across the Deep South with an adopted child in quest of his greatest sales represents a cross between a comedy, a quest, a mystery, and a romp through different lives.

Marc Cavella excels at capturing Edward's conversations, insights, and quiet revelations as he moves through a series of encounters, injecting his background and Southern culture into the mix: "What kind of barbecue do you like? Memphis? Texas? Kansas City?" "Any o' that'll do. Just as long as it ain't that Georgia style. Can't stand that danged mustard flavor."

Readers receive insights about this environment as they follow Edward on a journey towards one of the greatest sales achievements of his quiet career.

Driven by lovely flowing language, dialogues between strangers, and observations of all walks of life and culture from sports to food and family relationships, Tabernacle is a Western comedy of a different nature.

Unique, compelling, and quietly evocative, it flows through the mystery, language, and psychology of the South with a practiced attention to detail. Tabernacle will simply delight literary readers who enjoy Westerns that are fun, thought-provoking, and extraordinary genre standouts.

Kfir Luzzatto
Pine Ten, LLC
9781938212901, $3.99 Kindle

Tessa is a teenager who was taken from her family because of her extraordinary ability to "see things far away." She's a legend in the Remote Viewing Project, and even among other Extra Sensory Agents, she's special. Her ability doesn't make her invulnerable, however, and her loyalty doesn't protect her from the ravages of love and the special challenges of a top secret project she can't walk away from...a project that will take her to the next level of extra-sensory perception.

At seventeen, she is given a command that will end the entire project, should she fail. It's a responsibility that threatens blossoming love, newfound abilities, and everything Tessa has worked for in her short life.

It should be advised that Tessa is the first book in a series. Her adventures, psychic connection to Mary, and the events which change both their lives bring her full circle in Chapter 14 in a satisfyingly startling reference to the book's opening lines that become suddenly and fully revealing at this point in the plot.

Kfir Luzzatto excels at leading readers in one direction, only to make a 180-degree turn which results in a very different perspective, objective, and experience.

As Tessa evolves both within and outside of the boundaries of an experiment which has made her something more than human, readers follow her psychic and psychological development. She glides into love and danger with the unprotected innocence of a teen tinged by the savvy of a girl who has been away from those who loved her for too long.

There is a difference between loving someone and using them. As Tessa begins to uncover the hidden threads of her mission and life, she brings readers along in an absorbing, unpredictable ride through a quest that challenges her survival skills. If she forgets her true objective, she's dead.

Based loosely on a real government Remote Viewing program in the 1970s, the power and presence of Tessa and her comrades will delight and grip readers right up to an ending which satisfies the immediate story while leaving the door open for more adventures.

Tessa is highly recommended for thriller readers and mature young adults who like their action peppered with psychological and parapsychological intrigue.

Life in the Camel Lane
Doreen M. Cumberford
White Heather Press
9780578607351, $19.95

In 1994, Doreen M. Cumberford left a comfortable job and life in the U.S. to move to Japan for eighteen months, then Saudi Arabia with her husband and toddler. Life in the Camel Lane documents her experience, which changed from adjusting to different living conditions in a corporate compound to learning another culture's very different rules and perceptions of life.

As a "corporate spouse," Cumberford embraced the opportunity and adventure promised by the move. She not only adapted to this new world, but assimilated its lessons, turning 15 years of experience into a new job as a life coach.

Cumberford was in Saudi Arabia when 9/11 changed the world. Her documentation of the ripples through Saudi culture that this event sparked, along with concerns over her safety and ability to get back home, are immediate and involving: "...streams of alarm shot through my body as part of a response to this event back in my recently adopted "home" country. If planes were being flown into buildings, how could we ever go back home ... it would take a plane to get there, was my first thought. The feeling of isolation, being cut off and wondering what was happening, was similar to what every person around the world wondered. How strange the fleeting thoughts are that pass through one's mind during a flight or fight reaction. Many of us wondered, Are we safe here? If there is an organization called Al-Qaeda, are they really here in Saudi; even more worrisome are they on the compound? Are they my neighbor? If they are my neighbor, how would I know this?"

The event served to solidify her growing relationships with Saudi peoples, from neighbors to bus drivers who displayed kindness and help during this time: "Buried in that statement was the heart and soul of most of the Saudi people. Here was a Saudi telling an American that although a great crime had been committed on home soil in the US, he personally felt connected to us and was willing to do his part to protect our kids if called to do so."

A massive amount of emotional energy and examination is often connected with journeying to another country, living in it for a period of time, then leaving. Cumberford acknowledges these different facets of adjustment, offering many insights into the process and the changes it brings: "Leaving a place looks like it is a one-day simple process. You buy a ticket, put yourself on that plane and voila, you arrive. Not even close! The reality is very different and more complex - especially when abandoning a foreign life where you have lived and loved through many seasons. Preparing to leave involves both the insidiously hidden and blatantly obvious parts of a process that is an evolution rather than an event. We frequently consider a move to be a simple transaction involv-ing relocating ourselves (our physical bodies) while discounting the logistical, spiritual and emotional parts of the process. It's easy to disregard the energy and time required to process the massive amounts of hidden changes that are happening."

Cultural education comes in many forms, from weddings to confronting stereotypes and fears in Saudi homes and environments. Cumberford narrates her encounters and the opportunities for revised perceptions and transformation that each brings. More than the usual travelogue, this often involves inspections of the sources of cultural misunderstandings, their influences, the development and fostering of positive habits and reactions, and a type of flexibility that allows room to grow.

While her experience will likely be filed in the travelogue section of the library, to limit Life in the Camel Lane to the armchair adventurer alone would be to do it a disservice. Much more than a survey of another culture and lifestyle, Life in the Camel Lane is about making the kinds of mental and social adjustments that allows better understanding, revised perceptions of humanity's connections, and a better affinity for Middle Eastern cultures and lifestyles.

It's also highly recommended for readers interested in personal growth and intercultural opportunities - particularly those who would understand exactly how attitudes changed.

The Fourth Rising
Martin Roy Hill
Independently published
9781692350956, $3.99 Kindle

Readers of mysteries and PI accounts will find The Fourth Rising just the ticket for a different kind of story that revolves around Nazism's ongoing presence in the 20th century.

Former war correspondent Peter Brandt is on a treasure hunt like no other. Charged with reporting on a murder in Mexico, he finds himself investigating not just drug cartels, but the rise of a Nazi conspiracy to resurrect the Fourth Reich and continue its objectives for world domination.

As he investigates a murder and its connections, he becomes embroiled in affairs that represent a bigger picture of conundrums and challenges, including matters of his own heart and the roles he played in betraying others in the past. Charged with fixing elements of his past while playing with fire in the present day, he moves from a former flame to the rise of fascism represented in the game plan of the League for Freedom and Responsibility.

The juxtaposition of reporter and investigator Peter Brandt's personal evolution with his social and political challenges is very well done. Martin Roy Hill injects just the right blend of attention to psychological and political growth to keep this investigative piece involving on many levels.

As connections between Mexico and the Nazi party are explored (based on true historical events that indicate the party survived World War II and is alive and operating in another country), Brandt's investigation toes the line between a treasure hunt and a search for truth not just about one murder, but the dangerous trajectory of a conspiracy group.

As Jo and Peter get closer to the truth, they also walk into danger and must bluster their way out to survive.

Engrossing and fast-paced, this mystery/thriller will intrigue readers who want their stories multifaceted, involving, and intriguing on more than one level.

In the Shadow of a Valiant Moon
Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington
Vesuvian Books
9781944109967, $17.99 Paper, $8.99 ebook

In the Shadow of a Valiant Moon is the second book in the It Takes Death To Reach A Star duology and takes place four years after the conclusion of the first story. Here, Etyom has fallen into darkness. A new plague has become an epidemic, changing society and resulting in violence that destroys both survivors and society.

Demitri has been taken prisoner by a demon in his own mind in this struggling world, somehow paired with a madman in a quantum connection that challenges his life and abilities. And Mila struggles to preserve the few vestiges of Etyom that are left.

As a band of survivors on both sides confront inner demons and special interests, the perseverance of civilization itself hangs on a thread, and on their decisions and ability to overcome impossible odds and destinies.

Prior readers who absorbed the characters and battles of the first book are in for a treat with In the Shadow of a Valiant Moon. The same characters, attention to detail, fast-paced, action-based confrontations, and inner and social struggles permeate a post-apocalyptic survival story that is complex and riveting.

Mila dreamed of war and famine, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. She dreads the demon of Death, who will usher in the end of days. And she knows her role in these changes will be more than that of a survivor or observer even as she struggles with her faith.

As Vedmak discovers the truth in the history of Etyom and the rich and poor who formed pathways to escape and redemption and Mila walks into her dreams, nightmares, and destiny, a host of characters and players coalesce in a riveting story that is hard to put down.

Newcomers might think that the broad cast of characters and changing perspectives of this story require familiarity with the prior book, but In the Shadow of a Valiant Moon uses a seamless formula for re-introducing these major players. It presents their biographies in a preface that sets the stage for anyone unfamiliar with this world.

As the characters and their psyches are cultivated by Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington, prior fans and new readers alike will find the swift action and spiritual, social, and philosophical conundrums compelling and accessible.

Great sacrifices will be involved. Players will be required to live their days for the benefit of not only themselves, but others. The story leads to an unexpected bang of a conclusion that holds a deep-rooted message for all readers. It's a satisfying revelation that sums up the real underlying struggle that all the characters experience in different ways.

Readers of post-apocalyptic survival stories are in for a treat with the depth of psychological, philosophical, and spiritual revelation wound into this blend of intense social change and personal journeys.

Tavi Tales
Lisa Richman and Tavi Richman
Independently Published
9780578668222, $12.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Tavi Tales - The Diary of a Dog contains the fictional observations of Tavi Richman, a puppy who observes his world and grows familiar with human affairs and the sometimes-puzzling courses of life.

One might expect a playful, fun approach given the age of the 'narrator' and his canine origins, but Tavi's story opens with a loss he can't quite comprehend, introducing readers of all ages to the process of grief which Tavi finds difficult to accept or understand: "Today I discovered there is a different kind of Sad. I learned about Sad when I was a puppy, when we could not go out adventuring, and Sad when my mom was sick, and I had to snuggle close until she felt better, but today I learned there is a kind of Sad I cannot fix. My mom brought this Sad home with her from school, and even though she smiled when she said hello to us, it was not enough to touch that Sad, not even a little bit."

As the stories progress, readers receive a delightful set of life lessons and experiences from a growing dog's viewpoint of dog and human affairs. This collection of tales romps through such events with a blend of candid canine insights ("Mostly, I think my humans are smart, but sometimes a puppy has to wonder.") and dog photos sprinkled throughout.

From handling different friendships and obedience school demands to ongoing insights into special events, holidays, and relationships, Tavi's choice observations and discoveries, narrated in the first person, offer advanced elementary-level through adult readers a whimsical flare and approach that is delightful: "Time for Happy New Year, Tavi," my mom said, ruffling my ears. I looked around, but it looked like it always does. Nothing at all that could be Happy New Year, even though I heard the neighbors call it out as we headed inside. It is a good thing I am a very patient puppy, because whatever that Happy New Year was, it was taking a long time to get here."

Parents looking for appropriate family life discussions from a different vantage point will find Tavi's lessons and revelations a wonderful blend of humor and life experience, offering starting points for fun family discussions.

Enemies of Doves
Shanessa Gluhm
TouchPoint Press
9781946920911, $17.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

It's 1932 in East Texas. Twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett enters a diner seeking help for his unconscious little brother Clancy. Both have been badly beaten, and both claim amnesia about the circumstances surrounding their mishap.

Thirteen years later, each still struggles with that deadly night and the tale they invented to hide a terrible truth. It's a decision that keeps returning to haunt them in different ways. When a murder investigation threatens to expose the truth, Clancy vanishes.

Enter Garrison Stark, who holds evidence that the missing Clancy was his biological grandfather. In 1991, he begins a journey that starts with a probe of his heritage which evolves into the dangerous discovery of long-hidden truths that threaten to change different lives.

Enemies of Doves weaves a timeline of events between these three characters that makes for compelling reading. It's an ecological system of interlocking decisions, discoveries, and circumstances that spans some sixty years of love, danger, and revelations.

Under a different hand, the sweeping timeline of Enemies of Doves might have proved challenging. Creating believable, engaging characters that operate on different levels of truth over the decades while keeping the story's progression fresh and exciting is no light task, but the effortless unveiling of the truth and unraveling of individual lives and personalities proves hard to put down.

Garrison's involvement with a prisoner, his determined probe of Joel's demons, Lorraine's involvement with Clancy in the 1940s, and cold trails that lead to hot tempers and danger permeate a story that is complex, yet compellingly powered with strong characters and mercurial circumstances that keep them forging new pathways in their lives.

Social issues such as increasing opportunities for women and struggles in shifting social circles serve as important backdrops for these changing times and lives. This lends strength to a story that moves inexorably towards a nightmare scenario that will change Joel, Lorraine, and Clancy's lives forever.

Readers who enjoy historical mysteries flavored with powerful interplays between characters over the years will find Enemies of Doves a powerful account of the search for peace of mind, redemption, spiritual enlightenment, and a long-buried truth.

The Letter
Anthony Sciarratta
Post Hill Press
9781642934229, $16.00

Famous writer Victor Esposito has dedicated every book he's written to a mysterious woman. In The Letter, he falls into a coma and Eva Abrams moves from her predictable life on Long Island to remembering a love affair in her past in a process that propels her to make new changes to her present world.

Eva and Victor are soul mates, but their trajectories separated them long ago. Can they come together at this late stage, under seemingly impossible odds?

Readers explore Eva's relationship with Victor and her involvement with him even after marriage: "She didn't make any eye contact with Victor; otherwise he would know she loved him too. Eva worried that if she ever let those words cross her lips, it would be just as bad as sleeping with him. She would never be able to look her husband in the face again."

One of the facets that sets The Letter apart from similar-sounding novels is Anthony Sciarratta's attention to the details of how relationships both evolve and become complicated. Descriptions of emotions prompted by attitudes, decisions, and possibilities are well drawn and capture the conundrums on both sides: "Eva was going through different kinds of emotions, noticing that Victor couldn't have been sincerer. Without realizing it, Victor was bringing Eva closer to cracking as he indirectly pushed her towards him. Eva's mind was split. She'd always had mixed feelings about the situation. A part of her wanted to receive Victor's love and care, but another part of her was angry he was telling her that he loved her. It only made things worse and made her feel less wanted in her own relationship."

From Victor's confrontation with emasculation, the power of money and fame, and the choices involved in love to Eva's return and involvement in Victor's recovery, The Letter captures two hearts which have come together, separated, then become conjoined by circumstance and tragedy.

It also deftly considers the allure of a safe yet unsatisfying relationship and the choices Eva faces through her renewed choices with Victor: "Stanley was dealing with this the way he dealt with everything, by not bringing it up. He expected Eva to forget what was said and for their lives to go back to normal. That's what he was hoping for at least. Stanley felt perfectly fine sitting in relationship limbo with Eva. He provided for her, kept a roof over her head, and treated her respectfully. Stanley thought she should be more than happy with this because most people don't have that kind of stability."

This attention to the influences and perceptions at work on all sides is wonderfully displayed, but The Letter is also a love story about survival, and about how a letter written but never delivered comes full circle.

Fans of Nicholas Sparks and other writers who capture lasting love and its progression through time and catastrophe will relish The Letter's moving story of the forces that analyze moral behaviors, lead to individual growth and self-love, and ultimately return to the roots of romance. It's a heady story that is compelling, moving, and hard to put down.

Eva Dietrich
Sable Books
9781731518217, $14.35 Paper, $5.99 Kindle

MESOPO reaches middle-grade fantasy readers with a mesmerizing story celebrating words and language, using Eva Dietrich's own special brand of captivating description to draw young readers in from the very first paragraph: "An angry autumn wind blew across the hedges of the Gulzar Estate at number one Lexington Road. The wind grew stronger and the hedges seemed ready to take off. Outside, clouds heavy with rain were ready to burst at any moment. Only the majestic, snow-white turrets of the Gulzar Estate itself seemed unaffected by the storm. Inside the house, and equally angry, Ankido Gulzar, a twelve-year-old British-Iraqi boy, woke to the dull and grey November morning."

The discovery of a book, a box, and another world leads Ankido on a journey to the magical land of Mesopo to find his missing father. But there are even bigger issues at stake that lead him through disturbing words, the fate of a dying land that stands at a crossroads between two worlds, and the notion that words can save or destroy.

In Mesopo, words are vanishing and taking with them the light of the world. Ankido wants to help, but as he looks for hidden clues in letters, faces demons who suck words and life from their victims, and confronts the fact that his own spoken words may not be enough to heal this world, readers embark on an engrossing journey that celebrates a threatened language.

Can words make an adversary weaker, even as they hold the potential to heal?

As Ankido navigates this strange world and summons his word powers, young readers receive a gentle series of insights about language and its importance, couched in a fantasy adventure that is atmospheric, well drawn, and involving.

Middle grade fantasy readers will appreciate MESOPO as a powerfully different quest story that ultimately fosters a newfound appreciation for words, language, and the lasting consequences of difficult choices even when they are based on courage and a desire to help. Mesopo seems to be loosely based on ancient Mesopotamia, hence the name.

MESOPO is highly recommended as a fantasy adventure with an important literary message.

Coffee Killed My Mother
Donna Koros Stramella
Adelaide Books
9781951896386, $19.60 paper, $7.99 ebook

Anna Lee's mother is a recovering alcoholic who has replaced booze with coffee in Coffee Killed My Mother. She is on the cusp of adulthood when her mother proposes a coffee-tasting road trip. Anna Lee has grown up with her mother's drama, disasters, and disappointments ruling her life. Her mother has always been eccentric. Will this over-the-top road trip change their relationship?

It turns out that her mother holds an agenda beyond coffee or togetherness. There are secrets that need to be exposed to her almost-adult daughter after years of subterfuge, and as Anna Lee explores these revelations, she begins to understand the life and influences of a single mother who gave birth at age 44 and now faces a difficult recovery.

Donna Koros Stramella cultivates an observational style which is humorously pointed at times: "Just like we're backpacking across Europe," she told me as we packed. But without backpacks. And without Europe." Even as her mother struggles to do the right thing by confiding in her daughter, Anna Lee knows that selfishness is at the heart of all her efforts. She also faces decisions that could cut her mother from her life and embrace near-strangers that should have been part of it all along.

As Donna Stramella strengthens Anna Lee's voice and probes her choices, readers receive a realistic story of an entire family struggling to recover not just from alcoholism, but the codependent patterns it creates.

Anna Lee tries to reconcile distant memories with today's reality and put together the pieces of her life and relationship with a mother that holds both old and new patterns of reaction. Readers gain a fine series of insights on recovery, behavior patterns, and mother/daughter relationships affected by addiction choices.

By choosing a spunky first-person protagonist and adding a mystery that challenges her relationship with an unpredictable mother, Stramella's Coffee Killed My Mother succeeds in creating a thoroughly engrossing study in recovery that is more realistic, immediate, and unlike most competing tales of family alcoholism and relationships.

Its blend of coming-of-age story, mother/daughter relationship probe, and mystery will delight not just teens, but older readers who will find Anna Lee's narration and adventures thoroughly engrossing and hard to put down.

Someday Everything Will All Make Sense
Carol LaHines
Adelaide Books
9781949180916, $19.60



Someday Everything Will All Make Sense tells of an eccentric music professor who faces the death of his mother and the challenges it brings to his perception of daily life with its prejudices and ironies. It imparts a sense of staid observation and dark humor as Luther van der Loon struggles with a revised life.

The story opens with an exhibit of this special brand of irony: "Mother choked on a bowl of wonton soup. A tangle of bok choy, a larger-than-expected dumpling. A wayward thatch no one could foresee." As in the rest of his story, the juxtaposition of dark reflection and fun observation makes for a blend of horror and humor which is refreshingly different.

Stunned by his mother's sudden demise and unable to deflect the assaults of death-related decision-making challenges and loss in his life, Luther moves through the stages of grief with the same singular perseverance he once reserved for his passion for early music.

As sleep, religion, and loss coalesce in the course of his struggles, readers receive a sharp reminder of the progression of grieving and the movements to reject its inevitability and final results: "I donned a mask in an attempt to shut out visual distractions. I recited the Latin rite of vespers, hoping that sleep would inevitably overcome me and I could dispel, once and for all, the notion that I was unable to accept Mother's death and the fact that my life, unwound from hers, would continue."

Neurotic obsession combines with end-of-life plans and impact in this survey of Luther's life and reflections. Music references throughout the story supply unusual and pointed streams of thought that lend insights into this process. This contributes psychological, artistic, and literary depth to the story of his life and its meaning: "I had learned, over the course of the last year, that we have no control over externalities, that life is a divertimento, a caprice, not a rigidly-constructed sonata with a predictable A-B-A section. Like Brahms' unfinished symphony, it seems to go somewhere, to have an overarching purpose, only to end abruptly mid-movement, after an agonizing slow section. Who knows on any given day whether he will have to dial the fateful numbers 9-1-1, to state the nature of the emergency. Whether he will find himself in conversation with the amiable mortician Mr. M., cowering in a windowless room, not wanting to say his final goodbyes to the body in the casket (no matter how skillfully presented and preserved by the crack staff at the funeral home)."

Someday Everything Will All Make Sense's literary and artistic survey of a neurotic who is forced to release ties to his mother that perhaps should have been loosened during her life will appeal to readers who enjoy psychological and musical inspections. The dark humor overlay is surprising, astute, and revealing, all in one. Someday Everything Will All Make Sense is highly recommended for readers of family relationship tales who will find this particular survey of loss and recovery is pointed and revealing as Luther comes full circle in a musical and relationship compromise with survivor guilt.

The Western Nebraska Hard Fescue Greater Prairie Chickens
Brian Karre
Independently Published
9781532074622, $10.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Mystery and fun blends in an unusual manner in the wry story The Western Nebraska Hard Fescue Greater Prairie Chickens. It documents the adventures surrounding former disc jockey Bill "Cannonball" Cafferty's journey to Nebraska to accompany adventurous students who think the media should cover a theory they are seeking to prove about celebrity deaths.

In another life, a strange media inquiry like this would not have been given a second glance, but Caff is desperate with time on his hands, and so he undertakes a rollicking ride on a strange mission that promises to at least entertain, if not provide him with a new purpose in life.

Are his new friends onto something real, or is it imagination? Is this journey an old-fashioned Midwestern potboiler or something more? As a wild ride through physics, proof, and life results in a strange series of events, Caff discovers something more to living than the purpose he'd once believed in.

Caff's journey takes him into the world of a threatened ball team, the subterfuge of rescuing ball players by assuming their roles, and the ironies of life, death, and the ability to manipulate physics and fate itself.

It's hard to easily 'peg' this multifaceted romp. Mystery, humor, and interpersonal relationships blend with a physics bent that makes The Western Nebraska Hard Fescue Greater Prairie Chickens delightfully complex, accessible, and hard to categorize. The characterization and premise are particularly well done and logical, given the different nature of the conundrums faced by a gang of unlikely heroes.

As an odd kidnapping, strange Major League games, and explorations of ghosts, reality, and a physics gang's increasing involvement in saving a ball team takes place, readers are sent on a strange journey through the eyes of the heroes of The Western Nebraska Hard Fescue Greater Prairie Chickens. It's a rollicking ride through strange situations that will leave readers guessing and involved right up to the surprising end.

Tom and the Sagittarius
Brian Karre
Independently Published
9781532082641, $13.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Tom and Leigh are friends who live in a small mountain town and meet for coffee every morning. Leigh is an avid follower of astrology and always carefully pursues her horoscope for her Sagittarius sign. Tom respects her passion until a prediction indicates that she should move out of his life in a different direction.

Suddenly, horoscopes are not just personal but a threat as Tom reassesses Leigh's role in his world and considers how to mitigate the horoscope's message that she should move away. How can someone grow on him in only a year?

As he faces his illusions, heritage, and reactions to life, readers receive both a review of his past and indicators of how he will react to not just Leigh, but future events: "He remembered growing up as this kind of cloudy, careless time of joy and love and happiness. But if you put a magnifying glass up to it all, you would see that it really was one mess after another and his time as a young adult was just uncomfortable and weird." Traditional relationships don't come easy to Tom because of his personality and other influences.

When he becomes involved in chance and writing horoscopes himself, he encounters a cast of characters who each change his psyche and worldview in different ways.

Tom and the Sagittarius is a powerful survey of not just Tom's journey, but Leigh's revised life as she enters a strange period of life, propelled by horoscope predictions, that allow her to break away from set patterns and anticipations.

At some point in time, both characters get what they asked for. But as they nearly simultaneously pursue and assess the impact of horoscopes on their lives, they also come to ask if what they wanted is actually the same as what they truly needed or already had in a different form.

As Leigh begins to question both reality and predictions, Tom also moves in a direction that comes full circle in many ways.

Readers interested in romance, personality clashes and encounters, horoscopes, and endings that lead to new beginnings will find this story embarks on a journey that gradually returns to where everything began.

Tom and the Sagittarius is a compelling, delightful read that is funny, uplifting, ironic, and thought-provoking, all wrapped up in one appealing package.

Press Eject and Give Me the Tape
Bradley Rubenstein
Meridian Art Press
9781732221949, $14.99 Paperback
9781732221956, $7.99 Ebook

Press Eject and Give Me the Tape: Dialogues, Interviews, and Exchanges 2001 - 2020 represents two decades of interviews and collaboration between author/painter Bradley Rubenstein and some 35 fellow contemporary painters, sculptors, photographers, and performance and video artists.

These wide-ranging discussions hold artistic, cultural, and social insights that will delight students of sociology, the arts, and anyone who wants a close inspection of artist working methods, influences, and history.

Take the interview with artist Mira Schor, for one example. As she charts the progression of her life and work, interviews probe the evolving cultural background which fostered her creations, adding historical insights most art history books wouldn't have thought to capture: "There was a goofy spirit at CalArts then that is best expressed in Pee-Wee's Playhouse - subversive but in a sweet, slightly anarchic rather than nihilistic manner. Paul Reubens, then Paul Reubenfeld, was at CalArts at the time I was there. Later the school became more earnest about conceptualism, more dogmatic about theory, and ever more savvy in terms of careerism, as the times changed in those directions and the history of the school was rewritten to make the success of some of my contemporaries, such as David Salle, seem like manifest destiny. And, surprise, surprise, the very existence of the Feminist Art Program was erased almost totally until, after the Northridge earthquake, a student was assigned to go over some books that were being junked. Lo and behold, she found copies of the catalog for the Womanhouse project from 1972 about to be discarded. Students researched the existence of the program and organized a major conference. Now, the history is surely forgotten all over again."

Rubenstein's questions and answers are designed not just to document the rise of contemporary artists, but pinpoint their place and perspective in the art world as a whole. Chapters of interviews create intriguing surveys of the cultural milieu which fostered each artist and provide intriguing insights not to be found elsewhere.

Another strength of this collection lies in its ability to appeal across the board and across artistic categories. Readers need not be versed in any of these arts in order to access, understand, and appreciate the interviews because a good deal of art history and background is incorporated into each interview, providing the necessary references and explanations that lend to a complete understanding.

One need not even be familiar with the artists involved. All that's required for a delightful experience is an overall interest in contemporary arts, modern artists' lives and influences, and the evolutionary process that fostered art and creativity in their lives.

Students of modern politics, contemporary culture, and the arts will find Press Eject and Give Me the Tape's intersection of understanding essential for capturing the influences and nuances of today's working artists.

Love Lottery
Leigha Huggins
Love Hugs and Books, LLC
9781734202977, $TBA

Love Lottery features lovely drawings by Melanie Darling as it explores the basic love, happiness and joy of daily living, and is the perfect picture book of choice for read-aloud for parents who want to create a positive perspective on life for young listeners.

A light rhyme bounces through these concepts and adds a lilting sense of language and exploration as Love Lottery opens with a life-affirming admonition: "Believing in love and light,/desiring all that was wrong to be right./Wishing upon the glittering sky/with feelings of trust and a tear to my eye."

As the young narrator realizes that attitude and welcoming positivity affects her life, readers receive an important message about approaching life with heartfelt beliefs and influencing it through attitude.

Read-aloud adults looking for a beautifully illustrated book encouraging positive attitude and approaches to daily living will find much food for thought and discussion in this basic reader, designed for youngsters just beginning to discover the impact of their attitudes towards life as a mother explores how her child was born from love.

Anna's Dance: A Balkan Journey
Michele Levy
Black Rose Writing
9781684334865, $20.95

Anna's Dance: A Balkan Journey is highly recommended reading for fans of women's literature, Jewish, and historical fiction. Alone in the Balkans in 1968, twenty-three-year-old Anna Rossi receives a deeper and more trenchant personal understanding of history and heritage than she ever could have learned from family or school. Her coming of age against the backdrop of Eastern Europe creates a moving, compelling story of regional turmoil and a young woman's emotional journey through it. When, after having been abandoned by the friend with whom she was planning to spend a carefree, conventional summer abroad, Anna foregoes safe practices only to find herself en route to the Balkans in a dangerous situation with strangers, Anna encounters a brutal series of social, political, and psychological truths that threaten not only her perceptions of herself, but also her life.

Michele Levy does an outstanding job of juxtaposing Anna's psychological growth with her growing appreciation of history, politics, and social issues: "She felt tears form. She didn't want to cry. It made her feel like Hopkins' Margaret, grieving for herself. But she recalled the voices she'd so recently sheltered and their pain washed over her again. As she surveyed the river and the solemn slopes, she traced the long line of humanity back to its origins and tried to imagine the future. At last she reached the certainty that all who lived were doomed to Marko's end, a few years more or less between, a difference in the method. Then she let the dammed tears flow, careful to make no sound and keep her head turned toward the water, away from Max and Peter. She felt a cleansing peace."

As she achieves a greater understanding of the world around her and her own place in it, Anna undergoes a sea change that brings readers into the conflicts of Europe, the perceptions of Americans, Jewish history and issues, and a decade on the cusp of paradigm-changing events.

Romance also emerges, but tempered with uncertainty: "You understand so much, Anna, except about yourself. Kosta? Jordan? What do they know of the world? Even if they have traveled a bit. Of Jews?"

As Anna faces the legacy of her actions and tries to protect future generations, readers come full circle, always immersed in a sense of place and time that serve as powerful backdrops to Anna's conundrums as she navigates a strange and often perilous new world.

Readers who enjoy historical and international backdrops, stories of young women who blossom to learn about these worlds and become more proactive in them, and who are interested in Jewish history, romance, intrigue and danger will find the themes of Anna's Dance make for absolutely compelling reading replete with cultural and psychological insights alike.

Levy does an outstanding job of capturing not just historical setting, injecting a 'you are there' feel to the environment surrounding Anna, but the social, political, and psychological currents of the times.

The story is accessible to non-history readers or those with little background in either the era or the place, filling in any blanks with a deft attention to detail that makes absorbing this background effortless.

Call Me Joe
Martin van Es and Andrew Crofts
c/o Trafalgar Square Publishing
Independent Publishers Group
9781913062354, $TBA

When the world is at its darkest hour, a savior will emerge. It does so in this scenario, and that savior's name is Joe.

In many ways, especially now, the scenario of Call Me Joe mirrors our own world where the environment is under attack, people are confused and frightened, and things seem to be falling apart. In this similar world, Joe enters as a savior facing challenges in drawing a divided mankind together. But, this story isn't just about Joe or his impact.

When the sun goes out and stymies scientists, politicians, and the public alike, everything changes, moving from theories of aliens and mass hysteria to an uncertain acknowledgment that nothing will ever be the same.

Joe represents perhaps the world's only hope, and there are savvy individuals who see his miracles and envision a different way of translating them to salvation: "Although we have all been successful in our own fairly narrow fields during those years, we cannot claim that we have been able to catch the public imagination or the attention of the mass media when it comes to explaining the urgency of the problems facing mankind. We have all now had a chance to see the impact of your miracles on the internet. That is exactly the sort of viral coverage we have always been hoping for in order to get our messages out there and to provoke fast reactions from those in power, but of course we have never achieved it. Most of the world does not want to listen to the dry ramblings of a bunch of professionals and academics. Even with the social media skills of people like Lalit, we have not been able to ignite the imaginations of people in the numbers that we need. We know exactly what we want to achieve by way of changes and we have prepared plans to meet all the possible outcomes of the things that are going wrong."

Herein lies the magic in Call Me Joe, and why it differs from the usual apocalyptic story in its approach. Martin van Es and Andrew Crofts incorporate a host of special interests, different approaches to disaster planning and life, and the revised definitions of crime and ethics which are wound into the overall survival question.

Their approach creates more than just another environmental disaster tale. Call Me Joe is a close inspection of evolving moral and spiritual reactions and the effects of special interests on the choices mankind must make in the face of extinction and paradigm-changing disaster.

How opposing political factions both domestically and internationally perceive one another, then shift their opinions and observations during the course of Joe's actions and the fading light of the world offers particularly engrossing food for thought as Joe, "just a man", offers wise approaches that indicate he is something much more.

Readers who enjoy apocalyptic stories that focus on more than just physical and psychological survival alone will delight in the social, political, and spiritual entanglements that Joe's arrival and the concurrent disaster bring to the world. Call Me Joe is an involving, compelling read right up to the conclusion and call for radical re-envisioning of mankind's choices and social and political structures for the sake of the planet's survival.

Raccoon Retreat
Christa M. Miller
Christa M. Miller Communications LLC
9781734636390, $12.99

Raccoon Retreat - Book 2 in the Living Wild Side by Side series, and the sequel to Raccoon Rescue - is illustrated by Christian Barratt, and tells of the challenges faced by raccoon siblings Roxy, Rufus, and Renae when their habitat is destroyed and they are forced to look for a new home in a strange new world.

Themes of loss, adaptation, survival, hope, and building a better life from the shambles of the old could not arrive at a better time for advanced elementary to early middle grade readers as they absorb the underlying dilemmas and messages in Raccoon Retreat.

Black and white line drawings invite coloring and add interest to this story as the young raccoons face many dangers. Interactions between humans and raccoons teach both about the different lives, needs, and actions of the other in a warm story powered by the young raccoons' viewpoints of life and its revised purposes.

The observations and sometimes ironic insights these raccoons hold about puzzling human behaviors and habits is particularly delightful: "Maybe humans den together when it storms, just like we do," Roxy said."

Kids with good reading skills who are beyond the picture book age but not too old to appreciate lovely black and white line drawings and their coloring potential will relish the ecological message, warm personalities, and interactions between humans and raccoons that lends Raccoon Retreat an excellent ecological spin.

Amelia's Gold
James D. Snyder
Pharos Books
9798631744912, $19.95, Paper $9.99 Kindle

Amelia's Gold will appeal to historical thriller readers, is set in 1864, and tells of a young woman from Savannah who finds her world changed and her beliefs challenged during the Civil War.

Amelia Sarah Beach operates in a circle of Southern society that exists on the cusp of war, conflict, and political challenges. Most eligible bachelors have gone off the war, so Amelia faces the prospect of being a spinster, at age twenty-six, by the time they may return home.

Amelia is defiant about her future, but her involvement in the Confederate cause, family fortunes, and the impact of war changes her in many unexpected ways, moving her already-determined personality into a lifesaving mission that allows her to survive tragedy and remain alive when a shipwreck changes everything.

The contrast between her privileged upbringing and perceptions of values in life and later events which destroy and challenge everything she believes in and holds dear contributes a powerful psychological element to the suspense tale.

James D. Snyder excels at weaving together the disparate lives of people from different walks of life, brought together by circumstances not of their choosing. Amelia's feisty personality helps her navigate these conditions that women in her position rarely encounter, while Snyder's descriptions of her encounters and options captures her dilemmas and the contrast between opportunity and adversity: "Well, here's the way I see it," he said at last. "You probably ain't goin' nowhere until the war ends or somethin' big happens to change the balance. So, I'm going to propose a fair solution. You let me use that lifeboat of yours to haul some goods around Pamlico Sound. What I will do for you is let you run this hospital." Both opened their mouths to protest, but he held up his hand for silence."

Snyder presents a character that matures, changes, and grows to confront her world in ways women once couldn't imagine. He also paints a backdrop of social mores and institutions that lend depth and a realistic atmosphere to Amelia's world: "The reverend's heart was on fire that morning. He began with the evangelist's most powerful weapon: shame. "The war and the hurricane have caused us to withdraw into our homes and into the cellars of our minds," he intoned. "We hoard from fear. We fear that the military will come along and take what we have - or even our very neighbors. So, one hoards sugar but has no coffee. Another hoards coffee but has no sugar. The Bible has warned us of this condition since the days of Deuteronomy."

As her journey to Portsmouth Island and her involvement in a dangerous game leads her to assume a very different role in life than she'd ever dreamed, readers will be engaged by Amelia's dilemmas; engrossed by her tragedy, recovery, and progressive strength; and educated about the changing relationships between Union and Confederate forces and ordinary people on both sides.

The result is a compelling adventure that blends a young woman's evolution and coming of age with the backdrop of a war that changes everything and a battle that goes beyond a struggle to survive, on many levels.

Readers of historical fiction in general and Civil War events in particular will find Amelia's Gold rooted in a blend of real history and fictional drama designed to attract and hold attention to the end. The dates, places, and major events are all factual, further enhancing a drama that celebrates the strength of women who survive and evolve beyond any imagined role in society.

Courtney Figures It Out
James W. Lewis
Lewis Consulting
9781734707403, $14.95

This title can be ordered direct from Ingram, where it is available at a standard trade discount and returnable.

Courtney Figures It Out requires good reading skills or read-aloud parental assistance, providing young picture book readers with the engrossing story of a child with ADHD who wants to bring her pet heron to show-and-tell at school.

Most kids bring toys. But Aaron is more special than a toy...and much more challenging to bring anywhere. Step by step, Courtney figures everything out, from bringing her heron buddy indoors and getting him dressed for school to handling a teacher's blurry vision, which leads her to think that Aaron is the new kid in class, while the classroom goes wild.

Courtney constantly exhibits problem-solving skills throughout, including patience, observance, cleverness, and creativity.

While the story is on the fantastic side for a show-and-tell project and a host of adults who somehow overlook Aaron the Heron's non-human attributes, it's a fine example of how a ADHD child overcomes the challenges of daily living to make the most of her world.

Adults looking for a fun read-aloud filled with vibrant illustrations and a quirky sense of humor to supplement the underlying serious inspection of ADHD will find Courtney Figures It Out a vibrant, positive, uplifting, educational story.

Inviting the Moon to Supper
CJ Clark
Three Furies Press, LLC
9781950722396 $0.99 Kindle
9781950722402 $TBA print

Fantasy readers with an interest in Norse mythology and quests will find Inviting the Moon to Supper a fine story that opens with Sam's efforts to connect on a deeper level with her Native American cultural traditions and heritage, which she knows only from the teachings of her adoptive white grandfather, Otter Ambrose, who has also instilled in her an introductory sense of survival and power over her choices.

Inviting the Moon to Supper offers a fine juxtaposition of fantasy and real-world background. Sam's isolation, her acknowledgement that she has a new mission in her life, and the new goals she fosters immerse her in legends and a relationship that is unusual in her world.

Clark moves between setting up the story of Sam's life and psyche to a first-person observational piece (from her beloved dog's viewpoint) based on her new encounters: "I think of the giant, gentle horse Satch again. I think of the warmth of my mother. I lower myself carefully next to the horse's side and curl into a ball under the fur blanket. A deep shudder travels through the horse's body. Suddenly very sleepy, overcome with weakness and a searing pain in my back leg, I close my eyes and listen to the horse breathe in and out. I begin to understand that Sam will never find me if I stay here. I fall asleep knowing I must escape, and yet knowing I cannot leave the horse."

These passages offer an atmospheric 'you are here' opportunity to enjoy Sam's journey from both her own perspective and through the eyes of others. Her choice to run away, her encounters with magic and new possibilities of her power and heritage, and the struggles over a newfound ability that then begins to get out of control creates a compelling story of a strong, isolated heroine who makes different connections in life via her newfound powers, a magical world, and friendships which arise from that to break her isolation.

As Sam deftly wields the Hammer of Thor, forms new relationships that support her quest and cause, readers receive both a magical quest saga and the story of a young Native American woman just coming into her powers, testing and learning her responsibilities and limits.

The combination of fantasy journey and psychological inspection is well done and offers a solid, engrossing story that juxtaposes dreams and reality as Sam grows into her abilities and life.

Magical realism audiences who look for multifaceted stories of growth and evolving wisdom will find Inviting the Moon to Supper a compelling leisure read holding a powerful message.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Casino Royale
Ian Fleming
Thomas & Mercer
9781612185439, $6.99,

Casino Royale the first James Bond novel, made its debut in 1953 selling out in its first print run, within a month of its release. Later it was learned that President Kennedy had read and enjoyed one of the Fleming novels. After that, Fleming's books took off and in 1962 the movie series began that is still hot today. Sadly, he never got to see the success of his creation. He died in1964, the year the movie "Goldfinger" established the character of James Bond. "Casino Royale set the standard of writing that would be Flemings trademark from the very first words on the page. The work had all the great elements like high stake card games, a vicious enemy for Bond to take down as well as other great aspects. Reading the work today is even more fun as I have a different perspective than I when I was growing up. For those who have never read the Fleming works, and only know the film versions, "Casino Royale" is a perfect place to discover a different James Bond from the one they are familiar with.

Colonel Sun
Kingsley Amis
Pegasus Books
9781681776491 $25.95,

"Colonel Sun" is of sorts a rebirth of the James Bond character, as well as the first non-Ian Fleming novel. After Ian Fleming's death author Kingsley Amis was commissioned to write a new Bond adventure. "Colonel Sun" by Amis under the name Robert Markham was published 4 years after the death of Ian Fleming but takes place just after "The Man With The Golden Gun" the last novel by Fleming. In some ways "Colonel Sun was close to the Fleming books. Possibly because he had written "The James Bond Dossier" where he analyzed everything about the character, a short time before he was tapped to continue the series. "Colonel Sun" begins with the kidnapping of Bond's superior M, then takes a lot of twists and tuns including some Russians and a beautiful lady who help Bond on the trail of M, to a smashing conclusion with a sinister Chinese villain, who takes great pleasure in the art of torture. The holders of the estate of Ian Fleming hoped to have more escapades of Bond under the Markham name but nothing developed until the 1980s when John Gardner was commissioned to write more Bond books. "Colonel Sun" was and still is a welcome addition to the cycle of James Bond novels to be enjoyed by any Bond fan.

Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel
Anthony Horowitz
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062395115, $15.99

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

Forever And A Day
Anthony Horowitz
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062873620, $16.99

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

Double Shot
Raymond Benson
c/o Penguin Random House LTD
9780399146145, $TBA print / $5.49 Kindle,

James Bond is back in action in "Double Shot" On medical leave 007 is on a personal mission to avenge the killing of a friend. The group known as The Union that first appeared in "High Time to Kill" is out to destroy Bond with a perfect double who kills openly so that Bond will get the blame. The plot is complicated at times reminiscent of the best Fleming novels. "Double Shot" is a great Bond novel also in an audio version.

Devil May Care
Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
c/o Penguin Random House LTD
9780307387875, $10.99,

"Devil May Care" is an impressive title for a James Bond novel and the idea for it to celebrate the birth 100 years of Ian Fleming is great, but these are the only good things I can say. Now for what's wrong. There are so many things it's hard to choose where to begin. Let's start with the fact Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming. Fleming he is not. Here's why. Fleming had a very distinctive style. Here's an example from "The Man With the Golden Gun" the last Fleming novel. "The Secret Service holds much that is kept secret even from very senior officers in the organization. Only M and his Chief of Staff know absolutely everything there is to know. The latter is responsible for keeping the Top-Secret record known as "The War Book" so that, in the event of the death of both of them, the whole story, apart from what is available to individual Sections and Stations, would be available to their successors." Whether he was writing about the shooting of a thirty-eight-caliber weapon or the feel of a casino in the early morning hours, Fleming was a master of letting the reader feel whatever he was telling. Here is another example from "Live and Let Die" on just something to eat. "Paw-Paw with a slice of green lime a dish piled with red bananas, purple star-apples, and tangerines, scrambled eggs and bacon, Blue Mountain coffee, the most delicious in the world, Jamaican marmalade almost black and guava jelly." His characters had interesting names such as Mr. Big, Scaramanga, Rosa Kleb, and they were not your average villains. Fleming also had a formula that he laid out in the novel "Goldfinger" on the times Bond crossed paths with his adversaries. Bond knew who he was up against and the pacing was very solid in every book. Faulks has two women that detract from the story and the villain that I can't even remember the name of is not clear what he is intending to do. Fleming's plots were not so complicated as is Faulks. Felix Leiter from the CIA was not just thrown in as Faulks has done. The story has many scenes taken directly out of Fleming's books. Bond has a fight on a plane and the character is sucked out of the craft because a gun was fired into a window. The villain has a hand that is reminiscent of Dr. No. Even the novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson where they updated the world of James Bond are better and closer in style than Faulks. I'm pleased to say that Faulks is a one-shot James Bond writer.

Solo: A James Bond Novel
William Boyd
c/o HarperCollins
9780062223135, $15.99,

"Solo," at the time of release was to celebrate 60 years of James Bond in print. "Solo" was an appropriate title that relate to Fleming in several ways. The holders of the Fleming estate hired William Boyd to continue the Bond character in "Solo," a different kind of Bond novel where Bond is on his own with no help from Q branch or the rest of the Secret Service. The novel has some interesting moments but is a disappointing story because there is no larger than-life-villain with evil plans to take over the world, as well as not much action. Nor are there other elements that made the Fleming adventures so much fun to read. The books by Kingsley Amis writing as Robert Markham, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson are all closer to the original character than Boyd's version of James Bond and the world he lives in. "Solo" was a nice gesture to coincide with 60 years of Bond novels but falls far short of its expectations.

Carte Blanche
Jeffery Deaver
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781451629354, $9.99,

I love James Bond novels and usually they are great reading. Sadly "Carte Blanche" doesn't come across as one. Deaver was a good choice but lost me when he told early in the work the age of this James Bond. From then on, I had a hard time believing that this is the same character who faced such enemies as Goldfinger or Bloefeld. I found "Carte Blanche" is a ho hum addition to the James Bond series of novels by Ian Fleming, Robert Markham, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson.

Not Young, Still Restless
Jeanne Cooper with Lindsay Harrison
It Books
c/o HarperCollins
9780062117748, $25.99,

"Not Young Still Restless." Jeanne Cooper's tell all autobiography is great fare for viewers of "The Young and The Restless" that because of the Coronavirus is showing older episodes with Cooper in them She details her many acting jobs in her long career as an actor, others she worked with among them Maureen O'Hara, Raymond Burr, David Jansen, Robert Taylor, Tony Curtis and Shelly Winters. Later she reveals how she landed the role of Katherine Chancellor on the daytime soap "The Young and the Restless. Her many behind the scenes tales about. William J. Bell to working with her many co-stars are interesting and fun to read. Fans of "The Young and The Restless" should not miss this great behind the scenes expose by a beloved actress who was one of the longest running members of the cast until her untimely death.

I'll Be Damned
Eric Braden with Lindsay Harrison
Dey Street Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062476128, $15.99

For over 37 years Eric Braden has played Victor Newman on "The Young and The Restless" He tells all in "I'' Be Damned" an appropriate title as Victor Newman often says in the show. Braden and Lindsay Harrison, who also worked on the Jeanne Cooper autobiography, tell an expose that reveals a lot about the actor as well as many other unknown facts about his life and the many roles he has played thru the years. He is gracious to fellow cast members, modest about himself, and a shining example of what an emigrant to this country can accomplish if they set their mind to work hard and achieve. Some of the interesting things he reveals are why he changed his name to Eric Braden, movies he worked in, stars who gave him advice, how he realized he had something special in the role of Victor Newman and why he decided to be an actor. Fans of the show and the actor will not want to miss "I'll Be Damned" that is great reading during the Coronavirus Pandemic to take your mind of the crisis.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

"We Met in Paris": Grace Frick and Her Life with Marguerite Yourcena
Joan E. Howard
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th Street, Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221551, $45.00, HC, 436pp,

Synopsis: Grace Marion Frick (January 12, 1903 - November 18, 1979) was a translator and researcher for her lifelong partner French author Marguerite Yourcenar. Grace Frick taught languages at US colleges and was the second academic dean to be appointed to Hartford Junior College.

Marguerite Yourcenar (8 June 1903 - 17 December 1987) was a French novelist and essayist born in Brussels, Belgium, who became a US citizen in 1947. Winner of the Prix Femina and the Erasmus Prize, she was the first woman elected to the Academie francaise, in 1980, and the seventeenth person to occupy seat 3.

"We Met in Paris": Grace Frick and Her Life with Marguerite Yourcenar" by Joan E. Howard challenges previous depictions of Grace Frick and the couple she formed with the first French Academicienne. It is a scrupulously documented, intimate portrait of both women in which Frick emerges as a woman of substance in her own right.

In addition to ten years of research, dozens of interviews with people who were close to Frick and Yourcenar, and an immense volume of published and unpublished correspondence, "We Met in Paris" is enriched by personal conversations with the author about her and Frick's life.

Critique: A superbly crafted work of meticulous scholarship, "We Met in Paris": Grace Frick and Her Life with Marguerite Yourcenar is an extraordinary study that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library LGBT Biography collections. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography, fifty-four pages of Notes, and a fifteen 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 ""We Met in Paris": Grace Frick and Her Life with Marguerite Yourcenar" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780826222107, $26.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.55).

Editorial Note: While teaching at her undergraduate alma mater in the 1980s, Joan E. Howard met and spent several summers with the subject of her doctoral dissertation, Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987). Howard is also the English translator of two biographies by the French journalist and writer Josyane Savigneau: "Marguerite Yourcenar: Inventing a Life" and "Carson McCullers: A Life." Since 2000, she has served as director of the Marguerite Yourcenar house museum, Petite Plaisance, in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Currently, Joan is working on a memoir of her time with Madame Yourcenar.

My Life With Helen
Diane S. Nine
Rand-Smith LLC
9781950544097, $28.00, HC, 228pp,

Synopsis: There's no denying that Helen Amelia Thomas (August 4, 1920 - July 20, 2013) was a larger-than-life personality, but more importantly, she was a trailblazer for women in journalism. Professionally, she reported on more presidential administrations than anyone in history, and she rightfully earned her place in press room briefings (front row, center) as the Dean of the White House Press Corps. However, later in her life, Helen made some regrettable comments that subsequently ended her illustrious career and tarnished her reputation.

From her rise to the top of the political journalism ladder to her unceremonious downfall, there was one constant and that was Diane Nine. She was by Helen's side through thick and thin as her literary agent and her close friend for more than 30 years.

In "My Life With Helen: The Dean of the White House Press Corps Through Her Agent's Eyes", interested readers will learn for the first time what was going on behind the scenes after Helen's fall from grace and how Diane struggled to come to terms with the media frenzy that followed. Maybe things do happen for a reason. That's for the reader to decide. There's no denying that Helen was a force to be reckoned with, but more importantly, she was human, flaws and all.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "My Life With Helen: The Dean of the White House Press Corps Through Her Agent's Eyes" is an extraordinary biography that will have a very special appeal to both journalism professionals and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Biography and American Journalism collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Life With Helen" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Diane Nine is President of Nine Speakers, Inc., a full service entertainment agency representing people in the literary, lecture, film, TV, and theatrical arenas. A graduate of George Washington University's law school, she maintains a website at

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Backpack
Brandon S. Hultink
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610353519, $16.95, PB, 180pp,

Synopsis: Wounded in the line of duty and paralyzed, police officer Brandon Hultink made an amazing journey from despair to hope. In his own words: "I can still remember the taste of metal in my mouth from the barrel of the gun ..."

After the shoot-out that put him in a wheelchair, police officer Brandon Hultink was ready to put an end to it all. In his frank and compelling memoir "The Backpack: A Wounded Police Officer's Struggle with the Burden All Cops Share", Hultink tells how he came to the worst moment of his life, and how faith in God and the humility to accept help brought him out of depression, addiction, and the wheelchair and back into successful life.

But Hultink's story isn't his alone -- it is also the story of the thousands of police officers who struggle with depression and post-traumatic stress. Cops don't do touchy-feely; they stuff every trauma into a metaphorical "backpack" until the burden overwhelms them. Hultink writes unflinchingly of the mental health crisis affecting police officers and offers proposals for improving mental health services for police.

An intensely personal story of anguish and survival, The Backpack offers hope to everyone (police and civilian alike) who struggles with depression and pain.

Critique: An impressively and candidly insightful read from cover to cover, "The Backpack: A Wounded Police Officer's Struggle with the Burden All Cops Share" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Backpack" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Editorial Note: A graduate of Western Michigan University and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Brandon S. Hultink served for fifteen years as an officer with the Battle Creek, Michigan, Police Department and for ten years as an assistant prosecutor with the Calhoun Country Prosecutor's Office. Hultink currently works as a parole agent for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The Righteous Few
Marty Brounstein
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004971, $16.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: "The Righteous Few: Two Who Made a Difference" by Marty Brounstein is a remarkable true tale of courage, compassion, and rescue during the Holocaust. It is the story of a young married Christian couple, Frans and Mien Wijnakker, living in the Netherlands during World War II. When their country was under Nazi German occupation, they were firsthand witnesses to the horrific acts of violence inflicted upon thousands of innocent people, especially Jews. Refusing to sit back and do nothing, they chose to put their own lives at great risk by hiding their Jewish neighbors.

By the end of the war, they had managed to save more than two dozen countrymen from certain death. Their heroism later earned them a special recognition of "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Frans and Mien were Catholics who led a simple life in the countryside of southeastern Holland. They had four small children of their own. But a simple yes in response to a call for help during a business trip to Amsterdam profoundly changed Frans' and his wife's lives. In a two-year period, they took many Jewish refugees into their own home and organized a rescue network that placed refugees in other people's homes, as well.

As their rescue work increased, so did the many risks and dangers associated with it. They faced one of their most difficult challenges when they took in a young pregnant Jewish woman and her husband. How do you help someone who has to give birth in hiding? Through this and many other stories, "The Righteous Few" draws a vivid picture of two extraordinary people who shined the light of hope during one of history's darkest periods.

Critique: Heroic, inspiring, and inherently fascinating, "The Righteous Few: Two Who Made a Difference" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century Judaic History collections and Holocaust curriculum supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Righteous Few" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Story of the Mongolian Tent House
Dashdondog Jamba, author
Anne Pellowski, author
Beatriz Vidal, illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
1501 E. Hillside Dr., Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786816, $16.95, HC, 40pp,

Synopsis: Based on an original tale by Mongolian author, Dashdondog Jamba, and now retold by distinguished international author, Anne Pellowski, the picture book, "Story of the Mongolian Tent House", shows children ages 4-8 how the traditional Mongolian tent house (called a ger in Mongolian and a yurt in Turkish), was created in the ancient past by drawing on the example of nature, and how it later became a beloved symbol of friendship and harmony.

With stunning illustrations of Mongolian culture by renowned artist, Beatriz Vidal, young readers can experience first-hand the wide-open steppes of this vast and wild land bordering on Russia to the north and China to the south.

Critique: Inherently interesting, informative and entertaining, "Story of the Mongolian Tent House" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Multicultural Literature & Picture Book collections.

Editorial Note: Dashdondog Jamba (1941-2017) was a world-renowned Mongolian author who dedicated his life to writing, translating, and telling stories for children. A passionate promoter of children's reading, he traveled with his nomadic library for over 24 years across Mongolia, covering a distance of more than 85,000 miles. Dashdondog wrote over 100 children's books and translated more than 50 books by foreign writers. Among his award-winning titles are Tales on Horseback and Mongolian Folktales.

Anne Pellowski is a distinguished Polish-American storyteller and authority on international literature for children. From 1966-1981 she worked for the U.S. Committee to UNICEF as the founding director of the Information Center on Children's Cultures. The recipient of several awards, including a National Storytelling Network Lifetime Achievement Award, she was a nominee for the prestigious 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Anne's writings include The World of Children's Literature and The Storytelling Handbook. She lives in Winona, Wisconsin.

Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning Argentinean painter, illustrator, and teacher. Her work has appeared in well-known magazines such as The New York Times, Woman's Day, and The New Yorker. Beatriz won the prestigious Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award for her title A Library for Juana, while her books Rainbow Crow and Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain were Reading Rainbow selections. Beatriz divides her time between Cordoba in Argentina and New York City in the USA.

God Came To My Garage Sale
Marni Hill Foderaro
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982234751, $11.99, PB, 138pp,

Synopsis: "God Came To My Garage Sale" by Marni Hill Foderaro is an inspirational collection of fictional vignettes of Spiritual miracles experienced at an ordinary garage sale by an Atheist woman who encounters numerous Ethereal people and Divine events, challenging her long-held belief system and forever transforming her life.

Forced to drastically downsize and sell most of her accumulated material possessions due to bankruptcy and unexpectedly losing her "American Dream" home, the dreaded task of organizing and conducting a garage sale turned out to be the most amazing and life-altering Spiritual Awakening experience of her existence.

Critique: Original, thought-provoking, entertaining, and truly memorable, "God Came To My Garage Sale" is an especially recommended addition to personal and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "God Came To My Garage Sale" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: An educator and author, Marni Hill Foderaro earned her doctorate in education and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard after a very successful and rewarding 35-year career as a high school special education teacher. Marni is a lover of animals, nature, music and world travel who values honesty, integrity, equality and goodness and prays for peace on earth.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

How to Play Basketball for Kids
Tony R. Smith
Independently Published
9781697898798, $9.99, PB, 149pp,

Synopsis: Basketball is an extraordinary team sport that will significantly contribute to supporting whole child development. In "How to Play Basketball for Kids: A Complete Guide for Parents and Players", Tony R. Smith showcases key fundamentals for sound player development.

Concentrating on essential skills of the game: Conditioning, Jumping Ability, Shooting, Defense, Rebounding, Footwork, Boxing Out and much more, Smith outlines basics in accessible language. Basketball is a game of mental and physical endurance, and featuring more than 40 drills for parents/coaches/players, "How to Play Basketball for Kids" shows how to gain it all.

As a bonus, a section has been added to help players with diet and strength training -- and includes a Smoothie/Protein recipe.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "How to Play Basketball for Kids: A Complete Guide for Parents and Players" is a practical, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual and guide. While unreservedly recommended for school and community library Sports collections in general, and Basketball supplemental curriculum studies in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Play Basketball for Kids" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Accused of Treason
David A. Tenenbaum
Post Hill Press
9781642934519, $26.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Dr. David A. Tenenbaum was a civilian mechanical engineer who worked for the Army at the TACOM base in Warren, Michigan. In 1997, he was falsely accused of being an Israeli spy (and having dual loyalty to the State of Israel simply because he is Jewish) by a known anti-Semite and several other anti-Semitic coworkers who referred to Tenenbaum as the "little Jewish spy".

The FBI conducted a full-scale criminal investigation of Tenenbaum and his family. It resulted in an official report to FBI Director Louis Freeh, that there was no evidence Tenenbaum had ever done anything wrong. In fact, Tenenbaum was not even working on classified programs. Instead, he was concentrating on an approved and unclassified program known as the Light Armor Systems Survivability (LASS) to up-armor the Army's HMMWVs because, following Somalia, it was a known fact that the HMMWVs were death traps.

The Tenenbaums' federal lawsuit for religious discrimination was dismissed after the Army falsely claimed that they "would not be able to disclose the actual reasons or motivations for their actions without revealing state secrets". Senator Carl Levin ordered the IG-DOD to investigate the Tenenbaum case and determine if the Army was guilty of anti-Semitism. After over two years, the IG-DOD issued a report which confirmed that the US Army was guilty of anti-Semitism.

To this day, the Army refuses to make Tenenbaum whole and compensate him for the false accusations against him. Tenenbaum is one of the only persons for whom a favorable Inspector General report has been issued to not be compensated. The government has never been held accountable for their anti-Semitism.

Senators Gary Peters and Claire McCaskill of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have pushed the Army, but the Army refuses to acknowledge the Inspector General's findings of religious discrimination against Tenenbaum. The Army also refuses to accept that the price of prejudice against Tenenbaum was borne by the soldiers lost in Humvees who would have benefitted from the LASS program.

Critique: "Accused of Treason: The US Army's Witch Hunt for a Jewish Spy" is an impressively presented, documented and detailed account of anti-Semitism at work in the American military establishment. A harrowing story and deserving of as wide a readership as possible, "Accused of Treason" is one of those true life stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Jewish Biography collections in general, and Political Corruption/Misconduct, and National/International Security supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Accused of Treason" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Murder, Inc.
Gerald Goldhaber
Publish Your Purpose Pres
9781946384843, $34.95, HC, 366pp,

Synopsis: Most Americans blithely assume the products they buy, the food they eat, the medicines they take, and the cars they drive are safe. But the unfortunate truth is that we are all exposed on a daily basis to life-threatening hazards of which we're often unaware. From defective airbags that can explode and kill us to poisonous additives in food, we're often the unknowing victims of corporate malfeasance and shamefully incompetent government oversight.

"Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year...And What You Can Do About It" is a hard-hitting expose by Dr. Gerald M. Goldhaber that deftly examines the outcomes when corporate profits trump public safety. He uncovers the dismal history of government regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect us, but instead appoint leaders who come and go from the same industries they're tasked to regulate.

While our modern conveniences make life easier and more enjoyable than previous generations, we also face new dangers particular to the digital age including the hacking of autonomous cars, the misuse of private information collected by smart devices, as well as renegade programming glitches in smart homes and offices. The companies who produce these innovations need to ensure they're fail-safe, or face hefty lawsuits if and when things go wrong.

Principled disclosure of hidden hazards is an industry and regulatory necessity. We can only make informed choices and avoid needless injury and death when we know all the facts. Dr. Goldhaber recommends twelve steps to take control of our safety, and outlines a model of corporate responsibility and government regulation that balances public safety measures and company profits to the benefit of all.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year...And What You Can Do About It" is impressively informative and a critically important, unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, social/political activists, corporate executives, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year...And What You Can Do About It" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781946384799, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Over the past 42 years, Dr. Gerry Goldhaber has emerged as the nation's leading safety warnings and communication expert. His clients have included over 100 of the top 500 corporations in the U.S. and 50 of the top 100 law firms and government agencies, including the FDA, CPSC, and the DOD. He has appeared on national TV and given international keynote addresses. Gerry frequently gives depositions for court cases nationwide. For the past 11 years, he has published the Goldhaber Warnings Report, which reaches over 10,000 litigators nationwide. Born in Brookline, MA, today he lives in Manhattan where he trains for a triathlon, volunteers at the Synagogue, and spends time with his son and daughter. He maintains a web site at

Living Quixote
Rogelio Minana
Vanderbilt University Press
VU Station B 351813, Nashville, TN 37235-1813
9780826522689, $99.95, HC, 260pp,

Synopsis: The 400th anniversaries of Don Quixote in 2005 and 2015 sparked worldwide celebrations that brought to the fore its ongoing cultural and ideological relevance. "Living Quixote: Performative Activism in Contemporary Brazil and the Americas (Performing Latin American and Caribbean " by Cervantes scholar Rogelio Minana informatively examines contemporary appropriations of Miguel de Cervantes's masterpiece in political and social justice movements in the Americas, particularly in Brazil.

"Living Quixote" Professor Minana exhaustively examines long-term, Quixote-inspired activist efforts at the ground level. Through what Professor Minana terms performative activism, Quixote-inspired theater companies and nongovernmental organizations deploy a model for rewriting and enacting new social roles for underprivileged youth.

Unique in its transatlantic, cross-historical, and community-based approach, "Living Quixote" offers both a new reading of Don Quixote and an applied model for cultural activism -- a model based, in ways reminiscent of Paulo Freire, on the transformative potential of performance, literature, and art.

Critique: A meticulous work of original and seminal scholarship, "Living Quixote: Performative Activism in Contemporary Brazil and the Americas" is part of the Vanderbilt University Press 'Performing Latin American and Caribbean Identities" series and is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Latin American Studies and Performance Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Living Quixote: Performative Activism in Contemporary Brazil and the Americas" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780826522696, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: Rogelio Minana is Professor of Spanish and the head of the Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages at Drexel University. He is also the author of Monstruos que hablan: El discurso de la monstruosidad en Cervantes and La verosimilitud en el Siglo de Oro: Cervantes y la novela corta.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

And Justice For All
Stephen Ellmann
NewSouth, Inc.
105 South Court Street, Montgomery, AL 36104
9781588384287, $40.00, HC, 864pp,

Synopsis: "And Justice For All: Arthur Chaskalson and the Struggle for Equality in South Africa" by Stephen Ellmann is an exhaustive biography of a remarkable life lived in service both to law and to the struggle for social change and justice. The social changes described are the victories over apartheid, which were won on several fronts and through the efforts of people in many nations, but an important one of those fronts lay in the courts of South Africa itself.

Arthur Chaskalson enters the historical record in 1963, when he and a team of talented lawyers represented Nelson Mandela in the historic Rivonia Trial. Chaskalson organized legal and non-profit organizations and served as the first president of South Africa's Constitutional Court, which would eventually lead to the deconstruction of apartheid legislation.

In exploring Chaskalson's life and career, we appreciate more clearly the roles lawyers can play in social change and the achievement of a just social order, and at the same time we gain insight into the combination of upbringing, experience, and character that shapes a man first into a 'cause lawyer' and then into a path-breaking and foundation-laying judge.

Critique: Extensively researched in meticulous detail, "And Justice For All: Arthur Chaskalson and the Struggle for Equality in South Africa" is an extraordinarily informed and informative biography that showcases the impact that laws and a judicial system can have on a society specifically structured for a racial minority to rule over a racial majority. An inherently interesting story of a remarkable man in a remarkable time, "And Justice For All" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of forty-eight pages of Notes and an eighteen page Index. An impressive work of extraordinary scholarship, "And Justice For All" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Stephen Ellmann was an author, legal educator, and expert on South African law, legal ethics, clinical legal education, and constitutional law. As a staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1977 to 1983, he worked on voting rights cases, institutional reform litigation for inmates and people with mental disabilities, anti-Ku Klux Klan suits, and defense work in capital murder trials. Ellmann's work as an educator at the New York Law School, Harvard Law School, and Columbia University School of Law is well-remembered today, and his legacy continues with the Stephen J. Ellmann Clinical Theory Workshop. While teaching at Columbia in 1987, Ellmann was invited to co-teach a course on apartheid, launching a lifelong dedication to South African legal issues.

Energy and Humanity
Jami Hossain
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
9781527541368, $119.95, HC, 241pp,

Synopsis: Sometime around three million years ago, the first hominid walked on this planet. In the time which has elapsed since then, the descendant of this biped has evolved to reach the top of the food chain. Furthermore, it has manipulated other life forms and Earths resources in a manner that makes these entirely subservient to only one species, homo sapiens sapiens.

In a period less than 0.007% of Earths age, man has dramatically altered both the biosphere and the climate. In the pages of "Energy and Humanity: An Intertwined Evolution", Jami Hossain argues that intelligent manipulation of energy is at the heart of human supremacy. Energy is intertwined in an intricate manner with everything that happens around us. From the very beginning, nearly three million years ago, up until today, the human race has evolved and progressed by gaining mastery and control over energy.

"Energy and Humanity" presents an insightful description of the evolution of human civilization from an energy perspective, showing that energy is the vehicle that has catapulted the human race to a commanding position on Earth. From rudimentary Stone Age tools to classical physics, from animal power to the steam engine, and from relativity and quantum theory to geo-politics and climate change, drawing upon multiple disciplines, it weaves a fascinating story of the history of energy in human civilization.

"Energy and Humanity" also discusses the dark side of energy, exemplified by climate change, pollution, and deforestation, which is compelling modern human civilization to once again go into an energy transition mode, as well as those forms of energy which can counteract such forces: renewable and smart energy and their associated innovations.

Critique: An impeccable work of simply outstanding scholarship that is exceptionally well written, expertly organized, and coherently presented, "Energy and Humanity: An Intertwined Evolution" is a remarkably informative, articulate, thought-provoking study, and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

Never Alone
Lynelle Watford
Self Published
9781981893515, $6.99, 2020, 44 pages

Gentle Reminders of God's Presence and Love

Lyn's writing expresses an awareness of God's amazing presence. Her book "Never Alone" is filled with gentle reminders of God's love through colorful photos, spiritual awareness, and Scripture promises.

We are living in difficult days. Lyn openly shares insights into some adversities she has faced to bring refuge, comfort, and consolation in a warm, caring way that draws the reader nearer to God and His steadfast love.

I found the devotional Nighttime. Conversation helpful as I continue to work through the process of grief and the loss of loved ones.

I felt God's presence as I read of the source of our safety in the storms of life in the reading titled: Your Strength with Me.

I am planning on having an extra copy of "Never Alone - Gentle Reminders of God's Presence and Love available to share with friends in their times of trouble, despair, and distress.

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

Judgment on the House of God: Cleansing & Glory are Coming
Jeremiah Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768454772, $1499, 2020, 148 pages

Purity, Righteousness, and Judgment, Prophetic, Timely, and Relevant

In the book "Judgment on the House of God: Cleansing & Glory Are Coming," Jeremiah Johnson confronts the reader with the reality of God's love, purity, righteousness, and judgment. His writing is prophetic, timely, and relevant. Johnson writes with a spirit of wisdom and revelation.

I took special note of the message alerting those in the ministry of the dangers of addiction to the ministry, "too much time working for God, not enough time waiting on God while adoring Him.

The focus on the life of Jesus as He walked on earth as a man, drawing on intimacy for his authority became a personal challenge for me.

The summation in chapter eleven is a call to revival and a reminder of the need for a cleansing of the house of God and the resultant glory.

Jeremiah Johnson, recognized for his prophetic teaching and international conference ministry. is the founder and director of MaranathaSchool of Ministry, a training center that sends our end-time messengers worldwide.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Jerimiah Johnson's "Judgment on the House of God: Cleansing & Glory Are Coming."

Our Union with Christ: How You can Enjoy Deep Relationship with The Living God
Duane Sheriff
Harrison House Publishers
9781680312980, $16.99, 2020, 244 pages

A Deeper Understanding of our Identity and relationship as the Bride of Christ

In the book "Our Union with Christ" Duane Sheriff unlocks the mystery of our union with Christ by using the role and responsibility of a loving husband as a type and shadow of Christ, and the Church as a submissive wife in the marriage relationship.

Duane's writing Holy Spirit inspired, a rich blending of unveiling the mystery of Scriptures with the teaching of Jesus as our redeemer and Lord. Jesus reigns over the Church. As His Bride, we reign with him and experience His presence, moment by moment, in the present tense. He writes with passion as he draws illustrations from the book of Genesis, the book of Job, the Proverbs, and the prophet Malachi from the Old Testament, and the writers of the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and Peter, and the book of Hebrews in the New Testament to validate his thesis.

"Our Union with Christ - How You can Enjoy Deep Relationship with The Living God" is a fantastic combination of textbook theology, or history, and a love story of God for His people throughout the ages. Duane challenges the reader with practical applications, and life-changing insights to a richer devotional life.

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

Father, Friend, and Judge
Robert Henderson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768443172, $21.99, 2020, 214 pages

How to Recognize Our Identity in Christ

"Father, Friend, and Judge - Three Dimensions of Prayer That Receive Answers From Heaven" is Robert Henderson's latest title in the Official Courts of Heaven Series. Henderson writes with confidence and passion, out of his experiences. His teaching is authoritative, instructive, is spirit inspired revelation.

I became intrigued with Henderson's concept of the spiritual realm prayer being a portal for "encountering God in multiple dimensions." I learned another lesson about entering into the presence of the Father in the heavenly realm from the earthy realm. It is vital to select your personal "secret place" to pray. Go into your "space or room" and "shut the door" to all the earthly realm.

I personalized every page, principle, and promise on how to enter the three dimensions of prayer that receive answers from heaven. I am eager to be awakened to the unseen realm of the heavenly, to experience the love and intimacy of the Father, the close relationship of His friendship, and the honor of sitting in His presence as Judge.

I urge you to read the book and do the same.

The Seven-Fold Spirit of God: Accessing the Untapped Dimensions of the Holy Spirit
Keith Miller
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768453515, $19.99, 2020, 230 pages

A Life-Changing, Profound Demonstration of God's Power

"The Seven-Fold Spirit of God: Accessing the Untapped Dimensions of the Holy Spirit" reveals how the believer can be equipped to walk in the potential of their identity in the Lord. Author and revivalist, Keith Miller introduces a whole new level of understanding of the character, personality, and power of the Holy Spirit.

Weaving together symbols, types, and prophecies from Genesis through Revelation, Keith shares in detail his vision of the Seven-fold Spirit of God: as the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel, the Spirit of Might, the Spirit of Knowledge, and the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord.

The book is life-transforming. As you rediscover the Holy Spirit in a new light, you will experience a more engaging and fruitful walk with God.

Keith is passionate about his message, authoritative in his delivery, and profound in his teaching. He is recognized for his prophetic word and international ministry in signs, wonders, and miracles. Keith's passion is contagious.

One reading of this book will only whet your spiritual appetite for another snack, meal, or feast for more. I can heartily recommend Keith Miller's "The Seven-fold Spirit of God."

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

Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living
Joseph Prince
Harrison House Publishers
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781680314526, $17.99, 2010, 320 pages

Overcoming Adversity, Radically Transformed by Grace

From the Introduction to the Closing Words of this Anniversary Edition of "Destined to Reign" Joseph Prince helps the reader better understand the redemptive work of Christ as complete. Through His death on the cross He became the sin offering, imputing our sins. He also met the requirement of the burnt offering, imputing our righteousness. This truth is the message of the Gospel of Grace.

Each chapter of the book is packed with Spirit-inspired insights. Pastor Prince develops helpful principles and Biblical promises that minister. He has witnessed individuals struggling with life-long addictions set free, troubled marriages and broken relationships restored, physical conditions healed, and financial debts miraculously canceled.

Prince is a gifted communicator. His life is consistent with his message; his message is valid within the context of the Scriptures. He writes with authority with a passion for his reader.

You will want to keep "Designed to Reign" within reach of your "preferred reading spot" for those unscheduled, much needed, unique "thirsty moments" of inspiration so crucial to a "Radical Christian Life."

Breaking the Strongholds of Iniquity: A New Testament Guide to Cleansing Your Generational Bloodline
Bill Dennington
Destiny Image Publishers
9780768452655, $16.99, 2020, 252 pages

Generational Curses, Spiritual Warfare, Prayer

Page after page and Scripture after Scripture Dr. Bill Dennington presents foundational truths on theme topics of breaking free from generational curses, the mystery of iniquity, freedom, and deliverance, and an accelerated breakthrough.

Dr. Dennington writes with passion, conviction, and authority. He teaches with clarity in a unique way of introducing the broad spectrum of the intent of the relationship of the whole panorama view to glean the meaning and interpretation and a deeper understanding.

A final chapter by Robert Henderson, author of the Operating in the Courts of Heaven series, introduces "Three Forms of Sin and Their Legal Claim.

"Breaking the Strongholds of Iniquity" is written for New Covenant believers as "A New Testament Guide to Cleansing Your Generational Bloodline."

I came away with a clearer perception and a keener understanding of my freedom and liberty - as in the present, allowing me to embrace a more relative reality for living out the fullness of and supernatural freedom He has made available for me.

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

Cast Out Demons & Slay Your Giants
Isik Abla
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768453744, $16.99, 2020, 224 pages

Deliverance, Break Through, and Prayer

Isik Abla leads the reader step by step with Biblical principles, compelling stories and testimonies of deliverance in her book "Cast out Demons & Slay Your Giants." Isik opens the book with her own story of self-deliverance and introduces a deliverance ministry.

Select Bible examples from the Old and New Testaments provide the basis for thorough teaching and authoritative insights and powerful tips worthy of reading, rereading, highlighting, and reviewing again and again.

Isik provides detailed lists, declarations, prayers, examples, and evidence with complete masterful instruction for self-deliverance and maintaining deliverance.

One of the most helpful truths for me centered on the teaching of receiving and knowing our identity in Christ, an amazing truth.

Isik Abla has a worldwide ministry through TV and social media platforms in more than 200 countries.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Guardians of the Light: The Red Phoenix
Alex Carter
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B081K72PGW, $2.99 ebook, 2019, 151 pages

Guardians of the Light is uneven storytelling. The narration is intimate and fun with solid characters but the logical bones of the story are poorly done. A story in the real world has to have a focus on the real physical world. A story based on a fantasy world has to have a consistent internal made up logic. Carter tries to blend both reality and fantasy but doesn't try to follow either the external logic of the physical world or the fantasy logic created for the tale through the story. Carter varies the logic from passage to passage. The result is that anyone who knows basic science has to drop out of the narration when something violating reality is read. The same happens after the reader tries to remember the fantasy logic of the story and suddenly finds that it is changed.

Guardians of the Light is a coming of age tale. Angel Campion visits her grandmother in Scotland for her summer vacation. Her Grandma Arti is a fun loving mountain climber who has a quest. She has been receiving letters filled with clues. Angel's grandfather, who had died on a mountain climb, might be alive and to find out what has happened both Arti and Angel need to climb a mountain and follow the clues. The letters hint that the fate of the world depends on their quest.

Guardians of the Light is a tentative recommendation. The narration is good but the internal logic of the story is a mess and the story doesn't have an ending. It is just the first part of a larger story. If you can ignore the lack of consistent internal logic in the tale, you might find the story fun but you will need to understand that you have to read more books in the series to find out what happens.

The Inca Con: A Rex Dalton Thriller
JC Ryan Services LLC
B07KD27RHM, $3.99 ebook, 2019, 320 pages
9781731595720, paper

The Inca Con is what I would call a cozy thriller. There are many definitions of cozy. Most of them claim that a cozy has to have a female protagonist. But I prefer a more encompassing definition. I define a cozy as a story where the setting and details are so well integrated into the tale that they become a main character. Most of The Inca Con is slower paced with only the occasional burst of thriller. The narration is smooth enough that the story flows even with the slow pacing.

Rex Dalton travels the world with his dog Digger. He travels under assumed names because he is in hiding from a dangerous group of individuals who want him dead. His constant movement is part of his strategy on keeping ahead of his enemies. He is currently backpacking in Peru to see its archeological sites and learn about its people. He stumbles across a wealthy retired couple exploring the country being setup by a conman. Rex decides to join the elderly couple and see what is going on.

The Inca Con is a well written slow paced thriller. If you like the more sedate pacing, the story is easy to recommend. Most thrillers have too much action but with slower paced tales it is easier to enjoy the details and mystery of the storyline. Many contemporary thrillers have large holes in their plotlines as everything in the story takes second place to the action. With Con's slower pace, plotlines have to be firmer and it is possible to savor the small details. Unfortunately if you are an action junkie, the story might be too sedate for you.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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