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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 6 June 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

I'm Just Saying
Milan Kordestani
Health Communications, Inc.
9780757324505, $16.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Have you ever been in a conversation that, after volleying back and forth, ended with the words, "I'm just saying..."? Usually, this signals frustration, that the discussion has reached a dead end, that you haven't made your point, and may even leave you feeling that your relationship with the other person has changed for the worse. Digital interactions, devoid of nuance and understanding, further complicate discussion. We may believe that we are superior because our opinions are the "right" ones, and in the future avoid conversations with those whose opinions differ from ours, sending us into a never-ending echo chamber.

With the publication of "I'm Just Saying: A Guide to Maintaining Civil Discourse in an Increasingly Divided World", author Milan Kordestani shows us that although challenging conversations can be unpleasant, they can also help us grow. Sometimes, people inspire us to change how we speak, making us better communicators in the process as we search to find common ground with those with whom we disagree.

Kordestani uses contemporary case studies and personal experience to teach readers how to have constructive conversations by engaging in civil discourse -- the idea that good-faith actors can reach consensus on any opinion-based disagreement. He discusses influential leaders and reflects on his successes and failures in creating The Doe, an online publication focused on civil discourse. He addresses the challenges that digital media consumption presents when seeking common ground -- especially when people are only digitally connected.

Civil discourse, an essential part of democracy, is becoming rare in today's anonymous digital age. "I'm Just Saying" examines discourse's successes and the ways to rebuild it. Drawing from history, popular culture, and personal anecdotes, "I'm Just Saying" promotes effective civil discourse by providing practical advice and strategies for respect. Through the means of storytelling, "I'm Just Saying" offers insight and tools for politeness in a divided world.

Critique: A timely and much needed contribution to our national dialogue over the profound deterioration of civility in public and political discourse, "I'm Just Saying: A Guide to Maintaining Civil Discourse in an Increasingly Divided World" deserved as wide a readership as possible. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99), "I'm Just Saying" is a critically essential and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Anger Management, Communication/Social Skills Development, and Social Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Milan Kordestani ( is an entrepreneur, writer, and founder of several companies oriented toward giving individuals control over their own discourse and creation. Kordestani has launched companies that prioritize transparent practice, civil discourse, and respect for creatives. They include:, an anonymously published narrative publication launched in 2019 to promote civil discourse; Audo, the only personalized career-building destination that lets you learn skills and earn money at the same time; and Guin Records, an innovative record label that offers artist-friendly deals and helps purpose-driven lyricists to produce their visions while retaining control of their masters. Kordestani has written for numerous online publications, including Rolling Stone, Huffington Post,, ThriveGlobal, and other platforms.

The Afterlife Book: Heaven, Hell, and Life After Death
Marie D. Jones, author
Larry Flaxman, author
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578598212, $54.95, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: A profound and fascinating exploration of death and the afterlife that includes Christian and other religious beliefs, rituals from around the world, quests for immortality, scientists' conclusions, ghosts, and more, "The Afterlife Book: Heaven, Hell, and Life After Death" by co-authors Marie Jones and Larry Flaxman is a compendium of information on core questions about what happens to us after we die.

Many view it as a mystery, but there are tantalizing clues to be found in the Bible and other religious scriptures, scientific findings, historical writings, literature, reports of near-death experiences, and in many other recorded sources. Facing the contradictions and similarities of beliefs from all over the world and throughout history, "The Afterlife Book: Heaven, Hell, and Life After Death" published by Visible Ink Press shows how death and the afterlife is viewed in a variety of different ways. This is an engrossing guide looks at the many competing views of the afterlife including :

Where ideas of Heaven and Hell came from and why they endure.
What happens during near death experiences and out of body experiences,
What is known about reincarnation and immortality.
How death is linked to ghosts and apparitions, mediumship, and spiritualism.
How the quest for immortality and transhumanism may play a role in one day ending death.
How death and the dead have been celebrated, memorialized, and honored.
What happens to the human body just before, during, and immediately after physical death.
What happens to the human body in the process of its decomposition.
How burial and cremation traditions, rites, and rituals, regard the existence of a soul.
What religious leaders, philosophers, scientists have to say about consciousness and the soul.
Whether animals and pets have souls.

Critique: Is death just a mysterious phase in our journey? Does it lead to Heaven (or Hell)? Is it reincarnation or simply eternal blackness and unconsciousness? Do we continue to exist in some form or other beyond our physical bodies? "The Afterlife Book" addresses these fundamental questions and gives us all hope that our lives do not come to an end but change like the natural cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth! It's many photos and illustrations help bring the text to life, and its helpful bibliography and extensive index add to its usefulness -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Philosophy, Sociology of Death, and Near Death Experience collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academics, clergy, grief counselors, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Afterlife Book: Heaven, Hell, and Life After Death" is also available in a paperback edition (9781578597611, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Marie D. Jones ( is the author of over twenty nonfiction books, including Visible Ink Press' Demons, the Devil, and Fallen Angels, Earth Magic: Your Complete Guide to Natural Spells, Potions, Plants, Herbs, Witchcraft, and More, and The New Witch: Your Guide to Modern Witchcraft, Wicca, Spells, Potions, Magic, and More,. A former radio show host herself, she has been interviewed on more than two thousand radio programs worldwide, including Coast-to-Coast AM, The Shirley MacLaine Show, and Midnight in the Desert.

Editorial Note #2: Larry Flaxman ( has been actively involved in hands-on field investigation, emphasizing the scientific method to unravel unexplained phenomena. His books with Marie D. Jones include Demons, the Devil, and Fallen Angels, 11:11 The Time Prompt Phenomenon, Mind Wars, and This Book Is from the Future. His numerous radio credits include Coast-to-Coast AM, The Shirley MacLaine Show, The Jeff Rense Show, Rob McConnell's X-Zone, and TAPS Family Radio. His television appearances include the Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab and the History Channel's Ancient Aliens.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Tagore's Gitanjali
Prasenjit Gupta
9781946582409, $24.95

Prasenjit Gupta's new translation of Rabindranath Tagore's classic Gitanjali pairs the translated poems of Tagore's "Song Offerings" with the Bengali originals as well as the translations done by Tagore himself, creating a literary work of Indian spiritual and cultural force that should be in any library strong in authoritative South Asian literature.

The origins and effort involved in this particular translation need to be explained to Westerners who may be unfamiliar with the Bengali classic; for the writer Rabindranath Tagore, beloved for his own works in Bengali, has already produced an authoritative translation considered by many Indians to be the end-all experience of the poems in Gitanjali, whose publication and enthusiastic reception in the West led to Tagore's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The work is considered to be representative of the best of modern Indian literature.

Prasenjit Gupta's translation captures each poem in three ways: in the Bengali original, with Rabindranath Tagore's translation, and Gupta's own translation. In this manner, Tagore's Gitanjali receives a closer inspection and interpretation than Rabindranath himself achieved; adding an extra dimension of understanding that is strengthened by Gupta's consideration of what is lost and gained in the translation process:

"... for many of these poems the translations [by Tagore himself] do not hew closely to the originals; readers of Bengali will easily be able to see how they diverge. In many places Tagore combines lines to produce a compressed English version, he omits fragments and even entire lines of the Bengali, he explains the thought behind the Bengali by making the English version more explicit, and so on. Rabindranath's English versions, in other words, are versions polished to make them more accessible and appealing to readers of English poetry."

A hundred years after Tagore's achievement, these poems still hold their allure and power. They are strengthened by the dual translations and, more importantly, by the opportunity to cross-examine the translators' intentions and choices in side-by-side presentations in two languages.

This in itself represents a feat not typically available to literary readers in general and students of Indian classics in particular.

The translator's preference, which is key to understanding the foundations of his endeavor and choices, is outstanding in its introduction to Tagore and the original translations: "That's the difference between [Tagore's] poetic translation and a translation that stays close to the original. No comparison."

The end result is more than just a reconsideration of a classic collection of poem songs, but a celebration of the different approaches and task of translating them for modern audiences.

Ideally, Prasenjit Gupta's new translation of the classic Gitanjali will be considered both a foundation work for any authoritative library strong in Indian classical poetry and literature, and a powerful lesson in translation's efforts and challenges.

Tagore's Gitanjali should not only appear in literary collections, but should be chosen for creative writing, translation studies, and Indian literature classrooms, offering much food for thought about the process of representing and interpreting classic literature as a whole.

Children Who Dance in the Rain
Susan Justice
Compassion Project Press
9781738677849, $18.99 Hardcover

Children Who Dance in the Rain is based on true events and presents the picture book story of Sophie, who wakes up reluctant to go to school. Why does she need to learn about the world, anyway?

But get up she does - and proceeds to reject the usual healthy trappings of her morning breakfast (fruit and vitamins - but the chocolate chip pancakes are accepted) before setting out to school. A rainy sky leads her to request her mother drive her, and at lunch she scarfs her grilled cheese sandwich, but leaves the side of carrots.

Any lessons she receives about privilege and gratitude don't seem to apply to her at all, until a family trip to visit a grandmother in India reveals many surprises that force Sophie to think about both concepts as they relate to her life.

As she learns about poverty, cleanliness, and health (which contrast heavily between India and her own life), Sophie begins to understand the different ways of not just living, but seeing beauty in the world and making the most of life circumstances.

How do children play without toys? How can they be happy in a third world setting mired in mud and offering so few opportunities?

The lessons imparted in Children Who Dance in the Rain are invaluable not just because of their intrinsic importance, but because so few picture books tackle this expansive subject.

Susan Justice does an especially good job of transitioning young readers from Sophie's privileged world and her rejection of its benefits to her realization that India and other places hold very different kinds of opportunities and lessons that lead children to exhibit kindness and generosity even under adverse conditions. Illustrator Lena Bardy adds colorful and thought-provoking images to bring Sophie's story to life.

The importance of discussing and profiling these values to young people cannot be overstressed.

By choosing a young character who is selfish and unaware and introducing her to a foreign environment where children with less opportunities still cultivate kindness and joy, Justice presents the kinds of life lessons essential for not just understanding, but encouraging valuable dialogue in family and classroom settings.

Children Who Dance in the Rain's importance in connecting ideas of first-world privilege with third-world realities makes for a powerful story that should be on the shelves of any library seeking picture books that encourage insights about economics, kindness, privilege, and sharing.

The River Remembers
Linda Ulleseit
She Writes Press
9781647424503, $17.95

The River Remembers is a work of historical fiction set in 1835, contrasting three very different women who represent different cultural backgrounds and experiences in the early Midwest.

Samantha Lockwood is a rebel. At least, she constantly refuses the suitors her father chooses for her, and so he finally banishes her to live with her brother in the wilder Wisconsin Territory, where he assumes the responsibility of handling his wayward sister.

Day Sets is a Native American woman married to a white man who fights for her daughter's right to an education to learn his ways while preserving her tribe's influences for the future.

Black woman Harriet Robinson has come to love the Territory for its feeling of freedom, even though she's still a slave, but when she falls in love with Dred Scott and dreams of a life with him, she rediscovers that her life is not in her own hands.

Each woman, indeed, faces this feeling in different ways as events unfold to tie their seemingly-disparate lives together.

Linda Ulleseit's contrast between the perceptions, experiences, and social and cultural expectations that bind and limit strong women creates a moving story in which each woman is forced to reconsider her abilities, dreams, and the reality of her world and how much she can actually change it.

The realizations experienced by each woman as her deepest dreams and desires are challenged by unfolding events makes for vivid contrasts between worlds, such as when Day Sets bitterly comes to acknowledge that all her efforts to influence her daughter's future may be in vain:

"She wondered exactly how his iyeska granddaughters could benefit the tribe in a world where the wasichu blundered through sacred land and thought it theirs. Anger flooded her. She'd supported her father as she'd been trained to do, wasting her life raising a daughter whose future was disappearing as fast as the tribe's."

Intriguing contrasts between these ideals and the realities of their worlds give much cause for thought as readers absorb the shifting influences and forces that drive each woman's effort towards a greater goal than her destiny seems to ordain.

The women make sacrifices and plans which are adeptly portrayed in moving passages:

"Ellie could never take her son downriver, even if their master allowed it. Downriver meant slave territory. No enslaved mother would take her son, even mixed-race as Jarvis was, from free territory into slave territory. They continued as they had been...Ellie dried her tears and rolled out the biscuits for dinner."

Linda Ulleseit creates a powerhouse of a story that utilizes these contrasts in women's lives to build a tale of interlinked destinies and strengths that profiles the real-world unique confluence of cultures at Fort Snelling in the 1830s.

The historical notes at the story's conclusion reinforce the reality of its foundations and lives.

The River Remembers is a powerful work of women's literature that ideally should be included in book club discussion groups, women's history holdings, and libraries interested in fiction. It brings the past's underlying motivations and realities to vivid life.

The Frankfurt Kitchen
Heidi Laird
Fulton Books, Inc.
9781649529749, $19.55 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

The Frankfurt Kitchen: Forty-One Stories of Growing Up in Post-World War II West Germany is both a memoir and a history lesson. Its stories come from the perspective of the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother who grew up in postwar West Germany with the legacy of Nazism and the prospect of America's ideals changing the world.

From the opening story 'The Jeep Driver,' it's apparent that these vignettes will be more than a focus on self, but a wide embrace of ** and culture that pairs a "you are here" feel with the broader impact of politics and social change on daily lives in Germany:

"If I wanted to make a movie of my life, the first scene would show my mother, youthful and resolute, with soft hands and vestiges of former elegance, and me, almost eight years old and unafraid, standing in the driving rain of a cold April downpour by the side of the on-ramp to the Autobahn between Heidelberg and Frankfurt, hitchhiking. For a population of war survivors challenged daily by the extreme scarcity of basic resources, hitchhiking had become as normal as standing on a platform, waiting for an unreliable train. Eventually it would come, and you could get on."

Laird's approach allows readers to move from the microcosm of her personal experiences to the macrocosm of social analysis and inspection. This, in turn, creates a satisfying (and rare) connection between political events and social change. This is especially powerful when considering the ideals of America and their translation into action in other nations.

The impact of this interplay is not always depicted nor understood by the general reader, but comes to life under Laird's hand. Consider, for another example, the title story 'The Frankfurt Kitchen,' which captures the irony and emotions of one's home and life being unexpectedly thrust into the public eye and held up as an example of history:

"It would have never occurred to me as a child that the cramped and cluttered kitchen in which Vera cooked dinner every day, and was clearly overwhelmed by the task of cleaning up afterward, would one day become a famous museum exhibit. But half a lifetime and six kitchens later, I found the kitchen of my childhood depicted in a newspaper article extolling the revolutionary design elements of this kitchen as it was exhibited in an architecture museum in England. I was speechless and felt a mixture of uncomfortable exposure and hilarious disbelief that the site of my family's deeply personal and intensely painful struggles had become a public space studied by museum visitors and architecture students."

This process of interpretation and revelation comes to life in each piece, bringing German culture and history alive in a deeply personal, yet accessible manner that is especially powerful when considering the physical and emotional ravages of war on everyday lives and environments:
"The vast American military forces, which had chosen Frankfurt and nearby Wiesbaden as their headquarters, issued summary evictions for the entire R÷merstadt. Thousands of single-family dwellings were converted into barracks for the troops, the tidy hedges between the miniature gardens in the rear of the row houses were torn out to create open space for improvised baseball games, and tanks were driven through the massive walls around the bastions down to the lower-lying terrain ..."

The Frankfurt Kitchen proves unexpectedly powerful in its personal observations and rendition of life after World War II and the events preceding it that altered German lives. Unexpected, because this contrast and history rarely receives such intimate and close examination, nor an attention to detail that draws all readers into the milieu of the changing times and the forced transformations that reconsidered ideals, experience, and future objectives.

If only one book were to be chosen to represent this era and its challenges, The Frankfurt Kitchen should be that book. Literary, historical, and social inspections combine in a lively personal survey that brings Germany's events and people to life in a manner seldom seen in most other coverages of the country and its people.

Drink Wine and Be Beautiful
Kimberly Sullivan
Independently Published
9798986884400, $4.99 Kindle

The short stories in Drink Wine and Be Beautiful are delicate renderings of Italian people and culture that capture succinct moments in time and the Italian psyche.

Its travels through the Italian countryside opens with a first-person portrait of Rome and love in 'Amica Del Cuore,' which explores the foundations of a long-time friendship between girls which unexpectedly evolved from a visit and a long-held dream to live in Rome.

The narrator reveals how she pursued this dream against all odds, holding it close through the trials of childhood and coming of age: "Rome, I convinced myself, was where my life would begin. My Roman Holiday. I never swayed from that certainty. It carried me through my unhappy childhood and my awkward teenage years. Money from waitressing stints and babysitting was all squirreled away for my Roman life."

What she encounters when she finally walks into her Italian life is beyond anything she could have envisioned, and carries readers into an experience of fantasy, reality, and love.

'Wine & Beauty,' in contrast, captures the atmosphere of Milan and Simonetta's world as she serves cliquey, elite economics students at a cafe and contemplates her relationship with a charismatic live-in student who appears to be her ideal partner, but only erodes her dreams.

Each piece captures a piece of Italian culture and its heart, presenting emotional works of romance and quiet contemplation which analyze the pathways of love and relationships.

Contrasts occur not just culturally and emotionally, but economically as the characters move through their worlds considering their ideals, goals, and the forces that have brought them to their current positions in life. Twenty-one stories examine a range of women's experiences, from betrayal to missed connections and bonding experiences. Each provoke a thoughtful response in readers as they introduce new milieus of challenge and revelation.

These are astutely captured through dialogue that pursues life events and their consequences with insightful reflections:

"It was kind of fun when we were living in our little hovel here in Navigli, taking classes at Bocconi. Meeting guys who were all wrong for us. Never sure if we could scrape together enough money for rent. You're right. I guess we didn't appreciate it at the time. Didn't know how good we had it."

While Drink Wine and Be Beautiful is an attractive read for any who enjoy culturally rooted short stories in general and backdrops of Italy in particular, it will be especially appropriate for those contemplating their own journeys to Italy, who will find this the perfect take-along tote to absorb while on the way to their Italian holiday destination.

Sara Staggs
Black Rose Writing
9781685132019, $22.00 (paperback); $6.99 (e-book)

Uncontrollable tells of the impact of epilepsy on a middle-aged woman approaching her forties with all the trappings of success. She has a high-profile career, a loving husband, and children. Everything in her life seems to be under control - except her health, because her seizures are evolving to threaten everything she's worked for.

Casey Scott is brilliantly acing a court case in her first appearance, then is equally adept at navigating interactions with children, in the next scene.

Glimmers of angst emerge as it becomes apparent that she takes meds to control her epilepsy. But all seems well managed in these opening scenes, despite their undercurrents of disaster - until it's not.

Sara Staggs crafts a compelling story that evolves from the varying viewpoints of Jonah and Casey, which add depth and alternate nuances of observation to Casey's life. Jonah's role in the team that is their marriage undertakes a sea change, as well, as he reconsiders his own ambitions and how they need to change in response to Casey's health crisis.

As she struggles to regain the control she thought she'd mastered years ago, Casey considers the promise of new options and their message of freedom that will change her life in more than one way. Insights on epilepsy challenges and its shifting nature will educate those who know little about it, while others who have intimate knowledge of the condition will well relate to Casey's discoveries about herself and her future:

"Seizure freedom. That term was surprisingly apt. Epilepsy kept you in an invisible cage: the more frequent the seizures, the smaller the cage. Seizures took away your ability to exercise, the desire to socialize, to advance in your career. Seizure freedom. The words made me hopeful and depressed at the same time. It was as if Dr. Alem stood outside my invisible cage and told me he might, just might, have the keys to open the door."

Casey's healing process isn't linear. It introduces all kinds of changes that continually challenge her hold on life and ability to micromanage it. As she journeys through the process of reconsidering her health and values, readers receive a thoroughly engrossing inspection of epilepsy and alternatives which dare her, husband Jonah, and all of her friends to view life differently.

Uncontrollable evolves a winning story on many levels as it considers a life under control and what happens when its underpinnings shift, showing that solid foundations are, in fact, fluid.

Libraries and readers seeking novels about that shifting experience and its lasting impact on talents, ideals, and ambition will find Uncontrollable a powerful lesson in adaptation and love: "But, a little voice within me said, "This is what you wanted, isn't it?"

The Watchers: Home World
Trenton Hamm
Margidda Publishing
9798987426210, $14.99 (paperback), $4.99 (ebook)

The Watchers: Home World is first in a three-part series about a world very similar to Earth, which is facing its own ecological self-destruction over a runaway greenhouse effect.

Narrator Uri has become an elderly sage of his people (the Elohim) and is in the perfect position to reflect on the dilemma posed by The Watchers as they attempt to repair what his people have brought about, because his life purpose to save the world from itself has seemingly come to naught.

The tale opens with Uri and the crew on a crash course with a gas giant planet. The action-packed opening scene turns sharply into an important philosophical inspection that reflects on life, death, and choice:

"There comes a time at least once in the history of a people, which inspires future generations and alters the course of their history. When this happens, a people have a choice to make: do they fight to survive, or do they ignore the facts, and, through willful ignorance, travel the same course to their doom? It was in one of these times when this story begins."

Thus, a dual atmosphere is created which will attract those who seek spirited reads with its action-packed volley of high drama, setting the stage for thought-provoking moments of realization.

Trenton Hamm's ongoing juxtaposition of high-octane drama and evolving truths that operate on a higher intellectual level give thinking sci-fi readers an absorbing story that rests on the foundations of not just transformation, but surviving and learning from disaster: "Some might argue that it was the death of the home world that caused the death of the people, and some might argue conversely."

Issues of poor stewardship and the runaway greenhouse effects that are killing the planet and its people are juxtaposed with personal conflicts between individuals who mirror the planet's clashes in their lives and choices.

As Uri comes to know The Community, a group that challenges the most basic actions and choices of his people, he also begins to realize that the heart of this struggle lies not in the outside world's demise, but in the souls of the planet's stewards, and their ideals.

Visionaries such as Penne and Mikh are not always greeted warmly. Their elite position and spirits tailor an experiment that shake the Elohim and cement the Community's next efforts to do better against all odds.

In many obvious ways, The Watchers: Home World mirrors much of the current (and likely future) state of the world, with its disintegrating ecosystem and struggles between ideals on how to address it. Thus, the story of Uri's people is a familiar one which then takes off into new territory as the Community decides to build a new colony. But, will they bring with them the baggage that contributed to their ultimate betrayal of the planet?

The Watchers: Home World ideally will be used in sci-fi, social issues, and ecology reading groups as a starting point for discussion and debate over the moral and ethical approaches involved saving or abandoning a world. The principles of good stewardship may be discussed and reinforced through the examples presented in these pages, while the search for paradise and unlimited opportunity (both within the psyche and in the outside world) makes for thought-provoking insights on both.

Libraries and readers looking for stories that juxtapose fast-paced action with solid character development, psychological growth, and social issues worthy of classroom or individual contemplation will find The Watchers: Home World a formidable, involving read. It tempers its moral and ethical complexity with characters that are rooted in privilege, challenge, and higher-level thinking.

An open ending leaves a cliffhanger that awaits Book Two for further enlightenment.

Cry of the Soul
Ruby Jean Jensen
Gayle J. Foster, Publisher
9781951580919, $29.99 Hardcover/$11.99 Paperback/$8.99 ebook

Cry of the Soul opens with a young girl's encounter with a mysterious stranger on a mountain, then segues neatly into a future in which sixty-five-year-old Maggie Winters (a.k.a. Emily Alexander) enters the Willowbrook Care Center to recuperate from a broken hip.

The secrets she hides from the world are ones she also grapples with in her own heart as she cautiously makes friends, contributes to the home's atmosphere, but looks forward to resuming her quiet life, where it's easier to keep secrets close to the heart. What evolves, however, is a deeper inspection into her choices, life purpose, and past.

Ruby Jean Jensen creates a thought-provoking story in which the aging protagonist is forced to reconsider some of the motivating factors of her life, as well as the questions that drive ordinary and extraordinary events and encounters.

"Why did it happen that most were chosen but a few, like herself, were not?"

As readers become privy to Emily's reflections, her life becomes a springboard of missed connections, opportunities, and choices that come home to roost in strange ways in her future: "A flicker of doubt entered her heart. A strange feeling that she was not meant to have that connection to life. She didn't understand. She had prayed for understanding, for a purpose, and received no answer. God was silent."

The spiritual quest and musings which lie behind and beyond her life's events and unpredictable twists and turns receive satisfying inspection and enlightenment in a story that weaves through threats, danger, and choices to hide in anonymity that become shaken by dependence on others.

Ruby Jean Jensen weaves issues of love, growth, spirituality, and revelation into a hard-hitting review of one woman's life that journeys into intrigue, danger, and life purposes with equal dexterity.

Mystery and intellectual inspections are woven together with a compelling story that isn't fully revealed until the end, when the truth about Emily/Maggie's life comes to light. The result is a compelling saga of life, truth, and steps that lead the protagonist to constantly miss uncovering the real purpose of life.

Or, does she succeed?

Libraries and readers seeking multifaceted stories that resonate on different levels of spiritual and psychological inspection will find Cry of the Soul thought-provoking, captivating, and steeped in a life rocked by physical threat and metaphysical possibilities.

Bastard Verdict
James McCrone
Independently Published
9780999137741, $17.99, PB, 302pp

McCrone defines 'bastard verdict' as "Scottish law's third verdict in a criminal trial, Not Proven. In addition to Guilty and Not Guilty, Scottish law has Not Proven, which has come to mean that the jury (or a judge in special cases) believes that the defendant is guilty but The Crown has not provided sufficient evidence." This seemingly-esoteric definition comes to life in an unusual way in a thriller that centers on a hot American topic: voter rights and manipulation.

FBI Agent Imogen Trager, an investigator of voting integrity, has taken leave from the Bureau, hoping to leave behind the intrigue there, and travels to Scotland, bringing a skill set that leads her overseas to examine charges of irregularities in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.

She's found that, though voting fraud is rare, electoral fraud is a very real influencer on political outcomes, undermining or outright destroying one of the basic rights of citizens. Her expertise creates a milieu in which Imogen becomes familiar with not just Scottish struggles for political control, but the rights threatened by ballot box and political manipulation. These forces would do anything to retain their power ... even kill.

James McCrone weaves a powerful story with thriller components embracing contemplative reflections, social and political realizations, and Imogen's special prowess at doggedly uncovering the truth at all costs.

The Scottish dialect and references which permeate discussions may stymie some readers, but is ultimately quite understandable with a minimum of effort; especially as the discussions fuel emotionally charged observations key to understanding the plot's progression: " can see that the wee box from the working-class bit of the ward mebee did better than the box from the polling station in the bougie area."

The shadowy group of conspirators in and outside of the government has never come up against the determination of a woman like Imogen, who relentlessly pursues the truth and pries out the facts that lead into a rabbit warren of convoluted possibilities and threats.

McCrone keeps the tension high and the psychological depth on track as the characters evolve their own special purposes and motivations for either pursuing or hiding the truth. Social and political entanglements come to life through dialogues and interactions that test each character's determination, while intrigue is steeped into the most ordinary of daily encounters.

The stakes are high; both for Imogen, who values her career and life and bets her expertise on her abilities to reveal uncomfortable truths, and for those around her who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The social and political realizations that rock these worlds are logical and thought-provoking: "Am Ah the only one who was glaikit enough tae believe that government was meant tae be better than a pack of thieves?"

As killings and confrontations mount, delicate balances of power and procedure are shaken, leading readers to question and consider Imogen's ability to navigate treachery in unfamiliar circumstances and circles.

Libraries and readers seeking a thriller which is heavy in its Scottish cultural revelations and particular in its examination of electoral processes and ideals of freedom and control will find Bastard Verdict replete with powerful insights and issues of trust and a journey gone terribly awry - but, ultimately, in a good way:

"It all looked so safe to her, so prosperous and tidy. But it was a lie. They weren't safe. They'd bought some time. But they still had no idea how to end this."

Kafka in Tangier
Mohammed Said Hjiouij
Agora Publishing (Tangier, Morocco)
9789920570282, $11.00 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Kafka in Tangier represents a literary reinterpretation of Kafka's classic Metamorphosis translated to a non-Western backdrop, and will especially attract literary audiences interested in a recreation of the underlying themes of the original that evolves in vastly revised conditions.

Jawad Al-Idrisi is an ordinary overworked teacher whose ambitions have been frustrated by life. When he awakens one morning to find that he has become a monster, after reading Kafka's Metamorphosis before going to bed, he faces a distorted vision of himself that portends a limited lifespan, alienation from his wife and baby, and distance from the life he thought he'd wanted and pursued.

Like Kafka's classic, Kafka in Tangier is a novella. Its hard-hitting message requires succinct language that deploys in powerful thoughts to make the most of this short format, creating inspections that hold new impacts while remaining connected (however loosely) to the original story which Mohammed Said Hjiouij recaps at the beginning (convenient for newcomers to Kafka's classic, or those who read it long ago).

The process by which an ordinary, frustrated, would-be critic transforms to find his life values and pursuits radically changed paints him a hero in some eyes (indeed, he is described as such), but also proves to be "the beginning of his discovery of his true family ties."

The story moves back and forth between past, present, and possible future events in a manner that both creates a backdrop of understanding and connects these perceptions and events to the special manner in which Jawad Al-Idrisi experiences his sea change of perspective and persona.

Descriptors particular to his Middle Eastern environment, such as the agal, receive footnoted definition to help Westerners absorb its special language, while the narrator's perspective is revealed in the course of action that is solidly embedded in social, philosophical, and psychological transformations.

This storyteller's voice shines in narrative choices that serve as segues between the writer's art and the plot and characters it addresses, including the choices of names which come steeped in irony:

"In order to make the storytelling easier for me, and easier for you to follow, I find myself obliged, at this juncture, to name the characters of our story. So, I will give our hero the name Jawad, generous as he is. The sister I'll call Hind, the mother, Fatima, and, since hope comes with daughters, his little girl I'll call Amal. There's no need to name the wife, since she will be dying soon. No, better give her the name Sara, in case I need it. As for the father, he'll be Mohammed, family name al-Idrisi."

While Kafka in Tangier may be read and appreciated by those without prior or recent familiarity with Kafka's Metamorphosis; for maximum impact, the story would best be read and discussed in conjunction with the original classic.

Classrooms and literary readers who undertake this task with a dual reading (or re-reading) of Metamorphosis and Kafka in Tangier will be especially intrigued by the cultural contrasts that add additional depth to Kafka's original existential message and the meanings embedded in his story.

The deeper messages of the original, which revolve around compassion, alienation, identity, and transformation, come to new life and perspective through the Moroccan backdrop that influences this contemporary monster's evolutionary process.

Literature collections and students of Kafka's works need to include Kafka in Tangier on their reading lists and discussion group radars. Whether it's used in classroom discussions or absorbed independently, Kafka in Tangier represents a powerful consideration of family secrets, social oppression, and the nightmare of navigating contemporary Moroccan society in a new way that lends to debate and closer inspection.

Revolutions: Night and Day
Andy Palasciano
Lymer & Hart
c/o Garden Oak Press
9798987953204, $15.00

Revolutions: Night and Day: Art and Allegory ideally will be chosen for literary classrooms and collections interested in the fine art of descriptive allegory. It creates a visual and verbal contrast between night and day, employing the fine art of the allegory in a series of poetic contrasts that are as stark and personal as they are ethereal paths to higher-level thinking.

Consider the first poem, an untitled tribute to things encouraged and lost in life, which opens with a twist: "Rosemary,/They told you to sing/as they cut into your brain/and then a wire was snipped/and you barely talked again." The poem continues with reflections on another circumstance where love's wings were clipped before it returns full circle to the subject at hand - which turns out to exist in a fugue state of new possibility.

Each allegorical work cultivates a hidden gift that unfolds to reveal layers of new possibilities from life experiences. Each piece cultivates a different perspective and layer of freestyle writing that sometimes defies any traditional form of a poem, as in the two works on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, but rewards literary readers with powerful imagery that seethes with emotion and impact. In this example, "Mary stood with the thousand female voices and walked into the darkness."

Whether Andy Palasciano's subject is a fool who undertakes nighttime swims with the ducks and "had a belligerent dream

of light" or kids walking home from a costume party who are dressed as clowns, lightning rods, or compost piles, reflecting their inner countenances, Palasciano is astute at juxtaposing inner and outer worlds of observation, revelation, and transformation.

The scope and breath of these works, punctuated by black and white line drawings that illustrate their underlying messages, makes Revolutions: Night and Day an artistic and literary recommendation that flavors its works with the overcoat of simplicity and underlying layers of thought-provoking complexity. These will make perfect fodder for creative writing group and classroom discussion, as well as fine examples of contemporary allegory and contrasts worthy of feature in any library strong in modern poetry.

The Mazatlan Showdown
Patrick Weill
Weill & Associates
9781959866022, $2.99 ebook/$14.99 Paperback

The Mazatlan Showdown gives thriller readers a run for their money as it tells of lifeguard Jeff Walker's pursuit of his father's murderer, only to wind up involved in a deadly smuggling situation.

Fellow lifeguard Tony Park follows him into danger, and the two work with more seasoned law enforcement figures, but Jeff's kidnapping thwarts even the experts and lands him in a scenario akin to that which took his father's life.

Revenge is sweet ... but not when it turns into an explosive confrontation that ignites his friend Park's post-military PTSD and lands Jeff in a situation that could cost more than his life.

Patrick Weill's thriller features nonstop action and twists designed to challenge and intrigue even the most seasoned thriller reader's anticipation of what comes next. The story winds through different cultures, layers of crime, and the pursuit of justice with deft descriptions of accidents, cries for help, Walker's determination to journey to Mazatlan to kill a man for the first time in his life, and Park's participation in a dangerous cat-and-mouse scenario in which the victim becomes the pursuer and the good guy teeters on the edge of becoming the perp.

This juxtaposition of identities, special interests, and fluid intentions contributes an element of intrigue and surprise throughout the plot. These create a constantly shifting foundation of discovery and an atmosphere that defies pat problem-solving or quick solutions.

Thriller readers seeking elements of nonstop adventure and action in their stories will find The Mazatlan Showdown spiced with just the right degree of character development, social and political entanglements, and questions about justice and redemption that pair bigger-picture thinking with motives for revenge and justice.

Libraries and book club discussion groups will find The Mazatlan Showdown just the ticket for a journey into other worlds that evolve from tragic memories and investigations that test physical and mental agility alike. Its action and psychology are simply superb, driving a story that proves riveting, thought-provoking, and hard to put down or predict.

Bayou Caddy
Aurion du Preez
Anaphora Literary Press
9781681145501, $74.34 Hardcover/$25.00 Paperback/$2.99 Kindle

Bayou Caddy's crime thriller holds an unusual dual attraction in its coverage of racism, immigrant issues, and struggles in southern Mississippi, in the small port town of Bayou Caddy. Vietnamese boy Ronny Pham and his white girlfriend Paige McArthur are the targets of an attack that kills him and leaves her in a nursing home.

Fast forward fifteen years, when events have been forgotten and the town's new Sheriff, Warren Boudin, grapples with forces that defy the laws of men and nature alike.

Amongst the kudzu vines and Cajun community's spicy culture lies a powerful knowledge incarnated in a descendent of slaves who fears nothing in the world, Ezra Mayfield. His knowledge of voodoo and forces beyond his ken affects the next generation, whose lives still resonate from violence and losses of the past.

Warren is a good law enforcement officer. His questions raise ghosts from the past and reveal influences on the present as he grapples with a fifteen-year-old secret and truth that Ezra knows and Kim An doesn't want revealed.

June Carmichael feels it's good to be home with her brother Mack at Cotton Manor. It's a feeling that will dovetail and change with Warren's probe, which draws them ever deeper into a long-held truth about their community and its deep-running still waters.

Readers won't expect some of the supernatural threads that emerge to test the boundaries of thriller and fantasy in Bayou Caddy - but these are part of its allure. The surprise elements deeply embedded in the town's struggles and in individual lives and choices that have long departed from normal routes of logic and justice give rise to many thought-provoking moments as the tale unfolds.

Indeed, Aurion du Preez crafts a story of social inspection, psychological revelation, paranormal experience, and small-town prejudice and secrets that creates its own unique blend of action and insight.

What is the point of revenge and action? Seemingly, it's "to defend the helpless, avenge the wronged. Those are just empty words. No one feels vindicated and the pain never goes away."

What is worth the effort of redemption and what is not, if "It's not about making everything right. That's just not possible in this world."

As characters and readers consider issues of the greater good, retaliation, and a mysterious force that emerges from the marriage between swamp environment and human desires, the mystery and truths that unfold prove riveting and hard to predict.

Du Preez brings to life this Mississippi milieu, embedding it with cultural and social revelations that lead readers to confront the darkness that lives in their own presumptions and actions.

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers firmly embedded in Southern culture and legacies of prejudice and love will find

Bayou Caddy a rich, evocative read worthy of book club discussion and individual contemplation alike.

Disgusting Justin
Justin Frank
Independently Published
9781922890818, $13.49

Disgusting Justin tells the story of a boy who has a special talent - being disgusting. This effort takes many forms, from farts and obnoxious noises to never washing his body or clothes, stinky sock fights, blowing snot bubbles, and eating with noisy slurps and burps.

His special talent, which receives vividly fun illustrations by Lesley Vamos, never ceases to amuse his friends, and he revels in their laughter. However, this admiration leads to increasingly gross antics in order to gain more attention and laughter, until one day Justin's clever, disgusting pranks backfire on him, spectacularly.

Justin Frank creates a picture book filled with action, memorable moments, and insights about attention-seeking children and what they really want.

Parents who choose this fun book for read-aloud will find plenty of opportunity to reinforce lessons on friendship, respect, and personal transformation as Justin undergoes a sea change and makes discoveries about friendships, humor and values.

Libraries seeking picture books which are both hilarious and thought-provoking will find Disgusting Justin an original and fun acquisition; especially since most kids' circles include a child who acts out much like Justin.

Piki Goes Flying
Joan M. Hellquist
Artistic Endeavors
9798985761702, $19.95 Hardcover/$12.95 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

The second book in the series about Piki the Service Dog will appeal to picture book animal lovers and those who enjoy stories about aviation. The story is narrated from Piki's perspective as she is trained by Joan to lie quietly under a chair in preparation for their upcoming plane flight.

Piki, of course, does not know the meaning behind these instructions, but she follows directions well. She is a Service Dog whose efforts are reinforced by Joan's training and by routines that assure she will be part of the magic of journeys, and not left behind.

Joan M. Hellquist creates a fine story filled with details about Piki's training and exposure to unfamiliar sights and sounds. Piki is not just obedient - she has questions about what she observes and how she's being trained to act. Through her eyes, young readers receive important keys to the training process and how Service Dogs operate.

The step-by-step process of getting a dog through the airport, including security, is told with a winning eye to capturing all the experiences from the dog's viewpoint:

"The man on the other side of the doorway wanted me to go through the doorway to him, without Joan. I didn't know this man, why should I go to him? Joan seemed to want me to go through so she handed the end of the plastic loop to the man, who looked like he wasn't sure what to do. Then he stepped back and I went through the doorway with no door."

Libraries and adults looking for stories that educate all ages about Service Dog training, activities, and methods of support will find Piki Goes Flying an attractive illustration of all these subjects. It includes practical recommendations for embarking on air travel with a Service Dog, offers insights on what distinguishes a Service Animal from a pet, and reviews airline rules about Service Animals.

Readers and libraries will find Piki Goes Flying educational as well as entertaining, filled with illustrations and examples that personalize the experience of flying with a Service Dog.

The Noble Adventures of Beryl & Carol
Jeremy Sherr
Dynamis Books
9798366662574, $17.13 Hardcover/$9.79 Paper/$3.67 Kindle

The Noble Adventures of Beryl & Carol is a coming-of-age story about twelve-year-old best friends who live in England in 1997. The story opens with the duo running from bullies, a common occurrence in their lives which cements their friendship.

The only way to elude the bullies is by entering the Forbidden Forest, where Beryl and Carol "jump off the edge of the universe" into the biggest adventure of their lives.

Jeremy Sherr creates a compelling, action-packed story that draws readers deeply into the forest's secrets as the girls burrow away from their tormenters and into another world entirely. He captures the atmosphere of an area avoided by adults and children alike, fueling the girls' imaginations with descriptive allure: "Every crackle became a smuggler; every snap became a murderer, every crunch was a werewolf."

Fifteen years earlier, a disaster in the woods reinforced its reputation in the community as a dangerous place. As the girls learn to navigate unfamiliar territory and even discover unexpected beauty in a region which harbors a bad reputation, the secrets unfold to embrace readers with a special form of compelling magic.

Beryl and Carol have broken every rule they've grown up with by entering the forest and becoming lost. Even when they return home, they find their new discoveries imparts a rare courage into their lives which both reinforces their friendship and gives them the creative impetus to change their situation, as each challenge and decision they face leads to further discoveries and adventure.

Between the mystery of a boy who entered the forest and never returned to how the girls build a new strategy for handling the bullies that have overshadowed their lives for years, Sherr's story resonates on different levels of intrigue, action, integrity, and psychological growth.

The likeable characters of Beryl and Carol, their motivations for taking risks and absorbing the surprises this brings, and their revised realizations about life from tackling puzzles and problems makes for a story that lures with fantasy, but tackles real-world situations kids will find familiar.

The Noble Adventures of Beryl & Carol holds the ability to attract a wide audience of advanced elementary to middle grade readers who will find the characters nicely done, the adventures operating on more than one level, and the realizations and courage that evolve from a touch of magic and risk-taking to be thought-provoking and fun. The book is a fun read for adults as well, and parents will appreciate the good values it promotes.

As Carol's father writes:

"Every act of strength leads to another act of strength
Every act of weakness leads to another act of weakness
Courage begets courage
Fear breeds fear."

Libraries will find The Noble Adventures of Beryl & Carol fulfills its promise of adventure, injecting a learning experience into the story that will stay with young readers and fuel discussions about friendship and transformation.

"The magic of today is the science of tomorrow."

Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero
Mickey Carolan
Third Culture Books
9798987992319, $19.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paperback/$4.99 Kindle

Picture book readers who choose Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero will find it a fine story of baseball, bullies, and problem-solving. Deaf boy Sky loves to play baseball, and discovers that his superpower is hitting home runs. Not hearing enables him to focus on the ball in a way hearing children cannot.

The presence of the bullies and their impact on his life arrives, like his superpower, without warning as Sky realizes his extraordinary skill and immediately decides to deploy it for the greater good, stating the goal that "With every home run a bully becomes a friend." Since he is not experiencing bullying himself, this declaration of power seems to arrive out of the blue.

But Sky is aware of the presence and impact of bullies on others around him, and, like a superhero, is determined to use his special talent to thwart them.

Adisa Fazlovic provides the winning illustrations that capture Sky's growth as he steps into a new role beyond merely winning a game.

Being deaf doesn't stop him; nor does his lack of verbal prowess. He must develop additional skills to win these bullies over and stop their harmful activities, and the meat of the book revolves around the problem-solving, courage, and message that being deaf does not limit one's powers or perspectives.

Parents who seek to instill in deaf children the realization that a lack of hearing won't limit their choices in the world will find Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero invites important discussions about courage, achievement, and translating one's personal ambitions and success into strategies for supporting others.

Its important lessons on values and making the world a better place supports individual effort and responses to bullying, making Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero a top choice for all young readers as they navigate life and face adversity with courage and strength.

Pedaling West
E. A. Coe
Evolved Publishing
9781622533602, $18.95 (print) $5.95 (Kindle)

Pedaling West may sound like a biking travelogue, but it's a work of fiction and intrigue that will delight readers looking for stories of growth and problem solving in which bicycling is the backdrop, not the focus.

The novel opens with a prologue that reviews the catastrophe of COVID-19 and the life changes it introduced to the world and young Carrie, who lost her job and her boyfriend at the start of the pandemic.

Rootless and jobless, Carrie undertakes a two-month, cross-country bicycle trip from Virginia Beach to Mendocino, California. It seems to be perfect timing, because she has nothing tying her down. In reality, it's the perfect disaster as well as an excellent opportunity for growth, because the people Carrie encounters during her solo ride lead her straight into human and natural hazards that test her positive viewpoint, problem-solving abilities, and desire for change.

A cast of supporting characters enter her widening worldview, from detectives investigating murder to ordinary and extraordinary people Carrie encounters during the course of her journey.

E.A. Coe takes the time to center Carrie's journey both emotionally and physically, exploring the feelings of evolution and observation that lead Carrie to maintain a sense of wonder about the world despite its COVID-ridden angst:

"Carrie looked up, breathing deeply, and tried to identify the deep emotion she sensed. The arresting views were not unfamiliar to her, as she'd seen them in books, magazines, and movies many times, but being inside the picture brought them vividly to life. Not just three dimensional and not only because of the appearance - the sensation generated something visceral, powerful, and mysterious, impossible to describe using only the five senses."

In many ways, Pedaling West is neither fish nor fowl. More than a travelogue or a coming-of-age story, it also profiles intrigue and mystery along the routes Carrie takes into the wider world. Special Agent Douglas Hill pursues attempted murderer Norman Sloan through the story as Carrie unwittingly rides into danger and becomes part of a bigger situation than she ever could have imagined.

Thriller readers will appreciate the intrigue and suspense that follows Carrie into these milieus; travel or bicyclist enthusiasts who anticipate an encounter with ordinary Americans will appreciate the extraordinary circumstances that force Carrie to adopt surprising positions of strength; and fans of novels that pair disparate elements of intrigue and growth will find her story compelling, riveting, and hard to put down.

Libraries seeking contemporary novels that explore American identity, society, and the violence that often accompanies birth and growth will find much to relish during the course of Carrie's bicycle adventure and accompanying emotional roller coaster of emotions in Pedaling West.

Shadow Runner
KJ Fieler
Black Rose Writing
9781685132040, $21.95 Paperback, $5.99 Kindle

Shadow Runner's unique blend of historical fiction tempered by a dash of fantasy makes it a winning read for those who like to cross genre boundaries in the pursuit of vivid stories that don't fall neatly into formula definitions.

Aristocrat Ada has no illusions about her predictable future. Either she will marry into comfort and money that requires set boundaries of behavior and lifestyle, or her inheritance will be usurped by a male heir.

Neil Gaiman's Coraline partially inspired Ada and this story, but KJ Fieler embarks on journeys foreign to Gaiman's book as Ada leaves childhood behind and considers the choices and challenges that light the way to a very different legacy than she'd ever envisioned for her future.

Fieler adds thought-provoking reflections that come from Ada's physical and emotional growth, injecting these into dialogues and situations that accompany Ada's new strengths and tests of her abilities: "If you don't hit me, you'll be in more trouble. You won't be punished for fighting back. That's the whole point of these exercises. And you really need to drop your ethic. It's making you weak."

As maid and teacher Mistress Nadine leads Ada into realms she'd never imagined, readers follow her growth and revelations, which are flavored with action and insight.

A touch of wry humor marks many of Ada's encounters, which will feel unexpectedly delightful as she is forced into alien territory both physically and mentally: "Ada was sorry she ate the beans. She wished she was still hungry and had hair. She didn't want to do pushups, or any other thing Mistress demanded."

Nadine's suffering becomes Ada's responsibility because of the choices she makes, and readers receive thought-provoking insights into mercurial relationships that bring with them terrible responsibility and the impact of bad decisions. How Ada is honed into a predator, attacking the circles she once knew intimately, and how she handles the impossible dilemma of a freedom that can cost the lives of those closest to her makes for a story as riveting for its moral and ethical dilemmas as for its action-packed scenes of transformation and confrontation.

Shadow Runner's ability to move between fantasy and historical fiction makes it an especially thought-provoking read for teens, as well as adult audiences.

Libraries and readers seeking vivid fantasy stories that embrace a coming-of-age theme with an environment that tests its young protagonist, and which comes with many topics ripe for book club debate and classroom discussion, will find Shadow Runner a winning acquisition.

New Normal
Michelle Paris
Apprentice House Press
9781627204521, $18.99 Paper/$6.49 Kindle/$28.99 Hardcover

When Emilie is widowed suddenly, the last thing on her mind is a replacement husband. But, it's the first thing on her friend Viv's mind. She plays matchmaker by setting up Emilie with the handsome bachelor next door. There's only one problem with that notion: Colin is gay. He may not be husband material for a woman - but that doesn't mean he can't become a good friend.

Being married to Rob was fun - but Emilie finds that somehow time has passed her by while she was in love with him, and now she's woefully ignorant of everything from online opportunities to the etiquette and process of resuming dating in midlife.

Colin is the perfect guide to this unfamiliar territory, and so the two embark on a journey that pairs a midlife emergence with a resolution of the past and portent of future possibilities, all of which engage readers on different levels.

On its surface, New Normal represents a struggle through waves of grief that emerge at unexpected times and moments. Look deeper to find the undercurrent of hope, possibilities, and growth that come from new friendships and learning different ways of approaching not just love, but the world.

Even though Emilie makes mistakes, she acknowledges the parts of being married that gave her comfort by their routines and the trust she and Rob built, which remains elusive in her current circumstances: "It felt so nice to be with someone - a man. It was good to have someone to spend time with and go on dates with dinner, movies, and stuff. It was nice to have someone to talk about life with. I think I miss that the most about being married."

Between her therapy sessions with Dr. Jeffries and her foray into a new life with different perceptions of who she is and what she wants both within and outside of a relationship, Emilie's growth will interest and attract women on their own journeys towards recovery, independence, and new normals.

Emilie's journey out of widowhood and into novel realizations is realistic, compelling, and as joyful as it is thought-provoking.

Women's book clubs, as well as readers interested in the process of moving ahead from grief to living and re-envisioning life, will find New Normal packed with angst and hope which often coexist side by side as Emilie moves forward, sometimes taking steps back during the process.

Libraries seeking fiction replete in women's experiences and growth will find New Normal an appealing study in healing, romance, and humor that builds its strength from new relationships and difficult realizations.

Vertical City
Tristan Scott
Independently Published
9798218028985, $4.99 ebook

Vertical City's dystopian world will appeal to sci-fi readers interested in compelling portraits of the apocalyptic future, and portrays a milieu in which the last humans are packed into a skyscraper on an island. Edgar Pacey is both never alone and completely isolated. Proximity does not always indicate closeness. In his case, he is largely disconnected from his fellow man, isolated both by his psyche and by his job as a carbon miner familiar with only the underground portion of this vertical world.

When he unexpectedly makes a decision that gives him recognition and unprecedented access to the upper levels of his world, he uses this freedom to make new discoveries about his life, his place in the city, and the ultimate cost humanity has paid for the privilege of being its last survivors.

Tristan Scott empowers his novel and characters with a tone of revelation from the start. Edgar has absorbed the old stories about a life with room and space, but lives in a setting where "...the world he knew, the world everyone who lived in Vertical City knew, was one without seclusion." The ambiguities of individual alienation and social overcrowding receive satisfying contrast as the story evolves to reveal the true nature of how Edgar and the skyscraper residents live now.

Nobody in his right mind would seek to shake the beliefs of the last stronghold of humanity. But, proximity and overcrowding also lead to a form of insanity that Edgar unwittingly embraces as he pursues answers at all costs.

As he considers the underground and movements that rock these foundations, Edgar makes choices that both connect and alienate him from dangerous thinking: "...he had decided he would make himself scarce when he wasn't protected by a congestion of people. That, he told himself, was the main reason. But he would be lying if he also wasn't hiding from the underground with their crushing, comforting, and invasive questions."

The only way up is down, into an underground world where solitary choices can drive a man mad. As readers journey through Vertical City's byways through Edgar's eyes and growing realizations, they receive a vivid tale steeped in the mystery of peoples' disappearances and paradigms in which life translates to threat.

Scott is especially astute in how he follows Edgar's deals with the devils in his world: "I know the price, and I know the reward." Edgar's motivations and actions play out on the bigger stage of human survival and its ultimate delusions and costs, providing readers many thought-provoking realizations about humanity's connections, opportunities, and choices.

Will Edgar find himself truly alone, or will the betrayal of those close to him lead him to an unfamiliar place where "...the culmination of events that led him to this point somehow felt like the actions of a different person who made those choices in a different life. Right now, he could ponder that man's choices at length and with ease, free of judgement, free of consequences. His thoughts were audible and clear within the beautiful quiet of this space. For now, and for once, he was at peace and alone."?

Science fiction readers interested in bigger-picture social examinations that begin with individual questions and blossom into considerations of hierarchies, motivations, isolation, and connection will find Vertical City a powerful interplay of emotional and social inspection.

Libraries seeking sci-fi additions to their collections which make perfect fodder for book clubs interested in a myriad of subjects, including that of a flawed isolated individual who becomes both the destroyer and savior of humanity, will find Vertical City a far-reaching choice.

The Megavan
Mark Therrien
Beaver's Pond Press
9781643436876, $18.95

The Megavan explores family dynamics for picture book readers through the unusual perspective of a family minivan charged with carrying his passengers through changes and life, and will be appreciated by any child attracted to books about vehicles and family journeys.

The minivan narrator thinks his name is "Let's," because references to his activities always involve "Let's go." The minivan's relationship with the family begins with them acquiring him and moves forward to accommodate their growth. New roles must be adopted, from race car (to the hospital for a birth) to security truck (as the parents bring home their precious cargo).

Think the animated fun of the movie Cars, but with deeper messages about changing needs and purposes as the minivan narrator moves his family around and assumes different roles in their lives, as needed.

Kevin Cannon's colorful illustrations are action-packed, whimsical, and attractive as Mark Therrien explores the world of a growing family's vehicle.

Read-aloud adults and elementary-level libraries seeking picture books that hold underlying messages about flexibility, adaptation, and purpose will find The Megavan a fun read that moves through a family's growth and support systems with an exciting tone and vivid illustration of family connections.

Mediterranean Mothers
Maria Orlando & Nick Pappas
Atmosphere Press
9781639886883, $16.99, PB, 194pp

Mediterranean Mothers - Masters of Guilt is a memoir steeped in Greek and Italian cultures. It explores teachers Maria and Nick, who are each influenced by their mothers and the "old school" attitudes that influence their current lives.

As much as Maria and Nick seek to set aside some of these cultural influences, they find that "...all the flaws and emotional excesses of that particular ethnic group" are part of their own psyches as they join forces to write a book documenting the prejudices and perceptions that influence their lives.

The authors cultivate a candid sense of culture that is often politically incorrect, but psychologically devastating in its accurate representation:

"Did you hear that, Liz? Greeks. Always causing trouble. I knew it, I knew it. Just like that damn Greek that works with my daughter, that Pappas. Always breaking the rules, always after some-thing!"

As mothers, daughters, and sons come together and represent contrasts in attitudes and perceptions, readers receive a lively series of interactions which are both inter-generational and cross-cultural in nature.

The dialogues and perspectives rest on "old country" stories, new experiences, and differences between them as the narrators capture family gatherings, stormy debates, and travels that lead to ventures out of country and away from established comfort zones and patterns.

Readers will find this account mercurial in its definition. It's a travelogue, a survey of Mediterranean psyches and cultures, and a story of friendships and family that evolve against the backdrop of an Italian family fueled by "Italian guilt" and a first-generation Greek/American.

As these Mediterranean mothers rise into their own choices and power, they carry with them an important message as their vacation becomes a catalyst for change: "...if you are feeling guilty right now, maybe it's because you have something to feel guilty about!"

Libraries and readers seeking memoirs steeped in old country connections and new world thinking will find Mediterranean Mothers - Masters of Guilt not only a satisfying contrast in cultures, but filled with thought-provoking insights into the different mechanics of guilt and family legacy.

This will lend to book club and psychology group discussion, as well, making Mediterranean Mothers - Masters of Guilt an astute read that holds a bit of something for everyone.

But Do You Love Me With Locura?
Sharon Steeber
Atmosphere Press
9781639887866, $18.99

But Do You Love Me With Locura? questions family loyalties and a sense of place as it explores a blossoming relationship between American Rosie Logan, who is seeking an immersive Spanish language and culture experience in Mexico, and Doctor Juan Ramon Villase˝or, whose role as the cynical but caring director of an impoverished pueblo clinic has dealt him a hand at once filled with compassion and doubt.

The locura ("Passionate enthusiasm; madness") that develops between them reawakens each character's drive for something better than they are as they become involved in one another's missions and are changed by the revelations of people around them.

First-person narrator Rosie brings this milieu to life as her interests dovetail with the good doctor's underlying romantic sense and his influence on her research.

When the time comes to say goodbye, Rosie and Juan Ramon find their connections have galvanized new purposes and created new realizations about their separate goals and conjoined attraction.

They are from two very different worlds. Will their intersection be a temporary one of discovery, or can they merge these disparate interests to forge new pathways of healing and growth?

Sharon Steeber steeps her story in memorable moments of realization that bring Mexican culture to life. Her portraits of two seekers who don't realize they are on the cusp of change make for compelling intersections of purpose and perspective as Rosie and Juan Ramon revise their ambitions and ideals of life.

The novel is replete with moments of stark realization that impart many thought-provoking gifts to readers:

"Locura is madness. Craziness. Losing your mind. Losing control."

"We can shape the kind of life we want. Go where we want. What's so crazy about that?"

Libraries and readers seeking multicultural stories of romance, career, and sea changes in life will appreciate the threads of connection and realization which make But Do You Love Me With Locura? an exceptional story of a journey that plays out in territory unfamiliar to Mexican visitor and resident alike.

The rich realizations that power this story will provide good food for thought for book clubs, as well:

"I was like a bird pivoting on the edge of its wing in the air current, going as high as the drafts lifted it. I was soaring on the edge, in control and out of control at the same time, riding the current. Just as suddenly I was plummeting. He was right. It was locura to think we could pluck the life we might want right out of the sky and live it."

Accidental Journey
Richard D. Lentz
Calumet Editions
9781959770183, $18.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Accidental Journey is a novel about a traumatic brain injury that changes the lives and relationship of a married couple struggling to preserve a formerly successful marriage. Jeff and Cate have just confronted one another in hopes of forging better paths of connection when a terrible injury leaves Jeff altered, lacking insight, and unable to function effectively as a father and partner.

Plenty of nonfiction discussions of traumatic brain injury have reviewed its science and experience, but learning about these issues and challenges in a fictional story provides unique access to understanding how a brain injury affects everyone involved, creating especially riveting reading.

Cate assumes many of the jobs Jeff performed in their lives and has to serve as the primary breadwinner while keeping a thriving career and her family together, and finding a way to meet her emotional needs in a marriage she had questioned to a man she would not and could not leave.

Richard D. Lentz explores their conjoined journey with the expertise of his work as a physician, well aware of the complex effects of brain injury on family life,

Lentz builds his story on family relationships not just between the challenged couple, but the kids and the entire family, with interactions realistically woven into a plot in which the special challenges of a family world altered by a brain injury are revealed: "He looked good physically - normal - but that proved to be a double-edged sword. People engaged him and expected a normal response."

The story educates readers about not just physical recovery, but the emotional components of facing a brain injury's personality- and life-altering demands.

Libraries and readers seeking fiction about healing that reveals the process on many levels will find Accidental Journey revealing and emotionally astute. It makes for a story that will ideally be pursued in book club reading groups, and by those interested in brain injury, healing, and family relationships.

Its vivid portrait of the frustrations that come with brain injury makes Accidental Journey a compelling story that's hard to put down and easy to understand.

In Case of Deceit
Fiona Kolodzy
Plum Drive Media
9798987199022, $7.95 Kindle

Sarah and Nathan Wood need to add some excitement to their committed marriage, so they return to swinging as a way of maintaining this feeling. But, things go awry as emotions clash, and In Case of Deceit, this leads the two lovers to make some hard decisions about what they really want from their relationships.

While it should be noted that this story represents Book 2 in the Plumdelicious Series, expanding events in the first book (In Case of Desire), newcomers need have no prior familiarity with the setting and characters in order to appreciate this stand-alone novel's plot.

The specter of flings organized around family life and kids may sound impossible to many parents, but Sarah and Nathan think they can have it all - and, until things begin to go awry, they do.

Fiona Kolodzy takes the time to build the depth of family interactions and relationships, from cuddling time with young kids to steamy sexual encounters which are described both graphically and tastefully.

As parties and dates permeate their lives and are accompanied by special challenges and time-juggling requirements, readers get a full-bodied taste of the swinging world and its emotional and physical undercurrents.

Nathan finds himself pulled into new possibilities, and he has some difficult choices to make.

Readers who want a lurid and realistic exploration of a couple whose sexual explorations create new emotional ties and threats alike will find In Case of Deceit is as powerful in its psychological development as it is in its exploration of how a swinger's milieu fits into married life (or not).

As new relationships form and new possibilities for home life are created, Kolodzy crafts a story of women's friendships, men's pursuits, and a redefinition of marriage that tests the foundations of love, kids, and commitment.

Libraries and readers looking for sultry blends of romance, realization, and challenges to traditional marriage values and paradigms will find In Case of Deceit packed with thought-provoking encounters and material well suited to book club discussions on topics of marriage, monogamy, friendship, and the boundaries of affection and love.

Anthony Bidulka
Stonehouse Publishing
9781988754475, $16.95, PB, 275pp

Livingsky is the story of a woman both on the run and investigating those who are invested in keeping their lives secret, injecting its tale with thriller components. It also covers the special challenge of returning home, as Merry Bell returns to Livingsky, Saskatchewan to open her own PI business and start over financially and professionally.

Her first case involves an arson investigation that quickly grows into a series of conundrums to test her analytical prowess and personal boundaries.

The story opens not with Merry, but with fellow PI Nathan Sharpe's surprise late-night visitor - Merry's roommate, Julia Turner. Nathan would do anything for Merry, but the news Julia delivers isn't something to help Merry, but implicates her in a murder case and tests Nathan's resolve and convictions about Merry's character.

In short order, Merry's desire to return home to make money and open a branch of Sharpe Investigations challenges Nathan to either step up and support her or contest her reasons for leaving Vancouver, a city she loves, for the relative backwoods of Livingsky.

His decision to support her leads Merry on a journey through the undercurrents of Saskatchewan, which are revealed to readers as Merry's case leads her through unexpected routes of discovery in both social issues and crime:

"Within the invisible but very real boundaries of Alphabet City, where Merry was soon to take up residence, it was widely known that the poor, the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, were routinely taken advantage of. Merry herself had just begun to experience the bitter taste of that same sour candy. Unable to afford reasonable living quarters, subsisting on cheap wine and day-old doughnuts, unsure where her next dollar was coming from, it was a tough life, all at the mercy of a not-so-underground economy that exploited those who lived it."

Anthony Bidulka's attention to drawing out the interplay between perp and investigator, focusing on Merry Bell's dual roles, makes for an especially intriguing story that moves between the big city affairs of Vancouver and its small-town mirror, Livingsky.

As Merry's probes lead others to question their own guilt and complacency in criminal matters, so the noose around her tightens, as well.

Bidulka excels in contrasting matters of the heart with investigative mysteries, and this will especially intrigue mystery genre readers who look for stories and settings beyond a simple whodunit.

Some characters look for reasons not to go home. Others, such as Merry, find that their home is not all they'd thought. Undercurrents of the LGBTQ+ community enter the bigger picture to add further intrigue and unexpected insights to the plot.

As Merry navigates these emotional secrets, she discovers that "The decision to return to Livingsky had made Merry's life cheaper, but definitely not simpler."

Libraries and readers interested in a mystery milieu that goes beyond obvious patterns of problem-solving to delve into matters of social and cultural transformation will find Livingsky vividly portrayed, layered with different kinds of tension, and hard to put down.

In One Life and Out Another
J. Mercer
Bare Ink
9798987256732, $5.99 Kindle/13.99 Paper/$24.99 Hardcover/Audio forthcoming

In One Life and Out Another is a coming-of-age story that is unusual in its 'either/or' contrasts of action and reaction experienced by teen Marin, whose parents are divorcing. The day her life split, her parents were doing something rare - actively fighting instead of building a wall of silence and avoidance.

Marin's story opens with an unusual twist on Robert Frost's poem of possibilities, which is interlaced with a Russian legend: "There is a story that lays a course of two roads diverged in a yellow wood. If you ride to the left, you'll lose your horse, but to the right it will be your head."

In this case, Marin's very different movements between her joint-custody parents split not just her time, but her life's experiences.

The story is narrated in the first-person, but takes a curious approach in juxtaposing different possibilities with the same events as a backdrop, from dinner at her mother's house and the kind of relationship they have to friends, romantic possibilities, and growing older.

The back-and-forth nature of these alternate worlds and Marin's split life and decisions takes a few chapters to get used to, but the reward from pursuing this story lies in its rich contrast between different attitudes, developments, and possibilities that develop from the same events.

Marin's pursuit of dance school, handling her overbearing mother, and moments that serve as forks in the road of possibility are all presented in delightful chapters that capture Marin's split objectives, quandaries, and choices.

Tired of being her best friend's "doormat" and of the forces that pull at her life and heart, Marin learns to navigate new alternatives in the course of contrasting the disparate options created by romance and adulthood.

J. Mercer's intriguing story of a teen's growth and realizations about herself, her parents, and her choices holds special appeal for teens interested in examining their relationships and possibilities for crafting different responses with changed outcomes.

It's a warm story of a girl who stands at more than one crossroads in her life and uses the daily encounters of school, friends, boys, and parents as foundations in flux to consider revised perceptions of self and purpose.

Libraries and readers seeking coming-of-age stories that probe the effect outer forces as well as personal intention have on one's life will find In One Life and Out Another rich in thought-provoking moments that are ripe for teen and new adult book club discussion and debate.

Tea Attitudes
Pamela G Kennedy
Independently Published
9798385972241, $13.99 Hardcover/$7.99 Paperback/$2.99 ebook

Tea Attitudes: A Blend of Tea, Life & Faith blends tea-themed anecdotes with Scripture verses, providing readers of faith with an experience of afternoon teas drawn from the author's own tearoom traditions and encounters with family and friends.

The thoughtfulness with which the stories are steeped will appeal to Bible readers who look for testimonies of faith in life encounters that translate easily to daily inspirational lessons.

Tearoom stories permeate these spiritual connections with a sense of place, purpose, and perspective to link social and cultural encounters with the deeper overlay of spiritual purpose:

"Raised in the Southern US, I am accustomed to hearing the occasional "ma'am." But milady made me feel special. This French term was appropriated by the English for addressing noblewomen. I am neither French nor English, and not of noble birth. Instead of protesting my lack of aristocracy, I appreciated the moment and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. I reflected later how this undeserved respect was similar to the undeserved grace God has extended to us through Christ. Would I relish being termed a "child of God" as much as I perked up at being referred to as milady? On a less superficial level, that answer is yes."

Pamela G Kennedy adopts a confiding tone of revelation and discovery in many of these reflections, which lends a warm feel to the spiritual descriptions:

"Because each of us is created for a unique ministry, there is no cause to compare or compete with others' work. In fact, it would be impossible. God alone sees our true motivations and efforts."

This cultivates a personal touch that links God's word to daily actions, encounters, and cross-connections in life that move from tearoom to social encounters, awkwardness, and awakening.

From experiences of self-consciousness in social situations to the process of making choices and taking chances, the juxtaposition of spiritual with psychological and social inspection creates a dialogue of examination and revelation that warms the heart as much as the teatime descriptions.

Readers seeking an inspirational connection between life events and spiritual concerns will find the quotes and reflections of Tea Attitudes the perfect blend, highly recommended for Christian readers and spiritual libraries serving them.

The Reformed Man
Dina Santorelli
eLuna Media LLC
B0BX116XH7, $2.99 ebook

The Reformed Man represents the dystopian sci-fi time travel story at its best and tells of Icelander Benedikt Rafnkelsson, whose invention of a time travel portal may prove to be humanity's only salvation from the Great Shift that killed millions, and the coming Great Purge which will finish the job.

Rafnkelsson is assembling an A-team of young Candidates to embark on an unprecedented effort to assure humankind's future, and Grady Smith's brother Kenny is being groomed to become one of them. When Grady steps up to help his brother, his actions unwittingly cause them to participate in the time travel effort in ways its originator never envisioned.

Dina Santorelli crafts a thought-provoking, riveting story of a brother changed by his experiences in time. Grady's shifting views of his family's influence, his life goals, and his perspective about changing that future are revealed in the course of confrontations with self and his altered world.

Intrigue surrounds Benedikt Rafnkelsson's real purposes, as Grady navigates unfamiliar possibilities and taps his own potential for growth in unexpected ways.

Santorelli's attention to action and family relationships as they become borderline attractions to the Candidates' purposes creates a compelling saga in which Grady and others examine and experience the myths and realities surrounding the Candidates' real challenges.

The Reformed Man poses intriguing questions about moral and ethical behaviors which will attract sci-fi enthusiasts of time travel stories and altered senses of value. The story's insights about the past, present and future create a vivid exploration of good and evil in the world, and the people who make difficult choices to support either one.

Cameron K. Moore
Independently Published
9780646857046, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Fearless is a Trident Force thriller. It is steeped in the action-packed drama of a treacherous journey that characters experience as they encounter the covert American entity Trident, whose mission is to thwart threats to the nation, as represented by new technological developments in the hands of the wrong people.

The story opens with a wild motorcycle ride by Molly Jones, whose special power is being fearless. Her ability has cost her career - but it's also especially attractive to those who would harness this talent for their own purposes. Even other nations such as China, which has developed a process to turn a human being into a bioweapon, are pursuing Molly for her potential contribution to their program.

Dr. Karl Shepherd is as vested in preventing this as Molly is in defending her own life trajectory, and so the two join forces to defy China's program and objective despite the fact that Molly is the biggest prize they are after.

How can one trust a truly fearless partner who is capable of nearly anything? That's one of the key questions in Fearless.

As the story progresses, Dr. Shepherd finds himself in the position of quashing a new reign of terror while fighting those who have infiltrated the Trident team itself.

Cameron K. Moore introduces satisfying twists and turns that constantly question the forces of good and evil in a greater conflict that could embroil the world in terrorism and fear. The interactions between Trident team members and Molly are nicely portrayed as Molly comes to realize that her own best interests are at stake not just with China, but those that oppose China's intentions.

This introduces excellent tension as the story focuses on Molly's fearless attributes and the nature of her connections to life. She may be fearless, but she's not without compassion for others. Her connections may save her, but they also bear a heavy cost.

The biotech element of the threat is also well done. China's foray into unethical territory is outlined in compelling ways, with changing events testing both sides with an unpredictable and dangerous outcome.

Moore's dance between good and evil and the relationships that evolve and change during the Trident team's engagements creates a powerful thriller that is hard to put down or easily predict.

Libraries and readers attracted to thrillers which thoroughly engage with moral and ethical questions spiced with high-octane action will find Fearless an intense story of loyalties tested by not just adversity, but emotional currents.

Fearless's ability to support the series while standing nicely on its own makes it a winner.

The Prism
Aneta Torchia
The Luminary Press
9781738768752, $21.99, HC, 352pp
9781738768738, $14.99, PB, 438pp; Kindle, $4.99

The Prism intersects fantasy, thriller, and paranormal themes so seamlessly that readers who choose it for its coming-of-age component will find far more depth and attraction in the story's multifaceted character and action than they may have anticipated from its title.

College-bound orphan Everest Clearly's discovery of her paranormal abilities are only the first revelation she experiences, which sends her off-course from a largely unpleasant life into a parallel universe, The Prism, which holds a much nicer environment.

Her second life there is apparently boundless, and its attraction is unshakeable, even when she finds herself on an unexpected journey confronting not only new possibilities, but new threats. The allure of the Prism world lies in apparently limitless possibilities. It also holds secrets and danger which Everest encounters as she penetrates this world's attractions to realize its underlying dangers.

Readers who follow Everest into the Prism will find her first-person descriptions of her experiences evocative and rich: "This room is my blank canvass. I recall what Erik said about creating anything within it. Anything! But where to even start? Baby steps. I need to process the world outside first before attempting to create a brand new one in here."

As she explores her changed role, power, and abilities to navigate and craft new possibilities for her future both within and outside the Prism, readers are treated to a vivid tale that sparkles with unexpected angles and encounters that mirror Everest's experiences in a world that "steals her breath away."

From the challenges of fighting for others when they refuse to fight for themselves to the complicated lives of Erik, Lise, and others who interact on this new playing field of possibilities, Aneta Torchia creates a powerful story of a game-changing world gone awry, and a girl's difficult options. The story captures not just the Prism and its special characters, but the dilemma faced by one who finds both heaven and hell in her choices.

Libraries and readers seeking fantasies that intersect nicely with thriller components, interpersonal relationships that teeter on the edge of disaster, and explorations of spiritual and metaphysical influences on the world will find The Prism a compelling adventure and a thought-provoking journey.

As the first in a three-part series, The Prism sets the stage for what looks to be an extraordinary trilogy steeped in life-changing decisions and glimpses of life's meaning and purpose.

Remember Us
E.T. Gunnarsson
Bragi Press
9781960301017, $3.99 Kindle

Remember Us gives readers interested in dystopian and apocalyptic sci-fi a powerful addition to
the Odemark Series. It is set in 2186, long after the destructive wars of the 21st century. Here, revolutionary Simon and his new friend Anna journey through the promise and ravages of Earth until a strange explosion propels them into yet another unfamiliar realm.

The story opens with Simon awakening on the space station Arcadis, which somehow feels unfamiliar despite his residency on one of the great Ark stations above the polluted Earth. His sense that something is wrong is solidified when a dead friend from his past emerges to instigate a casual conversation.

Alarm bells go off as Simon and his readers come to realize that his environment may not be real, but a specter haunting him from the past. Is it really a dream - or a real nightmare?

E.T. Gunnarsson creates a story that needs no prior familiarity with the other series titles, but reaches out to grip the reader's attention by building a flashback into the past into a story of present-day challenges. This neatly sets the stage for newcomers and prior fans alike, who will find that Simon's memories and choices ill prepare him for the next step into the unknown, marking a wild ride into revolution and redemption.

As dreams, spirit animals, and contrasts between past and present selves evolve, Simon is led into a milieu in which he enters the past, becomes other people, and experiences lives that lead into realms of horror with added courage to face the future. These physical and mental excursions test Simon's resolve and ability to navigate these strange new worlds, and as he solidifies his role as a new revolutionary martyr, readers will appreciate seeing this world through Simon's eyes and newfound choices.

E.T. Gunnarsson builds his story on the foundations of Simon's growth and realizations, peppering fast-paced action with accompanying emotional revelations that keep Simon and his readers guessing about his ultimate mission and objectives.

Simon's pursuit of "what is fated" and his encounters with old friends and new adversaries creates a powerful journey which is especially highly recommended for sci-fi readers of post-apocalyptic worlds, who will find in Gunnarsson's old Earth the unexpected experiences and opportunities of new pursuits.

Libraries and readers who look for stand-alone, yet series-building stories of survival, growth, and struggle will find that Remember Us holds many thought-provoking, action-packed moments that examine the ultimate price of survival and revolution.

Small Fry
Stephenie Wilson Peterson
Independently Published
9798986073743, $9.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Small Fry provides advanced elementary to early middle grade readers with the story of an eleven-year-old who looks much younger due to his stunted growth condition.

Silas is a "small fry" whose attitude earns him respect from some of his classmates, but whose stature attracts bullies and disparaging words.

His entry into middle school, at only 52 pounds and 48 inches tall, brings him into a milieu which holds much potential, both for more teasing and for building a personality which is bigger than the body that contains it. This determination comes to life when he and his new friends in band are bullied by a group determined to enter into school politics. Somebody needs to represent the browbeaten and little guys! And that someone might as well be Silas.

School encounters aren't the only driving force in Small Fry. Also at odds is his believed grandfather's diminishing mental acuity, which challenges Silas in new ways and leads him to realize that his grandfather won't always be there to support him.

When tragedy strikes, Silas is forced to tap his increasing independence and problem-solving abilities to step up to adult situations: "Something was wrong. Something was very wrong, and I couldn't get in touch with any of the adults in my life."

This concurrent story of handling bullies, aging loved ones, and life challenges will attract young readers who find their own struggles evolving on different playing fields at home and in school.

Stephenie Wilson Peterson's first-person story is especially evocative because Silas both acknowledges his limitations and embarks on strategies to rise above them. Despite the lemons life hands him, he discovers within himself an ability to act and react creativity and effectively, and so his story will resonate with middle graders encountering their own stresses.

The result is an engrossing story of a small fry, a big personality, and a growth process that leads Silas to unexpected realizations about life and his place in it. Middle-grade readers and libraries catering to them will find Small Fry a big winner.

Financially Capable
Matt Paradise
Vernon Street Publishing
9798987943700, $17.95 Paper/$7.99 ebook

Financially Capable: A Friendly Guide to Building Whole-Health Wealth offers a key to understanding financial access and attitudes that influence not only money-making abilities, but personal and financial value in the world.

Matt Paradise departs from the usual treatise on how to gain wealth by expanding the concept of what that wealth involves and what makes it valuable. Thus, his book both explores and explains financial literacy and links financial to life objectives in a way that few other guides to money can achieve, making it more accessible to group discussion and non-financial readers than the typical business or financial guide.

Chapters open with an introduction that surveys financial stress, providing case history examples of individuals who experience it in different ways. From student debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck to the gaps between rich and poor, the economic survey links individual experience and choice to bigger-picture thinking - one essential key to appreciating the different directions taken in Financially Capable.

Its foundation idea of how mindsets, values, and behavior affect financial decision-making and capability is explored in chapters that provide concurrent strategies for building both financial security and a rich life.

As Paradise discusses budgeting, money management systems, and common sources of stress, readers receive the opportunity to more strongly relate their financial health to the emotional factors that influence decisions and perceptions alike.

Another rare feature of this financial guide is that it doesn't promote a "one size fits all" approach, but acknowledges that disparate interests and ideas of life and wealth affect the nature and efforts of personal financial planning and health:

"If your ideal life is one where you don't need financial products, services, or modern amenities, go for it. In fact, many people do. It's quite possible to live a happy, healthy life doing so. Personally, that's not the life my family chooses. If it's not the life you choose, I'd suggest that you keep an open mind and educate yourself about living in a credit-based economy."

As a result, Financially Capable promotes flexibility alongside knowledge of how money, credit, and financial institutions work. This will, ideally, encourage dialogues and discoveries in book club and group settings where financial issues are of interest.

Libraries should recommend Financially Capable not only to adult patrons, but young adults on the cusp of entering the world of new adulthood, with the changing financial perceptions it requires.

The Usefulness of the Hippopotamus
Vincent J. Tomeo
Atmosphere Press
9781639886906, $15.00 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 54pp

The Usefulness of the Hippopotamus is a poetry chapbook of humorous advice for trying modern times, employing humor to invite readers to "walk with me into a poem, laugh, and smile."

A literary anecdote for trying times, The Usefulness of the Hippopotamus follows the irony and wit in dealing with modern life. It starts with "Notes on a Poetry Reading at the Library," in which the poet is encouraged to put on a multimedia production to attract listeners, although the librarian and poet admit that the free Starbucks coffee at the end of the session will likely prove a bigger draw than his literary prowess: "The librarian said,/play music with your slides./If they are not interested in your slides,/they might enjoy the music."

Such free-spirited and wide-ranging observations inject a wry tone of inspection, reflection, and wit into life's moments, creating works that capture moments in time, such as "Happy Halloween 2019" and its celebratory tone: "Have a boo bobbing bash at the pumpkin patch/Carving plump party pumpkins/Oh Jack-O-Lantern/Light up the night for Trick-Or-Treating/Hear little feet parading, pitter-patter,/Crushing leaves..."

Often, the poem ends with an unexpected bang, as in "Pancakes in Heaven," which imagines an event where "It is the first time we all felt no fear, anxiety, tension, or stress./We were all given a choice of pancakes for breakfast:/Sweet angel's delight,/amen, fluffy and Light,/out of this world with sinless blueberries,/Holy Immaculate raspberries,/pumpkin's fourth commandment is served with honey and whipped/cream."

The Usefulness of the Hippopotamus is both a poetry lesson and an example of finding humor, irony, and fun in daily events and mindful excursions. Perhaps such an endeavor could only have evolved from the COVID-19 pandemic. If so, this represents a bow to adversity, drawing on the creative spirit to defy negative and weighty world inspection and experience.

This collection's light-hearted, free-spirited nature will appeal not to the reader attracted to rigid verse in iambic pentameter or lofty philosophical reflections, but to libraries and poetry readers already struggling with weighty times, who just want to take a break with a delicious collection of delightful observations and a good cup of coffee served up with free verse attractions.

The Final Eight Seconds
Olivia Godat
Atmosphere Press
9781639888054, $16.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 104pp

The Final Eight Seconds is a story of faith, luck, and new forays into belief which opens with the specter of a rodeo cowboy: "Some rodeo cowboys prepared for their event with a short prayer to whatever deity they believed in. Not Joey. He'd stopped praying years ago."

Joey's lack of faith in God comes home to test him in an unexpected way when he is thrown and injured, then is visited by an angel who informs him that his heavenly fate will be decided by events that have taken place in his life.

The only trouble is that Joey is well aware that his life will be found lacking if it's that closely examined. As he relives his choices and their ultimate impact, readers receive a fine first-person journey that connects faith, belief, and the ultimate consequences and cost of good and bad decisions at life's end.

Olivia Godat's inspection will especially appeal to Christian readers interested in the special style of self-discovery that propels Joey to reconsider his persona, actions, and what he really wants:

"In my truck, I sat slumped over the steering wheel. Here I was, all dressed up like something that I wasn't. My expensive boots didn't make me a cowboy. My pearl-gray Stetson didn't make me a cowboy. If I wanted to be a cowboy, then I had to learn the cowboy ways. Until that moment, I hadn't even known that's what I wanted."

Readers who enjoy stories about cowboy ways will find unusual the intersection of a cowhand's training and lifestyle with the spiritual component that drives this cowboy's self-examination and insights into belief and motivation.

This cowboy has been thrown from broncs many times, and knows how to not get hurt. What he doesn't know is how to make his life more effective and in sync with others: "I should have been man enough to forget my failings and think of Margene. I never asked her how she felt, only presumed. I mourned for our lost time together due to my selfishness."

This story of growth and realization will appeal to a wide range of readers, from those who enjoy stories of men who come to realize and admit their faults and new opportunities for change to spiritual readers interested in a tale of redemption.

Libraries and readers seeking a thought-provoking Western that goes beyond the trappings of cowboy culture to delve into the spiritual realms of lives well or badly lived will find The Final Eight Seconds a powerful test of individual faith and revised realizations about the course and importance of his "shiny cobweb, his lifeline."

Maybe There Are Witches
Jude Atwood
Fitzroy Books
c/o Regal House Publishing
9781646033645, $14.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Maybe There Are Witches will appeal to middle grade readers interested in haunting stories of the supernatural and in an ordinary girl's extraordinary effort to thwart a destructive prediction made by a 19th century witch.

Clara Hutchins discovers that her ancestor was hanged as a witch when she moves to a tiny village and absorbs its history, reflected by her family heritage. The mysteries in a house that holds creepy dolls, the diary of a long-dead relative, and portents of Clara's future that keep coming true drive her to search for answers. As a newcomer in Biskopskulla, Illinois, the scenarios feel far from her California upbringing as well as her anticipation of what it will be like to move to a tiny town of 140 people - but Clara is determined to make the best of things.

Her positive attitude against all odds is part of the attraction of a story that follows her into mysteries, supernatural encounters, and unexpected friendships with two of the strangest boys in school.

Middle grade readers receive a compelling story of a girl who persists in finding answers and thus begins to realize her hidden heritage and powers. As Jude Atwood reveals the possibilities of Clara's future and the impact of her present-day choices, history and psychology come into play to flavor a realistic, gripping story that's hard to put down.

Woven into these supernatural possibilities is the very real impact of attitude and perception which helps Clara and her cohorts expand their horizons and choose actions to mitigate what feels like inevitability.

Atwood is especially skilled at connecting the dots between the kinds of choices that keep Clara's latest move on track with a better life:

"The last time she started at a new school, she didn't even talk to anyone for the first two months, and once she felt ready to (barely) acknowledge her new classmates, they already had plenty of practice ignoring her. For the entire year, her mom kept encouraging her to make a fresh start, but Clara just withdrew - and grew more miserable. She was determined not to let that happen again in Biskopskulla! This was a new home...even if it didn't feel like it yet."

Clara's integration into her past, present and future incorporates many keys to adaptation and proactive thinking and action which middle grade readers will absorb in the course of enjoying a satisfyingly spooky mystery.

Libraries and readers will find Maybe There Are Witches hauntingly provocative. It's a story whose strengths lie as much on interpersonal developments and emotional growth as they do on vivid action, unexpected twists, and passages that contrast bigger-picture thinking with the microcosm of daily life experience. It's perfect for individual reading and book club discussions alike:

"The enormity of what they were doing hit her like a wave of cold water. The stakes were high: "Untold numbers" might die. But what they were doing, and what they were attempting to do...? This was magic. People died for this stuff. People killed for this stuff. Her great-great-great-grandmother had learned that the hard way. On top of all that, she'd lied to her mom."

Once upon a Wonderland
DJ Stoneham
Communicado DJS
9789526506425, $16.78 Paper/$4.75 ebook

Once Upon a Wonderland is a fantasy foray into the world of Alice in Wonderland that uses Carroll's classic as a foundation for embarking on an unexpected journey. As the second book in a series of Wonderland encounters, it's pleasing to note that this functions as a stand-alone read, making it entirely accessible by newcomers.

Alice has moved far beyond the rabbit hole in this story, realizing that her mission is to mend time itself, if she's ever to return home.

The tale opens with a prologue that sets Alice in a Victorian era at home. But she's not at peace with her choices:

"Mrs Huxley had finally deigned to take afternoon tea with Alice's mother. 'How is it that Alice still resides at home? Shouldn't she be married at her age?' Victorian values did not preclude Mrs Huxley from the occasional indiscreet or snide remark. If anything they required it. For Mrs Huxley knew only too well that she had answered her own question. Alice still lived at home for the very reason that she wasn't married. Had Mrs Huxley asked that same question of Alice, the answer would have surprised her. Alice would have said that she was right where she was supposed to be."

Three visits to Wonderland have not only left their mark on Alice, but Wonderland is still waiting for her return. There are many reasons why Alice resides at home, but only one is a portent of her future. The lure of Wonderland proves impossible to resist, and once again Alice finds herself in a strange milieu where fairy tale legends have become poltergeists, arsonists, and powerful controllers of her life, in line with the dark origins of our seemingly innocent childhood tales.

Alice needs to get all these forces out of Wonderland if she's to succeed in her goal and rescue the boy she loves. Hindered by the reality that she's growing younger (and possibly more ineffective) by the day, Alice notes that her days are numbered even as her strength wanes (but not her determination to succeed).

Readers who enter Wonderland once more will find the same aura of madness and impossibility as in previous Wonderland encounters, but here they are tinged with an overlay of danger and power plays that force Alice to draw on old friends and new resources to survive and change time itself.

DJ Stoneham creates a compelling, forceful environment, supplementing action and impossible characters and encounters with insights that Alice and her cohorts develop about what is happening, and why:

"My guess is the Queen of Hearts and her cohorts want you out of the way, one way or another - either out of Wonderland or isolated. Perhaps she's playing for Time." Jackson looked apologetic for what he was about to say. "I think her hope is that you'll grow so young that you won't know what you want anymore and can be manipulated. Tyrants have a habit of making the most out of a crisis."

This is a Wonderland that Lewis Carroll never envisioned. It's also an Alice whose perspective and adult rationales and problem-solving abilities wane, the younger she grows.

Stoneham's contrast between adult decision prowess and a child's-eye view of the world makes for an involving story that is thoroughly unexpected.

Libraries and readers looking for fantasy stories that take classics and turn them on end for new realizations and action will find Once Upon a Wonderland not just engaging, but hard to put down or predict. Its quirky re-envisioning of a Wonderland in which Alice's youth is pitted against odd and unpredictable developments creates encounters worthy of book club discussion, as well.

A Dispelling of Darkness
Joyce L. Miller
IWS Publishing
9780988644083, $11.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Teens who choose A Dispelling of Darkness for its promise of time-travel experience and mystery will find the novel holds so much as it crafts the story of twelve-and-a-half-year-old Pearline Jayne Profitt ("PJ") and her journey.

Layered into the story of time travel and a classic battle between good and evil are real-life encounters with class bullies, a stormy relationship with a contentious younger brother, a father who has distanced himself from their lives, and a powerful invading force that threatens everything she knows.

PJ is forced to confront "The thing that wasn't right" to gain clues to possible avenues of resolution that force her, time and again, to face a powerful evil that seems beyond her abilities to confront.

Aided by a Peruvian shaman and an eccentric neighbor, PJ confronts tribal experiences, the devastation of the land, and issues of environmental degradation and conservation as she struggles to win an impossible war that takes place on multifaceted playing fields.

Libraries and teen readers looking for stories that go beyond time travel adventure alone to embrace underlying concerns of environmental activism, friendship and family relationships, and struggles with empowerment will find all these features come to life in A Dispelling of Darkness.

The darkness, in this case, isn't just in individuals around her, but in the history and processes of a world PJ feels ill equipped to confront at her age - but which, in reality, she is ultimately well-suited to tackle.

A Dispelling of Darkness ideally will join library collections looking for a blend of adventure with bigger-picture thinking on teen activism, and will become central to book club discussions about teen involvement, choices, and empowerment.

The Rosey View of the World
Andrew Scott Bassett
Luminare Press
9798886791037, $29.79 Hardcover/$15.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The Rosey View of the World: One Woman's Journey Through the 20th Century is a work of historical fiction that brings to life the husbands, wives, soldiers, and civilians of World War II.

Rosey's real-world influence on political and social events of the times leads her author son to create the story of her world and actions, bringing the drama and sense of these times to life.

As it moves from the opening of World War II to the Cold War, the activism forces pushing for women's rights, and Rosey's involvement in personal and political empowerment, readers gain a front-row seat of observational and emotional undercurrents of these changing times. These experiences shine in one woman's determination to contribute to a proactive world for herself and her son, Danny, who will grow up to write a best-selling book, followed by his account of her life. His mum may no longer be part of his life, but her legacy lives on as his writing captures her world and tells why her efforts and their impact weigh so heavily on his own future.

Danny's mother's story opens when she is nine years old and facing Hitler's threat to her world, which brings with it the recognition that "...some people are never satisfied. If they have a lot, they want more. If these same people have most of everything, they want it all. Hitler is one of these types, never satisfied until he has it all."

Rosey successfully navigates this threat, but develops new realizations as she observes the English turning against one another. Her son Danny comes to realize, while reading her papers, that his own failures have come home to roost in spectacular ways that have limited his ability to fully understand his mother's life.

As the novelist considers his obsession with writing, comes to acknowledge new connections between past experience and present life, and continues to absorb his mother's story in bits and pieces, he finds his own literary and psychological outlook revised in unexpected ways.

Through the fine juxtaposition of Rosey's life and her son's literary aspirations, Andrew Scott Bassett creates an evocative contrast in experience that brings history and its patterns and impact to life.

Rosey's growing reputation as a "spitfire" and her determination to live on as her soldier husband Albert becomes immersed in the Vietnam War and unpredictable changes makes for a vivid story that moves between past and present generations to bring both worlds to life.

Whether covering World War II, the Vietnam War, or the rise of social consciousness, Bassett uses Rosey's viewpoint and experiences to chart the course of a rising social awareness that fuels Rosey's reality, illusions, and disillusionments, ultimately impacting and influencing her son.

Political campaigns, ideals of hope and peace, and blossoming civil rights issues all come to life, along with Rosey's struggles as a military wife. Readers experience a vivid road trip through the 60s through Danny's reading of his mother's words, and will find his journey replete with many thought-provoking insights about the status of women and Rosey's battles on the home front.

Libraries and readers seeking an engrossing novel that juxtaposes a son and mother's perspectives on their worlds and life purposes will find The Rosey View of the World an evocative survey of self-worth, love, perseverance, and transformation whose currents of discovery carry readers through decades of powerful change around the world.

Phoenix Saga
amalL era JesuseJ hO
Atmosphere Press
9781639888252, $22.99, HC, 102pp
9781639888122, $15.99 PB, 102pp

Phoenix Saga's metaphysical and literary inspection represents both a reflective piece and a call to arms that opens with the inquiry "Where did God go?"

References to philosophy, history, and heroes ensue in the attempt to answer and illustrate this question, which weaves philosophy, spiritual reflection, and poetry in a unique way that captures the rising of spirit and soul like the phoenix, speculating on the improbable future of the human race, steeped in an original sin which may ultimately translate into survival.

The free-spirited nature of this reflection defies any pat assignment of the term "poetry," "free verse," or even "essay" to these writings. The intellectual works demand much of their reader which, in turn, requires a slow, simmering absorption of concepts and illustrative language.

For example:

"Eneolnen: Oh Maleficent Iradea Artificer, Fire and Ice - chronicles of enduring balance and sacrifice. Adamantine Aegis safe-guards OURSTORY. Within a semiotic paradigm, This Choice does not belong to US. A beauty plainly stated; undeniable: All love possibility. The Age of Delta, Evolution is nearly upon them. Will they listen, can they see?

A pause, reflection. "Perhaps, not." Eneolnen winks as lips turn, exposing teeth. Wind pulls at sky and fabric alike. Cold, vital.

Iradea Artificer: So it shall be written. A Gift then."

In contrast are works such as 'Motto': "An Ankh,/age-enduring core structure./M÷bius Strip,/replacing horizontal frame./Exquisite Strip textured in gemstone;/ruby-sapphire, emerald-diamond/Elegance."

The measured, tempered, reflective pieces come together in unexpected ways, much as a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that at first feels disparate, but actually holds many interlocked possibilities.

The revelations, testimonies, stories, and inspections that interlace here demand much in the way of intellectual contemplation, but reward those so inclined with a sense of wonder and realizations that will drive not just individual contemplation, but book club discussion groups interested in literary and spiritually demanding surveys.

Phoenix Saga is recommended for intellectual literature and philosophy readers who will find its delve into the hopes, dreams, and opportunities of a species lost and found in its journeys through the universe to be astute and inviting.

Libraries catering to such audiences will find this first book in a trilogy represents a mighty, powerful hand that both describes and creates connections to the universe that deserve debate and discussion in intellectual circles.

Dark Traffic
R.A. Van Vleet
Atmosphere Press
9781639887699, $18.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 34ppp

Dark Traffic is a thriller novel set in Southern California that embraces the world of sex trafficking and threats to those that would expose it. It opens with an unexpected minor car accident to Ian's Mercedes, which involves him with a distracted woman whose inability to navigate her stick shift truck introduces Ashley Davis into his life.

The woman is separated from her billionaire husband, and is in need of Ian's security services. What seems like serendipity and an ordinary protection request evolves into something more insidious and deadly as Ian finds his life laced with Ashley's world. Both are drawn into increasing threats that come with new revelations about Ashley, her husband, and attacks that threaten their lives.

R.A. Van Vleet creates a social and political inspection that tempers its investigative tone with considerations of the attraction brewing between the characters. While the reason for these attacks remains mercurial for much of the story, what is apparent is a series of complex influences on Ian and Ashley's lives and health which emerges to reveal an underbelly to society that Ian was not previously familiar with. Events unfold to reveal a series of confrontations that rest on Ashley's health or demise and Ian's increasing inability to fully protect her.

Van Vleet builds excellent tension throughout the story, whether with elements of strange attraction and coincidence, or emerging threats that dance through the novel's probe of difficult truths.

Ian and Ashley's immersion into DEA, FBI, and other investigative forces leads them down paths neither anticipated or was familiar with, giving the events a realistic overlay of surprise that will delight even seasoned thriller audiences.

Libraries and readers seeking a realistic, riveting probe into what turns out to be a national drug and human sex trafficking organization will find the tension, cat-and-mouse games, and characters in Dark Traffic to be satisfyingly realistic and compelling.

The Three Sisters
Owen Garratt
Runding Pelham Publishing
9781777781040, $21.99, HC, 380pp
9781777781088, $16.99, PB, 355pp; Kindle $3.99

Jack Broderick is a fighter. This quality lends to his survival after a solar flare destroys the world's electrical grid, crashes his plane, and cements his separation from a family already estranged by his alcoholism.

One doesn't expect an alcoholic to exhibit powerful survival traits, but in Jack's case, his ability to persevere against all odds creates a surprising scenario in which he successfully navigates the days following The Pulse through an environment which has been transformed virtually overnight.

Readers of The Pulse who have been looking for the second book in the postapocalyptic thriller series now have The Three Sisters to enjoy, the next phase in a survival story marked by strong language and visceral situations not for the queasy reader.

Powerful observations introduce his awakening to readers also new to this world: "Florida. The Gulf Coast. 70 miles north of Clearwater. Tucked away in a clearing in some brush off Highway 98. Dawn? Dusk? On my back on a folding chaise lounge from a backyard set. And it was the end of the world."

Owen Garratt excels in the ability to inject a "you are here" feel into the moments that mark Jack's new life:

"I hid the silhouette of my head in the rocks onshore. The boardwalk creaked. Not definitive enough. Things expand in the heat of the day and contract in the cool of night. Expansion and contraction cause creaks. Wait. Listen. A breath of wind rustled leaves in the canopy, and slight gurgling as water eddied around rocks. Then, like a gunshot, came the unmistakable crunch of someone stepping on an empty water bottle."

This approach crafts and encourages a seamless bond between reader and protagonist, which is why the more visceral elements of violence and revelation that permeate this particular end-of-the-world scenario feels so immediate and impactful to Jack's readers.

As the story unfolds, a vivid set of revelations, life-or-death encounters, and events that happen almost too fast for Jack to absorb or survive makes for an action-packed thriller that rests firmly on the shoulders and choices of an ordinary flawed character whose perspective and determination shifts through extraordinary encounters.

The days after all electrical devices stop prove the most critical ones for survival as Jack's ability to adapt is tested. It's a good thing Jack was in 'Health and Safety' and trained in medical procedures. It's a bad thing that his newfound family focus places him on a journey that holds serious challenges to his health and safety training.

It's a great thing that Garratt incorporates the very realistic, human aspects of Jack's special challenges into an ongoing saga that forges new connections to his grandfather's lessons and his new roles in this vastly changed world.

Libraries and readers interested in apocalyptic fiction that simmers with action, takes the time to create a flawed but likeable characters whose ability to adapt is continually tested, and includes inspections of shifting world paradigms that convey new revelations about family and alliances will find The Three Sisters compellingly absorbing, driven by Jack's powerful personality and growth in a world where "...the fires released people from the constraints of civilization."

To Be Human
J.D. Puett
Atmosphere Press
9781639888313, $8.99 ebook/$18.99 Paper

To Be Human consists of five novellas and novelettes which are firmly rooted in a sense of place and disparate purposes, focussing on characters that at first seem to hold little in common. Each of the characters makes solo efforts to forge ahead in their lives, driven by their own force of will and isolated experiences and perceptions; but each finds these motivators affected and changed by newfound realizations and implausible associations with others around them who impact their lives.

Perhaps ironically, the collection starts with 'Crossing the Line,' which opens in Miami where first generation Cuban-American and physician-scientist Dr. Montesinos (who is "professionally committed to regenerative medicine") finds his life unexpectedly linked with that of Venezuelan drug baron Carlos.

Dr. Montesinos is used to manipulating stem cells and has fostered a goal of contributing to the Latino community through his efforts - but he's not used to similarly impacting drug lords (even though he's honed the fine art of locating benefactors for his work and soliciting generous gifts for his research).

J.D. Puett takes the time to contrast the lives, motivations, and lofty ideals of both men in introductory chapters before the moral and ethical clashes begin. These contrasts and the time taken to delve into their characters and family roots contribute to the greater good of a story that arises like a Phoenix from roots of dysfunction and good and poor choices to formulate new opportunities for each individual.

In contrast is 'Alive?', which profiles quite a different physician/scientist whose objective is to not just revolutionize brain science, but to awaken the dead - as in dead brains.

If this objective is reached, how does it then revise ideas of the living and the dead? A peck of problems emerges from success as neurologist Dr. Schneider unwittingly pushes not just the boundaries of death, but the ethical edge of what constitutes humanity.

Each story features a fast pace, but takes the necessary time to build backgrounds, motivations, and insights before the challenges begin. Each thus represents an especially mighty use of the short literary form, which may be held up as examples for creative writing and literary students interested in making the most of every word and concept in a shorter piece.

Libraries and readers looking for thought-provoking reading that pairs brevity with powerful impact will find that To Be Human works on many levels, whether as a consideration of what it means to challenge established social and ethical norms in different ways, or as a reflection of the best use of the novella and novelette forms.

A Wyoming State of Mind
Eugene M. Gagliano
Crystal Publishing, LLC
9781942624776, $34.95 Hardcover/$24.95 Paper

Readers might associate Wyoming with cowboys and thus come to believe that A Wyoming State of Mind is penned by a cowboy poet, but such could not be further from the truth. Wyoming holds many delights and cultural strengths, and one of these is Wyoming State Poet Laureate Eugene M. Gagliano, who here creates a literary tribute to his state that celebrates its life, people, and nature.

Gagliano crafts this celebration from the opening title poem, which captures Wyoming as a place of physical wonder (" of intricate beauty/formidable mountains carved/etched in pristine white peaks/embroidered in dark pine, spruce and fir/cliffs, giant shards of granite/powerful, playful waterfalls...") as well as an illustration of interpersonal connections and possibilities: "not just a place/but a state of mind/where faith guides people/and hope rises each day/with the light of dawn..."

Readers need not be familiar with Wyoming in order to appreciate Gagliano's celebration of its land, people, and culture. All they need is affection for evocative, powerful poetry and the state of mind to appreciate a poet's moving celebrations of the land he so loves.

As if these written words weren't powerful enough, they are then spiced with color photos that capture peoples and places.

Moving from a celebratory tone to the trials, tribulations, and realizations of interacting with others both within and outside of Wyoming, Gagliano incorporates life experiences with these vignettes of place to translate Wyoming's state of mind and influence to other milieus. The collection thus evolves a sense of purpose that links Wyoming's special strengths to the processes of interacting with and absorbing life changes.

The result represents a state of mind that carries from Wyoming roots to the heartland of American experience in a fine collection that will appeal to poetry enthusiasts and libraries seeking literary works with the ability to grasp and delight through inspirational pieces that resonate with the descriptive force of "Trees baring their scarred souls/in shades of shadowy light/Undaunted, like people worn by life,/yet reaching for the sky."

A Wyoming State of Mind does more than reach. It touches and then grabs the reader's heart and mind.

The Hero Rule
Brandon Hughes
Tension Books
9798987923313, $16.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

As The Hero Rule opens, lawyer Duncan Pheiffer has just seen his client convicted of capital murder. Now the client faces a death sentence, and despite all the facts and arguments, Duncan truly that believes Charlie Calvin Clements is innocent. And he's just let him down by losing the case.

Duncan's pursuit of justice above and beyond the courtroom leads him into an unlikely personal and professional association with prosecutor Barclay Griffith, who embodies the Hero Rule ("doing the right thing for the right reason").

As lies, deceit, and dangerous truths evolve, Barclay finds himself on a mission that goes beyond seeking and proving the truth, entering into considerations of how justice is defined and enacted. And this may not unfold in ways Duncan has been trained to believe in.

Brandon Hughes creates a fine intersection between thriller and moral and ethical inspection as Barclay navigates dangerous situations and redefines justice, heroism, and how far he should go to pursue both.

The characters and their motivations are nicely aligned with the moral and ethical situations which drive the plot beyond issues of crime and punishment, creating not just one, but a set of solid, action-packed characters and special interests that draw readers on different levels.

It's rare to see a crime thriller embrace moral and ethical questions so thoroughly, but as unpredictable events lead to outcomes even seasoned readers might not see coming, the story embraces a multifaceted feel that gives it depth in both literary and psychological circles.

Libraries and readers seeking a compelling crime story that's all the stronger for its author's personal experiences within the criminal justice system will find The Hero Rule not only intriguing, but thought-provoking and worthy of debate among book club readers interested in crime and thriller stories that introduce new definitions of justice and fresh realizations about its underlying influences and costs.

Facing the Beast Within
Mark Cheverton
Gameknight Publishing
9781735878164, $9.99 Print/$3.99 ebook

Middle grade fantasy readers who select Facing the Beast Within: The Anxiety of Cameron Poole will find this first book in the Order of the Stones series a compelling adventure filled with monsters, bullies, and a summer to remember.

Cameron Poole has enough problems between his anxiety and somehow being a draw for bullying, but when he discovers that mythical monsters are invading his camp, forcing him to try to stop them, even more trouble emerges.

Cameron and a ragged band of resisters find themselves resisting Malphas, a demon who is bringing his monster army to the camp to open an invasion route, despite the fact that Cameron has his own inner monsters to battle.

Mark Cheverton builds a fascinating story that rests on fantasy monsters as well as struggles with inner anxieties. He flavors the gripping external fantasy scenario with insights into internal nightmares in a story of magical realism which contains many recognizable emotional ties that young readers can relate to from the start:

"Fear nibbled with sharp teeth on the edges of my soul as I scanned Camp Pontchartrain's dining room hall, looking for the bully who would surely notice me."

The lessons Cameron receives on taking control of fear, refusing to yield, and employing strengths that come from knowledge, certainty, and conviction are compelling. These come from a high school physics and math teacher author who consulted with a large team of psychologists, social workers, and licensed mental health counselors to learn about anxiety and how it is treated.

This expertise, combined with his son's own struggles, tailor the experiences and insights that make Facing the Beast Within an exceptional read.

Middle graders and libraries catering to them who choose Facing the Beast Within for its magical realism and fantasy adventure premise will thus find plenty of fodder for group and book club discussion about the roots of anxiety and how it can be addressed, making Facing the Beast Within a top recommendation both for its entertainment value and for its educational prowess.

50 States of Mind
Ryan Bernsten
Bite-Sized Books Ltd, UK
9781739310745, $25.99 Hardcover/$15.99 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

Ask almost any American in 2023 whether the nation is divided and you'll find the one topic most agree on readily: yes, it is. But Ryan Bernsten maintains otherwise in 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy, which follows his travels through the country interviewing ordinary Americans about the state of democracy and the major issues affecting their lives.

Any politician, whether aspiring or actively in office, would do well to heed the words of 50 States of Mind, because Ryan Bernsten's journey and discoveries reflect, in a nutshell, the trends and influences that are buffeting this nation.

Does American democracy still work? Read the headlines and you'd likely say not. Read 50 States of Mind and you might think differently, because at its best, democracy is a fluid work-in-progress, and its capability for optimism is as strong as its capacity for pessimism.

Bernsten didn't expect this powerful thread of positivity to emerge from his journey. Nor did he anticipate a re-envisioning of what it means to participate in the American democratic republic in different ways.

He found rich veins of validation and discovery in the course of his travels, and readers who pursue his book will find it infused with candid self-assessments as well as new possibilities for both the author and the nation:

"As I drove south to Georgia, I knew that besides looking for a place to live, I was looking for something more. Long a disciple of Joseph Campbell, I believed that everyone who ventured outside their homes and undertook some kind of travel underwent a version of the hero's journey. I had hoped that this trip would similarly become a transformational experience that would provide me with much-needed clarity, not just about our democracy, but where I fit into it."

The book's much-needed prescription for angst and depression provides hope and a sense of purpose to modern America's struggles which is largely missing from newspaper headlines, but encouragingly present in this book. It considers the influences that polarize America, the nation's hopeful possibilities, and the pulse of a people living, breathing, and interacting to create a new American story.

The nation does stand at a crossroads, as it has so many times in the past.

Libraries and readers seeking to feel the pulse of democracy in action through the eyes, hopes, and experiences of a traveler across the modern U.S. will find much to reflect on, discuss, and take to heart in 50 States of Mind.

Ultimately, the book cements its promise with experiences that represent the American dream of new potential:

"I tried to suss out the best things we can do for democracy with our limited time, how we can take action instead of screaming into the void. This little move, this jump into the dark is my hope that perhaps with a new mindset, we can set the country on the right course again. We can be a cohesive whole and allow our better angels to win out in a community where we can actually make an impact."

Kathleen Morris
Dunraven Press
9781737986683, $25.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Golddigger: The Legendary Nellie Cashman is a historical novel about a literal golddigger of the past, Nellie Cashman, whose exploits were driven by a lust for gold in an era when gold fever and the specter of Alaskan riches had struck the nation.

Cashman's first-person story opens with the ring of revelation and the convincing reality of a character whose life in 1924 was filled with action and achievement: "I am a woman with a reputation. I'm an angel, maybe even a saint. That's what the newspapers say, and don't we always believe what those self-proclaimed savants tell us?"

As Cashman reflects on the nature of this journey at the end of her life, readers receive a vivid story that blends the history of the times with the ambitions, perspective, and driving desires of a woman who stepped out of her predictable role to make a name for herself as an extraordinary individual.

From the gold fever which sent her journeying to her unexpected task of caring for her dead sister's children, which threatens to tamp any sense of adventure and wanderlust, Golddigger not only brings these times to life, but reflects a vibrant sense of the times and the motivations that drove people to perform extraordinary feats.

Kathleen Morris is especially adept at juxtaposing personal insights and history, presenting scenes, events, and options through Nellie's eyes in a way that brings these times and places to life:

"I stayed on board and still could clearly see the town itself was three times the size I'd remembered. Many more buildings, many more houses and many more people. Such was the cost of prosperity and civilization, I supposed, but it was here I realized again that I desired less of it, and felt assured for the first time that I was going in the right direction, gold or not. You're a restless, solitary soul, Nellie Cashman, I thought. You must make careful choices on how you achieve your wishes."

The result is a compelling saga that captures the reality of the times and the options women faced in general, which Nellie struggled with in particular.

Libraries and readers seeking vivid reenactments of historical events and times will find Golddigger powered by gold fever, adventure, and a taste for success that brings the real riches of this world to life.

Jamie Sharpe & the Pirates of Barbary
Gary R. Bush
Three Ocean Press
9781988915463, $24.95 HC, Kindle $7.74

Young adults and adult readers who look for high adventure and an 1800s setting involving pirates will find Jamie Sharpe & the Pirates of Barbary a captivating story that tells of former shipmates taken captive by brutal pirates.

Readers of the prior Jamie Sharpe story, Seas of Treachery, will find that old enemies emerge to challenge the friends, albeit with new strengths and weaknesses: "Jamie walked off. Horace seems to have grown a bit, he mused. Geoff is still the same small tyrant he's always been."

From kidnappings and slavery to the politics of a world affected by seafarers, pirates, and struggles for wealth and control, Gary R. Bush brings to life the 1800s, in which sailors in the Mediterranean and around the world struggled with pirates that harbored their own nefarious agendas.

From daily life on the high seas to Jamie's increasing realization that he needs to do something drastic to influence the American Navy's projected attack on Tripoli, history comes to life in a series of adventures and encounters that pit Jamie against forces beyond his control.

As he evolves a relationship with Claire that involves redemption and money, he also cultivates a changing sense of the world and his place in it.

Libraries and readers looking for historical fiction infused with pirate action and political and social insights will find Jamie Sharpe & the Pirates of Barbary replete with a fast pace and satisfying action that does not require prior familiarity with either the prior book or the times.

Jamie's search for a way out of the dilemmas that ensnare him in issues of slavery, freedom, and financial struggles makes for an involving, action-packed adventure that educates readers almost subliminally.

Jamie Sharpe & the Pirates of Barbary is a vivid story that will resonate with the clash of swords and ideas, ideally sparking lively discussion and debate in historical fiction book club circles, as well as young adult readers.

Into The Seventeen Towers
Jareth Z. Navratil
Atmosphere Press
9781639888412, $26.99, HC, 424
9781639888351, $16.99 Paper; $8.99 Kindle

Can a flawed, ordinary, middle-aged man who holds little talent become a hero? He does in Into The Seventeen Towers, a fantasy that opens with a prologue in which eight-year-old Nate is bored by the weekly forced visitations with his father. His experience is not so much visitation as sanctioned abandonment, as his father dutifully picks him up, leaves him to his own devices for six to eight hours, then brings him back home.

Nate has learned to deal with his life by becoming a Page-Walker who can literally step through the pages of books to escape the real world, living vicariously through the adventures of its characters. But, he's never before entered an unfinished book which opens with a call for help until he stumbles upon his grandfather's unfinished manuscript.

Jareth Z. Navratil cultivates an unusually vivid "you are here" feel in this fantasy, following Nate into transformations and experiences that come to life:

"When Nathaniel was almost on top of it, the abomination swiped the air manically, but Nathaniel evaded with a midair pivot. Having penetrated its defenses, Nathaniel latched to the sides of the abomination's hideous face with his talons. The abomination shrieked in panic and shook its head wildly to dislodge Nathaniel. But Nathaniel merely dug his talons in deeper, then leaned forward and began pecking wildly at the abomination's eyes. Nathaniel tasted iron through the slits of his beak."

This gives Into The Seventeen Towers the unusual flavor of a real encounter while readers navigate the fantasy world Nate is compelled to enter and interact with.

As he experiences controversies and challenges with his girlfriend Melissa and her wayward son Robert, he steps into a milieu of princesses, magic, and powerful artifacts that hold the ability to transform not just individuals, but a kingdom.

Navratil writes with a seasoned hand that juxtaposes high adventure with equally lofty inspections of self and environment. The story is particularly compelling in its intersections of fantasy and the realities of becoming more proactive, self-aware, and effective in life.

A wry sense of humor runs through the tale as various characters encounter one other, determine whether they are friends or foes, and contribute to the story's evolutionary process:

"You really do put a lot of weight into your exclusionary tactics, don't you?" Melissa stifled a laugh with her palm. She regretted that she and Ronia had gotten off on the wrong foot... err... hoof. They seemed to share equally low tolerances for condescension coupled with a mastery over the art of sarcasm. Perhaps they would become friends yet."

The result is an unusually literary, psychologically astute fantasy that leads to thought-provoking insights about life objectives, friendships and adversity, and how the roles of flawed, ordinary individuals change when they become heroes.

Libraries and readers looking for fantasies that go beyond action and adventure to tap the inner resources and the development of ordinary individuals who did not expect to step into the roles of heroes (or destinies involving princesses and magical powers that could unravel the fabric of a kingdom) will find Into The Seventeen Towers boldly ventures into unexpected worlds. The story is evocative, engrossing, and satisfyingly complex.

Fifty Shades of Gray Matter
Teresella Gondolo, MD
Atmosphere Press
9781639887798, $50.00 HC, $15.00 Kindle, 382pp

Think "neurology" and complex scientific matters come to mind, but in Fifty Shades of Gray Matter, the medical mysteries surrounding the brain and its health and illness come to life in a way both medical students and general-interest health readers can readily understand.

Dr. Teresella Gondolo offers a neurological examination steeped in physical and psychological health considerations that intersect psychiatry and neurology, discussing how these disciplines interpret and consider brain health and disease.

The collection of medical case histories opens with the mystery of a patient who has lost the ability to recognize faces. Imagine waking up to find a familiar world, but not recognizing anybody despite their outward appearances feeling familiar. Such was the neurological presentation of patient Steve B, who could "see clearly but not distinguish a face."

This opening mystery is just one example of a case study that embraces bigger-picture reflections on how facial recognition works and how its absence threatens social structures and the ability to navigate life.

From the puzzle of a patient who gains weight the more she exercises to considerations of whether prayers are just as or more effective than chemotherapy, Dr. Gondolo presents not only incredible cases, but wider-ranging questions about what makes people human, allows them to lead their lives and interact with others, and what happens when neurological symptoms present mysteries that challenge conventional medical thinking.

Readers interested in case history-driven examples of extraordinary circumstances that test medical logic will find

Fifty Shades of Gray Matter absolutely compelling. The diverse stories are not only fine examples of adaptation and medical approaches to the brain's mysteries, but offer bigger-picture ideas that encourage debate and inspection among medical students, professionals, and the general public.

Libraries and readers interested in medical stories and mysteries that lead to revelations about science, psychology, and the intersection between personal lives and social challenges will find plenty of book club material and food for thought for psychological and medical readers in Fifty Shades of Gray Matter. It's highly recommended for its lively ability to juxtapose medical conundrums with thought-provoking considerations of just what makes us human.

Julian Blooms
Phoebe Fox
Mamafox Books
97899674459, $18.99, HC, 32pp

In Julian Blooms, Julian is a tiny peacock who tries to play games with his larger brothers, but finds his small size constantly thwarts his ambitions, leading him to regularly hide in the banyan tree.

His wise mother consoles him that he will grow into special abilities, but Julian is doubtful. Her constant message to him ("Julian, you are wonderful. You'll bloom when you're ready.") falls on deaf ears as the seasons pass. Eventually, Julian's older brothers fly away, leaving him alone with his mother.

One day, trouble comes for them. With a strong desire to save his mother from danger, Julian experiences his bloom at last - just in the nick of time.

Phoebe Fox has created a simple yet captivating picture book that adults can easily use to help address a child's insecurities about their abilities and potential for growth.

Melissa Bailey provides lovely illustrations that bring Julian's personality to life in appealing ways.

Libraries and readers seeking picture book stories that provide a message of encouragement will find Julian Blooms a delightful story of growth.

Crossing Fifty-One: Not Quite a Memoir
Debbie Russell
Koehler Books
9798888240038, $27.95 Hardcover/$19.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Crossing Fifty-One: Not Quite a Memoir is a survey of family relationships, midlife crises, and revised perceptions of self and heritage. It comes to life through a granddaughter's journey into her father and grandfather's worlds.

It's "not quite a memoir" because its focus on the mechanics of dysfunctional family relationships and their origins examines a powerful psychological force that reveals not just the processes of Debbie Russell's family, but the legacy of choices, losses, and evolving abuse that move the timeline steadily between the 1950s and modern times.

Readers who imbibe of Russell's story can anticipate an unusual and powerful contrast between "then" and "now" as events move between family members and affect their present-day perceptions.

Russell is especially revealing about the changes her probes bring to her only sibling, and how different members of her family make new choices in their relationships to one another:

"I also immediately recognize that, whatever this was, it didn't permanently impact Dad's life - at least the part of his life that included Mum, Scott, and me. Okay. Now, what am I going to do with this? Logically, the first person I need to share this with is Scott. I call him, and wonder of wonders, he answers. I reveal what I've found and send him the screenshots and, later, the full article. Again, we debrief. Neither of us recalls ever hearing about this. It's so cool! So funny! So interesting! So . . . I quickly shift to the realization that talking about this among ourselves is one thing, but bringing it up with Dad is going to be another matter altogether."

Thus, Crossing Fifty-One evolves a methodology, tone, and approach that avoids the usual self-indulgent feel of memoirs and traverses into psychological revelations and contrasts that allow Russell's readers to better consider the impact of past encounters on present-day relationship patterns.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this not-quite-a-memoir lies in Russell's ability to capture this atmosphere through letters, communiques, and insights about how these family connections shift over time and age:

"Always the jokester, my dad. Years ago, I'd arrived at my own conclusions regarding death, and none of them included any sort of afterlife. It made everything so much simpler. This is all we have; make the best of it. Finally, I was able to hang up with Mum, and as if on cue, my back pain eased up slightly. I wondered what it was like for Dad to participate in a conversation about his own funeral. Once again, I wished I could be his collaborator, just as he had so often been mine. But that role was solely within my mother's purview. As the hospice social worker had informed me almost ten months ago, this was their journey."

Crossing Fifty-One is a powerful saga about mid-life experience and changing family dynamics that not only deserves a prominent place in libraries interested in family psychology, but also in deep discussions among psychology and book clubs interested in topics of healing, recovery, and physical and mental connections between health, illness, and family relationships.

Werecats Emergent
Mark J. Engels
Fazed Angle Media
9798988190219, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Werecats Emergent is the first book in the Forest Exiles Saga series and opens "several years ago" in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Pawly finds herself ditched by her brother and friends at a restaurant the night before the big game.

Werecats Emergent is a foundation-laying urban fantasy in which Pawly and her twin brother search for answers about their unusual heritage before they go feral completely.

The werecat legacy turns out to be a family affair. An uncle tries to help them and their blended human/werecat family keeps an eye on their evolving abilities while dealing with drug cartels, scientific discoveries, and rogue werecat elements that would adversely influence the twins.

As Pawly learns to trust her instincts for trouble and finds her twin connection leads her into battles and danger, readers receive a fast-paced coming-of-age story that nicely builds the werecat world and its intersection with human special interests and affairs.

Mark J. Engels is especially adept at juxtaposing fast-paced action and confrontations with revelations about interpersonal relationships and the world. These blend military engagements and involvements with social issues that evolve through fantasy and real-world encounters.
Pawly and her twin certainly have a nose for trouble - and Engels holds equal prowess in following the twins into a world neither had anticipated nor can really handle.

The action and adventure, nicely tempered by twists readers won't see coming, holds fine family and social inspections and revelations as the werecat community's members, politics, and purposes come to light.

Engels creates a compelling fantasy saga which opens the story of an emergent ancient clan of werecats who exist alongside humans. His intersection of family relationships and outsiders who become as close as relatives creates satisfying intrigue spiced with psychological draws as Pawly and her brother risk exposure when they come into their werecat powers.

Libraries and readers looking for vivid, action-packed fantasy stories that set the stage for a world-hopping collision of cultures and cats will find Werecats Emergent an excellent draw which weaves the clashes and action of an animae landscape with the fantasy world of teens facing new possibilities in their lives. The special blend of paranormal fantasy laced with thriller components make the tale hard to predict and impossible to put down.

Tzia: The Book of Galatea
Mister Sanamon, author
Zsofia Otvos, illustrator
Hilverloo Publishing House
9798987699904, $19.99 Hardcover/$6.99 ebook

Middle grade fantasy readers ages 9-12 will appreciate Tzia: The Book of Galatea for its compelling and original story of a girl called upon to step into her destiny as a witch - especially since illustrator Zsofia Otvos has added an extra touch of visual draw with black and white drawings that bring Sanamon's characters to life.

Fourteen-year-old Galatea lives on the Greek island of Tzia, home not just to herself and her three sisters, but a legacy of family involvement spanning nearly four hundred years. One sister in each generation of this family is tasked with a quest that leads her to absorb her family's well-kept secrets and real identity.

The story is actually told from the perspective of Galatea's future daughter Theo, on her own fourteenth birthday, and so embraces the adventures of not just a single person, but a family of powerful women.

Sanamon's unusual device in moving from observer to participant creates compelling scenes as the story unfolds:

"... she heard an unexpected but welcome sound - a laugh so loud and carefree that it made her smile. She turned to the wagon and saw four baby girls, two by two, side by side. She could smell their familiar scents. All four looked up at her as if they could see her. Galatea saw her sisters. She saw herself! She was looking straight into her own eyes and felt goose bumps up and down her spine."

As the story progresses, young readers come to realize that the threats not only come from the evil ancestors, the Vicious, but others whose identities are more hidden (and thus their powers more dangerous) than anything Galatea could have imagined from her future.

The island she thought she knew well embraces wonders and delights, but holds a dangerous undercurrent she discovers during the course of her journey, which brings a powerful lion into her world much like Aslan in the classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The result is a study in wonder, adventure, and growth that will delight middle grade fantasy readers looking for something akin to C.S. Lewis's classic, but far more layered in a form of magical realism that juxtaposes elements of fantasy with reality.

Libraries and readers seeking a compelling adventure will find this first introduction to the Land of the Lion to be magically compelling.

Chasing the Daylight
Joanna Rakowski
Independently Published
9781669869405, $19.95 Hardcover/$13.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Chasing the Daylight: One Woman's Journey to Becoming a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer is a memoir about a ballerina's entry into the military. There, she becomes an intelligence officer and pursues her dream despite barriers from physical challenges, discrimination, and ghosts of her past.

Other books about women entering the military have covered some of these topics, but what makes Joanna Rakowski's story especially compelling is its focus not just on rigorous army training and life, but how trust and confidence develops between officers and soldiers as training develops.

As she hones the leadership skills necessary to not just survive, but command and excel, women who are also considering military service will find Rakowski's experiences to be candid, thought-provoking, and revealing. It captures the realities of women in the military who follow an upward-bound career momentum in ways other women in military service don't strive to accomplish.

Perhaps this memoir's strength is because these experiences come couched in an analysis of military culture that is powered by lessons Rakowski learns along the way: "You know, you are only as good as the people around you. Surround yourself with good people. Don't take anything for granted." As she receives, absorbs, and reflects good advice and difficult experiences, Rakowski evolves and grows and, thanks to her military service, in turn creates a memoir replete with changes, transformations, and realizations about life within and outside the military.

Chasing the Daylight is eye-opening and captivating. Libraries and readers interested in accounts of women in service who hold officer positions and training that leads them to be all they can be both within the army and in civilian life will find it involving and hard to put down:

"Sometimes, you revisit a familiar place yet find no comfort. Like with the river, you come back to the same spot cherished all those years ago, but the water is now replaced by a fresh stream. A patch of grass turned into a pile of sand. The small tree by the edge grew exponentially. The big rock by the bend is now polished by the patient water. A little bridge had collapsed and appears abandoned in the background. That's how I felt in Fort Huachuca. I had to relearn how to love it, re-engage in it, and to call it home again."

Nicholas Eternal
Kim Conrey
Soul Source Press
9781960562005, Print $14.99 ebook $4.99

Nicholas Eternal, the first in The Wayward Saviors series, reflects one man's choice in lifestyle and purpose as he enjoys eternal life on Earth and hones his special gift: locating missing children. When homeless shelter manager Noory Abramson stumbles on Nick grieving over a young girl's demise in an Atlanta alley, she at first suspects him of foul play and evil. In fact, Noory may just have fallen into the perfect man for the job of locating a missing fifteen-year-old.

Nick's intrinsic willingness to help draws him into danger, however, when he discovers that Noory may not be all she seems. Their search for answers and the missing Grace proves to be an equally powerful quest for Nick's own soul and future as an immortal.

Kim Conrey crafts a thought-provoking draw in a novel that operates as a thriller, a paranormal exploration, and a spiritual and philosophical quest. It reveals additional layers of intrigue as Nick and Noory come closer to shocking revelations about not just the missing, but those who believe themselves to be on a mission.

The technology of solving crimes through DNA winds nicely into the paranormal realities Nick has experienced both from his centuries of life and the special abilities he is either blessed or cursed with.

Conrey crafts a mystery that overlays deeper inspections of heart and soul. This technique draws readers on many levels as they follow Nick into branches of thought and reactions he's never before experienced in all his time of recognizing his abilities and moving through human affairs.

Romance would seem impossible in this scenario, especially given the agenda of an entity willing to promise utopia in exchange for free will. These issues will especially attract book club readers looking for stories that promise lively debates and discussions about good, evil, love, and underlying forces affecting choice.

Nick is a likeable character in whom wisdom comes not just from age and experience, but new relationships and revised perceptions of the world he thought he knew well. His resistance of yet another lure to find the missing involves him in lives he can't walk away from, but his higher purpose is apparently much loftier.

Libraries and readers drawn to paranormal mysteries that unfold deeper layers of philosophical and life inspection will welcome the intrigue, relationship developments, and bigger-picture questions Nicholas Eternal evolves. It crafts satisfying twists and turns, possibilities readers might not see coming, and confrontations that test the boundaries of good and evil intentions. The result is a story that is fresh, original, and thoroughly compelling in the process of transcending definitions of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, or anything in-between.

Deception Pass
Norm Harris
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509241873, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Deception Pass, the third book in the Spider Green Mystery Thriller series, represents a study in opposites as navy lawyer Faydra "Spider" Green finds herself on a ship headed for a particular kind of hell. It seems unlikely that a man can return from the dead, much less that time itself can be altered, but Roman Justine is back. And he's thirsty for revenge.

Norm Harris opens his thrillers in a similar fashion, by introducing seemingly disparate elements that, later on, prove to create an important backdrop of intrigue that readers will return to, to discover the roots of the well-developed tension that embraces Faydra's efforts.

In Deception Pass, this involves a timeline of three months prior, the setting of a Beijing Prison, and an odd form of escape which brings a prisoner to Moscow, his "home away from home." The events may open the story, but they evolve in curious and surprising ways as, fifteen days later, Fay is once again confronting Death's clever hand. He's a figure she knows only far too well through too much life experience:

"Although she had experienced Death before, including three of her own near-death experiences, Navy Judge Advocate Commander Faydra Green had not gotten used to his genius. Then again, Death was not a person. Although he was, without a doubt, a man."

He's also a major player in events that unfold over her investigation of the U.S.S. Deception Pass, a spy ship that seems able to appear and disappear at will. Fay's vision has her on board the bridge of a Russian ship which encountered Deception Pass.

She's been sidelined in her investigation - but is it to keep her out of harm's way, or due to the remote viewing potential of potent dreams and abilities she has yet to acknowledge?

A James Bond-like investigator who deftly fields a series of extraordinary events that test her perception of reality, time and space evolves in a thriller that goes the extra mile to place Fay's special interests under the microscope of impossible situations and investigations.

Harris excels in creating a proactive female character that has many uncommon abilities, yet is not above examining her own vulnerability and illusions as she absorbs seemingly impossible events and tests their reality and outcomes.

From JAG conference rooms and military inspections to Fay's own unfolding confrontation with a dangerous adversary who tests her own abilities as well as national security measures, Harris moves his character and readers through subplots steeped in fast-paced action tempered by psychological and parapsychological inspections.

Deception Pass maintains the thriller elements of solid tension and fast pace, but continually tests and expands the powers of its main protagonist and the perceptions of those around her.

Miracles happen. The fact that Fay has pulled off many fetes of magic and recovery, both for herself and those who become caught up in Moscow's dangerous bonds, lends to a compelling story filled with strong characters who evolve at different paces and on disparate levels.
Whether Deception Pass is chosen as a stand-alone thriller or part of the series, libraries and readers will find this book solid in its ability to maintain the high-octane action of a thriller and the continuity of its character's development in previous books, while crafting an all-new story that departs from typical paths of resolution in many satisfying ways.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Ninth Month
James Patterson and Richard Dilallo
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538753149, $17.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

"The Ninth Month" is another spellbinding suspense work that holds interest to the very end. Two women who are friends are pregnant at the same time. One is unmarried who has lead an unhealthy life of booze not really caring for herself while the other is a married nurse who takes the other under her wing to give support. Someone is also watching one of them for whatever reason. The story moves along with twists and turns that add to the enjoyment to try and figure where it is going. "The Ninth Month" is roller coaster ride that is total captivating magic all the way through.

City of Dreams
Don Winslow
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
9780062851239, $16.99 HC / $15.99 Kindle

"City of Dreams' sounded like a very exciting read. For me shortly into it I was overwhelmed by all the similar character names where I found I was constantly going back to keep them in order. It also felt like I had come into the middle of a movie with no way to understand it. The author does not do a good job to enlighten the reader the events that have led up to this second novel in a proposed series of three. After stumbling along through so much of "City of Dreams" I can only say this on one I do not recommend.

Time Troopers
Edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982192792, $9.99 pbk / No Kindle

Rarely do I ever read a title a second time so soon after the first occasion. "Time Troopers" is an exception because I had forgotten how good the stories are. Unlike most of the collections of today most are by older more well-known authors that include Robert A Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Fritz Leiber, A.E Vogt and Poul Anderson. Hank Davis in his introduction discusses time travel tales throughout the ages to entice readers to enter the many realms of this aspect of science fiction. Time travel, a theme in science fiction, movies and TV remains popular as evidenced in Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and "Time Troopers" Some may find the writing dated but even so the works are still relevant for their underlying themes that resonate with readers Hank Davis once again has impeccable taste for picking the proper tales to highlight in "Time Troopers"

The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals
Mitzi Szereto
c/o Mango Publishing
9781684811243, $18.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

The titles I have read, have been geared to true crime murders throughout the world. "The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals" is different because the cases are all kinds of situations, often overlooked or not very well known. Once again editor Mitzi Szereto has masterfully chosen true crime writers from all over the globe, to tell these stories of so many different types of criminals. From the first of a famous TV star in several countries to the last of a daring man of the flying trapeze who all committed a crime. The pieces are for anyone who loves genre, true crime. "The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals" adds new dimensions to the popular series.

Kaffe Fassett's Timeless Themes: 23 New Quilts Inspired by Classic Patterns
Kaffe Fassett with Liza Prior Lucy
Photographs by Debbie Patterson
9781419761409, $40.00 HC / $16.99 Kindle

You do not have to be a quilter to enjoy, "Kaffe Fassett's Timeless Themes: 23 New Quilts Inspired by Classic Patterns" Take your time going through this wonderful coffee table book, that is a smorgasbord of total enjoyment through the process of how these beautiful works of art came to be.

Harry Belafonte A Little Golden Book Biography
Lavaille Lavette, author
Anastasia Magloire Williams, illustrator
A Golden Book
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593583568101, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

Little Golden Books have long been, one of the first reading materials for young readers, to learn about the world we live in. So many titles through the years, of many non-fiction facets. Now around the time of his death "Harry Belafonte" celebrates the long life of the well-known entertainer. For some of us we know the name and a song or two of his, but very little else. Now, Author Lavaille Lavette reveals so much about Belafonte that so many never knew about him. "Harry Belafonte" is filled with so much information for all ages to learn how many sides of the man there were.

Julie Andrews A Little Golden Book Biography
Christy Webster, author
Sue Cornelison, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593564196, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

There is a lot to be learned from "Julie Andrews A Little Golden Book" for kids to know about one of the most famous ladies of stage and screen. The author tells where she came from and so many of the film and live performances Andrews has done in her long career as an entertainer. "Julie Andrews" is a wonderful addition to the Little Golden Books series.

A Garden In My Hands
Meera Sriram, author
Sandhya Prabhat, illustrator
Alfred A Knopf
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593427101, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

Normally I understand children's titles but I have to admit I am at a loss of what "A Garden in my Hands" is about other than possibly a young girl celebrates with her family the art of a having a green thumb and the ability to grow things we find in plants we nurture. I am sure there are several other symbolic messages in "A Garden in my Hands" that readers will understand.

Repeat After Me: Big Things to Say Every Day
Jazmyn Simon and Dule Hill, authors
Shamar Knight-Justice, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593426975, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

We all at one time or another think about who we are and where we are going in life. "Repeat After Me" is filled with ideas for everyone no matter their age to stay focused. There are lots of constructive to always maintain a positive self. "Repeat After Me" though appears simplistic is much more with so many deeper meanings that are sure to help everyone matin a better life.

The artist
Ed Vere
Doubleday Books For Kids
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780525580876, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"The artist" through prose and artwork, details what defines a person classified as an artist. A female dinosaur searches the world to know what it is to be an artist as she goes on a journey to be exposed to new and wonderful things on her quest. "The artist" is a magical title for so many of us to enjoy the talents of Ed Vere in this lavish children's title.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

How Other Children Learn
Cornelius N. Grove
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
9781475862898, $90.00, HC, 278pp

Synopsis: To gain comparative insights into middle-class Americans' child-related values and practices, with the publication of "How Other Children Learn: What Five Traditional Societies Tell Us about Parenting and Children's Learning", academician Cornelius N. Grove examines children's learning and parents' parenting in five traditional societies. Such societies are those have not been affected by "modern" (urban, industrial) values and ways of life. They are found in small villages and camps where people engage daily with their natural surroundings and have little or no experience of formal classroom instruction.

The five societies are the Aka hunter-gatherers of Africa, the Quechua of highland Peru, the Navajo of the U.S. Southwest, the village Arabs of the Levant, and the Hindu villagers of India. Each society has its own chapter, which overviews that society's background and context, then probes adults' mindsets and strategies regarding children's learning and socialization for adulthood.

"How Other Children Learn" concludes with two summary chapters that draw broadly on anthropologists' findings about many traditional societies and offer examples from the five societies discussed earlier. The first reveals why children in traditional societies willingly carry out family responsibilities and suggests how American parents can attain similar outcomes. The second contrasts our middle-class patterns of child-rearing with traditional societies' ways of enabling children to learn and grow into contributing family and community members.

Critique: A seminal study that will be of special value to readers with an interest in the anthropology of education in five traditional societies, "How Other Children Learn: What Five Traditional Societies Tell Us about Parenting and Children's Learning" is informatively enhanced with the inclusion of two Appendices, thirty-two pages of Notes, and a six page Bibliography.
An extraordinary work of original scholarship and unreservedly recommended for professional, college, and university library Educational Psychology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, educators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How Other Children Learn" is also available in a paperback edition (9781475871180, $37.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $35.00).

Editorial Note: Cornelius N. Grove ( is a former classroom teacher, he earned an Ed.D. at Columbia University, then taught Cross-Cultural Problems in Classroom Communication to graduate students there. A charter member of the International Academy of Intercultural Research, he is the author of entries on pedagogy across cultures in two encyclopedias as well as two recent books that reveal the cultural values that equip East Asian students to consistently outperform American students on PISA and other international comparative tests.

Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships
Jase Lindgren, author
Dedeker Winston, author
Emily Sotelo Matlack, author
Cleis Press
9781627783200, $18.95, PB, 324pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships", co-authors Dedeker Winston, Emily Sotelo Matlack, and Jase Lindgren draw upon their advice show about polyamory and other non-traditional relationships as they received and responded to dozens of questions from listeners about all sorts of relationship quandaries and communication stalemates.

They quickly found out that existing relationship tools weren't up to the task of addressing multiamory issues, and that conventional wisdom is sorely lacking for modern relationships. Many of the primary resources for relationship advice are frustratingly religious, unapproachable and academic, or alienating to anyone who falls outside the mainstream of heterosexual monogamy.

Over the course of many years and hundreds of episodes, these three co-authors have spent hours nerding out over research, reading up on evidence-based relationship advice, and listening to the personal struggles of hundreds of couples and individuals. They have re-tooled commonplace communication frameworks to fit modern-day relationships, and when there was no existing tool that fit, they put on their inventor hats and developed their own.

This is what led to the creation of "Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships", a curated collection of the most popular communication tools, advice, and wisdom from the Multiamory podcast that have helped thousands of listeners improve their communication and create healthy relationships.

"Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships" covers: Gettin what you need out of conversations with your partner with the Triforce of Communication; Creating Microscripts that will interrupt old patterns, diffuse tension, and form better communication habits; Processing and reconnecting after an argument with Repair SHOP; Determining your unique processing style, and how it may be clashing with your partner's; Setting up a regular RADAR check-in to support the long-term health of all of your relationships -- and more!

Critique: A compendium of practical, 'real-world' advice, tips and techniques for men and women involved in a consenting and intimate multi-partner adult relationship, "Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships" will prove to be an impressive resources of invaluable support, insights, problem solving, and life-enhancing information. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: Jase, Emily, and Dedeker created the Multiamory Podcast in 2014 to raise awareness, provide approachable resources, and combat the stigma faced by people in non-traditional relationships. Today, with hundreds of episodes, millions of downloads around the world, and a rapidly growing community, they are dedicated to offering practical advice and communication tools, grounded in the latest relationship research, guest experts, and years of professional experience. Multiamory has been featured in numerous publications, including NPR, Vice, Huffington Post, Oprah Daily, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. Their podcast has a website at:

The Magic of Cats
Andrew Anderson, author
Hannah Willow, illustrator
Moon Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803410661, $14.95, PB, 120pp

Synopsis: Over the centuries, the relationship between cats and humans has been one of profound change, of both darkness and light. In Ancient Egypt, we worshiped them as the physical embodiment of a goddess. In Medieval Europe, we tortured and punished them for being the familiars of witches. Now in the twenty-first century, we are obsessed with filming and posting their antics on social media.

And while we may think of them as our pets, that doesn't mean that we are in charge. Far from it. Cats know exactly how to get their humans to follow their orders! They have been an ongoing source of intrigue and mystery throughout human history. They are the stuff of myth and legend, as well as being our best friends. They sit among the stars and curl up on our laps. There is nothing so wonderful as the magic of cats.

Critique: A fun, informative, and thought-provoking read from first page to last, "The Magic of Cats" by Andrew Anderson is an inherently fascinating history and one that will be of particular interest to readers that have a feline companion of their own! "The Magic of Cats" is a highly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections and the history of feline/human relationships down through the ages.

Editorial Note: After trying a number of spiritualities, Andrew Anderson discovered Druidry in 2013. He is currently studying the Ovate grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Andrew is a freelance English and Creative Writing teacher, and is training to be a celebrant. His passion lies in working with the spirit of place, and he spends a lot of time in the nearby Cotswolds. Andrew lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.

The Eloquence of Silence
Thomas Moore
New World Library
9781608688661, $18.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: With compassion and insight, "The Eloquence of Silence: Surprising Wisdom in Tales of Emptiness" by Thomas Moore offers a compelling case for an easier, lighter way of moving through life by experiencing the peace, calm, and openness of emptiness.

Through ancient and modern stories, Moore gently shows that our constant multitasking may not be getting us anywhere, and that emptiness is not a lack but an invitation that can be our greatest teacher. A daily awareness and appreciation of the quiet spaciousness in our world and our own lives is not a retreat from reality but a rich and full welcome to all that is most meaningful and real.

Critique: Of special interest and appeal for readers on the subject of personal spiritual transformation and self-help/self-improvement, "The Eloquence of Silence: Surprising Wisdom in Tales of Emptiness" is an inspiring, thought-provoking, and highly recommended reading for anyone seeking personal enlightenment and surcease from the pressures of our ordinary lives. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "The Eloquence of Silence" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Thomas Moore ( is the author of "Care of the Soul" and thirty other books. His work brings together spirituality, mythology, depth psychology, and the arts, emphasizing imagination and soul.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Polar Cousins: Comparing Antarctic and Arctic Geostrategic Futures
Christian Leuprecht, editor
Douglas Causey, editor
University of Calgary Press
9781773854373, $64.99, HC, 220pp

Synopsis: Geopolitics and climate change now have immediate consequences for national and international security interests across the Arctic and Antarctic. The world's polar regions are contested and strategically central to geopolitical rivalry. At the same time, rapid political, social, and environmental change presents unprecedented challenges for governance, environmental protection, and maritime operations in the regions.

With chapters that raise awareness, address challenges, and inform policy options, "Polar Cousins: Comparing Antarctic and Arctic Geostrategic Futures" (co-edited by academicians Christian Leuprecht and Doublas Causey) reviews the state of strategic thinking and options on Antarctica and the Southern Oceans in light of experience in the circumpolar North. Prioritizing strategic issues, it provides an essential discussion of geostrategic thinking, strategic policy, and strategy development.

Featuring contributions from international defence experts, scientists, academics, policymakers, and decisionmakers, "Polar Cousins" offers key insights into the challenges unique to the polar regions.

Critique: The latest addition to the University of Calgary Press 'Beyond Boundaries: Canadian Defence and Strategic Studies' series and of special and particular value to readers with an interest in contemporary national and international security strategies, issues and concerns, "Polar Cousins: Comparing Antarctic and Arctic Geostrategic Futures" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum Canadian/North American Defense studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Polar Cousins: Comparing Antarctic and Arctic Geostrategic Futures" is also available in a paperback edition (9781773853888, $39.99).

Editorial Note #1: Christian Leuprecht ( is Class of 1965 Professor in Leadership at the Royal Military College of Canada, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Military Journal, director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations in the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University, and adjunct research professor at the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security.

Editorial Note #2: Douglas Causey ( is professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage, faculty affiliate of the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center Arctic Initiative, and global fellow of the Wilson Center's Polar Institute. An ecologist and evolutionary biologist by training, he has authored over two hundred publications on the environmental correlates of Arctic climate change, and he and his students are actively conducting research in Alaska, Bering Sea, and Northwestern Greenland. He has published extensively on policy issues related to the Arctic environment, Arctic environmental security, and bioterrorism and public health.

Traces of the Animal Past
Jennifer Bonnell, editor
Sean Kheraj, editor
University of Calgary Press
9781773853833, $74.99, HC, 284pp

Synopsis: Understanding the relationships between humans and animals is essential to a full understanding of both our present and our shared past. Across the humanities and social sciences, researchers have embraced the 'animal turn', which is a multispecies approach to scholarship, with historians at the forefront of new research in human-animal studies that blends traditional research methods with interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks that decenter humans in historical narratives. These exciting approaches come with core methodological challenges for scholars seeking to better understand the past from non-anthropocentric perspectives.

Whether in a large public archive, a small private collection, or the oral histories of living memories, stories of animals are mediated by the humans who have inscribed the records and organized archival collections. In oral histories, the place of animals in the past are further refracted by the frailty of human memory and recollection. Only traces remain for researchers to read and interpret.

With the publication of "Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History", co-editors Jennifer Bonnell and Sean Kheraj collaborate in bringing together seventeen original essays by a leading group of international scholars, "Traces of the Animal Past" also showcases the innovative methods historians use to unearth and explain how animals fit into our collective histories. Situating the historian within the narrative, bringing transparency to methodological processes, and reflecting on the processes and procedures of current research, this book presents new approaches and new directions for a maturing field of historical inquiry.

Critique: An impressively informative, exceptionally well organized, and thought-provoking compendium of unique, seminal, and informative essays drawn from academia, "Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an informative Introduction (Traces of the Animal Past), an Epilogue (Combinations and Conjunction), a six page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a nine page Index. A ground breaking introduction, "Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Traces of the Animal Past" is also available in a paperback edition (9781773853840, $41.70) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.51).

Editorial Note #1: Jennifer Bonnell ( is an associate professor of History at York University and the author of Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto's Don River Valley, which won the Canadian Historical Association's Clio prize and Heritage Toronto's best book award. Her new book project explores the relationships between beekeeping, agricultural modernization, and environmental change in the Great Lakes Region. For more on her work, visit

Editorial Note #2: Sean Kheraj ( is an associate professor of Canadian and environmental history at York University. He is the author of Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History. He is also the director of the Network in Canadian History and Environment and producer of Nature's Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast.

Editorial Note #3: The contributors include: Jennifer Bonnell, Colleen Campbell, Jason Colby, George Colpitts, J. Keri Cronin, Joanna Dean, Jody Hodgins, Dolly J°rgensen, Sean Kheraj, Tina Loo, Lindsay Stallones Marshall, Catherine McNeur, Susan Nance, Harriet Ritvo, Andrew Robichaud, Nigel Rothfels, Sandra Swart, Emily Wakild, and Jay Young

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life and Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott
Marsha Gordon
University of California Press
9780520391543, $29.95, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: Credited with popularizing the label "ex-wife" in 1929, Ursula Parrott (March 26, 1899 - September 1957) wrote provocatively about divorcees, career women, single mothers, work-life balance, and a host of new challenges facing modern women. Her best sellers, Hollywood film deals, marriages and divorces, and run-ins with the law made her a household name.

Part biography, part cultural history, with the publication of "Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life and Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott", biographer Marsha Gordon establishes Parrott's rightful place in twentieth-century American culture, uncovering her neglected work and keen insights into American women's lives during a period of immense social change.

Although she was frequently dismissed as a "woman's writer," reading Parrott's writing today makes it clear that she was a trenchant philosopher of modernity -- her work was prescient, anticipating issues not widely raised until decades after her decline into obscurity.

Critique: With an elegant wit and a genuine flair for meticulous and documented research, "Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life and Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott" by Marsha Gordon tells a timely and inherently interesting story about the life of a woman on the front lines of an early 19th Century gender and culture war that is continues to be relevant today. Informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of forty-one illustrations, a two-page Chronology, a six page listing of Published Writings by Ursula Parrott, a two page Filmography, a ten page Bibliography, and a seventeen page Index, Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Becoming the Ex-Wife" will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in women's literary and cinematic history/criticism. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.49), "Becoming the Ex-Wife" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library 20thy Century American Biography & Social Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Marsha Gordon ( is Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, a former Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar award. She is the author of numerous books and articles and co-director of several short documentaries.

Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living
Kira M. Markoff, LCSW-C
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803412221, $17.95, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living" by Kira Markoff be prepared to see mindfulness in a whole new way. To see it as a set of relevant practices for emotional stability, concentration, insight, relaxation, self-control, and mental fortitude. Mindfulness was never intended to be shrouded in mystery.

Current psychological research shows that just 8 weeks of daily mindful meditation practices significantly lowers the activity in the fear (a.k.a. stress) center of the brain. "Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living" is a myth-busting, philosophy-integrating, instructional handbook specifically designed to lead you through 8 weeks of practices for creating a meaningful, empowered, kind, and relaxed life.

To prove there's nothing mystical or magical about mindfulness, these practices integrate Buddhist, yoga, and Christian philosophy, mental health treatment, modern psychology, and so much more. "Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living will take you through the biology of stress, changing thought patterns, managing emotions, and having a better relationship with yourself and others.

There's nothing magical about it. It just makes sense.

Critique: Fully living up to its subtitle 'A Practical Guide for Living', Kita Markoff's "Mindfulness and Me" is a truly life enhancing, life changing, life celebrating 'how to' study that will have a particular and very special appeal to readers with an interest in meditation as a tool for building a healthy self-esteem and improving emotional mental health in an inevitably stressful world. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living" is inspired and inspiring -- and an ideal contribution to personal, professional, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Meditation Studies collections. It should be noted that "Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Kira Markoff, LCSW-C is a licensed social worker and psychology PhD student. She has practiced yoga and meditation since 2018 while working as a mental health therapist. (

Missed Conceptions: How We Make Sense of Infertility
Karen Stollznow
Broadleaf Books
9781506485263, $26.99, HC, 243pp

Synopsis: Especially for women, Infertility is one of the most painful and painfully common of human experiences. One in six couples will experience fertility challenges when they attempt to get pregnant, and while more and more people have spoken openly about infertility in recent years, the experience can still be incredibly isolating.

But none of us is alone in our struggles. In fact, infertility is a universal part of the human experience that is mentioned in the earliest human writings. Across cultures and throughout time, the experiences of people who have faced fertility problems are widely discussed in early manuscripts, medical treatises, diaries, novels, poetry, plays, and song.

After her own decade-long struggle to conceive, linguist and historian, with the publication of "Missed Conceptions: How We Make Sense of Infertility" Karen Stollznow journeys through history from ancient civilizations and religions, to early-modern folklore, to current-day popular culture and modern medical practice. All in order to make sense of what we mean by infertility and what infertility means for us.

In "Missed Conceptions", she shines a light on attitudes and beliefs about infertility, tests urban legends and old wives' tales, explores folk medicine and alternative therapies, and delves into modern science, separating fact from fiction along the way.

Blending personal narrative, historical research, and pop culture, in the pages of "Missed Conceptions" Stollznow gives voice to a reality that has long been spoken about in hushed tones. For anyone who is trying (and failing) to conceive, who will do just about anything to achieve what has been mistakenly called "the most natural thing in the world", "Missed Conceptions" is a welcome and hopeful companion.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Missed Conceptions: How We Make Sense of Infertility" features an informative Introduction and Conclusion, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, and twenty-two pages of Notes. Of particular value for readers with an interest in human fertility/infertility and reproductive medicine, and a timely contribution to our currently on-going national debate over Pro-Choice/Anti-Abortion issues, "Missed Conceptions: How We Make Sense of Infertility" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Conception/Pregnancy/Fertility collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Missed Conceptions: How We Make Sense of Infertility" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Karen Stollznow is the author of " Offensive: Prejudice in Language Past and Present"; "God Bless America"; and "Language Myths, Mysteries, and Magic:. She has written for Psychology Today, Scientific American Mind, and The Conversation She is currently a researcher with the Griffith Center for Social and Cultural Research and a host of Monster Talk. ( is the author of On the)

A Guide to Common Plants of Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Elizabeth A. Powell, et al.
University of Nevada Press
9781647790981, $21.95, PB, 124pp

Synopsis: "A Guide to Common Plants of Lake Mead National Recreation Area" by the team of Elizabeth A. Powell, Frederick H. Landau, and Lawrence R. Walker is the definitive and illustrated reference guide for weekend explorers and botanists alike who venture into LMNRA ready to discover the many wonders of the local flora.

"A Guide to Common Plants of Lake Mead National Recreation Area" highlight 183 plants that hikers are most likely to encounter along popular trails, washes, and surrounding hot springs, helping the area's millions of annual visitors identify and enjoy these common plants. This guide includes photos and descriptions of each plant, along with a map of LMNRA.

"A Guide to Common Plants of Lake Mead National Recreation Area" also provide a primer on plant ecology, including a guide to plant structures, desert adaptations and life forms, plant-to-plant interactions, and plant-animal interactions. Plants are grouped by life forms, such as tree, shrub, cactus, or grass, and by flower color within the wildflower section. The guide will encourage readers to pause and look carefully at each plant they encounter, giving them an enriched experience during their exploration.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography of each plant along with its Latin and popular name and a one paragraph summary description, "A Guide to Common Plants of Lake Mead National Recreation Area" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Botany, Ecology, Desert Ecosystems, and Flower Nomenclature collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Elizabeth A. Powell has an MS in biology and a PhD in botany. She has published a number of scientific papers on pollination ecology and conservation biology. As the botanist for LMNRA (1996 - 2005), she managed rare and invasive plants. She has a web page at

Editorial Note #2: Frederick H. Landau ( was a research associate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he conducted research on plant ecology and physiology and also taught courses in plant taxonomy, economic botany, and field ecology. He has resided in the Mojave Desert since 1977.

Editorial Note #3: Lawrence R. Walker ( has an MS in botany and a PhD in plant ecology. He has published more than 140 scientific papers and eleven books, including A Natural History of the Mojave Desert with Frederick H. Landau. He taught ecology, conservation biology, and scientific writing for thirty years.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Grace and Golf: The Saving of One Man's Soul
Thomas Buckley
AG Golf Press
9798986545905, $13.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: "Grace and Golf: The Saving of One Man's Soul" by Thomas Buckley is the deeply personal story of a devout man who, as a result of a painful and troublesome youth, turned to drugs and alcohol. Through several moments of grace where God intervened in his life, he was able to realize his dreams and make the events that unfold in the story even possible.

All golfers make bogies, double bogies and even an occasional triple bogey. We inevitably experience these setbacks not only on the golf course, but in life. While written with golfers in mind as will be evident in the detail in which the golf is described, these stories are meant to inspire anyone who faces the inevitable obstacles that life throws in your path.

As an author, Buckley hopes that his readers will view "Grace and Golf" as a testimony that you can overcome any circumstance and live your dreams, for nothing shall be impossible with God.

Critique: Especially recommended for readers throughout the Christian community, "Grace and Golf: The Saving of One Man's Soul" is an extraordinary and inspiring memoir that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, church, college, and university library Contemporary Christian Biography/Memoir collections. It is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) for as anyone who has ever tried to play the game of golf or recover from the game of life!

Editorial Note: Thomas Buckley has been in the hospitality industry for 35 years as a hotel executive and consultant. He was a collegiate golfer and is a graduate of Mercyhurst University's Hotel and Restaurant Management program. He brings his contagious enthusiasm and passion for living, his deep love of golf, as well as his devout faith to all areas of his life to help inspire others. Having lived all over the country as well his many trips to Bosnia has provided him keen insight into the human condition in several cultures. To learn more or contact Thomas, visit him at

The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters
J. W. Ocker
Quirk Books
9781683693222, $19.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters", J. W. Ocker welcome his readers to the United States of Cryptids, where mysterious monsters lurk in the dark forests, deep lakes, and sticky swamps of all fifty states.

From the infamous Jersey Devil to the obscure Snallygaster, travel writer and chronicler of the strange J. W. Ocker uncovers the bizarre stories of these creatures and investigates the ways in which communities embrace and celebrate their local cryptids.

Readers will learn about: Batsquatch of Washington (a winged bigfoot that is said to have emerged from the eruption of Mount Saint Helens); Nain Rouge of Michigan (a fierce red goblin that has been spotted before every major city disaster in Detroit); Flatwoods Monster of West Virginia (a robotic extraterrestrial that crash-landed in rural Appalachia); Lizard Man of South Carolina (a reptilian mutant that attacked a teenager in the summer of 1988); Glocester Ghoul of Rhode Island (a fire-breathing dragon that guards a hoard of pirate treasure) -- and so many more!

Whether you believe in bigfoot or not, "The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters" is a fully illustrated compendium that offers a fun, frightening, fascinating tour through American folklore and history, exploring the stories we tell about monsters and what those stories say about us.

Critique: Essential reading for anyone with an interest in unexplained mysteries, folklore, mythology, and the supernatural, "The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters" is an inherently fascinating, impressively informative, truly exceptional, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Cryptid collections. It should be noted for personal study lists that "The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212028929, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Jason W. Ocker ( is an Edgar Award-winning travel writer, novelist, and blogger. His previous books include Poe-Land, A Season with the Witch, and Cursed Objects. He is also the creator of the blog and podcast OTIS: Odd Things I've Seen (, where he chronicles his visits to oddities around the world.

The Media Swirl: Politics, Audiovisuality, and Aesthetics
Carol Vernallis
Duke University Press
9781478016427, $114.95, HC, 464pp

Synopsis: From fan-generated content on TikTok to music videos, the contemporary media landscape is becoming ever more vast, spectacular, and intense.

With the publication of "The Media Swirl: Politics, Audiovisuality, and Aesthetics", academician and media specialist Carol Vernallis examines short-form audiovisual media (Beyonce's Lemonade, brief sequences from Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, TikTok challenges, YouTube mashups, commercials, and many other examples) and offers ways of understanding digital media.

"The Media Swirl" analyzes music videos by Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and others to outline how sound and image enhance each other and shape a viewer's mood. Responding to today's political-media landscape through discussions of Fox News and Presidential inaugurations, "The Media Swirl" shows how a media literacy that exceeds newscasts and campaign advertising is central to engaging with the democratic commons. Forays into industry studies, neuroscience, and ethics also inform Carol Vernallis' readings. By creating our own content and knowing what corporations, the wealthy, and the government do through media, Vernallis contends, we can create a more just world.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an informative Introduction and Afterword, thirty pages of Notes, 114 Illustrations, a twenty-six page Bibliography, and a sixteen page Index, "The Media Swirl: Politics, Audiovisuality, and Aesthetics" is a seminal work of original research and meticulous scholarship. Of special interest to readers with respect to TV History/Criticism, Popular Music, and Contemporary Media Culture/Practices, "The Media Swirl: Politics, Audiovisuality, and Aesthetics" is especially and unreservedly recommended for professional, community, college, and university library Media Communication collections and supplemental curriculum Media Studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of media students, academia, media practitioners/regulators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Media Swirl: Politics, Audiovisuality, and Aesthetics" is also available in a paperback edition (9781478019060, $31.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.25).

Editorial Note: Carol Vernallis ( is an Affiliated Researcher at Stanford University, author of Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema and Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context, and coeditor of, most recently, Cybermedia: Explorations in Science, Sound, and Vision.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Waiting to Inhale: Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice
Akwasi Owusu-Bemph, author
Tahira Rehmattullah, author
The MIT Press
9780262047685, $22.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: From the start, the War on Drugs targeted Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans already disadvantaged by a system stacked against them. Even now, as white Americans who largely escaped such targeted anti-cannabis enforcement and began to support the legalization movement resulting in a booming cannabis industry, their less fortunate non-white peers continue to suffer the consequences of the systemic racism in policing and failed drug policy that fueled the original crisis.

With the publications of "Waiting to Inhale: Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice", co-authors Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah issue a powerful call for a racial reckoning and provide a roadmap to redress this deep and abiding injustice.

"Waiting to Inhale" illuminates the stories of those on the front lines of the War on Drugs -- the individuals and communities disproportionately harmed, sometimes seemingly beyond repair; the official and social forces ranged against them; and the victims, legal and political activists, and cannabis entrepreneurs who are fighting back. As attitudes toward cannabis are shifting, now is the opportune time, Owusu-Bempah and Rehmatullah submit, to expunge cannabis convictions and make a place in the burgeoning legal cannabis market for Black and other underrepresented groups who have borne the brunt of harsh cannabis laws.

A powerful indictment of one of the worst social and political failures in the nation's history since the national attempt at the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, "Waiting to Inhale offers an equally powerful vision of the possibility of redemption. Communities can be rebuilt, and racist policies must be overturned in order to give way to a new era of justice.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of 14 pages of Notes and an 8 page Index, "Waiting to Inhale: Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice" is an impressively well researched, documented, written, organized, and ground-breaking study that is a welcome and seminal contribution to our on-going national discussion on the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99), "Waiting to Inhale" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Governmental/Social Issues collections in general, and supplemental curriculum Substance Abuse Recovery studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah ( is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, an Affiliate Scientist at Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Director of Research for the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty.

Editorial Note #2: A partner at Highlands Venture Partners, Cofounder and CEO of Commons, and member of the board of directors for Akerna Corp. and the Last Prisoner Project, Tahira Rehmatullah ( is often referred to in the trade press as "the most powerful woman in cannabis."

A Laughable Empire: The US Imagines the Pacific World, 1840-1890
Todd Nathan Thompson
Penn State University Press
9780271095042, $104.95, HC, 244pp

Synopsis: In 19th Century America, jokes, comic anecdotes, and bons mots about the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders tried to make the faraway and unfamiliar either understandable or completely incomprehensible (i.e., "other") to American readers. With the publication of "A Laughable Empire: The US Imagines the Pacific World, 1840-1890", Todd Thompson informatively examines this substantial archival corpus for the purpose of making sense of nineteenth-century American humor about Hawai'i and the rest of the Pacific world.

In "A Laughable Empire", Thompson collects and interprets these comic, sometimes racist depictions of Pacific culture in nineteenth-century American print culture. Drawing on an archive of almanac and periodical humor, sea yarns, jest books, and literary comedy, Thompson demonstrates how jokes and humor functioned sometimes in the service of and sometimes in resistance to US imperial ambitions.

Thompson also includes Indigenous voices and jokes lampooning Americans and their customs to show how humor served as an important cultural contact zone between the United States and the Pacific world. He considers how nineteenth-century Americans and Pacific Islanders alike used humor to employ stereotypes or to question them, to "other" the unknown or to interrogate, laughingly, the process by which "othering" occurs and is disseminated.

Incisive and detailed, "A Laughable Empire" documents American humor about Pacific geography, food, dress, speech, and customs -- shedding new light not only on nineteenth-century America's imperial ambitions but also on its deep anxieties.

Critique: A seminal work of meticulous, detailed, and documented scholarship, "A Laughable Empire: The US Imagines the Pacific World, 1840-1890" is a unique, original, exceptionally well organized, and impressively informative contribution to personal, professional, community, and academic library 19th Century American History & Culture collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Todd Nathan Thompson is Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of "The National Jokers: Abraham Lincoln and the politics of Satire" and Contributing Editor to "Studies in American Humor". He has a web page on the IUP website at:

Begin With You: Boost Your Mental Wellbeing and Satisfaction at Work
Petra Velzeboer
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398610330, $56.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Begin With You: Boost Your Mental Wellbeing and Satisfaction at Work", renowned mental health expert Petra Velzeboer demonstrates that the true path to a successful career is a mindful approach which prioritizes your wellbeing and mental health. "Begin With You" draws on case studies, psychological research and Petra's first-hand experiences to highlight the methods and strategies that will lead to both a rewarding career and life.

Improving your mental wellbeing is always the first step to improving your productivity, satisfaction and creativity regardless of your seniority or sector. From self-assessment and time management to building a support network and becoming a mental health champion in the workplace, "Begin With You" is a complete DIY guide to transforming your life and career for the better.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, impressively 'real world practical', thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Begin With You: Boost Your Mental Wellbeing and Satisfaction at Work" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Management/Leadership collections. Of special value to anyone with an interest in Business/Occupational Motivation and Leadership, "Begin With You: Boost Your Mental Wellbeing and Satisfaction at Work" is also available for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a paperback edition (9781398610316, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Petra Velzeboer ( is a renowned mental health expert, TEDx speaker and CEO of PVL, a mental health consultancy. Based in London, she is a psychotherapist with an MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development and is a qualified ORSC & CTI Certified Coach. She is also an Advisor Board Member at Make A Difference Summits. She consults and speaks around the world on a variety of topics surrounding mental health at work, including leadership, leadership, wellbeing, raising awareness and psychological safety.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen
Stephen Paul Chong
6th Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803411514, $16.95, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: "My name is Athar. At least it is now that I am here, in heaven. I can tell you the story only now. I couldn't back then, when it was too painful, when it hurt too much. But now I know what happens. More than that, I now know why. I am not here to tell you what to believe. I am here to tell you what is true."

With the publication of "The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen" Stephen Paul Chong presents an inspirational voyage of discovery through heaven's many portals.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating contribution to the growing library of Metaphysical studies and accounts of what comes after death, "The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen" will be of special interest to readers in their study of reincarnation, supernaturalism, ghosts and spirit hauntings. Told in a first person format, it should be noted that "The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Stephen Paul Chong M.Ed. is a highly sought-after professional development coach, keynote speaker and author who shares his passion for life with everyone that he meets. (

The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully
Morrie Schwartz, author
Rob Schwartz, editor
Blackstone Publishing
9798200813452, $25.99, HC, 350pp

Synopsis: Sooner or later we will all ask the questions -- Who am I really? What have I done? What is important and meaningful to me? What difference does it make that I have lived? What does it mean to be truly human, and where am I on that scale?

With the publication of "The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully", Morrie Schwartz, (December 20, 1916 - November 4, 1995) explores these questions and many more in this profound, poetic, and poignant masterpiece of living and aging joyfully and creatively. Later life can be filled with many challenges, but it can also be one of the most beautiful and rewarding passages in anyone's lifetime. Morrie draws on his experiences as a social psychologist, teacher, father, friend, and sage to offer us a road map to navigate our futures.

The perfect introduction to Morrie's thoughtful philosophies, "The Wisdom of Morrie" is a compendium of empathic insights, stories, anecdotes, and advice, told in Morrie's reassuring, calm, and timeless voice. "The Wisdom of Morrie: is a guide in exploring deep questions of how to live and how to love.

Critique: The hardcover edition of "The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully" from Blackstone Publishing has a beautiful interior design with each chapter opener being printed in ink with a subtle ombre effect. A fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully" will have a very special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in the aging process and self-assessment. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200808793, $31.95, MP3-CD), "The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Motivational Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note #1: Morrie Schwartz ( became an internationally renowned figure posthumously after Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie stayed number one on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list for five years. Before that he was a beloved professor of sociology at Brandeis University and cherished therapist at Greenhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Morrie wrote on a wide variety of topics. He dedicated his life to helping people understand their relationships to society, other people, and themselves. His groundbreaking 1954 book (with Alfred Stanton) The Mental Hospital made him a superstar in the field of sociology, earning Morrie a full professorship as his first university position.

Editorial Note #2: Rob Schwartz is a writer, producer, and entrepreneur. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Interview and Melody Maker, among others. He was a script editor at NHK World TV for fourteen years and has been an Asia Correspondent for Billboard magazine since 2008. In 2005 he founded the electro-rock crossover label Dynastic Records in Japan. Rob produces feature films, including Putty Hill (2010) and Bernard and Huey (2017); actively invests in tech-based startups; and is currently a partner in the virtual concert-creation platform Moshpit (www.Moshpit.Live).

Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners
Laura Urdes, et al.
9781119839675, $170.00, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by veternarians Laura Urdes, Chris Walster, and Julius Tepper, "Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners" is a compendium of information on the diseases and applied epidemiology of all aquatic animal taxa, including invertebrates and vertebrates, along with information on applied epidemiology, acknowledging the One Health concept, and discussion on probabilities of disease outbreaks occurring and assesses the economic costs of treating those outbreaks, if applicable.

Divided into two sections, "Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners" looks at the pathology of major aquatic taxa and their associated infectious diseases (parasitic, viral, and bacterial) and non-infectious diseases. Each includes an overview, their host range and transmission, signs and diagnosis, differentials, and treatment and management. These assets are accompanied by clinical signs-lesion differential charts.

Sample topics discussed in "Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners" includes: Echinoderms, including crinoidea (crinoids, sea lilies, feather stars, and asteroidea), sea stars/starfish, and ophiuroidea (brittle stars and basket stars); Reptiles, including turtles (freshwater and marine), crocodilians, marine iguanas, and sea snakes; Pinnipeds, including otariidae (eared seals), odobenidae (walruses), phocidae (earless seals), mustelidae (otters), and sirenia (manatees and dugongs); Tropical marine aquarium fish (damselfish, angelfish, gobies, wrasses, parrotfish, butterfly fish, and clownfish) and anemones.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented and a highly useful reference for veterinary medicine practitioners, academic staff, and researchers, "Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners" is also suitable for anyone interested in aquatic veterinary medicine and admirably serves as a companion to "Fundamentals of Aquatic Veterinary Medicine", written by the same editorial team. The large format volume (7 x 0.9 x 10 inches, 2.05 pounds) is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to professional, college, and university Veterinarian Medicine collections. It should be noted for students, academia, practicing veterinarians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pathology and Epidemiology of Aquatic Animal Diseases for Practitioners" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $135.00).

Editorial Note #1: Laura Urdes ( is Assistant Professor at The University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest in Romania. She is also Past-President of WAVMA.

Editorial Note #2: Chris Walster ( is a qualified veterinary surgeon with a long-standing interest in aquatic veterinary medicine and current WAVMA administrator in Stafford in the UK. He is also Past-President of WAVMA.

Editorial Note #3: Julius Tepper ( is a Veterinarian at Long Island Fish Hospital in Manorville, New York in the USA. He is also Past-President of WAVMA.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

To Bell and Back (A Samantha Bell Mystery Thriller Book 8)
Jeremy Waldron
Sugarhouse Press LLC
9781953570079 $15.99
B08HY7QBWD ebook $4.99, 396 pages

The title and the blurb makes it easy to assume that TO BELL AND BACK is a cozy in style but it leans closer to a thriller. To Bell is a solid detective thriller with a cast of unusual characters. The tale is worth reading but Waldron tosses in a twist at the end of the story that seems to be there as an incentive to buy the next book in the series and not an ending to the current story.

Samantha Bell is a crime blogger from Colorado who has made a name for herself with her strong reporting. She is asked to interview for a position in L.A. which would give her national exposer. Instead of an interview, she is asked to investigate a car sunken in a lake. The decades old wreck has the bones of two bodies. Samantha jumps right into the investigation. The killers decide that Samantha is more of a problem than the local sheriff and decide the best course is to remove Samantha from the story. Sabotage is good. Blackmail might be better. Murder is a final solution.

TO BELL AND BACK is a good detective story but the twist at the end brings the recommendation down a notch. The clues spread over time and prodded out of the distrustful locals makes the tale a good mystery but the narration feels a bit muddled.

Exposed in Edinburgh: A Travel Cozy Mystery (The House Sitters Cozy Mysteries Book 1)
Scarlett Moss
Hummingword Press
9798603375199 $12.99
B0836DZKS9 ebook, $4.99, 189 pages

Exposed in Edinburgh is a soft locational mystery. The tale is nearly a travel log of what to see and do in Scotland. The immersion into the Scottish culture is the center in the story. The mystery is a nice soft line that holds the storyline together.

Alen and Joan Arny have retired from a Texas sheriff's department. Instead of retiring to a vacation spot they decide to travel the world as house and pet sitters. Their first sitting job is in Edinburgh during the Christmas season. They take to the culture and the couple whose house and dog they are going to take care of during their own tropical vacation.

The first day they meet their neighbors. The husband has just been given a blackmail letter. When he finds out that the house sitting couple were retired from a sheriff's department, he asks for help finding the blackmailer. Joan immediately agrees and Alen goes with her decision. Their days become filled with exploring Scotland and investigating individuals across Edinburgh. The clues they uncover in their investigation increase their love of the Scottish culture and its people as much as solving the mystery.

For the cozy reader, Exposed in Edinburgh is a very easy recommendation. For detective and mystery readers, the tale is a little slow. For readers who like an explosive action ending, the story will be a disappointment. This story is an easy book to take for a weekend read with a cup of coffee or hot coco.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Emo Reality: The Biography of Teenage Borderline Personality Disorder
Jerold Daniels
9789811867347 (PDF)
9789811867323 (Epub)
9789811867330 (Audiobook)
9789811867354 (E-Book): $7.99, 234 Pages

Shadows Play Out in My Mind...

Lina's childhood life was filled with traveling and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle. Her privileged life changed when she entered into her teenage years.

As a teenager, her mind takes over her carefree existence. She finds herself plagued by multiple personality disorders. Her mental illness threatens to destroy her and hurts those that she loves.

Will Lina be able to defeat the demons that are trying to rob her of a happy life? Or will they take her down a dark pathway where she is powerless to return?

Emo Reality: The Biography of Teenage Borderline Personality Disorder gives a first-hand look at how mental illness has the power to destroy a happy life. It's filled with the intense emotional distress of one person's inner struggle battling unknown demons.

Jerold Daniels has written a powerful novel that will have the reader stop and reflect on how severe mental issues are to an individual. It provides an up-close look at one person's struggles to overcome being taken over by her delusions. It's written with such intense emotion the reader feels the jagged scars the main character has suffered. This book is one that made a dramatic impact on this reader.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holly Brians Ragusa has bravely revealed a part of her family's tragedy that provides an authentic look at how one family is left scarred for life by a serial killer. This story is well developed and gives the reader an appreciation of what they family of John Powell had to endure long after his tragic death. This story will stay with the reader as the last page is turned.

A Life in Bloom
Anna E. Collins
Red Adept Publishing LLC
9781958231173, $2.99 (Ebook), $14.49 (Paperback), 324pp

Break Free of This World...

Kristin Caine had never measured up to her mother's expectations. Her mother had never supported anything she had chosen for herself. Kristin cannot refuse her request when she learns that her mother is dying of cancer and wants her to help her with her all-time bucket list items before her death.

To complicate matters, she finds herself pregnant, and her boyfriend breaks up with her when he learns of her condition. Additionally, she is not one for traveling the world.

Boarding an airplane for her first mother-daughter adventure has her encountering Lily Landon. Her upbeat personality gives her hope that this journey may be manageable.

Will Kristin be strong enough to bond with her mother on her last earthly days? Can she hope to find the comfort and salvation of being saved from Lily's friendship? As she brings her new child into the world, will she create a future filled with love and acceptance?

A Life in Bloom is a perfect example of a book that explores deep emotions and contains meaningful characters that give the story new life. Each character has a unique voice that helps the story remain exciting and must be finished.

Anna E. Collins is a very talented author. This book shows her in a positive light as a writer. She has done an excellent job combining several elements for a fascinating reading experience.

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

Together Great Things Are Destined to Occur...

Jasmine is a talented scientist whose work can change the world. When she meets Biotech Scientist Will Behlen, she feels instantly attracted to his powerful intellect and free spirit.

They develop a comprehensive therapy that will regenerate their bodies to a youthful. If accepted and approved, no one would have to endure aging and death by advanced aging.

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

But in Wonder is a fantastic book. Even though it is a sequel to Forever and Ever, I could not feel lost as I read the story. Jasmine and Will are two strong characters who together have a fascinating story. The Burning Man has interested many readers as the event is rarely, if ever, described in fiction. Its one that gives the book an extra unexpected bonus.

Dan A. Baker is a very talented author whose book is fascinating. I predict this series will quickly become many people's favorite and have a new favorite author. It is one where science and medicine combined together make for one explosive reading adventure.

How to Talk To Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide
Allegra Birdseye-Hannula
Beavers Pond Press
9781643437026, $TBA (paperback) / $TBA (ebook), 139 Pages

Youth are the foundation of the world's future...

In today's society, our youth play a vital role in shaping the future of our world. Often, it isn't easy to get these young people to open up to an adult and express their feelings.

Youth workers hold various positions, including coaches, guidance counselors, doctors, nurses, and teachers. These people have the power to influence and change a child's life, and they must be equipped with the knowledge and guidance to listen and help break down any obstacles and barriers troubling the youth.

How to Talk To Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide should be a mandatory reading requirement for all positions responsible for interacting with youth. It contains invaluable advice written in a way that can be read as a stand-alone book or field reference guide.

Allegra Birdseye-Hannula, your delightful porcupine title and animal symbol has captured this reviewer's heart. This book is the best advice I have encountered as a twenty-year book reviewer. It contains powerful advice and guidance in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. I encourage it to be read by all who have occupations that require them to work with youth.

Once When We Were Merfolk
Suzanna Leigh
Dragonrider Press
9798986462011, $15.00, PB, 44 Pages

Let the sea set you free...

In the sea's calm, we discover all the beautiful creatures swimming along the deep blue ocean. There are dolphins, sea lions, and humpback whales. Each one has its unique beauty.

Swimming far, we discover buried treasure off the coast of Africa. The ocean currents carry us out to the Caribbean Sea, and we find a group of manatees there. The sea is full of a variety of activities.

Once When We Were Merfolk is a beautifully illustrated story that spoke to my heart. The artwork is stunning and brings beauty to every page. The rich vibrating colors are miniature works of art for all to enjoy. A bonus includes an informative geographical lesson on the world's different seas and each sea creature featured in the book.

Suzanna Leigh should be very proud of this book. It will quickly become a favorite of children worldwide. As an adult, I appreciated her artistic talent she shows on each page. This book deserves a permanent place in any library to display its beauty.

OCELLICON: Future Visions
A.G. Russo
Amazon.Com Services
9788988178309, $4.99, (Kindle)

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

Earth is left in shambles as nuclear destruction threatens to destroy its existence. Salvation came in the form of authoritarians. They wanted to bring back the justice of the world that a crime spree had invaded.

Prosecutor Major Annalisa Farrell held a reputation in the courts as one of the most hated lawyers. Her life was not easy as a child; General Farrell loved her unconditionally and decided to adopt her even though its believed she was genetically engineered. Rising to the ranks of becoming a Major took extreme determination and a solid unclad will.

Judge Bennett McCrae is known as the "Judge Prince." Those who entered his courtroom felt he offered them a fair trial. Meeting Annalisa, he felt an immediate attraction to her hard-core stance. He admired her for all that she had to overcome to gain the rank she had achieved.

Can Annalisa and Bennett hope to bring justice back to the world together? Or will their efforts be met with evil forces intending to destroy both of them?

OCELLICON: Future Visions is an outstanding book. From page one, it captures the reader's attention and refuses to let go until the last page is turned. It offers a high-action thrill ride, one that will long be remembered.

A.G. Russo has proven to be an exceptional author who can masterfully juggle several complex elements effortlessly in one book. The plot is solid and will be a great offering to the literary world.

Across the Divide: The Strangest Love Affair
Elizabeth Bernays
97988887470412, $9.99 eBook
9798887470870, $12.95, Paperback 247pp

Opposites have a way of attracting each other...

Liz was working as an academic scientist and recently widowed. Her life was low-key and one that held structure. That changed when she met Linda who was married. Although the two of them had completely different personalities, there was a chemistry that neither one could deny.

Together they embarked on many different adventures. Each one strengthened their relationship. As they shared their lives, they wondered if they could hope for more.

Can two women who see the world with different eyes have hope for a future together? Or will society dictate that rebellious spirits are best left unexplored?

Across the Divide: The Strangest Love Affair will make you smile as you watch two different people with different lifestyles come together and conquer the world.

Elizabeth Bernays has written a well-constructed story. The characters are two that will have you cheering them on to the very end. This book was a joy to experience; I predict others will enjoy reading it.

Side by Side: The Sacred Art of Couples Aging with Wisdom & Love
Caryl & Jay Casbon
Creative Courage Press
9781959921042, $21.99 paperback, $12.99 (ebook), 292 Pages

Love and wisdom grow with time...

Marriage is a sacred commitment to one another. It's a testimonial that two people agree to join as one. In today's modern-day society, after the honeymoon is over, many couples struggle to stay together. In today's society, you rarely hear a couple has celebrated their fifty-wedding anniversary.

What makes one marriage last and others fail? This book can help answer that question. The guidance and knowledge of thirteen couples tell their story and offer their age-old wisdom on how they learned to adapt and conquer obstacles that threatened to tear them apart.

Side by Side: The Sacred Art of Couples Aging with Wisdom & Love is a fascinating reading experience. It made me stop and realize the problems couples face together and how they can keep their love still strong and shining bright.

Caryl & Jay Casbon are two talented authors. This book showcases their talent and provides a fascinating topic to explore. There was never a moment that I found myself bored reading this book. Instead, I eagerly awaited the next chapter to discover another couple's story. This book would make a wonderful wedding present for all young couples. The wisdom it contains could help them.

The President Wears Pink
Mandana Vetto, author
Sara Foresti, illustrator
B082WN1SCX: $8.99 Kindle, $13.10 Hardcover, 12 Pages

"A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink." ~ Gina Carey

Presidents are great leaders that shape our country. Unfortunately, none of them looks like me. Pink is my favorite color. It makes a bold and solid statement.

With no female Presidents that have yet to be elected, I dream of changing history. As a woman leader, I will do good for this world. Will this young dream one day become a reality?

The President Wears Pink is one of the brightest and most beautiful books I have yet to discover this year. Each illustration brings the story to a new light. This book's message is that girls have the power to change the world.

Mandana Vetto has written an incredible story. It will encourage young girls not to let being a female stand in their way of growing up to be successful. I was highly impressed with this book and its positive message to the world. Books like this have the power to change a young girl's life.

From Peril to Light
James M. Bourey, author
Alan D. Bourey, author
JPT Publishing
9798388098634 $12.99 Paperback, 258 Pages
B0BZF9DW6H, $6.99 Kindle

The darkness unleashes evil forces...

Blackout... the one word that causes a city to come to a screeching halt and become engulfed in total darkness. The dark void brings out immense danger as devilish acts have the perfect opportunity to be the next crime scene with everything shut down.

Strangers from different backgrounds and cultures unite to combat the villains who intend to destroy the city. With every dangerous situation they encounter, they use the strengths and weaknesses of the formed team to defeat the forces intent on destroying them.

Will they be strong enough to survive all they encounter? Or will they find themselves victims who perish by trying to defend a war-torn city?

From Peril to Light is a high-action thrill ride. Each scene will leave you holding your breath in anticipation of what is to come next. The authors have outdone themselves by adding the best elements of suspense, intrigue, and excitement.

The combined efforts of co-authors James M. Bourey and Alan D. Bourey have produced an award-winning novel. Books with this much action and nail-biting suspense deserve a high place in the literary world. These authors have made a strong impact in showcasing their talents, and their names will be long remembered as highly talented authors with the release of this title.

The Sun Has Set, My Friends
Milan Gupta
Rexington Press
9781777230296, $3.99, 256 Pages

True friends are never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart. ~Helen Keller

Eighteen-year-old Yash traveled to Pittsburg to be with his father. As a natural introvert, it was difficult for him to make the move. He didn't know what his freshman year held in a new city.

Yash quickly became friends with Jay. He was the opposite of Yash, for he was outgoing and unafraid to try new things. Jay's friendship made him adapt to his surroundings.

Darby was a confident and independent woman. She made her way into the world and danced to our drum. The three became an inseparable trio that went through their college years.

As graduation day approached, the three wondered where their lives would take them. Would they remain as close as they had been during their college years? Or, as they throw their graduation hat in the air, will that signify the start of the separation of their friendship?

The Sun Has Set, My Friends is a wonderfully written novel. It makes us realize how friendship has a way of shaping our lives. Each one of the characters was well-developed and kept the story moving forward positively.

Milan Gupta is an author who can take the reader into his book with the descriptive words he selects to present each scene. This unique talent is one that most writers fail to be able to master. This story reminds us to remember our past but look forward to our future.

Hungry Hudson Has a Choice
Leslie Mitchell Assini, author
Andy Yura, illustrator
LJM Communications
9780578850948, $10.99, Paperback

Temptation comes in many forms...

Hudson is an adorable dog whose best friend is Ben. The two are inseparable. Eating drives Hudson to do things he shouldn't do - like eating pots of chili and a whole holiday ham!

At Ben's birthday party, a birthday cake throws Hudson's appetite in full swing. Without considering the consequences, he dived into it and started consuming the sweet sugary mixture.

Ben's hurt that Hudson had ruined his special day. Hudson knew he needed to change his ways. But will he be strong enough to resist the cravings of his stomach that have him do things that get him in trouble?

Hudson Has a Choice is a beautifully illustrated book. The pictures by artist/illustrrator Andy Yura enhance the overall story. I was highly impressed with the deep rich colors each one illuminated.

Leslie Mitchell Assini is a talented author who has written a book that intertwines gentle reminders to be kind, considerate, and polite. These important life lessons are essential to the growth of our society. This book would be the perfect addition to any school library.

Kevin Cox
9798986636849, $13.99 pbk / $0.99 Kindle, 243 Pages

Come into the shadows, and find your true existence...

Malidora's life overflows with misery and pain. Since childhood, the Blight Whidge had plagued her mind. They refused to leave her alone and led her to kill her brother and sister. Knowing she could never go home, she fled from her family and the village to travel to the safety of Isodonia.

Unbeknownst to Malidora, she possessed the power of the mindstream. This power meant she is known as irredeemable, which translates to the mark of death to those that are close to her. She is unaware of what having this power can mean to society.

A voice who identified as Razinoth is leading her to come into her full power. Will she succumb to persuasion to discover why she was the chosen one? Or will she be strong enough to resist the temptation of exploring her full capabilities as a mindstream and continue her plan to rebuild her life in Isodonia?

Neverscape is an excellent book that will captivate the reader from page one. The characters are well-developed, and each one presents a strong voice with a purpose. The setting is described in perfect detail. You question if it could have once existed.

Kevin Cox is a talented writer who has written a book that offers high-action drama, a superb plot, and an ending that will leave you breathless. Although this book is the third in a series, it can easily be one that can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Eagle Bay
Ken Cruickshank
Glendoveer Press
9781960981011, $15.95 Paperback, 424 pages
9781960981028, $24.95 Hardback
9781960981004 eBook

The past has a way of resurfacing and destroying those in its path...

Thomas Westbrooke comes from a long line of men who turned Eagle Bay into a prosperous community. He's known as the Pillar of the community. His Princeton business mind helps grow the town.

Since grade school, John McCloud has been Thomas's best friend. The two of them have experienced many things growing up together. John's excited to learn that Thomas and his grandfather have a recently discovered, mysterious connection to the McCloud family.

Skye McCloud is John's loving wife. She kisses her husband goodbye and wishes him the best of luck when he goes fishing with his friend Thomas. She never anticipates this will be the last goodbye, as a police officer knocks on her door and informs her that Thomas and John were involved in a boating accident, and John did not surface.

Skye is devastated at the loss of her beloved husband. Thomas, seeing the heartbreak that Skye is experiencing, steps in to console her. The tragedy brings them closer together. When Thomas proposes, Skye accepts his offer.

Will Skye and Thomas's marriage be one that love will keep them going? Or will she see a dark, sinister side of Thomas she never knew existed?

Eagle Bay can compare to a spider's web. Its attractiveness lures its reader into a tightly woven trap, and they find they cannot walk away from the danger in their pathway. It's a book that will keep readers on edge, guessing what will unfold next.

Ken Cruickshank has proven that he is a master of suspense and intrigue. How he combines all the elements this book showcases is brilliant. The plot of this story cries out to become the next Lifetime Movie. This author has presented a strong voice that has dramatically impacted the literary world.

Cracks of Destruction: A Daughter's Search for Home
Sherrie Lancaster
Merry Dissonance Press
9781939919687, $18.95, PB, 320 pages

The past always returns to haunt us...

Memories of Sherrie Lancaster's childhood contain much pain and heartache. The most significant one occurred at the age of ten when her mother abandoned her and her brothers in search of her happiness.

Her father was unwilling to stay in the town to watch his wife start a new life with someone else. He uprooted Sherrie and her four brothers and moved them to Arizona.

There would be many moves Sherrie would endure growing up. Each one added a jagged memory to her past. Now as an adult, she finds herself back at her former home.

Will returning to her childhood home give her peace to put the past behind her? Or will it open wounds best left forgotten?

"Cracks of Destruction: A Daughter's Search for Home" is a story of how a woman deals with the demons of her past. This emotional read will call out to your heart as the author tells of her past pain and suffering.

Sherrie Lancaster is a very talented author who has put her life's story in this autobiographical account. I was impressed with how she could tell of what she endured. The heartfelt emotions this book showcases are a remarkable story of how this story is the perfect example of what it takes to survive.

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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