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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 6 June 2024 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

Algorithmic Thinking, second edition
Daniel Zingaro
No Starch Press
9781718503229, $29.95, PB, 480pp

Synopsis: Are you hitting a wall with data structures and algorithms? Whether you're a student prepping for coding interviews or an independent learner, this newly updated and expanded second edition of "Algorithmic Thinking: Learn Algorithms to Level Up Your Coding Skills" by Professor Daniel Zingaro is an essential DIY guide to efficient problem-solving in programming.

Readers will learn the intricacies of hash tables, recursion, dynamic programming, trees, graphs, and heaps. Becoming proficient in choosing and implementing the best solutions for any coding challenge.

The programs and challenges comprising "Algorithmic Thinking" aren't just theoretical they are drawn from real programming competitions. Training with problems that have tested and honed the skills of coders around the world.

"Algorithmic Thinking" is essential in preparing for coding interviews and includes practice exercises that help you think algorithmically, weigh different solutions, and implement the best choices efficiently.

The code examples are written in C and designed for clarity and accessibility to those familiar with languages like C++, Java, or Python. If needing help with the C code, no problem "Algorithmic Thinking" includes additional recommended reading resources.

This new second edition of "Algorithmic Thinking" offers the complete package, providing the solid foundation needed to elevate coding skills to the next level.

Critique: Comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, this new second edition of "Algorithmic Thinking: Learn Algorithms to Level Up Your Coding Skills" is an ideal selection choice for personal study and as a curriculum textbook. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.99), "Algorithmic Thinking: 2nd Edition" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college and university library Computer Programming and Software Design collections and supplemental Computer Science curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Dr. Daniel Zingaro ( is an Associate Professor of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is well known for his uniquely interactive approach to teaching and internationally recognized for his expertise in active learning. He is also the author of "Learn to Code by Solving Problems" (No Starch Press) and the co-author of "Learn AI-Assisted Python Programming".

The Great State of West Florida
Kent Wascom
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
9780802162847, $16.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: It's 2026, and Rally is thirteen years old. The long, hot Louisiana summer looms before him like a face-melting stretch of blacktop, and the country is talking civil war while his adoptive family acts more vicious than ever.

Rally spends his days wondering about his dead father's people, the Woolsacks of West Florida, who long ago led a failed rebellion to carve their own state from the swamp and sugar-sand of the coast. That family might have been his too -- if his mother and a crew of vigilantes hadn't tried to kill them all back when he was a baby.

Rally lives in the shadow of guilt and in fear of the only other survivors: his uncle Rodney, now a professional gunfighter on the app DU3L, where would-be shooters square off in armed combat, and his mysterious cousin Destiny, whereabouts unknown, whose own violence brought the massacre to an end.

When the Woolsacks' legacy is co-opted by Troy Yarbrough, a far-right politician leading a movement to turn the Florida panhandle into a white Christian ethnostate, Rodney bursts into Rally's life, taking him on a journey into the wild heart of West Florida, where they join forces with a woman known only as the Governor and is part prophet, part machine, and her own blazing vision for West Florida.

Soon Rally will learn what West Florida means to the Woolsacks, and the lengths they will go to protect it, all while he falls for the machine-gun-toting, ATV-riding girl next door.

An explosive, genre-redefining take on family, violence, and the costs of preserving a legacy in a sun-soaked world of megachurch magnates, suburban guerillas, and robotic warriors, "The Great State of West Florida" is also the tender coming-of-age story of a young man caught in the wheels of something bigger than he knows.

Critique: Offering an all too believable portrait of a possible extrapolation of a near future for America in general, and the state of Florida in particular given the political divides of the present day, "The Great State of West Florida" by author Kent Wascom is a vivid and deftly crafted dystopian novel that will prove to be a compulsive read from start to finish. While especially recommended for community library Dystopian Fiction collections in should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Great State of West Florida" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9798874760533, $39.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Kent Wascom ( is the author of The New Inheritors, Secessia, and The Blood of Heaven. Wascom was awarded the 2012 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for Fiction and selected as one of Gambit's 40 Under 40. He directs the Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

One Square Mile
Kristin H. Sample
The Mad Duck Coalition
9781956389173l, $15

One Square Mile probes and reveals the life of Elizabeth Bauer, who has grown up in a tiny town on Long Island. She relates some of life's pivot points and family connections, from putting her beloved bunny Cleo down to breaking her ankle playing soccer and first romances:

" my whole life will be a do over of this important moment. I'll have to find the meaning and romance. Isn't your first kiss supposed to be special? I can't tell my kids about this. I can't tell my grandkids about this. I'm not going to marry this random kid from Club Malibu. This isn't the beginning of an amazing story of first kisses that turn into lasting loves."

As the interconnected stories build a life from these moments of memory and change, the real strength of One Square Mile appears - that of a life that emerges from chrysalis to enter the butterfly years of adulthood in a world that embraces working-class values and 1990s culture.

As Elizabeth experiences sleepovers with fellow teens, explores the puzzles of romance and sexuality, and deals with looming adulthood and lessons which depart from childhood preoccupations and concerns, she comes to know more about her roots, influences, and the world around her.

This translates to a coming-of-age story that is candid and revealing as its protagonist re-envisions the world and her place in it.

The encounters and dialogues cement Elizabeth's new perceptions in a realistic, engrossing manner:

"Wait, I think to myself. Is that why Kristina called me? Like she was going down a list entitled "Girls I Can Tolerate if it Means Getting a Ride." I shove that thought so far back in my mind, it's like the winter coats packed away in the attic until the first freeze. You know they are there, but you may have forgotten what they look like exactly."

Libraries and readers seeking stories of growth, realization, and slow transformation will find One Square Mile a powerful journey through a sense of place and purpose.

It brings to life not only Elizabeth's newfound realizations, but her changing perceptions of Long Island, her friends, and her family. One Square Mile is highly recommended reading for anyone looking for an absorbing story of a young female's new opportunities and visions of her life.

Saving My Ancient Life
Ken Luber
Palmetto Publishing
9798822939486, $16.99 Paperback/$25.99 Hardcover/$8.99 ebook

Saving My Ancient Life is a novel that opens with a potentially triggering event (to those subject to responses to vivid traumatic description): the rape of a young girl, whose father is beheaded and her baby wrested from her arms by soldiers.

Fast forward five hundred years to a snowy winter's day in the Illinois town of Cederburgh. In this world, LuAnn, who was pregnant at age sixteen, builds a foundation of family and meaning for herself, her daughter Kaylee, and her son, Billy Blackwell.

From the start, Ken Luber inserts memorable phrases of observation into the story which grants each character a depth and interesting reflections that readers will find engaging and thought-provoking:

"I'm making him sound like one big jerk. But love hugs a lot more jerks than saints."

LuAnn, desperately searching for her son, finds herself cast into her own shamanic journey, from the darkness of barrooms and brothels to the upper crust of 1890s San Francisco society, while Billy navigates the past's influences on his choices and the lasting consequences this brings, readers receive a compelling saga of time-travel, romance, and the clash of past and future worlds.

Billy encounters Highland lass El, who takes him on a wild ride through her world and focus. In her milieu, his wrestling strengths and modern abilities pale in the light of her strength and ability to navigate situations he's never before encountered in his young life.

From meetings with spirits to two worlds whose disparate characters intersect and interact, Saving My Ancient Life provides much more than an uncommon mix of time and place. It considers the culture, influences, and struggles of characters whose special interests and worlds reach out to very different individuals, entwining them in a journey to find truth and family.

Luber's attention to detail, from the Highland brogue that El exhibits to the fact that young Billy needs to become a better horse rider if he's to follow her in her quest to find her missing son, brings the story to life, replete with thought-provoking insights that encourage pause for thought:

"You still haven't told me. Is it far?"

"How far is the journey of any life to find yur heart?"

Book clubs and readers used to more linear thinking in time travel experiences will delight in the effort Luber makes to not only inject realistic backgrounds and dilemmas into his characters' encounters, but to chronicle character-building moments into the tale. These bring unexpected facets of the concurrent journeys to life.

Chapter header notes about shifting places might provide readers with an even stronger foundation for absorbing these changes; but even without them, Saving My Ancient Life is a moving story powered by evocative descriptions of a mystical past brought to life:

"He was beginning to believe in El's mystical world, the world of a mother's voice rising from the flames of a hearth and of a dog-tag flaring light in a faraway meadow. And staring into the flames she had just created, it struck him that with wormholes and expanding universes, TV transmission and trips to the moon, was his world any less mystical? Yes, there were formulas and statistics, but were they any different than the mumbo-jumbo, indecipherable words of an ancient world as passionately connected to the universe?"

Libraries and readers interested in a fantasy journey that juxtaposes romance, impossible dreams, intentions of courage and rescue, wormholes that connect disparate worlds, and characters who move into different milieus that test their resources and mettle will welcome Saving My Ancient Life's journey and diverse themes.

The novel's ability to not only entertain, but stand out, also makes for a top recommendation for book club discussion.

" time any different for any of us, going back and forth through the worlds in our minds and in our hearts, searching for the truth of who we really are?"

The Curse of King Midas
Colleen M. Story
Midchannel Press
9780999099162, $24.99 Hardcover/$15.99 Paperback/$7.99 eBook

The Curse of King Midas is the first book in the Midas Legacy series, and marries mythology and magic in retelling the traditional Greek legend. Readers familiar with this myth may not fully realize that a real King Midas ruled the kingdom of Phrygia (now part of Turkey) in the eighth century B.C., but the archaeological evidence piecing together the truth of the story has only emerged from excavation efforts in the 1950s. This contributes to a story that perhaps could not have been told decades ago.

For all its foundations in myth and historical reality, The Curse of King Midas is, however, a tale firmly rooted in magic and fictional embellishment as Colleen M. Story casts the King Midas legend in an entirely new light.

Contemporary insights on trauma, PTSD, leadership challenges and cursed power blend nicely in a story that brings the 8th century to life. Other characters emerge, such as the goddess Denisia, Prince Anchurus, Katiah, and others who all interface with and impact the kingdom (and, ultimately, its ruler).

Story excels in creating action-packed scenarios that are thoroughly engrossing and bring the environment, setting, and underlying motivations and concerns of leaders, goddesses, and major influencers to life. She builds on their experiences to create and explain the conflicts that buffet kingdom and characters:

"And does your heart long for revenge against this soldier who killed your mother and stole your sister?"

He nodded again, clenching his fist. She cocked her head, studying him. "If you really want it, you must be willing to sacrifice for it."

The real curse of the king lies in far more than gold and greed. Story brings this world to life with a vivid touch that spins a fine yarn, circling it with the golden touch of authoritative history combined with new interpretations.

The marriage of intrigue, myth, and special interests works well to create a compelling revamp of the King Midas legend. This will prove attractive to a wide range of readers, from those interested in stories built from new historical discoveries to others who just want a rollicking good read replete with myth, magic, and entwined lives, that exhibits rich and satisfying twists and turns of experience and intention.

Libraries particularly interested in a multifaceted story of action and intrigue will welcome this addition to their collections.

From Sweetgrass Bridge
Anthony Bidulka
Stonehouse Publishing
9781988754543, $16.95

The second book in the Merry Bell trilogy, From Sweetgrass Bridge, gives mystery readers a fine follow-up continuation of the conundrums and intrigue that spiced Livingsky. It poses the specter of missing beloved Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback Dustin Thomson and how his disappearance not only sparks an investigation, but impacts a community.

The family hires P.I. Merry Bell to traverse the waters below Sweetgrass Bridge to the Little Turtle Lake First Nation in search of answers. But these raise more dangerous personal and political quandaries as Merry confronts her tangled personal life, fields questions about friends and enemies, and confronts the uncertainties surrounding her newfound six-month-old P.I. business, Livingsky Sharpe Investigations.

Merry Bell is only back home on the prairies as a temporary respite so she can regroup and return to her beloved Vancouver to fulfill her dream of living her life the way she wants to. But home has a way of presenting returnees with both familiar and unfamiliar scenarios. Much as Merry is in transition, so is her sense of home and knowledge of two very different worlds.

Anthony Bidulka's story requires no prior familiarity with Merry or her world (though returning readers will here find a nice continuation of her struggles and perceptions, that both fills in blanks and expand her perspectives and objectives).

He creates a powerful female investigator who doesn't hesitate to tackle the hard questions surrounding both her life and her latest mystery, cultivates a cozy small-town atmosphere against the larger backdrop of LGBTQ+ issues and lives, and injects his story with the realism of a savvy female investigator.

Readers will be engrossed as Merry uncovers clues to solve her own life problems, evolving ever deeper into her past, community makeup, and scenarios which connect her to more than one romance.

"Truth is good, truth is powerful." The pursuit and questions that drive Merry to seek answers from the First Nations community, as well as her own, create excellent contrasts between cultures, values, perceptions, and new possibilities in investigative routines and questioning.

As she unfolds the layers of Dustin's life, Merry uncovers a series of events and perspectives that lead her to question his public image as a beloved sports figure:

"Was a different picture of the football hero beginning to emerge? Was Dustin lovesick? A spurned lover? Or was there something more disturbing here?"

If he was both lonely and yet happy, how could suicide be Dustin's ultimate destiny? Or, does that happiness stem from making a final decision ("It was not uncommon for family members to report how happy their loved one seemed immediately prior to ending their lives. What they couldn't have known was that the happiness came from relief; relief at finally having committed to a plan that would end their excruciating internal pain.").

The secrets that unfold over what happened to Dustin segue neatly into those Merry keeps about her own life and its changes.

The transformative facelift given to the cozy mystery genre, provided via this sense of place, purpose, and community, makes From Sweetgrass Bridge highly recommended, whether it's chosen as a stand-alone mystery or as an important part of the trilogy.

Libraries and readers looking for the uncommon combination of a cozy mystery steeped in LGBTQ+ experiences and concerns will find this intersection satisfyingly thought-provoking. From Sweetgrass Bridge enhances the mystery component with the added value of Indigenous insights and culture, adding a full-bodied feel to the unexpected series of events that lead Merry both far from her stated objectives and closer to a new life.

Once a Homecoming Queen
Joan Moran
TouchPoint Press
9781956851663, $16.99 Paperback/$7.99 eBook

Once a Homecoming Queen is a novel about a dying, addicted woman whose alcoholism leads her to suffer a major fall. This places her care in the arms of her frustrated family.

It may seem odd to find humor in this sobering story of Francine Reynolds-Richelli-Freeman, but Joan Moran's wry tongue-in-cheek observations temper the realistic, somber atmosphere of a family's dysfunctional makeup. It considers the impact of a dependent alcoholic, offering glimpses into a world of sobriety, new possibilities, old patterns, and shifting alliances and choices:

"Rhonda drove too fast into the women's correctional facility parking lot. She had to slam on her brakes to stop the car from going beyond the guest parking. Francine clutched her purse. Rhonda parked and got out.

'Are you coming?' Rhonda asked as she began to walk to the front entrance.

Francine got out of the car and peered at the dilapidated building.

'Sounded like a good idea at the time,' Francine said under her breath.

'I heard that,' said Rhonda. 'It's not the Taj Mahal, but it's clean.'

'Oh, that's a good recommendation. I'll put it on Yelp. 'Jail is clean. Come on down and join us.'"

The subject of senior addiction and its special brand of family impact are nicely done with depictions of AA meetings, struggles to embrace sobriety, and efforts to change engrained family dynamics revealed in the course of a dynamic exploration of life.

Joan Moran is adept at juxtaposing past influences with present-day events. These are the kinds of confrontations and realizations that keep Francine engaged in new possibilities while fielding the impact of her usual poor choices.

From start to finish, the dark humor emerges from unexpected encounters, enriching the experiences Francine embraces.

The result is a compelling, realistic story of a family's tangled involvements in a senior's efforts to overcome both addiction and the impact of her life and past choices.

Libraries and readers seeking novels steeped in realistic family and life encounters with addiction and redemption will find Once a Homecoming Queen engrossing. It's highly suitable for family and reading group debates on subjects ranging from alcoholism and family dynamics to the process of being a senior and confronting poor choices and dubious outcomes at the end of life.

The Honeymoon Homicides
Jeannette de Beauvoir
HomePort Press
9798986865430, $15.99 Paperback/$6.99 eBook

The Honeymoon Homicides adds another Provincetown Mystery to the series, but stands nicely alone for newcomers seeking intrigue steeped in a sense of place.

The first-person narrative opens with a captivating bang:

"The victim generously waited to be murdered until the final vows had been spoken and we were officially declared married. And that's pretty much the best thing I can say about my wedding."

Sounds like the wedding from hell. And the horror has just begun. Nobody expects a body to fall from an awning to the terrace. And Sydney certainly doesn't anticipate the investigative challenges which pull her into situations she didn't see coming.

As the story evolves, Sydney's personal and professional lives are tested in unusual ways. Readers unfamiliar with Sydney's life and past are treated to flashbacks of information from other encounters which portray her and her associates in revealing new ways:

"This wasn't Mike. Mike had been the best manager the inn had ever had, efficient, cordial.... strong. I knew better than anybody else how strong he was: one cold October, back
when TransWeek was still known as Fantasia Fair, I'd been unlucky enough to run afoul of a truly murderous person who'd set their murderous sights on me. I'd ended up in the harbor with hypothermia moments away when Mike had saved me. You don't forget that kind of thing."

Provincetown culture and personalities thus come to life and evolve in a series of encounters that focus on more than mystery alone, revealing undercurrents of relationships to enhance the story as a whole.

Jeannette de Beauvoir is especially adept at presenting Sydney's dilemmas as she handles ultimatums, juggling her job with her ongoing probe of investigative matters and pairing wine and food as adeptly as she cobbles together facts about perps and victims.

The pace is fast, but de Beauvoir takes the time to outline social and political conundrums that influence decisions and outcomes as characters interact in a dance of special interests and personalities. This encourages readers to cheer for more than one character or special interest.

The result is a mystery steeped in Provincetown issues, culture, and personalities which creates another captivating Sidney Riley encounter while loosely reflecting on real people and events.

Libraries and readers looking for engrossing mysteries that set their escapades and encounters against a captivating backdrop will find The Honeymoon Homicides an excellent tale of discovery, local history, marriage, and fun.

Till My Last Day
Deborah Swenson
Nor-Mar Press
9798218961169, $18.99 Paperback/$9.49 eBook

Till My Last Day is the second book in the Desert Hills Trilogy and opens in 1880 Boston. Dutiful society daughter and lady Rebecca Young Ackerman, married off to a man her father chose (who not only doesn't love her but threatens her), decides to take the leap and escape her socially acceptable bondage.

To do so, she must take her boys and travel cross-country towards a new life and away from the circumstances which held her in thrall. The last thing she expected was to meet a gentleman whose time-traveling experience landed him in her lap.

Nathaniel, too, never expected to give up his familiar life in 2016 to move to the past, but circumstances beyond his control sent him into this other world. Rebecca's, to be specific.

Rebecca's opening first-person narrative captures the terror she feels upon her drunk husband's return home. She fears this time, she won't be able to deflect his wrath, which could cost her life.

Accompanied by Pearl (determined to stick by her through thick and thin), Rebecca makes her way west, moving away from Boston society and the man whose veneer only imitated propriety in public.

Perspectives shift (which are clearly defined in chapter headings) from her husband Elliott's pursuit of her and his entry into Yuma, Territory, Arizona, to the involvement of Benjamin Reynolds, a Pinkerton agent who finds that his latest assignment lands him in the middle of a mess of discoveries.

As Rebecca staves off the day when Elliot will find and capture them, and Nathaniel falls in love with a courageous yet vulnerable lady, readers become involved in a story of romance, intrigue, and pursuit. This may trigger readers with PTSD from predatory relationships but thoroughly engage with its shifting narrators and circumstances.

Libraries and readers seeking a story replete with a sense of 1800s cultural contrasts between Boston high society and Western frontier milieus and vivid personalities who leave their comfort zones to build new lives will find Till My Last Day a compelling story. It enhances the prior Till My Last Breath, yet is a strong, independent, stand-alone read for newcomers.

The Third Man
Geoffrey M. Cooper
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633814028, $18.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

The Third Man continues Geoffrey M. Cooper's reputation for producing flawless, thoroughly engrossing medical thrillers, returning investigators Brad Parker and Karen Richmond to the limelight in a new Maine-centric mystery. It's their seventh adventure in the series (but is perfectly stand-alone, accessible to newcomers to their magic).

World War II history opens the thriller with reference to a German U-boat which deposited two Nazi saboteurs on the coast of Maine. Two were captured... but what if there was a third man? The introduction cements this speculation and is the heart of an exploration that carries Brad and Karen into an ongoing conundrum over a mystery mole whose Nazi ideals fuel new threats in the high-tech world of the 20th century.

Walter Muller's mission is to change the world by continuing to foster Nazi visions of Aryan leadership and world domination. As medical technology and developments arm him with new possibilities beyond ken, Muller operates in a circle of fellow moles and believers who all move dangerously close to realizing their goals.

Only two things stand in their way: Brad and Karen.

Cooper's blend of action and technological developments marries intrigue with real-world possibilities in a frightening manner. The biological threat under development is augmented by plans to "inoculate the media" with equally forceful change. This presents Brad and Karen with new, novel struggles.

Readers who choose The Third Man will find that its intrigue operates on many different levels, from moral and ethical conundrums to the challenges of manipulating a society and priming it for perhaps the most dangerous transformation in its history.

This, in turn, challenges Brad and Karen's skill sets as they embark on a desperate struggle to contain not just a physical weapon, but the ideological contagion infecting society.

There are many mirrors between this book's thriller and suspense action and real-world headlines today. Perhaps that's what makes it especially intriguing, frightening, and hard to put down.

The Third Man is highly recommended for libraries and readers seeking solid, realistic stories of medical and ethical struggle - and to book clubs looking for discussion material wrapped in the appeal of a paradigm-changing mystery.

Embers of Shadow
Lloyd Jeffries
Buckminster Publishing
9798985526981, $2.99 ebook/$13.99 paperback/$20.99 hardcover

Embers of Shadow is the third book in the Ages of Malice sci-fi/thriller series, embedding the ongoing story with a continuation of the powerful brand of nonstop action and discovery that made the previous books so compelling.

Religious fiction readers will appreciate the church-based intrigue and action (which belays any notion that religious reading need be dry) right from the start:

"Bill nods and stifles a yawn. The pastor's face is red; spit flies as he shouts. Bill likes church. The dynamics, the music, the things he learns. The problem with church is you can only take so much. The dude's mostly wrong about everything."

If Bill is bored by his church attendance, what is he doing there? Among other things, he's reflecting on fate, history, and imparting follow-up lessons to the young about kindness and being mindful in encounters with nature.

This is just the prologue. The actual story weaves Bill's experience with others involved in keeping evil forces at bay. This involves Jerusalem and other locales in a world-hopping confrontation with the devil's disciples that delves into love, death, transformations, and threats of biblical proportions.

Lloyd Jeffries embeds his story with the personalities, directives, and clashes that each character absorbs from the blows of malevolence. His move from the third-person description of Bill to first-person "you are here" experiences captures the concerns of a narrator forced to confront and document the encounters between a society bent on taking over the world and the few powers that might prevent Apocalypse and cement Cain's dominance.

Rhyme Carter is immersed in fighting for her own life against evil forces that include her husband and the FBI while Emery Merrick observes the Antichrist unleashing a force into the world that will doom it.

Readers seeking action-packed confrontations between good and evil will find Embers of Shadow excels in marrying high-octane action with characters that hold their own values and motivations for never accepting defeat, even against all odds.

Another strength to the story is that Jeffries presents many of the action-packed scenes using succinct, terse descriptions that build tension without overstating experience:

"He feels weak, shaky, watches the spear fall from a hand that refuses to grip it further. Bullets ricochet, spark in glinting gold as the relic skitters across the lot. The shooting stops. Helos cruise over with a whir and rush of wind. Blackness surrounds, engulfs, consumes."

His particular style of description, character-building focus, and deeper inspections of the origins, incarnation, and roots of malevolence in the world makes for a story that draws with religious foundations and then shakes them with sci-fi and fantasy elements.

Religious libraries, especially, will find Embers of Shadow a fitting addition to the other books, moving observer and narrator Emery into unexpected, uncharted waters not only via the confrontations he witnesses, but by his own choices and ultimate transformation.

Felicia Flamingo and the Florida Friends
Dawn Bragg
Atmosphere Press
9798891321922, $20.00 Hardcover/$13.99 Paperback/$6.99 eBook

Felicia Flamingo and the Florida Friends is the picture book tale of a move to a new town in Florida. She's leaving all of her first grade friends behind; including beloved Tuda Turtle.

Aware of her daughter's sadness, her wise mother advises Felicia to investigate the local park, where she's seen young animals play.

Diversity is represented in the wide range of animal friends Felicia makes, from Estelle Egret to Isabella Ibis, Hernando Heron, and Caesar Crab, as she explores the new park environment. Underlying messages about friendship and attempting new things adds further uplifting notes to this story, encouraging the very young to consider new opportunities that emerge from making big moves.

Libraries and read-aloud adults seeking an uplifting, positive exploration of scary new experiences, loneliness, and the art and process of cultivating friendships and discoveries will find Felicia Flamingo and the Florida Friends as sparkling in its colorful illustrations by Sarah Gledhill as it is thought-provoking in Dawn Bragg's demonstration of how potentially negative scenarios can turn out to be filled with unexpected, positive new opportunities.

Maggie Smith
Puzzle Box Press
9798989677917, $18.95 Paperback/$4.99 eBook

Blindspot is a suspense story that proves the finer art of producing compelling fiction lies not just in a plot outline, but the methodology of the writer. In this case, Maggie Smith's story feels familiar enough: a DA prosecutor faces danger when she is stalked.

The twist lies in events which place Rachel Matthews in the crosshairs of her own beliefs about justice and the methods of the justice system when she becomes not a prosecutor or a victim, but a suspect.

Predictably, she is forced to investigate her own situation. Less predictable is the chain of events which emerges from an alarming, bloody crime scenario to threaten her life with her daughter in novel ways.

In the process of confronting her past successes, failures, and future goals shaken by present-day events, Rachel is prompted to ask hard questions about her life, romance, and family:

"The last thing I needed was the men in my life stepping in to protect me. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Wasn't I?"

Forced to confront an estranged father in search of cash to address a blackmailer, only to find more questions emerging about family and past, Rachel must examine her attitudes and influences in order to move past the blind spots in her own life and assumptions.

Libraries and readers seeking suspense stories couched in psychological revelations and discoveries, as well as cat-and-mouse games, will find Blindspot compelling. Its ability to weave mystery into a growth process will leave readers thinking, well satisfied with a puzzle and threat that turns into discoveries made on more than one level.

Network Apprentice: Behind the Scenes in Talk Television
Graydon "Dee" Hubbard
Atmosphere Press
9798891322240, $18.95

Network Apprentice: Behind the Scenes in Talk Television may sound like an appealing title for media students, but its added value lies in the fact that this is a satirical novel; not nonfiction. Graydon "Dee" Hubbard marries a plot based on student Julie Andrews (who seeks a degree in broadcast journalism) with bigger-picture thinking about network politics and assignments that move Julie away from familiar comfort zones into adventurous, thought-provoking realms.

The story opens with seventeen-year-old Julie's adventure trip with her father, moving into realms of observation and outdoors adventures. Surprisingly, though, the tale opens with the laconic description of a bear who assumes center stage in the beginning:

"Like an aging satyr who indulged too much the night before, he naps all morning sprawled spread-eagle, tongue lolling, drool pooling, flies circling, guts rumbling. Continuous
snores and occasional belches spew from his open mouth. Gluttonous dreams dance in his head."

As stories of leaving familiar trails blend with centuries of history and places in which evil spirits bring disillusionment, Hubbard dances back and forth between Julie's perspective and the experiences of all kinds of characters. These include a shepherd and his son, who face forces of nature beyond their ability to confront, to others who move through space and time. These characters are cemented by modern-day Julie's own efforts to evolve beyond any limitations imposed by either belief or outside influences.

No matter the illustration, Hubbard embeds philosophical considerations into these natural and human dilemmas:

"Dare they attempt it? His headshake is barely perceptible. Then he returns his gaze to the pass and grimaces. Must he turn back, retreat to safety... and to shame? Another headshake. Uncertainty torments him. Reality threatens his aspirations."

Readers may not anticipate the political inspections which evolve from these world-hopping experiences, but the satirical review pulls no punches as it bows to the impact of deceptions fostered by a belief in American values and the role and purpose of government in daily lives.

Media studies students will find the interactions between network officials, politicians, and students to be interesting and enlightening, while general-interest readers with no such background will appreciate the injection of irony and satire into observations and experiences that keep Julie's career objectives in flux.

As she conducts research, considers agenda-driven focuses, and navigates the history and impact of American government's ideals and realities, readers will find much to pique their interest... especially in book club circles interested in debating US policies, network influences, and a father/daughter relationship that grows in novel directions.

Libraries should not only consider Network Apprentice for their fiction collections, but will want to recommend it to book clubs interested in developing a spirited interchange of discussions about nature, ideals, government, and flawed systems.

Distress & Determination Part II: The Further Trials of Frederick Darcy, Young Gentleman
James Wollak
Atmosphere Press
9798891322165, $18.99

Distress & Determination Part II: The Further Trials of Frederick Darcy, Young Gentleman continues the story of Frederick Darcy, who has assumed the position of Master of Pemberley, yet continues to struggle between his legacy and his personal ambition to return to Cambridge and continue his studies.

His return to university brings with it a different growth process that, in turn, injects his diligence with moments of self-doubt and weakness. As he struggles with debate successes and failures and moves the course of his studies into realms that test his ability to handle social introductions, snafus, and ideals of friendships and enemies, Frederick finds his personal study objectives adding to the burden of his position as Master.

Family issues (such as his relationship with his sisters) provide him with ongoing requests for determination and action that function as demanding overlays to his responsibilities - especially when he is forced to consider restitution over a fight, jugging responsibility with realization as he becomes an effective, moral new adult.

James Wollak captures these transformative events and influences on Frederick's life as the young man navigates unexpected confrontations and their consequences:

"Darcy and Frederick began talking at once, interrupting Lord Hartford. Despite this lapse, Frederick won and apologized. 'Thank you for offering, my lord, but I must insist. My father would not - and should not - be responsible for paying for all the damage we caused. If that is so, then why should you? He shrugged. 'Our fight was neither your fault, nor my parents'. I am only a very young man, but I believe it is my responsibility to make amends, despite your generous offer.'"

A political interaction with king and princesses dovetail with dilemmas created by arrogance, assumptions, and encounters that test Frederick in different ways. Wollack captures the milieu of the 1800s in an astute manner that marries personal experience with social requirements, politics, and special interests.

At each step, Frederick steps into responses and values that eventually lead him into the unexpected territory of romance and marriage. As his journey unfolds, so does an exquisite attention to atmospheric detail which will delight readers of historical fiction and libraries catering to them.

These audiences will find Distress & Determination Part II: The Further Trials of Frederick Darcy, Young Gentleman especially inviting if they are already familiar with the first book introducing this young nobleman's world. Part II expands his life in many satisfyingly diverse, unexpected directions.

Sugar Free
Robin D'Amato
Atmosphere Press
9798891322462, $26.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paperback

In Sugar Free, Ginny Eastman experiences an unusual draw and talent for basketball... in the 1960s, when girls were typically not involved in the sport. She overcame gender prejudice to become renowned as a basketball powerhouse despite her short stature and gender.

A third challenge now arrives in the form of juvenile diabetes, which further tests her resolve. But her passion (her father deems it an obsession) continues, propelling her into a milieu in which she faces early retirement not from physical issues, but the lack of any women's professional basketball teams.

By now, it should be apparent that this novel covers many levels of women's history and challenge, from personal health struggles to realizing a dream that comes without the foundations of support that modern young women enjoy (and might take for granted).

Ginny is a trailblazer purely by her own resolve and interests. This is an uncomfortable place to be, with few support systems in place and no prior mentors or female figureheads for guidance.

Racial prejudices also enter the picture when Ginny's Black friend is accused of shoplifting as she attempts to buy a pair of socks. These experiences bring to light the personal nature of 1960s culture and how it impacts young women striving to achieve their goals and somehow fit into a world which too easily pigeonholes and dismisses them.

From notions of "killing virginity" to the murder of John Lennon, who "meant something to people," Robin D'Amato injects her characters and their world with real situations that reflect the limitations and mindset of the times.

As relationships grow with boyfriends, friend Tilly, and others who reflect the times with their own special interests, readers gain a multifaceted, full-bodied story steeped in the culture and revolutionary ideas that motivate the characters in different ways.

Threads of humor add unexpected comic relief, at points. One example is Tilly's reaction to Lennon's death:

"I'm writing this The Day After. My brain still can't wrap around what happened last night. It was so sad at the Dakota. Some people were carrying Beatles signs, but most people just had pictures of John, or quotes from him, stuff like that. One sign read, 'Dear God - Please take Bruce Springsteen and give us back John.' I think there are better people to trade in than Bruce, but I suppose one needs to offer someone of comparable value. I mean, offering Donny Osmond wouldn't cut it."

Sugar Free is a story of growth, both individually and in America as a whole. It charts self-destructive behaviors, ambitions, redemption, and realizations through the lens of a young woman who overcomes adversity to develop unique strengths.

Sugar Free will appeal to a wide range of readers, especially libraries and individuals interested in coming-of-age stories well saturated in women's issues, 1960s politics and social change, and psychological reflections.

Summer Triangle
Elizabeth Webster
Atmosphere Press
9798891320055, $18.99

Summer Triangle will attract and delight readers seeking women's fiction that simmers with vivid contrasts in lives, emotions, and reactions to challenges. It examines the entwined experiences of three women who become bonded by an idyllic beach haven getaway. Each needs to walk out of her life. Each finds not only respite, but recovery and friendship unexpectedly evolving from her escape.

From the start, Elizabeth Webster builds an enticing juxtaposition between the desire for peace and respite and the forces that threaten each woman's security and psyche.

Individually, the women grapple with seemingly overwhelming obstacles; but collectively, they discover a strength in sharing and support that emerges from an initial desire to hide.

Natalie has to run from her life when the dual impact of her husband Harris's infidelity and her professional life's downfall tear her world apart. The reason why she can't find closure by remaining where she's at becomes clear from the start:

"...the handful of therapists that she'd seen and subsequently dumped had all agreed with him. They'd all spoken of closure. There had been vague, saccharine references to sand in her toes. Her most metaphysical therapist had talked often about the "healing" powers of saltwater and sea air. As though childhood trauma was eczema. As though every open wound can be mended by simply circling back to the point of puncture."

Her story, revealed in the first chapter, merges with Eliana's experience with Josh in the second chapter. Chapter headings might have clarified the shifting characters a bit better, but Webster is careful to name each in the opening lines of the chapter, which helps mitigate potential confusion.

Eliana escapes family and financial woes by not only retreating to her beach hideaway, but finds solace in offering it to women enduring similar stresses in their lives, who also need a getaway in order to think. Intriguing questions about gratitude's wellsprings arise early in the story to explain her generosity and perceptions:

"Eliana furrowed her brow. 'You think I'm being ungrateful.'
'I just think we both have to remember it: through some twist of fate, some mixture of fate and work and privilege, we've gotten lucky-'

'And where does that leave me, exactly? Locked into a smile for life?'"

Then there's high-profile model Allegra, who is haunted by a controlling husband and relentless media pursuit. Can she really walk out of her world successfully?

As chapters juxtapose marriages, friendship impacts, and lives in flux, readers will appreciate how these three disparate women's lives become supportive relationships that send ripples of change back into the worlds they fled.

Summer Triangle is especially highly recommended as a summer beach read; for libraries interested in women's fiction that center around friendship impacts and growth opportunities; and for readers interested in psychological clashes and transformation processes.

Beautiful & Terrible Things
S.M. Stevens
Black Rose Writing
9781685134471, $24.95, PB, 392pp

Beautiful & Terrible Things is a novel about social exile, awakening, and new discoveries in modern-day America. Its main character, 29-year-old Charley Byrne, is just coming out of self-imposed isolation in an unnamed city in 2018.

From the start, trigger warnings are appropriate to mention as first an animal's demise, then issues of self-harm, come to light. S.M. Stevens provides graphically powerful (but tasteful) descriptions of these events:

"The squirrel lay on its back, mouth agape in a silent scream. A spot of red blossomed across the white canvas of its belly. She jumped as a passing breeze fluttered the wispy tail. Shuddering again, she embraced her torso, the internal heat from her morning run entirely dissipated."

The manner in which Charley faces the limitations of her life as a bookstore manager, living in an apartment above her job and staying circumspect, is illuminated in passages that follow her past tragedies and her certainty that she remains cursed.

When a customer physically touches her isolated world, Charley is encouraged to break free despite her feelings that such a move will result in further tragedy. Xander brings with him light and opportunity that contrast heavily with her decisions and experiences. This, in turn, propels her to become involved in activist protests against racism and immigrant discrimination.

The move from hermit to hero is immense.

Also intense and important are well-done scenes of evolutionary process outside those of social and political involvements as Xander and Charley explore the world together:

"'The world's injustices can be a heavy weight sometimes.'

'Well, how about on the way down, we forget about injustice and enjoy Mother Nature?'
And that's what they did, descending at a comfortable pace, taking time to hear overlapping layers of summer birdsong, smell pungent pine and musty disintegrating logs, and feast their eyes on the sharp spines, jagged lines, and soft shadows of nature's canvas."

As social chaos, police actions, and new perceptions and values enter Charley's life, they all lend her the courage to face and assess her own traumas and their long-term impact on her personality and choices.

S.M. Stevens creates a fine juxtaposition of beautiful and terrible moments in a life already frayed by self-destructive tendencies, depression, and isolation. The title of this book aptly mirrors the ebb and flow of a challenge that evolves as Charley's life takes dramatic turns, moving away from patterns that once seemed engrained.

Libraries and readers interested in tales of connection, trauma, recovery, and social discovery will find the many currents of transformation in Beautiful & Terrible Things give much food for thought, and also will appeal to book club discussions about a range of subjects, from social and political individual growth to breaking free of individual isolation to enter the wider social arena. It's highly recommended for diverse audiences interested in how social and political consciousness evolves and how self-analysis influences that process.

What If You're Right?
Dr. Emily Colwell
Atmosphere Press
9798891322288, $18.99 Paperback/$9.99 eBook/$26.99 Hardcover

What If You're Right? Discover How Right You Are in a World that Makes You Feel So Wrong comes from a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor and clinical social worker whose decades of experience lends to this examination of self-confidence and strength.

Despite her training, Dr. Colwell had her own intense anxiety to overcome. It proved to be a process that lasted some forty years. Much of it stemmed from her 'lens of wrongness' that " everywhere in our culture. The lens of wrongness convinced me that my anxiety and many other aspects of me were innately wrong and that the solutions lay outside me. This is the case for so many who simply feel the exhaustion of trying to figure it out."

Identifying this concept is only the beginning of the war over ultimate control of life and self. The next steps are clearly outlined by Dr. Colwell in a series of admonitions and insights that discusses not just problems, but real-world, working solutions for such issues as the drive to please other people, countering the tendency towards perfectionism, developing a realistic self-care program, and more.

Dr. Colwell translates problems into workable solutions that require no expertise in anything - just the willingness to work on the issues that contribute to a consistent sense of dissatisfaction with self and life in general.

Readers will be especially pleased by the manner in which problems are tackled - with an eye to examining not just individual challenges, choices, and reactions; but social pressures and how to view and handle them:

"...we are constantly barraged by messages in the media and culture that suggest how we feel, look, or act is not right enough and that the solutions to these "problems" lie outside us. Regardless of how you land in this place, your reaction is often the same. You try to determine your worth by pleasing and seeking approval from others. And to do this, it becomes necessary to nourish your connection with others, but not yourself. The great news is that purposely learning to nourish our connection with ourselves is the antidote."

The result is a primer on self-worth that goes far beyond most typical self-help books and approaches. What If You're Right? creates an inviting, thought-provoking intersection between personal perception, community interactions, and flaws in thinking that contribute to ongoing self-dissatisfaction (and, more importantly, surveys how to remedy them).

All these features are solid reasons why libraries, psychological reading groups, self-help groups, and the general public should choose What If You're Right? over many a competing guide to self-examination.

Its wide-ranging themes and concerns translate to deeper-level thinking and solutions to life challenges that originate from within, making What If You're Right? the perfect starting place for cultivating self-acceptance and change.

The Ghostly Diva
Sandra L. Young
The Wild Rose Press Inc.
9781509255221, $17.99 Paperback/$4.99 eBook

What better job can there be for one passionate about antiques and history than that of an Assistant Museum Director? That's what Justine Saunders thinks. Her latest assignment - to go through the belongings of a deceased actress - only supports her notion that she holds the best job in the world... until the ghost appears when a storm strands her with the actress's grumpy son, Jackson Maddox. The spirit encourages them both to uncover the diva's real legacy and impact on his life.

As Justine and Jackson pursue the truth about his father's identity, why his mother protected it so fiercely, and the inheritance that led him back to the small town that once was his home, romance (perhaps predictably) blossoms between the two.

The pursuit of truth dovetails with a concurrent need to save her beloved job, propelling Justine to address greater issues as she both fields love and fights for her job.

Sandra L. Young creates an engaging story in which Justine's own mother is trying to set her up with romance even as Justine falls into one entirely on her own. Well... not entirely, because meddling mothers in the form of ghosts can be just as influential as those still alive.

Additionally, a job opportunity in Chicago threatens many things. Justine must work at discovering where her heart (and love) really lie.

There's a cozy quality to this story, even though it's not billed as a mystery. Young builds her characters as individuals whose interests both clash and coalesce over various influences and events (both supernatural and in the real world) that make their mark on Justine and Jackson.

Young injects moral and ethical concerns into the story, adding a full-bodied richness to dilemmas and conflicts over choices and their possible outcomes:

"Justine stared at the empty chair, registering a mix of awe and dread. What a convoluted mess. How did she end up being the chosen one to pursue Liza's ambitions? And why wouldn't she share the scoop on her baby daddy now? Would breaking the promise land her in hell? The thought chilled her. How wild that she could even consider such a concept."

Between money management, developing new social skills, and confronting museum marketing challenges, Justine has her hands full even without adding love into the bigger picture.
The result is a captivating, warm story of evolving connections and new directions that is especially recommended for cozy romance readers who like accents of the supernatural added into their small-town stories. Libraries will find it easy to recommend The Ghostly Diva for its clean-cut dilemmas and explorations of love.

We'll Always Have Poison
BJ Magnani
Encircle Publications
9781645995241, $27.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paperback/$5.99 eBook

We'll Always Have Poison adds the fourth Dr. Lily Robinson novel to the series, attracting prior fans to her latest romantic suspense encounters. Dr. Robinson faces a murder mystery when a renowned climate scientist is found dead off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia just before he's set to deliver a world-shaking report about his research.

Is his death a coincidence; or does it indicate the fossil fuel industry's new approach to getting rid of climate scientists whose work threatens their status quo?

BJ Magnani first cements the murder scenario and Australian environment before she turns to the first-person account of Lily, using compelling, descriptive language to pull newcomers into Lily's current milieu:

"My name is Lily Robinson, and I'm on the upside of my recovery from a gunshot wound suffered at the hands of a terrorist. Remnants of my past stay with me, plague me, tangled in what's to come. It's the past I now hear knocking at my door. And maybe the future, too."

With this revealing introduction comes a probe not only of murder, but the emotions that fuel Lily's life and profession:

"You have to learn to let it go, Lily. You cover your emotions, but underneath that clinical coat, you feel deeply. Is that why you chose to become a pathologist? Your patients remain anonymous. All you have is their name, date of birth, and hopefully, some medical history. You rarely see them in the flesh. You do not have to watch their eyes fill with tears when you tell them no cure exists for what ails them. You remain protected beneath your intellect. Et, you wear it like a cloak."

A powerful note to Magnani's exploration is that it does not adopt the usual formula genre approach of a murder mystery, suspense, or romance story. Magnani takes the time to describe the natural world that surrounds Lily's life and experiences:

"....the sound that haunts me to this day belonged to the White-browed Robin-Chat, whose multiple melodious songs let us know each morning that he was the master of his territory. A lovely bird with a robin's red breast, black cap, and a black mask covering his eyes, with a distinctive white stripe sitting above, giving him his name. My binoculars hung around my neck, awaiting a glimpse of any bird or wildlife wandering near our tented camp. We were in awe."

As a host of characters swirl around new discoveries, threats, and medical mysteries, Lily's story is flushed out by the possible motivations and influences of others. Magnani is quite adept at both developing characters and weaving them solidly into their environments, special interests, and Lily's investigation.

Powered by a romantic component (as Lily is supported by lover JP Marchand), the story evolves a satisfying mix of intrigue and relationship development alike, as what seems like a straightforward death turns into a struggle for world domination.

With climate science at the heart of events, readers will relish a tale that pairs contemporary issues with twists and turns of love and death, to prove compellingly realistic and absorbing.

Libraries seeking the perfect marriage of a suspense story and a partnership challenged by unprecedented threats will relish We'll Always Have Poison, which holds the ability to stand powerfully on its own as it compliments Lily's other medical adventures.

A Sister Ago
Caitlin Buhr
Atmosphere Press
9798891322325, $15.99

A Sister Ago is about the death of a sister, the strange coincidences that emerge from sibling Christine's loss, and a probe that sends her from grief to investigation as she uncovers some startling new facts about her sister's life and death.

While Caitilin Buhr's novel may seem to be a murder mystery in disguise, look further to uncover the threads of family relationships and discovery that keep this story moving beyond mystery realms alone.

Buhr is adept at portraying the immediate and long-term impact of sister Rachel's death as Christine simultaneously seeks answers and recovery from grief. This search brings her to grad student Keji and the startling realization that her therapist has violated client confidentiality by sharing with him details of Christine's life and Rachel's death. Why would Walter do this? And what does Keji's brother Yota have to do with Rachel's demise?

As the two probe odd circumstances and serendipity, new realizations arise about relationships, coincidence, and determination. These shake each's cognizance of who their brother and sister really were.

Underlying insights about addiction, family relationships, and more lend a multifaceted feel to the story that will keep readers thoroughly engaged and guessing about outcomes.

This is why A Sister Ago is highly recommended both for libraries seeking novels that include a flavor of mystery, but forge deeper into family connections, and readers who enjoy stories filled with unexpected twists and turns, both emotional and investigative. The sense of discovery is exquisitely developed, while the characters are three-dimensional and captivating throughout their growth and grief processes.

Σ Book I: Thumos Rising
Demitrios Lopez
Atmosphere Press
9798891320512, $18.99 Paperback/$9.99 eBook

Σ Book I: Thumos Rising blends sci-fi and fantasy in an epic adventure story. Ninivon is on the verge of destruction, and Zeno is stepping into his role as a hero for ? (a primordial power), battling a vampire conqueror from beyond the stars.

These elements are only a taste of what Thumos Rising offers; because embedded in this rich saga of discovery is a vivid set of characters, an engrossing sense of past events, and a tale of self-discovery and action that is steeped in a sense of inevitable disaster, balance, and relationships. All these factors shift over time, space, and influence, contributing to an absorbing set of insights about Zeno's real impact and role:

"Zeno loved Alexandra as he loved his own soul. Zeno had never abandoned her and he did not have the advantage of the foreknowledge the Priestess had afforded him. Zeno actually believed that Alexandra had died at Ying-Chau. To have received her back from the dead, only to lose her again, must have cut to his heart."

From issues of free will and destiny to military operations that immerse friends in families in war and struggle, exploits that attract admirers from surprising sectors, and epic journeys that Zeno undertakes with the accompaniment of volunteers and loved ones, Thumos Rising is steeped in a sense of purpose and place that will delight both sci-fi and fantasy readers.

These audiences should anticipate an immersive experience in which a world's fate rests solidly on the shoulders of a flawed hero whose destiny lies as much in the consequences of his actions and choices as it does in preordained battles with the Vampire and his warriors.

Thought-provoking observations pepper the story:

"You have heard of the Blue Order, have you not?"
"Yes, thugs trying to carve out a black market under the Vampire's heavy hand. Organized crime isn't the same as a rebellion."
"They're not just thugs or criminals anymore. Now they are rebels."

In the end, the Vampire wins. Or, does he? Certainly, the creature's actions have successfully impacted Zeno's world and love. The story ends in a cliffhanger that leaves the door more than open for more.

Libraries and readers seeking a representation of action and adventure that crosses the line between sci-fi and fantasy genres to marry the two in a vivid clash of creatures and causes will relish Σ Book I: Thumos Rising, the first in a projected series.

A Life of Dreams
Doug Dunnevant
Atmosphere Press
9798891322189, $16.99 Paperback/$7.99 eBook /$25.99 Hardcover

In A Life of Dreams, Percy Hope's newfound wealth has elevated him to a life of luxury and achievement that he never could have imagined. Nor could he envision losing it; but when his inheritance fades, so does the illusion of stability and success that came with it.

Plagued by nightmares, Percy struggles with the aftermath of a suicide attempt, juggling various forms of success with requirements that both lend purpose to his life and test his resolve and relationships. Between gambling losses and infidelity to eventual divorce and devastation, Percy is left with only the dreams that haunt his psyche with new possibilities and deadly reflections.

Doug Dunnevant traverses the topics of forgiveness, healing, and redemption. He portrays a middle-aged man whose objectives and approaches to life shift as money comes and goes, love ebbs and flows, and his sense of purpose is altered by death and renewal.

Well-developed characters change Percy's life in unexpected ways that are not all about success and failure, but the gray areas of perception and goals which lie in between. However, Percy isn't the only one under the microscope, here. Beth, too, receives close inspection as viewpoints shift between them. Named chapter headings could have solidified these shifts with more clarity, but most readers won't become entirely lost over the ways in which Percy and Beth find their lives entwined over family and destiny:

"She had often wondered what she would feel at the first glimpse of him. Would there be any recognition? What emotion would flow to the surface: anger, resentment, fear? Nothing had prepared her for love. Her first reaction to seeing the father who had totally abandoned her was an overwhelming desire to run to him. Then, as surprising and unnerving as her first response had been, soon after, all was emotional panic. Could she bear it if he didn't return her love, or worse, treated her with indifference?"

The result is a thought-provoking novel of discovery and recovery that is highly recommended for libraries and readers seeking sagas of redemption that arrive with a hint of supernatural influences. These readers will welcome Percy and Beth's realistic encounters, changing relationship, and the impact of wealth, poverty, and self-awareness on the choices each makes in life.

The Goddess of Weaver Street
Joy Ross Davis
Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing
9781954332539, $16.95

The Goddess of Weaver Street is a novel steeped in magical realism and mental illness quandaries, and presents a story of challenge, empowerment, and change.

Women who enjoy reading about strong characters who each contribute their dualities and abilities to the plot will find much to appreciate, here. The story opens with Lynda Lee Brennan, who has won many beauty pageants and is on track to follow in her parents' posh footsteps until she marries a struggling medical student who is ten years her senior. This both defies her set course of achievement and results in everything she's ever wanted - a home and love, with the future potential of a family and a happy life.

End of story? This is only the beginning as Lynda moves from success to confront her parents' different definitions of failure and achievement, only to come full circle in facing her own obstacles to contentment.

Ray completes his schooling... then informs her that he's chosen a medical specialty which involves six more years of school (and poverty). This more than throws a monkey wrench in Lynda's timeline for developing a family:

Six more years, Lynda thought and her heart sank. It's 1956, and I'll be almost thirty by then.

To his credit, Ray is more than cognizant of the sacrifices Lynda's had to make for him, and appreciates her for this:

"I couldn't have done this without you," he said, looking down at her with his glorious blue eyes, a stray lock of black hair hanging across his forehead. "You've been my rock, my foundation, and I'll never forget how you've sacrificed for me. I took away the most beautiful girl in New York and turned her into a poor housewife who couldn't afford to buy even a scrap of steak. And you, my dear, have remained just as beautiful and have been the very best wife any man could want."

Ray treats her like his goddess even as Lynda confronts the realities of just how much she has changed in the course of her relationship, foregoing not only many of her old dreams, but the habits that once fueled her life:

She fancied herself a bit of a mermaid and even wore a pastel blue and green dress in her first pageant to symbolize the mermaid in her. She'd won that pageant without anyone ever knowing how much she adored the water or rather, being under the water. She swam with her eyes wide open in their family pool, swam and swam... until she met Ray. She wondered now if she'd lost her ability to swim. "I was once a mermaid," she whispered to the water. "Once upon a time, I could swim the length of this lake without ever coming up for air."

As Lynda comes to be known as the Goddess of Weaver Street, her beauty and attraction still prevalent, readers also absorb the deeper magical layers of attraction, life viewpoint, and changing goals and attractions that Lynda cultivates as she returns to her love of water and unexpectedly becomes the swim team coach for the summer.

Her dreams include encounters with magical weavers who shave the edges from the reality that is her life, injecting it with different possibilities as she embarks on a journey that involves learning new habits and absorbing story examples about strong women.

Joy Ross Davis creates an uplifting sense of discovery and achievement, weaves magical encounters with mental examinations, and deftly portrays how Lynda navigates such dilemmas as her friend's secret (wife abuse), the politics of medicine and her husband's achievements, and her own revised place in the world.

Libraries seeking women's novels replete with atmospheres of change, magical thinking, and realistic life pivot points will find The Goddess of Weaver Street a thrilling acquisition. It's sure to attract women's book clubs, with its myriad of thought-provoking transformative experiences that operate on different levels.

Matthew J. McKee
Atmosphere Press
9798891321854, $18.99

In Flicker, protagonist Heat Agaki is on fire. Literally. She also holds the ability to set the world around her on fire as her drive to burn those around her (whom she deems undeserving of life) expands to include designs on the world.

As the topic of arson sparks reader interest from Heat's perspective, Matthew J. McKee creates an evocative read that juxtaposes fantasy with reality, employing language that is captivating in its atmospheric choices:

I'm alone, dressed in white, standing in a pile of cold, loamy earth at the end of my street. The soil is moist, alive with insects and worms squirming between my naked toes. It's night, but it's not dark. It's bright, so very bright. It's bright because of the fires. All the houses.... All the houses on my street are on fire. In my left hand is the gasoline, and in my right hand is the lighter. And at the end of the road, where I'm standing, is my house. It is burning, like all the rest, a bright, vibrant, and bloody red. I turn to stare at those beautiful, noble flames. I watch until smoke engulfs the entire sky, and then I laugh and pour the last of the gasoline over my head.

Vibrant dreams filled with red flames spill over into Heat's own life, drawing readers into a dark story that tests the lines of right and wrong and how the charge and duty of employing powers can not only change lives, but lead to questions about the right to do so.

As Heat navigates a clever, savvy detective, the whispers of schoolmates, and her own heart, readers will find the juxtaposition of intrigue, realization, and discovery contribute an atmosphere that is difficult to easily peg... which is the reason for this story's exceptional strengths.

The dialogues between Heat and The Detective are as freshly original as the plot's evolutionary process:

"I was planning on waiting on the curb, mind you. But again, the door was ajar when I arrived, so as is my duty, I investigated." The Detective tapped a finger off her clipboard. "A ten-year-old domestic abuse claim against the mother for supposed physical abuse of her daughter, called in by the neighbor, but unsubstantiated and denied by the husband. With a record like that hanging over the house, a door ajar is all the probable cause I need."
"What proof do you have to say otherwise?"
"That'ssss, not an okay thing for a detective to say-"
"THE." Her eyes drew wide, delirium spilling from them in waves. "I'm The Detective. I don't care what an okay thing to say is. My lines are almost and foregone. So don't come and parade an excuse like that in front of me. A kid as intelligent as you? Come on. You can do better, I think."

At once a work of magical realism, intrigue, psychological rifts and healing, and mental breakdowns that marry ecstasy with achievement, Flicker's literary and psychological prowess makes it especially highly recommended for high school to college students who enjoyed Stephen King's Carrie.

Here, a very different set of events take a step up from heat and vengeance alone to depict heat in the forms of metaphor, allusion, and allegory, and many more captivating possibilities. These will lend fire to reader group and classroom discussions.

My Search for Jazzbo Jones
Ethan Hirsh
Atmosphere Press
9798891322196, $19.99

My Search for Jazzbo Jones is a memoir that comes from the unusual angle of author Ethan Hirsh's search for the truth about a terrible accident that blinded his friend Jim Beeson before they met.

Beeson's activism for the blind and his outgoing personality contributed to an unusual friendship that surpassed generational differences, leading to Hirsh's own expanded insights on blindness, survivors, and major life transitions.

As he pursued the facts and truth about Beeson's situation, Hirsh discovered that, in fact, he was pursuing questions and answers that expanded his own enlightenment, attitudes, and growth.

But this isn't a narrow focus on a singular friendship. Hirsh's life expands to cover family, the military, social and political changes, and such events as unexpectedly meeting Che Guevara. Houston, Texas's culture and undercurrents create strong themes through his adventurous life even as he researches the circumstances surrounding Beeson's blindness.

These facets all dovetail in a memoir that is at once gripping, expansive, and replete with both personal experiences and vision and bigger-picture thinking.

Readers receive such a diverse set of insights, from blindness and survival to social change and adaptation, that it's hard to delineate all the important themes in one review.

Suffice it to say that there is nothing singular about My Search for Jazzbo Jones; either in its depiction of a quest for the truth of past events or in the evolutionary nature of its author's mandate.

As Hirsh says from the start, his memoir isn't just about himself. It's about Jim "Jazzbo"'s unique journey, as well, and deserves a place in any library collection strong in memoirs of blindness, adaptation, friendship, and growth.

Rock & Roll Nightmares: Blood On The Tracks
Staci Layne Wilson
Excessive Nuance
9781737513995, $15.99 Paperback/$0.99 eBook

Rock & Roll Nightmares: Blood On The Tracks: From Guitars to Graveyards... Unraveling the Mysteries Behind Rock's Most Tragic Tunes is highly recommended for libraries and readers of popular music history. While it would seem there are plenty of books already on the market on this subject, Staci Layne Wilson's approach sets her book apart from many, making it a top recommendation for discriminating music fans.

Wilson adopts an expose-style investigative probe of the underlying stories, influences, and experiences that led to pop music fame. Rock 'n roll's dark heart, real-life drama, and often-horrific stories of coincidences, clashes, and biographical behind-the-scenes sketches of the musicians and culture which influenced its evolution come to life, here.

Unexpectedly, murder and crimes abound, making these tales equally attractive to true crime readers who wouldn't ordinarily pick up what appears to be a music history title.

From bands connected to killers and musician backgrounds that interplay deadly danger with artistic license to added flavors of humor, creative music investigation, and the nefarious underworld of music culture, Wilson's decades of experience writing about music and producing professional documentaries on the subject results in a compelling saga that is at once macabre, fascinating, and a far cry from the usual pop music history.

From "shock rocker" Alice Cooper's concept album connections to criminal insanity to songs by Blind Melon and other contemporary groups that come embedded with special forms of information, revelation, and intrigue, Rock & Roll Nightmares: Blood On The Tracks takes a deep dive into darkness. It leads rock 'n roll fans, true crime readers, and musicians on a rollicking ride into arenas commonly ignored or missed by more straightforward analyses of the music scene.

The result is a captivatingly dark portrait of music and musicians which is very highly recommended for its exceptional alternative approach to pop culture, its threads of biographical information, and its ability to connect killers and crazy thinking with the evolution of rock 'n roll as a whole.

Libraries will find these added-value facets lend to Rock & Roll Nightmares: Blood On The Tracks's recommendation to any reader or book club interested in looking at rock music from a very different perspective.

White Lies Matter Too
John A. O'Connor
Independently Published
9798350953176, $34.99

White Lies Matter Too follows artist/professor John A. O'Connor's 2020 title White Lies Matter, expanding his scholarly expose of America's historic participation in deception and lies to build quite a different undercurrent of political insight than most.

The power of this survey lies in both its footnoted research and in its ability to present thought-provoking discussion material, making it especially highly recommended for college-level reading groups.

Those anticipating, from this description, a textual tome will be surprised (and delighted) by the artistic focus. Illustrations liberally pepper the account with visuals that enhance and emphasize many of the concepts under John A. O'Connor's microscope.

These range from reconstructions of historical events from diverse perspectives to supporting artwork that captures sentiments and underlying cultural and social bias, which tailor historical 'accuracy' to glide over truths:

A young soldier at the time, future general and president Ulysses Grant said, 'I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico.'" What Grant may have not acknowledged was that this war was also perceived by many abolitionists as a blatant attempt to increase the number of slaves and slave states - a view supported by the eminent author, Henry David Thoreau. Grant might also have decided that this war really wasn't all that wicked if he had the wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to compare with the Mexican-American War.

Whether O'Connor is discussing the dilemma and history of drug abuse in America past and present; the purpose and impact of the House Committee on Un-American Activities; or the origin of the term 'culture wars', the revelations packed into this survey will make it of supreme interest to high school to college-level courses on revisionist history, activism in America, and the social and political transition points of the nation and how they ultimately were interpreted and presented.

Many a book club discussion group in artistic and political activism and connections will find White Lies Matter Too thoroughly absorbing for its multifaceted subjects, insights into American ideals and deceptions, and probe of processes which influence the masses, creating precedents for assumptions and belief systems which may not always (or often don't) attune to the nuances underlying what really happened, historically.

The result is at once an artistic presentation, a social and historical scholarly reflection, and a work of passion and purpose. White Lies Matter Too is very highly recommended for libraries, book clubs, and college courses interested in an intersection between popular culture and art, history, and activism that underlies and translates familiar events and assumptions in different ways.

From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter
Francis Carco
9781963363012, $24.95


If, perchance, From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter sounds familiar, that's because Francis Carco's memoir was first published in 1927. This annotated edition makes his work more accessible to a wider audience, includes Rob Couteau's analytical Introduction and a new Afterword by Christopher Sawyer Laucanno, and follows the experiences of an 1886 poet, artist, and traveler who fell into a close, supportive association with bohemian Paris.

There the young man creatively blossomed, immersed in the arts and producing over a hundred books that ranged from poetry to his own astute analyses of other artists; including a critical essay on Modigliani which revealed the man's value at a point where other French critics scoffed at his works.

From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter is more than your typical biography. It assumes the atmospheric draw of a Proust production with its 'you are here' survey of his times and Paris's artistic community. Couteau's footnotes add critical reflections and interpretations key to understanding Carco's objectives, perspectives, and his times:

And it was no ordinary portrait I saw, but a full-length one, from the old slippers on his feet, his trousers tied around his waist by some twine, his collarless shirt, his coat covered with spots, to his hair which he kept brushed back without the aid of a comb.*

*Note how Carco turns the tables and, in a consummately painterly fashion, conjures a "portrait" of Utrillo. In both his poetry and prose Carco's painterly eye assumes a prominent role, occasionally even endangering the dramatic effects and tensions necessary to maintain a reader's interest.

The extensive footnotes to this annotated edition lend it a scholarly value that will make From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter of special interest to college-level students, with its 300 annotations. But its attraction doesn't stop there.

Both Carco and researcher Rob Couteau create compelling observations, insights, and historical value, but couch these in lively language and passages that should reach into general-interest audiences who hold an appreciation for all things Parisian and its arts community of the early 1900s.

Its survey of friendships, relationships, and the artistic promise quashed by events of the Great War create a lively, memorable read especially recommended for those who appreciate in-depth footnoted references. These enlighten readers on facets of Carco's life and times that might otherwise slip by with a reading of the memoir alone.

All these facets make From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter an astute historical and literary memoir that embraces the arts, social and political milieu, and powerful perspectives of the times.

Libraries (including general-interest collections as well as college-level holdings strong in memoirs and artist history) will find it easy to recommend From Montmartre to the Latin Quarter for its thoroughly engrossing, richly realistic passages, firmly embedded in Carco's life and times and the creations and influences of 1900s Paris.

The Art of Becoming Another Person Entirely
Brenda Arnold
Independently Published
9798989196005, $14.95 Paperback/$6.99 eBook

The Art of Becoming Another Person Entirely is a novel filled with reflection and humor, and tells of why Myrna Rutledge believes that, despite all her wealth, it's a tragedy that her husband comes with the deal. Such an attitude should not come with marriage, so in the interests of having it all, Myrna packs her bags and heads for L.A. in possession of the not-so-secret stash of a million dollars Frank hid under the guest bed.

There Myrna, far from familiar territory and buffeted by the turbulent changes of the 1960s, discovers new opportunities that not only test her beliefs, morals, and character, but prompt her to become the woman she was meant to be.

Transformation, however applauded, is no easy effort; especially for one like Myrna. Much like Bernadette in the classic modern novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, Myrna cultivates a wry, witty, oddball sense of self and perspective. This affects her perception of self and change as much as the serendipity that follows her to, surprisingly, once again ties her to Frank; albeit in a quite unexpected manner.

Readers who choose this novel anticipating a light beach read from both its title and the cover art of a woman wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed beach hat will find the story rich in quirky characters that surround Myrna with tongue-in-cheek life observations and dialogue that is hilarious:

"A theme," Myrna said. "We need a theme for your party. Maybe a tie-in with one of your films."

Kitty arched one perfect brow. "Well, let's see," she said. "I did a film called The Devil Bat about a scientist who develops an aftershave lotion that causes giant bats to kill anyone who wears it... And then there's Dr. Cyclops, a film about a scientist who shrinks all his colleagues. And last, but not least, there's my personal favorite, The Lone Wolf Gets a Date."

"I can work with that," Myra said.

The finer art of becoming someone different is to let go old patterns of behavior and reaction in favor of "feeling the magic" in relationships, life encounters, and ironic developments.

Myrna does all this and more, which gives The Art of Becoming Another Person Entirely colorful highlights of intensity and reflection which juxtaposes joy and humor with wisdom.

That's why The Art of Becoming Another Person Entirely is highly recommended for libraries and readers; especially women's book clubs who seek reads that seem deceptively easy, but augment their entertainment detail with subjects more than worthy of discussion, from romance to reinvention.

Surviving Paradise: The Perils and Pleasures of the Caribbean
Bryan M. Byrd
Novacom Press
9798989798711, $31.99 Hardcover; $22.99 Paperback; $9.99 eBook

Surviving Paradise: the Perils and Pleasures of the Caribbean, an auto-fiction novel by Bryan M. Byrd, is a diverse, dramatic story combining autobiography with fictional elements.

Expect anecdotes and threads of humor, romance, and unexpected adventure as the exploration of how Bryan became a sailor and adventurer is introduced with an immediate draw from the first line: "I didn't trust Rocco, but had no choice."

As a passenger on a sailboat who knew nothing about sailing, Bryan finds himself in a situation where "....between Rocco and the Bermuda Triangle, I feared Rocco more." Talk about a sailing trip gone awry!

The action and adventure unfold as relentlessly as the waves which buffet Bryan's life as one exploit after another turns the tides from a well-earned, secure life to one which feels like it's approaching its end.

But, that's often the nature of adventure, which also brings with it a healthy dose of discovery, attraction, beach scenes and experiences, as Bryan explores the Caribbean and the psyche simultaneously.

Readers might be pleasantly surprised by the psychological insights which permeate the narrative as much as its humor: these emerge at unexpected moments: "...take responsibility for your condition. Then change it. Blaming someone else gets you nowhere, and keeps you there.... When choosing a mind-altering substance, choose education.... I'd rather be alone than wishing I were."

From the Bahamas to Turks & Caicos, to the Virgin Islands, this sailing saga cultivates a "you are here" feeling - of rocking boats, changing lives, evolving nature, personal, interpersonal, and worldly discoveries. These inject the story with action-packed scenarios as well as lazy days aboard a sailboat facing nautical adversity and pleasures alike.

This is no one-trip wonder, but incorporates decades of experience into a story which is as notable for its insights on love and growth as it is for its treasure hunts of discovery.

And, there's no more perfect beach read to take to the sands; readers will find Surviving Paradise: the Perils and Pleasures of the Caribbean the perfect antidote for a life stuck "on the hard." Libraries and book clubs will appreciate a rollicking good ride through Caribbean encounters and a sailor's coming-of-age.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Stuart Woods' Smolder
Brett Battles, author
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593540091, $30.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

"Stuart Woods' Smolder" is a page turner from beginning to the exciting end. Stone Barrington encounters a wealthy man who cannot stand, Barrington based on several other times they have encountered each other. In private the prosperous man still stewing, enlists the aid of several individuals, to carry out a caper designed, to hit hard in a vulnerable way, that involves paintings by his Stone's mother. As always there are continuing characters, to help Stone thwart, the insane plan of a vicious loser. "Stuart Woods' Smolder" is a welcome addition by Brett Battles who is a perfect choice to continue Stuart Woods novels.

Pay Dirt: A V.I. Warshawski Novel
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
9780063010932, $30.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

V.I Warshawski is back in "Pay Dirt" a complicated, rapid-fire thriller. V.I. is down as far as she can go, questioning everything about herself, as well as all she has ever been and will be. She is at an all-time low, because she blames herself for the death of two individuals of a recent case in Chicago. Licking her wounds. she retreats to Kansas where she is asked by a friend to investigate why a woman competing in a basketball event suddenly disappears, with no trace, or at least that is the way the police see it. Also the town has a secret dating back to the eighteen hundreds, that is a ticking time bomb. "Pay Dirt" is a gem of masterful storytelling, that is a thrilling addition to the long running series.

Murder She Wrote: Murder Backstage
Jessica Fletcher & Terrie Farley Moran
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593640753, $18.00 pbk $12.99 Kindle

"Murder She Wrote: Murder Backstage" continues the long running series of novels with a charming read for fans of the original TV show. This time out Jessica ha been contacted by her cousin who invites Jessica and whoever she wants to come with her to a play being preformed in Canada. The several residents of Cabot Cove join Jessica for what starts out as a vacation but quickly turns to murder as one of the behind-the-scenes stage people is killed in the theater. Now Jessica and company begin to find the clue to solve the case. "Murder She Wrote: Murder Backstage" is a cozy mystery to enjoy over the long hot summer.

A Spy Like Me
Kim Sherwood
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
9780063236578, $30.00 HC $14.99 Kindle

It is a difficult task to write in another authors universe as is the case with "A Spy Like Me" that is a second work, by Kim Sherwood to involve the realm of 007 without involving James Bond. Ian Fleming experimented several times something different from his yearly novels of James Bond including "Thrilling Cities", a nonfiction travel smorgasbord, as well as "The Diamond Smugglers, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" a children's work for his son and two collections of short stories "For Your Eyes Only" and Octopussy." Fleming tried his hand at many different types of writing but was most comfortable in the world of 007. The most unpopular Bond book that received little acclaim was "The Spy Who Loved Me" where Bond is barely in it. Sherwood mentions throughout James, but he is not in this one, and it is tedious without the main ingredient that needs to be there. It is as if you are cooking a very special recipe without the main component. I would hope after "A Spy Like Me" that in the third and hopefully final installment of this cycle Bond will be a more important character of the next one

James Bond After Fleming: The Continuation Novels
Mark Edlitz
Independently published
9798863381688, $34.99 pbk No Kindle

Bond James Bond is back, in the wonderful work "James Bond After Flemming: The Continuation Novels" Edlitz traces the history of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming to some of the most recent including the current "A Spy Like Me." He gives insights into all the Fleming works then reveals so many other facts, of the continuing ones that began with "Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis, License Renewed John Gardner who updated the character and wrote many new ones. "Blast From The Past Raymond Benson continued with many by Benson then there were many singles until Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horwitz who took Bond back to the original books and time. His were special, because they had unused portions originally penned, by Fleming himself. Edlitz continues with the most current titles, "Double Or Nothing" and "A Spy Like Me." He includes the adult title "On His Majesty's Secret Service" by Charlie Higson. There are a lot of other books dealt with that are fun to learn about because there are so many of them. Edlitz has researched so much of the world of James Bond that should be pointed out, is not the film version but the original creation by Ian Fleming. All in all "James Bond After Fleming: The Continuation Novels" is a very detailed work that any Bond fan, would love to own as a wonderful coffee table book, about the world' number one secret agent

The Language Of the Night: Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy
Ursula K. LeGuin
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781668034903, $18.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

The "Language Of the Night: Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy" shows to readers many things they wonder about by one of the ground breaking women in the genre. Until now many of us knew very little about one of the finest in the genre who was a trailblazer. No she directly talks to many writings collected here for the first time with brand new introduction by Ken Lin as well as many views by LeGuin herself about one of her most controversial novels "The Left Hand of Darkness," breaking into the field for women, the craft of writing as well as we see many of her political views as well as her view of the world we live in. "The Language Of the Night" is as fresh as ever and should appeal to whole new generations of readers.

Angels of Faith
Claire Candy Hough, author
Wendy Mehr, illustrator
Angel Healing House
978098157602, $17.95 pbk / No Kindle

"Angels of Faith" is a beautifully written story of a young girl and an older woman, who form a relationship that lasts for many decades. It is the basis for the young female to become a nurse to help other people in the hospital. There is more that involves angels who tell the older woman its not her time to go with them. The nurse takes what she has learned, to spreads positives to other sick patients. There is more to the story, as the angels have a greater contribution to it later. "Angels of Faith" is exquisitely told that is uplifting fare for all of us in these most difficult times.

Peanuts: Snoopy's Beagle Scout Tales
Charles M. Schultz
Simon Spotlight
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665952408, $11.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

A new Charlie Brown book is always fun and "Peanuts: Snoopy's Beagle Scout Tales" is a new graphic novel. Included are classic works from Charles Schultz and new ones from many talented artists and writers. The selections take place at summer camps, with the whole gang including Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy and Woodstock. There are lots of new characters too like several bullies and a new love interest for Charlie Brown, and plenty of birds like Woodstock. You cannot go wrong with a Charlie Brown title and "Peanuts: Snoopy's Beagle Scout Tales" is solid proof of that claim that no fan of the gang should miss.

Welcome to Camp Snoopy
Adapted from the show Camp Snoopy by Jason Cooper
Simon Spotlight
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665953191, $8.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

What better way to teach kids and adults than a Charlie Brown book? "Welcome To Camp Snoopy" is a wonderful one that is a bit different. Its not a comic strip or graphic novel but contains some of the artwork and many truly remarkable examples to follow when in summer camp that should be applied year-round. Some of them are handing home sickness, packing your own lunch, activities to do, being thoughtful, are some of the subjects covered that include many of the Peanuts gang. "Welcome to Camp Snoopy" is a beautiful way to instill in all of us to be better people utilizing popular cartoon characters.

My Lighthouse
Ali Gilkeson of Rend Collective, author
Lee Wildish, illustrator
c/o Random House Childrens Books
9780593581421, $14.99 HC / $8.99 Kindle

"My Lighthouse" is a beautifully told story of a boy who goes on an adventure. Fynn wonders why his family can not live in a regular home like everyone else. He talks to his dad who only says their home is special. Fynn takes a boat out on the water to encounter storms that get him lost. It is then he learns truth of his fathers words. "My Lighthouse" is a beautifully told tale with many different underlying premises for all ages to enjoy

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

City Nature
Martha Retallick
Western Sky Communications
9798986857701, $99.95, HC, 104pp

Synopsis: In the midst of ongoing news about Southwestern water scarcity, photographer and gardening enthusiast Martha Retallick saw an opportunity.

For 20 years, she has been transforming her central Tucson home into an urban oasis. The secret to her success was something she called Water Harvesting.

Since Retallick purchased her central Tucson home in 2004, she has incorporated two types of water harvesting (passive and active) into her landscape. Passive water harvesting is simply the act of sculpting the landscape to direct the water to where it should be (like plants) and away from where it shouldn't be -- like a home's foundation.

Retallick's landscape incorporates three passive water harvesting features -- basins, berms, and drainage swales. Collectively, these earthworks eliminate the need for landscape irrigation that's connected to the municipal water supply, which is served by Tucson Water.

According to the Tucson Water Department, approximately 40 percent of water use in Tucson is outdoors. This includes residential uses like landscape irrigation and garden watering.

Retallick's irrigation-free landscape also includes two active water harvesting features in the form of a 1,500-gallon cistern that collects rainwater for use in the back-yard vegetable garden, and a laundry-to-landscape greywater harvesting system that diverts wastewater from the washing machine to three fruit trees.

"City Nature: Tales of Ornery Plants, Opinionated Birds, Gardening Triumphs and Tragedies, and Capturing It All Through a Lens" is illustrated with more than 60 of Retallick's color photographs, which show the wide variety of plant life on her property, the birds she shares it with, and her various do-it-herself projects, the most notable being a kinetic sculpture created from a recycled chandelier.

"City Nature" also includes a list of suggested resources that encompasses books, websites, organizations, and businesses that can aid readers interested in desert gardening and landscaping, and in water conservation.

Critique: This coffee-table style large format hardcover edition of "City Nature: Tales of Ornery Plants, Opinionated Birds, Gardening Triumphs and Tragedies, and Capturing It All Through a Lens" by Martha Retallick is an extraordinarily informative volume that combines water usage gardening techniques with simply gorgeous full color, captioned photography and occasional recipe. An inspirational delight to page through from start to finish, "City Nature" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Gardening and Photography collections. Librarians should note that "City Nature" is an ideal pick for a Memorial Fund Acquisition selection.

Editorial Note: It was in highschool that Martha Retallick first discovered her talent for photography. Since high school, her photographic journey has taken her on bicycle adventures through all 50 states, Tucson events that range from weddings to car shows, and her own back yard. Her photographic style is to prefer shots of people in action, rather than having them pose for a portrait. She especially enjoys combining the mix of raw physical labor and artistry of humans and machines in motion. She calls this 'storytelling in pictures'.

The Eternal Radiance of Ayurveda
Deborah G. Garland
Radiance Publishing
9798218354220, $52.97, PB, 369pp

Synopsis: Ayurveda is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. It is heavily practiced in India and Nepal, where around 80% of the population report using ayurveda.

"The Eternal Radiance of Ayurveda: Good Advice for a Long and Beautiful Life" by Deborah G. Garland is a compendium of Ayurvedic recipes, spice blends, beauty formulas, herbal gardening advice, meditations, exercises, spiritual rituals and lifestyle routines -- all beautifully illustrated with full color photos.

Deborah Garland (an Ayurvedic practitioner, Vedic counselor and seasoned educator) makes traditional knowledge accessible and engaging for everyone with the publication of "The Eternal Radiance of Ayurveda", a lovely, informative, and inspiring volume that will enable the reader to 'feel and look vibrantly healthy, happy and eternally radiant'.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, this large format (8 x 0.87 x 10 inches, 2 pounds) paperback edition of Deborah Garland's "The Eternal Radiance of Ayurveda: Good Advice for a Long and Beautiful Life" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Ayurveda Medicine collections and supplemental Alternative Medicine curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Deborah Garland is a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine and Vedic counseling and the author of "365 Ways to Breathe". She is also an accomplished educator, herbalist and artist currently residing in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Be Your Own Shaman
Jane Barlow Christensen, author
Brian R. Christensen, author
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781510781146, $35.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Be Your Own Shaman: A Field Guide to Utilize 101 of the World's Most Healing Plants", co-authors Jane and Brian Christensen showcase 101 plants with healing properties. Each individual plant's information is laid out on two pages and has a full color picture, illustration of the plant, the parts of the plant that are used, the time of day collected, where found, and time of year collected.

Many of the plants included in "Be Your Own Shaman" are to be found worldwide and many of them can be cultivated. Most can be found within one hundred feet of your home, and careful observation will help you become familiar with many nearby, useful plants.

"Be Your Own Shaman" is laid out in fourteen sections -- divided by ailment since most people look for specific plants for specific health conditions. Most plants will include extra tips for making herbal remedies at home and basically enjoying all the gifts from utilizing plant medicine in your everyday life. The final section gives plant identification tips and basic taxonomy along with preparation methods for tinctures, decoctions, infusions, and poultices.

Critique: This large format (8.5 x 1.2 x 11 inches, 3.6 pounds) hardcover edition of "Be Your Own Shaman: A Field Guide to Utilize 101 of the World's Most Healing Plants" from Skyhorse Publishing is enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of an informative Foreword, a one page 'How to Use This Book' instructional, a one page 'History and Purpose of Plant Names', a ten page Glossary, a six page Index, and a stunning wealth of full page, full color photographs. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.00), "Be Your Own Shaman" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Biological/Plant Based Medicine collections and supplemental Herbal Medicine curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Jane Barlow Christensen is an herbalist who owns and runs Barlow Herbal Specialties. Jane loves everything natural, holistic, wellness, fitness, and nutrition oriented. She believes it is our right as humans to be vibrantly healthy, that if given the right tools our body knows how to heal, and that each of us is responsible for ourselves and the love, joy, and spiritual and physical health we experience.

Editorial Note #2: Brian R. Christensen is Jane's younger son and has worked with her professionally for eight years. He has spent hundreds of hours wildcrafting plants in the US Mountain West, notably Lomatium. Brian has a deep love and wisdom for herbs and healing plants.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Mushroom Magic: An Illustrated Introduction to Fascinating Fungi
Dr. Sapphire McMullan-Fisher, author
Marta Zafra, illustrator
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
9781923049017, $19.95, HC, 112pp

Synopsis: Mushrooms have existed for uncounted millennia, which can make it overwhelming to dip into mycology. Used throughout human history for food, medicine, and expanding our consciousness, fungi have shaped the planet and the past, appearing everywhere from fairy tales and health-food stores to The X-Files.

There's an entire universe of fungi, much of which is yet to be discovered. To teach you about the basics, "Mushroom Magic: An Illustrated Introduction to Fascinating Fungi" by Dr. Sapphire McMullan-Fisher features 50 types.

You are invited to flip through Marta Zafra's beautifully illustrated portrait of each individual mushroom featured in "Mushroom Magic" and learn about their habitat, uses, and history to become a budding expert in mycology.

Critique: Of particular value for readers with an interest in the biological science of mushrooms, "Mushroom Magic: An Illustrated Introduction to Fascinating Fungi" is an exceptionally informative and impressively well organized and presented reference that is solidly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Mushroom/Fungi collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Dr. Sapphire McMullan-Fisher ( is a fungal ecologist. She has previously published The Deck of Mushrooms with Smith Street Books.

Editorial Note #2: Marta Zafra ( is a freelance illustrator and artist, based in Spain. Her work has been published internationally and has won numerous awards.

Burma Road
Brandon Crocker
Moonshine Cove Publishing
9781952439742, $18.00, PB, 198pp

Synopsis: It is 2015. Clint Bennett, a married father and commercial insurance broker in Arizona is reading the unpublished WWII memoirs of his recently deceased British-born grandfather when he comes across some intriguing details. Clint's grandfather pinpoints where he and a handful of his fellow commandos fell upon a mysterious ancient building in Burma while trying to elude pursuing Japanese in 1943.

Armed with this information, Clint talks his way onto a small expedition with two college professors, one being a former member of the Thai Special Forces, to hunt for the unknown structure. But they soon find themselves being hunted, and, like Clint's grandfather, their survival depends on making their own desperate trek through the jungle.

Critique: A carefully crafted thriller of a read from start to finish, "Burma Road" showcases author Brandon Crocker's genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storyteller style that will keep the reader complete attention from first page to last. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "Burma Road" from Moonshine Cove Publishing is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Action/Adventure Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Prior to a 35-year career in commercial real estate development and management, Brandon Crocker earned a BA in Economics at the University of California, San Diego, with minors in Chinese Studies, Classical Studies, and Political Science, and an MBA at the University of Michigan. He has authored several book reviews and numerous articles on political economy for The American Spectator, The Foundation for Economic Education, and other outlets.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Branches We Cherish: An Open Adoption Memoir
Linda R. Sexton
Gaudium Publishing
c/o Histria Books
9781592113811, $29.99, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: In 1992, Linda and David long to have a child. They decide to adopt a baby and learn they can only do so under an open arrangement where the biological parents and the adoptive family know each other's identities, and choose to remain in contact after the adoption is finalized -- possibly for life!

There are no ready answers to their many questions: What happens in the first year? Twenty years later? What does visitation between birth and adoptive families look like? Will it be awkward to raise a child with the birth parents in the picture? How do adopted children feel about this open arrangement?

In the early 90's there was little guidance for long-term relationships between adoptive and birth families, so Linda and David had to learn as they went along, day by day.

Diving in with open hearts and open minds, they build relationships based on mutual trust, respect, deep gratitude for one another, and most importantly, unconditional love for a child. They learned just how important having the children's birth parents and families in their lives is for everyone's emotional health -- including their own. The discovered the challenges of open adoption and the extraordinary gratification available to all members of the adoption constellation when they are willing and able to cultivate and maintain these lifetime relationships.

Critique: A powerfully candid, insightful, and honest account based on three decades of true-life experience, with the publication of "The Branches We Cherish: An Open Adoption Memoir", Linda R. Sexton deftly weaves together thought-provoking, joyous, and poignant reflections of four birth parents, birth grandmothers, adoptive parents, and two adopted children. Of special and particular interest for anyone contemplating or engaged in adoption, "The Branches We Cherish" is a relevant and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university library Parenting & Adoption collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists tht "The Branches We Cherish" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Linda R. Sexton ( is an open adoption pioneer, a former executive at a Fortune 100 company and a Gold Medal recipient in Florida Writers Association's prestigious Royal Palms Literary Awards. Her greatest accomplishment and joy in life remains the adoption of two children in 1994 and 1998. With little guidance available, she was a pioneer in defining a path to a lifelong relationship with her children's birth parents. In "The Branches We Cherish: An Open Adoption Memoir" she shares this experience to help those who are embarking on this same extraordinary and frightening commitment.

Hope Givers: Conversations and Stories of Hope
Jodi O'Donnell-Ames
G2L Media
9780999016589, $22.95, PB, 118pp

Synopsis: In 2001, Jodi O'Donnell-Ames lost her 36 year old husband Kevin O'Donnell to ALS. That enormous loss was the catalyst for severe sadness and depression. During this time, showering or running to the bank felt challenging. But her Hope Givers never gave up on her. In her darkest days, Jodi was lifted by family and friends and eventually, she found her way back to a new normal that once again included dancing and laughter.

Fast forward to 2019 and the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, when no one was immune to the chaos that was about to ensue. Everyone, including Jodi O'Donnell Ames, who was working from home as a life coach, was feeling a universal array of emotions: worry. shock. isolation. grief. uncertainty. Wanting to harness hope, Jodi started a podcast: Gratitude to Latitude, Stories of Hope and Resilience, to gather and celebrate the people and stories who have fueled her purpose and passion for personal growth and healing.

"Hope Givers, Conversation and Stories of Hope" is the story of the Jodi's personal journey through caregiving, loss, grief, and those hardest ubiquitous lessons of adult life. "Hope Givers" integrates similar stories of thought leaders, mental health professionals and friends whose perspectives bring resources and comfort to our toughest times.

Among these pages, you as the reader will find a moment of connection and insight. It is an indisputable truth that while life is complicated and difficult, hope is reserved for each and every one of us. Proof of hope is evident on every thoughtful page of "Hope Givers".

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Hope Givers: Conversations and Stories of Hope" is a timeless and timely memoir that will have a very special appeal and value for readers with an interest in personal transformation and overcoming life's inevitable tragedies and hardships. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "Hope Givers: Conversations and Stories of Hope" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Jodi O'Donnell-Ames is a grateful mother, speaker, and author. She is a hope giver who founded Hope Loves Company, the only non-profit with the mission of providing both educational and emotional support to children and young adults who love someone with ALS. In addition to her book "Hope Givers", Jodi has written "Someone I Love Has ALS" and "The Stars that Shine". Jodi's life of purpose has been captured in her TEDx Living a Life With Purpose and her work has been shared on CNN, Steve Adubato Show, PBS, NBC, the Today Show more. She is the recipient of numerous awards and is available for speaking and book readings.

Living While Human
Arwinder Kaur
Tellwell Talent
9780228851349, $33.50, HC, 344pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Living While Human", author and social worker Arwinder Kaur takes up such questions as:

How do we as humans navigate our lives in the complex world we have created?

With the advances in technologies known as Social Media, and the high speed in which we are bombarded with images, messages and conflicting ideas, how do we figure out how to live in the world without destroying it and ourselves?

Why are we the only species that seems to be struggling to live truly healthy lives?

Masses of us are suffering with feelings of loneliness and emptiness, killing ourselves and each other despite our sense of superiority over all other species. What makes us live the way we do?

How do we live better lives with a deeper connection to ourselves, others and the Earth?

The ultimate message of "Living While Human" is that the answers to these questions and concerns are not locked away in some secret vault. They are much closer and simpler than you might realize, but need to know.

Critique: Informative, insightful, thought-provoking, iconoclastic, exceptionally well written and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, Arwinder Kaur's "Living While Human" from Tellwell Talent is a fascinating and potentially life changing read from start to finish. While especially and unreservedly recommended for highschool, community and college/university library YA Contemporary Social Issues collections for readers ages 16-21, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Living While Human" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780228851325, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Arwinder Kaur is a social worker specializing in the area of child welfare for almost 30 years. She hopes that, in sharing her writing, others too may find it a comfort to have a compass to help navigate their lives as humans on this planet.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Upon A Day: Verse and Other Writings
Gordon Getty
Authority Publishing
9798886360424, $39.99, HC, 241pp

American composer Gordon Getty ( has contributed more than forty works to the canon, and his music continues to be performed by leading artists and ensembles in some of the world's most prestigious venues. The San Francisco Symphony premiered several of his new choral works at Davies Symphony Hall in June 2023. His Old Man Trilogy, three choral settings of his original poetry, will be premiered in July 2024 at Festival Napa Valley.

With the publication of "Upon A Day: Verse and Other Writings" Getty presents an impressive compendium of verse, program notes, and notes on the Four Libretti. Informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of a formal Introduction and an Afterword by Getty, we are presented with a literary treasure of insights into an authentically gifted and distinctive poetic voice for our times.

An inherently fascinating read that is impressively well organized and presented, this hard cover edition of Gordon Getty's "Upon A Day: Verse and Other Writings" from Authority Publishing is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary Poetry collections and supplemental curriculum Contemporary Classical Music studies lists.

Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages
Camille M. Sauve
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
9781591435082, $24.00, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Examining sacred sites in Peru and their counterparts around the world, researcher and journalist Camille M. Sauve new study "Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages" shows how these sites share specific architectural characteristics and reveal evidence of a very ancient culture that once existed worldwide.

Camille examines the work of Peruvian researcher Alfredo Gamarra, who first described in detail the three distinct building styles and construction methods of these sites and how they represent three ancient world ages. She also explains how Hanan Pacha ("heaven above") constructions, the oldest style, are universally revered as sacred by the civilizations that came after them.

Weaving together a tapestry of what early humanity looked like, Camille examines the writings of famous clairvoyants like Rudolf Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, and Edgar Cayce who recorded the works of early man through the Akashic records.

Besides the more esoteric questions about who could have built these wonders, Camille also examines the unique properties of the monoliths themselves and the sophisticated science behind the construction of these stone sites. She shows how they seem to be placed on earth power spots and how most of the rocks have significant piezoelectric properties from high quartz and silica content.

Revealing that many sacred sites are much older than previously thought, with the publication of "Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages", Camille Sauve shows that Peru may hold the secret to remembering our forgotten prehistory.

Critique: Featuring an illustrative wealth of on-site photos, "Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages" is an inherently fascinating, informative, and occasionally iconoclastic study that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in style, organization, and presentation. Of special and particular attraction to readers with an interest in the stone edifices of antiquity and how they reflect or embody ancient cultures and beliefs (as well as for contemporary metaphysical studies), "Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sorcerers of Stone: Architects of the Three Ages" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Camille M. Sauve ( is an independent journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and author living in the Sacred Valley in Cusco, Peru. She has spent hundreds of hours researching and personally exploring Peru's enigmatic archaeological sites, their technical sophistication, possible uses, and who was responsible for their creation.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Year of Plenty: A Family's Season of Grief
B. J. Hollars
University of Wisconsin Press
9780299347444, $24.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: In November 2020, Professor B.J. Hollars answered a call from his father-in-law while teaching. "When will you be home?" Steve asked. "I have news."

So began the Hollars family's year of plenty -- a cancer diagnosis on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic, then feelings of falling short as parents, partners, and people.

While with the publication of "Year of Plenty: A Family's Season of Grief", Professor Hollars traces his family's daily devastations alongside his father-in-law's decline. He recounts the small mercies along the way: birthdays, campfires, fishing trips, kayaking, and fireflies. As he, his wife, Meredith, and their three young children grapple with how best to say goodbye to the person they love, they are forced to reassess their own lives. How can we make the most of our time, they wonder, when time feels so short?

Written in vignettes and accompanied by photographs and family interviews, "Year of Plenty" provides a poignant and unflinching account of how death separates us not only from the people we love but from places and memories too. Professor Hollars deftly explores how death's all-consuming weight has the potential to fracture (rather than strengthen) even those relationships we think we know the best.

Ultimately, he cracks wide personal moments from his own life and allows the world to peer in.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, candid, insightful, deeply personal and ultimately inspiring, "Year of Plenty: A Family's Season of Grief" is one of those memoirs that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Of particular relevance to readers with an interest in the sociology and psychology of grief, bereavement, death and dying, "Year of Plenty" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections and reading lists.

Editorial Note: B.J. Hollars is the author or editor of more than a dozen books. The founder and executive director of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, he is also Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch
A. Thomas Cole
University of Arizona Press
9780816552801, $29.95, HC, 376pp

Synopsis: The Pitchfork Ranch is more than another dusty homestead tucked away in a corner of the Southwest. It is a place with a story to tell about the most pressing crisis to confront humankind. It is a place where one couple is working every day to right decades of wrongs. It is a place of inspiration and promise. It is an invitation to join the struggle for a better planet.

With the publication of "Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch: How Healing a Southwest Oasis Holds Promise for Our Endangered Land", author A. Thomas Cole tells the story of a decades-long habitat restoration project in southwestern New Mexico. Cole explains what inspired him and his wife, Lucinda, to turn their retirement into years dedicated to hard work and renewal.

"Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch" also shares the past and present history of a very special ranch south of Silver City, which is home to a rare type of regional wetland, a fragile desert grassland ecosystem, archaeological sites, and a critical wildlife corridor in a drought-stricken landscape.

Today the 11,300 acres that make up the Pitchfork Ranch provide an important setting for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitats, and space for the reintroduction of endangered or threatened species. Of special note is how "Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch" weaves together stories of mine strikers, cattle ranching, and the climate crisis into an important and inspiring call to action. For anyone who has wondered how they can help, the Pitchfork Ranch provides an inspiring way forward to environmental restoration and success.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with five Appendices, twenty-eight pages of Notes, a number of Wood Engraving illustrations, and a twelve page Index, "Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch: How Healing a Southwest Oasis Holds Promise for Our Endangered Land" is a seminal study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Environmental Reclamation Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and environmentalists that "Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch" is also available from the University of Arizona Press in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: A. Thomas Cole spent thirty-two years as a small-town general practicing lawyer in central Arizona before retiring with his wife, Lucinda, to a ranch in southwestern New Mexico. "Restoring the Pitchfork Ranch" is his first book.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Airline Terrorism: A History with Case Studies
Marc E. Vargo
McFarland & Company
9781476690841, $39.95, PB, 297pp

Synopsis: Venturing into the ever-shifting panorama of airborne terrorism, "Airline Terrorism: A History with Case Studies" by Marc E. Vargo immerses the reader in a vivid retelling of pivotal incidents from recent aviation history, while delving into the terrorists' favored methods of attack. These include hijackings, in-flight bombings, and precision missile strikes, as well as the rising peril of cyberattacks aimed at airports and commercial airliners mid-flight.

Readers will encounter the controversial TWA Flight 800 disaster and the baffling vanishing act of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. These events ignited enduring discussions about terrorism and governmental transparency.

"Airline Terrorism" ventures into the unsettling world of the September 11th attacks, where jetliners were transformed into guided missiles. Also witnessed are the chilling tales of "Black Widows" -- Chechen female suicide bombers leaving their indelible mark on Russian soil. Also explored are Libyan culpability in the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and UTA Flight 772 over the Sahara Desert.

The evolution of security measures in air travel is chronicled and an examination is given of emerging biometric technologies along with security protocols relevant to the post-Covid era.

Critique: Deftly organized into two major sections (Part 1: Aerial Terrorism: History, Motives and Methods; Part 2: Case Studies), "Airline Terrorism: A History with Case Studies" is a seminal and ground breaking study based on detailed research and meticulous scholarship. The result is a compendium of terrorist related aviation history that is a timely and invaluable contribution to our national dialogue over Air Travel Safety & Domestic/Foreign Terrorism. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.99), "Airline Terrorism: A History with Case Studies" is a strongly recommended and high value addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library War on Terrorism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lsits.

Editorial Note: Marc E. Vargo ( is the author of ten nonfiction books and numerous articles in professional journals.

Pathology and Visual Culture
Natasha Ruiz-Gomez
Penn State University Press
9780271096803, $99.95, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Pathology and Visual Culture: The Scientific Artworks of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot and the Salpetriere School", Natasha Ruiz-Gomez (Senior Lecturer in Art History in the School of Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Essex) delves into an extraordinary collection of pathological drawings, photographs, sculptures, and casts created by neurologists at Paris's Hopital de la Salpetriere in the nineteenth century.

Led by Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) and known collectively as the Salpetriere School, these savants-artistes produced works that demonstrated an engagement with contemporary artistic discourses and the history of art, even as the artists/clinicians professed their dedication to absolute objectivity.

During his lifetime, Charcot became internationally famous for his studies of hysteria and hypnosis, establishing himself as a pioneer in modern neurology. However, "Pathology and Visual Culture" brings to light the often-overlooked contributions of other clinicians, such as Dr. Paul Richer, who created "scientific artworks" that merged scientific objectivity with artistic intervention.

Challenging conventional interpretations of visual media in medicine, Ruiz-Gomez analyzes how these images and objects documented symptoms and neuropathology while defying disciplinary categorization.

Grounded in extensive archival research, "Pathology and Visual Culture" targets an international audience of historians and students of art, visual culture, medicine, and the medical humanities. It will also captivate neurologists and anyone interested in fin-de-siecle French history and culture.

Critique: This large format (8 x 0.89 x 10 inches, 7.6 ounces) hardcover edition of "Pathology and Visual Culture: The Scientific Artworks of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot and the Salpetriere School" from Penn State University Press is profusely illustrated throughout with both color and b/w historic photos. Additionally enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of eighteen pages of Notes, a twenty-six page Bibliography, and an eight page Index, "Pathology and Visual Culture" is a seminal and ground-breaking study that is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, medical school, and college/university library History of Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists -- as those with an interest in French medical history and human figure art.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Murder in Starry Cove (Poppy Lewis Mystery Book 1)
Lucinda Harrison
Independently published
9781736759608 $10.99
B08Y859BQH $3.99 ebook 240 pages

Murder in Starry Cove is a light cozy mystery that follows the typical contemporary trope of the main protagonist being a widowed or divorce woman moving to a new location to start her life over. In this case the newly divorced Poppy Lewis inherits a large mansion in a small coastal village on the California coast. She has plans to convert the mansion into a Bed & Breakfast. Before she even gets to finish moving in a body is found near her new home. Soon another local is murdered.

Poppy is lucky and makes a few new friends, quickly. Since she is new to the village, she is suspected as the killer. She and her new friends immediately try to discover who and why someone is killing the neighbors. This makes her and her new friends a new target for the killer.

Murder in Starry Cove is an easy and fun read in the cozy mystery genre but the tale doesn't stand out. It is an excellent book to fill a quiet weekend. Without any edgy narration that pushes the genre it is a solid recommendation to relax with.

Solomon's Well: AJ Bailey Adventure Series - Book Five
Nicholas Harvey
Independently published
9798639438035 $12.99 paper
B087V7WHQV $5.99 ebook, 252 pages

Solomon's Well is an action/mystery that uses a bit of history to flesh out a contemporary thriller. The story unfolds with alternating chapters telling how a Spanish treasure was lost in the Grand Caymans and the current tale of looking for it.

AJ Bailey's life revolves around her charter dive boat business. She loves showing her customers the underwater sights around Grand Caymans and working to protect the waters. A sketchy friend of hers asks for help finding a lost treasure that might be accessed through an underwater cave. She doesn't know her questionable friend owes money to criminals who are more than willing to maim or kill to claim the treasure for themselves.

Solomon's Well is a well written thriller mystery that does a good job blending a historical storyline with a modern action tale. The history is fictional but it is told believably. It doesn't expand this genre but it does fill the niche well.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The Secret that Killed You - An Ike Rossi Thriller - Book 2
Steve Hadden
Mahogany Row Press
9781963584011, $16.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 364pp

Synopsis: Meet Amelia Garcia, a veteran Air Force drone pilot who has always put others before herself. Now, she has found solace in a new job that allows her to escape the barren realities of her life onshore.

Her hobby of collecting lost items from the deep-sea floor has led her to a strongbox two hundred miles off the Virginia coast. Little did she know that her discovery would bring danger to the doorstep of her loved ones. As people around her die, she has no choice but to call on the only person who can help her unlock the secret from the deep black sea.

Enter Ike Rossi, a hometown sports hero turned investigator who has never solved the mystery behind his parents' murders. Despite his turmoil, he has built a reputation for solving impossible cases and providing closure to his clients. However, after nearly losing his sister while saving a ten-year-old boy charged with murder, he has made a promise never to let anyone close to him get hurt again.

As Amelia and Ike team up to unravel the secrets of the deep black sea, they find themselves on a thrilling adventure full of twists and turns. Will they solve the mystery and save the people they love? Join them on their journey to uncover the truth in The Deep Black Sea Secret.

Critique: The Secret that Killed You is a gripping tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Get ready for a rollercoaster of emotions, twists, and suspense that will leave you breathless. This book is a must-read for all thriller enthusiasts!

Step into the gripping world of suspense and mystery crafted by the unparalleled talent of Steve Hadden. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey with characters so vivid, they will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. Dive into this thrilling masterpiece and experience storytelling at its finest!

It was a Magical Place
Pat Dewees
Table Six Books
9798990019805, $7.27 Kindle, $10.00 PB, 136 pages

Synopsis: Are you ready for the ultimate summer adventure? Join sixteen-year-old Tom Gleason as he discovers a world of new experiences at Camp Sunbeam in 1985.

The camp offers a break from modern technology and encourages campers to focus on close-to-nature activities. Tom's thrilled to have the chance to be anyone he wants to be, and the possibility of a romantic relationship with a pretty girl only heightens the excitement.

Amidst the beauty of the camp, danger lurks as wildlife that can sting or bite. Tom must navigate these challenges while also protecting his heart. With the support of his friends, Tom discovers that anything is possible at Camp Sunbeam.

Critique: It was a Magical Place is a peaceful haven that offers a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This retreat provides a magical experience that will rejuvenate the spirit and leave you feeling refreshed and energized. As Tom Gleason enters this world, he finds his life changes.

Pat Dewees is a wonderful author who has a unique talent for creating charming characters and peaceful settings that transport readers to a world of wonder and imagination. This book perfectly combines a heartwarming story and captivating prose, and I'm confident that you will fall in love with the world he has created.

Frankenstein's Matzah: A Passover Parody
K. Marcus, author
Sam Loman, illustrator
Intergalactic Afikoman
9781951365202, $12.40 HB, 40 pages

Synopsis: Are you ready for a Passover adventure that combines science and tradition? Look no further than Frankenstein's Matzah! In this graphic picture book parody of Frankenstein, we follow Vee, the great, great, great Jewish non-binary grand-descendant of Victor Frankenstein, as they strive to become the world's greatest scientist by winning the school science fair.

When Vee's experiment succeeds, chaos ensues, leaving them to grapple with some Frankenstein-size ethical dilemmas. But fear not, young readers, as you can join in on the fun by conducting your own Super Seder Science experiments!

Critique: Written for reading age 5-9 years, Frankenstein's Matzah - A Passover Parody is a book that will captivate young readers and adults alike. This exciting science fiction Passover adventure invites you to join in the joy of Passover and science! Get ready to laugh, learn, and experience the magic of Passover like never with Frankenstein's Matzah! K. Marcus is an exceptional author, who has written a book that will help young children unlock the mysteries of science delightfully. Parents and educators understand the importance of fostering a love for learning in children, and K. Marcus's book does just that. Through captivating storytelling and engaging visuals, children will experience the magic of science and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Fade Into The Night - Philly Heat Series Book 5
Becky Flade
Tirgearr Publishing
9781954332515, Kindle $3.99, 224 pages

Synopsis: FBI Special Agent Noah Danes is hunting for a ruthless killer, The Beltway Romeo, who has been terrorizing the East Coast. His investigation leads him to Philadelphia, where he reconnects with his old friend, Sadie Potter, a forensic facial reconstructionist.

As they spend more time together, they realize their feelings for each other are more than just friendship. However, when Sadie becomes the focus of The Beltway Romeo's attention, their newfound love faces the ultimate test.

Noah is determined to protect Sadie at all costs, but his fellow profilers suspect him and threaten to expose his secrets. Meanwhile, Sadie struggles with her own demons and pushes away those closest to her. With time running out and the killer still on the loose, Noah and Sadie must work together to unmask the evil hiding in plain sight.

Will they be able to overcome their fears and find love amid chaos? Or will The Beltway Romeo claim another victim? Join a thrilling journey of love and danger as we uncover the truth behind the killer.

Critique: Fade Into The Night is a gripping novel that will take you on a journey of dedication, hope, and love. Each page of the novel keeps you guessing until the end with masterful craftsmanship.

Becky Flade is a talented author who has written a heart-pumping suspense thriller. With non-stop action, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Her writing style is unparalleled in its ability to draw readers in and keep them hooked until the very last page.

Editorial Note. This is the fifth book of the Philly Heat Series. Learn more of this amazing author's books by visiting her website

Overthink: A Simple Guide to Calm Your Thoughts
Lyndsey Getty
The Thought Method Company
9798990026612, $14.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 149 pages

Synopsis: Do you find yourself constantly caught up in unproductive thoughts that leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious? If so, you're not alone. Many people struggle with overthinking, but the good news is that there is a solution. Introducing Overthink: A Simple Guide to Calm Your Thoughts is a revolutionary guidebook that explores the root causes of overthinking and provides a simple 3-step technique to help you reframe your thoughts and create a healthier mindset.

Written in easy-to-understand terms and filled with over 30 real-life examples, this book takes a lighthearted and refreshing approach to tackling overthinking. This guidebook goes beyond commonly used techniques like visualization and meditation and presents a new spin on reframing your thoughts. The innovative technique presented in this book will help you calm your thoughts and facilitate long-lasting change.

Endorsed by therapists and penned by an individual who has triumphed over C-PTSD, depression, and anxiety, this book is a straightforward and practical guidebook that can help you transform your mindset. You'll discover original techniques you won't find anywhere else, and the writing prompts and templates in the book mean you won't need to purchase any additional workbooks.

Don't let overthinking control your life any longer. With Overthink, you can take control of your thoughts and create a healthier, happier mindset.

Critique: Overthink: A Simple Guide to Calm Your Thoughts is not just a book; it's a transformative journey towards finding inner peace and tranquility. With practical tips and insightful strategies, this guide will empower you to break free from the chains of overthinking and embrace a more mindful way of living. Say goodbye to anxiety and stress and hello to a calmer, more centered version of yourself. Dive into this book and unlock the secrets to mastering your mind.

Lyndsey Getty is an exceptional author who offers a fresh perspective on achieving inner peace and tranquility, paving the way for a life filled with richness and fulfillment. Prepare to embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth as you uncover the secrets to a more harmonious existence.

Goldfield Forest
Karen Black
ASIN: B0D1NPMNJJ, Kindle $5.99, 255 pages ld-Forest-Karen-Black-ebook/dp /B0D1NPMNJJ

Synopsis: Step into the enchanting world of Goldfield Forest as we follow Maria, the valiant guardian of the fae, on a daring quest to protect the mystical plants of the Amazon jungle from the clutches of the nefarious warlock, Bagrim.

In a thrilling tale of bravery and sacrifice, Maria joins forces with Lena, a mystical lioness, to thwart Bagrim's sinister plans and safeguard the future of the rainforest and its magical inhabitants.

As the forces of good and evil clash in a battle of epic proportions, Maria's unwavering courage and the unexpected help of her young daughter, Ashley, prove that even the smallest among us can make a mighty impact. Join us on this fantastical journey as Maria and Lena face off against Bagrim in a showdown that will determine the fate of the rainforest and the very essence of magic itself.

Critique: This enchanting novel will transport you to a world of magic and wonder, filled with mystery, intrigue, and unforgettable characters that will keep you turning the pages until the very end. From the moment you start reading, the perfect setting of the forest will draw you in, and you won't want to leave.

Karen Black has crafted a story that is both familiar and extraordinary. Filled with loveable supernatural creatures, it will leave a lasting impression on you. The plot is full of surprises and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Bill Bailey, Please Come Home - The Shotgun Shack Kitties
A.N. Stewart, author
Virginia de Mahy, illustrator
ANS Publishing
9781662950971, Hardcover, $20.99
9781662950957, Paperback 16.99, Kindle $8.99, 42 pages

Synopsis: Step into the vibrant streets of New Orleans, where a group of spirited cats discover the enchanting power of music in a heartwarming tale. In the city's heart, a young girl named Eartha opens her home to a collection of feline friends in her cozy shotgun shack.

Surrounded by nature's beauty and filled with love, music, and flowers, the kitties find solace in their new abode. Among them is Bill Bailey, a curious cat yearning to communicate with humans. Through a serendipitous encounter with elder cats, Bill learns the magical language of music to connect with people.

Soon, he and his feline companions embark on a musical journey through the streets of New Orleans, spreading joy with their brass band instruments and infectious melodies.

Critique: Recommended for ages 3-11, Bill Bailey, Please Come Home is a charming story not only celebrates the musical heritage of New Orleans but also highlights the importance of community and the bonds that unite us all. This tale of friendship, music, and interconnectedness will captivate families and educators alike.

A.N. Stewart's exceptional talent shines through in capturing the essence of New Orleans. Through beautiful illustrations and captivating storytelling, Stewart paints a delightful picture of the enchanting city of New Orleans. Join in a journey through the pages of Stewart's work and immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this vibrant city.

Cinnamon Beach
Suzanne Kamata
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
9781954332515, $TBA, HC/PB/Kindle $6.99, 248 pages

Synopsis: In these trying times, we all struggle to keep up with the image of a perfect life. But what happens when the image of a perfect life crumbles due to grief and loss? Olivia is an American expat based in Japan. She returns to her hometown in South Carolina to scatter the ashes of her recently deceased brother.

As she reunites with her family and friends, she realizes that the perfect life she has created from afar is nothing but a mask to hide her pain and loneliness. In a poignant tale of love, loss, and family, Olivia learns that true strength lies in vulnerability and that we are all in this together. Join in this journey of self-discovery and healing during these uncertain times.

Critique: Cinnamon Beach is a captivating story that follows one woman's struggle to come to terms with the devastating loss of a loved one. Through heartwarming moments and poignant revelations, witness her journey towards healing and rediscovering the beauty of life.

Suzanne Kamata is a literary luminary who weaves magic with her pen. She leaves an indelible mark on the hearts and souls of her readers. Join on a journey of enlightenment as you delve into the profound narratives crafted by this exceptional author. Explore a world where transformative power resides in words, deep emotions flow, and minds undergo everlasting change.

Red, White & Verse - Our Myths, Legends, & Stories
Greg McNeilly
Ballast Books, LLC
9781962202220, $24.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 279 pages

Synopsis: Step into a world where the essence of America shines brightly in the poetry collection Red, White & Verse by the talented author Greg McNeilly. Through captivating verses, this collection brings to life the inspiring figures, iconic landmarks, and pivotal events that have shaped the American narrative. It's more than just poetry; it's a journey that invites you to rekindle our connection to each other and our shared history, making you an integral part of the narrative.

Whether it's the bravery of Pocahontas, the resilience of Frederick Douglass, or the unity seen in the aftermath of tragic events like Pearl Harbor and September 11, each poem in this collection vividly portrays the historical significance of American heroism, inspiring a deep sense of respect and admiration.

Critique: From the allure of natural wonders like the Grand Canyon to the glamour of Hollywood, Red, White & Verse beautifully captures the diverse tapestry of the American experience. Accompanied by historical facts and intricate hand-drawn illustrations, this collection is a testament to the enduring spirit of the United States. Dive into the pages of Red, White & Verse and let the poetry awaken your patriotism and pride in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Enter the American pride and patriotism world with Greg McNeilly's awe-inspiring collection of verse. His words resonate with the true heart of American values and ignite a sense of belonging and unity. Prepare to embark on a literary journey that will make you proud to be an American!

Last Place Called Home
Betsy Hartmann
She Writes Press
9781647426422, $17.95, PB, 296 pages
9781647426439, $9.95 Kindle

Synopsis: In the heart of Stanton, Massachusetts, a fierce battle against the fentanyl trade unfolds, plunging the town into chaos and pushing three determined mothers into the forefront. Newspaper reporter Laura Everett, businesswoman Mimi Sullivan, and machinist Angie Gillen find themselves entwined in a web of danger as they strive to shield their troubled teenagers from harm.

Amidst the turmoil, two courageous Stanton cops expose the sinister motives of the secret federal sting operation Snakehead that is raising the already high stakes in a community ravaged by the opioid crisis.

As despair grips Mimi's daughter and pulls her into the dark abyss of addiction, Laura and Angie's sons embark on a perilous mission to save her, only to unwittingly place her in even greater jeopardy, forcing her to flee.

With violence escalating and danger lurking at every corner, Laura is pushed to her limits, drawing upon her inner strength to seize control. Brace yourself for a riveting, intricate thriller that lays bare the harrowing toll of the drug war and how it is affecting our society.

Critique: Dive into the emotional rollercoaster of Last Place Called Home, a poignant tale of love and unwavering loyalty to family, friends, and the very essence of home.

Stanton may be a challenging place to reside in, but the real struggle lies in the heart-wrenching decision to walk away from the place that shaped you. Discover the raw emotions and gripping narrative that will keep you hooked until the very last page.

In a society plagued by the detrimental effects of drug abuse, Betsy Hartmann emerges as a beacon of knowledge and awareness. Through her exceptional writing, she has shed light on the grave issue of drug addiction and its pervasive impact on our communities. Hartmann's work serves as a wake-up call, urging us to confront the harsh reality of the drug epidemic and take meaningful action. Let us join hands in recognizing her invaluable contribution towards fostering a healthier and more informed society.

Silas on Sundays
Joel Shoemaker, author
Lintang Pandu Pratiwi, illustrator
Wildling Press
9781957833125, $13.95, PB, $22.95 HB, 32 pages

Synopsis: Step into a realm where possibilities are endless and creativity knows no bounds. Silas on Sundays invites you to let your imagination soar freely, where you can transform into anyone or anything you desire.

Join this enchanting journey of self-discovery and let your dreams take flight. Embrace the magic of Sundays with Silas and unlock a world of infinite possibilities.

Critique: Silas on Sundays invites children to explore their imagination every day of the week! This book sparks creativity, curiosity, and innovation, providing a safe and exciting space for young minds to flourish.

Joel Shoemaker's newest creation highlights the significance of imagination and thinking unconventionally. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to unlock their creative potential and explore new ideas. The superb illustrations in Shoemaker's latest masterpiece capture the essence of the text and take readers on a journey that allows their imagination to run wild.

This talented author has a unique talent for inspiring and motivating readers to embrace their creativity and push the boundaries of what is possible. I feel this book will be a game-changer for anyone ages 4 and up looking to unleash their inner artist and explore new horizons.

A Naked Woman in the Snow
Dariush Beritan
Publisher: TBD
ISBN Number: TBD, 78 pages
$TBD Paperback, $TBD Electronic
Publish Date: TBD

Synopsis: Step into a world where time stands still, and memories linger in Beritan's enchanting debut short-story collection. In the heartwarming title story, meet young Delbar, a skilled carpet weaver in a quaint Kurdish village, torn between familial duty and her yearning for the unknown.

As you journey through the pages, encounter a cast of characters like Mahtab and Anna, each trapped in their poignant narratives of love, loss, and longing. Their journey is one that is filled with many obstacles. Will their love be strong enough to survive?

Critique: A Naked Woman in the Snow takes the reader on a journey where family obligation and the desires of the heart collide in a setting that sets the perfect stage for this timeless tale. Get ready to be swept away in a story that will warm your soul even in the coldest of settings.

Dariush Beritan is an exceptional writer. He has mastered crafting characters that resonate deeply with readers. Beritan's evocative storytelling transports you to vivid landscapes and intricate emotions, promising a reading experience that will stay long after you turn the last page. Dive into these tales of resilience, beauty, and the enduring power of memory in a mesmerizing tale.

Closer to Home
Jill Hannah Anderson
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781958231432, $9.99 Kindle, $14.99 PB 341 pages

Synopsis: Step into the captivating world of Joleigh Moore, a woman whose quiet existence shatters as she becomes entangled in a web of mystery and danger.

After witnessing the tragic death of her boyfriend, Joleigh embarks on a journey of survival and self-discovery, uncovering hidden truths and unexpected riches along the way. Follow her as she navigates through a new town, forging connections with its inhabitants and finding solace in the most unlikely places.

As Joleigh confronts her past and the shadows that threaten her future, join her on a riveting quest for redemption and a fresh start.

Critique: Closer to Home is a book where mystery and intrigue combine to create an irresistible reading experience. Lose yourself in the captivating narrative that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Join this thrilling journey as we unravel the secrets hidden within the pages of this enthralling book.

Jill Hannah Anderson is an outstanding author who's writing truly sets her apart. Devoted to providing nothing but the best for her readers, Jill's work is a testament to her passion and skill in the literary world. Explore this captivating story and immerse yourself in her beautifully crafted world.

Theo's Heart
Michelle Romano
Independently Published
9798324219017, $.99 Kindle, $5.99 PB 74 pages

Synopsis: In the silent echoes of Serenity Hospital, where sorrow and uncertainty linger, a tragic accident shatters Mari's world. Yet, amidst the chaos, a glimmer of solace emerges as she feels a mystical presence, a tether to the Other Side. With Dr. Matteo's enigmatic guidance and her friend Theo's unwavering support, Mari embarks on a profound odyssey where the lines between reality and the supernatural blur.

Through enigmatic messages and profound revelations, Mari navigates the realms of the mind and unearths a timeless love that defies all odds. Accompany Mari on this extraordinary voyage where faith, love, and the unknown converge in a tale that has the power to ignite your imagination and touch your soul, leaving you inspired and intrigued.

Critique: Unleash the magic of Theo's Heart as it unravels a captivating paranormal journey that showcases the profound impact of tragedy on life. Every page holds the power to transform perspectives and touch the depths of your soul.

Join this enchanting adventure where the unexpected becomes the norm and heartbreak and hope collide in a literary dance like never before. Open your heart to Theo's Heart and let its spellbinding narrative leave you spellbound.

Michelle Romano's latest work promises to captivate readers with its unique paranormal exploration. Michelle's unparalleled skill and mastery of storytelling shine through on every page, making her a true gem in the literary world. Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster as you delve into Theo's Heart and experience a fresh twist on the supernatural genre.

Before and After You and Me
Dallas Woodburn
Owl Hollow Press
9781958109489, $14.99, PB, 333 pages
9798350944228, $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In a twist of fate, a tragic accident at a pool party changes the course of Emma's life forever. Blaming herself for Hunter's paralysis, she finds solace in painting portraits of legs and feet, particularly Hunter's.

Surprisingly, her artwork garners attention and praise, leading Emma to question the true purpose of her art. Is it self-expression or a quest for external validation?

As she navigates through guilt, loneliness, and regret, Emma embarks on a journey of self-discovery, grappling with love, ambition, and grief. Join us on this emotional rollercoaster as Emma seeks redemption through her art, ultimately striving to find her true identity.

Critique: Before and After You and Me is an exceptional book that follows the journey of a courageous heroine who must confront her guilt and self-blame after her former boyfriend becomes disabled. With heart-wrenching honesty and raw emotion, this book explores the complex themes of love, loss, and redemption.

Dallas Woodburn unveils a literary masterpiece that transcends all expectations. Each page is a journey of self-discovery and introspection, leaving readers profoundly moved.

The characters crafted by Woodburn are not just words on paper; they are living, breathing entities that grip your heart and soul. Prepare to be captivated, enthralled, and utterly addicted to the compelling storytelling that awaits within these pages.

Editorial Review: Recommended ages from 14 to 18 years.

Land Grab: A Sheriff Elliot Mystery
Kit Karson
Granite Mountain Press
9798987328705, 22.55, HB, 298pp
9798987328712, $16.99 PB, 298 pages
9798987328729, $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Welcome to the town, where a chilling mystery has unfolded, sending shockwaves through the community. It all began with the baker's wife stumbling upon a gruesome scene - a body and a missing husband.

The discovery of a respected sapphire dealer's apparent suicide soon takes a sinister turn when an autopsy reveals foul play. To add to the intrigue, a valuable inventory of sapphires has vanished. Is there a connection between these two incidents?

The plot thickens as Russian Mafia thugs make their presence known, and ominous notes heighten the tension. Sheriff Peter Elliott and his team, usually dealing with mundane matters, now find themselves at the center of a high-stakes investigation. Join this riveting journey to delve into the depths of deception and unravel the truth before more lives are at stake.

Critique: Land Grab is a captivating murder mystery that overflows with suspense and intrigue as you unravel the secrets hidden within the pages of this well-crafted book. Every turn of the page holds a fresh surprise, and every chapter leaves you craving for more.

Kit Karson has mastered the craft of writing. This book proves she has the talent for weaving intricate plots and delivering high-suspense scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

This book promises to provide thrills and chills like never seen. Get ready to immerse yourself in a story that will challenge your mind and captivate your imagination. Dive into the pages and experience the magic of storytelling.

Editorial Note: "Land Grab" is Book 1 of The Anderson Chronicles series by Kit Karson.

Drawn from Life
From Light
Sarah Blanchard
Eagle Ridge Farm
9798218332280, $2.99 Kindle, $18.99 PB, 360 pages

Synopsis: In a gripping narrative of guilt and redemption, Emma Gillen's trapped in the shadows of a haunting past. A survivor of a tragic car crash in the unforgiving terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, Emma grapples with both physical scars and the gaping hole in her memory from that fateful day.

Enter Lucy, her enigmatic cousin with a mysterious connection to the accident. As Lucy reemerges, shrouded in chaos and desperation, Emma faces a pivotal decision: should she strike a deal with the alluring yet unpredictable Lucy to unearth the truth of their shared history?

But every bargain comes with its own set of risks. With Lucy's motives becoming murkier and her demands escalating, Emma senses a sinister undercurrent beyond mere monetary transactions. Plagued by shame, haunted by night terrors, and tormented by her fractured recollections, Emma turns to a compassionate detective for assistance.

Yet, the ultimate choice rests squarely on her shoulders. Will Emma muster the courage to break free from Lucy's toxic influence and reclaim her life, or will she watch helplessly as her world crumbles around her? Embrace the riveting journey of self-discovery and resilience as Emma navigates the treacherous waters of her past in a bid for redemption.

Critique: Dive into the heart-pounding world of suspense and intrigue with Drawn From Life, a gripping psychological thriller that will keep you guessing with every twist and turn. Sarah Blanchard has earned the honor of being known as the Queen of psychological thrillers! Drawn From Life promises to take you on an exhilarating journey that will leave you spellbound and yearning for more. Dive into a world where every page is a thrill ride, beckoning you to unravel its mysteries.

Sutherland's Crossing: A Beau Crenshaw Detective Novel
Gwen Kelly
Independently Published
9781736359730, $4.99 Kindle, $11.99 PB, $23.99 HB, 268 pages

Synopsis: Enter the steamy streets of Charleston, South Carolina, where the disappearance of a twin daughter from wealthy socialites has ignited a firestorm of rumors and conspiracies. Detective Beau Crenshaw finds himself at the center of a perplexing mystery when a body surfaces in a swamp, mirroring an unsolved murder from the past.

As he delves deeper, the chilling similarities lead him to believe he's facing the same elusive culprit. Is this a dormant evil resurfacing or a cunning copycat on the prowl? Determined to catch a killer, Beau embarks on a relentless pursuit, fueled by the opportunity to right past wrongs.

Brace yourself for a gripping tale of secrets, lies, and the ultimate test of a detective's resolve.

Critique: Dive into the heart-pounding world of Sutherland's Crossing, where every twist and turn leads you closer to uncovering the truth behind a heinous crime.

The world of suspense and intrigue comes alive with Gwen Kelly, the master of mystery! Get ready to immerse yourself in a riveting pursuit of uncovering a killer and solve a sinister mystery that will have you at the edge of your seat.

Join this exhilarating journey filled with suspense, drama, and unexpected revelations. Don't miss out on the chance to be captivated by the enigmatic storytelling prowess of Gwen Kelly!

Goal in Progress: The Detours and Diversions of a Spiritual Journey
Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika
Luminare Press
9798886795271, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 354 pages

Synopsis: Embark on a captivating spiritual journey with In Goal in Progress - The Detours and Diversions of a Spiritual Journey, a memoir by an American Buddhist monk.

The author takes us on a non-linear path through his spiritual quest, starting with his early search in the late 1970s and ending with his re-ordination as a Theravada Buddhist monk in Malaysia. He shares his experiences living in various monasteries in India, France, England, Michigan, and Ohio along the way.

What sets this journey apart is the author's detours into Christianity and Judaism, which enriches his understanding of his Buddhist roots. Join this inspiring journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Critique: Step into the captivating realm of spiritual exploration with Goal in Progress: The Detours and Diversions of a Spiritual Journey. This enlightening narrative offers a unique glimpse into the profound journey of a monk as he navigates through the twists and turns of his spiritual quest. Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika is an exceptional author who has allowed readers to step into the captivating realm of spiritual awakening. Readers will find this book both educational and motivating, as it showcases the intertwining of Christianity and Judaism. Delve into the intricate layers of introspection, growth, and enlightenment, unveiling the essence of a soulful odyssey.

Sins Revealed - Book 5: A Joe Erickson Mystery
Lynn-Steven Johanson
Level Best Books
9781685125950, $16.95 PB, 5.99 Kindle, 246 pages

Synopsis: The town is in shock as Detective Joe Erickson is called to investigate a gruesome scene - a burned-out pickup truck with two charred bodies inside. As the investigation progresses, he determines the victims are a young man and his cousin.

However, the case takes a sinister turn when the investigators find skeletal remains in the backyard of a nearby house. Who would go to such lengths to hide the truth? With more questions than answers, Detective Erickson is determined to uncover the truth behind this mysterious and disturbing case.

Enter the dark and twisted world of Sins Revealed, where the twisted mind of a murderer is gradually exposed. Join forces with a relentless detective who stops at nothing to crack the case

With masterful storytelling and intricately crafted scenes, Lynn-Steven Johanson, a gifted mystery writer, ensures that his work will captivate you. Johanson's work will send chills down your spine and set your heart racing with every turn of the page. Dive into the thrilling mysteries penned by this talented author and prepare for a reading experience like no other.

Editorial Note: Sins Revealed is the fifth book in the highly popular Joe Erickson Mystery series. Learn more of the past works by visiting his website:

Suzie Housley, Senior Reviewer

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

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