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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 3 March 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Binford's Bookshelf

The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs
Joel Salatin
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455536979, $25.00

Joel Salatin describes himself as a libertarian Christian farmer, and I might add environmentalist. He lives on a family farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and much of "The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs" is devoted to the marvelous way that he runs his farm. The key word in his self-description however, is Christian. He's a graduate of Bob Jones University, known as a training ground for evangelical Christians. As a prayer captain, campus tour guide, president of his Bible society, he had "drunk the Kool-Aid."

He was shocked one day to read an article by the chancellor, Doctor Bob Junior, which included the first words in his book - "If you enter a health food store, you've just joined a cult." Joel and his family had been to a local health food store many times. He couldn't finish reading the article, because he had just realized the wide gulf between himself and a majority of Christians. The general interpretation of the words in Genesis regarding the "dominion" of the earth is often "subdue." This implies a crushing suppression, whereas Salatin prefers the word "stewardship."

From that observation, Salatin targeted his fellow Christians, who seemed to be neglecting the role of caretaker. His main emphasis is on the way food is produced. He has it in for the likes of Monsanto, Tyson Chicken, producers of chemicals used in agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration. About a typical industrialized chicken producer like Tyson, for example, he writes more than once that a chicken headed for Colonel Sanders is raised in a cage the size of a sheet of notebook paper, without even enough room to turn around. On his family farm, the chickens roam around in a pasture along with the marvelous pigs and beef cattle.

A tragic-humorous anecdote tells of a Kansas preacher who gave a sermon about the dangers of using soil-destroying chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides; toxins that wash down the river system to the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a dead zone the size of Rhode Island. The pastor called to tell Salatin that after the sermon, "the backlash from the farmers was so overwhelming he was afraid he would have to flee." Tragic because of the entrenched, destructive farming techniques. Comic, because the congregation was mainly Kansas industrialized farmers, and the pastor had attacked their livelihood!

Salatin is on good terms with the environmental movement, whom many of his Christian friends called anti-God "hippie whackos." He draws the line when it comes to freedom of choice. He uses a hippie phrase when he writes that "I cannot for the life of me wrap my head" around the thinking that a tree is more valuable than an unborn fetus. As a result, he finds himself "equally distanced" from his Christian friends and the environmental Earth First! people.

He treats the subject seriously in a writing style that includes quite a bit of humor, reminding me of Mark Twain. Perhaps this is a way to keep secular readers engaged in turning the pages, as there are quite a few indexed quotes from scripture: Chronicles, Exodus, Isaiah, Psalms, the New Testament, etc. He can get preachy. Perhaps that's why he calls "The Marvellous Pigness of Pigs" a "clarion call" to the religious right, who tend to "look to corporate America for directions." Although he calls the environmental movement a good thing, he finds that he is "…at home both places, but not at home either place. My Christian friends embarrass me with their cavalier attitude toward…stewardship." Then there is the moral outrage he feels about the pro-choice environmentalists.

He's a prolific writer. He's published ten books, including "Folks, This Ain't Normal," and "Everything I Want Do Is Illegal," the title of the article in "Mother Earth News" that introduced me to Joel Salatin. He also writes for "Stockman Grass Farmer" and "Acres USA." In the acknowledgements at the end of "The Marvellous Pigness of Pigs," he writes: "This book has been a long time coming. It's been in my heart for several decades, waiting to be born."

Paul Binford, Senior Reviewer

Cowper's Bookshelf

How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick
Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
9780830845576 $17.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Our neighborhoods are literally making us sick. Buildings with mold trigger asthma and other respiratory conditions. Geographic lack of access to food and health care increases childhood mortality. Community violence traumatizes residents. Poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, food insecurity, racial injustice, and oppression cause physical changes in the body, resulting in disease and death. But there is hope. Loving our neighbor includes creating social environments in which people can be healthy.

While working in community redevelopment and treating uninsured families, Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop discovered that creating healthier neighborhoods requires a commitment to health equity. Jesus' ministry brought healing through dismantling systems of oppression and overturning social norms that prevented people from living healthy lives. We can do the same in our communities through addressing social determinants that facilitate healing in under-resourced neighborhoods. Everyone deserves the opportunity for good health. The decisions we make and actions we take can promote the health of our neighbors.

Critique: Though written expressly from a Christian perspective (embodying the principle of "Love they neighbor"), How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick challenges readers of all faiths and backgrounds with the endemic problems that neighborhoods - especially impoverished neighborhoods - can have on public health. From criminal violence to rampant mold to inadequately maintained utilities that can be lethal to people who depend on medical devices to survive, How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick paints a grim portrait of a vicious circle - poverty and suffering beget ill health, which begets more poverty and suffering. But chapters also address potential solutions, and ways to break out of the negative cycle. How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick is a "must-read", highly recommended for both personal and public library Social Issues shelves. It should be noted for personal reading lists that How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Cultivating Spiritual Maturity
Lalitha Thomas
Hohm Press
PO Box 4410, Chino Valley, AZ 86323
9781942493358, $17.95, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: The much-needed message of "Cultivating Spiritual Maturity: The Courage to Practice" by Lalitha Thomas is that spiritual practice is not a weekend hobby or an activity for adolescent seekers (of any age). Instead, Lalitha makes a case for mature spirituality, which evolves from a serious commitment to the Path, and assumes dignity, integrity and personal responsibility for one's life choices.

Lalitha proposes a series of "questions that matter" inviting the reader to delve deeply into issues that must be faced or clarified as he/she proceeds on any spiritual path, whether it is characterized by self awareness, contemplation and devotion, or service. Throughout, she argues that the playing field of spiritual maturity will never be separate from one's everyday life, one's work, relationships, art, physical limits, suffering, aging and dying. Such maturity will, however, always reflect a sacred regard for the highest principles (one's aim), along with gratitude for what is, and kindness, generosity and compassion toward others.

Lalitha is a farmer. Her ashram (spiritual center) is also a working organic farm. She knows the disciplined efforts needed to prepare a ground for planting, to nurture and maintain young shoots, to guard against predators and to harvest a mature crop. As a long-term spiritual practitioner and respected teacher she also knows the risks, the sweat and the fruits of the spiritual path.

Cultivating Spiritual Maturity casts unrelenting light on the necessity for input from a trustworthy mentor, teacher or guru. But, the author wisely notes, even this choice requires maturity (i.e., discernment), and involves its own risks. This is not a business for naive children!

Among numerous relevant questions, Lalitha asks readers to consider: What Path am I on?; What am I really committed to?; What do I call love?; Am I on my deathbed?

Full of practical help, "Cultivating Spiritual Maturity" cites dozens of examples relative to spiritual authority, doubt and confusion, a life of practice, and the facing and embracing of death.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful and astute, inspired and inspiring, "Cultivating Spiritual Maturity: The Courage to Practice" takes an extraordinary and effective approach to dealing with the stresses and strains of modern life. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Cultivating Spiritual Maturity" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Help collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cultivating Spiritual Maturity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage
Wynter Pitts & Jonathan Pitts
Harvest House Publishers
2975 Chad Drive, Eugene, Oregon 97408
9780736970419, $14.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage" was specifically written for the benefit of those who entered their marriage with some pretty high expectations -- as most couples do. Certainly the authors of "Emptied", Jonathan and Wynter Pitts, did. Until the reality of married life spilled into their expectations.

In "Emptied", Jonathan and Wynter invite their readers on a journey to explore a different approach to their own happily-ever-after marriage. "Emptied" takes an honest look at the lessons learned by Jonathan and Wynter as they navigated the ups and downs of early marriage while raising four daughters.

The readers of "Emptied" will: Be encouraged to remove the pressure of a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses marriage; Learn to let go of assumptions and embrace your role as servant-leader to your spouse; Experience how God can pour His purpose, passion, and fullness into your relationship.

"Emptied" is a way of life. It's not about trying harder, it's about thinking differently. Only when we are emptied of our own self-focused motivations can God pour new life into us for the abundant marriage and satisfying relationship we all long for. "Emptied" is especially for those who are ready to approach their marriage poured out and ready to be filled up!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, inspired and inspiring, "Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community and church library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Way of Grace
Miranda Macpherson
Sounds True
PO Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306
9781683641308, $17.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Many of us struggle to truly live what we believe spiritually. What if closing that gap wasn't about trying harder, but something quite the opposite? "The Way of Grace: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation" by Miranda Macpherson is a guide to spiritual surrender and nondual realization based on the practice of ego relaxation -- a holistic, feminine approach to welcoming all of your experience and responding with compassion and wisdom in a world in need of your unique gifts.

Critique: Miranda Macpherson is a spiritual teacher who shares an integrated, feminine approach to nondual realization. Founder of OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation in London, where she trained and ordained over 600 ministers, today she leads the Living Grace Sangha in Northern California and leads retreats internationally. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Way of Grace: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation" is a life altering, life enhancing, life celebrating read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Way of Grace" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781683641247, $34.95, CD).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Q1: A Survival Guide to Adulting
Anna Minte
Independently Published
9780692043752, $14.99 Paper, $7.99 ebook

Q1: A Survival Guide to Adulting is about preparing for adulthood, but it isn't just for teens on the threshold of becoming adults. It's about adults who may not realize that the infamous midlife crisis holds elements similar to this transition point in life, as well as those who interact or work with teens at the final stage of realizing their adult capabilities and dreams.

The real-life stories presented here come from Anna Minte's own experiences and cover everything from romance and schooling to learning to prioritize life, facing health issues, moving beyond living day-to-day to plan ahead, and setting goals. These are common topics for young adult missives; but chapters discussing family relationships and interactions with adult and new adult children, "tribe" participation, and stories about turning adversity into strength are the hallmark of this book. They go far beyond the usual young adult admonitions on how to handle life outside of familiar childhood home and structures.

Each account carefully illustrates hidden opportunities to achieve and move forward through a better acknowledgment of life's common hurdles and best practices responses to them, and each encourages bigger-picture thinking through examining one's ideals, goals, and 'future self' to consider connections between choices, impact, and long-term goals.

Minte is a risk-taker in creating this focus because she also tackles hard topics not usually seen in other young adult self-help guides: "According to Maslow (1943), if the body lacks some chemical, the person will most probably develop a specific appetite for it. If not, it will seek ways to obtain it (even if they are not the healthiest ways). This is a tough one for me to explain; I was warned by family members to leave this story out of the book as it could "affect my professional career". However, here it goes." This lack of chemicals manifests itself in her life as a mental health issue (lacking serotonin, leading to bipolar disorder, then later leading to overdrinking to feel a certain "high" or "happiness").

Another plus is a conversational tone, which encourages young adults rather than admonishing them: "Let's start making a very fun list: all the people you have dated seriously. (Yay!). In my experience, to consider a relationship "serious" nowadays you must have: posted pictures together on social media and… well that's about the highest standard people set these days. However, research shows that habits form in 21 days and emotional shifts happen in 6 months. So, we'll make this our parameter for considering a relationship "relevant"."

Quotes from statistics and studies are sprinkled among the examples to support her contentions, and add authority to her perspective beyond a personal approach alone.

Still another bonus is a concluding section of comprehension exercises which offer instructions for self-assessing strengths, opportunities for growth, and considerations of science, belief, and faith.

A willingness to learn from the messages presented in this inviting discussion is the only prerequisite to absorbing this life instruction manual. It should be in the hands of any young adult on the cusp of adulthood who wants to use self-examination and insight to streamline the process of becoming an adult, avoiding familiar, common obstacles along the way.

Q1: A Survival Guide to Adulting is highly recommended; especially for parents and teachers who can gift this treasure trove of detail to an inquiring young mind.

Third Edition: Ready For Your Close Up?
G. Shields
Positive Progression Publisher
9781941271636, $15.99

Third Edition: Ready For Your Close Up? African Americans And Internationals In Cinema Who Are College Graduates is a reference recommended for both performing arts collections and high school to college ethnic studies readers, and lists the awards and stage, film, and television resumes of selected African American individuals who act, direct, write, and produce for the film industry. It provides a chronological arrangement from cinema's early pioneers to modern independent filmmakers, is intended for avid film enthusiasts as well as students who intend to make a career in this profession, and lists cinematic occupations in the fields of acting, directing, screenwriting, and cinematography.

From biographical profiles of selected actors, actresses, and athletes who transitioned to film and made successful names for themselves to lists of their awards, movies, made-for-television movies, and family details, this compendium of profiles offers inspiration by example. The A-Z listing makes it easy to either locate particular names or browse the list.

Details allow for a better understanding of the progressive nature of building upon skills and talents. To name a few of the profiles: Kerry Washington (1977), actress, producer. Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), actor, concert singer, lawyer, athlete, social activist. Shaquille O'Neal (1972), athlete, actor, producer, soundtrack, entrepreneur, philanthropist. Ava DuVernay (1972), writer, producer, director, independent film distributor. Lupita Nyong'o (1983), actress, director, producer, editor.

Each listing pinpoints influences and achievements: "Oprah Winfrey (1954), media executive, talk show host, producer, actress, philanthropist. Winfrey is proof that for better or worse, with willpower, focus, and a goal, mega success can be within reach. One of the most influential people in the world, Winfrey was born into humble beginnings in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Winfrey's father was strict when it came to excelling in academics, and Winfrey rose to the task. She won a scholarship to major in speech communication and performing arts at Tennessee State University….."

Any collection seeking either a film reference or a 'hall of fame' listing of successful African American performing artists will welcome this highly recommended compilation, which goes beyond listing achievements to provide indicators of exactly how each individual made their name in a highly competitive industry.

We Sit
Paintings by Marley Kaul
Poems by Taiju Geri Wilimek
Mill Studio Press
9781732389403, $20.00

We Sit represents a fine collaborative effort by a 79-year-old artist and retired art professor and a 65-year-old poet and clinical social worker, both of whom were facing health challenges. Each had an epiphany about life's progress and brevity, and their interactions over philosophical, psychological, and spiritual questions about the dynamics of this process led to We Sit.

The most powerful feature of this production lies in the excellent quality of the juxtaposition of full-page color painting images and facing-page poetry. The white space surrounding each and the length and depiction of each subject are visually appealing, poetically and artistically well done, and offer pairings that are not just appropriate, but excellent to the degree that readers could not have asked for a better marriage between art and poetry.

As one example, the Zen-like, color-infused painting of a steaming tea pot and a table set for quiet enjoyment, infused with a background of life-affirming flowers and a blue sky, is accompanied by the poetic note that life itself is unfinished and in flux from moment to moment: "This poem is unfinished./It seemed true when I wrote it./One day it could ring false,/or it could become brighter/and smarter with time." The ending goes on to offer startling food for thought, wrapped in the guise of exquisite simplicity.

The same blend of ordinary life progress with emotional overlays of surprise takes place in the painting 'Doubt', a colorful yet complicated twining of images which compliments the observation that "Grief arises here/in the laundry room,/facing a mountain of jumbled/sheets warm from the dryer."

From the recovery of a broken heart in "Know" to the lure of danger in "I Can't", We Sit is simply a gorgeous, artistic presentation of visual and verbal reflections that deserves a place in any poet and artist's life; especially those predisposed to mindful contemplation.

The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row
Steffen Hou
Print: 9781543955071, $19.99
eBook: 9781543955088, $9.99

True crime readers with a special interest in death row proceedings will especially appreciate the premise and developments in The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row, which collects the experiences of 10 Americans affected by wrongful convictions and the death penalty.

From what it's like to be on death row when innocent to how wrongful convictions happen, Steffen Hou goes beyond adopting a singular set of interview questions about experience to consider wider-ranging issues, from risks based on color, gender, and age to the circumstances surrounding evidence and convictions.

Since June 1790, almost 16,000 Americans have been executed. Modern support has waned for the death penalty in America, but many still feel it is a suitable punishment for murder. No matter what side of the issue the reader is on, Hou surveys many intriguing facts, from its financial burden to how many people have been exonerated from death row upon evidence of their innocence.

The heart of The Deprived lies not in a rehash of social debates around the death penalty's legality and issues, but on the personal toll it exacts from those involved, from family members who live with condemnation despite being good people themselves to how the innocent who have been wrongly convicted survive the violent, harsh atmosphere of prison.

Hou's intention is to personalize the death row experience from many different angles and to document just how innocent people become wrongfully convicted. His approach is more of a close examination of the justice system's failures than it is a social examination of the death penalty's validity. Even more eye-opening are numerous passages about those exonerated, who must live the rest of their lives with the badge of having been viewed as a dangerous criminal, with questions about the validity of their guilt or innocence continuing to impede their progress, test their families, and impact their lives.

Take the case of Nick Yarris, for one example: a long-time Pennsylvania inmate who spent over 20 years on death row before DNA absolved him of a heinous crime. Hou followed Yarris for four years after his release from prison, convinced that "...if one exonerated prisoner was to restore his life, it would be him."

Could anything be more challenging than life on Death Row with the likes of Ted Bundy in the cell beside you? Yes: release. The chapter 'Please Kill Me' covering his case, release, and ongoing challenges is a powerful testimony to a life that was ironically marked by crime and forever changed by accusations of two big crimes which he did not commit.

Lawmakers, justices of the court, and anyone concerned with the overall impact of the death penalty and its place in the criminal justice system will find The Deprived hard-hitting, with an unusual ability to juxtapose personal experience with bigger-picture thinking.

No debate or close examination of American justice or the death penalty would be complete without this highly recommended consideration of the many issues the death penalty ripples into society. Crafted on the shoulders of personal experience, this approach holds far more impact than any scholarly analysis could ever have achieved.

My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl
Shabnam Curtis
Independently Published
9781733598811, $9.99

My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl captures vivid impressions of the Iranian Revolution at a time when author Shabnam Shahmohammad was just seven years old, and moves from her earliest memories in the 1970s to modern times as she grows up witnessing the impact of the Islamic Revolution on her family.

As the regime becomes more repressive and challenges both her father's communist ideals and her mother's religious beliefs, Shabnam longs for a world and life not ruled by oppression, and marries at age nineteen in search of a more adventurous life.

The difference between Shabnam's choices and those of many Iranian women lies in her determination to realize her dreams against all odds: dreams that evolve into a bid for freedom under impossible circumstances. How does one dream of leaving the country when there is no means of departure? And what will happen when she is exposed to so much unfamiliar freedom in later years that she experiences a stark disconnect between her bitter childhood struggles and her much-changed world?

She reflects: "How could I not hate the male-dominant culture heavily influenced by Islamic dictatorship that had stolen those opportunities from me during the first thirty-one years of my life, filling my heart with guilt and shame? And yet, I counted days that I had no one to speak Farsi to. And yet, I cried when I heard the Iranian national anthem. And yet, I screamed happily when Iran's soccer team made its way to the World Cup."

Many autobiographies by immigrants discuss struggles with repressive regimes, the bid for freedom made by coming to America, and cultural conflicts experienced upon arrival; but Shabnam's survey of past and present ideals and their impact on her ability to assimilate makes for an engrossing survey that goes beyond most immigrant stories.

Another difference between her story and others is her focus on not just coming of age and leaving her country, but living in it through regime changes. Her warm observations of her country, its people, and its culture offer simple reflections on daily life challenges and objectives: "I realized people in cities all over Iran longed for freedoms as simple as running a business without bribes."

The book ends with her departure from Iran: given the thought-provoking foreword about her contrasts between countries, readers may anticipate more of an emphasis on this part of her story in a second book, which will focus on her life in America as an immigrant.

My Persian Paradox is an outstanding synthesis of personal experience, social change, and political insights both in Iran and in the U.S. Its revelations about the emotional growth required to immigrate and reconcile two countries' cultures makes for an inviting, educational, and thoroughly engrossing account which is especially recommended for any library strong in immigrant experiences and the psychology of integration.

It's Time to Start Living with Passion!
Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA
Paulynice Consulting Group, LLC
9781733560108, $12.99, Paperback
9781733560115, $6.99, eBook
9781733560122, $9.99, Audiobook

It's Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery uses author Jean Paul Paulynice's own progression to delineate a route to better living. This autobiographical journey offers its readers an admonition about standing still in a dissatisfying life. This book is filled with insightful reflections on pitfalls, progressions, and the kinds of realizations one gains only from hard knocks in life.

This short accessible read, chronicles a hard-working family man's expectation that his efforts would translate to happiness and contentment and, after numerous struggles, the realization that this anticipation of rich rewards would not be seen to fruition without some attitude adjustments and a deep look within.

Why was Jean Paul working so hard at a 9-5 job while staring into an abyss of frustration and depression? He realized he needed "work that didn't feel like work." Locating that passionate calling became his motivator for many adjustments towards living a more passionate life.

Readers will find a chronicle of a life-affirming journey and real-world examples of the processes of gaining insight, identity, and purpose. Those readers who are "stuck" may have pursued this goal again and again, only to find themselves at the same starting point. Jean Paul has "been there and done that," and his story promises the invaluable rewards of a successful pursuit: "Life passion is life itself. It is the price and the reward. It is what life is all about."

His descriptions make very good points about adjusting one's life to allow the kind of time suitable for reflection and discovery and adjusting one's perspective so that happiness can be allowed in: "Imagine driving through the same fall woods without life passion by your side; you are like, "How annoying. Why are these leaves falling? They are obstructing my view. They are making a mess of everything. I'm going to have to spend so much time raking leaves this weekend!"

Many of the truths revealed may come as a surprise in that they clearly delineate passion from other (sometimes worthy) pursuits: "Even if something is good, noble, and worth investing in, it does not mean that it is your passion in life. Something you need to know at this point as you are seeking to find your passion is that passion is narrow."

Synthesizing autobiographical examples with wider psychological, social, and philosophical observations about finding happiness in daily living is not easy to do, especially in fewer than 100 pages, but Paulynice does it perfectly.

This book provides a very lively, readable, and inspiring account that is accessible to audiences who usually eschew weighty self-help reads. This roadmap to success circumvents the common problems of effecting lasting change and produces real results.

Autopsy of an Unwinnable War: Vietnam
Colonel (Ret) William C. Haponski with Colonel (Ret) Jerry J. Burcham
Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road. Havertown, PA 19083
9781612007199, $32.95, Hardcover,

Autopsy of an Unwinnable War: Vietnam differs from most Vietnam histories produced in America in that it provides an analysis covering the extent of different nations' involvements in Vietnam, beginning with France in the 19th century and moving through U.S. efforts into Vietnamese battles with their countrymen.

As such, its focus is far more wide-ranging and inclusive than most similar-sounding histories, considering not just the actions taken by various countries and leaders, but the ideals driving them into conflict.

Colonel Haponski's contention is not only clear, but logical; and is backed by historical events: "In the light of that animating vision--the unwavering idea of a united Vietnam free of foreign influence--William Haponski holds that no French or American or South Vietnamese general could have gained a victory in Vietnam."

Readers anticipating a dry historical analysis should be advised of two things: Haponski adds his personal experiences in the country and adopts a lively tone in revealing its underlying challenges; and he focuses on the social, political and military events that occurred within the country. The importance of this emphasis - that social sentiments from the home front or any political approaches had little to do with influencing the war's outcome - is reflected in a preface which states: "The stark facts, though, are that the Vietnam War was lost before our first American shot was fired. In fact, it was lost before the first French Expeditionary Corps shot, almost two decades before us, and was finally lost when the South Vietnamese after us fought partly, then entirely, on their own."

From idealistic soldiers and diplomatic failures to nationwide resistance within Vietnam, the nature of soldiers and citizens in both North and South, and bad strategic and tactical mistakes made by commanders, the account shines with detail. Autopsy of an Unwinnable War traces the evolution of perceptions, decision-making foundations, and acts of individual and group courage and cruelty which influenced the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese.

Few other analyses combine the personal and the wider-ranging clash of experiences and cultures like Autopsy of an Unwinnable War. Hardly any go the extra mile to consider underlying influences on choices and these perceptions, and even fewer take the time to document a struggle that traces resolution, resistance, and the types of decisions that spread a failing war effort beyond Vietnam's borders.

There are numerous footnoted quotes from and references to other Vietnam research and analysis, personal experience in country supports contentions and insights, and influences on ultimate outcomes receive in-depth consideration.

Other Vietnam histories provide dates and events or trace personal experience alone. Followers of Vietnam War history would do well to consult Autopsy of an Unwinnable War above most others: its ability to synthesize the extent of political, social, military, and personal experience for a clearer, bigger picture of why Vietnam was an impossible conflict all along makes it a winning, engrossing study that should be on the shelves of any definitive Vietnam War collection.

Exile of the Sky God
P. Anastasia
Jackal Moon Press
9780997448580, $14.95

Exile of the Sky God is a fantasy set in ancient Egypt and tells of the god Horus, a deity who wants to eschew traditions in the human world. When he discovers a truth that leads him on a mission to change the worlds of gods and men, a power struggle pits him against all that is familiar and true, forcing him to confront his role as a god and his ultimate purpose.

When Horus turns his back on his destiny (to be appointed to the position of Sky God among a court of other specific Egyptian gods), he unleashes forces that test loyalties, preordained destiny, and the strength of chaos to win over all.

From the beginning, Horus desires something different from his life purpose: " was my wish to stand out amongst a crowd of beastly gods." His quest for individuality and uniqueness amongst a circus of godly figureheads leads him to discoveries that defy reason and introduce "foreign and complicated" cravings into his life.

With no precedent for his actions or ambitions, Horus carves out a new path that tests his role as a god and his relationships with the mortals he oversees: "I may have been one of the youngest gods in the palace, but I still had my wits about me. A single mortal human should not have been able to influence me. There were thousands of sheep in my flock, and I was to watch over them all with equal diligence."

Will his desire for power consume everything he's destined to be? When Horus unexpectedly assumes the form and frailty of those he's charged with protecting, his familiar training and perspectives are challenged.

Readers move easily through P. Anastasia's ancient Egyptian circles through the astute eyes and observations of this ambitious, often reckless, transformed god. Dark warriors, the overriding authority of the temple, village idiots, bullies, friends and foes, and Horus' unique position when he is caught between two very different worlds creates a gripping story that is filled with discovery, revised purposes, and new visions of gods and men.

Readers seeking a fantasy about ancient Egyptian figureheads and destinies achieved in unexpected ways will find Exile of the Sky God thoroughly engrossing and satisfyingly unpredictable: a powerful read, indeed.

Kilts and Catnip
Zoe Tasia
Black Opal Books
Print ISBN:1644370476
e-book ISBN: 1644370468, $3.99


Barnes and Noble:

Kilts and Catnip is Book 1 in the Shrouded Isle fantasy series, and opens with the first-person impressions of a mother who is rudely awakened by her teenager. Daughter Tate has been abducted in the middle of the night and Becca is charged with her rescue, an endeavor which quickly turns into so much more in a story steeped in Scottish atmosphere, legends, and romance.

A dark-haired, handsome figure in a kilt returns Tate, and Becca quickly learns that he is not the kidnapper, but she faces an instant conundrum over puzzles that only become more complex as events progress.

From a kitten's rescue that leads to a near-deadly encounter with a kelpie to the handsome Greg's knowledge of this strange world and his efforts to keep Becca safe, Kilts and Catnip not only offers an emotion-packed first person adventure, but injects a solid sense of place into its descriptions and dialogue.

To its credit, Kilts and Catnip doesn't attempt to reproduce Scottish brogue in its many conversations, but instills just enough accent into its dialogues to make it readily understandable, yet atmospheric.

Readers seeking strong stories of romance paired with paranormal elements will especially appreciate the strength of Becca's first-person observations as she navigates a world replete with threats, mysterious forces, and her personal quest to uncover Greg's story and real identity.

As Becca and her teens interact on different levels and learn more than they expected about fairies and Scottish legends, they find themselves facing many changes and challenges to their lives and relationships.

By building a powerful atmosphere of family ties and then introducing a romantic and mysterious figure into the mix, Zoe Tasia has created an original, gripping story that draws readers in with not just evolving romance and fantasy, but strong interpersonal ties which lie at the heart of any truly compelling read.

Kilts and Catnip is highly recommended for paranormal and romance audiences who want their writing vivid, personal, and as strong in psychological connections as it is in a sense of place and an atmosphere of danger; all set against a search for connections and home.

Car Business 101
Max Zanan
Independently Published
9781792652929, $9.99 Paper, $5.99 Kindle

While Car Business 101 is addressed to a specific audience not of car buyers but professionals involved in the auto industry, it should be mentioned that Max Zanan's coverage holds expanded opportunities for buyers who wish to understand his contention that: "My goal is to shed the light on #CrazyShitCarDealersDo in order to protect the industry from self-destruction. Car dealers are not just good at selling cars; they are absolutely amazing at digging their own grave. This book is unique because it covers insanity that takes place in all departments of a car dealership."

Yes, auto professionals will be the book's main audience; but car fans, buyers, collectors, and anyone with more than a cursory interest in the industry will find Car Business 101 packed with eye-opening revelations that come from an author who grew up in the industry and worked in every department of the car dealership.

Some readers may deem Zanan's approach 'sensationalist.' There's an "oh my god" feel to his statements that incorporates drama, but also employs a candid, hard-hitting tone directed to car dealership professionals at all levels, from salespeople to managers and supporting staff members.

Better editing might have made the read smoother by locating lapses in punctuation and grammar that detract from the writing's potential impact, as in this sample of omitted punctuation: "Let's be honest carmakers can barely build a car that consumers want."

These cautions aside, Car Business 101 is simply packed with insider observations, revelations, and details not to be easily found in any other book. From OEM pre-paid maintenance contracts to staying competitive, improving customer experience by incorporating mystery shoppers, and addressing departmental fallacies and failures ("Finance managers are like the rest of us; they are creatures of habit. So if the finance manager is only comfortable pitching vehicle service contracts and GAP then these are the only two products that he or she will present. Using a menu allows you to hold your finance department accountable and track product penetration. Tracking product penetration will help you make training and pay plan adjustments in order to increase it and make more money."), Car Business 101 should be considered the gold standard against which every dealership is critiqued, measured, and held accountable.

Anyone involved in the auto business, especially those seeking to revamp dealership departments with best practices and better approaches, should make Car Business 101 their "bible."

Gary Eldon Peter
New Rivers Press
9780898233674, $17.71 Paper
9780898233681, $6.99, ebook

Oranges is set in the modern Midwest (southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and Minneapolis, to be specific) and offers short stories that flesh out the life and LBGTQ experiences of residents who move through personal challenges, the early days of the AIDS crisis, and their lives.

Through the window of the short story format, Gary Eldon Peter successfully synthesizes not just a singular experience, but winds many lives into the social, political, and interpersonal relationships of changing times and increasing public awareness of gay lifestyles and individuals, and their prevalence in American society.

Take 'Sun Country', for example, which explores the narrator's sojourn to Florida from Minneapolis, where he connects with his crusty father: "The black people in town keep to themselves and the snowbirds like it that way," he said. Then he paused, as if he were waiting for me to take issue with such a statement. I just smiled." He describes the cookie-cutter uniformity of the trailer park his father inhabits in southern Orlando as he experiences seven days with his father: the most time he's spent with his dad since before he left home for college.

It evolves that his father "...seemed that he hadn't quite gotten around to telling them - "my best friends here," he called them when he introduced me - that his only son is gay." His reason for hiding his son's lifestyle acknowledges his not-quite acceptance: "Now you know that whatever you do with your life is fine with me," he whispers. "But these people, well, they don't want to hear about that kind of thing. You know how they are, they grew up during a different time."

Their dialogue in a public restaurant where secrets are threatened captures a microcosm of similar conversations across the country where parents and children struggle to maintain connections with one another when a close-held family secret means a choice between an open relationship and community acceptance: "Here I'm trying to help you understand why sometimes you can't just march up to people and be whoever you want to be, and you treat it like a big joke," he snaps at me. I stop laughing. "Actually, I think it's pretty sad," I say. "You having to lie about me."

Through this one story and others which capture the experience of being gay in America, readers receive a pointed and compelling piece about aging, social and psychological changes, and moments of understanding that successfully penetrate stigma, prejudice, and social barriers.

Oranges is a delightful compilation of such moments, traversing changing times, culture, relationships, and levels of acceptance and understanding both within and outside of the gay community.

Readers who choose Oranges for its revelations about changing attitudes, hearts and minds will find each story lingers in the mind long after the reading; much like the pungent scent of sweet oranges remains in one's taste memory long after the last satisfying bite.

Bright Days and Dark
John S. Wilson
9781729516010, $14.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

In 1974, seven-year-old John dreamed of becoming a pop star. Bright Days and Dark captures his journey towards this and other dreams, chronicling the passions of an aspiring child star. It began as a series of interviews with John S. Wilson by writer J. William Wickett, who conducted these interviews four decades ago, made copious notes for a projected book, then set aside his effort. The notes and tapes were resurrected last year, and because they are John's words, he is listed as the book's author.

Six-year-old John's passion for music never wavered, and as he moved from introductory lessons to a talent quite advanced for his age, adults recognized the rudiments of a musical genius. These experiences are chronicled in this blend of biography and autobiography, spiced with humorous reflections on the progress of becoming a musician.

From the evolution of his songwriting abilities and recording session experiences to his growing determination to become a star, John's life achieves a roller coaster feel that carries readers into thrilling heights of achievement and depths of despair.

The challenge of being and managing a child musician, locating supportive players and talents to bring John's songs and abilities to public life, and the process of making albums and interacting with family craft a story that is refreshingly original, crisp with description and psychological detail, and steeped in the experiences and memories of a songwriter with early roots in musical ambitions.

Readers won't expect some of the paths John's life takes, from a possible poisoning and detective's investigation to touring with such famous names as John Denver; navigating family, fortune and fame; and struggling with the processes of keeping his connections to his hometown and family.

From promotional efforts to violent encounters, John's life is sharply defined not just by music, but by the trials and demands of a musician forced to handle promotional and security issues alike.

Readers who want to know about John Wilson's life in particular as well as a budding touring musician's life lessons will relish the ups and downs depicted in Bright Days and Dark, a compellingly sassy story of a dynamic life which is narrated from multiple viewpoints. It's spiced with unexpected twists and turns that keep readers engaged and thoroughly involved in the evolution of John's career and world.

We Have Met the Enemy
Felicia Watson
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072370, $17.95, paperback, $6.99 ebook

We Have Met the Enemy is a military sci-fi drama whose tone and plot will remind readers of Clarke, Asimov, and Orson Scott Card. Set in the 31st century, it pairs personal with political and military struggles as it presents Naiche Decker's mission to avenge her mother's death by battling the Eternals. Her journey to their home world to exact revenge leads to more than a military struggle, which is what sets We Have Met the Enemy apart from the usual genre production.

For one thing, Naiche's roots in Apache culture and her initial ambitions beyond her newfound cause are set forth in the opening pages, as a cousin confronts her with the sentiment that she was destined to become a doctor and healer: objectives that clash heavily with her latest life purpose.

The differences between her cultural roots and her peoples' perspectives and her own are nicely posed in the beginning before she even sets out on her journey: "You think your presence is going to turn the tide of a war Uniterrae has been losing for ten years? No, the N'daa went out into the stars where we don't belong. They'd rather find new worlds instead of trying to heal the one Bik'ehgo'iindan gave us. They brought this upon themselves; let them solve it. Your mother would still be alive if she had stayed here - where she belonged. Especially after she had you."

As questions of justice, enemies versus friends, and shipmates and causes permeate Naiche's world, it's evident that We Have Met the Enemy is about more than a drive to battle. It's about an inner struggle that overlays her cause, and the efforts of humanity and its many cultures to survive an alien onslaught.

From her mother's tragic demise while brokering a truce to the terrible price paid for slaying an Eternal and the underlying meaning of this alien contact, Naiche and her brothers-in-arms face themselves and the horrors of transformation as she follows in her mother's footsteps.

Naiche Dekker is wrong about so many things; but will she finally realize the one truth that could save her and everything she believes in?

Felicia Watson crafts a marvel in We Have Met the Enemy. Her ability to employ old-style methods of sci-fi drama with an alien invasion and military response, weave it into a cross-cultural lesson, and add a series of revelations about transformative processes on all sides lend a satisfying depth to the story line. In addition, insights about the terrible price of both revenge and mercy contribute a level of psychological and ethical depth that makes We Have Met the Enemy a superior, engrossing read.

Too many 'military encounter' sci-fi plots fall short of the real draw created by believable protagonists facing their own dilemmas and growth challenges. We Have Met the Enemy offers subplots that are compelling and thoroughly engrossing, placing it more than a cut above most in either military or the sci-fi genre as a whole.

The Last Caliph
T.L. Williams
First Coast Publishers
9780988440012, $14.99
9780988440029, $4.99, Ebook

Alexander Logan and his team are best known (in intelligence circles) for thwarting China's Zero Day attack against the U.S. The in-depth cybersecurity effort that united all branches of the government was a satisfying end result of his achievement.

Now he's facing something equally dangerous just as he's in the process of questioning bureaucratic processes and barriers in the wake of this amazingly successful battle. Danger doesn't just come from external affairs, this time. He and his wife Zahir have lost a baby, possibly directly related to the consequences of his work, and they need a change.

T.L. Williams clearly outlines opening scenes in which Logan realizes the limitations of his job and the reasons why he's putting it on hold for a year of absence: "He knew himself well enough to realize what had really been gnawing at him for the last year was the recognition that he was at his best when he alone called the shots. He was used to having more autonomy than the CIA customarily gave its officers. In the field, operations officers saw themselves as the pointy end of the spear, and they had considerable leeway in making operational decisions on the spot as circumstances demand. Back in Washington though, you were just a cog in the wheel."

He also faces the process of grief, views it in those around him, and wonders if it will continue to erode his relationship years later: "Logan was struck by the melancholy expression on his father-in-law's face and the plaintive tone of his voice. It was apparent decades after his loss, the pain was as fresh and poignant as the day it happened. Was this his and Zahir's fate? Would bitterness and disparagement define their lives going forward or would love win out?"

With this background nicely detailed, The Last Caliph proceeds to meld personal with political adversity as Logan's personal year off for recovery turns into a deadly series of confrontations with forces both beyond and interconnected with his professional and personal life: "He was going to get to the bottom of Ali's contact with ISIS and blow the lid off of anything ISIS thought it could do in the U.S. And then he was going to get his family back."

From New York mosques in the crosshairs of terrorist activity to Logan's deteriorating relationship with Zahir, Logan struggles with ISIS activities and forces that create disruption and confrontation on all sides, immersed in a whirlwind of Middle East issues and a civil war's horrific aftermath.

Between his investigative efforts with enemy Azar, her ISIS contact Rifat, and his journey through areas replete with car bombs and danger, Logan experiences newfound hope in the middle of a crisis in a desert in a far-away land - just when he didn't expect it.

Readers will find themselves drawn into a changing plot of espionage and intelligence actions, cemented by Logan's personal life conundrums and the possibilities of disaster and redemption which run side by side through every dangerous moment.

The concurrent stories of grief, recovery, and new possibilities keeps the counterintelligence maneuvers lively and personal, creating a vivid plot that is both fast-paced and emotionally engaging.

Readers who seek a constant barrage of action paired with emotional twists and turns will find The Last Caliph satisfyingly unpredictable and nicely written: a gem of intrigue that will keep thriller enthusiasts on edge and wondering right up to a politically charged resolution which brings all situations and characters full circle.

Relics of Andromeda
Jonathan Michael Erickson
Gold Dragon Books
9781718918207, $15.00, print, $5.99, ebook

Relics of Andromeda is Volume 1 in the Song of the Ancients series about the colonists of Andromeda, who discovered dangerous time-bending relics long before the story's protagonist, Anka, was born.

The uncovering of relics with the power to mess with human psychology and perception led to chaos. Now Anka is tasked with the dangerous mission of carrying a relic on her person to deposit it elsewhere: a relic known for speaking to humans and luring them with heart's desires and emotion-twisting power.

The history and basic premise of the relics is set forth in just a few succinct, informative pages...then the real action begins. It turns out that Anka's mission is far more deadly then even she thinks, because time travel, tricks of the mind, the abandonment of traditional ways of dealing with the relics, and subterfuge mark her task and teach her and her companions that the mission involves more than they'd been led to believe.

Their efforts involve a reassessment of the power and meaning of the relics which have been carefully regulated and controlled since humanity stumbled upon them, and Anka winds up at the heart of a conflict that swirls around the relics, their meaning, and their management.

What gives Relics of Andromeda such a unique, compelling flavor is its interactions between people, machines, high technology, and aliens. Anka's exploration delves into perceptions of self and others even as she faces some difficult truths about the meaning, power, and impact of the relics on all their lives.

As political clashes and battles take over Anka's life, she finds herself struggling with a tradition that dictates she must passively wait for the situation to worsen as forces on different sides gather power in preparation for battle. There's also romance in the wind, as Anka had chosen fellow tribesman Trevor to be her mate, and jealousy and strife emerge from this decision, as well.

It should be cautioned that Relics of Andromeda is no light read. A lexicon at book's end defines and explains history, characters, and politics, and should ideally be reviewed before reading begins. The advantage of this lexicon is twofold: it provides and synthesizes background information key to understanding setting, history, and events; and it condenses this background information into its own area so that the story line can flow seamlessly without the need for injecting constant explanations throughout.

This allows for a smoother reading of the story, which is free to focus on Anka's dilemmas, choices, actions, and impact without having to constantly divert into necessary background history.

Readers will find Relics of Andromeda a multifaceted production indeed. It pairs military clashes, cultural and technological struggles with a young woman's mission and experiences with power beyond her experience, and a tribal history of a legend that of necessity requires revision. The result is a thoroughly engrossing, unpredictable first contact story about a young female warrior facing grief, courage, endings and new beginnings.

Without spoilers, suffice it to say that the crescendo of action leads to a conclusion out of left field that is a satisfyingly gripping approach, injecting the story's growing sense of mystery and the unexpected into the reader's experience.

Relics of Andromeda's powerful action is well worth the read and lingers in the mind long after its final, vivid conclusion.

The Hitman of Avenue U
Hy Brett
Homecrest Press
9780997971026, $15.99, Paperback
9780997971033, $4.99, e-book

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What would drive a churchgoing family man to become a killer? Possibly an employment offer he literally can't refuse. George is unemployed and depressed when a childhood friend and Mafia insider offers him an unusual job in The Hitman of Avenue U.

As the story opens, he's just selected his first gun and has joined the charismatic Big Nick's 'family' as a 'zapper'. His interactions with his new employer and friends are sometimes filled with remarks steeped in attitude and male bonding remarks which some female readers might chafe at ("Actually, I didn't have anything there to brag about, either as to size or performance. Unlike the characters in the Jacqueline Susann novel, Once Is Not Enough, once was usually sufficient for my wife, Alice, and me. Only rarely would we go for an encore. On birthdays and our wedding anniversary. Valentine's Day. And special occasions like that."), but which lend nicely to the realistic atmosphere of an old-time Italian mob family's male structure and interactions.

George desperately wanted a legit job; but this newfound career may be just the ticket for revenge when he sets his newly trained eye and piece on former boss Jack, who ruined his life and career. His experiences at the Globe and the demise of not just his job but his ego are nicely chronicled as powerful lead-ins to a day of reckoning that feels inevitable, but as The Hitman of Avenue U builds its story of the evolution of a killer, it also builds subplots that support character development and a more intricate set of moral dilemmas than anticipated.

As events build up to George's stalking his prey in a power play that turns the tables on his own life, readers are treated to a story line gritty with realistic street scenes, dialogue, action, and the perspectives of an ex-employee on a personal vendetta.

After an emotional breakdown and depression where Jack Warren has been unsympathetic to his careful pursuit, which is juxtaposed with memories of the past and how Jack has ruined his life, George's precarious mental state slips into dangerous territory and brings readers along for the ride.

Perhaps this is the finest achievement of The Hitman of Avenue U: under a different hand, it would have been all too easy to focus on the methodology of the hit man. However, Hy Brett's concentration on the evolution of his protagonist offers much food for thought about related issues, from workplace politics and interpersonal interactions to the kinds of stresses that would turn an everyday family man into a killer bent on revenge.

The Hitman of Avenue U is highly recommended for readers of psychological suspense stories and murder tales. It takes the time to focus on the killer's first-person account and experiences, adding the kind of depth and focus that creates an emotionally charged and riveting plot right up to an unexpected conclusion. It's also highly recommended for readers of Mafia encounters who want more depth and psychological detail than usual.

Material Things
Larry Spencer
Larry Spencer, Publisher
9780578212326, $11.49

Material Things portrays iconic California culture at its best, and describes in narrative form the experiences of a young entrepreneur who rises to fame and fortune in the jeans business in the 60s and 70s.

The first thing to note about this story is that it's a murder mystery - among other things - and crafts its story by alternating three perspectives and lives: those of Matthew Street, Jon Lewis, and Christopher Styles. This approach creates a full circle that immerses three very different individuals in a crazy series of escapades that delve into Southern California culture with a vengeance.

One doesn't expect confrontations between the Mafia and FBI, budding entrepreneurs, style mavens, and criminal investigations in a story about the evolution of bellbottom jeans in California. The owners of an up-and-coming fashion boutique find themselves in a hotbed of action and confrontation, and readers are along for a ride steeped in high drama and undercover activities.

It's important to keep in mind that Material Things hold its roots in real history. So many eye-popping and incongruous events take place that it would be easy to mentally categorize this read as simply fiction, but such is not the case, and that makes the account even more compelling.

Larry Spencer adds a solid dose of humor to the narrative which lends realistic and fun elements to the plot and provides satisfying comic relief: "They concluded they were letting a drunk scribble on their skin. Jon feared the worst. "What if the alcohol muddles his train of thought," he mused, "and he somehow inscribes the word MOTHERFUCKER in a font size you normally see on a marquee sign?"

As the dynamic trio winds through business propositions, Southern California culture and fashion trends, the underworld, and FBI processes alike, readers become immersed in a lively story that holds a ceaseless relay of action, decision-making conundrums, and interpersonal relationship changes. During this process, language, sexual explorations, and confrontations can be gritty and as rough as in real life, so readers seeking a 'clean' story should look elsewhere: "He pulls into her parents' driveway. The house is your typical California ranch style. Tree in the front yard that could have once accommodated a tire swing. Or not. She noticed his apprehension. "You okay?" she asks gently. He shrugs. "I'll be fine." In truth, he was a fucking wreck. His throat felt tight. He could hardly form spit. "Just be sincere and to the point," she instructs him. "Try not to use the word vagina or pussy." She was attempting to make him more at ease with her droll humor. It didn't work."

With its edgy personal situations, road trips into near-death experiences, the slings and arrows of crazy love, and too many persons of interest, Material Things ultimately grasps the nature of a culture evolving during pivotal decades not only in the characters' lives, but in Southern California's social development.

It's a compelling and crazy romp through these changing worlds that readers will find engrossingly realistic and unpredictable: a novel/reality piece that is entertaining and thought-provoking all in one.

Reptillia: The Beginning
Yusuf Ibn Sirin
Amazon Digital Services
B07KWHPBS4, $7.25

Reptillia: The Beginning is based on true events and is no light read, ideally requiring some degree of knowledge of the history and culture of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Great Britain and their interconnections. Take the fighting heart of the Afghani people, blend in Muslim interests from Pakistan, and add the backdrop of Great Britain, an empire-building force in the world used to subjugating its conquered peoples, for a novel that delves into processes of conquest, religious clashes, violent struggles, and metaphysical issues.

Furthermore, Yusuf Ibn Sirin has also managed to throw in a touch of entomology which has been immaculately blended within the story-line to cement the notion of 'empire'. The Krypto-Knights are inspired by the 'modus operandi' of ant colonies and their innate survival instincts derived from nature. Especially the merciless Army Ant species.

Winding all these facets into the story of an individual at the pivot point of vying cultural and spiritual forces is no easy task. Yusuf Ibn Sirin brings readers as easily into the tribal interactions of the Afghani people and the local mosque in Goshta as he does the streets of Manchester. Just as deftly drawn are the characters of these nations who are brought into British society carrying their cultural baggage with them for readers to open and explore.

The story comes from Yusuf Ibn Sirin's experiences, yet it's not an autobiography but is fiction infused with his cultural observations. The story traverses mystery, intrigue, the evolution of a Krypto-Knight Empire and its symbols and knowledge base, and the advent of a new ideology fuelled by optimistic young people bent on taking over the world.

Its many social, political, and cultural challenges would seem to limit Reptillia: The Beginning's readership to politically astute, historically informed, or socially active readers of worldviews and revolution - and, indeed, college-level students well versed in these topics will likely be its primary audience.

However, Reptillia also holds a set of remarkable observations on warfare, the emergence of duty and honor on the battlefield, and protagonist Abdul-Hakeem Nawabi's personal growth that keeps ordinary thinking readers engaged and absorbed even when they don't possess a background in history or political affairs.

As it careens through a backdrop of revolution and nation-building, Reptillia promises and delivers the kind of action and inspection that gives it a decidedly thought-provoking nature, which will especially please readers who don't like their stories replete with pat answers and predictable scenarios.

Quite simply, Reptillia is the story of choice for the educated, politically aware, socially concerned world citizen interested in a powerful story of revolutionary change on many levels. It's driven by the inspections and interactions of operatives and zealots who ultimately question the point of their social dismay and alternative arrangements. As the Arctic Wolves of the far right head for an inevitable clash against an ideology born of prejudice and poverty, the story proves riveting until the last page. Reptillia is a solid portrait of individuals transformed by their interactions and politics.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Asia Ascending
Dennis Unkovic
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641052672 $69.95 pbk / $63.43 Kindle

Synopsis: This book contains practical insider advice on conducting business in Asia. The four most comprehensive chapters examine China, India, Japan, and Korea, which are the dominant players in the region. Other chapters reveal the unique aspects of doing business in smaller but still vital economies such as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Then, sometimes overlooked and emerging economies with great potential such as Vietnam are explored. Long-term success overseas requires taking the time to educate, plan, prepare, and execute with both a specific business strategy and cultural sensitivity in mind.

Critique: Asia Ascending: Insider Strategies for Competing with the Global Colossus is a studious guide written especially for twenty-first century business leaders working with or competing against increasingly powerful rivals in Asia. Individual chapters examine the business practices of different Asian nations, from "China: The Colossus Emerges", "Japan: A Challenging Time", and "India: The Next China?" to "Singapore: One of a Kind", "Indonesia on the Rise", "Thailand vs. Malaysia: A Study in Opposites" and more. An absolute "must-read" for any manager competing globally, Asia Ascending is highly recommended for personal and public library Business collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Asia Ascending is also available in a Kindle edition ($63.43).

The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs
Martin Mosebach
Plough Publishing House
151 Bowne Drive, PO Box 398, Walden, NY 12586 USA
9780874868395, $26.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: As a religious minority in Muslim Egypt, the Copts find themselves caught in a clash of civilizations.

In a carefully choreographed propaganda video released in February 2015, ISIS militants behead twenty-one orange-clad Coptic Christian men on a Libyan beach.

In the West, daily reports of new atrocities may have displaced the memory of this particularly vile event. But not in the world from which the murdered men came from. All but one were young Coptic Christian migrant workers from Egypt. A justifiably acclaimed literary writer Martin Mosebach traveled to the Egyptian village of El-Aour to meet their families and better understand the faith and culture that shaped such conviction.

He found himself welcomed into simple concrete homes through which swallows dart. Portraits of Jesus and Mary hang on the walls along with roughhewn shrines to now-famous loved ones. Mosebach is amazed time and again as, surrounded by children and goats, the bereaved replay the cruel propaganda video on an iPad. There is never any talk of revenge, but only the pride of having a martyr in the family, a saint in heaven. "The 21" appear on icons crowned like kings, celebrated even as their community grieves. A skeptical Westerner, Mosebach finds himself a stranger in this world in which everything is the reflection or fulfillment of biblical events, and facing persecution with courage is part of daily life.

"The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs" is comprised of twenty-one symbolic chapters, each preceded by a picture, as Mosebach offers a travelogue of his encounter with a foreign culture and a church that has preserved the faith and liturgy of early Christianity -- the "Church of the Martyrs".

"The 21" is also an account of the spiritual life of an Arab country stretched between extremism and pluralism, between a rich biblical past and the shopping centers of New Cairo.

Critique: A unique blend of deftly scripted travelogue and inherently engaging memorial to the endurance of Christian faith in the face of murderous hatred, "The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs" is an extraordinary and unique account that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is ultimately inspired and inspiring. This is a work that should be a part of every church, community, college, and university collection, as well as the personal reading list of every dedicated Christian regardless of their denominational affiliation.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Dear Mom Thank You for Everything
Bradley Trevor Greive
Andrews McMeel Publishing
4520 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111
9780740715280, $9.95,

How many of us let our moms know how much they are appreciated? Author Bradley Trevor Greive conveys through pictures and prose many of the words of feelings to describe how special our moms are. There is also a uniqueness to the photos as, all are different types of animals with selected thoughts of love about mothers. "Dear Mom Thank You for Everything" is for any season to help express the affection of one of our parents we should all express year round.

Butterfly Kisses
Bob Carlisle
Countryman Publishing Word Publishing
A division of Thomas Nelson Inc
c/o HarperCollins Christian Publishing
9780849953538, $9.99,

Daughters and fathers have a special relationship that is expressed in "Butterfly Kisses." Bob Carlisle has compiled thoughts by daughters about their fathers and the same for daughters in their own words about their fathers. Each person has selected something about the bond between them. There are also pictures that conclude with one daughter at her wedding with her father. "Butterfly Kisses" is a touching collection that is a perfect gift all year long.

A Father's Love
Bob Carlisle
Countryman Publishing Word Publishing
A division of Thomas Nelson Inc
c/o HarperCollins Christian Publishing
140410092X, $9.99,

Carlisle this time highlights sons and their fathers in "A Father's Love." Fathers express their love for their sons while the children do the same for them. "A Father's Love" is a wonderful collection of writings for anyone to enjoy, that instills family values for all of us live by.

Miss Little Bea Sharp
Jessica Rosen
Illustrated by David R. Martinez
Create Space
9780999676004, $15.00,

I am very grateful that when I was in elementary school, I was taught the appreciation of music by teachers as well as trips to the local symphony to hear different types of music first hand. Sadly, that is not the case today, for many students. Jessica Rosen in her book "Miss Little Bea Sharp" cleverly takes children on a journey though the different types previewing, many different forms to experience. Rosen also has a wonderful gift with her words that project to the reader to actually hear the sounds of jazz, rock n roll, classical, and others. "Miss Little Bea Sharp" is a beautiful merging of art structures that should be used at schools to instill an awareness of music by kids today

Sexually Harassed? WHAT?! The "Other Woman's" Response to the #MeToo Movement
Jane Whitaker
Legacy Press of Florida
9781947718326, $19.95,

"Sexually Harassed? What? The "Other Woman's Response to the #MeToo Movement" should stir up a hornet's nest of controversy for its differing opinion of a hot topic of discussion. It is an excellent autobiography of Jane Whitaker that is written from the Point of View of 'the other woman.' The book not only tells the story of a 20-year affair but also a unique perspective of the #metoo movement. "Sexually Harassed? What?!" is well written with passion and political controversy. 5-star review #autobiography #NFL #BaltimoreRavens

AJ & Magnus Night of the Roach
Written by Bryan Steel
Illustrated by Simon Steel
Privately Published
9780692938416, $19.99,

Normally readers can find the AJ & Magnus comic strip on many different social media outlets. "AJ& Magnus Everyday Adventure" is the third collection of three volumes that can appear to a larger audience. With the world filled with so much negativity it is wonderful to have characters who have readers laughing out loud at their antics. Some may find some of the material offensive but that is really their problem as there are too many things today to find fault with. Instead people should sit down and cruise through the fun filled stories. "AJ & Magnus Everyday adventure" is a beautifully done job of storytelling and illustration that should find new readers.

Wonder Woman Volume 1 Blood
Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins
DC Comics
9781401235628, $14.99,

The character of Wonder Woman has evolved and changed so many times through the years to this present version, presented in the first of a new series of graphic novels. This is definitely not the same Amazon princess I grew up reading in comics that sold for fifty cents. In "Wonder Woman Blood" she is faced with several conflicts while learning of long held secrets of her own existence. Wonder Woman has always fascinated readers with quality stories as well as being a positive role model for women of all ages. "Wonder Woman Volume 1 Blood" is sure to please fans with its strong story.

The Kicks Shaken Up
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481451017, $6.99,

Devin and her family experience their first earthquake. All appears fine until Devin realizes her entire life has been turned upside down. She is not the tip top athlete on the soccer field while other things in her existence are affected as well. She pinpoints the time of the change and is determined to work her way back on all fronts to rectify things. Her teammates are there to help her in story that races along with interesting characters and conflicts to be resolved.

The Kicks Settle the Score
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481451055, $6.99,

Now in a winter league, Devin is devoted to playing great games even though, all of her Kick members are not with her. In fact, some are on opposing teams they will have to play. Devin also learns to work under a different coaches' rules. The conflicts are different but the writing is fast paced while there are many lessons kids can learn from "The Kicks Settle the Score."

The Kicks Under Pressure
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481481519, $7.99,

Devin and her Kicks teammates are back in action with their favorite coach. This time out though they have to prove themselves as they did so well last time. It is tough pulling it all together because now more than ever they have to show they are not a fluke and that they are a serious challenger. "The Kicks Under Pressure" is the seventh title in the very popular series that is sure to have a lot more titles in the future.

The Kicks In the Zone
Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481481533, $16.99,

Emma the Kicks goalie, is functioning fine until one of her shoes flies off her foot, causing the opponents ball to roll into the box for a score. People with their cell phones post the unfortunate situation to all types of social media. Emma is so crushed once the game is concluded, that she is about to quit, due to the embarrassing position she now finds herself in. Devin and the other teammates work to get her back to where she was before the mishap while they learn new ways to train including, in the soft sand at the beach. Devin and the other characters are positive role models for all kids to follow as "The Kicks In the Zone" rolls along like a soccer ball until the final match, that has a great outcome.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Archangel Down
C. Gockel
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B016WS5FO4, $0.00, ebook, 404 pages
9781530043675, paper

Archangel Down is book 1 in a series and it ends not with a cliff hanger but at the end of a chapter. The story is a standard SF tale about the conflict between extreme religious conservatives and a more flexible society where mechanical and biologic augmentation is common for birth defects, accidents and interactions with technology.

Commander Noa Sato is on vacation from the military on her home planet when she is picked up by the authorities tortured and put in a death camp. She is told by her torturers that she is part of a plot, called Archangel, to take over her reactionary religious home world Luddeccea. She escapes the camp by crawling under a pile of bodies that are going to be hauled away for burning.

During her escape, she overhears a military broadcast about a small ship being shot down. The broadcast claims the Archangel is down. Noa has no idea about what or who Archangel is but near the crash site she encounters history Professor James Sinclair. James has suffered a head injury when his spaceship crashed after being shot down. His concussion has erased all of his memories since entering the planet's orbit. On the run from the planet's authorities, the two damaged people have to somehow escape and save the planet and the millions who are still in the death camps.

Archangel Down is a well written story that uses the unique method of having a history professor using our own history to explain and examine social upheaval over 400 years in the future. There is a continual overlapping between our history and the narration that adds a enjoyable secondary level to the story. Archangel Down is an easy recommendation to anyone who is willing to wade through a rather lengthy multi-book saga. If the commitment of reading a number of books to finish a single story is a little much for you, Dickson's Dorsai novels will explore similar social dynamics but in more manageable chunks.

Patience County War
Soren Petrek
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B006NCV3XC, $2.99, ebook, 220 pages
9781467931311, paper

The Patience County War is pure action shlock, not the bad kind but the good kind. It has over-the-top villains and heroes. The setting is just within the realm of reality. It is a story based on a fantasy American mythology. With its comic book storyline the tale shouldn't work but it does. It taps into the reader's desire for a world, not that is, but one that is wished for.

Sam Trunce is the sheriff of Patience County. A Mexican drug cartel has decided to use the county to produce meth. When Sam finds out, he decides to put them out of business. The cartel decides to push back. What the cartel doesn't know is that Patience County is a place where warriors from the past and today have decided to retire to. Instead of a lone sheriff and a deputy or two, they find a band of survivors from a dozens of wars and battles armed with both the knowledge of fighting and the weapons of war that they still like to tinker with in their retirement.

The fighting begins with a few isolated incidents. With each defeat the cartel escalates the engagement until it becomes a full scale battle.

The Patience County War is an easy recommendation for those who want to escape into a world you might wish exists. Military buffs will like the weapons. Graphic novel readers will beg someone to ask Marvel or DC about buying the rights to the story. The only disappointed readers will be those who like a bit more possibility and less improbability in their story.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

In Defense of the US Working Class
Mary-Alice Waters
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604881073, $7.00, PB, 76pp,

Synopsis: Without understanding the devastation of the lives of working-class families in regions like West Virginia, and the vast increase in class inequality since the 2008 crisis, what is happening in the United States cannot be accurately understood.

A giant has begun to stir. In her 2016 presidential campaign Hillary Clinton calls them 'deplorables' who inhabited the backward regions between New York and San Francisco. But tens of thousands of teachers and school employees from West Virginia, Oklahoma, and beyond set an example in 2018 with their victorious strikes. Working people across Florida mobilized and won restoration of voting rights to more than one million former prisoners.

Drawing on the best fighting traditions of the oppressed and exploited producers of all skin colors and national origins in the US, they fought for dignity and respect for themselves, their families, their communities, and working people everywhere throughout the country.

Critique: "In Defense of the US Working Class", Mary-Alice Waters (a member of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee since 1967) is a talk she delivered in Havana, Cuba as part of the events celebrating May Day, the international day of the working class. Erudite, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "In Defense of the US Working Class" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Knight of the Holy Ghost
Dale Ahlquist
Ignatius Press
PO Box 1339, Fort Collins, CO 80522
9780999375648, $16.95, PB, 191pp,

Synopsis: Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a rotund man in a cape brandishing a walking stick, a prolific twentieth-century writer, a great champion and defender of the Catholic Christian Faith. He was also known as the "prince of paradox" and an "apostle of common sense".

Chesterton has lately been enjoying a resurgence in popularity. His name appears on blog posts and news articles alike. His name is spoken more often on college campuses, and schools around the United States are being named after him.

"Knight of the Holy Ghost: A Short History of G. K. Chesterton" by Dale Ahlquist (who is the President of the American Chesterton Society) is an exceptionally informative biographical introduction to Chesterton as a man, as a writer, and as a potential Roman Catholic saint.

Those curious about Chesterton will have their initial questions answered. Those who might be dubious about Chesterton's reputation will be challenged to reconsider. Those who consider Chesterton an old friend will be delighted. All will be engaged by amusing anecdotes, plentiful quotations, and a thoughtful study of the life of G. K. Chesterton.

Critique: An extraordinarily well written, organized and presented life story of a singularly remarkable man, "Knight of the Holy Ghost: A Short History of G. K. Chesterton" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and accomplishments of G. K. Chesterton that "Knight of the Holy Ghost" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Public Speaking Skills For Dummies
Alyson Connolly
For Dummies
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119335573, $24.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: Being able to speak in public fluently, easily, and professionally is a fundamental skill for anyone having to deal with the public, a board of directors, a conference, or any other form of group event.

Alyson Connolly is a voice and public speaking coach who specializes in painless public speaking and overcoming performance anxiety. She is also a keynote speaker, having been a performer her whole life, starting out as a child actor, and has been a teacher of drama and theater for the past 30 years.

In "Public Speaking Skills For Dummies" Alyson draws upon her years of experience and expertise to introduce simple, practical, and real-world techniques and insights that will transform anyone's ability to achieve impact through the spoken word.

Step by step, "Public Speaking Skills For Dummies" takes the reader through the process of conceiving, crafting, and delivering a high-impact presentation, covering such issues as: How to overcome nerves; engage an audience; convey gravitas; bring ideas to life through business storytelling; use space and achieve an even greater sense of poise; get a message across with greater clarity, concision, and impact; deal effectively with awkward questions.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Public Speaking Skills For Dummies" is a complete course of instruction that will transform even the most reluctant public speaker into a polish performer under any and all circumstances and audience sizes. While especially recommended for community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Public Speaking Skills For Dummies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.55).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Full English
Rachel Spangler
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941554, $16.95, PB, 275pp,

Synopsis: After a publicly humiliating divorce, best-selling author Emma Volant runs away to hide in the seaside English village of Amberwick, where she doesn't know another living soul. She wants nothing more than to surrender to her broken heart in private. However, when the locals discover their newest resident is world famous, they gather at the local pub and hatch a plan to draw Emma out of her self-imposed isolation, hoping her celebrity status will elevate the village's reputation to something more than a holiday hotspot.

It doesn't take long for them to try to rope their favorite bartender, Brogan, into the act.

Born and raised in Amberwick, Brogan McKay has built a comfortable life by never overreaching. Part-time jobs and short-term flings have always been good enough for her, but when she meets her beautiful and wounded new neighbor, Brogan realizes Emma has the potential to wreck the carefully controlled expectations she uses to protect her heart.

Despite their obvious attraction and growing friendship, both Emma and Brogan are in firm agreement that neither of them is in a position to look for love, but how long can they fight their fears and desires as the events and people around them all conspire to create a full English love story?

Critique: A wonderfully entertaining and deftly scripted romance novel, "Full English" showcases veteran author Rachel Spangler's impressive gift for originality and exceptional flair for narrative driven storytelling. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary Romance collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated romance novel enthusiasts that "Full English" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.00).

Girls, be Good
Bojan Babic
Glagoslav Publications
9781911414261, $21.20, PB,

Synopsis: "Girls, be Good" is an omnibus novel that consists of twenty short stories connected by a single framing narrative: just after the fall of the Berlin wall, foreign investors feel good about the investment climate in Eastern Europe and decide to open a huge toy factory in ex-Yugoslavia, where they are going to produce a hit range of toys designed for girls: small, plush lemurs called Aya, that will be sold all over the world. Before long, though, their optimism starts to feel out of place - the war in Yugoslavia begins, and the factory, having only produced one edition of the toys, has to shut down production.

We then follow the little lemurs as they go through some emotionally intense stories that represent a cartography of misfortune, set in the period between the execution and exhumation of the Romanian dictator, Ceausescu, and his wife. The lemurs bear witness to physical and mental abuse, inhumane treatment and molestation of young girls around the world. In each of the stories, a figure in authority at some point orders the girls to follow orders, no matter how destructive this may be for the girl, either physically or mentally. The authorities devastate the weakest beings, merely in order to satisfy the norms of society or to save themselves from being outcasts.

The main character, the young woman who writes these stories, has a father who has sold her soul to the devil, just so that he could obtain two decades of life outside the law and without fear of punishment. The young woman herself, meanwhile, has a pact with the devil of her own.

Babic finds the evil in places where we are not usually able to see it, and records it with painstaking attention to detail. In this book, he brings us a story about the accountability of criminals, but also about the accountability of victims towards themselves. This is a story about a helplessness that is learned. The book analyses, at times in an extremely brutal and uncompromising manner, the relationships between victims and the evil authorities - relationships that are never as straightforward as we might think. The sheer brutality of the work might turn some readers away. If we find the strength to stick with it till the end, however, this book might just prove to be what Kafka described as "an axe for the frozen sea within us".

Critique: Ably translated by Natasa Miljkovic, "Girls, be Good" by Bojan Babic is a deftly crafted and unique work of literary fiction that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Girls, be Good" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Eden in the Altai
Geoffrey Ashe
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591433217, $18.00, PB, 368pp,

Synopsis: Myths of a Golden Age, a paradise at the beginning of human existence, are nearly universal in all cultures. But where was this "Eden" located? Refuting the traditional assumption that the cultures of the Middle East and Mycenae filtered northward into Europe and North Asia, noted historian and mythologist Geoffrey Ashe instead identifies the northern Altai mountain range and Lake Baikal region of southern Siberia as the true cultural home of humanity and the source of the widespread myths of a prehistoric Golden Age in this newly updated and expanded third edition of "Eden in the Altai: The Prehistoric Golden Age and the Mythic Origins of Humanity".

With evidence dating back as far as 24,000 BC, Ashe shows how the culture of prehistoric southern Siberia was matrifocal, Goddess-worshiping, and heavily shamanic and served as the progenitor of advanced ancient culture in the Western world, the missing link that later influenced Indian, Middle Eastern, Native American, and European society, culture, and religion. He reveals how ancient Altaic culture was the source of the pervasive mythic symbolism of the number 7, found in cosmologies and mythological traditions around the world, as well as reverence for the seven stars of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, and the idea of a "sacred mountain to the North". He traces the transmission of these cosmological beliefs into Babylon and ancient Greece by migrating tribes, including those that crossed the now-vanished land bridge to the New World.

Ashe also reveals how this transmission of beliefs had a profound influence on the seven-note musical scale, the seven astrological planets, and the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, as well as the development of seven as a sacred number in Judaism. He shows how the ancient Altai-Baikal culture influenced the Rishis of India, the creation of the Vedas, and the sacred legend of Mount Meru. He also reveals how the Hellenic cults of both Apollo and Artemis originated in southern Siberia as well as the sacred bear symbolism found throughout the ancient world.

Offering proof that advanced cultures existed in Europe before the immigration of Eastern peoples, Ashe shows that early societies did not look into the future for perfection but to the past, to the Golden Age of peace in the sacred northern mountains.

Critique: A seminal work of exceptionally impressive scholarship, "Eden in the Altai: The Prehistoric Golden Age and the Mythic Origins of Humanity" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating read from first page to last. Notably remarkable in detailed organization and presentation, "Eden in the Altai" will prove to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Metaphysical Studies and Ancient Mysteries collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Eden in the Altai" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $11.95).

A History of Women in Medicine
Sinead Spearing
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526714299, $39.95, HC, 168pp,

Synopsis: Witch' is a powerful word with humble origins. Once used to describe an ancient British tribe known for its unique class of female physicians and priestesses, it grew into something grotesque, diabolical and dangerous.

"A History of Women in Medicine: Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches" by Sinead Spearing (who is a psychological historian specializing in the research of obscure beliefs) reveals the untold story of forgotten female physicians, their lives, practices and subsequent demonisation as witches.

Originally held in high esteem in their communities, these women used herbs and ancient psychological processes to relieve the suffering of their patients. Often travelling long distances, moving from village to village, their medical and spiritual knowledge blended the boundaries between physician and priest.

These ancient healers were the antithesis of the witch figure of today; instead they were knowledgeable therapists commanding respect, gratitude and high social status.

"A History of Women in Medicine" is a pioneering work that draws on current archeological evidence, literature, folklore, case studies and original religious documentation to bring to life these forgotten healers.

By doing so author and researcher Sinead Spearing deftly exposes the elaborate conspiracy conceived by the Christian Church to corrupt them in the eyes of the world. Turning these women from benevolent therapists into the embodiment of evil required a fabricated theology to ensure those who collected medicinal herbs or practiced healing, would be viewed by society as dealing with the devil.

From this diabolical association, female healers could then be labeled witches and be justly tortured and tried in the ensuing hysteria known today as the European witch craze that cost the lives of thousands upon thousands of women.

Critique: Comprised of fifteen instructive chapters, "A History of Women in Medicine: Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Prologue, Epilogue, and Postscript, as well as a two page Bibliography, and a three page Index. An altogether impressive and sustained work of seminal scholarship, "A History of Women in Medicine: Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches" is an extraordinary and exceptionally informative study that will be a welcome addition to any and all community, college, and university library Women's History collections, and a 'must' for the personal reading lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Murder in an Irish Pub: An Irish Village Mystery
Carlene O'Connor, author
Kensington Publishing Corporation
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9781496719041, $26.00, hardcover, 296 pages,

"Murder in an Irish Pub" is the latest of the Irish Village Mystery series by Carlene O'Connor. This irish cozy mystery series features, colorful village background in Kilbane, in County Cork, for an intriguing locked room suicide murder in a raucous pub during an exciting international national poker tournament in the midst of a local Arts and Music Festival.

Detective Siobhan O 'Sullivan takes center stage in this challenging mystery, dealing with professional challenges and internal family responsibilities simultaneously, with an added spice of romance with her superior officer, Declan Macdara.

This series will appeal to both mystery buffs and lovers of all things Irish, with a little extra appeal for the fine art of poker thrown in. Clues are presented, but carefully woven into the net of this story. The reader may come to solve the mystery, if all care is taken, but it also can be a puzzle and a mind twister to the very end.

Beloved characters and family members recur from earlier series titles, but "Murder in an Irish Pub" also stands on its own as a thrilling challenge, while inviting readers to discover more about this appealing mystery series.

Filled with real three dimensional characters and ingenious plot twists plus romance, "Murder in an Irish Pub" is a tempting read accompanied with a cup of Irish tea and a scone or two, as well as some hearty Irish Soda bread!

Who Is My Neighbor?
Amy-Jill Levine, author
Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, author
Denise Turu, illustrator
Flyaway Books
9781947888074, $17.00, HC, 32 pages,

"Who Is My Neighbor?" is a fresh framing of the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10, 30-37. Instead of Jews and Samaritans, the main characters in "Who Is My Neighbor?" are divided into the Blues and the Yellows. Whimsical characters are represented in different shades and shapes of blues and yellows, but the intolerance of each other's differences and prejudice against the other color is exactly the same as was referred to in the original parable of Jesus.

When Midnight Blue takes a fall in his walk along the road, he wonders who will help him. Who is a neighbor he can trust? First Navy Blue and then Powder Blue walk by but they fail to help Midnight Blue to recover from his fall, because they are afraid that perhaps they will be hurt or threatened by whoever hurt him. When Lemon Yellow rides by on her bicycle, Midnight Blue is afraid she may harm him somehow, but instead, she helps him. She helps him up, gathers up his fallen books, and offers to take him on her bicycle to see Dr. Gold. Midnight Blue begins to think maybe he and Lemon Yellow could become friends, after they share treats of crushed blueberries and broken butterscotch cookies.

In the end, Midnight Blue told all his Blue neighbors about the kindness and helpfulness of Lemon Yellow, and all the Blues and Yellow began to explore the idea that maybe they could make friends with each other and help one another. The story ends with Midnight and Lemon agreeing on this possibility of new friendships, saying, "Maybe just maybe."

"Who Is My Neighbor?" ends with a helpful Note for Parents and Educators and suggested questions to keep in mind when reading or teaching the story. Written to appeal to a young audience ages 3-7 years, "Who Is My Neighbor?" is a creative new re-framing of a timeless parable of love and trust.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

How Knowledge Moves
John Krige, editor
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226605852, $120.00, HC, 408pp,

Synopsis: Knowledge matters, and governments have a stake in managing its movement to protect a variety of local and national interests.

The view that knowledge circulates by itself in a flat world, unimpeded by national boundaries, is a myth. The transnational movement of knowledge is a social accomplishment, requiring negotiation, accommodation, and adaptation to the specificities of local contexts.

Compiled and edited by John Krige (the Kranzberg Professor in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta), "How Knowledge Moves" is volume of erudite essays by historians of science and technology that breaks the national framework in which histories are often written. Instead, "How Knowledge Moves" takes knowledge as its central object, with the goal of unraveling the relationships among people, ideas, and things that arise when they cross national borders.

This specialized knowledge is located at multiple sites and moves across borders via a dazzling array of channels, embedded in heads and hands, in artifacts, and in texts.

In the United States, it shapes policies for visas, export controls, and nuclear weapons proliferation; in Algeria, it enhances the production of oranges by colonial settlers; in Vietnam, it facilitates the exploitation of a river delta. In India it transforms modes of agricultural production. It implants American values in Latin America.

By concentrating on the conditions that allow for knowledge movement, these essays explore travel and exchange in face-to-face encounters and show how border-crossings mobilize extensive bureaucratic technologies.

Critique: Featuring an informative Introduction (Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology) and Afterword (Reflections on Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology), "How Knowledge Moves" is comprised of fourteen informative, insightful, thought-provoking essays that are further enhanced by the inclusion of a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as a twenty-one page Bibliography. While especially and unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers that "How Knowledge Moves" is also available in a paperback edition
(9780226605999, $40.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.20).

The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean
A. Rooney
MadVille Publishing
PO Box 358, Lake Dallas, TX 75065
9781948692083, $18.95, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: Francis Stein is a slow thinking giant of a man who attracts attention wherever he goes. Stein seems cursed with bad luck, and trouble waits for him around every turn in spite of his good intentions.

"The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean" is a story of struggle and pathos, pain and absolution, deception and deliverance.

"The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean" by A. Rooney is a inherently fascinating novel about the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein's wretched creature, the spurned monster who ultimately turned upon his creator.

Critique: An inherently riveting read from cover to cover, "The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean" is a compelling novel that reflects the author's genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. Doing full justice to the literary legacy of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", "The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections and the personal reading lists of all dedicated Frankenstein fans.

Holding the Line: The Naval Air Campaign In Korea
Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Osprey Publishing
9781472831729, $30.00, HC, 230pp,

Synopsis: Naval and air power was crucial to the United Nations' success in the Korean War, as it sought to negate the overwhelming Chinese advantage in manpower. In what became known as the 'long hard slog', naval aviators sought to slow and cut off communist forces and support troops on the ground. USS Leyte (CV-32) operated off Korea in the Sea of Japan for a record 93 continuous days to support the Marines in their epic retreat out of North Korea, and was crucial in the battles of the spring and summer of 1951 in which the UN forces again battled to the 38th Parallel.

All of this was accomplished with a force that was in the midst of change, as jet aircraft altered the entire nature of naval aviation. Holding the Line chronicles the carrier war in Korea from the first day of the war to the last, focusing on front-line combat, while also describing the technical development of aircraft and shipboard operations, and how these all affected the broader strategic situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Critique: In "Holding the Line: The Naval Air Campaign In Korea", author and military aviation historian Thomas McKelvey Cleaver has produced a, meticulously researched, impressively detailed and documented study that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, and informative Foreword by Dr. Richard P. Hallion, a two page Bibliography, and a seven page Index. A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Holding the Line" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century American Military History collections in general, and Korean War History supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, military buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Holding the Line" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.60).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Book of Healing - A Journey to Inner Healing through the Book of Job
Teresa Liebscher
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17297
9780768418576, $14.98, 148 pages

Finding Life - Lessons on Inner Healing from the Life Journey of Job

"The Book of Healing - A Journey to Inner Healing through the Book of Job details how Job processed his fears while combating his friends for their unhelpful counsel. A look at Job's breakthrough and deliverance while processing the pain of suffering becomes the basis for Teresa's counsel with her clients as they seek inner healing. By using this approach, I gained new insight into the suffering of Job.

Stories from clients, the author's experiences, and Job's story illustrate the painful circumstance leading to asking the question as to why people suffer or "Why was I even born." These stories are filled with trauma, abuse, and an honest look at the importance of having a relationship with God as Father, and knowing Him intimately.

I begin to identify with the stories of Joyce, Ted, Sharon, Ray, Mary, and Teresa. Looking inward resulted in some honest interactions with the Holy Spirit, listening for His counsel, teaching, and leading, He began to direct me in how to pray, in strategies to implement, and how to deal with the reactions of others.

The Holy Spirit revealed how I am working too hard to do the right things. Explaining that I need to go to Father God for His help, to begin living life, enjoying it more, and to open up, let the real me show through. I am experiencing an incredible breakthrough in understanding, Job's journey through inner healing.

Teresa Liebscher is known extensively for her worldwide ministry in training, and mentoring, with the Bethel Church Sozo ministry and her Shabar Ministries. Her writing is endorsed by her peers, church leaders, and a growing base of readers.

Anyone struggling to connect with God, or those who may feel stuck, lost, or hopeless, will find help in "The Book of Healing - A Journey to Inner Healing through the Book of Job."

Cleansing and Igniting the Prophetic - An Urgent Wake-Up Call
Jeremiah Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768446234, $16.99, 154 Pages

A Clarian Call and Imperative Message for the Contemporary Prophetic Movement

"Cleansing and Uniting the Prophetic" is a book worthy of reading once for the overview, once for focus and understanding and again and again for application and review.

Jeremiah Johnson, the founder, and director of Maranatha School Of Ministry is highly known for his prophetic teaching and his contribution as a member of the eldership team at Heart of the Father Ministry in Lakeland Florida.

I was deeply moved by Johnson's prophetic journey, the lessons learned, and Lord's blessing on his life, calling, and mission. Johnson writes with a spirit of wisdom and revelation to enlighten God's prophetic messengers of our contemporary culture of the need of repentance and prayer and a restoration of the full counsel of God's Word.

"Cleansing and Uniting the Prophetic" is made up of specific instructions, and warnings, all preparing the reader for a vision of the prophetic reformation, renewal, and revival already sweeping across the world; a raising up of an untainted powerful prophetic movement.

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

Unlimited Anointing - Secrets to Operating in the Fullness of God's Power
Dennis Goldsworthy-Davis
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768419313, $12.99, 124 pages

An Invitation to Explore the Magnitude of the Spirit's Anointing

Dennis Goldsworthy-Davis' book "Unlimited Anointing - Secrets to Operating in the Fullness of God's Power" creates a thirst for the reader to experience the Holy Spirit's anointing. We receive an infusion of God's power to do the works of Christ; to preach and proclaim His message of good news to the poor, to bring freedom to the prisoner, recovery to the blind, and to set the oppressed free.

Each page of the book is packed with Scriptural truth, God's promises, and instructions for implementation of the fullness of the anointing of God in our lives. A few of the Old Testament examples include Samuel, Aaron, and Elijah; demonstrated by the anointing power of David as king, Aaron's sons as priests, and Elisha as a prophet.

I received new insights into:

* The real purpose of anointing

* The believer's potential for anointing

* The anointing unto healing

* The multidimensional aspect of anointing

* The diversity and revelation of anointing

* And much more

"Unlimited Anointing "is an invitation to explore the magnitude of the Spirit's anointing on the believer.

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

Modern Day Apostles
Che' Ahn
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768446739. $16.99, 202 pages

Understanding the Characteristics of a Modern Day Apostle

In his book "Modern Day Apostles" Che' Ahn takes the stance that we are living in a new apostolic age because God is restoring the truth that the gift of apostleship is for today.

A look at the table of contents clearly shows the reader the careful development and operating of the apostolic office and as a modern day apostle.

The book is divided into three parts:

1. General Characteristics

2. Revival and Characteristics of a Modern Day Apostle

3. Reformation of a Modern Day Apostle

In a natural progression, Ahn clarifies the topics of:

* Apostolic function

* Apostolic anointing

* Apostolic jurisdiction

* Renewal

* Healing

* Evangelism

Ahn's work is extensively documented with sources through endnotes. These sources can become an essential tool in further reading, research, and study.

"Modern Day Apostles" is an important book for a new generation of Apostles.

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

Growing in Favor - Daily Devotions for Walking in Blessing
Paul and Billie Kay Tsika
Destiny Image Publications, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076445701. $17.99, 340 pages

Paul and Billie Kaye Tsika's book "Growing in Favor - Daily Devotions for Walking in Blessing" is a book that challenges the reader right into the presence of God.

Life Transforming Devotional Reading Leading to an Overwhelming Emergence into Experiencing the Power of God

Each day's reading is packed with promises, challenges, and reminders of the benefits expectations, and the joy found in praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ. I especially liked the transitional lead into each section as the themes changed as well as the thought-provoking Bible passage that opened each day's devotional reading.

Although I have been much-blessed through the writings of Paul and Billie Kaye; however, I wish there had been more of consistency in their writing. Several times when I was deeply moved by a profound thought or a soul-searching challenge the idea was abruptly ended with a weak cliche or greeting card imitation.

Blank lines pages for reflective journaling are provided at the end of the book. Several pages of endnotes with sources of quoted material become a handy resource guide for additional reading.

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

Command Your Healing - Prophetic Declarations to Receive and Release Healing Power
Hakeem Collings
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442793, $16.99, 258 pages

Healing, Deliverance, and Personal Wholeness - A Breakthrough in Spiritual Authority

In his book "Command Your Healing" Dr. Hakeem Collins combines Bible-based Theology, intentional meditation and God's Word with confident de4clarations of God's promises to help the reader release the healing power of God in and through their life.

The book is divided into two parts. In Part One Collins carefully leads the reader in a discovery of the Ministry of Healing and the relationship between healing and the words we choose. Part Two is a 90 Day Devotional guide which includes:

* A scriptural challenge

* A healing prayer

* Healing commissions and commands

These commissions and command prepare the reader with "Activations" designed to bring results and establish Biblical truths.

Dr. Collins is well known for his prophetic voice, his sphere of influence and supernatural spiritual ministry. He is the author of several books. I am looking forward to reading more of Dr. Hakeem's writing.

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

Pursue Overtake Recover - How to Reclaim Every Blessing That Has Been Lost or Stolen By the Enemy
Kerry Kirkwood
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768419474, $16.99, 238 Pages

Kerry Kirkwood's book "Pursue Overtake Recover" is filled with Biblical examples from the lives of King David, the Prophets Samuel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Haggai, and other Old Testament writers. New Testament writers including Paul, John, Matthew, and Luke add illustrations from their experiences to shed additional light. Kerry uses these insights from the Biblical teachings to help the reader define, access, and experience Redemption.

Kerry then goes on the provide strategies for releasing the power of God in your life and ministry with illustrations from everyday life and experiences which teach Biblical truth, basic doctrine, and personal "take away" applications in areas of:

* Restoration

* Healing

* Recovery

I became more aware of the importance and significance of reclaiming lost blessings to set in motion the redemptive work of God. I was challenged by the exciting testimonies of God at work, and the miracle of God's grace at work in the lives of those willing to "Pursue, Overtake, and Recover."

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

Miracles in the Glory: Unlocking the Realm of Signs and Wonders Through the Presence of God
Jesse and Amy Shamp
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442908, $16.99, 174 pages

Life Changing Reading - Divine Encounters - Empowered Prayer

The commitment and passion for Crusade Evangelism are at the heart of Jess and Amy Shamp's ministry; reaching out to the nations to edify and equip the body of Christ.

"Miracles in Glory" is filled with amazing testimonies of healing and anointing from their global ministry as well as the healing and miracle mantles of revivalists and healers of the past. The eight fast-moving chapters are filled with clear insight and practical guidelines for activating evidence of supernatural empowerment in the life and ministry of the reader.

The Shamp's draw from the healing ministry of Jesus to challenge readers to obey, follow His commission to do these same works and even greater works. I was deeply moved by the stories of T. L. Osborn, William Branham, Smith Wigglesworth, A. A. Allen and others. Story after story of miraculous healing by the power of God. We are entering a new era of history; "Miracles in the Glory" are again "Unlocking the Realm of Signs and Wonders Through the Presence of God" The Shamp's writing is relevant to today's changing times with practical steps for finding your secret place where God can manifest and reveal Himself.

The book is highly recommended by the Shamp's peers and by well-known International Leaders in the Charismatic and Prophetic ministries today.

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

The Art of Influence - Your Completive Edge
Jim Stovall & Ray H. Hull, PhD
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781604950320, $21.95, 194 Pages

On Building a Life and Legacy into One of Influence

New York Times bestselling author Jim Stovall collaborates with coauthor Ray H. Hull, Ph.D. in the book "The Art of Influence."

Through his unique storytelling technique, Stovall lays the groundwork for understanding Influence and demonstrates the importance of two-way influences, controlling our influence and becoming instruments of change.

Dr. Hull introduces the subjects: How Communications is an authoritative source of influence in any environment

* In the workplace

* In Public Relations

* As an Image in Communications

Step by step the reader is taken through the stages of image building and effective communication, and impacting change. I was inspired by Dr. Hull's stories of developing his communication skills from being a teenage stutterer to becoming a "sought after speaker" as an adult.

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

The Direct Line
Earl Nightingale
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950405, $ 17.99, 192 pages

Character Building, Setting Goals, and Finding Balance

Earl Nightingale broadcast his life-changing principles over on the radio for over 30 years and became highly recognized as a world leader in personal development. Nightingale was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, the International Speakers Hall of Fame and a recognized winner of the Golden Gavel Award.

The book "Direct Line" is a collection of Nightingales' most valuable "insights," including Achieving real & lasting success: In One's Career, in one's relationships, and one's finances. Nightingale helps the reader understand the principles of Self-Discovery and Finding Fulfillment.

Nightingale draws from the wisdom of generations of the World's greatest thinkers. Each of the 62 short chapters' encouraged character building, setting goals, and priorities, or in areas of self-actualization, motivation, the importance of dreams, the search for truth, faith, security, and success.

"The Direct Line" is a book you will want to pick up often for renewed inspiration, to review a vital challenge, principal or essential information. The notes at the end of the book contain an important resource list of some of Nightingale's favorite authors, books, and articles.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Our Nuyorican Thing
Samuel Diaz Carrion
2Leaf Press
PO Box 4378, Grand Central Station, New York , NY, 10163-4378
9781940939070, $16.99, PB, 132pp,

Synopsis: In "Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth of A Self-Made Identity", poet, writer and activist Samuel Diaz Carrion explores what being 'Nuyorican' is and what it means.

What started out as blog correspondence for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's website (2001-2004), quickly turned into a cultural exchange about the Cafe and Puerto Rican culture. "Our Nuyorican Thing" is a compendium of those blog entries and emails that also includes Diaz Carrion's poetry seen through the eyes of a "Puerto Rican Indiana Jones" who has quietly studied "the trade route of a new language -- collecting poetry and stories as the artifacts of the day."

Critique: An inherently riveting, thought-provokingly informative, and an inherently delightful read that will satisfy any reader with an appetite for cross-cultural discussions, "Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth of A Self-Made Identity" is an extraordinary, original, entertaining, and occasionally iconoclastic volume that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Our Nuyorican Thing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

The Gospel-Driven Church
Jared C. Wilson
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310577874, $21.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Many evangelical churches face the problem of the open "back door" -- even as new people arrive, older members are leaving, looking for something else. Combined with this problem is the discipleship deficit, the difficult truth that most evangelicals are not reaching the unchurched at the rates they think they are. In fact, many of the metrics that we often "count" in the church to highlight success really don't tell us the full story of a church's spiritual state. Things like attendance, decisions, dollars, and experiences can tell us something about a church, but not everything.

To cultivate a spiritually healthy church we need a shift in our metrics -- a "grace-shift" that prioritizes the work of God in the lives of people over numbers and dollars. Are people growing in their esteem for Jesus? Is there a dogged devotion to the Bible as the ultimate authority for life? Is there a growing interest in theology and doctrine? A discernible spirit of repentance? And perhaps most importantly, is there evident love for God and for our neighbors in the congregation?

Leading a church culture to shift from numerical success to the metrics of grace can be costly, but leaders who have conviction, courage, and commitment can lead while avoiding some of the landmines that often destroy churches. In "The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace", Jared C. Wilson (who is the Director of Content Strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Managing Editor of For the Church, and Director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri) includes diagnostic questions that will help church leaders measure (and lead team transparency in measuring as a group) the relative spiritual health of their church, as well as a practical prescriptive plan for implementing this metric-measuring strategy without becoming legalistic.

Most attractional church models can lean heavily on making changes to the weekend worship gatherings. And while some of these changes can be good, thriving grace-focused churches are driven by a commitment to the gospel, allowing the gospel to inform and shape the worship service and the various ministries of the church.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace" is an extraordinary study that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While very highly recommended for church and seminary collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, pastors, congregational church leaders, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Gospel-Driven Church" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781721347551, $21.99, MP3 CD).

Death March Escape
Jack J. Hersch
Frontline Books
c/o Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526740229, $34.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: In June 1944, the Nazis locked eighteen-year-old Dave Hersch into a railroad boxcar and shipped him from his hometown of Dej, Hungary, to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the harshest, cruellest camp in the Reich. After ten months in the granite mines of Mauthausen's nearby sub-camp, Gusen, he weighed less than 80lbs, nothing but skin and bones.

Somehow surviving the relentless horrors of these two brutal camps, as Allied forces drew near Dave was forced to join a death march to Gunskirchen Concentration Camp, over thirty miles away. Soon after the start of the march, and more dead than alive, Dave summoned a burst of energy he did not know he had and escaped. Quickly recaptured, he managed to avoid being killed by the guards. Put on another death march a few days later, he achieved the impossible: he escaped again.

Dave often told his story of survival and escape, and his son, Jack, thought he knew it well. But years after his father's death, he came across a photograph of his father on, of all places, the Mauthausen Memorial's website. It was an image he had never seen before - and it propelled him on an intensely personal journey of discovery.

Using only his father's words for guidance, Jack takes us along as he flies to Europe to learn the secrets behind the photograph, secrets his father never told of his time in the camps. Beginning in the verdant hills of his father's Hungarian hometown, we travel with Jack to the foreboding rock mines of Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps, to the dust-choked roads and intersections of the death marches, and, finally, to the makeshift hiding places of his father's rescuers. We accompany Jack's every step as he describes the unimaginable: what his father must have seen and felt while struggling to survive in the most abominable places on earth.

In a warm and emotionally engaging story, Jack digs deeply into both his father's life and his own, revisiting - and reflecting on - his father's time at the hands of the Nazis during the last year of the Second World War, when more than mere survival was at stake - the fate of humanity itself hung in the balance.

Critique: A truly exceptional work of painstaking and detailed research, "Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust" is an extraordinarily riveting account that will hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. An extraordinary military biography, "Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust" is a deftly written, impressively organized and thoroughly 'reader friendly' presentation that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly valued addition to the growing library of World War II Military History & Biography collections. This is the stuff of which block buster movies are made! While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated military buffs that "Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Unlocking the Customer Value Chain
Thales S. Teixeira
c/o Penguin Random House
9781524763084, $28.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: There is a pattern to digital disruption in an industry, whether the disruptor is Uber, Airbnb, Dollar Shave Club, Pillpack or one of countless other startups that have stolen large portions of market share from industry leaders, often in a matter of a few years.

As Thales S. Teixeira (the Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School) makes clear in "Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption", the nature of competition has fundamentally changed.

Using innovative new business models, startups are stealing customers by breaking the links in how consumers discover, buy and use products and services. By decoupling the customer value chain, these startups, instead of taking on the Unilevers and Nikes, BMW's and Sephoras of the world head on, peel away a piece of the consumer purchasing process. Birchbox offered women a new way to sample beauty products from a variety of companies from the convenience of their homes, without having to visit a store. Turo doesn't compete with GM. Instead, it offers people the benefit of driving without having to own a car themselves.

Illustrated with vivid, in-depth and exclusive accounts of both startups, and reigning incumbents like Best Buy and Comcast, as they struggle to respond, "Unlocking the Customer Value Chain" is an essential guide to demystifying how digital disruption takes place -- and what companies can do to defend themselves.

Critique: For the past three decades there has been a relentless alteration of 20th Century corporate practices compelled by technological (e.g. on-line selling and buying) changes in the public's consumer practices. "Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption" should be considered mandatory reading by every corporate executive and entrepreneur.

While unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of business students, entrepreneurs, businessmen, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Bytes, Bombs, and Spies
Herbert Lin & Amy Zegart, editors
Brookings Institution Press
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-2188
9780815735472, $45.99, PB, 438pp,

Synopsis: A new era of war fighting is emerging for the U.S. military. Hi-tech weapons have given way to hi tech.

For example -- A computer virus is unleashed that destroys centrifuges in Iran, slowing that country's attempt to build a nuclear weapon; ISIS, which has made the internet the backbone of its terror operations, finds its network-based command and control systems are overwhelmed in a cyber attack; A number of North Korean ballistic missiles fail on launch, reportedly because their systems were compromised by a cyber campaign.

Offensive cyber operations like these have become important components of U.S. defense strategy and their role will grow larger. But just what offensive cyber weapons are and how they could be used remains clouded by secrecy.

Dr. Herb Lin is the Senior Research Scholar for Cyber Policy and Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University.

Amy Zegart is a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies (FSI), Professor of Political Science (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She is also the Davies Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where she directs the Robert and Marion Oster National Security Affairs Fellows program. She is also the founder and co-director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Program.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Professor Zegart and Professor Lin, "Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations" is a groundbreaking compendium of discussions and explorations of cyber weapons with a focus on their strategic dimensions. It brings together many of the leading specialists in the field to provide new and incisive analysis of what former CIA director Michael Hayden has called "digital combat power" and how the United States should incorporate that power into its national security strategy.

Critique: An impressive body of seminal scholarship that includes a complete listing of all the contributors and their credentials, "Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to community, academic, corporate, and governmental Cyber Warfare instructional reference and resource collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Bytes, Bombs, and Spies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $30.23).

The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865
Lievin Kambamba Mboma
Lievin K. Mboma Press
9780998971636, $38.50, HC, 194pp,

Synopsis: In "The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865", Lievin Mboma (an independent researcher with a fucs in law enforcement during peace and war time) examines pertinent primary source and secondary data on police, justices of the peace, and militia duties entrusted to African Americans in Louisiana and in selected Northern states before the Civil War and during the Civil War.

In addition, "The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865" also discusses African American's little known criminal justice appointments in the plantation regimes, their military police work, and spying missions.

"The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865" adeptly challenges the misconception that African Americans were not employed as lawmen prior to the Civil War.

Through the discussion of major African American lawmen, Wentworth Cheswell, Captain William Ledesdorff, Macon Bolling Allen, and Robert Morris, the integrality of African Americans to the antebellum legal system is thoroughly examined.

"The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865" has major implications for understanding the historical role of the race in the American legal system.

Critique: An impressively produced and seminal work of original scholarship, "The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library 19th Century American Law Enforcement collections in general, and 19th Century African American History supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "The Employment of African Americans in Law Enforcement, 1803-1865" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

The Trouble with Men
David Shields
Mad Creek Books
c/o Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814255193, $18.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: "The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power" by David Shields (internationally best-selling author of twenty books to date) is an immersion into the perils, limits, and possibilities of human intimacy.

All at once a love letter to his wife, a nervy reckoning with his own fallibility, a meditation on the impact of porn on American culture, and an attempt to understand marriage (one marriage, the idea of marriage, all marriages), "The Trouble with Men" is exquisitely balanced between the personal and the anthropological, nakedness and restraint.

While unashamedly intellectual, it's also irresistibly readable and extremely moving. through increasingly intimate chapters, Shields probes the contours of his own psyche and marriage, marshaling a chorus of other voices that leaven, deepen, and universalize his experience; his goal is nothing less than a deconstruction of eros and conventional masculinity.

Masterfully woven throughout is an unmistakable and surprisingly tender 'cri de coeur' to his wife. The risk and vulnerability on display are in the service of radical candor, acerbic wit, real emotion, and profound insight -- exactly what we've come to expect from Shields, who, in an open invitation to the reader, leaves everything on the page.

Critique: An inherently absorbing, fascinating, reflectively challenging, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power" is an extraordinary literary experience and highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Trouble with Men" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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