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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 3 March 2020 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Wounded Charity
Doug White
Paragon House
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789402, $22.95, PB, 360pp,

Synopsis: "Wounded Charity: Lessons Learned from the Wounded Warrior Project Crisis" by Doug White offers valuable insights into how charities respond to crises based on information no one else has ever covered -- documentation from the charity during and after the crisis, as well as candid discussions and interviews with some former members of the charity's board, executive staff, beneficiaries, and even those who generated or published damaging information. On its primary, story-telling level, "Wounded Charity" investigates the effort to marginalize one of America's most vital charities. Its broader level is about what it means for all charities.

The Wounded Warrior Project is large, important, and effective, and it serves wounded veterans in ways that other charities cannot and that the government does not, and probably never will. This cautionary, provocative narrative describes how WWP came to be so heavily criticized, why much of the criticism was unfounded, why those ultimately in charge of the charity (the board members) failed to do their job, and how individuals and the media need to revise their thinking about what works and what doesn't work in a sector of our society whose tangible accomplishments, despite steadily increasing philanthropic support, largely remain a mystery.

"Wounded Charity" is also a true life story of leadership, and the discordancy of punishing, as opposed to rewarding, good ideas and effective management.

Critique: A meticulously researched, impressively informative, keenly insightful, and thoroughly 'reader engaging' in both organization and presentation, "Wounded Charity: Lessons Learned from the Wounded Warrior Project Crisis" is a unique and extraordinary study that should be considered mandatory reading by anyone holding a position of responsibility in a charity organization of any kind and any size -- as well as the donors and volunteers of those charity organizations. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wounded Charity" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Doug White is a philanthropy advisor and a long-time leader in the nation's philanthropic community. He has advised hundreds of charities of all types and sizes. Today, he works closely with select organizations, as well as with individual philanthropists who want to see their gifts used most effectively. He is the former director of Columbia University's Master of Science in Fundraising Management program, where he also taught board governance, ethics, and fundraising. He serves as a board member of the Secular Coalition of America and as co-chair of the Walter Cronkite Committee at the FoolProof Foundation. He is also the author of The Art of Planned Giving, The Nonprofit Challenge, Charity on Trial, and Abusing Donor Intent.

Near-Death Experiences Are Real!
William Pillow
Independently Published
9781672847315, $12.95, PB, 234pp,

Synopsis: "Near-Death Experiences Are Real!: But Neither Science Nor Religion Will Admit Why!" by William Pillow is not a book of opinion but a book of facts to the extent they are humanly accessible. If facts are not humanly perceptible, this book offers the best alternative - the most plausible theories. Not only does "Near-Death Experiences Are Real!" explore beyond all boundaries set by science and religion. It also fearlessly publishes the results for you, the reader.

As a lifelong Christian until his retirement and his beloved wife's increasingly serious illnesses, it was her pain and suffering that started William Pillow on a personal quest that still continues to this very day. Like his friends, William had believed what Christian funerals seem to imply: that death is final. Yet, he had read that reunion with deceased loved ones does occur in Heaven.

Then, along came near-death experiences (NDEs) as well as accounts of messages from spirits in the afterlife. So William broadened his research and ultimately found that it all seemed to fit together in God's plans for we humans. The most frequent reminder is the attitude conversion of NDE survivors who "visit Heaven," which is that an essential part of each of us survives physical death!

This is all methodically and systematically presented in "Near-Death Experiences Are Real!", which William has written specifically to share with other people who, like himself, are concerned about the facts of human life and death.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Near-Death Experiences Are Real!: But Neither Science Nor Religion Will Admit Why!" is an extraordinary study that is impressively researched, written, organized and presented. A unique and exceptionally informative study and one that is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library 'Near Death Experience' collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness
Keri Mangis
Curiosa Publishing
9781732991200, $18.00, Paperback
9781732991217, Ebook

The opening pages of Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness introduces a journey to new revelations and a revised life as a visit to a therapist offers author Keri Mangis several choices: to deflect questions with pat answers, leave therapy, or open the door to wholeness by working through past pain.

Mangis considers these options and discovers a rare opportunity in not just staying, but in being honest and self-examining about her past and its ongoing influences on her anxiety issues: "I could simply stop making appointments and move on with my life. What I didn't see at the time was how certain family behaviors would turn out to be red flags, revealing internal barriers I would need to surmount before forging an inclusive and loving relationship with my emotions and myself - the very definition of embodying one's soul and a potent beginning for a return to wholeness."

The ethereal spirit journey of Keri Mangis and "alter-soul" Serene Voyager (known as "Seri" in the soul realm) immerses readers in illuminating probes that move from solid North Dakota family roots into metaphysical realms replete with life messages, revised purposes, and new perceptions of wholeness.

Readers should understand that although this journey is memoir-based, the book is not a memoir; per se. As Mangis explores the "risks of staying unseen," drinks from the cup of fear and finds it lacking, and faces messages from society about the ambitions of girls and the guilt used to limit them, she enters realms of healing that carry into her role as a mother giving nurture and messages to her daughters.

Mangis's reflections on how her children have influenced her growth - because of who they are and the values they represent - make for astute and compelling: "My girls, seemingly still connected to their Source of life, would only accept a genuine love. Maybe because of their colicky beginnings my love for my children then and now is not the instinctual love I had once imagined mothers had but more of a cultivated love that engulfs me every day. Ultimately, my girls saved me from a lifetime of believing that conditional love is all I deserve or all I'm capable of giving."

The result is an unusual coalescence of spiritual guidance, psychological growth, and memoir that uses the author's life as a wellspring for reflecting on life influences, processes of change, and the spiritual and emotional impacts of choosing a new direction.

As readers follow Keri Mangis through her revised self-image and acceptance of the idea of the soul's return, they receive a series of thought-provoking revelations packed with insights for their own reflections: "Regarding the yoga business, what I had been blind to but now could see was that to believe my dream of having a center of mindfulness grounded in a shared purpose had been stolen was to give my power away. Very little in this world is within our control, particularly outcomes, but whether we speak out or acquiesce along the way, whether we create or mimic, whether we question or accept are well within our control. A path of awareness is not an easy path or one likely to be accompanied by lights and bliss, but it is an authentic path."

Readers looking for a spiritually and psychologically enlightening memoir will find Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness a powerful, engrossing survey that leaves them reflecting long after the story's conclusion.

Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815127, $4.99, Ebook
9781944815134, $18.47, Print

Dr. Kate Pomeroy returns to town to be fitted for a wedding dress. The last thing on her mind is the possibility of being kidnapped and trapped, taken from everyone she loves. She's getting married to her love, Jeremy, in two days, and that's her only focus. Abducted covers a life-changing event that takes her away from everything familiar, lending yet another twist to Kate's story in the third book in the series.

Newcomers might anticipate that prior familiarity with its predecessors is required, but Abducted provides a satisfying recap of events from previous books, neatly setting the stage for Kate's latest challenge in only a few short paragraphs.

The history neatly blends into Kate's abduction, her fiancee Jeremy's frustration with investigative proceedings, and the involvement of a Russian operative who had tried to murder her, had been deported back to Russia, but somehow returns to make Kate's life a nightmare.

There's no mystery about the perps and their purposes, but the central focus is on Jeremy and Kate's separate struggles to survive kidnapping, torture, and a devious plot to enthrall her forever.
When Kate reaches out to one of her abductors, she slowly uncovers the rationale behind not just their actions, but their psyches. Ripped from her home and everything familiar, she faces many challenges; but perhaps the biggest question of all is whether she can be the same person she was if she were to go home again.

Engrossingly realistic in its stories of physical and mental torture and the puzzling goal of the kidnapping, Abducted is not your typical 'whodunit', but a 'whydoit' that keeps readers involved, guessing, and on edge throughout. As Jeremy tests his own ability to prove an worthy consort to the courageous Dr. Pomeroy, he also questions whether they can ever to return to what they had, even if both survive.

Enthusiasts of international intrigue and women recovering from life-altering events will relish the psychological tensions and intrigue that permeates Abducted right to the end. Prior fans will welcome the opportunity to absorb yet another step in Dr. Kate Pomeroy's personal and professional evolution.

A Letter from Munich
Meg Lelvis
Black Rose Writing
9781684334476, $16.95

A Letter from Munich is a Jack Bailey novel that begins in 1930s Germany, when Ariana Schroder comes of age during the Nazi era and grew up to write a wartime love letter to Bailey's father...a letter that sparked a huge change in not only his father's life, but his legacy.

When Jack's friend invites him to visit Munich, this seems the perfect starting point to investigate the roots of this legacy of abuse, applying his investigative skills as an ex-cop to reveal the unknown influences of his past.

What he uncovers places him in a difficult position with his current family and their future knowledge as Jack struggles to piece together clues that still hold the power to once again change everything.

Author Meg Lelvis also holds the power...the power to capture Jack's conundrums as he struggles with his investigation's impact. As he questions his motivations and what he uncovers, readers readily understand that here is a man who embarks on a life-challenging journey with full knowledge that the results will involve change and challenge: "Did he truly want to find Ariana Schroder? What would he do if he did?"

Lelvis crafts a different kind of investigative mystery that holds the ability to not just uncover facts, but delve into a deeper understanding of Ariana's impact on his family's life. Presenting these conflicts against the backdrop of the rise of the Third Reich and war as seen from the perspective of ordinary German citizens like Ariana and Renate adds an extra dimension of historical accuracy and reflection to the thriller story.

As he circumnavigates a wide circle of interlocking puzzles and history, Jack's quest includes assessing the impact of keeping secrets: "...his mother must never discover the truth. It would send her to an early grave. No easy answer. What is the boundary between a person's right to the truth and the right to keep painful secrets? Damned if he could tell."

These questions and more make for a story that operates on two levels: that of a personal family quest for heritage and resolution, and one of a savvy investigator who follows the clues to an unexpected truth. The choices made by individuals who promote war and evil and the guilt these decisions impart to an entire nation not necessarily on board with events makes for a gripping saga backed by historical precedent and individual lives alike.

Readers interested in a story steeped in German culture, history, and family interactions will find A Letter from Munich thoroughly engrossing as Jack searches for meaning and a way of gleaning something long-lastingly worthwhile from the collective memories he disturbs.

Mark IV
James Ostby
Independently Published
9780991448234, $16.98, Paper, $2.00, Kindle

Readers of political thrillers will find Mark IV excels in a style of intrigue that combines issues of social control with an exploration of a secret organization, Ragnarok, which has evolved its own form of policing the world. It is exacting its own revenge for evil and corruption though progressive punishments that go up to Mark IV (death).

Operating within this backdrop of social control is Dereck Bors, who at first supports the idea of a decisive, effective dictatorial group taking the reigns to quash all evil in the world.

Soon, however, he discovers that not only is membership in this secret group irrevocable, but any attempt to leave it results in a controlling punishment that erases memory and returns the straying member to a compliant believer status.

How can anyone fight a group that holds the power to alter personal reality and erase any form of rebellion down to its psychological, philosophical, and ethical roots? Bors might actually be the only individual able to stand up and fight...but is he fighting for good, or evil?

As Bors begins to repeatedly question his role, readers are invited into a world of murder, subterfuge, and domination. All these are conducted in the name of a greater good by individuals who hold their differing rationales for their actions: "...what the hell did it matter what he and his cohorts called it? Justice? An effort to save all of humanity from worldwide self destruction as per the Doomsday Clock? Opposing ultimate moral corruption? Or whatever others in Ragnarok thought they were doing, though he didn't know what they thought because they never met each other, and because he didn't give a tinker's damn what motivated them."

As fellow member and new lover Rhamnusia fills him in on more aspects of the organization and changes in how it treats and punishes agents around the world, twenty-three-year-old Bors faces assignments that not only pair him with her, but require that he met out Mark II, III, and other punishments. He is marching towards the inevitable goal of goal of snagging a higher-up assignment. And his nightmare is just beginning.

Thriller readers are well used to stories embracing tension, international intrigue, and often murder and mayhem. James Ostby embraces all these devices, but adds a philosophical and ethical hand to the plot that results in a much more intriguing story than one of political maneuvering alone.

As other characters, spiritual insights and focuses, and the ideal of noble activities designed to save mankind from itself take center stage from Bors' activities, readers are guided through a world of intrigue and insanity. One is forced to consider not only Ragnarok's clandestine activities and ideals, but how they move into mainstream acceptance in the U.S.

The characters set lines for themselves, then cross them. While Mark IV will be chosen by fans of the political thriller genre, its literary and ethical foundations should not be overlooked. Readers looking for more than just an action-packed read will find Mark IV satisfyingly replete with relationship and ethical conundrums that keep readers thinking beyond the story's conclusion.

French Like Moi
Scott Dominic Carpenter
Travelers' Tales
9781609521837, $16.99, Paperback
9781609521851, $29.95, Hardcover
9781609521844, $16.99, eBook

French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris follows author Scott Dominic Carpenter's move from Minnesota to Paris as he navigates a cultural labyrinth - though not without hilarious wrong turns. Snafus and faux pas are the order of the day as he deciphers a city far removed from his native habitat.

Whether confronting home repairs, the melodrama of a condo association, or the hell of French bureaucracy, Carpenter faces his adventures with comic wit. In one episode he disentangles himself from a police denunciation, while in another a mere shopping trip turns to absurd drama. The author is at his self-deprecating best whenever he's trapped between Frenchness and Americanness - forced to play a local for the benefit of tourists, torn between Yankee common sense and Cartesian abstraction, or foiled in his attempts to avoid utter humiliation.

In this literary tango between Paris and the Midwest, Carpenter captures the ironies, oddities, and attractions of the French capital in a way few writers have achieved - which is saying a lot, considering how many have tried their hand at conjuring the City of Light.

From doctor visits to cooking fiascos, from catacombs to the cult of knowledge, Carpenter confronts the challenges of fitting in and forging a life in Paris. French Like Moi is a delightful romp through French life and Midwestern sensibilities, all combined in one compelling story.

Comes a Red Horse
Robert C. Marsett
9780984103010, $11.56, Paper, $7.99, Kindle

War costs money, lives, hearts, and souls. In the end, the objective quite often remains mercurial and out of the range of 'winning' on any meaningful level.

Bob Hasett is just out of the army after a two-year stint fighting in Vietnam. He is working for his uncle punching cows while he figures out what to do with the rest of his life. Given a brand new custom saddle by his uncle, Bob finds himself in a familiar job in beautiful sky island country, but soon comes to confront something all too familiar and less desirable in Comes a Red Horse.

From problems in handling livestock and tired bronco cattle to sleepless, sweat soaked, nights and dates with Angelina, Bob finds his familiar world continually challenged by his efforts to reconcile past and present. The last thing he expected was to be involved in a different kind of war holding too-familiar overtones of his military experiences.

The job of being a modern-day cowboy comes to life under Robert C. Marsett's hand, made all the more vivid by the fact that Marsett is a cowboy himself, and well knows the range, the animals, and the work involved.

Blending the story of a returning combat veteran with that of a modern cowboy struggling to find his place in the world results in a read that is thoughtful, involving, and more than a cut above the norm. Marsett's character is multifaceted and as Hasett navigates his job, his past, dating, and the future, readers are drawn into the cowboy's world in general and Bob's confrontations with life and death in particular.

One doesn't anticipate that intrigue will evolve, but Bob becomes involved in a different form of surveillance that brings him into conflict over illicit operations and a dangerous new form of lawless frontier justice.

Comes a Red Horse's ability to add unexpected nuances to the story of a returning veteran who takes up cowboy activities as he decides how to approach his civilian life makes for an involving tale steeped in Southwest landscapes, culture, and modern-day challenges.

It's filled with surprises, murder, and danger and will satisfy readers who choose it for its ex-soldier or cowboy perspectives, only to find that it actually holds much more depth and intrigue than anticipated.

Second Earth
Cami Murdock Jensen
CMJ Publishing
9781647641528, $36.99, Hardback
9781647641566, $4.99, eBook

Second Earth is the second book in the Arch Mage series, continuing the story of student Agnes Ann Cavanaugh, who is struggling with her wizard studies and trying to harness talents which seem to defy control.

Empowered by her father's sacrifice and her struggles, which have left physical scars magic can't seem to heal, Agnes finds life challenging when an earthquake changes her set course and sends her back to First Earth to investigate threats to both First and Second Earths.

A journey to the Earth's core reveals the truth: Agnes is perhaps the only one who can stop a magical disaster from decimating both worlds.

Her commitment to her best friend on Second Earth tests her continuing inability to cast an enchantment as Agnes struggles to find a life-saving solution in an increasingly complex scenario.

One of the hearts of this adventure lies in a quest to understand the puzzling nature of truth. Agnes discovers that even with magical support, truth isn't cut and dried: "With so much support, I should've felt encouraged. Heck, I should've felt invincible. After all, they'd addressed every possible contingency, right? Wrong, buzzed my magic inside my heart. The truth...remained in question."

As the CIA, FBI, and other forces become entwined in her magical worlds, Agnes struggles to discern the real nature of truth. These encounters seem to indicate her freedom will be over no matter what the outcome of her battle.

Action is well-paced and nicely developed, and newcomers to the Arch Mage series will find Second Earth quite accessible, especially powered by the strong character, first-person perceptions and changing purposes of protagonist Agnes. The added value of moral and philosophical questions that enter into the picture of greater good, truth and lies all contribute to a powerful story that goes beyond a good fantasy adventure to challenge the notion of a magical paradise.

Fantasy readers will find Second Earth thoroughly absorbing and hard to put down.

A Game with Cooper
Debbie Gonzalez
Mindful Spark
9781733613033, $19.99, Hardcover, $3.99, ebook

A Game with Cooper is a fun picture book story illustrated by Kate Fallahee and tells of little black dog Cooper, who is as excited about the forthcoming game as his human 'daddy'.

Cooper isn't envisioning sports, however, but a game with his beloved human which involves a unique set of rules, hidden treats, and an effort which evoke Cooper's 'hidden detective'.

As alter ego Inspector Cooper puts together visual and sensory clues that lead to hidden delights, young readers are treated to a lively tale. Parents will relish the opportunity, embedded within the plot, to emulate sound effects such as sniffing, gobbling, and investigating.

The lively energy and tone of a very simple yet involving dog story will attract parents and children with a fun set of interactions. Each test Cooper's resolve and problem-solving abilities during the course of a fun game that introduces many new adventures and experiences with an ultimate goal in mind.

Kids who love dogs, detective stories, and action will find A Game with Cooper a delight.

Blackhorse Road
Merida L. Johns
Coffee Cup Press
9781733279000, $16.99, Paperback

Eighteen-year-old Luci Bartolini is moving into new adulthood in the 1960s in Blackhorse Road, a story of romance, coming of age, betrayal, and recovery that moves from personal transformation to personal disaster in the blink of an eye.

Luci is the child of immigrants to America, and much of the old country spirit remains in her values, goals, and traditions. All these are challenged by life events that shake her foundations and lead her to question her choices, life, and resilience.

The first strength to note about Blackhorse Road is that Merida L. Johns takes the time to not just present family interactions and scenarios to form a foundation for Luci's roots, but describes interplays between generations with exquisite detail, including insights about the origins of their prejudices, belief systems, and experiences: "Clearing the breakfast dishes from the table, Luci grimaced. When acting spirited, Sam could be frustrating. "Pop, please. No, Barry is not ugly. In fact, he's very, very cute." "Ah, I see I've hit a chord," Sam teased. "Come here and tell your pop more about this boy that you're going to see tonight." That statement took Luci off guard....In her mother's mind, as the family knew, the Irish were the salt of the earth. A question no one dared to ask, though, was whether Marie regretted not marrying one of her prosperous Irish cousins rather than Sam."

This attention to detail deftly illustrates relationships, involving readers in family interplays which will prove key to understanding Luci's decision-making process.

As readers move through Luci's changing life experiences, reactions to adversity, and romance, the sights, smells, and combined physical and mental perspectives of love are captured to transmit a full-faceted flavor of each character's evolving feelings: "Barry put his arm around Luci's shoulder, pulling her closer. He felt like beating his chest and announcing to the world he had the most beautiful girl in his arms. The lengths of their bodies touched each other, and

Barry took in Luci's smell. No girl had such a powerful effect over him like Luci. In the past, emotion and sex had fueled his excitement. Now, those mingled with wanting mutual fulfillment and creating an enduring relationship filled with love, joy, hope, amusement, inspiration, and even awe. This is what he desired more than anything in the world."

When Luci's loss lends to her becoming a more effective and understanding counselor to others, she tackles issues of trauma, control, and unresolved questions which resonate with her own life.

Under another hand, Blackhorse Road could all too easily have been a singular romance. Johns provides more as she follows Luci down the rabbit hole and out the other side of life experience, bringing readers into a world where a mother's transgression changes everything and challenges carefully-constructed foundations of belief and values.

As Luci lets go of her lifesavers and navigates obstacles to happiness, her story becomes a vivid portrait of hope and self-examination which ultimately moves into unexpected territory.

Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way.

Fathers of Edenville
Corrine Ardoin
Black Rose Writing
9781684334537, $18.95

Forty Sumner has tight control over wife Sylvia Sumner, and given his obsession with detective investigations, it's surprising that she manages to snag a lover under these repressive conditions. But Sylvia is used to getting only what she needs in life and little more, has spent most of her adulthood recovering from trauma and erasing her past, and finds comfort in the man who is "her husband's friend no more."

Corrine Ardoin's writing holds an evocative appeal that captures moods, psychological backdrops, and not just events and motivations, but wide-ranging connections between characters. This skill serves her well in Fathers of Edenville because it successfully paints the portrait of a woman who has a lifetime of struggle that stems from her father's estrangement.

A violent confrontation only serves as the beginning of an odyssey which leads Sylvia full circle to confront not just the deadly complications of her present-day decisions, but their roots in her past and her shadowy relationship with a father who abandoned her.

As readers navigate the treacherous waters of Sylvia's world, they receive an intriguing story of a detective's investigation into her disappearance, the patterns which seem to repeat between past and present decisions, and a town that becomes embroiled in the tangled relationships between husband and wife and father and child.

Death's visit to this "beloved little town" becomes the focal point for redemption, revenge, forgiveness, and reconciliation on many levels.

Ardoin captures these nuances through reflective, philosophical moments that bring the characters and their concerns to life: "Searching the sky for a message, he listened carefully for what he hoped would soon come his way, and it did. Sometimes lessons come late in life, too late it seems, at times, but through the pain such important lessons strive to teach, one learns and grows as well. He knew this to be true, dwelling so on the past, knowing something profound awaited him, something he almost saw arising from out of his pain."

Tucker has been fortunate in his life, but his love obsession has prevented him from connecting with others and held him in thrall to his heart. It's ironic that his connection to Sylvia would lead him into an odd friendship which defies both his own tragedy and his heart.

As Ardoin explores these connections, missed opportunities, family and love patterns, and the evolution of forgiveness, readers are treated to a story that winds through many lives, offering a compassionate look at characters who each face both their inner demons and lives which turn out quite differently than they'd dreamed.

Each character must confront their fears. In doing so, each discovers the opportunity for not just redemption, but rebirth. The philosophical touches and observations peppered throughout this story lend it a depth and compelling touch that tugs at the reader's heart.

Their struggles to be better people against all odds, the dilemmas posed by parental and love decisions that go awry to create long-term crises, and a murder investigation that rocks the heart of small town relationships creates a story that is multifaceted, gripping, and hard to put down.

Pain, Failure, and Misery Are the Stepping Stones to Success
Eric McCoy CATC II
Archway Publishing
9781480880832, Hardcover, $39.95, $21.99, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

A number of memoirs detail struggles with addiction and recovery, but few address the process with the attention to detail and the process of falling and rising up as in Pain, Failure, and Misery Are the Stepping Stones to Success.

Eric McCoy decided years ago to turn his weaknesses into strengths, using them to build resiliency and success. It's all too easy to create this vision, but far more difficult to enact it in reality. While acknowledging that a "one size fits all" approach doesn't work for all (including the approaches outlined in this book), his purpose isn't to provide a panacea, but to detail the routes to solutions that may be individually undertaken and adjusted, and which ultimately lead to success.

Chapters thus encourage reader note-taking, reflection, modifications, and insights particular to each person on the same journey. By designing his lessons specifically for those struggling with substance abuse, McCoy creates a purposeful primer that incorporates not just his belief system and personal experiences, but research and lessons learned from his clients.

Politics, suicide, and criminal activities are all covered in the course of a candid survey that is far broader than autobiography, including social and political insights. From how legal systems operate and how substance abusers fit into them to pivotal life-changing moments and survival lessons embedded in counterculture encounters, McCoy follows the course of his addiction and recovery with an attention to how his inherent love of drugs conflicted with the results of their ingestion.

There are startling insights here, from what made the twelve-step program impossible for him, and its misperceptions which are difficult to ignore, to taking proactive measures to remain clean and sober and free from incarceration, programs, or the need for drugs.

At each step, McCoy reassesses his life as it is pulled in different directions by different programs, purposes, and influences.

The result is a memoir that also serves as a blueprint for other addicts looking to reassess their motives, choices, and overall perceptions of life. While it is not a blueprint to be followed step by step, Pain, Failure, and Misery Are the Stepping Stones to Success offers an encouraging perspective and approach that assesses options for overcoming addiction, serving as an inspirational workbook for others on the same journey to a different life.

High Crimes: The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Former Congressman Alan Grayson
Waterside Publishing
9781941768679, $16.95
9781941768952, $9.95, eBook

There are so many partisan books on the market arguing pro/con scenarios for President Trump's impeachment that it's satisfying to read a treatise from a former Congressman who offers some different perspectives from his side of the political debate.

High Crimes: The Impeachment of Donald Trump is a candid assessment that, from the start, maintains that Trump should be impeached not because of his morals, ethics, or values, but because he has committed numerous high crimes and misdemeanors, chronicled in this book. It goes beyond generalities to connect the letter of impeachment laws with Trump's actions: "Donald Trump is impeachable because the Constitution of the United States says that he is, for the reasons stated therein. The U.S. Constitution says that the impeachable offenses are: (1) treason, (2) bribery, (3) "high crimes," and (4) "misdemeanors."

The book's devotion to this connection means that it holds the opportunity for bipartisan debate and absorption, discussing the nature of an impeachable offense and why the process seems so mercurial to ordinary citizens: "...consider that Donald Trump should be impeached, convicted and removed from office even if you accept the realpolitik perspective offered by Alexis de Tocqueville and others. They suggest that it doesn't matter what you think is an impeachable offense, because impeachment really isn't about legal standards at all, but rather about the separations of powers, and the exercise of power by the legislature."

Each impeachable offense is broken down in different ways, from a legal and political analysis of the process to a 'rogue's gallery' of past presidents, vice presidents, and officials who faced similar accusations and circumstances.

This historical legal and political examination offers what other books miss: the opportunity to not only understand current events and processes, but to place them in proper perspective to contrast modern events with historical precedent. This is invaluable if a non-partisan view of impeachment is ever to be developed, either in this situation or in the future.

Former Congressman Alan Grayson goes beyond providing a historical overview, delving into the give-and-take of questions and answers during other impeachment hearings of government officials and using these case histories to understand the current situation.

Extensive footnotes throughout document these enquiries and provide a concrete reference background suitable for completely understanding precedent and rules of process as they apply to current events.

This is not to say that Grayson is dispassionate about his subject. His perspective is clear and is often emotionally charged: "On the more general subject of whether Donald Trump is guilty of conduct unbecoming a President, that subject cannot be covered in any single missive, but only, perhaps, in a 12-volume set. The pathological lies, the insults, the bullying, the incessant factual errors, the terminal narcissism, the bigotry, the gross incompetence, the pettiness, the attention deficit (treated or untreated), the buffoonery, the callousness (tossing paper towels at hurricane victims!!!), the egomaniacal sociopathy, they all shriek for themselves. I wasn't alive at the time to witness it myself, but I sincerely doubt that Judge Pickering or Judge Delahay was any worse."

But in moving beyond his passions into a discourse that embraces the entirety of American political and legal checks and balances, Grayson provides the kind of analysis that is not just appropriate, but which is much-needed in general circles.

From the question of whether judges should be impeached to chapter conclusions to each historical example that reinforce the specifics of why Trump's actions fall in the arena of impeachable offenses, readers will find High Crimes specific, informational, revealing, and a solid discussion of the process which links Presidential decisions to a key political stopgate essential to preserving our American democracy.

All concerned citizens should read High Crimes. It holds fact-backed arguments and analysis that supports a case for impeachment while providing concrete insights into the process.

The Secrets of Hawthorne House
Donald Firesmith
Mage Press
9781726283151, $14.99

Teen Matt Mitchell's life is nothing but pain and suffering. After his mother died in a car accident, his grieving father moved the family far from their beloved seaside home to the small town of Hawthorne, Indiana, where Matt and his family struggle to start over despite school bullies adding to the problems.

As Matt learns the woman next door is rumored to be a witch, The Secrets of Hawthorne House heats up with a supernatural element, as well...but readers of all ages who anticipate a ghost story may be surprised to find that Matt's story is far more than one of investigating spirits or struggling with loss holding magic beyond supernatural realms.

The story begins with the family's loss and changes, and moves quickly to the Indiana setting, which at first promises nothing than more experiencing pain in an unfamiliar environment. Matt never expected to get familiar with neighbor and suspected husband-murderer 'Old Lady Hawthorne', but this evolves along with a mystery surrounding their family and home.

As Matt confronts various forms of magic and his own abilities, he begins to change. From spells and blackmail to family secrets, accusations, and damaged reputations, The Secrets of Hawthorne House is especially strong in its dialect and depiction of small-town interactions, politics, and history.

Contrasting newcomer Matt's struggles are those of Gerallt, of druid ancestry whose people were driven into hiding, and who has inherited a cultural and religious legacy of isolation and suspicion towards outsiders. As their friendship blossoms, so do the conundrums it brings to not just themselves, but their peoples and heritage. The learning process between them holds the promise of breaking down centuries of barriers carefully constructed in the name of survival.

Their story of finding family in the unlikeliest of places just when each feels the most isolated from their roots creates a powerful interplay of mystery and intrigue and healing that will keep all ages thoroughly engrossed.

All these make for far more than a story of ghosts, magic, secrets, and grief, weaving all these elements into a tale greater than its subplots and themes. Some readers who resist dialect may balk at Donald Firesmith's

heavy hand on representing a Maine dialect that only the Hawthornes have, but this adds a realistic element that captures individual speech patterns yet is completely understandable, adding atmosphere to the characters: "I'd like tah introduce you tah my niece Gwendolyn, Gerallt's mothah."

It should also be noted (and applauded) that the story is a standalone creation that concludes its events with an opportunity for more adventures, yet is concluded under one cover. Its lessons about different cultures and backgrounds, the process of grief and recovery, and the acceptance of ideas and realities a bit different from the norm are all solidly presented and in keeping with character and plot developments.

The complexity and depth of The Secrets of Hawthorne House, as well as its incorporation of magical elements with realistic struggles and confrontations creates a captivating story that is hard to put down, original, and satisfyingly unique. Its lessons about different cultures and backgrounds, the process of grief and recovery, and the acceptance of ideas and realities a bit different from the norm creates a powerful interplay of mystery and intrigue and healing that will keep all ages thoroughly engrossed.

Fate of the Saracen Knight: Bradamante and Ruggiero Volume II
Linda C. McCabe
Destrier Books
9780983636243, $17.99, Paperback
9780983636250, $3.99, Ebook

In Fate of the Saracen Knight: Bradamante and Ruggiero, Volume II, Ruggiero is a dutiful knight for the North African Muslim Army who invaded the Frankish Empire in 802. He's in love with Christian warrior Bradamante and has pledged to convert his faith to marry her, but insists he must first sever his ties to his liege with honor.

Bradamante fears this delay may put the lives of everyone else that she loves at risk, but when she suspects Ruggiero may have fallen in love with another, she embarks on a mission somewhat different from the duties and principles she's sworn to uphold.

Linda C. McCabe crafts a powerful battle set in a fantasy world when warrior queens and women exert just as powerful a sword as men, and where men love just as powerfully as women. Both sexes experience undercurrents of social, political, military and emotional influence that pull them away from their most cherished dreams and peoples, and both are equally powerful in their physical and emotional responses to these scenarios.

Fate of the Saracen Knight is historical fantasy writing at its best, blending romance with overlaying issues of valor and commitment that lead each character to question their hearts.

From family treachery and the political alliances of wives and warriors to prophecies and women's empowerment, McCabe's story melds history with fantasy to create a fine tapestry of perspectives whose insights will especially delight fans of historical devices: "While it is true that Emperor Constantine wears the crown, it is still his mother, Empress Irene, who wields the scepter. She became regent for her son after the death of her husband, and while Constantine has come of age - she refuses to release her grip on power."

Solidifying it all is the fate of Bradamante and Ruggiero's love for one another, which is as mercurial and volatile as the different worlds they inhabit and the values they live by. When struggles and passions gone awry divide them, how can they find their way back to a heartfelt love?

McCabe's story is strengthened with a variety of subplots and characters well-developed enough to keep readers guessing about the ultimate outcomes of not just the two star-crossed lovers, but the clashes between opposing forces in their world. Her attention to detail involves fine-tuning the relationships between many forces that pursue their special interests.

Fate of the Saracen Knight is epic fantasy writing at its best, especially commendable because Book II needs no prior introduction to be enjoyed by newcomers, yet strongly supports the foundations of its predecessor.

History and fantasy fans will find Fate of the Saracen Knight hard to put down, replete with insights on the effects of war, ideals, and duty on love; the ripples of discord created by threats of infidelity and battle; and the fate of two star-crossed lovers who aren't just manipulated by fate, but used to taking destiny into their own hands by force, if necessary.

The Trumpet Lesson
Dianne Romain
She Writes Press
9781631525988, $16.95

The Trumpet Lesson is literary women's fiction writing at its strongest and tells of a shy expat woman whose fascination with a trumpet solo by another woman in a Mexican town plaza leads her to pursue trumpet lessons and more.

Readers anticipating a musical exploration will be surprised by the addition of family stories and lost connections which surface to become the primary themes in a hard-hitting story of decisions, redemption, and struggle.

Issues of teen pregnancy, adoption, homosexuality, and family conflict evolve as Callie explores the lasting impact of a decision to give up her biracial child decades earlier. She's kept her secret for all these years. Even when confronted with the possibility of revealing it to forge closer connections in her life, she still clings to its powerful rationale and the lasting impact of her actions.

Trumpeter extraordinaire Pamela is teaching Callie as much about matters of the heart as about music: "She thought of Pamela talking about breathing from the core, about expressing your truest self." As Callie absorbs these lessons and struggles with the suspicions of her best friend Armando and his own closely-held secret, she slowly begins to confront the issues of keeping her past a secret.

Dianne Romain takes the time to build Callie's personality, the rationales for her early and later decisions, and their impact, structuring her novel as a series of growth-inducing encounters that lead Callie to the potential of not just redemption, but transformation.

The atmosphere of Guanajuato, Mexico comes to life and serves as a reinforcing backdrop to Callie's personal and interpersonal explorations, providing a sense of place and depth of detail that lends to an astute psychological, social, and cultural exploration.

The literary aspect of Romain's story is strong and compelling and will lend to not just reader pursuit, but classroom inspection by contemporary women's literature courses.

Readers seeking insightful works about motivation, ethical and moral dilemmas, and the lasting impact of decisions made for justifiable reasons will find The Trumpet Lesson an excellent exploration of friendship and connections. The story leaves readers thinking long past Callie's ultimate realizations about social attitudes, changing times, and the bonds of family and friendships.

Eavesdropping on Lucifer
Donald B. Stenberg
Carpenter's Son Publishing
9781949572889, $12.99, Paper, $5.99, ebook

Eavesdropping on Lucifer: A Story Every Christian Should Hear comes from a practicing lawyer and public official who here produces a fictional story about the devil and his ways.

The story opens with a meeting between Lucifer and his potential new apprentice, Jonathan. Readers would ordinarily anticipate entertainment rather than enlightenment from this kind of effort, but the meat of Eavesdropping on Lucifer lies its thorough review of the contemporary methods Lucifer employs to inject evil into the world and divide Christians. These methods of division and corruption deserve consideration beyond Christian audiences because they are succinctly and pointedly presented and because they offer windows into the kinds of interactions that create chaos and moral and ethical division among peoples.

From the differences between the U.S. being a secular nation or a Christian entity to The Devil's frustration over the Son's work that thwarts his success, readers receive insights into what evil is, how it actively operates in society and cultures, and how it can be confronted and changed.

These aspects of the story go beyond fictional drama to invite Christian readers to consider the heart of many ideas, from the concept that there really is no devil or evil in the world to how clergymen themselves don't follow the Bible, but stray into Lucifer's realm and become, themselves, his inadvertent and unaware representatives.

From divorce and political interactions to pulpit approaches, Donald B. Stenberg provides a different approach to assessing evil in the modern world that, like C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, is all the more accessible to ordinary readers because of its fictional, conversation-based overlay.

Christians who want an accessible, chatty blend of pointed observation, reflective insights, and fun will find Eavesdropping on Lucifer excels in the kinds of insights and lessons that keep readers engaged, thinking, and entertained, all in one.

Kwanzaa Gets An A
Steven C. Thedford
New World Press Inc.
9780975973042, $14.99

Kwanzaa Gets An A provides fun color illustrations by LaSquizzie Kern and adopts a rollicking rhyme format that lends to adult read-aloud as it follows the story of Kwanzaa and explains some of its seemingly odd facets, such as why Kwanzaa has two A's when it's a holiday mention, but only one in Swahili.

Each page of rhyming story receives a full facing page of colorful drawings of children gathering around to learn the Kwanzaa story from a griot dressed in an African gown.

Kids learn Swahili terms and African culture as they receive diverse stories, from the 1965 Watts riot in Los Angeles and how it affected the African American community to how teacher Dr. Maulana Karenga decided to restore a community "destroyed by racist horseplay" by returning to African roots.

His influence on making Kwanzaa part of American culture is revealed as his creation of a harvest festival patterned on the Egyptian and Zulu cultural holiday turns into a wider-ranging story of Kwanzaa's evolution through American culture from the 1960s to modern times.

This picture book story nicely compliments other Kwanzaa books on the market today by providing a clear, engaging, and lively overview of its history and evolution.

Picture book readers will relish its tone, spirited history, and the easy way in which it pairs an exploration of Kwanzaa's African roots with how the holiday became an integral part of the African American community.

No multicultural picture book collection should be without this fun, informative survey.

Twelve Unending Summers: Memoir of an Immigrant Child
Cholet Kelly Josue
Authority Publishing
9781949642049, $15.99, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

"I died that day." That's the opener of a compelling memoir that holds the rare talent to immediately tug at the heartstrings and imagination of the reader, who will want to find out more about narrator Cholet Josue's journey, how he continually stands on the edge of two cultures, and how he survives despite the introduction above.

A survivor of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, Josue indeed "died inside", but was reborn, only to continue struggling with his identity as a Bahamian, Haitian, immigrant, and potential American citizen. His key question ("Where do I belong?") forms the foundation of a saga that traverses countries and states of mind with equal analytical prowess as he spends decades confronting the elements of three very different cultures which have left their marks on his approach to life and community alike.

The first strength to note about his story over other immigrant experiences is that he tackles specific issues of regional diversity and ethnic identity in America: "In some ways, Chicago is quite diverse, with Mexican, Polish, Greek and Italian immigrants, but often it seemed only two cultures existed: White American and Black American." Where other immigrant experiences focus on individual life and experiences, Josue's ability to provide wider-ranging inspections of social and cultural institutions lends a depth to his story that will prove particularly inviting to readers interested in sociological and cultural explorations.

Another strength of Twelve Unending Summers lies in its ability to juxtapose a sense of place and community with a state of mind and cultural background. Josue excels in describing not just cultural differences but psychological makeup and life experiences that influence disparate perceptions and choices in interaction resulting in the creation of different cultural identities/personas in order to survive.

From ingrained superstitions and belief systems such as voodoo to changing class structures between cultures and countries which led to reassessments of identity, Twelve Unending Summers constantly creates satisfying contrasts that offer food for thought beyond his individual experience: "People like me from a middle class frowned upon taking a kante (small boat), as it was considered demeaning. Although at that time the so-called middle class were living in Duvalier's crumbling house, the respectable way was still to leave by airplane - not by a forty-foot wooden boat. It has taken me a long while to reconcile myself with this part of my life. It's something I rarely allowed into my consciousness until recently, that I was also part of the Haitian exodus of "boat people," one of the simplistic names given to these riveting, gut-wrenching scenes on the news, images of poor, uneducated, dark-skinned Haitians trying to escape to America."

Between reflections on illegal immigration to life in the Haitian community in the U.S., this survey goes beyond a new beginning to delve into the cultural undercurrents that forms the melting pot of American society, complete with its prejudices and perceptions of immigrants in general and Haitians in particular.

Readers of immigrant experiences and politics will find Twelve Unending Summers to be astute, analytical, and intensely revealing, linking catastrophe with the assimilation process and what it means to not only make the move to America, but to think like an American in the face of one's culture and perceptions.

Acts of Faith
Martin Elsant
Independently Published
9781658684811, $7.49, Paper, $.99, Kindle

Acts of Faith is Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy and will reach readers of Christian and Jewish historical literary fiction with its survey of events surrounding the Portuguese Inquisition in the 16th century.

The protagonist is Diego Lopes, who is slated for burning at the stake as a heretic, but vanishes before he can be put to death. Christians and Jews are divided over these circumstances, with the Christians believing he went straight to hell for his sins while the Jews think he went to heaven as a savior.

Real-life historical accounts of the contrasting perceptions and role of Diego/Diogo Lopes form the foundation of this fictional exploration of the man's life, politics, religion, and influence.

In many ways, Acts of Faith is a consideration of divine intervention, social and political inspection, and contrasts between the interpretive approaches of Christians and Jews. It includes a healthy degree of historical precedent, but moves into fictional territory by exploring facets of character psychology that go beyond historical record and into the arena of cultural differences and interactions.

This element drives the story with an unusual focus on heroes, martyrs, tyranny, and religious justifications for persecution and division.

The characters and their observations and prejudices come alive during the course of a story that winds its way through Portuguese culture and history, breathing life into its peoples and their confrontations with society and self.

It should be cautioned that graphic torture session descriptions are part of this story. Readers who want less realistic sagas may wish to look elsewhere; but nothing is unduly or unrealistically emphasized beyond historical precedent, and these descriptions are necessary reflections of the horror and helplessness of the times.

As Ari, who once worked for the Inquisition, becomes involved in the personal lives of those challenged by its processes, readers will become thoroughly engrossed by a realistic saga that proves hard to put down.

Any reader of Portuguese history, Inquisition-era processes, or historical fiction will find Acts of Faith astoundingly astute in its representations, psychological depth, and religious inspections; especially in chapters that contrast Christian and Jewish experience and ideals as miracles and blasphemy share a fine line and tenuous positions, defining what it means to stand with God or against him in Inquisition-era society.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker
Brian James Gage
KDK 12 Press
9780578627137, $4.99, Kindle

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is the first book in a supernatural thriller series, is set in Russia, and revolves around the drowning of high-level Russian official Rasputin which turns out to be a vicious murder, upon investigation.

Readers might anticipate a historical novel, given the historical roots of the characters and their Russian backdrop, but in fact this is a supernatural story that paints Rasputin as the leader of a vampire cult which is eventually subdued.

Brian James Gage creates a multifaceted read that holds depth, historical references, and thriller elements that, when combined with a paranormal perspective, offers a detailed and engrossing plot. His ability to weave atmospheric descriptions of Russia and European environments is one of the elements that creates an unusually astute, engrossing tale: "The Buzau River stops flowing at the base of the Carpathian Mountains east of Bra?ov - a paranormal phenomenon known as dead water. It remains inert for the next seventy miles southeast, all the way to the Subcarpathian commune of Berca, where it once again flows with vigor. A sullen understanding hangs over the region, one obeyed by fish, migrating birds, and any superstitious person - that is to say all inhabitants of Wallachia and Transylvania. This dread, this silent decree, is woven into Romanian lore as far back as the thirteenth century. Secret texts recovered from the Teutonic Knights cite building fortifications across the north and south entrances of the Buzau Pass, not to impede Turkish invaders as history speculates; rather to keep people - all people - from an evil lurking deep within the Carpathians' imperious summits."

Through this example, readers will see that The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is no light read, but an engrossing story that juxtaposes its paranormal action with historical references designed to rewrite the reader's perception of reality.

The Sleepwalker that plagues the region is a night killer who challenges Constable Petrov, Coroner Rurik Kozlov, and everyone inclined to at first believe a human murderer is at large. But it's also a monster who can seemingly help, at times, as when he prevents two young women from being raped, but exacts a big price for his assistance.

As the bodies mount in Saint Petersburg, from the butchering of a fiancee to other victims, Rasputin is able to convince the Emperor that God is, indeed, working through him, and that the nation can be unified only under his guidance.

1916 Russia comes to life under such an approach. Readers will absorb a good deal of Russian psychology and culture as they pursue this darkly engrossing tale of murder, mayhem, political subterfuge, and a vampire cult that rages across Europe.

Vampire stories are too often singular productions. The addition of social, cultural, political and psychological elements to this Russian-based story sets it apart from any other vampire saga and will especially delight students of history who look for more than light formula writing in the genre.

This literary audience will relish Gage's attention to detail. The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is delightfully complex and absorbing, holding the perfect combination of thriller action and detailed background to make it an unpredictable, satisfying story about different kinds of monsters who overrun a city and those unique forces that would stop them.

Very highly recommended indeed: a diabolically gripping read!

American Dreamer
Tim Tran (Tran Manh Kheim) with Tom Fields-Meyer
Pacific University Press
9781945298028, $18.99

American Dreamer: How I Escaped Communist Vietnam and Built a Successful Life in America is a thought-provoking memoir of Tim Tran, who spent years in Communist Vietnam trying to forge a life under impossible conditions before he fled to America to make this nation his adopted home.

His life story of how he moved from a poor Vietnamese child caught in a brutal conflict between nationalists and Communists that changed his life and forced his family to flee from North to South Vietnam when he was four to building a successful new life in America should be required reading for anyone interested in immigrant stories of struggle, survival, and rebirth.

(It should be noted that this is not a story about the 'Dreamers' who are caught between two worlds, their lack of legal status and their life as Americans. Despite its title, this is an immigrant's memoir, not a story about a Dreamer's uncertain status and future in this country.)

Besides being a story of personal perseverance, Tran's is a tale of that adoption process and how America's promises ultimately came true for him, imparting a value system based on hard work, achievement, and grasping opportunity.

Tran's life was not destined to end via an old wooden escape boat designed for forty but holding three hundred, that faced Thai sea pirates and shipwreck. (Lest readers believe this event occurred early in his life story, it should be pointed out that it took place after he had earned his degree at an American university, returned to Vietnam and taken an executive-level job at a large petroleum company, and was engaged to be married.)

The decades that bring him to this point are explored in subsequent chapters that follow his early childhood, the change in Vietnam's political and cultural makeup as foreign powers invaded and Communist struggles and occupation took over, and how he honed his dream of escape.

The juxtaposition of social and political observation from the vantage point of youth captures the sentiments of many of Vietnam's younger generation: "In May 1961, the entire city was excited about the news that Lyndon Johnson, the American vice president, would be visiting Saigon to meet with President Diem and tour the city. What I didn't understand at that early age was the reason for Johnson's visit: a war was about to begin - a conflict that would change everything. With training and equipment from the American military, President Diem's South Vietnamese army had been cracking down on the Viet Cong in rural areas. And North Vietnamese troops had begun to travel clandestinely on the Ho Chi Minh Trail to infiltrate the South and smuggle ammunition to the Viet Cong guerillas. Without knowledge of the looming war, my classmates and I found Johnson's visit simply thrilling."

As Tran journeys to America, absorbs its culture, and returns to Vietnam, he often experiences ongoing challenges with his ties to American interests when his arrival home results in countrymen and family treating him differently: "Phat knew I had worked for Shell and that I had money to spend - the USAID money I had saved for years by living frugally during college and money from my Upward Bound work. Having resources made me a prime target. In this case, I had been successfully targeted by my brother-in-law's best friend."

As he observes the worsening state of life in Vietnam under Communist rule and acknowledges his newfound vulnerability in the face of its changing social and political milieu, Tran effectively becomes a stranger in his own homeland, at risk and endangered by his position.

Trans's story captures and contrasts life in Vietnam and life in America, emphasizing a sense of gratitude as it follows the journey towards his final goal of settling permanently in the United States.

Readers of immigrant stories will find American Dreamer stands out for its sense of purpose, achievement, and ability to capture the promise and opportunities America represents.

Girl in the Sky, and Other Lies Told
J. A. Hailey
Independently Published
B081W65V6X, $2.99

Achmet has a meeting in front of the Eiffel Tower in Girl in the Sky, and Other Lies Told. Advised to return to the Caliphate to meet the Caliph, Achmet, a member of the Jihadi Army, is invited to participate in something "very very big" and becomes involved in a brainwashing mission that contributes to the greater cause of he and his fellow patriots.

Genocide is discussed as being the latest ultimate goal in a series of battles, but Girl in the Sky is as much about the process of conversion and belief as it is about physical terrorism - and therein lies its strength.

J. A. Hailey does an outstanding job of exploring Achmet's world and its religious and social logic. Where another approach might have focused on terrorist activities, Hailey delves into the psyche of the jihadist movement and its participants. This affords insights not only into individual and group motivations, but the social and cultural influences which lead to conversion and violence.

As these elements are revealed, readers receive a more in-depth understanding of these groups and their interactions, from the roles of teachers who have other purposes and motivations in mind to the actual making of a "puppet creature" who does the Jihad's bidding without fully understanding its purposes.

As Achmet assumes the role of teacher to Khalil and imparts some mysterious instructions in the process, readers learn much about French and Middle Eastern cultural interactions, barriers to understanding, the underlying presumptions and approaches of terrorism, and how murder comes to be condoned as a necessary action for the greater good. Moral and ethical conundrums come into play as the characters assume their roles and sometimes supersede expectations.

Anyone interested in the making of a terrorist and the metamorphosis involved will find Girl in the Sky involving, astute, and hard to put down. It offers no pat answers about terrorism, but reveals processes that will leave readers pondering long after Khalil absorbs his lessons with an unexpected conclusion to the mission that simultaneously changes nothing...and everything.

A Woman of the Road and Sea
Amy Wolf
Independently Published
9781087846750, $10.95, Paperback, $2.99, Kindle

Book one of the Honest Thieves Trilogy, A Woman of the Road, told of a 17th century female highwayman who, tiring of her traditional role, became a swashbuckling companion to Captain Jeffries, there to experience adventures under the guise of a man.

Margaret's return adds action and romance to this second book about her encounters, A Woman of the Road and Sea, which opens with a bang and a dash of humorous observation: "Stand and deliver!" I cried, and this time, unlike the last, I did not speak the words in jest. Wheeling my mount to a halt, I made sure to block a black coach which jolted down the Great Western. By my standards, it was not grand (not even a seal on the door), but I was so eager to ply my trade that to me it mattered little."

This thread of humor runs throughout the story and lends the tale a series of wry tongue-in-cheek observations: "Lowly footpads and thieves!" cried Monmouth, stomping a booted foot. "Cannot one frequent the roads of England without being accosted?" "Of course not," I told him. "Good God, sir, how long have you been away?"

As journeys over land and water evolve, sweeping the characters from England to Paris and beyond, readers are treated to a blend of romance, swashbuckling thievery, and friendship permeated by political confrontations, social interactions, and moral dilemmas that lead Margaret to question her motivations and processes.

As she faces treachery, beheading, rescue, and the unexpected lure and associations of the Côte d'Azur, Margaret makes some unexpected new friends and forms some unexpected new alliances along the way.

A Woman of the Road and Sea is the rich saga of a feisty, determined female fighter who becomes embroiled in a series of political confrontations. Romance would seem an unexpected result of such clashes, but A Woman of the Road and Sea excels in the unexpected, from its mercurial plot with its satisfying revelations to a life steeped in confrontation and change.

Readers looking for a strong female protagonist who rips through her world's social expectations with purpose and courage will welcome A Woman of the Road and Sea as a swashbuckling adventure of another sort which stands alone as well as complimenting its predecessor, A Woman of the Road.

Starfire Dragons
Dawn Ross
Independently Published
9781671644427, $11.99, Paper, $2.99, Kindle

Book 1 of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles, Starfire Dragons, sets the stage for an epic saga, beginning in the far future of 3790 when two young warriors from an enemy race in a far galaxy crash-land on a Cooperative planet and encounter prejudice, confrontation, and danger.

J.D. Hapker is the new vice commander of the Odyssey, the largest and most advanced science and service vessel of the Prontaean Colonial Cooperative. His interaction with two young warriors, his attempts to protect them, and his increasing involvement with forces beyond his comprehension or control risk an interstellar war and lead him to confront his moral and ethical values as his leadership is questioned and challenged by their presence.

Because he's new at his position, relatively unfamiliar with his crew and the ship's processes, and uncertain about his relationship with the boys, Hapker's actions, questioned by his captain, are even more critical not only for the boys' survival, but to his future and, eventually, that of the galaxy.

As murder accusations and plots develop, Hapker faces prejudices, lies, and threats from his own people: "And after hearing some callous remarks from our own people, it wouldn't be a stretch for others like Captain Fargoza to take their hatred further. I imagine there's a lot of people out there seeking revenge and children make easy marks." Loyalties, duty, and moral responsibility clash as Hapker promises to serve both the boys and the Cooperative's interests.

Dawn Ross does an excellent job of exploring the clash between training and real-world experiences as the brothers' special abilities and violence lead them to personal confrontations with death and the tragic outcome of their decisions and their race's inherent violence.

Healing opportunities for all are offered and threatened within these interactions. Ross explores the perceptions and conundrums on all sides with an eye to painting not the black and white of victim and aggressor, but the cultural and social beliefs that influence decisions and color actions.

Jori and Hapker share difficult choices over duty, and this is one of the unexpected ties that bind them to explore some of the few opportunities each race has for real change and empathy.

As Ross creates a world powered by two very unusual adolescent warriors and a leader new to his responsibilities, readers are drawn into their individual struggles and the changes their choices will translate to each of their worlds.

Starfire Dragons is firmly rooted in psychological depth and moral and ethical confrontations. This keeps readers engaged and engrossed as a series of difficult decisions revolve around a sense of duty and broader questions of survival. Fans of epic sci-fi that look for realistic characters and complex yet believable settings will find Starfire Dragons a powerful introductory story that promises more, yet nicely concludes its immediate dilemmas.

Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree
Simi K. Rao
Written Dreams Publishing
9781951375072, $11.99, Paperback
9781951375089, $3.99, Ebook

Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree gathers short stories and succinct poetry about different phases of womanhood, capturing the feel of life encounters and impressions gleaned from exotic lands: "Along ancient streets/and by-lanes,/alien sounds ebb and flow/With familiar inflections/passions don't simmer,/they explode..."

Simi K. Rao's poetic style excels in capturing vignettes not only from women's lives, but through their changing experiences, as in White Room, a poem about dementia: "They sit around me,/these strangers with familiar voices./I think we are waiting for something/or someone./These strangers, they look at me./They mutter words I don't understand."

Often, these revelations include notes on how to lead life (or, how not), as in 'In Moderation', which reflects on a range of actions that should be conducted in moderation, from enjoying foods to giving one's heart: "Help/But don't go bankrupt,/be generous in moderation."

The short stories also capture slices of life as in 'The Witching Hour', which follows long-time neighbors and best friends as they navigate Halloween with a ritual of their own making, wearing the same costumes as they did long ago, on one fateful night that changed everything.

Rao's ability to capture the seeming innocence of young adulthood until a deadly truth emerges will surprise and delight readers with a story of quiet desperation and community impact.
Beasts are among us. Some emerge from the heart; others are physical threats.

As these poems and stories wind through different forces and influences, black and white line drawings pepper and separate the accounts to add atmospheric embellishments to Rao's tales.

Having a literary collection which moves from short story to poetry and back again creates an opportunity for capturing these life-changing moments in more than one fashion, making both formats accessible to audiences who might usually prefer or choose one format over the other.

Steeped in the cultural observations of a woman whose heritage includes American culture blended with Indian customs, each piece captures women's struggles with ethnicity, prejudice, ambition, gender, and cultural norms.

Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree's compelling literary works are highly recommended for readers of women's literature in general and multicultural works in particular. Their sense of place, character, and purpose are simply exquisite and shine in every carefully-honed piece.

My Uncle's New Eyes
Joseph Hirsch
Black Rose Writing
9781684335138, $17.95

Michael Reeves has been suspended from his boarding school/rehab facility for the wealthy, and his mother is at her wits' end. What can she do with him now? The solution lies in tapping a relative for help, and so Michael is sent to live with his elderly uncle.

But this is no ordinary aging relative. Uncle Jimmy is part of an experiment designed to help recover lost memories. The problem is - if the experiment works, everyone is in danger. Some memories are better left untapped, and the repercussions of their revitalization will change everything not just in Uncle Jimmy's life and others who suffer from memory impairment, but for Michael, as well.

My Uncle's New Eyes represents a satisfying blend of science fiction, mystery, horror, and the coming of age of a nephew who finds his new home offers greater challenges than anything he's experienced before - including drugs.

Joseph Hirsch does a fine job of exploring the feelings of Michael, his mother Debbie, and everyone around him. He uses the first-person perspective of Michael's observations to cultivate a tone and approach that is personal and captures family dynamics and social interactions alike: "Why did you do something this stupid?" She asked. "You had a problem with hard drugs. I could understand a relapse, but this..." She shook her head. I hung mine. She had a point. The anger was subsiding, and the pain was coming, the realization that she was human and I was hurting her, that even if she was a gold digger, I didn't blame her for that. It was a cold world, and she was just trying to survive, and a lot of the pain she'd absorbed had been to shield me."

From Michael's hallucinogenic experiences with weed to his growing social awareness and usual teen angst, Hirsch captures the backdrops of Michael's experiences and influences with a descriptive, revealing attention to psychological and cultural detail: "I looked at the gas station, coated in whitewash, the black Studebakers and green Packard's and cherry-red Comets all cruising through traffic down a Main Street in Anytown, America, with its storefront diners and hardware shops and bowling alleys. I wondered if it had ever been real, any of it, I mean, the world in that painting. Men beat their wives back then, just like now; they didn't let black people share space with them in restaurants. Wars had come before and they'd come again. Even the dumbest kids at school who couldn't keep awake for a single class knew that much."

How to become a man? This is just one of Michael's conundrums as he faces many adult concerns and hones his purpose and personality in life.

As ghosts, spirits, loss, and a clever doctor intersect, intrigue and action are added into the mix, making for a satisfyingly complex saga that moves far beyond the usual coming-of-age story and into the realms of moral and ethical issues in high technology.

Underneath the story of how Michael learns to kick drug dependency and tackle loss lies a set of issues that will keep readers engaged and on the edges of their seats until the story's unexpected conclusion.

The Easy-Going Plant-Based Cookbook
Tom Buschman
Quixotic Books
c/o Cardinal Publishers Group
9780998858944, $14.98

The Easy-Going Plant-Based Cookbook: Simple Whole-Food Recipes for Non-Chefs, With No Added Sugar, Salt, or Fat emphasizes the ease of producing meals based on these healthy premises. It features ingredients that are basic and easy to find, simple recipes that require a minimum of preparation, and photos to reinforce the appearance of finished results.

Beginners new to these concepts might think that such cooking would be laborious, expensive, and unappealing in comparison to the usual American fare. But those who wish to delve into vegan fare will find this survey from "a regular guy making easy, healthy meals practical for the real world" provides the perfect introduction.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare is introduced with a fun flair that assumes not only no prior familiarity with vegan dishes, but little prior cooking experience. The means that the recipes are introduced with basic discussions of portion sizes, tips on shopping for whole foods while keeping expenses down, and insights about nutrition.

There are a few unexpected topics covered in a lively manner, as well, featuring appealing attention-grabbing titles such as "With Beans - To Cook or Crank Open a Can" and "When I Do Open My Big Mouth", which reviews food and health discussions that often arise when 'vegan' is mentioned.

Recipes range from a Cashew Rice (the streamlining tip here involves buying frozen, ready-to-eat brown rice for the recipe) to Creamed Veggies, Rice, and Pasta made with tofu, cashews, miso and lemon juice. The latter includes notes about how to substitute silken with regular tofu, why the sauce is extra-thick, and how to adapt cooking variations for maximum enjoyment.

The Easy-Going Plant-Based Cookbook's versatility, chatty tone, and easy dishes are simply outstanding. Any regular non-cook looking to eat healthier without confusing instructions, the expense of too many exotic ingredients, or assumptions about prior culinary expertise will welcome The Easy-Going Plant-Based Cookbook's down-home, basic, simple primer, which eschews the typical vegan complexity for comfort food anyone can easily reproduce with a minimum of effort.

Islander's War
Don Parks
Secant Publishing
9781944962630, $16.95

When twenty-one-year-old Arthur Crockett receives his draft notice in Islander's War, he isn't prepared for either the rigors of war in general or the milieu of World War I. As the oldest in a large family, he expected to be helping his father support them...not be conscripted into service to face battle in 1917 Europe.

What evolves is not only training for trench warfare in France, but an inadvertent battle on the home front that develops when he unexpectedly falls in love during a training respite before battle, brings his chosen home to his mother, and faces a fiery confrontation between the two people he loves most.

Buffeted on all sides by change and confrontation, Arthur finds himself in the middle of many struggles, inexperienced and forced to grow up quickly both psychologically and in terms of his ability to navigate life, death, love, and family.

It's surprising to note that Islander's War is a first novel by Don Parks because its astute observations, logical progression, strong characterization, and ability to juxtapose personal growth with social change as America faces a major war is as compelling as any work from a seasoned multi-book writer.

Parks takes the time necessary to build descriptions of psyche, environment, influences, and the era of America and Europe under siege. This translates to an effective, powerful novel that proves hard to put down, which is realistic in its approach and events.

Arthur's acts of heroism contribute to military success, but will they then translate to personal success on the home front? Readers who navigate the treacherous waters of his relationships with bated breath will enjoy this story of honor, military duty, medical crises, and an assault charge that tears the family apart as surely as any military action could have achieved.

Engrossing, multi-dimensional in its approach to Arthur's entire life experiences and growth, and impossible to predict, Islander's War excels in unexpected twists and turns that keep it from being a singular story, embracing a young man's coming of age with realizations about passion and love that change his life forever.

The Art of Good Enough
Dr. Ivy Ge
Author Academy Elite
9781640859517, $14.99, Paperback
9781640859524, $22.99, Hardcover
9781640859531, $0.99, Kindle

The Art of Good Enough: The Working Mom's Guilt-Free Guide to Thriving While Being Perfectly Imperfect is directed to working mothers who struggle with home and work responsibilities, but will reach anyone who feels torn between their responsibilities and choices on how to handle them.

Simpler living, battling guilt, shame, and underlying or overt messages from self and others about priorities, and understanding the mechanics of raising resilient and joyful children requires not just self-determination, but the vision of a path and a method for following it.

Many self-help books provide keys to half of this equation, but The Art of Good Enough's ability to provide a blueprint for building self-determination and achieving a better lifestyle is built first on shared emotions and experiences, then on a concrete game plan for success.
Its opening lines will resonate with most busy mothers: "Have you ever lain awake wondering if you're a bad mother? If you've done everything you could to keep your children happy, healthy, and to maximize their chances of success? From your in-laws to the women in the park, everyone has a firm grip on what a good mother does, except you. As you listen to your partner snoring away blissfully in the dark, you wonder why you feel like a failure even though you've done a million things from dawn to dusk with never a moment of peace."

Dr. Ivy Ge reflects on her own child-rearing and the process of not just being a good mother, but accepting and feeling good about her approaches. She discusses the kinds of values systems and teachings that reinforce positive lifestyles and choices for the entire family: "One mom told me that her son at college in Hawaii called to ask her how to unclog his toilet with a plunger. It sounds like a joke, but it isn't funny. Basic life skills such as cleaning up after oneself, doing laundry, making simple repairs at home teach kids responsibility, discipline, and independence."

From helping readers identify what is missing in their lives and how to fill in the blanks to optimizing time and then using the benefits in a more positive manner, The Art of Good Enough excels in building avenues of success that nurture not just kids, but mothers who often pass too much judgment upon their actions, imparting negativity as a result.

Better uses of time involve developing more effective systems of prioritizing, time management, and relaxation. Dr. Ge covers all these methods and more, using her own experiences and those of other mothers who have also revised their parental and personal trajectories to add more flexibility, acceptance, and less worry into their lives.

The result worked for her and others. Mothers who pick up this supportive, specific road map to personal transformation with an eye to making lasting changes will find The Art of Good Enough creates the perfect path for embracing life beyond survival mode and transmitting that feeling to the entire family.

Every mother, working or not, needs The Art of Good Enough. It's a primer not for perfection, but for ultimate satisfaction and a healthier approach to life.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

An Unwanted Guest
Shari Lapena
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780525557647, $16.00,

"An Unwanted Guest" is a tightly woven Agatha Christie style page turner tale of suspense. Visitors of Mitchell's Inn in the Catskills over a weekend, come together, as a snow storm cuts them off from the rest of society, while someone is killing them one by one. They huddle together trying to figure out who among them could be the killer and they try to figure a possible motive for each victim. "An Unwanted Guest" races along delving into each character's motivation for coming to this retreat with readers trying to figure out who the perp is. On the third day the weather dissipates for them to have the police begin to investigate the case. "An Unwanted Guest" is a gem of story telling that is guaranteed to hold readers interest to the unexpected twist of an ending.

Lunar 3097 BK 1 The AI Chronicles
Gary Timbrell
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781977203021, $17.95,

"Lunar 3097" is filled with numerous conflicts that tackles how much should we rely on technology in the future A series of robots orbiting the moon of Kelster in the Abbulla solar system, has a failure to communicate with earth mission control, in the near future opens the science fiction novel "Lunar 3097. The team of ISA work to fix the problem but find along the way someone has sabotaged the operation causing to robots to think for themselves instead of controlled by their creators. "Lunar 3097" is a well-done novel of the near future for any science fiction fan to enjoy.

Hit List
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780593083222, $28.00,

"Hit List" adds new zest to a long running series. Stone Barrington receives a note with his name on a hit list with 8 others. He has very little time to find who is at the bottom of it all. Utilizing every possible resource to protect himself he will do anything he can to stay alive. "Hit List" is another great tale in the world of Stone Barrington. Along the way are some familiar characters with page turning suspense.

Robert B. Parker's Angel Eyes
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780525536826, $27.00,

"Angel Eyes" continues the long running series with another great mystery tale. Spenser is hired by a client in Boston to find out what happened to her missing daughter after she went to work in the film world of Los Angeles. Spenser pursues the clues with some old friends who are now working in California. Atkins once again presents a story true to form with snappy dialogue and memorable characters set this time in tinsel town. "Angel Eyes" is sure to please those of us who enjoy this great mystery series.

The John Wayne Companion A Comprehensive guide to Duke Facts, Trivia, Movies Achievements and More
From the editors of the official John Wayne Magazine
Media Lab Books
c/o Topix Media Lab
9781948174251, $19.99,

John Wayne stands taller than ever in "The John Wayne Companion" a tribute to one of filmdom's most well known actors. Lavishly filled with photos from private collections and of many of his films as well as trivia and little-known facts about each movie he was in that spanned many generations. Included are posters and lots of things of his personal life as well as what was happening in the country at certain times that relate to him. "The John Wayne Companion celebrates a great American actor who work stand in a category by itself for many generations of movie goers. With the advent of streaming services and blue ray and DVD its nice to have The John Wayne Companion by your side when you watch to get more insight into each film.

Gray A Story of Loss
Erica Stone
97810901501275, $12.99,

Erica Stone and her husband wanted to adopt a child from a third world African nation. They had the best of intentions for the child but were prevented for a long time in doing so, for many different reasons among them a corrupt system. Somehow, they were finally granted permission after years of struggle. Erica and her husband then wanted to do the same for another child but they were told the little girl had died. From then on Erica made it her mission to change the unethical process. She in fact started her own agency to further her cause so that children were no longer pawns in a fraudulent practice of implementation. "Gray A Story of Loss" is a painful reminder of what any perspective parent goes through adopting a child from another nation. "Gray A Story of Loss" though is a dark and sinister journey of one families plight it also an uplifting story of what one person can do to change a terrible situation in the world.

Silly Yaya
Written and illustrated by Violet Favero
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781512133004, $12.95,

"Silly Yaya" details the special relationship children have with their grandparents that is cherished by children and adults. The author talks about names kids give their precursors of the family. Some of the luminaries make no sense to anyone other than the child but it is said with affection and love of their elders. "Silly Yaya" is a catchy title with beautiful artwork by a very talented writer artist that is thoughtful reading for all ages.

I'm Writing My Graphic Novel
Meadow Road Books
Independent publisher
9781723984761, $8.95,

You want to do a graphic novel by have no idea where to begin. "I'm Writing My Graphic Novel" is a great starting point that has keen insight into where to launch your entrance into the world of publishing. There are suggestions of story line artwork and numerous pages ready for you to draw to your hearts content. "I'm Writing My Graphic Novel" is a great resource to explore the world of graphic novels and how they evolve.

Sunday Dinner at Silly Yaya's
Written and illustrated by Violet Favero
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781517127770, $12.95,

With our busy lives many families do not come together as much as they would like to. "Sunday Dinner at Silly Yaya's" shows that when you want to you can but have to make the time to do so. In the case of the narrator Sunday dinner is traditional mean that helps strengthen her family.

Hayley The Halloween Cat
Wanda Luthaman, author
Mara Reltsma, illustrator
Lilacs in Literature
9780998195865, $6.99,

Though geared to Halloween, "Haley The Halloween Cat" is a charming, uplifting story for all year. Before the Halloween holiday Hayley the cat, is looking to have some fun with her friend Bitty the Bat who appears to be missing. Haley asks everyone they know if anyone has any information where her pal could be. Each has a suggestion for where she can try to find him that causes her to worry, maybe something happened to him. "Hayley The Halloween Cat" is filled with many different messages including the power of friendship that are for all of us to learn in our daily lives. "Hayley The Halloween Cat" has wonderful character names like the twin spiders Spit and Spat that would be great to see in stories of their own.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

How To Eat Right & Save The Planet
Bill Tara
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004865, $16.95 PB / $9.99 Kindle 312pp,

Synopsis: The ethical wasteland of Big Business, Big Medicine, Power Politics, and Advertising has manufactured a diet that for Americans that is the root cause of so many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, as well as a broad range of common ailments. It has also created an industry that kills over 70 billion land animals every year. Too few of us realize how our food choices actually contribute to the climate change we are now experiencing worldwide. Recognizing and understanding the impact of our food choices is the first important step in reversing habits that damage the body, heart, and soul.

"How to Eat Right & Save the Planet: A Plant-Based Survival Guide for You & Your Family" cuts through the hype and nutritional confusion that surround us by first showing how corporate American seeks to hide the truth. It then explains how the food that we eat can be a massive force for good in creating personal, social, and environmental health. "How to Eat Right & Save the Planet" not only provides vital nutritional facts based on the latest dietary and medical research, but also explains in plain English how our diet impacts social justice and environmental sustainability.

Critique: Impressively informative and expertly presented, "How to Eat Right & Save the Planet" provides the reader with a complete informational guide and instructional manual to creating a healthy and earth friendly diet for themselves and their family. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Vegetarian/Vegan collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Eat Right & Save the Planet" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: A health counselor, teacher, author, entrepreneur, and creator of health education centers in Europe and North America, Bill Tara has been an active advocate for natural heath care since 1967. He has served as a senior faculty member for the Kiental Institute in Switzerland and the Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He was Chairman of the European Macrobiotic Assembly for four years and served as Chairman of the North American Macrobiotic Congress for two years. He was also Director of Natural Health Care at the SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain.

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World
Janice Kaplan
c/o Penguin Group USA
9781524744212, $27.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: Girls are routinely told that they can be anything, so why do 90 percent of Americans believe that geniuses are almost always men? In "The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World" journalist Janice Kaplan explores the powerful forces that have rigged the system - and celebrates the women geniuses past and present who have triumphed anyway.

Even in this time of rethinking women's roles, we define genius almost exclusively through male achievement. When asked to name a genius, people mention Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Steve Jobs. As for great women? In one survey, the only female genius anyone listed was Marie Curie.

Kaplan (author of The Gratitude Diaries), set out to determine why the extraordinary work of so many women has been brushed aside. Using her unique mix of memoir, narrative, and inspiration, she makes surprising discoveries about women geniuses now and throughout history, in fields from music to robotics. Through interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, and dozens of women geniuses at work in the world today (including Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold and AI expert Fei-Fei Li) she proves that genius isn't just about talent. It's about having that talent recognized, nurtured, and celebrated.

Across the generations, even when they face less-than-perfect circumstances, women geniuses have created brilliant and original work. In "The Genius of Women", the reader will learn how they ignored obstacles and broke down seemingly unshakable barriers. The geniuses in this moving, powerful, and very entertaining study provide more than inspiration -- and they offer a clear blueprint to everyone who wants to find her own path and move forward with passion.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, meticulously researched, impressively organized and presented, "The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Women's Studies collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Genius of Women" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Yoga and Mindfulness for Young Children
Maureen Heil & Ilene S. Rosen
Redleaf Press
10 Yorkton Court, St. Paul, MN 55117-1065
9781605546674, $26.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: Yoga isn't just the physical poses; intentional breathing (and therefore mindfulness) are an integral part of it. "Yoga and Mindfulness for Young Children: Poses for Play, Learning, and Peace" explains the physical and social-emotional benefits of incorporating yoga into early childhood classrooms. Readers do not need to have any experience with yoga to be able to use this instructional guide, and the ideas and suggestions are easily modified to suit an individual teacher's needs.

In the pages of "Yoga and Mindfulness for Young Children: Poses for Play, Learning, and Peace", early childhood educators and registered children's yoga instructors Maureen Heil and Ilene S. Rosen share how to do nine specific breathing techniques and sixty-three different poses with children. The poses are grouped by ten different categories: back-bending poses, forward-bending poses, harmony poses (about balance), just for fun (offer emotional release), lying down poses, partner poses (in pairs), sitting down poses, standing upright poses, twisting poses, and upside-down poses. Information on how do yoga with children with diverse abilities is included.

Critique: Nicely illustrated and expertly organized and presented, "Yoga and Mindfulness for Young Children: Poses for Play, Learning, and Peace" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' and unique instructional guide and manual that is unreservedly recommended for professional, community and academic library Yoga & Meditation collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Yoga and Mindfulness for Young Children: Poses for Play, Learning, and Peace" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.60).

Editorial Note: Maureen Heil is an experienced registered yoga and children's yoga teacher, as well as a trainer of children's yoga teachers with Yoga Child in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She leads teacher-training workshops and is the author of a training manual for GoGive Yoga. She has also worked as the lead preschool teacher and director of The Greenwood Cooperative School in New Jersey for seventeen years.

Ilene Rosen, MEd, is a freelance writer, editor, educator, and registered children's yoga teacher. She has written for Redleaf Press, Parents magazine, and Scholastic's Parent & Child. She worked as an associate editor for Scholastic, a preschool teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a yoga therapist. Ilene has her BA in psychology from Amherst College and her MEd in early childhood education from Tufts University.

Nathalie Dupree's Favorite Stories and Recipes
Nathalie Dupree
Gibbs Smith, Publisher
PO Box 667, Layton UT 84041
9781423652502, $30.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Nathalie Dupree is a storyteller, and in celebration of her 80th birthday in December 2019, she shares her favorite culinary stories with the publication of "Nathalie Dupree's Favorite Stories and Recipes", which trace her journey from a budding cook for her college friends, through her years as a restaurant cook and cooking instructor. Her activist spirit, humor, feisty personality, and authoritative knowledge of cooking make "Nathalie Dupree's Favorite Stories and Recipes" an informative and inherently fascinating combination of memoir and recipe collection.

Critique: A must-have cookbook for her legions of fans who have watched her on TV, read her articles in magazines and newspapers, or invoked her name in a conversation about Southern food, "Nathalie Dupree's Favorite Stories and Recipes" is a beautifully illustrated and delightful resource for planning memorable meals for all dining occasions. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections, it should be noted that "Nathalie Dupree's Favorite Stories and Recipes" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: Cynthia Stevens Graubart is an author and former television producer who began her culinary television production career with New Southern Cooking with Nathalie Dupree in 1985. She is the author of The One-Armed Cook, called the culinary version of What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Cakes for Kids: 40 Easy Recipes That Will Wow!
Juliette Lalbaltry, author
Delphine Constantini, photographer
Gibbs Smith, Publisher
PO Box 667, Layton UT 84041
9781423652823, $16.99, HC, 96pp,

Synopsis: Residing in Paris, France, Juliette Lalbaltry is a food stylist who develops and writes recipes for magazines, her blog (, and various company brands. In "Cakes for Kids: 40 Easy Recipes That Will Wow!" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to compile thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes for forty uniquely decorated and very special treats in the form of playful cakes for kids that are easy to make and taste great. Straight-forward recipes paired with achievable cake decorating instructions makes preparation a breeze. The decorating steps are even simple enough for kids to join in the fun.

Start with one of four foolproof basic cakes to serve as your foundation (yogurt cake, chocolate cake, lemon cake, or vanilla sponge cake), choose your recipe, and get started! From the simplest cakes to the most "complex," every single recipe is suited for even the most novice of bakers: truly a piece of cake.

These creative cake themes for birthdays and holidays include a Rainbow Roll, Tarzan's Jungle, Santa Claus, Halloween Graveyard, Polar Ice Floe, Candy Train, Circus Animals, Race Track, Pirate Ship, Hedgehog, Roaring Lion, Psychedelic Caterpillar, and many more!

Critique: A profusely illustrated and fun resource for making children's parties and celebrations truly memorable, "Cakes for Kids: 40 Easy Recipes That Will Wow!" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections.

Changing the World Through Children
Ruth Dutting Witte
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982235321, $12.99, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: The glorious seedling that is a child's spirit needs to be protected, nurtured, and strengthened. It matters that children are fully aware of their own inner light, that they are able to call on their inner resources: creativity, courage, contentedness, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. We need to teach children at a young age to keep an open mind and heart; to maintain an awareness of their world and their impact on the people around them; to look at their influence in the grand scheme of things.

In order to help kids achieve this, parents need grounding, community support, and resources in raising children with today's rapidly changing and often bewildering expectations. Our children's well-being and spirit of cooperation are enhanced through parent and community involvement in their education. By stepping into their world, we are able to see things more clearly from their perspective, and children come to feel more integrated in their community.

Families get a taste of the learning that is occurring in our children and tend to support that learning by modifying their own actions regarding social responsibility, environmental awareness, and creative expression. In this way, we are truly changing the world through children. "Changing the World Through Children" by Ruth Dutting Witte is a step by step guide incorporating best practices for developing a variety of family and community inclusive programs, and the means to support this method of teaching young children.

Critique: An invaluable, insightful, practical, inspiring, effective and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide for parents and grandparents wanting to instill sterling values of character and community involvement in their children, "Changing the World Through Children" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Parenting collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Changing the World Through Children" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.39).

Paper Flower Art
Jessie Chui
The GMC Group
9781784945442, $34.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Jessie Chui is a self-taught paper floral artist, as well as a lawyer and teacher. She has a business called Crafted to Bloom, which provides bespoke paper florals and floral arrangements and also offers workshops, private lessons and online learning. She has been featured on various blogs and in magazines, including 100 Layer Cake, Lia Griffith's Artist Interview Series, The Paper Place and Wedluxe Magazine, to name a few.

In the pages of "Paper Flower Art: Create Beautifully Realistic Floral Arrangement", Jessie draws upon her impressive expertise and experience to show how to create realistic, everlasting paper flowers and foliage for use in stunning bouquets, buttonholes and table displays. Clear step-by-step photographs and instructions will guide you in making 25 delicate paper blooms for focal pieces, accents, or for height and texture. The flowers include both dramatic and romantic species, such as rose, peony, anemone, cosmos, lisianthus, phlox, baby's breath, magnolia and foxglove.

As well as comprehensive chapters on tools, materials and techniques, including paper manipulation and coloring, "Paper Flower Art" includes a section on the fine art principles of flower arranging. This includes color scheme considerations, scale, positive/negative space, and how to create movement, texture, depth, shape, form and line. Finally, there are instructions on making a range of exquisite bouquets, plus guidance on the aftercare and handling of the finished pieces.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Paper Flower Art: Create Beautifully Realistic Floral Arrangement" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal instructional guide and reference that will be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Papercraft and Flower Arranging collections.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

How Languages Saved Me
Tadeusz Haska & Stefanie Naumann
Koehler Books
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9781633939257, $22.95 HC / $14.95 audiobook 148pp,

Synopsis: "How Languages Saved Me: A Polish Story of Survival" is the life story of Tadeusz 'Tad' Haska, a boy who was orphaned in Poland at the age of thirteen, Haska survived World War II on the run, narrowly evading the Nazis every step of the way. After the war, he daringly escaped jail by the Soviet Secret Police, fled to Sweden and launched an elaborate plan to smuggle his wife in a coffin on an all-male naval ship. It was his knowledge of nine languages that helped him survive in the face of unspeakable adversity.

Critique: Ably told by his granddaughter, Stefanie Naumann, this biography of Tadeusz Haska is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How Languages Saved Me: A Polish Story of Survival" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781633939233, $14.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.39), and in audiobook format (Audible, $14.95).

Editorial Note: Tadeusz Haska was born in 1919 in Mikolajki, Poland and died in 2012. Orphaned at the age of 13, he used his knowledge of nine languages to survive World War II. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1949, where he earned his Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley in Linguistics in his ninth language-English. He taught, and served as chairman, in the Polish Department at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA for 35 years. His work was featured on the TV program The Big Picture.

Stefanie Naumann is the granddaughter of Tadeusz Haska and a Professor of Management in the Eberhardt School of Business at University of the Pacific, where she has taught for 20 years. She earned her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, and has published over 30 journal articles. She is a 20+ year member of the Academy of Management, a lifetime member of the Polish American Genealogical Society of America, and has earned awards for her research, teaching, and service. She maintains a website at

Diamond Ring Buying Guide
Renee Newman GG
International Jewelry Publications
9780929975542, $19.95, PB, 149pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and significantly revised eighth edition, "Diamond Ring Buying Guide: How To Identify, Evaluate & Select The Best Diamonds & Diamond Jewelry" by Renee Newman provides concise yet detailed information on diamond quality evaluation, lab-grown diamonds, fakes, gem treatments, cutting styles, gold, platinum, palladium, silver, alternative metals, settings, ring selection, diamond grading reports, gem care and buying tips.

"Diamond Ring Buying Guide" is a visual guide that helps you select the best diamonds and mounting for your budget and needs. Written in clear, everyday English, with lots of color photos, the book shows you step-by-step how to evaluate diamonds and settings. It has helped thousands of diamond buyers make smart choices and is a useful reference for jewelry salespeople when answering customers questions about diamonds, precious metals and settings.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, this new eight edition of "Diamond Ring Buying Guide" continues to be an ideal and instructive resource for the novice and the seasoned professional alike -- and is unreservedly recommended for personal, company, community, and academic library Gemology reference and resource collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

The Promised End
Ron Singer
9781950730315, $18.00, paperback, 260 pages

Ron Singer's books never disappoint, whatever genre he chooses. This group of short stories shows readers mid-life, old age, and the future with power, tenderness and humor. Singer masterfully navigates through the mundane of every day happenings or unusual occurrences in an exceptionally entertaining style.

Each story is distinct and memorable. From the ramifications of garbage to the fullness of silence, readers will enjoy the journey. I smiled reading of imaginative fun with food obsessions and a fussy man searching for a new barber. I sympathized with a story of criticisms that cut to the bone and took a vicarious, adventuresome trip to Africa. And I worried for the final outcome when an innocent oversight and exchange of emails between American tourists and a Turkish hotel owner trigger a frightening investigation in both countries.

Singer nails the ambiguities of life and the vicissitudes of aging with words that sing across each page of his latest book. The Promised End is a satisfying read, written by a master story teller. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Thinking Women: A Timeline of Suffrage in Utah
Katherine Kitterman & Rebekah Ryan Clark
Deseret Books
57 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
9781629726953, $19.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: "I believe in women, especially thinking women." These timeless words from Emmeline B. Wells, Utah's premier suffragist, aptly capture the passion and power women have to be a force for change in their own lives. With rich, historical images and an easy-to-follow timeline format, "Thinking Women: A Timeline of Suffrage in Utah" by Katherine Kitterman and Rebekah Ryan Clark honors many of those "thinking" women and men in Utah's history who were ardently committed to the political, educational, and professional advancement of women.

"Thinking Women" is Utah's suffrage story as Utah women in 1870 become the first in America to vote with equal suffrage. "Thinking Women" also introduces a polygamous wife who became the first female state senator, and showcases stories of pioneering women up through 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment extended women's suffrage nationwide. With each informative chapter, the reader will gain a better understanding of Utah's rich cultural heritage of women's advocacy and will be inspired to become an active force for good in their own community today.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and unreservedly recommended, "Thinking Women: A Timeline of Suffrage in Utah" is an extraordinary and expertly presented history that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library American History, Utah History, Women's History, and American Political Science History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: Katherine Kitterman is the Historical Director for Better Days 2020. Katherine has extensive research experience in American women's history and Mormon history. Katherine earned her BA in international relations and German studies from Brigham Young University and also earned a master of public policy degree at BYU. She is currently a PhD candidate in American History at American University in Washington, DC. Katherine's dissertation analyzes the rhetoric of Mormon women's petitions for suffrage in nineteenth-century Utah.

Rebekah Clark holds a law degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University and a bachelor's degree in American History and Literature from Harvard University, where she wrote her honors thesis on Utah's participation in the national women's suffrage movement. She participated in a post-graduate research fellowship on Mormon women in the twentieth century at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History. After practicing law for four years in Boston, she worked as a research historian at the Church History Department. She is currently the Historical Research Associate for Better Days 2020.

The Healing Powers Of Essential Oils
Cal Orey
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806539171, $16.95, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile (easily evaporated at normal temperatures) chemical compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove.

An essential oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance -- the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. The term "essential" does not mean indispensable or usable by the human body, as with the terms essential amino acid or essential fatty acid, which are so called because they are nutritionally required by a given living organism.

Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Other processes include expression, solvent extraction, sfumatura, absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, wax embedding, and cold pressing.

Essential oils (including peppermint, eucalyptus, rose, and tea tree) are nature's ancient medicine, abundant with therapeutic effects. The latest scientific research shows that many popular essential oils and aromatherapy can boost health and well-being, adding years to a person's life!

"The Healing Powers of Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Nature's Most Magical Medicine" by Cal Orey is a fascinating guide that showcases the top twenty oils -- all of which are budget-friendly and available year-round in everyday products at your grocery store, health food store, and online.

"The Healing Powers of Essential Oils" can help to: Fight colds and stomach woes with medicinal eucalyptus and mint; slow the aging process and lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and depression with relaxing chamomile and lavender; Naturally enhance flavor in dishes for every season with sweet-smelling foods like Cinnamon Rolls and Gingerbread Squares that lift your mood and trigger fond memories; Discover dozens of home remedies to ease anxiety and stress, improve sleep, sharpen brainpower, increase energy, heal skin problems, and more.

Of special note is the inclusion of more than 50 recipes for delicious dishes from salads, soups and entrees to desserts, including Lemon Oil Raspberry Muffins and Roast Chicken with Rosemary.

Critique: Featuring a section of full color photographs, "The Healing Powers of Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Nature's Most Magical Medicine" is a throughly 'user friendly' and impressively comprehensive compendium of information on the constitution and use of essential oils for health and nutrition. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted that "The Healing Powers of Essential Oils" is also readily available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Cal Orey is a Northern California-based accomplished author and journalist specializing in topics such as health, nutrition, science, and pets. Her books include the hugely popular Healing Powers book series translated in 20 languages. The Healing Powers of Vinegar, 3rd edition (Dec. 2018), The Healing Powers of Superfoods (Dec. 2018), The Healing Powers of Tea, The Healing Powers of Honey, The Healing Powers Chocolate, The Healing Powers of Coffee. Orey's reader-friendly prose is warm and witty, created in a down-to-earth first-person narrative.

Aline and the Blue Bottle
Carolina Ugaz-Moran
Independently Published
9781734072822, $27.99, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: In the beginning there was only One World, where creatures with white magic, with black magic, and with no magic lived. As their powers grew, so did the thirst for power until it all ends during the War of Magic. The One World is divided into 8 worlds: 7 with magic and 1 with no magic--the human world.

For thousands of years, the 8 worlds live in peace. But secrets begin to brew to either protect or to threaten the peace. One secret, was Aline, who lives in the human world with no awareness of the other seven magical worlds. Where nothing special ever happens to her. She lives a plain life with horrible school mates where she has no friends.

On her 12thbirthday, on Halloween, she has to flee to a new magical world. In this world she learns that she has magical powers and must figure out how to use them in order to defend herself from a horrible warlock named Dashiok. She meets two sisters, Cristina, a nature sylph, and Sofia, a sense sylph, who become her best friends. Together they receive powers from magical meteors in an Endowing Ceremony.

During her training sessions with the sisters, she discovers that a magical blue bottle needs Aline's help. Dashiok wants to use the powerful blue bottle to take over the 8 worlds. This leads Aline to go on her first quest. Some of the members of the High Wizard Council join Aline and her friends and they become the quest carriers.

The quest carriers travel through the Winding Forest, the Bleak forest, and finally the Southern Shores where they fight an army of hobgoblins, enchanted colossals, and yawares to find the blue bottle. Here Aline faces Yakar, the first and only vampire.

Aline finds out that before she was born, when Dashiok was trying to take her, he transfers some of Yakar's powers to Aline and this creates the only real connection Yakar ever had to another leaving being. The link between the Yakar and Aline secures her safety, and the quest carriers are able to take the blue bottle away from Dashiok.

Children ages 8-12 will enjoy seeing if they can uncover all of the secrets hidden in the magical worlds where Aline and her friends have their adventures. While highly recommended for both school and community library Fantasy Fiction collections for young readers, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aline and the Blue Bottle" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781734072808, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Willa and the Whale
Chad Morris & Shelly Brown
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629727318, $16.99, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: After losing her mom, Willa is grieving and having a hard time living with her dad and his new family on an island off the coast of Washington State. Her dad tries to cheer her up by taking her whale watching, something Willa's mom used to do.

While all the passengers are on one side of the boat, Willa encounters a humpback whale on the opposite side. Willa feels so lonely that she starts to talk to the whale -- and the whale talks back!

The whale, named Meg, quickly becomes a trusted friend and confidante Willa can speak to whenever she's by the ocean. Meg offers sound advice Willa needs about dealing with a nemesis at school and trying to figure out why her friend Marc is keeping secrets about his family life.

Before the story ends, it will take all of Willa's courage and connections to tackle a problem that's as big as a blue whale!

Critique: An impressively original, deftly crafted and throughly entertaining novel for children ages 8-12, "Willa and the Whale" showcases authors Chad Morris and Shelly Brown's collaborative storytelling skills and will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library general fiction collections for young readers.

Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids
Rowena Rae
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780897339339, $16.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Rachel Carson was an American biologist, conservationist, science and nature writer, and catalyst of the modern environmental movement. She studied biology in college at a time when few women entered the sciences, and then worked as a biologist and information specialist for the US government and wrote about the natural world for many publications. Carson is best remembered for her book Silent Spring, which exposed the widespread misuse of chemical pesticides in the United States and sparked both praise and fury.

Rachel Carson's personal life and scientific career were rooted in the study of nature. Using examples from Carson's life and works, "Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas" will introduce kids ages 9-12 to ecology concepts such as the components of ecosystems, adaptations by living things, energy cycles, food chains and food webs, and the balance of ecosystems. This lively biography includes a time line, resources, sidebars, and 21 hands-on activities that are sure to inspire the next generation of scientists, thinkers, leaders, agricultural producers, environmental activists, and world citizens.

The kids will: Collect a seed bank of local plant species; Chart bird migration through their region; Make birdseed cookies; Model bioaccumulation and biomagnification; Build a worm farm - and much, much more!

Critique: Featuring black and white illustrations throughout, "Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas" is thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation. Each DIY step-by-step project is perfectly showcased, making this compendium a highly recommended addition to home schooling, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for your readers. It should be noted that "Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Rowena Rae worked as a biologist in New Zealand and Canada before turning to a freelance science writing and editing career, during which she has contributed to numerous science magazines and textbooks. She maintains a website at

Badass Black Girl
M. J. Fievre
Mango Publishing
9781642501728, $16.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: In "Badass Black Girl: Quotes, Questions, and Affirmations for Teens", MJ Fievre tackles topics such as family and friends, school and careers, body image, and stereotypes in a journal format specifically designed for teenage girls. By reflecting on these topics, young readers ages 12-16 confront the issues that can hold them back from living their lives. The underlying messages are to embrace authenticity and celebrate who you are.

Finding the courage to live as you are is not easy, so "Badass Black Gril" is an ideal journal designed to help young girls to nurture their creativity, self-motivation, and positive self-awareness. This is a journal that celebrates girl power and honors the strength and spirit of black girls.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Badass Black Girl: Quotes, Questions, and Affirmations for Teens" is especially recommended for school and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections for teens and young adults. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Badass Black Girl" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Freaky in Fresno
Laurie Boyle Crompton
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780310767473, $18.99, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: Ricki has one goal: save the Starlight Drive-in movie theater from going dark forever. Okay, make that two goals -- she may also want a first kiss from her cinema-rescuing partner and major crush, Jake. Lana definitely has only one goal: grow her online makeup channel to keep her momager off her back, even if the posts attract ugly internet trolls.

The two cousins couldn't be more different, but their opposite personalities come crashing to a head when their aunt gifts the girls a vintage cotton-candy-pink convertible. To share. Ricki wants the convertible for the drive-in's grand reopening, but it's the same day as Digifest, a huge event where Lana needs to shine. After a major fight and a minor electric shock while wrestling over the wheel, Ricki wakes up as Lana, and Lana wakes up as Ricki.

Ricki and Lana have only a day to un-Freaky Friday themselves, a task made even more difficult as they try to keep up appearances on Lana's channel and with Ricki's hopefully soon-to-be-kissed crush. But it turns out experiencing a day as each other (with a mini road trip and Chihuahua wrangling) may be the one thing that help the cousins see each other and themselves more clearly.

Critique: A delightfully entertaining novel for young readers ages 12-18, "Freaky In Fresno" by Laurie Boyle Crompton is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both school and community library Teen & YA romance fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Freaky In Fresno" is also available in a paperback edition ( 9780310767275, $10.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781690587460, $22.99, CD).

A River of Royal Blood
Amanda Joy
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780525518587, $18.99, HC, 368pp.,

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of blood and marrow -- a dark and terrible magick that hasn't been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina's long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne -- because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye--and it isn't just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa's death or her own.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "A River of Royal Blood" is author Amanda Joy's debut as a fantasy novelist, this original, deftly written, and thoroughly engaging read that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both school and community library collections for dedicated fantasy fans ages 12-17. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A River of Royal Blood" is also available in a paperback edition (9781984816528, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Judaism and Jesus
Zev Garber & Kenneth Hanson
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
9781527541290, $119.95, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: "Judaism and Jesus" represents the hands-on experience in the world of academia of by two Jewish scholars, one of Orthodox background and the other a convert to the Jewish faith.

As a series of separate but interrelated essays, "Judaism and Jesus" approaches multiple issues touching both the historical Jesus (himself a pious Jew) and the modern phenomenon of Messianic Judaism. It bridges the gap between the typically isolated disciplines of Jewish and Christian scholarship and forges a fresh level of understanding across religious boundaries.

"Judaism and Jesus" also delves into such issues as the nature and essence of Jesus message (pietistic, militant or something of a hybrid), and whether Messianic Jews should be welcome in the larger Jewish community. Its ultimate challenge is to view sound scholarship as a means of bringing together disparate faith traditions around a common academic table. Serious research of the great Nazarene becomes an ideal basis for interfaith discourse.

Critique: A unique and collective work of seminal and meticulously presented scholarship, "Judaism and Jesus" is an impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking work that will prove to have an enduring value for the study of first century Jewish Christianity and as a curriculum textbook for seminary, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Zev Garber is Emeritus Professor and Chair of Jewish Studies and Philosophy at Los Angeles Valley College, and he has served as President of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. He has authored hundreds of articles and reviews, and his publications include 14 academic books, including Mel Gibsons Passion: The Film, the Controversy, and Its Implications; The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation; and Teaching the Historical Jesus.

Kenneth Hanson is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the University of Central Florida Judaic Studies Program. His many scholarly articles focus on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the historical Jesus, and Jewish Christianity. He has published several books of popular scholarship, including Dead Sea Scrolls: The Untold Story and Secrets from the Lost Bible. He teaches a wide range of courses, including the Hebrew language and literature, the Hebrew Bible, and the historical Jesus.

Healing Resistance
Kazu Haga
Parallax Press
PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781946764430, $17.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: As proclaimed by Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., nonviolence was once considered the highest form of activism and radical change. And yet its basic truth, its restorative power, has been forgotten in these current and dramatically polarized times.

In "Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm", leading nonviolence trainer Kazu Haga blazingly reclaims the energy and assertiveness of nonviolent practice and shows that a principled approach to nonviolence is the way to transform not only unjust systems but broken relationships.

With over 20 years of experience practicing and teaching Kingian Nonviolence, Haga offers us a practical approach to societal conflict first begun by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, which has been developed into a fully workable, step-by-step training and deeply transformative philosophy (as utilized by the Women's March and Black Lives Matter movements). Kingian Nonviolence takes on the timely issues of endless protest and activist burnout, and presents tried-and-tested strategies for staying resilient, creating equity, and restoring peace.

Critique: A comprehensive and practical instructional guide and manual for nonviolent responses to oppression, suppression, and violence that continues to be so rampant today, "Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, political activists, social reformers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject the "Healing Reistance" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Kazu Haga is the founder of East Point Peace Academy and one of the most experienced trainers in Kingian Nonviolence, a philosophy that comes out of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A leading voice nationally in various approaches to nonviolence, organizing and restorative justice, he works to empower incarcerated communities, youth, and activists to work for Beloved Community.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

The Age of AI
Jason Thatcher
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310357643, $22.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Through new technologies such Alexa we interact with artificial intelligence, or AI, nearly every moment of the day without knowing it. From our Twitter and Facebook social media feeds to our online carts to smart thermostats and Alexa and Google Home, AI is everywhere. In "The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity), Jason Thacker (who is an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) helps the reader to navigate our digital age in this thoughtful exploration of the social, moral, and ethical challenges of our ongoing interactions with artificial intelligence.

Applying God's Word to this new AI-empowered age, "The Age of AI" shows us how Christian truth transforms how we use AI in order to love God and our neighbor better. It serves as a guide for those wary of technology's impact on our society and also for those who are enthusiastic about where AI is taking us. Jason explains how AI affects us individually, in our relationships, and in our society at large as he addresses AI's impact on our bodies, sexuality, work, economics, and privacy. With theological depth and a wide awareness of the current trends in AI, Jason is a steady guide reminding us that while AI is changing most things, it does not change the foundations of the Christian faith.

Critique: A unique, timely, and exceptionally well presented study from a Christian perspective of the impact AI is making on our daily lives, "The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to church, community, seminary, and academic library Science & Religion collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, clergy, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799732822, $22.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Jason Thacker serves as the Creative Director and an Associate Research Fellow at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee in Knoxville and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His writing has been featured at The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and many more.

The Torture Doctors
Steven H. Miles, M.D.
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626167520, $25.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Torture doctors administer and invent techniques to inflict pain and suffering without leaving scars. Their knowledge of the body and its breaking points and their credible authority over death certificates and medical records make them powerful and elusive perpetrators of the crime of torture. In "The Torture Doctors: Human Rights Crimes and the Road to Justice, Dr. Steven H. Miles fearlessly explores who these physicians are, what they do, how they escape justice, and what can be done to hold them accountable.

At least one hundred countries employ torture doctors, including both dictatorships and democracies. While torture doctors mostly act with impunity (protected by governments, medical associations, and licensing boards) Dr. Miles shows that a movement has begun to hold these doctors accountable and to return them to their proper role as promoters of health and human rights. Dr. Miles's groundbreaking portrayal exposes the thinking and psychology of these doctors, and his investigation points to how the international human rights community and the medical community can come together to end these atrocities.

Critique: Grim but documented reading, "The Torture Doctors: Human Rights Crimes and the Road to Justice" reveals that the use of medical physicians to deliberately inflict pain upon human beings for the purposes of extracting information, control, or revenge did not end with the defeat of the Nazi's and the liberation of their concentration camps. A detailed work of substantial and meticulous scholarship, "The Torture Doctors" is highly recommended for both community and academic library Medical Ethics and Human Rights collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, human rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Torture Doctors" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Steven H. Miles, MD is Professor of Medicine and Bioethics Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He has extensively written in medical ethics including on doctors who abet torture (Oath Betrayed & The Torture Doctors) and on the Hippocratic Oath.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

What's the Problem? A Story Teaching Problem Solving
Bryan Smith, author
Lisa M. Griffin, illustrator
Boys Town Press
13603 Flanagan Blvd., Boys Town, NE 68010
9781944882389, $10.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 32pp, Ages 5-8,

From the Executive FUNction series of kid-friendly books teaching social skills, "What's the Problem?" presents kids facing common problems who first resort to less responsible solutions for their problems, but later learn to use a system called SODA: (Situation, Options, Disadvantages, Advantages, and Solution) to effectively plan solutions to all kinds of problems.

First Braden argues with his younger brother Blake about who should play with the video game controller. Their father intervened and suggested SODAS, not a drink, but a strategy for problem solving. It starts with 4 steps to problem solving: 1. Identify the problem Situation. 2. Think of all you Options for dealing with the situation. 3. Consider the possible Disadvantages and Advantages of each option. and 4. Choose an option as your Solution and then do it. The specifics of Braden and Blake's analysis resulted in their choosing a solution which was acceptable to all (playing rock, paper, scissors to decide who uses the controller first).

The next person who tries out SODAS is Savannah, who was angry at Mary, because friends had told her Mary called her a meanie. Braden helped Savannah track down her problem and check out options before arriving at a good solution, which involved talking directly to Mary. This allowed Savannah to realize that although Mary did call her a meanie, it was due to a misunderstanding involving a lost birthday party invitation. Again, using SODAS led to a good solution to the problem.

The teacher suggested to Braden that SODAS could also be used to help make other decisions, like deciding which of two simultaneous parties to attend. Other examples follow and also a helpful page called Tips for parents and Educators. "What's the Problem?" is an excellent solutions package, and it reaffirms that SODAS work in many different situations!

Ben and the Missing Pony: A Choctaw Adventure
Una Belle Townsend, author
Gwen Coleman Lester, illustrator
Doodle and Peck Publishing
P.O. Box 852105, Yukon, OK 73085
9780999249772, $9.99 (soft cover)
9780999249789, $18.99 (hard cover),

"Ben and the Missing Pony" tell the exciting story of two friends, Ben and C. W., who discover an injured pony on a fishing trip. Delicate colored illustrations portray Ben as a Choctaw boy and C. W. as a white boy. The two friends are very concerned about the injured pony. Attempting to care for it, they wash and bandage the barbed wire wounds on its legs and stable it in an abandoned barn with food, bedding, and water. Not knowing whose the pony is, they fantasize about keeping it for themselves. Then the boys discover there is a Heritage Horse of Oklahoma missing and there is a reward for its return.

The boys fear that the pony might be taken and turned in for the reward money by a friend, Toby, who lives near the abandoned barn. Together they find a poster for the Heritage pony and make a phone call to tell the owner of the pony's location. Soon the owner drives up in a truck and tells the boys their pony is named Bakoa Chiponta or Tiny Spots. When he offers Ben and C. W. the reward, they refuse it, glad that the pony will receive attention and care from its owner. Then the Choctaw owner thanked the boys and invited them to his ranch where they could see a herd of Choctaw ponies and practice jobs as ranch hands! It is a happy ending for two boys who cared about the Heritage Choctaw pony they had rescued.

A fine bi-cultural detail of "Ben and the Missing Pony" is the inclusion of many Choctaw words with their English meanings in parentheses in the story narration. A glossary of terms at the end of the book lists all Choctaw words, their meaning, and their pronunciations. The second book in a series, "Ben and the Missing Pony" is a great bi-cultural adventure story with Choctaw history and Oklahoma Heritage Horse history woven into it. Kids will love reading "Ben and the Missing Pony" and learning the real Choctaw words to help tell the story.

Star of Jupiter
Kurt Rosenwinkel, composer/guitarist
Denin Koch, transcriber
Mel Bay Publications
5166 Commercial Drive, Yorkville, NY 13495
9781513464800, $19.99 PB, $19.99 Kindle, 103 pages,

"Star of Jupiter" is a transcription of 12 guitar solos from the album of the same name played by Kurt Rosenwinkel. Each solo is presented in standard notation and guitar tablature with chord symbols mirroring Rosenwinkel's original lead sheets. Each solo also has a one page analysis of the solo's most prominent challenges, features, and techniques.

The fingering presented is logically consistent for each phrase based on what precedes it and what follows it. Others may discover alternate fingerings that work for them.

Solos represented include: Gamma Band, Welcome Home, Something, Sometime, Mr. Hope, Heavenly Bodies, Homage a'mitch, Spirit Kiss, Kurt 1, Under It All, A Shifting Design, Deja Vu, and Star of Jupiter. These jazz guitar solos represent Kurt Rosenwinkel at his best and most challenging.

An interesting codex to the analyses of the pieces appears on page 86, the analysis for Deja Vu. It lists examples of the following techniques referenced in the 12 solos included as follows (measure numbers are not included here): "Pentatonics (Gamma Band), Common tones (Gamma Band), Referencing the melody (Welcome Home), Motivic development (Something, Sometime), Pedal-point lines (Something, Sometime), Wide-ranging lines (Something, Sometime), Blues (Mr. Hope), Voice leading (Mr. Hope), and Patterns repeating consecutively in different octaves (Kurt 1). "

This collection of guitar jazz solo improvisations contains wide variations on many familiar and some unfamiliar themes, presented in a clear, readable, accessible notation. It should prove most interesting to guitar players wishing to immerse themselves in the inimitable style of Kurt Rosenwinkel's "signature improvisational approach."

The analyses and descriptions of each solo are particularly intriguing. "Star of Jupiter" is a tribute to the work of Kurt Rosenwinkel and to the dedication of transcriber Denin Koch.

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come
Mildred D. Taylor
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780399257308, $19.99, HC, 496pp,

Synopsis: The story of the civil rights movement in America of the 20th century, Cassie Logan, whom readers first met in "Song of the Trees" and "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry", is a young woman now, searching for her place in the world, a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately, in the 60s, home to Mississippi
to participate in voter registration. Cassie is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change.

Critique: "All the Days Past, All the Days to Come" by Mildred Taylor completes a sweeping saga about the Logan family of Mississippi and is unreservedly recommended for highschool and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "All the Days Past, All the Days to Come" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Listening Library, 9780593155714, $60.00, CD).

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Handprints on Hubble
Kathryn D. Sullivan
The MIT Press
One Rogers Street, Cambridge MA 02142-1209
9780262043182, $26.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. It has, among many other achievements, revealed thousands of galaxies in what seemed to be empty patches of sky; transformed our knowledge of black holes; found dwarf planets with moons orbiting other stars; and measured precisely how fast the universe is expanding.

In "Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention", retired astronaut Kathryn Sullivan describes her work on the NASA team that made all of this possible. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, recounts how she and other astronauts, engineers, and scientists launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained Hubble, the most productive observatory ever built.

Along the way, Sullivan chronicles her early life as a "Sputnik Baby," her path to NASA through oceanography, and her initiation into the space program as one of "thirty-five new guys." (She was also one of the first six women to join NASA's storied astronaut corps.) She describes in vivid detail what liftoff feels like inside a spacecraft (it's like "being in an earthquake and a fighter jet at the same time"), shows us the view from a spacewalk, and recounts the temporary grounding of the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster.

Sullivan explains that "maintainability" was designed into Hubble, and she describes the work of inventing the tools and processes that made on-orbit maintenance possible. Because in-flight repair and upgrade was part of the plan, NASA was able to fix a serious defect in Hubble's mirrors -- leaving literal and metaphorical "handprints on Hubble".

Critique: As informatively detailed as it is inherently fascinating, "Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention" is an extraordinary combination of memoir and history that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Handprints on Hubble" is also available in a paperback edition (9780262539647, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.42).

Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist in America
Antonio Senta, author
Andrea Asali & Sean Sayers, translators
AK Press
370 Ryan Avenue, #100, Chico, CA 95973
9781849353489, $18.00, PB, 220pp,

Synopsis: Luigi Galleani (August 12, 1861 - November 4, 1931) is considered, along with Errico Malatesta, to be the most influential militant of Italian-speaking anarchism. First in Italy and then in the United States, where he arrived at age forty, he was well-known as a tireless thinker, agitator, and public speaker who attracted large numbers of workers to the revolutionary cause and, often, to acts of direct action and "propaganda of the deed."

Though frequently glimpsed in numerous histories of radical movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, little has been written about Galleani in English. "Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist in America", ably translated from the Italian by the team of Andrea Asali and Sean Sayers, brings the fascinating biography of one of the most charismatic exponents of workers' struggles to a new audience.

"Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist in America" skillfully animates Galleani's life and ideas, from his early life in Italy, though his time in America, to his deportation back to his homeland, where he was soon jailed by the Fascists. Anarchist history scholar Antonio Senta's portrayal of the man who edited the infamous Cronaca Sovversiva and inspired a movement of "Galleanisti," which included such figures as the political martyrs Sacco and Vanzetti, provides a thorough introduction to the man and his times, one that will reward both scholars and activists.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, "Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist in America" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Anarchism History and Historical Italy Biography 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 "Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist in America" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

Activating the Gift of Prophecy: Your Guide to Receiving & Sharing What God is Saying
Jermaine & Rebecca Francis
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451504, $10.99, 168 pages

Training in the Principles, Protocols, and Proper Practice for Ministering Personal Prophecies to Others

Activating the Gift of Prophecy - Your Guide to Receiving & Sharing What God is Saying" is designed to provide useful tools and practical exercises for putting into place a meaningful plan for entering into a prophetic ministry.

I found this information and the exercises to be very helpful, practical, empowering, and enlightening. The authors write with passion; they are Holy Spirit inspired. Their writing is fast-moving, exciting, highly stimulating, and right on target, written in present truth, and a "now revelation" of God. They take the mystery out of the prophetic ministry by clarifying answers the questions:

What is Prophecy?

What are Ways to Hear God's Voice?

Why is Using Discernment Important?

What are Protocols in Prophecy?

What is meant by The Language of Prophecy?

What are some Keys to Practicing More?

The foreword by Tom and Jane Hamon and the introduction by Bill Hamon speak highly of Jermaine and Rebecca Francis and their ministry with the ChristianInternational organization founded by Dr. Tom Hamon.

"Activating the Gift of Prophecy" is a clear call to a new generation to activate their prophetic gift so that others can hear God's voice to impact their world.

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

Choose Your Perspective: 7 Tips for High Performance through Intentional Thinking
John Martin
Sound Wisdom
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640951426, $15.99, 176 pages

Choosing Your Perspective and Using this Outlook to Your Advantage

John Martin has a unique way of helping his reader attain high performance through intentional thinking. He inspired me with his tips and tools by changing the way I look at things.

The attention-grabbing front cover, through the seven chapters of insight, advice, and reflections to the conclusion, Choose Your Perspective will capture and hold your attention with the seven thought-provoking principles, a well-planned format with chapter highlights that carry you forward as well as planting ideas to a deeper level of purpose and understanding.

I have gained a new awareness of how my preconceived perspectives and judgments are often wrong, and I have noted improvement in my life as I become more deeply aware of my negative thought patterns. I am discovering new freedom to choose my perspective. I am learning to turn the monotony of negative thoughts into a more meaningful and inspiring mode. I understand how intentional thinking requires patience, discernment, and how awareness can become a significant lifetime process. I can highly recommend John Martin's new book, Choose Your Perspective.

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

Vessels of Fire & Glory
Mario Murillo
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780758451610, $TBA 148 pages

A Spiritual Awakening - A Fresh Wave of God's Power Over the Nations

Mario Murillo calls for a Lazarus Generation to become a part of a national movement to meet Satan's opposition head-on. In his book Vessels of Fire & Glory Murillo traces revival movements from the well-remembered Azusa Street Revival as well as the impact of more recent revivalists.

The Book is divided into three sections beginning with "Before there can be a Great Awakening there must be a Rude Awakening."

Murillo goes on to warn of Satan's intent on destroying America and the need for:

A massive moral awakening

A rediscovery of the power of the Holy Spirit

Truth that convicts

A Soul-Winning Fervor

Vessels of Fire & Glory opened my eyes and got my attention, which led to a long-awaited God encounter. My heart has been ignited with a new sense of urgency. Mario writes with a passion resulting in a clarion call to action. I want to urge you to get a copy of the book and join me in discovering your appointed assignment in ushering in the next Great Awakening.

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

Getting a Grip on the Spirit-Empowered Life
Beth Hones
Harrison House Publishers
9781680314090, $15.99

A Supernatural Adventure - for a Thirsty Soul

Getting a Grip on the Spirit-Empowered Life is a teaching tool on the dynamics of the Spirit-filled life. The book is formatted as combination workbook and filled with life stories, solid teaching, and profound provoking questions.

The book is divided into four sessions:

1. Getting to Know the Holy Spirit

2. Being Filled with the Spirit

3. Praying in the Holy Spirit

4. Being Led by the Holy Spirit

The ensuing chapters develop each of these topics in-depth, with a combination of stories of Beth's experiences, and solid scriptural teaching our the persons of the Godhead and the importance each of them are to Getting a Grip on the Spirit-Empowered Life.

Beth's writing is contagiously enthusiastic. I was profoundly encouraged and highly motivated, as I moved from theory to life change as I experienced a fresh boldness in my relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Getting a Grip on the Spirit-Empowered Life will resonate and connect with readers experiencing an internal emptiness, readers eagerly looking for an authentic encounter with the Holy Spirit, and readers desirous of a new freshness in their walk with the Spirit.

Thank you, Beth Jones, for enlarging my appreciation of the amazing grace of Jesus, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit.

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

Kingdom in Plain Sight: Your Invitation to Access and Release Heaven's Provision
Adrian Beale
Destiny Image Publications, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451870, $16.99, 218 pages

A New Depth of Interpreting and

Understanding of the Scriptures

Adrian Beale's book Kingdom Mysteries-Hidden in Plain Sight is a Kingdom field manual, a biblical framework, a spiritual guidebook into the depths of the Kingdom.

Adrian's writing is Holy Spirit conceived, backed by Scripture helping the reader better understand Kingdom principles. He challenges the reader to explore the finished work in light of Christ's glorious Kingdom while moving into a profound journey into the realm of the Spirit of God.

The book is filled with revelatory insights, with a panoramic view of the landscape of eternity. Forty short chapters make this an ideal book for daily reflection, or personal devotions, for moving you into the land of God's incredible promises.

I was particularly blessed as I developed a more profound love for the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus, and moved into a the fresh pursuit of God. Chapter applications introduce heartfelt suggestions for using your sanctified imagination for going beyond a surface reading of Bible passages to recognize the essence of the joy of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives, Today!.

Kingdom Mysteries-Hidden in Plain Sight is a a book will want to refer to often, study more deeply, and follow through on the applications.

I can highly recommend Adrian Beale as compelling, challenging, and deeply committed.

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

Chosen by God
Rick Renner
Harrison House Publishers
9781680313673, $17.99

Recognizing God's Divine Assignment - Pursue, Protect, and Possess Your Purpose

In his book, Chosen by God, Rick Renner challenges the reader to recognize that God has chosen each of us for a Divine Assignment.

He encouraged me to fulfill God's will for my making me feel as though, Chosen by God was written with me in mind. Rick challenged me to revisit my dreams, restore my vision, and fulfill my purpose. Then he asked, "Will you dare to fulfill your calling?

Rick has a unique way of getting the reader's full attention with thought-provoking questions that ignite the heart. The questions for Personal Growth or Group Discussion are power-packed, deeply profound, personally challenging, and worthy of a prayerful response.

Lessons from the lives of Paul, David, and Samuel provide examples of what to avoid and what to look for when choosing ministry leaders. These men showed indispensable qualities for leadership: obedience, discipline, and righteousness.

Rick has a passion for ministry, an evident love for the Lord, and a deep concern for people. Rick's writing encouraged me to develop an eagerness to share my passion, to be a godly example of standing for my convictions, surrendering my will to God's will, and encouraging others in their calling. He has challenged me to explore my dreams, get a vision for the future, while discovering God's plan for my life, and to remember that His sufficiency makes up for my lack. He is waiting for me to believe - no more excuses.

The Seer Dimensions
Jennifer Leclaire
Destiny Image Books, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768453867, $16.99, 164 pages

Instruction in the Realm of the Prophetic and the Dimension of the Seer

Activating Your Prophetic Sight to See the Unseen is the emphasis and theme of Jennifer Leclaire's book The Seer's Dimensions.

Leclaire traces the history of the prophetic movement using Old and New Testament examples, as well as more modern day seers, including William Branham, Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, the Azusa Street Revival and the Jesus People. She also refers to many other significant prophetic trends, events, and leaders, including the Global Prophets Summit of 2017.

Readers experienced in the realm of the prophetic gifts or readers new to the revelatory field will benefit from Jennifer's message. Foundational principles and Biblical insights explore the domain of the prophetic and the dimension of the seer.

Using illustrations from her own experience and examples from the Scriptures, Jennifer clarifies the extraordinary moral and spiritual insight of those with prophetic anointing as seers in dreams, visions, through spiritual eyes, perceived by the Holy Spirit.

The Seer Dimensions will provide the reader with a deeper understanding and in learning to embrace the gift of the seer and navigate in its realm.

Jennifer LeClaire is highly recognized for her leadership in the prayer movement, a prolific author, and a former editor of Charisma magazine. Jennifer's writing is consistently encouraging and uplifting.

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

The Bible By Jesus, The complete Old and New Testaments - A Modern Paraphrase
Elmer L. Towns
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451337, $24.99, 1768 Pages

Readability, and Reliability of the Paraphrase

The Bible By Jesus The Complete Old and New Testament, a Modern Paraphrase is more than a paraphrase; it is a fresh approach to Bible translation.

The eyes of my imagination opened as Jesus spoke, and the world came into being. He was there each of the six days of creation. I marveled with Noah, as he looked out of the ark to see a rainbow. I imagined Moses as he worshiped on Holy ground as the Lord spoke to Him through a burning bush.

I met Jesus again in the writings of David and Isaiah, foretelling His suffering and God's plan of redemption for and Christ's sacrifice on the cross. I walked with the man Jesus as he performed miracles and trained His disciples and taught the multitudes.

Readers will discover, with me, a whole new level of closeness to the Lord Himself as the Scriptures are opened in a fresh new way. Each book of the Bible begins with a word from Jesus, giving the reader insight into the purpose and content.

These words proved to be very helpful in getting a better perspective of the purpose for me as I received a new appreciation of the teachings of Jesus throughout the Scriptures.

The Bible By Jesus The Complete Old and New Testament - A Modern Paraphrase is highly endorsed by well known Christian leaders, teachers, and pastors.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Man From Skibbereen
Louis L'Amour
Bantam Books
c/o Random House
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
9780553249064, $5.99, 1973, 231 pages

Louis L'Amour wrote mostly historical fiction (Western) with a few contemporary stories. He made his daily income from writing the horse opera type Western. The Man From Skibbereen is your typical horse opera. It has all of the typical tropes you expect -- The lone hero with a few friends, the villain, the damsel in distress. It has the expected fist fights, shoot-outs, chases and showdowns. What makes even L'Amours basic horse opera so good is the how skilled he is fleshing out characters and scenes with just a few basic words. He also has an unusually good way of incorporating real history and locations into the story. With few exceptions when L'Amour has a location in a story or a bit of history, you can find the real location or bit of history.

Crispin Mayo is an Irishman from Skibbereen who was recruited to help build the railroad. He accidentally gets left behind at a water stop and finds himself in the middle of a gang of ex-Confederate raiders focused on kidnapping and murder.

The story is unique in that Crispin is fresh off the boat from Ireland. You get to learn about the old West through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time.

Anyone interested in the Western genre will not be disappointed with the story. It has everything you would expect in a Western and the quality of the writing is better than most. History buffs will enjoy the tale because of the accuracy of all aspects of the setting. The only weakness in the tale is that the story is a little too compact. The early Western market was focused on very short stories that fit the old pulp market. A few extra pages here and there would help fill in the details between action sequences and the narration.

The Loch Ness Legacy: Tyler Loche 4
Boyd Morrison
Gordian Fiction
Amazon Digital Services LLC
9781484966341, $10.95, paper
B00DQ16M7A, $4.99, ebook, 449 pages, 2013

The Loch Ness Legacy is an action thriller. It has a nice mix of technical details but it has one significant drawback. Action is put first in the story placing every other aspect of the story second. Among other things this makes the narration choppy and pulls the reader out of the story.

Tyler Loche and his friends and associates are at the Eiffel Tower for a diplomatic party when terrorists attack. They blunt the attack but a poison has been released that could start a third world war. Tyler investigates the attack and follows the leads to the West Coast of the US and back to Europe. The very well-funded terrorists have both the money and manpower to lethally counter his every move. Can Tyler win the race to stop a world war?

The Loch Ness Legacy is recommended for action or tech junkies. The technical details are great. With the spotty story flow more traditional readers will have problems. The ebook pricing is a little high for a small publisher ebook with the few narration problems it has but it has gone on sale and should again in the future. The Loch Ness Legacy would have a broader recommendation when it is on sale, since the lower price easily compensates for the narration and story pacing problems.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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