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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 3 March 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Habit Forming: Drug Addiction in America, 1776-1914
Elizabeth Kelly Gray
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190073121, $125.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Habitual drug use in the United States is at least as old as the nation itself.

With the publication of "Habit Forming: Drug Addiction in America, 1776-1914", Elizabeth Kelly Gray (Associate Professor of History at Towson University, Towson, Maryland) traces the history of unregulated drug use and dependency before 1914, when the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act limited sales of opiates and cocaine under US law.

Many Americans used opiates and other drugs medically and became addicted. Some tried Hasheesh Candy, injected morphine, or visited opium dens, but neither use nor addiction was linked to crime, due to the dearth of restrictive laws. After the Civil War, American presses published extensively about domestic addiction. Later in the nineteenth century, many used cocaine and heroin as medicine.

As addiction became a major public health issue, commentators typically sympathized with white, middle-class drug users, while criticizing such use by poor or working-class people and people of color. When habituation was associated with middle-class morphine users, few advocated for restricted drug access. By the 1910s, as use was increasingly associated with poor young men, support for regulations increased.

In outlawing users' access to habit-forming drugs at the national level, a public health problem became a larger legal and social problem, one with an enduring influence on American drug laws and their enforcement.

Critique: A seminal and impressively informative medical, social, political, and cultural history of drug use in America, "Habit Forming: Drug Addiction in America, 1776-1914" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a thirty-eight page Bibliography, fifty pages of Notes, and an eight page Index. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780197646694, $33.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99), "Habit Forming: Drug Addiction in America, 1776-1914" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library History of Medicine/Addiction collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Elizabeth Kelly Gray earned her PhD from the College of William and Mary in 2002 for her dissertation, "American Attitudes Toward British Imperialism, 1815 - 1860." Her research interests are American history in an international context in the early national and antebellum eras, focusing on cultural history, and diplomatic history, with particular interest in the history of addiction and American foreign relations. A listing of her publications is on the Towson University site:

Everyday Activism
J. W. Buck
Baker Books
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781540902610, $29.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Many Christians think of activism as signing petitions, attending rallies or marches, or engaging in political agendas. But what does it look like to be moved by the things that moved God's heart in the day-to-day? How can we live in such a way that we are always, out of habit, contributing to a more just society?

Inspiring and accessible, with the publication of "Everyday Activism: Following 7 Practices of Jesus to Create a Just World", pastor J. W. Buck shows you how to engage in 7 practices to be a faithful activist in the world today, including choosing: Thoughtful resistance over thoughtless compliance; Loving your neighbor over fearing your differences; Seeking forgiveness over revenge; Resting over endless working; Practicing nonviolence over violence, and more!

If you have ever wanted, as a practicing Christian, to get involved in justice work but aren't sure where to start, "Everyday Activism" is a practical and visually engaging guide that will show you how you can develop everyday habits drawn from the life of Jesus that make the world a better place.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of three Appendices (Justice Matrix; Jubilee Action Plan; Life of Jesus Starter Kit), ten pages of Notes, and a three page Scripture Index, "Everyday Activism: Following 7 Practices of Jesus to Create a Just World" is unreservedly recommended for personal, church, seminary, community, college, and univesity library Personal/Spiritual Growth and Social/Political Issues collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations that "Everyday Activism" is also available in a paperback edition (9781540902252, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: J. W. Buck ( is a church planter, filmmaker, teacher, and faith-based entrepreneur. With undergraduate degrees in biblical studies and ministry, J.W. has his PhD in intercultural studies, with a focus on the problem of racial violence. He is a cofounder of Pax, a Christian organization designed to inspire and equip the next generation through slow, beautiful, Jesus-centered content created by people of color.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Mark Dornblaser
Independently Published
9780578320540, $21.95

Windows blends nature photography and poetry in a visual and verbal exploration that tells of windows into other worlds, and taking the time to look through them.

This is exactly what Mark Dornblaser does in a book that offers viewers the opportunity to absorb, reflect, and draw new connections between illuminating scenes and their inspirational roots.

In order to foster this feeling in the reader, Dornblaser presents each poem on a facing page with one of his color photos. The twilight image of an illuminated barn accompanies "Scene from the Road" in which the narrator reflects on a place where "The early snowmelt seeps into the low seams of the fields,/a sinuous sheen of slate blue weaving through a rolling sea of white." and "A weathered, peeling barn is quiet,/and a rusting combine lies idle."

Illumination comes from both image lighting and written reflection as Dornblaser muses about the wellspring of that inspiration.

Each poem is vividly portrayed, incorporating nature observation and employing color and descriptors that not just compliment the color images, but match their impact. Another example lies in 'Cayman Blues', in which a multi-blue ocean world is supplemented by a poetic examination: "Cobalt coast,/cerulean sea,/indigo ocean,/they beckon me." The layers of blue are reinforced by both image and words.

Numerous books pairing words and images appear each year. Most aren't integrated nearly as well as Windows, and merely stand as two disparate art forms under one cover, holding too few connections to one another.

Dornblaser's powerful photos and written words are symphonies of experience, reflection, and observation inviting readers to look out the window of their own lives to experience their world in its fullest glory. They explore the soul's reaction to this world ('Wisconsin Highlands', for example, describes where "I long for the stillness of a Wisconsin Highlands early evening.") and moves into the narrator's place in both observing and living within this world: "Night approaching,/my breath is frosty, though I can feel/Winter has lost her edge."

The intersections of man, nature, and a sense of place are clear. Look through Dornblaser's windows to receive observations that are life-affirming testimonies to connections between self and the world.

This rare view belongs in any poetry or arts lending library, and on the shelves of those who would follow the author on inner journeys and artistic observations.

The Struggle
Brian Storm
Brian Storm Books
9798985291117, $29.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook/$26.99 Large Print

The Struggle: 10 Years Later is an addiction memoir refuting the common notion that heroin addicts always come to a bad end. This could have easily been the case as Brian Storm moved through addiction to more powerful drugs and descended into a life of crime and struggle.

And yet, the book offers the ultimate message of hope with the example that even the most addicted individual has opportunities to recover and change his life.

Given its subject, readers might anticipate the story be filled with graphic trigger experiences of violence, murder, suicide, and substance abuse. And, it is. No punches were pulled in the making of this memoir.

But, underlying its candid streetwise message of a white Philadelphia rapper boy's life gone awry is an inspirational example of how Storm turned his life around against all odds and influences. It serves as a testimony to new possibilities, and to never losing hope during life's battles.

From the start, Storm presents cautions and insights that will compel readers to learn more, introducing his saga with reflections on why and how The Struggle was written:

"I wrote this book to share my experience, strength, and hope for recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. You will read about how I used drugs and alcohol to fit in and have fun with my friends. Over the years, I became a person I never thought I would become. I hope this book opens the eyes of both addicts and non-addicts and gives a better understanding of how addiction can affect anyone. I tried to be 100% honest in my writing, but the time frames and details may not always be completely accurate. This is because drugs and alcohol have taken a toll on my memory."

The gritty, honest language and descriptions reinforce the fact that this life experience comes from the streets and the heart: "This moment was the lowest I'd ever felt in my life, at least up until this point. But as I sat there in my own self-pity, little did I know that a Christmas angel would come to save the day. As I sat on the curb, crying my eyes out, at least two dozen people had passed me without even blinking an eye. This made me feel even worse because it proved that nobody gave a fuck about me."

As low points of despair contrast with high points of hope from unexpected places and experiences, Storm keeps his readers on track with stories of his evolutionary growth process and how it was affected by circumstances both within and beyond his control.

Young adults, particularly, who are on the road towards the spiral Storm experienced will find much to gain from his account of seeking acceptance from his friends while finding himself trapped in a cage of his own choosing, encouraged by influences that did not hold his best interests at heart.

Neither did he. This is perhaps the most hard-hitting message of all: the juxtaposition of social and internal pressures that made his path and choices seem logical, no matter their self-destructive outcomes.

While The Struggle easily reaches all ages, its greatest impact will be on young adults finding their ways in life.

Libraries that choose The Struggle for its candid, gripping accounts of a downfall and recovery will find it especially lends to young adult group and book club discussion. It offers many keys to understanding better choices that come not from the philosophical, protected world of the achiever, but from one who has fallen and yet still successfully risen into a different life and new ways of viewing and defining opportunity and recovery.

A River of Crows
Shanessa Gluhm
TouchPoint Press
9781956851588, $18.99

A River of Crows demonstrates that the impact of a child's disappearance never goes away. Also vanished is the family structure and support system that dissolves under the pressure of a mystery that affects everyone.

Sloan's brother Ridge went fishing with their father and never returned. Her emotionally unpredictable Vietnam vet father, the suspect in his son's disappearance, is arrested and charged with murder. Her mother, torn by these events, has fallen into madness.

Twenty years later, Sloan herself is in the middle of a divorce and still struggles with the question of what really happened to her brother and her family.

Her decision to return to the scene of the possible crime, Crow's Nest Creek, leads to a strange encounter with a crow. That, together with the bizarre appearance of the body of another boy, leads Sloan into an effort to uncover the truth ... even if it kills her.

Shanessa Gluhm crafts a thought-provoking story of revelation, family ties, discovery, and murder. She injects nuggets of wisdom into the tale from the start, spicing it with revelations about life, optimism, and adversity: "No marriage is unraveled by pulling a single thread. Just like no family is. Sloan understood that all too well."

Living up to its initial promise, A River of Crows pulls on many disparate threads of experience and possibility that then take unusual turns. As the plot to destroy a family thickens, a cast of characters participate in events that lead to both an inevitable outcome and an unusual twist on predictability. This approach keeps readers thoroughly engrossed in the psychological dynamics of changing possibilities.

When events move into a trial that tests love and survival abilities alike, Sloan finds the courage to not only discover what really happened, but revise her ideals of family, friends, and forgiveness.

Readers who choose A River of Crows for its mystery will find an unexpected draw and value in the emotional components which keep the plot action-packed and charged with transformation.

Libraries that choose A River of Crows for their collections will find it lends particularly well to book club discussions about family ties and how to rise and recover from the ashes of devastating loss.

Give My Regards to Nowhere: A Director's Tale
Richard Engling
Polarity Ensemble Books
9780977661077, $16.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook/ Audiobook $TBA

Give My Regards to Nowhere: A Director's Tale sounds like a memoir, but it's a comic tale of love, backstage operations, and the challenges faced by Chicago theatre director Dwayne Finnegan when his big ideas to raise a small production to lofty fame result in lost funding.

Driven by his artistic vision and undaunted by the lack of money, Dwayne enters a crisis of existential and artistic magnitude that challenges his relationships, ideals, and "inner Zen."

But, not his self-confidence.

Determined to pursue his dream against all odds, Dwayne pulls others into his idea, crafting a scenario that Shakespeare never saw coming.

Richard Engling paints a realistic backdrop of theatre drama, backstage confrontations, and a host of special interests that affect Dwayne's dream and his ability to pull it off.

Even the arguments he has at home with Angela hold humor as they evolve in ironic ways:

"Anybody can make a mistake," Dwayne said. "I'll call them. I'll see if I can get the penalty expressed."

"Expunged, Dwayne. Expunged. I don't know what the hell will happen if you ask to get the penalty expressed. Maybe then it'll be a hundred dollars."

At the heart of the story lies serious acting challenges and the aspirations of a disparate cast of characters who all see their livelihoods and dreams going down the drain, and who work (sometimes at odds) to rise to the occasion and meet the new challenges.

Dwayne's determination empowers not only himself, but his ragtag cast of characters and dreams: "They could actually be brilliant. If only. Holy Jesus, savior of stumbling humanity and lost causes, bless this show."

The rollicking ride through the underbelly of the acting world and the determination of a man who sees this world fall apart and come back together in a new way as the show goes on will attract anyone interested in drama, theater, Chicago backdrops, or a drive to succeed against all odds ... however impossible they may seem.

Libraries looking for humorous stories about moving forward that hold thought-provoking insights about struggles and kindnesses will find Give My Regards to Nowhere an inviting novel of perseverance and artistic pursuits that ultimately teaches how to "be alive in the moment."

Becky Likes Boys
Diane Campbell Green
DCG Books
9798986589923, $9.99

Becky Likes Boys is the sixth book in the Becky Chalmers series for advanced elementary to middle grade readers. Like its predecessors, Becky's 1960s life is revealed with a close attention to contrasting Becky's experiences, perspective, and coming of age with the cultural and social milieu of the '60s. This makes for the perfect choice for modern young readers who would learn about this period of time and the forces affecting its young people.

The story opens with Becky and her sister-friend Sharon discussing the elementary school's spring dance, which will be their first.

Diane Campbell Green does a fine job of both introducing the adults in Becky's life and adding their perspectives to Becky's world: "In the Chalmers household, Becky's mom, Jackie, focused on her daughter's first dance. Jackie was ready to launch Becky, her oldest child, into the grown-up world of school dances. After all, Jackie had met Jim when they were both nine-years-old."

While, at times, an adult reader might wonder at points of authenticity (in the '60s, adults were seldom identified by their first names, by children), one can argue that, for the sake of relevance to modern young readers and their experiences, any slight adjustments such as this make the story more accessible and realistic to modern audiences (today, many adults are known to children by their first names).

As Becky faces the "bumps and curves" of a maturing body and the mental changes that lend new interest to different relationships with boys and their potential for change, readers receive a realistic portrait of a girl facing physical and emotional maturity challenges in nearly every aspect of her life.

Realistic dialogues capture not just peer interactions, but shared family experiences. Adversity is portrayed as an obstacle that introduces creative thinking; especially one Christmas when first the oven, then the power, go out on the cusp of the biggest entertainment day of the year:

"It's nice to be inside and with family on Christmas Eve," Jackie said.

Overnight, 'nice' turned to worry; then to catastrophe. When Jackie checked the turkey an hour after putting it into the oven on Christmas morning, it was as raw as when it first went in. The oven was simply not working. Jackie panicked turning to her husband, "Jim, what am I going to do? I have a dozen people to feed this afternoon."

"Becky," Daddy said, "go tell Mrs. Edwards our oven is not heating up. We can't cook anything here."

Becky slid on the ice, covered now with a thick layer of snow. At the Edwards house she gave the message to Pat. Right at that moment, all of Cadwallader Court lost power when a tree, heavy with ice and snow snapped the last of the working power lines. The adults huddled.

From its title, readers might anticipate a story replete with boy-crazy dilemmas, but there's much more going on than boys alone.

Through various shared experiences and questions about school, boys, changing friendship, and new ventures, Becky receives life lessons that set the stage for growth and opportunity.

Green brings Becky and her world to life. Libraries seeking stories rooted in the milieu of the 1960s will welcome yet another exploration that brings these times and this girl to modern audiences as it explores how enemies become friends and individuals from disparate experiences (even boys and girls) learn to connect with one another in new ways.

Angels of Antila
RG Shacklett
Independently Published
9798373774963, $10.00 Paper/$8.00 ebook

Angels of Antila: A True Accounting of the Seville Pox, or The Confessions of Alonso is an alternate history sci-fi story that postulates a "what if" scenario in which the first voyage of the Spaniards to the New World brings smallpox and devastation to the invaders - not the Native Americans they encounter.

Alonso, a young linguistic prodigy and Franciscan monk who travels on the Santa Maria on Columbus' first voyage, confronts many moral and ethical dilemmas as events unfold in this alternate story, but the tale doesn't open with his perspective. Instead, it presents the first-person experience of a young Native American girl who has just entered puberty and who contemplates taking a husband - her duty as the only progeny of her clan leader father.

This daughter holds different opinions about guiding her life. Her mother, the widow of a war chief, helps solidify the lessons reinforced by clan tradition and a Seer who predicts a future in which strangers invade their land.

RG Shacklett does an outstanding job of contrasting the forces influencing this new world, from traveler and postulant Alonso to belief systems which clash and explanations which are designed to foster political special interests rather than addressing reality: "There was no fever," insisted the Admiral. "It was witchcraft, and I found the antidote."

The contrasts between clashing perceptions and explanations of what drives the characters towards new worlds and destinies are nicely done, involving readers in both sides of an encounter which transforms all involved.

Shacklett creates a world steeped in both magic and belief systems that are shaken by the fervor of circumstances beyond anyone's control.

His re-envisioning of the Columbus encounter offers much historical food for thought in an alternate history story that is character-driven, turning events and illnesses upside down in a thought-provoking manner. The vivid characters supplement a form of action that embraces conflicting forces and perceptions alike, creating suspense and interests from its portraits of illness, cures, and redemption.

Libraries looking for alternate history sci-fi that offers the opportunity for a deeper examination of contrasting, diametrically opposed cultures will find heroes come from unlikely (and different) places in this intriguing tale of suffering, death, and a world on the wrong path, driven by a young woman's choices and a wise Seer's predictions.

Alphabet Soup
Michael Bach
Page Two
9781774580851, $16.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Alphabet Soup: The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion at Work addresses the special business challenge of building a LGBTQ2+ inclusive workplace, and is highly recommended for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and anyone who understands that the effort invested in doing so creates riches and returns for the entire workforce.

Michael Bach is a diversity expert whose 2020 book on the topic, Birds of All Feathers, quickly rose to best-seller status. This companion moves from the 'why' to the 'how' of the process, discussing how sexuality affects workers in the workplace, how to create the feel of a safe place at work that accepts disparate individuals, and how to not only make straight people comfortable in such a diverse atmosphere, but how to attract and retain LGBTQ2+ workers.

Bach's first book set the stage by introducing a discussion on diversity. Alphabet Soup continues the effort, covering "...sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; the magical, mysterious world of the LGBTQ2+ communities; and how people can do a better job of creating inclusive spaces for those of us who don't fit into the box of "straight" and "cis."

One of the purposes of this book is to educate readers about this community's diversity and special needs. The other, beyond fostering understanding and acceptance, is to reveal the process of integrating all these diverse worlds in a way that supports business pursuits.

As Bach moves through examples, stories, and insights, business leaders receive an eye-opening guide that will confront many popular myths; the first statement being that there is no singular LGBTQ2+ community, but a host of communities embracing all kinds of people.

Workplace inclusion challenges are discussed in light of these complex relationships and associations, with chapters profiling business goals for not just attracting workers, but customers:

"No one wants to go to work and feel unsafe. No one wants to volunteer in a place where they could face violence or discrimination because of who they are. No one wants to feel like they don't belong in their temple or school. You will attract and retain LGBTQ2+ people (as employees, customers, volunteers, patients, and so on) if you first make sure yours is a safe space."

Key takeaways conclude each chapter with reviews of the concepts.

The result is replete in revelations that support not just better understanding, but revised business organizational structures and strategies that assure all participants an equal role in transforming a business.

Libraries looking for business books that promote diversity and inclusion will find Alphabet Soup especially notable not just for its insights about the communities that identify as LGBTQ2+, but the essential changes that represent a sense of safety and acceptance for everyone.

The message's ideals and practical examples should be discussed early in any business class interested in promoting not just financial savvy, but a business structure that is more flexible, accommodating, and accepting than the traditional workplace has been in the past.

Season of the Dragon
Natalie Wright
Menaris Books
9798987491218, Price: $22.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook/ $38.99 Hardcover

Many a fantasy series has featured a protagonist divided as much by their own psyches as outside events. Most focus on the heroic emergence of the character under duress. Few present the specter of a new adult loner, Quen Santu, whose two hearts drum to a different beat than what she was created to do - destroy the world.

Quen's odyssey and purpose is always under review and struggle as she considers her limited future options. Becoming a herdwife is not one of them. Perhaps she should study the art of war? Certainly, magical ability also eludes her.

But destiny does not. For, beneath her skin lies a changeling Nixan - the shadow soul who pushes for a metamorphosis that would squelch everything Quen is or wants to become. Letting it win would involve loosening that wild spirit to destroy everything. Quen both houses the force that could end all and is perhaps the only one who can stop it.

On the face of it, this first book in the Dragos Primeri series is the usual adventure and struggle to overcome impossible adversity. Look deeper for the emotional connections to life and love which Quen represents, from her affection for a father that supersedes death itself to evolving, unexpected friends who turn into lovers to help support Quen's human side.

The young woman at war with herself also battles the forces that would harness her innate condition for their own special interests. This adds a further social and political inspection to her trials and exploration of self and its connections to the outside world, which fears her potential even as some plot to control it for themselves.

As vivid as the emotional and changing currents are of this journey is the descriptive force Natalie Wright employs to explore not just Quen's abilities, but the magic of this world: "Pelagia turned and flourished her remarkable cape. As she did, a few butterflies moved, breaking the pattern. Quen gasped. I thought they'd used dead butterflies to construct the cap,but these are alive. How does she control them to make them behave in such an odd way?"

Desperate for answers about her path and purpose, Quen will even walk into a spidery brass web leading to a "hall of iron ribs and glass." She is a Doj'Anira - twice blessed, with two different countenances that attract dynasty leaders and opposing forces alike.

The emotional draw embedded in her journey will pull readers as well, offering ties to not just magic and new possibilities, but the sacrifices of newfound supporters:

"Grief made everything ache. Her arms were like two soggy tubers gone to mush. Quen clambered up the wall and dug her fingers into the ice on the ledge above, but they were already tired from helping hoist Nivi. Heartache sapped her strength to pull. She hung like a carcass, her legs scrambling in vain to push up. She howled in frustration. Strong hands gripped her wrists. "Mourn him later," Rhoji said."

By now, it should be evident that this fantasy world and adventure shines in more than one manner. From inner turmoil and struggles with power and good and evil to the forces that offer spiritual and political redemption at a price, Quen resides at the center of too many conflicts both within and outside herself. Her readers will find themselves carried by the power of her observations, growing love for selected others, and slow realizations of what her abilities and determination really bring to the world.

Libraries looking for fantasy series titles that open with a bang of psychological and political allure will find that few can equal the force of Season of the Dragon. Its attraction comes from many different strong subplots, each cemented by a courageous woman who defies her destiny and heritage and, in so doing, begins to see the opportunity of being the result of her mother's bargain with a different kind of devil.

Daughter of the Shadows
Kerry Chaput
Black Rose Writing
9781685131678, $22.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Daughter of the Shadows is the second book in the Defying the Crown series and opens in 1667 Quebec, where secret Protestant Isabelle spies on her Catholic husband. On the surface, she is "A supportive soldier's wife and a Daughter of the King. But these guises are nothing more than a front that hides the burning of my Protestant heart."

So opens a fiery first-person story that captures the clash between belief and political systems and social forces set to tear asunder the fabric of a Catholic-dominated world.

Kerry Chaput's ability to inject passion and description from the perspective of a woman whose life has thus far been a story of betraying her people, leaving them to perish in France while she made her escape to a new life, is the beating heart of a novel that is represents a vivid work steeped in not just French history, but romance and adventure.

Isabelle's growing lies to support her efforts bring her in increasing conflict with her heart. Those around her, who are wiser, inform her there is more at stake than guilt or personal atonement for one's transgressions: "The question, Isabelle, is not what you have done wrong, but what you will do with this opportunity."

Isabelle finds herself in many conflicted circumstances, learning how to survive an Iroquois raid, handle church gossip, and maintain secrets that could ruin everyone at court (including the king), and finds herself navigating a thin line between treachery and conviction. When issues of loyalty and power emerge, Isabelle must make decisions that change not only her life and those she loves, but people who struggle and chafe against the rules and power of their kingdoms.

Historical figures from Antoinette to the Huguenots come to life in a way that both educates and entrances.

The passions and purposes of not just religious conviction and political ambition, but a strong woman who is at once a wife and a traitor to her heart, come to life in a story that grippingly recreates the times while requiring a minimum of historical background knowledge from its readers.

Libraries will find that the only prerequisite to complete enjoyment of this novel is a light interest in history and a heavy interest in fictional stories that embrace romance and action to the fullest. Readers who choose Daughter of the Shadows for these possibilities will find the story captivating, hard to put down, and written in a manner that both supports its predecessor and yet requires no prior familiarity from newcomers in order to prove immediately compelling.

Regenerative Agriculture: The Climate Crisis Solution
Stephen Erickson
The Great Healing Press
9781733202725, $10.99

Regenerative Agriculture: The Climate Crisis Solution poses both a simple and a complex solution to not just climate crisis, but environmental degradation as a whole by promoting regenerative agriculture, which focuses on processes of soil renewal and support.

While some may initially wonder at the expansive promise of a seemingly a small approach, Stephen Erickson's book makes a compelling case for a process of rejuvenation that offers big payoffs for its application.

Erickson defines 'regenerative agriculture' as being "...based on these principles applied in combination: Cover crops, compost, crop rotation, minimal disturbance of the soil, animal integration, no synthetic pesticides, and protecting the soil's internet."

Chapters unfold the true bigger picture inherent in achieving this goal, as well as the obstacles and pitfalls that are likely to be encountered along the way.

Many of this book's contentions will prove controversial to traditional farming and land management approaches. From how tilling "destroys underground networks" and the premise that "No-till or minimal till regenerative farming is the best way to protect it" to liquid carbon pathway solutions, building carbon sequestration via regenerative agriculture, and other methods of regenerating the soil, this book promotes idealism with a sense of "how-to" reality that both makes a case and supports it with tested agricultural changes.

The ultimate purpose of this book isn't to provide another idealistic view of how to transform the planet, but to give potential farmers a practical lesson plan on how they, too, may incorporate regenerative principles and approaches into their agricultural business plans.

Stephen Erickson reviews everything from organic produce and farming practices to new opportunities for profits in processes that support the land. He considers the studies and results of efforts towards more regenerative processes.

His argument that this form of farming is best designed to survive climate change is compelling:

"Regenerative farms, with their healthy soil microbiomes, are far better suited to withstand rising temperatures and other severe climate consequences in store for us. Robust regenerative ecosystems retain significantly more moisture, keep soil cooler, and better sustain soil life and crop yields compared to the biologically devastated, carbon-releasing soil of industrial ag farm's dying ecosystems."

Regenerative Agriculture should not only be a mainstay in any library strong in agricultural business, but ideally will become a discussion title in book clubs and reader groups of future farmers and those involved in agricultural business.

Its fact-paced contentions and practical eye to juxtaposing a blueprint for better farming with practices that enhance a farmer's bottom line creates a book that is as practical as it is idealistic.

Cintia Alfonso Fior
Rising Advocates Press
9781959963004, $9.99 Paper, $18.99 Hardcover

Moraline will reach ages 8-12 with a message of power and purpose that incorporates a variety of experiences, from a girl's experience with bullying and being an outsider to an encounter with a Native American spirit that sends her on a quest of self-realization and inspection.

This may sound like heady reading for this age group, but one of the values of Moraline lies in its ability to inject bigger-picture thinking into the usual pre-teen experience. This is because its foundations lay in peace education. Cintia Alfonso Fior's purpose is to craft a story that draws with action and adventure, but equally powerfully introduces new, disparate perspectives on racism, inclusiveness, and social justice.

The novel's focus on children's rights, environmental education, and conflict resolution creates scenarios which introduce Moraline's initial flight from her adversaries, then moves into experiences and pathways which elevate her purpose and teach her about interconnected peoples and life experiences.

Used to running from trouble, Moraline is charged with absorbing different ways of dealing with life and better understanding her own options and the impact of her choices. This gives her young readers equal empowerment as they receive concurrent lessons on being alone, feeling connected or alienated, and moving in unfamiliar circles which charge Moraline with growth.

The juxtaposition of adventure, strange encounters, and Moraline's evolutionary process is well done, introducing mystery as well as revelation. This will keep young readers engaged as she surveys a world she thought she knew well, only to find surprises changing her choices.

Libraries and adults looking for reading that goes beyond entertainment value to educate kids about all kinds of subjects, from interpersonal relationships and connections with nature to tactical retreats, engagement choices, and perseverance will find that Moraline lends to group or classroom discussion as well as individual pursuit.

Moraline is highly recommended for adults who seek to instill higher-level thinking about peace, social justice, and life and community connections in young readers. Children matter, and have powerful voices. Perhaps that is the most critical lesson Moraline offers.

Isabel and the Invisible World
Rick Allen
Headlamp Books
9798986070254, $18.95 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper

Picture book readers ages 3-7 will find Isabel and the Invisible World a study in scientific discovery that presents a young girl, her magnifying glass, and her passion for observing strange worlds around her.

Isabel is interested in not just observing life in unusual places, but solving mysteries. Her magnifying glass enlarges things, providing clues that can solve such disparate puzzles as what is eating her mother's garden plants and what is causing her dog to itch.

Large-size, colorful illustrations by Nadia Ronquillo capture Isabel's interest in solutions that solve problems around her.

"By stopping to observe, she sees things other children overlook."

Through Isabel's experiences, young readers are also encouraged to more carefully observe the world around them and the mysteries, big and small, which deserve attention and closer inspection.

Ideally, a magnifying glass gift will accompany any read-aloud effort or a self-reading child's pursuit of Isabel's world.

Making Friends With Feelings
Keith Ruffner
Neugroove LLC
9798987165603, $18.99

Keith Ruffner's Making Friends With Feelings is a gentle picture book exploration of emotions for the very young, and uses cute bunny images illustrated by Kate Gleyzer to add appeal to the story.

The basic focus is on developing understanding and compassion for others. Even little bunnies can feel confused, sad, or scared for different reasons.

Bunny Molly has been in foster care for a long time, and is facing a new place. Even though it sports toys and appeal, she is frightened and uncertain. But on the floor near the play equipment is another bunny that seems to feel even sadder than she, and so Molly reaches out. Bunny Shiner observes the two from the top of the play castle and is confused about his friendships and role.

Each emotion, from sadness to confusion and fear, is described, represented in appealing, colorful pictures, and repeated three times so that read-aloud adults can emphasize the emotion being discussed.

An array of emotions unfolds as the story progresses, from thinking and feeling to courage, happiness, and the desire to connect. The story features an emotion-based plot that easily explains each bunny's different reaction and the conflict they can introduce.

The result is an exploration of emotions that engages all ages with a story of bunnies who face others and themselves with "courage, courage, courage."

Adults who choose this story to help the very young understand their feelings will find Making Friends With Feelings visually compelling and emotionally astute.

The Secrets of Windy Hill: Becoming Jesse
Patsie McCandless
Light On Publications
9781732506633, $18.99 Print/$8.99 ebook

The Secrets of Windy Hill: Becoming Jesse - Book 2 is a fine sequel to Becoming Jesse, which introduced an orphan boy born in 1947 New York City, who lives a life steeped in magic and the possibility of discovering answers to the riddles his secretive mother left for him.

The first book included a quest for a missing grandmother, a villain, and a scheme that tests Jesse's heart's desire by diverting his greatest wish into an effort to thwart evil.

This sequel returns Jesse O'Neil's focus on his quest, following him to a remote New England island where he moves from the big city to rural Windy Hill, which also holds new challenges and secrets.

At every step of the way, Patsie McCandless embeds her story with magic and adventure, whether it be secret staircases, magical mystery shells, secret doors, or the legacies of magic that other characters experience along with Jesse.

McCandless builds just the right blend of adventure and action into a story that follows Jesse into unfamiliar territory and new possibilities he'd never expected. As he navigates new secrets, revelations, and perils, advanced elementary to middle grade readers will appreciate the pull on heart and mind that comes from magic and evolving emotional connections and conundrums.

The result is a story steeped in love and learning that follows an orphan into the kinds of relationships, connections, and quests that lead him to the Light and the truth behind magic.

Many of the underlying lessons of this action-packed adventure will lend to group and classroom discussion and debate as teachers and adults guide young readers to make the most of Jesse's changing attitudes and growth.

Libraries seeking stories of action and discovery will find the mystery-infused magic comes to life in a winning tale that needs no introduction to Becoming Jesse in order to prove accessible and compelling to newcomers.

The Friction Factor
Tyler Martin
Two Valleys Publishing
9798986402048, $17.95

The Friction Factor: The Busy Person's Guide to Sustainable Diet and Exercise identifies the common cause of diet failure as being one of a basic inefficient use of time and energy. This leads to problems scheduling and following through with exercise and diet regimens.

The added requirement to pack more into an already-too-busy life results in friction which drags at, limits, and ultimately can sink the best of diet and exercise hopes. The solution? Eliminate the friction component, using The Friction Factor to identify typical obstacles to diet and exercise.

Tyler Martin is a certified personal trainer who uses his expertise to craft real-world solutions to organizational dilemmas that thwart good health.

Chapters discuss the influences on making a health plan work, from knowing one's body and mental inclinations to setting attainable goals, designing workout and diet programs that work on many different levels, and making lifestyle adjustments that address the barrier of physical fitness's mandate to get and stay fit.

More than just a how-to on exercise and diet, Martin's book is a strategic assault on lethargy and ennui which advocates developing and adhering to a pattern of habits that not only support, but embrace fitness goals. The far-reaching impact of this strategy goes beyond diet and fitness, holding the opportunity to revise approaches to life: "...developing effective habits is a universal necessity for anyone seeking success in virtually any area."

Former athlete Martin is in the perfect position to explain not only the routines of perseverance, but more efficient exercises that can be done in a home gym environment, eliminating much of the need for travel elsewhere for achieving fitness goals.

The result is a "down-home" approach that promotes discipline and understanding both exercise options and the kinds of organizational and commitment routines that reinforce exercise to assure it takes a prominent, regular position in even the busiest lifestyle.

Libraries looking for fitness books that embrace lifestyle changes will find The Friction Factor an excellent choice, as perfect for discussion in fitness groups as it is useful for individual pursuit.

Bobby and Bubba's Small Adventures
Anthony Coombs
SilverWood Books Ltd.
9781800421974, $25.99

Bobby and Bubba's Small Adventures is a picture book that introduces Bobby and Bubba, British bulldogs that live in the middle of London. Their walks of discovery around Chelsea are illustrated by Adam Share, who brings to life the appeal of two dogs that survey and explore their British environment.

Adults who choose Bobby and Bubba's Small Adventures as a nightly read-aloud will find plenty of detail and fun in these "small adventures" as the bulldogs explore their world and their perceptions of it.

From Bobby's emergency visit to the vet by Daddy Alexander to Bob and Bubba's love of grooming (which feels suspiciously like a spa day adventure), Anthony Coombs presents the world through these dog's eyes, capturing the delight of their daily interactions with one another, their family, and their world.

Youngsters interested in dog stories will find much to enjoy in this title, which embeds life lessons into these experiences in a manner adults can employ to discuss values with the very young: "It dawned on them that while happiness may depend upon ourselves, true happiness is found in the little often unremembered acts of kindness to others. It was that, and not their new found stardom, which made this day their 'best by far'."

Bobby and Bubba's Small Adventures is an exploration of life experience, choices, and lessons that deserves feature both in elementary-level libraries and through home read-aloud discussions that bring forth the underlying positivity and messages of these dog's-eye experiences of life and growth.

Which Would You Rather?
Graeme Puckett
Brown Dog Books
c/o Self-Publishing Partnership Ltd.
9781839525179, $15.83 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Which Would You Rather? features a sociopath misfit protagonist named Brian Rayment, whose proclivity for social snafus lands him in a series of mishaps and crimes that continually challenge his well-being and his world.

His perception of life comes not from rose-colored glasses, but lenses tinged by artistic observations, film references, and angst.

Between the tricks he likes to contemplate playing on others and his checklist of irritations with neighbor Tony Bartlock, Brian moves from petty annoyance to murder with a deftness that incorporates his years of film passion and his personal camera's eye observing the world around him with a jaded and judgmental attitude.

Readers expecting the typical murder mystery or tale of intrigue will find that Graeme Puckett excels at getting into the mind of the psychopathic personality. Brian's motivations, conclusions, and errant behaviors become logical and understandable under Puckett's pen - but there's also a wry humor that flows underneath Brian's interactions with others:

"His random answering system wasn't working, mainly because they were messing it up. They wouldn't ask proper questions. If they approached it like twenty questions - just yes/no answers - then perhaps we could get somewhere. He decided to abandon it and be creative. 'He had a big, mouthy mouth and small, tiny, titchy teeth.' It occurred to Brian that he never seemed to see or describe any normal-looking people. Maybe he should throw in a few normal attributes for the sake of realism. 'He had an ordinary nose and some ordinary hair.'"

This humor drives the story line, adding a whimsical taste of irony and fun as Brian navigates all kinds of unexpected situations:

"Brian was very rarely rendered speechless, so he didn't quite know how to handle it. He tried to say something but physically couldn't say anything. How could a person you were placing under arrest just tell you to 'shut up' and 'stop being silly'? It was completely the wrong reaction. It just wasn't true to life. You'd never get that happening in Prime Suspect."

The world never quite fits into Brian's expectations and experiences, and so he makes adjustments (sometimes radical) to achieve the kinds of outcomes that come from talking to the police or serving as a witness. The result is an unexpectedly fun crime spree romp which follows Brian into a murky world of increasing challenges and trouble.

The logic is impeccable in Brian's reactions to his quicksand of involvements. The story builds a satisfying tension surrounding a flawed character whose efforts to gain traction in his world just land him deeper into trouble.

Libraries looking for British-based scenarios and stories of murder gone awry will find much to appreciate in Which Would You Rather?, which follows Brian into a leap of faith, possible romance, and an irresistible which-would-you-rather scenario that pushes him ever deeper into situations he struggles to escape.

The Chanteuse from Cape Town
John Constable
9781399935159, $16.42 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Chanteuse from Cape Town is a hardboiled noir mystery that centers on P.I. Sam Nemo's efforts to help his friend, whose wife has been kidnapped. This leads him deep into South Africa's underworlds and into social situations he'd never envisioned, also landing him in life-threatening situations when his efforts result in him being shot and the kidnappers getting away.

Even more determined to succeed, Sam moves from Pretoria to Cape Town and beyond as his motivation to get results becomes a personal obsession.

In addition to the surprising depth of social examination that accompanies this murder mystery, John Constable injects a wry humor that adds to the atmosphere: "We parted company after that. As Bezuidenhout walked away, I heard his phone's ring tone. I'm oft en surprised by people's tastes in music. On this occasion, I was nonplussed to hear the disco strains of Stayin'Alive. Given the captain's rate of cigarette consumption, I reckoned this might qualify as wishful thinking."

Operating far from his Port Elizabeth base, Sam finds himself encountering dead bodies, nuns, brackish waters, and personal threats. Throughout the story, Constable takes the time to capture the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Sam's South African world - even when he is in desperate straights: "A bottle of Castle beer with condensation dripping down its sides would be a good start, as would a long drink of orange and lemonade with ice, or simplest of all would be plunging my face into the mountain stream close by my parked car."

Breathtaking scenery, social inspection, and murder and revenge bring the story to life in an exceptional manner that will especially please murder mystery fans that like their stories firmly rooted in a sense of place and purpose.

Libraries that choose The Chanteuse from Cape Town for its intrigue will be delighted to find the background and culture almost as absorbing as Sam's evolving dilemmas with cat-and-mouse game that becomes a struggle not just for truth, but for life.

The Logos Prophecy
Martin Treanor
Fire Hornet Codex
c/o DRPZ Publishing
B0BM4G3CTM, $9.99 ebook

The Logos Prophecy is the first book in the Fall of Ancients series, and provides a thriller rooted in metaphysical intrigue and conspiracy.

The story opens with the death of Cambodian villagers by the Khmer Rouge each time they come looking for the American soldier who deserted his post during the war. Young Daney observes him, and somehow escapes the Khmer Rouge's attention just as the soldier also manages to evade their every visit. She also notes his odd actions and comes to realize that the impact of war is not the only thing changing lives around her.

When an ancient symbol entwines her world with that of conspiracy theorist Ary Long and scientist Jordan Burke, a world-hopping exploration of discovery unfolds which connects disparate cultures and special interests alike.

As history and tension unfold, the tale grows to embrace comet impacts, direct descendants of the Aryans, the efforts of ancient peoples to remake the world in their own image when opportunity strikes from above, and the legacy they leave after their rewrite of history.

Martin Treanor deftly weaves intrigue, metaphysical, scientific, and social issues into a mix that brings to mind The Celestine Prophecy's power and allure - but in a manner that brings history and mystery to the forefront of this tale of an underlying powerful group that has long and secretly dictated the course of humanity.

How could they hold such power? Part of it is metaphysical and part is because of "Corrupt humans, who desire only power and wealth. But they too were fooled. Their greed made them susceptible to manipulation."

As Ary and Jordan find themselves immersed in a troubling puzzle, their eyes are opened to a form of human history never exposed before. It's powered by two groups (the Gnostics and the Aryans) that would either destroy or preserve Logos and its legacy.

Treanor creates a captivating story that traverses nations, history, and individuals with a heavy hand towards intrigue and revelation.

Libraries seeking captivating blends of history, mystery, thriller, and scientific discovery will find The Logos Prophecy a fine story that blends an Indiana Jones-type series of discoveries and adventures with the draw of a metaphysical mystery that delves into human intentions and influences.

Book clubs interested in The Celestine Prophecy and similar spiritual adventures will find the action and thought-provoking, suspense-throbbing discoveries in The Logos Prophecy hard to put down.

N-4 Down
Mark Piesing
Mariner Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062851536, $18.99 Paper/$29.99 Hardcover/$14.99 ebook

N-4 Down: The Hunt for the Arctic Airship Italia is the true story of one of the greatest rescue efforts in human history, chronicling the adventure with the dramatic descriptive flair of fiction backed by the facts of nonfiction.

Mark Piesing was looking for a mystery when he stumbled upon a musty old book entitled With the Italia to the North Pole. It was a book that would entwine him in an enigma more than ninety years old, and which equally reaches into modern audiences with its allure and drama.

In 1928, the arctic-exploring airship Italia (code-named N-4) was returning, triumphant, from its adventures when it crashed at the North Pole. In other circumstances, this would be the end of the story. Instead, it triggered then-famous Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen and others to embark on an impossible rescue effort that would result in his own disappearance and yet another polar mystery.

Readers who undertake this journey with Piesing will hear the rumble of the zeppelin engine in their ears, feel the frosty bite of the Arctic on their faces, and will become immersed in the amazing history and mystery he uncovered and pursued.

His personal exploration involved physical journeys to the far north as he "stepped back into a fantasy world" via museum visits, old documents, and relics a time when the North Pole lured the most intrepid of explorers, then shrouded them in disaster and mystery.

The underlying story is an account of zeppelin travel and its heyday in the "Roaring 20s," which opened a new era of exploration and the possibilities of access to remote regions of the planet. Gripping stories of how the promise of the zeppelin age turned into a tragedy that involved some of the greatest explorers of the times makes for an account as vivid in its narration as any fictional read.

One reason why this story is so vivid is Piesing's attention to detail. His descriptions create an evocative a "you are here" atmosphere:

"Like many airships of the time, the gondola was embedded into the envelope of the airship. Nobile's men could climb up a ladder directly into the keel of the ship. Once inside, the crew could walk down along a fairly flimsy V- shaped corridor stretching the length of the ship, which might bring to the imagination the corridor of an alien spaceship. At one end of which, in the canvas-lined keel, the men could find spare parts, cans of fuel, a hammock to sleep on, and emergency supplies. However, little thought had been given as to how any crew members still in the envelope would escape if there was a crash landing. This oversight would have terrible consequences."

This is key to the story's ability to attract beyond the usual historical mystery reader, promising to reach suspense and thriller readers who normally choose fiction for its dramatic attraction over the typical dryness of nonfiction facts.

N-4 Down: The Hunt for the Arctic Airship Italia is a sterling example of the intersection of truth and descriptive writing. Libraries that select this for their collections should do more than file it away in the nonfiction section. Ideally, N-4 Down: The Hunt for the Arctic Airship Italia will be profiled as an absorbing adventure story that requires little prior familiarity with the times or the far north in order to capture and hold attention.

How Did Life End Up With Us?
SS O'Connor
Otium Press
9781739155902, $13.72, PB, 272pp

"We live in a world in which knowledge is power, and it's rare to find someone who's willing to take people out of a problem rather than showing how clever they are by taking them ever deeper into it."

How Did Life End Up With Us? is the first book in the Secrets of Life quartet, and offers a chatty, appealing discourse on the perils of taking life and humanity too seriously.

SS O'Connor has spent his life "trying to boil things down," condensing research and theories about life into a readable narrative. The fact that he writes about science from the perspective of a non-scientist only makes his effort more readable to fellow non-science followers who remain interested in the philosophical, scientific, and social nuances of life.

In this optimistic assessment of the progression of life, O'Connor provides a whimsical observation that draws on disparate facts about human evolution and presents them in a manner that's reflective and fun:

"If we're alive, it's because our ancestors bred successfully. None of them died celibate. They and their offspring could be said to have made the right decisions about how to survive. And since evolutionary biologists are fairly confident that 99.9% of all the species that have ever existed would later become extinct, that tells you something about how successful we all are - and also the burn-out rate in life."

From how humans make decisions that support survival and evolution to processes of selection, diversity, specialization, and the origins or disappearance of species, O'Connor's consideration of triggers for evolution and development are laced with science and humor that lends to reader enjoyment as well as reflection.

With its witty considerations of the origins of altruism and growth processes, O'Connor provides just the right blend of serious observation and humor that brings together a myriad of life experiences and facets: "Richard Dawkins says that all living things are just vehicles for their genes. But he also says that humans are unique in being able to override the instructions those genes are giving us. So, does that imply that because we've got intelligence and self criticism and empathy and all the other good stuff... that our altruism isn't just a biological imperative? Can this mean that we truly are separate and superior beings?"

It would be a shame to limit this book's audience to individual pursuit alone. Ideally, How Did Life End Up With Us? will be pursued in classrooms and used as book club debate material for its lively discourses and reflections on the process of life and the elements that make us both human and ironic.

Libraries will find How Did Life End Up With Us? a compelling read blending biology, anthropology, and human history in a lively and reflective process of self-examination and fun.

Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest
Nikita Kapoor
Paper Lily Press, LLC
9798986811703, $9.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle

Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest provides teen readers with a riveting animal-centric fantasy. A pack of sentient wolves faces a cave-in at their home and is forced to scatter into the nearby forbidden forest without their leader.

Young wolves Jasper and Daffodil discover that the forest holds strange delights as well as unfamiliar challenges and adversity which come from nature and humans alike, but they also uncover the roots to special abilities which explain many puzzles about their origins and connections.

As Jasper learns to climb a tree, shocking the humans, his search for his littermates becomes a quest for identity and an understanding that moves beyond the typical wolf pack's intentions and perceptions and into realms of reality he'd never known existed.

A magical amulet, a ghost, and a quest lead the wolves into increasingly unfamiliar and dangerous territory marked by legends and adversity as the story unfolds.

Nikita Kapoor crafts an adventure replete with action, changing scenarios, forces of myth and magic, and the power of sentient wolves. They develop the ability to see dark sides, strength, and new possibilities in the form of Felix, a wolf ancestor ghost.

The dialogue and actions of the wolves, as they navigate precarious worlds with new purpose and understanding, creates a compelling story. It is an attractive leisure choice for readers of Watership Down and other animal-oriented adventure tales, and is highly recommended for libraries seeing patron interest in animal-based fantasies.

Colors Carter Carver's Way
Rosilyn Seay
PicBooks Publishing
9798986344706, $16.95

Colors Carter Carver's Way is a children's picture book about a smart young African American boy named Carter. Carter loves school and is good at many things. He simply does not understand the concept of colors. He's managed to keep it a secret by finding different ways to guess the colors presented to him.

Carter fears that eventually his classmates will find out that he doesn't really know his colors and has to guess them. When that happens, he's sure they will tease him. Should he keep his secret safe by just staying home from school?

His wise mother patiently listens to his concern and comes up with an idea. Hopefully, with a little support at home and some creative consideration on his part, she can help him think through his issues and possibly find a resolution.

Colors Carter Carver's Way is more than a story about color perception. It's about problem-solving, positivity, support systems, and handling the inevitable teasing that comes from being perceived as different or lacking by one's peers.

Through Carter and his mother's reactions and approach to his big issue, kids ages 4-9 receive insights on how their everyday problems may be solved through some creative alternative thinking.

Colors Carter Carver's Way provides many lessons suitable for adult and child interaction and discussion. Ideally, it will be chosen as an example of positive and creative approaches to life's adversities, empowering a child to reconsider their own abilities, disabilities, and attitudes.

Edgar and Shamus Go Golden
Gay Toltl Kinman and Andrew McAleer, editors
Down & Out Books
9781643962788, $18.95 Paper/$7.99 ebook

Edgar and Shamus Go Golden: Twelve Tales of Murder, Mystery, and Master Detection from the Golden Age of Mystery and Beyond compiles stories that reflect old-fashioned murder mystery formulas, demonstrating that the classic puzzle, whodunit, and questionable alibis from suspects remains as captivating to modern mystery readers as in the past.

Twelve well-done contemporary examples of this draw takes the Golden Age of Mystery's form and translates it to diverse tales that pays tribute to the classic detective form cultivated by Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and G.K. Chesterton. They demonstrate that the mystery genre has never abandoned the roots of its golden heyday of detective writing, but has instead carried its old form to new heights.

This Golden Age flourished between two world wars. It produced classics that resonate today. Edgar and Shamus Go Golden follows in its footsteps, infusing the classic form with contemporary flavors.

Take John McAleer's 'Case of the Illustrious Banker', for example. Unearthed some eight decades after its creation, this short story features the crime-fighting debut of 1920s London-based private detective Henry von Stray who, at the behest of Scotland Yard, investigates the baffling murder of a notorious banker. 'Illustrious Banker' is just one example of the treasures unearthed and contrasted in this anthology.

The collection opens with 'The Outsider' by Martin Edwards. In its opening line, Darius Fortune protests that he is "not a detective." Indeed, he is an American enigma who has arrived in London determined to solve possible double murder that keeps him up nights and in thrall to his investigative abilities and non-professional challenges to solve an impossible puzzle. Gwyn's involvement in her beau's struggles places her in a unique position as the story unfolds.

The first-person narrator who participates in this effort, a "scholar on sabbatical and a dabbler in criminology," is well aware of his pursuit, failings, and her own limitations in the field. Despite this, Gwyn is more than capable of not just participating in her beau's efforts, but able to follow through with investigative approaches he never saw coming.

As an old lady's death involves Scotland Yard and tests Gwyn's determination and investigative savvy, readers receive a story well steeped in a woman's viewpoint and ways of seeing the world.

In contrast is Kristen Lepionka's 'Saints or Harridans', set in 1938 Los Angeles, where barkeep Nicky finds himself drawn into a puzzle presented to him by former lover Annette Wexley, who left him to return to her husband many years ago.

Now she's back ... and with a "damn good bluff" that involves Hollywood games, vixen manipulation, and a murder that places Nick in an unwelcome spotlight.

Each story is steeped in a sense of place. Each considers the mercurial roles of men and women placed in extraordinary circumstances through chance and choice, and each excels in representing the hardboiled detective atmosphere replete in 1920s investigative fiction.

Readers and libraries looking for throwback stories of the past which feature contemporary authors and new perspectives on puzzles will find delightful and compelling the diversity of dilemmas illustrated in in Edgar and Shamus Go Golden.

Its contributors all are well published, with numerous stories and novels to their names and reputations. They will expand their audiences through participation in this anthology. Going back in time is well worth the effort in this sterling example of Golden Age approaches.

Collections strong in the mystery genre that look for historical connections to past murder mystery approaches will find this gathering an intriguing probe not only into the causes of death, but the minds of perps and investigative entities alike.

Mise En Place: Memoir of a Girl Chef
Marisa Mangani
River Grove Books
9781632995650, $16.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Mise En Place: Memoir of a Girl Chef joins a rising number of nonfiction books that blend autobiography with insights on becoming a professional chef. It follows Marisa Mangani as she develops her taste buds, cooking skills, and ambition to pursue a career in the kitchen.

The world of professional cooking has largely been a man's job. The respect, training, and kitchen atmosphere is laden with testosterone. Mangani discovered all this and more as she entered an arena far from the explorations she had previously made in counterculture life.

Her memoir departs from others in that it isn't just a record of cooking. It's a story of kitchen management and behind-the-scenes politics that captures some engrossing, thought-provoking experiences:

"Together with the pot-washing station at Italy's far reaches, Italy/pizza/pot is a kitchen within a kitchen. For the first three months of the fair, it operated as such, with a pizza manager named Steve and his entourage of seasoned dough-flippers creating the theatrical effect required by Chuck Sanders. But the little microcosm became too big for itself and pizza cooks and pot washers began clocking each other in and out, logging sixteen-hour shifts for all. My instructions when I'd discovered this while tallying time cards upstairs in the office was to go down there and fire them all. Fire the kitchen during the lunch rush? With all those hungry staring eyes? Fire them I did, afterward grabbing anyone I thought could flip a pizza crust without making too many holes in it, to keep the station afloat while I trained and retrained to keep the ship on course while millions of judging eyes looked upon us novice pizza schlubs through the pickup window."

Mangani's varied jobs, duties, and challenges aren't just limited to steamy kitchens. Her pursuit of new discoveries and travel led her into many types of culinary situations, all explored here.

This is one of the highlights of this book, and a feature which keeps it from becoming another staid account of growing wiser in the kitchen.

From nutritional revelations to fielding the changing taste buds of a toddler, Mangani probes the world of changing tastes and her fluctuating place in it, juxtaposing personal revelations with new insights into food's place in her world and her changing relationship with it. She is influenced by family experiences and kitchen encounters alike: "After a forced father-daughter tomato-eating episode, with Daughter gagging, she said it was the texture that turned her off. She no longer ate bananas either, or any other fruit for that matter, unless it was in juice form."

Mise En Place is a travelogue, a hedonistic exploration of living life to its fullest, and an embrace of the culinary and food worlds that move outward from the inner sanctum of restaurant kitchen operations to home life and other cultures.

The result is a romp through the hospitality business and the world that goes far, far beyond the usual chef's memoir.

Libraries looking for travelogues of personal discovery and revelation which come replete with added flavors and textures will welcome Mise En Place's outstanding diversity.

The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution
Daniel Varona
Atmosphere Press
9781639887361, $22.99

The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution is a fantasy space opera that introduces the "young revolution" of Eden, a world based on rebirth, where the living are caught in an ongoing struggle between darkness and light which never seems to resolve.

Wars decide how Eden will be reborn in a new cycle, and this current situation isn't any different. Daniel Varona provides the insights and introduction to this scenario which are essential for understanding the impact of Eden's patterns and why things are different now.

New potential lies in this cycle's latest prophesied hero, Seth, who finds himself alone in a world sinking once more into darkness.

Varona is skilled at capturing a "you are here" feel of the atmosphere: "The mounted cannon ejected the harpoon with a metallic sting, ringing for a few seconds. The depth of the giant spear was tracked by the number of clicks the metal wire sounded off, like a machine gun. The connection suddenly halted and seized its tightening grip on whatever it hit. A full second later, a deep and mournful roar erupted from the gloomy blue, causing a shockwave to rattle the once calm waters."

As Seth's purposes merge with those of Valentina (who is fighting against forces that would make slaves of her people) and others characters, a conjoined mission of disparate individuals evolves. Each, in their different way, becomes a force for promoting the Age of Light against the darkness Eden seems destined to fall into.

The pace and action are fast, the characters many, and the intricacies of Eden's political, social, and psychological influences are intriguing. Readers can expect a fantasy that works on both an entertaining leisure read world-building manner, and one which injects a degree of complexity into the changing scenarios of Eden and those who struggle through its cycles of promise and failure.

The dialogue between characters as they fight and confront myriad forces is also very nicely done:

"Damn, girl! I ain't seen a chick move like that before! Now how may I repay ya?" greeted the reckless man in a far-too-friendly manner.

Valentina aimed a fist at him. "Shut it before I shut it for you. You're not the first man I've saved."

Fans of space opera and world-building fantasies will find this first book in the series compelling, concluding with a powerful vision of world-changing gods and attempts to free Eden from its curse that conclude in a cliffhanger for future books to explore.

Libraries seeking vivid, complex world-building fantasies will find The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution a compelling tale worthy of acquisition.

Vince Sgambati
Standing Stone Books
Small Press Distributions (distributor)
979888965658, $18.00

Sanctuaries is a powerful story of adoption, family connections, and being a disparate enigma in a world where relationships and same-sex love are not part of the usual family discussion.

The anguish of unvoiced conversations and the sense of "not being real" do more than permeate young Gianni's life. They influence what kinds of relationships he will develop in the future, and how they will play out.

Raffaella (a middle-aged Jewish-Italian Holocaust survivor) would seem an unlikely choice for a young boy's attraction, but they share an affection for classic films that introduces them to other worlds - and each other.

Another odd choice of connection lies in Gianni's embrace of Gabriel, an African-American drag queen who takes him under his wing when nineteen-year-old Gianni stumbles into the world of queer culture in an exploration of New York City's Christopher Street:

"Saturday night on Christopher Street, summer of 1969, resembled a Hollywood studio lot where Westerns shared the set with the Ziegfeld Follies. Men, some wearing Stetson hats and unbuttoned flannel shirts, or no shirts at all, and drag queens in Dolly Parton wigs, eyed Gianni as if he were an angel come to Sodom and they could smell the newbie on him."

By this time, Gianni is "pretty sure I'm gay." His exploration of his sexuality, the choices in relationships which are driven by mutual recognition of underlying emotional currents, and his personal foray into making himself "visible" in a world experiencing turbulence from the Vietnam War and counter-culture rebellion creates a realistic tale that's hard to put down.

Firmly cemented in the events of the 60s, yet replete with explorations of self and the unspoken, unacknowledged feelings that ripple underneath the surface of traditional concepts of right and wrong, Sanctuaries is a story of discovery, healing, and cultural collision as Gianni faces many 'firsts' and more clearly begins to see how he fits in:

"There were drag queens and drag kings. There were lesbian feminists. There were men who seemed to hate 'nelly queens.' Sylvia and Marsha founded an organization called STAR, a radical collective focused on the needs of trans and gay youth, many of them sex workers. Gianni knew there were schisms, but he didn't understand the depths and anger until today. He both loved and hated his first gay march."

Libraries seeking a LGBTQ novel that explores a young man's coming of age and developing courage to reconsider his psyche in the face of many social and political challenges to his thinking will find Sanctuaries a compelling story. It holds the added value of offering many disparate topics suitable for book club discussion groups, and is a memorable read that's hard to put down, replete with the sensitive countenance of love and self-acceptance.

Andrew Spink
Audacity Press
9798987452103, $25.99 Hardcover/$15.99 Paperback/$9.99 ebook

Intersections: Life-Changing Stories From my Rideshare Passengers takes its readers on a rollicking ride through disparate lives as it follows individuals in rideshare situations.

Opening with a life-changing airport ride bringing three strangers together, the collection focuses on the encounters that bring all kinds of life learning lessons to its participants. Even if all they wanted was a simple ride to somewhere else.

From chance meetings which rekindle love and connection to those that draw driver Andrew Spink to become emotionally invested in the lives of his temporary charges, Intersections traverses the fate that creates extraordinary situations from happenstance.

How will these chance encounters affect these passengers? Will they go on to live their lives, or find themselves forever changed by a single rideshare?

Spink provides intriguing, thought-provoking scenarios which indicate that the process of sharing might extend beyond momentary intersections in life to profoundly affect everyone involved.

Readers who choose Intersections for its promise of enlightening, unexpected rendezvous will find Spink's participation in and documentation of this process results in an inspection of opportunities, ironic chance situations, and the kinds of life-changing moments that can crystallize only in close quarters shared by disparate riders for a brief period of time.

The examples are presented in the form of case histories that read with the drama and inspection of fiction (including dialogues), but represent discoveries that will resonate with readers interested in short biographical sketches featuring candid confessions that were made to an Uber driver privy to the most intimate of life stories.

There are nine dramas in this collection. Each are based on the true experiences of Spink's rideshare passengers, and each offers a moving story of self-discovery, overcoming adversity, and healing that comes from challenged and changing lives.

Readers seeking inspirational true tales that read with the drama of fiction but are backed by real-life experience will find Intersections: Life-Changing Stories From my Rideshare Passengers an uplifting collection driven by drama and capable of provoking the reader's own consideration of how lives intersect and change from chance encounters.

His Lying Got Me Funny
Tulasi Ranganathan
Palmetto Publishing
9781685155223, $24.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paperback/$7.99 ebook

His Lying Got Me Funny is a humorous, fictional account of growing up in a "...crazy but super-loving, overly hugging, and touchy Iyer family" steeped in the culture of South India. Tia's ambition drives her to a new life in America, but her cultural ties send her back home to the man of her dreams that she was dating before she left.

She brings him to America and they marry; but though you can bring someone into another milieu, that doesn't mean you can change him. So Tia finds as she discovers her beloved is actually a compulsive liar whose dishonesty has crafted an illusion she fell in love with.

As Tia uncovers the extent of his lies in two countries and faces both legal repercussions and a renewed effort to find the man she thought she loved, she faces ex-girlfriends; the challenges of being friends with Sameer; and the impact of his decisions and approach to life on her own ideals and experiences.

Tulasi Ranganathan blends cultural inspection, social issues, and humor into Tia's story as she navigates two very different worlds, as well as the disparate viewpoints of men and women.

The humor creates a fun thread for the story, whether it's about Tia participating in a simulation with her skirt over her head, hanging upside down and prompted to fulfill her assigned role as a gunner in a game; or Tia's ongoing confrontation over the impact Sameer's lies have not only on her, but those around her.

Funny, thought-provoking, and culturally insightful, His Lying Got Me Funny is a fictional romp through a modern Indian girl's trials and tribulations. It incorporates a fun sense of discovery along with the disappointments and enlightenment that run side by side in her life experiences.

Readers seeking books with female characters who are proactive, talented, and yet firmly tied to their cultural roots will find His Lying Got Me Funny an intriguing inspection of relationships, ideals, and emotional ties that brings to life not only Tia, but her family, friends, and ambitions.

Your Space, Made Simple
Ariel Magidson
Blue Star Press
9781950968916, $29.95

Your Space, Made Simple offers formulas for affordable DIY interior decorating, and should be made a staple on the bookshelves of anyone renovating their home.

It opens with the usual review of the design process, but then departs from similar interior design books by providing a series of blueprints for design options that encourage uniformity of style and thinking.

These take the form of 'recipes' for redesigning various rooms of the house, from kitchen and bathroom to dining room. The section on outdoors space is particularly important because modern living has begun to embrace the outdoors in much the same inclusive way as the indoors, with weather-resistant furniture, patios, and heating structures offering opportunities for extending the house's square footage of living space.

The recipes include sizing techniques for assuring that all designs are in sync with each other and the house's structure, melding art, design, and function in different ways based on individual routines and habits. Lists of equipment needed for the redesign, options, and assessments include organizational directions for getting the job done.

Color photos, diagrams, and layouts accompany insights from Ariel Magidson's work with clients in developing concepts that also are sensitive to political concerns about cultural appropriation and literal and symbolic impact.

Your Space, Made Simple goes far beyond most interior design displays to consider not just the usage of a home, but the message it embraces, reflects, and embeds in its design choices.

Libraries and readers seeking DIY interior design books that offer recipes not just for success, but psychic support will find Your Space, Made Simple filled with insights and ideas that other design books miss.

Children of Alpheios
Diana Fedorak
The Wild Rose Press
9781509247769, $21.99 Print/$5.99 ebook

Readers of medical thrillers and action stories will find Children of Alpheios a futuristic sci-fi mix that can appeal to a wide audience through a story that is vividly portrayed, action-packed, and hard to put down.

From the start, Children of Alpheios displays a mystery infused with medical intrigue to draw readers into a purple puzzle: "Alina rolled the vial between her fingertips, noting

Mandin's blood sample contained a purplish undertone. They had never requested her permission for an experimental lab test. Dr. Olek would have informed her. Did Dr. Daxmen take one of the vials of blood used for Mandin's diagnostics?"

Mandin is a baby born in a genetically engineered colony on a new world. Even in this world of differences, Mandin stands out; for his DNA makes him as desirable as a lab rat and a possible research project as feared by his young mother, Alina.

Perhaps predictably, Alina must flee her colony home (into the wilds of the planet Eamine) to protect her child. She's aided by a gruff pilot who protects her from many forces as she navigates this strange new world which Mandin's birth has introduced to her life.

As she and Kiean climb ice walls, navigate treacherous terrain, and forge places of new safety and understanding both with one another and their world, connections develop which change the purposes and perspectives of each.

Sci-fi readers that enjoy stories firmly embedded in strange new environments will appreciate the time Diana Fedorak takes in world-building descriptions, while those who look for fast-paced action, intrigue, and satisfying twists and turns will appreciate the medical mystery that drives choices and the pursuit of new lives.

Used to hiding her heart, Alina admits that "The only permanent relationship she could grasp was with Mandin." Her priority doesn't allow her the flexibility to contemplate long-term connections with others.

Many a mother reading this story will heavily relate to Alina's charge and mission: "If her fate was being solely responsible for the most important decisions affecting her and Mandin forever, so be it. She couldn't afford a thought for inconsequential matters, or fanciful longings." As Alina finds there is more at stake than her child's life and happiness, she grows to accept a different role in the world that brings with it a more proactive view of her destiny and choices.

Libraries looking for epic fantasies rooted in world-building scenarios will find Children of Alpheios a top-notch read that stands with the best of fantasies designed to lure readers with identifiable emotional quandaries and issues of personal, social, and political connections.

My Sister Wants an Elephant
Lynne Podrat
Atmosphere Press
9781639887316, $12.99

Randy's younger sister is insane. And his mother seems to be enabling her. In the picture book story My Sister Wants an Elephant, narrated by Randy, almost-two-year-old Jerica makes a birthday request the family seems to actually entertain.

A tone of jealousy runs through Randy's protest of his little sister's demand, because Randy's wanted a llama "forever," but has yet to receive one.

The family lives in a Philadelphia apartment, which was the initial excuse for Randy's llama request not being granted. When they moved to a regular house with space indoors and out, Randy still did not get his dream pet. So, why isn't Jerica's elephant dream immediately discounted?

When he gets over his jealousy, Randy decides to join forces with his younger sibling.

Lynne Podrat's My Sister Wants an Elephant sports especially whimsical, engaging, creative color illustrations by Sarah Gledhill that enhance the story of Randy's decision to insist on achieving his long-term dream.

Emotional peaks and valleys are charted as Randy considers his sister's ability to get their parents to agree to the most impossible dream, and his lessons on how to turn adversity into new possibilities.

From fairness to approaching parents with one's needs, My Sister Wants an Elephant surveys many issues, offering many lessons in the course of revealing Randy's family connections and his deepest desires.

Parents who choose this story for read-aloud will find the laugh-out-loud moments many and the education value about family ties, compromising, adoption, and sharing lend to ongoing discussions and insights.

Words and Graphics - Blue Sunshine
Grey Line Press
B00P2SX8NQ, $1.99 ebook

Blue Sunshine presents the second book in the Words and Graphics series, creating a love story out of free verse, prose, and color images that is a compelling literary approach to exploring sexy, challenging life connections.

From the moment of waking up beside a stranger to the love and anguish that evolve from a chance encounter, Blue Sunshine captures emotions and relationships using a vivid descriptive approach that is thought-provoking:

"We both smiled, and it was her smile that told me she was still there of her own free will. Then, quiet, as if with the mystery solved, there was nothing left to say; there was only the awkwardness of what needed to be done. The reality of her leaving, me being ashamed, both of us left with regret."

Between travels through South Africa, confrontations over pregnancy, and evocative poems peppered throughout (such as 'A Glimpse of Our Future in the Present That We Were Unable to See Through the Haze'), the story unfolds with the complexity of a relationship and the gentle lyrical inspections of philosophy and life experience combined.

Happy endings, new beginnings, and love found and lost all resonate through these visual and literary intersections, embedding Blue Sunshine with a portrait of discovery and intergenerational differences of viewpoint and inspection.

The collection is a literary mosaic of poetic and prosaic dialogues and art centered on love, heartache, and irony.

Libraries seeking literary works that toe the line between fiction, experimental literature, and poetic inspection will find Blue Sunshine an excellent acquisition featuring approaches that are both powerful and accessible to a wide audience.

Your Best Life
Mike X
X-Up Press
9798985804300, $28.00 Hardcover

Your Best Life: Tactics, Tools, and Insights to Create a Life of Fulfillment, Joy and Abundance provides a blueprint for creating an extraordinary life, but it doesn't take the usual route of self-help and enlightenment books. Instead, it purposely violates typical conventions by "going wide" instead of narrowing its topics and focus, packing in visuals for more than a linear experience while employing sparse formatting that is easy on the eye.

Chapters may be read either in progression or by skipping around, as the topics lend to browsing and encourage taking the time to absorb the ideas presented.

The author's admonition to "highlight, scribble, doodle, then share" makes this book more recommendable as a personal acquisition and journal than a library lend, but its messages and invitations are such that it will ideally reside permanently on a home bookshelf for regular review rather than in a library offering only a week or two of limited reading time.

From Mike X's inherent skepticism about the laws of attraction and his take on how this concept can be successfully applied, to the jobs of living consciously and purposefully by honing communication and perception processes that are purposefully enlightening, Your Best Life is filled with practical life applications.

That these are more than ideals and actually work is cemented by stories and examples backed by science and facts. The approaches to better living are concrete. They begin with possible typical life scenarios in which Mike X changed his own approaches:

"It turns out that the same principles apply whether you're trying to talk a guy out of jumping off a bridge or trying to make your spouse feel better after you said something stupid and insensitive. The first step is always the same: connect. You need to establish the strongest possible connection at the current moment in time. (It doesn't matter how connected you were yesterday.) With the guy on the bridge, that begins with asking his name and telling him your name. With your wife, you could skip the introductions, but - until she feels like you've really connected with her and with how she feels at this instant - you're a stranger to her."

These examples are followed by the "how" of better approaches that blend studies in neuroscience and other disciplines with concrete moves that defy the usual magic-tamping patterns of life.

The breadth of these tools and tactics requires only a flexible mind open to adaptation and new avenues for reaching personal, interpersonal, and life success.

Readers interested in taking the next step into personal transformation and enlightenment will want to take Your Best Life and run with it. Its examples and ideas are meant to be put into action and are eminently achievable for all readers at all walks of life, making Your Best Life a highly recommended self-help title over many others.

Other Worlds Were Possible
Joss Sheldon
Rebel Books
9783347753686, $17.99 Hardcover and large print/$11.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook; Audiobook $TBA

Other Worlds Were Possible is a fictional work of political and social commentary. It features the parable of a happy, ideal community confronting "aliens" in their midst who defy the community's approach to living with the earth, promoting its exploitation, instead.

Sound familiar? That's because the story of Sunny and his clan's confrontation with others and themselves mirrors the microcosm of forces that clash in their views of their impact on the planet and the methods of managing it.

The story teaches by example as it moves from a hunter/gatherer society to profile the impact of those who live not with the land, but to "utilize" it. These awaken some uncomfortable (but essential) truths that need to be acknowledged and considered by readers who would assess the urges to build or destroy.

Fables, truths, illusions and realities open this story to draw readers into Sunny's mind and his clan's history.

Early on, issues of generosity, gratitude, and change receive the added touch of subliminal messages about everything from kinship to abundance:

"As Crow moved into his prime, there could be no doubting the matter. He was the most successful hunter anyone could recall. Thanks to Crow, everyone was able to eat meat for both lunch and dinner. But his peers no longer rubbed their bellies, to show their appreciation. They hugged their bellies, to comfort themselves from the stomach pains this meat induced."

Clan names such as Serenity and Delight become examples of irony as the clan grows, changes, and finds itself equally alien, in comparison to its roots.

Joss Sheldon masterfully depicts this transformation process and the methods by which the clan moves away from its initial origins to confront strange and foreign people who "...really were a threat. They were not content with conquering the living. They wished to conquer the dead! They were not just waging war on their people, but on their land; on Mother Nature herself."

As the parable unfolds, the clans-folk experience confusing and distressing grief that lends to philosophical and psychological inspection on a level they never experienced before. Sheldon considers both group decisions and individual rituals in the course of exploring the clan's confrontations both within and outside their group.

Libraries and readers seeking political fables, wry social examinations, and a story of transformation that comments on the history and specter of imperialist actions will find plenty of discussion points suitable for book club and political group debates in the cutting edge that is Other Worlds Were Possible.

Theresa et al.
Jean Hackel
Pond Reads Press
9781643437224, $19.95 paper/$9.99 ebook

Theresa et al. is a novel that follows a trajectory that begins with the disappearance of Theresa Cole, who has discovered that an eagerly-awaited unborn child carries a genetic defect that leads her to consider having an abortion.

Her husband is stationed in Afghanistan and her sisters want to help, but their very religious mother becomes part of a plot to save mother and unborn child against all odds. And so a rift between mother and daughters opens wider as the horror that has led Theresa to run away expands to involve her kin.

Theresa herself hates the thought of abortion. She and her husband Charlie had many plans for their child - a normal child born of love, a perfect child physically and intellectually. Her unexpected journey away from that ideal moral landscape that has embraced her all of her life results in pain, adversity and anguish, immersing her family in a series of challenges that batter their relationships.

Jean Hackel's novel is a microcosm of the battle over abortion affecting American households today. As mother Maureen searches for signs from God that she is doing the right thing, each character faces paradigm-changing circumstances that force them to re-examine virtually every value in their lives.

Hackel covers these circumstances with an astute eye to representing all sides, creating interplays of family dynamics and wrenching emotions over the birth of a child with Down syndrome and the impact of that birth on everyone:

"Theresa, can we do anything for you?" Mary asked, stroking her sister's arm.

"It's a little late," Theresa said sarcastically. "You could have rescued me weeks ago. That would have helped."

"Your sister tried," Charlie's father said. "Believe me, she tried."

"Oh, really?" Theresa responded in a voice that suggested skepticism.

Maureen, from the other side of the table, looked at her daughter and felt mainly shock and dismay. It seemed clear that Theresa was going to blame other people rather than herself."

As struggles stress and challenge ideals of love and sacrifice, readers will be drawn not only into Theresa's dilemmas, but into those faced by everyone who knows her.

In Theresa et al., the author's ability to look at all sides of the birth of a child with Down syndrome and the impact of a variety of choices associated with this event creates an evenly-presented story that focuses on the very human and understandable reactions of different characters.

These storylines lend themselves to discussions by readers interested in not just abortion issues, but in the difficulties involved in raising a disabled child as well as the medical, social, religious, and psychological conundrums that swirl around a family reconsidering what it means to be a good Christian.

Libraries will find the story's many characters and their interactions create a compelling novel that will attract readers of fiction about mothers, children, and family ties.

Alpaca's System II: Complete Guide to Sorcery
Sanchez Jose
Independently Published
9780645451122, $9.95

Self-help spirituality readers will find Alpaca's System II: Complete Guide to Sorcery a survey of sorcery's definition, a progressive examination of how one becomes a sorcerer, and a model for contemplating the energy and path that may bring one's life into a more enlightened state of being.

Sanchez Jose considers the development of personal and spiritual power with an eye to understanding how intention and the energy body interact, and how they may be trained via a different definition of "sorcery" than the usual image of magic and wand-waving:

"Sorcery can be taken as the art of accumulating energy, personal power - which is then used to alter perception and perform actions that lay beyond the spectrum of "ordinary" by the means of intention. It is the art of freedom that allows practitioner to liberate from imposed limitations and become a master of his own reality."

Contrary to the typical approach of many new age spirituality titles, Jose illustrates different concepts of energy (such as the tonal and nagual), marrying these concepts to ideals of spiritual and psychological growth to encourage readers to take the steps into self-examination that involve deeper-level inspections:

"The point is not in what you can do with the help of all the technological devices and social interconnections, but in who you really are and how you feel deep inside, beneath the level of ego and even the level of physical body. There, on the deepest level, we have potential to be strong and disciplined - to be impeccable, to shape ourselves in any possible way, to explore the multi-dimensional energetic reality and to transcend beyond the human stage of evolution."

The differentiation between seekers and sorcerers is nicely defined:

"Sorcerers, however, realise that the path of concentration on superficial - the path of an ordinary human leads to nowhere as it locks us in a relatively narrow spectrum of possibilities that are defined by rational limitations. Instead of entertaining themselves while waiting for an end and making the everyday life as simple and safe as possible - sorcerers go the other way, concentrating on comprehensive development of their structures on both the physical (Tonal) and energetic (Nagual) levels."

As Jose guides readers through the process of identifying and striving for this particular type of wisdom, chapters accomplish the difficult task of achieving balance from and during the process. This helps wisdom-seekers better identify the structures for achieving awareness and enlightenment, showing how not just to gain it, but optimize its impact on daily life.

The result is a textbook on enlightenment, self-liberation, and practical processes and applications of wisdom that offers spiritual readers a guided focus on self-healing and developing personal power.

Libraries and readers seeking blueprints for deep-level change will find Alpaca's System II: Complete Guide to Sorcery clear, accessible, and engrossing.

Everybody Knows
David Wesley Williams
Jackleg Press
9781737513469, $17.00

Everybody Knows is a satirical novel that blends Biblical allusions with political and social commentary about modern times. It brims with the atmosphere of a rainy period in small town Tennessee that is a microcosm of a world under siege.

Even readers who don't normally enjoy Biblical references will find delightful the language and approach David Wesley Williams cultivates in building this world:

"It was dusk on a Sunday, some ten years after the year the world didn't end. It was early that summer in a town called

Lower Grace, in the west of Tennessee, in the great nation under God, and under water - or up in flames, all depending.

No cranny of the country was safe, no crook or bend. The West was burning up. In the Midwest there were dust storms like something out of Deuteronomy. Elsewhere were tornadoes and hurricanes and epic electrical storms; government weather radar, just before it went down, recorded a single lightning bolt that stretched from Kennebunkport, Maine, to Paducah, Kentucky. There were sinkholes, spontaneous combustions, plagues of insects - winged fuckers the size of Piper Comanches."

From the "high lonesome sound" of banjos and musicians to the process of facing the coming storm by tempting fate, the political and social milieu of the South comes to life in a compelling narrative marked by literary style and passages steeped in Tennessee culture: "And the Tennessee deck, the pleasure deck, did thrum with dancing and fighting, carousal and every kind of country music there was; some of it was even real."

In a likeable romp through this environment, there are mistresses and politicians; tyrants and escaped felons; the advantage of hindsight (the novel is set in the near future) paired with the irony of a world in which current tragedy is but a guiding light to what the future holds; and a sense of post-apocalyptic struggle that embraces the lives of disparate character almost as an afterthought to the tragedies that mark their days.

Everybody knows what's coming, but the band plays on.

As beautiful language permeates an elusive dance between parody and reality, Everybody Knows becomes a welcome beacon of promise and possibility even as its unusual characters face climate change and political challenges to Southern tradition. The crazy, heartbreaking, choppy seas of life carry characters and readers onto the shores of change as posthumous notes of a dying America are played.

Libraries and readers looking for evocative literary works replete in social inspection and ironic observation will relish the linguistic lure of Everybody Knows, which cultivates a wild roller coaster ride through the lives of seafarer and survivor Trimble, convicted murderer Cheatham, and others under siege in a crumbling South.

What Love Can Do
Katharine Hope Levy
Romance Without Borders Publishing
9798987457009, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Second chances do not come easy, and are not always seen as such. What Love Can Do is a literary romance story about lost opportunities and new chances.

Jennifer Bantam is entering her forties - but many would never know it. Attractive and outwardly confident and self-sufficient, she harbors a sensitivity that is shaken by an unexpected text from Matt Conroy, a beau from twenty years ago.

Communication reveals a situation which has long plagued Matt, and which she had blocked from her memory. Now, after all these years, he is ready to confront its lasting impact - only to find that she's moved on so thoroughly that the past has become shrouded in secrecy and the bliss of ignorance.

Jennifer and Matt share many ideals; not the least of which is about love: "My mom used to say that cardinals teach us that real love takes time and that you need to be patient and persevere, and when the right person comes along, you'll know it because you'll be able to see into each other's hearts and souls. She said that with true love, all things are possible."

As they relearn how to be with one another, absorb forgotten lessons of the past, and contemplate entering and leaving a new relationship, each becomes changed by not only the second chance of their encounter after so much time, but by their connections to others.

Jennifer was with Brad for three years before they broke up over the issue of having children she coveted and he didn't want to raise. As she and Matt discuss past relationships, why failures occurred, and differences in ideals and approaches to life, they begin to realize that second chances may not be all they seem.

When a different kind of second chance evolves from serendipity and long repressed desire, Jennifer finds herself on a whirlwind of change.

Tasteful but graphic sex scenes pepper the story, adding sultry attraction for romance readers who like their stories hot, whether they are physical descriptions or emotional revelations.

The humor and play that permeates this story is as compelling as the discussions about maturing love and expectations between the couple, and the fiery passions they reawaken in one another. Katharine Hope Levy creates a warm, compelling love story that rests as much on transformation and two powerful individuals coming together in different ways as it does on the juxtaposition of past and present-day experiences and expectations. Cemented by equally powerful characters that discover renewed possibilities in their lives by joining together, What Love Can Do is heartwarming and embracing.

Libraries and readers seeking women's fiction that tingles with renewed connection, vibrant considerations of individuality and growth, and blossoming passion that operates on physical and psychological levels alike will find What Love Can Do steeped in powerful attractions.

A Look Into the Secrets of Credit Repair
Diana Donnelly
Independently Published
9798986572512, $16.77 paper/$5.99 ebook

A Look into the Secrets of Credit Repair: How to Fix Your Score and Erase Bad Debt: 6-Step Strategy + 609 Sample Letters to Take Control of Your Finances and Outsmart the Credit Bureaus is for any reader interested in improving their credit rating or recovering from bad debt situations, and offers a six-step program for handling debt and poor credit ratings.

Credit scores affect lifelong endeavors. That's a harsh reality for many to absorb, along with the knowledge that one's financial status and choices can either expand or limit possibilities.

Diana Donnelly takes a hard look at what goes into a credit score, how to boost it and fund a desired lifestyle without taking big risks and becoming trapped in endless debt, and how to understand the underlying financial institutions, rules, and applications of credit scores.

Chapters assume no prior reader financial savvy, but teach the basics of embarking on a 'Simple Credit-Building Strategy' designed to demystify the credit score process. They build upon one another as they impart a progressive understanding of common financial choices and their impact, including poor choices that seem like good ideas at the time:

"Closing your credit card to avoid paying your debt or because you feel as though you can never catch up on missed payments is like moving your unfolded laundry from your bed to that chair in the corner of your bedroom: it's still there, and it still needs to be dealt with. Even if you have good reasons to close your credit card, like maybe you don't want that specific credit card account anymore, closing the account can harm your credit score."

This and other facts may surprise not only new adults, but many who believe themselves relatively well versed in the world of credit.

Applying her 30 years of experience in real estate, Diana Donnelly synthesizes decades of acquired practical knowledge into a formula for success that readers from all walks of life and financial circumstances can easily follow.

Especially revealing are the insights into handling debt that draw direct connections between these choices and one's resulting credit score: "The debt you owe the creditor will count as one negative mark on your report, and the same debt you owe that has been transferred to the debt collector will become a separate negative mark on your report."

How do people get in trouble and find themselves underwater, burdened with debt and poor credit? Donnelly explains not only how this happens, but how to affect repairs that reflect new healthy financial habits.

Libraries and readers seeking books that pinpoint specific pitfalls and opportunities in the credit world will find A Look into the Secrets of Credit Repair packed with not only insights into the process, but better financial approaches and choices that can repair even the worst credit report.

Odriel's Heirs
Hayley Reese Chow
Independently Published
9781652953302, $0.99 ebook, $8.01 pbk

Odriel's Heirs is the first book in a YA fantasy series of the same name, and will appeal to teens who like proactive, strong female protagonists, world-changing stories, and action-packed scenarios of conflict and growth.

The first lines of the novel paint a powerful portrait of the Dragon Heir: "Kaia Dashul wove a ball of fire between her fingertips, feeling the rage simmering beneath a tangle of excited nerves as she watched the festival from the shadowed wood."

Her inherited power is meant to protect her people from the threat of a dangerous leader's undead army. However, so many years have passed peacefully that this legendary threat has become a simmering possibility that seems relatively remote from everyday life, making the Dragon Heir feel like more of a present threat than a stop gate to evil.

Kaia is just beginning to learn how to control and apply her powers when the undead re-emerge to threaten everything. She runs away to join the battle and fulfill her destiny, only half-trained in her powers. As rage, driven by teenage hormones, combines with her coming-of-age and great responsibilities to save not only herself, but her people, Kaia's situation appeals with not just fantasy adventure, but the realistic portrait of a young woman who really just wants to be accepted and loved.

As she associates with the Shadow Heir who wields a similar ability and learns the true meaning of a potential hero's connections and disassociations with the world, Hayley Reese Chow builds a vivid series of battles and scenarios in which epic events sweep archetypal figures off their feet.

The juxtaposition of teenage angst and adult purpose are particularly well done as Kaia not only walks into her destiny, but strides into battles greater than those within her.

The confrontations which drive the action are many and are graphically portrayed, lending an aura of reality to the tale: "With a spin and a wide sweep of her blade, Kaia managed to fling the eyeless beasts from her body and take three paces before another group tried to pull her back. She chopped at them with her blade and took a step before another one locked its arms around her neck. With one more stumbling lunge she passed through Dorinar's defense. Screeching, the cobalan on her back slammed into the light barrier as if it were made of brick. More white-skinned cobalans piled up against the yanaa shield, breaking against it like a rough sea on the rocks."

Odriel's Heirs is a solid, compelling opening story to the series, creating an entire world that revolves around a young woman's blossoming powers and ability to decide how to employ them.

Libraries looking for world-building epic fantasy stories that center on strong females and supporting characters that exhibit equally interesting blends of power and decision-making prowess will find Odriel's Heirs well-written and hard to put down.

The Gatekeeper of Pericael
Hayley Reese Chow
Independently Published
9798583619184, ebook: $0.99, paperback: $4.57

In The Gatekeeper of Pericael, twelve-year-old Porter has the task of channeling spirits from the alternate universe of Pericael while maintaining a seemingly-ordinary life as part of a family on Earth - a family charged with being Gatekeepers between the two worlds.

When a soul thief enters this scenario and challenges Porter's desire to maintain a delicate balance between two worlds, he finds himself in Pericael, struggling to survive and maintain and absorb his powers as the gatekeeper's son.

Faced with bigger-picture thinking, young Porter can't help but wish his life was simpler. He expresses this frustration in ways and during events that other books might present differently (but less realistically). True to his young nature, Porter isn't as interested in being heroic as he is in living an ordinary life and being accepted by his peers. This juxtaposes with his loftier position and mission in life and provides a (perhaps) annoyingly realistic portrait of a boy who just wants to play games and remain less than a superhero despite his heritage and mission.

While some young readers may balk at the way Porter faces his challenges and how sisters Fira and Conri confront the same adversities in a different manner, the strength of this story lies in many of its realistic scenarios in which a young hero really doesn't want to step up to the job that tests his childhood.

The growth process, as it so often is, proves so sudden that some might say it's nearly a magical transformation of attitude; but growth isn't always a linear process. The lessons Porter receives and rejects are suddenly absorbed in a satisfyingly unpredictable manner that remains true to life's leaps forward.

From Ames and Yassa to Fira and Conri, a host of characters both support Porter's evolutionary process and contrast nicely with it with their own perspectives on courage and purpose.

The result is surprisingly complex for a pre-teen fantasy, but provides characters whose choices and actions don't always embrace the idea of heroism, but the desire to live their lives in ways they choose rather than what destiny ordains.

Libraries seeking fantasies that hold the opportunity for wide-ranging discussions and insights among children's and preteen book clubs will find the spirited psychologists twists and turns of The Gatekeeper of Pericael lend to discussion as well as attractive leisure reading.

The Vast Clear Blue
Karen Winters Schwartz
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781958231098, $11.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Vast Clear Blue is about a wife's betrayal, a husband's flight to Central America in response, and a new milieu of relationships which bring with them different forms of complexity and engagement. Readers who choose this story for its promise of new beginnings from loss and angst will find that it opens with a compellingly different tone:

"I would have sex with that chicken," she stated. Mark laughed. What the hell was she talking about? But then he laughed again, and she joined him, because of course she would not have sex with a chicken. She was simply putting herself in the place of the hens that they were watching through the car window - the hens that scratched and pecked at the earth of Belize."

Mark wonders if he resembles that rooster because his encounter with Kendal, a fellow American whose complicated relationship between her older, dying husband and her lover (his best friend), develops a connection neither saw coming.

Karen Winters Schwartz steeps her novel in the atmosphere of Belize and the warmth of its environment. Readers unfamiliar with this country or its milieu receive a fine exploration of both the region and the hearts and minds of visitors who undertake to explore its byways in the course of solidifying their own mixed intentions and confusing relationships.

The three main characters (Mark, Kendal, and her lover Aaron) dance around one another and the life, impending death, and demise of relationships that bring them to form new connections with one another.

As Mark recalls his wife Cathy, their children, and the infidelity which drove them apart, he reassesses his own role in the marriage:

"...he had the vague memory of his eyes finding his wife on the couch that Christmas morning; and instead of the warm glow of love, a fleeting thought had skipped through his mind: she didn't look quite as good as she had when they'd married - a few extra pounds, that new haircut he didn't love, an older, slightly pasty face...He pushed his hands through his hair and looked out to the churning gray sea. What kind of man was he to think such thoughts on Christmas - or any time, for that matter? As if the years had only taken from Cathy and left him still in his early twenties. He had, in some basic way, failed."

This and other revelations weave into his new life abroad to bring growth and acknowledgement of the part his changing attitude might have played in his marriage's failure ... a pattern he may be in danger of repeating now. Mark left behind many unresolved questions and family when he fled his wife's infidelity. He also left anger and broken responses, but took some with him.

His self-examination and his evolving new and changing old connections in life makes for a moving story about divorce, change, and transformation that will lead readers to think more deeply about their own approaches to and ideals of love and life.

All the characters receive close inspection, from the kind of man Aaron seems to be to elderly husband Charlie's demise and his young wife's response.

The Vast Clear Blue is about navigating changing friendships and love. Its powerful surveys of all three characters create many discussion points which book clubs will find thought-provoking, creating lively food for thought and debate.

August or Forever
Ona Gritz
Fitzroy Books
c/o Regal House Publishing
9781646033072, $8.95 Paper/$8.49 ebook

August or Forever provides children with a story of siblings and blended families, and tells of ten-year-old Molly, whose older half-sister Alison lives on another continent entirely. They maintain connection through letters, but it's not the same as being under the same roof, like many of her friends enjoy. At last, however, Alison is coming to visit with them for an entire summer ... and there may be a way Molly can get her to stay.

As Molly learns more about being a sister and discovers some secrets about why Alison lives so far away, she comes to realize that her illusions about this sibling and the expectation that she will conform to Molly's ideal of sisterhood are unfair.

Is blood thicker than distance? Raised apart, Molly and Alison still hold a family connection which comes into play and keeps them together even when psychological and physical distance separate them.

Ona Gritz crafts a compelling story of what it means to be sisters. Through ten-year-old Molly's first-person insights, new realizations about her older sister's perspectives and approaches to life come to light to provide thought-provoking insights for siblings who pursue August or Forever. This special form of enlightened understanding evolves a tale that revolves around dreams, expectations, and changing realities:

"The one person who gets this about me is Diane, which is why she's the one person I'll let join me in my room while I draw. We'll sit next to each other on my bed, and she'll quietly work on poems. Diane loves to write, but never gets to do it at home for obvious reasons. I guess I'd always assumed it would be the same for Alison and me. We'd sit in our shared room in the evenings, each silently working."

August or Forever is a warm story of sisters who are very different in many ways, yet bonded in others. Its message and exploration of these different experiences and ideals will encourage young readers to better understand their own siblings - especially if blended families are involved.

The mystery revealed in family history and her older sister's secret adds a further touch of intrigue and revelation to a story that offers just the right blend of revelation and discovery to the sibling encounter.

Libraries seeking novels about blended families and sister relationships will find August or Forever deserves not just profile on a library shelf, but recommendation to classrooms interested in assigned reading and opportunities for group inspections of family makeup and illusions.

Unresting Death
David Lehner
Defoe Books
9798370437366, $8.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Unresting Death is the second book in the USA Trilogy series, and will especially attract prior readers of The Far and the Near, continuing the story of political and social conflict and the forces that intentionally mask the real purposes and actions of government entities.

The story opens with an alluring atmosphere of intrigue as Private Kirby struggles with repairing an engine. It's only as he's walking away from it that an explosion demonstrates that he was literally a step away from death.

In stark contrast is the second chapter, which presents the characters of Craig and his parents, who live in a prestigious neighborhood thanks to his father's job in law and connections to the mob. The undercurrent to this facade of success lies in a gambling habit which has placed Craig's father in a dangerous position.

As more characters are introduced in following chapters, a progressive series of events accompany them to tie these figures together, representing diverse walks of life and fantasies about the future which dovetail in unpredictable ways.

Craig Rosen's drive for answers in college leads to his nefarious association with those who would influence and command free elections in America. How an ambitious young man finds his ideals and questions twisted to other purposes is just one of the subplots embedded in a story filled with thought-provoking contrasts between characters and intentions:

"What Craig wanted to learn was how it came about that a person, or religion, or society, could bring people to believe things that were not true. Once Craig asked himself that simple question, a huge sprawling complex of insights and ideas opened before him."

From wealthy segments of society to down-and-out characters like Mac McCaslin (who is "...alone, abandoned, with no one to blame, and nothing to be done ... Always some threat or trouble somewhere. The birds of the air must live like this, Mac thought. And yet they get by."), the story evolves on different levels and from different perspectives as it embraces social conditions and political special interests alike.

As these seemingly disparate figures find their lives unexpectedly interconnected, readers will relish the psychological and social juxtaposition of a changing world in which each character faces difficult choices and transformations that seem to them to be unlikely, given their backgrounds.

He did not know where he was going, but he was not going home.

Unresting Death doesn't assume the typical condemning approach of either right-wing or left-wing politics, but leaves its examination flexible enough that readers can easily interface with and form their own opinions of what "side" the characters represent.

David Lehner is especially astute in setting up surprises even seasoned novel readers won't see coming. Issues of justice, redemption, and poor or logical choices are neatly woven into a story which introduces its characters (and their followers) to bigger-picture thinking - even if it kills them.

Libraries seeking a fine novel of interplays between political forces and moral and ethical challenges will find Unresting Death vivid in its disparate characters and their social and political setbacks and challenges.

Diamond on the High Seas
Karen Gilleland
Independently Published
9798363242922, $24.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Diamond on the High Seas is a nautical mystery that takes place aboard a cruise ship and sails through uncharted waters. It tells of protection service owner Hope Diamond's charge to embark on a cruise to protect her husband's cousin from an assassin. But that's only the tip of the iceberg when murders (plural intended) enter the picture despite her best efforts.

From the tongue-in-cheek choice of naming the main character 'Hope Diamond' to her already-complex dilemma of ending her relationship with FBI Agent Matt Dennison (who also happens to wind up on the same cruise), Karen Gilleland cultivates an atmosphere of odd circumstance, interconnected lives, and irony that adds an undercurrent of emotional suspense to the story.

As agent and traitor begin an odd dance, Hope finds herself in the middle of danger on the ship, mired in a business she loves more than Matt. Or, does she?

Different characters interact with Hope and Matt to add their own special interests and secrets into the growing complex mix of intrigue.

Karen Gilleland crafts a story that moves between personal and professional adversity with a changing target that operates in a relatively closed environment of both the cruise ship and emotional attachments.

Gilleland spices her plot with the seasoning of emotional and moral change and adds more than a dash of cruise ship culture and atmosphere that challenges each character to fulfill their missions while listening to their hearts.

As their jobs lead them into murky waters, Matt and Hope dance around the bigger picture before it is fully exposed to introduce additional challenges into their lives.

The stormy atmosphere builds nicely, adopting a tension throughout that keeps readers engaged in the different threads of possibility that emerge from unexpected places aboard ship.

Libraries and readers seeking mysteries steeped in realistic atmosphere, interpersonal special connections, and professional challenge will find Diamond on the High Seas cultivates a special brand of investigative insights that range from FBI approaches to a protection service owner's increasing involvement in matters over her head, heart, and pay scale.

Haunting Pasts
Trevor Wiltzen
Wiltzen Publishing
9781777421243, $3.99

Haunting Pasts provides another investigation that surrounds waitress and part-time sleuth Mabel Davison in a cold case she'd thought she long put to bed. Mabel thought she'd set aside this quasi-profession. As the working single mother of two young boys and guardian of her niece, she more than has her hands full without reawakening ghosts of past investigations.

But sometimes the past reaches out to haunt you. Such is the case that literally stumbles into her diner to threaten her family, dredging up ghosts of the past that could tear apart everything she's built and shake her future's foundations.

She's already nearly lost everything fighting for her community and family. Now she stands on the cusp of further changes and challenges, delving into lies and carefully hidden truths to find a serial killer lies at the heart of controversy.

Trevor Wiltzen injects social issues into the confrontations Mabel faces with family, friends, and those who operate in murky territory. A Christian mother confronts a hero's confession that he is gay, hurling accusations at Mabel when she tries to defend him: "How dare you talk to me! You did this! You! No wonder the town hates you! You and all your ungodly ways. Living alone in sin without a husband! Raising two feral boys!"

As dialogues between characters and confrontations blossom, it turns out the killer (who is likely someone she knows) is just one of the many challenges she faces in a world where friends are dropping like flies and adversity is everywhere.

Newcomers to Mabel's life will find that Trevor Wiltzen does an excellent job of summing up her past experiences to ease their entry into her latest case.

The characters and community milieu are nicely developed and realistic, contrasting Mabel's home life with her proclivity for getting into trouble and identifying perps who hide under the guise of ordinary individuals and lives.

Her desire to protect others contrasts nicely with the illusions she fosters about those around her and the realities a serial killer introduces through actions that draw increasingly too close to home.

A thread of humor runs through Mabel's perceptions and responses, adding further depth to this story of life's ironies and realities.

The result is a haunting tale that leads Mabel to more closely examine her past. It also prompts readers to follow her into the process of assumptions and identifying their beliefs about systemic racism, good and bad decision-making processes, and wisdom gained from realizing that layers of good and evil lie beneath the surface of what seems to be a safe haven.

Libraries and readers seeking stories that blend an amateur investigator's efforts with growing insights about her community of choice will find the issues and relationships presented in Haunting Pasts intriguing. It will also attract interest and discussion from book clubs that look for mysteries engrained in the affairs of killers, investigators, and social questions that challenge communities in flux.

Shadow Valley
Nik Xandir Wolf
Kelp Books, LLC
9781737322870, $22.00 Hardcover/$14.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook

It's unusual to recommend a suspense crime story to readers who also enjoy surfing stories, but Shadow Valley neatly fills both with its special flavor of intrigue which journeys from Panama to the beaches and counterculture communes of Santa Cruz, California; then back into the murky waters of romance, family angst, and death.

Nik Xandir Wolf moves through these shifting worlds so deftly that readers can't help but walk in the two characters' shoes as they navigate their blossoming relationship, the events that land them on the run (as well as on a search for the truth about Heath's past), and perilous truths about family connections which are not what they seem.

The opening chapter explores Heath's early roots and family, which represent unexpected ties to a world Heath should ideally never know:

"As a hired killer who never knew his own father, Hector had hardened himself against love and all of its variations. Then, in his mid thirties, he met this girl, Lindsay, and she cracked that shell wide open. And then they had their son, Heath. And it was as though Hector's entire understanding of the universe had been violently ripped away. This girl and this boy left an imprint on his soul so deep, and so complete, Hector was transformed."

Most novels about couples don't include the special brand of tension that is cultivated in Shadow Valley. Under Wolf's hand, both relationship and political and social challenges come to light in a strange dance with death that keeps Heath and Rori in the crosshairs of discovery and danger.

As events unfold through Heath's first-person experiences, readers absorb Rori's certainty that the duo must face adversity together at all odds (and costs): "We need to stick together. Forever."

Once immersed in an underworld of intrigue and crime, how do you escape? That is the question Rori and Heath face, which is perhaps more important than their search for family roots or truth. It's also the question that will keep readers enthralled as the dynamic duo moves ever deeper into a quicksand that threatens to pull them in and tear them apart.

Libraries and readers seeking vivid suspense stories that are fast-paced and powerfully connected between characters and readers will find Shadow Valley outstanding for its vivid action, sense of place, and evolving sense of purpose as Heath and Rori struggle with themselves, one another, and forces that would change their lives. Shadow Valley features many surprising twists that readers will love.

The Dark Waves of Winter
David M. Olsen, Editor
Kelp Books, LLC
9798986946207, $28.00 Hardcover/$14.50 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Dark Waves of Winter is a literary short story crime anthology that both compliments the prior collection, The Silver Waves of Summer, and stands on its own. It gathers the works of extraordinary writers who spin compelling yarns based on beaches, waves of adversity, and navigating crime.

The opening short story 'Room and Board' by Vinnie Hansen, is about a Santa Cruz, California couch surfer whose helpful friend gets him a job at the Surf Museum. They hope that gainful employment will get Jayden off the couch and into mainstream society, as well as providing him with a coveted surfboard.

Instead, the docent job both exploits the past patterns Jayden has developed with his friend Matt and introduces new conundrums as he navigates his friend's ulterior motives and the cost of their connections - especially when he screws up and steals the wrong surfboard.

In the process of making good on his promise to Matt, Jayden discovers that crime can be alluring: "His heart raced, but damn, this was fun, like making the drop on a big wave."

Readers will relish the blend of surf culture and suspense that evolve as Jayden rides unto unfamiliar territory, fumbling criminal activity and work life and leaving havoc in his wake.

Shannon Hollinger's 'Undertow' is a study in contrasts as it reveals a plot that also evolves out of an old connection that emerges from the past. Ex-cop Reggie finds himself drawn into a nefarious situation when his chance encounter with old acquaintance Scotty leads to a strange job - to watch Scotty's wife, who has been unwell since a surfing accident.

"Perhaps Reggie should have known that it wouldn't go as planned. And he should probably feel bad about what's happened. But he doesn't. Not at all. Because it's impossible to believe that something that feels so right could possibly be wrong."

The assignment goes awry and tilts into uncharted territory as Reggie faces the failures of his past and a riptide of events that leads to yet another terrible result.

Each story excels in connecting crime scenes with the psyches and conundrums that disparate personalities exhibit and face as they enter the treacherous territory of emotional connections and life adversity.

Readers who enjoy surfing and water themes combined with crime revelations will find The Dark Waves of Winter a compelling anthology where every short story reflects its own creative light.

Libraries on the lookout for crime anthologies of new voices that are powerfully rendered will welcome The Dark Waves of Winter into their literary and mystery collections.

Poor Tom
Martin Drapkin
HenschelHAUS Publishing
9781595989321, $16.95

Poor Tom is a humorous story of Jewish literature. It tells of Julius Dickman, who wants to be a mensch by being a good son and father figure, but harbors a full sack of insecurities, phobias, and worries that prevent him from being effective in his own life; much less in another's world.

The ironies and inconsistencies of his life often assume the feel of the Shakespearian play that his father is so enthralled with, King Lear. Perhaps if his name hadn't stemmed from the Bard's influence, Julius could have been more powerful in his life ("Sometimes I wish they'd given me a nice, short, masculine, one-syllable name - Bob, maybe, or Biff. Al would be okay. I think I'd have been more successful with women that way.").

Nonetheless, it is what it is. Until it isn't, which is a circumstance retirement introduces to his father, changing their relationship and challenging Julius to step outside his own sense of self and world worries to adopt a bigger role in life.

Martin Drapkin is astute at weaving the subtle marks of Jewish heritage, literary influence, and psychological dilemmas into this story, examining Jewish culture and conundrums with an eye to injecting them with both recognizable scenarios and extraordinary outcomes.

As Julius considers possible careers that don't contain drama, questioning the photography which keeps leading him into stormy situations, the humor rings true in even his dreams of embarking on a different life:

"I even had the idea to start my own painting business. I wouldn't call it Dickman's Fine Painting, though. Maybe Julius's Mediocre Painting. Or even Poor Tom's Painting, with no descriptor one way or the other. I'd be a one-man operation. I don't want to work together with anyone or manage or supervise anyone else. I don't want to have to make conversation. I just want to do my work alone, preparing the surfaces and applying the coats of paint with brushes and rollers as carefully as I can, not making messes, and cleaning up thoroughly, and maybe listen to my CDs of plays while I did my work - just the comedies, though, and maybe some of the histories, but not those damned corpse-strewn tragedies anymore."

He's sick of his life assuming the progression of a Shakespearian piece; but keeps falling into the kinds of situations that challenge his desire to do well and be better.

Drapkin's story weaves a fine portrait of Jewish life and culture, an uncertain character's wavering resolve to become more than he was raised to be, and family history and drama that intersects with the stage in unusual ways.

Replete with wry social inspection and psychological complexity, Poor Tom is a top recommendation for readers of Jewish literature and libraries looking for excellent contemporary voices that capture Jewish thinking - the latter via a romp through the hopes and dreams of a chronic worrywart who longs to play a different role in life.

Making Friends With Monsters
Sandra L Rostirolla
Pinkus Books
9780999189184, $15.95 Paperback/$28.00 Hardcover/$9.99 ebook

Making Friends With Monsters is a YA novel that tackles the heady subjects of depression and unbalanced families. It explores how to not just understand, but talk about the too-often-unspoken 'monster in the closet' that affects family relationships, yet reinforces its isolating message with silence.

Yes, the author admits the book's contents and approach may be 'triggering' to some. It should be. The monsters she tackles still walk among those in society who face suicide, shaming, and family dysfunction which remains confined to the four walls of home, growing with the tacit acceptance of the edict not to tell.

The first-person narrator opens the story with a bang of realistic observation about family dynamics, farm life, and a growing mental illness that takes over Sam's family: "The moment Dad picks up the phone, a sickening feeling races through my stomach, like I know something bad is going to happen. Kind of like in a scary movie, when someone does something they shouldn't do, and that wrong decision sets off a chain of events that may seem unrelated, but really they're connected by a Monster that's hiding in the dark, slowly scratching at the wall, waiting to attack."

Drought and stressful times have awakened the beast at the heart of this family's world, and as chaos and unpredictability devour and threaten routines and ordinary life, Sam too descends into a form of angst that threatens to erupt.

The wrong decision outlined in the introductory chapter continues to grow as Sam's family experiences turbulence and Sam's relationship with his beloved older brother disintegrates, isolating Sam and shutting out everyone: "I don't wear Ben's jersey to look cool. I wear it because, well, I used to wear his stuff because I wanted to be him. Who wouldn't? He's a sports hero who has a ton of mates and the best girlfriend. Now, I wear his jersey because it's the only way I know how to feel close to him. He's changed so much; I don't know who he is anymore."

Making Friends With Monsters depicts, more carefully and realistically than most, the inner sanctum of family relationships and what happens when they are breached from a force within.

Sandra L Rostirolla is especially adept at capturing daily routines, outside life forces of adversity which buffet the family, and the psychological profiles of parents and siblings who become lost in the process of confronting and containing an emotional storm that threatens to grow beyond their ability to survive.

As Sam confronts his brother's demons, his father's choices, and his own role in changing family dynamic, YA readers receive a powerful saga of change and confrontation that will lead them to examine their own family dynamics and perceptions of different forms of dysfunction and mental illness:

"I've stopped agonizing over whether Dad's Monster is on the verge of swallowing him whole. Ever since the water truck incident, when his Monster decided our family's need for water was more important than its hunger, I figure Dad's Monster has a ton more digging to do before it even scratches Dad's surface. Of course, this way of thinking is my Monster refusing to acknowledge the possibility of Dad being on the edge."

Sam's ability to swim through murky waters of individual and group monsters to perceive not just truths, but possible ways out, creates a compelling novel that is gripping from beginning to end. As the emotional currents carry family and Sam into new and uncharted waters, young readers will be not just invited, but compelled to examine themes of mental health and illness.

Making Friends With Monsters is highly recommended not just for YA libraries seeking novels replete with themes of family evolution and mental conditions, but for adults leading discussion groups about books and scenarios relating to family mental health and illness. This audience will find especially inviting the numerous observations, events, and realizations which lend particularly well to group discussion and YA insights about not just living with and enduring, but handling forces of adversity that can lend to unexpected strength.

Hometown Heroines
Betty Bolte
Mystic Owl Publishing
9798986045030, $4.99 ebook/$14.99 paperback

Young adults who enjoy historical fiction about brave, proactive girls will find Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure a satisfying blend of romance and proactive thinking. It profiles young women who rise to the challenge of helping not just themselves, but those around them, whether they be family or strangers.

As an introduction to the genre of historical fiction, Hometown Heroines makes an important case for the fact that history need not be dry and dull. Each of the nineteen profiles of 1800s girls that Betty Bolte chooses in her book features a vivid life filled with pivotal moments that demand newfound skills or choices that test each young woman's mettle.

Bolte well knows the typical problems with presenting history to young people. She grew up hating history's dryness and boring attention to dates and details, but became resolved, as an adult writer, to introduce a different type of story to young adults that brings events to life.

Perhaps one key to why these tales stand out from other types of YA historical writings is that Bolte presents the stories with an especially strong feel of familiarity reinforced by her travels to the regions each young woman lived in.

This lends a special "you are here" feel to the stories as each girl navigates a different milieu that results in local commemoration of her actions and choices.

The characters range in age from seven to twenty years old. Each demonstrates capability, courage, and a reasoning process that, combined with action, led them to take charge of and resolve adversarial situations.

Each biographical sketch includes a "just the facts" section that synthesizes only the facts, for historical accuracy, citing their sources so students have references to consult when producing papers or conducting further research.

The result is an especially lively portrait of young girls and women who chose uncommon and proactive paths in their lives against all odds. Hometown Heroines is a cornucopia of portraits in courage that read with the vivid re-enactment drama of fiction, but holds breathtaking adventures that will captivate a wide age range.

If only one collection of female biographical sketches could be chosen to represent both historical events and portraits of courage, it should be Hometown Heroines. The synthesis of fictional drama with plenty of fact-based, research-supported information makes it a standout, as recommendable to leisure readers and non-history fans as it will be to those who enjoy reading about proactive young women who face their challenges with courage and resolution.

From Oversight to Overkill
Simon N. Whitney
Rivertowns Books
9781953943224, $32.95 Hardcover/$22.95 Paper/$7.99 ebook how-we-can-fix-it-simon-n-whitney/19624520

From Oversight to Overkill: Inside the Broken System That Blocks Medical Breakthroughs - And How We Can Fix It is not a book about political interactions, as one might expect from the title. It's a powerful survey of stymied research in the health arena as the result of a system that was devised to protect, but too often tamps down, limits, and delays medical breakthroughs. As such, it offers a powerful consideration of how potential breakthroughs too often become bogged down in non-scientific overkill regulations.

Simon N. Whitney focuses on the Institutional Review Boards which exist at every hospital and medical school where research is done - a process that readers outside the medical industry may not have heard of. He explores how initially well-meaning oversight processes become laden with regulations and directions that bypass scientific approaches, too often wandering into the realm of excessive, unsupported cautionary measures that limit and even kill breakthroughs.

All kinds of processes in the medical industry are affected by this regulatory nightmare, from consent forms that would take a PhD to understand to cumbersome oversight approaches that kill rather than save live by limiting research that should ideally be explored on an expedited timeline.

From the racial bias inherent in these approaches to federal oversight that has been "strict but not wise" and the moral and ethical quandaries faced by patients and medical personnel alike, Whitney takes the time to craft eye-opening examples of a range of impacts of overkill measures on patients, healthcare participants, and regulators alike:

"Most of the literature about the SUPPORT debate focuses on the consent form and the effects of more or less oxygen. I have never found an article that discusses the debate from the point of view of the parents and their children, yet their experience - the experience of more than a thousand families - is the controversy's moral core."

From Oversight to Overkill identifies ways in which the system is broken, suggests routes to reform that should result in better and faster medical care, and addresses the major overhauls needed to the IRB system.

Heavily footnoted with source notes and bibliographic references that represent fifteen years of hard work and research, From Oversight to Overkill is quite simply a "must have" reference for libraries reaching general-interest patrons and health professionals. Ideally, it won't just repose on library shelves, but will be recommended to reader and healthcare discussion groups for its many insights and lead to lively debates among healthcare professionals and users of the American medical system.

Cult's Prey
Mary Longley
Atmosphere Press
9781639887101, $18.99

Cult's Prey opens with a seemingly-ordinary morning in the commonplace world of Maddy. She's embarking on the second phase of her life, which includes exercise. But something has gone awry in the process, because her friend Jazz has become immersed in a new church that mutual friend Jacques believes has all the makings of a cult. The three friends are not immune to its draw, either, as events prove.

As Maddy, Jacques, and Jazz find their lives entwined and changed in unexpected ways, they build both resistance to and connections with the cult and each other that challenge their perceptions of cults and religious fervor:

"How dare this cult play games with my livelihood? How can people who claim to be doing God's work, do so many hateful things to others? This is about the zealots' thirst for power and control," Jacques railed.

The cult targets the three friends in different ways, and as its methods and purposes emerge, readers receive a thought-provoking discourse not just on cult attractions, but how New Life of Hope actually represents a growing tide of repression and fascism in America.

The underlying social and political commentary is presented through the changing experiences and perceptions of the three friends, who find themselves in an unexpected struggle internally and externally at a time in their lives when they should be relaxing and exploring other options.

Mary Longley is skilled at contrasting the changing lives and perceptions of each character. Maddy faces challenges to her university job and her future, Jazz finds herself drawn ever deeper into a spiritual conundrum, and Jacques explores the angles and oddness of behaviors which increasingly indicate that the population around him is being drawn into the cult by nefarious means.

Jacque's own observation captures the changing atmosphere of this engrossing story in a nutshell: "I might sound like a broken record, but this whole thing is Get Out meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers," said Jacques."

The result is a rollicking ride through changing belief systems, organized underworld activities, and the evolution of a police state that replaces freedom with fear.

Important lessons, these, for modern times; making Cult's Prey an attraction not just for leisure readers, but discussion groups looking to open dialogues about cults, followers, and methods of cult conversion that fly under the radar until they are too apparent to be denied ... and too strong to resist.

The Tender Path of Grief and Loss
Robert Jackman, LCPC
Practical Wisdom Press
9781735444567, $19.95 Paper/$8.99 ebook

The Tender Path of Grief and Loss: Compassionate Stores and Practical Wisdom to Help You Heal adds to psychotherapist Robert Jackman's Practical Wisdom Healing Series, which includes Healing Your Lost Inner Child and its Companion Workbook, and Healing Your Wounded Relationship. It tackles the pain of loss and the deep grief that accompanies it with powerful descriptions that will resonate with anyone who is struggling to heal after experiencing loss:

"...fearful sorrow is not the bogeyman. We are, in actuality, in fear of ourselves, seeing ourselves so small and trivial next to this titanic grief. This unwelcome friend is more a part of us than we know, our beginning and ending. Take a pinch of this raw sorrow, so new and unknown. Taste its bitter edges and realize it isn't lethal, but ignoring it just may be."

The guiding light and strength of this book lie in the disparate stories of grief that Jackman includes as examples of healing and transcendence. Each story presents a different kind of loss and reactions that illustrate how to acknowledge and face defeat and its ongoing presence in life.

The three phases of the "tender path" are covered through various examples: "In the first phase of the tender path, we respond to the loss based on the emotional landscape within us at the time of the loss." These offer a progressive series of lessons that take each loss experience and add wisdom, insights, and lessons to help readers understand the disparate processes of grief and how different people react to them: "You will learn the difference between grief and depression and the reasons why some people can't move on. You will also learn how to determine whether you are choosing restorative or indulgent responses to the pain of your loss."

The "tender path" to healing embraces three phases: "the shockwave, the stretch, and the solace." Each holds insights key to not just understanding, but moving along in the process.

Jackman's focus on maintaining fluidity and strength, and his assessing focus that acknowledges there is no right or wrong way to grieve, outlines the invitations and signposts during the process that point the way to growth and healing. This approach serves as a blueprint for those afraid of getting stuck at various places as loss is integrated into the rest of their lives.

The stories supporting this process present diverse, heartfelt, eye-opening insights into the various phases of traversing the "tender path" towards healing. Each represents a window of opportunity for readers to use the experience to consider their own transformative options and processes.

Can loss come to be seen as not just an outcome, but an opportunity? Those grieving may not perceive this; but in the end, the transformative prospects can be many. The result is a primer that should be on the reading lists not just of those who have lost and are grieving, but any human being who would better understand how to find hope in hopeless situations.

Choosing the "tender path" involves an amazing journey of growth and realization. Its message offers wide-ranging opportunities for reflection, discussion, and insights on the individual level and for those in groups, making The Tender Path of Grief and Loss a top recommendation for libraries seeking self-help and psychology books filled with uncomfortable truths and comfortable insights that support and encourage discussions.

365 Quotes To Accelerate Your Career And Find Balance In Life
James Espey, OBE
Cherish Editions
9781913615604, $12.95 Paper/$8.56 ebook

365 Quotes To Accelerate Your Career And Find Balance In Life is a business book of succinct advice that flies in the face of other books on the same subject that require more reading time than a busy worker may have. By condensing sage business advice into quotes that offer digestible instruction and food for thought, James Espey offers an unusually accessible collection of wisdom gleaned from business leaders in all kinds of industries.

The topics are typical for a business book, ranging from branding considerations and building a company to developing leadership qualities and making philanthropy part of a business vision.

Espey well knows the effort of building a career from scratch: he moved from being one of the poorest kids in school to starting a career in the grocery trade, eventually working his way up the business ladder to head a global marketing firm.

The succinct quotes gleaned from his years of efforts are designed to help readers not only 'brand' themselves and solidify their objectives, but apply insights and words of wisdom to the processes which continue to propel them upwards and onward.

Each admonition is followed by further food for thought: "Most new brands fail, but one terrific success will make up for a string of failures. You must take risks if you are going to get anywhere."

Intriguing and attractive line drawings by Cris Black accompany these details and illustrate the quote in eye-catching ways, as in the orchestra which accompanies the quote "An orchestra without a conductor is only a room full of musicians and instruments. Management is simply getting things done - it is leadership that gives direction and sets the course."

Business readers and libraries will find 365 Quotes To Accelerate Your Career And Find Balance In Life the perfect reference to consult during business and life changes. Its inspirational, practical advice and considerations make it a standout that blends personal and business pursuits, with practical advice for managing both.

Kaitlyn's Wheel
Chris Halvorson
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885539, $25.00

Alien abduction stories rarely mix with romance, but Kaitlyn's Wheel takes a different approach to the usual abduction theme in adding romance into the picture.

Two disparate eighteen-year-olds in different parts of the country experience the possibility of an alien abduction in different ways. One sees it as a possibility that her father hasn't died of cancer, but still exists. The other uses it as an excuse for his absence at school.

Kaitlyn's observation of a UFO the night her father left them sparks within her a desire for something more to come of life's end than inevitable death, so when she meets Zachary, whose contentions about abduction have gone viral and made him a media focus, his alternate reality validates her beliefs.

The relationship they develop between them is based on not just new possibilities, but a lie that leads Zachary into as dangerous territory as Kaitlyn's passionate pursuit of a belief that influences her life perceptions and choices.

As Zachary and Kaitlyn explore not just their connections but the beliefs that brought them together, they discover truths that again rock their foundations and expectations about their lives and each other.

Chris Halvorson creates a winning combination in his examination of two disparate sides of an extraordinary issue, considering how truths and lies change each character both individually and as a couple.

As an antidote to depression, Zachary's story begins to change both his outlook on life and his perception of his influence in the world. Even then, he knows that "he'd shied away from the truth, but now he wasn't so sure what that truth even was."

As their thoughts about aliens becomes mercurial and challenging, their relationship changes. Readers will find the characters' growth process especially intriguing, given the different perspectives under close inspection throughout the story. A surprise twist also lends satisfying insights as the alien experiences become bigger than either life itself or each character's perception of their life-changing influence.

YA collections looking for thought-provoking stories that focus on the growth process of and connections between teens on the cusp of changing their worlds will find Kaitlyn's Wheel powerfully rendered and thoroughly engrossing for the emotional growth process paths its characters choose, navigating through alien and romance experiences alike.

Elliott D. Light
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885287, $25.00

Jake Savage wasn't thinking of murder when he set out to photograph the gorgeous but deadly lionfish underwater. And yet, a young girl's body drifts into his line of sight, forcing him to move from the beauty of an invasive species in the Florida Gulf to the deadly possibilities of murder.

Jake's first instinct is to pass on the unexpected opportunity to investigate another murder. He's in the middle of an alternate world when another case literally drifts by. But, some things in life, you simply can't ignore:

"...her body drifted past me and the sun returned. I didn't want to go to her, to see what I knew were the tortured remains of a once-living human being. I had seen ravaged bodies up close and dreaded the idea of seeing hers. I wanted her to leave. I wanted her to disappear. If I just waited a few minutes, she would be out of my sight, a speck in the vast Gulf waters. A voice pleaded with me to let her go, but despite being repulsed by the mutilation of her face, I simply couldn't leave her to the whims of the wind and tide. She deserved better."

And so Jake moves his readers from an underwater photo shoot and concern about ecosystem invasion to a different kind of incursion on heart and soul which pulls him into a new pursuit of the truth.

Jake's search for answers leads him into unexpected new territory, including race relations issues that arise from even a man of god who confronts him when he searches for truth on the doorstep of faith: "Couple of white girls get in a bind, and the two of you come here for help. When black and brown girls go missing, no one thinks twice about them. I don't wish those girls any harm, but what happens to them isn't my problem." The harsh words from a supposed man of the cloth stunned me.

As the story evolves, it turns out that Jake has come to Key West in pursuit of more than one ideal. His dream job of tracking fish populations and playing with software has already been challenged by a stroke suffered by his foster mother Ethy, who raised him, but always reminded him he wasn't really hers.

Charged with caring for Ethy, Tess Simpson also proves an unexpected adjunct to Jake's life as he juggles his obligations, a new home, and possibilities in murder and young runaways that bring social issues to his doorstep: "What? You thought she'd see you as heroes coming to save her? You see a girl who ran away from home who can be saved with hugs and sweet words. Alicia didn't just run away. She was discarded. People like you saw her on the street and looked the other way."

Elliott D. Light builds a compelling story based on these issues as much as the murder scenario and Jake's own life challenges. Light's ability to juxtapose the lives of disparate individuals who become part of the complex puzzle of Megan's death and Alicia's disappearance brings many confrontations to the table as social issues and racial concerns entwine with life-and-death situations.

All these elements make Throwaways more than just another whodunit, but a social probe that places Jake in the center of a maelstrom of controversy, leading him into a personal confrontation with the murders in his own past history.

Libraries and readers seeking a multifaceted story that moves both outwards to embrace a community and internally to unravel the puzzles affecting Jake's past and present will find Throwaways thoroughly absorbing. It's powered by realistic characters whose pursuit of truths against all odds lead them in unexpected directions that readers won't see coming.

True Crime Redux
Stephanie Kane
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610886109, $25.95

True crime readers fascinated by Stephanie Kane's opening references in her fictional novel Quiet Time, which contained more than a few elements of truth based on her own family story, will here discovery that Quiet Time wasn't just based on fiction, but on Kane's life. That she takes additional time here, in True Crime Redoux, to more fully explore the realities of her family entanglements and the truths that emerged from them is testimony to both resilience and a search for truth that will thoroughly engross readers from the start:

"In 1973, Duane Frye had been indicted for his wife's murder. The charges were inexplicably dropped, and for the nine years during which I was married to their son, the crime was not discussed. After we divorced, I tunneled into an existence strangely like my protagonist's: corporate lawyer by day, haunted at night by Betty's murder and the feeling that somehow our wedding had been the catalyst for the explosion of rage that ended her life. By the early 1990s, it was time to put my ghosts to rest."

Perhaps it was serendipity that the novel she'd written, which was changed so radically that the real events remained largely disguised, emerged again to become the focal point reopening a cold case with a warm confession from the murderer's sister.

With her notes and draft copies subpoenaed in a move that led Kane to question "what I'd done to real people to exorcise my own ghosts," the dual process of being a writer and exposing the truth evolves in a powerful manner that is as thought-provoking for its examination of the fine line between fiction and fact as it is for its true crime investigation.

Readers will be entranced by this complex story, which moves through emotional turbulence and criminal investigations alike. The tale assumes the factual deliverance of a memoir, a crime probe, and a literary reflection as it embeds its story with the authority of solid literary expression: "A telling detail captures the essence of what is being described. Like a perfectly framed snapshot, it says more than it depicts. And it embeds itself in one's memory."

Kane's probe of murder, crime, family connections and the psychological ramifications of confession and eventual justice is nothing short of riveting.

Libraries seeking true crime stories for their collections will find that True Crime Redux lends especially well to book club recommendation for its powerful threads of discussion on everything from family secrets and legacies to the processes of justice and redemption which draw innocent and guilty alike into a complex web of secrets and a family's deadly entanglements.

The Billionaire's Club
Jeff Nesbit
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610886109, $27.95

The Billionaire's Club is a novel about political reporting, the power of money, and the efforts of a writer trying to " my best to write something that didn't take yet another piece of my soul with it into the digital abyss."

Cautious about his connections and involvements, Washington Post reporter Seth Thomas still finds himself in over his head with his latest assignment, which morphs into a puzzling pursuit of truth that thwarts his initial desire not to become mired in something that compromises his values.

As he follows the trail of money that leads through risky bank practices and loans, his journey takes him to Iceland, where Jasper Olafsson cautions him: "If you want to help, find some answers. And, after you do, don't vanish like the others."

Jeff Nesbit opens up more than a few cans of worms as he shows how Seth becomes increasingly involved in and aware of the "billionaire's club" members and mandates: "Extremely wealthy people kept making money on top of the piles they already had... for one significant reason: They had access to precisely the kinds of investment opportunities denied the other seven billion on the planet. No strategy or lucky break could get you into this exclusive club... only the kind of money controlled by a very small group."

As investment strategies, club members, and networks that move money come to light, readers receive a vivid probe into financial entanglements that involve Seth in pyramid schemes and questionable business practices conducted on a world-wide arena.

Nesbit is especially adept at entwining financial savvy into a plot in which Seth, who is largely operating outside this milieu, makes discoveries that lead increasingly into dangerous territory inhabited by billionaires playing with the world's financial stability.

The story he grasps after relentless pursuits and eye-popping realizations shakes his own foundations of how he perceives influence and power in the world, making for a story ripe with discoveries that challenge Seth's values in choosing a story lead over money.

Libraries looking for a vivid thriller atmosphere backed by real-world financial realities will relish The Billionaire's Club's engrossing, fast-paced probe of schemes, risk-taking, and moral and ethical challenges.

Please Write
J. Wynn Rousuck
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610886031, $22.95

Please Write is a novel that uses letters to build its characters. It opens with a letter by Winslow that tells his grandmother about the unwelcome addition of a puppy to the previously-one-dog household of Winslow, wife Pamela, and husband Frank.

Grandma Vivienne responds with a letter back ... to the new family member she has named "Zippy," for its proclivity for dashing around the house.

As Winslow's life with Zippy evolves, readers receive a warm story that reaches out to embrace not only a lost dog's new home, but a family that needs him - whether they know it or not.

The correspondence lends an intriguing element to the story not only because it comes from a grandmother's distant perspective of family relationships and interactions, but because it's largely written to a canine. And yet, the principles, lives, and underlying influences on this family come to life through this unusual observational process from one outsider to another: "Pamela and Frank are expecting a baby. A baby is a kind of people puppy, although a baby takes much longer to grow up than a puppy does. The period between being a people puppy and being a grown-up is called childhood, and this will be a really fun time for you."

As the story and lives evolve to embrace topics ranging from codependency to family therapy, presenting challenges that test their ability to communicate and relate to one another, readers find the view of this evolutionary process benefits from the perspectives of different family members who offer disparate views of what is happening.

J. Wynn Rousuck's unusual letter-writing approach to following this family's evolutionary process lends a personal touch that pairs observation with insights on different forms of therapy and recovery. It gives a tone of revelation to family connections which come to life under different forms of examination.

The result is a novel that will appeal to libraries and readers interested in stories that cultivate unusual approaches to family dynamics. Please Write represents a different spin on these relationships, moving through life changes with the call and response of animal and human observers who prove to be unexpected major players in a family's evolutionary process.

Tinee Furlbert
KP Publishing Company
9780947482121, $24.95

Novi and her mother open this picture book story with an exploration of the chocolate Bermuda fudgsicle, but young readers attracted to ice cream will soon find that the story expands to consider more than a sweet treat.

Gherdai Hassell introduces bright, fun illustrations to capture Tinee Furlbert's words, bringing Novi's world to life as her Caribbean mother decides to introduce her both to the new treat and novel concepts about life and her place in it: "Just like you, it's a smooth chestnut dynamic delight," Novi's mom said.

Unlike the American notion of a fudgsicle, these Caribbean delights come in many flavors. As the child observes the different hues of brown and relates them to people she knows, readers will relish the attraction each flavor brings to the personalities Novi pairs them with.

"Delight" is the common word used throughout descriptions which celebrate different people of color and their joyful presence in Novi's life.

The story empowers black and brown girls to not just understand color differences, but celebrate them.

Especially recommended for read-aloud inspection and fun, Fudgsicle's lesson in positivity is the perfect choice for parents seeking to teach the very young a lesson about celebrating delicious differences in life and between people of color.

The lessons on self-awareness, developing confidence, and handling disappointments that accompany this basic understanding of others and self offer many opportunities for discussion and insight, all couched in the delicious flavors of a special Bermuda treat.

Cybill Unbound
Catherine Hiller
Heliotrope Books LLC
9781956474183, $8.99 Kindle/$17.00 Paperback

Cybill Unbound is a work of fictional erotica that explores a middle-aged divorced woman's sexual reawakening. It is a recommended pick for women interested in how the challenges of separation and upcoming divorce open new doors for a woman whose life has been relatively staid.

At forty-two, Cybill realizes she is probably too old for many men. Men and her children have been the focus of her youthful years, but "Now most men wouldn't want her, and her children didn't need her. She didn't think her job marketing textbooks was going to compensate for this."
Readers might not expect the wry undertone of humor that accompanies Cybill's explorations, but this is just one of the facets that make the story compelling and recognizable as she spreads her sexual wings and flies into uncharted territory.

Readers receive some edgy material both sexually and socially as Cybill encounters a variety of lovers that bring with them social inspections that are as candid and revealing as the sexual approaches they introduce.

From "goy-toy" Quinn, for whom she wears a Star of David necklace that makes her feel "... as mischievous and saucy as if she was wearing a red lace garter belt under a long black skirt" to Lucas, who seems to demand that she put her life in danger during a snowstorm to fulfill her obligations to him, Cybill finds herself taking flight in a variety of situations that test her sexual and social mettle.

Readers (especially women) who enjoy candid stories of risk, transformation, exploration, and social inspection will find Cybill Unbound fun, intriguing, titillating, and thought-provoking in its contrast between disparate lovers and characters who each exhibit different traits and survival instincts that work in different milieus, from online to in person.

Libraries seeking fiction that traverses erotic and psychological growth much in the way Erica Jong did in her Fear of Flying will find this journey of a middle-aged woman a satisfying contrast in evolution from a different vantage point.

The Typhon Affair
Lou Earle
PHiR Publishing
9798986745244, $17.99 Paper/$7.49 Kindle/ebook

The Typhon Affair returns intelligence agent Mac Sisco and his Team Apogee to center stage in the second book of a thriller trilogy that follows Mac's ongoing efforts to save the world.

This time, the Director of the National Security Agency, Admiral James Clausen, receives a signal that Mac's prior efforts have not fully thwarted the bid for world domination, causing him to recall the team and send them on another globe-trotting series of confrontations.

Lou Earle augments the nonstop action of events with time and attention to detail that builds both the physical and psychological profiles of Mac and those around him: "Sisco was a fit thirty-five year old who at six feet one and 180 pounds looked more like a young real estate broker from Texas than a lethal weapon. His standard attire was jeans, a polo shirt, his favorite custom full quill Ostrich boots and occasionally a Larry Mahan hat to top off the effect."

With a physical presence that melds nicely with psychological strengths, Mac is a formidable figure that comes alive in the reader's mind. But, perhaps he's not daunting enough to stem the tide of takeover that forces from the first book, Apogee, continue to pursue in this follow-up.

Other characters, such as President Holbrook, also cultivate their own auras of effectiveness and intellectual prowess, their words both reasoned and educated as they respond to a rapidly evolving threat to world order. Holbrook's language is as studied as his approach to juggling world politics:

"Holbrook answered solemnly, "of course we must immediately inform them. But we would be premature to do that yet, since we are still speculating. Any leaks could cause a worldwide panic, which would be catastrophic and only exacerbate the already combustible environment."

As Typhon's Chaos exhibits the potential for worldwide disruption and mass terrorism on a level never seen before, Mac and his team are tasked with the seeming impossible - to confront an enemy who seems to be everywhere, and yet nowhere.

Earle's ability to dovetail political cat-and-mouse games with social inspection lends a realistic tone and attraction to The Typhon Affair that places this thriller on par with the best of established genre authors.

In tackling a tricky situation from which there may be "no defense or recovery," the fate of not just the world order but humanity itself literally rests on Mac's shoulders. If his mission should fail, the world goes with it.

Thriller tension does not get any better than this. Libraries and readers seeking an exceptional story packed with unexpected twists and turns, strong characterization, and astute social and political inspections will find The Typhon Affair a winning acquisition and read.

Lauren the Cow
T.I. Frazier
Meritxell Andreu Publisher
9798985903829, $20.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paper

Picture book readers are in for a treat with Lauren the Cow, between T.I. Frazier's inspirational story of a cow who aspires to be something special and Meritxell Andreu's colorful illustrations that bring Lauren and her world to life.

Happy Lauren is a Jersey cow that lives on a farm with her mother. She wants to be a "jumping cow," but her wiser mother informs her that this goal isn't achievable for a cow. If there's another thing that Lauren is, it's stubborn. Obviously, all that's required is some training. And so she sets off to achieve her goal by getting stronger and testing her limits.

As parents read Lauren's story aloud, there's plenty of opportunity to add supplemental notes about perseverance, belief, empowerment, and all kinds of other themes kids need to know in order to pursue their own "impossible" dreams. As other creatures become involved in Lauren's dream, lessons about friendship and support systems also enter to form a bigger picture.

Powered by lovely, colorful drawings that bring this world to life, Lauren the Cow holds an adventure and a message that adults will find powerfully perfect for kids who need encouragement to envision and reach for their own "impossible" dreams.

A surprise twist to the story adds further delight to a picture book highly recommended for libraries and home collections alike.

Death of the Antagonist
Ron Jensen
Pacific Hilltop Media
9798987489314, e-book: $7.99/Paperback: $12.99/Hardcover: $16.99

Imagine being attacked not by outside forces, but via the neural networks of one's own brain. Many would call this "mental illness," but in Death of the Antagonist, the breached inner sanctum of the mind comes from aliens who intend to use one Ian Preston as a portal for invasion.

The story opens from the invader's perspective as they arrive on Earth and encounter a busy Seattle street scene. The "target time period" is correct. All the scout needs is the appropriate host. But, his senses overloaded by data, he winds up fleeing.

Ian Preston knows that "nothing he does can stop time and the downward spiral of his life." He's in the perfect position to become the focal point in a struggle against this invader, which draws to him two disparate individuals whose lives are also in flux and on the edge of society - a homeless man and a sex worker.

You could not find more unlikely heroes for an epic battle. Usually the warrior figure is somewhat flawed, but intrinsically admirable. This ragtag band of disparate individuals existing on the fringes of society at first seems the least likely to save the world. In reality, they are not just its best option; but its only option.

Ron Jensen crafts a story that layers its drama slowly, beginning with the perspective of the elusive invader and then moving deftly into Ian's life.

From his evolving relationship with Aurora and the spiritual discussions they have about God and psyche ("I didn't say God has some checklist. All I'm saying is there are rewards for trying to do the right thing. But it takes some focus, some effort. The closer you get to God, the more obedient you have to be.") to wisdom imparted by a homeless man who offers unexpected connection and salvation ("Life is conflict," his voice is almost a whisper, "but it has a purpose."), Ian is drawn into a crazy situation. This forces him to reexamine the bizarre path his life has taken and its ultimate meaning and impact in the greater world.

Jensen's ability to juxtapose these spiritual, psychological, and social insights within the context of an invasion that occurs on different levels will especially intrigue readers seeking more than a light entertainment piece with the classic good-versus-evil confrontation.

It draws readers into a magically transformed world and introduces uncommon sides to its characters, forcing them to adapt new survival tactics and bigger-picture thinking in order to change themselves and the human race as a whole.

"Life is conflict. Get used to it."

The mandate for transformation and survival permeates a rich story that embraces science fiction themes, but places them in an environment where each of the characters is forced to adapt to something far outside their experience or logic.

In this new milieu, love seems to be a detriment: "Did you really think you could win them with friendship? With some warm, fuzzy reunion?" The beast leans forward, his lip curling slightly. "...with love?" Or, is it?

Readers introduced to the bigger-picture questions of life, survival, decision-making processes, and encountering something far beyond the usual ken of mankind will find Death of the Antagonist both steeped in drama and conflict and thought-provokingly rich in its approach to life-and-death options.

Libraries and readers seeking a sci-fi story that incorporates the vivid nonstop action of a thriller, the depth of a psychological probe, and the otherworldly encounters of a host of creatures who change individual perceptions of life purpose will find Death of the Antagonist outstanding in its special blend of fast-paced confrontation and character development. These profile a brand of insights and revelations that are powerfully positive against all odds:

"Life is just getting started. Your purpose is about to blow your mind."

How Far Do You Want To Go?
John Catsimatidis
Matt Holt Books
c/o BenBella Books
9781637743430, $30.00 Hardcover/$15.99 Kindle

The financial sky's unlimited in How Far Do You Want To Go? Lessons from a Common-Sense Billionaire, which covers the basics of leadership and money management, inspired by an immigrant's rise to riches.

John Catsimatidis weaves autobiographical details into his account, but the meat of the book lies not just in his personal experiences, but how they led to the decision-making, leadership, and money management lessons that propelled him to success.

As much as it is a tribute to the business savvy that grew in him, it's also a pledge of allegiance to America, which offered him many opportunities. As readers peruse his life story and the achievements that evolved from education and perseverance, they also absorb the special keys to success that drive individuals to rise above their circumstances to take next steps that lead to success.

The observations that cement these life lessons are nicely woven into the business savvy the author learns and the questions that accompany growth. When given his first car, he writes: "The car was mine, and it gave me a sense of freedom I had never experienced before. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with it, but I definitely liked the way that freedom felt."

Catsimatidis's Greek roots are not left behind in his assimilation into American culture. This is reinforced by the Church and by experiences that lead him continually back to his roots and foundation lessons:

"Thankfully, there are many successful Greeks in America. Who better than the church to bring them together? "This isn't about making money," Father Alex often said. "You guys all have money. Those of you who want fame, you already have fame. Up until now, you didn't have each other, and now you do."

Catsimatidis's special weaving of community, political, social, and financial connections translates to a story that, peppered with black and white photos, emphasizes the riches that come not only from financial and social success, but from within.

All these values are reinforced in a narrative replete with a close examination of the American Dream that's realized as Catsimatidis grows his independent grocery business into the conglomerate Red Apple Group, combining his interest in entrepreneurial avenues with his conviction that community and society connections are equally important.

The result may sound like another "how to be successful" financial guide, but in fact, its accompanying astute survey of American ideals in action is its greatest strength.

Business and self-help readers who choose this book expecting a blueprint that will propel them to achieve the status quo either financially or socially will find that How Far Do You Want To Go? is so very much more.

Money doesn't mean much without purpose, values, ethics, and drive.

That Catsimatidis blends all these themes and more into his account of becoming a billionaire makes How Far Do You Want To Go? especially attractive. It's recommended for a broad range of readers, from business and entrepreneurial audiences to those seeking stories of success, immigrant experience, political and social evolution, and a just plain outstanding, captivating read whose lessons are couched in discovery and achievement.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Hard To Break: A Michael Gannon Thriller
Michael Ledwidge
Hanover Square Press
9781335449337, $27.99 HC, $14.99 Kindle

"Hard To Break A Michael Gannon Thriller" is a stand-alone suspenseful novel. Michael Gannon decides its time to take a break with his son and check out Alaska. Shortly into their trip Mickael is taken by some men. His son enlists the aid of a family friend to find his das as soon as possible. Ledwidge who wrote many titles with James Patterson shines with "Hard To Break" thrilling excitement to the very end.

Run Rose Run
Dolly Parton and James Patterson
Grand Central Publishing
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
9781538723968, $18.95 pbk // $15.99 Kindle

"Run Rose Run" combines the talents of Dolly Parton and James Patterson two, masters in their creative fields to tell, a thrilling story in the world of country music. A woman escaping her past is on the rise of the music world. She is in Nashville Tennessee to make a name for herself. Through a set of circumstances her past may just catch up to her and ruin anything she has accomplished. The dark side of the entertainment world is exposed by Parton with the help of Patterson in a thriller that is page turning excitement. "Run Rose Run" is a joined union of two giants to please fans of both amusing endeavors

Summer's End
John Van Stry
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982192297, $17.00 pbk $8.99 Kindle

"Summer's End" is a gem by a new author in the field of science fiction that reads like the work of a veteran author. Dave Walker a new college grad is on a mission to find employment in the near future where there are so many openings in the new frontier of space exploration. As he travels among the stars he has a series of incidents he must learn why and who has marked him a target. "Summers End" is a first class sci-fi work by a very talented writer who has written a character driven story sure to please anyone looking for a new author to add to their reading list.

I Am Especially Made
Monique Branford, author
Maira Tangamyan, illustrator
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718883, $19.95 HC / No Kindle

"I Am Especially Made" has several different types of messages to discover about the world we live in. Maleah learns the hard truths of life when her teacher continually tells her she has produced the wrong answer to her question, though, she knows it's, the proper one. She consults with her mom to confirm her suspicions about the situation. "I Am Especially Made" exposes the heart of darkness of hate, and why it exists, that should not be tolerated by any of us. "I Am Especially Made" reveals the light to overcome it as we move forward in society

The Adventures of Plumfeather
Monique Branford, author
Maira Tangamyan, illustrator
Legacy Book Publishing
9781947718807, $19.95 HC / No Kindle

"The Adventures of Plumfeather" is a fun story for all ages to enjoy. Plumfeather a female plum, lived on a tree branch until a storm of wind knocked her off, to tumble into a body of water. From then on her life takes another path as she is on a new journey to find a fresh place to live. Along the way she meets many different types of characters who assist her on her trek. "The Adventures of Plumfeather" is filled with positive messages that help us learn skills along the way to face head on the challenges in life.

Zara's Rules for Living Your Best Life
Hena Khan, author
Wastana Haikal, illustrator
Salaam Reads
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534497658, $17.99 HC / $6.99 Kindle

Zara is back in a third installment that is pleasurable reading for all tastes. Zara is off from school as summer vacation has started. A friend would like to have her go with her to the camp she is attending daily but Zara's mother has other plans for her. Mom has set it up for her to be with her grandparents. At first, she is unhappy but she finds that she can make it fun for all of them. "Zara's Rules for Living Your Best Life" is a positive view of how different generations work together to overcome the negatives thrown their way.

Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia
Jenny Liao, author
Dream Chen, illustrator
Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593425428, $16.99 HC/ $10.99 Kindle

"Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia" is tasteful reading as readers enjoy dishes from different cultures. Zia is a girl who has different lunches from other kids in school and she is very careful because they do not understand her choices. As she receives from her parents numerous dishes she learns many things about each entre. "Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia" is a celebration of foods from various cultures that are mouth watering experiences for everyone to try at least once.

Ramen For Everyone
Patricia Tanumihardja, author
Shiho Pate, illustrator
Atheneum Books For Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665904353, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Ramen For Everyone" is for all of us food lovers who are craving to try something new. Hiro a young boy love Ramen that includes several items. His parents also teach him different ways to cook his favorite food and new items to put in it. "Ramen For Everyone" is beautifully produced title that is a celebration of a respected Asian delicacy, few of us really know about, but should be willing to try.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

For Fork's Sake
Rachel J. Brown
Certain Cabin Press
9798986138022, $18.99, HC, 172pp

Synopsis: Finding meals that fit into your family's busy schedule and budget? An impossible mystery. And convincing your kids to trade ice cream for Swiss chard or something vegan? Yeah, right! When you're searching for a healthy diet to nourish your family, information overload and complicated steps can leave you overwhelmed instead of empowered.

Changing your family's food, health, and life for the better doesn't have to be drastic. With the publication of "For Fork's Sake: A Quick Guide to Healing Yourself and the Planet Through a Plant-Based Diet" nutrition expert Rache Brown shows you how to transition to healthier, happier Whole Food, Plant-Based, No Oil (WFPBNO) eating.

Critique: An inspiringly informative as it is down-to-earth practical, "For Fork's Sake: A Quick Guide to Healing Yourself and the Planet Through a Plant-Based Diet" is an ideal 'how to' guide to getting family members to consume a more health promoting meals and snacks. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library nutrition and parenting collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "For Fork's Sake" is also readily available from Certain Cabin Press in a paperback edition (9798986138015, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Rachael Brown ( earned a plant-based nutrition certification and food and sustainability certification from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell. After being diagnosed with high cholesterol in her late 20s, she discovered The China Study and transitioned her family to the whole-food, plant-based, no-oil (WFPBNO) lifestyle, and her cholesterol immediately dropped 50 points. She has been an adjunct professor in nutrition and wellness, a certified yoga and Pilates instructor, and a licensed massage practitioner.

The Skincare Hoax
Fayne L. Frey, MD
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510771550, $24.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: We all want to have young and healthy skin, yet the beauty industry is so mixed in its messages that most consumers have no way to tell which skincare products are helpful and which claims are pure hype.

With the publication of "The Skincare Hoax: How You're Being Tricked into Buying Lotions, Potions & Wrinkle Cream", skincare expert and medical physician Dr. Fayne Frey explores the "essential" product categories that are entirely unnecessary, exposes how many well-known skincare ingredients have no scientific basis, and recommends truly effective skincare products and regimens that are easy and affordable.

"The Skincare Hoax" includes: Why an over-the-counter wrinkle cream that removes wrinkles would be in violation of federal law; The one and only true anti-aging product; What moisturizers actually do.

Critique: Revealing the healthiest and most informed choices for your skin with "Reveal the healthiest and most informed choices for your skin "The Skincare Hoax: How You're Being Tricked into Buying Lotions, Potions & Wrinkle Cream" is an especially important and instructive expose that will be of particular value for readers who use any kind of skin care products. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Health/Medicine and Grooming/Style collections, it should be noted thatr "The Skincare Hoax" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666623307, $22.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Doing what Ralph Nader did for the automotive industry, Dr. Fayne L. Frey (a New York - based, Ivy League - trained, board-certified dermatologist, skincare consultant, and a nationally recognized expert in the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare products) seeks to accomplish with respect to the skincare industry. Dr. Frey is a contributor to and on the editorial board of both 50PlusToday, a top-rated senior lifestyle online magazine, and The Doctor Weighs In, one of the leading online sources for trusted health and wellness information. She is also the founder of, which offers skincare information and a tailored product selection service. (

The Amazing Maurice Memory Game: Catch That Rat!
Laurence King Publishing
Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
97813996049494, $14.99, Card Deck

Synopsis: With "The Amazing Maurice Memory Game: Catch That Rat!" players will match the pairs and meet the cast of the film based on Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel for kids! Players of all ages will enjoy following the scheming Maurice and his band of rat-scammers to the town of Bad Blintz to meet fairytale-mad Malicia and some truly bad eggs! As they play they will get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding this town and learn about all the characters in this exciting matching game that comes with an informative and illustrated instruction booklet.

Critique: Highly recommended for dedicated Terry Pratchett fans (and anyone who loves a good card game), "The Amazing Maurice Memory Game: Catch That Rat!" comes in a sturdy and attractive box measuring 4 x 5-3/4 inches and containing 50 high-quality cards. Offering players of all ages hours of fun, "The Amazing Maurice Memory Game: Catch That Rat!" is especially recommended for family and community library card gaming collections.

The Amazing Maurice 200-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
Laurence King Publishing
Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781399604956, $16.99, Jigsaw Puzzle

Synopsis: "The Amazing Maurice 200-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle" is based upon the popular Terry Prachett book and on the cast of the new animated film The Amazing Maurice! Puzzle fans will enjoy following the scheming Maurice and his band of rat-scammers to the town of Bad Blintz to meet fairytale-mad Malicia and some truly bad eggs! They will have hours of fun getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding this town and learn about all the characters as they put together this 200-piece jigsaw puzzle and its accompanying poster.

Critique: Especially recommended to the attention of the legion of Terry Pratchett fans and lovers of a good jigsaw puzzle, "The Amazing Maurice 200-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle" comes in a sturdy and attractive box measuring 10-2/3 x 7 inches. The finished puzzle will measure 14-1/8 x 19-1/2 inches. "The Amazing Maurice 200-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle" is a fun and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, family, and community library Jigsaw Puzzle collections.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Geological Highlights of East Africa's National Parks
Robert N. Scoon, author
Lyn Whitfields, map maker
Penguin Random House South Africa
c/o Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781775847779, $23.50, PB, 264pp

Synopsis: The national parks and reserves of East Africa are widely known for their rich and abundant wildlife. With the publication of "Geological Highlights of East Africa's National Parks", Robert N. Scoon presents a new and exciting angle focusing upon the geological highlights of the region's intriguing landscape.

East Africa's cataclysmic volcanic legacy, caused by rifting of the landmass, has resulted in a rich source of geological wonders. These range from the seemingly endless, peaceful plains of the Serengeti to the stark skyscraper walls of extinct calderas and the boiling magma cauldrons and belching vents of the Nyiragongo Volcano.

"Geological Highlights of East Africa's National Parks" is a handy guide escorts users around all the major (and some minor) parks of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as the Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Descriptions of each park and its wildlife offerings, both fauna and flora, preface discussion of the geological origins, influences and current conditions. Key geosites in the parks, and how to access them, are indicated. Maps, satellite images and diagrams, along with vivid photography, help explain the dramatic landforms, both close up and from above.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), "Geological Highlights of East Africa's National Parks" is an ideal itinerary planning resource for anyone with an interest in the relationship between geology, land forms, paleoanthropology, and wildlife, or simply wanting to safari through the legendary East African game parks and reserves. Offering an exciting new dimension to travel planning through Kenya, "Geological Highlights of East Africa's National Parks" is unreservedly recommended for professional, community, and academic library African Travel Guide collections.

Editorial Note: Roger Scoon ( is a member of the Department of Geology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

China: A Home Away
Luc Kwanten
Long River Press
c/o China Books & Periodicals, Inc.
360 Swift Avenue, Suite #48, South San Francisco, CA 94080
9781592652280, $18.95, PB, 252pp

Synopsis: "China: A Home Away" is the last work of Belgian scholar, Tangutologist, and pioneer literary agent Luc Kwanten. It is a compendium of his social and cultural musings gathered during a lifetime of teaching, research, and travel across Europe, the United States, and Asia.

Born to a Jewish mother in the midst of Nazi rule, Kwanten's early years were centered around a typical Western education. Later he discovered the vastness of East Asian and Central Asian language, culture, and examples of living. It was an experience that profoundly affected his life trajectory.

He continued to serve as an educator and pioneering literary agent; promoting cultural exchange and understanding through the medium of books. Kwanten's life story is both candid and revealing, as well as offering the reader a unique look at cross cultural influences affecting the popular conflicting opinions between eastern and western ideologies.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "China: A Home Away" by the late Luc Kwanten is a valued, informative, insightful, thoughtful and thought provoking addition to personal reading lists and community/academic library Biography/Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Luc Kwanten (8 January 1944 - 22 November 2021) has a listing on Wikipedia that includes a significant listing of his published works presented in chronological order.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Best Weapon for Peace: Maria Montessori, Education, and Children's Rights
Erica Moretti
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299333102, $79.95, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: The Italian educator and physician Maria Montessori (31 August 1870 - 6 May 1952) is best known for the teaching method that bears her name. She was also a lifelong pacifist, although historians tend to consider her writings on this topic as secondary to her pedagogy.

With the publication of "The Best Weapon for Peace: Maria Montessori, Education, and Children's Rights), Professor Erica Moretti reframes Montessori's pacifism as the foundation for her educational activism, emphasizing her vision of the classroom as a gateway to reshaping society. Montessori education offers a child-centered learning environment that cultivates students' development as peaceful, curious, and resilient adults opposed to war and invested in societal reform.

Using newly discovered primary sources, Professor Moretti examines Montessori's lifelong pacifist work, including her ultimately unsuccessful push for the creation of the White Cross, a humanitarian organization for war-affected children. Professor Moretti also shows that Montessori's educational theories and practices would come to define children's rights once adopted by influential international organizations, including the United Nations.

Of special interest is Professor Moretti's uncovering the significance of Montessori's evolving philosophy of peace and early childhood education within broader conversations about internationalism and humanitarianism.

Critique: An impressive biographical study that is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, fifty-eight pages of Notes, a thirty-four page Bibliography, and an eleven page Index, "The Best Weapon for Peace: Maria Montessori, Education, and Children's Rights" is a part of the 'George L. Mosse Series in the History of European Culture, Sexuality, and Ideas' from the University of Wisconsin Press. An impressively researched, exceptionally well written, and deftly presented biography, "The Best Weapon for Peace" is particularly well recommended for inclusion into personal, community, college, and university library Biography collections. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in the life and career of Maria Montessorri, it should be noted that "The Best Weapon for Peace" is also available in a paperback edition (9780299333140, $22.95).

Editorial Note: Erica Moretti ( is an Assistant Professor of Italian at the Fashion Institute of Technology - SUNY.

The Art of Our Healing: Faith-Based Journey of Loss, Hope, and Healing
Vicky DeMaio, author
Jill Zientek, author
Carpenter & Son's Publishing
9781954437524, $34.99, HC, 88pp

Synopsis: Co-authored by Vicky DeMaio and Jill Zienbtek, "The Art of Our Healing: Faith-Based Journey of Loss, Hope, and Healing" is a relatable, Christian faith-based response to loss, hope, and healing, with inspirational commentary and biblical citations accompanied by original paintings and artwork, "The Art of Our healing" will enable the reader contemplatively experience the art of spiritual healing.

"The Art of Our Healing" is an inspirational book that will bring the conflicted reader joy, comfort, encouragement, and lead them to the only one who can help them on their journey of loss and pain -- gently guiding them to the ultimate healing of your broken heart.

Critique: "The Art of Our Healing: Faith-Based Journey of Loss, Hope, and Healing" will be of special value to anyone who is experiencing, or has in the past experienced, the loss of a spouse, child, or loved one. Who has had divorce or suicide impacted their life. Who are experiencing loneliness or feeling isolated. A coffee-table style (8.75 x 0.5 x 11 inches) volume of life-healing commentary and memorably appropriate full color artwork, "The Art of Our Healing" is especially commended to the attention of clergy, seminary students, and members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation.

Editorial Note #1: Jill Zientek ( at the age of eleven gave her life to Christ while attending a Southern Baptist revival, and she was later baptized in a flowing river. Jill is a Franklin, Tennessee radio host, songwriter, artist, and has created the Jill Zientek Christmas Line depicting the middle Tennessee area.

Editorial Note #2: Vicky DeMaio ( holds a Bachelors in Special Education and a Masters in Learning Disabilities. She uses this experience and expertise to tutor young children in her area. She is passionate about the gospel, teaching Bible studies, and is a pastoral counselor. Vicky also enjoys painting abstract art.

The Planet's Most Spiritual Places
Malcolm Croft
Ivy Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711282131, $30.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Spirituality has a multitude of meanings for the many who seek deeper significance in their lives. From ancient religions with their timeless places of worship to modern, contemporary followers of faith and new age travelers seeking enlightenment and illumination, we are drawn to all kinds of places in the search for profound meaning.

From a Polish Catholic praying in a large cathedral to a Portuguese surfer speechless in wonder at the majesty of the ocean, spirituality knows no bounds. With the publication of "The Planet's Most Spiritual Places: Sacred Sites and Holy Locations Around the World", Malcolm Croft brings together all definitions to present some of the most important places of spiritual significance, in stunning and immersive detail.

"The Planet's Most Spiritual Places" included sites of spirituality from all around the world, from the established to the exotic, determining a number of fundamental definitions for our spiritual destinations including: Ancient Monuments; Places of Worship; Natural Wonders; Centres of Enlightenment; Pilgrimage; Living Landmarks.

As readers will discover, the complex history of the world often defines where (and how) spirituality can be found. The modern is as important as the ancient, and the free-form as important as the organised. What counts is the spiritual nature of the site, wherever it is, whoever visits it and whatever they believe.

Critique: With "The Planet's Most Spiritual Places: Sacred Sites and Holy Locations Around the World", Malcolm Crost's insightful and informative text is beautifully complemented by the inclusion of superb photography, ancient and modern maps, and engaging illustrations of the plethora of places contained within. The whole world is covered, continent by continent, and a wide variety of religions, belief systems and faiths -- making this coffee-table style (9.4 x 1.1 x 12.75 inches, 2.9 pounds) volume and excellent and highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "The Planet's Most Spiritual Places" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: An editor, copywriter, and a journalist for magazines and newspapers, Malcolm Croftis ( is the author of more than 50 humor, reference and popular culture titles, including Lonely Planet's Travel Book, 50 Years of Glastonbury, Coldplay: Life In Technicolour, and many others.

The Crystal Keys of Sidhe
Linda Sparkes
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781398418059, $13.95, PB, 198pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Crystal Keys of Sidhe" by Linda Sparkes, those who see beauty in all of nature will find themselves taken into this unseen world of mysteries by The Goddess of Sidhe, where she tells the secrets, challenges, and dangers that are endured by four elementals that test them to their limits, friendships, and self-worth through four different lands that protect the eight most powerful crystals in the world.

Each territory brings forth its own perils not known to them to get the keys to the centre of the earth for a specific ceremony to save the planet and to stop an evil villain who wants the powers for himself to enact more destruction onto the earth for his own personal gains.

Critique: Inherently fascinating and fully 'reader engaging' from cover to cover, Linda Sparkes' "The Crystal Keys of Sidhe" is an impressively original, skillfully crafted, entertaining, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Metaphysical Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Linda Sparkes has been on a spiritual journey for over thirty years, working as an alternative therapist, crystal healer international intuitive reader. Inspiration for "The Crystal Keys of Sidhe" came from working as a teacher of the Diana Cooper School of White Light (, its teachings focus on the elemental and 'Angel' world and connecting with nature and learning about sacred geometry of the environment. ( nal-health)

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World
Jill Caskey, et al.
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781501766107, $189.95, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: "Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World" offers a panoramic survey that focuses on the arts of medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamicate world. From majestic monuments to exquisite tableware, the collaborative team of Jill Caskey, Adam S. Cohen, and Linda Safran deftly guide readers over twelve centuries of art and architecture created by the diverse peoples and religious groups of western Eurasia and North Africa.

A textbook intended for a wide range of courses in the history of medieval art and architecture, "Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World" uniquely features: More than 450 color illustrations of fascinating works produced between ca. 250 CE and ca. 1450 CE; Coverage of secular and religious arts, including polytheistic, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions; Informational text boxes on key issues and a glossary of terms; Diverse cultures interwoven in a single chronological framework; Five broad interpretive themes that include artistic production, status and identity, connection to the past, ideology, and access to the sacred.

Complemented by a website ( with additional works, dynamic maps and timelines, podcasts, new primary-source translations, and more, "Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World" brilliantly expands and recalibrates the story of medieval art history.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with full color images throughout, "Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World" is a fascinating and informative tour through the creative arts of Europe's 'Middle Ages' -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Art History, Architectural History, and European History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World" is also available in a paperback edition (9781501702822, $69.95).

Editorial Note #1: Jill Caskey is Professor of Medieval Art at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Her publications focus on cross-cultural encounters and include Confronting the Borders of Medieval Art. (

Editorial Note #2: Adam S. Cohen is Associate Professor of Medieval Art at the University of Toronto. He is also the author, editor, or coeditor of six books, including Signs and Wonders. (

Editorial Note #3: Linda Safran ( is Associate Fellow at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. She is also the author, editor, or co-editor of eight books, including The Medieval Salento.

Aleister Crowley in Paris: Sex, Art, and Magick in the City of Light
Tobias Churton
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644114797, $40.00, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Aleister Crowley in Paris: Sex, Art, and Magick in the City of Light", Tobias Churton explores occultist, magician, poet, painter, and writer Aleister Crowley's longstanding and intimate association with Paris and provides the first detailed account of Crowley's activities in the City of Light.

Using previously unpublished letters and diaries, Churton reveals how Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn's Inner Order in Paris in 1900 and how, in 1902, he relocated to Montparnasse. Soon engaged to Anglo-Irish artist Eileen Gray, Crowley pontificates and parties with English, American, and French artists gathered around sculptor Auguste Rodin: all keen to exhibit at Paris's famed Salon d'Automne. In 1904 (still dressed as "Prince Chioa Khan" and recently returned from his Book of the Law experience in Cairo) Crowleydines with novelist Arnold Bennett at Paillard's.

In 1908 Crowley is back in Paris to prove it's possible to attain Samadhi (or "knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel") while living a modern life in a busy metropolis. In 1913 he organizes a demonstration for artistic and sexual freedom at Oscar Wilde's tomb. Until World War I spoils all in 1914, Paris is Crowley's playground.

"Aleister Crowley In Paris" also details how, after returning from America in 1920, and though based at his "Abbey of Thelema" in Sicily, Crowley still can't leave Paris alone. When Mussolini expels him from Italy, Paris becomes his home from 1924 until 1929. As a biographer, Churton reveals Crowley's part in the jazz-age explosion of modernism, as the lover of photographer Berenice Abbott and many others, and how he enjoyed camaraderie with Man Ray, Nancy Cunard, Andre Gide, and Aimee Crocker.

This deftly crafted biography fully explores Crowley's adventures in Tunisia, Algeria, the Riviera, his battle with heroin addiction, his relationship with daughter Astarte Lulu (raised at Cefalu) and finally, a high-level ministerial conspiracy to get him out of Paris.

Reconstructing Crowley's heyday in the last decade and a half of France's Belle Epoque and the "roaring Twenties", "Aleister Crowley In Paris" illuminates Crowley's place within the artistic, literary, and spiritual ferment of the great City of Light.

Critique: Impressively and definitively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Aleister Crowley in Paris: Sex, Art, and Magick in the City of Light" by Tobia Churton and published by Inner Traditions must be considered essential reading for the legions of Aleister Crowely enthusiasts and as an addition to community and academic library Occult/Magic and New Age Philosophy/Biography collections.

Editorial Note #1: Alister Crowley (12 October 1875 - 1 December 1947) was an English occultist, philosopher, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Aeon of Horus in the early 20th century. A prolific writer, he published widely over the course of his life. (

Editorial Note #2: Tobias Churton ( is an authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism. Appointed Honorary Fellow of Exeter University in 2005, he is the author of many books, including "Aleister Crowley in England" and "Aleister Crowley in America".

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Forget Having Kids. I'm Having Fun
Dane A. Reid
Dane Reid Media LLC
9798218032753, $18.95, PB, 228pp

Synopsis: There are dozens and dozens of books published every year exalting parenthood and giving tons and tons of advice on how to parent effectively be it with infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults. Only with the publication of "Forget Having Kids. I'm Having Fun: 1000 Random Reasons I Chose to Be #ChildFree" by Dane A. Reid is counter to the socially mandated expectation that every adult, sooner or later, should and must procreate -- all this despite the Earth having to currently support more than 8 billion human beings.

Critique: Fun and funny, iconoclastic and thought-provoking, "Forget Having Kids. I'm Having Fun: 1000 Random Reasons I Chose to Be #ChildFree" is especially and unreservedly recommended to the attention of any man or woman (especially the woman) considering to deliberately refrain from parenthood despite the social, cultural, religious, and biological pressures to do so. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Forget Having Kids. I'm Having Fun: 1000 Random Reasons I Chose to Be #ChildFree" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library
fatherhood/parenting and Contemporary Social Issues collections.

Editorial Note: There is an informative interview with author Dane A. Reid on the GoodReads website at

Intrinsic Motivation: Learn to Love Your Work and Succeed as Never Before
Stefan Falk
St. Martin's Press
9781250277695, $28.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: To be productive and optimistic about our personal and professional lives, we want to feel that we can understand and influence what is happening around us today, and that we have a reliable insight into what will happen tomorrow. We also require a rich, supportive, and secure social life. As more of us work remotely and the frequency of our in-person contact decreases, this desire for connection and trust has only become more important; the social drive is so strong that our body temperature drops when we feel excluded.

To satisfy our psychological needs in today's professional world, we must pursue them consciously and purposefully -- but unfortunately, most of us don't know how to do so effectively. Instead, we waste our time on ineffective coping strategies that often make us feel even worse. The true solution to becoming happier, healthier, and more productive is to become intrinsically motivated: To stop wasting time on activities that don't really contribute to our careers or our company's success, eschew the dog-eat-dog culture of modern business, and find ways to take pleasure in what we do -- and to do it well.

With the publication of "Intrinsic Motivation: Learn to Love Your Work and Succeed as Never Before", Stefan Falk offers a comprehensive guide to achieving this goal. Filled with methods and techniques he developed at McKinsey & Company and through 25 years as a senior executive and performance coach working with elite athletes, top executives, special operators in the armed forces, and leaders from all walks of life, "Intrinsic Motivation" will revolutionize your approach to success at work and beyond.

Critique: A fascinating, thought-provoking, life-changing and extraordinary read, "Intrinsic Motivation: Learn to Love Your Work and Succeed as Never Before" will prove of particular value to readers with an interest in the subject areas of corporate leadership, personal time management, personal finance, and the acquisition of an enduring job satisfaction. While a strongly recommended addition to corporate, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Intrinsic Motivation" is also available in a digital book format ($14.99).

Editorial Note: Stefan Falk ( is an internationally-recognized executive coach and human performance expert. A McKinsey & Company alumnus specializing in leadership and corporate transformation, he has trained over 4,000 leaders across more than 60 different client organizations in North America and Europe. He has held C-suite roles at several global companies, and has been responsible for driving corporate transformations valued in excess of two billion dollars. His leadership and human performance techniques have been developed in continuous cooperation with leading scientists in fields including neuroscience, behavioral science, and psychology. He is also the coauthor of "Neuroleadership".

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

A Call for Balladeers
Darrow Miller, author
Stan Guthrie, author
YWAM Publishing
PO Box 55787, Seattle, WA 98155
9781648360961, $17.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: The art we consume changes the way we think, so where are the artists who speak Godly truth from a Christian perspective through their art, the balladeers that disciple the nations through their respective mediums?

We need a new generation of balladeers. Culture is upstream from economics, politics and society. Who shapes culture more than anyone else? It is the artists, those who consciously create or critique culture with their art. These people may be called modern-day balladeers. They are singers and songwriters, playwrights and filmmakers, writers and poets, painters and sculptors, choreographers and composers, architects and fashion designers. From these gifted artists we must call forth a movement of modern-day balladeers.

Critique: Impressively illustrated with a number of full color images, "A Call for Balladeers" by Darrow Miller (with the assistance of Stan Guthrie) will prove of special value to readers with an interest in a Christian perspective on educators, writers, artists, song writers, film makers, and other creative talents that help to shape and express contemporary culture. Exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Call for Balladeers" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Darrow Miller ( is co-founder of Disciple Nations Alliance and the author of Discipling Nations, LifeWork, Don't Let Schooling Stand in the Way of Education, and many other books, articles, and Bible studies. For over forty years, he has taught internationally on worldview and development, apologetics, Postmodernism, and the dignity of women.

Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You
Daniel Cooperrider
Pilgrim Press
9780829800142, $24.95, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You: A Field Guide to the Bible", Daniel Cooperrider analyzes the Bible's treatment of nature and intersperses this analysis with his own reflections on experiences in nature. Deftly organized in sections touching on the four elements, "Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You" engages with the multifaceted relationship between the Bible and nature through various media, including art, theology, the natural sciences, history, and lived experience. A timely work on the gift of the Earth, "Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You" makes a strong case for Christians regarding environmental conservation as a cornerstone of religious life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You: A Field Guide to the Bible" is informed and informative as, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, church, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies & Biblical Studies collections, it should be noted by seminary students, clergy, academia, and all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation, that "Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.75).

Editorial Note: Daniel Cooperrider ( is a writer, teacher, and pastor in the United Church of Christ. A fly-fisher and forager, Cooperrider lives with his spouse and their young one on the edge of the Driftless Area in Madison, Wisconsin, on ancestral native American Ho-Chunk land.

Finding Joy on Death Row
Dewey Williams
Dexterity Books
9781947297555, $17.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: With the publications of "Finding Joy on Death Row: Unexpected Lessons from Lives We Discarded", Dewey Williams journeys into the hearts and minds of those sentenced to death, illuminating for readers the ways in which the human spirit can suffer -- and soar.

"Finding Joy on Death Row" includes dozens of handwritten statements from those facing capital punishment. The testimonies and contemplations of those sentenced to die offer readers a unique opportunity to hear from individuals whose lives are marked by their looming execution. And yet these prisoners have (in the midst of grim circumstances) managed to find joy.

As Williams serves and shepherds these prisoners, their own stories are unveiled. Williams's account of ministering within North Carolina's prison system and the handwritten statements are punctuated by glimpses into the author's own broken past. This important work will show readers the power of joy to reach us all, the free and imprisoned alike.

"Finding Joy on Death Row": Offers a glimpse into the minds of those currently and formerly on Death Row; Presents the effects of the death penalty not only on the incarcerated but on their loved ones as well: Examines Williams's own experiences that gave him a unique understanding and empathy for those sentenced to death; Explores the very real possibility of finding joy despite outward circumstances; Includes online access to transcriptions of the prisoners' responses as well as Pastor Williams's original sermon series

Unprecedented and revealing, Finding Joy on Death Row provides a window into the tragedies, hardships, and victories of those sentenced to die, ultimately offering readers the encouragement that we are all loved, forgiven, and capable of transformation.

Critique: Unique, insightful, informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Finding Joy on Death Row: Unexpected Lessons from Lives We Discarded" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Criminology & Penology collections. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, prison authorities, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Finding Joy on Death Row" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Dewey Williams is Pastor of Mt. Bright Missionary Baptist Church in Hillsborough, North Carolina, a doctoral student at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, and a graduate of Duke Divinity School. In 2017, Dewey's sermon series Joy on Death Row won the top award at Yale Divinity School's Theology of Joy and the Good Life competition.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Warrior Wench (The Asarlai Wars Book 1)
Marie Andreas
Marie Andreas
9780986098161 $15.99
B01DKSXEKQ, $4.99 ebook, US copyright 2016, 368 pages

Warrior Wench is a non-stop action space opera with equal parts tech and paranormal. It is a fun read even with the extreme characters. Andreas walks the line between extreme non-human paranormals and human questioning and growth. It is an escapist read for when you are interested in losing yourself in pure action.

Vaslisha Tor Dain is the captain of the mercenary star ship, The Victorious Dead. Vash and her crew hire as mercenary fighters for planets that can't settle their disagreements with diplomacy.

Vash has been drugged while on leave and is behind schedule getting to the ship's next fight. She finds her ship The Victorious Dead has been cut into pieces and sold while she was on leave and is forced to take another ship Warrior Wench to her next job. An unknown group is tracking her and another group is trying to kill her. Next she finds large unknown ships are attacking her ship and the fringes of the Commonwealth. Strange cadres of warrior monks are playing a life and death game with Vash and her missing ship. Can Vash survive long enough to find the answers to what is happening to her, her crew and the Commonwealth?

Warrior Wench is an easy recommendation for the action junkie. There is little pause between action sequences. If the SF reader enjoys stories with more depth, Warrior Wench won't be a good fit. But if you just want to lose yourself in an action story, you can't find a much better space opera.

Primitive Weapons: A Tye Caine Wilderness Mystery (Tye Caine Wilderness Mysteries Book 2)
David Barbur
Cougar Rock Press
9798754551909 $10.99
B09KD6RYF9, $0.00 ebook, US copyright 2021, 278 pages

Primitive Weapons is a well-paced action thriller with a touch of the supernatural.

Guide/tracker Tye Caine and his friend Gary need money. When Tye is offered a high paying job to find a billionaire and his friend who disappeared on a small private island. Tye thinks that the job should be simple and fast. What he doesn't know is that the men disappeared because their billionaire partners have decided on a hostile takeover of the billionaire's company with lethal force. Tye only has primitive weapons to defend himself, his friend Gary and the billionaire client against enemies armed with high powered rifles and high technology. Can everyone survive?

Primitive Weapons is recommended for readers who are looking for an action read that is slightly more balanced than the nonstop shoot-em-up of the typical contemporary action/thriller. There are a few weak points in the tale but the balance is easily in favor of reading the story. Primitive is a nice read that is nearly as relaxing as it is thrilling.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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