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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 5 May 2017 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Crafting Fun for Kids of All Ages
Kim Uliana
Sky Pony Press
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510719378, $14.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: In "Crafting Fun for Kids of All Ages: Pipe Cleaners, Paint & Pom-Poms Galore, Yarn & String & a Whole Lot More", Kim Uliana offers 200 entertaining, versatile, and easy-to-assemble arts and crafts projects for any occasion. These fun and pastime activities range from making glittery snowflakes and thumbprint ornaments during the holidays, to creating straw hats and button sunflowers for summer vacation, to decorating personalized bookmarks for back-to-school.

Kim guides children ages 6 and up through each individual project, giving step-by-step instructions even the youngest crafter will be able to follow. Projects are organized by materials (Crafting with clay, Painting processes and ideas, Fun with pipe cleaners, Creative construction paper, Buttons of all sizes and shapes) to provide easy searching and shopping for children and adults.

Critique: Profusely and colorfully illustrated throughout, "Crafting Fun for Kids of All Ages" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and much appreciated addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library Children's Crafts collections.

Dora Maar
Louise Baring
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780847858538, $55.00, HC, 224pp,

Henriette Theodora Markovitch (November 22, 1907 - July 16, 1997) was a French photographer, painter, and poet who worked under the pseudonym of Dora Maar. Highly regarded as a Surrealist photographer in the 1930s, Maar was a fellow student with Henri Cartier-Bresson and friends with Brassai, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Andre Breton, the charismatic leader of the Surrealists.

When Maar met Picasso in the mid-1930s, she became the most influential of his many muses, inspiring much of what is considered to be his best work. But during the ten years they were together, she abandoned her career as an acclaimed professional photographer and instead photographed Picasso, including her famous series of him painting Guernica.

While Maar was considered an influential Surrealist photographer, most of her work vanished from the public eye once she stopped creating it in the late 1930s. Now, compiled with commentary by Louise Baring, "Dora Maar " is a visual compendium that restores her photographs to their proper place in history, featuring a treasure trove of incredible and never-before-published images.

Critique: Exceptional, informative, and a seminal work of Surrealist photographic history, "Dora Maar" is an inherently fascinating and extraordinary photographic study that will prove to be a critically important and enduringly appreciated addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library 20th Century Photography collections in general, and Dora Maar supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen
Hope Nicholson
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594749483, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: It is a common mistake thinking that comic books have not or cannot feature strong female protagonists. "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History" by Hope Nicholson (who is the owner and founder of Bedside Press, specializing in archival and anthology comics collections) readers will meet simply fascinating exemplars of the powerful, compelling, entertaining, and heroic female characters who've populated comic books from the very beginning of this media.

The spectacular sisterhood of comics includes costumed crimebusters like Miss Fury, super-spies like Tiffany Sinn, sci-fi pioneers like Gale Allen, and even kid troublemakers like Little Lulu. With vintage art, publication details, a decade-by-decade survey of industry trends and women's roles in comics, and spotlights on iconic favorites like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen" proves that not only do strong female protagonists belong in comics, they've always been there.

Critique: Profusely illustrated, impressively informative, exceptionally written, organized and presented in a decade by decade format starting with the 1930s and concluding with the 2010s, "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from cover to cover. Adhering to impeccable standards of scholarship and exhaustive research, "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Literary Studies collections in general, and comic book history supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Psychics, Healers, & Mediums
Jennifer Weigel
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571747761, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Since the dawn of time, people have been fascinated by those who claim to have extraordinary psychic abilities. The fascination has reached a fever pitch with the rise of modern media.

It is safe to say that many of these folks are either extraordinary frauds or extraordinarily deluded. But could some of them be legitimate? Do some people actually possess psychic gifts that can be used to help and heal?

For 20 years, Emmy Award-winning journalist Jenniffer Weigel has been interviewing and investigating mediums, psychics, and healers. She became particularly interested in this topic after the death of her father in 2001. "I felt that as a journalist, it was my duty to go behind the scenes with these people who claim they can talk to dead people or heal the sick and really pull the curtain back on these so-called 'gifts.'"

In "Psychics, Healers, & Mediums: A Journalist, a Road Trip, and Voices from the Other Side" Jennifer provides in-depth interviews with today's top mediums, psychics, and healers, including Thomas John, Judith Orloff, Concetta Bertoldi, Caroline Myss, Echo Bodine, Rebecca Rosen, Paul Selig, and Michael Bodine. In addition to the interviews, each chapter contains readings for both Weigel and an individual previously unknown to the medium, psychic, or healer. In short, Weigel puts these psychically gifted people to the test -- and the results are startling and profound.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Psychics, Healers, & Mediums: A Journalist, a Road Trip, and Voices from the Other Side" is an extraordinary, informative and very highly recommended addition to both community and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Students and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject it should be note that "Psychics, Healers, & Mediums" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99). Librarians should be aware that "Psychics, Healers, & Mediums" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audiobooks, 9781538429280, $69.00).

Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life
Diana Snyder
c/o Disney Hyperion
125 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023
9781368000000, $16.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Based on the popular television comedy series, the "Young & Hungry", Diana Synders and Gabi Moskowitz have published a lifestyle/cookbook, "Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life". Gabi is a food blogger and cookbook author and was the inspiration for the Freeform hit comedy. Diana is a writer for the television show. "Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life" features recipes along with advice about dating, friendships, entertaining, and health. Basically, "a lifestyle/cookbook" is a girls' guide to being young, single, short on cash, and passionate about food.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and featuring an informative Foreword by Emily Osment, "Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life" is a 'must read' for the legions of 'Young & Hungry' fans and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Impressionism: The Art of Landscape
Ortrud Westheider & Michael Philipp, editors
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791356297, $49.95, HC, 240pp,

With respect to the history of western art, Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. Impressionism originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.

Knowledgeably compiled and co-edited by Ortrud Westheider (Director of the Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany) and Michael Philipp (Chief Curator at the Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany) "Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" is magnificently illustrated volume that draws directly upon the latest scholarly research to reveal new perspectives on the techniques and influences of Impressionist landscapes.

"Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" takes a multi-faceted approach in its study of 90 seminal works of Impressionist art and is published to accompanying the inaugural exhibition of the new Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany.

"Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" is enhanced with the inclusion of contributions by six leading scholars who examine a wide range of themes, from the use of repetition and variation to the ecological climate in which the artists worked.

Underlying and unifying these perspectives is the inexorable change of the landscape itself. Poised on the brink of the Modern Era, the Impressionists documented the effects of industrialization on French landscapes. Amid these transitions, the artists used the landscape itself to advance their own explorations into the field of color theory.

"Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" also explores the influence of modern poetry and photography on the creation of these paintings. With beautiful reproductions from the masters (including Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir) this volume takes an exciting new approach to the study of Impressionism, while introducing audiences to the holdings of remarkable new museum.

Critique: Flawlessly reproduced images accompanied by insightfully informative commentary, "Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Providing a complete course of instruction in the 19th Century European impressionism art movement, "Impressionism: The Art of Landscape" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Art History collections in general, and Impressionism supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson
Sandra G. Murray & Sandra L. Richards
Modern Language Association
26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789
9781603292580, $40.00, HC, 214pp,

Synopsis: August Wilson (April 27, 1945 - October 2, 2005) was an American playwright who won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama with 'Fences' and 'The Piano Lesson". Wilson used drama as a medium to write a history of twentieth-century America through the perspectives of its black citizenry. In the ten plays comprising his Pittsburgh Cycle Wilson mixes African spirituality with the realism of the American theater and puts African American storytelling and performance practices in dialogue with canonical writers like Aristotle and Shakespeare. As they portray black Americans living through migration, industrialization, and war, Wilson's plays explore the relation between a unified black consciousness and America's collective identity.

Collaborative compiled and edited by Sandra G. Shannon (Professor of African American Literature at Howard University) and Sandra L. Richards (Professor in Residence and Director of the Liberal Arts program at Northwestern University in Qatar,. as well as Professor of African American Studies, Theater, and Performance Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois) Part 1 of "Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson", "Materials," survey sources on Wilson's biography, teachable texts of Wilson's plays, useful secondary readings, and compelling audiovisual and Web resources. The essays in part 2, "Approaches," examines and explores a diverse set of issues in Wilson's work, including the importance of blues and jazz, intertextual connections to other playwrights, race in performance, Yoruban spirituality, and the role of women in the plays.

Critique: Impressively informative and instructive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson" is unreservedly recommended, especially for college and university library American Theatrical History collections in general, and August Wilson supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of theatre students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson" is also available in a paperback edition (9781603292597, $24.00) and in a Kindle format ($16.49).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Imagination Bigger Together
Casey Rislov
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781524658335 (sc), $15.95,

Imagination Bigger Together receives colorful, large-size drawings by Stephen Adams as it explores the limitless possibilities of a fertile imagination in a way young kids can easily understand.

Four animal friends get together to play a pirate game and discover that the sum of their collective imaginations far surpasses what any of them could accomplish alone.

As the four imagine the adventures they experience on the 'high seas' and the exciting places they will visit far beyond their wildest dreams, young picture book readers and their read-aloud parents will enjoy a fun survey that begins with a world cruise and leads to a rock hunt for hidden gems, exploring a secret garden, mud puddle romping, and more.

The emphasis on backyard play and how it can be enhanced by an active imagination makes for an engaging story that blends real-world observations and encounters with a spice of imaginative process encouraging kids to foster and accept their own playful fantasies. A backyard map offers visual emphasis about each of these adventures, which are created with a combination of a child's imaginative ideas and toys. Each point on the map holds a new spot for adventure, whether it be digging for treasure, taking a hot-air balloon ride, or encountering strange critters.

Parents will find this a fun way of reviewing various kinds of imaginative applications for daily life encounters, while kids will appreciate the bright, large drawings of animal friends who pair a lively and fun prance through the world with a healthy dose of creative thinking.

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: L'ombre de L'ile
G.N. Hetherington
GNH Publishing
9781542921039, $14.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle,

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: L'ombre de L'ile represents a departure from Hugo's prior books in that the setting moves far from France as Hugo attempts to free his loved one from prison - an endeavor slightly outside of his usual investigative approach.

Hugo sees the world as a possible crime scene, so his observational skills are as finely tuned as those of Sherlock Holmes. But nothing has, so far, prevented the arrest and incarceration of his love - and nothing has, thus far, altered things. All this is about to change.

Every place he's lived has changed Hugo. In London, it was a life of self-imposed exile and solitude. France awakened him to new romance and family ties. Nostalgia leads him to momentarily wish he was again that loner who needed no-one, because the pain of having loved deeply and lost is nearly overwhelming - as is the idea that he can possibly regain this love by making an extraordinary effort outside his comfort zone.

Prior readers will know that Hugo is an extraordinary detective - but can his skills translate to achieving the one thing he wants most in life, against all odds?

From Ireland to Barcelona and beyond, the trail leads Hugo on an unexpected romp through different countries. Other characters such as Ben, Felix, Seamus and more round out the encounters as Hugo conducts his investigation and uncovers more and more to the mystery. But will his findings be enough to lead to his heart's desire?

One of the many pleasures of Hugo Duchamp Investigates: L'ombre de L'ile is that it stands as well on its own as it does as part of a series. Much like Sherlock Holmes, Hugo needs no introduction for newcomers or constant reminders for prior fans in order to prove satisfying (although plots of different books are summarized in the beginning, for those who would receive a quick introduction to previous events). This allows each book to fully embrace Hugo's past and present worlds. L'ombre de L'ile is no exception, deftly continuing the sagas of his love and professional lives and points where they intersect without requiring extensive explanation.

Another powerful facet of this title lies in the inclusion of many personal transition points which Hugo faces in the course of events. Hugo reflects on these possibilities and his role in them just as much as he reflects on perps, motives, and changing stories: "It reminded Hugo that he had promised himself his new home would be like this. Full of life, love and laughter, not the stark whiteness of his previous life and home in London. He was not sure how it was going to look now, but he knew it was something he had to strive toward."

Too many detective stories fail to impart a proper sense of place and perspective in their sagas, but Hugo constantly faces personal challenges and changes in his quest for justice for himself, his friends, and his world; and these contribute an overall power to each of these books.

L'ombre de L'ile is no exception: its additional perspectives and engrossing interplays of romance, personal evolution, and investigative procedures is simply delightful, and will offer not a few surprises in the course of exploring Hugo's constantly-expanding world.

The River May Run
Michael Tuberdyke
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480845657, $11.99 USD print/$3.99 Ebook

The River May Run is about youth, aging, and a special transformation that happened five years earlier in the protagonist's narrative, presenting a novel that flows through life with the force and speed of a river. If this process seems uneven in its progression, slowing at points and then speeding up, that's only because the river is a constant (but not uniform experience), and so The River May Run follows its course with satisfying twists and turns that ebb and flow.

One striking facet of this progression is the story's evocative descriptions and comparisons: "I rested my twenty-two-year-old head, along a one-hundred-year-old radiator and looked up toward the ceiling." These give pause and food for thought as they explore the protagonist's evolutionary process and juxtapose his physical and psychological growth.

Another notable feature is its reflections on the aging process - particularly the musings on 'lost youth' by 20-somethings newly acknowledging the passage of time, opportunities, and life. No discussion of The River May Run would be complete without mention of various descriptions of time, which are beautifully penned: "Up above were the stars, and beside us, rang the sound of glasses clanging together. It made me believe that I was somewhere else. Somewhere, very far away, in another time perhaps. The night enchanted my soul and gave off a fragrance, which lasted just long enough to remember."

As relationships come and go, encounters with individuals and life solidify, break apart, and change. Succinct moments are deftly captured, and readers are swept along a current of concurrent emotion and reflection which are wonderfully thought-provoking: "He turned around to sprint to the gates of his past, while I walked down the stairs. It's unfortunate in matters dealing with the heart. No one wins. I'm sure Calvin and Maybelle loved each other, but our joys, along with our sorrows, do not last forever."

Beautifully evocative in its gentle trace of the passage of time through poetic fingers that ripple through the water ("Outside the street seemed like a wonderful parade of enthusiasm as people moved about crossing the bridge. That was the first time I ever felt old. I knew that look of enthusiasm, but the lights on the east and the west, for me, were no longer bright."), this is a captivating, literary work that is highly recommended for readers of stories about youth and the passage of time. It captures a reflective process that embraces social, cultural, and interpersonal changes with a fluidity and precision that is simply delightful.

I Believe In Butterflies
Marian L. Thomas
L.B. Publishing
400 West Peachtree St NW, Suite #4-858, Atlanta, GA 30308
9780984896790, $14.99,

Emma Baker is in her seventies when her unremarkable life is suddenly changed by a shocking revelation. Her daughter Honour has only two fears: her past, and falling in love. Lorraine holds steadfast convictions about her place in the world. All three women and their heritages are connected in I Believe in Butterflies, a powerful legacy penned by a woman about to take her last breath in life.

The story hooks readers from the beginning as the elderly black woman reflects on her life and times: "Some people say that I'm crazy. A crazy ole black woman with nothing better to do than stand on the bridge during the heat of the day and stare at the fish that swim by in the crisp blue water. I ain't crazy. I just like staring at freedom. I like looking at the fish swimming from one end of the river, clear up to the other. Ain't nobody worried about what color they are or if they be big fish or small fish. Ain't nobody worried about any of those things when it comes to the fish. Folks been fishing in that water for years and my fish ain't never lost their freedom. I reckon that if God gave them fish their freedom, then that's how it was meant to be for all people."

Emma has a distant relationship with her daughter Honour ("The truth is - on the day she crossed over from the black side of the railroad tracks and walked a couple of miles to board the only train we got, I never wanted her to come back. Just call. We get along so much better on the phone for the one or two minutes we manage to have a conversation."), but this is destined to change as the discovery of a body in the river sweeps disparate and distanced lives into a maelstrom of discovery and danger.

A locket, an injury that lands Emma in the hospital in a coma and brings her daughter to her side, Aaron's love for Honour, Honour's flight from family and connections, and Lorraine, who struggles with the differences between white and black identity - all awaken from a single observation that spreads outward like ripples, intersecting and interconnecting lives.

I Believe in Butterflies is about self-discovery on many levels and at many ages. It's about black and white relationships, music and mystery, and questions of love on. As lies, truths, and growth intersect, readers are drawn into a story that's ultimately about finding and keeping peace. What is the real face of freedom, and how can past experience be overcome to regain new family connections?

I Believe in Butterflies asks many questions, provides many answers, and ultimately comes full circle after traversing changing worlds and lives. As bridges between past and future are formed, readers swept along in the rising tide of emotion and discovery framed by I Believe in Butterflies will find this a powerful saga of black lives and family ties transformed by truth.

Readers seeking powerful, evocative stories of self-discovery and connection will relish this pull on one's heartstrings for its psychological depth and focus on concurrent life journeys that hold both puzzles and, ultimately, solutions.

The Power of Time Perception
Jean Paul Zogby
Time Lighthouse Publishing
9780995734777, $16.95,

The Power of Time Perception: Control the Speed of Time to Make Every Second Count is a counter proposal to the idea of time flying by, delving into the nature of how the brain perceives time's passage, how emotions or life experiences alter the experience of time, and how personal reality and time can both be altered through a series of techniques that anyone can master.

Introductory chapters covering psychology, neuroscience, and how time perceptions can be distorted or altered accompany later discussions that narrow the focus to how to better live in the moment, how to encourage mindfulness and a better sense of 'flow' in one's life and everyday experiences, and how to apply diet, exercise, and other changes to better manage time.

Many books discuss time management; but few discuss the nature of the time being managed, or the mechanics of how to alter it. Fewer yet include a range of psychological reflections for introverts and extroverts alike, discussions of personal choices in how to spend time, or tips on how to handle memories and aging brains that perceive time as 'slipping away'.

Readers who anticipate a self-help approach or time management guide alone may be surprised and initially stymied by the healthy dose of supporting science and psychology behind these suggestions; but given how many lighter (and less informative) approaches are on the market, it's pleasing to see a book that intermingles self-help with science and delves into specifics at points where too many others would generalize.

The result is no light discussion, but an in-depth read that pairs insights on evolutionary processes and the latest research with pointers on how readers can make the most out of time. This is the 'next level' time management book many have likely been looking for: a concrete approach that pairs insights on time perception with tips on how to alter and better handle time's challenges.

The Hook: Surfing to Survive a Shattered Family, Drugs, Gangs and the FBI
Kathleen Doler Inc.
Price (trade paperback): $18.95
Price (e-book, all formats): $4.99
Amazon listing:
Barnes & Noble listing:

Life is much like surfing: many times when you think you've caught the big wave and ridden it successfully, it presents a surprise: "I replay the drilling in my mind...riding out, speeding well ahead of the pitching curl. But the wave didn't peel off; instead it broke in one big section and drilled me from behind. I shrug. Life - just when you think you've made a clean getaway you get caught, caught from behind."

Using surfing metaphors, Kathleen Doler takes readers on a journey of adaptation, self-discovery, and perseverance in The Hook, which surveys techniques and methods for navigating life. This isn't a self-help title, per say, however. It adopts a fictional format as it tells of the protagonist's attempt to escape from the chaos of her dysfunctional family by traveling the globe, only to return home to find her junkie brother in the hospital trapped by a dangerous meth addiction and an equally deadly drug dealer.

Dana refuses to give up on her beloved brother, even though the rest of her family and the community have already done so, and she hopes their shared love of surfing will help bring him back. Instead, however, she delves deeper into his world and uncovers even more unsettling facts about his relationship to his dealer, his homelessness, a growing gang war, and a final wave of confrontation that could sweep away everything she's loved and worked for.

The Hook is a gripping expose of life on the line. It grasps the reader from the start with its surfing description, then moves rapidly away from the calm aftermath of survival and achievement and into the riptides of a family and community gone awry. At the center of this maelstrom is one young woman determined to survive and to carry her lost sibling into the light. At what cost is the reader's guess as various scenarios are explored and their underbellies exposed.

The Hook's effectiveness lies not in its subject (much of which has been covered in various fictional formats before), but in its 'hook' (for lack of a better word, and in keeping with its surfing subject), which grabs reader attention through various scenarios of catch and release, connections, and struggles for survival.

Shane's surfing abilities are one way of reaching him - and as Dana chooses this path, opportunities blossom for both of them. Their concurrent journeys are well presented in a story that toes the line between opening new avenues of hope and narrowing possibilities through personal choices and actions. As events move beyond Shane's dilemma and Dana's efforts to embrace other lives and bigger pictures, so The Hook becomes a blossoming portrait of change and hope.

Those interested in a powerful first-person story of adversity and perseverance which traverses drug and gang worlds to uncover avenues of hope and change will relish the perspective of lives in flux in The Hook, which reels in readers with a complex and multi-faceted production.

Aliens Got My Sally
Lee Baldwin
Baldwin Books
9780985477769, $3.99

If this book's unusual and eye-catching title Aliens Got My Sally isn't indication enough that the story will go far beyond the usual alien abduction piece, its subtitle should cement this anticipation: UFO Pulp Fiction for the Modern Mind. With these two elements in mind, readers embark on a romp through a strange world where aliens are just one of the oddities of life: "QUANTUM BIOLOGIST SALLY JACOBS will discover how freaky the universe can be when a corner of it opens up and swallows her whole. That won't be because she took a few minutes at the campus cafe, or because that made her late to observe tonight's lunar eclipse with a friend. It won't necessarily be because she follows this deserted shortcut to avoid the shadowed parking lot where carousing fratboys smash car windows, or because of the towering rebreathers that roar against urine-tinted sky. Sally's fate will unfold in part because four out of five infants on this overheated planet are born dead, because half of all humanity goes to bed starving, and because like everyone else, she wears a breather mask to keep the poisoned atmosphere from killing her."

The premise is simple: if intelligent life in the cosmos develops only infrequently, how can it expand to embrace the universe? Theories about space travelers who have influenced mankind's development abound; but Aliens Got My Sally takes matters a step further by adding multiple dimensions, technological promises, and expanding intelligence networks into the equation of two friends and their universe-changing experience.

One doesn't expect a thread of humor to run through hard science fiction, but a sense of play is definitely here from the start as biologist Sally's abduction places her in a situation that contrasts her experience with ironic observation: "Clouded in incandescence, Sally tries to retreat. But when she finds herself unable to move, paralyzing fear rises to choking terror. She vanishes from the ordinary universe, along with the green-eyed raccoon and every living bacterium within 20 meters, hating, hating, hating it that her only part in this cosmic discovery is that of the screaming blonde."

The novel is billed as speculative fiction, but to try to cast it in a particular genre is to negate its unique originality and voice. Aliens Got My Sally sizzles with elements of intrigue, a host of characters who hold their own special interests and objectives, and aliens who are not too far off from human beings in some ways, while impossibly distant in others. And what's Sally's near-genius friend Anna doing investigating an alien mine shaft in hopes of making discoveries she's not sure she actually wants to consider, anyway? "As Anna works, her mind races to a dead certainty, that millions of years ago visitors from the stars landed on Earth to do a little prospecting. She sees the driving forces that brought her to this place and to this moment, fashioned from a dozen scattered parts. She knows they're long gone, those excavators from a spacefaring culture, but her hindbrain has her scared witless because she does not want to meet anything strange. Not alone, not down here in the dark. Please."

As Anna and Sally uncover secrets of the universe's nature - such as the fact that consciousness is reality's glue - readers receive a healthy dose of science, humor, action and intrigue, and fuzzy and unfuzzy logic as alien captors and their own contrary natures coalesce into a vivid, engrossing read that's hard to put down and impossible to predict. In this world, one woman's abduction is just the opener to a journey that holds promise for all mankind.

Fans of speculative fiction, sci-fi, alien abduction, first contact epics, humor, and literature will all find much to like in the refreshingly wry and compellingly original story Aliens Got My Sally, which traces not only Anna and Sally's shared awakening, but the key decision they're faced with: Can they reveal their overwhelming discoveries without a degenerate world order hindering all that humankind could become?

Delia and Reid
Denis S. Hurley
Denis S. Hurley, Publisher
Google Play E-pub: 9780994307019, $9.99
Paperback: 9780994307002 $TBA

Delia and Reid is an 'adventure love story' about the most beautiful woman in the world as seen through the thoughts of Reid, who reflects not only on his relationship with Delia, but other women in his life.

What can readers expect from an 'adventure love story'? It's a romance in some ways and a more unusual adventure story in others as it traverses not only the evolution of a 'soul mate' relationship, but what that means for both Delia and Reid.

Erotic adventures and processes, a sense of play and exploration, and media, legal, musical, and world-hopping travel encounters all blend in a novel that will neatly stymie readers anticipating a formula romance approach - and that is its strength.

Delia and Reid dares to be different. It labels its contents and then moves outside of the box in identifying underlying psyches and world-changing influences that lead Delia and Reid into new experiences both outside and within the bedroom.

Take the writing as an example of why this book stands out from most. Denis S. Hurley's descriptions are striking, enticing visions that are literary standouts in a genre of tired words: "If you want to read the love story, you'll be let into my head. If you don't feel extremely privileged to be let into my head, then you're a psychopath. If you're a psychopath who makes the intellectual decision to be good, well done for at least making that decision for others. If you're a psychopath who makes the intellectual decision to be bad, at least have the dignity not to complain if you're killed."

Now consider the story line. Far from being a linear romantic encounter or series of adventures, Delia and Reid is always in flux. At many points it's simply hard to tell where it is heading or what will happen next - again, these moments will stymie formula romance readers; but are devices which will delight more literary-minded romance and erotica followers seeking something truly different. Not being sure of 'what's around the next corner' is a notable achievement; particularly given the novel's length - some 460,000 words - which is a bonus for readers who like their stories well-detailed and not hastily drawn.

Set in Australia but offering world-hopping experiences and encounters with other cultures, Delia and Reid is always firmly rooted in personal encounters, whether it be between the two lovers or their circle of friends and acquaintances who sometimes marvel at their romantic phenomenon: "I think of the girl at primary school with me. I think of the young girl at high school. I think of the young woman at uni. I think of Phillip's young wife. I see her as a young mother with toddler Yvette and baby Simone. I see her as the mature woman struggling with Phillip. I see her at the Medical Association dinners; everybody trying to keep their eyes away but not being able to do so. Yeah, me too, mate. You should've seen how she was dressed and looked. It always blew people away. Some of us used to place bets about what she'd be wearing. I saw her during all of those times! Way out of my league but, yes, I saw her at all those functions! I've heard her name so many, many times, throughout that history over all those years! Fuck, Reid! How did you pull her in to be your wife? Mate, come on!"

Music is a constant stream running through this unusual love story, drawing readers in and creating the backgrounds for a series of adventures that are unexpectedly compelling. Listening to the music references contained in the story as the novel progresses will enhance the atmosphere of Delia and Reid's progress.

Delia and Reid is a literary romance highly recommended for discriminating readers who desire more complexity and thought-provoking moments from a foundation of passion and personal evolution. It invites, entertains, titillates, promises intrigue and revelation, and leaves the reader spent, but well satisfied.

Red Fire, Growing Up During The Chinese Cultural Revolution
Wei Yang Chao
Avant Press
9780998196015, $16.90,

Plenty of books have been written about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its experience; but few come from the perspective of a child who lived through these changes. That's one of the reasons why Wei Yang Chao's Red Fire is so absorbing: it gives insight into the roots of ideology and its effect upon families and children, but even though it's written fifty years later, many of these eyewitness experiences are just as vividly portrayed as when they were lived.

Vintage black and white photos pepper Chao's autobiography, which personalizes his powerful memoir of the special social and political challenges of the times: "...while I was quite familiar with struggle sessions, this time the targets were my mother and father, and it was now my turn to betray those I loved."

The inclusion of media and propaganda releases creates a striking contrast between official acts, public image, and the author's private impressions: "Mao needed to be sure of his physical prowess at his advanced age, when there was some doubt as to whether he had enough energy left to go to war against his powerful opponents and to safeguard his political beliefs. Nobody knew for sure what Mao intended, but by swimming in the Yangtze, Mao signaled confidence in his physical condition and, by extension, confidence that he could win yet another political battle. The swim was also a touchstone for the personality cult he enjoyed among the masses. People's reactions to the news showed that his popularity had not diminished in the least."

From accounts of political reforms to descriptions of reactions that reached into individual homes and lives, Red Fire provides a link to help readers understand how events changed people's lives. Chao deftly reaches into the most everyday of circumstances to illustrate transformation: "How could a small child be so quickly reformed? It seemed totally improbable. The truth of the story, I finally decided, lay in the mother's faith, for loyalty worked a kind of black magic in those years, and we were all of us thoroughly bewitched."

Few other accounts of these times offer the candid vision of a childhood set against the social and political transformation that came from a charismatic, controlling leadership.

Holding many thought-provoking insights about the Cultural Revolution experience and a leader changing his nation, Red Fire deserves a place on the reading shelves of any political or social issues reader; especially those concerned with current American political processes and readers of Chinese Cultural Revolution history and experience.

Big Top Typewriter
David Lewis Hammerstrom
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781542975612, $12.95,

Books about circus experiences come and go, so readers who started early with Toby Tyler and went on to power their dreams of a circus lifestyle with other classics about the big top have found their choices dwindling as the circus fades. However, Big Top Typewriter: My Inside Adventures Through the World of Circus is a rare coverage that stands out even from the plethora of big top histories and performer autobiographies, presenting an eyewitness experience of the breakthroughs, politics, and dreams affecting not just the circus world but author David Lewis Hammerstrom's own pursuits of publication and truths.

It's rare to find a survey of some fifty years of circus history by one who is a participant rather than an outside observer, but David Lewis Hammerstrom was in that unique position and juxtaposes his world-hopping circus experiences with his equally eye-opening efforts to get these insights published.

Thus, the first caution: Big Top Typewriter is as much about the process of writing and publicizing circus life as it is about circus history itself - and that distinction is one of the facets that sets this book apart from either the historical approach or the autobiographical 'I did this' performer's experiences.

Straddling the high wire somewhere in-between, Big Top Typewriter surveys behind-the-scenes circus politics and experiences, including turning points in Ringling Brothers history and how the author reported on this history and the barriers he encountered in publishing and entertainment worlds alike. It takes readers ringside as he attempts to capture the madness and magic of the circus, deals with circus curators, historians, photo archivists, and traverses the worlds of the big top and publishing industries in a precarious balancing act that captures the challenges of writing about the circus and entertainment worlds.

From amusing interviews and 'Circus Gods' who alternately smile and frown upon his endeavors, creating a career that moves one step forward and two steps back, to a light-hearted sense of humor that parades through the story with the pomp and circumstance of a blossoming author and reporter, Big Top Typewriter is anything but your staid story of circus animals and performers. It moves within and beyond these topics to consider such varied challenges as how to sell a modern circus, how to sell circus writings, and how to keep control of a narrative when publishers, agents, and editors want to change one's voice beyond recognition.

As such, those who seek a circus description alone will be surprised to note that this follows more than one kind of circus experience, offering plenty of insights into a writer's life and encounters with the publishing industry and circus worlds alike. Readers who pick up the book for its circus insights might be taken aback by this bigger picture; but the end result stands out from the crowd of dwindling circus memoirs and materials to address the special challenge of not only how to capture and represent a fading industry, but how to publish the kind of book that isn't diluted by mainstream publisher editing processes.

Big Top Typewriter is highly recommended and is alternately fun and thought-provoking for two audiences in particular: readers who like circus exposes, and aspiring writers who struggle to find, project, and publish their own unique voices and styles.

Quilt of Souls
Phyllis Lawson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781507789759, $17.95 hc / $6.99 Kindle,

Author Phyllis Lawson was only four when her world changed as she was "...driven sixteen hours down the road in a car full of strangers, to a house in the middle of nowhere, with grandparents I never met before. I was abandoned. No way around it. The stigma of being given away followed me around for many years, like a lost puppy nipping at my heels. It took my grandmother's love and an old, tattered quilt to repair my self-esteem and return me to wholeness."

While this opener may sound like the preface to a singular autobiographical experience, it should be noted that Phyllis Lawson's experience was not unusual. As she points out in her opening paragraphs, blacks who made the pilgrimage from Southern rural to urban city life in the 1930s and '40s often found themselves struggling when the kids began to arrive. The solution was to send these children back to the South to live with relatives.

Lawson's early life thus wasn't unusual, given these circumstances: it actually was quite ordinary at the time, and reflected a growing trend in the black community: "They'd end up sending a child or two down south to live with grandparents; grandparents they might never had met before. Just like that, a young'un would be plucked off their front porch, out of the only family they knew and without explanation, left on the doorstep of virtual strangers. Sometimes these children didn't return north until they were teenagers. Sometimes they never returned."

Although this is an important part of her story, Phyllis Lawson doesn't just speak of her childhood, but about how her resilience and values were reinforced by both the loving guidance of her grandmother and a tattered old quilt that proved the impetus for positive change.

The patchwork of threads of this quilt run steadily through Quilt of Souls as Lawson learns to become a quilter herself, finding that many of the lessons of quilting apply equally powerfully to handling life's challenges. Read between the lines to find the evolution of a quilter intricately tied with the autobiography of how a grandmother handles children removed from their parents and instills many values in them while you review the historical influence that swatches of quilt fabric lend to their lives.

Quilters who pick up this book anticipating a quilting how-to or a history alone will find there's much going on in Lawson's autobiography. The focus on family relationships and grandparenting is exquisitely wrought, while the quilting references and fabric and quilting history expand these topics in a manner that blends reminiscence with social and cultural insights and secrets handed down between generations.

The quilt theme is a steady thread supporting these revelations: "Grandma took the pieces of fabric we sewed into my quilt from Isaiah and Robert's black and red gingham shirts. I suddenly had a better understanding of this precious bag of cloths. I would never refer to it as a "bag of rags" again. I thought about the importance of Grandma entrusting me with the quilt and all these stories. Not only did I have to remember it, but I also had to hold it sacred."

Southern culture and folk stories, black heritage, and quilting all come together in a delightful series of family stories that are funny, thought-provoking, and packed with depth, making Quilt of Souls a special recommendation for both quilters who look beyond project-oriented guides and any collection strong in family memoirs and black Southern cultural explorations.

Gradle Bird
J.C. Sasser
Koehler Books
210 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633932630, $17.95,

Gradle Bird has only known poverty and depravation during her sixteen years of life, living with her grandfather in a seedy Georgia hotel and already well familiar with the trappings of poverty and thrift: "Gradle Bird sucked on a piece of penny candy and carried a sack of SpaghettiOs and an expired loaf of Wonder Bread she'd gotten on discount from the Timesaver up the road." It would seem she's almost hit rock bottom at a young age - but things are about to turn around for her, and this story chronicles these changes.

In many ways Gradle Bird is a dark, somber account that is anything but your usual new adult read; for its protagonist doesn't move forward from rags to riches, but sideways from one difficult world to another. In other ways, it's a story of hope; because within each of these worlds, Gradle Bird finds people to love, goals, and new possibilities that co-exist alongside cruelty, angst, and danger.

As the story progresses, Gradle moves from a world in which all her worn clothes come from motel room left-behinds and her spunk evolves from a determination to survive to a compellingly different promise of magic when she's brought to a haunted house and falls under its spell.

Readers should expect stark worldviews, sexual encounters, narratives that incorporate scenes of abuse on many levels, and throughout it all, a gritty, determined protagonist who is a survivor at heart.

From friends who harbor illusions of their powers and forces against them to how friendship and respect grows between unusual (often disparate) people, Gradle Bird is a story like none other, holding overtones of the young adult read Queenie Peavy but with a maturity level and focus that makes it recommended for both new adult and adult readership.

There's a great need for novels for this age group that are sharply realistic yet different in tone and focus. Gradle Bird is edgy, thought-provoking, and anything but predictable. Its discussions of magical thinking, the roots of cruelty and kindness, and changing family relationships and friendships among seemingly-incongruous individuals will find a welcoming place anywhere where new adults look for much more depth than is offered in typical genre reads.

Heading Home: Field Notes
Peter Anderson
Conundrum Press
PO Box 1353, Golden, Colorado 80402
9781942280217, $14.99,

Many autobiographies chart journeys and discoveries, translating them into experiences directed to travel and self-discovery enthusiasts; but when was the last time that a collection opened with an introduction that popped the reader onto the road right away? "I folded up the map of home I'd made and it was adios old shack, adios old town, and hello to a road I couldn't help but ride."

Heading Home: Field Notes isn't just about leaving a home. It is more about the author seeking and finding a new place to sink in roots and tracing the journey that gets him there. The powerful opener is only a portent of the riches to come as the author begins his journey with a succinct vision of what sparked his decision to hit the road:

"... When the mine at Climax shut down, it was the bust that finally got to me-storefronts boarded up from Leadville to Salida, down-valley friends leaving the country, nights darker than the shafts inside the mountain above town."

The collection holds the gritty landscapes and experiences of the West, but incorporates all these into an exploration that captures every nuance of minute details, whether it is the different perspectives and determinations of two mountain loners or the early snowpack described by a forest ranger on a trip into the backcountry to help a seasonal employee pack out. "Snow came early that year. Had a kid named Jackson cruising timber on the mountain and it was time to pack him out. Sky was full of mare's tails-another front coming in. I made good miles through the high spruce. Post-holing hip-deep snow on the way down, I saw something up ahead-a black sheep, left behind from the summer graze."

Wonderfully evocative in its phrasing, Heading Home holds the rare capacity for immersing readers in the ordinary and highlighting the extraordinary in every moment, whether it be a bat emergence from an old iron mine ("Here, in the foothill twilight, what matters is the way they rise into a vast whirling column. What matters is the breeze and the sound, like moving water, they leave in their wake. What matters is this great river of wings that ends as it begins. In darkness. Now you know where the night comes from.") or, in a more humorous vein, the imagined survival experience of a couple of Barbie dolls who accompany his young daughters on a backcountry pack trip.

"When the Barbies make their next appearance, I am secretly happy they have been liberated from my daughter's pack, stripped naked, and set afloat in a very cold mountain stream. The Barbies ride the current, their long, slinky legs goose-bumping off creek bed cobbles and their carefully coiffed hair trailing like algae behind them. Get me . . . like .. . out of here. How strange this must be for the Barbies . . . to be without their closets full of Barbie clothes, without their pink corvettes and mini cell phones, hundreds of miles from the nearest mall, headed into a long night with a cold bivouac ahead of them."

Think a wider-ranging version of the philosophical, evocative fly-fishing literary classic, A River Runs Through It. Heading Home has the same kind of feel for land, people and places in the West. It is a powerful cocktail of evocative, beautiful prose that is not to be missed by any who appreciate a literary voice from this part of the country. It is award-quality writing that should please readers who appreciated A River Runs Through It. Yes, it's that good.

The Town of Jasper
James D. Gianetti
Elevation Book Publishing
P.O. Box 15000, Atlanta, GA, 30324
9781943904082, $24.95 Hardcover/$16.95 Paper,

The Town of Jasper is a powerful thriller that features a detective struggling with his own addictions who is tasked with facing a small town that has been quarantined from the outside world when half its population succumbs to a deadly illness.

While the book initially sounds like either an investigative story or a survivalist saga, the pleasure of The Town of Jasper lies in the fact that it's both - and neither. The American beliefs and values represented in this small town are transformed by 'The Incident', which leaves survivors trapped in a deadly scenario in which faith, order, and ideologies are challenged by evil, chaos, and addiction.

Special interests rise from the ashes of anarchy to place Jack Sutherland at odds with his new world as well as the old one, leading him to confront his strengths, failures, and a changing world as an idyllic small town and its family values fall prey to disease and destruction.

At the other end of the spectrum is the newly-emerged town leader Richard Morrissey, who carves order from chaos and must form some questionable alliances in order to do so. Sutherland has become "reckless and dangerous" since the accident. Morrissey has become clever and ruthless. Any alliance between the two would have been impossible under normal conditions. Now, it may be a key to the survival of everything.

As readers pursue The Town of Jasper, they will notice that the book crosses several genres without falling into the trap of formula writing. The town's contamination and isolation reflects shades of apocalyptic science fiction. The detective's struggles with his personal failures and much-changed circumstances both before and after the vast changes that sweep his world incorporate investigative techniques that focus on powerful psychological processes, yet stop short of the kind of structure that would lead to deeming the story a detective piece. And, the evolving social and political struggles and alliances between the survivors compete with the best of survivalist sagas.

Suffice it to say that 'thriller' perhaps best defines the progress, action, and attraction of a novel which should neatly appeal across the board to sci-fi, medical mystery, thriller, and survival readers alike, adding a healthy dose of intrigue to thought-provoking philosophical, ethical, and moral challenges.

Cave Walker
Donelle Dreese
Moon Willow Press
9781927685228, $12.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle,

Gillian's mother warned her to never talk about her mysterious ability. If people knew, they would shun and fear her. Her visions are a curse. And so she hides away at her mother's b&b, working for her as a breakfast chef and holding her secrets close, until events demand she choose an even more solitary life, living in a cave in the woods in an effort to keep these premonitions from coming true.

Cave Walker is about love, adaptation, change, and exploring one's powers. As it follows Gillian through treacherous ways of thinking and the inevitability of foreseeing sometimes-terrible futures, it also serves a healthy portion of faith, ethics, and lessons that can be gained from shipwrecks, fear, denial, and the differences between psychosis and reality.

Perhaps its greatest force is its lyrical language, which deftly captures Gillian's ability to confront change, sorrow, and a journey in which "I had not arrived in time to save anyone." Does being charged with an extraordinary ability translate to the need to change the future and rescue others? Can Gillian turn her powerlessness into power? And is prophecy a skill she can (or even would want to) teach others?

There's more going on here than the tale of a woman struggling with psychic visions: a host of other issues are raised as Gillian's evolves, and these drive a novel that is evocative, compelling, and rich in reflections on faith, philosophy, ethics, and responsibility.

Readers seeking more than entertainment value will relish the sights, sounds, and life of a woman who is tired of praying for hope and (seemingly) receiving no response.

The Helper
M. N. Snow
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781539630661 $14.95 pbk / $4.99 ebook

John Sloan, a Marine Corps vet, harbors a strange healing ability that spills into and changes the lives of many who encounter him. But what happens when a healer finds his inexplicable powers suddenly cut off - how does he then find purpose in his life sans faith, ability, and positive forces?

One doesn't expect Native American folklore, world-hopping adventure, spiritual reflection, and philosophy to blend in a series of encounters that presents three main characters, speculative fiction, and a journey from the light of healing to the darkness; but one of the delights of The Helper is the same thing that will make it a marketing challenge in many ways: it defies easy categorization.

It should also be mentioned that this is no light presentation in other ways, as well. Cursing and confrontation are described in gritty, realistic language at many points as the characters confront racism and each other. From Indian rights to black experiences in the South and the life-changing world of the Marine Corps, various scenarios employ clear and candid descriptions that could offend those expecting a lighter hand on the language, but which ultimately succeed in deftly capturing character motivations and moods.

Because there are several main forces at work here, time and care is taken to describe their disparate worlds - and this may translate to a slower read than some might like. However, the time spent in building characters and setting more than pays off, producing an intricate piece that challenges readers to think about life's paths and incongruities in a delightful series of encounters that tests the limits of friendship and faith.

What forces change people completely and forever? What happens when life detours become rough and messy, taking away predictability and replacing it with angst and? How do redemption and meaning re-enter a life totally changed?

The Helper is no singular description of a shining light, but explores what happens when that light fades, and how the different characters find renewed faith and meaning in their worlds. Readers who want thought-provoking and gritty approaches in their stories will relish this tale's ability to present a world of contrasts, from the Light to darkness and everything in between.

Resurrection America
Jeff Gunhus
Seven Guns Press
9780998217710, $12.95,

Resurrection America is set in the near (and not inconceivable) - but this is not evident at first, because the opening scene focuses on a small-town sheriff, an old mine, and a discovery that frightens his ex-Marine deputy, then cuts off his radio transmission.

A personal visit shows that the old, abandoned Resurrection Mine has been barricaded behind a high-voltage fence in less than a month, A man who meets him outside the fence explains that the mining forces behind it are used to operating around the world in different conditions - thus the extra security - but doesn't answer half of the questions Sheriff Rick has about their operation and his now-missing deputy.

The answers slowly build the sci-fi element of the story, because robots are involved - and not the benign kinds that America is already rebelling against for taking workers' jobs away.

The small mining town of Resurrection has long been dying, but holds much potential to live up to its name, rising like a phoenix of rebirth out of the ashes of failure. The only problem is a three-day secret that blossoms into something uncontrollable, complicated by a Fall Festival that brings thousands into the town and into the cusp of danger.

Advanced weapons and security breeches, a special weapon development that threatens to get loose and become uncontrollable, and a small-town sheriff who stands between a town's redemption and widespread disaster fuels a powerful thriller that skirts the line between intrigue and apocalypse.

From Americans who love their country and will stop at nothing to keep her powerful and safe to an operation that threatens to isolate and possibly destroy an icon of small-town America, Resurrection America is replete with fast-paced action tempered by slower moments of psychological inspection and character development that succeed in keeping its plot and presentations realistic and involving.

The result is a powerful saga that eventually embraces computers, robots, neuroscience, military strategy, and more: a thriller that keeps Sheriff Rick and his readers guessing about the truth, right up to the end. Thriller enthusiasts who like their stories heavy with action and well-flavored with psychological inspection will find Resurrection America an engrossing production indeed, packed with satisfying intrigue and unpredictable twists and turns as it explores a secret experiment that threatens to change the world.

Simplified Nutrition and Weight Management
Shannon Deshazer, NDTR, CDM
Independently Published
9781543137415, $16.95 paperback / $6.95 eReader

Shannon Deshazer is a licensed Nutrition and Dietetics Technician, and this title lends authority and expertise to her discussion of nutrition and weight management, supporting an exploration that focuses on how the concurrent goals of better nutrition and weight control can actually be a simple process.

Too many books on this subject advocate complicated programs, and many hold dubious theories with little if any scientific backing. From an introductory overview of the concept of caloric intake, balanced eating, and calculations about weight to the meat of the title, which lies in 'Chapters Influencing Weight,' the goal here is to emphasize simplicity through a program backed by statistics and facts.

Readers looking for easy understanding and weight control routines will find both here, as chapters review influences on weight gain and reduction and teach how to understand various tests and what 'normal range' means, how to interpret various vitamin and mineral guidelines from such sources as the Food and Agriculture Organization and Food and Nutrition Service, and how to assess potential benefits and health claims made by various agencies through different studies.

By providing a focus on methodology, analysis, and interpretation (as well as other influencers such as hormones and pharmaceuticals), Simplified Nutrition and Weight Management synthesizes a range of approaches on the subject, re-interpreting scientific and medical findings using language that lay readers can easily understand and apply to their own health goals.

Meaty with statistics and studies yet surprisingly accessible in its approach, which even incorporates recipes into the mix, Simplified Nutrition and Weight Management is a satisfying alternative to both 'pop' diet books and over-complex analyses, promoting the simpler goals of moderation and balance and incorporating a range of weight influencers, from foods to exercise and lifestyle choices, into the bigger picture of improved, lasting health goals.

Simplified Nutrition and Weight Management is very highly recommended for readers who seek a science-backed, logical, yet simple approach to affecting the kind of lifestyle change that involve maintaining weight and eating better, and who look for solid advice backed with solid studies and resources at every step.

Among Friends: Travels in Cuba
Heather Murray
Heather Murray/CreateSpace/IngramSpark
Paperback: 978303305766, $11.99
Ebook: 9783033057654, $7.49

Among Friends: Travels in Cuba is recommended for any would-be traveler to Cuba and for armchair readers who want a travelogue that contrasts rural and urban daily life in post-socialist Cuba, and comes from an author who moved through ordinary lives as she explored the country.

Other travelogues about Cuba offer different approaches; but what makes this one so engaging is the fact that it was produced over a number of years and several journeys to the country, not just one or two, and so holds the ability to contrast past and present worlds as well as capture and comment on the future of Cuba's people. The book features an online album of images from those worlds.

Another reason why Among Friends stands out from any similar discussion is Heather Murray's creative artistry. She incorporates interviews that comment on changing social structure and its impact on the people ("...Castro decided to remove all the high school students from the cities, where they were supposed to be exposed to bad influences, and sent them to the country, where they would learn to appreciate the work of the campesinos and live in innocence, so-called. So new high schools were built in the country and teenagers were taken away from their families in the city and lived together in boarding schools.

You can imagine what happened! Well, maybe they did learn to appreciate the work of the campesinos, because - you know - cutting sugar cane is hard work, hot work, but mostly it was just a total, total chaos. Complete. And the quality of education suffered because of that. It was nearly impossible to motivate English teachers who were used to cities for life in the countryside."). Best of all, she makes observations about these lives and social and political transformations that provide a strong sense of place and people: "First we walked to the famous Donatien cigar factory and had the full cigar-making tour. Here, the workers were quite a bit bolder than those I'd seen in Havana: they were constantly whispering "CUC? Dollar?" through the wooden grill that separated them from us. This was highly embarrassing for Julian, who couldn't believe his fellow countrymen would lower themselves to beg in this way, when they were being paid good money to roll cigars."

Too many coverages of Cuba focus on individual experiences as they attempt to capture impressions of the country. Murray's ability to succinctly depict the peoples of Cuba makes this a special recommendation for anyone who would understand the history, culture, and psyche of the changing nation.

This Land of Strangers
Robert E. Hall
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781608322992, $25.95,

At the heart of current American political processes and chaos lies a deeper problem: a crisis in relationships that stretches from personal to social and political arenas. This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics and Faith documents the growing disconnect between not just politicians and their constituents, but people across all walks of life and relationships, and is a thought-provoking consideration of the wider-ranging impact of these disparities.

Broken interpersonal relationships lead to broken processes across the board, and this book documents how this happens, examining the presence of and different influences on disconnections in home, work, politics, and faith. It cites research, other books, and case histories, considers how societies separate and what forces join them back together, and it includes a surprising influence from the business world as it examines innovation, organizational growth challenges, and concurrent changes these bring to relationships of all kinds.

As narcissism and "me thinking" rises (among college students, especially) and spills throughout all levels of society and interpersonal interactions, many of the bonding foundations of relationships are stressed and challenged.

Land of Strangers would be powerful enough if it stopped here; but it goes on to examine possible solutions to these issues, promoting a healthier relationship-centered structure that begins individually and moves up the ranks into society and politics as a whole.

How can readers understand and embrace three simple strategies for success? In a world of instant communications and gratification, This Land of Strangers is a standout for its recommendation of bigger-picture thinking and a process that eschews the "me generation" for the "we" of success.

It's highly recommended for a wide range of readers, from those who practice in business, psychology, social work, political science to anyone working or volunteering with faith-based organizations.

Watercolors Revealed!
Terrence Lloyd
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780994959485, $34.95 pbk,
9780995822382, $9.99 ebook,

Readers of French physician/astrologer Dr. Michel de Nostredame's predictions well know that many of his writings spoke of future visions and events that are only now being fully interpreted as the years go by and prophecy timelines are fulfilled; but even those who have read numerous collections of his works may be less aware that Nostradamus also produced a series of visionary art pieces that have received comparatively little interpretation or inspection.

Perhaps this is because the manuscript containing these images was donated to the Vatican, and it wasn't until 1994 that these1629 pieces were uncovered and gathered in The Lost Book of Nostradamus.

Watercolors Revealed! departs from many of the usual devices for measuring and analyzing Nostradamus by providing a focus on these visual works, and is especially recommended for those already familiar with his writings and their analytical process. This audience will discover a treasure trove of predictive associations contained in Terrence Lloyd's review of his art works, pairing the author's interpretations and historical analysis with many of Nostradamus' source materials of prophecy. The images are those of popes, decapitations, strange creatures, symbolic objects, letters, bugles, crosses, candles, and more, and portend events that range from comparisons between Napoleon and Hitler (in one rare split-screen image that predicts the extermination of the Jewish people) to the rise of gambling and the fall of morality in Las Vegas.

First, consider that his entire collection was produced in the 16th century. Nostradamus claims to have traveled to the USA, observed the Holocaust in action, and many other events which may sound fantastic; but when supported by both written text and visual observation that should have been 'impossible' by conventional standards of assessment, this evidence cannot be easily refuted.

Secondly, while the author of these images is not a 'given', they could have only come from one person who observed these scenes in their mind. There was no evidence that Nostradamus' son was involved, and no indication that the images come from any but a singular source. Since they are in his collection, his authorship seems irrefutable on many levels. This is reinforced by Lloyd's note that the watercolors were paired with verses from Nostradamus' writings: "Most of these watercolors are associated with an appropriate verse from his full book which means that the same person did both!"

Terrence Lloyd surveys the extent of these visionary art pieces and applies their subjects and contents to events of modern times. As he reviews each and juxtaposes history with image, readers are given interpretations of some 80 visions that are based on the convergence of historical event and prediction.

It's important to note the nature of these interpretations: Lloyd doesn't just browse images and randomly pair them with historic events: he uses Nostradamus' predictions and perspectives to reinforce his assignments of explanations.

Take, for example, Plate 5: The Cuban Missile Crisis. Lloyd's ideas are precise and specific to Nostradamus' references and approach to prophecy and visions: "The beastly Communist in this picture has a missile in his right hand and he is provoking a young American eagle. They are not at war since there are no symbolic "hand held rockets" to suggest that. No crossed keys; so it's not secret! This conflict occurred during the Cold War!"

Nostradamus decoders who have technical background and familiarity with not just the surface content of his predictions but their overall decoding process will especially relish and acknowledge Lloyd's attention to detail as he explains the logic behind his discussions of these images.

The result is especially recommended for those who have prior background in Nostradamus' writings, are familiar with the technical challenges of decoding his interpretations, and who hold some familiarity with the discovery of these watercolors which have not only been attributed to him, but which support and illustrate many of his predictions.

Rebecca Chianese
Hollow Press
9780692857496, $14.95,

Carly is a divorced mother of adult children. Her life is a whirlwind of stormy family relationships, artistic ambitions, and little in the way of romance until she meets Michael during a chance encounter in a parking lot, who offers her a semblance of love and sanity against a backdrop of family angst.

From the moment she meets him, her life changes; but Carly is on a mission to re-invent herself both as a person and as an artist, and the bigger question is whether she will be able to accept Michael's presence in her life as a stabilizing force in the face of dysfunctional dynamics.

Carly's greatest pleasure lies in painting and planning portraits. 'Mercy' represents the pinnacle of her artistic achievement, and holds many promises for a bright future as a recognized artist in her community.

Pulling against these positive changes are a selfish ex-husband and her father who sees his ticket to a return to entertainer fame from a reality TV show that forces Carly and her family to participate in distasteful, emotional interactions for the sake of the camera, and Carly's own inner turmoil over her course in life.

As events pull her in different directions and sometimes prove that her ambitions are helpless in the face of death, Carly finds herself questioning everything.

Mercy is a powerful, gripping story that mixes a wry dose of humor and fun into its tale of a middle-aged woman's search for her own power and persona. Women who choose it for light or inspirational reading will be drawn by the rise and fall of stormy family encounters interspersed with Carly's powerful female friends and newfound business associates, who offer breaths of wisdom and fresh air to offset the emotionally charged world around her.

The result is a very highly recommended, absorbing read that crowns art and achievement with the very realistic themes of growth, choice, and emotional evolution that make Mercy a multifaceted, fine production on more than one level. Mercy ultimately makes the reader want to paint, achieve, and grow.

The Crown Princess' Voyage
Dylan Madeley
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
1539503259, $4.61 Kindle, $18.99 Paperback

Everything is still in flux in The Crown Princess' Voyage, which continues where The Gift-Knight's Quest left off, with a struggle for dominance: a process that involves generations in a slow abiding search for peace and empowerment.

Against this backdrop, Princess Chandra Kenderley, who has inherited an uncertain crown under dubious conditions, finds herself and her magical abilities at odds with a world posed on a delicate tightrope of tension and possible war.

The kingdom's precarious pivot point is well detailed, both socially and politically, in reflections as powerful in thought as they are in action: "But most of us are struggling to survive out here. People who can't find or make work would traditionally try going to the Frontier, or try settling to the North-east of there, for example. If you can't work, like my father, either you have a family to pick up the slack or you appeal to the ruling Council for a place to live. Or someone else appeals, for you. It's interesting you should put it that way, though. The privacy of beggars; that's a question you would never hear from someone born and raised in the spiritual tradition. They might never think to ask."

As Chandra makes the journey that will change her perceptions and her life, events tumble towards an uncertain crescendo, all fueled by her determination to bide her time and do the right thing for both herself and her people: "She could not ignore an intuition that served her excellently so far, nor could she let these doubts and fears show. Especially not if someone unseen wanted her to feel scared, and might feel emboldened by such expressions. The one thing to do, the one thing Chandra knew by nature, was to remain alert and never stop thinking carefully."

From how beliefs and traditions have stayed together over the years to why forces become immersed in struggles with the greater good in mind ("...if one person could construct so much wrong in the world, then perhaps he and his allies could work just hard enough to build some right. Human problems had human solutions."), The Crown Princess' Voyage stays true to the thought-provoking attention to detail of its predecessor but moves the saga along as the richness of the kingdom and its different peoples are thoroughly explored.

Even if an enemy is defeated, can those governing the kingdom ever rest easily or be truly happy? The forces that cause major protagonists to grow as individuals as they face paradigm-changing choices makes for a riveting, action-packed story whose progress is livelier than its predecessor, which set the foundation for a powerful story of invaders, patriots, and the clash between improbable forces and sorcery.

Fantasy fans who relish social and political insights against the backdrop of confrontation and intrigue will find The Crown Princess' Voyage continues to hold tightly to and rests firmly upon its unique blend of attention to detail, complex character interactions, and a dialogue that keeps everything on track, making it a highly recommended pick for those seeking more than light fantasy reading.

The Sorrow of Nurses
Simon Hardman Lea
Bazileos Publishing
9781912080694, $TBA,

This second book in the 'Lost Intensities' series continues the story begun in the World War I story Sins of Soldiers and opens in 1927 London, where an oil painting of the 1917 Western Front causes a passing woman to flash back to the war and relive her place in it, carrying readers into a world where a nurse faces the ghastliness of war's effect on man. Beatrice helps wounded men who are being shipped away to safety; but there is no rejoicing or pleasure in their minds or in her task, for they have all been gravely injured, and deadly danger surrounds them even during their flight to safety.

As Beatrice learns how to navigate this world of dead and dying soldiers who rely on and overwhelm the nurses who try to help them, she comes to realize that "...the

threat of death makes every emotion more intense." When an emotion arises that acknowledges beauty and sensuality within this milieu of death and danger, Beatrice is totally unprepared for its impact.

Beatrice and Griffin's worlds collide in more ways than one, and against the backdrop of a screeching train ride, Beatrice finally begins to feel her world re-awakening, and senses the possibilities that reside above and beyond the all-embracing effects of the war that has consumed her life and the world.

Has Griffin run away from his duties and his life? Is he evil, or innocent? With Beatrice caught up in the events that swirl around Griffin's battlefield decisions, she finds herself in a deadly game being played out by Griffin, his superiors, and her own desires.

There is nothing predictable or easy in The Sorrow of Nurses. Just when readers expect a romance, the story takes a turn into a twisting moral and ethical considerations of battlefield justice and decisions. Just when Beatrice seems to have chosen a side, her own ethics and profession come back to haunt her and affect her decisions as well as Griffin's. As events play out between battlefield investigations and a clever man who causes even a religious Father to question God's decisions, readers become caught up in a complex saga that questions the roots of good and evil on a hospital train that moves from the hell of the Western Front into a different kind of battlefield.

Between the history involved in the participation of nurses during World War I to medical descriptions and military structure, The Sorrow of Nurses excels in a depth and complexity that takes a hospital train nurse's routines and focus and changes them completely, leaving her with unresolved lasting trauma a decade later.

A deep pleasure here is that, from the moment her train leaves the station, readers are immersed in Beatrice's ride. Hard to put down and mercurial in its events, The Sorrow of Nurses will challenge readers to think about the absolutes of good and evil and the conditions that force one man to do the inconceivable, with lasting effects on himself, those around him, and the woman and priest who inadvertently stray into his world.

Pearl Weaver's Epic Apology
Rachel Keener
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780692837405, $10.99 paperback, $5.99 ebook

Southern fiction readers seeking an enlightening, vivid story may initially be surprised by Rachel Keener's Pearl Weaver's Epic Apology because its metaphors and striking connections initially adopt anything but the typical sanguine style of a Southern Belle narrator: "It was Persephone that lived for me. I read her story, about being kidnapped from her mama's arms and then sealing her doom by eating six pomegranate seeds, until I no longer needed the words. I could see it all around, whenever I wanted. I saw Hades, the thieving god with his mocking smile. Persephone, as beautiful as the flowers in the fields where she danced. I saw the Underworld like a pomegranate prison."

But much as this creative style surprises, it also delights; and so fiction readers who choose Pearl Weaver's Epic Apology will find it well worthy of the effort: an unforgettable marriage of heart, soul, and Southern inspiration as a girl who "feels the [Persephone] myth inside me" grows up to reflect that myth in her blossoming life.

To address Pearl's increasing obsession with this myth, her wise father invites her to fill the pages of her own empty notebook ("I understand wanting to live the story. That's why I write.") and so cements a lovely connection between evocative words and a provocative life that carries with it a strong undercurrent of emotion and observation.

As Pearl makes many unexpected choices that carry her from heights to depths, she also learns to move between royalty and prison, freedom and confinement, and different worlds that each hold lessons for her and her readers: "...that's when I realized the truth about characters. Never put them in charge of the story. Never, ever, tell them, just do what feels right. Because sometimes, characters skip all the best parts. Sometimes, they throw themselves in the fire."

It's these many moments and their impacts, well detailed and wrapped in metaphor and meaning, that keep Pearl Weaver's Epic Apology unexpected, inspiring, and anything but a staid representation of Southern culture and perspective.

Part of the reason why the story line is so unexpected is that Pearl doesn't remain in the South, but takes her spunky attitude and heritage with her, even when she faces a bear attack in Alaska and keeps from being eaten through an unexpectedly aggressive response to looming death. As Pearl moves away from everything familiar and then returns to her roots to recapture a sense of place and stability, only to find that everything's changed, she carries readers through many worlds: "Geez, what's your problem? I thought you wanted to come home!" I did! Only, so much had changed and it wasn't ever supposed to! That was the promise---the one constant of my life. The whole world could look the same, but my home was the Weaver museum. It would stand untouched and unchanged."

With its mercurial plot, blends of spiritual and personal inspiration, and the long fostering of an ultimate apology that holds an ending even as Pearl's story moves on, readers receive an evocative treat that incorporates a descriptive style and passion belaying the ordinary and offering many thought-provoking moments of surprise.

The Wandering Jew Has Arrived
Albert Londers
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652298652, $29.95,

The Wandering Jew Has Arrived is a French literary piece from a 1929 journalist who decided to document the lives of Jews, traveling to England, Eastern Europe, and Palestine in his quest for answers about their lives. The result blends literary reflection with a travelogue, cultural history, and a survey of the roots of Zionism and Jewish immigration experiences at the turn of the 20th century.

Perhaps it's the investigative journalist background that lends such a thoughtful tone to The Wandering Jew Has Arrived, elevating it beyond a singular travel survey and into the arena of 'literature'. This voice lends an extraordinary vision to a work that will not only educate Jews about their history, but will reach non-Jewish readers with its exploration of Jewish experience and sentiments about home and a sense of place.

Passages question the foundations of various attitudes towards Jews and analyze their impact: "Calamities have causes. Elsewhere, one seeks the cause with clear independence of mind. Here, whatever the calamity, the first cause that comes to mind is the Jew. And how ironic when one thinks that it was the Jews who invented the scapegoat. Their priests endowed this creature with their sins and drove it away. The nations of the East retained the idea. But they replaced the goat with the Jew."

With a remarkably clear vision enhanced by many interpersonal interactions and accounts of Jewish families, rabbis, and senses of place and heritage (" thanks to France for its legendary hospitality! I have had a long life, sirs, seventy-three years. But I was never French, nor German, nor Romanian - always Jewish!" "Then perhaps you can still go to Palestine?" "Sirs, I spent seventy-three years charming Europeans. Let others charm the Arabs!"), The Wandering Jew Has Arrived creates a thought-provoking discussion in the course of its travels and documents encounters that explore and expose the Jewish experience decades before the Holocaust swept through Europe and changed everything.

It's very highly recommended for anyone who would understand the Jewish spirit; especially since so many modern surveys of Jewish psyche begin where the Holocaust ends, and not before it.

F*ck You, Your Honor
Craig Chambers
Black Letter Editions
9780692831595 (print), $14.99
9780692831601 (digital), $ 3.99

F*ck You, Your Honor is an unusual blend of political and legal satire offering thought-provoking insights into legal systems, and is written from the perspective of a lawyer who is assessed an unusual punishment by a judge: to write a sixty-five thousand word book extolling the dignity and integrity of the legal system, due in a year.

The protagonist of this novel has been a lawyer for fifteen years: his skill sets don't include writing a book. Moreover, he muses about the legality of this punishment and his obligation to produce it, as well as the judge's underlying motivation ("What was this judge - some kind of bibliophile?"). Nonetheless, being a dutiful servant of legal process, the lawyer embarks on his assigned duty, and F*ck You, Your Honor thus becomes as much a parody of the legal profession as it is the story of a lawyer who takes a different approach than the judge had expected.

Determined to get revenge for what he views as an unfair ruling, Darwyn "Wyn" VanWye uses the written word as a bludgeon to attack the legal system in a manner that outlines the dignity and integrity of a system under siege while pointing out its failures. His reviews of cases, lawyer proceedings, and justice rendered and thwarted provide a series of tongue-in-cheek observations of both the legal process and Wyn's struggles with romance, an ex-wife, and his tumultuous personal life. Can his writing actually solve two problems at once?

Readers should expect plenty of wry comments on legal systems ("It is easier to make a mistake, to be wrong, rather than to be wronged. To be unfairly singled out and suffer a travesty of justice. Some cases are just decided unfairly; even though you are noble and right, there is no chance, the door is shut and locked tight, the case is poisoned, and there is nothing you can do. It is one of those obstacles in life. You can fret and worry and agonize over it, whine about it, become the neighborhood nut, allow it to paralyze you, waste an entire year. Or you can accept it and move on, however unjust, and simply do it, write the book already.")

As Wyn's observations and experiences are documented, readers come to realize how he got in the position he's in and why his choices (to satisfy the letter of the law while producing something unexpectedly creative and critically revealing) are both logical and extraordinary at the same time.

A lawyer has trouble admitting he's wrong, and can always come up with a convincing argument. But what if the process of crafting that argument backfires? What if an order to produce a book is the wrong response to a legal issue of unpaid alimony - and what if the book can be used to right that wrong, somehow?

As author Craig Chambers (a lawyer, himself) romps through Wyn's life and cases, readers receive an insider's view of how justice and legal proceedings often are flavored with overtones of revenge: "In my cases, I usually sequester the witnesses, making them wait out in the hallway so they can't be influenced by the other witnesses' testimony. And so they will be totally bored. That will teach them to testify against my client."

Inspired by a similar real-world situation where a book project was assigned as punishment, F*ck You, Your Honor is a wry examination of the legal system's failings from an argumentative lawyer's perspective: one who has fine-tuned the art of defiance into a subtle dig at the system in which he operates.

Readers who want an out-of-the-box production that doesn't neatly fall into a particular genre but which subtly and effectively lambastes the ironies and inconsistencies of legal process will find much to enjoy in F*ck You, Your Honor, a sterling and lovely, vivid portrait of the transformative experiences of lawyers, law school grads, and obstacles to the pursuits of wealth and happiness.

Intuitive Art
Rachel Archelaus
Sephyrus Press
9780983013754, $16.95,

Intuitive Art: How to Have a Two-Way Conversation With Your Higher Self is not easily categorized because it crosses genres between memoir, an art instructional guide, and a new age read using the story of how Rachel Archelaus used Intuitive Art to escape an abusive marriage with how its tools helped change her life and affected every choice she made, from small self-improvements in appearance to bigger steps in how to lead her life.

This overview of the Archelaus Method of Intuitive Art's empowering individuals (which incorporate spiritual and psychological perspectives into its self-help program) adds the personal life experience that demonstrates exactly how and why this approach is effective.

Many programs hold the underlying objectives of the Intuitive Art approach: to reach out to one's higher self, realize psychic and inner strength potentials, and utilize techniques to keep one's mind, psyche and life on track. One of the differences in this program lies in its incorporation of art projects and activities that utilize colors and shapes to encourage the process of transformation.

Chapters go beyond the mechanics of teaching basic art, to draw important connections between art and higher consciousness thinking: "Your hand is your brain. You want to put all of the power, all of the decision making, into your hand. It will tell you when to start, change color, what intensity to use, what part of your drawing implement to use, how many times to use the same color, and what kind of strokes to use. Give your hand full control. This is why it's essential to ignore what is going on in your head, and to not give in to the artist training that is used to controlling hand movements."

This program may have traditional artists scratching their heads, but keep in mind that this is not an art instructional, but an art-based approach to life that advocates a stronger connection to intuitive or higher-level thinking - and this is a process that may be encouraged, nurtured, or guided; but not taught through hard-wired routines.

From decoding healing spirals to understanding personal color interpretation, Intuitive Art is filled with splashes of the colorful art it encourages, and contains many insights that aspiring thinkers can utilize in the process of crafting their own creations and life.

Think of it as the free verse alternative to rigidly metered poetry, for one example. Then, take wing. Intuitive Art tells you how and where to fly; but most importantly, it details why the journey is important and what can result from the effort, making it a top recommendation for self-help, spiritual, new age and artist readers alike.

Into a Canyon Deep
James Lindholm
ISBN: 9780744322253, $4.88
Website/Ordering Link: main page link:
Book Title Page:

Into a Canyon Deep is a Chris Black adventure story that blends scientific investigation with underwater drama and social commentary as it explores a deep sea canyon's surprising and dangerous secret. Chris and his diving team didn't expect to encounter a deadly plot right outside their bucolic Carmel-by-the-Sea home, but when they stumble upon a canyon being used as a hidden toxic waste disposal site, their underwater adventure becomes deadly.

Men have died for less - and in this case, murder is not an impossible outcome; especially since the illegal dumpers have influenced law enforcement officials, and a person from Chris' past has already died over an effort to keep the dump a secret.

Without the support of peers or legal process, Chris and his team are truly on their own - or, are they?

One especially pleasing aspect of Into a Canyon Deep is that scientific observations are woven into a story of deception and danger, so readers can expect a tale replete with not just intrigue, but details on investigative processes that delve deeper than most.

From ruthless forces that would destroy a host of lives to keep their secrets, to shootings, goons, strange confessions, and an unexpected touch of romance that springs forth from the carnage that erupts from Chris' investigation, Into a Canyon Deep follows the various ways characters find themselves in over their heads, facing situations that are challenging and ultimately filled with adverse effects for many lives.

Gripping, science-backed and filled with confrontation and trickery, Into a Canyon Deep is a 'must read' for any reader who likes their thrillers swift and their characters well-developed.

Night Work: Stories
James E. Schoen
Mill Street Publishers
9780997582628, $17.99

Night Work: Stories contains a diverse collection of dark observations mixed with wry, dark humor, and is a recommended pick for literary readers who seek diversity, thought-provoking scenarios, and powerful characters who traverse places where "the white cold does not gather".

These are edgy, challenging pieces which explore boundaries, the world's horizons, and the ironies and ecstasies of love and life.

Take 'Ice Cream,' for one example of the unexpectedly wry observational tone of many these works. The protagonist, Geoff, has just had a fall, but his wife remains fixated on the ice cream he's supposed to be bringing. His reaction to being badgered in the aftermath of an accident ("When I look down at the hand I'm not hanging from, sure enough, I'm holding the bag from Dillway's, with the half gallon of Raspberry Fudge Truffle inside.") is as revealing as his candid and witty appraisal of his marriage ("If there's one thing Irene is good for in bed, it is ballast.").

He's always been willing to share - perhaps that's why he and Irene have gone for the hard stuff - harder than drugs and smoking. It's the candid camera focus on a long-time relationship and the protagonist's conviction that murder is in the wind that wafts the feel of darkness and light-heartedness in an unusual simultaneous mix of pleasures: "Years pass and you stop even wondering how. Sitting across from the little woman, who's not anymore, you're careful not to look up her housedress. With one of her knees pointing North and the other South, and she's sitting like six feet away, this is like trying to ignore the second coming."

Few collections hold such a unique voice with its stark blend of angst and dark humor; and even fewer feature the diversity of characters and approaches to life as Night Work, making this a highly recommended pick for literary audiences who like rollicking good reads that excel in a blend of the macabre and the comic with a dash of life's ironies added in for good measure, and more than a touch of the darkly unexpected.

Never Summer
Tim Blaine
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861356, $22.95,

Most Western novels are somewhat predictable and staid in their approaches to their subjects; but Western novel enthusiasts who seek something quite different should take a close look at Tim Blaine's Never Summer, because it not only blends a Japanese theme with the story of a wanderer through the wild West, but it is replete with evocative metaphors and images not usually seen in Western writings: "He had managed to escape the place where every blade of grass rhymed with the last line of a tragic poem. For him, the narrative of his friend's ruin would forever echo across Japan's Tokaido Road."

From the alleyways of Manhattan and the strange scenario of a sick man who rents a hotel room only to wake up in the company of a physician and an artist, Never Summer opens with incongruities and striking, descriptive images as it reveals the actions of a man diagnosed with only a short time to live.

As Vlad uses his remaining time to undertake a journey out West in search of a physician who might be able to help him, he rolls through a landscape of romance, surprising confrontations, and reflections on not just the nature of life and death, but his choices in facing both: "To some, death was a doorway to a new life, or an honor to be achieved in battle, while to others it was simply an abrupt end. It was the latter that he could not reconcile. He simply would not accept a presumption that stripped all meaning from life. He knew he must go to the grave, but he could not consent, knowing that it would take everything from him. In the heat of the moment he knew he could act like a samurai, ignoring the question of victory or defeat, and charge daringly toward an irrational death, yet life was more than a moment. He felt as though he lacked a certain understanding that might grant him the resolve to accept his death, a vision that would give him the upper hand." When one's opponent is invincible, how can he be vanquished?

There are many unusual themes and subplots running through Never Summer to keep readers on their toes and guessing about Vlad's experiences and where his journey will lead. From the synchronized, recurring themes of art and love to reflective moments brought to the surface by a single day in a strange town ("He felt the rumble from a train of thought, and kept his gaze on Longs Peak while he walked, suspecting that at any moment the vibrant aspects that suspended his senses would come crashing down in an avalanche of inspiration. His pace slowed as he struggled to take in the novelty of the brilliant day. Every color appeared in distinct contrast. The town was still new to him, but even the trees appeared as oddities previously unknown, or as something he had forgotten."), the refreshing, sparkling prose simply shines; as does the life of Vlad, who is anything but your typical Western wanderer.

The result is a compelling literary piece about a nineteenth-century drifter who returns from Japan to traverse a landscape as foreign to him as the concept of his own impending demise. Readers who appreciate genre-busting, thought-provoking reads - especially those familiar with and holding an affinity for Western settings - will relish the tone and characters of Never Summer.

Exodus '95
Kfir Luzzatto
Pine Ten
9781938212390, $13.99 (print version), $4.99 (Kindle and EPUB)

Claire Williams is a young graphic designer in New York City whose kindness to a dying neighbor leads him to reward her with a long-kept secret: the whereabouts of Moses' legendary lost staff. But is his secret really safe with her? She harbors a secret of her own that might not make her the best choice for keeping his, and even though she has assistance for what turns out to be an international journey of discovery, this secret may eventually betray everything.

But, why is Claire privy to this information? Jack makes her legacy - and his choices - quite clear: "Why are you telling me all this, Jack?" "Because the staff is worth millions and you can recover it and sell it to Leskov and live a good life - not as I did. And because if I die and take this information with me the staff will be lost, perhaps forever. I want to pass the torch on to you. Will you take it?"

Her own actions and reactions are equally clear: "I keep telling myself that I would do anything to get away from this drab life, day in and day out slaving at that desk, without any prospects. Only I can't think of a way out. So if this staff is my lifeline, of course I'll do it."

Exodus '95 is an edgy thriller that spices its espionage and international romp with a sexual flavor that draws readers in to Claire's lifestyle and choices.

An ingenious machine, a complicated set of surprises involving the KGB, and ruthless enemies and high stakes are all faced by Claire, who maintains a feisty conviction that the staff will lead her out of her drab life much as Moses used it to lead his followers to freedom. But in any journey, there are costs, and these penalties are outlined in an adventure story packed with intrigue, twists, and turns.

One of the twists (without giving away the plot) is that Jack is not what he seems, and is using Claire and taking advantage of her trust. Another twist involves Claire's strange hold over Dan.

As relationships and plots evolve, Exodus '95 challenges the reader with many powerful, thought-provoking moments that take the story of a legendary staff and its powers and accelerate it to new levels of intrigue and interpersonal connections. Thriller readers who enjoy the spicy edge of sex and romance will find this an intriguing story of mistakes, dire consequences, and change.

Unmasking: A Journey
Rayne Dowell
9780995916708, $17.99,

Imagine a story that begins with a separation between husband and wife - but not for the usual reasons. Rayne Dowell's on/off relationship lasted for fifteen uncertain years; but as she says: "Turns out I don't have a problem committing. I have a problem committing to something that doesn't work for me." Ultimately, she left her husband because of her dreams - and because of an intuition that could not be denied. And this intuition sparked the journey described in Unmasking, a spiritual memoir that is as much about the process as its conclusion.

Much as intuition told Rayne that her husband was cheating on her, it also prompted her on a journey that revealed many facets of a world that she hadn't understood before.

Chapters take the form of a physical and psychic road trip that carry readers along for a vivid ride that involves a purging and renewal process supported by footnoted references and some online links to the author's own solutions, "The 8 Step Beginner Unmasking Formula".

As she rids her life of toxic chemicals, toxic people, and unhealthy attitudes, she begins evolving and growing, acknowledging a process and presence guiding these changes. As always, her dreams point the way, often creating a disparity between her waking and dreaming worlds, which she vividly describes: "I feel disconnected to humanity in a way, because I'm living two separate lives, one in "reality" and another "dream" one. No one knows me in "reality" because I have a separate life, my "dream" life, and somehow they're connected. But it feels like I'm supposed to "act normal" and not outwardly react to all the new information I'm receiving. It's a solitary feeling."

As links are created between the author, the people around her, and eventually the planet, readers are treated to deeper-level thinking and observations which move from ethereal dream states to bigger pictures and problems: "After I wake I review this dream. Another dream of Leslie and hard drugs. Why am I still looking for information about Leslie? Why?! I must be somehow still trying to figure out how I can reach him. So, I feel into this. It feels like Leslie is a drug addict too. Not heroin but some other hard drug. Cocaine maybe? Yes, that feels about right. So, in order of addictions/illusions, Leslie's first one is power, then drugs. Illusions of fear. That can have very real effects in the physical realm. I determine Leslie isn't equipped to make an informed decision whether my intuition is on target or not. I appreciate that, in his own way, he's been trying to understand, but in the end, he doesn't. It would require him to make changes to overcome his own fears, and it's difficult to overcome fears. It is freeing though. The tricky part is you won't realize how freeing it is until you've done it. Then I wonder, just how far has it gone? If I've noticed it here in Canada, how much has the energy, nature, deteriorated, or is deteriorating, on the rest of the planet?"

Few autobiographies adequately capture the process of transformation as does Unmasking. From the illogic of energy and processes related to it to the sense of following one's heart and path in life, the author's journey evolves into a bigger picture of not only the process of self-realization, but of one's individual place in the world and how choices impact this sense of being.

Can prophetic dreams result in a whole soul "woven of scars" - one which changes both itself and the world around her? Unmasking follows one person's spiritual and personal course through life's grief, challenges, and dangers; but in so doing, it provides a road map for those who would acknowledge their intuitions and embark on their own journeys: "A person can only learn by doing, by trying, by being open to the possibilities, by admitting their mistakes, by asking for help when they need to and by holding themselves accountable."

Anyone interested in uplifting reads about the nature of personal transformation and the paths leading to it will relish Unmasking's candid and intricate focus on how one choice in life leads to another.

Enthused Verses
Aadil Farook
UMT Press
9789699368219, $5.38

Enthused Verses: A Lyrical Catalog of Religion, Philosophy & Spirituality offers Western readers a rare combination of poetry and reflections on Islamic spiritual and Muslim social concepts using a range of precise, intricate topics. These range from what it takes to become a Rumi to the paradoxes, uncertainties, and meanings of enlightenment.

If this sounds like a weighty read, it should be advised that Enthused Verses, while thought-provoking, is anything but dense. The poems challenge readers to pay attention and think, but they are not inaccessible and use free verse poetry to bridge disparate worlds.

One good example of this process is 'Enlightenment', which moves from the paradox of science and the various scientific disciplines which have attempted to define mankind's pursuits to the real meaning of awakening as it moves from science to broader human endeavors: "Science devoid of emotions ends in relentlessness/inviting nothing but lack of human finesse/In the waves of its times, Philosophy drowns/leaving serious thinkers looking like clowns/Psychology mocks man's dignity/ascribing acts to ego's affinity/Art's reliance on only feelings/is a medicine without healing..."

At various points, better editing (punctuation and minor grammatical corrections, as in "Reality is a puzzle harder to sought...") would have strengthened the impact of these poems, but this comment aside, their message and strength provides much food for thought into various aspects of Islamic religious and social thinking: "It is said that one should submit to a Shaykh for inner purification/Yet there's not a single verse in the Qur'an stating it as an obligation."

By pairing these concepts with a free verse delivery system, Aadil Farook succeeds in capturing the subtler nuances of Islam and sentiments of much of the Muslim world, offering Westerners many contemplative passages that are enlightening.

Keep in a Cold, Dark Place
Michael F. Stewart
The Publishing House
Print: 9780993757921, $8.95
Ebook: 9780993757938, $3.99

Keep in a Cold, Dark Place combines middle grade fiction with horror as protagonist Limphetta ('Limpy') O'Malley battles against a danger she unwittingly releases into the world by not following directions to keep her discovery in a cold, dark place. Limpy has long wanted a golden ticket to a better life away from the farm and into the city, but only unearths potatoes until her discovery of a strange box in the barn offers her a ticket to horror instead.

Despite the familiar-sounding theme of little monsters being released into the world (shades of Gremlins!), Limpy's life is more complex than one might expect: her Irish father faces hard work and the loss of his farm despite all his efforts, and the very struggles he faces could prove Limpy's key to rising above her roots: "She'd been trying to keep the burgeoning excitement from showing. She hated the farm. Farm chores never ended. Chores kept her from studying, from her art, from a future. The sale of the farm might be the end of her father's dreams, but it would be the beginning of hers."

Her father believes she should work harder on the farm and 'respect her family,' but Limpy knows this life isn't for her, despite the recurring mental admonitions from the ghost of her long-dead mother ("Tough hands are an honest life's work, Mother said in the darkness."). A hardened worker at age thirteen, Limpy wonders if her artistic talents will ever save her from a lifetime of farming.

The mysterious spheres she digs up changes everything - but they threaten more than her world, where she welcomes something different. What has hatched in her barn are legendary monsters, she comes to find - but, are they truly evil?

Limpy's efforts to solve her problems only result in bigger ones as she faces the consequences of her actions and their impact on the world.

Under a different hand, Keep in a Cold, Dark Place could all too easily have become an entertaining horror read alone; but the injection of family and social issues into a bigger picture and the finely-tuned descriptions of a hard-working family's struggles make for much more than the one-dimensional horror piece of too many middle grade novels.

Limpy and her world are deftly, realistically portrayed; but the story's ultimate message ("...remember that the greatest monsters are those we create ourselves.") provides an impact that will keep middle-grade readers thinking long past the story's gripping action.

Keep in a Cold, Dark Place is horror genre writing at its best, going the extra mile beyond the circumstances of horror to probe the psyches, motivations, and lessons learned by all involved. It's very highly recommended for young readers who will relish Michael F. Stewart's close attention to detail and atmosphere.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Last In Line: An American Destiny Deferred
Jamal Mtshali
African American Images
PO Box 1799, Dept. W/SP, Chicago Heights, IL 60412
9780910030229, $19.95, PB, 258pp,

Synopsis: Barack Obama's historic presidency has ended and his successor, Donald Trump, has begun the new presidency with trying to repeal anything and everything that Obama had accomplished ranging from environmental protections to social justice. Many now argue that race relations in America haven't been so fraught since Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his "Dream."

In "Last In Line: An American Destiny Deferred" author Jamal Mtshali challenges this view, arguing that America never actually realized Dr. King's vision. Modern disparities in American justice, education, health care, and economic systems are rooted in age-old social and legal norms that survived the Civil Rights Movement and have now defied the legacy of America's first African American president.

Mtshali bases his assertions on government, think tank, and university research, elevating such data through distinct, engaging narrative. He deftly takes the reader through the worlds of Americans who have encountered injustice in its many faces. Mainstream theories on model minorities, affirmative action, and respectability politics are also critiqued in a distinct, literary tone. "Last in Line" concludes by advocating twenty-first century policies that will promote racial harmony and at last birth America's long-deferred destiny.

Critique: Timely and cogent, informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Last In Line: An American Destiny Deferred" is a compelling and engaging read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Black Studies supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Last In Line: An American Destiny Deferred" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The New Criminal Justice Thinking
Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff, editors
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9781479831548, $45.00, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: After five decades of punitive expansion, the entire U.S. criminal justice system, with respect to mass incarceration, the War on Drugs, police practices, the treatment of juveniles and the mentally ill, glaring racial disparity, the death penalty and more, faces critically challenging questions such as: What exactly is criminal justice? How much of it is a system of law and how much is a collection of situational social practices? What roles do the Constitution and the Supreme Court play? How do race and gender shape outcomes? How does change happen, and what changes or adaptations should be pursued?

"The New Criminal Justice Thinking" addresses the challenges of this historic moment by asking essential theoretical and practical questions about how the criminal system operates. In this thorough and thoughtful volume, scholars from across the disciplines of legal theory, sociology, criminology, Critical Race Theory, and organizational theory offer crucial insights into how the criminal system works in both theory and practice. By engaging both classic issues and new understandings, this volume offers a comprehensive framework for thinking about the modern justice system.

"The New Criminal Justice Thinking" offers a profound discussion of the complexities of our deeply flawed criminal justice system, complexities that neither legal theory nor social science can answer alone.

Critique: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by the team of Sharon Dolovich (Professor of Law at UCLA and the founding director of its Prison Law & Policy Program) and Alexandra Natapoff (Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and an elected member of the American Law Institute), "The New Criminal Justice Thinking" is comprised of twelve erudite, thoughtful, and thought-provoking judicial studies contributions by experts in the field. A critically important work of seminal scholarship, "The New Criminal Justice Thinking" is an exceptional and highly recommended addition to professional and academic library Judicial Studies collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The New Criminal Justice Thinking" is also available in a Kindle format ($33.08).

Contested Spaces of Early America
Juliana Barr & Edward Countryman, editors
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812245844, $47.96, HC, 444pp,

Synopsis: Colonial America stretched from Quebec to Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. Although European settlers laid claim to territories they called New Spain, New England, and New France, the reality of living in those spaces had little to do with European kingdoms. Instead, the New World's holdings took their form and shape from the Indian territories they inhabited. These contested spaces throughout the western hemisphere were not unclaimed lands waiting to be conquered and populated but a single vast space, occupied by native communities and defined by the meeting, mingling, and clashing of peoples, creating societies unlike any that the world had seen before.

"Contested Spaces of Early America" collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Juliana Barr (Associate Professor of History at Duke University) and Edward Countryman (University Distinguished Professor at Southern Methodist University) brings together some of the most distinguished historians in the field to view colonial America on the largest possible scale. Lavishly illustrated with maps, Native art, and color plates, the twelve chapters span the southern reaches of New Spain through Mexico and Navajo Country to the Dakotas and Upper Canada, and the early Indian civilizations to the ruins of the nineteenth-century West. At the heart of "Contested Spaces of Early America" is a search for a human geography of colonial relations. "Contested Spaces of Early America" aims to rid the historical landscape of imperial cores, frontier peripheries, and modern national borders to redefine the way scholars imagine colonial America.

Critique: Comprised of twelve erudite, informative, and insightful contributions by experts in early American history, "Contested Spaces of Early America" is a model of seminal and knowledgeable scholarship. Enhanced with an introduction by the editors (Maps and Spaces, Paths to Connect); eighty-four pages of Notes; a four page listing of Contributors; and a fourteen page Index, "Contested Spaces of Early America" is a unique and specially recommended addition to community and academic library American History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers that "Contested Spaces of Early America: is also available in a paperback edition (9780812223996, $34.95).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Till Death
Jennifer L. Armentrout
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062362780, $9.99,

Sasha Keeton comes back to her hometown in West Virginia after an absence of 10 years. She left to start a new life but is asked to come back and help her mom run a family business. She believes the serial killer that caused her to leave is dead, so now she can start over. Unfortunately there is someone who begins to murder other women in much the same manner as the one before. "Till Death" is a nail biting tale of suspense that races along with until its final revealing ending that will have readers turning pages to the final page.

Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399174002, $27.00,

Spenser is after an elusive con man that makes this case one of the most bizarre for the detective. Along the way are the regular characters of Hawk and Susan. Atkins again tells a tale in the mode of Robert B. Parker that is a great new addition to the series. "Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies" has the snappy dialogue and the rapid pacing that no fan of the Spenser novels should miss.

Smoke Jensen The Beginning
William W. Johnston with J.A Johnston
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786036424, $7.50,

"Smoke Jensen is another great western by one of the best writers in the genre. The Jensen series has been a lot of fun to read but until now readers did not really know how it all began. Now the authors William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone fill in the gaps for a much clearer picture. Like all of the other westerns by this author "Smoke Jensen The Beginning "is a great shootem up tale.

Star Trek Section 31
David Mack
Pocket Books Star Trek
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501151705, $7.99,

After fifty years "Star Trek" continues to live on. In "Star Trek Section 31" author David Mack incorporates characters from several different portions of the franchise into a well done novel that adds new life to the series. "Star Trek Section 31" moves at a fast pace that has a very satisfying ending no fan should miss.

The Domain of Small Mercies New and Selected Poems 2 1963-2015
Louis Phillips
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10024
9780912887487, $17.95,

There is something for everyone in the new collection of poems by poet Louis Phillips in "The Domain of Small Mercies." Phillips brilliantly constructs with words many interesting images that many of us do not think about. At the end of each piece the author lists when it was written that gives a little better understanding of the mindset of the author. "The Domain of Small Mercies is a wonderful excursion into the mind of one person.

The Canadaland Guide to Canada
Jesse Brown
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501150630, $23.00,

I actually struggled with "The Canadaland Guide to Canada" because I am not familiar with the history of the country so I am not able to see where the author is poking fun at the nation. Maybe someone who knows he the past will be able to enjoy the author's work.

Abducted: The Story Of Carolina
Jessica Klee
Illustrations by Daymel Garcia
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9780998012834 $19.95,

"Abducted: The Story of Carolina" tackles a difficult subject that is a warning to people of all ages. In the tough times we live some of the things we know we should do in situations are often forgotten. "Abducted: The Story of Carolina" reinforces simple things we all should continue to practice every day of our lives to stay safe.

Too Tall Foyle Makes The Team
Adonal Foyle & Shiyana Valentine-Williams, authors
Toni Pawlowsky, illustrator
AFE Literary Divsion
9780989334815, $13.99, HC,

"Too Tall Foyle Makes The Team" expands many of the messages first revealed in "Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game" and goes further to teach children to look in themselves and see what they can do best and that through hard work and concentration they can succeed at whatever they want to try to do. Both books are filled with lavish art work and wonderful prose that add to reader's enjoyment. In our complicated society it's nice to see that there are still some positive role models and former Orlando Magic basketball player is one of those who continues to give back to the community in many different ways.

Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game
Adonal Foyle & Shiyana Valentine-Williams, authors
Toni Pawlowsky, illustrator
AFE Literary Divsion
9780989334839, $13.99, HC,

Growing up as a child is never easy as shown in the book "Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game." Foyle is taller than many of the children around him that he is not good at most sports all the other kids play. He finally realizes a game he can play and have fun at the same time with other kids. "Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game" has a lot of interesting characters that make the story of Foyle so much fun. People of all ages can enjoy this beautiful kid's book.

200 Love Lessons from the Movies
Leslie C. Halpern
Taylor Trade Publishing
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781630761370, $16.95 pbk / $7.99

Unlike Halpern's other titles that also delve into film "200 Love Lessons from the Movies: Staying Moonstruck for Life" goes further on how film relates to real life. She has picked some of the very best romantic movies and why they are classified as such but goes further on how to learn lessons from them for a romantic life. Some of the movies are no surprise like "Moonstruck" but others like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" are a total surprise how they relate to romantic film. Readers will have lots of fun reading about the many films as well as agreeing or disagreeing with Halpern's choice of films and the lessons learned from each one.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Guilt by Association
E.A. Copen
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01BDTO16K, $2.99, Kindle, 362 pages
9781523821600, $14.99, PB,

Guilty by Association is a detective supernatural fantasy that takes place in an alternate US that is close enough to our own world that we can recognize the setting. It doesn't vary far from the current variety of supernatural stories in this genre but it is still unique enough to feel fresh.

Judah Black is a federal agent assigned to a rural Texas reservation built for supernatural creatures, werewolves, vampires and so on. She has just enough supernatural power to sense magical occurrences and to work limited spells. The first day she is on the reservation she walks into the local laundromat with a basket of dirty clothes and finds a murdered werewolf. From there her day gets worse. The local law enforcement is indifferent. The locals in the reservation are divided into species specific groups who don't trust each other or the cops. The dead werewolf Judah has found is just the tip of a supernatural power play that includes murder and child kidnapping. She is soon in a fight for her life with powers stronger than she is.

Guilty by Association starts out as a strong detective mystery but soon morphs into a hero against impossible odds reminiscent of the Dresden novels. If you are a fan of non-stop fantasy action/adventures, you will love this story. It is an easy recommendation for the fantasy reader.

The Hundred Year Wait
Amelia Price
Red Feather Writing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00JYEQMP0, $0.99, ebook, 90 pages

The Hundred Year Wait is a fun take on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Price has brought the Holmes brothers to modern times by making them nearly immortal. They have hidden in plain sight for a hundred years after Watson's death by changing their first names periodically to become a new generation of Holmes brothers inheriting their residences from their previous identities.

Amelia Jones is a writer who has been collaborating with the current identity of Sherlock. Sherlock likes Amelia and decides he needs to introduce her to his brother Mycroft who has never had a friend like his Watson. He does this by using her creative talents as a writer to help solve a mystery Mycroft is working on for the government. Amelia is catapulted into life threatening danger and a complex mystery that takes both of the Holmes brothers and her own unique talent to solve.

The Hundred Year Wait is a good extension of the Sherlock mysteries into modern times. It has a similar feel to the original tales but with settings that are more familiar to the contemporary reader. It is an easy recommendation for any mystery reader and a must read for fans of cozy and pulp mysteries. The only drawback is that this novel is too short and you will have to rush to find the next title in the series.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Swami in a Strange Land
Joshua M. Greene
Mandala Publishing
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781608876440, $29.99, HC, 340pp,

Synopsis: In 1965, a seventy-year-old man (soon to be known as Prabhupada) set sail from India to America with a few books in his bag, pennies in his pockets, and a message of love in his heart. He landed in New York at the peak of the revolutionary counterculture movement of the '60s, and went on to spark a global spiritual renaissance that led to the creation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which has changed millions of lives.

Through the depiction of Prabhupada as both an enlightened luminary and a personable, funny, and conscientious individual, "Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West" shows why cultural icons such as George Harrison and Allen Ginsberg incorporated Prabhupada's teachings into their lives, and why millions more around the globe embarked upon the path of bhakti yoga in his footsteps.

Carefully researched, skillfully crafted, and extraordinarily intimate, this biographical narrative follows Prabhupada as he rises from an anonymous monk to a world-renowned spiritual leader. Set in locations as far ranging as remote Himalayan caves and the gilded corridors of Paris's City Hall, Swami in a Strange Land traces the rise of Eastern spirituality in the West -- and in particular, the rise of yoga culture and vegetarianism and the concepts of karma and reincarnation.

A remarkable journey into the deepest dimensions of the human experience, "Swami in a Strange Land" shows how one man with a dream can change the world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, "Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West" is an informative and inherently fascinating biography from beginning to end. Enhanced with the inclusion of ISKCON Statistics; a Brief Biography of Bhaktisddhanta Saraswati; a Glossary; sixteen pages of Notes; a four page Bibliography; and a ten page Index, "Swami in a Strange Land" is a 'must read' for Prabhupada's followers, and very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Swami in a Strange Land" is also available in a paperback edition (9781608878680, $18.00) and in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future
Ron DeLord & Ron York
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398091491, $42.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: For the past 40 years, the majority of law enforcement personnel could depend on regular salary increases, better health care and pension benefits while reaping the advantages of belonging to a police union that was learning how to gain and use political power. However, these peaceful and untroubled days are over.

Police unions, despite their best efforts at the bargaining table, now find themselves preparing their members for layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, and more restrictive working conditions. Leaders are trying to fight back against the well-financed, organized efforts to weaken public sector unions, eliminate collective bargaining rights, end defined benefit pensions, and privatize the job. Police unions must change the way they do business if they want to survive.

"Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions About the Challenges Ahead" identifies how to mount an effective political campaign, the complexities of confrontations, and the reasons police union leaders succeed and fail.

"Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future" is divided into five primary parts, each one of which deftly explores the police union environment. Part I focuses on the myriad of police challenges, Part II examines police union power, politics and confrontation, Part III encourages police unions to embrace reforms, Part IV discusses the future of policing, and finally, Part V evaluates the national and international perspectives on the current issues that impact policing. Areas of discussion include police-involved shootings; stopping the growing racial divide between law enforcement and citizens; complex issues concerning body cams; how to use social media effectively; mastering a certain leadership style; changing the culture of unions; more diversity among leadership; and motivating membership.

By following the superb analysis and creative ideas for solutions in "Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future", police union leaders, police management, law enforcement personnel, and policymakers will see a path to advancing the police profession.

Critique: With the increasing public scrutiny of police department practices that have resulted in such responses as the Black Lives Matter movement, Federal corrective supervision of local police departments, broadening hostilities between community police departments and the communities they serve, "Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions About the Challenges Ahead" is a timely and urgently needed study that will aptly serve and is highly recommended for police department in-service workshop curriculums, as well as a core addition for police academy library collections; as well as all police union policy maker's supplemental studies reading lists.

Trench Warfare
Bob Carruthers
Pen and Sword
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781473837843, $19.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: "Trench Warfare: Contemporary Combat Images from the Great War" by Bob Carruthers (an Emmy Award winning author and historian who has written extensively on the Great War) is powerful collection that depicts the grim events of trench warfare and showcases the work of the contemporary combat artists and illustrators from the Great War era.

Included in "Trench Warfare" are the works of serious artists, propagandists, illustrators and humorists. The result is a stunning and vivid graphic record of life and death in the trenches during the Great War, as reported to contemporary audiences at a time when the events of the Great War were still unfolding.

During the Great War artists and illustrators produced a highly accurate visual record of the fleeting moments the bulky cameras couldn't reproduce. These works form a body of war reportage that are as valid as the written word. Today, the work of the combat illustrators and the official war artists from the Great War era is overlooked by historians in favor of photographs, but these illustrations are nonetheless important, as they provide a contemporary record of hand-to-hand fighting, trench raids, aerial dogfights, sea battles, desperate last stands, night actions and cavalry charges.

Critique: Profusely illustrated in black-and-white, "Trench Warfare: Contemporary Combat Images from the Great War" is an inherently fascinating and informative volume from cover to cover, making it a impressively unique, enduringly valuable, core addition to personal, community, college, and university library 20th Century Military History collections in general, and World War I supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Heart and Science of Yoga
Leonard T. Perlmutter
AMI Publishers
PO Box 430, Averill Park, NY 12018
9780975375228, $24.98, PB, 552pp,

Synopsis: "The Heart and Science of Yoga: Empowering Self-Care Program for a Happy, Healthy, Joyful Life" provides an encyclopedic introduction to Yoga Science. The American Meditation Institute founder Leonard Perlmutter shares his extraordinary knowledge of the world's oldest and most practical mind/body medicine. As one of the West's foremost guides to understanding the nature of consciousness, Leonard gently leads his readers to a realization of the profound wisdom and power that they already possess.

"The Heart and Science of Yoga" is both the record of a personal journey and a transformational teaching. In its pages the reader will be presented a series of easy-to-learn meditations, prayers, teaching stories from the world's great spiritual traditions, breathing practices, a user's guide for the mind, techniques for accessing intuitive wisdom, an introduction to ancient Ayurvedic health principles and a holistic series of easy-gentle yoga exercises.

As modern medicine rediscovers and systematically documents the physical, mental and emotional benefits of Yoga, millions of Americans from all walks of life are incorporating the timeless practices of this ancient science into their lives. Whether a beginner or a long-time student, Leonard provides loving support and valuable insights to advance understanding, deepen practice and nurture Self-transformation. Yoga Science promises that through the process of personal experimentation you too can access an inner reservoir of creativity to make every relationship rewarding no matter what.

"The Heart and Science of Yoga" is the first, comprehensive Yoga Science curriculum accredited by the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Psychological Association for continuing medical education credit.

Critique: An empowering guide to a happy, healthy and joyful life, "The Heart and Science of Yoga" is exceptionally well written, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, "The Heart and Science of Yoga" should be considered fundamentally essential reading for all students and practitioners of yoga.

So High a Blood
Morgan Ring
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632866059, $35.00, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Amidst the Christmas revels of 1530, a fifteen-year-old girl arrived at the court of King Henry VIII. Half-English, half-Scottish, she was his niece, the Lady Margaret Douglas. For the next fifty years, Margaret held a unique and precarious position at the courts of Henry and his children.

As the Protestant Reformations unfolded across the British Isles and the Tudor monarchs struggled to produce heirs, Margaret had ambitions of her own. She wanted to see her family ruling a united, Catholic Britain. Through a Machiavellian combination of daring, spying, and luck, Margaret made her son into a suitor to her niece Mary, Queen of Scots. Together, they had a powerful claim to the English throne -- a claim so powerful that Queen Elizabeth I feared they would overthrow her and restore both England and Scotland to the Catholic faith.

That marriage cost Margaret her position, her freedom, and her beloved son's life.

From the glittering Tudor court to the Tower of London, Lady Margaret Douglas weathered triumphs and tragedies in an era of tremendous change. Yet she never lost hope that she would see her family rule throughout the British Isles, which eventually happened when King James (I of England, VI of Scotland) united the crowns in 1603.

Critique: An impressively detailed biography in which author Morgan Ring is able to draw upon previously unexamined archival sources, "So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot" to provide a consistently fascinating and extraordinarily informative account that is a compelling read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library biography collections in general, and English Tutor History supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "So High a Blood" is also available in a Kindle format ($21.24).

Jim's Flight: One Soul's Perspective from Heaven
Christine Frank Petosa with Elizabeth Williams
Findhorn Press
9781844097067, $17.99, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Jim's Flight: One Soul's Perspective from Heaven" directly addresses two of the most critically important metaphysical questions ever contemplated by human beings: Is there life after death? Does Heaven really exist?

Providing inquiring readers with insight, wisdom and practical knowledge, Jim Petosa's personal flight to Heaven and back demonstrates that life exists beyond the physical world. "Jim's Flight: One Soul's Perspective from Heaven" is a compilation of the journey of Jim's transition to Heaven, his wife's experience as the caretaker and the portal to expand humanity's understanding of it all. Riveting moments capture the reader, open the hearts of many and, truth be told, enlighten all of us to believe that the soul lives on forever.

Critique: An extraordinary and deftly presented account that is a 'must read' for anyone who has ever desired to explore the question of a continuation of human life after death. A consistently compelling and thought-provoking presentation, "Jim's Flight: One Soul's Perspective from Heaven" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Metaphysical Studies collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jim's Flight: One Soul's Perspective from Heaven" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Ghost Dagger
Helen Currie Foster
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781542729932, $12.99, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: Alice MacDonald Greer is in Scotland to visit Gran, the mother of her late husband, Jordie. After his death, the two women found solace in each other, and Alice unequivocally considers herself part of Gran's family. But that family is now threatened when the death of a local man is pinned on Robbie who is Gran's daughter and Alice's sister-in-law.

Robbie had been romantically involved with the murder victim, Angus McBride, the stubborn land manager for a prominent local family. Alice is sure that Robbie had nothing to do with the crime. Now she just has to prove it to the skeptical local police force. But she's a long way from Texas, and the town inspector doesn't like her interference.

The hunt for the true killer leads Alice to a group of nighthawkers, treasure hunters who use metal detectors to find ancient loot and sell it on the black market. There are rumors of a Viking hoard hidden in the cliffs, and someone is desperate to find it!

Critique: The fourth novel in author Helen Currie Foster's simply outstanding 'Alice MacDonald Greer' mystery series, "Ghost Dagger" continues to document Foster's originality and complete mastery of the mystery/suspense genre. A deftly crafted and compelling read from cover to cover, "Ghost Dagger" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all mystery buffs in general, and Helen Currie Foster fans in particular, that "Ghost Dagger" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

LETTERS lost then found
Amy L. Johnson
Splattered Ink Press
9781939294418, $35.00 (Amazon), PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: As readers turns the pages of "LETTERS lost then found" they are about to eavesdrop on a series of personal conversations between two brothers, ages 19 and 30, during World War II that intimately reveal their family life and their frustration, happiness, and sadness. These two brothers have a story to tell.

"LETTERS lost then found" as compiled and edited by Amy L. Johnson is specifically designed to engage readers in a number of different ways. The letters themselves can be read sequentially from cover to cover, but there are also brief excerpts next to each letter that form a sort of poetic series when read one after the other.

Freddie had served in the China Burma India Theatre, often referred to as the war's forgotten theatre, and the 'Day in History' section on each page gives you a glimpse of what was happening in World War II at the time each letter was written. Then a ticker tape, reminiscent of the Western Union Telegram, runs across the bottom of the pages, explaining why the China Burma India Theatre was such an important part of the larger conflict.

Critique: Compelling, unique, inherently fascinating, informative and thought-provoking, "LETTERS lost then found" is an extraordinary collection of correspondence that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library 20th Century American History collections in general, and World War II History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Mending the Shattered Mirror
Analie Shepherd
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781539105992, $14.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: Analie Shepherd found herself in need of the support of a therapist after a tragedy in her life. Within the confines of this relationship, Analie suffered extreme abuse: verbal, physical and emotional. Finally able to leave the abusive therapist, Analie reached out to TELL, an international organization, whose purpose is to support victims in the struggle to regain their lives after abuse by a health care practitioner.

Through TELL, Analie connected with responder Laurie, a retired Psychiatrist who was herself sexually abused in therapy for ten years. Contained within this gripping account derived from a four-year email exchange between Analie and Laurie, in which the tragedy and triumph of both of their stories are told.

Analie's story is complicated by the fact that she is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personalities. Much of the abuse within her therapy, was perpetrated on her alter personalities, and their voices and stories are included in "Mending the Shattered Mirror", as well as some of their original artwork. Of special note is the cathartic conclusion which is amazingly beautiful and deeply satisfying.

Critique: "Mending the Shattered Mirror: A Journey of Recovery from Abuse in Therapy" is a true and compelling story of despair, hope and eventual triumph. This deftly crafted and deeply personal story is consistently compelling, insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mending the Shattered Mirror" is also available in a Kindle format ($6.99).

Diana Palmer
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373789733 $26.99 hc / $6.49 Kindle

Synopsis: The man who shattered her trust is back to protect her... New York Times bestselling author Diana Palmer delivers a breathtaking story of second-chance love.

When Paul Fiore disappeared from Isabel Grayling's life, he told himself it was for all the right reasons. She was young and innocent, and he was her millionaire father's lowly employee. Three years on, Paul is the FBI agent assigned to Isabel's case. Too late, he realizes what life in her Texas mansion was really like back then - and how much damage he did when he left.

Once love-struck and sheltered, Isabel has become an assistant district attorney committed to serving the law, no matter how risky it gets. But right now, the man she can't forgive is the one thing standing between her and a deadly stalker. She knows Paul won't hesitate to protect her life with his own. But if she can't trust herself to resist him, how can she trust him not to break her heart all over again?

Critique: Penned by masterful romance novelist Diana Palmer Defender is captivating from cover to cover. A fine balance of suspense, conflicted characters, sensuality, and sizzling passion, Defender is enthusiastically recommended for connoisseurs of the genre. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Defender is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

Jules Coll
Gill Books
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9780717172535 $27.00 pbk / $7.55 Kindle

Synopsis: For every woman who's ever looked in the mirror and felt crap: a funny, filthy and uplifting account of one woman's quest to leave body insecurity behind.

Jules Coll was a slim child, which was misleading in a way, as she spent her formative years doing little other than consuming vast quantities of sugar and plotting to secure her next fix. It wasn't until her late teens, when hormones began playing havoc with her metabolism, that Jules's diet began to take its toll. Year by year, pound by pound, her weight began to tick upwards until she was tipping the scales at 19 stone.

Self-esteem at rock bottom, her love life on life support, Jules decided it was time to contemplate a radical change. Flabyrinth is the story of Jules's escape from maximum insecurity prison. As well as sharing her journey from thin to fat and back again, it's a hilariously, refreshing and honest take on what it feels like to be a girl!

Critique: The memoir of author Jules Coll's personal battle of the bulge, Flabyrinth is not only about Coll's efforts to improve her appearance and physical health. It's also her story of liberating herself from negative body insecurity. Flabyrinth candidly tells of how Coll decided to ultimately undertake weight-loss surgery to transform her body and her life, even though such a drastic procedure had risks and repercussions. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Flabyrinth is available in a Kindle edition ($7.55).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Countess of Prague: Book One
Stephen Weeks
Poisoned Pen Press
4014 N. Goldwater Blvd. #201, Scottsdale AZ 85251
9781464208447, $15.95 paperback, 304 pages,

Also available in hardcover, large print, ebook

In this first of a ten-book mystery series, Stephen Weeks introduces readers to his exceptional writing style through a feisty, fascinating heroine. Beatrice Von Falkenburg lives in 1904 Prague, a typical upper class woman of her time. Born of a Czech father and English mother, she's married to Count Karel Von Falkenburg. Karel has a worthless title and very little money, so much of his time and energy are focused on keeping up appearances. The Countess, Trixie to her friends, knows how to throw a lavish dinner party and shop for expensive dresses but has limited experience in the world outside Imperial Society's lofty circles. All that changes when her beloved Uncle Berty asks for help with a problem, transforming Trixie from pampered aristocrat to her true calling as an adventuresome solver of mysteries.

When an almost unrecognizable body is found in the Vltava River, Uncle Berty suspects it's an old man he commanded in his military days. When he enlists Trixie to help him investigate behind the scenes, they discover that the old man is supposedly alive and well and living in a retirement home. At every turn, a deeper mystery reveals itself in shocking ways. To find answers, Trixie must mix with peasants, street urchins, criminals and royalty in Europe's high and low places. And she must inhabit a world far different from anything she's ever known by learning on the fly and trusting her instincts.

This is a delicious historical mystery about old Europe before World War One. I enjoyed experiencing the social-cultural-political mores of the time as Trixie followed clues from Prague to London and back again. Weeks has created a heady adventure with many unexpected twists and turns along with appealing characters and skillful prose to bring the mysteries to life. I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys mysteries and historical fiction.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Song of the Lion, A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel
Anne Hillerman
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062391902, $27.99,

All of the high expectations and anticipation of this fine mystery novel by Anne Hillerman, daughter and story -mantle inheritor of famed author Tony Hillerman, is more than exceeded. Continuing related stories in the world of Navajo law enforcement officers Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito, Anne Hillerman extends and delineates the fine craft of exploring/ illuminating a legacy of customs and ways of living in the land of the Dine.

Her novel/mystery is certainly well written, informative and entertaining; it is hard to put down. "Song of the Lion" offers more than a good read, a well crafted Southwestern mystery, an exciting glimpse of a widely varied population in a beautiful landscape with layers of history, blood, land, and water issues. The author skillfully uses a terse mix of character development through brief interactions and dialogue laced with detailed fine observations and scenic natural imagery which invites the reader into an implicit, empathetic mirroring experience of ethnic, religious, moral, political, hierarchical, and sexual sensitivities. It is a complex balance and mix. Particularly engaging is the young officer Bernadette Manuelito, through whose eyes much of the story emerges. How exactly does it feel to be a small, Navajo, female law enforcement officer dealing with issues like chauvinism, cultural insensitivity, racial and cultural prejudice, and daily microabrasions that run soul deep? Hillerman invites the reader to experience all of this, with stunning results.

The underlying mystery of "Song of the Lion" is suggested as a classic conflict among eco-terrorist, development, and Native American sacred landholders groups. But the underlying threat and danger that claims the lives of more than one victim has a complex, layered source. Getting to the bottom of the mystery requires the background, knowledge and fine detective skills of still-recovering Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie's respected mentor and teacher.

All readers will enjoy reading "The Song of the Lion" cover to cover in as little time as possible. But the takeaway from this exquisite experience will be more than another well written Southwest mystery solved. It will take the reader on a journey to an unshakeable, soul-deepening, life- enhancing awareness.

Never, EVER, Serve Sugary Snacks on Rainy Days
Shirley Raines, author
Gryphon House
P.O. Box 10, Lewisville, NC 27023
9780876597187, $12.95,

"Never, EVER, Serve Sugary Snacks On Rainy Days," subtitled "And Other Words of Wisdom for Teachers of Young Children" is a favorite teacher's inspiration manual filled with warm, right pictures of children learning and playing and appropriate sage words of advice to their teachers. At first it seems as though the book is written for children too, but then it becomes more clear that the book is written with a loving awareness of the child in each of us. Here is one page's statement, captioning a widely smiling, active boy: "so never apologize when the children tell their parents, "All we did was play." Here is another: "Respect little people for what they can do today, not for what they are supposed to do tomorrow." This small, friendly teacher's manual is full of pleasant creative ideas for improving learning experiences for young children. This book is a favorite gift and tribute to your child's teacher, or to anyone who loves young children and cares about their education.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions, 22nd edition
Joseph Matthews
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413323559, $29.99, PB, 496pp,

Synopsis: Congress has changed the rules for claiming Social Security. These changes are critically important as members of the babyboom generation are now entering their retirement years. This newly updated and expanded 22nd edition of "Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits" by attorney Joseph Matthews was written specifically to help men and women find out if they still qualify to "file and suspend" benefits or to choose between their own benefits and spousal benefits.

With respect to Social Security benefits, readers can figure out how to get retirement, disability, dependents and survivors benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). They can also decide whether it's best to claim benefits early, at full retirement age, or not until they turn 70 -- and how to time a claim so they and their spouse get the best benefits.

With respect to Medicare & Medicaid, readers will learn how to qualify for and enroll in both programs, including Medicare Part D drug coverage.

With respect to Medigap insurance & Medicare Advantage plans, readers will be able to understand what new Medigap policies are available (and old ones that aren't), compare Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans, and choose what's best for them.

With respect to Government pensions & veterans benefits, readers will discover when and how to claim the benefits they have earned.

Whether the reader is looking up information for themselves or are helping a parent, "Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions" offers a wealth of reliable and up-to-date information here, including how to file many essential forms online.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits" is authoritative, practical, comprehensive, and an absolute "must" for community, senior center, and academic library collections. For individual reader and reference collections it should be noted that "Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.90).

How to Swap Ford Modular Engines into Mustangs, Torinos and More
Dave Stribling
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613252956, $26.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: The Ford modular engine is a popular swap for 1964-1/2-1973 Mustangs, Fox-Body Mustangs, trucks, hot rods, and other muscle cars because these high-tech engines provide exceptional performance and improved economy compared to their dated counterparts. Found in Mustangs and other Fords since the 1990s, installing a modular motor in a classic Ford infuses new technology and all the benefits that come with it into a classic car. Modular engines feature an overhead cam design that has massive horsepower potential, and are offered in 4.6-, 5.0-, 5.2- 5.4-, and 5.8-liter iterations. These high-tech 2-, 3-, and 4-valve engines are readily available as a crate engine, from salvage yards, and in running cars. This engine design has a large physical footprint, and swapping the engine requires a thorough plan, using the proper tools and facilities.

Author and Ford modular engaging swaps expert Dave Stribling specializes in modular engine swaps, and expertly guides you through each crucial step of the engine transplant process. Because of the large physical size, many components, such as brake boosters, steering rods and boxes, and other underhood components, may need repositioning or modification to co-exist in the engine bay. Stribling covers motor-mount selection and fabrication, suspension and chassis modifications, aftermarket suspension options, firewall and transmission tunnel modifications, engine management and wiring procedures, fuel systems, exhaust systems, electrical mods and upgrades, and much more. Many older Ford muscle and performance cars are prime candidates for a modular swap; however, shock towers protrude into the engine bay of these cars, so modifications are necessary to fit the engine into the car, which is also covered here.

Swapping the engine and transmission into a muscle car or truck requires specialized processes, and this insightful, explanatory, and detailed instruction is found only in the pages of "How to Swap Ford Modular Engines into Mustangs, Torinos and More".

Critique: Profusely illustrated from cover to cover, "How to Swap Ford Modular Engines into Mustangs, Torinos and More" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual and guide that will prove to be an invaluable, essential 'how to' reference for swapping one of these high-tech engines into a non-original chassis. While very highly recommended as an addition to personal and community library Automotive Studies instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "How to Swap Ford Modular Engines into Mustangs, Torinos and More" is also available in a Kindle format ($25.49).

Storm Chaser
Mike Olbinski
Pen and Sword
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781473885851, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: The storms that cross the Great Plains of North America each spring are some of nature's most spectacular. They can also be some of the most dangerous. People who live in areas and are susceptible to these storms keep a close eye on the weather reports, taking cover or evacuate when one is on the way. Storm chasers keep an even closer eye on the weather data, but for a different reason: they don't run away when they see a storm approaching, they follow it!

Professional photographer Mike Olbinski has chased storms throughout his native Arizona, as well as even further afield, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Whether he's photographing lightning, tornadoes or even cloud formations, his remarkable images are able to convey the awesome power and beauty of nature in its most dramatic and impressive forms.

Featuring more than 100 stunning color photographs, "Storm Chaser" brings together some of Mike's most breathtaking images from the past five years as he describes his love of the open road and the thrill of capturing the perfect storm on film.

Critique: Each flawlessly reproduced and truly memorable image is accompanied by a succinct commentary, making "Storm Chaser" an inherently fascinating volume from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Storm Chaser" is also available in a Kindle format ($23.97).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Original Design for Health
Dr. Mark Shannan
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409871, $16.99, 2016, 318 pages

Practical Steps for Implementing a Healthy Balance - For Improved Health

"The Original Design for Health: The Simple Plan to Restore & Maintain Health in 3 Easy Steps" is written out of a genuine desire to help people to live "the most balanced, peace-filled, and healthy lives possible, and to guide them toward a healthier future" based on the guiding principle that God has an Original Design for all people.

The book is made up of proven principles and scientific facts, stories (or case studies) of individuals who have been healed by finding identifying root causes of their health issues and then took control to finding complete wellness.

The book is well organized with a logical progression of material presented. The format includes helpful summary statements, topical headers within each chapter, charts, graphic illustrations, lists, graphs, and pictures. All of these add to help the reader assimilate the material, review topics of interest, and better understand and identify specific material for personal application.

Dr. Mark Shannan is passionate about his work as a Chiropractor and Nutritionist and has a successful practice. His credentials include: a Bachelor of Science degree in human anatomy, a doctorate in Chiropractic, and is a certified applied clinical nutritionist.

"The Original Design for Health" will resonate with anyone seeking to discover and understand how to live healthier, more active, and better balanced lives. I am already incorporating some of Dr. Mark's principles into practice and better understand why this important for finding mental, physical, and chemical balance.

Highly recommended - an excellent redi-reference for everyone's personal bookshelf.

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

Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It
Judith Wolf Mandell
Illustrated by Lise C. Brown
Harpeth Ridge Press
9780997444919, $13.99, 2017

The Fall, the Break, the Cast, the Whooshing Kisses, and the Recovery

Sammy (Samantha) ignites friendships through her rebounding spirit, response to love, her resolute determination, and her encouraging empathy for others.

Judith's story telling skill and whimsical approach draws the reader's and the child's attention, stimulates their imagination, and teaches valuable lessons; on the benefits of following the doctor's instructions, and on the importance of giving and receiving. . I especially enjoyed the "Whooshing Kisses" symbolic of the thoughts and prayers, and of love and concern family and friends. The book is filled with the concept of comfort, the need for patience, relief from anxiety, and reality of suffering.

The story prepares kids for the stages of recovery and recuperation from a broken bone, a short or long term illness, or any emergency department or hospital situation.

Lise C. Brown's clever colorful artwork magically depicts the action of the story from Sammy's waking "YAWN and s-t-r-e-c-h," the excitement of going "higher and faster" on the trampoline, Mommy's warning, the painful fall, arrival at the emergency room, right up to the time the doctors wrapped Sammy in a wet fiberglass cast, and sent Sammy and her parents' home with "The Rules for Sammy's Cast."

The whimsical nature of Judith's writing adds a note of family fun, togetherness, and lighten the "emotional hurt" and physical pain of recovery. "Sammy's Broken Leg" is encouraging, educational and entertaining.

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

Becoming His - Finding Your Place as a Daughter of God
Jenny Erlingsson
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410723, $15.99, 2016, 198 pages

Life Lessons: Discovering Direction, Fulfilling Destiny, and Finding Freedom

In her book "Becoming His - Finding Your Place as a Daughter of God" Jenny Erlingsson relates stories of women of faith, "a cloud of witnesses" who have gone before; women from the Bible who impacted history. The book is divided into four parts:

His in the Beginning
His in the Promise
His in the Struggle
His in the Freedom

Each fast moving chapter includes: A Profile introducing the background of the Biblical woman featured, a section labeled "Ponder," a commentary on and scripture lessons from the life of the featured character, and "Press In," made up of thought provoking challenges and self-searching questions designed for personal application.

Jenny's writing style is a masterpiece of poetic prose, imaginative fiction, all woven into an interpretation of Biblical truth. Her work is skillfully organized, with deep spiritual insight, while using all the elements of a good story.

Jenny serves on pastoral staff of "Rock Family Worship Center" in Huntsville, Alabama.

"Becoming His" is ideal for personal reflection and application as well as for use in a small group setting. Although written specifically for a woman's audience, this is a book that is filled with lessons for men as well. Husbands will better understand their wives, build beautiful partnerships, and become better leaders in the home. Pastors and lay counselors can gain insights from Jenny's message of restoration and hope in the midst of tragedy.

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

Finding Success in Balance - My Journey to the Cheerful Mind
Apryl Zarate Schluelter
The Cheerful Mind Inc.
9780998320304, $12.99, 2017, 164 pages

Finding Balance to Regain Control, Manage Stress, and Accomplish Your Goals

"Finding Success in Balance - My Journey to the Cheerful Mind" will resonate with anyone who finds themselves overcommitted, and overwhelmed with feelings of exhaustion and defeat. Apryl shares her own story of achieving goals, conquering challenges and appearing to be successful by other people's standards.

Apryl is open and honest as she tell her story of the Job that Changed Everything for her, a change that centered on finding a Life Work Balance. She describes a life that is not only fulfilling at work, but fulfilling outside of work as well."

Each fast moving chapter is filled with concrete workable pointers and tips that encourage the reader to:

Prioritize and accomplish your goals in light of the life work principles

Manage stress to avoid burnout

Succeed in your relationships

Create your own personal development journey

Think of fun as a value and "How to Infuse Fun into your Life"

Apryl Zarate Schluelter, CPC, Eli, MP, is CEO (Chief Energy Officer!) of The Cheerful Mind, Inc.

Apryl's communication and organizational skills are reflected in her writing. She is articulate and well organized in the structure and presentation of the material. The book is highly informative, well formatted and reader friendly. A thoroughly enjoyable read and reread often.

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

Hearing the Word through Your Dreams - Understanding the Language God Speaks at Night
Mark Virkler and Charity Virkler and Charity Virkler Kayembe
Destiny Image, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409970, $16.99, 2016, 292 pages

Guide Book and Training Manual on Understanding and Recognizing the Importance of Dreams in the Scriptures and their Relevance Today

Dr. Mark Virkler and his daughter Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe collaborate in "Hearing the Word through Your Dreams - Understanding the Language God Speaks at Night." Biblical examples explore dreams from the Old and New Testaments that reveal how dreams can bypass the natural mind to become a bridge that connect with the supernatural.

Content throughout the book develop and expand on "Dr. Virkler's Dream Keys" and contain proven concepts, principles, and practical examples for discerning and interpreting Holy Spirit inspired dreams. The authors describe a process which includes:

A process of reviewing the dream in its setting in "waking life,"
the dream,
the action,
the feeling,
and the interpretation.

When you write down each of these steps it enables you to determine the interpretation of the dream and will encourage and motivate you to be alert so that the vision can be understood, applied, and acted on.

"Hearing the Word through Your Dreams" is a practical, powerful training manual and guide book that will help the reader identify God infused messages delivered through dreams, and how these dreams can reveal your destiny when understand. This is a book for every Christian who has ever wondered about the significance of their dreams.

The Art of Productivity - Your Complete Edge
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879549, $15.99, 2017, 152 pages,

Steps That Take You from Mediocrity to Finding and Experiencing Personal Success

Jim Stovall's "The Art of Productivity" is a timely and important book for business and sales people, entrepreneurs and for all individuals who want to experience their highest potential for productivity as an individual and in their business endeavors. Stovall has an outstanding record of success as author of over 30 books and is a renowned professional speaker. Stovall's writing will challenge you to discover, prioritize, and activate your competitive edge.

In this book Stovall provides the tools to maximize productivity by using your personal strengths in areas of motivation, communication, and implementation. Stovall writes with balance, combining the organizational skills of a scientist and the creative natural creativity of an artist. These skills heighten his inimitable entertaining gift for storytelling.

Stovall uses the success stories of well-known celebrities in the field of sports, award winning movie and TV artists, multi-millionaires, and political leaders, as a springboard to illustrate how you need to recognize your own strengths and passions. Stovall challenges the reader to carefully design their own definition of personal success and stresses the importance of passion, and motivation in discovering your mission and in the execution of your goals.

"The Art of Productivity - Your Complete Edge" holds the key to effectively attain personal success through motivation, communication, and implementation. Stovall motivates change, creates vision, and inspires transformation. Highly recommended.

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

Unleashing Heaven's Breath
Steve Hannett
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768404494, $16.99, 2017, 240 pages

Supernatural Transformation, Untapped Power Within

In his book "Unleashing Heaven's Breath" Steve Hannett shares practical tools that open the Scriptures to the reader as a living epistle, an entryway to power, and a more intimate relationship with Jesus. This is Steve's story of his miraculous healing from cancer.

"Unleashing Heaven's Breath" is carefully researched, with well documented endnotes, biblical in content, anointed teaching, and inspirational in presentation. Steve is a gifted communicator, passionate in delivery, and humble in spirit. Steve's prayer is that his readers will "Discover the Ultimate Secret to Releasing Signs, Wonders, and Miracles" available to Christ followers today.

I found the chapter summary points especially helpful. The reflective questions make the book a unique resource for individuals or for interactive Bible study in a small group or discipleship/mentoring relationship. The questions might also be used as a devotional journal for individual focus and personal application. Another inspiring feature is the declarative prayer statement provided at the end of each chapter. These prayers can be life changing.

Steve Hannett, founding pastor of Abundant Grace Christian Church and of Jesus Reigns International, Inc. in Rutherford, New Jersey, has a powerful and effective ministry. The church and school are of one mind in vision, with a goal to train individuals who are seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord and desire to understand the Scripture, as a living guidebook for life and ministry.

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

Brilliant Living - 31 Insights to Creating an Awesome Life
Simon T. Bailey
Sound Wisdom
PO. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411535, $15.99, 216 pages,

Eight Core Values for Life

"Brilliant Living - 31 Insights to Creating an Awesome Life" will help you, the reader, internally analyze, evaluate and discover your passion, which will enable you to carry out God's plan and purpose for you to impact your immediate world and the world beyond.

Simon T. Bailey provides the necessary skills and principals to help the reader surpass their greatest expectations by "pursuing meaning over money, purpose instead of power, and significance instead of success."

Bailey's '31 Inspirational Insights are centered on one of eight key core values: spiritual, family, career/business, emotional, mental, wellness, social, and financial which are designed to create a strategic life plan.

Each days insight include: a challenging reading for quiet meditation, related to one or more of the core values with a reading, a decree or affirmation, and illustrative principles and examples for balancing the eight core values.

The format of the book is unique in that each of the 31inspirational messages contain an assignment titled "The Next Step" which challenge the reader to self-examination exercises which encourage taking action steps, toward setting personal goals determined by discovering your life passion. This action sets in motion an action plan for creating your tomorrows, filled with "new, exciting, history making moments.

"Brilliant Living" is written for readers, who want to make a difference, make things happen, and who are willing to take risks. Bailey's writing is fast moving, written in a style that captures your attention, holds your focus, and moves you forward to go the extra mile. "Brilliant Living" is awesome, practical, and inspiring. Highly Recommended.

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

It's Supernatural
Sid Roth
It's Supernatural Press
P. O. Box 39222, Charlotte, NC 28278
9780768410860, $16.99, 2017, 192 pages,

Keys to Finding Your Divine Destiny - Walking in God's Miracle Power Today

Sid Roth's "It's Supernatural" will resonate with every Christian believer aspiring to experience more of God's supernatural life and power. Roth tells of his own life changing encounter with God, resulting in fresh new perception and miracle breakthrough which added a whole new dimension of spiritual understanding.

Although raised in a Jewish home, Sid Roth did not find answers in their religious, teachings and traditions; nor did he find them through a successful career as an account executive with Merrill Lynch. Sid became frustrated with life, he gave up his career, became hopelessly depressed, and desperate for finding meaning and purpose. In 1972 Sid was delivered from demonic oppression through a supernatural encounter with Jesus.

The book is filled with fresh powerful examples drawn from interviews with people who have been powerfully transformed by God's supernatural presence, as evidenced by: Charismatic gifts, the demonstration of miracles, the preservation of the Jewish people as a distinct race, prophets and seers ministering revelatory gifts, and experiencing current day manifestations of the works of Jesus.

Powerful tools, healing promises from the scriptures, simple steps to meditating on the scriptures, and much, much more fill the pages of this fast moving narrative. Roth's writing is Bible based, authoritative, convincing, with transcendent evidence of the supernatural and teaching that goes beyond prevailing theological concepts.

Sid Roth extends this invitation to his readers, "Welcome to my world, where it Naturally Supernatural."

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide
Peri H. Pakroo, J.D.
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413323573, $34.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Possibly a response to cutbacks in government funded programs, more and more people are committing themselves to serving their communities and changing the world through supporting non-governmental organizations. Whether protecting the environment, supporting the arts, or helping people in need, understanding how to set up a solid nonprofit organization is a great foundation for being as effective as possible.

Now in an fully updated and expanded seventh edition, "Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide" by Peri H. Pakroo (a business and communications consultant specializing in legal and start-up issues for businesses and nonprofits) is a thoroughly 'user friendly' compendium packed from cover to cover with practical advice, legal information, tips, and step-by-step instructions. "Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide" covers such issues as: developing a strategic plan and budget; recruiting and managing board members, volunteers, and staff; marketing your organization to your target audience; raising money including traditional methods and crowdfunding; building a website and using social media strategically; adopting policies that are legally sound; and so much more.

Critique: Simply stated, "Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide" is the ideal 'how to' manual for starting up a nonprofit, for operating a nonprofit, and for promoting and obtaining funding for a nonprofit's mission statement utilizing social media. Exceptionally well organized, comprehensive, and accessible, "Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide" also provides downloadable forms for contracting work, volunteer assignment agreements, sample budgets, and more -- making in an optimal addition to personal, professional, NGO, community, and academic library instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide" is also available in a Kindle format ($29.23).

Aviation Records in the Jet Age
William A. Flanagan
Specialty Press
99 Spring Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10012
9781580072304, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Since aviation's early years, pilots, designers, and manufacturers have sought to break world records for notoriety or technical advancement, which captivated the public. In "Aviation Records in the Jet Age: The Planes and Technologies Behind the Breakthroughs" William Flanagan (an experienced aviator and a former crewmember of the triplesonic SR-71 Blackbird) tells of famous record-breaking flights throughout history, focusing on the exciting time following World War II when new speed, altitude, and endurance records were broken on an almost-routine basis. Supplementing these stories are detailed explanations of the technological innovations that made those record-breaking aircraft possible.

From swept wings to afterburning turbojet engines, and "Coke-bottle" fuselages to high-altitude pressure suits, aviation progress has always been measured with breakthrough advances in the technology of flight. "Aviation Records in the Jet Age" takes the reader through the annals of aviation history with spellbinding stories of world-record flights and explanations of how advanced technology played a pivotal role in making these records happen.

Profusely illustrated throughout with excellent archival photographs and technical illustrations, "Aviation Records in the Jet Age" explains in detailed, but easy-to-understand, terms how specific advances in aircraft design such as powerplants, aerodynamics, flight control systems, instrumentation, and life-support systems led to ever-improved record-breaking aircraft. The appendix serves as a handy reference guide that documents world speed, altitude, and distance records as well as the legendary aircraft and pilots who flew them.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative with an impressively written, organized and presented commentary, "Aviation Records in the Jet Age" is a critically important addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Aviation History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Thirstland Trek 1874-1881
Nicol Stassen
Protea Boekhuis
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781485300366, $33.00, HC, 684pp,

Synopsis: Transvaal is a geographic term associated with land north of the Vaal River in modern-day South Africa. During the late nineteenth century a number of organized treks left the Transvaal.

The first of these left the ZAR in May 1874. Seven years later, in January 1881, after the amalgamation of the first three treks, they settled at Humpata on the Hufla highlands in the Portuguese colony of Angola. From 1892 to 1894 three further major treks followed. After the last major trek in 1907 the Portuguese government prohibited further treks.

In 1928 about 2000 Angola Boers were repatriated to South-West Africa, while 380?470 remained in Angola. These treks were complex phenomena as a result of economic, religious and political factors. Initially, resistance to the "irreligious" and "liberal" government of T.F. Burgers were the most important reasons for the trek.

New labor legislation, political uncertainty, internal dissent in the Transvaal and economic factors also contributed to the dissatisfaction. Lack of sufficient farming land, population pressure, poverty, misgivings about new taxes and the search for new hunting grounds probably played a minor role. Dread of modernization and British imperialism, the introduction of intensive farming, gold fever, drought or natural disasters and the "trekking spirit" or "trek fever" probably played no role at all.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, profusely illustrated, "The Thirstland Trek 1874-1881" is an extraordinary historical study by Nicol Stassen that is based upon a remarkable body of research. The result is a history of the Transvaal that adheres to an impeccable level of scholarship with expert commentary that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of abbreviations, as well as tables, maps, a 'Note on the writing of names', sixty-seven pages of Endnotes, a twenty-three page listing of Sources, and a thirty-four page Index, "The Thirstland Trek 1874-1881" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

J.A. Jance
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062297723, $9.99, Paperback, 448 pp.,

As if Joanna Brady doesn't have enough to keep her occupied: She's expecting a baby girl in December and having just solved the murder of her mother and stepfather, she is in the midst of planning their funeral, when two murder cases crop up to add to her burden. And she is just beginning to focus on her re-election campaign for Sheriff.

The first case to arise occurs when two female bodies are discovered, one atop the other, at the base of Geronimo, a popular hill to be climbed by the youth of Bixby, AZ. This is the far more interesting case, involving a joint investigation with a nearby police department headed by Brady's former deputy. It turns out to be a case of double murder. The other case involves the murder of a man by his wife, who had hit him over the head with a golf club.

This novel is quite a story and is filled with plenty of action as the plot unfolds. To this reader, too often the author relies on cliches to describe a thought or event. But she can be forgiven because the rest is so well-written. The insight into Joanna Brady's mind and personality, especially as it relates to her relationship with her mother, as well as her motivations and actions, are truly deep and penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

The Will to Kill
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
c/o Winterfall LLC
9781783291427, $22.99 (27.99 CA$), Hardcover, 230 pp.,

Another uncompleted Mickey Spillane manuscript finished by Max Collins finds Mike Hammer walking along the Hudson River in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and discovering half a body, the upper torso, on an ice floe. It turns out the half a corpse was the trusted butler of a wealthy inventor who was the captain of Pat Chambers, Mike's homicide detective buddy, when he first joined the police force. Pat suspects his friend's death may have been a murder and "retains" Mike to investigate.

Mike travels to dead man's Sullivan County estate where he meets the various members of the man's dysfunctional family and employees. The daughter also retains Mike, who suspects not only that the father was murdered, but that the butler was as well. Each of the grown children, two older brothers, and their younger half siblings (the daughter and a brother) has a motive to murder the others. Under the terms of their father's will, the inheritances don't kick in until age 40 and in the even of a death, that portion reverts to the corpus, fattening the eventual amount for the survivors.

The novel is slightly different from the accustomed Spillane genre: it is more akin to a traditional detective mystery, albeit with Mike Hammer wisecracks, a smattering of sex and firearms. Not that there's anything wrong with that approach. But somehow it left this reader with a desire for something more. In any event, it is a good read and can be recommended.

A Welcome Murder
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228
9781633882638, $15.95/17.00 CA$, Paperback, 259 pp.,

This novel is a mystery wrapped in a series of character studies set in Steubenville, OH, a small town, once the center of the steel-making industry in the Ohio Valley. Each has a dream and each faces roadblocks in fulfilling the desired outcome. The mystery is the murder of a local ne'er-do-well, Rayce Daubner, and plays a crucial role in the lives of the six persons through whom the plot is unveiled in alternating chapters devoted to just one, told in the first person.

There is Johnny Earl, the greatest athlete ever to graduate from the local high school, who dreams of a big league baseball career, but learns he lacks the ability, relegated to the minors and eventually blows a knee, turning to peddling drugs in Pittsburgh, only to be convicted and sent to prison for seven years after having been set up by the murder victim. Francis Roberson decides as a youngster he is going to be President and goes on to become a star FBI agent before returning to Steubenville to begin a political career as an elected sheriff. His wife, Allison, detests the small town and hopes he pursues his ambition to run for Congress and later for Governor, so she can escape for broader horizons. Beautiful Dena Marie Conchek Androski Xenakus, homecoming queen, who is oft married or bedded by most. Her husband, Vincent "Smoochie" Xenakis, picked upon his entire life until he is accused of the murder and then becomes an aggressive individual. And lastly, Toots Majowski, Roberson's deputy, a key player in bringing it all together.

Johnny and Smoochie are the obvious candidates for murderer, the former because the victim testified against him in his trial, the latter because the murdered man was having a torrid affair with his wife. Even the sheriff was a candidate since he was being blackmailed by Rayce. There are one or two red herrings along toward the end of the book, but few clues give the reader a chance to figure out the surprising choice as the killer. It is fast-reading, well-written and enjoyable, and is highly recommended.

The Highwayman
Craig Johnson
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780735220904, $13.00, Paperback, 190 pp.,

The author prefaces this Longmire novel by stating he always wanted to write a ghost story. And now he has, thrusting Walt Longmire and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, into the middle of an enigma. At the request of the head of the Highway Patrol, Walt and the Bear seek to determine what is happening to Rosie Wayman, who patrols a stretch of highway in the Wind River Canyon, an area where radio communication is almost nonexistent.

On the other hand, Rosie begins receiving calls from Bobby Womack saying "officer needs assistance." The problem is that Womack, a respected highwayman who patrolled the same route, died 35 years previously. Walt and the Bear have to determine whether Rosie really is hearing the signal, or is in need of psychiatric evaluation. What follows during the investigation is a series of events which might be ethereal, or explained by logic in the real world. It is up to the two men (along with the reader) to determine which.

It is a clever plot and, while it is a deviation from the 11 prior entries in the series, "The Highwayman" is a welcome addition to the earlier books, and it is recommended.

The 13th novel in the series, "The Western Star," will be published by Penguin on September 5th!

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Coping with Anxiety in An Age of Terrorism
Raymond B. Flannery Jr.
American Mental Health Foundation
PO Box 3, Riverdale, NY 10471-0003
9781590565605, $12.00, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: The use of terrorism to promote a cause is a tragical reality of our times in almost every country in the world. It is now common place in Europe and North America to see urban-transit systems post signs "if you see something, say something". The warning appears in several languages. Yet, paradoxically, there is as yet no known profile of a terrorist.

"Coping with Anxiety in An Age of Terrorism" by Raymond B. Flannery Jr. ( Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry (Part Time), Harvard Medical School as well as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School) is a reassuring study that is directed at two specific readerships: the hypervigilant public that ever anticipates the next random terrorist incident and professionals toward whom the public turns for support following such events.

The message, from this expert on life-stress and violence is sobering and timely: Once the immediate danger has passed, it is necessary to make our understandable anxiety more tolerable so that we are not overcome by our fears of such terrorist events.

"Coping with Anxiety in An Age of Terrorism" specifically shows how.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Coping with Anxiety in An Age of Terrorism" is an extraordinary and urgently recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of counselors, students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Coping with Anxiety in An Age of Terrorism" is also available in a Kindle format ($5.99).

Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade
Simon Kelly, et al.
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791356211, $75.00, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: Filled from cover to cover with beautiful works by Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, and other Impressionist painters, "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" is richly illustrated book showcases artistic portrayals of France's millinery trade during the Belle Epoque. Though best known for his depictions of dancers and bathers, Edgar Degas repeatedly returned to the subject of millinery over the course of three decades. In masterpieces such as The Millinery Shop (1879 - 86) and The Milliners (ca. 1898), he captured scenes of milliners fashioning and women wearing elaborate, colorful hats. Featuring sumptuous paintings, pastels, and preparatory drawings by Degas, Cassatt, Manet, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others, "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" is generously and sumptiously illustrated study that deftly surveys the millinery industry of 19th-century Paris. Peppered throughout with photographs, posters, and prints of French hats, "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" is enhanced with the inclusions of informed and informative essays that explore Degas's particular interest in the millinery trade; the tension between modern fashion and reverence for history and the grand art-historical tradition; a chronicle of Parisian milliners from Caroline Reboux to Coco Chanel; and examples of how the millinery trade is depicted in literature. Brilliantly linking together the worlds of industry, art, and fashion.

Critique: "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" is an original and ground breaking study that insightfully examines the fundamental role of hats and hat-makers in 19th-century culture. Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" is an extraordinary, unique, primary, and instructive study that is a very highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Art History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Librarians should note that "Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade" would make an excellent and enduringly popular Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

Celestial Mechanics: A Tale For A Mid-Winter Night
William Least Heat-Moon
Three Rooms Press
561 Hudson Street, #33, New York, NY 10014
9781941110560, $28.00, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: When Silas Fortunato applies for an editorial position for the "spirituality" section of a local newspaper, he is asked to fill in a bubble sheet to mark his religion. The problem is, his beliefs don't fall within any of the categories. Silas believes that selflessness enlarges vision and that what a person should strive for is to be overcome by the beyond. He believes in honoring otherness and in giving questions credence over certainty. He calls himself a Cosmoterian because his goal is to make himself worthy of the majesty of Cosmos. Silas is a man driven by big ideas, but it is the everyday smallness that perpetually both intrigues and eludes him.

In this emotional tale of haunted love, Silas finds himself locked in a marriage descending toward darkness until the arrival of his sister-in-law and soon thereafter the appearance of a witching neighbor who may or may not be alive. In ways enigmatic, ghostly, and funny, the three women draw him into the equivocal nature of dreams and reality, their influences leading Silas on a journey toward what may be light and a new belonging to something vastly beyond himself.

Critique: Engaging, employing nonfictional devices to build a story that crosses the traditional boundaries of 'rationality and spirituality', "Celestial Mechanics" is a unique and extraordinary novel that is as entertaining as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. As mysterious and stirring as a midnight snowfall, Celestial Mechanics invites the reader to ponder their role in the Universe along with the truth-seeking protagonist. Author William Least Heat-Moon is a novelist with a genuine flair for original and deftly crafted storytelling. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Celestial Mechanics" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Broken by Messines in WW1
Mark Wardlaw
9781526206435, 9.99 Brit. pounds, PB,

Synopsis: In the week of June 7-14, 1917, just like other people living their lives and making plans in the European nation of Belgium, Peter and Kate would never have thought there would be a world war. "Broken by Messines in WW1: The Grandparents I Never Knew" by Mark Wardlaw is th true story of his own grandparents. It is about two young people who met and fell in love and based on the discovery of letters written a hundred years ago and found in an ornate wooden box tucked away in a cupboard.

They swore to be true, but Peter and Kate both had dreams they wished to fulfil before settling down. Kate sailed to New Zealand in 1912 to work as an assistant matron at The Girls' High School in Napier. Peter, an engineer, went into business to manufacture his seed sowing machine in Lutterworth, England. Kate settled into New Zealand life. She made many friends and learned to ride. She experienced North Island's beautiful scenery on horseback. However in June 1914 she started to plan her return trip to Britain.

Production had just started at Peter's factory when war broke out in August 1914. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and trained as a gunner. By the time his Brigade sailed for Gallipoli he was a sergeant. He saw action in the Suvla Landing in August 1915, and witnessed the horror of Gallipoli.

Kate also experienced the trauma of war as she witnessed the return of wounded soldiers; part of the ANZAC contribution and sacrifice in Gallipoli. Peter's Brigade was transferred to Egypt to guard the Suez Canal. Before leaving for The Somme in July 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant.

Kate continued to travel on her holidays visiting the volcanic wonders in Rotorua and the majestic caves at Waitomo.

They were experiencing such different things. Peter's Brigade was involved in many of the bloody battles on The Somme. What he witnessed and the consequences of his actions in command were grinding his spirit down. He was finding it increasingly difficult to write to Kate. He yearned for home leave and Kate's company.

In December 1916 after almost five years abroad Kate risked the long sea voyage and the threat of U-boats to return to Britain.

Peter was granted leave to attend his younger brother Jimmie's wedding in April 1917 and was re-united with his fiance. Kate had returned to fulfil her promise to Peter. He had shown his love for her by sending her an engagement ring 11,000 miles to New Zealand. They had kept their love alive through numerous letters. The re-union was passionate but brief. Peter returned to Flanders to prepare for the Battle of Messines.

At Messines, June 1917, Peter became a casualty. He was buried alive and lost his leg. After initial treatment at the Front he was transferred to Roehampton Hospital, London and learned to walk again with a prosthetic limb. It was here that he learned of his youngest brother's death in the Navy. Kate also told him that she was pregnant.

They were married in September 1917, but Peter deserted his pregnant wife. He could not fulfil his promise to Kate. The War had changed him; Messines had broken him physically and emotionally. He played no part in his son's upbringing.

Critique: An extraordinary, compelling and candid account of two young people whose lives and love were casualties of the horrors and deprivations of a world at war. Author and biographer Mark Wardlaw has done an exemplary and welcome task of bringing the story of his grandparents into print for the benefit of this and future generations. "Broken by Messines in WW1: The Grandparents I Never Knew" is an exception, outstanding, and intensely personal account that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library 20th Century Biography collections in general, and World War I supplemental studies reading lists in particular. Simply stated, "Broken by Messines in WW1: The Grandparents I Never Knew" is one of those rare volumes that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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