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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 5 May 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness, second edition
C. Edwin Vaughan and Fredric K. Schroeder
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092085 $39.95 pbk.
9780398092092 $39.95 ebook

Synopsis: The central idea of this book is that blindness itself results in no particular social arrangement as a cultural pattern. People are socialized to expect ideas about appropriate behavior for blind people and these vary from culture to culture. The descriptions of blindness in several different cultures are the authors' firsthand observations as outsiders visiting different cultures interviewing individuals, as well as extensive reviewing of written sources. The text describes different perspectives regarding blindness and the social arrangements created for and by blind people. The viewpoints of blind people themselves receive prominent attention in the book. The text is critical in its perspective. Its purpose is to analyze patterns of domination and subordination as they take various forms in different cultures, including physical condition.

Major discussions include: Why study rehabilitation and blindness from a cross-cultural perspective; Cultural perspectives on blindness; Producing new images about blindness; Blindness in the United States - From isolation to full inclusion; Blindness is Africa; Blind people in the Middle Kingdom and the People's Republic of China; Spain's unique Organizacion Nacional de Ciegos Espanoles; and the Changing culture of blindness around the world.

The book strives to contribute to the social sciences and the study of behavior that is considered deviant or different. It also seeks to stimulate interest in cross-national and cross-cultural studies of blindness, and contributes to the development of a broader and richer understanding about blindness for those who provide education, rehabilitation, and employment services. Finally, the book strives to aid blind people who are reflective about their own situation and who are working to make it better.

Critique: Now in an updated second edition, Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness: Barriers to Community Integration is an in-depth, scholarly analysis that scrutinizes blindness in the United States, Africa, China, Spain, and more. Those who provide education, rehabilitation, and employment services to blind individuals will find Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness especially enlightening and invaluable. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness is also available in an ebook edition.

Sustainable Negotiation
Eliane Karsaklian
Emerald Publishing Limited
9781787145764 $48.00 hc / $48.00 Kindle

Synopsis: This new and innovative book introduces a new approach to negotiation, where 'Sustainable Negotiation' replaces the old notion of winning. Instead of 'doing a deal' and walking away, negotiation becomes a continuous process of solving problems and creating relationships with no term limits, which better reflects the real world today. Just as we strive to create a sustainable approach to the natural world, we need to do the same with people if we want to keep working together and building a more harmonious business world.

The book borrows from the field of physics to make the case that negotiators need to know what is not visible so they can explain what is visible. This alignment gives negotiators the tools to think differently about what they see, helping them to look beyond traditional negotiation techniques and to develop a forward-thinking and sustainable approach to business. Written by a leading international negotiation expert, Sustainable Negotiation introduces a completely new perspective on international negotiation, providing practical, field-tested examples, experiments and guidance to enable readers to implement sustainable negotiation in the real world.

Critique: A balance of concepts vital to business, science, and especially international politics, Sustainable Negotiation: What Physics Can Teach Us about International Negotiation offers a fresh perspective on international relations, with a focus on solving problems and creating sustainable ties. In the modern era of economic and military posturing, the ideas and guidelines of Sustainable Negotiation are more desperately needed than ever. Sustainable Negotiation is a "must-read" for anyone interested in international business or politics, and highly recommended for both public and college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Sustainable Negotiation is also available in a Kindle edition ($48.00).

The Body Deva
Mary Mueller Shutan
Findhorn Press
9781844097456, $16.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: A step-by-step guide to accessing the body deva, your body consciousness, for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing, "The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body" by acupuncturist, herbalist, craniosacral therapist, zero balancer, and spiritual healer Mary Mueller Shutan details how to dialogue with the consciousness of your body to heal a variety of issues, from physical pains to limiting beliefs; explains how our bodies, consciousness, and spirit are interconnected and how our physical bodies hold emotions and past traumas; and explores how to work with the body deva to heal spiritual patterns through the physical body, including techniques of ancestral healing, past life healing, and karmic resolution

"The Body Deva" advocates that: We are not our pain or our disease, nor are we defined by our limitations, restrictions, or the labels given to us; We are a whole body, a consciousness, and a spiritual being; and as a holistic, interconnected being, our emotions, beliefs, physical pain, past traumas, and even imbalances created through spiritual issues are held within our physical form. By accessing them through the physical body with the body deva (the spiritual consciousness of our human body) we can heal the continuum of mind, body, and spirit. Understanding this is the true key to healing.

Essential a step-by-step instructional guide to understanding and working with the body deva, the consciousness of your body, "The Body Deva" deftly explains how our bodies hold the traumatic energies, emotions, physical issues, and restricting beliefs that cause us pain and feelings of disconnection.

By learning to dialogue with the body deva, we can understand who we are on the deepest levels. We can learn why our pain and imbalances came to be and what lies unhealed within use. The promise of "The Body Deva" is that we can evolve beyond the limitations and restrictions in our body and our life and evolve into greater health, connection, joy, and consciousness.

Critique: Impressively well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body" is an extraordinary and especially life-enhancing read, and one that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Spirituality and Healing instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Body Deva" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Women Who Dig
Trina Moyles, author
KJ Dakin, photographer
University of Regina Press
9780889775275, $27.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: Weaving together the narratives of female farmers from across three continents, "Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World" by freelance writer, journalist, photographer, human rights activist, and community organizer Trina Moyles offers a critical look at how women are responding to and, increasingly, rising up against, the injustices of the global food system.

Beautifully written with spectacular photos by KJ Dakin, "Women Who Dig" deftly examines gender roles, access to land, domestic violence, maternal health, political and economic marginalization, and a rapidly changing climate. It also shows the power of collective action.

With women from Guatemala, Nicaragua, the United States, Canada, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Cuba included, "Women Who Dig" explores the ways women are responding to, as both individuals and in groups, the barriers they face in providing the world a healthy diet.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative work of seminal scholarship, "Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Introduction and a three page listing of References. A sterling work that would be of interest to personal, community, and academic library Gardening, Women's Studies, or Photojournalism collections, "Women Who Dig" is a unique and compelling read that will be of immense and continuing interest for both academia and non-specialist general readers alike.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Death's White Horses
Marc Rainer
ASIN: B00J9HKS6Q $11.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Death's White Horses returns federal prosecutor Jeff Trask to the limelight of yet another investigation; and while prior fans may wonder what could follow and possibly top his prior death-defying experiences (facing a serial killer and a gang), Death's White Horses ups the ante in a challenge involving a series of attacks on his team by a ruthless drug cartel that refuses to be stopped.

Based on real-life events surrounding Mexico's cartel wars, Death's White Horses provides a timely consideration of border skirmishes, drug trafficking across the U.S. border, and underlying issues of justice, ethics, and moral challenges; creating a fast-paced, moving story that centers as much upon fundamental law enforcement and prosecution issues as on physical confrontation.

This element adds an intellectual approach to the usual crime story and creates a depth that invites leisure readers to think beyond the thriller story surrounding Jeff Trask and his team's challenges.

There is a big difference between contrived concepts of 'war' and actual crimes big and small, as Marc Rainer points out in his tale. Under certain circumstances, police actions and war can merge purposes. Actual Mexican politics and social struggles are woven into the story line, giving it both a refreshing and a realistic perspective as Jeff Trask and his team face revolutionary heroes, military might, changing rules of engagement, and the impact of historical precedent on modern-day actions and reactions.

With drugs and their marketing at the center of this engrossing drama, readers are thus treated to an entertaining thriller packed with action and a thought-provoking series of encounters on both sides of the border. They will find Death's White Horses an unusual blend of political, social, and legal commentary in a thriller that leaves readers thinking long past the saga's long road to justice.

Death's White Horses is highly recommended reading for those who like their thrillers based in reality and steeped in issues that reflect real-world conundrums, with action moving from courtroom to streets at not a staccato pace, but swiftly enough to capture attention and allow time for reflection along the way.

Eritis: The Silver Strand Legacy
T.E. Stouyer
T.E. Stouyer, Publisher
9781999964917 $0.99 Kindle/$9.99 Paper

Eritis: The Silver Strand Legacy introduces ex-soldier Nate Kincade, who faces years in a military prison until a mysterious benefactor gets all charges dismissed in exchange for his help tracking down a group of renegade scientists.

The job sounds simple and right up Nate's alley; but Kincade and his team know that being a mercenary is not about tackling cut-and-dried assignments. As the situation becomes complicated with a Berlin female detective's case which hits too close to home and a killer on the loose which draws an international force together, tension mounts.

Fans of thrillers who enjoy stories where detective investigations become entwined with international intrigue will relish the many characters and complex story of Eritis: The Silver Strand Legacy.

Nate's increasing concern about keeping his team out of prison blends with the story of a bigger case and a larger prize than he'd anticipated; with more at stake than either prison or freedom.

Readers will be caught up in the swift action of this fast-paced thriller as they careen towards a precipice of crime organizations and villains and mercenaries in over their heads.

The nonstop action and complex subplots keep Eritis: The Silver Strand Legacy charging to its unexpected conclusion, which will delight those who like their thrillers laced with detective-style intrigue.

Odette's Song
A.G. Russo
Red Skye Press
9780990710233 $3.99

Odette's Song: Music is Life is a song of tribute, opening with an introduction that captures the story's lyrical blend of autobiographical reflection and life: "My father had two obsessions: music and my mother. They were so bound together that her voice was the soundtrack of his youth. I was six years old the first time I saw him."

From this, one might expect the novel to follow a child's evolving relationship with his parents; but protagonist Nico is 38 years old, an abject failure in life, admits to having hurt his mother multiple times with his venture into drugs, and is facing both his loved one's death and the custody of Hunter, Odette's love child.

Nico is an often-irresponsible musician: what is he going to do with a six-year-old? His response to the possibility that he have a committed relationship with Odette's real legacy is stark: "I'm halfway to hell now; that'll send me all the way there."

Nico's relationship with the deceased Odette was fire and ice, with music binding them together against all odds. What possible connection can he make with her child that, to him, represents a lost cause; much as he views himself?

Odette's song continues in her progeny as Nico faces a new career and possibilities that clash with his innate misery as a musician walking on the darker side of life. A judge will ultimately determine Hunter's fate. Will Nico become organized enough to allow Hunter into his life? Ultimately, it all boils down to Nico's honesty with both himself and the impact of Odette's legacy.

Odette's Song is about growing up, responsibility, a lost child facing two very different families, and a savvy judge's ability to see through two very different personas to act in the interests of all. It juxtaposes legal proceedings with psychological revelations that lead to transformation, but offers no pat, cut-and-dry answers.

Nico must work through many things; not the least of which is his own ability to follow through on commitments to be responsible for another's life. As readers absorb the impact of Odette's Song and its family-driven messages, they will especially appreciate A.G. Russo's attention to building a story that is complex and embraces the extent and results of jealousy, betrayal, and interconnected lives.

Readers who enjoy stories of family struggles and connections will relish Odette's Song for its realistic grasp on the basics of life and meaningful relationships, and for insights that move beyond courtroom drama and into the psyches of all involved.

Character Building: A Musical
Adapted by Martin Blank from talks by Booker T. Washington
American Ensemble Books
9780692091562 $6.95

Character Building is a one-man musical adapted from Dr. Washington's inspirational talks to his students at Tuskegee University and comes not only from his own words, but from his method of blending Afro-American spirituals into his speeches.

This play, adapted and directed by author Martin Blank, premiered at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington, D.C. on February 3, 2018, is set in 1899, and captures not just the words of Dr. Washington, but the circumstances of his life, the evolution of his mission, and the impact of his informal talks to students, which were designed to encourage and build character.

Couched within this musical and admonitions from the good doctor are keys to dealing with life and adjusting one's approach to and direction within it: "We all know there are people who only see the dark side. Everything they say is unpleasant. I have actually seen people coming up the road who caused me to want to cross to the other side. One of the ways in which people are likely to go astray is to spend their time with persons who have mean and low dispositions."

Without the musical notes added, Dr. Washington's words would have been heavy indeed; but Martin Blank's attention to juxtaposing the seriousness of their meaning with spirituals such as "I Cannot Tarry Here" and "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder" lends not only an upbeat tone to these insights, but captures the culture and flavor of Afro-American lives.

The play's format lends to a drama production's usage, but the spiritual and psychological insights assume an especially hard-hitting flavor couched in a story of self-discovery and how to live a meaningful life.

The result is a production that should be high on the lists of any drama class seeking to capture the spirit and enthusiasm of Afro-American lives in general and the historic impact of Dr. Booker T. Washington in particular; well-done and already seasoned with a purposeful impact strengthened by the choice of music throughout.

The Nanny Song
Misty Mount
Between the Lines Publishing
9780999655672 (Paper) $14.95
9780999655696 (digital)

The Nanny Song presents twenty-two-year-old Mallory Riscoe, whose younger years have been ones of chaos, but who finally seems to have overcome these negative influences until she finds herself falsely accused of theft and is fired from her job.

Brandon Colt is in a very different situation: his wife has died and he struggles with his children, grief, and some closely-held secrets. When Mallory accepts the job of nanny to his kids and moves in, two very different individuals find their lives on a collision course.

Bad behaviors, bratty children, and adults struggling to put their lives together coalesce in the course of The Nanny Song, which creates a satisfying portrait of two people struggling in different ways with responsibilities to themselves and those around them.

One important note is that the characters are tackling both their personal issues and those which spill out into the wider world and upon each other; and this makes for realistic scenarios and encounters that paint no single individual as a stable force with all the answers to life.

Mallory's new job as nanny is not a piece of cake. She's continually facing challenges to her abilities and authority on many levels, and her interactions with the kids and Brandon are both realistic and absorbing, spiced with the addition of a mystery that lends additional depth and detail to the story line.

Equally notable is the fact that emotions are explored on all sides; not just Mallory and Brandon's feelings. Kids receive their own moments in the spotlight during the story, as well: "Brendan looked to Mallory as if he wanted her to fill in the blanks. She knew she should tell him the truth about what Kason had confessed to her, but she wasn't sure if this moment, right in front of the poor, sullen boy, was the time to do it. "That's what he told me as well when I picked him up from school." Kason showed almost tangible relief, thinking the nanny was going to keep his secret."

Mallory becomes involved in cleaning up situations between Brandon, his mother, and his children; but also in her own life and her approach to her future. Almost predictably, romance is in the wind; but this seems almost an afterthought to the broader story of disparate individuals, kids, and lives coming together in unexpected new ways to change everyone involved.

From the warm, sugary scent of pop tarts and a nanny's role in a lively household to evolving family relationships and connections and Mallory's growing commitment beyond work responsibilities to this crazy family in chaos, The Nanny Song creates a tumultuous story of change and pays close attention to the perceptions of adults and children alike. It's highly recommended for readers who want a lively story of dysfunction, healing, and evolving love.

Quickstart Guide to Songwriting
Randy Klein
9781524698492 (sc) $24.99
9781524698508 (e) $10.99

Quickstart Guide to Songwriting is especially recommended for those who have a song in mind, but lack the technical training to translate it to music. Typically, these would-be songwriters either work with a musician or never see their song to fruition; but Quickstart Guide to Songwriting offers an alternative path to making one's mental music become reality.

First comes an introductory reference chart providing music sample links to online examples that teach basics about tempo, chorus, variations in verse lines, and give pointers about songs that work and styles that lack. Then Randy Klein addresses the common barriers non-musicians face in translating their song to music, which range from ignorance about the parts of a song and what constitutes a song to the lack of any prior musical education and discussion on what subjects can become songs.

At each step, Klein offers much support in the way of tips ("It is not uncommon to write the hook first, then the chorus and then the verse. This happens because when writing a song, the feeling of what the song is about usually emerges first."), step-by-step exercises, clues to composing lyrics and feeling beats, and a basic understanding of how melody, harmony and rhythm work together.

As non-musicians absorb these fundamentals in a supportive environment that assumes no prior knowledge, they'll come to the point where they can learn from listening to other songs, reading others' lyrics and identifying what makes an effective song. The musical online links throughout reinforce this knowledge with concrete auditory examples of a wide range of styles and approaches.

The result is a solid primer that takes the non-musician to the status of songwriter without need for any prior musical training: a boon to those who already like music and who have an idea, but need the nuts and bolts of education provided in this simple, supportive, highly recommended guide.

Solange Ritchie
Stony Hill Publishers
9781947835030 $15.99

Firestorm sees Dr. "Cat" Powers return to again confront a threat to her young son by one Eric, who has found a companion killer to share his penchant for torturing women. But a serial killer's return isn't all that's going on in Firestorm: Eric's passion for punishment is conducted against the backdrop of wildfires which ravage southern California, the ongoing issues of sexual harassment in the workplace, Cat's conflict in priorities between her job and her child, and the ongoing psychological impact of son Joey's kidnapping a year ago.

Is it a coincidence that a killer's work and an arsonist's hand are threatening to change the landscape of her beloved Southern California home? Cat is determined to obtain justice at all costs and save everything she loves in the process.

As heartbreak leads to David's firestorm responses and his desire to, like Eric, be in control all the time (especially over women), one deadly force becomes two people who wield destruction over not just women but their environments, controlling and manipulating it with a dangerously deft hand. Cat wonders when it is all going to end. The bodies keep piling up as she spins her wheels.

While attention to detail provides exquisite tension and riveting moments, the real strength in Firestorm lies not just in the investigative process or progression of events, but in the methodical way Solange Ritchie enters the mind of a killer, exposing his thoughts about women and his mentor's influence.

Cat got into forensic pathology to give voice to victims by telling the stories of the dead. She will avenge their deaths and fights to expose the truth. But in this case, she's exposing truths about the killer's psyche as much as her own motivations and life; and Ritche's attention to exposing the details in her process create a delightfully complex read.

Readers who want an investigative process steeped in psychological insights and breaks in logic and reason will relish Firestorm's ability to touch upon the deeper passions in character hearts and minds. Ultimately, it is these emotional connections which drive the superior story line, and which add the dimension of compelling interest that makes Firestorm a memorable and thoroughly engrossing murder mystery read.

The Last Straw
Ed Duncan
9781973444008 $10.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

The Last Straw provides thriller fans with the powerful story of teen Sandra, who witnesses a carjacking and murder and faces a crime boss who targets her; and black lawyer Paul Elliott, who has been accused more than once that he "...never seems to have any sympathy for the victim" in his cases.

His latest case not only challenges that perception, but immerses him in the dilemma of a young girl's life and the law enforcement and legal processes charged with keeping her safe against all odds.

One of the strengths of The Last Straw lies in the fact that Ed Duncan focuses on the psyches of all the characters, revealing their motivations, truths, lies, and belief systems as the story progresses: "She accepted his account of what happened because she desperately wanted and needed to believe him. She told herself that she could not have raised a murderer. Because that was not an option, he had to be telling the truth, or at least some version of it."

This creates reader sympathy towards all the characters as they interact, clash, and embark on bumpy rides towards inevitable confrontations and life-changing choices.

Rico is a hit man charged with keeping his personal feelings out of his job; but that rapidly changes as he's faced with attacks on those around him: "Although outwardly calm, he was still furious. In his business projecting a calm exterior wasn't enough. To be at the top of his game, he had to rein in his emotions completely. It didn't matter that this was personal. In order to do what he needed to do, he had to regain his detachment, something he seldom lost."

These two very different men, Rico and Paul, seem polar opposites in many ways; but each is charged with distancing themselves from the often-wrenching truths about their very different professions. When they tangle, justice and truth run headlong into danger and a convoluted murder plot that threatens them both.

The Last Straw is the second book in the 'Pigeon-Blood Red' series. The first has not been read by this reviewer. No prior familiarity with the first book is required in order to easily absorb and become immersed in the ethical dilemmas of the two main characters in this second thriller.

Realistic characters, suspenseful action, twists and turns that prove satisfyingly unpredictable, and an attention to creating full-faceted characters (whether they be women or men, victims or investigators, or hitmen) lends to an absorbing read highly recommended for those who like their thrillers complex and their characters fully developed.

Those Three Words
Christine Bauer
Independently Published

Those Three Words: A Birthmother's Story of Choice, Chance, and Motherhood opens in a drugstore in 1984, where the then-18-year-old author contemplates her purchase of pain medication and sleeping pills towards the goal of suicide.

Pregnant and desperate for a permanent resolution to her dilemma that offers a guaranteed way out for all involved, Christine Bauer was not prepared to make the choice that would lead to motherhood and a hard turn in life that changed not only her dreams, but who she was: "In just a few weeks I had tumbled from straddling the high board of life to lying at the bottom of the pool. Just last week I was a freshman in love with my friends and my new life. Now, I sat here wondering how many sleeping pills I should take to end my life."

Christina can't stand the thought of disappointing her parents, either way. Her quandary is clearly presented in a birth story that represents a journey from the depths of despair to the growing realization that life is offering her a different couse than she'd ever anticipated, derailing her dreams but replacing them with new ones.

Suddenly she is a pregnant, teenage Catholic living among Mormans, where she feels like a fish out of water: "A Mormon woman's greatest career is motherhood. To them, I would be an anomaly, a freak...I was just so different from them. They were married. I was single. They were in their twenties and thirties; I had just turned nineteen. They were happy and excited to be expecting babies. I was sad and terrified of my pregnancy. They were thinking about how fun it would be to bring their newborns home. I was agonizing over the thought of handing my newborn over to strangers."

Her process of finding the right family for her baby - not just any family; but one that is giving, loving, stable, and who will instill the love of learning Christine has enjoyed all her life - and her quest to support the most important decision of her life makes for a riveting account.

Bauer's writing is personal, absorbing, and fully captures these pivot points that stemmed from an unintended pregnancy and its lasting impact on her and her entire family. As Christine Bauer's family makes changes, she enters into motherhood and years of its aftermath with an attention to self-forgiveness and fixing the mistakes in her life.

Any pregnant teen who has faced these same questions and options, and any reader interested in the types of changes that lead Christine to other paths in motherhood and parenting, will find Those Three Words a gripping autobiography that examines not just one young woman's individual journey, but its lasting joys and sorrows.

Surrendering to Joy
Suzanne Falter
Love & Happiness Publishing, LLC
9780991124800 $11.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Suzanne Falter had no advance warning that her healthy 22-year-old daughter would collapse suddenly one night with cardiac arrest, to die six days later. Surrendering to Joy: My Year of Love, Letting Go and Forgiveness delves deeply into the events of six days which changed the author's life; and those who read this spiritual story of letting go and finding joy will find much to relish as they follow her process.

Surrendering to Joy comes with many cautions about the barriers and successes to finding and celebrating joy in life. These range from an addiction to the rush gained from drama to understanding the meaning and impact of gratitude, remaining unaware and uncommitted to spiritual facets in life, and learning how forgiveness is connected to rebirth.

By now, it should be obvious that Surrendering to Joy requires a certain level of self-inspection and spiritual, philosophical, and psychological reflection that may prove daunting to those who would not inspect their own lives too closely.

As readers pursue three different essays; each of which delves into spiritual realms, they will find that the autobiographical revelations include a set of guideposts to life-changing attitudes and approaches useful under any circumstance; but especially relevant to those whose lives are in flux.

Initially, one may question how the worst experience of all - the death of a child - could lead to a life-affirming result; but as Falter reveals her own journey and connects it to choices and revelations that resulted in not just growth, but transformation, readers will learn how these changes take place, and how recognizing and rejecting old patterns leads to a different level of awareness.

Falter's blend of her own experiences and background and how she moved beyond loss adds a philosophical note to her work that is usually not seen in stories of loss and recovery: "Within the great matrix of human understanding, we are given exactly those conditions we need to thrive - even if that thriving means we must spend a significant part of our life in pain."

The result is inspiring, accessible, and thought-provoking, highly recommended for anyone who wants to move beyond acceptance and into the kind of rebirth that promises a joyful life.

We Need a Movement
John Jensen
9781977510105 $13.00

We Need a Movement: Four Problems To Solve To Restore Rational Government offers a blueprint and strategy for effecting social change, and is recommended reading for those interested in how the entire American social system can be changed.

This sounds like a lofty, impossible goal. The wheels of change move slowly and sometimes not at all; and opposing forces that would change nothing rather than benefit all seem insurmountable at times.

John Jensen addresses some important underlying issues in his treatise; from the definition and presence of 'selfish power' in social and political circles to the limiting effects of negative attitudes and thinking, which cause entrenched values and processes to remain in place at personal, social, and political stratus of society.

From problems with traditional organizational structures and how planners can change them to personalizing the group experience and helping volunteers move into leadership roles in group sizes that lend to learning and accepting responsibility, chapters teach the basics of group strategies and designs that effect real change. A valuable theme of the book addresses a pervasive social problem: how people can communicate better with others who disagree with them.

Some of Jensen's admonitions may seem simplistic on the surface ("Thousands of organizations plateau because they do not convey their ideas person to person. To a receptive individual who might inspire a thousand others, can you deliver your plan for changing the world? If not, start there. Learn how to change society and explain it to everyone who will listen. Ask for what you want."), but they are thoroughly grounded in step-by-step tasks designed to move from individual to group strengths.

The need for a movement established, the meat of this title lies in the 'how', making it a powerful choice for activists who would effect real change not just in society, but in the individual ways that they perceive and approach the world.

In An Empty Room: A Novel
Stephen Spotte
Open Books
9781948598002 $16.95

Ordering links:

An explosion in Vietnam devastates a Marine fireteam sent to a village to investigate the possibility of a bomb depot's presence there. Only one of the five-man unit survives. Grossly disfigured, who is he? Burned beyond recognition, suffering from amnesia, and unable to speak, he has no more insight than anyone around him. But people back home in West Virginia are convinced they know, and a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

At first glance, In An Empty Room seems like another Vietnam survivor story, but take a closer look. Think Johnny Got His Gun, another tale of war's deadly impact on those who live through it, then add an introduction which begins with chapter profiles of the perspectives of the five original men who contemplate what constitutes humanity, lends credence and value to their lives, and has led to their mission in Vietnam.

Passages are packed with reflections on not just their participation in Vietnam, but the elements of war which contribute to their humanity or inhumanity ("All wars are us against them, the sanctified and blessed against the unholy and damned, the civilized against the wogs and barbarians. We demonize our enemy, making him less human than ourselves so we can kill him without guilt."), the impact of weaponry that increasingly distances the killer from the humans he kills ("With each step in the evolution of weapons the simultaneous expansion of behavioral space allowed killing to occur at increasingly greater distances while remaining extensions of us as part of the body schema."), and the effects of distancing oneself from body and mind over the ability to kill and survive ("If the illusion is all-encompassing then so are discomfort and pain, guilt and sorrow and delight, the fear of dying so excruciating as to seem transcendent, like a fleeting synesthesia arising from the foul odor of a dream.").

After introductory chapters provide biographical sketches and philosophical reflections, In An Empty Room takes an even darker turn in Part Two, revealing a coal mining camp where the unlucky amnesiac survivor has returned to a putative home he can't recall. A host of other characters receive their own chapters summarizing their lives, hopes, and dreams.

By now it should be evident that In An Empty Room, though comparable in some ways to Johnny Got His Gun, doesn't begin and end with one man's broken body and isolation, but embraces other lives and perceptions of life's meaning and challenges in the face of war and peace. Those expecting yet another singular Vietnam War soldier's experience will be in for a surprise, because as much takes place at home in the small West Virginia coal mining town as it does before and after the explosion changes everything.

Each character's perspective adds a philosophical, moral, and ethical inspection to life's processes. This means that readers expecting an adventure-packed Vietnam War saga should look elsewhere. The adventure here lies just as much in inner space and psychological development as it does in the series of events that lead the protagonist far from his life-changing Vietnam encounter.

The result is a powerful and highly recommended story of a man broken and changed, the world he returns to, and a series of characters who enter his life to change it forever, exploring the theme of disruption from cultural, ethical, military and psychological perspectives through the eyes and hearts of myriad characters.

Zoonauts II: The China Adventure
Richard Mueller
Privately Published

The 'Zoonauts' are fictional animal characters created by David Simmons to portray NASA's project of sending animals into space; but in Richard Mueller's series, they have gained extraordinary intelligence. Middle grade readers ages 8-13 are in for a treat with this second book in the Zoonauts adventure, because The China Adventure is a rollicking story of an alien pilot scout ship in China that runs into difficulty, and newly intelligent pandas who quickly develop a nose for trouble.

Animalville and its residents have been mutated by aliens during their space adventure in the prior book; and are heroes in this sequel, which traces adventures surrounding the Chinese capture of two aliens in Shanghai.

Humor is a constant stream that runs through the story line, with all adult concepts explained for middle grade readers: "As Laika and Dr. Tom neared the Bar-Be-Cue, they could hear the voices of the animals raised in an argument. "Sometime it sounds like 'Animal Farm'," said Laika sourly. The reference was to George Orwell's book about animals who take over a farm and make things worse than their human caretakers. "Well, yes, but a much nicer version of it," said Dr. Tom."

When the Animalville residents discover the Chinese capture, and learn that pandas have been let loose on Shanghai's streets in the process, they decide to lend paws and claws to help. So begins a journey not only to confront aliens and thwart an invasion, but to help Animalville's fellow creatures.

Facts about the Chinese space program ("The Chinese prepared to carry their space travelers into orbit. China launched a series of four Shenzhou unmanned tests. Shenzhou 1 went into space on November 19, 1999. It made 14 orbits around Earth and carried a dummy pilot, experimental seeds, commemorative stamps, and national flags. It landed the next day in Inner Mongolia.") intersect with the fantasy adventure tale of a panda inadvertently altered by the Amadorian mutagenic ray that is used on it by mistake. Fun drawings pepper the story and embellish events, bringing animals and people to life.

This supports the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) educational program by blending a creative fictional story with a healthy sprinkling of nonfiction facts about the Chinese space program.

The tongue-and-cheek humor that runs through the story line may be beyond some middle grade readers; but most will appreciate the fun references and action laced with comments, observations, and ironies (such as a trashy alien spacecraft). Between aliens that masquerade as Lucky Dragons (and who already have a history of being defeated as dragons in human early history), intelligent animals that are determined to save the day, and two savvy homeschooled kids who want to help, The China Adventure excels in nonstop action and satisfying twists of plot that are fairly easy to follow.

The result is a zany, fun, unique story that will appeal to kids who relish humor and tales that incorporate alien invasion, pandas, and Chinese space history.

Serdar Aydemir
Privately Published
ISBN: 9780999443804 $7.99
ASIN: B07BBCR7MR $2.99

Halorum is a "mighty city that stands in the center of the defended kingdom." It is a holy kingdom guided by knights and gods, and its latest mission is to eliminate the forces of darkness from its borders; for within this world lies Possessed, intruders, threats to the royalty who oversee the city's safety, and an impossible quest.

Fans of sword and sorcery fantasy will find Halorum a fast-paced story of struggle and medieval-style battles between forces of good and evil. The clashes take place not only between kingdoms and regions, but between living and undead, demons and humans, and creatures that lie somewhere in between.

In addition to epic battles, there is a dash of romance, good characterization, and insights into the social, political, and spiritual forces that affect the kingdom's ordinary citizens: "Our kingdom runs vast, our hearts run deep, and by the love of the Gods our lives run long." The citizens praised his words. "But the Gods do not hear our love. They do not hear the beating of our hearts and the words from our mouths. And for this we are feeling the wrath of the demons within us all."

Against this backdrop a story evolves that portends of prophecy, death threats, a king perceived as hiding behind his kingdom, necromancers aided by the possessed, and the woman Paulira, whose actions change the balance of power and everything she touches.

Readers seeking an epic sword-and-sorcery fantasy packed with action, powerful women, and a city built on the foundation belief that the Halorum Knights are their Gods will find Halorum an invigorating read that gallops through action and confrontation like a man possessed, weaving in subplots that ultimately comment on the roots of faith, belief, and dedication against all odds.

Bollywood Invasion
Ricardo Alexanders
9781981590193 $12.99

The opening pages of Bollywood Invasion present what first appears to be an ordinary story of John Palmieri, a Brooklyn boy who is leading an average life until he's hit by a bus and awakens in another body as Raj Scindia, a prince living in India in 1958. He's suddenly wealthy, privileged, and living quite a different life from modern-day Brooklyn. Only his intense love for The Beatles has survived his transformation as he adapts to an entirely new culture and timeline; and it's that love which will lead to further changes because it's one he can't leave behind, in his old life.

Driven by the possibilities of love and making a positive impact on his world, he finds the lyrics of the Beatles continue to direct his life, even though in this incarnation, they never existed. And when his choices bring everything he loves crashing into disaster ten years later, these songs and the values they instill in his new identity may be the only thing to link the former John's persona with Raj's struggle to survive.

It would be all too easy to say that Bollywood Invasion is a timeslip novel that centers around a boy's struggle to regain his position and former world; but in actuality it's a saga of a struggle for identity that assumes a special level of complexity when two personas clash and their owner becomes lost between them.

Is he living a lie, or dreaming? Which world is real; and which is his choice? As Raj becomes the incarnation of John Lennon in another place and time, bringing the messages of his future self into the past where they are received and interpreted with much enthusiasm and gusto, he also faces many conundrums, such as two women who love him and the dilemma of one of them being promised to another.

His reincarnation of the music of the 'Beetos' in this timestream leads to many changes as Ricardo Alexanders provides a satisfying focus on love, fame, complicated situations, and the values of Indian girls and the men who pursue them.

The result is a complex and vivid story that leads Raj/John around the world and across time, probing the unexpected consequences of coming full circle with a story that challenges not only the protagonist's true identity, but the circumstances surrounding John Lennon's life, death, and own incongruities ("You wrote songs imagining no possessions but have millions of dollars and properties everywhere.").

Readers looking for timeslip sagas that go beyond the usual focus on finding a way back to finding the path to one's identity will relish the very different perspectives that make Bollywood Invasion an engrossing saga that excels in unexpected turns of plot.

The Gifts of Acceptance
Daniel A. Miller
Ebb and Flow Press
9780982893050 $14.95

The Gifts of Acceptance: Embracing People and Things as They Are offers a pointed perspective admonishing readers that life would be much improved if people accepted situations, other people, and life; and didn't spend so much time wishing things were different.

Author Daniel A. Miller well knows what he is talking about. Once he was a controlling person who not only wished things were different, but spent much time and energy assuring that people and situations changed the way he wanted. As his experiences in life prompted him to reconsider its direction, he became educated on the concept of acceptance, its value, and the realities of adjusting to negative and positive changes alike.

His own experiences blend with other case histories, unexpected humor, and tips on how readers can acknowledge and practice habits which involve giving up control and a good deal of belief in one's personal power in favor of an approach to life that encourages reconciliation over conflict.

Chapters are very clear in their approaches to potentially complex, confusing subjects; from how to accept losses brought about by change to facing conflicting perspectives, actions, and negative forces in life. This is where many titles about acceptance bog down: in providing the specifics of how to handle degrading behaviors, toxic individuals, and social and political forces well beyond individual influence.

The common challenges to acceptance, from one's parents to setbacks and failure, are each profiled in chapters that use case histories and author experiences to illustrate the predicament and the contrast between controlling and accepting behavior patterns.

The result is an informational title packed with strategies, tools, and tips for negotiating ups and downs with a new paradigm for living a better life.

Caught in a Web
Joseph Lewis
Black Rose Writing
9781684330249 $20.95

Caught in a Web is a detective piece revolving around drugs, gangs, and deception; and considers the investigations and actions of sheriff detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O'Connor, and Paul Eiselmann, who find themselves in over their heads.

It should be noted that the story opens with violence against teens. Detective story enthusiasts who are queasy about the prospect of drugs, teens, and death might wish to look elsewhere, because no punches are pulled in the making of Caught in a Web. That said, the descriptions are in keeping with the serious events and in no way are over-dramatized or over-embellished.

As the bodies of middle school and high school kids who have overdosed mount, the race is on to quash a violent gang from El Salvador and, specifically, gang leader Ricardo Fuentes, who is sent to find out what gang is cutting in on their territory. He also harbors a motive for personal revenge that involves locating and killing fifteen-year-old George Tokay, who murdered his cousin.

Having multiple subplots proffers a level of complexity not usually seen in detective stories. Characters often question if they are doing the right thing, are often caught between cops and bad guys, and teens explore their emotions and relationships against the backdrop of threats and murders.

As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution where characters may fudge on honesty, but tie up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into a story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.

In Search of Lost Lives
Michael Goddart
Clear Path Press
Paperback ISBN: 9781944037833 $26.95
Hardcover ISBN: 9781944037840 $38.95
eBook ISBN: 9781944037857 $ 9.99

In Search of Lost Lives comes from an author born into a non-religious family, who began trying to connect to God at the age of eleven, dedicating his life " finding a way to conquer death and achieve immortality with a consciousness of absolute bliss." Driven by a desire to connect with God on a different level than most religions offer, and by a search for not just the meaning behind past lives but evidence of those who lived them, Michael Goddart uncovered his own past lives, which explained many of his talents and special abilities.

In Search of Lost Lives details this journey and requires only an acceptance of the concept of reincarnation in order to prove accessible and appealing.

Chapters chart the search as much as the discoveries Goddart made, and this is one facet which sets his account apart from other reincarnation books which would focus on the end results over the process of recovering lost lives.

The meat of the story lies in original journal entries written from March 15, 2013 to October 16, 2015. There is a purpose to which lives Goddart chooses to profile, here: "The lives I focus on are those in which I experienced definite spiritual evolution. Lives are also portrayed in which I committed a hurtful act that resulted in a subsequent life as an animal or a sojourn between lives in a state of reformation."

This selective highlighting allows for a special process of connecting past life lessons to present incarnation purposes, providing readers with at least partial answers to the universal questions of who we are, why we are here, and connections between spiritual and physical journeys through life.

As Goddart explores his past lives, readers receive important information on how his discoveries validate and affect his present-day experiences: "Recovering my past lives has been revelatory. It's been helping me feel complete and whole and connected. I feel good and relieved that I did have a childhood in Edwardian England. Actually, relieved and grateful and joyful. The puzzle is fitting together and offering pictures. It's like waking up one morning and returning to a stubborn jigsaw puzzle and finding that I can gracefully find and place key pieces so that I can see key scenes confirmed."

The saying that 'it's not just about the destination, but the journey' applies nicely to this hard-hitting blend of autobiography, spiritual reflection, and philosophical insights that take the author's probe of his past lives and connects that process to his present-day persona, experiences, and purposes.

Readers who hold a prior interest in investigative reincarnation works will relish Goddart's special attention to the significant experiences in his various lives that contribute to who he is today and also his exploration of lives that connect specific desires and actions to transmigration to subsequent human and animal lives.

In Search of Lost Lives is very highly recommended as a foundation work of spirituality that moves deftly beyond the usual past life focus to illuminate the spiritual purpose of particular past lives and the experiences and evolution that prepared Goddart to follow his current spiritual path.

Laura Bernstein Machlay
Sonder Press
Trade paperback: 9780999750100 $14.95
Ebook: 9780999750117 $7.99

The essays in Travelers have appeared in a variety of journals, from Moon City Review to CrossCurrents and The Nassau Review; but they're gathered here under one cover for the first time to transmit Laura Bernstein Machlay's prowess as a wordsmith talented in depicting different kinds of life journeys.

Take the opening 'Hitchhikers', for one example. Bernstein-Machlay's engrossing portrait of those who travel via thumb and open road is nicely developed, with a solid sense of time, place, and people: "... this was the '70s. Hitchhikers were plentiful as pennies on the ground, crowding the mouths of freeways, perched even on the side streets of Bubby and Zaidy's fraying Detroit neighborhood. The sort of hitchhikers Zaidy felt most secure stopping for - the girls dewy-skinned and too-thin, the boys with limited facial hair - wore loose, garish dashikis and tie-dyed T-shirts, bell-bottoms that flip-flapped in gentle percussion against their calves. They rose like day lilies above knee-high grasses, their thumbs pointed toward traffic, clutching signs proclaiming their destinations..."

In this story, a hitchhiker's journey to Canada to visit his brother becomes the vehicle whereby a young girl reflects on fears, freedoms, and life journeys impacted by culture and attitude: "The boy squirmed a little, shook out his arms. 'Man, you're lifesavers,' he said in a surprisingly low voice. 'It's been hours. My thumb's killing me.' I looked down and sure enough, he was vigorously massaging the fleshy portion of his palm with the non-thumbing hand. 'I was getting awful lonely out there,' he added. I nodded in commiserate feeling. Even then I understood myself to be a hitchhiker also, shuffled from my divorced mother's condo to Bubby and Zaidy's house whenever she had a hot date or wanted to let loose. I imagine the '70s as a golden time for singles and my mother was living the dream."

Travelers takes no singular approach either to the open road or the open mind. Readers should expect not a collection of cultural encounters and travelogues as much as a probe cemented by the interactions of Bubby, Zaidy, their granddaughter, and the characters who move in and out of their spheres of influence.

A young girl's observations of life and her place in it lie at the heart of these traveler's tales; whether they be insights into her place in life ("For years, forever, I've been knotted and snarled in my own bones, my voice constrained to whisper. Former fat girl, shy girl at school, duck & cover girl. Don't notice me don't notice me don't notice me has been my mantra. I wear it like a shroud."), her friendships, or family connections.

From an eight-year-old who faces a stranger in her family's car to being "...twenty-five, stupid and lost and sick somewhere in Brittany", these essays reflect journeys through life, changing times, and changing places; capturing the essence of movement and transformation in the process of uprooting and facing homelessness.

Those looking for powerful literary pieces which take the theme of travel and elevate it to physical and psychological moments in time forever captured by the written word will relish the delicate progression of Travelers as it carries readers on a vivid journey through life's potent moments of revelation and self-realization.

Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars
Edward C. Osborne

Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars: From the Washita to the Rosebud From Custer's Little Bighorn to Wounded Knee is a companion volume to Edward C. Osborne's Warrior Culture: The Indian Wars. It analyzes other Indian wars and provides information from the Washita to Wounded Knee, applying the same methodical analysis and revisionist history that made Osborne's first book so hard-hitting and controversial.

The controversy piece lies in a historical narrative which continues to challenge cultural revisionist theory and its application to traditional perspectives of the Plains Indian culture as one of peaceful roots before the arrival of the white man.

Even more important than its expansion of battle history, Warrior Culture and the Indian Wars includes a focus on the lasting modern impacts of Custer's Last Stand and the battle at Wounded Knee. It's this attention to both historical precedent and the lasting results of its interpretation on modern-day perceptions and events that makes this book so important not just to rectify historical inaccuracies and clarify cultural insights, but to trace their ongoing presence in modern-day affairs.

While the degree of scholarship and footnoted references would seem to indicate that readers should have a prior scholarly background in Native American and American history, it's important to note that descriptions, dilemmas, and insights don't require a technical background in order to prove accessible by lay readers with only a cursory familiarity with the subjects.

Osborne's observations and questions are thought-provoking and easily absorbed ("Was the Washita River a brutal massacre of peaceful Indians or was it a warranted attack against hostile raiders?"), and blend examination of primary historical source materials with a critic's eye to their various interpretations (and misinterpretations) over the years.

This attention to detail allows all readers to understand how history comes to be written, how its tenants become accepted as the norm, and the importance and limitations of secondary sources in the scholarly reconstruction of events.

It should also be pointed out that in the course of this revisionist history, Osborne makes many statements ("Today's minority groups, especially the Indians, seem to have no sympathy or compassion for white America who they see as evil incarnate. They have withdrawn into their own isolated and primitive tribal past.") that will surely encourage debate and argument among scholarly circles and especially in classroom settings; and this is a good thing. So many histories present theories and opinions as 'facts' that having a critical re-assessment allows for fresh perspective on the nature, psychological, social, political, and cultural roots of encounters between Native tribes both with each other and the white man.

Even broader-based is Osborne's contention that revisionist historical approaches, when presented in analytical detail and depth, hold value beyond the subject they are examining: "It is accurate revisionism that makes history indispensable and significant. All honest history is revisionist history because it must stand the test of time. It must endure the focused scrutiny of "new" evidence, new questions and new perspectives by researchers in the profession. Quite obviously, the integrity of the historian is the most important characteristic that he or she must possess."

Black and white vintage photos, maps, charts, and drawings illustrate characters, controversies, and events throughout, adding an important visual dimension to the analysis.

The result is an admonition to not only look at Native American culture and clashes with a new eye to past historical representation, but with an acknowledgment of how this affects present-day relationships both within Indian tribal circles and between Native Americans and whites.

Authoritative, controversial, and steeped in footnoted references and scholarship, Warrior Culture: The Indian Wars is highly recommended for any college-level reader or western history enthusiast who would re-examine events of the past and their lasting ideas in modern times.

The $20,000 T-Shirt
Devon Weaver
Eighty Orchard Publishing
9780999560006 $16.99

The $20,000 T-Shirt: Life Lessons (and Fart Stories) from the Greatest Father the World Has Ever Known is a parenting book like no other, featuring a candid assessment of a father forced to examine the life lessons he was (or was not) teaching his children.

Before this point, Devon Weaver specialized in potty humor, just like his father had. Deeper wisdom and conversations designed to reveal a sense of purpose, self, and life inspection were overlaid by a form of communication with his kids that eschewed real conversations and information in favor of shallow approaches that fell short of meaning.

The $20,000 T-Shirt is Devon's response to his shortcomings, and publishes a book originally intended to be a Christmas present just for his two children; not for the public eye. His intention is clarified in the book's introduction, and he follows through on his promise with every page: "Over the years, be sure to come back to this book. Revisit it like an old friend. Keep it close by. I plan to be in your life for many years, but now you'll always have my words and thoughts with you regardless of what happens. I have a great life, but I desperately want yours to be head and shoulders above mine. I hope this helps."

Thankfully, his effort evolved into something the wider world can appreciate, passing to his kids (and now others) what Weaver "knows to be true" about life and his place in it.

Vignettes come from Weaver's own life lessons and pair well with insights on not only what he learned from these experiences, but how they impacted his worldview; as when he explores the aftermath of getting a speeding ticket: "Being early is a sign that this event, interview, date, job, etc., is important to you. It was significant enough for you to plan your arrival well ahead of time. You didn't come rushing in 100 miles per hour to try to hit the deadline. When you're early, you can make wrong turns in the car (happens to me all the time), circle the parking lot looking for an ideal spot (yup, that's me too), and still get there in plenty of time. Look at your phone while you wait. People watch. It's easy to kill time if you must."

But Weaver doesn't limit his insights to his own life lessons: he observes how others survive and thrive and incorporates these insights into this book/letter: "In the 1980s, the Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, was once the most notorious, and richest, man in the world. The federales were always after him. Every safe house he inhabited had multiple escape routes. Normally, I wouldn't recommend taking advice from a murderous drug overlord, but don't discount their methods of survival. He persevered and thrived because he was several moves ahead of everyone else, a 3D chess master. He made his own path and played his own game. He didn't follow other cows into the slaughterhouse. And you shouldn't either."

What differentiates The $20,000 T-Shirt from other parenting or advice guides is its attention to linking the author's knowledge with bigger pictures based on a range of experiences. Specific strategies are provided, rather than generalities; and these form the heart of a powerful guide packed with solid advice that shouldn't be limited to young adult readers alone: "The key to accomplishing the gigantic is breaking it down into the teeny weeniest bite-size segments. When examining his next big thing, Seth Godin in Tools of Titans thinks, "What's the smallest possible footprint I can get away with? What is the smallest possible project that is worth my time ... because smallest is achievable." Tony Robbins has a similar approach: bring the target closer. Don't look at the end result. You'll never start. Build up your confidence with the mundane and easy. Got that. Okay. Bump up the difficulty level a tad. Then more. And more. Suddenly, after incremental improvement, you're slaying the big boss to finish the game, something inconceivable when you first started. I designed a method to keep me focused on the small, yet crucial, elements of each project. I call it the Chunky Bucket Calendar, and it has really helped me to boil down some gnarly projects into achievable portions..."

The $20,000 T-Shirt is a highly recommended pick that parents can give their teens and read together with them: a series of life lessons that are witty, chatty, revealing, and hard-hitting, all in one.

The Key of F
Jennifer Haskin
Rogue Phoenix Press
9781624202589 $4.99 ebook/$12.99 Paper

The Key of F is the first book in the Freedom Fight trilogy and introduces orphan Fale, who seeks a peaceful life after her parents are murdered. Her training with her adoptive father also directs her to become a peacekeeper, supporting her vision of leading a life that reflects the peace process.

What doesn't hold up to her goals in this fantasy saga is the turbulent environment around her which stems from sudden visions of the future, which appear on her 18th birthday to redirect her purpose in life.

At first glance The Key of F would seem to add to the teen dystopian genre with many of the trappings of better-known, similar-sounding titles involving a teen's maturity process, newfound secret powers, an evolving romance with a peer, and a confrontation with an oppressive social system. There are simply too many 'clones' of these themes in modern YA fantasy literature, these days.

But The Key of F offers many more facets than most of its genre peers: among them, a fast-paced plot filled with unpredictable changes that keeps readers on their toes; a focus on how a teen leading a normal life suddenly discovers strange new abilities and an alternative purpose to goals she's taken for granted all her life; and a series of consequences that stem from her decision to use her power to thwart death itself.

Readers who focus on the evolving romance between Fale and the charismatic yet elusive Karon may chafe at how a strong woman's newfound purpose too easily seems to be diverted into mushy cliches during the course of their relationship; but soft: The Key of F is about much more than young love. Scenes present the give-and-take of romance's realities and illusions, as in this revelation: "Fale was uneasy as his eyes narrowed. Was he trying to bait her? What happened to the sweet Keron from earlier?" which is tempered by a shy acknowledgement of her growing ability to affect another, just a paragraph later: "She loved seeing she could affect him, too. It made her feel powerful."

It's about a young woman making mistakes, recognizing her strengths, suffering from her weaknesses and some of her choices, and, yes, infatuations and maturing during the process of facing adult situations. As Fale connects with the things that make her feel powerful in her life, so readers are introduced to a rich world filled with satisfying descriptions, social and political challenges, and the story of a girl on the cusp of adulthood who is charged with not only moving into new adult circles and handling her emotions, but possibly changing the world.

The Key of F is a powerful read that will appeal to mature teens, new adults, and any fantasy reader who can accept sometimes-mushy romantic interludes as part of a young girl's maturation process.

A Summer Again
George Rothery
George Rothery, Publisher
9780999867907 $TBA

A Summer Again's 'Mister Halston' thriller takes place on an island off New Jersey, embraces romance, international intrigue, and mystery, and opens on the day a man makes a major change in his life, selling his long-held, successful business to a company that's wooed him for years. After gifting long-time and loyal employees, he's free to pursue other interests; and these revolve around a life of travel and adventure.

What Greg Halston doesn't know is that this new life also involves returning to old habits, old friends, and too-familiar patterns. And it's about to get even more complicated when he returns to one place from his past, only to find a rekindled romance and a series of events that include spying, puzzles, and self-destructive choices that are instinctual reactions.

It's a good thing Greg has left his successful business behind; because his life is getting complicated. Two women occupy his thoughts (one new; one from his past) and pose increasingly thorny romantic conundrums; he adopts the new habit of carrying a gun after a Middle Eastern foe threatens his safety; and his encounters with naval intelligence bring to mind threats from his military days. Moreover, Greg becomes involved in an operation that holds dire consequences for everyone around him, including a Russian mole.

Fans of thrillers that offer more than a light dose of romance, intrigue, and international encounters will find A Summer Again's story line robust, fast-paced, and hard to put down as Greg races towards new beginnings, dubious relationships, and a series of events destined to either come full circle or end in disaster.

Characterization and plot are strong; but it's the winding maze of intrigue that keeps readers guessing and racing alongside Greg as he uncovers answers, creating a vivid and engrossing read.

The Devil's Chaplain
Bruce Hartman
Swallow Tail Press
Trade paperback edition, 9780999756409 $12.95
Library edition, 9781987490688 $12.95

Christopher Ritter's time is almost up. He's a Death Row inmate slated for execution. His young, female, African-American attorney's only hope of staying his execution is a legal defense nearly impossible to achieve, made all the more complicated because Chris is more willing to admit his guilt in a range of matters outside of the crime he's accused of than to defend his own innocence.

What evolves in The Devil's Chaplain is more than a legal quandary or a story of justice: it's a tale of moral, ethical, and psychological challenges to individual survival and social systems; and in the course of following Christopher's convoluted logic and questionable experiences, the plot leads readers to think about the real processes of guilt, innocence, crime, and punishment.

On many levels, Christopher's case stands at the crossroads of pro-life and justice, representing the extreme edge of consequences for actions that challenge life itself. And what do Haitian refugee witnesses (people Chris is adamantly opposed to involving, even to save his life) have to do with matters?

A hornet's nest of possibilities and danger emerges as Charlotte embarks on a path that could save her client's life and stay execution, finding that the clues lead to a host of situations that, when taken together, help explain why her puzzling client is so reluctant to help her save his life.

And then, there's Charlotte's own challenges from the public as she defends someone who might be a deadly killer: "Save a life! God bless you!" one man shouted. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" yelled the puffy-haired blonde." The yin/yang of her actions and the juxtaposition of those who believe either side of the question of whether Christopher should live or die makes for engrossing passages that lead readers to consider their own values and the influences on life and death choices.

The Devil's Chaplain also provides a graphic moment-by-moment portrayal of a death row execution. On many levels, it's a read that challenges one's emotions and ethics even with the false comfort of a chaplain who is assigned to make the accused feel like a "collaborator in his own execution".

Readers of legal thrillers who like cases that are not cut-and-dried but filled with satisfying twists and much food for thought will find The Devil's Chaplain a powerfully-wrought inspection of not just legal processes, but social issues revolving around murder, redemption, punishment, and resolve. It's a thoroughly engrossing inspection that's hard to put down: a riveting story that hinges on clues so elusive that the tension is exquisitely drawn.

The Thirteen: Ashi-Niswi
Lorin R. Robinson
Open Books
9781948598057 $15.95 soft cover; $7.99 ebook

Website/Ordering Link:

The Thirteen: Ashi-Niswi centers on 13 Native American Anishinaabe teens - living in a "time before time," a world yet to be influenced by white culture. Ignoring the mandate of their elders, they embark on a mission of revenge after Dakota raiders ravage their village.

It is a solid story of native interactions - pre-white man - that captures the thoughts, sentiments and determination of this band of young men to regain - at whatever cost - the honor of their band. This work of historical fiction proves particularly delightful because there are surprisingly few native stories that take place before the white man's arrival and eventual dominance over tribal interactions and affairs.

A preface sets the foundations for the tale that takes place after the Anishinaabe (later named Ojibwe by the French), received a spiritual edict to migrate from their Atlantic coastal homeland and into unfamiliar territory - to a land where, mysteriously, "food grows upon the water." They were warned that a tribe of white-skinned people from across the ocean was coming and would destroy their way of life.

The journey, which begins after 1,000 A.D., takes many generations and is fraught with danger. When they reach the Lake Superior region - and find the wild rice that signals the end of their migration - they encounter the native Dakota (later renamed Sioux) and a long and bloody conflict results, the heart of this tale.

The narration of events by a teen, Aajim, is nicely done and offers excellent perspectives on events both immediate and viewed retrospectively from his vantage point as Akiwenzil, Old Man, teller of the story of The Thirteen. He survives into very old age because he becomes a slave to the story, expected to tell and retell it at annual tribal gatherings. His accounts of the youthful war party's trials and tribulations are vividly portrayed.

The tale is also one of Aajim's coming-of-age as he struggles to deal with the aftermath of the quest for honor and the question of honor itself: "How can killing or being killed by Dakota... restore our honor? In any case, this was not ours to do. The honorable thing for us would have been to live to become men, to live to marry and raise families, to live to work for the betterment of our band."

Readers will enjoy a close inspection of the cultural, psychological and physical landscapes of these original Americans as they struggle to fulfill their destinies and deal with philosophical questions that are as relevant today as they were then. Under Lorin R. Robinson's hand, strengthened by its foundations in historical fact, the story rings with authenticity.

The result is a moving novel recommended - because of its depictions of violence; always in taste, but ever-present - to adult readers interested in strong tales that take historical facts and weave them into the kinds of compelling stories that illustrate underlying influences on choices and actions. Wherein lies honor and meaning in life? That is the question, nicely posed and eventually answered, in a gripping adventure about cultural clashes and adaptation.

Whatever Happened to Ohio?
James Gallant
Battered Suitcase Press
ASIN: B079SZJ3VZ $3.99 Kindle

Family reunions, like weddings and funerals, often bring out the best, worst, and most bizarre behaviors in people - but not usually as bizarre as the scenario described in Whatever Happened to Ohio?, where aliens and monsters are only the start of an intergalactic romp that moves directly from altar to alternate universe.

Adding to the mayhem, there's a drug-dealing doc in bunny slippers, an Ohio Bicentennial Celebration's ragtag of odd personalities, and Debbie's funny realizations (during a yoga 'recharging' attempt) about her likely future after marriage: "Trying to empty her mind was futile. Sentences for the wedding gift thank-you notes her mother said must be completed before the wedding kept cropping up, along with the dreaded question of what work she'd be able to find in or around Neville after the honeymoon and whether she'd be able to stand it. She would enter the local work force, equipped with her split college major in film studies and creative writing - best qualified, Phil said, to write movie reviews for the Times in nearby Salem City, which didn't publish them. It wasn't really funny."

This zany story pairs small-town life with an attention to fantastic events confronting average Americans, employing a heavy hand on Ohio-centric touches that keep the action firmly grounded even as it quickly moves into fantastic arenas: "An octogenarian barbershop quartet, dapper in flat-topped straw boaters, plaid sports coats, and white buck shoes, sang for the crowd gathering on the courthouse lawn in New Jerusalem, Ohio, for the Frontier Wedding..."

The sense of humor running through the story line comes from more than aliens, adding an appealing, hilarious tone to such events as a hot air balloon traveler's encounter with airport authorities: "At eight hundred feet, he switched on the flashing red and white lights on the bottom of the gondola and made radio contact with the Indianapolis airport tower: "Am I visible to you people?" "Unfortunately, yes," said the air controller. "How soon do you plan to be invisible?" "I'm just going with the flow." "Yes. May you have a long life." Bob's jocular response was undeliverable, because his UHF radio had gone dead."

The story is 'Our Town' on steroids, because 'expect the unexpected' is one of this wacky tale's themes, and is exactly what keeps it moving in satisfyingly different directions.

The result is a very, very highly recommended read for those who love a sense of humor, irony, and wild encounters in the course of their stories: a story of small-town America that butts firmly into magic realism, laced with a wry sense of satirical observation throughout.

Your Greatest Adventure
Mande Buckmaster
Mande Buckmaster, Publisher
Trade Hardcover: 9781732056800 $16.99
Trade Paperback: 9781732056817 $7.99
Kindle Edition: 9781732056824 $2.99

Jessica Chrysler's good-sized, bright illustrations enhance the message and presentation of the picture book Your Greatest Adventure, which combines a rollicking rhyme with an exceptionally warm story of a mother and her young son's search for adventure.

All the adventures - parachuting, driving a Jeep Wrangler (nee: laundry basket) through the plains of Africa, riding in a hot-air balloon (the same basket) - are presented by a creative mother who goes about her household chores yet involves her young child in an imaginative process that takes flight in many ways and through many action-packed scenarios.

While kids and read-aloud parents will delight in the blend of real-world household matters paired with higher-level imaginative thinking, the real message lies in how parents can inject a sense of wonder into everyday affairs; even the most mundane of household chores.

Enhanced by vivid, colorful drawings and an approach that captures the essence of lively thinking, whether it be in verse, picture, or imaginary events, Your Greatest Adventure's strongest message lies in the types of creative thinking parents can employ to involve their children in imagination, future possibilities, and fun. The tale is further enhanced by a faithful dog who leaps in for a piece of the action in virtually every panel.

Your Greatest Adventure deserves special mention and recommendation. Quite simply, it's one of the most engaging, fun, cozy picture book reads of the new year, to date.

Undercover Chefs
Erin Fry
50/50 Press
9781947048140 $13.99

A baking competition attracts actual chefs, and amateurs who harbor secret dreams of being more than home cooks in Undercover Chefs. Here, a cupcake contest ensnares three disparate chef wanna-bes: a shy artist, a famous athlete, and a scooter rider with limited ambitions in life.

As the three form relationships and dance around each other and new possibilities in the culinary world, their contest moves beyond classroom and stovetop and into real life as they reassess their skills, ambitions, and each other.

On the surface, Undercover Chefs is a story about kids and changing lives; but spiced by real-world events (the author's son's life was also changed by a cupcake-baking event), it broadens and deepens into so much more. For one thing, a flavor of humor runs through the story line: "Isaac was only in sixth grade and one of the youngest runners there, but he didn't need to turn around to know he was far ahead of everybody else on the middle school team. If he pushed, he could probably break five minutes and thirty seconds. His mom would be happy. Coach would rejoice. The finish line was close. He should probably start sprinting. Instead, Isaac thought about brownies. He'd been experimenting with a new frosting for a few weeks now. He used mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and some heavy whipping cream. But something was missing. Maybe if he added a pinch of ginger. Yes, ginger. That was it!"

Whether she's describing cupcakes or emotions, Erin Fry's descriptions are deliciously precise and appealing, from the introductory descriptions of a young runner nobody can keep up with to J.C.'s responsibilities towards his younger siblings at home.

Another notable aspect of the story is how a contest throws three very different personalities together, where their interactions teach them not just about baking and competition, but about each others' very different lives. Fry's subtle descriptions are pleasing contrasts to the majority of story lines which seem to have forgotten the power of subtlety and the "show it, don't just say it" approach ("Jane smiled - slowly, like her smile had to decide if it was safe to come out.")

When The Cupcake Team faces a crisis and finds they can only rely on each other for support, the real changes and competition begins in a moving story laced with fine food, fine lines, and a close attention to psychological interactions as the three disparate kids struggle to grow up and recognize their talents.

The result is a compelling story that will prove a satisfyingly different leisure read for advanced elementary through middle school grades and beyond. Undercover Chefs is a story not just of competition and the culinary world, but how these different contestants mature and change for the better, learning how to grow into not only their skills, but their hearts.

Very highly recommended!

Finding Joy, Living an A+ Life in a C- World
Carrie Copley
Book Press Publishing
9780996761642 $3.99

First, Carolyn's life was good. Then, everything changed. Now she's stuck in defeat, trying to find her way back to the joyful world she once perceived.

Finding Joy, Living an A+ Life in a C- World is a non-fiction self-help piece about recovering self-esteem and transformative processes - but, surprisingly, the key lies as much in testing perceptions of life and purpose as it does in taking the kinds of steps that lead to recovery.

In Carolyn's case, the CEO of her company doesn't just validate her feelings: she asks two simple questions that help set Carolyn on a different path in life, and this process is revealed in Finding Joy, Living an A+ Life in a C- World.

How does one move from feeling like a victim (and having one's peers reinforce this notion) to feeling like a winner? It's the process of change which is the focus, here; and where other books would provide vague insights, Finding Joy offers the specifics missing from similar-sounding accounts.

The conversation with the CEO takes place in the second chapter: just enough time to provide setting and background. "What did you ignore? What did you not address? What did you not deal with...." These are just a few of the considerations that move Carolyn from a 'stuck' place of victimization to considering changes that make a lasting impact on her life.

The rest of the book focuses on her transformation process. While the story reads like a novel, employing the dramatic embellishments and observations of fiction, the piece is actually a nonfiction account. The questions it poses are its strongest feature; and as Carolyn faces them, so do her readers: "If I were to ask you to grade your life in all areas one year ago, what grade would you have given it?"

When the difference in a quality life lies between dreaming big and staying stuck, what are the motivators and processes for each? A powerful saga emerges that draws in readers with the feel of a fictional third-person character, yet overlays her path to happiness with lessons a broad audience can easily employ and learn from.

Very highly recommended, Finding Joy, Living an A+ Life in a C- World shows how to be extraordinary and build an exceptional life from a "grade C" environment. Self-help, psychology, new age, and general-interest readers will find it equally enlightening and entertaining as they follow Carolyn's self-discoveries and her specific insights on victim mindsets and paths to a better life.

Brian Andrews
Thomas & Mercer
9781503954267 $15.95

First, Sergeant Michael Pitcher discovers an object in the Afghan mountains that not only impacts his health, but changes his personality. Returned home for an evaluation, Michael seems ok; but he is distant from his wife and soon empties their bank accounts and vanishes, as do the team of scientists connected to him.

Assigned to one of the most puzzling disappearances of his career, CIA agent Dean Ninemeyer finds himself embroiled in a mystery steeped in the possibility that someone or something has discovered how to hack into the human mind and influence it.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing War on Terror evolves a different kind of threat that holds vast implications not just for military engagement, but for the future of the human race.

The premise would be engaging enough with just these thriller elements at the forefront; but ex-military man and author Brian Andrews peppers his account with many insights into the armed services and its culture which bring the story to life on many different levels, including the perspective of an Army wife: "Army wives didn't get a vote. Neither did soldiers for that matter. The military, defender of freedom and the American way, was a juggernaut, indifferent and unrelenting. There were only three choices: get on board for the ride, get run over, or get left behind. Willie Barnes had long since been left behind."

As the story blossoms from the microcosm of military experience into a broader discussion of a new deadly, missing weapon and its potential to change everything, thriller readers are swept into a tense and satisfyingly riveting account.

Michael's mental doppelganger, a lasting consequence of his interaction with an orb, is transforming his impulses, perspectives, and ability to remain human. At some point, a sacrificial lamb might be required to reset everything again. And that lamb won't be one prepared for the job.

The blend of scientific intrigue, military interactions and culture both within and outside of the forces, and the desperate attempts of two skilled agents facing something far beyond even their powerful abilities makes for a gripping thriller that is hard to put down.

Readers who like the scientific and military aspects of intrigue kept in the foreground and complimented by a host of realistic, solid characters will relish the action-paced Reset as a powerful story not just of intrigue, but of extinction events and the value of humanity on Earth.

V. G. Kilgore
9781546343301 $9.00 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

This retelling of an Old Testament story offers a different perspective of events surrounding Noah's Ark which focuses not just on Noah's mission; but upon his son Ham, who has been at odds with his family since he fell in love with Lita and married her against their wishes.

Ham is a rebel. Marriage doesn't change his stormy relationships, and the coming flood and Noah's charge to build the Ark that will save them all only causes further clashes between father and son as Noah's youngest son harbors dubious thoughts about the relationship between God and his father, and consistently rebels against both.

While Christian readers will certainly be the audience for Obedience, it should be mentioned that the powerful saga of family relationships complicated by spiritual edicts ideally will reach beyond Christian circles, as it provides a tone and approach that more singular retellings of Biblical events can't touch.

This is partially due to V. G. Kilgore's attention to not just Christian tenants and Biblical scenes; but to underlying relationships and influences on belief and behavior that lend a powerfully evocative tone to this retelling. It makes readers think not just about God and the Ark, but about simmering family relationships that come to a spiritual and psychological head under close quarters and a struggle to survive devastation.

Obedience's format, a work of fiction, allows the rich flavors of emotion to rise to the forefront as it retraces Biblical events. How does one live on an ark with savage animals? What actions are undertaken to ensure the ark doesn't sink? Passages are vividly described and nicely develop the story as the ark struggles, and the people and animals aboard it face numerous challenges to physical, emotional and spiritual survival: "She peeked out the doorway. It was the throng she had observed that first day in reverse, the remnants of the Animal Kingdom, jostling toward the exit from their long, sedated confinement. She gasped as she saw Ham approach the large, snarling cats with an axe. He sloshed through the ankle-deep water to another wall and hacked an opening in it, out of which the animals sprang and quickly disappeared."

The spiritual revelations and moments are just as poignant and immediate ("He had brought rain that had wiped off all life but theirs. Surely, He could save her. Or was He just a God of death, not life?") and address some of life's basic challenges to faith.

Trust, revenge, faith, sacrifice, diligence, relationships between parents, children, and lovers, and higher callings all coalesce in a powerful retelling that will prove riveting and hard to put down even for those well familiar with the Biblical story. Best of all, Obedience makes the reader think about Biblical events and faith in a deeper way, lending to its use as a leisure read and discussion point and making it very highly recommended, indeed. To put it simply: there's a lot more going on, here, than a man's faith in building an ark to save humanity under God's direction.

The Streets of Nottingham
Auckly Simwinga
Independently Published
ASIN: B079Z6XX8M $2.99

In The Streets of Nottingham, the world has been broken by a cataclysmic clash between the mother of creation and a god-king. Only one small village has escaped this breaking: one which prays to the mother whose distant mercy masks a deadly and merciless force about to erupt.

Nobody makes it to the streets of Nottingham from the outside world. In that world, there lives a young man who struggles with the long, unrequited love of a childhood girl and a refuge whose boundaries are marked by chaos.

The first thing to note about Auckly Simwinga's story is its attention to setting, characterization and detail. Scenes are vividly described from the first-person protagonist's observation of his life and village, and come to life: "This is a truly desolate place we have found ourselves in. Sands the colour of ash as far as the eye can see. Touched by black mountains that rise steeply towards the sky, like razor-sharp walls of coal black stone. There is a full moon out tonight, but its light dies suddenly before it hits the ground. On the horizon, we can see fiery chasms, remnants from the breaking of the world, shooting fire into the black sky."

An attempt at a quest which only leads to more darkness befuddles the young adventurer ("'The darkness will be your guide'... How can it be my guide when I can't see a thing? 'Seek not in the darkness'..." Maybe I should just sit down and not seek anything!"), but he forges on, and his encounter with Lord Chaos and other elements of rebirth and destruction leads readers on a horseback journey through mountains, over bridges, and through a confrontation that demands the highest levels of courage.

The Streets of Nottingham provides a gripping focus on revelations and experiences at every step, providing a solid "you are there" feel to the quest that takes a song's questionable meanings and pairs them with a hero's journey to discover their impact.

Happiness and love, anger and death, and the impact of god-kings past and arisen anew all coalesce into a gripping saga that is firmly grounded by challenging and unexpected encounters along the way.

The result is a thoroughly engrossing read that's highly and especially recommended for fantasy readers seeking more poetic and vivid descriptions than most epic journeys offer.

The 8th Sky
Leigh Lyn
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B07B59NWTD $3.99

What happens when a hard-working architect involved in an intense project confronts a closely-held secret so mind-boggling that she winds up in an asylum? Lin Lee experiences a truth so horrific that her sanity is threatened; and in order to fight her way back to reality and the truth, she begins a memoir.

This memoir forms the foundation of The 8th Sky, a vivid, compelling saga of what happens when "the whole world has amnesia except for me." Even more important: how can Lin get her old life back when everything she's believed in is now in jeopardy?

The 8th Sky is packed with detailed psychological insights that pack punches from the start. Lin's worry she might never see her twins again, her loss of memory and recognition that history has become fluid as a result, and her observation that "...the madhouse is used to silence those who don't comply..." make for gripping episodes of insanity, sanity, and horror.

When confronted with this terrible truth, what can Lin do to change things? When Lin discovers that many other inmates of the asylum may have been set up, like her, she becomes even more convinced that the nightmare is only beginning and is firmly rooted in reality.

Readers can expect big concepts and stark conundrums in a story that combines the trappings of an engrossing scientific thriller with a psychological mood piece.

As Lin tries to return to the world she once knew, readers are swept into an effort that juxtaposes questions of sanity and insanity with cultural perspectives and their influences on reality and what makes for humanity in an era of genetic modifications and manipulations.

The action is solidified by an attention to scientific and psychological detail and by the protagonist's desperate attempt to use her memoir to get at the heart of what is happening not just to her; but to the world.

A big strength to this story is the myriad of subplots running through it. From questions of mental illness and scientific ethics and experiments to computer hacking, compulsive work habits, secret hideouts, and confidential patient information compromised by madness and special purposes, the thriller elements are diverse and numerous.

The result is a fantastic, thought-provoking read about rehabilitation, scientific discovery, and the cost of progress on the heart and mind of a woman determined to survive. Thriller readers who enjoy edgy science and more than a light dose of psychological inspection will find Lin's story compellingly hard to put down.

E.B. Mann
Araby Books
9781974267393 $3.88 ebook/$11.98 paperback

Eighth grader Karina Morgan is not like other girls. Her forehead was terribly scarred when she was a baby, so she's gone through her short life marred and tormented by her peers. The weight of what she faces in school increases every year, and middle school seems the worst of all trials until she discovers a cave, an old man, and a message that would seem to place her experience in a broader perspective.

Young readers might anticipate that Karina will be about a handicap fixed by the miracle of science; but a different kind of miracle comes to light, here: that of the mind.

Psychological insights blend nicely with metaphysical touches as reincarnation, life purpose, and lessons that can change others are introduced to the story line. These topics may sound like heady reading for middle graders; but E.B. Mann makes them accessible through lens of Karina's experience and emotions, successfully linking the concept of personal pain and courage with wider-ranging considerations of how individual trials in life can actually build a better world.

These themes and how they are handled make Karina a recommended read beyond middle grades or even high school, as different age groups will find her story accessible, thought-provoking, and a satisfying testimony to the power of enlightenment and personal growth.

The blend of magical places and a transformative process that ultimately changes not just one bullied eighth-grader but those around her creates a memorable read that reinforces a powerful concept: "...the world is merely a reflection of your own energy. Change yourself and you will see your reflection change. As the wise Native American Chief Seattle once said: 'All things are bound together, all things connect.'"

Think Cloud Atlas, but with a gentler touch, to grasp the essence of Karina's powerful message, which is highly recommended for all ages.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

The 4 Year Olympian
Jeremiah Brown
The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1M2
9781459741317 $22.99 pbk / $6.60 Kindle

Synopsis: Improbable, heart-wrenching, and uplifting, Jeremiah Brown's journey from novice rower to Olympic silver medallist in under four years is a story about chasing a goal with everything you've got.

After nearly being incarcerated at age seventeen and becoming a father at nineteen, Jeremiah Brown manages to grow up into a responsible young adult. But while juggling the demands of a long-term relationship, fatherhood, mortgage payments, and a nine-to-five banking career, he feels something is missing. A new goal captures his imagination: What would it take to become an Olympian?

Guided by a polarizing coach, Brown and his teammates plumb the depths of physical and mental exertion in pursuit of a singular goal. The 4 Year Olympian is a story of courage, perseverance, and overcoming self-doubt, told from the perspective of an unlikely competitor.

Critique: The 4 Year Olympian: From First Stroke to Olympic Medallist is the true-life story of author Jeremiah Brown. "First Stroke" refers to rowing, as Brown pursued his dream of competing in the Olympics by becoming part of an aspiring team - even though he had to balance the demands of family life and mortgage payments as well! Candid and inspirational, The 4 Year Olympian is captivating from cover to cover and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The 4 Year Olympian is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.60).

The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History
Phil Porter
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862812, $39.95, HC, 196pp,

Synopsis: Fort Mackinac in the city of Mackinac Island, Michigan, on Mackinac Island, was home to more than 4,500 British and U.S. soldiers between 1780 and 1895. These soldiers constructed buildings and walls, drilled on the parade ground, marched sentry beats, and performed myriad maintenance and administrative duties in support of the fort's strategic military function. That function varied greatly over the fort's 115-year history.

During the first half-century of its occupation the island fort protected and controlled the upper Great Lakes fur trade and served as an administrative center for maintaining alliances with the region's Native Americans. By the late 1830s the decline of the fur trade and acquisition of Native American lands that resulted in the creation of the state of Michigan diminished the fort's strategic value. It was not until after the Civil War that Fort Mackinac regained a role of importance, when it became the headquarters for the country's second national park.

In "The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History " by Mackinac State Historic Parks' director Phil Porter (who worked as a historic interpreter at Fort Mackinac while pursuing academic studies and joined the permanent staff of Mackinac State Historic Parks in 1976, serving as curator of collections, curator of interpretation, chief curator, and director since 2003) tells the story of Fort Mackinac through the lives and activities of its soldiers.

Profusely illustrated with more than 150 historic oil portraits, maps, and photographs collected from libraries and museums across the United States and Great Britain. Military historians and readers interested in Mackinac's rich military history will appreciate the interesting and visually compelling story of soldier life at Fort Mackinac in The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History.

Critique: Exceptionally informative, well written, organized and presented, "The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Ame4rican History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership
Patrick Samway, S.J.
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268103095, $39.00, HC, 306pp,

Synopsis: Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 - August 3, 1964 is considered one of America's greatest fiction writers. The immensely talented Robert Giroux ((April 8, 1914 - September 5, 2008)), was the editor-in-chief of Harcourt, Brace & Company and later of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and O'Connor's devoted friend and admirer.

Giroux edited O'Connor's three books published during her lifetime, plus "Everything that Rises Must Converge", which she completed just before she died in 1964 at the age of thirty-nine, the posthumous "The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor", and the subsequent award-winning collection of her letters titled "The Habit of Being".

When poet Robert Lowell first introduced O'Connor to Giroux in March 1949, she could not have imagined the impact that meeting would have on her life or on the landscape of postwar American literature. "Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership" by Patrick Samway, S.J. (Professor Emeritus of English at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia) sheds new light on an area of Flannery O'Connor's life-her relationship with her editors-that has not been well documented or narrated by critics and biographers.

Impressively researched and rich in biographical details, "Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership" chronicles Giroux's and O'Connor's personal and professional relationship, not omitting their circle of friends and fellow writers, including Robert Lowell, Caroline Gordon, Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Allen Tate, Thomas Merton, and Robert Penn Warren.

As Patrick Samway explains, Giroux guided O'Connor to become an internationally acclaimed writer of fiction and nonfiction, especially during the years when she suffered from lupus at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia, a disease that eventually proved fatal. Excerpts from their correspondence, some of which are published here for the first time, reveal how much of Giroux's work as editor was accomplished through his letters to Milledgeville. They are gracious, discerning, and appreciative, just when they needed to be.

In Professor Samway's portrait of O'Connor as an extraordinarily dedicated writer and businesswoman, she emerges as savvy, pragmatic, focused, and determined. This engrossing account of O'Connor's publishing history will interest, in addition to O'Connor's fans, all readers and students of American literature.

Critique: Expertly researched, impressively informed and informative, deftly written, organized and presented, "Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. As a seminal work of original scholarship, "Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership" has been further enhanced with the inclusion of a two page listing of Abbreviations, a thirty pages of Notes, a ten page Bibliography, and a thirteen page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $37.05).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Weird Monsters
Scott C. Marlowe
Pangea Press
9781530767670, $9.00,

Evil monsters lurk in the state of Florida in "Weird Monsters" a new collection of short stories by Scott Marlowe. Marlow who is known as a cryptozoologist uses his expertise in the field to tell chilling tales of creatures who encounter humans in many different places and ways. His writing is fast paced and the beings are believable. There are 5 stories in this fine collection of horror. "Weird Monsters" is a collection no fan of horror should miss.

Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories
Edited by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
P.O. Box 1840 Monument CO 80132
9781523220342, $16.99,

For the first time this collection publishes many different genre short stories by the acclaimed author of the novel "Dune" It is a rarity that we get to see the many different types of tales the author wrote that until now were never published. Fans of Frank Herbert will love to discover these new-found treasures and like this author even more than before.

The Courier
Gerald Brandt
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756412974, $7.9,

Kris Ballard a motorcycle courier does her job very well. Her boss tells her she is to deliver a late day delivery to an address. Like any good courier she never cares what she is to transport, just to get it there on time is her priority. But this one just could get her killed because she walks in on a murder. She also can't leave the contents because she realizes there are several people who are following her and want to get her package. Set in a near future world "The Courier" races along with suspenseful cat and mouse chases while Kris tries to protect the package. "The Courier" is filled with interesting characters nonstop suspense and a great ending that make it a fun filled SF story.

The Game Master
William Bernhardt
Babylon Books
9780692365595, $27.95,

Known, for his legal thrillers, Bernhardt tells an entirely different tale with "The Game Master." As the novel begins there is a murder of a scientist and a woman is kidnapped. BB the Game Master finds that the woman is his daughter who has been kidnapped by someone who wants to play a new kind of game with him. He and his ex-wife travel around the world picking up clues like a scavenger hunt that also plays out like different games including poker, monopoly, and several others that are part of the clues. Also, there is a national crisis, that ties into the search for BBs' daughter. Like his legal thrillers, Bernhardt fills the story with suspenseful situations and a story that moves along very quickly to its final revealing ending. "The Game Master" is a tense nail biting thriller that has so many different levels of entertainment.

Jake Burton
Page Publishing
9781681392141, $11.95,

Joshua Banks begins in his French class a journey that will change his life forever. What he thought was dreaming in the course is a revealing excursion into a dimension he had only thought was a rumor. He encounters an old man who tells him many interesting things including that he knows the path in life Joshua will take but is not allowed to tell Joshua. He also learns many things about his father's death at an early age. The author who a student at The University of Central Florida is has written a very polished fascinating tale of how a person questions all they had known "Cracked" is an attention-grabbing first novel.

An Astounding War Science Fiction and World War II
Edward M. Wysocki, Jr.
Create Space
9781499647006, $24.95

For so long in science fiction there has been a connection of World War II and science fiction but no one has ever written about how the two are connected until now. Wysocki delves into the subject and shows how World War II influenced science fiction and the impact of science fiction on the war. The work is fascinating in how it shows the development of magazines of the genre and how stories came from the war or how they affected the war effort. Included are names of many established writers and others that are not as well known that readers should add to their list of authors. The writing is as if the author is directly talking to readers and has a very nice flow to the very end. "An Astounding War Science Fiction and World War II is a wonderful history of science fiction and World War II that no history buff or science fiction fan can afford to miss.

An American in Auschwitz
Elise A. Raqusin
Legacy Book Publishing
9780977677745, $15.95,

We've heard so many stories since WWII about the death camps of the Nazis. The author is a survivor of Auschwitz but account is very different. She did not fit the profile of those Hitler's troopers chose to murder. She was not Jewish, not European and had no connection to anyone in Europe. She just happened to be living in Europe at the time. She was a native of New York, who for some reason was taken to Auschwitz. There are some other interesting facts about her story. She is the only American to ever be taken to the camps and the Nazis believed she was an American spy placed within the Nazi regime. To survive she knit a patch with USA that she wore on all of her clothing and kept her faith in God. Somehow, she was able to live through this dark time in history. She tells her story now because there are so few Holocaust survivors still alive and she is in her 90's. "An American in Auschwitz" is another side of the flawed logic of Nazi Germany's massacre of innocent citizens. "An American in Auschwitz" should be required reading for courses on Nazi Germany or the Holocaust while Holocaust Museums across the country should add it to suggested reading lists.

Dr Paul Bearer's Creature Feature
Roger L Boyes Jr.
Privately Published
9781481986076, $14.95,

When you think of hosts of bad B horror movies most people think of Elvira. But there was another person who introduced for so many years on several TV stations in the country that was just as popular in many circles as Elvira. That person was Dr. Paul Bearer. The character was the genius of radio disk jockey Dick Bennick who was on many different stations throughout the nation. Roger L. Boyes Jr. tells the story of both Bennick and how Dr. Paul Bearer became so popular as well as a lot of trivia about the movies, the hosts of these kinds of shows, and lots more in a fun filled excursion into a darker realm of television history. No fan of grade B movies should miss "Dr. Paul Bearer's Creature Feature."

Red Flags How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your Life
Wendy L. Patrick, Ph. D.
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781350091710, $16.99,

Red flags are things many of us overlook in different aspects of our lives. Wendy L. Patrick tackles the issue in her new book "Red Flags How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers and Toxic People in Your Life." As a district attorney she tells stories of the criminal justice system to convey warnings of things for people to look for in their personal and business relationships. She recommends to be alert to what someone is asking or telling what they like about you, be careful what you put on social media because it could come back to haunt you, tune into what a person tells about themselves, and be more careful in who you deal with in life. One of the most interesting things was how Patrick misread a man she was prosecuting when she encountered him on an elevator before entering the courtroom for the first time. There are many different types of warnings to readers that should be learned and used to not get taken by the many vultures in business and personal relationships.

The Journey of My Emotions The Woman That I Am
Josie Dorius
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang Oklahoma 73064
9781625107145, $9.99,

"The Journey of My Emotions The Woman That I Am" clearly shows in poetic form one woman's passage through life. Through her faith in God and her constant searching of herself she is able to become a much stronger person. Some of the topics are how she learns who she is, relationships and why they are either good or bad, and how God's love will help you through anything that comes along. "The Journey of My Emotions The Woman That I Am" is a touching book of poetry that should help others find themselves.

JD's Baseball Game
Stacey Hamm, author
Elena Stebakov, illustrator
9781304925718, $13.99,

JD a nice little dragon is worried about not doing well in the baseball game he and his teammates are playing. His coach takes him aside telling him to do the best he can. JD is now so stressed and worried that he will fail the other members of his team. The tension mounts as he has the count of two strikes against him. Poor JD is worried that he will strike out. "JD's Baseball Game" includes a message to kids and adults that in order to succeed you must keep trying and is a very nice book for readers of all ages to read and enjoy.

Case of the Missing Pearl Earring
Stacey Hamm, author
Elena Stebakov, illustrator
9781312838857, $10.00,

JD, the dragon character from "JD's Baseball Game" is back in a novel that is for a bit older audience. Now he is at home solving mysteries for family members. He loves to read true detective magazines and takes what he learns from them to help his family members find things that have been missing from the house. He must find his mother's missing earrings and he has several suspects that could be the culprit. "Case of the Missing Pearl Earring" is an amusing read for all ages to enjoy at the antics of JD, the dragon and his friends.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

James Sallis
1385 Broadway, 5th fl., NY, NY 10018
9781632864529, $26.00, Hardcover, 178 pp.

Although I had heard very fine things about this author's work, it has [obviously] taken me much too long to catch up to him, but fortunately I have now corrected that oversight. His newest book, "Willnot," is written in what has been described as his "inimitably spare style" and "haunting and immensely readable," and I found it undeniably very enjoyable.

From the publisher: In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Dr. Lamar Hale, the town's all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes - - his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI - - mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale's door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot. And when a gunshot aimed at Lowndes critically wounds Richard, Hale's world is truly upended.

The reader is told of the discovery of the dead bodies in the opening sentence: "We found the bodies two miles outside town, near the old gravel pit." We are likewise introduced to Bobby only a few pages later. We are told [p.o.v. is that of Dr. Lamar Hale] that he was only sixteen when "he wound up at the wrong end of a prank gone horribly south. Left town on the school's band bus for a football game twenty miles away, came back six days after in an ambulance and a coma. I'd taken care of him for close to a year, touch and go at first, then the long plateau and rehab. One of those strange mirrors life can throw up to you." When asked by the Sheriff what he thinks of what they have found, his reply is "I think we found a hole in the ground with bodies in it. There's not a lot more to be thought at this point, rationally."

A second story line has to do with another of Lamar's patients of many years, Stephen, now 23. "When he was eighteen, his parents and sister died in a car crash, hit and run. He was supposed to have been in the car as well but had begged off. Over the next couple of years we watched Stephen pass from wanting to find the person responsible, to believing that the crash was intentional, not an accident at all but willful murder. 'The boy's gone gumshoe, as Richard said.' " A little later, the sheriff asks him "You ever figure out why so many kooks wind up living here? His response: We are, after al, a town rich with uncommon history."

I found the writing absolutely wonderful, too many instances to recount here, but e.g., at the hospital, a colleague tells him, "much of the time we don't help them live longer or better, we only change the way they die."

I plan to catch up on Mr. Sallis' prior novels; this one is, obviously, recommended.

The Unleashed
Brett Battles
Create Space
9781530314300, $14.95, Paperback, 294 pp.

[This book is self-published, and can be ordered through Amazon, B&N or from the author,]

From the publisher: Even those who make bodies disappear for a living need a vacation! To Quinn and Orlando, the offer of a private villa on a quiet island beach sounds like heaven, and they jump at the chance for some family time with their six-month-old daughter and Orland's teenage son. At first it seems as though their holiday will be even better than they'd hoped. The water is warm, the house is beautiful, and the view is spectacular. But when revenge is in the air, things have a way of going sideways.

The tenth and newest entry in the Jonathan Quinn series brings back many of the usual cast of characters: Nate, Quinn's mentee and his sister Liz' boyfriend, and now an elite cleaner himself (the job entailing discreetly cleaning up crime scenes and the occasional body after the always possible bloodshed); their colleague, Daeng; and of course Orlando, the love of Quinn's life, an Asian woman, a brilliant computer hacker; and Helen Cho, described as "head of a growing network of government [and quasi-government] security and intelligence agencies" and now a client of Quinn and his team. Garrett himself, now a mature teenager, plays a large role in the tale. [At one point he thinks "None of the other kids had a spy for a mother.] Even his baby sister, Claire, plays a visible role. Among "the bad guys" are Pravat [who considers himself "a watcher," not a gunman] and a couple of his associates, here called "One" and "Two." Richard Maddox, who does not make his living as a criminal, but is the head of a non-governmental organization whose sole aim was to prevent the human trafficking of girls and young women. As usual in this series, the action moves among Barcelona to Bangkok,Cambodia, Koh Samui (Thailand), and Jakarta.

Just as I wasn't originally familiar with the description of Quinn and Nate as "cleaners," here we are introduced to characters referred to variously as "the assassin" and "the hunters," which would seem self-explanatory. All are very well trained and good at what they do (one of them considers himself "the number one hunter in the world"), leaving several bodies in their wake. Among the characters presented here are Mee Noi, "brutal henchman of the former criminal boss Chayan." The suspense, at which the author is a master, builds consistently, and he wraps everything up very satisfactorily.

Highly recommended.

Pride and Prejudice and Coffee
Mary C. M. Phillips
9781456630706, $1.99, Kindle, 55 pp.

From the book's "Introduction": Hundreds of years ago, before the world enjoyed their favorite beverage, coffee beans were chewed. The refreshing jolt that native Ethiopians experienced might be similar to what we now encounter as we sip upon a freshly brewed cup of java; however, the method of delivery left much to be desired."

This charming tale, sub-titled "A Caffeinated Romance and Brief Exploration of the Coffee Industry," is just that. While describing a protest at the premises of The Pemberley

Corporation, a public corporation whose interests included coffee growers in Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia, the reader is made aware of the dire working conditions extant for those farm workers, who, along with their children, "labored in the hot sun without any respite of shade." Pemberley held large positions in these publicly traded stocks, and is now being held to account for "the exploitation of workers."

I suspect that I am not alone in my ignorance of situations such as those described here, which I have no doubt reflect the actuality of the conditions described, at least in some if not all of these farms. I suspect that I am also not alone in my complete enjoyment of a good cup of coffee [which, of course, does not excuse the conditions endured by these farm workers!].

Along with the personal lives of the protagonists, which is completely charming, each section [not denoted as 'chapters'] is followed by a paragraph or so of fascinating tidbits of information, headed "Sip on This," e.g., "Coffee and Romance," "Gluten-free Food," "Etiquette," "Corporate Greed [discussing the Enron bankruptcy]," et al. These take place in, among other disparate places, Jones Beach [New York], Costa Rica, and Central Park! One does not normally think of the exploitation of workers as we sip our morning cups of coffee [apparently the most heavily traded commodity in the world, next to oil], until one reads this mind-opening book!

A complete change of pace, this short, fast-moving novel is highly recommended

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

A Rarer Gift than Gold
Lucy Branch
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Clink Street Publishing
B01HVVFDRK, $3.99, ebook, 302 pages
9781909477551, $TBA paper

A Rarer Gift than Gold is a nice technical suspense novel with a touch of history. The technical expertise of the author adds extreme depth to the story. The most noticeable drawback to the tale is poor pacing of the narrative. Large segments of the story drag with technical details that could have been narrated with faster pacing while the latter part of the tale has the action pushed too hard.

Abigail Argent is a skilled metalworker specializing in creating the hues of artwork. She stumbles on an old book with details of alchemy. The topic fascinates her so she explores the topic further. She notices that there is an overlap to how she adjusts the hues and colors on the artwork that she does and the alchemy texts that she finds.

Abigail gets a job restoring old metal masterpieces in Venice. As she studies deeper into alchemy, the more she encounters troubling events around her. Unknown to Abigail, her skills and studies have attracted the notice of a cabal of unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to control the knowledge and use of alchemy. Will her curiosity become her death?

A Rarer Gift than Gold is an easy recommendation to anyone interested in reading a fantasy suspense novel that blends in history and science. The blending of history and science into a fictional story requires knowledge and skill which is highlighted in this book. The pacing issues and other foibles of a novice fictional author are so minor as not to detract from the overall recommendation. Readers who cannot tolerate a slow start with rich and interesting technical details will have a problem with the first half of the story.

Obsidian Son
Shayne Silvers
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Argento Publishing
B009NNHPIA, $3.99, 302 pages
9780692536735, $14.99 paper

Obsidian Son is a fun supernatural wizard fighting bad guys but it suffers from the same over-the-top super villains that the more famous Dresden series by Jim Butcher has. Everything about the story, except for the super villain, is well-done. Most fantasy readers will be able to ignore the extremes in the story and just enjoy the fun and interesting characters and story.

Nate Temple is still in mourning with the recent deaths of his parents. A client has contacted him about finding an ancient and rare book. He has tracked a lead to the book to the Minotaur. Instead of just asking the Minotaur politely, he decides to go cow (Minotaur) tipping. Of course the Minotaur is offended. Nate survives the tipping, mostly because the Minotaur has become Buddhist, to discover that dragons are somehow tangled up with the search for the book. The police think he is somehow involved with the death of his parents. One large group of dragons have decided to kill him. With some ancient gods and other supernatural creatures involved, how can Nate, even if he is a wizard, survive let alone find out what is going on before the coming solar eclipse that just might be the beginning of the end of the world as we know it?

Obsidian Son is an easy recommendation for the adult reader. Even with the over-the-top super villain, it is a fun and fast read.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Songs From Richmond Avenue
Michael Reed
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612967769, $13.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: If the adage "nothing civilized ever resulted from the drinking of beer" requires further proof, one needs look no farther than down Houston's pothole-infested Richmond Avenue. There, the blurry-eyed denizens of the Relix Club wile away the hours engaged in their two favorite activities -- drinking and betting.

Until recently that was good enough for our storyteller, a journalist of questionable work ethic, who undergoes an epiphany following a bus stop meeting with pretty Michelle, a woman he declares has "skin so perfect I doubted she even had pores."

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Songs From Richmond Avenue" is Texas journalist Michael Reed's debut as an author, this deftly crafted, compellingly entertaining novel showcases his genuine flair for narrative storytelling. While highly recommended and certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Songs From Richmond Avenue" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers, second edition
A. Jamie Cuticchia
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641050340, $130.00, PB, 241pp,

Synopsis: Since the discovery of heredity more than 150 years ago, developments in the science of genetics have increased exponentially. The use of DNA in 1986 was arguably the most significant advancement in forensics since the use of fingerprints.

Now in a fully updated second edition, "Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers" by Jamie Cuticchia (who has more than 25 years of experience in biomedical research) explores the implications of recent discoveries in the field of genetics, with easily understandable discussions of the science and its application in real cases.

Cuticchia walks attorneys through everything they need to know, whether they are a litigator, family or health lawyer, patent attorney, or law student.

"Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers" includes: Molecular Biology; History of Genetics; Cutting Edge Technology and Evidentiary Value Role of Genetics in Health; Forensic Collection and Analysis of DNA; Paternity Testing; Consumer Genetics; Computational Tools to Validate Data; Ethical Issues; Discrimination; Malpractice; Intellectual Property; and Explaining Genetic Issues to a Jury.

The information contained in this invaluable and thoroughly 'user friendly' reference book will better enable the law practitioner to be learned in the discipline, point out relevant and interesting legal issues to clients and the court, and help expert witnesses be as clear and effective as possible.

"Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers" is heavily annotated, through citations to statutes, case law, and scientific discoveries, for those wishing to explore a topic more deeply.

Critique: The science of genetics can directly affect the outcome of a court case, making "Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers" absolutely invaluable. Enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Glossary and a twelve page Index, this new edition of "Genetics: A Handbook for Lawyers" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to law firm, community, college, and university library judicial instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Revolting New York
Nik Heynen, et al.
University of Georgia Press
Main Library, Third Floor, 320 South Jackson Street, Athens, Georgia 30602
9780820352817, $94.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: The Occupy Wall Street protest movement is part of a long history of riot, revolt, uprising, and sometimes even revolution that has shaped New York City. From the earliest European colonization to the present, New Yorkers have been revolting against authority. Hard hitting, revealing, and insightful, "Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Rebellion, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City" tells the story of New York's evolution through revolution, a story of near-continuous popular (and sometimes not-so-popular) uprising.

Richly illustrated with more than ninety historical and contemporary images, historical maps, and maps drawn especially for the book, "Revolting New York" provides the first comprehensive account of the historical geography of revolt in New York, from the earliest uprisings of the Munsee against the Dutch occupation of Manhattan in the seventeenth century to the Black Lives Matter movement and the unrest of the Trump era. Through this rich narrative, "Revolting New York" definitively reveals a continuous, if varied and punctuated, history of rebellion in New York that is as vital as the more standard histories of formal politics, planning, economic growth, and restructuring that largely define our consciousness of New York's story.

Critique: A work of seminal scholarship that has been enhanced for academia and the non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Rebellion, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City" also features twenty-six pages of Notes, a four page listing of all the contributors and their credentials, and a nine page Index. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library American History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Revolting New York" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0820352824, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.79).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Daughter of the Cold War
Grace Kennan Warnecke
University of Pittsburgh Press
3400 Forbes Avenue, 5th floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
9780822945208, $24.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Daughter of the Cold War" is author Grace Kennan Warnecke's personal memoir is about a life lived on the edge of history. Daughter of one of the most influential diplomats of the twentieth century, wife of the scion of a newspaper dynasty and mother of the youngest owner of a major league baseball team, Grace eventually found her way out from under the shadows of others to forge a dynamic career of her own.

Born in Latvia, Grace lived in seven countries and spoke five languages before the age of eleven. As a child, she witnessed Hitler's march into Prague, attended a Soviet school during World War II, and sailed the seas with her father. In a multi-faceted career, she worked as a professional photographer, television producer, and book editor and critic. Eventually, like her father, she became a Russian specialist, but of a very different kind. She accompanied Ted Kennedy and his family to Russia, escorted Joan Baez to Moscow to meet with dissident Andrei Sakharov, and hosted Josef Stalin's daughter on the family farm after Svetlana defected to the United States. While running her own consulting company in Russia, she witnessed the breakup of the Soviet Union, and later became director of a women's economic empowerment project in a newly independent Ukraine.

"Daughter of the Cold War" is an informatively compelling tale of all these adventures and so much more. A compelling and evocative memoir that allows readers to follow Grace's amazing path through life, "Daughter of the Cold War" is a whirlwind journey of survival, risk, and self-discovery through a kaleidoscope of many countries, historic events, and fascinating people.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and engaging read from beginning to end, "Daughter of the Cold War" is a unique and prized addition to community library Contemporary Biography collections and academic library Russian/East European collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Daughter of the Cold War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70).

What Works for Women at Work
Joan C. Williams & Rachel Dempsey
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9781479835454, $24.95, HC, 394pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Joan C. Williams (Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California hastings College of the Law) and her daughter, writer/attorney Rachel Dempsey, "What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know" is a comprehensive and insightful guide for mastering office politics as a woman when those office politics often benefit men over women.

Based on interviews with 127 successful working women, over half of them women of color, "What Works for Women at Work" presents a toolkit for getting ahead in today's workplace. Distilling over 35 years of research, "What Works for Women at Work" offers four crisp patterns that affect working women: Prove-It-Again!, the Tightrope, the Maternal Wall, and the Tug of War. Each represents different challenges and requires different strategies -- which is why women need to be savvier than men to survive and thrive in high-powered careers.

The analysis of working women presented in the pages of "What Works for Women at Work" is deftly nuanced and in-depth, going far beyond the traditional cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approaches of most career guides for women. Throughout this study, the authors weave real-life anecdotes from the women they interviewed, along with quick kernels of advice like a "New Girl Action Plan," ways to "Take Care of Yourself", and even "Comeback Lines" for dealing with sexual harassment and other difficult situations.

Critique: Practical minded, showcasing a wealth of 'real world' pragmatic advice, "What Works for Women at Work" is an extraordinary resource for working women that is especially relevant in view of the phenomena of the women's movement as represented by #MeToo and "TimesUp. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "What Works for Women at Work" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of working women that "What Works for Women at Work" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1479814312, $14.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781522601814, $9.99, MP3 CD).

My Old Faithful: Stories
Yang Huang
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781625343369, $19.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Evoking both the drama of familial intimacy and the ups and downs of the everyday, in the pages of "My Old Faithful: Stories", author Yang Huang introduces her readers to a close-knit Chinese family.

These ten interconnected short stories, all of which take place in China and the United States over a thirty-year period, merge to paint a nuanced portrait of family life, full of pain, surprises, and subtle acts of courage. Richly textured narratives from the mother, the father, the son, and the daughters play out against the backdrop of China's social and economic change.

With quiet humor and sharp insight into the ordinary, Yang Huang writes of a father who spanks his son out of love, a brother who betrays his sister, and a young woman who dares bring a brown man home to her conservative parents. She writes of an aging wife and the kindness she shows a young prostitute caught soliciting her husband; of a woman returning to China after many years to find her country changed in ways both expected and startling.

This impressive literary collection, by a writer who grew up in Jiangsu province and participated in the 1989 student uprisings, is remarkable in its sense of place and fidelity to lived human experience.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively entertaining while being both thoughtful and thought-provoking, " "My Old Faithful: Stories" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Gray Divorce
Jocelyn Elise Crowley
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520295315, $85.00, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: After 20, 30, or even 40 years of marriage, countless vacations, raising well-adjusted children, and sharing property and finances, what could go wrong? Apparently quite a lot given the increasing divorce rates among couples with decades of marriage to one another.

"Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-Life Splits" by Jocelyn Elise Crowley (Professor of Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of Nersey) is a provocative look at the rising rate of marital splits after the age of 50. Professor Crowley uncovers the reasons why men and women divorce -- and the penalties and benefits that they receive for their choices.

From the outside, many may ask why couples in mid-life and readying for retirement choose to make a drastic change in their marital status. Yet, nearly one out of every four divorces in the United States is "gray". With a deft eye, Professor Crowley analyzes the differing experiences of women and men in this mid-life transition, including the seismic shift in individual priorities, the role of increased life expectancy, and how women are affected economically while men are affected socially.

With a realistic yet passionate voice, Professor Crowley shares the personal positive outlooks and the necessary supportive public policies that must be enacted to best help the newly divorced.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, engaging and instructive, showcasing an impeccable and definitive scholarship, "Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-Life Splits" is an invaluable contribution to the subject and a core addition to both community and academic library Sociology, Gender Studies, Contemporary American Culture, and Public Policy collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Gray Divorce" is also available in a paperback edition (9780520295322, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest
Steve Richardson, author
Chris Dunn, illustrator
Lanier Press
9780978642211 $17.95

Paisley Rabbit is a girl bunny without a father, whose brother Davey Rabbit is very sick because he needs a new kidney. A treehouse contest is proposed by the group of animal friends towards the end of summer, with three rules, proposed by Paisley: "Rule 1; everyone has until Thanksgiving to finish. Rule 2: you can use your dad or anyone else to help you build it. Rule 3: we will all meet on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving vacation to vote on the treehouses. The treehouse with the most votes is the winner!"

After much excited discussion, all the animals began to work on their treehouses. Jimmy Squirrel bragged he would win because his Dad, a Construction Squirrel, would build his treehouse. Other treehouses were to be built by Arnold Otter and Simon Shrew. Despite teasing and urges to quit or give up, Paisley set to work planning her treehouse project. Halloween came and went and no one knew where Paisley's treehouse would be. Jimmy Squirrel received lots of attention and publicity for his deluxe treehouse built by his father. But other animals corrected him when he tried to discourage Paisley because she had no father to help her.

Meanwhile, Paisley had completed her research and proposal and contacted the mayor, the local newspaper, investors, and Mr. Badger the architect. Paisley was thinking of her sick brother Davey while she completed her Master Treehouse Plan. The day of completion arrived and everyone came to visit all the finished treehouses, with Paisley's being last to tour. although Jimmy Squirrel's treehouse, with its TV set and kitchen refrigerator was impressive, the animals were excited to discover the secret location of Paisley's treehouse.

In a stunning series of treehouse portrait illustrations, Bottom, Middle, Top, and whole treehouse, the artist portrays a stupendous dream Treehouse with many intriguing rooms and nooks for little animals to play and live. But Paisley's was not just for her. She planned and organized all the resources and animal community members to sponsor the treehouse so that $2 tickets for admission would raise money to pay for care for sick kids in the town. It was a spectacular group achievement.

At the end of the award ceremony, Paisley sat down to write thank you notes to everyone who helped build her Treehouse, teaching others the value of appreciation for all good joint efforts for the good of the whole community. To help encourage good habits in kids, Paisley's thank you cards are available at

"Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest" is a beautiful, inspiring, unusual, creative story about the true value of common cooperation and consideration for all.

It is interesting to note that the author created the character of Davey Rabbit to honor his brother, David, a man whose life depended upon receiving 3 kidney transplants. "Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest" spans the seasons with appeal, but its core value is caring for others, an unforgettable lesson. Rich in expressive illustrations and thoughtful writing, "Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest" teaches an unforgettable lesson of kindness to others.

Cave of Bones
Anne Hillerman, author
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062391926 $26.00

"Cave of Bones" is the fourth mystery in the Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito series by Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman. The exotic setting of El Malpais in New Mexico checkerboard shared Navajo, private, Zuni, and other territories is maximized in one part of this exciting double dual mystery pair, both tackled and solved by Bernie Manuelito/Chee and Jim Chee with the consultation assistance of retired Joe Leaphorn. Descriptions of the beautiful landscape and intricate webs of traditional Navajo knowledge and customs contrast with fast moving action plots ending in death and enlightenment for some. The author's style is characteristically spare, stark, and deeply aesthetic, with human notes of pain, love, suffering, endurance, and faith. "Cave of Bones" teaches a deeper awareness of the sacred within the Native American Southwestern setting. A reverence for age, life, and peace is at the heart of an understanding of human failings incumbent upon Navajo law enforcement officers such as Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee. Exciting in its drama, intriguing in its mystery, "Cave of Bones" will challenge readers to follow both synchronized plots through to the end in this masterful novel by a beloved writer.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Born to Serve: A History of Texas Southern University
Merline Pitre
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806160023, $29.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Located in Houston, Texas Southern University was established in 1947 as an "emergency" state-supported university for African Americans, to prevent the integration of the University of Texas. "Born to Serve: A History of Texas Southern University" by Merline Pitre (Professor of History and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Science at Texas Southern University, and a former President of the Texas State Historical Association) is the first historical study to tell the full history of TSU, from its founding, through the many varied and defining challenges it faced, to its emergence as a first-rate university that counts Barbara Jordon, Mickey Leland, and Michael Strahan among its graduates.

In its early years the university persevered in the face of state neglect and underfunding and the threat of merger. "Born to Serve" describes the efforts, both humble and heroic, that faculty and staff undertook to educate students and turn TSU into the thriving institution it is today: a major metropolitan university serving students of all races and ethnicities from across the country and throughout the world.

Launched during the early civil rights movement, TSU has a history unique among historically black colleges and universities, most of which were established immediately after the Civil War. Born to Serve adds a critical chapter to the history of education and integration in the United States.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a chronology of Texas Southern University History, four appendices, twenty-eight pages of notes, a four page bibliography, and a thirteen page index, "Born to Serve: A History of Texas Southern University" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship that will make an impressive and core addition to community and academic library African American History and American Higher Education History collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Born to Serve: A History of Texas Southern University" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson
Lorenzo Green, author
Arvarh E. Strickland, editor
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th Street, Columbia, MO 65211
9780826210685, $24.95, HC, 440pp,

Synopsis: In the summer of 1930, Lorenzo Johnston Greene, a graduate of Howard University and a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, became a book agent for the man with the undisputed title of "Father of Negro History", Carter G. Woodson. With little more than determination, Greene, along with four Howard University students, traveled throughout the South and Southeast selling books published by Woodson's Associated Publishers. Their dual purpose was to provide needed funds for the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and to promote the study of African American history. Greene returned east by way of Chicago, and, for a time, he settled in Philadelphia, selling books there and in the nearby cities of Delaware and New Jersey. He left Philadelphia in 1931 to conduct a survey in Washington, D.C., of firms employing and not employing black workers.

From 1930 until 1933, when Greene began teaching at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, "Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson: A Diary, 1930-1933" provides a unique firsthand account of conditions in African American communities during the Great Depression. Greene describes in the diary, often in lyrical terms, the places and people he visited. He provides poignant descriptions of what was happening to black professional and business people, plus working-class people, along with details of high school facilities, churches, black business enterprises, housing, and general conditions in communities. Greene also gives revealing accounts of how the black colleges were faring in 1930.

"Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson: A Diary, 1930-1933" offers important glimpses into the private thoughts of a young man of the 1930s, a developing intellectual and scholar. Greene's diary also provides invaluable insights into the personality of Carter Woodson that are not otherwise available.

Critique: The original diary of Lorenzo Johnston Green has been expertly edited by Arvarh E. Strickland (Professor Emeritus of History, University of Missouri-Columbia), making "Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson: A Diary, 1930-1933" an inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and unique 'eye-witness' view of black America during the early thirties that will be an enduringly valued and critically important contribution to 20th Century African American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Wisdom for Winners: Volume Four
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950009, $19.99, 206 pages

The Art of Success - Seek Wisdom - Set Your Sights High - Pursue Your Passion

Jim Stovall, author of the bestselling book "The Ultimate Gift" and the successful movie by the same name continues to impact readers through his books. He has over 30 books to his credit. "Wisdom for Winners - Volume Four" validates the popularity of this series.

Stovall's true-life stories and personal illustrations and well-chosen quotes of sage wisdom of the past are 'poignant and powerful.' I found one or more take-away applications from each of the five thematic sections of the book.

I was reminded of the Gift of Gratitude, the importance of optimism, and challenged to begin now to build an enduring legacy. I took to heart the concept that no person can ever be considered poor if they have one true friend. I reconnected with the gift of giving and giving of myself by sharing my time and love with others.

Jim Stovall's "Wisdom for Winners - Volume Four" is one of those books you will want to add to your library shelf of "Must Read Again Soon" titles. I am!

Think and Grow Rich: The Original Unedited 1937 Text
Napoleon Hill
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879488, $27.95, 382 Pages

Success Stories of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Hundreds of Others

"Think and Grow Rich - The Original Unedited 1937 Text" include the thoughts, ideas, and organized plans drawn from more than 500 interviews from men like Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford which resulted in Napoleon Hill's 13 Steps to Riches or 17 Fundamentals of Success.

I first became acquainted with Hill's writing early in the 1960's and established a life practice on a path of achievement motivated by desire, faith, the power of decision, organized planning, persistence, and over time adapting Hill's 13 principles.

Although I no longer remember the edition of "Think and Grow Rich" I read, there is something nostalgic about rereading it in the original unedited 1937 text edition. I felt a sense of excitement as I realize the abundance of fulfillment and how I have been blessed in the material realm, contentment, and peace of mind, lasting friendships, and family relationships.

I can highly recommend Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" as a book for finding the satisfying rewards of success and riches in every area of life.

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

Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy
James Whittaker
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950184, $24.99, 298 pages

Napoleon Hill's Legacy Lives On in Think and Grow Rich - The Legacy

Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy released in conjunction with the major motion picture by the same title IS based on Napoleon Hill's Napoleon Hill's Readers of Think and Grow Rich. Pursing Hill's when consistently applying his thirteen principles to success can be assured of personal fulfillment of their optimum potential. The book features life stories of people who have overcome "adversities" and changed the direction of their self-image and legacy.

These stories are relevant for today's reader and are inspirational, motivating, and potentially life-changing. The examples of Sharon and Michael Lechter struck a chord with me, I identified personally with their dual passion for lifetime learning and making a difference in other people's lives.

I plan to follow Bob Proctor's "Goal Card" principle expectantly watching for the potential results. I was fascinated with Barbara Corcoran's valuable lessons on the rewards of an active imagination. And I admire Derek Mill's persistence in discovery and promotion of the concept of mentoring others by listening to the genius hidden within.

I was deeply inspired by Don Green's example of commitment to education and business skills and a life of pursuing and achieving his goals.

Each of the over two dozen stories features and illustrate how a life mission of purpose and fulfillment can lead to satisfaction, success, and a rich legacy for your family.

Think and Grow Rich Action Guide
An Official Publication of the Napoleon Hill Foundation
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, Pa, 17257
9781937879907, $49.95, 174 pages

Practical Principles and Action Steps That Truly Work - A Handbook to Success

The "Think and Grow Rich Action Guide" promises to "stimulate" the reader to achieve their dreams and desires to achieve success in finances, relationships, and career goals.

The action guide is based on Napoleon Hills best-selling classic "Think and Grow Rich" first published in 1937 to help you incorporate the thirteen proven principles, introduced in the book into your daily life. Step by step instruction, action steps, and thought-provoking questions stir the imagination, establish purpose, and instill a burning desire to move forward.

The Influenced of Napoleon Hill's thirteen principles have impacted my approach to life, affected my character, and strengthened my faith. However, I am excited about incorporating the completion of this handbook over the next 13 weeks, a chapter per week, completing the exercises and integrating the applications into practice in my life.

Highly recommended as a companion guide to the works of Napoleon Hill "Think and Grow Rich" book and supplemental materials.

The Art of Learning & Self-Development: Your Completive Edge
Jim Stovall and Dr. Ray H. Hull, PhD
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, Pa 17257
9781937879815, $21.95, 188 Pages

Vital Lessons on Learning - Essential to Achieving Your Goals

Best Selling Author, Jim Stovall collaborates with Dr. Ray H. Hull Ph.D. in "The Art of Learning & Self Development." Stovall and Hull address:

The Ways People Learn

Action Steps for Learning

New Methods to Learn

How Learning Will Help Achieve Your Goals

These topics are divided into two categories: Things we learn through formal education and those we learn informally or through our own life.

Dr. Hull describes how we learn formally through our academic training and the disciplines from early childhood through our adult years. Stovall's writes on the things we learn informally through the process of our lives and experiences. He sums up learning as curiosity, and persistence, and that knowledge is the key to anything we want in life.

I am passionate about the importance of Adult Learning and Continuing Education, and Life Long Learning, I knew I was in for a good read and valuable lessons on learning before I finished the first few paragraphs of Stovall's introduction in chapter one.

The authors have encouraged me to continue my lifelong quest to improve my thinking strategy, my emotional understanding, and the skills necessary to intuitively use what I have learned. I am pleased to add this book to my library.

The Art of Learning & Self-Development" is for anyone intentional about self-development and fulfilling their life goals.

Growing Kids with Character
Hettie Brittz
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80918
9781434712530, $18.99, 272 Pages

A Unique Journey into Parenting - Enriching and Equipping Tools - A Blueprint for Building Christian Character, Potential, and Purpose in Your Child

Author, speaker, and highly regarded leader in areas of parenting, leadership and personality styles Hettie Brittz offers parents a perspectives for fostering their child's Christian character, potential, and purpose in her new book "Growing Kids with Character."

Brittz identifies children's character traits and likens them to a tree in the forest according to their growth patterns and needs. Step by step she offers tips for parenting that will "support their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses,"[i] as she encourages parent to be intentional about whole life transformation relating the back to the application of the tree concept:

The Palm Tree

The Rose Bush

The Boxwood

The Pine Tree

And the Hybrid Trees

Brittz adopts the premise that each child responds differently to discipline, motivation, and communication. Moving forward on this foundation she provides parents with ideas for developing and nurturing your child's unique character: How to direct and teach them important lessons, how to dialog and speak, how to discipline and train, and how to disciple them to increase their faith and to fulfill God's purpose and their destiny.

Brittz writes with authenticity, authority, and humor as she offers guidelines and an interesting perspective on parenting. Highly recommended.

I Can Still Do It! The Unstoppable Spirit of a Plane Crash Survivor
Karen Trolan
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97433
97819442978282, $12.95, 120 Pages

Overcoming Adversity - A Demonstration of Enduring Pain, the Perils of Living as a Paraplegic Confined to a Wheel Chair While Learning the Art of Adaptive Living

Karen Trolan's "I Can Still Do It" is her story a true story of survival. Karen captivates her reading audience with the story of her miraculously survival; of a plane crash. Her word pictures jump off the page as she relates details of the rescue efforts, of being airlifted to emergency care facilities.

Karen describes the experience of fading in and out of consciousness as Surgeons discuss the prognosis of her traumatic injuries and the challenges and odds of her recovery as a paraplegic. She goes on to relate the long road of rehab, the grueling hours of therapy, the challenge of establishing a new norm of living, and of her adaptive approaches to sports.

The book is highly endorsed by readers who are inspired by her overcoming spirit, the power of her faith, her determination and her. I admire Karen for her positive attitude, her gratefulness, and her desire to help others learn to appreciate life's adversities and challenges.

"I Can Still Do It! The Unstoppable Spirit of a Plane Crash Survivor" is a book for anyone facing personal challenge should read.

Nutrient-Based Psychiatry: A Nutritional Prescription for ADHD, Volume 1
Emanuel Frank, MD
Privately Published
9780996761703, $15.98, 266 Pages

An Important Breakthrough in Assessment and Treatment of ADHD Patients

"Nutrient-Based Psychiatry - A Nutritional Prescription for ADHD" is one of a series of NBP books by Emanuel Frank, MD advocating the integration and use of nutritional supplements and modifications to treat psychiatric disorders.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is written to help the reader understand Nutrient Based Psychiatry (NBP) and is intended to be a guide to supplemental and alternative treatment approaches.

Part two looks at the science behind NBP and Part three addresses assessment and treatment for the ADHD patient using NBP.

Readers will appreciate Dr. Frank's exhaustive research, valuable endnotes, and the Quick Reference Prescribing Guide for NBP treatment for ADHD patients.

Nutrient-Based Psychiatry is designed for those diagnosed with ADHD, their loved one's medical doctor, nutritionists, clinicians, and other healthcare professionals.

Dr. Frank is a practicing board-certified psychiatrist, highly respected by his peers. "Nutrient-Based Psychiatry - A Nutritional Prescription for ADHD" is destined to become recognized as a breakthrough in a controversial nutrient-based approach in ADHD treatment plan.

Highly recommended for anyone working in or impacted by ADHD.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Journey to Moonwalking
Kenneth Thomas
Curtis Press
9780993400223, $39.95, PB, 250pp,

Synopsis: By setting the goal for going to the Moon by the end of 1969, President Kennedy transformed the Soviet/U.S. arms race, with its escalating confrontations, into a "space race". At the time, the general public didn't know that perhaps the greatest obstacle to going to the Moon wasn't the building of a successful rocket ship, it was the development of the spacesuit.

"The Journey to Moonwalking: The People Who Enabled Footprints on the Moon" by Kenneth Thomas is the story of human efforts, specifically the innovation, struggle, and sacrifice carried out by otherwise ordinary men and women that culminated in the spacesuit that made the first human surface explorations of the Moon possible.

The success of Apollo resulted in replacing the looming specter of a possible world-devastating war with peace and cooperation in space between these two great rival nations. However, few know of all the contributions that were required to allow the first humans to set foot on and explore the Moon. Most are not aware of the magnitude and abundance of challenges to such an endeavor, let alone the solutions needed.

"The Journey to Moonwalking" is the result of more than two decades of research, interviewing original participants, and working with other spacesuit historians to determine Apollo spacesuit contributions and contributors. Author Kenneth Thomas brings a unique expertise to this historic achievement. He was a spacesuit engineer for twenty-two years and has been a consultant to national museums since 1993. Additionally, performing knowledge-capture for NASA gave the author a micro-level view into Apollo history, which provided additional enlightenment. The result is a human chronicle of the challenges, achievements, and experiences related to the most watched historical event of its time.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Journey to Moonwalking: The People Who Enabled Footprints on the Moon" is an extraordinary history that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library American Aerospace History collections.

Towards a New Ethnohistory
Ketih Thor Carlson, et al.
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887558177, $31.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Ethnohistory is the study of cultures and indigenous peoples' customs by examining historical records as well as other sources of information on their lives and history.

"Towards a New Ethnohistory: Community-Engaged Scholarship among the People of the River" compiled and edite4d by Keith Thor Carlson (who is Professor of History at the University of Saskatchewan where he holds the Research Chair in Indigenous and Community-Engaged History) in collaboration with John Sutton Lutz, David M. Schaepe, and Naxaxalht'l, engages respectfully in cross-cultural dialogue and interdisciplinary methods to co-create with Indigenous people a new decolonized ethnohistory.

This new ethnohistory reflects Indigenous ways of knowing and is a direct response to critiques of scholars who have for too long foisted their own research agendas onto Indigenous communities. Community-engaged scholarship invites members of the Indigenous community themselves to identify the research questions, host the researchers while they are conducting the research, and participate meaningfully in the analysis of the researchers findings.

The historical research topics by the Stolo community leaders and knowledge keepers for the contributors to this collection range from the intimate and personal to the broad and collective. But what principally distinguishes the analysis is the way settler colonialism is positioned as something that unfolds in sometimes unexpected ways within Stolo history, as opposed to the other way around.

This collection presents the best work to come out of the world's only graduate-level humanities-based ethnohistory fieldschool. The blending of methodologies and approaches from the humanities and social sciences is a model of twenty-first century interdisciplinarity. Chapters on very different topics hang together as instances of collaborative research in a new ethnohistory while the emphasis on the Stolo is specific enough to make a good qualitative case study.

Critique: A model of informed and informative scholarship, "Towards a New Ethnohistory: Community-Engaged Scholarship among the People of the River" is a seminal contribution to the field of ethnohistory that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twenty-five page bibliography, making it unreservedly recommended for both college and university library Indigenous Studies collections and supplemental reading lists.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Hogarth Shakespeare
an Imprint of The Crown Publishing Group
a Division of Penguin Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780553419054, $27.00, Hardcover, 446 pp.

In UK:
9781781090251, 20.00 BPS, 512 pp.

In CA: Knopf Canada
9780345809209, $32.01 CA$, Hardcover, 464 pp.
9781781090268 $26.35 CA$, Paperback

Since Shakespeare's Macbeth was first performed in 1606 it has been reenacted in many guises and venues. For instance, Orson Welles staged the play in 1936 with an all-black cast. Jo Nesbo's "Macbeth" is the most recent of six books in the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which the play is retold by various authors. However, this is the first time the tale has been written as a crime story, Nesbo's forte as a top Scandinavian writer well-known for his noir fiction, especially the Harry Hole novels. As the author notes, the play is one of his favorites and provides an outline for the novel, a tale of love, corruption and lust for power.

Set in a decaying unnamed town, abandoned by industry, ridden by drugs and unemployment, the story has at its heart Macbeth's grab for power using his position on the police force and his pact with the drug lord, Hecate. Coupled with his love, Lady, whose ambition for power even exceeds his, Macbeth murders his way to the top, becoming police commissioner and grabbing to become Mayor and complete control of the town. It is a gruesome story that only Mr. Nesbo could write, with a force so powerful only a Bard could have written it.

Highly recommended.

The Dark Clouds Shining
David Downing
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956066, $26.95, Hardcover, 384 pp.

With this, the fourth Jack McColl spy story, David Downing concludes the series. It takes place just as the civil war in Soviet Russia is ending and developments are dire with respect to the original high hopes that accompanied the Revolution, and the nation suffers from all kinds of shortages, especially food for a starving populace. Jack is not faring any better, languishing in jail for assaulting a Bobby, when his Secret Service boss visits him and presents Jack with a way to get out if he accepts an unofficial assignment. Jack is disillusioned by the slaughter of so many in the Great War and can't abide spying for his country any more, but accepts the assignment to get out of jail. So he goes to Russia to learn what other British spies are planning at the behest of MI5. And unknown to him, he will again meet with the love of his life, Caitlin, who is now married to one of the men involved in the MI5 scheme which Jack was sent to investigate and possibly foil.

The author's ability to recreate the environment of the historical period, along with descriptions of the economic and political atmosphere, is outstanding, as is the recounting of the action resulting from the hunt by both Jack and the Cheka, the Russian secret service and forerunner of the GPU, for the plotters. Highly recommended.

No Shred of Evidence
Charles Todd
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062386182, $25.99/31.99 BPS, Hardcover, 341 pp.

In this wonderful entry in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, Inspector Rutledge inherits a mystery when the original investigator suddenly suffers a heart attack and dies in a small Cornwall town. Starting from scratch because the original statements and notes of his dead predecessor are missing, Rutledge finds four young women accused of murder by a local farmer while rowing on a river; their claim: they were attempting to save him when his boat sank.

The victim, while in a coma, could not provide any facts, and when he dies of a head injury the charge becomes one of murder. It remains for Rutledge either to prove or disprove the charge. While seeking the truth of the matter, including motivation, Rutledge encounters additional murders and assaults and the question arises: do these relate to the original case?

The mother-son writing team of this long-standing series takes a deep look into the personalities and motivations of the characters as Rutledge delves into the process of clearing the young women as he becomes more aware of the situation. As is a constant in the series, Rutledge is haunted by his experiences on the Western Front during the Great War, and the descriptions of the Cornwall area on the northern coast and speech of its inhabitants are skillfully done.


The Waters of Eternal Youth
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802124807, $26.00, Hardcover, 300 pp.
9780802126375, $16.00, Paperback, 304 pp.

The Guido Brunetti mystery series always takes the reader on a guided tour of Venice, where he is a Commissario of police. The plot of this novel is somewhat different from that of its predecessors. When he is forced to attend a dinner at his titled in-laws on behalf of a countess, he takes on a case that hardly could be called a case: The countess asks him to look into an event that took place 15 years previously.

It seems the countess' granddaughter was thrown (or fell) into a canal, rescued by a drunken man, but suffered brain damage, the result of oxygen deprivation to the brain when she was under water too long. Consequently, the child, now a woman 30 years old, has the mental state of a seven-year old. Without a clue, Brunetti tries to locate the rescuer, who is murdered just before they were to meet. Now we have a murder to solve as well.

I have enjoyed every novel in the series I have read. In each, Brunetti has painstakingly solved each mystery through careful and logical analysis. In "The Waters of Eternal Youth", however, the resolution takes place by an accident, ex parte of any police work. Mere happenstance, and less satisfying, although the result provides the author the means to end the book with an interesting and gratifying twist.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
Steve Brusatte
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062490421, $29.99, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Sixty-six million years ago dinosaurs (who were the dominant life on the Earth) simply vanished. Today they remain one of our planet's great mysteries. In "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World", Steve Brusatte (who is a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and a specialist on the evolution of dinosaurs) reveals their extraordinary, 200-million-year-long story in an inherently fascinating and impressively informative study.

"The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" is enhanced for the non-specialist general reader with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs, as well as naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork. Drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" will have immense appeal for all dinosaur enthusiasts.

Brusatte traces the evolution of dinosaurs from their inauspicious start as small shadow dwellers - themselves the beneficiaries of a mass extinction caused by volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Triassic period - into the dominant array of species every wide-eyed child memorizes today, T. rex, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, and more. This gifted scientist and writer re-creates the dinosaurs' peak during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when thousands of species thrived, and winged and feathered dinosaurs, the prehistoric ancestors of modern birds, emerged. The story continues to the end of the Cretaceous period, when a giant asteroid or comet struck the planet and nearly every dinosaur species (but not all) died out, in the most extraordinary extinction event in earth's history, one full of lessons for today as we confront a "sixth extinction."

Brusatte also recalls compelling stories from his globe-trotting expeditions during one of the most exciting eras in dinosaur research (which he calls "a new golden age of discovery") and offers thrilling accounts of some of the remarkable findings he and his colleagues have made, including primitive human-sized tyrannosaurs; monstrous carnivores even larger than T. rex; and paradigm-shifting feathered raptors from China.

Critique: While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, where it will become an immediate and enduringly popular addition, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the general reading public that "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781538500521, $39.99, MP3 CD).

Tinker to Evers to Chance
David Rapp
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226415048, $27.50, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Their names were chanted, crowed, and cursed. Alone they were a shortstop, a second baseman, and a first baseman. But together they were an unstoppable force. Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance came together in rough-and-tumble early twentieth-century Chicago and soon formed the defensive core of the most formidable team in big league baseball, leading the Chicago Cubs to four National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1906 to 1910. At the same time, baseball was transforming from small-time diversion into a nationwide sensation. Americans from all walks of life became infected with "baseball fever," a phenomenon of unprecedented enthusiasm and social impact. The national pastime was coming of age.

"Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America" by political journalist, publishing executive, and baseball historian David Rapp examines this pivotal moment in American history, when baseball became the game we know today. Each man came from a different corner of the country and brought a distinctive local culture with him: Evers from the Irish-American hothouse of Troy, New York; Tinker from the urban parklands of Kansas City, Missouri; Chance from the verdant fields of California's Central Valley. The stories of these early baseball stars shed unexpected light not only on the evolution of baseball and on the enthusiasm of its players and fans all across America, but also on the broader convulsions transforming the US into a confident new industrial society. With them emerged a truly national culture.

This iconic trio helped baseball reinvent itself, but their legend has largely been relegated to myths and barroom trivia. "Tinker to Evers to Chance" is an engaging history resets the story and brings these men to life again, enabling us to marvel anew at their feats on the diamond. It's a rare look at one of baseball's first dynasties in action.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America" is a 'must' for the legions fo Chicago Cubs fans. Impressively informative and a terrifically entertaining read for all baseball enthusiasts, "Tinker to Evers to Chance" is an absolutely essential and core addition to both community and academic library Baseball History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of baseball enthusiasts that "Tinker to Evers to Chance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.00).

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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